Scriptural Reference For This?

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Scriptural Reference For This?

Postby manjusri » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:19 pm

I also posted this question on dhammawheel.com's site. There are variations of this simile that a few found, but nothing pertaining to enlightenment.

When the Buddha was asked, "How many will attain enlightenment?" he scratched the dirt and pointing to the dust under his fingernail, replied, "This many compared to the weight of the world."

Does anyone know if there is a scriptural reference for this exchange? I have had no luck locating it.
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Re: Scriptural Reference For This?

Postby Astus » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:56 pm

Using that simile of the tip of the fingernail occurs in various suttas, like these titled Nakhasikha Sutta (The Tip of the Fingernail): SN 13.1; SN 20.2; SN 22.97. But most of the similes are found in SN 56 (Sacca-samyutta): 51 and from 60 to 131. However, none of them is about enlightenment.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Scriptural Reference For This?

Postby manjusri » Tue Aug 13, 2013 5:36 pm

Thanks, Astus, for posting. I have not found anything either pertaining to enlightenment.
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Re: Scriptural Reference For This?

Postby sukhamanveti » Tue Aug 13, 2013 9:43 pm

If you're interested in tracing the origin of the quote, you might submit it at fakebuddhaquotes.com. Bodhipaksa does an amazing job there of tracking down the actual sources for the many mangled, made-up, or misattributed so-called "Buddha quotes." Occasionally, he will also find that one of the suspicious-sounding quotes has an authentic Buddhist source.
namo bhagavate śākyamunaye tathāgatāyārhate samyaksaṁbuddhāya | namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyaḥ ||

"Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas love all beings in the world equally, as if each were their only child..." Buddhāvataṃsakamahāvaipulya Sūtra
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Re: Scriptural Reference For This?

Postby Astus » Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:33 pm

There is also a logical problem with that hypothetical quote. And that is it would only serve as a deterrent for those who want enlightenment, it would be demotivating. In later Mahayana teachings there are talks about the Dharma ending age where enlightenment is near impossible, however, there is always a special teaching that one should use instead of the others and that guarantees success.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Scriptural Reference For This?

Postby manjusri » Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:10 pm

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, sukhamanveti. Sounds like a great resource that I will check out. Many thanks for providing it!
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Re: Scriptural Reference For This?

Postby manjusri » Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:24 pm

Astus wrote:There is also a logical problem with that hypothetical quote. And that is it would only serve as a deterrent for those who want enlightenment, it would be demotivating. In later Mahayana teachings there are talks about the Dharma ending age where enlightenment is near impossible, however, there is always a special teaching that one should use instead of the others and that guarantees success.


Yes, Astus, thanks for articulating this insightful thought! I completely agree! Demotivating, indeed! :good:
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Re: Scriptural Reference For This?

Postby manjusri » Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:51 pm

sukhamanveti wrote:If you're interested in tracing the origin of the quote, you might submit it at fakebuddhaquotes.com. Bodhipaksa does an amazing job there of tracking down the actual sources for the many mangled, made-up, or misattributed so-called "Buddha quotes." Occasionally, he will also find that one of the suspicious-sounding quotes has an authentic Buddhist source.


Bodhipaksa's response to my email:

"The Buddha used the "earth versus what's under my fingernail" simile dozens of times.

He used it, for example, to compare the large amount of suffering destroyed by one who has entered the stream compared to the amount of suffering remaining, and to contrast the large number of beings not born human compared to those who are born human.

The closest I've found, though, is in the Samyutta Nikaya, page 1879 in Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation. After the introduction of the simile, we're told:

"So too, bhikkhus, those beings are few who possess the noble eye of wisdom. But those beings are more numerous who are immersed in ignorance..."

But this is rather different from your quote, which is not about how many people have attained awakening, but is about how many will attain awakening. And your "suspicious poster" is, I'm sure, right in thinking that that version of the quote would put people off seeking awakening.

So I'm fairly certain that your quote is actually a misquote.
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