Venerables Wally and Engelbert are driving back to their monastery from a really nice dharma talk in the nearest village when their car gets stuck in the mud. (Yes they have a car, don't ask). They try to drive out of it but the wheels keep spinning. They are really stuck. They sit around for a while. Finally Venerable Wally speaks up.
W: Well I guess we better get out and push.
W (blinks for a moment): Why? What do you mean why? We have evening prayers at 5 and clean-up at 6, it's 4 now, if we don't get out of the mud we're going to miss it.
E: So what if we miss it?
W: What do you mean, we can't miss it, we've taken vows, we're monks, it's our job.
E: Oh come on. Ultimately you know this is all just a dream. You're a dream monk stuck in a dream car with a dream desire to get to a dream monastery because you think you'll get into dream trouble if you break your dream vows. So why does it matter?
W (thinks for a second): OK fine, but I'm really, really upset about being stuck in the mud, see?
E: Yes, OK.
W: And if I'm this agitated about it there's nothing you can say about ultimate view that's going to change my mind, right?
E: Maybe ...
W: So if ultimate view isn't going to change my mind then the only thing you can do is exert some compassion in my direction - and help me push this car out of the mud. Then later when I've calmed down you can teach me about ultimate view.
E (thinks for a moment): No, I don't think so. It's not like you're sitting here with a fork stuck in your hand. You're in pain, but I can't help by getting the car out of the mud. You're not suffering because we're not out of the mud, you're suffering - apparently - because you're attached to things that you think have inherent existence. If I helped you get the car out of the mud I'd only be indulging your illusions. So it's actually more compassionate on my part not to help get the car out of the mud.
W: But how can you possibly make that determination? I'm telling you plainly that my suffering is so great that it's like there's a fork stuck in my hand. Can't you see how anxious I am? What makes you qualified to determine that you can't help me according to how I'm asking you to help? Are you an omniscient Buddha?
E (considers for a moment): Well how do you know I'm not?
E: What evidence do you have that I am not an omniscient Buddha?
W (sits staring out the window for a long time then begins to smile slyly): OK Buddha Engelbert tell me this, as an omniscient Buddha you know how to be perfectly compassionate in all instances correct?
W: And that one of the compassionate things a Buddha should do is to teach unenlightened beings how to be compassionate, correct?
W: OK. I am not enlightened. Therefore I do not know how to be compassionate in all instances. You say you are enlightened. Therefore not only do you know how to be perfectly compassionate in all instances but you also say it is your duty to teach me how to be perfectly compassionate in all instances. Correct?
E: Maybe ...
W: OK. You have already told me in this particular case that you know that it is more compassionate for you to let me be stuck in the mud than to help me get out of the mud. But you also say that it is your duty to teach me how to be compassionate. So let's say, hypothetically, that I am in a car with a third person, and we get stuck in the mud. The third person gets extremely agitated because we are stuck in the mud. I have to decide whether or not it is more compassionate to help him get out of the mud or let him stay in the mud. In our case you said it is more compassionate to let me stay in the mud. But in order for me to know how to be compassionate to the third person, therefore, I need to now understand from you, oh omniscient Buddha Engelbert, how you came to decide that it was more compassionate for me to remain stuck in the mud rather than help get me out of the mud. What was the rationale for your compassionate decision, oh omniscient one? And how would I apply that rationale to the third person?
E (considers for a minute): Well who's to say you don't know that already?
E: Who's to say you don't know that already? We've established that you have no clue as to whether or not I'm an omniscient Buddha but we can't say that about you either. How do you know you're not already enlightened?
W: I know for a fact I'm not enlightened.
E: How do you know?
W: Because I suffer! If I stuck a fork in my hand I would suffer!
E: As an omniscient Buddha I'm not telling you that you have to have a fork stuck in your hand right now. All you are right now is stuck in the mud.
W: OK but I am suffering because I am stuck in the mud!
E: No, you're just in pain because you are stuck in the mud.
W: No - I'm suffering because I'm attached to the pain of being stuck in the mud therefore I'm not enlightened therefore teach me how to be compassionate by telling me why it's better for someone to be stuck in the mud!
E: I just did.
E: It's better for you to be stuck in the mud, because its only when you're stuck in the mud that you can realize that you're just in pain because you are stuck in the mud, not in suffering.
W (miserably): Realize? OK, fine you win ... Realize how?
E: Oh c'mon, you know, rest in the empty awareness of the display of being stuck in the mud, blah blah blah. In other words, by acting and thinking like an omniscient Buddha about the whole business. Again - how do you know you aren't?
W: We're getting nowhere with this.
E: Yeah well, that's because we're stuck in the mud.
(There is a 10 minute pause).
E (looking out his window): Looks like the mud has hardened.
Venerable Engelbert turns the key to the ignition, drives the car out of the mud and proceeds up the road toward the monastery. Venerable Wally stares at him.
E: It's Wednesday. I just didn't want to scrub those toilets again.