The Sword of Wisdom 135

Day 6 Subduing Desires

The dragon-subduing alms bowl and the staff that wards off tigers,
With the jangling of its two metal rings,
Are not outer forms of keeping the precepts,
But rather are holding the Tathagata's staff and treading his path.

A puzzling stanza, yet the meaning is not difficult to discern. These verses describe how an enlightened person interacts with human beings. A monk's needs for his daily existence are few and simple. He carries a bowl with which he begs for food, and he carries a staff, which has several functions. It serves as a walking cane; it is held across his shoulders to carry heavy objects; it is used as a measuring rod when he wants to cross a river ─ if he cannot find the bottom with the staff, then he knows not to ford the river at that point. The staff can also be used to ward off animals and predators in the mountains and forests.