"Nowadays there are few people who are guilty of the five cardinal sins, but a great many who commit the ten evil acts. Sometimes you may find a person who, concerned about his next existence, is careful not to commit any of the ten evil acts and to act as a good person. But because of some quite natural error of ignorance, the person, though good in word and deed, in his heart believes in an evil teacher. Not only does that person himself put faith in the erroneous doctrines expounded by such a teacher, but he incites the rulers of the nation and the common people to embrace these same doctrines, or he persuades his wife and children, his followers, and members of his household to carry out the same religious practices that he does. Thus he prevents them from forming any ties with persons who would instruct them in the correct teaching, and keeps the common people and those related to him from experiencing a mind that responds with joy to that teaching. As a result, both he himself and others become slanderers of the Law, and those who would appear to be practicing good and putting aside evil in fact quite naturally end by committing deeds that lead to rebirth in the Avīchi hell. Cases of this kind are rife in this Latter Day of the Law.
The Venerable Ānanda was a nephew of King Shuddhodana and the son and prince of King Dronodana. He was a younger brother ofDevadatta and a cousin of the Thus Come One Shakyamuni. He served the Thus Come One for twenty years, attained the mind-perceiving meditation, and understood all the sacred teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime. After the Buddha entered extinction, King Ajātashatru became a convert to Buddhism under Ānanda’s direction.
Forty years after the Buddha’s entry into extinction, the Venerable Ānanda was passing through a bamboo grove when he came upon a monk who was reciting a verse of the teaching that went, “Though one be born a human being and live a hundred years, if one has not observed how the waters overflow and dry up, one cannot compare to a person who has lived only one day but has seen these things.”
When Ānanda heard this verse, he said to the monk, “This is not the Buddha’s teaching. You should not be practicing this.”
The monk then asked Ānanda, “What is the Buddha’s teaching?”
Ānanda replied, “‘Though one be born a human being and live a hundred years, if one has not understood the Law of birth and extinction, one cannot compare to a person who has lived only one day but has fully understood that Law.’ This is the Buddha’s teaching. The verse that you were reciting is mistaken in its wording.”
At that time the monk took the verse he had learned from Ānanda to the monk who had taught him originally. But the monk who had been his teacher said, “The verse I taught you is the true teaching of the Buddha. The verse that Ānanda recited is not the Buddha’s teaching. Ānanda is old and senile and says many things that are in error. You should not believe him.”
The monk then discarded Ānanda’s verse and went back to reciting the erroneous one he had recited before. When Ānanda passed through the bamboo grove again and heard him doing so, he realized it was not the verse he had taught the monk and spoke to him about it once more, but the monk refused to heed him.
If errors such as this had already appeared a mere forty years after the Buddha’s passing, how much worse must things be now that over two thousand years have gone by!
The Buddha’s teaching was transmitted from India to China, and then from China to Japan. The scholars, the Tripitaka masters, the teachers who passed it down from one to another hardly relayed one doctrine in ten thousand in a condition that was free from error. And how much worse is the situation now when scholars of Buddhism put biased views above all else, are swayed by arrogance, contend with one another like fire against water, and never reach a conclusion. Even when a scholar appears who happens to relay the teachings as the Buddha proclaimed them, no one will believe or heed him. Hence hardly one person in ten thousand can avoid committing slander against the Law."