The funniest thought arose in my meditation today, after I had been contemplating the Eightfold Noble Path – Buddha’s prescription for eradicating suffering and attaining liberation. Apparently, my thoughts weren’t entirely still (big surprise) and thus this image of an ice cream cone being offered to the Buddha somehow sprang to my awareness. Would he eat it? What would the Buddha do?
I can’t claim to know what the Buddha would do, to be quite frank. But, based on his teachings, I can certainly take a stab at it. There’s one thing I do know – the Buddha would be aware that he has choices. He can choose to eat it, he can choose not to eat it. He would know that any desire or aversion that arose regarding the ice cream would be continuing the cycle of suffering in this life. He also knows that judgment would be a slippery slope – it feeds the ego, the idea that we are right if we choose one way, and wrong if we choose another. This would lead to either pride or shame, which again is back on the hamster wheel of suffering.
Therefore, he couldn’t say “No! It is wrong to eat ice cream – it’s bad for you, and will increase your desires, and therefore your suffering!” He also couldn’t simply indulge, giving in to a craving for the sweetness. He would probably be considering what Right Action to take – one of teachings of the Eightfold Path. What’s a Buddha to do?
He could decide not to eat it, plain and simple. He could decide not to eat it, but thank the person who offered it for their kindness in the offering. He could decide to taste it and experience the pleasantness of the flavor and texture as an expression of Maya, or the illusory state of the material world. He could decide to eat it, and recognize the temporary experience of the ice cream, from its taste on the tongue to how quickly it melts. He could eat it or not eat it, and recognize that the pleasure or pain he experienced from either choice is not his true nature, and that eating it or not eating it will not give him true happiness. Who really knows what the Buddha would do?
But one thing is for sure – whatever he chooses, he will forget about it in the next instant. He won’t even be thinking about the ice cream ever again, because he is firmly established in the eternal now, the ultimate reality, that transcends any of the temporary fluctuations of thought or form. So once he did whatever he did, he’d be done with it.
What do you think the Buddha would do?
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