Chapter 21: Spice in Buddha’s Pot
And he said, “One story I have loved. I looked again and again in every possible source - for three years I have been looking into it. It is not described anywhere; you must have invented it.
The story I have told many times. Gautam Buddha is walking on the road. A fly sits on his head, and he goes on talking with Ananda, his disciple, and mechanically moves his hand and the fly goes away. Then he stops, suddenly - because he has done that movement of the hand without awareness. And to him that is the only wrong thing in life - to do anything without awareness, even moving your hand, although you have not harmed anybody.
So he stands and again takes his hand through the same posture of waving away the fly - although there is no fly any more. Ananda is just surprised at what he is doing, and he says, “The fly you have brushed away from your face long before. What are you doing now? There is no fly.”
Buddha said, “What I am doing now is.that time I moved my hand mechanically, like a robot. It was a mistake. Now I am doing it as I should have done, just to teach me a lesson so that never again anything like this happens. Now I am moving my hand with full awareness. The fly is not the point. The point is, whether in my hand there is awareness and grace and love and compassion, or not. Now it is right. It should have been this way.”
I had told that story in Nagpur at a Buddhist conference. Anand Kausalyayan heard it there, and three years later in Bodhgaya - where there was an international conference of the Buddhists - he said, “The story was so beautiful, so essentially Buddhist, that I wanted to believe that it was true. But in the scriptures it is not there.”
I said, “Forget the scriptures. The question is whether the story is essentially characteristic of Gautam Buddha or not, whether it carries some message of Gautam Buddha or not.”
He said, “It does, certainly. This is his essential teaching: awareness in every action. But it is not historical.”
I said, “Who cares about history?”
And in that conference I told them, “You should remember it, that history is a Western concept. In the East we have never cared about history because history only collects facts. In the East there is no word equivalent to history, and in the East there was no tradition of writing history. In the East, instead of history we have been writing mythology.
“Mythology may not be factual, but it has the truth in it. A myth may have never happened. It is not a photograph of a fact; it is a painting. And there is a difference between a photograph and a painting. A painting brings out something of you which no photograph can bring out. The photograph can only bring out your outlines.