Thus have I heard at one time. The Lord dwelt at Sravasti…. Early in the morning the Lord dressed, put on his cloak, took his bowl, and entered the great city of Sravasti to collect alms.
When he had eaten and returned from his round, the Lord put away his bowl and cloak, washed his feet, and sat down on the seat arranged for him, crossing his legs, holding his body upright, and mindfully fixing his attention in front of him. Then many monks approached to where the Lord was, saluted his feet with their heads, thrice walked round him to the right, and sat down on one side.
At that time the venerable Subhuti came to that assembly, and sat down. Then he rose from his seat, put his upper robe over one shoulder, placed his right knee on the ground, bent forth his folded hands towards the Lord, and said to the Lord: It is wonderful, O Lord, it is exceedingly wonderful, O well-gone, how much the bodhisattvas, the great beings, have been helped with the greatest help by the Tathagata….
How then, O Lord, should one who has set out in the bodhisattva-vehicle, stand, how progress, how control the thoughts?
After these words the Lord said to Subhuti:…Therefore, Subhuti, listen well, and attentively! Someone who has set out in the vehicle of a bodhisattva should produce a thought in this manner: As many beings as there are in the universe of beings, comprehended under the term “beings”…all these I must lead to nirvana, into that realm of nirvana which leaves nothing behind. And yet, although innumerable beings have thus been led to nirvana, no being at all has been led to nirvana. And why? If in a bodhisattva the notion of a “being” should take place, he could not be called a “bodhi-being.” And why? He is not to be called a bodhi-being in whom the notion of a self or of a being should take place, or the notion of a living soul or of a person.
I love Gautama the Buddha because he represents to me the essential core of religion. He is not the founder of Buddhism – Buddhism is a by-product – but he is the beginner of a totally different kind of religion in the world. He’s the founder of a religionless religion. He has propounded not religion but religiousness. And this is a great radical change in the history of human consciousness.
Before Buddha there were religions but never a pure religiousness. Man was not yet mature. With Buddha, humanity enters into a mature age. All human beings have not yet entered into that, that’s true, but Buddha has heralded the path; Buddha has opened the gateless gate. It takes time for human beings to understand such a deep message. Buddha’s message is the deepest ever. Nobody has done the work that Buddha has done, the way he has done. Nobody else represents pure fragrance.
Other founders of religions, other enlightened people, have compromised with their audience. Buddha remains uncompromised, hence his purity. He does not care what you can understand, he cares only what the truth is, and he says it without being worried whether you understand it or not. In a way this looks hard; in another way this is great compassion.