The name Little Dust comes from the story of Brahmā Sahampati requesting the Buddha to teach out of compassion, saying that there are many beings with little dust in their eyes who would be able to understand the Buddha’s teaching. This story is told in several suttas, including the Brahmāyācana sutta, in the Samyutta Nikaya.
In this sutta, we hear that at first the Buddha was reluctant to teach, thinking it may be burdensome and fearing that beings would be unable to appreciate the deep insights that he had seen for himself:
If I were to teach this principle, others might not understand me, which would be wearying and troublesome for me.”
And then these verses, which were neither supernaturally inspired, nor learned before in the past, occurred to the Buddha:
“I’ve struggled hard to realize this, enough with trying to explain it! This principle is not easily understood by those mired in greed and hate.
Those besotted by greed can’t see what’s subtle, going against the stream, deep, hard to see, and very fine, for they’re shrouded in a mass of darkness.”
Brahmā Sahampati feared that the Buddha would remain silent, and become a paccekka buddha, or silent Buddha, who after having seen the truth for themselves, does not proclaim it to others but stays in private and practices meditation without teaching.
However, Brahmā Sahampati’s appeal that there were indeed beings who would understand caused the Buddha to look again at the potential of beings, and he saw that some were likely to benefit:
Then the Buddha, understanding Brahmā’s invitation, surveyed the world with the eye of a Buddha, because of his compassion for sentient beings. And the Buddha saw sentient beings with little dust in their eyes, and some with much dust in their eyes; with keen faculties and with weak faculties, with good qualities and with bad qualities, easy to teach and hard to teach. And some of them lived seeing the danger in the fault to do with the next world, while others did not.
It’s like a pool with blue water lilies, or pink or white lotuses. Some of them sprout and grow in the water without rising above it, thriving underwater. Some of them sprout and grow in the water reaching the water’s surface. And some of them sprout and grow in the water but rise up above the water and stand with no water clinging to them.
Seeing this, the Buddha realised that he could help beings to come out of suffering. It was due to his insight and knowledge that Buddha knew he would be able to teach, but it was out of compassion that he decided to do so, despite the burden this would place on him. Teaching is not always easy. We hear in the Pāsarāsi sutta (MN 26) that the very first person the Buddha tried to share his Dhamma with, the Ājīvaka Upaka, wasn’t very impressed, saying something along the lines of, “If you say so…” and walking off.
However, by the time the Buddha delivered his first sermon, known as the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN56.11), the Buddha had refined his concepts and teaching style, so that whilst teaching his former associates, the group of five ascetics, one of them, Koṇḍañña, was able to see the Dhamma for himself. This showed that the Buddha was capable of teaching the Dhamma and that there were indeed beings who could understand it.
Thanks to the appeal made by Brahmā Sahampati, the Buddha decided to share the Dhamma with all beings, saying:
“Flung open are the doors to the deathless!
Let those with ears to hear commit to faith…
And so the great wheel of the Dhamma rolled forward and, since then, has continued to be transmitted over thousands of years, being taught in every part of the world.
The aim of Little Dust is to continue this tradition, bringing the Dhamma to beings living on the red earth of Australian lands, especially those living in remote and regional areas where access to the Dhamma is limited but where there is a great thirst for the teachings of the Buddha.
Read the full Brahmāyācanasutta on SuttaCentral
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