Home » Features » Are You a Moth Entranced by the Fire?

Too much of a good thing
is a bad thing
because too much is too much.

– Stonepeace

From the Adhipataka Sutta, it was recorded that during one night, when the Buddha was seated out in the open, there were oil lamps burning in the otherwise total darkness. Unfortunately, there were many flying insects flying around them, some of which fell into the lamps, thereby encountering their downfall and doom. Seeing the deeper significance of this sight taken for granted, the Buddha uttered this – ‘Rushing up but then too far, they miss the point; only causing ever newer bonds to grow. So obsessed are some by what is seen and heard, they fly just like these moths – straight into the flames.’

This is an excellent example of the Buddha’s skilful means in using current situations as golden opportunities for sharing the Dharma. The insects’ seemingly ‘irresistible’ lure by the flames can be seen as a metaphor for sentient beings’ dangerous attraction to pleasures of the senses, which, when driven to the extreme by attachment, can lead to pain and even death. Seeking a false refuge, security is totally lost instead. This is not to say that sense pleasures should be totally abstained from, but that they should not be overly indulged in – just as humans know that oil lamps are useful, but should be mindfully kept a safe distance from.

Lamps are also used as offerings to represent spreading of the light of wisdom, which dispels the darkness of ignorance. The plight of the insects also warn of how the Dharma should be approached with care. The light of the Dharma, like lamps, are to merely serve as guides in the dark; not to be clung to. For instance, attachment to views, even if they are right ones, creates spiritual bondage, while the truth, when properly realised and applied, sets us free from all attachments. Rushing headlong towards the truth without mindfulness and calmness could be likened to rashly taking too much medicine, which would render it as poison instead. Even the cure for suffering can cause suffering if taken in the wrong dosage!

Fools rush towards the Dharma, only to consider the Dharma foolish. – Stonepeace

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