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Title: Vala Sutta: The Horsehair
<p>On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Vesali at the Gabled Hall in the Great Forest. Then in the early morning, Ven. Ananda, having put on his robe and carrying his bowl and outer robe, went into Vesali for alms. He saw a large number of Licchavi boys practicing archery in the stadium building. From a distance they were shooting arrows through a tiny keyhole without missing, one right after the other. On seeing this, the thought occurred to him, “How trained these Licchavi boys are, how well-trained these Licchavi boys are, in that from a distance they can shoot arrows through a tiny keyhole without missing, one right after the other!”
Then, having gone for alms in Vesali, after his meal, returning from his alms round, Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One: “Just now, lord, in the early morning, having put on my robe and carrying my bowl and outer robe, I went into Vesali for alms. I saw a large number of Licchavi boys practicing archery in the stadium building. From a distance they were shooting arrows through a tiny keyhole without missing, one right after the other. On seeing this, the thought occurred to me 'How trained these Licchavi boys are, how well-trained these Licchavi boys are, in that from a distance they can shoot arrows through a tiny keyhole without missing, one right after the other!'”
“What do you think, Ananda: Which is harder to do, harder to master — to shoot arrows through a tiny keyhole without missing, one right after the other, or to take a horsehair split into seven strands and pierce tip with a tip?”(1)
“This, lord, is harder to do, harder to master — to take a horsehair split into seven strands and pierce tip with a tip.”
“And they, Ananda, pierce what is even harder to pierce, those who pierce, as it actually is present, that 'This is stress'; who pierce, as it actually is present, that 'This is the origination of stress'… 'This is the cessation of stress'… 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'
“Therefore, Ananda, your duty is the contemplation, 'This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress.' Your duty is the contemplation, 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'”</p>
The Commentary tries to convert this feat into an archery trick, in which one fastens a strand of horsehair on an eggplant and another strand on the tip of an arrow, and then backs off to shoot the hair on the eggplant with the hair fastened on the arrow. This, however, sounds more like one of the impossible feats of marksmanship that Mark Twain once chided James Fenimore Cooper for including in his <i>Deerslayer</i> books. Even assuming that the hair on the arrow could withstand the force of the air pushing it back and actually stick straight ahead to pierce the other hair, the speed and force of the arrow would demolish any evidence that it had actually done so. Thus it seems more likely that the Buddha is describing a more delicate feat bearing more resemblance to the delicacy required in penetrating the four noble truths.
<p>See also: [[en:tipitaka:sut:sn:sn56:sn56.044.than|SN 56.44]]</p>
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<div id="F_citation"><b>How to cite this document</b> (one suggested style): "Vala Sutta: The Horsehair" (SN 56.45), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. <i>Access to Insight</i>, 10 December 2011, [[http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.045.than.html|http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.045.than.html]] . Retrieved on 10 September 2012 (Offline Edition 2012.09.10.14), republished by <i>Zugang zur Einsicht</i> on
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