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Excerpted from Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh. Copyright © 1995 by Thich Nhat Hanh. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 


"The Buddha replied, 'Your majesty, enlightenment is not a matter of age. A tiny spark of fire has the power to burn down a whole city.'"

Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ, Part 4

Many years ago, I recognized that by understanding your own tradition better, you also develop increased respect, consideration, and understanding for others. I had had a naive thought, a kind of prejudice inherited from my ancestors. I thought that because Buddha had taught for forty-five years and Jesus for only two or three, that Buddha must have been a more accomplished teacher. I had that thought because I did not know the teachings of the Buddha well enough.

One day when he was thirty-eight years old, the Buddha met King Prasenajit of Kosala. The king said, "Reverend, you are young, yet people call you ‘The Highest Enlightened One.’ There are holy men in our country eighty and ninety years old, venerated by many people, yet none of them claims to be the highest enlightened one. How can a young an like you make such a claim?"

The Buddha replied, "Your majesty, enlightenment is not a matter of age. A tiny spark of fire has the power to burn down a whole city. A small poisonous snake can kill you in an instant. A baby prince has the potentiality of a king. And a young monk has the capability of becoming enlightened and changing the world."

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