Zenith

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The zenith (uparimā) is the highest point the sun reaches in the sky or more generally, the upward direction. The English word comes from the Arabic samt ur ras meaning ‘the way up.’ In popular imagination upwards has always been associated with either divine beings or the stars, both of which abide in the heavens and, some people believe, influence human destiny. The Buddha’s teaching of self-enlightenment made God and the gods redundant and his teaching of kamma showed astrology to be false.

Once, a wandering female ascetic saw Sariputta eating his meal after having gone alms gathering. She asked him whether he looked in any of the six directions while he was eating and he replied that he did not. He then explained what he meant by ‘not looking in any direction.’ Concerning the zenith he said: ‘Those monks and priests who earn their living by practising that base art, that wrong means of livelihood called astrology, can be said to eat looking upwards.’ He then added: ‘I do not earn my living in such wrong ways. I get my food righteously and then eat it righteously.’ So impressed by this was the female ascetic that ‘she went from street to street, from square to square’ in the city praising the Buddha’s disciples (S.III,239).

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