The Buddha’s parable of the man who had been wounded by a poisoned arrow may be his best-known story. This translation of “The Shorter Discourse to Malunkyaputta” comes from The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Kikaya by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and revised by Bhikkua Bodhi (Boston: Wisdom, 2005 [Third Edition]).
Understanding the context is helpful in understanding The Buddha’s point. Malunkyaputta was one of the Buddha’s followers. His practice was disturbed by speculative thoughts about the answers to questions such as “Is the world finite?” or “Is the soul the same as the body?” After meditating alone, he later asked The Buddha about speculative views, which is when The Buddha gave him the parable.
To ensure that Malunkyaputta did not miss the point, The Buddha continued:
“Whether there is the view ‘the world is eternal’ or the view ‘the world is not eternal,’ there is birth, there is ageing, there is death, there are sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the destruction of which I prescribe here and now.”