Buddha Mahali Sutta

 

THE AIM OF THE BHIKKHUS

 

        EVAM ME SUTTAM [Thus have I heard].  Gautama Buddha, the Blessed One was once staying at Vesali at the Gabled Hall in the Great Wood.[1]  Now at that time a number of Brahmans, who had been sent on pressing business of one kind or another from Kosala and Magadha, were lodging at Vesali.

        And they heard the news:  ‘They say that the Samana Gotama of the Sakya clan, who went out from a Sakya family to adopt the religious life, is now staying at Vesali at the Gabled Hall in the Great Wood.  Now regarding that venerable Gotama, such is the high reputation that has been noised abroad:  ‘That Blessed One is a Perfect Arahat, a Fully Awakened One, a Buddha.  He, by himself, thoroughly knows and sees, as it were, face to face this universe – including the worlds above of the Devas, the Brahmas, and the Maras, and the world below with its recluses and Brahmans, its princes and peoples – and having known it, he makes his knowledge known to others.  The truth, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its consummation, doth He proclaim, both in the spirit and in the letter, the higher life doth He make known, in all its fullness and in all its purity.  And good it is to pay visits to Arahats like that.’

        So those Brahmans from Kosala and Magadha went out to the Great Wood, and to the Gabled Hall.  Now at that time the Venerable Nagita was acting as the personal attendant on the Blessed One.  And they went to him, and said:  ‘Where is it, Nagita, that that Venerable Gotama is lodging now, for we wish to see him.’

        ‘It is not a fitting time, Sirs, to call upon the Blessed One.  He has retired into solitude.’

        Then they sat down round about, saying, ‘We will not go away without seeing the Venerable Gotama.’

        And Hare-lip, the Likkhavi, too, came to the Great Wood, and to the Gabled Hall, with a retinue of his clan; and going up to the Venerable Nagita, he saluted him, and reverently standing apart, he said to him:  ‘Where, Venerable Nagita, is the Blessed One now lodging, the Arahat, the Buddha;  for we wish to see him?’  And on receiving a similar reply he, too, sat down apart, saying:  ‘I will not go till I have seen the August One, the Perfect Arahat, the Buddha.’

        But Siha, a novice,[2]  came up to the Venerable Nagita, and saluted him, and standing reverently apart, he said to him:  ‘These envoys of the Brahmans from Kosala and Magadha, many of them, have come,  O Kassapa,[3]  to call upon the Blessed One;  and Hare-lip, the Likkhavi, too, with a retinue of his clan, has come to do the same.  ‘Twere best, O Kassapa, that all this folk should be allowed to see the Blessed One.’ 

        ‘Very well, then, Siha.  Tell the Blessed One yourself.’

        ‘Very good, Sir,’  said Siha the novice in assent to the Venerable Nagita.  And he went where the Blessed One was, and saluted Him, and standing reverently apart, he said do Him even as he had said to Nagita. 

        ‘Very well, Siha.  Spread out a mat for me in the shade in front of the house.’

        And Siha did so.  And the Blessed One came out from the house, and sat down.  And the Brahmans from Kosala and Magadha exchanged with Him the greetings and compliments of politeness and courtesy, and took their seats on one side.  And Hare-lip the Likkhavi also, with the retinue of his clan, bowed down to the Blessed One, and seated himself on one side.  And when he was thus seated he addressed the Blessed One, and said:

        ‘Some few days ago, Lord, Sunakkhatta of the Likkhavis[4] came to me, and said.  ‘It is only three years, Mahali,[5]  since I first  came under the Blessed One, and I can see heavenly forms, pleasant to behold, fitted to satisfy all one’s desires, exciting longin in one’s heart.  But I cannot hear heavenly sounds like that.’  Now, Lord, are there such heavenly sounds, which he could not hear, or have they no existence?’

        ‘They are real, those heavenly sounds, pleasant, fitted to satisfy one’s desires, exciting longing in one’s heart which he could not heare.  They are not things of nought.’

        ‘But what then is the proximate, and what the ultimate cause, why he could not hear them, they being thus real and not things of nought?’

        Suppose a recluse, Mahali, to have practised one-sided concentration of mind with the object of seeing such heavenly forms in any one direction – in the East, or the South, or the West, or the North, or above, or below, or across – and not with the object of hearing such heavenly sounds.  Then since he has practised one-sided concentration, with the one object only in view, he only sees the sights, he hears not the sounds.  And why not?  Because of the nature of his self-concentration [samadhi].

        ‘And so also, Mahali, if he have practised one-sided concentration with the object of hearing in any one direction, the heavenly sounds.  Then, and for the same reason, he hears the sounds, bu he sees not the sights.

        But suppose, Mahali,he has practised self-concentration with the double object in view of seeing and hearing, in any one direction, those heavenly sights and those heavenly sounds.  Then since he has practised self-concentration with the double object in view, he both sees the sights and hears the sounds.  And why so?  Because of the nature of his self-concentration.’

        ‘Then, Lord, is it for the sake of attaining to the practice of such self-concentration that the Bhikkhus lead the religous life under the Blessed One?’

        ‘No, Mahali.  There are things, higher and sweeter than that, for the sake of which they do so.’

        ‘And what, Lord, may those other things be?’

        ‘In the first place, Mahali, a Bhikkhu by the complete destruction of the Three Bonds [the Delusions of self, Doubt, and Trust in the efficacy of good works and ceremonies,[6] becomes a converted man, one who cannot be reborn in any state of woe, and is assured of attaining to the Insight [of the stages higher still].  [7]   That, Mahali, is a condition, higher and sweeter, for the sake of which the Bhikkhus lead the religious life under me.

        ‘And then further, Mahali, a Bhikkhu by the complete destruction of those Three Bonds, and by reducing to a minimum lust, illwill, and dullness, becomes a Once-returner, one who on his first return to this world shall make an end of pain.  That, Mahali, is a condition higher still and sweeter, for the sake of which the Bhikkhus lead the religious life under me.

        ‘And then further, Mahali, a Bhikkhu by the complete destruction of the Five Bonds that bind people to this world[8] becomes an inheritor of the highest heavens,[9]  there to pass away, thence never to return.[10]  That, Mahali is a condition higher still and sweeter, for the sake of which the Bhikkhus lead the religious life under me.

        ‘And then further, Mahali, when a Bhikkhu by the destruction of the Deadly Floods [or Intoxications – Lusts, Becomings, Delusion and Ignorance] has, by himself, known and realised and continues to abide here, in this visible world, in that emancipation of mind, that emancipation of heart, which is Arahatship – that, Mahali, is a condition higher still and sweeter still, for the sake of which the Bhikkhus lead the religious life under me.

        ‘Such, Mahali, are the conditions higher and sweeter [than seeing heavenly sights and hearing heavenly sounds] for the sake of which the Bhikkhus lead the religious life under me.’

        ‘But is there, Lord, a path, is there a method, for the realisation of these conditions?’

        ‘Yes, Mahali, there is.’

        ‘And what, Lord, may be that path, what that method?’

        ‘Verily it is this Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say:  Right belief, right aim, right speech, right action, a right means of livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right ecstasy in self-concentration.[11] (*)  This, Mahali, is the path, and this the method, for the realisation of these conditions.

        ‘One day, Mahali, I was staying at Kosambi, in the Ghosita pleasaunce.  There two recluses, Mandissa the wandering mendicant, and Galiya the pupil of Darupattika [the man with the wooden bowl], came to me, and exchanged with me the greetings and compliments of politeness and courtesy, and stood reverently apart.  And so standing they said to me:

        ‘How is it then, O Venerable Gotama, is the soul the same thing as the body? Or is the soul one thing and the body another?’

        ‘Listen then, Sirs, and give heed attentively, and I will speak.’

        ‘Very good, Lord’, said those two mendicants in assent, and I spake as follows:’
 

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Foot Notes

[1]  –  The Great Wood stretched from Vesali northwards to the Himalaya range. In it they had laid out a pleasaunce for the Order, and made there a storied house, with a hall below surrounded by pillars only, and facing the west, and above it the gabled apartments in which the Buddha so often stayed.
[2]  –  He was the son of Nagita’s sister.  He had joined the Sangha as a novice when only seven years old, and shown so much intelligence as a learner that he was a favourite with all, even with the Buddha Himself.  He must therefore be different from the other Siha, also a Likkhavi, who is the hero of the story told at Vinaya I, 233-238 = A.IV, 179-188, as the latter  is not a member of the Sangha at all.  Professor Edward Muller [J/P.T.S., 1888, p.97] confounds the two.
[3]  –  This is the gotta, the gens, to which Nagita belonged.
[4]  –  This young man became the Buddha’s personal attendant; but afterwards, when the Buddha was in extreme old age [M.I, 82], he went over to the creed of Kora the Kshatriya, and left the Buddhist Sangha.  Kora’s doctrine was the efficacy of asceticism, of rigid self-mortification.  And it was to show how wrong this doctrine, as put forth by Sunakkhatta, was that the Buddha told the story [Gat.I, 398] of the uselessness of the efforts he Himself had made when  ‘Now scorched, now frozen, lone in fearsome woods, Naked, without a fire, afire within,  He, as a hermit, sought the crown of faith.’  But we do not hear that Sunakkhatta ever came back to the fold.
[5]  –  This is again the name of the gotta, the gens.  Buddhaghosa [p.316] calls him a raga.
[6]  –  See my ‘American Lectures’ [London, 1896, pp.142-149] for the full meaning of these three, and of the following Bonds.
[7]  –  Sambodhi-parayano.  So Buddhaghosa on this [p.313] and my Introduction to this Sutta.
[8]  –  The above three, and Sensuality and Illwill.
[9]  –  Opapatiko, literally ‘accidental’; but the use of such a word would only mislead the reader, the real connotation of the word being that of the words I have chosen.  Those who gain the highest heavens are so called because there is no birth there in the ordinary way.  Each being, who is there, has appeared there suddently, accidentally as it were, without generation, conception, gestation or any of the other means attending the birth of beings in the world.
[10]-  It is impossible to ignore a reference here to the view exressed in the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad [VI, 2, 15].  ‘There do they dwell far away, beyond, in the Brahma-worlds.  And for them there is no return.’
[11]-  See my ‘American Lectures’, ppl. 136-141; and Sum.I, 314-316/
(*)  –  N.E. – Right Meditation.

 

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