Archive for January, 2011

The Unmanifested
January 29, 2011

 

Gautama Buddha, The Exalted One, said:

“In former days, Bhikkhus, some ocean-faring merchants used to take with them a bird that could see the land, and launched out into the deep upon their ship.  Now when the ship was out of sight of land, they used to set free the land-sighting bird.  And the bird would fly east, would fly south, and west and north and up aloft, and to the other quarters.  And if it sighted land around, off it would fly thither.  Burt, if it saw no land around, back it would fly to the ship.

Even so, Bhikkhus, you, having failed to get an answer to your question, though searching right up to the world of Brahma – you come back to Me again.  But that question of yours, Bhikkhus, was not put in the right way, to wit: “Where, Lord, do these four great elements[1] of earth, water, fire and air cease to exist without leaving any trace of them?” This is how you should put the question:

Where do water, earth and fire,
Where does air no footing find?
Where do long and short, and fine,
Likewise gross, pure and impure,
Mind and body, cease to be,
Leaving not a wrack behind?

Now the answer to this question is this: “It is that state of intellect[2] which is invisible, boundless, the landing-stage from everywhere.”[3]

There do water, earth and fire,
There does air no footing find.
There do long and short and fine,
Likewise gross, pure and impure,
Mind and body, cease to be,
Leaving not a wrack behind.
By ceasing of the conscious mind
There do all these cease to be.”
                                                                                                 [D.N., i. 222]

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Foot-Notes

[1] – It should be observed that Buddhism does not mean by ‘the four great elements’ merely the four visibles, but the forces of which the four are the result, viz. the element of extension, of cohesion, of expansion or heat, and that of vibration.  At Samyutta Nikaya, i.15, where part of these verses occurs, Dr C.A.Rhys-Davids has well turned the words [apo, pathavi, tejo, vayo]:
Where the four elements that cleave and stretch
And burn and move, no further footing find.

[2] – Vinnanam, the Arhat’s consciousness of Nirvana.

[3] – Paham, according to Buddhaghosa, is here ‘the steps up and down to a riverside.’  At Dialogues of the Buddha, ii. 283, Professor Rhys Davids translates, (The Arhat’s intellect) ‘accessible from every side.’  Cf. Udana, p.9.  Nirvana is therefore a state beyond mind-consciousness. In its ordinary sense vinnanam is perishable, as one of the five skandhas

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[“Some Sayings of the Budda – According to the Pali Canon”, translated from the Pali by F.L.Woodward, Oxford University Press, London/Madras, 1925].

 

 

Self
January 25, 2011

“Then Vacchagotta the Wanderer came to the Exalted One and greeted Him in friendly wise, and after the exchange of mutual courtesies sat down at one side.  So seated, he said to Gautama Buddha, the Exalted One:

‘Master Gotama, what have you to say about the existence of the Self?’

At these words, the Exalted One, Gautama Buddha, was silent.

‘How now, Master Gotama? Is there no such thing as the Self?’

At these words, Gautama Buddha, the Exalted One, was silent.

Then Vacchagotta the Wanderer (in disgust) rose up from his seat and went away.  Not long after he was gone Bhikshu Ananda said to the Exalted One, Gautama Buddha:

‘How is it, Lord, that the Exalted One made no reply to the question asked by Vacchagotta the Wanderer?’

‘If, Ananda, when asked ‘does the self exist?’ I had replied to him, ‘the self exists’. Then, Ananda, that would be to side with all those recluses and brahmins who are eternalists.

But if, Ananda, when asked the question, ‘Does the Self not exist, then?’, I had replied, ‘No! The Self does not exist,’ that would be to side with those recluses and brahmins who are annihilationists.

Again, Ananda, if when asked by Vacchagotta the Wanderer ‘Does the Self exist?’  I had replied, ‘The Self does exist,’ would that reply be consistent with My knowledge that all things are impermanent?

‘No, Lord, it would not.’

Again, Ananda, when asked: “Then does not the Self exist?”  If I had replied  ‘No, it does not exist,’ it would have added to the bewilderment of Vacchagotta the Wanderer, already bewildered. For he would have said, “Formerly, I had a self, but now I have one no more.”  

                                                                                                                                           [S.N. iv., 400].

 

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“Some Sayings of the Buddha, According to the Pali Canon translated from the Pali by F.L.Woodward, Oxford University Press, London, Madras, 1925.

 

 

TATHAGATA
January 1, 2011

 

        Thus spake the Exalted One, Gautama Buddha,  thus spake the Perfect Arhat [as I have heard]:

        ‘The world, Bhikkhus, hath been fully understood by the Tathagata; from the world the Tathagata is set free.

        The arising of the world, Bhikkhus, hath been fully understood by the Tathagata; the arising of the world hath been put away by the Tathagata.

        The ceasing of the world, Bhikkhus, hath been fully understood by the Tathagata; the ceasing of the world hath been realized by the Tathagata.

        The Way going to the ceasing of the world hath been fully understood by the Tathagata; the way leading to the ceasing of the world hath been practised [traversed] by the Tathagata.

        Whatsoever in the world, Bhikkhus, and in the world of the Devas, with its Maras and Brahmans, together with the host of recluses and brahmins, of Devas and Mankind, whatsoever hath been seen, heard, sensed, known, reached, sought after, traversed by mind, insofar as all that hath been fully understood by the Tathagata, therefore is He called Tathagata.

        Between that day, Bhikkhus,  on which a Tathagata fully understands the incomparable perfection of wisdom, and the day on which He passes away with that passing which leaves no basis for rebirth behind,* [during all that time] whatsoever He utters and specifies, all that is surely so and not otherwise.  Wherefore is He called Tathagata.

        As a Tathagata speaks, so He does; as He does, so He speaks.  Thus, since He does as He says, and says as He does, therefore is He called Tathagata.

        In the world, together with the world of the Devas, with its Maras, its Brahmas, its recluses and brahmins, together with all the hosts of Devas and Mankind, the Tathagata is All-conquering, unconquered by any, He is the All-seeing Controller. Therefore is He called Tathagata.’

        Such is the essence of what the Exalted One said.

Iti-vuttaka, 112

 

 

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Foot Note

(*) – Anupadisesaya nibbana-dhatuya parinibbayati.

 

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[‘Some Sayings of the Buddha – According to the Pali Canon’, translated by F.L.Woodward, Oxford University Press, London/Madras 1925].