“Thus have I heard. Once, Gautama Buddha, the Exalted One, was staying at Savatthi, in East Park, at the storeyed house of Migara’s mother.
Then the brahmin Mogallana, the accountant, came to the Exalted One, Gautama Buddha, and gave Him friendly greeting, and after the exchange of courtesies sat down at one side. So seated, the brahmin Mogallana, the accountant, said this to Gautama Buddha, the Exalted One: ‘Now, is it possible, Master Gautama, for this Dhamma-Vinaya of yours to point to a … progressive training?’
“It is so. Take the case of a clever horse-trainer. He takes a thoroughbred in hand, gives him his first lesson with bit and bridle, and then proceeds to the further course. Just so, the Tathagata takes in hand a man who is to be trained and gives him his first lesson, thus: Come thou, Bhikkhu! Be virtuous. Abide constrained by the restraint of the obligation. Become versed in the practice of right behaviour; seeing danger in trifling faults, do you undertake the training and be a pupil in the moralities.
As soon as he has mastered all that, the Tathagata gives him his second lesson, thus: Come thou, Bhikkhu! Seeing an object with the eye, be not charmed by its general appearance or its details. Persist in the restraining of that dejection that comes from craving, caused by remaining with the sense of sight uncontrolled, those ill states which would overwhelm one like a flood. Guard the sense of sight, win control over the sense of sight. And do so with the other organs of sense. When you hear a sound with the ear, or smell a scent with the nose, taste a taste with the tongue, or with body touch things tangible, and when with mind you are conscious of a thing, be not charmed with its general appearance or its details.
As soon as he has mastered all that, the Tathagata gives him a further lesson, thus: Come thou, Bhikkhu! Be moderate in eating; earnest and heedful do you take your food, not for sport, not for indulgence, not for adding personal charm or comeliness to body, but do it for body’s stablishing, for its support, for protection from harm, and for keeping up the practice of the righteous life, with this thought: ‘I check my former feeling. To no new feeling will I give rise, that maintenance and comfort may be mine.’
Then, when he has won restraint in food, the Tathagata gives him a further lesson, thus: Come thou, Bhikkhu! Abide given to watchfulness. By day, when walking or sitting, cleanse your heart from things that may hinder you. By night spend the first watch walking up and down or sitting, and do likewise. By night in the second watch, lie down on the right side in the posture of a lion, and placing one foot upon the other, mindful and self-possessed, set your thoughts on the idea of exertion. Then in the third watch of the night, rise up, and walking up and down, or sitting, cleanse the heart of things that may hinder.
Then, when the brother is devoted to watchfulness, the Tathagata gives him a further lesson, thus: Come thou, Bhikkhu. Be possessed of mindfulness and self-control. In going forth or going back, have yourself under control. In looking forward or looking back, in bending or relaxing, in wearing robes or carrying robe and bowl, in eating, chewing, tasting, in easing yourself, in going, standing, sitting, lying, sleeping or waking, in speaking or keeping silence, have yourself under control.
Then, whe he is possessed of self-control, the Tathagata gives him a further lesson, thus: Come thou, Bhikkhu! Seek out a secluded lodging, a forest or root of a tree, a mountain or cave or mountain-grotto, a charnel field, a forest retreat, the open air, a heap of straw. And he does so. And when he has eaten his food he sits down crosslegged, and keeping his body straight up (as described before) he proceeds to practise the Four Trances…
Now, for all Bhikkhus who are pupils, who have not yet attained mastery of mind, who abide aspiring for the security unsurpassed [which is Nirvana] … such is the manner of my training.
But as to those Bhikkhus who are Arhats, who have destroyed the asavas, who have lived the holy life, done their task, laid down the burden, won their own salvation, utterly destroyed the fetters of becoming, and are released by the perfect insight – for such as those these things are conducive to ease in the present life and to mindful self-control as well.”
When this was said, the brahmin Mogallana, the accountant, said to the Exalted One, Gautama Buddha: ‘But tell me, Master Gautama. Do the disciples of the Worthy Gautama, thus advised and trained by the Worthy Gautama, do all of them win the absolute perfection which is Nirvana, or do some fail thus to attain?‘
“Some of my disciples, thus advised and trained by me, do so attain. Others do not.”
‘But what is the reason, Master Gautama? What is the cause, Master Gautama? Here we have Nirvana. Here we have the Path to Nirvana. Here we have the Worthy Gautama as instructor. What is the reason, I say, why some disciples thus advised and trained do attain, while others do not attain?’
“That is a question that I will not answer here. But do you answer me this, so far as you think fit. Now how say you? Are you well skilled in the road to Rajagaha?”
‘I am skilled, indeed skilled am I in the road to Rajagaha!’
“Now how say you? Suppose a man should come, anxious to go to Rajagaha. He comes and says to you: ‘I would go to Rajagaha. Show me the way to Rajagaha.’ Then suppose you say to him: ‘All right, this is the road to Rajagaha. Go on a bit, then you will see a village called so and so. Go on a bit farther and you’ll see such and such a suburb. Go a bit farther, and you will see the delightful park, the delightful grove, the delightful landscape, the delightful lotus pond of Rajagaha.”
Well, thus instructed, thus advised by you brahmin he takes the wrong road, and off he goes with his face set to the west.
Then a second man comes up with the same request, and is given the same instruction. He follows the advice and comes safe to Rajagaha.
Now, what is the reason, what is the cause? Here we have Rajagaha, here we have the road to Rajagaha, and here we have the instructor to show the way to Rajagaha. But after all advice and instructions one man took the wrong road and went west, while the other man got safe to Rajagaha.
‘Is that my business, Master Gautama? I was just the shower of the way to Rajagaha’.
“Well, brahmin. Here we have Nirvana, here we have the way to Nirvana, and here I stand as Instructor of the Way to Nirvana. Yet some of my disciples, thus advised and trained by me, do attain to Nirvana, and others do not attain.
What do I in the matter? The Tathagata is one who shows the Way to Nirvana.”
[M.N. iii chapt.107]
[Some Sayings of the Buddha According to the Pali Canon, F.L. Woodward, Oxford University Press, Madras, 1925].