The Mahāvagga of the Dīgha Nikāya is the second of the its three sections. It contains 10 suttas (sometimes called suttāntas). This Introduction will make a short statement about each of these suttas and takes the place of a Table of Contents. A comprehensive summary of each sutta will be given in the Abstract of that sutta. These Abstrats immediately follow this
The Mahāpadāna Sutta (D 14)
gives some basic information of the six Buddhas who preceded Gotama the historical Buddha. This is pure mythology and cannot be accommodated within the known history of India. The second sutta Mahānidhāna Sutta (D 15)
gives an early version of one of the key doctrines of Buddhism the theory of Dependent Origination. Next comes the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (D 16)
which is the longest in the Canon and contains the last teachings of the Buddha. The next two suttas the Mahāsudassana Sutta (D 17)
and the Janavasabha Sutta (D 18)
are spin-offs from the sutta of the Great Disease. They are largely mythological and lack a realistic basis. The next Sutta the Mahāgovinda Sutta (D 19)
is in reality a Jātaka or (previous birth) story. The next sutta the Mahāsamaya Sutta (D 20)
is another mythical story of a great gathering of the gods near Kapilavatthu for the express purpose of viewing the Buddha and his band of Arhats. In the next sutta the Sakkapañha Sutta (D 21)
the Buddha answers a number of questions posed by Sakka the King of the gods. The questions are not very challenging ones and serve to illustrate the mental level of the many mythical gods who populate the Buddhist universe. The next Sutta the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta (D 22)
deals with the important doctrine of Mindfulness. It reproduces verbatim a sutta in the Majjhima Nikāya (M 10). The section added is a fairly direct exposition of the Four Noble Truths. The final sutta the Pāyāsi Sutta (D 23) is an interesting debate on the key doctrines of Kamma and Rebirth. Rebirth remains the most contentious doctrine in Buddhism and even though the sceptical king is convinced of its truth by the monk Kumāra Kassapa the arguments used by him are questionable by modern standards.
Half the suttas in this collections are purely mythological and some of the others also contain mythical elements. Nonetheless they give a good insight to the varied nature of the suttas in the Pali Nikāyas.
D 14. Mahāpadāna Sutta
This sutta is the Buddha's story of the six mythical Buddhas that preceded him. There is nothing extra regarding the doctrine they preached other than that it was the Buddha's own Dhamma. Only the basic information about the Buddhas is given in this Abstract.]
The sutta begins with a discussion amongst the bhikkhus gathered in the Kareri pavilion in Sāvatthi about previous births. The Buddha hears this through his divine ear and comes to the pavilion. He then asked if the bhikkhus would like to hear a discourse on this subject. On being told that they would the Buddha started with the story of of the Buddha Vipassi
and prceded to deal with the others.
[4 - 90] [N.B.
For each of the Buddhas the information given relates to the following items: (1) The era or eon (kappa
) which they lived (a kappa
) is long period of time, a regular kappa
is said to be 16 million years!); (2) His rank (jāti
) or caste either Noble (Khattiya
) or Brahmin; (3) Family name (gotta
); (4) Length of life at the time; (5) The tree under which he gained enlightenment; (6) The Chief Disciple; (7) The co-Chief Disciple; (8) The number of Arhats in assemblies; (9) Name of attendant bhikkhu; (10) Father; (11); Mother; (12) Birth-place. These 12 items are given in the Table below for the six mythical Buddhas and the one historical Buddha (Gotama). In the course of the narration large numbers of devas come to listen to the story.]
|No of Arhats.||80000||
The Buddha said: "At one time I was dwelling at Ukkattha, in the Delectable Wood, beneath a giant sal tree. Now to me as I meditated in solitude this idea arose in my mind:- 'There is but one abode of beings easily accessible that I have not dwelt in for a very long time, and that is among the gods of the Pure Mansions. What if I were now to repair thither ?' Then I vanished from beneath the giant sal tree in the Delectable Wood at Ukkattha and appeared among the gods of the Aviha heaven."
The Buddha continued: "Then several thousands of them came up to me, and saluting me, stood by and spoke thus : 'Friend! in this fortunate aeon the Exalted One has now arisen in the world as an Arhat, Buddha Supreme. The Exalted One, friend, is of noble birth, born in a clan of nobles, in a family with Gotama for surname. Small is the span of life in the Exalted One's time, brief and soon past; he who is long-lived lives a hundred years more or less. The Exalted One, friend, became a Buddha under an aspen tree. He has, friend, two chief disciples, Sāriputta and Moggallāna, a glorious pair. He has had one assembly, friend, of disciples, 1250 in number, and in this company all are arhats. He has for chief attendant, one named Ananda. His father, friend, is the raja Suddhodana, whose wife Maya is his mother, and whose seat is the town of Kapilavatthu. His leaving the world, his becoming a recluse, his travail, his enlightenment, his setting the Wheel of Truth a-rolling, were each on such and such wise. And we being of those who lived the holy life under our Exalted One, and purged the lusts of the flesh, have been reborn here.'
"Thereafter, brethren, I resorted, not only to the Aviha gods, but also to the home of the Cool gods; and the Well-seeing gods and came to the Senior gods. And in each of these heavens numbers of the gods accosted me and told me of their previous birth under Vipassi and the following Buddhas down to the recent one, myself.
"Thus, brethren, through his clear discernment of that principle of the Truth, is the Tathagata able to remember the Buddhas of old, who attained final completion, who cut off obstacles, who cut down barriers, who have ended the cycle, who have escaped from all sorrow,-so that he can remember as to their birth, their names, their families, the span of life usual in their time, their pair of disciples, and their congregations of disciples, and can say:- 'Of such was the birth of those Exalted Ones, such were their names, their families, such were their morals, their doctrines, their wisdom; how they lived and how they gained emancipation.' ".
Thus spoke the Buddha and the bhikkhus were pleased and rejoiced at the word of the Exalted One.
This narrative cannot be taken as history. It is pure myth and should be treated as such.
D 15. Mahānidāna Sutta
This sutta was given at Kammasadhamma in the Kuru country to Ananda who had said that the doctrine of Dependent Arising, even though it appears deep, is clear to him. The Buddha cautioned him: "Do not say so. This doctrine is deep. Because of not understanding it people have become entangled". He then asserted this sequence of
- With birth (jāti) as condition there is aging and death (jarāmaraṇa).
- With existence ( bhava) as condition there is birth (jāti).
- With clinging (upādāna) condition there is existence (bhava).
- With craving (taṇhā) as condition there is clinging (upādāna).
- With feeling (vedanā) as condition there is craving (taṇhā).
- With contact (phassa) as condition there is feeling (vedanā).
- With name-and-form (nāmarūpa) as condition there is contact (phassa).
- With consciousness (viññāṇa) as condition there is name-and-form (nāmarūpa).
- With name-and-form (nāmarūpa) as condition there is consciousness (viññāṇa).
In each of these links without the cause the result will not occur.
Dependent upon feeling (vedanā
), there is craving; dependent upon craving (taṅhā
) there is seeking; dependent upon seeking (pariyesanā
), there is gain; dependent upon gain (lābha
), there is decision-making; dependent upon decision-making (vinicchāya
), there is desire and lust; dependent upon desire and lust (chandarāga
), there is attachment; dependent upon attachment (ajjhosanā
), there is possessiveness; dependent upon possessiveness (pariggaha
), there is avarice; dependent upon avarice (macchāriya
), there is safe-guarding; dependent upon safe-guarding (arakkha
), there arise various evil unwholesome states like taking up of the rod, taking up of the sword, conflicts, quarrels, disputes, back-biting, harsh speech, false speech.
How does contact lead to feeling? Here contact comes through eye-contact (which comes from forms), ear-contact (sounds), nose-contact (smells and odours), tongue-contact (tastes), body-contact (touches) and mind-contact (ideas). In the complete absence of
such contact, with the cessation of contact, there would be no feeling.
How does name-and-form lead to contact? With name-and-form as condition, there is contact." If there were no qualities, traits, signs and indicators through which there is a description of the mental body [mind-group] then sense-impression would not manifest in the mental body.
How does consciousness condition name-and-form? If consciousness were not to descend into a mother's womb, then name-and-form will not take shape in the womb. If, after descending into the mother's womb, the consciousness were to depart, no name-and-form would be be generated. If the consciousness of a young boy or a young girl were cut off, name-and-form would not grow, develop and mature.
How does name-and-form condition consciousness? If there were no name-and-form to find a footing in consciousness, there would be no further arising of birth, decay, death and suffering. Therefore this itself is the reason, the connection, the arising, the condition for consciousness.
It is thus far that one can be born, or decay, or die, or fall away, or re-arise; thus far that there is a pathway for designation, language, description, knowing. It is thus far that the samsaric round revolves, that is, when there exist name-and-form together with consciousness.
There are four ways of describing the self. These could be jhānic perceptions of the self (attā
). These are:
- Self as having material form and being limited. This describes a self existing at present or in a future birth. In either case it is a settled view of self.
- Self as having form and being unlimited. Here too the self may exist at present or in a future birth. Or it could be a latent view of the self, not explicitly held.
- Self as being formless and limited. This too refers to an existing self or a potential and latent view of the self,
- Self as being formless and unlimited. This could be self-existing now or in the future.
[There are ways of not describing self. They are the opposite of the four ways of describing self.] He who refrains from making declaration (about the self) does not make it with regard to the present life or a future one.
This deals with those who consider the self in relation to feeling or not. There are the following four aspects to consider:
- Here a person says "Feeling is my self". But feeling is on three kinds: painful, pleasant or neutral; at any moment a person will be in one of these. He should be questioned which of these is the self. All these feelings are impermanent with definite causes and are liable to perish. Is self is identified with a particular feeling, when it ends the
Self too will end. So this view is not commendable.
- Here a person says: "Feeling is not my self; my self is without the experience of feeling," This person should be asked "When there is no feeling of anything can you say 'I am' "? He cannot so this view is also unsatisfactory.
- Here a person says "My self is not feeling, nor is it non-sentient. It has feelings and sentience", He too will not be able to say "I myself am". So this view too is not commendable.
- Here a bhikkhu who does not regard any of the above. He grasps at nothing, and so he does not tremble, he is at perfect peace. He has
reached Arhatship. Of such a person it cannot be said that he continues after death, He is free of all language,
communication, knowledge, and of the round of birth. He has been set free.
There are seven stations of consciousness. for consciousness. These are:
- Beings who are different in body and in perception such as humans, some devas and beings in hell.
- Beings who are different in body but same in perception such as those in the Brahma world who had gone there through the first jhāna.
- Beings who are same in body but different perception like the Abyssara devas.
- Beings who are same in body and same in perception like the Subhakina devas.
- Those who have arrived at the sphere of the infinity of space.
- Those who have arrived at the sphere of the infinity of consciousness.
- Those who have arrived at the sphere of nothingness.
None of these seven stations of consciousness is a state to delight in. That is because they are all subject to pass away. When a monk has understood this he is liberated through non-clinging, then he is called a monk liberated through wisdom.
There are eight kinds of Emancipation or Liberation. These are:
- One with physical form who sees physical forms.
- One who does not see physical form internally, but sees physical forms externally.
- One who is liberated after contemplating the idea of the beautiful.
- One who enters and dwells in the sphere of the Infinity of Space by the utter transcending of the perception of physical form, the passing away of the perception of impingement, and non-attention to the perception of diversity, and thinking "Space is infinite".
- One who enters and dwells in the sphere of the Infinity of consciousness by the utter transcending of the infinity of space, and thinking "Consciousness is infinite".
- One who enters and dwells in the sphere of Nothingness by the utter transcending of the sphere of the infinity of consciousness, and thinking "There is nothing".
- One who enters and dwells in the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception by the utter transcending of the sphere of nothingness.
- One who enters and dwells in the cessation of perception and feeling through the utter transcending of the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.
[No further information is given on any of these.]
When a monk attains these eight liberations in a forward order, or in a reverse order, or in both forward and reverse order, when he attains to them and emerges from them, wherever he wishes, in whatever way he wishes, for as long as he wishes, and when, right here and now having realized for himself through direct knowledge, upon attaining the liberation of mind and the liberation by wisdom that are influx-free with the destruction of the mental influxes, dwells therein then he is called a monk who is liberated both ways. There is no other liberation that is higher or more excellent than this liberation both ways.
The Blessed One said this. The venerable Ananda joyfully approved of the Blessed One's word.
This Sutta introduces an important doctrine of the Buddha into the Digha Nikaya. This is the doctrine of causality called Paṭiccasamuppāda
or Dependent Origination (DO). This asserts that all states result from pre-existing causes. It is the opposite of the doctrine of creation by a God or other supreme entity. It is the basis of modern scientific investigation. But whereas science investigates for the most past to physical things the Buddha's interest was in human suffering. It is to elucidate this that the theory of DO was mooted.
This sutta gives a version of this doctrine somewhat different from later versions. As the first paragraph shows there are only 9 bases as against the 12 in the standard version. The three missing are ignorance (avijjā
), karma formations (saṅkhāra
) and the six sense organs (salāyatana
). This creates certain problems. Thus in formulation the last two links make
consciousness to depend on name-and-form and name-and-form to depend on consciousness. This makes these two bases interdependent not dependently originated as the other bases.
There is also less emphasis on re-birth than in the standard version. This is because karma formation so important to the re-birth theory is neglected. The standard version is usually taken to represent three life cycles in the chain of saṃsāra.
The discussion of the DO doctrine is followed by a discussion on other matters like the doctrine of Self (Soul) and the path to liberation in which the usual position of the Buddha is given.
D 16. Mahāparinibbāna Sutta
This is the longest sutta in the Pali Canon and consists of a number of episodes relating to the last days of the Buddha. This Abstract is even more succinct than previous ones and the episodes are titled. Where necessary the verse numbers in the Pali text are given in addition to the usual method showing the Sixth Council numbering. The verse numbers are preceded by the number sign (#)].
The Vassakara Episode.
This starts with the Buddha at Rajagaha when King Ajatasatru was planning an attack on the Vajjian Confederacy. The King sent his chief Minister Vassakara to get the Buddha's opinion on this. Vassakara went to see the Buddha at the Gijjakhuta mountain and explained the purpose of his mission. Before answering Vessakara the Buddha verified from Ananda that the Vajjians satisfy seven conditions. These are (1) that they assemble regularly and frequently; (2) that they agree peacefully and unanimously; (3) that they neither enact new decrees nor abolish old ones; (4) that they honour and esteem their elders and listen to them; (5) that they do not abduct women and detain them; (6) that they honour their shrines; and (7) that they guard and protect Arhats. Then the Buddha said that so long as the Vajjians do this they will grow and prosper.
Then to Vassakara the Buddha said: "When I dwelt among the Vajjians I taught them the seven conditions leading to prosperity. So long as these endure their growth would have to be expected, not their decline". Then Vassakara said: "Even if the Vajjians keep one of these it would be for their growth. What then of all the seven? No harm, indeed, can be done to the Vajjis in battle by Magadha's king, Ajatasattu, except through treachery or discord". Saying that Vassakara left.
The Welfare of Monks.
Then the Buddha got all the monks assembled and gave them instructions for their welfare and growth and preventing their decline. These consisted of five groups of 7 things and one of 6 things, all making up 41 things.
The first group of seven (1-7) were were (1) meet regularly and frequently; (2) agree unanimously on the tasks that they should do; (3) not establish new laws or cut off old ones; (4) honour elder monks and leaders of the Community; (5) not come under the influence of craving; (6) desire forest dwellings; and (7) attend to mindfulness and live comfortably with their fellow celibates.
The second group of seven (8-14) were: (1) should not be devoted to the pleasure in work, the delight in work, and not attached to work; (2) should not be devoted to the pleasure in speech, the delight in speech, and are not attached to speech; (3) should not be devoted to the pleasure in sleep, the delight in sleep, and are not attached to sleep; (4) should not be devoted to the pleasure of company, the delight in company, and are not attached to company; (5) should not have evil wishes, not go under the influence of evil wishes; (6) should not have wicked friends, wicked companions, and wicked comrades; (7) should not achieve only mundane or incomplete attainment.
The third group of seven (15-21) were: (1) should have faith; (2) should have conscientious mind; (3) should have sense of shame; (5) should be strenuous; (6) should attend to mindfulness; (7) should possess wisdom.
The fourth group of seven (22-28) were: (1) should develop the factor of Perfect Awakening that is Mindfulness; (2) should develop the factor of Perfect Awakening that is Investigation of the nature of things; (3) should develop the factor of Perfect Awakening that is Energy; (4) should develop the factor of Perfect Awakening that is Rapture; (5) should develop the factor of Perfect Awakening that is Calm; (6) should develop the factor of Perfect Awakening that is Concentration; (7) should develop the factor of Perfect Awakening that is Equanimity.
The fifth group of seven (29-35) were: (1) should develop the perception of impermanence; (2) should develop the perception of non-self; (3) should develop the perception of the unattractive; (4) should develop the perception of danger; (5) should develop the perception of giving up; (6) should develop the perception of dispassion; and (7) should develop the perception of cessation.
The final group of six (36-41) were: (1) should with friendly actions by way of the body serve their fellow celibates, both in public and in private; (2) should with friendly actions by way of speech will serve their fellow celibates, both in public and in private; (3) should serve their fellow celibates, both in public and in private; (4) should in regard to those righteous gains, received in accordance with the Teaching whatever amount has been received in the bowl will divide and share such gains with those who are virtuous, fellow celibates, and share them in common; (5) should be endowed with those virtues which are unbroken, faultless, unspotted, unblemished, productive of freedom, praised by the wise, not clung to, leading to concentration and will live endowed with virtue amongst their fellow celibates who themselves possess such virtue, both in public and in private; and (6) should endowed with that which is
Aryan View, which leads out, which leads to the complete destruction of suffering for one who acts thus, and will live endowed with Right View amongst those who themselves possess such Right View, both in public and in private.
From Rajagaha to Pāṭaligāma
While living at Rajagaha, at the Vultures' Peak, the Buddha gave counsel to the bhikkhus thus: "This is morality, this is concentration, this is wisdom. Concentration, when imbued with morality, brings great fruit and profit. Wisdom, when imbued with concentration, brings great fruit and profit. The mind imbued with wisdom becomes completely free from the corruptions, that is, from the corruption of sensuality, of becoming, of false views and of ignorance." [This statement is repeated
several times later and will be called the Comprehensive Talk on Dhamma.]
When the Blessed One had stayed at Rajagaha as long as he pleased, he went to Ambalatthika
with the monks and dwelt at the Kings Rest (rajāgārike
). There too he gave the Comprehensive Talk on Dhamma. His next destination was Nāḷandā where he lodged at the Pāvārika Mango Grove. There Sāriputta came and said that there has never been nor will be anyone more enlightened than the Buddha. The Buddha however discounted this praise saying that there have been and will be Buddhas equal to him. Then after preaching the Comprehensive Talk on Dhamma he set off to Pāṭaligāma.
There in the Rest House he addressed the householders on the five perils of immoral conduct. These were: (1) loss of property through neglect of affairs; (2) getting a bad reputation; (3) becoming diffident and shy in confronting assemblies; (4) dying confused; and (5) after death going to a bad place. He then gave the five consequences of good conduct. These were the opposite of the five bad consequences given above. He then gave the Comprehensive talk on Dhamma.
At that time two Magadhan ministers Sunidha and Vassakara were building a
fortress at Pāṭaligāma. The Buddha then saw with his Divine Eye that many
devas were taking up residence there. He made the prophesy that this will be
site of a great city Pāṭaliputta in the future. The two ministers then
visited the Buddha and invited him for the meal the next day. The Buddha
accepted and after the meal advised the Ministers that those leading the
virtuous holy life should be fed because the devas will respect and honour
those who do this so that they will be happy. After this the Buddha left
Pāṭaligāma and came to the River Ganges which he crossed miraculously by
disappearing from one bank and appearing on the other. [His entourage
probably did it conventionally by boat.]
From Pāṭaligāma to Vesāli
The Buddha then went to Koṭigāma. He then spoke to the monks on the importance of the Four Noble Truths. He also gave them the Comprehensive
Talk on Dhamma. Then he left Koṭigāma for Nādikā. There Ananda said that the monk Sāḷha, the nun Nandā and several lay followers, male and female, had recently died at Nādikā and wanted to know what their destinations after death had been. The Buddha then gave the destination for each of them whether they had like Sāḷha had reached the final goal, or like the monks had become non-returners, or once-returners. The lay persons would become Stream-winners or non-returners. The Buddha then said that it would be vexatious of him to give the destinations of all followers after their death. He said he could preach the Mirror of the Dhamma (dhammādāsa
) which would enable each one of followers to determine their destination after death. When asked what this was he said that the Ariyan disciple with full confidence in the Buddha would understand the stanza praising the Buddha (beginning 'itipiso
...' etc.), the stanza praising the Dhamma (beginning 'sākkhāto
...' etc.) and the stanza praising the Sangha (beginning 'supaṭipanno
...' etc.). He concluded by giving the Comprehensive
Talk on the Dhamma.
Then the Buddha left for Vesāli and took residence at Ambapāli's Grove. Then he addressed the monks on mindfulness and clear awareness. The monk should contemplate the body ardently and be aware of what he is doing. Then Ambapāli visited the Buddha and invited him for the meal next day which he accepted. Then some Liccavi youths
came to see the Buddha in order to invite him for the meal the next day but on learning that Ambhapāli's invitation had been accepted they went back disappointed after listening to some Dhamma talk. After the meal Ambapāli announced that she was gifting her Grove to the Sangha which offer was accepted. Afterwards the Buddha again gave the
Comprehensive Talk on the Dhamma to the monks.
Then the Buddha announced that he would spend the rains at the village of Beluva near Sāvatthi. There he was attacked by a severe illness but he overcame it with determination. Ananda was saddened but pleased that the Buddha had not died. He said that the Buddha would not pass away before he has told the order about it. Then the Buddha told Ananda that he was now eighty
years old, and that a monk should be an island unto himself with no other refuge. Then
the next day after the alms round in Sāvatthi he went to the Capala shrine and there he said to Ananda that a Tathagata could live up to a century if he wanted to. But Ananda failed to grasp that hint and ask the Buddha to do so even though this statement was repeated thrice.
Shortly afterwards when Ananda had left the Buddha's side Mara approached the Buddha and told him that it was time to attain final Nibbāna. The Buddha declined this but when Mara persisted the Buddha announced that the final Nibbāna will be in three month's time. This is taken as the Buddha renouncing the life-principle (āyusaṅkhāra
). Then a great earthquake took place. Ananda returned to inquire the cause for the earthquake. The Buddha gave eight reasons for earthquakes including the birth of a Tathāgata as well as his passing away into Nibbāna. He followed this up with a description of eight kinds of assembly (parisā
), eight stages of mastery (abhibhāyatanāni
). and eight kinds of liberation (vimokkhā
). The latter were given as : "(1) possessing form, seeing forms; (2) not perceiving material forms in oneself, seeing them outside; (3) becoming intent on beauty; (4) completely transcending all perception of matter and entering the Sphere of Infinite Space; (5) entering the the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness; (6) entering the Sphere of No-Thingness; (7) abiding in the Sphere of Neither-Perception- Nor-Non-Perception; and (8) abiding in the Cessation of Perception and Feeling.
Then the Buddha recounted to Ananda his encounter with Mara during his Enlightenment at Uruvelā. He then related his latest encounter with Mara at the Capala shrine when he renounced the life-principle. Then Ananda begged the Buddha not to enter final Nirvāna.
But the Buddha recounted the number of times that Ananda could have made this request but did not. Now it as too late. He requested Ananda to assemble all the monks at the Brick Hall. Then he told the monks:
"What I have discovered and proclaimed should be thoroughly learnt, practised, developed and cultivated by you. They are: The four foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four roads to power, the five spiritual faculties, the five mental powers, the seven factors of enlightenment, the Noble Eightfold Path. In three months the Tathāgata will take final Nibbāna. My life-span is determined, I go from you, having made myself my refuge. Monks, be untiring, mindful, disciplined, guard your minds with well-collected thought. He who tirelessly keeps to law and discipline, leaving birth behind will put an end to suffering."
From Vesāli to Kusināra
Then the Buddha did his last alms round in Vesali and after the meal took the last look at Vesāli. Then he left Vesāli and with the monks went to Baṇḍāgāma. There he told the monks: "Through not understanding the Ariyan morality, concentration, wisdom, and liberation, that I as well as you have for a long time fared on round the cycle of rebirths. And it is by understanding and penetrating the Ariyan morality, concentration, wisdom and liberation that the craving for becoming has been cut off and exhausted, and there will be no more rebirth.?" Then the Buddha again delivered his Comprehensive
Talk on the Dhamma.
The Buddha next went to Bhoganagara where he told the monks that if someone says that such is the teaching this should be compared with what is in the Suttas. This way of
verification should be applied to other claims about the Dhamma. and then only should it be accepted. Then he gave again the Comprehensive
Talk on the Dhamma. From there the Buddha went to Pāvā and stayed at the mango-grove of Cunda the smith. Cunda visited him, listened to the Dhamma, and invited him for the meal the next day. This meal contained the dish sūkaramaddhava
which has been variously interpreted as pork or truffles. The Buddha said that this
dish should only be served to him and anything left over should be buried. After the meal the Buddha suffered from a severe
diarrhoea which he suppressed with determination. Then he said that his next destination should be Kusināra.
On the way the Buddha rested by the roadside and requested Ananda to fetch some water to drink from a nearby stream. But Ananda discouraged him saying that the water had been churned up by 500 carts which had crossed it. At the third request Ananda went to fetch the water and found the stream flowing clear. He considered this a
miracle. At that time Pukkusa a Malla, who was a follower of Alara Kālāma was going on the read and seeing the Buddha came over and saluted him and sat down on a side. He said that once Alāra Kālāma was sitting down when 500 carts passed close to him but he did not notice any of it. The Buddha then recounted an experience of his at Atumi when he was out in a rain storm but did to notice the storm. Pukkhusa considered this another wonder and requested ordination and became a monk. He then went on his way.
The Parinirvāna of the Buddha
After the Pukkhusa incident Ananda dressed the Buddha in a golden robe and noticed that his skin colour had become even brighter than the robe. The Buddha said that this occurred only twice once when the Tathagata becomes enlightened the other when he passes into final Nibbāna. He said that this will happen to him that day, Then the Buddha went to the river Kakutthā, bathed there and went to a Mango Grove nearby. There he requested the monk Cundaka to lay down a robe folded into four. There he laid down adopting the lion's posture. It was here that he said that no ill effects would come to Cunda for providing him the meal of truffles. On the contrary it was very meritorious to provide a Tathāgata with his last meal.
Then the Buddha suggested that they cross the Hiraññavati river and enter the Sal-grove of the Mallas near Kusināra. There he lay down between two Sal trees which miraculously burst into untimely flower. The devas too gathered in large numbers, seen only by the Buddha. The Buddha then gave some teachings and instructions:
- There were four places worthy of a pilgrimage. These were where the Tathāgata was born, where he achieved enlightenment, where he gave the first sermon, and where he passed away.
- Monks should avoid women as far as possible but if they have to they should exercise mindfulness.
- The monks should not worry about funeral arrangements for a Tathāgata.
- The remains of the Tathāgata should be treated like that of a wheel-turning monarch. The body should be cremated and a stupa constructed.
- The monks were told: "All Buddhas in the past had chief attendants like Ananda. He is wise and knows the right time for visitors, monks and lay persons to see the Buddha".
Then Ananda went to the Vihara and started weeping. The Buddha summoned him and explained the futility of such action in the face of impermanence. The Buddha then addressed the monks giving four qualities of Ananda: monks coming to see him are pleased at his sight, they are pleased with what he says, they are disappointed if he is silent, and this is also the case with with nuns and lay persons. Then Ananda asked why the Buddha should pass away in a small town, but the Buddha related that in a past time there was a great city here called Kusāvatī. [N.B.
This discussion forms the subject of the next sutta in this vagga D 17. Mahā Sudassana Sutta (See Abstract of sutta D 17) as well as in a Jātaka story.] The Buddha next instructed Ananda to announce his impending passing away to the Mallas at their Assembly. The Mallas reacted with much grief and some came to where the Buddha was.
Then the recluse Subaddha came to see the Buddha and referred to other teachers who advanced different views. The Buddha said that in any teaching which does not have the Noble Eightfold Path there are no followers with the degrees of attainment found in those following the Dhamma. This discussion ends with Subaddha obtaining the ordination so that he became the last convert of the Buddha.
Then the Buddha gave final instructions to Ananda that after his death the teaching he had given should be their Master. The Buddha asked the monks to ask him any question if they had any doubts but all of them fell silent. Then the Buddha uttered his final words: "Monks, I declare to you: all conditioned things are of a nature to decay. Work your own salvation with diligence (vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādetha
)". Then the Buddha went through the Jhānic processes and after the fourth jhāna passed away.
After the the Parinirvāna
After the passing away of the Buddha stanzas on the Buddha and his teaching were recited by Brahmā Sahampati, Sakka the ruler of the devas, Venerable Anuruddha, and Venerable Ananda. Others who had not yet reached a degree of spiritual mastery began weeping until Ven Anuruddha admonished them. There were seven days of official mourning by the Mallas. After this the cremation was undertaken according to the instructions of Venerable Ananda, the funeral pyre igniting itself. Then of the Buddha's body only fragments of bones remained.
There were many claimants for the remains of the Buddha. But on the suggestions of a Brahmin Doṇa the remains were divided into portions going to King Ajātasattu of Magadha, the Licchavis of Vesālī, the Sakyans of Kapilavatthu, the Bulayas of Allakappa, the Koliyas of Rāmagāma, the Brahmins of Veṭhadīpa, the Mallas of Pāvā, the Mallas of Kusinārā and lastly the Brahmin Doṇa himself. Stupas were built by all these over their portions of the relics.
King Ajatasttu of Magada is said to have built a large number of stupas from the
portion of the relics that had been allocated to him.
A Sanskrit version of this sutta called the Maha Parinirvana Sutra exists which
differs in some respects from the Pali version. A Chinese translation
simply called the Nirvana sutta also exists. Many doctrines have been
attributed to the Buddha and they were tacked on to the final discourse to get
the Buddha's approval before he died. One of these is the injunction to his
followers to be vegetarians. This is not found in the Pali version
This important Sutta
requires a separate analytical essay. So the usual summary analysis will not be
D 17. Mahāsudassana Sutta
This is a mythical story about a Cakkavatti King Mahāsudassana ruling from a city called Kusavati located where the village of Kusinara was located in the Buddha's time. It is a story with no historical basis and almost no moral value. Only a few of the extravagant claims made are given in this Abstract of the Sutta.]
When the Buddha was lying in the Sal forest of the Mallas at Kusināra just prior to his passing away venerable Ananda pleaded with him not to die in this small wattle-and-daub village in the jungle when he had lived in the great cities of the Northern India of the time. Then the Buddha related this narrative to show that a great city called Kusāvati existed at this very site in previous times when it was the capital of a wheel-turning monarch called King Sudassana. These are some of the features of the city and the King and the happenings at Kusavati.
- In size Kusavati was 12 yojanas by 7 yojanas. It was surrounded by seven ramparts made of seven kinds of precious substances. The ramparts were surrounded with rows of Palm trees made of the same substances.
- King Sudassana was endowed with the seven treasures – the Wheel, the Elephant, the Horse, the Jewel, the Woman, the Householder, and the Counsellor Treasures. He ruled over the lands in all the four directions.
- The King was endowed with four properties: He was handsome, he was long lived, he was free of sickness, and he was loved by the people.
- The King had 84,000 each of cities (Kusavati being the chief), palaces (Dhamma Palace being the chief), couches, elephants, carriages, wives (Subhadda being the chief), householders, khattiya retainers, cows, bales of clothing, and rice offerings for taking free by the needy.
- The Palace of Dhamma at Kusavati was one-and half square yojana in size, in height 3 times that of a man. It had tiles of four colors had 84,000 columns, 24 staircases, 84,000 chambers.
- The King used to meditate in the Palace exuding loving kindness, compassion, muditha and upekkha in all directions.
- The King wanted to construct ponds between the Palm trees made of the precious substances, surrounded by staircases of gold and silver with parapets and charitable posts providing free food and drink. The Khattiyas brought in the money and the god Sakka sent the divine engineer Vissakamma and the plan was executed.
Many other marvellous things and happening at Kusavati are related.
Then comes the story of the death of the King. This begins with Queen Subhadda after thousands of years deciding to visit King Sudassana. She collects a large number of women from the harem and with a military escort goes to the Dhamma Palace. But the King stops her from entering. The King ordered a man to bring out the Royal Couch and put it beside the Golden palm tree. Then he reclined on it in the lion's posture. The Queen thinking that he was going to die entreated him to stay alive reminding him of his immense wealth. But the King said: "For a long time you have spoken delightful words but not now. You should say: 'All things that are pleasing are liable to vanish. Do not die filled with longing. Abandon the longing to live in Kusavati' ". The Queen said as told and the King died and was born in the Brahma world. He had ruled for 84,000 years.
Then the Buddha told Ananda that King Sudassana was himself in a previous birth and this was the seventh time he had died in that place. So this was the best place for the Tathagata to end his life for the eighth time. Then the Buddha said:
"Impermanent are compounded things, prone to rise and fall,
Having risen, they are destroyed, their passing truest Bliss."
This is a purely mythological story to justify the Buddha's death at the obscure village of Kusinārā.
Whether Buddha really said it or it was later interpolated into the story we
will never know.
D 18. Janavasabha Sutta
The Buddha was staying at Nātika (on his last journey). He was speaking about the after-death destination of his followers who had died including many from Nādika. Some of them had realized their goal and others had gone to good births which pleased the people of Nātika. Ananda hears of this and he thought about the fate of others from Anga and Magadha who had died including Bimbisāra the former King of Magadha. He told the Buddha of what he had thought and the Buddha after his alms round and the meal concentrated his mind on the fate of his Magadhan followers after their death.
That evening the Buddha told Ananda that when he was concentrating on the fate of the Magadhan adherents an invisible spirit came and said "I am Janavasabha". Soon he materialized himself and identified himself as King Bimbisāra in a previous birth. He had been re-born in the deva world and was now in communion with King Vessavaṇa, the Great King of the North (of the Deva-world). He said that he was destined not to be re-born in states of woe and now wished to become a Once-returner. He understood that the Buddha had exerted his mind to find the fate his followers in Magadha who had died and he has now come before the Exalted One. He then related the following account of recent happenings in the Deva-world.
The Discourse of Jana-sabha
Once the devas in the retinue of the Thirty-Three (tāvatiṃsā
) were assembled at the Sudhammāya (Good Law) Hall to conduct their business. This included the devas who had recently arisen in the deva world after following the teaching of the Buddha Gotama. They shone brighter than the rest. Then Sakka, King of the Gods, uttered a verse honouring the Tathagata who had preached the sublime law as well as the newcomers who had followed the teaching. Then a radiant light shone from the North and Sakka explained that this heralded the imminent manifestation of Brahmā Santaṅakumāra.
Then the Brahma came assuming a gross form of the youth Pancasikha as his normal form would be too much even for the devas to behold. Usually the Brahma chooses on whose divan he sits, which would give great satisfaction to the deva who owns that divan. But Pancasikha sat cross-legged in the sky and uttered a stanza, praising the Tathagata and the newly arisen devas who had followed the Sage and now outshine the established gods. He then gave a Dhamma talk consisting of the following topics:
- The four roads to power consists of concentration, of intention, of energy, of consciousness and of investigation. He said that he too has practiced these four roads to power.
- The Three gateways to bliss. These are (1) a person infatuated with sense desires hears the Dhamma and dissociates himself from sense desires as a result of which he experiences joy and gladness; (2) a person endowed with the gross tendencies of body, speech and mind hears the Dhamma practicing which he gains true joy; (3) a person who does not know what is right from what is wrong, what is blameworthy from what is not, hears the Dhamma ans learns true morality and practicing which he gives him gladness and joy.
- The four foundations of mindfulness. Here a person contemplates his body as body, his feelings as feelings, his mind as mind and finally the mind objects as mind objects.
- The Seven requisites of concentration, which are right view, right thought, right speech,
right action, right livelihood, right effort, and right mindfulness. These lead to right
concentration and ultimately to right knowledge and right liberation.
Then the Brahma concluded saying that more than 24 lakhs [2.4 million] of Maghadans now dead have completed the destruction of the Three Bonds and cannot be reborn in any state of woe; moreover some of them here are Once-returners. This speech was conveyed by King Vessavaṇa to his followers including the spirit Janavasabha and through him to the Buddha and to Ananda.
This sutta is an expansion of a short incident in the Mahaparinibbāna Sutta during the Buddha's short stay at Nādika. It is obviously a mythological account in contrast to the very real events that took place in the story of the passing away of the Buddha. Most of it is an account of a conclave amongst the gods of the heaven of the Thirty-Three given by the spirit Janasabha who is said to be King Bimbisāra reborn. Most of the sutta is an account of what Janasabha said happened in that heaven.
The most important item in this deva-council is the speech of the Brahma Santakumara assuming the form of the youth Pancasikha. It is curious that the Brahma would be preaching the Dhamma to devas who in their earthly existence would have
heard it and practiced some of it so as to reach their current state as devas. The Brahma reveals that a large number of Maghadans have been reborn in the deva world due to their practice of Dhamma in their earthly existence. The number of 24 lakhs given amounting to
2.4 million is obviously a gross exaggeration.
There is no new doctrinal material in this sutta that is not found elsewhere in the discourses of the Buddha.
D 19. Mahāgovinda Sutta
Gandhabba Pañcasikha visits the Buddha
Once when the Buddha was dwelling on Gijjakūṭa Hill in Rājagaha the Gandhabba Pañcasikha visited him in the early morning lighting the whole place with an
effulgence. He told the Buddha that he would like to relate things he had seen and noted in the presence of the gods of the heaven of the Thirty Three. The Buddha told him to do
so. Then Pañcasikho related the following narrative.
The Speech of Pañcasikha
Some time ago there was an assembly of the gods (devā
) of the Heaven of the Thirty Three. There were the Four Great Kings with their hosts, the Thirty-Three gods and their retinue, Sakka king of the Gods, and those newly arisen gods who had lived the higher life under the Buddha and who shone brighter than the others. The Thirty-Three gods were greatly pleased at this. Seeing this Sakka
gave eight truthful items in praise of the Exalted One. There were:
- He is the only one who has wrought so much for the good and happiness of gods and men whether we survey the past of the present.
- There is no teacher of such a doctrine of welcome and guidance to be comprehended by the wise than the doctrine preached by the Exalted One.
- He has revealed what is good, what is bad, what should be followed, what should be abandoned, what is light and what is dark than any other teacher in the past or present.
- He has shown Nirvana and the way to it. A revealer of such a way is not to be found in the past or the present,
- More than any other teacher in the past or the present he has comrades and students travelling along the Way, some of them Arhats who have reached the goal.
- Nobles are well disposed towards him and give him gifts which he accepts with a heart not intoxicated by pride.
- His acts conform to his speech and his speech to his acts. A teacher of his kind and character, we find not, whether we survey the past, or the present.
- He has crossed the sea of doubt, gone by for him is all question of the 'how' and 'why' accomplished for him is every purpose.
Then some gods wished that there three such teachers in the world, others wished for two, but Sakka reminded them that there can be only one supremely enlightened Buddha in any given world system. Then an exceedingly bright light shone from the North and Sakka said that this heralded the imminent arrival of Brahmā Santanaṅkumara. Then the Brahmā did arrive but he was invisible and his voice only was heard to say in verse: "The Thirty-Three and all other gods honour the Tathāgata and the sublime cosmic law. The newly arisen gods who had lived the holy life under the Tathgātha
are beautiful and bright, hearers of the Mighty Sage". He then materialized taking the shape of the Paṅcasikha deva and sat cross-legged in the sky. He then requested Sakka to repeat the eight qualities of the Tathagata that he had told the assembly earlier.
The Story of Mahā Govinda (the Great Steward)
Meanwhile on earth there was a king called Disampati who ruled over a large territory. His chief minister was a Brahmin named Govinda (called the Steward). He was a clever officer who did much of the administrative work for the King. The king had a son called Reṇu, Govinda had a son called Jotipala. These two youngsters together with six young nobles were good friends.
In course of time Govinda died. This was a great loss to Disampati as Govinda had taken on himself all the duties of the king leaving Disampati to enjoy the pleasures of the senses, On the advice of his son Renu Disampati offered the job of Steward to Jotipala, the son of the deceased Steward. Jotipala accepted the job and in course of time became even more efficient than his father had been. He came to be known as the Great Steward (Mahā Govinda).
King Disampati was also getting old the Chief Steward knew that when the king died Prince Reṇu would succeed him. So he went to the six nobles and told them that when King Disampati dies and Prince Reṇu is anointed King the nobles should tell their friend Reṇu that he should share the Kingdom with the six of them. The nobles then went to Reṇu and told them of the suggestion of the Great Steward. Reṇu readily agreed to this suggestion.
So when king Disampati finally died and Reṇu was made king the nobles reminded him of his promise to share the kingdom with them. King Reṇu agreed to keep his promise and asked the Chief Steward to break up the large Kingdom into seven parts six going to the nobles and the seventh being his kingdom. The Chief Steward did this skilfully so that each kingdom went to a particular tribe. Accordingly he gave Dantapura for the Kalingas, Potana for the Assakas, Mahissati for the Avantis, Roruka in the Soviras, Mithila for the Videhas, Campa for the Angas, leaving the Kasi as the realm for Reṇu to rule. The nobles took royal names for themselves as kings, but they agreed to allow the Great Steward to do the practical tasks of administration.
Soon the fame of the Great Steward grew and it was rumoured that he was in communion with Brahmā himself. This was not true but the Great Steward had heard that the only way to see Brahmā would be to go into seclusion for four months and meditate on compassion. He announced his intention
to go on retreat for four months to all who would be affected by that decision and having got a lodging made where he could mediate in solitude he began his four month retreat. But at the end of this period he could still not have communion with Brahmā and got extremely
Then Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra divining what was in the mind of the Great Steward appeared before
him much to his terror. This fear and dread was allayed when he learned that the Brahmā had come to give him "whatsoever you would like to have". What the great Steward wanted most was to find the way to the Brahma world. Then Brahmā gave the requirements
to do so as being proficient in abandoning all thought of 'me' and 'mine', living in solitude, meditating on compassion, giving up things with a foul smell (nirāmagandho virato
), and chastity. Then the Great Steward said he could understand all these things except avoiding things with a foul odour and asked
the Brahmā what they were. Then the Brahmā said that they were "Anger
and lies, deceit and treachery, selfishness, self-conceit and jealousy, greed,
doubt, and lifting hands against fellow men, lusting and hate, dullness and pride of life". He added that these doom a person to hell.
The Great Steward realized that he could not do all the things that the Brahmā said that were necessary to get to the Brahma world if he remained in the household life. So he decided that he would become a monk. He decided to convey this to all those that would be affected by his decision to leave the household life. Accordingly he went to the following:
- King Reṇu. But the King said that he to would join Mahāgovinda
if he gave up the household life.
- The Six Nobles. They asked Mahāgovinda to wait for seven years but he said that it would be too long. The waiting period was gradually reduced to seven days after which they too would join him. This was agreed to,
- The seven Brahmins and their 700 students. They too tried to dissuade him but finally agreed to join him.
- His 40 equal wives. They said that they too will go into homelessness.
Then after seven days Mahāgovinda cut his hair and beard, donned yellow garb and went into homelessness, together with all his disciples who had agreed to do so. Then they wandered around the country practising compassion. After death each of them was reborn in a heaven depending on how well they had understood and practiced Mahāgovinda's teaching.
The End of Pañcasikha's narration
When Pañcasikha had concluded the story of the Great Steward he asked the Buddha if he remembered any of the events he had related. Then the Buddha said that he had been the Great Steward Mahāgovinda in a past birth. Even though he had guided his disciples then to a heavenly destination that should not be the real goal.
The Buddha said that those of his disciples now who fully understand the
teaching will destroy the intoxications and and realize full liberation even in
this life. Those who have broken the five Fetters are reborn without parents and
will be liberated without returning. Those that have broken away three Fetters
will become Once-Returners. Some will become Stream-Winners, not liable to be reborn in any state of woe, but assured of attaining to the Insight. Thus spoke the Exalted One and Pañcasikha was pleased at the word of the Exalted One, and in delight and gladness he saluted the Exalted One, and vanished from that place.
D 20. Mahāsamaya Sutta
This sutta is given to an assembly of an immense number of gods who had come to see the Buddha and the Arhats. The Buddha tells the bhikkhus the names of the gods who had come and where they came from.
In this abstract the names of some devas has been omitted.]
Once the Buddha was living in the Great Wood near Kapilavatthu with about 500 arhats. Then four devas from the Pure Abodes visited the Buddha and each recited a short verse. Then other devas joined them until a great gathering (mahā samaya
) filled the woodland. Then the Buddha addressed the monks thus: "Often devas from the ten world-systems foregather to see the Tathagata and the community of bhikkhus. Devas have assembled now before me. I will tell you the names of the host of devas, I will reveal their names. I will give utterance. The terrestrial devas remain in their realm. Those bent on meditation frequent rocky clefts. The Arhats live like solitary lions overcoming fear with immaculate minds, pure, serene, and undefiled. Monks, hosts of devas have assembled. Do know them well."
Some bhikkhus saw one hundred, some thousand non-humans (devā)
and others seventy thousand non-humans. Some saw one hundred thousand non-humans, others saw countless numbers, every quarter being filled with them. Thereupon the Buddha knowing all things through super knowledge, addressed the disciples who delighted in the word of the Buddha:
There are 7,000 terrestrial devas (yakkhā
) from Kapilavatthu with super-normal powers (iddhi
), 6,000 from the Himlayan mountains, 3,000 from Mount Sata. These 16,000 were of diverse hue, all with iddhi power and radiant and comely to behold. They came with a retinue of attendants. There were 500 yakkhā from Vessamitta mountain. Kumbhira living in Mount Vepulla near Rajagaha came with 100,000 yakkhā in his train.
The Four Great Kings, rulers of the deva world, have come. They are: (1) Dhatarattha, King of the East, Chief of the Gandhabbas with Inda his son and his retinue. (2) Virulha, King of the South, Chief of the Kumbhandas, with his retinue and many of his sons. (3) Virupakkha, King of the West, Chief of the Nagas with his retinue. and (4) Kuvera, King of the North, Chief of the Yakkhas, with his retinue of attendants. They took station at the four quarters of the forest.
With them came their slaves: Kutendu, Vetendu, Vitucca, and Vituda; Candana, Kamasettha, Kinnughandu, and Nighandu. There also came Panada and Opamanna and Matali charioteer of the Devas. Came also Gandhabbas like Citta and Sena, Nala, Janesabha, Paṇcasikha, and Timbaru, with his daughter Suriyavaccasa. Other Gandhabba kings too have come.
Then came the Nagas from lake Nabhasa, from the Vidali realm, Nagas of Kambala, Assatara and Payaga. They were accompanied by their relatives. The Nagas of Tacchaka and of Yamuna have also come. The Garula birds, the
natural enemies of the Nagas also flew into the gathering but the Buddha vouchsafed the Nagas from these birds,
The Asura who had been defeated by Sakka had also came. But there were many more devas outnumbering them. These included the devas of the Khemiya, Tusita, Yama worlds, and also the mighty Katthaka, Lambhitaka, Lamasettha, Joti, and Asava.
Next came the Brahmās Subrahma, Paramatta, Sanankumara and Tissa, headed hy Haritta. When all the devas and Brahmas had assembled then came Mara, the Evil One. Mara sent his army into the midst of the gathering saying: "Seize them, bind them, let them all be bound by lust, surrounded on every side, suffer not anybody to escape". But they were not able to bring the devas under their sway. This filled Mara with anger.
The Buddha said "Monks, the host of Mara have come and gone. Know them and beware of them". Those who were not liberated strove hard to free themselves from the defilements, but not even a hair of the Arhats was touched by Mara's army. Mara then said: "These monks are victors in the war of passions; they are free from fear, glorious, and renowned among mankind. They live rejoicing with Aryan disciples". Then Mara departed.
D 21. Sakkpañha Sutta
Once the Buddha was living in the Indasala cave on Mount Vediya north of the village of Ambasanda in Magadha. Then Sakka King of the Devas wanted to see the Buddha and divined where he was. He then asked the Thirty-Three gods and they too expressed the same desire. Then all of them together with the Gandhabba Pancasikha magically transported themselves to near the Indasala cave lighting up the whole area giving the impression that the village was on fire. Then Sakka asked Pancasikha to play a song extolling the Buddha on his lute to attract the attention of the Buddha. Panchasikha came nearer the cave and sang a love song (with some praise of the Buddha) accompanied by his lute.
Then the Buddha asked Pancasikha where he had composed this song and was told that it was during the period of the Buddha's enlightenment when he was in love with the
daughter of the Gandhabba King Timbaru (but did not win the favour of the lady). Noting that Pancasikha had established good rapport with the Buddha Sakka asked him to announce the desire of the devas to meet the Buddha. This Pancasikha did and the Buddha consented. Then Sakka and his party entered the Indadsala cave.
The Buddha welcomed Sakka and Sakka said that he wanted to see the Buddha for a long time and recounted an attempted former meeting at Sāvatthi when Bhunjati, wife of Vesssavana was paying homage to the Buddha. Sakka had told her to tell him of his arrival but the Buddha had gone into retreat. Sakka also related the story of a Kapilavatthu daughter called Gopika who had great faith in the Buddha and the Dhamma. After death she was born into communion with the Gods of the Thirty-three. She even upbraided three monks who were reborn as lower Gandhabbas because they did to fully follow the instruction of the Buddha. Gopika's song of devotion was then repeated for the benefit of those present.
The Buddha then told Sakka: "Question me whatever your mind desires, and on each problem put I will end your doubts !". Thus having been given leave by the Blessed One the following dialogue took place in which Sakka puts his questions and the Buddha gives his answers. After each answer Sakka praises the Buddha for putting his doubts on that matter to rest before posing his next
 Fettered with what though they think, "May we live free from hostility, violence, rivalry, and ill-will" do beings of all kinds (humans, devas, etc,) nevertheless live in hostility, violence, rivalry, and ill will?".
Because they are fettered with envy and stinginess.|
 What is the cause of envy and stinginess?|
Its cause is dear-and-not dear (piyāppiyam).|
 What is the origin of this dear-and-not-dear?|
Thinking (cando) is the cause. [N.B. Other interpretations like "desire" have been given to this Pali term]|
 What is the reason and cause for this thinking (or desire)?|
It is mental proliferation (vitakka) that is the case of cando.|
 What is the cause of this mental proliferation?|
It is the proliferation of perception (papañcasaññāsa).|
[362-363] What practice can a monk undertake to eliminate this tendency?|
Happiness, Grief and Equanimity have two aspects to be pursued or not to be pursued. Those aspects which lead to the creation or increase of these proclivities should be avoided, and those aspects which lead to their diminution or elimination should be adopted.|
 How, sir, has that bhikkhu gone about who has acquired the self-restraint enjoined by the Patimokkha?|
Behaviour in act, in speech, or in what we seek are two-fold, according as they are undertaken or not. One way of behaving lead to bad quaoities, the other leads to good qualities. The former kind of behaviour should not be followed, the latter should.|
 But how, sir, has that bhikkhu gone about who has acquired control of his faculties ?
I say that the objects of the senses visible (eye), audible (ear), odorous (nose), sapid (tongue), tangible (body) and thoughts (mind). They are twofold, either to be followed after or to be avoided.|
 Sir, are all ascetics and Brahmins fully proficient, freed from bonds, perfect in the holy life, have they perfectly reached the goal?
Those recluses and Brahmins who are set free through the entire destruction of craving, only they are perfectly proficient, only they are perfectly saved, only they are living perfectly the best life and have attained the ideal. Not all recluses have realized these objectives.|
Then Sakka spoke thus: "Passion is disease, a cancer, a dart; it drags a man from birth to birth now up, now down. Unlike other recluses and brahmins the Exalted One has answered my
questions and put doubt and perplexity to rest.
Then the Buddha inquired what the other teachers had said and Sakka
answered: "Instead of answering me they counter-questioned me and I had to
teach them the Dhamma I knew as a stream-winner. I have never experienced as
much satisfaction and happiness as I now feel after listening to you, Lord."
Then Sakka said further: "During the war with the Asuras I led the Devas and we won but I did have much satisfation for what satisfaction is there when wrought by blows and wounds? But this satisfaction and happiness that I have experienced in hearing the Dhamma of the Exalted One conduces to detachment, to disinterestedness, to cessation, to peace, to spiritual knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nirvana".
The Buddha then asked: "What things are present in your mind when you experience listening to the Dhamma?". Sakka answered that they were six:
- I have incurred the destiny to live again once more to hear the Dhamma.
- Deceasing from the gods I shall go unerring to that womb I would choose.
- I can then live delighting in the word of the Lord, live righteously, mindful and self-possessed.
- If my life thus rightly led Enlightenment should come, then shall I dwell as one who knows this shall be the end.
- Deceasing from the human sphere, I then forsake the life of men, and once more a deva I will be the best in the Deva-world.
- Finer than Devas are the Peerless Gods all glorious, with them my last span of life shall come and go, there my (last) home will be.
Then Sakka uttered this stanza [rendered into verse by Rhys Davids]:
With aspirations unfulfilled, perplexed
And doubting, long I wandered seeking him
But since I've seen the Buddha, seen my doubts
Dispelled, now would I, all my fears allayed,
On him, the Enlightened One, adoring wait.
Him do I worship who hath drawn the dart
Of craving, him the Buddha, peerless Lord.
Hail, mighty hero ! hail, kin to the sun !
E'en as by gods is Brahma reverenced,
Lo ! even thus to-day we worship thee.
Thou art the Enlightened One, Teacher Supreme
Art thou, nor in the world, with all its heav'ns
Of gods, is any found like unto thee ! '
Then Sakka addressed Pancasika the Gandhabba this: "You have been a great help to me. I will take the place of father to you, and you shall be king of the Gandhabbas, and I will give to you Bhadda, the Sun- maiden, whom you have longed for
unsuccessfully". Then touching the earth to witness Sakka called out thrice: "Honour to the Exalted One, to the Arahant, to the Buddha Supreme !"
While he was speaking the stainless spotless Eye for the Dhamma arose in Sakka, the ruler of the gods, to wit : "Whatsoever things can come to be, that must also cease to be'. This also happened to eighty thousand of devas besides.
This is the last of the mythological suttas in this section of the Dīgha Nikāya. It has to be treated as such.
While it is a splendid narrative it gives little new by way of Dhamma. However
it gives a clear view of Devas which figure so much in the Buddhist suttas. When it comes to knowledge and insight they are little better than humans. They may have super-normal powers but they rarely reach enlightenment in their heavenly form. Even Sakka the King of the Devas gets his
spotless vision of the Dhamma in this late stage.
$$D 22. Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta
There are two main suttas on Satipaṭṭhāna (Mindfulness) in the Pali Canon. One is the Majjhima Nikāya sutta M10 Satipaṭṭhānasutta and the other
(called the 'great') is this one. It has an additional section on the Noble Truths added towards the end (from  below). Otherwise both versions are identical.]
This sutta was given to the monks Kammasadhamma in the Kuru country [near modern Delhi].
It starts with Buddha saying that there is a "direct path" (ekāyano
) to purification, often mistranslated as the only path. This is called direct as it enables a person in isolation to reach the goal of purification (visuddhiyā
). Purification may not mean the goal of enlightenment but only the avoidance of gross wrongdoing. The method given is usually considered as one involving only meditation which is only one element in the broader Eightfold Path which leads towards Enlightenment.
The method given is a series of four of contemplations: (1) on the body, (2) on
feelings, (3) on the mind, and (4) on mental qualities. These are considered in sequence in the sutta.
[374 - 379] 1. Contemplation on the body (kāyānupassanā.
This begins with the posture to be adopted either in the forest or under a tree or in an empty place (perhaps a room). The usual "lotus position" is recommended. Then the meditator first
begins by giving attention to breathing (usually called anāpānassati
although that term does not occur in the sutta). Attention should be focussed both internally and externally on the body. The knowledge of anatomy at that time was derived partly from the
widespread practice of animal sacrifice in old Vedic religion in which animals were killed and
dismembered and their flesh eaten and given to the gods. The tradition listing of body parts given in this sutta runs as follows: "head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, gorge,
faeces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints, urine." .
After attention to sitting meditation focus is shifted to walking, standing and lying down. Finally comes the cemetery contemplations. It was the custom to leave dead bodies to decompose naturally and the contemplation of dead bodies in various stages of decomposition is
recommended. In modern times it is not possible to do this kind of morbid reflection and abstract contemplation is often substituted.
[380-382] 2. Contemplation on feelings (vedanānupassanā)
The feelings mentioned are those that are painful, pleasant or neutral. The meditator is urged to be aware of these feelings, to reflect on their cause and also to be aware of their passing away.
No specific instruction is given how to rid one self from these feelings, especially painful feelings which might make it impossible to
continue with the meditation. The implication seems to be that these feelings rise and fall
[383-384] 3. Contemplation on the mind (Cittānupassanā).
The reflection mentioned here is to the emotion that is currently experienced in the mind. The mind could be charged with passion (rāga
) or with aversion (dosa
) or with delusion (moha
). These are the three main negative emotions that could beset the mind. The meditator should be aware if his mind is charged or not charged with these three kinds of feeling.
[385-386] 4. Contemplation on the dhammas (Dhammānupassanā) [N.B.
The term dhamma is a
polyglot term in Buddhism. It could refer to doctrine or simply to a thing material or mental. Which of these are meant here is not clear. Many people interpret it as referring to the latter, especially to mental qualities. This is strengthened by the reference to five hindrances (pañca nīvaraṇa
There are five hindrances in Buddhism: (1) sensual desire, (2) ill will, (3) sloth & drowsiness, (4) restlessness & anxiety, and (5) uncertainty. With respect to each of these the meditator is asked to contemplate if he has the particular hindrance, how it arises, how it ceases, and how it could be abandoned.
Finally looking at Dhamma in the doctrinal sense the meditator is asked to consider the four noble truths and the other doctrines expounded by the Buddha. This then becomes more of an intellectual exercise rather than a purely psycho-mental activity. Clearly the scope of this activity could cover the whole of the doctrinal teaching of the Buddha. In what follows it is only one doctrine that is dealt with – the Four Noble Truths. This is probably because it is the most fundamental of the doctrines proclaimed by the Buddha. It is the only doctrine that is discussed in detail in this sutta.
The discussion of the Noble Truths starts with the First Noble Truth that of Suffering (dukkha
). The traditional list of elements of suffering are given: Birth, ageing, death, grief, lamentation, pain, distress, despair, association with the unloved, separation from the loved, misery, not getting what is wished for, and so on. Then each one of these is explained at length.
Next is considered the Second Noble Truth – the Cause of Suffering. This is traced to Craving (taṇhā
) for things dear and pleasant. They arise
through the organs of sense: the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. The contact which results from the consciousness resulting from the forms (shapes), sounds, smells, tastes, touches and ideas lead to feelings. These lead to perceptions and these result in Craving. This is the origin of Suffering.
Next is considered the Third Noble Truth – the Cessation of Suffering. This is none other than the abandonment of Craving. The way of doing this is given in the Fourth Noble Truth that of the Noble Eightfold Path, that is right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. Each of these are then explained in detail. This ends the digression on the Four Noble Truths.
"In this way a monk developing mindfulness considers internally mental qualities, or considers them externally, or considers them both internally and externally." These qualities are considered in and of themselves. Or he considers the phenomenon of the origination with regard to mental qualities, or of their passing away, or of their origination and passing away. with regard to mental qualities. The
consciousness that "There are mental qualities" is maintained until mindfulness is established to the extent of knowledge
and remembrance. He abides independent not clinging to anything in the world. This is how a monk remains focused on mental qualities with respect to thefour noble truths.
If anyone develops these four applications of mindfulness two fruits can be expected: if there are no residual remnants of clinging he would
acquire full knowledge (i.e. enlightenment) here and now. But if some residual clinging exists he would become a non-returner. The period of time that a person has to develop these applications could be seven years or even less right down to two weeks.
The Buddha concluded: "This is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming
and disappearance of suffering and distress, the attainment of the right method, and the realization of Nibbāna." The Bhikkhus delighted in the words of the Buddha.
As far as the first part of this sutta (sections 372-386) is concerned see the analysis made of the sutta M10. Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta as these sections replicate what is said in
that sutta (M10) word for word.
As far as the new addition (in sections 387-402) on the Four Noble Truths are concerned there is nothing that is not given in classic expositions like the First Sermon (Dhammacakkapavattanasutta
) which will be referred to when the Aṅguttara Nikāya Abstracts are made.
D 23. Pāyāsi Sutta
This is the last sutta in the Mahāvagga Section of the Dīgha Nikāya. It is a debate between a Buddhist monk Kumāra Kassapa and the king Pāyāsi who was ruling Savetya on a warrant from the King of Kosala. The subjects of the debate are the doctrines of kamma and rebirth, subjects which are not challenged in other suttas of the Pali Canon. In that respect it is unique. This debate took place after the death of the Buddha, therefore the views expressed in it are not endorsed by the Buddha.]
The Buddhist monk venerable Kumāra Kassapa came to Savetya with some 500 bhikkhus when
Pāyāsi was the ruler. The following evil thought came to Pāyāsī: "Neither is there any other world, nor are there beings reborn otherwise than from parents, nor is there fruit or result of deeds well done or ill done (itipi natthi paro loko, natthi sattā opapātikā, natthi sukatadukkaṭānaṃ kammānaṃ phalaṃ vipāko
)". Pāyāsī saw people going to the Grove where Kassapa was staying and finding the cause decided to go there himself. He then went there accompanied by the brahmins and householders of Savetya. After the usual compliments with Kassapa he sat on the side.
Payasi then told Kassapa of his view that there is no other world, that there no rebirth except normally through parents, and that there is no fruit of good or bad deeds. Kassapa then said that he had not heard of such a view or opinion being held by anyone and that he will cross-examine the Prince on this. [N.B. The method employed by Kassapa is to ask for the reason why Pāyāsi holds on to a particular view and then give a simile or parable with the intention of refuting the reason given by Pāyāsi. Then Kassapa asks if there is a further reason, and this cycle is repeated many times. Some 14 similes are given and these will considered in turn.]
- [411-412] The Sun and Moon Simile (Chandimasūriya-upamā). This appears to be the principal argument of Kassapa to show that Pāyāsi is wrong when he says that there no other world and deities. Kassapa asks Pāyāsi: 'Are the sun and the moon in this world or another, are they gods (deva) or humans'. Pāyāsi agrees that they are in another world and that they are gods. This is taken by Kassapa as an admission by Pāyāsi himself that his views are wrong.
This argument is of course superficial. Pāyāsi's view is the non-existence of another world into which people are reborn. It is clear that the sun and the moon are not such a world. Thus his proposition remains unrefuted. The statement that the sun and the moon are devas reflects the conventional view of the time that celestial bodies are gods. The etymology of 'deva' is a shining being. But clearly they are not the kind of deva who visit the earth and asks questions from the Buddha as stated in several discourses.
Thus the sun and moon simile does not refute Pāyāsi's original contention. So
Pāyāsi continues to hold on to his view.
- [413-414] The Thief Simile (Cora-upamā) Pāyāsi's next argument is that he knows of people who had violated all the precepts, and at death he had asked them to report to him if after death they reach a state of woe (apāya, niraya). He then says that none of them had reported thus. To refute this Kassapa gives the thief simile. He says that just as a thief sentenced to be executed will not be able to get permission from his executioner to visit his relatives, so too will a person reaching the hell destination be given permission by the warders of hell (nirayapālā) to return back to earth to report his fate to Pāyāsi. Thus Pāyāsi not hearing from these people does not prove that there is no hell, only that those condemned to hell are not able to have contact with the human world.
While this argument can be accepted it does not still prove that these people
who had violated all the precepts had actually gone to hell after death. All we
can say that we do not know what their fate is. Apparently Pāyāsi seem to reason
like this because he still repeats his denials about the world after (death) ,
- [415-416] The Man-in-the-Cesspit Simile (Gūthakūpapurisa-upamā) When questioned further Pāyāsi gives the opposite scenario to that in the previous simile. He now says that he knows of people who had lived good lives, not violated the precepts or committed sins (pāpaṃ). Just prior to their death he had approached them and asked them to report to him if they had gone to the heavenly world. Once again he never heard from them.
Kassapa counters this with the man-in-the-cesspit parable. He considers the case of a man who has fallen into a foul cesspit. People pull him out of the cesspit, clean him, dress him in fine raiment, give him a luxurious palace where he can enjoy the pleasures of the five senses, etc. Then Kassapa asks if this man would prefer to return to the cesspit. The answer is clearly no. The point which Kassapa makes is that heavenly world is even better than the luxuries the man who had been rescued from cesspit was given, while the human world is comparable to a cesspit. So a deva would not want to go to the human cesspit to report to Pāyāsi.
This parable is open to the same objection as the thief simile. The fact that the deva does not report to Pāyāsi does not necessarily mean that he has actually reached the heavenly world. But unlike in the case of the thief simile there are now no keepers of hell who will prevent the man from leaving the hell realm to report to Pāyāsi. In fact devas are supposed to frequently visit the human world, live in trees, etc. So it would have been possible for Pāyāsi to hear from a deva than from a man who had gone to the Hell realm.
-  The 'Thirty-three Gods' Simile (Tavatiṃsadeva-upamā) This simile is similar to the previous one. Here the person whom Pāyāsi has asked to report to him had done even more meritorious work and according to traditional expectation should has gone to the Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods. This is one of highest heavens according to the traditional cosmology. But once again Pāyāsi does not hear from him. This leads Pāyāsi to think that this person had not reached is destination.
Kassapa's explanation for this is that a day in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods is equivalent to a hundred earthly years. So even if the person spends only a couple of days in that heaven before reporting, Pāyāsi would have been long dead. Pāyāsi is made to admit as such;
Pāyāsi then asks: 'But who lets Master Kassapa know that there are Three-and-Thirty Gods, or that the Three-and-Thirty Gods live so many years. We do not believe him when he says these things.'
- [418-419] The Born Blind Simile (Jaccandha-upamāa) This was related in answer to Pāyāsi's direct challenge to Kassapa to show how he knows so much about these heavenly realms that Kassapa give the simile of the person born blind.
Kassapa says that a person born blind will not see dark, light or coloured objects, will not see the sun or the moon, etc. He will then be inclined to say that these things do not exist. But a person with vision can see that they do exist. The heavenly worlds will not be visible to those without the right kind of vision; they become visible only to those with the special kind of vision. This kind of vision is called the 'heavenly (or divine) eye' (dibbachakku).
The divine eye can be acquired by 'ascetics and Brahmins who seek in the jungle-thickets and the recesses of the forest for a resting place that is quiet with little noise (samaṇabrhāmaṇā ara''avanapatthāni pantāni senāsanānipaṭisevanti, te tattha appamattā ātāpino pahitattā viharantā dibbacakkhuṃ visodhenti)'. It is not clear if Kassapa himself has
acquired the divine eye and is speaking from personal knowledge, or whether he is merely reporting what ascetics and Brahmins who have developed the divine eye has said. But even if Kassapa has acquired the divine eye Pāyāsi would not have any way of ascertaining this. So Pāyāsi remains unconvinced and reiterates belief in the non-existence of the other world, etc.
- [420-421] The Pregnant Woman Simile (Gabbhini-upamā) This simile is occasioned by a new argument adduced by Pāyāsi. Pāyāsi says that he knows of ascetics and Brahmins who observe morality and are well conducted, and would thus be assured of a heavenly existence after death. Yet he notes that these ascetics still want to live and not die (for instance by committing suicide) and thereby going to a better existence in the heavenly world. According to the previous parable such ascetics and Brahmins would have been convinced of the existence of the heavenly world and their certain destiny of going there. Pāyāsi is puzzled why they would want to continue in their present existence rather than go to the heavenly state.
The parable given to deal with Pāyāsi's argument relates to a Brahmin who had two wives when he died. He had a son by the first while the second was pregnant. The son by the first wife said to the pregnant co-wife that he as the sole child will inherit all the wealth of the deceased father. In her haste to find out if her child will be a male the co-wife took a knife and cut open her belly thereby killing both herself and the embryo. Thus she lost her share of the inheritance which would have come to her if she had delivered a child in the normal course of things.
Kassapa explains the relevance of this to Pāyāsi's question by saying: '... those ascetics and Brahmins ... do not seek to hasten the ripening of that which is not yet ripe, but rather wisely await its ripening'. It is not clear if in Kassapa's view an act of suicide will negate the good deeds done previously and not allow them to ripen. Certainly many questions relating to the nexus between the deed (kamma) and the fruit (vipāka) are raised by this parable which remain unresolved. So this parable too does not lead Pāyāsi to abandon his view of the non-existence of the other world etc.
- [422-423] The Dream Simile (Supinaka-upamā) This relates to an experiment proposed by Pāyāsi to find out if a life-force (jivaṃ), sometimes translated as 'soul', exists for re-birth to take place. A convicted felon is placed inside a hermetically sealed jar and allowed to die. When the man is dead the jar is carefully broken to see if his 'soul' escapes. But nothing is obsreeved escaping and Pāyāsi says 'that is why I believe there is no other world ...'
Kassapa then asks Pāyāsi if while he is having a siesta and dreaming watched over by
attendants if these attendants see his soul leaving and entering his body. Pāyāsi answers in the negative. Then Kassapa says: 'So they do not see your soul entering or leaving your body while you are alive. So how can you see the soul leaving the body of a dead man''
While Pāyāsi's attempt at empirical verification if a soul exists may be commended, both he and Kassapa
are mistaken about seeing the soul arrive or depart. Here Kassapa's conjecture is the more absurd because he seems to think that while dreaming the soul actually leaves the body and wanders about in the places seen in the dream!
- [424-425] The Heated Iron Ball Simile (Santatta-ayoguna-upamā) This records another attempt by Pāyāsi to verify if a soul exists. He thinks that a dead body should be lighter than a living body. He get a
condemned man to be strangled and has him weighed before and after he dies. To his surprise he finds that after death he weighs more not less than when he was alive. This too leads him to conclude that at death the is no soul departing to seek rebirth elsewhere.
Kassapa's parable to answer Pāyāsi is to ask if an iron ball weighs more or less when it is heated to a glowing state than when it is cold. Pāyāsi answers that it would weigh less in the heated state. Kassapa answers that in the same way the body when it is full of life and heat will weigh less than when it is cold and dead.
- [426-427] The Trumpeter Simile (Saṅkhadhama-upamā)
This simile is given in response to another experiment suggested by Pāyāsi, Here a thief is tortured so that while he is still alive he loses control over all his senses, i.e. he does not see, hear, taste, etc. But no 'soul' is seen escaping from him, the theory being that it is the soul that enables a man to use his senses.
Kassapa counters with his trumpeter analogy. A trumpeter takes his trumpet to a 'border region' (paccantajanapadaṃ) [inhabited by backward people], sounds it once and lays it down. The people think that the trumpet can make sound on its own and despite their many entreaties for the trumpet to do so it remains silent. Then the trumpeter blows on it again, makes sound, and takes it away. Kassapa implies that the physical body is like the trumpet while it is 'life, heat and intelligence' (āyu, usmā, vi''āṇa) which activates it making it see, hear, taste, etc.
It is difficult to see how this simile refutes the argument of Pāyāsi.
- [428-429] Fire Worshiper Simile (Aggikajṭila-upamā) Pāyāsi's next argument also relates to another futile attempt to prove that a 'soul' exists. He speaks of a thief whose organs are systematically removed but no 'soul' is found. This leads Pāyāsi not to abandon his views about the other world, etc.
Kassapa replies with the fire worshiper simile. A fire worshiper living in the forest finds an abandoned baby and rears him as his son. When the boy was 10 or 12 years old the fire-worshiper had to leave his hut for a short time and he gave detailed instructions to the boy how to restart the fire should it go out. The fire did go out but the boy had misunderstood the instructions and could not relight the fire. The fire worshiper had to do it himself after his return.
Kassapa compares Pāyāsi to the boy, trying useless ways to find the other world.
But Pāyāsi remains unconvinced.
- [430-431] Caravan Leaders Simile (Dvesatthavāha-upamā) This parable relates to two caravan leaders trying to cross a dessert. They both stock up with grass and water for the journey. One caravan sets out first and soon it encounters a donkey chariot coming the opposite way with all the signs of having gone through severe rainy weather. On enquiry about the road ahead the caravan leader was told that there was plenty of water and vegetation ahead. On this instruction the caravan leader abandoned his supplies of grass and water. But he did not encounter any rain or water and came to grief in the dessert.
The second caravan leader also encountered the same man (who in reality was a yakka spirit) who gave the same false instruction. But this caravan leader was more cautious and did not abandon his supplies. As such he was able to survive the hot dessert and reach his destination. Kassapa compares Pāyāsi to the foolish caravan leader who took the instruction of the yakka spirit.
This parable has little or no relevance to the subject of the debate. The remaining three similes do not introduce any new arguments. These parables contrast a foolish person with a wise one and Pāyāsi is shown as being similar to the foolish person.
- [432-433] The Dung Carrier Simile (Gūthabhārika-upamā) This parable relates the story of a person who comes across a lump of dried-up
dung. He collects it to be used in his pig sty and carries it bundled up on his
head. On the way he gets caught up in a heavy rain and the dung turns into slime
which drenches his whole person. People make fun of him and he of course cannot
use the dung which he had so carefully scooped up for any useful purpose.
- [434-435] The Gambler Simile (Akkadhuttaka-upamā) This relates a story of two gamblers, one of whom is a cheat. The other gambler manages to get the better of the cheat. Kassapa compares Pāyāsi to the cheat. There does not seem to be any relevance of this parable to the subject of the discussion.
-  The Hemp Heap Simile (Saṇabhārika-upamā) This parable deals with two people roaming about the country. They come across a heap of abandoned hemp and decide to divide it between them. While one kept his heap of hemp the other kept on discarding his hemp for other things which are more valuable that they come across. The parable ends with both returning to their village but while the first had only the heap of hemp he had originally picked up the other had been able to exchange it to a quantity of gold. Kassapa compares Pāyāsi to the hemp bearer.
The denouement of the Sutta comes when Pāyāsi gives up his views and accepts the position of Kassapa. In fact he says that had been convinced of the rightness of Kassapa's position all along from the very first simile that he used (the Simile of the Sun and Moon), but he kept up the debate because he considered Kassapa to be a worthy opponent. In the end Pāyāsi takes refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha. He thus becomes a Dhamma-farer. But at the same time he says that he wants "to offer a great sacrifice. Let Master Kassapa instruct me herein that it may bring me long welfare and happiness."
But Kassapa discourages the Prince from a sacrifice that involves the killing of animals and instead he should follow the noble eightfold path. Then the benefits would be like what a farmer gets when he plants seeds.
This leads Pāyāsi to establish a charity for ascetics, Brahmins, wayfarers, and the needy. He puts a young Brahmin Uttara in charge. Despite his establishment of this charity Pāyāsi is not wholehearted in his generosity and provides food of poor quality. But Uttara is generous and gave the best that he could provide. The result was that after death Uttara joined the company of the
Thirty-Three Gods while Pāyāsi is reborn in a lower heaven called the realm Four Great Kings in the empty Serisaka mansion.
Venerable Gavampati was having his siesta in an empty mansion nearby when Pāyāsi, now a god, appeared before him. He identified himself as the former ruler who had sceptical views about the Dhamma but was converted to the truth by venerable Kassapa. He gave an account of what happened to him and to Uttara after death. Through Gavampati this information became common knowledge.
There is little doubt that re-birth is the most contentious doctrine in Buddhism. Maurice Walsh in the Introduction to his translation of this sutta says:
"There are some people in the West who are attracted in many ways to Buddhism, but who find the idea of rebirth a stumbling-block, either because they find it distasteful and/or incredible in itself, or in some cases because they find it hard to reconcile with the 'non-self' idea. Some such considerations as any of these sometimes even lead people to declare that the Buddha did not actually teach rebirth at all, or that if he did so, this was only for popular consumption, because his hearers could not have accepted the truth.'
Even though Prince Pāyāsi recanted his views these views are still common. The question is whether Kassapa was able to refute them. Kassapa's only method is argument from analogy (simile and parable). This is not a logically accepted method today. It is impossible to establish the truth or falsity of the "evil views" of Pāyāsi using this method. As the debate progresses its quality begins to deteriorate. The last few similes do not contribute any thing at all to the discussion and are merely used by Kassapa to impute that Pāyāsi is something of a fool on the analogy to someone in the parable is clearly foolish. On the more
substantiative issues we can conclude as follows.
- The other world (paraloko). Clearly Pāyāsi's denial that after death individuals go to some other world is not refuted. Kassapa in the Simile of the Sun and Moon seems to imply that these celestial objects are 'other worlds'. They may be so but they are are not what is not meant by the deva realms and the niraya realm.
- Beings of 'spontaneous birth' (sattā opaptikā). Spontaneous appearance (or birth) is the unique characteristic of devas. But there is no demonstration that such beings exist. In the Simile of the Thrity-Three Gods it is said that such beings are not visble to the ordinary oy physical eye. They are only visible to the divine eye. This is the closest one comes to the statement that they are purely hypothetical or metaphysical beings who exist only in the mind's eye. This may be a reasonable rationalization but many people, certainly uneducated ordinary persons, think of them as real beings.
- Rebirth. Even though a term for 'rebirth' (such as punaruppatti or punabbhāva) does not appear in the text of the debate this concept is implicit in the very notion of the 'other world'. There is of course no empirical evidence for this in the early Buddhist writings even though the idea is implicit in the notion of saṃsra. Once again it is said that evidence is only available for persons who have developed the divine eye, or the abiity to recall past existences.
- The soul or life principle (jīvaṃ). Such a concept is essential if we are to establish a nexus between the deceased individual and his (or her) reborn self. Pāyāsi even proposes some bold experiments (like weighting a man immediately before and after death) to find if such an entity exists. But the results are always negative. The problem with the hypothesis of a 'life principle' is that it conflicts with the Buddha's anatta theory and there is no component that corresponds to such a concept in the five elements (khandā) into which the Buddha divided the empirical person.
- Post-mortem kamma-vipāka. The theory that the karmic consequences of actions occur after physical death in a non-terrestrial realm is of course not established as the requirements for this listed above are not met.
For a more detailed analysis of this sutta see the article http://www.vgweb.org/bsq/payasi.htm