II. READINGS – BUDDHA

II. Readings

‘Indeed, the Blessed One [the Buddha] is worthy & rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge and conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the cosmos, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine and human beings, awakened, blessed.’

‘The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, to be seen here and now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the observant for themselves.’

‘The Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples who have practiced well… who have practiced straight-forwardly… who have practiced methodically… who have practiced masterfully—in other words, the four types of noble disciples when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as individual types—they are the Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.’

Buddha

[The Buddha speaks:] “I lived in refinement, utmost refinement, total refinement. My father even had lotus ponds made in our palace: one where red-lotuses bloomed, one where white lotuses bloomed, one where blue lotuses bloomed, all for my sake. I used no sandalwood that was not from Varanasi. My turban was from Varanasi, as were my tunic, my lower garments, and my outer cloak. A white sunshade was held over me day and night to protect me from cold, heat, dust, dirt, and dew.

“I had three palaces: one for the cold season, one for the hot season, one for the rainy season. During the four months of the rainy season I was entertained in the rainy-season palace by minstrels without a single man among them, and I did not once come down from the palace. Whereas the servants, workers, and retainers in other people’s homes are fed meals of lentil soup and broken rice, in my father’s home the servants, workers, and retainers were fed wheat, rice, and meat.

“Even though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me: ‘When an untaught, run-of- the-mill person, himself subject to aging, not beyond aging, sees another who is aged, he is horrified, humiliated, and disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to aging, not beyond aging. If I—who am subject to aging, not beyond aging—were to be horrified, humiliated, and disgusted on seeing another person who is aged, that would not be fitting for me.’ As I noticed this, the [typical] young person’s intoxication with youth entirely dropped away.

“Even though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me: ‘When an untaught, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to illness, not beyond illness, sees another who is ill, he is horrified, humiliated, and disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to illness, not beyond illness. And if I—who am subject to illness, not beyond illness—were to be horrified, humiliated, and disgusted on seeing another person who is ill, that would not be fitting for me.’ As I noticed this, the healthy person’s intoxication with health entirely dropped away.

“Even though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me: ‘When an untaught, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to death, not beyond death, sees another who is dead, he is horrified, humiliated, and disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to death, not beyond death. And if I—who am subject to death, not beyond death—were to be horrified, humiliated, and disgusted on seeing another person who is dead, that would not be fitting for me.’ As I noticed this, the living person’s intoxication with life entirely dropped away.”

AN 3:38

The Quest for Awakening

“Before my awakening, when I was still just an unawakened Bodhisatta, being subject myself to birth, aging, illness, death, sorrow, and defilement, I sought [happiness in] what was subject to birth, aging, illness, death, sorrow, and defilement. The thought occurred to me: ‘Why am I, being subject myself to birth…defilement, seeking what is subject to birth…defilement? What if I…were to seek the unborn, unaging, unailing, undying, sorrowless, undefiled, unsurpassed security from bondage: Unbinding.’

“So at a later time, when I was still young, black-haired, endowed with the blessings of youth in the first stage of life, I shaved off my hair and beard—though my parents wished otherwise and were grieving with tears on their faces—and I put on the ochre robe and went forth from the home life into homelessness.

“Having gone forth in search of what might be skillful, seeking the unexcelled state of sublime peace, I went to where Alara Kalama was staying and, on arrival, said to him: ‘I want to practice in this doctrine and discipline.’

“When this was said, he replied to me, ‘You may stay here. This doctrine is such that a wise person can soon enter and dwell in his own teacher’s knowledge, having realized it for himself through direct knowledge.’

“I quickly learned the doctrine. As far as mere lip-reciting and repetition, I could speak the words of knowledge, the words of the elders, and I could affirm that I knew and saw—I, along with others.

“I thought: ‘It isn’t through mere conviction alone that Alara Kalama declares, “I have entered and dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it directly for myself.” Certainly he dwells knowing and seeing this Dhamma.’ So I went to him and said, ‘To what extent do you declare that you have entered and dwell in this Dhamma?’ When this was said, he declared the dimension of nothingness.

“I thought: ‘Not only does Alara Kalama have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. I, too, have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. Suppose I were to endeavor to realize for myself the Dhamma that Alara Kalama declares he has entered and dwells in….’ So it was not long before I entered and dwelled in that Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge. I went to him and said, ‘Friend Kalama, is this the extent to which you have entered and dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for yourself through direct knowledge?’

“‘Yes….’

“‘This is the extent to which I, too, have entered and dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge.’

“‘It is a gain for us, a great gain for us, that we have such a companion in the holy life…. As I am, so are you; as you are, so am I. Come friend, let us now lead this community together.’

“In this way did Alara Kalama, my teacher, place me, his pupil, on the same level with himself and pay me great honor. But the thought occurred to me, ‘This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the sphere of nothingness.’ So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.”

“Now, Aggivessana, these three similes—spontaneous, never before heard—appeared to me. Suppose there were a wet, sappy piece of timber lying in the water, and a man were to come along with an upper fire-stick, thinking, ‘I’ll light a fire. I’ll produce heat.’ Now what do you think? Would he be able to light a fire and produce heat by rubbing the upper fire-stick in the wet, sappy timber lying in the water?”

“No, venerable sir….”

“So it is with any contemplative or brahman who does not live withdrawn from sensuality in body and mind, and whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, and fever for sensuality is not relinquished and stilled within him: Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving [for awakening], he is incapable of knowledge, vision, and unexcelled self-awakening….

“Then a second simile—spontaneous, never before heard—appeared to me. Suppose there were a wet, sappy piece of timber lying on land far from water, and a man were to come along with an upper fire-stick, thinking, ‘I’ll light a fire. I’ll produce heat.’ Now what do you think? Would he be able to light a fire and produce heat by rubbing the upper fire-stick in the wet, sappy timber lying on land?”

“No, venerable sir….”

“So it is with any contemplative or brahman who lives withdrawn from sensuality in body only, but whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, and fever for sensuality is not relinquished and stilled within him: Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving, he is incapable of knowledge, vision, and unexcelled self-awakening….

“Then a third simile—spontaneous, never before heard—appeared to me. Suppose there were a dry, sapless piece of timber lying on land far from water, and a man were to come along with an upper fire-stick, thinking, ‘I’ll light a fire. I’ll produce heat.’ Now what do you think? Would he be able to light a fire and produce heat by rubbing the upper fire-stick in the dry, sapless timber lying on land?”

“Yes, venerable sir….”

“So it is with any contemplative or brahman who lives withdrawn from sensuality in body and mind, and whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, and fever for sensuality is relinquished and stilled within him: Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving, he is capable of knowledge, vision, and unexcelled self-awakening….

“I thought: ‘Suppose that I, clenching my teeth and pressing my tongue against the roof of my mouth, were to beat down, constrain, and crush my mind with my awareness’…. So, just as if a strong man, seizing a weaker man by the head or the throat or the shoulders would beat him down, constrain and crush him, in the same way I beat down, constrained, and crushed my mind with my awareness. As I did so, sweat poured from my armpits. But although tireless persistence was aroused in me, and unmuddled mindfulness established, my body was aroused and uncalm because of the painful exertion. But the painful feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

“I thought: ‘Suppose I were to become absorbed in the trance of non-breathing.’ So I stopped the in-breaths and out-breaths in my nose and mouth. As I did so, there was a loud roaring of winds coming out my earholes, just like the loud roar of winds coming out of a smith’s bellows…. So I stopped the in-breaths and out-breaths in my nose and mouth and ears. As I did so, extreme forces sliced through my head, just as if a strong man were slicing my head open with a sharp sword…. Extreme pains arose in my head, just as if a strong man were tightening a turban made of tough leather straps around my head…. Extreme forces carved up my stomach cavity, just as if a butcher or his apprentice were to carve up the stomach cavity of an ox…. There was an extreme burning in my body, just as if two strong men, grabbing a weaker man by the arms, were to roast and broil him over a pit of hot embers. But although tireless persistence was aroused in me, and unmuddled mindfulness established, my body was aroused and uncalm because of the painful exertion. But the painful feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

“Devas, on seeing me, said, ‘Gotama the contemplative is dead.’ Other devas said, ‘He isn’t dead, he’s dying.’ Others said, ‘He’s neither dead nor dying, he’s an arahant, for this is the way arahants live.’

“I thought: ‘Suppose I were to practice going altogether without food.’ Then devas came to me and said, ‘Dear sir, please don’t practice going altogether without food. If you go altogether without food, we’ll infuse divine nourishment in through your pores, and you will survive on that.’ I thought: ‘If I were to claim to be completely fasting while these devas are infusing divine nourishment in through my pores, I would be lying.’ So I dismissed them, saying, ‘Enough.’

“I thought: ‘Suppose I were to take only a little food at a time, only a handful at a time of bean soup, lentil soup, vetch soup, or pea soup.’ So I took only a little food at a time, only handful at a time of bean soup, lentil soup, vetch soup, or pea soup. My body became extremely emaciated. Simply from my eating so little, my limbs became like the jointed segments of vine stems or bamboo stems….My backside became like a camel’s hoof….My spine stood out like a string of beads….My ribs jutted out like the jutting rafters of an old, run-down barn….The gleam of my eyes appeared to be sunk deep in my eye sockets like the gleam of water deep in a well….My scalp shriveled and withered like a green bitter gourd, shriveled and withered in the heat and the wind….The skin of my belly became so stuck to my spine that when I thought of touching my belly, I grabbed hold of my spine as well; and when I thought of touching my spine, I grabbed hold of the skin of my belly as well….If I urinated or defecated, I fell over on my face right there….Simply from my eating so little, if I tried to ease my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair—rotted at its roots—fell from my body as I rubbed….

“I thought: ‘Whatever contemplatives or brahmans in the past have felt painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost. None have been greater than this. Whatever contemplatives or brahmans in the future…in the present are feeling painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost. None is greater than this. But with this racking practice of austerities I have not attained any superior human state, any distinction in knowledge or vision worthy of the noble ones. Could there be another path to awakening?’

“I thought: ‘I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities—I entered and remained in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. Could that be the path to awakening?’ Then there was the consciousness following on that memory: ‘That is the path to awakening…. So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful qualities?’ I thought: ‘I am no longer afraid of that pleasure… but it is not easy to achieve that pleasure with a body so extremely emaciated….’ So I took some solid food: some rice and porridge. Now five monks had been attending on me, thinking, ‘If Gotama, our contemplative, achieves some higher state, he will tell us.’ But when they saw me taking some solid food—some rice and porridge—they were disgusted and left me, thinking, ‘Gotama the contemplative is living luxuriously. He has abandoned his exertion and is backsliding into abundance.’

“So when I had taken solid food and regained strength, then—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, I entered and remained in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain. With the stilling of directed thoughts and evaluations, I entered and remained in the second jhana: rapture and pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought and evaluation—internal assurance…. With the fading of rapture I remained equanimous, mindful, and alert, and sensed pleasure with the body. I entered and remained in the third jhana, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous and mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’…. With the abandoning of pleasure and pain—as with the earlier disappearance of joy and distress—I entered and remained in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity and mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past lives. I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two… five, ten… fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction and expansion: ‘There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.’ Thus I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes and details.

“This was the first knowledge I attained in the first watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose—as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, and resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings. I saw—by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human—beings passing away and re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: ‘These beings—who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views—with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings—who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views—with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.’ Thus—by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human—I saw beings passing away and re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.

“This was the second knowledge I attained in the second watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose—as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, and resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental effluents (asava). I discerned, as it was actually present, that ‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress…This is the way leading to the cessation of stress… These are effluents… This is the origination of effluents… This is the cessation of effluents… This is the way leading to the cessation of effluents.’ My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the effluent of sensuality, released from the effluent of becoming, released from the effluent of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, ‘Released.’ I discerned that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’

“This was the third knowledge I attained in the third watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose—as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, and resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.”

Through the round of many births I roamed

without reward,

without rest,

seeking the house builder.

Painful is birth again

and again.

House builder, you’re seen!

You will not build a house again.

All your rafters broken,

the ridge pole destroyed,

immersed in dismantling, the mind

has attained the end of craving.

The Buddha’s Passing Away

Now at that time Subhadda the wanderer was staying in Kusinara. He heard that “Tonight, in the last watch of the night, the total Unbinding of Gotama the contemplative will take place.” Then this thought occurred to him: “I have heard the elder wanderers, teachers of teachers, saying that only once in a long, long time do Tathagatas—worthy ones, rightly self-awakened—appear in the world. Tonight, in the last watch of the night, the total Unbinding of Gotama the contemplative will take place. Now there is a doubt that has arisen in me, but I have faith that he could teach me the Dhamma in such a way that I might abandon that doubt.”

So he went to the Mallan Sal Tree grove and, on arrival, said to Ven. Ananda, “I have heard the elder wanderers, teachers of teachers, saying that only once in a long, long time do Tathagatas—worthy ones, rightly self-awakened—appear in the world. Tonight, in the last watch of the night, the total Unbinding of Gotama the contemplative will take place. Now there is a doubt that has arisen in me, but I have faith that he could teach me the Dhamma in such a way that I might abandon that doubt. It would be good, Ven. Ananda, if you would let me see him.”

When this was said, Ven. Ananda said to him, “Enough, friend Subhadda. Don’t bother the Blessed One. The Blessed One is tired.”

For a second time… For a third time, Subhadda the wanderer said to Ven. Ananda, “…It would be good, Ven. Ananda, if you would let me see him.”

For a third time, Ven. Ananda said to him, “Enough, friend Subhadda. Don’t bother the Blessed One. The Blessed One is tired.”

Now, the Blessed One heard the exchange between Ven. Ananda and Subhadda the wanderer, and so he said to Ven. Ananda, “Enough, Ananda. Don’t stand in his way. Let him see the Tathagata. Whatever he asks me will all be for the sake of knowledge, and not to be bothersome. And whatever I answer when asked, he will quickly understand.”

So Ven. Ananda said to Subhadda the wanderer, “Go ahead, friend Subhadda. The Blessed One gives you his leave.”

Then Subhadda went to the Blessed One and exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings and courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, “Venerable sir, these contemplative and brahmans, each with his group, each with his community, each the teacher of his group, an honored leader, well-regarded by people at large—i.e., Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Kesakambalin, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sañjaya Belatthitaputta, and the Nigantha Nathaputta: Do they all have direct knowledge as they themselves claim, or do they all not have direct knowledge, or do some of them have direct knowledge and some of them not?”

“Enough, Subhadda. Put this question aside. I will teach you the Dhamma. Listen, and pay close attention. I will speak.”

“Yes, lord,” Subhadda answered, and the Blessed One said, “In any doctrine and discipline where the noble eightfold path is not found, no contemplative of the first… second… third… fourth order [stream-winner, once-returner, non-returner, arahant ] is found. But in any doctrine and discipline where the noble eightfold path is found, contemplatives of the first… second… third… fourth order are found. The noble eightfold path is found in this doctrine and discipline, and right here there are contemplatives of the first… second… third… fourth order. Other teachings are empty of knowledgeable contemplatives. And if the monks dwell rightly, this world will not be empty of arahants.

At age twenty-nine I went forth,

seeking what might be skillful,

and since my going forth

more than fifty years have past.

Outside of the realm

of methodical Dhamma,

there is no contemplative.

“And no contemplative of the second… third… fourth order. Other teachings are empty of knowledgeable contemplatives. And if the monks dwell rightly, this world will not be empty of arahants.”

Then Subhadda the wanderer said, “Magnificent, lord, magnificent! In many ways has the Blessed One made the Dhamma clear—just as if one were to place upright what has been overturned, to reveal what has been hidden, to point out the way to one who is lost, or to set out a lamp in the darkness so that those with eyes might see forms. I go to the Blessed One for refuge, and to the Dhamma and to the community of monks. Let me obtain the going forth in the Blessed One’s presence, let me obtain admission.”

“Anyone, Subhadda, who has previously belonged to another sect and who desires the going forth and admission in this doctrine and discipline must first undergo probation for four months. If, at the end of four months, the monks feel so moved, they give him the going forth and admit him to the monk’s state. But I know distinctions among individuals in this matter.”

“Lord, if that is so, I am willing to undergo probation for four years. If, at the end of four years, the monks feel so moved, let them give me the going forth and admit me to the monk’s state.”

Then the Blessed One said to Ven. Ananda, “Very well then, Ananda, give Subhadda the going forth.”

“Yes, lord,” Ven. Ananda answered.

Then Subhadda said to Ven. Ananda, “It is a gain for you, Ananda, a great gain, that you have been anointed here in the Teacher’s presence with the pupil’s anointing.”

Then Subhadda the wanderer received the going forth and the admission in the Blessed One’s presence. And not long after his admission—dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, and resolute—he in no long time reached and remained in the supreme goal of the holy life, for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing and realizing it for himself in the here and now. He knew: “Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world.” And thus Ven. Subhadda became another one of the arahants, the last of the Blessed One’s face-to-face disciples….

Then the Blessed One addressed the monks, “I exhort you, monks: Fabrications are subject to decay. Bring about completion by being heedful.” Those were the Tathagata’s last words.

Then the Blessed One entered the first jhana. Emerging from that he entered the second. Emerging from that, he entered the third… the fourth… the dimension of the infinitude of space… the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness… the dimension of nothingness… the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception… the cessation of perception and feeling.

Then Ven. Ananda said to Ven. Anuruddha, “The Blessed One, sir, has entered total Unbinding.”

“No, friend, the Blessed One has not entered total Unbinding. He has attained the cessation of perception and feeling.”

Then emerging from the cessation of perception and feeling, the Blessed One entered the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception… the dimension of nothingness… the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness… the dimension of the infinitude of space… the fourth jhana… the third… the second… the first jhana. Emerging from the first jhana he entered the second… the third… the fourth jhana. Emerging from the fourth jhana, he entered total Unbinding in the interim….

When the Blessed One had attained total Unbinding, Sakka, ruler of the gods, uttered this stanza:

“How inconstant are compounded things!

Their nature: to arise and pass away.

They disband as they are arising.

Their total stilling

is bliss.”