The Questions of Dhotaka
“I ask the Blessed One to tell me (said the Venerable Dhotaka)
I would like the great sage to speak.
Having heard your speech, I will train myself for cessation.
“Then strive hard (Dhotaka said the Blessed One) be prudent and mindful
Having heard my speech, train yourself for cessation.
“I see in the world of gods and humans, a saint owning nothing.
I pay homage to the Omniscient One. If possible,¹ please free me from doubts.
“I am not able to liberate anyone,² having doubts in the world, Dhotaka.
When you understand the excellent Dhamma, thus you will cross the flood.
“Instruct me, Lord,³ out of compassion, so that I can know that secluded state.
So that I can understand that unobstructed state like space, and abide in it here and now.
“I will extol that peace (said the Blessed One to Dhotaka) realisable not based on hearsay.
Having understood that, dwelling mindful, one will transcend attachment to the world.
“I am delighted to hear about that ultimate peace from the great sage,
Having understood which, dwelling mindful, one will transcend attachment to the world.
“Whatever you can know (Dhotaka said the Blessed One),
Above, below, across, or in between,
Having understood that this is a bond in the world, do not create craving for existence or non-existence.”
1. Both Venerable Hammalawa Saddhātissa and Bhikkhu Bodhi translate “Sakka” as Sakya. However, it also means “possible.” I hesitate to differ from two well-known Pāḷi scholars, but in this context “possible” makes more sense to me. The Commentary says nothing about the word.
2. This statement by the Buddha that he is unable to liberate anyone even if they have faith in his Omniscience and implore him with the utmost respect, sets Buddhism apart from all other religions. It is no use pretending to understand if you do not. Faith alone is insufficient — only diligent and continuous practice of the correct method leads to insight knowledge, and only the maturation of insight knowledge leads to liberation. At the relatively early stage of insight called Purification by Overcoming Doubt, the meditator sees for himself or herself that there is no self, no person or being who performs actions, feels sensations, or thinks thoughts. There is just a relentless process of conditioned mental and physical phenomena. If the meditator stops practising at this stage and does not proceed all the way to the Path and Fruition of Stream-winning, personality-view will not be destroyed, and doubt will not be eradicated. Egoism may reassert itself when they lose mindfulness and revert to normal life. That is why meditators are often not very obviously different to non-meditators. It depends on how deep their insight is. The Stream-winners and other Noble Ones are very different to ordinary individuals who have only unstable faith and morality.
3. Lord (Brahma)