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Kīṭāgiri Suttaṃ

(M.i.473)

At Kīṭāgiri

Introduction

This discourse is about a group of monks led by Assaji and Punabbasu, who were of bad repute, and difficult to admonish. The Vinaya texts contain many accounts of their shameless behaviour, for which they were admonished, but refused to rectify. The thirteenth Saṅghādisesa training rule was established due to their stubbornness and unwillingness to heed the advice of well-behaved monks. The misdeeds that they did were relatively minor offences that only required confession to expiate them, but their shamelessness made them difficult to admonish. Please refer to the Kesi Sutta on the dangers of being stubborn and difficult to speak to.

The discourse contains some important teachings on the gradual training, and the seven individuals who are either liberated or heading towards liberation.

I have abridged the translation slightly to remove some repetitions in the Pāḷi text, which though useful in a spoken discourse are not so important in a written text.

Translation

Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was wandering the kingdom of Kāsi with a large community of monks. Then the Blessed One addressed the monks: “I, monks, abstain from eating a night-time mealBy abstaining from a night-time meal I have few diseases, few ailments, I feel light and strong,² and abide in comfort. Therefore, monks, abstain from a night-time meal and you too will have few diseases, few ailments, will feel light and strong, and abide in comfort.”

“It is as you say, venerable sir.”

Then while wandering in the kingdom of Kāsi by stages the Blessed One arrived at a market town of Kāsi named Kīṭāgiri. Then the Blessed One stayed there at Kīṭāgiri, a market town of Kāsi.

On that occasion some monks known as Assaji Punabbasu were dwelling at Kīṭāgiri. Then many monks approached them and told them: “The Blessed One and the community of monks abstain from a night-time meal and thus have few diseases, few ailments, feel light and strong, and abide in comfort. Therefore, friends, you should abstain from a night-time meal. Abstaining from a night-time meal, you will have few diseases, few ailments, will feel light and strong, and abide in comfort.”

When this was said, the Assaji Punabbasu monks replied: “We, friends, eat in the morning, the evening, and at the wrong time. Eating in the morning, the evening, and at the wrong time we have few diseases, few ailments, feel light and strong, and abide in comfort. Why should we abandon something visible here and now to pursue something that takes time? We will eat in the morning, in the evening, and at the wrong time.”

Since the monks were unable to convince the Assaji Punabbasu monks, they approached the Blessed One, having approached, they paid homage, and sat down at once side. Sitting at one side, those monks said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, we approached the Assaji Punabbasu monks and advised them to abstain from a night-time meal, but they did not accept our advice, so we report this matter to the Blessed One.”

Then the Blessed One said to a certain monk: “Summon the Assaji Punabbasu monks in my name saying: ‘The teacher wishes to speak with you.’”

Having replied, “Yes, venerable sir,” that monk approached the Assaji Punabbasu monks, and having approached, said to them: “The teacher summons you.”

“Very well, friend,” the Assaji Punabbasu monks replied, and approached the Blessed One; having approached, they paid homage and sat down at one side.

The Blessed One said: “Is it true, monks, that you refuse to abstain from a night-time meal when advised by a large number of monks.”

“Yes, venerable sir.”

“Monks, have you known me to teach that whatever a person experiences, whether pleasant, painful, or neutral, unwholesome states decline and wholesome states increase?”

“Indeed not, venerable sir.”

“Monks, have you not known me to teach that when one experiences one kind of pleasant feeling unwholesome states increase and wholesome states diminish, when one experiences another kind of pleasant feeling unwholesome states diminish and wholesome states increase; when one experiences one kind of painful feeling unwholesome states increase and wholesome states diminish, when one experiences another kind of painful feeling unwholesome states diminish and wholesome states increase; when one experiences one kind of neutral feeling unwholesome states increase and wholesome states diminish, when one experiences another kind of neutral feeling unwholesome states diminish and wholesome states increase.”

“Indeed so, venerable sir.”

“Well said, monks. If, monks, it was not known (aññātaṃ) by me, not fulfilled (abhavissa),³ not seen (adiṭṭhaṃ), not understood (aviditaṃ), not realised (asacchikataṃ), not penetrated by wisdom (aphassitaṃ paññāya) — ‘When one experiences one kind of pleasant feeling unwholesome states increase and wholesome states diminish’ would it be proper for me to say ‘Abandon this kind of pleasant feeling’?”

“Indeed not, venerable sir.”

“Because monks, it is known (ñātaṃ), seen (diṭṭhaṃ), understood (viditaṃ), realised (sacchikataṃ), and penetrated by wisdom (phassitaṃ paññāya) — ‘When one experiences one kind of pleasant feeling, unwholesome states increase and wholesome states diminish’ therefore I say, ‘Abandon this kind of pleasant feeling.’ Because, monks, it is known, seen, understood, realised, and penetrated by wisdom — ‘When one experiences another kind of pleasant feeling, unwholesome states diminish and wholesome states increase’ therefore I say, ‘Acquire and abide in this kind of pleasant feeling.’ If this was not known, not fulfilled, not seen, not understood, and not realised by me, would it be proper for me to say, ‘Acquire and abide in this kind of pleasant feeling’?”

“Indeed not, venerable sir.”

“Because it is known, monks, seen, understood, realised, and penetrated by wisdom — ‘When one experiences one kind of painful feeling, unwholesome states increase and wholesome states diminish’ therefore I say, ‘Abandon this kind of painful feeling.’ Because, monks, it is known, seen, understood, realised, and penetrated by wisdom — ‘When one experiences another kind of painful feeling, unwholesome states diminish and wholesome states increase’ therefore I say, ‘Acquire and abide in this kind of painful feeling.’ If this was not known, not fulfilled, not seen, not understood, and not realised by me, would it be proper for me to say, ‘Acquire and abide in this kind of painful feeing’?”

“Indeed not, venerable sir.”

“Because it is known, monks, seen, understood, realised, and penetrated by wisdom — ‘When one experiences one kind of neutral feeling, unwholesome states increase and wholesome states diminish’ therefore I say, ‘Abandon this kind of neutral feeling.’ Because it is known, monks, seen, understood, realised, and penetrated by wisdom — ‘When one experiences another kind of neutral feeling, unwholesome states diminish and wholesome states increase’ therefore I say, ‘Acquire and abide in this kind of neutral feeling.’ If this was not known, not fulfilled, not seen, not understood, and not realised by me, would it be proper for me to say, ‘Acquire and abide in this kind of neutral feeing’?”

“Indeed not, venerable sir.”

“Monks, I do not say regarding all monks that something remains to be done by heedfulness. Those monks who are Arahants who have destroyed the outflows (āsavā),⁴ who have lived the holy life, done what should be done, laid down the burden, attained the highest goal, exhausted the fetters leading to rebirth, are liberated by final knowledge, that they have anything more to do by heedfulness. Why is that? They have done whatever is to be done by heedfulness, and are incapable of being heedless.

“Monks, regarding those monks who are trainees, who have not yet reached the goal and aspire to the incomparable freedom from bondage, I say of them that they have something to do by heedfulness. Why is that? Perhaps these venerable ones while dwelling in suitable residences, associating with good friends, and balancing their spiritual faculties — they may attain in this very life and abide in that goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen go forth from the life of a householder to the homeless life. Monks, regarding these monks I say that they have something to do by heedfulness.

“Monks, there are seven kinds of individuals to be found in the world. What seven? One liberated both ways, one liberated by wisdom, a body witness, one attained to view, one liberated by confidence,⁵ a Dhamma follower, a confidence ⁵ follower.

“What, monks, is an individual who is liberated both ways? Here, monks, a certain individual has attained (phusitvā) those peaceful formless liberations, and having seen them with wisdom has destroyed the outflows. I call this individual, monks, one who is liberated both ways. I do not say that he has anything to do by heedfulness. Why is that? He has done whatever is to be done by heedfulness, and is incapable of being heedless.

“What, monks, is an individual liberated by wisdom? Here, monks, a certain individual has not attained those peaceful formless liberations, but has destroyed the outflows by wisdom. I call this individual, monks, one who is liberated by wisdom. I do not say that he has anything to do by heedfulness. Why is that? He has done whatever is to be done by heedfulness, and is incapable of being heedless.

“What, monks, is an individual who is a body witness? Here, monks, a certain individual has attained those peaceful formless liberations, and having seen them with wisdom has destroyed some of the outflows. I call this individual, monks, a body witness. I say of this monk, monks that he still has something to do by heedfulness. Why is that? Perhaps this venerable one while dwelling in suitable residences, associating with good friends, and balancing the spiritual faculties — may attain in this very life and abide in that goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen go forth from the life of a householder to the homeless life. Monks, regarding this monk I say that he has something to do by heedfulness.

“What, monks, is an individual who has attained to view? Here, monks, a certain individual has not attained those peaceful formless liberations, but has destroyed some outflows by wisdom. He has examined with wisdom and fully understood the teachings of the Tathāgata. I call this individual, monks, one attained to view. I say of this monk, monks that he still has something to do by heedfulness. Why is that? Perhaps this venerable one while dwelling in suitable residences, associating with good friends, and balancing the spiritual faculties — may attain in this very life and abide in that goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen go forth from the life of a householder to the homeless life. Monks, regarding this monk I say that he has something to do by heedfulness.

“What, monks, is an individual liberated by confidence? Here, monks, a certain individual has not attained those peaceful formless liberations, but having seen them with wisdom has destroyed some outflows. His confidence is settled on, rooted in, and established in the Tathāgata. I call this individual, monks, one who is liberated by confidence. I say of this monk, monks that he still has something to do by heedfulness. Why is that? Perhaps this venerable one while dwelling in suitable residences, associating with good friends, and balancing the spiritual faculties — may attain in this very life and abide in that goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen go forth from the life of a householder to the homeless life. Monks, regarding this monk I say that he has something to do by heedfulness.

“What, monks, is the individual who is a Dhamma follower? Here, monks, a certain individual has not attained those peaceful formless liberations, but having seen them with wisdom has destroyed some outflows. He has evaluated and found satisfaction in the teachings of the Tathāgata, and possesses these spiritual faculties: confidence, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. I call this individual, monks, a Dhamma follower. I say of this monk, monks that he still has something to do by heedfulness. Why is that? Perhaps this venerable one while dwelling in suitable residences, associating with good friends, and balancing the spiritual faculties — may attain in this very life and abide in that goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen go forth from the life of a householder to the homeless life. Monks, regarding this monk I say that he has something to do by heedfulness.

“What, monks, is the individual who is a confidence follower? This individual, monks, has not attained those peaceful formless liberations, but having seen them with wisdom has destroyed some outflows. He has sufficient confidence in and affection for the Tathāgata, and possesses these spiritual faculties: confidence, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. I call this individual, monks, a Dhamma follower. I say of this monk, monks that he still has something to do by heedfulness. Why is that? Perhaps this venerable one while dwelling in suitable residences, associating with good friends, and balancing the spiritual faculties — may attain in this very life and abide in that goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen go forth from the life of a householder to the homeless life. Monks, regarding this monk I say that he has something to do by heedfulness.

“I do not say, monks, that final knowledge is attained at once; but it is attained by a gradual training, a gradual preparation, and a gradual practice. How, monks, is final knowledge attained by a gradual training, a gradual preparation, and a gradual practice? Here, monks, one in whom confidence has arisen approaches [a teacher], having approached he sits close, sitting close he listens to the Dhamma, having listened to the Dhamma he bears it in mind, bearing it in mind he ponders the meaning, having pondered the meaning he is satisfied [that it is correct], being satisfied desire [for the goal] arises, when desire is born he is willing, being willing he makes an examination, having examined he strives, having striven he personally realises the truth and penetrates it with wisdom.

“There has not been, monks, that confidence, there has not been that approach, there has not been that sitting close, there has not been that listening to the Dhamma, there has not been that bearing it in mind, there has not been that pondering of the meaning, there has not been that satisfaction, there has not been that arising of desire, there has not been that willingness, there has not been that examining, there has not been that striving. Monks, you have lost your way and followed the wrong path. How far, monks, have you worthless men (moghapurisā) strayed from this Dhamma and discipline!

“Monks, there is a statement of four phrases that an intelligent man can soon understand. I will recite it, monks, listen to me.”

“Venerable sir, who are we that we could understand the Dhamma?”

“Monks, even with a teacher concerned with material things, an heir to material things, dwelling attached to material things, this kind of haggling: ‘If we get this, we will do it; if we don’t, we won’t,” is improper. What more needs to be said regarding the Tathāgata who is completely detached from material things.

“Monks, a disciple who has confidence in the teacher’s dispensation and is intent on understanding it, should think thus: ‘The Blessed One is the teacher, I am his disciple; the Blessed One knows, I do not know.’ For a disciple who has confidence in the teacher’s dispensation and is intent on understanding it, the teacher’s dispensation is the source of vitality. For a disciple who has confidence in the teacher’s dispensation and is intent on understanding it, the teacher’s dispensation it is suitable to think thus. ‘Let my skin remain, let the sinews remain, let the bones remain, let my flesh and blood dry up,⁶ I will not relax my efforts until that which can be attained by manly strength, manly effort, manly endeavour has been achieved. One of two fruits can be expected for a disciple who has confidence in the teacher’s dispensation and is intent on understanding it, final knowledge in this very life or, if something remains, the fruit of Non-returning.”

This is what the Blessed One said, The monks were satisfied and delighted in what the Blessed One had said.⁷

Notes:

1. A night-time meal (rattibhojanā). Elsewhere, in the Bhaddali Sutta (Sutta 65 of the Majjhimanikāya), the Buddha recommended eating only one meal a day, but allowed monks to keep back some food from the morning meal to eat before midday if they found it difficult to wait nearly 24 hours for their next meal. Eating after midday or before dawn is proscribed in the training rule on eating at the wrong time (vikkalabhojana sikkhapadaṃ). Forest monks who follow the one-meal-a-day practice eat their meal after returning from almsround. Those who live in remote areas may stop in a convenient place on the way back, wash the bowl, take off the upper robes, and walk back to their dwelling wearing only the under robe and a light shirt covering one shoulder (aṅgsa).

2. If eating a heavy meal in the heat of midday, or in the evening, one feels heavy and wants to rest. With only one meal after a long fast, one feels invigorated and healthy. If one is able to abide in comfort with only one meal, that is best; if not, one can eat some remaining food before midday. The modern practice of eating the main meal just before midday is the opposite of the practice in the Buddha’s time. The monks used to eat a light rice-gruel in the early morning before going to a householder’s meal in a house. Some monks ate a heavy gruel before going for a meal at the house of the General Siha. They were therefore not hungry, and ate only a little of the food prepared.

3. This term not fulfilled (abhavissa) is used in the negative phrase “Not known, not fulfilled, not seen, not understood, not realised“ but not in the postive phrase “Known, seen, understood, realised.” It is the conditional of bhavati = to become.

4. Outflows (āsavā) is a difficult term to translate. Bhikkhu Bodhi translates it as “taints,” while Ajahn Thanissaro uses “mental fermentations.” The PTS dictionary also give the meaning as secretions or pus oozing from a wound. They are like four gaping wounds through which the infections of lust, ill-will, and delusion can enter the mind. The four outflows are sensuality (kāmāsava), becoming (bhavāsava), views (diṭṭhāsava), and ignorance (āvijjāsava). When the mind is at peace, it is still, but if it stimulated by sensual desire it flows out to the object to grasp it. Due to craving and attachment one does actions by body, speech, and thought to obtain the object of one’s desire, or to defend it, which is becoming. The wrong-view arises that the object is permanent, pleasurable, and possesses a self, or belongs to oneself, and its true nature of impermanence, suffering, and not-self is concealed by ignorance.

5. Confidence (saddhā), is translated as “faith” by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and as “conviction,” by Ajahn Thanissaro. Confidence in any person or doctrine can be well-placed or misplaced. Confidence tricksters are skilled in misleading people and many religious teachings may, in fact, be false. One who hears about the Buddha and his teaching and then makes a thorough investigation into those teachings is a Dhamma follower, one who is inspired by his reputation and life story is a confidence follower. The controlling faculty of confidence (saddhindriya) is powerful enough to overcome doubt and wavering. One in whom this faculty is undeveloped shirks the duty of study and meditation, even when they hear that it is beneficial and leads towards the end of suffering. They may lack confidence in the teacher, the teaching, or their own ability. Weak faculties can be strengthened by listening to or reading suitable teachings repeatedly.

6. I think that the “statement of four phrases” refers to the four factors of striving: Let the skin remain is one factor, let the sinews remain is the second, let the bones remain is the third, let the flesh and blood dry up is the fourth. The teaching is for the sake of trainable individuals (neyya), the Arahants have already reached the highest goal.

7. Although the discourse ends with the usual colophon, the shameless monks of Kīṭāgiri apparently did not appreciate the discourse. It must have been the other scrupulous monks who expressed their appreciation of the teaching. The Assaji Punabbasu monks got a well-deserved scolding, and they were banished from staying at Kīṭāgiri by an act of the Saṅgha (pabbājaniyakamma). They left Kīṭāgiri and left the Saṅgha. When this was reported to the Buddha he had the act of banishment revoked “because it had served its purpose” (Vin.ii.9‑13, 14, 15).

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