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Mahāsīhanāda Suttaṃ

(M.i.68)

The Greater Discourse on the Lion’s Roar

#TenPowersofaTathāgataContents

Ten Powers of a Tathāgata

Four Assurances

Eight Assemblies

Four Modes of Birth

Five Destinations

The Way to Hell

The Way to the Animal Realm

The Way to the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

The Way to the Human Realm

The Way to the Celestial Realm

The Way to Nibbāna

The Austerities of the Bodhisatta


146. Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesāli in a forest grove outside of the city to the west. On that occasion Sunakkhatta, a son of the Licchavī, had not long since departed from this Dhamma and discipline.¹ He spoke thus in the Vesāli assembly: “The recluse Gotama does not have any superhuman states, any knowledge and vision of the Noble Ones. The recluse Gotama teaches the Dhamma arrived at through reasoning, by following a line of investigation and understanding it himself. When he teaches that Dhamma, it leads anyone who practises it rightly to the destruction of suffering.”

Then the Venerable Sāriputta, having put on his robes and taken the almsbowl and double-robe, entered Vesāli for alms. The Venerable Sāriputta heard what Sunakkhatta was saying: “The recluse Gotama … suffering.” When he had walked for alms, and returned from almsround, after the meal he approached the Blessed One, having approached, he paid homage and sat down at one side. Sitting at one side, he said to the Blessed One: “Sunakkhatta, a son of the Licchavī, who has not long since departed from this Dhamma and discipline said this in the Vesāli assembly: ‘The recluse Gotama … suffering.’”

147. [The Blessed One replied] “Sāriputta, that foolish man Sunakkhatta is angry, and he speaks out of anger. Thinking to speak in dispraise of the Tathāgata, Sāriputta, the foolish man Sunakkhatta speaks in praise of the Tathāgata. [69] This is praise of the Tathāgata, Sāriputta, who speaks thus: ‘When he teaches that Dhamma, it leads anyone who practises it rightly to the destruction of suffering.’

“Also, Sāriputta, this foolish man Sunakkhatta will never come to this conclusion about me: ‘Thus indeed is the Blessed One, worthy, fully enlightened by himself, endowed with knowledge and conduct, fortunate, seer of the worlds, an incomparable trainer of trainable persons, the teacher of gods and humans, enlightened, and blessed.’ ²

“Also, Sāriputta, this foolish man Sunakkhatta will never come to this conclusion about me: ‘Thus the Blessed One is equipped with and exercises various kinds of psychic powers — having been one, he becomes many; having been many, he becomes one; having been visible, he becomes invisible; having been invisible, he becomes visible; he passes through fences, walls, and mountains unhindered as if it was air; he plunges into the earth and emerges from it as if it was water; he sits cross-legged in the sky like a bird with wings; he touches with his hand the sun and the moon, mighty though they are; he goes with his body even to the Brahma world.

“Also, Sāriputta, this foolish man Sunakkhatta will never come to this conclusion about me: ‘Thus the Blessed One, with the divine-ear element that is purified and transcends human hearing, hears both celestial and human sounds, whether far or near.’

“Also, Sāriputta, this foolish man Sunakkhatta will never come to this conclusion about me: ‘Thus the Blessed One fully understands the minds of other individuals — he knows a passionate (sarāgaṃ) mind as passionate, a dispassionate (vītarāgaṃ) mind as dispassionate, an angry (sadosaṃ) mind as angry, a mind free from anger (vītadosaṃ) as free from anger, a deluded (samohaṃ) mind as a deluded mind, an undeluded (vītamohaṃ) mind as undeluded, a composed (saṃkhittaṃ) mind as composed, an uncomposed (vikkhittaṃ) mind as uncomposed, a lofty (mahaggataṃ) mind as lofty, a limited (amahaggataṃ) mind as limited, a surpassable (sa-uttaraṃ) mind as surpassable, an unsurpassable (anuttara) mind as unsurpassable, a concentrated (samāhittaṃ) mind as concentrated, an unconcentrated (asamāhittaṃ) mind as unconcentrated, a liberated (vimuttaṃ) mind as liberated, an unliberated (avimuttaṃ) mind as unliberated.’

#Contents#FourAssurancesThe Ten Powers of a Tathāgata

148. “These ten powers of a Tathāgata, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata possesses, so he claims the position as the leader of the herd, roars the lion’s roar in assemblies, and sets in motion the wheel of Brahma. What ten?

  1. “Here, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata knows as it really is the possible as possible and the impossible as impossible. [70] This, Sāriputta, is a power of a Tathāgata, possessing which, the Tathāgata claims the position as the leader of the herd, roars the lion’s roar in assemblies, and sets in motion the wheel of Brahma.
  2. “Again, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata knows as it really is the possible results and root conditions of kamma, past, future, and present. This, Sāriputta, is a power of the Tathāgata  … Brahma.
  3. “Again, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata knows as it really is the practices leading to all destinations. This, Sāriputta, is a power of the Tathāgata … Brahma.
  4. “Again, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata knows as it really is the various different elements. This, Sāriputta, is a power of the Tathāgata  … Brahma.
  5. “Again, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata knows as it really is the different inclinations (adhimuttika) of living beings. This, Sāriputta, is a power of the Tathāgata  … Brahma.
  6. “Again, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata knows as it really is the spiritual faculties (indriyaparopariyattaṃ) of other beings. This, Sāriputta, is a power of the Tathāgata  … Brahma.
  7. “Again, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata knows as it really is the absorptions (jhāna), liberations (vimokkha), concentrations (samādhi), and attainments (samāpatti); and the defilement, cleansing, and emergence from them. This, Sāriputta, is a power of the Tathāgata  … Brahma.
  8. “Again, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata knows as it really is various former lives, that is to say — one, two, three, four, five births, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty births, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand births, many aeons of evolution, many aeons of devolution, many aeons of evolution and devolution — ‘On that occasion such was my name, clan, appearance, food, pleasure and pain that I experience, such was my life-span, having deceased from there I arose elsewhere, there too such was my name, clan, etc., and having deceased from there, I arose here.’ Thus with their characteristics and in detail I recollect my former existences. This, Sāriputta, is a power of the Tathāgata  … Brahma.
  9. “Again, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata, with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, sees living beings deceasing and arising in inferior and superior [conditions], beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, according to their kamma. He knows, ‘These dear beings (bhonto sattā) endowed with bad bodily conduct, bad vocal conduct, bad mental conduct, revilers of the Noble Ones, [71] holders of wrong-views, acquiring kamma from those wrong-views, on the break-up of the body after death they arise in an unfortunate destination (duggatiṃ), in a place of punishment (vinipātaṃ), in hell (nirayaṃ). These dear beings endowed with good bodily conduct, good vocal conduct, good mental conduct, not revilers of the Noble Ones, holders of right-views, acquiring kamma from those right-views, on the break-up of the body after death they arise in a fortunate destination (sugatiṃ), in a celestial realm (saggaṃ).’ Thus the Tathāgata, with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, sees living beings deceasing and arising in inferior and superior [conditions], beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, according to their kamma. This, Sāriputta, is a power of the Tathāgata  … Brahma.
  10. “Again, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata realises the destruction of the outflows, the undefiled liberation of the mind and the liberation by wisdom here and now with direct knowledge, and having attained it abides in it. This, Sāriputta, is a power of the Tathāgata, possessing which, the Tathāgata claims the position as the leader of the herd, roars the lion’s roar in assemblies, and sets in motion the wheel of Brahma.

“These ten powers of a Tathāgata, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata possesses, so he claims the position as the leader of the herd, roars the lion’s roar in assemblies, and sets in motion the wheel of Brahma.

149. “When, Sāriputta, I know thus and see thus, whoever would speak thus — ‘The recluse Gotama does not have any superhuman states, any knowledge and vision of the Noble Ones. The recluse Gotama teaches the Dhamma arrived at through reasoning, by following a line of investigation and understanding it himself,’ without retracting that statement, Sāriputta, without abandoning that thought, without having renounced that view, falls into hell as if dragged and thrown there.³ It is just as, Sāriputta, I declare that a monk endowed with morality, concentration, and wisdom will attain final knowledge here and now, [likewise] without retracting that statement, Sāriputta, without abandoning that thought, without having renounced that view,⁴ one falls into hell as if dragged and thrown there.”

#Contents#EightAssembliesFour Assurances

150. “Sāriputta, the Tathāgata is endowed with these four assurances, endowed with these assurances the Tathāgata claims the position as the leader of the herd, roars the lion’s roar in assemblies, and sets in motion the wheel of Brahma. What four?

“I see no grounds on which any recluse, priest, god, Mara, Brahma or anyone at all in the world could rightly accuse me: ‘Although you claim full enlightenment, you are not fully enlightened in regard to certain things.' [72] Seeing no grounds for that, Sāriputta, I abide attained to security (khemappatto), fearlessness (abhayappatto), and self-assurance (vesārajjappatto).

“I see no grounds on which any recluse, priest, god, Mara, Brahma or anyone at all in the world could rightly accuse me: ‘Although you claim to have destroyed the outflows (āsavā),⁵ these outflows are not destroyed.’ Seeing no grounds for that, Sāriputta, I abide attained to security, fearlessness, and self-assurance.

“I see no grounds on which any recluse, priest, god, Mara, Brahma or anyone at all in the world could rightly accuse me: ‘Those thing called obstructions (antarāyikā dhammā)⁶ by you are not obstructions.’ Seeing no grounds for that, Sāriputta, I abide attained to security, fearlessness, and self-assurance.

“I see no grounds on which any recluse, priest, god, Mara, Brahma or anyone at all in the world could rightly accuse me: ‘When I teach the Dhamma, it does not lead one who practises it rightly to the destruction of suffering.’ Seeing no grounds for that, Sāriputta, I abide attained to security, fearlessness, and self-assurance.

“Sāriputta, the Tathāgata is endowed with these four assurances (vesārajja), endowed with these assurances the Tathāgata claims the position as the leader of the herd, roars the lion’s roar in assemblies, and sets in motion the wheel of Brahma.

“When, Sāriputta, I know thus and see thus, whoever would speak thus — ‘The recluse Gotama does not have any superhuman states, any knowledge and vision of the Noble Ones. The recluse Gotama teaches the Dhamma arrived at through reasoning, by following a line of investigation and understanding it himself,’ without retracting that statement, Sāriputta, without abandoning that thought, without having renounced that view, falls into hell as if dragged and thrown there. It is just as, Sāriputta, I declare that a monk endowed with morality, concentration, and wisdom will attain final knowledge here and now, [likewise] without retracting that statement, Sāriputta, without abandoning that thought, without having renounced that view, one falls into hell as if dragged and thrown there.”

#Contents#FourModesofBirthEight Assemblies

151. “Sāriputta, there are these eight assemblies. What eight? An assembly of nobles, an assembly of priests, an assembly of householders, an assembly of recluses, an assembly of the gods of the four great kings, an assembly of the gods of Tāvatiṃsa, an assembly of māras, an assembly of brahmas — these, Sāriputta, are the eight assemblies. Being endowed with these four assurances, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata approaches and enters these eight assemblies. I am aware (abhijānāmi), Sāriputta, of having approached assemblies of many hundreds of nobles. I have sat among them, talked with them, entered into discussions with them, but I saw no sign of fear (bhayaṃ) or nervousness (sārajjaṃ) overcoming me. Seeing no grounds for that, Sāriputta, I abide attained to security, fearlessness, and self-assurance.

“I am aware, Sāriputta, of having approached assemblies of many hundreds of priests … householders … recluses … gods of the four great kings … gods of Tāvatiṃsa … māras … brahmas. I have sat among them, talked with them, entered into discussions with them, but I saw no sign of fear or nervousness overcoming me. Seeing no grounds for that, Sāriputta, I abide secure, fearless, and self-assured. [73]

“When, Sāriputta, I know thus and see thus, whoever would speak thus — ‘The recluse Gotama does not have any superhuman states, any knowledge and vision of the Noble Ones. The recluse Gotama teaches the Dhamma arrived at through reasoning, by following a line of investigation and understanding it himself,’ without retracting that statement, Sāriputta, without abandoning that thought, without having renounced that view, falls into hell as if dragged and thrown there. It is just as, Sāriputta, I declare that a monk endowed with morality, concentration, and wisdom will attain final knowledge here and now, [likewise] without retracting that statement, Sāriputta, without abandoning that thought, without having renounced that view, one falls into hell as if dragged and thrown there.”

#Contents#FiveDestinationsFour Modes of Birth

152. “Sāriputta, there are these four modes of birth. What four? Birth from an egg (aṇḍajā), birth in the womb (jalābujā), birth in moisture (saṃsedajā), spontaneous birth (opapātikā). And what, Sāriputta, is birth from an egg? There are beings, Sāriputta, that are born by breaking through the shell of an egg — this, Sāriputta, is called birth from an egg. And what, Sāriputta, is birth in the womb? There are beings, Sāriputta, that are born by breaking out of the embryonic membrane — this, Sāriputta, is called birth from a womb. And what, Sāriputta, is birth in moisture? There are beings, Sāriputta, that are born in a rotting fish, a rotting corpse or carcase, in rotting food, in a refuse tip, a cess-pit — this, Sāriputta, is called birth in moisture. And what, Sāriputta, is spontaneous birth? Deities, hell-beings, certain human beings, and certain beings in a place of punishment — this, Sāriputta, is called spontaneous birth.

“When, Sāriputta, I know thus and see thus, whoever would speak thus — ‘The recluse Gotama does not have any superhuman states, any knowledge and vision of the Noble Ones. The recluse Gotama teaches the Dhamma arrived at through reasoning, by following a line of investigation and understanding it himself,’ without retracting that statement, Sāriputta, without abandoning that thought, without having renounced that view, falls into hell as if dragged and thrown there. It is just as, Sāriputta, I declare that a monk endowed with morality, concentration, and wisdom will attain final knowledge here and now, [likewise] without retracting that statement, Sāriputta, without abandoning that thought, without having renounced that view, one falls into hell as if dragged and thrown there.”

#Contents#TheWaytoHellFive Destinations

153. “Sāriputta, there are these five destinations. What five? Hell, the animal womb, hungry ghosts, human beings, and celestial beings. Sāriputta, I know hell, I know the path to hell, I know the way of practice that leads to hell; and I know how one practising will, on the break-up of the body after death, arise in a state of loss (apāyaṃ), in an unfortunate destination, in a place of punishment, in hell. Sāriputta, I know the animal realm, I know the path to the animal realm, I know the way of practice that leads to the animal realm, and I know how one practising will, on the break-up of the body after death, arise in the animal realm. Sāriputta, I know the realm of hungry ghosts, I know the path to the realm of hungry ghosts, I know the way of practice that leads to the realm of hungry ghosts, and I know how one practising will, on the break-up of the body after death, arise in the realm of hungry ghosts. Sāriputta, I know the human realm, I know the path to the human realm, I know the way of practice that leads to the human realm, and I know how one practising will, on the break-up of the body after death, arise in the human realm. Sāriputta, I know the gods, I know the path to the celestial realm, I know the way of practice that leads to the celestial realm, and I know how one practising will, on the break-up of the body after death, arise in a fortunate destination, in the celestial realm. Sāriputta, I know nibbāna, I know the path to nibbāna, [74] I know the way of practice that leads to nibbāna, and I know how one practising will destroy the outflows and realise here and now by direct knowledge the undefiled liberation of the mind and liberation by wisdom.

#TheWaytotheAnimalRealmThe Way to Hell

154. “Here, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, on the break-up of the body after death, they will arise in a state of loss, in an unfortunate destination, in a place of punishment, in hell. Then, on a later occasion, I see them, with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, on the break-up of the body after death having arisen in a state of loss, an unfortunate destination, in a place of punishment, in hell, experiencing extremely painful, piercing, and excruciating pain. It is as if, Sāriputta, there was a charcoal pit greater than a man’s height, glowing red-hot, without flames or smoke. Then a man was coming, sun-burnt and overpowered by heat, exhausted, dehydrated, thirsty, along a path leading only to that charcoal pit. Then a man with good eyesight seeing him would say: ‘The way that this dear man is practising and behaving, having entered upon that path will arrive at this very charcoal pit.’ Then, on a later occasion he sees him fallen into that charcoal pit, experiencing extremely painful, piercing, and excruciating pain. In the same way, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, on the break-up of the body after death, they will arise in a state of loss, in an unfortunate destination, in a place of punishment, in hell. Then, on a later occasion,  I see them with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, on the break-up of the body after death having arisen in a state of loss, an unfortunate destination, in a place of punishment, in hell, experiencing extremely painful (ekantadukkhā), piercing (tibbā), and excruciating (kaṭukā) feelings.

#TheWaytotheRealmofHungryGhostsThe Way to the Animal Realm

“Here, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, on the break-up of the body after death, they will arise in the animal realm. Then, on a later occasion,  I see them with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision on the break-up of the body after death having arisen in the animal realm, experiencing extremely painful, piercing, and excruciating pain. It is as if, Sāriputta, there was a cess-pit greater than a man’s height, full of excrement. Then a man was coming, [75] sun-burnt and overpowered by heat, exhausted, dehydrated, thirsty, along a path leading only to that charcoal pit. Then a man with good eyesight seeing him would say: ‘The way that this dear man is practising and behaving, having entered upon that path will arrive at this very cess-pit.’ Then, on a later occasion he sees him fallen into that cess-pit, experiencing painful, piercing, and excruciating pain. In the same way, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, on the break-up of the body after death, they will arise in the animal realm. Then, on a later occasion,  I see them with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision on the break-up of the body after death having arisen in the animal realm, experiencing painful (dukkhā), piercing (tibbā), and excruciating (kaṭuka) feelings.

#TheWaytotheHumanRealmThe Way to the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Here, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, on the break-up of the body after death, they will arise in the realm of hungry ghosts. Then, on a later occasion,  I see them with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision on the break-up of the body after death having arisen in the realm of hungry ghosts, experiencing many painful feelings. It is as if, Sāriputta, there was a tree on rough ground, with thin foliage and patchy shade. Then a man was coming, sun-burnt and overpowered by heat, exhausted, dehydrated, thirsty, along a path leading only to that tree. Then a man with good eyesight seeing him would say: ‘The way that this dear man is practising and behaving, having entered upon that path will arrive at this very tree.’ Then, on a later occasion he sees him sitting or lying down in the shade of that very tree, experiencing many painful feelings. In the same way, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, on the break-up of the body after death, they will arise in the realm of hungry ghosts. Then, on a later occasion,  I see them with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, on the break-up of the body after death having arisen in the realm of hungry ghosts, experiencing many painful (dukkhabahulā) feelings.

#TheWaytotheCelestialRealmThe Way to the Human Realm

“Here, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, on the break-up of the body after death, they will arise in the human realm. Then, on a later occasion,  I see them with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, on the break-up of the body after death having arisen in the human realm, experiencing many pleasant feelings. It is as if, Sāriputta, there was a tree on even ground, with thick foliage and ample shade. Then a man was coming, sun-burnt and overpowered by heat, exhausted, dehydrated, thirsty, along a path leading only to that tree. Then a man with good eyesight seeing him would say: ‘The way that this dear man is practising and behaving, having entered upon that path will arrive at this very tree.’ Then, on a later occasion he sees him sitting or lying down in the shade of that very tree, experiencing many pleasant feelings. In the same way, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, on the break-up of the body after death, they will arise in the human realm. Then, on a later occasion,  I see them with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, on the break-up of the body after death having arisen in the human realm, experiencing many pleasant (sukhabahulā) feelings. [76]

#TheWaytoNibbānaThe Way to the Celestial Realm

“Here, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, on the break-up of the body after death, they will arise in a fortunate destination, in a celestial realm. Then, on a later occasion,  I see them with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, on the break-up of the body after death having arisen in a fortunate destination, in a celestial realm, experiencing many extremely pleasant feelings. It is as if, Sāriputta, there was a mansion with a peaked roof and plastered walls, with bolted shutters to keep out the wind and heat. There were upholstered couches spread with fleeces and deerskin rugs, a canopy, and red pillows at both ends. Then a man was coming, sun-burnt and overpowered by heat, exhausted, dehydrated, thirsty, along a path leading only to that mansion. Then a man with good eyesight seeing him would say: ‘The way that this dear man is practising and behaving, having entered upon that path will arrive at this very mansion.’ Then, on a later occasion he sees him in that mansion under that peaked roof sitting or lying down on that couch, experiencing extremely pleasant feelings. In the same way, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, on the break-up of the body after death, they will arise in a fortunate destination, in a celestial realm. Then, on a later occasion,  I see them with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, on the break-up of the body after death having arisen in that fortunate destination, in a celestial realm, experiencing extremely pleasant (ekantasukha) feelings.

#TheAusteritiesoftheBodhisattaThe Way to Nibbāna

“Here, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that, with the destruction of the outflows they will realise by direct knowledge here and now the undefiled liberation of the mind and liberation by wisdom, and having attained it, will abide in it. Then, on a later occasion, I see with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, that with the destruction of the outflows they have realised by direct knowledge here and now the undefiled liberation of the mind and liberation by wisdom, and having attained it abide in it, experiencing extremely pleasant feelings. It is as if, Sāriputta, there was a pond with clean, pleasant, cool water, transparent, with beautiful banks, delightful to behold, near a dense forest grove. Then a man was coming, sun-burnt and overpowered by heat, exhausted, dehydrated, thirsty, along a path leading only to that pond. Then a man with good eyesight seeing him would say: ‘The way that this dear man is practising and behaving, having entered upon that path will arrive at this very pond.’ Then, on a later occasion he sees him having plunged into that pond, bathing and drinking, having relieved all of his distress, exhaustion, and fever, and having come out of that pond, sitting or lying down in that dense forest grove, [77] experiencing extremely pleasant feelings. In the same way, Sāriputta, having known the mind of a certain individual by encompassing it with my mind — the way this individual is practising and behaves they have entered upon a path such that with the destruction of the outflows they will realise by direct knowledge here and now the undefiled liberation of the mind and liberation by wisdom, and having attained it, will abide in it. Then, on a later occasion, I see with the divine-eye that is purified and transcends human vision, that with the destruction of the outflows they have realised by direct knowledge here and now the undefiled liberation of the mind and liberation by wisdom, and having attained it abide in it, experiencing extremely pleasant feelings. These, Sāriputta, are the five destinations.⁷

“When, Sāriputta, I know thus and see thus, whoever would speak thus — ‘The recluse Gotama does not have any superhuman states, any knowledge and vision of the Noble Ones. The recluse Gotama teaches the Dhamma arrived at through reasoning, by following a line of investigation and understanding it himself,’ without retracting that statement, Sāriputta, without abandoning that thought, without having renounced that view, falls into hell as if dragged and thrown there. It is just as, Sāriputta, I declare that a monk endowed with morality, concentration, and wisdom will attain final knowledge here and now, [likewise] without retracting that statement, Sāriputta, without abandoning that thought, without having renounced that view, one falls into hell as if dragged and thrown there.”

#Contents#NotesThe Austerities of the Bodhisatta

155. “I am aware, Sāriputta, of having practised the holy life endowed with four factors — I practised asceticism (tapassī) to the utmost, I practised coarseness (lūkho) to the utmost, I practiced disgust (jegucchī)⁸ to the utmost, I practiced seclusion (pavivitto) to the utmost.

“Such was my asceticism, Sāriputta, that I went naked, free from social conventions, licking my hands, not coming when invited, not stopping when invited; I did not consent to food that was brought, or specially made, or an invitation to a meal; I received nothing from the mouth of a pot or bowl, across a threshold, across a stick, across a pestle, from two eating together, from a pregnant woman, from a woman who was breast-feeding, from a woman being touched by a man, from a public food distribution, from where a dog was waiting, from where flies are buzzing. I accepted no fish or meat, I drank no liquor, wine, or beer. I kept to one house, to one morsel; I kept to two [78] houses, to two morsels;... I kept to seven houses, to seven morsels. I lived on one small bowlful a day, on two small bowlfuls a day... on seven small bowlfuls a day; I ate once a day, once every two days... once every seven days, … once in half a month; I dwelt devoted to eating only at the stated intervals.

“I was an eater of vegetables (sāka), an eater of millet (sāmāka), an eater of wild rice (nīvara), an eater of hide-scrapings (daddula)⁹ an eater of water cabbage (haṭa), an eater of husk powder (kaṇa), an eater of boiled-rice scum (ācāma), an eater of sesame flour (piññā), an eater of grass (tiṇa), an eater of cow-dung (gomaya). I ate forest roots and fruits, I ate fallen fruits.

“I wore hemp, I wore cloth mixed with hemp, I wore shrouds, I wore rags, I wore tree bark, I wore antelope hides, I wore strips of antelope hide, I wore kusa-grass, I wore bark garments, I wore wood-shavings, I wore hair garments, I wore animal skins, I wore owl wings. I was one who plucked my hair and beard, devoted to the practice of plucking out my hair and beard. I was one who stood, rejecting seats. I was one who squatted, devoted to squatting. I was one who used a bed of thorns; I made a mattress of thorns for my bed. I dwelt devoted to the practice of bathing three times a day — morning, noon, and evening. Thus in such a variety of ways I dwelt devoted to the practice of tormenting and torturing the body. Such, Sāriputta, was my asceticism.

156. “Such was my coarseness, Sāriputta, that just as the bark of a Diospyros (tanduka) tree, accumulated over years, flakes off, so too, dust and dirt, accumulated over years, caked off my body and flaked off. It never occurred to me: ‘Oh, let me wipe off this dust and dirt with my hand, or let another wipe off this dust and dirt with his hand.’ Such, Sāriputta, was my coarseness.

“Such was my disgust [of evil], Sāriputta, that I was mindful when going or coming, having compassion even for [the beings in] a drop of water — ‘May I not bring harm to the tiny beings in puddles.’ Such, Sāriputta, was my disgust.

“Such was my seclusion, Sāriputta, that [79] I would enter into a certain forest and dwell there. If I saw a cow-herd or a shepherd, a grass-cutter or a fire-wood collector, or a forestry worker, I would flee from grove to grove, from thicket to thicket, from hollow to hollow, from hillock to hillock. Why was that? So that I would not see them, and they would not see me. It was like, Sāriputta, a forest deer, having seen a human being, would flee from grove to grove, from thicket to thicket, from hollow to hollow, from hillock to hillock. Such, Sāriputta, was my seclusion.

“Then, Sāriputta, when the cattle had gone out and the cowherd had left them unattended, having approached on all fours, I would eat the dung of the young suckling calves. As long, Sāriputta, as my own urine and excrement lasted, I fed on my own urine and excrement. Such was my great distortion in eating.

157. “Sāriputta, having entered a certain terrifying forest grove I would dwell there. That forest grove, Sāriputta, was so terrifying that whoever was not free from lust entered it, his hair would stand on end. Then, Sāriputta, during those cold winter nights between the eights ¹⁰ I would dwell in the open at night and in the forest grove by day. In the last month of the hot season I would dwell in the open by day, and in the forest grove at night. So much so, that this verse, not heard before, occurred to me:–

“Frozen by night and sun-burnt by day, alone in the terrifying forest.
Naked and without a fire to sit by, the sage remains intent upon his quest.

“Then, Sāriputta, I would make my bed in a cemetery using the bones of a corpse for a pillow. So much so, Sāriputta, that the cowherds,¹¹ having approached, spat on me, urinated on me, threw rubbish on me, or put sticks in my ears. However, Sāriputta, I do not recall any evil thoughts for them arising in me. Such, Sāriputta, was my abiding in equanimity. [80]

158. “There are Sāriputta, some recluses and priests who say this, whose view is thus: ‘Purity comes about through food.’ They say: ‘Let us live on kola-fruits.’ They eat kola-fruits, they eat kola-fruit powder, they drink kola-fruit juice, and make various kinds of kola-fruit recipes. I am aware, Sāriputta, of having eaten a single kola-fruit a day. You may think, Sāriputta, ‘Perhaps the kola-fruit was bigger at that time.’ It should not be regarded thus, Sāriputta. The kola-fruit was the same size then as it is now. Through eating only a single kola-fruit per day, my body became extremely emaciated. My limbs were like jointed creepers or bamboo stems from eating so little; my backside became hollow like a buffalo’s hoof; my vertebrae stood out like a row of beads; my ribs were like the rafters of an old barn with rafters broken and decayed; the pupils of my eyes were sunk deep into my eye-sockets like the twinkling of water seen in a deep well; my scalp was wrinkled like a raw bitter-gourd withered by the wind and sun. When I thought, Sāriputta: ‘I will touch the skin of my belly,’ I grasped my backbone; when I thought, ‘I will touch my backbone, I grasped the skin of my belly,’ because my belly skin adhered to my backbone from eating so little. When I thought, Sāriputta, I will defecate or urinate,’ I fell down head first from eating so little. If, Sāriputta, I rubbed my limbs with my hands to relieve my body, then the hair, having rotted at the roots, would fall out, from eating so little.

159. “There are, Sāriputta, some recluses and priests who say this, whose view is thus: ‘Purity comes about through food.’ They say: ‘Let us live on beans … on sesame seeds … on rice.’ They eat rice, they eat rice-powder, [81] they drink rice-water, and make various kinds of rice recipes. I am aware, Sāriputta, of having eaten a single grain of rice a day. You may think, Sāriputta, ‘Perhaps the rice grains were bigger at that time.’ It should not be regarded thus, Sāriputta. The rice grains were the same size then as they are now. Through eating only a single grain of rice per day, my body became extremely emaciated. My limbs were like jointed creepers or bamboo stems … then the hair, having rotted at the roots, would fall out, from eating so little.

“Yet, Sāriputta, from that striving, from that practice, from that austerity I did not attain any superhuman states worthy of the Noble Ones. What is the reason for that? I did not attain the noble wisdom, that noble wisdom that if attained leads out of the cycle of rebirths, that leads one who does it to the complete destruction of suffering.

160. “There are, Sāriputta, some recluses and priests who say this, whose view is thus: ‘Purity comes about through wandering in saṃsāra.’ However, Sāriputta, it is not easy to find any realm I have not wandered through before [82] in this long journey, except for the Pure Abodes.¹² If, Sāriputta, I had been in the Pure Abodes, I would not have returned again to this world.

“There are, Sāriputta, some recluses and priests who say this, whose view is thus: ‘Purity comes about through arising.’ However, Sāriputta, it is not easy to find any realm I have not arisen in before in this long journey, except for the Pure Abodes. If, Sāriputta, I had been in the Pure Abodes, I would not have returned again to this world.

“There are, Sāriputta, some recluses and priests who say this, whose view is thus: ‘Purity comes about through sacrifice.’ However, Sāriputta, it is not easy to find any sacrifice that has not formerly been offered by me in this long journey, when I was a head-anointed king or a wealthy priest.

“There are, Sāriputta, some recluses and priests who say this, whose view is thus: ‘Purity comes about through fire-worship.’ However, Sāriputta, it is not easy to find a fire that has not already been worshipped by me in this long journey, when I was a head-anointed king or a wealthy priest.

161. “There are, Sāriputta, some recluses and priests who say this, whose view is thus: ‘As long as this good man is still young, black-haired endowed with the blessing of youth, in the prime of life, so long is he endowed with perfect accomplishment in wisdom. However, when he is frail, old, elderly, having reached old age, eighty, ninety, or a hundred years, that perfect wisdom declines.’ However, it should not be regarded thus. I am now frail, old, elderly, having reached old age, having passed eighty years of age. Suppose, Sāriputta, four disciples with a lifespan of a hundred years, endowed with perfect mindfulness (sati), retentiveness (gatiyā), steadfast recall (dhiti), and lucidity in wisdom (paññāveyyattiyaṃ) — like a proficient archer, trained, dextrous, and skilful, would effortlessly shoot a light arrow across the shadow of a palm tree — if they were thus endowed with extreme mindfulness, retentiveness, [83] steadfast recall, and lucidity of wisdom. If they were to fire questions at me about the four foundations of mindfulness, and if I were to answer them, and they were to remember what they had already asked and not ask it a second time, without stopping, except to eat and drink, to defecate or urinate, and sleeping just to remove fatigue and drowsiness, yet, Sāriputta, the Tathāgata’s exposition of Dhamma and answering of questions would not come to an end before those four disciples with a lifespan of a hundred years would die. Even if you had to carry me about on a bed, Sāriputta, there would be no decline or change in the wisdom of the Tathāgata. Whoever, Sāriputta, would say: ‘An undeluded being has arisen in the world for the welfare of many (bahujanahitāya), for the happiness of many (bahujanasukhāya), out of compassion for the world (lokānukampāya), for the benefit (atthāya), welfare, and happiness of gods and human beings,’ they would say that rightly about me.

162. Then on that occasion, the Venerable Nāgasamāla was standing behind the Blessed One, fanning him.¹³ Then the Venerable Nāgasamāla said to the Blessed One: “It is wonderful, Venerable sir! It is marvellous, Venerable sir! Indeed, Venerable sir, having heard this exposition of the Dhamma, my hair is standing on end. What, Venerable sir, is the name of this exposition of the Dhamma?”

“Therefore, Nāgasamāla, you should remember this discourse as the hair-raising discourse.”

Thus spoke the Blessed One. Delighted, the Venerable Nāgasamāla rejoiced in what the Blessed One had said.

#ContentsNotes:

1. The reasons are given in the Pāthika Sutta of the Dīghanikāya, D.iii.1, where Sunakkhatta is disappointed because the Blessed One does not perform miracles for him or reveal the origins of the world. Sunakkhatta admired a dog-duty ascetic named Korakkhattiya who went about on all fours. The Buddha read the mind of Sunakkhatta and predicted the death of Korakkhattiya in seven days. This came true, He later transferred his devotion to Kaḷāramatthaka, and the Buddha predicted that he would soon return to household life, which also came to pass just as predicted.

2. This is the standard formula for recollection of the Buddha’s qualities, q.v. the Mahānāma Sutta.

3. The Buddha does not condemn anyone to hell; rebirth in hell is an inevitable result of one’s actions. Even here, the statement is conditional, not categorical. If Sunakkhatta had retracted that statement, abandoned that wrong-thought, and renounced that wrong-view, I assume that he could have avoided that fate. However, it seems that the Buddha was unable to salvage the faith of Sunakkhatta, who had become an apostate by the choices that he made. Perhaps, as with the cases of Korakkhattiya and Kaḷāramatthaka quoted above, Sunakkhatta had gone so far down the wrong path that he was incapable of turning back? He was not present at this discourse.

4. The Pāḷi text uses the same word here (appahāya) for retracting, abandoning, and renouncing.

5. Outflows (āsavā): sensual desire (kāmāsava), becoming (bhavāsava), wrong-views (diṭṭhāsava), and ignorance (avijjāsava).

6. Obstructions (antarāyikā dhammā). Transgressions of morality, such as insulting a Noble One, or wrong-views (God belief, eternalism, or annihilationism) that obstruct further progress on the path.

7. Only the first five are destinations. The realisation of nibbāna is an attainment, not a place where the Noble Ones go after death, but a bliss experienced here and now.

8. Detest (jegucchi) means one detests or avoids. The Commentary explains that it means that he detests evil (pāpa). Bhikkhu Bodhi therefore translates jegucchi as scrupulousness.

9. The PTS dictionary translates “daddula” as “a certain kind of rice.” The Commentary glosses: Daddulan ti cammakārehi cammaṃ likhitvā chaḍḍitakasaṭaṃ — leather-workers, having scraped the hide, discard the leavings.

10. Between the eights = eight nights of frost between the months of Māgha and Phagguṇa (approximately January to February).

11. The Commentary glossesGāmaṇḍalā ti gopāladārakā,” i.e. the boys who look after the cattle. Elsewhere, this would refer to the circle made by cattle when tethered to a wheel for grinding or threshing grain, hauling water, etc.

12. The Pure Abodes (Suddhāvasa) are inhabited solely by Non-returners. Had the Bodhisatta ever been reborn there during his long journey in the cycle of rebirths (saṃsāra), he would not have returned again to the human realm.

13. He was the personal attendant of the Buddha for some time, before the Venerable Ānanda took over that role. The DPPN says that he was the Buddha’s attendant on the teaching of this discourse, but as it was given not long before the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, this must be incorrect.


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