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Nālanda Suttaṃ

(S.v.159)

Sāriputta’s Lion’s Roar

378. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Nāḷandā ¹ in the mango grove of Pāvārika. Then the Venerable Sāriputta approached the Blessed One, having approached, he paid homage, and sat at one side. Sitting at one side, he said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir! I have such faith in the Blessed One, that I think there never has been, nor will there be, nor is there now any other, whether a recluse or a Brahmin, who is greater than the Blessed One, that is to say, as regards the higher wisdom.”

“Grand and bold are your words, Sāriputta: you have spoken with a bull’s voice and roared a lion’s roar!¹ Do you then comprehend with your mind the minds of all the Blessed Ones who in ages past have been Arahant Buddhas, are you aware what their conduct was, what was their teaching, what was their wisdom, what their mode of life, and what liberation they attained?”

“Indeed not, Venerable sir!”

“Do you then comprehend with your mind the minds of all the Blessed Ones who in the future will be Arahant Buddhas, are you aware what their conduct will be, what will be their teaching, their wisdom, their mode of life, and what liberation they will attain?” [160]

“Indeed not, Venerable sir!”

“Do you then comprehend with your mind the mind of the Arahant Buddha now alive, are you aware what the Blessed One’s conduct is, what is his teaching, his wisdom, his mode of life, and what liberation he has attained?”

“Indeed not, Venerable sir!”

“Then, Sāriputta, you do not know the minds of the Arahant Buddhas of the past nor of the future. Why, then, are your words so grand and bold? Why do you speak with a bull’s voice and roar the lion’s roar?”

146. “Venerable sir! I do not have the knowledge of the minds of the Arahant Buddhas that existed in the past, will exist in the future, and exist now. I only know the lineage of the faith. Just, Venerable sir, as a king might have a border city, with strong foundations, walls, and with only one gate; and the king might have a watchman there, clever, expert, and wise, to stop all strangers and admit only friends. On inspecting the walls all around the city, he might inspect all the joints in the walls to know that there were no gaps where any creature bigger than a cat could get out. He would know that all living things larger than a cat that entered or left the city would have to do so by that gate. Thus only is it, Venerable sir, that I know the lineage of the faith. I know that the Arahant Buddhas of the past, abandoning the five hindrances; knowing all those mental faults that weaken wisdom; establishing their minds firmly in the four foundations of mindfulness; [161] thoroughly developing the seven factors of enlightenment, attained incomparable Enlightenment. I know that the Arahant Buddhas of the times to come will do the same, and I know that the Blessed One, the Arahant Buddha of today has done so now.”

“Well said, Sāriputta! Therefore, Sāriputta, you should repeat this exposition of the Dhamma frequently to the monks, nuns, male and female lay disciples. Those foolish persons, Sāriputta, who have doubts or perplexity regarding the Tathāgata, having heard this exposition, will abandon their doubts and perplexity.”

Notes:

1.  This is the more usual spelling, but in this discourse it is spelt as Nālanda.

2. This discourse is repeated in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta of the Dīghanikāya, and that chapter is named the “Sāriputtasīhanādo.” There, the Buddha does not congratulate the Venerable Sāriputta or urge him to give the exposition to the monks, nuns, and lay disciples. The same passage is also repeated in the Sampasādanīya Suttaṃ of the Dīghanikāya (D.iii.99), where the Venerable Sāriputta goes into greater detail about the excellence of the Blessed One.