Table of Contents | Mục lục
GUIDE TO TIPITAKA
Compiled by Professor Ko Lay
& Edited by Editorial Committee
BURMA PITAKA ASSOCIATION
Chapter VI – Samyutta Nikaya
This collection of discourses in the Suttanta pitaka known as Samyutta Nikaya has 7762 suttas of varied length, generally short, arranged in a special order according to subject matter into five major divisions: (a) Sagatha Vagga, (b) Nidana Vagga, (c) Khandha vagga, (d) Salayatana Vagga and (e) Maha vagga. Each major vagga is divided into fifty six groups known as samyuttas — related subjects grouped together. The samyuttas are named after the subjects they deal with, for example, Bojjhanga Samyutta on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, or after some principal personalities such as the Venerable Sariputta, King Pasenadi of Kosala, or Sakka. Kosala Samyutta is a group of discourses concerning King Pasenadi of Kosala, and Devata Samyutta deals with devas like Sakka, Indra, Brahma, etc. Each samyutta is further divided into sections which are made up of’ individual suttas. Thus the well-known Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta is the first discourse (sutta) in the second section of Sacca Samyutta which comes under the Mahavagga division of Samyutta Nikaya. In the following excerpts from Samyutta Nikaya, only a few suttas representing each major division are given.
(a) Sagatha Vagga Samyutta Pali
This major division of Sagatha Vagga Samyutta Pali contains eleven samyuttas with discourses grouped according to characters appearing in them, the king of devas, the devas, the Brahma, Mara, King of Kosala, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. The name of the Vagga, Sagatha is derived from the fact that various personalities appearing in the discourses conducted their dialogues or interviews with the Buddha mostly in verse.
On the request of a Brahma, the Buddha explains in the Oghatarana Sutta of this samyutta that he crosses over the flood of sensuous desire, of existence, of wrong views and of ignorance neither by remaining inactive, nor by making strenuous efforts. By remaining inactive he will be sucked into the whirlpool; by making frantic efforts he will be swept away in the current of the flood. He follows a middle course.
The Buddha also teaches in other suttas of this samyutta that all beings are entangled in the mesh of attachments brought about by six internal sense bases and six external sense objects. The way to escape from these entanglements is to become established in sila, to develop Concentration Meditation and Insight Meditation in order to be fully accomplished in the higher knowledge of liberation.
Until one becomes fully developed in the knowledge of the Path, tanha can still give rise to rebirth. This fact is borne out by the story of a deva named Samana, given in Acchara Sutta. A certain young men having faith in the Teaching of the Buddha gets himself admitted into the Order. Then taking a meditation Subject of his choice, he repairs to a solitary abode in the forest and devotes himself incessantly to the practice of meditation.
His efforts at meditation are very strenuous. Thus striving day and night and getting enervated by lack of sufficient nourishing food, he is suddenly seized with a paralytic stroke which causes him instant death. Although he has put in a great deal of effort in the practice of meditation, he passes away without even attaining the stage of Sotapanna, the Stream-winner.
Because of tanha which he has not yet eradicated, he has to go through the round of existences again; but in consequence of the merit he has acquired in the practice of meditation, a magnificent celestial palace awaits him in the celestial abode of the Tavatimsa.
By spontaneous manifestation, he appears as if just awakened from sleep, at the entrance of the palace, a celestial being resplendent in full celestial attire. He does not realize that he has taken a new existence in a new world. He thinks he is still a bhikkhu of the human world. The celestial maidens, who are waiting his arrival, bring a body-length mirror and place it in front of the deva. On seeing his reflection in the mirror, he finally realizes that he has left the bhikkhus existence and has risen in the celestial realm.
The Samana Deva is greatly perturbed then, he reflects that he has taken up meditation not to be reborn in the celestial land but to attain the goal of Arahatta Fruition. So without entering the palatial building, he repairs hastily to the presence of the Buddha. He asks of the Buddha how to avoid, and proceed past the Mohana garden, the Tavatimsa celestial abode, full of celestial maidens who to him appear as demons. The Buddha advises him that the straight path for a quick escape is the Noble Path of Eight Constituents using the two-wheeler Vipassana carriage, fitted with the two wheels of physical exertion and mental exertion. While the Buddha is teaching the Dhamma in three verses, Samana Deva, is able to develop quickly successive Vipassana Nana step by step until he attains the first Path and fruition.
In Rohitassa Sutta of this samyutta, Rohitassa Deva comes to the Buddha with another problem. He tells the Buddha that he was in a former existence a hermit endowed with supernormal psychic power which enabled him to traverse throughout the universe with immense speed. He had travelled with that speed for over one hundred years to reach the end of the world but he did not succeed. He wants to know whether it would be possible to know or see or reach the end of the world where there is no birth nor death by travelling there. The Buddha says he does not declare that there is a world’s end where there is no birth nor death to be known or seen or reached by travelling there. Yet he does not say that there is an ending of suffering without reaching Nibbana. It is in the fathom long body of oneself with its perception and its mind that the Buddha describes the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world and the way leading to the cessation of the world. The Buddha’s way leading to the cessation of the world is the Noble Path of Eight Constituents.
In this samyutta are interesting suttas which describe frequent meetings of the Buddha with King Pasenadi of Kosala. The king has heard of the fame of the Buddha from his queen Mallika but has not yet met him. But when at last he meets the Buddha as described in the Dahara Sutta, he puts a direct question whether the Venerable Gotama claims to have attained the Supreme Enlightenment. He says that there are other religious teachers such as Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Nigantha Nataputta, Sancaya, Pakudha and Ajita, with their own order, with their own followers, who are much older than the Buddha and are generally regarded to be Arahats. Even these teachers do not make claim to Supreme Enlightenment.
The Buddha replies that if it can be rightly said of anyone to have attained the Supreme Enlightenment; then it is only of himself that it can rightly be said. The Buddha adds that there are four things that should not be looked down upon and, despised because they are young. They are a young prince, a serpent, a fire and a bhikkhu. A young prince of noble parentage should not be despised. He might one day become a powerful ruler and wreak royal vengeance. A writhing snake moves very fast; it might attack and bite a heedless man. A small fire, when heedlessly ignored might grow in intensity and cause untold damage. A man treating a virtuous bhikkhu with contempt might bring upon himself unwholesome results such as dwindling prosperity and lack of off spring to inherit from him.
Dutiya Aputtaka Sutta describes another occasion when King Pasenadi calls on the Buddha after he has just taken over an immense accumulation of wealth belonging to a multi-millionaire who has died recently. The dead man has left behind treasure worth over one hundred lakhs which, in the absence of any heirs to claim, becomes the king’s property. The king reports that the dead millionaire was a great miser, a niggardly person, begrudging even to himself the luxury of comfortable living. He wore only very rough, thread-bare clothes, eating poor, coarse food and travelled about in an old, roofless rickety carriage.
The Buddha confirms that what the king says about the millionaire is quite true and tells the king the reason for the millionaire’s miserliness. In one of his past existences, he met a Paccekabuddha going round for alms-food. He gave permission to his family to offer food to the Paccekabuddha and went out to attend to some business. On his way back, he met the Paccekabuddha whom he asked whether he had been given any alms-food by his, family, and looked into the bowl. On seeing the delicious food in the bowl, an unwholesome thought suddenly arose in his mind that it would have been more profitable to feed his servants with such food than to give it away to a Paccekabuddha.
For his good deed of allowing his family to make the offering to a Paccekabuddha he was reborn in the deva world seven times and, became a millionaire seven times in the Human world. But as a result of the ill thought he had entertained in that previous existence he never had the inclination to live a luxurious life enjoying fine clothes, good food, and riding in comfortable carriages.
The millionaire has now exhausted the good as well as the bad effects of his thoughts and actions with regard to the offering of food to the Paccekabuddha. But unfortunately he has to face the consequences of a more serious evil deed, that of causing the death of his own nephew in a pest existence.
The Buddha tells the king that he is therefore reborn, after his death in the human world, in the state of the most intense suffering, Maharoruva.
Many brahmins of’ Bharadvaja clan become devoted disciples of the Buddha, ultimately attaining Arahatship. At first, all of them are quite unfriendly, if not openly hostile. Bharadvaja Gotta, mentioned in Dhananjani Sutta, is such a brahmin. Although his wife Dhananjani is a disciple of the Buddha, very much devoted to his Teaching, Bharadvaja Gotta and his brahmin teachers show great contempt for the Buddha and his Teaching.
On one occasion when Bharadvaja is giving a feast to his brahmin teachers, his wife while in the course of waiting upon these brahmins slips accidentally and, as she tries to regain her balance, blurts out three times in excitement the formula of adoration to the Buddha: ‘Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa’. Upon hearing the word ‘Buddha’, the brahmin teachers rise up from their seats and run away helter-skelter in all directions just like a flock of crows in whose midst a stone has been thrown.
Telling his wife in a fury that he would defeat the Buddha in a contest of doctrines, Bharadvaja goes to see the Buddha. The interview ends up with Bharadvaja asking the Buddha’s permission to enter his Order. He finally attains to Arahatship.
Akkosa Sutta mentions about Bharadvaja Gotta’s younger brother Akkosaka Bharadvaja, who on hearing that his elder brother has joined the Buddha’s Order is highly exasperated. Raging with fury, he storms into the presence of the Buddha whom he reviles and reproaches in the most vulgar, offensive, obscene, foul language.
Very calmly and with great compassion the Buddha asks the young Bharadvaja if he ever has given gifts to friends and relatives. When the young Bharadvaja replies that he indeed has made offers of gifts to his friends and relatives, the Buddha asks him, “What happens to the gifts if your friends and relatives do not accept them?”
“Well then they remain with me as my own property,’ replies Bharadvaja.
Then the Buddha says, “You have heaped abusive language on us who have not uttered a single word of abuse to you; you have been very offensive and quarrel some with us who do not offend you nor quarrel with you. Young Bharadvaja, we do not accept your words of abuse, your offensive and quarrelsome language. They remain with you as your own property.”
Taken by surprise by this unexpected reaction, Bharadvaja is frightened with the thought that this might be a recluse’s method of casting a spell on him by way of retaliation. He asks the Buddha if he is angry with him for his rude behaviour. The Buddha states that he has long left anger behind. Being free from all mental defilements how could he take offence with him! To meet anger with anger is to sink lower than the original reviler. He is the conqueror who wins a hard won battle by not retaliating anger with anger.
At the end of the discourse, Akkosaka Bharadvaja, the younger brother, also leaves homelife to join the Buddha’s Order. In time, he too becomes accomplished in higher knowledge and attains to Arahatship.
In Kasi Bharadvaja Sutta is an account of the Buddha’s encounter with the brahmin Kasi Bharadvaja who is a rich landowner.
It is sowing time and Kasi Bharadvaja is preparing to start ploughing operations with five hundred ploughs. It is made an auspicious occasion with distribution of food and with festivities. The Buddha goes to where food is being distributed and stands at one side. Kasi Bharadvaja, seeing him waiting for food, says to him, “I plough, samana, and I sow. Having ploughed and sown, I eat. You too, samana, should plough and sow ; having ploughed and sown, you shall eat.”
The Buddha replies, “I too plough, brahmin, and I sow, and having ploughed and sown, I eat.”
“We see no yoke or plough or pole or oxen of yours. Yet you claim to be a ploughman. How do you explain yourself?” asks the brahmin.
“The faith which I have had since the time of Sumedha, the hermit, is the seed. It will grow to bear the fruit of Nibbana. The sila with which I keep control of the sense doors is the rain. The two kinds of knowledge, mundane and supramundane, I possess are my plough and yoke. Sense of shame for doing evil and fear of evil deeds are the pole and the handle of the plough. My energy is the ox, and my concentration is the rope with which I put the ox to the yoke. My mindfulness is the ploughshare and the goad. Guarded in my speech and modest in the use of food, these self-restraints serve as a fence round my field of Dhamma. With my harnessed ox as my energy, I have ploughed on, never turning back until the seed produces the fruit of Nibbana, the Deathless. Having done such ploughing, I eat now what I have sown and I am free from every kind of suffering.”
Kasi Bharadvaja is so delighted and impressed with the Buddha’s words that he requests to be regarded as a disciple of the Buddha from that day till the end of his life.
In Gahatthavandana Sutta the Buddha explains that the brahmins well versed in the Vedas as well as kings ruling over human dominions, and devas of Catumaharajika and Tavatimsa realm bow in homage to the Sakka, the king of devas. The Sakka himself shows respect and makes obeisance not only to samanas who have lived their holy life without any breach of moral conduct for many years but also to the lay disciples of the Buddha who are well established in their faith and who have done meritorious deeds of giving charity, observing the Five, the Eight or the Ten Precepts, and dutifully maintaining their families.
(b) Nidana Vagga Samyutta Pali
This second major division of Nidana Vagga Samyutta Pali contains ten samyuttas, all dealing with fundamental aspects of the doctrine. The discourses are chiefly concerned with the principles of conditionality and interdependence, explained in the detailed formula which is called ‘Paticcasamuppada’, Conditioned Genesis or Dependent Origination, consisting of twelve factors&.
Various aspects of Paticcasamuppada, together with expositions on doctrinal matters concerning practice of the holy life form the main theme of early suttas in these samyuttas.
In Paticcasmuppada Sutta, the first sutta of this samyutta, the law of Dependent Origination outlined in the form of a formula is briefly explained by the Buddha to five hundred bhikkhus who are perceived by the Buddha to be sufficiently developed and ripe for the attainment to Arahatship. In the Vibhanga Sutta, the second sutta of this samyutta, the law of Dependent Origination is explained in fuller detail to the same bhikkhus.
In Pancaverabhaya Sutta, the Buddha lays down the criteria by which the status of attainment of a noble bhikkhu may be judged. If a bhikkhu is freed of the five dangers arising from five evil deeds, namely, killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, telling lies and taking intoxicating liquor and drugs; if he is established in the four accomplishments of a Sotapanna, namely, firm faith and confidence in the virtues and attributes of the Buddha, of the Dhammas and of the Samgha, and perfect purity in sila; and if he possesses comprehensive analytical knowledge of the law of Dependent Origination, he is assured of a happy future, with no danger of arising in states of woe and misery and is certain of further advancement in the holy life.
In Puttamamsupama Sutta, it is explained that four nutriments, ahara, are ‘conditions’ necessary for the existence and continuity of beings: (i) ordinary material food (kabalikarahara), (ii) contact of sense organs (phassa) with sense objects, (iii) consciousness (vinnana), and (iv) mental volitional or will (manosancetana).
This sutta is addressed especially to young bhikkhus recently admitted into the Order. They are enjoined to take their meals with due reflection on the loathsome nature of food so as not to be overcome by greed and attachment for it. A bhikkhu should take meals not with a view to enjoy it or relish it, thereby augmenting craving, but just to sustain himself in order that the holy life may be lived. A particularly illuminating parable is used here by the Buddha: A man and his wife set out on a very long journey accompanied by their beloved son. Half-way on their journey they ran short of food. With no means of fresh supply, they plodded on with starvation staring in their face. The little son soon succumbed to hunger and died. The man and his wife decided to save their lives by eating the flesh of their dead son. They ate with no relish nor enjoyment but only to sustain themselves for the rest of the journey.
Other apt parables are given by the Buddha for the understanding of the remaining three nutriments. When one understands the real ,nature of nutriments on which life depends, one understands the craving, tanha, responsible for all the suffering. Thereby the way is open to the supreme liberation, the Arahatship.
Susima Paribbajaka Sutta gives an account of the wandering ascetic Susima who is one of those who join the Buddha’s Order with ulterior motives. After the rains residence many bhikkhus come to pay their respect to the Buddha to whom they report their attainment of Arahatship. When he learns from these Arahats that they possess no supernormal powers such as the Divine Power of Vision, Divine Power of Hearing, or Knowing Other People’s mind, he is very disappointed. He has come into the Order just to acquire such powers with which to win fame and gain for himself.
He approaches the Buddha and inquires how the bhikkhus could claim Arahatship when they possess no supernormal powers. The Buddha explains to him that their liberation is through pure Insight knowledge, not associated with jhana accomplishments. Through Vipassana meditation only they have seen the real nature of nama and rupa and realities of nature, Dhammatthiti) followed by realization of Nibbana through Magga Nana.
The Buddha takes him through the same course of meditation, testing by means of questions his understanding of the five khandhas, their real nature of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, insubstantiality, finally establishing in him the insight that none of these khandhas is to be regarded as, “This is mine; this is I; this is myself”. At the end of the discourse he gains full understanding of the Dhamma with the attainment of Arahatship. When he realizes Arahatship himself without coming into possession of the supernormal powers, he confesses to the Buddha the ulterior motive with which he had first joined the Order, and begs to be pardoned for such evil intentions.
The natural law of affinity is pointed out by the Buddha in the Cankama Sutta of this samyutta while he is staying at the Gijjhakuka Hill near Rajagaha. He draws the attention of the bhikkhus to the scene outside, where his senior disciples are taking a stroll attended upon by their own group of followers. He says:”Bhikkhus, those many bhikkhus under the leadership of the Venerable Sariputta are all wise being endowed with much deep knowledge of the Dhamma. Those surrounding the Venerable Maha Moggallana are well accomplished in supernormal powers. The Venerable Mahakassapa and his followers are strict observers of Dhutanga austerity practices. The bhikkhus led by the Venerable Anuruddha are fully endowed with the Divine Power of Vision. The Venerable Punna and his disciples are adepts at teaching the Dhamma. The Venerable Upali with his followers are experts in Vinaya rules of discipline and the bhikkhus under Ananda’s guidance are noted for their knowledge in many fields. Devadatta and his many followers are distinguished by their evil ways, thoughts and desires. Bhikkhus, in this way are beings grouped together in accordance with their natural bents and tendencies. The law of affinity works in such a way that kindred spirits flock together, those of evil disposition in one group, those of wholesome inclinations in another. This law of affinity has held true in the past, as it is true now and will be true in the future.
In the various suttas of this samyutta, the Buddha teaches that the cycle of existence, the samsara, represents the continuous arising and passing away of khandhas, Ayatanas and dhatus. This incessant process of evolution and dissolution of dhatus (the fundamental elements of matter and mind) and khandhas (compounded of the dhatus) is endless. Blinded by avijja, ignorance, and by nivaranas, hindrances, and fettered by tanha, craving, beings have been passing from one existence to another round and round the cycle of samsara, for immeasurable periods of time. To bring home this fact of intensity of suffering undergone by beings, the Buddha has given many similes in this samyutta, most illustrative of which are those of the four oceans and the Vepulla Mountain given in the Assu Sutta. The tears shed through the ages by each being on account of suffering due to disease, death, separation from the loved ones, association with the unloved ones would fill the four oceans to the brim. The bones left behind by a being after death in each existence, if collected together at a certain place and preserved from loss and decay, would be as high as the Vepulla Mountain which lies north of the Gijjhakuta Hill.
The only way to escape from this round of endless suffering is to perceive the real nature of the khandhas by means of Vipassanameditation until one becomes disenchanted with them; and thus by abandoning craving for and attachment to them one attains liberation through realization of Nibbana.
The Buddha teaches in other suttas that one should in the meanwhile develop loving-kindness towards all sentient beings with the realization that, during the immeasurably long passage through the samsara, there is no being who has not been one’s mother, father, sister, brother or one’s son or daughter, relative or friend.
In the Candupama Sutta of this samyutta, the Buddha lays down codes of conduct for bhikkhus, giving the example of the moon. Just as the moon sheds its light equally on every object or person so also a bhikkhu should equally treat everyone, young or old or of middle age, showing favouritism to none, nor hostility to any. He must deal with them with due retard, humility and meekness. Mindfulness should be ever present in his relations with all classes of people. For example, when a certain person tries to obtain his drinking water from an old well or from a riverbank of loose sand or from down a precipice, he approaches the source of water with great care, controlling his movements and actions. Much in the same way should a bhikkhu conduct himself with great mindfulness in his dealings with all classes of people.
In teaching the Dhamma to lay disciples, if his motive is to win gain and fame for himself, then his teaching should be regarded as impure. The Dhamma should always be taught only out of compassion and with pure thought so that the Dhamma which is excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle and excellent in the ending, namely, the Dhamma on sila, samadhi and Panna, could be heard, understood and practised by the listener.
In the Saddhammappatirupaka Sutta, the Buddha outlines the conditions under which the Teaching would decline or under which it would prosper. The Buddha gives the discourse in answer to a question asked by the Venerable Mahakassapa why it is that in former days when there were only a few disciplinary rules promulgated by the Buddha, there were a large number of Arahats; now that the disciplinary rules have multipled, only a few attain to Arahatship.
The Buddha explains that the number of disciplinary rules increases in proportion to the deterioration in the moral state of beings. So long as no spurious and false teaching appears in the three branches of the Teaching (pariyatti, theoretical learning; patipatti, practice; pativedha, fruits of the practice), so long will the Teaching remain genuine, pure, and untarnished. But when spurious and false teaching appears, this Teaching with its three branches will decline gradually until it vanishes altogether, much in the same way as genuine gold disappears when imitation gold is introduced to take its place.
The Buddha concludes : “And Kassapa, just as iron is destroyed by rust, it is the members of the Order who are corrupt, immoral, who cannot hope to attain higher knowledge, who will bring about the downfall of the Teaching.”
In the last few suttas of Nidana Vagga are discourses that describe the fearful destiny of corrupt bhikkhus and bhikkhunis and those lay people who have done evil deeds in previous lives. The Venerable Maha Moggallana sees them suffering intensely in the Peta world and describes their conditions vividly. The Buddha confirms what the Venerable Moggallana has recounted.
(c) Khandha Vaggo Samyutta Pali
The main theme of most suttas in this division is, as the name implies, khandhas, the five aggregates that constitute what is regarded as a being. Each of the components of these aggregates, namely, matter, sensation, perception, mental concomitants and consciousness is shown to be a bundle of dukkha, suffering. Made up of thirteen samyuttas, Khandha Vagga forms an important collection of doctrinal discussions on such topics as atta, anatta, eternity, and annihilation.
The Nakulapitu Sutta gives an account of the advice given to Nakulapita, an ageing disciple of the Buddha. He asks for advice from the Buddha on how to conduct and keep himself free from the pains of old age and disease. The Buddha explains that rupakkhandha, the material body being a bundle of dukkha, is subjected constantly to the pains of old age and disease; but the mental complex could be kept free of agony and pain by keeping it undefiled with impurities. A more detailed exposition of this brief explanation of the Buddha is given to Nekulapita by the Venerable Sariputta. The uninstructed common worldling clings to the five aggregates through craving and conceit, and holds the wrong view that each of the aggregates (Rupa, Vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana) is self, atta. Even as he clings to the five aggregates as atta these aggregates manifest their own oppressive characters by inflicting pain of old age, pain of disease, pain of defilements (kilesa). Because of these oppressive pains, the uninstructed common worldling is subjected to sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. But when the worldling be comes instructed and has become accomplished in the Thirty Seven Factors of Enlightenment, he does not cling to the five aggregates through craving, conceit or holding wrong views of self. Then even though the five aggregates manifest their own characteristics of being oppressive, he is no longer subjected to mental afflictions of sorrow, lamentations, pain, grief and despair.
In the Bhara Sutta, the five groups of grasping (Pancupadanakkhandha) are designated as a burden, a heavy load. It is craving for sense objects, craving for existence, craving for non-existence which is responsible for this heavy burden being borne along. Realization of the Noble Truth of Cessation, Nibbana, is where the craving is completely eradicated, where this heavy load is finally discarded.
The Yamaka Sutta explains that the five aggregates are of an impermnent nature; they should be looked upon as one’s enemies. Understanding their real nature of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, insubstantiality, the twenty kinds of wrong views of self should be discarded so that one may not be set upon by these enemies.
The Vakkali Sutta gives an account of the Buddha’s visit to the ailing Bhikkhu Vekkali upon his request, The great compassion of the Buddha becomes manliest in this account. When Vakkali informs the Buddha that for a long time he has been longing to set his eyes upon the Buddha, the Buddha gently reproaches him: ‘Vakkali, what is there in seeing the decomposing body of mine? It is enough to see the Dhamma. He who has seen the Dhamma has seen me. This body of mine is like all else – always rotting away, falling into decay.” Then the Buddha teaches him the dhamma on the inpermanence of all things, their unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality and finally shows him the way to liberation.
Of all the five aggregates, the Buddha says it is better for a person to mistake his physical body as atta, self, rather than mind or consciousness, because the physical body appears more solid and substantial than thought or mind which constantly changes faster than the physical body.
The Khemaka Sutta records an illuminating conversation between a bhikkhu named Khemaka and a group of bhikkhus who want to verify the stage of his attainments. When the bhikkhus ask him if he sees self or anything pertaining to self in the five aggregates, Khemaka replies “No.” But when the bhikkhus suggest that, if so, he must be an Arahat free from defilements, Khemaka replies that though he does not find self or anything pertaining to self in the five khandhas, he is not an Arahat free of taints. He still has a vague feeling “I am” although he does not clearly see “This is I” with respect to matter, sensation, perception, mental formations or consciousness.
His vague feeling is likened to the smell of a flower. It is neither the smell of the petals, nor of the colour, nor of the pollen, but the smell of the flower. He then goes on to explain that even if a person retains the feeling “I am” at the early stages of realization, as he progresses further and attains to higher stages, this feeling of “I am” disappears altogether, just as the smell of soap lingers in a freshly washed cloth and disappears after a time when it is kept in a box.
In the Puppha Sutta, the Buddha declares that he is not quarrelling or arguing with the world; it is only the world with its devas, maras, kings and people that is disputing with him. To proclaim the truth is not engaging in disputes. He speaks only what wise men hold to be true. Wise men say that there is no corporeality, sensation, perception, mental formations or consciousness which is stable, permanent, enduring. He says the same. Wise man say that there is only corporeality, sensation, perception, mental formations or consciousness which is unstable, impermanent, unenduring. He also says so.
“In this changing world, there are only things which are subject to constant change and decay. Perceiving their their real nature, I declare that the world is compounded of things subject to decay and decomposition, namely, the aggregates of matter, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness, which are incessantly rising and passing away. There is nothing else besides these perishing aggregates. Bhikkhus, I teach this dhamma in a brief manner. I also teach this dhamma more comprehensively and completely. But if the uninstructed common worldling remains unperceiving and unknowing in spite of very enlightening discourses, how can I help? Bhikkhus, various kinds of lotus grow in water, develop in water, rise above water, and remain there unpolluted by water; so also I was born in this world, I grew up in this world, I developed in this world and rose high above it without being attached to it, without being affected by it”.
In the Phenapindupama Sutta, the aggregate of rupa is likened to froth; it is unstable, impermanent, constantly rising, and vanishing. It is therefore not self. The aggregate of Vedana is likened to an air bubble. The various sensations are just like bubbles, disappearing fast, impermanent, untrustworthy, of the nature of anicca, dukkha and anatta. Sense perception which apprehends whatever is seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched or known, is likened to a mirage. What is considered by a samana as a being, a man, a woman or self is an optical illusion like a mirage. In reality, it is merely a phenomenon of incessant arising and vanishing. Sankhara, volitional activities, are likened to plantain trunks. A plantain trunk is made up of layers of fibrous materiel with no substantial, solid inner core. Sankhara is like the plantainn trunk void of inner substance. Consciousness is like a conjuror’s trick. It arises and vanishes instantly. Consciousness arises not as one wishes, but as conditioned by its own cause and circumstance.
(d) Salayatana Vagga Samyutta Pali
This division is made up of ten samyuttas or groups. It deals mainly with the six sense organs or bases of contact named internal sense bases (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind), six corresponding sense objects, known as external sense bases (visible form, sound, odour, taste, tangible things and mind-objects), and consciousness that arises in relation to each pair of these internal and external sense bases. There are expositions on the impermanent nature of these sense bases and how relinquishing of attachment to them results in liberation. The sensation arising from coming together of the sense bases and consciousness is shown to be of three kinds: pleasant, unpleasant, indifferent, none of which is permanent; each one of these is the cause of craving which in turn is the root of all suffering. Concise but illuminating expositions on Nibbana are found in many suttas. So also are there practical guides for Vipassana meditation.
In the very first two suttas, the Buddha explains that the six internal sense bases and six external sense bases have the nature of impermanence; being impermanent, they are really suffering and not self. “Bhikkhus, realizing their true nature, you should not regard these twelve sense bases as ‘This is mine’, ‘This is I’, ‘This is myself’. Contemplate on them steadfastly, constantly, until Vipassana Insight into their real nature arises.” The Buddha continues to explain that insight into the true nature of the twelve ayatanas will develop dispassion and disenchantment for them. Being disenchanted with them, there is no craving, clinging, thereby achieving the Path and Fruition.
In the famous Aditta Sutta, the fire sermon, delivered at Gayasisa to one thousand ascetics formerly devoted to fire-worship but recently converted and admitted into the Order as bhikkhus, the Buddha explains that each of the six sense bases and the six sense objects is burning; each is burning, with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of ignorance. Each is burning with the fire of birth, ageing and death; with the fire of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. Six forms of consciousness arising in relation to the six sense bases are also burning; the six contacts and the six sensations resulting from them are also burning.
The Buddha explains further that when a bhikkhu who has practised the dhamma develops Vipassana Insight and perceives that each of the bases is burning, he becomes disenchanted with it. Then craving fades away. With the fading of craving, he is liberated. And when liberated, there is knowledge that he is liberated. At the end of the discourse, one thousand former worshippers of fire attained Arahatship.
In the Pathama Migajala Sutta, the Buddh’s definition of a bhikkhu who lives in solitude is very edifying. When a bhikkhu unmindfully takes delight in the six sense objects, regards them wrongly as ‘This is mine’, ‘This is I’, ‘This is my self’, craving for them arises in him and he becomes attached to fetters. Such a bhikkhu in whom craving has arisen is regarded as one living with a companion, even if he lives alone deep in a forest away from towns and villages. When, however, he mindfully perceives the true nature of the six sense bases and objects, he does not wrongly hold on to them as ‘This is mine’, ‘This is I’, ‘This is my self’ and craving for them does not arise in him. Such a bhikkhu in whom craving has not arisen is said to be living in solitude without a companion even if he lives in the midst of people, in towns or villages.
The Punna Sutta gives an account of a bhikkhu by the name of Punna who asks for instruction from the Buddha on a suitable subject on which he can meditate in solitude. The Buddha advises him to contemplate on the true nature of the six sense bases and objects. When he perceives their true nature, no craving for them will arise in him. Eradication of craving will result in liberation and attainment of Arahatship. After receiving the instruction, the bhikkhu informs the Buddha of his intention to reside in a very distant and remote land. The Buddha tells him that it is a wild country inhabited by savage tribes, and asks him how he intends to cope with the dangers and hazards that would face him. The answer given by the bhikkhu provides a model lesson in fortitude and endurance.
The bhikkhu says, if he were menaced with invectives and curses or attacked physically, or if he had stones thrown at him or if he were hit with sticks or cut with swords, or pierced with spears, he would bear them with endurance with no malice against the savage tribes. Even if his head were to be chopped off he would feel he was luckier then those noble ones who had to commit suicide to be released from the sufferings of the khandhas.
The Buddha remarks, “Well said, bhikkhu, well said. I believe you are qualified to lead a solitary life in that wild country. You will overcome all difficulties.”
As presaged by the Buddha, the bhikkhu is able to overcome all hostilities and difficulties in his new residence, and to convert five hundred men and five hundred women so that they come to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha. And during the very first vassa residence, practising the meditation as instructed by the Buddha, the Bhikkhu Punna attains Arahatship, fully accomplished in the the vijjas.
In the Bharadvaja Sutta, an interesting interview between King Udena and the Venerable Pindola Bharadvaja is described. King Udena approaches the Venerable Pindola Bharadvaja while he is meditating at the foot of a tree in the king’s park. The king remarks that many young men have abandoned sensual pleasures and led the holy life. They maintain the holy practice throughout their life. The king enquires, “What is the means by which they maintain the purity of their holy life?” The bhikkhu replies that they keep to the pure life by training themselves as instructed by the Buddha to regard a woman of their mother’s age as their mother, a woman of their sister’s age as their sister, and a girl of their daughter’s age as their daughter.
The king is not satisfied with the answer. He argues that even if a bhikkhu trains himself in the said manner, it is no guarantee for the non-arising of impure thoughts in him in connection with a female person. The Venerable Pindola Bharadvaja explains further they practise meditation on the foulness of a body by contemplating on the thirty two constituent parts of the body. The king is still not convinced; he maintains that, for older bhikkhus with more mature experience, who are well established in mindfulness and concentration, contemplation on the thirty two constituent parts of the body might prove to be salutary; but this type of meditation for younger bhikkhus might have an adverse effect, exciting lust and passion instead of aversion for the human body. Only when the Venerable Pindola Bharadvaja tells him that the bhikkhus practise restraint of the six faculties keeping a close watch on the doors of the six senses that the king agrees that purity of the holy life is possible under such circumstances.
In the Pathama Dirukkhandhopama Sutta, the discourse given by the Buddha on the bank of the River Ganges at Kosambi, the Buddha uses the simile of a log floating down the river. He says that if the log does not get stranded on either of the two banks, nor sinks in the middle of the river, nor gets salvaged and deposited on the bank by some one, nor is retrieved by men or devas, nor sucked in by a whirlpool, and if it does not get decomposed on the way, it will be carried by the current till its destination, the ocean, is reached.
In this simile, the near bank means the six internal sense bases; the far bank represents the six external sense objects; sinking in the mid river means getting immersed in sensuous desires; being salvaged and deposited on a bank means being hindered by one’s own conceit; being retrieved by men means doing some services or running errands for men; being retrieved by devas means practising the holy life with the deva realm as one’s objective; being sucked in a whirlpool means wallowing in sensual pleasures; getting decomposed on the way means becoming corrupt, immoral, heedless of the disciplinary rules. If a bhikkhu manages to steer him self clear of all these obstacles, he will be carried along by the current of Right View till he reaches his destination, Nibbana.
In the Chappanakopama Sutta, the Buddha teaches that a bhikkhu practising the holy life must exercise control of his sense faculties. The six sense faculties may be likened to six animals, namely, a snake, a crocodile, a giant bird, a dog, a jackal and a monkey. Suppose each animal is bound by a rope and the ropes are tied together into a single knot. When they are left in this state, each animal will try to get to its own habitat, the snake to its underground hole, the crocodile to the river, etc. In this way they will pull and struggle against one another until they become exhausted and are dragged along by the strongest of them. The mind of a bhikkhu with unrestrained sense faculties will be impelled by the senses towards corresponding sense objects.
But suppose each animal is bound by a separate rope which is fastened to a pole firmly planted in the ground each animal will make furious attempts to return to its home and becoming exhausted finally will stand, sit, curl or lie down quietly near the post. Similarly by practising contemplation of the body, Kayagatasati, the sense faculties are placed well under control. Mindfulness of the body serves as the firm post to which each of the faculties is tied down.
Dukkarapanha Sutta states that in the Teaching of the Buddha, it is difficult first to become a member of the Order as a novice and as a bhikkhu. Secondly, it is difficult to be happy and comfortable in the Order with its disciplinary rules. Thirdly, even if one stays the course and remains in the Order, it is difficult for one to practise concentration meditation and Vipassana meditation to attain to higher stages of knowledge. When fully endowed with supporting paramis (perfections), a bhikkhu who gets instruction in the morning and starts practising meditation in the morning may be fully liberated by the evening; if he gets instruction in the evening and starts practising meditation in the evening he may be fully liberated by the morning.
A wealthy householder by the name of Citta figures quite prominently in some of the suttas of this division. In Nigantha Nataputta Sutta, Nigantha Nataputta finds himself unable to accept the view expressed by the Buddha that there is jhana and samadhi free from vitakka and vicara. He discusses this problem with Citta, the wealthy householder, who is an Ariya disciple of the Buddha. Citta tells him: “I believe there is jhana and samadhi free from vitakka and vicara, not because of my faith in the Buddha but because of my own achievement and realization.” Citta explains that he has personally experienced jhana samadhi unaccompanied by vitakka and vicara and has no need to rely on others for believing this.
The same Citta used to have in his younger days a close friend who later become the naked ascetic Kassapa. Each has gone his own separate way and the two friends meet again only after thirty years. Citta asks his friend whether by living the ascetic life he has gained any thing more than what could be achieved by the wholesome dhamma of ordinary people. The ascetic Kassapa admits that he has nothing to show besides his nakedness, his shaven head and accumulation of dust on his body.
When asked in return he himself has gained by being a disciple of the buddha and following the Path as instructed by his Teacher, Citta informs him that he has become fully accomplished in the four jhanas, and having removed the five fetters, is now an anagami, a Non-returner. The naked ascetic, impressed by his achievements, tells Citta that he wants to be a disciple of the Buddha. Citta introduces him to the leading bhikkhus and helps him to get admission into the Order.With the guidance of the theras and encouragement of his friend Citta, the ex-ascetic Kassapa puts in such an effort in the practice of meditation that in no time he gains the supreme goal of Arahatship.
In the Sankhadhama Sutta, the Buddha points out the wrong views held by Nigantha Nataputta on kamma and its resultant effects. According to the village headman Asibandhakaputta, his Teacher Nigantha Nataputta teaches that every one who commits evil deeds of killing, lying, etc. is definitely bound to be reborn in states of woe. Whatever action is performed in a greater frequency, that action tends to determine the destiny of a being. The Buddha points out the fallacy in the two statements, one contradicting the other. An individual does not often commit the evil deed, for in stance, of killing. Other actions besides killing are performed by him in a more frequent manner; hence, according to Nigantha Nataputta, he will not be destined to states of woe for his evil act of killing.
Then the Buddha explains that only very heinous acts such as killing of one’s own parents, creating a schism in the Samgha, etc. bring the dire resultant effect of certain destiny in the states of woe. Other misdeeds, physical, vocal or mental, cannot be regarded as to lead with certainty to unhappy destinations. In stead of just feeling remorseful and penitent over one’s particular evil deed, one should recognize it to be evil, and resolve not to repeat a similar unwholesome action, and follow it with the practice of concentration and Vipassana meditation.
Thus abandoning all evil deeds and doing only wholesome deeds together with development of Brahmavihara Bhavana till accomplished in jhana, one can escape from the unhappy consequences of one’s evil actions and look forward to a better future. This Sankhadhama Sutta establishes the fact that as in matter of practice so also in the matters of views, the Buddha takes the Middle Path.
In the Bhadraka Sutta, the Buddha explains the origin of suffering by giving illuminating examples. The village headman Bhadraka wants to know the cause of suffering that afflicts mankind. In reply, the Buddha asks him to think of his son and imagine that his son is meeting with unexpected misfortunes, or getting arrested by the king’s order or facing a severe punishment. Bhadraka imagines as he is told and finds that such thoughts give rise to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, grief and despair in him. When he imagines a stranger to be placed in a similar situation, facing similar predicament, he finds that he is not troubled at all with any mental agony. He explains to the Buddha that the difference in his mental reaction to the two situations lies in the fact that he loves his son with a parent’s love and is very fond of his son, whereas he has no such feeling towards the stranger.
Next the Buddha asks him if any love, passion or desire arises in him before he meets or sees or hears about the woman who has become his wife, Bhadraka replies that only when he meets, sees and hears about her that he develops passion and attachment towards his wife. When the Buddha asks him further whether he will suffer from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, grief, despair, if anything untoward happens to his wife, he confesses that he will suffer more than these agonies; he might even lose his life through intense suffering.
The Buddha points out then that the root cause of suffering in the world is cravings, greed, passion and desire that engulf mankind. It has been so in the past, as it is now and so it will be in the future.
(e) Maha Vagga Samyutta Pali.
The last Vagga of Samyutta Nikaya is made up of twelve samyuttas, the list of which gives a clear indication of the subjects dealt with in this division:
Magga Samyutta, Bojjhanga Samyutta, Satipatthana Samyutta, Indriya Samyutta, Sammappadhana Samyutta, Bala Samyutta, Iddhipada Samyutta, Anuruddha Samyutta, Jhana Samyutta, Anapana Samyutta, Sotapatti Samyutta and Sacca Samyutta.
The main doctrines which form the fundamental basis of the Buddha’s Teaching are reviewed in these samyuttas, covering both the theoretical and practical aspects. In the concluding suttas of the vagga, the ultimate goal of the holy life, Arahatta Phala, Nibbana, end of all suffering, is constantly kept in full view together with a detailed description of the way of achieving it, namely, the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Path of Eight Constituents.
In the opening suttas it is pointed out how friendship with the good and association with the virtuous is of immense help for the attainment of the Path and Perfection. It is one of the supporting factors conducive to the welfare of a bhikkhu. Not having a virtuous friend and good adviser is a great handicap for him in his endeavours to attain the Path.
In the Kundaliya Sutta, the wandering ascetic Kundaliya asks the Buddha what his objective is in practising the holy life. When the Buddha replies that he lives the holy life to enjoy the Fruits of the Path and the bliss of liberation by knowledge, the ascetic wants to know how to achieve these results. The Buddha advises him to cultivate and frequently practise restraint of the five senses. This will establish the threefold good conduct in deed, word and thought. When the threefold good conduct is cultivated and frequently practised, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness will be established. When the Four Foundations of Mindfulness are well established, the Seven Factors of Enlightenment will be developed. When the Seven Factors of Enlightenment are developed and frequently applied, the. Fruits of the Path and liberation by knowledge will be achieved.
In the Udayi Sutta, there is an account of Udayi who gives confirmation of such achievements through personal experience. He tells how he comes to know about the five khandhas from the discourses, how he practises contemplation on the arising and ceasing of these khandhas thereby developing Udayabbaya Nana which, through frequent cultivation, matures into Magga Insight. Progressing still further by developing and applying frequently the Seven Factors of Enlightenment he ultimately attains Arahatship. In many suttas are recorded the personal experiences of bhikkhus and lay disciples who on being afflicted with serious illness are advised to cultivate and practise the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. They recount how they are relieved, not only of pains of sickness but also of suffering that arises from craving.
In Sakunagghi Sutta, the bhikkhus are exhorted by the Buddha to keep within the confines of their own ground, i.e., the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, namely, contemplation of body, sensation, mind and mind-objects. They can roam freely in the safe resort guarded by these outposts of Four Foundations of Mindfulness, unharmed by lust, hate and ignorance. Once they stray outside their own ground, they expose themselves to the allurements of the sensuous world. The parable of falcon and skylark illustrates this point. A fierce falcon suddenly seizes hold of a tiny skylark which is feeding in an open field. Clutched in the claws of its captor, the unfortunate young bird bemoans its foolishness in venturing outside of its own ground to fall a victim to the raiding falcon.
“If only I had stayed put on my own ground inherited from my parents, I could easily have beaten off this attack by the falcon.’ Bemused by this challenging soliloquy, the falcon asks the skylark where that ground would be that it has inherited from its parents. The skylark replies, “The interspaces between clods of earth in the ploughed fields are my ground inherited from my parents.” All right, tiny tot, I shell release you now. See if you can escape my clutches even on your own ground.”
Then standing on a spot where three big clods of earth meet, the skylark derisively invites the falcon, “Come and get me, you big brute.” Burning with fury, the falcon sweeps down with fierce speed to grab the mocking little bird in its claws. The skylark quickly disappears into the interspaces of the earth clods, but the big falcon, unable to arrest its own speed, smashes into the herd protruding clods to meet its painful death.
In Bhikkhunuupassaya Sutta,the Buddha explains for Ananda’s benefit two methods of meditation. When established in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, a bhikkhu will experience a beneficial result, gradually increasing. But should his mind be distracted by external things during the contemplation on body, sensation, mind or mind-object, the bhikkhu should direct his mind to some confidence-inspiring object, such as recollection of the virtues of the Buddha. By doing so, he experiences joy, rapture, tranquillity and happiness, which is conducive to concentration. He can then revert back to the original object of meditation. When his mind is not distracted by external things, no need arises for him to direct his mind to any confidence-inspiring object. The Buddha concludes his exhortation thus: “Here are trees and secluded places, Ananda. Practise meditation, Ananda. Be not neglectful lest you regret it afterwards.”
As set out in the ‘Ciratthiti Sutta’, the Venerable Ananda takes this injunction to heart and regards the practice of the Four Methods of Steadfast Mindfulness as of supreme importance. When a bhikkhu by the name of Badda asks the Venerable Ananda, after the death of the Buddha, what will bring about the disappearance of the Buddha’s Teaching, the Venerable Ananda replies, “So long as the practice of the Four Methods of Steadfast Mindfulness is not neglected, so long will the Teaching prosper; but when the practice of the Four Methods of Steadfast Mindfulness declines, the Teaching will gradually disappears”
Anapanassati meditation, one of the methods of body contemplation, consists in watching closely one’s in-breath and out-breath and is rated highly as being very beneficial. In the Maha Kappina Sutta,the bhikkhus inform the Buddha, “We notice, Venerable Sir, that bhikkhu Maha Kappina is always calm and collected, never excited, whether he is in company or alone in the forest.” “It is so, bhikkhus. One who practises Anapanassati meditation with mindfulness and full comprehension remains calm in body and collected in mind, unruffled, unexcited.”
The Icchanagala Sutta describes how the Buddha himself once stayed for the rains-residence of three months in Icchanagala forest grove in solitude practising Anapanassati meditation most of the time. Anapanassati meditation is known as the abode of the Enlightened Ones, the abode of the Noble Ones.
When fully accomplished in the cultivation of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, through practice of body contemplation or Anapanassati meditation, one be comes firmly established in unshakable confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma end the Samgha. The moral conduct of such a person, through observance of precepts, is also without blemish. He has reached, in his spiritual development, the stage of the Stream-winner, Sotapatti Magga, by virtue of which, he will never be reborn in states of woe and misery. His path only leads upwards, towards the three higher stages of accomplishment. He has only to plod on steadfastly without looking backwards.
This is explained in the Pathama Mahanama Sutta, by the simile of an earthern pot filled partly with gravels and stones and partly with fat and butter. By throwing this pot into water and smashing it with a stick, it will be seen that gravels and stones quickly sink to the bottom while fat and butter rise to the surface of the water. Likewise, when a person who has established himself in the five wholesome dhammas of faith, conduct, learning, charity and insight dies, his body remains to get decomposed but his extremely purified mental continuum continues in higher states of existence as birth-linking consciousness, patisandhi citta.
In the concluding suttas are expositions on the Middle Path, the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Path of Eight Constituents.
The Buddha’s first sermon, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, appears in the last samyutta, namely, Saccasamyutta.
The Buddha did not make his claim to supremely perfect enlightenment until he had acquired full understanding of the Four Noble Truths. “As long, O bhikkhus, as my knowledge of reality and insight regarding the Four Noble Truths in three aspects and twelve ways was not fully clear to me, so long did I not admit to the world with its devas, maras and brahmas, to the mass of beings with its recluses, brahmins, kings and people that I had understood, attained and realized rightly by myself the incomparable, the most excellent perfect enlightenment.”
The Buddha concluded his first sermon with the words “This is my last existence. Now there is no more rebirth for me.”