Vipassana Fellowship © 2012
      Home
Vipassana Fellowship - Calm and Insight meditation inspired by the early Buddhist tradition.
Mindfulness meditation from the Theravada tradition for the spiritual development of people of all faiths & none. Online courses & support since 1997
BACK

(The Bodhisatta's Austerities)

44. "Sariputta, I recall having lived a holy life possessing four factors. I have practised asceticism -- the extreme of asceticism; I have practised coarseness -- the extreme of coarseness; I have practised scrupulousness -- the extreme of scrupulousness; I have practised seclusion -- the extreme of seclusion.[17]

45. "Such was my asceticism, Sariputta, that I went naked, rejecting conventions, licking my hands, not coming when asked, not stopping when asked; I did not accept food brought or food specially made or an invitation to a meal; I received nothing from a pot, from a bowl, across a threshold, across a stick, across a pestle, from two eating together, from a pregnant woman, from a woman giving suck, from a woman lying with a man, from where food was advertised to be distributed, from where a dog was waiting, from where flies were buzzing; I accepted no fish or meat, I drank no liquor, wine or fermented brew. I kept to one house, to one morsel; I kept to two[*p.78] houses, to two morsels;...I kept to seven houses, to seven morsels. I lived on one saucerful a day, on two saucerfuls a day...on seven saucerfuls a day; I took food once a day, once every two days...once every seven days, and so on up to once every fortnight; I dwelt pursuing the practice of taking food at stated intervals. I was an eater of greens or millet or wild rice or hide-parings or moss or ricebran or rice-scum or sesamum flour or grass or cowdung. I lived on forest roots and fruits, I fed on fallen fruits. I clothed myself in hemp, in hemp-mixed cloth, in shrouds, in refuse rags, in tree bark, in antelope hide, in strips of antelope hide, in kusa-grass fabric, in bark fabric, in wood-shavings fabric, in head-hair wool, in animal wool, in owls' wings. I was one who pulled out hair and beard, pursuing the practice of pulling out hair and beard. I was one who stood continuously, rejecting seats. I was one who squatted continuously, devoted to maintaining the squatting position. I was one who used a mattress of spikes; I made a mattress of spikes my bed. I dwelt pursuing the practice of bathing in water three times daily including the evening. Thus in such a variety of ways I dwelt pursuing the practice of tormenting and mortifying the body. Such was my asceticism.

46. "Such was my coarseness, Sariputta, that just as the bole of a tinduka tree, accumulating over the years, cakes and flakes off, so too, dust and dirt, accumulating over the years, caked off my body and flaked off. It never occurred to me: 'Oh, let me rub this dust and dirt off with my hand, or let another rub this dust and dirt off with his hand' -- it never occurred to me thus. Such was my coarseness.

47. "Such was my scrupulousness, Sariputta, that I was always mindful in stepping forwards and stepping backwards. I was full of pity even for (the beings in) a drop of water thus: 'Let me not hurt the tiny creatures in the crevices of the ground.' Such was my scrupulousness.

48. "Such was my seclusion, Sariputta, that[*p.79] I would plunge into some forest and dwell there. And when I saw a cowherd or a shepherd or someone gathering grass or sticks, or a woodsman, I would flee from grove to grove, from thicket to thicket, from hollow to hollow, from hillock to hillock. Why was that? So that they should not see me or I see them. Just as a forest-bred deer, on seeing human beings, flees from grove to grove, from thicket to thicket, from hollow to hollow, from hillock to hillock, so too, when I saw a cowherd or a shepherd...Such was my seclusion.

49. "I would go on all fours to the cow-pens when the cattle had gone out and the cowherd had left them, and I would feed on the dung of the young suckling calves. As long as my own excrement and urine lasted, I fed on my own excrement and urine. Such was my great distortion in feeding.

50. "I would plunge into some awe-inspiring grove and dwell there -- a grove so awe-inspiring that normally it would make a man's hair stand up if he were not free from lust. When those cold wintry nights came during the 'eight-days interval of frost,' I would dwell by night in the open and by day in the grove.[18] In the last month of the hot season I would dwell by day in the open and by night in the grove. And there came to me spontaneously this stanza never heard before:

Chilled by night and scorched by day,
Alone in awe-inspiring groves,
Naked, no fire to sit beside,
The sage yet pursues his quest.
51. "I would make my bed in a charnel ground with the bones of the dead for a pillow. And cowherd boys came up and spat on me, urinated on me, threw dirt at me, and poked sticks into my ears. Yet I do not recall that I ever aroused an evil mind (of hate) against them. Such was my abiding in equanimity.[*p.80]

52. "Sariputta, there are certain recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: 'Purification comes about through food.'[19] They say: 'Let us live on kola-fruits,' and they eat kola-fruits, they eat kola-fruit powder, they drink kola-fruit water, and they make many kinds of kola-fruit concoctions. Now I recall having eaten a single kola-fruit a day. Sariputta, you may think that the kola-fruit was bigger at that time, yet you should not regard it so: the kola-fruit was then at most the same size as now. Through feeding on a single kola-fruit a day, my body reached a state of extreme emaciation. Because of eating so little my limbs became like the jointed segments of vine stems or bamboo stems. Because of eating so little my backside became like a camel's hoof. Because of eating so little the projections on my spine stood forth like corded beads. Because of eating so little my ribs jutted out as gaunt as the crazy rafters of an old roofless barn. Because of eating so little the gleam of my eyes sank far down in their sockets, looking like a gleam of water which has sunk far down in a deep well. Because of eating so little my scalp shrivelled and withered as a green bitter gourd shrivels and withers in the wind and sun. Because of eating so little my belly skin adhered to my backbone; thus if I touched my belly skin I encountered my backbone, and if I touched my backbone I encountered my belly skin. Because of eating so little, if I tried to ease my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair, rotted at its roots, fell from my body as I rubbed.

53-55. "Sariputta, there are certain recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: 'Purification comes about through food.' They say: 'Let us live on beans'...'Let us live on sesamum'...'Let us live on rice,' and they eat rice, they eat rice powder,[*p.81] they drink rice water, and they make various kinds of rice concoctions. Now I recall having eaten a single rice grain a day. Sariputta, you may think that the rice grain was bigger at that time, yet you should not regard it so: the rice grain was then at most the same size as now. Through feeding on a single rice grain a day, my body reached a state of extreme emaciation. Because of eating so little...the hair, rotted at its roots, fell from my body as I rubbed.

56. "Yet, Sariputta, by such conduct, by such practice, by such performance of austerities, I did not attain any superhuman states, any distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones. Why was that? Because I did not attain that noble wisdom which when attained is noble and emancipating and leads the one who practises in accordance with it to the complete destruction of suffering.

57. "Sariputta, there are certain recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: 'Purification comes about through the round of rebirths.' But it is impossible to find a realm in the round that I have not already[*p.82] passed through in this long journey, except for the gods of the Pure Abodes; and had I passed through the round as a god in the Pure Abodes, I would never have returned to this world.[20]

58. "There are certain recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: 'Purification comes about through (some particular kind of) rebirth.' But it is impossible to find a kind of rebirth that I have not been reborn in already in this long journey, except for the gods of the Pure Abodes...

59. "There are certain recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: 'Purification comes about through (some particular) abode.' But it is impossible to find a kind of abode that I have not already dwelt in...except for the gods of the Pure Abodes...

60. "There are certain recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: 'Purification comes about through sacrifice.' But it is impossible to find a kind of sacrifice that has not already been offered up by me in this long journey, when I was either a head-anointed noble king or a well-to-do-brahmin.

61. "There are certain recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: 'Purification comes about through fire-worship.' But it is impossible to find a kind of fire that has not already been worshipped by me in this long journey, when I was either a head-anointed noble king or a well-to-do brahmin.

62. "Sariputta, there are certain recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: 'As long as this good man is still young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessing of youth, in the prime of life, so long is he perfect in his lucid wisdom. But when this good man is old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, and come to the last stage, being eighty, ninety or a hundred years old, then the lucidity of his wisdom is lost.' But it should not be regarded so. I am now old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, and come to the last stage: my years have turned eighty. Now suppose that I had four disciples with a hundred years' lifespan, perfect in mindfulness, retentiveness, memory and lucidity of wisdom.[21] Just as a skilled archer, trained, practised and tested, could easily shoot a light arrow across the shadow of a palm tree, suppose that they were even to that extent perfect in mindfulness, retentiveness,[*p.83] memory and lucidity of wisdom. Suppose that they continuously asked me about the four foundations of mindfulness and that I answered them when asked and that they remembered each answer of mine and never asked a subsidiary question or paused except to eat, drink, consume food, taste, urinate, defecate and rest in order to remove sleepiness and tiredness. Still the Tathagata's exposition of the Dhamma, his explanations of factors of the Dhamma, and his replies to questions would not yet come to an end, but meanwhile those four disciples of mine with their hundred years' lifespan would have died at the end of those hundred years. Sariputta, even if you have to carry me about on a bed, still there will be no change in the lucidity of the Tathagata's wisdom.

63. "Rightly speaking, were it to be said of anyone: 'A being not subject to delusion has appeared in the world for the welfare and happiness of many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, welfare and happiness of gods and humans,' it is of me indeed that rightly speaking this should be said."

64. Now on that occasion the Venerable Nagasamala was standing behind the Blessed One fanning him.[22] Then he said to the Blessed One: "It is wonderful, venerable sir, it is marvellous! As I listened to this discourse on the Dhamma, the hairs of my body stood up. Venerable sir, what is the name of this discourse on the Dhamma?"

"As to that, Nagasamala, you may remember this discourse on the Dhamma as 'The Hair-raising Discourse.' "[23]

That is what the Blessed One said. The Venerable Nagasamala was satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One's words.


Notes

[*p.##] The page numbers enclosed in square brackets in the above text are the page numbers of the Pali Text Society edition of the Pali text.

1. The story of Sunakkhatta's defection is found in the Patika Sutta (DN 24). He became dissatisfied with the Buddha and left the Order because the Buddha would not perform miracles for him or explain to him the beginning of things. He also showed great admiration for those who engaged in self-mortification, and probably resented the Buddha for emphasizing a "middle way" that condemned such extreme austerities as unprofitable. [Go back]

2. Superhuman states (uttari manussadhamma) are states, virtues or attainments higher than the ordinary human virtues comprised in the ten wholesome courses of action; they include the jhanas, direct knowledges (abhiñña), the paths and the fruits. "Distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones" (alamariyañana-dassanavisesa), an expression frequently occurring in the suttas, signifies all higher degrees of meditative knowledge characteristic of the noble individual. In the present context, according to Comy., it means specifically the supramundane path, which Sunakkhatta is thus denying of the Buddha. [Go back]

3. The thrust of his criticism is that the Buddha teaches a doctrine that he has merely worked out in thought rather than one he has realized through transcendental wisdom. Apparently, Sunakkhatta believes that being led to the complete destruction of suffering is, as a goal, inferior to the acquisition of miraculous powers. [Go back]

4. All the sections to follow are intended as a rebuttal of Sunakkhatta's charge against the Buddha. Sections 6-8 cover the first three of the six direct knowledges, the last three appearing as the last of the ten powers of the Tathagata. The latter, according to Comy., are to be understood as powers of knowledge (ñanabala) that are acquired by all Buddhas as the outcome of their accumulations of merit. The Vibhanga of the Abhidhamma Pitaka provides an elaborate analysis of them, the gist of which will be discussed in subsequent notes. [Go back]

5. Comy.: The Wheel of Brahma (brahmacakka) is the supreme, best, most excellent wheel, the Wheel of the Dhamma (dhammacakka). This has two aspects: the knowledge of penetration (pativedhañana) and the knowledge of teaching (desanañana). The knowledge of penetration, by which the Buddha penetrates the truth of the Dhamma, is produced from wisdom and leads to the attainment of the noble fruit for himself; the knowledge of teaching, by which the Buddha is qualified to expound the Dhamma perfectly to others, is produced from compassion and leads others to the attainment of the noble fruit. [Go back]

6. Comy. glosses thana as cause or ground (karana) and explains: "Such and such dhammas are causes (hetu), conditions (paccaya), for the arising of such and such dhammas: that is thana. Such and such dhammas are not causes, not conditions, for the arising of such and such dhammas: that is atthana. Knowing that, he understands thana as thana and atthana as atthana (i.e. causal occasion as causal occasion, and non-causal occasion as non-causal occasion)." Comy. also refers to the different explanation in the Vibhanga, apparently regarding both explanations as acceptable.

Vbh. Section 809 explains this knowledge with reference to MN 115 as the Buddha's knowledge of what is possible and what is impossible, e.g. it is impossible that a person possessed of right view should regard any formations as permanent or as pleasurable, or anything whatever as self, while it is possible that a worldling will regard things in such an erroneous way. It is impossible for a person possessed of right view to commit the five heinous crimes (matricide, parricide, the murder of an Arahant, the wounding of a Buddha, causing a schism in the Sangha), while it is possible for a worldling to commit such crimes, etc. etc. [Go back]

7. Vbh. Section 810: "Herein, the Tathagata comprehends that there are some evil actions performed which do not mature because they are prevented from maturing by a fortunate rebirth, a fortunate body, a fortunate time, a fortunate effort, while there are some evil actions performed which mature because of an unfortunate rebirth, etc. There are some good actions which do not mature because of an unfortunate rebirth, etc., while there are some good actions which mature because of a fortunate rebirth, etc." (condensed). [Go back]

8. Vbh. Section 811: "Herein, the Tathagata comprehends thus: 'This is the path, this is the practice leading to hell, to the animal realm, to the plane of ghosts, to the human realm, to the realm of the gods, to deliverance.' " This knowledge will be elaborated upon below in Sections 35-42. [Go back]

9. Vbh. Section 812: "The Tathagata comprehends the different aggregates, the different sense bases, the different elements; he comprehends the different worlds that have many elements, different elements." [Go back]

10. Vbh. Section 813: "The Tathagata understands that beings are of inferior inclinations and superior inclinations, and that they gravitate towards those who share their own inclinations" (condensed). [Go back]

11. Vbh. Sections 814-27 gives a detailed analysis. Comy. states the meaning more concisely as the Tathagata's knowledge of the superiority and inferiority of beings' faculties of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. [Go back]

12. Vbh. Section 828: "The defilement (sankilesa) is a state partaking of deterioration; cleansing (vodana) is a state partaking of distinction; emergence (vutthana) is both cleansing and the rising out of an attainment. The eight liberations (vimokkha) are enumerated, e.g. at DN 15/ii,70-71, and comprise three liberations pertaining to the realm of material form, the four immaterial attainments, and the cessation of perception and feeling. The nine attainments (samapatti) are the four jhanas, the four immaterial attainments, and cessation. [Go back]

13. The idiom yathabhatam nikkhitto evam niraye is knotty; the rendering here follows the gloss of Comy.: "He will be put in hell as if carried off and put there by the wardens of hell." Although such a fate may sound excessively severe merely for verbal denigration, it should be remembered that he is maligning a Fully Enlightened Buddha with a mind of hatred, and his intention in so doing is to discourage others from entering upon the path that could lead them to complete liberation from suffering. [Go back]

14. The four kinds of intrepidity (vesarajja: also rendered "grounds of self-confidence") may be divided into two pairs. The first pair relates mainly to the internal qualities of the Buddha, his achievement of personal perfection, while the second pair has an outward orientation, being concerned primarily with his qualifications as a teacher. The first intrepidity confirms his attainment of supreme enlightenment and the removal of all obscuration regarding the range of what may be known; it points to the Buddha's acquisition of omniscience (sabbaññutañana). The second underlines his complete purity through the destruction of all defilements; it points to his achievement of the fruit of Arahantship. The third means that the Buddha's understanding of obstructions to the goal is unimpeachable, while the fourth confirms the efficacy of the Dhamma in accomplishing its intended purpose, namely, leading the practitioner to complete release from suffering. [Go back]

15. In later Buddhist tradition the asuras, titans or "anti-gods," are added as a separate realm to make the "six destinations" familiar from the Tibetan Wheel of Life. [Go back]

16. Comy.: Even though the description is the same as that of the bliss of the heavenly world, the meaning is different. For the bliss of the heavenly world is not really extremely pleasant because the fevers of lust, etc. are still present there. But the bliss of Nibbana is extremely pleasant in every way through the subsiding of all fevers. [Go back]

17. Comy. explains that at this juncture the Buddha related this account of his past ascetic practices because Sunakkhatta was a great admirer of extreme asceticism (as is clear from the Patika Sutta) and the Buddha wanted to make it known that there was no one who could equal him in the practice of austerities. Sections 44-56 apparently deal with the Bodhisatta's striving during the six years' period of austerities in his last existence, while Sections 57-61 refer back to his previous existences as a seeker of enlightenment. [Go back]

18. The "eight-days' interval of frost" is a regular cold spell which occurs in South Asia in late December or early January. [Go back]

19. That is, they hold the view that beings are purified by reducing their intake of food. [Go back]

20. Rebirth into the Pure Abodes (suddhavasa) is possible only for non-returners. [Go back]

21. The Pali for the four terms is: sati, gati, dhiti, paññaveyyattiya. Comy. explains sati as the ability to grasp in mind a hundred or a thousand phrases as they are being spoken; gati, the ability to bind them and retain them in the mind; dhiti, the ability to recite back what has been grasped and retained; and paññaveyyattiya, the ability to discern the meaning and logic of those phrases. [Go back]

22. The Venerable Nagasamala had been a personal attendant of the Buddha during the first twenty years of his ministry. [Go back]

23. Lomahamsanapariyaya. The sutta is referred to by that name at Milindapañha, p. 398, and in the commentary to the Digha Nikaya. [Go back]

Source: ATI - For Free Distribution Only, as a Gift of Dhamma.

Dhamma Essay:
Refuge in the Buddha by Bhikkhu Bodhi


Meditation | Resources | Pali Canon | Training | Parisa
Audio | Links | Books | Newsletter | Feedback | Donate
to know - to shape - to liberate


Site Copyright © 2018, Vipassana Fellowship Ltd.     [Terms of Service & Privacy Policy]