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Canonical Pâli Buddhist Literature of the Theravâda School

(a) Sllakkhandha Vagga Pali

Division Concerning Morality

This division contains thirteen suttas which deal extensively with various types of morality, namely, Minor Morality, basic morality applicable to all, Middle Morality and Major Morality which are mostly practised by Samanas and Brahmanas It also discusses the wrong views then prevalent as well as Brahmin views of sacrifice and caste, and various religious practices such as extreme self-mortification

(1) Brahxnajala Sutta, Discourse on the Net of Perfect Wisdom

An argument between Suppiya, a wandering ascetic, and his pupil Brahmadatta, with the teacher maligning the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha and the pupil praising the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha gave rise to this famous discourse which is listed first in this Nikaya

In connection with the maligning of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha, the Buddha enjoined his disciples not to feel resentment, nor displeasure, nor anger, because it would only be spiritually harmful to them As to the words of praise for the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha, the Buddha advised his disciples not to feel pleased, delighted or elated, for it would be an obstacle to their progress in the Path

The Buddha said that whatever worldling, puthujjana, praised the Buddha he could not do full justice to the peerless virtues of the Buddha, namely, his Superior Concentration, samddhi, and Wisdom, panna A worldling could touch on only "matters of a trifling and inferior nature, mere morality." The Buddha explained the three grades of morality and said that there were other dhammas profound, hard to see, subtle and intelligible only to the wise Anyone wishing to praise correctly the true virtues of the Buddha should do so only in terms of these dhammas

Then the Buddha continued to expound on various wrong views There were samanas and brahmanas who, speculating on the past, adhered to and asserted their wrong views in eighteen different ways, namely

  1. Four Kinds of Belief in Eternity, Sassata Ditthi
  2. Four Kinds of Dualistic belief in Eternity and Non-eternity, Ekacca Sassata Ditthi
  3. Four Views of the World being Finite or Infinite, Antananta Ditthi
  4. Four Kinds of ambiguous evasion, Amardvikkhepa Vdda
  5. Two Doctrines of Non-Causality, Adhiccasamuppanna Vdda

There were samanas and brahmanas, who, speculating on the future, adhered to and asserted their wrong views in forty-four ways, namely:

  1. Sixteen Kinds of Belief in the Existence of Safina after death, Uddhamdghdtamka Sanm Vdda
  2. Eight Kinds of Belief m the Non-Existence of Safina after death, Uddhamdghdtamka Asannt Vdda
  3. Eight Kinds of Belief in the Existence of Neither safina Nor Non-sanna after death, Uddhamdghdtanika Nevasanni Ndsannt Vdda
  4. Seven Kinds of Belief in Annihilation, Uccheda Vdda
  5. Five Kinds of Mundane Nibbana as realizable in this very life, Ditthadhamma Nibbana Vdda.

The Buddha said that whatever samanas and brahmanas speculated on the past, or the future or both the past and the future, they did so in these sixty-two ways or one of these sixty-two ways

The Buddha announced further that he knew all these wrong views and also what would be the destination, the next existence, in which the one holding these views would be reborn

The Buddha gave a detailed analysis of these wrong views asserted in sixty-two ways and pointed out that these views had their origin in feeling which arose as a result of repeated contact through the six sense bases. Whatever person holds these wrong views, in him feeling gives rise to craving; ciaving gives rise to clinging, clinging gives rise to existence; the kammic causal process in existence gives rise to rebirth, and rebirth gives rise to ageing, death, gnef, lamentation, pain, distress and despair

But whatever person knows, as they really are, the origin of the six sense bases of contact, their cessation, their pleasurableness, their danger and the way of escape from them, he realizes the dhammas, not only mere morality, stla, but also concentration, samadhi, and liberation, vtmutti, wisdom, panna, that transcend all these wrong views

All the samanas and brahmanas holding the sixty-two categories of wrong views are caught in the net of this discourse just like all the fish in a lake are contained in a finely meshed net spread by a skilful fisherman or his apprentice

(2) Samannaphala Sutta, Discourse on the Fruits of the life of a Samana

On one fullmoon night while the Buddha was residing in Rajagaha at the mango grove of Jivaka this discourse on the fruits of the life of a samana, personally experienced in this very life, was taught to King Ajatasattu on request by him The Buddha explained to him the advantage of the life of a samana by giving him the examples of a servant of his household or a landholder cultivating the King's own land becoming a samana to whom the King himself would show respect and make offerings of requisites, providing him protection and security at the same time.

The Buddha provided further elucidation on other advantages, higher and better, of being a samana by elaborating on

  1. how a householder, hearing the dhamrna taught by a Buddha, leaves the homelife and becomes a sarnana out of pure faith;
  2. how he becomes established in three categories of sila, minor, middle and major,
  3. how he gains control over his sense-faculties so that no depraved states of mind as covetousness and dissatisfaction would overpower him;
  4. how he becomes endowed with mmdfulness and clear comprehension and remains contented;
  5. how, by dis- sociating himself from five hindrances, he achieves the four jhanas the first, the second, the third and the fourth as higher advantages than those previously mentioned,
  6. how he becomes equipped with eight kinds of higher knowledge, namely, Insight Knowledge, the Power of Creation by Mmd, the Psychic Powers, the Divine Power of Hearing, Knowledge of the Minds of others, Knowledge of Past Existences, Divine Power of Sight, Knowledge of Extinction of moral intoxicants

Thus when the knowledge of liberation arises in him, he knows he has lived the life of purity There is no other advantage of being a samana, personally experienced, more pleasing and higher than this

(3) Ambattha Sutta

Ambattha, a young disciple of Pokkharasati, the learned Brahmin, was sent by his master to investigate whether Gotama was a genuine Buddha endowed with thirty-two personal characteristics of a great man His insolent behaviour, taking pride in his birth as a Brahmin, led the Buddha to subdue him by proving that Khattiya is m fact superior to Brahmana The Buddha explained further that nobleness in man stemmed not from birth but from perfection in three categones of morality, achievements of four jhanas, and accomplishments in eight kinds of higher knowledge.

(4) Sonadanda Sutta

This discourse was given to the Brahmin Sonadanda who approached the Buddha while he was residing near Lake Gaggara at Campa in the country of Anga He was asked by the Buddha what attributes should one possess to be acknowledged as a Brahmin Sonadanda enumerated high birth, learning in the Vedas, good personality, morality and knowledge as essential qualities to be a Brahmin. When further questioned by the Buddha, he said that the minimum qualifications were morality and knowledge without which no one would be entitled to be called a Brahmin. On his request, the Buddha explained to him the meaning of the terms morality and knowledge, which he confessed to be ignorant of, namely, the three categories of morality, achievements of four jhanas and accomplishments in eight kinds of higher knowledge.

(5) Kutadanta Sutta

On the eve of offering a great sacrificial feast, the Brahmin Kutadanta went to see the Buddha for advice on how best to conduct the" sacrifice Giving the example of a former King Mahavijita, who also made a great sacrificial offering, the Buddha declared the principle of consent by four parties from the provinces, namely, noblemen, ministers, rich Brahmins and house-holders; the eight qualities to be possessed by the king who would make the offerings; the four qualities of the Brahmin royal adviser who would conduct the ceremonies and the three attitudes of mind towards the sacrifices With all these conditions fulfilled, the feast offered by the king was a great success, with no loss of life of sacrificial animals, no hardship on the people, no one impressed into service, every one co-operating in the great feast willingly.

The Brahmin Kutadanta then asked the Buddha if there was any sacrifice which could be made with less trouble and exertion, yet producing more fruitful result The Buddha told him of the traditional practice of offering the four requisites to bhikkhus of high morality.

Less troublesome and more profitable again was donating a monastery to the Order of Bhikkhus Better still were the following practices in ascending order of beneficial effects

  1. Going to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Samgha for refuge;
  2. observances of the Five Precepts;
  3. going forth from the homelife and leading the holy life, becoming established in morality, accomplished in the four jhanas, and equipped with eight kinds of higher knowledge resulting in the realization of extinction of asavas, the sacrifice which entails less trouble and exertion but which excels all other sacrifices.

(6) Mahali Sutta

Mahali Otthaddha, a licchavi ruler, once came to see the Buddha to whom he recounted what Sunakkhatta, a Licchavi prince, had told him. Sunakkhatta had been a disciple of the Buddha for three years after which he left the Teaching. He told Mahali how he had acquired the Divine Power of Sight by which he had seen myriads of pleasant, desirable forms belonging to the deva world but that he had not heard sounds belonging to the deva world. Mahali wanted to know from the Buddha whether Sunakkhatta did not hear the sounds of the deva world because they were non-existent, or whether he did not hear them although they existed

he Buddha explained that there were sounds in the deva world but Sunakkhatta did not hear them because he had developed concentration only for one purpose, to achieve the Divine Power of Sight but not the Divine Power of Hearing

The Buddha explained further that his disciples practised the noble life under him not to acquire such divine powers but with a view to the realization of dhammas which far excel and transcend these mundane kinds of concentrations. Such dhammas are attainments of the Four States of Noble Fruition states of a stream-winner, a once-returner, a non-returner, and the state of mind and knowledge of an Arahat freed of all asavas that have been rendered extinct

The Path by which these dhammas can be realized is the Noble Path of Eight Constituents:

  1. Right View,
  2. Right Thought,
  3. Right Speech,
  4. Right Action,
  5. Right Livelihood,
  6. Right Effort,
  7. Right Mindfulness,
  8. Right Concentration

(7) Jaliya Sutta

Once when the Buddha was residing at Ghositarama Monastery near Kosambi, two wandering ascetics Mundiya and Jaliya approached him and asked whether the soul was the physical body, or the physical body the soul, or whether the soul was one thing and the physical body another.

The Buddha explained how a person who had finally realized liberation would not even consider whether the soul was the physical body, or the physical body the soul or whether the soul was one thing and the physical body another.

(8) Mafaasihanada Sutta

This discourse defines what a true samana is, what a true brahmana is. The Buddha was residing in the Deer Park of Kannakathala at Ururina. Then the naked ascetic Kassapa approached him and said that he had heard that Samana Gotama disparaged all practices of self-mortification and that Samana Gotama reviled all those who led an austere life.

The Buddha replied that they were slandering him with what was not said, what was not true. When the Buddha could see with his supernormal vision the bad destinies as well as the good destinies of those who practised extreme form of self-mortification, and of those who practised less extreme forms of self-mortification, how could he revile all systems of self- mortification

Kassapa then maintained that only those recluses who for the whole of their life cultivated the practice of standing or sitting, who were abstemious in food, eating only once in two days, seven days, fifteen days etc , were real samanas and br ahmanas The Buddha explained to him the futility of extreme self-mortification and said that only when a recluse practised to become accomplished in morality, concentration and knowledge, cultivated loving-kindness, and dwelt in the emancipation of mind, and emancipation through knowledge that he would be entitled to be called a samana and brahmana Then the Buddha gave full exposition on morality, concentration and knowledge, resulting in Kassapa's decision to join the Order of the Buddha.

(9) Pottapada Sutta

Once when the Buddha was staying at the Monastery of Anathapindika in the Jeta Grove at Savatthi he visited the EkasSaka Hall where various views were debated. At that time Potthapada the wandering ascetic asked him about the nature of the cessation of Consciousness (sanna). Pottapada wanted to know how the cessation of Consciousness was brought about The Buddha told him that it was through reason and cause that forms of Consciousness in a being arose and ceased. A certain form of Consciousness arose through practice (Adhuitta sikkha) and a certain form of Consciousness ceased through practice.

The Buddha then proceeded to expound on these practices consisting of observance of sila and development of concentration which resulted in arising and ceasing of successive jhanas The meditator progressed from one stage to the next in sequence until he achieved the Cessation of all forms of Consciousness (mrodha samapattt) .

(10) Subfaa Sutta

This is a discourse given not by the Buddha but by his close attendant, the Venerable Ananda, on the request of young Subha The Buddha had passed away by then. And young Subha wanted to know from the lips of the Buddha's close attendant what dhammas were praised by the Buddha and what those dhammas were which he urged people to practise

Ananda told him that the Buddha had words of praise for the three aggregates of dhammas, namely, the aggregate of morality, the aggregate of concentration and the aggregate of knowledge The Buddha urged people to practise these dhammas, dwell in them, and have them firmly established. Ananda explained these aggregates of dhamma in great detail to young Subha, in consequence of which he became a devoted lay disciple

(11) Kevatta Sutta

The Buddha was residing at Nalanda in Pavarika's mango grove A devoted lay disciple approached the Buddha and urged him to let one of his disciples perform miracles so that the City of Nalanda would become ever so much devoted to the Buddha.

The Buddha told him about the three kinds of miracles which he had known and realized by himself through supernormal knowledge The first miracle, iddhi pdtihdnya, was rejected by the Buddha because it could be mistaken as the black art called Gandhari magic The Buddha also rejected the second miracle, adesana pdtihdnya which might be mistaken as practice of Cintamani charm. He re commended the performance of the third miracle, the anusasam pdtihanya, the miracle of the power of the Teaching as it involved practice in Morality, Concentration and Knowledge leading finally to the Extinction of Asavas, Asavakkhaya Nana.

(12) Lohicca Sutta

The discourse lays down three types of blameworthy teachers;

  1. the teacher who is not yet accomplished in the noble practice and teaches pupils who do not listen to him.
  2. The teacher who is not yet accomplished in the noble practice and teaches pupils who practise as instructed by him and attain emancipation,
  3. The teacher who is fully accomplished in the noble practice and teaches pupils who do not listen to him

The praiseworthy teacher is one who has become fully accomplished in the three practices of Morality, Concentration and Knowledge and teaches pupils who become fully accomplished like him.

(13) Tevijja Sutta

Two Brahmin youths Vasettha and Bharadvaja came to see the Buddha while he was on a tour through the Kingdom of Kosala They wanted the Buddha to settle their dispute as to the correct path that led straight to companionship with the Brahma Each one thought only the way shown by his own master was the true one

The Buddha told them that as none of their masters had seen the Brahma, they were like a line of blind men each holding on to the preceding one Then he showed them the true path that really led to the Brahma realm, namely, the path of morality and concentration, and development of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity towards all sentient beings.

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