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The Life of Sariputta

Majjhima Nikaya

No. 3 Heirs Of Dhamma (dhammadayada Sutta)

After the Buddha had discoursed on "heirs of Dhamma" and "heirs of worldliness" and had retired into his cell, the Venerable Sariputta addresses the monks on how they should conduct themselves, and how not, when the Master goes into seclusion. They likewise should cultivate seclusion, should reject what they are told to give up, and should be modest and lovers of solitude. He concludes by speaking on the evil of the sixteen defilements of mind1 and says that the Middle Way by which they can be eradicated is the Noble Eightfold Path.

No. 5: Guiltfree (Anangana Sutta) On four types of persons: those who are guilty of an offence and know it, and those who are guilty and unaware of it; those who are guiltless and know it, and those who are guiltless and unaware of it. The first of each pair is said to be the better one of the two, and the reason is explained. This discourse shows the importance of self-examination for moral and spiritual progress.

No. 9: Right Understanding (Samma-ditthi Sutta) Summary on p. 42

No. 28: The Greater Discourse on the Elephant Footprint Simile (Maha-hatthipadopama Sutta) Summary on p. 40

No 43: The Greater Discourse on Explanations (Maha-vedalla Sutta) The Elder answers a number of questions put by the Venerable Maha Kotthita, who was foremost in analytical knowledge. Sariputta matches the excellence of the questions with the clarity and profundity of his answers. The questions and answers extend from analytical examination of terms, through the position of wisdom and right understanding to subtle aspects of meditation.

No. 69: Discourse to Gulissani (Gulissani Sutta) On the conduct and Dhamma-practice to be followed by a forest-dwelling monk. Questioned by the Venerable Maha-Moggallana, the Elder confirms that the same duties apply also to monks living in the vicinity of towns and villages.

No. 97: Discourse to Dhanañjani (Dhanañjani Sutta) The Venerable Sariputta explains to the brahman Dhanañjani that the multifarious duties of a layman are no excuse for wrong moral conduct, nor do they exempt one from painful consequences of such conduct in a future existence.

Later, when Dhanañjani was on his deathbed he requested the Elder to visit him, and the Venerable Sariputta spoke to him, on the way to Brahma through the Brahma-viharas. The Buddha mildly reproached the elder for not having led Dhanañjani to a higher understanding. (See p. 59)

No. 114: To Be Practiced and Not To Be Practiced (Sevitabbasevitabba Sutta) The Venerable Sariputta elaborates upon brief indications given by the Buddha on what should be practiced, cultivated or used, and what should not. This is shown with regard to threefold action in deed, word and thought; in relation to mental attitudes and views, the six sense objects and the monk's requisites.

No. 143: Discourse to Anathapindika (Anathapindikovada sutta)

The Venerable Sariputta is called to Anathapindika's deathbed and admonishes him to free his mind from any attachment whatsoever, beginning with the six sense organs:

"Thus should you train yourself, householder: 'I shall not cling to the eye, and my consciousness will not attach itself to the eye.' Thus, householder, should you train yourself."

This is repeated in full for each of the other five sense organs, the six sense objects, the sixfold consciousness, sixfold contact, sixfold feeling born of contact; the six elements, the five aggregates, the four incorporeal jhanas, and concludes with detachment from this world and all other worlds; detachment from all things seen, heard, sensed and thought; from all that is encountered, sought and pursued in mind.

In short, detachment should be practiced as to the entire range of experience, beginning with what for a dying person will be his immediate concern; his sense faculties and their function.

This call for detachment drawing ever wider circles and repeating the same mighty chord of thought, must have had a deeply penetrating impact and a calming, liberating, even cheering influence on the dying devotee's mind. This was what Sariputta, the skilled teacher, obviously intended. And in fact his words had that impact because our text says that Anathapindika was moved to tears by the loftiness of the discourse, one in profundity unlike any he had ever heard before. Anathapindika passed away soon after, and was reborn as a deity in Tusita Heaven.

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- Footnotes:


See "The Simile of the Cloth" (M. 7) in Wheel No. 61/62, p. 12.

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