The last Vagga of Samyutta Nikaya is made up of twelve sam- yuttas, the list ot which gives a clear indication of the subjects dealt with in this division, Magga Samyutta, Rouhanga Samyutta, Satipatthana Sariiyutta, Indnya Samyutta, Sammappadhana Samyutta, Bala Samyutta, Iddhipada Samyutta, Anuruddha Samyutta, Jhana Samyutta, Anapana Sariiyutta, Sotapatti Samyutta and Sacca Samyutta The mam doc- trines 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 lite, 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* Kuij^aliya 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 4 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 ot Mindfulness will be established When the Four Foundations of Minclfulness 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 achievedIn the Udayi Sutta, there is an account of Udayi who gives con- firmation of such achievements through personal experience He tells how he comes to know about the five khandhas from the dis- courses, 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 Mmdfulness, namely, contemplation of body, sensa- tion, mind and mind-objects They can roam freely in the safe resort guarded by these outposts of Four Foundations of Mmdfulness, unharmed by lust, hate and ignorance. Once they stray outside their own ground, they expose themselves to the allurements of the sen- suous world. The parable of falcon and skylark illustrates this point A fierce falcon suddenly seizes hold of a tiny skylark which is feed- ing in an open field. Clutched in the claws of its captor, the unfor- tunate 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 been beaten off this attack by the falcon " Bemused by the challenging soliloquy, the falcon asks the skylark where that ground would be that it has inhented 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 shall 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 disap- pears into the interspaces of the earth clods, but the big falcon, unable to arrest its own speed, smashes into the hard protruding clods to meet its painful death
In Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta, the Buddha explains for Ananda's benefit two method of meditation When established in the Four Foundations of Mmdfulness, 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 mmd-objects, the bhikkhu should direct his mind to some confi- dence-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 mmd is not dis- tracted by external things, no need arises for him to direct his mind to any confidence-inspiring object. The Buddha concludes his ex- hortation thus "Here are trees and secluded places, Ananda. Practise meditation, Ananda Bo 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 Mmdfulness as of supreme importance When a bhikkhu by the name of Badda asks the Venerable Ananda, after the death of the Buddha, what will bnng_about the disappearance of the Buddha's Teaching, the Venerable Ananda replies, "So long as the practice of the Four Methods of Steadfast Mmdfulness is not ne- glected, so long will the Teaching prosper, but when the practice of the Four Methods of Steadfast Mmdfulness declines, the Teaching will gradually disappear "
Anapanassati meditation, one of the methods of body contem- plation, 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 rnindful- ness and full comprehension remains calm in body and collected in mind, unruffled, unexeited "
The Icchanaftgala Sutta describes how the Buddha himself once stayed for the rams-residence of three months in Icchanaftgala 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 Ana- panassati meditation, one becomes firmly established in unshakable confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha The moral conduct of such a person, through observance of precepts, is also without blemish He has reached, m 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 nse 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, patisandht 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, bhikkhus, as my knowledge of reality and insight regarding the Four Noble Truths m 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."