by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Preaching of Sariputta Sutta contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Buddha’s Seventh Vassa. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
The Venerable Sāriputta was the first person to pay homage to the Buddha as soon as He had set His right foot on the earth on arrival from Tāvatiṃsa. All those, who were also present, followed suit subsequently. The spot where the Buddha had set His right foot on the earth was later regarded as a sacred place and termed Acala Cetiyaṭṭhana.
The spot, where the Buddha set His right foot on reaching the earth, on His return from Tāvatiṃsa at the end of the vassa, after teaching the Abhidhamma in keeping with the practice of Buddhas, is also regarded as one of the sacred places termed Avijahitaṭṭhāna (i.e. Every Buddha after preaching the Abhidhamma in Tāvatiṃsa during the whole of vassa, on return to earth by the three Stairways, had always first set His right foot on the very spot where the triple stairways were placed at the gate of Sankassa.)
Devas and Humans are filled with Adoration for The Fully Self-Enlightened Buddhas
As stated before, the Venerable Sāriputta approached the Buddha after He first set His right foot at the head of the Stairway, paid homage to Him and addressed Him: “All the devas and laity here are filled with adoration for You, so much that they all long for Buddhahood.” Whereupon the Buddha replied: “Dear Son Sāriputta, it is true that all the devas, humans and Brahmās love and revere the Buddhas for their being great, gracious and glorious,” and then He uttered the following stanza, in preparation to a discourse which He would be teaching:
Dear son Sāriputta.... All the Fully Self-Enlightened Buddhas have gained mastery over jhāna practices in five ways and they delight in these jhāna absorptions. They also abide usually in phala-samāpatti that has, as its object, the Absolute Truth of Nibbāna, which is free from all dukkha. Even the devas and Brahmās of the celestial regions have made the remark with great adoration and esteem for the Buddhas, who are always abiding in full mindfulness: “How great would it be, if we who have had this rare opportunity were to become Buddhas?”
According to Dhammapada Commentary, thirty crores of devas, humans and Brahmās were emancipated at the conclusion of the discourse. The five hundred disciples of the Venerable Sāriputta attained arahatship as a result.
The Buddha revealed The Attributes of Venerable Sāriputta
While still standing at the head of the Stairway, the Buddha contemplated thus:
“People, who gathered here at this assembly, do know that the Venerable Moggallāna is the greatest in the matter of (jhānic) powers; the Venerable Anuruddha in supernatural vision; the Venerable Punna is a celebrated Teacher in Dhamma; but no one knows the attributes of the Venerable Sāriputta.” Therefore, He thought it would be proper to bring the knowledge and wisdom of Sāriputta to the limelight in some way or the other. He asked Sāriputta questions relating to the problems of ordinary average people (putthujana), those of ariya-puggalas (sekkhas) in the three lower Paths and Fruition stages, and those of arahats (asekkhas), in the presence of all those present at the time. The Venerable gave prompt answers to each and every question, stage by stage, concerning ordinary average persons, ariya-puggalas, in the three lower Path and Fruition stages and the arahats, the perfected ones, with the result that all those present came to realise the Venerable’s state of exaltation in wisdom!
Expounding of Sāriputta Sutta
After the Buddha had preached the preceding discourse, Venerable Sāriputta put forward a questionnaire concerning suitable and desirable place (abode), lawful resort (for alms), practice (meditation), etc. for the benefit of his disciples who were undergoing training under his personal supervision. These were presented to the Buddha in eight stanzas and the Buddha gave a series of answers comprising thirteen stanzas.
Sāriputta Sutta (Abridged form)
(1) I, Sāriputta, have hitherto never seen or heard of a Great Sage of a sect, who had come into his mother’s womb from the celestial abode of Tāvatiṃsa, who speaks so pleasantly and is endowed with the power of performing miracles, with all the greatness, graciousness and glory of a Fully Self-Enlightened Buddha.
(2) All the devas, humans and Brahmās have seen Him truly as one who has dispelled the darkness of delusion, as one who is peerless and unique enjoying the calm state of jhāna, and the serene and tranquil state of Nibbāna. All the devas, humans and Brahmās have looked upon Him as the possessor of Five Eyes.
(3) Most Exalted Buddha... who is free from the two defilements of clinging and wrong view, one who is not to be moved or shaken by worldly vicissitudes, one who has never tried to attract the attention of people by trickery through performing miracles, who has come to the gate of the city of Sankassa as the Sage of a Sect.... I, Sāriputta, have come to this place with the object of presenting to you problems for favour of solution in the interest of my disciples.
(4,5) (a) How many fearful and offensive sense objects are there, that are harmful to a noble bhikkhu, who retires through fear and loathing of the grave dangers of birth, etc., to the quiet base of a tree, a cemetery, a secluded couch or a short-legged bedstead in a cave?
(6) (b) How many kinds of danger are there to suppress, which a noble bhikkhu may encounter as he speeds his way to the strange yet unattained land of Nibbāna, in his lonely forest hermitage on the outskirts of a town or village?
(7) (c) What are the words which a noble bhikkhu may speak? (d) What are the lawful resorts for a noble bhikkhu? (e) What are the practices a noble bhikkhu should develop with intensity as meditation?
(8) (f) How should a noble bhikkhu observe the precepts with steadfastness, mature judgment and clear mindfulness to discard the dust of defilement, just as a goldsmith purifies gold?
(Thus the Venerable Sāriputta presented eight stanzas, of which the first three stanzas are in praise of the attributes of the Buddha, i.e. 1 - 3 and the remaining five regarding the practice which his five hundred bhikkhu should observe.)
(1) Dear son Sāriputta.... there are two things that a person of good birth who is going after Path knowledge, and who retires to a place of seclusion through fear of transient existences, ought to know: (i) the way to live in peace and tranquillity and (ii) the practice to be cultivated. I will preach you these two things as I know them from practical knowledge and not by inference.
(2-3) Dear son Sāriputta.... a person of intellect and mindfulness should not get frightened or be shaken when he comes into contact with five kinds of dangers, such as: (1) gadfly, mosquito, fly, (2) snake, scorpion, centipede, mice, (3) burglars and robbers (4) quadrupeds, such as lions, leopards and tigers, (5) people outside of the Teaching without faith in the three Gems who cause inconvenience by their annoying antagonistic views and questions. One should not get alarmed or frightened by those five kinds of terrible objects, just described.
(It will be noted that, in answer to question (a) the five kinds of dangers are given, namely, (1) gadfly, mosquito, (2) snake scorpion, centipede, mice, (3) burglars and robbers, (4) quadrupeds, such as, lions, leopards, tigers, (5) those heretics who caused inconvenience by their senseless antagonistic views)
Further, a noble bhikkhu in striving for the attainment of Nibbāna by following a good true path should suppress the following five “internal enemies” in addition to those just described.
(4) (1) Disease, (2) hunger, (3) cold, (4) heat, and (5) when the noble bhikkhu experienced inconvenience through contact with any of these dangers, he must resist or put up with them, as such sensations and ailments are conducive to the arising of the ten modes of wrong conducts (by deed, word and thought). He should protect himself by means of Earnest Effort (sammappadhāna).
(In answer to the question (b) the Buddha mentioned these 5 kinds of “internal enemies”, viz., (1) disease, (2) hunger, (3) cold, (4) heat and (5) a group of ten modes of wrong conduct arising through them.
Having dealt with (a) and (b), the Buddha proceeded to deal with (c), (d), (e), and (f) in nine stanzas as enumerated below.)
(5) A noble bhikkhu must always refrain himself from stealing and lying; he must wish for the well being of both, i.e., (i) those who still have taints of craving (tasa) and (ii) those who have already eradicated craving (thavara). He must dispel all the ten modes of wrong deeds, in short, the group of unwholesome acts, as they are the associates of Mara.
(The Four modes of moral conducts as prescribed in this verse are: Avoidance of stealing and lying, wishing for the well being of all fellow men and abandonment of immoral conduct.)
(6) A noble bhikkhu must not yield to anger (kodha) and unrestrained conceit (atimāna). The root causes of these two unwholesome factors are six in number, viz., Ignorance (avijjā), wrong attitude (manasikāra), self-conceit (asamimāna), lack of sense of shame (ahīri), lack of dread of evil consequences of misdeeds (anottappa), and distraction (uddhacca). These root causes must be up-rooted or extirpated. In addition, sense of affection (liking) and hatred (disliking) must be overcome by a state of balance of the mind or equanimity.
(By this, four practices are described, namely, anger and conceit must be discarded; and the six root causes of these must be removed; and objects of affection and hatred must be avoided by means of equanimity)
A noble bhikkhu is required to cultivate comprehension and develop the ten contemplation. With the force of joyful satisfactions (pīti), developed thereby, the aforesaid enemies, both internal and external must be abandoned.
(This is Buddha’s exhortation for expulsion or destruction of internal and external enemies shown in (a) and (b) by means of contemplation of ten (anusati) recollections. Pīti arising from meditation should be utilized as a means of developing forbearance. This is a means of overcoming those forces of enemy)
(7) One should overcome disinterestedness in a hermitage of seclusion and development of meditation by such means of expediency to ensure full measure of success. Such means of expediency should also be adopted in defeating the four causes of crying enumerated below:
Four Causes of Lamentation
(i) What kind of food shall I have to eat today (is it rice, or barley cake, or dinner-role or fish, or meat)? (ii) At what place shall I have to eat (at the palace of a king, or the house of a brahmin or of a rich man)? (iii) I had to sleep miserably last night (on a-piece of plank, or on a coarse mattress, or a piece of leather or a heap of grass). (iv) In what kind of luxurious place shall I have to sleep tonight (on an ornamented bed, or a four legged bedstead)? These four kinds of reflections or speculations are known as four causes of lamentation.
(8) A bhikkhu, cultivating the practice of sīla, samādhi and paññā, being free from impediments (paḷibodha), such as, attachment to clan, sect, shelter and requisites, should abandon the worries connected with food and with matters relating to lodging. These four types of worries should be given up.
(A noble bhikkhu is apt to cry under pressure of such anxieties or worries. He is therefore required to cut off all four impediments such as attachment to clan or the donor, members of his sect, dwelling place and requisites.)
When a bhikkhu acquires food and robe lawfully at proper times, he should have the sense of judgment or moderation in accepting and using them with a view to promoting the sense of contentment.
(As regards the matter of judgment or moderation, a bhikkhu should take into consideration the quantity of objects for offering, the extent of donors intention, and the extent of one’s requirement. In case where the quantity of objects for aims outweighed the intention of the donor, the donee should be content with a limited amount of alms. When the amount of aims available is comparatively smaller than what the donor has in mind to offer, the donee should still receive only limited amount of aims. Where the amount of alms is large enough to satisfy the wishes of the donor to offer large amount of aims, the donee should still receive just enough to meet his own requirements. Hence the term (Patiggaha mataññuta) receiving just the amount required: Utilization or consumption of the four requisites by way of retrospection is known as Paribhoga mataññuta).
(9) A noble bhikkhu, having guarded himself against unwholesome states by observing the two sets of observance in respect of receiving and utilization of the four requisites, should enter the towns and villages with agreeable deportment of bodily posture, and avoid the use of harsh words, even in dealing with those who have calumniated him.
(It means that a noble bhikkhu (i) should receive and utilize alms in accordance with the two modes of moderation, (ii) should move about with proper deportment in towns and villages, and, (iii) should refrain himself from the use of harsh words even when one deals with those who had calumniated him.)
(10) A noble bhikkhu should keep his eyes cast downwards, should not wander here and there, should endeavour to attain jhāna that has not been attained, to acquire the five kinds of mastery over jhāna that has been attained; should sleep mindfully, only four hours a day and only in the middle watch of the night, (and spend the rest of the day, sitting or walking while observing the precepts incumbent on a bhikkhu). Through such activities, equanimity is developed by means of the fourth jhāna. The mind being well composed, sensuous thoughts (kāma-vitakka), sensuous perceptions (kāma-saññā) and restless movement of hands and feet termed kukkucca are restrained.
(11) Any instruction given by one’s preceptor, “this is not right and proper,” should be noted, regarded with sincere delight and gratitude. Ill-will or unfriendly attitude towards ones associates should not be entertained. It should be eradicated as a thorn is eradicated. Only faultless speech should be made, never talk beyond the scope of discipline (sīla, samādhi, paññā) or beyond the limits of time. (One will be liable to be criticized and reproached for breach of precepts and moral conduct, for wrong view, wrong mode of livelihood. It is, therefore, necessary to refrain from such immoral conducts, even in thought, not to say of physical or verbal acts.)
(12) Dear Sāriputta.... Besides this, in this world, there are five kinds of dust, viz., attachment to visible form (rūpa-raga), attachment to sound (sadda-rāga) attachment to smell (ganda-rāga), attachment to taste (rasa-rāga), and attachment to touch (phothabbarāga). All such attachments should be removed by the practice of sīla, samādhi and paññā with mindfulness. Constant practice will enable the bhikkhu to overcome these five dusts.
(Five kinds of dust should be done away with by observance of the three training precepts. Only those who observe these precepts can overcome these five kinds of dust, no one else can do so.)
(13) Once these five kinds of dust are done away with, the bhikkhu will no longer take delight in the five objects of sensual pleasures. That bhikkhu, with mindfulness, emancipated from the grip of hindrances, contemplates at appropriate time on the conditioned as impermanent, unsatisfactory and unsubstantial (non-soul) with resolute steadfastness. His mind will become composed, and will penetrate through the dark mass of defilements.
The Buddha has thus answered the questions of Sāriputta with a view to pave the way stage by stage, that invariably leads to the Fruition stage of arahattaship. The five hundred disciples of Sāriputta attained arahatta-phala at the conclusion of the discourse, and thirty crores of devas and humans were emancipated through realization of the Four Noble Truths.
Footnotes and references:
They are lengthy and exhaustive, and it is proposed to reproduce them here in condensed form only. For full particulars, please refer to Sutta Nipata Pāli Text.
Five Eyes: (i) Maṇsa, human eye, (ii) Dibba-cakkhu, celestial eye, (iii) Pañña Vipassanā (Four Noble Truths), (iv) Samaṇta, All seeing eye, (v) Buddha-cakkhu.
The ten Contemplations or reflections on the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, Sīla, Cāga, Devatā, Marana, Kāyagatā, Ānapāna, Upasamāna. (For details, vide Visuddhimagga).