The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Duties of Venerable Sariputta 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 Monk Sudinna, the Son of the Kalanda Merchant. 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).

Part 4 - Duties of Venerable Sāriputta

The duties of the Venerable Sāriputta, while he was staying alone, were different from those, while he was staying together with the Buddha.

Explanation: While the two Chief Disciples were staying alone they would sweep their residential ground early in the morning, wash themselves, engage in jhāna attainment, sitting quietly, and go on alms-round, each according to his wish. While they were staying with the Buddha, the two Mahā-Theras (Chief Disciples) would not do so. Citation: While they were thus staying with the Buddha, the Buddha in the company of monks, first went for alms-food. When the Buddha had left thus for alms, Venerable Sāriputta would come out from his cell, and being aware that “a residence of monks is a place which can sometimes be made pleasant by themselves or which cannot be done so at other times”, he would go round the precincts and sweep the place that had not been swept, dispose of the rubbish that had not been disposed of, keep a drinking water pot at a suitable place where there was none. Visiting a sick monk, he would ask: “Friend, what food shall I bring for you? Which food do you want to have?” He would also go to those who had not observed even a single vassa and advise them: “Friends, be happy in the Buddha’s dispensation! But do not be indolent! The Buddha’s Teaching contains practice as its essence!” Having done all these, he would go on alms-round following all others.

For example, when the Universal Monarch, the Lord of the Four Continents, desired to go to a certain place, he marched out first with the fourfold army, his eldest son, the Vice-Chief, followed him supervising the troops. In the same way, the Exalted One, the Universal Monarch of the True Law, who set in motion the Wheel of the Dhamma, went in the company of monks first, the Venerable Sāriputta, the Buddha’s eldest son and the Vice-Chief, the General of the Dhamma, went on alms-round following all other bhikkhus after performing all his duties mentioned above.

When the Venerable Sāriputta, as the last person, went out for alms after finishing his job in Jetavana Monastery on that very day, he saw the Venerable Rāhula seated cross-legged with his body upright, cultivating mindfulness and urged him with encouraging words to develop ānāpāṇassati-bhāvanā (meditation on mindfulness of in-breath and out-breath):

“Rāhula, develop ānāpāṇassati-bhāvanā! When ānāpāṇassati-bhāvanā is developed, when it is repeatedly developed, it will be of great benefit.”

(Herein it may be questioned as to why the Venerable Sāriputta urged and encouraged Rāhula to develop ānāpāṇassati-bhāvanā.

(Answer: Because ānāpāṇassati-bhāvanā was agreeable to Rāhula’s disposition. Explanation: Not being aware of the fact that the Buddha had taught Rāhula meditation on matter, he noticed that the way Rāhula was seated motionless would go best with ānāpāṇassati-bhāvanā. Hence his drive and encouraging words. (With reference to the words, “When ānāpāṇassati-bhāvanā is repeatedly developed, it will be of great benefit,” the way the benefit accrues is as follows:

A bhikkhu who develops ānāpāṇassti-bhāvanā can attain arahatship in one sitting; even if he cannot attain arahatship, he can became a samasīsī arahat when nearing his death; if not, during his rebirth in a celestial abode, he can attain arahatship after listening to the Dhamma from a deva; if not, he can become a Paccekabuddha at a time when there is no Perfect Buddha; if not, he can become an arahat of khippabhiññā (Quick Intelligence) like Thera Bāhiya Dāruciya in the lifetime of a later Buddha. In this way ānāpāṇassati-bhāvanā is of great benefit.

(Discerning the great benefit thus, Venerable Sāriputta urged and encouraged Rāhula, who had taken him as preceptor and who was his co-resident pupil (saddhivihārika), to practise ānāpāṇassati-bhāvanā.)

In this way, the Buddha and the Venerable Sāriputta gave Rāhula meditation on matter and meditation on ānāpāṇassatti respectively and went away. Rāhula remained at the monastery.

Although, knowing that Rāhula was left behind, the Buddha did not personally bring food

(for him), nor did He send food through Venerable Ānanda nor did He inform His male and female donors, such as King Pasenadī, Anāthapiṇḍika the wealthy merchant, etc., of the matter. (Had they known of this, they would have pots of food conveyed by means of a carrying pole indeed.)

Like the Buddha, Venerable Sāriputta did nothing. For that very day the Venerable Rāhula received no food at all and had none whatever. Despite his being deprived of provisions thus, he did not mind a bit thinking: “Though the Exalted One knows that I have been left behind at the monastery, He does not bring, in person, the food He obtained, nor does He send through somebody else, nor does He tell lay people of the matter. Though my preceptor also knows that I have remained, he too does nothing for me.” How could there be low or high opinion (contempt or admiration) in him on account of that?

There was neither. In the morning as well as in the daytime, he engaged in meditation on the element of matter taught by the Buddha:

“It is true that matter is impermanent for such and such a reason, it is true that matter is miserable for such and such a reason;it is true that matter is unpleasant for such and such a reason; it is true that matter is insubstantial for such and such a reason.”

He reflected thus incessantly like a man who urgently kindles a fire, and in the evening he pondered: “I have been instructed by my preceptor to develop ānāpāṇassati. I will take up his instruction. In fact, one who does not follow the advice of one’s preceptor is one who is hard to exhort (dubbaca). There is no worse oppression for me than a censure by my fellow-monks saying: “Rāhula is hard to exhort; he does not even follow his preceptor’s advice!” Desirous of asking about the engagement in anāpāṇassati-bhāvanā, he came out from his cell, and approached the Buddha.

Paying obeisance most respectfully, he sat down on a blameless place, and asked:

“Exalted Buddha, how is ānāpāṇassati-bhāvanā developed? How is it repeatedly developed so that it becomes to be of great benefit?”

Then the Buddha explained to Rāhula in detail:

(1) How to develop meditation:

(a) on twenty portions (koṭṭhāsa) of earth element,
(b) on twelve portions (koṭṭhāsa) of water element,
(c) on four portions (koṭṭhāsa) of fire element,
(d) on six portions (koṭṭhāsa) of wind element which are all Mahā-bhūta (Great Elements),
(e) on space element which is dependent matter (upādā-rūpa);

(2) How to develop meditation on tādibhava-lakkhaṇa, the characteristics of which are similar to those of the five elements of earth, water, fire, wind and space;

(3) on mettā, loving-kindness;

(4) on karuṇā, compassion;

(5) on muditā, altruistic joy;

(6) on upekkhā, equanimity;

(7) on asubha, unpleasantness;

(8) on anicca-saññā, perception of impermanence; the Buddha gave a discourse (which included the advantages), urging him to practise all these forms of meditation.

(9) on ānāpāṇassati, which formed the original question put forth by Rāhula; the Buddha explained it in detail, showing the benefit derived therefrom. (The Buddha’s elaborate saying may be read in the Majjhima Paṇṇāsa of the Majjhima Nikāya.)

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