by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The Buddha’s Last Words 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 Declared the Seven Factors of Non-Decline for Rulers. 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).
a) “Ānanda, it may be that some of you will think: ‘The Doctrine propounded by the Teacher is bereft of its profounder; we have now no Teacher.’ But, Ānanda, despondency of such nature is uncalled for. The Doctrine and Discipline which I have taught and prescribed for you over these forty-five years, is to be your Teacher when I am gone.”
b) “Whereas Ānanda, bhikkhus now address each other by the term ‘āvuso’ (friend), irrespective of seniority, they should not address each other like that after I am gone. A senior bhikkhu should address a junior bhikkhu either by his given bhikkhu name or by his family name, or by the title of ‘āvuso’. And a junior bhikkhu should address a senior bhikkhu by the title, ‘bhante’ or ‘āyasmā’ (Venerable Sir).”
c) “Ānanda, after I am gone, the Sangha may, if it wishes so, abolish lesser and minor Rules of the Discipline.”
“But, Venerable Sir, what is the Brahmā penalty?”
“Ānanda, let Channa say what he likes. No bhikkhu should make any remarks on what he says, nor should they admonish him, nor check him.”
(1) With regard to this first point: the Buddha means to say: “Ānanda, while I am living, I have taught you the Vinaya (in present day context are the five book, namely, Mahāvagga, Cūḷavagga, Khandhaka, Parivāra and the Twin Set of Vibhaga, together with miscellaneous Commentaries) covering the seven classes of offences with their respective background cases, such as: ‘This is an offence of a light nature; this is an offence of a grievous nature; this is a retrievable offence, this is an irretrievable offence; this is a definitely demeritorious offence, this is merely a nominal offence; this is an offence redeemable with the pardoning by the aggrieved party; this is an offence redeemable with the pardoning by the sect of bhikkhus concerned; this is an offence redeemable by the Sangha as a body, etc.’ All these, under the Vinaya Piṭaka will, after I am gone, remain as your Teacher, discharge the function of the Teacher Himself
“Ānanda, while I am living, I have taught you the Suttanta encompassing the Thirtyseven Constituents of Enlightenment, comprising the Four Methods of Steadfast Mindfulness, the Four Right Endeavours, the Four Bases of Psychic Power, the Five Faculties, the Five Powers, the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, the Eight Constituents of the Path, together with elaborate details. All these, under the Suttanta Piṭaka will, after I am gone, remain as your Teacher, discharging the function of the Teacher himself.
“Ānanda, while I am living, I have taught you the Abhidhamma specifying in minute detail such as: ‘These are the Five Aggregates, the Twelve Sense-bases, the Eighteen Elements, the Four Truths, the Twenty-two Faculties, the Nine Root Causes, the Four Nutriments, the Seven Kinds of Contact, the Seven Kinds of Sensation, the Seven Kinds of Perception, the Seven Kinds of Volition, the Seven Classes of Consciousness. And, of these dhammas, which I have taught you, classifications enumerating them under dhamma pertaining to the Sense Sphere, dhamma pertaining to the Fine Material Sphere, dhamma pertaining to the Non-material Sphere; dhamma that are included in the round of resultants; dhamma that are mundane, dhamma that are Supramundane.’ Thus, beginning from an enumeration of the dhammas, such as the aggregates (khandha), the edifice of the Abhidhamma has been built up for you with an infinite variety of methods of analysis and synthesis comprising the Paṭṭhāna (in present context comprising twenty-four books or the Great Book). All these, under the Abhidhamma will, after I am gone, remain as your Teacher, discharging the function of the Teacher himself.
These doctrines that I have taught you over forty-five years (vassa) constituting the Dhamma and Doctrine (in present context are the three Piṭakas, five Nikāyas, nine divisions) numbering eighty-four thousand units. These eighty-four thousand units of dhamma factors are still with you. The Tathāgata is the only one Teacher that will not be there any longer. While I am living you are under the guidance and supervision of only one Teacher; when I am gone, these eighty-four thousand units of the Dhamma factors, which can be called the Eighty-four Thousand Teachers, will guide you, supervise you on My behalf.” Thus the Buddha admonished and consoled the bhikkhus.
(2) Under the next point marked (b) above, the Buddha instructed the rule of social conduct among bhikkhus.
(3) Under the next point marked (c) above, the Buddha did not give an unequivocal directive to the effect that lesser and minor rules of the Discipline be abolished. Instead, He left the option to do so to the Sangha. Why did He leave the matter in an equivocal state? The answer is: He saw the strength of conviction and the strength of wisdom in the Venerable Mahā Kassapa. The Buddha saw that even if He were to give an unequivocal directive on the matter now, the Sangha, in the council headed by the Venerable Mahā Kassapa, would not agree to abolish any rules, even the lesser and minor ones. (This is worth noting.)
After the Buddha had said these words to the Venerable Ānanda, He addressed the bhikkhus thus:
“Bhikkhus, in case there should be any uncertainty or misgiving in any one of you regarding the Buddha, or the Good Doctrine, or the Sangha, or the Path leading to Nibbāna, or the Noble Practice, ask Me questions, and do not leave an occasion for regret later, with the thought: ‘We were there together with the Bhagavā, and yet we failed to clear our doubts by asking Him our questions.’”
When the Buddha said this, the bhikkhus remained silent. He asked a second time, but the bhikkhus remained silent. When asked for a third time, the bhikkhus also remained silent. Thereupon, He said to them:
“It may be, bhikkhus that you do not ask questions because you have deference for the Bhagavā, thinking: ‘We all are bhikkhu-disciples under the Bhagavā, we owe the four requisites to the Bhagavā, we have had no uncertainty about Him (etc.), and yet it is not proper for us to have uncertainty about Him (etc.) at this last moment.’ Bhikkhus, if that is so, then let each one tell his companion about his uncertainty or misgiving.”
And still the bhikkhus were silent.
Venerable Ānanda said to the Buddha:
“Wonderful it is, Venerable Sir! Astounding it is, Venerable Sir! I believe that in this assembly of bhikkhus there is not a single bhikkhu who has uncertainty or misgiving regarding the Buddha, or the Dhamma, or the Sangha, or the Path, or the Practice.”
And the Buddha said:
“Ānanda, you say this out of faith. But, as for the Tathāgata, it is a matter of knowledge that, in this assembly of bhikkhus, there is not a single bhikkhu who has uncertainty or misgiving regarding the Buddha, or the Dhamma, or the Sangha, or the Path, or the Practice.
“Ānanda, amongst these five hundred bhikkhus, even the least accomplished one is a sotāpanna (a stream-enterer), not liable to be reborn in the four miserable realms, but is destined to gain the three higher maggas. (This was said with the Venerable Ānanda in mind.)
Then the Buddha said to the bhikkhus as His last admonition:
Now, bhikkhus, I say this as my last exhortation: Decay is inherent in all compounded things. Hence, strive with mindfulness and diligence to complete the task.
This was the Buddha’s last exhortation. This was given even as He was on His death-bed. It is a most significant compression of all that He had taught over forty-five years into just one word, appamāda (mindfulness or diligence).