Mahāparinibbāna Sutta | Part 1

Mahāparinibbāna Sutta: The Great Passing

The Buddha's Last Days

PART I

1.1. Thus have I heard.

Once the Lord was staying at Rājagaha on the mountain called Vultures' Peak.

Now just then King Ajātasattu Vedehiputta of Magadha wanted to attack the Vajjians. He said:

'I will strike the Vajjians who are so powerful and strong, I will cut them off and destroy them, I will bring them to ruin and destruction!'

1.2. And King Ajātasattu said to his chief minister the Brahmin Vassakāra:

'Brahmin, go to the Blessed Lord, worship him with your head to his feet in my name, ask if he is free from sickness or disease, if he is living at ease, vigorously and comfortably, and then say:

"Lord, King Ajātasattu Vedehiputta of Magadha wishes to attack the Vajjians and says: 'I will strike the Vajjians...,bring them to ruin and destruction!'"

And whatever the Lord declares to you, report that faithfully back to me, for Tathāgatas never lie.'

1.3. 'Very good, Sire', said Vassakāra and, having had the state carriages harnessed, he mounted one of them and drove in state from Rājagaha to Vultures' Peak, riding as far as the ground would allow, then continuing on foot to where the Lord was.

He exchanged courtesies with the Lord, then sat down to one side and delivered the King's message.

1.4. Now the Venerable Ānanda was standing behind the Lord, fanning him.

And the Lord said:

'Ānanda, have you heard that the Vajjians hold regular and frequent assemblies?'

'I have heard, Lord, that they do.'

'Ānanda, as long as the Vajjians hold regular and frequent assemblies, they may be expected to prosper and not decline.

Have you heard that the “Vajjians meet in harmony, break up in harmony, and carry on their business in harmony?'

'I have heard, Lord, that they do.'

'Ānanda, as long as the Vajjians meet in harmony, break up in harmony, and carry on their business in harmony, they may be expected to prosper and not decline.

Have you heard that the Vajjians do not authorise what has not been authorised already, and do not abolish what has been authorised, but proceed according to what has been authorised by their ancient tradition?'

'I have, Lord.'...

'Have you heard that they honour, respect, revere and salute the elders among them, and consider them worth listening to?

...that they do not forcibly abduct others' wives and daughters and compel them to live with them?.. .that they honour, respect, revere and salute the Vajjian shrines at home and abroad, not withdrawing the proper support made and given before?.'. .

that proper provision is made for the safety of Arahants, so that such Arahants may come in future to live there, and those already there may dwell in comfort?'

'I have, Lord.'

'Ānanda, so long as such proper provision is made,... the Vajjians may be expected to prosper and not decline.'

1.5. Then the Lord said to the Brahmin Vassakāra:

'Once, Brahmin, when I was at the Sārandada Shrine in Vesālī, I taught the Vajjians these seven principles for preventing decline, and as long as they keep to these seven principles, as long as these principles remain in force, the Vajjians may be expected to prosper and not decline.'

At this, Vassakāra replied:

'Reverend Gotama, if the Vajjians keep to even one of, these principles, they may be expected to prosper and not decline — far less all seven.

Certainly the Vajjians will never be conquered by King Ajātasattu by force of arms, but only by means of propaganda and setting them against one another.

And now, Reverend Gotama, may I depart? I am busy and have much to do.'

'Brahmin, do as you think fit.'

Then Vassakāra, rejoicing and delighted at the Lord's words, rose from his seat and departed.

1.6. Soon after Vassakāra had gone, the Lord said:

'Ānanda, go to whatever monks there are round about Rājagaha, and summon them to the assembly hall.'

'Very good, Lord', said Ānanda, and did so.

Then he came to the Lord, saluted him, stood to one side and said:

'Lord, the order of monks is assembled. Now is the time for the Lord to do as he sees fit.'

Then the Lord rose from his seat, went to the assembly hall, sat down on the prepared seat, and said:

'Monks, I will teach you seven things that are conducive to welfare. Listen, pay careful attention, and I will speak.'

'Yes, Lord', said the monks, and the Lord said:

'As long as the monks hold regular and frequent assemblies, they may be expected to prosper and not decline.

As long as they meet in harmony, break up in harmony, and carry on their business in harmony, they may be expected to prosper and not decline.

As long as they do not authorise what has not been authorised already, and do not abolish what has been authorised, but proceed according to what has been authorised by the rules of training...;

as long as they honour, respect, revere and salute the elders of long standing who are long ordained, fathers and leaders of the order...;

as long as they do not fall prey to desires which arise in them and lead to rebirth...;

as long as they are devoted to forest-lodgings...;

as long as they preserve their personal mindfulness, so that in future the good among their companions will come to them, and those who have already come will feel at ease with them ...;

as long as the monks hold to these seven things and are seen to do so, they may be expected to prosper and not decline.

1.7. 'I will tell you another seven things conducive to welfare...

As long as monks do not rejoice, delight and become absorbed in works,... in chattering,... in sleeping,... in company,... in evil desires,... in mixing and associating with evil friends,... as long as they do not rest content with partial achievements...;

as long as the monks hold to these seven things and are seen to do so, they may be expected to prosper and not decline.

1.8. 'I will tell you another seven things conducive to welfare. . .

As long as monks continue with faith, with modesty, with fear of doing wrong, with learning, with aroused vigour, with established mindfulness, with wisdom...

1.9. 'I will tell you another seven things...

As long as monks develop the enlightenment-factors of mindfulness, of investigation of phenomena, of energy, of delight, of tranquillity, of concentration, of equanimity...

1.10. 'I will tell you another seven things...

As long as monks develop the perception of impermanence, of non-self, of impurity, of danger, of overcoming, of dispassion, of cessation, ...

they may be expected to prosper and not decline.

1.11. 'Monks, I will tell you six things that are conducive to communal living...

As long as monks both in public and in private show loving-kindness to their fellows in acts of body, speech and thought,... share with their virtuous fellows whatever they receive as a rightful gift, including the contents of their alms-bowls, which they do not keep to themselves,

... keep consistently, unbroken and unaltered those rules of conduct that are spotless, leading to liberation, praised by the wise,

unstained and conducive to concentration, and persist therein with their fellows both in public and in private,

... continue in that noble view that leads to liberation, to the utter destruction of suffering, remaining in such awareness with their fellows both in public and in private...

As long as monks hold to these six things and are seen to do so, they may be expected to prosper and not decline.'

1.12. And then the Lord, while staying at Vultures' Peak, gave a comprehensive discourse:

'This is morality, this is concentration, this is wisdom.

Concentration, when imbued with morality, brings great fruit and profit. Wisdom, when imbued with concentration, brings great fruit and profit.

The mind imbued with wisdom becomes completely free from the corruptions, that is, from the corruption of sensuality, of becoming, of false views and of ignorance.'

1.13. And when the Lord had stayed at Rājagaha as long as he wished, he said to the Venerable Ānanda:

'Come, Ānanda, let us go to Ambalaṭṭhikā.'

'Very good, Lord', said Ānanda, and the Lord went there with a large company of monks.

1.14. And the Lord stayed in the royal park at Ambalaṭṭhikā, and there he delivered a comprehensive discourse:

"This is morality, this is concentration, this is wisdom...'

1.15. Having stayed at Ambalaṭṭhikā as long as he wished, the Lord said to Ānanda:

'Let us go to Nāḷandā', and they did so.

At Nāḷandā the Lord stayed in Pāvārika's mango-grove.

1.16. Then the Venerable Sāriputta came to see the Lord, saluted him, sat down to one side, and said:

'It is clear to me, Lord, that there never has been, will be or is now another ascetic or Brahmin who is better or more enlightened than the Lord.'

'You have spoken boldly with a bull's voice, Sāriputta; you have roared the lion's roar of certainty! How is this?

Have all the Arahant Buddhas of the past appeared to you, and were the minds of all those Lords open to you, so as to say:

"These Lords were of such virtue, such was their teaching, such their wisdom, such their way, such their liberation"?'

'No, Lord.'

'And have you perceived all the Arahant Buddhas who will appear in the future...?'

'No, Lord.'

'Well then, Sāriputta, you know me as the Arahant Buddha, and do you know:

"The Lord is of such virtue, such is his teaching, such his wisdom, such his way, such his liberation"?'

'No, Lord.'

'So, Sāriputta, you do not have knowledge of the minds of the Buddhas of the past, the future or the present.

Thus, Sāriputta, have you not spoken boldly with a bull's voice and roared the lion's roar of certainty with your declaration?'

1.17. 'Lord, the minds of the Arahant Buddhas of the past, future and present are not open to me. But I know the drift of the Dhamma.

Lord, it is as if there were a royal frontier city, with mighty bastions and a mighty encircling wall in which was a single gate, at which was a gatekeeper, wise, skilled and clever, who kept out strangers and let in those he knew.

And he, constantly patrolling and following along a path, might not see the joins and clefts in the bastion, even such as a cat might creep through. But whatever larger creatures entered or left the city, must all go through this very gate.

And it seems to me, Lord, that the drift of the Dhamma is the same.

All those Arahant Buddhas of the past attained to supreme enlightenment by

abandoning the five hindrances, defilements of mind that weaken the understanding, having firmly established the four foundations of mindfulness in their minds, and realised the seven factors of enlightenment as they really are.

All the Arahant Buddhas of the future will do likewise, and you, Lord, who are now the Arahant, fully-enlightened Buddha, have done the same.'

1.18. Then, while staying at Nāḷandā, in Pāvārika’s mango- grove, the Lord gave a comprehensive discourse to the monks.

'This is morality, this is concentration, this is wisdom...' (as verse 12).

1.19. And having stayed at Nāḷandā as long as he wished, the Lord said to Ānanda:

'Let us go to Pāṭaligāma.' And they did so.

1.20. At Pāṭaligāma they heard say:

'The Lord has arrived here'.

And the lay-followers of Pāṭaligāma came to the Lord, saluted him, sat down to one side, and said:

'May the Lord consent to stay at our rest-house!' And the Lord consented by silence.

1.21. Understanding his consent, they rose from their seats, saluted the Lord and, passing him by to the right, went to the rest-house and strewed the floor, prepared seats, provided a water-pot and filled the oil-lamp.

Then they went to the Lord, saluted him, stood to one side and said:

'All is ready at the rest-house, Lord. Now is the time to do as the Lord wishes.'

1.22. Then the Lord dressed, took his robe and bowl, and went with his monks to the rest-house, where he washed his feet, went in and sat down facing east, with his back against the central pillar.

And the monks, having washed their feet, went in and sat down with their backs to the west wall, facing east, and with the Lord sitting in front of them.

And the lay- followers of Pāṭaligāma, having washed their feet, went in and sat down with their backs to the east wall, facing west and with the Lord before them.

1.23. Then the Lord addressed the lay-followers of Pāṭaligāma:

'Householders, there are these five perils to one of bad morality, of failure in morality.

What are they?

In the first place, he suffers great loss of property through neglecting his affairs.

In the second place, he gets a bad reputation for immorality and misconduct.

In the third place, whatever assembly he approaches, whether of Khattiyas, Brahmins, householders or ascetics, he does so diffidently and shyly.

In the fourth place, he dies confused.

In the fifth place, after death, at the breaking- up of the body, he arises in an evil state, a bad fate, in suffering and hell.

These are the five perils to one of bad morality.

1.24. 'And, householders, there are these five advantages to one of good morality and of success in morality. What are they?

In the first place, through careful attention to his affairs he gains much wealth.

In the second place, he gets a good reputation for morality and good conduct.

In the third place, whatever assembly he approaches, whether of Khattiyas, Brahmins, householders or ascetics, he does so with confidence and assurance.

In the fourth place, he dies unconfused.

In the fifth place, after death, at the breaking-up of the body, he arises in a good place, a heavenly world.

These are the five advantages to one of good morality, and of success in morality.'

1.25. Then the Lord instructed, inspired, fired and delighted the lay-followers of Pāṭaligāma with talk on Dhamma until far into the night.

Then he dismissed them, saying:

'Householders, the night is nearly over. Now it is time for you to do as you think fit.'

'Very good, Lord', they said and, rising and saluting the Lord, they passed him by to the right and departed.

And the Lord spent the remainder of the night in the rest-house left empty by their departure.

1.26. Now at this time Sunidha and Vassakāra, the Magadha’s ministers, were building a fortress in Pāṭaligāma as a defence against the Vajjians.

And at that time a multitude of thousands of devas were taking up lodging in Pāṭaligāma.

And in the parts where powerful devas settled, they caused the minds of the most powerful royal officials to pick those sites for their dwellings,

and where middle and lower-ranking devas settled, so too they caused the minds of royal officials of corresponding grade to pick those sites for their dwellings.

1.27. And the Lord, with his divine eye surpassing that of humans, saw the thousands of devas taking up residence in Pāṭaligāma.

And, getting up at break of day, he said to the Venerable Ānanda:

'Ānanda, who is building a fortress at Pāṭaligāma?'

'Lord, Sunidha and Vassakāra, the Magadha’s ministers, are building a fortress against the Vajjians.'

1.28. 'Ānanda, just as if they had taken counsel with the Thirty-Three Gods, Sunidha and Vassakāra are building a fortress at Pāṭaligāma.

I have seen with my divine eye how thousands of devas were taking up lodging there... (as verse 26).

Ānanda, as far as the Ariyan realm extends, as far as its trade extends, this will be the chief city, Pāṭaliputta, scattering its seeds far and wide. And Pāṭaliputta will face three perils: from fire, from water and from internal dissension.'

1.29. Then Sunidha and Vassakāra called on the Lord and, having exchanged courtesies, stood to one side and said:

'May the Reverend Gotama accept a meal from us tomorrow with his order of monks!'

And the Lord consented by silence.

1.30. Understanding his consent, Sunidha and Vassakāra went home and there had a fine meal of hard and soft food prepared.

When it was ready, they reported to the Lord:

'Reverend Gotama, the meal is ready.'

Then the Lord, having dressed in the morning, took his robe and bowl, went with the order of monks to the residence of Sunidha and Vassakāra, and sat down on the prepared seat.

Then Sunidha and Vassakāra served the Buddha and his order of monks with choice soft and hard foods till they were satisfied.

And when the Lord took his hand away from the bowl they sat down on low stools to one side.

1.31. And as they sat there, the Lord thanked them with these verses:

'In whatever realm the wise man makes his home,
He should feed the virtuous leaders of the holy life.

Whatever devas there are who report this offering,
They will pay him respect and honour for this.

They tremble for him as a mother for her son,
And he for whom devas tremble ever happy is.'

Then the Lord rose from his seat and took his departure.

1.32. Sunidha and Vassakāra followed closely behind the Lord, saying:

'Whichever gate the ascetic Gotama goes out by today, that shall be called the Gotama gate; and whichever ford he uses to cross the Ganges, that shall be called the Gotama ford.'

And so the gate by which the Lord went out was called the Gotama Gate.

1.33. And then the Lord came to the River Ganges.

And just then, the river was so full that a crow could drink out of it. And some people were looking for a boat, and some were looking for a raft, and some were binding together a raft of reeds to get to the other side.

But the Lord, as swiftly as a strong man might stretch out his flexed arm or flex it again, vanished from this side of the Ganges and reappeared with his order of monks on the other shore.

1.34. And the Lord saw those people who were looking for a boat, looking for a raft, and binding together a raft of reeds to get to the other side. And seeing their intentions, he uttered this verse on the spot:

'When they want to cross the sea, the lake or pond,

People make a bridge or raft — the wise have crossed already.'

[End of first recitation-section]