Mahāparinibbāna Sutta | Part 2

Mahāparinibbāna Sutta: The Great Passing

The Buddha's Last Days

PART II

2.1. The Lord said to Ānanda:

'Let us go to Koṭigāma.'

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

2.2. Then the Lord addressed the monks thus:

'Monks, it is through not understanding, not penetrating the Four Noble Truths that I as well as you have for a long time run on and gone round the cycle of birth-and-death.

What are they?

By not understanding the Noble Truth of Suffering we have fared on, by not understanding the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering, of the Cessation of Suffering, and of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering we have fared on round the cycle of birth-and-death.

And by the understanding, the penetration of the same Noble Truth of Suffering, of the Origin of Suffering, of the Cessation of Suffering and of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering,

the craving for becoming has been cut off, the support of becoming has been destroyed, there is no more re-becoming.'

2.3. The Lord having said this, the Well-Farer having spoken, the Teacher said:

'Not seeing the Four Noble Truths as they are,
Having long traversed the round from life to life,
These being seen, becoming's supports pulled up,
Sorrow's root cut off, rebirth is done.'

2.4. Then the Lord, while staying at Koṭigāma, 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.'

2.5. When the Lord had stayed at Koṭigāma as long as he wished, he said:

‘Ānanda let us go to Nādikā.'

'Very good, Lord', said Ānanda, and the Lord went with a large company of monks to Nādikā, where he stayed at the Brick House.

2.6. And the Venerable Ānanda came to the Lord, saluted him, sat down to one side, and said:

'Lord, the monk Sāḷha and the nun Nandā have died at Nādikā. What rebirth have they taken after death?

The lay-follower Sudatta and the laywoman-follower Sujātā, the lay-followers Kakudha, Kālinga, Nikaṭa, Kaṭissabha, Tuṭṭha, Santuṭṭha, Bhadda and Subhadda have all died in Nādikā.

What rebirths have they taken?'

2.7. 'Ānanda, the monk Sāḷha, by the destruction of the corruptions, attained in this life, through his own super-knowledge, the uncorrupted liberation of mind, the liberation by wisdom.

The nun Nanda, by the destruction of the five lower fetters, has been spontaneously reborn, and will gain Nibbāna from that state without returning to this world.

The lay- follower Sudatta, by the destruction of three fetters and the reduction of greed, hatred and delusion, is a Once-Returner who will come back once more to this world, and then make an end of suffering.

The laywoman-follower Sujātā, by the destruction of three fetters, is a Stream-Winner, incapable of falling into states of woe, certain of attaining Nibbāna.

The lay-follower Kakudha, by the destruction of the five lower fetters, has been spontaneously reborn, and will gain Nibbāna from that state without returning to this world.

Likewise Kalinga, Nikaṭa, Kaṭissabha, Tuṭṭha, Santuṭṭha, Bhadda and Subhadda.

Ānanda, in Nādikā more than fifty lay-followers have by the destruction of the five lower fetters been spontaneously reborn, and will gain Nibbāna from that state without returning to this world.

Rather more than ninety, by the destruction of three fetters and the reduction of greed, hatred and delusion, are Once-Returners who will come back once more to this world and then make an end of suffering.

And well over five hundred, by the destruction of three fetters, are Stream-Winners, incapable of falling into states of woe, certain of attaining Nibbāna.

2.8. 'Ānanda, it is not remarkable that that which has come to be as a man should die. But that you should come to the Tathāgata to ask the fate of each of those who have died, that is a weariness to him.

Therefore, Ānanda, I will teach you a way of knowing Dhamma, called the Mirror of Dhamma, whereby the Ariyan disciple, if he so wishes, can discern of himself:

"I have destroyed hell, animal-rebirth, the realm of ghosts, all downfall, evil fates and sorry states. I am a Stream- Winner, incapable of falling into states of woe, certain of attaining Nibbāna."

2.9. 'And what is this Mirror of Dhamma by which he can know this?

Here, Ānanda, this Ariyan disciple is possessed of unwavering confidence in the Buddha, thus:

"This Blessed Lord is an Arahant, a fully-enlightened Buddha, endowed with wisdom and conduct, the Well-Farer, Knower of the worlds, incomparable Trainer of men to be tamed, Teacher of gods and humans, enlightened and blessed."

He is possessed of unwavering faith in the Dhamma, thus:

"Well-proclaimed by the Lord is the Dhamma, visible here and now, timeless, inviting inspection, leading onward, to be comprehended by the wise each one for himself."

He is possessed of unwavering confidence in the Sangha, thus:

"Well-directed is the Sangha of the Lord's disciples, of upright conduct, on the right path, on the perfect path; that is to say the four pairs of persons, the eight kinds of humans.

The Sangha of the Lord's disciples is worthy of offerings, worthy of hospitality, worthy of gifts, worthy of veneration, an unsurpassed field of merit in the world.

And he is possessed of morality dear to the Noble Ones, unbroken, without defect, unspotted, without inconsistency, liberating, uncorrupted, and conducive to concentration.

"This, Ānanda, is the Mirror of Dhamma, whereby the Aryan disciple... can discern of himself: “I have destroyed hell,... I am a Stream-Winner,... certain of attaining Nibbāna." (as verse 8)

2.10. Then the Lord, staying at Nādikā in the Brick House, gave a comprehensive discourse to the monks:

"This is morality, this is concentration, this is wisdom..(as verse 2.4).

2.11. And when the Lord had stayed at Nādikā as long as he wished,... he went with a large company of monks to Vesālī, where he stayed at Ambapālī's grove.

2.12. And there the Lord addressed the monks:

"Monks, a monk should be mindful and clearly aware, this is our charge to you!

'And how is a monk mindful?

Here, a monk abides contemplating the body as body, earnestly, clearly aware, mindful and having put away all hankering and fretting for the world, and likewise with regard to feelings, mind and mind-objects.

That is how a monk is mindful.

2.13. 'And how is a monk clearly aware?

Here, a monk, when going forward or backward, is aware of what he is doing; in looking forward or back he is aware of what he is doing; in bending and stretching he is aware of what he is doing;

in carrying his inner and outer robe and bowl he is aware of what he is doing; in eating, drinking, chewing and savouring he is aware of what he is doing; in passing excrement or urine he is aware of what he is doing;

in walking, standing, sitting or lying down, in keeping awake, in speaking or in staying silent, he is aware of what he is doing.

That is how a monk is clearly aware. A monk should be mindful and clearly aware, this is our charge to you!'

2.14. Now Ambapālī the courtesan heard that the Lord had arrived at Vesālī and was staying at her grove.

She had the best carriages made ready and drove from Vesālī to her park. She drove as far as the ground would allow, then alighted and went on foot to where the Lord was.

She saluted the Lord and sat down to one side, and as she sat, the Lord instructed, inspired, fired and delighted her with a talk on Dhamma.

And being thus delighted, Ambapālī said:

'Lord, may the Lord consent to take a meal from me tomorrow with his order of monks!'

The Lord consented by silence, and Ambapālī, understanding his acceptance, rose from her seat, saluted the Lord and, passing him by to the right, departed.

2.15. And the Licchavis of Vesālī heard that the Lord had arrived at Vesālī and was staying at Ambapālī's grove. So they had the best carriages made ready and drove out of Vesālī.

And some of the young Licchavis were all in blue, with blue make-up, blue clothes and blue adornment, while some were in yellow, some in red, some in white, with white make-up, white clothes and white adornment.

2.16. And Ambapālī met the young Licchavis axle to axle, wheel to wheel, yoke to yoke.

And they said to her: 'Ambapālī, why do you drive up against us like that?'

'Because, young sirs, the Blessed Lord has been invited by me for a meal with his order of monks.'

'Ambapālī, give up this meal for a hundred thousand pieces!'

'Young sirs, if you were to give me all Vesālī with its revenues I would not give up such an important meal!'

Then the Licchavis snapped their fingers, saying:

'We've been beaten by the mango-woman, we've been cheated by the mango-woman!'

And they set out for Ambapālī's grove.

2.17. And the Lord, having seen the Licchavis from afar, said:

'Monks, any of you who have not seen the Thirty-Three Gods, just look at this troop of Licchavis! Take a good look at them, and you will get an idea of the Thirty-Three Gods!'

2.18. Then the Licchavis drove in their carriages as far as the ground would allow, then they alighted and went on foot to where the Lord was, saluted him and sat down to one side.

And as they sat, the Lord instructed, inspired, fired and delighted them with a talk on Dhamma.

And being thus delighted, they said:

'Lord, may the Lord consent to take a meal from us tomorrow with his order of monks!'

'But, Licchavis, I have already accepted a meal for tomorrow from the courtesan Ambapālī!'

And the Licchavis snapped their fingers, saying:

'We've been beaten by the mango-woman, we've been cheated by the mango-woman!'

Then, having rejoiced and delighted in his talk, they rose from their seats, saluted the Lord and, passing him by on the right, departed.

2.19. And Ambapālī, when night was nearly over, having had choice hard and soft food prepared at her home, announced to the Lord that the meal was ready.

Having dressed and taken robe and bowl, the Lord went with the order of monks to Ambapālī's residence and sat down on the prepared seat.

And she served the Buddha and his monks with choice hard and soft food till they were satisfied. And when the Lord had taken his hand from the bowl, Ambapālī took a low stool and sat down to one side.

So seated, she said:

'Lord, I give this park to the order of monks with the Buddha as its head.'

The Lord accepted the park, and then he instructed, inspired, fired and delighted her with a talk on Dhamma, after which he rose from his seat and departed.

2.20. Then, while staying at Vesālī, the Lord delivered a comprehensive discourse to the monks: 'This is morality, this is concentration, this is wisdom...' (as verse 2.4).

2.21. And when the Lord had stayed at Ambapālī's grove as long as he wished,... he went with a large company of monks to the little village of Beluva, where he stayed.

2.22. There the Lord said to the monks:

'You, monks, should go to anywhere in Vesālī where you have friends or acquaintances or supporters, and spend the Rains there. I shall spend the Rains here in Beluva.'

'Very good, Lord', replied the monks, and they did so, but the Lord spent the Rains in Beluva.

2.23. And during the Rains the Lord was attacked by a severe sickness, with sharp pains as if he were about to die.

But he endured all this mindfully, clearly aware and without complaining.

He thought 'It is not fitting that I should attain final Nibbāna without addressing my followers and taking leave of the order of monks. I must hold this disease in check by energy and apply myself to the force of life.'

He did so, and the disease abated.

2.24. Then the Lord, having recovered from his sickness, as soon as he felt better, went outside and sat on a prepared seat in front of his dwelling.

Then the Venerable Ānanda came to him, saluted him, sat down to one side and said:

'Lord, I have seen the Lord in comfort, and I have seen the Lord's patient enduring. And, Lord, my body was like a drunkard's. I lost my bearings and things were unclear to me because of the Lord's sickness.

The only thing that was some comfort to me was the thought:

"The Lord will not attain final Nibbāna until he has made some statement about the order of monks."'.

2.25. 'But, Ānanda, what does the order of monks expect of me? I have taught the Dhamma, Ānanda, making no "inner" and "outer": the Tathāgata has no "teacher's fist" in respect of doctrines.

If there is anyone who thinks:

"I shall take charge of the order", or "The order should refer to me", let him make some statement about the order, but the Tathāgata does not think in such terms. So why should the Tathāgata make a statement about the order?

'Ānanda, I am now old, worn out, venerable, one who has traversed life's path, I have reached the term of life, which is eighty.

Just as an old cart is made to go by being held together with straps, so the Tathāgata's body is kept going by being strapped up.

It is only when the Tathāgata withdraws his attention from outward signs, and by the cessation of certain feelings, enters into the attributeless concentration of mind, that his body knows comfort.

2.26. 'Therefore, Ānanda, you should live as islands unto yourselves, being your own refuge, with no one else as your refuge, with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as your refuge, with no other refuge.

And how does a monk live as an island unto himself,... with no other refuge?

Here, Ānanda, a monk abides contemplating the body as body, earnestly, clearly aware, mindful and having put away all hankering and fretting for the world, and likewise with regard to feelings, mind and mind-objects.

That, Ānanda, is how a monk lives as an island unto himself,...with no other refuge.

And those who now in my time or afterwards live thus, they will become the highest, if they are desirous of learning.'

[End of second recitation-section]