Mahāparinibbāna Sutta | Part 3

Mahāparinibbāna Sutta: The Great Passing

The Buddha's Last Days

PART III

3.1. Then the Lord, rising early, dressed, took his robe and bowl, and entered Vesālī for alms.

Having eaten on his return from the alms-round, he said to the Venerable Ānanda:

'Bring a mat, Ānanda. We will go to the Cāpāla Shrine for the siesta.'

'Very good, Lord', said Ānanda, and, getting a mat, he followed behind.

3.2. Then the Lord came to the Cāpāla Shrine, and sat down on the prepared seat.

Ānanda saluted the Lord and sat down to one side, and the Lord said:

'Ānanda, Vesālī is delightful, the Udena Shrine is delightful, the Gotamaka Shrine is delightful, the Sattambaka Shrine is delightful, the Bahuputta Shrine is delightful, the Cāpāla Shrine is delightful.

3.3. 'Ānanda, whoever has developed the four roads to power, practised them frequently, made them his vehicle, made them his base, established them, become familiar with them and properly undertaken them, could undoubtedly live for a century, or the remainder of one.

The Tathāgata has developed these powers,...properly undertaken them. And he could, Ānanda, undoubtedly live for a century, or the remainder of one.'

3.4. But the Venerable Ānanda, failing to grasp this broad hint, this clear sign, did not beg the Lord:

'Lord, may the Blessed Lord stay for a century, may the Well-Farer stay for a century for the benefit and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit and happiness of devas and humans', so much was his mind possessed by Mara.

3.5. And a second time..., and a third time...(as verses 3 — 4).

3.6. Then the Lord said:

'Ānanda, go now and do what seems fitting to you.'

'Very good, Lord', said Ānanda and, rising from his seat, he saluted the Lord, passed by on the right and sat down under a tree some distance away.

3.7. Soon after Ānanda had left, Mara the Evil One came to the Lord, stood to one side, and said:

'Lord, may the Blessed Lord now attain final Nibbāna, may the Well-Farer now attain final Nibbāna. Now is the time for the Blessed Lord's final Nibbāna.

Because the Blessed Lord has said this:

"Evil One, I will not take final Nibbāna till I have monks and disciples who are accomplished, trained, skilled, learned, knowers of the Dhamma, trained in conformity with the Dhamma, correctly trained and walking in the path of the Dhamma,

who will pass on what they have gained from their Teacher, teach it, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyse it, make it clear;

till they shall be able by means of the Dhamma to refute false teachings that have arisen, and teach the Dhamma of wondrous effect."

3.8. 'And now, Lord, the Blessed Lord has such monks and disciples. May the Blessed Lord now attain final Nibbāna, may the Well-Farer now attain final Nibbāna. Now is the time for the Blessed Lord's final Nibbāna.

And the Blessed Lord has said:

"I will not take final Nibbāna till I have nuns and female disciples who are accomplished,... till I have laymen- followers,... till I have laywomen-followers..." (as verse 7).

May the Blessed Lord now take final Nibbāna...

And the Blessed Lord has said:

"Evil One, I will not take final Nibbāna till this holy life has been successfully established and flourishes, is widespread, well-known far and wide, well-pro- claimed among mankind everywhere."

And all this has come about.

May the Blessed Lord now attain final Nibbāna, may the Well-Farer now attain final Nibbāna. Now is the time for the Blessed Lord's final Nibbāna.'

3.9. At this the Lord said to Mara: 'You need not worry, Evil One. The Tathāgata's final passing will not be long delayed. Three months from now, the Tathāgata will take final Nibbāna.'

3.10. So the Lord, at the Cāpāla Shrine, mindfully and in full awareness renounced the life-principle, and when this occurred there was a great earthquake, terrible, hair-raising and accompanied by thunder.

And when the Lord saw this he uttered this verse:

'Gross or fine, things become the sage abjured.
Calm, composed, he burst becoming's shell.'

3.11. And the Venerable Ānanda thought:

'It is marvellous, it is wonderful how this great earthquake arises, this terrible earthquake, so dreadful and hair-raising, accompanied by thunder! Whatever can have caused it?'

3.12. He went to the Lord, saluted him, sat down to one side, and asked him that question.

3.13. 'Ānanda, there are eight reasons, eight causes for the appearance of a great earthquake.

This great earth is established on water, the water on the wind, the wind on space. And when a mighty wind blows, this stirs up the water, and through the stirring-up of the water the earth quakes.

That is the first reason.

3.14. 'In the second place there is an ascetic or Brahmin who has developed psychic powers, or a mighty and powerful deva whose earth-consciousness is weakly developed and his water-consciousness is immeasurable, and he makes the earth shudder and shake and violently quake.

That is the second reason.

3.15. 'Again, when a Bodhisattva descends from the Tusita Heaven, mindful and clearly aware, into his mother's womb, then the earth shudders and shakes and violently quakes.

That is the third reason.

3.16. 'Again, when the Bodhisattva emerges from his mother's womb, mindful and clearly aware, then the earth shudders and shakes and violently quakes.

That is the fourth reason.

3.17. 'Again, when the Tathāgata gains unsurpassed enlightenment, then the earth shudders and shakes and violently quakes.

That is the fifth reason.

3.18. 'Again, when the Tathāgata sets in motion the Wheel of the Dhamma, then the earth shudders and shakes and violently quakes.

That is the sixth reason.

3.19. 'Again, when the Tathāgata, mindful and clearly aware, renounces the life-principle, then the earth shudders and shakes and violently quakes.

That is the seventh reason.

3.20. 'Again, when the Tathāgata gains the Nibbāna- element without remainder, then the earth shudders and shakes and violently quakes.

That is the eighth reason.

These, Ānanda, are the eight reasons, the eight causes for the appearance of a great earthquake.

3.21. 'Ānanda, these eight [kinds of] assemblies. What are they?

They are the assembly of Khattiyas, the assembly of Brahmins, the assembly of householders, the assembly of ascetics, the assembly of devas of the Realm of the Four Great Kings, the assembly of the Thirty-Three Gods, the assembly of maras, the assembly of Brahmas.

3.22. 'I remember well, Ānanda, many hundreds of assemblies of Khattiyas that I have attended;

and before I sat down with them, spoke to them or joined in their conversation, I adopted their appearance and speech, whatever it might be.

And I instructed, inspired, fired and delighted them with a discourse on Dhamma.

And as I spoke with them they did not know me and wondered:

"Who is it that speaks like this — a deva or a man?"

And having thus instructed them, I disappeared, and still they did not know:

"He who has just disappeared — was he a deva or a man?"

3.23. I remember well many hundreds of assemblies of Brahmins, of householders, of ascetics, of devas of the Realm of the Four Great Kings, of the Thirty-Three Gods, of maras, of Brahmas ... , and still they did not know:

"He who has just disappeared — was he a deva or a man?"

Those, Ānanda, are the eight assemblies.

3.24. 'Ānanda, there are eight stages of mastery. What are they?

3.25. 'Perceiving forms internally, one sees external forms, limited and beautiful or ugly, and in mastering these, one is aware that one knows and sees them. That is the first stage.

3.26. 'Perceiving forms internally, one sees external forms, unlimited and beautiful or ugly. ..(as verse 25). That is the second stage.

3.27. 'Not perceiving forms internally, one sees external forms, limited and beautiful or ugly.. .(as verse 25). That is the third stage.

3.28. 'Not perceiving forms internally, one sees external forms, unlimited and beautiful or ugly, and in mastering these, one is aware that one knows and sees them. That is the fourth stage.

3.29. 'Not perceiving forms internally, one sees external forms that are blue, of blue colour, of blue lustre. Just as a flax flower which is blue, of blue colour, of blue lustre, or a Benares cloth smoothed on both sides that is blue,... so one perceives external forms that are blue,... and in mastering these, one is aware that one knows and sees them.

That is the fifth stage.

3.30. 'Not perceiving forms internally, one sees external forms that are yellow.. .Just as a kaṇṇikāra flower which is yellow,... or a Benares cloth that is yellow, so one perceives external forms that are yellow.. .

That is the sixth stage.

3.31. 'Not perceiving forms internally, one sees external forms that are red.. Just as a hibiscus flower which is red,.. .or a Benares cloth which is red,... so one perceives external forms that are red...

That is the seventh stage.

3.32. 'Not perceiving forms internally, one sees external forms that are white, of white colour, of white lustre, just as the morning-star Oṣadhī is white,... or a Benares cloth smoothed on both sides that is white,...

So not perceiving forms internally, one sees external forms that are white,... and in mastering these, one is aware that one knows and sees them.

That is the eighth stage of mastery.

These, Ānanda, are the eight stages of mastery.

3.33. "There are, Ānanda, these eight liberations. What are they?

Possessing form, one sees forms. That is the first.

Not perceiving material forms in oneself, one sees them outside. That is the second.

Thinking: "It is beautiful", one becomes intent on it. That is the third.

By completely transcending all perception of matter,... thinking: "Space is infinite", one enters and abides in the Sphere of Infinite Space. That is the fourth.

By transcending the Sphere of Infinite Space, thinking: "Consciousness is infinite", one enters and abides in the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness. That is the fifth.

By transcending the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness, thinking: "There is no thing", one enters and abides in the Sphere of No-Thing- ness. That is the sixth.

By transcending the Sphere of No-Thing- ness, one reaches and abides in the Sphere of Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-Perception. That is the seventh.

By transcending the Sphere of Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-Perception, one enters and abides in the Cessation of Perception and Feeling. That is the eighth liberation (as Sutta 15, verse 35).

3.34. 'Ānanda, once I was staying at Uruvelā on the bank of the River Nerañjarā, under the Goatherd's Banyan-tree, when I had just attained supreme enlightenment.

And Mara the Evil One came to me, stood to one side and said:

"May the Blessed Lord now attain final Nibbāna, may the Well-Farer now attain final Nibbāna. Now is the time for the Blessed Lord's final Nibbāna."

3.35. 'At this I said to Mara:

"Evil One, I will not take final Nibbāna till I have monks and disciples who are accomplished, trained, skilled, learned, knowers of the Dhamma,... (as verse 7), till I have nuns..., laymen-followers, lay- women-followers who will.. .teach the Dhamma of wondrous effect.

I will not take final Nibbāna till this holy life has been successfully established and flourishes, is widespread, well- known far and wide, well-proclaimed among mankind everywhere."

3.36. 'And just now, today, Ānanda, at the Cāpāla Shrine, Mara came to me, stood to one, side and said: "Lord, may the Blessed Lord now attain final Nibbāna... Now is the time for the Blessed Lord's final Nibbāna."

3.37. 'And I said:

"You need not worry, Evil .One. Three months from now the Tathāgata will take final Nibbāna."

So now, today, Ānanda, at the Cāpāla Shrine, the Tathāgata has mindfully and in full awareness renounced the life-principle.'

3.38. At this the Venerable Ānanda said:

'Lord, may the Blessed Lord stay for a century, may the Well-Farer stay for a century for the benefit and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit and happiness of devas and humans!'

'Enough, Ānanda! Do not beg the Tathāgata, it is not the right time for that!'

3.39. And a second and a third time the Venerable Ānanda made the same request.

'Ānanda, have you faith in the Tathāgata's enlightenment?'

'Yes, Lord.'

'Then why do you bother the Tathāgata with your request up to three times?'

3.40. 'But Lord, I have heard from the Lord's own lips, I have understood from the Lord's own lips:

"Whoever has developed the four roads to power... could undoubtedly live for a century, or for the remainder of one."'

'Have you faith, Ānanda?'

'Yes, Lord.'

'Then, Ānanda, yours is the fault, yours is the failure that, having been given such a broad hint, such a clear sign by the Tathāgata, you did not understand and did not beg the Tathāgata to stay for a century...

If, Ānanda, you had begged him, the Tathāgata would twice have refused you, but the third time he would have consented. Therefore, Ānanda, yours is the fault, yours is the failure.

3.41. 'Once, Ānanda, I was staying at Rājagaha, at the Vultures' Peak.

And there I said: "Ānanda, Rājagaha is delightful, the Vultures' Peak is delightful. Whoever has developed the four roads to power... could undoubtedly live for a century.. ."(as verse 3).

But you, Ānanda, in spite of such a broad hint did not understand and did not beg the Tathāgata to stay for a century...

3.42. 'Once I was staying at Rājagaha in the Banyan Park..., at Robbers' Cliff..., at the Satapaṇṇi Cave on the side of Mount Vebhāra..., at the Black Rock on the slope of Mount Isigili...,

at the slope by the Snakes' Pool in Cool Wood..., at the Tapodā Park..., at the Squirrels' Feeding-Ground in Veluvana..., in Jīvaka’s mango-grove..., and also at Rājagaha in the Maddakucchi deer-park.

3.43. 'At all these places I said to you:

"Ānanda, this place is delightful..."

3.44. '"Whoever has developed the four roads to power... could undoubtedly live for a century.. ."(as verse 3).

3.45. 'Once I was at Vesālī at the Udena Shrine…

3.46. 'Once I was at Vesālī at the Gotamaka Shrine..., at the Sattambaka Shrine..., at the Bahuputta Shrine..., at the Sārandada Shrine...

3.47. 'And now today at the Cāpāla Shrine I said:

"These places are delightful. Ānanda, whoever has developed the four roads to power... could undoubtedly live for a century, or the remainder of one.

The Tathāgata has developed these powers... and he could, Ānanda, undoubtedly live for a century, or the remainder of one."

'But you, Ānanda, failing to grasp this broad hint, this clear sign, did not beg the Tathāgata to stay for a century. If, Ānanda, you had begged him, the Tathāgata would twice have refused you, but the third time he would have consented.

3.48. 'Ānanda, have I not told you before:

All those things that are dear and pleasant to us must suffer change, separation and alteration? So how could this be possible? Whatever is born, become, compounded, is liable to decay — that it should not decay is impossible.

And that has been renounced, given up, rejected, abandoned, forsaken: the Tathāgata has renounced the life-principle.

The Tathāgata has said once for all:

"The Tathāgata's final passing will not be long delayed. Three months from now the Tathāgata will take final Nibbāna."

That the Tathāgata should withdraw such a declaration in order to live on, is not possible. Now come, Ānanda, we will go to the Gabled Hall in the Great Forest.'

'Very good, Lord.'

3.49. And the Lord went with the Venerable Ānanda to the Gabled Hall in the Great Forest.

When he got there, he said:

'Ānanda, go and gather together all the monks living in the vicinity of Vesālī, and get them to come to the assembly hall.'

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

He then returned to the Lord, saluted him, stood to one side and said:

'Lord, the order of monks is gathered together. Now is the time for the Lord to do as he wishes.'

3.50. Then the Lord entered the assembly hall and sat down on the prepared seat.

Then he said to the monks:

'Monks, for this reason those matters which I have discovered and proclaimed should be thoroughly learnt by you, practised, developed and cultivated,

so that this holy life may endure for a long time, that it may be for the benefit and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit and happiness of devas and humans.

And what are those matters...?

They are:

The four foundations of mindful-ness, the four right efforts, the four roads to power, the five spiritual faculties, the five mental powers, the seven factors of enlightenment, the Noble Eightfold Path.'

3.51. Then the Lord said to the monks:

'And now, monks, I declare to you —

all conditioned things are of a nature to decay — strive on untiringly. The Tathāgata's final passing will not be long delayed. Three months from now the Tathāgata will take his final Nibbāna.'

Thus the Lord spoke. The Well-Farer having thus spoken, the Teacher said this:

'Ripe I am in years. My life-span's determined.
Now I go from you, having made myself my refuge.

Monks, be untiring, mindful, disciplined,
Guarding your minds with well-collected thought.

He who, tireless, keeps to law and discipline,
Leaving birth behind will put an end to woe.'

[End of third recitation-section]