Category: 

Mahāparinibbāna Sutta | Part 4

Mahāparinibbāna Sutta: The Great Passing

The Buddha's Last Days

PART IV

4.1. Then the Lord, having risen early and dressed, took his robe and bowl and went into Vesālī for alms. Having returned from the alms-round and eaten, he looked back at Vesālī with his 'elephant-look' and said:

'Ānanda, this is the last time the Tathāgata will look upon Vesālī. Now we will go to Bhaṇḍagāma.'

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

4.2. And there the Lord addressed the monks:

'It is, monks, through not understanding, not penetrating four things that I as well as you have for a long time fared on round the cycle of rebirths.

What are the four?

Through not understanding the Ariyan morality, through not understanding the Ariyan concentration, through not understanding the Ariyan wisdom, through not understanding the Ariyan liberation,

I as well as you have for a long time fared on round the cycle of rebirths.

And it is by understanding and penetrating the Ariyan morality, the Ariyan concentration, the Ariyan wisdom and the Ariyan liberation that the craving for becoming has been cut off, the tendency towards becoming has been exhausted, and there will be no more rebirth.'

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

'Morality, samadhi, wisdom and final release,
These glorious things Gotama came to know.
The Dhamma he'd discerned he taught his monks:
He whose vision ended woe to Nibbāna's gone.'

4.4. Then the Lord, while staying at Bhaṇḍagāma, delivered 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.'

4.5. And when the Lord had stayed at Bhaṇḍagāma for as long as he wished, he said:

'Ānanda, let us go to Hatthigāma ..., to Ambagāma..., to Jambugāma...' giving the same discourse at each place. Then he said:

'Ānanda, let us go to Bhoganagara.'

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

4.7. At Bhoganagara the Lord stayed at the Ānanda Shrine. And here he said to the monks:

'Monks, I will teach you four criteria. Listen, pay close attention, and I will speak.'

'Yes, Lord', replied the monks.

4.8. 'Suppose a monk were to say:

"Friends, I heard and received this from the Lord's own lips:

this is the Dhamma, this is the discipline, this is the Master's teaching", then, monks, you should neither approve nor disapprove his words.

Then, without approving or disapproving, his words and expressions should be carefully noted and compared with the Suttas and reviewed in the light of the discipline.

If they, on such comparison and review, are found not to conform to the Suttas or the discipline, the conclusion must be:

"Assuredly this is not the word of the Buddha, it has been wrongly understood by this monk", and the matter is to be rejected.

But where on such comparison and review they are found to conform to the Suttas or the discipline, the conclusion must be:

"Assuredly this is the word of the Buddha, it has been rightly understood by this monk."

This is the first criterion.

4.9. 'Suppose a monk were to say:

"In such and such a place there is a community with elders and distinguished teachers. I have heard and received this from that community", then, monks, you should neither approve nor disapprove his words ... (as verse 4.8).

That is the second criterion.

4.10. 'Suppose a monk were to say:

"In such and such a place there are many elders who are learned, bearers of the tradition, who know the Dhamma, the discipline, the code of rules..." (as verse 4.8).

This is the third criterion.

4.11. 'Suppose a monk were to say:

"In such and such a place there is one elder who is learned... I have heard and received this from that elder..." (as verse 4.8).

But where on such comparison and review they are found to conform to the Suttas and the discipline, then the conclusion must be:

'Assuredly this is the word of the Buddha, it has been rightly understood by this monk.'

4.12. Then the Lord, while staying at Bhoganagara, delivered a comprehensive discourse:

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

4.13. And when the Lord had stayed at Bhoganagara for as long as he wished, he said:

'Ānanda, let us go to Pāvā.'

'Very good, Lord', said Ānanda, and the Lord went with a large company of monks to Pāvā, where he stayed at the mango- grove of Cunda the smith.

4.14. And Cunda heard that the Lord had arrived at Pāvā and was staying at his mango-grove. So he went to the Lord, saluted him and sat down to one side, and the Lord instructed, inspired, fired and delighted him with a talk on Dhamma.

4.15. Then Cunda said:

'May the Lord accept a meal from me tomorrow with his order of monks!' And the Lord consented by silence.

4.16. And Cunda, understanding his consent, rose from his seat, saluted the Lord and, passing by to the right, departed.

4.17. And as the night was ending Cunda had a fine meal of hard and soft food prepared with an abundance of 'pig's delight', and when it was ready he reported to the Lord:

'Lord, the meal is ready.'

4.18. Then the Lord, having dressed in the morning, took his robe and bowl and went with his order of monks to Cunda's dwelling, where he sat down on the prepared seat and said:

'Serve the "pig's delight" that has been prepared to me, and serve the remaining hard and soft food to the order of monks.'

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

4.19. Then the Lord said to Cunda:

'Whatever is left over of the "pig's delight" you should bury in a pit, because, Cunda, I can see none in this world with its devas, maras and Brahmas, in this generation with its ascetics and Brahmins, its princes and people who, if they were to eat it, could thoroughly digest it except the Tathāgata.'

'Very good, Lord', said Cunda and, having buried the remains of the 'pig's delight' in a pit, he came to the Lord, saluted him and sat down to one side.

Then the Lord, having instructed, inspired, fired and delighted him with a talk on Dhamma, rose from his seat and departed.

4.20. And after having eaten the meal provided by Cunda, the Lord was attacked by a severe sickness with bloody diarrhoea, and with sharp pains as if he were about to die.

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

Then the Lord said:

'Ānanda, let us go to Kusināra.'

'Very good, Lord', said Ānanda.

Having eaten Cunda's meal (this I've heard),
He suffered a grave illness, painful, deathly;
From eating a meal of 'pig's delight'
Grave sickness assailed the Teacher.
Having purged, the Lord then said:
'Now I'll go to Kusināra town.'

4.21. Then turning aside from the road, the Lord went to the foot of a tree and said:

'Come, Ānanda, fold a robe in four for me: I am tired and want to sit down.'

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

4.22. The Lord sat down on the prepared seat and said:

'Ānanda, bring me some water: I am thirsty and want to drink.'

Ānanda replied:

'Lord, five hundred carts have passed this way. The water is churned up by their wheels and is not good, it is dirty and disturbed. But, Lord, the River Kakutthā nearby has clean water, pleasant, cool, pure, with beautiful banks, delightful. There the Lord shall drink the water and cool his limbs.'

4.23. A second time the Lord said:

'Ānanda, bring me some water...', and Ānanda replied as before.

4.24. A third time the Lord said:

'Ānanda, bring me some water: I am thirsty and want to drink.'

'Very good, Lord', said Ānanda and, taking his bowl, he went to the stream.

And that stream whose water had been churned up by the wheels and was not good, dirty and disturbed, as Ānanda approached it began to flow pure, bright and unsullied.

4.25. And the Venerable Ānanda thought:

'Wonderful, marvellous are the Tathāgata's great and mighty powers! This water was churned up by wheels..., and at my approach it flows pure, bright and unsullied!'

He took water in his bowl, brought it to the Lord and told him of his thought, saying:

'May the Lord drink the water, may the Well-Farer drink!' And the Lord drank the water.

4.26. At that moment Pukkusa the Malla, a pupil of Āḷāra Kalama, was going along the main road from Kusināra to Pāvā. Seeing the Lord sitting under a tree, he went over, saluted him and sat down to one side.

Then he said: 'It is wonderful, Lord, it is marvellous how calm these wanderers are!

4.27. 'Once, Lord, Āḷāra Kalama was going along the main road and, turning aside, he went and sat down under a nearby tree to take his siesta. And five hundred carts went rumbling by very close to him.

A man who was walking along behind them came to Āḷāra Kalama and said:

"Lord, did you not see five hundred carts go by?"
"No, friend, I did not."
"But didn't you hear them, Lord?"
"No, friend, I did not."
"Well, were you asleep, Lord?"
"No, friend, I was not asleep."
"Then, Lord, were you conscious?"
"Yes, friend".

"So, Lord, being conscious and awake you neither saw nor heard five hundred carts passing close by you, even though your outer robe was bespattered with dust?"

"That is so, friend."

'And that man thought:

"It is wonderful, it is marvellous! These wanderers are so calm that though conscious and awake, a man neither saw nor heard five hundred carts passing close by him!"

And he went away praising Āḷāra Kalama's lofty powers.'

4.28. 'Well, Pukkusa, what do you think? What do you consider is more difficult to do or attain to —

while conscious and awake not to see or hear five hundred carts passing nearby or, while conscious and awake, not to see or hear anything when the rain-god streams and splashes, when lightning flashes and thunder crashes?'

4.29. 'Lord, how can one compare not seeing or hearing five hundred carts with that — or even six, seven, eight, nine or ten hundred, or hundreds of thousands of carts to that?

To see or hear nothing when such a storm rages is more difficult...'

4.30. 'Once, Pukkusa, when I was staying at Ātumā, at the threshing-floor, the rain-god streamed and splashed, lightning flashed and thunder crashed, and two farmers, brothers, and four oxen were killed.

And a lot of people went out of Ātumā to where the two brothers and the four oxen were killed.

4.31. 'And, Pukkusa, I had at that time gone out of the door of the threshing-floor and was walking up and down outside. And a man from the crowd came to me, saluted me and stood to one side.

And I said to him:

4.32. "'Friend, why are all these people gathered here?"

"Lord, there has been a great storm and two farmers, brothers, and four oxen have been killed. But you, Lord, where have you been?"

"I have been right here, friend."
"But what did you see, Lord?"
"I saw nothing, friend."
"Or what did you hear, Lord?"
"I heard nothing, friend."
"Were you sleeping, Lord?"
"I was not sleeping, friend."
"Then, Lord, were you conscious?'
"Yes, friend."

"So, Lord, being conscious and awake you neither saw nor heard the great rainfall and floods and the thunder and lightning?"

"That is so, friend."

4.33. 'And, Pukkusa, that man thought:

"It is wonderful, it is marvellous! These wanderers are so calm that they neither see nor hear when the rain-god streams and splashes, lightning flashes and thunder crashes!"

Proclaiming my lofty powers, he saluted me, passed by to the right and departed.'

4.34. At this, Pukkusa the Malla said:

'Lord, I reject the lofty powers of Āḷāra Kalama as if they were blown away by a mighty wind or carried off by a swift stream or river!

Excellent, Lord, excellent! It is as if someone were to set up what had been knocked down, or to point out the way to one who had got lost, or to bring an oil lamp into a dark place, so that those with eyes could see what was there.

Just so the Blessed Lord has expounded the Dhamma in various ways.

And I, Lord, go for refuge to the Blessed Lord, the Dhamma and the Sangha. May the Blessed Lord accept me from this day forth as a lay-follower as long as life shall last!'

4.35. Then Pukkusa said to one man:

'Go and fetch me two fine sets of robes of cloth-of-gold, burnished and ready to wear.'

'Yes, Lord', the man replied, and did so.

And Pukkusa offered the robes to the Lord, saying:

'Here, Lord, are two fine sets of robes of cloth-of-gold. May the Blessed Lord be graciously pleased to accept them!'

'Well then, Pukkusa, clothe me in one set and Ānanda in the other.'

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

4.36. Then the Lord instructed, inspired, fired and delighted Pukkusa the Malla with a talk on Dhamma. Then Pukkusa rose from his seat, saluted the Lord, passed by to the right, and departed.

4.37. Soon after Pukkusa had gone, Ānanda, having arranged one set of the golden robes on the body of the Lord, observed that against the Lord's body it appeared dulled.

And he said:

'It is wonderful, Lord, it is marvellous how dear and bright the Lord's skin appears! It looks even brighter than the golden robes in which it is clothed.'

'Just so, Ānanda. There are two occasions on which the Tathāgata's skin appears especially clear and bright.

Which are they?

One is the night in which the Tathāgata gains supreme enlightenment, the other is the night when he attains the Nibbāna-element without remainder at his final passing.

On these two occasions the Tathāgata's skin appears especially clear and bright.

4.38. 'Tonight, Ānanda, in the last watch, in the sāl-grove of the Mallas near Kusināra, between two sāl-trees, the Tathāgata's final passing will take place.

And now, Ānanda, let us go to the River Kakutthā.'

'Very good, Lord', said Ānanda.

Two golden robes were Pukkusa's offering:

Brighter shone the Teacher's body than its dress.

4.39. Then the Lord went with a large number of monks to the River Kakutthā. He entered the water, bathed and drank and, emerging, went to the mango grove, where he said to the Venerable Cundaka:

'Come, Cundaka, fold a robe in four for me. I am tired and want to lie down.'

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

4.40. Then the Lord adopted the lion-posture, lying on his right side, placing one foot on the other, mindfully and with clear awareness bearing in mind the time of awakening.

And the Venerable Cundaka sat down in front of the Lord.

4.41. The Buddha having gone to Kakutthā the river
With its clear, bright and pleasant waters,
Therein the Teacher plunged his weary body.
Tathāgata — without an equal in the world.
Surrounded by the monks whose head he was.
The Teacher and Lord, Preserver of Dhamma,
To the Mango Grove the great Sage went,
And to Cundaka the monk he said:
'On a fourfold robe I'll lie down.'
And thus adjured by the great Adept,
Cundaka placed the fourfold robe.
The Teacher laid his weary limbs to rest
While Cundaka kept watch beside him.

4.42. Then the Lord said to the Venerable Ānanda:

'It might happen, Ānanda, that Cunda the smith should feel remorse, thinking:

"It is your fault, friend Cunda, it is by your misdeed that the Tathāgata gained final Nibbāna after taking his last meal from you!"

But Cunda's remorse should be expelled in this way:

"That is your merit, Cunda, that is your good deed, that the Tathāgata gained final Nibbāna after taking his last meal from you!

For, friend Cunda, I have heard and understood from the Lord's own lips that these two alms-givings are of very great fruit, of very great result, more fruitful and advantageous than any other.

Which two?

The one is the alms-giving after eating which the Tathāgata attains supreme enlightenment, the other that after which he attains the Nibbāna-element without remainder at his final passing.

These two alms-givings are more fruitful and profitable than all others. Cunda's deed is conducive to long life, to good looks, to happiness, to fame, to heaven and to lordship."

In this way, Ānanda, Cunda's remorse is to be expelled.'

4.43. Then the Lord, having settled this matter, at that time uttered this verse:

'By giving, merit grows, by restraint, hatred's checked.
He who's skilled abandons evil things.
As greed, hate and folly wane, Nibbāna's gained.'

[End of the fourth recitation-section, concerning Āḷāra]