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Buddha by Trevor Ling - The - Part 4

by Sangharakshita


[Tape 13]


So it looks as though that's the sort of direction in which we may be moving. [Pause] That
means people; that means workers. ? [inaudible] ? Anyway, let's leave it there.
And I repeat I've only been thinking aloud, and nothing has been decided etc. etc.
All right, let's go on.

Text “Soon after the incident concerning the Vajjians, according to the narrative, the Buddha
and his companions left Rajagriha and began travelling northwards. They reached the
southern shore of the Ganges at a place which at that time was called Pataligama, but which
a century or so later was to be known as Pataliputra, when it became the new capital city of
the expanding kingdom of Magadha; today it is Patna, the chief city of Bihar State. At this
place the Buddha talked through the night with some local people who had assembled
specially at the rest-house for travellers, where the Buddha was staying. These were lay-fol-
lowers, who, while acknowledging the outstanding value of the Buddha's teaching, still
continued their household life. In the Buddha's view, they too had an important place in the
scheme of things, and it was for this reason that he undertook to instruct them in detail in the
matters of social morality, pointing out to them the various advantages of moral uprightness
and integrity. The morning after he had spoken with these householders, the Buddha
observed that some ministers of the Magadhan state were supervising the construction of a
new fortress at Pataligama. He then, it is said, uttered a prediction concerning this new
stronghold. 'As far, Ananda, as Aryan people resort, as far as merchants travel, this will
become the chief city, Pataliputra, a centre for the interchange of all kinds of wares. But
three dangers will hang over Pataliputra, that of fire, that of water, and that of dissension
among friends. The event referred to, the transfer of the royal capital of Magadha to
Pataliputra, took place probably during the reign of Ajatashatru's son; the significance of the
reference for our present purpose lies in the fact that the Buddha is represented as being
keenly interested in a matter of this sort - the founding and growth of what was to become a
great city.”

S: All right. The Buddha is represented as "being keenly interested in a matter of this sort..."
Do you think that comment is justified?

: No.

S: No, not really. It's just a sort of passing remark.

: An insignificant comment.

S: Yeh. Even accepting that it was the Buddha's own comment. I mean, later on in the same
Mahaparinibbana sutta, the Buddha is represented as saying, "Beautiful is such-and-such
place", and "Beautiful is such and such other place; beautiful is this `chatiya'; beautiful is that
shrine" - you could then say the Buddha was then taking a keen interest in art, or a keen
interest in architecture, on the same basis, couldn't you? This seems just very much a passing
comment, if in fact he made it at all! Scholars usually regard this as a later interpolation.
You can probably imagine why. What they usually say is that by the time the sutta was
compiled, Pataliputra had become famous, it had become a great commercial centre, and
therefore this prediction was placed in the mouth of the Buddha. The Buddha couldn't
possibly have known that. In other words the Buddha didn't really make a prediction, because
there is no such thing as prediction, there is no such thing as foreknowledge. This is the usual
scholarly position. But Trevor Ling apparently doesn't mention that because it suits him
better to regard the Buddha as being "keenly interested in a matter of this sort". But, even if
you take the text quite literally, at it's face value, and accept
that as a genuine comment of the Buddha, it seems no more than just a passing comment. He

seems to attach too much weight and too much significance to it.

The Buddha made passing comments on all sorts of matters, you can dig them up in the Pali
suttas by the dozen. There were sort of comments on trees, and comments on `Maras', and
there are comments on the different kinds of women, but you couldn't say the Buddha was
keenly interested in trees, or keenly interested in `Maras', or keenly interested in women,
could you? But the comments are there. All right, let's go on.

Nagabodhi: Just another thing I noticed. Talking about the lay followers who the Buddha ....
instructs them in details in matters of social morality, isn't this his unfoldment of the
Threefold Way? Isn't this ......

S: Dana, sila, uh ...

Nagabodhi: When he says, "A greater benefit of this contemplation when.....

S: I'm not sure.

Nagabodhi: Isn't it at that point in the sutra, and that this is, in fact, what he is talking about:
not just moral integrity ......

S: I'm not sure that it does come in as early as that. But certainly, it does come in a number
of times and certainly that discourse was delivered to lay people. Yes, and it is `sila' and
`samadhi', and `prajna'. Not just matters of social morality, certainly.

All right, let's go on.

Text “After crossing the Ganges, and passing through two smaller towns, the Buddha and his
companions came to the city of Vaishali, the capital of the Licchavi republic. Here the
Buddha accepted the invitation of Ambapali, the chief courtesan of the city, to take a meal at
her house after she had heard him teaching and been gladdened by his words. The chief
citizens of Licchavi, heaving of the acceptance from Ambapali herself, asked her to be so
good as to give way in deference to them, so that they might entertain the Buddha. But
although they offered her a large sum of money, on this occasion her favour was not to be
bought. 'My lords,'she replied, 'were you to offer all Vaishali with its subject territory, I
would not give up so honourable a feast! '.”

S: Mm. Any comment on this? She subsequently presented her rest house to the Order for
use as a vihara, and she became a bhikkhuni. All right, let's go on.

Text“The Buddha remained in Vaishali for some time. It was a place which he had visited
several times before in his travels, and for which he seems to have had a special liking. It
contained a number of splendid shrines dedicated to popular local deities, and the Buddha
particularly enjoyed their beauty. 'How delightful a spot, Ananda, is Vaishali. How
charming the Udena Shrine, and the Gotamaka Shrine, and the Shrine of the Seven Mangoes,
and the Shrine of Many Sons, and the Sarandada Shrine, and the Chapala Shrine.' The Sutta
tells that after this visit, when the time came for him to leave the city, knowing that it would
be the last time he would see Vaishali before he died, the Buddha turned and took a long, full
look at the city, and then continued on his journey.”

S: Any comment on that? [Pause] This is, by the way, a very, very summarised account from
the Mahaparinibbana sutta. It's quite long - ABOUT 80 pages of text. It contains many, many
different episodes. So this isn't a very full account. All right, let's go on - "The Village of
Kushinara".


Text THE VILLAGE OF KUSHINARA
The place in which his entry into final nibbana occurred was a small, insignificant village
called Kushinara. A little while before, it had become clear to the Buddha's companions that
the end of his mortal existence was now very near; not only was he eighty years of age, but he
had become physically very weak. They had asked what ceremonies would be appropriate
after his death, and had been instructed that the remains of a Tathagata, or Buddha, should
be treated in the same way as it was customary to treat the remains of a Chakravartin, a
universal emperor. They were to be wrapped in cloth, and soaked in oil, placed on a funeral
pyre made of all kinds of fragrant wood, and burned; the relics were then to be enshrined in a
great memorial cairn, or stupa, built at the centre of a crossroads. This was how the funeral
rites of a Chakravartin were carried out; the memorial cairn would be built at some
important crossing of routes, in a major city.
The Buddha's companions were ...

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