Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Pali Canon - Ariyapariyesana Sutta

by Sangharakshita

... approach the Eastern Porch to bathe our
limbs'. 'Very well, Lord', the venerable Ananda answered the Lord in assent. Then the Lord,
together with the venerable Ananda, approached the Eastern Porch to bathe their limbs. When
he had bathed his limbs at the Eastern Porch and had come out of the water, he stood in a
single robe drying his limbs. Then the venerable Ananda spoke thus to the Lord,' So what sort
of picture do you get from this little introduction so far of the Buddha's day, of the monk's
day, the way in which they passed their time? They apparently led a very simple life. They get
up reasonably early in the morning. Presumably they meditate for a while and then they go
into the nearby city to beg, as we would say, to collect food, to collect alms. And they come
back to wherever they are staying, they eat whatever they have collected, rest a little while,
and then they go to some quiet and solitary place to spend the remainder of the day quietly.
We are not told what they do, we are not told what the Buddha did or what Ananda did during
the day's sojourn. Perhaps they meditated, perhaps they just sat quietly, perhaps they walked
up and down, but they passed the day very peacefully, very gently, and then towards evening -
perhaps it's been a hot day - the Buddha suggests to Ananda that they go and bathe,
presumably in a tank or pond, and then they bathe and when the Buddha has finished bathing,
when he's drying his limbs, Ananda thinks, well, this is a suitable opportunity, we've got now
the evening before us and he says, 'Lord this hermitage of the brahman Rammaka is not far;
the hermitage of the brahman Rammaka is lovely, Lord; the hermitage of the brahman
Rammaka is beautiful, Lord. It were good, Lord, if out of compassion the Lord were to
approach the hermitage of the brahman Rammaka.' The Lord consented by becoming silent.
Then the Lord approached the hermitage of the brahman Rammaka.'
So what sort of impression do you get from this? It's almost as though Ananda knows the
Buddha likes to spend his time in peaceful, attractive places so he describes the hermitage of
brahman Rammaka and suggests that the Buddha goes there. The Buddha agrees by
remaining silent. 'Then the Lord approached the hermitage of the brahman Rammaka. At that
time a number of monks came to be sitting down and talking dhamma in the hermitage of the
brahman Rammaka. Then the Lord stood outside the porch waiting for the talk to finish.' Do
you notice this little touch? What does it suggest about the Buddha?
___: Perhaps he was inquisitive of what they were talking about. (laughter)[5]
S: I wasn't thinking about that. So 'waiting for the talk to finish'. It suggests politeness doesn't
it? Not wishing to interrupt. Even the Buddha was very polite, well mannered you may say.
'Then the Lord, knowing that the talk had finished, coughed and knocked on the bar of the
door; those monks opened the door to the Lord. Then the Lord, having entered the hermitage
of the brahman Rammaka, sat down on the appointed seat. As he was sitting down the Lord
said to the monks: 'As you were sitting down just now what was your talk about, monks?
What was your talk that was interrupted?' 'Lord, our talk that was interrupted was about the
Lord himself; then he arrived.'
You notice the text says a number of monks came to be sitting down and talking dhamma in
the hermitage of the brahman Rammaka but they tell the Buddha that they were talking about
the Buddha himself. Do you think there's an contradiction?
Voices: No.
S: No why not?
___: In a way the Buddha's an embodiment of the Dharma.
S: Hmm, the Buddha says in another text 'he who sees me sees the Dharma'. So what sort of
talk about the Buddha do you think it might have been? Would it have been what the Buddha
liked for breakfast or something like that? What sort of talk would it have been?
___: About his qualities.
S: About his qualities. They would have been talking about the Buddha as Buddha. Talking
about the Buddha as Buddha one may say is talking about the Dharma. Then the Buddha says,
'It were good, monks, that when young men of family such as you who have gone forth from
home into homelessness out of faith are gathered together that you talk about dhamma. When
you are gathered together, monks, there are two things to be done: either talk about dhamma
or the ariyan silence.'
___: What about this going forth from home into homelessness? Out of faith. Do you know
anything about that? Would that have something to do with the fact that it had been very
difficult for anybody to leave home because of their responsibilities being passed down to
them and so he just leaves and just sort of goes away from the whole thing.
S: It does seem that by the Buddha's time there had grown up this practice, this custom if you
like, of people, especially young men, just leaving home and going forth and wandering
about. There seems to have been quite a movement of this sort in India, especially in
north-eastern India in particular by the time of the Buddha, and the Buddha himself of course
went forth in this way as we shall see later on. And this practice or this custom of going forth
suggests a number of things. First of all it suggests that society was rich [6] enough to be able
to support a large number of non-producing members - that's the first point, and secondly that
people were willing to support them, ready to support them. In fact we gather from the text
that people felt it to be very meritorious to support these people who had gone forth from
home into homelessness because they went forth from home into homelessness on what we
would nowadays call perhaps a spiritual quest, a spiritual search. They were looking for
something above and beyond a home life and a domestic horizon. In the Sutta Nipata the
Buddha is represented as reflecting before leaving home that the household life is a stuffy life.
The life as one who has gone forth is free as the open air and thinking and feeling this he
went forth. We talked about this quite a bit on the last study retreat because this passage
occurs in the Sutta Nipata in that chapter which we were studying. So there seemed to have
been a very strong feeling of this sort in the Buddha's day among quite a number of -
especially - young men, though some young women too apparently we gather later on. That
the householder's life was a very limited, constricted, even stuffy life and that the life of one
who'd gone forth and become a wanderer was much freer in comparison, represented the
expanded horizon. So many of those who subsequently became followers or disciples of the
Buddha were people who like the Buddha himself originally had gone forth - who'd cut
themselves off from all worldly ties, had no domestic responsibilities, no social
responsibilities, no civic responsibilities, who were free, who were available, and they
devoted themselves entirely to spiritual practices of various kinds, spiritual work of various
kinds, and the Buddha is referring to such people. He says, 'It were good monks that when
young men of family such as you who have gone forth from home into homelessness out of
faith are gathered together that you talk about dhamma.' You've gone forth from home into
homelessness out of faith in higher things. You've not gone forth for the sake of an easy life,
you've not gone forth for the sake of food and clothing. you've gone forth out of faith, out of
faith in some higher reality, some truth, some ultimate purpose of life or ultimate purpose to
life, so it's appropriate that when you gather together you do one of two things; you either
occupy yourself with talking about the Dharma, the truth, the teaching, the principles, the
reality, or you observe the ariyan silence, which means you meditate together. Observing the
ariyan silence refers to the practice, according to the commentary, refers to the experience, of
the second dhyana. So why do you think the experience of the second dhyana is equated with
the observance of the ariyan silence and vice-versa?
Sagaramati: No discursive thought.
S: No discursive thought. No mental chatter. It's not enough to keep silent physically, verbally
- the mind must keep silent. There must be no mental chatter. So you're only really quiet, only
really silent, when the flow of thoughts ceases. So that is the true ariyan silence. Not just
ordinary silence, not just the silence of the lips and the tongue but the silence of the mind, the
silence of discursive mental activity - that is the ariyan silence. So either talk about the
Dharma or remain completely silent, silent in thought as well as silent in speech. So this is
appropriate for those who've gone forth out of faith for the sake of some higher ideals. So this
whole subject of the going forth is very important indeed and as I said we talked about it quite
a bit on the last study retreat. [7]
What do you think it corresponds to nowadays? Does it correspond to anything nowadays,
anything in our own experience, this going forth? Mind you it's not just a mental, not just a
psychological or spiritual, going forth. It's a literal going forth. So does it correspond to
anything in our own experience do you think? Is it still a valid procedure for us do you think?
It's a going forth from home into homelessness, so one has also to enquire what is meant by
home. What is home? What does home represent? Only then can one understand what
homelessness ...

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