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Pali Canon - Meghiya Sutta

by Sangharakshita


Tape 1 Side 1Present: The Venerable Sangharakshita, Silaratna, Prasannasiddhi, Murray Wright, Gunapala,
S: All right then, we come on to the "Meghiya" Chapter of the Udana. I actually have done
this chapter twice before, inasmuch as I have done the Udana as a whole twice before. That is
to say, I've led study groups on the Udana twice already, on of them actually in New Zealand,
but there's no tape of that as far as I remember, because it was on the banks of the river, under
a tree, I think it was at Camp Sladra. But as far as I remember, there wasn't any tape-recording
equipment, but I do remember feeling that the conditions under which we were studying the
Udana there were possibly very similar to those under which the teachings contained in the
Udana were originally given in India, because we were studying in the open air, as I've said,
on the banks of a river, sitting under a tree, and it was a beautiful day. I don't know whether it
was summer or winter there in New Zealand but it was a beautiful day, very sunny and warm
and I won't say that people were taking a dip in between sessions of study, but they were
certainly taking a dip at other times.
And then also I studied the Udana with a group of people in England, but that was down in
Cornwall and I was staying in a chalet on the cliff-side then, some other people were staying
in tents, and others were just lodging with friends in the village, and the study itself was
actually held in a tent, near the sea shore. But subsequently some of these tapes (and those
were the only copies) were stolen - not stolen by someone belonging to the FWBO,
determined to lay his hands on the key to enlightenment, but stolen by someone who broke
into the flat of an Order Member (who had borrowed the tapes) while she was away and took
away her tape-recorder - that didn't matter too much - and took away the tapes too. So we
don't have much of a record of Udana study, even though actually I have done quite a bit of
study with people on this particular text. So I thought therefore, it wouldn't be a bad idea in
any case if we went through the Meghiya Sutta. I don't even know for sure whether the study
and discussion of this particular Sutta was on one of the tapes that was stolen; I haven't been
able to check up on that. But in any case, doing a chapter like this in the context of [2]
studying the whole Udana, one doesn't give it such concentrated attention perhaps and in any
case, on those two occasions I didn't have a copy of the Pali text by me for consultation,
which today I do have. So we should be able to go into this particular chapter of the Udana
perhaps more thoroughly than on those previous occasions; let's see, someone read the first
Murray: "Thus have I heard: on a certain occasion the Exalted One was staying at Calika on
Calika Hill. Now on that occasion the Venerable Meghiya was in attendance on the Exalted
One. Then the Venerable Meghiya came to the Exalted One and on coming to him saluted
him and stood at one side. As he thus stood, he said to the Exalted One, "I desire, sir, to enter
Jantu village for alms-quest.
"Do whatever you think it time for, Meghiya." "
S: So, this is the opening of the Sutta. It begins in the usual way with, "Thus I have heard", as
you know it's supposedly Ananda who is speaking. "On a certain occasion, the Exalted One
was staying at Calika on Calika Hill." I wonder if we can find out where that was. It might be
possible to get some idea of where the Buddha actually was on that occasion. I have a book
here. (Pause) The general area seems to be to the west of the Magadvesa, that is to say,
westward of the Bihar, United Provinces or Uttar Pradesh area, that is to say, rather towards
the Uttar Pradesh rather than towards Bihar, if you see what I mean, perhaps we can't locate it
more specifically than that. Anyway, the Buddha was staying there and apparently he was on
tour, he was walking from place to place.
We're not told how many people were with him. It would seem, in fact, that there was
probably only one person with him, that was the monk that was acting as his attendant at that
particular time. So, "on a certain occasion, the Exalted One was staying at Calika on Calika
Hill. Now on that occasion the Venerable Meghiya was in attendance on the Exalted One."
We usually think of Ananda as the Buddha's attendant. I've talked [about] Ananda in that
capacity and what it meant to be the Buddha's attendant in the lecture I gave on "A Case of
Dysentery" - you must have heard that. But Ananda wasn't always the Buddha's personal
attendant. He came along after the Buddha had, so to speak, experimented with a whole
succession of personal [3] attendants and they hadn't always been very satisfactory. But
Ananda, as we all know, gave complete satisfaction to the Buddha. The Buddha was very
pleased with him and, we may say, he was very pleased with the Buddha! So "at this time" -
we're not given any indication to exactly when it was the Venerable Meghiya was in
attendance on the Exalted One. The footnote here tells us that Meghiya was of a Sakyan
Raja's family; he had the same sort of social and cultural background as the Buddha himself
So they were wandering, presumably from place to place, together, "Then the Venerable
Meghiya came to the Exalted One and on coming to him saluted him and stood at one side."
You notice his behaviour is quite polite, quite correct. "As he thus stood, he said to the
Exalted One, "I desire, sir, to enter Jantu village for alms quest." I've already referred to the
fact that the Buddha and Meghiya were wandering from place to place on foot and, of course,
they took no provisions with them, they took only their begging bowls. So every day they had
to go into a village and perhaps beg is not quite the right word: they didn't ask for food, they
just stood outside the door holding their alms bowl in their hands and people who wanted to
would give them food. So the likelihood is that Meghiya was begging for both of them. The
bhikkhu's begging bowl, I don't know if you've seen one, is quite large, quite capacious -
actually some Burmese begging bowls I've seen can hold enough food for five or six monks.
So I don't know how big they were in the Buddha's day, probably not quite so big as that.
Probably the bhikkhu's begging bowl became bigger and bigger as Buddhism progressed and
developed, became more prosperous. But anyway, the likelihood is that Meghiya was begging
for them both, perhaps to save the Buddha the trouble.
So he comes to the Buddha, salutes him and stands to one side. "As he thus stood, he said to
the Exalted One, "I desire, sir, to enter Jantu village for alms quest." This sounds a little
stilted in English, it isn't as stilted as that in Pali. And the Buddha says "do whatever you
think it is the time for, Meghiya." This is a very common idiom in Pali, used not only by the
Buddha, but others: "Do what you think best." It's a polite way of giving your consent, giving
your agreement.
So this question of keeping someone informed is very important, really, of quite general
applicability. I mean, supposing Meghiya hadn't said anything to the Buddha, well perhaps the
Buddha might have wondered what [4] had happened, where he'd gone, whether he'd had an
accident, whether a tiger had eaten him. So to prevent that, this is leaving out of consideration
the Buddha's supernormal faculties, to prevent that, he just kept the Buddha informed of what
he was intending to do. And also perhaps gave the Buddha the opportunity of saying, "well,
don't do it just now, or something of that sort." So this general principle of keeping the other
person informed, or other people informed, especially people with whom you have a close
relationship, people with whom you're living, people even you're working with, is quite
important. I've noticed this in communities; I've noticed it here at Padmaloka. I mean, usually,
when I go out, that is to say, unusually, I'm not speaking of my daily walk, if I go off into
Norwich, even just for a morning or afternoon, I always let somebody in the community know
I've gone off to Norwich, I shall be back in a couple of hours. Otherwise, supposing there's a
phone call. Someone answers the phone and it's for me. That person who answers the phone
doesn't know that I'm out in Norwich, he goes searching all over the whole building looking
for me, not knowing that I'm out. So it's only right and proper under those circumstances to let
somebody know what you're doing, where you are, where you re going, where you can be
found, where you can be contacted. It's just a part of ordinary courtesy, one might say,
consideration for other people. But sometimes community members don't do this. They go
off, may be for half a day, maybe for a day, and you don't know where they are. Phone calls
come and messages arrive; you're not quite sure how to handle things because they haven't
left word with anybody where they were going, how long they'll be away. So really it's a
question one might say of communication, it's a question of keeping in good communication
with other people, not wanting to sort of slide off or slink off on your own without anybody
knowing what you're up to.
Gunapala: ...

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