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Pali Canon - Samannaphala Sutta

by Sangharakshita

... Hinduism,
as we call it now, and in the Buddha's day many people were still following the Vedas; they
were still performing the rituals, the sacrifices, based on the Vedas; they were still observing
the caste system, you know, derived from the Vedas. But there were some who didn't accept
the Vedas, who didn't follow the Vedic teachings, rejected sacrifices, rejected the caste
system. They were more independent, more freelance, and they were called samanas. They
gave up not only the Vedas, you know, not only the sacrifices and caste system, but they gave
up ordinary household life itself. They went forth as wanderers. So they were called samanas,
and the Buddha started off, of course, as a samana. This is why he is often referred to in
Buddhist literature as the mahasamanna or mahashramana, the great sramana, because he
became more famous than any of the other samanas.
And then, of course, you had the brahmins, the brahmin teachers: those who still followed the
Vedas, performed sacrifices, observed - you know - the caste system, and so on. So there
were these two classes of teachers in the Buddha's day. You might describe them as the
orthodox and the unorthodox - that is to say orthodox from the Vedic point of view. The
Buddha himself, of course, belongs to the unorthodox class.[6]
So, very often, brahmana and samana are referred to, or brahman and samana. Sometimes
they are joined together to make a sort of compound word, meaning religious teachers of all
kinds - orthodox and unorthodox.
So Ajatasattu, moved with the beauty of a festive full-moon night, asked his ministers to
suggest a samana or brahman whom they might visit to satisfy their minds. He didn't mind
whether it was a Vedic teacher, orthodox teacher, or anti-Vedic teacher, an unorthodox one.
He just wanted to visit some religious teacher, some spiritual teacher, who would be able to
satisfy their minds. This is quite a significant phrase. What does it suggest about Ajatasattu -
and possibly other people?
Ruciraketu: That he was a bit dissatisfied.
S: Mmm. That he was a bit dissatisfied. He felt the need of some kind of, well, almost,
consolation. So 'The names of the well-known teachers and expounders of doctrines were put
forward,' you know, by different people surrounding him. 'Purana, Kassappa, Makkhali
Gosala, Ajita, Kesa-kambala, Kaccayana, Sanjaya Belatthi, and Nigantha Nataputta - but the
Raja gave no response to the suggestions.' Who these teachers were, and what they taught, we
shall see later on in the sutta. But these were the six famous teachers, in the Buddhas's day,
apart from the Buddha himself. They are often mentioned. This list of six is often mentioned
in the Pali texts. They all had a particular point of view, which will be explained later on, so
we don't need to go into it now. 'But the Raja gave no response to the suggestions.' We'll find
out why that was later on.
'Then Jivaka, the Raja's physician, proposed the samana Gotama who was staying in the
Mango Grove with a large company of bhikkhus.' So Jivaka, who was the physician, the
doctor of the king, and therefore very close to him, mentioned that the samana Gotama, or
Gotama the Buddha as we say, was staying in the Mango Grove nearby. The Buddha [7] - you
probably know - travelled from place to place on foot. And he stayed at various rest-houses
and hermitages which had been built for him by his admirers and, you know, supporters and
devotees, and these were usually situated on the outskirts of big cities, two or three miles
from the gates, in parks and gardens which people had built at some distance from the city, so
that they could retire to them from time to time. You get the idea. Why was it important that
the viharas, as we call them now, should be so near to the city? Why didn't the Buddha sort of
seclude himself in the mountains somewhere?
Ruciraketu: So he could communicate.
S: So he could communicate with people. But not only that, of course. The bhikkhus in those
days had to rely for their food on alms. They had to go on a daily begging round. So that
meant they couldn't move too far away, you know, from the cities to be quiet and peaceful,
but near enough for the bhikkhus to be able to go in once a day to collect their food, and for
the people who lived in the towns and cities to walk out - maybe in the evening - to visit the
Buddha, or to visit his disciples, you know, to hear some teaching.
So on this occasion the Buddha was staying in the Mango Grove. Probably just in some little
cottages or huts which had been put up there for him and his disciples. And Gotama, said the
physician, was reported to be 'an arahat, fully enlightened, perfect in knowledge and conduct,
happy, wise as to the worlds, an incomparable guide to man's self-mastery, a teacher of devas
and men, a Buddha, an Exalted One'. Do you recognize these words? Have you encountered
them before?
Voices: Umm...
S: This is the 'Iti'pi so bhagava'.
Ratnaketu: It's in the Ti Ratana Vandana.[8]
S: It's the sort of standard, stock passage. I mean I mentioned that the Pali scriptures are based
on oral traditions. And in these oral traditions there are lots of repetitions. You find, even
now, in the Pali scriptures, that many passages occur again and again, and this is one of them.
The Vandana, as we call it, occurs in many passages in the Pali canon - hundreds of places, in
fact. Wherever a description of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha is required, well, then you
get the Ti Ratana Vandana, hmm? It may not have been that on each occasion those were
exactly the words said, but everything became a bit standardized, even a bit stereotyped. As
the monks recited it over and over again they tended to make everything a bit uniform. Do
you see what I mean? So you get the same description of sila, you get the same description of
the dhyanas, hmm? Wherever a mention is made of this subject or that, the stock description
is usually inserted. So it's the same with this particular formula of the description of the
qualities of the Buddha, hmm? I won't go into these in detail because we did have a whole
seminar on these, which has been edited and printed. You can consult that for a detailed
understanding of all these expressions. Anyway, carry on and read this next paragraph.
Duncan: 'The Raja, proceeding with his retinue to the Mango Grove, was so astonished to
find complete calm and silence in the immediate vicinity of a place where, as he had
understood, several hundreds of people had foregathered, that he suspected a plot. However,
reassured by Jivaka, he continued.'
S: You remember that Jivaka, the raja's physician, proposed the samana Gotama who was
staying in the Mango Grove with a large company of bhikkhus. So, 'the Raja Ajatasattu, on
proceeding with his retinue to the Mango Grove, was so astonished to find complete calm and
silence in the immediate vicinity of a place where, as he had understood, several hundreds of
people had foregathered, that he suspected a plot.' I mean the raja went there, went with a
number of people, got deeper and [9] deeper into the forest, but, though he had been told that
there were hundreds of bhikkhus with the Buddha, there wasn't a sound. He couldn't
understand it. There were supposed to be hundreds of people there - but no sound. No noise at
all. So he became suspicious. He thought it was a plot because, after all, he'd seized the
throne from his own father. Maybe his son, some other person - was going to seize it from
him. You see the state of mind of the politician or the person who lives by violence. They
suspect - all the time.
'However, reassured by Jivaka, he continued,' and eventually, of course, he comes to the place
where the Buddha was staying. This also tells us something about the bhikkhus, doesn't it.
What's that?
Ratnaketu: They were quiet. (chuckles)
S: Quiet, yes. Of course, they weren't always like that. It took the Buddha quite a lot of time
and trouble to get them like that. (laughter) Yes. Because there are other occasions where the
Buddha is very annoyed and displeased with the behaviour of the bhikkhus because on their
arrival at a new place they're talking and shouting and arranging things (laughter) and their
bedding and their bowls (laughter) and how they are going to stay and where they are going to
stay - there's such a hubbub that the Buddha becomes really disgusted and says that it just
sounds like a market of women selling fish (laughter), rather than an assembly of bhikkhus.
So it took the Buddha quite a lot of time and trouble to train, you know, the bhikkhus in this
way. You mustn't suppose they were always like this. Not all of them, anyway. But here it's
near the end of the Buddha's career. Maybe the bhikkhus, too, are pretty old. Maybe some of
them are arahants. Anyway, so now things are more or less as they should be. They're very,
very quiet. Even though there are hundreds of them staying with the Buddha, there is not a
sound to be heard, and, of course, that makes the king, Ajatasattu, highly suspicious - but he
is reassured by Jivaka, yes? [10] Apparently he trusts Jivika. After all, if you're a king in
ancient India and you can't even trust your own physician, well, who can you trust? In ancient
times, very, very often, under different kings, the physician was very important, even with
political power, political influence, because he had direct access to the king. He used to have
to ...

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