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Pali Canon - Sutta Nipata - Great Chapter part 2

by Sangharakshita

This is why metta is said to be the best means of keeping ghosts and spirits at bay. It just
naturally keeps them away or neutralizes their power if your own positivity is of sufficient
intensity. So do you get a clearer picture about these four dhyana states and what you are
trying to do when you cultivate them? I take it that everybody understands that when you
meditate - leaving aside the question of insight - when one meditates you are trying to get into
what are called the dhyanas. Has this been clear to everybody? What I sometimes call the
superconscious states. So you get into them the more you are integrated, inspired, permeated,
and radiate. Once you start radiating, well, you're doing pretty well.
All this arises out of this word iddhi. "A recluse is not to be disregarded nor to be despised
because he is young," tender, delicate. "If he be young he'll be of great power." maha-iddhi.
Now in what sense do you think Sabhiya is using the term here?
Voice: In a natural sense.
S: In a natural sense, yes. Why should a young man, a young recluse, have great power?
Voice: He'll be more vigorous, more vital.
S: So he's still thinking in ethnic terms isn't he? In a way, though, perhaps more positively. I
mean, in a spiritual sense, even an old man can have iddhi. But perhaps Sabhiya is trying to
console himself, as it were. He's after all left Gotama until the last so he's saying, "well never
mind, he may be young but, after all, a young man maybe is more powerful." He may not
distinguish in his mind between natural power and spiritual power. In fact, the word itself
originally didn't distinguish in that way, power was power and sometimes it is good
sometimes to leave it like that. Iddhi is iddhi. But what about "might"? This is mahanubhavo.
Mahanubhavo is literally influence. It's more like the vibes, as it were, influence, great
influence. Sometimes it's translated as grace. In the little verses of blessing we say,
"Sabbabuddhanubhavena sada sotthi bhavantu te": by the influence of the Buddha, or if you
like, by the grace of the Buddha, may there be happiness. It's this same word: anubhava.
Well let's look into this word. Anu means after, bhava means a state of being, you can say. 'A
state [387] of being which follows after.' Well, why should that be so? It's like an echo, a
sound, which follows after. So you are in a certain way, and on account of you being in a
certain way somebody else afterwards is in a certain way. You affect them, you influence
them. You have anubhava so far as they are concerned. You are full of metta; they become
full of metta. That is your anubhav, your influence, your power, your grace, as it were, your
vibes. It's almost always, as far as I know, used in the positive sense. So he says that, "if he be
young, he'll be of great power," mahiddhi, "and great influence". Perhaps he is consoling
himself for the fact that Gotama is young. So "What if I approach and ask the recluse Gotama
these questions?" Any further point arising out of that? Gotama being young, but of great
power and great might? Do you think there's any other reason why he might have thought in
this way, that because he was young he would be of great power, great potency and influence?
Voice: Well also if he's young and a recluse he must be quite powerful, he's done it so
S: That's also true, yes. Because he has gone forth, not only has he gone forth, he has a
sangha, a ganha, he is a teacher, he has many followers. But he is young, so perhaps this is
because he has particular power, particular influence, maybe there is something about him.
Perhaps he's beginning to hope.
All right. "And the mendicant Sabhiya set out to walk to Rajagaha; and in due course, as he
wayfared, he came to Rajagaha, to the Squirrels Feeding-ground in Bamboo Grove. And he
approached the Master, greeted him, and exchanged the usual compliments and sat down at one
side. Thus seated he spake these verses to the Master."
All right, let's continue reading round. Sabhiya's verses.
(510) "In doubt, perplexed, I come to thee,"
Said Sabhiya the mendicant,
"Fain to put questions unto thee,
The solver of them be for me:
Explain the things I ask of thee
In gradual and ordered mode!"
(511) The Master: "From far art come, O Sabhiya,"
Thus spake the Master in reply,
"Fain to put questions unto me;
The solver I will be of them
And will explain to thee, when asked,
In gradual and ordered mode.[388]
(512) Question me Sabhiya,
How e'er thy mind desires,
For of thy questioning
'Tis mine to make an end."
S: So "In doubt perplexed I came to thee," said Sabhiya the mendicant, "Fain to put questions
unto thee." Fain is an old-fashioned English word. In Pali it's abhikamkhamano: with mind very
desirous, or with mind exceedingly desirous - of putting questions to you. "The solver of them be
for me." Now please solve my questions. "Explain the things I ask of thee in gradual and ordered
mode." "Anupubbam anudhammam vyakarohi me." Anupubba means, as it were, step by step, in
regular order. And the Buddha in his reply says yes, he will do just this. Do you think there's any
reason for Sabhiya saying this, or asking this: "Explain things I ask of thee in gradual and ordered
Voice: So that he can understand it.
S: Yes, and the Buddha says, "From far art come, O Sabhiya," Thus spake the Master in reply.
Why do you think the Buddha says this? "Durato agato si": you have come from far.
Voice: Sympathizingly.
S: Sympathizingly, yes. ""From far art come, O Sabhiya," Thus spake the Master in reply. "Fain
to put questions unto me; the solver I will be of them and will explain to thee, when asked, in
gradual and ordered mode." Question me Sabhiya, how e'er thy mind desires, for of thy
questioning 'tis mine to make an end." So what does this answer of the Buddha show?
Voice: He realizes that these questions aren't idle and he's completely sympathetic with them.
S: Yes, he's come such a long way to ask his questions, he's kept his questions in his mind all the
time. This reminds me of something else I heard or read once. Somebody said if you are asked a
question, say to the person, "I won't answer it now, ask me in half an hour," and just see whether
he asks you again after half an hour. More likely that he'll have forgotten all about his question in
half an hour. (laughter) But it wasn't [389] like that with Sabhiya, he'd come from a long way and
he'd kept his questions in his mind. He was perhaps bursting to ask them, he was very desirous of
asking them. The Buddha saw that. But what also, what other impression does one get from the
Buddha's reply?
Voice: Extreme confidence.
S: Extreme confidence. He's not even heard the questions yet, he doesn't even know what they
are, unless he can read Sabhiya's thoughts. But he's completely confident that he can answer
them. He doesn't even need to have a hint of the questions, apparently; and this is real
confidence. But he's not confident that he has got the answers to specific questions, he is
confident in himself. Do you see the difference? If he knew what the questions were and had the
answers already worked out and just inside him, as it were, well yes, you might say that that was
confidence, but the Buddha's confidence is not like that. He doesn't know the questions - he also
doesn't know the answers, in a sense - but he's quite confident that he can answer the questions,
that he has the answers. So where does this confidence come from? It has come from his own
experience of his own enlightened being, his own in finite wisdom.
Voice: It seems to me also to imply a certain confidence in Sabhiya through seeking answers.
S: That too, yes.
Voice: He can see that the questions are of ultimate concern.
S: Yes. All right, then what does Sabhiya say, or think?
Voice: "Then thought the mendicant Sabhiya: "It's wonderful, amazing! I never got such a chance
from the other recluses and brahmans as this one made for me by the recluse Gotama!" And
pleased delighted, elate and filled with joy and happiness, he asked the Master a question.""
S: Yes. "I never got that sort of opportunity before, they weren't as open with me as that. They
didn't respond with such confidence." So he's pleased, delighted, elate, filled [390] with joy and
happiness. Let's see what these words are. "Attamano pamodito udaggo pitisomanassajato".
These are the terms: pamodito means, yes, joyful; attamano, pleased; pamodito, delighted;
udaggo, elated, exhilarated; pitisomanassajato, with - not filled with, but with - arisen ecstasy and
gladness. Yes, joy and happiness will do. So in that sort of frame of mind he asks his question.
Why do you think he felt so happy? Well all his troubles were coming to an end apparently. He
really felt, perhaps, that the Buddha was going to answer his question. He'd found the right man.
Even before he'd asked the questions he knew that he was going to get the answers. So asking the
questions wasn't just a matter of asking the questions, asking the questions meant getting the
answers. So he asked the questions so joyfully because he knew intuitively as soon as he asked
the ...

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