The Essence of
A Selection of Scriptural Quotations with Commentary - May 2003
This is an on-going project of compiling a selection of scriptural quotations with commentary to express the Buddhist Path of spiritual practice, perhaps eventually culminating in a substantial book. From time to time more selections will be added and present passages possibly re-edited.
Translations are mine unless indicated otherwise. Any comments or suggestions please write to: Thiradhammo Bhikkhu, Dhammapala Monastery, 3718 Kandersteg, Switzerland.
The sources for this book are the Pali Canon, the scriptures preserved in the Pali language and accepted by the Theravada, or Southern School of Buddhism. ". . . though some parts of it clearly post-date the Buddha, many parts of it are ancient and may date from his day or soon after. 
Shortly after the Buddha's final passing, the senior members of the Sangha convened a council to recite and recognise as authentic a body of teachings called "Dhamma" and "Vinaya" (Vin.II,284ff.). At least two other important councils were held later, one hundred years after the Buddha's passing (Vin.II,294ff.) and 236 years after the passing, during the reign of King Asoka, about 250 BC. At these later councils the "Dhamma-Vinaya" was recited once again and added to, for example, the story of the second council was added to the Vinaya Pitaka and the Kathavatthu, written by the "President of the Third Council", Ven. Tissa Moggaliputta, was added to the Abidhamma Pitaka. 
Part 1: The Buddha
Historically, the religion known as Buddhism is traced to the Buddha, the "Awakened One", who is believed to have lived in northern India from 563 to 483 BCE.  The Buddhist canonical tradition, however, places the teachings of Buddhism far beyond the sphere of one particular figure. The Buddha is quoted as saying that he has "found the ancient path, the ancient trail, travelled by the Fully Enlightened Ones of old."  The (older) texts also enumerate and give details of the lives of six previous Buddhas who lived in the distant past and a future Buddha. 
There is no comprehensive biography of the Buddha in the Pali Canon. Several parts of the Canon give some lengthy (auto)biographical details of certain parts of his life (M.sut.26; D.sut.16; Mahavagga, Ch.1), while other biographical fragments are scattered throughout the Canon. It is also noticeable that there is a certain amount of contrast between what is recorded in the 'early' canonical texts and the `later' and post canonical texts about the Buddha's life. That is, the later texts tend more towards portraying the Buddha as a supernatural being with exemplary qualities embellished with miraculous occurrences. 
However, it should also be borne in mind that the texts do contain a mixture of historical, supernatural, allegorical and metaphorical material. Just because some account in the texts does not fit our idea of historical validity does not mean that it is therefore fictional, as it may have allegorical meaning. For example, the wonders surrounding the Buddha's birth and death may fall into this category. Joseph Campbell makes an important observation when he notes the "close relationship maintained in the Orient between myth, psychology, and metaphysics." 
While it is difficult (if not impossible) to completely separate the `early' material from the `late' in the main core of the Pali Canon, it is possible to distinguish some later texts in the Canon. Thus the Nidânakathâ, the introduction to the Jâtaka, "is the earliest attempt in Pali to give a connected life-story of the Buddha."  This text, although containing very old material, may only date from the 5th century CE .  It contains biographical details from the distant past lives of the Buddha up to the donation of the Jetavana Monastery in the early years of the Buddha's teaching (J.1-95). It has thus summarised some of the material contained in various parts of the Canon.  Three suttas in the Sutta-nipata (Sn.405ff.; Sn.425ff.; Sn.509ff.) are described as "precious remnants of that ancient spiritual ballad-poetry" which are "rich in legend-like features and mythical paraphernalia". 
It should perhaps also be noted that the "texts" were originally preserved orally. Thus, for the sake of easy remembrance, they contain a substantial amount of "stock phrases". These sometimes do not exactly fit the situation in which they occur, for example, see 4) below where it says that the Buddha´s mother cried when he left the homelife, even though in another passage it is mentioned that his mother died shortly after he was born (M.III, 122)
It is ironic that the early Buddhist scriptures record very little of the personal history of the founder. Of course, those who live close to the original teacher are much more concerned with what the teacher actually teaches than the details of the teacher's personal life.
1. "I was delicate, most delicate, supremely delicate. Lotus ponds were made for me at my father's house solely for my benefit. Blue lotuses flowered in one, white lotuses in another, red lotuses in a third. I used no sandalwood that was not of Benares. My turban, tunic, lower garments and cloak were all made of Benares cloth. A white sunshade was held over me day and night so that no cold or heat or dust or grit or dew might inconvenience me.
three mansions;  one for
the Winter, one for the Summer and one for the Rainy Season.
In the Rainy Season mansion I was entertained by minstrels
with no men among them. For the four months of the Rainy
Season I never went down to the lower mansion. Though meals of
broken rice with lentil soup are given to the servants and
retainers in other people's houses, in my father's house white
rice and meat was given to them."
This text is a poetic expression of a much better-than-average lifestyle. Similar phraseology is also used in reference to two other people signifying a wealthy, cared-for life -- the former Buddha Vipassi (D.II,21) and Yasa, the son of a wealthy merchant of Benares (Vin.I,15). Although later tradition describes the Buddha as being born into the royal family of a rich kingdom, references in the Pali Canon suggest that, at most, he was the son of the temporary chief of a small aristocratic tribal republic known by the name Sakya.  This was situated in the foothills of the Himalayas with the capital of Kapilavatthu. At that time they are mentioned as tributary to the powerful kingdom of Kosala (D.III,83;M.I,110;124;etc.).
The Buddha is quoted as describing his biographical details thus: he belonged to the Warrior/noble class, his clan name was Gotama, his father's name was Suddhodana and his mother's name was Maya (D.II,3ff). Other references indicate that his mother died shortly after his birth (M.III,122) and that he was nursed by his stepmother Mahapajapati (M.III,253).
There is mention of the young child being visited by a Holy Sage who prophesized his spiritual success (Sn.509ff.). Mention is also made of the Buddha's son, Rahula, whose mother is only identified as "Rahula's mother" (Vin.I,82). Some of the other canonical biographical material, for example, the details of his birth (M.III,122; cf D.II,12ff), are perhaps more allegorical than factual.
2. "Whilst I had such power and good fortune, yet I thought: `When an untaught ordinary person, who is subject to ageing, not safe from ageing, sees another who is aged, they are shocked, humiliated and disgusted; for they forget that they also are no exception. But I too am subject to ageing, not safe from ageing, and so it cannot befit me to be shocked, humiliated and disgusted on seeing another who is aged'. When I considered this, the vanity of youth entirely left me.
"I thought: `When an untaught ordinary person, who is subject to sickness, not safe from sickness, sees another who is sick, they are shocked, humiliated and disgusted; for they forget that they also are no exception. But I too am subject to sickness, not safe from sickness, and so it cannot befit me to be shocked, humiliated and disgusted on seeing another who is sick'. When I considered this, the vanity of health entirely left me.
`When an untaught ordinary person, who is subject to death,
not safe from death, sees another who is dead, they are
shocked, humiliated and disgusted; for they forget that they
also are no exception. But I too am subject to death, not safe
from death, and so it cannot befit me to be shocked,
humiliated and disgusted on seeing another who is dead'. When
I considered this, the vanity of life entirely left me."
This passage indicates that the Buddha-to-be was a reflective and sensitive person who was disturbed by the true realities of the human condition. This was expressed allegorically as a direct confrontation by the delicate and sheltered Bodhisatta with an old person, a sick person, and a dead person. There is canonical support for this story as the Buddha mentions this same confrontation occurring to the previous Buddha, Vipassi, and then says that this also occurs to all future Buddhas (D.II,12ff). These are also known as the three "Heavenly Messengers" (M.III,179ff).
3. "Now I, bhikkhus, before awakening, while I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta, being myself subject to birth, ageing, sickness, death, sorrow and defilement, sought what was likewise subject to birth, ageing, sickness, death, sorrow and defilement. Then I reflected: `Why do I, being myself subject to birth, ageing, sickness, death, sorrow and defilement, seek what is likewise subject to birth, ageing, sickness, death, sorrow and defilement? Suppose that I, being myself subject to these things, having seen the peril in them, should seek the unborn, unageing, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, undefiled supreme surcease of bondage -- Nibbana?" M.I,163 (abridged)
The sensitive awareness of the frailty of human life frequently leads people to depression, despair or pessimism -- unless there is the possibility of a solution to this human predicament. This solution lies in the spiritual realm, that particular area of human knowledge which deals with life's ultimate questions. The Buddha-to-be was aware that such a solution was possible through a turning away from that which is born in order to realise that which is unborn. This attitude was symbolised by the Buddha-to-be seeing a religious mendicant dedicated to the search for spiritual Truth (D.II,28).
4. "Now I, before awakening, while I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta, reflected: Confined is the household life, a path of dust. Going forth (to homelessness) is wide open. It is not easy living in a house to lead the religious life completely fulfilled and purified, as polished as mother-of-pearl. Suppose I were to shave off my hair and beard, cloth myself in ochre robes and go forth from the homelife into homelessness." (M.I,240; II,211)
"Later, while still young, a black-haired boy endowed with august youth, in the beginning of life -- although my unwilling mother and father lamented with tearful faces -- I shaved off my hair and beard, put on ochre robes and went forth from the homelife into homelessness." (M.I,163;240; II,93;212)
In the culture of India during the Buddha's time, and also in the present time, it was recognised that a serious spiritual search could only be undertaken by one who had surrendered the responsibilities of the household life in order to commit all their energies towards the spiritual struggle. The clear insight into the mortal and corruptible nature of human existence compelled the Bodhisatta to sacrifice the comforts of a wealthy social position and the pleasures of a secure family life for the hardships and insecurity of the spiritual quest for Truth.
5. "I, thus gone forth, striving after what is good, searching for the incomparable, excellent path to peace, approached Alara Kalama and said to him: `Friend Kalama, I want to live the religious life in this teaching and training'.
"This said, bhikkhus, Alara Kalama replied: `The venerable may abide here. This teaching is such that an astute person in no long time may enter on and abide in it, oneself realising through higher knowledge just as one's own teacher'. So I, bhikkhus, very soon, very quickly, mastered that teaching.
"Then I reflected, bhikkhus: This teaching does not conduce to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to higher knowledge, to awakening nor to Nibbana, but only to the attainment of the Sphere of Nothingness.
"So, not getting sufficient from this teaching, I abandoned and left this teaching." (M.I,163f;240; II,93;212)
India in the 6th century BC was rich in a great variety of spiritual teachings. As appropriate for a young man seeking for the ultimate answers to life's questions, the Buddha-to-be sought out a recognised master to give him instruction. The pupil, however, very soon mastered the teaching, but was not satisfied. His spiritual yearning was not yet satiated.
The account continues with his seeking out another teacher, Udaka Ramaputta, who taught him the higher meditative attainment of the Sphere of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception.  The Buddha-to-be likewise quickly mastered this teaching and was likewise unsatisfied. He then set off on his own spiritual experimentation.
6. "I thought: `Suppose, with my teeth clenched and my tongue pressed against the roof of my mouth, I beat down, constrain and crush my mind with my mind?' Then, as a strong man might seize a weaker by the head or shoulders and beat him down, constrain him and crush him, so with my teeth clenched and my tongue pressed against the roof of my mouth, I beat down, constrained and crushed my mind with my mind. Sweat ran from my armpits as I did so.
"Though tireless energy was aroused in me, and unremitting mindfulness established, yet my body was overwrought and uncalm because I was exhausted by the painful effort. But such painful feelings as arose in me, gained no power over my mind.
"I thought: `Suppose I practise the meditation that is without breathing?' I stopped the in-breaths and out-breaths in my mouth and nose. When I did so, there was a loud sound of winds coming from my ear holes, as there is a loud sound when a smith's bellows are blown.
"I stopped the in-breaths and out-breaths in my mouth and nose and ears. When I did so, violent winds racked my head, as if a strong man where splitting my head open with a sharp sword. And then there were violent pains in my head, as if a strong man were tightening a tough leather strap round my head as a head-band. And then violent winds carved up my belly, as a clever butcher or his apprentice carves up an ox's belly with a sharp knife. And then there was a violent burning in my belly, as if two strong men had seized a weaker by both arms and were roasting him over a pit of live coals.
time, though tireless energy was roused in me and unremitting
mindfulness established, yet my body was overwrought and
uncalm because I was exhausted by the painful effort. But such
feelings as arose in me gained no power over my mind."
Though very diligent in his endeavours to win to some spiritual truth, the Buddha-to-be still was not satisfied with the results. Not having achieved significant results with various meditation practices, the Buddha-to-be undertook to follow some of the ascetic practices for which India was renowned.
7. "Such was my asceticism that I went naked, rejecting conventions, licking my hands, not coming when asked, not stopping when asked . . . I clothed myself in hemp, in hemp mixed cloth, in shrouds, in refuse-rags, in tree bark, in antelope hide, in kusa-grass fabric, in bark fabric, in wood (shavings) fabric, in head-hair wool, in animal wool, in owl's wings.
"I was one who pulled out hair and beard, pursuing the practice of pulling out hair and beard. I was one who stood continuously, rejecting seats. I was one who squatted continuously, devoted to maintaining the squatting position. I was one who used a mattress of spikes; I made a mattress of spikes my bed. I dwelt pursuing the practice of bathing in water for the third time by nightfall. Such was my asceticism.
"I would go off to some awe-inspiring grove and dwell there -- a grove so awe-inspiring that normally it would make a man's hair stand up if he were not free from lust. I would dwell by night in the open and by day in the grove when those cold wintry nights came during the Eight-days Interval of Frost. I would dwell by day in the open and by night in the grove in the last month of the hot season. And there came to me spontaneously this stanza never heard before:
"I would make my bed in a charnel ground with the bones of the dead for a pillow. And cowherd boys came up and spat on me, made water on me, threw dirt at me, and poked sticks into my ears. Yet I never knew the arising of an evil mind (thoughts) about them. Such was my abiding in equanimity." M.I,77ff (Nanamoli, Treasury 3, p.249ff)
"I thought: `Suppose I take very little food, say, a handful each time, whether it is bean soup or lentil soup or pea soup?' I did so. And as I did so, my body reached a state of extreme emaciation; my limbs became like the joined segments of vine stems or bamboo stems, because of eating so little. My back-side became like a camel's hoof; the projections on my spine stood forth like corded beads; my ribs jutted out as gaunt as the crazy rafters of an old roofless barn; the gleam of my eyes, sunk far down in their sockets, looked like the gleam of water sunk far down in a deep well; my scalp shrivelled and withered as a green gourd shrivels and withers in the wind and sun. If I touched my belly skin, I encountered my backbone too; and if I touched my backbone, I encountered my belly skin too -- for my belly skin cleaved to my backbone. If I relieved myself, I fell over on my face then and there. If I tried to ease my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair, rotted at its roots, fell away from my body as I rubbed -- because of eating so little." M.I,242ff; II,93; 212 (adapted from Nanamoli, LoB, p.17ff)
Some of these ascetic practices were common among the various religious sects which proliferated during the 6th century BC. The Buddha-to-be tried them, but found them unsatisfactory to his quest.
8. "I thought: `Whenever a samana or brahmana has felt in the past, or will feel in the future, or feels now -- painful, racking, piercing feeling due to striving -- it can equal this but not exceed it. But, by this severe austerity, I have not attained any superior human condition worthy of the Noble One's knowledge and vision. Might there be another way to awakening?
"I thought of a time when my Sakyan father was working and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree -- quite secluded from sensual desires, secluded from unprofitable things I had entered upon and abode in the first meditation, which is accompanied by thinking and exploring with happiness and pleasure born of seclusion. I thought: `Might that be the way to awakening?' Then, following up that memory there came the recognition that this was the way to awakening.
"Then I thought: `Why am I afraid of such pleasure? It is pleasure that has nothing to do with sensual desires and unprofitable things.' Then I thought: `I am not afraid of such pleasure, for it has nothing to do with sensual desires and unprofitable things.'
`It is not possible to attain that pleasure with a body so
excessively emaciated. Suppose I ate some solid food -- boiled
rice and sour milk?'"
The Buddha-to-be had experienced a vast range of spiritual practices which were traditionally held to be the only means for realising Truth. He was, however, still not satisfied. In his disappointment and disillusionment he sought a different way. Turning away from the path of painful self-mortification he thought to try the way of non-sensual spiritual pleasure. This was a very unique and controversial move. Five ascetics who had been attending him during his super-human privations left him in disgust, thinking he had given up the spiritual struggle. Alone and on a new course the Buddha-to-be renewed his spiritual search.
9. "Now when I had taken ample nutriment and had regained strength, aloof from sense pleasures, aloof from unskilful things, I entered upon and dwelt in the First Absorption, which is accompanied by thinking and reflecting, with happiness and joy born of aloofness. But such pleasant feeling as arose persisted without gaining power over my mind. "With the allaying of thinking and reflecting I entered upon and dwelt in the Second Absorption, which has the mind internally tranquillised and fixed on one point, free from thinking and reflecting, with happiness and joy born of concentration. But such pleasant feeling as arose persisted without gaining power over my mind.
"With the fading of joy, I dwelt in equanimity, mindful and clearly aware; experiencing in my being that pleasure of which the noble ones say: `Equanimity and mindfulness is a pleasurable abiding', I entered upon and dwelt in the Third Absorption. But such pleasant feeling as arose persisted without gaining power over my mind.
"With the giving up of pleasure and pain, and with the disappearance of former mental ease and dis-ease, I entered upon and dwelt in the Fourth Absorption, which has neither pain nor pleasure and is purified by equanimity and mindfulness. But such pleasant feeling as arose persisted without gaining power over my mind." (M.I,247f)
The development of these four stages of increasingly deeper concentration and absorption into the meditation object gives the mind a greater degree of strength and power which can then be used towards the goal of awakening. The Buddha-to-be had already previously developed these, except now he was using them as a tool to strengthen the mind rather than as an end in themselves.
Having discovered a new path, re-established his resolve and reached an exceptionally refined degree of mental development, the Buddha-to-be was open to a profound human experience -- the experience of Awakening. This exceptional experience is expressed in the realm of concepts in various ways, the most common being in terms of the `Three Knowledges'.
10. "With the mind thus composed, purified, cleansed, unblemished, without defilement, malleable and workable, steady and immovable, I directed my mind to the knowledge and recollection of former existences. I recollected a variety of former abidings  thus: one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, a hundred births, a thousand births, a hundred thousand births, many an age of disintegration, many an age of integration, many an age of disintegration-integration; such was my name, such my lineage, such my appearance, such my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my span of life. Thence passing away, I arose in another existence where such was my name, such my lineage, such my appearance, such my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my span of life. Thence passing away, I arose here. Thus with characteristics and details I recollected various former abidings.
"This was the first knowledge attained by me in the first watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed and knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed and light arose, accordingly as I dwelt vigilant, ardent and resolute. But such pleasant feeling as arose persisted without gaining power over my mind.
"With the mind thus composed, purified, cleansed, unblemished, without defilement, malleable and workable, steady and immovable, I directed my mind to the knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings. With clairvoyant vision, purified and surpassing that of humans, I saw beings passing away and reappearing. I understood that beings are inferior or superior, beautiful or ugly, well-faring or ill-faring according to their actions (kamma). Indeed these worthy beings who were possessed of bad conduct of body, bad conduct of speech and bad conduct of mind, revilers of noble ones, of wrong view, acquiring actions from wrong view -- upon the breaking up of the body after death have arisen in states of privation, an unfavourable destination, in a place of suffering, in purgatory. But these worthy beings who were possessed of good conduct of body, good conduct of speech and good conduct of mind, not revilers of noble ones, of right view, acquiring actions due to right view -- upon the breaking up of the body after death have arisen in a favourable destination, a heaven world.
"With clairvoyant vision, purified and surpassing that of humans, I saw beings passing away and reappearing. I understood that beings are inferior or superior, beautiful or ugly, well-faring or ill-faring according to their actions (kamma).
"This was the second knowledge attained by me in the second watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed and knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed and light arose, accordingly as I dwelt vigilant, ardent and resolute. But such pleasant feeling as arose persisted without gaining power over my mind.
"With the mind thus composed, purified, cleansed, unblemished, without defilement, malleable and workable, steady and immovable, I directed my mind to the knowledge of the exhaustion of the outflows (asava). I had direct knowledge, as it really is, that:
`This is suffering; this is the arising of suffering; this is the cessation of suffering; this is the path to the cessation of suffering'. I had direct knowledge, as it really is, that: `These are the outflows; this is the arising of the outflows; this is the cessation of the outflows; this is the path to the cessation of the outflows'. Knowing thus and seeing thus my mind was freed from the outflow of sense pleasure, the outflow of becoming and the outflow of ignorance. In freedom the knowledge came: `There is freedom'; I had direct knowledge: `Birth is exhausted, the religious life has been fulfilled, what was to be done is done, there is no more of being thus'.
"This was the third knowledge attained by me in the third watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed and knowledge arose, darkness was destroyed and light arose, accordingly as I dwelt vigilant, ardent and resolute. But such pleasant feeling as arose persisted without gaining power over my mind. (M.I,247ff; cf. M.I,22f;117)
These "Three Knowledges" were also realised by some of the disciples of the Buddha, although they are not special requirements for the realisation of Awakening. The profound insight which the Buddha realised in the experience of Awakening is expressed in a variety of ways in different parts of the Canon.
11. "So also, bhikkhus, have I seen an ancient path, an ancient road, travelled along by fully Enlightened Ones of former times. And what, bhikkhus, is that ancient path, that ancient road, travelled along by fully Enlightened Ones of former times? It is just this Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say, right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
"This is that ancient path, that ancient road, travelled along by fully Enlightened Ones of former times, and going along it I came to know ageing-and-death, I came to know the origin of ageing-and-death, I came to know the cessation of ageing-and-death, I came to know the way leading to the cessation of ageing-and-death. Going along it I came to know birth . . . becoming . . . grasping . . . craving [. . . feeling . . . contact . . . sixfold sense-field . . mind-and-body . . . consciousness .] I came to know volitional activities, I came to know the origin of volitional activities, I came to know the cessation of volitional activities, I came to know the line of conduct leading to the cessation of volitional activities.
Having understood it (through personal experience) I have taught it to the bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, the male and female lay-followers, so that this holy life has become rich, prosperous and wide-spread, known to many, widely known and announced by celestials and humans." (S.II,105f, Ireland trans., Wheel 107/109, p.25-6 )
Several times the Buddha's experience of Awakening is expressed as the understanding of Conditional Causality (S.II,10;103ff; cf. Vin.1,1-2; Ud.1-3), and in other places as fully comprehending the satisfaction, misery and escape from the: 4 elements (S.II,169ff); 5 khandhas (S.III,27ff); 6 senses and 6 sense-objects (S.IV,6ff;97); feelings (S.IV,233); 5 faculties (S.V,203); world (A.I,258).
It is also stated that this Awakening was assisted by the development of mindfulness of breathing (S.V,316) and the basis of psychic power (S.V,264ff), seeing the peril in pleasures and being proficient in the entering and emerging from the 9 absorptions (A.IV,438ff).
12. "So, bhikkhus, being myself subject to birth, ageing, sickness, death, sorrow and defilement -- having seen the peril in what is subject to these things -- seeking the unborn, unageing, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, undefiled, supreme surcease of bondage, Nibbana -- I realised the unborn, unageing, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, undefiled, supreme surcease of bondage, Nibbana.
Knowledge and vision arose in me: unshakeable is my liberation, this is my last birth, there is now no renewed becoming." (M.I,150 abridged)
With the experience of Full Awakening, the Buddha-to-be's six strenuous years of ardent spiritual search and striving were rewarded. He had realised the unshakeable liberation of Nibbana and was now known as the Buddha, the One-Who-Knows the Truth. However, this Truth was indeed very different from what most people know, and was exceptionally hard to articulate.
13. "It occurred to me, bhikkhus: `This dhamma which I have found is profound, difficult to see, difficult to understand, peaceful, excellent, beyond logic, subtle, comprehensible only to the wise. But this is a humanity which loves desire, is delighted by desire, delighting in desire.
Thus, for a humanity which loves desire, is delighted by desire, delighting in desire, this is a subject difficult to comprehend, that is to say, causal connectedness, conditional causality. And indeed this is a subject difficult to comprehend, that is to say, the stilling of all formations, the giving up of all attachment, the exhaustion of craving, dispassion, cessation, nibbana. And if I were to teach dhamma and others did not understand me, that would be a weariness and vexation to me . . Such, as I was reflecting, my mind inclined to not bothering, to not teaching dhamma." (M.I,150f; Vin.I,4f; S.I,136f; cf. D.II,36f)
The Truth which the Buddha realised is quite contrary to the usual way of the world. That is, it is opposite to the birth, ageing and death which is common to worldly human beings -- it is the "unborn, unageing, unailing, deathless", which most people can not even imagine! And trying to teach this seemingly incomprehensible teaching to others would be futile. However, the celestial being Brahma Sahampati realised the serious consequences of this decision by the Buddha and beseeched him to teach for the sake of "beings with little dust in their eyes".
14. "Then I, bhikkhus, having known Brahma's entreaty, out of compassion for beings, surveyed the world with the eye of an Awakened One. I saw, bhikkhus, as I surveyed the world with the eye of an Awakened One, beings with little defilement, with much defilement, with keen faculties, with dull faculties, with good qualities, with bad qualities, easy to teach, hard to teach, and only a few who dwelt seeing faults and fear in the world beyond.
"Just as in a pond of blue lotuses or a pond of red lotuses or a pond of white lotuses -- only a few blue, red or white lotuses are born in the water, grow up in the water, do not rise above the water but thrive completely immersed in the water -- only a few blue, red or white lotuses are born in the water, grow up in the water, rest on the surface of the water -- only a few blue, red or white lotuses are born in the water, grow up in the water, stand up out of the water, untainted by the water.
"Then I, bhikkhus, addressed Brahma Sahampati in these verses:
Thus the Buddha overcame his original hesitation and decided to make the Path to Awakening known to those who were seeking. Celestial beings in Buddhism are recognised as beings of advanced spiritual development, the higher levels only attainable through refined meditation practice rather than mere virtuous actions. Several of the brahmanical "gods", in this quotation, Brahma, and in other quotations, Indra (Sakka, cf. D.21), have been co-opted into being partial to Buddhism. Metaphorically, they may represent the more noble human qualities.
15. "The Tathagata is perfected and fully
awakened. Listen, bhikkhus, the Non-Dying has been attained. I
shall instruct you; I shall teach you Dhamma. Following what
has been advised, you will soon enter on and abide in, know
and experience for yourself that unsurpassed culmination of
the religious life for the sake of which a person of good
family rightly goes forth from the homelife into
The Buddha first considered who would be most likely to understand his subtle teaching. He first remembered his two initial teachers (see 5) above), however, both of them had already passed away. Next he recalled the five ascetics who had attended upon him during his asceticism. These he sought out in the Deer Park at Sarnath near present day Varanasi. To them he gave his first teaching, with immediate results.
16. "Then the venerable Aññata Kondañña, having seen, reached, known, and penetrated into Dhamma, having crossed over doubt, without uncertainty, having attained perfect confidence in the Master's Teaching without depending upon another, said to the Exalted One: `May I, sir, receive the going forth in the Exalted One's presence. May I receive the acceptance.'
bhikkhu', the Exalted One said, `well-taught is Dhamma. Live
the religious life for the complete ending of suffering.'"
Annata Kondanna, being the first to understand this new teaching, immediately requested to become a committed disciple of the Buddha. He thus became the first bhikkhu to enter the Buddhist Sangha. He was soon followed by the other four ascetics as they also penetrated to the true meaning of the Buddha´s message.
17. "Wander about, bhikkhus, for the benefit and happiness of the manyfolk, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, benefit and well-being of human and celestial beings. Let not two of you go by one path. Teach the Dhamma which is beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in the middle and beautiful in the end. Explain the religious life, in spirit and in letter, completely fulfilled and pure." Vin.I,21
As the Buddha travelled and taught an increasing number of people realised the truth of his teaching and became fully awakened. When the number reached 60 the Buddha exhorted them to wander further afield in order to share the teaching with other suffering beings. For the next 45 years the Buddha himself wandered about northern India tirelessly teaching innumerable people, from highly-educated brahmins to simple farmers, from members of others sects to the rulers of neighbouring territories.
18. “Ananda, I am now decrepit, old, aged,
one who has traversed the span of life, reached the term of
eighty. Just as an old cart is made to go on with the help of
supports, so too the Tathagatha´s body is made to go on with
the help of supports. It is only when the Tathagatha withdraws
attention from all signs, and with the cessation of certain
feelings, he enters the signless concentration that his body
is at ease.
Part Two: The Dhamma
The Right Attitude
1. "Now I
say this, Nigrodha: Whatever discerning persons come to me who
are honest, open and straightforward -- I will instruct them,
I will teach them Dhamma. If they practice in accordance with
what is taught, in this very life, within seven years, they
will enter on and abide in, know and experience for themselves
that unsurpassed culmination of the religious life for the
sake of which a person of good family rightly goes forth from
the homelife into homelessness. Let alone seven years -- six
years; let alone six years -- five years . . . a fortnight;
let alone a fortnight -- in seven days they will know and
experience this for themselves."
offers us the possibility of realising spiritual liberation.
This is sometimes referred to as the "culmination of the
religious life", because it is the ultimate Truth, and
realisation of Truth is the principle purpose of human life.
"Nibbana, though very subtle and fine, is not hard to obtain
for one intent upon the goal, who is skilled in mind and of
gentle manner, and who practises the moral conduct of the
look you Kalamas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or
hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor
by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances,
nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming
possibilities, nor by the idea: `This is our teacher'. But, O
Kalamas, when you know for yourselves that certain things are
unwholesome, and wrong, and bad, then give them up . . . And
when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome
and good, then accept them and follow them."
`Sir, fully half of this religious life is friendship with the
noble, companionship with the noble, association with the
"Bhikkhus, these two extremes should not be practised by one
who has gone forth from the homelife into homelessness. What
two? There is devotion to indulgence in sense-pleasures, which
is low, common, of ordinary people, ignoble and unprofitable;
and there is devotion to self-mortification, which is painful,
ignoble and unprofitable.
"Skilful behaviour is the beginning, the foundation, and the
chief cause of all good things. Thus one should purify skilful
A. : Anguttara Nikaya
Bud.Dict. : Buddhist Dictionary
D. : Digha Nikaya
Dh. : Dhammapada
DPPN. : Dictionary of Pali Proper Names;
It. : Itivuttaka
J. : Jataka
LoB: Life of the Buddha, Nanamoli Thera
M. : Majjhima Nikaya
MLDB. : The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha
PED. : Pali-English Dictionary
S. : Samyutta Nikaya
Sn. : Sutta Nipata
Thera. : Theragatha
Their. : Therigatha
Ud. : Udana
Vin. : Vinaya Pitaka
Pali Canonical Texts in English translation from The Pali Text Society
Anguttara Nikaya: The Book of the Gradual Sayings, F. L. Woodward and E. M. Hare (trans.), 5 vols., 1932-36.
Buddhavamsa: Chronicle of Buddhas, I. B. Horner (trans.), in The Minor Anthologies of the Pali Canon, Part III, 1975.
Cariyapitaka: Basket of Conduct, I. B. Horner (trans.), in The Minor Anthologies of the Pali Canon, Part III, 1975.
Digha Nikaya: Dialogues of the Buddha, T. W. and C. A. F. Rhys Davids (trans.), 3 vols., reprinted 1971, 1973.
Itivuttaka: As it Was Said and Udana: Verses of Uplift, F. L. Woodward (trans.), 1935
Jataka-nidana: The Story of Gotama Buddha, N. A. Jayawickrama (trans.), 1990.
Majjhima Nikaya: Middle Length Sayings, I. B. Horner (trans.), 3 vols., 1954-59.
Petavatthu: Stories of the Departed, H. S. Gehman (trans.), in The Minor Anthologies of the Pali Canon, Part IV, 1974.
Samyutta Nikaya: The Book of the Kindred Sayings, C. A. F. Rhys Davids and F. L. Woodward (trans.), 5 vols., 1917-30.
Sutta Nipata: The Group of Discourses, K. R. Norman (trans.), with alternative translations by I. B. Horner and Ven. Walpola Rahula, 1984.
Theragatha: The Elders' Verses I, K. R. Norman (trans.), 1969.
Therigatha: The Elders' Verses II, K. R. Norman (trans.), 1971.
Vimanavatthu: Stories of the Mansions, I. B. Horner (trans.), in The Minor Anthologies of the Pali Canon, Part IV, 1974.
Vinaya Pitaka: The Book of the Discipline, I. B. Horner (trans.), 5 vols., 1938-52.
Pali Texts by other publishers
Anguttara Nikaya: Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, Nyanaponika Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi, Altimira Press, 1999
Dhammapada: The Dhammapada, Narada Thera (Pali ed. and trans.), B. M. S. Publication, np., 3rd ed. 1978.
Digha Nikaya: Thus Have I Heard, M. Walshe (trans.), Wisdom Publications, London, 1987.
Itivuttaka: The Itivuttaka, John D. Ireland, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 1991.
Majjhima Nikaya: Treasury of the Buddha's Words (partial translation), B. Nanamoli, Mahamakut Rajavidyalaya Press, Bangkok.
Majjhima Nikaya: The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1995.
Samyutta Nikaya: The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (2 vols), Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2000.
Sutta Nipata: The Sutta-Nipata, H. Saddhatissa, Curzon Press, London, 1985.
Vinaya Pitaka: Vinaya Texts (partial translation), T. W. Rhys Davids and H. Oldenberg (trans.), 3 vols., (reprint) Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1974.
Udana: The Udana, John D. Ireland, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 1990.
Gombrich, Richard F.; Theravada Buddhism, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1988.
Harvey, Peter; The Selfless Mind; Curzon Press, 1995
Khantipalo, Bhikkhu; Banner of the Arahants, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1979.
---------------------- ; Buddha, My Refuge, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1990.
Malalasekera, G. P. ; Dictionary of Pali Proper Names;, 2 vols., (reprint), Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, New Delhi, 1983.
Nyanaponika Thera; The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, Rider, London, 1987.
Nyanatiloka; Buddhist Dictionary, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1980.
Rahula, Walpola; What the Buddha Taught, Gordon Fraser, London, 1982.
Rhys Davids, T. W. and W. Stede; Pali-English Dictionary, (reprint) Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, Delhi, 1975.
Saddatissa, H.; The Sutta-Nipata, Curzon Press, London, 1985.
Walshe, M.; Thus Have I Heard: The Long Discourses of the Buddha, Wisdom, London,1987.
Winternitz, M.; A History of Indian Literature, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1988.
Publications Specifically on The Buddha
Carrithers, M.; The Buddha; Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1983.
Jayawickrama N. A.; Jataka-nidana: The Story of Gotama Buddha, PTS, 1990.
Khosla, S.; The Historical Evolution of the Buddha Legend, Intellectual Publishing House, New Delhi, 1989.
Nanamoli, Bhikkhu; The Life of the Buddha, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1972.
Saddhatissa, H.; The Life of the Buddha, Unwin Paperbacks, London, 1981.
Schumann, H.W.; The Historical Buddha, Arkana, London, 1989.
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