Chapter XVI THE KINDNESS OF THE BUDDHA Upon one occasion when the Buddha was known to be g

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Chapter XVI THE KINDNESS OF THE BUDDHA Upon one occasion when the Buddha was known to be going to deliver a discourse in a village where, He had rested overnight, a poor farmer, a Brahmin, living near by, made up his mind to be present and hear the Great Teacher speak. But to his dismay, on the morning of the day when the Buddha was to preach, he found that one of his bullocks was amissing. He was only a poor man and could not afford to lose it, so he set off at once into the jungle all round to look for it, hoping that he would soon find it, and be able to get back to the village before the time when the preaching was to begin. But the bullock had wandered further away than he expected; and although he made all the haste he could searching here, there and everywhere, wherever he thought his bullock might have got to, it was some time after mid-day before he found it and got back to the village. He was very hungry and very tired with running about all the morning under the hot sun, but he did not want to miss hearing the Great Teacher speak, so without waiting to take a rest or get anything to eat, he hurried to the place where the Buddha was, hoping he would still be in time to hear the end of the sermon at least. But when he got to the preaching place what was his surprise to find that the sermon had not even begun. There in the preaching hall the Buddha sat silent with all the people round Him patiently waiting for Him to begin. Pleased and thankful to find that he was still in time, the farmer crept quietly in at the back of the hall to look for a seat there. But as soon as he came in at the door, the Buddha saw him, and kindly asked him if he had had anything to eat. The farmer replied that he had only just come back from looking for a bullock he had lost, and he had not stopped to eat anything because he did not want to miss the sermon. On hearing this, the Buddha ordered one of His supporters near Him to give the farmer some food and He would wait for him to finish his breakfast before beginning the sermon. Then when the farmer had satisfied his hunger and taken a seat near Him, the Buddha began His discourse; and the farmer knew that the Buddha had somehow heard that he wanted to hear Him preach, and had sat silent in the preaching hall keeping everybody waiting until he should arrive. Some of the people and the Bhikkhus thought it was very strange and not quite right that the Buddha should concern Himself about the food of a person who was only a householder, not a Bhikkhu, and not even a follower of His at all, but a Brahmin. But the Buddha's kindness and thoughtfulness for the Brahmin who wanted so much to hear Him preach was well rewarded, for the Brahmin's heart was touched by the Buddha's consideration for him, and when the sermon was over he became the Buddha's follower for the rest of his life. On another occasion the Buddha again showed His kind consideration for common people this time for a young girl. In the town near which He then was staying there lived a weaver with one daughter who used to help him with his work. This girl was very anxious to hear the Buddha preach, but on the very day when the Buddha was to give His discourse it happened that she and her father had an urgent piece of work which they had to get finished that very day for an important customer. So the girl made up her mind to hurry with her part of the work, so that she might be able both to finish it and also hear the Great Teacher's sermon. Instantly she set to her task and wound up all her yarn on a quill and took it along, intending to carry it to the shed where her father had his loom. But on the way to the shed she had to pass near the place where the crowd sat motionless waiting for the words that were to fall from the Teacher's lips. And the girl laid her quill of yarn down and timidly took a seat behind the last row of the assembled congregation. But the Buddha saw that the young girl was ready to understand and follow His teaching; and He called to her to come nearer where she could hear better so that she might not miss anything He said. The girl came forward, and, to put her at ease, the Buddha encouragingly asked her where she was coming from and where she was going to. The young girl, thus questioned, replied that she knew where she was coming from and also where she was going to, "but at the same time," said she, "I am ignorant, Reverend Sir, of the place where I came from, and the place to which I am going." When the people present heard her give this strange answer to the Buddha's question, they became very indignant, for they thought she was trying to make fun of the Great Teacher, and they began to murmur and talk about putting her out of the hall for what they thought her gross impertinence. But the Buddha saw what the young girl was really thinking about in making this strange reply to His question, and He told the people to keep still. Then, turning to the girl, He asked her what she meant. And the girl spoke and said: "I know that I was coming from my father's house, and that I was going to our weaving-shed. But what existence I have come from into this present existence -- that I do not know at all. Neither am I sure about the existence that will follow after this one. Of these two things I am quite ignorant. My mind can discover nothing about either the one or the other." Then the Buddha and every one present praised the wisdom and insight of the young girl; and the Buddha began His sermon. And when it was finished, the young girl having listened eagerly and attentively to it all, she became one who has taken the first step on the Higher Path; she became what is called a Sotapanna -- that is, one who has entered the stream that eventually, without fail, will carry her on to Nibbana. On another day as the Buddha was walking through a wood, He happened to come upon a deer struggling in a snare that had been set by a hunter. The Buddha at once went forward and released the struggling animal and let it run away. Then He sat down under a tree near by to rest. And by and by the hunter came along, and saw at a glance that a deer had been caught in his snare, and that somebody had released it, letting it get away again. And when he looked round to see who it might be, his eye fell on the ascetic dressed all in yellow, who was sitting under a tree near by. The hunter knew at once that this must be the person who had caused him to lose his deer. "There are getting to be too many of these holy men," he said to himself in great anger. "They are always sneaking about everywhere spoiling honest men's business with their pious ways." And in his rage he lifted his bow, fitted an arrow to the bowstring, and taking good aim at the Buddha who meanwhile sat perfectly quite, let fly. "I am going now to make one less of them anyway," said the hunter. But his hand trembled so much as he took aim at this so strangely serene ascetic, that his arrow missed. Never in his life before had he missed anything he aimed at so close, and full of anger, at himself now he aimed another arrow at the Lord Buddha, and missed again. Astounded at his sudden poor skill in shooting, once more he shot an arrow at the Buddha and once more missed. Then, with a feeling very much like fear, he dropped his bow and arrows, and going up to the Buddha, humbly asked Him who He was. The Buddha told him, and then very mildly and gently began to talk to him about the evil of taking life which it is so very easy to take, but so very hard to give back again once it is taken. And the hunter listened to the Lord Buddha's words, and was so much impressed by them, that he there and them promised never again to kill any living thing at all, but henceforth, as the Buddha wished him to do, earn his living in some way that did not involve the hurting of any living creature. Another man who took life and was turned from that evil way of doing by the Buddha was called Angulimala. The life that this man took, however, was human life. And he had received his name of Angulimala, which means garland of fingers, because he had killed ninety-nine people and cut a finger off each person he killed, and strung it on a chain of fingers that he had hung around his neck. And now he was waiting by the roadside for another person to come along whom he also meant to kill, so as to get the hundredth finger he wanted for his ghastly necklace. And it happened that the Buddha came along the road as he was waiting thus. He thought it was just an ordinary ascetic, and he meant to kill Him and get the hundredth finger he wanted. And he too, Angulimala, just like the hunter, three times tried to get at the Buddha to kill Him, and three times, just like the hunter, he failed. Then, very much astonished, he went up to the Buddha and began to speak to Him. And the Buddha did not utter a single word of reproach to him for trying to kill Him, but instead, told him about the Doctrine. And after thus hearing about the Doctrine from the Buddha's own lips, Angulimala confessed his wickedness in killing so many people, and became a Bhikkhu. And not long after, through diligent study and practice he became an Arahan. But this did not free him from having to suffer the consequences of his evil deeds. For, when he went into the town of Savatthi with his begging bowl to gather alms of food, the people of the town pelted him with stones and hurt him so severely that in a short time he died. But he was not dejected or sorrowful at this that had happened to him. Neither was he angry at all at the people who had stoned him. He knew quite well that he was only suffering the results of his own ill deeds, and that it was far better to suffer like this at once and be done with it, than to have the consequences of his wrong-doing always hanging over his head in the future. So Angulimala died calmly and serenely and passed away to Nibbana. * * * Chapter XVII DEVADATTA The Buddha had one disciple whom He particularly loved, and who in return, had a specially warm affection for his Master, and that was His own cousin Ananda. Indeed, when the Buddha had reached the age of fifty-one and was beginning to feel the burden of His advancing years, He chose Ananda to be His special private attendant, giving out through Ananda any orders He wished made known to the other Bhikkhus. The other Bhikkhus also, when they wished to see the Buddha about any special matter, always asked first through Ananda. And often, when there was something they wanted from the Buddha which they did feel very sure they would not get if they asked for it themselves, they used to get Ananda to ask it from the Buddha on their behalf, for they knew that He was fond of Ananda and would be more likely to do what they wanted if Ananda spoke in favor of it. But the Buddha had another cousin who also had become a Bhikkhu under Him, but in his disposition towards is teacher and master, was the very opposite of Ananda. Far from taking delight in waiting upon the Buddha and serving Him faithfully, he was envious and jealous of Him, and wished to break up the Brotherhood of Bhikkhus He gathered round Him. The evil-disposed cousin of the Buddha was Devadatta. Being of the royal family of Kapilavatthu, he was inclined to be proud of himself and of the royal blood in his veins. So when, some time after he had become a Bhikkhu, Sariputta and Moggallana joined the Order, and on account of their great learning and ability, every one began to take much notice of them and call them "the right and the left hand of the Buddha," Devadatta became very jealous of them now, and annoyed and angry at the attention received by these two Bhikkhus who had not been in the Order as long as he, and were just of a common family while he was of royal blood and the Buddha's cousin to boot. Indeed, Devadatta became so angry at what he considered the unjust neglect of himself in favor of these two new-comers, that he left the company of Bhikkhus who went with the Buddha everywhere He went, and set off for Rajagaha where he expected to make friends with the young Prince Ajatasattu the son of King Bimbisara of Magadha, and heir to the throne. When he got to Rajagaha he put on a look of great gravity and solemnity, so that young Prince Ajatasattu was quite struck with his appearance, and thought: "How serious and solemn he looks. This must be a very good Bhikkhu indeed!" And in his great admiration for the serious-looking Devadatta, he built for him a fine Vihara near the city, and Devadatta took up his residence there, and the Prince became his obedient and devoted supporter. Time passed; and a few years after this, when, in the course of His continual wanderings, the Buddha came again to Rajagaha, Devadatta went to pay Him a visit, and asked to be allowed to form a company of Bhikkhus of his own, separate from those who accepted the Buddha as their Master. The Buddha, however, refused to give Devadatta the permission he asked for, saying that it was not a good thing for the Sangha to be divided. But Devadatta was bent upon having his own way, and he asked and asked again for permission to have a Sangha of his own, but each time the Buddha refused to grant him his wish. Then Devadatta's jealousy and envy turned to bitter hatred of the Buddha, and he made up his mind to start a Sangha of his own whether the Buddha gave him permission to do so or not. In this resolve of his he succeeded in getting Prince Ajatasattu to support him; but the Prince's father, King Bimbisara, altogether refused to have anything to do with his plan for a new Sangha, and firmly took the side of the Buddha in the matter. And now Devadatta, pretending to be very pious and strict in his life, worked his way completely into the confidence of Prince Ajatasattu, and gained such an influence over him that he was ready to do anything Devadatta told him to do. And when Devadatta saw that he could do anything he liked with Ajatasattu, he told him to put his father out of the way, and then he himself would be the King of Magadha and be able to do what he pleased with no one to hinder him, and he could help him, Devadatta, to carry out his scheme for a new Sangha. And Ajatasattu did what his evil counselor Devadatta thus advised him to do, but not suddenly with an arrow or a sword, for he still felt afraid to shed his father's blood. Yet he did kill his father, and in a very cruel way. For he caused his father to be captured and shut up in a prison and given no food, so that King Bimbisara died a slow miserable death by starvation, in spite of all his grief-stricken wife did to try to get the jailers to take food to him. It was in the thirty-seventh year of the Buddha's preaching career that Ajatasattu did this cruel deed, and took the throne of Magadha in the place of his father Bimbisara whom he thus murdered. Devadatta now had all the power he wanted. The new king of the country was his devoted friend and supporter, and would do anything for him that he asked him to do. So, very soon, he got King Ajatasattu to gather together for him a band of bowmen and he paid them well to go where the Buddha was staying, and shoot the Buddha dead. But when these hired assassins came to the place where the Buddha was, and saw him sitting there so calm, so mild, and yet so majestic looking, they simply could not do what they had come to do, and had been well paid to do. Completely over-awed by the bearing and manner of the Great Teacher, instead of letting loose their arrows at Him, they came up to Him and sat down at His feet in an attitude of reverence and worship. And the Buddha began to talk to them; and after a little they confessed what they had come to do and asked Him to forgive them for their evil intention. Of course the Buddha pardoned them at once, and they promised to Him that they would be His followers for all the remainder of their lives. But when Devadatta learned that the men he had sent out to kill the Buddha, instead of killing Him, had actually become His followers, he was furious with rage, and resolved next time not to send any one else but to go himself and take the Buddha's life. Now there was a hill near the palace where the Buddha was staying, and the Buddha used often to take a walk along a path at its foot. So one evening as the Buddha was taking a walk along this road, Devadatta who was all the time on the look out for a good chance to kill Him, without being seen by the Buddha climbed up the hill to a place just above the road, where there was a big rock. Devadatta loosened this rock from the soil round it, and waited till the Buddha was passing right below it. Then he gave the rock a big push and sent it rolling and bounding down the hill-side intending it to fall on the Buddha and crush Him to a jelly. But as the rock was rolling down straight for the Buddha's head, it struck against another big one that happened to lie in its way, and instead of falling straight on the Buddha's head, it broke into a lot of little pieces, and only one little splinter of it struck the Buddha on the foot and lamed Him for a little while. But it did not hurt Him very much, and He was able to walk back to the Vihara. And when He got there, the good and skillful physician Jivaka, put a bandage on it with some healing ointment, and by the next morning the foot was quite well again. So once more Devadatta was defeated in his evil designs. But he was not yet finished with his endeavors to bring about the death of the Great Teacher. He was going to make one more attempt to get the Buddha out of the way so that he himself might be the leader whom the Bhikkhus would follow. For that was what he thought. He thought that if once the Buddha was dead, then he would become the leader of the Sangha, and all of the Bhikkhus would follow him as their master. This time he arranged that when the Buddha went out as He did every morning through the streets of Rajagaha begging alms of food, a wild raging elephant should be let loose in the particular street where He was at the time, so that it might rush at Him and trample Him to death. And this was done. The raging elephant was brought to the street where the Buddha was then engaged in passing quietly from door to door begging His morning meal, and then let loose. But instead of rushing at the Buddha and crushing Him under its huge hoofs, it became quite quiet and subdued, and allowed the calm figure in the yellow robe to pass on unharmed. Thus for the third time the attempt of Devadatta to bring about the Buddha's death was defeated. Devadatta now gave up the idea of killing the Buddha, after failing these three times; but he was still as determined as ever, one way or another to bring about a break in the Sangha. So now he went to visit the Buddha, and pretending to be friendly with Him, told Him that he thought the Bhikkhus did not live strictly enough; he thought it would be better if they lived a harder life like the ascetic followers of other religious teachers, because the common people were inclined to look down on the Buddha's Bhikkhus saying that they seemed to have rather an easy and comfortable life, compared with other ascetics. Devadatta therefore suggested to the Buddha that He should make it a strict and fixed Vinaya rule that all His Bhikkhus henceforth should live no longer in any kind of roofed dwelling, but should sleep at night at the foot of a tree in the jungle, or in some open place without a roof. He also wanted the Buddha to order his Bhikkhus not to eat food specially prepared for them and brought to them in the place where they were staying, but to live strictly on such food as they got when round begging with their bowls, and to eat nothing else. Devadatta also wanted the Buddha to command the Bhikkhus not to wear any of the neat, clean, ready-made robes which the people used to give them, but only to cover their bodies with robes which they themselves had put together out of rags picked up on refuse-heaps and in tombs and burial places. And last he wanted the Buddha to make it a fixed rule that His Bhikkhus should not eat fish or meat of any kind. These four things Devadatta wished the Buddha to make binding rules of the Vinaya, which every member of His Sangha would have to observe or leave the Order. The Buddha, however, flatly refused to make any one of these rules he suggested a binding command upon His Bhikkhus. "But," the Buddha said, "if any Bhikkhu wishes to live always at the foot of trees or in places open to the sky, he can do so. But those who do not wish to do this, may live in places provided for them by benefactors, so long as they are not built too close to houses where the lay people live." And the Buddha said the same about the other three rules proposed by Devadatta. He said that any of his Bhikkhus who wished to do so, could live solely on what was put into their begging bowl when they went through the streets for alms, wear only what robes they made for themselves out of dirty, cast-off rags, and abstain from eating fish and meat. But those who did not wish to observe such practices, need not do so unless they liked. And the Buddha ended by warning Devadatta that he must not try in this cunning way to cause a split in the Sangha, or in the end the consequences would be very had for him. But, paying no heed to the Buddha's warning, Devadatta went away disappointed and angry, and going to Ananda, tried to get him to side with his views about having a stricter rule for the Bhikkhus. But Ananda refused to agree with him and sided with his Master the Buddha. Then Devadatta went away to a part of the country where the Bhikkhus had not seen the Buddha for a long time, and succeeded in winning over a lot of them to believe in him and in his new rules for the Sangha. But the Buddha came to hear of this. And one afternoon when Devadatta was asleep in his Vihara, He sent Sariputta to Devadatta's place to speak to the Bhikkhus who had gone wrong and were following Devadatta, and tell them what the Buddha had really said on the matter. And Sariputta did as his Master told him, and spoke to the erring Bhikkhus so well that in a little while they said they wanted to be the Buddha's disciples again; and they all rose up and followed Sariputta back to the Buddha's Vihara. When Devadatta woke again from his sleep that afternoon he thought the Vihara seemed strangely quiet as if there were nobody in it, and he went out to see what was the matter. And when he went out he found that there was not a single Bhikkhu about the place. And soon he learned that Sariputta had been there while he was sleeping, and had spoken to his Bhikkhus, so that now they had all left him, every one, and gone back to the Buddha. Then Devadatta was filled with rage and fury and ordered his servants to prepare his litter and take him at once to the Buddha's Vihara; he was going to see what the Buddha meant by taking all his disciples from him. But when Sariputta and the other Bhikkhus heard of Devadatta's rage, and that he was on his way to the Buddha's Vihara, they advised the Buddha to go away, for they feared that when Devadatta came, this time for sure he would kill the Buddha in his fury. But the Buddha was not in the least disturbed at the news that Devadatta was coming, and told Sariputta that he knew that Devadatta could not do Him any harm. "But he is full of anger at the Blessed One," said Sariputta; and again he urged his Master to save Himself while there was time, for Devadatta was coming nearer. But the Buddha still refused to move saying again that He felt quite safe against anything Devadatta could do. And the Buddha proved to be right. For the next thing the Bhikkhus heard was that Devadatta's bearers had stopped on the way. Then came the news that Devadatta was dead. And it was quite true. Death struck down Devadatta himself at the very time, when he was on his way to bring death to the Buddha. After this there was no more trouble in the Sangha as long as the Buddha was alive. The only distressing thing that happened in connection with the Buddha was that the king and the princes of the royal houses of Kapilavatthu and of Kosala, both were all killed in war by the cruel Ajatasattu, after once before having been saved from that fate by the efforts of the Buddha. This blotting out of the Buddha's family happened in the year before that in which He Himself passed away into Nibbana. * * * Chapter XVIII MAHAPARINIBBANA The Lord Buddha now began to feel that His days in this world were coming to a close; but before He passed away He wished to give His Bhikkhus some last advice which should serve to guide them in their general conduct after He was gone and could advise and guide them no more with His living voice. So He told Ananda to gather the Bhikkhus together in the Preaching Hall at Rajagaha; and when all the Bhikkhus had assembled, He addressed them as follows: "O Bhikkhus, as long as you remain united and meet together frequently, so long the Sangha will continue to flourish and prosper. So long as you meet together and decide all important questions in union and harmony one with another, and do not make new and oppressive rules, hard to keep, where I have made none, but strictly adhere to the observance of those rules which I have given you for your help and protection -- so long as you do this, the Sangha will never decay and die out. "Always treat with respect those who have been longer in the Sangha than yourselves, and pay attention to their counsel and admonition. Be ever on the watch against the beginnings of anything that tends to evil in order that you may not become the slaves of evil before you are aware. Do not seek company: seek solitude. When Bhikkhus from other places come to visit you, attend to their wants and treat them well and hospitably. When any among you are sick, let the others wait upon them and care for them. He who thus waits upon and cares for a sick brother, it is the same as if he waited upon and cared for me. Shun pride vain show. Seek the companionship of the good; avoid the company of the bad. Think and reflect frequently upon the nature of all things here, that they do not last, that they cause suffering to him who clings closely to them, that they are empty of any solid substance." "So long as you do these things and follow the rules of conduct I have given you for your guidance, you will always be respected and esteemed by the householders and everyone, and the Sangha will prosper, and you will be safe from falling into anything low and vulgar and ignoble, you will be shielded from everything unbecoming, everything unworthy of those who have left the household life to live in homelessness." This was the last sermon the Buddha preached to the whole Sangha. After this, He went to the city of Nalanda, and then to the city of Patali; and at this latter place He preached this His last sermon to the householder folk. "Dayakas, whoever breaks the precepts of right conduct which I have taught for the guidance of householders, or is careless and slack in his observance of them, such a person will lose his good name among men, and his well-being and happiness in this world will grow less and less, and finally dwindle away and disappear altogether. He will have no certainty, he will feel no confidence of mind, but, wretched and unhappy, at death he will pass away to a fate of misery and suffering. "But those who faithfully keep these precepts of good conduct which I have laid down, those who are not careless in the observance of them, such persons will gain honor and enjoy a high reputation among men. They will enjoy health and wealth and all prosperity. They will be welcomed wherever they may go. They will be received with pleasure even in the company of the great, among princes and king's counselors, among the good and the learned and the wise. Their minds will be free from any kind of doubt or anxiety; and after death they will pass to a state of happiness." And now the Buddha is getting to be an old man. He is eighty years of age. For nearly forty-five years He has been traveling about on foot up and down His native land of India, teaching and preaching without any rest except during the rainy season of each year. And now He is feeling His years. He is weary and worn out in body, though His mind remains as strong as ever. He feels that He is not going to live much longer, and His thoughts turn to the north, towards the lands that lie at the foot of the great snowy mountains, where His youthful days were passed. It is in that country that He wishes to pass away from the world He has served so ungrudgingly these many years. So, leaving Rajagaha. He turns His now feeble steps northwards, intending to go to the little town of Kusinara, and there await death. On the way to it, He passes through the city that is now called Patna, and then, still going north, through the rich town of Vesali where He once was splendidly entertained by the courtesan Ambapali, and given a Vihara by her, much to the annoyance of the young princes of the place who wanted to have the honor of doing this themselves. When He had arrived at the little village of Beluva, He sent away all the Bhikkhus who had been coming with Him so far, all except his faithful attendant Ananda, who never left Him night or day, telling the other Bhikkhus that they had better spend the Vassa or rainy season at some place where they would have a better chance of getting support than a little place like Beluva which could not provide food for so many of them. So most of the Bhikkhus went back to Vesali to spend the rainy season near that large and rich city. Meanwhile, the Buddha resolved to spend this last Vassa of His life at Beluva. But He had not been staying there very long when He was seized with severe illness accompanied by violent pain. And the sickness increased and the pain grew worse until Ananda began to think that his Master was going to die. But the Buddha did not want to die at Beluva. He did not want to die until He had seen His Bhikkhus once more and encouraged them and strengthened them in the good life they are trying to live. So, with a great effort of will, He managed to master His sickness, being determined to live and see and speak to His Bhikkhus once more before He passed away. And after a time, feeling better again, He went outside and took a seat on the shady side of the little house He was living in, out of the hot sun, on a mat Ananda had made ready for Him. And Ananda sat down near Him and said: "How glad I am to see that the Blessed One is better again! I almost fainted away when I saw how ill the Blessed One was a little while ago. I very nearly swooned. But then I thought: 'No, most surely the Blessed One will not pass away to Nibbana till He has left full instructions about the future of the Sangha, and how it is to be conducted when He is gone.'" "But Ananda," said the Buddha, "what more can the Bhikkhus ask of me? I have taught them the whole doctrine; I have not hidden from them anything they ought to know in order to be able to reach Nibbana. I have been a faithful teacher to them, and told them all they need to know so that they may bring suffering to an end. One who wanted to rule the Sangha and keep it under his own control, might well leave orders about its future government. But I, Ananda, do not wish to rule over the Sangha, or to keep it under My control. What instructions then, should I leave about its future? I am now an old man, feeble and worn out. My days are at an end. I am eighty years of age. I have only one thing I want to say to you all. Be to yourselves your own light. Be to yourselves your own refuge. Do not go looking for any other light or refuge. Whoever, Ananda, when I am gone shall be to himself his own light, his own refuge, looking for no other light or refuge -- whosoever shall take the truth I have taught as his light and his refuge -- that disciple, Ananda, now and always will be my true disciple, will be walking in the right way." Next morning the Buddha was feeling so well again that He was able to go into Vesali on His usual begging round; and in the evening He sent Ananda to bring the Bhikkhus who were living in Vesali to Him, so that He might speak to them all once more. When the Bhikkhus had all come, He exhorted them earnestly, as His last parting admonition to them, to follow faithfully the good way He had taught them, for the sake of the world, for the sake of the benefit, the advantage, the welfare of the world of men which need to have kept before it the example of the holy life, perfect and pure. "All that belongs to this world is changeable and unlasting," He said. "Exert yourselves! Strive earnestly! Follow the Good Way! Keep close watch over your minds! So shall you find certain deliverance from the round of birth and death and all things evil." Then, the next morning, the Buddha started out direct for Kusinara, and on the way, at a little village called Pava, He was invited by the son of the village goldsmith, whose name was Cunda, to partake of a meal of //sukara-maddavam//, a kind of mushroom which wild boars much delight to eat, hence its name which means //boar's delight//. The Buddha partook of the meal Cunda offered Him, and after He had eaten, felt very much refreshed and strengthened. Indeed, He thought He had quite got over His illness and He praised Cunda for having given Him a meal that had done Him so much good, and said that the good deed Cunda thus had done would make for his well-being both here and hereafter, both now and in the future. Unfortunately, the improvement produced in the Buddha's condition by the meal Cunda had just given Him, did not last very long. The illness that had first attacked Him at Beluva came on Him again. But again by a great effort of will He mastered it, and getting to His feet, with failing strength struggled on once more towards Kusinara, and after a painful journey at length reached the grove of Sal trees outside the town which belonged to the princes of the place. "Go Ananda," said the Buddha when He came in sight of the grove and saw that His journey was now ended; "go and make ready a place for Me to lie down on between those two big Sal trees. I am very weary Ananda, and would like to lie down and rest." So Ananda took the Buddha's robe and, folding it in four, spread it on the ground between the two big Sal trees, so that his Master could lie on it with His head towards the North. Then the Buddha lay down on the couch thus prepared for Him, not to sleep, but only to rest His sick and weary body while His mind remained calm and collected as ever. For, did He not once tell Sariputta in the years when He was still hale and well, that if He were to live to become so old and weak that He could not walk but had to be carried about in a litter, still, for all that, He would be able to expound His Teaching and answer any question about it that might be asked even by the wisest and cleverest scholars, as long as they could stay awake to ask questions! He would never be tired in His mind. But now, when Ananda saw that his beloved Master was really going to leave him he was filled with grief; he could not help it. And he went into the Vihara close by, and hiding himself from the Buddha's eyes behind the door, he began to weep, saying to himself: "I am not like the other Bhikkhus. I am still only a learner. I have not yet reached the state of Arahan. And now my Teacher is going to pass away and leave me, he who has always been so kind to me." And the hot tears rolled down poor Ananda's cheeks. Then the Buddha opened His eyes and seeing that Ananda was not beside Him as usual, He said to the other Bhikkhus who were round Him: "Where is Ananda?" "Reverend Lord," replied one of the Bhikkhus, "the venerable Ananda has gone into the Vihara and is now standing behind the door there weeping, and saying that he is only a learner, not perfect yet, and now is losing his teacher who was always kind to him." "Go, O Bhikkhu," said the Buddha, "and tell Ananda that his teacher is calling for him." So the Bhikkhu went and told Ananda that the Buddha wanted to see him. And Ananda came and sat down near the Blessed One. And the Blessed One spoke to him and said "Enough, now, Ananda! Do not grieve, do not weep. Have I not told you many and many a time that it must be that some day we shall be separated, cut off, sundered, parted from all that is dear to us? This must be, Ananda. There is no help for this. How is it possible that any-thing that has been born, has had a beginning, should not again die, come to an end? Such a thing, Ananda, is not possible. For a long time now, Ananda, you have waited upon the Tathagata and served him with body and speech and mind, in deed and word and thought, kindly, devotedly, cheerfully, ungrudgingly, and beyond measure. You have done much that is good by your faithful service of me, Ananda. Now exert yourself to get rid of all the things that hinder you from becoming an Arahan, and in a very short time you will become one." Then the Buddha spoke to the other Bhikkhus round Him and said: "All the Buddhas before me have each had a favorite disciple and body-servant just as I have had Ananda. And all the Buddhas to come will each have a favorite attendant like Ananda. A wise and faithful servant has Ananda been to me. He always knew when it was a suitable time to let visitors see me. He has always been pleasant to them in all his words and ways, and they have always been pleased with his manners towards them. When he has addressed them, they have always wanted to hear more from his lips. Such an excellent disciple and servant has Ananda always been to me." Then Ananda spoke and said to the Buddha: "Pray, Reverend Lord, do not pass away to Nibbana from this little mud-built place, this jungle town, this out-of-the-way corner. There are great cities like Rajagaha and Savatthi and Vesali and others. Let the Blessed One be pleased to pass away from one of these places. In these cities there are many wealthy and high-placed believers in the Blessed One who will see to His funeral rites in a manner worthy of the Tathagata. "Nay, Ananda," said the Buddha, "do not talk like that. Do not call this a little out-of-the-way, mud-built, jungle place. For at one time Ananda, in days gone by, this was a great and flourishing city, the capital of the country where a great king lived in his golden palace." "But go now, Ananda, and tell the chief men and the people of Kusinara that to-night, in the last watch of the night, the Tathagata will pass away to Nibbana. Therefore let them come and see the Tathagata before He passes away." So Ananda, taking with him another Bhikkhu, did as his Master bid him, and went to Kusinara and told the elders of the town that the Buddha was going to pass away that night. And when they heard it, they were much grieved, and cried: "Alas, too soon, too soon is the Blessed One passing away to Nibbana. Too soon, too soon is the light of the world vanishing from the sight of men." And all the people of Kusinara, men, women and children, grieving and sorrowing, came to the Sal Tree grove where the Buddha lay, to take a last farewell of Him. And family by family, they bowed low before Him in reverence, and so bade Him farewell. Now it happened that a certain wandering ascetic, called Subhadda was staying near Kusinara at this time, and when he heard that the Buddha was about to pass away, he resolved to go and see Him at once and ask Him about a certain matter that puzzled him, before He passed away. For he felt sure that the Lord Buddha could answer the question he wished to ask and clear up all his doubts about it. So Subhadda went to the Sal Tree grove, and told Ananda about his question, and asked him kindly to give him an opportunity of speaking to the Buddha and putting his question to Him before He passed away. But Ananda said: "Enough, Subhadda, enough. The Blessed One is very weary. Do not trouble Him with questions now." But Subhadda was too anxious to have his doubts settled by the Buddha before He passed away, to take a refusal from Ananda, and he pressed Ananda again and again to let him see the Buddha; and Ananda again and again told him that his Master was far too ill and could not be disturbed by any one. However, the Buddha, where He lay, caught a word or two of the talk that was passing between Ananda and Subhadda, and He called Ananda to Him and said: "Come, Ananda. Do not keep Subhadda from seeing me. Let Subhadda come and see me if he wishes. What he asks will be for the sake of learning from me, and not merely in order to trouble me. He is quick of wit, and will readily understand what I say to him, Ananda." Then Ananda allowed the wandering ascetic Subbhada to approach the Buddha. And after greeting the Buddha with all respect, Subhadda said: "Gotama, have all the famous leaders of ascetics of other schools than yours, discovered the Truth as they say they have? Or have they not discovered the Truth? Or have some of them discovered the Truth, and others not?" "Enough, O Subhadda," said the Buddha. "Never mind that question. But listen to me and pay close attention to what I say, and I will make known to you the Teaching." "In whatever doctrine or discipline the Noble Eightfold Path is not found, there also are not to be found those have become Sotapanna, or Sakadagami, or Anagami, or Arahan. But wherever the Noble Eightfold Path is found, there also is found the Sotapanna and the Sakadagami and the Anagami and the Arahan. And in this Doctrine and Discipline of mine, O Subhadda, is to be found the Noble Eightfold Path, and in it alone the Sotapanna and the Sakadagami and the Anagami and the Arahan. In no other schools of ascetics are these to be found. And if only my Bhikkhus live rightly and follow my precepts, the world will never be without true and genuine Arahans." Then Subhadda asked to be admitted to the Order of Bhikkhus, and the Buddha granted his request, and told Ananda to give him ordination. In this way Subhadda became the very last Bhikkhu whom the Buddha admitted to the Order, just as Kondanna in the deer park near Benares was the first. And by earnest and diligent labor in the Doctrine and Discipline, Subhadda very shortly became an Arahan. Then the Buddha spoke to Ananda again and said: "Perhaps, Ananda, some of the Bhikkhus may be thinking: 'The Teacher's words we shall hear no more. We have no teacher now.' But, Ananda, that is not the right way to look at the matter. The doctrine and the discipline which I have taught you and counseled you to follow while I was with you, these will be your teacher when I am gone. And now, while I am alive, you all address one another as 'Brother,' but when I am gone, the older Bhikkhus are to address those younger than themselves in the Order by their simple name, or as 'Brother,' but those that are younger must always address those that are older than themselves in the Order, as 'Reverend Sir,' or 'Venerable Sir,' and after I am gone, Ananda, the Order, if it wishes, may do away with all the lesser and minor rules of the Order." Then the Buddha, addressing the other Bhikkhus said: "If any among you has any doubts or perplexities regarding the Buddha or the Dhamma or the Sangha or the Path or about what is Right Conduct, ask about these now, O Bhikkhus, so that afterwards you may not have cause to regret that you did not have your doubts settled while the Teacher was with you to do so." But at these words of the Buddha, none of the Bhikkhus said anything: none of them had any questions to ask: none of them had any doubts or perplexities. Then a second and a third time the Buddha asked any of the Bhikkhus who had any question they would like to put to Him, to do so now while He was with them to answer it; but still no Bhikkhu spoke. Then Ananda spoke and said: "It is wonderful it is admirable. Reverend Lord! I do believe that in all this great company of Bhikkhus there is not a single one who has any doubts or perplexities about the Buddha or the Dhamma or the Sangha or the Path or the Right Rule of Conduct." "With you, Ananda," said the Buddha, "this may be a matter of faith and belief. But I, Ananda, I know that not a single Bhikkhu here has any doubts or perplexities about these things. Of all the Bhikkhus here present, Ananda, even the most backward of them is not liable to fall back into any lower state of existence, but is certain to attain wisdom supreme." Then the Blessed One once more addressed the assembled Bhikkhus, and these were the very last words He spoke on this earth. "O Bhikkhus," He said, "this is now my last admonition to you. //Sabbe sankhara anicca, Appamadena sampadetha.// All the constituents of existence are unlasting. By earnestness work out your liberation." Then the Blessed One sank into trance ever deeper and deeper. Then He came out of trance again. Then He again passed into trance a little way; and from this trance passed away with that passing away which leaves nothing whatever behind that can cause birth again in this or any other world. The Blessed One passed away to Parinibbana. It is twenty-five centuries ago since Siddhattha Gotama, the Sakya Prince who became Gotama the Buddha, thus passed away in far Kusinara. But His words, His Teachings, have not passed away. These still remain, the guide through life to what is beyond life, of millions of the human race. For, after His passing away, the Arahans and other disciples of that Blessed One spread the tidings of His great Teaching all through His native land of India, and passing beyond its boundaries, carried it far away to the West into Egypt, and to the East into Tibet and China and Japan. To Lapland in the cold North the Message was borne by them, and to Java and the isles of the southern seas. So that to-day two and a half millennia since He passed away from the earth, nearly a third part of those that dwell upon it revere the name of the Exalted One, the Blessed One, the Buddha Supreme, the Instructor of gods and men the Teacher unique, without a peer, who taught Nibbana and the Way Thither. * * * * * * * *

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank