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Sāmaññaphala Sutta

The second sutta of the Dīghanikāya. Ajātasattu, accompanied by Jīvaka, visits the Buddha at Jīvaka’s Ambavana and questions him on the fruits of recluseship, for which men join the Buddha’s Order. The Buddha answers and includes in his answer his justification for the foundation of the Order, for the enunciation of the Vinaya, and the practical rules by which life in the Order is regulated.

The sutta also contains a list of ordinary occupations followed by people in the Buddha’s day, which forms interesting reading.

In the introductory story, Ajātasattu explains that he has already put the question to the founders of six other Orders:

  1. Pūraṇa Kassapa,
  2. Makkhali Gosāla,
  3. Ajita Kesakambala,
  4. Pakudha Kaccāyana,
  5. Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta
  6. Sañcaya Belaṭṭhiputta.

However, these teachers, instead of answering his questions, give a general statement of their theories.

The summaries given here of their teachings are of great interest, because they form some sort of evidence, at least, as to the speculations favoured by them. By means of a counter question, the Buddha finds from Ajātasattu that even if a servant of his joined the Order, he would receive the king’s honour and respect. Then the Buddha proceeds to show, step by step, the fruits higher and nobler, which await the samaṇa, immediate in their effect, culminating in the six-fold higher knowledge (abhiññā) of the Arahant. The king is greatly impressed, takes refuge in the Buddha, and expresses his remorse for having killed his father. The Buddha utters no word of blame, but after the departure of the king, he informs the monks that if Ajātasattu had not been guilty of patricide he would have realised the first fruit of the Path (D.i.47‑86).

The Commentary adds (DA.i.238) that as a result of hearing this discourse, Ajātasattu would, in the future, become a Pacceka Buddha named Vijitāvī. From this moment, Ajātasattu was one of the Buddha’s most devoted followers. It is said that, after his father’s death, Ajātasattu could never sleep at night until he had heard the Buddha, after which he enjoyed peaceful sleep.

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