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Sīha Suttaṃ

(A.iv.179)

A Discourse to Sīha

Introduction

This discourse to General Sīha shows why many Buddhists are neither vegetarians nor vegans. General Sīha was a follower of the Nigaṇṭhā (the Jains). The discourse makes it clear that:–

  1. The Buddha ate meat when it was offered.
  2. A Stream-winner (General Sīha) can buy meat or order it to be bought, although a Stream-winner is incapable of intentionally killing any living-being even to save his/her own life.
  3. Those who hold wrong-views will blame Buddhists for eating meat.
  4. The Buddha teaches the not-doing of any unwholesome deeds, and the cutting off of lust, ill-will, and delusion, leading to the relief of suffering.

Translation

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesāli in the great forest in the peaked hall. Then on that occasion many well-known and famous Licchavī were sitting together in the meeting hall and were speaking in various ways in praise of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha. [180]

Then on that occasion, General Sīha, a disciple of the naked ascetics was seated in that assembly. Then it occurred to General Sīha: “Without doubt the Blessed One must be a worthy fully enlightened Buddha since these many well-known and famous Licchavī are sitting together in the meeting hall and speaking in various ways in praise of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha. What if I were to approach this Blessed One the worthy fully enlightened Buddha and visit him!” Then General Sīha approached Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta, and having approached him said: “I wish, venerable sir, to approach the recluse Gotama to visit him.”

“What use is it for you, Sīha — one who speaks about action — to approach and visit one who speaks about inaction, the recluse Gotama, one who teaches a doctrine of inaction?” Then General Sīha’s intention to visit the Blessed One subsided.

On a second occasion many well-known and famous Licchavī were sitting together in the meeting hall and were speaking in various ways in praise of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha … [181] Then for a second time General Sīha’s intention to visit the Blessed One subsided.

On a third occasion … in praise of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha … “Without doubt the Blessed One must be a worthy fully enlightened Buddha since these many well-known and famous Licchavī are sitting together in the meeting hall and speaking in various ways in praise of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha. What if I were to approach this Blessed One the worthy fully enlightened Buddha and visit him! What can these naked ascetics do, whether they permit it or not? What if, without asking the naked ascetics for permission, let me approach the worthy fully enlightened Buddha and visit him.”

Then General Sīha set out from Vesāli in the middle of the day with five hundred chariots to visit the Blessed One. Having gone as far as vehicles could go, having dismounted from their vehicles, they continued the journey on foot. Then General Sīha approached the Blessed One, and having paid homage to the Blessed One he sat down at one side. Sitting at one side General Sīha said to the Blessed One:–

“I have heard, venerable sir, ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of inaction, [182] he teaches a doctrine of inaction, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ Those who say thus, venerable sir, do they represent the Blessed One truthfully, or do they misrepresent and slander him with what is untrue; do they speak in accordance with the Dhamma such that they would not deserve censure? Venerable sir, we do not wish to misrepresent the Blessed One.”

“There is, Sīha, a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of inaction (akiriyavādo), teaches a doctrine of inaction, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ There is, Sīha, a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of action (kiriyavādo), teaches a doctrine of action, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ There is, Sīha, a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of annihilation (ucchedavādo), teaches a doctrine of annihilation, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ There is, Sīha, a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of revulsion (jeggucchī), teaches a doctrine of revulsion, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ There is, Sīha, a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of abolition (venayiko), teaches a doctrine of abolition, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ There is, Sīha, a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of austerity (tapassī),¹ teaches a doctrine of austerity, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ There is, Sīha, a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of reserve (apagabbho),² teaches a doctrine of reserve, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ There is, Sīha, a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of relieving (assāsako), teaches a doctrine of relieving, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’

“And how, Sīha, could it rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of inaction, teaches a doctrine of inaction, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ [183] Indeed, Sīha, I declare inaction in doing bodily, verbal, and mental evil deeds, I declare inaction in doing various kinds of evil, unwholesome things. This, Sīha, is a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recuse Gotama is a teacher of inaction, teaches a doctrine of inaction, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’

“And how, Sīha, could it rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of action, teaches a doctrine of action, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ Indeed, Sīha, I declare action in doing bodily, verbal, and mental good deeds, I declare action in doing various kinds of good, wholesome things. This, Sīha, is a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of action, teaches a doctrine of action, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’

“And how, Sīha, could it rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of annihilation, teaches a doctrine of annihilation, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ Indeed, Sīha, I declare the annihilation of lust, anger, and delusion, I declare the annihilation of various kinds of evil, unwholesome things. This, Sīha, is a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recuse Gotama is a teacher of annihilation, teaches a doctrine of annihilation, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’

“And how, Sīha, could it rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of revulsion, teaches a doctrine of revulsion, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ Indeed, Sīha, I declare revulsion for bodily, verbal, and mental evil deeds, I declare revulsion for various kinds of evil, unwholesome things. This, Sīha, is a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recuse Gotama is a teacher of revulsion, teaches a doctrine of revulsion, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’

“And how, Sīha, could it rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of abolition, teaches a doctrine of abolition, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ Indeed, Sīha, I declare the abolition of lust, anger, and delusion, [184] I declare the abolition of various kinds of evil, unwholesome things. This, Sīha, is a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recuse Gotama is a teacher of abolition, teaches a doctrine of abolition, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’

“And how, Sīha, could it rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of austerity, teaches a doctrine of austerity, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ Indeed, Sīha, I declare austerity in bodily, verbal, and mental evil deeds, I declare austerity in various kinds of evil, unwholesome things. This, Sīha, is a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recuse Gotama is a teacher of austerity, teaches a doctrine of austerity, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’

“And how, Sīha, could it rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of reserve, teaches a doctrine of reserve, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ Indeed, Sīha, I declare that someone is reserved when he has abandoned re-entering the womb for renewed existence, cut it off at the root, made it like a palm-tree stump, destroyed rebirth utterly so that it cannot arise again. This, Sīha, is a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recuse Gotama is a teacher of reserve, teaches a doctrine of reserve, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’

“And how, Sīha, could it rightly be said of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is a teacher of relieving, teaches a doctrine of relieving, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’ Indeed, Sīha, [185] I relieve with the supreme relief, I teach the Dhamma for relief, and that is how I instruct my disciples. This, Sīha, is a way in which it could rightly be said of me: ‘The recuse Gotama is a teacher of relieving, teaches a doctrine of relieving, and that is how he instructs his disciples.’

When this had been said, General Sīha said to the Blessed One: “It is wonderful, venerable sir, it is marvellous, venerable sir! It is as if, venerable sir, someone had set upright what had been overturned, revealed what was hidden, pointed out the path to one who was lost, brought a light into the darkness so that those with eyes can see. Thus, venerable sir, the Blessed One has explained the Dhamma in various ways. I go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha. May the Blessed One regard me as a disciple who has taken refuge from today for as long as I shall live.”

“Make a thorough investigation, Sīha. Make a thorough investigation since you are well-known by your relatives and the general population [as a follower of the Nigaṇṭhā].”

“Because of this, venerable sir, I am even more pleased, delighted, and inspired by the Blessed One as the Blessed One says: ‘Make a thorough investigation. Make a thorough investigation since you are well-known by your relatives and the general population.’ Indeed, venerable sir, if the other sectarians would gain me as a disciple they would carry a banner through Vesāli proclaiming: ‘General Sīha has become our disciple.’ However, the Blessed One says: ‘Make a thorough investigation. Make a thorough investigation since you are well-known by your relatives and the general population.’ So for the second time, venerable sir, ‘I go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha. May the Blessed One regard me as a disciple who has taken refuge from today for as long as I shall live.’”

“For a long time, Sīha, your family has been a well-spring of support for the Nigaṇṭhā. You should consider continuing to give alms to them if they approach you.”

“I have heard this, venerable sir, ‘The recluse Gotama says thus: [186] “Alms should be given to us, only alms given to us is of great fruit, alms given to others is not of great fruit.” However, the Blessed One encourages me to give alms to the Nigaṇṭhā too. Venerable sir, we will know the right time for this. So for the third time, venerable sir, ‘I go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha. May the Blessed One regard me as a disciple who has taken refuge from today for as long as I shall live.’”

Then the Blessed One taught the Dhamma a graduated discourse, namely — talk on generosity, talk on morality, talk on [the way to reach] heaven, talk on the dangers, folly, and impurity of sensuality, and explained the benefits of renunciation. When the Blessed One knew that the mind of General Sīha was ready (kalla), malleable (mudu), unobstructed (vinīvaraṇa), uplifted (udagga), and confident (pasanna), he explained that teaching exulted (sāmukkaṃsikā) by the Buddhas — suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. Then just as a spotless pristine cloth would easily absorb dye, in the same way the undefiled, stainless eye of the Dhamma arose in General Sīha as he was sitting there: “Whatever phenomenon originates, all of that comes to cessation.”

Then General Sīha — having seen (diṭṭha) the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma (patta), understood the Dhamma (vidita), and penetrated (pariyogāḷha) the Dhamma, having transcended doubt, having got rid of indecision, having attained assurance, and independence of others in the teacher’s dispensation — said to the Blessed One: [187] “Please consent, venerable sir, to accept the meal tomorrow together with the community of monks.”

The Blessed One consented by remaining silent.

Then, understanding that the Blessed One had consented, General Sīha rose from his seat, paid homage to the Blessed One, and departed keeping him on his right side. Then General Sīha called a certain man and said to him: “Go, good man, and buy (jānāhī) some fresh meat (pavattamaṃsa). Then, when the night had passed, General Sīha, having had excellent hard and soft food prepared in his own residence, announced to the Blessed One that it was ready: “It is time, venerable sir, the meal is ready.”

Then, in the morning, having put on the robes, and taking the almsbowl and upper-robe, the Blessed One approached the residence of General Sīha; having approached, he sat down on the seat that had been prepared accompanied by the community of monks. Then, on that occasion, many Nigaṇṭhā went from street to street, and from cross-road to cross-road, waving their arms and shouting out: “Today, General Sīha, has slaughtered a great beast to make a meal for the recluse Gotama. The recluse Gotama knowingly partakes of meat prepared for his own sake, meant for him.”

Then a certain man approached General Sīha; and having approached him, whispered in his ear: “You should know, sir! Many Nigaṇṭhā went from street to street, and from cross-road to cross-road, waving their arms and shouting out: ‘Today, General Sīha, has slaughtered a great beast to make a meal for the recluse Gotama. The recluse Gotama knowingly partakes of meat prepared for his sake, [188] meant for him.’”

“Enough, friend, for a long time those venerable ones have desired to discredit the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha. These venerable ones cannot harm the Blessed One with their slander, which is baseless, empty, false, and untrue; we would not intentionally deprive a living-being of life even for the sake of our own life.”

Then General Sīha, with his own hand, served and satisfied the community of monks with the Blessed One at their head with excellent hard and soft food. Then, when the Blessed One had covered his bowl with his hand to show that he was satisfied, General Sīha sat down at one side. As he sat there, the Blessed one spoke on the Dhamma, and having instructed (sandassetvā), roused (samādapetvā), inspired (samuttejetvā), and delighted (sampahaṃsetvā) General Sīha, he got up from his seat and departed.

Notes

1. Austerity, burning up defilements. Bhikkhu Bodhi translates it is tormenting.

2. Reserved, modest, not impudent. Bhikkhu Bodhi translates it as “retiring.”

 


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