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7 – Arahantavaggo

The Worthy

No Suffering for the Emancipated

“For him who has completed the journey, for him who is sorrowless,
for him who from everything is wholly free,
for him who has destroyed all ties, the fever (of passion) exists not.”

Jīvaka’s Question

Devadatta tried to kill the Buddha by hurling a boulder from above. It struck another rock, split, and a splinter struck the Buddha’s foot, drawing blood and causing severe pain.¹ Jīvaka the physician dressed the wound and left, saying that he would return to undress it after seeing a patient in the city. He could not return in time as the city gate was closed. He worried that the Buddha would suffer. The Buddha read Jīvaka’s thoughts and ordered the Venerable Ānanda to remove the dressing. Early the following morning Jīvaka hurried to the monastery and asked whether the wound had been painful. The Buddha explained that he had extinguished all suffering under the tree of enlightenment.

Arahants have the five aggregates, just like others. The aggregate of feeling includes pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, and indifference. The Arahants feel pain and pleasure, but their minds are neither elated by contact with pleasure, nor depressed by contact with pain. Nutritious food gives them energy, unsuitable food causes ailments.

The Mindful Exert Themselves

“The mindful exert themselves. To no abode are they attached.
Like swans that quit their pools, home after home they abandon (and go).”

Venerable Mahākassapa

Having observed the Rains in the Bamboo Grove at Rājagaha, the Buddha announced his intention to set out on a tour of the countryside a fortnight later. The Buddha did this so that the monks could bake their bowls¹ and dye their robes.² Mahākassapa washed his robes as usual, (like one who had no plan to set out on tour). Some monks misconstrued his conduct and discussed amongst themselves that he still had attachment to his supporters and relatives. The Buddha heard their talk and remarked that the Venerable Kassapa was free from attachment. The Buddha had considered beforehand that it was not possible to leave the vihāra empty as the residents of Rājagaha would need the services of the monks on occasions of celebration and mourning. Everyone in Rājagaha was either Mahākassapa’s relative or his supporter, so the Buddha asked him to remain.

  1. Iron almsbowls are baked to create an oxidised coating. This protects the iron from rusting due to contact with acidic foods. Burmese monks’ bowls are coated with lacquer for the same reason.
  2. The robes are washed in a dye made from boiling wood chips of the Jackfruit tree. A concentrated solution is used to dye the robes, while a dilute solution is used to wash them.

Reflect Well Over Food

“They for whom there is no accumulation, who reflect well over their food,
and have deliverance which is void and signless as their object —
their path, like that of birds in the air, cannot be traced.”

The Story of Belaṭṭhasīsa Thera

Feeling oppressed by searching for alms daily, a monk stored plain boiled rice so that he could enjoy the bliss of jhāna more continuously. The other monks complained of his behaviour and the Buddha laid down a training rule prohibiting the eating of food that had been stored.¹ However, since this event occurred before the rule was laid down, the Buddha declared that the Elder was free from blame, and praised his contentment regarding food, teaching the above verse.

  1. It is allowable to store food in a monastery, but the monks cannot take it themselves to eat. The food must be offered by a lay person or novice after dawn and before midday on the day that it is to be used. The purpose is that a monk should reflect well over his food. A monk’s livelihood depends on collecting alms. (Cf. verses 168-169).

The Undefiled Ones Are Free

“He whose corruptions are destroyed, is not attached to food,
and has deliverance, which is void and signless, as his object —
his path, like that of birds in the air, cannot be traced."

The Story of Venerable Anuruddha

The former wife of Anuruddha in a previous life was reborn as the deity Jālinī in Tāvatiṃsa. Seeing the elder collecting rags for making robes, she hid some robes in a rubbish heap, so that he would find them. When it was time for making robes she urged the townsfolk to offer almsfood. When his supporters brought food in abundance, some monks unjustly blamed the Venerable Anuruddha, saying that he was urging people to give so much to show off his influence. The Buddha said that the supporters’ generosity was not due to any urging by Venerable Anuruddha. He added that the Arahants do not talk about requisites.

The Sense-Controlled Are Dear to All

“He whose senses are subdued, like steeds well-trained by a charioteer,
whose pride is destroyed, and who is free from the corruptions —
such a steadfast one even the gods hold dear.”

The Story of Venerable Kaccāyana

Sakka, the king of the gods, paid great reverence to the Venerable Kaccāyana. Some monks accused Sakka of being partial. The Buddha reproved them and added that Arahants like the Venerable Kaccāyana whose senses are well subdued, are dear to both gods and men.

Equanimous Like the Earth

“Like the earth, a balanced and well-disciplined person resents not.
He is as steady as a city gate post.
As a deep lake is unclouded by mud,
saṃsāra does not arise for such a one.”

Venerable Sāriputta’s Humility

Having spent the Rains at Sāvatthi, Venerable Sāriputta prepared to set out on tour. When the monks came to pay their respects he greeted them by name or clan. A certain monk bore a grudge because the elder didn’t know his name. When the elder inadvertently brushed his robe against the ear of that monk his grudge grew into hatred. As soon as the elder left, he approached the Buddha to say that the elder had clouted his ear and departed without apologising. The Buddha sent for the elder to be called back. Knowing that there would be a lion’s roar from the elder, the Venerables Ānanda and Moggallāna assembled the monks to witness the occasion.

Questioned by the Buddha about the incident, the Venerable Sāriputta, without asserting his innocence, described his humble ways ever since he became a monk. Remorse overwhelmed the erring monk, who confessed his offence to the Buddha. Venerable Sāriputta accepted his apology and asked forgiveness if he has done any wrong. The Buddha praised the Venerable Sāriputta, comparing him to the unresenting earth.

Calm Are the Peaceful

“Calm is his mind, calm his speech, calm his action,
who, rightly knowing, is wholly freed, perfectly peaceful, and equanimous.

The Wise Novice

The elder Tissa lived at Kosambī. He asked his supporter for an attendant. He give his seven-year-old son to be a novice. The boy gained Arahantship even as his head was being shaved. After a fortnight, the elder decided to visit the Buddha. On the way they obtained lodging in a vihāra. The novice prepared the room for his teacher, but there was no time to find a room for himself. The elder told him to stay with him. The elder soon fell asleep, but the novice stayed awake sitting in meditation, as he knew that his teacher would fall into an offence if he slept a fourth night with a non-bhikkhu. When he awoke, the elder used his fan to wake the novice whom he thought to be asleep, accidentally destroying his eye. When the novice presented the tooth-cleaning stick to the elder he did so with only one hand, holding the other over his blind eye. A novice should present things with two hands, so the elder asked him the reason, and the novice told him what had happened. The elder was stricken with remorse, but the novice showed no resentment at the carelessness of his teacher. Later, when the elder related to the Buddha what had happened, the Buddha told him not to blame himself, as it was just the fruit of the novice’s past kamma. He explained that Arahants never cherish any grudge or ill-will towards anyone.

An Excellent Man is Not Credulous

“The man who is not credulous,¹ who knows the uncreated,²
who has cut off rebirth,³ who has destroyed all results,⁴
and expelled all desires,⁵ he is truly an excellent man.”⁶

The Wisdom of Venerable Sāriputta

When thirty forest monks came to pay their respects, the Buddha asked the Venerable Sāriputta whether he believed that cultivating and maturing the five spiritual faculties — confidence, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom — could penetrate and culminate in the deathless. Venerable Sāriputta replied that he did not believe it. Since he had realised the Paths and Fruits he did not take it on faith in the Buddha. The monks talked among themselves that the elder had no faith in the Buddha. Then the Buddha explained that the Venerable Sāriputta was blameless as he had realised it through his personal experience, so he did not need to have faith in the word of another.

  1. Taken at face value, this verse is very shocking, but the key words all have double-meanings. Assaddho literally means “without confidence” i.e. a non-believer, but here it means one who is not credulous.
  2. Akataññū means “ungrateful,” literally one who does not know what has been done for his benefit, but here it means one who knows (aññū) that which is not created (akata).
  3. Sandhicchedo means one who breaks the connection between houses, a burglar, but here it means an Arahant who won’t be reborn again because he has broken the connection between existences.
  4. Hatāvakāso means one who has ruined his life, but here it refers to the Arahant who has destroyed all future results.
  5. Vantāso or vantāsiko is a kind of hungry ghost (peta) that feeds on vomit, but here means one who has ‘vomited or expelled all desire.
  6. Uttamapuriso means the best of men, but could also mean “one who thinks that he is superior to others” i.e. a conceited person.
    You can just imagine the shock effect the verse had on the minds of the thirty forest monks, who entertained doubts about Venerable Sāriputta, if they thought what the Buddha was saying was:

“The ungrateful, faithless burglar, has ruined his life.
He eats what is vomited by others, yet thinks that he is superior.”

Where the Worthy Dwell is Delightful

“Whether in a village or forest — in a valley or on a hill,
wherever the worthy dwell — that spot is delightful.”

Venerable Revata

Revata, the youngest brother of the Venerable Sāriputta renounced the world while still a boy, and soon attained Arahantship with all the psychic powers. When the Buddha visited him with the Saṅgha he created magnificent dwellings. Some monks who visited later saw only a forest monk living in a thorny Acacia forest. When the monks later took meals at Visākhā’s residence she asked about the Venerable Revata’s residence, and was given widely divergent descriptions. When she asked the Buddha, he commented on the attractiveness of the forests where the Arahants dwell.

Forests Are Delightful to the Passionless

“Delightful are the forests where ordinary people find no joy;
the passionless rejoice, as they seek no sensual pleasures.”

The Woman

A monk was meditating in a pleasure park. A woman had arranged to meet a man there, but he did not turn up. As she was looking for him, she saw the meditating monk and tried to seduce him. The elder became aroused, but the Buddha, seeing the situation with his Divine Eye, projected himself before the monk and commented on the attractiveness of the forests where the passionless dwell. The elder attained Arahantship.