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Mahāgovinda Sutta

Pañcasikha visits the Buddha at Gijjhakūṭa and tells him of a meeting once held in Tāvatiṃsa. At this meeting Sakka rejoices with the devas of Tāvatiṃsa over the increase in their numbers owing to the appearance in their midst of new devas produced by the good kamma of the followers of the new view of life put forward by the Buddha. Sakka expresses his joy in a song and then utters an eulogy on the eight qualities of the Buddha. Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra appears and desires to hear the eulogy, which is, accordingly, repeated for his benefit. Sanaṅkumāra says that the Buddha has ever been thus wise, and tells the story of Disampati and his son Reṇu. Disampati has a chief priest (purohita) called Govinda and when he dies Disampati is distressed, but, at the suggestion of Reṇu, appoints Govinda’s son Jotipāla in his place.

On the death of Disampati, Reṇu becomes king, and, with Jotipāla’s help, divides his kingdom into seven to be shared by himself and six of his friends, the divisions of the kingdom being Dantapura, Potana, Māhissati, Roruka, Mithilā, Campā, and Bārāṇasī; and the kings, respectively, are: Sattabhū, Brahmadatta, Vessabhū, Bharata, Reṇu, and two named Dhataraṭṭha. Jotipāla, now called Mahāgovinda by virtue of his post, trains seven others to fill the posts of stewards to the seven kings. Mahāgovinda acquires the reputation of having seen Brahmā face to face, and, in order to justify this reputation, he takes leave of Reṇu and practises meditation for four months. During his meditation, Sanaṅkumāra appears before him and tells him that he may see Brahmā face to face and attain communion with him. Here we have the teaching regarding the ideal brahmin. Mahāgovinda decides to leave the world and carry out the teachings of Sanaṅkumāra. Having obtained the leave of his master, he enters the homeless life, where he practises the four ecstasies of love, pity, sympathy in joy and equanimity. He teaches these to his disciples, and, after death, they are all born into the Brahma world.

At the end of Pañcasikha’s recital, the Buddha tells him that he himself was Mahāgovinda and therefore remembers all that life. D.ii.220‑51; cp. Janavasabha Sutta, also Mtu.iii.197 ff.

In the Mahāgovinda Sutta, the holy life (brahmacariyā) is explained as the four illimitables (appamaññā), unbounded love (mettā), compassion (karuṇā), sympathetic-joy (muditā), and equanimity (upekkhā). DA.i.178; MA.i.275.