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Comments on Salient Points in the Pasadika Sutta

U Ko Lay


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1. Dispelling doubts about the Buddha's Self-Enlightenment.

          In the early part of his life as a Buddha, the Bhagava had to establish the fact that he was a Self-Enlightened Buddha. His open declaration that he was indeed a Self-Enlightened Buddha was not for self-advertisement nor for self-glorification but only to dispel doubts about his virtues and attributes so that people could understand and appreciate him as a Buddha, and avail themselves of the benefits of meeting with a Buddha in person.

         At one time, the Buddha was directly challenged as to his claim to Buddhahood by no less a person than King Pasenadi of Kosala before he had become a devoted disciple of the Buddha. The King had heard of the fame of the Buddha from his queen Mallika but not yet met him. When at last he met the Buddha, he asked him this direct question: "Does the Venerable Gotama claim to have become the Supremely Self-Enlightened Buddha ?" The King said that there were other religious teachers who were much older than the Buddha, such as, Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Nigantha Nataputta, Sancaya Bellathaputta, Pakudha Kaccayana, Ajita Kesakambala who had their own Orders, their own followers and who were generally regarded to be Arahats. Even these teachers did not make any claim to Supreme Enlightenment.

          The Buddha gave him a direct answer: "If it can be said of anyone to have discovered the Supreme Enlightenment, then it is only of me that can rightly be said." The Buddha added that there were four things that should not be underestimated and despised just because they were young. They were a young prince, a serpent, a fire and a bhikkhu. He then went on to explain what he said in a short discourse at the end of which the King, entirely impressed and convinced that he was meeting a Supremely Enlightened Buddha, made the declaration that he took refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha. He also requested that he be accepted as a disciple of the Buddha.

2. Vanquishing opposing forces and overcoming challenges.

          The Buddha continued to establish a perfect system of Teaching and a well-disciplined Order with a devoted lay following. His "fame, gain and followers" grew by leaps and bounds arousing intense jealousy in other religious teachers who, in a spirit of rivalry, sent their well-coached disciples to the Buddha to challenge him on points of doctrine.

         One such encounter took place between the Buddha and Upali, a prominent rich householder who was a well-known and leading disciple of Nigantha Nataputta. Upali was tutored thoroughly by his teacher Nigantha Nataputta on doctrinal points concerning kamma and expressly sent to the Buddha not merely to challenge him but to crush him completely in debate. But contrary to Nigantha's expectations, it was not the Buddha but his leading disciple and main supporter Upali who met with stunning defeat. His humiliation did not end there. Upali was much impressed with the Buddha's discussion; be became convinced that the Buddha's Teaching was right and his master's views were wrong. He, therefore, requested the Buddha to accept him as a lay disciple. The loss of his devoted leading disciple affected Nigantha so much that it brought about his physical collapse and ultimately his death.

          Nigantha Nataputta's death soon caused a schism among his disciples. 'They split into two parties and were engaged in strife and disagreements, quarrelling and arguing over doctrine. His lay followers became disgusted and displeased with these disciples of Nigantha Nataputta; they had lost respect and esteem for the fighting disciples of the late religious teacher.

3. Buddha's well-founded system of Teaching and well-disciplined Order of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis.

         Nigantha Nataputta passed away at Pava. At that time there was in Pava, a young bhikkhu by the name of Cunda Samanuddesa who was a younger brother of the Venerable Sariputta and who had been admitted into the Buddha's Order under the auspices and guidance of the Venerable Ananda. He had been witnessing, during the rain-residence period in Pava, the fierce in-fights that had broken out amongst the disciples of Nigantha Nataputta after his death. He had also been hearing wild speculations about the fate of the Order established by the Buddha, whether it might break up likewise due to internal dissension, after the passing away of Gotama Buddha.

         He travelled to the village of Sama where his Upajjhaya, instructor and guide, the Venerable Ananda was staying. After recounting the news about the death of Nigantha Nataputta and the schism in his Order following his passing away, Cunda, led by the Venerable Ananda, went to the Bhagava. He expected to bear a discourse by the Buddha in connection with these events.

         When the Venerable Ananda had made the report on what had happened at Pava, the Buddha pointed out to Cunda that it was natural that schism would occur and was to be expected in a system of Teaching which was imperfect with ill-trained, ill-developed disciples, where the Teacher was not Supremely Self-Enlightened and the doctrine was not well taught, not well imparted, not conducive to attainment of Magga. The discourse given by the Buddha which was designated later as the Pasadika Sutta, the Delectable Discourse, brought out the genuine virtues of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha and demonstrated how well taught the Dhamma was, how well established the Order was and how well guarded it was against the dangers of schism.

          In the discourse, the Buddha stated clearly that (a) although various religious teachers had appeared in this world, none had reached the most eminent place like him; (b) although various Orders and Sects had appeared in this world, no other Order had reached the most eminent place like his Order of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis; and (c) his Teaching was perfect in every sense, complete in every detail, requiring nothing to add to or subtract from, well taught and well imparted.

4. Steps to guard against possible trouble in the Order and Methods of handling differences of opinions

          An important feature of this Pasadika Sutta is the section where the Buddha had laid down instructions to the bhikkhus to recite the Dhammas he had taught after realizing them with Magga Insight and Enlightenment: "All of you, my disciples, should come together, assemble in a congregation and recite and impart these Dhammas in a uniform version, collating meaning with meaning, wording with wording, without dissension. In this way, this Teaching will endure and last long for the welfare and happiness of many, for the good of the world, for the benefit, welfare and happiness of devas and men."

          When the Venerable Maha Kassapa and five hundred Elder Theras including the Venerable Ananda congregated in Rajagaha soon after the parinibbana of the Buddha and recited the Dhamma and the Vinaya they had learnt personally from the Buddha, they were not just acting on their own initiative. They were meticulously following the injunctions laid down by the Bhagava before he passed away. If these Theras had made any decision of their own in this connection, it was only in the selection of the venue of the Congregation and the timing to hold it. Their prompt action had shielded the Buddha's Teaching from the dangers of dissentient opinions or irresponsible attitudes like those of Subhadda and had saved the treasure of the Dhamma for posterity.

The Buddha had also laid down in the Sutta the method of handling differences of opinions which might appear amongst the Samgha even when the bhikkhus were living in "concord, harmony, non-dissension and practice of purity", after such recitations in Congregations.

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Comments on Salient Points in the Singala Sutta

U Ko Lay


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There are some people who wrongly believe that the Buddha's Teaching being directed to attainment of high spiritual goals is too lofty and sublime for the ordinary men and women of the workaday world to follow. They believe that it can be practised only by recluses who have given up everything, the homes, pleasures of the world and sensual delights, to devote themselves to the practice of pure life.

It is true that whatever the Buddha has said, in instructions, injunctions or discourses to devas and men, has only one taste, one flavour, that of emancipation. But the Buddha's Teaching was meant not just for the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis who practised the Dhamma full time, leading a life of retirement in remote places, cutting themselves off from society. In his Teachings, the Buddha did not forget the needs and difficulties of the everyday world. The tremendous accumulation of his paramis (efforts for self-perfection) was not to be utilised for the benefit of the ascetics and recluses only. It was meant for all mankind as well as devas without distinction. To promote their welfare and happiness and to help them attain liberation from the round of rebirths is the sole purpose of the appearance of a Buddha in the world.

The Buddha's repeated injunction to his followers was very simple and straightforward:

  • Abstain from all that is evil.

  • Develop and promote good deeds.

  • Purify the mind.

  • This is the Teaching of all the Budddhas.

He explained this simple injunction in diverse ways, adapting his thoughts and words to the needs and stages of development of his audience. To the group of Five Bhikkhus, the wise sages who had attended upon him while he was searching after the Truth and who were already established in good moral conduct with prolonged training in mental concentration, he delivered his sermon announcing that he had discovered the Deathless, the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Path of Eight Constituents.

To beings of superior and penetrating intellect such as the devas of the Tavatimsa realm or the Venerable Sariputta, one of his two Chief Disciples, the Buddha expounded the Abhidhamma, the Higher Teaching, which deals with ultimate realities, the analysis of mind and matter into their absolute components and which explains the system of causal relationships.

The exhortations given by the Buddha for the guidance and development of samanera Rahula are examples of the Buddha's perfect wisdom and skill to fit the Dhamma to the needs and intellectual capacity of his listeners.

The first exhortation given to Rahula, the Buddha's own son, at the age of seven when he became a samanera, a novice1 in the Ambalatthika Sutta of Majjhima Nikaya, dealt with truthfulness and mindfulness which form indeed the foundations for building character and for developing the faculties of the mind. The Buddha made use of simple similes in the discourse to impress his teaching on the young mind of Rahula.

The second exhortation given to Rahula, in the Maha Rahulovada Sutta of Majjhima Nikaya, given to Rahula when he was eighteen years old, contained chiefly instructions on meditation starting with mindfulness on respiration and leading on to Insight Meditation. Rahula was taught a1so the insubstantiality of the five groups of grasping and the importance of maintaining equanimity on all occasions.

The third discourse, the Cula Rahulovada Sutta of Majjhima Nikaya, given to Rahula when he was in his twenty-first year after completing a full year as a bhikkhu dealt with the three characteristics of all conditioned existence (impermanency, unsatisfactoriness, insubstantiality). Contemplating on these three characteristics, Rahula finally attained Arahattaphala, the highest goal of a recluse's life.

In Singala Sutta, although his effort was directed towards the same ultimate goal, his approach and method were different to suit the occasion. Young Singala was the only son of a wealthy family of Rajagaha. His parents were devout followers of the Buddha and were well established in the Path. But young Singala remained indifferent to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha. Inspite of his parents' repeated advice, he would not approach the Buddha and listen to his discourses, nor would he visit any of the leading disciples of the Buddha. He was interested in material progress and prosperity; he did not see any benefit in dealing with the Buddha or his disciples. He believed that he would have to make offerings to them and thus suffer material loss for himself by coning into contact with them.

As the father was about to die, he left the advice "Dear son, worship the directions", after first getting the promise from his son to fulfil his dying wish. The father gave this advice in the hope that one day the Buddha or his disciples would see him worshipping the directions, and would give him a suitable discourse that would benefit him.

The discourses given by the Buddha always dealt with topics that fell within the frame Work of the Noble Path of Eight Constituents divided into three groups: (a) The Sila group made up of Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood, (b) The Samadhi group made up of Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, and

(c) The Panna group made up of Right Understanding and Right Thought. On meeting with Singala, the Buddha with his Sabbanuta Nana realized of course that the young man was ill-prepared to receive his Teaching on the Noble Path as a whole or as highly advanced expositions on it. He would have to start with the initial, preparatory group of Sila which deals with the practice of Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood.

In Singala Sutta, the Buddha adapted his Teaching in such a way that the young householder at once saw in the discourse lessons of direct practical application capable of immediate and fruitful use. The Buddha laid stress on social obligations, family responsibilities and adequate discharge of duties to society founded on individual good conduct and moral purity. He described the obligations and responsibilities in the relationship between parents and children, between teacher and pupil, between husband and wife, between friends, relatives and neighbours, between employers and employees. He explained also how the laity should look after the essential needs of the bhikkhus of the Order with loving-kind ness and respect, and how the bhikkhus in turn should satisfy the religious needs of those who are less advanced intellectually and spiritually, by imparting knowledge of the Dhamma to them and helping them along the right path, thus leading them away from evil.

The way of life as envisaged and outlined in the Sutta for young Singala is as applicable and beneficial today as it was in Buddha's time. The advice given in the Sutta covers every aspect of human relationship based on loving-kindness, sympathetic understanding and charity so completely that the Commentator termed it as Gihi Vinaya, the Code of Discipline for laymen. Whoever follows and practises it as laid down in the Sutta will bring goodwill, peace and harmony not only to his family but also to the society in which he lives.