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Chapter II 

The Beginnings of the Sangha

[continued 1] 

Kondaññá, bowing his head down to the Buddha’s feet, then asked to become a Bhikkhu, the first Buddhist monk to follow the Buddha. At this point our account really begins.

Stream-winning and Arahantship - four more Arahant Bhikkhus - Buddhas and Arahants - meanings of Sangha - Arahants and attachment - the Holy Life - Going forth - Story of Yasa - Exhortation to the 60 Arahants - 1st, 2nd and 3rd methods of ordination (acceptance) - the 30 Bhikkhus - the three Kassapa brothers - the pair of Foremost Disciples - the lives and verses of some Arahants.


Venerable Añña-Kondaññá had only to hear one discourse of the Buddha to gain Stream-winning, the first glimpse of Nibbána and of Enlightenment. But he did not become Arahant or perfectly enlightened immediately and before this could happen, the Buddha had to teach a second profound discourse (on the Mark of Non-self[1]). Before he did this he instructed the four other ascetics, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanáma and Assaji until they too attained the Stream. When all five were Stream-winners then the Buddha taught about non-self - how we wrongly identify mind and body as ‘self’ or ‘soul’ and how such identification should not be made, by giving up all attachment to the concept ‘I am’ - and as a result of this all five won Arahantship. At the conclusion of this discourse those four ascetics also asked to become Bhikkhus.


What distinguishes a Buddha from an Arahant? Both are enlightened, free from pollution and defilement, both have penetrated the Four Noble Truths but one who does so first, „the discoverer of the undiscovered Way“ is a Buddha. He is like a man who in utter darkness lights a great fire so that many can see. Indeed he is called the Kinsman of the Sun for this reason-. Those who hear and practise his teaching having enough wisdom to realise its truth in themselves, they are Arahants, like people who kindle lights from that first great blaze so that the light is spread further.


The word Arahant, literally ‘one who is worthy’ (to accept homage, alms food, etc.) is also used of the Buddha, who was the first of them. With those five Bhikkhus as well it is said, „Then there were six Arahants in the world“.


One or two Bhikkhus do not constitute a Sangha, for which there has to be a quorum of at least four. So the Sangha came into existence when those four Arahants requested to become Bhikkhus.


Sangha can have two meanings: any order of Bhikkhus four or more in number is a bhikkhusangha; and the community of all people who have seen Nibbána, whether they have had only a glimpse - and so become Noble Ones such as Stream-winners, Once-returners, Non-returners, or whether they are Arahants able to enjoy the bliss of Nibbána whenever they wish - all are the Ariyasangha or Noble Sangha. Lay people may well become Stream-winners, Once-returners and Non-returners; but if a layperson becomes an Arahant it is necessary for him or her to become a monk or nun[2]. Lay life is bound-up with craving but an Arahant has none, so life can continue only in the Sangha where craving is not a necessary adjunct to life. Why is this?


Let us take the case of those first five Bhikkhus. To what indeed could they be attached even before they became Arahants? They lived in the forest and meditated at the foot of trees. They maintained their bodies on food collected on alms round when they walked silently and householders placed cooked food in their earthenware bowls. They covered their bodies with rags picked up from rubbish tips. These they washed, sewed together and then dyed a brownish orange with earth-colours. And when they were sick they made-up simple medicines from roots and bark, fruits and herbs, one of the commonest (to relieve fevers) are still used in India: myrobalan fruits pickled in fermented urine. As far as possessions go, there is not much to be attached to here! These four, clothing, food, shelter and medicine, are the basic requirements for a human being but in lay life they are elaborated and extended by craving into hundreds of thousands of things, all of which are ‘necessary’ for happiness.


But those six Arahants who lived with just the bare necessities were supremely happy for they were without attachment not only to these things but also to any idea of ‘self’. They had no attachment to mind and body, which they saw were processes continuing while life lasted, until the complete enjoyment of Nibbána, which followed at the break-up of the body.


So the purpose of this life, as stated by the Buddha himself was to discover in oneself the end of dukkha, which is the end of craving. For that purpose the Bhikkhus’ way of life was later regulated by the Buddha but no directions were necessary while the Sangha was composed of Arahants and the other Noble Ones. They do not cause harm either to others or to themselves and so need no rules or regulations. It is unenlightened people who have the biases to greed, aversion, delusion and fear in their minds; they must have rules and regulations to guide them. So it is said in a commentary that no serious offence against the holy life was committed by anyone in the Sangha for the first twenty years.


The ‘Holy Life’, what does this mean? This word in Pali (the language spoken by the Buddha) is brahmacariya. ‘Brahma’ here has the sense of ‘purity’ or ‘excellence’ and ‘cariya’ can only be rendered reasonably well by an archaic English word ‘faring’ meaning both going and practising. This means the practice done with effort, which is excellent and strives towards further excellence or purity. Therefore it means going against the current of passions and defilements - all kinds of greed, lust and attachment, all sorts of anger, hatred and violence, rooting out even the defilements connected with delusion: dullness, sloth, boredom, distraction, worry, depression, uncertainty, pride and fear. So the brahmacariya, the way of pure practice also implies chastity, as sexual relations always have an element of lust in them.


When one is able to leave behind sex, one is able to go beyond the many requirements for the household life. All that goes along with sexual relations with another, the money needed for a family and its very many needs, all can be dispensed with by the Bhikkhu.


Some people will say, ‘Oh, this is just escape! It’s running away from responsibilities! Escaping from the real world!’ But it is not the good Bhikkhu who escapes; it is people generally with their numerous sense-pleasures who do so. Whenever an unpleasant defilement arises, say boredom, they escape by turning towards some attractive object of the senses. But Bhikkhus cannot escape in this way because they do not (or should not) have the possibilities for escape. They cannot evade defilements, the causes of dukkha in their own minds, in this way, so they have the splendid opportunity instead to be mindful of the arising and passing away of these defilements. When one is mindful and cultivates insight like this it is called the beginning of seeing the world as it really is. Confused minds, lacking mindfulness, never understand this world; they are too attached to it. Thus the Bhikkhu’s life is lived free from family responsibilities and all the worries, which are a usual accompaniment, so that he can deal with his mind.


Sometimes one sees the expression used of a Bhikkhu, ‘He renounced the world’. This is not a Buddhist way of describing the renunciation of household life. One cannot ‘renounce the world’ because even though one goes from the middle of a crowded city to stay in a cave far up some mountain slope, remote from humanity, ‘the world’ goes with such a person. Memories and thoughts do not get left behind! Apart from this, the Buddha calls this mind and body ‘the world’ and they continue, changing endlessly according to kamma and other causes, until Arahantship is reached and then lived out, when there is an end. The Buddha used the expression, „Going forth from home to homelessness“, to describe the person who ceased to be a householder and took upon himself the training of a Bhikkhu.


Ordination as a Bhikkhu will be outlined below. This procedure of ordination is called ‘ordination of the body’, that is, hair and beard are shaved off and the new Bhikkhu from that time wears the yellow robes. These are the outward marks of his renunciation of pleasures, which are enjoyed by the householder. Then by this practice he has to cultivate inner renunciation - the attitude of turning away from matters in which greed and craving are involved. This is known as ‘ordination of the heart’ for the heart or mind usually only follows slowly what has been accomplished quickly in the ordination procedure. Of course, there are some people who in the lay state can practise so well that their power of renunciation is very strong and they do not need the ‘ordination of the body’. But even so, in Buddhist countries many people like this do get ordained so that their practice is unimpeded by the troubles of lay life.


So the reason for doing this, often repeated in the Suttas (or Discourses of the Buddha) runs like this: „Lord, as I understand the Dhamma given by the Exalted One, it is not possible while living in a household to lead the holy life as utterly perfect and pure as a polished shell. Lord, I wish to shave off my hair and beard, put on the yellow robe and go forth from the home life into homelessness“. This is what one young man, Ratthapála[3], said to the Buddha. Sometimes the household life is said to be „crowded and dusty“ (with the dust of passion) „while life gone forth is wide open“ as the Buddha says he felt at the time of his own Going-forth. The same reasons apply today to those who go forth, not for reasons of tradition, but because they want time to practise the whole of the Buddha’s Dhamma.


Perhaps some people will say that Going-forth to find the way beyond dukkha is selfish, an aim which brings little fruit. But the Buddha did not see it like this. Once a young Brahmin came to visit him and stated that his brahminical sacrifices were of great fruit to many people whereas the Going-forth benefited only one person. The Buddha replied with his own case: that after Going-forth and by great efforts reaching Enlightenment, he then was able to teach the way to innumerable people some of whom benefited to the utmost extent by becoming Arahants. (See, Sangarava Sutta, Numerical Collection, Threes, 60).


One who goes forth must spend some time, usually a number of years, with Teachers who guide his learning and practice. But when this period of training ends, then possessed of learning and good practice, perhaps with penetration of the Dhamma too, he can teach and help others on the way beyond dukkha. It is like a medical student who must spend some years at study and practice before he can perform delicate operations on the body. After he is qualified and experienced as a doctor he will be able to remove bodily dukkha from his patients. The well-trained Bhikkhu likewise, can help remove mental dukkha from those who seek his advice.


Many of the first Bhikkhus in the Sangha did not have to spend much time at practice before penetration of the Dhamma. As with the first five Bhikkhus, so it was with the next one, a rich young man called Yasa.[4] He became disenchanted with his pleasure-filled life and one night after seeing his dancing girls and musicians strewn around the floor sleeping and looking like so many corpses, he wandered out of his palace. As he wandered he exclaimed of his life: „It is fearful, it is oppressive!“ (That such a young man should speak these words shows his spiritual eminence). The Buddha heard him and calling to him, said: „This is not fearful, this is not oppressive. Come, Yasa, sit down. I shall teach you Dhamma“. When Yasa heard this he rejoiced and after listening to a gradual Dhamma talk: on giving, moral conduct, the heavens, the dangers, vanity and defilement of sensual pleasures, the advantages of renunciation, then on the Teaching peculiar to the Buddhas - the Four Noble Truths, he attained with a spotless mind to the Eye of Dhamma: „Whatever has the nature to arise, all that has the nature to cease“. He became a Stream-winner at this time.


As his mother and father worried about his absence, his father sent out search parties and he went to look for Yasa. When he came to the Buddha he too listened to Dhamma and also became a Stream-winner but while the sermon was being given Yasa listened to it and attained Arahantship. And when his father knew that Yasa had become an Arahant and consequently could not return to a life of pleasurable indulgence he praised his son, invited the Buddha and Yasa as his attendant-Bhikkhu to his house for the meal that day. Yasa’s father became a lay disciple and was the first to go for Refuge to the Buddha - the Enlightened One, the Dhamma - the Path to Enlightenment, and the Sangha - the Community of those who have attained Enlightenment by following that Path.


Yasa also asked to be accepted as a Bhikkhu and was answered by the Buddha: „Come Bhikkhu, well-expounded is Dhamma. Live the holy life for the complete ending of dukkha“. Then Yasa became the seventh of the Arahants.


At the offering of food in Yasa’s former house, his mother and former wife both listened to Dhamma and became Stream-winners. They were the first laywomen to go for Refuge to the Three Treasures: The Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.


Now Yasa was a well-known young man; so when four of his friends: Vimala, Subahu, Punnaji, Gavampati, all of them sons of leading merchant families in Benares, heard that he had become a Bhikkhu they said amongst themselves that it must be an extraordinary Teaching which would cause Yasa to leave home. They went to see him and he took them to the Buddha asking him to teach them. After they had listened to his gradual Dhamma-talk they also became Stream-winners, asked to become Bhikkhus and then, instructed from time to time by the Buddha, attained Arahantship. So there were eleven Arahants in the world.


Yasa had more friends and acquaintances in the countryside, also from the merchant class. Fifty young men from these families got together and went to visit venerable Yasa. They attained Arahantship in exactly the same way as his four friends mentioned above. The only difference is that we are not told their names either here or anywhere else in Buddhist scriptures. Their names were forgotten in the course of time and it may be that this was excusable if they passed away during their journeys through the remote parts of that land.


The Buddha spoke to those Bhikkhus the words so often quoted in connection with spreading the Dhamma: „Bhikkhus, I am free from all shackles whether human or divine. You are free from all shackles whether human or divine. Go now and wander for the welfare and happiness of many, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, welfare and happiness of gods and men. Teach Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle and good in the end, both in the spirit and the latter. Explain the holy life that is utterly perfect and pure. There are beings with little dust in their eyes that will be lost through not hearing Dhamma. But some will understand Dhamma. I shall go to Uruvela, to Senanigama, to teach Dhamma“. We should note that these inspiring words were spoken to Arahants, not to ordinary men still with passions.


Then we must picture those Bhikkhus who were truly great men, after paying homage to the Buddha’s feet, taking their robes and bowls and setting-off one in this direction and two or three in that. A thin small ripple of yellowish robes spreading out over the countryside from the Deer Park outside Benares. Though little in number how great was the movement that they started! When people asked them questions what profundity and directness there was in their answers! Those words spoken by them were born out of pure, compassionate hearts, desire less, hate less and brilliant with penetrating wisdom. With emissaries like this the Dhamma was sure to spread.


From amongst the people who heard Dhamma from these Arahants a number wished to take up Dhamma-practice full-time, unobstructed by worldly activities They requested those venerable ones to accept them as their disciples. But the Arahants told them that they must go with them and receive the words of acceptance from the Buddha himself. Then those Arahants would bring their pupils all the ways back to the Deer Park even though the ways were rough and travelling difficult.


The Buddha considered this matter and then allowed the Bhikkhus to give the going-forth and acceptance to those who asked for it. Hair and beard had to be shaved-off, the applicant clothed in the yellow-dyed lower robe like a sarong, with the upper robe over the left shoulder, leaving the right one bare. He must then pay homage three times to his Teacher’s feet after which, kneeling down with his hands held palms together, be should say: „To the Buddha, I go for Refuge, to the Dhamma I go for Refuge, to the Sangha I go for refuge. For the second time to the Buddha … Dhamma … Sangha I go for Refuge. For the third time to the Buddha … Dhamma … Sangha I go for Refuge“.


This is the second stage in the development of the Going-forth and Acceptance as Bhikkhus. The first, the words spoken by the Buddha for instance to Yasa (see above), was called the „Come-Bhikkhu-acceptance“. The revised method is known as „Acceptance by Going to the Three Refuges“. The procedure for becoming a Bhikkhu changes once more to the form used today. It was found that the second method did not deal with a number of matters so that undesirable people became Bhikkhus, those with the wrong motives and the wrong intentions. To rectify this, the Buddha, when such cases came to his attention, laid down matters which should be clear before Acceptance, (such as possession of one’s own bowl and robes), as well as other matters which qualify or disqualify a person from Bhikkhu-hood. (For an outline of the procedure see Appendix II).


The third method as finally laid down by the Buddha incorporates the second stage, which now becomes the way of Going-forth to become a samanera or novice. It is followed by a procedure in which the Sangha of not less than five Bhikkhus gathers first to hear the motion chanted that so-and-so requests Acceptance and then listens in silence to three announcements of this fact. So long as the text for this formal act of the Sangha is completely and perfectly recited and so long as no Bhikkhu in that Sangha speaks, the motion is ‘carried’ - by silence. If any objections are raised then the act has no validity.


Finally in this chapter the Buddha’s acceptance of a further thirty Bhikkhus, the conversion of the Kassapa brothers, the arrival of his foremost pair of disciples, and some stories of individual Arahant Bhikkhus, should be mentioned. When he was on his way to the area around Gaya where the three brothers Kassapa and their disciples lived, he stayed for a while in a wood. A party of thirty young men came from the town to that place to enjoy the coolness of the forest, most with their wives and servants. One of them was unmarried and had brought along a prostitute as his companion but she ran off with his valuables while they were enjoying themselves. Everyone searched for her but instead of finding her they came across the Buddha seated in another part of the wood. When they asked him if he had seen a woman, he said: „Young men, what have you to do with a woman?“ They told him what had happened and he said: „What do you think about this, then; which is better for you - that you should seek a woman or that you should seek yourselves?“ They replied that it was better to seek for themselves so the Buddha invited them to sit down and listen to Dhamma. After paying homage to him and listening to a gradual discourse on Dhamma, they all became Stream-winners and then asked to become Bhikkhus. The Buddha accepted them with the ‘Come-Bhikkhu’ formula.


We are not told what happened to this group of thirty. It seems that they did not accompany the Buddha on his journey to Gaya as he had, apparently, no company when he was with the Kassapas. Perhaps they returned to seek further instruction from the other sixty Arahants.


The Buddha meanwhile first went on to seek the eldest of the brothers, Uruvela Kassapa. He was the teacher of five hundred ascetics who had coiled or matted hair, and practised various ceremonies such as fire-worship and austerities such as baptising themselves in the icy river during the winter to wash away their sins. As he was teacher of such a large number his fame spread far and wide so that he received abundant offerings. He could not be taught by the usual methods of instruction for he had become proud of his reputation, so the Buddha employed various special means to impress him. Sometimes these means are wrongly called ‘miracles’ but there is nothing miraculous about them. Although they are certainly out of the ordinary they also become possible by cause and effect; they are not powers granted from above. As Gotama the Buddha had penetrated all the darkness of the mind with the brilliance of his Enlightenment, such ‘super-knowledge’, as they are called, became possible for him. However, he only used them rarely and then only when the usual methods of teaching would not work.


In this case, to break Uruvela-Kassapa’s pride he had to accomplish many strange things and though the ascetic was impressed by them, thinking, ‘The Samana Gotama is very powerful’, yet he also thought, ‘But he is not an Arahant like me’. Uruvela Kassapa really thought that he had got to the highest attainment and so could learn nothing further. Finally, the Buddha seeing that the ascetic would not be moved to declare himself a pupil once again, said to Uruvela Kassapa: „You are neither an Arahant nor on the way to becoming one. There is nothing you do by which you might become an Arahant or enter into the way of becoming one“. These words shocked Kassapa into awareness of his own imperfection so that he and all his disciples became Bhikkhus. Similarly, his brothers and their disciples amounting to another five hundred ascetics also asked for Going-forth and Acceptance.


To them all, a thousand or more Bhikkhus, the Buddha addressed the Disquisition on Fire, his third recorded discourse: „Bhikkhus, All is burning. What is the All? Eye is burning, sight objects are burning, eye-consciousness is burning, eye contact is burning … Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion …“ All of them attained Arahantship at the conclusion of the discourse. Again, of all this vast concourse we know only the names of their leaders, the three Kassapas, of Uruvela, of the River, and of Gaya. Some of the other Arahants from this assembly may be among those relatively unknown enlightened elders whose verses are included in the collection known as Verses of the Elder Monks (Theragáthá - see end of this chapter).


Even though the Buddha had now so many enlightened Bhikkhus some of them famous either in lay society or in the religious life, he did not proclaim any of them as his foremost disciples. This he did only a little later when the venerable Sáriputta and Moggallána came to join him. They had been friends from their youth and as young men became disillusioned with the amusements and pleasures of the world. Having made a compact to tell each other about the Deathless State (Nibbána), should either of them win to it, they journeyed all over India discussing with Teachers and meditating with them. But they could not find a Teacher who knew the way. Eventually Venerable Sáriputta saw the Arahant Assaji, one of the first five Bhikkhus and sure from his composure that he had won to the Way, approached and asked him questions. The venerable Assaji modestly said that he could not expound Dhamma in detail but would do so in brief. He said:                     -


            „The Tathágata has told the cause
            of dhammas causally arisen
            and of their cessation too -
            thus proclaims the Great Samana“.


So bright and quick was venerable Sáriputta’s wisdom in comprehending conditionality that with the first half of this verse he became a Stream-winner. (When we hear it, or see it, the profundity in the verse has to be explained to us, demonstrating how dull our minds are). After honouring his Teacher, venerable Sáriputta went to inform his friend, who after hearing the came verse from him also attained to the Fruit of Stream-winning. Then both of them proceeded to honour the Buddha’s feet and be acclaimed by him as his foremost pair of Bhikkhu disciples. Both attained Arahantship soon after, venerable Moggallána after a week and venerable Sáriputta when a fortnight had gone by.[5]


The Sangha had grown to great numbers and in a very short time. With the Dhamma perfectly expounded by the Buddha all who wore the Bhikkhu’s robes were then Noble Ones, attained to the insights of Stream-winning, Once-returning, Non-returning or won to the Enlightenment or the Arahant. Difficult situations did not arise with such Noble Ones nor were evil actions done by them; so the Sangha needed little regulation as yet.


As a fitting conclusion for this chapter let us look at some brief accounts of the lives of a few Bhikkhus who became Arahants. There is a collection of their verses[6] in which they describe how they lived prior to ordination, how they came to ordain and their Enlightenment experience afterwards. Out of the 259 Theras (here meaning Arahant monks) just sixteen have been chosen here to show the range of different sorts of people and their experiences. A similar selection of enlightened bhikkhunis’ poems will be given in Chapter VII.


First comes Víra, who was a son of a minister to King Pasenadi. His name means ‘hero’ and fittingly he became a great athlete and a warrior. When he married and a son was born to him he saw the troubles in the round of birth-and-death and so went forth to homelessness and making great effort attained Arahantship. Then his former wife tried to lure him back to her in various ways and venerable Víra said: ‘This woman, desiring to seduce me, is like one wishing to shake Mount Sumeru with the wing of a gnat!’ And he showed her the futility of her actions by reciting this verse:


            Who was hard to tame is by the Taming tamed,
            a hero, contented, from all doubts released,
            victor over all, completely rid of fear,
            Víra stands firm and Quenched[7] perfectly. (s)[8]


The woman hearing him was deeply moved and thought, ‘My husband has won to this - what good is domestic life to me?’ She went forth as a Bhikkhuni and soon attained Arahantship.


In the case of Sundara-samudda it was not a wife who tried to lure him back to lay life and its pleasures but a prostitute engaged for this purpose by his grieving parents. He came of a wealthy merchant family and his parents feared that the wealth of the family would be lost is their son continued in the Bhikkhu life. They promised that woman the hand of their son in marriage if she could prevail upon him to disrobe. Accordingly she invited him upon alms round to receive alms food from her at the housedoer on the first day, later inviting him to sit within the house and finally persuading him to take his food alone with her upon the house’s topmost floor. Then she tried to seduce him. The Thera perceiving her efforts and their effects upon himself, resolved to make a supreme effort and sitting there won to concentration, insight and Arahantship. Concerning this it is said:


            Adorned she was, well-dressed
            crowned with a garland, decked with gems,
            her feet made red with lack
            and sandals on - a prostitute
            stood before me and sandals doffed,
            holding her hands in reverence,
            she spoke to me softly, sweetly
            and with an opening compliment:
            ‘Young you are for the going-forth!
            Stay within my Teachings[9] here,
            enjoy the pleasures of mankind
            and I indeed shall give you wealth.
            This I promise you in truth
            (or if you doubt my words)
            I’ll bring you fire and swear!,[10]
            And when I saw that prostitute
            beseeching me, hands reverent,
            adorned as she was, well dressed too,
            just like a death’s snare laid,
            thorough application of mind arose,
            the danger was revealed and then
            weary with the world was evenness established.
            Then my mind was free!
            See the Dhammas’s normality!
            Possessed is the triple knowledge,[11]
            done is the Buddha’s Sásana.



Isidinna was another merchant’s son born in western India but eventually heard the Buddha give a Dhamma talk and then became a Stream-winner. While he was still living as a householder a who had compassion for him roused him with these words:


            I have seen laymen learned in Dhamma,
            ‘Pleasures are transient’, so often they say
            but passionately they are attached to
            caring for children, jewellery, wife.
            They know not the Dhamma as it really is
            though often they say ‘O transient pleasures’
            they’re lacking the power to cut their desire
            and therefore attached to children, wife and wealth.



When Isidinna heard this he was deeply moved and going forth, not long after won Arahantship. And when he confessed his penetrative knowledge, he repeated these verses.


Satimattiya also spoke about laymen though in this case, about their faith. He came of a brahmin family and as a young man entered the Sangha and lived in the forest. His practice won for him Arahantship after which he lived instructing Bhikkhus and teaching lay people especially the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts. One family in particular had faith in him and his Dhamma-teachings and in that house there was a beautiful daughter who served him very respectfully with food. A hallucination resembling him appeared to her and the family and it seemed as though he took hold of her hand. She knew that is was not him but the others lost faith in him. The next day when he called to receive alms food he perceived their changed manner and investigating with his mind, knew what had happened. Then he explained to them what had really occurred and the householder begged his pardon, but the Thera to show his non-attachment spoke these verses:


            Formerly with faith in me
            you have it now no more,
            what is yours is yours alone,
            no bad conduct here I’ve done.
            Faith changes and is shakeable,
            this indeed I’ve seen.
            Folk respect, then disrespect
            but why should a wise man waste?
            A sage’s food, little by little,
            is cooked in various families -
            I’ll go around for my little alms,
            my legs are strong enough!



Also a Brahmin, Mahánáma, heard the Buddha teaching Dhamma and gaining faith, entered the Sangha. After receiving a meditation object from the Buddha he retired to the seclusion of Mount Nesadaka. But he was not able to stop evil thoughts and desires arising and exclaimed ‘What use is life to me with this corrupted mind?’ Disgusted with himself he climbed up to a steep place and prepared to throw himself down, first uttering this verse:


            By this mountain found inferior[12],
            to ruin come on Mount Nesadaka,
            far-famous with its many peaks,
            all covered with woods of sálá.



While he was exhorting himself with this verse the Thera won insight and Arahantship so that this verse became his declaration of penetrative knowledge


Sappadasa too tried to kill himself out of despair because of his wandering mind. He was born as the son of King Suddhodana’s ceremonial priest and therefore of brahmin stock. When the Buddha returned to his own people to teach them, he obtained confidence and went forth. He was overpowered by defilements of mind and so could not win one-pointedness of mind. Finally he became so distressed that he got to the point of committing suicide but then insight arose and Arahantship was attained. Declaring his perfect knowledge he said:


            Five and twenty years since I went forth
            and not so much as a finger-snap
            of peaceful mind have I obtained
            Never getting one-pointedness of mind
            since afflicted by sense-desires,
            lamenting and with arms outstretched
            I went away from my dwelling-place.
            Shall I, shall I take a knife -
            what use is life to me?
            Giving up training, such as I,
            how am I to die?
            Taking then my razor
            I sat upon my couch
            with the blade placed on my throat
            to cut my own artery;
            thorough application of mind arose in me,
            the danger was revealed and then
            weary with the world was evenness established.
            Then my mind was free!
            See the Dhamma’s normality!
            Possessed is the triple knowledge,
            done is the Buddha’s Sásana.


[1]For a translation see „Three Cardinal Discourses of the Buddha“. Wheel No. 17, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka.

[2]It is incorrect to use the word ‘sangha’ for a group of lay Buddhists who do not constitute a Sangha in either of the accepted senses defined above.

[3]See the Discourse about him and by him in Appendix I.

[4]Most of the quotations in this chapter are from „The Life of the Buddha“ translated from the Pali by Ven. Nanamoli Thera, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka.

[5]For a detailed account, see „The Life of Sáriputta“, Wheel No. 90/92. B.P.S.

[6]The Elder Monks’ Verses have been twice translated in the P.T.S. Translations Series (see, Psalms of the Brethren/Sisters; Elders’ Verses I. II). The translations appearing here, while they have been newly made by the writer, draw on the previous renderings in somme places. The writer readily acknowledges his dobt to the translators of both volumes.

[7]Quenched - put out the fires of lust, aversion, delusion and attained to the cool peace of Nibbana, to Arahantship.

[8]Numbers refer to verses in the text of the Elder Monks’ Verses (Theragátha).

[9]‘Teachings’ is a translation of the religious term Sásana, left untranslated in the last line. Literally it means ‘instructions’ but covers all aspects of ‘Buddhism’ which is called the Buddhasasana in Buddhist lands.

[10]Swear an oath on fire or go througn an ordeal by fire to ‘prove’ veracity.

[11]Triple knowledge described as the Enlightenment experience in Ch. I.

[12]‘found inferior’ and ‘to ruin come’ attempt to convey the meaning of one difficult Pali verb.