Samyuktagama 110

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Saṃyuktāgama 110. [Discourse to Saccaka]

This have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying at Vesālī by the side of the Monkey Pond. In the country of Vesālī there was a son of the Nigaṇṭhas who was intelligent and clever, skilled at understand­ing any doctrine. He was proud of his intelligence and of his refined knowledge of vast collections of doctrines and their subtle details. When giving teachings to assemblies, he surpassed all debaters and he kept on thinking:

“Among recluses and Brahmins I am unrivalled, able to debate even with a Tathāgata. On [merely] hearing my name, any kind of debater will have sweat pouring forth from his forehead, armpits, and the pores of his hair. Debating a matter, I am [like a strong] wind that is able to flatten grass and trees, break up metal and stone, and subdue serpents and elephants, what to say of any kind of debater among hu­mans being able to equal me?”

Then a monk by the name of Assaji, having put on the [outer] robe and taken his bowl in the morning, entered the town to beg food with awe-inspiring and decorous behaviour, walking calmly and with eyes lowered. At that time Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, who owing to some small matter was going to the villages, was coming out of the town gate and saw from afar the monk Assaji. He approached him and asked: “What teachings does the recluse Gotama give to his disci­ples, what are the teachings with which he instructs his disciples for their practice?"

Assaji replied: “Aggivessana, the Blessed One instructs his disciples with teachings for them to train accordingly in this way, saying: ‘Monks, bodily form should be contemplated as being not self, feel­ing … perception … formations … consciousness should be contem­plated as being not self. Make an effort to contemplate the five aggre­gates of clinging as a disease, as a carbuncle, as a thorn, as a killer, as impermanent, as dukkha, as empty, as not self’.”

On hearing these words, the mind of Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, was not delighted and he said: “Assaji, you certainly heard wrongly, the recluse Gotama would not speak like this at all. If the recluse Gotama does speak like this, then this is a wrong view and I shall ap­proach him, argue with him, and closely interrogate him, so as to stop him [from speaking like this].”

At that time Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, approached the vil­lages. He told the Licchavis, who had gathered in the assembly hall of the Licchavis:

“Today I met a foremost disciple of the recluse Gotama by the name of Assaji and we had a small debate on a matter. According to what he has told me, I shall approach that recluse Gotama and, debating the matter with him, I will certainly make him advance, retreat, and turn around according to my wish.

“It is just as a man mowing grass might pull out the grass at its roots and, grabbing the stalks with his hand, shake it in the air to get rid of any dirt. In the same way I shall debate that matter with the recluse Gotama, argue with him, and closely interrogate him, taking hold of what is essential and making him advance, retreat, and turn around according to my wish, getting rid of his mistaken assertions.

“[Or] it is just as, in a liquor shop, someone might take a liquor filter and press it, to get pure wine and to get rid of the residual grains. In the same way I shall approach the recluse Gotama, debate and argue with him, closely interrogate him, taking hold of the pure essence and making him advance, retreat, and turn around, getting rid of any mistaken assertions.

“[Or] it is like a master in weaving mats who, wanting to sell a dirty mat in the market, will wash it with water to get rid of any smell or dirt. In the same way I shall approach the recluse Gotama and debate that matter with him, taking hold of what is essential, making him ad­vance, retreat, and turn around, getting rid of any tainted assertions.

“[Or] it is just as if a master elephant trainer in a king’s household were to lead a large and drunken elephant into deep water to wash its body, the four limbs, ears, trunk, washing it all round to get rid of any dust or dirt. In the same way I shall approach the recluse Gotama, debate and argue that matter with him, closely interrogate him, make him advance, retreat, and turn around according to my free will, taking hold of the main points and getting rid of any dirty assertions. Lic­chavis, you may come with me to see how he will be defeated.”

Among the Licchavis there were some who spoke like this: “That Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, should be able to [hold his ground] in debating that matter with the recluse Gotama, that is not possible.” Others said: “Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, is intelligent and of sharp faculties, he will be able to [hold his ground] in debating that matter.”

Then Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, together with five-hundred Licchavis, approached the Buddha for the purpose of debating the matter.

At that time the Blessed One was seated under a tree in the Great Wood for the day’s abiding, while many monks were outside of the [monastic] dwelling, practising walking meditation in the forest. They saw from afar that Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, was coming.

He gradually approached the monks and asked them: “Where is the recluse Gotama staying?”

The monks answered: “He is [seated] under a tree in the Great Wood for the day’s abiding.”

Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, approached the Buddha, paid re­spect and, after exchanging greetings, sat at one side. The Licchavi householders also approached the Buddha, some of them paid respect, others held their hands with palms together [in homage], exchanged greetings and, having exchanged greetings, stood at one side.

Then Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, said to the Buddha: “I have heard that Gotama gives such teachings and such instructions to his disciples, instructing his disciples to contemplate bodily form as being not self, to contemplate feeling … perception … formations … con­sciousness as being not self; making an effort to contemplate the five ag­gregates of clinging as a disease, as a carbuncle, as a thorn, as a killer, as impermanent, as dukkha, as empty, as not self.’

“Does Gotama teach in this way or does this report misrepresent Gotama? Is this said as it was said or is it not said as it was said? Is this said according to the Dharma, is it said in accordance with the Dharma, so that there is nothing causing one to fall into an occasion of being defeated in a situation of being argued with and closely interrogated by another person who has come?”

The Buddha told Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas: “What you have heard is said as it was said, it is said according to the Dharma, it is said in accordance with the Dharma, it is not a misrepresentation and there is nothing causing one to fall into an occasion of being defeated on being argued with and closely interrogated. Why is that?

“I truly give such teachings to my disciples, I truly continuously in­struct my disciples, so that in conformity with my teaching and in­struction they contemplate bodily form as being not self … feeling … perception … formations … consciousness as being not self, and con­template these five aggregates of clinging as a disease, as a carbuncle, as a thorn, as a killer, as impermanent, as dukkha, as empty, as not self.”

Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, said to the Buddha: “Gotama, I shall now speak a simile.”

The Buddha told Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas: “Know that it is the proper time for it.”

[Saccaka said]: “It is just as whatever is done in the world all depends on the earth, in the same way bodily form is a person’s self, from which good and evil arise, feeling … perception … formations … con­sciousness is a person’s self, from which good and evil arise.

“Again, just as in the realm of humans, [or] in the realm of [earthen] spirits, herbs, grass, trees, and woods all depend on the earth for their arising and growth, in the same way bodily form is a person’s self, feel­ing … perception … formations … consciousness is a person’s self.”

The Buddha said: “Aggivessana, do you say that bodily form is a person’s self, that feeling … perception … formations … conscious­ness is a person’s self?”

He replied: “It is like this, Gotama, bodily form is a person’s self, feel­ing … perception … formations … consciousness is a person’s self—and this whole assembly says the same.”

The Buddha said: “Aggivessana, just keep to your own doctrine. [What] is the use of bringing in the people in the assembly?”

Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, said to the Buddha: “Bodily form is truly a person’s self.”

The Buddha said: “Aggivessana, I shall now question you, answer me according to your understanding. It is just as the king of a country who in his own country can put to death a man who has committed a crime, or bind him, or expel him, or have him be whipped and his hands and feet cut off; and if someone has done a meritorious deed, [the king can] grant him the gift of an elephant, a horse, a vehicle, a town, or wealth—could he not do all that?”

He answered: “He could do it, Gotama.”

The Buddha said: “Aggivessana, whoever is the owner, would he not be totally free to do anything he likes?”

He answered: “It is like this, Gotama.”

The Buddha said: “Aggivessana, you say that bodily form is a person’s self, that feeling … perception … formations … consciousness is a per­son’s self, [but] are you able, in accordance with your wish, freely, to have them be like this, [or] not be like this?”

Then Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, remained silent.

The Buddha said: “Aggivessana, come now and speak, come now and speak. Why do you remain silent?”

In the same way for three times Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, remained silent as before.

Then a powerful thunderbolt spirit, holding a thunderbolt, fierce and blazing with fire, staying in the empty space close above the head of Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, said this: “The Blessed One has asked you three times. Why do you not reply? With this thunderbolt I shall break your head into seven pieces!”

Owing to the Buddha’s supernormal power, only Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, saw the thunderbolt spirit; the rest of the assembly did not see it. Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, became greatly afraid and said to the Buddha: “No, Gotama.”

The Buddha said: “Aggivessana, pay steady attention and reply after having understood it. Earlier in this assembly you proclaimed that bodily form is the self, that feeling … perception … formations … con­sciousness is the self, yet now you say it is not so. The earlier and the latter contradict each other. You earlier kept on saying: ‘Bodily form is the self, feeling … perception … formations … consciousness is the self.’ Aggivessana, now I will ask you: Is bodily form perma­nent or is it impermanent?”

He answered: “It is impermanent, Gotama.”

[The Buddha] asked again: “What is impermanent, is it dukkha?”

He answered: “It is dukkha, Gotama.”

[The Buddha] asked again: “What is impermanent, dukkha, and of a nature to change, would a learned noble disciple herein see it as the self, as distinct from the self [in the sense of being owned by it], as existing [within the self, or the self] as existing [within it]?”

He answered: “No, Gotama.”

Feeling … perception … formations … consciousness should also be spo­ken like this.

The Buddha said: “Aggivessana, you [should] attend well and then speak.”

[The Buddha] asked again: “Aggivessana, if one is not free from lust in regard to bodily form, not free from desire for it, not free from [fondly] thinking about it, not free from craving for it, not free from thirst in regard to it, if that bodily form changes, if it becomes other­wise, will sadness, sorrow, vexation, and pain arise?”

He answered: “It is like this, Gotama.”

Feeling … perception … formations … consciousness should also be spo­ken like this.

[The Buddha] asked again: “Aggivessana, if one is free from lust in regard to bodily form, free from desire for it, free from [fondly] think­ing about it, free from craving for it, free from thirst in regard to it, if that bodily form then changes, if it becomes otherwise, will sadness, sorrow, vexation, and pain not arise?”

He answered: “It is like this, Gotama; this is true and not otherwise.”

Feeling, perception, formations and consciousness should also be spoken like this.

[The Buddha said]: “Aggivessana, it is just like a person whose body is afflicted by various types of pain, being constantly accompanied by pain, pain that does not cease, does not go away. Will [this person] be able get delight from that?”

He answered: “No, Gotama.”

[The Buddha said]: “It is like this, Aggivessana. A [person whose] body is afflicted by various types of pain, being constantly accompa­nied by pain, suffering pain does not cease, does not go away, will not be able get delight from that.

“Aggivessana, it is just as if a person in search of solid heartwood were to enter a mountain, carrying an axe. On seeing a very large and perfectly straight plantain tree, he cuts it at the root and removes the sheaths, taking off the skin, until nothing is left. [He would find that it is] totally without a solid essence. Aggivessana, you are also like that. Your self-established arguments have come to an end, I have now properly searched for their true and real essence. They are totally without solid essence, like a plantain tree.

“Yet, among this assembly you dared to make the declaration: ‘I do not see, among recluses or Brahmins who possess knowledge and pos­sess vision, [even] a Tathāgata, an arahant, a fully awakened one who possesses knowledge and possesses vision, who is able to take part in debating a matter without being shattered and defeated [by me].’

“You also said of yourself: ‘[When] debating a matter, I am [like a strong] wind that flattens grass and trees, breaks up metal and stones, and subdues serpents or elephants, I am certainly able to cause others to have their sweat pour forth from their forehead, armpits, and the pores of their hair.’ Now you have not established your own doctrine and your own matter, [although] at first you boasted of being able to subdue the modes of [thought of] others. Now you have reached your own [wits’] end and you have not been able to stir a single hair of the Tathāgata.”

At that time the Blessed One, in that great assembly, took off his up­per robe and bared his chest, [saying]: “Try to see if you could stir a single hair of the Tathāgata!”

At that time Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, lowered his head in silence, pale and ashamed.

At that time in the assembly there was a Licchavi named Dummukha, who got up from his seat, arranged his clothes and, holding his hands with palms together [in respect] towards the Buddha, said: “Blessed One, allow me to speak a simile.”

The Buddha said: “Dummukha, know that it is the proper time for it.”

Dummukha said to the Buddha: “Blessed One, it is as if a person were to take just a peck-sized or ten-peck-sized [container] in order to gath­er twenty or thirty pecks from a great heap of grains. Now this Sacca­ka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, is just like that.

“Blessed One, it is as if a householder of great wealth and much treas­ure were to commit a transgression out of neglect, due to which all his wealth [is confiscated] and taken to the king’s household. Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, is just like that, his ability at arguing has been completely taken away by the Tathāgata.

“It is as if there was a big pond alongside a town or village. Men and women, young and old, are all playing in the water and, having caught a crab in the water, cut off its legs and then put it on the dry ground. Because of having no legs, it is unable to go back into the big pond. Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, is also like that. All his ability at arguing has been completely cut off by the Tathāgata, he will never again dare to approach the Tathāgata and challenge him to debate a matter.”

At that time Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, was angry and upset. He upbraided the Licchavi Dummukha, saying: “You are rude and impolite! Not having investigated the truth, why are you yapping? I am discussing with the recluse Gotama myself. Will you mind your own business?”

Having upbraided Dummukha, Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, in turn said to the Buddha: “Let be that ordinary low-level kind of talk. Now I have another question.”

The Buddha told Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas: “Feel free to ask, I will answer in accordance with your question.”

[Saccaka asked]: “Gotama, how do you give teachings to your disci­ples so that they become free from doubt?”

The Buddha said: “Aggivessana, I tell my disciples: ‘Whatever bodily form, whether past, future or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, sublime or repugnant, far or near, it should all be contemplated as it really is as not self, as not distinct from the self [in the sense of being owned by it], as not existing [within the self, nor a self] as exist­ing [within it].’ Feeling … perception … formations … consciousness … is also like this.

“Training [like this] they will certainly come to see the path and not abandon it or let it come to ruin, being able to achieve dispassion, knowledge, and vision, [thereby] taking hold of the door to the death­less. Even though they do not all attain the supreme, yet they [all] move towards Nirvāṇa. A disciple who is taught the Dharma by me in this way reaches freedom from doubt.”

[Saccaka] asked again: “Gotama, how do you further instruct your dis­ciples so that in the Buddha’s teaching they attain the destruction of the influxes, the influx-free liberation of the mind and liberation by wisdom, here and now personally knowing and realizing: ‘Birth for me has been eradicated, the holy life has been established, what had to be done has been done, I myself know that there will be no receiving of further existence?’”

The Buddha said: “Aggivessana, by properly employing this [same] teaching: ‘Whatever bodily form, whether past, future or present, inter­nal or external, gross or subtle, sublime or repugnant, far or near, it should all be contemplated as it really is as not self, as not distinct from the self [in the sense of being owned by it], as not existing [with­in the self, nor a self] as existing [within it].’ Feeling … perception … formations … consciousness … is also like this.

“At the time of [contemplating like this], they accomplish three unsur­ passable qualities: unsurpassable knowledge, unsurpassable awakening, and unsurpassable liberation. Having accomplished these three unsurpassable qualities, they honour the great teacher, esteem, and worship him as a Buddha: ‘The Blessed One has realized all teachings, and with these teachings he tames his disciples so that they attain peace, so that they attain fearlessness, are tamed, at peace, and [attain] the ultimate, Nirvāṇa. For the sake of Nirvāṇa the Blessed One gives teachings to his disciples.’

“Aggivessana, in this teaching my disciples attain the destruction of the influxes, attain liberation of the mind, attain liberation by wisdom, here and now personally knowing and realizing: ‘Birth for me has been eradicated, the holy life has been established, what had to be done has been done, I myself know that there will be no receiving of any further existence.”

Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, said to the Buddha: “Gotama, it is just as if one might escape from a strong man recklessly wielding a sharp sword, [but] from the debating skills of Gotama it is difficult to escape. As if one might avoid a poisonous snake, or avoid a vast swamp or a fierce fire, or one might escape from a fierce drunken ele­phant, or from a mad and hungry lion; from all these one might escape, [but] from the debating skills of Gotama it is difficult to find an es­cape. It is not for me, a commoner, impetuous, and a lowly man, not endowed with debating skill, to come and call on Gotama for the sake of debating a matter.

“Recluse Gotama, this country of Vesālī is pleasant and prosperous. There are the Cāpāla shrine, the Sattambaka shrine, the Bahuputtashrine, the *Gotama-nigrodha shrine, the *Sāradhāra shrine, *Dhurā­nik­­khepana shrine, and the *Balaratana shrine.

“May the Blessed One feel at ease in this country of Vesālī, may the Blessed One always receive worship, respect, and offerings from de­va s, Māras, Brahmās, recluses, Brahmins, and anyone else in the world, so that these deva s, Māras, Brahmās, recluses, and Brahmins for a long time may be in peace. May he stay here, and with the great congregation [of monks] may he accept my humble food offering tomor­row morning.”

At that time, the Blessed One accepted by [remaining] silent. Then Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, knowing that the Buddha, the Blessed One, had accepted the invitation by [remaining] silent, re­joiced, and was delighted and thrilled. He rose from his seat and left.

At that time, while Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, was on his way [back], he said to the Licchavis: “I have invited the recluse Gotama and a great congregation [of monks]. [Let us] supply the meal together. Each of you prepare one dish of food and send it to my place.”

The Licchavis each returned to their homes, made preparations during the night and in the morning sent [the food] to the place of Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas. In the morning Saccaka, the son of the Ni­ gaṇṭhas, swept [his place], sprinkled water [on the floor], set out seats, and prepared clean water [for washing]. He sent a messenger to the Buddha to announce that the time [for the meal] had arrived.

At that time the Blessed One, together with a great company [of monks], put on his robes, took his bowl, and approached the place of Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas. He sat in front of the great com­ pany. Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, with his own hand respect­ fully served pure beverages and food, sufficient for the great company. [When] they had eaten and completed washing their bowls, Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, knowing that the Buddha had finished eating and had completed washing his bowl, took a low seat and sat before the Buddha.

At that time, the Blessed One spoke the following verses as a thanks­giving to Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas:

   “The [performance of the] fire sacrifice
   Is foremost among all great gatherings.
   The Sāvitthī is foremost
   Among treatises and higher scriptures.
   The king is foremost among men,
   The ocean is foremost of all rivers.
   The moon is foremost of all stars,
   The sun is foremost in brilliance.
   Among gods and men in the ten directions
   A fully and rightly awakened one is foremost.”

At that time the Blessed One taught the Dharma in various ways to Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas. Having instructed, taught, illumi­nated, and delighted him, he returned to his former dwelling place.

Then the monks, being together as a group on the road [back], were discussing this matter: “The five-hundred Licchavis each prepared food and drinks for Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas. What merit have the Licchavis gained, what merit has Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, gained?”

At that time, [when] the monks had returned to their own residence, put away their robes and bowls, and washed their feet, they ap­proached the Blessed One, paid respect with their heads at his feet, withdrew to sit at one side, and said to the Buddha:

“Blessed One, on our way back we discussed this matter to­gether: ‘The five-hundred Licchavis prepared the food and drinks for Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, which he offered to the Blessed One and the great company [of monks]. What merit have the Liccha­vis gained, what merit has Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, gained?’”

The Buddha told the monks: “The Licchavis prepared beverages and drinks for Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, so they obtained merit in dependence on Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas. Saccaka, the son of the Nigaṇṭhas, obtained merit [in dependence] on the virtues of the Buddha. The Licchavis obtained the fruits in dependence on giving to one who has desire, anger, and delusion. Saccaka, the son of the Ni­gaṇṭhas, obtained the fruits in dependence on giving to one who is free from desire, anger, and delusion.”