Samyuktagama 272

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Saṃyuktāgama 272. Discourse on Perceptions

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park.

At that time among the community there had been a dispute on a minor matter and the Blessed One had for this reason admonished the monks. In the morning he put on his robe and took his bowl to enter the town and beg for food. Having eaten and come out of the town, he put away his robe and bowl, washed his feet, and entered the Blind Men’s Grove to sit at the root of a tree. Being alone and in a quiet place, he reflected and had this thought:

“Among the community there has been a dispute on a minor matter and I have admonished the monks. Yet, among the community there are many young monks, who have recently gone forth. Not seeing the great teacher, regret might arise in their minds, worry, and dissatisfaction. For a long time I have given rise to a mind of compassion and empathy for all monks. Let me now return and assemble the community, out of compassion and empathy.

Then the great Brahmā king, knowing the thought in the Buddha’s mind, just as a strong man might flex an arm, disappeared from the Brahmā Heaven and stood in front of the Buddha, saying to the Buddha: “It is like this, Blessed One, it is like this, Well-gone One. You have admonished the monks because of a dispute on a minor matter. Among the community there are many young monks who have recently gone forth. Not seeing the great teacher, regret might arise in their minds, worry, and dissatisfaction. The Blessed One has for a long time with a mind of compassion and empathy assembled and received the community. It would be well if the Blessed One would now return and assemble the monks.”

At that time, because of sympathizing with Brahmā, the Blessed One accepted it by remaining silent. Then the great Brahmā, knowing that the Buddha, the Blessed One, had accepted it by remaining silent, paid respect to the Buddha, circumambulated him to the right three times and disappeared on the spot.

At that time the Blessed One, soon after the great heavenly king Brahmā had left, returned to Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park, spread out his sitting mat and sat down collected and with straight body, displaying his subtle marks, so that the monks would venture to come and meet him. Then the monks approached the Buddha with ashamed appearance. They came forward to pay respect at the Buddha’s feet and then withdrew to sit at one side.

At that time the Blessed One said to the monks: “A person who has gone forth has a lowly livelihood, having shaved off the hair and taken a bowl to go begging from house to house for alms, as if he were under a curse. The reason for this is that he searches for the highest benefit, for crossing over birth, old age, disease, death, worry, sorrow, vexation, and pain; it is for the sake of the complete ending of dukkha.

“Clansmen, you have not gone forth because kings or bandits forced you, being in debt to someone, being afraid, or lacking a livelihood, but rightly to be liberated from birth, old age, disease, death, worry, sorrow, vexation, and pain—have you not gone forth because of this?”

The monks said to the Buddha: “It is true, Blessed One.”

The Buddha said to the monks: “Monks, you have gone forth in this way for the supreme benefit. How could it be that yet among you there is still a foolish worldling who gives rise to lustful desires, gives rise to extremely defiled attachments, being angry and violent, lazy and bad, with mindfulness lost and without concentration, all faculties being confounded?

“It is just as if a person proceeds from darkness to darkness, from obscurity to obscurity, coming out of a dung pit he falls again into a dung pit, he uses blood to wash off blood, letting go of evils he again takes up evils. A foolish monk is just like this simile I have spoken.

“Or else he is like burnt wood from a cremation fire. Being abandoned in a cemetery, it cannot be picked up and used as firewood. A foolish worldling, a monk who gives rise to lustful desires, gives rise to extremely defiled attachments, being angry and violent, lazy and bad, with mindfulness lost and without concentration, all faculties being confounded, is just like this simile I have spoken.

“Monks, there are three unwholesome thought conditions. What are the three? They are thoughts with lust, thoughts with hatred, and thoughts of harming. These three thoughts arise from perception. What perception? Perceptions of innumerable kinds: perceptions of lust, perceptions of hatred, and perceptions of harming—all unwholesome thoughts arise from this.

“Monks, perceptions of lust, perceptions of hatred, perceptions of harming, thoughts with lust, thoughts with hatred, and thoughts of harming—these are innumerable types of what is unwholesome.

“What is their complete cessation? If the mind is well settled in the four establishments of mindfulness or established in concentration on the signless. Cultivating it, much cultivating it, evil and unwholesome states will thereby cease, be forever eradicated without remainder, rightly by way of this practice.

“A clansman or a clanswoman who out of faith delights in going forth and cultivates concentration on the signless, who has cultivated it, much cultivated it, stands at the door of the deathless and proceeds to the supreme deathless of Nirvāṇa.

“I do not say this deathless of Nirvāṇa is for one who depends on three views. What are the three? One type of view is like this, declaring like this: ‘The soul is the same as the body.’ Then there is a view like this: ‘The soul and the body are different.’ And there is this declaration: ‘Bodily form is my self, it is unique, not otherwise, and forever without change.’”

“A learned noble disciple gives attention to this: ‘Is there in the world a single thing that I could cling to without being at fault?’ Having given attention, he does not see a single thing that he could cling to without being at fault: ‘If I cling to bodily form, I will be at fault; if I cling to feeling … perception … formations … consciousness, I will be at fault.’

Having understood this, he does not cling to anything in the whole world. One who does not cling personally realizes Nirvāṇa, knowing: ‘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’.”

When the Buddha had spoken this discourse, the monks, hearing what the Buddha had said, were delighted and received it respectfully.