Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
II. Majjhima-Paṇṇāsa
3. Paribbājaka Vagga

The Middle Length Sayings
II. The Middle Fifty Discourses
3. The Division on Wanderers

Sutta 71

Tevijja-Vacchagotta Suttaɱ

Discourse to Vacchagotta on the Threefold Knowledge

Translated from the Pali by I.B. Horner, M.A.
Associate of Newham College, Cambridge
First Published in 1954

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[481] [159]

[1][chlm][upal] THUS have I heard:

At one time the Lord was staying near Vesālī
in the Great Grove in the hall of the Gabled House.

Now at that time the wanderer Vacchagotta[1] was living in Ekapuṇḍarīka,[2]
the wanderers' park.

Then the Lord,
having dressed in the morning,
taking his bowl and robe,
entered Vesālī for almsfood.

But it occurred to the Lord:

"It is still too early
to walk for almsfood in Vesālī.

Suppose I were to approach Ekapuṇḍarīka, the wanderers' park,
and Vacchagotta the wanderer?"

Then the Lord approached Ekapuṇḍarīka, the wanderers' park,
and Vacchagotta the wanderer.

The wanderer Vacchagotta saw the Lord coming in the distance
and seeing him,
he spoke thus to the Lord:

"Revered sir, let the Lord come;
revered sir, there is a welcome for the Lord;
revered sir, it is long since the Lord made the opportunity to come here;
revered sir, let the Lord sit down,
this is the appointed seat."

The Lord sat down on the appointed seat,
and Vacchagotta the wanderer,
[482]having taken a low seat,
sat down at a respectful distance.

As he was sitting down at a respectful distance,
the wanderer Vacchagotta spoke thus to the Lord:

"Revered sir, I have heard:

'The recluse Gotama is all knowing,[3]
all seeing;
he claims all-embracing knowledge-and-vision,
saying:

"Whether I am walking
or standing still
or asleep
or awake,
knowledge-and-vision is permanently
and continuously before me."'

Revered sir, those who speak thus:

'The recluse Gotama is all knowing,
all seeing;
he claims all-embracing knowledge-and-vision,
saying:

[160] "Whether I am walking
or standing still
or asleep
or awake,
knowledge-and-vision is permanently
and continuously before me."' -

revered sir, I hope that these[4] are speaking of the Lord
in accordance with what has been said
and are not misrepresenting the Lord
with what is not fact,
but are explaining in accordance with dhamma,
and that no one of his fellow dhamma-men,
of this way of speaking,
gives grounds for reproach?"

"Vaceha, those who speak thus:

'The recluse Gotama is all knowing,
all seeing;
he claims all-embracing knowledge-and-vision,
saying:

"Whether I am walking
or standing still
or asleep
or awake,
knowledge-and-vision is permanently
and continuously before me."' -

these are not speaking of me
in accordance with what has been said,
but they are misrepresenting me
with what is untrue,
not fact."

"Expounding in what way, revered sir,
would we be speaking
in accordance with what has been said,
and would not be misrepresenting the Lord
with what is not fact,
but would be explaining in accordance with dhamma
so that no fellow dhamma-man,
of the same way of speaking,
could give grounds for reproach?"

"Vaccha, expounding:

'The recluse Gotama is a threefold-knowledge man,'

[483]you would be one
who speaks in accordance with what has been said by me,
you would not be misrepresenting me
with what is not fact,
you would be explaining in accordance with dhamma,
and no fellow dhamma-man
of this way of speaking
could give grounds for reproach.

For I, Vaccha,
whenever I please
recollect a variety of former habitations,
that is to say:

One birth,
two births,
three births,
four births,
five births,
ten births,
twenty births,
thirty births,
forty births,
fifty births,
a hundred births,
a thousand births,
a hundred thousand births,
and many an eon of integration
and many an eon of disintegration
and many an eon of integration-disintegration:

'Such a one was I by name,
having such and such a clan,
such and such a colour,
so I was nourished,
such and such pleasant and painful experiences were mine,
so did the span of life end.

Passing from this,
I came to be in another state
where I was such a one by name,
having such and such a clan,
such and such a colour,
so I was nourished,
such and such pleasant and painful experiences were mine,
so did the span of life end.

Passing from this,
I arose here.'

Thus I recollect divers former habitations
in all their modes and detail.[5]

And I, Vaccha, whenever I please,
with the purified deva-vision
surpassing that of men,
see beings as they pass hence
or come to be;
I comprehend that beings are mean,
excellent,
comely,
ugly,
well-going,
ill-going,
according to the consequences of deeds,
and thinks:

'Indeed these worthy beings
who were possessed of wrong conduct in body,
speech
and thought,
scoffers at the ariyans,
holding a wrong view,
incurring deeds consequent on a wrong view -
these, at the breaking up of the body after dying,
have arisen in a sorrowful state,
a bad bourn,
the abyss,
Niraya Hell.

But these worthy beings
who were possessed of good conduct in body,
speech
and thought,
who did not scoff at the ariyans,
holding a right view,
incurring deeds consequent on a right view -
these at the breaking up of the body after dying,
have arisen in a good bourn,
a heaven world.'

Thus with the purified deva-vision
surpassing that of men
I see beings as they pass hence,
as they arise;
I comprehends that beings are mean,
excellent,
comely,
ugly,
well-going,
ill-going
according to the consequences of deeds.

And I, Vaccha, by the destruction of the cankers,
having realised here and now
by my own super-knowledge
the freedom of mind
and the freedom through wisdom
that are cankerless,
entering thereon,
abide therein.

Vaccha, expounding
that the recluse Gotama is a threefold-knowledge man,
you would be one who speaks in accordance
with what has been said by me,
you would not be misrepresenting me
with what is not fact,
you would be explaining in accordance with dhamma,
and no [161] fellow dhamma-man
of this way of speaking
could give grounds for reproach."

When this had been said, Vacchagotta the wanderer spoke thus to the Lord:

"Good Gotama, is there any householder who,
not getting rid of the householder's fetter(s),[6]
at the breaking up of the body
is an end-maker of ill?"

"There is not any householder, Vaccha, who,
not getting rid of the householder's fetter(s),
at the breaking up of the body
is an end-maker of ill."

"But is there, good Gotama,
any householder who,
not getting rid of the householder's fetter(s),
at the breaking up of the body attains heaven?"

"Not just one hundred, Vaccha,
nor two hundred,
nor three,
four
or five hundred,
but far more are those householders who,
not getting-rid of the householder's fetter(s),
at the breaking up of the body attain heaven."

"Now, good Gotama,
is there any Naked Ascetic who
at the breaking up of the body
is an end-maker of ill?"

"There is not, Vaccha,
any Naked Ascetic who
at the breaking up of the body
is an end-maker of ill."

"But is there then, good Gotama,
any Naked Ascetic who
at the breaking up of the body
attained heaven?"

"Although I, Vaccha,
recollect ninety-one eons,[7]
I do not know of any Naked Ascetic
who attained heaven,
except one;
and he professed kamma,
he professed operative kamma."[8]

[162] "This being so, good Gotama,
that fold of the sects[9]
is empty even in regard to attaining heaven."

"This being so, Vaccha,
that fold of the sects
is empty even in regard to attaining heaven."

Thus spoke the Lord.

Delighted, the wanderer Vacchagotta rejoiced in what the Lord had said.

Discourse to Vaeehagotta on the Threefold Knowledge:
The First

 


[1] Cf. A. i. 160; S. iii. 257 ff., iv. 391 ff. Verses are ascribed to him at Thag. 112. His spiritual evolution is told in this and the two following Discourses, and veiy briefly at ThagA. i. 235.

[2] MA. iii. 195 = DA. ii. 416 says puṇḍarīka is a white mango tree. A solitary one (eka) grew in this wanderers' park. This park is not to be confused with the ekapuṇḍarīka uyyāna of M. i. 252.

[3] Said of Nātaputta at M. i. 92-93.

[4] Cf. A. i. 161, ii. 31, iii. 4; S. ii. 33, 36, iii. 6.

[5] Cf. M. i. 22.

[6] Probably meaning his wife, children and servants.

[7] At D. ii. 2 Gotama is reputed to say that the Buddha Vipassin arose in the world ninety-one eons, kappa, ago. This context mentions six Buddhas preceding Gotama; of these Vipassin is the first. I suggest that our M. passage may have a hidden reference to the fact that Gotama's recollection of his previous lives, or "habitations," goes back to Vipassin's time; and that, since from D. ii. 2 and M. i. 483 it does not appear to go back to the times of the other Buddhas who preceded Vipassin, is perhaps contributory evidence that the number of these was of later growth; see e.g. E.J. Thomas, Life of Buddha, p. 27. See Intr. p. xvii.

? This was Gotama himself in a former birth. Makkhali Gosāla was a contemporary of Gotama which would have made it difficult for him to have been one of Makkhali Gosāla's followers.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[8] so p'āsi kammavādī kiriyavādī. MA. iii, 196 says that if he was the former he could not avoid being the latter. A.L. Basham, Hist, of the Ājīvikas, p. 135 says he was in consequence of these views "not an orthodox follower of Makkhali Gosāla." Cf. Vin. i. 71: kammavādino ete kiriyavādino, said of the matted hair ascetics who, for this very reason, were to be privileged not to undergo the prescribed four months' probation for members of other sects before they were ordained as monks. Cf. also A. i, 287. [but ?]

[9] titthāyatana, as at Vin. i. 60, 69, ii. 279, iv. 217; A. i. 173. See B.D. iii. 167, n. 2.

 


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