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 73

Mahā-Vacchagotta Suttaɱ

Greater Discourse to Vacchagotta

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

Copyright The Pali Text Society
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[489] [167]

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

At one time the Lord was staying near Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove at the squirrels' feeding place.

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta approached the Lord;
having approached,
he exchanged greetings with the Lord;
having conversed in a friendly and courteous way,
he sat down at a respectful distance.

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

"It is a long time since I had a conversation with the good Gotama.[1]

It were good if the revered Gotama were to teach me in brief what is skilled and what is unskilled."

"I, Vaccha, could teach you what is skilled and what is unskilled [168] in brief;
and I, Vaccha, could teach you what is skilled and what is unskilled in full.

But I, Vaccha, will teach you what is skilled and what is unskilled in brief.

Listen to it,
attend carefully,
and I will speak."

"Yes, sir,"the wanderer Vacchagotta answered the Lord in assent.

The Lord spoke thus:

"Greed, Vaccha, is unskill,
absence of greed is skill.

Aversion, Vaccha, is unskill,
absence of aversion is skill.

Confusion, Vaccha, is unskill,
absence of confusion is skill.

These are the three things that are unskilled, Vaccha,
the three that are skilled.

Then, Vaccha, onslaught on creatures[2] is unskill,
restraint from onslaught on creatures is skill.

Taking what has not been given, Vaccha, is unskill,
restraint from taking what has not been given is skill.

Wrong conduct in regard to sense-pleasures, Vaccha, is unskill,
restraint from wrong conduct in regard to sense-pleasures is skill.

Lying speech, Vaccha, is unskill,
restraint from lying speech is skill.

Slanderous speech, Vaccha, [490] is unskill,
restraint from slanderous speech is skill.

Harsh speech, Vaccha, is unskill,
restraint from harsh speech is skill.

Frivolous chatter, Vaccha, is unskill,
restraint from frivolous chatter is skill.

Covetousness, Vaccha, is unskill,
absence of covetousness is skill.

Malevolence, Vaccha, is unskill,
absence of malevolence is skill.

Wrong view, Vaccha, is unskill,
right view is skill.[3]

These are the ten things that are unskilled, Vaccha,
and the ten that are skilled.

When craving, Vaccha,
has been got rid of by a monk,
cut off at the root,
made like a palm-tree stump
that can come to no further existence in the future,
he is a monk who is a perfected one,
canker-waned,
who has lived the life,
done what was to be done,
laid down the burden,
attained his own goal,
the fetters of becoming quite destroyed,
freed by right profound knowledge."

"Let be the good Gotama.

Has the good Gotama even one monk
who is a disciple
and who, by the destruction of the cankers,
having realised here and now
by his own super-knowledge
the freedom of mind
and the freedom through intuitive wisdom
that are cankerless,
entering on them is abiding in them?"

"Not merely a hundred, Vaccha,
nor two hundred,
three hundred,
four hundred
nor five hundred,
but far more are those monks,
disciples of mine,
who, by the destruction of the cankers,
having realised here and now
by their own super-knowledge
the freedom of [169] mind
and the freedom through intuitive wisdom
that are cankerless,
entering on them are abiding in them."

"Let be the good Gotama,
let be the monks.

But has the good Gotama even one nun
who is a disciple
and who, by the destruction of the cankers,
having realised here and now
by her own super-knowledge
the freedom of mind
and the freedom through intuitive wisdom
that are cankerless,
entering on them
is abiding in them?"

"Not merely a hundred, Vaccha,
nor two,
three,
four or five hundred,
but far more are those nuns,
disciples of mine,
who, by the destruction of the cankers,
having here and now realised
by their own super-knowledge
the freedom of mind
and the freedom through intuitive wisdom
that are cankerless,
entering on them
are abiding in them."

"Let be the good Gotama,
let be the monks,
let be the nuns.

But has the good Gotama even one layfollower
who is a disciple,
a householder clothed in white,
a Brahma-farer
who, by the utter destruction of the five fetters
binding to this lower (shore)
is of spontaneous uprising,
one who has attained Nibbāna there
and is not liable to return from that world?"

"Not merely a hundred, Vaccha,
nor two,
three,
four or five hundred,
but far more are those layfollowers,
disciples of mine,
householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
who by the utter destruction of the five fetters
binding to this lower (shore),
[491] are of spontaneous uprising,
those who have attained Nibbāna there
and are not liable to return from that world." "Let be the good Gotama,
let be the monks,
let be the nuns,
let be the lay-followers
who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers.

But has the good Gotama even one layfollower
who is a disciple,
a householder clothed in white,
and who, (though) an enjoyer of sense-pleasures,
is a doer of the instruction,
one who accepts the exhortation,
who has crossed over doubt
and, perplexity gone,
fares in the Teacher's instruction,
won to conviction,
not relying on others?"[4]

"Not merely a hundred, Vaccha,
nor two,
three,
four or five hundred,
but far more are these layfollowers,
disciples of mine,
householders clothed in white,
and who, (though) enjoyers of sense-pleasures
are doers of the instruction,
those who accept the exhortation,
who have crossed over doubt
and, perplexity gone,
fare in the Teacher's instruction,
won to conviction,
not relying on others."

[170] "Let be the good Gotama,
let be the monks,
let be the nuns,
let be the layfollowers
who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
let be the layfollowers
who are householders clothed in white,
enjoyers of sense-pleasures.

But has the good Gotama even one woman layfollower
who is a disciple,
a householder clothed in white,
a Brahma-farer
who, by the utter destruction of the five fetters
binding to this lower (shore),
is of spontaneous uprising,
one who has attained Nibbāna there
and is not liable to return from that world?"

"Not merely a hundred, Vaccha,
nor two,
three,
four or five hundred,
but many more are those women layfollowers,
disciples of mine,
householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers
who, by the utter destruction of the five fetters
binding to this lower (shore),
are of spontaneous uprising,
those who have attained Nibbāna there
and are not liable to return from that world."

"Let be the good Gotama,
let be the monks,
let be the nuns,
let be the lay-followers
who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
let be the layfollowers
who are householders clothed in white,
enjoyers of sense-pleasures,
let be the women layfollowers
who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers.

But has the good Gotama even one woman layfollower
who is a disciple,
a householder clothed in white,
and who, (though) an enjoyer of sense-pleasures,
is a doer of the instruction,
one who accepts the exhortation,
who has crossed over doubt
and, perplexity gone,
fares in the Teacher's instruction,
won to conviction,
not relying on others?"

"Not merely a hundred, Vaccha,
nor two,
three,
four or five hundred,
but many more are those women layfollowers,
disciples of mine,
householders clothed in white,
and who, (though) enjoyers of sense-pleasures,
are doers of the instruction,
those who accept the exhortation,
who have crossed over doubt
and, perplexity gone,
fare in the Teacher's instruction,
won to conviction,
not relying on others."

"If, good Gotama, the revered Gotama had himself undertaken this dhamma
but the monks had not undertaken it,
[492] then this Brahma-faring would have been incomplete as to this factor.

But because the revered Gotama has undertaken this dhamma
and the monks have undertaken it as well,
so is this Brahma-faring complete as to this factor.

If, good Gotama, the revered Gotama had himself undertaken this dhamma
and the monks had undertaken it as well,
but not the nuns,
then this Brahma-faring would have been incomplete as to this factor.

But because the revered Gotama has undertaken this dhamma
and the monks and the nuns have undertaken it as well,
so is this Brahma-faring complete as to this factor.

If, good [171] Gotama, the revered Gotama had himself undertaken this dhamma
and the monks
and the nuns had undertaken it as well,
but not the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
then this Brahma-faring would have been incomplete as to this factor.

But because the revered Gotama has undertaken this dhamma
and the monks
and the nuns
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
BrahmaḤfarers,
have undertaken it as well,
so is this Brahma-faring complete as to this factor.

If, good Gotama, the revered Gotama had himself undertaken this dhamma
and the monks
and the nuns
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
had undertaken it as well,
but not the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
enjoyers of sense-pleasures,
then this Brahma-faring would have been incomplete as to this factor.

But because the revered Gotama has undertaken this dhamma,
and the monks
and the nuns
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
enjoyers of sense-pleasures,
have undertaken it as well,
so is this Brahma-faring complete as to this factor.

If, good Gotama, the revered Gotama had himself undertaken this dhamma
and the monks
and the nuns
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
had undertaken it as well,
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
enjoyers of sense-pleasures,
had undertaken it as well,
but not the women lay followers who are householders clothed in white, Brahma-farers,
[493] then this Brahma-faring would have been incomplete as to this factor.

But because the revered Gotama has undertaken this dhamma,
and the monks
and the nuns
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
enjoyers of sense-pleasures,
and the women layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
have undertaken it as well,
so is this Brahma-faring complete as to this factor.

If, good Gotama, the revered Gotama had himself undertaken this dhamma
and the monks
and the nuns
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
had undertaken it as well,
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
enjoyers of sense-pleasures,
had undertaken it as well,
the women layfollowers who are householders clothed in white, Brahma-farers, had undertaken it as well,
but not the women layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
enjoyers of sense-pleasures,
then the Brahma-faring would have been incomplete as to this factor.

But because the revered Gotama has undertaken this dhamma,
and the monks
and the nuns
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
and the layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
enjoyers of sense-pleasures,
and the women layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
Brahma-farers,
[172] and the women layfollowers who are householders clothed in white,
enjoyers of sense-pleasures,
have undertaken it as well,
so is this Brahma-faring complete as to this factor.

Good Gotama, as the river Ganges,[5]
sliding towards the sea,
tending towards the sea,
inclining towards the sea,
stands knocking at[6] the sea,
even so this company of the good Gotama,
comprising householders
and those that have gone forth,[7] sliding towards Nibbāna,
tending towards Nibbāna,
inclining towards Nibbāna,
stands knocking at Nibbāna.

It is excellent, good Gotama,
excellent, good Gotama.

It is as if, good Gotama,
one might set upright what had been upset,
or disclose what had been covered,
or might show the way
to one that had gone astray,
or bring an oil-lamp into the darkness
so that those with vision might see material shapes -
even so in many a figure
is dhamma made clear by the revered Gotama.

I am going to the revered Gotama for refuge
and to dhamma
and to the Order of monks.

May I receive the going forth in the good Gotama's presence,
may I receive ordination."

[494] "Vaccha, if a former member of another sect[8]
wishes for the going forth in this dhamma and discipline,
wishes for ordination,
he undertakes probation for four months;
at the end of the four months the monks,
if they so decide,
may let him go forth,
may ordain him into the status of a monk;
but even here differences among individuals are known to me."

"If, revered sir,
former members of other sects,
desiring the going forth in this dhamma and discipline,
desiring ordination,
undertake probation for four months,
and at the end of the four months
the monks, if they so decide,
let them go forth,
ordain them into the status of a monk,
then will I undertake probation for four years;
at the end of the four years the monks,
if they so decide,
may let me go forth,
may ordain me into the status of a monk.

"But the wanderer Vacchagotta received the going forth in the Lord's presence,
he received ordination.

Not long after the venerable Vacchagotta was ordained,
half a month after he was ordained,
he approached the Lord;
having approached,
having greeted the Lord,
he sat down at a respectful distance.

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

[173] "Revered sir, I have attained as much as can be attained by a learner's knowledge,
a learner's lore.[9]

Let the Lord teach me some further dhamma"[10]

"Well then, do you, Vaccha, develop two things further:
calm and vision.

If these two things:
calm and vision,
are developed further, Vaccha,
they will conduce to the penetration of a variety of elements.[11]

If you, Vaccha, should wish like this:

'May I experience[12] the various forms of psychic power:
having been one may I be manifold,
having been manifold may I be one;
manifest or invisible
may I go unhindered through a wall,
through a rampart,
through a mountain
as if through air;
may I plunge into the earth
and shoot up again
as if in water;
may I walk upon the water
without parting it
as if on the ground;
sitting cross-legged,
may I travel through the air
like a bird on the wing;
with my hand
may I rub and stroke
this moon and sun
although they are of such mighty power and majesty;
and even as far as the Brahma-world
may I have power in respect of my person' -
you will achieve what may be realised here and there[13]
so long as there is the objective.[14]

If you, Vaccha, should wish like this:

'May I, [495] with the purified deva-hearing
surpassing that of men,
hear both (kinds of) sounds -
deva-like ones and human ones,
whether they be far or near' -
you will achieve what may be realised here and there,
so long as there is the objective.

If you, Vaccha, should wish like this:

[ed1]'May I know intuitively by mind
the minds of other beings,
of other individuals,
so that I may know intuitively of a mind that is full of attachment
that it is full of attachment;
or of a mind that is without attachment
that it is without of attachment
so that I may know intuitively of a mind that is full of aversion
that it is full of aversion;
or of a mind that is without aversion
that it is without aversion
so that I may know intuitively of a mind that is full of confusion,
that it is full of confusion;
or of a mind that is without confusion
that it is without confusion
or that I may know intuitively of a mind that is contracted that it is contracted;
or of a mind that is distracted that it is distracted;
or of a mind that has become great that it has become great;
or of a mind that has not become great
that it has not become great,
or of a [174] mind with (some other mental state) superior to it
that it has (some other mental state) superior to it,
or of a mind that has no (other mental state) superior to it
that it has no (other mental state) superior to it,
or of a mind that is composed that it is composed,
or of a mind that is not composed that it is not composed,
or of a mind that is freed that it is freed,
or of a mind that is not freed that it is not freed' -
you will achieve what may be realised here and there,
so long as there is the objective.

If you, Vaccha, should wish like this:

'May I recollect (my) manifold former habitations,
that is to say one birth,
two births,
three ... four... five ... ten ... twenty... thirty ... forty... fifty ... a hundred ... a thousand ...
a hündred thousand births,
many an eon of integration,
many an eon of disintegration,
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 was I 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 such a one was I by name,
having such and such a clan,
such and such a colour,
so was I 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 (my) divers former habitations
in all their modes and detail' -
you will achieve what may be realised here and there,
so long as there is the objective.

[496] If you, Vaccha, should wish like this:

'With the purified deva-vision
surpassing that of men,
may I behold beings as they pass hence
or come to be -
mean, excellent, comely, ugly,
in a good bourn,
in a bad bourn
according to the consequences of deeds;
may I comprehend:

Indeed these worthy beings
were possessed of wrong conduct
in body, speech and thought,
they were 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 right conduct
in body, speech and thought,
who were not scoffers 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
may I behold beings as they pass hence,
as they come to be,
may I comprehend that they are mean, excellent, comely, ugly,
in a good bourn,
in a bad bourn
according to the consequences of deeds' -
you will achieve what may be realised here and there,
so long as there is the objective.

[175] If you, Vaccha, should wish like this:

'By the destruction of the cankers,
having realised here and now
by my own super-knowledge
the freedom of mind
and the freedom through intuitive wisdom
that are cankerless,
entering thereon,
may I abide therein' -
you will achieve what may be realised here and there,
so long as there is the objective."

Then the venerable Vacchagotta,
having rejoiced in what the Lord had said,
having given thanks,
rising from his seat,
having greeted the Lord,
departed keeping his right side towards him.

Then the venerable Vacchagotta,
having soon realised here and now
through his own super-knowledge
that incomparable goal of the Brahma-faring
for the sake of which young men of family
rightly go forth from home into homelessness,
entering on it,
abided in it.

And he understood:

Destroyed is birth,
brought to a close is the Brahma-faring,
done is what was to be done,
there is no more of being such or so.

And the venerable Vacchagotta became one of the perfected ones.[15]

Now at that time a number of monks were going to see the Lord.

The venerable Vacchagotta saw these monks coming in the distance;
having seen them,
he approached these monks;
having approached,
he spoke thus to these monks:

[497] "But now, where are you venerable ones going?"

"We are going to see the Lord, your reverence."

"Well then, in my name
let the venerable ones salute the Lord's feet with their heads, saying,
'Revered sir, the monk Vacchagotta salutes the Lord's feet with his head,'
and then say:

'The Lord is waited on[16] by me,
the Well-farer is waited on by me.'"

"Yes, your reverence," these monks answered the venerable Vacchagotta in assent.

Then these monks approached the lord;
having approached,
having greeted the Lord,
they sat down at a respectful distance.

As they were sitting down at a respectful distance
these monks spoke thus to the Lord:

"Revered sir, the venerable Vacchagotta salutes the Lord's feet with his head and speaks thus:

'The Lord is waited on by me,
the Well-farer is waited on by me.'"

"Monks, by a reasoning of mind I already knew the mind of the monk Vacchagotta:
of threefold knowledge is the monk Vacchagotta,
of great psychic power,
of great majesty.

And devatās also [176] told me this matter:[17]'

Of threefold knowledge is the monk Vaeehagotta,
revered sir, he is of great psychic power,
of great majesty.'"

Thus spoke the Lord.

Delighted, these monks rejoiced in what the Lord had said.

Greater Discourse to Vacchagotta:
The Third

 


[1] MA. iii. 190-200 points out that the two foregoing Discourses were spoken to him, also the Avyāvaṭa Saɱyutta (S. iv. 391 ff.) and a discourse in the Ang. (A. v. 193). While it is reasonably clear that the two foregoing Discourses were in fact spoken to Vacchagotta before this "Greater" one, we have no idea of the length of time that separated any of them.

[2] Cf. M. i. 285-286; D. i. 4.

[3] This sentence is quoted at Kvm. 505.

[4] As at M. i. 235.

[5] Cf. S. v. 39-40.

[6] āhacca tiṭṭhati, stands knocking or striking at. Cf. S. ii. 43, 45, 58, 80, amatadvāram āhacca tiṭṭhati.

[7] parisā sagahaṭṭhapabbajitā; cf. Vin. i. 115.

[8] As at M. i. 391, 512.

[9] vijjā. MA. iii. 201 quotes Dhs. 1016, 1400, kataime ca dhammā sekhā? and says non-returning was attained.

[10] uttariɱ dhammaɱ.

[11] dhātu.

[12] With the following cf. M. i. 34.

[13] tatra tatr'eva sakkhibhabbataɱ pāpuṇissasi.

[14] sati sati āyatlane, quoted at DA. 125. MA. iii. 202, iv. 146 explain by kāraṇe. Cf. Jā. i. 251, anāyatane akāraṇe. Āyatana seems almost to be cause, right object, objective, inducement or sufficient reason. Same expression is used at M. iii. 96, A. iii. 27.

[15] His verse is at Thag. 112.

[16] pariciṇṇa; cf. S. iv. 57; Thag. 178, 604, 687, 792, 891.

[17] MA. iii. 202 explains by tesaɱ guṇānaɱ lābhī devatā; devatās are the recipients of (or, are possessed of, or, are psychically intuitive of) these qualities; cf. DA. 120. It is possible that in such contexts devatā stands for a mental or psychical faculty.

 


[ed1] Ms. Horner abbreviates here and mixes up the order. I have used her vocabulary but reinstated the full text in the proper order according to the Pali here and everywhere else this list occurs in the Pali.


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