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Saɱyutta Nikāya:
III. Khandhā Vagga:
22: Khandhāsaɱyutta

Sutta 87

Vakkali Suttaɱ

Vakkali

Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Reproduced with permission of Wisdom Publications

 


[119] [938]

[1][pts][wlsh] Thus have I heard.

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrel Sanctuary. Now on that occasion the Venerable Vakali was dwelling in a potter's shed, sick, afflicted, gravely ill.[166] Then the Venerable Vakkali addressed his attendants:

"Come, friends, approach the Blessed One, pay homage to him in my name with your head at his feet, and say:
'Venerable sir, the bhikkhu Vakkali is sick, afflicted, gravely ill; he pays homage to the Blessed One with his head at his feet.'
Then say:
'It would be good, venerable sir, if the Blessed One would approach the bhikkhu Vakkali out of compassion.'"

"Yes, friend," those bhikkhus replied, and they approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and delivered their message.

The Blessed One consented by silence.

Then the Blessed One dressed and, taking bowl and robe, approached the Venerable Vakkali.

[[120]] The Venerable Vakkali saw the Blessed One coming in the distance and stirred on his bed[167]

The Blessed One said to him:

"Enough, Vakkali, do not stir on your bed. There are these seats ready, I will sit down there."

The Blessed One then sat down on the appointed seat and said to the Venerable Vakkali:

"I hope you are bearing up, Vakkali, I hope you are getting better. I hope that your painful feelings are subsiding and not increasing, and that their subsiding, not their increase, is to be discerned."

"Venerable sir, I am not bearing up, I am not getting better. Strong painful feelings are increasing in me, not subsiding, and their increase, not their subsiding, is to be discerned."

"I hope then, Vakkali, that you are not troubled by remorse and regret."

Indeed, venerable sir, I have quite a lot of remorse and regret."

"I hope, Vakkali, that you have nothing for which to reproach yourself in regard to virtue."

"I have nothing, venerable sir, for which to reproach myself in regard to virtue."

"Then, Vakkali, if you have nothing for which to reproach yourself in regard to virtue, why are you troubled by remorse and regret?"

"For a long time, venerable sir, I have wanted to come to see the Blessed One, but I haven't been fit enough to do so."

[13][pts][than] "Enough, Vakkali! Why do you want to see this foul body? One who sees the Dhamma sees me; one who sees me sees the Dhamma.[168] For in seeing the Dhgamma, Vakkali, one sees me; and inseeing me, one sees the Dhamma.

"What do you think, Vakkali, is form permanent or impermanent?"

[[121]] "Impermanent, venerable sir." ...

"Therefore ... Seeing thus ... He understands: '...there is no more for this state of being.'"

Then the Blessed One, having given this exhortation to the Venerable Vakkali, rose from his seat and departed for Mount Vulture Peak.

Then, not long after the Blessed One had left, the Venerable Vakkali addressed his attendants thus:

"Come, friends, lift me up on this bed and carry me to the Black Rock on the Isigili Slope.[169] How can one like me think of dying among the houses?

"Yes, friend," those bhikkhus replied and, having lifted up the Venerable Vakkali on the bed, they carried him to the Black Rock on the Isigili Slope.

The Blessed One spent the rest of that day and night on Mount Vulture Peak. Then, when the night was well advanced, two devatās of stunning beauty approached the Blessed One, illuminating the whole of Mount Vulture Peak ... Standing to one side, one devatā said to the Blessed One:

"Venerable sir, the bhikkhu Vakkali is intent on deliverance."[170]

The other devatā said:

"Surely, venerable sir, he will be liberated as one well liberated."[171]

This is what those devatās said. Having said this, they paid homage to the Blessed One and, keeping him on their right, they disappeared right there.

Then, when the night had passed, the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus:

"Come, bhikkhus, approach the bhikkhu Vakkali and say to him:
'Friend Vakkali, listen to the word of the Blessed One [122] and two devatās. Last night, friend, when the night was wel advanced, two devatās of stunning beauty approached the Blessed One. One devatā said to the Blessed One: "Venerable sir, the bhikkhu Vakkali is intent on deliverance." The other devatā said: "Surely, venerable sir, he will be liberated as one well liberated." And the Blessed One says to you, friend Vakkali: "Do not be afraid, Vakkali, do not be afraid! Your death will not be a bad one. Your demise will not be a bad one."'"

"Yes, venerable sir," those bhikkhus replied, and they approached the Venerable Vakkali and said to him:

"Friend Vakkali, listen to the word of the Blessed One and two deities."

Then the Venerable Vakkali addressed his attendants:

"Come, friends, lower me from the bed. How can one like me think of listening tot he Blessed One's teaching while seated on a high seat."

"Yes, friend," those bhikkhus replied, and they lowered the Venerable Vakkali from the bed.

"Last night, friend, two deities of stunning beauty approached the Blessed One. One devatā said to the Blessed One: 'Venerable sir, the bhikkhu Vakkali is intent on deliverance.' The other devatā said: 'Surely, venerable sir, he will be liberated as one well liberated.' And the Blessed One says to you, friend Vakkali: 'Do not be afraid, Vakkali, do not be afraid! Your death will not be a bad one. Your demise will not be a bad one.'"

"Well then, friends, pay homage to the Blessed One in my name with your head at his feet and say:
'Venerable sir, the bhikkhu Vakkali is sick, afflicted, gravely ill; he pays homage to the Blessed One with his head at his feet.'

Then say:
'Form is impermanent:
I have no perplexity about this, venerable sir, I do not doubt that whatever is impermanent is suffering.
I do not doubt that in regard to what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change,
I have no more desire, lust, or affection. [123]

"Yes, friend," those bhikkhus replied, and then they departed.

Then, not long after those bhikkhus had left, the Venerable Vakkali used the knife.[172]

Then those bhikkhus approached the Blessed One ... and delivered their message.

The Blessed One then addressed the bhikkhus thus:

"Come, bhikkhus, let us go to the Black Rock on the Isigili Slope, where the clansman Vakkali has used the knife."

"Yes, venerable sir," those bhikkhus replied.

Then the Blessed One, together with a number of bhikkhus, went to the Black Rock on the Isigili Slope.

The Blessed One saw in the distance the Venerable Vakkali lying on the bed with his shoulder turned. [124]

Now on that occasion a cloud of smoke, a swirl of darkness, was moving to the east, then to the west, to the north, to the south, upwards, downwards, and to the intermediate quarters.

The Blessed One then addressed the bhikkhus thus:

"Do you see, bhikkhus, that cloud of smoke, that swirl of darkness, moving to the east, then to the west, to the north, to the south, upwards, downwards, and to the intermediate quarters?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

"That, bhikkhus, is Māra the Evil One searching for the consciousness of the clansman Vakkali, wondering:
'Where now has the consciousness of the clansman Vakali been established?'
However, bhikkhus, with consciousness unestablished, the clansman Vakkali has attained final Nibbāna.

 


[166] Vakkali was declared by the Buddha the foremost bhikkhu of those resolved through faith (etadaggaɱ saddhādhimuttānaɱ; AN I 24, 15.)
Spk: After completing the rains residence, the elder was on his way to see the Blessed One when he fell ill in the middle of the city. He could not walk, so they put him on a stretcher and carried him to a potter's shed.

[167] Samadhosi. Spk: He showed his respect by making a movement; for, it is said, even a patient is obliged to show respect to a superior by making a gesture of rising.

[168] Yo kho Vakkali dammaɱ passati, so maɱ passati. Yo maɱ passati, so dhammaɱ passati. Spk: Here the Blessed One shows (himself as) the Dhamma-body, as stated in the passage, "The Tathāgata, great king, is the Dhamma-body." For the nine-fold supramundane Dhamma is called the Tathāgata's body.
I cannot trace a statement that corresponds exactly to the one cited by Spk. Spk may be misquoting DN III 84, 23-24, which actually reads: "For this, Vāseṭṭha, is a designation of the Tathāgata, that is, the Dhamma-body ..." (Tathāgatassa h'etaɱ Vāseṭṭha adhivacanaɱ dhammakāyo iti pi ...). On the ninefold supramundane Dhamma, see n. 51. [ED INSERT: Dhammānudhammapaṭipanna. Spk: Navannaɱ lokuttara-dhammānaɱ anulomadhammaɱ pubbabhāgapaṭipadaɱ Paṭipannassa; "when he is practicing the preliminary portion of the practice that is in conformity with the ninefold supramundane Dhamma (the four paths, their fruits, and Nibbāna)." Cp. II, n. 34] Though the second clause seems to be saying that simply by seeing the Buddha's body one sees the Dhamma, the meaning is surely that in order to really see the Buddha one should see the Dhamma, the truth to which he awakned. Hence the following catechism, intended to guide Vakkali towards that realization.

[169] It was here too that the Venerable Godhika expired by his own hand; see 4:23.

[170] Vimokkhāya ceteti. Spk: For the sake of the deliverance of the path (magga-vimokkhatthāya). Although vimokkha and vimutti are derived from the same prefixed root (vi + muc), they usually appear in different contexts. To avoid confusion I have rendered the former as "deliverance," the latter as "liberation." Here they are synonymous.

[171] Suvimutto vimuccissati. Spk: he will be liberated as one liberated by the liberation of the fruit of arahantship. Those devas spoke thus because they knew, "By whatever method he arouses insight, he will attain arahantship immediately."

[172] Vakkali's message to the Buddha implies that he already considered himself an arahant. Spk, however, explains: "The elder, it is said, overestimated himself. As he had suppressed the defilements by concentration and insight, he did not see himself assailed by them and thus thought he was an arahant. Disgusted with his miserable life, he cut his jugular vein with a sharp knife. Just then, painful feelings arose in him. Realizing he was still a worldling, he took up his main meditation subject, explored it with knowledge, and attained arahantship just as he died." On the basis of the sutta alone it is impossible to tell whether the commentary is right. For another account of a monk who took his life while thinking he was an arahant, see 35:87. Godhika (in 4:23) did not have this conviction, but took his life from despair due to his illness. He too, however, attained arahantshipat the time of death. The sequel is as at 4:23; see I, nn. 313, 314.


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