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With Mahāli—Bhikkhu Sujato

Long Discourses 6

With Mahāli

1. On the Brahmin Emissaries

1.1So I have heard. 1.2At one time the Buddha was staying near Vesālī, at the Great Wood, in the hall with the peaked roof. 1.3Now at that time several brahmin emissaries from Kosala and Magadha were residing in Vesālī on some business. 1.4They heard:

1.5“It seems the ascetic Gotama—a Sakyan, gone forth from a Sakyan family—is staying near Vesālī, at the Great Wood, in the hall with the peaked roof. 1.6He has this good reputation: 1.7‘That Blessed One is perfected, a fully awakened Buddha, accomplished in knowledge and conduct, holy, knower of the world, supreme guide for those who wish to train, teacher of gods and humans, awakened, blessed.’ 1.8He has realized with his own insight this world—with its gods, Māras and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, gods and humans—and he makes it known to others. 1.9He teaches Dhamma that’s good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, meaningful and well-phrased. And he reveals a spiritual practice that’s entirely full and pure. 1.10It’s good to see such perfected ones.”

2.1Then they went to the hall with the peaked roof in the Great Wood to see the Buddha. 2.2Now, at that time Venerable Nāgita was the Buddha’s attendant. 2.3The brahmin emissaries went up to him and said:

2.4“Master Nāgita, where is Master Gotama at present? 2.5For we want to see him.”

2.6“It’s the wrong time to see the Buddha; he is on retreat.” 2.7So the brahmin emissaries sat down to one side, thinking:

2.8“We’ll go only after we’ve seen Master Gotama.”

2.92. On Oṭṭhaddha the Licchavi

3.1Oṭṭhaddha the Licchavi together with a large assembly of Licchavis also approached Nāgita at the hall with the peaked roof. He bowed, stood to one side, and said to Nāgita:

3.2“Master Nāgita, where is the Blessed One at present, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha? 3.3For we want to see him.”

3.4“It’s the wrong time to see the Buddha; he is on retreat.” 3.5So Oṭṭhaddha also sat down to one side, thinking:

3.6“I’ll go only after I’ve seen the Blessed One, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha.”

4.1Then the novice Sīha approached Nāgita. He bowed, stood to one side, and said to Nāgita:

4.2“Sir, Kassapa, these several brahmin emissaries from Kosala and Magadha, and also Oṭṭhaddha the Licchavi together with a large assembly of Licchavis, have come here to see the Buddha. It’d be good if these people got to see the Buddha.”

4.3“Well then, Sīha, tell the Buddha yourself.”

4.4“Yes, sir,” replied Sīha. He went to the Buddha, bowed, stood to one side, and told him of the people waiting to see him, adding: 4.54.6“Sir, it’d be good if these people got to see the Buddha.”

4.7“Well then, Sīha, spread out a seat in the shade of the dwelling.”

4.8“Yes, sir,” replied Sīha, and he did so.

4.9Then the Buddha came out of his dwelling and sat in the shade of the dwelling on the seat spread out. 5.1Then the brahmin emissaries went up to the Buddha, and exchanged greetings with him. 5.2When the greetings and polite conversation were over, they sat down to one side. 5.3Oṭṭhaddha the Licchavi together with a large assembly of Licchavis also went up to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. Oṭṭhaddha said to the Buddha: “Sir, a few days ago Sunakkhatta the Licchavi came to me and said:

5.4‘Mahāli, soon I will have been living in dependence on the Buddha for three years. I see heavenly sights that are pleasant, sensual, and arousing, but I don’t hear heavenly sounds that are pleasant, sensual, and arousing.’ 5.5The heavenly sounds that Sunakkhatta cannot hear: do such sounds really exist or not?”

5.62.1. One-Sided Immersion

5.7“Such sounds really do exist, but Sunakkhatta cannot hear them.”

6.1“What is the cause, sir, what is the reason why Sunakkhatta cannot hear them, even though they really do exist?”

6.2“Mahāli, take a mendicant who has developed one-sided immersion to the eastern quarter so as to see heavenly sights but not to hear heavenly sounds. 6.3When they have developed immersion for that purpose, 6.4they see heavenly sights but don’t hear heavenly sounds. 6.5Why is that? 6.6Because that is how it is for a mendicant who develops immersion in that way.

7.1Furthermore, take a mendicant who has developed one-sided immersion to the southern quarter … 7.2western quarter … 7.3northern quarter … 7.4above, below, across … 7.57.67.77.8That is how it is for a mendicant who develops immersion in that way.

8.1Take a mendicant who has developed one-sided immersion to the eastern quarter so as to hear heavenly sounds but not to see heavenly sights. 8.2When they have developed immersion for that purpose, 8.3they hear heavenly sounds but don’t see heavenly sights. 8.4Why is that? 8.5Because that is how it is for a mendicant who develops immersion in that way.

9.1Furthermore, take a mendicant who has developed one-sided immersion to the southern quarter … 9.2western quarter … 9.3northern quarter … 9.4above, below, across … 9.59.69.79.8That is how it is for a mendicant who develops immersion in that way.

10.1Take a mendicant who has developed two-sided immersion to the eastern quarter so as to both hear heavenly sounds and see heavenly sights. 10.2When they have developed immersion for that purpose, 10.3they both see heavenly sights and hear heavenly sounds. 10.4Why is that? 10.5Because that is how it is for a mendicant who develops immersion in that way.

11.1Furthermore, take a mendicant who has developed two-sided immersion to the southern quarter … 11.2western quarter … 11.3northern quarter … 11.4above, below, across … 11.511.611.711.8That is how it is for a mendicant who develops immersion in that way. 11.9This is the cause, Mahāli, this is the reason why Sunakkhatta cannot hear heavenly sounds that are pleasant, sensual, and arousing, even though they really do exist.”

12.1“Surely the mendicants must live the spiritual life under the Buddha for the sake of realizing such a development of immersion?”

12.2“No, Mahāli, the mendicants don’t live the spiritual life under me for the sake of realizing such a development of immersion. 12.3There are other things that are finer, for the sake of which the mendicants live the spiritual life under me.”

12.42.2. The Four Noble Fruits

13.1“But sir, what are those finer things?”

13.2“Firstly, Mahāli, with the ending of three fetters a mendicant is a stream-enterer, not liable to be reborn in the underworld, bound for awakening. 13.3This is one of the finer things for the sake of which the mendicants live the spiritual life under me.

13.4Furthermore, a mendicant—with the ending of three fetters, and the weakening of greed, hate, and delusion—is a once-returner. They come back to this world once only, then make an end of suffering. 13.5This too is one of the finer things.

13.6Furthermore, with the ending of the five lower fetters, a mendicant is reborn spontaneously and will become extinguished there, not liable to return from that world. 13.7This too is one of the finer things.

13.8Furthermore, a mendicant has realized the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and lives having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements. 13.9This too is one of the finer things. 13.10These are the finer things, for the sake of which the mendicants live the spiritual life under me.”

13.112.3. The Noble Eightfold Path

14.1“But, sir, is there a path and a practice for realizing these things?”

14.2“There is, Mahāli.”

14.3“Well, what is it?”

14.4“It is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: 14.5right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion. 14.6This is the path and the practice for realizing these things.

14.72.4. On the Two Renunciates

15.1This one time, Mahāli, I was staying near Kosambi, in Ghosita’s Monastery. 15.2Then two renunciates—15.3the wanderer Muṇḍiya and Jāliya the pupil of Dārupattika—came and exchanged greetings with me. 15.4When the greetings and polite conversation were over, they stood to one side and said to me: 15.5‘Reverend Gotama, are the soul and the body the same thing, or they are different things?’

16.1‘Well then, reverends, listen and pay close attention, I will speak.’ 16.2‘Yes, reverend,’ they replied. 16.3I said this: 16.4‘Take the case when a Realized One arises in the world, perfected, a fully awakened Buddha … 16.5That’s how a mendicant is accomplished in ethics. …

16.616.7They enter and remain in the first absorption. 16.8When a mendicant knows and sees like this, would it be appropriate to say of them:

16.9“The soul and the body are the same thing” or “The soul and the body are different things”?’ 16.10‘It would, reverend.’ 16.1116.12‘But reverends, I know and see like this. 16.13Nevertheless, I do not say:

16.14“The soul and the body are the same thing” or “The soul and the body are different things”. … 17.1They enter and remain in the second absorption … 17.2third absorption … 17.3fourth absorption. 17.4When a mendicant knows and sees like this, would it be appropriate to say of them:

17.5“The soul and the body are the same thing” or “The soul and the body are different things”?’ 17.6‘It would, reverend.’ 17.717.8‘But reverends, I know and see like this. 17.9Nevertheless, I do not say:

17.10“The soul and the body are the same thing” or “The soul and the body are different things”. … 18.1They extend and project the mind toward knowledge and vision … 18.2When a mendicant knows and sees like this, would it be appropriate to say of them:

18.3“The soul and the body are the same thing” or “The soul and the body are different things”?’ 18.418.5‘It would, reverend.’ 18.618.7‘But reverends, I know and see like this. 18.8Nevertheless, I do not say:

18.9“The soul and the body are the same thing” or “The soul and the body are different things”. …

19.1They understand: “… there is no return to any state of existence.” 19.2When a mendicant knows and sees like this, would it be appropriate to say of them:

19.3“The soul and the body are the same thing” or “The soul and the body are different things”?’ 19.4‘It would not, reverend.’ 19.519.6‘But reverends, I know and see like this. 19.7Nevertheless, I do not say:

19.8“The soul and the body are the same thing” or “The soul and the body are different things”.’”

19.9That is what the Buddha said. 19.10Satisfied, Oṭṭhaddha the Licchavi was happy with what the Buddha said.