Aṅguttara Nikāya

The Book of the Eights

8. Uttara on Failing

On one occasion the Venerable Uttara was dwelling at Mahisavatthu, in Dhavajālikā on Mount Saṅkheyya. There the Venerable Uttara addressed the bhikkhus….

“Friends, it is good for a bhikkhu from time to time to review his own failings. It is good for a bhikkhu from time to time to review the failings of others. It is good for a bhikkhu from time to time to review his own achievements. It is good for a bhikkhu from time to time to review the achievements of others.”

Now on that occasion the great deva king Vessavaṇa was traveling from north to south on some business. He heard the Venerable Uttara at Mahisavatthu, in Dhavajālikā on Mount Saṅkheyya, teaching the Dhamma to the bhikkhus thus: ‘Friends, it is good for a bhikkhu from time to time to review his own failings … the failings of others … his own achievements … the achievements of others.’ Then, just as a strong man might extend his drawn-in arm or draw in his extended arm, Vessavaṇa disappeared from Mount Saṅkheyya and reappeared among the Tāvatiṃsa devas.

He approached Sakka, ruler of the devas, and said to him: “Respected sir, you should know that the Venerable Uttara, at Mahisavatthu, in Dhavajālikā on Mount Saṅkheyya, has been teaching the Dhamma to the bhikkhus thus: ‘Friends, it is good for a bhikkhu from time to time to review his own failings … the failings of others … his own achievements … the achievements of others.’”

Then, just as a strong man might extend his drawn-in arm or draw in his extended arm, Sakka disappeared from among the Tāvatiṃsa devas and reappeared at Mahisavatthu, in Dhavajālikā on Mount Saṅkheyya, in front of the Venerable Uttara. He approached the Venerable Uttara, paid homage to him, stood to one side, and said to him:

“Is it true, Bhante, as is said, that you have been teaching the Dhamma to the bhikkhus thus: ‘Friends, it is good for a bhikkhu from time to time to review his own failings … the failings of others … his own achievements … the achievements of others’?”

“Yes, ruler of the devas.”

“But, Bhante, was this your own discernment, or was it the word of the Blessed One, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One?”

“Well then, ruler of the devas, I will give you a simile; even by means of a simile, some intelligent people understand the meaning of what has been said. Suppose not far from a village or town there was a great heap of grain, and a large crowd of people were to take away grain with carrying-poles, baskets, hip-sacks, and their cupped hands. If someone were to approach that large crowd of people and ask them: ‘Where did you get this grain?’ what should they say?”

“Bhante, those people should say: ‘We got it from that great heap of grain.’”

“So too, ruler of the devas, whatever is well spoken is all the word of the Blessed One, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One. I myself and others derive our good words from him.”

“It’s astounding and amazing, Bhante, how well you stated this: ‘Whatever is well spoken is all the word of the Blessed One, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One. I myself and others derive our good words from him.’

“On one occasion, Bhante Uttara, the Blessed One was dwelling at Rājagaha, on Mount Vulture Peak, not long after Devadatta had left. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus with reference to Devadatta: ‘Bhikkhus, it is good for a bhikkhu from time to time to review his own failings…. Sakka here cites the Buddha’s entire discourse of 8:7, down to: [165–66] … It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that you should train yourselves.’

“Bhante Uttara, this exposition of the Dhamma has not been promulgated anywhere among the four human assemblies: that is, among bhikkhus, bhikkhunīs, male lay followers, and female lay followers. Bhante, learn this exposition of the Dhamma, master this exposition of the Dhamma, and retain this exposition of the Dhamma in mind. This exposition of the Dhamma is beneficial; it pertains to the fundamentals of the spiritual life.”