Saṃyutta Nikāya 44

Connected Discourses on the Undeclared

9. The Debating Hall

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him. When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, he sat down to one side and said to the Blessed One:

“In recent days, Master Gotama, a number of ascetics, brahmins, and wanderers of various sects had assembled in the debating hall and were sitting together when this conversation arose among them: ‘This Pūraṇa Kassapa—the leader of an order, the leader of a group, the teacher of a group, the well known and famous spiritual guide considered holy by many people—declares the rebirth of a disciple who has passed away and died thus: “That one was reborn there, that one was reborn there.” And in the case of a disciple who was a person of the highest kind, a supreme person, one who had attained the supreme attainment, when that disciple has passed away and died he also declares his rebirth thus: “That one was reborn there, that one was reborn there.” This Makkhali Gosala … This Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta … This Sañjaya Belaṭṭhiputta … This Pakudha Kaccayana … This Ajita Kesakambalī … when that disciple has passed away and died he also declares his rebirth thus: “That one was reborn there, that one was reborn there.” This ascetic Gotama—the leader of an order, the leader of a group, the teacher of a group, the well known and famous spiritual guide considered holy by many people—declares the rebirth of a disciple who has passed away and died thus: “That one was reborn there, that one was reborn there.” But in the case of a disciple who was a person of the highest kind, a supreme person, one who had attained the supreme attainment, when that disciple has passed away and died he does not declare his rebirth thus: “That one was reborn there, that one was reborn there.” Rather, he declares of him: “He cut off craving, severed the fetter, and, by completely breaking through conceit, he has made an end to suffering.”’

“There was perplexity in me, Master Gotama, there was doubt: ‘How is the Dhamma of the ascetic Gotama to be understood?’”

“It is fitting for you to be perplexed, Vaccha, it is fitting for you to doubt. Doubt has arisen in you about a perplexing matter. I declare, Vaccha, rebirth for one with fuel, not for one without fuel. Just as a fire burns with fuel, but not without fuel, so, Vaccha, I declare rebirth for one with fuel, not for one without fuel.”

“Master Gotama, when a flame is flung by the wind and goes some distance, what does Master Gotama declare to be its fuel on that occasion?”

“When, Vaccha, a flame is flung by the wind and goes some distance, I declare that it is fuelled by the wind. For on that occasion the wind is its fuel.”

“And, Master Gotama, when a being has laid down this body but has not yet been reborn in another body, what does Master Gotama declare to be its fuel on that occasion?”

“When, Vaccha, a being has laid down this body but has not yet been reborn in another body, I declare that it is fuelled by craving. For on that occasion craving is its fuel.”