>

A Trainee —Bhikkhu Sujato

Middle Discourses 53

A Trainee

1.1So I have heard. 1.2At one time the Buddha was staying in the land of the Sakyans, near Kapilavatthu in the Banyan Tree Monastery.

2.1Now at that time a new town hall had recently been constructed for the Sakyans of Kapilavatthu. It had not yet been occupied by an ascetic or brahmin or any person at all. 2.2Then the Sakyans of Kapilavatthu went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him:

2.3“Sir, a new town hall has recently been constructed for the Sakyans of Kapilavatthu. It has not yet been occupied by an ascetic or brahmin or any person at all. 2.4May the Buddha be the first to use it, and only then will the Sakyans of Kapilavatthu use it. 2.5That would be for the lasting welfare and happiness of the Sakyans of Kapilavatthu.” 3.1The Buddha consented in silence.

3.2Then, knowing that the Buddha had consented, the Sakyans got up from their seat, bowed, and respectfully circled the Buddha, keeping him on their right. Then they went to the new town hall, where they spread carpets all over, prepared seats, set up a water jar, and placed a lamp. Then they went back to the Buddha, 3.3bowed, stood to one side, 3.4and told him of their preparations, saying, 3.5 3.6“Please, sir, come at your convenience.”

4.1Then the Buddha robed up and, taking his bowl and robe, went to the new town hall together with the Saṅgha of mendicants. Having washed his feet he entered the town hall and sat against the central column facing east. 4.2The Saṅgha of mendicants also washed their feet, entered the town hall, and sat against the west wall facing east, with the Buddha right in front of them. 4.3The Sakyans of Kapilavatthu also washed their feet, entered the town hall, and sat against the east wall facing west, with the Buddha right in front of them.

5.1The Buddha spent most of the night educating, encouraging, firing up, and inspiring the Sakyans with a Dhamma talk. Then he addressed Venerable Ānanda, 5.2“Ānanda, speak about the practicing trainee to the Sakyans of Kapilavatthu as you feel inspired. 5.3My back is sore, 5.4I’ll stretch it.”

5.5“Yes, sir,” Ānanda replied. 5.6And then the Buddha spread out his outer robe folded in four and laid down in the lion’s posture—on the right side, placing one foot on top of the other—mindful and aware, and focused on the time of getting up.

6.1Then Ānanda addressed Mahānāma the Sakyan:

6.2“Mahānāma, a noble disciple is accomplished in ethics, guards the sense doors, eats in moderation, and is dedicated to wakefulness. They have seven good qualities, and they get the four absorptions—blissful meditations in the present life that belong to the higher mind—when they want, without trouble or difficulty.

7.1And how is a noble disciple accomplished in ethics? 7.2It’s when a noble disciple is ethical, restrained in the monastic code, conducting themselves well and seeking alms in suitable places. Seeing danger in the slightest fault, they keep the rules they’ve undertaken. 7.3That’s how a noble disciple is ethical.

8.1And how does a noble disciple guard the sense doors? 8.2When a noble disciple sees a sight with their eyes, they don’t get caught up in the features and details. 8.3If the faculty of sight were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, they practice restraint, protecting the faculty of sight, and achieving its restraint. 8.4When they hear a sound with their ears … 8.5When they smell an odor with their nose … 8.6When they taste a flavor with their tongue … 8.7When they feel a touch with their body … 8.8When they know a thought with their mind, they don’t get caught up in the features and details. 8.9If the faculty of mind were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, they practice restraint, protecting the faculty of mind, and achieving its restraint. 8.10That’s how a noble disciple guards the sense doors.

9.1And how does a noble disciple eat in moderation? 9.2It’s when a noble disciple reflects properly on the food that they eat: 9.3‘Not for fun, indulgence, adornment, or decoration, but only to sustain this body, to avoid harm, and to support spiritual practice. In this way, I shall put an end to old discomfort and not give rise to new discomfort, and I will live blamelessly and at ease.’ 9.4That’s how a noble disciple eats in moderation.

10.1And how is a noble disciple dedicated to wakefulness? 10.2It’s when a noble disciple practices walking and sitting meditation by day, purifying their mind from obstacles. 10.3In the evening, they continue to practice walking and sitting meditation. 10.4In the middle of the night, they lie down in the lion’s posture—on the right side, placing one foot on top of the other—mindful and aware, and focused on the time of getting up. 10.5In the last part of the night, they get up and continue to practice walking and sitting meditation, purifying their mind from obstacles. 10.6That’s how a noble disciple is dedicated to wakefulness.

11.1And how does a noble disciple have seven good qualities? 11.2It’s when a noble disciple has faith in the Realized One’s awakening: 11.3‘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.’

12.1They have a conscience. They’re conscientious about bad conduct by way of body, speech, and mind, and conscientious about having any bad, unskillful qualities.

13.1They exercise prudence. They’re prudent when it comes to bad conduct by way of body, speech, and mind, and prudent when it comes to acquiring any bad, unskillful qualities.

13.2They’re very learned, remembering and keeping what they’ve learned. These teachings are good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, meaningful and well-phrased, describing a spiritual practice that’s entirely full and pure. They are very learned in such teachings, remembering them, reinforcing them by recitation, mentally scrutinizing them, and comprehending them theoretically.

15.1They live with energy roused up for giving up unskillful qualities and embracing skillful qualities. They’re strong, staunchly vigorous, not slacking off when it comes to developing skillful qualities.

16.1They’re mindful. They have utmost mindfulness and alertness, and can remember and recall what was said and done long ago.

17.1They’re wise. They have the wisdom of arising and passing away which is noble, penetrative, and leads to the complete ending of suffering. 17.2That’s how a noble disciple has seven good qualities.

18.1And how does a noble disciple get the four absorptions—blissful meditations in the present life that belong to the higher mind—when they want, without trouble or difficulty? 18.2It’s when a noble disciple, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption … 18.3second absorption … 18.4third absorption … 18.5fourth absorption. 18.6That’s how a noble disciple gets the four absorptions—blissful meditations in the present life that belong to the higher mind—when they want, without trouble or difficulty.

19.1When a noble disciple is accomplished in ethics, guards the sense doors, eats in moderation, and is dedicated to wakefulness; and they have seven good qualities, and they get the four absorptions—blissful meditations in the present life that belong to the higher mind—when they want, without trouble or difficulty, they are called a noble disciple who is a practicing trainee. Their eggs are unspoiled, and they are capable of breaking out of their shell, becoming awakened, and achieving the supreme sanctuary. 19.2Suppose there was a chicken with eight or ten or twelve eggs. And she properly sat on them to keep them warm and incubated. Even if that chicken doesn’t wish, 19.3‘If only my chicks could break out of the eggshell with their claws and beak and hatch safely!’ 19.4Still they can break out and hatch safely.

19.5In the same way, when a noble disciple is practicing all these things they are called a noble disciple who is a practicing trainee. Their eggs are unspoiled, and they are capable of breaking out of their shell, becoming awakened, and achieving the supreme sanctuary.

20.1Relying on this supreme purity of mindfulness and equanimity, that noble disciple recollects their many kinds of past lives. 20.2That is: one, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand rebirths; many eons of the world contracting, many eons of the world expanding, many eons of the world contracting and expanding. … And so they recollect their many kinds of past lives, with features and details. 20.3This is their first breaking out, like a chick from an eggshell.

21.1Relying on this supreme purity of mindfulness and equanimity, that noble disciple, with clairvoyance that is purified and superhuman, sees sentient beings passing away and being reborn—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, in a good place or a bad place. … They understand how sentient beings are reborn according to their deeds. 21.2This is their second breaking out, like a chick from an eggshell.

22.1Relying on this supreme purity of mindfulness and equanimity, that noble disciple realizes the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life. And they live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements. 22.2This is their third breaking out, like a chick from an eggshell.

23.1A noble disciple’s conduct includes the following: being accomplished in ethics, 23.2guarding the sense doors, 23.3moderation in eating, 23.4being dedicated to wakefulness, 23.5having seven good qualities, 23.6and getting the four absorptions when they want, without trouble or difficulty.

24.1A noble disciple’s knowledge includes the following: recollecting their past lives, 24.2clairvoyance that is purified and superhuman, 24.3and realizing the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life due to the ending of defilements.

25.1This noble disciple is said to be ‘accomplished in knowledge’, and also ‘accomplished in conduct’, and also ‘accomplished in knowledge and conduct’.

25.2And Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra also spoke this verse:

25.3‘The aristocrat is best of those people
25.4who take clan as the standard.
25.5But one accomplished in knowledge and conduct
25.6is best of gods and humans.’

25.7And that verse was well sung by Brahmā Sanaṅkumāra, not poorly sung; well spoken, not poorly spoken, beneficial, not harmful, and it was approved by the Buddha.”

26.1Then the Buddha got up and said to Venerable Ānanda, 26.2“Good, good, Ānanda! 26.3It’s good that you spoke to the Sakyans of Kapilavatthu about the practicing trainee.”

26.4This is what Venerable Ānanda said, 26.5and the teacher approved. 26.6Satisfied, the Sakyans of Kapilavatthu were happy with what Venerable Ānanda said.