Archive for the ‘Arahant stories’ Category

Theragatha v.127-128

‘‘Tiṇṇaṃ me tālapattānaṃ,
gaṅgātīre kuṭī katā;
Chavasittova me patto,
paṃsukūlañca cīvaraṃ.
‘‘Dvinnaṃ antaravassānaṃ,
ekā vācā me bhāsitā;
Tatiye antaravassamhi,
tamokhandho padālito’’ti.

Using three palm leaves I made myself
a hut on the bank or river Ganges.
A skull itself that was my (alms)bowl,
And ragged rugs such was my robe.

And in between two years I spoke
Not more than just one time –
The third year was when I broke through
And left behind forever darkness.

(KEN translation:)
DREI Palmenwedel baut’ ich einst
Als Obdach auf, im Gangesgau,
Ein Schädel war mein Bettelnapf,
Die Fetzenkutte Leichengut.

Zwei Herbste hab’ ich so geruht,
Geredet einmal einen Satz-
lm dritten Herbste bin ich heil
Aus Nacht und Nebel drungen durch.


Theragatha, v.985

Pallaṅkena nisinnassa, jaṇṇuke nābhivassati;
Alaṃ phāsuvihārāya, pahitattassa bhikkhuno.

When for him, who sits with legs crossed, the knee stays dry –
that is enough already to count as a pleasant dwelling for a devoted beggarmonk.

more Theragatha


Itivuttaka, 42 – Jivaka Sutta:

This was said by the Lord…
“Bhikkhus, this is contemptible means of subsistence, this gathering of alms. In the world, bhikkhus, it is a form of abuse to say “You alms-gatherer(bhikkhu) ! Wandering about clutching a begging bowl!’ Yet this means of subsistence has been taken up by young men of good family for a reason, for a purpose. They have not been reduced to it by kings nor by robbers nor because of debt nor through freer nor from loss of an alternative means of livelihood, but with the single thought: “We are beset by birth, aging and death, by sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair; overcome by suffering, afflicted by suffering. Perhaps an end can be discerned of this whole mass of suffering!”
“So this young man of good family has gone forth (into homelessness), but he may be covetous for objects of desire, strongly passionate, unconcentrated, of wandering mind and uncontrolled faculties. Just as a brand from a funeral pyre, burnt at both ends and in the middle smeared with exrements, can be used as timber neither in the village nor in the forest, so by such a simile do I speak about this person: he has missed out on the enjoyments of a householder, yet he does not fulfill the purpose of recluseship.”

He has missed both a laymen’s pleasure
And his recluseship, too, the luckless man!
Ruining it, he throws it away
And perishes like a funerary brand.

Far better for him to swallow
A fiery hot iron ball
Than that immoral and uncontrolled
He should eat the country’s alms.


Samyutta Nikaya, 20. Bhikkhusamyutta, Sutta No. 8

…Nanda, it is not suitable for the son of a clansman like you who has gone forth out of faith to wear a stamped down ironed robe, to anoint the eyes and carry a shining bowl. It is suitable for the son of a clansman like you who has gone forth out of faith to be a forest dweller, to partake morsel food, to wear robes made of rags and not expect sensual pleasures.

5. The Blessed One, the well gone Teacher further said:

When will I see Nanda the forest dweller,
Wearing rag robes, satisfied with the morsel food
And not desiring sensual pleasures.

6. Then in the meantime venerable Nanda became a forest dweller wearing rag robes, satisfied with the morsel food and one not expecting sensual pleasures.


Samyutta Nikaya, Opammasamyutta (19), Sutta 8

…Monks, at present the monks live diligent and zealous to dispel as though have taken a block of wood for the pillow. And Màra the Evil One does not obtain a cause and reason to intervene.

6. Monks, in the future there will be a time when the softness of the beautiful hands and feet of the monks would dry up and they would sleep until sun rise with their huge bodies. Then Màra the Evil One will obtain a cause and chance to intervene.


Anguttara Nikaya, III, Devadutavagga, Hatthaka Sutta

I heard thus. At one time the Blessed One was abiding in Alavi on a cattle track seated on a spread of leaves in the Simsapa forest. Hatthaka of Alavaka walking and wandering for exercise saw the Blessed One seated on a spread of leaves in the Simsapa forest and approached, worshipped the Blessed One, sat on a side and said:…`Sir, wintry nights are cold, it’s the time of snow fall, the ground, with cattle made ruts is rough, the spread of leaves is thin, snow falls through the trees, minus their leaves, the cold wind blows through the earth-colored robe clinging to the body, and yet the Blessed One says Yes, prince, I slept well, I’m one of those who sleep well in this world.’….

…etc, etc. 😉
why do so few Buddhist monks call themselves “bhikkhu” ?! 😉
for more quotes from the suttas on the topic of “right livelihood of a bhikkhu”, have a look at this little book, which provides a long collection of similar passages from the Suttas, all strung together from the moment of entering the Order until attainment of arahantship, in the words of the Buddha:
PS: On a slightly different note, but interesting for purposes of studying the way of life of a “mendicant” – If you like to get an idea how this might have looked like in an even colder climate like Europe, enjoy this pretty accurate historical movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqD5KPE6LYw&feature=related

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Purifying Thoughts

[Part of our series: Arahant Stories.]

Once, they say, the monk Elder called “Rag-robe” (Paṃsukūlikatthero), who lived in Pacinakhandaraji, decided to travel to the great pagoda-mountain* in order to worship the stupa there.

After he had venerated the stupa, he thought to himself: “My robe is now quite old. In crowded places nearby I will be able to find a new one.”

So he went to the Great Abbey and revered the resident abbot. He asked him about the market place of the local village and came back the next day with his old robe.

When the abbot saw him, he asked: “Where are you going, brother?” – “I want to go into the village, Sir!” –

“Me too, brother”, said the abbot.

“Very well, Sir”, said monk Ragrobe and they both set off together.

But as soon as they passed the gate of the Bodhi tree enclosure the following thought occurred to monk Ragrobe: “At a gathering place of meritorious lay disciples I am sure to find a lovely new dress.”

Then monk Ragrobe reflected: “Unclean truly is my thought”. He stopped in his tracks and returned to his living quarters.

On the second day he tried again, but came only a little bit further: As soon as he passed the Mango tree courtyard a similar thought arose in him and he returned again.

On the third day he came to the upper gate of the Great Pagoda, only to turn on the spot, because he was overcome again by the same impure thought.

On the fourth day he was finally able to follow the elder monk on the entire route all the way to the village.

“His thoughts must have been unclean”, thought the abbot. He took his robe and went with the monk Ragrobe to the village.

That previous night someone who was suffering from indigestion, had sullied his own clothes with feces and then thrown them on a pile of manure.

When monk Ragrobe saw the blue-colored and completely soiled piece of clothing, he raised both hands and folded them in the respectful lotus gesture above his head.

The abbot was astonished and perplexed and asked monk Ragrobe: “What now, brother? Are you adoring a heap of dung, with folded hands?” –

“Not, venerable Sir, am I worshipping with folded hands a heap of dung. I adore my father, the sage of the ten powers**. So much harder indeed is it to get a rag  from the cemetery, where you have to take a piece of cloth from an old corpse and clean it carefully from hundreds of little creatures.” –

The the abbot thought by himself: “Clean, indeed, are the thoughts of monk Ragrobe”.

And monk Ragrobe, standing in that very place, developed deep insight, acquired three of the fruits of Nirvana***. He took the garment, sew it into a robe, put on it, and went back to Pacinakhandaraji from where he had come and where he realized the highest fruit of holiness.

Translated by the author, Source: DN-Atth. III, p.1011 (PTS Edition)


* Cetiyapabbata or Cittapabbata is modern Situalpawwe in Sri Lanka. That means you can go there too 🙂 See also here for more details or Ven. Dhammika’s most wonderful “A Buddhist Pilgrim’s guide to Sri Lanka”. Pācīnakkhaṇḍarāji: A district in Sri Lanka near Cittapabbata (Mhv.xxiii.4; see Mhv.Trs.155, n.3 and Cv. Trs.i.71, n.2) in which was the Vettavása vihára, given by Aggabodhi II. to the Kalinga minister who was ordained by Jotipála Thera (Cv.xlii.48).  The name of the monk (Paṃsukūlikatthero) also happens to be a name of an ascetic practice (dhutanga) practiced by Buddhist monks since the time of the Buddha: “Pamsukulika” is a practice where the monk wears robes made of discarded clothes. See Vism. for more info.

** An epithet for the Buddha. See here for more info on those ten powers of a Buddha.

*** He became an Anagami on the spot.

Nota bene: We had some earlier discussion on this subject: Purification in these ancient days, did not just include working on ones manners or improving one’s speech. In fact, we find many similar stories (some of which you can read in this series) which emphasize the role of memory (keeping ones meditation object present at all times) in the practice of these Buddhist monks. Whenever they lose their focus – and especially when an unwholesome thought would present itself – they would interrupt their outward activities and go back to an earlier (physical) moment to pickup their practice. This particular exercise was also known as “gatapaccāgatavattaṃ” – Time permitting, more on that next year :-). In case you did not notice: When the Ven. Ragrobe decided to interrupt his walk and turn back to his living quarters, he probably gave up on his alms round that day… Such was their practice!

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From the “Arahant stories” collection:

Once, it is said,  two Brahmins sat together in the north Indian city of Patna in a hall and listened to the praise of the virtues of Nāga the elder, a monk from Kālavallimaṇḍapa*.

When they had heard the stories of Venerable Mahānāga**, they thought, “Surely such a monk deserves a visit”. So they left their people and set off on the long journey through India to Sri Lanka.

The first of those two Brahmins died on the way through the desert. The other one finally arrived on the Southern coast of India and mounting a ship in a large port city sailed to Sri Lanka. Arriving on the island, he traveled to the royal city of Anuradhapura. There, he asked how he could get to the village of Kalavallimandapa.

He was told that that particular village was found in the southeast of the country in a Kingdom named Rohana. So he continued his journey through mountains and jungles towards the Southern part of Sri Lanka. When arriving at Kalavallimandapa, he took residence in the neighboring village of Nakulanagara and preparing food and drink he asked for the whereabouts  of Venerable Nāga. Then he went close to that monk’s quarters and just waited there with the meal he had prepared as an offering.

From a distance he saw the arriving Mahānāga and admiring him already from a distance he ran towards him, bowed down before him and again and again seized the monk elder’s feet shouting: “So high are you, venerable Sir, so high are you.” –

“Not too high, not too small, just moderate in size” replied the humble monk.

Then the Brahmin said again: “Not are you, sir, very tall in bodily nature, but your virtues, Lord, are extremely high. Now that I had heard of you at Patna’s city gate, I crossed the entire Indian continent and the sparkling sea, only to meet you! ”

Then he offered to the monk his donation, provided him with three new robes and finally ordained under him. After he had heard of the venerable’s exhortation, he achieved, within a few days, holiness himself.

Source: “Manorathapūraṇī” – The Commentary on the Anguttara-Nikāya.


*Kālavallimandapa.-A vihāra in Ceylon, the residence of the Elder Mahānāga (DA.i.190, 191; SnA.i.56; VbhA.352, 353; J.iv.490; MT.606). It was near the village Nakulanagara (DhsA.339) and was situated in Rohana (AA.i.384).

**Mahānāga Thera. Resident of Kālavallimaṇḍapa. He was among those who accepted the meal given by Sāliya in his previous birth (MT. 606). He was one of the last to attain arahantship among those who left the world with the Bodhisatta in various births (J.iv.490). He did not sleep for seven years, after which he practised continual meditation for sixteen years, becoming an arahant at the end of that time. SNA.i.56; MA.i.209; SA.iii.155.
His fame was great, and there is a story of a brahmin who came all the way from Pátaliputta to Kálavallimandapa in Rohana to visit him. The brahmin entered the Order under him and became an arahant (AA.i.384). Once, while Mahánága was begging alms at Nakulanagara, he saw a nun and offered her a meal. As she had no bowl, he gave her his, with the food ready in it. After she had eaten and washed the bowl, she gave it back to him saying, “Henceforth there will be no fatigue for you when begging for alms.” Thereafter the Elder was never given alms worth less than a kahápana. The nun was an arahant. DhSA.399.

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The monk elder Tissa, the hillman, we are told, was born in the land Rohana* in a hunting family and grew up in the vicinity of the Abbey Gamendavala. After he had reached a certain age and started a family, he made his living as a hunter.

He dug countless traps, lay hidden snares and rammed piles into the underwood, always with the thought that he had to support his wife and children during which time he committed many terrible atrocities.

One day he took fire and a little salt, and went away from home in the woods. There a beautiful deer was caught in one of his snares. He killed the animal and satisfied himself on its flesh, which he previously cooked over the embers. After the meal he was overcome by a cruel thirst and entered the abbey Gamendavala on his way back home in search of water. At the Abbey’s well he drank ten buckets of water, and began to shout and accuse the monks because he was not able to quench his thirst which still tormented him:
“What are these people here good for, if they cannot provide a visitor who wants to quench his thirst, with something simple as enough water to drink.”
When the monk elder Culapindapatika heard his shouting and screaming he went to the well and saw the ten empty water buckets and he thought:
“This hunter became already in this very lifetime a thirsty languishing demon.”
And Culapindapatika told the hunter:
“Friend lay disciple, if you are thirsty, so drink!”
The elder took a pitcher and poured slowly into the other’s hands. This time the hunter had to drink the water sip by sip, and his fire was controlled until it gradually dried up completely.
When he had finished the whole vessel his thirst had disappeared. Then the elder said to him:
“Since your youth, friend lay disciple, you have already accumulated so much bad deeds that you are verily a living demon thirsting for water, what will the consequences and fruits of your actions yield in the future?”

The words of the monk met the hunter with deep emotion. He honored the monk elder, threw his weapon away and, in a hurry he got home. He then took care of his wife and children, broke all his other murder weapons, dismissed gazelles, deer and birds he had caught in the woods and returned to the monk, begging for admission into the Order.
“It is very hard,” said Culapindapatika, “our renunciation of the world, brother. Why do you want to renounce the world?” – “Venerable Sir, after witnessing such a clear indication of my future how can I not renounce the world?”

And so it happened that the elder turned Tissa the hunter’s attention to the fivefold contemplation on the impurities of the body and ordained him as a monk. After he had familiarized himself with the monastic duties, he began to learn the word of the Awakened One, the Buddha. Then, one day, he heard in the sermon of the messenger gods [Note: Devaduta, MN 130], “Then, o monks, the warders of Hell put him back to the Great Hell.” When he had listened that particular passage, he said, turning to his teacher: “If this being such, my dear teacher, that a being having already suffered so much was thrown right away back into the Great Hell, how terrible must that Great Hell be.”
“Yes, brother, it is terrible.” –  “Is it possible, Venerable Sir, that one can see it?” – “Is not it possible to see it. But to show you something similar, I’ll give you a hint.” The teacher took Tissa the novice  with him and made him pile up a heap of stones** in several layers in between wet wood.  Then Culapindapatika produced by his spiritual power from his seat a lightening fire, which compared to the Great Hell was like a little spark and burned down that woodpile right next to where Tissa the novice stood. The pile was burned down in one moment and all that was left was a heap of ashes.

As he saw that, the novice asked his teacher: “Venerable Sir, what obligations are there in this teachings of the Buddha?” – “Brother, there is an obligation for learning from books (ganthadura) and there is also an the obligation of insight meditation (vipassanadura).” – “Venerable Sir, the books should be the burden of those capable, but my confidence grew because of suffering. I will fulfill the obligation of insight. Please give me a subject of exercise,” said the novice Tissa, revered his teacher and sat down.

Then the elder Culapindapatika thought: “This monk is diligent in the daily duties of a monk” and so he explained to Tissa the meditative practice of insight.

When he had received the training instruction he practiced the work of insight and performed his daily duties. One day he went to the Abbey of the Cittala mountain (Sithulpawwa)***, another day he practiced at Gamendavala and still another at Gocaragama.
Whenever tiredness or lethargy arose he would put some wet straw on his head and place his feet in cold water before he sat down again for meditation – out of fear that he might neglect his duties and fall asleep.

One day, when he had ardently practiced meditation already for two watches of the night in the great monastery of on the Cittala mountain and the early morning hours threatened to overwhelm him with sleep, he sat down again after he had covered his head with a bit of damp straw.
Suddenly Tissa heard a  novice who chanted the Arunavatiya-Sutta on the west side of the mountain and heard him reciting aloud:

“Arise, arise, bestir your hearts
And strive to know the Buddha’s word
As tuskers crush a shed of rushes
Deal Mara’s hordes the final blow
Since he that will in diligence
Live out this Law and discipline
Shall leave the roundabout of rebirths
And make an end of suffering” [Nyanamoli trsl. ]

At this point, he thought to himself: “The perfectly Awakened Buddha had spoken these words with respect to such monks who, like me, fulfill his doctrine with all their energy.”
Thinking thus a thought arose in him creating heavenly bliss in his heart. This bliss created a profound mental serenity and calmness. From this concentration he first obtained the fruit of the non-return (Anagami), and based on that gradually progressing further he attained full awakening, Nibbana. Together with all analytical knowledge Tissa, the hillman, the former hunter, had acquired the saintly status of an Arhant.

Later, at his death and before his own cessation, he looked back on that day and said these verses:

I took a heap of wetted straw,

And put it walking on my head all night;

Achieved since then the third stand is-

And now I’m free from all my doubts.
Source: Translated from the Manorathapurani, the Anguttara-Nikaya Commentary.

*Rohana (Sinhalese ’Ruhunu’) was the ancient name for Sri Lanka’s South. Mahagama, now called Magama, was the capital of Rohana.

** Reminds me a little bit of the story of Mapa making Milarepa realize and work out some of his bad karma before teaching him.

***Cittalapabbata was a monastery 20 kms east of Tissamaharama. It is frequently mentioned in the Visuddhimagga as an abode of arahats, and is the present-day historical site called Situlpava in the Yala National Park, 20 kms. east of Tissamaharama: “Sithulpawwa rock temple is historically significant and identified as one of the greatest 2nd century sites of Buddhist scholarship and meditation practice. With a history of over 2200 years, this is an ancient place of worship in the Hambantota district. The modern name Sithulpawwa is derived from the ancient ‘Cittalpabbata’, ‘The hill of the quiet mind’. It is said that in the 1st century AD as many as 12,000 Arahants lived here (monks that have achieved the highest mind level in Buddhism). Unlike the great monasteries in Anuradhapura and other towns, life at Sithulpawwa was hard and a monk or nun lived there only if they were interested in silence and solitude. Located opposite the Maha Sithulpawwa rock which is 400 feet (122M) in height is a cave temple. This cave temple, which is 67 feet high and 30 feet long, is part of the intricate cave-complex at Sithulpawwa.” [link]

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[This story is part of our Arahant series.]

Once, they say, the elder Mahāsīva of ‘Mountainpeak’ lived in the city of Mahagama, in Tissa’s Abbey.

There, he taught eighteen groups of young monks in the three baskets – the traditional teachings of the Buddha as they had been handed down – in full length and according to its exact meaning. Following the elder’s instruction sixty thousand monks achieved holiness.

One of those young monks thought to himself: “O, what a blessing this happiness of salvation is! I bet our teacher enjoys it too.” And as he explored his teacher’s heart, he realized that his teacher was still a worlding, someone who was still subject to the cycle of rebirth who had not even attained to the state of a stream enterer.

The young monk thought: “Through a clever gift, I will arouse urgency in my teacher!” He left his hut and went to Mahasiva, venerating his teacher with a deep bow. Finishing all obligations of a pupil he sat down.

Then the Elder Mahasiva said to his disciple: “Why have you come, brother alms-goer?” – “’When the Venerable Sir will offer me an opportunity, I would like to learn a verse of the Dhamma (dhammapada)‘, this was my idea with which I came to the Venerable Sir.” – “Many monks learn from me at this time, brother. I do not think that there will be any opportunity for you.”

And when he had not received any opportunity from his teacher for a whole night and a whole day he went back to Mahasiva and asked him: “If you have so little time, Venerable Sir, how do will you be able to give death an opportunity?” Mahasiva thought: “This monk has not come to learn from me. He has come, to shake me up, that is why he came.

Then his disciple said to him: “Like all the other monks, o Sir, who benefited from your instruction so you too need to develop your own mind and benefit from the teaching of the Tipitaka.”

After these words he venerated his teacher a last time and vanished before his teacher’s eyes by mental power into the jewel-colored sky.

After his former student had filled him with a sense of urgency he finished all classes in the afternoon and evening. Then he prepared his bowl and robe, and after he gave a final lesson in the morning he took on all thirteen ascetic practices of purification (dhutaṅga) with firm determination and departed for the monastery of ‘Mountainpeak”. There, he removed bed and chair from his monk’s cell and made this silent vow: “Until the achievement of holiness I will not sit on a chair nor rest on a bed.”

Then he directed his mind on walking meditation with the thought: “Today, verily, will I attain holiness, today, verily, will I acquire holiness.”

Without gaining any holiness, however – despite all efforts to reach it, came along the day of the big pavarana – the full moon ceremony at the end of the three months of the rain season retreat. When he realized that he still had not achieved path nor fruit of Nirvana, Mahasiva thought: “O, how difficult is this for me, although devoted to Vipassana to attain to holiness (arahatta)!”

However, without giving up and only practicing standing and walking meditation for thirty years he applied himself to the work of a true ascetic.

One night, when the full moon disc of another pavarana ceremony lit up the nightly sky, he thought: “What is probably brighter? The bright moon or my unbroken virtue?”

And as he reflected on his virtues as a monk which since the day of his higher ordination he had not broken, not even the smallest of all rules, a deep joy and satisfaction arose in him.

On the foundation of this joy his mind concentrated and he attained the supramundane knowledges, and together with analytical knowledge, experienced the Nibbana of an Arahant.” 

Manorathapurani,  AN Commentary

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A story from the pali canon:

“The wise teachers of old, however, used manual work to break strong obsessions. This is how the story goes:

A young monk called “Tissa” lived together with his preceptor in the Tissamahavihara monastery. It was in his eighth year as a monk that he became discontented. He started to wash and color his robes, repaired his bowl and shaved his hair. But whatever he tried, he still felt discontented with his monastic life. One day, while he was paying respect to his preceptor, his teacher said:

“Tissa, your ways are those of one who is discontented.”

“It is true, Sir, i am discontented with my life as a monk and i don’t know what to do about it.”

Tissa’s teacher, looking at his pupil and recognizing his potential to realize Nirvana, out of compassion, addressed his student thus:

“In this monastery it is hard to get a hold on water for a bath. Take me on your back to the Cittala mountain range”.

Tissa, who had always carried out his teachers requests, followed his old teacher’s wish and took him to the Cittala mountain.

Once they arrived at the mountain, his teacher said:

“I am very old now, Tissa. I would like you to build me a dwelling place next to the fountains in this mountain range. While you are busy working, you don’t need to sweep the paths at our monastery.

However, i want you to keep your mind always on your meditation object even at work and once in a while you should attend to the development of the fire element meditation

“Yes, i will do so, Sir”, replied Tissa and started working on a cave dwelling after spotting a suitable location. Together with his work on the cave, he started learning the Samyutta Nikaya by heart and gradually developed his meditation object.

When the cave was cleaned, plastered and a window and door had been set up he finished memorizing the Samyutta and was able to attain to the full concentration on his meditation topic.

Having accomplished all three, he went to his teacher, paid respect and invited his preceptor to move into the new dwelling. His teacher said:

“Brother, you have accomplished a very hard task. Tonight that place is yours. Stay there this night.”

“Very well, Sir”, answered Tissa venerating his teacher. He returned to the cave, washed his feet, sat down on a mat crossing his legs and concentrated on his meditation object. The thought “i have created a pleasant abode for my venerable teacher” occurred to him and he experienced great joy.

As his discontent completely vanished he turned his mind to vipassana and – in that very night – realizing Arahantship, he passed away.

MN-Atth I. 218
AN-Atth I. 16

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If you are a monk, i guess you do not read (online). But if you do, this text was written exactly for you 🙂

In 100 BC Buddhist monks faced a tough question:

“Should we preferably memorize and thus keep alive the discourses of the Buddha as they have been handed down to us or should we focus more on realization (meditation) and transfer the practice instead.”

Well, why not do both, you may ask. The problem at that time was: famine and a war ravaging the countryside. Many monks died of hunger and the Sangha was low on people who could memorize books. It is said that at one point only one monk had survived who could remember the Mahaniddesa. So close to oblivion were parts of the Pitaka.

Finally the monks voted in favor of keeping the memory of the teachings alive and thought that it is from the textual understanding that in later times the Dhamma could be realized again. They guessed that if they did achieve realization and all became Arahants maybe down the line the teacher-pupil transmission of knowledge would wither away and with it the entire Buddhist teaching.

The meditative monks were not happy with the decision in favor of book knowledge. But they did not voice their opposition though.

Now, 2100 years later, that ancient problem seems solved. Maybe not once and for all, but definitely for our current day and age. There are millions of copies of the original teachings of the Buddha. The pali canon is widely available on CDROM, as a download, web-based and in several book editions. Yes, you can even read it on ebook readers.

Scholars abound and dry scholastic knowledge on “Buddhism” swamps the bookshelves. Some deeper some more superficial – but it seems that the Tipitaka itself will be even better accessible to interested lay people and monks as the years pass by. More translations and magnificent editions are very likely to be sponsored by Buddhists around the globe. The benefits of a global interactive Southeast Asia and China – especially for Buddhists – are adamant.

Looking at the meditation / practice side in the Sangha though, we can only wonder: There is room for quite some improvement. Maybe you are the one who will make that difference!

Instead of going to the forests, young monks head to the streets, universities and political arena. A task made for lay life is taken over by laymen in robes, who, because of ignorance or boredom forsake the training grounds of frugality and virtue and the battlefields of insight and concentration for the semi-luxurious life of … well, laymen.

Don’t get this wrong. Sure, there is a great need for such and many other worldly activities. However, it is not what the banner of the Arahants was made for. And it is not just the Vinaya, but also conscience which should intervene.

Now, lets imagine if we would bring back to life those monks who created the distinction between “book” monks (ganthadhura) and meditative monks (vipassanadhura or dhutangikas) in the first place and who decided to spent most of the time handing down the texts, bound up by activities which are closer to the scholar than the practicioner: let us imagine that they would all come together to vote again, based on the current 21st century state of affairs.

Would they not unanimously vote in favor of realization, i.e. striving for Nibbana?! At that time, they knew what this Sasana stood for, and felt it and awkward deviation to book-learn instead to realize and guide others but reluctantly they ventured on this path, because in the long run, they thought, practice of the teachings and thus liberation of the mind would not be lost. And again: Videos, transcripts and dhamma talks of experienced meditative monks, that is what the lay and monk Sangha is in need of.

Should some monks have forgotten the real reason of the existence and foundation of the Sangha?

The Theravadin countries abound in monks/nuns an and perfect conditions for more or less intensive meditation practice. For the development of sila, samadhi and panna. However, the monk communities of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma etc. etc., seeing no need in handing down scriptures any more are now – for a big part, lost in monotheistic-like unreflected worship or political and social activism or they compete in scholarly activities with lay people.

While all those activities are and should be in the domain of lay people they need not, in the present day and age, be in the domain of monks. Exceptions may exemplify the rule. Of course. But in the end, to be honest, the robe is donned and a man or woman becomes the sun or daughter of the Buddha for the sake of Nibbana not Mannana.

Therefore, the world and heavens are always in need of teachers who master samatha and vipassana. And monks, nowadays, find the best resources they could possibly expect for once again making the realization of Nibbana and the end of samsaric suffering their paramount goal.:

‘‘Bhante, imasmiṃ sāsane kati dhurāni nāmā’’ti pucchi. Āvuso, vipassanādhuraṃ, ganthadhuranti. ‘‘Bhante, gantho nāma paṭibalassa bhāro, mayhaṃ pana dukkhūpanisā saddhā, vipassanādhuraṃ pūressāmi kammaṭṭhānaṃ me dethā’’ti vanditvā nisīdi. Thero ‘‘vattasampanno bhikkhū’’ti vattasīse ṭhatvā tassa kammaṭṭhānaṃ kathesi. So kammaṭṭhānaṃ gahetvā vipassanāya ca kammaṃ karoti, vattañca pūreti. Ekadivasaṃ cittalapabbatamahāvihāre vattaṃ karoti, ekadivasaṃ gāmeṇḍavālamahāvihāre, ekadivasaṃ gocaragāmamahāvihāre. Thinamiddhe okkantamatte vattaparihānibhayena palālavaraṇakaṃ temetvā sīse ṭhapetvā pāde udake otāretvā nisīdati. So ekadivasaṃ cittalapabbatamahāvihāre dve yāme vattaṃ katvā balavapaccūsakāle niddāya okkamituṃ āraddhāya allapalālaṃ sīse ṭhapetvā nisinno pācīnapabbatapasse sāmaṇerassa aruṇavatiyasuttantaṃ sajjhāyantassa –

‘‘Ārambhatha nikkamatha, yuñjatha buddhasāsane;

Dhunātha maccuno senaṃ, naḷāgāraṃva kuñjaro.

‘‘Yo imasmiṃ dhammavinaye, appamatto vihassati;

Pahāya jātisaṃsāraṃ, dukkhassantaṃ karissatī’’ti. (saṃ. ni. 1.185) –

Happy Vesakh B.E. 2552!

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The story of the elder Mahāmitta:

The elder Mahāmitta, as they say, dwelled in the “plougher cave”. Close to the cave was a little village where he went for alms. An old lady cared for him like her own son and was serving him food when he came begging for alms. One day she went into the forest with her daughter and told her:

“My dear, tomorrow i will prepare a special meal, made from rice, milk, molasse and palm sugar. Having prepared it i will offer it to our dear monk Mitta, and you shall have some too, i will just eat the left-over with sour gruel.” – “But dear mother, what will be left for you to eat during the day?” – “A leaf soup is all that will be necessary for me, my dear.”

Now it so happened that the elder had dressed in his robes taken his alms bowl and was on his way to the village when he on his way trough the forest walking towards the village overheard their conversation.

“This great Upasika (lay devotee) is content with a sour gruel while she reserves the fine rice for me. During the day she lives on a leaf soup! And she does not give because she longs for material gains like property, dresses, food or riches. No, she gives because she hopes to attain to the three attainments of Nibbana (stream entry, once return and no-return). Can you, Mitta, help her gain those attainments or do you not? You can definitely not help her gain those attainments if you receive her food with your own mind still bound by lust, hatred and delusion.”

With that thought he put back his alms bowl into its pouch, loosened the robe strap and went back to his cave. He stowed the bowl under his wooden bed frame, hung the upper robe over the robe bar and said: “I will not leave this place before i have not attained to Arahantship“. Thus he sat down declaring his determination.

The whole night he spent with intense alertness as a humble begger-monk (bhikkhu) developing his insight and attained to Arahantship in the early morning of the following day.

Like a slowly opening lotus leaf this great being now free from influxes released a slight smile on his face.

A tree goddess, living at the entrance of the cave and having witnessed what had happened, sung, on thi occasion, the following verses:

“I worship thee o holy man, I worship thee o best of all,

Who terminated influx free, is worthy now of every gift!”

After singing those verses she addressed him, saying: “Dear Sir, a holy monk like yourself can offer an elder lady a way to free herself from suffering, if you give her an opportunity for generosity.” The elder then got up from his seat, and opened the door to his cave. He looked at the sun and recognized the time as being morning. He took bowl and upper robe and left for the village.

Her daughter had prepared the meal in the meantime and was very excited. Many times she thought that the brother had come and she got up from her seat only to find out that he still had not arrived. When the elder arrived at her door, she took his bowl, filled his alms bowl with the delicious meal and placed it in his hands. The elder thanked her, saying: “May you be well and happy!” and left. For quite some time she stood there, watching him leave.

“Somehow the skin of our elder seems to be brighter today then before, his complexion was so fair, his face and demeanor radiated like a young palm fruit…”

When her mother returned from the work in the forest, she asked her daughter: “Did your brother come?” Her daughter told her what she had seen. Hearing this the Upasika knew: “Today certainly my son has fulfilled his duty for which he went into homelessness” and said to her daugther: “Happy, my dear, is our brother in the teachings of the Buddha, not dissatisfied.”

AN Commy. PTS p. 2.59 as well as MN Commy. PTS p. 1.294

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Here comes another very beautiful story from the ancient days of early Buddhism. Enjoy:

At that time in the Mahāvihāra lived a monk named Tissabhūti who was currently studying the books of monastic discipline. One early morning while he was on his almsround through the village he happened to see a rather poisonous sight and thoughts of lust crept into his mind. Immediately, stopping on the spot, he thought: “Now, if this thought is going to grow it will drag me into hell”. Thus in that very spot he turned to a novice monk and poured the gruel which he had received into the bowl of the younger monk. He then went back to the monastery to his teacher, bowed down, and said: “In me a disease arose. If i can cure it i will come back, if not, i will not come back again.”

Then he went to the venerable elder Mahāsaṅgharakkhita, a renowned meditation master, who lived in Malaya. This elder was plastering the flooring of his small leaf hut, and, without even looking up, said to the venerable Tissabhūti:

“Brother, lay down your bowl and robe.” –

“Sir, a disease appeared in me. Only if you can help me cure it, i will lay down my robe and my bowl.” –

“Brother, you have come to one who is capable of healing diseases, lay down robe and bowl.”

Obediently thinking that “this teacher would not say what he does not know” he put down his robe and bowl, showed respect to the elder and sat down to one side.

Mahāsaṅgharakkhita knowing: ‘ this fellow is of a greedy character’ explained to him the meditation subject on the loathsomeness of the body in great detail. Then venerable Tissabhuti got up, put the upper robe and his bowl over his shoulder and repeatedly worshiped the elder monk with much enthusiasm. Seeing this, venerable Mahāsaṅgharakkhita asked him, why he made such an affectionate departure.

“Dear Sir, if i should be able to succeed in realizing my duty, then that’s fine. If i will not be able to, this will be the last time i see you.”

“Go now, brother Tissabhuti! For such earnest and devoted young men like yourself it is not difficult to attain jhanas or vipassana or the path and the fruit of nibbana.”

Then the venerable Tissabhuti again showed great respect to his teacher and left going back to his monastery. He stopped and sat down under a sepanni tree which he had seen earlier on his way. There, hidden under the root of the tree he developed his meditation object on the loathesomeness of the body and based on it developed insight and realized the fruit of Arahantship (nibbana).

He just arrived in time for the evening recitation.

For those of you who like to read the pali version (AN Commentary, PTS page 1.39):

Aparopi tasmiṃyeva mahāvihāre tissabhūtitthero nāma vinayaṃ gaṇhanto bhikkhācāravelāyaṃ antogāmaṃ paviṭṭho visabhāgārammaṇaṃ olokesi. Tassa lobho uppajji, so patiṭṭhitapādaṃ acāletvā attano patte yāguṃ upaṭṭhākadaharassa patte ākiritvā ‘‘ayaṃ vitakko vaḍḍhamāno maṃ catūsu apāyesu saṃsīdāpessatī’’ti tatova nivattitvā ācariyassa santikaṃ gantvā vanditvā ekamantaṃ ṭhito āha – ‘‘eko me byādhi uppanno, ahaṃ etaṃ tikicchituṃ sakkonto āgamissāmi, itarathā nāgamissāmi. Tumhe divā uddesañca sāyaṃ uddesañca maṃ oloketvā ṭhapetha, paccūsakāle uddesaṃ pana mā ṭhapayitthā’’ti evaṃ vatvā malayavāsimahāsaṅgharakkhitattherassa santikaṃ agamāsi. Thero attano paṇṇasālāya paribhaṇḍaṃ karonto taṃ anoloketvāva ‘‘paṭisāmehi, āvuso, tava pattacīvara’’nti āha. Bhante, eko me byādhi atthi, sace tumhe taṃ tikicchituṃ sakkotha, paṭisāmessāmīti. Āvuso, uppannaṃ rogaṃ tikicchituṃ samatthassa santikaṃ āgatosi, paṭisāmehīti. Subbaco bhikkhu ‘‘amhākaṃ ācariyo ajānitvā evaṃ na vakkhatī’’ti pattacīvaraṃ ṭhapetvā therassa vattaṃ dassetvā vanditvā ekamantaṃ nisīdi.

Thero ‘‘rāgacarito aya’’nti ñatvā asubhakammaṭṭhānaṃ kathesi. So uṭṭhāya pattacīvaraṃ aṃse laggetvā theraṃ punappunaṃ vandi. Kiṃ, āvuso, mahābhūti atirekanipaccakāraṃ dassesīti? Bhante, sace attano kiccaṃ kātuṃ sakkhissāmi, iccetaṃ kusalaṃ. No ce, idaṃ me pacchimadassananti! Gacchāvuso, mahābhūti tādisassa yuttayogassa kulaputtassa na jhānaṃ vā vipassanā vā maggo vā phalaṃ vā dullabhanti. So therassa kathaṃ sutvā nipaccakāraṃ dassetvā āgamanakāle vavatthāpitaṃ channaṃ sepaṇṇigacchamūlaṃ gantvā pallaṅkena nisinno asubhakammaṭṭhānaṃ pādakaṃ katvā vipassanaṃ paṭṭhapetvā arahatte patiṭṭhāya paccūsakāle uddesaṃ sampāpuṇi. Evarūpānaṃ ganthavasena vikkhambhitā kilesā tathā vikkhambhitāva honti.

Our thanks go to Ven. Buddhaghosa for preserving these stories 🙂

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TheraOr: How to recognize an enlightened being.

Again, this sounds like a Zen story. But it is not. It is from the early days of Buddhist practice when Sri Lanka (in this case) was full of “Living Buddhist Masters”. Enjoy this beautiful and funny story:

Once upon a time king Saddhatissa asked the Sangha: “Venerable Sirs, please name me one Venerable monk who is especially worthy of reference.” Then the monks told him about Thera Kuttatissa the elder monk from Mangana.

Now the king organized a huge procession and traveled the 500 mile long journey to meet and see the Ven. Kuttatissa. As the procession came closer to Mangana the venerable Thera Kuttatissa asked his fellow monks: „What is that noise all about?“ – „The Sangha in the capital, Venerable Sir, told the king, who asked for a monk most worthy of veneration, that you are the one he is looking for.“

Then the monk elder thought: „What is the use for me old monk in the king’s palace?“. So he set up his wooden bed outside under a tree and with his fingers draw letters into the sand.

The king, who in the meantime had arrived in Mangana, asked for Thera Kuttatissa. The other monks pointed towards the resting place of Venerable Kutatissa. When the king went to his resting place under the tree he saw the drawings in the sand and thought: „A holy Arahant, definitely, would have his fingers better under control; so therefore this monk cannot be a holy one“ he turned around and went back to his palace.

Now the other monks asked the Venerable Kuttatissa: “What did you do, Venerable Sir, that the king who came with so much faith suddenly left so disappointed?” – „Brethren, it is not your duty to worry about the faith of the king. Instead, your duty is it to help old monks.“
For those who like to read the original:

Saddhātissamahārājāpi, ‘‘bhante, mayhaṃ vanditabbayuttakaṃ ekaṃ ayyaṃ ācikkhathā’’ti pucchi. Bhikkhū ‘‘maṅgalavāsī kuṭṭatissatthero’’ti āhaṃsu. Rājā mahāparivārena pañcayojanamaggaṃ agamāsi. Thero ‘‘kiṃ saddo eso, āvuso’’ti bhikkhusaṅghaṃ pucchi. ‘‘Rājā, bhante, tumhākaṃ dassanatthāya āgato’’ti. Thero cintesi – ‘‘kiṃ mayhaṃ mahallakakāle rājagehe kamma’’nti divāṭṭhāne mañce nipajjitvā bhūmiyaṃ lekhaṃ likhanto acchi. Rājā ‘‘kahaṃ thero’’ti pucchitvā ‘‘divāṭṭhāne’’ti sutvā tattha gacchanto theraṃ bhūmiyaṃ lekhaṃ likhantaṃ disvā ‘‘khīṇāsavassa nāma hatthakukkuccaṃ natthi, nāyaṃ khīṇāsavo’’ti avanditvāva nivatti. Bhikkhusaṅgho theraṃ āha – ‘‘bhante, evaṃvidhassa saddhassa pasannassa rañño kasmā vippaṭisāraṃ karitthā’’ti. ‘‘Āvuso, rañño pasādarakkhanaṃ na tumhākaṃ bhāro, mahallakattherassa bhāro’’ti

Anguttaranikaya Atthakatha, PTS 2.246

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