[IV. In Rājagaha]

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39: The Meeting with King Bimbisāra

Then the Gracious One, having dwelt at Gayā's Head for as long as he liked, left on walking tour for Rājagaha, together with a great Community of monks, with a thousand monks all of whom were formerly yogis. Note that again no mention is made of the monks who ordained at Bārāṇasī.01 Then the Gracious One, walking gradually on walking tour, went and entered Rājagaha. There the Gracious One dwelt near Rājagaha, by the Suppatiṭṭha Shrine in the Palmyra Wood. Comm: Tāluyyāne; laṭṭhi normally means a sapling, so Sapling Wood would be another translation, in Mahāvastu the name is given as Yaṣṭīvana, which supports the alternative translation. It appears from the Commentary that the banyan tree itself was known as the Suppatiṭṭha Cetiya (Suppatiṭṭha = Well-Established).02

The Magadhan King Seniya Bimbisāra heard: Jā Nid says he heard from the Park Keeper.03 “The ascetic Gotama, the Sakyan Son, who has gone forth from the Sakya family, has arrived in Rājagaha, and is dwelling near Rājagaha, by the Suppatiṭṭha Shrine in the Palmyra Garden. But about that Gracious One Gotama this beautiful report has gone round:

‘Such is he, the Gracious One, the Worthy One, the Perfect Sambuddha,
the one endowed with understanding and good conduct,
the Fortunate One, the one who understands the worlds,
the unsurpassed guide for those people who need taming,
the Teacher of gods and men, the Buddha, the Gracious One.’

This world with its gods, Māra, and Brahmā, this generation, with its ascetics and brāhmaṇas, princes and men, he makes known, after gaining deep knowledge for himself. He teaches the Dhamma (which is) good in the beginning, good in the middle, good in the end; with its meaning, with its (proper) phrasing; and explains the spiritual life which is complete, full and pure. But the sight of such Worthy Ones is good.”

Then the Magadhan King Seniya Bimbisāra, surrounded by twelve myriads of brāhmaṇas and householders from Magadha approached the Gracious One, and after approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, he sat down at one side. Of those twelve myriads of brāhmaṇas and householders from Magadha, some, after worshipping the Gracious One, sat down on one side. Some exchanged greetings with the Gracious One, and after exchanging polite and courteous greetings, sat down on one side. Some, after raising their hands in respectful salutation to the Gracious One, sat down on one side. Some, after announcing their name and family to the Gracious One, sat down on one side. Some, while keeping silent, sat down on one side.

Then this occurred to those twelve myriads of brāhmaṇas and householders from Magadha: “How is it: does the Great Ascetic live the spiritual life under Uruvelakassapa, or does Uruvelakassapa live the spiritual life under the Great Ascetic?”

Then the Gracious One, knowing with his mind the reflection that had arisen in the minds of the Magadhan brāhmaṇas and householders, addressed the venerable Uruvelakassapa with a verse:

“Having seen what did you, one of Uruvelā,
Who spoke of austerity, The commentary offers two explanations of these words, either it means Kassapa was spoken of as austere, or that he recommended austerity. I prefer the latter as that is what is in need of explanation.04 give up the sacrificial fire?
I ask you the reason for this, Kassapa,
Why did you give up the fire sacrifice?”

“The sacrifices speak of forms, sounds,
And also tastes, sensuality, and women.
Having understood that in the attachments ‘this is a stain’,
I therefore take no delight in offerings and sacrifices.”

“If your mind takes no delight, Kassapa,” said the Gracious One,
“In forms, sounds and also tastes,
Then where in the world with its gods and men,
Does your mind take delight, Kassapa, speak about this.”

“Having seen the state of peace, free of attachments,
(That) nothingness, unattached to the sensual realm,
The Unchangeable, Lit: that which does not become other.05 unknown to others,
I therefore take no delight in offerings and sacrifices.” Mahāvastu has these verses (with some variations) and follows them with several more unrecorded in the Pāḷi, which appear to be late additions.06

Then the venerable Uruvelakassapa, after rising from his seat, arranging his outer robe on one shoulder, and falling with his head at the feet Nidāna: at the foot-stool.07 of the Gracious One, said to the Gracious One: Nidāna: after having risen into the sky seven times the height of seven Palmyra trees.08 “The Gracious One is my Teacher, venerable Sir, I am his disciple, the Gracious One is my Teacher, venerable Sir, I am his disciple.” Nidāna says the Buddha took the opportunity to preach the Mahānāradakassapajātaka (Jā 544) at this point, which describes how he converted Kassapa in a previous life.09 Then this occurred to those twelve myriads of brāhmaṇas and householders from Magadha: “Uruvelakassapa lives the spiritual life under the Great Ascetic.”

Then the Gracious One, knowing with his mind the reflection that had arisen in the minds of the Magadhan brāhmaṇas and householders, spoke about the gradual teaching to them, that is to say: talk about giving, talk about virtue, talk about heaven, the danger, degradation, and defilement of sensual desires, and the advantages of renunciation, (these) he explained. When the Gracious One knew that they had ready minds, pliable minds, open minds, uplifted minds, confident minds, he explained to them the Dhamma teaching the Awakened Ones have discovered themselves: Suffering, Origination, Cessation, Path. The Pāḷi texts only give this synopsis, but Mahāvastu records a talk at this point, which is reproduced elsewhere on this website as The Fourth Discourse of the Buddha.10

Just as it is known that a clean cloth without a stain will take the dye well, just so to eleven myriads of the Magadhan brāhmaṇas and householders, This number is confirmed by Mahāvastu (3.449), but the latter text omits the mention that one myriad more became lay-followers, mentioning instead that twelve myriads of the coachmen and drivers became lay-followers. See the end of The Fourth Discourse of the Buddha.11 with Bimbisāra at their head on that very seat, the dust-free, stainless Vision-of-the-Dhamma arose: Comm: knowledge of the Path of Stream-Entry.12

“Whatever has the nature of arising, all that has the nature of ceasing.”

and one myriad (of them) made known their state as lay-followers.

Then the Māgadhan King Seniya Bimbisāra, having seen the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma, understood the Dhamma, penetrated the Dhamma, crossed over uncertainty, being without doubts, having attained full confidence, having become independent of others in the Teacher's teaching, said this to the Gracious One:

“Formerly, venerable Sir, when I was a boy I had five wishes Comm: assāsaka means desires, wishes is the meaning.13 which are fulfilled for me now. Lit: are successful, have taken effect.14 Formerly, venerable Sir, when I was a boy this occurred to me:

  1. ‘Oh, may I be anointed (King) in the Kingdom’ - this was my first wish, venerable Sir, which has been fulfilled for me now.
  2. ‘May a Worthy One, a Perfect Sambuddha enter into my realm’ - this was my second wish, venerable Sir, which has been fulfilled for me now.
  3. ‘May I attend on that Gracious One’ - this was my third wish, venerable Sir, which has been fulfilled for me now.
  4. ‘May that Gracious One teach me the Dhamma’ - this was my fourth wish, venerable Sir, which has been fulfilled for me now.
  5. ‘May I understand that Gracious One's Dhamma' - this was my fifth wish, venerable Sir, which has been fulfilled for me now.

Formerly, venerable Sir, when I was a boy I had these five wishes and these I am successful in now.

Excellent, venerable Sir! Excellent, venerable Sir! Just as, venerable Sir, one might set upright what has been overturned, or open up what has been closed, or show a path to one who is lost, or carry an oil lamp into the darkness, (thinking): ‘those with vision will see forms’, just so has the Dhamma been explained by the Gracious One in countless ways. I go, venerable Sir, to the Gracious One for refuge, and to the Dhamma, and to the Community of monks. Please bear it in mind, Gracious One, that I am a lay follower who has gone for refuge from today forward for as long as I have the breath of life. May the Gracious One consent, reverend Sir, to me (offering him) a meal on the morrow, together with the Community of monks.”

The Gracious One consented by maintaining silence. Then the Māgadhan King Seniya Bimbisāra, having understood the Gracious One's consent, after rising from his seat, worshipping and circumambulating the Gracious One, went away.