The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[The First Chapter for Recitation]

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[2: Seven Things which Prevent Decline in the Vajjians] The seven things which prevent decline for the Vajjians are echoed later in the first of the seven things that prevent decline for the Saṅgha.01

Now at that time venerable Ānanda was stood behind the Gracious One fanning the Gracious One. For the past 25 years Ānanda had been the Buddha's main attendent, upaṭṭhāka, which literally means: one who stands near.02 Then the Gracious One addressed venerable Ānanda, (saying): The Buddha doesn't reply directly to Vassakāra, but speaks to Ānanda with Vassakāra within listening range, so he can hear and understand.03

  1. “Have you heard, Ānanda: ‘The Vajjians assemble regularly and assemble frequently?’ ” The Commentary explains the importance of meeting regularly and frequently by saying when that is the case they will hear reports affecting the security of the country as they happen and will be able to deal with it there and then.04 “I have heard this, reverend Sir: ‘The Vajjians assemble regularly and assemble frequently.’ ” “For as long, Ānanda, as the Vajjians will assemble regularly and assemble frequently surely growth, Ānanda, is to be expected for the Vajjians not decline.

  2. Have you heard, Ānanda: ‘The Vajjians assemble unanimously, rise unanimously, and carry out their Vajjian duties unanimously?’ ” “I have heard this, reverend Sir, that the Vajjians assemble unanimously, rise unanimously, and carry out their Vajjian duties unanimously.” “For as long, Ānanda, as the Vajjians will assemble unanimously, rise unanimously, and carry out their Vajjian duties unanimously, surely growth, Ānanda, is to be expected for the Vajjians not decline.

  3. Have you heard, Ānanda: ‘The Vajjians do not establish (new) laws that were not established, (or) cut off (old) laws that were established, and carry on with such laws as were accepted in the Ancient Vajjian Constitution?’ ” “I have heard this, reverend Sir: ‘The Vajjians do not establish (new) laws that were not established, (or) cut off (old) laws that were established, and they carry on with such laws as were accepted in the Ancient Vajjian Constitution.’ ” “For as long, Ānanda, as the Vajjians do not establish (new) laws that were not established, (or) cut off (old) laws that were established, and they carry on with such laws as were accepted in the Ancient Vajjian Constitution surely growth, Ānanda, is to be expected for the Vajjians not decline.

  4. Have you heard, Ānanda: ‘The Vajjians honour the elders of the Vajjians, respect, revere, worship and think them worth listening to?’ ” “I have heard this, reverend Sir: ‘The Vajjians honour the elders of the Vajjians, respect, revere, worship and think them worth listening to.’ ” “For as long, Ānanda, as the Vajjians will honour the elders of the Vajjians, respect, revere, worship and think them worth listening to, surely growth, Ānanda, is to be expected for the Vajjians not decline.

  5. Have you heard, Ānanda: ‘The Vajjians do not coerce and force their women and girls to dwell (with them) against their will?’ ” The parallel to this in the following section reads: For as long as the monks do not come under the influence of craving which has arisen for continued existence; which seems a bit tenuous.05 “I have heard this, reverend Sir: ‘The Vajjians do not coerce and force their women and girls to dwell (with them) against their will.’ ” “For as long, Ānanda, as the Vajjians will not coerce and force their women and girls to dwell (with them) against their will, surely growth, Ānanda, is to be expected for the Vajjians not decline.

  6. Have you heard, Ānanda: ‘The Vajjians honour the Vajjian shrines amongst the Vajjians, both within and without (the city), respect, revere, and worship (them), and do not allow the righteous sacrifices that were formerly given, formerly made, to be neglected?’ ” “I have heard this, reverend Sir: ‘The Vajjians honour the Vajjian shrines amongst the Vajjians, both within and without (the city), respect, revere, and worship (them), and do not allow the righteous sacrifices that were formerly given, formerly made, to be neglected.” “For as long, Ānanda, as the Vajjians will honour the Vajjian shrines amongst the Vajjians, both within and without (the city), respect, revere, and worship (them), and do not allow the righteous sacrifices that were formerly given, formerly made, to be neglected surely growth, Ānanda, is to be expected for the Vajjians not decline. This gives the lie to the belief that the Buddha opposed all forms of sacrifice. It would seem he was only opposed to those that were against moral principles, like animal sacrifices and the like. Similarly with rites and rituals, it was clinging to them and the mistaken notion that these are sufficient in themselves that the Buddha opposed, not their performance entirely.06

  7. Have you heard, Ānanda: ‘The Vajjians have made good arrangements in regard to the lawful protection, safety, and guarding of the Worthy Ones, so that Worthy Ones in the future can enter the realm, and having entered the Worthy Ones can live comfortably in the realm?” “I have heard this, reverend Sir: ‘The Vajjians have made good arrangements in regard to the lawful protection, safety, and guarding of the Worthy Ones, and that the Worthy Ones in the future can enter the realm, and having entered the Worthy Ones can live comfortably in the realm.” “For as long, Ānanda, as the Vajjians will make good arrangements in regard to the lawful protection, safety, and guarding of the Worthy Ones, and that the Worthy Ones in the future can enter the realm, and having entered, the Worthy Ones can live comfortably in the realm, surely growth, Ānanda, is to be expected for the Vajjians not decline.”

Then the Gracious One addressed the Magadhan chief minister the brahmin Vassakāra, (saying): “At one time, brahmin, I was living near Vesālī near to the Sārandada Shrine and there I taught the Vajjians these seven things which prevent decline. This discourse is preserved at AN Bk 7.21. The Buddha often seems to have stayed at or near Shrines, as we will see later in this discourse.07 For as long, brahmin, as the Vajjians maintain these seven things which prevent decline, and the Vajjians agree with these seven things which prevent decline, surely growth, brahmin, is to be expected for the Vajjians not decline.”

After this was said, the Magadhan chief minister the brahmin Vassakāra addressed the Gracious One, (saying): “If the Vajjians, dear Gotama, were endowed with even one or the other of these seven things which prevent decline, surely growth is to be expected not decline, what to say about having seven things which prevent decline? The Vajjians cannot be overcome, dear Gotama, by the Magadhan King Ajātasattu, the son of Lady Wisdom, by war, but only through diplomacy, or through the breaking of an alliance. According to the Commentary King Ajātasattu and his chief minister concocted an elaborate plan and did in fact manage to destroy the Vajjians three years after the Buddha's parinibbāna, by sowing dissension and breaking up their unity.08 And now, dear Gotama, we shall go, as we have many duties, and there is much which ought to be done.”

“Now is the time, brahmin, for whatever you are thinking.” This is a polite way of giving permission to leave.09 Then the Magadhan chief minister the brahmin Vassakāra, after greatly rejoicing and gladly receiving this word of the Gracious One, rose from his seat and departed.