The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[The First Chapter for Recitation]

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[3: Seven Things which Prevent Decline in the Community (1-7)]

Then the Gracious One, not long after the Magadhan chief minister, the brahmin Vassakāra, had gone, addressed venerable Ānanda, (saying): “Go, Ānanda, and whatever monks there are living in dependence on Rājagaha, Living in dependence is an idiom which means subsisting on alms food (in the city).01 assemble them in the Attendance Hall.”

“Very well, reverend Sir,” said venerable Ānanda, and after replying to the Gracious One, and assembling whatever monks there were living in dependence on Rājagaha in the Attendance Hall, he approached the Gracious One, and after approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, he stood on one side.

While standing on one side venerable Ānanda said this to the Gracious One: “The Community of monks have assembled, reverend Sir, now is the time, Gracious One, for whatever you are thinking.”

Then the Gracious One after rising from his seat approached the Attendance Hall, and after approaching he sat down on the prepared seat. While sitting the Gracious One addressed the monks, (saying):

“I will teach you seven things which prevent decline, listen to it, apply your minds well, and I will speak.” Here and throughout this discourse we see the Buddha's concern for the future welfare of the Community after his passing away, it very much looks like the Buddha was spontaneously applying the teaching about the Vajjīs to the Saṅgha here.02 “Very well, reverend Sir,” those monks replied to the Gracious One, and the Gracious One said this:

  1. “For as long, monks, as the monks will assemble regularly and assemble frequently, surely growth, monks, is to be expected for the monks, not decline. The Commentary explains that when they assemble regularly and frequently they will hear of faults in the Community and quickly correct them, and lax monks will soon leave the Community.03

  2. For as long, monks, as the monks will assemble unanimously, rise unanimously, and carry out their Community duties unanimously, surely growth, monks, is to be expected for the monks, not decline.

  3. For as long, monks, as the monks do not establish (new) laws that were not established, (or) cut off (old) laws that were established, The Commentary gives as an example of the latter the 10 practices that the Vesālī monks tried to change which eventually caused the 2nd Council (see Vin. II, p. 293ff). However, later in the discourse the Buddha will allow the monks to abrogate the minor rules (see 39: The Final Advice, below).04 and they carry on with such training-rules as have been accepted, surely growth, monks, is to be expected for the monks, not decline.

  4. For as long, monks, as the monks will honour the elder monks, those of long-standing, a long time gone-forth, the Fathers of the Community, the Leaders of the Community, respect, revere, worship and think them worth listening to, surely growth, monks, is to be expected for the monks, not decline.

  5. For as long, monks, as the monks will not come under the influence of craving which has arisen for continued existence, surely growth, monks, is to be expected for the monks, not decline.

  6. For as long, monks, as the monks will have desire for forest dwellings, surely growth, monks, is to be expected for the monks, not decline.

  7. For as long, monks, as the monks individually will attend to the ways of mindfulness, so that their fellow celibates, who are well-behaved, in the future can come, and having come to their fellow celibates, who are well-behaved, can live comfortably, surely growth, monks, is to be expected for the monks, not decline.

For as long, monks, as the monks will maintain these seven things which prevent decline, and the monks will agree with these seven things which prevent decline, surely growth, monks, is to be expected for the monks, not decline.