The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[The Second Chapter for Recitation]

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[16: The Gracious One's Sickness]

Then the Gracious One, after living near Ambapālī's Wood for as long as he liked, addressed venerable Ānanda, (saying): “Come Ānanda let us approach the little village of Beluva.” According to the Commentary the village was just south of Vesālī. The village is named after the Beluva tree (Aegle Marmelos).01

“Very well, reverend Sir,” venerable Ānanda replied to the Gracious One. Then the Gracious One together with a great Community of monks arrived at the little village of Beluva. There the Gracious One lived near the little village of Beluva.

There the Gracious One addressed the monks, (saying): “Go, monks, and undertake the Rains Retreat in the vicinity of Vesālī (living) like friends, like companions, like comrades, and I will spend the Rains Retreat right here at the little village of Beluva.”

“Very well, reverend Sir,” and those monks, after replying to the Gracious One, undertook the Rains Retreat in the vicinity of Vesālī (living) like friends, like companions, like comrades. But the Gracious One spent the Rains Retreat right there at the little village of Beluva.

Then while dwelling for the Rains Retreat, a heavy affliction arose for the Gracious One, and continued with strong and death-like feelings. There the Gracious One dwelt mindfully, with full awareness, and without being troubled. Then this occurred to the Gracious One: “It is not suitable that I, without having addressed my attendants, without having given notice to the Community of monks, should attain Final Emancipation. Having energetically dismissed this affliction, I could live on after determining the lifespan.”

Then the Gracious One having energetically dismissed that affliction lived on after determining Comm: samāāpattivikkhambhitāā vedanāā dasamāāse na uppajji yeva; the feelings suppressed by the attainment did not arise again for a further 10 months. From the beginning of the Rains Retreat in July until just before his Final Emancipation in May the following year is 10 months, so we can infer that the Commentary believes the illness occurred at the beginning of the retreat.02 the lifespan. Comm: ettha jīvitam-pi jīvitasaṅkhāro ... phalasamāpattidhammo pi jīvitasaṅkhāro, so idha adhippeto; here the lifespan means life ... the lifespan (can) also mean the attainment of fruition, this is the designation here. This seems contradictory, and I know of no other place where jīvitasaṅkhāra is defined as fruition attainment. The latter is probably meant to guard against the idea that the Buddha had determined the length of life, before the temptation by Māra, which comes later in the story, where he gives up the life-process (ayusaṅkhāra).03 Then the Gracious One's affliction abated. Then, the Gracious One, having risen from that sickness, not long after rising, departed from the Sick Room and sat down on the prepared seat in front of that Room.

Then venerable Ānanda approached the Gracious One, and after approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, he sat down on one side. While sitting on one side venerable Ānanda said this to the Gracious One:

“I have seen, reverend Sir, the Gracious One comfortable, I have seen, reverend Sir, the Gracious One bearing up (while sick), I am not sure about the translation here, it maybe that we should parse Bhagavato 'phāsu (= aphāsu), and translate: I have seen ... the Gracious One uncomfortable ... (and) bearing up (while sick). Neither the Commentary nor the Sub-commentary help here.04 and my body, reverend Sir, became faint as it were, and although I could not see (straight), and things were not clear, Comm: satipaṭṭhānādidhammā mayhaṁ pākaṭā na hontī ti dīpeti. Tantidhammā pana Therassa supagunā; he explains: (such) things as the ways of attending to mindfulness were not well-known to me. But the texts were still familiar to the Elder. This comment seems to guard against any doubt as to Ven. Ānanda's ability to remember the texts, which might put their reliability into question.05 it appeared to me, reverend Sir, that the Gracious One was sick, (but) it was some small comfort that the Gracious One would not attain Final Emancipation until the Gracious One had spoken regarding the Community of monks.”

“But what, Ānanda, does the Community of monks expect of me? The Teaching has been taught by me, Ānanda, without having made (a distinction between) esoteric and exoteric, for the Realised One there is nothing, Ānanda, of a (closed) teacher's fist in regard to the Teaching.

To whoever, Ānanda, this (thought) occurs: ‘I will lead the Community of monks’ or ‘I am the instructer of the Community of monks’ let him speak, Ānanda, regarding the Community of monks. But to the Realised One, Ānanda, this (thought) does not occur: ‘I will lead the Community of monks’ or ‘I am the instructor of the Community of monks’. Then why, Ānanda, should the Realised One speak regarding the Community of monks? I cannot understand this section which seems so out of keeping with the discourses elsewhere. The Buddha was the recognised leader of the Community, and in the previous section, has himself said: It is not suitable that I, without having addressed my attendants, without having given notice to the Community of monks, should attain Final Emancipation, and yet here he is denying that he is their leader and declaring he has nothing to say to them!06

I, Ānanda, at present, am old, elderly, of great age, far gone, advanced in years, I am eighty years old. It is like, Ānanda, an old cart, which (only) keeps going when shored up with bamboo, just so, Ānanda, I think the Realised One's body (only) keeps going when shored up with bamboo.

When the Realised One doesn't pay attention, Ānanda, to any of the signs, when all feelings have ceased, he lives having established the signless mind-concentration, In Paṭisambhidāmagga and Visuddhimagga this is known as animittācetovimutti, which is the fruition of Worthiness, it arises for one who applies his mind to impermanence as the predominant sign of existence.07 and at that time, Ānanda, the Realised One's body is most comfortable.

Therefore, Ānanda, live with yourself as an island, yourself as a refuge, with no other refuge, with the Teaching as an island, the Teaching as a refuge, with no other refuge. And how, Ānanda, does a monk live with himself as an island, himself as a refuge, with no other refuge, with the Teaching as an island, the Teaching as a refuge, with no other refuge?

Here, Ānanda, a monk dwells contemplating (the nature of) the body in the body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, after removing avarice and sorrow regarding the world; This is the summary of the ways of attending to mindfulness again (see above, section 15).08 he dwells contemplating (the nature of) feelings in feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, after removing avarice and sorrow regarding the world; he dwells contemplating (the nature of) the mind in the mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, after removing avarice and sorrow regarding the world; he dwells contemplating (the nature of) things in (various) things, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, after removing avarice and sorrow regarding the world.

Thus, Ānanda, a monk lives with himself as an island, himself as a refuge, with no other refuge, with the Teaching as an island, the Teaching as a refuge, with no other refuge. For whoever, Ānanda, whether at present or after my passing, lives with himself as an island, himself as a refuge, with no other refuge, with the Teaching as an island, the Teaching as a refuge, with no other refuge, those monks of mine, Ānanda, will go from darkness to the highest Commentary paraphrases: evaṁ sabbaṁ tamayogaṁ chinditvā, ativiya agge uttamabhāve ete, Ānanda, mama bhikkhū bhavissanti; having in this way cut off all connection with the darkness, these monks of mine, Ānanda, will be at the absolute top of supreme existence.09 - whoever likes the training.”

The Second Chapter for Recital (is Finished).