The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[The Fourth Chapter for Recitation]

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[29: The Last Meal]

Then the Gracious One, after living near Bhoganagara for as long as he liked, addressed venerable Ānanda, (saying): “Come Ānanda let us approach Pāvā.” When we trace the last leg of this tour on a map it very much looks like the Buddha was actually heading for Kapilavatthu, where he had grown up and where his kinsfolk were, but attained parinibbāna before he could reach his destination.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 Pāvā. There the Gracious One lived near Pāvā in Cunda the Smith's Comm: Suvaṇṇakāraputtassa, the Gold Smith, I take -putta here as pleonastic, otherwise it would mean son of the (Gold-)Smith.02 mango wood.

Cunda the Smith heard: “The Gracious One, it seems, has arrived at Pāvā, and is dwelling near Pāvā, in my mango wood.” Then Cunda the Smith approached the Gracious One, and after approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, he sat down on one side. While Cunda the Smith was sitting on one side the Gracious One instructed, roused, enthused, and cheered him with a talk about the Teaching. Then Cunda the Smith, having been instructed, roused, enthused, and cheered by the Gracious One with a talk about the Teaching, said this to the Gracious One: “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 Cunda the Smith, having understood the Gracious One's consent, after rising from his seat, worshipping and circumambulating the Gracious One, went away.

Then after the night had passed, Cunda the Smith, in his own residence, having had excellent foodstuffs made ready, and an abundance of tender pork, Sūkaramaddavan-ti nātitaruṇassa nātijiṇṇassa ekajeṭṭhakasūkarassa pavattamaṁsaṁ; tender pork means fresh meat from a great pig that is not too young nor too old. Elsewhere in the Commentaries there are some further suggestions: that it was made of soft rice cooked with the five products of a cow; an elixir of life (rasāyanavidhi); bamboo shoots trampled by pigs; or mushrooms.03 had the time announced to the Gracious One, (saying): “It is time, reverend Sir, the meal is ready.”

Then the Gracious One, having dressed in the morning time, after picking up his bowl and robe, together with the Community of monks, approached Cunda the Smith's residence, and after approaching, he sat down on the prepared seat. Having sat down, the Gracious One addressed Cunda the Smith, (saying):

“Serve me with the tender pork you have prepared, Cunda, but serve the Community of monks with the other foodstuffs which have been prepared.”

“Very well, reverend Sir”, said Cunda the Smith, and after replying to the Gracious One, he served the Gracious One with the tender pork that had been prepared, but served the Community of monks with the other foodstuffs which had been prepared. Then the Gracious One addressed Cunda the Smith, (saying):

“Throw that left over tender pork into a pit, Cunda, (for) I do not see, Cunda, in the world with its Divinities, Māra, and Brahmā, in this generation with its ascetics and brahmins, princes and men, one who, having eaten it, could completely digest it, except for a Realised One.” It is presumably this passage which makes people think that the last meal was the cause of the Buddha's illness, however the Commentary denies this: bhuttassa udapādi, na pana bhuttapaccayā; it occurred when he had eaten, but not because he had eaten.04

“Very well, reverend Sir”, said Cunda the Smith, and after replying to the Gracious One, and throwing what was left over of that tender pork into a pit, he approached the Gracious One, and after approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, he sat down on one side.

While sitting on one side Cunda the Smith having been instructed, roused, enthused, and cheered by the Gracious One with a talk about the Teaching, having risen from the seat, went away.

Then for the Gracious One, after eating Cunda the Smith's food, a painful affliction arose, bloody dysentery, and strong feelings occurred, such as end in death. There the Gracious One, mindfully, with full awareness, bore (those pains) without being troubled. Then the Gracious One addressed venerable Ānanda, (saying): “Come, Ānanda, let us approach Kusinārā.”

“Very well, reverend Sir”, venerable Ānanda replied to the Gracious One.

“Having eaten Cunda the Smith's food, so I have heard,
The Firm One experienced a very strong affliction, such as ends in death.

For the Teacher, who had eaten tender pork,
A very strong sickness arose.
While (still) purging the Gracious One said:
‘I (will) go to the town of Kusinārā.’ ” The Commentary notes: Imā gāthāyo Saṅgītikāle saṅgītikārakehi vuttā - these verses were spoken by the recitors at the time of the (first) Council.05