The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[The Fourth Chapter for Recitation]

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[31: The Story concerning Pukkusa Mallaputta]

Now at that time Pukkasa Mallaputta, a disciple of Āḷāra Kālāma, was travelling along the highway from Pāvā to Kusinārā. Pukkasa Mallaputta saw the Gracious One sitting at the root of a certain tree. And having seen (him) he approached the Gracious One, and after approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, he sat down on one side. While sitting on one side Pukkasa Mallaputta said this to the Gracious One: “It is wonderful, reverend Sir, it is marvellous, reverend Sir, that those who have gone forth, reverend Sir, live such a peaceful living.

Formerly, reverend Sir, Āḷāra Kālāma Āḷāra Kālāma had been one of the Gotama's early teachers, who taught him the attainment of the sphere of nothingness (ākiñcaññāyatana). The Bodhisatta wasn't satisfied with this though, and sought out another teacher, Udaka Rāmaputta. Nothing more is known about Āḷāra, but he was evidently an adept at absorption (jhāna), as the following story shows.01 descended from the highway he was travelling along, and was dwelling for the day sat not far away at the root of a certain tree. Then, reverend Sir, about five hundred waggons passed by very close to Āḷāra Kālāma. Then, reverend Sir, a certain man who was traveling along behind those waggons approached Āḷāra Kālāma, and after approaching he said this to Āḷāra Kālāma:

‘Did you not see, reverend Sir, about five hundred waggons pass by?’

‘I did not see, friend.’

‘But, reverend Sir, did you not hear the sound?’

‘I did not hear the sound, friend.’

‘But, reverend Sir, were you sleeping?’

‘I was not sleeping, friend.’

‘But, reverend Sir, were you conscious?’

‘Yes, friend.’

‘So you, reverend Sir, though conscious and awake, when about five hundred waggons passed by very close neither saw (them) nor heard a sound! Why, reverend Sir, even your double-robe is covered with dust!’

‘Yes, friend.’

Then this occurred to that man: ‘Surely it is wonderful, surely it is marvellous, that those who have indeed gone forth live such a peaceful living. Because though conscious and awake, when about five hundred waggons passed by very close he did not see (them) or hear a sound!’ Comm: neva dakkhitī ti na addasa. Yatra saddayuttattā panetaṁ anāgatavasena vuttaṁ; he did not see, he didn’t see. He used the future (tense) because of the connection with yatra. However, it appears dakkhiti is also used as a present tense verb. See PED *Dassati p. 316 where examples are given.02 And having gained great confidence in Āḷāra Kālāma, he left.”

“Now what do you think, Pukkusa, which is the more difficult to do or the more difficult to come by: that someone though conscious and awake, when about five hundred waggons passed by very close should neither see (them) nor hear a sound, or that someone, though conscious and awake, when the Divinities rain down, when the Divinities throw it down, and the lightning flashes, and the thunder crashes forth, should neither see (it) nor hear a sound?”

“Why, reverend Sir, what to make of five-hundred waggons, six-hundred waggons, seven-hundred waggons, eight-hundred waggons, nine-hundred waggons, one thousand waggons, or one-hundred thousand waggons? This is the more difficult to do or the more difficult to come by: that someone, though conscious and awake, when the Divinities rain down, when the Divinities throw it down, and the lightning flashes, and the thunder crashes forth, should neither see (it) nor hear a sound.”

“One day, Pukkusa, I was living near Ātumā at the Decorated House. Now at that time the Divinities rained down, the Divinities threw it down, and the lightning flashed, and the thunder crashed forth, and not far away from the Decorated House two brothers who were farmers died, along with four oxen. Then, Pukkusa, a great crowd of people having departed from Ātumā, went to the place where the brothers who were farmers and the four oxen had died.

Then, Pukkusa, at that time, after leaving the Decorated House, I was walking in the open air near the gate to the Decorated House. Then, Pukkusa, a certain man from that crowd approached me, and after approaching and worshipping me, he stood on one side. While standing there, Pukkusa, I said to that man:

‘Why, friend, has that great crowd of people assembled?’

‘Just now, reverend Sir, the Divinities rained down, the Divinities threw it down, and the lightning flashed, and the thunder crashed forth, and two brothers who were farmers died, along with four oxen, and that great crowd of people assembled here. But where were you, reverend Sir?’

‘I was right here, friend.’

‘But, reverend Sir, did you see (it)?’

‘I did not see, friend.’

‘But, reverend Sir, did you hear the sound?’

‘I did not hear the sound, friend.’

‘But, reverend Sir, were you sleeping?’

‘I was not sleeping, friend.’

‘But, reverend Sir, were you conscious?’

‘Yes, friend.’

‘So, reverend Sir, though conscious and awake when the Divinities rained down, when the Divinities threw it down, and the lightning flashed, and the thunder crashed forth, you neither saw (it), nor heard a sound!’

‘Yes, friend.’

Then, Pukkusa, this occurred to that man: ‘Surely it is wonderful, surely it is marvellous, that those who have indeed gone forth live such a peaceful living. Because though conscious and awake when the Divinities rained down, when the Divinities threw it down, and the lightning flashed, and the thunder crashed forth, he did not see (it) or hear a sound!’ And after gaining great confidence in me, worshipping and circumamblating me, he left.”

After this was said, Pukkusa Mallaputta said this to the Gracious One: “That faith, reverend Sir, I have in Āḷāra Kālāma, I clear away as with a great wind, I wash (it) away as with a fast-flowing river:

Excellent, reverend Sir! Excellent, reverend Sir! Just as, reverend 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 bear an oil lamp in the darkness so that one who has eyes can see forms, just so has the Teaching been made clear by the Gracious One in more than one way. I go to the Gracious One, reverend Sir, for refuge, and to the Teaching, and to the Community of monks. Please bear it in mind, Gracious One, that I am a lay disciple who has gone for refuge from today forward for as long as I am furnished with life.”

Then Pukkusa Mallaputta addressed a certain man, (saying): “Come, my man, bring me a pair of polished gold-coloured (robes), ready to wear.”

“Very well, reverend Sir,” said that man, and after replying to Pukkusa Mallaputta, he brought a pair of polished gold-coloured (robes), ready to wear. Then Pukkusa Mallaputta offered that pair of polished gold-coloured (robes), ready to wear, to the Gracious One, (saying): “Please accept, reverend Sir, this pair of polished gold-coloured (robes), ready to wear out of compassion for me, Gracious One.”

“Then, Pukkusa, clothe me with one, and Ānanda with the other.” This is curious as Ānanda had made it a condition of his serving as attendant to the Buddha that he would not receive robes from him. The Commentary, quite embarrassed, has a weak explanation of the event, saying that his service to the Buddha had now come to an end.03

“Very well, reverend Sir,” said Pukkusa Mallaputta, and after replying to the Gracious One he clothed the Gracious One with one, and Ānanda with the other. Then the Gracious One instructed Pukkusa Mallaputta roused, enthused, and cheered (him) with a talk about the Teaching. Then Pukkusa Mallaputta, having been instructed, roused, enthused, and cheered by the Gracious One with a talk about the Teaching, after rising from his seat, worshipping and circumambulating the Gracious One, departed.

Then, venerable Ānanda, not long after Pukkusa Mallaputta had departed, offered that pair of polished gold-coloured (robes), ready to wear, to the Gracious One, and when placed on the Gracious One's body they appeared to have lost their gleam.

Then venerable Ānanda said this to the Gracious One: “It is wonderful, reverend Sir, it is marvellous, reverend Sir, how pure and clean is the Realised One's skin-colour, reverend Sir! This pair of polished gold-coloured (robes), ready to wear, reverend Sir, when placed on the Gracious One's body have lost their gleam!”

“Just so, Ānanda, on two occasions, Ānanda, the Realised One's skin-colour becomes exceedingly pure and clean.

On which two occasions?

That night, Ānanda, the Realised One perfectly awakens to the unsurpassed and Perfect Awakening, and that night the Realised One is Finally Emancipated in the Emancipation-element which has no basis for attachment remaining. On these two occasions the Realised One's skin-colour is exceedingly pure and clean. Today, Ānanda, during the last watch of the night, near to Kusinārā, in the Mallas' Sal Wood at Upavattana, between a pair of Sal trees will be the Realised One's Final Emancipation.

“Come Ānanda let us approach River Kakutthā.”

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

“A pair of polished gold-coloured (robes) was offered by Pukkusa,
Once clothed with it the Teacher's golden (skin) colour shone forth.” Comm: Siṅgīvaṇṇan-ti gāthā Saṅgītikāle ṭhapitā; gold-coloured, this verse was placed (here) at the time of the (First) Council.04