The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[The Fifth Chapter for Recitation]

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[39: Subhadda, the Last Direct Disciple]

Now at that time a wanderer named Subhadda The Commentary says he was a clothed wanderer (channaparibbājaka) born into a brāhmaṇa family, and gives an interesting story telling how there were two brothers in a previous life who made offerings (to Paccekabuddhas, it seems, though it is not stated). The elder brother gave offerings 9 times from each crop and was reborn as the person who became Aññāta Koṇḍañña (the first disciple to attain), and the younger one also gave an offering and was later reborn as Subhadda (the last direct disciple to attain).01 had arrived at Kusinārā. The wanderer Subhadda heard: “Today, it seems, in the last watch of the night, will be the ascetic Gotama's attainment of Final Emancipation.”

Then this occurred to the wanderer Subhadda: “I have heard this from old, elderly wanderers, who are teachers and teachers' teachers, when they said: ‘Only occasionally, rarely, do Realised Ones, Worthy Ones, Perfect Sambuddhas arise in the world.’ Today, in the last watch of the night, will be the ascetic Gotama's attainment of Final Emancipation. There is a doubt that has arisen for me, and I have confidence in the ascetic Gotama thus: ‘The ascetic Gotama is able to teach the Teaching in such a way that I will be able to abandon that doubt.’ ”

Then the wanderer Subhadda approached the Mallas' Sal Wood at Upavattana, and approached venerable Ānanda, and after approaching he said to venerable Ānanda: “I have heard this from old, elderly wanderers, dear Ānanda, who are teachers and teachers' teachers, when they said: ‘Only occasionally, rarely, do Realised Ones, Worthy Ones, Perfect Sambuddhas arise in the world.’ Today, in the last watch of the night, will be the ascetic Gotama's attainment of Final Emancipation. There is a doubt that has arisen for me, and I have confidence in the ascetic Gotama thus: ‘The ascetic Gotama is able to teach the Teaching in such a way that I will be able to abandon that doubt’. It would be well, dear Ānanda, if I was allowed to see the ascetic Gotama.”

After this was said, venerable Ānanda said this to the wanderer Subhadda: “Enough, friend Subhadda, do not trouble the Realised One, the Gracious One is exhausted.”

For a second time the wanderer Subhadda said this to venerable Ānanda: “I have heard this from old, elderly wanderers, dear Ānanda, who are teachers and teachers' teachers, when they said: ‘Only occasionally, rarely, do Realised Ones, Worthy Ones, Perfect Sambuddhas arise in the world.’ Today, in the last watch of the night, will be the Realised One's attainment of Final Emancipation. There is a doubt that has arisen for me, and I have confidence in the ascetic Gotama thus: ‘The ascetic Gotama is able to teach the Teaching in such a way that I will be able to abandon that doubt’. It would be well, dear Ānanda, if I was allowed to see the ascetic Gotama.

For a second time venerable Ānanda said this to the wanderer Subhadda: “Enough, friend Subhadda, do not trouble the Realised One, the Gracious One is exhausted.”

For a third time the wanderer Subhadda said this to venerable Ānanda: “I have heard this from old, elderly wanderers, dear Ānanda, who are teachers and teachers' teachers, when they said: ‘Only occasionally, rarely, do Realised Ones, Worthy Ones, Perfect Sambuddhas arise in the world.’ Today, in the last watch of the night, will be the ascetic Gotama's attainment of Final Emancipation. There is a doubt that has arisen for me, and I have confidence in the ascetic Gotama thus: ‘The ascetic Gotama is able to teach the Teaching in such a way that I will be able to abandon that doubt’. It would be well, dear Ānanda, if I was allowed to see the ascetic Gotama.”

For a third time venerable Ānanda said this to the wanderer Subhadda: “Enough, friend Subhadda, do not trouble the Realised One, the Gracious One is exhausted.”

The Gracious One heard venerable Ānanda having this conversation with the wanderer Subhadda. Then the Gracious One said this to venerable Ānanda: “Enough, Ānanda, do not obstruct Subhadda allow Subhadda to see the Realised One. It is curious that the Buddha has to intervene here as he has just been praising Ānanda for knowing the right time for letting people see him!02 Whatever Subhadda will ask of me all of it he will ask of me seeking for deep knowledge, and not to trouble me. Whatever question is put I will answer, and he will quickly understand it.”

Then venerable Ānanda said this to the wanderer Subhadda: “Go, friend Subhadda, the Gracious One has given you permission.”

Then the wanderer Subhadda approached the Gracious One, and after approaching, he exchanged greetings with the Gracious One, and after exchanging courteous talk and greetings, he sat down on one side.

While sitting on one side the wanderer Subhadda said this to the Gracious One: “Those ascetics and brahmins, dear Gotama, who have a community, a group, who teach a group, well-known, famous, religious founders, agreed upon as good for the people, such as: Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Ajita Kesakambala, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta, These are six famous teachers of Lord Buddha's time. The Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta at least had died some time before this.03 have they all understood, according to their own avowal? Have they all not understood? Or, have some understood? Or, have some not understood?”

“Enough, Subhadda, stop this: The Commentary notes that it was neither profitable nor opportune for the Buddha to refute the various sectarians at this point in time, so he simply taught his own Teaching.04 ‘Have they all understood, according to their own avowal? Have they all not understood? Or, have some understood? Or, have some not understood?’ I will teach the Teaching to you, Subhadda, listen to it, apply your mind well, and I will speak.”

“Very well, reverend Sir,” the wanderer Subhadda replied to the Gracious One, and the Gracious One said this: “Wherever, Subhadda, the Noble Eightfold Path is not found in a Teaching and Discipline there a (true) ascetic is not found, A (true) ascetic here refers to one who has reached the first path of Awakening, and is an Ariya Sotāpanna. Similarly with the second (Sakadāgāmī) third (Anāgāmī), and fourth (Arahatta) ascetics below.05 there a second (true) ascetic is not found, there a third (true) ascetic is not found, there a fourth (true) ascetic is not found.

But wherever, Subhadda, the Noble Eightfold Path is found in a Teaching and Discipline there a (true) ascetic is found, there a second (true) ascetic is found, there a third (true) ascetic is found, there a fourth (true) ascetic is found.

In this Teaching and Discipline, Subhadda, the Noble Eightfold Path is found, here a (true) ascetic is found, here a second (true) ascetic is found, here a third (true) ascetic is found, here a fourth (true) ascetic is found.

Void are the outside doctrines of these other ascetics, Subcomm: Parappavādā ti paresaṁ aññatitthiyānaṁ nānappakārā vādā titthāyatanāni; outside doctrines means the various doctrines and belief systems of the other sectarians.06 Subhadda, (but) if monks should live well, Comm: sammā vihareyyun-ti ettha sotāpanno attano adhigataṭṭhānaṁ aññassa kathetvā taṁ sotāpannaṁ karonto sammā viharati nāma, should live well, here a stream-enterer, having spoken about his attainment to another, (thereby) making him a stream-enterer, then this is known as living well. The same for those with the other attainments, or practising for the other attainments.07 the world will not be void of Worthy Ones.

(At) twenty-nine years, Subhadda,
I went forth a seeker of what is good, The Commentary says yaṁ here is merely a particle (without meaning), and continues: kiṁ kusalan-ti sabbaññutaññāṇaṁ adhippetaṁ; what is good means omniscient knowledge.08
More than fifty years ago, This is counting from the time of his going forth from the household life, after which he spent 6 years as an ascetic before Awakening, and forty-five years thereafter teaching.09
Wherefore I am (truly) gone forth, Subhadda.

Existing in the realm of the right Teaching Comm: padesavattī ti padese vipassanāmagge pavattanto; existing in the realm means continuing along the path of insight.10
Outside of this there is no (true) ascetic, Comm: padesavattivipassako pi natthi, paṭhamasamaṇo sotāpanno pi natthī ti vuttaṁ hoti; no one practising in the realm of insight, also no first ascetic who is a stream-enterer, this is what is said.11

a second (true) ascetic is not found, a third (true) ascetic is not found, a fourth (true) ascetic is not found. Void are the outside doctrines of these other ascetics, Subhadda, (but) if monks should live well, the world will not be void of Worthy Ones.”

After this was said, the wanderer Subhadda said this to the Gracious One: “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 for refuge, reverend Sir, and to the Teaching, and to the Community of monks. May I receive the going-forth, reverend Sir, in the presence of the Gracious One, may I receive the full ordination.”

“Those who were formerly of another sect who in this Teaching and Discipline desire the going-forth, who desire full ordination, live on probation for four months, and at the end of four months, the minds of the monks being satisfied, they give the going-forth and the full ordination into the monkhood. But I understand there is a distinction between persons in this case.”

“If, reverend Sir, those who were formerly of another sect who in this Teaching and Discipline, desire the going-forth, who desire full ordination, live on probation for four months, and at the end of four months, the minds of the monks being satisfied, they give the going-forth and the full ordination into the monkhood, then I will live on probation for four years, and at the end of four years, the minds of the monks being satisfied, they can give the going-forth and the full ordination into the monkhood.”

Then the Gracious One said this to venerable Ānanda: “Then, Ānanda, give the going-forth to Subhadda.”

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

Then the wanderer Subhadda said this to venerable Ānanda: “There are certainly gains for you, friend Ānanda, it is certainly a good gain for you, friend Ānanda, that here, face to face with the Teacher, you have been consecrated with an attendant's consecration.” Or: you have been sanctified with an attendant's sanctification, meaning: you have been blessed with the blessing of being an attendant.12

The wanderer Subhadda received the going forth in the presence of the Gracious One, received full ordination.

Then not long after ordination, venerable Subhadda, while dwelling solitary, secluded, heedful, ardent, and resolute, after no long time (attained) that good for which young gentlemen rightly go forth from the house to the houseless life, that unsurpassed conclusion to the spiritual life, and dwelt having known, experienced, and attained it himself in this very life.

Destroyed is (re)birth
accomplished is the spiritual life
done is what ought to be done
there is no more of this mundane state - this he knew.

And venerable Subhadda became another of the Worthy Ones. He was the last direct disciple of the Gracious One. Commentary: Saṅgītikārakānaṁ vacanaṁ; (these are) the words of those who held the (First) Council.13

The Fifth Chapter for Recital (is Finished)