The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[The Sixth Chapter for Recitation]

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[41: The Final Emancipation]

Then the Gracious One attained the first absorption, and after emerging from the first absorption he attained the second absorption, and after emerging from the second absorption he attained the third absorption, and after emerging from the third absorption he attained the fourth absorption, The first 4 absorptions are referred to as the form absorptions (rūpajhāna), the next 4 are called formless absorptions (arūpajhāna).01 and after emerging from the fourth absorption he attained the sphere of endless space, and after emerging from the sphere of endless space he attained the sphere of endless consciousness, and after emerging from the sphere of endless consciousness he attained the sphere of nothingness, and after emerging from the sphere of nothingness, he attained the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, and after emerging from the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, he attained the cessation of perception and feeling.

Then venerable Ānanda said this to venerable Anuruddha: “(Has) the Gracious One, reverend Anuruddha, attained Final Emancipation?” From here onwards until the arrival of Ven. Mahākassapa, Ven. Anuruddha is the monk everyone turns to for guidance.02

“The Gracious One, reverend Ānanda, has not attained Final Emancipation, he has attained the cessation of perception and feeling.” The difference between being in this state and being dead in described in Mahāvedallasuttaṁ (MN 43), where it says in both the bodily, verbal, and mental processes (kāya-, vacī-, cittasaṅkhārā) have stopped and subsided; but in one who is dead the lifespan (āyu) has ended, the vital heat (usmā) has cooled down, and the faculties (indriya) have dispersed. Not so in one with this attainment, though from the outside it must be difficult to tell the difference.03

Then the Gracious One, after emerging from the cessation of perception and feeling, attained the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, and after emerging from the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception he attained the sphere of nothingness, and after emerging from the sphere of nothingness he attained the sphere of endless consciousness, and after emerging from the sphere of endless consciousness he attained the sphere of endless space, and after emerging from the sphere of endless space he attained the fourth absorption, and after emerging from the fourth absorption he attained the third absorption, and after emerging from the third absorption he attained the second absorption, and after emerging from the second absorption he attained the first absorption, and after emerging from the first absorption he attained the second absorption, and after emerging from the second absorption he attained the third absorption, and after emerging from the third absorption he attained the fourth absorption, and after emerging from the fourth absorption, immediately the Gracious One attained Final Emancipation.

When the Gracious One attained Final Emancipation along with the Emancipation there was a great earthquake, and an awful, horrifying crash of the Divinities' (thunder) drum.

When the Gracious One attained Final Emancipation along with the Emancipation Brahmā Sahampati spoke this verse: It was Brahmā Sahampati who had requested the newly Awakened Buddha to preach some 45 years previously.04

“All beings in the world will surely lay aside the body,
In the same way the Teacher, Such-like, unmatched in the world,
the Realised One, attained to (the ten) strengths, the Sambuddha, has attained Final Emancipation.”

When the Gracious One attained Final Emancipation along with the Emancipation Sakka, the Lord of the Divinities, spoke this verse:

“Impermanent, indeed, are (all) processes, arisen they have the nature to decay,
After arising they come to cessation, the stilling of them is blissful.” This famous verse is normally chanted by monks at a funeral.05

When the Gracious One attained Final Emancipation along with the Emancipation venerable Anuruddha spoke these verses:

“There is no more breathing for that Such-like one of steady mind,
Freed from lust, the Sage who has died, has entered the peace (of Nibbāna).
With an unshaken heart, he endured the painful feelings,
Like a flame (when it goes out) so his mind was liberated in Nibbāna.” In Aggivacchasuttaṁ (MN 72) the Buddha tells Vaccha that as with a fire that has gone out you cannot say it has gone to the East, West, North or South, similarly with the mind of someone who is fully released you cannot say that it will arise or not arise. The question simply doesn't apply.06

When the Gracious One attained Final Emancipation along with the Emancipation venerable Ānanda spoke this verse:

“With that there was fear, with that there was horror,
When the Sambuddha, endowed with all noble qualities, attained Emancipation.”

When the Gracious One attained Final Emancipation those monks there who were not free from passion, throwing up their arms, falling down (as though) cut down, rolling backwards and forwards as though with their feet cut off, were crying: ‘Too quickly the Gracious One has attained Final Emancipation, too quickly the Fortunate One has attained Final Emancipation, too quickly the Visionary in the world has disappeared!’ But those monks who were free from passion, mindfully, with full awareness, endured, (thinking): “Impermanent are (all) processes, how can it be otherwise?”

Then venerable Anuruddha said this to the monks: “Enough, friends, do not grieve, do not lament, were you not warned by the Gracious One when he declared: ‘There is alteration in, separation from, and changeability in all that is dear and appealing.’ How can it be otherwise, friends, for that which is obtained, born, become, in process, subject to dissolution? It is not possible (to say) this: ‘It should not dissolve’. The Divinities, friends, are complaining.”

“But what beings and Divinities is the venerable Anuruddha thinking of?”

“There are, friend Ānanda, Divinities in the sky, perceiving the Earth, who, having dishevelled hair, are weeping, throwing up their arms, falling down (as though) cut down, rolling backwards and forwards as though with their feet cut off, crying: ‘Too quickly the Gracious One has attained Final Emancipation, too quickly the Fortunate One has attained Final Emancipation, too quickly the Visionary in the world has disappeared!’

There are, friend Ānanda, Divinities on the Earth, perceiving the Earth, who, having dishevelled hair, are weeping, throwing up their arms, falling down (as though) cut down, rolling backwards and forwards as though with their feet cut off, crying: ‘Too quickly the Gracious One has attained Final Emancipation, too quickly the Fortunate One has attained Final Emancipation, too quickly the Visionary in the world has disappeared!’

But those Divinities, who have cut off passion, they mindfully, with full awareness, endure, (thinking): ‘Impermanent are (all) processes, how can it be otherwise?’ ”

Parinibbana of Lord Buddha