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Buddhist Suttas

Translated from Pāli by T. W. Rhys Davids

Oxford, the Clarendon Press
1881
Vol. XI of The Sacred Books of the East
translated by various Oriental scholars and edited by F. Max Müller

Public Domain
This work has been reformatted for presentation on BuddhaDust
Thanks to J.B. Hare's Internet Sacred Text Archives for originally posting this material
Digitized and formatted for Internet Sacred Text Archives by Cristopher M. Weimer

IV
Ākaṇkheyya Sutta
If He Should Desire


[207]

Introduction


Just as the Tevijja Sutta is an argumentum ad hominem to the man wise in the Vedas, and seeking through that knowledge for union with the Deity, urging him to adopt rather the Buddhist method of a life of righteousness here on earth; so the present Sutta is a similar argument addressed to the seeker after the various things specified in its different sections. If he should desire any of these things then let him live the life of uprightness as set out in the opening section, and cultivate the intelligent earnestness and spiritual insight described in the refrain.

The two combined amount, as would naturally be expected, to the Nirvāṇa of a perfect life in Arahatship — the supreme goal not only of every good Buddhist, but of every good Buddhist argument. As applied in the earlier sections it is only a re-statement of a familiar doctrine; as applied in the later sections it has the additional interest of showing us the answer of early Buddhism to the mystics, as the Tevijja shows us its answer to the theologians. And in the answer we find the details of some curious beliefs which existed in India when Buddhism arose, and which in after times, and especially in the northern church, had so disastrous an effect upon it.

With regard to the reality of these mystical powers our Sutta gives an uncertain sound; leaving, however, an impression rather in its favour. The argument is equally good either way, but the author of the Sutta is so engrossed with Arahatship that he does not stay to say [208] whether he regards the belief in the powers referred to as a delusion or not. I have no doubt that he really believed in their theoretical possibility, which is elsewhere also in the Pāli Piṭakas accepted or implied; though the practical effect of the belief has greatly varied among Buddhists in different times and countries. In the southern church, which adhered more closely to the simple doctrines of early Buddhism, these beliefs have been relegated to the region of legend and fairy tale; in the northern church there have been found, from time to time, believers who attached to them a practical importance. There is a useful analogy between the expressions used in 1 Samuel xxviii, and those in the latter part of our Suttas; and between the general position of witchcraft in the history of Christianity, and of these beliefs in the history of Buddhism; but it would take too long to carry out the comparison and contrast in detail here, and with due regard to the necessary limitations under which the comparison should be made. The analogy only reaches to their history, and to their relative importance in the religious systems with which they were connected; the two sets of belief themselves are fundamentally different, the Indian beliefs being much more nearly allied to modern spiritualism and mesmerism.

We have a curious instance of the way in which such legends grow in a parallel passage of the earlier and later lives of Gotama as accepted by orthodox Buddhists. In the Mahā Vagga[1] it is said that during the first watch of the night following on Gotama's victory over the Evil One, he fixed his mind upon the Chain of Causation, during the second watch he did the same, and during the third watch he did the same — the only difference in the narrative being the verses with which in each of the three watches the meditation closed.

In the life of Gotama prefixed to the Jātakas[2]. the simplicity of this account is improved away by saying that [209] in the first watch he acquired the knowledge of Past Births (Pubbe-nivāsa-nānā, described in our Ī 17), in the second the knowledge of Present Births (Dibba-cakkhu, described in our Ī 19), and only in the third the knowledge of the Chain of Causation (Paticca-samuppāda). It is curious that in the corresponding passage of the northern Buddhist Sanskrit poem, the Lalita Vistara[3], we find precisely the same tradition, which must therefore have been current in both northern and southern churches before the fifth century of our era.

I think it is quite possible that at that time it had become part of the Buddhist theory that every Arahat possessed this supernatural insight; and as Gotama was supposed by the authors of these two later works to have acquired Arahatship by his victory over the Evil One, it naturally seemed to them proper to say that he then also acquired these particular powers. It is clear that even in the time when the Piṭakas were put into their present form it was considered that the Buddha had acquired them[4], and that they could be acquired by less exalted persons[5]. In the later literature several instances are given of particular persons who possessed one or other of them in a greater or less degree; but it is instructive to notice that these are always persons who lived long before the time of the writer who records the instances.

The early Buddhist doctrine as to witchcraft, astrology, omens, auguries, sacrifices, prophecies, and the like, will be found in the Mahā Sīla (above, pp. 196-200), and in the Third Fetter (below, p. 222).

 


 

[210]

If He Should Desire
Ākakaṇkheyya Sutta

1. THUS HAVE I HEARD. The Blessed One was once staying at Sāvatthi in Anāthapiṇḍika's park.

There the Blessed One addressed the Brethren, and said, 'Bhikkhus.' 'Yea, Lord!' said the Brethren, in assent, to the Blessed One.

Then spake the Blessed One:

2. 'Continue, Brethren, in the practice of Right Conduct[6], adhering to the Rules of the Order[7]; continue enclosed by the restraint of the Rules of the Order, devoted to uprightness in life[8]; train yourselves according to the Precepts[9], taking them upon you in the sense of the danger in the least offence.

3. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to become beloved, popular, respected among his fellow-disciples, let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within[10], let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation[11], let him look through things[12], let him be much alone!'

[211] 4. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to receive the requisites — clothing, food, lodging, and medicine, and other necessaries for the sick — let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

5. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, that to those people among whom he receives the requisites — clothing, food, lodging, and medicine, and other necessaries for the sick — that charity of theirs should redound to great fruit and great advantage, let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

6. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, that those relatives of his, of one blood with him, dead and gone, who think of him with believing heart should find therein great fruit and great advantage[13], let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

7. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, that he [212] should be victorious over discontent and lust[14], that discontent should never overpower him, that he should master and subdue any discontent that had sprung up within him, let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

8. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, that he should be victorious over (spiritual) danger and dismay, that neither danger nor dismay should ever overcome him, that he should master and subdue every danger and dismay, let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

9. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to realise the hopes of those spiritual men who live in the bliss which comes, even in this present world, from the four Jhānas, should he desire not to fall into the pains and difficulties (which they avoid), let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone[15]!'

10. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to reach with his body and remain in those stages of deliverance which are incorporeal, and pass beyond [213] phenomena[16], let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

11. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, by the complete destruction of the three Bonds to become converted, to be no longer liable to be reborn in a state of suffering, and to be assured of final salvation[17], let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

12. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, by the complete destruction of the three Bonds, and by the reduction to a minimum of lust, hatred, and delusion, to become a Sakadāgāmin, and (thus) on his first return to this world to make an end of sorrow, let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

13. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, by the complete destruction of the five Bonds which bind people to this earth, to become an inheritor of the highest heavens[18], there to pass entirely away, thence [214] never to return, let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

14.[19] 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to exercise one by one each of the different Iddhis, being one to become multiform, being multiform to become one; to become visible, or to become invisible; to go without being stopped to the further side of a wall, or a fence, or a mountain, as if through air; to penetrate up and down through solid ground, as if through water; to walk on the water without dividing it, as if on solid ground; to travel cross-legged through the sky, like the birds on wing; to touch and feel with the hand even the sun and the moon, mighty and powerful though they be; and to reach in the body even up to the heaven of Brahmā; let him then fulfil all righteousness, [215] let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

15.[20] 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to hear with clear and heavenly ear, surpassing that of men, sounds both human and celestial, whether far or near, let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

16.[21] 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to comprehend by his own heart the hearts of other beings and of other men; to discern the passionate mind to be passionate, and the calm mind calm; the angry mind to be angry; and the peaceable, peaceable; the deluded mind to be deluded; and the wise mind, wise; the concentrated thoughts to be concentrated, and the scattered to be scattered; the lofty mind to be lofty; and the narrow mind narrow; the sublime thoughts to be sublime, and the mean to be mean; the steadfast mind to be steadfast, and the wavering to be wavering; the free mind to be free; and the enslaved mind to be enslaved; let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

17. 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to be able to call to mind his various temporary states in days gone by; such as one birth, two births, [216] three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred or a thousand, or a hundred thousand births[22]; his births in many an æon of destruction, in many an æon of renovation, in many an æon of both destruction and renovation[23]; (so as to be able to say), "In that place such was my name, such my family, such my caste[24], such my subsistence, such my experience of comfort or of pain, and such the limit of my life; and when I passed from thence, I took form again in that other place where my name was so and so, such my family, such my caste, such my subsistence, such my experience of comfort or of joy, and such my term of life; and when I fell from thence, I took form in such and such a place[25];" — should he desire thus to call to mind his temporary states in days gone by in all their modes and all their details let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

18.[26] 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, to see with pure and heavenly vision, surpassing that of [217] men, beings as they pass from one state of existence and take form in others; beings base or noble, good-looking or ill-favoured, happy or miserable, according to the karma they inherit — (if he should desire to be able to say), "These beings, reverend sirs, by their bad conduct in action, by their bad conduct in word, by their bad conduct in thought, by their speaking evil of the Noble Ones[27], by their adhesion to false doctrine, or by their acquiring the karma of false doctrine[28], have been reborn, on the dissolution of the body after death, in some unhappy state of suffering or woe[29]." "These beings, reverend sirs, by their good conduct in action, by their good conduct in word, by their good conduct in thought, by their not speaking evil of the Noble Ones, by their adhesion to right doctrine, by their acquiring the karma of right doctrine, have been reborn, on the dissolution of the body after death, into some happy state in heaven;" — should he desire thus to see with pure and heavenly vision, surpassing that of men, beings as they thus pass from one state of existence and take form in others; beings base or noble, good-looking or ill-favoured, happy or miserable, according to the karma they inherit; let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs [218] from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

19.[30] 'If a Bhikkhu should desire, Brethren, by the destruction of the great evils (Āsavas[31]), by himself, and even in this very world, to know and realise and attain to Arahatship, to emancipation of heart, and emancipation of mind, let him then fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!'

20. 'Continue therefore, Brethren, in the practice of Right Conduct, adhering to the Rules of the Order; continue enclosed by the restraint of the Rules of the Order, devoted to uprightness in life; train yourselves according to the Precepts, taking them upon you in the sense of the danger in the least offence. For to this end alone has all, that has been said, been said!'

21. Thus spake the Blessed One. And those Brethren, delighted in heart, exalted the word of the Blessed One.

 


 

END OF THE ĀKAṆKHEYYA SUTTA

 


 


[1]I, 1, 2-6.

[2]Jātaka I, 75, translated in 'Buddhist Birth Stories,' p. 102.]

[3]Calcutta edition, pp. 440-448.

[4]See, for instance, the Tevijja-vacchagotta Sutta.

[5]Sāmaññaphala Sutta, pp. 144-154.

[6]Sīla.

[7]Pātimokkhā.

[8]Ācāragocarā. Comp. Tevijja Sutta I, 49.

[9]Sikkhāpadesu. The Buddhist Decalogue (given in 'Buddhism,' p. 160).

[10]Ajjhattam ceto samathaṃ.

[11]Jhāna.

[12]Vipassanā: it is always used, in contrast to samatha {footnote p. 211} (note 5), of insight into objective phenomena. These three qualities are constantly referred to as parts of Arahatship. The Rev. David da Silva makes vipassanā identical with the sevenfold perception (saññā, mentioned as conditions of the welfare of a community in the Book of the Great Decease, Chap. I, Ī 10).

[13]Even after death those who remember the Buddha, the Truth, or the Order with believing heart can reap spiritual advantage. Compare the Dhammapada commentary, p. 97.]

[14]Aratiratisaho. Arati is the disinclination to fulfil the duties of a Samaṇa, discontent with the restrictions of the Order.

[15]The bliss here referred to, and described in detail below, Mahā-Sudassana Sutta, Chap. III, is the 'ecstasy of contemplation' referred to in the refrain.]

[16]These are the eight Vimokkhā, a list of which occurs in the Great Decease, Chap. III, ĪĪ 33-42.

[17]On this and the two following sections compare Mahāparinibbāna Sutta II, 7, and on the Bonds or Fetters below, p. 222.

[18]Opapātika. This is another of those words which, from their connoting Buddhist ideas unknown in Europe, are really untranslatable. It means a being who springs into existence without the intervention of parents, and therefore, as it were, {footnote p. 214} uncaused, and seeming to appear by chance. All the higher devas (angels or gods) are opapātika, there being no sex or birth in the highest heavens; and it is with especial allusion to this that the word is here used. There is of course from the Buddhist point of view (which admits of nothing without a cause) a very sufficient cause for the sudden appearance of an opapātika in heaven, viz. the karma of a being who has past away somewhere else; but the Buddhist theory necessitated the choice of an expression which would give no countenance to the (heretical) idea of a soul flying away after the death of its body from one world to another.
In the expression 'which bind people to this world,' by world is meant the Rūpa-loka, or world of form, which include all those parts of the universe whose inhabitants have an outward form and are subject to lusts.

[19]With this paragraph compare Mahāparinibbāna Sutta III, 14, and Sāmañña Phala Sutta, p. 145.

[20]With this paragraph compare Sāmaññaphala Sutta, p. 146.

[21]Compare M. P. S. I, 16, and Sāmaññaphala Sutta, p. 147.]

[22]The Lalita Vistara (p. 442) characteristically carries this enumeration further up into innumerable koṭis and niyutas of births.

[23]This is based on the Buddhist theory of the periodical destruction and renovation of the universe, each of which takes countless years to be accomplished.

[24]Vaṇṇa, colour.

[25] The text of this clause recurs nearly word for word in the Brahma-jāla Sutta, pp. 17-21: and in the Lalita Vistara, Chap. XXII, p. 442; and exactly in the Sāmañña Phala Sutta, p. 148.

[26] This paragraph recurs in the Sāmañña Phala Sutta, p. 150, and in nearly the same words in the Lalita Vistara, Chap. XXII.

[27]This is a collective term, meaning Buddhas, Pacceka Buddhas, Arahats, Anāgāmins, Sakadāgāmins, and Sotāpannas; that is, those who are walking in the Noble Eightfold Path.

[28]The Pāli is miccha- (and below sammā-) diṭṭhi-kamma-samādāna; the Lalita Vistara, whose other expressions are identical with the Pāli, has, very strangely, mithyā- (and below samyag-) diṭṭhi-karma-dharma-samādāna.

[29]See note on M. P. S., Chap. I, Ī 23.]

[30]Compare Sāmañña Phala Sutta, p. 151; Mahāparinibbāna Sutta II, 7; and Lalita Vistara, Chap. XXII, p. 442.

[31]Sensuality, individuality, delusion, and ignorance.]

 


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