Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
II. Majjhima-Paṇṇāsa
4. Rāja Vagga

Sacred Books of the Buddhists
Volume VI
Dialogues of the Buddha
Part V

Further Dialogues of the Buddha
Volume II

Translated from the Pali
by Lord Chalmers
G.C.B.
Sometime Governor of Ceylon

London
Humphrey Milford
Oxford University Press
1927
Public Domain

Sutta 82

Raṭṭhapāla Suttaɱ

Of Renouncing The World

 


[54] [28]

[1][lupt][pts][than][ntbb][upal] THUS have I heard:

Once when the Lord was on an alms-pilgrimage in the Kuru country with a great company of Almsmen,
he stayed at Thullakoṭṭhita,
which is a township of the Kurus.

It came to the ears of the brahmin heads of families in Thullakoṭṭhita
that the recluse Gotama,
a Sakyan who had gone forth as a Pilgrim from a Sakyan family,
had come to their village
in the course of an alms-pilgrimage in Kosala,
with a great train of Almsmen.

Such, they heard,
was the high repute noised abroad concerning the reverend Gotama
that he was said to be -
The Lord,
Arahat all-enlightened,
walking by knowledge,
blessed,
understanding all worlds,
the matchless tamer of the human heart,
teacher of gods and men,
the Lord of Enlightenment.

This universe -
with its gods,
Māras,
Brahmās,
recluses and brahmins,
embracing all gods and mankind -,
all this he has discerned
and realized for himself
and makes known to others.

He preaches a Doctrine,
which is so fair in its outset,
its middle,
and its close,
with both text and import;
he propounds a higher life
that is wholly complete and pure.

It is good to go and visit Arahats like him.

So the brahmins of Thullakoṭṭhita
went to the Lord and,
after exchanging civil greetings,
took their seats to one side, -
some after salutations,
some after greetings,
some with joined palms respectfully outstretched,
some after mention of their names and family,
and others again in silence.

When they were seated,
the Lord instructed and roused them with a talk on the Doctrine,
fired them and cheered them onward.

[29] [1]'Seated among them was a young man named Raṭṭhapāla,
a scion of a leading family of the place,
to whom this thought came: -

So far as 1 understand the Doctrine which the Lord has preached,
it is no easy matter for one who lives in a home
to lead the higher life
in all its fulness,
purity,
and perfection;
what if I were to cut off hair and beard,
don the yellow robes
and go forth from home to homelessness as a Pilgrim!

Having received their instruction from the Lord,
the brahmin heads of houses of Thullakoṭṭhita gratefully thanked him,
rose up [56] and departed with deep obeisance.

They had not been gone long,
when Raṭṭhapāla came up
and after salutations
told the Lord the thought which had come to him,
and asked to be admitted to,
and confirmed in,
the Confraternity under the Lord.

Have you your parents' consent for this step, Raṭṭhapāla?

No, sir.

Truth-finders do not admit
those who have not their parents' consent.

That consent, sir,
I will take steps to obtain,
said the young man,
who, rising up and taking a reverential leave of the Lord,
went off to his parents,
told them his thoughts
and asked their consent to his becoming a Pilgrim.

The parents made answer as follows: -

Dear Raṭṭhapāla,
you are our only son,
very dear to us and beloved;
you live in comfort
and have been brought up in comfort,
with no experience at all of discomfort.

[Go away;
eat,
[57] drink,
enjoy yourself,
and do good works
in all happiness.

We refuse our consent.]

Your death would leave us desolate,
with no pleasure left in life;
why, while we have you still,
should we consent to your going forth
from home to homelessness as a Pilgrim?

A second and yet a third time
did Raṭṭhapāla repeat [30] his request,
only to be met by the same refusal from his parents.

Failing thus to get his parents consent,
the young man flung himself down on the bare ground,
declaring that he would either die there or become a Pilgrim.

[58] His parents entreated him to get up,
while repeating their objections to his becoming a Pilgrim;
but the young man said not a word.

A second and a third time they entreated him,
but still he said not a word.

[So the parents sought out Raṭṭhapāla's companions
whom they told of all this
and besought them to urge,
as from themselves,
what his parents had said to him.]

[59] Thrice his companions appealed to him;
but still he said not a word.

So his companions came to the parents
with this report: -

There on the bare ground he lies,
declaring that he will either die there
[60] or become a Pilgrim.

If you refuse your consent,
he will never get up alive.

But, if you give your consent,
you will see him when he has become a Pilgrim.

Should he not like being a Pilgrim,
what alternative will he have? -

Why, only to come back here.

Do give your consent!

Yes, we consent; -
but when he is a Pilgrim,
he must come and see us.

Off now went his companions to Raṭṭhapāla,
whom they told that his parents gave their consent,
but that when he was a Pilgrim
he was to come and see them.

Thereupon the young man arose and,
when he had regained his strength,
betook him to the Lord,
and after salutations
seated himself to one side,
saying: -

I have got my parents' consent
to my becoming a Pilgrim;
I ask the Lord to admit me.

Admission and confirmation
were granted him under the Lord;
and some fortnight afterwards
the Lord, having stayed at Thullakoṭṭhita as long as he wanted,
proceeded on his alms-pilgrimage towards Sāvatthī,
where [61] he took up his abode
in Jeta's grove in Anāthapiṇḍika's pleasaunce.

Dwelling alone and aloof,
strenuous,
ardent and purged of self,
the reverend Raṭṭhapāla was not long [31] before he won the prize
in quest of which young men go forth from home
to homelessness as Pilgrims,
that prize of prizes
which crowns the highest life; -
even this did he think out for himself,
realize,
enter on,
and abide in,
here and now;
and to him came the knowledge
that for him rebirth was no more;
that he had lived the highest life;
that his task was done;
and that now for him
there was no more of what he had been.

Thus, the reverend Raṭṭhapāla
was numbered among the Arahats.

Then, he went to the Lord and,
seated to one side after salutations,
said that, with the Lord's permission,
he wished to go and see his parents.

Scanning with his own heart
the thoughts of Raṭṭhapāla's heart,
and recognizing thereby
that he was incapable of abandoning his training
and reverting to the lower life of a layman,
the Lord bade him go when he would.

Hereupon, rising up
and taking his leave of the Lord
with deep reverence,
Raṭṭhapāla, after duly putting away his bedding,
set out, with his robe and bowl,
on an alms-pilgrimage to Thullakoṭṭhita
where he took up his abode
in the deer-park of the Kuru king.

Early next morning,
duly robed and bowl in hand,
he went into the town for alms
and there, as he passed from house to house
on his undiscriminating round,
he came to his father's house.

Indoors, in the hall within the middle door,
his father was having his hair combed and,
seeing Raṭṭhapāla coming in the distance,
he said: -

It was these shavelings of recluses
who made a Pilgrim of my dear and beloved only son.

[62] So at his own father's house
Raṭṭhapāla was given nothing,
not even a refusal;
all he got was abuse.

At this moment a slave-girl of the family
was about to throw away yesterday's stale rice;
and to her Raṭṭhapāla said: -

If, sister, that is to be thrown away,
put it in my bowl here.

As the girl was doing so,
she recognized his hands and feet and voice,
and, going straight to her mistress,
cried out: -

Do you know, madam? -

The young master is back.

If what you say is true,
you are a slave no longer, [32] said the mother,
who hurried off to tell her husband
that she heard their son was back.

Raṭṭhapāla was eating that stale rice
under the hedge
when his father arrived,
exclaiming: -

Can it be, my dear son,
that you are eating stale rice?

Should you not have come to your own house?

What house of our own, householder,
can we have who are homeless,
having gone forth from home
to homelessness as Pilgrims?

I did come [63] to your house, -
where I was given nothing,
not even a refusal;
all I got was abuse.

Come, my son;
let us go indoors.

Not so, householder;
I have finished my eating for to-day.

Well then, my son,
promise to take your meal here to-morrow.

By his silence the reverend Raṭṭhapāla gave consent.

Noting this,
the father went indoors ,-
where first he ordered great heaps of gold and bullion
to be piled up under a covering of mats
and then he told his daughters-in-law,
who had been the reverend Raṭṭhapāla's wives aforetime,
to deck themselves out in all the finery
their husband liked to see them in.

When night had passed,
the father, having ordered an excellent meal
to be got ready in his house,
told his son when it was ready.

Thereupon, early that forenoon,
the reverend Raṭṭhapāla,
duly robed and bowl in hand,
came and took the seat set for him.

Hereupon, ordering the heap of treasure to be unveiled,
the father said; -

This is your mother's fortune,
that is your father's,
and that came from your grandfather.

You have the wherewithal
both to enjoy yourself
and to do good works.

Come, my son;
[64] abandon your training;
revert to the lower life of the layman;
enjoy your substance and do good works.

If you will take my advice, householder,
you will cart away all this heaped-up treasure
and sink it in the middle of the Ganges.

And why? -

Because thence you will only derive sorrow and lamentation,
ills,
pain of mind,
pain of body,
and tribulation.

[33] Clinging to his feet,
the reverend Raṭṭhapāla's whilom wives
asked what like were the nymphs divine
for whose sake he was leading the higher life.

For the sake of no nymphs at all,
sisters, said he.

At hearing themselves called sisters,
the ladies all fell to the ground in a faint.

Said Raṭṭhapāla to his father: -

If food is to be given, householder,
give it;
trouble me not.

The food is ready, my son;
begin: said the father
as he served that excellent meal
without stint
till his son had had his fill.

His meal over and done,
the reverend Raṭṭhapāla uttered these verses,
standing the while: -

This pranked-out semblance view,
this mass corrupt of sores and cares,
which passes soon away.

Come view this pranked-out frame with jewels dight,
these bones skin-clad,
which borrow charm from clothes;
come view these henna'd feet,
this powder'd face.

Delusions vain the fool may satisfy,
but never him whose guest seeks goals Beyond.

[65] Ah, braided hair'. Ah, eyes by art enhanced!

Delusions vain the fool may satisfy,
but never him whose quest seeks goals Beyond.

Adorned, this frame like rare pomander shows.

Delusions vain the fool may satisfy,
but never him whose quest seeks goals Beyond.

The trapper set his gin; the stag it shunned: -

First feed, then leave the trapper to his tears.

When, still standing,
he had uttered these verses,
he departed to the deer-park of the Kuru king,
where he sat down under a tree during the noontide heat.

Now the king had given directions to his huntsman
to tidy up the park against his coming to see it;
and the obedient huntsman was engaged on his task
when he saw Raṭṭhapāla
seated under his tree during the noontide heat,
and reported to the king
that the park was in order
but that under a tree
there was seated Raṭṭhapāla,
the young gentleman
of whom his majesty had often heard tell.

Never mind about the park to- [34] day, said the king;
I will pay a call on his reverence.

Ordering, therefore,
all the repast which had been prepared
to be left behind,
and his chariots,
so fair, so fair,
to be made ready,
he mounted one of them
and drove forth in procession in royal state
out of the city
to see Raṭṭhapāla.

Riding as far as the ground was passable for his chariot
and proceeding thence on foot
with his princely train,
the king came at last upon the reverend Raṭṭhapāla,
whom, [66] after exchange of courteous greetings,
the king - still standing -
invited to be seated on a clump of flowers.

Chalmers has abridged this passage to the point of obscurity. Note that Raṭṭhapāla has not stood up for the king. The king will have understood this and not taken offence. Apparently wishing to make merit the king offers Raṭṭhapāla a rug to sit on. See Horner or Nanamoli/Bodhi for a clearer picture.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

Nay, sire;
sit you there;
I have got a seat.

Seating himself on the seat indicated to him,
the king said: -

There are four kinds of loss, Raṭṭhapāla,
which impel men to cut off hair and beard,
don the yellow robes,
and go forth from home to homelessness as Pilgrims, -
namely,
(i) old-age,
(ii) failing health,
(iii) impoverishment, and
(iv) death of kinsfolk.

(1) Take a man who,
being aged and old,
far advanced in life,
stricken in years,
and at the close of life,
recognizes his position,
and realizes the difficulty either of acquiring new wealth
or of doing well with what he has got; -
so he decides to become a Pilgrim.

This is known as
the loss which old-age entails.

But here are you
in the prime of youth and early manhood,
with a wealth of coal-black hair
untouched by grey,
and in all the beauty of your prime; -
not yours is the loss old-age entails.

What have you known or seen or heard
to make you turn Pilgrim?

(2) Or take a man who,
being in ill-health or pain,
or gravely ill,
recognizes his position
and realizes the difficulty
either of acquiring new wealth
or of doing well with what he has already;
[67] so he decides to become a Pilgrim.

This is known as
the loss which failing health entails.

But here are you
neither ill nor ailing,
with a good digestion
maintained by humours neither too hot nor too cold; -
not yours is the loss
which failing health entails.

What have you known or seen or heard
to make you turn Pilgrim?

[35] (3) Or take a man who,
after being rich and wealthy
and of great substance,
and after gradually losing it,
recognizes his position
and realizes the difficulty
either of acquiring new wealth
or of doing well with what he has got; -
so he decides to become a Pilgrim.

This is known as
the loss which impoverishment entails.

But here are you,
the heir of a leading family in our Thullakoṭṭhita; -
not yours is the loss
which impoverishment entails.

What have you known or seen or heard
to make you turn Pilgrim?

(4) Or, again, take a man who,
after having had a host of friends and relations,
and after having gradually lost them all,
recognizes his position
and realizes the difficulty
either of acquiring new wealth
or of doing well with what he has got; -
[68] so he decides to become a Pilgrim.

This is known as
the loss which kinsfolk's death entails.

But here are you with a host of friends and relations; -
not yours is the loss
which kinsfolk's death entails.

What have you known or seen or heard
to make you turn Pilgrim?

I have gone forth, sire,
from home to homelessness as a Pilgrim
because I have known, seen, and heard
the following four propositions
enunciated by the Lord who knows and sees,
the Arahat all-enlightened:-

(i) The world is in continual flux and change;

(ii) The world is no protector or preserver;

(iii) The world owns nothing;
we must leave everything behind;

(iv) The world lacks and hankers,
being enslaved to Craving.

(1) When you say, sir,
that the world is in continual flux and change,
what might that mean?

When you were twenty, sire,
or five and twenty,
could you handle an elephant,
a horse,
a chariot,
a bow and a sword?

Were you strong of leg and arm,
a doughty warrior in the fight?

Indeed, I was: -
at times inspired,
you might say;
I never met my match.

Are you to-day what you were then, sire?

No, Raṭṭhapāla.

I am old now and stricken in [36] years, -
round eighty years of age; -
at times when I want to step in one direction,
I step in another.

It was this which the Lord meant
when he said the world is in continual flux and change;
and it was this which I knew and saw and heard,
and so became a Pilgrim.

It is wonderful, sir,
it is marvellous,
how right in this the Lord was;
for, indeed,
the world is in a continual flux and change.

{2) Here in my own entourage there are elephants,
horses,
chariots,
and footmen who,
in our hour of need,
would [70] rally in defence.

When you say, sir,
that the world is no protector or preserver,
what might this mean?

Do you suffer from any chronic ailment,
sire?

Yes, - from wind;
and so badly that at times my court and kinsfolk,
as they stand round me,
think every moment I am going to expire.

Can you tell them to ease your pain
by parcelling it out among themselves?

Or do you alone have to bear it.

I alone have to bear it,
and cannot tell them to parcel it out among themselves
so as to relieve me.

It was this which the Lord meant
when he said the world is no protector or preserver;
and it was this which I knew and saw and heard,
and so became a Pilgrim.

It is wonderful,
it is marvellous,
how right in this the Lord was;
for, indeed,
the world is no protector or preserver.

(3) Here in my own possession
I have a vast hoard of gold and silver.

When you said that the world owns nothing
and that we must leave everything behind,
what might that mean?

Do you think, sire,
that [71] it will be yours to calculate
on continuing hereafter
the gratification you now enjoy
of the fivefold pleasures of sense?

Or, will others come into your belongings,
while you pass away
to fare according to your deserts?

I can calculate on no such continuance,
Raṭṭhapāla;
[37] others will come into my belongings,
while I shall pass away
to fare according to my deserts.

It was this which the Lord meant
when he said that the world owns nothing
and that we must leave everything behind;
and it was this which I knew and saw and heard
and so became a Pilgrim.

It is wonderful,
it is marvellous,
how right in this the Lord was;
for, indeed,
the world owns nothing
and we must leave everything behind.

(4) When you said that the world lacks and hankers,
being enslaved to Craving,
what might that mean?

Is this Kuru country of yours prosperous,
sire?

Yes, it is.

Suppose a trustworthy and reliable man
brought you from the east
a report that there he had seen a great country
rich and prosperous,
populous and thronged with inhabitants;
abounding in elephants,
horses,
chariots and footmen;
rich in ivory,
rich in silver and gold both raw and wrought,
with women in abundance.

Suppose, further,
that the man estimated
that you could conquer that country
with such and such a force,
and counselled you to conquer it accordingly. -

What action would you take?

[72] I should conquer it and possess it.

Suppose you received like reports
about countries in the west,
the north,
and the south.

What action would you take?

I should conquer them and possess them all.

It was this which the Lord meant
when he said that the world lacks and hankers,
being enslaved to Craving;
and it was this which I knew and saw and heard,
and so became a Pilgrim.

It is wonderful,
it is marvellous,
how right in this the Lord was;
for, indeed,
the world lacks and hankers,
being enslaved to Craving.

After saying this,
the reverend Raṭṭhapāla went on to say: -

Rich men I see who, folly-led, ne'er give,
but still amass, athirst for pleasures new.

[38] The king whose conquests to the sea extend,
for sway o'er empires overseas will pine.

[78] Still craving, kings and subjects pass away;
lacking, still lacking, they their bodies quit;
never on earth can pleasure's maw be fill'd.

Tearing their hair, the kinsmen mourn their dead,
wishing their own folk deathless were. In shroud,
the corpse they carry to the pyre; and there,
in that sole vestment, reft of all besides,
he burns to ashes, hauled about with prongs.

No kin, no friends can save the dying man;
his heirs his substance take; he passes hence
to fare hereafter as his life deserved,
-sans wealth, sans wife, sans children, wealth, and realm.
Wealth buys not length of days, nor staves off age.

The wise say life is brief, a fleeting flux.
One equal stroke strikes down both rich and poor,
both wise and foolish. Fools in folly fall;
the wise without a tremor meet their stroke.
More excellent than riches Wisdom proves,
which here and now Perfection's crown secures.

If imperfections linger, error breeds
misdeeds in life hereafter, high or low;
in transmigration's round man whirls along
from birth to birth, world still succeeding world,
- both he and all his witless followers.

[74] Like burglars caught in act of breaking in,
so men - hereafter - expiate their crimes.
The tempting charms of pleasure's varied lure
Churn up the heart to turmoil perilous.

- This, sire, I saw, - and went on Pilgrimage.
I saw how young and old, like fruit from tree,
in mortal dissolution fall, - and went
on Pilgrimage. The friar's life is best.

 


[1] The same story is told, in practically the same words, about Sudinna at Vinaya III, 11-15.


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