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The Mystery of Sariputta and the Sangiti Suttanta

This page is really just a staging area for an investigation. I am presenting this in the name of Dhamma Vicaya. The idea is that even the core suttas should be subject to examination when it comes to something as important as escaping pain, attaining the deathless.

My conclusion about the whole of the Digha Nikaya is that it is some kind of anthology. I doubt most of the suttas were delivered as we get them there. On the other hand it is an early anthology and I do not find much, if anything, that conflicts with any other of the sutta baskets when it comes to the actual content.

The question that needs to be asked is: Would someone who put together such an anthology (or sutta such as this) and who then claimed that it was as spoken by whom it was said to be spoken, when it was unlikely to have been spoken by whom it was said to have been spoken ... is such an editor also capable of altering the content in some way that reflects bias that will make trouble for the practitioner?

In regard to this my current inclination is to see the re-telling of the suttas in much the same way as we see story telling around the world is handled, that is, that the story teller is given certain latitude with regard to how the story is told. It is a basic assumption of BuddhaDust that the components of the Dhamma are intended to be utilized independantly of the suttas in whatever way best suits the circumstances. Also, in whatever manner a collection of Dhammas may eventually be delivered, if the content isn't altered, it is not incorrect to say: "The Bhagava said..."

 


 

Here is what I have gathered so far, in no special order.

 


 

Reference the Map in the "Buddha's India" section: ../../backmatter/appendixes/buddhas_india/buddhas_india.htm

 


 

DN.III:#33: Sangiti Suttanta: Sariputta is said to deliver this sutta in the Malla town of Pava at some time soon after ("...at that time the Nigantha Nataputta had just died at Pava.") the death of Nataputta the Jain.

 


 

Walshe, WP, LD#33, note 1012, pp 615: "This is undoubtedly a late Sutta. RD with characteristic caution says of this and DN 34: 'They contain here and there matter which suggests that they took their present shape at a later date than the bulk of the rest of the Digha.' It is associated, like DN 29, with the time immediately following the deth of the Nigantha Nataputta, the Jain leader, and it is located 'in the mango-grove of Cunda the smith', known to us from DN 16.4.14ff."

 


 

Rhys Davids, DN#XVI: The Book of the Great Decease, pp136-: The Buddha departs Bhoga-gama for Pava and resides in the Mango Grove of Chunda (Cunda) the worker in metals (the smith) who learns of the Buddha's arrival and offers him the meal that will become the Buddha's last meal. The meal makes him very sick, but he endures and finishes his journey to Kusinara where he dies that night in the last watch between two sal willows. There is no indication in DNXVI 4.14 and following how long the Buddha may have been living in Cunda's Mango Grove before it become known to Cunda. What is clear is that as soon as Cunda heard the Buddha was living in his Mango Grove, he went there and invited the Buddha to the meal that would become his last. Since it is hard to imagine that Cunda would not have been among those who attended the consecration of the new Meeting Hall of the Pava Mallas, it is not unreasonable to speculate that this event and his inviting the Buddha to Dinner could not have been separated by a great enough length of time to have allowed Sariputta to have visited Pava and gone back to his family home in Nalagamaka (400km (@200mile) round trip, and we understand that some of the more athletic of the bhikkhus could manage about 20 miles a day, walking[3] = 10 days, so possible, but Sariputta is sick! But he might have been given a ride, or perhaps a boat was available).

 


 

Walshe, WP, LD#29: The Buddha is residing among the Sakkyans at the time Nataputta has just died at Pava. Walshe notes (#900, pp607) "This raises a chronological problem, as the Jain leader is generally believed to have died after the Buddha..."

 


 

DPPN: Sariputta died some months before the Buddha. . . The Samyutta Nikaya records that he died at Nalagamaka (the place of his birth) and gives an eulogy of him pronounced by the Buddha after his death. There is no need to doubt the authenticity of this account. It merely states that when Sariputta was at Nalagamaka he was afflicted with a sore disease. His brother, Cunda-Samanuddesa, was attending on him when he died. His body was cremated, and Cunda took the relics to Savatthi with Sariputta's begging-bowl and outer robe.

 


 

S.v.161 (KS.V.140: Cunda): On a certain occasion the Exalted One was staying near Savatthi, at Jeta Grove, in Anathapindika's Park.

On that occasion the venerable Sariputta was staying among the Magadhese at Nalagamaka (note: "not far from Rajagaha, on his family property.') being sick, afflicted, stricken with a sore disease. Now Cunda the novice (note: not Cunda the Smith) was in attendance on the venerable Sariputta. And it was owing to this sickness that the venerable Sariputta passed away.

So Cunda the novice, taking the venerable Sariputta's bowl and outer robe, went to Savatthi..."

 


 

WP. Connected Discourses, V.13: Cunda, Bodhi, trans. note #157: "The event related in this sutta poses a problem for the traditional chronology of the Buddha's life. In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, Sariputta's lion's roar (just above) takes place during what appears to be the Buddha's final journey along the route from Rajagaha to Vesali. From Vesali the Buddha heads towards Kusinara without ever returning to Savatthi, some 200 km to the west. Yet the present sutta shows the Buddha residing at Savatthi when he receives the news of Sariputta's death. To preserve the traditional chronology, the commentaries (Spk here, and Sv II 550) have the Buddha make an additional side trip to Savatthi following his rains retreat at Beluvagamaka (see DN II 98-99), an excursion not mentioned in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. Sariputta accompanies him on this trip to Savatthi, later takes his leave, and returns to his native village Nalakagama, where he falls ill and dies. For the commentarial story of Sariputta's death see Nyanaponika, "Sariputta: The Marshal of the Dhamma." in Nyanaponika and Hecker, Great Disciples of the Buddha, pp. 47.-59.

 


 

DN.iii.29. (Long Discourses #29): "Once the Lord was staying among the Sakyans, at the (school) building in the mango grove belonging to the Vedhanna family. At that time the Nigantha Nataputta had just died at Pava...." and "...Now the novice Cunda, who had spent the Rains at Pava came to Samagama to see the Venerable Ananda (and reported on the death of the Nigantha)."

 


 

Sariputta's Lion's Roar: (WP. Connected Discourses, V.1640, Bodhi) takes place at Nalanda (just up the road from Rajagaha). DN has this being delivered in the same place, and places this on the Buddha's final journey, between his stay at Ambalatthika, and Pataligama from whence he goes to Kotigama, from whence he goes to Nadika, from whence he goes to Vesali, from whence he goes to Beluva where he spends the rains. So this would have Sariputta alive enough to give his lion's roar some time between the rains season the Buddha spends at Beluva and the previous rains (or an 8 month window).

 


 

Nalagama Birth and Deathplace of Sariputta. In Maha Sudassana Jataka it says:

When the Tathagata was at the Jetavana[1] he thought 'the Thera Sariputta, who was born at Nālagāma, has died, on the day of the full moon in the month of Kattika[2], in that very village; and Maha Moggallana in the latter, the dark half of that same month. As my two chief disciples are thus dead; I too will pass away at Kusinara.' Thereupon he proceeded straight on to that place, and lay down on the Uttara-sisaka couch, between the twin Sala trees, never to rise again.

 


[1]It is not easy with our present materials to reconcile the apparently conflicting statements with regard to the Buddha's last journey. According to the Malalankara-vatthu this refers here to a residence at the Jetavana, which took place between the end of Ī 30 in Chap. II, in the Book of the Great Decease, and the beginning of Ī 31. It will be noticed that Ī 31 speaks of 'the monastery,' which is apparently an undesigned confirmation of this tradition. (Such undesigned circumstances, however really undesigned, are very far, of course, from proving the actual truth of the tradition. They would only show that it was older than the time when the works in which they occur were put into their present shape.)
Mr. Fausböll, by his punctuation, includes these words in the following thought ascribed to the Blessed One, but I think they only describe the time at which the thought is supposed to have arisen.

[2]Or perhaps 'at Varaka.' I do not understand the word varaka, which has puzzled Mr. Fausböll. The modern name of the village, afterwards the site of the famous Buddhist university of Nālanda, is Baragaon. The full-moon day in Kattika is the 1st of December. An account of the death of Sariputta will be found in the Malalankara-vatthu (Bigandet, 'Legend,' etc., 3rd ed., II, 1-25), and of the murder of Moggallana by the Niganthas in the Dhammapada commentary (Fausböll, p. 298 seq.), of which Spence Hardy's account ('Manual of Buddhism,' p. 338) is nearly a translation; and Bigandet's account (loc. cit. pp. 25-27) is an abridgment.]

[3]In the description of the Buddha's first visit to Vesali in the Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, page 941, the journey from Rajagaha to the Ganges is said to take 5 days; this when the Buddha was only into his 5th year after his enlightenment.
The distance from the Ganges to Vesali is said to be 3 leagues (about 9 miles or half a day's walk).


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