§ 77. The Attainment of Nirvana by Godhika

Translated from the Dhammapada, and from Buddhaghosa's Commentary to stanza 57


The flower's fragrance goes not to the windward,
Nor sandal-wood, the tagara, or jasmine;
But of the good the fragrance goes to windward --
The holy man suffuses every quarter.


Or sandal-wood, or tagara,
Or lotus-flower, or jessamine --
Of all these various kinds of scents,
The virtuous give the scent most rare.



A feeble fragrance is it comes
From tagara and sandal-wood;
But fragrance that the virtuous give,
Sublimely floats the gods among.


Of such as these, in virtues rich,
Of vigilant and sober lives,
With minds by perfect knowledge freed,
No track or path the Slayer finds.

"Of such as these, in virtues rich." This doctrinal instruction was given by The Teacher while dwelling at Bamboo Grove in the vicinity of Rājagaha; and it was concerning the attainment of Nirvana by Godhika the elder.

This venerable man, while dwelling at Black Rock on the slopes of Isigili, being vigilant, austere, and strenuous, attained release for his mind in ecstatic meditation, and then through the power of a disease which beset him, the trance was broken up. A second time, a third time, up to the sixth time was his trance broken up.

At the seventh time, he thought,

"Six times has my trance been broken up, and doubtful is the fate of those who fail in trance. This time I will resort to the knife."

And taking a razor for shaving the hair, he lay down on a couch in order to cut his windpipe.

Māra, the Slayer, perceived his intention, and thought,

"This priest is about to use the knife; but they who do so are indifferent to life, and such attain to insight and saintship. If I should attempt to dissuade him, he would not heed me. I will get The Teacher to dissuade him."

Then he disguised himself, and drawing near to The Teacher, he spoke as follows:

"Thou Hero Great, profoundly wise,
Whose magic power full brightly shines,
Who hast o'ercome all sin and fear,
Thy feet I worship, Seeing One.


"Thy follower, O thou Hero Great,
Although o'er death victorious,
Doth long for death, and plotteth it;
Dissuade him, O thou Radiant One.
"Pray, shall thy follower, Blessed One,
Whose keen delight is in thy law
With goal unreached, not perfect trained,
So soon expire, O Chief of Men?"

At this instant the elder used the knife.

The Teacher recognized the Slayer, and pronounced the following stanza:

"Thus, verily, the valiant act,
Nor think to hanker after life!
Lo! Godhika uproots desire,
And, dying, has Nirvana gained."

Then The Blessed One, with a great number of priests, went to the place where the elder had lain down and used the knife.

At that moment the Slayer, the Wicked One, had become a pillar of smoke, as it were, or a bunch of darkness; and wondering to himself, "Where can it have fixed itself?" was searching in all directions for the elder's rebirth-consciousness.

The Blessed One pointed out to the priests the smoke and darkness, and said,

"That, O priests, is the Slayer, the Wicked One. He is searching for the consciousness of the noble Godhika, to find out where it has fixed itself. But the noble Godhika, O priests, has attained Nirvana, and his consciousness has not fixed itself."

The Slayer, being unable to find out where the elder's consciousness was, assumed the appearance of a youth with a lute of the white wood of the bel-tree, and drawing near to The Teacher, he said,

"Where has Godhika gone? Though I search upwards [383] and downwards, and to all the points and intermediate points of the compass, I do not meet him."

Then said The Teacher to him,

"Always in meditation found
That brave, strong man his best delight;
Each day and night he practised it,
And recked not, cared not, for his life.
"Thus vanquished he Namuci's host;
No more to rebirth he returns.
Lo! Godhika uproots desire,
And, dying, has Nirvana gained."
The Demon sorely mortified,
Down from his side let fall the lute;
And in a sore, dejected mood,
He straightway disappeared from sight.

And The Teacher said:

"O Wicked One, what have you to do with the place of rebirth of the noble Godhika? A hundred or a thousand such as you could never detect his place of rebirth." So saying, he pronounced the stanza,

"Of such as these, in virtues rich,
Of vigilant and sober lives,
With minds by perfect knowledge freed,
No track or path the Slayer finds."

The Story of the Attainment of Nirvana by Godhika the Elder.


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