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Discussing the Magandiya Sutta

You should first read the Magandiya Spell heeding the Foreword:

Please, my friends, do not read this spell with haste. This is a thrilling sutta, enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck. Read this slowly. Savour it. Here you can see The Consummately Awakened One at work. There is nothing here of technical talk, only just an ever so gentle but ever so relentless bringing Magandiya up to such terrifying heights that there is no choice for him as to his next direction. The Master Potter in his Kiln room, forming and Firing his Pot.

The Magandiya Spell

"How-ya gonna keep-um down on the farm, once they've seen Saint Lou?"

I just want to point out a couple of things about this sutta:

In the crudest of condensations, the opening of the sutta goes like this:

Magandiya: That Buddha is a killjoy.
Gotama: Did you call me a killjoy because I speak of controlling the senses and letting go of thirst (taṇhā) for sense experience?
Magandiya: Yes
Gotama: What do you say about a person that has thoroughly enjoyed sense experience and then moves on?
Magandiya: Nothing.

At exactly this first exchange Magandiya has been defeated. He was either just shooting off his mouth and didn't understand what he was saying, or he held a double standard, one for Gotama specifically and one for others who do the same thing.

At this point Magandiya is stuck and there is nothing really more for him to do but to get up and run away or to sit it out. And Gotama relentlessly ups, and ups and ups and ups and ups the wager from there.

There is a point where I actually really did experience my hair rising on the back of my neck. It's in the section after the simile with the leper where the cured leper looks back on the still sick leper. Gotama asks Magandiya if he thinks the cured leper is envious of the sick leper's use of the charcoal pit as medicine.

Check out the line: There being sickness, a medicine is needed; there not being sickness, no medicine is needed. (Here Magandiya has seen Dhamma, he has seen the paṭicca samuppāda: This being, that is; this ceasing, that ceases). If you have allowed yourself to dwell in this sutta, become absorbed in the story, picture it in your mind, you will, yourself have had the real possibility here to see Magandiya at the very moment of Stream Entry. And not only this: you too could, if you will drive yourself to see this here, be enabled by this sutta, even some 2600 years later, to Enter the Stream because of it. This is Magic of the first order. There is nothing that could be more convincing that we have here the true word of the Buddha, and that it is in the Suttas (the ways the Dhamma is used), not in commentaries or Abhidhamma, that the true magic of this system is to be found ... my say!

And, PS: remember we have discussed the Charcoal Pit as a simile for woman.

Now at this point Magandiya has broken through the "self view" although he appears to be unaware of it, but this is not the end of his trip; to this point he has not understood the goal, which is evident by the way he responds to the questions concerning "This non-disease; this Nibbāna".

Here the Buddha appears to throw Magandiya right back to the beginning, telling him flat out he has no understanding of things. Who see it? This is the "stitch" — the nidana — the knot that ties him down. Magandiya has been brought up in a straight line from the first encounter. Had the issue been dropped before the ancient saying of the Buddha's of Old; he could have thought he had had a profoundly elevating experience which he understood completely: (essentially a confirmation of his own view, but on what he thinks of as a higher level, that is that Nibbāna is experienced by way of the maximum experience of the senses). Then he is told he understands nothing. What is the effect of that? To make him aware of what he has just been told (he either leaves the discussion at this point believing he understands nothing — and having been absolutely crushed in debate — or looks at what has just happened and for ways to turn it into a learning experience). The Buddha makes it conscious by making him ask, makes him state his intention to make an effort, and makes sure that there is no adverse consequence in terms of suicidal inclinations at the discovery he will make that he has been, essentially, a fool his entire life.

He is then given the paṭicca samuppāda, (which we have seen he has demonstrated a capability of understanding), in terms of the five stockpiles of living (Khandhas). And all's well that ends well.

... but who was the Brahman of the Bharadvaja clan, and what became of him?




The Majjhima Nikāya, I, #75: Magandiya Sutta, PTS ed, pp 501
Pāḷi Text Society, Middle Length Sayings, II, #75 Discourse to Magandiya, Horner, trans., pp 181
Wisdom Publications, Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, #75: To Magandiya, Ñanamoli/Bodhi trans., pp 607
ATI: To Magandiya, Bhk. Thanissaro's Translation (incomplete):

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