This collection of discourses in the Suttanta Piṭaka known as Saṃyutta Nikāya has 7762 suttas of varied length, generally short, arranged in a special order according to subject matter into five major divisions: (1) Sagāthā Vagga (2) Nidāna Vagga (3) Khandha Vagga (4) Saḷāyatana Vagga and (5) Mahā Vagga. Each major vagga is divided into fifty-six groups known as saṃyuttas-related subjects grouped together. The saṃyuttas are named after the subjects they deal with, for example, Bojjhaṅga Saṃyutta on the seven factors of enlightenment, or after some principal personalities such as the Venerable Sāriputta, King Pasenadi of Kosala, or Sakka. Kosala Saṃyutta is a group of discourses concerning King Pasenadi of Kosala, and Devatā Saṃyutta deals with devas like Sakka, Indra, Brahmā, etc. Each saṃyutta is further divided into sections which are made up of individual suttas. Thus the well-known Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta is the first discourse (sutta) in the second section of Sacca Saṃyutta which comes under the Mahāvagga division of Saṃyutta Nikāya. In the following excerpts from Saṃyutta Nikāya, only a few suttas representing each major division are given.
This major division of Sagāthā Vagga Saṃyutta Pāḷi contains eleven saṃyuttas with discourses grouped according to characters appearing in them: the king of devas, the devas, the Brahmā, māra, King of Kosala, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. The name of the vagga, Sagāthā is derived from the fact that various personalities appearing in the discourses conducted their dialogues or interviews with the Buddha mostly in verse.
On the request of a Brahmā, the Buddha explains in the Oghataraṇa Sutta of this saṃyutta that he crossed over the flood of sensuous desire, of existence, of wrong views and of ignorance neither by remaining inactive, nor by making strenuous efforts. By remaining inactive he would have been sucked into the whirlpool; by making frantic efforts he would have been swept away in the current of the flood. He followed a middle course.
The Buddha also teaches in other suttas of this saṃyutta that all beings are entangled in the mesh of attachments brought about by six internal sense bases and six external sense objects. The way to escape from these entanglements is to become established in sīla, to develop concentration meditation and insight meditation in order to be fully accomplished in the higher knowledge of liberation.
Until one becomes fully developed in the knowledge of the path, taṇhācan still give rise to rebirth. This fact is borne out by the story of a devanamed Samaṇa, given in Accharā Sutta. A certain young man having faith in the teaching of the Buddha gets himself admitted into the order. Then taking a meditation subject of his choice, he repairs to a solitary abode in the forest and devotes himself incessantly to the practice of meditation.
His efforts at meditation are very strenuous. Thus striving day and night and getting enervated by lack of sufficient food, he is suddenly seized with a paralytic stroke which causes him instant death. Although he has put in a great deal of effort in the practice of meditation, he passes away without even attaining the stage of sotāpanna, the stream-winner.
Because of taṇhā which he has not yet eradicated, he has to go through the round of existences again; but in the consequence of the merit he has acquired in the practice of meditation, a magnificent celestial palace awaits him in the celestial abode of the Tāvatiṃsa.
By spontaneous manifestation he appears as if just awakened from sleep at the entrance of the palace, a celestial being resplendent in full celestial attire. He does not realize that he has taken a new existence in a new world. He thinks he is still a bhikkhu of the human world. The celestial maidens who are awaiting his arrival bring a body-length mirror and place it in front of the deva. On seeing his reflection in the mirror, he finally realizes that he has left the bhikkhus existence and has arisen in the celestial realm.
The Samaṇa Deva is greatly perturbed then. He reflects that he has taken up meditation not to be reborn in the celestial land but to attain the goal of arahatta fruition. So without entering the palatial building, he repairs hastily to the presence of the Buddha. He asks of the Buddha how to avoid and proceed past the Mohana garden, the Tāvatiṃsa celestial abode, full of celestial maidens who to him appear as demons. The Buddha advises him that the straight path for a quick escape is the Noble Path of Eight Constituents using the two-wheeler Vipassana carriage, fitted with the two wheels of physical exertion and mental exertion. While the Buddha is teaching Dhamma in three verses, Samaṇa Deva is able to develop quickly successive Vipassana ñāṇasstep by step until he attains the first path and fruition.
In Rohitassa Sutta of this saṃyutta Rohitassa Deva comes to the Buddha with another problem. He tells the Buddha he was in a former existence a hermit endowed with supernormal psychic power which enabled him to traverse throughout the universe with immense speed. He had travelled with that speed for over one hundred years to reach the end of the world but he did not succeed. He wants to know whether it would be possible to know or see or reach the end of the world where there is no birth nor death to be known or seen or reached by travelling there. Yet he does not say there is an end of suffering without reaching nibbāna. It is in the fathom long body of oneself with its perception and its mind that the Buddha describes the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the way leading to the cessation of the world. The Buddha’s way leading to the cessation of the world is the Noble Path of Eight Constituents.
In this saṃyutta are interesting suttas which describe the frequent meetings of the Buddha with King Pasenadi of Kosala. The King has heard of the fame of the Buddha from his queen Mallikā but has not yet met him. But when at last he meets the Buddha as described in the Dahara Sutta, he puts a direct question whether the Venerable Gotama claims to have attained the supreme enlightenment. He says that there are other religious teachers such as Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta, Sañjaya, Pakudha and Ajita, with their own order, with their own followers, who are much older than the Buddha and are generally regarded to be arahats. Even these teachers do not make claim to supreme enlightenment.
The Buddha replies that if it can be rightly said of anyone to have attained supreme enlightenment, then it is only of himself that it can be rightly said. The Buddha adds that there are four things that should not be looked down and despised because they are young. They are a young prince, a serpent, a fire and a bhikkhu. A young prince of noble parentage should not be despised. He might one day become a powerful ruler and wreak royal vengeance. A writhing snake moves very fast; it might attack and bite a heedless man. A small fire when heedlessly ignored might grow in intensity and cause untold damage. A man treating a virtuous bhikkhu with contempt might bring upon himself unwholesome results such as dwindling prosperity and lack of offspring to inherit from him.
Dutiya Aputtaka Sutta describes another occasion when King Pasenadi calls on the Buddha after he has just taken over an immense accumulation of wealth belonging to a multi-millionaire who has died recently. The dead man has left behind treasure worth over one hundred lakhs which, in the absence of any heirs to claim, becomes the king’s property. The king reports that the dead millionaire was a great miser, a niggardly person, begrudging even to himself the luxury of comfortable living. He wore only very rough, thread-bare clothes, eating poor, coarse food and travelled about in an old, roofless rickety carriage.
The Buddha confirms that what the king says about the millionaire is quite true and tells the king the reason for the millionaire’s miserliness. In one of his past existences, he met a paccekabuddha going around for alms-food. He gave permission to his family to offer food to the paccekabuddha and went out to attend some business. On his way back, he met the paccekabuddha whom he asked whether he had been given any alms-food by his family, and looked into the bowl. On seeing the delicious food in the bowl, an unwholesome thought suddenly arose in his mind that it would have been more profitable to feed his servants with such food than to give it away to apaccekabuddha.
For his good deed of allowing his family to make the offering to thepaccekabuddha he was reborn in the deva world seven times and became a millionaire seven times in the human world. But as a result of the ill thought he had entertained in that previous existence he never had the inclination to lead a luxurious life enjoying fine clothes, good food, and riding in comfortable carriages.
The millionaire has now exhausted the good as well as the bad effects of his thoughts and actions with regard to the offering of food to the paccekabuddha. But unfortunately he has to face the consequences of a more serious evil deed, that of causing the death of his own nephew in a past existence.
The Buddha tells the king that he is therefore reborn, after his death in the human world, in the state of the most intense suffering, Mahāroruva.
Many brahmins of the Bhāradvāja clan became devoted disciples of the Buddha, ultimately attaining arahatship. At first, all of them were quite unfriendly, if not openly hostile. Bhāradvāja Gotta, mentioned in the Dhanañjāni Sutta, was such a brahmin. Although his wife Dhanañjāni was a disciple of the Buddha, very much devoted to his teaching, Bhāradvāja Gotta and his brahmin teachers showed great contempt for the Buddha and his teachings.
On one occasion, when Bhāradvāja was giving a feast to his brahmin teachers, his wife in the course of waiting upon these brahmins slipped accidentally and as she tried to regain her balance, blurted out three times in excitement the formula of adoration to the Buddha: “Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa.” Upon hearing the word “Buddha”, the brahmin teachers rose up from their seats and ran away helter-skelter in all directions just like a flock of crows in whose midst a stone has been thrown.
Telling his wife in a fury that he would defeat the Buddha in a contest of doctrines, Bhāradvāja goes to see the Buddha. The interview ends up with Bhāradvāja asking the Buddha’s permission to enter his order. He finally attains arahatship.
Akkosa Sutta mentions Bhāradvāja Gotta’s younger brother Akkosaka Bhāradvāja, who on hearing that his elder brother has joined the Buddha’s order, was highly exasperated. Raging with fury, he stormed into the presence of the Buddha whom he reviled and reproached in the most vulgar, offensive language.
Very calmly and with great compassion the Buddha asked the young Bhāradvāja if he has ever given gifts to his friends and relatives. When the young Bhāradvāja replies that he indeed has made offers of gifts to his friends and relatives, the Buddha asked him, “What happens to the gifts if your friends and relatives do not accept them?”
“Well then they remain with me as my own property,” replies Bhāradvāja.
Then the Buddha says, “You have heaped abusive language on us who have not uttered a single word of abuse to you; you have been very offensive and quarrelsome with us who do not offend you nor quarrel with you. Young Bhāradvāja, we do not accept your words of abuse, your offensive quarrelsome language. They remain with you as your own property.”
Taken by surprise by this unexpected reaction, Bhāradvāja is frightened with the thought that this might be a recluse’s method of casting a spell on him by way of retaliation. He asks the Buddha if he is angry with him for his rude behaviour. The Buddha states that he has long left anger behind. Being free from all mental defilements how could he take offence with him! To meet anger with anger is to sink lower than the original reviler. He is the conqueror who wins a hard won battle by not retaliating anger with anger.
At the end of the discourse, Akkosaka Bhāradvāja, the younger brother, also left homelife to join the Buddha’s order. In time, he too became accomplished in higher knowledge and attained arahatship.
In Kasī Bhāradvāja Sutta is an account of the Buddha’s encounter with the brahmin Kasī Bhāradvāja who was a rich landowner.
It was sowing time and the Kasī Bhāradvāja was preparing to start ploughing operations with five hundred ploughs. It was made an auspicious occasion with the distribution of food and with festivities. The Buddha went to where food was being distributed and stood at one side. Kasī Bhāradvāja, seeing him waiting for food, said to him, “I plough, samaṇa, and I sow. Having ploughed and sown, I eat. You too, samaṇa, should plough and sow; having ploughed and sown, you shall eat.”
The Buddha replies, “I too plough, brahmin, and I sow, and having ploughed and sown, I eat.”
“We see no yoke or plough or pole or oxen of yours. Yet you claim to be a ploughman. How do you explain yourself?” asked the brahmin.
“The faith which I have had since the time of Sumedha, the hermit, is the seed. It will grow to bear the fruit of nibbāna. The sīla with which I keep control of my sense doors is the rain. The two kinds of knowledge, the mundane and supramundane, I possess are my plough and yoke. Sense of shame for doing evil and fear of evil deeds are the pole and the handle of the plough. My energy is the ox, and my concentration is the rope with which I put the ox to the yoke. My mindfulness is the ploughshare and the goad. Guarded in my speech and modest in the use of food, these self-restraints serve as a fence around my field of Dhamma. With my harnessed ox as my energy, I have ploughed on never turning back until the seed produces the fruit of nibbāna, the deathless. Having done such ploughing, I eat now what I have sown and I am free from every kind of suffering.”
Kasī Bhāradvāja was so delighted and impressed with the Buddha’s words, that he requests to be regarded as a disciple of the Buddha from that day until the end of his life.
In Gahatthavandana Sutta the Buddha explains that the brahmins well versed in the Vedas as well as kings ruling over human dominions and devas of Cātumahārājika and Tāvatiṃsa realm bow in homage to the Sakka, the king of the devas. The Sakka himself shows respect and makes obeisance not only to the samaṇas who have lived their holy life without any breach of moral conduct for many years but also to the lay disciples of the Buddha who are well established in their faith and who have done meritorious deeds of giving charity, observing the five, the eight or the ten precepts, and dutifully maintaining their families
2 Nidāna Vagga Saṃyutta Pāḷi
This second major division of Nidāna Vagga Saṃyutta Pāḷi contains ten saṃyuttas, all dealing with fundamental aspects of the doctrine. The discourses are chiefly concerned with the principles of conditionality and interdependence, explained in the detailed formula which is called Paṭiccasamuppāda (Conditioned Genesis or Dependent Origination), consisting of twelve factors.
Various aspects of Paṭiccasamuppāda, together with expositions on doctrinal matters concerning practice of the holy life form the main theme of the early suttas in these saṃyuttas.
In Paṭiccasamuppāda Sutta, the first sutta of this saṃyutta, the Law of Dependent Origination outlined in the form of a formula is briefly explained by the Buddha to five hundred bhikkhus who are perceived by the Buddha to be sufficiently developed and ripe for the attainment of arahatship. In the Vibhaṅga Sutta, the second sutta of the saṃyutta, the Law of Dependent Origination is further explained in fuller details to the other bhikkhus.
In Pañcaverabhaya Sutta, the Buddha lays down the criteria by which the status of attainment of a noble bhikkhu may be judged. If a bhikkhu is freed of the five dangers arising from five evil deeds, namely, killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, telling lies and taking intoxicating liquor and drugs; if he is established in the four accomplishments of a sotāpanna, namely, firm faith and confidence in the virtues and attributes of the Buddha, of the Dhamma and of the Sangha, and perfect purity in sīla; and if he possesses comprehensive analytical knowledge of the Law of Dependent Origination, he is assured of a happy future with no danger of arising in states of woe and misery and is certain of further advancement in the holy life.
In Puttamaṃsūpama Sutta, it is explained that four nutriments (āhāra), are “conditions” necessary for the existence and continuity of beings: (i) ordinary material food (kabalīkārāhārakārāhāra); (ii) contact of sense organs (phassa); (iii) consciousness (viññāṇa); and (iv) mental volitional or will (manosañcetanā).
This sutta is addressed especially to young bhikkhus recently admitted into the order. They are enjoined to take their meals with due reflection on the loathsome nature of food so as not to be overcome by greed and attachment for it. A bhikkhu should take meals not with a view to enjoy it or relish it, thereby augmenting craving, but just to sustain himself in order that the holy life may be lived. A particularly illuminating parable is used here by the Buddha: a man and his wife set out on a very long journey accompanied by their beloved son. Half-way on their journey they ran short of food. With no means of fresh supply, they plodded on with starvation staring in their face. The little son soon succumbed to hunger and died. The man and his wife decided to save their lives by eating the flesh of their dead son. They ate with no relish nor enjoyment but only to sustain themselves for the rest of the journey.
Other apt parables are given by the Buddha for the understanding of the remaining three nutriments. When one understands the real nature of the nutriments on which life depends, one understands the craving (taṇhā), responsible for all suffering. Thereby the way is open to the supreme liberation, arahatship.
Susima Paribbajaka Sutta gives an account of the wandering ascetic Susima who is one of those who join the Buddha’s order with ulterior motives. After the rains residence many bhikkhus come to pay their respects to the Buddha to whom they would report their attainment of arahatship. When he learns from these arahats that they possess no supernormal powers such as the divine power of vision, divine power of hearing, or knowing other people’s mind, he is very disappointed. He has come into the order just to acquire powers with which to win fame and gain for himself.
He approaches the Buddha and inquires how the bhikkhus could claim arahatship when they possess no supernormal powers. The Buddha explains to him that their liberation is through pure insight knowledge not associated with jhāna accomplishments. Through Vipassana meditation only they have seen the real nature of nāma and rūpa(realities of nature-dhammaṭṭhiti) followed by realization of nibbānathrough magga ñāṇa.
The Buddha takes him through the same course of meditation, testing by means of questions his understanding of the five khandhas, their nature of anicca, dukkha, anattā, finally establishing him in the insight that none of the these khandhas is to be regarded as “This is mine; this is I; this is my self”. At the end of the discourse he gains full understanding of the Dhamma with the attainment of arahatship. When he realizes the state of arahatship himself without coming into the possession of the supernormal powers, he confesses to the Buddha the ulterior motive with which he had joined the order, and begs to be pardoned for such evil intentions.
The natural law of affinity is pointed out by the Buddha in the Caṅkama Sutta of the saṃyutta while he is staying at the Gijjhakūṭa Hill near Rājagaha. He draws the attention of the bhikkhus to the scene outside, where his senior disciples are taking a stroll attended upon by their own group of followers. He says, “Bhikkhus, those many bhikkhus under the leadership of the Venerable Sāriputta are all wise being endowed with much deep knowledge of the Dhamma. Those surrounding the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna are well accomplished in supernormal powers. The Venerable Mahākassapa and his followers are strict observers of dhutaṅga austerity practices. The bhikkhus led by the Venerable Anuruddha are fully endowed with the divine power of vision. The Venerable Puṇṇa and his disciples are adepts at teaching Dhamma. The Venerable Upāli with his followers are experts in Vinayarules of discipline and the bhikkhus under Ānanda’s guidance are noted for their knowledge in many fields. Devadatta and his many followers are distinguished by their evil ways, thoughts and desires. Bhikkhus, in this way are the beings grouped together in accordance with their natural bents and tendencies. The law of affinity works in such a way that kindred spirits flock together; those of evil disposition in one group, those of wholesome inclinations in another. This law of affinity has held true in the past, as it is true now and will be true in the future.”
In the various suttas of this saṃyutta, the Buddha teaches that the cycle of existence, the saṃsāra, represents the continuous arising and passing away of khandhas, āyatanas and dhātus. This incessant process of evolution and dissolution of dhātus (the fundamental elements of matter and mind) and khandhas (compounded of the dhātus) is endless. Blinded by avijjā (ignorance), and by nīvaraṇas(hindrances), and fettered by taṇhā (craving), beings have been passing from one existence to another around and around the cycle of saṃsāra, for immeasurable periods of time. To bring home this fact of immensity of suffering undergone by beings, the Buddha has given many similes in this saṃyutta, most illustrative of which are those of the four oceans and the Vepulla Mountain given in the Assu Sutta. The tears shed through the ages by each being on account of suffering due to disease, death, separation from the loved ones, association with the unloved ones, would fill the four oceans to the brim. The bones left behind by a being after death in each existence, if collected together at a certain place would be as high as the Vepulla Mountain which lies north of the Gijjhakūṭa Hill.
The only way to escape from this round of endless suffering is to perceive the real nature of the khandhas by means of Vipassana meditation until one becomes disenchanted with them; and thus by abandoning craving for, and attachment to them one attains liberation through the realization of nibbāna.
The Buddha teaches in other suttas that one should in the meanwhile develop loving-kindness towards all sentient beings with the realization that, during the immeasurably long passage through the saṃsāra, there is no being who has not been one’s mother, father, sister, brother or one’s son or daughter, relative or friend.
In the Candūpama Sutta of this saṃyutta the Buddha lays down codes of conduct for bhikkhus, giving the example of the moon. Just as the moon sheds its light equally on every object or person, so also a bhikkhu should equally treat everyone, young or old or of middle age, showing favouritism to none nor hostility to any. He must deal with them with due regard, humility and meekness. Mindfulness should be ever present in his relations with all classes of people. For example, when a certain person tries to obtain his drinking water from an old well or from a riverbank of loose sand or from down a precipice, he approaches the source of water with great care, controlling his movements and actions. Much in the same way should a bhikkhu conduct himself with great mindfulness in his dealings with all classes of people.
In teaching the Dhamma to lay disciples, if his motive is to win gain and fame for himself, then his teaching should be regarded as impure. The Dhamma should always be taught out of compassion and with pure thought so that the Dhamma which is excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle and excellent in the end, namely, the Dhamma on sīla, samādhi, and paññā, can be heard, understood and practised by the listener.
In the Saddhammappatirūpaka Sutta, the Buddha outlines the conditions under which the teaching would decline or under which it would prosper. The Buddha gives the discourse in answer to a question asked by the Venerable Mahākassapa as to why it is that in former days when there were only a few disciplinary rules promulgated by the Buddha, there were a large number of arahats; and now that the disciplinary rules have multiplied, only a few attain arahatship.
The Buddha explains that the number of disciplinary rules increases in proportion to the deterioration in the moral state of beings. So long as no spurious and false teachings appear in the three branches of the teaching (pariyatti, theoretical learning; paṭipatti, practice; paṭivedha, fruits of the practice), so long will the teaching remain genuine, pure and untarnished. But when spurious and false teaching appears, this teaching with its three branches will decline gradually until it vanishes altogether, much in the same way as the genuine gold disappears when imitation gold is introduced to take its place.
The Buddha concludes: “And Kassapa, just as iron is destroyed by rust, it is the members of the order who are corrupt, immoral, who cannot hope to attain higher knowledge, who will bring about the downfall of the teaching.”
In the last few suttas of Nidāna Vagga are discourses that describe the fearful destiny of corrupt bhikkhus and bhikkhunis and those lay people who have done evil deeds in previous lives. The Venerable Mahā Mogallāna sees them suffering intensely in the Peta world and describes their conditions vividly. The Buddha confirms what the Venerable Moggallāna has recounted.
The main theme of most suttas in this division is, as the name implies, khandhas, the five aggregates that constitute what is regarded as a being. Each of the components of these aggregates, namely, matter, sensation, perception, mental concomitants and consciousness is shown to be a bundle of dukkha (suffering). Made up of thirteen saṃyuttas, Khandha Vagga forms an important collection of doctrinal discussions on such topics such as atta, anattā, eternity and annihilation.
The Nakulapitā Sutta gives an account of the advice given to Nakulapitā, an ageing disciple of the Buddha. He asks for advice from the Buddha on how to conduct and keep himself free from the pains of old age and disease. The Buddha explains that rūpakkhandha, the material body being a bundle of dukkha, is subjected constantly to the pains of old age and disease; but the mental complex could be kept free of agony and pain by keeping it undefiled with impurities. A more detailed exposition of this brief explanation of the Buddha is given to Nakulapitā by the Venerable Sāriputta. The uninterested common worldling clings to the five aggregates through craving and conceit, and holds the wrong view that each of the aggregates (rūpa, vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra and viññāṇa) is self, atta. Even as he clings to the five aggregates as atta these aggregates manifest their own oppressive characters by inflicting pain of old age, pain of disease, pain of defilements (kilesa). Because of these oppressive pains the uninstructed common worldling is subjected to sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. But when the worldling becomes instructed and has become accomplished in the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment, he does not cling to the five aggregates through craving, conceit or holding wrong views of self. Then even though the five aggregates manifest their own characteristics of being oppressive, he is no longer subjected to mental afflictions of sorrow, lamentations, pain, grief and despair.
In the Bhāra Sutta, the five groups of grasping (pañcupādānakkhandha) are designated as a burden, a heavy load. It is craving for sense objects, craving for existence, craving for non-existence which is responsible for this heavy burden being borne along. Realization of the Noble Truth of cessation, nibbāna, is where the craving is completely eradicated, where this heavy load is finally discarded.
The Yamaka Sutta explains that the five aggregates are of an impermanent nature; they should be looked upon as one’s enemies. Understanding their real nature of anicca, anattā and dukkha, the twenty kinds of wrong views of self should be discarded so that one may not be set upon by these enemies.
The Vakkali Sutta gives an account of the Buddha’s visit to the ailing Bhikkhu Vakkali upon his request. The great compassion of the Buddha becomes manifest in this account. When Vakkali informs the Buddha that for a long time he has been longing to set his eyes upon the Buddha, the Buddha gently reproaches him: “Vakkali, what is there in seeing the decomposing body of mine? It is enough to see the Dhamma. He who has seen the Dhamma has seen me. The body of mine is like all else always rotting away, falling into decay.” The Buddha teaches him the Dhamma on the impermanence of all things, their unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality and finally shows him the way to liberation.
Of the five aggregates, the Buddha says it is better for a person to mistake his physical body as atta (self), rather than mind or consciousness, because the physical body appears more solid and substantial than thought or mind which constantly changes faster than the physical body.
The Khemaka Sutta records an illuminating conversation between a bhikkhu named Khemaka and a group of bhikkhus who want to verify the stage of his attainments. When the bhikkhus ask him if he sees self or anything pertaining to self in the five aggregates, Khemaka replies, “No.” But when the bhikkhus suggest that, if so, he must be an arahatfree from all defilements, Khemaka replies that though he does not find self or anything pertaining to self in the five khandhas, he is not an arahat free of taints. He still has a vague feeling “I am” although he does not clearly see “This is I” with respect to matter, sensation, perception, mental formations or consciousness.
His vague feeling is likened to the smell of a flower: it is neither the smell of the petals, nor of the colour, nor of the pollen, but the smell of the flower. He then goes on to explain that even if a person retains the feeling “I am” at the early stages of realization, as he progresses further and attains to higher stages, this feeling of “I am” disappears altogether, just as the smell of soap lingers in a freshly washed cloth and disappears after a time when it is kept in a box.
In the Puppha Sutta, the Buddha declares that he is not quarrelling or arguing with the world; it is only the world with its devas, māras, kings and people that is disputing with him. To proclaim the truth is not engaging in disputes. He speaks only what wise men hold to be true. Wise men say that there is no corporeality, sensation, perception, mental formations or consciousness which is stable, permanent, enduring. He says the same. Wise men say that there is only corporeality, sensation, perception, mental formations or consciousness which is unstable, impermanent, unenduring. He also says so.
“In this changing world, there are only things which are subject to constant change and decay. Perceiving their real nature, I declare that the world is compounded of things subjected to decay and decomposition, namely, the aggregates of matter, sensations, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness, which are incessantly rising and passing away. There is nothing else besides these perishing aggregates. Bhikkhus, I teach this Dhamma in a brief manner. I also teach this Dhamma more comprehensively and completely. But if the uninstructed common worldling remains unperceiving and unknowing in spite of very enlightening discourses, how can I help? Various kinds of lotus grow in the water, develop in water, rise above water, and remain there unpolluted by water; so also I was born in this world, I grew up in this world, I developed in this world and rose high above it without being attached to it, without being affected by it.”
In the Pheṇapiṇḍūpama Sutta, the aggregate of rūpa is likened to froth; it is unstable, impermanent, constantly rising, and vanishing. It is therefore not self. The aggregate of vedanā is likened to an air bubble. The various sensations are just like bubbles, disappearing fast, impermanent, untrustworthy of the nature of anicca, dukkha and anattā. Sense perception which apprehends whatever is seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched or known, is likened to a mirage. What is considered by a samaṇa as a being, a man, a woman or self is an optical illusion like a mirage. In reality it is merely a phenomenon of incessant arising and vanishing. Saṅkhāras, volitional activities, are likened to plantain trunks. A plantain trunk is made up of layers of fibrous material with no substantial, solid inner core. Saṅkhāras are like the plantain trunk void of inner substance. Consciousness is like a conjuror’s trick. It arises and vanishes instantly. Consciousness arises not as one wishes, but as conditioned by its own cause and circumstances.
This division is made up of ten saṃyuttas or groups. It deals mainly with the six sense organs or bases of contact named internal sense bases (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind); six corresponding sense objects, known as external sense bases (visible form, sound, odour, taste, tangible things and mind-objects); and consciousness that arises in relation to each pair of these internal and external sense bases. There are expositions on the impermanent nature of these sense bases and how relinquishing of attachment to them results in liberation. The second saṃyutta, known as the Vedanā Saṃyutta, focuses on the sensation arising from the coming together of the sense bases and conciousness. Sensation is shown to be of three kinds: pleasant, unpleasant and indifferent. None of these is permanent and each one of these is the cause of craving which in turn is the root of all suffering. Concise but illuminating expositions on nibbāna are found in many suttas. So also are there practical guides of Vipassana meditation.
In the very first two suttas, the Buddha explains that the six internal sense bases and six external sense bases have the nature of impermanence. Being impermanent, they are really suffering and not self. “Bhikkhus, realizing their true nature, you should not regard these twelve sense bases as ‘This is mine’, ‘This is I’, ‘This is my self’. Contemplate on them steadfastly, constantly, until Vipassana insight into their real nature arises.” The Buddha continues to explain that insight into the true nature of the twelve āyatanas will develop dispassion and disenchantment for them. Being disenchanted with them, there is no craving, clinging, thereby achieving the path and fruition.
In the famous Āditta Sutta, the fire sermon, delivered at Gayāsisa to one thousand ascetics formerly devoted to fire-worship but recently converted and admitted into the order as bhikkhus, the Buddha explains that each of the six sense bases and the six sense objects is burning with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of ignorance. Each is burning with the fire of birth, ageing and death; with the fire of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. Six forms of consciousness arising in relation to the six sense bases are also burning. The six contacts and the six sensations resulting from them are also burning.
The Buddha explains further that when a bhikkhu who has practised the Dhamma develops Vipassana insight and perceives that each of the bases is burning, he becomes disenchanted with it. Then craving fades away. With the fading of craving he is liberated. And when liberated there is knowledge that he is liberated. At the end of the discourse, one thousand former worshippers of fire attain arahatship.
In the Paṭhama Migajāla Sutta, the Buddha’s definition of a bhikkhu who lives in solitude is very edifying. When a bhikkhu unmindfully takes delight in the six sense objects, regards them wrongly as “This is mine”, “This is I”, “This is my self”, craving for them arises in him and he becomes attached to fetters. Such a bhikkhu in whom craving has arisen is regarded as one living with a companion, even if he lives alone deep in a forest away from towns and villages. When, however, he mindfully perceives the true nature of the six sense bases and objects, he does not wrongly hold on to them as “This is mine”, “This is I”, “This is my self” and craving for them does not arise in him. Such a bhikkhu in whom craving has not arisen is said to be living in solitude without any companion even if he lives in the midst of people, in towns or villages.
The Puṇṇa Sutta gives an account of a bhikkhu by the name Puṇṇa who asks for instruction from the Buddha on a suitable subject on which he can meditate in solitude. The Buddha advises him to contemplate on the true nature of the six sense bases and objects. When he perceives their true nature, no craving for them will arise in him. Eradication of craving will result in liberation and attainment of arahatship. After receiving the instruction, the bhikkhu informs the Buddha of his intention to reside in a very distant and remote land. The Buddha tells him that it is a wild country inhabited by savage tribes, and asks him how he intends to cope with the dangers and hazards that would face him. The answer given the bhikkhu provides a model lesson in fortitude and endurance.
The bhikkhu says, if he were menaced with invectives and curses or attacked physically, or if he had stones thrown at him or if he were hit with sticks or cut with swords, or pierced with spear, he would bear them with endurance with no malice against the savage tribes. Even if his head were to be chopped off he would feel he was luckier than those noble ones who had to commit suicide to be released from the suffering of the khandhas.
The Buddha remarks, “Well said, bhikkhu, well said. I believe you are qualified to lead a solitary life in that wild country. You will overcome all difficulties.”
As presaged by the Buddha, the bhikkhu is able to overcome all hostilities and difficulties in his new residence, and to convert five hundred men and five hundred women so that they come to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. And during the very first vassa residence, practising the meditation as instructed by the Buddha, the Bhikkhu Puṇṇa attains arahatship, fully accomplished in the three vijjās.
In the Bhāradvāja Sutta, an interesting interview between King Udena and the Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja is described. King Udena approaches the Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja while he is meditating at the foot of a tree in the king’s park. The king remarks that many young men have abandoned sensual pleasures and lead the holy life. They maintain the holy practice throughout their life. The king enquires, “What is the means by which they maintain the purity of their holy life?” The bhikkhu replies that they keep to the pure life by training themselves as instructed by the Buddha to regard a woman of their mother’s age as their mother, a woman of their sister’s age as their sister, and a girl of their daughter’s age as their daughter.
The king is not satisfied with the answer. He argues that even if a bhikkhu trains himself in the said manner, it is no guarantee for the non-arising of impure thoughts in him in connection with a female person. The Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja explains further they practise meditation on the foulness of a body by contemplating on the thirty-two constituent parts of the body. The king is still not convinced. He maintains that for older bhikkhus with more mature experience, who are well established in mindfulness and concentration, contemplation on the thirty-two constituent parts of the body might prove to be salutary; but this type of meditation for younger bhikkhus might have an adverse effect exciting lust and passion instead of aversion for the human body. Only when the Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja tells him the bhikkhus practise restraint of the six faculties keeping a close watch on the doors of the six senses that the king agrees that purity of the holy life is possible under such circumstances.
In the Paṭhama Dārukkhandhopama Sutta, the discourse given by the Buddha on the bank of the River Ganges at Kosambī, the Buddha uses the simile of a log floating down the river. He says that if the log does not get stranded on either of the two banks, nor sinks in the middle of the river, nor gets salvaged and deposited on the bank by some one, nor is retrieved by men or devas, nor sucked in by a whirlpool, and if it does not get decomposed on the way, it will be carried by the current until its destination, the ocean, is reached.
In this simile, the near bank means the six internal sense bases, the far bank represents the six external sense objects, sinking in the mid-river means getting immersed in sensuous desires; being salvaged and deposited on a bank means being hindered by one’s own conceit; being retrieved by men means doing some services or running errands for men; being retrieved by devas means practising the holy life with the deva realm as one’s objective; being sucked into a whirlpool means wallowing in sensual pleasures; getting decomposed on the way means becoming corrupt, immoral, heedless of the disciplinary rules. If a bhikkhu manages to steer himself clear of all these obstacles, he will be carried along by the current of Right View until he reaches his destination, nibbāna.
In the Chappāṇakopama Sutta, the Buddha teaches that a bhikkhu practising the holy life must exercise control of his sense faculties. The six sense faculties may be likened to six animals, namely, a snake, a crocodile, a giant bird, a dog, a jackal and a monkey. Suppose each animal is bound by a rope and the ropes are tied together into a single knot. When they are left in this state, each animal will try to get to its own habitat-the snake to its underground hole, the crocodile to the river, etc. In this way they will pull and struggle against one another until they become exhausted and are dragged along by the strongest of them. The mind of a bhikkhu with unrestrained sense faculties will be impelled by the senses towards corresponding sense objects.
But suppose each animal is bound by a separate rope which is fastened to a pole firmly planted in the ground. Each animal will make furious attempts to return to its home and becoming exhausted will finally stand, sit, curl or lie down quietly near the post. Similarly by practising contemplation of the body (kāyagatāsati), the sense faculties are placed well under control. Mindfulness of the body serves as the firm post to which each of the faculties is tied down.
In the section focusing on sensation (Vedanā Saṃyutta) the Buddha describes the three types of sensation, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. In the Samādhi Sutta he states that a disciple of the Buddha who is concentrated (samāhito), aware (sato) and maintaining thorough understanding of impermanence (sampajāno) knows with wisdom the sensations, their arising, their cessation and the path leading to their end. Having reached the end of sensations such a meditator is said to be free from craving, fully liberated.
In the Pahāna Sutta he makes clear that pleasant sensation gives the meditator the opportunity to eliminate the underlying condition of craving (rāgānusayo pahātabbo). In the same way, unpleasant sensation and neutral sensation allow the eradication of the deep conditioning of aversion (paṭighānusayo pahātabbo) and ignorance (avijjānusayo pahātabbo) respectively. One who eradicates these underlying conditionings is called one who is totally free of underlying conditioning, who has seen the truth, who has cut off all craving and aversion, who has broken all bondages, who has fully realized the illusory nature of the ego, who has made an end of suffering.
The sutta emphasizes that those who relish pleasant sensations, who reel in unpleasant ones or take pleasure even in the tranquil neutral sensations are not liberated from their misery. The condition for achieving full liberation is defined as: striving ardently, not missing the thorough understanding of impermanence even for a moment (ātāpī, sampajaññaṃ na riñcati). A meditator who achieves this state is said to be a wise person who knows the totality of the sensations.
In several suttas in this section the Buddha makes it clear that vedanā (the sensation he is refering to here) is bodily sensation. In the Paṭhama Ākāsa Sutta he compares the various winds that arise in the sky to the different kinds of sensations that arise in the body.
In the Paṭhama Gelañña Sutta, given at Vesāli on the occasion of a visit to the sick room, he exhorts the bhikkhus to remain constantly aware of impermanence and to let the time come. This, he says, is his dispensation. He goes on to explain that one must understand that when a pleasant, unpleasant or neutral sensation has arisen it is based on something: it is based on this very body. Thus the meditator dwells observing the impermanent nature of the sensations in the body.
This section on vedanā is full of practical advice and inspiration for serious meditators.
In a later saṃyutta, Dukkarapañhā Sutta states that in the teaching of the Buddha, it is difficult first to become a member of the order as a novice and as a bhikkhu. Secondly, it is difficult to be happy and comfortable in the order with its disciplinary rules. Thirdly, even if one stays the course and remains in the order, it is difficult for one to practise concentration meditation and Vipassana meditation to attain higher stages of knowledge. Then fully endowed with supporting pāramīs (perfections), a bhikkhu who gets instruction in the morning and starts practising meditation in the morning may be fully liberated by the evening; if he gets instruction in the evening and starts practising meditation in the evening he may be fully liberated by the morning.
A wealthy householder by the name of Citta figures quite prominently in some of the suttas of this division. In Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta Sutta, Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta finds himself unable to accept the view expressed by the Buddha that there is jhāna and samādhi free from vitakka and vicāra. He discusses this problem with Citta, the wealthy householder, who is an ariya disciple of the Buddha. Citta tells him: “I believe there is jhāna and samādhi free from vitakka and vicāra, not because of my faith in the Buddha but because of my own achievement and realization.” Citta explains that he has personally experienced jhāna samādhi unaccompanied by vitakka and vicāra and has no need to rely on others for believing this.
The same Citta used to have in his younger days a close friend who later became the naked ascetic Kassapa. Each has gone his own separate way and the two friends meet again only after thirty years. Citta asks his friend whether by living the ascetic life he has gained anything more than what could be achieved by the wholesome Dhamma of ordinary people. The ascetic Kassapa admits that he has nothing to show besides his nakedness, his shaven head and the accumulation of dust on his body.
When asked in return what he himself has gained by being a disciple of the Buddha and following the path as instructed by his teacher, Citta informs him that he has become fully accomplished in the four jhānas, and having removed the five fetters, is now an anāgāmi (a non-returner). The naked ascetic, impressed by his achievements, tells Citta that he wants to be a disciple of the Buddha. Citta introduces him to the leading bhikkhus and helps him to get admission into the order. With the guidance of the theras and encouragement of his friend Citta, the ex-ascetic Kassapa puts in such an effort in the practice of meditation that in no time he gains the supreme goal of arahatship.
In the Saṅkhadhama Sutta, the Buddha points out the wrong views held by Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta on kamma and its resultant effects. According to the village headman Asibandhakaputta, his teacher Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta teaches that every one who commits evil deeds of killing, lying, etc., is definitely bound to be reborn in states of woe. Whatever action is performed in a greater frequency, that action tends to determine the destiny of a being. The Buddha points out the fallacy in the two statements, one contradicting the other. An individual does not often commit the evil deed, for instance, of killing. Other actions besides killing are performed by him in a more frequent manner; hence, according to Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta, he will not be destined to states of woe for his evil act of killing.
Then the Buddha explains that only very heinous acts such as killing of one’s own parents, creating a schism in the Sangha, etc., bring the dire resultant effect of certain destiny in the states of woe. Other misdeeds, physical, vocal or mental, cannot be regarded as leading with certainty to unhappy destinations. Instead of just feeling remorseful and penitent over one’s particular evil deed, one should recognize it to be evil, and resolve not to repeat a similar unwholesome action, and follow it with the practice of concentration and Vipassana meditation.
Thus abandoning all evil deeds and doing only wholesome deeds together with the development of brahmavihāra bhāvanā until accomplished in jhāna, one can escape from the unhappy consequences of one’s evil actions and look forward to a better future. This Saṅkhadhama Sutta establishes the fact that as in matter of practice so also in the matters of views, the Buddha takes the middle path.
In the Bhadraka Sutta, the Buddha explains the origin of suffering by giving illuminating examples. The village headman Bhadraka wants to know the cause of suffering that afflicts mankind. In reply, the Buddha asks him to think of his son and imagine that his son is meeting with unexpected misfortunes, or getting arrested by the king’s order or facing a severe punishment. Bhadraka imagines as he is told and finds that such thoughts give rise to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, grief and despair in him. When he imagines a stranger to be placed in a similar situation, facing similar predicament, he finds that he is not troubled at all with any mental agony. He explains to the Buddha that the difference in his mental reaction to the two situations lies in the fact that he loves his son with a parent’s love and is very fond of his son, whereas he has no such feeling towards the stranger.
Next the Buddha asks him if any love, passion or desire arises in him before he meets or sees or hears about the woman who has become his wife. Bhadraka replies that only when he meets, sees and hears about her that does he develop passion and attachment towards his wife. When the Buddha asks him further whether he will suffer from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, grief, despair, if anything untoward happens to his wife, he confesses that he will suffer more than these agonies; he might even lose his life through intense suffering.
The Buddha points out then that the root cause of suffering in the world is craving, greed, passion and desire that engulf mankind. It has been so in the past, as it is now , and so it will be in the future.
The last vagga of Saṃyutta Nikāya is made up of twelve saṃyuttas, the list of which gives a clear indication of the subjects dealt with in this division: Magga Saṃyutta, Bojjhaṅga Saṃyutta, Satipaṭṭhāna Saṃyutta, Indriya Saṃyutta, Sammappadhāna Saṃyutta, Bala Saṃyutta, Iddhipāda Saṃyutta, Anuruddha Saṃyutta, Jhāna Saṃyutta, Ānāpāna Saṃyutta, Sotāpatti Saṃyutta and Sacca Saṃyutta. The main doctrines which from the fundamental basis of the Buddha’s teaching are reviewed in these saṃyuttas, covering both the theoretical and practical aspects. In the concluding suttas of the vagga, the ultimate goal of the holy life: arahatta phala, nibbāna, the end of all suffering, is constantly kept in full view together with a detailed description of the way of achieving it, namely, the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Path of Eight Constituents.
In the opening suttas it is pointed out how friendship with the good and association with the virtuous is of immense help for the attainment of the path and perfection. It is one of the supporting factors conducive to the welfare of a bhikkhu. Not having a virtuous friend and good adviser is a great handicap for him in his endeavours to attain the path.
In the Kuṇḍaliya Sutta, the wandering ascetic Kuṇḍaliya asks the Buddha what his objective is in practising the holy life. When the Buddha replies that he lives the holy life to enjoy the fruits of the path and the bliss of liberation by knowledge, the ascetic wants to know how to achieve these results. The Buddha advises him to cultivate and frequently practise restraint of the five senses. This will establish the threefold good conduct in deed, word and thought. When the threefold good conduct is cultivated and frequently practised, the four foundations of mindfulness will be established. When the four foundations of mindfulness are well established, the seven factors of enlightenment will be developed. When the seven factors of enlightenment are developed and frequently applied, the fruits of the path and liberation by knowledge will be achieved.
In the Udāyī Sutta, there is an account of Udāyī who gives confirmation of such achievements through personal experience. He tells how he comes to know about the five khandhas from the discourses, how he practises contemplation on the arising and ceasing of the khandhas, thereby developing udayabbaya ñāṇa which, through frequent cultivation, matures into magga insight. Progressing still further by developing and applying frequently the seven factors of enlightenment he ultimately attains arahatship. In many suttas are recorded the personal experiences of bhikkhus and lay disciples who on being afflicted with serious illness are advised to cultivate and practise the seven factors of enlightenment. They recount how they are relieved, not only of pains of sickness but also of suffering that arises from craving.
In Sakuṇagghi Sutta, the bhikkhus are exhorted by the Buddha to keep within the confines of their own ground, i.e., the four foundations of mindfulness, namely: contemplation of body, sensation, mind and mind-objects. They can roam freely in the safe resort guarded by these outposts of the four foundations, unharmed by lust, hate and ignorance. Once they stray outside their own ground, they expose themselves to the allurements of the sensuous world. The parable of the falcon and the skylark illustrates this point. A fierce falcon suddenly seizes hold of a tiny skylark which is feeding in an open field. Clutched in the claws of its captor, the unfortunate young bird bemoans its foolishness in venturing outside of its own ground to fall victim to the raiding falcon. “If only I had stayed on my own ground inherited from my parents, I could easily have beaten off this attack by the falcon.” Bemused by this challenging soliloquy, the falcon asks the skylark where that ground would be that it has inherited from its parents. The skylark replies, “The interspaces between clods of earth in the ploughed fields are my ground inherited from my parents.” “All right, tiny tot, I shall release you now. See if you can escape my clutches even on your own ground.”
Then standing on a spot where three big clods of earth meet, the skylark derisively invites the falcon, “Come and get me, you big brute.” Burning with fury, the falcon sweeps down with fierce speed to grab the mocking little bird in its claws. The skylark quickly disappears into the interspaces of the earth clods, but the big falcon, unable to arrest its own speed, smashes into the hard protruding clods to meet its painful death.
In Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta, the Buddha explains for Ānanda’s benefit two methods of meditation. When established in the four foundations of mindfulness, a bhikkhu will experience a beneficial result gradually increasing. But should his mind be distracted by external things during the contemplation on body, sensation, mind or mind-object, the bhikkhu should direct his mind to some confidence-inspiring object, such as recollection of the virtues of the Buddha. By doing so, he experiences joy, rapture, tranquillity and happiness, which is conducive to concentration. He can then revert back to the original object of meditation. When his mind is not distracted by external things, no need arises for him to direct his mind to any confidence-inspiring object. The Buddha concluded his exhortation thus: “Here are trees and secluded places, Ānanda. Practise meditation Ānanda. Be not neglectful lest you regret it afterwards.”
As set out in the Ciraṭṭhiti Sutta, the Venerable Ānanda takes this injunction to heart and regards the practice of the four methods of steadfast mindfulness as of supreme importance. When a bhikkhu by the name of Badda asks the Venerable Ānanda, after the death of the Buddha, what will bring about the disappearance of the Buddha’s teaching, the Venerable Ānanda replies, “So long as the practice of the four methods of steadfast mindfulness is not neglected, so long will the teaching prosper; but when the practice of the four methods of steadfast mindfulness declines, the teaching will gradually disappear.”
Anapanassati meditation, one of the methods of body contemplation, consists in watching closely one’s in-breath and out-breath and is rated highly as being very beneficial. In the Mahā Kappina Sutta, the bhikkhus inform the Buddha, “We notice, Venerable Sir, that Bhikkhu Mahā Kappina is always calm and collected, never excited, whether he is in company or alone in the forest.” “It is so, bhikkhus. One who practises Anapanassati meditation with mindfulness and full comprehension remains calm in body and collected in mind, unruffled, unexcited.”
The Icchānaṅgala Sutta describes how the Buddha himself once stayed for the rains-residence of three months in Icchānaṅgala forest grove in solitude practising Anapanassati meditation most of the time. Anapanassati meditation is known as the abode of the enlightened ones, the abode of the noble ones.
When fully accomplished in the cultivation of the seven factors of enlightenment, through practice of body contemplation or Anapanassati meditation, one becomes firmly established in unshakable confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. The moral conduct of such a person, through observance of precepts, is also without blemish. He has reached, in his spiritual development, the stage of the stream-winner (sotāpatti magga), by virtue of which he will never be reborn in states of woe and misery. His path only leads upwards, towards the three higher stages of accomplishment. He has only to plod on steadfastly without looking backwards.
This is explained in the Paṭhama Mahānāma Sutta, by the simile of an earthen pot filled partly with gravel and stones and partly with fat and butter. By throwing this pot into water and smashing it with a stick, it will be seen that gravel and stones quickly sink to the bottom while fat and butter rise to the surface of the water. Likewise, when a person who has established himself in the five wholesome dhammas of faith, conduct, learning, charity and insight dies his body remains to get decomposed but his extremely purified mental continuum continues in higher states of existence as birth-linking consciousness, paṭisandhi citta.
In the concluding suttas are expositions on the middle path, the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Path of Eight Constituents.
The Buddha’s first sermon, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, appears in the last saṃyutta, namely, Sacca Saṃyutta.
The Buddha did not make his claim to supremely perfect enlightenment until he had acquired full understanding of the Four Noble Truths. “As long, O bhikkhus, as my knowledge of reality and insight regarding the Four Noble Truths in three aspects and twelve ways was not fully clear to me, so long did I not admit to the world with its devas, māras and Brahmās, to the mass of beings with its recluses, brahmins, kings and people that I had understood, attained and realized rightly by myself the incomparable, the most excellent perfect enlightenment”.
The Buddha concluded his first sermon with the words “This is my last existence. Now there is no more rebirth for me.”
This Collection of Discourses, Aṅguttara Nikāya, containing 9557 short suttas is divided into eleven divisions known as nipātas. Each nipāta is divided again into groups called vaggas which usually contain ten suttas. The discourses are arranged in progressive numerical order, each nipāta containing suttas with items of Dhamma, beginning with one item and moving up by units of one until there are eleven items of Dhamma in each sutta of the last nipāta. Hence the name Aṅguttara meaning “increasing by one item”. The first nipāta, Ekaka Nipāta, provides in each sutta single items of Dhamma called the Ones; the second nipāta, Duka Nipāta, contains in each sutta two items of Dhamma called the Twos, the last nipāta, Ekādasaka Nipāta, is made up of suttas with eleven items of Dhamma in each, called the Elevens.
Aṅguttara Nikāya constitutes an important source book on Buddhist psychology and ethics, which provides an enumerated summary of all the essential features concerning the theory and practice of the Dhamma. A unique chapter entitled Etadagga Vagga of Ekaka Nipāta enumerates the names of the foremost disciples amongst the bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, upāsakas, upāsikās, who had achieved pre-eminence in one sphere of attainment or meritorious activity, e.g., the Venerable Sāriputta in intuitive wisdom and knowledge (paññā); the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna in supernormal powers (iddhi); Bhikkhunī Khemā inpaññā; Bhikkhuni Uppalavanna in iddhi; the Upāsaka Anāthapiṇḍika and the Upāsikā Visākhā in alms-giving (dāna) and so on.