Monthly Archives: November 2015

Mahasakuludayi Sutta (MN 77)

The Great Discourse to Sakuludayin

Majjhima Nikaya 77

Walking BuddhaThe location of this sutta is the Squirrel’s Sanctuary in the Bamboo Grove, located in or near Rajagaha (modern Rajgir) in Magadha.

The Buddha is frequently portrayed in the Pali suttas as an early bird, waking up too early to go on alms round, as is the case here. Therefore, he goes to the Peacocks’ Sanctuary. Here a number of well-known wanderers were staying, including Sakuludayin. The Buddha addresses Sakuludayin as Udayin, which name I will use henceforth. Here we encounter another familiar motif of the wanderer surrounded by a noisy group of wanderers, discussing and debating with each other in the early morning hours (e.g., see sutta 76). This must have been a common occurrence in 5th cent. BCE n.e. India, and appears to have been imitated in the Tibetan monastic schools, where formal debates were used as a pedagogical device. At the Buddha’s approach, Udayin shushes the crowd of wanderers.

Udayin welcomes the Buddha, and deferentially sits beside him on a low stool, whereupon the Buddha asks what the topic of discussion was that he has interrupted. Deferring the Buddha’s question, Udayin asks a question of his own. We have seen this familiar trope in other suttas too.

Makkhali Gosala - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - Opera_2015-11-15_12-09-15Udayin tells the Buddha that they were discussing the leaders of the sects of the time, including Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Keskambali, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sanjaya Belatthiputta, Nigantha Nataputta (Mahavira), and Gotama himself, asking the question, who is honoured, respected, revered, and venerated by his disciples? How many live in dependence on him? On the contrary, all of these sects are notorious for dissension, except that of Gotama.

We recognize in these names the major sectarian philosophies of the Buddha’s time: amoralism, fatalism, materialism, eternalism, agnosticism, restraint (Jainism), and Buddhism respectively.

The Buddha then asks Udayin to name five qualities for which the Buddha is honoured and respected. The Buddha clearly enjoys setting these sorts of didactic traps, in which he undermines his interlocutor’s assumptions by asking apparently innocuous but probing questions. Udayin names:

  1. Moderate eating;
  2. Indifference as to quality of robe;
  3. Indifference as to quality of food;
  4. Indifference as to home;
  5. Seclusion.

All of these are essentially ethical precepts. However, the Buddha says that they are all untrue and gives examples to prove it. Thus, the Buddha sometimes eats the full contents on his alms bowl or even more; he wears fine robes; he accepts invitations to eat fine foods; he lives in gabled mansions; and he is surrounded by an entourage, both monastic and sectarian, both male and female. This self-description is consistent with many passages we find in the Pali Canon, which in a future work I will be collecting into groups with similar implications as a basis for understanding the Pali Canon. The Buddha did not lead an ascetic lifestyle. He freely admits in this passage that there are many monastics who live more ascetic lives than he does. I am reminded of the Buddha’s derisive description of all of the ethical precepts and practices in the Brahmajala Sutta, the first sutta of the Sutta Pitaka. Rather, the Buddha says, than honouring and respecting him for such qualities, Udayin should praise him for the higher virtues, knowledge and vision, the higher wisdom, the Four Noble Truths, and the Way to Develop Wholesome States. The difference between these qualities and the former ones is clear. The five qualities for which Udayin would praise the Buddha are clearly external, superficial, mechanical observances of the same sort that the Buddha criticizes in other suttas. The qualities for which he should be truly praised are, on the contrary, internal, profound, and mindful. Similarly, elsewhere the Buddha states that the Three Higher Trainings supersede the Vinaya. In addition, in the Brahmajala Sutta the Buddha says that the Tathagata should be praised for his wisdom, not for his practice of morality.

Thus, the Buddha declares that he possesses the supreme aggregates of virtue and wisdom; direct knowledge, or gnosis; the truths concerning suffering or angst; and the way to develop wholesome states, consisting of mindfulness; striving; spiritual power; transcendence; the kasinas; the spiritual faculties; the powers; the factors of enlightenment; the path; the liberations; the jhanas, or ecstasies; insight; the mental body; paranormal powers; clairaudience; telepathy; memory of past lives; clairvoyance; and finally the destruction of the taints, the latter synonymous with emancipation. These nineteen components of the Way to Develop Wholesome States constitute a classification of the Buddhist path, more extensive than the Noble Eightfold Path, wherein the NEP is merely one Part. The nineteen components each seem to be independently capable of leading to consummate and perfect gnosis, since each one ends with a repetition of the statement that “thereby many disciples of mine abide having reached the consummation and perfection of direct knowledge.” At the same time, we must admit that the sequence of components represents a kind of development leading to emancipation. We have encountered most of the components of this way to develop wholesome states in previous suttas, especially the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Four Jhanas, the recollection of past lives, and the destruction of the taints.  I’m assuming that by this point I don’t need to explain any of these. However, I would like to discuss the Ten Kasinas, since I believe this is the first sutta in which these have come up as a topic.

I have mentioned before how the Pali Canon really just glosses the Buddhadharma. This is especially true of the practice or exercises, which are often just alluded to. The Ten Kasinas are no exception. The Buddha simply refers to contemplating the earth, water, fire, air, blue, yellow, red, white, space, and consciousness kasinas, which are contemplated “above, below and across, undivided and immeasurable.” The word “kasina” means “whole, entire.”

The kasinas seem to represent ten cosmic elements of being – four elements, four colours, space, consciousness; above, below, undivided, and immeasurable. By contemplating progressively more elemental and subtle states of being, the “vibration” level or “frequency,” for lack of a better word, of one’s consciousness state adjusts to that level. Thus, one is able to induce progressively subtle levels of meditation by means of the kasina meditation, which also develops the mental power of concentration or will. Like the Four Roads to Power, which appear in this list as the Four Bases of Spiritual Power, consisting of zeal, energy, mind, investigation, the kasina meditation has a tantric flavour inasmuch as it emphasizes visualization and concentration much like some, admittedly more complex, later tantric practices associated with mandalas. The kasinas seem to be similar to the tattvas of Hindu Tantric tradition, which also entered the Western esoteric tradition through the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Thus, it is widely regarded with some suspicion as “edgy” or potentially dangerous, even though it was clearly recommended by the Buddha (see, for example, Ajahn Sudhiro, “Benefits and Dangers of Kasina Meditation”; Bhavana Society of West Virginia, “The Dangers of Kasina Meditation” on YouTube).

The kasina system of meditation is described in the Visuddhimagga, written by Buddhaghosa about 830 years after the Buddha’s passing on (parinibbana). All that the sutta says is that “one contemplates the … kasina above, below and across, undivided and immeasurable. And thereby many disciples of mine abide having reached the perfection and consummation of direct knowledge.” The method as taught today in the Theravada tradition involves focusing the attention on a representation of the element, such as a clay disk for earth. Over time one develops an eidetic image in the mind, which then becomes the object of concentration. This is similar to how an unnamed monastic visited the deva realms in sutta 11 of the Digha Nikaya. This requires great mental concentration as well as involving the visualization faculty of the brain, which we now know stimulates the right or latent hemisphere of the brain, associated with mystical experiences. We know that the brain processes images very differently from verbal or textual information, which encode information much more efficiently than text. This is how ancient and medieval memory systems worked, called the method of loci or memory or mind palace. Visualization is one of the core techniques of Tantra too.

The Way to Develop Wholesome States

Four Foundations of Mindfulness: body, feelings, mind, mind-objects. Discussed in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta.

The Four Right Kinds of Striving: non-arising of unarisen evil states, abandoning of arisen evil states, arising of unarisen wholesome states, continuance of arisen wholesome states.

Four Bases for Spiritual Power:  zeal, energy, purity of mind, investigation. These are identical with the Four Roads to Power that appear in several suttas in the Digha Nikaya.

The Five Faculties: faith, energy, concentration, wisdom.

The Five Powers: faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, wisdom. Note that the Five Powers consist of the Five Faculties plus mindfulness or attention.

The Seven Enlightenment Factors: mindfulness, investigation of states, energy, rapture, tranquillity, concentration, equanimity.

The Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

The Eight Liberations: (1) Possessed of material form, one sees forms; (2) Not perceiving forms internally, one sees forms externally; (3) One is resolved only upon the beautiful; (4) Space is infinite; (5) Consciousness is infinite; (6) There is nothing; (7) the base of neither perception nor non-perception; (8) cessation of perception and feeling. Note the similarity of the Eight Liberations to the Eight Jhanas.

The Eight Bases for Transcendence:  (2) Perceiving form internally, one sees formally externally, limited; (2) Perceiving form internally, one sees formally externally, immeasurable; (3) Not perceiving forms internally, one sees forms externally, limited; (4) Not perceiving forms internally, one sees forms externally, immeasurable; (5) Not perceiving forms internally, one sees forms externally, blue; (6) Not perceiving forms internally, one sees forms externally, yellow; (7) … red; (8) … white. Note the similarity of the reference to blue, yellow, red, and white corresponds to the fifth through the eight kasinas that follow.

The Ten Kasinas: earth, water, fire, air, blue, yellow, red, white, space, consciousness. Compare the Hindu tattvas – spirit, air, fire, water, earth, represented by a black oval, blue circle, red triangle, white moon, and yellow square respectively.

The Four Jhanas: seclusion, concentration, rapture, pure bright mind. Note the similarity of the typification of the fourth jhana as “pure bright mind” to the Buddha nature or clear light doctrines. This association of the fourth jhana with pure bright mind is not found in the Digha Nikaya, where the fourth jhana is simply associated with equanimity and mindfulness.

Insight Knowledge: The meaning seems to be that the four great elements are represented by blue, yellow, red, and white threads, like the colours of the kasinas. The body, made up out of the same four elements, is like the threads, on which is strung a beautiful eight-faceted beryl gem of purest water, well cut, clear and limpid, possessed of all good, representing consciousness. Thus, consciousness is supported by and bound up with the body without being identical with it. Similarly, in his statement on his reincarnation, the Dalai Lama states that “things are preceded by things of a similar type.” Thus, mental and physical causes result in effects of the same kind. Thus, physical causes produce material effects and mental causes create psychological effects. The body may obstruct the manifestation of consciousness, but the body, essentially unconscious and inanimate, cannot be its cause. Therefore, consciousness and body are distinct, but commingled.

The Mind-Made Body: Similarly, the mental body is generated by the psychosomatic complex, like pulling a reed from its sheath, a sword from its scabbard, or a snake from its slough. We know from other suttas that the way to create the mental body to which the Buddha alludes involves the attainment of the fourth jhana.

The Kinds of Supernormal Power: Self-multiplication, invisibility, passing through matter, levitation. We have encountered these before, of course, where I have noted the similarity of these powers to powers exhibited in three contexts that are known to us: dreaming, psychedelic experience, and the UFO experience, which is related to paranormal experiences in general. Although rare, these are experienced. About 5% of the population have seen a UFO (half of these, or 2.5%, were contact experiences), whereas about 20% have had some sort of paranormal experience.

The Divine Ear Element: This is commonly termed clairaudience, and includes hearing both divine and human sounds, both far and near.

Understanding the Minds of Others: The description doesn’t quite rise to the level of telepathy, since only broad mental states are intuited, but it comes close including the ability to recognize minds that are liberated and not liberated. This is also a power of a Buddha.

The Recollection of Past Lives: Note the cosmological reference to eons of world-contraction and expansion. Richard Gombrich has noted that the recollection of past lives is paradoxical. Since samsara has no beginning, therefore one’s past lives would be infinite, but since memory is finite, how can one remember all of one’s past lives?

The Divine Eye: The Divine Eye confers the capacity to discern the karmic patterns of cause and effect including the state of other individuals’ rebirths.

The Destruction of the Taints: Note that the Mahasakuludayi Sutta represents the destruction of the taints, in which mind becomes like a clear, limpid, and undisturbed lake, as a way rather than as the goal or result of the way, corresponding presumably to a mode of meditation.

According to the postscript, Udayin was satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words, but there is no indication that he converted.


Dalai Lama. “Reincarnation.”

Michael Shermer. “The Drake Equation.” Scientific American.

“Scientific Study of the UFO Phenomenon.”



Presented to the members of the Buddha Center on Sunday, November 15, 2015.

The Faultless Discourse

Majjhima Nikaya 60

The Buddha is staying in the village of Sala, after wandering through Kosala with a large number of monastics. Kosala was a monarchy whose king, Pasenadi, was a follower of the Buddha. Pasenadi was dethroned by his minister who placed Pasenadi’s son on the throne. Pasenadi subsequently died of exposure. Soon after Kosala was annexed by the Magadha kingdom.

The brahman householders of Sala hear of this, and they go to visit him. Sala was located at the entrance to a forest, where many different recluses and brahmans would stay, all disputing with each other as to whose view was best. Thus, the Buddha asks whether the householders recognize any particular teacher based on rational inquiry. The householders reply that they have not found such a teacher. The Buddha offers to teach them a dharma that is without fault and leads to welfare and happiness.

Many Westerners think of ancient India in rather fanciful terms, but the Buddha’s statement shows us that ancient India was not only spiritual. At least some people denied the value of merit, karmic consequences, rebirth, filial duty, spiritual beings, and spiritual realizations. This is the sort of rationalist nihilism that pervades much modern thinking.

The nihilist view is opposed by its opposite, which the Buddha identifies with the dharma. Here the word ‘dharma’ is used in the broad sense to refer to all of those who maintain what we might call a spiritual worldview, including merit, karma, rebirth, filial duty, spiritual beings, and spiritual realizations.

The Buddha objects that nihilists will tend to act in unethical ways because they have no reason not to do so. For this reason, he accuses nihilism of fostering corruption. Thus, nihilism presents a problem that must be resolved.

The Buddha’s ingenious solution is to consider the consequences of accepting one view or the other in terms of whether what each asserts is true or false.

If there is no rebirth, then the nihilist is safe from suffering in terms of a non-existent afterlife but is reviled in this world as a dishonourable person, and if there is rebirth, he goes to hell, whereas if there no rebirth, the dharma practitioner is respected in life as an honourable person and if there is rebirth, then he goes to heaven. Comparing the choice of which to believe in to the arbitrary throws of games of chance, the Buddha says that the nihilist has made two “unlucky throws,” in that he suffers in this life and in the next. One can taste the irony in the Buddha’s application of the phrase “good person” to the nihilist as he explains the moral consequences of this choice of worldview. Similarly, the dharma practitioner has made two good throws, in that he is immune from suffering both in this life and in the next. In this way, the Buddha asserts that dharma is the incontrovertible or “faultless” teaching.

In Digha NIkaya 1, the Buddha refuted the 62 kinds of wrong view. Similarly, in this sutta he summarizes and refutes five wrong views along the same lines as we have just discussed.

Makkhali Gosala - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - Opera_2015-11-15_12-09-15These doctrines bear many similarities to the six samana philosophies of the Buddha’s time, including amoralism, fatalism, materialism, eternalism, Jainism, and agnosticism. One realizes reading the doctrines of these schools that they all seem to be varieties of nihilism.

The Buddha summarizes five doctrines of wrong view, to which he applies the same sort of analysis as we have just discussed.

Doctrines of Wrong View

  1. There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed; no fruit or result of good and bad actions; no this world, no other world; no mother, no father; no beings who are reborn spontaneously; no good and virtuous recluses and brahmans in the world who have themselves realized by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world. (Nihilism)
  2. When one acts or makes other act, when one mutilates or makes others mutilate, when one tortures or makes others inflict torture, when one inflicts sorrow or makes others inflict sorrow when one oppresses or makes other inflict oppression, when one intimidates or makes other inflict intimidation, when one kills living beings takes what is not given, breaks into houses, plunders wealth, commits burglary, ambushes highways, seduces another’s wife, utters falsehood –no evil is done by the doer. (Non-dong)
  3. There is no cause or condition for the defilement of beings beings are defiled without cause or condition. There is no cause or condition for the purification of beings; beings are purified without cause or condition. There is no power, no energy, no manly strength, no manly endurance. All beings, all living things, all creatures, all souls are without mastery, power, and energy; moulded by destiny, circumstance, and nature they experience pleasure and pain in the six classes. (Non-causality)
  4. There are definitely no immaterial realms.
  5. There is definitely no cessation of being

The doctrine that “if, with a razor-rimmed wheel, one were to make the living beings on this earth into one mass of flesh, into one heap of flesh, because of this there would be no evil and no outcome of evil.” is that of Purana Kassapa who we encountered in our discussion of Digha Nikaya 2. Purana taught a theory of non-action, in which there are no soul, merit, or demerit. The core of Purana’s doctrine is that he denied the law of karma. Purana, who claimed to be omniscient, eventually drowned himself. Presumably, Purana’s actual ethic consisted of doing nothing, hence the name.

The doctrine that suffering is inherent is the philosophy of the ajivikas, founded by Makkhali Gosala. The ajivikas believed in predestination, so that no one can do anything to alleviate suffering.

The reference to “manly strength” is interesting. I have mentioned before that the Buddha’s “energy” (viriya) is related to the etymological root referring to the male gender. This is also the energy by which the Buddha was able to defer his death for three months, and might have done so for 20 or so more years had Ananda asked. In the primordial philosophy, the male or “psychic” polarity is commonly identified with the spiritual principle, and the female with the somatic or material principle. This relates to the spiritual misogyny that one finds for example in the Roman Church and which one also finds in the Pali Canon. Various Indian spiritual theories concerning sexuality also underlie Indian misogyny. However, the Buddha himself doesn’t appear to have been a misogynist, as I have discussed in my talk on “The Status of Women in Ancient India and the Pali Tradition.”

The doctrines that there are no immaterial realms and no cessation of being, i.e., nirvana, suggest the philosophy of materialism.

The final section of the sutta on the four kinds of persons has little to do with the incontrovertible teaching and seems to have been spliced in as we have seen in other suttas. This section summarizes part of sutta 51, in which people are classified according to whether they torment and torture themselves and/or others. The person who torments himself is the ascetic. The person who torments others is anyone who follows a bloody occupation, such as butchers, fowlers, trappers, etc. Those who torment themselves and others includes kings and brahmans. Finally, the one who does not torment himself or others is the tathagata. This classification covers all of the classes of person in the Buddha’s world, including ascetics, householders, nobles, brahmans, and arhants.

After hearing this the brahman householders of Sala become lay followers of the Buddha.

Upali Sutta (MN 56)

Presented to the members of the Buddha Center on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015

Discourse to Upali

Majjhima Nikaya 56

1-lord-mahavira-namrata-bothraThe location of this sutta is Nalanda, Magadha, near Rajagaha, in Pavarika’s Mango Grove.

The Pali name for Mahavira, the Guide of the Jains who lived about the same time as the Buddha, is Nataputta, the Jains themselves being referred to as “naked ascetics” (niganthas). The sutta tells us that Mahavira – I’ll use the more familiar terms henceforth – is staying at Nalanda with a large gathering of Jains. One of these, Digha Tapassi by name, visits the Buddha after alms round. After exchanging pleasantries, the Buddha invites him to sit. The Buddha proceeds to quiz Digha Tapassi about the teachings of Mahavira.

The Buddha asks him, “How many kinds of action does the Nigantha Nataputta describe for the performance of evil action, for the perpetration of evil action.”  A vexed question to be sure! Nataputta’s reply is even more obscure: “Friend Gotama, the Nigantha Nataputta is not accustomed to use the description ‘action, action’; the Nigantha Nataputta is accustomed to use the description ‘rod, rod.’” Bodhi opines that “the Jains regarded bodily, verbal, and mental activity as instruments by which the individual torments himself by prolonging his bondage in samsara and torments others by causing them harm,” the rod being an instrument of punishment (as in the English idiom, “spare the rod, spoil the child”). The Buddha reformulates what appears to be a semantic distinction to how many kinds of rod does Mahavira “describe.” Tapassi’s answer is that Mahavira teaches three kinds of “rod”: body, speech, and mind (in Vajrayana these are called the Three Vajras – “mysteries” in Tendai and Shingon – but, perhaps not surprising in view of other talks, are found explicitly formulated in the Pali Canon as the three primary karmic factors). The point is that Mahavira recognizes body and speech as independent karmic causal factors in addition to mind. This of course contradicts the Buddhist view that intention alone causes karma, and leads to a completely different view of the path that leads to inaction and self-mortification.

This sutta is another demonstration of the Buddha’s dialectical method.

The Buddha asks Tapassi which of the three Mahavira considers the “most reprehensible for the performance of evil action,” to which Tapassi replies that Mahavira considers the bodily road to be most reprehensible. Tapassi then asks the Buddha which “rod” he considers most reprehensible. The Buddha replies that he does not use the description “rod” but rather ruses the description of “action,” thus inverting the original conversation. He replies that he also considers each of the three kinds of action to be independent of each other, but with mental action as the most reprehensible. Thus, the Buddha distinguishes his teaching from that of Mahavira in two respects:

  1. The use of the term “action” instead of “rod.”
  2. That mental instead of physical action is the most reprehensible.

Bodhi suggests that “mental action” may refer to volition or intention as the root of karma, but (he says) the commentary identifies “mental action” with wrong view.

Tapassi then goes to visit Mahavira, possibly in or near Balaka, thus dating this sutta prior to the death of Mahavira about 425 BCE, somewhat before the death of the Buddha himself between 411 BCE and 383 BCE (cf. DN 29). Just as the Buddha was interested in what Mahavira thought, so Mahavira is interested in the teachings of the Buddha.

Mahavira praises Tapassi’s explanation of Mahavira’s teachings and declares that the mental “rod” is insignificant compared with the bodily rod – the precise opposite view to that of the Buddha.

Upali, Mahavira’s foremost disciple, declares that he will go to the Buddha and defeat him in argument on this point, but Tapassi warns him that “the recluse Gotama is a magician and knows a converting magic by which he converts disciples of other sectarians.”  One is reminded of the Buddha’s reason for  rejecting the cultivation or demonstration of psychic powers. Mahavira dismisses this objection, however, and encourages Upali to go and refute the Buddha’s doctrine. He even suggests that the Buddha might be converted to Jainism!

Upali goes to see the Buddha. The Buddha declares that “if you will debate on the basis of truth, we might have some conversation about this,” thus establishing the proper basis for any discussion of Buddhist doctrines. Upali agrees. Elsewhere the Buddha emphasizes “common ground” in constructive dialogue.

The Buddha presents Upali with a scenario. Suppose (the Buddha says) a Jain were sick and needed cold water to survive. However, Jainism prohibits the use of cold water because it might contain living organisms (a distinction that we now know to be false, both hot and cold water containing living organisms). Nevertheless, he longs for the cold water that would save his life. Thus, he keeps his vows physically and verbally but violates them mentally. In what state (the Buddha asks) would he be reborn?

Upali replies that he would be reborn among the “mind-bound devas as he is still attached in mind, but not in body or speech. The Buddha replies that Upali has contradicted himself, presumably because the Jain’s rebirth is determined exclusively by his mental attachment. Thus, his mental attachment is more important than his (lack of) physical attachment. Nevertheless, Upali reasserts his original statement that physical action is the most reprehensible.

Next, the Buddha forces Upali to admit that Mahavira teaches that non-volitional infractions of moral law are not demeritorious (as in Buddhism). The Buddha then asks Upali which rod “willing” appertains to. Upali is forced to admit that it appertains to the mental rod, once again proving the Buddha’s point. Nevertheless, Upali reasserts his original statement that physical action is the most reprehensible.

The next argument of the Buddha refers to the notion of psychic powers. He asks Upali whether a man with a sword could kill off the inhabitants of Nalanda (the town where they were at the time) singlehandedly. Upali agrees that such a notion is absurd. But, said the Buddha, could a recluse or brahman with “supernormal power and attained to mastery of mind” do so by an “act of hate”? This is of course the situation of the great Tibetan saint Milarepa, who started his quest as a sorcerer. Upali agreed that he could. The Buddha points out that therefore the mental rod is greater and more powerful than the physical rod, once again contradicting Upali’s original position. Nevertheless, Upali reasserts his original statement that physical action is the most reprehensible.

Next, similar to the previous point, the Buddha reminds Upali that, according to tradition the Dandaka, Kalinga, Mejjha, and Matanga forests, became forests by means of a mental act of hate on the part of the seers.

The foregoing establishes quite clearly that the Pali Canon clearly asserts the reality of psychic, supernormal, or magical powers.

The Buddha reminds Upali that he agreed to debate on the basis of truth, yet every answer he gives contradicts his original position. Upali admits that he agreed with the Buddha from the very first example, yet he continued to oppose him in order to “hear the Blessed One’s varied solutions to the problem,” whereupon he takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha for life as a lay follower. The Buddha exhorts Upali to “investigate thoroughly, householder. It is good for such well-known people like you to investigate thoroughly.” Upali contrasts the Buddha’s commitment to inquiry with the attitude of other sectarians, thus clearly distinguishing Buddhism from sectarianism. The Buddha even advises Upali to continue to give alms to the Jains based on his long association with them! Once again, Upali praises the Buddha for recommending that Upali give gifts to others and not only to the Buddha and his followers.

The Buddha gives Upali “progressive instruction” on giving, virtue, the heavens (i.e., higher dimensions of reality), the danger of sensual pleasures, and the blessing of renunciation, i.e., a general religious talk as we have seen elsewhere, followed by a “special” teaching on the Four Noble Truths. “The spotless immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in” Upali, and he realized the universality of arising and cessation. Immediately he became a stream entrant.

Returning home, Upali advise his “doorkeeper” to no longer admit Jains to his home because he has become a follower of the Buddha. If they need alms, however, they should wait and alms will be brought to them at the door.

Digha Tapassi heard that Upali has converted to the Buddhadharma, which he reports to Mahavira. Mahavira doesn’t believe it, and asks Tapassi to go to Upali’s home to verify that this is true, which he does. Mahavira still does not believe it, and goes to Upali’s home himself, together with a large number of his followers, and asks to see Upali, who meets with them in his home “in the hall of the central door,” perhaps some sort of antechamber. Whereas before Upali would give Mahavira the best seat, today Upali himself takes the best seat, to Mahavira’s chagrin.

Mahavira becomes abusive, and accuses Upali of insanity, having been caught up in the Buddha’s “net of doctrine” and converted by his “converting magic.” Upali does not deny this, but rather praises the Buddha’s “converting magic.” Bodhi notes that Upali is referring specifically to his attainment of stream entry.

Upali replies by means of a parable that “the doctrine of the foolish [Jains] will give delight to fools but not to the wise, and it will not withstand testing or being smoothened out,” comparing Mahavira’s teachings to a monkey! On the other hand, Upali says that “the doctrine of that Blessed One, accomplished and fully enlightened, will give delight to the wise but not to fools, and it will withstand testing and being smoothened out,” comparing the teachings of the Buddha to a pair of new garments.

Mahavira points out that Upali is known to the king and the Jain congregation as a follower of Mahavira, and asks him whose follower he should now be considered to be? Upali’s response is curious, in that it implies that he is wearing robes (perhaps the white robes of a lay follower of the Buddha). It also seems to imply the presence of the Buddha, since the text says that he “extended his hands in reverential salutation in the direction of the Blessed One” (perhaps the direction where the Blessed One is staying?), and recites a poem in praise of the Buddha in response to Mahavira’s question, which he compares to a heap of flowers.

Upali praises the Buddha using many epithets, including: the Wise One, the Blessed One, the Illuminator, the Hero, the Best of Seers, the Noble One, the Tathagata, the Sublime One, and the Enlightened One.

The poem compares the task of the arhant to that of a soldier, in keeping with the Buddha’s caste. He is the victor in battle, the excellent leader, the leader of the herd, elephant-like.

However, most of all the Buddha is described by his psychological qualities. He is undeluded, unperplexed, confident, sorrowless, content, aware, insightful, skilful and able (punning on the Shakyan family name from which the Buddha comes), conversant, balanced, honest, humble, unworldly, ethical, wise, free, quiet, restrained, happy, beyond any possibility of temptation or vice, independent, fearless, completely self-possessed, retired, and dispassionate. Above all, he is the Tathagata who has liberated and freed himself from the inveiglements of rebirth.

The Buddha is explicitly affirmed to have gained the Triple Knowledge, i.e., the knowledge of the Vedas that underlies Brahmanism.

One can discern a broad development in the stanzas of the poem, beginning with the Wise One whose knowledge is perfect. As such, he is the leader, the bull elephant, especially in the realm of religion, wherein he has achieved the apex of realization, characterized as dispassionate wisdom and freedom from involuntary rebirth.

Most worthy of gifts, most mighty of spirits,
Most perfect of persons, beyond estimation,
The greatest in grandeur, attained the peak of glory:
The Blessed One is he, and I am his disciple.

This poem causes Mahavira to vomit hot blood, and be carried away to Pava on a litter, where he dies, thus dating the sutta to about 425 BCE as stated at the start.