May 21, 2019
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    Significance of Navam Poya:Inheritance of inspiration

    February 19, 2019

    The monk order hails from Sariputta and Moggallana, according to scriptures. Both arahants, especially Sariputta, bear tales of inspiration. How they became chief disciples is an interesting tale, so laid down in Bhikkhu Nanamoli’s ‘The Life of Sariputta’

    Having approached, the friends saluted the Blessed One reverentially and sat down at one side. When they were seated they spoke to the Blessed One, saying: “May we obtain, O Lord, the ordination of the Going Forth under the Blessed One, may we obtain the Higher Ordination!”

    And the Blessed One said: “Come, O bhikkhus! Well proclaimed is the Dhamma. Now live the Life of Purity, to make an end of suffering!” This alone served as the ordination of these venerable ones.

    Then the master continued his sermon, taking the individual temperaments of the listeners into consideration; and with the exception of the two chief disciples all of them attained to Arahatship. But the two chief disciples had not yet completed the task of attaining to the three higher paths of sanctity. The reason for this was the greatness of the “knowledge pertaining to the perfection of a disciple” (savakaparami nana), which they had still to reach.

    Upatissa received the name of Sariputta on becoming a disciple of the Buddha, while Kolita became known as Maha Moggallana.

    Now the Venerable Maha Moggallana went to live at a village in Magadha called Kallavala, on which he depended for alms food. On the seventh day after his ordination when he was doing the recluse's work (of meditation), fatigue and torpor fell upon him. But spurred on by the Master, he dispelled his fatigue, and while listening to the Master expounding to him the meditation subject of the elements (dhatu-kammatthana), he completed the task of winning to the three higher paths and reached the acme of a disciple's perfections (savaka-parami).

    But the Venerable Sariputta continued to stay near the Master, at a cave called the Boar's Shelter (Sukarakhata-lena), depending on Rajagaha for his alms food. Half a month after his ordination the Blessed One gave a discourse on the comprehension of feelings to the Venerable Sariputta's nephew, the wandering ascetic Dighanakha. The Venerable Sariputta was standing behind the Master, fanning him. While following with his thoughts the progress of the discourse, as though sharing the food prepared for another, the Venerable Sariputta on that occasion reached the acme of “knowledge pertaining to a disciple's perfection and attained to Arahatship together with the fourfold analytical knowledge (patisambhida-nana).” And his nephew, at the end of the sermon, was established in the Fruition of stream-entry.

    Now it may be asked: Did not the Venerable Sariputta possess great wisdom; and if so, why did he attain to the disciple's perfections later than the Venerable Maha Moggallana? The answer is, because of the greatness of the preparations necessary for it. When poor people want to go anywhere they take to the road at once; but in the case of kings, larger preparations are required, as for instance to get ready the elephants and chariots, and so on. Thus it was in this case.

    On that same day, when the evening shadows had lengthened, the Master caused his disciples to assemble and bestowed upon the two Elders the rank of Chief Disciples. At this, some monks were displeased and said among themselves: “The Master should have given the rank of Chief Disciples to those who were ordained first, that is, the Group of Five disciples. If not to them, then either to the group of two hundred and fifty bhikkhus headed by Yasa, or to the thirty of the Auspicious Group (Bhaddavaggiya), or else to the three Kassapa brothers. But passing over all these Great Elders, he has given it to those whose ordination was the very last of all.”

    The Master inquired about the subject of their talk. When he was told, he said: “I do not show preference, but give to each what he has aspired to. When, for instance, Kondanna-the Knower in a previous life gave alms food nine times during a single harvest, he did not aspire to Chief Discipleship; his aspiration was to be the very first to penetrate to the highest state, Arahatship. And so it came about. But when Sariputta and Maha Moggallana many aeons ago, at the time of the Buddha Anomadassi, were born as the Brahman youth Sarada and landowner Sirivaddhaka, they made the aspiration for Chief Discipleship. This, O bhikkhus, was the aspiration for these my sons at that time. Hence I have given them just what they aspired to, and did not do it out of preference.”

    Disciplined life

    It was on this day that the Buddha preached a discourse known as Ovada Patimokkha, which established the tradition of the Sangha coming together before the rules of Vinaya. This discourse which is referred to as the basis and the foundation of the Buddha's teachings was delivered on the first Navam full moon day after the enlightenment.

    It is said to have created a very disciplined and orderly Sangha Samaja to preserve the doctrine. Ovada Patimokkha was the guiding principle in Sangha life covering the entire sphere of conduct and moral progress of them. Ovada Patimokkha means to give advice.

    Bhikkhu Nanamoli recounts Sutta Vibhanga to illustrate this episode in ‘The Life of the Buddha’.

    “…Lord, what was the reason why the holy life did not last long in the time of the Blessed Ones Vipassi, Sikhi and Vessabhu?”

    “Those Blessed Ones were not forward in teaching the Dhamma to their disciples in detail, and they pronounced few Threads of Argument (Suttas), Songs, Expositions, Stanzas, Exclamations, Sayings, Birth Stories, Marvels, and Questions. No disciples’ training rule was made known. The Patimokkha, the Monastic Code, was not laid down. Just as, when various flowers are put on a table without being held together by threads, they easily get scattered, blown away and lost-why is that? Because they are not held together with threads – so too, when those Buddhas, those Blessed Ones, and the disciples enlightened by them personally, disappeared, then the disciples most recently gone forth, various named, of various races and various clans, soon let the holy life lapse. Those Blessed Ones habitually read their disciples’ minds and advised them accordingly. Once in a certain awe-inspiring jungle thicket the Blessed One Vessabhu, accomplished and fully enlightened, read the minds of the Sangha of Bhikkhus a thousand strong, and this was how he advised and instructed them: ‘Think thus; do not think thus. Give attention thus; do not give attention thus. Abandon this; enter upon and abide in this.’ Then by following his instructions their hearts were freed from taints through not clinging. And that jungle thicket was one so awe inspiring that normally it would make a man’s hair stand on end if he were not free from lust. That was the reason why those Blessed Ones’ holy life did not last long.”

    Then the venerable Sariputta rose from his seat, and arranging his robe on one shoulder, he raised his hands palms together towards the Blessed One and said: “This is the time, Blessed One, this is the time, Sublime One, for the Blessed One to make known the training rule, to lay down the Patimokkha, so that the holy life may last long.”

    “Wait, Sariputta, wait! The Perfect One will know the time for that. The Master does not make known the disciples’ training rule or lay down the Patimokkha till certain taint-producing things manifest themselves here in the Sangha. But as soon As they do, then the Teacher will see to both of these, doing so for the purpose of warding off those taint-producing things. Some taint-producing things do not manifest themselves until the Sangha has become great by long establishment and grown large: it is then that they manifest themselves and then that the Teacher makes known the disciples’ training rule and lays down the Patimokkha for the purpose of warding off those taint-producing things. Some taint-producing things do not manifest themselves till the Sangha has become great by completeness … become great by excessive gain … become great b y learning … But as yet the Sangha is free from infection, free from dangers, it is stainless, pure and consists of heartwood. For of these five hundred Bhikkhus the most backward is a stream-enterer no more subject to perdition, certain of rightness, and destined to enlightenment.”

    The occasion was this. The Blessed One was living at Savatthi in the palace of Migara’s Mother, the Eastern Park. It was then the Uposatha day, and the Blessed One was sitting surrounded by the Sangha of Bhikkhus.

    Well on into the night when the first watch was ended, the venerable Ananda rose from his seat, and arranging his robe on one shoulder, he raised his hands palms together towards the Blessed One and said: “Lord, it is now well on into the night and the first watch is ended. The Sangha of Bhikkhus has been sitting long. Let the Blessed One recite the Patimokkha to the Bhikkhus.”

    When this was said, the Blessed One remained silent.

    A second time, well on into the night when the second watch was ended, the venerable Ananda rose from his seat, and arranging his robe on one shoulder, he raised his hands palms together towards the Blessed One and said: “Lord, it is now well on into the night and the second watch is ended. The Sangha of Bhikkhus has been sitting long. Let the Blessed One recite the Patimokkha to the Bhikkhus.”

    A second time the Blessed One remained silent.

    A third time, well on into the night when the third watch was ended with the red dawn coming up and joy on the face of the night, the venerable Ananda rose from his seat, and arranging his robe on one shoulder, he raised his hands palms together towards the Blessed One and said: “Lord, it is now well on into the night and the third watch is ended with the dawn coming up and joy on the face of the night. The Sangha of Bhikkhus has been sitting long. Let the Blessed one recite the Patimokkha to the bhikkhus.’

    “The assembly is not pure, Ananda.”

    Then the venerable Maha-Moggallana thought: “Who is the person referred to by the Blessed One in saying that?” He read with his mind the minds of the whole Sangha of Bhikkhus. He saw that person, unvirtuous, wicked, unclean, of suspect habits, secretive of his acts, no monk but claiming to be one, not leading the holy life but claiming to do so, rotten within, libidinous and full of corruption, sitting in the midst of the Sangha. He went up to him and said: “Get up, friend, you are seen by the Blessed One. For you there is no living in communion with the Sangha of Bhikkhus.”

    When this was said, that person remained silent. When it was said to him a second and a third time, he remained silent. Then the Venerable Maha-Moggallana took him by the arm and put him outside the door, which he bolted. He went to the Blessed One and said: “Lord, I have ejected that person. The assembly is now pure. Let the Blessed One recite the Patimokkha to the Sangha of Bhikkhus.”

    “It is wonderful, Moggallana, it is marvelous how that misguided man waited till he was taken by the arm.” Then the Blessed One addressed the Bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus, from now on I shall not participate in the Uposatha. I shall not recite the Patimokkha. From now on you yourselves will participate in the Uposatha and recite the Patimokkha. It is impossible, it cannot happen, that a Perfect One should participate in the Uposatha and recite the Patimokkha in an unpurified assembly.

    “Bhikkhus, there are eight wonderful and marvelous qualities of the great ocean that the asura demons delight in whenever they see them. So too there are eight wonderful and marvelous qualities of this Dhamma and Discipline that Bhikkhus delight in whenever they see them. What are the eight?”

    Just as the great ocean gradually slopes and inclines and shelves without any sudden drop, so too in this Dhamma and Discipline there is gradual training and work and practice without any sudden penetration of final knowledge. Again, just as the great ocean is stable and keeps within the limits of its ebb and flow without exceeding them, so too my disciples transgress no training rules made known by me. Again, just as the great ocean will not tolerate a dead body, but, when there is a dead body in it, soon casts it ashore, throws it upon dry land, so too the Sangha does not tolerate a person who is unvirtuous, wicked, of suspect habits, secretive of his acts, no monk but claiming to be one, not leading the holy life but claiming to do so, rotten within, libidinous and full of corruption, but when it has met together it soon throws him out; and even though he may be sitting in the midst of the Sangha, he is yet far from the Sangha and the Sangha is far from him.

    “Again, just as all the great rivers, the Ganges, the Yamuna, the Aciravati, the Sarabhu and the Mahi, give up their former names and identities when they reach the great ocean, and they come to be reckoned one with the great ocean itself, so too there are these four castes – the warrior-noble khattiyas, the Brahmin priests, the burgess vessas and plebeian suddas - and when they have gone forth from the house life into homelessness in the Dhamma and Discipline declared by the Perfect One, they give up their former name and clan and come to be reckoned one with the Bhikkhus who are sons of the Sakyans. Again, just as the great rivers in the world flow into the great ocean, and the rains from the sky fall into it, yet for all that the great ocean is never described as not full or full, so too, though many Bhikkhus attain final Nibbana by the Nibbana element without result of past clinging left, yet for all that the Nibbana element is never described as not full or full. Again, just as the great ocean has one taste, the taste of salt, so too, this Dhamma and Discipline has one taste, the taste of liberation. Again, just as the great ocean holds many and various treasures-there are such treasures in it as pearls, crystals, beryls, shells, marbles, corals, silver, gold, rubies, opals - so too this Dhamma and Discipline holds many and various treasures –there are such treasures in it as the four foundations of mindfulness, the four right endeavours, the four bases for success, the five spiritual faculties, the five powers, the seven enlightenment factors, and the Noble Eightfold Path.

    Giving up life

    Maha Parinibbana Sutta as translated by Sister Vajira and Francis Story narrates the emotion-filled episode:

    9. When this was said, the Blessed One spoke to Mara, the Evil One, saying: “Do not trouble yourself, Evil One. Before long the Parinibbana of the Tathagata will come about. Three months hence the Tathagata will utterly pass away.”

    10. And at the Capala shrine the Blessed One thus mindfully and clearly comprehending renounced his will to live on. And upon the Lord's renouncing his will to live on, there came a tremendous earthquake, dreadful and astonishing, and thunder rolled across the heavens. And the Blessed One beheld it with understanding, and made this solemn utterance:

    What causes life, unbounded or confined — His process of becoming — this the Sage Renounces. With inward calm and joy he breaks, As though a coat of mail, his own life's cause.

    11. Then it came to the mind of the Venerable Ananda: “Marvellous it is indeed, and most wonderful! The earth shakes mightily, tremendously! Dreadful and astonishing it is, how the thunders roll across the heavens! What could be the reason, what the cause, that so mighty an earthquake should arise?”

    12. And the Venerable Ananda approached the Blessed One, and respectfully greeting him, sat down at one side. Then he spoke to the Blessed One, saying: “Marvellous it is indeed, and most wonderful! The earth shakes mightily, tremendously! Dreadful and astonishing it is how the thunders roll across the heavens! What could be the reason, what the cause, that so mighty an earthquake should arise?”

    13. Then the Blessed One said: “There are eight reasons, Ananda, eight causes for a mighty earthquake to arise. What are those eight?

    14. “This great earth, Ananda, is established upon liquid, the liquid upon the atmosphere, and the atmosphere upon space. And when, Ananda, mighty atmospheric disturbances take place, the liquid is agitated. And with the agitation of the liquid, tremors of the earth arise. This is the first reason, the first cause for the arising of mighty earthquakes.

    15. “Again, Ananda, when an ascetic or holy man of great power, one who has gained mastery of his mind, or a deity who is mighty and potent, develops intense concentration on the delimited aspect of the earth element, and to a boundless degree on the liquid element, he, too, causes the earth to tremble, quiver, and shake. This is the second reason, the second cause for the arising of mighty earthquakes.

    16-21. “Again, Ananda, when the Bodhisatta departs from the Tusita realm and descends into his mother's womb, mindfully and clearly comprehending; and when the Bodhisatta comes out from his mother's womb, mindfully and clearly comprehending; and when the Tathagata becomes fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment; when the Tathagata sets rolling the excellent Wheel of the Dhamma; when the Tathagata renounces his will to live on; and when the Tathagata comes to pass away into the state of Nibbana in which no element of clinging remains — then, too, Ananda, this great earth trembles, quivers, and shakes.

    “These, Ananda, are the eight reasons, the eight causes for a great earthquake to arise.”

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