1. The location of Kapilavatthu has been identified as the village of Piprāhwa, in northern India, just a few miles from the border of Nepal. In 1898 a reliquary was discovered in the stupa at that site, with an inscription stating that it contained the Buddha’s relics.

2. Here the word ‘boil’ (gaṇḍa) refers to the skin condition.

3. “Fabrication” is a translation of the Pāli term, saṅkhāra. In the context of meditation, MN 44 states that the three types of fabrication are experienced in the present moment as follows: bodily = the in-and-out breath, verbal = directed thought and evaluation, and mental = perceptions and feelings. AN 4:232, when discussing the results of actions leading to rebirth, identifies bodily, verbal, and mental fabrications as bodily, verbal, and mental actions in general. It is useful to contemplate the relationships between these two levels of meaning.

4. In other words, not allowing oneself to rest content merely with the skillful qualities developed on the path. Contentment, of course, is a virtue on the path, but as AN 4:28 shows, it is a quality to be developed around the material requisites of life. As this discourse shows, it is not to be applied to mental qualities. MN 2 makes a similar point: One should endure pains and harsh words but not the presence of unskillful states in the mind.

5. Māra, the personification of temptation and death.

6. The highest equanimity that can be attained through jhāna.

7. Muñja grass was the ancient Indian equivalent of a white flag. A warrior expecting that he might have to surrender would take muñja grass into battle with him. If he did surrender, he would lie down with the muñja grass in his mouth. The Buddha, in asking this rhetorical question, is indicating that he is not the type of warrior who would carry muñja grass. If defeated, he would rather die than surrender.

8. To the fore (parimukhaṁ): An Abhidhamma text, Vibhaṅga 12:1, defines this term as meaning “the tip of the nose or the sign of the mouth.” However, the term appears as part of a stock phrase describing a person engaged in meditation even for themes that have nothing to do with the body at all, such as sublime-attitude (brahmavihāra) meditation (AN 3:64). It seems more likely that the term is used in an idiomatic sense, indicating either that mindfulness is placed face-to-face with its object, or that it is made prominent, which is how it is translated here.

9. The commentaries insist that “entire body” here means the full length of the breath, but this is unlikely in this context, for two reasons: (a) The first two steps already require an awareness of the entire length of the breath. Otherwise, the meditator wouldn’t know if a breath was short or long. (b) As AN 10:20 indicates, the fourth step involves bringing the mind to the fourth jhāna, a state in which in-and-out breathing grows still (SN 36:11; AN 10:72) and the body is filled with pure, bright awareness, after awareness has been extended to be sensitive to the entire body beginning with the first jhāna (DN 2; MN 119). Because the fourth step focuses on the stilling of the breath, there has to be a step in which the awareness is extended to fill the entire body. That would be this step.

10. Sister Dhammadinnā: “In-&-out breaths are bodily; these are things tied up with the body. That’s why in-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications.” MN 44

“And how is a monk calmed in his bodily fabrication? There is the case where a monk, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress—enters & remains in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is how a monk is calmed in his bodily fabrication.” AN 10:20

11. Sister Dhammadinnā: “Perceptions & feelings are mental; these are things tied up with the mind. That’s why perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications.” MN 44

12. AN 9:34 shows how the mind, step by step, is temporarily released from burdensome mental states of greater and greater refinement as it advances through the stages of jhāna. MN 111 shows how a meditator, using discernment, can be released from the factors of any jhāna attainment up through the dimension of nothingness while still in that attainment.

13. This passage refers to the practice of the four jhānas. Notice that even after the Buddha had developed an impressive mastery of the type of concentration that can yield visions of light and forms, he still had to develop the four jhānas to gain insight into the processes of fabrication before he could gain awakening.

14. Mahaggataṁ. This term is used, together with “immeasurable / unlimited,” in the standard description of the awareness generated in the practice of the brahmavihāras (SN 42:8). According to Ven. Anuruddha in MN 127, however, an enlarged mind is not immeasurable. Its range of awareness is larger than the body but still measurable, ranging in distance from the shade of a tree to the earth bounded by the ocean.

15. Bhava. Becoming is the assumption of an identity in a world of experience on the level of sensuality, form, or formlessness. On this topic, see The Paradox of Becoming.

16. This hybrid word—clinging/sustenance—is a translation of the Pāli term upādāna. Upādāna has a hybrid meaning because it is used to cover two sides of a physical process metaphorically applied to the mind: the act of clinging whereby a fire takes sustenance from a piece of fuel, together with the sustenance offered by the fuel. On the level of the mind, upādāna denotes both the act of clinging and the object clung to, which together give sustenance to the process of becoming and its attendant factors leading to suffering and stress. There are four types of clinging/sustenance: sensuality, habits & practices, views, and doctrines of the self. For more on this image and its implications for the practice, see The Mind Like Fire Unbound and The Shape of Suffering.

17. Nāma-rūpa. “Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are called name-&-form.” SN 12:2

18. The discussion in the four paragraphs beginning with the phrase, “Vision arose.…” takes two sets of variables—the four noble truths and the three levels of knowledge appropriate to each—and lists their twelve permutations. In ancient Indian philosophical and legal traditions, this sort of discussion is called a wheel. This passage is taken from the Buddha’s first discourse, Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion, and is the wheel from which the discourse takes its name.

19. The Commentary insists that Anāthapiṇḍika is referring here only to the alms he gives to poor people in general, and not to the alms given to the monks. However, because Anāthapiṇḍika doesn’t qualify his statement in this way, it seems more likely that this discourse occurred either during a general famine or at a low point in his personal finances.

20. A name for a person who has had his/her first experience of the Dhamma eye at the first level of awakening (there are four levels in all). The term comes from the fact that such a person will inevitably gain full awakening in at least seven lifetimes—without falling into any of the lower realms in the meantime—just as a person who has reached a stream leading to the ocean will, when following it, arrive at the ocean inevitably.

21. The Commentary explains how this was produced. Having made bags for the dried rice, they say, the rice is cared for from the start like this: The fields are well prepared, the seeds are planted there, and they are watered with scented water. At harvest time, a rush-mat is tied up (suspended?) and, cutting off the head of the grain, putting a handful in each bag, and tying it up with a string, people dry the grains in the air. Then the grains are sprinkled with fragrant powder and a storeroom is filled with the bags. In the third year, the bags are opened. Using such three-year-cured fragrance-infused rice—unblemished, well purified rice—staple & non-staple foodstuffs are prepared.

22. This is the teaching of Makkhali Gosāla. See Chapter 4.

23. The seven treasures are a divine wheel, an ideal jewel, an ideal elephant, an ideal horse, an ideal wife, an ideal treasurer, an ideal counselor.

24. “Effectual” here means having an effect on a future lifetime. An action that is ineffectual and apparently ineffectual is one that has no effect on any future lifetime—it yields all its fruit in the current lifetime—and does not appear to have an effect on the subsequent lifetime. An action that is ineffectual and apparently effectual is one that is actually ineffectual but appears, erroneously, to be connected to a result in the subsequent lifetime. An action that is effectual and apparently effectual is one that has an impact on the subsequent lifetime. An action that is effectual and apparently ineffectual is one that has no impact on the subsequent lifetime but does have an impact on a lifetime after that.

25. Immeasurable concentration. This is a reference to the practice of the four brahmavihāras: immeasurable goodwill, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity.

26. The Commentary does not explain the meaning of this ambiguous sentence. It could mean that when the hell-being’s foot is lifted from the hot, burning floor, either (1) his skin, etc., continues burning or (2) his body returns to its original form. Either arrangement would be gruesome.

27. For further explanation of right view, see MN 2, MN 117, SN 12:15, and AN 10:93.

28. For more on right speech, see MN 58, SN 11:5, AN 4:183, AN 5:198, AN 10:176, and Sn 3:3.

29. For more on right effort, see MN 101 and AN 6:55.

30. For further explanation of right mindfulness, see DN 22 and the book Right Mindfulness.

31. AN 6:63 defines “sensuality” in these terms: “The passion for his resolves is a man’s sensuality, not the beautiful sensual pleasures found in the world.”

32. “And what, monks, are unskillful qualities? Wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration.” — SN 45:22

33. For further explanation of right concentration, see MN 44, MN 111, AN 4:41, AN 5:28, and AN 9:36.

34. See note 18.

35. Then a certain monk went to the Blessed One and… said to the Blessed One: “‘The cosmos, the cosmos [loka],’ it is said. In what respect does the word ‘cosmos’ apply?”

“Insofar as it disintegrates [lujjati], monk, it is called the ‘cosmos.’ Now what disintegrates? The eye disintegrates. Forms disintegrate. Eye-consciousness disintegrates. Eye-contact disintegrates. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on eye-contact—experienced as pleasure, pain, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain—that too disintegrates.”

[Similarly with the ear, nose, tongue, body, and intellect.] SN 35:82

36. On unestablished consciousness, see SN 12:64, SN 22:87, and the discussion in The Paradox of Becoming, Chapter 7.

37. With fuel remaining (sa-upādisesa) and with no fuel remaining (anupādisesa): The analogy here is to a fire. In the first case, the flames are out, but the embers are still glowing. In the second, the fire is so thoroughly out that the embers have grown cold.

38. Such (tādin): An adjective to describe one who has attained the goal. It indicates that the person’s state is undefinable and not subject to change or influence of any sort.

39. Following the reading in the Burmese and PTS editions: dhamma-sārādigamā khaye ratā.

40. The six sense spheres and all phenomena resulting from them—see SN 35:23.

41. Notice that dependent co-arising (paṭicca samuppāda) is expressed in terms of processes—of events and actions—without reference to a framework containing those processes. In other words, it doesn’t mention the existence or non-existence of agents doing the actions, or of a framework in time and space in which these processes happen. Thus it makes possible a way of understanding the causes of suffering and stress without reference to the existence or non-existence of an “I” or an “other” responsible for those events. Instead, the events are viewed simply as events in the context of the process—a way of viewing that makes it possible to abandon clinging to any of these events, so as to bring suffering to an end. Even the idea of an “I” or an “other” is seen simply as part of the process (under the factors of fabrication and the sub-factor of attention under “name” in name-and-form). This is what makes possible the abandoning of any attachment to the conceit “I am,” as mentioned in Ud 2:1, 4:1, 6:6, and 7:1.

For a discussion of dependent co-arising in general, see The Shape of Suffering. For further discussion of its role in framing and abandoning thoughts of “I am,” see Skill in Questions, Chapter 3 and Chapter 8.

42. This causal principle—called idappaccayatā, “this/that conditionality”—is actually two causal principles in interaction. The first principle is expressed in the pair of statements, “When this is, that is. When this isn’t, that isn’t.” This is the principle of synchronous causality, in which the effect arises and disappears at the same time as the cause. The second principle is expressed in the statements, “From the arising of this comes the arising of that. From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.” This is a principle of causality that can be diachronous, in other words, the effect will arise or cease after the cause has arisen or ceased. The interaction of these two principles is what makes the Buddha’s explanations of causality so complex.

43. In other words, regardless of whatever one bases one’s suppositions around an experience on, by the time the act of supposing is complete, the base has already changed.

44. This refers to the final step on the path, when the path itself is abandoned.

45. Reading sabb’upadhiṁ hi with the Thai edition. The Burmese and Sri Lankan editions read upadhiṁ hi: “For this stress comes into play in dependence on acquisition.”

46. This passage indicates the way out of the dilemma posed above, that one cannot gain release either through becoming or non-becoming. Rather than focus on whether one wants to take “what has come to be” in the direction of becoming or non-becoming, one develops dispassion for “what has come to be” as it occurs, and this provides the way out. On this point, see The Paradox of Becoming, Chapters 2 and Chapter 6.

47. The passage in braces is found only in the Burmese edition.

48. Dvevācikā: As the third member of the triple gem, the Noble Saṅgha, had not yet arisen, they went for refuge in the Buddha and Dhamma.

49. The word “ekāyana” here denotes a path that leads to only one destination—it doesn’t have any forks.

50. According to the Commentary, the five floods are the defilements associated with the five physical sense doors, whereas the sixth flood covers the defilements associated with the sixth sense door, the intellect. Or alternatively, it says, the five floods are the five lower fetters—self-identity views, uncertainty, grasping at habits & practices, sensual passion, and irritation—whereas the sixth flood covers the five higher fetters: passion for form, passion for formlessness, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance.

51. Reading bhāsitametaṁ with the Thai edition. The Burmese reads pabhāvitametaṁ

52. The Pāli phrases for the four noble truths are grammatical anomalies. From these anomalies, some scholars have argued that the expression “noble truth” is a later addition to the texts. Others have argued even further that the content of the four truths is also a later addition. Both of these arguments are based on the unproven assumption that the language the Buddha spoke was grammatically regular and that any irregularities were later corruptions of the language. This assumption forgets that the languages of the Buddha’s time were oral dialects and that the nature of such dialects is to contain many grammatical irregularities. Languages tend to become regular only when being used to govern a large nation state or to produce a large body of literature: events that happened in India only after the Buddha’s time. (A European example: Italian was a group of irregular oral dialects until Dante fashioned it into a regular language for the sake of his poetry.) So the irregularity of the Pāli here is no proof either for the earliness or lateness of this particular teaching.

53. For further discussion of the first noble truth, see DN 22, MN 109, SN 22:48, SN 22:79, SN 38:14, AN 6:63.

54. For further discussion of the second noble truth, see DN 22, SN 12:2, SN 12:64.

55. For further discussion of the fourth noble truth, see MN 117, SN 45:8.

56. Another argument for the lateness of the expression “noble truth” is that a truth—meaning an accurate statement about a body of facts—is not something that should be abandoned. In this case, only the craving is to be abandoned, not the truth about craving. However, in Vedic Sanskrit—as in modern English—a “truth” can mean both a fact and an accurate statement about a fact. In this case, the “truth” is the fact, not the statement about the fact. The fact of craving is to be abandoned, not the statement about it. So the expression is not necessarily late.

57. See note 18.

58. Following the Thai edition. The Burmese has aññāsi koṇḍañña, “You (or he) knew, Kondañña”.

59. The word “every” here and in all parallel passages is sabba, which is the same as the word for “all.” On the range of meaning covered by the word “all,” see SN 35:23. DN 11, DN 15, MN 49, and AN 10:81 indicate that there is a type of consciousness that lies outside the range of “all,” and so would not fall under the aggregate of consciousness. This apparently corresponds to the dimension mentioned in SN 35:117 and Ud 8:1.

60. Because Yasa was already an arahant, the Buddha did not add, as he had with the group of five monks, “for the right ending of stress.”

61. Reading mārabandhanabaddhosi with the Thai edition. The Burmese and PTS editions read, mahābandhanabaddhosi, “You are bound by a great bond,” which repeats the line in the preceding exchange.

62. Reading tena with the Thai edition.

63. Nāga means not only “serpent” but also “great being.”

64. This style of narrative—in which prose passages alternate with verses retelling parts of what was narrated in the prose—is called a campū. Another example is in the latter part of DN 16.

65. The Indian sub-continent.

66. Here the PTS edition adds, “Take it if you like.” “Enough, Great Contemplative, you yourself brought it, you take it yourself.”

67. The “middle-eight nights” are a period in February, regarded in northern India as the coldest part of the year.

68. According to the Commentary, the Buddha’s ten dwellings are the ten noble dwellings listed in AN 10:20; his ten strengths are the ten Tathāgata-strengths listed in MN 12 (see Chapter 10); he knows the ten guidelines to good conduct listed in MN 41; and he is endowed with the arahant’s tenfold path as described in MN 117.

69. This indicates that the arising of the Dhamma eye is not simply a realization of the impermanence of phenomena subject to origination. It also involves seeing that which is not subject to origination or cessation: i.e., the deathless.

70. Upatissa is Ven. Sāriputta’s personal name, while Kolita is Ven. Moggallāna’s.

71. The Commentary states that LongNails (Dīghanakha) was a nephew of Ven. Sāriputta.

72. Following the Thai edition of the Canon. The Burmese and PTS editions say that Ven. Sāriputta was standing.

73. The Pāli word no in this sentence can mean either “indeed” or “to us.”

74. Compare this account of Ven. Sāriputta’s awakening with the account given in MN 111.

75. There is a question as to where the first part of the poem ends and the second begins. The Commentary assigns only the last stanza—beginning with, “I am the son of the Buddha”—to the second part, and everything before that to the first. This, however, doesn’t fit with the fact that the seventh stanza is obviously addressed to the person who engendered the Buddha, and not to the Buddha himself. For this reason, we have placed the division into two parts after the sixth stanza, as the first six stanzas are unified by the theme of bearing fruit, with the fourth and fifth stanza possibly included to remind the Buddha of the good results that would come to his family if he provided them with the opportunity to give him alms. Alternatively, the division could be placed after the fourth stanza, in that the fifth stanza could be interpreted as beginning a line of thought aimed at putting the listener into the proper mood to accept the principle of the results of good kamma seen not in this lifetime but in the next.

76. Rohiṇī is the name both of a river at the edge of the Sakyan lands and of an asterism, i.e., a star in the zodiac used to indicate a season of time.

77. Reading vipaccatu with the Thai edition, which seems to fit better with the imagery in the earlier part of the poem than the reading in the other editions—samijjhatu, “may it succeed.”

78. Reading kasate with the Thai edition.

79. Reading dhīro with the Thai edition. The other editions read vīro, hero.

80. Sakka is the name of the king of the devas of the heaven of the Thirty-three. Ven. Kāludāyin is playing here with the similarity between this name and that of the Sakyan lineage.

81. Reading Māyanāmā with the Sri Lankan and PTS editions. The Thai edition reads Māyā mahesī, so that the line would read, “The Buddha’s mother is Queen Māyā.” This would provide a play on words—mahesi, great seer, and mahesī, queen.

82. The Commentary identifies the threefold deva realm as the Tusita (Contented) heaven, but doesn’t explain why that heaven would be given this name. Some verses in the Jātaka identify the threefold deva realm as the heaven of the Thirty-three, and the later reference to “those groups of devas” in this poem would seem to support this latter interpretation.

83. An epithet for the Buddha, meaning “resplendent.” Aṅgīrasa was the name of an ancient brahmanical sage to which the Gotama clan claimed a connection. The Commentary suggests that this was one of the Bodhisatta’s personal names prior to his awakening.

84. This suggests that this story occurred either after Suddhodana’s death or after his retirement from power.

85. Ahaṁ tayā, literally, ‘I’m with you,’ seems to be an idiom meaning something like ‘I’m on your side’ or ‘I’m agreed with you.’

86. The same three knowledges that the Buddha attained on the night of his awakening.

87. Note that Devadatta is not referred to as ‘Venerable’ (Āyasmā).

88. According to the Commentary, Rāhula was a seven-year-old novice when this conversation occurred.

89. Sāmañña. Throughout ancient cultures, the terminology of music was used to describe the moral quality of people and actions. Discordant intervals or poorly tuned musical instruments were metaphors for evil; harmonious intervals and well tuned instruments, metaphors for good. In Pāli, the term sama—“even”—described an instrument tuned on-pitch. There is a famous passage (in AN 6:55, see Chapter 7) where the Buddha reminds Soṇa Koḷivisa—who had been over-exerting himself in the practice—that a lute sounds appealing only if the strings are neither too taut nor too lax, but “evenly” tuned. This image would have special resonances with the Buddha’s teaching on the middle way. It also adds meaning to the term samaṇa—monk or contemplative—which the texts frequently mention as being derived from sama. The word sāmañña—“evenness,” the quality of being in tune—also means the quality of being a contemplative: The true contemplative is always in tune with what is proper and good.

90. For analyses of the many values taught in this passage, see, “The Road to Nirvāṇa Is Paved with Skillful Intentions,” “In the Eyes of the Wise,” and “The Buddha Teaches His Son.”

91. This question and answer are missing in the PTS, Burmese, and Sri Lankan editions of the Canon.

92. Here the PTS, Sri Lankan, and Burmese editions add a further condition for the arising of effluents in the Saṅgha: the Saṅgha has great learning.

93. The inconsistency here—two heaps becoming three—may stem from the fact that in the story of Ven. Raṭṭhapāla (MN 82), on which this story appears to be patterned, there are three heaps of silver and gold.

94. Not the same as the Ven. Assaji who was one of the group of five monks, the Buddha’s first students, and who taught Ven. Sāriputta. In fact, note that the monk who ends up telling the Buddha about the conduct of the misbehaving Assaji and his followers is described in the same terms as those used to describe how Ven. Assaji’s behavior inspired Sāriputta the wanderer.

95. This pattern allows for the use of cloth scraps of many shapes and sizes, and yet yields an orderly appearance. At the same time, if a large piece of cloth is obtained, cutting it into small pieces reduces its value, so that it is less likely to be stolen. Cloth was apparently very expensive at that time.

96. As Chapter 16 will indicate, Ven. Upāli—the same Upāli who had been the barber of the Sakyan princes—went on to become an arahant and the foremost expert in the Vinaya.

97. Ariṭṭha is apparently referring to sexual intercourse.

98. The first seven of these comparisons are treated in detail in MN 54. The simile of the butcher’s ax and chopping block is mentioned in MN 23, the simile of swords and spears in SN 5:1, and the simile of the snake’s head in Sn 4:1.

99. Apart from a few minor details, this story up to this point is identical with the origin story for Pācittiya 68 and the origin story for the rules concerning the act of suspension given in Cv 1:32.1–3. Ariṭṭha was the first monk to be suspended from the Saṅgha. Cv 1:34 reports that, instead of making an effort to mend his ways so that the act of suspension might be rescinded, he simply disrobed.

100. The image here is apparently that of trying to start a fire with the friction of a fire stick. Ariṭṭha hasn’t even been able to create any warmth, much less the spark of insight that would create light.

101. According to the Commentary, “indulge in sensual pleasures” here means indulging in sexual intercourse; the Sub-commentary adds that other acts expressing sexual desire—such as hugging and petting—should be included under this phrase as well.

102. See MN 49, Chapter 11.

103. Throughout the first part of this story, Ven. Nāgasamāla refers to the Buddha with this exaggerated form of address. Perhaps the compilers meant this as a linguistic hint of how inappropriate an attendant he was for the Buddha. At the point in the narrative where he puts the Buddha’s bowl and robes on the ground, the Sri Lankan and Burmese editions correct his statement to the more appropriate: “This, lord, is the Blessed One’s bowl & robes.” However, to be in keeping with his normal way of addressing the Buddha, and to stress the rudeness of the gesture, I felt it better to keep the sentence as it is in the Thai edition. Only after Ven. Nāgasamāla is chastened by his experience with the thieves does he revert to using the simpler and more standard address: “lord.”

104. Milk-feeding = khīrapaka. This is a poetic way of saying “young and unweaned”—the “milk” here being the regurgitated food with which the mother heron feeds her young. Also—in the conventions of Indian literature—the reference to milk suggests that the heron is white.

105. DN 16 (Chapter 15) indicates that the Buddha had planned to develop a nuns’ order early in his teaching career. So it appears that his initial refusal of Mahāpajāpatī’s request was strategic: that he already had in mind the conditions under which such an order should be founded, but he wanted to wait until Mahāpajāpatī was earnest enough to accept them. If this is the case, then the strategy was wise. As we will see below, after accepting the conditions, she later tried to have at least two of them rescinded.

106. According to SN 16:13, the True Dhamma is said to have disappeared when a counterfeit of the True Dhamma has arisen in the world. In other words, when there is more than one version of the Dhamma, people will have doubts as to which version is the True Dhamma. The Buddha’s prediction has proven quite prescient, in that it was approximately five hundred years after his death that the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtras, with their doctrine of the non-arising of dhammas, first appeared.

107. This may be a kind of caterpillar.

108. This is not exactly what the Buddha had said. The nuns here are replacing “I allow that nuns be given the Acceptance by monks (anujānāmi… bhikkhūhi bhikkhuniyo upasampādetuṁ)” with “Nuns should be given Acceptance by monks (bhikkhūhi bhikkhuniyo upasampādetabbā).” The allowance for monks to give Acceptance to nuns was later amended at Cv X.17.2 so that the Bhikkhu Saṅgha could give Acceptance to a nun only after she had been found by the Bhikkhunī Saṅgha to be free of obstructing conditions.

109. See DN 16 on the topic of how homage is best shown to the Buddha.

110. Mahāpajāpatī’s sister, the Buddha’s mother.

111. The Group-of-Six monks appear often in the Vinaya as notorious troublemakers. They were so called because they had six ringleaders: Assaji (not the same Assaji who was among the group of five monks) & Punabbasu in Kīṭāgiri, Mettiya & Bhummaja in Rājagaha, and Paṇḍuka & Lohitaka in Sāvatthī.

112. AN 10:69 identifies bestial topics of conversation as: “conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not.”

113. The “potency” of a virtuous monk is his unwillingness to seek redress when he has been treated wrongly. The bad kamma of having mistreated a monk pure in his virtue is what returns to burn the person who did it.

114. Lady Visākhā. According to the Commentary, she was actually Migāra’s daughter, but because she introduced him to the Dhamma, she gained the epithet of being his mother.

115. In the parallel passage at SN 3:11, King Pasenadi states this, not as a question, but as a fact: “Of those in the world who are arahants or on the path to arahantship, these are among them.” The version presented here, however, seems psychologically more probable: The king, rather than trying to lie to the Buddha, wants to test the latter’s ability to see through the disguise of his spies.

116. In SN 3:11, this verse is replaced with the following:

Not by appearance

is a man rightly known,

nor should trust be based

on a quick glance,

—for, disguised as well restrained,

the unrestrained go through this world.

A counterfeit earring made of clay,

a bronze half-dollar coated in gold:

They go about in this world

hidden all around:

impure inside,

beautiful out.

The verse in SN 3:11 may seem more immediately relevant to the situation than the verse given here, but the verse given here is a more interesting and original response to what is happening.

117. Ways of the world (lokadhamma): gain, loss, status, loss of status, praise, criticism, pleasure, pain.

118. See note 192.

119. This principle was later adopted by the monks at the First Council, in response to the Buddha’s offer that they could, if they saw fit, rescind the minor training rules. See Chapter 16.

120. The Pāli here reads, na āyataken’eva papāto. The Commentary insists that this phrase means, “with no abrupt drop-off.” There are three reasons for not accepting the Commentary’s interpretation here. (a) The first is grammatical. The word āyataka means “long, drawn out; lasting a long time.” To interpret āyatakena, the instrumental of a word meaning “long, drawn out,” to mean “abrupt” makes little sense. (b) The second reason is geographical. The continental shelf off the east coast of India does have a sudden drop-off after a long gradual slope. (c) The third reason is doctrinal. As noted in the interpretation of the simile, the shape of the ocean floor corresponds to the course of the practice. If there were no sudden drop-off, there would be no sudden penetration to awakening. However, there are many cases of sudden penetration in the Canon, Exhibit A being Bāhiya’s attainment of arahantship in Ud 1:10.

121. The monks here address Ven. Nanda as “āyasmant.” According to DN 16, they did not normally address one another in this formal way while the Buddha was still alive. So there is an element of sarcasm in the way they use the term here.

122. Reading yassa tiṇṇo kāmapaṅko with the Thai edition. The Burmese, Sri Lankan, and PTS editions read, yassa nittiṇṇo paṅko: “In whom the mire is crossed over.”

123. According to the Commentary, Ven. Rāhula was eighteen years old when this discourse took place.

124. In other words, one dies fully alert.

125. See note 35.

126. Anupādisesa-nibbāna-dhātu. See note 37.

127. DN 11 explains instruction using the “marvel of pointing out” in these terms: “There is the case where a monk gives instruction in this way: ‘Direct your thought in this way, don’t direct it in that. Attend to things in this way, don’t attend to them in that. Let go of this, enter and remain in that.”

128. On this and the following instruction, see DN 16, Chapter 15.

129. See AN 10:29.

130. On this and the following cognitive skills, see DN 2.

131. The Buddha regards Kasi’s offer of milk-rice as payment for his teachings, which is why he rejects it.

132. The five hindrances are sensual desire, ill will, sloth & drowsiness, restlessness & anxiety, and uncertainty. The seven factors for awakening are mindfulness, analysis of qualities, persistence, rapture, calm, concentration, and equanimity.

133. The PTS reading here—“I will not stamp him out”—is surely a mistake. I follow the Thai reading of this passage, even though it is somewhat ungrammatical. There are passages in MN 90 where King Pasenadi’s sentences don’t quite parse, and perhaps this is another example of his brusque language.

134. Following the Sri Lankan and Burmese editions. In the Thai edition, this sentence reads, less effectively, “What can I do?”

135. Reading na imehi kataṁ, sapant’ime samaṇā sakya-puttiyā with the Sri Lankan and Burmese editions. The Thai reads, less grammatically, na imehi kataṁ, pāpant’ime samaṇā sakya-puttiyā.

136. In Pāli, paṇḍita-vādo, “one who teaches the teaching of the wise.” Like the sophists (“wisdom-ists”) of Greece who were near contemporaries of the Buddha, Saccaka claimed to be wise, but his wisdom was largely a matter of debater’s tricks. So it seems appropriate to adopt the Greek label for him.

137. The same Ven. Assaji who was among the group of five monks and who taught Sāriputta the wanderer the brief gist of the Buddha’s teaching that immediately inspired the latter to attain the Dhamma eye.

138. Aggivessana is Saccaka’s clan name.

139. Saccaka is here attempting to appeal to the prejudices of his audience, a cheap debater’s trick.

140. Again, Saccaka is trying to appeal to the vanity of his audience. He doesn’t realize, however, that he is setting himself up for a trap. By tying his audience’s vanity to the Buddha’s analogy, he cannot later deny that the analogy is valid.

141. Following the Thai edition here, which reads, “Āgamehi tvaṁ Dummukha. Āgamehi tvaṁ Dummukha. Mukharo’si tvaṁ Dummukha.” The Burmese edition here reads, “Just you wait, Dummukha. Just you wait, Dummukha.” The Sri Lankan edition reads, “Just you wait, Dummukha. You’re a big-mouth, Dummukha.”

142. Baka Brahmā here appears to be referring both to his Brahmā world and to the state of mind that enables one to inhabit his Brahmā world.

143. Pajāpati has different meanings in different contexts. In some contexts, it refers to a creator deva dwelling in a Brahmā world of form. In other contexts, it refers to the chief wife of a major deva.

144. The word “body” in this discourse refers to three things: an individual body, a group of beings on a particular level of being, and the level of being as a whole. The Commentary says that coarse body here refers to the four levels of deprivation, and refined body, further on, to the Brahmā worlds.

145. The Ābhassarā Brahmā-body is attained through mastering and relishing the second jhāna. The next two Brahmā-bodies are attained through mastering and relishing, respectively, the third and fourth. See AN 4:123 and 125, and in particular note 2 under the latter sutta.

146. The phrase in braces is from the Burmese edition of the Canon.

147. What is not experienced through the earthness of earth (and so on through the list of categories up through the allness of the all) is nibbāna, or unbinding. It is described in these terms because it is directly known, without intermediary of any sort.

148. These statements can be read in two ways. The first way is to regard them in light of the standard definition of self-identification view (see, for instance, MN 44, MN 109, and SN 22:1) in which one defines self either as identical with an aggregate, as possessing an aggregate, as being contained in an aggregate, or as containing an aggregate within it. The second way is to regard the statements in light of the parallel passage from MN 1, in which one engages in metaphysical speculation as to whether one’s being is identical with something, lies within something, or comes from something. For more on this topic, see the introduction to MN 1.

149. “What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This is termed the All. Anyone who would say, ‘Repudiating this All, I will describe another,’ if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his assertion, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why is that? Because it lies beyond range.” SN 35:23

For more on this topic, see The Mind Like Fire Unbound, Chapter 1.

150. Consciousness without surface (viññāṇaṁ anidassanaṁ): See the discussion in Chapter 2, in the section on unbinding.

151. In other words, the act of searching for non-becoming—or annihilation—is also a type of becoming. Although the Buddhist path aims at the cessation of becoming (bhava), it does not attempt this cessation by trying to annihilate the process of becoming. Instead, it does so by focusing on what has already come to be (bhūta), developing dispassion for what has come to be and for the nutriment—the causes—of what has come to be. With no more passion, there is no clinging to or taking sustenance from the causes of what has come to be. And through this lack of clinging or sustenance comes release. On this point see SN 12:31 and Iti 49.

152. The Mātikās are lists of dhamma-topics—such as the thirty-seven Wings to Awakening—that formed the basis for the Abhidhamma.

153. The Buddha uses the plural form to address Ven. Anuruddha, meaning that he is addressing all of them.

154. The meaning seems to be that people would put bile into a dog’s nose to make it more vicious. The Commentary states that “When the bile breaks” means “When I put the bile of a bear or fish into its nose.”

155. The Thai reads anantarika-kammaṁ, while the Burmese has ānantariyaṁ kammaṁ. The meaning is the same: action (kamma) without anything between it (antarika/antariya) and its result. Thus the etymology parallels that of the English word “immediate.” The meaning is that such an action causes one to go immediately to hell at the end of one’s life. AN 5:129 lists five such actions: “One who has killed one’s mother, one who has killed one’s father, one who has killed an arahant, one who—with a corrupt intention—has caused the blood of a Tathāgata to flow, and one who has caused a split in the Saṅgha. These are the five inhabitants of the states of deprivation, inhabitants of hell, who are in agony & incurable.” As we will see below, Devadatta commits two of these actions, and he incites Ajātasattu to commit one as well.

156. The PTS and Burmese editions add, “for alms.”

157. “Nāga” can mean elephant, magical serpent, or great being.

158. This refers to Pācittiya 32 in the Vinaya, which prohibits monks from eating invited meals when a specific group of four or more monks have been invited.

159. The nine practices mentioned here—being a wilderness dweller, one who wears robes of cast-off cloth, an alms-goer, one who dwells at the root of a tree, a cemetery dweller, one who lives in the open air, one who doesn’t lie down, one who is content with whatever dwelling is assigned to him, or one who eats only one meal a day—are among the thirteen optional ascetic (dhutaṅga) practices that monks may undertake. The other four are: possessing only one set of the triple robe, bypassing no donors on one’s almsround, eating only from one’s bowl, and not accepting food brought after one’s almsround. All thirteen practices are listed in Thag 16:7.

160. This is the decisive step in causing a schism.

161. DN 11 describes this marvel: “And what is the marvel of pointing out? There is the case where a monk gives instruction in this way: ‘Direct your thought in this way, don’t direct it in that. Attend to things in this way, don’t attend to them in that. Let go of this, enter and remain in that.’” This is the method by which, according to the Buddha in the origin story for Pr 1, the previous Buddhas Vipassin, Sikhin, and Vessabhū used to instruct their students.

162. A two-horned chestnut is the nut of a tree (Trapa bicornis) growing in south and southeast Asia. Its shell looks like the head of a water buffalo, with two nasty, curved “horns” sticking out of either side.

163. Jīvaka was the personal physician to King Bimbisāra, and also served as physician to the Buddha and the Saṅgha of monks when they stayed near Rājagaha. His story, one of the more entertaining accounts in the Canon, is told in Mv 8:1.

164. The Canon does not explain why Ajātasattu killed his father even though the latter had already handed the kingdom over to him. The Commentary states that he was afraid that those loyal to Bimbisāra would try to reinstate him as king.

165. The Thai edition, which we have followed here, reads dhammā: mental qualities. Other editions read dhammo: the Dhamma. The Commentary maintains that this refers to the mental qualities conducive to concentration.

166. The story of Ven. Mahā Kassapa’s Going-forth is told in SN 16:11.

167. There is a play on words in this sentence, between Tathāgata (“one truly gone,” or “one who has become true”) and vi-tathaṁ, “untruthfully.”

168. Notice that Vassakāra, by addressing the Buddha as “Master Gotama,” shows a lesser degree of respect to the Buddha than King Ajātasattu had told him to. Vassakāra also appears in MN 108, AN 4:35, and AN 4:183, and in each instance displays a limited understanding of the Dhamma.

169. According to the Commentary, that is precisely what Vassakāra did, thus enabling King Ajātasattu to defeat the Vajjians without bloodshed. In addition to being ironic—showing how benighted Ajātasattu was, trying to get military advice from the Buddha—this passage has a poignant meaning for the Saṅgha. As the following passage shows, the conditions of no decline in the Saṅgha are not very different from those for no decline in the Vajjians. And although those conditions may prevail in the Saṅgha, the example of the Vajjians shows that they can be easily abandoned. This passage thus serves as a warning not to be heedless. See also AN 5:77–80.

170. This is the same principle that the Buddha enunciated in NP 15, and that the Saṅgha adopted as a policy during the First Council. See Chapter 16.

171. See AN 7:21.

172. See MN 29–30.

173. See MN 53 and AN 7:63.

174. See SN 46:51 and SN 46:53.

175. The Burmese edition does not contain the word, “further,” here.

176. See AN 10:60.

177. See MN 61.

178. This is the last reported encounter between the Buddha and Ven. Sāriputta.

179. See AN 10:95.

180. See Ud 8:6.

181. The translation here follows the Burmese and Sri Lankan editions of the text. The PTS version of the passage doesn’t state the time of day, whereas the Thai version says that the Buddha went to the rest-house hall in the morning—which, given the events that follow, doesn’t seem right, for he would have spent the entire day teaching the lay followers of Pāṭali Village.

182. Pāṭaliputta later became the capital of King Asoka’s empire. The “breaking open of the seed-pods (pūṭa-bhedana)” is a wordplay on the last part of the city’s name. The city is now named Patna.

Archeological evidence from what may have been part of Asoka’s palace in Pāṭaliputta shows burnt wooden posts buried in mud—perhaps a sign that the palace burned and then was buried in a flood.

183. The five lower fetters are self-identification views, uncertainty, grasping at habits & practices, sensual desire, and ill will. The five higher fetters, abandoned by the arahant in addition to the lower five, are passion for form, passion for what is formless, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. See AN 10:13.

184. The four pairs are (1) the person on the path to stream-entry, the person experiencing the fruit of stream-entry; (2) the person on the path to once-returning, the person experiencing the fruit of once-returning; (3) the person on the path to non-returning, the person experiencing the fruit of non-returning; (4) the person on the path to arahantship, the person experiencing the fruit of arahantship. The eight individuals are the eight types forming these four pairs.

185. For another way to gauge whether one has attained stream-entry, see MN 48. Notice that in this Dhamma-mirror, the Buddha gives criteria only for gauging one’s own level of attainment and not that of others. On this point, see AN 10:75.

186. Ambapālī apparently ordained as a nun later in life. Her verses are recorded in Thag 13:1.

187. Following the Thai edition. The Sinhalese and PTS editions have “we’ve been totally defeated (parājitamhā)” rather than “cheated” (vañcitamhā); the Burmese edition has Little Mango (Ambakā) instead of Little Ambapālī (Ambapālikā).

188. In other words, the Buddha had no esoteric version of the Dhamma that he taught only to an inner circle or a select class of privileged beings. The Dhamma that he taught to his close disciples was consistent with the Dhamma he taught at large.

189. In other words, he did not hold back any teachings from his students until he was about to die. As the narrative in DN 16 makes clear, the teachings he taught up to the night of his unbinding were identical to the teachings he had taught for his entire career.

190. As the text will make clear, these are some of the locations where, in the past, the Buddha had commented to Ven. Ānanda on how refreshing the location was, implying that living on would not be a burden, and that he could, if he so desired, extend his life. The reference to these locations was apparently to remind Ānanda of what he had said there.

191. “And what is the base of power? Whatever path, whatever practice, leads to the attainment of power, the winning of power: That is called the base of power. And what is the development of the base of power? There is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion. He develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on persistence… concentration founded on intent… concentration founded on discrimination & the fabrications of exertion. This is called the development of the base of power.” — SN 51:26

192. An eon, in the Buddhist cosmology, is an immensely long stretch of time. According to the Commentary here, it can also mean the full lifespan of a human being in that particular period of the eon (Buddhist cosmology allows for a huge fluctuation in human lifespans over the course of an eon). The Commentary adopts this second meaning in this passage, and so takes the Buddha’s statement here as meaning that a person who has developed the bases of power could live for a full lifespan or for a little bit more. In this case, the Pāli for the last part of this compound, kappāvasesaṁ, would mean, “an eon plus a remainder.”

193. See note 161.

194. In other words, the Buddha relinquished the will to live longer. It was this relinquishment that led to his total unbinding three months later.

195. Reading tulaṁ as a present participle.

196. The image is of splitting a coat of mail with an arrow.

197. This list is apparently a description both of the ways in which beings on different levels of the cosmos are percipient, and of experiences that a meditator—particularly one who is inclined to visions—might have. AN 10:29 adds this comment to the list:

“Now, of these eight dimensions of mastery, this is supreme: when one percipient of the formless internally sees forms externally as white, white in their color, white in their features, white in their glow. And there are beings who are percipient in this way. Yet even in the beings who are percipient in this way there is still aberration, there is change. Seeing this, the instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with that. Being disenchanted with that, he becomes dispassionate toward what is supreme, and even more so toward what is inferior.”

198. This, too, is a list of the stages of meditation as experienced by one who is inclined to visions.

These lists of eight factors are not randomly chosen. They all highlight the grandeur of the Buddha’s attainment and add to the marvelous savor of this entire passage.

199. These are the thirty-seven bodhi-pakkhiya-dhammā. For a full account, see The Wings to Awakening.

200. The Buddha will repeat these two statements as his last exhortation before his total unbinding. On the topic of heedfulness, see SN 35:97 and SN 55:40. On the topic of consummation, see MN 53.

201. The Commentary notes a wide range of opinions on what “pig-delicacy” means. The opinion given in the Mahā Aṭṭhakathā—the primary source for the Commentary we now have—is that pig-delicacy is tender pork. Other opinions include soft bamboo shoots or mushrooms that pigs like to nibble on, or a special elixir. Given that India has long had a history of giving fanciful names to its foods and elixirs, it’s hard to say for sure what the Buddha ate for his last meal.

202. This style of narrative—in which prose passages alternate with verses retelling parts of what was narrated in the prose—is called a campū. This is one of the few passages in the Canon where this style is used, three others being the beginning of the story of the Kassapa brothers (Mv 1:15), the Kuṇāla Jātaka (J 5:416–456), and Ud 8:5, which also narrates these events, minus the Buddha’s conversation with Pukkusa Mallaputta. The fact that this is the only section of this sutta using this style suggests that perhaps the version of the narrative given in Ud 8:5 was composed first as a separate piece and then later incorporated into this sutta.

203. Ven. Ānanda’s description of the water is alliterative in the Pāli: sātodakā sītodakā setodakā.

204. The narrative in Ud 8:5 skips from this poem to the point in the narrative where the Buddha goes to the Kakudha River, skipping over the story of Pukkusa Mallaputta.

205. Āḷāra Kālāma was the teacher from whom the Buddha, before his awakening, learned how to attain the dimension of nothingness, one of the formless attainments. See MN 26. The Vibhaṅga to Pārājika 4 indicates that the purity of one’s mastery of any of these formless attainments can be measured by the extent to which one does not hear sounds while in that attainment. The same passage also indicates that if one does hear sounds, that does not mean that one has not achieved that attainment, simply that one’s mastery of the attainment is not entirely pure. It further indicates that “purity” here does not mean purity from defilements. After all, in the Vibhaṅga to Pārājika 4, Ven. Mahā Moggallāna’s attainment of the formless states is said to be impure, and yet he is an arahant. “Purity” refers instead to the strength of one’s concentration.

206. Āyasmant: This is a term of respect usually reserved for senior monks. The Buddha’s use of it here was probably meant to emphasize the point that Cunda’s gift of the Buddha’s last meal should be treated as a very honorable thing.

207. Up to this point in the sutta, the standard phrase describing the Buddha’s act of lying down to rest ends with the phrase, “attending to the perception [mental note] of getting up.” Here, however, the Buddha is lying down for the last time and will pass away in this posture, so he makes no mental note to get up.

208. SN 12:67 states: “If a monk practices for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, & cessation with regard to aging-&-death… birth… becoming… clinging/sustenance… craving… feeling… contact… the six sense media… name-&-form… consciousness… fabrications… ignorance, he deserves to be called a monk who practices the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma.” SN 22:39 states: “For a monk practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma, what accords with the Dhamma is this: that he keep cultivating disenchantment with regard to form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness.” SN 22:40–41 add that this is to be done by remaining focused on stress, inconstancy, and not-self with regard to these five aggregates.

209. From Vedic times, it has been considered auspicious in India to gaze on a holy person or heavenly being, and to be gazed on by such a being as well. Here the fact that heavenly beings themselves want to gaze on the Buddha indicates the high regard they have for him (this is also the motive for their Great Convocation in DN 20); the phrase later in this paragraph, “the One with Eyes,” indicates that they also regarded his gaze as highly auspicious for them. Later passages in this discourse indicate that human beings have similar feelings about the auspiciousness of the Buddha’s gaze and the Buddha as an object of one’s own gaze. A great deal of the later history of Buddhism in India—including devotional practice, Buddhology, meditation practice, and even the architecture of monasteries—grew out of the continuing desire to have a vision of the Buddha and to be gazed on by the Buddha, even after his Parinibbāna.

It’s sometimes assumed, based on a passage in SN 22:87, that the Pāli Canon is uniformly negative toward this aspect of Buddhist tradition. There, Ven. Vakkali, who is ill, states that “For a long time have I wanted to come & see the Blessed One, but I haven’t had the bodily strength to do so,” and the Buddha comforts him, “Enough, Vakkali. Why do you want to see this filthy body? Whoever sees the Dhamma sees me; whoever sees me sees the Dhamma.” It should be noted, however, that the Buddha’s treatment of this topic is sensitive to the context. In SN 22:87, he is talking to a monk who (1) is too sick to come see the Buddha; and (2) is on the verge of arahantship. Here in DN 16, however, the Buddha dismisses Ven. Upavāṇa so as to honor the desire of the devas who want to see him in his last hour, and he sends Ven. Ānanda into Kusinārā to inform the lay people there so that they too will be able to see him in his last hour. His motive here may be similar to that given for encouraging the building of a burial mound dedicated to him: Seeing him will help human beings and devas to brighten their minds, and that will be for their long-term welfare & happiness. So the attitudes expressed on this topic in the Pāli Canon, when taken in their entirety, are more complex than is generally recognized.

210. Reading chinna-pada with the Thai edition.

211. A righteous king who has, through the Dhamma, conquered the four corners of the earth. For the monarch’s seven treasures, see note 23.

212. The desire to have one’s name announced to a holy person appears to have been a part of pre-Buddhist devotional practice in India. This passage, along with others in the Canon (see, for example, MN 89, Chapter 14), indicates that it was quickly adopted into Buddhist devotional practice as well. It lived on in later Buddhist practice in the custom of having the donor’s name inscribed in bas-reliefs and other offerings placed near or on a stupa, even in locations where the name would not be visible to human eyes.

213. The Commentary notes that Subhadda makes this statement based on non-Buddhist practices he knew from his previous sectarian affiliation.

214. See Cv 11, in Chapter 16.

215. A monk named Channa is depicted at several spots in the Vinaya as despising all other monks on the grounds that “The Buddha is mine, the Dhamma is mine, it was by my young master that the Dhamma was realized” (Sg 12). This would fit in with the post-canonical tradition identifying Channa as the horseman who accompanied the young Prince Siddhartha on the night of the latter’s Great Renunciation. Two rules in the Vinaya—Sg 12 and Pc 12—depict him as devious & impossible to admonish. Cv 11, below, tells of his reaction to the brahmā-punishment, and of the ultimately good effect it had on him. SN 22:90 tells a more detailed version of the same story.

216. Ven. Ānanda, assuming that the Buddha has passed away, addresses Ven. Anuruddha—his senior—as “venerable sir,” in line with the Buddha’s instructions.

217. This is one of the earthquakes forecast earlier in the sutta.

218. See AN 5:49 and AN 5:57.

219. This apparently refers to the devas who are non-returners, living in the Pure Abodes.

220. A different Subhadda from the Buddha’s last direct-witness disciple.

221. See Cv 11.

222. The commentary notes that Ven. Mahā Kassapa entered the fourth jhāna, which he used as the basis for a feat of supranormal power so that the Buddha’s feet would appear out of their extensive wrappings.

223. Up to this point in the narrative, the Buddha’s body is called a sarīra (singular). Here the noun becomes plural—with the meaning of “relics”—and remains plural for the remainder of the narrative.

224. According to the Commentary, this closing poem was added to the sutta by elder monks in Sri Lanka. The Thai, Sri Lankan, and Burmese editions end the sutta with a further, fairly anticlimactic, verse that appears to be an even later composition:

Altogether forty teeth,

and all the head-hairs & body-hairs

were taken by the devas

one after another

around the universe.

225. A pārājika offense is the most serious category of offense in the Vinaya. A monk who commits one is automatically no longer a monk and cannot reordain in this lifetime. A saṅghādisesa offense is one that requires an offender to undergo a penance of six days. A nissaggiya pācittiya offense requires an offender to forfeit an item that he obtained improperly and to confess the offense. The remaining categories listed here are offenses that entail confession.

226. This is the same principle that the Buddha enunciated in NP 15, discussed above in Chapter 5. There is the possibility that the Buddha made the offer to let the Saṅgha rescind the lesser and minor training rules, not because he expected that they would do so, but because he wanted to provide them with the opportunity to show their loyalty to him by voluntarily holding to a principle that he had emphasized again and again while he was alive.

227. The monks here are not accusing Ven. Ānanda of having committed offenses against the Vinaya, as none of the actions they cite break any of the rules, and they themselves do not use the word, “offense.” They are simply accusing him of wrongdoings in his conduct with regard to the Buddha. (In DN 16, the Buddha himself said that Ānanda’s neglect to invite him to stay for an eon was an instance of wrongdoing.) Perhaps they are testing him to see if he has any remaining pride around the fact that he was so close to the Buddha and was so highly praised, both by the Buddha and by others, for the way in which he fulfilled his role as the Buddha’s attendant.

228. This incident shows how accurate accounts of the Buddha’s teachings not standardized by the First Council may have eventually made their way into the Canon. In keeping with the Great Standards laid down in DN 16, communities of reciters would accept additional accounts remembered by Ven. Purāṇa and others like him, as long as they were consistent with what was already accepted as Dhamma and Vinaya.

229. Gold, of course, doesn’t go out of existence simply because there is counterfeit gold. What happens is that it goes out of use: People find that counterfeit gold is easier to use. An added implication of this statement may be that as long as there is only genuine gold, people will not doubt its authenticity. When there is both genuine and counterfeit gold, doubts will arise as to what is genuine—all gold becomes doubtful—and people will end up using whichever is easier or more to their liking.

230. The point here is that the True Dhamma will not disappear through natural disasters, such as landslides, floods, fires, or windstorms. For an account of how people in the time of the Buddha understood natural events in terms of the four properties, see MN 28.