DN 2 Samannaphala Sutta (The Fruits of the homeless/ascetic life)
Thus have i heard.
There was once when Buddha was staying at Rajagaha, in Jivaka Komarabhacca's mango-grove, togerther with 1250 monks. At the same time King Ajatasattu was practicing fasting and admiring the moon when he said "On such an auspicious day, the moonlight is so charming. We should invite some ascetic or brahmin to the palace to share some insightful teaching to bring peace to our hearts. Who do you suggest?"
The ministers suggested the other 6 contemporary teachers famous at that time which included Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Kesakambali, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sanjaya Belatthaputta and Nigantha Nataputta. But King Ajatasattu went silent at these suggestions. At this time, the king's primary physician suggested the king to visit Buddha, the fully enlightened arahant, that is staying at his mango groove. King Ajatasattu agreed to Jivaka's suggestion and prepared riding elephants for himself, his wives and attendants to Jivaka's mango groove to seek the advice of Buddha.
When the entourage approach the mango groove, it was dead silent and fear overcame the king as he thought that Jivaka maybe deceiving him and planning an ambush on him. Jivaka reassured the king. As King Ajatasattu dismount from the elephant and approach the sangha on foot, he was amazed how serene, calm and dignified the sangha was. He could not believe the silence although there were 1250 monks present. He wished his prince Udayabhadda could possess such calmness exhibited by the monks.
After paying respect to the Buddha, King Ajatasattu asked buddha :" Can the buddha point out to him the reward (fruit) of the homeless life/ ascetic life (monk's life) ?" Buddha asked the king to first explain what answers did the other six contemporary teachers replied him when he posted the same question to them.
King Ajatasattu told buddha that he went to see Purana Kassapa and asked him "what is the fruit of a recluse/monk's life?" Purana Kassapa belonged to the Ajivika School which do not believe in Kamma because all actions of men are considered as no actions done. For example he believed that murder and theft has no evil done and there is no merit in doing anything good. In other words Purana Kassapa replied the king "non-action" / "no-kamma". The king neither applaud nor reject Purana Kassapa's explanation, but the king was displeased with the explanation and left.
King Ajatasattu said that he went to see Makkhali Gosala and asked him "what is the fruit of a recluse/monk's life?" . Makkhali Gosala belonged to the Ajivika School which believed that everything is predestined by fate and destiny, one cannot control anything. He believed that any human effort is useless and there is no kamma. He does not believe in a creator but believed in transmigration of soul through a series of reincarnation just like unwinding a ball of thread until it reaches the last life as a Ajivika monk. This school developed a system of divination and interpretation of dreams just like fortune tellers. The king neither applaud nor reject Makkhali Gosala's explanation, but the king was displeased with the explanation and left.
King Ajatasattu said that he went to see Ajita Kesakambali and asked him "what is the fruit of a recluse/monk's life?". Ajita Kesakambali belonged to the lokayata school (Materialist school) which believed the human being is made up of 4 elements (earth, water, fire or air). There is no soul and no transmigration. There is also no kamma. Upon death, the body breaks up into elements (earth part reverts to earth, water part reverts to water, fire part reverts to fire and air part reverts to air) and annihilation of that person. Hence he believe the purpose of life is to enjoy the pleasure of the senses. The king neither applaud nor reject Ajita Kesakambali's explanation, but the king was displeased with the explanation and left.
King Ajatasattu said that he went to see Pakudha Kaccayana and asked him "what is the fruit of a recluse/monk's life?". Pakudha Kaccayana belonged to Ajivika School. He did not believe in creator god. He believed the external existence of 7 basic principles of earth, water, heat, air, pleasure, pain and life principle. These elements he said were not created, indestructible and rigid. He was the first Indian atomist. Any actions according to him are just merely pass ineffectively between atoms and the permanent soul cannot be injured/destroyed so there is no basis of kamma. Which means there is no basis for morality as people need not be responsible for their action. He gave an example of stabbing with a knife: the knife did nothing but just pass through the space between the 7 elements.The king neither applaud nor reject Pakudha Kaccayana's explanation, but the king was displeased with the explanation and left.
King Ajatasattu said that he went to see Nigantha Nataputta and asked him "what is the fruit of a recluse/monk's life?." Nigantha Nataputta also known as Mahavira was born son of khattiya but he renounced at 28 after death of his parents. He joined Nigantha sect founded 250 years earlier by Parsva. He later revitalized Jainism. Jainism does not believe in a creator, they believe in relying on oneself through self-mortification to achieve liberation. Their goal is to obtain liberation from cycle of reincarnation. They believed in the existence of soul and non-souls (animate and inanimate objects). The soul to them is originally pure but is covered by karmic particles that bind the soul to samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth). The state of soul is due to karma accumulated over countless lives. Heavy karma is a result of selfish, careless and cruel actions.
They believe that suffering through self-mortification can disperse the karma already accumulated. Nigantha believed that the more the flesh is mortified, the more effective is the practice to liberate the soul. As they believe the most harmful karmic effect is to injure living things, they are vegetarians and not involved in farming. Even plucking of a plant is not allowed. Their occupation is trading and money lending. Nigantha died of voluntary self-starvation at age of 72.
The king neither applaud nor reject Nigantha Nataputta's explanation, but the king was displeased with the explanation and left.
King Ajatasattu said that he went to see Sanjaya Belatthaputta and asked him "what is the fruit of a recluse / monk's life?". Sanjaya Belatthaputta was a well-known leader of the Agnostic school. He evaded questions and answers to avoid conflicts. Hence he was described as a slippery eel. He often reply in such a way: " if i thought so, i would say so. But i don't think so. I don't say it is so, and i don't say otherwise." The king neither applaud nor reject Sanjaya Belatthaputta's explanation, but the king was displeased with the explanation and left.
After his narration of his encounters with other teachers, the king asked Buddha to explain to him the fruit of an ascetic/recluse life. Buddha then replied the king using question and answer method on the benefits of homeless life (joining the ascetic life):
1. Solitude's delight: Using the examples of slaves and farmers who decided to become monks , they become mindful of their actions, speech and thoughts. They become contented with the simplest food and shelter, delighting in solitude as well as the veneration of others. The king agreed that he will pay respect to such a slave or farmer who has gone forward into the ascetic life and will not ask him to come back to become a slave or farmer.
2. Virtue's pleasure: There is a Tathagata, an arahant, a fully enlightened Buddha who is a teacher of people and devas. The buddha has taught the dhamma which is lovely in the beginning, lovely in the middle and lovely in the end. The dhamma which is heard by lay people benefited them and they decided to go forth into ascetic life to practice like the Buddha. These lay people shaved their hair, don on the robes and left his house to become monks. The monk sees no danger anywhere from his restraint through virtue, he mindful of his actions/speech/thoughts, guards his sense doors and is skilled in mindful awareness and content. He guards his eyes sense door by not grasping to what he sees. By doing so he will not have greed, sorrow, unwholesome thoughts that will overwhelm him if he doesn't guard his sense doors. And so on hearing a sound with the ear, smelling an odor with the nose, tasting a flavor with the tongue, feeling an object with the body and on thinking of a thought with the mind; he does not grasp them and guards all these sense doors.
He is perfected in morality by observing the precepts: abstain from killing, refrain from stealing, abstain from harsh speech, refrain from intoxicants, refrains from wrong livelihood and abstain from sexual misconduct. Endowed with this noble (ariyan) aggregate of virtue (morality), he experiences the blameless bliss."
3. Simplicity's contentment: Wherever the monks goes, he takes only his barest necessities (robes to protect the body, alms food as nutrient, solitary lodging in forest/cave along and medicine from herbs/plants). He meditates and practices. This is how a monk is contented.
4. Mental calm with abandonment of 5 hindrances: With mindfulness and alertness, a monk cleanses his mind of sensual desires, ill will and hatred (countered by loving kindness and compassion), sloth and drowsiness (countered by mindfulness), restlessness and worry, and doubts. With the disappearance of five hindrances, he will feel as if he were freed from debt, from sickness, from bonds, from slavery and from the perils of the desert as per illustrated in Buddha's analogy.
5. Jhanic bliss: 1st Jhana: Overcoming the 5 hindrances, detached from sensual pleasures, detached from unwholesome states, accompanied by applied and sustained thought, the monk enters and dwells in first jhana. Rapture and happiness born of seclusion filled his entire body.
2nd Jhana: With the subsiding of applied and sustained thoughts, there is increased inner tranquility and oneness of mind, he enters and dwells in the second jhana. Rapture and happiness born of concentration filled his entire body.
3rd Jhana: With the fading away of rapture, the monk dwells in equanimity and mindfulness and clearly comprehending, experiencing happiness within his whole body. He now dwells in the third jhana.
4th Jhana: With the abandonment of pleasure and pain, with the passing away of former joy and grief, the monk enters and dwells in the fourth Jhana. This is a stage which is neither pleasant nor painful and contains mindfulness fully purified by equanimity. There he sits suffusing his entire body with a pure bright mind.
6. Insight knowledge: With the bhikkhu's (monk's) mind is fully concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, free from defects and attained to imperturbability, the monk then directs and inclines it to knowledge, insight and vision. He understands thus: 'This body of mine is endowed with form (rupa), composed of the four primary elements (air, fire , water and earth), born from mother and father (not from creator), nourished with food, subject to constant changes, being impermanent, dissolution, and destruction. And this consciousness of mine is supported here and bound up here.' He then applies and directs his mind to the production of a mind-made body which is material form, mind-made, complete in all parts and not lacking in any faculties.
7. Supernatural powers: The monk whose mind if fully concentrated, pure, bright, free from impurities, steady and attained to imperturbability, he then directs and inclines it to the modes of supernatural powers. He then achieved some supernatural powers, for example:
He can split himself into many "self-bodies" and become one. He appears and vanishes. He can go unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water as if it were dry land. Sitting cross-legged he flies through the air like a bird. His mind-made body can travel as far as the Brahma world (Astral travel). With his hand he can touch even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful.
He develops the Divine ear whereby he can hear both kinds of sounds: divine and human, whether near or far.
He develops the Divine Eye which allow him to see the passing away and arising of beings depending on the works of kamma. Those who have wrong views with misconducts with their actions, speech and thoughts upon passing away will be reborn in lower realms, whereas those who have right view and good conducts in their actions, speech and thoughts will be reborn in upper realms.
8. Mind reading: The monk can discern in others states of consciousness such as those with or without passion, lust, delusion, concentration, etc.
9. Recollection of past lives: The monk with his mind concentrated and purified, can recollect knowledge of numerous previous past lives.
10. Right understanding of four noble truths: The monk with his mind concentrated and purified, steady and gained imperturbability, directs his mind the to knowledge of destruction of taints. He understands rightly the four noble truths : " This is suffering. This is the origin of suffering. this is the cessation of suffering. This is the path leading to cessation of suffering. " He also knows " These are corruptions. This is the origin of corruptions. This is the cessation of corruptions. This is the path leading to cessation of corruptions. "
10. Release from samsara: The monk's/ascetic's heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, is released from the corruption of sensual desires, the corruption of becoming, the corruption of ignorance. With these releases, he gains the knowledge and wisdom. Rebirth has ended, the holy life has been fulfilled, the task is done. There is nothing further for this world and he will be released from the cycle of samsara.
Upon hearing the Buddha's explanation on the fruits of leading an ascetic/monk's life, King Ajatasattu exclimed "Excellent, Buddha Excellent. You have clarified all my doubts." He declared himself a lay follower of the Buddha. He took refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (triple gem).
The king's patricide and its karmic consequences The king then confessed that he himself had killed his own father to take his throne and asked Buddha to accept his confession.
The Buddha replied: "Yes, great king, a transgression overcame you in that you were so foolish, so muddle-headed, and so unskilled as to kill your father who was a righteous man, a righteous king for the sake of gaining the throne. But because you acknowledged your transgression and make a confessopm, we accept your confession. The Noble ones (Ariyans) trained in the Dhamma & Discipline will be able to see his transgression, make amends in accordance with the Dhamma and exercise restraint in the future.
After King Ajatasattu left, the Buddha subsequently told the monk: "Had King Ajatasattu not killed his father (King Bimbisara) who was a righteous man, a righteous king then the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye would have arisen to King Ajatasattu as he sat in this very seat." The act of killing one's parents have weighty heavy kamma hence it defers the King's possibility of getting insight and enlightenment.
References: 1. www.accesstoinsight.org 2. https://suttacentral.net/ 3. The long discourses of the Buddha (Bhikkhu Bodhi)