Welcome to Exploring the sacred, ancient path in the original words of the Buddha (or Exploring the Path). This course represents a collection of Pāli lessons that are brought to life in bite-sized sections with custom glossaries that allow a new student of the language to quickly delve into some of the most valuable of the Buddha’s teachings right from the beginning of the course.
View an outline of the course.Download PDF View online
The approach to learning is one driven by the student’s desire to understand the underlying content. Rather than approaching the Pāli language with a list of vocabulary and linguistic rules, the lessons use custom glossaries to ease the student into the more complex learning tasks. The learning then comes from familiarity rather than memorization. The course aims to keep the student motivated through the unfolding of these ancient texts; learning of the language becomes a natural by-product of the process.
This course aspires to instigate gratitude and faith, by presenting suttas that show the rare opportunity and good fortune to encounter such a path (chapter one); which is the same for one and all (chapter two); diving from general statements into detailed expositions of the respective eight components of the Noble Eightfold Path (chapter three); describing the correct practice of dāna and mettā (chapter four); and finally following the tradition of numerical order by portraying those important topics in its last chapter (chapter five) which help the practitioner to move towards liberation.
The lessons that are expected to take a Pāli student somewhere between 20 and 45 minutes to complete. These lessons are intended to be sufficient to keep the student engaged, but not so overwhelming that they can't fit into an already busy schedule.
Some weeks include longer passages than others; all of the lessons will include a Pāli section, written and audio, followed by a customized glossary to help the student work through their own translation of the passage. In addition, there are extensive footnotes that add valuable information regarding the Pāli words themselves, their usage elsewhere in the Tipiṭaka, and other interesting items of note related to the passage or the sutta that is under study.
There are also English translations available for each lesson. These translations aim to provide a word-for-word translation of the Pāli, so fluency may be sacrificed. Each lesson also provides other learning tools such as flash cards and quizzes. Additionally, the site has discussion forums and an online chat functionality built in -- our hope is that these interactive tools will bring a sense of community to the class and make it more engaging for participants.
Naturally one may work with these at one's own pace, there is no necessity to follow the schedule in which they are posted. Although it is intended that certain repetitions will support the progress of learning the ancient language of Pāli, one may also work at random or simply enjoy the English translations without going into the Pāli.
We welcome you to the course and hope that you find great benefit from what it has to offer.
Note: To enter in the special Pāli characters using your computer keyboard, you'll need to download and install the Pāli Keyboard.
Lesson 1.1.0 Bahujanahitasuttaṃ - For the Benefit of Many
This sutta describes the three kinds of individuals that arise in the world and further describes the qualities of the Buddha and the Dhamma. The introduction throws light on the history of the Itivuttakapāḷi, which came from an oral report of the female slave of Queen Samāvāti, named Khujjhuttarā, who after she listened to a discourse by the Buddha completely changed from a dishonest person into an honest one. Likewise, a short reference is given about when the Buddha, in his previous existence as Samaṇa Sumedha, expressed his aspiration at the feet of Buddha Dīpankara to become a Sammāsambuddha himself.
Lesson 1.2.0 Dullabho - So Rare!
For this lesson texts were chosen from the Dhammapada where the Buddha indicates how difficult and so rare (dullabho) are the occasions where one may encounter the teaching of the Enlightened One, whether having the opportunity to listen to the precious Dhamma (saddhammassavana) or really walking the path.
Lesson 1.2.1 Ekapuggalavaggo - The One Person
The Ekapuggalavaggo describes the different aspects of the rare arising of a tathāgata, who is an arahant, a fully enlightened being by his own account, a sammasambuddha. The introduction highlights the respective qualities of the Buddha, which are used as an inspirational reminder (buddhānussati) when paying respect or as stirring encouragement in one’s own practice of meditation.
Lesson 1.2.2 Puggalavaggo - The Two Rare Individuals
Puggalavaggo presents some additional details about the two individuals who arise ‘for the sake and benefit of the well-being of many folk, and not for any other reason’. These two individuals are a tathāgata and a rājā cakkavattī (a wheel turning monarch), a ruler or an administrative government, that reigns for the welfare of its citizens. The introduction highlights some of the guiding principles of such a king and also refers to the great example of King Asoka.
Lesson 1.2.3 Dullabhasuttaṃ - Difficult to Encounter
Dullabhasuttaṃ refers to the three individuals that are rare to encounter in this world. The introduction highlights one of these three individuals to whom S.N. Goenka refers to in his Day 10 discourse: a meditator who develops the rare qualities of gratitude and noblesse oblige: kataññū katavedī puggalo.
Lesson 1.2.4 Pātubhāvasuttaṃ - Rare Manifestations
This lesson continues the theme of the scarcity and rarity of fortunate opportunities of encountering the Noble Eightfold Path as presented by the Buddha to foster the qualities of gratitude (kataññū katavedī). While the previous sutta (1.2.3 ‘Dullabhasutta - Difficult to Encounter’) highlighted the occurrence of three rare individuals to be encountered in this world, the Pātubhāvasutta now points to six seemingly normal, but actually exceptional manifestations, one of which is —‘kusale dhamme chando’— the desire to do wholesome things. May one, by reading this sutta, develop gratitude and such a wholesome wish!
Lesson 1.2.5 Brahmajālasuttavaṇṇanā - So Rare
The following lesson is a short selection from the Brahmajālasuttavaṇṇanā, the commentary on the Brahmajālasutta (the very first sutta in the Dīghanikāya). It describes a situation where the Buddha, after having performed his daily routine in the morning, addresses the monks with words well-known to a serious meditator, and quoted by S.N. Goenka: “… dullabho buddhuppādo lokasmiṃ dullabho manussattapaṭilābho, dullabhā sampatti dullabhā pabbajjā, dullabhaṃ saddhammassavanan”ti.
Lesson 1.2.6 Dutiyachiggaḷayugasuttaṃ - The Second Simile of the Turtle
One of the intentions of this course is to present suttas that are referred to by S.N. Goenka in his discourses. This lesson of ‘The Second Simile of the Turtle’ portrays the image of a blind turtle that dives underwater on one side of an enormous ocean. How rare would it be that this very turtle raises its head – by coming above the surface of the water once every hundred years – through a yoke with a single hole that floats on the other side of this enormous ocean? According to the Buddha, it is quite unlikely in the very same way it’s very unlikely a being will obtain human birth, encounter or even practice the Dhamma as taught by the Tathāgata. This lesson seeks to inspire the readers to deepen their practice with deep gratitude for such an exceptional opportunity!
Lesson 1.3.0 Appakā te manussesu - So Few out of Many Humans
The inspiring verses that start with appakā te manussesu (so few out of many humans) denote the concept of the collected texts that point once more, not only to the exceptional opportunity of being able to walk the path as bestowed to us by the Buddha, but that this offer is only accepted by a few whose qualities (pāramī) have ripened. The following introductions will also highlight the disinclination of the Enlightened One to teach the Dhamma after his enlightenment. It was due to the Brahma Sahampati who had made it his mission to convince the reluctant Buddha to commit himself to serve those among the beings, whose eyes were covered with little dust only.
Lesson 1.3.1 Saṅgāravasuttaṃ - The Questions of Saṅgāravo
Saṅgārava was a curious and devoted Brāhmin who regularly placed his questions before the Buddha. In the current lesson he asks what would lead a being to the other shore: the pārimaṃ tīraṃ. The Buddha answers that the Eightfold Noble Path is the means to go beyond and not remain on the ‘hither shore’ (orimaṃ tīraṃ). Saṅgārava was a member of the Brāhmin caste—who felt themselves superior to the other casts—which is indicated in his addressing the Buddha as bho. The Buddha makes it clear that there cannot be any supremacy in regards to the membership of any sect; it is solely the actions of wholesomeness and the development in Dhamma that makes one superior.
Lesson 1.3.2 Orimatīrasuttam - The Hither and the Further Shore
The revised Orimatīrasutta presents another angle to the content of the preceding lesson about beings who want to reach the ‘other shore’ and their necessary actions. The sutta also introduces the shortcut: ‘… pe …’, an abbreviation of ‘peyyāla’ which means ‘repetition, phrase, succession, formula’, which is often used in today's digital and printed versions of the Tipiṭaka. The introduction further pursues the request of Brahma Sahampati, the ruler of the Brahma worlds to the Buddha to teach the Dhamma. Here the Buddha first declined but finally agreed after surveying the world of beings and their capacity to accept the sublime Dhamma. He perceived beings, whose mental capacities were only slightly covered by dust: ‘…bhagavā … viditvā satte apparajakkhe … tikkhindriye …’. It is thanks to this pledge of Brahma Sahampati that the Dhamma is still available even today!
Lesson 1.3.3 Pāraṅgamasuttaṃ - The Going Beyond
This short and simple Pāraṅgamasutta, along with its introduction (now revised), tries to foster recognition of the concept of ‘appakā te manussesu…’ and invites the reader to recollect the constituents of the ‘ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo’ as highlighted in the previous two lessons. Also, the common abbreviation ‘sāvatthinidānaṃ’ gets explained as a first reference to the Milindapañhapāḷi elucidating why it was a requirement for Brahma Sahampati (as related in the previous lesson) to request the Buddha to teach the Dhamma before he finally agreed to start disseminating it. This necessity is a regular procedure with all the Buddhas because two causes must be fulfilled: one is internal ‘ajjhatika nidāna’ and the other is external ‘bāhira nidāna’. Take the lesson for more!
Lesson 1.3.4 Catutthavaggo - The Few and the Many
This revised Catutthavaggo lesson accentuates once more the rarity of those exceptionally few beings (appakā te sattā) that are born as humans and encounter the teaching of the Buddha. Providing full awareness of such facts, the similes and allegories presented in the Catutthavaggo may further stir motivation in us to make use of this rare chance! The introduction further dwells on the following double-edged question that King Milinda placed before the wise Venerable Nāgasena: “the Tathāgata worked for four asaṅkhyeyye and a hundred thousand kappā to realise omniscient wisdom to take a great number of beings safely across the shore. But on the other hand, you say that after having realised omniscient wisdom he was reluctant to teach Dhamma. Either the one or the other must be false, not both can be true. …’ Find the answer here!
Lesson 1.3.5 Maṇḍūkadevaputtavimānavatthu - The Frog Transforms into a Deva
The Maṇḍūkadevaputtavimānavatthu is a lovely narrative about a frog, Maṇḍūka, who left his water abode with the strong desire to listen to the Dhamma (saddhammassavanaṃ) and while listening to the Dhamma was killed. As this very desire gave him immediate rebirth in the tāvatiṃsā-devā world, he reappeared on that very spot in his new form not missing a single word of the Buddha’s discourse. This story, like others of beings and their deeds who gain birth in higher or lower worlds, are collected in the Vimānavatthu or the Petavatthu. Complying with the request of Brahmā Sahampati after the Buddha had surveyed the world, he uttered the following renowned stanza and thus made not only (saddhammassavanaṃ) available but also pursuing the Noble Path possible: “Apārutā tesaṃ amatassa dvārā; ye sotavanto pamuñcantu saddhaṃ …” (“Now the door of the deathless is opened, Open for those to hear, let them dissolve their faith …”).
Lesson 1.3.6 Tamotamasuttaṃ - From Darkness or Brightness to Brightness or Darkness
Every participant in the meditation courses taught by S.N. Goenka has heard a reference to this stirring Tamotamasuttaṃ. It is thanks to the dissemination of the teaching that everyone is offered the option to pick one’s own fate, independently from one’s starting point which is determined by past actions. Any current situation always allows and invites one to choose one’s destiny towards brightness and can be understood as the categories of tamo jotiparāyaṇo or joti jotiparāyaṇo. Surveying the world, the Buddha compared beings with lotus flowers or water roses or white lotus flowers that either remain under water, rise just to the water's surface or rise above the surface and stand upright and untouched by the water. Similarly, there would be people who realize the essence of the Dhamma immediately (ugghaṭitaññū), some who would need a little explanation (vipañcitaññū), others (neyyo) who should be taught over an extended period to grasp the teaching, while the pada paramo would gain a foothold in Dhamma during this present existence but gain full realization in further existences. Learn the tools for moving towards brightness as depicted in the Tamotamasuttaṃ.
Lesson 1.3.7 Hirīsuttaṃ - By Sense of Shame
This short lesson has been revised and its introduction expanded. The verses contained in the Hirīsuttaṃ were expressed by the Buddha as a reply to devatā who regularly visited him at night wanting guidance regarding certain riddles or questions. Such stanzas are collected in the first part of the Saṃyuttanikāyo called Sagāthāvaggo, in this lesson from the Nandanavaggo. Hirī means ‘shame, modesty, bashfulness’ and along with ottappa, meaning ‘dread, shrinking back from doing any wrong’, both represent two rare qualities highly applauded by the Buddha. The introduction also relates a further incident where one devatā praises the pleasure-park, nandanavana, of the gods as the highest bliss in the universe to be experienced. But here another deva calls him a ‘foolish one’ and utters verses so well known to any meditator: “Aniccā sabbasaṅkhārā, uppādavayadhammino; Uppajjitvā nirujjhanti, tesaṃ vūpasamo sukho.”
Lesson 1.3.8 Caṅkamasuttaṃ - Bound Together by Inclinations
The Caṅkamasuttaṃ presents a large number of senior Theras whom the Buddha had attributed etadagga titles, i.e., being foremost in certain disciplines and qualities. Observing them walking up and down with their group of disciples, he expressed a solemn statement that an inherent disposition connects beings and makes them meet. Those disposed towards virtue and intent on performing wholesome actions connect together and associate with those disposed towards virtue and intent on performing wholesome actions and respectively do those with the opposite intention. This provides the wholesome base for long-standing friendships and empathy generally experienced by meditators walking on the path together whenever they meet again even after many years (kalyāṇamitta). The introduction further describes such a historical intimate friendship over the many lives of the Budha’s two chief disciples, the Venerable Sāriputta and the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna.
Lesson 1.3.9 Saṅghabhedasuttaṃ - The Schism in the Saṅgha
Veḷuvane kalandakanivāpe near Rājagaha was a favourite place where the Buddha liked to dwell. It occurred near this park that the Buddha’s adversary and famous antagonist, Devadatta, once approached Ānanda to announce a schism in the Saṅgha. The Saṅghabhedasutta presents this very situation and the expanded introduction relates the history of this animosity towards the Buddha. Devadatta proves the accuracy of the Buddha's statement in the previous lesson, (1.3.8 Caṅkamasuttaṃ - Bound Together by Inclinations) that those having low inclination connect and associate with those having low inclination, intent on evil: ‘Hīnādhimuttikā hīnādhimuttikehi saddhiṃ saṃsandanti samenti.’ It was here that the Enlightened One uttered this ‘exclamation of joy’ (udāna) which shows that the Saṅghabhedasutta is selected from Udānapāḷi.
Lesson 1.4.0 Cūḷahatthipadopamasuttaṃ, part one – Saddhā, Confidence is the Necessary Base for Walking the Path
Saddhā — ‘confidence, devotion or faith’ is the essential element and base for anyone to get attracted, interested and inspired to take further steps along the way. When saddhā progresses from devotional faith or intellectual confidence into what the meditation teacher S. N. Goenka calls ‘enlightened devotion’ then it lays the perfect foundation for every further step on the path, and matures as insight develops. This subchapter 1.4 therefore aims at providing suttas that portray examples of those who have grown in Dhamma and whose conduct and achievements provide inspiring encouragement. This lesson 1.4.0 Cūḷahatthipadopamasutta, translated as the ‘Shorter simile of an elephant’s footprint’, has been chosen for the purpose of fostering saddhā. It originates in an exchange between the Brāhmiṇ Jāṇussoṇi and the wanderer Pilotika after which the Brāhmiṇ Jāṇussoṇi visits the Buddha. Here the Buddha delivers the important advice not to draw false suppositions by just seeing a ‘footprint’ but to base one's judgement only on direct experience rather than pure faith or analytical deduction. The Buddha then proceeds by describing the proper conduct and inspiring deportment of the members of the Saṅgha as presented in the current selection.
Lesson 1.4.1 Rohinītherīgāthā, part one – That is Why They are so Dear to Me
The Rohinītherīgāthā provides a selection of lovely verses from the collection of the Khuddakanikāya, which are called Theragāthāpāḷi and Therīgāthāpāḷi. Here a girl named Rohinī, who regularly supports the Bhikkhus, gets lectured by her father, a wealthy Brahmin of Vesālī filled with negative prejudices about monks. He presents his complaints about her generosity by using the interrogative pronoun —‘kena’: “Why are those Samaṇas so dear to you?” —‘Kena te samaṇā piyā?’ Rohinī makes use of the opportunity to praise the good qualities and noble conduct of the monks by turning the interrogative into the demonstrative ‘tena’ reciting the unequalled qualities of the monks in verses. After every verse, she concludes with what gave rise to the title of this sub-chapter: “That is why those Samaṇas are so dear to me!” —‘Tena me samaṇā piyā?’
Lesson 1.4.2 Vandana: Esa Bhagavato sāvaka-saṅgho – Inspiration Gained through the Ariyan Disciples
Vandana is the term used to pay respect and express veneration while recollecting the qualities of the one being honoured. The statement ‘esa Bhagavato sāvaka-saṅgho’ — ‘These (people) form the order of disciples of the Bhagavā’ was the exact wording recommended by the Buddha at various occasions, and is here introduced in the Dhajaggasutta. It is said that a meditator can overcome fear, doubt and an accumulation of impediments by recollecting the inspiring qualities of the Saṅgha. One's mind will leave greed, aversion and delusion behind while also developing deference, conquering anxiety, instigating faith and becoming filled with joy. The term refers to those enlightened beings that are also qualified as ‘those four pairs of men’— ‘yadidaṃ cattāri purisa-yugāni’ which then add up to ‘eight kinds of individuals’ — ‘aṭṭha-purisa-puggalā’. The formula presented in this lesson provides the suggested wording when paying respect to the members of the Bhikkhu-Saṅgha and the commentarial explanations in the introduction explains it in more detail.
Lesson 1.4.3 Dhajaggasuttaṃ – Verses for Protection
The thrilling verses in this lesson are extracted from the Dhajaggasutta found in the Saṃyuttanikāyo. The Buddha relates a past battle between the Devas and the Asuras. He compares the distress that might arise during a fight with the complications that might arise during meditation, and encourages the meditator to recollect the qualities of the Triple Gem whenever they find they are lacking in zeal. Such rousing ‘recollection’ is generally referred to as anussati. Recalling and comprehending such ‘spiritual’ attributes, in their deeper meanings, will enable the meditator to regain balance in order to conquer the arisen distress. The introduction further highlights the importance of saddhā in the context of the five padhāniyaṅgā for the exertion of effort, as well as its significance in the development of the five ‘strengths’ (pañcimāni balāni) and the maturation of the five ‘dominating factors’ or ‘faculties’ (pañcimāni indriyāni).
Lesson 1.4.4 Sekhasuttaṃ – Seven befitting Qualities of an Ariyan Disciple
One time when the Buddha was dwelling among the Sakyans near Kapilavatthu at Nigrodha’s Park. The Sakyans had just built a new assembly hall and invited the Buddha to give a discourse to support them in their understanding of Dhamma. After he had spoken for some time, the Buddha asked the Venerable Ānanda to continue and highlight the important aspects for someone who wants to develop on the path as a trainee. The Venerable Ānanda explained the importance of establishing sīla, guarding one’s sense doors, eating moderately with awareness, developing the seven benefitting qualities and, finally, obtaining and dwelling in the four jhānas. The Venerable Ānanda then further elucidated the ‘seven benefitting qualities’ — also known as the seven saddhammā as presented in this selection — emphasising the importance of saddha as the first of these qualities.
Lesson 1.4.5 Araññasuttaṃ – Serene Dwelling in the Forest
The short Araññasutta presents another question from a Devatā who addresses the Buddha in verses. Amazed she reports that in spite of their simple and moderate lives she notices that the appearance of the monks is so tranquil, and their semblance so serene. The introduction provides the commentarial explanation which refers to the meditation of the Bhikkhus and its effect once applied properly. It is the capacity and execution of —‘paccuppannena yāpenti’— ‘living in the present moment’ through ‘wakefulness, alertness, attention and constant thorough awareness’ that enables a meditator to dwell gratified in the present moment. ‘Paccuppannena yāpenti, tena me samaṇā piyā.’ — ‘Living in the present moment, that is why they are dear to me!’
Lesson 1.4.6 Cūḷagosiṅgasuttaṃ – Like Milk and Water Dwelling in Harmony
The Cūḷagosiṅgasutta presents an occasion where the Buddha visits the Venerable Anuruddhā, the Venerable Nandiyo and the Venerable Kimilo who are staying at the the Sāla-tree forest near Gosiṅga. He enquires about their wellbeing, comfort and achievements. Their answers demonstrate inspiring conduct of mutual respect, solidarity and comradeship. This is expressed in the well-known and inspiring passage: ‘samaggā sammodamānā avivadamānā khīrodakībhūtā aññamaññaṃ piyacakkhūhi sampassantā’ — ‘dwelling in agreement, harmonious, without dispute like milk and water joined together and looking at each other with sympathy in the eyes’.
Lesson 1.4.7 Ānāpānassatisuttaṃ – part one - Free from Prattle and Chatter is this Assembly
The Ānāpānassatisutta presents one of the most important texts for a meditator. Because of its length and complexity it is subdivided in three parts and according to the different emphasis placed in three respective chapters. It contains not only a detailed description of how the practice of Ānāpāna should be applied (lesson 3.8.4 Ānāpānassatisuttaṃ cont.) but also further how the perfection of Ānāpāna helps to realize the seven Factors of Enlightenment (lesson 3.7.9 Ānāpānassatisuttaṃ – Satta Bojjhaṅge). The selection chosen for this lesson highlights the qualities and achievements of the Bhikkhus — as extolled by the Buddha — additionally providing the historical background of the location of the monastery where these Bhikkhus assembled and where this sutta was delivered. May every meditator benefit from the profound practice of Ānāpāna.
Lesson 1.4.8 Karaṇīyamettasuttaṃ – Pursuing one’s own good and the wellbeing of others – part one
The Karaṇīyamettasuttaṃ, also called Mettasuttaṃ, is one of the best known suttas and is used as a protective chanting (paritta) in many countries. The Buddha uttered this sutta to a group of five hundred Bhikkhus who had retired to a secluded place at the base of the Himalayan mountains for their meditation retreat during the monsoon. After some time, the forest-gods felt disturbed and started to frighten the Bhikkhus away. In spite of the strict rule for a Bhikkhu to remain at a chosen place during an entire rainy season, they returned irritated to the Buddha to ask him whether they could search for another location. The Buddha then admonished and advised them to return to the same place, and encouraged them to develop the practice of Mettā towards all beings as taught in this sutta. In this course, the Karaṇīyamettasuttaṃ is presented in its entirety in two different lessons: part one and part two. Each part’s introduction will highlight the respective verses with part one focusing on the exemplary qualities of the Bhikkhus while part two illuminates the practice of Mettā.
Lesson 1.4.9 Ratanasuttaṃ – Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha
In today’s current world of new challenges in health, climate and peace the ancient Ratanasuttaṃ gains new actuality. Going back to a period when the previously profitable city of Vesāli was suffering from draught, scarcity of food, diseases and death, it describes a situation where the people of Vesāli invited the Buddha to visit them to help re-establish their moral and social principles by teaching them the Dhamma. Before entering the city, the Buddha asked Ānanda to proceed and recite the Ratanasuttaṃ. The verses make use of the absolute veracity of the supreme qualities of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha as ‘gems’ or ‘jewels’. The introduction to this lesson distinctively accentuates these qualities and refers extensively to the descriptions of the Aṭṭhakathā (commentaries) revealing how the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha each portrays a precious jewel (ratanaṃ paṇītaṃ)! The expression of such saccavacana then indeed resulted in the wellbeing —etena saccena suvatthi hotu— of the inhabitants of Vesāli who henceforth upheld the Dhamma as advised in this sutta. The qualities of the triple gem expressed here will inspire people to enter upon the Ariyo Aṭṭhaṅgiko Maggo and enable all who undertake the efforts to join on such a purifying journey to gain and maintain inner calm in spite of all potential outside predicaments.
Lesson 1.4.10 Sāmaññaphalasuttaṃ – Pointing out the Way to One who is Lost
The Sāmaññaphalasutta refers to king Ajātasattu who killed his father, Bimbisāra, to gain the kingdom of Maghada. After his patricide, Ajātasattu became remorseful, rest- and sleepless, and in spite of his many visits to various learned ascetics and their advice, he couldn’t find mental calm. He finally couldn’t resist his desire to meet the Enlightened One and followed the invitation of his physician, Jīvaka, to visit the Buddha. Here he asked the question that had troubled him for so long: “What are the visible fruits, here and now, for someone who has left the householders life?” In reply, the Buddha challenged Ajātasattu to report the previous advice that he already received, and finally, conveyed to him the benefits of a moral life: ‘The way to find mental peace and mental calm was to avoid any unwholesome acts of body, deed and word, but to perform wholesome ones and to devote oneself to the different states of meditation up to the attainment of final liberation.’ Thrilled, Ajātasattu expressed his admiration for the Buddha’s deep insight and explanation and asked for refuge. He further confessed the sin of his patricide and asked for forgiveness. The Buddha then articulated the encouraging approach that to understand one’s transgression as transgression, to make amends according to the Dhamma and to accomplish restraint in the future would enable one real growth in the Dhamma!
Lesson 2.1.0 Kutikasuttaṃ – Leaving behind all bondages
The Kutikasutta opens this second chapter which has been titled: ‘Itthiyā vā purisena vā gahaṭṭhena vā pabbajitena vā sāmaññena vā brahmaññena vā brahmacariyena vā’ – ‘A Beneficial Path for One and All’. The (mostly shorter) selected texts in this chapter emphasise that the Buddha taught the same Dhamma for everyone, whether "female or male, a householder or someone that has left the householder's life, any ascetic, recluse, a Brahman or anyone who leads the life of purity". The aim of this collection of suttas is to instigate faith and to inspire a person to walk the Ariyo Aṭṭhaṅgiko Maggo which is the same for all.
Lesson 2.1.1 Kesamuttisuttaṃ (part one) – Don’t Believe in Tradition, in Hearsay, in Teachers but your own Experience, understanding what is unwholesome
The Kesamuttisutta, divided into two parts, presents the renown advise that the Buddha gave to the Kālāmā at the market town Kesamutta. The Buddha reveals to them that proper knowledge of what is harmful or wholesome can be gained only by realising the truth through one’s own experience, leaving aside all that is heard, learned through tradition, scriptures or teachers. Additionally, a short history of how the Dhamma was maintained up to the current period begins by referring to a contradiction that King Milinda asked his opposite, the Venerable Nāgasena. He quotes two conflicting statements of the Buddha, who at one time foretold that the teaching now was to remain only for the next five hundred years, but at another time said that Arahants would continue to inhabit the world as long as they lived perfectly.
Lesson 2.1.2 Kesamuttisuttaṃ (part two) – Don’t Believe in Tradition, in Hearsay, in Teachers but your own Experience, understanding what is wholesome
After the Buddha had admonished the Kālāmas in the previous lesson, the Kesamuttisutta continues to exhibit the superb choice for human beings who are able to decide their own future. One who decides to uphold moral principles and live with wholesome ethics will benefit immensely. Thus a noble disciple lives a positive life permeating the world displaying goodwill and compassion. Assured in fourfold ways, one can be certain to lead a good life without any remorse and at ease, to reappear in a good destiny and remain unconstrained from suffering.
Lesson 2.1.3 Abhiṇhapaccavekkhitabbaṭhānasuttaṃ – Born of One’s own Kamma
Independently whether one may believe in the ‘theory of kamma’ (i.e., in its effects or not), in the Abhiṇhapaccavekkhitabbaṭhānasuta the reader will get introduced to essential counsel that the Buddha repeatedly advised on the possible effects of good and bad actions, on wholesome or unwholesome deeds (‘abhiṇha’ + ‘paccavekkhitabba’ + ‘ṭhāna’ — to ‘repeatedly’ + ‘put before one’s eyes, reflected upon’ + ‘the ground, reason’). Reflecting upon one’s intentions will result in improved positive conduct and well-being, well-being for oneself and others. The performance of kamma is nothing but the determined realisation and purposeful accomplishment of one’s positive or negative volition. Whether there may or may not be any negative results of actions, reflecting and acting in this way still helps a person to rest peacefully and live a good life.
Lesson 2.1.4 Paṭhama-asappurisasuttaṃ – About an Unworthy Person
The Paṭhama-asappurisasuttaṃ, presents a ‘first discourse about a person who is unworthy’. One of the important first steps on the path is to pay attention to the company one keeps. ‘Virtuous friends’, called kalyāṇamittā in Pāli, in general encourage, guide and support one with positive intentions. Kalyāṇamittā try to cultivate and establish shared interest and determination to walk the Eightfold Noble Path as pointed out in this short selection. Further repetitive, shorter suttas in the next lessons try to convey the same content in ample variations providing an opportunity to recite such important messages by heart. Additionally, the introduction to this sutta (and those following) will shed some light on the history of the Dhamma after the Buddha’s passing away and the prophesy about its duration.