Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Introduction to 1.4.10
Sāmaññaphalasuttaṃ - Pointing Out the Way to One Who Is Lost
Abhikkantaṃ, bhante, abhikkantaṃ, bhante!
Excellent, Bhante, how wonderful, Bhante!
This expression Abhikkantaṃ, bhante, abhikkantaṃ, bhante! is often used to express one’s happiness and satisfaction for the Buddha’s explanations to one’s question which leads to one’s surrender. This short current selection has been chosen to conclude this sub-chapter titled Tena me samaṇā piyā – That Is Why the Samaṇās Are Dear to Me. Its intention was to foster confidence and faith in the path by pointing to various examples of the conduct and achievements of saintly monks and nuns. At the time of the Buddha, when one gained saddhā and was pleased with the teaching then decided to surrender under the Dhamma, one asked the Buddha to accept him or her using the wording presented in this short lesson.1
The example taken here refers to King Ajātasattu after he finally met the Buddha. Ajātasattu had been enticed by Devadatta to kill his father, Bimbisāra, who had governed the kingdom of Maghada for 52 years. It is said that in their previous encounter, the Buddha, still a Bodhisatta, had to promise Bimbisāra to teach him the Dhamma as soon as he had finally reached full enlightenment. When the Buddha had done so, Bimbisāra immediately became Sotapanna and henceforth made himself an example to his subjects being a fair, just and supportive king. And for about 35 years he supported the spread of Dhamma in his realm.2
When Bimbisāra was informed of the plot to kill him, and in spite of the advice to kill his son, Ajātasattu, and Devadatta for their treasonous behavior, he instead generously handed over the kingdom to Ajātasattu. Still greatly under the influence of Devadatta, Ajātasattu finally managed to kill Bimbisāra who had already been imprisoned for some time with the intention of starving him to death.
After his patricide, Ajātasattu had turned remorseful, restless and sleepless. In a quest for mental relief and spiritual calm he visited many learned ascetics but it turned out that no one could satisfy him. He finally couldn’t resist his desire to meet the Buddha. Although extremely suspicious, he followed the invitation of his physician, Jīvaka, to guide him to the Mango grove, which Jīvaka offered to the Saṅgha and where the Buddha stayed during the rains.
Ajātasattu had already asked the question: “What are the fruits for someone who has left the householders life, visible here and now?” to six other famous ascetics, but never received a substantial answer. On this occasion he then asked the Buddha that very same question. The Buddha conveyed to him, firstly, the benefits of a moral life and, based on that, extolled the wholesome conduct and the achievements to reach the respective fruits: ‘Leaving aside unwholesome acts of body, deed and word, and performing wholesome ones and devoting oneself to the different states of meditation, up to the attainment of final liberation, are the way to find mental peace and mental calm.’
When Ajātasattu then expressed his admiration for the Buddha’s deep insight and explanation and asked for refuge, he used the different similes that are of common occurrence throughout the Tipiṭaka. The commentary explains those metaphors: the first one illustrates the king’s thought on his having turned away from the right Dhamma and gone in the wrong direction,3 the second that the dispensation of the Buddha had been hidden to the king4 by the jungle of wrong views, the third that the path to liberation was lost by pursuing a false path5 and the last that the Triple Gem could not be seen by the darkness of delusion.6
No one can be expected to be perfect in these days of the second Sāsana. Still, one can always further develop and grow on the path. The teaching of the Buddha allows errors, mistakes and wrongdoings; indeed they are expected as one learns and grows. These mistakes should not be dwelled on or cause guilt, but also not ignored. Rather one should not hide one's mistakes but open them up by acceptance and confession and, at the same time, develop the determination to avoid such errors in the future. Therefore the formula used by Bhikkhus — confessing an unwholesome deed and promising not to do it again it in the future — is at the same time a restraint that is binding and follows the rules of the Pātimokka.
Accayaṃ accayato paṭiggaṇhāti — accept a confession of a mistake
Āyatiṃ saṃvarāya — restraining from it in the future
When Ajātasattu had expressed his sincere regret by understanding his previous evil deed by asking for acceptance of his transgression and promising to avoid such action in the future, the Buddha approved with the following verse:
Yato ca kho tvaṃ, mahārāja, accayaṃ accayato disvā yathādhammaṃ paṭikarosi, taṃ te mayaṃ paṭiggaṇhāma. Vuddhihesā, mahārāja, ariyassa vinaye, yo accayaṃ accayato disvā yathādhammaṃ paṭikaroti, āyatiṃ saṃvaraṃ āpajjatī”ti.
Since, great King, you have understood your transgression as transgression and will make amends according to Dhamma, we acknowledge it. Because the growth in the Noble Discipline, great King, is this: to understand one’s transgression as transgression, make amends according to Dhamma and to accomplish restraint in the future!7
May more and more people get inspiration from these examples and be able to leave aside unwholesome acts of body, speech and mind and perform only wholesome, beneficial actions as well as devote themselves to the progressive stages of meditation!
1. Esāhaṃ, bhante, bhagavantaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi dhammañca bhikkhusaṅghañca. Upāsakaṃ maṃ bhagavā dhāretu ajjatagge pāṇupetaṃ saraṇaṃ gataṃ.
3. nikkujjitaṃ vā ukkujjeyya…
4. paṭicchannaṃ vā vivareyya…
5. mūḷhassa vā maggaṃ ācikkheyya…
6. andhakāre vā telapajjotaṃ dhāreyya…
7. For further explanation about the beneficial determination of future avoidance refer to 1.3.1: Saṅgāravasuttaṃ - The Questions of Saṅgāravo and to the example of the Buddha’s own son, Rahula, in 3.3.6 Ambalaṭṭhikarāhulovādasuttaṃ part one - How to Train Oneself and to Confess Shortcomings to One`s Elders as well as 3.3.7 Ambalaṭṭhikarāhulovādasuttaṃ part two.