Tasmā have appamādaṃ, kayirātha sumedhaso;
evaṃ mahānubhāvāya, saṅghānussatiyā sadāti.1
Indeed, without negligence and ardently,
A man of truly great wisdom will
Always recollect the Sangha’s qualities
Blessed thus with great potency.
The Ānāpānassatisutta, selected from the Majjhimanikāye, the collection of Middle Length Discourses, is found in the last part of Uparipaṇṇāsapāḷi. It presents one of the important discourses especially for every meditator as it describes in detail the necessary steps and achievements to be undergone.
The Ānāpānassatisutta is subdivided in three parts in this ETP and according to the different emphasis placed in the respective chapters:
The first part of this sutta, as presented here, starts by describing how a number of newly ordained Bhikkhus receive their respective training under many Venerable Elders like Venerable Sāriputta, Venerable Mahāmoggallāna, Venerable Mahākassapa. All takes place at Sāvatthi in the eastern park and palace donated by Migāramāta. There the Bhikkhus receive further encouragement by the Buddha who also extols their achievements.
The second part refers to those Bhikkhus who have taken upon themselves the perfection of the practice of Ānāpāna and the Buddha explains how Ānāpānassati, if enhanced and fully developed bears great fruit and beneficial result: Ānāpānassati, bhikkhave, bhāvitā bahulīkatā mahapphalā hoti mahānisaṃsā.2
In the third part then the Buddha describes further how Ānāpāna, if achieved and fully developed perfects the four satipaṭṭhānā as a base of fulfilling the seven factors of enlightenment and how these lead to full liberation:
Ānāpānassati, bhikkhave, bhāvitā bahulīkatā cattāro satipaṭṭhāne paripūreti. Cattāro satipaṭṭhānā bhāvitā bahulīkatā satta bojjhaṅge paripūrenti. Satta bojjhaṅgā bhāvitā bahulīkatā vijjāvimuttiṃ paripūrenti.3
The monastery - pubbārāme migāramātupāsāde – that served as dwelling place for the monks during the rainy season had been offered to the monks by an extremely wealthy lady by the name of Migāramāta4 also known by her birth name of Vishākā. She was the grandchild of Meṇḍaka, one of the five richest householders living in the kingdom of Magadha under the King Bimbisāra. At one time, when the Buddha visited the vicinity, Meṇḍaka sent his seven year old granddaughter with her female attendants to the Buddha so she could not only pay her respects on his behalf but also invite the Buddha and the Bhikkhus for a meal. When the Buddha delivered a discourse he directed it to the mental capacity of Vishākā and the other young girls after which it is said they all attained the fruit of Sotapanna.
It so happened that the neighbouring kingdom of Kosala did not have any householder of such prosperity (it is said inexhaustible) as the five rich families who were living in Magadha. At one time the Kosalan King Pasenadi requested King Bimbisāra to allow one of those families to live in Kosala so his kingdom could likewise benefit from the wealth this family was to bring. After some consultation with his ministers King Bimbisāra decided to ask Meṇḍaka to send his son by the name of Dhanañjaya, the father of Vishākā. Both agreed and after some search for a suitable location Dhanañjaya and his kinsmen settled in an area fit for his large family at some distance from the capital city Sāvatthi and founded a town that was then named Sāketa.
In Sāvatthi lived a person by the name of Migāra who considered it time for his son Puṇṇavaḍḍana to get married. Sending out his messengers on search of a suitable bride they finally visited Sāketa and encountered Vishākā who was taking a bath with her attendants. Being delighted by her beauty and demeanor they asked Dhanañjaya to consent that his daughter was betrothed to Puṇṇavaḍḍana. After she had married and started to live in the house of her father in law, Vishākā served him respectfully. Still there were certain instances, where her father in law felt quite opposite. Harboring this suspicion Migāra finally got fully convinced that it had been a wrong decision to wed his son to Vishākā and he even asked her to be expelled from his house: It so happened that a certain Bhikkhu had walked past the house while Migāra relished his meal that was provided to him by Vishākā from a golden vessel. Seeing the monk, Migāra, who was a follower of the ‘naked ascetics’5, purposely ignored the Bhikkhu, fully concentrated on his meal he pretended not having seen him. So Vishākā as a devout laywomen eager to support the Bhikkhus approached the monk, apologized with the following words: “Bhante, only empty handed I can pay my respects to you please move further, my father in law is living on old food!”6 Migāra, proud of the auspicious food he was used to be served in his propitious house got upset and angry, as he understood that old food meant ‘unclean food’7 and asked his servers to expel Vishākā - but nobody would follow his command. When she had left her family Dhanañjaya had asked a group of eight wise householders to accompany Vishākā so that in case of any problem they could guide her and speak council if needed. Now Vishākā approached them confidently informed Migāra that she would not leave his house unless these wise were to censure her. So when a assembly was organized Vishākā explained the meaning of ‘eating old-food’ – ‘purāṇaṃ khādatī’: She had realized that with this attitude and behavior her father-in-law would fail to acquire any new merits but only exhaust merits he had performed earlier on which he had gained the wealth and the delicious food he enjoyed8. The wise counsellors praised Vishākā for her wisdom and cleared her from false accusation after which she announced that now she would leave Migara’s house of her own accord. Realizing his recklessness Migāra asked all for forgiveness and entreated Vishākā to stay. She accepted only if he granted her a boon: She wanted to invite the Buddha and the Bhikkhus for a meal. Migāra agreed and also, and also agreed when Vishākā requested her father-in-law to listen to the discourse that the Buddha was to deliver. While the Buddha was visiting Migāra’s house Migāra tried to conceal himself behind a curtain on request of the ‘naked ascetics’.
Even so at the time of the discourse of the Buddha the following feeling of identification and empathy arose in Migāra:
‘‘satthā mamaññeva oloketi, mayhameva dhammaṃ desetī’’ti vadanti. Satthā hi taṃ taṃ olokento viya tena tena saddhiṃ sallapanto9 viya ca ahosi. Candasamā kira buddhā. Yathā cando gaganamajjhe ṭhito ‘‘mayhaṃ upari cando, mayhaṃ upari cando’’ti sabbasattānaṃ khāyati10, evameva yattha katthaci ṭhitānaṃ abhimukhe ṭhitā viya khāyanti.
“The Teacher is looking at me alone; he is teaching the Dhamma singly to me!” This is because the Teacher seems to be viewing each one individually and talking to each one individually. The Buddhas can be compared with the moon. Just like the moon, standing in the mid-sky, shines on all beings alike (the feeling arises): ‘the moon is over me, the moon shines on me’ so the Buddhas appear to be face to face with one wherever one stands.”
Thrilled, Migāra got established in the fruit of sotāpanna and gained resolute faith in the triple gem.11 Lifting his concealment he came forward from his hiding place behind the curtain, fell to the feet of his daughter-in-law and exclaimed: “Today and henceforth you will be my mother!”12 That is how Vishākā came to be called Migura’s mother -Migāramāta.
In the current situation as described here the assembly of the Bhikkhusaṅgha took place on the day of uposatha13 in the open under a full-moon sky just before the rain retreat. After the Buddha had surveyed the silent assembly he expressed his contentment with their achievements and stirred them to still strive even further:
Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, bhiyyosomattāya vīriyaṃ ārabhatha appattassa pattiyā, anadhigatassa adhigamāya asacchikatassa sacchikiriyāya.
He announced that after four months, at the end of the rain retreat, at the full moon night of Komudī14 they were to meet again and he was to check upon further progress. During this period all were taught and were striving even more strenuously. It is said that the novices were ’drawn’ towards the respective Elders by their inherent qualities15 which were thus supported and strengthened.
Pavāraṇā usually follows the rain retreats where the Bhikkhus were required to declare openly before the assembly that during the period of their meditation they had been pure of any seen, heard or apprehended wrongdoing: (diṭṭena vā sutena vā parisaṅkāya vā.) They further requested in a humble manner others to point out those potential misdeeds or even sins that they might have committed unknowingly. The Pavāraṇāsuttaṃ describes this procedure16:
Having surveyed the silent order of the Bhikkhus the Bhagavā addressed the Bhikkhus thus: “Come, O’ Bhikkhus, let me invite you: Is there not any action of mine performed by body or by speech that you would find fault with?”
At the end of the rainy season the Buddha surveyed the assembly of the Saṅgha and by highlighting the different approaches of the Bhikkhus he expressed his contentment with the results and achievements in their practice. This congregation consisted of Arahant, those completely freed from all the ten fetters, (five lower as well as the five higher ones)19; and likewise of Anāgāmi, who had completely eradicated the first five lower fetters. Likewise this noble congregation included Sakadāgāmi, those being free from the fifth and the fourth fetter but having completely eradicated the three lower fetters20 along with those who were Sotapanna, having eliminated the first three lowest fetters—tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā.21
These all represent the four pairs of men which form the eight kinds of individuals that have not only maintained and walked the path but also realized the fruit: cattāri purisa-yugāni aṭṭha-purisa-puggalā.22 Encountering such a congregation is truly worthwhile to travel a journey of many leagues23 and truly a limitless field of merit—anuttaraṃ puññakkhettaṃ lokassa—in this world. It is truly worth paying respect to the members of the Bhikkhusaṅgha in the following different ways:
āhuneyyā24—offering the four requisites (civāra, piṇḍapatā, sesāna, gilānapaccayabhesajjhaparikkhāra);
dakkhiṇā26—donating and offering out of faith with reference to and for the benefit of beings in the lower realms with the intention to ease their suffering;
añjalikaraṇīyā—expressing respect with folded hands above the head.
It is said when a meditator recollects such qualities of the Saṅgha his mind departs from greed, aversion and delusion, develops respectfulness, conquers fear, instigates faith and gets filled with joy. He acquires a feeling as if he were to live in the presence of the Saṅgha:
… his mind worships the attainment of the qualities of the Saṅgha, in case of occasion for any wrongdoing he encounters a sense of shame as he would stand face to face with the Saṅgha and he is bound for a happy destiny if he not penetrates even further.29
1. Saṅghānussatikathā, Chaanussatiniddeso, Visuddhimaggo
2. see lesson 3.8.4 Ānāpānassatisuttaṃ cont. – How does the full Cultivation of Ānāpānassati nurture full Development of the four Satipaṭṭhāna?
6. Visākhā ‘‘theraṃ disvāpi me sasuro saññaṃ na karotī’’ti ñatvā, ‘‘aticchatha, bhante, mayhaṃ sasuro purāṇaṃ khādatī’’ti āha.
This and the following quotes are taken from Visākhāvatthu, Dhammapada-aṭṭhakathā
8. mayhaṃ sasuro imasmiṃ attabhāve puññaṃ na karoti, purāṇapuññameva khādatī’’ti cintetvā, ‘‘aticchatha, bhante, mayhaṃ sasuro purāṇaṃ khādatī’’ti avacaṃ
9. sallapanto: talking with
10. khāyati: appear, be known, be seen
11. sotāpattiphale patiṭṭhāya acalāya saddhāya samannāgato tīsu ratanesu nikkaṅkho hutvā
12. ‘‘tvaṃ me ajjato paṭṭhāya mātā’’ti taṃ mātuṭṭhāne ṭhapesi. Tato paṭṭhāya migāramātā nāma jātā.
13. Uposatha: The days following the full, half, the eighth and fourteenth night of the lunar circle were traditionally used by householders to observe the five and eight precepts and to dedicate themselves to meditation.
14. Komudī is the fullmoon day in the month named Kattikā (October-November), the blooming period of the white waterlilies (komuda)
16. Vaṅgīsasaṃyuttaṃ, Sagāthāvaggo, Saṃyuttanikāyo
17. pavāreti: invite, offer
18. garahati: blame, reproach
19. Rūparāgo, arūparāgo, māno, uddhaccaṃ, avijjā– imāni pañcuddhambhāgiyāni saṃyojanāni .
20. Sakkāyadiṭṭhi, vicikicchā, sīlabbataparāmāso, kāmacchando, byāpādo—imāni pañcorambhāgiyāni saṃyojanāni
21. Sahāvassa dassana-sampadāya, tayassu dhammā jahitā bhavanti: sakkāyadiṭṭhi vicikicchitaṃ ca, sīlabbataṃ vāpi yadatthi kiñci – see Ratanasutta, lesson 1.4.9: - Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha
24. āhuna: oblation, sacrifice
25. pāhuna: guest
26. dakkhiṇā: offering
27. vītikkamitabbavatthusamāyoge: vītikkamati (opt.) + vatthu + samāyoga: transgress + ground + combination
28. appaṭivijjhanto: a + p + paṭi + vijjhati (prp.) : piercing through, penetrate
29. Saṅghānussatikathā, Visuddhimaggo