Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Introduction to 1.4.7
Ānāpānassatisuttaṃ - part one - Free from Prattle and Chatter is this Assembly
Tasmā have appamādaṃ, kayirātha sumedhaso;
evaṃ mahānubhāvāya, saṅghānussatiyā sadāti.1
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 divided into three parts in this course 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 such as the Venerable Sāriputta, Venerable Mahāmoggallāna, and Venerable Mahākassapa. It 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 man named Migāra who considered it time for his son Puṇṇavaḍḍana to get married. Sending out his messengers to search for a suitable bride, they finally visited the city of Sāketa and encountered Vishākā taking a bath accompanied by her attendants. Delighted by Vishākā's beauty and demeanour, they asked her father, Dhanañjaya, to consent to his daughter being betrothed to Puṇṇavaḍḍana.
After she had married and started living in the house of her father in law, Vishākā served him respectfully. Though there were certain instances where her father-in-law felt otherwise. Harbouring this suspicion Migāra finally became 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 his house while Migāra relished his meal, provided 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 to not see him. So Vishākā, as a devout laywoman eager to support the Bhikkhus, approached the monk and apologized with the following words: “Bhante, only empty handed I can pay my respects to you, please move farther, my father-in-law is living on old food!”6 Migāra, proud of the auspicious food he was used to being served in his propitious house, became upset and angry as he thought that old food meant ‘unclean food’.7 He then asked his servants to expel Vishākā but nobody would follow his command. When Vishākā left her family, her father, Dhanañjaya, asked a group of eight wise householders to accompany her so they could guide her and speak council in case she had any problems. Now Vishākā approached Migāra confidently and informed him 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 realized, that with his attitude and behaviour, her father-in-law would fail to acquire any new merits but only exhaust merits he had performed earlier from which he had gained the wealth and the delicious food he currently enjoyed.8 The wise counsellors praised Vishākā for her wisdom and cleared her of the false accusation after which she announced that she would now 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 wish: she wanted to invite the Buddha and the Bhikkhus for a meal. Migāra agreed 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 Buddha’s discourse, 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 singularly 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 became established in the fruit of sotāpanna and gained resolute faith in the triple gem.11 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).
As described here, in the current situation the assembly of the Bhikkhusaṅgha took place on the day of uposatha13 in the open under a full-moon sky just before the rains 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 rains retreat and on the full moon night of Komudī,14 they were to meet again and he would check upon their further progress. During this period all had been taught and were striving even more energetically. 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 rains 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 humbly requested others to point out those potential misdeeds, or even sins, that they might have committed unknowingly. The Pavāraṇāsuttaṃ describes this procedure.16
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 of their practice. This congregation consisted of Arahant, those completely freed from all the ten fetters (i.e., five lower as well as the five higher ones),19 and of Anāgāmi, those who had completely eradicated the first five lower fetters. Likewise this noble congregation included Sakadāgāmi, those who have greatly weakened the fourth and fifth fetters and completely eradicated the three lower fetters20 along with those who were Sotapanna, who eliminated the first three lowest fetters (tiṇṇaṃ saṃyojanānaṃ parikkhayā).21
All together they represent the four pairs of men which form those eight kinds of individuals that have not only maintained and walked the path but also realized the fruit up to one stage: 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 advised ways of
āhuneyyā — offering the four requisites;
pāhuneyyā — expresses the hospitality;
dakkhiṇā24 — donating and offering for the benefit of beings in the lower realms;
añjalikaraṇīyā — expressing respect with folded hands.25
1. Saṅghānussatikathā, Chaanussatiniddeso, Visuddhimaggo.
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.
22. cattāri purisa-yugāni aṭṭha-purisa-puggalā: For an explanatory note on this expression see 1.4.2 Vandana: Esa Bhagavato sāvaka-saṅgho – Paying Respect to the Ariyan Disciples and 1.4.3 Dhajaggasuttaṃ - Verses for Protection.
24. dakkhiṇā: offering.