Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 2.1.1
Kesamuttisuttaṃ (part one) - Don‘t Believe in Tradition, in Hearsay, in Teachers but your own Experience, understanding what is unwholesome

The Kesamuttisuttaṃ, the famous and clear instructions that the Buddha gave to the Kālāmā at the market town Kesamutta, continues this chapter. The Kālāmā were Khattiyas and members of their clan were known by their name along with the gotta (clan name). The renown previous teacher of the Buddha, Ālāra Kālāma, who had mastered the ākiñcaññāyatana, the sphere of nothingness, belonged to this clan as his second name depicts.

The Kesamuttisuttaṃ is located in the Aṅguttaranikāyo and divided into two parts. Here the Kālāmas of Kesamutta approach the Buddha, greet and introduce themselves in different ways,1 sit down at one side2 and express their confusion as to the various teachings they have heard and encountered so far. The Buddha reveals to them how proper knowledge can be gained by realising by one’s own consideration what are unwholesome situations and what results in these states. The second part depicts how wholesomeness founded on knowledge based on such contemplations gets achieved.

Once a fully enlightened Sammāsambuddha passes away the teaching is bound to deteriorate. He has laid out the Dhamma, which is parisuddhaṃ, paripuṇṇam.3 What then should be added, be changed? The introductions in this chapter will present a short history of how the Dhamma was maintained up to the current period - called the second sāsana (or the second half of this sāsana). They will also refer to the prediction of the re-establishment of Vipassana after 2500 years after the Buddha’s paranibbāna.4

After the Venerable Ānanda entreated on behalf of Mahāpajāpatī Gotami that the nuns could also get ordained and had finally received approval the Buddha foretold that the teaching now was to remain for the next five hundred years only.5 But at another occasion the Buddha had also stated, that, if the instructions as presented in the teaching were applied accordingly, Arahants would continue to inhabit the world. These two statements gave rise to the following double-edged question of King Milinda, who saw the following contradiction:

Bhante nāgasena, bhāsitampetaṃ bhagavatā ‘pañceva dāni, ānanda, vassasatāni saddhammo ṭhassatī’ti. Puna ca parinibbānasamaye subhaddena paribbājakena pañhaṃ puṭṭhena bhagavatā bhaṇitaṃ ‘ime ca, subhadda, bhikkhū sammā vihareyyuṃ, asuñño6 loko arahantehi assā’ti, asesavacanametaṃ, nissesavacanametaṃ, nippariyāyavacanametaṃ.7

“Bhante Nāgasena, it has been stated by the Bhagava: ‘Ānanda, the true Dhamma will now stand for five hundred years.’ But further the Bhagava declared at the time of his final passing away in regard to the question of the wanderer Subaddha: ‘As long as, Subaddha, the Bhikkhus live perfectly, as long the world will not be bereft of Arahants.’ This statement is a statement that is ultimate, absolute, not permitting further declaration”

Yadi, bhante nāgasena, tathāgatena bhaṇitaṃ ‘pañceva dāni, ānanda, vassasatāni saddhammo ṭhassatī’ti, tena hi ‘asuñño loko arahantehi assā’ti yaṃ vacanaṃ, taṃ micchā. Yadi tathāgatena bhaṇitaṃ ‘asuñño loko arahantehi assā’ti, tena hi ‘pañceva dāni, ānanda, vassasatāni saddhammo ṭhassatī’ti tampi vacanaṃ micchā. Ayampi ubhato koṭiko pañho gahanatopi gahanataro balavatopi balavataro gaṇṭhitopi gaṇṭhitaro, so tavānuppatto, ……”ti.

“If, Bhante Nāgasena, the statement of the Tathāgata: ‘Ānanda, the true Dhamma will now stand firm for five-hundred years.’ is to be correct, then the second: ‘As long as, Subaddha, the Bhikkhus live perfectly, as long the world will not be bereft of Arahants.’ must be false, if the second statement: ‘As long as, Subaddha, the Bhikkhus live perfectly, as long the world will not be bereft of Arahants.’ is to be correct, than the first: ‘Ānanda, the true Dhamma will now stand firm for five-hundred years.’ must be false. This is a double-edged question for you, more impenetrable than a thicket, tougher than a strong man, stronger than a knot.”8

1. The terms of introduction have been highlighted in the introduction to 1.3.1: Saṅgāravasuttaṃ -‘The Questions of Saṅgāravo’

2. The commentary explains why visitors, after having approached the Buddha sit on one side out of respect: Ekamantaṃ na pacchato na purato, nāpi āsannadūrato; na kacche nopi paṭivāte, na cāpi oṇatuṇṇate.—Neither behind nor in front, not too near or too far, not to be spoken against the wind nor from above to one below.

3. parisuddhaṃ, paripuṇṇam: pari + suddha, pari + puṇṇa: all round + pure, all around + complete

4. This prediction is found in the commentary to a statement of the Venerable Phussa Thera who had the ability of foresight. See for more details about his prophesy: 2.1.11 Paṭhamabrahmannasuttaṃ & Dutiyabrahmaññasuttaṃ - ‘About Being a Brahmañña and the Fruits thereof & The Purpose of Being a Brahmañña’ and about the explanation of the commentary: 2.1.15 Phussattheragāthā - ‘2500 Years are over! The Clock of Vipassana has struck! Make Use of this Rare Opportunity!’

5. The introduction to 2.1.7: Paṭhamapaṭipadāsuttaṃ - ‘How to Walk the Path Correctly’ will present some more details about this statement.

6. asuñño: a + suñño: not + empty, devoid

7. asesavacanametaṃ, nissesavacanametaṃ, nippariyāyavacanametaṃ:
asesa: - without remainder, entire; nissesa: - complete, entire; nippariyāya: - unchangeable, not to be turned; vacanaṃ + etaṃ: saying + this

8. At 2.1.7: Paṭhamapaṭipadāsuttaṃ - ‘How to Walk the Path Correctly’ the Venerable Nāgasena will return to this dilemma resolve this riddle.

Last modified: Saturday, 2 December 2023, 6:00 PM