Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

2.1.7 Paṭhamapaṭipadāsuttaṃ - How to Walk the Path Correctly

The Paṭhamapaṭipadāsutta is selected from the Saṃyuttanikāyo as it offers an opportunity for the reader to recite passages from memory when the abbreviation … pe1 is used. The importance of the paṭipadā was repeatedly expressed by the Buddha. At one time when dwelling at the village of Koṭigāmo he addressed his monks.

Catunnaṃ, bhikkhave, ariyasaccānaṃ ananubodhā2 appaṭivedhā3 evamidaṃ dīghamaddhānaṃ sandhāvitaṃ saṃsaritaṃ mamañceva tumhākañca. Katamesaṃ catunnaṃ?

Bhikkhus, it is through not realizing, through not penetrating the Four Noble Truths that this long course of saṃsara has been continued and endured by me as well as by you. What are these four?

Dukkhassa, bhikkhave, ariyasaccassa ananubodhā appaṭivedhā evamidaṃ dīghamaddhānaṃ sandhāvitaṃ saṃsaritaṃ mamañceva tumhākañca. Dukkhasamudayassa, bhikkhave, ariyasaccassa ananubodhā appaṭivedhā evamidaṃ dīghamaddhānaṃ sandhāvitaṃ saṃsaritaṃ mamañceva tumhākañca. Dukkhanirodhassa, bhikkhave, ariyasaccassa ananubodhā appaṭivedhā evamidaṃ dīghamaddhānaṃ sandhāvitaṃ saṃsaritaṃ mamañceva tumhākañca. Dukkhanirodhagāminiyā paṭipadāya, bhikkhave, ariyasaccassa ananubodhā appaṭivedhā evamidaṃ dīghamaddhānaṃ sandhāvitaṃ saṃsaritaṃ mamañceva tumhākañca.

It is because the Noble Truth of suffering, Bhikkhus, has neither been realized nor penetrated that this long course of saṃsara has been continued and endured by me as well as by you. It is because the Noble Truth of the arising of suffering, Bhikkhus, has neither been realized nor penetrated that this long course of saṃsara has been continued and endured by me as well as by you. It is because the Noble Truth of the eradication of suffering, Bhikkhus, has neither been realized nor penetrated that this long course of saṃsara has been continued and endured by me as well as by you. It is because the path leading to the cessation of suffering, Bhikkhus, has neither been realized nor penetrated that this long course of saṃsara has been continued and endured by me as well as by you.

Tayidaṃ, bhikkhave, dukkhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ anubuddhaṃ paṭividdhaṃ, dukkhasamudayaṃ ariyasaccaṃ anubuddhaṃ paṭividdhaṃ, dukkhanirodhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ anubuddhaṃ paṭividdhaṃ, dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā ariyasaccaṃ anubuddhaṃ paṭividdhaṃ, ucchinnā bhavataṇhā, khīṇā bhavanetti, natthidāni punabbhavo’’ti.4

But now, Bhikkhus, that the Noble Truth of suffering has been realized and penetrated, that the Noble Truth of the arising of suffering has been realized and penetrated, that the Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering has been realized and penetrated, that the Noble Truth of the path leading to the cessation suffering has been realized and penetrated, cut off is the craving for existence, destroyed is the base of renewed becoming then there is no more becoming.5

That one is enabled to attain and practise the catunnaṃ ariyasaccānaṃ was made possible only due to the encouraging efforts of the five hundred Arahants who participated in the first Dhammasaṅgīti. That is the reason why even today the words of the Buddha, along with the practice, have survived intact in their origin 2600 years after the demise of the Buddha, and why one is still able to seek refuge in his teaching.

Evametaṃ sabbampi buddhavacanaṃ pañcasatikasaṅgītikāle saṅgāyantena mahākassapappamukhena vasīgaṇena6 ayaṃ dhammo ayaṃ vinayo.7

In this way at the time of the council the group of five hundred well-collected members of the Saṅgha, under the guidance of Mahākassapa, divided all the sayings of the Buddha: ‘that belongs to Dhamma, this belongs to Vinaya’.

Thus the council was verified, comprised and determined upon three baskets8 during the period of seven months. And so:

... tīsu piṭakesu sandissamānaṃ9 saṅgahappabhedaṃ10 vavatthapetvāva sattahi māsehi saṅgītaṃ.

Saṅgītipariyosāne cassa idaṃ mahākassapattherena dasabalassa sāsanaṃ11 pañcavassasahassaparimāṇakālaṃ12 pavattanasamatthaṃ13 katanti sañjātappamodā sādhukāraṃ viya dadamānā ayaṃ mahāpathavī udakapariyantaṃ katvā anekappakāraṃ kampi saṅkampi sampakampi sampavedhi.14

Thus Thera Mahākassapa has strengthened the teaching of the ‘One endowed in Ten Powers’ to exist for five-thousand years and concluding the council the great earth repeatedly quaked, trembled, shook and quivered up to the waters edge showing happiness and approval.

A previous Introduction referred to a statement of the Buddha to the Venerable Ānanda — which later King Milinda quoted to Bhante Nāgasena — where he pointed to the apparent contradiction of two different remarks by the Buddha about the duration of the Sāsana. Through these stirring efforts of the Venerable Thera’s, the duration of the original prophesy with this successful performance of the First Council was thus extended from five hundred years to five thousand years.15 Therefore, Bhante Nāgasena could resolve King Milinda’s double-edged question16 by separating the two apparently contradicting statements.

Bhāsitampetaṃ, mahārāja, bhagavatā ‘pañceva dāni, ānanda, vassasatāni saddhammo ṭhassatī’ti. Parinibbānasamaye ca subhaddassa paribbājakassa bhaṇitaṃ ‘ime ca, subhadda, bhikkhū sammā vihareyyuṃ, asuñño loko arahantehi assā’ti. Tañca pana, mahārāja, bhagavato vacanaṃ nānatthañceva hoti nānābyañjanañca, ayaṃ sāsanaparicchedo,17 ayaṃ paṭipatti paridīpanāti18 dūraṃ vivajjitā te ubho aññamaññaṃ. …19

Yes, it has been stated, great King, by the Bhagava: “Ānanda, the true Dhamma will now stand firm for five hundred years.” And he also said at the time of his passing away to the wanderer Subaddha: “As long as, Subaddha, the Bhikkhus live perfectly, as long the world will not be bereft of Arahants.” But these two statements are different in meaning as well as different in letter. One is about the duration of the Sāsana, the other is an explanation about the practice, both are far apart, different from one another!

Bhante Nāgasena clarified further that the Buddha explained to Ānanda the saddhammo would now only last five hundred years instead of one thousand years, declaring the destruction of the Sāsana after the female Bhikkhunis were permitted to the order. With this he referred to the occasion when the Venerable Ānanda, out of compassion, approached the Buddha on behalf of Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, the Buddha’s adoptive mother who nurtured Prince Siddhattha after his mother, Queen Mahāmāyā, had passed away at his birth.

Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī had already previously asked the Buddha to allow women to be ordained, but the Buddha had refused. Later Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī traveled from Kapilavatthu to Vesālī, where the Buddha dwelled, and went to Venerable Ānanda with the very same request, weeping and distraught. Out of compassion the Venerable Ānanda expressed the request to the Buddha three times that he should allow for a female order, but the Buddha still refused. So Ānanda decided to pursue a different approach20 and asked the Buddha if it was possible for women to likewise attain liberation, which the Buddha confirmed.21 Then Ānanda reminded the Buddha of the pains and efforts that Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī had taken to raise him, that she was his foster mother, gave him milk and nurtured him.22 Here the Buddha finally relented but demanded that eight additional rules (aṭṭhagarudhammā) were to be accepted by Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī and all nuns.

Sace, ānanda, mahāpajāpatī gotamī aṭṭha garudhamme paṭiggaṇhāti, sāvassā. Hotu upasampadā.23

Ānanda; if Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī accepts eight additional (heavy) rules than this would be her ordination!

Directly after the Buddha requested these eight regulations to be accepted — and Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī had immediately and happily agreed — the Buddha uttered the statement that later King Milinda referred to.

Sace, ānanda, nālabhissa mātugāmo tathāgatappavedite dhammavinaye agārasmā anagāriyaṃ24 pabbajjaṃ,25 ciraṭṭhitikaṃ, ānanda, brahmacariyaṃ abhavissa,26 vassasahassameva27 saddhammo tiṭṭheyya. Yato ca kho, ānanda, mātugāmo tathāgatappavedite dhammavinaye agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajito, na dāni,28 ānanda, brahmacariyaṃ ciraṭṭhitikaṃ bhavissati. Pañceva dāni, ānanda, vassasatāni saddhammo ṭhassati.29

If Ānanda, women had not obtained the going forth from home into homelessness in the Dhamma and the Vinaya as taught by the Tathāgata, then Ānanda, the holy life would have lasted for a long time, true Dhamma would have remained for one thousand years. But as now, Ānanda, women have obtained the going forth from home into homelessness in the Dhamma and the Vinaya as taught by the Tathāgata, then Ānanda, the holy life will not last as long. The true Dhamma will now only stand for five hundred years.30

It must be pointed out that, in spite of certain interpretations to the contrary, a Fully Enlightened Buddha never excludes or discriminates against anyone. Why would he have undergone all the troubles to become a Sammāsambuddha so he could teach the Dhamma to all beings? In addition to the previous statement by the Buddha, he explained to Ānanda that these additional rules were a protective provision,31 and in four similes he explains why he felt it necessary to endorse them for the female Sangha. He compared the situation with families that may consist of many women and only a few males and were thus easily prone to the attacks of roaming burglars. He also provided a simile to dykes that were erected around a water reservoir so that the water wouldn’t overflow.

Ultimately, the Buddha acknowledged to Ānanda that women were likewise capable to attain all of the achievements as any male and expressed it with the following words.

Bhabbo, ānanda, mātugāmo tathāgatappavedite dhammavinaye agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajitvā sotāpattiphalampi sakadāgāmiphalampi anāgāmiphalampi arahattaphalampi sacchikātun’ti.

Women, Ānanda, once having left householder’s life and having gone forth in the Dhamma and Vinaya as proclaimed by the Tathāgata are able to realize the fruit of Sotāpañña, the fruit of Sakadāgāmi, the fruit of Anāgāmi and the fruit of Arahatta.

Regardless of the historical and cultural background of that time, Buddha’s attitude towards women was matchless.

Yassa etādisaṃ yānaṃ,32 itthiyā purisassa vā; sa ve etena yānena, nibbānasseva santike’ti.33

Anyone who uses such a vehicle, be it woman or man, by means of it will get drawn close towards nibbāna.34


1. The usage of … pe …, indicating that the same text has already previously occurred and should be filled in by memory, is explained in the Introduction to 1.3.2: Orimatīrasuttam - The Hither and the Further Shore.

2. ananubodhā: an + anu + bodhā: bujjhati/bodhati (pp.) — not + realise, perceive, understand.

3. appaṭivedhā: a + p + paṭivedhā — not + comprehension, penetration.

4. Ariyasaccakathā, Mahāparinibbānasuttaṃ, Dīghanikāyo.

5. The Four Noble Truths will be explained in more detail in chapter 3.2 Sammādiṭṭhi – Right View. One may refer to 3.2.2 Vibhaṅgasuttaṃ-2 – What is Right View? and especially 3.2.3 Dhammacakkappavattanasuttaṃ-2 – The Four Noble Truths Have to Be Fully Realized.

6 . vasīgaṇena: vasī + gaṇena — having power, self-control + group.

7. Nidānakathā, Dhammasaṅgaṇī-aṭṭhakathā, Aṭṭhasālinī nāma, Abhidhammapiṭake.

8. The text continues by giving further separations and divisions of the words of the Buddha, like the different piṭakas, different nikāyas, different udānas, saṃyuttas, vaggas etc. The accounts do not mention the third basket, the ‘higher Teaching’, the Abhidhamma. For the elucidation of the Abhidhamma and its development see 3.1.13 Tikapaṭṭhāna – ‘Matrix’ and the following lessons up to 3.1.15.

9. sandissamānaṃ: comparing, verifying.

10. saṅgahappabhedaṃ: saṅgaha + p + pabhedaṃ — collecting, compiling + breaking, dividing.

11. dasabalassa sāsanaṃ: lit. the teaching of the one of ten powers. It is an epithet of the Tathāgata. These ten powers are that he knows perfectly well: ṭhānañca ṭhānato aṭṭhānañca aṭṭhānato yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti: understanding according to reality what is possible and what is impossible; atītānāgatapaccuppannānaṃ kammasamādānānaṃ ṭhānaso hetuso vipākaṃ yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti: the result of past, present and future actions in regards to bases and causes; sabbatthagāminiṃ paṭipadaṃ yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti: where a path may be leading to (to what loka: hell-, animal-, ghost-, human-, deva-realm and nibbāna); anekadhātuṃ nānādhātuṃ lokaṃ yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti: the world with its numerous elements; sattānaṃ nānādhimuttikataṃ yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti: the diverse and different dispositions of beings; parasattānaṃ parapuggalānaṃ indriyaparopariyattaṃ yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti: the disposition in regards to their faculties of other beings and persons; jhānavimokkhasamādhisamāpattīnaṃ saṃkilesaṃ vodānaṃ vuṭṭhānaṃ yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti: the defilements, purification, emergence in regards to jhāna, deliverance, concentration and attainment; anekavihitaṃ pubbenivāsaṃ anussarati: remembering previous births; dibbena cakkhunā visuddhena atikkantamānusakena satte passati cavamāne upapajjamāne hīne paṇīte suvaṇṇe dubbaṇṇe, sugate duggate yathākammūpage satte pajānāti: seeing with his divine eye the passing away and reappearing according to one’s deeds, inferior or superior, beautiful or ugly, fortunate or unfortunate; āsavānaṃ khayā anāsavaṃ cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ diṭṭheva dhamme sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharati: knowing the destruction of cankers and the resulting liberation of mind and the liberation through wisdom by having realised it for himself….

See for example Sīhanādasuttaṃ, Mahāvaggo, Dasakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo.

12. pañcavassasahassaparimāṇakālaṃ: pañca + vassa + sahassa + parimāṇa + kālaṃ — five + years + thousand + measure + time.

13. pavattanasamattha: pavattana + samatthaṃ — moving forward + strong, able.

14. Nidānakathā, Dhammasaṅgaṇī-aṭṭhakathā, Aṭṭhasālinī nāma, Abhidhammapiṭake.

15. This reference to the duration of the teaching for 5000 years, found in the commentaries, will be discussed further under 3.1.2 Sīsapāvanasuttaṃ - Like a Handful of Leaves. Burmese tradition further divides these 5,000 years into the periodical occurrences of 2,500 years each.

16. 2.1.1 Kesamuttisuttaṃ, part 1 – Don’t Believe in Tradition, in Hearsay, in Teachers but your own Experience.

17. sāsanaparicchedo: sāsana + paricchedo — teaching + limitation, boundary.

18. paridīpanā: illustration, explanation.

19. Saddhammantaradhānapañho, Meṇḍakapañho, Milindapañhapāḷi, Khuddakanikāye.

20. yaṃnūnāhaṃ aññenapi pariyāyena bhagavantaṃ yāceyyaṃ mātugāmassa tathāgatappavedite dhammavinaye agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajja’’nti.

21. See quote below.

22. … ‘bahūpakārā, bhante, mahāpajāpati gotamī bhagavato mātucchā āpādikā., posikā, khīrassa dāyikā, bhagavantaṃ janettiyā kālaṅkatāya thaññaṃ pāyesi; sādhu, bhante, labheyya mātugāmo tathāgatappavedite dhammavinaye agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajja’nti.

Mahāpajāpatigotamīvatthu, Paṭhamabhāṇavāro, Bhikkhunikkhandhakaṃ, Cūḷavaggapāḷi, Vinayapiṭake.

23. These eight additional regulations in general expect the nuns to be inferior and subordinate to monks, such as the first, garudhamma, which expects that a nun, even so ordained for the period of one hundred years should still express her respect, rise from her seat, salute with joined hands and pay proper respect to even a monk who was just ordained this very day. (Vassasatūpasampannāya bhikkhuniyā tadahupasampannassa bhikkhuno abhivādanaṃ paccuṭṭhānaṃ añjalikammaṃ sāmīcikammaṃ kātabbaṃ.) All these regulations were to be kept, respected, upheld and venerated lifelong. (Ayampi dhammo sakkatvā garukatvā mānetvā pūjetvā yāvajīvaṃ anatikkamanīyo.)

Aṭṭhagarudhammā, Paṭhamabhāṇavāro, Bhikkhunikkhandhakaṃ, Cūḷavaggapāḷi, Vinayapiṭake.

24. agārasmā anagāriyaṃ: out of the house into homelessness.

25. pabbajja: leaving the world, adopting the life of an ascetic, get ordained.

26. abhavissa: bhavati (cond.) —  would have been.

27. vassasahassameva: vassa + sahassam + eva — year + thousand + so.

28. dāni, idāni: now.

29. Gotamīsuttaṃ, Gotamīvaggo, Dutiyapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Aṭṭhakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo.

30. As already mentioned, the presentation here is based on the Pāli texts of the Vinayapiṭake and the Aṅguttaranikāyo. Its purpose is to provide some idea about the historical accounts without going into scientific details, but provide hints for individual research and notes for Pāli resources. In recent years various publications put in question the correctness and chronology of this account. Thus it is put into question if Ānanda could have already been Buddha’s attendant by the time that Mahāpajāpatigotamī approached the Buddha, likewise whether the aṭṭhagarudhammā had not been developed consecutively at a later period, or why the Buddha did not tell Ānanda before accepting a female order that this would decrease the period of the sāsana by half, would Ānanda then still have stepped in for Mahāpajāpatigotamī. Please compare footnote 2 in 2.1.5 Sevitabbasuttaṃ - What One Should Associate With.

31. The Gotamīsuttavaṇṇanā explains that: … ‘in this way, that these additional rules are made known for the purpose of preventing transgression before any incident that may arise. If they had not been made known, then, because women have been ordained, the true Dhamma would not have been maintained for five-hundred years.’ ‘… evameva ye ime anuppanne vatthusmiṃ paṭikacceva anatikkamanatthāya garudhammā paññattā, tesu apaññattesu mātugāmassa pabbajitattā pañca vassasatāni saddhammo tiṭṭheyya.’

32. This yāna should not be mistaken with what was later referred to as ‘vehicle’ in Mahāyāna and so forth. This yāna travels on the wheels of wholesomeness: dhammacakkehi saṃyuto.

33. Devatāsaṃyuttaṃ, Accharāsuttaṃ, Sagāthāvaggo, Saṃyuttanikāyo.

34. That a large number of females attained nibbāna can be found in the verses of the Therīgāthāpāḷi. Likewise various female lay disciples attained higher stages, just to name a few such as Kujjhuttarā, Queen Sāmāvatī (see 1.1.0 Bahujanahitasuttaṃ - For the Benefit of Many), Sujātā, Visākhā, her mother-in-law, Uttarā, and Suppiyā.

Last modified: Saturday, 2 December 2023, 6:30 PM