Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa


Introduction to 3.3.8
Dvedhāvitakkasuttaṃ
(Reducing Wrong Thoughts and Strengthening Right Thoughts – part one)


Whatever the Buddha instructs others to do, he has realised by himself. When he instructed the Venerable Rahula to reflect on the wholesomeness and unwholesomeness of bodily, verbal and mental actions he encouraged only what he had entered upon himself. In this Dvedhāvitakkasuttaṃ the Buddha relates the incident when he had not yet become fully enlightened and noticed that his thoughts could be divided into the two groups of unwholesome thoughts and those of wholesome character: - yaṃnūnāhaṃ dvidhā katvā dvidhā katvā vitakke vihareyya’nti. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, yo cāyaṃ kāmavitakko yo ca byāpādavitakko yo ca vihiṃsāvitakko – imaṃ ekaṃ bhāgamakāsiṃ; yo cāyaṃ nekkhammavitakko yo ca abyāpādavitakko yo ca avihiṃsāvitakko – imaṃ dutiyaṃ bhāgamakāsiṃ1. – "What if I divide my thoughts in two groups? So I arranged two groups, placed thoughts of sensuality, thoughts of ill will and thoughts of cruelty in the first group and thoughts of renunciation, thoughts of non-ill will and thoughts of nonviolence in the second group."

In this way he is a true ‘Tathāgata’!

There are various derivations of the word ‘Tathāgata’, an epithet of the Buddha. Here it is explained as someone, who teaches what he practices and who practices what he teaches. There is only absolute uniformity between his own approach and the approach he teaches. A Tathāgata acts in the same way, performs the same very conduct and exhibits the same demeanour that he invites others to perform2:

Thus he is ‘tathā gada’ – someone who utters truthful speech because he practices what he teaches: ‘‘Kathaṃ tathavāditāya tathāgato? ……’Yañca rattiṃ tathāgato anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambujjhati, yañca rattiṃ anupādisesāya3 nibbānadhātuyā parinibbāyati, yaṃ etasmiṃ antare bhāsati lapati4 niddisati5, sabbaṃ taṃ tatheva hoti, no aññathā. Tasmā ‘tathāgato’ti vuccatī’’. Gadattho hettha6 gatasaddo. Evaṃ tathavāditāya tathāgato.”

“Why is he called Tathāgata – proclaimer of the real? ... During the interval starting from the night of his attainment of unsurpassable perfect enlightenment till the night of his attainment of parinibbāna, the state of nibbāna without any residue, whatever he speaks, utters and declares, everything is real, not different. Therefor he is called Tathāgata. Here the word gata has the meaning of gada – enunciation”

By a further explanation he is also called Tathāgata because he practices what he teaches: Kathaṃ tathākāritāya tathāgato? Bhagavato hi vācāya kāyo anulometi7, kāyassapi vācā, tasmā yathāvādī tathākārī, yathākārī tathāvādī ca hoti. Evaṃbhūtassa cassa yathāvācā, kāyopi tathā gato pavattoti8 attho. Yathā ca kāyo, vācāpi tathā gatā pavattāti tathāgato. Tenevāha9 – ‘‘yathāvādī, bhikkhave, tathāgato tathākārī, yathākārī tathāvādī. Iti yathāvādī tathākārī yathākārī tathāvādī. Tasmā ‘tathāgato’ti vuccatī’’ti10 Evaṃ tathākāritāya tathāgato.

“Why is he called Tathāgata - practicing what he teaches? The bodily actions of the Bhagava are in accordance with his verbal actions, his verbal actions are in correspondence with his physical actions. Therefore whatever he announces, thus he acts, as he acts, this is what he teaches. Based on this very nature his physical action is thus gone -tathā gato- because it is accordance with his speech and he is thus gone -tathā gato- because his speech is in accordance with his physical actions, thus he is Tathāgata. Therefore he said: ‘What the Tathāgata practices, O’Bhikkhus, that he teaches, whatever he says, thus he acts. Therefore he is called: Tathāgata!’ Therefore is he called Tathāgata - practicing what he teaches.”


[1] Please refer to the vocabulary for the lesson

[2] These quotations are from Dīghanikāya, Sīlakkhandhavaggaṭṭhakathā, Brahmajālasuttavaṇṇanā

[3] anupādisesāya: an + upādisesāya: not + substratum of becoming remaining, depending on existence

[4] lapati: talk, tell,

[5] niddisati: declare, describe, narrate, point out

[6] hettha: hi + ettha: because + here, herein

[7] anulometi: correspond to, are in accordance with

[8] pavattoti: pavatto (pp.) + ti: founded on, relating to

[9] tenevāha: tena + evaṃ + āha: here + thus + he said

[10] Both quotatons are found in Aṇguttaranikāyo, Uruvelavaggo, Lokasuttaṃ

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Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.3.8

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Last modified: Tuesday, 21 February 2017, 7:18 PM