Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.5.5
Potaliyasuttaṃ - Pāṇātipātaṃ pahāya pāṇātipātā paṭivirato 
How to Abandon the Destruction of Life?

‘‘Akusalaṃ, bhikkhave, pajahatha. Sakkā, bhikkhave, akusalaṃ pajahituṃ!”
“Avoid the unwholesome, O’Bhikkhus! It is possible, Bhikkhus to avoid the unwholesome!”1

Everyone who has conquered the inner enemies of greed, craving and hatred at certain occasions feels deep satisfaction and the urge to remain successful likewise in future! Comparing the unrest, agitation and mental commotion that accompany actions which generate harm to others with the joy, satisfaction and mental calm that spring from positive actions, one fosters determination to proceed likewise. If the Buddha had only confirmed, that the unwholesome can be avoided, he would not have been a sammāsambuddha - the Buddha has shown how unwholesome actions can be not only abandoned but completely left behind.

In this Potaliyasutta the Buddha presents further tools as to how to remain triumphant in this pursuit – and again emphasizes the twofold training of evaṃ cārittavārittavasena duvidhaṃ2 - from the support of non-harm wholesomeness results: ‘apāṇātipātaṃ nissāya pāṇātipāto pahātabbo’ - ‘depending upon the non-killing living beings the killing of living beings gets renounced’

Once a householder, by the name of Potaliya visited the Buddha. Potaliya had handed over all his wealth, his possessions and responsibilities to his children and was living on food and clothing only without interfering in their affairs. Even so he dressed like a householder, he had felt himself a mendicant and objected when the Buddha asked him to sit down on the respective chair by addressing him as householder. “Evaṃ kho me, bho gotama, sabbe kammantā paṭikkhittā3, sabbe vohārā samucchinnā’’ti. – “ In this way, friend Gotama,4 I have given up all duties and renounced all trades!”
Buddha then informed Potaliya about a distinctive difference to giving up responsibilities in the world and giving up responsibilities according to the Noble Vinaya: ‘‘Aññathā kho tvaṃ, gahapati, vohārasamucchedaṃ vadasi, aññathā ca pana ariyassa vinaye vohārasamucchedo5 hotī’’ti. “It is a difference between making an end to all trades the way you describe it, householder, but the renouncing of all trades according to Noble Vinaya is quite another matter.”

‘‘Yathā kathaṃ pana, bhante, ariyassa vinaye vohārasamucchedo hoti? Sādhu me, bhante, bhagavā tathā dhammaṃ desetu yathā ariyassa vinaye vohārasamucchedo hotī’’ti.- “What then, Bhante is the meaning of giving up responsibilities according to the Noble Vinaya. It would be good if the Bhagavā explained it to me, what is the meaning of renouncing of all trades according to the Noble Vinaya!”

In the ensuing explanation the Buddha instructs Potaliya in the eight matters, that have to be left behind by a householder, who earnestly want to pursue the path and points out reinforcing tools that support one’s volition to uphold the determination to successfully overcome any hindrances.

The selection extracted from this sutta here refers to the respective parts of samma kammanto, pāṇātipāto pahātabbo and adinnādānaṃ pahātabba but does not dwell in detail on the other six (musāvādo; pisuṇā vācā; giddhilobho; nindāroso; kodhūpāyāso; atimānaṃ pahātabbo) that are referred to in this sutta.

After the Buddha had highlighted to Potaliya the importance of the abandonment of these eight shortcomings he asserted that they were but a first necessary step only. Buddha then was requested by Potaliya to explain further: ‘‘Yathā kathaṃ pana, bhante, ariyassa vinaye sabbena sabbaṃ sabbathā sabbaṃ vohārasamucchedo hoti? Sādhu me, bhante, bhagavā tathā dhammaṃ desetu yathā ariyassa vinaye sabbena sabbaṃ sabbathā sabbaṃ vohārasamucchedo hotī’’ti.- “But how then, Bhante, can the responsibilities according to the Noble Vinaya be giving up entirely and completely in all ways? It would be good if the Bhagavā explained it to me. Can the responsibilities according to the Noble Vinaya be giving up entirely and completely in all ways?”

The Buddha then states with various similes the different shapes that sensual pleasures may take at any time and points out that only if the alarming danger that lies therein is immediately understood further progress on the path can be assured.6
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[1] See introduction to previous sutta 3.5.4.

[2] See lesson 3.5.2

[3] paṭikkhittā: paṭikkhipati (pp.): reject, refuse

[4] Here the greeting: ‘bho gotama’ confirms that Potaliya at this time felt equal to the Buddha, but soon after till the end of the discourse he changes to the respectful address: ‘Bhante’ or ‘Bhagavā’ and finally requests acceptance in the order and takes full refuge under the triple gem.

[5] vohārasamucchedo: vohāra + samucchedo: business, trade + giving up, abolishing (see vocabulary!)

[6] See Kāmādīnavakathā Potaliyasuttaṃ, Gahapativaggo, Majjhimapaṇṇāsapāḷi. Compare also with lesson 3.5.10, where the introduction referes and quotes these dangers.
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Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.5.5

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Last modified: Wednesday, 22 February 2017, 1:33 PM