Introduction 3.6.11: Pathamasamajivisuttam - How Can a Couple Meet Again for Many Lives?
Introduction to 3.6.11
How a Couple can Meet again for Many Lives?
“Ubho saddhā vadaññū ca, saññatā dhammajīvino;
te honti jānipatayo, aññamaññaṃ piyaṃvadā.
Atthāsaṃ pacurā honti, phāsukaṃ upajāyati.
“When both are bountiful and self-controlled,
Living restraint a Dhamma-life
As husband and wife,
Full of pleasant words for each other,
They will encounter good fortune in many ways,
And happy they will dwell together.
This selection of the Paṭhamasamajīvīsuttaṃ is dedicated to all devoted couples that have committed themselves to face the challenges of life with ongoing mutual love, appreciation and loyalty. Establishing a steadfast relationship, maintaining life-long affection and fondness through a long life, facing day-to-day vicissitudes and family demands until a last assuring and loving fare-well on the deathbed, is always an inspiring event. Even so, in spite of the common occurrences of being single, of single parents, and people having many intimate relationships in their lifetimes there is still a deep yearning for a reliable, durability long term partnership with one person.
The Buddha’s guideline and reply presented in this sutta may foster assurance, comfort and confidence to all those who aspire long lasting and happy relations. If both partners aspire further to spiritual growth and development they can take encouraging inspiration from the couple Nakulapitā and Nakulamātā mentioned in this Paṭhamasamajīvīsuttaṃ.
It was when the Buddha dwelled at the Bhesakaḷā Grove – Bhesakaḷāvane – where he met the couple Nakulapitā and Nakulamātā. It is said that the Buddha dwelled during eight full rainy seasons in the Bhesakaḷā Grove - Bhesakaḷāvane - near Bhaggā in a deer park at the Crocodile Haunt – Susumāragiri. Bhaggā was the name of a tribe and a country of the same name. Susumāragiri was its capital and so called because the sound of crocodiles – susumāra – could be heard from the nearby lake. Bhesakaḷāvane was woodland that had been the domain of a demon named Bhesaka. It was here at one occasion that the Buddha went to see the couple Nakulapitā and Nakulamātā at their home after being invited. They were so called after their son Nakula.1
It is said that both, Nakulapitā and Nakulamātā had a long and close relationship with the Buddha, whom they accompanied through 500 existences as father and mother and as uncle and aunt as well. So there was a close and deep implanted affection that broke out of Nakulapitā when they encountered the present Buddha Siddharta for the first time when visiting the Bhesakaḷāvane to pay their respects. Both prostrated at the feet of the Buddha by expressing the deep impulse of sudden recognition2: “O’ son, where have you been over this long time, so far away from us?”
Both, Nakulapitā as well as Nakulamātā were classified by the Buddha amongst those disciples, who were foremost in certain qualities - he considered them as being foremost in intimacy and trustworthiness: Etadaggaṃ, bhikkhave, mama sāvakānaṃ upāsakānaṃ vissāsakānaṃ3 yadidaṃ nakulapitā gahapatīti4! - Etadaggaṃ, bhikkhave, mama sāvikānaṃ upāsikānaṃ vissāsikānaṃ yadidaṃ nakulamātā gahapatānī.5.
At the event described in the present sutta both of them took the opportunity of the Buddha’s visit at their home to ask a question that many deeply dedicated couples would like to ask: “Iccheyyāma mayaṃ, bhante, diṭṭhe ceva dhamme aññamaññaṃ passituṃ abhisamparāyañca aññamaññaṃ passitun”ti. – “We wish to meet each other not only in this life but also in the lives to come!”
The Buddha’s comforting and assuring reply is related in this sutta and quoted at the beginning of this introduction. This answer provides affirmation that with the upkeep of certain wholesome qualities, the practise of moral ethics and generosity such a perspective can be realized.6
In another sutta the Buddha explains the respective qualities in more detail and concludes with the same verses7. Here he describes the different situations that may occur to partners of likewise moral, immoral or opposite characters. He categorizes the inspiring example of Nakulapitā and Nakulamātā thus:
“Idha, gahapatayo, sāmiko hoti pāṇātipātā paṭivirato adinnādānā paṭivirato kāmesumicchācārā paṭivirato musāvādā paṭivirato surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā paṭivirato sīlavā kalyāṇadhammo vigatamalamaccherena8 cetasā agāraṃ ajjhāvasati anakkosakaparibhāsako9 samaṇabrāhmaṇānaṃ; bhariyāpissa hoti pāṇātipātā paṭiviratā adinnādānā paṭiviratā kāmesumicchācārā paṭiviratā musāvādā paṭiviratā surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā paṭiviratā sīlavatī kalyāṇadhammā vigatamalamaccherena cetasā agāraṃ ajjhāvasati anakkosikaparibhāsikā samaṇabrāhmaṇānaṃ.” – “Here, householder, the husband lives a life abstaining from killing, from taking of what is not given, from sexual misconduct, from wrong speech and from indulging in liquor, wine and other besotting substances that are the occasion for negligence, he lives performing moral and wholesome conduct, dwelling in a home free from the stain of miserliness neither reviling nor abusing brahmins or ascetics and likewise the wife lives a life abstaining from killing, from taking of what is not given, from sexual misconduct, from wrong speech and from indulging in liquor, wine and other besotting substances that are the occasion for negligence, she lives performing moral and wholesome conduct, dwelling in a home free from the stain of miserliness neither reviling nor abusing brahmins or ascetics.”
The couple Nakulapitā and Nakulamātā not only inspires through their praiseworthy model of a lifelong committed happy relationship but is also a motivating example for householders that have acquired sufficient qualities to reach at least the stage of a sotapānna. Their lives have not only been filled with the qualities described above but also by renunciation10. In an incident, where Nakulapitā has been seriously ill11 Nakulamātā comforted him to avoid potential worries by expressing a saccakiriyā – a solemn declaration of truth so Nakulapitā may not die full of concern, which has been criticized by the Bhagava12. She consoled him that he should not be afraid that after his passing away she:
- · may not be able to maintain herself13;
- · may be getting engaged with another husband14;
- · may not continue to support the Buddha and the Saṅgha15;
- · may not continue to uphold virtuous and moral conduct16;
- · may not obtain serenity of mind17;
- · nor achieve assurance in the Dhamma and the Saṅgha18.
With this last assertion Nakulamātā confirmed that she had reached at least the stage of a sotapānna and by the end of her expression of this saccakiriyā her husband was cured from his ailment. The Buddha likewise comfirmed for Nakulapitā to have reached the same stage of liberation by having realized the following six qualities: “Katamehi chahi? Buddhe aveccappasādena, dhamme aveccappasādena, saṅghe aveccappasādena, ariyena sīlena, ariyena ñāṇena, ariyāya vimuttiyā. Imehi kho, bhikkhave, chahi dhammehi samannāgato nakulapitā gahapati tathāgate niṭṭhaṅgato19 amataddaso amataṃ sacchikatvā iriyatī’’ti20 - What are the six qualities? These are: unwavering faith in the Budhha, unwavering faith in the Dhamma, unwavering faith in the Saṅgha, noble conduct of sīla, noble knowledge and noble liberation. By possessing these six qualities, the householder Nakulapitā has completed confidence in the Tathāgata, has seen nibbāna, the deathless and is one who lives realizing the deathless21.”
May the achievements of this happy couple serve as an inspiration for many to follow the same beneficial principles! May many who desire this be enabled to maintain the same matching principles of morality and generosity, and meet again and again until they achieve liberation together!
1. pitā: father; mātā: mother
2. this incident is related in the Mahā Buddhavaṃsa, Great Chronicle of the Buddhas, Volume 6, part 2
3. vissāsika/vissāsaka: trustworthy, intimate, confident
4. Chaṭṭhavaggo, Etadaggavaggo, Ekapuggalavaggo, Ekakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāya
5. Sattamavaggo, Etadaggavaggo, Ekapuggalavaggo, Ekakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāya.
6. The profitable duties of both, husband and wife are mentioned in 3.6.5 Siṅgālasuttaṃ - The Buddha’s advice to Laypeople -part one and 3.6.6 Siṅgālasuttaṃ - part one
7. Paṭhamasaṃvāsasuttaṃ, Puññābhisandavaggo, Catukkanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo
8. vigatamalamaccherena: vigata + malam + maccherena: gone + stain + miserliness
9. anakkosakaparibhāsako: an + akkosaka + paribhāsako: not + (someone who is) reviling + abusing
10. See her remark in the next paragraph below: ‘no soḷasavassāni gahaṭṭhakaṃ brahmacariyaṃ samāciṇṇaṃ.’ Even so this may not be a fully desirable aspiration for every modern couple of the world of today it points to the fact that final liberation can only be achieved by maintaining complete celibacy even if living as householders: gahaṭṭhakaṃ brahmacariyaṃ.
11. Nakulapitusuttaṃ, Sāraṇīyavaggo, Paṭhamapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Chakkanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo
12. ‘‘Mā kho tvaṃ, gahapati, sāpekkho kālamakāsi. Dukkhā, gahapati, sāpekkhassa kālakiriyā; garahitā ca bhagavatā sāpekkhassa kālakiriyā.”
13. “Kusalāhaṃ, gahapati, kappāsaṃ kantituṃ veṇiṃ olikhituṃ. Sakkomahaṃ, gahapati, tavaccayena dārake posetuṃ, gharāvāsaṃ sandharituṃ.” – “I am well skilled in weaving and knitting wool. After your passing away, I will be able to support the children and to maintain the household.”
14. “Tvañceva kho, gahapati, jānāsi ahañca, yaṃ no soḷasavassāni gahaṭṭhakaṃ brahmacariyaṃ samāciṇṇaṃ.” – “You are aware, householder, as I am as well, that we have lived the celibate life of laypeople for the last 16 years!”
15. “Ahañhi, gahapati, tavaccayena dassanakāmatarā ceva bhavissāmi bhagavato, dassanakāmatarā ca bhikkhusaṅghassa.” – “Because I will, householder, be even more eager to see the Bhagava and the Bhikkhusaṅgha.”
16. “Yāvatā kho, gahapati, tassa bhagavato sāvikā gihī odātavasanā sīlesu paripūrakāriniyo, ahaṃ tāsaṃ aññatarā.” – “Because, housholder, I belong to those white robed female laydisciples of the Bhagava who fulfill their virtuous practise.”
17. Yāvatā kho, gahapati, tassa bhagavato sāvikā gihī odātavasanā lābhiniyo ajjhattaṃ cetosamathassa, ahaṃ tāsaṃ aññatarā. – “Because, housholder, I belong to those white robed female laydisciples of the Bhagava who obtain inner tranquillity of mind.”
18. “Yāvatā kho, gahapati, tassa bhagavato sāvikā gihī odātavasanā imasmiṃ dhammavinaye ogādhappattā patigādhappattā assāsappattā tiṇṇavicikicchā vigatakathaṃkathā vesārajjappattā aparappaccayā satthusāsane viharanti, ahaṃ tāsaṃ aññatarā.” – “Because, housholder, I belong to those white robed female laydisciples of the Bhagava who have attained thorough foothold, firm stand, consolation in the Dhamma and the discipline, I have crossed doubt, left behind all questioning, arrived at confidence and independence from others in the teacher’s dispensation.”
19. niṭṭhaṅgato: niṭṭham +gato: perfection, conclusion + gone, arrived at
20. Bhallikādisuttāni, Sāmaññavaggo, Chakkanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo
21. Nakulapitā had realized these qualities by following the Buddha’s advise presented in Nakulapitusuttaṃ, Nakulapituvaggo, Khandhasaṃyuttaṃ, Saṃyuttanikāyo and in Nakulapitusuttaṃ, Saḷāyatanasaṃyuttaṃ, Saḷāyatanavaggo:
- Remaining aloof towards the influence of the input of all sensedoors, not seeking delight in them, eliminating clinging towards them without developing any attachement: ‘‘Santi kho, gahapati, cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā. …pe… Santi kho, gahapati, sotaviññeyyā saddā…pe… ghānaviññeyyā gandhā… jivhāviññeyyā rasā…pe… santi kho, gahapati, manoviññeyyā dhammā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā. Tañce bhikkhu nābhinandati nābhivadati nājjhosāya tiṭṭhati. Tassa taṃ anabhinandato anabhivadato anajjhosāya tiṭṭhato na tannissitaṃ viññāṇaṃ hoti na tadupādānaṃ. Anupādāno, gahapati, bhikkhu parinibbāyati.
- and likewise remaining aloof towards the influence of the sensorial field of existence and leaving behind attachement by developing awareness of all changes and alterations by not identifying with the notion of self, me or mine: …… na rūpaṃ attato samanupassati, na rūpavantaṃ vā attānaṃ; na attani vā rūpaṃ, na rūpasmiṃ vā attānaṃ. Tassa ‘ahaṃ rūpaṃ mama rūpa’nti ……, ahaṃ vedanā, mama vedanā’ti……, ahaṃ saññā mama saññā’ti ……, ahaṃ saṅkhārā mama saṅkhārā’ti ……, ahaṃ viññāṇaṃ, mama viññāṇa’nti apariyuṭṭhaṭṭhāyino, taṃ viññāṇaṃ vipariṇamati aññathā hoti. Tassa viññāṇavipariṇāmaññathābhāvā nuppajjanti sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā. Evaṃ kho, gahapati, āturakāyo hoti no ca āturacitto’’ti.