039 Maha-Assapura Sutta

The Greater Disourse at Assapura

Sutta Exposition Part 1 by Bhante Sudhasso

§ 1. THUS HAVE I HEARD.
On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Angan country at a town of the Angans named Assapura. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus;
“Bhikkhus.” – “Venerable sir’ they replied. The Blessed One said this:

§ 2. ‘”Recluses, recluses,’ bhikkhus, that is how people perceive you. And when you are asked, ‘What are you?’, you claim that you are recluses. Since that is what you are designated and what you claim to be, you should train thus:
‘We will undertake and practise those things that make one a recluse, that make one a brahmin,415 [refer to §24]so that our designations may be true and our claims genuine, and so that the services of those whose robes, almsfood, resting place, and medicinal requisites we use shall bring them great fruit and benefit, and so that our going forth shall not be in vain but fruitful and fertile.’

CONDUCT AND LIVELIHOOD

§ 3. “And what, bhikkhus, are the things that make one a recluse, that make one a  brahmin? Bhlkkhus, you should train thus: ‘We will be possessed of shame and fear of wrongdoing.’416

[416: Shame (hiri) and fear of wrongdoing (ottappa) are two complementary qualities designated by the Buddha “the guardians of the world” (AN i.51) because they serve as the foundation for morality. Shame has the characteristic of disgust with evil, is dominated by a sense of self respect, and manifests itself as conscience. Fear of wrongdoing has the characteristic of dread of evil, is dominated by a concern for the opinions of others, and manifests itself as fear of doing evil. See Vsm XIV, 142.]

Now, bhikkhus, you may think thus:
‘We are possessed of shame and fear of wrongdoing. That much is enough, that much has been done, the goal of recluseship has been reached, there is nothing more for us to do’; and you may rest content with that much.

Bhikkhus, I inform you, I declare to you: You who seek the recluse’s status, do not fall short of the goal of recluseship while there is more to be done.417

[417:- MA quotes SN 4 5 : 35-3 6 / v . 25: “What, bhikkhus, is recluseship (samanna)? The Noble Eightfold Path . . . – this is called recluseship. And what, bhikkhus, is the goal of recluseship  (samaniattho)?  The destruction of greed, hate, and delusion – this is called the goal of recluseship.”]

§ 4. “What more is to be done? [272]
Bhikkhus, you should train thus:
‘Our bodily conduct shall be purified, clear and open , flawless and restrained, and we will not laud ourselves and disparage others on account of that purified bodily conduct.’

Now, Bhikkhus, you may think thus:
We are possessed of shame and fear of wrongdoing and our bodily conduct has been purified. That much is enough, that much has been done, the goal of recluseship has been reached, there is nothing more for us to do’; and you may rest content with that much.

Bhikkhus, I inform you, I declare to you: You who seek the recluse’s status, do not fall short of the goal of recluseship while there is more to be done.

§ 5. “What more is to be done?
Bhikkhus, you should train thus:
‘Our verbal conduct shall be purified, clear and open, flawless and restrained, and we will not laud ourselves and  disparage others on account of that purified verbal conduct.’

Now, bhikkhus, you may think thus:
We are possessed of shame and fear of wrongdoing, our bodily conduct has been purified, and our verbal conduct has been purified. That much is enough . . . ‘; and you may rest content with that much.

Bhikkhus, I inform you, I declare to you: You who seek the recluse’s status, do not fall short of the goal of recluseship while there is more to be done.

§ 6. “What more is to be done?
Bhikkhus, you should train thus:
‘Our mental conduct shall be purified, clear and open, flawless and restrained, and we will not laud ourselves and disparage others on account of that purified mental conduct. ‘

Now, bhikkhus, you may think thus:
‘We are possessed of shame and fear of wrongdoing, our bodily conduct and verbal conduct have been purified, and our mental conduct has been purified. That much is enough . . . ‘; and you may rest content with that much.

Bhikkhus, I inform you, I declare to you: You who seek the recluse’s status, do not fall short of the goal of recluseship while there is more to be done.

§  7. “What more is to be done?
Bhikkhus, you should train thus:
‘Our livelihood shall be purified, clear and open, flawless and restrained, and we will not laud ourselves and disparage others on account of that purified livelihood.’

Now, bhikkhus, you may think thus:
‘We are possessed of shame and fear of wrongdoing, our bodily conduct, verbal conduct, and mental conduct have been purified, and our livelihood has been purified. [2731 That much is enough . . .’; and you may rest content with that much.

Bhikkhus, I inform you, I declare to you: You who seek the recluse’s status, do not fall short of the goal of recluseship While there is more to be done.

RESTRAINT OF THE SENSES

§ 8. “What more is to be done? Bhikkhus, you should train thus:
‘We will guard the doors of our sense faculties.

  • On seeing a form with the eye, we will not grasp at its signs and features. Since, if we left the eye faculty unguarded, evil unwholesome states of covetousness and grief might invade us, we will practise the way of its restraint, we will guard the eye faculty, we will undertake the restraint of the eye faculty. 
  • On hearing a sound with the ear . ..
  • On smelling an odour with the nose .. .
  • On tasting a flavour with the tongue . . .
  • On touching a tangible with the body . . .
  • On cognizing a mind-object with the mind, we will not grasp at its signs and features. Since, if we left the mind faculty unguarded, evil unwholesome states of covetousness and grief might invade us, we will practise the way of its restraint,  we will guard the mind faculty, we will undertake the restraint of the mind faculty.’

Now, bhikkhus, you may think thus: ‘We  are possessed of shame and fear of wrongdoing, our bodily conduct, verbal conduct, mental conduct, and livelihood have been purified, and we guard the doors of our sense faculties. That much is enough . . . ‘; and you may rest content with that much.
Bhikkhus, I inform you, I declare to you: You who seek the recluse’s status, do not filll short of the goal of recluseship while there is more to be done.

MODERATION IN EATING

§  9. ”What more is to be done?
Bhikkhus, you should train thus:
‘We will be moderate in eating.

Reflecting wisely, we will take food neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the endurance and continuance of this body, for ending discomfort, and for assisting the holy life, considering: “Thus I shall terminate old feelings without arousing new feelings and I shall be healthy and b lameless and shall live in comfort. ”

‘Now, bhikkhus, you may think thus: ‘We are possessed of shame and fear of wrongdoing, our bodily conduct, verbal conduct, mental conduct, and livelihood have been purified, we guard the doors of our sense faculties, and we are moderate in eating. That much is enough … ‘; and you may rest content with that much.
Bhikkhus, I inform you, I declare to you: You who seek the recluse’s status, do not fall short of the goal of reduseshlp whilethere is more to be done.

Sutta Exposition Part 2 by Bhante Sudhasso

WAKEFULNESS

§ 10. “What more is to be done?
Bhikkhus, you should train thus:
‘We will be devoted to wakefulness.

During the day, while walking back and forth and sitting, we will purify our minds of obstructive states. In the first watch of the night, (274) while walking back and forth and sitting, we will purify our minds of obstructive states.

In the middle watch of the night we will lie down on the right side in the lion’s pose with one foot overlapping the other, mindful and fully aware, after noting in our minds the time for rising. After rising, in the third watch of the night, while walking back and forth and sitting, we will purify our minds of obstructive states.’

Now, bhikkhus, you may think thus:

‘We are possessed of shame and fear of wrongdoing, our bodily conduct, verbal conduct, mental conduct, and livelihood have been purified, we guard the doors of our sense faculties, we are moderate in eating, and we are devoted to wakefulness.
That much is enough . . . ‘; and you may rest content with that much. Bhikkhus, I inform you, I declare to you: You who seek the recluse’s status, do not fall short of the goal of recluseship while there is more to be done.

MINDFULNESS AND FULL AWARENESS

§  11 . “What more is to be done?
Bhikkhus, you should train thus:

We will be possessed of mindfulness and full awareness.
We will act in full awareness when going forward and returning; we will act in full awareness when looking ahead and looking away; we will act in full awareness when flexing and extending our limbs; we will act in full awareness when wearing our robes and carrying our outer robe and bowl; we will act in full awareness when eating, drinking, consuming food, and tasting; we will act in full awareness when defecating and urinating; we will act in full awareness when walking, standing, sitting, falling, asleep, waking up, talking, and keeping silent.’

Now, bhikkhus, you may think thus:

‘We are possessed of shame and fear of wrongdoing, our bodily conduct, verbal conduct, mental conduct, and livelihood have been purified, we guard the doors of our sense faculties, we are moderate in eating, we are devoted to wakefulness, and we are possessed of mindfulness and full awareness. That much is enough, that much has been done, the goal of recluseship has been reached, there is nothing more for us to do’; and you may rest content with that much. Bhikkhus, I inform you, I declare to you: You who seek the recluse’s status, do not fall short of the goal of recluseship while there is more to be done.

ABONDONING HINDRANCES

§ 12. “What more is to be done?
Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu resorts to a secluded resting place: the forest, the root of a tree, a mountain, a ravine, a hillside cave, a chamel ground, a jungle thicket, an open space, a heap of straw.

§ 13. “On returning from his almsround, after his meal he sits down, folding his legs crosswise, setting his body erect and establishing mindfulness before him. Abandoning covetousness for the world, he abides with a mind free from covetousness; he purifies his mind from covetousness. Abandoning ill will and hatred, he abides with ct mind free from ill will, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings; [275] he purifies his mind from ill will and hatred. Abandoning sloth and torpor, he abides free from sloth and torpor, percipient of light, mindful and fully aware; he purifies his mind from sloth and torpor. Abandoning restlessness and remorse, he abides unagitated with a mind inwardly peaceful; he purifies his mind from restlessness and remorse. Abandoning doubt, he abides having gone beyond doubt, unperplexed about wholesome states; he purifies his mind from doubt.

§ 14. “Bhikkhus,

  • suppose a man were to take a loan and undertake business and his business were to succeed so that he could repay all the money of the old loan and there would remain enough extra to maintain a wife; then on considering this, he would be glad and full of joy. Or
  • suppose a man were afflicted, suffering and gravely ill, and his food would not agree with him and his body had no strength, but later he would recover from the affliction and his food would agree with him and his body would regain strength; then on considering this, he would be glad and full of joy. Or
  • suppose a man were imprisoned in a prison house, but later he would be released from prison, safe and secure, with no loss to his property; then on considering this, he would be glad and full of joy.
  • Or suppose a man were a slave, not self-dependent but dependent on others, unable to go where he wants, but later on he would be released from slavery, self-dependent, independent of others, a freed man able to go where he wants; then on considering this, [276] he would be glad and full of joy. Or
  • suppose a man with wealth and property were to enter a•road across a desert, but later on he would cross over the desert, safe and secure, with no loss to his property; then on considering this, he would be glad and full of joy.

So too, bhikkhus, when these five hindrances are unabandoned in himself, a bhikkhu sees them respectively as a debt, a disease, a prison house, slavery, and a road across a desert. But when these five hindrances have been abandoned in himself, he sees that as freedom from debt, healthiness, release from prison, freedom from slavery, and a land of safety.418

[418:- MA gives a detailed elaboration of each of the five similes. An English translation can be found in Nyanaponika Thera, The Five Mental Hindrances, pp. 27-34.]

THE FOUR JHANAS

§  15 . “Having abandoned these five hindrances, imperfections of the mind that weaken wisdom, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, he enters upon and abides in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.

He makes the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion drench, steep, fill, and pervade this body, so that there is no part of his whole body unpervaded by the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. Just as a skilled bath man or a bath man’s apprentice heaps bath powder in a metal basin and, sprinkling it gradually with water, kneads it until the moisture wets his ball of bath powder, soaks it, and pervades it inside and out, yet the ball itself does not ooze; so too, a bhikkhu makes the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion drench, steep, fill, and pervade this body, so that there is no part of his whole body unpervaded by the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.

§  16. “Again, bhikkhus, with the stilling of applied and sustained thought, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the second jhana, which has self-confidence and singleness of mind without applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of concentration. He makes the rapture and pleasure born of concentration drench, steep, fill, and pervade this body, so that there is no part of his whole body unpervaded by the rapture and pleasure born of concentration.

Just as though there were a lake whose waters welled up from below [277] and it had no inflow from east, west, north, or south, and would not be replenished from time to time by showers of rain, then the cool fount of water welling up in the lake would make the cool water drench, steep, fill, and pervade the lake, so that there would be no part of the whole lake unpervaded by cool water; so too, a bhikkhu makes the rapture and pleasure born of concentration drench, steep, fill, and pervade this body, so that there is no part of his whole body unpervaded by the rapture and pleasure born of concentration.

§ 17.  “Again, bhikkhus, with the fading away as well of rapture, a bhikkhu abides in equanimity, and mindful and fully aware, still feeling pleasure with the body, he enters upon and abides in the third jhana, on account of which noble ones announce: ‘He has a pleasant abiding who has equanimity and is mindful.’

He makes the pleasure divested of rapture drench, steep, fill, and pervade this body, so that there is no part of his whole body unpervaded by the pleasure divested of rapture. Just as, in a pond of blue or red or white lotuses, some lotuses that are born and grow in the water thrive immersed in the water without rising out of it, and cool water drenches, steeps, fills, and pervades them to their tips and their roots, so that there is no part of all those lotuses unpervaded by cool water; so too, a bhikkhu makes the pleasure divested of rapture drench, steep, fill, and pervade this body, so that there is no part of his whole body unpervaded by the pleasure divested of rapture.

§  18. “Again, bhikkhus, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the fourth jhana, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and purity of mindfulness due to
equanimity. He sits pervading this body with a pure bright mind, so that there is no part of his whole body unpervaded by the pure bright mind. Just as though a man were sitting covered frorn the head down with a white cloth, so that there would be part of his whole [278] body unpervaded by the white cloth; so too, a bhikkhu sits pervading this body with a pure bright mind, so that there is no part of his whole body unpervaded by the pure bright mind.

THE THREE TRUE KNOWLADGES

§ 19. “When his concentrated mind is thus purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to knowledge of the recollection of past lives. He recollects his manifold past lives,
that is, one birth, two births , three births, four births, five births, ten births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, a hundred births, a thousand births, a hundred thousand births, many aeons of worldcontraction, many aeons of world-expansion, many aeons of world-contraction and expansion:

‘There I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my nutriment, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my lifeterm; and passing away from there, I reappeared elsewhere; and there too I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my nutriment, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my life-term; and passing away from there, I reappeared here.’ Thus with their aspects and particulars I recollected my manifold past lives.

Thus with their aspects and particulars he recollects his manifold past lives. Just as a man might go from his own village to another village and then back again to his own village, he might think: ‘I went from my own village to that village, and there I stood in such a way, sat in such a way, spoke in such a way, kept silent in such a way; and from that village I went to that other village, and there I stood in such a way, sat in such a way, spoke in such a way, kept silent in such a way; and from that village I came back again to my own village.’

So too, a bhikkhu recollects his manifold past lives . . .Thus with their aspects and particulars he recollects his manifold past lives.

§  20. “When his concentrated mind is thus purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings .
Thus with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, he sees beings passing away and reappearing, inferior and superior, fair and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and he understands how beings pass on according to their actions. Just as though there were two houses with doors and a man with good sight standing there between them saw people entering the houses and coming out and passing to and fro, so too, with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, a bhikkhu sees beings passing away and reappearing . . . and he understands how beings pass on according to their actions.

§ 21 . “When his concentrated mind is thus purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to knowledge of the destruction of the taints. He understands as it actually is:
‘This is suffering’; . . .
‘This is the origin of suffering’; . . .
‘This is the cessation of suffering’; . . .
‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’; . . .
‘These are the taints’; . . .
‘This is the origin of the taints’; . . .
‘This is the cessation of the taints’; . . .
‘This is the way leading to the cessation of the taints.’

“When he knows and sees thus, his mind is liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, and from the taint of ignorance. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It is liberated.’ He understands: ‘Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.’

“Just as if there were a lake in a mountain recess, clear, limpid, and undisturbed, so that a man with good sight standing on.the bank could see shells, gravel, and pebbles, and also shoals of fish swimming about and resting, he might think:
‘There is this lake, clear, limpid, and undisturbed, and there are these [280] shells, gravel, and pebbles, and also these shoals of fish swimming about and resting.’

So too, a bhikkhu understands as it actually is:
‘This is suffering. ‘ . . .
He understands:
‘Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.’

THE ARAHANT

§ 22. “Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu such as this is called a recluse, a brahmin, one who has been washed, one who has attained to knowledge, a holy scholar, a noble one, an arahant.419

[419:- Each of the explanations to follow involves a word play that cannot be reproduced in English, e.g., a bhikkhu is a recluse (sama􀃧a) because he has quieted down (samita) evil states, a brahmin because he has expelled (bahita) evil states, etc.]

§  23. “And how is a bhikkhu a recluse?

He has quieted down evil unwholesome states that defile, bring renewal of being, give trouble, ripen in suffering, and lead to future birth, ageing, and death. That is how a bhikkhu is a recluse.

§ 24. “And how is a bhikkhu a brahmin?

He has expelled evil unwholesome states that defile . . . and lead to future birth, ageing, and death. That is how a bhikkhu is a brahmin.

§  25. “And how is a bhikkhu one who has been washed?420

He has washed off evil unwholesome states that defile . . .and lead to future birth, ageing, and death. That is how a bhikkhu is one who has been washed.

[420:- The term “washed” (nhataka) refers to a brahmin who, at the end of his discipleship under his teacher, has taken a ceremonial bath marking the end of his training. See Sn 521 .]

§ 26. “And how is a bhikkhu one who has attained to knowledge?

He has known evil unwholesome states that defile … and lead to future birth, ageing, and death. That is how a bhikkhu is one who has attained to knowledge.

§  27. “And how is a bhikkhu a holy scholar ?421

The evil unwholesome states that defile … and lead to future birth, ageing and death, have streamed away from him. That is how a bhikkhu is a holy scholar.

[421:- The Pali word sotthiya (Sanskrit, srotriya) means a brahmin well versed in the Vedas, one conversant with sacred
knowledge.]

§ 28. “And how is a bhikkhu a noble one?

Evil unwholesome states that defile … and lead to future birth, ageing, and death, are far away from him. That is how a bhikkhu is a noble one.

§  29. “And how is a bhikkhu an arahant?

Evil unwholesome states that defile, bring renewal of being, give trouble, ripen in suffering, and lead to future birth, ageing, and death, are far away from him. That is how a bhikkhu is an arahant.”

That is what the Blessed One said.

The bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

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