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forest sangha newsletter

 July      2006            2549            Number 76
The Forest Sangha is a world-wide Buddhist community
in the Thai Forest tradition of Ajahn Chah


76newsletter        Gratitude for Luang Por Chah       The Founding of Wat Pah Pong         


The Chapter of Octads

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The Atthaka Vagga,(‘chapter containing suttas with eight verses’ - although some suttas have more than eight verses) is the fourth chapter of the Sutta Nipata. Its last three suttas are translated here by Tahn Varado.


Introduction

Venerable Mahakaccana was one of the eminent disciples of the Buddha, considered chief amongst monks who could explain in full the brief sayings of the Buddha. He was born in Ujjeni town (modern-day Ujjain) in an area called Avanti. This area, now part of modern-day Madhya Pradesh, lay 400 kilometres south-west of Savatthi, one of the centres of early Buddhism. Having travelled to visit the Buddha and having attained arahantship, he returned to Avanti.

Venerable Mahakaccana had a lay supporter in Avanti called Sona Kutikanna. Sona was a layperson, and keen to become a monk, but Venerable Mahakaccana discouraged him by recounting the difficulties of the monks’ life: “Difficult, Sona, for as long as life lasts are solitary sleeping places, eating once a day and the brahmacariya (celibacy). Please Sona, remain a householder as you are and on the Observance days practise the solitary sleeping place, the one meal a day and the brahmacariya.”

Sona was not to be discouraged, however, and eventually Venerable Mahakaccana agreed to give him ordination. As they were so far from the centre of Buddhist practice in India, it took three years to gather the necessary quorum of monks for the ceremony. After spending his first vassa (rainy season) in Avanti, Venerable Sona felt it was time to go and visit the Buddha. When he asked his preceptor for permission, his preceptor replied: “Yes, very good, Sona. Go and see the Blessed One, the Arahant, the Perfectly Self-Awakened One. You will see the Blessed One, lovely to behold, inspiring confidence, with senses calmed, with tranquil mind, attained to the greatest self-mastery and calm, who is tamed, watchful, well controlled, a Great Being. In my name, bow your head to his feet and say, ‘My preceptor, Venerable Mahakaccana, bows his head to your feet and asks if you are well, in good health, with little illness, vigorous and abiding in comfort.’”

With this, Venerable Sona set off and eventually arrived at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s Monastery in Savatthi and paid his respects to the Buddha. The Buddha said to his attendant monk, Venerable Ananda, “Assign a place for this visiting monk to rest.” Venerable Ananda thought, “The Lord wants to share a dwelling with this visiting monk,” and assigned him a place in the Buddha’s own dwelling.

The Buddha and Venerable Sona spent the early part of that night meditating outside then rested till early dawn. When the Buddha arose he invited Venerable Sona to speak Dhamma. Venerable Sona recited the Chapter of Octads. When he had finished, the Buddha praised him saying:

“Well done, monk! The Chapter of Octads is well memorised by you. You have pondered it carefully, reflected upon it thoroughly. You have a beautiful voice, a good delivery, and clear articulation. You made the meaning clear. How long have you been a monk?”

“I am of one year’s standing, Lord.”
“How did it take you so long to receive ordination?”
“For long Lord, I have seen the danger of sensuality, but the household life is obstructive: it involves many duties and obligations.” (Vin.1.194-7)
The Buddha later declared:
Chief among my monks who are of beautiful speech is Sona Kutikanna. (AN.1.24)

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14: The Quick Discourse
Questioner:
I ask the Kinsman of the Sun, the Great Master,
About seclusion and the state of peace.
Seeing in what way is a monk free of passion,
Grasping at nothing in the world?

The Buddha:
A sage should put an end to the root cause of psychological distortion,
The thought “I am.”
Ever mindful,
He should train himself to abolish whatever craving he finds in himself.

Whatever he is aware of, either within himself or externally,
He should not allow it to be a cause of obstinacy,
For this is not called peaceful by the Good;

He should not think himself to be better, inferior or equal on account of anything.
Although affected by a variety of experiences
He should not acquiesce in the thought of self.

A monk should find peace within.
He should not seek it from someone else.
For one who is peaceful within,
Having taken up nothing,
How could he reject anything?

In the depths of the ocean
There is no ebb and flow
Nor do waves swell up.
So in the monk,
There should be neither the ebb and flow of desire
Nor swellings of conceit about anything.

Questioner:
The Seer, the Dhamma Eyewitness, has proclaimed the removal of danger.
Now, Venerable Sir, speak about the path of practice,
About monastic discipline, and also about samadhi.

The Buddha:
A person should not have covetous eyes.
He should close his ears to ordinary chatter.
He should not be greedy for flavours.
He should not cherish anything in the world.

In whatever way he is affected by sense contact
He should not lament over anything.
He should not long for continued existence.
He should not tremble amidst danger.

He should not store up what is given to him
Whether it is rice, other food, drinks or clothing,
Nor should he be concerned if he gets nothing.

Being meditative, a bhikkhu should not be foot-loose.
He should desist from worrying.
He should not be indolent.
He should live in lodgings where there is little noise.

He should not be given to oversleeping.
Being zealous, he should be given to wakefulness.
He should abandon laziness, deception, merriment,
Various kinds of amusements, sexual matters, and anything else like it.

A disciple of mine should not practice sorcery
Nor interpret dreams, tell fortunes, practise astrology, or interpret animal cries.
Neither should he treat infertility, nor practice medicine.

A monk should not fear blame,
Nor should he be conceited when praised.
He should drive out greed, selfishness, anger and malicious speech.

A monk should not engage in buying and selling.
He should not abuse anyone for any reason.
He should not linger in the village.
He should not chatter with people in the hope of gain.

A monk should not be a boaster.
He should not speak scheming words.
He should not make a habit of impudence.
He should not utter quarrelsome speech.

He should not be moved to tell lies.
He should not be deliberately treacherous.
He should not despise others for their way of life,
For their wisdom,
Or for their moral conduct and religious practices.

If contemplatives or ordinary people irritate him with their talkativeness
He should not respond harshly.
For the peaceful do not retaliate.

Knowing this Dhamma,
An ever mindful monk who investigates it should train himself in it.
Knowing the cooling of desire as Peace,
He should not be negligent in applying Gotama’s teaching.

The unconquered Conqueror
Realised Dhamma through his own insight, not through hearsay.
So, with regards to the Blessed One’s teaching,
One who is diligent should constantly venerate it by following his example.

15: Discourse on Violence
The Buddha:
Violence breeds fear.
Looking at people in conflict,
I will tell you of my dismay, how moved I was.

I saw people floundering,
Feuding with each another like fish in a small pool.
When I realised this, dread arose in me.

The world is entirely worthless.
Every quarter is in turmoil.
Wanting somewhere for myself,
I saw nowhere that wasn’t taken.

Seeing nothing in the end but competition, I became disgusted.
Then I saw a splinter, hard to see, embedded in people’s hearts.

A person affected by this splinter rushes about in all directions.
But on pulling it out he neither rushes about nor dwindles away.

[Now follows the recitation of the training rules:]
Whatever is binding in the world, you should not pursue it.
Having wisely seen sensual pleasures, you should train yourself for Nibbana.

Be truthful, modest, not underhand, and rid of malicious speech.
Free of anger, the sage should overcome greed and selfishness.

He should conquer sleepiness, weariness and sloth.
He should not live negligently.
The man whose heart is set on Nibbana
Should not allow himself to be conceited.

He should not sink to false speech.
He should not cultivate lust for physical forms.
He should comprehend pride.
He should abstain from impetuous behaviour.

He should not be nostalgic for the past.
He should not relish what is new.
He should not grieve for what is lost
Nor be bound to whatever comes forth.

I call greed “the great deluge.”
Lust I call “the torrent.”
Plans are “the basis of the operation.”
Sense pleasure is “hard-to-cross mud.”

Not deviating from truth,
The sage, the Brahman, stands on high ground.
Having forsaken everything
He is called “truly peaceful”.

In discovering, he is the knower of the highest.
Having found Dhamma, he is emancipated.
Wandering through the world in the right way
He does not envy anyone here.

Whoever here goes beyond sensual pleasure,
An attachment hard to leave behind,
Is free of sorrow and anxiety.
With the torrent of craving destroyed, he is free of bonds.

Let wither what is gone.
Let there not be for you anything to come.
If you do not take up what is in between,
You will live at peace.

For whom there is nothing cherished in this body/mind complex,
And who does not grieve over what does not exist,
He suffers no loss in the world.

For whoever there is no thought “This is mine,”
Or “This belongs to others,”
Who has no feelings of possessiveness,
He does not grieve for anything, thinking “It is not mine”.

Being free of cruelty, hankering and craving,
And being everywhere tranquil:
When asked, I say that all these are the blessings for those who are unshakeable.

A person without craving, one of discernment,
Is free of accumulated kamma.
He abstains from initiating new kamma.
He knows safety everywhere.

The sage does not speak of himself as someone superior, inferior or equal.
At peace, unselfish, he neither possesses nor dispossesses.

16: Discourse with Sariputta
Venerable Sariputta:
Never before have I seen or heard
Of a teacher coming from the host of Tusita heaven,
One having such lovely speech.

For the sake of the world with its gods
The Seer appears thus.
Having dispelled all darkness,
He alone has attained delight.

To that Buddha, unentangled,
Of such good qualities, sincere,
Having arrived here with his following,
I come with a question
On behalf of the many people here who are fettered.

For a monk repelled by the world,
Resorting to a lonely sitting place,
The foot of a tree, a cemetery, a mountain cave,
Or to various sleeping places:
How many fearful things are there at which he need not tremble,
There in his quiet abode?

For the monk going where he never before has gone,
How many are the difficulties that he must bear,
There, in his secluded abode?

What should be his manner of speech?
What should be the range of his conduct?
What should be that resolute monk’s precepts and religious practices?

For one attentive, prudent and mindful,
Undertaking what training could he remove his inner dross
Like a silversmith purifying molten silver?

The Buddha:
As one who knows, I will explain to you
What comfort is for someone repelled by the world,
For someone resorting to a lonely place for practice,
Desiring awakening in accordance with Dhamma.

A sage, a bhikkhu, mindful, having a circumscribed lifestyle
Need not be afraid of five fears:
Horseflies, mosquitoes, snakes, humans and animals.

He need not be frightened by those following other religious teachings
Even on seeing their manifold threat.
He must bear other difficulties too, as he seeks what is wholesome.

Affected by illness and hunger,
By cold and suffocating heat, he should bear it.
That homeless one affected in many ways
Should put forth energy and make a firm endeavour.

He must not steal.
He must not lie.
He should touch beings with good-will,
Both the timid and the mettlesome.
When he is conscious that his mind is agitated
He should allay it with the thought:
“It is part of Darkness.”

He should not come under the influence of anger or conceit;
He should abide having uprooted them.
Then he should master what is loved and unloved.

Esteeming wisdom,
Delighted by what is morally good,
He should conquer his difficulties.
He must overcome discontent in his secluded resting place.
He should overcome four laments:

“What will I eat?”
“Where will I eat?”
“How uncomfortably I slept!”
“Where will I sleep tonight?”
The person in training, wandering homeless,
Should subdue such thoughts which lead to lamentation.

When offered food and clothing at the appropriate time
He should know how much is enough for contentment.
Constrained in this respect, he should wander in the village with care.
Even when provoked, he must not speak a harsh word.

He should be restrained with his eyes.
He should not roam about.
He should apply himself to jhana.
He should be very vigilant.
He should develop equanimity and composure.
He should cut off the tendency to doubt and worry.

When being reprimanded,
Maintaining presence of mind, he should welcome it.
He must destroy any unfriendliness he might have for his fellows in the holy life.

He should utter words that are skilful and timely.
He should not think about things which are matters of gossip.

There are five kinds of impurity
For the removing of which he mindfully should train.
He should overcome passion for
Forms, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile sensations.

Being possessed of mindfulness,
With a mind that is well-freed,
A monk should remove his desires for these things.
Contemplating Dhamma at suitable times in suitable ways,
With an attentive mind, he should put an end to Darkness.


 

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