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Saturday, November 5, 2011

16. Mahaparinibbana Sutta

When the Buddha was dwelling at Gijjhakuta in Rajagriha, Ajatasatru, the King of Magadha, sent his minister Vassakara to the Blessed One for his council regarding the King’s intended invasion of the Vajja country. The Buddha did not give any direct answer to the minister but indirectly hinted at the invicibility of the Vajjis. This was on the occasion of the preaching of seven invincible rules which were applicable both to the cohesion of the Vajji Republic and the Sangha of the Bhikkhus.
The Buddha drew the attention of Ven. Ananda to the seven invincible Virtues or Norms (Aparihaniya Dhammas) which the Vijjis were possessed of. He further explained the five categories of these Dhammas, each having seven-fold feature which the Bhikkhus are required to be endowed with, also adding. One more category having six-fold feature. The possession of these Dhammas, the Buddha said, would lead them to their furtherance, not to their fall.
Therefrom the Buddha went to Ambalatthika garden. There, too, he taught, as in Rajagriha, the fruits and merits of conduct (Sila), meditation(Samadhi) and Wisdom (Prajna), which would influence and completely relieve the mind from defilements.
Thereupon the Buddha went from Rajagriha to Ambalatthika garden, where he preached a sermon to the Bhikkhus on the merits of a moral life and the failings of an immoral one, culminating in the final precept.
From there, the Buddha came over to the mango-grave of Pavarika at Nalanda. There, Venerable Sariputta appoached him and proclaimed with a lion’s roar that there was none other than the Blessed One who is endowed with the graduated knowledge concerning Enlightenment. He however admitted that he had said so not entirely on the basis of the knowledge which is obtained by inference, but from personal experience.
From Nalanda the Buddha went to Pataligama. There he preached to all his disciples five defects of an immoral life and five qualities of a moral one. At that time, Sunidha and Vassakara, the chief ministers of Magadha were building a fortress at Pataligama in order to prevent the Vajjis from encroachment. They invited the Buddha and his disciples for meals at their residence. After the meals, they followed him and named the gate through which he passed on as the ‘Gotama Gate’ and the ford on which he crossed the Ganges the ‘Gotama Tirtha.’
Reaching the other side of the Ganges, the Buddha stayed at Kotigama. There he preached on the importance of the four noble truths, due to the ignorance of which one reverts to the round of rebirths. Due to knowledge of these four truths, one attains liberation from the bondage of the world of rebirths.
From Kotigama the Buddha came to Natika village. There he told of the destiny of the bhikkhus, bhikkhunies and other lay disciples who had already passed to the other world. These destiny are said to be situated in the other world, where the departed ones dwell after their decease from this material world. He was evidently tired of talking about such abodes of his departed disciples and hence preaches the mirror of Dhamma, which would enable anyone, desirous of knowing the abodes of the departed ones in the other world, to know such abodes by themselves.
Such destiny chiefly are those of hell, those of beasts, those of spirits (Petas) and those of the lower and higher stages. These categories of abodes in the next world after one’s decease shows that these abodes fall under varied stages of development or degradation. By this mirror of Dhamma one may also know if one has reached a stage towards enlightenment.
The Buddha went from Natika to Vesali. There he preached on the topic of memory and comprehension of movement. Ambapali, the courtesan of the city of Vesali, invited the Buddha with the entire Sangha for a grand dinner the next day. The Buddha accepted it. The nobles of Vesali offered her millions of rupees, if she would sell this opportunity to them, but she would not do so for any price. She donated her mango grove to the Buddha and his Sangha. read more
The Buddha passed his last sojourn for the rainy season at the village of Veluna. It was there that he declared : “My fist is not closed, I’ve hold nothing back as a teacher. I have kept nothing secret from my disciples. Hence, Ananda, let your island of refuge be you yourself, do not depend on others; let your island of refuge in Dhamma be the Dhamma itself, not any other thing else.”
From there, he went, after the meals, to the Capala shrine for the daytime meditation. There he said that it is possible to live for the entire period of a Kalpa Aeon for one who has mastered the four contrivances of Psychic powers and the Tathagata has mastered such powers. Ananda could not utter a single suggestion. Then the Buddha ultimately released his last desire to live. He told Ananda that he would die three months later.
The Bhikkhus, then staying in Vesali, gathered at a catafalque (Kutagarasala) in Mahavana and there the Lord preached the thirty-seven factors of obtaining Enlightenment (Saptatrimsa Bodhi pakshika Dhamma). He then took a last good look of Vesali.
"Therefrom he set out for Bhandagrama. In the course of a sermon given there the Lord explained how one would be subject to the cycle of rebirths for want of knowledge (or practice) of the code of morality (Sila), meditation (Samadhi), wisdom (Prajna) and liberation (Vimutti) and how one would be totally delivered as soon as one would realise these four Dhammas.
From Vesali, the Buddha went to Bhandagama, After his visit to Bhandagram the Lord went Bhoganagara. The Buddha stayed in the Ananda shrine there and preached the four Great Means of Checking the Veracity of the Buddha’s Word (Maha-Padesa). “After the demise of the Teacher, if someone says, this is the Dhamma and this is the rule of Conduct, the saying should be duly checked in both of these two great Sources for concurrence.”
From Bhoganagara, the Buddha went to Pava. There he accepted the meals offered by Cunda, the son of a goldsmith. Cunda prepared the best of meals together with Sukara-maddava, but the Buddha became seriously ill as soon as he had eaten. From Pava, he went to Kusinara.
On his way to Kusinara, the Buddha rested beneath a tree where there was a small river named Kakudha. Ananda was extremely astonished that the water of the river was clean and bright though five hundred carts had just crossed the river. There Pukkusa, the son of a Malla Prince, addressed the Buddha and presented to the Buddha a fine golden shawl. After Pukkusa had gone away Ananda covered Buddha with the pair of fine, golden-hund robes and his body became bright like the rays of a fire without ashes.
The Buddha said that the body of the Tathagata assumes the purest nature and its form becomes the clearest on two occasions : firstly when he attains Enlightenment and secondly when he passes away into Nibbana.
After taking a bath in the Kakudha river, the Buddha went to a mango grove where he talked about the importance of the food offered to him by Cunda, the son of a goldsmith. He then crossed the river Hirannavati and entered the Sal forest of the Mallas.
There he rested on a bed spread between Twin Sal trees, with his head to towards the north. He lay down on his right side, nobly (like a lion) placing the left foot on and a little beyond the right foot, with mindfulness and deliberation Flowers out of season, already bloomed and the flowers fell down in worship of the body of the Tathaga. Heaven manifested its reverence to the Tathagata with the celestial Mandarava flowers, celestial sandalwood powder, the sound of the celestial music, and celestial singing in the air above. But, the Buddha preached from his death-bed, such high regards and honors were not in actuality appropriate to the Buddha; he is properly respected when the Bhikkhu, Bhikkhuni, and his other lay disciples practise fully according to what they were taught in the Dhamma.
Before his demise, the Buddha said, four places of pilgrimage would be worth seeing or visiting as places of the sentiment of detachment (1) the place where the Bodhisattva was born (that is, Lumbini); (2) the place where he attained unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment (that is Buddha-Gaya); (3) the place where the Tathagata first set the unsurpassed wheel of truth in motion (that is, Sarnath); the place where he passed away, realinging parinibbana (that is, Kusinara).
Responding to the questions of Ananda the Buddha stated that the body of the Tathagata is to be cremated and worshipped like the body of the Universal Monarch. A stupa (pillar) and a shrine should be erected over the cremated remains of a Buddha, a Paccek Buddha, an Arhat Bhikkhu, and a Universal Monarch.
The Buddha then stated all the merits and good qualities of an attendent Bhikkhu of which Ananda was possessed. Moreover, he explained that the place where on he was passing away into Nibbana was the capital of the Universal Monarch, Sudassana the Great. Thus he also stated the former glory and richness of this very place. The richness and glory of the seat of government of formerly such a Universal sovereign was reduced then to a small place covered with forest. He further remarked that all conditional (Sankhara) things are perishable.
Subhadda, a wandering ascetic, heard that the Samana Gotama was going to pass into Nibbana; he ran to Ananda and wished to see the Buddha. But Ananda tried to refuse him the visit. The Buddha however overheard the talk between them and asked Ananda to let him come. Subhadda was given the answer that he had asked for and was initiated and ordained into the Buddhist order in the presence of the Buddha himself, who gave him the needed precepts. Subhada realized Arhatship that very moment and he was the last one to become a disciple in the presence of the Buddha.
The Buddha said to Ananda, “Ananda, you all might think that this is the preaching of the deceased teacher, for our teacher is not longer present. Ananda, the Dhamma (Doctrine) and Vinaya (Discipline) preached and promulgated by me shall be your teacher after my demise, lesser and minor rules can be abrogated if the Sangha so wishes. Ananda, punish Bhikkhu Channa with the punishment of Brahmadanda (Brahama penalty).
Then the Buddha addressed all the Bhikkhus of the assembly, “O Bhikkhus, ask me, if you have any doubts, about the Buddha, Dhamma, Samgha (the Order of Bhikkhus) the Magga (path) and the like.” None of the Bhikkhus present asked a single question. All were completely silent. Then the Buddha uttered his last words. “O Bhikkhus, all sorts of creation (Sankhara) are subject to dissolution. Practise with diligence and without laxity."
As soon as the Buddha passed away the earth quaked, Sahampati Brahma, Sakka, the king of devas, Venerable Anuruddha, and Venerable Ananda, each expressed his remorse and reaction through gathas (verses).
The Kusinara Mallas honored the event in Kusinara for seven days, with great pomp and show, over the Buddha’s body. After seven days, they carried the body to the Mukutabandhana, the customary shrine of the Mallas, for the cremation of the body.
Venerable Mahakassapa, accompanied by five hundred Bhikkhus, also came. Mahakassapa, putting his robe over one shoulder, joining both his hands, and circumambulating the body from the right side thrice, worshipped by prostrating himself at the feet of Buddha. As soon as he had done so, the pyre upon which the body was placed spontaneously began to burn.
Following the cremation, the bone-relics were taken to as many as seven states, wherin they were enshrined and worshipped with due reverence.

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