Jotiya dhirasekera

CHAPTER VII The Discipline and Development of the Mind

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The Discipline and Development of the Mind

In spite of the diversity of opinion regarding the importance of the Catupārisuddhisīla one would readily admit that Buddhism attaches great importance to the inner development of the disciple as a part of his religious life. In its basic form this development would amount to the elimination of manoduccarita or evil traits of the mind and the cultivation of manosucarita as its opposite. This obviously lay outside the pale of sīla, for greed, hatred and wrong views (abhijjhā vyāpāda micchādiṭṭhi), the three items of dasakammapatha 1 which belong to the mind-group (manokamma) are not reckoned with under the sīla. The Suttas, on the other hand, repeatedly bring before us hosts of such vices or diseased states of the mind against which the disciples are constantly cautioned (Evam eva kho bhikhave citte sakiliṭṭhe duggati pāṭikakhā. M.I.36). The Vatthūpama Sutta gives a list of sixteen such evil traits of the mind which are referred to as cittassa upakkilesā.2 None of these have been brought up for correction under the category of sīla. Commenting on these, Buddhaghosa hastens to add that these sixteen are not the only defiling traits of the mind (kilesa, upakkilesa) and suggests that in this manner all kilesa are taken into consideration. (Na ca ete soas'eva cittassa upakkilesā. Etena pana nayena sabbe'pi kilesā gahitā y'eva hontī'ti veditabbā - MA.I.170).

The monks are advised to purge their minds of these as a step forward in their spiritual progress. (Yath'odhi kho pana'ssa catta hoti vanta mutta pahīna painissaṭṭha so buddhe aveccappasādena samannāgato'mhī'ti labhati atthaveda labhati dhammaveda labhati dhammūpasahita pāmujja. Pamuditassa pīti jāyati pītimanassa kāyo passambhati passaddhakāyo sukha vedeti sukhino citta samādhiyati. M.I.37) The Sallekha Sutta which is addressed to the monks as a plea for self-correction introduces us to a much larger list of forty-four evil ways or akusala dhamma. The Buddha reminds his disciples that every attempt to eradicate these by a sincere desire to cultivate their opposites is a commendable virtue (Cittuppādam'pi kho aha cunda kusalesu dhammesu bahukāra vadāmi. Ko pana vādo kāyena vācāya anuvidhīyanāsu. Tasmāt'iha cunda pare vihisakā bhavissanti mayam'ettha avihisakā bhavissaāmā'ti citta uppādetabba. M.I.43). He calls this the way to peace and progress: uparibhāvapariyāya and nibbānapariyāya. (Seyyathā'pi cunda ye keci akusalā dhammā sabbe te adhobhāvagamanīyā ye keci kusalā dhammā sabbe te uparibhāvagamanīyā. Evam eva kho cunda vihisakassa purisapuggalassa avihisā hoti uparibhāvāya...... Eva eva kho cunda vihisakassa purisapuggalassa avihisā hoti parinibbānāya. M.I.44).

The mental purge referred to above was always considered an essential feature in the religious life of a Buddhist disciple. The Suttas which deal with sīla as the basis of the spiritual development of a disciple refer to this as the subsequent cleansing of the mind of the nīvaraa. Nīvaraa defile and disease the mind and thereby weaken the functioning of the intellect. (So ime pañca nīvarae pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkarae... M.I.412.).1 Thus the proper culture of the mind is a stage which must necessarily precede the perfection of wisdom or adhipaññā sikkhā. Without it, the mind can never be chanelled for the attainment of Arahantship (Eva eva kho bhikkhave pañc'ime cittassa upakkilesā yehi upakkilesehi upakkiliṭṭha citta na c'eva mudu hoti no ca kammaniya na ca pabhassara pabhagu ca na ca sammā samādhiyati āsavāna khayāya. Katame pañca. Kāmacchando bhikkhave.... khayāya-S.V.92). Every good disciple, therefore, was expected to strive for the elimination of these defilements.

Tatrā'bhiratiṃ iccheyya hitvā kāme akiñcano
pariyodapeyya attānaṃ cittaklesehi paṇḍito.

The Khaggavisāṇa Sutta specifies the defiling mental traits as cetaso āvaraa, upakkilesa and sinehadosa:

Pahāya pañcāvaraṇāni cetaso
upakkilese vyapanujja sabbe
anissito chetvā sinehadosaṃ
eko care khaggavisāṇakappo. Sn.v.66

On a careful analysis of these defilements which are referred to as nīvaraa,1 cetaso āvaraa,2. cittaklesa,3 upakkilesa4 or sayojana,5 we discover that there are two constant and recurring items, viz. abhijjhā and vyāpāda. As a nīvaraa, abhijjhā is also referred to as kāmacchanda.6 As a sayojana, it goes under both names of kāmacchanda and kāmarāga.7 Thus it appears that in the mind-culture which is recommended to the Buddhist disciple, these two, out of the numerous evil states to which the mind was liable to descend, became the central target of attack. But we have already noted above that these two, together with micchādiṭṭhi, form the triad of manokamma in the list of dasa akusala kamma.8 Hence we may ask ourselves why then do abhijjhā and vyāpāda come to be specially stressed, almost to the exclusion of micchādiṭṭhi. But it should also be noted here that micchādiṭṭhi is not listed under the pañca nīvaraa which are the primary defiling traits of the mind.9 Nor does the Vatthūpama Sutta mention it among the upakkilesa of the mind.10

This special mention of abhijjhā and vyāpāda has also a parallel when we consider lobha (rāga) and dosa which are referred to at times without any mention of moha which is the third item of the group. The Saṃyutta speaks of a disciple's conquest of these two evils:

Evaṃ mano chassu yadā subhāvito
phuṭṭhassa cittaṃ na vikampate kvaci
te rāgadose abhibhuyya bhikkhavo
bhavattha jātimaraṇassa pāragā'ti. S.IV.71.

The Majjhima Nikāya mentions lobha and dosa as the two evils which are to be transcended by pursuing the Middle Path (Tatr'āvuso lobho ca pāpako doso ca pāpako. Lobhassa ca pahānāya dosassa ca pahānāya atthi majjhimā paipadā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya savattati. M.I.15). However, it must be clearly borne in mind that in the final attainment of Arahantship there is no room for any trace of moha or of rāga and dosa. For nibbāna is the elimination of all the three evils of rāga, dosa and moha (Yo kho āvuso rāgakkhayo dosakkhayo mohakkhayo ida vuccati nibbānan'ti. S.IV.251).

It is important to note that in this line of spiritual development sakkāyadiṭṭhi is regarded as one of the earlier mental failings which need to be remedied. For already at the early stage of Sotāpatti the first three sayojana (sakkāyadihi together with vicikicchā and sīlabbataparāmāsa) are completely eradicated (Tinna sayojanāna parikkhayā sotāpanno avinipātadhammo niyato sambodhiparāyano'ti. M.I.141). This achievement is further described as follows:

taya'ssu dhammā jahitā bhavanti
sakkāyadiṭṭhi vicikicchitañ ca
sīlabbataṃ vā'pi yad'atthi kiñci. Sn.v.231.

Beyond this, the further achievements of a Sakadāgāmin are only a reduction in rāga, dosa and moha (yesa bhikkhūna tīni sayojanāni pahīnānī rāgadosamohā tanubhūtā sabbe te sakadāgāmino sakid'eva ima loka āgantvā dukkhass'anta karissanti - M.I.141). This makes it clear that inspite of the complete elimination of sakkāyadiṭṭhi at the stage of Sotāpatti, moha seems to survive beyond this. Even at the stage of Sakadāgāmin rāga, dosa and moha are only reduced in magnitude. An Anāgāmin is said to get rid of two more saṃyojana, viz. kāmacchanda and vyāpāda, for he is described as having purged himself by then of the five orambhāgiya saṃyojana.1 If we regard the two saṃyojana, kāmacchanda and vyāpāda as approximating to rāga and dosa,2 then we discern this reduced element of moha as surviving even after the stage of Anāgāmin. The final extinction of moha (mohakkhaya) perhaps takes place in Arahantship, after the elimination of the five uddhambhāgiya saṃyojana.3 We find avijjā persisting as the last item of this group, and whatever meaning we may give to the term avijjā, it must undobtedly remain a form of moha. Buddhaghosa's definition of moha that it is the root of all evil (Moho... sabbā'kusalāna mūlan'ti daṭṭhabbo. Vism.468) perhaps emphasises this most enduring character of moha. This failing, which seems to find expression severally as micchādiṭṭhi, sakkāyadiṭṭhi, moha and avijjā, implies error of judgement and deficiency of knowledge, presumably of varying degree, which can be rectified completely only on the attainment of perfect wisdom in Arahantship.

The other defiling traits of the mind which the Suttas enumerate are mainly related to fraud, pride, jealousy and anger, which may exist in varying degrees of severity. Besides their moral and ethical significance for the religious life referred to in the Vatthūpama4 and Sallekha1 Suttas, they also have an essentially social character in that these failings cause friction and disharmony in the communal life of the monastic society. The Anumāna Sutta calls them the dovacassa-karaa-dhamma, or evil ways of monks which make them resent and reject good counsel from fellow members. The Saṅgha would no longer trust such monks and would deem it unwise to advise or admonish them (So ca hoti dubbaco dovacassa-karaehi dhammehi samannāgato akkhamo appadakkhiaggāhī anusāsani. Atha kho na sabrahmacārī na c'eva vattabba maññanti na ca anusāsitabba maññanti na ca tasmi puggale vissāsa āpajjitabba maññanti. M.I.95). Therefore the monks are called upon to view from all angles the dangers resulting from these to the religious life as well as to the life in the community, and make therefore every effort for their elimination. (i. Sa kho so bhikkhave bhikkhu abhijjhāvisamalobho cittassa upakkileso'ti iti viditvā abhijjhāvisamalobha cittassa upakkilesa pajahati. ii. Pare abhijjhālū bhavissanti mayam ettha anabhijjhālū bhavissāmā'ti sallekho karaṇīyo. iii. Tatrāvuso bhikkhunā attanā'va attāna evam anuminitabba yo khv'āya puggalo pāpiccho pāpikāna icchāna vasagato ayam me puggalo appiyo amanāpo. Ahañ c'eva kho pan'assa pāpiccho pāpikāna icchāna vasagato aham'p'assam paresa appiyo amanāpo'ti. Eva jānantena āvuso bhikkhunā na pāpiccho bhavissāmi na pāpikāna icchāna vasagato'ti citta uppādetabba. M.I.37)2

It appears to be fairly clear from the statements in the Suttas that for the cultivation of the perfect character it was not only a life of renunciation that was desirable. The pabbajita, as a disciple who had given up all household ties, was further advised that solitary retreats would be conducive to a life of contemplation and spiritual perfection. We discover in the Suttas that it was nothing unusual for the early Buddhist disciple to resort to a sylvan retreat in order to develop his inner character (So iminā ca ariyena sīlakkhandhena samannāgato...santuṭṭhiyā samannāgato vivitta senāsana bhajati arañña rukkhamūla pabbata kandara giriguha susāna vanapattha abbhokāsa palālapuñja. So pacchābhattam piṇḍaptapaikkanto nisīdati pallakam ābhujitvā uju kāyam panidhāya parimukha satim upaṭṭhapetvā. D.I.71). The Buddha, in fact, recognises the existence among his disciples of monks who lead such lives (Santi kho pana me udāyi sāvakā āraññakā pantasenāsanā araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni ajjhogahetvā viharanti. M. II. 8). This mode of life of some of the early Buddhist monks seems also to have been well recognised as a regular institution as is evident from words ascribed to Vessavaṇa in the Āṭānāṭiya Sutta (Santi hi bhante bhagavato sāvakā araññe vanapatthāni pantāni sensanāni paisevanti appasaddāni appanigghosāni vijanavātāni manussarāhaseyyakāni pasallānasāruppāni. D.III.195). In the Saṃyutta Nikāya we hear of the venerable Udāyi who reports back to the Buddha the progress he made under such conditions (So khv'āham bhante suññāgāragato imesam pañcupādānakkhandhāna ukkujjāvakujja samparivattento ida dukkhan'ti yathābhūtam abbhaññāsim, S.V.89). At times the Budha is seen making direct reference to this in his admonitions to his disiples. 'Resort to the solitary retreats and be engaged in contemplative thought,' he tells Cunda, and adds further, 'Be quick and zealous, lest you repent afterwards.' (Ya kho cunda satthārā karaṇīya sāvakāna hitesinā anukampakena anukampa upādāya kata vo tam mayā. Etāni cunda rukkhamūlāni etāni suññāgārāni. Jhāyatha cunda mā pamād'attha mā pacchā vippaisārino ahuvattha. Aya vo amhāka anusāsanī'ti. M.I.46). He is seen advising Ānanda with these same words.1 The Buddha is even more direct in his admonitions to Nanda who evinced a love of luxury and pleasure (Eva kho te nanda patirūpa kulaputtassa saddhā agārasmā anagāriyam pabbajitassa ya tva āraññako assasi pidapātiko ca pasukūliko ca. Kāmesu ca anapekkho vihareyyāsī'ti. S.II.281). Here the relevance of his remarks appears in clearer relief, for the very things that he seems to recommend to Nanda are some of those of which he refused Devadatta to make a general rule incumbent on all.2

It is evident that this mode of living, which is called a life of physical detachment or kāyavūpakaṭṭha,3 soon came to be recognised in Buddhist monastic circles as a much praised virtue (Etha tumhe āraññakā hotha araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paisevathā'ti. Iti kāyavūpakaṭṭhe samādapetabbā nivesetabbā patiṭṭhāpetabbā. A.III.138). The Pali texts make repeated attempts to show that both the Buddha and the venerable Mahā Kassapa practised this way of solitary living. They are said to have done so for their own comfort and peace of mind as well as for the purpose of setting a good example for the future generations. King Pasenadi Kosala praises the Buddha for this special virtue (Yam pi bhante bhagavā dīgharatta āraññako araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paisevati ima pi kho aha bhante atthavasa sampassamāno bhagavati evarūpa paramanipaccākāra karomi mittūpahāra upadasemi. A.V.66f.). Saṃyutta Nikāya informs us of Kassapa's preference for this mode of life (Kim pana tva kassapa atthavasa sampassamāno dīgharatta āraññako c'eva araññakattassa vaṇṇavādī. S.II.203f.). This is in fact made out to be the general pattern of conduct of the Buddha and his disciples. (Ye kira te ahesu buddhānubuddhasāvakā te dīgharatta āraññakā c'eva ahesu araṇṇakattassa ca vaṇṇavādino. Ibid.). Udumbarikasīhanāda Sutta goes so far as to make it an ancient and eternal order which governs the life of the Buddhas of the past, present and the future (Ye te ahesu atīta addhāna arahanto sammāsambuddhā.... eva su te bhagavanto araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paisevanti appasaddāni appanigghosāni vijanavātāni manussarāhaseyyakāni paisallānasāruppāni seyyathā'pi bhagavā etarahī'ti. D.III.54). The Aṅguttara Nikāya which gives five different reasons for the adoption of this way of forest-living says that one would take to it being impressed by the fact that it had been extolled by the Buddha and his disciples (vaṇṇita buddhehi buddhasāvakehī'ti āraññako hoti. A.III.219). But the real reason, it goes on to add, should be that it provides an ideal setting to the man who has renounced the cares of the world and seeks to perfect his inner being (Appicchata y'eva nissāya santuṭṭhi y'eva nissāya sallekhata y'eva nissāya paviveka y'eva nissāya ida atthita y'eva nissāya āraññako hoti. Ibid.).

It appears from the above consideration that every attempt had been made to popularise this mode of life as the one that contributes most to the spiritual well-being of the disciple. It was deemed useful for the progress of both samatha and vipassanā. It is this idea of solitary and secluded life that is implied in the phrase brūhetā suññāgārānaṃ which the Buddha addresses as an admonition to his disciples.1 The Papañcasūdanī brings both samatha and vipassanā within the aspirations of this solitary life in its comment on brūhetā suññāgārāna (Ettha ca samathavipassanāvasena kammaṭṭhāna gahetvā rattindiva suññāgāra pavisitvā nisīdamāno bhikkhū brūhetā suññāgārānan'ti veditabbo. MA.I.157). This love of the life of solitude in the forest is one of the seven conditions wich would arrest the decay of the monk (satta aparihāniyā dhammā). It would, on the other hand, be a stimulus to his spiritual progress (Yāvakīvañ ca bhikkhave bhikkhū āraññakesu senāsanesu sāpekkhā bhavissanti vuddhi y'eva bhikkhave bhikkhūna pāṭikakhā no parihāni. D.II.77)2 It is also given as one of ten items which a disciple should constantly ponder over with a view to developing a love for it (Kacci no aha sūññāgāre abhiramāmī'ti pabbajitena abhiha paccavekkhitabba.... me kho bhikkhave dasa dhammā pabbajitena abhiha paccavekkhitabbā. A.V.88).

However, it was recognised at the same time that mere residence in forest retreats or sdopting frugal and abstemious ways of life was not a virtue in itself, unless accompanied by a corresponding perfection of character. The Budha tells the venerable Sandha that unless the defiling traits of the mind are first eliminated they would overpower him even as he dwells in his forest residence and lead him astray in his musings (Evam eva kho sandha idh'ekacco purisakhaluko araññagato'pi rukkhamūlagato'pi suññāgāragato'pi kāmarāgapariyuṭṭhitena cetasā viharati kāmarāgaparetena. Uppannassa ca kāmarāgassa nissaraa yathābhūta nappajānāti. So kāmarāga ... vicikiccha y'eva antara karitvā jhāyati pajjhāyati nijjhāyati avajjhāyati. A.V.323).

On the other hand, it has been very realistically pointed out that unless a disciple makes progress towards the attainment of the tranquility of mind which he is seeking, it would be difficult for him to relish forest-residence and delight in its solitude. The wilderness would whirl away his mind. In the Bhayabherava Sutta, the Brahmin Jānussoni expresses this view and the Buddha is found to be in perfect agreement with him (Durabhisambhavāni hi bho gotama araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni. Dukkara paviveka durabhirama ekatte. Haranti maññe mano vanāni samādhi alabhamānassa. M.I.16).1 In the early history of the Sāsana it was evidently this dread of forest-residence which prevented it from being widely accepted. The story of the Verañjābhāṇavāra seems to indicate that the reliance on this mode of life alone, without an alternative, was regarded as one of the causes that led to the alleged breakdown of the monastic institutions of some of the Buddhas of the past.2 Thus it is not difficult to see that while zealous monks like Mahā Kassapa and Upasena Vaṅgantaputta were regular forest-dwellers and always spoke in favour of it, there were, even in the earliest days of the Sāsana, others who probed into the spiritual qualifications of those who resorted to such a way of life and pointed out that it could be as much a source of danger to a monk as a life of pleasure. Continuing to lead such a life without attaining the desired result of tranquility of the mind, it is pointed out, would lead a disciple to disastrous consequences (Yo kho upāli eva vadeyya aha samādhi alabhamāno araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paisevissāmī'ti tass'eta pāṭikankha sasīdissati vā uppilavissati vā. A.V.202). The commentary explains that in such a state of contradiction the mind of the disciple would be torn by thoughts of lust or hatred (Sasīdissatī'ti kāmavitakkehi sasīdissati uppilavissatī'ti vyāpādavihisāvitakkehi uddha pilavissati - AA.V.67).

But those who took to this way of life supported it wholeheartedly. Mahā Kassapa led the way in this direction, both by example and precept (Dve kho aha bhante atthavasa sampassamāno dīgharatta āraññako c'eva araññakattassa ca vaṇṇavādī.... Attano ca diṭṭhadhammasukhavihāra sampassamāno pacchimañ ca janata anukampamāno app'eva nāma pacchimā janatā diṭṭhānugati āpajjeyyu. S.II.202). Upasena Vaṅgantaputta was such an ardent supporter of it that he would take none as his pupil unless he was willing to be a regular forest-dweller (Yo ma bhante upasampada yācati t'āha eva vadāmi aha kho āvuso āraññako piṇḍapātiko pasukūliko. Sace tva'pi āranñako bhavissasi piṇḍapātiko pasukūliko ev'āha ta upasampādessāmī'ti. Vin.III.230). However, even during the life-time of the Buddha we note that the araññakatta as a regular mode of monastic life was recommended with certain reservations. According to a statement in the Anguttara Nikāya, the venerable Upāli informs the Buddha of his desire to live the forest-life (Ekamanta nisinno kho āyasmā upāli bhagavanta etad avoca icchām'aha bhante araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paisevitun'ti. A.V.202). But he was immediately dissuaded by the Buddha who, in those same words of Jānussoni quoted earlier, told him of the hopelessness of forest-life for one who fails to gain tranquility of the mind.

It is somewhat difficult to understand here why Upāli, who later became such a distinguished disciple, was warned by the Buddha in this manner. We are thus inclined to ask whether these remarks implied any inherent weakness of Upāli against which the Buddha was anxious to safeguard him. The next remark which the Buddha makes, dismissing almost with ridicule the idea that one could still continue to lead the forest-life without gaining any tranquility of mind, seems to be very emphatic about Upāli's inaptitude for such a life. The words with which the Buddha concludes his advice to Upāli crown the whole argument. `Stay back, Upāli, in the midst of the Saṅgha and it will contribute to your own welfare.' (Igha tva upāli saghe viharāhi saghe te viharato phāsu bhavissati. A.V.209). The Commentary very readily solves this problem by pointing out that if Upāli was allowed to choose the way of forest-life, he would have only developed the holy life and missed the chance of learning the texts of the Vinaya. He would also thereby have lost the honour of being the chief exponent of the Vinaya. The Commentary says that it was in anticipation of the situation that the Buddha advised him against retiring to the forest. However, it is clear that what the text tries to stress is something different.

We do not propose to probe further into this matter here. But the Bhayabherava Sutta and the story of Upāli in the Aṅguttara Nikāya yield us two interesting observations. In the Bhayabherava Sutta, the Buddha who was told by Jānusssoni of the difficulties of forest-life explains that the disciple who on retiring to the forest assails the evil and corrupt ways of his life, gains with each victory greater and greater confidence for the pursuit of it. It is in terms of his own life as the Bodhisatta that the Buddha makes these observations in the Bhayabherava Sutta (Eta aha brāhmaa parisuddha-kammantata attani sampassamāno bhiyyo palloma āpādi araññe vihārāya. M.I.17). On the other hand, it is pointed out that to retire to the forest one did not need to wait for the perfection of his spiritual life. In fact, it was to achieve this end that one took to the forest life. But the forest-dweller had to be contilually inspired by his religious aspirations, i.e. the higher and higher states of spiritual development he could attain in succession (Ima'pi kho upāli mama sāvakā attanā dhamma samanupassamānā araññe vanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paisevanti no ca kho tāva anuppattasadatthā viharanti. A.V.207).

Once this spiritual earnestness was secured the results of forest-residence always proved to be heartening and the hardships of such a life recede to the background. Thus the thera Vakkali who was living in the forest, even though he suffered from cramps (vātarogābhinīto), made his mind triumph over the body and thereby propelled himself to further and further spiritual attainments, ignoring the hardships of forest life.

Pītisukhena vipulena pharamāno samussayaṃ
lūkham'pi abhisambhonto viharissāmi kānane.
Bhāvento satipaṭṭhāne indriyāni balāni ca
bojjhaṅgāni ca bhāvento viharissāmi kānane.

With bliss and rapture's flooding wave
This mortal frame will I suffuse.
Though hard and rough what I endure
Yet will I in the jungle dwell.
Herein myself I 'll exercise:
The Starting-points of Mindfulness,
The Powers five, the Forces too,
The Factors of Enlightenment --
So will I in the jungle dwell.

Psalms of the Brethren,vv.351-2

A similar story is told of the thera Nhātakamuni.1 The thera Ekavihāriya seems to look upon the wilderness as the one place of delight to the ardent disciple, the yogī.

Purato pacchato vā'pi aparo ce na vijjati
atīva phāsu bhavati ekassa vasato vane.
Handa eko gamissāmi araññaṃ buddhavaṇṇitaṃ
phāsuṃ ekavihārissa pahitattassa bhikkhuno.
Yogapītikaraṃ rammaṃ mattakuñjarasevitaṃ
eko atthavasī khippaṃ pavisissāmi kānanaṃ.


If there be none in front, nor none behind
Be found, is one alone and in the woods
Exceeding pleasant doth his life become.
Come then! alone I 'll get me hence and go
To lead the forest-life the Buddha praised,
And taste the welfare which the brother knows,
Who dwells alone with concentrated mind.
Yea, swiftly and alone, bound to my quest,
I 'll to the jungle that I love, the haunt
Of wanton elephants, the source and means
Of thrilling zest to each ascetic soul.

Psalms of the Brethren,vv.537-9

Therein he looks forward to the consummation of his religiouslife.

Ekākiyo adutiyo ramanīye mahāvane
kadā'haṃ viharissāmi katakicco anāsavo.


Lone and unmated in the lovely woods,

When shall I come to rest, work wrought, heart cleansed?

Psalms of the Brethren,v.541

Armed for that purpose, he plunges into the forest, never to return until he has attained his heart's desire, the highest goal of Arahantship.

Esa bandhāmi sannāhaṃ pavisissāmi kānaṃ
na tato nikkhamissāmi appatto āsavakkhayaṃ.


I 'll bind my spirit's armour on, and so
The jungle will I enter, that from thence
I'll not come forth until Nibbāna's won.

Psalms of the Brethren,v.543

Perhaps the most glorious example of a thera who seems to have enjoyed every moment of his life in the forest, using these sylvan charms as a spring-board to higher spiritual attainments is the thera Tālapuṭa. To him, they have been a constant source of inspiration as he pursued this spiritual quest.

Kadā nu maṃ pāvusakālamegho

navena toyena sacīvaraṃ vane
isippayātamhi vane vajantaṃ

ovassate taṃ nu kadā bhavissati.
Kadā mayūrassa sikhaṇḍino vane

dijassa sutvā girigabbhare rutaṃ
paccuṭṭhahitvā amatassa pattiyā

samcintaye taṃ nu kadā bhavissati.


O when will (break above my head)
The purple storm- cloud of the rains,
And with fresh torrents drench my raiment in the woods,
Wherein I wend my way.
Along the Path the Seers have trod before -
Yea, when shall this thing come to be?
O when shall I, hearing the call adown the woods
Of crested, twice- born peacock (as I lie
At rest) within the bosom of the hill,
Arise and summon thought and will
To win th' Ambrosial -
Yes, when shall this come to be?

Psalms of the Brethren,vv.1102-3

Similar ecstasies of the thera Tālapuṭa are also evident in the following verses ascribed to him:

pabbhārakūṭe pakaṭe'va sundare
navambunā pāvusasittakānane

tahiṃ guhāgehagato ramissasi.
Sunīlagīvā susikhā supekhuṇā

sucittapattacchadanā vihaṃgamā

te taṃ ramissanti vanamhi jhāyinaṃ.
Vuṭṭhamhi deve caturaṅgule tiṇe

sampupphite meghanibhamhi kānane
nagantare viṭapisamo sayissaṃ

taṃ me mudu hohiti tūlasannibhaṃ.


O (thou wilt love the life), be't on the crest
Of caverned cliffs, where herd boar and gazelle,
Or in fair open glade, or in the depths
Of forest freshened by new rain - 'tis there
Lies joy for thee to cavern-cottage gone.
Fair-plumed, fair-crested passengers of air
With deep blue throats and many-hued of wing,
Give greeting to the muttering thundercloud
With cries melodius, manifold; 'tis they
Will give thee joy whiles thou art musing there.
And when the god rains on the four-inch grass,
And on the cloud-like crests of budding woods,
Within the mountain's heart I 'll seated be
Immobile as a lopped-off bough, and soft
As cotton down my rocky couch shall seem.

Psalms of the Brethren,vv.1135-7

There seems to be very little reason to doubt that in the early days of the Sāsana when the majority of the Buddha's disciples chose the monastic life out of a deep-rooted conviction, realising its significance and its implications, the practice of frugality and contentment, and to some extent even austerity, was a reality in Buddhist monasticism. Following the anagāriya doctrine of the Buddha, the disciples could not have conducted themselves in any other way if they were to be true to their convictions. It was not a mere non-existent ideal of the past, as is assumed by some, that was used as the criterion in commenting on the increasing laxity in monastic discipline.1 There was undoubtedly an established and recognised pattern of conduct which was jointly determined by both the Dhamma and the Vinaya in terms of which monastic conduct was judged and criticised.

It is clear from a passage in the Aṅguttara that it included perfection of personal character as well as observance of monastic propriety. Discussing the dangers that would befall the Sāsana in the future (anāgatabhayāni), it is said that monks of uncultivated character would confer higher monastic status on others whom they would not be able to instruct and discipline towards perfection of character on account of their own imperfections. But these new members, inspite of their imperfect character, would in turn aspire to be leaders and teachers and thus subscribe to the continuous degeneration and corruption of monastic life (Bhavissanti bhikkhave bhikkhū anāgatamaddhāna abhāvitakāyā abhāvitasīlā abhāvitacittā abhāvitapaññā te abhāvitakāyā samānā abhāvitasīlā abhāvitacittā abhāvitapaññā aññe upasampādessanti. Te'pi na sakkhissanti vinetu adhisīle adhicitte adhipaññāya. Te'pi bhavissanti abhāvitakāyā...... abhāvitapaññā. Iti kho bhikkhave dhammasandosā vinayasandoso vinayasandosā dhammasandoso. A.III.106).

We have already noticed in our study of sīla that with the increase of offences and offenders in the monastic community rules and regulations for the guidance of its members became more rigorous and more comprehensive, and in the light of contemporary events, were made foolproof. This battle against falling standards and increasing laxity in monastic discipline led to a number of interesting devolopments. The simple and basic monastic virtues of contentment with regard to food, clothing and residence, and the love of solitude, which were more or less assumed to be basic virtues in the early days of the Sāsana, begin to acquire more and more importance. It becomes a compulsory monastic procedure that every monk, soon after the conferment of Upasampadā, be told of the four Nissayas or the minimum of his requirements with which he is expected to be satisfied all his life.1 They are: i.begged-food for a meal (piṇḍiyālopabhojana), ii. a robe made of bits of cloth collected from here and there for a garment (pasukūlacīvara), iii. residence at the foot of a tree (rukkhamūlasenāsana), and iv. putrid urine as medicament (pūtimuttabhesajja). However, it was not binding on him to be confined within these narrow limits. If extra gifts were offered to him he was given the option to receive them. This principle of the Nissayas was laid down by the Buddha only as a safeguard against any possible complaints from monks regarding the scanty provision of food, clothing etc. by the laymen. It is a forewarning against disappointment and disillusionment concerning the comforts of monastic life.

However, it was the Buddha himself who refused the request alleged to heve been made by Devadatta to make these virtues of simplicity compulsory for the monks.2 But the public at large, who inherited the ascetic traditions of India, show a partiality for austerity and asceticism in religious life. Even during the life time of the Buddha there seem to have been some who thought the monks who were austere and ascetic in their ways were, on that account, more worthy of honour and nearer to perfection. A householder of Nādika once told the Buddha that whenever he made offerings of food he always selected monks who were abstemious and austere in their ways (Dīyati me bhante kule dāna tañ ca kho ye te bhikkhū āraññakā piṇḍapātikā pasukūlikā arahanto vā arahattamagga vā samāpannā tathārūpesu bhante dāna dīyyati. A.III.391). Here, the Buddha hastens to correct the fallacy and states that susterity, without the perfection of character, would not be a virtue in itself. On the other hand, a monk who is less austere could be more worthy of honour on account of his perfect character (Araññako ce'pi gahapati bhikkhu hoti uddhato unnalo capalo mukharo vikiṇṇavāco muṭṭhassati asampajāno asamāhito vibbhantacitto pākatindriyo eva so tena y'eva gārayho... Gahapaticīvaradharo ce'pi gahapati bhikkhu hoti anuddhato anunnalo acapalo amukharo avikiṇṇavāco upaṭṭhitasati sampajāno samāhito ekaggacitto savutindriyo eva so tena y'eva pāsaso. Ibid.). The existence among the popular values of the day of a preference for ascetic and austere living as a monastic virtue is indicated in a statement in the Anaṅgana Sutta. It is stated that the monk who lives in urban associations appears to suffer by contrast when placed against his forest-dwelling brethren. The Sutta, however, makes it clear that according to true Buddhist values what mattered more in the perfection of monastic life was the elimination of defiling traits of the mind (pāpakā akusalā icchāvacarā).1

We notice, at any rate, that along with the choice of this solitary way of life in the forest there seems to have gone hand in hand a number of other practices which reveal frugality, abstemiousness and contentment. The Anaṅgana Sutta mentions three such practices, viz. i. forest residence (āraññaka), ii. subsistence on begged food (piṇḍa-pātika) and iii. use of patch-work robe (pasukūlika).1 These seem to cover a disciple's residence, food and clothing. In the form they are presented here they constitute special ways of monastic life which are optional. They do not bear any longer the general and simple character of the Nissayas. As monastic observances they seem to have brought greater honour and respect to those who practised them, presumably on account of the austerity and sacrifice they implied. It becomes more evident when we compare the opposites of these ways which seem to indicate, as it were, an easier way of life: gāmantavihāra or residence in the proximity of a village, nemantanika or acceptance of invitations to meals and gahapati-cīvaradhara or use of garments offered by laymen.2 To these monastic practices which were becoming increasingly popular, tecīvarikatta or reliance on a single set of three robes was sometimes added as a fourth.3 The Buddha recognises, however, that there can be a nominal practice of these austere ways without any corresponding spiritual progress. He brings to our notice the thirty Pāveyyaka monks. who inspite of the complete adoption of these austere ways, were full of defiling traits of character (Atha kho bhagavato etadahosi. Ime kho tisamattā pāveyyakā bhikkhū sabbe āraññakā sabbe piṇḍapātikā sabbe pasukūlikā sabbe tecīvarikā sabbe sasayojanā. Yannūnā'ha imesa tathā dhamma deseyya yathā nesa imasmi y'eva āsane anupādāya āsavehi cittāni vimucceyyun'ti. S.II.187).

We also detect an attempt to idealise these practices and make them a part of the general pattern of Buddhist monastic life. This seems to herald the ascendency of asceticism as the hallmark of monastic virtue. The Yodhājivavagga of the Aṅguttara Nikāya1 which gives warning of a number of calamities that would befall the Sāsana with the lapse of time (anāgatabhayāni), refers to the practice of these ways of monastic living as though it was the order of the day. Here we see clearly an attempt to fix and establish the changing pattern of monastic living in a form acceptable to contemporary values. We would not imagine that there was unanimity of opinion with regard to these values. However, it is certain that they were acceptable to a fair section of the community who were powerful enough to publicise and popularise their views among others. There will come a time, says the text, when monks evincing a love of luxury with regard to food, clothing and residence would neglect the present austere practices of being piṇḍapātika, pasukūlika and āraññaka respectively. They would give up the life of retirement in the forest and `invading the urban districts' indulge in all manner of unworthy pursuits for the sake of their requisites (Bhavissanti bhikkhave bhikkhū anāgatamaddhāna cīvare kalyānakāmā te cīvare kalyānakāmā samānā riñcissanti pasukūlikatta riñcissanti araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni gāmanigama-rājadhāni osaritvā vāsa kappessanti cīvarahetu ca anekavihita anesana appairūpa āpajjissanti. Ida bhikkhave pahama anāgatabhaya etarahi asamuppanna āyati samuppajjissati. Ta vo paibujjhitabba paibujjhitvā ca tassa pahānāya vāyamitabba. A.III.108f.).

In a similar passage in the Saṃyutta,1 the Buddha, in a conversation with the venerable Mahā Kassapa, is made to lament over this alleged decline in Buddhist monastic values and the effect it would have on the younger generation of disciples. Nevertheless, this tendency appears to have continued unabated. Those who fought for laxity in discipline were equally vivacious and vociferous and are seen thrusting themselves against the orthodoxy with unyielding persistence.2

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