Common Buddhist Text

Common Buddhist Text [7d] Part I: The Buddha | Chapter 1: The Life Of The Historical Buddha | Conception, birth and early life

Chief Editor: Venerable Brahmapundit
Editor: Peter Harvey

Translators: Tamás Agócs, Peter Harvey | Dharmacārī Śraddhāpa | P.D. Premasiri
G.A Somaratne | Venerable Thich Tue Sy

PART I: THE BUDDHA

 CHAPTER 1: THE LIFE OF THE HISTORICAL BUDDHA

Conception, birth and early life

L.4 Gotama’s family

This passage refers to the Buddha’s son, who later ordained as a monk under him and attained arahantship. The Buddha’s father remained a layperson and attained stream-entry, the first level of spiritual nobility; his step- mother (Mahā-pajāpatī) became the first nun, and an arahant; his wife also seems to have also become a nun, and an arahant.

They know me as ‘lucky’ Rāhula – lucky for two reasons: one that I am the son of the awakened one, and the other that I am one with vision of truths.

Rāhula’s verses: Theragāthā 295, trans. G.A.S.

L.5 Lavish young life

This passage describes an early life of great comfort, but then moves to reflections on ageing, sickness and death as coming to us all.

Monks, I lived in refinement, utmost refinement, and total refinement. In my father’s home, there were lotus ponds just made for me: one where red-lotuses bloomed, one where white lotuses bloomed, one where blue lotuses bloomed, all for my sake. I used no sandalwood that was not from Kāsi.[1]A state whose capital was Varanasi. My turban was from Kāsi, as were my tunic, my lower garment, and my outer cloak. A white umbrella was held over me day and night to protect me from cold, heat, dust, dirt, and dew.

Monks, I had three mansions: one for the cold season, one for the hot season, and one for the rainy season. During the four months of the rainy season, being entertained in the mansion for the rainy-season, by musicians without one man among them, I did not once come down from the mansion. Whereas the servants, workers, and retainers in others’ homes are fed meals of broken rice with lentil soup, in my father’s home the servants, workers, and retainers were fed wheat, rice, and meat.

Monks, endowed with such affluence, living in such refinement, I considered: ‘When an untaught ordinary person, himself subject to ageing, not beyond ageing, sees another who is aged, he is horrified, humiliated, and disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to ageing, not beyond ageing. If I who am subject to ageing, not beyond ageing, were to be horrified, humiliated, and disgusted on seeing another person who is aged, that would not be fitting for me.’ As I pondered thus, the young person’s intoxication with youth entirely dropped away.

… [The same is then said replacing ‘aging’ with ‘illness’ and then ‘death’, such that] the healthy person’s intoxication with health entirely dropped away… the living person’s intoxication with life entirely dropped away.

Sukhumāla Sutta: Aṅguttara-nikāya I.145, trans. G.A.S.

L.6 Pleasures of the senses

In this passage, the Buddha reflects on the pleasures of his youth, and then on the limitations and dangers of such pleasures.

‘Māgandiya,[2]Māgandiya was a hedonist who advocated the enjoyment of sensual pleasures. The Buddha here is teaching.
him the evil consequences of pursuing sensual pleasure.
formerly when I lived the home life, I enjoyed myself, provided and endowed with the five strands of sensual pleasure:[3]It is said that a man derives these pleasures from a woman; similarly a woman from a man. So it seems sensual pleasure (kāma) primarily means sexual pleasure. forms discernible by the eye that are wished for, desired, agreeable, likeable, connected with sensual desire and provocative of lust; sounds discernible by the ear; odours discernible by the nose; flavours discernible by the tongue; tangibles discernible by the body, that are wished for, desired, agreeable, likeable, connected with sensual desire and provocative of lust.

… On a later occasion, having understood as they really are the origin, the disappearance, the gratification, the danger of sensual pleasures, and the escape from them, I abandoned craving for sensual pleasures; I removed fever for sensual pleasures; I abide without thirst, with a mind inwardly at peace.

I see other beings who are not free from lust for sensual pleasures, being devoured by craving for sensual pleasures, burning with fever for sensual pleasures, indulging in sensual pleasures. I do not envy them, nor do I delight therein. Why is that? Māgandiya, there is a (meditative) delight apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, which surpasses even divine pleasure. Since I take delight in that, I do not envy what is inferior, nor do I delight therein…

Māgandiya, suppose there was a leper with sores and blisters on his limbs, being devoured by worms, scratching the scabs off the openings of his wounds with his nails, cauterizing his body over a burning charcoal pit. Then his friends and companions, his kinsmen and relatives, would bring a physician to treat him. The physician would make medicine for him, and by means of that medicine the man would be cured of his leprosy and would become well and happy, independent, master of himself, able to go where he likes. Then he might see another leper with sores and blisters on his limbs, being devoured by worms, scratching the scabs off the openings of his wounds with his nails, cauterizing his body over a burning charcoal pit.

Māgandiya, what do you think? Would the man envy that leper for his cauterizing the body over a burning charcoal pit, or for his use of medicine?’ ‘No, venerable Gotama. Why is that? Venerable Gotama, because when there is sickness, there is need for medicine; when there is no sickness, there is no need for medicine.’ ‘Māgandiya, similarly when I lived the home life before, I enjoyed myself provided and endowed with the five strands of sensual pleasure… On a later occasion, having understood as they really are the origin, the disappearance, the gratification, the danger of sensual pleasures, and the escape from them, I abandoned craving for sensual pleasures, I removed fever for sensual pleasures, and now I abide without thirst, with a mind inwardly at peace.

Now I see other beings who are not free from lust for sensual pleasures, being devoured by craving for sensual pleasures, burning with fever for sensual pleasures, indulging in sensual pleasures, but I do not envy them, nor do I delight therein. Why is that? Māgandiya, there is a delight apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, which surpasses even divine pleasure. Since I take delight in that, I do not envy what is inferior, nor do I delight therein.

Māgandiya SuttaMajjhima-nikāya I.504–506, trans. G.A.S.

References
1 A state whose capital was Varanasi.
2 Māgandiya was a hedonist who advocated the enjoyment of sensual pleasures. The Buddha here is teaching.
him the evil consequences of pursuing sensual pleasure.
3 It is said that a man derives these pleasures from a woman; similarly a woman from a man. So it seems sensual pleasure (kāma) primarily means sexual pleasure.

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