The enlightenment of Vakkali

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The enlightenment of Vakkali

Postby Individual » Wed Jan 28, 2009 1:18 am

I find conflicting information on how Vakkali attained enlightenment. The commentary seems to differ from the sutta's account. What's up with this?

Here is mettanet's encyclopedia entry, so you can see what I mean.

Suicide is unwholesome and unjustified, of course. Nobody can seriously make that argument and I hope nobody does.
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Re: The enlightenment of Vakkali

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:18 am

Individual wrote:I find conflicting information on how Vakkali attained enlightenment. The commentary seems to differ from the sutta's account. What's up with this?

well the suttas can be seen as onething and the commentaries another thing, which do you trust?
Here is mettanet's encyclopedia entry, so you can see what I mean.

not working so cant see what you mean sorry.
Suicide is unwholesome and unjustified, of course. Nobody can seriously make that argument and I hope nobody does.
[/quote]
is that so!
or is it, you only want one type of opinion? not an opinion someone has on the matter?
I have heard in a discussion about the Vissudhimagga a statement which was basically "That is a view we disagree with so it is wrong!" didn't matter if the view was valid or not it was wrong because it was different to theirs out of default
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: The enlightenment of Vakkali

Postby robertk » Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:58 am

there is no hint of difference in the Commentary and the sutta about how either Vakkali attained nibban. Do you want to talk about one in particular?
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Re: The enlightenment of Vakkali

Postby Individual » Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:18 pm

Manapa wrote:not working so cant see what you mean sorry.

Here is the encyclopedia entry.

1. Vakkali Thera. He belonged to a brahmin family of Sávatthi and became proficient in the three Vedas. After he once saw the Buddha he could never tire of looking at him, and followed him about. In order to be closer to him he became a monk, and spent all his time, apart from meals and bathing, in contemplating the Buddha's person. One day the Buddha said to him, "The sight of my foul body is useless; he who sees the Dhamma, he it is that seeth me" (yo kho dhammam passati so mam passati; yo mam passati so dhammam passati) (Cp. Itv. sec. 92). But even then Vakkali would not leave the Buddha till, on the last day of the rains, the Buddha commanded him to depart. Greatly grieved, Vakkali sought the precipices of Gijjhakúta. The Buddha, aware of this, appeared before him and uttered a stanza; then stretching out his hand, he said: "Come, monk." Filled with joy, Vakkali rose in the air pondering on the Buddha's words and realized arahantship. AA.i.140f.; the Apadána account (Ap.ii.465f.) is similar. It says that the Buddha spoke to him from the foot of the rock. Vakkali jumped down to meet the Buddha, a depth of many cubits, but he alighted unhurt. It was on this occasion that the Buddha declared his eminence among those of implicit faith; also DhA.iv.118f. The DhA. reports three verses uttered by the Buddha in which he assures Vakkali that he will help him and look after him.

According to the Theragáthá, Commentary (ThagA.i.420), when Vakkali was dismissed by the Buddha he lived on Gijjhakúta, practising meditation, but could not attain insight because of his emotional nature (saddhá). The Buddha then gave him a special exercise, but neither could he achieve this, and, from lack of food, he suffered from cramp. The Buddha visited him and uttered a verse to encourage him. Vakkali spoke four verses (Thag.350 4) in reply, and, conjuring up insight, won arahantship. Later, in the assembly of the monks, the Buddha declared him foremost among those of implicit faith (saddhádhimuttánam) (cp. A.i.25; also Dvy.49 and VibhA.276; Vsm.i.129). In the Páráyanavagga (SN. vs. 1146) the Buddha is represented as holding Vakkali up to Pingiya as an example of one who won emancipation through faith.

The Samyutta account (S.iii.119ff.; SA.ii.229) gives more details and differs in some respects from the above. There, Vakkali fell ill while on his way to visit the Buddha at Rájagaha, and was carried in a litter to a potter's shed in Rájagaha. There, at his request, the Buddha visited him and comforted him. He questioned Vakkali, who assured him that he had no cause to reprove himself with regard to morals (sílato); his only worry was that he had not been able to see the Buddha earlier. The Buddha told him that seeing the Dhamma was equivalent to seeing him, and because Vakkali had realized the Dhamma, there would be no hereafter for him. After the Buddha had left, Vakkali asked his attendants to take him to Kálasilá on Isigili. The Buddha was on Gijjhakúta and was told by two devas that Vakkali was about to "obtain release." The Buddha sent word to him: "Fear not, Vakkali, your dying will not be evil." Vakkali rose from his bed to receive the Buddha's message, and sending word to the Buddha that he had no desire or love for the body or the other khandhas, he drew a knife and killed himself. The Buddha went to see his body, and declared that he had obtained Nibbána and that Mára's attempt to find the consciousness of Vakkali would prove useless.

The Commentary adds that Vakkali was conceited and blind to his remaining faults. He thought he was a khínásava, and that he might rid himself of bodily pains by death. However, the stab with the knife caused him such pain that at the moment of dying he realized his puthujjana state, and, putting forth great effort, attained arahantship.

His resolve to become chief among the saddhádhimuttas had been made in the time of Padumuttara Buddha, when he saw a monk also named Vakkali similarly honoured by the Buddha. Ap.ii.465f.; AA.i.140.

2. Vakkali. A monk in the time of Padumuttara Buddha, declared chief of those having implicit faith. ThagA.i.422; Ap.ii.466.

Vakkali Sutta. The account, given in the Samyutta Nikáya (S.iii.119ff ) of the attainment of arahantship and death of Vakkali (1) (q.v.).


Manapa wrote:is that so!
or is it, you only want one type of opinion? not an opinion someone has on the matter?
I have heard in a discussion about the Vissudhimagga a statement which was basically "That is a view we disagree with so it is wrong!" didn't matter if the view was valid or not it was wrong because it was different to theirs out of default

No, I think skillfulness of speech is more important than the "rightness" of opinions. :)

robertk wrote:there is no hint of difference in the Commentary and the sutta about how either Vakkali attained nibban. Do you want to talk about one in particular?

The Theragatha suggests he attained Arahantship before killing himself, from hearing verses by the Buddha. However, the sutta and another part of the commentary seems to suggest he attained Arahantship in the moment of dying. In the commentary's remarks on his killing himself, it says he did this because he was "conceited and blind to his remaining faults," but if he was already an Arahant, this should not be possible.

With metta :heart:,
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Re: The enlightenment of Vakkali

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:38 pm

Individual wrote:No, I think skillfulness of speech is more important than the "rightness" of opinions. :)


if that is the case then why say

Suicide is unwholesome and unjustified, of course. Nobody can seriously make that argument and I hope nobody does.


you cut off anyone who has a certain opinion with "Nobody can seriously make that argument" no matter if they could be right or give a valuable contribution to the topic you raise, you cut them off without knowing if what is or could be said is skilful or not.
there is a problem with that though because Vakkali doesn't kill himself, or attempt suicide in any of those stories, he goes somewhere where it could be possible, and jumps in another from the same place but not for the purpose of killing himself so he neither tries nor succeeds in any attempt, so your cautionary statement was unnecessary.

but :focus:

as I said the first time the suttas can be seen as one thing and the commentaries another thing, which do you trust?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: The enlightenment of Vakkali

Postby Dhammanando » Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:56 pm

Hi Individual,

Individual wrote:The Theragatha suggests he attained Arahantship before killing himself, from hearing verses by the Buddha. However, the sutta and another part of the commentary seems to suggest he attained Arahantship in the moment of dying.


When you say "The Theragatha suggests he attained Arahantship before killing himself" I take it you mean some time before putting the knife to his throat (as opposed to after putting the knife to his throat but before expiring). But what is there in the dictionary entry you've cited that leads you to think that this is what the Theragatha commentary is suggesting?

You quoted:

    According to the Theragáthá, Commentary (ThagA.i.420), when Vakkali was dismissed by the Buddha he lived on Gijjhakúta, practising meditation, but could not attain insight because of his emotional nature (saddhá). The Buddha then gave him a special exercise, but neither could he achieve this, and, from lack of food, he suffered from cramp. The Buddha visited him and uttered a verse to encourage him. Vakkali spoke four verses (Thag.350 4) in reply, and, conjuring up insight, won arahantship. Later, in the assembly of the monks, the Buddha declared him foremost among those of implicit faith (saddhádhimuttánam) (cp. A.i.25; also Dvy.49 and VibhA.276; Vsm.i.129). In the Páráyanavagga (SN. vs. 1146) the Buddha is represented as holding Vakkali up to Pingiya as an example of one who won emancipation through faith.

Are you taking the words "Vakkali spoke four verses (Thag.350 4) in reply, and, conjuring up insight, won arahantship" to mean that all of this happened there and then in the Buddha's presence? Malalasekera's words might suggest this, but the commentary itself gives only the sequence of events, not the duration in which they elapsed. (In general when reading the Theragatha and Therigatha verses one needs to keep in mind that in many cases the verses of a particular arahant or arahantī were not spoken all at once, but rather at intervals over a long duration, with each verse encapsulating some pivotal experience in the disciple's career).

Or are you perhaps assuming that Vakkali must have been alive at the time when the Buddha praised his special quality in the assembly of monks? If so, this would be a mistake, for Bahiya is also praised in this same chapter of the Anguttara Nikaya, though he would almost certainly have been deceased at the time.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
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Re: The enlightenment of Vakkali

Postby Individual » Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:59 pm

Dhammanando wrote:Hi Individual,

Individual wrote:The Theragatha suggests he attained Arahantship before killing himself, from hearing verses by the Buddha. However, the sutta and another part of the commentary seems to suggest he attained Arahantship in the moment of dying.


When you say "The Theragatha suggests he attained Arahantship before killing himself" I take it you mean some time before putting the knife to his throat (as opposed to after putting the knife to his throat but before expiring). But what is there in the dictionary entry you've cited that leads you to think that this is what the Theragatha commentary is suggesting?

You quoted:

    According to the Theragáthá, Commentary (ThagA.i.420), when Vakkali was dismissed by the Buddha he lived on Gijjhakúta, practising meditation, but could not attain insight because of his emotional nature (saddhá). The Buddha then gave him a special exercise, but neither could he achieve this, and, from lack of food, he suffered from cramp. The Buddha visited him and uttered a verse to encourage him. Vakkali spoke four verses (Thag.350 4) in reply, and, conjuring up insight, won arahantship. Later, in the assembly of the monks, the Buddha declared him foremost among those of implicit faith (saddhádhimuttánam) (cp. A.i.25; also Dvy.49 and VibhA.276; Vsm.i.129). In the Páráyanavagga (SN. vs. 1146) the Buddha is represented as holding Vakkali up to Pingiya as an example of one who won emancipation through faith.

Are you taking the words "Vakkali spoke four verses (Thag.350 4) in reply, and, conjuring up insight, won arahantship" to mean that all of this happened there and then in the Buddha's presence? Malalasekera's words might suggest this, but the commentary itself gives only the sequence of events, not the duration in which they elapsed. (In general when reading the Theragatha and Therigatha verses one needs to keep in mind that in many cases the verses of a particular arahant or arahantī were not spoken all at once, but rather at intervals over a long duration, with each verse encapsulating some pivotal experience in the disciple's career).

Or are you perhaps assuming that Vakkali must have been alive at the time when the Buddha praised his special quality in the assembly of monks? If so, this would be a mistake, for Bahiya is also praised in this same chapter of the Anguttara Nikaya, though he would almost certainly have been deceased at the time.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu

Good point. I see what you mean that I might be making false assumptions about the sequence of events. Does "conjuring up insight," include his act of self-annihilation?

Also, reading the description, did he actually go from puthujjana (before the knife) directly to Arahantship (after feeling the pain)?
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