A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

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A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby LXNDR » Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:40 am

Vesali sutta (SN 54.9) wrote:
(snippet)

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Vesali in the Great Wood, at the Gabled Hall. Now on that occasion the Blessed One, with many lines of reasoning, was giving the monks a talk on the unattractiveness [of the body], was speaking in praise of [the perception of] unattractiveness, was speaking in praise of the development of [the perception of] unattractiveness. Then the Blessed One addressed the monks: "Monks, I wish to go into seclusion for half a month. I am not to be approached by anyone at all except for the one who brings almsfood."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded to him. And no one approached the Blessed One except for the one who brought almsfood.

Then the monks — [thinking,] "The Blessed One, with many lines of reasoning, has given a talk on the unattractiveness [of the body], has spoken in praise of [the perception of] unattractiveness, has spoken in praise of the development of [the perception of] unattractiveness" — remained committed to the development of [the perception of] unattractiveness in many modes & manners. They — ashamed, repelled, & disgusted with this body — sought for an assassin. In one day, ten monks took the knife. In one day, twenty monks took the knife. In one day, thirty monks took the knife.

Then the Blessed One, emerging from his seclusion after half a month's time, said to Ven. Ananda, "Ananda, why does the community of monks seem so depleted?"

"Because, lord, the Blessed One, with many lines of reasoning, gave the monks a talk on the unattractiveness [of the body], spoke in praise of [the perception of] unattractiveness, spoke in praise of the development of [the perception of] unattractiveness. The monks — [thinking,] 'The Blessed One, with many lines of reasoning, has given a talk on the unattractiveness [of the body], has spoken in praise of [the perception of] unattractiveness, has spoken in praise of the development of [the perception of] unattractiveness' — remained committed to the development of [the perception of] unattractiveness in many modes & manners. They — ashamed, repelled, & disgusted with this body — sought for an assassin. In one day, ten monks took the knife. In one day, twenty monks took the knife. In one day, thirty monks took the knife. It would be good, lord, if the Blessed One would explain another method so that this community of monks might be established in gnosis."


how could the Buddha have not been able to foresee such a gruesome effect his sermon would have on the monks?
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby robertk » Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:57 am

He did foresee it.
And the majority of those monks went to heaven, nothing sad about it.
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby LXNDR » Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:17 am

robertk wrote:He did foresee it.
And the majority of those monks went to heaven, nothing sad about it.


why then having walked out of seclusion he asked why the community was so deplete? only a person who doesn't expect a thing to happen would ask such a question, or one who acts as if s/he didn't expect it

is the heaven explanation originates from the Commentary?

another ambiguity is whether the first precept doesn't cover suicide, if it does, its violation leads to hell, so it's unclear how they could have gone to heaven, unless it be thanks to merits from their earlier lives, but hell would still be waiting for them
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:27 am

LXNDR wrote:how could the Buddha have not been able to foresee such a gruesome effect his sermon would have on the monks?


Should the Buddha have been able to foresee such things? Is this included in one of the traditional "three knowledges"?
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby robertk » Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:40 am

The ancient Commentary explains that the buddha knew past evil kamma would soon bear fruit for these monks .

He encouraged foulness of the body so that they
would not have attachment to their bodies and so that by developing it they would be born in a deva world.
"Therefore he spoke on foulness in
order to help them, not with the intention of extolling death." (From note by bhikkhu bodhi)
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:49 am

This topic has already been raised here:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=132

and a comprehensive answer given by Dhammanando and Retro.
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby daverupa » Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:26 pm

In addition, please remember the specific Guidelines for the Classical Theravada forum.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby LXNDR » Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:09 am

daverupa wrote:In addition, please remember the specific Guidelines for the Classical Theravada forum.


the thread you point to discusses a different subject, that it based on the same material doesn't make the subjects identical

that thread deals with this

Now, if the Buddha was indeed omniscient, it seems surprising that he would have had to ask Ananda what happened.


my question is obviously different

please move this thread into a subforum with more lax guidelines and preferably restore the deleted comments

it would be much fairer and nicer of you to not delete comments at all, because it looks like censorship
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:17 am

Moved.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby LXNDR » Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:19 am

tiltbillings wrote:Moved.


appreciated
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby vinasp » Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:28 am

Hi everyone,

If it makes no sense when interpreted in a literal way, then why not interpret it in a figurative way?

The knife is a symbol of wisdom. And attaining arahantship is psychological death.

They seem to love this sort of word-play, but it is often impossible to translate.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:36 am

The Vesali incident is discussed in this essay: http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vo ... cient.html
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby BlackBird » Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:43 am

In light of that 'Dark knight of meditation' article that was doing the rounds of the internet, and pegging the blame of mental illness on the shoulders of meditation, I had noticed one podcast in particular took this sutta completely out of context by saying that a bunch of monks did meditation and then committed suicide, then followed up with a general negative yack about how meditation causes mania (in their eyes)... I wrote them a correction, but it brings up an interesting point - Which is that this Sutta can be taken the wrong way, or used out of context to support a negative view of meditation - That's it's inherently dangerous etc.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby LXNDR » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:54 am

vinasp wrote:Hi everyone,

If it makes no sense when interpreted in a literal way, then why not interpret it in a figurative way?

The knife is a symbol of wisdom. And attaining arahantship is psychological death.

They seem to love this sort of word-play, but it is often impossible to translate.

Regards, Vincent.


that makes a beautiful metaphor, but whether this is what was meant in the sutta is impossible to establish

----------------------------------

as i stated in a deleted comment it's not about omniscience

alright i will repeat it then, it's about mind reading which has more to do with intuition

Samannaphala sutta (DN 2) wrote:Mind Reading

"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge of the awareness of other beings. He knows the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with his own awareness. He discerns a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion. He discerns a mind with aversion as a mind with aversion, and a mind without aversion as a mind without aversion. He discerns a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion, and a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion. He discerns a restricted mind as a restricted mind, and a scattered mind as a scattered mind. He discerns an enlarged mind as an enlarged mind, and an unenlarged mind as an unenlarged mind. He discerns an excelled mind [one that is not at the most excellent level] as an excelled mind, and an unexcelled mind as an unexcelled mind. He discerns a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind, and an unconcentrated mind as an unconcentrated mind. He discerns a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind. Just as if a young woman — or man — fond of ornaments, examining the reflection of her own face in a bright mirror or a bowl of clear water would know 'blemished' if it were blemished, or 'unblemished' if it were not. In the same way — with his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability — the monk directs and inclines it to knowledge of the awareness of other beings. He knows the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with his own awareness. He discerns a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion... a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind.



Uposatha sutta (KN : Ud 5.5) wrote:When the night was (yet further) advanced and the last watch had ended, as dawn was approaching and the night was drawing to a close, a third time the Venerable Ananda arose from his seat... and said to the Lord: "The night is far advanced, revered sir, the last watch has ended; dawn is approaching and the night is drawing to a close and the bhikkhus have been sitting for a long time. Revered sir, let the Lord recite the Patimokka to the bhikkhus."

"The gathering is not pure, Ananda."

Then the Venerable Mahamoggallana thought: "Concerning which person has the Lord said, 'The gathering is not pure, Ananda'?" And the Venerable Mahamoggallana, comprehending the minds of the whole Order of bhikkhus with his own mind, saw that person sitting in the midst of the Order of bhikkhus — immoral, wicked, of impure and suspect behavior, secretive in his acts, no recluse though pretending to be one, not practicing the holy life though pretending to do so, rotten within, lustful and corrupt. On seeing him he arose from his seat, approached that person, and said: "Get up, friend. You are seen by the Lord. You cannot live in communion with the bhikkhus." But that person remained silent.

A second time and a third time the Venerable Mahamoggallana told that person to get up, and a second time and a third time that person remained silent. Then the Venerable Mahamoggllana took that person by the arm, pulled him outside the gate, and bolted it. Then he approached the Lord and said: "Revered sir, I have ejected that person. The assembly is quite pure. Revered sir, let the Lord recite the Patimokkha to the bhikkhus."

"It is strange, Moggallana, it is remarkable, Moggallana, how that stupid person should have waited until he was taken by the arm."



Katuviya sutta (AN 3.129) wrote:At one time the Blessed One was abiding in the deer park in Isipatana in Benares. The Blessed One putting on robes in the morning and taking bowl and robes entered Benares for the alms round and saw a certain bhikkhu going for alms, under a fig tree where cattle are bound. He was internally dissatisfied and his interests were turned out wards, forgetful, not aware and distracted the mind straying with uncontrolled mental faculties. Seeing him the Blessed One said: Bhikkhu, do not defile yourself. When you defile yourself an evil smell emanates and it is impossible that flies would not settle.

That bhikkhu advised by the Blessed One in this manner became remorseful. The Blessed One after going the alms round and after the meal was over addressed the bhikkhus: Bhikkhus, I put on robes in the morning and taking bowl and robes entered Benares for the alms round and saw a certain bhikkhu going for alms, under a fig tree where cattle are bound. He was internally dissatisfied and his interests were turned out wards, forgetful, not aware and distracted, his mind straying with uncontrolled mental faculties. Seeing him I said: Bhikkhu, do not defile yourself. When you defile yourself an evil smell emanates and it is impossible that flies would not settle.

That bhikkhu advised by me became remorseful.

When this was said a certain bhikkhu said: Venerable sir, what is defiling, what is the evil smell and what are flies?

Bhikikhu, the defiling is covetousness, the evil smell is aversion and flies are evil demeritorious thoughts. That bhikkhu defiling himself and emanating an evil smell, that flies should not settle is not possible.

With unprotected eyes and ears and mental faculties uncontrolled,
Flies in the form of greedy thoughts will settle.
The defiled bhikkhu emanates evil smells
Far from extinction, he has destroyed bliss.

In village or in forest not achieving his inner peace,
The fool sets forth followed by flies.
He that is virtuous and wisely attached to appeasemment
Sleeps well having destroyed the flies.



in theory while preaching the asubha bhavana technique the Buddha could have read the mind state of at least one monk with suicidal tendencies starting to develop

besides intuition there's common sense, being seasoned meditator and samana he probably must have been aware of possible adverse effects of this type of practice, with his power of conviction to enhance them, and cautioned the monks or not recommended it at all

that he didn't expect such an outcome looks as naivety and carelessness, it goes without saying that when disciples get harmed by the teaching, the teacher one way or another is responsible

also considering Buddha's famous skill in means, the ability to tailor his Dhamma lectures to the audience, he must have known what and how to preach to that particular community so it benefits from the teaching, but the sutta describes quite a failure in doing so, because the community was obviously unfit for this particular teaching

it's just that this particular episode stands in striking contrast with passages which extoll Tathagata as almost a supreme creature
Last edited by LXNDR on Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby robertk » Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:54 am

Umm as i said earlier on this thread, the Buddha knew exactly what would happen, and taught the monks so that their deaths would be profitable.
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby LXNDR » Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:11 pm

robertk wrote:Umm as i said earlier on this thread, the Buddha knew exactly what would happen, and taught the monks so that their deaths would be profitable.


but he's not omniscient as it appears to turn out, how could he have known? do you mean he taught them the method to specifically make them want to commit suicide?

this still must be reconciled with violation of the first precept
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby Mkoll » Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:20 pm

LXNDR,

I'm curious: What are you trying to prove here? What do you want the outcome to be? What's your opinion on the matter?
Peace,
James
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby culaavuso » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:17 pm

vinasp wrote:Hi everyone,

If it makes no sense when interpreted in a literal way, then why not interpret it in a figurative way?

The knife is a symbol of wisdom. And attaining arahantship is psychological death.

They seem to love this sort of word-play, but it is often impossible to translate.


In this interpretation, how would the question to Ananda regarding the community seeming depleted be interpreted? Are there other places in the Canon that describe a community of arahants as depleted? What is the Pāḷi word for depleted here and what shades of meaning does it have that make it difficult to translate into English?
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby LXNDR » Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:47 am

the celebrated quotation

Abhayarajakumara sutta (MN 58) wrote:
"In the same way, prince:

[1] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[2] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."
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Re: A sad story of Vesali sutta (mass suicide)

Postby Zadok » Sat Jul 12, 2014 7:23 pm

This story is not to be taken literally but as a lesson. If one clings to perceptions of duality ones own ignorance will inevitably be the cause of their death.

The moral of the story is ignorance is suicide.

Blessings to all.
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