A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

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A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 12, 2009 3:17 am

Could somebody please help explain to me Sariputta's metaphor here?

In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta:

"No such direct personal knowledge, indeed, is mine, Lord, of the Arahants, the Fully Enlightened Ones of the past, the future, and the present; and yet I have come to know the lawfulness of the Dhamma. Suppose, Lord, a king's frontier fortress was strongly fortified, with strong ramparts and turrets, and it had a single gate, and there was a gatekeeper, intelligent, experienced, and prudent, who would keep out the stranger but allow the friend to enter. As he patrols the path that leads all around the fortress, he does not perceive a hole or fissure in the ramparts even big enough to allow a cat to slip through. So he comes to the conclusion: 'Whatever grosser living things are to enter or leave this city, they will all have to do so just by this gate.' In the same way, Lord, I have come to know the lawfulness of the Dhamma.

"For, Lord, all the Blessed Ones, Arahants, Fully Enlightened Ones of the past had abandoned the five hindrances, 14 the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; had well established their minds in the four foundations of mindfulness; 15 had duly cultivated the seven factors of enlightenment, and were fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment.

"And, Lord, all the Blessed Ones, Arahants, Fully Enlightened Ones of the future will abandon the five hindrances, the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; will well establish their minds in the four foundations of mindfulness; will duly cultivate the seven factors of enlightenment, and will be fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment.

"And the Blessed One too, Lord, being at present the Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One, has abandoned the five hindrances, the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; has well established his mind in the four foundations of mindfulness; has duly cultivated the seven factors of enlightenment, and is fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment."

Is the metaphor..

castle-->Samsara
gatekeeper-->Buddha

or is it...

castle-->Sariputta's mind (or anyone's mind)
gatekeeper-->Sariputta (or anyone who chooses to guard the mind)

With either interpretation, I still don't understand the relevance of the metaphor to Sariputta's lofty claim -- that there will never be any Buddhas in the future with higher enlightenment. He just doesn't know that. He doesn't know it, but he speculates, the Buddha questions him, and he defends himself with a lofty metaphor that's great but doesn't seem to establish the point.

That is, a man who guards one particular castle, who has observed one particular gatekeeper -- this doesn't mean the castle is eternal or can't be improved, that the gatekeeper is perfect, he doesn't know all the other castles and all the other gatekeepers out there. In the absence of "Direct personal knowledge" (which Wisdom Publications' translation merely translates as "knowledge"), Sariputta's lion's roar really is just lofty... He comes to know the lawfulness of the Dhamma, but what does this have to do with the knowledge of future Buddhas?
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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 12, 2009 3:37 am

Greetings Individual,

My reading is that there's no way to attain arahantship that can circumvent the need for the development of the seven enlightenment factors, eradication of the five hindrances and the development of the four frames of reference (satipatthana). You can't sneak in through the side - you have to go properly through the gate.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 12, 2009 3:57 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Individual,

My reading is that there's no way to attain arahantship that can circumvent the need for the development of the seven enlightenment factors, eradication of the five hindrances and the development of the four frames of reference (satipatthana). You can't sneak in through the side - you have to go properly through the gate.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Of course that's true, Retrofuturist... which is why, I would agree with Sariputta if he had added a qualifier to his original statement, "...there has not been, there will not be, nor is there now, another recluse or brahman more exalted in Enlightenment than the Blessed One... unless they first fully comprehend the Blessed One's enlightenment."

That is, of course no one could surpass the Buddha's enlightenment without developing enlightenment in the same way, but it is still pure speculation as to what might or might not exist beyond the range of the Buddha's vision, or what degree of enlightenment Buddhas of the future might attain. The Buddha never revealed the full scope of his knowledge to anyone, did he? Only the scope of his knowledge with regards to liberation from suffering. And he only had a limited number of Arahants...

While fully understanding the leaves in the Buddha's hand (metaphor from the Simsapa Sutta), is it not conceivable that a Buddha of the future might have a bigger forest to pull leaves from? Or, is it not conceivable that a Buddha of the future might be able to teach in an even more effective way than Gautama, having even more Arahants, and a Dhamma that remains uncorrupted for even longer? If so, would this not be a "higher degree of enlightenment"? Only through passing through the same gate, yes, but Sariputta still speculates that this will never happen.
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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:09 am

Greetings Individual,

As you've ascertained, it depends on how far we distinguish between an Arahant and a Buddha. What is the qualitative difference? There is no single answer on that question in the Theravada tradition and you'll find sutta and commentarial sources that could be used to argue any point along the spectrum.

Sariputta says he knowledge is on account of the "lawfulness of the Dhamma", indicating to me that by attaining the goal of arahantship, he can by inference make such a statement, and the Buddha does not rebuke him for doing so (unlike for his previous exclamations).

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:40 am

The sutta reads chopped to me. After Sariputta makes his simile (and I believe it is a simile and not a metaphor) the Buddha doesn't agree or disagree or even consent with silence. The sutta simply skips on to the next story. And it does so with an "and". That seems weird to me.

Back on topic... It seems to come down to what we take "more exalted in Enlightenment" to be referring to. Considering Sariputta is an Arahant and not a Buddha I think for the sutta to make sense we have to assume he is speaking of that which is common to both Buddha's and Arahants - namely liberation. There can't be more or less liberation; there is only liberation. Same for an Arahant, same for the Buddha, same for all Buddha past and future.

If on the other hand we take "more exalted in Enlightenment" to be referring to Buddha-powers then we know Sariputta is speaking out of turn since the full range of Buddha-powers can only be known to Buddhas.

As to which one... "will abandon the five hindrances, the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; will well establish their minds in the four foundations of mindfulness; will duly cultivate the seven factors of enlightenment"... these are all factors of Arahantship. There is nothing here which points to anything more.

That's my take on it.
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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:45 am

Greetings Peter,

Peter wrote:The sutta reads chopped to me. After Sariputta makes his simile (and I believe it is a simile and not a metaphor) the Buddha doesn't agree or disagree or even consent with silence. The sutta simply skips on to the next story. And it does so with an "and". That seems weird to me.

I'm pretty sure that in this sense, silence does indicate consent. There are other suttas I've read (whether this is one of them, I'm not sure) where the translator footnotes indicate that this the case. Basically, the Buddha has no need to correct Sariputta once he put appropriate caveats around his comments.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby Ben » Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:51 am

Hi Individual, Peter, Retro

Something seems a bit odd to me. My understanding is that both Mahamogallana and Sariputta died before the Buddha and that the Mahaparinibbana Sutta was uttered by the Buddha just prior to his passing. Sariputta returning home to convert his mother to Dhamma while on his deathbed. I also remember from 'Great Disciples of the Buddha' where Sariputta made a grand complement to the Buddha which was rebuked, according to my unreliable memory. I'll check tonight.
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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:58 am

Greetings Ben,

The sutta spans quite a period of time... for example, the sukara-maddava (dodgy mushrooms, pork, truffles, whatever) appear only half way through it. Sariputta's comments are very early on in the piece.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:59 am

Ben wrote:Something seems a bit odd to me. My understanding is that both Mahamogallana and Sariputta died before the Buddha and that the Mahaparinibbana Sutta was uttered by the Buddha just prior to his passing. Sariputta returning home to convert his mother to Dhamma while on his deathbed.

The sutta takes place over a number of months. When the Buddha talks to Mara he says he will die in three months time. And by that point in the sutta Sariputta had already said his piece and the Buddha had traveled a bit.
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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby cooran » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:25 am

Hello all,

Interesting that Sister Vajira & Francis Story have such a long drawn out translation. I think the 'style' which the translators use can have a large effect on the 'feeling' and 'flow' {and thus the clarity} of the translation.

Maurice Walshe's translations verse 16 reads reads very succinctly:
"So, Sariputta, you do not have knowledge of the minds of the Buddhas of the past, the future or the preent. Thus, Sariputta, have you not spoken boldly with a bull's voice and roared the lion's roar of certainty with your declaration?
"Lord, the minds of the Arahant Buddhas of the past, future and present are not open to me. But I know the drift of the Dhamma [note 372]. Lord, it is as if there were a royal frontier city, with might bastions and a mighty encircling wall in which was a single gate at which was a gatekeeper, wise, skilled and clever who kept out strangers and let in those he knew. And he, constantly patrolling and following along a path, might not see the joins and clefts in the bastion, even such as a cat might creep through. But whatever larger creatures entered or left the city, must all go through this very gate. And it seems to me, Lord, that the drift of the Dhamma is the same. All those Arahant Buddhas of the past attained to supreme enlightenment by abandoning the five hindrances, defilements of mind that weaken the understanding, having firmly established the four foundations of mindfulness in their minds and realised the seven factors of enlightenment as they really are. All the Arahant Buddhas of the future will do likewise, and you, Lord, who are now the Arahant, fully enlightened Buddha have done the same."

Note 372: Dhammanvaya: 'The way the Dhamma goes'

metta
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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:53 am

Hi Chris,

Chris wrote:Interesting that Sister Vajira & Francis Story have such a long drawn out translation.


It's the other way around: Walshe's translation is very condensed; Vajira and Story's is rather less so.

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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby Ben » Mon Jan 12, 2009 11:24 am

Thank you Retro and Peter for your kind corrections.
Metta

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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jul 26, 2009 5:04 am

Son of man wrote: . . .


SoM, please review the guidelines to this section:

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=373

Thanks.
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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby Ben » Sun Jul 26, 2009 7:45 am

For the sake of clarification, I removed Son of Man's post as it was off-topic for this forum.
Kind regards

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Re: A metaphor by Sariputta, in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Postby Son of man » Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:28 pm

Ah...sorry I had not read the rules :)

Ok so the metaphor means as follows:

The Castle is the Deathless.

The gatekeeper is the Dhamma.

There is no other way to enter the Deathless, but by upholding the Dhamma.
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