Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

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Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Sep 07, 2009 3:44 am

Greetings,

I'm trying to work out the significance of the following passage from DN16.

Is there some lesson to be learned from it? Why would the Buddha drop hints, only to effectively go "too bad, so sad" once Ananda worked out what the Buddha was hinting about.

I don't see the sense in it, and am confused here about the Buddha's intentions (assuming of course that it is a legitimate passage... Maurice Walshe raises some serious doubts about the legitimacy of certain passages of this sutta).

Extract from DN16: Mahaparinibbana Sutta
http://www.vipassana.com/canon/digha/dn16.php

Ananda's Appeal

48. At these words the Venerable Ananda spoke to the Blessed One, saying: "May the Blessed One remain, O Lord! May the Happy One remain, O Lord, throughout the world-period, for the welfare and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, well being, and happiness of gods and men!"

49. And the Blessed One answered, saying: "Enough, Ananda. Do not entreat the Tathagata, for the time is past, Ananda, for such an entreaty."

50-51. But for a second and a third time, the Venerable Ananda said to the Blessed One: "May the Blessed One remain, O Lord! May the Happy One remain, O Lord, throughout the world-period, for the welfare and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, well being, and happiness of gods and men!"

52. Then the Blessed One said: "Do you have faith, Ananda, in the Enlightenment of the Tathagata?" And the Venerable Ananda replied: "Yes, O Lord, I do."

"Then how, Ananda, can you persist against the Tathagata even up to the third time?"

53. Then the Venerable Ananda said: "This, O Lord, I have heard and learned from the Blessed One himself when the Blessed One said to me: 'Whosoever, Ananda, has developed, practiced, employed, strengthened, maintained, scrutinized, and brought to perfection the four constituents of psychic power could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it. The Tathagata, Ananda, has done so. Therefore the Tathagata could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it.'"

54. "And did you believe it, Ananda?"

"Yes, O Lord, I did."

"Then, Ananda, the fault is yours. Herein have you failed, inasmuch as you were unable to grasp the plain suggestion, the significant prompting given by the Tathagata, and you did not then entreat the Tathagata to remain. For if you had done so, Ananda, twice the Tathagata might have declined, but the third time he would have consented. Therefore, Ananda, the fault is yours; herein have you failed.

55. "At Rajagaha, Ananda, when dwelling at Vultures' Peak, I spoke to you, saying: 'Pleasant, Ananda, is Rajagaha; pleasant is Vultures' Peak. Whosoever, Ananda, has developed ... Therefore the Tathagata could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it.'

56. "So also at the Banyan Grove, at Robbers' Cliff, at the Sattapanni Cave on the Vebhara Mountain, at the Black Rock of Isigili, at the Serpents' Pool in the Cool Forest, at the Tapoda Grove, at the Bamboo Grove in the Squirrels' Feeding-ground, at Jivaka's Mango Grove, and at Small Nook in the Deer Park I spoke to you in the same words, saying: 'Pleasant, Ananda, is Rajagaha, pleasant are these places. Whosoever, Ananda, has developed ... Therefore the Tathagata could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it.'

"But you, Ananda, were unable to grasp the plain suggestion, the significant prompting given you by the Tathagata, and you did not entreat the Tathagata to remain. For if you had done so, Ananda, twice the Tathagata might have declined, but the third time he would have consented. Therefore, Ananda, the fault is yours; herein you have failed.

57. "So also at Vesali, Ananda, at different times the Tathagata has spoken to you, saying: 'Pleasant, Ananda, is Vesali; pleasant are the shrines of Udena, Gotamaka, Sattambaka, Bahuputta, Sarandada, and Capala. Whosoever, Ananda, has developed ... Therefore the Tathagata could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it.'

"But you, Ananda, were unable to grasp the plain suggestion, the significant prompting, given you by the Tathagata, and you did not entreat the Tathagata to remain. For if you had done so, Ananda, twice the Tathagata might have declined, but the third time he would have consented. Therefore, Ananda, the fault is yours; herein you have failed.

58. "Yet, Ananda, have I not taught from the very beginning that with all that is dear and beloved there must be change, separation, and severance? Of that which is born, come into being, is compounded and subject to decay, how can one say: 'May it not come to dissolution!' There can be no such state of things. And of that, Ananda, which the Tathagata has finished with, that which he has relinquished, given up, abandoned, and rejected -- his will to live on -- the Tathagata's word has been spoken once for all: 'Before long the Parinibbana of the Tathagata will come about. Three months hence the Tathagata will utterly pass away.' And that the Tathagata should withdraw his words for the sake of living on -- this is an impossibility.


Finally, a little sub-question... does anyone know of an online translation of DN16 which is complete and well translated? I'm yet to find one meeting both criteria and if I could find one I'd love to reference it on Google Saffron.

All thoughts, comments and questions welcome.

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Sep 07, 2009 7:48 am

Well one reason could be that while the time was appropriate he should of been asked? or the Buddha had already at the point the sutta is about, already decided the time is right to depart so asking him to change his mind would of been like asking an elephant to about turn while in full stampede?
he was in very poor health I believe at this point also so it wasn't the apropriate time and may of already initiated his death in some way that at this point was irreversable?
Last edited by retrofuturist on Mon Sep 07, 2009 10:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: verbatim quote of above post removed
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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: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Sep 07, 2009 10:17 am

Greetings Manapa,

I like the full stampede analogy. What you say seems plausible and consistent with the sutta.

Even still, the whole episode seems incredibly arbitrary to me. If it was a good idea and possible he would have done it, surely... not allowing something as minor as Ananda not being able to read between the lines to be the deciding factor as to whether or not to live another 20+ years.

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: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:12 am

it is true, but if I remember the line correctly the Buddha also said that he has given all that is needed for the sangha and staying alive would not be any more useful than the natural process of death being allowed to take its course (my own words and interpretation obviously there).

When I read your opening post I remembered the events after the Buddhas nibbana (side thought there wonder if that could be called his parisamsara?? :)) how the story goes he spent 6 weeks(?) in meditation contemplating what to do, become another silent buddha or teach as the sammasambuddha ( :anjali: ) it seams relevent in my mind somehow but can not pin point the how, so as to put it into words (the thought came and went in a flash before I had a chance to express it)
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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: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby piotr » Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:44 am

Hi,

One thing that I would like to point to you is that what above is translated as 'will to live on' (ayusaṅkhāra) can also mean 'thing on which living depends' – it's nowhere explicitly stated in the Suttas what is this thing, but the Buddha abandoned it three months before his passing away. One sutta (MN 43) suggests that heat is an ayusaṅkhāra, so it seems to me that by intentional gradual cessation of heat (energy, motion) in the body one can bring his body to dissolution. And it looks like this process is irreversible.
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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby gavesako » Mon Sep 07, 2009 1:37 pm

There are a number of passages in the Digha Nikaya that remind us of the later developments which resulted in the so-called Mahayana movement. I am just also reading about the bodhisattva sutras where an interesting point comes up: (1) for the purpose of emulating the Buddha in his ascetic practices and trying to accumulate enough merit to become like him, it is not necessary to prolong his lifespan more than the usual human lifespan; (2) for the purpose of worshipping the Buddha as a higher supernatural being, e.g. Amitabha or Aksobhya Buddha, who is by definition limitless (appamano) and who can be contacted through ritual and meditation, it is vital to extend his lifespan in this way, so that his Buddha-field does not remain empty.

Although this might seem out-of-place in the context of Theravada, I am gradually becoming aware of more and more such links between what is known as 'early' and 'later' development. Will report more as I go along.

One interesting thing I found is in Maha Kassapa's Theragatha verses, reference to "buddha-khetta":

As far as this buddha-field extends
— except for the great sage himself —
I'm the one
outstanding
in ascetic qualities.
There's no one else
like me.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


It seems to be a late idiom which comes up in the bodhisattva sutras (buddha-ksetra). Maha Kassapa was obviously a role model for the ascetic forest bodhisattvas and also the first patriarch of the Chan school. Many stories from Ajahn Mun biography remind one of their practices too.
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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Sep 07, 2009 2:47 pm

Manapa wrote:it seams relevent in my mind somehow but can not pin point the how...

They seem related to me. They suggest a Buddha cannot make major decisions on his own but needs to be asked. Possibly this has to do with him having completely eliminated craving. He does not crave to teach or to help people, he does not crave to live. He does what is asked of him. He was asked to teach so he did, he was not asked to keep on living past his preset goal (of establishing the teachings and sangha) so he did not. If a Buddha decided on his own to teach, one might argue that he felt compelled to do so, that he was still subject to craving. Perhaps this tells us something about generosity as well - doing what someone asks of us OR doing what we think/imagine someone needs - self directed vs other directed...

Anyway, it's just a theory.
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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Sep 07, 2009 2:50 pm

I think more interesting than why the Buddha doesn't choose to live on is why he bothers to have the conversation with Ananda at all. Perhaps if indeed he needs to be asked to live on he was giving hints as the compassionate thing to do. Perhaps too even though Ananda is upset at the Buddha's passing, he really didn't need the Buddha to live on. When we consider that Ananda did in fact become arahant we can see that is true.
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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby Kare » Mon Sep 07, 2009 6:35 pm

The texts are not stenographical reports of what was said and done at the actual moment. They are probably based on real events and real sayings, but they were edited before collected into Nikayas and later written down.

Sometimes the Commentaries mention the editors, as for instance in the Therigatha Commentary: Imā tisso gāthā saṅgītikārehi ṭhapitā, "These three verses were added by the editors". Here, saṅgītikārehi refers to the editors.

When reading the Pali Texts, we should remember that they have been passing through the hands of editors, and we should also ask ourselves what motives the editors may have had for inserting passages or editing the text into the shape that has reached us.

We know that Ananda had an important position. He was the personal assistant of the Buddha, which means that he always had access to him, and, still more important, he could grant or bar access to the Master for others.

How did other monks react to this? Did some of them feel envy? Did some of them grasp the opportunity for revenge by inserting passages in the Mahaparinibbanasutta intending to blame Ananda for the death of the Buddha?

It is difficult to say for sure, ... :thinking: ... but my personal feeling is that these passages may be the result of editors having a chip on their shoulder against Ananda.
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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Sep 07, 2009 10:50 pm

Greetings,

Thank you everyone for your well-considered, insightful thoughts.

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: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Sep 08, 2009 12:57 am

Peter wrote:
Manapa wrote:it seams relevent in my mind somehow but can not pin point the how...

They seem related to me. They suggest a Buddha cannot make major decisions on his own but needs to be asked. Possibly this has to do with him having completely eliminated craving. He does not crave to teach or to help people, he does not crave to live. He does what is asked of him. He was asked to teach so he did, he was not asked to keep on living past his preset goal (of establishing the teachings and sangha) so he did not. If a Buddha decided on his own to teach, one might argue that he felt compelled to do so, that he was still subject to craving. Perhaps this tells us something about generosity as well - doing what someone asks of us OR doing what we think/imagine someone needs - self directed vs other directed...

Anyway, it's just a theory.


that may be what the thought was, or not to far removed close neighbors maybe?? it was like having a work on the tip of my toungue which I couldn't remember!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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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: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Sep 08, 2009 1:04 am

gavesako wrote:Although this might seem out-of-place in the context of Theravada, I am gradually becoming aware of more and more such links between what is known as 'early' and 'later' development. Will report more as I go along.

Please do!

gavesako wrote:One interesting thing I found is in Maha Kassapa's Theragatha verses, reference to "buddha-khetta":

As far as this buddha-field extends
— except for the great sage himself —
I'm the one
outstanding
in ascetic qualities.
There's no one else
like me.

this links to what peter said also, why did Mahakasapa continue to practice the way he did? why do Arahants continue to meditate after ataining Nibbana?
as an example of the path, I believe it is said to be the reason!
:anjali:
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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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: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Sep 08, 2009 1:15 am

Kare wrote:How did other monks react to this? Did some of them feel envy? Did some of them grasp the opportunity for revenge by inserting passages in the Mahaparinibbanasutta intending to blame Ananda for the death of the Buddha?

It is difficult to say for sure, ... :thinking: ... but my personal feeling is that these passages may be the result of editors having a chip on their shoulder against Ananda.

You do realize the suttas were not preserved by individuals but by large groups, right? What you suggest would have to be a large conspiracy to corrupt the suttas. Do you have any evidence to support such a suggestion? I must say to make such a charge against those who strove to preserve the teachings so that you may receive them, to make a charge completely unsupported, strikes me as both ridiculous and despicable.
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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby Dan74 » Tue Sep 08, 2009 1:50 am

Perhaps the Buddha was teaching Ananda a lesson? Some exchanges such as these could surely be dependent on the context of the relationship of the Buddha and Ananda, on Ananda's progress on the path. For instance, his lamenting seems to show that he was perhaps too dependent on and too attached to the Buddha, which would help explain why he was only a stream-enterer upon the Buddha's Parinibbana. Such scolding together with the urging that came later in the sutta may have served to sever that dependence.

This is not to say that the words were not true.

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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby Kare » Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:12 am

Peter wrote:
Kare wrote:How did other monks react to this? Did some of them feel envy? Did some of them grasp the opportunity for revenge by inserting passages in the Mahaparinibbanasutta intending to blame Ananda for the death of the Buddha?

It is difficult to say for sure, ... :thinking: ... but my personal feeling is that these passages may be the result of editors having a chip on their shoulder against Ananda.

You do realize the suttas were not preserved by individuals but by large groups, right? What you suggest would have to be a large conspiracy to corrupt the suttas. Do you have any evidence to support such a suggestion? I must say to make such a charge against those who strove to preserve the teachings so that you may receive them, to make a charge completely unsupported, strikes me as both ridiculous and despicable.


You are of course fully entitled to laugh and despise, and to believe every word you find in a book.

The rest of us are entitled to heed the good advice of the Kalama Sutta.
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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby piotr » Tue Sep 08, 2009 8:29 am

Hi,

Manapa wrote:this links to what peter said also, why did Mahakasapa continue to practice the way he did? why do Arahants continue to meditate after ataining Nibbana?
as an example of the path, I believe it is said to be the reason!


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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Sep 08, 2009 2:08 pm

Kare wrote:You are of course fully entitled to laugh and despise, and to believe every word you find in a book.

The rest of us are entitled to heed the good advice of the Kalama Sutta.

I don't recall the Kalama Sutta advising us to make unsupported accusations against people. What I recall the Kalama Sutta advising is to put the teachings into practice and see for yourself if they are true. What that has to do with making up wild theories as to why the teachings might not be true I cannot fathom.

To put it another way...

Contrary to popular belief, the Kalama Sutta is not the Buddha saying "Feel free to reject any teaching you don't care for or don't understand."
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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby karuna_murti » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:03 pm

I know a translation, complete, and well translated, but in Indonesian :tongue:
Also I remember all Sammasambuddha have a tradition not to live equal to human lifespan at Their era. In our case, human lifespan is 100 years, which means Buddha Gotama already know He will parinibanna when He is 80 years old.
That makes an interesting case, either Buddhavamsa and it's commentaries is not accurate, or Mahaparinibanna is not accurate. As if Buddha playing drama against Ananda.
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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby Fede » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:44 pm

I dunno....It seems overly harsh to me that the Buddha would chastise his own cousin and attendant in such a manner....
How awful Ananda must have felt to be advised that simply because he never saw the signals, nor took any initiative, his pleas would therefore fall on deaf ears....

I can see how the passage is doubted as being authentic and direct...., because one of the Buddha's primary lessons (other than teaching suffering and the end of suffering) is Brahma-Vihara - the cultivation of Compassion (Karuna), Loving kindness (metta), equanimity ( upekkha) and sympathetic Joy (mudita).....

(see? I do listen....)

here, he sounds like an old grouch.....
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Re: Ananda's appeal to the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:50 pm

There are many suttas where he sounds like an old grouch. It's not unusual. Then again, we do not see his face nor hear his voice. As anyone who has spent a decent amount of time online will tell you, text often comes across harsher than live speech.
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