Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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:reading:

The foremost of my laymen who donate nice things is the householder Ugga of Vesālī. -AN 1.253

This week is a scriptural profile of Ugga from the city of Vesālī, one of the more accomplished householders found in the suttas. The first selection, AN 8.21, is a description of his "eight astounding and amazing qualities"; here Ugga talks of the progressive discourse that first made him a sotāpanna, his undertaking of celibacy while married to four women, his interaction with deities, and his realization of non-returner, to name a few. The second, SN 35.124, we find Ugga questioning the Buddha as to why some realize full extinguishment in this life and some don't (perhaps alluding to his own situation of opting not to ordain and strive to become an arahant). The third and final, AN 5.44, we see an illustration of the sort of attitude that earned Ugga the title of "foremost who donates nice things"; here we also read of his passing. A giant among the lay followers of the time, perhaps there something about Ugga's path and attainments that can carry over to right here and now, and give householders the encouragement and keys they need to make serious strides in Dhamma.

Enjoy. :smile:
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📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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:reading:

Bhikkhus, having six qualities the householder Ugga of Vesālī is certain about the Realized One, see the deathless, and live having realized the deathless. What six? Experiential confidence in the Buddha, the teaching, and the Saṅgha, and noble ethics, knowledge, and freedom. Having these six qualities the lay follower Ugga is certain about the Realized One, sees the deathless, and lives having realized the deathless.”
-AN 6.125
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📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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:reading:

Aṅguttara Nikāya
Paṭhamauggasutta (Ugga) AN 8.21 (AN iv 208)
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi


  • On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesālī in the hall with the peaked roof in the Great Wood. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus: “Bhikkhus!”

    “Venerable sir!” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:

    “Bhikkhus, you should remember the householder Ugga of Vesālī as one who possesses eight astounding and amazing qualities.” This is what the Blessed One said. Having said this, the Fortunate One rose from his seat and entered his dwelling.

    Then, in the morning, a certain bhikkhu dressed, took his bowl and robe, and went to the residence of the householder Ugga of Vesālī. When he arrived, he sat down on the seat that was prepared for him. Then the householder Ugga of Vesālī approached that bhikkhu, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The bhikkhu then said to him:

    “Householder, the Blessed One declared that you possess eight astounding and amazing qualities. What are they?”

    “I don’t know, Bhante, what eight astounding and amazing qualities the Blessed One declared that I possess. However, there are found in me eight astounding and amazing qualities. Listen and attend closely. I will speak.”

    “Yes, householder,” the bhikkhu replied. The householder Ugga of Vesālī said this:

    (1) “When, Bhante, I first saw the Blessed One in the distance, as soon as I saw him my mind acquired confidence in him. This is the first astounding and amazing quality found in me.

    (2) “With a confident mind, I attended on the Blessed One. The Blessed One then gave me a progressive discourse, that is, a talk on giving, virtuous behavior, and heaven; he revealed the danger, degradation, and defilement of sensual pleasures and the benefit of renunciation. When the Blessed One knew that my mind was pliant, softened, rid of hindrances, uplifted, and confident, he revealed that Dhamma teaching special to the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. Then, just as a clean cloth rid of dark spots would readily absorb dye, so too, while I sat in that same seat, the dust-free, stainless Dhamma-eye arose in me: ‘Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.’ I saw the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma, understood the Dhamma, fathomed the Dhamma, crossed over doubt, got rid of bewilderment, attained self-confidence, and became independent of others in the teaching of the Teacher. Right there I went for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and undertook the training rules with celibacy as the fifth. This is the second astounding and amazing quality found in me.

    (3) “I had four young wives. I then went to them and said: ‘Sisters, I have undertaken the training rules with celibacy as the fifth. If you want, you can enjoy wealth right here and do merits, or go back to your own family circle, or inform me if you want me to give you over to another man.’ My eldest wife then said to me: ‘Young sir, give me to such and such a man.’ I sent for that man, and with my left hand I took my wife, with my right hand I took the ceremonial vase, and I gave her to that man. But even while giving away my young wife, I don’t recall that any alteration took place in my mind. This is the third astounding and amazing quality found in me.

    (4) “My family is wealthy but the wealth is shared unreservedly with virtuous people of good character. This is the fourth astounding and amazing quality found in me.

    (5) “Whenever I attend on a bhikkhu, I attend on him respectfully, not without respect. This is the fifth astounding and amazing quality found in me.

    (6) “If that venerable one teaches me the Dhamma, I listen to it respectfully, not without respect. If he doesn’t teach me the Dhamma, then I teach him the Dhamma. This is the sixth astounding and amazing quality found in me.

    (7) “It isn’t unusual for deities to come and report to me: ‘Householder, the Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed One.’ I then say to those deities: ‘Whether you say so or not, the Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed One.’ Still, I do not recall any mental exultation arising because deities come to me or because I converse with deities. This is the seventh astounding and amazing quality found in me.

    (8) “Of the five lower fetters taught by the Blessed One, I don’t see any that I haven’t abandoned. This is the eighth astounding and amazing quality found in me.
    “These, Bhante, are eight astounding and amazing qualities found in me. But I don’t know what eight astounding and amazing qualities the Blessed One declared that I possess.”

    Then that bhikkhu, having received almsfood at the residence of the householder Ugga of Vesālī, rose from his seat and departed. After his meal, on returning from his alms round, he approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and reported to him the entire conversation he had had with the householder Ugga of Vesālī.

    The Blessed One said: “Good, good, bhikkhu! I had declared that the householder Ugga of Vesālī possesses the same eight astounding and amazing qualities that he rightly explained to you. You should remember the householder Ugga of Vesālī as one who possesses these eight astounding and amazing qualities.”
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📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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:reading:

Saṁyutta Nikāya
Vesālīsutta (At Vesālī) SN 35.124 (SN iv 109)
Translated by Ven. Sujato


  • At one time the Buddha was staying near Vesālī, at the Great Wood, in the hall with the peaked roof. Then the householder Ugga of Vesālī went up to the Buddha, sat down to one side, and said to him:

    “What is the cause, sir, what is the reason why some sentient beings aren’t fully extinguished in the present life? What is the cause, sir, what is the reason why some sentient beings are fully extinguished in the present life?”

    “Householder, there are sights known by the eye that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. If a mendicant approves, welcomes, and keeps clinging to them, their consciousness relies on that and grasps it. A mendicant with grasping does not become extinguished.

    There are sounds … smells … tastes … touches … thoughts known by the mind that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. If a mendicant approves, welcomes, and keeps clinging to them, their consciousness relies on that and grasps it. A mendicant with grasping does not become extinguished.

    That’s the cause, that’s the reason why some sentient beings aren’t fully extinguished in the present life.

    There are sights known by the eye that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. If a mendicant doesn’t approve, welcome, and keep clinging to them, their consciousness doesn’t rely on that and grasp it. A mendicant free of grasping becomes extinguished.

    There are sounds … smells … tastes … touches … thoughts known by the mind that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. If a mendicant doesn’t approve, welcome, and keep clinging to them, their consciousness doesn’t rely on that and grasp it. A mendicant free of grasping becomes extinguished.

    That’s the cause, that’s the reason why some sentient beings are fully extinguished in the present life.”
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📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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:reading:

Aṅguttara Nikāya
Manāpadāyīsutta (The Giver of the Agreeable) AN 5.44 (AN iii 49)
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi


  • On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesālī in the hall with the peaked roof in the Great Wood. Then, in the morning, the Blessed One dressed, took his bowl and robe, and went to the residence of the householder Ugga of Vesālī, where he sat down in the appointed seat. Then the householder Ugga of Vesālī approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to the Blessed One:

    “Bhante, in the presence of the Blessed One I heard and learned this: ‘The giver of what is agreeable gains what is agreeable.’ Bhante, my sal flower porridge is agreeable. Let the Blessed One accept it from me, out of compassion.” The Blessed One accepted, out of compassion.

    “Bhante, in the presence of the Blessed One I heard and learned this: ‘The giver of what is agreeable gains what is agreeable.’ Bhante, my pork embellished with jujubes is agreeable. Let the Blessed One accept it from me, out of compassion.” The Blessed One accepted, out of compassion.

    “Bhante, in the presence of the Blessed One I heard and learned this: ‘The giver of what is agreeable gains what is agreeable.’ Bhante, my fried vegetable stalks are agreeable. Let the Blessed One accept them from me, out of compassion.” The Blessed One accepted, out of compassion.

    “Bhante, in the presence of the Blessed One I heard and learned this: ‘The giver of what is agreeable gains what is agreeable.’ Bhante, my boiled hill rice cleared of dark grains, accompanied by various sauces and condiments, is agreeable. Let the Blessed One accept it from me, out of compassion.” The Blessed One accepted, out of compassion.

    “Bhante, in the presence of the Blessed One I heard and learned this: ‘The giver of what is agreeable gains what is agreeable.’ Bhante, my cloths from Kāsi are agreeable. Let the Blessed One accept them from me, out of compassion.” The Blessed One accepted, out of compassion.

    “Bhante, in the presence of the Blessed One I heard and learned this: ‘The giver of what is agreeable gains what is agreeable.’ Bhante, my couch spread with rugs, blankets, and covers, with an excellent covering of antelope hide, with a canopy above and red bolsters at both ends, is agreeable. Although I know this is not allowable for the Blessed One, this sandalwood plank of mine is worth over a thousand. Let the Blessed One accept it from me, out of compassion.” The Blessed One accepted, out of compassion.

    Then the Blessed One expressed his appreciation to the householder Ugga of Vesālī thus:

    “The giver of the agreeable gains the agreeable,
    when he gives willingly to the upright ones
    clothing, bedding, food, and drink,
    and various kinds of requisites.

    “Having known the arahants to be like a field
    for what is relinquished and offered, not held back,
    the good person gives what is hard to give:
    the giver of agreeable things gains what is agreeable.”

    Then, after expressing his appreciation to the householder Ugga of Vesālī, the Blessed One rose from his seat and left. Then, some time later, the householder Ugga of Vesālī passed away. After his death, the householder Ugga of Vesālī was reborn among a certain group of mind-made deities. On that occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. Then, when the night had advanced, the young deva Ugga, of stunning beauty, illuminating the entire Jeta’s Grove, approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, and stood to one side. The Blessed One then said to him: “I hope, Ugga, that it is as you would have wished.”

    “Surely, Bhante, it is as I had wished.”

    Then the Blessed One addressed the young deva Ugga with verses:

    “The giver of the agreeable gains the agreeable;
    the giver of the foremost again gains the foremost;
    the giver of the excellent gains the excellent;
    the giver of the best reaches the best state.

    “The person who gives the best,
    the giver of the foremost,
    the giver of the excellent,
    is long-lived and famous
    wherever he is reborn.”
    • End Profile of Ugga of Vesālī
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📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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Thoughts?

  • The "progressive discourse" on "giving, virtuous behavior, and heaven; the danger, degradation, and defilement of sensual pleasures and the benefit of renunciation" spoken about in AN 8.21 (also found in: Ud 5.3, AN 8.22, AN 8.12, just to name a few), seems to exclusively result in the listener becoming a sotāpanna or higher.
  • What does everyone think about Ugga's decision to undertaking the practice of celibacy even though he had four young wives?
  • What about some of the other amazing qualities?
  • I wonder why he would find it necessary to even ask the questions in SN 35.124. If he was a non-returner at the time these events took place, he likely already knew the answer. Perhaps he was confirming his understanding of why he was not going to reach full extinguishment?
  • I think the ending of AN 5.44 is wonderful, but wonder why he wished for that state to be the last.

Looking forward to this week's discussion. :smile:
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Re: 📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

Post by Sam Vara »

Two brief points, the first one a question. Is there a difference between ethics and noble ethics (AN 6.125)? What would that look like in practical terms?

Like you, I think the ending of 5.44 is wonderful. There is a touching simplicity about hoping that something as significant as rebirth should be "as one would have wished"; a bit like asking someone whether their birthday present or treat was what they really wanted. And surely one for the Great Rebirth Thread! Ugga died (kalam akāsi, "made his time") and whatever it is that is reborn, the Buddha calls it "Ugga", and it retains memories of its previous life, including expectations of the current one...
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Re: 📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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SDC wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 1:48 am :reading:
Aṅguttara Nikāya
Paṭhamauggasutta (Ugga) AN 8.21 (AN iv 208)
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
  • ...
    “I don’t know, Bhante, what eight astounding and amazing qualities the Blessed One declared that I possess. However, there are found in me eight astounding and amazing qualities. Listen and attend closely. I will speak.”
    ...
Interesting that Ugga chooses different words for his relationship to these qualities than the Buddha used -- Ugga does not claim possession of the qualities -- they are just "found in me."
Perhaps a form of modesty; perhaps choosing to speak less conventionally; perhaps just a translation choice?
A relatively minor point, but things like this become apparent in study -- especially given a sensitivity to what Bhikkhu Bodhi has called "appropriation" of the aggregates, i.e., as "mine.".
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Re: 📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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SDC wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 1:48 am :reading:

Aṅguttara Nikāya
Paṭhamauggasutta (Ugga) AN 8.21 (AN iv 208)
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
  • (1) “When, Bhante, I first saw the Blessed One in the distance, as soon as I saw him my mind acquired confidence in him. This is the first astounding and amazing quality found in me.
It is even more "astounding and amazing" with the additional detail provided by Ugga in the very next sutta, where he is recounting the same qualities in a different location:
"I was carousing in the Naga Grove when I first saw the Blessed One in the distance. As soon as I saw him my mind acquired confidence in him and my drunkenness vanished." (emphasis added)
Those who grasp at perceptions & views wander the internet creating friction. [based on Sn4:9,v.847]
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Re: 📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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JohnK wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 11:27 pm
SDC wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 1:48 am :reading:

Aṅguttara Nikāya
Paṭhamauggasutta (Ugga) AN 8.21 (AN iv 208)
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
  • (1) “When, Bhante, I first saw the Blessed One in the distance, as soon as I saw him my mind acquired confidence in him. This is the first astounding and amazing quality found in me.
It is even more "astounding and amazing" with the additional detail provided by Ugga in the very next sutta, where he is recounting the same qualities in a different location:
"I was carousing in the Naga Grove when I first saw the Blessed One in the distance. As soon as I saw him my mind acquired confidence in him and my drunkenness vanished." (emphasis added)
Funny you should say that!

So AN 8.22 is an account of Ugga of Hatthigāma. According to some of BBs notes from AN 8.21, our friend from Hatthigāma is a different Ugga, but their stories are some similar that it has led some to question whether or not they are about the same person. I tried to sneak that one by without explaining, but John had to go poking around! :D
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Re: 📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

Post by JohnK »

SDC wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 11:43 pm ...
So AN 8.22 is an account of Ugga of Hatthigāma. According to some of BBs notes from AN 8.21, our friend from Hatthigāma is a different Ugga, but their stories are some similar that it has led some to question whether or not they are about the same person. I tried to sneak that one by without explaining, but John had to go poking around! :D
Ah, I see you are right. I was reading too fast :reading: (see those eyes?) and thought it was just recounted again in a different location. :embarassed:
With that quick read, the only difference I saw in the sutta was the reference in quality 1 to carousing and drunkenness -- but now I have to read it more carefully to be sure of that (even the details about the wives seems the same, verbatim).
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Re: 📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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JohnK wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 11:56 pm
SDC wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 11:43 pm ...
So AN 8.22 is an account of Ugga of Hatthigāma. According to some of BBs notes from AN 8.21, our friend from Hatthigāma is a different Ugga, but their stories are some similar that it has led some to question whether or not they are about the same person. I tried to sneak that one by without explaining, but John had to go poking around! :D
Ah, I see you are right. I was reading too fast :reading: (see those eyes?) and thought it was just recounted again in a different location. :embarassed:
With that quick read, the only difference I saw in the sutta was the reference in quality 1 to carousing and drunkenness -- but now I have to read it more carefully to be sure of that (even the details about the wives seems the same, verbatim).
Seems likely they were the same person, but perhaps that’s just how it would go for any case of a lay anagami. Who knows?
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Re: 📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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SDC wrote: Mon Jun 07, 2021 12:53 am
JohnK wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 11:56 pm the only difference I saw in the sutta was the reference in quality 1 to carousing and drunkenness -- but now I have to read it more carefully to be sure of that (even the details about the wives seems the same, verbatim).
...
I know this is getting in the weeds, but I said I would check to see where there are differences in the two suttas - that is, the two suttas on the amazing qualities of Ugga (of Vesali and of Hatthigama).
Quaility #1 as mentioned above (drunkeness that vanished).
Quality #5 in the Ugga of Hatthigama sutta combines the previous sutta's qualities #4 and #5 -- so, he attends bhikkhus with respect AND listens with respect or teaches.
This combination allows an additional quaility as #6:
(6) “It isn’t unusual that when the Saṅgha has been invited by me for a meal, deities come and report to me: ‘That bhikkhu, householder, is liberated in both respects. That one is liberated by wisdom. That one is a body witness. That one is attained to view. That one is liberated by faith. That one is a Dhamma follower. That one is a faith follower. That one is virtuous, of good character. That one is immoral, of bad character.’ Still, when I am serving the Saṅgha, I do not recall thinking: ‘Let me give this one little, let me give that one a lot.’ Rather, I give with an equal mind. This is the sixth astounding and amazing quality found in me.
Quality #8 is worded differently but is just a different way of declaring himself to be a non-returner.
That's all I saw -- a bit off-topic, but I wanted to report back on what I said I would do.
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Re: 📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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"...When the Blessed One knew that my mind was pliant, softened, rid of hindrances, uplifted, and confident, he revealed that Dhamma teaching special to the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. Then, just as a clean cloth rid of dark spots would readily absorb dye, so too, while I sat in that same seat, the dust-free, stainless Dhamma-eye arose in me..." [emphasis added]
Just to say that I love this image of the clean cloth absorbing the Dhamma.
For me, it speaks to the value of retreats: hearing teachings (the dye) in a context of extended practice (cleaning the cloth).
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Re: 📍 Profile: Ugga of Vesālī (Week of June 6, 2021)

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Sam Vara wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 10:58 am Two brief points, the first one a question. Is there a difference between ethics and noble ethics (AN 6.125)? What would that look like in practical terms?
Sam, I missed this post earlier.

I think it would make sense to say that the puthujjana who is striving to be an ariya has - with some degree of confidence - taken a well-reasoned notion of virtue on faith. Indeed he can see that such behavior is beneficial in his everyday life, but whether or not it will lead him to sotāpatti remains unclear. That same virtue, it seems, would remain after the acquisition of right view, but instead of it just being a case of hopeful and dedicated emulation of his goal, that virtue is now known as directly corresponding to the direction of that view. It served as the basis and now it remains because it is the nature of it. I think this is why, beginning with sotāpanna, there are actions that it is not longer possible to carry out. Not sure if this clarifies anything.
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