Mar Ngok Summer Teaching 2022 Day 12
His Holiness explained that he would continue speaking on the second of the two accounts, as taught in the “Great Commentary on the Hundred Thousand Prajnaparamita” attributed to Nagarjuna. The teaching session began with an explanation of Ananda’s six offenses.
There are primarily ten different accounts of Ananda’s offenses:
- The five offenses according to the Theravada “Khandhaka”
- The six offenses according to the Mahīśāsaka “Five-Part Vinaya”
- The six offenses according to the Sarvāstivāda “Ten Recitations of the Vinaya”
- The seven offenses according to the Mahāsāṃghikā Vinaya
- The eight offenses according to the Mūlasarvāstivāda “Finer Points of Discipline”
- The six offenses according to the “Great Commentary on the Hundred Thousand” (similar to the Sarvāstivāda account apart from a different order)
- The seven offenses according to the Dharmaguptika “Four-Part Vinaya”
- The seven offenses according to the “Vinaya Matṛka”
- The seven offenses according to the “Sūtra of the Buddha’s Parinirvana”
- The nine offenses according to the “Sūtra of the Compilation of the Words Gathering Light”
He added that those stating that Ananda had six offenses differ slightly in text and order. Next, Karmapa presented a table of the different schools’ positions on Ananda’s offenses. On the first row was the vinaya text of each school; the second row was the person who questioned Ananda about his faults, most of which stated Mahakasyapa; the third row listed the offenses.
In the canon, there are different presentations of Ananda’s offenses, with the highest number being nine and the lowest being four. Karmapa elucidated that there are four common to all of them:
- Not asking the Buddha about what the minor precepts are.
- Requesting the Buddha for women to go forth.
- Not supplicating the Buddha to not pass into nirvana.
- Not offering the Buddha water when he asked for it. (The “Finer Points of Discipline” differs from other texts in saying he offered dirty water.)
Next, Karmapa began the presentation of Ananda’s offenses according to the “Great Commentary on the Hundred Thousand”, showing exquisite illustrations depicting each scene.
Mahakasyapa told Ananda, “You have committed offenses. Initially, the Buddha did not wish for women to go forth, but because you constantly requested him to, only then did the Buddha allow them to go forth. Therefore the Buddha’s true dharma was shortened by 500 years. That is an offense.”
Ananda replied, “The reason was because I felt tremendous compassion for Gautami. In addition, all the buddhas of the three times have four types of students and what reason would there be for our teacher to be the only one without?”
Next, Mahakasyapa said, “When the Buddha was near to passing into nirvana, becoming sick in an area near Kuśinagar, he folded his upper robe in four and lay down on it. He told you to bring him water, but you did not offer him any.”
“At that time,” Ananda replied, “there were five hundred horse-drawn carts crossing the river, making the water very dirty. It was not right to give that to the Buddha.”
Mahakasyapa explained, “Even if the water was dirty, the Buddha has the miraculous power to make even an ocean of dirty water clean. Why did you not offer him water? That is a fault, and you must confess your faults.”
Mahakasyapa said, “The Buddha said to you, ‘If an individual practices the four feet of miracles well, they can extend their life to an eon or close to that. The Buddha has achieved the Four Feet of Miracles and could extend his life to an eon or close to that.’ The Buddha said this three times, but you did not say anything. At that time you should have said, ‘The Buddha has achieved the ‘Four Feet of Miracles’, so it would be proper for you to remain an eon or close to that.’ But you did not, and thus Buddha passed into nirvana so early. This is your offense.”
Ananda replied, “The Maras had obscured my mind and I was not able to say anything. It is not that I harbored an ill intention and thus did not respond to the Buddha.”
Karmapa explained that Ananda fell under the control of the Maras as he was not an arhat at that time.
Then Mahakasyapa said, “When you were folding the Buddha’s outer robe (saṃghati), you stepped on it with your feet. That was an offense.”
Ananda explained, “At that time, a great wind had sprung up and there was no one else to help me hold the fabric. It was caught in the wind and slid under my foot. It was not that I lacked respect and intentionally stepped on the Buddha’s robes.”
Mahakasyapa said to Ananda, “After the Buddha passed away, you showed the Buddha’s fine mark of his genitals being hidden in a sheath to the women. That is a shameless way of acting. This is your fault.”
Ananda replied, “At that time, I thought to myself that if women were to see the Buddha’s fine mark, they would develop the wish to gain a male body, and to achieve the fine marks of a buddha. I did not transgress the precepts with a lack of shame.”
His Holiness remarked that there were supposed to be six offenses, but the sixth was not specified in the text. He speculated that perhaps the scribe had omitted it. Some scholars claim that the sixth offense is not asking about the minor precepts.
Mahakasyapa told Ananda, “When the Buddha was passing into nirvana, he said that the minor offenses could be relaxed. But you did not ask him to clarify what they were. Because of that, you made it all very complicated. This is a big offense of yours.”
Ananda replied, “I just forgot; it was not intentional.” Karmapa explained that some texts mention that the Buddha was ill and that was why Ananda did not ask.
After Mahakasyapa listed the six offenses of Ananda, he told him to go to confess them to the sangha. Ananda followed and then knelt, draped his robe over one shoulder, removed his shoes, and confessed his six offenses to the whole sangha. However, Karmapa explained, Mahakasyapa did not pardon him. In front of the entire sangha, Mahakasyapa took Ananda by the hand, pulled him outside, and said, “Do not return here until you have exhausted all your defilements.” He then kicked him out and closed the door behind him.
His Holiness pointed out that it was not easy to expel someone at that time. One was expelled for having a defeat of the major precepts of the bhikshus, but not for minor offenses. “If you looked at them, Ananda did not have such incredible offenses. But Mahakasyapa blamed him for them, and kicked him out of the building,” explained the Karmapa.
The Search for Other Masters
Moving on from the six offenses, Karmapa described a time when the arhats were discussing who was capable of compiling the basket of the Vinaya.
Elder Aniruddha suggested, “The late Shariputra was like a second buddha, and he had a good student—Gavampati. He is gentle in character, peaceful, and subdued. He always dwells in solitude, and his mind remains peaceful. He is well learned in the vinaya. He is presently at the Shirisha Tree Park in the realms of the gods. It would be good for us to send a messenger to invite him.”
Giving an introduction of Gavampati, His Holiness drew on the Tibetan translation of the Mūlasarvāstivāda “Finer Points of Discipline”:
In Shrāvasti, there was a brahmin who got a bull and then a cow. He then acquired another bull and began a herd, so the brahmin thought that the first bull he got was very auspicious and thus set it free. One day when the bull had grown old, it went to the riverside to drink water and became stuck in the mud, unable to free itself. Shariputra was passing by there on the road and wondered whether that bull had any roots of virtue. He saw that it did, and that it would depend on him to awaken its virtue. Thus, he pulled the bull from the mud, wiped it down with his hands, and spoke three lines of dharma: All composites are impermanent, all phenomena are selfless, and nirvana is peace. He told the bull, “Have faith in me, and you will be freed from desire for birth as an animal.” Shariputra then left. Afterwards, the bull passed away while embracing sincere faith in Shariputra. Subsequently, it was reborn as a son in a brahmin household in Shravasti. When he was born, he had a rather bovine appearance, so he was called Gavampati—the Master of Oxen.
Shariputra wondered what had happened to the bull and saw in samadhi meditation that it had passed away; he also saw it was reborn in Shravasti into the brahmin caste. He went repeatedly to the house and gave the brahmin and his wife refuge vows and the lay precepts. The child Gavampati was very happy when he saw Shariputra and would always stare at him. The brahmin saw this, and upon learning that Shariputra had no novice attending him, he offered the boy as an attendant. Gavampati then went off with Shariputra, who gave him the vows of going forth and full ordination. He gave him instructions, and Gavampati practiced diligently and achieved arhatship.
Karmapa pointed out that Gavampati was different from others. He was said to have two stomachs; like a cow, he would regurgitate his food into his mouth, chew it, and then swallow it into his second stomach in the afternoon. At first, the Buddha had not made the rule about not eating at inappropriate times; this regurgitation became a violation after the Buddha made this rule. “For most people, the food they have eaten would go to their stomach. But for Gavampati, he would have to regurgitate the food from his first stomach, chew it, and then swallow it again. Only then was he able to digest it. Thus, he was unable to eat and his health deteriorated. The Buddha saw this and made an exception for him,” explained Karmapa.
He added that in addition to this, Gavampati’s face was so bull-like that people criticized him, “Even frightening people who look like bulls are going forth. These are the scary people we are making offerings to.” As a result, the Buddha told Gavampati not to stay in the central regions but to go to a remote area. Gavampati listened and went to a place called Shirisha, which His Holiness indicated was likely a park in the realms of the gods.
Karmapa continued by explaining the reason for his ox-like appearance: He went forth in the distant past, at the time of the Buddha Kasyapa. His preceptor was an arhat who was old, weak, and unable to eat on his own. One time after the preceptor had eaten, he asked Gavampati’s previous incarnation to clean his alms bowl and return it. The elderly preceptor was slowly chewing his food all this time, and Gavampati in his previous incarnation got a little angry and said, “You eat so slowly, like an ox.” As a result, he spent five hundred births being reborn as a bull, and still looked like a bull when reborn as Gavampati.
Having shared the legend of Gavampati, His Holiness returned to the point that Aniruddha summoned Gavampati as he knew the vinaya well. Mahakasyapa then asked a bhikshu student to go as the sangha’s messenger: “The sangha would like you to go to the Shirisha park in the realms of the gods, where the arhat Gavampati lives.” The bhikshu agreed delightedly and asked, “Once I have come into the presence of the arhat Gavampati, what should I say?” Mahakasyapa answered, “Once you have arrived there, tell Gavampati, ‘Mahakasyapa and all the arhats who have extinguished the defilements have gathered in Jambudvipa and are commencing with a great dharma activity, so please come swiftly.’”
The student bhikshu then prostrated to the sangha, circumambulated the monks three times clockwise, and flew off into the sky like a garuda, to where Gavampati was dwelling. He prostrated to Gavampati and relayed the message.
Karmapa indicated that Gavampati became slightly suspicious and asked the bhikshu, “Are you calling me because a dispute has broken out in the sangha? Or has there been a schism in the sangha? Or has the Buddha passed into parinirvana?”
The bhikshu replied, “As you said, the Teacher, the Buddha, has passed into nirvana.”
“The Buddha passed into nirvana far too soon,” said Gavampati. “The eye of the world has been blinded. Where is my preceptor Shariputra, who is able to turn the wheel of true dharma like the Buddha?”
“He has also passed into nirvana,” replied the bhikshu.
“What can be done if those great beings have passed into nirvana? Where is Maudgalyayana presently?”
“He has also passed into nirvana.”
Gavampati said, “The teachings are about to disappear. The great beings have departed. Poor sentient beings!” Then Gavampati asked, “Where is the elder Ananda?”
The bhikshu replied, “After the Buddha passed into nirvana, the elder Ananda has grieved heavily, crying and shedding tears. He is left dumbfounded and unable to control himself anymore.”
Gavampati said, “Ananda has not abandoned the afflictions, and still feels the sorrow of parting. Where is Rahula?”
In response, “Rahula has achieved arhatship, so he does not grieve or feel sorrow, but he just sits there always pondering how all phenomena are impermanent by nature.”
Gavampati then said, “My preceptor Shariputra and my teacher Shakyamuni have passed away, so there is no point for me to remain in the Shirisha grove. I will pass into nirvana right here.”
Karmapa vividly described that having said this, Gavampati then entered samadhi, and his body levitated into the sky and radiated many light rays. He displayed many miracles such as water and fire coming from his body, and touching the sun and moon with his hands. Finally, fire sprang from his heart and enveloped his body. Four streams of water also flowed out of his body, arriving where Mahakasyapa was. The sound of this verse came from the water:
I Gavampati prostrate with respect
To the great elder, foremost in the sangha.
I’ve heard the Buddha has passed, and I shall follow,
Just as an elephant calf follows the elephants.
His Holiness explained that just as elephant calves follow the elephants, Gavampati was passing away just like the Buddha had done. As a result, he was unable to be present for the compilation.
His Holiness resumed after the intermission by pointing out that the Mūlasarvāstivāda “Finer Points” specified that it was Purṇa who was sent to summon Gavampati. It also described clearly that he subsequently returned with Gavampati’s dharma robes and alms bowl to offer to the sangha and Mahakasyapa. Karmapa added that in the “Great Commentary on the Hundred Thousand”, the bhikshu was said to have offered those objects only to the sangha.
According to the “Finer Points”, after Gavampati heard that the Buddha had passed into nirvana, he said to Purṇa, “I offer my alms bowl and three dharma robes to the sangha. I will pass into peace, so please ask the sangha to forgive me.” After displaying the aforementioned miracles, he then passed into nirvana. Purṇa took Gavampati’s relics, alms bowl, and dharma robes and returned to Mahakasyapa and the other elders.
Ananda Achieves the Result
Karmapa continued with the account recorded in the “Great Commentary”. During that time, when the sangha was inviting Gavampati to attend, he commented that Ananda analyzed the nature of all phenomena and sought to become free of the defilements. At night he would meditate on dhyana and do walking meditation; he strove hard to achieve the result. “However, even though Ananda had great prajna, he was weak in stability during shamatha meditation, so he did not immediately achieve the result,” explained Karmapa. “He did not have much time to practice dhyana meditation when he was serving the Buddha, and he was always in the midst of many different diversions and distractions. This created some difficulties for him.”
Having practiced dhyana meditation diligently until after midnight, Ananda felt exhausted and decided to take some rest. Just before his head touched the pillow, he became free of obscurations and gained realization. Karmapa said, “It was like when a bolt of lightning flashes at night, you can see everything around you clearly.” In an instant, Ananda achieved the noble state, manifested the path, entered the vajra-like samadhi, crushed the mountains of the afflictions, and achieved the three knowledges, the six clairvoyances, the quality of liberation, and the powerful state of arhatship.
That very night, Karmapa continued, Ananda went to the place where the sangha was staying, and knocked on the door as he called “Mahakasyapa”.
Mahakasyapa said, “Who is knocking at the door?” In response, he said, “It is me, Ananda.”
Mahakasyapa asked, “Why have you come here?”
“On this night, I have achieved the undefiled, the state of arhatship,” replied Ananda.
“I am not opening the door for you,” Mahakasyapa said. “You have to come in through the keyhole.”
“Fine,” said Ananda, and he entered through the keyhole in the door, prostrated at the feet of Mahakasyapa, and said, “Mahakasyapa, please do not criticize me anymore.”
Mahakasyapa stroked Ananda’s head and said, “The reason why I have acted so to you is that I thought you should achieve the result. Just as you feel no antipathy for and hold no grudge against me, I am the same for you. Now you have developed realization. Just as when you draw in the air with your arm, there is nothing to stop it; the mind of an arhat likewise has no attachment or clinging to any phenomenon. Now you can return to where you were staying.”
Karmapa then offered a slightly different account of Ananda achieving realization, based on the “Precious Grove of Dharma” which cites a passage from the “Sūtra of the Bodhisattva Entering the Womb”:
At that time, Mahakasyapa had gathered the sangha, and said to Upali, “You should lead everyone in reciting Ananda’s offenses.” Then Upalidid as he was told and recited Ananda’s various offenses. Ananda became upset and uncomfortable, thinking, “It has not been long since the Buddha has passed away, but now I am being embarrassed like this.” Right there, he began to contemplate the four noble truths, and at that time in the middle of the sangha, he achieved arhatship and was freed from all stains. All the arhats gathered praised him, and the gods praised him in song. In addition, the great earth quaked in six ways.
Ananda Recites the Sūtras
After Ananda had achieved the result, explained Karmapa, the sangha discussed who could compile the sūtras since Gavampati had passed into nirvana. Elder Aniruddha suggested that Ananda was suitable, as he was always serving the Buddha and was able to remember what the Buddha had said.
His Holiness recounted that prior to this, Mahakasyapa was always accusing Ananda but now he was really kind to him and rubbed his head. Mahakasyapa told him, “In the past, the Buddha told you to remember the sūtras, so now you must repay the Buddha’s kindness. What was the first place where the Buddha taught the dharma? The Buddha’s great disciples who were able to retain the sūtras have passed into nirvana. Now only you remain. Today, in accord with the Buddha’s intentions and out of love for sentient beings, you must compile the sūtras.”
Karmapa explained that at that time, Ananda prostrated to the sangha before sitting on the lion throne to begin the compilation of the sūtras.
According to the Mūlasarvāstivāda Finer Points of Discipline, a great lion throne for Ananda, five hundred arhats spread their robes on the throne, and Ananda sat on it. Karmapa explained, “Before Ananada sat on the throne, he looked at all four directions, and looked at all sentient beings with compassion. After he meditated on compassion, he felt this intention to encourage everyone to practice the dharma. With great respect for all the elder arhats, he first circumambulated the throne, and then prostrated to the throne and to those with more seniority. After this, he kept in mind the concept of impermanence and sat on the throne.”
He explained that for this reason, in the Kadampa tradition, one prostrates to the throne before sitting on it. “They say that this is the tradition of Ananda and the other arhats. This is to show the greatness of the dharma, because normally you are not allowed to sit on a high throne, but you do so when you are teaching the dharma. When you sit on the throne, it is not alright to think ‘I am really something,’ but to think that you are teaching the dharma. You don’t separate the dharma from yourself,” clarified Karmapa. When a person sits on the throne, it is as if the dharma is sitting on the throne. In addition, one views all phenomena as impermanent before sitting on the throne. Karmapa emphasized that this is another important point to know.
After Ananda sat on the throne, Mahakasyapa recited these verses:
The Buddha is the king of lions,
And Ananda is his son.
Seeing him sitting on the lion throne,
The Buddha is not here,
Thus in this noble assembly,
There is no splendor of the Victor,
Just as a moonless sky
May have stars but is not beautiful.
It is proper for you, the student,
To teach the words of him with great prajna.
Today, you should explain
Where the Buddha first taught dharma.
Karmapa then elaborated that the “Precious Grove of Dharma” gives a quotation from the “Sūtra of the Bodhisattva Entering the Womb” that provides a differing account:
Mahakasyapa had Ananda sit on a high throne made of the seven precious substances. Mahakasyapa said to him, “Recite the dharma taught by the Buddha without omitting even a single word or letter. Compile the basket of the bodhisattvas in one section, compile the basket of the śrāvakas s in another section, and compile the points of the vinaya in another section.”
Ananda then recited the sūtras: 1. the basket of entering the womb, 2. the basket of the bardo, 3. the basket of great equality, 4. the basket of the vinaya, 5. the basket of bodhisattvas on the ten levels, 6. various sūtras, 8. the sūtras of the Shakyas and so forth.
Karmapa added that when Ananda recited, “Thus did I hear. At one time, when the Buddha was staying at a certain place…” the faces of Mahakasyapa and the other arhats changed. He explained, “They had a strong feeling and shed tears. They saw that the nature of people is to age and die; they are like an illusion or a mirage. In earlier times, they would still be able see and hear the Buddha, but now what was left was ‘Thus have I heard’. They had a really strong feeling of impermanence.”
His Holiness then shared a slightly different account from the “Complete Chronicle of the Buddha and Patriarchs”:
Ananda’s appearance was similar to the Buddha’s, except that he was three inches shorter than the Buddha. When he sat on the dharma throne for the first time, people had three different confusions. Some felt that the teacher, the Buddha, had returned. Some felt that a different buddha came from another realm. Still others felt that Ananda had reached buddhahood. Only when Ananda said, “Thus have I heard,” were those delusions quelled. When Ananda compiled the sūtras, he would say, “When the Buddha first turned the wheel of dharma in the land of Varanasi, I did not hear the dharma myself, but I heard this from other people.”
The same text also mentioned:
In earlier accounts, it is said that Ananda had achieved the samadhi of the Buddha’s wisdom, so he was able hear all dharma himself.
Karmapa explained that through the power of samadhi, Ananda could actually hear any of the dharmas that the Buddha had taught. He gave an analogy, “These days if you want to listen to a song, you can search it on Google and it shows up immediately. Similarly, Ananda could hear any dharma by entering into samadhi. These are ‘the words transmitted by blessings’. For example, Avalokiteshvara was able to teach the “Heart Sūtra” because of the blessings of the Buddha.”
Returning to the account from the “Great Commentary on the Hundred Thousand”, Karmapa said that Ananda first joined his palms in the direction of the place where the Buddha passed into nirvana and spoke a verse, the meaning of which in prose is:
When the Buddha first turned the wheel of dharma, I was not present, but according to what I heard that was passed down from one person to another, the Buddha first opened the gateway to nectar-like dharma in Varanasi to the good group of five. He taught the dharma of the four truths, suffering, origin, cessation, and the path, and the all-knowing Kauṇḍinya and so forth were the first individuals to manifest the path, and eighty thousand gods achieved the result.
Karmapa described how, at that time, after the thousand arhats heard Ananda speak, they levitated seven palm trees high in the sky and said in unison, “The power of impermanence is extremely great. In the past, we would meet the Buddha and listen to the dharma. Now all we have left is, ‘Thus have I heard.’” Then they recited a few verses, and both Aniruddha and Mahakasyapa recited a few stanzas.
Afterwards, Mahakasyapa instructed Ananda to compile all the sūtras the Buddha taught from the Sūtra of the Wheel of Dharma to the Sūtra of the Great Parinirvana into the four Āgamas—the numerical discourses (Ekottara Āgama), the middle-length discourses (Madhyama Āgama), the long discourses (Dīrgha Āgama), and the connected discourses (Saṃyukta Āgama). The overall name given to them was the “basket of the sūtras.”
Karmapa concluded by saying that the next teaching will be about the compilation of the Vinaya and the account of the life of Upali, who recited it. In addition, he will also speak on the assertions of different contemporary scholars on how they view the First Council.