The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

The Teachings of the Buddha: Approaching the Dhamma and “The Inquirer”

by Bhikkhu Bodhi
October 9, 2013
Wed, 10/09/2013 - 10:30 -- bbodhi

Today’s selection comes from the Vīmasaka Sutta.  In it the Buddha lays down guidelines by which a monk can test “the Tathāgata,” that is, the Buddha, to evaluate his claim to be perfectly enlightened. One benchmark of perfect enlightenment is freedom of the mind from all defilements. If a monk cannot directly see into the Buddha’s own mind, he can nevertheless rely on indirect evidence to ascertain that the Buddha is freed from defilements; that is, by evaluating the Buddha’s bodily deeds and speech he can infer that the Buddha’s mental states are exclusively pure, uninfluenced by greed, hatred, and delusion. In addition to such observational inference, the Buddha further encourages the monk to approach him and directly inquire about his mental states.

Thus I have heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s  Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. There he addressed the bhikkhus thus:

“Bhikkhus.”—“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Blessed One said this:

“Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who is an inquirer, not knowing how to gauge another’s mind, should make an investigation of the Tathāgata in order to find out whether or not he is fully enlightened.”

“Venerable sir, our teachings are rooted in the Blessed One, guided by the Blessed One, have the Blessed One as their resort. It would be good if the Blessed One would explain the meaning of these words. Having heard it from the Blessed One, the bhikkhus will remember it.”

“Then listen, bhikkhus, and attend closely to what I shall say.”

“Yes, venerable sir,” the bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:

“Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who is an inquirer, not knowing how to gauge another’s mind, should investigate the Tathāgata with respect to two kinds of states, states cognizable through the eye and through the ear thus: ‘Are there found in the Tathāgata or not any defiled states cognizable through the eye or through the ear? When he investigates him, he comes to know: ‘No defiled states cognizable through the eye or through the ear are found in the Tathāgata.’

“When he comes to know this, he investigates him further thus: ‘Are there found in the Tathāgata or not any mixed states cognizable through the eye or through the ear? When he investigates him, he comes to know: ‘No mixed states cognizable through the eye or through the ear are found in the Tathāgata.’

“When he comes to know this, he investigates him further thus: ‘Are there found in the Tathāgata or not cleansed states cognizable through the eye or through the ear?’ When he investigates him, he comes to know: ‘Cleansed states cognizable through the eye or through the ear are found in the Tathāgata.’

“When he comes to know this, he investigates him further thus: ‘Has this venerable one attained this wholesome state over a long time or did he attain it recently?’ When he investigates him, he comes to know: ‘This venerable one has attained this wholesome state over a long time; he did not attain it only recently.’

“When he comes to know this, he investigates him further thus: ‘Has this venerable one acquired renown and attained fame, so that the dangers [connected with renown and fame] are found in him?’ For, bhikkhus, as long as a bhikkhu has not acquired renown and attained fame, the dangers [connected with renown and fame] are not found in him; but when he has acquired renown and attained fame, those dangers are found in him. When he investigates him, he comes to know: ‘This venerable one has acquired renown and attained fame, but the dangers [connected with renown and fame] are not found in him.’

From ML 47.

To read more from “The Inquirer,” click here.

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