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Teachings of the Buddha: The Planes of Realization and Sariputta’s Lofty Utterance

by Bhikkhu Bodhi
November 29, 2013
Fri, 11/29/2013 - 09:30 -- bbodhi

We have come to our final selection in the Teaching of the Buddha blog series. In today's sutta, the Buddha challenges the Venerable Sāriputta’s “bellowing utterance” by asking him whether he fully knows the moral discipline, qualities (perhaps concentration), wisdom, meditative dwellings, and liberation of the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. To this the great disciple can only answer in the negative. But Sāriputta declares that he knows that all the Buddhas of the three periods of time attain perfect enlightenment by abandoning the five hindrances, by establishing their minds in the four establishments of mindfulness, and by developing correctly the seven factors of enlightenment.

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Nālandā in Pāvārika’s Mango Grove. Then the Venerable Sāriputta approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him:
    “Venerable sir, I have such confidence in the Blessed One that I believe there has not been nor ever will be nor exists at present another ascetic or brahmin more knowledgeable than the Blessed One with respect to enlightenment.”
    “Lofty indeed is this bellowing utterance of yours, Sāriputta, you have roared a definitive, categorical lion’s roar: ‘Venerable sir, I have such confidence in the Blessed One that I believe there has not been nor ever will be nor exists at present another ascetic or brahmin more knowledgeable than the Blessed One with respect to enlightenment.’ Have you now, Sāriputta, encompassed with your mind the minds of all the Arahants, the Perfectly Enlightened Ones, arisen in the past and known thus: ‘Those Blessed Ones were of such virtue, or of such qualities, or of such wisdom, or of such dwellings, or of such liberation’?”
    “No, venerable sir.”
    “Then, Sāriputta, have you encompassed with your mind the minds of all the Arahants, the Perfectly Enlightened Ones, who will arise in the future and known thus: ‘Those Blessed Ones will be of such virtue, or of such qualities, or of such wisdom, or of such dwellings, or of such liberation’?” [160]
    “No, venerable sir.”
    “Then, Sāriputta, have you encompassed with your mind my own mind—I being at present the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One—and known thus: ‘The Blessed One is of such virtue, or of such qualities, or of such wisdom, or of such dwellings, or of such liberation’?”
    “No, venerable sir.”
    “Sāriputta, when you do not have any knowledge encompassing the minds of the Arahants, the Perfectly Enlightened Ones of the past, the future, and the present, why do you utter this lofty, bellowing utterance and roar this definitive, categorical lion’s roar: ‘Venerable sir, I have such confidence in the Blessed One that I believe there has not been nor ever will be nor exists at present another ascetic or brahmin more knowledgeable than the Blessed One with respect to enlightenment’?”
    “I do not have, venerable sir, any knowledge encompassing the minds of the Arahants, the Perfectly Enlightened Ones of the past, the future, and the present, but still I have understood this by inference from the Dhamma. Suppose, venerable sir, a king had a frontier city with strong ramparts, walls, and arches, and with a single gate. The gatekeeper posted there would be wise, competent, and intelligent; one who keeps out strangers and admits acquaintances. While he is walking along the path that encircles the city he would not see a cleft or an opening in the walls even big enough for a cat to slip through. He might think: ‘Whatever large creatures enter or leave this city, all enter and leave through this one gate.’
    “So too, venerable sir, I have understood this by inference from the Dhamma: Whatever Arahants, Perfectly Enlightened Ones arose in the past, all those Blessed Ones had first abandoned the five hindrances, corruptions of the mind and weakeners of wisdom; and then, with their minds well established in the four establishments of mindfulness, [161] they had developed correctly the seven factors of enlightenment; and thereby they had awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment. And, venerable sir, whatever Arahants, Perfectly Enlightened Ones will arise in the future, all those Blessed Ones will first abandon the five hindrances, corruptions of the mind and weakeners of wisdom; and then, with their minds well established in the four establishments of mindfulness, they will develop correctly the seven factors of enlightenment; and thereby they will awaken to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment. And, venerable sir, the Blessed One, who is at present the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One, first abandoned the five hindrances, corruptions of the mind and weakeners of wisdom; and then, with his mind well established in the four establishments of mindfulness, he developed correctly the seven factors of enlightenment; and thereby he has awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment.”
    “Good, good, Sāriputta! Therefore, Sāriputta, you should repeat this Dhamma exposition frequently to the bhikkhus and the bhikkhunīs, to the male lay followers and the female lay followers. Even though some foolish people may have perplexity or uncertainty regarding the Tathāgata, when they hear this Dhamma exposition their perplexity or uncertainty regarding the Tathāgata will be abandoned.”

From SN 47

To read more from Satipaṭṭhānasaṃyutta, click here.

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