Superphysics Superphysics

Samaññaphala Sutra

2 minutes  • 323 words

This discourse is one of the masterpieces of the Pali canon.

It is a comprehensive portrait of the Buddhist path of training.

It is set in contrast to rival inflexible, party-line philosophical teachers of the time.

It shows how the Buddha presented his teaching in a way that was pertinent and sensitive to the needs of his listeners.

This larger portrait of the intellectual landscape of early Buddhist India is then presented with the sad story of King Ajatasattu.

Ajatasattu was the son of King Bimbisara of Magadha, one of the Buddha’s earliest followers.

Devadatta was the Buddha’s cousin who wanted to take over the Buddha’s position as head of the Sangha.

And so Devadatta asked for Ajatasattu’s support.

Ajatasattu arranged for his father’s death so that he could secure his own position on the throne.

As a result of this evil deed, he was destined to:

  • be killed by his own son — Udayibhadda
  • take immediate rebirth in one of the lowest regions of hell.

Ajatasattu visits the Buddha hoping to bring some peace to his own mind.

The question he puts to the Buddha shows the limited level of his own understanding, so the Buddha patiently describes the steps of the training, beginning at a very basic level and gradually moving up, as a way of raising the king’s spiritual horizons.

At the end of the talk, Ajatasattu takes refuge in the Triple Gem.

Although his earlier deeds were so heavy that this expression of faith could have only limited consequences in the immediate present, the Commentary assures us that the king’s story would ultimately have a happy ending.

After the Buddha’s death, he sponsored the First Council, at which a congress of arahant disciples produced the first standardized account of the Buddha’s teachings.

As a result of the merit coming from this deed, Ajatasattu is destined — after his release from hell — to attain Awakening as a Private Buddha.

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