Monday, June 24, 2013

What the Buddhist saint said to the king (Poson)

Dhr. Seven and Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly translation, Dharma Vijaya Vihara (Cula-hatthipadopama Sutta: Shorter Elephant Footprint Simile, MN 27)
Adam's Peak, the highest point on the Buddhist island of Sri Lanka (
Mahintale (
PART 1: The Buddhist saint (arhat, fully enlightened) Mahinda, son of Emperor Asoka of India, ventured with his saint sister Sanghamitta to the island of Lanka. There he met the king and delivered a discourse based on The Shorter Elephant Footprint Simile. So moved was the king that he and the people of the island converted to Buddhism. This took place on Poson more than 2,000 years ago, the full moon observance day in June.
Thus have I heard. Once the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta's Grove in Anathapindika's abbey.
Now at that time, the Brahmin Janussonin was driving out of Savatthi in the middle of the day in a white chariot. He saw Pilotika the wanderer coming from afar and on meeting him said:
"Now where is Master Vacchayana [his clan name] coming from in the middle of the day?"
"Sir, I have come here from the presence of the recluse (wandering ascetic) Gotama [Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha]."
"And what does a wise person think about the recluse Gotama's wisdom?"
"Sir, who am I to know the recluse Gotama's wisdom? Wouldn't one have to be his equal to know his wisdom?"
"Master Vacchayana praises the recluse Gotama lavishly indeed!"
Visiting a modern wonder - Lions's Rock, Sigiriya (NH53/
"Sir, who am I to praise the recluse Gotama? He is praised by the praised as the best of beings, both human and deva."
"Seeing what reasons does Master Vacchayana have such high confidence in the recluse Gotama?"
"Sir, suppose an elephant tracker were to enter an elephant forest and see there a large footprint, long in extent, broad in width. That tracker would come to the conclusion, 'What a big bull elephant!'

"In the same way, when I saw four footprints of the recluse Gotama, I came to the conclusion: 'The Blessed One is truly awakened, the Dharma is well-taught by the Blessed One, the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples is practicing in a good way.' What are the four?
Lion's Rock fort, Sigiriya, a former Buddhist hermitage (

"In one case I see noble warriors (kshatriyas) who are pundits, subtle, skilled in debate, like hair-splitting marksmen. They prowl about, as it were, shooting philosophical positions to pieces with their dialectic. They hear:

"'The recluse Gotama, they say, will visit that village or town.' They formulate a question like, 'Having gone to the recluse Gotama, we will ask him this question of ours. If, having been asked like this, he answers like that, we will refute his teaching this way. If having been asked like that, he answers like this, we will refute his teaching this other way.'
"They hear, 'the recluse Gotama is visiting such and such village or town.' They go to him, and he instructs, urges, rouses, and encourages them with a talk on Dharma. Having been instructed, urged, roused, and encouraged by him with a talk on Dharma, they do not even ask him their question, so how could they refute him? As it turns out, they become his disciples.

"When I saw this first footprint in the recluse Gotama, I came to this conclusion: 'The Blessed One is fully self-awakened; the Dharma is well-taught by the Blessed One; the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples is practicing in a good way.'

I. First footprint: Clever, learned Brahmins visit the Buddha with the intention of refuting his Dharma (Teaching). But after they have been instructed, urged, roused, and encouraged they do not ask questions. They ask to become disciples.

II. Second footprint: Clever, learned householders (laypersons) visit the Buddha, are instructed, have no more questions, and ask to become disciples.

III. Third footprint: Clever, learned householders visit the Buddha and end up asking to become disciples.

IV. Fourth footprint: Clever, learned Brahmins go see the Buddha, end up having no more questions and instead ask to becomes disciples, the not long after -- by realizing the Dharma for themselves -- they become arhats (enlightened/liberated beings).

The Brahmin Janussoni then went to visit the Blessed One. With regard to the elephant's footprint, the Buddha told him that a wise person would follow the footprints and other markings left by the elephant until actually seeing that it was a big bull elephant.

What are the footprints of an intrepid Wayfarer (Tathagata) like the Buddha? The first footprint of the Tathagata is... CONTINUED IN PART II

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