Sunday, October 17, 2010

Digsby, the Enlightened Lay follower

Wisdom Quarterly (abbreviated, modern translation)
The householder Jotika asks the Buddha to visit his son, Digsby, who is at home and gravely ill.

RAJAGAHA, (ancient) India - On one occasion the Buddha was living in the Bamboo Grove at the Squirrels' Sanctuary when the lay follower Digsby [actual name Dighavu, which means "long life"] was very sick. Digsby said to his father the householder Jotika:

"Householder, please go to the Buddha, venerate him with head and feet in my name, and say: 'Venerable sir, Digsby is home and gravely ill. He places his head at the Blessed One's feet.' Then add, 'It would be good if the Blessed One could visit him out of compassion.'"

His father replied, "Yes, dear" and went off to deliver the message.

The Buddha consented by his silence. And when he visited, he took a seat specially prepared for him, and said: "I hope you're bearing this illness well, Digsby, and getting better, that pains are subsiding not worsening, and that you can tell that you're improving."

"Venerable sir, " Digsby replied, "I am not."

"Therefore, Digsby, train in this way:

  1. 'I will have confirmed confidence [saddha, solid rather than blind faith, conviction, certainty, trust] in the teacher,
  2. the teaching, and
  3. the taught [Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha].
  4. I will observe the virtues dear to the noble ones [sila], unbroken, unblemished, freeing, conducive to concentration, and praised by the wise.'

Train yourself thus."

"Venerable sir," Digsby proclaimed, "as to these Four Factors of Stream-entry, I already conform to them." [He had already made the break through to the first stage of enlightenment.]

"Therefore, Digsby, build on this foundation, on these Four Factors of Stream-entry, with things that partake of true knowledge:

  1. Dwell contemplating impermanence in all formations [all things whose existence depends on conditions],
  2. perceiving as unsatisfactory all impermanent things,
  3. perceiving as impersonal all things that are unsatisfactory,
  4. perceiving abandonment,
  5. perceiving [dispassion],
  6. perceiving cessation.*

Train yourself thus."

"Venerable sir," Digsby proclaimed, "as to these six, I also already conform to them. However, I hope that after I pass away my father will not be distressed."

"Do not be concerned, dear Digsby. Come now, dear Digsby, heed what the Blessed One is saying to you," [they] said to him.

After the exhortation, the Buddha rose from his seat and departed, and soon after Digsby died.

Then some monks came to inform the Buddha of Digsby's passing and to ask, "Where has he gone, where has he been reborn?"

"Digsby was wise," the Buddha explained, "for he practiced in conformity with the Dharma and did not trouble me by practicing accordingly. He destroyed the five lower fetters [which is another way of saying he became a non-returner, which would mean he would be reborn in the Pure Abodes] and is due to attain nirvana without returning to this world" (SN 55:3; V 344-46).

*According to Bhikkhu Bodhi (In the Buddha's Words, pg. 400), AV V 110 explains that the "perception of abandonment" is the removal of defiled thoughts, and at AV V 110-11, the "perception of dispassion" and the "perception of cessation" are both explained as reflections on the attributes of nirvana.

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