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Digha Nikaya

Dīgha Nikāya
28 Sampasādanīya Sutta
Inspiring Confidence

Arahant Sāriputta explains the qualities of the Supreme Buddha.

Table of Contents

Sāriputta Thero’s Lion’s Roar

This is how I heard. In those days, the Buddha was living in the city of Nālandā, in a mango park called Pāvārika. One day, Sāriputta went to the Buddha, bowed respectfully, sat down to one side, and said to him:

“Bhante, I have such confidence in the Buddha that I believe there’s no other teacher—whether past, future, or present—whose wisdom is superior to the Buddha when it comes to enlightenment.”

“Sāriputta, that’s a grand and dramatic statement. You’ve roared a definitive, categorical lion’s roar, saying: ‘I have such confidence in the Buddha that I believe there’s no other teacher—whether past, future, or present—whose wisdom is superior to the Buddha when it comes to enlightenment.’

“Sāriputta, what about all the fully enlightened Buddhas who lived in the past? Have you comprehended their minds to know that those Buddhas had such virtue, or such qualities, or such wisdom, or such meditation, or such liberation?”

“No, Bhante.”

“And what about all the fully enlightened Buddhas who will live in the future? Have you comprehended their minds to know that those Buddhas will have such virtue, or such qualities, or such wisdom, or such meditation, or such liberation?”

“No, Bhante.”

“And what about me, the fully enlightened Buddha at present? Have you comprehended my mind to know that I have such virtue, or such qualities, or such wisdom, or such meditation, or such liberation?”

“No, Bhante.”

“Well then, Sāriputta, given that you don’t comprehend the minds of Buddhas in the past, future, or present, how did you make such a grand and dramatic statement, roaring such a definitive, categorical lion’s roar?”

“Bhante, though I don’t comprehend the minds of Buddhas in the past, future, and present, still I understand this by inference from the Dhamma. Suppose there were a king’s capital city with a strong wall built around it, with a patrol path and a single gate. It also has a gatekeeper who is wise, experienced, and clever. He keeps strangers out and lets known people in. As he walks around the patrol path, he doesn’t see a hole or crack in the wall, not even one big enough for a cat to slip out. He’d think, ‘Whatever sizable creatures enter or leave the city, all of them do so via this gate.’

“In the same way, Bhante, I understand this by inference from the Dhamma: ‘All the fully enlightened Buddhas—whether in the past, future, or present—abandoned the five hindrances, corruptions of the mind that weaken wisdom. Their mind is firmly established in the four establishments of mindfulness. They correctly develop the seven awakening factors. As a result they attain to the supreme enlightenment.’

“Bhante, once I approached the Buddha to listen to the Dhamma. The Blessed One explained the Dhamma with its higher and higher stages, with its better and better stages, with its dark and bright sides in terms of wholesome and unwholesome qualities. When I understood certain teachings of that Dhamma, I came to a conclusion about the Dhamma. I had confidence in the Blessed One: ‘The Blessed One is a fully enlightened Buddha. The Dhamma is well explained by the Buddha. The community of monks is following the purest path.’

1. Teaching Wholesome Qualities

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches wholesome qualities is unsurpassable. This consists of wholesome qualities such as the four establishments of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four bases of psychic power, the five spiritual faculties, the five spiritual powers, the seven awakening factors, and the Noble Eightfold Path. By these, a monk realizes the undefiled liberation of the mind and liberation by wisdom in this very life. And he lives having realized it with his own insight due to the destruction of defilements. Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to wholesome qualities. The Buddha understands this without exception. There is nothing to be understood beyond this, whereby another teacher might be superior in wisdom to the Buddha when it comes to wholesome qualities.

2. Describing the Sense Faculties and Objects

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the description of the sense faculties and objects is unsurpassable. There are these six internal sense faculties and external objects: the eye and sights, the ear and sounds, the nose and smells, the tongue and tastes, the body and touches, and the mind and thoughts. Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to describing the sense faculties and objects. The Buddha understands this without exception. There is nothing to be understood beyond this whereby another teacher might be superior in wisdom to the Buddha when it comes to describing the sense faculties and objects.

3. The Conception of the Embryo

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the conception of the embryo is unsurpassable. There are these four kinds of conception.

“Firstly, someone is unaware when conceived in their mother’s womb, unaware as they remain there, and unaware as they emerge. This is the first kind of conception.

“Furthermore, someone is aware when conceived in their mother’s womb, but unaware as they remain there, and unaware as they emerge. This is the second kind of conception.

“Furthermore, someone is aware when conceived in their mother’s womb, aware as they remain there, but unaware as they emerge. This is the third kind of conception.

“Furthermore, someone is aware when conceived in their mother’s womb, aware as they remain there, and aware as they emerge. This is the fourth kind of conception.

“Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to the conception of the embryo.

4. Ways of Revealing Someone else’s Thoughts

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the different ways of revealing someone else’s thoughts is unsurpassable. There are these four ways of revealing someone else’s thoughts.

“Firstly, a person reveals someone else’s thoughts by means of a physical sign, ‘This is what you’re thinking, such is your thought, and thus is your state of mind.’ When he reveals somebody’s thoughts in this way many times, it turns out exactly so, not otherwise. This is the first way of revealing someone else’s thoughts.

“Furthermore, a person reveals someone else’s thoughts after hearing it from humans or non-humans or deities, ‘This is what you’re thinking, such is your thought, and this is your state of mind.’ When he reveals somebody’s thoughts in this way many times, it turns out exactly so, not otherwise. This is the second way of revealing someone else’s thoughts.

“Furthermore, a person reveals someone else’s thoughts by hearing the sound of the thoughts spreading as someone thinks and considers, ‘This is what you’re thinking, such is your thought, and thus is your state of mind.’ When he reveals somebody’s thoughts in this way many times, it turns out exactly so, not otherwise. This is the third way of revealing someone else’s thoughts.

“Furthermore, a person comprehends the mind of someone else who has attained the concentration that consists of placing the mind on a meditation object, and keeping the object connected. He understands, ‘Judging by the way this person’s intentions are directed, immediately after this mind state, he will have this thought.’ When he reveals somebody’s thoughts in this way many times, it turns out exactly so, not otherwise. This is the fourth way of revealing someone else’s thoughts.

“Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to the ways of revealing someone else’s thoughts.

5. Attainments of Vision

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the attainments of vision is unsurpassable. There are these four attainments of vision.

“Firstly, a meditator—by keen, resolute, committed, diligent effort, and right focus—attains a concentration of the mind where he examines his own body up from the soles of the feet and down from the tips of the hairs, wrapped in skin and full of many kinds of filth. ‘In this body there is head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, undigested food, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, snot, synovial fluid, and urine.’ This is the first attainment of vision.

“Furthermore, a meditator attains a concentration of the mind where he examines his own body up from the soles of the feet and down from the tips of the hairs, wrapped in skin and full of many kinds of filth. ‘In this body there is head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, undigested food, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, snot, synovial fluid, urine and goes beyond it. He examines a person’s bones with skin, flesh, and blood. This is the second attainment of vision.

“Furthermore, a meditator attains a concentration of the mind where he examines his own body up from the soles of the feet and down from the tips of the hairs, wrapped in skin and full of many kinds of filth. ‘In this body there is head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, undigested food, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, snot, synovial fluid, urine and goes beyond it. He understands a person’s stream of consciousness, unbroken on both sides, established in both this world and the next. This is the third attainment of vision.

“Furthermore, a meditator attains a concentration of the mind where he examines his own body up from the soles of the feet and down from the tips of the hairs, wrapped in skin and full of many kinds of filth. ‘In this body there is head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, undigested food, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, snot, synovial fluid, urine and goes beyond it. He understands a person’s stream of consciousness, unbroken on both sides, not established in either this world or the next. This is the fourth attainment of vision.

“Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to attainments of vision.

6. Descriptions of Individuals

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the description of individuals is unsurpassable. There are these seven individuals. The arahant liberated both ways (developing jhānas to the maximum level and insight to understand the Four Noble Truths), the arahant liberated by wisdom (developing the first four jhānas and insight to understand the Four Noble Truths), the personal witness, the person attained to view, the person freed by faith, the follower of the teachings by wisdom, the follower of the teachings by faith. Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to the description of individuals.

7. Kinds of Striving

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the kinds of striving is unsurpassable. There are these seven awakening factors: the awakening factor of mindfulness, the awakening factor of investigation, the awakening factor of energy, the awakening factor of rapture, the awakening factor of tranquility, the awakening factor of concentration, and the awakening factor of equanimity. Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to the kinds of striving.

8. Ways of Practice

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the ways of practice is unsurpassable.

  1. Painful practice with slow insight
  2. Painful practice with fast insight
  3. Pleasant practice with slow insight
  4. Pleasant practice with fast insight

“Of these, the painful practice with slow insight is said to be inferior both ways: because it’s painful and because it’s slow. The painful practice with fast insight is said to be inferior because it’s painful. The pleasant practice with slow insight is said to be inferior because it’s slow. But the pleasant practice with fast insight is said to be superior both ways: because it’s pleasant and because it’s fast.

“Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to the ways of practice.

9. Behaviour in Speech

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches behaviour in speech is unsurpassable. It’s when someone doesn’t use speech that’s connected with lying, or divisive, or backbiting, or aggressively trying to win. They speak only wise words in a valuable and timely manner. This is unsurpassable when it comes to behaviour in speech.

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches about the virtue of a person is unsurpassable. It’s when someone is honest and faithful. They don’t use deceit, flattery, hinting, or belittling, and they don’t use material possessions to pursue other material possessions. They guard the senses and eat in moderation. They’re fair, dedicated to meditation during day and night, tireless, energetic, and practise jhānas. They’re mindful, clever, keen on learning Dhamma, have a good memory, and wisdom. They’re not greedy for worldly pleasures. They are mindful and alert. Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to a person’s virtue.

10. Responsiveness to Instruction

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the different types of instruction is unsurpassable. There are these four types of instruction.

“The Buddha knows by investigating inside another individual: ‘By practicing as instructed this individual will, with the abandoning of three fetters, become a stream-enterer, not liable to be reborn in the lower worlds, and headed towards enlightenment.’ The Buddha knows by investigating inside another individual: ‘By practicing as instructed this individual will, with the abandoning of three fetters, and the weakening of greed, hatred, and delusion, become a once-returner. They will come back to this world only once more, and then make an end of suffering.’ The Buddha knows by investigating inside another individual: ‘By practicing as instructed this individual will, with the abandoning of the five lower fetters, be reborn spontaneously in the Suddhāvasā brahma world. They will attain final Nibbāna there, and will not return from that world.’ The Buddha knows by investigating inside another individual: ‘By practicing as instructed this individual will realize the undefiled liberation of the mind and liberation by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with their own insight due to the destruction of defilements.’

“Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to the different types of instruction.

11. The Knowledge and Liberation of Others

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the knowledge and liberation of other individuals is unsurpassable. The Buddha knows by investigating inside another individual: ‘With the abandoning of three fetters, they will become a stream-enterer, not liable to be reborn in the lower worlds, and headed towards enlightenment.’ The Buddha knows by investigating inside another individual: ‘By practicing as instructed this individual will, with the abandoning of three fetters, and the weakening of greed, hatred, and delusion, become a once-returner. They will come back to this world only once more, and then make an end of suffering.’ The Buddha knows by investigating inside another individual: ‘By practicing as instructed this individual will, with the abandoning of the five lower fetters, be reborn spontaneously in the Suddhāvasā brahma world. They will attain final Nibbāna there, and are not liable to return from that world.’ The Buddha knows by investigating inside another individual: ‘By practicing as instructed this individual will realize the undefiled liberation of the mind and liberation by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with their own insight due to the destruction of defilements.’ Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to the knowledge and liberation of other individuals.

12. Eternalism

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches eternalist doctrines is unsurpassable. There are these three eternalist doctrines.

“Firstly, a certain meditator—by keen, resolute, committed, and diligent effort, and right focus—experiences a concentration of the mind of where he recollects many hundreds of thousands of past lives, with features and details. He says, ‘I know that in the past the world got destroyed and formed again. I know that in the future the world will get destroyed and form again. The self and the world are eternal, everlasting, steady as a mountain peak, standing firm like a pillar. They remain unchanging for all eternity, while these same beings wander from birth to birth: passing away and being reborn.’ This is the first eternalist doctrine.

“Furthermore, a certain meditator —by keen, resolute, committed, and diligent effort, and right focus—experiences a concentration of the mind where he recollects his past lives for as many as ten eons of the destruction and formation of the world, with features and details. He says, ‘I know that in the past the world got destroyed and formed again. I know that in the future the world will get destroyed and form again. The self and the world are eternal, everlasting, steady as a mountain peak, standing firm like a pillar. They remain unchanging for all eternity, while these same beings wander from birth to birth: passing away and being reborn.’ This is the second eternalist doctrine.

“Furthermore, a certain meditator —by keen, resolute, committed, and diligent effort, and right focus—experiences a concentration of the mind where he recollects his past lives for as many as forty eons of the destruction and formation of the world, with features and details. He says, ‘I know that in the past the world got destroyed and formed again. I know that in the future, the world will get destroyed and form again. The self and the world are eternal, everlasting, steady as a mountain peak, standing firm like a pillar. They remain unchanging for all eternity, while these same beings wander: passing away and being reborn.’ This is the third eternalist doctrine.

“Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to eternalist doctrines.

13. Recollecting Past Lives

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the knowledge of recollecting past lives is unsurpassable. It’s when a certain meditator—by keen, resolute, committed, and diligent effort, and right focus—experiences a concentration of the mind where he recollects his many of his past lives. That is: one, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand rebirths; many eons of the world destruction, many eons of the world formation, many eons of the world formation and destruction. He remembers: ‘There, I was named this, my clan was that, I looked like this, and that was my food. This was how I felt pleasure and pain, and that was how my life ended. When I passed away from that place I was reborn somewhere else. There, too, I was named this, my clan was that, I looked like this, and that was my food. This was how I felt pleasure and pain, and that was how my life ended. When I passed away from that place I was reborn here.’ And so he recollects many kinds of past lives, with features and details. Bhante, there are gods whose life span cannot be reckoned or calculated. Still, no matter what realm they have been reborn in—whether form or formless or percipient or non-percipient or neither percipient nor non-percipient—he recollects many of his past lives, with features and details. Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to the knowledge of recollecting past lives.

14. Death and Rebirth

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches the knowledge of the death and rebirth of beings is unsurpassable. It’s when a certain meditator—by keen, resolute, committed, and diligent effort, and right focus—experiences a concentration of the mind and gains a divine eye that is purified and superhuman. He sees beings passing away and being reborn —low and high, beautiful and ugly, in a good world or a bad world. He understands how beings are reborn according to their kamma: ‘These beings did bad things by body, speech, and mind. They spoke ill of the noble ones; they had wrong view; and they chose to act out of that wrong view. After death, they’re reborn in hell. These beings, however, did good things by body, speech, and mind. They never spoke ill of the noble ones; they had right view; and they chose to act out of that right view. After death, they’re reborn in a good world, a heavenly realm.’ And so, with the divine eye that is purified and superhuman, they see beings passing away and being reborn—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, in a good world or a bad world. They understand how beings are reborn according to their deeds. This is unsurpassable when it comes to the knowledge of death and rebirth.

15. Psychic Powers

“And moreover, Bhante, how the Buddha teaches psychic power is unsurpassable. There are these two kinds of psychic power. There are psychic powers that are accompanied by defilements and attachments, and are said to be ignoble. And there are psychic powers that are free of defilements and attachments, and are said to be noble. What are the psychic powers that are accompanied by defilements and attachments, and are said to be ignoble? It’s when a certain meditator—by keen, resolute, committed, and diligent effort, and right focus—experiences a concentration of the mind they gain many kinds of psychic powers: multiplying themselves and becoming one again; going unobstructed through a wall, or a mountain as if through space; diving in and out of the earth as if it were water; walking on water as if it were land; flying cross-legged through the sky like a bird; touching and stroking the sun and moon with one’s hands, so mighty and powerful; controlling the body as far as the Brahma world. These are the psychic powers that are accompanied by defilements and attachments, and are said to be ignoble.

“But what are the psychic powers that are free of defilements and attachments, and are said to be noble? It’s when, if a monk wishes: ‘May I meditate perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive,’ that’s what he does. If he wishes: ‘May I meditate perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive,’ that’s what he does. If he wishes: ‘May I meditate perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ that’s what he does. If he wishes: ‘May I meditate perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive and the repulsive,’ that’s what he does. If he wishes: ‘May I meditate staying equanimous, mindful and aware, rejecting both the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ that’s what he does. These are the psychic powers that are free of defilements and attachments, and are said to be noble. Bhante, this is unsurpassable when it comes to psychics. The Buddha understands this without exception. There is nothing to be understood beyond this whereby another ascetic or brahmin might be superior in direct knowledge to the Buddha when it comes to psychic powers.

16. The Four Jhānas

“The Buddha has achieved what should be achieved by a faithful person by being energetic and strong, by manly strength, energy, vigor, and exertion. The Buddha doesn’t indulge in worldly pleasures, which are low, coarse, ordinary, ignoble, and unbeneficial. And he doesn’t indulge in self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, and unbeneficial. He gets the four jhānas—happy meditation in the present life that belongs to the higher mind—when he wants, without trouble or difficulty.

17. On Being Questioned

“Bhante, if others were to ask me, ‘Reverend Sāriputta, is there any other teacher—whether in the past, future, or present—whose wisdom is superior to the Buddha when it comes to enlightenment?’ I would tell them ‘No.’

“But if they were to ask me, ‘Reverend Sāriputta, is there any other teacher—whether in the past or future—whose wisdom is equal to the Buddha when it comes to enlightenment?’ I would tell them ‘Yes.’ But if they were to ask: ‘Reverend Sāriputta, is there any other teacher at present whose wisdom is equal to the Buddha when it comes to enlightenment?’ I would tell them ‘No.’

“But if they were to ask me, ‘But why does Venerable Sāriputta grant this in respect of some but not others?’ I would answer them like this, ‘Reverends, I have heard and learned this from the Buddha: “The fully enlightened Buddhas of the past and the future are equal to myself when it comes to enlightenment.” And I have also heard and learned this from the Buddha: “It’s impossible for two fully enlightened Buddhas to appear in the same solar system at the same time.”’

“Answering this way, I trust that I repeated what the Buddha has said, and didn’t misrepresent him with an untruth. I trust my explanation was in line with the Dhamma, and that there are no legitimate grounds for rebuke or criticism.”

“Indeed, Sāriputta, in answering this way you repeat what I’ve said, and don’t misrepresent me with an untruth. Your explanation is in line with the Dhamma, and there are no legitimate grounds for rebuke or criticism.”

Incredible and Amazing

When the Buddha had spoken, Venerable Udāyī who was sitting in that assembly said to the Buddha, “It’s incredible, Bhante, it’s amazing! The Buddha has so few wishes, such contentment, such detachment! Even though the Buddha has such power and might, he will not show off himself. If the students of other teachers were to see even a single one of these qualities in themselves they’d carry around a banner to show off to that effect. It’s incredible, Bhante, it’s amazing! The Buddha has so few wishes, such contentment, such detachment! Even though the Buddha has such power and might, he will not show off himself.”

The Buddha replied, “See, Udāyī, how the Buddha has so few wishes, such contentment, such detachment! Even though the Buddha has such power and might, he will not show off himself. If the students of other teachers were to see even a single one of these qualities in themselves they’d carry around a banner to show off to that effect. See Udāyī, the Buddha has so few wishes, such contentment, such detachment! Even though the Buddha has such power and might, he will not show off himself.”

Then the Buddha said to Venerable Sāriputta, “So Sāriputta, you should frequently teach this description of the Dhamma to the monks, nuns, male lay followers, and female lay followers. Though there will be some foolish people who have doubt or uncertainty regarding the Buddha, when they hear this description of the Dhamma they’ll give up that doubt or uncertainty.”

That’s how Venerable Sāriputta declared his confidence to the Buddha. And that’s why the name of this discourse is “Inspiring Confidence”.

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Dīgha Nikāya 28 Sampasādanīya Sutta: Inspiring Confidence

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