Devadaha Sutta Talks

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Sariputta At Devadaha – Devadaha Sutta

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Introduction

For a complete understanding of what the Buddha actually taught, please read “Foundations Of The Buddha’s Dhamma” on https://becoming-buddha.com/. (Scroll down)

The Devadaha Sutta features one of the Buddha’s key disciples and Dhamma teachers through the Buddha’s 45-year teaching career. Here Sariputta is summoned by the Buddha to teach a group of sangha members who have decided to wander the countryside. Sariputta emphasizes the need to remain well-focused on the Dhamma as they encounter many enthusiastic but misinformed “spiritual seekers” along the way. Sariputta is primarily referring to prevalent Jain sects known as “Niganthas.”

Jainism has been historically seen as a similar “religion” to the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Jain religion and most spiritual philosophies of the Buddha’s time were based on the Vedas and Upanishads. Siddartha Gotama studied, mastered, and immediately rejected these as “painful distracting,” and “not leading to this goal” (of understanding and abandoning individual ignorance and individual contributions to individual and collective suffering.

This sutta and the wisdom maintained through Sariputta’s words reveal a common theme of the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha noticed the difficulty and confusion many of his students had by not keeping his Dhamma pure and unembellished. He noticed the common characteristic of minds rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths to crave for and cling to false views and those they have developed and attached them to his Dhamma.

The Buddha’s awakened to the understanding that it is from ignorance of Four Noble Truths as a requisite condition that encourages and supports fabricated views of self and the world. Fabricated and so lacking any substance, these views can only distract from reality and continuously disappoint. This subtle aspect of discontent is one aspect of Dukkha that continually compels the human mind to seek relief in countless ways.

Some will simply ignore seeking any understanding of self and the world, which is a common aspect of ignorance rooted in apathy and lethargy.

Others will use addictive and compulsive behaviors to avoid ongoing reality.

The primary strategy other than apathy used historically has been the establishment of religions and spiritual philosophies that incorporate some form of salvation form the disappointing discontent of ongoing ignorance.

It is this last that Sariputta is addressing here directly. He is stressing the importance of maintaining integrity and fidelity to the Dhamma if one hopes to continue with an effective Dharma. Sariputta teaches the group to be mindful of this aspect of Right Effort to maintain a calm and non-distracted quality of mind and remain disentangled from common and distracting human activities.

Grasping-after and clinging to any fabricated thought, word, or idea is the continuation if ignorance. Any thought that does not reflect the reality of Four Noble Truths is fabricated. This means that institutionalized reactions to ongoing confusion and discontent while intellectually and emotionally appealing can only continue ignorance.

This sutta is a particularly important sutta for those who wish to share or formally teach the Buddha’s Dhamma. Sariputta examples the authentic courage and clear understanding that supports and maintains Right Effort and fidelity to the Dhamma.

 

Sariputta At Devadaha – Devadaha Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 22:2

On one occasion, the Buddha was with the Sakyans (Siddhartha Georama’s clan) at Devadaha. At the time, a large number of disciples were headed to outlying areas. They went to the Buddha for his guidance. Upon arrival, they bowed in respect for their teacher and sat to one side.

“Great teacher, we want to go to an outlying area to take up residence.”

The Buddha responds: “Have you spoke with Sariputta?”

“No, we have not spoken with Sariputta.”

“Speak with Sariputta. Sariputta is wise and is a great help and support for those living a life well-integrated with the Eightfold Path.”

The group left to find Sariputta not far sitting under a cassia tree.

Upon arrival, they exchanged courteous greetings and sat to one side.

“Friend, Sariputta, We want to take up residence in an outlying area. We spoke with our Great Teacher, and he advised us to speak with you..”

Sariputta: “Friends, in foreign lands, there are Noble ones, brahmans, householders, and contemplatives. The wise ones will question you thusly:

  • Who is your teacher, and what does he teach?
  • Have you listened well to the teachings?
  • Have you grasped them well?
  • Have you attended to them well?
  • Have you considered them well?
  • Have you penetrated them well by means of discernment so that in answering, you will speak in line with what the Buddha has said?
  • Are you certain you will not misrepresent the Buddha’s Dhamma with what is fabricated and false?
  • Will you (always) answer in line with the Dhamma so that anyone whose thinking is in line with the Dhamma will have grounds for criticizing you?

“Friend, Sariputta, we would travel great distances to hear your explication of your words. It would be for our long-term benefit if you would teach us your meaning.”

“In that case, listen and pay close attention.

“Friends, in foreign lands, there are Noble ones, brahmans, householders, and contemplatives. The wise ones will question you thusly: “Who is your teacher, and what does he teach?”

“Having been asked, you should reply skillfully: ‘Our Teacher teaches the subduing of passion and desire.’

“If you are then asked, ‘Why does your teacher teach this? What is the purpose?’

“When asked, you should answer ‘Our Teacher teaches his Dhamma for subduing passions and desire for forms, for feelings, for perceptions, for fabrications, and consciousness (ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance).’

“If you are then asked, ‘What is the danger, the drawback of not subduing passions and desire for forms, for feelings, for perceptions, for fabrications, and consciousness.’

“When asked, you should answer ‘Inflamed by passions one is never free from craving for form, for feelings, for perceptions, for fabrications, and consciousness. Then, from any change to any of these phenomena, there will be sorrow, regret, pain, grief, confusion, and despair. When one continues to cling to passions, then any change to any of the aggregates will always result in sorrow, regret, pain, grief, confusion, and despair.

Here it is seen the extended clinging from the Five Aggregates to any and all external phenomena. Continued ignorance continues clinging through the personal experience of suffering to all objects, events, views, and ideas maintained by the Five Aggregates.

“Understanding the danger thusly, our teacher teaches the subduing of craving for form, for feelings, for perceptions, for fabrications, and for consciousness.

“If you are then asked, ‘What is the benefit of subduing passions and desire for forms, for feelings, for perceptions, for fabrications, and for consciousness.’

“When asked, you should answer ‘Free of passions, one is free from craving for form, for feelings, for perceptions, for fabrications, and for consciousness. Then from any change to any of these phenomena, there will not experience sorrow, regret, pain, grief, confusion, and despair. When one is free of passion, they will remain calm and at peace. This is the benefit of our teachers Dhamma.

“Friends, if one who had been fettered by unskillful mental qualities were to (through the Dhamma) develop a pleasant abiding here and now free of passions – upon death and the break-up of the body, they would know a good destination. This is why our teacher advocates the recognition and abandonment of unskillful mental qualities.

As the culmination of the Buddha’s Dhamma is to develop a mind of lasting peace and equanimity, the “good destination” of becoming free of passions is the profound benefit of authentic Dhamma practice.

“Friends, if one who had been fettered by unskillful mental qualities were to continue clinging to passions, clinging to ignorance and clinging upon death and the break-up of the body, they would know a bad destination. This is why our teacher advocates the recognition and abandonment of unskillful mental qualities.

“It is for one who enters and remains in skillful mental qualities, unfettered by passions, upon death and the break-up of the body, they would know a good destination. This is why our teacher advocates the recognition and abandonment of unskillful mental qualities.

This is what Venerable Sariputta said. Those attending were delighted by his words.

End Of Sutta

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Sources

My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.


Becoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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