Revised: Tue 26 October 1999

Majjhima Nikàya 24

Ratha-vinita Sutta

Relay Chariots

For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma


I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels' Sanctuary. Then a number of monks from the [Blessed One's] native land, having completed the Rains Retreat in the native land, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side.

As they were sitting there, the Blessed One said to them, "Monks, whom in our native land do the native-land monks -- his companions in the holy life -- esteem in this way: 'Having few wants himself, he gives talks to the monks on fewness of wants. Contented himself, he gives talks to the monks on contentment. Secluded himself, he gives talks to the monks on seclusion. Unentangled himself, he gives talks to the monks on non-entanglement. Having aroused persistence in himself, he gives talks to the monks on arousing persistence. Consummate in his own virtue, he gives talks to the monks on becoming consummate in virtue. Consummate in his own concentration, he gives talks to the monks on becoming consummate in concentration. Consummate in his own discernment, he gives talks to the monks on becoming consummate in discernment. Consummate in his own release, he gives talks to the monks on becoming consummate in release. Consummate in his own knowledge & vision of release, he gives talks to the monks on becoming consummate in the knowledge & vision of release. [1] He is one who exhorts, informs, instructs, urges, rouses, & encourages his companions in the holy life.'"

"Lord, the monk named Punna Mantaniputta (Mantani's son) is esteemed by the native-land monks -- his companions in the holy life -- in this way: 'Having few wants himself, he gives talks to the monks on fewness of wants. Contented himself, he gives talks to the monks on contentment. Secluded himself, he gives talks to the monks on seclusion. Unentangled himself, he gives talks to the monks on non-entanglement. Having aroused persistence in himself, he gives talks to the monks on arousing persistence. Consummate in his own virtue, he gives talks to the monks on becoming consummate in virtue. Consummate in his own concentration, he gives talks to the monks on becoming consummate in concentration. Consummate in his own discernment, he gives talks to the monks on becoming consummate in discernment. Consummate in his own release, he gives talks to the monks on becoming consummate in release. Consummate in his own knowledge & vision of release, he gives talks to the monks on becoming consummate in the knowledge & vision of release. He is one who exhorts, informs, instructs, urges, rouses, & encourages his companions in the holy life.'"

Now at that time Ven. Sàriputta was sitting not far from the Blessed One. The thought occurred to him: "It's a gain, a great gain for Ven. Punna Mantaniputta that his knowledgeable companions in the holy life speak his praise point by point in the presence of the Teacher, and that the Teacher seconds that praise. Maybe sometime or other I, too, will go to meet with Ven. Punna Mantaniputta; maybe I'll have some conversation with him."

Then the Blessed One, having stayed at Rajagaha as long as he liked, set out wandering to Sàvatthi. Wandering by stages, he arrived there and stayed in Jeta's Grove, Anàthapiõóika's monastery. Ven. Punna Mantaniputta heard, "The Blessed One has arrived at Sàvatthi and is staying near Sàvatthi in Jeta's Grove, Anàthapiõóika's monastery." Setting his lodgings in order and taking his robes & bowl, he set out wandering to Sàvatthi. Wandering by stages, he went to where the Blessed One was staying in Jeta's Grove, Anàthapiõóika's monastery. On arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One instructed, urged, roused, & encouraged him with a Dhamma talk. Then Ven. Punna -- instructed, urged, roused, & encouraged with the Blessed One's Dhamma talk; delighting & approving of the Blessed One's words -- got up from his seat, bowed down to the Blessed One, circumambulated him, and went to the Grove of the Blind for the day's abiding.

Then a certain monk went to Ven. Sàriputta and, on arrival, said to him: "Friend Sàriputta, the monk named Punna Mantaniputta whom you have so often praised -- instructed, urged, roused, & encouraged with the Blessed One's Dhamma talk; delighting & approving of the Blessed One's words -- has gotten up from his seat, bowed down to the Blessed One, circumambulated him, and has gone to the Grove of the Blind for the day's abiding." So Ven. Sàriputta quickly picked up a sitting cloth and followed right behind Ven. Punna, keeping his head in sight. Ven. Punna plunged into the Grove of the Blind and sat down in the shade of a tree for the day's abiding. Ven. Sàriputta also plunged into the Grove of the Blind and sat down in the shade of a tree for the day's abiding.

Then in the evening, Ven. Sàriputta arose from his seclusion and went to Ven. Punna. On arrival, he exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to Ven. Punna, "My friend, is the holy life lived under the Blessed One?"

"Yes, my friend."

"And is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of purity in terms of virtue?" [2]

"No, my friend."

"Then is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of purity in terms of mind [concentration]?"

"No, my friend."

"Then is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of purity in terms of view?"

"No, my friend."

"Then is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of purity in terms of the overcoming of perplexity?"

"No, my friend."

"Then is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of purity in terms of knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path?"

"No, my friend."

"Then is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of purity in terms of knowledge & vision of the way?"

"No, my friend."

"Then is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of purity in terms of knowledge & vision?"

"No, my friend."

"When asked if the holy life is lived under the Blessed One for the sake of purity in terms of virtue, you say, 'No, my friend.' When asked if the holy life is lived under the Blessed One for the sake of purity in terms of mind ... view ... the overcoming of perplexity ... knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path ... knowledge & vision of the way ... knowledge & vision, you say, 'No, my friend.' For the sake of what, then, my friend, is the holy life lived under the Blessed One?"

"The holy life is lived under the Blessed One, my friend, for the sake of total Unbinding through lack of clinging." [3]

"But is purity in terms of virtue total Unbinding through lack of clinging?"

"No, my friend."

"Then is purity in terms of mind ... view ... the overcoming of perplexity ... knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path ... knowledge & vision of the way ... knowledge & vision total Unbinding through lack of clinging?"

"No, my friend."

"Then is total Unbinding through lack of clinging something apart from these qualities?"

"No, my friend."

"When asked if purity in terms of virtue ... mind ... view ... the overcoming of perplexity ... knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path ... knowledge & vision of the way ... knowledge & vision is total Unbinding through lack of clinging, you say, 'No, my friend.' But when asked if total Unbinding through lack of clinging is something apart from these qualities, you say, 'No, my friend.' Now how, my friend, is the meaning of these statements to be understood?"

"If the Blessed One had described purity in terms of virtue as total Unbinding through lack of clinging, my friend, then he would have defined something still accompanied by clinging as total Unbinding through lack of clinging. If he had described purity in terms of mind ... view ... the overcoming of perplexity ... knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path ... knowledge & vision of the way ... knowledge & vision as total Unbinding through lack of clinging, then he would have defined something still accompanied by clinging as total Unbinding through lack of clinging. But if total Unbinding through lack of clinging were apart from these qualities, then a run-of-the-mill person would be totally unbound, inasmuch as a run-of-the-mill person is apart from these qualities.

"So, my friend, I will give you an analogy, for there are cases where it's through analogies that knowledgeable people can understand the meaning of what is being said. Suppose that while King Pasenadi Kosala was staying at Sàvatthi, some urgent business were to arise at Saketa; and that between Sàvatthi and Saketa seven relay chariots were made ready for him. Coming out the door of the inner palace in Sàvatthi, he would get in the first relay chariot. By means of the first relay chariot he would reach the second relay chariot. Getting out of the first relay chariot he would get in the second relay chariot. By means of the second relay chariot he would reach the third ... by means of the third he would reach the fourth ... by means of the fourth, the fifth ... by means of the fifth, the sixth ... by means of the sixth he would reach the seventh relay chariot. Getting out of the sixth relay chariot he would get in the seventh relay chariot. By means of the seventh relay chariot he would finally arrive at the door of the inner palace at Saketa. As he arrived there, his friends & companions, relatives & kin would ask him, 'Great king, did you come from Sàvatthi to the door of the inner palace in Saketa by means of this chariot?' Answering in what way, my friend, would King Pasenadi Kosala answer them correctly?"

"Answering in this way, my friend, he would answer them correctly: 'Just now, as I was staying at Sàvatthi, some urgent business arose at Saketa; and between Sàvatthi and Saketa seven relay chariots were made ready for me. Coming out the door of the inner palace in Sàvatthi, I got in the first relay chariot. By means of the first relay chariot I reached the second relay chariot. Getting out of the first relay chariot I got in the second relay chariot. By means of the second relay chariot I reached the third ... by means of the third I reached the fourth ... by means of the fourth, the fifth ... by means of the fifth, the sixth ... by means of the sixth I reached the seventh relay chariot. Getting out of the sixth relay chariot I got in the seventh relay chariot. By means of the seventh relay chariot I finally arrived at the door of the inner palace at Saketa.' Answering in this way, he would answer them correctly."

"In the same way, my friend, purity in terms of virtue is simply for the sake of purity in terms of mind. Purity in terms of mind is simply for the sake of purity in terms of view. Purity in terms of view is simply for the sake of purity in terms of the overcoming of perplexity. Purity in terms of the overcoming of perplexity is simply for the sake of purity in terms of knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path. Purity in terms of knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path is simply for the sake of purity in terms of knowledge & vision of the way. Purity in terms of knowledge & vision of the way is simply for the sake of purity in terms of knowledge & vision. Purity in terms of knowledge & vision is simply for the sake of total Unbinding through lack of clinging. And it's for the sake of total Unbinding through lack of clinging that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One."

When this was said, Ven. Sàriputta said to Ven. Punna Mantaniputta: "What is your name, friend, and how do your companions in the holy life know you?"

"My name is Punna, friend, and my companions in the holy life know me as Mantaniputta."

"How amazing, my friend, how astounding, that Ven. Punna Mantaniputta has answered point by point with profound, profound discernment in the manner of a learned disciple who has rightly understood the Teacher's message! It's a gain, a great gain, for any of his companions in the holy life who get to see him and visit with him. Even if they had to carry him around on a cushion placed on top of their heads in order to see him and visit with him, it would be a gain for them, a great gain. And the fact that I have gotten to see him and visit with him has been a gain, a great gain for me."

When this was said, Ven. Punna said to Ven. Sàriputta: "And what is your name, friend, and how do your companions in the holy life know you?"

"My name is Upatissa, friend, and my companions in the holy life know me as Sàriputta."

"What? I've been talking with the disciple who is like the Teacher himself without knowing that it is Ven. Sàriputta? Had I known it was Ven. Sàriputta, I wouldn't have answered at such length. How amazing, my friend, how astounding, that Ven. Sàriputta has questioned point by point with profound, profound discernment in the manner of a learned disciple who has rightly understood the Teacher's message! It's a gain, a great gain, for any of his companions in the holy life who get to see him and visit with him. Even if they had to carry him around on a cushion placed on top of their heads in order to see him and visit with him, it would be a gain for them, a great gain. And the fact that I have gotten to see him and visit with him has been a gain, a great gain for me."

In this way did both great beings rejoice in each other's good words.


Notes

1. See AN X.69 [Go back]

2. Ven. Sàriputta and Ven. Punna speak of this list of seven purities -- purity in terms of virtue, mind, view, the overcoming of perplexity, knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path, knowledge & vision of the way, and knowledge & vision -- as if it were a teaching familiar to both of them, and yet nowhere else is it mentioned as a Buddhist teaching in the discourses. The Atthaka Vagga (Sn IV), however, mentions various non-Buddhist sectarians who spoke of purity as the goal of their teaching and who variously defined that purity in terms of virtue, view, knowledge, & practice. Perhaps the seven types of purity listed in this discourse were originally non-Buddhist teachings that were adopted by the early Buddhist community and adapted to their own purpose for showing that these seven forms of purity functioned not as a goal of practice but as stages along the path to that goal. At any rate, this list of the seven purities formed the framework for Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purity), the cornerstone of his Pali commentaries, in which the seven purities cover all three parts of the threefold training in virtue, concentration, & discernment. [Go back]

3. Anupada-parinibbana. The Commentary gives two interpretations of this term. The first, taking upadana as clinging, is total Unbinding through lack of clinging. This, it says, refers to the fact that total Unbinding follows on the fruit of arahantship, which is devoid of clinging. The other meaning, taking upadana as sustenance, is total Unbinding with no sustenance. This, it says, refers to the fact that total Unbinding is independent of any condition. For an explanation of these meanings of the word upadana, see The Mind Like Fire Unbound, chapter 3. [Go back]


See also: Sn IV.9.