Roots of the Uposatha

AN 3.70
PTS: A i 205 Thai 3.71
Muluposatha Sutta
(Roots of the Uposatha)

Thus have I heard.

On one occasion, the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in the palace of Migāra’s mother in the Eastern Park. Then, on the uposatha day, Visākhā, Migāra’s mother, approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The Blessed One then said to her, “Why, Visākhā, have you come in the middle of the day?”

“Today, lord, I am observing the uposatha.”

“And how, Visākhā, is the noble ones’ uposatha observed? The defiled mind is cleansed by exertion. And how is the defiled mind cleansed by exertion? Here, Visākhā, a noble disciple recollects the Tathāgata thus: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is an arahant, perfectly self awakened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, well-gone, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of those who wish to be trained, teacher of devas and humans, the Awakened One, the Blessed One.’ When a noble disciple recollects the Tathāgata, his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned in the same way that one’s head, when dirty, is cleansed by exertion.

“And how, Visākhā, does one cleanse a dirty head by exertion? By means of cleansing paste, clay, water, and the appropriate effort by the person: this is how the head, when dirty, is cleansed by exertion. So too, the defiled mind is cleansed by exertion. And how is the defiled mind cleansed by exertion? Here, Visākhā, the noble disciple recollects the Tathāgata thus: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is an arahant, perfectly self awakened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, well-gone, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of those who wish to be trained, teacher of devas and humans, the Awakened One, the Blessed One.’ When a noble disciple recollects the Tathāgata, his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned. This is called a noble disciple who observes the uposatha of Brahmā, who dwells together with Brahmā, and it is by considering Brahmā that his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned. It is in this way that the defiled mind is cleansed by exertion.

“The defiled mind, Visākhā, is cleansed by exertion. And how is the defiled mind cleansed by exertion? Here, Visākhā, a noble disciple recollects the Dhamma thus: ‘The Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed One, apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation, leading onwards, to be experienced individually by the wise.’ When a noble disciple recollects the Dhamma, his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned in the same way that one’s body, when dirty, is cleansed by exertion.

“And how, Visākhā, does one cleanse a dirty body by exertion? By means of a bathing brush, lime powder, water, and the appropriate effort by the person: this is how the body, when dirty, is cleansed by exertion. So too, the defiled mind is cleansed by exertion. And how is the defiled mind cleansed by exertion? Here, Visākhā, the noble disciple recollects the Dhamma thus: ‘The Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed One, apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation, leading onwards, to be experienced individually by the wise.’ When a noble disciple recollects the Dhamma, his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned. This is called a noble disciple who observes the uposatha of the Dhamma, who dwells together with the Dhamma, and it is by considering the Dhamma that his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned. It is in this way that the defiled mind is cleansed by exertion.

“The defiled mind, Visākhā, is cleansed by exertion. And how is the defiled mind cleansed by exertion? Here, Visākhā, a noble disciple recollects the Saṅgha thus: ‘They are the Saṅgha of the Blessed One’s disciples who have practiced well, who have practiced directly, who have practiced insightfully, those who practice with integrity; that is, the four pairs, the eight kinds of noble beings—this is the Saṅgha of the Blessed One’s disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world.’ When a noble disciple recollects the Saṅgha, his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned in the same way that a cloth, when dirty, is cleansed by exertion.

“And how, Visākhā, does one cleanse a dirty cloth by exertion? By means of heat, lye, cow dung, water, and the appropriate effort by the person: this is how a cloth, when dirty, is cleansed by exertion. So too, the defiled mind is cleansed by exertion. And how is the defiled mind cleansed by exertion? Here, Visākhā, the noble disciple recollects the Saṅgha thus: ‘They are the Saṅgha of the Blessed One’s disciples who have practiced well, who have practiced directly, who have practiced insightfully, those who practice with integrity; that is, the four pairs, the eight kinds of noble beings—this is the Saṅgha of the Blessed One’s disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world.’ When a noble disciple recollects the Saṅgha, his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned. This is called a noble disciple who observes the uposatha of the Saṅgha, who dwells together with the Saṅgha, and it is by considering the Saṅgha that his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned. It is in this way that the defiled mind is cleansed by exertion.

“The defiled mind, Visākhā, is cleansed by exertion. And how is the defiled mind cleansed by exertion? Here, Visākhā, a noble disciple recollects his own virtuous behavior as unbroken, flawless, unblemished, unblotched, freeing, praised by the wise, ungrasped, leading to concentration. When a noble disciple recollects his virtuous behavior, his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned in the same way that a mirror, when dirty, is cleansed by exertion.

“And how, Visākhā, does one cleanse a dirty mirror by exertion? By means of oil, ashes, a roll of cloth, and the appropriate effort by the person: this is how a mirror, when dirty, is cleansed by exertion. So too, the defiled mind is cleansed by exertion. And how is the defiled mind cleansed by exertion? Here, Visākhā, the noble disciple recollects his own virtuous behavior as unbroken, flawless, unblemished, unblotched, freeing, praised by the wise, ungrasped, leading to concentration. When a noble disciple recollects his virtuous behavior, his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned. This is called a noble disciple who observes the uposatha of virtuous behavior, who dwells together with virtuous behavior, and it is by considering virtuous behavior that his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned. It is in this way that the defiled mind is cleansed by exertion.

“The defiled mind, Visākhā, is cleansed by exertion. And how is the defiled mind cleansed by exertion? Here, Visākhā, a noble disciple recollects the devas thus: ‘There are devas ruled by the Four Great Kings, Tavatiṃsa devas, Yāma devas, Tusita devas, devas Who Delight in Creating, devas Who Delight in the Creations of Others, devas of Brahmā’s company, and devas still higher than these. I too have such faith, such virtuous behavior, such learning, such generosity, and such wisdom as those devas possessed because of which, when they passed away here, they were reborn there.’ When a noble disciple recollects the faith, virtuous behavior, learning, generosity, and wisdom in himself and in those devas, his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned in the same way that gold, when impure, is cleansed by exertion.

“And how, Visākhā, does one cleanse impure gold by exertion? By means of a furnace, salt, red chalk, a blow-pipe and tongs, and the appropriate effort by the person: this is how gold, when impure, is cleansed by exertion. So too, the defiled mind is cleansed by exertion. And how is the defiled mind cleansed by exertion? Here, Visākhā, the noble disciple recollects the devas thus: ‘There are devas ruled by the Four Great Kings, Tavatiṃsa devas, Yāma devas, Tusita devas, devas Who Delight in Creating, devas Who Delight in the Creations of Others, devas of Brahmā’s company, and devas still higher than these. I too have such faith, such virtuous behavior, such learning, such generosity, and such wisdom as those devas possessed because of which, when they passed away here, they were reborn there.’ When a noble disciple recollects the faith, virtuous behavior, learning, generosity, and wisdom in himself and in those devas, his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned. This is called a noble disciple who observes the uposatha of the devas, who dwells together with the devas, and it is by considering the devas that his mind becomes calm, joy arises, and the defilements of the mind are abandoned. It is in this way that the defiled mind is cleansed by exertion.

“This noble disciple, Visākhā, reflects thus: ‘As long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from the destruction of life and, with the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, they dwell compassionate toward all living beings; as long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from taking what is not given, and they accept only what is given, expect only what is given, and are honest at heart, devoid of theft; as long as they live the arahants abandon sexual intercourse and observe celibacy, living apart, abstaining from sexual intercourse, the common person’s practice; as long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from false speech, and they speak truth, adhere to truth, and they are trustworthy and reliable, no deceivers of the world; as long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness; as long as they live the arahants eat once a day, abstaining from eating at night and from food outside the proper time; as long as they live the arahants abstain from dancing, singing, instrumental music, and unsuitable shows, and from adorning and beautifying themselves by wearing garlands and applying scents and unguents; as long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from the use of high and luxurious beds, and they lie down on a low resting place, either a small bed or a straw mat.’

“And this noble disciple, Visākhā, further reflects thus: ‘Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from the destruction of life and, with the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, I shall dwell compassionate toward all living beings; today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from taking what is not given, and I shall accept only what is given, expect only what is given, and be honest at heart, devoid of theft; today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon sexual intercourse and observe celibacy, living apart, abstaining from sexual intercourse, the common person’s practice; today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from false speech, and I shall be a speaker of truth, an adherent of truth, trustworthy and reliable, no deceiver of the world; today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness; today, for this night and day, I too shall eat once a day, abstaining from eating at night and from food outside the proper time; today, for this night and day, I too shall abstain from dancing, singing, instrumental music, and unsuitable shows, and from adorning and beautifying myself by wearing garlands and applying scents and unguents; today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from the use of high and luxurious beds, and I shall lie down on a low resting place, either a small bed or a straw mat. I shall imitate the arahants in these respects and the uposatha will be observed by me.’

“It is in this way, Visākhā, that the noble ones’ uposatha is observed. When one has observed the uposatha in the way of the noble ones it is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive.

“To what extent is it of great fruit and benefit? To what extent is it extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive? Suppose, Visākhā, one were to exercise sovereignty and kingship over the sixteen great countries abounding in the seven precious treasures—that is, the countries of the Aṅgans, the Magadhans, the Kāsis, the Kosalans, the Vajjis, the Mallas, the Cetis, the Vaṅgas, the Kurus, the Pañcālas, the Macchas, the Sūrasenas, the Assakas, the Avantis, the Gandhārans, and the Kambojans—this would not be worth a sixteenth part of the uposatha observance complete in those eight factors. For what reason? Because human kingship is poor when compared to celestial happiness.

“For the devas ruled by the Four Great Kings, a single night and day is equivalent to fifty human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of the devas ruled by the Four Great Kings is five hundred such celestial years.

“For the Tavatiṃsa devas, a single night and day is equivalent to a hundred human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of the Tavatiṃsa devas is a thousand such celestial years.

“For the Yāma devas, a single night and day is equivalent to two hundred human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of the Yāma devas is two thousand such celestial years.

“For the Tusita devas, a single night and day is equivalent to four hundred human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of the Tusita devas is four thousand such celestial years.

“For the devas Who Delight in Creating, a single night and day is equivalent to eight hundred human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of the devas Who Delight in Creating is eight thousand such celestial years.

“For the devas Who Delight in the Creations of Others, a single night and day is equivalent to sixteen hundred human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of the devas Who Delight in the Creations of Others is sixteen thousand such celestial years.

“It is possible, Visākhā, that a woman or man here who observes the uposatha complete in these eight factors will, with the breakup of the body, after death, be reborn in companionship with the devas ruled by the Four Great Kings, in companionship with the Tavatiṃsa devas, in companionship with the Yāma devas, in companionship with the Tusita devas, in companionship with the devas Who Delight in Creating, or in companionship with the devas Who Delight in the Creations of Others. It was in reference to this that I said human kingship is poor when compared to celestial happiness.”

aaaaaaaaaaOne should not kill living beings or take what is not given;
aaaaaaaaaashould not speak falsehoods or drink intoxicants;
aaaaaaaaaashould abstain from sexual activity, avoid uncelibacy;
aaaaaaaaaashould not eat at night or at the wrong time of day;

aaaaaaaaaaOne should not wear a garland or use scents;
aaaaaaaaaashould sleep on a low bed or a mat spread on the ground —
aaaaaaaaaathis, they say, is the eight-factored uposatha
aaaaaaaaaaproclaimed by the Buddha,
aaaaaaaaaawho reached the end of suffering.

aaaaaaaaaaAs far as the sun and moon revolve,
aaaaaaaaaashedding light, so beautiful to gaze upon,
aaaaaaaaaadispelling darkness as they move through the firmament,
aaaaaaaaaathey brighten the sky, illumining the quarters.

aaaaaaaaaaWhatever wealth exists in this sphere —
aaaaaaaaaapearls, gems, and excellent beryl,
aaaaaaaaaahorn gold and mountain gold,
aaaaaaaaaaand fine gold called ‘Haṭaka’ —

aaaaaaaaaaThose are not worth a sixteenth part
aaaaaaaaaaof an uposatha complete in the eight factors,
aaaaaaaaaajust as the light of all stars
aaaaaaaaaadoes not match the moon’s radiance.

aaaaaaaaaaTherefore a virtuous woman or man,
aaaaaaaaaahaving observed the uposatha complete in eight factors,
aaaaaaaaaaand having made merit productive of happiness,
aaaaaaaaaagoes, beyond reproach, to a heavenly state.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>