disciples, when I pass away, you may think," the Master's
doctrine is gone and the Master is no more." You should not
think so because the Dharma and the Discipline, which I have taught
you, will be your Master after my death. "Let the Dharma be
your light. Let It be your refuge. Do not seek any other refuge. "Disciples,
you should well protect and preserve the doctrine which I advised
you to probe so that this holy life may take its course and continue
for ages to come for the welfare of many, to console the world,
and for the happiness and welfare of the heavenly beings and men."
Ananda notices that the Buddha is growing old
Now on that occasion the Blessed One, on emerging from seclusion
in the late afternoon, sat warming his back in the western
sun. Then Ven. Ananda went to the
Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One,
massaged the Blessed One's limbs with his hand and said, "It's
amazing, lord. It's astounding, how the Blessed One's
complexion is no longer so clear & bright; his limbs are flabby &
wrinkled; his back, bent forward; there's a discernible change
in his faculties — the faculty of the eye, the faculty of the ear,
the faculty of the nose, the faculty of the tongue, the faculty
of the body."
"That's the way it is, Ananda. When young, one is subject
to aging; when healthy, subject to illness; when alive, subject
to death. The complexion is no longer so clear & bright; the
limbs are flabby & wrinkled; the back, bent forward; there's
a discernible change in the faculties — the faculty of the eye,
the faculty of the ear, the faculty of the nose, the faculty of
the tongue, the faculty of the body."
— SN XLVIII.41
To what refuge should the Buddha's followers turn after
"Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far gone in years. This
is my eightieth year, and my life is spent. Even as an old cart,
Ananda, is held together with much difficulty, so the body of the
Tathagata is kept going only with supports. It is, Ananda, only
when the Tathagata, disregarding external objects, with the cessation
of certain feelings, attains to and abides in the signless concentration
of mind, that his body is more comfortable.
"Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges
unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as
your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.
"And how, Ananda, is a bhikkhu an island unto himself, a
refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma
as his island, the Dhamma as his refuge, seeking no other refuge?
"When he dwells contemplating the body in the body, earnestly,
clearly comprehending, and mindfully, after having overcome desire
and sorrow in regard to the world; when he dwells contemplating
feelings in feelings, the mind in the mind, and mental objects in
mental objects, earnestly, clearly comprehending, and mindfully,
after having overcome desire and sorrow in regard to the world,
then, truly, he is an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself,
seeking no external refuge; having the Dhamma as his island, the
Dhamma as his refuge, seeking no other refuge." — DN 16
He renounces his will to live on
"Today, Ananda, at the Capala shrine, Mara, the Evil One,
approached me, saying: 'Now, O Lord, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis,
laymen and laywomen, have come to be true disciples of the Blessed
One — wise, well disciplined, apt and learned, preservers of the
Dhamma, living according to the Dhamma, abiding in the appropriate
conduct, and having learned the Master's word, are able to expound
it, preach it, proclaim it, establish it, reveal it, explain it
in detail, and make it clear; and when adverse opinions arise, they
are now able to refute them thoroughly and well, and to preach this
convincing and liberating Dhamma.
"'And now, O Lord, this holy life taught by the Blessed
One has become successful, prosperous, far-renowned, popular and
widespread, and it is well proclaimed among gods and men. Therefore,
O Lord, let the Blessed One come to his final passing away! Let
the Happy One utterly pass away! The time has come for the Parinibbana
of the Lord.'
"And then, Ananda, I answered Mara, the Evil One, saying: 'Do
not trouble yourself, Evil One. Before long the Parinibbana of the
Tathagata will come about. Three months hence the Tathagata will
utterly pass away.'
"And in this way, Ananda, today at the Capala shrine the
Tathagata has renounced his will to live on."
At these words the Venerable Ananda spoke to the Blessed One,
saying: "May the Blessed One remain, O Lord! May the Happy
One remain, O Lord, throughout the world-period, for the welfare
and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion for the world,
for the benefit, well being, and happiness of gods and men!"
And the Blessed One answered, saying: "Enough, Ananda. Do
not entreat the Tathagata, for the time is past, Ananda, for such
an entreaty." — DN 16
His last admonition to the monks
"Now, O bhikkhus, I say to you that these teachings of which
I have direct knowledge and which I have made known to you — these
you should thoroughly learn, cultivate, develop, and frequently
practice, that the life of purity may be established and may long
endure, for the welfare and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion
for the world, for the benefit, well being, and happiness of gods
"And what, bhikkhus, are these teachings? They are the four
foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four constituents
of psychic power, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven
factors of enlightenment, and the Noble Eightfold Path. These, bhikkhus,
are the teachings of which I have direct knowledge, which I have
made known to you, and which you should thoroughly learn, cultivate,
develop, and frequently practice, that the life of purity may be
established and may long endure, for the welfare and happiness of
the multitude, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit,
well being, and happiness of gods and men."
Then the Blessed One said to the bhikkhus: "So, bhikkhus,
I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive
with earnestness. The time of the Tathagata's Parinibbana is
near. Three months hence the Tathagata will utterly pass away."
— DN 16
His last meal
And soon after the Blessed One had eaten the meal provided by
Cunda the metalworker, a dire sickness fell upon him, even dysentery,
and he suffered sharp and deadly pains. But the Blessed One endured
them mindfully, clearly comprehending and unperturbed.
Then the Blessed One spoke to the Venerable Ananda, saying: "Come,
Ananda, let us go to Kusinara" And the Venerable Ananda answered: "So
be it, Lord." — DN 16
He retires to his death-bed
Then the Blessed One with a large community of monks went
to the far shore of the Hiraññavati River and headed for Upavattana,
the Mallans' sal-grove near Kusinara. On arrival, he said to
Ven. Ananda, "Ananda, please prepare a bed for me between the
twin sal-trees, with its head to the north. I am tired, and will
Responding, "As you say, lord," Ven. Ananda prepared
a bed between the twin sal-trees, with its head to the north. Then
the Blessed One lay down on his right side in the lion's sleeping
posture, with one foot on top of the other, mindful & alert.
Now at that time the twin sal-trees were in full bloom, even
though it was not the time for flowering. They showered, strewed, &
sprinkled on the Tathagata's body in homage to him. Heavenly
coral-tree blossoms fell from the sky, showering, strewing, &
sprinkling the Tathagata's body in homage to him. Heavenly sandalwood
powder fell from the sky, showering, strewing, & sprinkling
the Tathagata's body in homage to him. Heavenly music was playing
in the sky, in homage to the Tathagata. Heavenly songs were sung
in the sky, in homage to the Tathagata. — D 16
The Buddha recommends four pilgrimage sites
"Ananda, there are these four places that merit being seen
by a clansman with conviction, that merit his feelings of urgency &
dismay (samvega). Which four? 'Here the Tathagata was
born' is a place that merits being seen by a clansman with conviction,
that merits his feelings of urgency & dismay. 'Here the
Tathagata awakened to the unexcelled right self-awakening'... 'Here
the Tathagata set rolling the unexcelled wheel of Dhamma'... 'Here
the Tathagata was totally unbound in the remainderless property
of Unbinding' is a place that merits being seen by a clansman
with conviction, that merits his feelings of urgency & dismay.
These are the four places that merit being seen by a clansman with
conviction, that merit his feelings of urgency & dismay. They
will come out of conviction, Ananda — monks, nuns, male lay followers, &
female lay followers — to the spots where 'Here the Tathagata
was born,' 'Here the Tathagata awakened to the unexcelled
right self-awakening,' 'Here the Tathagata set rolling the
unexcelled wheel of Dhamma,' 'Here the Tathagata was totally
unbound in the remainderless property of Unbinding.' And anyone
who dies while making a pilgrimage to these memorials with a bright,
confident mind will — on the break-up of the body, after death —
reappear in a good destination, the heavenly world." — DN 16
Thousands lament the imminent passing of the Buddha
Now at that time the Kusinara Mallans had met for some business
in their assembly hall. Ven. Ananda went to the assembly hall and
on arrival announced to them, "Tonight, Vasitthas, in the last
watch of the night, the total Unbinding of the Tathagata will occur.
Come out, Vasitthas! Come out, Vasitthas! Don't later regret
that 'The Tathagata's total Unbinding occurred within the
borders of our very own town, but we didn't get to see him in
his final hour!'" When they heard Ven. Ananda, the Mallans
together with their sons, daughters, & wives were shocked, saddened,
their minds overflowing with sorrow. Some of them wept, tearing
at their hair; they wept, uplifting their arms. As if their feet
were cut out from under them, they fell down and rolled back &
forth, crying, "All too soon, the Blessed One will be totally
unbound! All too soon, the One Well-gone will be totally unbound!
All too soon, the One with Eyes will disappear from the world!"
Then the Mallans together with their sons, daughters, & wives
— shocked, saddened, their minds overflowing with sorrow — went
to Ven. Ananda at Upavattana, the Mallans' sal-grove near Kusinara.
— DN 16
As long as the noble Eightfold Path is practiced, there will
"In any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold
path is not found, no contemplative of the first... second... third...
fourth order [stream-winner, once-returner, nonreturner, or arahant]
is found. But in any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold
path is found, contemplatives of the first... second... third...
fourth order are found. The noble eightfold path is found
in this doctrine & discipline, and right here there are contemplatives
of the first... second... third... fourth order. Other teachings
are empty of knowledgeable contemplatives. And if the monks dwell
rightly, this world will not be empty of arahants." — DN 16
[Date: 1 BE]
Then the Blessed One addressed the monks, "Now, then, monks,
I exhort you: All fabrications are subject to decay. Bring about
completion by being heedful." Those were the Tathagata's
Then the Blessed One entered the first jhana. Emerging from that
he entered the second jhana. Emerging from that, he entered the
third... the fourth jhana... the dimension of the infinitude of
space... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the
dimension of nothingness... the dimension of neither perception
nor non-perception. Emerging from that, he entered the cessation
of perception & feeling.
Then the Blessed One, emerging from the cessation of perception &
feeling, entered the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.
Emerging from that, he entered the dimension of nothingness... the
dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the dimension of
the infinitude of space... the fourth jhana... the third... the
second... the first jhana. Emerging from the first jhana he entered
the second... the third... the fourth jhana. Emerging from the fourth
jhana, he immediately was totally Unbound. — DN 16
The Buddhist Bible
1. In his final words to his disciples under the sala trees,
the Buddha uttered these words: "Make my teaching your light!
Rely upon it; do not depend upon any other teaching. Make of yourself
a light. Rely upon yourself; do not depend upon anyone else." "Consider
your body; think of its impurity; how can you indulge its cravings
as you see that both its pain and delight are alike causes of suffering?
Consider your soul; think of its transiency; how can you fall into
delusion about it and cherish pride and selfishness, knowing that
they must all end in inevitable suffereing? Consider all substances;
can you find among them any enduring 'self'? Are they not
all aggregates that sooner or later will break apart and be scattered?
Do not be confused by the universality of suffering, but follow
my teaching and you will be rid of pain. Do this and you will indeed
be my discples."
2. "My disciples. The teachings that I have given you are
never to be forgotten nor abandoned. They are to be treasured, they
are to be thought about, they are to be practiced! If you follow
these teachings you will always be happy." "The point
of the teachings is to control your own mind. Restrain your mind
from greed, so shall you keep your body right, your mind pure, your
words faithful. Always thinking of the transiency of your life,
you will be able to desist from greed and anger and will be able
to keep clear from all evil. "If you find your mind entangled
in greed and tempted, you must suppress the greed and control the
entangled mind; be the master of your own mind. A man's mind
may make of him a Buddha, or it may make of him a beast. Being misled
by error one becomes a demon; being enlightened one becomes a Buddha.
Therefore keep your mind under control and do not let it deviate
from the Noble Path."
3. "Under my teachings, brothers should respect each other
and refrain from disputes; they should not repel each other like
water and oil, but should mingle together like milk and water. Study
together, learn together, practice the teachings together. Do not
waste your mind and time in idleness and bickering. Enjoy the blossoms
of enlightenment in their season and harvest the fruit of benevolence. "The
teachings which I have given you, I gained by following the path
myself. You should follow the teachings and conform to their spirit
on every occasion. If you neglect them it means that you have never
really met me. It means that you are far from me even though you
are actually with me, but if you accept and practice my teachings
then you are very near to me, even though you are far away."
4. "My disciples. The end is approaching, our parting is
near, but do not lament. Life is ever changing; none escape the
dissolution of the body. Now I am to manifest the Dharma by my own
death, the body falling apart like a decayed cart. Do not vainly
lament, but wonder at the rule of transiency and learn from it the
emptiness of human life. Do not cherish the unworthy desire that
the changeable might become unchanging. The demon of worldly desire
is always seeking chances to deceive the mind. If a viper lives
in your room, if you wish to have a peaceful sleep, you must chase
it out. You must break the bonds of worldly passions and get rid
of them as you would a viper."
5. "My disciples. The last moment has come, but do not forget
that death is but the vanishing of a body. The body was born from
parents and was nourished by food, so sickness and death is unavoidable.
But the true Buddha is not a human body: it is Enlightenment. A
human body must vanish, but the wisdom of Enlightenment will exist
forever in the truths of the Dharma, and in the practice of the
Dharma. He who sees my body only, is not the one who truly sees
me. He who accepts my teachings, is the one who truly sees me. After
my death, Truth shall be your teacher. Follow Truth and you will
be true to me. "During the last forty-five years of my life
I have kept back nothing from my teaching. There is no secret teaching,
no hidden meaning, everything has been taught openly and clearly. "My
dear disciples; this is the end. In a moment I shall be passing
Suggested Further Reading
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