Saṅgāti Sutta ("Reciting in Concert")

SO I HAVE HEARD. At one time the Buddha was wandering in the land of the Mallas together with a large Saṅgha of five hundred mendicants when he arrived at a Mallian town named Pāvā. There he stayed in Cunda the smith’s mango grove.

Now at that time a new town hall named Ubbhaṭaka had recently been constructed for the Mallas of Pāvā. It had not yet been occupied by an ascetic or brahmin or any person at all. The Mallas of Pāvā also heard that the Buddha had arrived and was staying in Cunda’s mango grove. Then they went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him, “Sir, a new town hall named Ubbhaṭaka has recently been constructed for the Mallas of Pāvā. It has not yet been occupied by an ascetic or brahmin or any person at all. May the Buddha be the first to use it, and only then will the Mallas of Pāvā use it. That would be for the lasting welfare and happiness of the Mallas of Pāvā.” The Buddha consented in silence.

Then, knowing that the Buddha had consented, the Mallas got up from their seat, bowed, and respectfully circled the Buddha, keeping him on their right. Then they went to the new town hall, where they spread carpets all over, prepared seats, set up a water jar, and placed a lamp. Then they went back to the Buddha, bowed, stood to one side, and told him of their preparations, saying, “Please, sir, come at your convenience.”

Then the Buddha robed up and, taking his bowl and robe, went to the new town hall together with the Saṅgha of mendicants. Having washed his feet he entered the town hall and sat against the central column facing east. The Saṅgha of mendicants also washed their feet, entered the town hall, and sat against the west wall facing east, with the Buddha right in front of them. The Mallas of Pāvā also washed their feet, entered the town hall, and sat against the east wall facing west, with the Buddha right in front of them.

The Buddha spent most of the night educating, encouraging, firing up, and inspiring the Mallas with a Dhamma talk. Then he dismissed them, “The night is getting late, Vāseṭṭhas. Please go at your convenience.”

“Yes, sir,” replied the Mallas. They got up from their seat, bowed, and respectfully circled the Buddha, keeping him on their right, before leaving.

Soon after they left, the Buddha looked around the Saṅgha of monks, who were so very silent. He addressed Venerable Sāriputta, “Sāriputta, the Saṅgha of mendicants is rid of dullness and drowsiness. Give them some Dhamma talk as you feel inspired. My back is sore, I’ll stretch it.”

“Yes, sir,” Sāriputta replied.

And then the Buddha spread out his outer robe folded in four and laid down in the lion’s posture—on the right side, placing one foot on top of the other—mindful and aware, and focused on the time of getting up.

Now at that time the Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta had recently passed away at Pāvā. With his passing the Jain ascetics split, dividing into two factions, arguing, quarreling, and fighting, continually wounding each other with barbed words: “You don’t understand this teaching and training. I understand this teaching and training. What, you understand this teaching and training? You’re practicing wrong. I’m practicing right. I stay on topic, you don’t. You said last what you should have said first. You said first what you should have said last. What you’ve thought so much about has been disproved. Your doctrine is refuted. Go on, save your doctrine! You’re trapped; get yourself out of this—if you can!”

You’d think there was nothing but slaughter going on among the Jain ascetics. And the Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta’s white-clothed lay disciples were disillusioned, dismayed, and disappointed in the Jain ascetics. They were equally disappointed with a teaching and training so poorly explained and poorly propounded, not emancipating, not leading to peace, proclaimed by someone who is not a fully awakened Buddha, with broken monument and without a refuge.

Then Sāriputta told the mendicants about these things. He went on to say, “That’s what happens, reverends, when a teaching and training is poorly explained and poorly propounded, not emancipating, not leading to peace, proclaimed by someone who is not a fully awakened Buddha. But this teaching is well explained and well propounded to us by the Blessed One, emancipating, leading to peace, proclaimed by someone who is a fully awakened Buddha. You should all recite this in concert, without disputing, so that this spiritual path may last for a long time. That would be for the welfare and happiness of the people, for the benefit, welfare, and happiness of gods and humans.

And what is that teaching?

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