Ananda's Final Questions of the Buddha

(T25.66b.21-67a.3 [fasc.2])

From Nagarjuna's Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
(Dharmamitra Translation)
Moreover, "Thus I have heard" is a phrase spoken by Ananda and other of the Buddha's great disciples. Because it is a mark of entry into the Buddha's Dharma [a sutra] is known thereby as Buddhadharma. This is as [ordained] at the time of the Buddha's Parinirvana. He was in the state of Ku"sinigara, lying down between a pair of saala trees with his head to the North and was about to enter nirvana.

At that time because Ananda had not yet transcended [the realm of] desire, he had not yet gotten rid of the affection felt for one's relatives. His mind was immersed in a sea of grief and he was powerless to pull himself out. Then the "senior and elder" Aniruddha said to Ananda, "You are the one responsible for guarding the treasury of the Buddha's Dharma. You should not be immersed in a sea of grief like an ordinary person. All composite dharmas are characterized by impermanence. Don't be sorrowful.

Furthermore, the Buddha, with his own hand, has entrusted the Dharma to you. By now being so overcome with grief you are neglecting the responsibility you have undertaken. You should ask the Buddha, "After the Buddha's Parinirvana, how shall we cultivate the Way? Who shall serve as our teacher? How shall we dwell together with the foul- mouthed Chandaka? What phrases shall be placed at the beginning of the Buddha's scriptures? You should inquire of the Buddha on all manner of topics such as these which deal with the future."

When Ananda heard about these matters, his troubled mind revived somewhat, he regained the power of being mindful of the Way, and assisted alongside the Buddha's final resting place. He asked the Buddha about these matters and the Buddha told Ananda, "Whether right here and now or whether after I am gone, one should take refuge in oneself and take refuge in the Dharma and should not take refuge in anything else. How should a bhikshu take refuge in himself, take refuge in the Dharma and not take refuge in anything else? In this regard, a bhikshu should undertake the contemplation of his own body. He should constantly employ single-mindedness, wisdom, diligent cultivation and vigor in getting rid of the woe of worldly desire.

The contemplation of other's bodies and then of both his own and other's bodies should be taken up in like manner. The stations of mindfulness with regard to feelings, with regard to thoughts, and with regard to dharmas should each be taken up in this manner as well. This is what is meant by, `a bhikshu should take refuge in himself, take refuge in the Dharma, and should not take refuge in anything else.'"

"From this very day, The Scripture on the Liberating Precepts is your great Master. In one's physical actions and verbal actions, one should conduct oneself in accord with the declarations of The Scripture on the Liberating Precepts.

"As for the bhikshu Chandaka, after my nirvana, treat him according to the brahman (silent treatment) method. If his mind becomes pliant and submissive, he should be taught the Sa.mthakaatyaayana Sutra. Then he may be able to attain the Way.

"As for the treasury of Dharma jewels which I have accumulated throughout the course of three asa.mkhyeya kalpas, one should place this phrase at the beginning of [the scriptures in] this treasury: `Thus I have heard, at one time the Buddha was at such-and-such a country in such-and-such a direction, in the forest at such-and-such a location...' Why? This phrase has been spoken at the beginning of the scriptures of all of the Buddhas of the past. This phrase shall also be spoken at the beginning of the scriptures of all of the buddhas of the future. All of the Buddhas of the present, at the very end, at the time of their Parinirvana,-- they too instruct that this phrase should be spoken. Now, after my Parinirvana, at the beginning of the scriptures, one should also declare, 'Thus I have heard at one time...'"

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