Saṃyutta Nikāya 47

Connected Discourses on the Establishments of Mindfulness

9. Ill

Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesali in Beluvagamaka. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus:

“Come, bhikkhus, enter upon the rains wherever you have friends, acquaintances, and intimates in the vicinity of Vesali. I myself will enter upon the rains right here in Beluvagamaka.”

“Yes, venerable sir,” those bhikkhus replied, and they entered upon the rains wherever they had friends, acquaintances, and intimates in the vicinity of Vesali, while the Blessed One entered upon the rains right there in Beluvagamaka.

Then, when the Blessed One had entered upon the rains, a severe illness arose in him and terrible pains bordering on death assailed him. But the Blessed One endured them, mindful and clearly comprehending, without becoming distressed. Then the thought occurred to the Blessed One: “It is not proper for me to attain final Nibbāna without having addressed my attendants and taken leave of the Bhikkhu Saṅgha. Let me then suppress this illness by means of energy and live on, having resolved upon the life formation.” Then the Blessed One suppressed that illness by means of energy and lived on, having resolved upon the life formation.

The Blessed One then recovered from that illness. Soon after he had recovered, he came out from his dwelling and sat down in the seat that had been prepared in the shade behind the dwelling. The Venerable Ānanda then approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him: “It’s splendid, venerable sir, that the Blessed One is bearing up, splendid that he has recovered! But, venerable sir, when the Blessed One was ill my body seemed as if it were drugged, I had become disoriented, the teachings were not clear to me. Nevertheless, I had this much consolation: that the Blessed One would not attain final Nibbāna without having made some pronouncement concerning the Bhikkhu Saṅgha.”

“What does the Bhikkhu Saṅgha now expect from me, Ānanda? I have taught the Dhamma, Ānanda, without making a distinction between inside and outside. The Tathagata has no closed fist of a teacher in regard to the teachings. If, Ānanda, anyone thinks, ‘I will take charge of the Bhikkhu Saṅgha,’ or ‘The Bhikkhu Saṅgha is under my direction,’ it is he who should make some pronouncement concerning the Bhikkhu Saṅgha. But, Ānanda, it does not occur to the Tathagata, ‘I will take charge of the Bhikkhu Saṅgha,’ or ‘The Bhikkhu Saṅgha is under my direction, ’ so why should the Tathagata make some pronouncement concerning the Bhikkhu Saṅgha? Now I am old, Ānanda, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage. My age is now turning eighty. Just as an old cart keeps going by a combination of straps, so it seems the body of the Tathagata keeps going by a combination of straps.

“Whenever, Ānanda, by nonattention to all signs and by the cessation of certain feelings, the Tathagata enters and dwells in the signless concentration of mind, on that occasion, Ānanda, the body of the Tathagata is more comfortable. Therefore, Ānanda, dwell with yourselves as your own island, with yourselves as your own refuge, with no other refuge; dwell with the Dhamma as your island, with the Dhamma as your refuge, with no other refuge. And how, Ānanda, does a bhikkhu dwell with himself as his own island, with himself as his own refuge, with no other refuge; with the Dhamma as his island, with the Dhamma as his refuge, with no other refuge? Here, Ānanda, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. He dwells contemplating feelings in feelings … mind in mind … phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world.

“Those bhikkhus, Ānanda, either now or after I am gone, who dwell with themselves as their own island, with themselves as their own refuge, with no other refuge; with the Dhamma as their island, with the Dhamma as their refuge, with no other refuge—it is these bhikkhus, Ānanda, who will be for me topmost of those keen on the training.”