The second argument the Buddha uses in this sutta for ethical behavior is that ethical behavior is in alignment with The Truth. I personally do not find this argument compelling because of the slipperiness of The Truth. All those rednecks I grew up with knew exactly what The Truth was, but their version of The Truth sure allowed for some nasty behavior.
The third argument the Buddha presents is the one that interests me the most. Long before I took up meditation, I came to the following conclusion about life-after-death:
1) We do and we either wind up here or some place else; 2) We don't and this is it.
A) According to all the world's great religions, if there is life after death, the state in which we next appear, (whether a particular religion believes it is in this world or some other) depends on how ethical a life we lead this time around.
B) If, on the other hand, this is it, then we better live as full a life as possible.
Conclusion) If one lives a full and ethical life, both bases are covered, and it is not necessary to know whether there is life after death.
It was therefore quite nice to see the Buddha making much the same argument in the sections of this sutta labeled B.iii (sections 12, 20 and 28). I had no idea I was in such good company! His practical approach to covering bases is also evident in the two middle sections of this sutta. Here he argues, concerning the existence of higher planes of consciousness, that you might as well adopt the viewpoint that leads to higher evolution rather than assume a viewpoint that leads to stagnation.
But, of course, the Buddha makes no mention of "living life to the fullest". Or does he? The last section of the sutta is a discussion of the four type of persons. The first three types are those who torment themselves, others, or both self and others. The fourth type does not torment anyone, but "abides experiencing bliss" having become enlightened. Now "living life to the fullest" is usually thought of as "grabbing for all the gusto one can". And what is the purpose of grabbing this gusto? Happiness, fulfillment, bliss. But it just might be that the usual ways of grabbing gusto don't really lead to the highest forms of happiness, fulfillment and bliss. The Buddha would certainly argue that following the enlightenment path to the end will more certainly lead to the desired happiness, fulfillment and bliss.
The sutta concludes with the means of achieving this enlightenment that is better than your average gusto: one hears the Dhamma; goes forth into the holy life; practices morality, contentment, sense restraint, mindfulness; practices meditation by abandoning the five hindrances and entering into the four Jhanas; uses the concentrated mind to recollect past lives, to see the passing and reappearing of beings according to their actions, to understand the Four Noble Truths and to see the destruction of the taints.
The pattern in this final section is much like the pattern in the dozen suttas of the Digha Nikkaya where the full discussion of morality, concentration and enlightenment is presented. The points of interest are as follows:
1) The Digha Nikkaya suttas have a longer section on morality, actually they have three sections on morality. The section in this sutta is almost exactly the "Short Section on Morality" of the DN suttas.
2) The DN suttas have Sense Restraint, Mindfulness and Contentment following the Morality sections; this sutta has Mindfulness, Contentment and Sense Restraint following the Morality section. It is curious that the order is different.
3) The DN suttas elaborate with metaphors about the Five Hindrances, otherwise they are the same.
4) The DN suttas elaborate with longer explanations and with metaphors about the four Jhanas, otherwise they are the same.
5) The DN suttas not only elaborate with metaphors about the Knowledges that arises from the concentrated mind, but they also throw in Knowledge-and-Vision and the four Divine Powers as well.
There seems to be nothing in this presentation of morality, concentration, wisdom that is missing form the DN version, yet there is lots of material in the DN version that does not appear in this version. The obvious conclusion is that this version is an older version and that the DN version is an elaboration of this version.
I liked this sutta very much. It is very practical plus it presents the full path of morality, concentration and wisdom for achieving enlightenment.
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