Samyutta Nikaya 2.26

Rohitassa Sutta
To Rohitassa

Translated by Bhikkhu Ñāṇananda
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma

At Savatthi... Standing at one side, Rohitassa, son of the gods, spoke thus to the Exalted One:

"Where, lord, one does not get born, nor grow old, nor die, nor pass away, nor get reborn, is one able, lord, by walking, to come to know that end of the world, or to see it, or to get there?"

"Where, friend, one does not get born, nor grow old, nor die, nor pass away, nor get reborn, that end of the world, I say, you are not able by walking, to come to know, or to see, or to arrive at."

"Wonderful is it, lord. Marvellous it is, lord, how well it is said by the Exalted One: 'Where, friend, one does not get born... or to arrive at.'

"In times past, lord, I was a seer, Rohitassa by name, son of Bhoja, gifted so that I could fly through the air. And so swift, lord, was my speed that I could fly just as quickly as a master of archery, well-trained, expert, proficient, a past-master in his art, armed with a strong bow could, without difficulty, send a light shaft far past the area covered by a palm-tree's shadow. And so great, lord, was my stride that I could step from the eastern to the western sea.

"In me, lord, arose such a wish as this: 'I will arrive at the end of the world by walking.' And though such, lord, was my speed, and such my stride, and though, with a life-span of a century, living for hundred years I walked continuously for a hundred years, save the while I spent in eating, drinking, chewing or tasting, or in answering calls of nature, save the while I gave way to sleep or fatigue,[25] yet I died on the way without reaching the end of the world. Wonderful is it, lord, marvellous is it, lord, how well it is said by the Exalted One: 'Where, friend, one does not get born... or to arrive at.'"

"But neither do I say, friend, that without having reached the end of the world there could be an ending of ill. It is in this very fathom-long physical frame with its perceptions and mind, that, I declare, lies the world, and the arising of the world, and the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world. [26]


25. Here the P.T.S. translation runs: "... and though I waited not to eat or drink or rest" (K. S. I 86). The text and the comy, however, make allowance for Rohitassa's physical needs, which must have been the only interruptions to his otherwise continuous journey.

26. The import of this significant declaration can be understood in the context of those suttas in which the Buddha defines the concept of the world. The "world," for the Buddha, arises in the six sense-spheres. Hence its cessation too, is to be experienced there, in the cessation of the six sense spheres (salāyatananirodha).

"This, monks, is the passing away of the world." (Such it is also in the case of the other senses) (SN 12.44/S II 73).

The same sermon is introduced in the preceding sutta (SN 12.43/S II 72) with the words: "I will teach you monks, the arising and passing away of suffering..."

27. According to the Buddha, that end of the world where there is no birth, decay or death, in search of which Rohitassa walked for a hundred years, is not somewhere in outer space, but within this very fathom-long body. The cessation of the six sense-spheres constitutes, for the arahat, a transcendental sphere (ayatana) of experience in which he realises, here and now, that he is free from all suffering connected with birth, decay and death, and indeed from all forms of existence (bhavanirodho). These aspects of Nibbanic bliss find expression in such epithets as ajataṃ ('non-born’), abhutaṃ ('non-become’), ajaraṃ ('non-decaying’) and amataṃ ('deathless’).

When body, speech and mind, which are at the root of all discrimination and conceit, fade away in the jhanic experience of the arahat, he finds himself free from all suffering, mental as well as physical. Such epithets of Nibbana as khemaṃ (security), dīpaṃ (island), tāṇaṃ (protection), leṇaṃ (cave), saraṇaṃ (refuge) and parāyanaṃ (resort) suggest this transcendence of worldly imperfections.

The culmination of the not-self attitude is the eradication of the conceit, '(I) am': "the percipient of 'not-self' attains to the eradication of the conceit 'I am,' which is Nibbana here and now" (A V 358). The removal of the subtle conceit, 'I am' (asmimana) is tantamount to a destruction of that delusive superimposed 'frame' from which all measurings and reckonings of the world were directed through the instrumentality of the sense-faculties, and by which the mass of relative concepts in the form of sense data was so organised as to give a picture of 'the world' with 'self' mirrored on it. What we call the normal functioning of the five external senses is but the outward manifestation of the notion 'I am': "Given the notion 'I am,' monks there arise then the five sense-faculties." (SN 22.47/S III 46).

When this 'frame' is dismantled, the conveyors—the senses—losing their provenance and sanction, become ineffective, and their usual objects too fade away into insignificance: "Wherefore, monks, that sphere should be known wherein the eye ceases and the perception of forms fades away... wherein the ear ceases and the perception of sounds fades away... the nose ceases and the perception of smell fades away... the tongue ceases and the perception of tastes fades away... the body ceases and the perception of touch fades away... the mind ceases and the perception of ideas fades away. That sphere should be known; that sphere should be known." (SN 35.117/S IV 98).


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