Scriptural

Alavaka Sutta – Part 12 (final)

This is the concluding part of this Sutta. Yeah!

Truth and Restraint, Charity and Forbearance, Are the great reformers of man; If there be any better, go and ask of other samanas and brahmanas.

Buddha concluded his sermons with the above verse. He summarised the 4 qualities that will change a common person to become better.

1. Truthfulness builds trust and harmony. People can communicate better without the fear of being lied to or being cheated. That will reduce animosity in our world today.

if we are truthful about our practice, we will know what are the things that we need to accomplish. For example, we might acknowledge that we still need to lessen our craving or anger.

2. Being restrained is referring to our minds. When we practice mindfulness, we are restraining our minds from delusive thoughts, and uncontrolled outbursts of craving or hatred. Being restained in our speech, we only speak about things that bring benefits to ourselves and others. Being restrained in actions, we abstain from harming others and ourselves, directly or indirectly.

If we look at the world today, many are confusing freedom and free speech with inconsideration. That resulted in more conflicts and anger amongst people.

3. Charity is the opposite of taking. Our environment is crashing because mankind only knows how to consume and take. If we learn how to give back to nature, then perhaps our world will heal itself. Likewise for our societies.

4. Forbearance is directly linked to patience. Being impatient can cause us to become short-sighted about future danger. In the context of our spiritual practice, we need to be patient with our practice. That way, we will not give up when we fail to achieve jhana or samadhi. Likewise, a little bit of discomfort while sitting cross-legged will not deter us from our practice.

In summary, the above 4 qualities will help us become better versions of our current self.

The last part of Buddha’s message to Alavaka sounds like a challenge or we might be mistaken that Buddha is unsure of Himself. I think Buddha was delivering the final rebuke to break Alavaka’s habitual “programming”

Alavaka has attained Sotapanna. But that is the entry-level of enlightenment. Although he saw the Dharma and the truth of non-self, his habitual mental process is still strongly embedded. That is why a Sotapanna still has cravings and hatred. That is why they need another 7 existences to purify their minds before complete enlightenment.

Alavaka enjoyed tormenting spiritual practitioners by asking them “deep” questions and then driving them crazy when their answers didn’t satisfy him. SO Buddha’s final retort is like a sharp knife cutting away that bad habit. Okay, that is my personal interpretation. Let us see what was Alavaka’s reply.

Alavaka:

Why should I now try to ask from other samanas and brahmanas When this day I came to learn what is good in this life and hereafter? This for my benefit indeed that the Buddha came to Alavi (Alavaka’s spirit world); A gift always bears a fruit; This too I learned today. s

From this reply, we know that Alavaka had totally given up his past mischiefs. He might have other cravings or habits that he needs to work on. But at least, we know that he won’t be haunting spiritual practitioners out of habit.

A gift always bears fruit, In this instance, I think it referred to Buddha’s gift of Dharma bearing the fruit of Sotapanna enlightenment for Alavaka.

From village to village and town to town I shall now wander along, praising that Supreme Buddha and the Dhamma well preached by him.

This refers to Alavaka’s new-found intention in life. As a spirit, he is committed to visiting practitioners and supporting the Dharma activities. And when he does, we can be assured that he won’t be asking us any confounding “deep” questions out of habit or malice.

Having thus spoken, Alavaka said to the Blessed One:

“Most excellent, O Gotama, is thy teaching, most excellent. Just as a man would set upright what is overturned, reveal what is concealed, point out the way to one gone astray, bring an oil lamp into the darkness so that those with eyes could see objects; even so the Dhamma (doctrine) has been declared in many a manner by the Venerable Gotama. I take refuge in the Venerable Gotama (the Buddha), in the Dhamma and in the Sangha (the Order). May the Venerable Gotama accept me as a disciple who has taken refuge, from this day forth while life lasts.”

Here we witness a spirit formerly taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Yeah, we just read about the recruitment of a Dharma protector in Buddhism. Hope this is fun for you.

As a side conclusion, like those snippets after a movie? Here’s what happened next.

Here we continue with the background story: Just as the yakkha finished speaking this verse, the sun rose and the king’s men arrived bringing the prince as a sacrificial offering. They handed the infant to the yakkha, who presented him to the Buddha. The Master (Buddha) recited some verses of blessing over the boy and returned him to the king’s men. When the prince reached maturity, he was known as Hatthaka Āḷavaka, because he had been passed around from one person’s hands (hattha) to another’s. He attained the stage of non-returner and was one of the Buddha’s foremost lay disciples, the chief of those who win followings through the four bases of beneficence (saṅgahavatthu; see AN I 26,7-9).

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