Buddha disseminates ‘Adittapariyaya -Sutta’ (The Fire Sermon)
by Danister I. Fernando
@ The Island
It was the pleasant month of ‘Il’. The moon was gradually taking shape into its blissful fullness. The Buddha having ended His first three-month ‘Rains’ (vassavasa) was living at Isipatana in Benares together with the newly constituted Bhikkhu fraternity which had by then taken firm root in that part of India.
On and around the ‘Il’ full moon day, a number of important events took place. One of the most significant events sticking out clearly from the rest was the taming and the subsequent conversion of the three ‘Jatila’ brothers Uruvelakassapa, Gayakassapa and Nadikassapa. The story in this regard is rather interesting.
The three Jatila brothers were living in their respective ‘ashrams’ along the bank of river ‘Neranjana’. They were considered to be popular teachers commanding large retinues of followers. The eldest Uruvelakassapa had five hundred pupils, Nadikassapa three hundred and the youngest Gayakassapa two hundred.
The ‘Tathagata’ having sent out bhikkhus on missionary work walked himself to Uruvelagama, the very same place where He once practised six years of austere asceticism attended by the five ascetics Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji. While at Uruvela, Buddha visited Uruvelakassapa at his ashram and had a general confabulation between themselves, when Uruvelakassapa described themself as an Arahat. Buddha with the intention of correcting him wished to stay the night at his ashram.
Accordingly, the Blessed One asked the ascetic for permission to spend that night in the kitchen apartment (Ginihal geya) of the ‘ashram’ if it was not in any way inconvenient to the ascetic. Uruvelakassapa replied, "Great samana I have absolutely no objection whatsoever. You are quite welcome but a dangerous cobra haunting that place can harm you heavily. I am very much concerned about that". "No, it cannot harm me. Do not be frightened" — replied the Buddha. "Then great Samana, you may stay and be comfortable".
Buddha entered the apartment and lay down on a makeshift coverlet of grass inside. Then the cobra saw Him and in his severe chagrin sent out a ray of inflammable smoke to harm the Buddha, who resisted and with the firm resolve not to harm the cobra or any part of its body he sent out a stronger ray making use of His Superhuman magical power (Iddhi).
This power constitutes one of the six kinds of higher spiritual powers (Abhinna). The cobra was naturally thus subdued. In the process the whole apartment seemed glowing with fire and the resident ascetics including Uiruvelakassapa came round crying out, "Oh, the great Samana is being tortured by the dangerous cobra".
The following day dawned. The Buddha with extreme complacence and with His normal show of compassion, brought out the cobra, now crestfallen, coiled up in Buddha’s begging bowl saying, "This is your mighty cobra, Uruvelakassapa, it is now with me". Uruvelakassapa was shocked and thought, ‘This samana is definitely powerful, but he cannot be an ‘arahat’ like myself’. However, he invited the Buddha to continue staying with him receiving cordial treatment.
But, Buddha acted otherwise. He went to a jungle area close to the ashram of Uruvelakassapa and continued to live there performing a series of superhuman acts to such an extent that finally the Jatila ascetic recognised the enormous superiority of the Buddha and at the same time admitting that he himself was far from being an arahat. With Buddha’s preaching, he became fully converted and together with his five hundred followers received ordination and higher ordination at the hands of the Buddha.
Later on, on inquiring, the two younger brothers, Gayakassapa and Nadikassapa came to know of the good fortune of their elder brother and came over to meet the ‘Tathagata’. Having listened to the preaching of the Buddha, they too were convinced of the new philosophy so much, that the two of them, with their five hundred followers embraced Buddhism and joined the Order of Bhikkhus, thus bringing the total number of Jatila monks to one thousand.
The Blessed One lived at ‘Uruveldanavva’ for a few days, and taking the newly ordained thousand Bhikkhus, went to ‘Gayasisa’ in Gaya. At a pleasant spot in ‘Gayasisa’, surrounded by spontaneous verdure, and seated on a spreading stretch of smooth rock addressed the bhikkhus in his magnificent resonance, a very important sermon, "Adittapariyaya Sutta" (the Fire Sermon). This ‘Sutta’ envisages a plethora of Buddha’s abstruse ‘Dhamma’ about which I shall make an attempt here, to put across only a gist of it in a very brief form.
O! Bhikkhus, the eye, the visual forms, visual consciousness, and visual impressions are burning. Also pleasant or painful or neither pleasant nor painful sensations arising on account of visual impressions are burning. They are burning with the fire of lust (raga) fire of hate (dosa) and fire of delusion (moha). They are burning with birth, ageing, death, sorrows, lamentation, pains, grief and despair.
Similarly, on the same pattern, the ear, the nose, the tongue, the body and the mind are burning.
Bhikkhus, a disciple, learned and noble who sees things as they really are (Yathabhuta Nanadassana) becomes dispassionate, in regard to the eye, the visible forms, the visual consciousness, visual impressions and whatever sensations.
He also becomes dispassionate in regard to the ear and sounds, the nose and odours, the tongue and flavours, the body and tangible things, the mind and mental objects, the mental consciousness, the mental impressions and whatever sensations.
When he is dispassionate, he becomes detached and through detachment he becomes liberated. Then he gets the knowledge that he is liberated. He understands that rebirth is exhausted; that what has to be done in regard to liberation is done, and finally that there is no more left to be done in regard to being an Arahat.
Having listened to this exposition, the Bhikkhus were extremely glad and rejoiced. It is said that all hundred Bhikkhus realised Arahatship.
(References; Buddha Caritaya by Ven. Ananda Maitreya, Samyutta-Nikaya).