Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

57. Kukkuravatika Sutta: The Dog-Duty Ascetic

1. Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Koliyan country where there was a town of the Koliyans named Haliddavasana.
    2. Then Puṇṇa, son of the Koliyans, an ox-duty ascetic, and also Seniya, a naked dog-duty ascetic, went to the Blessed One. Puṇṇa, the ox-duty ascetic, paid homage to the Blessed One and sat down at one side, while Seniya, the naked dog-duty ascetic, exchanged greetings with the Blessed One, and when this courteous and amiable talk was finished, he too sat down at one side curled up like a dog. Puṇṇa, the ox-duty ascetic, said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, this Seniya is a naked dog-duty ascetic who does what is hard to do: he eats his food when it is thrown to the ground. He has long taken up and practised that dog-duty. What will be his destination? What will be his future course?”
    “Enough, Puṇṇa, let that be. Do not ask me that.”
    A second time … And a third time Puṇṇa, the ox-duty ascetic, said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, this Seniya is a naked dog-duty ascetic who does what is hard to do: he eats his food when it is thrown to the ground. He has long taken up and practised that dog-duty. What will be his destination? What will be his future course?”
    “Well, Puṇṇa, since I certainly cannot persuade you when I say: ‘Enough, Puṇṇa, let that be. Do not ask me that,’ I shall therefore answer you.
    3. “Here, Puṇṇa, someone develops the dog-duty fully and uninterruptedly; he develops the dog-habit fully and uninterruptedly; he develops the dog-mind fully [388] and uninterruptedly; he develops dog-behaviour fully and uninterruptedly. Having done so, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of dogs. But if he has such a view as this: ‘By this virtue or observance or asceticism or holy life I shall become a [great] god or some [lesser] god,’ that is wrong view in his case. Now there are two destinations for one with wrong view, I say: hell or the animal realm. So, Puṇṇa, if his dog-duty succeeds, it will lead him to the company of dogs; if it fails, it will lead him to hell.”
    4. When this was said, Seniya the naked dog-duty ascetic cried out and burst into tears. Then the Blessed One told Puṇṇa, son of the Koliyans, the ox-duty ascetic: “Puṇṇa, I could not persuade you when I said: ‘Enough, Puṇṇa, let that be. Do not ask me that.’”
    [Then Seniya the naked dog-duty ascetic said:] “Venerable sir, I am not crying because the Blessed One has said this about me, but because I have long taken up and practised this dog-duty. Venerable sir, this Puṇṇa, son of the Koliyans, is an ox-duty ascetic. He has long taken up and practised that ox-duty. What will be his destination? What will be his future course?”
    “Enough, Seniya, let that be. Do not ask me that.”
    A second time … And a third time Seniya the naked dog-duty ascetic asked the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, this Puṇṇa, son of the Koliyans, is an ox-duty ascetic. He has long taken up and practised that ox-duty. What will be his destination? What will be his future course?”
    “Well, Seniya, since I certainly cannot persuade you when I say: ‘Enough, Seniya, let that be. Do not ask me that,’ I shall therefore answer you.
    5. “Here, Seniya, someone develops the ox-duty fully and uninterruptedly; he develops the ox-habit fully and uninterruptedly; he develops the ox-mind fully and uninterruptedly; he develops ox-behaviour fully and uninterruptedly. Having done so, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of oxen. [389] But if he has such a view as this: ‘By this virtue or observance or asceticism or holy life I shall become a [great] god or some [lesser] god,’ that is wrong view in his case. Now there are two destinations for one with wrong view, I say: hell or the animal realm. So, Seniya, if his ox-duty succeeds, it will lead him to the company of oxen; if it fails, it will lead him to hell.”
    6. When this was said, Puṇṇa, son of the Koliyans, the ox-duty ascetic cried out and burst into tears. Then the Blessed One told Seniya the naked dog-duty ascetic: “Seniya, I could not persuade you when I said: ‘Enough, Seniya, let that be. Do not ask me that.’”
    [Then Puṇṇa the ox-duty ascetic said:] “Venerable sir, I am not crying because the Blessed One has said this about me, but because I have long taken up and practised this ox-duty. Venerable sir, I have confidence in the Blessed One thus: ‘The Blessed One is capable of teaching me the Dhamma in such a way that I can abandon this ox-duty and that this Seniya the naked dog-duty ascetic can abandon that dog-duty.’”
    “Then, Puṇṇa, listen and attend closely to what I shall say.”—“Yes, venerable sir,” he replied. The Blessed One said this:
    7. “Puṇṇa, there are four kinds of action proclaimed by me after realising them for myself with direct knowledge. What are the four? There is dark action with dark result; there is bright action with bright result; there is dark-and-bright action with dark-and-bright result; and there is action that is neither dark nor bright with neither-dark-nor-bright result, action that leads to the destruction of action.
    8. “And what, Puṇṇa, is dark action with dark result? Here someone generates an afflictive bodily formation, an afflictive verbal formation, an afflictive mental formation. Having generated an afflictive bodily formation, an afflictive verbal formation, an afflictive mental formation, he reappears in an afflictive world. When he has reappeared in an afflictive world, afflictive contacts touch him. Being touched by afflictive contacts, he feels afflictive feelings, exclusively painful, as in the case of the beings in [390] hell. Thus a being’s reappearance is due to a being: one reappears through the actions one has performed. When one has reappeared, contacts touch one. Thus I say beings are the heirs of their actions. This is called dark action with dark result.
    9. “And what, Puṇṇa, is bright action with bright result? Here someone generates an unafflictive bodily formation, an unafflictive verbal formation, an unafflictive mental formation. Having generated an unafflictive bodily formation, an unafflictive verbal formation, an unafflictive mental formation, he reappears in an unafflictive world. When he has reappeared in an unafflictive world, unafflictive contacts touch him. Being touched by unafflictive contacts, he feels unafflictive feelings, exclusively pleasant, as in the case of the gods of Refulgent Glory. Thus a being’s reappearance is due to a being; one reappears through the actions one has performed. When one has reappeared, contacts touch one. Thus I say beings are the heirs of their actions. This is called bright action with bright result.
    10. “And what, Puṇṇa, is dark-and-bright action with dark-and-bright result? Here someone generates a bodily formation that is both afflictive and unafflictive, a verbal formation that is both afflictive and unafflictive, a mental formation that is both afflictive and unafflictive. Having generated a bodily formation, a verbal formation, a mental formation that is both afflictive and unafflictive, he reappears in a world that is both afflictive and unafflictive. When he has reappeared in a world that is both afflictive and unafflictive, both afflictive and unafflictive contacts touch him. Being touched by both afflictive and unafflictive contacts, he feels both afflictive and unafflictive feelings, mingled pleasure and pain, as in the case of human beings and some gods and some beings in the lower worlds. Thus a being’s reappearance is due to a being: one reappears through the actions one has performed. When one has reappeared, contacts touch one. Thus I say beings are the heirs to their actions. This is called dark-and-bright action with dark-and-bright result. [391]
    11. “And what, Puṇṇa, is action that is neither dark nor bright with neither-dark-nor-bright result, action that leads to the destruction of action? Therein, the volition for abandoning the kind of action that is dark with dark result, and the volition for abandoning the kind of action that is bright with bright result, and the volition for abandoning the kind of action that is dark and bright with dark-and-bright result: this is called action that is neither dark nor bright with neither-dark-nor-bright result, action that leads to the destruction of action. These are the four kinds of action proclaimed by me after realising them for myself with direct knowledge.”
    12. When this was said, Puṇṇa, son of the Koliyans, the ox-duty ascetic said to the Blessed One: “Magnificent, venerable sir! Magnificent, venerable sir! The Blessed One has made the Dhamma clear in many ways … From today let the Blessed One remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge for life.”
    13. But Seniya the naked dog-duty ascetic said to the Blessed One: “Magnificent, venerable sir! Magnificent, venerable sir! The Blessed One has made the Dhamma clear in many ways, as though he were turning upright what had been overthrown, revealing what was hidden, showing the way to one who was lost, or holding up a lamp in the dark for those with eyesight to see forms. I go to the Blessed One for refuge and to the Dhamma and to the Sangha of bhikkhus. I would receive the going forth under the Blessed One, I would receive the full admission.”
    14. “Seniya, one who formerly belonged to another sect and desires the going forth and the full admission in this Dhamma and Discipline lives on probation for four months. At the end of four months, if the bhikkhus are satisfied with him, they give him the going forth and the full admission to the bhikkhus’ state. But I recognise individual differences in this matter.”
    “Venerable sir, if those who formerly belonged to another sect and desire the going forth and the full admission in this Dhamma and Discipline live on probation for four months, and if at the end of the four months the bhikkhus being satisfied with them give them the going forth and the full admission to the bhikkhus’ state, then I will live on probation for four years. At the end of the four years if the bhikkhus are satisfied with me, let them give me the going forth and the full admission to the bhikkhus’ state.”
    15. Then Seniya the naked dog-duty ascetic received the going forth under the Blessed One, and he received the full admission. And soon, not long after his full admission, dwelling alone, withdrawn, [392] diligent, ardent, and resolute, the venerable Seniya, by realising for himself with direct knowledge, here and now entered upon and abided in that supreme goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen rightly go forth from the home life into homelessness. He directly knew: “Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.” And the venerable Seniya became one of the arahants.
 

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© Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2009)

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