Life of the Buddha

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(Part Two) 30. Subhadda, the Last Disciple

Now it happened that a certain wandering ascetic called Subhadda was staying near Kusinaga and, hearing that the Buddha was about to pass away, he resolved to go and see him. Subhadda had a question he could not resolve and was sure that the Buddha could answer his question and clear his doubts.

So Subhadda went to the sala tree grove, and asked Venerable Ananda whether he could see the Buddha. But Venerable Ananda said, “Enough, friend Subhadda, the Buddha is very weary. Do not trouble him.”

For a second and third time Subhadda made his request and for the second and third time, Venerable Ananda replied in the same manner.

However, the Buddha caught a word or two of the conversation between Venerable Ananda and Subhadda, and called Venerable Ananda to him, saying, “Come, Ananda. Do not keep Subhadda from seeing me. Let him come. Whatever Subhadda may ask of me, he will ask from a desire for knowledge and not to annoy me. And whatever I may say in answer to his questions, that he will quickly understand.”

Permission granted, Subhadda approached the Buddha, and after greeting him, said, “O Gotama, there are many famous religious teachers who teach other teachings, different from yours. Have they all, as they claim, discovered the truth? Or have only some of them discovered the truth while others have not?”

“Enough, O Subhadda,” said the Buddha, “You should not worry about other teachings. Listen to me and pay close attention to what I say, and I will make known to you the truth.

“In whatever doctrine or teaching the Noble Eightfold Path is not found, there will neither be found those who have become sotapanna, sakadagami, anagami or arahant (four levels of sainthood). But in those teachings where the Noble Eightfold Path is found, there also you will find the sotapanna, the sakadagami, the anagami and the arahant. In this teaching of mine, O Subhadda, is to be found the Noble Eightfold Path, and in it alone the sotapanna, the sakadagami, the anagami, and the arahant are found. In no other schools of religious teachers can such arya beings (saints) be found. And if only my disciples live rightly and follow my precepts or training rules, the world will never be without genuine arahants.”

Then Subhadda asked to be admitted to the order of monks and the Buddha granted his request. In this way Subhadda became the very last convert and disciple of the Buddha, just as Kondanna in the deer park at Benares was the first convert and disciple forty-five years earlier.

And by earnest and diligent effort in following the teaching, Subhadda very shortly became an arahant.