This major division of Sagæthæ Vagga Saĩyutta Pæđi contains eleven saĩyuttas with discourses grouped according to characters appearing in them, the king of devas, the devas, the Brahmæ, Mæra, King of Kosala, bhikkhus and bhikkhunøs. The name of the Vagga, Sagæthæ, is derived from the fact that various personalities appearing in the discourses conducted their dialogues or interviews with the Buddha mostly in verse.
On the request of a Brahmæ, the Buddha explains in the Oghataraža Sutta of this saĩyutta that he crosses over the flood of sensuous desire, of existence, of wrong views and of ignorance neither by remaining inactive, nor by making strenuous efforts. By remaining inactive he will be sucked into the whirlpool; by making frantic efforts he will be swept away in the current of the flood. He follows a middle course.
The Buddha also teaches in other suttas of this saĩyutta that all beings are entangled in the mesh of attachments brought about by six internal sense bases and six external sense objects. The way to escape from these entanglements is to become established in søla, to develop Concentration Meditation and Insight Meditation in order to be fully accomplished in the higher knowledge of liberation.
Until one becomes fully developed in the knowledge of the Path, tanhæ can still give rise to rebirth. This fact is borne out by the story of a deva named Samaža, given in Accharæ Sutta. A certain young man having faith in the Teaching of the Buddha gets himself admitted into the Order. Then taking a meditation subject of his choice, he repairs to a solitary abode in the forest and devotes himself incessantly to the practice of meditation.
His efforts at meditation are very strenuous. Thus striving day and night and getting enervated by lack of sufficient nourishing food, he is suddenly seized with a paralytic stroke which causes him instant death. Although he has put in a great deal of effort in the practice of meditation, he passes away without even attaining the stage of Sotæpanna, the Stream-winner.
Because of tanhæ which he has not yet eradicated, he has to go through the round of existences again; but in consequence of the merit he has acquired in the practice of meditation, a magnificent celestial palace awaits him in the celestial abode of the Tævatiĩsa.
By spontaneous manifestation, he appears as if just awakened from sleep, at the entrance of the palace, a celestial being resplendent in full celestial attire. He does not realize that he has taken a new existence in a new world. He thinks he is still a bhikkhu of the human world. The celestial maidens, who are awaiting his arrival, bring a body-length mirror and place it in front of the deva. On seeing his reflection in the mirror, he finally realizes that he has left the bhikkhus’ existence and has arisen in the celestial realm.
The Samaža Deva is greatly perturbed then. He reflects that he has taken up meditation not to be reborn in the celestial land but to attain the goal of Arahatta Fruition. So without entering the palatial building, he repairs hastily to the presence of the Buddha. He asks of the Buddha how to avoid, and proceed past the Mohana garden, the Tævatiĩsa celestial abode, full of celestial maidens who to him appear as demons. The Buddha advises him that the straight path for a quick escape is the Noble Path of Eight Constituents using the two-wheeler Vipassanæ carriage, fitted with the two wheels of physical exertion and mental exertion. While the Buddha is teaching the Dhamma in three verses, Samaža Deva, is able to develop quickly successive Vipassanæ Ģæžas step by step until he attains the first Path and Fruition.
In Rohitassa Sutta of this saĩyutta, Rohitassa Deva comes to the Buddha with another problem. He tells the Buddha that he was in a former existence a hermit endowed with supernormal psychic power which enabled him to traverse throughout the universe with immense speed. He had travelled with that speed for over one hundred years to reach the end of the world but he did not succeed. He wants to know whether it would be possible to know or see or reach the end of the world where there is no birth nor death by travelling there. The Buddha says he does not declare that there is a world’s end where there is no birth nor death to be known or seen or reached by travelling there. Yet he does not say that there is an ending of suffering without reaching Nibbæna. It is in the fathom long body of oneself with its perception and its mind that the Buddha describes the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world and the way leading to the cessation of the world. The Buddha’s way leading to the cessation of the world is the Noble Path of Eight Constituents.
In this saĩyutta are interesting suttas which describe frequent meetings of the Buddha with King Pasenadi of Kosala. The king has heard of the fame of the Buddha from his queen Mallikæ but has not yet met him. But when at last he meets the Buddha as described in the Dahara Sutta, he puts a direct question whether the Venerable Gotama claims to have attained the Supreme Enlightenment. He says that there are other religious teachers such as Pþraža Kassapa, Makkhali Gosæla, NigapĨha NæĨaputta, Saņcaya, Pakudha and Ajita, with their own order, with their own followers, who are much older than the Buddha and are generally regarded to be Arahats. Even these teachers do not make claim to Supreme Enlightenment.
The Buddha replies that if it can be rightly said of anyone to have attained the Supreme Enlightenment, then it is only of himself that it can rightly be said. The Buddha adds that there are four things that should not be looked down upon and despised because they are young. They are a young prince, a serpent, a fire and a bhikkhu. A young prince of noble parentage should not be despised. He might one day become a powerful ruler and wreak royal vengeance. A writhing snake moves very fast; it might attack and bite a heedless man. A small fire, when heedlessly ignored might grow in intensity and cause untold damage. A man treating a virtuous bhikkhu with contempt might bring upon himself unwholesome results such as dwindling prosperity and lack of offspring to inherit from him.
Dutiya Aputtaka Sutta describes another occasion when King Pasenadi calls on the Buddha after he has just taken over an immense accumulation of wealth belonging to a multi-millionaire who has died recently. The dead man has left behind treasure worth over one hundred lakhs which, in the absence of any heirs to claim, becomes the king’s property. The king reports that the dead millionaire was a great miser, a niggardly person, begrudging even to himself the luxury of comfortable living. He wore only very rough, thread-bare clothes, eating poor, coarse food and travelled about in an old, roofless rickety carriage.
The Buddha confirms that what the king says about the millionaire is quite true and tells the king the reason for the millionaire’s miserliness. In one of his past existences, he met a Paccekabuddha going round for alms-food. He gave permission to his family to offer food to the Paccekabuddha and went out to attend to some business. On his way back, he met the Paccekabuddha whom he asked whether he had been given any alms-food by his family, and looked into the bowl. On seeing the delicious food in the bowl, an unwholesome thought suddenly arose in his mind that it would have been more profitable to feed his servants with such food than to give it away to a Paccekabuddha.
For his good deed of allowing his family to make the offering to a Paccekabuddha he was reborn in the deva world seven times and became a millionaire seven times in the human world. But as a result of the ill thought he had entertained in that previous existence he never had the inclination to live a luxurious life enjoying fine clothes, good food, and riding in comfortable carriages.
The millionaire has now exhausted the good as well as the bad effects of his thoughts and actions with regard to the offering of food to the Paccekabuddha. But unfortunately he has to face the consequences of a more serious evil deed, that of causing the death of his own nephew in a past existence.
The Buddha tells the king that he is therefore reborn, after his death in the human world, in the state of the most intense suffering, Mahæroruva.
Many brahmins of Bhæradvæja clan become devoted disciples of the Buddha, ultimately attaining Arahatship. At first, all of them are quite unfriendly, if not openly hostile. Bhæradvæja Gotta, mentioned in Dhanaņjænø Sutta, is such a brahmin. Although his wife Dhanaņjænø is a disciple of the Buddha, very much devoted to his Teaching, Bhæradvæja Gotta and his brahmin teachers show great contempt for the Buddha and his Teaching.
On one occasion when Bhæradvæja is giving a feast to his brahmin teachers, his wife while in the course of waiting upon these brahmins slips accidentally and, as she tries to regain her balance, blurts out three times in excitement the formula of adoration to the Buddha: ‘Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammæsambuddhassa’. Upon hearing the word ‘Buddha’, the brahmin teachers rise up from their seats and run away helter-skelter in all directions just like a flock of crows in whose midst a stone has been thrown.
Telling his wife in a fury that he would defeat the Buddha in a contest of doctrines, Bhæradvæja goes to see the Buddha. The interview ends up with Bhæradvæja asking the Buddha’s permission to enter his Order. He finally attains to Arahatship.
Akkosa Sutta mentions about Bhæradvæja Gotta’s younger brother Akkosaka Bhæradvæja, who on hearing that his elder brother has joined the Buddha’s Order is highly exasperated. Raging with fury, he storms into the presence of the Buddha whom he reviles and reproaches in the most vulgar, offensive, obscene, foul language.
Very calmly and with great compassion the Buddha asks the young Bhæradvæja if he ever has given gifts to friends and relatives. When the young Bhæradvæja replies that he indeed has made offers of gifts to his friends and relatives, the Buddha asks him, “What happens to the gifts if your friends and relatives do not accept them?”
“Well then they remain with me as my own property,” replies Bhæradvæja.
Then the Buddha says, “You have heaped abusive language on us who have not uttered a single word of abuse to you; you have been very offensive and quarrelsome with us who do not offend you nor quarrel with you. Young Bhæradvæja, we do not accept your words of abuse, your offensive and quarrelsome language. They remain with you as your own property.”
Taken by surprise by this unexpected reaction, Bhæradvæja is frightened with the thought that this might be a recluse’s method of casting a spell on him by way of retaliation. He asks the Buddha if he is angry with him for his rude behaviour. The Buddha states that he has long left anger behind. Being free from all mental defilements how could he take offence with him! To meet anger with anger is to sink lower than the original reviler. He is the conqueror who wins a hard won battle by not retaliating anger with anger.
At the end of the discourse, Akkosaka Bhæradvæja, the younger brother, also leaves homelife to join the Buddha’s Order. In time, he too becomes accomplished in higher knowledge and attains to Arahatship.
In Kasi Bhæradvæja Sutta is an account of the Buddha’s encounter with the brahmin Kasi Bhæradvæja who is a rich landowner.
It is sowing time and Kasi Bhæradvæja is preparing to start ploughing operations with five hundred ploughs. It is made an auspicious occasion with distribution of food and with festivities. The Buddha goes to where food is being distributed and stands at one side. Kasi Bhæradvæja, seeing him waiting for food, says to him, “I plough, samaža, and I sow. Having ploughed and sown, I eat. You too, samaža, should plough and sow; having ploughed and sown, you shall eat.”
The Buddha replies, “I too plough, brahmin, and I sow, and having ploughed and sown, I eat.”
“We see no yoke or plough or pole or oxen of yours. Yet you claim to be a ploughman. How do you explain yourself?” asks the brahmin.
“The faith which I have had since the time of Sumedhæ, the hermit, is the seed. It will grow to hear the fruit of Nibbæna. The søla with which I keep control of my sense doors is the rain. The two kinds of knowledge, mundane and supramundane, I possess are my plough and yoke. Sense of shame for doing evil and fear of evil deeds are the pole and the handle of the plough. My energy is the ox, and my concentration is the rope with which I put the ox to the yoke. My mindfulness is the ploughshare and the goad. Guarded in my speech and modest in the use of food, these self-restraints serve as a fence round my field of Dhamma. With my harnessed ox as my energy, I have ploughed on, never turning back until the seed produces the fruit of Nibbæna, the Deathless. Having done such ploughing, I eat now what I have sown and I am free from every kind of suffering.”
Kasi Bhæradvæja is so delighted and impressed with the Buddha’s words that he requests to be regarded as a disciple of the Buddha from that day till the end of his life.
In GahaĨĨhavandana Sutta the Buddha explains that the brahmins well versed in the Vedas as well as kings ruling over human dominions, and devas of Cætumahæræjika and Tævatiĩsa realm bow in homage to the Sakka, the king of devas. The Sakka himself shows respect and makes obeisance not only to samažas who have lived their holy life without any breach of moral conduct for many years but also to the lay disciples of the Buddha who are well established in their faith and who have done meritorious deeds of giving charity, observing the Five, the Eight or the Ten Precepts, and dutifully maintaining their families.