This month’s update includes two new Dīrgha Āgama sutras, bringing the total to 21. I also decided to begin editing and releasing Madhyama Āgama sutras that are sitting in draft form. In between these projects, I edited another story from the Chinese commentary on the Dharmapāda.
DĀ 3 Govinda [DN 19]
In this classic Jataka tale, a gandharva visits the Buddha to relate to him an extraordinary conversation between the gods. He recounts a legend of one of the Buddha’s past lives as told by Brahma. The Buddha confirms that the story is true. Note that a version of this legend also appears in the Mahāvastu, which is confirmed by a late Chinese translation that matches it closely.
Lord Śakra decides to visit the Buddha while he’s in a secluded location away from people. He sends a gandharva ahead to perform music for the Buddha as an offering and announce that Śakra and the Trāyastriṃśa gods are coming to visit. What follows is a rather remarkable (for a Buddha text) inclusion of a romantic song sung by a suitor, which likens the Buddha’s resolve for awakening to be like a lover’s desire for their paramour. Afterward, the Buddha helps Śakra resolve several questions he has about the higher practice and resolves to become a once-returner born in a higher heaven.
MĀ 83 A Senior Elder’s Drowsiness [AN 7.61]
The Buddha realizes that Mahāmaudgalyāyana is suffering from drowsiness while attempting to meditate and visits him with ten ways to combat drowsiness so that a practitioner can get back to meditating effectively.
MĀ 101 Progressive Mental States [MN 20]
In this sutra, the Buddha describes five practical strategies for managing unskillful thoughts that arise and obstruct one’s ability to maintain focus. By mastering the way to control unbidden thoughts that are detrimental to meditation, a meditator can freely pursue their practice.
This important sutra on practicing dhyāna doesn’t have a known parallel and appears to be unique to the Sarvâstivāda’s Madhyama Āgama. It discusses the way a meditator moves from one level of dhyāna to another, whether higher or lower, and how they manage this transition successfully or not.
After finishing their almsround, the Buddha and a group of monks encountered a herd of cattle being driven back to the city, looking fat and ready for slaughter. Inspired by this sight, the Buddha composed verses about the way ordinary people go through their lives ignoring the fact that they will die at some point.