The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[The Sixth Chapter for Recitation]

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[42: The Preparation of the Body]

Then venerable Anuruddha and venerable Ānanda spent the rest of the night in talk about the Teaching. Then venerable Anuruddha addressed venerable Ānanda, (saying): “Go, Ānanda, and after entering Kusinārā inform the Mallas of Kusinārā, (saying): ‘The Gracious One has attained Emancipation, Vāseṭṭhas, now is the time for whatever you are thinking.’ ”

“Very well, reverend Sir,” said venerable Ānanda, and after replying to venerable Anuruddha, dressing in the morning time, and taking his robes and bowl, he entered Kusinārā with a companion.

Now at that time the Mallas from Kusinārā were assembled in the Council Hall having some business (or other). Then venerable Ānanda approached the Mallas from Kusinārā in the Council Hall, and after approaching he informed the Mallas of Kusinārā (saying): “The Gracious One has attained Emancipation, Vāseṭṭhas, now is the time for whatever you are thinking.”

After hearing this word from venerable Ānanda, the Mallas, the sons of the Mallas, the daughters-in-law of the Mallas, and the wives of the Mallas became miserable, depressed, with their minds given over to suffering. Some, having dishevelled hair, were weeping, throwing up their arms, falling down (as though) cut down, rolling backwards and forwards as though with their feet cut off, they were crying: “Too quickly the Gracious One has attained Final Emancipation, too quickly the Fortunate One has attained Final Emancipation, too quickly the Visionary in the world has disappeared!”

Then the Mallas from Kusinārā ordered (their) men, (saying): “Now, friends, gather together perfume and flowers, and all the musicians in Kusinārā.”

Then the Mallas of Kusinārā, having taken perfumes and garlands, and all the musicians, and five-hundred pairs of clothes, approached the Mallas' Sal Wood at Upavattana, and the Gracious One's body, after approaching the Gracious One's body, through honouring, respecting, revering, and worshipping (the body), with dance, song, music, garlands, and perfumes, and making cloth canopies, and preparing circular pavillions, they made the day pass.

Then this occurred to the Mallas of Kusinārā: “Today it is too late to burn the Gracious One's body, tomorrow we will burn the Gracious One's body.”

Then the Mallas of Kusinārā, through honouring, respecting, revering, and worshipping the Gracious One's body, with dance, song, music, garlands, and perfumes, and making cloth canopies, and preparing circular pavillions, they made the second day pass, they made the third day pass, they made the fourth day pass, they made the fifth day pass, they made the sixth day pass. Although this looks like a repetition passage, no ellipsis is marked in any of the editions.01

Then on the seventh day this occurred to the Mallas of Kusinārā: “While honouring, respecting, revering, and worshipping the Gracious One's body, with dance, song, music, garlands, and perfumes, after taking it out of the city by the South, on the outside of the City to the South we will burn the Gracious One's body.”

Now at that time eight leaders of the Mallas, having washed their heads and put on clean clothes, (said): “Let us lift the Gracious One's body,” but they were not able to lift (it).

Then the Mallas of Kusinārā said this to venerable Anuruddha: “What is the reason, Anuruddha, what is the cause why eight leaders of the Mallas, having washed their heads and put on clean clothes, (and saying): ‘Let us lift the Gracious One's body,’ are not able to lift (it)?”

“You Vāseṭṭhas have one intention, and the Divinities have another intention.”

“But what is the Divinities' intention, reverend Sir?”

“Your intention, Vāseṭṭhas, is: ‘We, while honouring, respecting, revering, and worshipping the Gracious One's body, with dance, song, music, garlands, and perfumes, after taking it out of the City by the South, on the outside of the City to the South, will burn the Gracious One's body.’

The Divinities' intention, Vāseṭṭhas, is: ‘We, while honouring, respecting, revering, and worshipping the Gracious One's body, with the Divinities' dance, song, music, garlands, and perfumes, after carrying it to the North of the City by the North, and re-entering the City by the North Gate, and carrying it to the middle of the City by the middle, and going out by the Eastern Gate, to the East of the City, at the Mallas' Shrine called the Bonded Coronet, there let us burn the Gracious One's body.”

“Let us do according to the Divinities' intention, reverend Sir.”

* * *

Now at that time the whole of Kusinārā, including the dirty rubbish heaps, was covered knee-deep with (Divine) Coral Tree flowers. Then the Divinities and the Mallas of Kusinārā while honouring, respecting, revering, and worshipping the Gracious One's body with the Divinities' and mens' dance, song, music, garlands, and perfumes, after carrying it to the North of the City by the North, and re-entering the City by the North Gate, and carrying it to the middle of the City by the middle, and going out by the Eastern Gate, to the East of the City, at the Mallas' Shrine called the Bonded Coronet there set down the Gracious One's body.

Then the Mallas of Kusinārā said this to venerable Ānanda: “How do we act, reverend Ānanda, in regard to the Realised One's body?”

“As you act, Vāseṭṭhas, in regard to the Universal Monarch's body, so you should act in regard to the Realised One's body.”

“But how do we act, reverend Ānanda, in regard to the Universal Monarch's body?”

“They wrap the Universal Monarch's body, Vāseṭṭhas, with clean cloth, and after wrapping with clean cloth, they wrap with carded cotton, and after wrapping with carded cotton, they wrap with clean cloth, by this means after wrapping the Universal Monarch's body with five-hundred pairs (of cloth and cotton), enclosing it in an oil tub made of iron, and enclosing it in another iron tub, and putting it on a scented funeral pyre, they burn the Universal Monarch's body, and they build a Shrine for the Universal Monarch at the crossroads.

So they act, Vāseṭṭhas, in regard to a Universal Monarch's body. Just as they act, Vāseṭṭhas, in regard to a Universal Monarch's body, so should they act in regard to a Realised One's body, and a Shrine should be made for the Realised One at the crossroads. Whoever there prepares flowers, incense, or powder, or worships or establishes confidence in his mind, that will be for their benefit and happiness for a long time.”

Then the Mallas of Kusinārā gave orders to (their) men, (saying): “If it is so (then) wrap (the body) with the Mallas' carded cloth, friends.”

Then the Mallas of Kusinārā wrapped the Gracious One's body with clean cloth, and after wrapping with clean cloth, they wrapped with carded cotton, and after wrapping with carded cotton, they wrapped with clean cloth, and by this means, after wrapping the Gracious One's body with five-hundred pairs (of cloth and cotton), enclosing it in an oil tub made of iron, and enclosing it in another iron tub, and putting it on a scented funeral pyre, they put the Gracious One's body on the funeral pyre.