The Discourse about the Noble Search

[4. The Meeting with Āḷāra Kālāma]

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Then at another time, monks, while still a youth, having beautiful black hair, endowed with auspicious youthfulness, in the prime of life, though my Mother This remark is discussed in the Introduction. 01 and Father didn’t like it, and were crying with tearful faces, after shaving off my hair and beard, and donning brown garments, I went forth from the home to the homeless life.

When I had gone forth thus, searching for what was wholesome, the unsurpassed, noble and peaceful state, I approached Āḷāra Kālāma, and after approaching, I said this to Āḷāra Kālāma:

“I desire, friend Kālāma, to lead the spiritual life in this Dhamma and Discipline.” It is worth noting the Dhammavinaya may have been a general term for any ascetic’s teachings regarding conduct and theory, before being adopted by the Buddha himself for his own teaching on these subjects. 02

When this was said, monks, Āḷāra Kālāma said this to me:

“Live here, venerable, this Dhamma is such that a wise man in no long time, having deep knowledge himself of what comes from his own teacher, can live, having directly experienced and attained it.”

Then, monks, in no long time I had soon mastered that Dhamma.

Then, monks, after a little time, merely through beating my lips, merely through repeating the prattling, I spoke knowingly about that teaching and confidently about that teaching, claiming: ‘I know, I see.’ Both I and others also.

Then this occurred to me, monks:

‘Āḷāra Kālāma did not declare: “Through mere faith in this Dhamma alone, I have deep knowledge of it myself, I live, having directly experienced and attained it,” for sure Āḷāra Kālāma lives knowing and seeing this Dhamma.’

Then, monks, I approached Āḷāra Kālāma, and after approaching, I said this to Āḷāra Kālāma: “In what way, friend Kālāma, do you declare: I have deep knowledge of this Dhamma myself, having directly experienced and attained it?”

When this was said, monks, Āḷāra Kālāma declared the Sphere of Nothingness. The penultimate level in the thirty-three Realms of Existence.03

Then, monks, this occurred to me:

‘There is not faith for Āḷāra Kālāma alone, for me also there is faith, there is not energy for Āḷāra Kālāma alone, for me also there is energy, there is not mindfulness for Āḷāra Kālāma alone, for me also there is mindfulness, there is not concentration for Āḷāra Kālāma alone, for me also there is concentration, there is not wisdom for Āḷāra Kālāma alone, for me also there is wisdom.

What if, in regard to the Dhamma that Āḷāra Kālāma declares: “I have deep knowledge of it myself, I live, having directly experienced and attained it,” I were to strive to realise that Dhamma?’

Then, monks, in no long time, soon having deep knowledge of that Dhamma myself, I lived, having directly experienced and attained it.

Then, monks, I approached Āḷāra Kālāma, and after approaching, I said this to Āḷāra Kālāma: “Is it in this way, friend Kālāma, that you declare: I have deep knowledge of this Dhamma myself, having directly experienced and attained it?”

“In this way, friend, I do declare: I have deep knowledge of this Dhamma myself, having directly experienced and attained it.”

“In this way I also, friend, say: I have deep knowledge of this Dhamma myself, I live, having directly experienced and attained it.”

“It is a gain for us, friend, it is a great gain for us, friend, that we see such a venerable with us in the spiritual life. Thus I declare I have deep knowledge of this Dhamma myself, having directly experienced and attained it, and you have deep knowledge of this Dhamma yourself, and live, having directly experienced and attained it. Notice a contrast is set up here, between Āḷāra’s declaring (pavedemi) he has the attainment, as though it was unverified, and the Bodhisatta living (viharasi) with the attainment. 04

You have deep knowledge of this Dhamma yourself, and live, having directly experienced and attained it, and I declare I have deep knowledge of this Dhamma myself, having directly experienced and attained it.

Thus the Dhamma I know is the Dhamma you know, the Dhamma you know is the Dhamma I know. Thus as I am, so are you, as you are, so am I. Come now, friend, the two of us will look after this group.”

“Thus my teacher Āḷāra Kālāma, monks, placed me, the pupil, as equal, and in the very same position as himself, and worshipped me with the highest worship.

Then, monks, this occurred to me:

‘This Dhamma does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to deep knowledge, to Complete Awakening, to Nibbāna, but only as far as rebirth in the Sphere of Nothingness.’

Then, monks, having not found satisfaction in that Dhamma, I was therefore disgusted with that Dhamma and went away.