Every time I read this sutta, I'm awe struck by the impact it has on me. It's just a bunch of little teachings thrown together and then the hero dies. But it always has a much greater impact than it rationally should. And I'm not really interested in figuring out why it is so strong - I'd rather have it continue to have that impact.

The sutta seems to be a collection of teachings, that presumably the Digha reciters knew but had no good place to put, so they all got collected here as a lead in to the Buddha's passing. The little teachings are separated by the 'chorus' of the comprehensive discourse on morality, concentration and wisdom which first appears in section 1.12.

The little teachings that struck me the most are as follows:

The Buddha's death is presented with such a wealth of detail (plus lots of additional 'stuff', such as the 500 ox carts versus the thunderstorm) that it seems very plausible that his passing was much the way described. I am particularly struck by 6.1 through 6.7. Overall, they seems quite authentic to me (except possibly for 6.2), though some of these events may not have taken place on the Buddha's deathbed. 6.3 actually rings the truest of all since its inclusion after-the-fact would be very implausible because the minor rules were not abolished.

As for the jhanas in 6.8 - 6.9, if another experienced jhana practitioner were to watch my face, I think they could distinguish 1, 2, 3, 4 and immaterial. So I'm not at all surprised that Anuruddha could tell what the Buddha was doing as he passed away.

The rest of this sutta is a tribute to the Buddha and his teachings. His impact is still so strong today - it must have been astounding during his lifetime.

This is a finely crafted sutta. Skimming it as I write this has again had the impact it had upon first reading!

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Leigh Brasington / / Revised 16 July 12