A story about the Buddha (AN 6.42 and AN 8.86.)

Hello all,
I have heard Ajahn Brahm talk about a stroy of the Buddha walking with Ananda through the forest and noticing two monks practicing meditation. One monk had back straight and diligent effort. While the second monk was hunched over falling in and out of sleep. The Buddha made a comment to Ananda that first monk wasnt long for the practice but the second monk was very close…

Does any one know if this is a story from the suttas. If so, which sutta it is? If not, where did it originate from?


Maha metta


I have heard a very similar story but it involves a senior Zen monk and two junior monks in a Zen temple. I have a hunch this story is apocryphal, but I could be mistaken.


Huh…you know…I think I may have read this story in one of the Nikayas. But then…my memory is not brilliant with details. Which is why I can’t remember if: 1. This is accurate, 2. Where I read it!!

I think it’s worth hunting it down (if it is indeed hidden away somewhere in the Suttas) as it points to a rather important point of practise.

May I suggest changing the title or adding a few tags so that you have a better chance of attracting those who are very well read? Or you could tag someone knowlegable?

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I thought it was with a monk practicing good samadhi near a city and the Buddha was worried about that monk; meanwhile the other monk was very scatter-brained but practicing in the forest and the Buddha thought that monk would progress well. Of course, both cases come true.


This question has a possible answer here:

It seems to be loosely based on AN 6.42:

Take a mendicant living in the neighborhood of a village who I see sitting immersed in samādhi. I think to myself: ‘Now a monastery worker, a novice, or a fellow practitioner will make this venerable fall from immersion.’ So I’m not pleased that that mendicant is living in the neighborhood of a village.

Take a mendicant in the wilderness who I see sitting nodding in meditation. I think to myself: ‘Now this venerable, having dispelled that sleepiness and weariness, will focus just on the unified perception of wilderness.’ So I’m pleased that that mendicant is living in the wilderness.


This sutta raises the point that it is very important to protect the good qualities that we develop, and not let it fizzle away. This could be done by living in an environment conducive to practice and peaceful development of the mind.

With metta


Hmmm…that isn’t what I remember reading… But it’s still rather nice. :slight_smile:


Thanks for the replies! I beleive the story definitely has to do with types of effort in practice and not location of practice.

Maybe one of the venerables recalls hearings this. @sujato @Brahmali


Thanks Kay. Ill add some tags and see if that helps.

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Good idea, though, just want to suggest that the tags under the title should probably be about the themes of this thread. Perhaps: “practise” or “effort” or “hindrances”. :slight_smile: This might encourage other readers who are interested in such themes and some of them might be able to answer your question too!


Ajahn Brahm has his own particular style of teaching that requires some getting used to :smile:. And while in my opinion all of his teachings are firmly based in the word of the Buddha as found in the EBTs, sometimes these teachings are adapted for making other (though equally valid) points to be carried across. (And don’t be fooled by this, Ajahn Brahm can just as easily quote in Pali with direct reference to the sutta when appropriate for the particular audience as he can “free form” it when it makes a greater impact to deliver a point wrapped in a story).

This particular story (the two monks in samadhi/sloth and torpor) is usually told at meditation retreats and serves as a reminder that “striving” is not to be done in meditation, because the main point of meditation is letting go.

As an example of Ajahn Brahm’s skill in storytelling you will perhaps be familiar with the “Anger eating demon” story, which is adapted from SN 11.22 (and you can decide which version makes a greater impact on you :smile:):

Near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove. “Once upon a time, mendicants, there was a native spirit who was ugly and deformed. He sat on the throne of Sakka, lord of gods. But the gods of the Thirty-Three complained, grumbled, and objected: ‘It’s incredible, it’s amazing! This ugly and deformed spirit is sitting on the throne of Sakka, the lord of gods.’ But the more the gods complained, the more attractive, good-looking, and lovely that spirit became.

So the gods went up to Sakka and told him what had happened, adding: ‘Surely, good sir, that must be the anger-eating spirit!’

Then Sakka went up to that spirit, arranged his robe over one shoulder, knelt with his right knee on the ground, raised his joined palms toward the anger-eating spirit, and pronounced his name three times: ‘Good sir, I am Sakka, lord of gods! Good sir, I am Sakka, the lord of gods!’ But the more Sakka pronounced his name, the uglier and more deformed the spirit became. Until eventually it vanished right there. Then Sakka, lord of gods, guiding the gods of the Thirty-Three, recited this verse:

‘My mind isn’t easily upset;
I’m not easily drawn into the maelstrom.
I don’t get angry for long,
anger doesn’t last in me.

When I do get angry I don’t speak harshly,
nor do I advertise my own virtues.
I carefully restrain myself
out of regard for my own welfare.’”


AN 6.42 and AN 8.86.

With metta from the UK.


Thank you bhante. These definitely seem to talking about location of practice and not so much specific effort.


Yes, indeed and my (faulty?) memory still seems to be telling me that I’ve read the version with Ananda somewhere!