Buddha hiding from the throngs of people?

Every once in while you come across a comedy classic in the Suttas. Just reading through the Anguttara today and came across this, had to share. An 5.30 Nāgita sutta (An5.30). What are your thoughts on how this sutta plays out?

In it the residents of a village near where the Buddha was staying decide to gather en mass and go visit him:

"Then, when the night had passed, the brahmin householders of Icchānaṅgala took abundant food of various kinds and went to the Icchānaṅgala woodland thicket. They stood outside the entrance making an uproar and a racket. [31] Now on that occasion the Venerable Nāgita was the Blessed One’s attendant. The Blessed One addressed the Venerable Nāgita:
“Who is making such an uproar and a racket, Nāgita? One would think it was fishermen at a haul of fish.” (Sujato-fisherman)

The Buddha and his one liners lol.

Then, his lament :–

“Bhante, these are the brahmin householders of Icchānaṅgala who have brought abundant food of various kinds. They are standing outside the entrance, [wishing to offer it] to the Blessed One and the Saṅgha of bhikkhus.”
“Let me never come upon fame, Nāgita, and may fame never catch up with me. One who does not gain at will, without trouble or difficulty, this bliss of renunciation, bliss of solitude, bliss of peace, bliss of enlightenment that I gain at will, without trouble or difficulty, might accept that vile pleasure, that slothful pleasure, the pleasure of gain, honor, and praise.”

This is nothing new as the Buddha never has anything good to say about gain, honor, and praise to his monastics. but this conversation reminds of an old animated TV show that had a skit with the catholic pope being like a teenage boy and the cardinals had to force him to get up to meet the people and he’s going " I don’t wanna!" (first 30 seconds).

It’s kind of funny to me though the image of the buddha just waking up and wanting to avoid more people who have come to see him comes to my mind, even though that wouldn’t quite be the actions of an awakened one and I’m sure there is probably more to this situation then i’m reading into it. For 40 years he didn’t have much time to himself unless he entered into a seclusion period and I’m sure he got tired, at least physically but there are times where the Buddha will say something to this regard :

“It is not surprising, Ānanda, that a human being should die. But if each time someone has died you approach and question me about this matter, that would be troublesome for the Tathāgata.

But back to the sutta . It’s ok though his attendant (prior to Ananda I assume?) is convincing hah:–

“Let the Blessed One now consent, Bhante, let the Fortunate One consent. This is now the time for the Blessed One to consent. Wherever the Blessed One will go now, the brahmin householders of town and countryside will incline in the same direction. Just as, when thick drops of rain are pouring down, the water flows down along the slope, so too, wherever the Blessed One will go now, the brahmin householders of town and country will incline in the same direction. For what reason? Because of the Blessed One’s virtuous behavior and wisdom.”

Another one of those examples where the Buddha seems to need some kind of convincing for the welfare of the masses, harkening back to his original thoughts post awakening about not wanting to teach.

The Sutta ends with a short teaching to Nāgita, and no further reference to the throngs of people, I wonder if the Buddha eventually gave in and addressed them?

Lastly this kind of stuff reminds me a little of what I see here at my own monastery, Bhante G being “visited” constantly and he not having time to breathe, even having to “escape” the monastery for a few days to rest. When I see this kind of stuff the Buddhas words :“Let me never come upon fame, Nāgita, and may fame never catch up with me really call to me. maybe I should make them a mantra for my future monastic career!


Michelle Obama said that she couldn’t wait until president Obama finish his term so she can go shopping (to Target) without having to worry about security guards surrounding her. She said she is not allowed to open the windows of the white house.
I can think many people like that Michael Jackson, Lady Diana a named a few.

This is very interesting thing. People who are not famous trying to be famous and people who are famous trying to hide from the public.
There is nothing soothing like the solitude.

Perhaps the Blessed One’s unwillingness to address the mass of people had to do with the herding instincts of the people involved. For instance, it may have been just a few devout followers with genuine faith in the Buddha who wished to give dana and seek a teaching, but when fellow villagers caught wind, wanted to join in simply to partake of the good merit and go along with what everyone else was doing, without any real concern for learning any Dhamma. There is also the approach of the villagers, which must have been quite noisy, something which the Buddha had little tolerance for. I believe the fisherman simile is the stock phrase he uses to describe those unconcerned with idle chatter or noble silence. I believe that if the amassed throng were to have approached the Blessed One in reverential silence, thus proving their piety and appreciation, that they would have been received and granted a most excellent teaching!

Well, although it’s definitely a heterodox reading, my personal approach to passages such as this one is to take them on their face and conclude that the Buddha’s state of mind following his awakening did not consist in the continuous and uninterrupted enjoyment of the bliss of renunciation, solitude, peace and enlightenment, implying a complete and permanent absence of all suffering, but rather consisted in the ability to “gain at will, without trouble or difficulty” the bliss of renunciation, solitude, peace and enlightenment. The Buddha, when vexatious states of mind came upon him, could sit down and enter whatever state of jhana he wished, and even enter the full release of mind beyond all of the jhanas. The rest of us, who are not perfectly awakened, have no experience at all of the latter fully liberated state, have to strive to achieve all of those lower states of mental seclusion from suffering, and might fail even in achieving them and can’t turn them on at will.

Besides the two passages cited by Bhante Jayantha above, there are other passages in the Pali Canon that suggest the Buddha was still susceptible to occasional suffering . One is the story of the Buddha’s retreat into the Parileyyaka Forest to escape the factional quarreling and squabbling of the monks he was dwelling with at Kosambi. The Vinaya account says that due to the ruckus, the Buddha “was not living at ease”, and in the Dhammapada Commentary account, he is said to explain, “Now I am living miserably among this crowd, and these monks do not heed my words!”

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