MN4: Bhayabherava


Hello dear Bhantes and all

I’ve just had a look at the sutta in question on the English version offered by Sutta Central.

Pretty much at the start of the sutta it says:

Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too considered thus: ‘Remote jungle-thicket resting places in the forest are hard to endure…the jungles must rob a bhikkhu of his mind, if he has no concentration…” [I have added the italics]

The very next paragraph:

““I considered thus: ‘Whenever recluses or brahmins unpurified in bodily conduct resort to remote jungle-thicket resting places in the forest, then owing to the defect of their unpurified bodily conduct these good recluses and brahmins evoke unwholesome fear and dread. But I do not resort to remote jungle-thicket resting places in the forest unpurified in bodily conduct. I am purified in bodily conduct. I resort to remote jungle-thicket resting places in the forest as one of the noble ones with bodily conduct purified.’ Seeing in myself this purity of bodily conduct, I found great solace in dwelling in the forest.”


Question 1.

The repetition of “I considered thus” seems to imply that at this point (and in subsequent sections) he’s still a bodhisattva. However, later in the paragraph(s), there’s the phrase about being one of the noble ones. So is he talking about himself prior to his Enlightenment in all the sections? Not just the very first?

“I considered thus: ‘There are the specially auspicious nights of the fourteenth, the fifteenth, and the eighth of the fortnight. Now what if, on such nights as these, I were to dwell in such awe-inspiring, horrifying abodes as orchard shrines, woodland shrines, and tree shrines? Perhaps I might encounter that fear and dread.’ And later, on such specially auspicious nights as the fourteenth, the fifteenth, and the eighth of the fortnight, I dwelt in such awe-inspiring, horrifying abodes as orchard shrines, woodland shrines, and tree shrines. And while I dwelt there, a wild animal would come up to me, or a peacock would knock off a branch, or the wind would rustle the leaves. I thought: ‘What now if this is the fear and dread coming?’ I thought: ‘Why do I dwell always expecting fear and dread? What if I subdue that fear and dread while keeping the same posture that I am in when it comes upon me?’

Question 2

So in the above section quoted (and in similar sections to follow, it seems, going by the bit I’ve italicised, that he is referring to himself as a bodhisatta. Yes?

“There are, brahmin, some recluses and brahmins who perceive day when it is night and night when it is day. I say that on their part this is an abiding in delusion. But I perceive night when it is night and day when it is day. Rightly speaking, were it to be said of anyone: ‘A being not subject to delusion has appeared in the world for the welfare and happiness of many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, welfare, and happiness of gods and humans,’ it is of me indeed that rightly speaking this should be said."

This is a very interesting little passage.

First… it reminds me of Ajahn Brahm’s comments about how, through meditating alot and well, one’s perception becomes less fixed and how, I guess, this is a good sign that the mind’s…I dunno…loosening up or something. Like his story of how he looked at a white towel and suddenly it was black… and there are other stories about like this.

Question 3

It would seem the Buddha is referring to some ascetics who deliberately cultivated this sort of ocurrence and seems to be saying it’s a waste of time… Would this be correct?

Secondly…referring to the italicised section:

Question 4

Does this mean he’s aware of his potential for Enlightenment or he’s already Enlightened?

“When my concentrated mind was thus purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, I directed it to knowledge of the recollection of past lives. I recollected my manifold past lives, that is, one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, a hundred births, a thousand births, a hundred thousand births, many aeons of world-contraction, many aeons of world-expansion, many aeons of world-contraction and expansion: ‘There I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my nutriment, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my life-term; and passing away from there, I reappeared elsewhere; and there too I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my nutriment, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my life-term; and passing away from there, I reappeared here.’ Thus with their aspects and particulars I recollected my manifold past lives."

At a recent retreat, someone asked Ajahn Brahm how it was possible for so much memory to be squeezed into what appears to be a small space of time and consciousness (well, that was the gist of the question). Ajahn replied by saying that someone once came up to him with a very small memory stick and said that he had about a 1000 of Ajahn’s talks on this tiny device… So to my mind, Ajahn was pointing out that it is possible for large things to be contained in small things.

:slight_smile: Just a comment I felt worth sharing. :smile:

“Now, brahmin, it might be that you think: ‘Perhaps the recluse Gotama is not free from lust, hate, and delusion even today, which is why he still resorts to remote jungle-thicket resting places in the forest.’ But you should not think thus. It is because I see two benefits that I still resort to remote jungle-thicket resting places in the forest: I see a pleasant abiding for myself here and now, and I have compassion for future generations.”

So the bits in italics indicate that the Buddha felt/perceived/knew that the brahmin thought he hung out in the forest 'cos he still had fears to over come… Yes? And the Buddha was basically saying, in the whole sutta, nope, these are all the things that I’ve faced and overcome whilst in the forest…I’m only doing it now 'cos it’s really cool fun and also so as to be an example to others that might like to give it a go. Yes?

I hope it’s alright I’ve posted in this category…I’m not registered in the course or anything…but this sutta is one of the readings for the course…so I posted it here.

Much metta


Oh BTW…just to be very very clear…i did add all the italics… :wink:

And…can someone point me in the right direction with regard to quoting suttas so that the quotes appear in those cool shaded sections…?

Thanks and metta


Dear Kay,

many thanks for this thorough investigation and your raising of lots of interesting points. Overall, I understand the sutta pretty much in the same way as you do. I will have to look into the text further, to see if I could answer your more detailed questions. On a first glance, I agree that one has to keep in mind that the Buddha is speaking in retrospect. So part of the statements are formulated from his viewpoint when he was still a Bodhisatta and part of it is from his viewpoint as a fully enlightened Buddha. Also, by the time that he could recollect past lives, it is likely that he saw his live as a monk under the previous Buddha (which I think he was).

With much mettā,

P.S.: On your practical question. You can use the tool bar to create the grey shaded area for a quote (see my yellow marks):

Just type some text, highlight it, and then press the yellow marked " button in the tool bar…

Yep, it works! :slight_smile:


Hi Robert

Thanks so much, I’ve gone back and highlighted the quotes. :slight_smile:


There’s also Discourse’s amazing “onebox” system, where you just just throw a URL into the post and, if it is from a site that supports oneboxing, you’ll get a nice excerpt and everything. Like this:

All I did was paste in and it creates what you see above. Cool, right? This is one of the features we’re still evolving. If, for example, I paste in the URL for a text page such as

I get this:


rather this, bhante


Thanks, corrected, and it’s good to see someone else understands the system!