Searching for a sutta with monks and thieves

Hello everyone -very very happy to be here, I am looking for the sutta or maybe it is just a story? In this story an abott accidentially stays with his monks stays over night in a cave where later thieves arrive. The thieves then want him to choose a monk /some monks to sacrifice to state an example so the monks won’t tell anyone the location.

I think I heard that in a dhamma talk by ajahn brahm - and dearly want to read this again.
Thank you so much

Hi Cordula, and welcome!

The story you’re looking for is from the Visuddhimagga, in Chapter IX on the divine abidings, in the section on The Breaking Down of the Barriers:

When his resentment towards that hostile person has been thus allayed, then he can turn his mind with loving-kindness towards that person too, just as towards the one who is dear, the very dear friend, and the neutral person. Then he should break down the barriers by practicing loving-kindness over and over again, accomplishing mental impartiality towards the four persons, that is to say, himself, the dear person, the neutral person and the hostile person.

The characteristic of it is this. Suppose this person is sitting in a place with a dear, a neutral, and a hostile person, himself being the fourth; then bandits come to him and say, “Venerable sir, give us a bhikkhu,” and on being asked why, they answer, “So that we may kill him and use the blood of his throat as an offering;” then if that bhikkhu thinks, “Let them take this one, or this one,” he has not broken down the barriers. And also if he thinks, “Let them take me but not these three,” he has not broken down the barriers either. Why? Because he seeks the harm of him whom he wishes to be taken and seeks the welfare of the other only. But it is when he does not see a single one among the four people to be given to the bandits and he directs his mind impartially towards himself and towards those three people that he has broken down the barriers. Hence the Ancients said:

When he discriminates between
The four, that is himself, the dear,
The neutral, and the hostile one,
Then “skilled” is not the name he gets,
Nor “having amity at will,”
But only “kindly towards beings.”

Now, when a bhikkhu’s barriers
Have all the four been broken down,
He treats with equal amity
The whole world with its deities;
Far more distinguished than the first
Is he who knows no barriers.


"But when he begins, he must know that some persons are of the wrong sort at
the very beginning and that loving-kindness should be developed towards
certain kinds of persons and not towards certain other kinds at first. [296]
4. For loving-kindness should not be developed at first towards the following
four kinds of persons: an antipathetic person, a very dearly loved friend, a neutral
person, and a hostile person. Also it should not be developed specifically (see
§49) towards the opposite sex, or towards a dead person.
5. What is the reason why it should not be developed at first towards an
antipathetic person and the others? To put an antipathetic person in a dear
one’s place is fatiguing. To put a very dearly loved friend in a neutral person’s
place is fatiguing; and if the slightest mischance befalls the friend, he feels like
weeping. To put a neutral person in a respected one’s or a dear one’s place is
fatiguing. Anger springs up in him if he recollects a hostile person. That is why
it should not be developed at first towards an antipathetic person and the rest.
6. Then, if he develops it specifically towards the opposite sex, lust inspired by
that person springs up in him. An elder supported by a family was asked, it
seems, by a friend’s son, “Venerable sir, towards whom should loving-kindness
be developed?” The elder told him, “Towards a person one loves.” He loved his
own wife. Through developing loving-kindness towards her he was fighting
against the wall all the night.1
That is why it should not be developed specifically
towards the opposite sex.
7. But if he develops it towards a dead person, he reaches neither absorption
nor access. A young bhikkhu, it seems, had started developing loving-kindness
inspired by his teacher. His loving-kindness made no headway at all. He went to
a senior elder and told him, “Venerable sir, I am quite familiar with attaining
jhána through loving-kindness, and yet I cannot attain it. What is the matter?”
The elder said, “Seek the sign, friend, [the object of your meditation].” He did so.
Finding that his teacher had died, he proceeded with developing loving-kindness
inspired by another and attained absorption. That is why it should not be
developed towards one who is dead.
8. First of all it should be developed only towards oneself, doing it repeatedly
thus: “May I be happy and free from suffering” or “May I keep myself free from
enmity, affliction and anxiety and live happily.”

  1. “‘Fighting against the wall’: having undertaken the precepts of virtue and sat
    down on a seat in his room with the door locked, he was developing loving-kindness.
    Blinded by lust arisen under cover of the loving-kindness, he wanted to go to his wife,
    and without noticing the door he beat on the wall in his desire to get out even by
    breaking the wall down” (Vism-mhþ 286).
PATH OF PURIFICATION Part 2: Concentration (Samádhi)

Hello Christopher

  • thank you very much

Thank you Paul, that leaves a lot to think and reflect

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