Je Suis Ajatasattu: Tragedy of the Samaññaphala Sutta (1)

“History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”  (Joyce, Ulysses)

History is a dismal recitation of greed, theft, lust, machinations, murder, usurpation, and violent conquest. Our newspapers intone a daily version of this record, softened with entertainment and sports. If an extraterrestrial being were to study a library full of histories and newspapers, he would be entirely justified in wishing for the extermination of a species so stupid and destructive. Our literary and spiritual traditions seem to stand as consolations against the bleak self-portrait painted by our collective deeds: we know that every history book and newspaper depicts us as a toxic, tumultuous species, but surely that can’t be all we are? In every great civilization there are attempts to end the cycle of misery, sometimes by reconceiving the structure of societies, sometimes by the actual political attempt to force a new order — but mostly by revisioning human possibilities and acculturating a new kind of person, one who has the wisdom to understand the deadly old cycle and the will to transcend it. Plato conceives the philosopher; the authors of the Bible give us various versions of followers of God; Confucius has the junzi or superior person; the Daoist writers describe the freely wandering sage; while in the Hindu schools different versions of the liberated spirit can be found bickering with one another. In the Pali Canon we encounter not only the new kind of being called the Buddha or Tathagata, as perplexing and revolutionary then as now, but also the bhikkhu or wandering mendicant, an aspiring Buddha. The bhikkhu came from all walks of life, all castes, and could be old or young. Hundreds of them would accompany rhe Buddha in his wandering, and probably hundreds more would be engaged in solitary meditation beyond the walls of civilized life. In a system where the renunciation of social life was reserved for the very old, those who were “done” with their lives and on their way out, the vigorous and determined bhikkhu would have seemed a puzzling phenomenon, one that required explanation. What good is such a person, and why would anyone choose to live as a homeless beggar when better options were available? What could he possibly be thinking?

   The Digha Nikaya or Longer Discourses of the Buddha begins with a substantial sutta, the “Brahmajala,” that has been subtitled “What the teaching is not.” It is followed by a sutta that gives an overview of the entire Buddhist path, but this overview — which occurs almost verbatim in several other suttas — comes embedded in a moving and profound narrative that is also one of the literary masterpieces of the Pali Canon. The Samannaphala Sutta, or “The Fruits of the Homeless Life,” begins like this:   

Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Exalted One was dwelling at Rājagaha, in Jīvaka Komārabhacca’s Mango Grove, together with a large company of twelve hundred and fifty bhikkhus. At the time, on the fifteenth-day Uposatha, the full-moon night of Komudī in the fourth month, King Ajātasattu of Magadha, the son of Queen Videhā, was sitting on the upper terrace of his palace surrounded by his ministers.

The phrase “at the time,” which can also be translated “meanwhile,” brings to our attention two parallel worlds that are set to collide. On the one hand there is an unusually large gathering of bhikkhus around a sage, embodying aspiration for a better life or for total  freedom from the old cycles of suffering. On the other, there is the court of the notorious King Ajatasattu, the archetypal ancient monarch, incarnating conquest, ruthless ambition, and terrifying violence: he is the Spirit of the World, the essence of man the historical actor, brutal and unregenerate. As always, he is surrounded by tyrant-wannabes, wealthy enablers, pleasure-slaves, calculating sycophants, and one or two wise counsellors who are trying to “ride the tiger.” They all know no difference between night and day because their king, from fear and guilt, cannot sleep. 

 There the king uttered the following joyful exclamation:

“How delightful, friends, is this moonlit night! How beautiful is this moonlit night! How lovely is this moonlit night! How tranquil is this moonlit night! How auspicious is this moonlit night! Is there any recluse or brahmin that we could visit tonight who might be able to bring peace to my mind?”

Even in his insomniac torment, Ajatasattu is capable of rejoicing in the beauty of the moonlight, and rather than submerging himself in pleasurable distractions he wants to spend the night seeking balm for his troubled spirit. This king has not yet drowned in the world, to the point of not noticing his own perturbation; this sets him apart from all those ambitious people who are so used to the World that they cannot even recognize their own unhappiness. Ajatasattu is looking for someone who has found a definitive peace, and after his advisors suggest various gurus in the vicinity he chooses to visit the Buddha –taking  with him the entire paraphernalia of his power and prestige, a royal army of thousands. To go as an lone human being would be unthinkable for him; he is no longer able to think of himself apart from his vast retinue, and is perhaps afraid to do so. 

King Ajātasattu then had five hundred of his women mounted on the female elephants, one on each, while he himself mounted his personal bull-elephant. With his attendants carrying torches, he went forth from Rājagaha in full royal splendour, setting out in the direction of Jīvaka’s Mango Grove.

There is a lesson for all of here. In one of Zhuangzi’s parables, a budding spiritual seeker is refused entry to the house of a sage because the sage is willing to see him but not the “whole crowd of people he has brought with him.”  What is meant here is the multitude of people and things necessary to maintain our lives, positions, earthly comforts, and our egos: all the enablers and sustainers of material security, but also the inner voices, of old friends and enemies, books, teachers, the formative mental influences. We bring a noisy crowd with us wherever we go. Ajatasattu’s support system is physically huge, but no huger than our own; his is just more explicit. As long as a person refuses to remove himself from the outsized apparatus that guarantees the world he lives in, will he be able to hear words that “bring peace to the mind”? Just imagine the tramping hubbub of 500 elephants in the night, together with the clamor of all those people talking and of their boots on the road.

  Surprisingly, even with such an army at his back, Ajatassatu takes fright on approaching the bhikkhus:

When King Ajātasattu was not far from the Mango Grove, he was suddenly gripped by fear, trepidation, and terror. Frightened, agitated, and terror-stricken, he said to Jīvaka: “You aren’t deceiving me, are you, friend Jīvaka? You aren’t betraying me? You aren’t about to turn me over to my enemies? How could there be such a large company of bhikkhus, twelve hundred and fifty bhikkhus, without any sound of sneezing or coughing, or any noise at all?”

It is wondrously strange that silence can terrify more than noise. The deliberate, coordinated discipline expressed in the bhikkhus’ silence strikes him as ominous, like the silence before an ambush — but perhaps this is the only silence he knows. Beyond this, the silence feels unnatural, even monstrous; his terror is an amplified version of a normal person’s inability to experience pure silence and his need to fill it up with music, talk, and internal noise. At least the ceaseless babble is in some way predictable, whereas out of silence anything may come.

   After his physician reassures him that nothing is amiss,

King Ajātasattu then approached the Exalted One and stood to one side. As he stood there surveying the company of bhikkhus, which sat in complete silence as serene as a calm lake, he uttered the following joyful exclamation: “May my son, the Prince Udāyibhadda, enjoy such peace as the company of bhikkhus now enjoys!”

(The Exalted One said:) “Do your thoughts, great king, follow the call of your affection?”
“Venerable sir, I love my son, the Prince Udāyibhadda. May he enjoy such peace as the company of bhikkhus now enjoys.”

Ajatasattu’s exclamation appears to be a spontaneous blurt, as if proximity to the Buddha has relaxed his inhibitions and he realizes that he is free to voice what is in his heart. It may be the key to his redemption that his first thought is a thought of love, a thought of another person’s benefit; it is also acknowledgment that his son Udayibhaddha is not at peace and needs help. If the blurt indicates what is really on his mind, the question that he officially poses to the Buddha — and that becomes the dominant question for the rest of this sutta — seems only tangentially related to it:

“There are, venerable sir, various crafts, such as elephant trainers, horse trainers, charioteers, archers, standard bearers, camp marshals, commandos, high royal officers, front-line soldiers, bull-warriors, military heroes, mail-clad warriors, domestic slaves, confectioners, barbers, bath attendants, cooks, garland-makers, laundrymen, weavers, basket-makers, potters, statisticians, accountants, and various other crafts of a similar nature. All those (who practise these crafts) enjoy here and now the visible fruits of their crafts. They obtain happiness and joy themselves, and they give happiness and joy to their parents, wives and children, and their friends and colleagues. They establish an excellent presentation of gifts to recluses and brahmins—leading to heaven, ripening in happiness, conducing to a heavenly rebirth. Is it possible, venerable sir, to point out any fruit of recluseship that is similarly visible here and now?”

All these normal occupations give obvious benefits of various kinds both to their practitioners and their society, and also to people like monks and ascetics who depend on alms: but what are the benefits of being a bhikkhu? The question is a sensible one, and is still asked today: what good is a life of meditation, a life that can generate no wealth? Such a question is not often asked with a sincere desire to know the answer, but is usually rhetorical, presupposing that the answer is “none or very little” and expressing the asker’s opinion that the life of a productive member of society is clearly better. If the question is sincere, however, it means that the asker is not happy with his productive life and is genuinely considering the possibility of a change. What does this question mean for Ajatasattu? Why is he really asking it? The Buddha guesses that the king is neither simply insincere nor simply sincere, and sees that the question is probably both a “test”question that might or might not open the door to more serious inquiry. The king is genuinely interested in whether there is an intelligible alternative to living in the World, because on the face of it he has achieved through force the highest successes of such a life and yet is still discontent. The existence of a body of people who can ignore and even disdain the greatest worldly successes is a powerful challenge to him, but as an insatiable conquerer he wants to be challenged by a worthy foe. This is partly why his approach to the Buddha’s camp feels like an army engaging another army. 

   The Buddha guesses that Ajatasattu has already put this “test” question to other gurus, and instead of giving him a straight answer he responds in kind, “testing” the king. He is interested in what other gurus have said, but like a physician sounding out his patient, he needs to understand what the king has made of these answers.  “Do you remember, great king, ever asking other recluses and brahmins this question?” The question is cheekily phrased — as if it were likely that the king would claim not to remember ever asking this question! It also signals to the king that the Buddha has grasped his modus operandi. 

“I do remember asking them, venerable sir.”
“If it isn’t troublesome for you, please tell us how they answered.”
“It is not troublesome for me, venerable sir, when the Exalted One or anyone like him is present.”
“Then speak, great king.”

The account that follows of Ajatasattu’s interviews with six contemporary sages reads something like the summary of one person’s lifelong spiritual quest, as he engages with the different schools of his day. It is one of the many reminders in the Pali Suttas of just how diverse, conflicting, and argumentatively systematic the philosophies of India were at this time. Ajatasattu’s eagerness to explore them and his refusal to accept the doctrines he is presented with tells us a lot about his intelligence and integrity.

   The first sage he asks is the amoralist Purana Kassapa, who tells him:

‘Great king, if one acts or induces others to act, mutilates or induces others to mutilate, tortures or induces others to ghttorture, inflicts sorrow or induces others to inflict sorrow, oppresses or induces others to oppress, intimidates or induces others to intimidate; if one destroys life, takes what is not given, breaks into houses, plunders wealth, commits burglary, ambushes highways, commits adultery, speaks falsehood—one does no evil. If with a razor-edged disk one were to reduce all the living beings on this earth to a single heap and pile of flesh, by doing so there would be no evil or outcome of evil. If one were to go along the south bank of the Ganges killing and inducing others to kill, mutilating and inducing others to mutilate, torturing and inducing others to torture, by doing so there would be no evil or outcome of evil. If one were to go along the north bank of the Ganges giving gifts and inducing others to give gifts, making offerings and inducing others to make offerings, by doing so there would be no merit or outcome of merit. By giving, self-control, restraint, and truthful speech there is no merit or outcome of merit.’

Purana Kassapa misinterprets the question about the fruits of recluseship as really being a plea for absolution: he infers that what the king primarily wants is peace, the stilling of a guilty conscience, and that he has no real interest in an alternative way of life. Therefore he tells him simply that it is impossible to do anything good or evil: actions do not matter at all. The doctrine is dogmatically asserted, without reasons given, and the king sees at once that Purana Kassapa has ignored the question but instead of stubbornly insisting on an answer Ajatasattu politely grunts and leaves:

“Thus, venerable sir, when I asked Pūraṇa Kassapa about a visible fruit of recluseship, he explained to me (his doctrine of) the inefficacy of action. Venerable sir, just as if one asked about a mango would speak about a breadfruit, or as if one asked about a breadfruit would speak about a mango, in the same way when I asked Pūraṇa Kassapa about a visible fruit of recluseship he explained to me (his doctrine of) the inefficacy of action. Then, venerable sir, I thought to myself: ‘One like myself should not think of troubling a recluse or brahmin living in his realm.’ So I neither rejoiced in the statement of Pūraṇa Kassapa nor did I reject it. But, though I neither rejoiced in it nor rejected it, I still felt dissatisfied, yet did not utter a word of dissatisfaction. Without accepting his doctrine, without embracing it, I got up from my seat and left.”

This pattern of engagement is repeated with the other five sages. Mahali Gosala, the fatalist, announces:

‘Great king, there is no cause or condition for the defilement of beings; beings are defiled without any cause or condition. There is no cause or condition for the purification of beings; beings are purified without cause or condition. There is no self-determination, no determination by others, no personal determination. There is no power, no energy, no personal strength, no personal fortitude. All sentient beings, all living beings, all creatures, all souls, are helpless, powerless, devoid of energy. Undergoing transformation by destiny, circumstance, and nature, they experience pleasure and pain in the six classes of men.


‘There are fourteen hundred thousand principal modes of origin (for living beings) and six thousand (others) and six hundred (others). There are five hundred kinds of kamma and five kinds of kamma and three kinds of kamma and full kamma and half-kamma. There are sixty-two pathways, sixty-two sub-aeons, six classes of men, eight stages in the life of man, forty-nine hundred modes of livelihood, forty-nine hundred kinds of wanderers, forty-nine hundred abodes of Nāgas, two thousand faculties, three thousand hells, thirty-six realms of dust, seven spheres of percipient beings, seven spheres of non-percipient beings, seven kinds of jointed plants, seven kinds of gods, seven kinds of human beings, seven kinds of demons, seven great lakes, seven major kinds of knots, seven hundred minor kinds of knots, seven major precipices, seven hundred minor precipices, seven major kinds of dreams, seven hundred minor kinds of dreams, eighty-four hundred thousand great aeons. The foolish and the wise, having roamed and wandered through these, will alike make an end to suffering.

‘Though one might think: “By this moral discipline or observance or austerity or holy life I will ripen unripened kamma and eliminate ripened kamma whenever it comes up”—that cannot be. For pleasure and pain are measured out. Saṃsāra’s limits are fixed, and they can neither be shortened nor extended. There is no advancing forward and no falling back. Just as, when a ball of string is thrown, it rolls along unwinding until it comes to its end, in the same way, the foolish and the wise roam and wander (for the fixed length of time), after which they make an end to suffering.’
“Thus, venerable sir, when I asked Makkhali Gosāla about a visible fruit of recluseship, he explained to me (his doctrine of) purification through wandering in saṃsāra. Venerable sir, just as if one asked about a mango would speak about a breadfruit, or as if one asked about a breadfruit would speak about a mango, in the same way, when I asked Makkhali Gosāla about a visible fruit of recluseship, he explained to me (his doctrine of) purification through wandering in saṃsāra. Then, venerable sir, I thought to myself: ‘One like myself should not think of troubling a recluse or brahmin living in his realm.’ So I neither rejoiced in the statement of Makkhali Gosāla nor did I reject it. But, though I neither rejoiced in it nor rejected it, I still felt dissatisfied, yet did not utter a word of dissatisfaction. Without accepting his doctrine, without embracing it, I got up from my seat and left.

In this view too there is no such thing as moral action, because there is no real volition or choice. Everything has been pre-caused by an infinite and infinitely complex chain, and all we can do is endure until we die or until the series of causes and consequences that afflict us are played out. Mahali Gosala is also trying to soothe the king’s guilt by eradicating the very possibility of guilt, and once again Ajatassatu departs unsatisfied. 

   He then seeks out the materialist Ajita Kesakambala, who acknowledges no moral or spiritual verities:

‘Great king, there is no giving, no offering, no liberality. There is no fruit or result of good and bad actions. There is no present world, no world beyond, no mother, no father, no beings who have taken rebirth. In the world there are no recluses and brahmins of right attainment and right practice who explain this world and the world beyond on the basis of their own direct knowledge and realization. A person is composed of the four primary elements. When he dies, the earth (in his body) returns to and merges with the (external) body of earth; the water (in his body) returns to and merges with the (external) body of water; the fire (in his body) returns to and merges with the (external) body of fire; the air (in his body) returns to and merges with the (external) body of air. His sense faculties pass over into space. Four men carry the corpse along on a bier. His eulogies are sounded until they reach the charnel ground. His bones turn pigeon-coloured. His meritorious offerings end in ashes. The practice of giving is a doctrine of fools. Those who declare that there is (an afterlife) speak only false, empty prattle. With the breaking up of the body, the foolish and the wise alike are annihilated and utterly perish. They do not exist after death.’

“Thus, venerable sir, when I asked Ajita Kesakambala about a visible fruit of recluseship, he explained to me (his doctrine of) annihilation. Venerable sir, just as if one asked about a mango would speak about a breadfruit, or as if one asked about a breadfruit would speak about a mango, in the same way, when I asked Ajita Kesakambala about a visible fruit of recluseship, he explained to me (his doctrine of) annihilation. Then, venerable sir, I thought to myself: ‘One like myself should not think of troubling a recluse or brahmin living in his realm.’ So I neither rejoiced in the statement of Ajita Kesakambala nor did I reject it. But though I neither rejoiced in it nor rejected it, I still felt dissatisfied, yet did not utter a word of dissatisfaction. Without accepting his doctrine, without embracing it, I got up from my seat and left.

The same type of materialist reduction is given by the atomist Pakudha Kaccāyana, for whom the only reality is atomic, and all human action nothing more than epiphenomenon and therefore illusion:

‘Great king, there are seven bodies that are unmade, unfashioned, uncreated, without a creator, barren, stable as a mountain peak, standing firm like a pillar. They do not alter, do not change, do not obstruct one another; they are incapable of causing one another either pleasure or pain, or both pleasure and pain. What are the seven? The body of earth, the body of water, the body of fire, the body of air, pleasure, pain, and the soul as the seventh. Among these there is no killer nor one who causes killing; no hearer nor one who causes hearing; no cognizer nor one who causes cognition. If someone were to cut off (another person’s) head with a sharp sword, he would not be taking (the other’s) life. The sword merely passes through the space between the seven bodies.’

“Thus, venerable sir, when I asked Pakudha Kaccāyana about a visible fruit of recluseship, he answered me in a completely irrelevant way. Venerable sir, just as if one asked about a mango would speak about a breadfruit, or as if one asked about a breadfruit would speak about a mango, in the same way, when I asked Pakudha Kaccāyana about a visible fruit of recluseship, he answered me in a completely irrelevant way. Then, venerable sir, I thought to myself: ‘One like myself should not think of troubling a recluse or brahmin living in his realm.’ So I neither rejoiced in the statement of Pakudha Kaccāyana nor did I reject it. But though I neither rejoiced in it nor rejected it, I still felt dissatisfied, yet did not utter a word of dissatisfaction. Without accepting his doctrine, without embracing it, I got up from my seat and left.

Once again a guru holds out a theory of the world that would grant a kind of absolution to the king’s conscience if only he could believe it — and once again the king departs unsatisfied. 

   The next two sages do not profess to have a view of the whole of things, in light of which all human action can be seen to be nugatory. Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta, more commonly known as Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, offers not absolution but a form of Stoical self-containment in which equanimity comes from doing no harm:

‘Great king, a Nigaṇṭha, a knotless one, is restrained with a fourfold restraint. How so? Herein, great king, a Nigaṇṭha is restrained with regard to all water; he is endowed with the avoidance of all evil; he is cleansed by the avoidance of all evil; he is suffused with the avoidance of all evil. Great king, when a Nigaṇṭha is restrained with this fourfold restraint, he is called a knotless one who is self-perfected, self-controlled, and self-established.’

“Thus, venerable sir, when I asked Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta about a visible fruit of recluseship, he explained to me the fourfold restraint. Venerable sir, just as if one asked about a mango would speak about a breadfruit, or as if one asked about a breadfruit would speak about a mango, in the same way, when I asked Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta about a visible fruit of recluseship, he explained to me the fourfold restraint. Then, venerable sir, I thought to myself: ‘One like myself should not think of troubling a recluse or brahmin living in his realm.’ So I neither rejoiced in the statement of Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta, nor did I reject it. But though I neither rejoiced in it nor rejected it, I still felt dissatisfied, yet did not utter a word of dissatisfaction. Without accepting his doctrine, without embracing it, I got up from my seat and left.”

Like the others, he does not answer the question; but unlike the others he does not simply assert a doctrine that makes human action insignificant, and offers something like a path to improvement. But a life consisting of restraint has no appeal for someone like Ajatasattu, and the Nigantha has only replied with negatives and not with any positive benefits to recluseship. 

   Finally the king discovers the agnostic Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, who abstains from opinions:

‘If  you ask me:
“Is there a world beyond?” If I thought that there is a world beyond, I would declare to you “There is a world beyond.” But I do not say “It is this way,” nor “It is that way,” nor “It is otherwise.” I do not say “It is not so,” nor do I say “It is not not so.”
‘Similarly, you might ask me the following questions:
“Is there no world beyond?”
“Is it that there both is and is not a world beyond?”
“Is it that there neither is nor is not a world beyond?”
“Are there beings who have taken rebirth?”
“Are there no beings who have taken rebirth?”
“Is it that there both are and are not beings who have taken rebirth?”
“Is it that there neither are nor are not beings who have taken rebirth?”
“Is there fruit and result of good and bad actions?”
“Is there no fruit and result of good and bad actions?”
“Is it that there both are and are not fruit and result of good and bad actions?”
“Is it that there neither are nor are not fruit and result of good and bad actions?”
“Does the Tathāgata exist after death?”
“Does the Tathāgata not exist after death?”
“Does the Tathāgata both exist and not exist after death?”
“Does the Tathāgata neither exist nor not exist after death?”
‘If I thought that it was so, I would declare to you “It is so.” But do I not say “It is this way,” nor “It is that way,” nor “It is otherwise.” I do not say “It is not so,” nor do I say “It is not not so.”’

“Thus, venerable sir, when I asked Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta about a visible fruit of recluseship, he answered me evasively. Venerable sir, just as if one asked about a mango would speak about a breadfruit, or as if one asked about a breadfruit would speak about a mango, in the same way, when I asked Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta about a visible fruit of recluseship, he answered me evasively. Then, venerable sir, I thought to myself: ‘One like myself should not think of troubling a recluse or brahmin living in his realm.’ So I neither rejoiced in the statement of Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta nor did I reject it. But though I neither rejoiced in it nor rejected it, I still felt dissatisfied, yet did not utter a word of dissatisfaction. Without accepting his doctrine, without embracing it, I got up from my seat and left.

In the Brahmajala Sutta such evasion is termed “eel-wriggling,” and it is impressive that the king sees it for what it is — even though if he had capitulated to this easy agnosticism, it is conceivable that he would have attained a little peace of mind. 

   Ajatasattu has too much intellectual and moral integrity to be swayed by people who tell him that there is no good or evil, that there is nothing he can be held responsible for, or that his actions do not matter. Some of these doctrines are reminiscent of Krishna’s attempts to convince Arjuna that in destroying the known world he will be doing nothing wrong, and Ajatasattu’s unpersuadability is the same as Arjuna’s: both know, with every cell of their body, that the arguments — “no one kills, no one is killed” — are specious, ignoble, and impotent. Theories of this sort, so sweeping and so distant from the intensities of the heart, have no power to mollify grief or terror, except in the case of a person who cannot feel deeply. They might help with repressing or numbing unbearable feelings, but Ajatasattu does not want to be numbed. I think he is aware that numbness is also a kind of pain. These six sages offer ways to get him off the hook, but he doesn’t want to be let off the hook. As a warrior, he wants to own his deeds and not run away from them or have someone else make them evaporate. The Buddha understands this, and in the description of the homeless life that follows he finds a way to let Ajatasattu reveal and own himself.

   If we see Ajatasattu as only an archetype of the ancient sanguinary ruling class, we will have a shallow, disengaged understanding of this Sutta. With his larger-than-life aggressiveness, he is not quite an everyman, but he does embody the unease and anxiety of all thoughtful human beings towards the most fundamental dilemma of our existence. Our desires are insatiable, without limit, and we pursue them, automatically, as far as our abilities and our circumstances let us. This leads to unhappiness, partly because on a deep level we know we cannot be satisfied, and partly because in our efforts to satisfy ourselves we cause harm and destruction, which in turn create guilt and fear: we cannot be at home in our lives. All of this generates the various dynamisms of history, of samsara. Against this, we want peace, an end to the craving, torment, and agitation — and there is no shortage of teachers who offer different means to peace. Our dilemma is that while we want peace, we also refuse to give up our desires or leave the world created by them. This is exactly the position of Ajatasattu when he comes to the Buddha with all his accoutrements of royal power. 

  Is there anything the Buddha can say that addresses the dilemma and resolves it?

Picture credit: 

Artist: U Ba Kyi (http://ariyamagga.net/king-ajatasattu-coming-pay-respects-buddha/)

The Fruits of Recluseship, or Fruits of the Homeless Life, tr.Bhikkhu Bodhi, can be found here:

https://suttacentral.net/en/dn2

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