Title- The Eight Great Victories: {2} The Great Victory Over The Wandering Ascetic Saccaka


 

 

The ascetic Saccaka, the teacher of the Licchavi princes of Vesali, was a son of the Niganthas. He learnt five hundred views from each of his parents. He used to debate about religious beliefs, and proclaimed himself to be a sage. There was no one who did not tremble when criticized by him. Even those who declared themselves to be Buddha would be struck dumb and became helpless when questioned by him.

 

 

When he heard of the doctrine of Insubstantiality (Anatta) of the Buddha through Thera Assaji, he decided to have a debate with the Buddha about this doctrine. So he declared in the convention of the Licchavi princes as follows: “Come, Princes, I am going to have a debate with Samana Gotama over his anatta doctrine today. I will make Gotama humble and shaken just like a lamb seized and shaken by a strong man. Come quickly, Princes”.

 

 

After inviting the Licchavis, ascetic Saccaka went to Kutagara pinnacled monastery in Mahavana forest. When he came to the monastery, he greeted the Buddha, took a suitable place and then asked the Buddha’s permission to discuss the doctrine of Anatta. Then he began the discussion with the question. “Gotama, what do you preach to your disciples?”

 

 

The Buddha replied: “Saccaka, I preach to my disciples that all corporeality, sensation, perception, volitional activities and consciousness are impermanent, uncontrollable and insubstantial”.

 

 

Then Saccaka said, “Gotama, all seeds and plants grow and flourish depending on the earth. Besides, all actions are done in dependence on the earth. Likewise, all merits or demerits arise depending on a substantial entity called “atta” which is the combination of corporeality, sensation, perception, volitional activities and consciousness”. In saying so, he rejected the doctrine of insubstantiality (anatta). In other words, he asserted that corporeality, sensation, perception, volitional activities and consciousness  were permanent, controllable and substantial.

 

 

The Buddha asked him again: “Do you mean that corporeality, sensation, perception, volitional activities and consciousness are controllable and substantial?” He answered, counting on the audience to be on his side. “Yes, I mean that they are controllable and substantial. Not only I but all these people also mean so”.

 

 

When the Buddha asked him to tell his own view, not other’s view, he professed as before. Next the Buddha asked him: “Saccaka, I shall ask you. Do King Ajatasattu and King Kosala have the authority to kill anyone, to take other’s property or to punish anyone from their countries?” As he answered that they had the authority to do so, the Buddha continued: “Saccaka, you’ve told me that you control and possess your body and your body is substantial. Then can you command your body to be as you wish?”

 

 

Now Saccaka realized his difficult situation. If he said he could command his body, the Licchavi princes might ask him to make himself handsome like them. Unless he could make so, it  would amount to supporting the doctrine of Insubstantiality or non-self. So he said nothing. The Buddha asked him to reply, and still, he remained silent. Finally the Buddha said with compassion: “Saccaka, do answer now. It is not the time to be silent. One’s head will be split into seven pieces, if one does not answer after being asked by the Buddha three times”.

 

 

 

At last, Saccaka did not dare to remain silent. He said: “Gotama, I cannot command my body to be in this form, or that form”.

 

 

In the same way, he had to admit that corporeality, sensation, perception, volitional activities and consciousness were also impermanent, uncontrollable and insubstantial.

 

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