The Meghiya Sutta is one of my favorite little teachings. For one thing, it is an excellent introduction to Buddhist meditation straight from the lips of the Buddha himself. But it is also a very human portrait of a teaching and student.
Once when the Buddha was living on the Calika Mountain, Meghiya was his attendant. Meghiya came to the Buddha and said, “I want to go to Jantugama to beg for food.”
“Yes,” replied the Buddha, “ this is the time.”
After he returned from Jantugama, he had his meal then went for a stroll on the Kimikala Blackworm River. There he saw a lovely mango grove. He thought, “This is such a pleasent grove. It would be the perfect place to sit and meditate, if the Buddha would let agree.”
So Meghiya went back to the Buddha and told him what he had done and seen. Then he asked, “If you would allow me, I would like to go to this mango grove to strive for liberation.”
“Meghiya,” the Buddha replied, “you should wait. Please wait until another monk has arrived.”
But again Meghiya asked, “There is nothing for you to do and nothing that needs to be done. But for me there is much still to be done. Please allow me to go to the mango grove.”
Again, the Buddha asked him to wait, but Meghiya again insisted.
Finally the Buddha said, “What can I say? Do what you want, Meghiya.”
Meghiya stood, honored the Buddha, and went to the mango grove to sit and meditate at the root of a tree. But immediately his mind was overwhelmed by thoughts of sense pleasure, anger, and violence.
“This is ridiculous,” thought Meghiya, “I have left home to follow the spiritual life and yet I am still plagued by thoughts of sense pleasure, anger, and violence.” After a day of fruitless meditation, Meghiya returned to the Buddha, honored him, and told him about his day.
The Buddha said, “Meghiya, for those whose mind is not yet liberated, there are 5 things that lead to liberation:
- Having a good friend in the dhamma.
- Living according to the precepts. He lives according to the Patimokkha, with good conduct, seeing danger in the slightest fault, carefully following the rules.
- Speaking only about what leads to liberation — about the things that lead to disenchantment, letting go, peace, wisdom, awakening, and freedom. For example, he should talk about wanting little, being satisfied with little, seclusion, energetic striving, virtue, meditation, wisdom, freedom, and liberation.
- Arousing energy for free oneself from what is unwholesome and committing oneself to what is wholesome.
- The wisdom to see the rising and passing away of all things with the deep insight that leads to the end of suffering.
“These are the things that lead to liberation. One with a good friend in the dhamma will find it easier to live according to the precepts. One who has a good friend in the dhamma will find it easier to speak only about what leads to liberation. One who has a good friend in the dhamma will find it easier to arouse energy for freeing oneself from what is unwholesome and committing oneself to what is wholesome. For one with a good friend in the dhamma it is easier to have the wisdom to see the rising and passing away of all things with the deep insight that leads to the end of suffering.
“When one has done these five things, four more things should be developed:
- Meditation on the ugly to develop freedom from passion.
- Metta meditation to develop freedom from ill-will.
- Mindfulness of breathing to develop freedom from a wandering mind.
- Contemplation of impermanence to develop freedom from the idea, ‘I am.’
“When one sees impermanence, Meghiya, one has insight into not-self. When one has insight into not-self completely uproots the idea, ‘I am’ in this life and reaches complete liberation.”
Then the Buddha offered this poem:
When there are crude thoughts
And a mind without peace
When one does not understand the mind
It runs wild
But when one understands the mind
When they are energetic and mindful
Peace arises in the mind
Crude thoughts do not arise in the awakened mind.”
-Meghiya Sutta, Udana 4.1