Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sukhumala Sona at Sitavana

Sukhumala Sona was born in a rich family of a Usabhasetthi in the town of Campā. He had a softest and most glowing body and hence the name, it is said that his feet never touched hardness of the ground. His childhood much pampered filled with great comfort and opulence, to the extent that he had separate palaces of each season of the year. When king Bimbisara heard of him and his sheltered life, he invited him to visit with and learn from the Buddha. He graciously accepted and paid a visit with eighty thousand other people who belonged to his clan. But once he heard the Buddha speak in Rajgir and understood the meaning behind those spoken words, he became a devoted follower of the Buddha. To get him started on the spiritual path the Buddha gave him a subject for meditation and started practicing it at the Sitavana but he had a tough time focusing and controlling his mind, besides there were several visitors each day to distract him from his practice. Also, not being exposed to the roughness of natural earth his feet started bleeding and developed injuries during the walking meditation. He broke down and accepted that spiritual path is not meant for him in this lifetime and at the time the Buddha with the insight he had paid him a visit. The Buddha explained to him in the most softest of ways how win the turbulent mind with gentleness and by keeping the calm. The Buddha always explained his teaching with relation to the understanding of his pupil and since he knew that Sona was an expert player of Vina and was familiar with the workings of one, the Dhamma flew in the tune with a musician’s mind. (Cf. AA.ii.680)These preaching are popularly known as the Sona sutta (Vīnūpamovāda Sutta)
The Blessed One said to him, "Just now, as you were meditating in seclusion, didn't this train of thought appear to your awareness: 'Of the Blessed One's disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the fermentations... What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?'"
"Yes, lord."
what do you think, Sona. Before, when you were a house-dweller, were you skilled at playing the vina?"
"Yes, lord.""And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too taut, was your vina in tune & playable?"
"No, lord."
"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too loose, was your vina in tune & playable?""No, lord.""And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were neither too taut nor too loose, but tuned to be right on pitch, was your vina in tune & playable?""Yes, lord."
"In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune the pitch of the faculties, and there pick up your theme."
Once he understood the middle path that the Buddha wanted him to take, he gave his mission a fresh attempt and within no time attained Arahantship (Thag.vss.632). Since after he became an Arahant Sona understood the fine balance between trying too hard and giving up, the Buddha gave him permission to cover his feet with a single lining shoes. But being the true follower of the Buddha he refused citing the example that he has given up the luxuries of the physical world to be just like other monks and he wanted to be treated no different. Hearing these thoughts the Buddha allowed all monks to have the option of wearing shoes in a single lining.

Next Post: The location of Sitavana

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