King Milindu (Menander I) & Arahanth Nagasena - I*
- King Menander I (Milindu/ Milinda in Pali language) was a powerful Indo-Greek monarch who ruled “Sagalapura” in historical India (Now Sialkot in North-east of Panjab province in Pakistan at the foot of the Kashmir hills near the Chenab river), somewhere in the 150 BCE. Archeologically, these facts have long been proven. He was a great debater. Even scholars and intellectuals couldn’t answer his questions. This made those academics to leave “Sagalapura” in shame. Even the Buddhist Arahanths (Sages) at the time were unable to answer the king properly and left to Himalayan range to avoid the king. Since there were nobody who could answer the king appropriately, the king declared that ’Dambadiva’ (Historical India) is an empty place with no intellectuals & scholars in it.Nagasena was born a Brahmin who later became a Buddhist Arahanth. He was proficient in Dhamma and was popular among his colleagues. He was able to bring back the Buddhist monks who had fled to Himalayas, to “Sagalapura”, with his wisdom.King Milindu learning about the young monk’s expertise, approached Arahanth Nagasena with his famous questions and Arahanth Nagasena successfully answered all of them which led the king to ordain under the Arahanth abdicating his throne and later, attained Nirvana.The questions of King Milindu and the answers given to them by Arahanth Nagasena are recorded in the “Milinda Panha”, probably written in Sanskrit at the beginning and later translated to Pali. Today, there are many translations of the book in different languages.There are seven major questions which consist of several important questions in each of them and 77 special questions, regarding Dhamma in this book.The part 1 of this article brings you the First Major question with its interim queries.Venerable Sir, What is your name?Dear King,My parents call me “Nagasena”. It is just a term; there is no person called “Nagasena”.If there is no person, who gives you the four requisites ? Who have the benefit of the four requisites ? Who is Nagasena? Is hair on the head or the body Nagasena? Are the nails, the teeth or the skin Nagasena?None, dear king.Venerable Sir, is it the materiality or form (Rupa) which is Nagasena? Is it the feeling or sense (Vedana) (pleasure, pain or the absence of the either) which is Nagasena? Is it cognitive perception (Sanna) ( awareness of colour, shape, sound, smell, taste & touch) which is Nagasena? Is it volition or mental formation (Sankhara)(habitual actions like greed, hatred, generosity, kindness…etc) which is Nagasena? Is it consciousness (Vinnana) (all the mental faculties pertaining to perception & experience) which is Nagasena?None dear king.Venerable Sir, Then is it the five aggregates (Rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara, vinnana) which is Nagasena?No dear king.Then, who is Nagasena?Dear King, you came here by a chariot. Do you call the compartment the chariot? Or, do you call the roof the chariot? Is the cart wheel or the beam the chariot ? Is the axle the chariot ? Is the bridle the chariot ?No Venerable Sir.Dear king, when the compartment, the roof, cart wheels, the beam, the axle and the bridle is combined, it is called the chariot. If it is dismantled and heaped, nobody would call it a chariot.Similarly, when my hair, teeth, nail, skin, flesh & bones are together, it is called Nagasena. When the five aggregates are together, it is called Nagasena. But, in reality, there is no such person.Our Great Buddha said thus to Bhikkuni Vajira : “In the manner, that a chariot is called a chariot when the cart wheels, compartment, axle, beam, etc. are combined; a being is called thus when the five aggregates (the Five Skandhas)are merged. ”King Milinda was very happy about the explanation and thanked Venerable Nagasena. And then he went on…….Venerable Sir, Would you like to speak with me?Dear King, if you are speaking akin to a scholar (Pundit), I would like to speak with you. But, if you are speaking in the vein of a king, then I would not like to speak with you.Venerable Sir, how do scholars (Pundits) speak ?Dear King, they faultlessly clarify the complex words and go on giving explanation in detail. Sometimes, they even get insulted; but pundits do not get annoyed by them.Venerable Sir, how do kings speak?Dear King, If a person says something opposite to what the king said, he gets punished.Venerable Sir, I speak akin to a scholar, not as a king. Please speak with me as if you are talking to another Bhikku or a student bhikku or a layman.Saying so, the king departed for the day since it was late in the evening, requesting the Arahanth to visit his palace the following day for alms. When Arahanth Nagasena visited the palace next day, the king served alms himself and after the meal asked thus:Venerable Sir, for what purpose did you become a priest?Dear King, to eradicate the present suffering and never to contact suffering again.Venerable Sir, do all priests ordain for this purpose?No dear king; only some become priests for this purpose. Some others ordain in the fear of the rulers, some in the fear of the thieves, some because they are in debt, some for a living. Those who ordain appropriately, do it for the purpose of eliminating suffering.Venerable Sir, is there anybody who is not reborn after death?Dear king, beings with defilements are born again while those who have eliminated defilements are never born again.Venerable Sir, do you have a rebirth?Dear king, if there is clinging or attachment to the “self” deeply as ‘me’, ‘mine’ and if there is a person (god) above, who is responsible for our sensual pleasure and craving; then, I would have a rebirth. If not, I would never be reborn again.Venerable Sir, what is the reason for not having a rebirth?Dear King, always acting with a conscious mind, insight and other meritorious wholesome deeds.Venerable Sir, is the acting with a conscious mind and insight the same?No dear king; acting with a conscious mind has a clinging nature. But insight has a severing nature.Venerable Sir, please explain in a simile.Those who cut barley hold the barley stalks from the left hand and cut it with a sickle in the right hand. Similarly, ascetics hold the mind consciously and cut defilements with insight.Venerable Sir, you said there are other meritorious wholesome deeds as well, for not having a rebirth; what are they?Virtue(Sila), devotion/faith (Shraddha), courage (Veerya), mindfulness (Sati) and concentration (Samadhi).Venerable Sir, what are the characteristics of Virtue (Sila)?Dear king, Virtue(Sila) has endowing qualities and assists in all meritorious wholesome deeds. The meritorious wholesome deeds of those who are virtuous never deteriorate.Venerable Sir, please explain in a simile.Dear king, a person who wants to build a city, first of all clean and clear the place and level the land; and then build a beautiful city. Similarly, an ascetic endows himself in virtue and then develop devotion/faith (Shraddha), courage (Veerya), mindfulness (Sati) and concentration (Samadhi). Our great Buddha said that the wise man who is virtuous could attain Nirvana by developing concentration & insight.Venerable Sir, what are the characteristics of devotion/faith (Shraddha)?Dear king, devotion/faith (Shraddha) has purifying qualities which suppresses the five mental hindrances (sensual desire, ill will, sloth & torpor, excitement & worry, doubt & perplexity).Venerable Sir, please explain in a simile.Dear king, when the ‘jewel that purifies the water’ (Udakaprasada) is immersed in muddy water, the moss and mud settle down and water becomes clear & pure. Similarly, when there is devotion/faith (Shraddha), the five mental hindrances (sensual desire, ill will, sloth & torpor, excitement & worry, doubt & perplexity) which obstruct the attainment of Nirvana are restrained purifying the mind. Also, the person with devotion/faith (Shraddha), make an effort to attain the stages of enlightenment such as ‘sotapanna’ and ‘sakadagami’. Our great Buddha said that the person with devotion/faith (Shraddha), crosses over the fearful ocean of existence.Venerable Sir, what are the characteristics of courage (Veerya)?Dear king, courage (Veerya) has helping qualities.Venerable Sir, please explain in a simile.Dear king, when a house is leaning to one side and falling, it could be saved with a prop. Similarly, when a person has courage (Veerya), his meritorious principles would never weaken. He would never fall. He frees himself of defilements and develop merit.Venerable Sir, what are the characteristics of mindfulness (Sati)?Dear king, mindfulness (Sati) has reminding qualities. The person who is mindful associates with wholesome deeds which should be associated and refrains from connecting with unwholesome deeds which should not be associated.Venerable Sir, please explain in a simile.Dear king, the person in command of the Universal Emperor’s (Emperor Sakwithi’s) personnel knows who is faithful to the emperor and who is not. He eliminates the enemy and brings closer the loyal. Similarly, the mindfulness (Sati) searches for meritorious wholesome deeds and sinful unwholesome deeds. Thus, it eliminates the sinful unwholesome deeds and associates with meritorious wholesome deeds.Venerable Sir, what are the characteristics of concentration (Samadhi)?Dear king, concentration (Samadhi) has dominant qualities. Concentration (Samadhi) governs all the meritorious wholesome deeds.Venerable Sir, please explain in a simile.Dear king, it is like all the rafters attached to the top beam on a roof or like the fourfold army (Elephants, horses, charioteers & soldiers) under a king, all belong or attached to one thing. Concentration(Samadhi)is like the top beam or the king.Our great Buddha asked his disciples to develop concentration (Samadhi) to understand the reality of life.Venerable Sir, what are the characteristics of insight (Panna)?Dear king, insight (Panna) is bright and has defilement eliminating qualities. When one obtains insight, he eliminates ignorance. He realizes that everything changes at all times, they bring suffering and nothing stays permanent. He comprehends the three characteristics (Thrilakshana) “Anithya” (Impermanence), “Dukkha” (suffering) & “Anathma” (non self), the Four Noble Truths and the path to Nirvana.Venerable Sir, please explain in a simile.Dear king, it is like a house in the dark brightened by lighting a lamp. Brightness shows a variety of forms & figures.Venerable Sir, do all meritorious wholesome deeds, (devotion/faith (Shraddha), courage (Veerya), mindfulness (Sati), concentration (Samadhi) and insight) serve the same purpose?Yes dear king, they serve the same purpose. They eliminate all defilements.Venerable Sir, please explain in a simile.Dear king, the fourfold army (Elephants, horses, charioteers & soldiers) all do the same task in the battle field; they eliminate the enemy and win. Similarly, all the meritorious wholesome deeds serve the same purpose. They eliminate all defilements.