The Samannaphala Sutta is the second sutta in the Digha Nikaya. This sutta gives the background to King Ajatasattu becoming a lay disciple. It starts with Ajatasattu, in his palace, seeking advice from his ministers which samana or brahmana he should visit. Ignoring recommendations from six ministers, the king turned to Jivaka Komarabhacca for advice.
Jivaka informed King Ajatasattu that the Buddha was staying at Ambavana, and suggested making a trip there. Accepting Jivaka's advice, Ajatasattu set out from his palace on his royal mount to meet the Buddha, together with Jivaka, five hundred of his women on five hundred elephants, and a procession of torch-bearing attendants.
Later on in the sutta, we learn that the king had previously spoken to the six ascetics recommended and was not pleased with their teachings. According to the Buddha, King Ajatasattu would have become a stream-winner if not for the hideous crime of killing his own father.
At Ambavana (the mango grove of Jivaka Komarabhacca) in Rajagaha, the capital city of Magadha.
On the night of Komudi, the full-moon day in the month Kattika, at a time after Ajatasattu has already replaced Bimbisara as the king of Magadha.
The main dialogue is between the Buddha and King Ajatasattu. Other personalities mentioned by name in this sutta are Jivaka, Queen Vedehi, Prince Udayibhadda and six famous ascetics during Buddha's time.
The six ascetics mentioned are considered to be representatives of the Indian philosophical movement at that time. The six are Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Kesakambala, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sancaya Belatthaputta and Nigantha Nataputta. This sutta opens a window into their individual teachings, as reported by King Ajatasattu to the Buddha. Unfortunately, each of these accounts is very brief.
This sutta reveals a culture of respecting ascetics. An ascetic (saama~n~na) here refers to a person who gave up his family/social life in search of greater happiness for himself. This goal of an ascetic has later expanded in Buddhism to include the greater happiness for the world. King Ajatasattu, one of the most powerful kings during those days, expressed his respect for any recluse*, even if this person used to be his servant.
* Until the Buddha accepted women into the Buddhist order, all saama~n~na were men. Hence, the Buddha set the historical precedence to admit women in a religious order and assign them the same duties and responsibilities as their male counterparts.
The title of the sutta, saama~n~naphala, means fruit(s) of the samana literally. Simply put, it means the benefits or rewards of becoming a samana.
When asked about the fruits of a samana, the Buddha set forth to provide the king with a satisfactory answer on the rewards of a samana practising the Buddhist way.
Upon detachment from the five hindrances, further benefits arise from the practice of meditation.
The highest reward, the ultimate goal of the Buddhist path, is the realisation of the Four Noble Truths and liberation from Samsara.
The above title is from Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Other titles in English include The Fruits of the Homeless Life (Maurice Walsh), The Fruits of the Life of a Recluse (Rhys Davis), The Fruits of the Life of a Samana (BPA), The Fruits of Recluseship (Bhikkhu Bodhi), and The Rewards of Spiritual Practice (Ayya Khema).
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