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Mahaka Sutta: About Mahaka

Mahaka Sutta

Summary: How one monk misused his psychic powers.

SN 41.4 PTS: S iv 288 CDB ii 1319

Mahaka Sutta: About Mahaka

translated from the Pali by

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

On one occasion a large number of senior monks were living near Macchikasanda in the Wild Mango Grove. Then Citta the householder went to them and, on arrival, having bowed down to them, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to them: “Venerable sirs, may the senior monks acquiesce to tomorrow's meal from me.”

The senior monks acquiesced by silence. Then Citta the householder, sensing the senior monks' acquiescence, got up from his seat and, having bowed down to them, circumambulated them — keeping them to his right — and left.

When the night had passed, the senior monks put on their robes in the early morning and — taking their bowls & outer robes — went to Citta's residence. There they sat down on the appointed seats. Then Citta the householder, with his own hand, served & satisfied them with exquisite milk-rice mixed with ghee. When the senior monks had finished eating and had rinsed their bowls & hands, they got up from their seats and left. Citta the householder, having said, “Give away the rest,” followed behind the senior monks.

Now on that occasion it was hot & sweltering. The senior monks went along with their bodies melting, as it were, from the meal they had finished. And on that occasion Ven. Mahaka was the most junior of all the monks in that Community. He said to the senior monk: “Wouldn't it be nice, venerable elder, if a cool wind were to blow, and there were a thundering cloud, and rain would fall in scattered drops?”

“Yes, friend Mahaka, that would be nice…”

Then Ven. Mahaka willed a psychic feat such that a cool wind blew, a thundering cloud developed, and the rain fell in scattered drops. The thought occurred to Citta the householder, “Such is the psychic power of the most junior of all the monks in this Community!”

Then when Ven. Mahaka reached the monastery/park, he said to the senior monk, “Is that enough, venerable sir?”

“That's enough, friend Mahaka — what you have done, what you have offered.”

Then the monks went to their separate dwellings, and Ven. Mahaka went to his.

Then Citta the householder went to Ven. Mahaka and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to him, “It would be good, venerable sir, if Master Mahaka would show me a superior human attainment, a miracle of psychic power.”

“In that case, householder, spread out your upper robe on the porch and put a pile of grass on it.”

Responding, “As you say, venerable sir,” Citta the householder spread out his upper robe on the porch and put a pile of grass on it.

Then Ven. Mahaka, having entered his dwelling and bolted the door, willed a psychic feat such that flame shot through the keyhole and the space around the door, burning up the grass but not the robe.

Then Citta the householder, having shaken out the robe, stood to one side — in awe, his hair standing on end. Ven. Mahaka came out of his dwelling and said, “Is that enough, householder?”

“That's enough, venerable sir — what you have done, what you have offered. May Master Mahaka delight in the charming Wild Mango Grove at Macchikasanda. I will be responsible for your robes, almsfood, lodgings, & medicinal requisites.”

“That is admirably said, householder.”

Then Ven. Mahaka — having set his lodging in order and taking his bowl & robes — left Macchikasanda. And in leaving Macchikasanda, he was gone for good and never returned.(1)



A rule in the Cullavagga (Cv 5.8.2) forbids monks from displaying feats of psychic power to lay people. There is no way of knowing whether the incident in this sutta predated or postdated the formulation of that rule, but this story illustrates the reason for that rule: If word of Ven. Mahaka's display of psychic power became known among lay people, they would pester him for more displays and he would know no peace. At the same time, he would attract their alms, perhaps to the detriment of the other monks. That's why he had to leave for good.


See also: AN 6.41.

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en/tipitaka/sut/sn/sn41/sn41.004.than.txt · Last modified: 2022/03/24 13:47 by Johann