Near the end of the Samaññaphala Sutta it says this:

"The king is incapacitated. Had he not killed his father — that righteous man, that righteous king — the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye would have arisen to him as he sat in this very seat." DN 2 https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.02.0.than.html

Now in the English language to my knowledge when one uses the word "would" it means something definite. By my understanding it seems that the Buddha according to this sutta is saying that if King Ajatasattu had fulfilled certain conditions such as having not committed such an offense + coming to the Buddha and inquiring etc. as he did in this sutta then the "dustless, stainless Dhamma eye" would have definitely arisen.

So this particular statement seems entirely deterministic unless I am misunderstanding or translation is wrong.

Was the King already a faith follower or wisdom follower?


I think the Buddha does (supernaturally) know the condition[s] in which someone might become enlightened.

Like (I don't know if this is a good example) this isn't "deterministic" but I know that "if I hit something with a hammer then it will break".

A more explicit story like that is, for example, The Weaver's Daughter from the Dhammapada commentary:

Now one day, as the Teacher surveyed the world at early dawn, he perceived that this maiden had entered the net of his knowledge. When he saw her, he considered within himself, "What will happen?" And he became aware of the following, "From the day when this maiden heard my discourse on the Dhamma, she has practiced meditation on death for three years. I will now go to Alavi and ask this maiden four questions. On each of the four points she will answer me correctly, and I will congratulate her. I will then pronounce the stanza, This world is indeed blind. At the conclusion of the stanza she will be established in the fruit of stream-entry. By reason of her, my discourse will be profitable to the multitude besides." So the Teacher, with his retinue of five hundred monks, departed from Jetavana, and in due course arrived at the Aggalava monastery.

I'm pretty sure there are other examples of stories like that in the suttas.

I think that's part of what makes the Buddha "a Buddha" -- i.e. insight into other people so as to know how best to teach them.

  • Is that ... a question? "If he had studied he would have passed the exam", "If he didn't have a criminal record he would have got the job", it's a pretty ordinary remark IMO. You can say things, about stuff you know ("if that paper hadn't been wet it would have caught fire"), is there something remarkable about "determinism" in your opinion? – ChrisW Dec 4 '18 at 21:50
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    I think the king would have attained stream entry just like how the first five followers of the Buddha attained arahantship after listening to 1 or 2 discourses. – TheDBSGuy Dec 4 '18 at 21:51
  • @Angus The Buddha's being able to do it doesn't everyone ("people") can, so... I'm not even sure about "know the future" -- maybe the stories suggest that the Buddha knows the present really well. – ChrisW Dec 4 '18 at 22:00
  • @TheDBSGuy Yes. Also though there's a paragraph towards the end of The Noble Search ("And so I was able to convince them. I would teach two monks while three went for alms, and we six lived off what the three brought back from their alms round. Then (etc.)", which suggests that their arahantship took a bit longer than that? But I think there are (several) examples in the suttas of "stream entry" after listening to a discourse. – ChrisW Dec 4 '18 at 22:04
  • @Angus Yes, in the suttas I think there there are stories of when, after someone died/dies, the Buddha is able to see (and to tell people) in what state that person is currently reborn (or, whether they were totally Unbound). I think that's perhaps the so-called "divine eye". – ChrisW Dec 4 '18 at 22:16

My reading is the Buddha said the King had the capacity for awakening but the King's mind was still emotionally hindered by the action of killing his father.


Even "determinism" is based on conditions. If a student's about to take a very tough rigorous final exam, if s/he doesn't spend enough time and effort to study up, on the day of the exam, it's "deterministic" that s/he will fail the exam. Similarly, the Five Heinous Offenses are a class of offenses so grave that once committed, it's deterministic that one's next life will be in woeful states, even after one tried to make up for it with wholesome deeds later on. That doesn't mean those good deeds are for nothing, but it does mean that their fruition will have to wait for the fruition of the heinous offenses to manifest first. That pretty much was the case of prince Ajatasattu in the DN sutta.


I think it mean he would have definitely attain stream entry after listening to the Buddha’s teachings if he didn’t kill his father.

  • I don’t know if it is his first time meeting the Buddha or not. I think he didn’t even know about the Buddha’s teachings before that. He might not have kill his father if he was a faith follower – TheDBSGuy Dec 4 '18 at 21:32

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