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Take another case of a mendicant who lives close by a jungle thicket. As they do so, their mindfulness becomes established, their mind becomes immersed in samādhi, their defilements come to an end, and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary. But the necessities of life that a renunciate requires—robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick—are hard to come by. That mendicant should reflect: ‘While living close by this jungle thicket, my mindfulness becomes established … But the necessities of life are hard to come by. But I didn’t go forth from the lay life to homelessness for the sake of a robe, almsfood, lodgings, or medicines and supplies for the sick. Moreover, while living close by this jungle thicket, my mindfulness becomes established …’ After appraisal, that mendicant should stay in that jungle thicket; they shouldn’t leave. Take another case of a mendicant who lives close by a jungle thicket. Their mindfulness becomes established … And the necessities of life are easy to come by. That mendicant should reflect: ‘While living close by this jungle thicket, my mindfulness becomes established … And the necessities of life are easy to come by.’ That mendicant should stay in that jungle thicket for the rest of their life; they shouldn’t leave.
MN 17

Am I interpreting this correctly in saying that for an Arahant, it is forbidden for him to leave the place where he became enlightened?

Also, if so, how large is the area around this spot, where one can go to without breaking this rule?

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3 Answers 3

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There is no such requirement of staying in any place for an Arhant.

But the sutta you refer is specifically related to vanapattha paryaya (monastic practice). Where the Dhamma practitioner feels that s/his mindfulness becomes established, their mind becomes immersed in samādhi, their defilements comes to an end, it means the place is suitable and helpful for the person to arrive at Nirvana. Such places should not be left, as one needs every bit oh help that they can get in order to become an Arhant. If the surroundings are helping, such surroundings should not be left.

The sutta does not describe an Arhant, rather someone who is yet to obtain enlightenment.

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    As they do so, their mindfulness becomes established, their mind becomes immersed in samādhi, their defilements come to an end, and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary.
    – PDT
    Apr 22, 2022 at 12:02
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    This is clearly a description of an Arahant
    – PDT
    Apr 22, 2022 at 12:03
  • Please check whether it is specifically mentioned as an Arahant in the sutta. Otherwise the assumption can take you to a completely different meaning. The translation seems to be somewhat misleading in this regard.
    – Sampath
    Apr 22, 2022 at 12:55
  • the sutta says: "As they do so, their mindfulness becomes established, their mind becomes immersed in samādhi, their defilements come to an end, and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary" Apr 22, 2022 at 13:32
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    @Dhamma Dhatu I agree with Sampath that the overall context of this Sutta make it clear that it refers to one who is still in training. It is true that parts of the particular phrase you have quoted sound like the completion of training, but the sutta makes it clear that these things are arising in dependence on the environment. Hence, it does not mean total liberation.
    – Jbag1212
    Apr 22, 2022 at 23:39
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Must an Arahant stay forever in their place of enlightenment?

I think it does not fit with what we're told in many other suttas -- in that the suttas mentioned many Arahants by name, including the Buddha himself, travelling from place to place. I don't remember reading any rule like that in the Vinaya, either.

As for this sutta the word in question, which is translated "for the rest of their life", is yāvajīva (from jīva) -- and I see no hint in the online dictionaries that this word has a idiomatic or non-literal meaning.

But one thing that puts me in mind of is this episode from the Buddha's life -- Buddha meditation under the bodhi tree. That shows some movement e.g. for necessities. That's from before the Buddha's final enlightenment or becoming "unbound", i.e. it's while seeking, during the Noble Search..

And there's this version of that story -- Where is the description of the vow and the Bodhi tree? -- which (in my words) implies that the Buddha vows to stay there for the rest of his life if necessary.

The other thing is, I read the whole sutta as saying that the place doesn't matter so much, what does matter is whether the place is conducive -- i.e. it's not important whether it's in a jungle thicket or not, what's important is whether the mind becomes established -- and, especially until or before the mind becomes established, the seeker should seek and remain in a good environment which makes that possible.

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  • 'and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary'. What is this describing if not enlightenment?
    – PDT
    Apr 23, 2022 at 6:03
  • I think that's describing the goal or motive, the reason why they remain somewhere; and that it's like AN 4.159, i.e. it's a description of the process by which, by doing this, someone may become enlightened.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 23, 2022 at 6:09
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    possibly the word "anubandhitabbo" should be considered. therefore, possibly it does not mean to literally physically follow the benefactor at all times but merely means to "stay close to in the heart ". therefore a monk may go wandering but always periodically return, such as during the rainy season retreat. Apr 23, 2022 at 10:21
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    @DhammaDhatu Possibly, eh? But I was reluctant to suggest (which seems to be a premise of the question) that an Arahant has limits -- geographical (bound to a place), personal (bound to a person), or otherwise, or conditions on which liberation depends -- and so I think the sutta is addressed to one still seeking. The only limit I'm aware of from the canon might be "seeing danger in the slightest fault". This sutta mentions "dwelling in dependence", but I'm doubtful about whether that means, "... on a lay benefactor".
    – ChrisW
    Apr 23, 2022 at 10:58
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    I'm pretty sure that the suttas describe the Buddha and his Arahants moving from one place to another.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 23, 2022 at 11:15
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Possibly the translation of "anubandhitabbo" is too rigid.

That mendicant should follow that person for the rest of their life. They shouldn’t leave them, even if sent away.

Tena, bhikkhave, bhikkhunā yāvajīvampi so puggalo anubandhitabbo, na pakkamitabbaṁ, api panujjamānenapī”ti.

anubandhitabba future passive participle adjective anubandhati

anubandhati present 3 singular follows; keeps close to, attends closely; pursues

While the use of anubandhitabbo appears in all other cases to refer to "physically following a person around", in MN 17 it may mean to "mentally keep close to in the heart". Therefore, for example, a monk may go wandering but always periodically return to that benefactor or forest grove, such as during the rainy season retreat.

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