Query>Meditation in a Beautifully Painted Cave

Noboyoshi Yamabe's picture

Dear Colleagues,

I've heard a story, which runs like the following, from a colleague:

Some monk was meditating in a beautifully painted cave. A person came and asked him: "How can you concentrate in such a place?" The monk replied: "Oh, I didn't notice that there are paintings."

This is an interesting story for me, but since that colleague himself heard the story from somebody else, he couldn't tell me the exact source.

If any of you can think of a possible source, I'd very much appreciate the reference. Thank you for any help.

Nobuyoshi Yamabe

Waseda University

Categories: Query

This story is from Sri Lanka, which intended to show the monk's concentration on meditation. I can't remember the exact primary work, but you will find it in the Rahula's History of Buddhism in Ceylon.

The anecdote come from Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga chapter 1, para 105. The name of the monk was Cittagutta.

Richard Gombrich


I just checked it, it's in p. 206 of Rahula's History, p.38 in the PTS Visuddhimagga:

Thero rāgaṃ vinodetvā va piṇḍāya cari api ca indriyasaṃvarapūrakena bhikkhunā kuraṇḍaka mahāleṇavāsinā cittaguttattherena viya, corakamahāvihāravāsinā mahāmittattherena viyaca bhavitabbaṃ. Kuraṇḍakaleṇe kira sattannaṃ buddhānaṃ abhinikkhamaṇa cittakammaṃ manoramaṃ ahosi. Sambahulā bhikkhu senāsanacārikaṃ āhiṇḍantā cittakammaṃ disvā manoramaṃ bhante cittakammanti āhaṃsu. Thero āha: atirekasaṭṭhi me āvuso vassāni leṇe vasantassa cittakammaṃ atthi tipi najānāmi, ajjadāni cakkhumante nissāya ñātanti. Therena kira ettakaṃ addhānaṃ vasantena cakkhuṃ ummīletvā leṇaṃ na ullokitapubbaṃ. Leṇadvāre cassa mahānāgarukkho ahosi sopi therena uddhaṃ na ullokitapubbo, anusaṃvaccharaṃ bhūmiyaṃ kesarasipātaṃ disvāvassa pupphitabhāvaṃ jānāti.

The dialog was apparently slightly different, the monk simply had not noticed the paintings because he was always looking down, and so the only thing he had noticed year after year was the ground outside the cave strewn with flowers every spring...



I deeply thank Chengzhong Pu, Richard Gombrich, Diego Loukota (and Daniel Stuart who responded to me off-list) for the references. Indeed, Visuddhimagga seems to be the source of the story I've heard. At the same time, as Diego Loukota points out, the version I've heard is slightly different from the original text, which does not expressly say that the monk was practicing meditation in the cave. Still, judging from the overall content and also from the expression indriyasaṃvara, Cittagutta seems to have been leading quite a meditative life. Thank you very much again. All the responses were really helpful.