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Assessing the Setting

Our study of the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra is not to be confused with its distant cousin, the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, which gives a more “historical account” of the Buddha’s last days. The Sutta does give a fascinating story of his having a meal at the home of a Blacksmith, Cunda, after which he fell violently ill. Scholars still debate whether or not he was poisoned, or instead had an allergic reaction to either mushrooms or what is termed “Sukara-maddavam” which in one definition refers to hog’s flesh—meaning perhaps that the pork he ate was not cooked properly. In spite of his illness the Buddha continues his preaching tour until reaching Kusinagara where he has his beloved Ananda prepare a resting place between two blossoming “Sal trees”. There he gives a most moving farewell to Ananda: read more

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