After teaching the comprehensive discourse at Rajagriha, the Buddha went to Ambalatthika and taught it at the royal park there. After that he traveled to Nalanda and taught it at the Pavarika’s mango grove. In future ages, Nalanda would become the location of a large Buddhist monastery and university. While staying there, Shariputra came to praise the Buddha.

Then the Venerable Shariputra came to see the Lord, saluted him, sat down to one side, and said: “It is clear to me, Lord, that there never has been, will be or is now another ascetic or brahmin who is better or more enlightened than the Lord.” (Ibid, p. 234-235)

The Buddha was not one to accept such flattery unless there was a real basis for it. He asked Shariputra how he could be so certain of this.

“You have spoken boldly with a bull’s voice, Shariputra, you have roared the lion’s roar of certainty! How is this? Have all the arhat buddhas of the past appeared to you, and were the minds of all those lords open to you, so as to say: ‘These lords were of such virtue, such was their teaching, such their wisdom, such their way, such their liberation?’” “No, Lord” (Ibid, 235)

The Buddha then inquired as to whether Shariputra could even claim that he knew any of the future buddhas or even if he could claim to really know fully these qualities of himself, the present Buddha. In each case, Shariputra admitted that he could not claim that. The Buddha then points out that it seems as though Shariputra has no basis of comparison for claiming that no one could surpass Shakyamuni Buddha.

“So, Shariputra, you do not have knowledge of the minds of the buddhas of the past, the future, or the present. Thus, Shariputra, have you not spoken boldly with a bull’s voice and roared the lion’s roar of certainty with your declaration?” (Ibid, p. 235)

Shariputra’s reply explains not only what all buddha’s have in common, but it also serves as a brief summary of Buddhist practice and the way to liberation:

“Lord, the minds of the arhat buddhas of the past, future, and present are not open to me. But I know the drift of the Dharma. Lord, it is as if there were a royal frontier city, with almighty bastions and a mighty encircling wall in which was a single gate, at which was a gatekeeper, wise, skilled and clever, who kept out strangers and let in those he knew. And he, constantly patrolling and following along a path, might not see the joints and clefts in the bastion, even such as a cat might creep through. But whatever larger creatures entered or left the city, must all go through this very gate. And it seems to me, Lord, that the drift of the Dharma is the same. All those arhat buddhas of the past attained to supreme enlightenment by abandoning the five hindrances, defilements of mind that weaken the understanding, having firmly established the four foundations of mindfulness in their minds, and realized the seven factors of enlightenment as they really are. All the arhat buddhas of the future will do likewise, and you, Lord, who are now the Arhat, fully enlightened Buddha, have done the same.” (Ibid, p. 235)

Here, Shariputra has provided a summary of the practices that are necessary if one is to attain enlightenment. In brief, Shariputra has described the cultivation of concentration and insight. In the beginning the practitioner must focus and calm the mind so that it may temporarily overcome the five hindrances of sensual desire, ill will, dullness & drowsiness, restlessness & remorse, and doubt. A common and universally recommended focus would be the breath, but there were others that in later tradition would include 40 different subjects for meditation, though all of these could be categorized as one or another of the four foundations of mindfulness. The four foundations mindfulness are comprised of keeping in mind, or paying careful attention to, the body, feelings, mind, and mental-objects of both oneself and others in a state of clear awareness without any attachment or aversion. Mindfulness of the body includes mindfulness of the breath, of one’s physical actions, of the composition of the body, and of the decomposition of the body after death. Feelings refer to mental and physical feelings of pain, pleasure, or neutral feelings. Mind refers to one’s mental state, whether it is focused or unfocused, happy or sad, greedy or content, angry or peaceful, and so on. Mental-objects refers to various Buddhist concepts and teachings in order to better understand life and how it works including the five hindrances, the five aggregates, the six senses and their respective objects, the seven factors of enlightenment, and the four noble truths. With mindfulness as the starting point, one is then able to cultivate the rest of the seven factors of enlightenment: investigation of dharmas (phenomena), energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity. In such a state of clear awareness and equanimity the practitioner of concentration and insight is able to see things as they really are, become free of craving and ignorance, and pass through the one gateway to enlightenment.

The Buddha apparently approved of Shariputra’s statement for he made no further comment. He then stayed for a time at Nalanda and taught the monks the comprehensive discourse.