Bhante reviews the Vakkali Sutta and an excerpt from the Mahā Parinibbāna Sutta, which contains the Buddha’s last instructions before leaving this life and entering into paranibbana.
Below are the readings from, The Masterful Teachings of Gotama Buddha. Page 190-193
One time the Blessed One visited a certain sick monk, Vakkali, at his request. Now the Venerable Vakkali saw the Blessed One coming while he was yet far off and, seeing him, he stirred upon his bed. Then the Blessed One sat down and said to the Venerable Vakkali:
Well, Vakkali, I hope you are bearing up. I hope you are enduring. Do your pains abate and not increase?
No, Sir, I am not bearing up. I am not enduring. Strong pains come upon me. They do not abate.
The Buddha asked him: Have you any doubt, Vakkali? Have you any remorse? Have you anything wherein to reproach yourself as to your morality?
Nay, Sir, I have no doubt, I have no remorse, and there is nothing wherein I might reproach myself as to morals.
Then, Vakkali, if that is so you must have some worry, you must have something that you regret. [The Buddha asked these questions because Vakkali asked the Buddha especially to come and see him, so the Buddha thought he had something important to see him about.]
For a long time, Sir, I have been longing to see the Blessed One, but I had not strength enough in this body to come to see the Blessed One.
The Buddha replied, Enough, Vakkali! What is there in seeing this physical body of mine? He who sees the Dhamma [has experienced Nibbana], Vakkali, he in truth sees me. He who sees me, Vakkali, he sees the Dhamma. Verily, seeing the Dhamma, Vakkali, one sees me. Seeing me, one sees the Dhamma.
When it came time for the Buddha’s final passing away, the extinction without the remainder of his kammic force, never to be reborn again, the Awakened One exhorted his disciples in the following ways.
“I have, monks, set forth the Teaching without making any distinction between esoteric and exoteric doctrine. There is nothing with regard to the Teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back. I say to you that these Teachings of which I have direct knowledge and which I have made known to you, these you should thoroughly learn, cultivate, develop, and frequently practice, that the Life of Purity may be established and may long endure for the welfare and happiness of mankind, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, well-being, and happiness of gods and men.
Therefore, be ye an island unto yourselves, a refuge unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge, with the Teaching as your island, the Teaching as your refuge, seeking no other refuge. And how is one an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge? With the Teaching as his island, his refuge, seeking no other refuge? He dwells contemplating the body in the body, earnestly, clearly, comprehendingly, and mindfully, after having overcome desire and sorrow in regard to the world; he dwells contemplating feeling in the feelings, mind in the mind, and mental objects in the mental objects, earnestly, clearly comprehending and mindfully, after overcoming desire and sorrow in regard to the world, for yourselves from your own experience: ‘These things are good; these things are not blameworthy and are praised by the wise; and if undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit, to happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.
Then, truly, he is an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge, having the Dhamma as his island and refuge, seeking no other refuge. Those who now, or after I am gone, abide as an island unto themselves, as a refuge unto themselves, having the Dhamma as their island and refuge, it is they who will become the highest [attain Nibbana] if they have the desire to learn.
Just before the Blessed One’s final passing, he spoke to his faithful attendant, Ananda. “I pray you, Ananda, prepare for me the couch between the twin Sal trees with the head to the north. I am weary and would like to lie down.”
So be it, Sir.
And the Venerable Ananda did the Master’s bidding. Then the Blessed One laid himself down on his right side, in the lion’s posture, resting one foot upon the other, and so disposed of himself, mindfully and clearly comprehending. At that time the twin Sal trees broke out in full bloom, yet it was not the season for flowering, and the blossoms rained upon the body of the Tathagata and dropped and scattered and were strewn upon it, in the worship of the Awakened One. And the Blessed One spoke to the venerable Ananda, saying: “In full bloom, Ananda, are the twin Sal trees, yet it is not the season of flowering. And the blossoms rain upon the body of the Tathagata and drop and scatter and are strewn upon it, in the worship of the Tathagata. And celestial coral flowers and heavenly sandalwood powder from the sky rain down and drop and are strewn upon the body of the Tathagata, in the worship of the Tathagata. And the sound of heavenly voices and heavenly instruments makes music in the air, out of reverence for the Tathagata. Yet not thus, Ananda, is the Tathagata respected, venerated, esteemed, worshiped, and honored in the highest degree. But, Ananda, whatsoever monk or layman or laywoman abides by the Teaching, lives uprightly in the Teaching, walks in the way of the Teaching, it is by him that the Tathagata is respected, venerated, esteemed, worshiped, and honored in the highest degree. Therefore, Ananda, abide by the Teaching, live uprightly in the Teaching, walk in the way of the Teaching, thus you should train yourselves.”
And then the Blessed One addressed the monks, saying: “Behold now, I exhort you: Impermanent are all compounded things! Work out your salvation with earnestness”.
This was the last word of the Tathagata.