The Samannaphala Sutta and its Commentaries
The Buddha traces the entire progress of a disciple from the first step on the path to the attainment of Nibbana in this second sutta of the Sutta Pitaka, one of the most elevating of the Buddha's discourses. On a full-moon night in Autumn, in reply to a question asked by King Ajatasattu of Magadha, the Buddha expounds the visible fruits of the Buddhist monk's life, sketching the progress of the disciple.
"...the Samaññaphala Sutta sounds a triumphant and lyrical proclamation of the fruitfulness of the course of spiritual training founded upon right view. It is the Buddha's announcement to the world that the life of renunciation he adopted for himself and opened up to humanity by founding the sangha brings immediately visible benefits in each of its stages. It is 'good in the beginning' through the bliss of blamelessness that comes with the purification of conduct; 'good in the middle' in yielding an exalted joy and bliss through the seclusion of the mind from the sensual hindrances; and 'good in the end' because it culminates in the highest wisdom and peace by transcending all mundane bonds." (From the translator's Preface)
The work is not only a great spiritual classic, but also a literary gem distinguished by its beauty of poetic imagery.