Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

15. Anomiya

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was staying in the land of Anomiya of Maineya.[2] He was accompanied by a large assembly of 1,250 monks.

Why Sunakṣatra Returned to the Lay Life

2. It was then that the Bhagavān put on his robe and took his bowl into the city of Anomiya to solicit alms. The Bhagavān then silently thought, “It’s too early in the day to solicit alms now. It would be better to visit the Wanderer Bhārgava’s park. I’ll solicit alms when it’s the right time for a monk to do so.”

3. The Bhagavān then went to that park. The wanderer there saw the Buddha coming from a distance, got up to meet him respectfully, and exchanged greetings with him. “Welcome, Gautama! It’s been a while since you’ve been here. What brings you to visit me? Please, Gautama, make yourself a seat here!” The Bhagavān then prepared a seat for himself.

4. The wanderer sat to one side and said to the Bhagavān, “Last night, the Licchavi monk Sunakṣatra visited me.[3] He said, ‘Great teacher, I’m not practicing the religious life under the Buddha. Why is that? The Buddha is estranged from me.’ That man openly spoke of you as mistaken, though I didn’t accept it on his word.”

5. The Buddha told the wanderer, “I knew you wouldn’t accept what Sunakṣatra says. Once when I was staying near Monkey Lake of Vaiśālī, there was a meeting in the Dharma Hall. This Sunakṣatra came to me and said, ‘The Tathāgata is estranged from me. I won’t practice the religious life under Gautama.’

6. “I asked him, ‘Why do you say, “I won’t practice the religious life under the Tathāgata because the he is estranged from me”?’

“Sunakṣatra replied to me, ‘The Tathāgata hasn’t demonstrated miraculous abilities or miracles for me.’

7. “I said, ‘Did I ask that you to purely cultivate the religious life according to my teaching if I demonstrate my miraculous abilities for you? Did you say to me, “I will practice the religious life after the Tathāgata demonstrates miraculous abilities and miracles for me”?’

“Sunakṣatra replied, ‘No, Bhagavān.’

8. “I told Sunakṣatra, ‘But I didn’t say to you, ‘You practice the religious life under my teaching, and I will demonstrate miraculous abilities and miracles for you.’ Nor did you say, ‘I’ll cultivate the religious life when you demonstrate miraculous abilities for me.’

9. “‘How is it, Sunakṣatra? What do you think? Can the Tathāgata demonstrate miraculous abilities, or can’t he? Can one use the Dharma that I teach to escape and reach the end of suffering?’

“Sunakṣatra said to me, ‘Yes, Bhagavān. The Tathāgata can demonstrate miraculous abilities. It’s not that he can’t. One can use the Dharma that he teaches to escape and reach the end of suffering. It’s not that they can’t.’

10. “‘So, Sunakṣatra, someone who cultivates the religious life under my teaching can demonstrate miraculous abilities. It’s not that they can’t. They can escape from suffering. It’s not that they can’t escape it. What do you seek from this teaching?’

“‘Sunakṣatra said, ‘Bhagavān, you aren’t able to teach me the mystery of my father at the appropriate time. The Bhagavān fully knows it, but he holds back and doesn’t teach it to me.’

11. “‘I said, ‘Sunakṣatra, did I say before, “If you practice the religious life under my teaching, I will teach you the mystery of your father?” Did you say, “Teach me the mystery of my father, and I will practice the religious life under the Buddha.”’

“He answered, ‘No.’

12. “‘Therefore, Sunakṣatra, I said none of these things before, and you said none of them. Why are you saying this now? How is it, Sunakṣatra? Do you think the Tathāgata can teach you the mystery of your father, or can’t he? Can one use the Dharma he teaches to escape and reach the end of suffering?’

“Sunakṣatra replied, ‘The Tathāgata can teach me the mystery of my father. It’s not that he can’t. One can use his Dharma to escape and reach the end of suffering. It’s not that they can’t.’

13. “I asked Sunakṣatra, ‘If I can teach you the mystery of your father, and one can use the Dharma I teach to escape from suffering, then what more do you seek from my teaching?’

14. “I also told Sunakṣatra, ‘Back at Vaiśālī in the land of the Vṛji, you praised the Tathāgata, the correct Dharma, and the Saṅgha in countless ways. It was like someone praising the eight ways that a clear pool delights people: “It’s cool, light, gentle, clear, sweet, and clean. One can drink it without tire, and it refreshes the body.’ You were likewise. At Vaiśālī in the land of the Vṛji, you praised the Tathāgata, the correct Dharma, and the Saṅgha, which made people feel confident about them.

15. “Sunakṣatra, you should know that now you’ve reversed yourself, the world will again say, ‘The monk Sunakṣatra has many friends. He’s close to the Bhagavān, and he’s the Bhagavān’s disciple, but he can’t purely practice the religious life his entire life. He’ll abandon the precepts and return to the lay life and inferior practices.’”

16. “Wanderer, you should know that after I had this talk with him, he didn’t follow my instruction. He abandoned the precepts and returned to the lay life.

Sunakṣatra and the Nirgrantha Disciple Kalāra

17. “Wanderer, I was once at the Dharma meeting hall that’s beside Monkey Lake. There was a Nirgrantha disciple named Kalāra who had stopped there.[4] He was respected by people, and his fame was far-reaching. He had many friends who provided him with offerings. At the time, the monk Sunakṣatra had put on his robe and took his bowl into Vaiśālī to solicit alms. He made his way on the alms round until he met this Nirgrantha disciple.

18. “Sunakṣatra then asked the Nirgrantha disciple about a profound subject. He couldn’t answer and became angry. Sunakṣatra thought to himself, ‘I’ve bothered this man. Won’t this lead to a result of suffering that will last a long time?’

19. “Wanderer, you should know that when the monk Sunakṣatra was finished soliciting alms, he took his robe and bowl and returned to me. He bowed to my feet and sat to one side. Sunakṣatra then told me about what had happened. I said to him, ‘You fool! Wouldn’t you rather call yourself an ascetic Śākyan disciple?’

“Sunakṣatra quickly replied, ‘Bhagavān, why call me a fool? Shouldn’t I call myself a Śākyan disciple?’

20. “I told him, ‘Fool, you’ve already gone and questioned that Nirgrantha disciple about a profound subject. He couldn’t answer it, so he became angry. Then you thought to yourself, ‘Now, I’ve bothered this Nirgrantha disciple. Won’t this lead to a result of suffering that will last a long time?’ You had that thought, didn’t you?”

“Sunakṣatra said to me, ‘He was an arhat. What reason was there for him to feel hateful?’

21. “I then answered, ‘Fool, what reason is there for an arhat to feel hateful? No arhat of mine has hateful feelings. Now, you say yourself, ‘He is an arhat.’ He practices the seven kinds of asceticism, which he has upheld for a long time. What are the seven?

22. “First, one doesn’t wear clothing for their entire life. Second, one doesn’t drink alcohol, eat meat, or eat rice or wheat flour for their entire life. Third, one doesn’t violate the religious life for their entire life. Fourth [to seventh], one doesn’t go beyond the four shrines of Vaiśālī, which are the eastern stone shrine called Mourning Park, the southern stone shrine called Elephant, the western stone shrine called Many Children, and the northern stone shrine called Seven Copse.[5] They do this their entire life. This makes four ascetic practices. He’ll violate these seven ascetic practices and die while living outside of Vaiśālī.

23. “‘That Nirgrantha disciple will be like a jackal weakened by a skin disease when he dies on a burial mound in a cemetery. He’ll violate all his own teaching’s rules. He vowed to himself, ‘I won’t wear clothes for my entire life,’ but he’ll return to wearing clothes. He vowed to himself, ‘I won’t drink alcohol, eat meat, or eat rice or wheat flour,’ but he’ll eat all of them. He vowed to himself, ‘I won’t violate the religious life,’ but he’ll violate it. He vowed, ‘I won’t go beyond the four shrines, the eastern Mourning Park shrine, the southern Elephant shrine, the western Many Children shrine, and the northern Seven Copse shrine.’ But far from them and doesn’t stay nearby. That man will contradict his own seven vows, leave the city of Vaiśālī, and his life will end in a cemetery.’

24. “I told Sunakṣatra, ‘Fool, if you don’t believe what I say, go investigate it and realize it for yourself.’

25. The Buddha told the wanderer, “One day, the monk Sunakṣatra put on his robe and took his bowl into the city to solicit alms. After soliciting alms, he left the city as he returned. He saw the Nirgrantha disciple’s life had ended in an empty cemetery. Seeing that, he came to me, bowed his head at my feet, and sat to one side, but that wasn’t what he spoke to me about.

26. “Wanderer, you should know, I said to Sunakṣatra, ‘How is it, Sunakṣatra? Did my prediction about that Nirgrantha disciple turn out to be true?’

“He replied, ‘Yes, it was as the Bhagavān said.’

27. “Wanderer, you should know, I had demonstrated evidence of my miraculous abilities to Sunakṣatra, yet he said, ‘The Bhagavān didn’t demonstrate them for me.’

Sunakṣatra and the Nirgrantha Disciple Khoradattika

28. “Another time, I was at a town of the White Land in Maineya. A Nirgrantha disciple named Khoradattika was living there at the time. He was respected by people, his fame was far-reaching, and he received many offerings. I put on my robe and took my bowl into town to solicit alms, and the monk Sunakṣatra followed me. We saw the Nirgrantha disciple Khoradattika on a mound of refuse licking up coarse food.

29. “Wanderer, you should know that when the monk Sunakṣatra saw this Nirgrantha disciple doing that, he thought, ‘Whether or not there are arhats in the world who follow the arhat’s path, this Nirgrantha disciple’s path is supreme. Why is that? This man’s asceticism is such that he abandons his pride and squats on a mound of refuse licking up coarse food.”

30. “Wanderer, when he was walking on my right, I told Sunakṣatra, ‘You fool, wouldn’t you rather call yourself a Śākyan disciple?’

“Sunakṣatra said to me, ‘Why do you call me a fool, Bhagavān? Shouldn’t I call myself a Śākyan disciple?’

31. “I told Sunakṣatra, ‘You fool, look at this Khoradattika squatting on a mound of refuse eating coarse food. Seeing that, you thought, “Whether the world has arhats and those who follow the arhat’s path, this Khoradattika is supreme. Why is that? Now, this Khoradattika’s asceticism can abandon pride and squat on a mound of refuse licking up coarse food.” Didn’t you have that thought?’

“He answered me, ‘That’s true.’

32. “Sunakṣatra also said, ‘Why does the Bhagavān feel jealous of an arhat?’

“I told that fool, ‘It’s not that I feel jealous of an arhat. How could I be jealous of an arhat? You’re a fool, taking that Khoradattika to be a real arhat. In seven days, that man’s belly will swell up, and his life will end. He’ll be born as a corporeal hungry ghost that constantly suffers from hunger and thirst. After his life ends, he’ll be dragged to the cemetery with a reed cord. If you don’t believe me, you can go and tell him beforehand.’

33. “Sunakṣatra then visited Khoradattika and told him, ‘The ascetic Gautama has predicted that in seven days your belly will swell up, and you’ll die. You’ll be born as a corporeal hungry ghost, and you’ll be dragged to a cemetery with a reed cord after you die.’

“Sunakṣatra also said, ‘You should examine your food to prevent what he says from happening.’

34. “Wanderer, you should know that when seven days had passed, Khoradattika’s belly swelled up, and he died. He was then born as a corporeal hungry ghost. When that corpse died, he was dragged to the cemetery with a reed cord.

35. “After Sunakṣatra heard what I said, he counted the days on his fingers. When the seventh days arrived, the monk Sunakṣatra went to the naked ascetic’s village. Upon arriving, he asked the villagers, ‘Good men, where is Khoradattika?’

“They replied, ‘His life has ended.’

36. “He asked, ‘What trouble caused his life to end?’

“They answered, ‘His belly swelled up.’

37. “He asked, ‘How was his body moved?’

“They answered, ‘He was dragged to the cemetery with a reed cord.’

38. “Wanderer, when he learned that, Sunakṣatra went to the cemetery. Before he reached it, that corpse moved its legs at the knee and suddenly squatted. Sunakṣatra then approached the corpse and said, ‘Khoradattika, has your life ended?’

“The corpse said, ‘My life has ended.’

39. “He asked, ‘What trouble caused your life to end?’

“The corpse answered, ‘Gautama predicted that in seven days my belly would swell up, and my life would end. It was as he said. When the seventh day arrived, my belly swelled up, and my life ended.’

40. “Sunakṣatra also asked, ‘Where were you born?’

“The corpse replied, ‘Just as Gautama predicted that I would be born among corporeal hungry ghosts, I was born today as a corporeal hungry ghost.’

41. “Sunakṣatra asked, ‘When your life ended, how was your body moved?’

“The corpse answered, ‘Just as Gautama predicted, it was dragged to the cemetery with a reed cord. It really was as he said. I was dragged to the cemetery with a reed cord.’

42. “The corpse said to Sunakṣatra, ‘Even though you left home, you’ve gotten no good benefit from it. The ascetic Gautama predicted these events, but you constantly disbelieve him.’ After saying that, the corpse laid back down.

43. “Wanderer, the monk Sunakṣatra then came to me, bowed his head at my feet, and sat to one side, but that wasn’t what he spoke to me about. I quickly said, ‘My prediction about Khoradattika turned out to be true, didn’t it?’

“He answered, ‘It really was as the Bhagavān said.’

44. “Wanderer, thus did I demonstrate evidence of my miraculous abilities to the monk Sunakṣatra on numerous occasions, yet he still says, ‘The Bhagavān didn’t demonstrate miraculous abilities for me.’”

Sunakṣatra and the Wanderer Pāṭiputra

45. The Buddha told the wanderer, “I was once in the Dharma Meeting Hall that’s beside Monkey Lake. At the time, a wanderer named Pāṭiputra had stopped there. He was respected by people, his fame was far-reaching, and he received many offerings. In a large crowd of Vaiśālīs, he made this statement: ‘The ascetic Gautama says he is wise. I am wise, too. The ascetic Gautama says he has miraculous abilities. I have miraculous abilities, too. The ascetic Gautama has achieved the transcendental path. I have achieved the transcendental path, too. He and I will demonstrate miraculous abilities together. The ascetic will demonstrate one ability, and then I will demonstrate two. When the ascetic demonstrates two, I will demonstrate four. When the ascetic demonstrates eight, I will demonstrate 16. When the ascetic demonstrates 16, I will demonstrate 32. When the ascetic demonstrates 32, I will demonstrate 64. However many that that ascetic demonstrates, I will demonstrate twice as many.’

46. “Wanderer, when the monk Sunakṣatra put on his robe and took his bowl into the city to solicit alms, he saw the wanderer Pāṭiputra in that large crowd making this statement, ‘The ascetic Gautama says he is wise. I am wise, too. The ascetic Gautama says he has miraculous abilities. I have miraculous abilities, too. The ascetic Gautama has achieved the transcendental path. I have achieved the transcendental path, too. He and I will demonstrate miraculous abilities together. The ascetic will demonstrate one ability, and then I will demonstrate two … When the ascetic demonstrates four, I will demonstrate eight … However many that that ascetic demonstrates, I will demonstrate twice as many.’

47. “After Sunakṣatra had solicited alms, he came to me, bowed his head, and sat to one side. He said to me, ‘In the early morning, I put on my robe and took my bowl into the city to solicit alms. I heard the Vaiśālī Pāṭiputra make this statement in a large crowd: “The ascetic Gautama has great wisdom. I have great wisdom, too. The ascetic Gautama has miraculous abilities. I have miraculous abilities, too. … If the ascetic demonstrates one ability, then I will demonstrate two … However many that that ascetic demonstrates, I will demonstrate twice as many.”’

48. “He came to tell me about these events. I said to Sunakṣatra, ‘That Pāṭiputra didn’t abandon this claim, didn’t abandon this view, and didn’t abandon this arrogance in a large crowd. He will never come to me. If he were to think, ‘I won’t abandon this claim, this view, or this arrogance, but I’ll go to the ascetic Gautama,’ his head would split into seven pieces. It isn’t possible for such a person to come to me who doesn’t abandon such a claim, view, and arrogance.’

49. “Sunakṣatra said, ‘Bhagavān, watch what you say! Tathāgata, watch what you say!’

50. “I asked Sunakṣatra, ‘Why do you say, “Bhagavān, watch what you say! Tathāgata, watch what you say!”?’

“Sunakṣatra said, ‘That Pāṭiputra has great power and great virtue. If he were free to come here, mightn’t he demonstrate that the Bhagavān is false?’

51. “I told Sunakṣatra, ‘Has the Tathāgata said that there could be two [Buddhas]?’

“He responded, ‘He hasn’t.’

52. “I told Sunakṣatra, ‘If there couldn’t be two [Buddhas], why are you saying, “Bhagavān, watch what you say! Tathāgata, watch what you say!”?’

“Sunakṣatra said to the Buddha, ‘The Bhagavān knows and sees himself that the gods come and talk to Pāṭiputra.’

53. “I said, ‘I know for myself, and I also know because gods come and talk to me. When the great Vaiśālī general Ajita’s body broke up and his life ended, he was born in the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven. He came to me and said, “The wanderer Pāṭiputra knows no modesty and violates the precept against false speech. In a large crowd at Vaiśālī, he thus slandered me, ‘When the great general Ajita’s body broke up and his life ended, he was born as a corporeal demon.’ But when my body broke up and my life ended, I was actually born in the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven.” I already knew about Pāṭiputra, and I knew because the gods came to tell me about him.’

“I told the fool Sunakṣatra, ‘If you don’t believe me, then go to Vaiśālī and make an announcement to them that I’ll visit Pāṭiputra after I’ve eaten.’

54. The Buddha told the wanderer, “After the night had passed, Sunakṣatra put on his robe and took his bowl into the city to solicit alms. When Sunakṣatra reached the center of Vaiśālī, there were many priests, ascetics, and wanderers. He told them all this, ‘The wanderer Pāṭiputra has made this claim in a large crowd: “The ascetic Gautama has great wisdom. I have great wisdom, too. The ascetic Gautama has great power. I have great power, too. The ascetic Gautama has great miraculous abilities. I have great miraculous abilities, too … The ascetic will demonstrate one ability, and then I will demonstrate two … However many abilities that ascetic demonstrates, I will always demonstrate twice as many.” Now, the ascetic Gautama is going visit Pāṭiputra. Everyone here can visit him, too!’

55. “The wanderer Pāṭiputra was walking on the road. When Sunakṣatra saw him, he hurried to Pāṭiputra and said, ‘You made this claim in a large crowd at Vaiśālī: “The ascetic Gautama has great wisdom … However many abilities that ascetic demonstrates, I will always demonstrate twice as many.” Gautama has heard about it, and now he’s coming visit you. You ought to quickly return home.’

56. “He responded, ‘I’ll return! I’ll return!’ After saying that, he suddenly felt afraid for himself, and his hair stood on end, so he didn’t go back to his home. Instead, he went to the Wanderer Pāṭiputra’s Malabar Ebony Grove. There, he sat on a rope seat, feeling miserable and distraught.”

57. The Buddha told the wanderer, “After eating, I went to Pāṭiputra’s dwelling, accompanied by many Licchavi ascetics, priests, wanderers, and householders. We prepared seats and sat down. There was a wanderer in the assembly named Cāla.

58. “A group of people called Cāla over to them and told him, ‘Go to Malabar Ebony Grove and tell Pāṭiputra this: ‘An assembly of many Licchavi ascetics, priests, wanderers, and householders has gathered at your grove. People in that assembly are telling each other, “The wanderer Pāṭiputra had announced in a crowd: ‘The ascetic Gautama has great wisdom. I have great wisdom, too … However many miraculous abilities that Gautama demonstrates, I will always demonstrate twice as many.’” The ascetic Gautama has come to your grove as a result. You can come and face him.’

59. “Hearing what they said, Cāla went to Malabar Ebony Grove and said to Pāṭiputra, ‘An assembly of many Licchavi ascetics, priests, wanderers, and householders has gathered at your grove. People in that assembly are telling each other, “The wanderer Pāṭiputra had announced in a crowd: ‘The ascetic Gautama has great wisdom. I have great wisdom, too … However many miraculous abilities that Gautama demonstrates, I will always demonstrate twice as many.’” The ascetic Gautama has come now to your grove as a result. Pāṭiputra, it would be best that you returned.’

60. “The wanderer Pāṭiputra replied to Cāla, ‘I’ll return! I’ll return!’ After saying this, he fidgeted uneasily on his rope seat. His foot became ensnared in the rope seat, and he couldn’t free it. How could he have gone to the Bhagavān?

61. “Cāla then said to Pāṭiputra, ‘You are ignorant, just saying these empty words, ‘I’ll return! I’ll return!’ Still, you can’t free yourself from this rope seat. How can you go to that large assembly?’

62. “After chastising Pāṭiputra, Cāla returned to the large assembly and reported, ‘I carried the assembly’s message to Pāṭiputra and told him. His response to me was ‘I’ll return! I’ll return!’” Then, he turned his body on that rope seat, and his foot was snared in the seat. He couldn’t free himself from it. He couldn’t free himself from the rope seat, so how will he come to this assembly?’

63. “There was then a Licchavi son named Dhūma in the assembly. He rose from his seat, adjusted his robe to bare his right shoulder, and knelt on his knee. With his palms together, he addressed the assembly, ‘I’m an insignificant servant to this great assembly. I’ll go and bring that man here.’”

64. The Buddha said, “I told that Licchavi son Dhūma, ‘That man has made such statements, held such views, and created such pride. It isn’t possible to make this man come to the Buddha. Dhūma, even if you tied him tightly with a leather cord and pulled him with a herd of cattle, his body would be torn apart. He’ll never abandon such statements, such views, and such pride to come to me. If you don’t believe what I say, go and find out for yourself.’

65. “The Licchavi son Dhūma went to Pāṭiputra and said to him, ‘An assembly of many Licchavi ascetics, priests, wanderers, and householders has gathered at your grove. People in that assembly are telling each other, “The wanderer Pāṭiputra had announced in a crowd: ‘The ascetic Gautama has great wisdom. I have great wisdom, too … However many miraculous abilities that Gautama demonstrates, I will always demonstrate twice as many.’” The ascetic Gautama has come now to your grove. You can return home.’

66. “The wanderer Pāṭiputra replied, ‘I’ll return! I’ll return!’ After saying this, he turned uneasily on his rope seat, and it snared his foot. He couldn’t free himself from the rope seat, so how could he travel on foot to the Bhagavān?

67. “Dhūma then said to Pāṭiputra, ‘You are ignorant, just saying these empty words, ‘I’ll return! I’ll return!’ Still, you can’t free yourself from this rope seat. How can you go to that large assembly?’

68. Dhūma also said to Pāṭiputra, ‘Some wise people use parables to understand things. Far away, there was a lion, a king of beasts, that lived in a deep forest. It came out of its cave at daybreak, surveyed the four directions, and boldly roared three times. Afterward, it would go wandering in search of meat to eat.

69. “‘Pāṭiputra, when that lion, that king of beasts, returned to its forest after eating, there would usually be a jackal that followed it to eat the leftovers. When the jackal was at full strength, it would say to itself, “What kind of animal is that forest lion, really? Could it best me? Now, I’d like to find my own forest. I’ll emerge from my cave at daybreak, survey the four directions, and roar three times. Afterward, I’ll go wandering in search of meat to eat.”

70. “‘It immediately went to live in a forest. It emerged from its cave at daybreak … boldly roared three times. Afterward, it went wandering, but it’s lion’s roar was a jackal’s bark.

71. “‘Pāṭiputra, you are likewise now. As a result of the Buddha’s magnanimity arising in the world, you’ve received people’s offerings, but now you compete with the Tathāgata.’

72. “That Licchavi son Dhūma then chastised him in verse:

73. “That Licchavi son Dhūma told him, ‘You are likewise. As a result of the Buddha’s magnanimity arising in the world, you receive people’s offerings, but now you compete with the Tathāgata.’

74. “After chastising him with those four kinds of metaphor, the Licchavi son Dhūma returned to the large assembly and reported, ‘I carried the assembly’s message to Pāṭiputra and told him. His response to me was ‘I’ll return! I’ll return!’” Then, he turned his body on that rope seat, and his foot was snared in the seat. He couldn’t free himself from it. He couldn’t free himself from the rope seat, so how will he come to this assembly?’

75. “I told Dhūma’s son, ‘I told you before, it isn’t possible to make this man come to the Buddha. Even if you tied a leather cord to him tightly and pulled him with a herd of cattle, his body would be torn apart. He’ll never abandon such statements, such views, and pride to come to me.’

76. “Wanderer, I then explained a variety of teachings for that large assembly, instructing, benefiting, and making them rejoice. In that assembly, I roared the lion’s roar three times. I then ascended into the sky and returned home.”

The Origin of the World and Beings

77. The Buddha told the wanderer, “Sometimes ascetics and priests say, ‘The whole world was created by Brahmā, the Sovereign God.’

78. “I ask them, ‘Was the whole world really created by Brahmā, the Sovereign God?’

“They can’t answer, so they ask me a counter question: ‘Gautama, how is it, then?’

79. “I reply to them, ‘Sometimes, soon after this world is destroyed, there are other sentient beings whose life and actions come to an end. Their lives end in the Ābhāsvara Heaven, and then they are born in some empty Brahma abode. Craving arises in them there, and they become addicted to it. Again, they want other sentient beings to be reborn in that abode. When those other sentient beings’ lives and actions come to an end, they are reborn there.

80. “‘That sentient being then thinks to itself, “Now I am King Great Brahmā. I suddenly came into existence without a creator. I completely comprehend the meaning of everything. I am the supreme sovereign of a thousand worlds. What I make and create is sublime and supreme. I am both father and mother to people. I was the first to arrive here; I was alone without a companion. These sentient beings are here because of my power. I made these sentient beings. Those other sentient beings also followed them, and they call me: ‘King Brahmā who suddenly came into existence. He completely comprehends the meaning of everything. He’s the supreme sovereign of a thousand worlds. What he makes and creates is sublime and supreme. He’s both father and mother to people. At first, he was alone, then later there was us. This King Great Brahmā created us.’”

81. “‘When these sentient beings die, they are reborn here in the world. They slowly grow up, cut off their hair and beards, put on the three Dharma robes, and leave home for the path. They enter a samādhi of mind through which they recall their past births, and then they make the claim, “This god Great Brahmā suddenly came into existence without a creator. He completely comprehends the meaning of everything. He’s the supreme sovereign of a thousand worlds. What he makes and creates is sublime and supreme. He’s both father and mother to people. That god Great Brahmā always abides unperturbed, and he isn’t subject to change. We were created by that god Brahmā, but now we’re impermanent, don’t last long, and are subject to change.”

82. “Thus, wanderer, as a result of these events, those ascetics and priests each say, ‘That Brahmā, that Sovereign God, created this world.’ Wanderer, a creator of this world is something that’s only known to a Buddha and not by others. The Buddha also entirely knows what’s beyond this subject. Although he knows, he’s not attached to it. He truly knows suffering and its formation, cessation, enjoyment, danger, and escape. He’s called ‘Tathāgata’ because he was liberated without remainder by his equal observation.”

83. The Buddha told the wanderer, “Some ascetics and priests make this claim, ‘Frivolity and laziness are the source of sentient beings.’

84. “I say to them, ‘Do you really say that frivolity and laziness are the source of sentient beings?’

“They aren’t able to answer, so they ask me a counter question, ‘Gautama, how is it, then?’

85. “I reply to them, ‘Sometimes, the sentient beings of the Ābhāsvara Heaven are frivolous and lazy. When their bodies break up and their lives end, they’re reborn here. They slowly grow up, cut off their hair and beard, put on the three Dharma robes, and leave home for the path. They enter a samādhi of mind through which they recall their past births, and then they make the claim, “Those other sentient beings didn’t delight in frivolity, so they always reside in that abode, abiding forever and unchanging. We’ve come to this impermanence and are subject to change because we often delighted in frivolity.”’”

86. “Thus, wanderer, as a result of these events, those ascetics and priests say that frivolity is the source of sentient beings. The Buddha thus entirely knows this, and he also knows about what’s beyond it. He knows it but isn’t attached to it. He truly knows suffering and its formation, cessation, enjoyment, danger, and escape. He’s called ‘Tathāgata’ because he was liberated without remainder by his equal observation.”

87. The Buddha told the wanderer, “Some ascetics and priests say, ‘Losing mindfulness is the source of sentient beings.’

88. “I say to them, ‘Do you really say, ‘Losing mindfulness is the source of sentient beings?’

“They aren’t able to answer, so they ask me a counter question, ‘Gautama, how is it, then?’

89. “I say to them, ‘Some sentient beings lose their mindfulness after watching each other, one after the other. As a result, they’re born here when their lives end. They slowly grow up, cut off their hair and beards, put on the three Dharma robes, and leave home to cultivate the path. They enter a concentration of mind through which they became aware of their past births, and then they say, “Those sentient beings that don’t lose their mindfulness while watching each other, one after the other, always abide unchanging. We frequently watched each other and lost our mindfulness after doing so. As a result, we’ve come to this impermanence and are subject to change.”’

90. “Thus, wanderer, as a result of these events, those ascetics and priests say that losing mindfulness is the source of sentient beings. Only a Buddha thus knows it, and he knows what’s beyond it. He knows it, but he isn’t attached to it. He truly knows suffering and its formation, cessation, enjoyment, danger, and escape. He’s called ‘Tathāgata’ because he was liberated without remainder by his equal observation.”

91. The Buddha told the wanderer, “Some ascetics and priests say, ‘I arose without cause.’

92. “I say to them, ‘Do you really say, “I arose without cause”?’

“They aren’t able to answer, so they ask me a counter question[, ‘Gautama, how is it, then?’]

93. “Then I reply, ‘Some sentient beings have no perception and no awareness. If those sentient beings give rise to perception, then they’re reborn here when their lives end. They slowly grow up, cut off their hair and beards, put on the three Dharma robes, and leave home to cultivate the path. They enter a concentration of mind through which they became aware of their past births, and then they say, “I didn’t exist in the past, but now I suddenly exist. This world didn’t exist in the past, but now it exists. This is true; the rest is false.”’

94. “Thus, wanderer, as a result of these events, ascetics and priests say that they arose without cause. Only the Buddha knows it, and he knows what’s beyond it. He knows it, but he isn’t attached to it. He truly knows suffering and its formation, cessation, enjoyment, danger, and escape. He’s called ‘Tathāgata’ because he was liberated without remainder by his equal observation.”

95. The Buddha told the wanderer, “I’ve explained such things, but some ascetics and priests slander me in private. They say, ‘The ascetic Gautama himself claims, “My disciples enter pure liberation and accomplish pure practice. They know purity, but they don’t completely know purity.”’

96. “But I don’t make the claim, ‘My disciples enter pure liberation and accomplish pure practice. They know purity, but they don’t completely know purity.’

97. “Wanderer, I myself say, ‘My disciples enter pure liberation and accomplish the pure practice. They know purity, being entirely and completely pure.’

98. The wanderer then said to the Buddha, “They can’t obtain good benefits, so they slander the ascetic Gautama by saying, ‘The ascetic himself says, ‘My disciples enter pure liberation and accomplish pure practice. They know purity, but they don’t completely know purity.’

99. “But the Bhagavān doesn’t say that. The Bhagavān himself says, ‘My disciples enter pure liberation and accomplish the pure practice. They know purity, being entirely and completely pure.’”

100. He also said to the Buddha, “I’ll also enter this pure liberation and accomplish pure practice. I’ll entirely and completely know it!”

101. The Buddha told the wanderer, “It would be very difficult for you to enter it. Your views are different, your patience is different, and your practice is different. It’s very difficult to enter pure liberation while relying on other views. If you keep delighting in the Buddha in your heart, then you’ll always be happy for a long time.”

102. When the wanderer Bhārgava heard what the Buddha taught, he rejoiced and approved.


Notes

  1. Parallels for this sutra include DN 24 and a few Sanskrit fragments. [back]
  2. Anomiya … Maineya. Ch. (MCh.) 阿㝹夷 (a-neu-i) … 冥寧 (mieng-nieng), P. Anupiya … Mallesu. I’ve adopted the Sanskrit place names found in the Mahāvastu, which match the Chinese transliterations better than the Pali. [back]
  3. Licchavi … Sunakṣatra. Ch. 隸車 (MCh. liei-t’śia) 子 善宿. The Chinese is a hybrid of transliteration and translation. “Licchavi-” is transliterated (隸車), while “-putra” (子) and “Sunakṣatra” (善宿) are translated. 善宿 literally means “good” (su-) “constellation” (-nakṣatra), which agrees with the Sanskrit meaning of the name (“[born under a] good astrological sign”). [back]
  4. Nirgrantha disciple. That is, a disciple of Nirgrantha Jñāniputra, the founder of the Jain religion. [back]
  5. Mourning Park … Elephant … Many Sons … Seven Copses. These names were translated to Chinese. The Pali equivalents are Udena, Gotamaka, Sattamba, Bahuputta. The first two Chinese names don’t seem to match the Pali, but the last two do (although in reverse order). I’ve translated them to English for the time being, as the Sanskrit equivalents are obscure to me. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 7 October 2021