Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

16. Sujata

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was staying on Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa of Rājagṛha. He was accompanied by a large assembly of 1,250 monks.

2. It was then that the Bhagavān put on his robe and took his bowl into the city to solicit alms. At the time, there was a prominent man’s son named Sujata[2] in Rājagṛha. Early in the morning, he left the city to go for a walk in a park. He bathed first, wetting his entire body. He then bowed in all directions around him: To the east, west, south, north, above, and below.

3. The Bhagavān then saw Sujata bathing before going for his walk in a park, wetting his entire body, and bowing in all directions. Upon seeing this, the Bhagavān went to Sujata and asked him: “Why did you leave the city in the early morning to go to a park, wet your entire body, and bow in all directions?”

Sujata then said to the Buddha, “My father’s death is imminent, and he gave me this instruction: ‘When you go to bow, you should first bow to the east, south, west, north, above, and below.’ I don’t dare not carry out my father’s instruction, so after I’ve bathed, I first salute while facing east and then bow to the east. I do this for all the directions to the south, west, north, above, and below.”

4. The Bhagavān then told Sujata, “Prominent man’s son, these directions are just names. It’s not that we don’t have this practice, but we don’t bow to these six directions to pay respect to them in my noble teaching.”

5. Sujata said to the Buddha, “Please, Bhagavān! It would be good if you explained for me the way you bow to the six directions in the noble teaching!”

The Buddha told the prominent man’s son, “Listen closely, listen closely! Consider it well, for I will explain this for you.”

Sujata replied, “Very well. I’d be glad to hear it.”

6. The Buddha told Sujata, “Suppose a prominent man or his son knows four binding actions and doesn’t do bad actions on four grounds. Moreover, he’s able to know six actions that squander wealth. That’s to say, Sujata, this prominent man or his son parts with four bad actions and pays homage to the six directions. It will be good for his present life, and he’ll obtain good results in later lives. It will be the source for this in his present life and later lives. In the present life, he be commended by wise people and gain this one worldly reward: When his body breaks up and his life ends, he’ll be born in a heavenly good place.

7. “Sujata, you should know, the four binding actions are 1. killing beings, 2. stealing, 3. engaging in sex, and 4. false speech. These are the four binding actions. What are the four grounds? They are 1. desire, 2. anger, 3. fear, and 4. delusion. If a prominent man or his son does bad actions on these four grounds, then he will decline [in reputation].”

8. After saying this, the Buddha restated it in verse:

9. The Buddha told Sujata, “If a prominent man or his son doesn’t do bad actions on these four grounds, then he’ll improve [in reputation].”

10. The Bhagavān then restated this in verse:

11. The Buddha told Sujata, “The six actions that squander wealth are 1. indulging in alcohol, 2. gambling, 3. self-indulgence, 4. getting carried away at musical performances, 5. associating with bad friends, and 6. idleness. These are the six acts that squander wealth.

12. “Sujata, suppose a prominent man or his son understands these four binding actions, doesn’t do evil actions on these four grounds, and knows the six actions that squander wealth. Doing this, Sujata, he can part with these four grounds and make offerings to the six directions. It will be good for his present life and good in later lives. It’ll be the source for this in the present life and in later lives. In the present, he’ll be praised by wise people and gain this one worldly reward: When his body breaks up and his life ends, he’ll be born in a heavenly good place.

13. “Sujata, you should know that drinking alcohol has six defects: 1. Loss of wealth, 2. becoming ill, 3. fighting, 4. circulation of a bad reputation, 5. sudden outbursts of anger, and 6. a daily loss in wisdom. Sujata, if they drink alcohol, that prominent man or his son’s family and property with decrease day by day.

14. “Sujata, gambling has six defects. What are the six? 1. Daily loss of wealth, 2. enemies are made by winning, 3. being rebuked by wise people, 4. not being trusted by people, 5. estrangement from people, and 6. it causes thoughts of stealing. Sujata, engaging in gambling has these six defects. If they gamble, that prominent man or his son’s family and property will decrease day by day.

15. “Self-indulgence has six defects: 1. Not protecting oneself, 2. not protecting one’s property, 3. not protecting one’s children, 4. being in constant fear, 5. being constantly trapped in painful and bad qualities, and 6. delighting in falsehoods. These are the six defects of self-indulgence. If a prominent man or his son engages in self-indulgence, his family and property will decrease day by day.

16. “Sujata, getting carried away at musical performances also has six defects: 1. Seeking singing, 2. seeking dancing and 3. seeking musical instruments, 4. panica, 5. talava, and 6. suhana.[3] These are the six defects of music. If a prominent man or his son doesn’t stop indulging in music, his family and property will decrease day by day.

17. “Associating with bad friends also has six defects: 1. One’s ways become deceitful, 2. preferring private places, 3. tempting people from other households, 4. scheming to get others’ possessions, 5. directing profits to oneself, and 6. liking to publicize the faults of others. These are the six defects of bad friends. If a prominent man or his son doesn’t stop associating with bad friends, his family and property will decrease day by day.

18. Idleness has six defects: 1. One doesn’t make much effort to cultivate when they’re fortunate and happy, 2. not making much effort to cultivate when in poverty, 3. not making much effort to cultivate when it’s cold, 4. not making much effort to cultivate when it’s hot, 5. not making much effort to cultivate in the morning, and 6. not make much effort to cultivate in the evening. If a prominent man or his son don’t stop being idle, his family and property will decrease day by day.”

19. After saying this, the Buddha restated it in verse:

20. The Buddha told Sujata, “There are four enemies who resemble friends that you should know and recognize. What are the four? 1. Those who submit out of fear, 2. who use beautiful words, 3. who follow out of respect, and 4. who are bad friends.”

21. The Buddha told Sujata, “There are four things about those who submit out of fear. What are the four? 1. They take back when they’ve given, 2. they give little expecting more [in return], 3. their friendship is forced because of fear, and 4. they make friends for their own gain. These are the four things about those who submit out of fear.

22. The Buddha told Sujata, “There are also four things about friends who use beautiful words. What are the four? 1. They follow others whether they are good or bad, 2. abandon them when there are difficulties, 3. are welcoming in public but stop in private, and 4. refuse to help when misfortune strikes. These are the four things about friends who use beautiful words.

23. “There are four things about friends who follow out of respect. What are the four? 1. They’re deceptive at first, 2. they’re deceptive later, 3. they’re openly deceptive, and 4. they hit you with a cane when they notice a minor fault. These are the four things about friends who follow out of respect.

24. “There are four things about bad friends. What are the four? 1. They’re friends when drinking alcohol, 2. they’re friends when gambling, 3. they’re friends when engaging in sex, and 4. they’re friends when singing and dancing. These are the four things about bad friends.”

25. After saying this, the Bhagavān restated it in verse:

26. The Buddha addressed Sujata, “There are four friends who bring many benefits when befriended and who will help and protect a person. What are the four? 1. Those who stop what’s wrong, 2. who are merciful, 3. who are beneficial, and 4. who are cooperative. These four friends bring many benefits when befriended and will help and protect a person. They should be befriended.

27. “Sujata, there are four things about those who stop what’s wrong, which bring many benefits and help and protect a person. What are the four? 1. They can stop someone who they see are doing evil, 2. they show people what’s honest and correct, 3. they’re kind, sympathetic, and mindful, and 4. they show a person the road to heaven. These are the four things about those who stop what’s wrong, which bring many benefits and help and protect a person.

28. “Furthermore, there are four things about those who are merciful: 1. They are delighted to see another’s gain, 2. they are saddened to see a person do evil, 3. they praise others’ virtues, and 4. they can restrain others when seeing them speak badly. These are the four things about those who are merciful, which bring many benefits and help and protect a person.

29. “There are four things about those who are beneficial. What are the four? 1. They protect others by preventing them from being self-indulgent, 2. they protect others from squandering their wealth, 3. they protect others by allaying their fears, and 4. they admonish others in private. These are the four things about those who are beneficial, which bring many benefits and help and protect people.

30. “There are four things about those who are cooperative. What are the four? 1. They don’t begrudge their own lives for others, 2. they don’t begrudge wealth and treasure for others, 3. they allay the fears of others, and 4. they admonish others in private. These are the four things about those who are cooperative, which bring many benefits and help and protect people.”

31. After saying this, the Bhagavān restated it in verse:

32. The Buddha told Sujata, “You should know the six directions. What are the six directions? Parents are to the east, teachers and elders are to the south, wives are to the west, relatives are to the north, servants are below, and ascetics, priests, and noble practitioners are above.

33. “Sujata, someone with parents should respect and follow them in five ways. What are the five? 1. They should provide support, so they are without want, 2. always offer to do things for their parents first, 3. respect and follow their parents without going against them, 4. don’t dare to contradict a proper instruction from their parents, and 5. don’t end a proper profession pursued by their parents.

34. “Sujata, when someone with parents respects and follows them in these five ways, their parents are respectful friends to their child in five ways, too. What are the five? 1. They govern their child and don’t permit them to do evil, 2. they teach and show them what’s good, 3. their love for their child goes to the marrow of their bones, 4. they look for an excellent spouse for their child, and 5. they provide support to their child when it’s needed.

35. “Sujata, when a child respectfully follows and serves their parents, then that [eastern] direction will be peaceful, without any sorrow or fear.

36. “Sujata, a disciple respectfully serves his teacher in five ways. What are the five? 1. They supply the teacher with their needs, 2. pay homage and offer support to them, 3. honor and look up to their teacher, 4. honor and don’t go against their teacher’s instructions, and 5. remember and don’t forget what their teacher teaches them.

37. “Sujata, when a disciple respectfully serves their teacher in these five ways, their teacher respectfully looks after the disciple in five ways, too. What are the five? 1. They train their disciple to follow their teaching, 2. instruct their disciple in what they’ve yet to hear, 3. give their disciple sufficient answers when they have questions, 4. demonstrate what a good friend is, and 5. teach their disciple all that they know without holding back.

38. “Sujata, when a disciple respectfully serves their teacher, then that [southern] direction will be peaceful, without sorrow or fear.

39. “Sujata, a husband also respects his wife in five ways. What are the five? 1. He treats her with respect, 2. he’s dignified and not indecent, 3. he provides her with clothing and food when it’s needed, 4. he provides her with ornaments according to the occasion, and 5. he entrusts the affairs of the household to her.

40. “Sujata, when a husband respects his wife in these five ways, his wife honors her husband in five ways, too. What are the five? 1. She rises before him, 2. sits after him, 3. speaks peacefully, 4. respects and follows him, and 5. anticipates his wishes and accepts them.

41. “Sujata, when a husband treats his wife with respect, then that [western] direction will be peaceful, without sorrow or fear.

42. “Sujata a person is friendly and respectful to their relatives in five ways. What are the five? 1. They give them gifts, 2. Speak to them skillfully, 3. benefit them, 4. benefit them equally, and 5. don’t deceive them.

43. “Sujata, when a person is friendly and respectful to their relatives, their relatives are friendly and respectful to them in five ways, too. What are the five? 1. They keep a person from being self-indulgence, 2. keep them from self-indulgently wasting their wealth, 3. keep them from becoming fearful, 4. admonish them in private, and 5. always praise their qualities.

44. “Sujata, when someone is friendly and respectful to their relatives, then that [northern] direction will be peaceful, without sorrow or fear.

45. “Sujata, a master directs his servants in five ways. What are the five? 1. He assigns tasks according to their abilities, 2. provides meals at appropriate times, 3. provides compensation at appropriate times, 4. provides medical care for their illnesses, and 5. permits them to have leisure time.

46. “Sujata, when a master directs his servants in these five ways, his servants perform their duties in five ways, too. What are the five? 1. They rise early in the morning, 2. do their work meticulously, 3. don’t take what’s not given, 4. do their duties in order, and 5. praise their master’s name. When a master treats his servants in this way, then that direction [below] will be peaceful, without sorrow or fear.

47. “Sujata, a benefactor should support and serve ascetics and priests in five ways. What are the five? 1. Their physical conduct is kind, 2. their verbal conduct is kind, 3. their mental conduct is kind, 4. they give according to the occasion, and 5. they don’t stop them at the gate.

48. “Sujata, when a benefactor supports and serves ascetics and priests in these five ways, then ascetics and priests also give them instruction in six ways, too. What are the six? 1. They prevent their benefactor from doing evil, 2. guide them to a good place, 3. teach them to harbor good thoughts, 4. ensure that they hear what they haven’t heard yet, 5. ensure that they understand well what they have heard, and 6. make the path to heaven clear to them.

49. “Sujata, when a benefactor who thus respects and serves ascetics and priests, then that direction [above] will be peaceful, without any sorrow or fear.”

50. After saying this, the Bhagavān restated it in verse:

51. At that point, Sujata said to the Bhagavān, “Very good, Bhagavān! That was what I hoped to do before, but it goes beyond my father’s instruction. The Tathāgata’s explanation is like turning upright what’s overturned, opening up something closed, bringing understanding to what’s confused, and a lamp in a dark room to those with eyes to see. He awakens the fool who’s in the dark with countless methods that make the clean teaching plain.

52. “Why is that? The Buddha is a Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One, so he’s able to reveal clear instruction to the world. Now, I take refuge in the Buddha, take refuge in the Dharma, and take refuge in the Saṅgha. Bhagavān, please permit me to become a layman in the correct teaching! Starting today, I will not kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, or drink alcohol for the rest of my life.”

53. Once Sujata had heard what the Buddha taught, he rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. The direct parallels for this sutra are DN 31 and MĀ 135. There are also alternate Chinese translations by An Shigao (T 16) and Zhi Fadu (T 17). As we shall see, DĀ 16 agrees with DN 31 more than the Sarvâstivāda version found in MĀ. [back]
  2. Sujata. Ch. 善生. I’ve yet to find a Sanskrit attestation to this reading, but it seems the most likely name that 善生 (“Well Born”) translated. MĀ 135 and T 17 also translate his name as 善生, but An Shigao seems to transliterate an equivalent of P. Siṅgāla (Skt. Śṛgāla), which means “jackal.” These parallels disagree in other details as well, indicating at least two or three versions. [back]
  3. panica … talava … suhana. These transliterations are obscure to us today. Ch. 波內早 (MCh. bo-nei-zhao) might be a word like panica. Ch. 多羅槃 (MCh. duō-luó-pan) might be Skt. talava (“musician”) or a related word. Ch. 首呵那 (Man. shǒu-he-na) seems to be a word like suhana, but in Skt it would mean “easily killed.” [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 17 May 2021