Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

18. Personal Gladness

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was staying at the city of Nālanda in Prāvārika’s mango grove. He was accompanied by a large assembly of 1,250 monks.

2. It was then that the elder Śāriputra was in a quiet dwelling and thought to himself, “I know with certainty that there’s no ascetic or priest in the past, future, or present whose powers of wisdom, miraculous ability, virtue, or awakening match those of the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One.”

3. Śāriputra then emerged from his quiet dwelling and went to the Bhagavān. After bowing his head at the Buddha’s feet, he sat to one side and said, “I was in a quiet dwelling and thought to myself, ‘There’s no ascetic or priest in the past, future, or present whose powers of wisdom, miraculous ability, virtue, or awakening match those of the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakening One.’”

4. The Buddha told Śāriputra, “Good! It’s good that you can make such a statement in front of the Buddha. By exclusively upholding the correct lion’s roar, no other ascetic or priest will match you. How is it, Śāriputra? Do you know the thoughts that were in the minds of Buddhas in the past? Did those Buddhas have such precepts, such teachings, such wisdom, such liberation, and such a hall of liberation?”[2]

He replied, “I don’t know them.”

5. “How is it, Śāriputra? Do you know the thoughts that will be in the minds of Buddhas in the future? Will those Buddhas have such precepts, such teachings, such wisdom, such liberation, and such halls of liberation?”

He replied, “I don’t know them.”

6. “How is it, Śāriputra? What about the thoughts that are in my mind as the present Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One? Do I have such precepts, such a teaching, such wisdom, such liberation, and such a hall of liberation?”

He replied, “I don’t know them.”

7. The Buddha again asked Śāriputra, “You aren’t able to know the thoughts in the minds of past, future, or present Tathāgatas, Arhats, and Completely Awakened Ones, so why are you so certain about this thought you’ve had? What caused you to have this thought? You’ve exclusively upheld the lion’s roar. If other ascetics and priests hear you say, ‘I know with certainty that there’s no ascetic or priest of the past, future, or present whose powers of wisdom, miraculous ability, virtue, or awakening match those of the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One,’ they won’t believe you.”

8. Śāriputra said to the Buddha, “I can’t know the thoughts in the minds of past, future, or present Buddhas, but I do know the general character of the Buddha’s teaching. The Tathāgata has taught me the Dharma that becomes loftier and more sublime. He taught me the things that are dark and light, things that are conditioned and unconditioned, and things that are illuminating and unilluminating.

9. “The Tathāgata’s teaching becomes loftier and more sublime. Having heard the Dharma, I know each of its teachings to its endpoint. I believe in the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One. I believe in the Tathāgata’s skilled discernment of Dharma. I believe in the Tathāgata’s success in ceasing the myriad forms of suffering. Among good teachings, this one is the highest. The Bhagavān’s wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could any arise who surpass him?

10. “The Dharma that the Bhagavān teaches has another superiority, which is his definition of the teaching. That definition of the teaching is the four abodes of mindfulness, four right efforts, four miraculous abilities, four dhyānas, five faculties, five powers, seven factors of awakening, and the noble eightfold path.

“This is an unsurpassed definition. His wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could any arise who surpass him?

11. “The Dharma that the Bhagavān teaches has another superiority, which is his definition of the senses. The senses refer to the eye and images, ear and sounds, nose and odors, tongue and flavors, body and touches, and mind and notions. The Tathāgatas, Arhats, and Completely Awakened Ones in the past also defined the senses in this way, as the eye and images … mind and notions. Supposing there will be Tathāgatas, Arhats, and Completely Awakened Ones in the future, they’ll define the senses in this way, as the eye and images … mind and notions. Our present Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One defines the senses as the eye and images … mind and notions.

“This teaching is unsurpassed, and nothing goes beyond it. His wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could any arise who surpass him?

12. “The Dharma that the Bhagavān teaches has another superiority, which is the way consciousness enters the womb. Entering the womb refers to this: The first entry into the womb is when [consciousness] enters the womb confused, remains there confused, and emerges confused. The second is when it enters unconfused but remains there confused and emerges confused. The third is when it enters unconfused, remains there unconfused, and emerges unconfused. When it enters unconfused, remains there unconfused, and emerges unconfused, that entry into the womb is the best.

“This teaching is unsurpassed, and nothing goes beyond it. His wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could any arise who surpass him?

13. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is the path. The path refers to this: Ascetics and priests use the various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they cultivate the awakening factor of mindfulness, which relies on desire, relies on seclusion [from desire], relies on extinguishment [of desire], and relies on the escape [from desire] … they cultivate the awakening factor of the teachings … effort … joy … calm … samādhi … equanimity, which relies on desire, relies on seclusion, relies on extinguishment, and relies on the escape.

“This teaching is unsurpassed, and nothing goes beyond it. His wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could any arise who surpass him?

14. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is cessation. Cessation refers to this: The painful cessation that’s gradually attained and inferior in both ways, painful cessation that’s quickly attained and only inferior in that it’s painful, pleasant cessation that’s gradually attained and only inferior in that it’s gradual, pleasant cessation that’s quickly attained but doesn’t extend far and called inferior because of that. When the present Tathāgata quickly attained the pleasant cessation, it did extend far. Even the gods and humans saw his miracles.”

15. Śāriputra told the Buddha, “The Bhagavān’s teaching is sublime and supreme. Down to the women, people can retain it, end the contaminants, and become uncontaminated. Their minds are liberated, and their wisdom is liberated. In the present life, they realize for themselves: ‘Birth and death has been ended, the religious life has been established, and the task has been accomplished. I won’t be subject to later existence.’ “This is the Tathāgata’s teaching of the unsurpassed cessation. This Dharma is unsurpassed, his wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could they surpass him?

16. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is the purity of his words. The purity of his words means the Bhagavān doesn’t speak to ascetics and priests with words that are without benefit or pointless. He doesn’t speak to be superior and isn’t partisan. His words are gentle and don’t become immoderate. His words don’t miss the target. This is the purity of his words.

“This Dharma is unsurpassed, his wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could they surpass him?

17. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is his attainments of vision. The attainments of vision refer to this: Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they visualize their head to their toes and observe their toes to their head. Inside and outside of their skin, there’s only impure hair, nails, the five organs of liver, lungs, stomach, spleen, and kidneys, sweat, fat, marrow, brain, feces, urine, tears, and foul-smelling places of impurity. Not one of them is desirable. This is the first attainment of vision.

18. “Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they visualize the removal of the external impurities of skin and muscle and only visualize white bones and teeth. This is the second attainment of vision.

19. “Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they visualize the removal of the external impurities of skin, muscle, and white bones. They only visualize where their mind and consciousness dwell. Where does it exist in the present life? Where will it exist in a later life? If it’s not ended in the present life and not ended in the later life, then it’s not freed in the present life and not freed in the later life. This is the third attainment of vision.

20. “Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they visualize the removal of the external impurities of skin, muscle, and white bones. Once again, they investigate consciousness. Consciousness will be in a later life and not exist in the present life. The present life ended, but the later life won’t have ended. It’ll be freed from the present life but not freed from the later life. This is the fourth attainment of vision.

21. “Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they visualize the removal of the external impurities of skin and muscle and then remove the white bones. Once again, they investigate consciousness. It doesn’t exist in the present life and doesn’t exist in the later life. When both are ended, then it’s freed from both. This is the fifth attainment of vision.

“This Dharma is unsurpassed, his wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could they surpass him?

22. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is his explanation of eternalism. Eternalism refers to this: Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they recollect twenty eons of formation and destruction. They say, ‘The world is eternal. This is true; anything else is false. Why is that? From my recollection, I know there have been these eons of formation and destruction. I don’t know about anything further in the past, nor do I know about future eons of formation and destruction.’ This person speaks without knowledge morning and night, ‘The world is eternal. Only this is true; anything else is false.’ This is the first form of eternalism.

23. “Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they recollect forty eons of formation and destruction. They then say, ‘The world is eternal. This is true; anything else is false. Why is that? From my recollection, I know there have been these eons of formation and destruction. I could go beyond this knowledge of past eons of formation and destruction, but don’t I know about future eons of formation and destruction.’ This person speaks without knowledge morning and night, ‘The world is eternal. Only this is true; anything else is false.’ This is the second form of eternalism.

24. “Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they recollect eighty eons of formation and destruction. They say, ‘The world is eternal. [This is true;] anything else is false. Why is that? From my recollection, I know there have been these eons of formation and destruction. I could go beyond this knowledge of past eons of formation and destruction, and I fully know about future eons of formation and destruction.’ This person speaks without knowledge morning and night, ‘The world is eternal. Only this is true; anything else is false.’ This is the third form of eternalism.

“This Dharma is unsurpassed, his wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could they surpass him?

25. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is examination. Examination refers to when ascetics and priests examine it using their perceptions: ‘That other mind has such a tendency, and this mind has such a tendency.’ When these perceptions arise in their minds, they’re sometimes true and sometimes false. This is the first examination.

26. “Ascetics and priests examine it not using perception. They might listen to gods or non-humans and claim that they say, ‘Thus is your mind; thus is your mind.’ This is also sometimes true and sometimes false. This is the second examination.

27. “Some ascetics and priests examine it not using perceptions, nor do they listen to gods or non-humans. They examine themselves, or they listen to someone else, and they claim, ‘Thus is your mind; thus is your mind.’ This is also sometimes true and sometimes false. This is the third examination.

28. “Some ascetics and priests examine it not using perception, don’t listen to gods or non-humans, nor is it their own or another’s examination themselves. After eliminating perception and contemplation, they attain a fixed samādhi of mind. Examining another’s mind, they say, ‘Thus is your mind; thus is your mind.’ Such examination is true. This is the fourth examination.

“This Dharma is unsurpassed, his wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could they surpass him?

29. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is his instruction. Instruction refers to this: Sometimes there’s a person who doesn’t go contrary to his instructions. They end the contaminants and become uncontaminated. Their mind is liberated, and their wisdom is liberated. In the present life, they realize for themselves: ‘Birth and death has been ended, the religious life has been established, and the task has been accomplished. I won’t be subject to another existence.’ This is the first instruction.

30. “Sometimes, a person doesn’t go contrary to his instructions. They end the five lower bonds. They don’t return to this world when they attain Nirvāṇa. This is the second instruction.

31. “Sometimes, a person doesn’t go contrary to his instructions. They end the three bonds, weaken lust, anger, and delusion, and become a once-returner. They return to this world and then attain Nirvāṇa.[3] This is the third instruction.

32. “Sometimes, a person doesn’t go contrary to his instructions. They end the three bonds and attain stream-entry. They are reborn seven times at most, surely achieve the fruit of the path, and won’t fall to bad destinations. This is the fourth instruction.

“This Dharma is unsurpassed, his wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could they surpass him?

33. “The Tathāgata’s teaching of Dharma has another superiority, which is his teaching Dharma for others and leading them to the purity of the precepts. The purity of the precepts refers to this: There are ascetics and priests whose speech is honest. They lack duplicity and are always respectful. They eliminate sleepiness, don’t harbor wrong deceit, don’t speak falsehoods, and don’t predict the fortunes and misfortunes of worldly people. Nor do they praise themselves or claim to have attained things from others. They make themselves plain to others, seek the benefit of others, meditate, and cultivate knowledge. Their eloquence is unobstructed, their attention is focused and undistracted, and they are diligent and not negligent.

“This Dharma is unsurpassed, his wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could they surpass him?

34. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is the knowledge of liberation. The knowledge of liberation refers to this: The Bhagavān contemplated in his mind about the dependent origination of others: ‘This person is a stream-entrant. This one is a once-returner. This one is a non-returner. This one is an arhat.’

“This Dharma is unsurpassed, his wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could they surpass him?

35. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is the direct knowledge of one’s own past lives. Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi, they recollect innumerable events of their own past lives: One birth, two births … a hundred thousand births, an eon of formation, or an eon of destruction. ‘Thus were my innumerable birth places. My names were thus. My castes and clans were thus. My life spans were thus. My meals were thus. My pains and pleasures were thus. I was born there from here, and I was born here from there .’ Whatever various aspects there were, they recollect their own past lives and the events of innumerable eons. Day and night, they’re constantly aware of past times they’ve passed through. ‘Here was form. Here was formlessness. Here was perception. Here was no perception. Here there was neither [perception nor] no perception.’ They fully recollect and fully know it.

“This Dharma is unsurpassed, his wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could they surpass him?

36. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is the knowledge of the heavenly eye. The knowledge of the heavenly eye refers to this: Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they observe sentient beings as they die and are born. These beings have good forms and bad forms, good destinations and bad destinations, and are beautiful or ugly depending on their actions. They fully see and fully know them.

37. “Some sentient beings do bad physical actions, bad verbal actions, and bad mental actions. They slander the noble ones, believe wrong and mistaken views, and fall to the three bad destinies when their bodies break up and their lives end.

38. “Some sentient beings do good physical actions, good verbal actions, and good mental actions. They don’t slander the noble ones, believe the practice of right view,[4] and are born among gods or humans when their bodies break up and their lives end. With the purity of the heavenly eye, ascetics and priests observe sentient beings and truly know and see them.

“This Dharma is unsurpassed, his wisdom is complete, and his miraculous ability is complete. None of the world’s ascetics and priests can match the Tathāgata. How could they surpass him?

39. “The Dharma that the Tathāgata teaches has another superiority, which is the realization of his miraculous abilities. The realization of miraculous abilities refers to this: Ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a fixed samādhi of mind. Following that samādhi of mind, they perform innumerable miraculous powers. They can make one body become innumerable bodies and combine innumerable bodies into one body. Stone walls are no obstacle to them, and they can sit cross-legged in the sky like a bird flying. They enter and exit the earth as though it were water and walk on water as though it were land. Their bodies produce smoke and fire like flames burning timber. They touch the sun and moon with their hand and stand as high as the Brahma Heaven.

40. “If ascetics and priests declare these miraculous abilities, the response to them should be: ‘There are these miraculous abilities; it’s not that they don’t exist. These miraculous abilities are crude and inferior, something practiced by ordinary men. They aren’t cultivated by noble people.

41. “If a monk isn’t defiled by forms that are craved by the world, then he would practice in this fashion after secluding himself from them. This is what’s called the noble person’s miraculous ability. Without delighting in forms or being disgusted by them, he then would practice in this fashion after secluding himself from them. This is what’s called a noble person’s miraculous ability. Giving up both the forms that the world craves and that it doesn’t crave, he cultivates complete equanimity, focusing his attention and not losing it. This is what’s called the noble person’s miraculous ability.

42. “He’s like the Bhagavān who strived courageously, possesses great wisdom, knowledge, and awareness, and attained the supreme awakening. Therefore, he’s called the Completely Awakened One.

43. “The Bhagavān isn’t pleased by desires, either. He isn’t pleased by the practices of crude and ordinary men, nor does he toil in mortifications. If he wishes to eliminate bad qualities, then the Bhagavān’s seclusion gives rise to joy and happiness with perception and contemplation, and he traverses the first dhyāna. The second, third, and fourth dhyānas are likewise. He strived courageously, possesses great wisdom, knowledge, awareness, and attained the supreme awakening. Therefore, he’s called the Completely Awakened One.”

44. The Buddha told Śāriputra, “Suppose someone from another religion and a different training comes and asks you, ‘Weren’t the ascetics and priests of the past equals of the ascetic Gautama?’ What would be your answer? Again, they ask, ‘Won’t the ascetics and priests of the future be equals of the ascetic Gautama?’ What would be your answer? Again, they ask, ‘Aren’t the ascetics and priests of the present equals of the ascetic Gautama?’ What would be your answer?”

45. Śāriputra then said to the Buddha, “If I were asked, ‘Weren’t the ascetics and priests of the past equals of the Buddha?’ I would answer, ‘They were.’ If I was asked, ‘Won’t the ascetics and priests of the future be equals of the Buddha?’ I would answer, ‘They will be.’ If I was asked, ‘Aren’t the ascetics and priests of the present equals of the Buddha?’ I would answer, ‘They aren’t.’”

46. The Buddha told Śāriputra, “What if that ascetic from another religion again asks, ‘Why do you say some are and some aren’t?’ What would be your answer?”

47. Śāriputra said, “My response to them would be, ‘The complete and correct Buddhas of the past were equals of the Tathāgata, and the complete and correct Buddhas of the future will be equals of the Tathāgata. I myself have heard from the Buddha that it’s impossible for there to be other complete and correct Buddhas of the present who are equals of the Tathāgata.’ Bhagavān, just as I’ve heard it, I would thus answer them, relying on and aligning with the Dharma. Would there be any error in that?

48. The Buddha said, “Such an answer would rely on and align with the Dharma; you wouldn’t contradict it. Why is that so? The complete and correct Buddhas of the past were my equals, and the complete and correct Buddhas of the future will be my equals, but it isn’t possible for there to be two Buddhas who arise in the world in the present.”

49. Venerable Udāyin was standing behind the Bhagavān fanning him. The Buddha said to him, “Udāyin, you should observe that the Bhagavān is satisfied with little desire. Now, I have great miraculous power and great majestic virtue but also satisfied with little desire. I’m not pleased to be among desires. Udāyin, if other ascetics and priests would endeavor in this teaching through hardship to attain one thing, they should erect a banner and announce to the four quarters, ‘Today, the Tathāgata is satisfied with little desire. Now, observe that the Tathāgata is satisfied with little desire. The Tathāgata has great miraculous power and great majestic virtue, but he doesn’t make use of desires.’”

50. Venerable Udāyin then adjusted his robes to bare his right shoulder, knelt on his right knee, and saluted the Buddha was his hands together. “Extraordinary, Bhagavān! Few have as satisfied with little desire as the Bhagavān! The Bhagavān has great miraculous power and great majestic virtue, but he doesn’t make use of desires. If again some other ascetic or priest endeavored in this teaching through hardship to attain one thing, they could erect a banner and announce to the four quarters, ‘Today, the Bhagavān is satisfied with little desire …’

51. “Śāriputra, you should teach this Dharma frequently for the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. If they should have any doubts about the Buddha, Dharma, Saṅgha, or path, they won’t be tangled in doubt after hearing this teaching.”

52. The Bhagavān then told Śāriputra, “You should frequently teach this Dharma for the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. Why is that? Those who have doubts about the Buddha, Dharma, Saṅgha, or path will have them resolved when they hear you give this teaching.”

Śāriputra responded, “Very well, Bhagavān!”

53. After that, Śāriputra frequently taught this Dharma for the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. Because they purified themselves, it was called the “Purification Sūtra.”[5]

54. When Śāriputra heard what the Buddha taught, he rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. The direct parallels for this sutra are DN 28, SN 47.12, SĀ 3.35 (T 99.498), and T 18. [back]
  2. such liberation, and such halls of liberation. Ch.如是解脫、如是解脫堂. The Pali parallel reads: evaṁvihārī … evaṁvimuttā. The Chinese translator consistently renders Skt. vihāra literally as 堂 (“meeting hall” or “temple”) throughout DĀ, despite it’s apparent figurative meaning in passages like this one. [back]
  3. Nirvāṇa. Ch. 滅度. In his essay “Nirvāṇa Has No Name,” Sengzhao, a student of Kumārajīva, explained that this Chinese translation captures two readings of Nirvāṇa as the final cessation (滅) of suffering and the crossing over (度) of the four floods (cf. T 1858.157c2). As such, it’s difficult to translate to English as a single concept, so I’ve reverted to the Sanskrit. [back]
  4. believe the practice of right view. Ch. 見正信行. I suspect the word order of this phrase is corrupt, that perhaps it should read 信正見行. The Pali parallel reads sammādiṭṭhikā sammādiṭṭhikammasamādānā, which means “holding right views and acting out right views.” [back]
  5. self-purification … “Purification Sutra.” Ch. 自清淨 … 清淨經, P. sampasādanīya, Skt. samprasīdati(?). It would seem the Skt. equivalent of this sutra’s title was ambiguous enough to be rendered differently here by the translator. In Skt., samprasīdati can mean to “settle, soothe, or feel glad,” and prasīdati can mean to become “clear or tranquil” as well as “pleased or glad.”

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 22 July 2021