The Long Discourses
19. The Great Congregation
1. Thus I have heard: One time, the Buddha was staying at Kapilavastu in the country of the Śākyans. He was accompanied by a large assembly of five hundred monks, all of whom were arhats. Marvelous gods had also gathered from the ten directions to honor the Tathāgata and the saṅgha of monks.
2. It was then that four Śuddhâvāsa gods up in heaven each thought to themselves, “Today, the Bhagavān is staying at Kapilavastu in the country of the Śākyans. He’s accompanied by a large assembly of five hundred monks, all of whom are arhats. Marvelous gods have also gathered from the ten directions to honor the Tathāgata and the saṅgha of monks. Now, let’s go visit the Bhagavān as well. We’ll each praise the Tathāgata with a verse.”
3. Those four Śuddhâvāsa gods then disappeared from their heaven and arrived at Kapilavastu of the Śākyans in the time it takes a strong man to flex his arm. Once they had arrived, those four Śuddhâvāsa gods bowed their heads at the Buddha’s feet and stood to one side.
4. The first Śuddhâvāsa god went before the Buddha and praised him with this verse:
- “Today, a great congregation
Of gods and spirits has gathered.
They’ve come for the Dharma
And to bow to the supreme assembly.”
5. After speaking this verse, that god withdrew and stood to one side. Another Śuddhâvāsa god then composed a verse:
- “Monks see the many defilements;
Their upright minds guard against them.
Desire is like the sea swallowing rivers;
The wise guard their faculties against it.”
6. Having spoken this verse, that god withdrew and stood to one side. Another Śuddhâvāsa god then composed a verse:
- “Remove thorns, level craving’s chasm,
And fill the trench of ignorance.
Trek alone to the site of purity
Like excellent, well-trained elephants.”
7. Having spoken this verse, that god withdrew and stood to one side. Another Śuddhâvāsa god composed a verse:
- “Taking refuge in the Buddha,
One never falls to a bad destiny.
They abandon their human forms
And receive the pure bodies of gods.”
8. After those four Śuddhâvāsa gods had presented these verses, the Bhagavān approved of them. They bowed at the Buddha’s feet, circled him three times, and suddenly disappeared.
9. Not long after they left, the Buddha told the monks, “There’s a great congregation of gods today! There’s a great gathering of gods today! Marvelous gods from the ten directions have come to honor and look upon the Tathāgata and saṅgha of monks. Monks, the Tathāgatas, Arhats, and Completely Awakened Ones of the past also had great congregations of gods, just as I do today. The Tathāgatas, Arhats, and Completely Awakened Ones in the future will have great congregations of gods, just as I do today.
10. “Monks, this great congregation of gods today consists of spirits and sublime gods from the ten directions who’ve come to honor and look upon the Tathāgata and saṅgha of monks. They also praise their names in verses that they speak for you.
11. “Monks, you should know:
“Living in the Earth’s mountains and valleys,
They hide when they see terrible things.
Those wearing all white clothes
Are pure and immaculate.
When the gods and people hear this,
They take refuge in the god Brahmā.
“Now, I will praise their names
In order, without any missing.
This assembly of gods has come today;
You monks should know them.
“All the worldly people’s knowledge
Doesn’t see a hundredth of them.
How then could they see
The assembly of 70,000 demon spirits?
If they saw 100,000 demons,
They haven’t seen all of them on one side.
How could they see the demon spirits
That are everywhere under heaven?
12. “Among the earth spirits, there are 7,000 yakṣas of various kinds that possess miraculous powers, appearances, forms, and names. With delighted thoughts, they’ve come to the assembly of monks in this grove.
13. “The spirit of Mount Haimavata leads 6,000 demons and yakṣas of various kinds that possess miraculous powers, appearances, forms, and names. With delighted thoughts, they’ve come to the assembly of monks in this grove.
14. “The spirit Śātā leads 3,000 demons and yakṣas of various kinds that possess miraculous abilities, appearances, forms, and names. With delighted thoughts, they’ve come to the assembly of monks in this grove.
15. “These 16,000 demon spirits and yakṣas of various kinds possess miraculous abilities, appearances, forms, and names. With delighted thoughts, they’ve come to the assembly of monks in this grove.
16. “There’s also the spirit Viśvamitra who lives in Aśvaka and leads 500 demons. They possess miraculous abilities and majestic virtue.
17. “There’s also the spirit Kumbhīra who lives on Mount Vepula of Rājagṛha. He leads countless demon spirits who respectfully surround him.
18. “There’s also the Eastern God King Dhṛtarāṣṭra who leads gandharva spirits that possess great majestic virtue. He has ninety-one sons who are all named ‘Indra’ and possess great miraculous power.
19. “There’s the Southern God King Virūḍhaka who leads nāga kings that possess great majestic virtue. He has ninety-one sons who are also named ‘Indra’ and possess great miraculous power.
20. “There’s the Western God King Virūpākṣa who leads kumbhāṇḍa demons that possess great majestic virtue. He has ninety-one sons who are also named ‘Indra’ and possess great miraculous power.
21. “There’s the Northern God King named Vaiśravaṇa who leads yakṣa demons that possess great majestic virtue. He has ninety-one sons who are also named ‘Indra’ and possess great miraculous power.
22. “These four god kings are the protectors of the world and possess great majestic virtue. Their bodies shine as they come to visit Kapilavastu.”
23. The Bhagavān then wanted to vanquish their illusory and deluded thoughts, so he composed this incantation: “Deceptive (māyā) is [Kiṭi]; deceptive is [Kiṭi]! [So is Vikiṭi; so is Vikiṭi]! Candana, Kāmaśreṣtha, Kunikaṇṭha, Nikaṇṭha, Praṇāda, Upapañcaka, the charioteer of gods Mātali, the gandharva Citrasena, Nara, Janavṛṣabha, Sīva, Mucalinda, Viśvamitra, Yugandhara, [Pañcaśikha], Tumburu, and Sūryavarcasā.
24. “God kings, gandharvas, and rākṣasas such as these all possess miraculous abilities, appearances, and forms. With delighted thoughts, they have come to visit the assembly of monks in this grove.”
25. The Bhagavān then created another incantation:
- “Then, the nāga Nāgasā came from Vaiśāla with Takṣaka.
The Yamunā dhṛtarāṣṭras came, as did [Tiva] with their kin.
Kambalas, aśvataras, and nāgas of great miraculous ability have come.
The great nāga Airāvaṇa and the nāga [Vima] have come.
“Of the clear-eyed heavenly birds that hunt the nāga kings,
The colorful Suparṇa came to the grove from the sky.
The nāga kings are unafraid, for the Buddha [makes them safe from Suparṇa].
Greeting them with gentle words, Suparṇa took refuge in the Buddha.”
26. The Bhagavān then created an incantation for the asuras:
- “Defeated by Vajrahastena, the asuras fled to the ocean;
Vāsavassi frightened them with his great miraculous power.
The asuras were Kālakañja, Mahābhīmṣa, [Dānaveghasā],
Vemacitra, Sucitra, Prahlāda, Mucilinda, and [Nava].
A hundred of [Asi-?] Bali’s children, all named Vairocana,
[prepared Bali’s army and approached] the fortunate Rāhu:
‘Now is the time, sir. The monks have gathered in a grove.’”
27. The Bhagavān again created an incantation for the gods:
- “The gods of water, earth, fire, and air have come.
Varuṇā, goddesses Vāruṇī, Soma, and Yaśas have come.
Maitrā and Varuṇā’s host of gods with great miraculous power have come.
These ten groups of gods have a variety of colors.
With great miraculous power, authority, and appearances, they were glorious.
They’re delighted to come to the assembled monks in this grove.
The gods Viṣṇu, Sahalī, Āgataś, and Yama [have come.]
The Mandavavalāhakā [gods] came with the constellations leading them.
The gods who lived on the moon have come with the moon leading them.
The gods who lived on the sun have come with the sun leading them.
The munificent Indra, [known as] Vāsava, Śakra, and the fortress-breaker, has come.
Śukla and Kaḍambā Karuṇā have come.
[Vemaniva?], supreme Avadātagrāhyā, and [Vepalana?] have come.
Sadāmattā, Hāritakā, and Miśarikāś have come.
Parjanya came with a thunderclap, who brings rain in the four directions.
The gods corrupted by play, Śyāmā, Mahāśyāmā, Mānuṣā, and Amānuṣottamā, have come.
The gods corrupted in spirit, too.
Again, the Haraya gods have come as well as the gods clothed in red.
The gods of great miraculous power, Varāhā and Mahāvarāhā, have come.
The gods Kṣemakā, Tuṣita, and Yāmā and countless kṛṣṇakas (black ones),
Lambī[takā] and Lambaśreṣṭha, gods of brilliant names, and [Iṣa?],
The Nirmanaratayah have come, and the Paranirmita[vaśavartin], too.
The gods Agniśikhopamā and Sabhikā [have come] with goddesses who burn brightly.
Ariṣṭhakā, [Royā], gods like the flax flower, [Cabadharma?], Acyutā, and Aneka,
[Śuddhaka Rucika] has come, and Vāsavanesī has arrived, too.
These are the sixty kinds of gods.”
28. The Bhagavān again created an incantation for sixty-eight priests of the five penetrations:
- “The sage kings are approaching the forest of Kapilavastu.
Beidiiʒiăt‘o is coming.
Ts‘amosatdei, Anggiĕ, and Beidimɪəuṇḍɪi are coming.
Peik‘enyiăts‘ak‘ie, ʃɪilɪiṣă, and Buahaniakt‘o are coming.
The god Brahmā, Deinabua, and Beidimɪəuṇḍɪi are coming.
King Kɪusatlɪi, ɪiṇḍɪilomuaʒɪăla, and Anggie and Puănʒɪă are coming.
Great King Oɦɪuʌndəu and Akɪudeiləuyiəkt‘o are coming.
Lɪukpei and Kɪusatlɪi are coming.
K‘ielɪəŋiĕ, K‘ieyiiladanhei, Dzuəibɪuibɪuyiă, and Pɪuktololɪiṣasendabo are coming.
King Deinak‘ie and Bɪuibuahayiĕk‘ieyiă thus are coming.
Kings Buala and Mɪuʌndat‘okiemɪuk are coming.
Iĕndalaləumeikie, Bɪudalomo, Muak‘iehei Aṭ‘ɪəkʃɪaŋkɪupiĕyio are coming.
Heilanniakk‘ie and Pɪəubeilɪimɪuəiyiolɪi are thus coming, and then King Buahau and Miĕtolo are thus coming.
King Buasiĕbɪuətlɪĕ and ʃɪəudala thus are coming.
Great King ɪilɪiyiăṭṣ‘a and Senabo thus are coming.
King Puănʒɪăbuayio and Bualɪidiiʃɪĕa thus are coming.
Great King ɪuətalan, Bɪɛnbɪĕbualɪimualɪi, ʃɪubuaheidanamua, and Abuandii,
King K‘omualɪi, Agɪu, and Siĕlɪidanabuadii are coming.
King ʃɪĕbei and Great King ʃɪiɪiṇɪətmiĕṇɪət and Bɪəubualəu thus are coming.
Great King Buatdabualɪi, Kɪusatlɪi, Muadeiʃɪu, and ʃɪihandei,
King ʃɪɛmbualɪi and Siəudalaləu thus are coming.
Aha Iĕndəuləu is coming.
Mualayio, Yiosolɪiyiot‘a, Beidiideibo, and Ahabeilɪisii are coming.
ɦəŋayiăləu, Bualamɪuktʃɪăyiămo, and Ayiit’o are coming.
King Iĕtmuayiăʃɪĕ, Biina, and Buaṭṣ‘amua,
King ɦolɪikando, Yiobiidopuattʃɪĕ, and Yioʒɪĕṣïupuanalomuaso,
King Yiăsiĕtayiəu, Heilanniak, Sobuanna, Piiḍẓïəudoṭɪiyiăṣïu, Laʃɪĕpuala, Beidaɪuətda, Buahabuaṣa, Buahabuabuamɪəu, Sahaṣă, T‘əmp‘ɪukʃɪăda, ʃɪăpɪuʌpʒɪăṣă, Aladanamua, Puăngiĕṣïeutatʃ‘ɪăla, Kandəpbua, Ṣăha, Buasattadeisobei are approaching
Where the monks have gathered in this grove Diibuaṇḍɪi.”
29. There was then another 1,000 five-powered priests for whom the Tathāgata also compiled an incantation.
30. The first Brahma king of this world and the gods of the Brahma heavens possessed miraculous abilities. There was a Brahma prince named Tiṣya who possessed great miraculous power.
31. There was also the other Brahma kings of the ten directions, each of whom was surrounded by their followers as they came. There was a great Brahma king from beyond 1,000 worlds who saw the great congregations of the Bhagavān. He came quickly with his followers surrounding him.
32. King Māra saw the great congregation around the Bhagavān and had a cruel thought. He thought to himself, “I’ll lead an army of demons to go and destroy that entire congregation. I won’t let any of them escape!”
33. He then commanded his fourfold army to beat their chariots with their hands, which sounded like crashing thunder. None who saw them weren’t frightened by it. He sent a great storm of wind, rain, lightning, and thunder at that great congregation that surrounded Kapila Grove.
34. The Buddha addressed the monks who were delighted with this assembly: “You should know that today Māra’s host is coming with evil intent!”
35. He then said in verse:
“Now, you should be respectful
And establish the Buddha’s Dharma.
You must destroy this host of Māra
Like elephants trampling flowers and grass.
Focus your attention without carelessness
And perfect the pure precepts.
Still your minds, think naturally,
And guard your intentions well.
If in the correct teaching
You can not be careless,
You’ll be freed from old age and death
And forever end the source of suffering.
After disciples hear this,
They diligently make effort.
Transcending the myriad desires,
Not a single hair of theirs is disturbed.
This assembly is the greatest;
It possesses great knowledge and renown.
It’s disciples are courageous
And respected by the community.”
36. The gods, spirits, yakṣas, and sages of five powers who surrounded the Buddha saw what Māra was doing and were shocked like never before. When the Buddha taught this Dharma, 84,000 gods became removed from dust and free of defilement, and their vision of the Dharma was purified.
37. The gods, nāgas, yakṣas, spirits, asuras, garuḍas, kiṃnara, mahoragas, humans, and non-humans who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.
- Parallel texts include DN 20, DN 32, T 19, SN 1.37, SĀ 1192, and T100.105. [back]
- What follows is transliterated by the Chinese translator as a magical formula. When the Middle Chinese pronunciations are used instead of modern Mandarin, we can discern clear parallels to Pali verses found in both DN 20 and 32. However, the original language that was transliterated was an unknown dialect of Central Asia (perhaps Tocharian or Gandhari). This makes deciphering the P. or S. equivalents difficult at times, especially when the verses differ from Indic parallels and include names unfamiliar to us. I’ve used brackets to indicate reconstructions and question marks for guesswork. I have largely followed the Japanese translation by Karashima. [back]
- Aside from the first and last lines and a couple common words, this section unfortunately is completely obscure and lacks an Indic parallel. This makes a reconstruction of P. or S. equivalent names too difficult to attempt. I’ve chosen to transliterate the Middle Chinese pronunciations with IPA symbols that linguists may find helpful. Perhaps a parallel will be discovered that will help us decipher this passage in the future. [back]
Translator: Charles Patton
Last Revised: 30 July 2022