Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

22. Śroṇatāṇḍya

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was staying in Aṅga accompanied by a large assembly of 1,250 monks. They traveled among the people, stopping to stay at the city of Campā by the side of Gargā Pond.

2. At the time, there was a priest named Śroṇatāṇḍya[2] who was residing in Campā, a city that was populous, thriving, and bountiful. King Prasenajit had bestowed the city to the priest Śroṇatāṇḍya as his priestly due.

3. This priest was descended from seven generations of fathers and mothers who were genuine [priests], so he wasn’t slighted by others. He had mastered the three Vedas[3] and could discern all the various kinds of scriptures. He was learned about all the subtleties of the world’s scriptures. He was also skilled in the techniques of [recognizing] the great man’s signs, divining fortune and misfortune, and [performing] sacrifices and rituals. He had 500 disciples whom he taught without exception.

4. The priests, prominent people, and householders in Campā heard: “The ascetic Gautama of the Śākya clan, who had left the home life [113a] and achieved awakening, is touring among the people of Aṅga and has arrived by the side of Gargā Pond. He possesses a great reputation that’s heard throughout the world. He’s a Tathāgata, an Arhat,[4] and a Completely Awakened One who has perfected the ten epithets. Among gods, worldly men, and demons, whether they’re in the assemblies of Māra, gods, ascetics, or priests, he is self-realized and teaches the Dharma for others. His words are all genuine in the beginning, middle, and end, complete in content and expression, and purify the religious life.”

5. They said, “It would be fitting to go and have an audience with such a realized man as this. We should go and pay him a visit now!” After they said that, they followed each other as they left the city. Crowds of people headed out to visit the Buddha.

6. The priest Śroṇatāṇḍya was up in his tower and saw those crowds of people from a distance. He asked his attendant, “What’s the reason those crowds of people are following each other? Where are they going?”

7. His attendant said, “I heard this: ‘The ascetic Gautama of the Śākya clan, who had left the home life and achieved awakening, is touring among the people of Aṅga and has arrived by the side of Gargā Pond. He possesses a great reputation that’s heard throughout the world. He’s a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who has perfected the ten epithets. Among gods, worldly men, and demons, whether they’re in the assemblies of Māra, gods, ascetics, or priests, he is self-realized and teaches the Dharma for others. His words are all genuine in the beginning, middle, and end, complete in content and expression, and purify the religious life.’ Those crowds of priests, prominent people, and householders of Campā are going to pay a visit to the ascetic Gautama.”

8. The priest Śroṇatāṇḍya then instructed his attendant: “Quickly, memorize my words and go tell those people this: ‘All of you, wait a little while for me. We’ll go pay a visit to that Gautama together.’”

9. His attendant then went and told those people Śroṇatāṇḍya’s message: ‘Everyone, wait a little while for me. We’ll go pay a visit to that Gautama together.”

10. The people replied to his attendant, “Quickly return to the priest and tell him, ‘Now is a good time. We should go together.’”

11. The attendant returned and said, “The people are waiting. They say, ‘Now is a good time. We should go together.’” The priest Śroṇatāṇḍya then came down from his tower and stood at its entrance.

12. At the time, another five hundred priests had already first assembled under the entrance for some minor reason. When they saw the priest Śroṇatāṇḍya coming, they all looked up and asked, “Great priest, where are you going?”

13. Śroṇatāṇḍya replied, “The ascetic Gautama of the Śākya clan, who had left the home life and achieved awakening, is touring among the people of Aṅga and has arrived by the side of Gargā Pond. He possesses a great reputation that’s heard throughout the world. He’s a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who has perfected the ten epithets. Among gods, worldly men, and demons, whether they’re in the assemblies of Māra, gods, ascetics, or priests, he is self-realized and teaches the Dharma for others. His words are all genuine in the beginning, middle, and end, complete in content and expression, and purify the religious life. It would be fitting to go and have an audience with such a true man as this. I’m going to visit him and have a look at his [bodily] signs.”

14. Those five hundred priests said to Śroṇatāṇḍya, “Don’t go and look at his signs. Why not? He should visit you here; you shouldn’t go there to visit him. Now, great priest, you’re descended from fathers and mothers who were genuine [priests] for seven generations, and other people don’t slight you. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

15. “Moreover, great priest, you’ve mastered the three Vedas and can discern all the various scriptures. You’re learned about all the subtleties of the world’s scriptures. You’re also skilled at [recognizing] the great man’s signs, divining fortune and misfortune, and [performing] sacrifices and rituals. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

16. “Moreover, great priest, you’re handsome looking, having attained the appearance of Brahma. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

17. “Moreover, great priest, your precepts and virtue are surpassing, and your wisdom is accomplished. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

18. “Moreover, great priest, your words are gentle, complete in eloquence, and their content and expression are pure. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

19. “Moreover, great priest, you have numerous disciples. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

20. “Moreover, great priest, you’re the instructor of five hundred priests. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

21. “Moreover, great priest, students come from the four directions to request [your instruction], asking about the technique of sacrifices and rituals. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

22. “Moreover, great priest, King Prasenajit and King Bimbisāra respect and support you. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

23. “Moreover, great priest, you’re rich, possess treasures, and your treasury is overflowing. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

24. “Moreover, great priest, your wisdom is insightful, your words are learned, and you lack timidity. You have achieved such status, so he should come here to visit you; you shouldn’t go there to visit him.

25. Śroṇatāṇḍya then told the priests, “So it is, so it is! As you’ve said, I’m endowed with these virtues; there are none I don’t possess. Now, listen to what I say: These virtues are possessed by the ascetic Gautama, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us. The ascetic Gautama is descended from fathers and mothers who were genuine for seven generations, so he’s not slighted by other people. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

26. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama is handsome looking, having come from the warrior caste. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

27. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama was born to a noble station and left home for the path. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

28. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama is endowed with a glowing form, his caste and clan are genuine, and he left home to cultivate the path. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

29. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama was born to a wealthy family that possessed great majesty, and he left home for the path. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

30. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama has perfected noble precepts and accomplished wisdom. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

31. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama’s words are gentle and refined. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

32. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama is a teacher to a multitude, and his disciples are numerous. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

33. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama has forever destroyed craving without any fickleness. He has eliminated sorrow and fear, and his hair doesn’t stand on end. He rejoices and is glad to see people commend what’s good, skillfully teaches the results of conduct, and doesn’t criticize other religions. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

34. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama is always respected and supported by King Prasenajit and King Bimbisāra. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

35. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama is respected and supported by the priest Puṣkarasārin,[5] and the priests Brahmāyu, [Tārukkha], [Kūṭadanta], Śukamāṇava Taudeyaputra[6] support him, too. Having achieved such a state, I should go to him; he shouldn’t come here.

36. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama is honored, respected, and supported by his disciples, and gods, demons, and other spirits respect him, too. The Śākya clan and the Kuru … Vṛji, Malla, and Soma[7] honor him, too. Having achieved such a state, I should go to him; he shouldn’t come here.

37. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama conferred the three refuges and five precepts to King Prasenajit and King Bimbisāra. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

38. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama conferred the three refuges and five precepts to the priest Puṣkarasārin. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

39. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama’s disciples received the three refuges and five precepts, and so have gods, the Śākya clan, the Kuru, and others. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

40. “Moreover, wherever the ascetic Gautama travels, all the people respect and support him. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

41. “Moreover, when the ascetic Gautama arrives as a city or village, he’s supported by its people. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

42. “Moreover, wherever the ascetic Gautama goes, non-humans, demons, and spirits don’t dare harass him. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

43. “Moreover, wherever the ascetic Gautama goes, the people living there see his light and hear heavenly music. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

44. “Moreover, wherever the ascetic Gautama goes, many people feel such longing that they cry as they watch him leave. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

45. “Moreover, when he first left home, the ascetic Gautama’s parent cried and felt disappointed and heart-broken. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

46. “Moreover, when he was still young after leaving home, the ascetic Gautama discarded decorations, elephants and horses, valuable chariots, the five desires, and jewelry. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

47. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama renounced his place as a wheel-turning king and left home for the path. If he’d stayed home, he would have ruled the peoples of the whole world, and we would’ve been his subordinates. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

48. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama clearly understands the teachings of Brahmā, he’s able to explain them for others, and he pays visits to Brahmā to speak with him. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

49. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama is endowed all 32 signs [of a great man]. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

50. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama is wise and insightful, and he lacks timidity. He has achieved such status, so we should go there to him; he shouldn’t come here to us.

51. “Moreover, the ascetic Gautama is here at Campā by the side of Gargā Pond right now. It would be an honor for me to be his guest and fitting to go and have an audience with him.”

52. Those five hundred priests then said to Śroṇatāṇḍya, “Amazing! Extraordinary! Does he have such virtues? If he were to achieve just one of these virtues, he still shouldn’t come [here to us]. How would it be if he were endowed with all of them? It would be fitting for us to come along and greet him.”

53. Śroṇatāṇḍya replied, “If you want to go, it’s a good time to do so.”

54. Śroṇatāṇḍya then prepared horses and a treasure chariot, and he went to Gargā Pond surrounded by those five hundred priests and the priests, prominent people, and householders of Campā. He stopped not far from the pond and thought to himself, “Suppose I question Gautama, and maybe it’s not to his liking? That ascetic Gautama will rebuke me, ‘You should ask this question and not ask that question.’ The crowd will overhear him and take me for a fool, and my reputation will be damaged. Suppose the ascetic Gautama asks me about a topic, and maybe my answer won’t be to his liking. That ascetic Gautama will rebuke me, ‘You should answer this way and not that way.’ The crowd will overhear him and take me for a fool, and my reputation will be damaged. Suppose I remain silent. When I return, the people will say, ‘This priest knows nothing!’ No matter what I do, visiting the ascetic Gautama will damage my reputation. If the ascetic Gautama asked me about the priest’s teaching, that would be the only topic I could answer well enough to suit him!”

55. Once he finished thinking that beside of Gargā Pond, Śroṇatāṇḍya dismounted from his chariot and walked on foot to the Bhagavān. After they had exchanged greetings, he sat down to one side.

56. Some of the priests, prominent people, and householders of Campā bowed to the Buddha and sat. Some of them exchanged greetings with him and sat. Some of them praised him and sat. Some of their saluted him with their hands together and sat. Some remained quiet and sat. When the crowd was seated and settled, the Buddha knew that thought the priest Śroṇatāṇḍya had in his mind, so he told him, “Regarding that thought you had, you should do as you wish.”

57. The Buddha then asked Śroṇatāṇḍya, “How many qualities of a priest have you accomplished? Be honest; don’t speak falsely.”

58. Śroṇatāṇḍya then silently thought to himself, “Amazing! Extraordinary! The ascetic Gautama has that great miraculous power to read people’s minds. He asked about the topic that I had thought about!”

59. The priest Śroṇatāṇḍya sat up straight, surveyed the audience around them, and smiled happily. He then answered the Buddha, “I’ve accomplished five qualities of a priest, speaking honestly and not falsely. What are the five? One is that I’m a priest who is descended from seven generations of fathers and mothers who are genuine so that other people don’t slight me. Two is that I’ve mastered and chant the three Vedas, discern all the various scriptures, and I’m learned about all the subtleties of the world’s scriptures. I’m also skilled at [recognizing] the great man’s signs, divining fortune and misfortune, and [performing] sacrifices and rituals. Three is that I’m handsome looking. Four is that I’ve perfected the observance of precepts. Five is that I’m wise and insightful. These are the five. Gautama, I’ve accomplished these five qualities of a priest, speaking truthfully and not falsely.”

60. The Buddha said, “Good, Śroṇatāṇḍya! Could it be that a priest who discards one of those five qualities and achieves four of them could also be called a priest, speaking truthfully and not falsely?”

61. Śroṇatāṇḍya said to the Buddha, “He could. Why is that? Gautama, what purpose does his birth serve? Suppose a priest masters and chants the three Vedas, discerns all the various scriptures, and he’s learned about all the subtleties of the world’s scriptures. He’s also skilled at [recognizing] the great man’s signs, divining fortune and misfortune, and [performing] sacrifices and rituals. He’s handsome looking. He perfects the observance of precepts, and he’s wise and insightful. Having these four qualities, he could be called a priest, speaking truthfully and not falsely.”

62. The Buddha told Śroṇatāṇḍya, “Good, good! If he were to lack one of those four qualities and achieve three of them, would he still be called a priest, speak truthfully and not falsely?”

63. Śroṇatāṇḍya replied, “He would. Why is that? What purpose does his birth and the Vedas serve? Suppose a priest is handsome looking, has perfected the observance of precepts, and is wise and insightful. Achieving these three qualities, he could be called a priest, speaking truthfully and not falsely.”

64. The Buddha said, “Good, good! How is it? If he were to lack one of those three qualities and achieve two of them, would he be called a priest, speaking truthfully and not falsely?”

65. Śroṇatāṇḍya answered, “He would. Why is that? What purpose does his birth, the Vedas, and being handsome serve?”

66. Each of the five hundred priests then spoke up and said to the priest Śroṇatāṇḍya: “Why do you disrespect [a priest’s] birth, the Vedas, and being handsome, saying that they serve no purpose?”

67. The Bhagavān then told the five hundred priests, “If this priest Śroṇatāṇḍya were ugly, lacked [a respectable] caste and clan, hadn’t mastered the Vedas, and lacked eloquence, wisdom, and good answers, he wouldn’t be the one speaking with me, and you could speak. Since the priest Śroṇatāṇḍya is handsome, perfect in caste and clan, has mastered the Vedas, and is wise, eloquent, and good at answering questions, he’s qualified to have a discussion with me. The rest of you, remain silent and let this man speak.”

68. The priest Śroṇatāṇḍya then said to the Buddha, “Please, Gautama, stop for a moment. I’ll instruct them about the teaching.”

69. Śroṇatāṇḍya then told the five hundred priests, “Now, don’t you see my nephew who’s a student here in this assembly? Of everyone assembled here, only Gautama’s appearance is as handsome as his, but that student does evil things like killing, stealing, engaging in sex, lacking courtesy, lying, deceiving, burning people with fire, and cutting them off from the path. Priests, this student from Aṅga has done all these evil things, so what purpose do the Vedas and being handsome serve in the end?”

70. The five hundred priests remained silent and didn’t respond. Śroṇatāṇḍya then said to the Buddha, “If he perfects the observance of precepts, and he’s wise and insightful, then he could be called a priest, speaking truthfully and not falsely.”

71. The Buddha said, “Good, good! How is it, Śroṇatāṇḍya? If he lacks one of these two qualities and accomplishes one of them, would he be called a priest, speaking truthfully and not falsely?”

72. He answered, “He cannot. Why is that? The precepts are wise, and wisdom is the precepts. Having both precepts and wisdom, then as a result I would say that he is called a priest, speaking truthfully and not falsely.”

73. The Buddha said, “Good, good! As you’ve said, having precepts is having wisdom, and having wisdom is having precepts. Precepts purify wisdom, and wisdom purifies precepts. Śroṇatāṇḍya, it’s like when someone washes their hands: The right and left hand need each other. The left hand washes the right hand, and the right hand washes the left hand. These things are likewise. Having wisdom is having precepts, and having precepts is having wisdom. Precepts purify wisdom, and wisdom purifies precepts. Priest, I say someone endowed with precepts and wisdom is called a monk.”

74. Śroṇatāṇḍya then said to the Buddha, “What are the precepts?”

The Buddha replied, “Listen closely, listen closely; consider it well! I will discern them one by one for you.”

He responded, “Very well! I’d be glad to hear it.”

75. The Bhagavān then told Śroṇatāṇḍya, “Suppose a Tathāgata appears in the world who’s Worthy of Alms, Completely Awakened, Accomplished in Insight and Conduct, Well Gone, Understands the World, an Unsurpassed Man, Trainer of Men, Teacher to Gods and Humans, a Buddha, and a Bhagavān. Among gods, worldly people, ascetics, and priests, he’s self-realized, and he teaches for others. His words are all genuine in the beginning, middle, and end, complete in content and expression, and purify the religious life.

76. “Suppose prominent people or the children of prominent people hear this teaching. Once their belief is pure, they thus observe: ‘The household life is difficult; it’s like being in handcuffs and bond. I’d like to cultivate the religious life, but I can’t free myself from it. I’d rather cut off my hair, put on the three Dharma robes, leave home, and cultivate the path.’

77. “At some different time, they renounce their home, property, and occupation, part with family and friends, put on the three Dharma robes, and leave ornaments behind. They recite the Vinaya and perfect the discipline of precepts. They renounce killing and don’t kill beings … and so forth up to … He attains the rapture of the four dhyānas in the present life. Why is that? These things are a result of diligence, focused attention that’s not lost, and attainment of a pleasant and solitary dwelling. Priest, this is perfecting the precepts.”

78. The priest asked, “What is wisdom?”

79. The Buddha said, “If a monk’s mind is purified and undefiled as a result of samādhi, is flexible and gentle, dwells in imperturbability … and so forth up to … attains the three insights. He eliminates ignorance and gives rise to wise insight. He produces the great light of Dharma and ceases being in darkness, and the knowledge that the contaminants have ended arises in him. Why is that? These things are a result of diligence, focused attention that’s not lost, and attainment of a pleasant and solitary dwelling. Priest, this is perfecting wisdom.”

80. The priest Śroṇatāṇḍya then said to the Buddha, “Now, I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Noble Saṅgha. Please permit me to become a layman in the correct teaching! From now until the end of my life, I won’t kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, or drink alcohol.”

81. When the priest Śroṇatāṇḍya heard what the Buddha taught, he rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. The direct parallel for this sutra is DN 4. [back]
  2. Śroṇatāṇḍya. This is a Sanskrit attestation equivalent to P. Soṇadaṇḍa that’s found in a Sarvâstivāda parallel to this sutra. The Chinese text translates his name as “Planting Virtue” (種德).[back]
  3. three Vedas. The Chinese literally reads “the three-division hymns of the other training” (異學三部諷誦), which seems to be a roundabout description of the three Vedas of the Brahmanical tradition. [back]
  4. Arhat. This term is often translated in different ways in Chinese when it occurs in this standard expression. Here it’s translated as “reached what’s real” or perhaps simply “fully realized” (至真). [back]
  5. Puṣkarasārin. This is the Skt. equivalent of the priest Pokkharasāti in Pali, which matches the Chinese transliteration. [back]
  6. Śukamāṇava Taudeyaputra. This is the Skt. for the priest called Subha Todeyyaputta in Pali. Note that the term “youth” (māṇava) seems to have been added in this passage. The result means “Śuka the youth, son of Taudeya.” Again, the Chinese transliteration matches the Skt. rather than the Pali. [back]
  7. Kuru … Vṛji, Malla, and Soma. There are five names in this list, but the second is an obscure transliteration that’s unclear, so I’ve omitted it rather than insert an unsubstantiated guess. The name Soma is a known transliteration for that Indic word, but it might also transliterate “Suma-”. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 28 February 2021