Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

27. The Fruits of the Ascetics

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was staying at Rājagṛha in Jīvaka’s Mango Park. He was accompanied by a large assembly of 1,250 monks.

Ajātaśatru Visits the Buddha

2. It was then that King Ajātaśatru, the son of Vaidehī, summoned one of his wives during the fifteenth day full moon. He said to her, “Tonight is clear and bright, and the day was no different. What shall we do?”

His wife said to the king, “Now, it’s the fifteenth day full moon tonight, and the day was no different. It would be fitting to bathe and wash our hair. We could bring the courtesan women and entertain ourselves with the five desires.”

3. The king also summoned the first prince Udayibhadra. He asked him, “Tonight is the fifteenth day full moon, and the day was no different. What shall be undertake?”

The prince said to the king, “Tonight is the fifteenth day full moon, and the day was no different. It would be fitting to assembly the fourfold army and make a plan of attack on our foreign adversaries. After we return, we’ll celebrate it together.”

4. The king also summoned a great and heroic general. He asked him, “Now is the fifteenth day full moon. The night is clear and bright, and the day was no different. What shall we do?”

The great general said, “Tonight is clear and bright, and the day was no different. It would be fitting to assembly the fourfold army and decide to march on the world and know who is for and against us.”

5. The king also summoned the priest Varṣākāra. He asked him, “Now, it’s the fifteenth day full moon. This night is clear and bright, and the day was no different. Shall we visit some ascetic or priest who can enlighten my mind?”

Varṣākāra then said, “Tonight is clear and bright, and the day was no different. There is Pūraṇa Kāśyapa who leads a large assembly. Many have known him, and his fame is heard far away. Just as the ocean holds many things, he gets many kinds of support. Great king, it would be fitting to visit him and exchange greetings. If the king meets him, his mind might be enlightened.”

6. The king also summoned Varṣākāra’s brother [Sunidha] and asked him, “Tonight is clear and bright, and the day was no different. Would it be fitting to visit some ascetic or priest who can enlighten my mind?”

[Sunidha] said, “Tonight is clear and bright, and the day was no different. There’s Maskarin Gośālīputra who leads a large assembly. Many have known him, and his fame is heard far away. Just as there’s nothing that the ocean doesn’t hold, he gets many kinds of support. Great king, it would be fitting to visit him and exchange greetings. If the king meets him, his mind might be enlightened.”

7. The king also summoned his minister of law-making and asked him, “Tonight is clear and bright, and the day was no different. Shall we go visit some ascetic or priest who can enlighten my mind?”

That minister of law-making said, “There’s Ajita Keśakambala who leads a large assembly. Many have known him, and his fame is heard far away. Just as there’s nothing that the ocean doesn’t holds, he gets many kinds of support. Great king, it would be fitting to visit him and exchange greetings. If the king meets him, his mind might be enlightened.”

8. “The king also summoned his gate keeper [Kāla] and asked him, “Tonight is clear and bright, and the day was no different. Shall we visit some ascetic or priest who can enlighten my mind?”

“That gate keeper [Kāla] said, “There’s Kakuda Kātyāyana who leads a large assembly. Many have known him, and his fame is heard far away. Just as there’s nothing that the ocean doesn’t hold, he gets many kinds of support. Great king, it would be fitting to visit him and exchange greetings. If the king meets him, his mind might be enlightened.”

9. The king also summoned Udāyin [Mandiputra] and asked him, “Tonight is clear and bright, and the day is no different. Shall we visit some ascetic or priest who can enlighten my mind?”

Udāyin said, “There’s Saṃjayin Vairaṭīputra who leads a large assembly. Many have known him, and his fame is heard far away. Just as there’s nothing that the ocean doesn’t hold, he gets many kinds of support. Great king, it would be fitting to visit him and exchange greetings. If the king meets him, his mind might be enlightened.”

10. The king also summoned his brother Abhaya and asked him, “Tonight is clear and bright, and the day was no different. Shall we visit some ascetic or priest who can enlighten my mind?”

His brother Abhaya said, “There’s Nirgrantha Jñātaputra who leads a large assembly. Many have known him, and his fame is heard far away. Just as there’s nothing that the ocean doesn’t hold, he gets many kinds of support. Great king, it would be fitting to visit him and exchange greetings. If the king meets him, his mind might be enlightened.”

11. The king also summoned Prince Jīvaka and asked him, “Tonight is clear and bright, and the day was no different. Shall we visit some ascetic or priest who can enlighten my mind?”

Prince Jīvaka said, “There is the Buddha, the Bhagavān, who now is staying in the Mango Park. Great king, it would be fitting to go visit him and exchange greetings. If the king meets him, his mind surely will be enlightened.”

12. The king ordered Jīvaka, “Prepare my chariot with a treasure elephant and another five hundred white elephants.”

13. Jīvaka accepted his instructions. When he was finished preparing the king’s elephant and the other five hundred elephants, he said to the king, “The teams have been prepared. Please know that it’s time.”

14. King Ajātaśatru road on his treasure elephant and ordered his 500 wives to ride 500 female elephants. They each carried a torch in hand that showed the king’s magnificence. They left Rājagṛha intending to visit the Buddha. After they had gone a little way, the king told Jīvaka, “Now, you are tricking me. You’ve set a trap to send me and this great assembly into the hands of our enemies.”

Jīvaka said, “Great king, I would not dare fool a king. I would not dare set a trap to send a king and his great assembly into the hands of their enemies. King, just go forward; you’ll surely obtain good fortune.”

15. The king continued a little further and then told Jīvaka, “Now, you are tricking me. You’ve set a trap to send me and this great assembly into the hands of our enemies.” He repeated this three times. “Why is that? The Buddha has a great assembly of 1,250 people, but it’s silent. There are no voices. Where are you leading us?”

Jīvaka also said three times, “Great king, I wouldn’t dare fool, set a trap, or send the king’s great assembly into the hands of his enemies. King just go forward; you’ll surely obtain good fortune. Why is that? That ascetic’s teaching is always delightful and peaceful. That’s why there are no voices. King, just go forward; the park grove has come into view.”

16. King Ajātaśatru arrived at the park’s entrance, got down from his elephant, untied his sword, and withdrew a parasol. Leaving the five deportments, he walked into the park entrance and asked Jīvaka, “Now, where is the Buddha, the Bhagavān?”

Jīvaka replied, “Great king, now the Buddha is there in the high meditation hall in front of a lit lamp. The Bhagavān is there sitting on a lion’s throne facing south. King, go forward a little and see the Bhagavān for yourself.”

17. King Ajātaśatru went to the discussion hall and washed his feet outside. Afterward, he ascended the hall, and silently looked in all directions. Feeling joyous, he blurted out, “Now, the ascetics are quiet, tranquil, and endowed with calm contemplation. I wish my Prince Udāyin could also achieve the same kind of calm contemplation.”

18. The Bhagavān then addressed King Ajātaśatru, “It was because you thought of your son that you blurted out, ‘I wish my prince Udāyin could also achieve the same type of a calm contemplation.’ You may come forward and sit.”

Ajātaśatru’s Question

19. King Ajātaśatru then went forward, bowed his head at the Buddha’s feet, and sat to one side. He said to the Buddha, “Now, I have a question I’d like to ask. If you have a moment, might I ask it?”

The Buddha said, “Great king, if you have a question, then you may ask it.”

20. King Ajātaśatru said to the Buddha, “Bhagavān, take for example the people here who rode elephant and horse chariots armed with knives, spears, swords, bow and arrows, polearms, and martial methods. The king’s son, strong men, and great strong men, and a variety of artisans such as servants, tanners, barbers, weavers, charioteers, masons, woodworkers, and reed weavers make their livings and entertain themselves as they like. Parents, wives and children, workers, and servants all entertain themselves. This arises from their occupations, which have present rewards. Now, does an ascetic’s cultivation in the present have rewards in the present?”

The Buddha told the king, “Have you visited other ascetics and priests to ask them about this subject?”

21. The king said to the Buddha, “I have visited ascetics and priests in the past to ask them about this subject. I remember one time I went to Pūraṇa Kāśyapa and asked, ‘Just as people ride elephants and horse chariots, armed with … martial methods … various occupations give rise their rewards in the present. Now, this assembly presently cultivates the path. What reward do they obtain in the present?’

22. “That Pūraṇa Kāśyapa replied to me, ‘Suppose the king or another on his behalf chops, smites, injures, boils, burns, cuts, and slices sentient beings to torment them, and they lament and cry out. Killing beings, stealing, raping, speaking falsely, trespassing, robbing, and setting fires are evils that cut off the path. Great king, to do such things isn’t bad. Great king, suppose you were to cut and slice all sentient beings with a sharp sword and turn them into a mass of meat that covered the world. This wouldn’t be bad, nor would there be a reward for a misdeed. If you cut and sliced sentient beings on the south side of the Gaṅgā River, that also wouldn’t bring any bad rewards. If you gave charity to a large congregation on the north side of a river, giving to everyone and profiting people, there wouldn’t be a rewards for merit, either.’”

23. The king said to the Buddha, “It was like someone asking about a melon and getting an answer about a plum; he was likewise. I asked if they attain rewards in the present or not, and he answered me with there’s no rewards of misdeeds or merits. So, I then thought, ‘I am a warrior king whose head was anointed with water. There’s no reason to kill this mendicant, but I should bind him and drive him away!’ I felt anger that fettered my mind. Having had this thought, I then departed.”

24. He also said to the Buddha, “There was a time I went to Maskarin Gośālīputra and asked him, ‘Just as people ride elephants and horse chariots armed with … martial methods … various occupations give rise their rewards in the present. Now, this assembly presently cultivates the path. What reward do they obtain in the present?’

25. “He replied to me, ‘Great king, there’s no gift and no giving, and no sacrifice. There’s no good or bad and no good or bad rewards. There’s no present life and no afterlife. There’s no father, no mother, no gods, no conjured sentient beings. There are no ascetics or priests in the world who practice the same. None of them who are self-realized and disseminate it to other people in the present life or an afterlife. Their words are all false.’

26. “Bhagavān, it was like someone asking about a melon and getting an answer about a plum; he was likewise. I asked if they attain rewards in the present or not, and he gave me a meaningless answer. So, I then thought, ‘I am a warrior king whose head was anointed with water. There’s no reason to kill this mendicant, but I should bind him and drive him away!’ I felt anger that fettered my mind. Having had this thought, I then departed.”

27. He also said to the Buddha, “There was one time I went to Ajita Keśakambala and asked him, ‘Venerable, just as people ride elephants and horse chariots armed with … martial methods … various occupations give rise their rewards in the present. Now, this assembly presently cultivates the path. What reward do they obtain in the present?’

28. “He replied to me, ‘A person acquires the four elements and takes them to the end of his life. The earth element returns to earth; the water element returns to water; the fire element returns to fire; and the air element returns to air. People are all destroyed, and their faculties return to space. When a person dies, their body is placed on a palanquin and they are taken to a charnel ground. There, they are cremated until their bones are the color of pigeons, or they turn into ashes. Whether foolish or wise, people are all destroyed when their lives end. It’s the rule of annihilation.’

29. “Bhagavān, it was like someone asking about a melon and getting an answer about a plum; he was likewise. I asked if they attain rewards in the present or not, and he answered about annihilation. So, I then thought, ‘I am a warrior king whose head was anointed with water. There’s no reason to kill this mendicant, but I should bind him and drive him away!’ I felt anger that fettered my mind. Having had this thought, I then departed.”

30. He also said to the Buddha, “There was one time I went to Kakuda Katyāyana and asked, ‘Venerable, just as people ride elephants and horse chariots armed with … martial methods … various occupations give rise their rewards in the present. Now, this assembly presently cultivates the path. What reward do they obtain in the present?’

31. “He answered me, ‘Great king, there’s no strength and no effort. People have no power and no means. There’s no cause and no condition for the attachment of sentient beings to defilement, and there’s no cause and no condition for the purification of sentient beings. Every kind of sentient being that has a life has no power, and they can’t act freely. Without any enemies, they are certain to exist in numbers. They experience pain and pleasure in these six births.’

32. “Bhagavān, it was like someone asking about a melon and getting an answer about a plum; he was likewise. I asked if they attain rewards in the present or not, and he answered me about being powerless. So, I then thought, ‘I am a warrior king whose head was anointed with water. There’s no reason to kill this mendicant, but I should bind him and drive him away!’ I felt anger that fettered my mind. Having had this thought, I then departed.”

33. He also said to the Buddha, “There was one time I went to Saṃjayin Vairaṭīputra and asked him, ‘Venerable, just as people ride elephants and horse chariots armed with … martial methods … various occupations give rise their rewards in the present. Now, this assembly presently cultivates the path. What reward do they obtain in the present?’

34. “He answered me, ‘Great king, “Is there a reward for ascetics in the present?” Questioned thus, I would answer this subject in this way: “This is something real, this is something different, or this is something neither different nor not different.” Great king: “Is there no reward for ascetics in the present?” Questioned thus, I would answer this subject in this way: “This is something real, this is something different, or this is something neither different nor not different.” Great king: “Is there both a reward and no reward for ascetics in the present?” Questioned thus, I would answer this subject in this way: “This is something real, this is something different, and this is something neither different nor not different.” Great king: “Is there neither a reward nor no reward for ascetics in the present?” Questioned thus, I would answer this subject in this way: “This is something real, this is something different, or this is something neither different nor not different.”’

35. “Bhagavān, it was like someone asking about a melon and getting an answer about a plum; he was likewise. I asked if they attain rewards in the present or not, and he answered me with those different positions. So, I then thought, ‘I am a warrior king whose head was anointed with water. There’s no reason to kill this mendicant, but I should bind him and drive him away!’ I felt anger that fettered my mind. Having had this thought, I then departed.”

36. He also said to the Buddha, “There was a time I went to Nirgrantha Jñātiputra and asked him, ‘Venerable, just as people ride elephants and horse chariots armed with … martial methods … various occupations give rise their rewards in the present. Now, this assembly presently cultivates the path. What reward do they obtain in the present?’

37. “He answered me, ‘Great king, I am an all-knowing and all-seeing person. My knowledge is complete without exception. Whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, my awakening is without exception, and my knowledge is always right in front of me.’

38. “Bhagavān, it was like someone asking about a melon and getting an answer about a plum; he was likewise. I asked if they attain rewards in the present or not, and he answered me with omniscience. So, I then thought, ‘I am a warrior king whose head was anointed with water. There’s no reason to kill this mendicant, but I should bind him and drive him away!’ I felt anger that fettered my mind. Having had this thought, I then departed.”

39. “Therefore, Bhagavān, I’ve come here now to ask about this subject: Just as people ride elephants and horse chariots armed with … martial methods … various occupations give rise their rewards in the present. Now, ascetics presently cultivate the path. What reward do they obtain in the present?”

The Buddha’s Answer

40. The Buddha told King Ajātaśatru, “Now, I’ll respond with a question to the king, and he can answer as he likes. How is it, great king? The king’s household has servants and people who work inside and outside. They see the king on the fifteenth day full moon wash his hair and bathe. He then ascends the high hall with his concubines, and they entertain each other. The servants think, ‘Ah! This is the reward of what action? This King Ajātaśatru on the fifteenth day full moon washes his hair and bathes. He then ascends the high hall with his concubines, and they entertain themselves with the five desires. Who can know what action for which this is the reward?’ Afterward, they shave off their hair and beard, put on the three Dharma robes, leave home, cultivate the path, and practice equanimity. How is it, great king? When the great king sees these people coming from a distance, would he again think, ‘Are these my servants, or not?’

The king said to the Buddha, “No, Bhagavān. If I saw them coming, I would rise and ask them to sit.”

41. The Buddha said, “Is this not an ascetic’s reward that’s attained in the present?”

The king replied, “So it is, Bhagavān. This is an ascetic’s rewards that’s attained in the present.”

42. “Furthermore, great king. Suppose people from the king’s realm, inside his household, or who are visiting eat from the king’s provisions. They see the king on the fifteenth day full moon wash his hair and bathed. He then ascends the high hall with his concubines, and they entertain themselves with the five desires. These people think, ‘Ah! This is the reward of what action? Who can know what action for which this is the reward?’ Afterward, they shave off their hair and beards, put on the three Dharma robes, leave home, cultivate the path, and practice equanimity. How is it, great king? When the great king sees these people coming from a distance, would he again produce the thought, ‘These are my people who eat from my provision as guests’?”

The king said, “No. If I saw them from a distance, I would rise, bow, exchange greetings with them, and ask them to sit.”

43. “How is it, great king? Is this not an ascetic’s reward attained in the present?”

The king said, “So it is. It’s an ascetic’s reward attained in the present.”

44. “Furthermore, great king, the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Rightly and Fully Awakened One arises in the world. Someone who enters my teaching … three insights destroy the shadows and produce the great radiance of knowledge, which is the knowledge realized by ending the contaminants. Why is that? These things come from diligence, focused mindfulness that isn’t lost, delighting in quiet seclusion, and not being careless. How is it, great king? Is this not an ascetic’s reward attained in the present?”

The king replied, “So it is, Bhagavān. This really is an ascetic’s reward attained in the present.”

Ajātaśatru Repents and Takes Refuge

45. It was then that King Ajātaśatru rose from his seat and bowed his head at the Buddha’s feet. He then said to the Buddha, “May the Bhagavān accept my repentance. I have been mad, foolish, delusional, and unaware. My father, King Bimbisāra of Magadha had ruled with the Dharma. He wasn’t crooked in any way, but I was deluded by the five desires, and truly did harm my father, the king. May the Bhagavān have compassion and accept my repentance.”

The Buddha told the king, “You were foolish, benighted, and unaware, and you’ve only repented that you were deluded by the five desires when you harmed your father, the king. Now, someone who can repent his faults in this noble teaching benefits himself. Because of my compassion for you, I will accept your repentance.”

46. King Ajātaśatru then bowed at the Bhagavān’s feet and then returned to sitting to one side. The Buddha explained the teaching for him with plain instruction, intelligence, and joy. After the king heard the Buddha’s instruction, he then said, “Now, I take refuge in the Buddha, take refuge in the teaching, and take refuge in the community. Permit me to become a layman in the right teaching. From this day forward to the end of my life, I won’t kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, or drink alcohol. May the Bhagavān and this great assembly clearly accept my request.”

47. The Bhagavān then silently agreed. The king then saw that the Buddha had silently accepted his request, so he rose, bowed to the Buddha, circled him three times, and departed.

48. Not long after he departed, the Buddha told the monks, “The King Ajātaśatru’s transgression has been reduced, for he has uprooted a serious fault. If King Ajātaśatru hadn’t have killed his father, then he would have attained purification of the Dharma eye while he was sitting here. King Ajātaśatru now has repented, and that transgression has been reduced. He has uprooted a serious fault.”

49. King Ajātaśatru was then on the road and told Prince Jīvaka, “Good, good! Now, you’ve been a great benefit to me! You praised the Tathāgata’s guidance and edification, and afterward you led me to a visit with the Bhagavān. I attained that my awakening. I’m deeply in your debt. I’ll never forget it!”

50. The king returned to his palace and had a variety of delicious foods and drinks prepared. When the sun rose, the time arrived that only the noble ones knew.

51. It was then that the Bhagavān put on his robe, took his bowl, and went to the king’s palace with his assembly of 1,250 monks. Seats were prepared, and they sat down. The king served the Buddha and the assembly with his own hands. When the meal was finished, they left with their bowls to wash them. When that was done, he bowed at the Bhagavān’s feet and said, “Now, I repent three times. I was mad, foolish, deluded, benighted, and unaware. My father King Bimbisāra of Magadha ruled with the Dharma. He wasn’t crooked in any way, and I was deluded by the five desires. I really did harm my father, the king. May the Bhagavān have compassion and accept my repentance.”

52. The Buddha told the king, “You were foolish, benighted, and unaware. You were deluded by the five desires when you harmed your father, the king. Now someone who can repent in this noble teaching benefits himself. Now, I have compassion for you and accept your repentance.”

53. After the king had bowed at the Buddha’s feet, he took a small seat and sat in front of the Buddha. The Buddha explained the teaching with plain instruction, intelligence, and joy. After the king heard the Buddha’s instruction, he also said to the Buddha, “Now, I take refuge three times in the Buddha, take refuge in the teaching, and take refuge in the community. May I be permitted to become a layman in the right teaching. From this day until the end of my life, I won’t kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, or drink alcohol.”

54. It was then that the Bhagavān discussed the teaching for King Ajātaśatru with plain instruction, intelligence, and joy. Afterward, he rose from his seat and departed.

55. Once King Ajātaśatru and Prince Jīvaka had heard what the Buddha taught, they rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. Parallels include DN 2, EA 43.7, and T22. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 14 September 2020