Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

6. The Noble Wheel-Turning King’s Cultivation

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was traveling among the people of [Magadha]. Accompanied by a large assembly of 1,250 monks, he eventually arrived in [Mātulā].[2]

2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the monks, “You must light yourself and burn the Dharma. Don’t burn something else.[3] You must take refuge in yourself and take refuge in the Dharma. Don’t take refuge in something else. How must a monk light himself, burn the Dharma, and not burn something else? How must he take refuge in himself, take refuge in the Dharma, and not take refuge in something else?

3. “Here, a monk observes the internal body as body diligently and without negligence. His attention to it isn’t lost, and he removes worldly craving and sorrow. He observes the external body as body … observes internal and external body as body diligently and without negligence. His attention to it isn’t lost, and he removes worldly craving and sorrow. He likewise observes feeling, mind, and principles.

4. “This is a monk who lights himself, burns the Dharma, and doesn’t burn something else. He takes refuge in himself, takes refuge in the Dharma, and doesn’t take refuge in something else.

The Correct Teaching of the Wheel-Turning King

5. “Such a practitioner can’t be harassed by Māra, and his virtue will increase daily. Why is that? There was time long ago when there was a king named Dṛdhasamādāna.[4] He was a water-anointed warrior who became a noble wheel-turning king and ruled the four continents under heaven.

6. “That king freely governed with the Dharma. He was exceptional among people, replete with the seven treasures. They were 1. the golden wheel treasure, 2. white elephant treasure, 3. blue horse treasure, 4. miraculous jewel treasure, 5. beautiful woman treasure, 6. householder treasure, and 7. general of the army treasure. He also had a thousand sons who were courageous and powerful. He defeated his adversaries without using weapons but with a natural peace.

7. “After King Dṛdhasamādāna ruled the world for a long time, the golden wheel treasure suddenly departed from its place in the sky. The administrator of the wheel went to the king quickly and told him, ‘Great king, you should know that just now the wheel treasure departed from its place!’

8. “When he heard this, Dṛdhasamādāna thought, ‘I’ve heard from the elders in the past that if a noble wheel-turning king’s wheel treasure goes away, that king’s life won’t last much longer. Now, I’ve experienced the pleasures of merit among humans. It would be fitting to pursue the way to experience the pleasures of merit in heaven. I’ll install a crown prince to oversee the four continents under heaven. I’ll bestow a town to a barber and have him cut my hair and beard. Then, I’ll put on the three Dharma robes and leave home to cultivate the path.’

9. “King Dṛdhasamādāna then summoned the crown prince and told him, ‘Did you know? I’ve heard from the elders of the past that if a noble wheel-turning king’s golden wheel departs from its place, the king’s life won’t last much longer. Now, I’ve experienced the pleasures of merit among humans, and I’ll pursue the way to experience the merits of heaven. I’m going to cut off my hair and beard, put on the three Dharma robes, and leave home for the path. I will bequeath the four continents under heaven to you. You should apply yourself to caring for its people.’

10. “The crown prince accepted the king’s instruction, and King Dṛdhasamādāna then cut off his hair, put on the three Dharma robes, and left home to cultivate the path.

11. “Seven days after Dṛdhasamādāna left home, the king’s golden wheel treasure suddenly disappeared. The administrator of the wheel went to the king and said, ‘Great king, you should know that the wheel treasure has suddenly disappeared!’

12. “The king was displeased and went to Dṛdhasamādāna. After arriving, he said to [the former] king, ‘Father king, you should know that the wheel treasure has suddenly disappeared.’

13. “King Dṛdhasamādāna replied to his son, ‘Don’t feel sad or displeased by it. The golden wheel treasure wasn’t your father’s property. Simply endeavor to enact the correct teaching of a noble king. After practicing that correct teaching, then bathe yourself in fragrant water surrounded by your concubines on the fifteenth-day full moon and ascend the Hall of the Correct Teaching. The miraculous treasure of the golden wheel will spontaneously appear. The wheel will have a thousand spokes and possess a radiant color. It’s made by a heavenly craftsman. It isn’t something that belongs to this world.’

14. “His son said to his father king, ‘What is the correct teaching of the noble wheel-turning king? How do I enact it?’

15. “The king told his son, ‘You must rely on the teaching, establish the teaching, and complete the teaching. Respect, honor, and investigate the teaching. Consider the teaching your leader, and safeguard the correct teaching. Moreover, you must instruct your concubines with the teaching. You must protect, look after, and admonish the princes, ministers, officials, administrators, populace, ascetics, and priests, down to the animals with the teaching. You must watch over them.’

16. “He also told his son, ‘Moreover, the ascetics and priests present in your domain should be pure and genuine in behavior. They should perfect virtue, be diligent and not negligent, abandon arrogance, and be patient and humane. They should cultivate themselves in quietude, calm themselves in seclusion, and reach Nirvāṇa in seclusion. They should rid themselves of craving and teach others to rid themselves of craving. They should rid themselves of anger and teach others to rid themselves of anger. They should rid themselves of delusion and teach others to rid themselves of delusion. They shouldn’t be defiled by defilements, made evil by evils, fooled by foolishness, attached to attachments, abide in abodes, or live in dwellings.

17. “Their physical conduct should be genuine, verbal [conduct] genuine, and mental [conduct] genuine. Their physical conduct should be pure, verbal [conduct] pure, and mental [conduct] pure. Their correct livelihood is purity. They’re kind, wise, tireless, satisfied with their food, and take bowls to solicit alms for the merit of sentient beings.

18. “When such people exist, you should visit them often and inquire about all manner of cultivation at the appropriate time: ‘What’s good, and what’s evil? What’s a transgression, and what’s not a transgression? Who shall I befriend and who shouldn’t be befriended? What’s appropriate to do, and what can’t be done? Giving donations to what teaching will bring happiness for a long time?’ After you ask such questions, use your mind to investigate what ought to be practiced and practice it. Abandon what ought to be abandoned.

19. “The elderly and orphans in the country should be provided aid. Don’t turn away the impoverished who come begging. The country has its ancient traditions; don’t be quick to reform them. This is the teaching that’s cultivated by a noble wheel-turning king. You should put it into practice.’”

How the Correct Teaching Is Lost

20. The Buddha told the monks, “The noble wheel-turning king accepted his father’s instruction and cultivated it as he’d explained. On the fifteenth-day full moon, he bathed in incense water and ascended the high hall while surrounded by his concubines, and the wheel treasure spontaneously appeared before him. The wheel had a thousand spokes and possessed a radiant color. It was made by a heavenly craftsman and wasn’t something that belongs to this world. It was made of pure gold and had a diameter of forty feet.[5]

21. “The wheel-turning king then thought to himself, ‘I’ve heard from elders in the past that if a water-anointed warrior king bathes in incense water and ascends the treasure hall on the fifteenth-day full moon while surrounded by his concubines, then the golden wheel will suddenly appear before him. The wheel will have a thousand spokes and possess a radiant color. It’ll be made by a heavenly craftsman and won’t be something that belongs to this world. It’ll be made of pure gold and have a diameter of forty feet. He will then be called a noble wheel-turning king. Now, this appears to be the wheel, but perhaps this isn’t it? Now, I’d should like to test this wheel treasure.’

22. “The wheel-turning king then summoned the four armies and bared his right shoulder toward the golden wheel treasure. He knelt on his right knee, touched the golden wheel with his right hand, and said: ‘Go east. Turn according to the Dharma, and don’t go contrary to the eternal law.’ The wheel then turned east.

23. “The king then led his four armies and followed after it. Ahead of the golden wheel, there were four spirits guiding it, and the king stopped his horses where the wheel dwelled.[6] At that point, the lesser kings of the east saw the great king arrive, and they came to the king with gold bowls holding silver barley and silver bowls holding gold barley. They present them to their chief, saying, ‘Welcome, great king! The lands in this eastern region are plentiful now. Please, noble king, rule them properly! We’ll serve you, right and left, and accept what you will.’

24. “The great wheel-turning king told the lesser kings, ‘Stop, stop! Good men, you have made offerings to me, but I will simply rule with the correct Dharma. Don’t bend yourselves to serve me. Let none in the country act contrary to the Dharma. This I call my way of ruling.’

25. “When the lesser kings heard this instruction, they then followed the great king, who toured their countries. He went east until the ocean was in sight, and next traveled south, west, and north, following where the wheel went. The kings there each presented their countries in comparable ways as the lesser countries in the east did.

26. “The wheel-turning king followed the golden wheel as it traveled around the four oceans, revealing the way and consoling the populace. He then returned to his home country. The golden wheel treasure hovered in the sky while he was in his palace. The wheel-turning king celebrated, saying, ‘This golden wheel treasure is a true sign for me that I truly am a noble wheel-turning king who has accomplished this golden wheel treasure.’

27. “After that king had ruled the world for a long time, the golden wheel treasure then suddenly departed from its place in the sky. The administrator of the wheel quickly went to the king and said, ‘Great king, you should know that the wheel treasure just left its place!’

28. “Upon hearing this, the king then thought to himself, ‘I’ve heard from the elders in the past that if the wheel treasure goes away, the king’s life won’t last much longer. Now, I’ve experienced the pleasures of merit among humans. It would be fitting to pursue the way to experience the pleasure of merits in heaven. I’ll install a crowned prince to receive the four continents under heaven. I’ll bestow a particular town to a barber and have him cut my hair and beard. Then, I’ll put on the three Dharma robes, and leave home to cultivate the path.’

29. “The king then summoned the crown prince and told him, ‘Did you know? I heard from the elders in the past that if a noble wheel-turning king’s golden wheel departs from its place, the king’s life won’t last much longer. Now, I’ve experienced the pleasures of merit among humans, and I’ll pursue the way to experience the merits of heaven. I’m going to cut my hair and beard, put on the three Dharma robes, and leave home to cultivate the path. I will bequeath the four continents under heaven to you. You should apply yourself to caring for its people.’

30. “The crown prince accepted the king’s instruction, and the king cut off his hair and beard, put on the three Dharma robes, and left home to cultivate the path.

31. “Seven days after he had left home, the golden wheel treasure suddenly disappeared. The administrator of the wheel went to the king and said, ‘Great king, you should know that the wheel treasure has suddenly disappeared!’

32. “The king wasn’t saddened when he heard this, nor did he go to ask for his father king’s thoughts about it. His father king’s life then suddenly ended.

33. “Before that time, six wheel-turning kings had successively accepted the signs and ruled with the correct teaching. It was only this one king who enacted his own rule of the country and didn’t continue the ancient teaching. This brought disharmony and there were recriminations under heaven. His territory was reduced, and the people dwindled.

Poor Governance Causes Decline in Morality

34. “There was a priest minister at the time who went to the king and said, “Great king, you should know that your territory today is reduced, and the people have dwindled, but these changes are not permanent. Now, the king has many friends inside the kingdom who are intelligent and learned and understand what’s ancient and what’s modern. They fully know the teaching by which previous kings ruled. Why don’t you summon them together and ask them about what they know? They will give you their answers.’

35. “The king then called a meeting of ministers and asked them about the way that previous kings had ruled. The wise ministers provided him with answers on the subject, and the king listened to what they said. He put the ancient ways into practice. He protected the world with the Dharma, but he couldn’t offer aid to the elderly and orphans or give donations to the poor.

36. “The kingdom’s people then became impoverished and began to steal from each other, and the thieves multiplied. An officer searched for them and captured one. He brought him to the king and said, ‘This man is a thief. Please, King, deal with him.’

37. “The king asked the thief, ‘Is it true that you are a thief?’

“He answered, ‘It’s true. I am destitute and starving. I can’t provide for myself, so I just steal from others.’

38. “The king then took what the man needed from his storehouse and supplied it to him. He said, ‘Use this to provide for your parents and care for your relatives. Don’t steal from others again!’

39. “When other people heard about this and took up thievery, the king provided them with treasure. At that point, they returned to robbing others of their possessions. Again, an officer searched for them and captured one. He brought him to the king and said, ‘This man is a thief. Please, King, deal with him.’

40. “The king again asked the thief, ‘Is it true that you are a thief?’

“He answered, ‘It’s true. I’m destitute and starving. Being unable to support myself, so I just steal from others.’

41. “The king again took treasure from his storehouse and provided it, telling the thief, ‘Use this to provide for your parents and care for your relatives. Don’t steal from others again.’

42. Again, people heard that someone had become a thief and the king provided him with treasure, so they continued robbing others of their possessions. An officer searched for them again and captured one. He brought him to the king and said, ‘This man is a thief. Please, King, deal with him.’

43. The king again asked the thief, ‘Is it true that you are a thief?’

He answered, ‘It’s true. I’m destitute and starving. Being unable to support myself, so I just steal from others.’

44. “The king then thought, ‘I saw that the thief before was poor and provided him with treasure so that he would stop, but then other people heard about it and emulated him. The thieves are multiplying, so nothing has come of it. Now, I should like to display this man in chains on a thoroughfare. Afterward, I’ll have him carried out of the city and executed in the wilderness. Wouldn’t that be a warning to people after that?’

45. “The king then ordered his servants to his left and right, ‘Servants, bind him and take him throughout the city to the sound of drums. When you’re done, carry him out of the city and execute him in the wilderness.’ Everyone in the kingdom knew that he was a thief and that the king had ordered him bound, taken throughout the city, and executed in the wilderness.

46. “People then in turn told each other, ‘Supposing that we were to become thieves, the same would happen to us that did to him!’ People in the kingdom then began protecting themselves. They proceeded to make weapons like swords and bows and arrows, which they used to hurt each other as they looted, robbed, and cheated one another.

The Descent into Barbarism

47. “From the beginning of this king’s reign, there was poverty. Once there was poverty, stealing began. Once there was stealing, then weapons began. Once there were weapons, then killing and hurting beings began. Once there was killing and hurting beings, people’s appearance became emaciated, and their lifespans were shortened.

48. “People lived for exactly 40,000 years at that time, but their lifespans were gradually reduced to 20,000 years afterward. Those sentient beings still had long lives, untimely deaths, suffering, and happiness. Those who suffered had thoughts of sexual misconduct and greedy clinging. They devised many methods to get another’s possessions.

49. “Sentient beings who were poor, thieves, had weapons, and injured others multiplied in turn. A person’s life was gradually reduced to a lifespan of 10,000 years.

50. “When they lived for 10,000 years, sentient beings continued to rob each other. An officer searched for them and captured one. He brought him to the king and said, ‘This man is a thief. Please, King, deal with him.’

51. “The king asked the thief, ‘Is it true that you are a thief?’

“He replied, ‘I didn’t do it!’ As a result, false speech began among the people.

52. “Those sentient beings then practiced stealing because of poverty, possessed weapons because of stealing, were killed and injured because of weapons, were greedy and committed sexual misconduct because of killing and injuring, and spoke falsely because of greediness and sexual misconduct. Their lifespans were gradually reduced because of false speech to a thousand years.

53. “When they lived a thousand years, the three bad verbal actions began to arise in the world, which were 1. duplicity, 2. harsh speech, and 3. frivolous speech. These three bad actions developed and prospered, and people’s lifespans were reduced to five hundred years.

54. “When they lived five hundred years, sentient beings again produced three bad actions, which were 1. lust and 2. greed that go against Dharma and 3. wrong views. As these three bad actions developed and prospered, people’s lifespans were reduced to three hundred and then two hundred years. During our time, people reach a hundred years, with a few going beyond that and many living for less than that. Thus they evolved, and their evils didn’t stop, so their lifespans were reduced until they reached ten years.

55. “When they lived for ten years, women were married five months after they were born. In that time, the names of delicious flavors like ghee, rock honey, and black rock honey weren’t heard in the world any longer. Rice plants changed into grass and weeds. Present-day names of cloth like silk, brocades, twilled cloth, cotton, and white muslin clothing didn’t exist in that time. The best clothing was woven from coarse wool thread. During that time, many brambles, biting insects, flies, snakes, stinging insects, venomous insects, and other poisonous creatures arose. The names of treasures like gold, silver, agate, and pearls disappeared from the Earth. There was only clay, stone, sand, and rocks that covered the land.

56. “It was during that time that those sentient beings would never again hear the names of the ten good deeds. The world was just filled with the ten evil deeds. How could people cultivate good actions from the names of things that were devoid of goodness? It was a time when sentient beings could do extreme evils, weren’t dutiful to their parents, didn’t respect their teachers, and weren’t sincere or righteous. Wayward people who went against the path became respected as people are today who cultivate good conduct, are dutiful to their parents, respectfully follow their teachers, are sincere and righteous, and who follow the path of cultivation.

57. “Sentient beings often cultivated the ten evil deeds and often fell to the bad destinies. Sentient beings would look at each other with a constant desire to kill each other like hunters looking at a herd of deer. The land had many ditches, gullies, and deep valleys. The lands were desolate and people sparse, so they were afraid of traveling. At that point, a period of warfare arose. Picking up grass and wood, they fashioned them into spears and lances and killed more and more each day for a week.

58. “Then, wise people fled into a forest and hid in pits, feeling terrified during those seven days. They began to say kind and good things like ‘If you don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you.’ They ate vegetation to sustain themselves. After seven days passed, they emerged from the mountain forest.

The Return to Civilization

59. “Those who survived looked at each other and rejoiced and celebrated. They said, ‘You didn’t die? You didn’t die?’ They were like parents who see their only child after being separated from them for a long time. Their joy was measureless. Those people thus each felt joyful and celebrated together. Afterward, they searched for their families, and there were many corpses among their families, friends, and followers. They lamented, wept, and cried aloud for another seven days.

60. “After the second week, the people again congratulated each other for seven days. Happy and joyous, they wondered to themselves, ‘We’ve piled up such extremely evil deeds that we’ve been beset with these troubles. The corpses of our friends, relatives, families, and followers are gone. We ought to cultivate a little good together now. What good should we cultivate? We should not kill beings.’

61. “At that point, sentient beings all felt kindness and didn’t hurt each other. Thereupon, the form and lifespan of sentient beings improved from ten years to a lifespan of twenty years.

62. “When they lived for twenty years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little good conduct and not hurting each other, our lifespans have lengthened to twenty years. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good shall we cultivate? We’ve stopped killing beings, so let’s not steal from each other.’ After they cultivated not stealing, their lifespans lengthened to forty years.

63. “When they lived for forty years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little goodness, our lifespans have lengthened. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good can we cultivate? We should not commit sexual misconduct.’ Those people then stopped sexual misconduct, and their lifespans lengthened to eighty years.

64. “When they lived for eighty years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little goodness, our lifespans have lengthened. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good can we cultivate? We should not speak falsely.’ Those people then all stopped speaking falsely, and their lifespans lengthened to 160 years.

65. “When they lived for 160 years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little goodness, our lifespans have lengthened. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good can we cultivate? We should not be duplicitous.’ Those people then all stopped being duplicitous, and their lifespans lengthened to 320 years.

66. “When they lived for 320 years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little goodness, our lifespans have lengthened. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good can we cultivate? We should not speak harshly.’ Thereupon, those people all stopped speaking harshly, and their lifespans lengthened to 640 years.

67. “When they lived for 640 years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little goodness, our lifespans have lengthened. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good can we cultivate? We should not speak frivolously.’ Thereupon, those people all stopped speaking frivolously, and their lifespans lengthened to 2,000 years.

68. “When they lived for 2,000 years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little goodness, our lifespans have lengthened. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good can we cultivate? We should not be greedy.’ Thereupon, those people all stopped being greedy, and their lifespans lengthened to 5,000 years.

69. “When they lived for 5,000 years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little goodness, our lifespans have lengthened. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good can we cultivate? We should not be envious and cultivate the good of kindness.’ Thereupon, those people all stopped being envious and cultivated the good of kindness, and their lifespans lengthened to 10,000 years.

70. “When they lived for 10,000 years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little goodness, our lifespans have lengthened. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good can we cultivate? We should practice right view and not create delusion.’ Thereupon, those people all practiced right view and didn’t give rise to delusion, and their lifespans lengthened to 20,000 years.

71. “When they lived for 20,000 years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little goodness, our lifespans have lengthened. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good can we cultivate? We should desist from three unskillful qualities, which are 1. lust and 2. greed that go against Dharma and 3. wrong view.’ Thereupon, those people all desisted from these three unskillful qualities, and their lifespans lengthened to 40,000 years.

72. “When they lived for 40,000 years, the people again thought, ‘As a result of cultivating a little goodness, our lifespans have lengthened. Now, we should like to increase this little goodness. What good can we cultivate? We should dutifully support our parents and respectfully serve our teachers.’ Thereupon, those people then dutifully supported their parents and respectfully served their teachers, and their lifespans lengthened to 80,000 years.

73. “When they lived for 80,000 years, women would go out to be married starting at 500 years of age. During that time, people had nine types of illness: 1. chills, 2. fevers, 3. hunger, 4. thirst, 5. defecation, 6. urination, 7. desire, 8. greed, and 9. old age. The Earth was relaxing and level. There weren’t any ditches, wastelands, or brambles. Nor were there biting insects, snakes, or other poisonous creatures. Clay, stone, sand, and rocks changed into agate, the people were prosperous, and the five crops were consistently bountiful without end.

The Future Buddha Maitreya and Noble King Śaṅkha

74. “There will be a time when 80,000 great cities arise, and the sound of chickens can be heard in the neighboring towns and cities. At that point, a Buddha will arise in the world named Maitreya, who will be a Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One. He’ll perfect the ten epithets just as the present Tathāgata perfected the ten epithets. Among the gods like Śakra, Brahmā, and Māra, demons, gods, ascetics, and priests, or spirits and worldly men, he will be self-realized, as I am self-realized today among those assemblies.

75. “He will teach the Dharma that’s good in the beginning and good in the middle and end. It’ll be complete in content and expression and purify the religious practice. His assembly of disciples will have countless hundreds of thousands just as my disciples today number in the hundreds. The populace will call his disciples ‘sons of Maitreya’ in the same way my disciples are as known as ‘sons of the Śākya.’

76. “During his time, there will be a king named Śaṅkha who will be a water-anointed warrior caste noble wheel-turning king. He’ll be the administrator for the four continents under heaven and rule with the correct Dharma. There’ll be no enemy he doesn’t subjugate. He’ll be replete with the seven treasures, which are the golden wheel treasure, white elephant treasure, blue horse treasure, miraculous jewel treasure, beautiful woman treasure, householder treasure, and general treasure. That king will have a thousand sons who are courageous and fierce. He’ll be able to drive out foreign adversaries and the four quarters will respectfully follow him without using weapons but with a natural peace.

77. “At that time, the noble king will raise a great treasure banner, which will be sixteen fathoms around and a thousand fathoms tall. That banner will be decorated with a thousand different colors. The banner will have a hundred corners, and the corners will have a hundred sticks made of a mixture of many embroidered jewels.[7]

78. “Thereupon, after the noble king breaks this banner, he’ll give it to the ascetics, priests, and poor people of the country. Afterward, he’ll cut off his hair and beard, put on the three Dharma robes, and leave home to cultivate the path. He’ll cultivate the unsurpassed practice and realize for himself in the present life: ‘Birth and death have been ended, the religious life has been established, and the task has been accomplished. I won’t be subject to a later existence.’”

The Parable of the Noble King

79. The Buddha told the monks, “You must diligently cultivate good conduct. By cultivating good conduct, your lifespan will be lengthened, your appearance will improve, and your well-being and happiness, wealth and prosperity, and power will be perfected, just like the kings who follow the noble wheel-turning king’s ancient teaching. Their lifespans lengthened, their appearances improved, and they perfected their well-being and happiness, wealth and prosperity, and power. A monk is likewise. He must cultivate good conduct for his lifespan to lengthen, his appearance to improve, and to perfect his well-being and happiness, wealth and prosperity, and power.

80. “How is a monk’s lifespan lengthened? Thus, a monk cultivates the samādhi of desire [for good conduct] diligently and not negligently. He accomplishes the practice of cessation [of unskillful qualities] by cultivating the miraculous abilities. He cultivates the samādhi of effort … samādhi of mind … samādhi of contemplation diligently and not negligently. He accomplishes the practice of cessation by cultivating the spiritual abilities. This lengthens his lifespan.

81. “How is a monk’s appearance improved? Here, a monk perfects the discipline and accomplishes proper behavior. He notices small misdeeds and fears them greatly. He fully learns the precepts and puts all of them into practice. This improves a monk’s appearance.

82. “What is a monk’s well-being and happiness? Here, a monk abandons lust and departs from unskillful qualities. With perception and contemplation, his seclusion gives rise to joy and happiness, and he practices the first dhyāna. Without perception or contemplation, his concentration gives rise to joy and happiness, and he practices the second dhyāna. He abandons joy, remains mindful, focuses his mind, and isn’t distracted. He knows his own happiness is what’s sought by noble people. He’s mindful and lives happily, practicing the third dhyāna. He abandons and ceases pain and pleasure, ridding himself of his earlier sadness and joy. Not discomforted or pleased, he’s carefully mindful and pure and practices the fourth dhyāna. This is a monk’s well-being and happiness.

83. “What is a monk’s wealth and prosperity? Here, a monk cultivates kindness, filling one direction with it and the other directions as well. It’s pervasive, universal, non-dual, and measureless. He eliminates the many bonds of resentment, and his mind has no hatred. He’s quiet, kind, and gentle. He leisurely does the same with compassion, joy, and equanimity. This is a monk’s wealth and prosperity.

84. “How does a monk perfect his power? Here, a monk truly knows the noble truth of suffering … formation … cessation … and truly knows the noble truth of the path. This is the monk’s perfection of his power.”

85. The Buddha told the monks, “Now, I’ve surveyed all those who possess power, and none surpass the power of Māra. Still, the power of a monk who ends the contaminants can defeat him.”

86. The monks who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. The direct parallels for this sutra are DN 26 and MĀ 70. [back]
  2. Magadha … Mātulā. Ch. 摩羅醯搜 … 摩樓, MCh. mua-la-xiei-sieu … mua-leu. It’s not entirely clear what the original Indic place names were here, so I’ve adopted the Pali equivalents for the time being. It seems likely DĀ’s terms had the same meaning but differed in pronunciation. [back]
  3. light … burn. Ch. 熾燃. Presumably, the original was equivalent to Skt. dīpa, which can mean a lamp, to light (a torch or lamp), or to set fire to something, whereas Skt. dvīpa means “island.” In Pali, dīpa is ambiguous, meaning either “lamp” or “island.” The language DĀ was translated from may have also been ambiguous, but the translator’s tradition preferred this reading instead of “island.” This reading is less clear that MĀ 70, which reads “light the Dharma lamp” (然法燈). Both Chinese translations of this sutra disagree with Pali and later extant sources that read “island” instead. It’s notable also that the expression in MĀ 70 uses the same Chinese term very similar to the translation of “Dīpaṃkara” (然燈). [back]
  4. Dṛdhasamādāna. Ch. 堅固念, P. Daḷhanemi. The Sarvastivada version (MĀ 70) also translates this king’s name as Ch. 堅念. Both agree with P. Daḷha- (“Solid”) but not -nemi (“wheel rim”). I’ve tentatively guessed Dṛdhasamādāna (“Firm Resolve”) as a likely Skt. equivalent until I find an attestation in Skt. sources. [back]
  5. forty feet. This is based on the Chinese unit of length (丈), which is typically a little more than three meters. Four 丈 would be a little less than 40 feet. [back]
  6. four spirits. In other accounts of this story, such as in T23 (at 281a), these guiding spirits are the four god kings. Earthly devas are sometimes translated as spirits in Chinese translation to distinguish them as lesser to heavenly devas. While ostensibly a heaven, the abode of the four god kings is on the peak of Mount Sumeru and so earthly by some accounts. [back]
  7. This cryptic passage is parallel to Theragāthā verses 163-164 (Thag 2.22), though the subject appears to be different, 幢 here was likely meant to approximate P. yūpa (“sacrificial post”). 幢 is confusing at face value, as it makes the passage appear to describe the image on a banner, but we should note that sacrificial posts did have banners attached to them, and it’s strange that a flag is given a measurement of circumference (圍). We should note also that a sacrificial post is mentioned in the “Story of Maitreya” in the Divyāvadāna. That story agrees with this one in many of its details, but the “sacrificial post isn’t described as it is here in DĀ 6. Given these clues, I would guess that what was being described in the original text was a pillar decorated with banners and not a single large banner. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 28 June 2021