The Numerical Discourses
Chapter 1: Introduction
The Origin of the Āgamas
Devotion to Śākyamuni, the seventh sage,
Who explained the noble, unsurpassed law.
After so long in the river of birth and death,
The Bhagavān has made a crossing for us all.
The venerable Kāśyapa, the noble assembly,
And sagely Ānanda measureless in learning
Provided relics from the Sugata’s parinirvāṇa,
To countries from Kuśinagara to Magadha.
Upright Kāśyapa practiced the four immeasurables.
“It’s for these sentient beings mired in the five destinies
That past and present Awakened Ones explain the path.”
Remembering the sage’s skillful teaching, he wept in grief.
Kāśyapa contemplated the correct Dharma’s source.
“How will it spread and endure in the world?
The Supreme Sage proclaimed various teachings,
And we carry them memorized without any loss.
“Who has the ability to collect the myriad teachings
And the history of where they all took place?
There is a wise man in this assembly:
Ānanda is sagely, measureless in learning!”
Then, he struck the bell to summon the four assemblies
And the numberless assembly of monks.
They had all attained the arhat’s liberation
And become fields of merit freed from bondage.
Because Kāśyapa pitied the world,
He thought about past rewards of the Sage’s favor.
“The Bhagavān entrusted the teaching with Ānanda,
Hoping the Dharma would spread and endure in the world.
“How do we pass it down without losing the lineage?
He collected this Dharma treasure for three asaṃkhya eons.
After that, he let the four assemblies hear the Dharma,
And they were freed from all manner of pain after hearing it.
“I can’t express myself like Ānanda does,
And the teachings are profound and diverse.
How could I discern the Tathāgata’s instructions,
The Buddha Dharma’s virtues, or his measureless wisdom?”
Now, Venerable Kāśyapa was capable of being
The great hero who entrusted the Dharma with the elders.
For the Saṅgha at the time, Mahākāśyapa
Was the Tathāgata in the world; they requested half seats.
Kāśyapa responded, “Though this may be so,
I’m declining in old age, and I’m forgetful.
Your task now is to memorize wisdom;
Ensure that the Dharma endures in the world.
Now, I possess the three pure eyes;
I can access the knowledge of others’ minds.
Of all the various kinds of sentient beings,
None can surpass Venerable Ānanda.”
Gods below the Brahma Heavens, Lord Śakra,
The four world guardian kings, and others,
Quickly met with Maitreya in the Tuṣita Heaven;
The bodhisattvas were innumerable millions.
Maitreya, Lord Śakra, and the four kings
All put their palms together and said,
“For all the teachings approved by the Buddha,
Ānanda is the vessel of this Dharma of ours.
“If someone doesn’t want the Dharma to survive,
They’ll be the ruin of the Tathāgata’s teaching.
Let it survive as a promise for sentient beings
To be saved from their troubles and many problems.
“The Śakyan Teacher appeared briefly in the world;
Though his flesh body is gone, the Dharma body remains.
We must ensure that the Dharma root isn’t cut;
Ānanda, don’t be confused when you recite the Dharma!”
When the honored Kāśyapa, noble assembly,
Maitreya, Lord Śakra, and the four kings
Kindly entreated Ānanda, they said,
“Ensure that the Tathāgata’s teaching doesn’t perish!”
Gentle Ānanda possessed the four immeasurables;
His mind turned into a fine lion’s roar.
He surveyed the four assemblies and looked at the sky;
Tears fell as he wept uncontrollably.
This prompted the light of his gentle countenance
To shine on sentient beings everywhere like dawn.
Maitreya gazed at the light; Śakra and Brahmā
Waited unmoved to hear the unsurpassed Dharma.
The four assemblies were quiet and focused,
Wanting to hear the Dharma with minds undistracted.
Venerable Kāsyapa and the noble Saṅgha
Looked straight ahead with eyes unblinking.
Ānanda then recited sūtras without measure.
“Who could supply them all as one collection?
Now, I will make them into three divisions
And compose a verse for every ten sūtras.
“The sūtras make one part, the Vinaya the second,
And Abhidharma scriptures make the third.
Past Sambuddhas had these three divisions;
Sūtra, Vinaya, and Abhidharma make the Tripiṭaka.
“Now, I’ll divide the sūtras into four sections.
Ekottarika is first, Madhyama second,
Third is the Dīrgha with its many ornaments,
And the Saṃyukta is the last and fourth.”
Venerable Ānanda then thought,
“The Tathāgata’s Dharma body doesn’t decay.
Enduring in the world, forever and unending,
Gods and people hear it and achieve the path’s fruit.
“Sometimes one item has a deep meaning;
Hard to retain and recite, it can’t be remembered.
Now, I’ll collect those one-item meanings,
Put them one after another, so they won’t be lost.
“There are pairs that restart after two items, too,
Sets of three that are like strings of jewels,
Sets of fours that stop at four items as well,
Sets of five, then sixes, and sevens after that.
“Sets of eight meanings continue to nines;
Sets of ten and then the elevens after them.
The Dharma Jewel thus won’t be forgotten;
It’ll endure in the world forever.”
To compile these teachings in the great assembly,
Ānanda then ascended to the high seat.
Maitreya said admiringly, “What joyous speech
That collates together teachings and meanings!
“These teachings are divided into fitting parts,
Each taught by the Bhagavān in a different way.
Bodhisattvas resolved on the Great Vehicle
Were taught these various distinctions, too.
“The Sage taught them six pāramitās:
Generosity, precepts, tolerance, effort,
Dhyāna, and wisdom powers like the new moon.
With these pāramitās, they examine the teachings.
“Some have courage to give away their eyes,
Their bodies, blood, and flesh, without regret;
Their wives, countries, wealth, and children as well.
This pāramitā of generosity is not to be discarded.
“The pāramitā of precepts is like diamond,
Neither broken nor violated and flawless.
Carrying the precepts in mind like a pot,
This pāramitā of precepts is not to be discarded.
“If someone were to chop their hands and feet off,
They aren’t angry and tolerate such violence.
Being like the ocean, not increasing or decreasing,
This pāramitā of tolerance is not to be discarded.
“When they perform good and evil deeds of
Body, speech, and mind, they’re all unsatisfying.
Opposing practices that don’t reach awakening,
This pāramitā of effort is not to be discarded.
“There are meditators who breathe in and out
With their minds stable and undistracted;
Even an earthquake doesn’t disturb them.
This pāramitā of dhyāna is not to be discarded.
“Counting atoms with the power of wisdom
Or the number of eons unreckonable,
They compose treatises with unconfused reasoning.
This pāramitā of wisdom is not to be discarded.
“The teachings and profound texts about emptiness,
Hard to discern and understand, can’t be contemplated.
Future people will progress slowly and feel hesitant,
So these bodhisattva virtues are not to be discarded.”
As he arranged them, Ānanda then thought,
“Fools don’t trust the bodhisattva practices.
Only the arhats and those freed by faith
Believe in them without reservation.”
The fourfold assembly who’d set out for awakening
And all kinds of sentient beings who had,
They had firm faith and didn’t hesitate
As they collected these teachings into one part.
Maitreya said admiringly, “What joyous speech!
To set out on the great vehicle is a vast intent.
Sometimes, its teachings end the bonds;
Sometimes, they achieve the path’s fruit.”
Ānanda said, “What about this?
I saw the Tathāgata expound these teachings,
But others I didn’t hear from the Tathāgata.
Won’t there be people who doubt those teachings?
“Were I to say I saw these teachings when I didn’t,
The future Saṅgha would be a falsehood.
Now, I’ll state that the sūtras were thus heard
When the Buddha was in some city or country.
“At Vārāṇasī, the first Dharma was taught,
Then the three Kāśyapas were converted in Magadha.
Next, he was in the land of the Śākya Lion,
Campā, Kuru, and Vaiśālī.
“Then, the palaces of gods, nāgas, and asuras,
And the gandharvas, et al. at Kuśinagara.
If the place a sūtra was taught is unknown,
I’ll say its origin was in Śrāvastī.
“This was heard by me on one occasion:
The Buddha was at Śrāvastī with the disciples.
At Jeta’s Grove, they cultivated good deeds,
In the park donated by wealthy Anāthapiṇḍada.
“While there, the Buddha addressed the monks:
‘One should cultivate one thing; Focus their mind,
And attend to one thing carefully.
What is that one thing? Recollecting the Buddha.’
“Recollecting the Dharma, Saṅgha, and precepts,
Recollecting generosity and the gods,
Recollecting calmness, breathing, and body,
And the unconfused recollection of death makes ten.
“Another ten are called ten recollections, too.
After that, I will praise the Sage’s disciples.
The first was Kauṇḍinya, who was a true Buddha son,
And the last was a lesser one named Subhadra.
“Using this method throughout the sets of one,
I’ll go from sets of two to sets of three.
The sets of four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
And eleven will all be comprehensive.
“Inceasing one by one, all these teachings,
Abundant in meaning and broad in wisdom, are unending.
Each sūtra’s meaning is also deep,
Therefore, it’s called the Ekottarika Āgama.
“Now, this incremental teaching is hard to comprehend,
Hard to retain and realize, and isn’t clear.
Monks praise their own virtuous deeds,
But now we should praise the Sage who’s supreme.
“He was like a potter making a vessel,
Fashioning it as he likes without hesitation.
Thus, the Āgama that increases one by one
And the three vehicles have no difference.
“The Buddha’s sūtras are subtle and extremely deep;
They remove the bonds like a rushing river.
Still, this Ekottarika is the highest,
Clarifying three eyes and removing three defilements.
“Those who focus on retaining the Ekottarika,
They memorize the Tathāgata’s treasury.
Even if they don’t end their bonds in this life,
They’ll get the highest wisdom in a later one.
“If someone copies the scrolls of this scripture,
Supporters who give them silk clothes, flowers, and parasols
Will get merits that are measureless and inestimable
Because this Dharma jewel is rare to encounter.”
When he said this, there was an earthquake,
Flowers and incense rained until they were knee-deep.
The gods in the sky praised him: “Good!
All of it is as the Highest Sage had taught.
“Sūtras are one piṭaka, Vinaya is a second piṭaka,
And Abhidharma is a third piṭaka.
The expansive Mahāyāna doctrine so profound
And other sūtras make a mixed piṭaka.
The Buddha’s words are a haven that never varies,
Their circumstances from beginning to end agree.”
Maitreya and the gods praised them: “Good!
May the sūtras of Śākyamuni endure a long time!”
Maitreya quickly rose with flowers in hand
And joyously scattered them over Ānanda.
“These sūtras are the true teachings of the Tathāgata.
Let Ānanda quickly achieve the fruit of the path!”
The Ekottarika Āgama Contains All Buddha Teachings
1. Then, Venerable Ānanda and Brahmā led the Brahmakāyika gods as they assembled together. The Paranirmitavaśavartin gods led their followers as they assembled together. The Nirmāṇarati gods led their followers as they assembled together. The King of Tuṣita led a host of gods as they assembled together. Yama led his followers as they assembled together. Śakra the Lord of Gods led the host of the Thirty-Three Gods as they assembled together. God King Dhṛtarāṣṭra led the gandharvas as they assembled together. God King Virūḍhaka led the kumbhāṇḍas as they assembled together. God King Virūpākṣa led a host of nāgas as they assembled together. God King Vaiśravaṇa led a host of yakṣas and rākṣasas as they assembled together.
2. The great worthy Maitreya then addressed the bodhisattvas of the fortunate eon, “I encourage all you clansmen and clanswomen to recite and retain the honored Ekottarika teaching! Widely disseminate it! Take it to gods and humans who’ll approve of it!”
3. When he said this, the gods, worldly people, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, mahoragas, and kiṃnaras all said, “We will protect all these good men and good women who recite and retain the honored Ekottarika teaching and disseminate it widely so that it will never come to an end.”
4. The Venerable Ānanda then told Uttara, “Now, I entrust this Ekottarika Āgama with you. Chant, recite, and read it well; don’t let it be corrupted or reduced. Why is that? Those who take this honored scripture lightly will fall back and behave like ordinary people. And why? Uttara, this Ekottarika Āgama produces the teachings of the thirty-seven factors of the path and all the things that arise from them.”
5. Then, Mahākāśyapa asked Ānanda, “Ānanda, how can the Ekottarika Āgama produce the teachings of the thirty-seven factors of the path and all the things that arise from them?”
6. Ānanda replied, “So it is, so it is! Venerable Kāśyapa, the Ekottarika Āgama produces the thirty-seven factors and all the things that arise from them. The Ekottarika Āgama contains a single verse that produces the thirty-seven factors and all the things [that arise from them].”
7. Kāśyapa asked, “What verse produces the thirty-seven factors and all the things [that arise from them]?”
8. Venerable Ānanda then recited the verse:
- “‘Don’t do anything evil,
And put what’s good into practice.
To purify one’s own mind:
This is the teaching of Buddhas.’
9. “Why is that? ‘Don’t do anything evil’ is the root of all teachings that produces all good things. The mind is purified by those good things it produces. Therefore, Kāśyapa, the physical, verbal, and mental conduct of Buddhas, the Bhagavāns, is always to cultivate purification.”
10. Kāśyapa asked Ānanda, “Ānanda, how is it that only the Ekottarika Āgama produces the thirty-seven factors and all the things [that arise from them]? Don’t the rest of the four Āgamas produce them, too?”
11. Ānanda replied, “Kāśyapa, it contains the meaning of the four Āgamas. The complete and perfect teaching of Buddhas is in this single verse, as well as the teachings of solitary buddhas and disciples. Why is that? ‘Don’t do anything evil’ is the rule of all the precepts. Clean conduct is to ‘put what’s good into practice.’ The purification of mind is ‘to purify one’s own mind.’ To remove what’s wrong and mistaken is ‘the teaching of the Buddhas.’ It departs from deluded ideas.
12. “How can it be, Kāśyapa, that someone pure in precepts would have a mind that isn’t pure? When someone’s mind is pure, they aren’t mistaken. Their deluded ideas cease because they make no mistake. They then can achieve the fruit of the thirty-seven factors of the path. How could it not be with the teachings that they achieve the fruit of the path?”
Why Uttara Was Entrusted with the Ekottarika
13. Kāśyapa asked, “Ānanda, why did you entrust the Ekottarika Āgama with Uttara? Didn’t you entrust all the teachings with the rest of the monks?”
14. Ānanda replied, “The Ekottarika Āgama is all the teachings. The teachings and the Ekottarika Āgama are one, not two.”
15. Kāśyapa asked, “But why did you entrust this Ekottarika Āgama with Uttara and not the rest of the monks?”
16. Ānanda replied, “Kāśyapa, you should know that ninety-one eons ago Vipaśyin the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One appeared in the world. This monk Uttara was named *Ekottara then. That Buddha entrusted this Ekottarika teaching to him, tasking him with chanting, reciting, and reading it. After that time thirty-one eons ago, the next Buddha was named Śikhin the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One. This monk Uttara was named *Mukhottara then. That Tathāgata Śikhin again entrusted this teaching to him, tasking him with chanting, reciting, and reading it. During that time thirty-one eons ago, Viśvabhū the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One also appeared in the world. This monk Uttara was named Nagottara then. He was again entrusted with this teaching and tasked with chanting, reciting, and reading it.
17. “Kāśyapa, you should know that during this fortunate eon there was Krakucchanda the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One who appeared in the world. This monk Uttara was named *\Vidyūttara then. He was again entrusted with this teaching and tasked with chanting, reciting, and reading it. Next, another Buddha during this fortunate eon named Kanakamuni the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One appeared in the world. This monk Uttara was named Devottara then. He was again entrusted with this teaching and tasked with chanting, reciting, and reading it. Another Buddha during this fortunate eon named Kāśyapa the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One appeared in the world. This monk Uttara was named Brahmottara then. Again, he was entrusted with this teaching and tasked with chanting, reciting, and reading it.
18. “Kāśyapa, you should know that Śākyamuni is now the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One who has appeared in the world, and this monk is now named Uttara. Although the Buddha Śākyamuni has parinirvāṇa-ed, the monk Ānanda is still in the world. The Bhagavān had entrusted me with all his teachings, and now I’ve also entrusted it with Uttara. Why is that? I examined him as a vessel and investigated his past. Afterward, I entrusted the teachings to him. And why?
19. “In the past during this fortunate eon, Krakucchanda the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One appeared in the world who was One Accomplished in Insight and Conduct, a Well Gone One, Understander of the World, an Unsurpassed Worthy, a Trainer in the Dharma Path, a Teacher to Gods and Humans, and called a Buddha and Bhagavān. At the time, there was a king name *Makhādeva who ruled according to the Dharma and was never crooked. He lived for a very long time, and his uprightness was peerless and rare in the world. For 84,000 years, he entertained himself as a youth. For 84,000 years, he governed according to the Dharma as a prince. For 84,000 years, he also ruled according to the Dharma as the king of the world.
20. “Kāśyapa, you should know that once the Bhagavān had traveled to the Mango Park. After eating, he paced back and forth in the yard as usual with myself and an attendant. The Bhagavān then smiled and a rainbow issued from his mouth. When I saw that, I knelt and said to the Bhagavān, ‘The Buddha doesn’t smile for no reason. Please let me hear the beginning and end of it, for the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One never smiles for no reason.’
21. “Kāśyapa, the Buddha then told me, ‘Once in the past during this fortunate eon, a Tathāgata named Krakucchanda the Arhat and Completely Awakened One appeared in the world. It was right here that he taught the Dharma to his disciples in detail.
22. “‘Furthermore, during this fortunate eon, there was also Kanakamuni the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One who appeared in the world. It was also right here that that Buddha taught the Dharma to his disciples in detail.
23. “‘Furthermore, during this fortunate eon, there was also Kāśyapa the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One who appeared in the world. It was also right here that that Tathāgata Kāśyapa taught the Dharma to his disciples in detail.’
24. “Kāśyapa, I knelt in front of the Buddha and said to him, ‘Please let it be right here as well that the Buddha Śākyamuni teaches the Dharma to his disciples in full. This place would then be the diamond seat of four Tathāgatas. The Dharma will never come to an end!’
25. “Kāśyapa, the Buddha Śākyamuni sat down there, and then he told me [this story]:
26. Ānanda, once during this fortunate eon, there was a king who appeared in the world named *Makhādeva … For 84,000 years, he ruled as king with the Dharma and instructed others with virtue. After many years had passed, he told his barber, “Tell me if you ever see white hair on my head.”
27. Hearing the king’s instruction, that man marked the years as they passed. When he saw white hair growing on the king’s head, he knelt in front of him and said, “Great King, you should know that white hair has grown on your head.”
28. The king then said to that man, “Take gold tweezers, pluck out my white hair, and put it in my hand.”
29. That man did as the king instructed. He took gold tweezers and plucked out the white hair in front of him. When the great king saw that white hair, he spoke this verse:
- “Now, the top of my head
Has grown this grey hair.
The heavenly messenger has arrived;
It’s time for me to leave home.
30. “Now, I’ve enjoyed the fortunes that are among humans, but I must apply myself to the virtues that ascend to Heaven. I’ll cut off my hair and beard, put on the three-piece Dharma robe, become steadfast in faith, leave home, and train on the path that parts with all manner of pain.”
31. King *Makhādeva then told his first prince, who was named *Dīrghāyu: “Did you know? White hair has grown on my head. I’ve decided to cut off my hair and beard, put on the three-piece Dharma robe, become steadfast in faith, leave home, and train on the path that parts with all manner of pain. You will succeed to my throne and rule with the Dharma. Don’t let anything be forgotten, my instructions be contradicted, or anyone return to the behavior of ordinary people. Why is that? If people contradict my words, then they’ll behave like ordinary people. Ordinary people spend a long time on the three muddy roads dealing with the eight difficulties.”
32. Having entrusted his throne to the prince, King *Makhādeva also bestowed his treasure to his barber. From there, he cut off his hair and beard, put on the three-piece Dharma robe, made his faith steadfast, left home, and trained on the path that parts with all manner of pain. He cultivated the religious life well for 84,000 years and practiced four immeasurable mental states: Kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. When his body died and his life ended, he was born up in the Brahma Heaven.
33. King *Dīrghāyu remembered his father’s instructions and never abandoned them. He ruled with the Dharma without any crookedness. Before ten days had passed, he became the next noble wheel-turning king replete with the seven treasures. Those seven treasures were the wheel treasure, elephant treasure, horse treasure, jewel treasure, beautiful woman treasure, treasurer treasure, and army general treasure. These were the seven treasures. He also had a thousand sons who were courageous and wise. They eliminated all manner of pain in all four directions.
34. Ruling with the former king’s Dharma as described above, King *Dīrghāyu composed this verse:
- “Now, the top of my head
Has grown this grey hair.
The heavenly messenger has arrived;
It’s time for me to leave home.
35. “Now, I’ve enjoyed the fortunes that are among humans, but I must apply myself to the virtues that ascend to Heaven. I’ll cut off my hair and beard, put on the three-piece Dharma robe, become steadfast in faith, leave home, and train on the path that parts with all manner of pain.”
36. King *Dīrghāyu then told his first prince, who was named *Sudarśana: “Did you know? White hair has grown on my head. I’ve decided to cut off my hair and beard, put on the three-piece Dharma robe, become steadfast in faith, leave home, and train on the path that parts with all manner of pain. You will succeed to my throne and rule with the Dharma. Don’t let anything be forgotten, my instructions be contradicted, or anyone return to the behavior of ordinary people. Why is that? If people contradict my words, then they’ll behave like ordinary people. Ordinary people spend a long time on the three muddy roads dealing with the eight difficulties.”
37. King *Dīrghāyu then cultivated the religious life well for 84,000 years and practiced four immeasurable mental states: Kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. When his body died and his life ended, he was born up in the Brahma Heaven.
38. King *Sudarśana remembered his father’s instructions and never abandoned them. He ruled with the Dharma without any crookedness.
39. [Ānanda said:] “Kāśyapa, did you know? That *Makhādeva couldn’t have been another person. Don’t form that view. That king then was Śākyamuni in the present. King *Dīrghāyu is Ānanda now. King *Sudarśana is the monk Uttara now. They always accepted the king’s Dharma, never abandoned it, and didn’t let it come to an end. King *Sudarśana renewed his father’s command to rule with the Dharma and not to end the king’s instructions. Why is that? So that it would be difficult to contradict his father’s teaching.”
40. Venerable Ānanda then spoke in verse:
- “Respecting the Dharma, presenting what’s honored,
Not forgetting to repay past kindness,
And venerating with the three deeds:
These are things valued by the wise.
41. “After contemplating the meaning of this, I entrusted the Ekottarika Āgama with the monk Uttara. Why was that? All the teachings arise from it.”
42. Venerable Ānanda then told Uttara, “When you became a noble wheel-turning king before, you didn’t forget the king’s instructions. Now, you’ve been entrusted again with this Dharma. Don’t forget the correct teaching and don’t behave like ordinary people. Now, you should know that if anyone goes against the Tathāgata’s good teaching, they will fall back to the level of ordinary people. Why is that? At that time, King *Makhādeva hadn’t reached the final level of liberation. He had yet to attain that liberation and reach the place of safety. Although he got the rewards of the Brahma Heaven, he still didn’t reach the final good deeds of the Tathāgata, which is then called the final place of safety. For the happiness that’s infinite and honored by gods and humans, one must attain Nirvāṇa. Therefore, Uttara, you should accept and keep this Dharma. Chant, recite, and read it from memory, and don’t let it be lost.”
43. Ānanda then spoke in verse:
“Because the Dharma will be remembered,
Tathāgatas will arise from it.
The Dharma produces Completely Awakened Ones,
As well as pratyeka buddhas and arhats.
“The Dharma eliminates all manner of pain
And achieves the fruits [of the path].
Remembering the Dharma, not letting it leave one’s mind,
Brings rewards now and in the next life.
“Someone who wants to become a Buddha
Who’s just like Śākyamuni
Should accept and keep the Tripiṭaka Dharma,
Without corrupting a single line.
“Although the Tripiṭaka is hard to retain,
It’s meaning and principles are unending.
You should recite the four Āgamas
Until the path of gods and humans stops.
“Although the Āgamas are hard to recite,
The meaning of the sūtras is inexhaustible.
Don’t let the Vinaya be lost,
For it is the Tathāgata Jewel.
“The Vinaya is also hard to retain,
Just as the Āgamas are.
Safeguarding the Abhidharma
Defeats the tactics of other religions.
“Proclaiming the Abhidharma,
Its meaning is hard to retain, too.
You should recite the [other] three Āgamas,
Don’t lose a sūtra or a line.
“The Sūtras, Abhidharma,
And Vinaya will spread throughout the world.
Gods and humans will obtain and accept them,
And then they’ll be born in safe places.
“If there was no Sūtra Dharma
And no Vinaya precepts either,
We’d be like blind people thrown into darkness.
When would we ever see the light?
“Therefore, I entrust this with you,
Together with the fourfold assembly.
You must keep it, don’t take it lightly,
For it came from Śākyamuni.”
44. When Venerable Ānanda said this, Heaven and Earth shook in six ways. The honored spirits and gods in the sky took heavenly flowers in hand and scattered them over Venerable Ānanda and the fourfold assembly. All the gods, nāgas, yakṣa spirits, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṃnaras, and mahoragas felt joyous and praised him: “Good, Venerable Ānanda! Good! In the beginning, middle, and end, none of your words aren’t good. They revere the Dharma as it should be, and they’re spoken sincerely. There’s nothing achieved by gods and worldly people that doesn’t come from the Dharma. Anyone who does evil will fall to Hell or be born among hungry ghosts and animals.”
45. Venerable Ānanda then roared the lion’s roar for the fourfold assembly, exhorting everyone to put this Dharma into practice. Then, 30,000 gods and humans attained the purification of their Dharma eyes, right there on their seats. The fourfold assembly, gods, and worldly people who heard what the Venerable had taught rejoiced and approved it.
- Śākyamuni. C. 能仁. Lit. “The Humane One.” This was an uncommon translation of Śākyamuni.
Seventh Sage. This refers to the Buddha being the last of a lineage of seven Buddhas. For sources on the topic, see the Mahāvadāna Sūtra and its parallels (DĀ 1, DN 14, EĀ 48.4, and Taisho 2-4).
Unsurpassed law. Ch. 無上軌. Here, S. Dharma has been translated as “law” (軌), which is also the meaning of the usual C. translation (法). [back]
- four immeasurables. C. 四等(心), S. catvāry-apramāṇāni, P. catasso appamaññāyo. Lit. “four thoroughnesses,” this was a translation of the four immeasurables (kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity). These were the subjects of a meditative practice also known as the four abodes of Brahma (S. catvāro brahma-vihārāḥ) because it was considered a way to be born in the Brahma Heaven. [back]
- It’s notable that Ānanda is not criticized as stupid by Mahākāśyapa in this version of events, nor does his being an arhat or not play a part in his qualification as wise or learned. His deprecation in other accounts vs. his praiseworthiness here may well have been later editorializing by sectarian authors, given that the accounts are so different in this regard. [back]
- numberless assembly. Lit. “assembly of 84,000” (C. 八萬四千衆).
liberation. Lit. “liberation of mind” (C. 心解脱).
freed from bondage. I’ve simplified this line for brevity. Lit. “Become fields of merit by freeing themselves from the place of bonds and attachments.” Presumably, these last two lines refer only to the monks and nuns and not all four assemblies. [back]
- for three asaṃkhya eons. C.三阿僧祇. This is an reference to the concept of a long bodhisattva career that spans three “innumerable eons” (S. asaṃkhya kalpa) of past lives. Thus, we see here the influence of jātaka literature, wherein this concept was first developed. [back]
- hero. C. 世雄. Lit. “world hero.” Likely equiv. to S. mahāvīra (“great hero”), which was an epithet of the Buddha, and commonly used for great persons in India. Thus, he was considered the Buddha’s equal.
half seats. C. 半坐. I don’t know the Indic equiv. for this expression, but context seems to indicate they asked for lower or smaller seats than Kāśyapa’s out of deference. [back]
- three pure eyes. C. 三清淨眼. This refers to the physical eye, divine eye, and Dharma eye. The physical eye is the mortal eye made of flesh. The divine eye is the power of clairovoyance possessed by gods. The Dharma eye is a metaphorical vision that comprehends the Dharma directly. [back]
- Ekottarika. C. 増一. Throughout the Introduction, Ekottarika is translated as 増一, which was equiv. to 增壹. I’ve chosen to translate and transliterate this term as “increasing by one” or “Ekottarika” depending on context. Some passages are discussing the method of organizing the sūtras, and others are referring to the Āgama by its title. [back]
- pāramitās. C. 度無極. The Chinese translation appears to interpret S. pāramitā as “crossing” (度, S. pār-) “the limitless” (無極, S. amita). I’ve reverted to the S. for both brevity and clarity. [back]
- chop their hands and feet off. This is probably a reference to a well-known Jātaka tale about an ascetic who was punished for socializing with a jealous king’s women by having his hands and feet amputated. The story is often cited as an illustration of the pāramitā of tolerance, perhaps most famously in the Diamond Sutra (S. Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra) For the original Jātaka story, see e.g. the Khantivadi Jātaka in Pali sources (Jā 313). [back]
- Opposing practices. C. 妨人諸行. Lit. “Opposing a person’s practices.” Also, 諸行 may translate a word related to S. saṃskāra, which could mean “conditioned things” or “mental activity” in general. The four right efforts that are the basic template for this paramita involves disciplining one’s habits generally, so “practices” can refer to mental habits, too. [back]
- breathe in and out. C. 出入息. This would likely be a reference to the mindfulness of breathing practice. [back]
- those freed by faith. C. 信解脱, P. saddhāvimutta. This refers to a level of trainee who has partially destroyed the contaminants and firmly planted their faith in the Tathāgata. Cf. MĀ 195 & MN 70, which discuss the stages of the trainee. This passage is saying that, aside from those who hadn’t achieved liberation or a measure of it, Buddhists had a difficult time accepting the authenticity of bodhisattva practices. [back]
- set out for awakening. C. 發道意. The straightforward reading of this expression is as a translation of S. bodhi-cittopāda. Hirakawa lists possible underlying Indic expressions as S. cittopāda, paribodhita, and bodhaye saṃprastithaḥ. [back]
- land of the Śākya Lion. C. 薩迦尸國 (EMC sat-kă-ʃɪi = G. *Sakaṣi-). My guess is that 薩迦尸 transliterated the equivalent of S. Śākyasiṃha (“the Śākya Lion”), which in extant G. was Śakasiha. I.e., the entire term refers to the Buddha’s homeland (Kapilavastu). This would match the story in EĀ 24.5, which says the Buddha visited his father after converting the Kāśyapa brothers. [back]
- This is the opening of the first sūtra of the Ekottarika Āgama (EĀ 2.1). [back]
- This discribes the contents of Chapters 3 and 4. Kauṇḍinya was the first to understand the four noble truths, and this Subhadra is likely the last to be liberated just before the Buddha parinirvāṇa-ed. [back]
- a mixed piṭaka. C. 雜藏. This translation suggests that the fourth piṭaka in this school’s canon was called S. Saṃyukta rather than S. Kṣudraka. Nonetheless, the description sounds similar to the Theravāda’s Khuddaka Nikāya, containing a Jātaka collection of stories illustrating the Bodhisattva’s practice and other sūtra collections. We are left to wonder what texts specifically were meant by the “expansive Mahāyāna doctrine” (C. 方等大乘義, S. vaipulya mahāyāna artha). We can only guess. [back]
- This last line implies that Ānanda is not yet an arhat after reciting and organizing the sūtras. Other accounts of these events depict a conflict between Mahākāśyapa and Ānanda, the former forcing the latter to finish the task of becoming an arhat before allowing him into the council proceedings. This was apparently one of the many disagreements between the early schools: Whether someone not yet an arhat could possess wisdom or not. Ānanda was the principle example, and Vinaya accounts of the first council were written according to the position taken. Apparently, the author(s) of this account were among the camp that held that a trainee could be wise. [back]
- Paranirmitavaśavartin gods … Nirmāṇarati gods. The Taisho edition has the order of these heavens reversed, which is the result of a single character (他) being moved from one to the other. I’ve corrected the typo in my translation. [back]
- Ekottara. C. 伊倶優多羅 (EMC. i-kɪu ɪəu-ta-la = G. *ekutara). The G. equivalent of S. Ekottarika is attested as G. Ekutariga. The C. transliteration here looks very close to G. Ekutara, so I’ve adopted the S. equivalent as a best guess.
Mukhottara. C. 目伽優多羅 (EMC. mɪuk-k‘ie ɪəu-ta-la = G. *mukhetara). 目伽 most likely transliterates G. mukha, so I’ve adopted the S. equiv. of G. Mukha+utara.
Nagottara. C. 龍優多羅. Here, we have a translation of G. naga (龍) and a transliteration of utara. [back]
- Vidyūttara. Ch. 雷電優多羅 (EMC. ɪəu-ta-la = G. utara). Here, we have a translation of “lightning” and a transliteration of G. utara. I’ve guessed S. Vidyūttara as a likely Indic equivalent.
Devottara. Ch. 天優多羅. Here, we have a translation of Indic deva and transliteration of G. utara. I’ve adopted the S. equivalent of G. deva+utara.
Brahmottara. C. 梵優多羅 (EMC. bɪʌm ɪəu-ta-la = G. Braṃmotara). Here, we have a transliteration of G. braṃma+utara. The equivalent would be S. Brahmottara, which is attested in other contexts. [back]
- Makhādeva. C. 摩訶提婆 (EMC mua-he-dei-bua = G. Mahadeva), P. Makhādeva, S. Mahādeva. The following avadāna story has parallels in other sources. In Pali, it’s found in Jā 541 and MN 83, where the king’s name is Makhādeva rather than Mahādeva, which is found in S. sources. In Chinese sources, the transliteration in both early and late translations is S. Mahādeva, too (cf. MĀ 67, T152 No. 87, and T211 Ch. 38, and EĀ 50.4). This is interesting insofar as the G. dialect transliterated to C. often changed -kh- to -h-. This raises the possibility that the P. tradition has preserved the original Prakrit pronunciation, while later S. sources did not when translated from G. I’ve adopted the P. equivalent based on this. [back]
- Mango Park. C. 甘梨園. We don’t get a full location here, but 甘梨園 was used in T212 for the Amravana of Vaisali, so I assume 甘梨 (lit. “sweet pear”) was intended as an approx. of S. amra (mango). [back]
- rainbow. C. 五色光. Lit. “five-colored light.” [back]
- barber. Ch. 劫比 (MC. kɪʌp-pii = G. *kapi-). I’m reading this transliteration as equivalent to P. kappaka (S. kalpaka), meaning a barber. It would fit the Indic parallels to this jātaka story (cf. Jā 541, MN 83). It is possible that this is a personal name that meant “like a barber” (i.e., G. *Kapika). [back]
- enjoyed. C. 食. Lit. “eaten” or “fed on” (食). [back]
- Dīrghāyu. C. 長壽. Translated lit. as “Long Life Span.” There’s another mythical King Dīrghāyu who played a prominent role in a story told to the Kausambi monks in MĀ 72.
three muddy roads. C. 三塗. This was an alternate translation of S. trividhā durgatiḥ, also translated as the “three unfortunate destinations” (i.e., rebirth among animals, hungry ghosts, and in hell). It was more commonly translated to C. as 三惡趣 (“three bad destinations”).
eight difficulties. C. 八難. This refers to eight situations that prevent sentient beings from achieving liberation. The list varies some from source to source. Four difficulties are not being born among humans (i.e., hell, hungry ghosts, animals, and gods). Four other difficulties involve not encountering the Buddha’s teaching or being unable to practice it. This typically includes things like not being born in a civilized land, not finding a good teacher, not having the capacity to hear or understand it, and living during a time when there is no Buddha. [back]
- From this verse down to the verse spoken by Ānanda, I’ve translated an excerpt appended to the end of fascicle 1 of the Taisho edition (cf. T125.2.553c5-c24). Apparently, a page of Chinese was lost and found again. I’ve put it back in its proper place in this story. [back]
- Sudarśana. C. 善觀. Translated lit. as “Good Observation.” This is an educated guess given the context. S. darśana was often translated as 見, but related terms like 現 were sometimes used. [back]
Translator: Charles Patton
Last Revised: 7 January 2023