The Numerical Discourses
Chapter 3: Broader Explanations
1. Thus I have heard: One time, the Buddha was staying at Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park in Jeta’s Grove of Śrāvastī.
2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the monks, “One should cultivate one thing and disseminate one thing. After cultivating this one thing, they’ll become well known and achieve a great reward and all good and complete attainments. They’ll attain the sweet-tasting dew and arrive at the unconditioned state. They then will achieve spiritual knowledge, dispel their confused ideas, win the fruits of the ascetic, and bring about nirvāṇa themselves. What’s this one thing? It’s called recollecting the Saṅgha.”
3. The Buddha addressed the monks, “How does someone who cultivates the recollection of the Saṅgha become well known, achieve a great reward and all good and complete attainments, attain the sweet-tasting dew, and arrive at the unconditioned state? How do they achieve spiritual knowledge, dispel their confused ideas, win the fruits of the ascetic, and bring about nirvāṇa themselves?”
4. The monks then said to the Bhagavān, “What the Tathāgata says is the source of the teachings. Please, Bhagavān, explain the wonderful meaning of this for the monks. After we hear it from the Tathāgata, the monks will accept and retain it.”
5. The Bhagavān then told the monks, “Listen closely! Listen closely, and consider it well. I will discern this for you in detail.”
They replied, “Yes, Bhagavān.”
6. Once the monks had accepted the teaching, the Bhagavān told them, “Suppose a monk sits cross-legged with correct posture and thought and fixes his attention on what’s in front of him. With no other idea, he focuses on recollecting the Saṅgha.
7. “The Tathāgata’s noble assembly achieves good deeds. They are honest, follow doctrine, and don’t do any wrong deeds. Seniors and juniors are in harmony, and they accomplish the teachings. The Tathāgata’s noble assembly is accomplished in precepts, accomplished in samādhi, and accomplished in wisdom. They’re accomplished in liberation and accomplished in knowing and seeing liberation.
8. “‘Noble assembly’ means the four pairs and eight ranks of people. They are called the Tathāgata’s noble assembly who ought to be respected, served, and paid homage. For what reason? Because they are the world’s field of merit. Those among these assemblies are one and the same vessel, and they liberate other people by liberating themselves with the path of three vehicles. Those who do this work are called the ‘noble assembly.’
9. “This, monks, is how someone who cultivates the recollection of the Saṅgha will become well known, achieve a great reward and all good and complete attainments, attain the sweet-tasting dew, and arrive at the unconditioned state. They’ll achieve spiritual knowledge, dispel their confused ideas, win the fruits of the ascetic, and bring about nirvāṇa themselves.
10. “Therefore, monks, one should constantly recollect the Saṅgha and not part from it. Then, they’ll win these good virtues. Thus, monks, you should train yourselves.”
11. When the monks heard what the Buddha taught, they rejoiced and approved.
- great reward. The C. here reads “great virtue” (大功徳), which is inconsistent with the introduction of the rest of his chapter’s sūtras. I’ve ignored it as a translation or editing error. [back]
- four pairs and eight ranks. C. 四雙八輩, P. cattāri purisayugāni aṭṭha purisapuggalā. This expression is not explicitly explained in the Ekottarika Āgama, but the usual understanding in other early Buddhist sources is this: The four pairs refers to people in the process of entering the stream, and those who have entered it, and so on for once-returners, non-returners, and arhats. Altogether, they make eight ranked levels of awakening. The expressions “four pairs” and “eight ranks” refer to this same list, counted in different ways (cf. the expanded passage found in DĀ 5). [back]
Translator: Charles Patton
Last Revised: 11 March 2023