The Numerical Discourses
Chapter 3: Broader Explanations
4. The Precepts
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 precepts.”
3. The Buddha addressed the monks, “How does someone who cultivates the recollection of the precepts 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 fruit 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 precepts.
7. “‘The precepts’ refers to the precepts that make it possible to achieve the path by stopping evil deeds and causing people to rejoice. The precepts are a jeweled body because they make many beautiful things appear. The rules and precepts are like a fortune vase that provides what one wishes, for the factors of the path are derived from acccomplishing the precepts.
8. “This is how someone who cultivates the recollection of the precepts 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.
9. “Therefore, monks, one should constantly recollect the precepts and not part from it. Then, they’ll win these good virtues. Thus, monks, you should train yourselves.”
10. When the monks heard what the Buddha taught, they rejoiced and approved.
- fortune vase that provides what one wishes. C. 吉祥瓶所願便剋. “Fortune vase” (吉祥瓶) seems to reference a magic container that produces whatever one wants. The commentary gives us more context for this passage (at T1507.25.38b): “If one wants to end their bondage and seek awakening, they should focus on that wish. It’s like a fortune vase: Whatever a person wants, they [reach in] and get it” (若欲斷結求道，所願應意。猶吉祥瓶：隨人所欲，取即得之). This reference to a magic container appears again in EĀ 10.4 where it’s a metaphor for benefactors who give whatever is needed. [back]
- This is how … well known. C. 如是，比丘，行禁戒者. The Taisho edition appears to be corrupt, for it omits mention of a recollection or becoming well known. Lit., it reads: “Thus, monks, someone who practices the precepts achieves a great reward … .” I’ve translated the passage assuming that the original followed the format of the first three sūtras in this chapter (i.e., 「是謂，諸比丘，若念戒者便有名譽⋯」). [back]
Translator: Charles Patton
Last Revised: 11 March 2023