Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Numerical Discourses

Chapter 9: The Only Son

1. The Laywoman

1. Thus I have heard:[1] 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, “Take the example of a mother who holds her only son dear and devotes herself to him. She often thinks, ‘How should I instruct him so that he’ll become a man?’”

3. The monks then said, “Bhagavān, we don’t understand the meaning of this. The Bhagavān is the source of the teachings. The Tathāgata’s words are never unacceptable. Please, Bhagavān, give the monks a discourse about this profound principle. Having heard it, we’ll approve of it.”

4. The Bhagavān then told the monks, “Listen closely! Listen closely, and consider it well. I will discern the meaning of this for you.”

The monks replied, “Yes, Bhagavān.” Then, they accepted the teaching from the Buddha.

5. The Bhagavān told them, “That laywoman who holds her son dear and is devoted to him gives him this instruction, ‘While you’re living at home, you should be like the elder Citra or the youth Hastaka. Why is that? They are your standard; they are your measure. The Bhagavān accepted the realization of these disciples, the elder Citra and youth Hastaka.’ If that young man wants to cut off his hair and beard, put on the three Dharma robes, leave home, and train on the path, he should be like the monks Śāriputra or Maudgalyāyana. Why is that? Then, the monks Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana would be his standard; they would be his measure.

6. “Love training in the correct Dharma, don’t do wrong deeds, and don’t be roused by what’s not Dharma. If you produce defiled ideas here, then you’ll fall into the three bad destinies. When you’re mindful and focused, you’ll attain what you haven’t attained, acquire what you haven’t acquired, and realize in the present what you have yet to realize. Why is that? Monks, the honor of a faithful gift that can’t actually be digested will prevent a person from attaining awakening.

7. “Therefore, monks, don’t allow defiled ideas to arise. If they’ve already arisen, you must cease them. Thus, monks, you should train yourselves.”

9. When the monks heard what the Buddha taught, they rejoiced and approved.


  1. This sūtra is parallel to SN 17.23. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 15 February 2023