Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Numerical Discourses

Chapter 12: The Single Entry Path

6. Senior Years

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was staying at the Kalanda Bamboo Grove of Rājagṛha. He was accompanied by a large group of five hundred monks.

2. At the time, Venerable Mahākāśyapa was living as a forest-dweller. When the time came, he solicited alms without distinguishing between the rich or the poor. He dwelled in one place for one sitting and never moved from it. He sat under trees, on open ground, or in uninhabited places. He wore the five-piece robe, and sometimes kept three garments. Sometimes, he stayed in charnel grounds. Sometimes, he took a single meal, sometimes he ate at midday, and sometimes he practiced the ascetic way, far into his senior years.

3. After he ate, Venerable Mahākāśyapa went to meditate under a tree. After meditating, he rose from his seat, adjusted his robe, and went over to the Bhagavān.

4. When he saw Kāśyapa coming from afar, the Bhagavān said, “Welcome, Kāśyapa!” Kāśyapa then went up to the Bhagavān, bowed his head at his feet, and sat to one side.

5. The Bhagavan then said, “Kāśyapa, you’re in your senior years now, and your ambition is flagging. You may abandon soliciting alms … practicing the ascetic way. You may accept the invitations and clothing offered by householders, too.”

6. Kāśyapa replied, “I’m not going to accept this instruction from the Tathāgata. Why is that? If I do as the Tathāgata says, I won’t acheive the supreme and correct awakening. I would instead become a solitary buddha. Even so, all the solitary buddhas practice forest-dwelling. When the time comes, they solicit alms without distinguishing between the rich or the poor. They dwell in one place for one sitting and never move from it. They sit under trees, on open ground, or in uninhabited places. They wear the five-piece robe and keep three garments. Sometimes, they stay in charnel grounds. Sometimes, they take a single meal, sometimes they eat at midday, and sometimes they practice the ascetic way. As I don’t dare abandon my original training, I’ll train in those other practices, too.”

7. The Bhagavān told him, “Good, Kāśyapa! Good! The many benefits of a liberated person are measureless and broad, and then all the gods and people can be liberated. Why is that? Kāśyapa, if these ascetic practices exist in the world, then my Dharma will also exist in the world for a long time. If the Dharma exists in the world, it will bless others with the road to Heaven, and the three bad destinies will dwindle. People will become stream-enterers, once-returners, and non-returners, and the path of the three vehicles will survive in the world.

8. “Therefore, monks, you should learn the way Kāśyapa trains. Thus, monks, you should train yourselves.”

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


  1. This sūtra is directly parallel to SN 16.5, SĀ 41.6 (1141), and T100.116. The most notable difference here is that it presents twelve ascetic practices as a training regimen practiced by pratyeka buddhas. There’s also mention of the three vehicles. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 30 June 2023