Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Numerical Discourses

Chapter 13: Profit

7. Śakra the Lord of Gods

1. Thus I have heard: One time, the Buddha was staying on Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa near Rājagṛha. He was accompanied by a large assembly of five hundred monks. At the time, Venerable Subhūti was also staying on the side of Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa near Rājagṛha. He had built a separate hut where he sat in meditation.

2. Venerable Subhūti then experienced physical pain that became a serious burden, and he thought, “What is producing these painful feelings of mine? What would cease them? Where would they go?” Venerable Subhūti then prepared a seat out in the open. He sat there cross-legged with upright body, proper mindfulness, and focused mind. He contemplated the senses in order to impede his painful feelings.

3. Then, Śakra the Lord of Gods knew what Venerable Subhūti was thinking. He gave Pañcaśikha[1] this order using verse:

Pañcaśikha replied, “Yes, sir!”

4. Śakra the Lord of Gods then led five hundred gods and Pañcaśikha as they disappeared from the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven and arrived on Vulture’s Peak in the time it takes for a strong man to flex his arm. They were not very far from Venerable Subhūti. Again, he addressed Pañcaśikha in verse:

5. Pañcaśikha said, “Okay.” After hearing what Śakra had said, he took his beryl lute and stood in front of Subhūti. Then, he extolled Subhūti with these verses:

6. Then, Venerable Subhūti rose from his seat and praised Pañcaśikha, “Good, Pañcaśikha! Your voice combines with your lute and your lute combines with your voice, so that there’s no difference between them. Indeed, the sound of your lute isn’t separate from the sound of your song, and the sound of your song isn’t separate from the sound of your lute. The two things merge together to become a sublime sound.”

7. Śakra the Lord of Gods then went up to Venerable Subhūti, bowed his head at his feet, and sat to one side. Śakra then said to Subhūti, “How does the pain that Subhūti is suffering increase or decrease? What has given rise to this physical ailement now? Is it born from the body, or is it from the mind?”

8. Venerable Subhūti then said to Śakra the Lord of Gods, “Good, Kauśika! One thing arises from another, and one thing ceases from another.[3] One thing disturbs another, and one thing stills another. Kausika, it’s like one bitter medicine that also harms another bitter medicine. Lord of the Gods, this is likewise. One thing agitates another, and one thing is stilled by another. One thing can give rise to another, and one thing can cease another.[4] Something black counteracts something white, and something white counteracts something black. Lord of Gods, the sickness of greed is counteracted by impurity. The sickness of anger is counteracted by kindness. The sickness of delusion is counteracted by wisdom.

9. “In this way, Śakra the Lord of Gods, all that exists returns to emptiness, selflessness, impersonality, absence of a life span, absence of life, absence of a worthy, absence of a man, shapelessness, imagelessness, and absence of male or female. Śakra, it’s like the wind destroying a large tree by stripping off its leaves and limbs. It’s like a hail storm destroying crops, flowers, and fruit. It’s like new sprouts dying without water. When the heavens open, the rain allows those new crops to survive.

10. “In this way, Lord of Gods, one thing agitates another, and one thing is settled by another. The source of my suffering, pain, and misery today has been removed, so I’ll not suffer from it again.”

11. Śakra the Lord of Gods then said to Subhūti, “I also have sorrow, lamentation, pain, and trouble. Now that I’ve heard this Dharma, I won’t have any more sorrow and lamentation. The problems of my assembly are many, so I’m going to go back up to Heaven. My own personal duties and the problems among the gods are all quite numerous.”

12. Subhūti then said, “Now is a good time. Now is the right time to go.” Śakra the Lord of Gods then rose from his seat, bowed in front of Subhūti’s feet, circled him three times, and departed.

13. Venerable Subhūti then spoke this verse:

14. When Śakra the Lord of Gods heard what Venerable Subhūti taught, he rejoiced and approved.

Summary Verse


  1. Pañcaśikha. C. 波遮旬 (EMC. pua-tʃɪă-ziuĕn = G. *pacasun[-?] = S. pañcaśikha?). My best guess, given the context, is that this was a name equivalent to S. Pañcaśikha. The pronunciation of the C. translit. doesn’t match it very well, so it may have been an unknown Prakrit variant. [back]
  2. Subhūti. C. 善業. Here and in a couple passages below, S. subhūti has been translated to “Good Deed” or “Good Work.” In S., the name generally means “well-being” or “welfare.” It’s of interest to note that the G. pronunciation of Subhūti would’ve been suhuti at times because the language weakened consonants like -bh-. S. -hūti means “invocation” or “calling.” If 業 were read as “profession” this might align with “calling,” but it seems like a stretch. [back]
  3. One thing arises from another, and one thing ceases from another. C. 法法自生,法法自滅. Or perhaps: “One thing and another arise of themselves, and one thing and another cease of themselves.” I favor reading 自 as a preposition meaning “from,” which accords better with the traditional dependent origination description (“this arises and then that arises”). [back]
  4. One thing can give rise to another, and one thing can cease another. C. 法能生法. I’ve adopted the alternate reading which adds 法能滅法 after 法能生法 in the Taisho since the rest of the passage uses pairs of opposites throughout. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 25 July 2023