Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Numerical Discourses

Chapter 24: Tall Flag

5. Miraculous Transformations

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was sitting under the bodhi tree when he first became a Buddha.

Who to Teach First

2. It was then that the Bhagavān had this thought, “Now, I have attained this profound teaching that’s hard to understand, hard to comprehend, hard to realize, and hard to know. It’s an extremely subtle and sublime knowledge [618b] that I’ve realized and known. Now, to whom will I explain this teaching first? Who’ll understand this teaching of mine?”

3. The Bhagavān then thought, “Āḷāra Kālāma’s faculties are fully matured. He should be the first to be liberated. He had helped me come into possession this teaching, too.”

4. After he had that thought, there was a god in the sky that said to the Bhagavān, “Āḷāra Kālāma died seven days ago.”

5. The Bhagavān again had this thought, “How terrible for him! He didn’t hear my teaching, but he reached the end of his life. If he had heard my teaching, he would have been liberated immediately.”

6. The Bhagavān again had this thought, “To whom will I explain this teaching first? Who can I liberate? Now, Udraka Rāmaputra should be the first I share this teaching with. After he hears my teaching, he’ll be the first to be liberated.”

7. When the Bhagavān had that thought, a god in the sky told him, “Just last night, he reached the end of his life.”

8. The Bhagavān then thought, “How terrible for Udraka Rāmaputra! He didn’t to hear my teaching, but he reached the end of his life. If he had heard my teaching, he would have been liberated immediately.”

9. The Bhagavān then thought, “Who’ll be the first to hear this teaching and attain liberation?” The Bhagavān then seriously contemplated this: “The five monks were of great help to me. They had followed me since I was first born.”

10. Again, he thought, “Where are those five monks living now?” He then used his heavenly eye to observe the five monks, who were residing at Ṛṣipatana in the deer preserve of Bārāṇasī. “I’ll go there now, and they’ll be the first to whom I explain this teaching. After they hear my teaching, they’ll be liberated.”

Seven Days at the Bodhi Tree

11. The Bhagavān spent seven days looking at the bodhi tree, and his eyes never closed. He then spoke these verses:

12. After the Bhagavān said these verses, he then rose from his seat and set out for [618c] Bārāṇasī.

The Ascetic Upaka

13. It was then that the ascetic Upaka saw the Bhagavān from afar. His glowing form was clear and bright, blotting out the light of the sun and moon. Upon seeing him, Upaka said to the Bhagavān, “Gautama, where does your teacher reside? On whom do you base your homeless religious training? What teaching do you always discuss with delight? Where are you coming from? Where are you going?”

14. The Bhagavān then spoke these verses to that ascetic:

15. That ascetic mockingly bowed his head and put his palms together. He then snapped his fingers with a smile, set out on the road, and departed.

Converting the Five Monks

16. The Bhagavān went on to Bārāṇasī. When the five monks saw the Bhagavān coming from afar, they held a discussion about him. “There is the ascetic Gautama coming in the distance. He has a confused disposition, and his mind isn’t focused. We shouldn’t speak with him again. Don’t get up to look at him or ask him to sit.”

17. Those five monks then spoke this verse:

18. After the five monks spoke these verses, they all fell silent. When the Bhagavān arrived, he slowly approached the five monks. They got up to watch him come. Some of them prepared a seat; others fetched water. The Bhagavān then took the seat that was ready in front of them, and he thought, “These foolish men aren’t capable of keeping to their own restrictions.”

19. The five monks then called the Bhagavān “Friend,” and he told the five monks, “Don’t say ‘friend’ to an unsurpassed Tathāgata, a completely and correctly awakened one. [619a] Why is that? I’m an unsurpassed arhat, a completely and correctly awakened one who has gained the good of immortality. You should focus your thoughts and listen to my teaching.”

20. The five monks then said to the Bhagavān, “Gautama, when you practiced asceticism before, you still weren’t able to attain the state of a superior man. How could someone whose thinking is confused say today that he has attained awakening?”

21. The Bhagavān told them, “How is it, five monks? Have you ever heard me tell a lie before?”

The five monks said, “No, Gautama.”

22. The Bhagavān told them, “The Tathāgata, the completely and correctly awakened one, has attained immortality. You should focus your minds and listen to my teaching.” The Bhagavān then thought, “Now I’m capable of training these five men.”

Turning the Dharma Wheel

23. The Bhagavān then told the five monks, “You should know, there are these four truths. What are the four? The truth of suffering, truth of suffering’s accumulation, truth of suffering’s end, and the truth of suffering’s escape.

24. “What’s called the truth of suffering? It’s the suffering of birth, suffering of old age, suffering of illness, suffering of death, suffering of sorrow, and suffering of grief, which cannot be described. It’s also the suffering of association with what’s disliked, suffering of separation from what’s liked, and the suffering of not getting what’s desired. Essentially speaking, it’s the suffering of the five proliferating aggregates. This is called the truth of suffering.

25. “What’s the truth of suffering’s accumulation? It’s the factors of acquiring and craving. When accumulating tirelessly, the mind constantly covets and attaches to them. This is called the truth of suffering’s accumulation.

26. “What’s the truth of suffering’s end? It’s possible to make that craving cease and end without remainder so that it doesn’t arise anymore. This is called the truth of suffering’s end.

27. “What is that truth of suffering’s escape? It’s the noble eightfold path, which is right view, right control, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right method, right mindfulness, and right concentration. This is called the teaching of the four truths.

28. “Moreover, five monks: In this teaching of the four truths, the truth of suffering is a teaching never heard before that gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, awakening, light, and wisdom. Furthermore, the truth of suffering is real, certain, neither fake nor false, and doesn’t ever change. It’s taught by the Bhagavān; therefore, it’s called the truth of suffering.

29. “The truth of suffering’s accumulation is a teaching never heard before that gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, awakening, light, and wisdom. Furthermore, the truth of suffering’s accumulation is real, certain, neither fake nor false, and doesn’t ever change. It’s taught by the Bhagavān; therefore, it’s called the truth of suffering’s accumulation.

30. “The truth of suffering’s end is a teaching never heard before that gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, awakening, light, and wisdom. Furthermore, the truth of suffering’s end is real, certain, neither fake nor false, and doesn’t ever change. It’s taught by the Bhagavān; therefore, it’s called the truth of suffering’s end.

31. “The truth of suffering’s escape is a teaching never heard before that gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, awakening, [619b] light, and wisdom. Furthermore, the truth of suffering’s escape is real, certain, and neither fake nor false, and it doesn’t ever change. It’s taught by the Bhagavān; therefore, it’s called the truth of suffering’s escape.

32. “Five monks, you should know that these are the three turnings and 12 steps of the four truths. Someone who doesn’t know them as they really are doesn’t achieve the unsurpassed, correct, and complete awakening. It was by discerning these four truths in three turnings and 12 steps and knowing them as they really are that I achieved the unsurpassed, correct, and complete awakening.”

33. Once he had explained this teaching, Ajñāta Kauṇḍinya’s dust and defilements were gone, and he attained the purification of the Dharma eye.

34. The Bhagavān then addressed Kauṇḍinya, “Have you grasped and attained the teaching now?”

Kauṇḍinya replied, “So it is, Bhagavān! I’ve attained and grasped the teaching.”

35. After hearing this discourse, the spirit of the earth called out, “The Tathāgata has turned the Dharma wheel while staying in Bārāṇasī. None of the gods, worldly people, and demons or the god Māra, humans, and non-humans could turn it, but today the Tathāgata has turned the Dharma wheel. Ajñāta Kauṇḍinya has also attained the teaching of immortality!”

36. The four god kings then heard the earth spirit’s call and passed it on: “Ajñāta Kauṇḍinya has attained the teaching of immortality!”

37. The Trāyastriṃśa gods also heard it from the four god kings … the Yama gods heard it from the Trāyastriṃśa gods … the Tuṣita gods in turn heard the call … the Brahma gods also heard the call: “The Tathāgata has turned the Dharma wheel while staying in Bārāṇasī. None of the gods, worldly people, and demons or the god Māra, humans, and non-humans could turn it, but today the Tathāgata has turned the Dharma wheel. Ajñāta Kauṇḍinya has also attained the teaching of immortality!” It was then that he was named Ajñāta Kauṇḍinya.

Teaching the Five Monks

38. It was then that the Bhagavān told the five monks, “The two of you stay here and receive instruction, and you three go and solicit alms. When the three of you have gotten alms, then the six of us will share a meal. You three then will stay to receive instruction, and you two go to solicit alms. When the two of you have gotten alms, the six of us will take our meal.”

39. He instructed them for a time, and they achieved the birthless quality of Nirvāṇa, and they became birthless, healthy, ageless, and deathless. The five monks then all became arhats. At that point, there were five arhats, and the Buddha was a sixth in the three thousand great thousand lands.

40. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the five monks, “All of you go together to solicit alms from people. Be heedful, and don’t go alone. When there are sentient beings whose faculties are fully mature, they should be liberated. I’m going to Uruvilvā to explain the teaching there.”

Taming the Evil Serpent

41. The Bhagavān then went to the region of Uruvilvā. Kāśyapa was living near there on the shore of the Nairañjanā River. [619c] He knew astronomy and geography, and there was nothing he couldn’t comprehend. He even knew how to calculate the number of tree leaves that there were. He led 500 disciples, whom he instructed daily. Not far away from Kāśyapa, there was a cave where a poisonous serpent lived.

42. It was then that the Bhagavān visited Kāśyapa. When he arrived, he said to Kāśyapa, “I’d like to stay for the night in the cave. If you would permit me, I’ll go there to stay.”

Kāśyapa replied, “I don’t care about it, but there is a poisonous serpent there that’s frightful and dangerous.”

43. The Bhagavān told him, “Kāśyapa, that’s no problem. That serpent won’t hurt me. I just need permission to stay there for the night.”

Kāśyapa replied, “If you want to stay there, then do as you like.”

44. The Bhagavān then went to the cave and prepared a seat for the night. Sitting down cross-legged with upright body and mind, he fixed his attention to what was in front of him. The poisonous serpent saw the Bhagavān sitting there and spat flaming venom at him. The Bhagavān at that moment had entered a concentration of kindness. He emerged from that concentration of kindness and entered a concentration of blazing light. The serpent’s fire and the Buddha’s light met at the same time.

45. Kāśyapa got up that night to look up at the stars, and he saw the light of a large fire in the cave. Seeing that, he told a disciple, “This ascetic Gautama is handsome looking, but now he is being killed by that serpent. What a pity! I told him earlier that it was there. ‘There’s an evil serpent; you can’t stay the night there.’” Kāśyapa then told his 500 disciples, “Get pitchers of water and high ladders and go douse that fire! Save that ascetic from this danger!”

46. Kāśyapa then led his 500 disciples to the cave to put out the fire. Some of them carried water and others brought ladders, but they weren’t able to put out the fire. It was the Bhagavān’s power that made it happen. The Bhagavān then entered the concentration of kindness and slowly made that serpent stop being hateful. The evil serpent’s mind then became fearful. It ran east and west, trying to leave the cave, but it wasn’t able to find the exit. The evil serpent then went up to the Tathāgata and coiled up in his alms bowl.

47. The Bhagavān stroked the evil serpent’s body with his right hand and spoke these verses:

48. The evil serpent then stuck out its tongue, licked the Tathāgata’s hand, and looked up at his face.

49. Early the next morning, the Bhagavān carried the evil serpent in his hand and went to Kāśyapa. He said to Kāśyapa, “Here is the evil serpent that’s so dangerous. I’ve tamed it.”

50. When he saw the evil serpent, Kāśyapa was terrified and said to the Bhagavān, “Stop! Stop, ascetic! Don’t come any closer! That serpent looks ready to strike!”

The Bhagavān said, “Kāśyapa, don’t be afraid. I’ve tamed it. It’ll never harm anyone. The reason is that this serpent has accepted my instruction.”

51. Kāśyapa and his 500 disciples then praised this unprecedented thing. “Amazing! Extraordinary! This ascetic Gautama has such miraculous power; he can tame this evil serpent and make it do no evil. Even so, it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

52. Kāśyapa said to the Bhagavān, “Great ascetic, will you accept my invitation to stay for 90 days? I’ll supply you with all the clothes, food, seats, bedding, and medicines that you’ll need.”

The Bhagavān then silently accepted Kāśyapa’s invitation.

53. The Bhagavān released that magical serpent into the ocean, and that evil serpent lived a short time longer. After its life ended, it was born up in the heaven of the four god kings. The Tathāgata then returned to the cave to stay.

Miraculous Gifts

54. Kāśyapa arranged for a variety of foods to be provided, and then went and said to the Bhagavān, “A meal is ready; you can go eat.”

The Bhagavān told him, “Kāśyapa, you go first; I’ll be right behind you.” After Kāśyapa left, he went to the top of Jambudvīpa and picked a Jambu fruit from under the Jambu tree there. He then returned to sit in the cave before Kāśyapa arrived.

55. When he saw the Bhagavān there in the cave, Kāśyapa said to him, “Ascetic, what path did you take to come to this cave?”

The Buddha [620b] told Kāśyapa, “After you left, I went to the top of Jambudvīpa and picked a Jambu fruit from under the Jambu tree. I then returned to sit here. Kāśyapa, you should know that this fruit is fragrant. You can take it for your meal.”

56. Kāśyapa replied, “I don’t need it. Ascetic, take it for your own meal.” Then Kāśyapa again thought, “This ascetic has such miraculous abilities; he’s quite powerful. He’s even able to go to the top of Jambudvīpa and pick this delicious fruit. Even so, it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

57. After he had eaten, the Bhagavān returned to his place for the night.

58. Early in the morning, Kāśyapa went to the Buddha and said to him, “Mealtime has arrived; you can go eat.”

The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “You go first; I’ll go later.” After Kāśyapa left, he went to the top of Jambudvīpa and picked an amla fruit. He then returned to sit in the cave before Kāśyapa arrived.

59. Kāśyapa said to the Bhagavān, “Ascetic, what path did you take to get here?”

The Bhagavān told him, “After you left, I went to the top of Jambudvīpa, picked this fruit, and came back. It’s very fragrant. If you need it, you can have it to eat.”

60. Kāśyapa replied, “I don’t need it. Ascetic, take it for your own meal.”

Then Kāśyapa again thought, “This ascetic has such miraculous abilities; he’s quite powerful. After I left, he picked this fruit and came back. Even so, it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

61. After he had eaten, the Bhagavān returned to his place for the night.

62. The next day, Kāśyapa went to the Bhagavān and said, “Mealtime has arrived; you can go eat.”

The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “You go first; I’ll go later.” After Kāśyapa had left, the Bhagavān went north to Uttarakuru, took some naturally cooked rice and came back. He returned to the cave before Kāśyapa arrived.

63. Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Ascetic, what path did you take to come and sit here?”

The Bhagavān told him, “Kāśyapa, you should know that after you left, I went to Uttarakuru and brought back some naturally cooked rice. It’s very fragrant. Kāśyapa, if you need it, you can have it to eat.”

64. Kāśyapa replied, “I don’t need it. Ascetic, take it for your own meal.” Kāśyapa again thought, “This ascetic has such miraculous abilities; he’s quite powerful. Even so, it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

65. After he had eaten, the Bhagavān returned to his place for the night.

66. The next day, Kāśyapa went to the Bhagavān and said, “Mealtime has arrived; you can go eat.”

The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “You go first; I’ll go later.” After Kāśyapa left, the Bhagavān went to Godānīya, [620c] picked a black myrobalan fruit, and returned to sit in the cave before Kāśyapa arrived.

67. Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Ascetic, what path did you take to come and sit here?”

The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “After you left, I went to Godānīya and brought back this fruit. It’s very fragrant. Kāśyapa, if you need it, you can take it to eat.”

68. Kāśyapa replied, “I don’t need it. Ascetic, take it for your own meal.” Kāśyapa again thought, “This ascetic has such miraculous abilities; he’s quite powerful. Even so, it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

69. After he had eaten, the Bhagavān then returned to his place for the night.

70. The next day, Kāśyapa went to the Bhagavān and said, “The time has arrived; you can go eat.”

The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “You go first; I’ll go later.” After Kāśyapa left, the Bhagavān went to Pūrvavideha, picked a bahera myrobalan fruit, and returned to sit in the cave before Kāśyapa arrived.

71. Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Ascetic, what path did you take to come and sit here?”

The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “After you left, I went to Pūrvavideha and brought back this fruit. It’s very fragrant. Kāśyapa, if you need it, you can take it to eat.”

72. Kāśyapa replied, “I don’t need it. Ascetic, take it for your own meal.” Kāśyapa again thought, “This ascetic has such miraculous abilities; he’s quite powerful. Even so, it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

73. After he had eaten, the Bhagavān returned to his place for the night.

The Ceremonial Fire

74. Kāśyapa then was going to perform a large sacrifice. His 500 disciples held axes to chop firewood, but once they had lifted the axes in their hands, the axes wouldn’t go down. Kāśyapa thought, “Surely, this is that ascetic’s doing.” Kāśyapa then asked the Bhagavān, “We would like to chop firewood. Why won’t the axes go down?”

The Bhagavān asked, “You would like the axes to go down?”

“We would like them to go down.” The axes immediately dropped.

75. After the axes had gone down, they couldn’t lift them again. Kāśyapa again asked the Buddha, “Why won’t the axes go up?”

The Bhagavān asked him, “You would like the axes to go up?”

“We would like them to go up.” The axes immediately rose up.

76. Kāśyapa’s disciples then went to start the fire, but the fire wouldn’t light. Kāśyapa again thought, “Surely, this is the ascetic Gautama’s doing.” Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “Why won’t the fire light?”

The Buddha asked Kāśyapa, “You would like to light the fire?”

“We would like to light it.” The fire immediately started.

77. They then went to douse the fire, but the fire wouldn’t go out. Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Why won’t the fire go out?”

The Buddha asked, “You would like the fire to go out?”

“We would like it to go out.” The fire immediately went out.

78. Kāśyapa then thought, “This ascetic Gautama has a handsome countenance; [621a] it’s extraordinary for this world. Tomorrow, I’m going to perform a large sacrifice, so the king and the people will come and gather. If they see this ascetic, I won’t get their offerings anymore. It would be a great fortune if that ascetic doesn’t come tomorrow.”

79. Knowing that thought in Kāśyapa’s mind, the Bhagavān went to Uttarakuru the next day early in the morning. He took some naturally cooked rice there, went to Godānīya to get milk, and then went to Lake Anavatapta to eat. At the end of the day, he returned to the cave at sunset to spend the night.

80. The next day, Kāśyapa went to the Bhagavān and asked, “Ascetic, why didn’t you come yesterday?”

The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Yesterday, you had the thought, ‘This ascetic Gautama has a handsome countenance; it’s extraordinary for this world. Tomorrow will be my large sacrifice. If the king and the people see him, they’ll stop supporting me. It would be a great fortune if that ascetic doesn’t come tomorrow.’ I immediately knew that thought in your mind, so I went to Uttarakuru to get some naturally cooked rice, went to Godānīya for milk, and then went to Lake Anavatapta to eat. At the end of the day, I returned to the cave at sunset to spend the night.”

81. Kāśyapa again had this thought, “This ascetic has such miraculous abilities; he’s quite powerful. Even so, it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

The Gods Visit the Bhagavān

82. After the Bhagavān had eaten, he returned to the cave for the night. That night, the four god kings visited the Bhagavān and listened to the sūtra teachings. The four god kings were radiant, and the Buddha also emitted a great radiance. They illuminated the mountain forest, which blazed with a single color.

83. Kāśyapa saw their radiance that night, so he went to the Bhagavān the next day. Upon arriving, he said, “What was so radiant that it illuminated the mountain forest last night?”

The Bhagavān told him, “The four god kings came to visit me and listened to the teaching. It was the radiance of those four god kings.”

84. Kāśyapa again had the thought, “This ascetic Gautama has such miraculous abilities, he even makes the four god kings come to listen to the sūtra teachings. Even though he has this power, it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

85. After the Bhagavān had eaten, he returned to the cave for the night. In the middle of the night, Śakra, lord of the gods, visited the Bhagavān to listen to the teachings. The lord of the gods’ radiance also illuminated the mountain.

86. That night, Kāśyapa got up and looked at the stars, and he saw this radiance. Early the next morning, he went to the Bhagavān and asked, “Gautama, what was that extraordinary radiance last night? What were the causes and conditions for it?”

The Bhagavān told him, “Last night, the lord of the gods [621b] visited me to listen to the sūtras, so it was just his radiance.”

87. Kāśyapa again had the thought, “This ascetic Gautama has such miraculous abilities; he’s quite powerful. He can even make the lord of the gods visit him to listen to the sūtra teachings. Even so, it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

88. After the Bhagavān had eaten, he returned to the cave for the night. In the middle of the night, the god king Brahmā emitted a great radiance that illuminated the mountain as he visited the Bhagavān and listened to the sūtra teachings.

89. That night, Kāśyapa got up and saw the radiance, so the next day he went to the Bhagavān and asked, “Last night, there was a radiance that illuminated twice as much as before. It was brighter than the sun and moon! What were the causes and conditions for it?”

The Bhagavān told him, “Kāśyapa, you should know that last night the great god king Brahmā visited me to listen to the sūtra teachings.”

90. Kāśyapa again thought, “This ascetic Gautama has such miraculous ability. This ascetic can even make our ancestral father visit him to listen to the sūtra teachings. Even so, it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

Washing the Bhagavān’s Robes

91. The Bhagavān obtained a fivefold robe that was in tatters, and he thought about washing it. He then thought, “Where will I go to wash this robe?”

Śakra, lord of the gods, then knew that thought in the Bhagavān’s mind. He magically created a bathing pool and said to the Bhagavān, “You can wash your robes there.”

92. The Bhagavān again had the thought, “Where will I lay out the robe to wash it?”

The four god kings then knew that thought in the Bhagavān’s mind, so they presented a large, square stone to him, putting it next to the water. They said to the Bhagavān, “You can lay out your robes here.”

93. The Bhagavān had another thought, “Where will I hang these robes to dry?” A tree spirit knew that thought in the Bhagavān’s mind, so it lowered a tree limb. It said to the Bhagavān, “Please dry your robes here.”

94. The next morning, Kāśyapa went to the Bhagavān and asked him, “There wasn’t a pool here before, but now here’s this pool. There wasn’t this tree before, but now here’s this tree. There wasn’t a stone here before, but now here’s this stone. What causes and conditions has brought these things into being?”

The Bhagavān told him, “Last night, Śakra, lord of the gods, knew that I wanted to wash my robes, so he created this bathing pool. I then had the thought, ‘Where will I lay out my robes to wash them?’ The four god kings knew that thought in my mind, and they brought me this stone. I also thought, ‘Where will I hang up these robes to dry?’ A tree spirit knew that thought in my mind, so it lowered this tree limb.”

95. Kāśyapa again thought, “This ascetic Gautama may be miraculous, [621c] but it’s not the same as the truth that I’ve attained.”

Walking on Water

96. After the Bhagavān had eaten, he returned to his place for the night. In the middle of the night, a large, black cloud appeared, and it brought a great rainstorm. The great Nairañjanā River became a raging torrent. Kāśyapa thought, “The river is a raging torrent. Surely that ascetic will be swept away! I’ll go look for him now!”

97. Kāśyapa and his 500 disciples went to river, and there was the Bhagavān walking on top of the water, and his legs weren’t wet. When Kāśyapa saw the Bhagavān walking on the water from afar, he thought, “Amazing! Extraordinary! The ascetic Gautama can walk on water. I’m able to walk on water, too, but I’m not able to keep my legs from getting wet. Despite this ascetic’s miracles, it’s not the same as the truth I’ve attained.”

The Conversion of Uruvilvā Kāśyapa

98. The Bhagavān said to Kāśyapa, “You are still not an arhat, and you don’t know the awakening of an arhat. You aren’t even aware of the name ‘arhat,’ so how could you attain that awakening? You are a blind man without eyes to see. The Tathāgata has performed so many miracles, yet you say, ‘It’s not the same as the truth I’ve attained.’ You say, ‘I’m able to walk on water.’ Now is the right time. Can you walk on water with me? You can abandon the wrong views in your mind now. Nothing will cause you to experience this suffering for long.”

99. When he heard what the Bhagavān said, Kāśyapa faced him and bowed at his feet. “Now, I repent my mistake, deeply knowing what’s not the teaching. I’ve come into contact with a Tathāgata. Please accept my repentance!” He repeated this three times.

The Bhagavān told him, “I accept your repentance since you’re able to recognize that you’ve come into contact with a Tathāgata.”

100. Kāśyapa then addressed his 500 disciples, “Each of you should do what you think is fitting, but I’m taking refuge in the ascetic Gautama.”

101. His 500 disciples then said to Kāśyapa, “Before, we had that thought about the ascetic Gautama when he tamed the serpent. We immediately wanted to take refuge in him. If the teacher takes refuge in Gautama himself, then we 500 disciples will all take refuge in Gautama as well.”

Kāśyapa replied, “Now is the right time. It was just that my mind was attached to this foolishness: Seeing so many miracles, my mind still didn’t understand, so I said, ‘My truth is correct.’”

102. Kāśyapa then led his 500 disciples who surrounded him in front and behind, and they went to the Bhagavān. They bowed their heads at his feet and withdrew to stand to one side. He then said to the Bhagavān, “Please, Bhagavān, permit us to become ascetics and cultivate the pure practice.”

103. The eternal rule of Buddhas is that if they say, “Welcome, monk!” then one becomes an ascetic. The Bhagavān [622a] told Kāśyapa, “Welcome, monk! This teaching is subtle. Cultivate the religious life well!” The robes that Kāśyapa and the 500 disciples were wearing all turned into reddish-brown robes, and their hair fell out on its own. They looked like they shaved their heads, which lasted for seven days. Kāśyapa then took his implements for studying magic and incantations and tossed them all into the river.

104. The 500 disciples then said to the Bhagavān, “Please, Bhagavān, permit us to become ascetics!”

The Bhagavān said, “Welcome, monks!” The 500 disciples became ascetics wearing reddish-brown robes, and the hair on their heads fell out on its own.

The Conversion of Nadī Kāśyapa

105. They followed he river downstream to where the ascetic named Nadī Kāśyapa lived on the riverbank. Nadī Kāśyapa saw the implements of magical incantation all floating in the water. He then thought, “What? Did my great brother drown in the river?” Nadī Kāśyapa then led his 300 disciples upstream searching for his brother’s body. He saw the Bhagavān sitting under a tree from afar surrounded in front and behind by Great Kāśyapa and his 500 disciples. He said, “What’s the reason for this marvel? A man who was once the teacher now is the disciple! Why did my great brother become a disciple of that ascetic that he’s accompanying?”

106. Uruvelā Kāśyapa replied, “This is wonderful. There are no faults here.” He then spoke a verse to Nadī Kāśyapa,

107. When Nadī Kāśyapa heard the name “Buddha,” he felt ecstatic and danced with joy, unable to control himself. He went before the Bhagavān and said, “May I listen to the path?”

The Bhagavān told him, “Welcome, monk! Cultivate the religious life well until the limit of suffering!”

108. Nadī Kāśyapa then became an ascetic along with his 300 disciples. All of them wore reddish-brown robes, and their hair fell out on its own. Nadī Kāśyapa and his 300 disciples all threw their implements of magical incantations into the water.

The Conversion of Gayā Kāśyapa

109. They then followed the river downstream to where the ascetic named Gayā Kāśyapa was living on the riverbank. He saw the implements of magical incantation floating in the river from a distance and thought, “I have two brothers upstream who are religious mendicants. Now, these implements of magical incantation are all floating in the river. Surely, the river has killed those two great Kāśyapas!” He then led his 200 disciples upstream until they reached that place where the incantations were studied. He saw from afar that his two brothers had become ascetics, so he said, “What marvel is this? Men who before were honored [622b] now are this ascetic’s disciples!”

Kāśyapa replied, “This is so wonderful. There are no faults here.”

110. Gayā Kāśyapa then thought, “Now, these two brothers of mine knew much and were erudite. This must be a virtuous place for my two brothers to stay here as religious mendicants. I can also stay here as a religious mendicant.” Gayā Kāśyapa then went before the Bhagavān and said, “Please, Bhagavān, permit me to become an ascetic!”

The Bhagavān told him, “Welcome, monk! Cultivate the religious practice well until the limit of suffering.”

111. Gayā Kāśyapa then became an ascetic who wore the reddish-brown robes, and his hair fell out on its own. He looked like he shaved his head, which lasted for seven days.

Three Ways of Teaching

112. The Bhagavān then stayed there on the riverbank under a banyan tree. It hadn’t been long since he became a Buddha, and he led a thousand disciples. They were the elders and resided there a long time. The Bhagavān taught them in three ways. What were the three? He taught them with miraculous abilities, taught them with verbal teachings, and taught them with instructions.

113. How did he teach them with miraculous abilities? The Bhagavān sometimes divided into any number of forms and then combined into one again. Sometimes, he disappeared and reappeared. Sometimes, he passed through stone walls without being obstructed at all. Sometimes, he entered the earth as though it were a flowing river without being blocked by it. Sometimes, he sat cross-legged and went up into the sky like a bird flying without being obstructed at all. He also could be like a giant volcano that produces smoke without measure. His great miraculous power wasn’t limited even to the sun and moon, which he could touch with his hand. He could even go physically to the Brahma heaven. Thus, the Bhagavān demonstrated miraculous abilities.

114. How did he teach them with verbal teachings? The Bhagavān instructed the monks, “You must abandon that and establish this.” “You must stay close to this and away from that.” “You must think this and let that go.” “You must contemplate this and not contemplate that.”

“What must be cultivated and not cultivated? You must cultivate the seven factors of awakening, and what’s to be ceased are the three bonds.”

“What must be contemplated and not contemplated? You must contemplate the three bonds and the virtues of the ascetic, which are the happiness of escape, the happiness of having no hostility, and the happiness of having no anger. What must not be contemplated? That’s the three pains of the ascetic. What are the three? They are contemplation of desires, contemplation of hostility, and the contemplation of anger.”

“What’s to be thought and not thought? You must think about the truth of suffering, think about the truth of accumulation, think about the truth of ending, and think about the truth of the path. Don’t think about wrong truths, which are the views of permanence, views of impermanence, views of limits, and views of limitlessness as well as what’s a person, what’s not the soul, what’s not the person, ‘the Tathāgata’s life ends,’ ‘the Tathāgata’s life doesn’t end,’ ‘existence ends,’ ‘existence doesn’t end,’ and ‘neither existence nor inexistence ends.’ Don’t think those things.”

115. How did he teach with instructions? “Furthermore, you must do this to let go and shouldn’t do that to let go.” “Do this when you arrive; you shouldn’t do that when you arrive.” “Be silent, or do this when you speak.” “You must hold your robes this way; you shouldn’t hold your robes in that way.” “You should enter a town this way; you shouldn’t enter a town in that way.” This was how he taught them with instructions.

116. The Bhagavān then taught those 1,000 monks in these three ways. When the monks had received the Buddha’s teaching, all 1,000 of them became arhats, and the Bhagavān saw that those 1,000 monks had become arhats. At that point, the region of Jambudvīpa had 1,000 arhats, plus the five monks and the Buddha made six teachers. He then turned to sit facing Kapilavastu.

The Return to Kapilavastu

117. Then Uruvilvā Kāśyapa had the thought, “Why does the Bhagavān sit facing Kapilavastu?” Uruvilvā Kāśyapa then knelt down before the Bhagavān and asked, “Judge not, Tathāgata, but why do you sit facing Kapilavastu?”

The Bhagavān told him, “When a Tathāgata is present in the world, he should do five things. What are the five? One is to turn the Dharma wheel. Two is to explain the teaching to his father. Three is to explain the teaching to his mother. Four is to lead ordinary men to establish the bodhisattva practice. Five is to give the prediction [of becoming a buddha] to a bodhisattva. These, Kāśyapa, are the five things a Tathāgata appears in the world to do.”

118. Uruvilvā Kāśyapa again thought, “It’s because the Tathāgata is thinking of his native kinsmen that he sits facing that way.”

119. The five monks eventually came to the bank of the Nairañjanā River. They bowed their heads to the Bhagavān’s feet when they arrived and then sat to one side.

120. Venerable Udāyī then saw from afar the Bhagavān sitting facing Kapilavastu. Seeing that, he thought, “Surely, the Bhagavān will go to Kapilavastu to see his relatives there.” Udāyī then knelt before the Bhagavān and said, “I have a question now that’s worthy of asking, if you would please explain it fully.”

The Bhagavān told him, “If you have a question, then ask it.”

121. Udāyī said to the Bhagavān, “Examining the Tathāgata’s mind, [I see] he wants to head for Kapilavastu.”

The Bhagavān told him, “It’s as you say. Udāyī, you should know that before I go visit King Śuddhodana, I need to be his equal, then after that I will go. Why is that? Before the warrior caste honors someone, a messenger announces them. Afterward, the Tathāgata will go. When you arrive, tell the king this: ‘In seven days, the Tathāgata will come to see the king.’”

122. Udāyī replied, “So it is, Bhagavān.” Udāyī then rose from his seat, adjusted his robes, bowed [623a] at the Bhagavān’s feet, and then disappeared from in front of him. He went to Kapilavastu to visit King Śuddhodana. He appeared standing before the king.

123. King Śuddhodana was seated in a great hall with his concubines. Udāyī then fly up into the air. King Śuddhodana saw Udāyī holding a bowl in his hand, and he so picked up his staff and stood before him. Looking at [Udāyī], he was frightened and said, “What is this person? Is he human or non-human? A god or demon? A yakṣa, rākṣasa, god, nāga, or demonic spirit?”

124. King Śuddhodana asked Udāyī, “What person are you?” and spoke this verse to Udāyī:

125. Udāyī then replied to the king with verse:

126. King Śuddhodana again said to Udāyī in verse:

127. Udāyī then spoke these verses:

128. When he heard this, King Śuddhodana was overjoyed and couldn’t control himself. He said to Udāyī, “How is it, Udāyī? The prince Siddhârtha exists as he did before?”

Udāyī replied, “The Buddha Śākyamuni is present today.”

129. The king asked, “He has become a Buddha now?”

Udaya replied, “He has now become [623b] a Buddha.”

130. The king again asked, “Where is the Tathāgata today?”

Udāyī replied, “The Tathāgata is presently in Magadha sitting under a banyan tree.”

131. The king replied, “By what disciples is he served?”

Udāyī replied, “A million gods, a thousand monks, and the four god kings are always present to his left and right.”

132. The king asked, “What do the robes that he wears look like?”

Udāyī replied, “The robe and lower garment worn by the Tathāgata are called ‘reddish-brown.’”

133. The king asked, “What food does he eat?”

Udāyī replied, “The Tathāgata’s body eats teachings as its food.”

134. The king again asked, “How is it, Udāyī? Can I meet the Tathāgata?” Udāyī replied, “Fear not, king! In seven days, the Tathāgata will come and enter this city.”

135. The king was overjoyed and couldn’t control himself. He served food and drink to Udāyī with his own hands as an offering.

136. King Śuddhodana then beat a great drum and ordered the kingdom’s people to repair the roads, remove refuse, sprinkle the ground with perfume, set up banners and canopies, play music, and other indescribable things. He also ordered all the deaf, blind, and mute people in the kingdom to stay inside until after seven days had passed, and then everyone would come into the city. When King Śuddhodana heard that the Buddha would be coming to the city in seven days, he couldn’t sleep.

Teaching Śuddhodana

137. When the seventh day arrived, the Bhagavān then thought, “Now, it would be fitting to use my miraculous abilities to go to Kapilavastu.” The Bhagavān then led the monks, who surrounded him in front and behind, and went to Kapilavastu. Upon arriving, he then went to the cedar park to the north of the city.

138. Hearing that the Bhagavān had passed through Kapilavastu and was in the cedar park to the north, King Śuddhodana then led a crowd of Śākyas to visit the Buddha.

139. The Bhagavān thought, “If King Śuddhodana comes here in person, this won’t be fitting for me. I’ll go and meet with him. Why is that? A father and mother’s love is deep, and their nurturing feeling is great.” The Bhagavān then led a crowd of monks to the city gate while flying seven fathoms from the ground.

140. King Śuddhodana saw the Bhagavān, who was handsome without comparison. It was extraordinary for this world. His faculties were peaceful, lacking a multitude of thoughts, and his body was adorned by 32 signs and 80 excellencies. Feeling encouraged, the king bowed his head at the Bhagavān’s feet and said, “I am a king of the warrior caste named King Śuddhodana.”

141. The Bhagavān told [623c] him, “Let the great king’s life be without want. Therefore, great king, you should rule with the correct teaching. Don’t rule with the wrong teaching. Great king, you should know that those who rule using the correct teaching are born in a good place up in heaven when their bodies break up and their lives end.”

142. The Bhagavān then walked on air to King Śuddhodana’s palace. When he arrived, he prepared a seat and sat down.

143. When he saw the Bhagavān sitting concentrated, the king served him a meal with his own hands. When he saw that the Bhagavān was finished eating, he brought clean water and got a small seat to listen to the teaching.

144. The Bhagavān at that point gradually explained the sublime goal to King Śuddhodana. He discussed the topics of generosity, discipline, birth in heaven, desiring impure actions, and the happiness of escape. When the Bhagavān saw that the king’s mind was open and understood his intent, he expounded the teaching that Buddhas and Bhagavāns always do: suffering, its accumulation, its end, and the path. He taught it all to the king.

145. There on his high seat, King Śuddhodana’s dust and defilements were gone, and he attained purification of the Dharma eye. After he had shared his exposition of the teaching with the king, the Bhagavān then rose from his seat and departed.

Ānanda and Aniruddha Become Disciples

146. King Śuddhodana called a meeting of the Śākya assembly and said, “The appearance of these ascetics is disgraceful. The warrior caste leads the assembly of priests, but it’s not fitting for us. The warrior Śākya clan will recruit from the warrior assemblies to make them marvelous.”

The Śākyas replied, “So it is, great king. As the king instructs, the warriors will recruit from the warrior assemblies to make them marvelous.”

147. The king told those in the kingdom, “Wherever there are two brothers, one will be chosen to become an ascetic. Those who don’t do this will be severely punished.”

The Śākya assembly heard the king’s instruction and ordered it: “Where there are two brothers, one will be chosen to become an ascetic. Those who don’t follow the order will be severely punished.”

148. The Śākyan Devadatta said to the Śākyan Ānanda, “King Śuddhodana has today ordered, ‘Where there are two brothers, one will be chosen to become an ascetic.’ Now, you leave home to train on the path. I will remain at home and cultivate the occupation of the household.”

The Śākyan Ānanda rejoiced and danced. He replied, “As your brother, I’ll heed the order!”

149. The Śākyan Ānanda then said to the Śākyan Aniruddha, “King Śuddhodana has instructed, ‘Where there’s a second brother, one of them is to become an ascetic. Those who don’t do this will be severely punished.’ Now, you and I will leave home!”

150. When the Śākyan Aniruddha heard this, he rejoiced and danced, being unable to control himself. He replied, “So it is! As a brother, I’ll come as instructed!”

151. King Śuddhodana then led the Śākyans Droṇodana, Śuklodana, and Amṛtodana to the Bhagavān. They rode in four-horse team chariots. [The first] chariot was white, had a white canopy, and was pulled by white horses. [624a] A second Śākyan rode a blue chariot with a blue canopy and was pulled by blue horses. A third Śākyan rode a yellow chariot with a yellow canopy and was pulled by yellow horses. A fourth Śākyan rode a red chariot with a red canopy and was pulled by red horses. There were also Śākyans riding elephants and horses. They all went along together as an assembly.

152. The Bhagavān saw King Śuddhodana leading this assembly of Śākyans coming from a distance. He told the monks, “All of you, look at that assembly of Śākyans. Look at that assembly of King Śuddhodana. Monks, you should know that when the 33 gods leave their garden, they also do so in this way. There’s no difference at all.”

153. Ānanda rode a white elephant, wore white clothes, and had a white umbrella. Seeing him, the Bhagavān told the monks, “All of you, do you see that Śākyan Ānanda riding a white elephant and wearing white clothes?”

The monks replied, “We do, Bhagavān. We see him.”

154. The Buddha told the monks, “This man will leave home to train on the path. He’ll be the best in learning and worthy of waiting on me left and right. Do all of you see that Śākyan Aniruddha there?”

The monks replied, “We do. We see him.”

155. The Buddha told the monks, “This man will leave home and train on the path. His heavenly eye will be the best.”

156. King Śuddhodana and his brothers made four men, and Nandika and Ānanda were in front of them. They abandoned the five desires and went to the Bhagavān. They bowed their heads at his feet and sat to one side.

157. King Śuddhodana said to the Buddha, “Last night, I had this thought occur to me, ‘The assembly of warriors shouldn’t lead the assembly of priests. They should return to leading the warrior assembly. This would be fitting for them.’ I then gave the order to the kingdom, ‘Where there’s a second brother, one man will be chosen who’ll leave home and train on the path.’ Please, Bhagavān, permit them to leave home and train on the path.”

The Bhagavān told him, “Good, great king! That will be helpful. It’ll bring peace to gods and humans. Why is that? These good friends are an excellent blessing and a field of merit. To me, good friends are also a cause for attaining liberation from birth, old age, illness, and death.” That assembly of Śākyans then attained the path.

158. King Śuddhodana said to the Bhagavān, “Please, Bhagavān, instruct these new monks. They should be instructed like Udāyī. Why is that? That monk Udāyī has great miraculous abilities! May the monk Udāyī always reside in the palace and teach us, making sentient beings gain well-being for a long time. Why is that? This monk has great miraculous abilities. When I first met the monk Udāyī, it made my mind rejoice. I then thought, ‘Even the disciples have miraculous abilities, so how could that Tathāgata be without these miraculous abilities?”

The Bhagavān told him, “So it is, [624b] great king. As the great king says, this monk Udāyī has great miraculous abilities and possesses great authority.”

159. The Bhagavān then addressed the monks, “The first disciple is widely known and recognized by many. He’s remembered by the king. He’s this monk Ajñāta Kauṇḍinya. Able to encourage people is this monk Udāyī. Having a quick intelligence is this monk Mahānāma. Always delighted to fly is this monk Subāhu. Coming and going by air is this monk Vāṣpa. With many disciples is this monk Uruvilvā Kāśyapa. Thinking of observing the sky is this monk Nadī Kāśyapa. Thinking of calmness is this monk Gaya Kāśyapa.”

160. The Bhagavān broadly shared the subtle teaching with King Śuddhodana. After the king heard the teaching, he rose from his seat, bowed his head at the Bhagavān’s feet, withdrew, and departed.

161. The monks and King Śuddhodana who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. Partial parallels include MN 26, SN 56.11, and Khandhaka 1 of the Theravāda Vinaya. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 24 September 2020