Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Numerical Discourses

46. Binding Rules

4. Ten Powers

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, “The Tathāgata accomplished ten kinds of power and attained four kinds of fearlessness, roaring the lion’s roar amid a great assembly. What are the ten powers? Here, the Tathāgata truly knows what’s possible, and he truly knows what’s not possible.

3. “Furthermore, the Tathāgata dwells in a place knowing the causes and conditions of the dwelling places of other sentient beings and what results they experience.

4. “Furthermore, the Tathāgata knows whatever kind of worlds, whatever kind of elements, and whatever kind of senses there are. He truly knows these things.

5. “Furthermore, the Tathāgata knows whatever kinds of liberation and measureless liberations there are. He truly knows them.

6. “Furthermore, the Tathāgata knows whether the wisdom of sentient beings is little or great. He truly knows them.

7. “Furthermore, the Tathāgata truly knows the thoughts in the minds of other sentient beings. When they have desiring minds, he knows they have desiring minds. When they don’t have desiring minds, he knows they don’t have desiring minds. When they have angry minds, he knows they have angry minds. When they don’t have angry minds, he knows they don’t have angry minds. When they have deluded minds, he knows they have deluded minds. When they have undeluded minds, he knows they have undeluded minds. When they have craving minds, he knows they have craving minds. When they don’t have craving minds, he knows they don’t have craving minds. When they have acquiring minds, he knows they have acquiring minds. When they have unacquiring minds, he knows they have unacquiring minds. When they have confused minds, he knows they have confused minds. When they have unconfused minds, he knows they have unconfused minds. When they have distracted minds, he knows they have distracted minds. [776c] When they have undistracted minds, he knows they have undistracted minds.

“When they have small minds, he knows they have small minds. When they don’t have small minds, he knows they don’t have small minds. When they have broad minds, he knows they have broad minds. When they don’t have broad minds, he knows they don’t have broad minds. When they have measureless minds, he knows they have measureless minds. When they have measured minds, he knows they have measured minds. He truly knows these things.

“When they have concentrated minds, he knows they have concentrated minds. When they don’t have concentrated minds, he knows they don’t have concentrated minds. When they have liberated minds, he knows they have liberated minds. When they don’t have liberated minds, he knows they don’t have liberated minds.

8. “Furthermore, the Tathāgata entirely knows all the destinations of his past lives. It might be for one or two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, fifty births, a hundred births, a thousand births, hundreds of thousands of births, measureless births, an eon of formation, an eon of destruction, or countless eons of formation and destruction. ‘A former birth of mine was there in that place with that name and surname. I ate that food, experienced those pains and pleasures, and it was a short or long life span. Dying here, I was born there. I died there and was born here.’ He remembers such events of his countless past lives.

9. “Furthermore, the Tathāgata knows the destinations of sentient beings as they are born and die. With his heavenly eye, he observes the kinds of sentient beings that are good and bad in form and good and bad in destination according to the actions they plant. He fully knows them all. Perhaps the physical, verbal, and mental actions of a sentient being are bad. They slander the noble ones and undertake practices of wrong view. When their body breaks up and their life ends, they are born in hell. Perhaps the physical, verbal, and mental actions of a sentient being are good. They don’t slander the noble ones and always practice right view. When their body breaks up and their life ends, they’re born in a good place up in heaven. This is called the purified heavenly eye observing the destinations of sentient beings and their actions.

10. “Furthermore, the Tathāgata has ended the contaminants and achieved the uncontaminated liberation of mind and liberation of wisdom. His births have been ended, the religious practice has been established, and the task has been accomplished. He’s no longer subject to further existences and truly knows it.

11. These are known as the ten powers possessed by the Tathāgata, who is called the Arhat who attained the four kinds of fearlessness. He roars the lion’s roar amid a great assembly and turns the Brahma wheel.

12. “What are the four kinds of fearlessness attained by the Tathāgata? When he says, ‘The Tathāgata achieved the complete and correct awakening,’ suppose a sentient being then says, ‘I know it.’ That isn’t the case. Again, if an ascetic or priest comes to slander the Buddha, ‘He hasn’t achieved the complete and correct awakening,’ that isn’t the case. Being that it isn’t the case, the Tathāgata has won safety from that.

13. “Again, today, when I say, ‘I’ve ended the contaminants,’ suppose ascetics, priests, gods, Māra, or Māra’s gods come to say, ‘You’ve yet to end the contaminants.’ That isn’t the case. Being that it isn’t the case, then I’ve won safety from that.

14. “Furthermore, I explain the teaching, and the noble ones attain their escape, truly reaching the end of suffering. If ascetics, priests, gods, Māra, or Māra’s gods come to say, ‘They’ve yet to reach the end of suffering,’ that isn’t the case. Being that it isn’t the case, then I’ve won safety from that.

15. “Furthermore, I explain the inner teaching about falling to bad destinations. Suppose ascetics or priests come to say, ‘That’s incorrect.’ That isn’t the case. These, monks, are the four kinds of fearlessness possessed by the Tathāgata.

16. “Suppose someone from another religion or training asks, ‘What power and what fearlessness does that ascetic Gautama possess that he claims of himself, “I’m the Arhat who is the most honored”?’ You should remember these ten powers when you answer them.

17. “Suppose someone from another religion or training makes this serious claim, ‘We also achieve ten powers.’

“You monks then should ask, ‘What ten powers do you possess?’

18. “That person from another religion or training won’t have an answer, which will continue to increase their doubt. Why is that? I’ve never seen an ascetic or priest who claims of himself, ‘I’ve attained four kinds of fearlessness.’ The Tathāgata is the exception; therefore, monks, you should seek the method to achieve these ten powers and four kinds of fearlessness. Thus, monks, should you train.”

19. The monks who heard what the Buddha taught then rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. Parallels include MN 12, AN 6.64, AN 10.21, SĀ 11.41, T757, T780, and T781. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 7 July 2021