Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Medium Discourses

Chapter 1: Sevens

9. Seven Chariots

1. Thus I have heard: One time, the Buddha traveled to the city Rājagṛha and stayed at Veḷuvana Monastery.

The Native Land Monks Praise Pūrṇa

2. He was [430a] accompanied by an assembly of great monks who had spent their summer retreats together. Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra had also spent his summer retreat in the [Buddha’s] native land.

3. It was then that some native land monks had finished their summer retreat after three months had passed. When they had finished mending robes, they gathered up their robes and bowls and left the native land headed for Rājagṛha. They took a circuitous route to Rājagṛha and stayed at Veḷuvana Monastery. Those native land monks then went to the Bhagavān, paid homage by prostrating themselves, and withdrew to sit at one side.

4. The Bhagavān asked them, “Monks, where did you come from? Where was your summer retreat?”

The native land monks replied, “Bhagavān, we’ve come from the native land. We spent the summer retreat in the native land.”

5. The Bhagavān asked them, “Among those monks of the native land, which monk is praised by the others as having few desires and being satisfied and who praises having few desires and being satisfied? Who himself lives quietly and praises quiet living? Who himself makes effort and praises making effort? Who himself is rightly mindful and praises right mindfulness? Who himself is single-minded and praises being single-minded? Who himself is wise and praises wisdom? Who himself has ended the contaminants and praises ending the contaminants? Who encourages, rouses, and makes others rejoice and praises encouraging, rousing, and making others rejoice?”

The native land monks said, “Bhagavān, the Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra is the monk in that native land who is praised by the other monks as having few desires and being satisfied and who praises having few desires and being satisfied. He himself lives quietly and praises quiet living. He himself makes effort and praises making effort. He himself is rightly mindful and praises right mindfulness. He himself is single-minded and praises being single-minded. He himself is wise and praises wisdom. He himself has ended the contaminants and praises ending the contaminants. He encourages, rouses, and makes others rejoice and praises encouraging, rousing, and making others rejoice.”

6. Just then, Venerable Śāriputra was sitting in the assembly, and he had this thought, “The Bhagavān asked this group of native land monks about this matter, and the native land monks gave their greatest praise to the good man Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra as having few desires and being satisfied and who praises having few desires and being satisfied. He himself lives quietly and praises quiet living. He himself makes effort and praises making effort. He himself is rightly mindful and praises right mindfulness. He himself is single-minded and praises being single-minded. He himself is wise and praises wisdom. He himself has ended the contaminants and praises ending the contaminants. He encourages, rouses, and makes others rejoice and praises encouraging, rousing, and making others rejoice.”

7. Venerable Śāriputra had another thought, “When will I be in the same congregation as the good man Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra? Maybe he’ll ask about a little doctrine, or he might agree to listen to my questions.”

Śāriputra Meets Pūrṇa

8. It was then that the Bhagavān finished [430b] the summer retreat in Rājagṛha after three months had passed. After they had finished mending robes, he gathered his robe and bowl and left Rājagṛha headed for the country of Śrāvastī. He took a circuitous route to Śrāvastī and stayed at Anāthapiṇḍada Park in Jeta Grove.

9. Venerable Śāriputra and the native land monks stayed in Rājagṛha for a few days longer, then they gathered their robes and bowls and headed for Śrāvastī. They took a circuitous route to Śrāvastī and stayed together at Anāthapiṇḍada Park in Jeta Grove.

10. Just then, Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra finished his summer retreat in the native land after three months had passed. After they had finished mending robes, he gathered his robe and bowl, and left the native land headed for Śrāvastī. He took a circuitous route to Śrāvastī, also staying at Anāthapiṇḍada Park in Jeta Grove. Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra went to the Bhagavān, paid homage by prostrating himself, spread out his sitting mat, and sat down cross-legged.

11. Venerable Śāriputra then asked the other monks, “Good men, is that the good man Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra?”

The monks told Venerable Śāriputra, “Yes, the venerable is sitting there in front of the Tathāgata. The fair-skinned one with a protruding nose like a parrot’s beak, that’s him.”

12. Venerable Śāriputra then knew Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra’s appearance and remembered it well.

13. After the night passed, Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra gathered his robe and bowl at sunrise and went into Śrāvastī to solicit alms. After he finished his meal, he returned, put away his robe and bowl, and washed his hands and feet. Putting his sitting mat over his shoulder, he went to the charnel ground to find a place to practice.

14. After the night passed, Venerable Śāriputra also gathered his robe and bowl at sunrise and entered Śrāvastī to solicit alms. After he finished his meal, he returned, put away his robe and bowl, and washed his hands and feet. Putting his sitting mat over his shoulder, he went to the charnel ground to find a place to practice.

15. Upon arriving at the charnel ground, Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra spread his sitting mat under a tree and sat down cross-legged. Venerable Śāriputra also reached the charnel ground, spread his sitting mat under a tree not far from Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra, and sat down cross-legged.

16. In the afternoon, Venerable Śāriputra rose from his quiet repose and went over to Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra, exchanged inquiries, and withdrew to sit at one side. He then asked Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra, “Good man, are you cultivating the religious practice following the ascetic Gautama?”

He replied, “So it is.”

17. “Why, good man? Are you cultivating the religious practice following the ascetic Gautama because the precepts are pure?”

He replied, “No.”

18. “Are you cultivating the religious practice following the ascetic Gautama because the mind is pure … views are pure … it’s pure of the hindrance of doubt … it’s pure in knowing and seeing [430c] what is and isn’t the path … it’s pure in knowing and seeing the path’s steps … it’s pure in the knowledge of the path’s steps to ending [suffering]?”

He replied, “No.”

19. Again, Śāriputra asked, “I’ve put the question to you, good man, if you are cultivating the religious practice following the ascetic Gautama, and you said, ‘So it is.’ Now, I asked you, good man, if it’s because the precepts are pure that you cultivate the religious practice following the ascetic Gautama, and you said, ‘No.’ Are you cultivating the religious practice following the ascetic Gautama because the mind is pure … views are pure … it’s pure of the hindrance of doubt … it’s pure in knowing and seeing what is and isn’t the path … it’s pure in knowing and seeing the path’s steps … it’s pure in the knowledge of the path’s steps to ending [suffering]? You said, ‘No.’ What then is the purpose of cultivating the religious practice following the ascetic Gautama?”

He replied, “Good man, it’s because of nirvāṇa without remainder.”

20. Again, he asked, “Why, good man? Is it because the precepts are pure that the ascetic Gautama asserts nirvāṇa without remainder?”

He replied, “No.”

21. “Is it because the mind is pure … views are pure … it’s pure of the hindrance of doubt … it’s pure in knowing and seeing what is and isn’t the path … it’s pure in knowing and seeing the path’s steps … it’s pure in the knowledge of the path’s steps to ending [suffering] that the ascetic Gautama asserts nirvāṇa without remainder?”

He replied, “No.”

22. Again, Śāriputra asked, “I’ve put the question to you, sir, ‘Good man, is it because the precepts are pure that the ascetic Gautama asserts nirvāṇa without remainder?’ and you said, ‘No.’ ‘Is it because the mind is pure … views are pure … it’s pure of the hindrance of doubt … it’s pure in knowing and seeing what is and isn’t the path … it’s pure in knowing and seeing the path’s steps … it’s pure in the knowledge of the path’s steps to ending [suffering] that the ascetic Gautama asserts nirvāṇa without remainder?’ You said, ‘No.’ Good man, what do you mean by what you’ve said? How can I know?’”

He answered, “Good man, if the Bhagavān, the ascetic Gautama, asserted nirvāṇa without remainder because the precepts are pure, then he would be saying a remainder is no remainder. If the Bhagavān, the ascetic Gautama, asserted nirvāṇa without remainder because the mind is pure … views are pure … it’s pure of the hindrance of doubt … it’s pure in knowing and seeing what is and isn’t the path … it’s pure in knowing and seeing the path’s steps … it’s pure in the knowledge of the path’s steps to ending [suffering], then he would be saying a remainder is no remainder.

23. “Good man, if the Bhagavān asserts nirvāṇa without remainder by parting with these things, then ordinary men would also [enter] parinirvāṇa because ordinary men part with these things, too.

24. “Good man, it’s simply because the precepts are pure that the purity of mind is attained … because the mind is pure that the purity of views is attained … because views are pure that the purity [431a] of the hindrance of doubt is attained … because of being pure of the hindrance of doubt that the purity of knowing and seeing what is and isn’t the path is attained … because knowing and seeing what is and isn’t the path is pure that the purity of knowing and seeing the path’s steps is attained … because knowing and seeing the path’s steps is pure that the purity of knowledge of the path’s steps to ending [suffering] is attained … because knowledge of the path’s steps to ending [suffering] is pure that the Bhagavān, the ascetic Gautama, asserts nirvāṇa without remainder.

The Parable of Seven Chariots

25. “Permit me to continue, good man. Once, the king of Kośala Prasenajit was in Śrāvastī and had business in Śāketa. He thought, ‘What would be the easiest way to go from Śrāvastī to Śāketa in one day’s travel?’ Again, he thought, ‘Now, for me to go from Śrāvastī to Śāketa, I would need to place seven chariots between them.’

26. “Seven chariots were then placed between Śrāvastī and Śāketa. After the seven chariots were arranged, he left Śrāvastī and went to the first chariot. He rode the first chariot to the second chariot and dismounted from the first chariot. He rode the second chariot to the third chariot and dismounted from the second chariot. He rode the third chariot to the fourth chariot and dismounted from the third chariot. He rode the fourth chariot to the fifth chariot and dismounted from the fourth chariot. He rode the fifth chariot to the sixth chariot and dismounted from the fifth chariot. He rode the sixth chariot to the seventh chariot and dismounted from the sixth chariot. He rode the seventh chariot and reached Śāketa in a single day.

27. “After his business in Śāketa, he was surrounded by great ministers while sitting in the king’s hall. That group of ministers said, ‘Did the god king travel from Śrāvastī to Śāketa in a single day?’

“The king said, ‘So it is.’

28. “‘Did the god king ride the first chariot from Śrāvastī to Śāketa in a single day?’

“The king said, ‘No.’

29. “‘Did he ride the second chariot … ride the third chariot … the seventh chariot from Śrāvastī to Śāketa?’

“The king said, ‘No.’

30. “Good man, being repeatedly question, what did the king of Kośala Prasenajit say? The king answered that group of ministers, ‘I was in Śrāvastī and had business in Śāketa. I thought, ‘What’s the easiest way to travel from Śrāvastī to Śāketa in a single day?’ Then I thought, ‘Now, for me to go from Śrāvastī to Śāketa, I would need to place seven chariots between them.

31. “‘Thereupon, I had seven chariots placed between Śrāvastī and Śāketa. After the seven chariots were arranged, I left Śrāvastī and went to the first chariot. I rode the first chariot to the second chariot and dismounted from the first chariot. I rode the second chariot to the third chariot and dismounted [431b] from the second chariot. I rode the third chariot to the fourth chariot and dismounted from the third chariot. I rode the fourth chariot to the fifth chariot and dismounted from the fourth chariot. I rode the fifth chariot to the sixth chariot and dismounted from the fifth chariot. I rode the sixth chariot to the seventh chariot and dismounted from the sixth chariot. I rode the seventh chariot and reached Śāketa in a single day.’

32. “So it was, good man. The king of Kośala Prasenajit thus replied to that group of ministers’ questions. So it is, good man, that it’s because the precepts are pure that the purity of mind is attained … because the mind is pure that the purity of views is attained … because views are pure that the purity of the hindrance of doubt is attained … because of being pure of the hindrance of doubt that the purity of knowing and seeing what is and isn’t the path is attained … because knowing and seeing what is and isn’t the path is pure that the purity of knowing and seeing the path’s steps is attained … because knowing and seeing the path’s steps is pure that the purity of knowledge of the path’s steps to ending [suffering] is attained … because knowledge of the path’s steps to ending [suffering] is pure that the Bhagavān asserts nirvāṇa without remainder.”

Śāriputra and Pūrṇa Praise Each Other

33. Venerable Śāriputra then asked Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra, “Good man, what’s your name? What do religious practitioners call you, good man?” Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra answered, “Good man, I am called Pūrṇa. My mother’s name was Maitrāyani, so religious practitioners call me Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra.”

34. Venerable Śāriputra praised him, “Good, good! The good man Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra is a disciple of the Tathāgata who has been made intelligent, insightful, and discerning by him. He’s peaceful, fearless, accomplished, and disciplined. He has gained great eloquence, attained the banner of immortality, and himself realized the accomplishment of the immortal element. That’s because when this good man is asked about the profound purpose, he’s able to answer completely.

35. “Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra, religious practitioners will attain a great reward who meet the Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra, go to see him at appropriate times, and venerate him at appropriate times. Now, I’ve also attained a great reward from going to see him at the appropriate time and venerating him at the appropriate time. Should religious practitioners wrap a cloth around the top of their heads to carry Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra, they’d attain a great reward. Now, I’ve also attained a great reward from going to see him at an appropriate time and venerating him at an appropriate time.”

36. Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra asked Venerable Śāriputra, “Good man, what’s your name? What do religious practitioners call you, good man?”

37. Venerable Śāriputra answered, “Good man, I am named Upatiṣya. My mother’s name is Śārī, so religious practitioners call me Śāriputra.”

38. Venerable Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra praised him, “Now, I and a disciple of the Bhagavān have conversed, but I didn’t know him. I conversed with a second venerable, but I didn’t know him. I conversed with the Dharma general, but I didn’t know him. I conversed with a disciple who again turned the turning Dharma wheel, but I didn’t know. If I knew the Venerable Śāriputra, [431c] I wouldn’t have been able to answer with a single line, much less give a discourse as profound as that.

39. “Good, good! Venerable Śāriputra is a disciple of the Tathāgata who has been made intelligent, insightful, and discerning by him. He’s peaceful, fearless, accomplished, and disciplined. He has gained great eloquence, attained the banner of immortality, and himself realized the accomplishment of the immortal element. As a result, the venerable asks the profoundest questions.

40. “Venerable Śāriputra, religious practitioners will attain a great reward who meet the Venerable Śāriputra, go to see him at appropriate times, and venerate him at appropriate times. Now, I’ve also attained a great reward from going to see him at the appropriate time and venerating him at the appropriate time. Should religious practitioners wrap a cloth around the top of their heads to carry Venerable Śāriputra, they’d attain a great reward. Now, I’ve also attained a great reward from going to see him at an appropriate time and venerating him at an appropriate time.”

41. Thus did these two good men commend one another. After praising each other’s goodness, they rejoiced and approved. They then rose from their seats and returned to their lodging.


Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 2 July 2020