Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Medium Discourses

11. The Rock Salt Parable

1. Thus I have heard: One time, the Buddha traveled to the country of Śrāvastī and stayed at Anāthapiṇḍada Park in Jeta Grove.

2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the monks, “It’s according to the actions that a person does that they receive their rewards. Thus, one who doesn’t practice the religious life will not attain the end of suffering. Suppose someone says, ‘It’s according to the actions that a person does that they receive their rewards.’ Thus, cultivating the religious life leads to the end of suffering.

The Parable of the Salt Rocks

3. “Why is that? Suppose someone commits an action that’s not good and surely will receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell? It means that this person hasn’t cultivated themselves. They haven’t cultivated the precepts, haven’t cultivated their mind, and haven’t cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite short. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

4. “It’s like when a person tosses a couple rocks of salt into a little water wanting to make the water too salty to drink. What do you think? Can those rocks of salt make the water too salty to drink?”

5. The monks answered, “So it is, Bhagavān. Why is that? Those rocks of salt are much, and the water is little, so they can make the water too salty to drink.”

6. “Thus, someone commits an action that’s not good and surely will receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell? It means that this person hasn’t cultivated themselves. They haven’t cultivated the precepts, haven’t cultivated their mind, and haven’t cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite short. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

7. “Furthermore, [433b] someone commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present? It means that this person has cultivated themselves. They have cultivated the precepts, cultivated their mind, and cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite long. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present.

8. “It’s like when a person tosses a couple rocks of salt into the Gaṅgā River wanting to make the water too salty to drink. What do you think? Can those rocks of salt make the Gaṅgā River too salty to drink?”

9. The monks answered, “No, Bhagavān. Why is that? The Gaṅgā River is large, and a couple rocks of salt are little, so they cannot make it too salty to drink.”

10. “Thus, someone commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present? It means that this person has cultivated themselves. They have cultivated the precepts, cultivated their mind, and cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite long. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present.

The Parable of the Sheep Thief

11. “Furthermore, someone commits an action that’s not good and surely will receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell? It means that this person hasn’t cultivated themselves. They haven’t cultivated the precepts, haven’t cultivated their mind, and haven’t cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite short. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

12. “It’s like a person who steals another’s sheep. How does someone steal another’s sheep? It means that the sheep thief is either a king or a king’s minister who is powerful, and the sheep owner is poor and powerless. Because they are powerless, the owner looks hopeful in various ways, even folding their hands and seeking to inquire. They say, ‘Good man, could you see that the sheep return or see that they are given back?’ This is called someone who steals another’s sheep.

13. “Thus, someone commits an action that’s not good and surely will receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell? It means that this person hasn’t cultivated themselves. They haven’t cultivated the precepts, haven’t cultivated their mind, and haven’t cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite short. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

14. “Furthermore, someone commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present? It means that this person has cultivated themselves. They have cultivated the precepts, cultivated their mind, and cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite long. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present.

15. “It’s like [433c] a person who steals another’s sheep, but the owner returns and takes them back. How does a person steal another’s sheep, but the owner returns and takes them back? It means that the sheep thief is poor and powerless, and the sheep owner is a king or king’s minister who is powerful. Because they’re powerful, the owner can arrest the thief and take back their sheep. This is called a person who steals another’s sheep, but the owner returns and takes them back.

16. “Thus, someone commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present? It means that this person has cultivated themselves. They have cultivated the precepts, cultivated their mind, and cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite long. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present.

The Parable of the Debtor

17. “Furthermore, someone commits an action that’s not good and surely will receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell? It means that this person hasn’t cultivated themselves. They haven’t cultivated the precepts, haven’t cultivated their mind, and haven’t cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite short. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

18. “It’s like when a person owes five coins to another, and they are arrested by that creditor. Even if it were just one coin, they still would be arrested by that creditor. How is it that a person who owes five coins to another is arrested by that creditor, and even if it were just one coin, they still would be arrested by that creditor? It means this debtor is poor and powerless. Because they are powerless and owe five coins to another, they’re arrested by that creditor, and even if it were just one coin, they still would be arrested by that creditor. This is called a person who owes five coins to another and is arrested by that creditor, and even if it were just one coin, they still would be arrested by that creditor.

19. “Thus, someone commits an action that’s not good and surely will receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell? It means that this person hasn’t cultivated themselves. They haven’t cultivated the precepts, haven’t cultivated their mind, and haven’t cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite short. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

20. “Furthermore, someone commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present? It means that this person has cultivated themselves. They have cultivated the precepts, cultivated their mind, and cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite long. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present.

21. “It’s like a person who owes 100 coins but isn’t arrested by the creditor, and even if it were 1,000 or 10,000, they still wouldn’t be arrested by the creditor. How does a person owe 100 coins but isn’t arrested by the creditor, and even if it were 1,000 or 10,000, they still aren’t [434a] arrested by the creditor? It means that the debtor has measureless assets and a great deal of power. Because of this, they aren’t arrested by the creditor even though they owe 100 coins. Even if it were 1,000 or 10,000, they still wouldn’t be arrested by the creditor. This is called a person who owes 100 coins but isn’t arrested by the creditor, and even if it were 1,000 or 10,000, they still wouldn’t be arrested by the creditor.

22. “Thus, someone commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present. How does a person commit an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present? It means that this person has cultivated themselves. They have cultivated the precepts, cultivated their mind, and cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be quite long. This is called a person who commits an action that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present. In the present life, if he receives the rewards of good and bad actions, they will be slight.”

23. The Buddha spoke thus. Those monks who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.


Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 14 September 2020