Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Medium Discourses

11. The Rock Salt Parable

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

2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the monks, “According to the deeds that they perform, a person receives their rewards. Thus, not practicing the religious life, they don’t attain the end of suffering. Suppose someone says, ‘According to the deeds that they perform, a person receives their rewards.’ Thus, cultivating the religious life, they attain the end of suffering.

The Parable of the Salt Rocks

3. “Why is that? Suppose someone performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person perform a deed 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 very short. This is called a person who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

4. “It’s like a person who 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 salt rocks make the water too salty to drink?”

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

6. “Thus is someone who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person perform a deed 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 very short. This is called a person who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

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

8. “It’s like a person who 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 salt rocks 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 is someone who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present life. How does a person perform a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present life? It means that this person has cultivated themselves. They have cultivated the precepts, cultivated their mind, and cultivated wisdom. Their life span will be very long. This is called a person who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, a reward in the present life.

The Parable of the Sheep Thief

11. “Furthermore, someone performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person perform a deed 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 very short. This is called a person who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

12. “It’s like someone who steals another person’s sheep. How does someone steal another person’s sheep? It means that the sheep thief is a king or a king’s official who’s powerful, and the sheep owner is poor and powerless. Because they’re powerless, the owner looks hopeful in various ways, imploring with their palms together, and saying, ‘Good man, could you let the sheep return or given them back directly?’ This is what’s meant by someone who steals another person’s sheep.

13. “Thus is someone who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person perform a deed 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 very short. This is called a person who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

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

15. “It’s like someone who steals another person’s sheep, but the owner returns and takes them back. How does someone steal another person’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 official who is powerful. Because they’re powerful, the owner can arrest the thief and take back the sheep. This is what’s meant by someone who steals another person’s sheep, but the owner returns and takes them back.

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

The Parable of the Debtor

17. “Furthermore, someone performs a deed that’s not good and surely will receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person perform a deed 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 very short. This is called a person who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

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

19. “Thus is someone who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell. How does a person perform a deed 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 very short. This is called a person who performs a deed that’s not good and will surely receive a painful result, the reward of Hell.

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

21. “It’s like someone who owes 100 coins but isn’t arrested by the creditor. Even if it were 1,000 or 10,000, they still wouldn’t be arrested by the creditor. How does someone owe 100 coins but isn’t arrested by the creditor, and they aren’t arrested by the creditor even if it were 1,000 or 10,000? It means that the debtor has measureless assets and is powerful. They therefore aren’t arrested by the creditor even though they owe 100 coins. Even if it were 1,000 or 10,000, they wouldn’t be arrested by the creditor. This is what’s meant by someone who owes 100 coins but isn’t arrested by the creditor. Even if it were 1,000 or 10,000, they wouldn’t be arrested by the creditor.

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

23. Thus did the Buddha speak. Those monks who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. The direct parallel for this sutra is AN 3.100. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 17 August 2021