Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Medium Discourses

17. Gāminī

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha traveled to Nālandā and stayed at [Pāvārika]’s Mango Grove.

2. It was then that there was a [young] Ābhāsvara god named Gāminī. His appearance was glorious, and he was radiant and glowing. At night just before dawn, he went to the Buddha, bowed his head at the Buddha’s feet, and then withdrew to stand at one side. That [young] Ābhāsvara god Gāminī then said, “Bhagavān, the priests are proud of themselves, serving one god or another. When the lives of sentient beings end, the priests can send them as they like to [440a] be reborn in good places, born up in the heavens. The Bhagavān is the Dharma lord. May the Bhagavān make sentient beings go to good places, born up in the heavens, when their lives end!”

A Person Who Practices a Dark Path

3. The Bhagavān told him, “Gāminī, now I will ask you a question. Answer as you understand it. Gāminī, what do you think? Suppose in a town there is a man or woman who is indolent, doesn’t make effort, and practices a bad teaching. They consummate the path of ten unwholesome actions, which are killing beings, taking what’s not given, sexual misconduct, false speech … and false view.

4. “When their life ends, suppose a crowd of people comes. Each with their palms together, they praise them and pray. They say, ‘You were a man or woman who was indolent, didn’t make effort, and practiced a bad teaching. You consummated the path of ten unwholesome actions, which are killing beings, taking what’s not given, sexual misconduct, false speech … and false view. Because of these causes and these conditions, you surely will go to a good place, born up in the heavens, when your body breaks up and your life ends.’

5. “Thus, Gāminī, that man or woman was indolent, didn’t make effort, and practiced a bad teaching. They consummated the path of ten unwholesome actions, which are killing beings, taking what’s not given, sexual misconduct, false speech … and false view. Would they go to a good place, born up in the heavens, when their body breaks up and their life ends because of these causes and these conditions when this crowd of people praises them and prays with their palms together?”

Gāminī answered, “No, Bhagavān.”

6. The Bhagavān commended him, “Good, Gāminī! Why is that? That man or woman was indolent, didn’t make effort, and practiced a bad teaching. They consummated the path of unwholesome actions, which are killing beings, taking what’s not given, sexual misconduct, false speech … and false view. Suppose a crowd of people praises them and prays with their palms together, ‘Because of these causes and these conditions, you can go to a good place, born up in the heavens, when your body breaks up and your life ends.’ This is not something that’s possible.

Simile of a Heavy Stone in Water

7. “Gāminī, suppose they left that town and went to a deep body of water not far away, and someone there takes a large, heavy stone and throws it into the water. Suppose a crowd of people comes. They each praise it and pray with their palms together, ‘May this stone to float up out of the water! May this stone float up out of the water!’ What do you think, Gāminī? Would that large, heavy stone come out of the water because of these causes and these conditions when this crowd of people praises it and prays with their palms together?”

Gāminī answered, “No, Bhagavān.”

8. “So it is, Gāminī. That man or woman was indolent, didn’t make effort, and practiced a bad teaching. They consummated the path of ten unwholesome actions, which are killing beings, taking what’s not given, sexual misconduct, false speech … and false view. Suppose a crowd of people praises them and prays with their palms together, ‘Because of these causes and these conditions, you can go to a good place, born up in the heavens, when your body breaks up and your life ends.’ This is not something that’s possible. Why is that? [440b] The path of ten unwholesome actions is dark and has a dark result. It naturally heads downward; it surely goes to a bad place.

A Person Who Practices a Light Path

9. “Gāminī, what do you think? Suppose there’s a man or woman in that town who makes effort, diligently cultivates, and practices the superb teaching. They consummate the path of ten good actions, which are parting with killing and stopping killing … taking what’s not given … sexual misconduct … false speech … parting with wrong view, stopping wrong view, and attaining right view. When their life ends, suppose a crowd of people comes. They each praise them and pray, ‘You man or woman made effort, diligently cultivated, and practiced the superb teaching. You consummated the path of ten good actions, which are parting with killing and stopping killing … taking what’s not given … sexual misconduct … false speech … parting with wrong view, stopping wrong view, and attaining right view. Because of these causes and these conditions, you will go at a bad place, born in Hell, when your body breaks up and your life ends.’

10. “Gāminī, what do you think? That man or woman made effort, diligently cultivated, and practiced the superb teaching. They consummated the path of ten good actions, which are parting with killing and stopping killing … taking what’s not given … sexual misconduct … false speech … parting with wrong view, stopping wrong view, and attaining right view. Would they go to a bad place, born in Hell, when their body breaks up and their life ends because of these causes and these conditions when this crowd of people praises them and prays with their palms together?”

Gāminī answered, “No, Bhagavān.”

11. The Bhagavān commended him, “Good, Gāminī! Why is that? Gāminī, that man or woman made effort, diligently cultivated, and practiced the superb teaching. They consummated the path of ten good actions, which are parting with killing and stopping killing … taking what’s not given … sexual misconduct … false speech … parting with wrong view, stopping wrong view, and attaining right view. Suppose a crowd of people comes. They each praise them and pray with their palms together, ‘Because of these causes and these conditions, you can go to a bad place, born in Hell, when your body breaks and your life ends.’ This is not something that’s possible. Why is that? Gāminī, the path of the ten good deeds is light and has a light result. It naturally rises upward; it surely goes to a good place.

The Simile of a Pot of Cream in Water

12. “Gāminī, suppose they left that town and went to a deep body of water not far away, and someone there drops a pot of cream into the water, and it breaks. The solid clay sinks downward, but the cream floats on the water.

13. “So it is, Gāminī. That man or woman made effort, diligently cultivated, and practiced the superb teaching. They consummated the path of ten good actions, which are parting with killing and stopping killing … taking what’s not given … sexual misconduct … false speech … parting with wrong view, stopping wrong view, and attaining right view.

14. “When their life ends, it means that the body of crude form and the four elements that was born of mother and father, that was clothed and nourished with food, that sat and lied down, that was massaged and bathed, and that was forced to endure is something that breaks up, that comes to an end, and that scatters. After their life ends, it might be pecked by birds, eaten by tigers and wolves, burned, or buried. In the end, it’s reduced to dust. Their mind, thinking, and consciousness was constantly permeated by faith and permeated by effort, learning, generosity, and wisdom. Because of these causes and these conditions, it naturally rises upward to be born in a good place.

15. “Gāminī, someone who killed beings parts with killing and stops killing. That’s the garden terrace path, the ascending path, and the path to a good place. Gāminī, someone who took what’s not given … committed sexual misconduct … spoke falsely … and had wrong view parts with … wrong view and attains right view. That’s the garden terrace path, the ascending path, and the path to a good place.

16. “Again, Gāminī, there’s this garden terrace path, this ascending path, and this path to a good place. Gāminī, what is the garden terrace path, the ascending path, and the path to a good place? It refers to the noble eightfold path, which is right view … right concentration. These are the eight. Gāminī, this is called the garden terrace path, the ascending path, and the path to a good place.”

17. The Buddha spoke thus. Gāminī and the monks who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. The direct parallel for this sutra is SN 42.6. This version differs mainly in having a different opening narrative, depicting a god approaching the Buddha with a question rather than the headman of a village. {: target=”_blank”}. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 14 September 2020