Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Medium Discourses

Chapter 7: King Dīrghāyu

79. The Greater Gods

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

Ṛṣidatta’s Invitation

2. The wealthy man Ṛṣidatta[2] told a messenger, “Go to the Buddha and bow your head at the Bhagavān’s feet for me. Make inquiries about whether the Bhagavān’s noble body is relaxed, strong, comfortable, and without illness. Does he rise from his dwelling with ease? Is his energy as it usual is? Say this: ‘The wealthy man Ṛṣidatta bows his head at the Buddha’s feet and inquiries about whether the Bhagavān’s noble body is relaxed, strong, comfortable, and without illness. Does he rise from his dwelling with ease? Is his energy as it usual is?’

3. “Once you’ve made these inquiries of the Buddha, go to Venerable Aniruddha and bow your head at his feet for me. Make inquiries about whether the venerable’s noble body is relaxed, strong, comfortable, and without illness. Does he rise from his dwelling with ease? Is his energy as it usually is? Say this: ‘The wealthy man Ṛṣidatta bows his head at the feet of Venerable Aniruddha and inquires about whether the venerable’s noble body is relaxed, strong, comfortable, and without illness. Does he rise from his dwelling with ease? Is his energy as it usually is? Ṛṣidatta invites the Venerable Aniruddha and a total of four people to share a meal tomorrow.’

4. “If he accepts the invitation, then also say, ‘Venerable Aniruddha, Ṛṣidatta has many duties and things to do for the king’s many tasks, which need to be arranged properly with his ministers. May it please Venerable Aniruddha to be sympathetic and come to Ṛṣidatta’s home with four people tomorrow.’”

5. The messenger accepted Ṛṣidatta’s instructions and went to the Buddha. He bowed his head at the Buddha’s feet and withdrew to one side. He said, “Bhagavān, the wealthy man Ṛṣidatta bows his head at the Buddha’s feet. He inquires about whether the Bhagavān’s noble body is relaxed, strong, comfortable, and without illness. Does he rise from his dwelling with ease? Is his energy as it usually is?”

6. It was then that the Bhagavān told the messenger, “May the wealthy man Ṛṣidatta be comfortable and happy. May the gods, humans, asuras, gandharvas, rakṣasas, and other types of beings be comfortable and happy.”

7. When he heard what the Buddha said, the messenger well accepted and well retained it. He bowed his head at the Buddha’s feet, circled him three times, and departed. He went to Venerable Aniruddha, bowed his head at his feet, and withdrew to sit at one side. He said, “Venerable Aniruddha, the wealthy man Ṛṣidatta bows his head at Venerable Aniruddha’s feet. He inquires about whether the venerable’s noble body is relaxed, strong, comfortable, and without illness. Does he rise from his dwelling with ease? Is his energy as it usually is? Ṛṣidatta invites Venerable Aniruddha and a total of four people to share a meal tomorrow.”

8. Just then, Venerable True Kātyāyana[3] had left and was sitting in repose not far away. Venerable Aniruddha then said to him, “Good man, Kātyāyana! I’ll be taking the road tomorrow to solicit alms in Śrāvastī, as it’s right to do. Now, the wealthy man Ṛṣidatta has sent someone to invite me and four people to share a meal tomorrow.”

Venerable True Kātyāyana immediately said, “Let Venerable Aniruddha silently accept his invitation! We’ll leave this dark grove tomorrow and go soliciting alms in Śrāvastī.” Venerable Aniruddha then silently accepted his invitation.

9. The messenger knew that Venerable Aniruddha had silently accepted his invitation, so he quickly said, “Ṛṣidatta says to Venerable Aniruddha that he has many duties and things to do for the king’s many tasks, which need to be arranged properly with his ministers. May it please the Venerable Aniruddha to be sympathetic and come to Ṛṣidatta’s home with four people tomorrow.”

Venerable Aniruddha told the messenger, “You can go back now. I’ll know when it’s time.” The messenger rose from his seat, paid homage by prostrating himself, circled Aniruddha three times, and departed.

10. After the night passed and the sun rose, Venerable Aniruddha put on his robe, picked up his bowl, and went with four people to Ṛṣidatta’s home.

11. It was then that Ṛṣidatta’s concubines circled them and stood under the gate to help Venerable Aniruddha. Ṛṣidatta saw Venerable Aniruddha approaching from afar, and after seeing him Ṛṣidatta saluted Venerable Aniruddha with his palms together and praised him: “Welcome, Venerable Aniruddha! It’s been a long time since you’ve visited, Aniruddha!” Ṛṣidatta then embraced Venerable Aniruddha respectfully and led him into his home. A fine seat was prepared, and he invited Aniruddha to sit.

The Liberations of Great Mind and Measureless Mind

12. Venerable Aniruddha then sat down on his seat. Ṛṣidatta bowed his head at Venerable Aniruddha’s feet and withdrew to sit at one side. After sitting, he said, “Venerable Aniruddha, I would like to ask a question if it pleases you to listen.”

Venerable Aniruddha told him, “Wealthy man, go ahead and ask your question. After listening, I’ll consider it.”

13. Ṛṣidatta then asked Venerable Aniruddha, “Some ascetics and priests have come to me, and they’ve said, ‘Wealthy man, you should cultivate the liberation of the great mind.’ Aniruddha, other ascetics and priests have come to me, and they’ve said, ‘Wealthy man, you should cultivate the liberation of the measureless mind.’ Venerable Aniruddha, are these two liberations of the great mind and the measureless mind different in meaning and name, or are they the same in meaning but different in name?”

Venerable Aniruddha told him, “Wealthy man, you give your own answer to this question first, and then I’ll answer after you.”

14. Ṛṣidatta said, “Venerable Aniruddha, these two liberations of the great mind and the measureless mind are the same in meaning but different in name, but the wealthy man Ṛṣidatta isn’t the one to answer this question.”

15. Venerable Aniruddha told him, “Wealthy man, permit me to explain the liberations of the great mind and measureless mind for you. Regarding the liberation of the great mind, suppose an ascetic or priest stays in an undisturbed place, whether it’s under a tree or an empty and peaceful dwelling. Based on a single tree, their thinking is freed, and they accomplish the filling of it with the liberation of the great mind. Their mind is liberated to that extent and doesn’t go beyond it. If they don’t base it on one tree, they base it on two or three trees. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish the filling of it with the liberation of the great mind. Their mind is liberated to that extent and doesn’t go beyond it.

16. “If they don’t base it on two or three trees, they base it on one grove. If they don’t base it on one grove, they base it on two or three groves. If they don’t base it on two or three groves, they base it on one village. If they don’t base it on one village, they base it on two or three villages. If they don’t base it on two or three villages, they base it on one country. If they don’t base it on one country, they base it on two or three countries. If they don’t base it on two or three countries, they base it on the Earth up to the ocean. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish the filling of it with the liberation of the great mind. Their mind is liberated to that extent and doesn’t go beyond it. This is called the liberation of the great mind.

17. “Wealthy man, what is the liberation of measureless mind? Suppose an ascetic or priest stays in an undisturbed place, whether it’s under a tree or an empty and peaceful dwelling. They pervade one direction with their mind together with kindness. They do so in two, three, and four directions, the four counterpoints, and up and down. They completely pervade them all with their mind together with kindness without bondage, without enmity, without anger, and without quarrel. It’s broadly, greatly, and measurelessly well cultivated, and they accomplish the filling of the whole world.

18. “Thus, their mind together with compassion, joy, and equanimity is without bondage, without enmity, without anger, and without quarrel. It’s broadly, greatly, and measurelessly well cultivated, and they accomplish the filling of the whole world. This is called the liberation of measureless mind.

19. “Wealthy man, are these two liberations of the great mind and the measureless mind different both in meaning and name, or are they the same in meaning but different in name?”

Ṛṣidatta said to Venerable Aniruddha, “As I’ve heard it from the venerable and understood his meaning, these two liberations would be both different in meaning and name.”

The Greater Gods

20. Venerable Aniruddha told him, “Wealthy man, there are three kinds of gods: Radiance gods, pure radiance gods, and completely pure radiance gods. Among the radiance gods, they are born in the same place, but they don’t think, ‘Here is my possession’ or ‘There is my possession.’ It’s just that radiance gods happen to go there, and there they are happy.

21. “Wealthy man, it’s just like flies on a piece of meat. They don’t think, ‘Here is my possession’ or ‘There is my possession.’ It’s just that flies happen to go to a piece of meat, and there they are happy. Thus, those radiance gods don’t think, ‘Here is my possession’ or ‘There is my possession.’ It’s just that radiance gods happen to go there, and there they are happy.

22. “There are times when the radiance gods gather in the same place. Their radiance doesn’t differ even though their bodies have differences. Wealthy man, it’s just like someone who lights a measureless lamp and places it in a room. That lamp’s light doesn’t differ even though [the lamp is] different. Thus, those radiance gods gather in the same place, and their radiance doesn’t differ even though their bodies have differences.

23. “There are times when the radiance gods spread themselves out. When they spread themselves out, their bodies will be different, and their radiance differs, too. Wealthy man, it’s just like someone who takes many lamps from a room and places them in separate rooms. Those lamps then are different, and their radiance differs, too. Thus, those radiance gods spread themselves out. When they spread themselves out, their bodies will be different, and their radiance differs, too.”

24. Venerable True Kātyāyana then said, “Venerable Aniruddha, is it possible to know the relative superiority of those radiance gods that are born in the same place, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous?”

Venerable Aniruddha replied, “Good man, Kātyāyana, you can say that the relative superiority of those radiance gods that are born in the same place is known, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous.”

25. Venerable True Kātyāyana asked, “Venerable Aniruddha, what are the causes and conditions for knowing the relative superiority of those radiance gods that are born in the same place, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous?”

26. Venerable Aniruddha replied, “Good man, Kātyāyana, suppose an ascetic or priest stays in an undisturbed place, whether it’s under a tree or an empty and peaceful dwelling. Based on one tree, their thinking is freed, and they accomplish a perception of radiance. Their mind forms the perception of radiance, and it’s completely filled. Their mind is liberated to that extent and doesn’t go beyond it. If they don’t base it on one tree, they base it on two or three trees. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish a perception of radiance. Their mind forms the perception of radiance, and it’s completely filled. Their mind is liberated to that extent and doesn’t go beyond it.

27. “Good man, Kātyāyana, which of these two liberations of mind is higher, greater, marvelous, and best?”

Venerable True Kātyāyana replied, “Venerable Aniruddha, suppose there’s an ascetic or priest who doesn’t base it on one tree but bases it on two or three trees. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish a perception of radiance. Their mind forms the perception of radiance, and it’s completely filled. Their mind is liberated to that extent and doesn’t go beyond it. Venerable Aniruddha, of those two liberations, this liberation is higher, greater, marvelous, and best.”

28. Venerable Aniruddha also asked, “Good man, Kātyāyana, suppose they don’t base it on two or three trees but base it on one grove. Suppose they don’t base it on one grove but base it on two or three groves. Suppose they don’t base it on two or three groves but base it on one village. Suppose they don’t base it on one village but base it on two or three villages. Suppose they don’t base it on two or three villages but base it on one country. Suppose they don’t base it on one country but base it on two or three countries. Suppose they don’t base it on two or three countries but base it on the Earth up to the ocean. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish a perception of radiance. Their mind forms the perception of radiance, and it’s completely filled. Their mind is liberated to that extent and doesn’t go beyond it. Good man, Kātyāyana, which of these pairs of liberations are higher, greater, marvelous, and best?”

29. Venerable True Kātyāyana replied, “Venerable Aniruddha, suppose there is an ascetic or priest who doesn’t base it on two or three trees but bases it on one grove. Suppose they don’t base it on one grove but base it on two or three groves. Suppose they don’t base it on two or three groves but base it on one village. Suppose they don’t base it on one village but base it on two or three villages. Suppose they don’t base it on two or three villages but base it on one country. Suppose they don’t base it on one country but base it on two or three countries. Suppose they don’t base it on two or three countries but base it on the Earth up to the ocean. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish a perception of radiance. Their mind forms the perception of radiance, and it’s completely filled. Their mind is liberated to that extent and doesn’t go beyond it. Venerable Aniruddha, of those pairs of liberations, this liberation is higher, greater, marvelous, and best.”

30. Venerable Aniruddha told him, “Kātyāyana, these are the causes and conditions for knowing the relative superiority of those radiance gods that are born in the same place, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous. What’s the reason for that? A person’s cultivation is fine or coarse because of the relative superiority of their mind. We find a person to be superior because their cultivation is fine or coarse. Good man, Kātyāyana, the Bhagavān also says this about the relative superiority of people.”

31. Venerable True Kātyāyana also asked, “Venerable Aniruddha, is it possible to know the relative superiority of those pure radiance gods that are born in the same place, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous?”

Venerable Aniruddha replied, “Good man, Kātyāyana, you can say that the relative superiority of those pure radiance gods that are born in the same place is known, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous.”

32. Venerable True Kātyāyana also asked, “Venerable Aniruddha, what are the causes and conditions for knowing the relative superiority of those pure radiance gods that are born in the same place, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous?”

33. Venerable Aniruddha replied, “Good man, Kātyāyana, suppose there’s an ascetic or priest who stays in an undisturbed place, whether it’s under a tree or an empty and peaceful dwelling. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish the pervasiveness of the pure radiance gods. This concentration of theirs isn’t cultivated, isn’t studied, isn’t broad, and isn’t fully accomplished. Afterward, when their body breaks up and their life ends, they’re born among the pure radiance gods. After being born there, they don’t attain the highest calm, highest peace, or the final end of their lives.

34. “Good man, Kātyāyana, it’s similar to the blue lotus and the crimson, red, and white lotuses, which are born of water and grow in water. While they’re at the bottom of a pond, their roots, stems, leaves, and flowers are all wet with clean water, moistened by that water, and no part of them isn’t wet.

35. “Good man, Kātyāyana, suppose there’s an ascetic or priest who stays in an undisturbed place, whether it’s under a tree or an empty and peaceful dwelling. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish the pervasiveness of the pure radiance gods. This concentration of theirs isn’t cultivated, isn’t studied, isn’t broad, and isn’t fully accomplished. Afterward, when their body breaks up and their life ends, they’re born among the pure radiance gods. After being born there, they don’t attain the highest calm, highest peace, or the final end of their lives.

36. “Good man, Kātyāyana, there’s another ascetic or priest whose thinking is freed, and they accomplish the pervasiveness of the pure radiance gods. This concentration of theirs is frequently cultivated, frequently studied, frequently broadened, and fully accomplished. Afterward, when their body breaks up and their life ends, they’re born among the pure radiance gods. After being born there, they attain the highest calm, highest peace, and the final end of their lives.

37. “Good man, Kātyāyana, it’s similar to the blue lotus and the crimson, red, and white lotuses, which are born of water and grow in water. They emerge from the water and float on top where the water doesn’t wet them.

38. “Good man, Kātyāyana, so it is that another ascetic or priest stays in an undisturbed place, whether it’s under a tree or an empty and peaceful dwelling. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish the pervasiveness of the pure radiance gods. This concentration of theirs is frequently cultivated, frequently studied, frequently broadened, and fully accomplished. Afterward, when their body breaks up and their life ends, they’re born among the pure radiance gods. After being born there, they attain the highest calm, highest peace, and the final end of their lives.

39. “Good man, Kātyāyana, these are the causes and conditions for knowing the relative superiority of those pure radiance gods that are born in the same place, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous. What is the reason for that? A person’s cultivation is fine or coarse because of the relative superiority of their mind. We find a person to be superior because their cultivation is fine or coarse. Good man, Kātyāyana, the Bhagavān also says this about the relative superiority of people.”

40. Venerable True Kātyāyana also asked, “Venerable Aniruddha, is it possible to know the relative superiority of those pervasively pure radiance gods that are born in the same place, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous?”

Venerable Aniruddha replied, “Good man, Kātyāyana, you can say that the relative superiority of those pervasively pure radiance gods that are born in the same place is known, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous.”

41. Venerable True Kātyāyana also asked, “Venerable Aniruddha, what are the causes and conditions for knowing the relative superiority of those pervasively pure radiance gods who are born in one place, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous?”

42. Venerable Aniruddha replied, “Good man, Kātyāyana, suppose an ascetic or priest stays in an undisturbed place, whether it’s under a tree or an empty and peaceful dwelling. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish the pervasiveness of the pervasively pure radiance gods. They don’t quite stop drowsiness and don’t skillfully calm restlessness and remorse. Afterward, when their body breaks up and their life ends, they are born among the pervasively pure radiance gods. After being born there, their light isn’t quite pure.

43. “Good man, Kātyāyana, it’s like a burning lamp that’s conditioned by its oil and wick. If the oil has dirt or the wick isn’t pure, this causes the lamp’s light to become dim or unclear. Good man, Kātyāyana, so it is if an ascetic or priest stays in an undisturbed place, whether it’s under a tree or an empty and peaceful dwelling. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish the pervasiveness of the pervasively pure radiance gods. They don’t quite stop drowsiness and don’t skillfully calm restlessness and remorse. Afterward, when their body breaks up and their life ends, they are born among the pervasively pure radiance gods. After being born there, their light isn’t quite pure.

44. “Good man, Kātyāyana, another ascetic or priest stays in an undisturbed place, whether it’s under a tree or an empty and peaceful dwelling. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish the pervasiveness of the pervasively pure radiance gods. They fully stop drowsiness and skillfully calm restlessness and remorse. Afterward, when their body breaks up and their life ends, they are born among the pervasively pure radiance gods. After being born there, their light is fully bright and pure.

45. “Good man, Kātyāyana, it’s like a burning lamp that’s conditioned by its oil and wick. If the oil has no dirt and the wick is also fully pure, this causes the lamp’s light to become fully bright and pure. Good man, Kātyāyana, so it is that another ascetic or priest stays in an undisturbed place, whether it’s under a tree or an empty and peaceful dwelling. Their thinking is freed, and they accomplish the pervasiveness of the pervasively pure radiance gods. They fully stop drowsiness and skillfully calm restlessness and remorse. Afterward, when their body breaks up and their life ends, they are born among the pervasively pure radiance gods. After being born there, their light is fully bright and pure.

46. “Good man, Kātyāyana, these are the causes and conditions for knowing the relative superiority of those pervasively pure radiance gods who are born in the same place, whether they’re marvelous or not marvelous. What’s the reason for that? A person’s cultivation is fine or coarse because of the relative superiority of their mind. We find a person to be superior because their cultivation is fine or coarse. Good man, Kātyāyana, the Bhagavān also says this about the relative superiority of people.”

Conclusion

47. Venerable True Kātyāyana commended Ṛṣidatta, “Good, Ṛṣidatta! Good! You’ve been of much benefit to us. What’s the reason for that? You’re the first to ask Venerable Aniruddha about the greater gods that exist. We’ve never before heard such meaning from Venerable Aniruddha as ‘This is called those gods, there’s those gods, and thus are those gods.’”

48. Venerable Aniruddha then told him, “Good man, Kātyāyana, many are those gods, these suns and moons that have such great supernormal abilities, great majesty, great fortune, and great might. They glow with incomparable light. I’ve met with them, exchanged greetings, had conversations, and gotten responses. Still, I don’t thus say, ‘This is called those gods, there’s those gods, and thus are those gods.’”

49. It was then that Ṛṣidatta knew that the venerable’s discourse was finished, so he rose from his seat and fetched the wash water. He personally served them with a variety of pure and delicious dishes, and they ate until they were full. When the meal was done, he picked up the dishes and washed them. Then he got a small seat and sat separately to listen to Dharma. After Ṛṣidatta was seated, Venerable Aniruddha taught Dharma for him, encouraging, rousing, and making him rejoice. Having used measureless methods to teach him Dharma that encouraged, roused, and made him rejoice, [Aniruddha] rose from his seat and departed.

50. Venerable Aniruddha taught thus. The wealthy man Ṛṣidatta and the monks who heard what Venerable Aniruddha taught rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. Parallels include MN 127. [Back]
  2. Ṛṣidatta. This name is translated to Chinese as “Sagely Other” or perhaps “Sagely Heretic.” The name also appears in MA 213, which is paralleled in Pāli (MN 89) as Isidatta. The character in both sources is depicted as someone involved in King Pasenadi’s government. Given that the Chinese typically translated rṣi as “Sage,” I’ve chosen the Sanskrit version of Isadatta, but the original may have had a different suffix than -datta. The Pāli parallel for this sūtra has instead a carpenter named Pañcakaṅga as the layperson who invited Anuruddha to a meal. [back]
  3. True Kātyāyana. The Pāli parallel has this monk’s name as Abhiya Kaccāna, but the Chinese here seems to suggest Satya Kātyāyana. I’ve left it translated without a Sanskrit attestation. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 14 September 2020