Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Medium Discourses

Chapter 7: King Dīrghāyu

83. A Senior Elder’s Drowsiness

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha traveled to Bharga and stayed at Mṛgadāva Park in Bhīṣaṇikā Grove of Śuśumāragiri.

2. It was then that Venerable Mahāmaudgalyāyana traveled to the country of Magadha and stayed at the village Kalyāṇamitra.[2] Just then, Venerable Mahāmaudgalyāyana was sitting in repose alone in a peaceful dwelling and was drowsy while reflecting. The Bhagavān knew from far away that Venerable Mahāmaudgalyāyana was sitting in repose alone in a peaceful dwelling and was drowsy while reflecting. After noticing that, the Bhagavān then entered a manner of concentration. Using that manner of concentration, he disappeared from Mṛgadāva Park in Bharga and appeared before Venerable Maudgalyāyana in the village Kalyāṇamitra of Magadha. It took as much time as it takes a strong man to flex his arm.

3. The Bhagavān then woke from his concentration and told him, “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you look drowsy! Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you look drowsy!”

Venerable Maudgalyāyana said to the Bhagavān, “Indeed, Bhagavān!”

4. The Bhagavān again told him, “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, there are signs of drowsiness. Don’t cultivate those signs and don’t let them expand. In this way, drowsiness can be ceased.

5. “Suppose that doesn’t cease your drowsiness. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you should follow the teachings you’ve heard in the past. According to how you’ve acquired and retained them, recite in full and often. In this way, drowsiness can be ceased.

6. “Suppose that doesn’t cease your drowsiness. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you should follow the teachings you’ve heard in the past. According to how you’ve acquired and retained them, explain them in detail for others. In this way, drowsiness can be ceased.

7. “Suppose that doesn’t cease your drowsiness. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you should follow the teachings you’ve heard in the past. According to how you’ve acquired and retained them, be mindful of your mind and reflect on your mind. In this way, drowsiness can be ceased.

8. “Suppose that doesn’t cease your drowsiness. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you should grab your ears with both hands. In this way, drowsiness can be ceased.

9. “Suppose that doesn’t cease your drowsiness. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you should splash cold water on your face and sprinkle it on your body. In this way, drowsiness can be ceased.

10. “Suppose that doesn’t cease your drowsiness. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you should go outside, look in the four directions, and look up at the stars. In this way, drowsiness can be ceased.

11. “Suppose that doesn’t cease your drowsiness. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you should go outside to the front of your dwelling and walk at length on the dewy ground. Guard your faculties and keep your mind calm internally. After that, return to your previous perceptions. In this way, drowsiness can be ceased.

12. “Suppose that doesn’t cease your drowsiness. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you should stop walking at length on the path and walk to the front of the path. Spread out your sitting mat, and sit down cross-legged. In this way, drowsiness can be ceased.

13. “Suppose that doesn’t cease your drowsiness. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you should return to your dwelling, fold your upper robe four times, and spread it over your bed. Make a pillow with your outer robe and lie down on your right side with your feet together. Create a perception of light in your mind, establish right mindfulness and right knowledge, and continuously desire the perception of rising.

14. “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, don’t imagine a bed, enjoying lying down, sleeping, and the pleasure of its comfort. Don’t crave material rewards, and don’t be attached to fame. Why is that? I teach all the things that can’t and can be shared with the congregation.

15. “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, what do I teach that can’t be shared with the congregation? Mahāmaudgalyāyana, if religious and secular teachings are combined in the same congregation, then I teach that these things can’t be shared with the congregation. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, if the religious and secular teachings are combined in the same congregation, then they’ll have many explanations. If there are many explanations, then there’ll be agitation. If there’s agitation, then one’s mind isn’t calm. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, if one’s mind isn’t calm, then it’ll be separated from samādhi. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, I therefore say that this can’t be shared with the congregation.

16. “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, what do I teach that can be shared with the congregation? Mahāmaudgalyāyana, that’s being in an undisturbed place. I teach this as something that can be shared with the congregation. In a peaceful place in the mountains and forests under a tree or on open ground, on high cliffs, or in caves, there are no voices. It’s secluded, without evils, and there are no people. It’s fitting for sitting in repose. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, I teach this as something that can be shared with the congregation.

17. “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, if you enter a village to solicit alms, you should do so feeling tired of rewards and tired of support and respect. If you’ve made your mind tired of rewards, support, and respect, then enter a village to solicit alms. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, don’t go into a village to solicit alms with a haughty attitude. Why is that?

18. “Some family elders have such duties that they don’t pay any attention to a monk who has come to solicit alms. The monk then thinks to himself, ‘Someone has damaged [my reputation] with these family elders. Why is that? I’ve entered their home, but the elders pay no attention to me.’ Because of this, sadness arises. Because of this sadness, agitation arises. Because of agitation, one’s mind isn’t calm. Because one’s mind isn’t calm, it’s separated from samādhi.

19. “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, when you teach Dharma, don’t do it with arguments. If you teach with arguments, then you’ll have many explanations. As a result of saying so much, agitation arises. Because agitation arises, one’s mind isn’t calm. Because one’s mind isn’t calm, it’s separated from samādhi.

20. “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, when you teach Dharma, don’t be forceful. Teach Dharma like a lion. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, when you teach Dharma, do so with a humble attitude. Abandon strength, cease strength, destroy what’s strong. One must not be forceful to teach Dharma like a lion. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, you should train in this way.”

21. It was then that Venerable Mahāmaudgalyāyana rose from his seat, adjusted his robe to one shoulder, and saluted the Buddha with his palms together. He said, “Bhagavān, how can a monk reach the ultimate, that is the ultimate purity, ultimate religious practice, and ultimate end of the religious life?”

22. The Bhagavān told him, “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, if a monk has pleasant feelings, painful feelings, or feelings that are neither pleasant nor painful, he contemplates these feelings as impermanent. He contemplates them as arising and passing away, contemplates ending them, and contemplates dispassion, cessation, and equanimity. After he contemplates these feelings as impermanent, contemplates them as arising and passing away, contemplates ending them, and contemplates dispassion, cessation, and equanimity, he is not subject to this world. Because he’s not subject to this world, he isn’t troubled. Because he isn’t troubled, he parinirvāṇas: ‘Birth has been ended, the religious practice has been established, and the task has been accomplished. I’m no longer subject to existence.’ He truly knows it.

23. “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, such a monk can reach the ultimate, which is the ultimate purity, ultimate religious practice, and ultimate end of the religious practice.”

24. Thus did the Buddha speak. Venerable Mahāmaudgalyāyana heard what the Buddha taught, rejoiced, and approved.

Notes

  1. This sutra’s parallels include AN 7.61, T 47, and EĀ 19.3. [Back]
  2. the village Kalyāṇamitra. Ch. 善知識村, P. Kallavāḷamuttagāma. The Chinese translates the village’s name with the common and well-known rendering of kalyāṇamitra (“good friend”). Since the pronunciation is similar to the Pali parallel, I’ve adopted it.

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 1 September 2021