Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

Other Āgama Sūtras

Hair-Raising Joy

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Bhagavān was staying in the greatest grove of the greatest city of Vaiśālī with an assembly of monks.

Sunākṣatra’s Criticism

2. It was then that there was a prominent man’s son named Sunākṣatra[2] who had abandoned the Buddha’s teaching not long ago. He criticized the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha in many ways. “The ascetic Gautama doesn’t even have a teaching that’s supreme among humans. How could he be a noble one who knows and sees the realization of what’s supreme while debating problems? He proclaims teachings for his disciples on what to seek and cultivate with his own eloquence and not correct knowledge. How could they then realize anything from his teachings, much less escape to the end of suffering?”

3. It was then that at mealtime Venerable Śāriputra took his bowl and robe and entered the great city of Vaiśālī. Walking the alms round in the city, he heard that prominent man’s son Sunākṣatra criticizing the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha in many ways. After walking the alms round, Venerable Śāriputra returned to his dwelling. When he finished his meal and chores, he put away his bowl and robe and washed both his feet. He then went to the Buddha, touched the ground with his forehead, bowed at the Bhagavān’s feet, and withdrew to sit to one side.

4. He said to the Buddha, “Bhagavān, I went to Vaiśālī [592a] today to solicit alms. While I was there, I heard the prominent man’s son Sunākṣatra criticizing the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha in many ways. He said this: ‘The ascetic Gautama doesn’t even have a teaching that’s supreme among humans. How could he be a noble one who knows and sees the realization of what’s supreme while debating problems? He proclaims teachings for his disciples on what to seek and cultivate with his own eloquence and not correct knowledge. How could they then realize anything from his teachings, much less escape to the end of suffering?’ Bhagavān, that prominent man’s son abandoned the Buddha’s teaching not long ago. Why would he say such things?”

5. The Buddha then told Venerable Śāriputra, “You should know, that prominent man’s son Sunākṣatra is very uncouth and hides his own misdeeds. In order to hide them, he criticizes the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha by saying these things. Śāriputra, just as you’ve heard, that prominent man’s son engages in aimless talk and criticizes, so he says this: ‘The ascetic Gautama doesn’t even have a teaching that’s supreme among humans. How could he be a noble one who knows and sees the realization of what’s supreme while debating problems? He proclaims teachings for his disciples on what to seek and cultivate with his own eloquence and not correct knowledge. How could they then realize anything from his teachings, much less escape to the end of suffering?’

The Ten Epithets

6. “You should listen well; I’ll briefly explain this matter for you. Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘The Tathāgata is an Arhat, completely and correctly Awakened One, accomplished in knowledge and conduct, well gone, understander of the world, unsurpassed man, trainer of people, teacher of gods and humans, Buddha, and Bhagavān. He has perfected these ten epithets.’

7. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he says this: ‘The ascetic Gautama doesn’t even have a teaching that’s supreme among humans. How could he be a noble one who knows and sees the realization of what’s supreme while debating problems? He proclaims teachings for his disciples on what to seek and cultivate with his own eloquence and not correct knowledge. How could they then realize anything from his teachings, much less escape to the end of suffering?’ Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell, dropping like a heavy load.

8. “He’s also like a disciple monk training in precepts, concentration, and wisdom who has little use for strength in diligence to perfect them all. He thinks knowledge [alone] will obtain results and realizations without any problem. That prominent man’s son will fall to an unpleasant destination in the same way.

The Four Meditations

9. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who dwells, sits, and lays in a peaceful place far away from markets and businesses. He has completely discarded the requirements that others would use for shelter, sitting, and laying down.’

10. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. As a result of his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll continue this criticism and quickly fall to hell.

11. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, [592b] an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who parted with desires and misdeeds, and he stopped unskillful qualities. With perception and investigation, this seclusion produced joy, and he realized the first meditation.’

12. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. As a result of his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll continue this criticism and quickly fall to hell.

13. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who stopped perception and investigation. With inner and outer purity, his mind had a single object. Without perception or investigation, this concentration produced joy, and he realized the second meditation.

14. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. As a result of his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll continue this criticism and quickly fall to hell.

15. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who parted with joy and greed. Correctly knowing as it really is, he cultivated equanimity and mindful conduct. He personally experienced sublime happiness free of perceptions of greed. According to the noble practice of contemplation, equanimity, and mindfulness, he parted with joy and sublime happiness, and he realized the third meditation.

16. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. As a result of his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll continue this criticism and quickly fall to hell.

17. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who completely ends pain and pleasure. Free of his previous mental delight and distress [caused by] those two things, he was rid of perceptions of pain and pleasure. With equanimity, mindfulness, and purity, he realized the fourth meditation.

18. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. As a result of his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll continue this criticism and quickly fall to hell.

19. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who transcending the perception of forms. Parting with perception and mutual obstructions, he didn’t pay attention to those various perceptions. As a result, limitless emptiness became his active perception, and he realized concentration of limitless space.’

20. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell. 21. The [remainder of the] [592c] nine successive concentrations are likewise.

The Ten Knowledge Powers

22. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who fully knows as it really is and with his own power of knowledge what’s possible and impossible. The Tathāgata accomplished such power of knowledge.’

23. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

24. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who fully understands as they really are and with correct knowledge all the destinies to which all actions go. The Tathāgata accomplished such power of knowledge.’

25. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

26. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who fully understands as they really are and with correct knowledge various elements and numberless worlds. The Tathāgata accomplished such power of knowledge.’

27. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

28. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who fully understands as they really are and with correct knowledge and evaluation the numberless inclinations possessed by each sentient being. The Tathāgata accomplished such power of knowledge.

29. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

30. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who fully understands as they really are and with correct knowledge and evaluation the different faculties of each sentient being. The Tathāgata accomplished such power of knowledge.

31. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, [593a] so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

32. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who fully understands as they really are and with correct knowledge and evaluation the accumulated actions and life span of each sentient being. The Tathāgata accomplished such power of knowledge.

33. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

34. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who fully understands as they really are and with correct knowledge the defilement and purity that arise from all meditations, liberations, concentrations, and attainments. The Tathāgata accomplished such power of knowledge.

35. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

36. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who can observe with his pure heavenly eye that transcends the human eye all the sentient beings of the world as they born and die and whether they’re beautiful or ugly. Whether they are superior or inferior, their experiences are according to their actions.

37. “If sentient beings perform unskillful actions of body, speech, and thought that are blameworthy to noble ones and produce wrong views, then as a result of their accumulated wrong views and actions, they fall to bad destinations and are born in hell when their bodies break up and their lives end. If sentient beings perform skillful actions of body, speech, and thought that are not criticized by noble ones and produce right view, then as a result of their accumulated right view and actions, they are born in good destinations in the heavenly realms after their bodies break up and their lives end. With his heavenly eye and correct knowledge, he fully sees and knows them. The Tathāgata accomplished such power of knowledge.

38. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

39. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who has the knowledge power of remembering his various past lives. That is, he can know one birth, two births, three, four, or five births, even 10, [593b] 20 … 100 births, 1,000 births, 100,000 births, or countless hundreds of thousands of births. [He remembers] the events of his births that happened during eons of formation and decay: ‘Such were my former surnames, personal names, clans, appearances, meals, life spans, pains, and pleasures. Dying here, I was born there. Dying there, I was born here.’ He fully remembers all such events as they really were and with correct knowledge, understanding each of them. The Tathāgata accomplished such power of knowledge.

40. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

41. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who has ended the contaminants and develops what’s not contaminated. His mind is well liberated, and his wisdom is well liberated. He has accomplished realization of such a teaching with his own powers of penetration. Śāriputra, the Tathāgata completely fulfilled these ten powers.

42. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

Four Kinds of Fearlessness

43. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, that prominent man’s son lacked the seed of faith in my teaching: ‘There is a Tathāgata, an Arhat, and a Completely Awakened One who has achieved four kinds of fearlessness and fully knows the noble one’s domain. Amid a great assembly, he roars the lion’s roar and turns the great Brahma wheel that no other ascetics and priests or Māra and Brahmā can turn. What are the four?

44. “First, the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One realized knowledge of all things. Whether this thing or that thing, there’s nothing that he doesn’t know. Amid a great assembly, he thus says, ‘Secure without apprehension or fear, I understand the noble one’s domain as it really is, roaring the lion’s roar and turning the great Brahma wheel that others aren’t able to turn. I don’t see any ascetics, priests, gods, humans, Māra, or Brahmā that are equal to me.’

45. “Second, the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One has ended the contaminants. Amid a great assembly, he thus says, ‘Secure without apprehension or fear, I understand the noble one’s domain as it really is, roaring the lion’s roar and turning the great Brahma wheel that others aren’t able to turn. I don’t see any ascetics, priests, gods, humans, Māra, or Brahmā that are equal to me.’

46. “Third, the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One proclaims [593c] what teachings and what practices his disciples should practice. As explained in detail before, it’s the highest realization. Amid a great assembly, he thus says, ‘Secure without apprehension or fear, I understand the noble domain as it really is, roaring the lion’s roar and turning the great Brahma wheel that others aren’t able to turn. I don’t see any ascetics, priests, gods, humans, Māra, or Brahmā that are equal to me.’

47. “Fourth, the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One teaches the doctrine of the correct path for his disciples so that they can escape to the end of suffering. Amid a great assembly, he thus says, ‘Secure without apprehension or fear, I understand the noble one’s domain as it really is, roaring the lion’s roar and turning the great Brahma wheel that others aren’t able to turn. I don’t see any ascetics, priests, gods, humans, Māra, or Brahmā that are equal to me.’ Śāriputra, the Tathāgata completely fulfills these four kinds of fearlessness.

48. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

The Eight Assemblies

49. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has eight assemblies. What are the eight? First is the warrior assembly, second is the priest assembly, third is the prominent men assembly, fourth is the ascetic assembly, fifth is the assembly of the four great god kings, sixth is the assembly of the Trāyastriṃśa gods, seventh is the assembly of Māra, and eighth is the assembly of the Brahma gods.

50. “Śāriputra, in the past, I’ve gone to countless hundreds of thousands of warrior meetings. According to how those assembled people appeared, I made myself appear with the same form they had. According to that assembly’s amount of radiance, I endowed myself with the same radiance as theirs. Whatever teaching that assembly explained to each other, I would teach that first. Afterward, I would explain the superior teaching to them.

51. “Although I taught in this way, that assembly also would not fully understand. For this reason, that assembly would have this doubtful thought: ‘What he teaches seems appropriate, but are the ascetics wrong? Are the priests wrong? Are the teachings of gods, humans, Māra, and Brahmā wrong?”

52. “I would then teach them the supreme teaching with plain instruction that’s beneficial and encouraging. After I instructed them plainly, benefited, and encouraged them as was appropriate, I would hide myself and disappear. Although I thus hid the appearance of my body, that assembly also didn’t comprehend it.

53. “They had another doubtful thought: ‘He has suitably hidden himself. Are the ascetics wrong? Are the priests wrong? Are the gods, humans, Māra, and Brahmā wrong?’ Śāriputra, I would then make myself reappear looking the same as they did. That assembly still wouldn’t be able to see me, so how could they surpass me? I’d then explain the supreme teaching, which was the supreme penetrating knowledge of knowing and [594a] seeing.

54. “Śāriputra, in the past, I’ve gone to countless hundreds of thousands of priest congregations. According to how those assembled people appeared, I made myself appear with the same form they had. According to that assembly’s amount of radiance, I endowed myself with the same radiance as theirs. Whatever teaching that assembly explained to each other, I would teach that first. Afterward, I would explain the superior teaching to them.

55. “Although I taught in this way, that assembly also would not fully understand. For this reason, that assembly would have this doubtful thought: ‘What he teaches seems appropriate, but are the ascetics wrong? Are the priests wrong? Are the teachings of gods, humans, Māra, and Brahmā wrong?”

56. “I would then teach them the supreme teaching with plain instruction that’s beneficial and encouraging. After I instructed them plainly, benefited, and encouraged them as was appropriate, I would hide myself and disappear. Although I thus hid the appearance of my body, that assembly also didn’t comprehend it.

57. “They had another doubtful thought: ‘He has suitably hidden himself. Are the ascetics wrong? Are the priests wrong? Are the gods, humans, Māra, and Brahmā wrong?’ Śāriputra, I would then make myself reappear looking the same as they did. That assembly still wouldn’t be able to see me, so how could they surpass me? I’d then explain the supreme teaching, which was the supreme penetrating knowledge of knowing and seeing.

58. The other assemblies of prominent men, ascetics, the four great god kings, the Trāyastriṃśa gods, and Māra were likewise.

59. “Śāriputra, in the past, I’ve gone to countless hundreds of thousands of Brahma god meetings. According to how those assembled gods appeared, I made myself appear with same form as they had. According to that assembly’s amount of radiance, I endowed myself with the same radiance as theirs. Whatever teaching that assembly explained to each other, I also would teach that first. Afterward, I would explain the superior teaching to them.

60. “Although I taught in this way, that assembly also would not fully understand. For this reason, that assembly would have this doubtful thought: ‘What he teaches seems appropriate, but are the ascetics wrong? Are the priests wrong? Are the teachings of gods, humans, Māra, and Brahmā wrong?”

61. “I would then teach them the supreme teaching with plain instruction that’s beneficial and encouraging. After I instructed them plainly, benefited, and encouraged them as was appropriate, I would hide myself and disappear. Although I thus hid the appearance of my body, that assembly also didn’t comprehend it.

62. “They had another doubtful thought: ‘He has suitably hidden himself. Are the ascetics wrong? Are the priests wrong? Are the gods, humans, Māra, and Brahmā wrong?’ Śāriputra, I would then make myself reappear looking the same as they did. That assembly still wouldn’t be able to see me, so how could they surpass me? I’d then explain the supreme teaching, which was the supreme penetrating knowledge of knowing and [594b] seeing.

63. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

Direct Knowledge of the Six Destinies and Nirvāṇa

64. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, I fully know as they really are the practices that exist in the destiny of hell, the actions that lead to it … the sentient beings that receive their results there.

65. “Furthermore, I fully know as they really are the practices that exist in the destiny of animals, the actions that lead to it … the sentient beings that receive their results there.

66. “Furthermore, I fully know as they really are the practices that exist in the destiny of hungry ghosts, the actions that lead to it … the sentient beings that receive their results there.

67. “Furthermore, I fully know as they really are the practices that exist in the destinies of asuras, humans, and heaven, the actions that lead to them … the sentient beings that receive their results there.

68. “Śāriputra, I fully know as they really are the practices of the noble path that arrives at nirvāṇa, the state of nirvāṇa … the sentient beings who realize the element of nirvāṇa.

69. “Although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he has this criticism. Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell.

The Parable of Seeing Births in Hell

70. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, I fully know the existences in the destiny of hell, the causes of hell … the results experienced by sentient beings there. Now, let me briefly illustrate the meaning of this with a parable.

71. “Śāriputra, there’s the parable of a large worldly bonfire with flames that burn as high or higher than a man’s height. Later, it burns down to a trace of smoke, flames, and warmth, and then it goes out completely.

72. “Perhaps a person travels from a distant place in the sweltering heat in the middle of the summer months, and the landscape is baking in the terrible heat. It makes them tired and troubled. Pressured by thirst, all they can do is continue walking on the road towards that place where the fire went out where they want to stop and rest.

73. “Off to the side, there’s a clear-eyed person who sees that traveler baking and miserable as they [594c] hurry on the road in search of a resting place. When that clear-eyed person spies them, they think, ‘That’s where that large bonfire burned with flames as high or higher than a man’s height and then went out. That place isn’t cool and refreshing, but this traveler is going there. If they sit or lay there, the misery of the heat will be made even worse. It won’t be very comfortable. Surely, he’ll experience worse suffering.’ When he thinks that, the traveler walks by in front of him, and the result is as the clear-eyed person thought: The traveler experiences worse misery there.

74. “Śāriputra, there’s a kind of person that falls to hell that’s like that. Whether it’s their hearts or minds, I fully know those people. As a result of their not knowing the practice of the correct path, they fall to a bad destination and are born in hell when their body breaks up and their life ends. It’s not very comfortable, and they experience worse misery. The Tathāgata truly sees these events with his pure heavenly eye that transcends the human eye.

75. “Śāriputra, the Tathāgata therefore fully knows the destiny of hell, the causes of hell … the results experienced by sentient beings there.

Parable of Seeing Births as Animals

76. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, I fully know that destiny of animals, the cause of animal births … the results experienced by those sentient beings.

77. “Śāriputra, there’s the parable of the worldly pile of excrement that’s as high or higher than a man’s height and filled completely with filth.

78. “Perhaps a person travels from a distant place in the sweltering heat in the middle of the summer months, and the landscape is baking in the terrible heat. It makes them tired and troubled. Pressured by thirst, all they can do is continue walking on the road towards that place of filth where they want to stop and rest.

79. “Off to the side, there’s a clear-eyed person who sees that traveler baking and miserable as they hurry on the road in search of a resting place. Then a clear-eyed person spies them and thinks, ‘That’s where that large pile of filth is as high or higher than a man’s height. This traveler is headed there, but that place isn’t cool and refreshing. It’ll make the misery of the heat even worse. It’s not very splendid or desirable. Surely, they’ll experience worse suffering.’ When that clear-eyed person thinks that, the traveler walks by in front of them. The traveler might sit or lay there, but the result is as the clear-eyed person thought: The person experiences worse misery there.

80. “Śāriputra, there’s a kind of person that falls to an animal birth that’s like that. Whether it’s their hearts or minds, I fully know those people. As a result of their not knowing the practice of the correct path, they fall to a bad destination and are born as an animal when their body breaks up and their life ends. It’s not very splendid or desirable. Again, it’s not very comfortable, and they experience worse misery. The Tathāgata truly sees these events with his pure heavenly eye that transcends the human eye.

81. “Śāriputra, the Tathāgata therefore fully knows the destiny of animals, the causes of animal births … the results experienced by sentient beings there.

Parable of Seeing Births as Hungry Ghosts

82. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, I fully know that destiny of hungry ghosts, the cause of hungry ghosts … the results [595a] experienced by those sentient beings.

83. “Śāriputra, there’s the parable of the tree that’s as high or higher than a man’s height. It’s withered and dried up; it’s branches and leaves are desiccated and falling to the ground.

84. “Perhaps a person travels from a distant place in the sweltering heat in the middle of the summer months, and the landscape is baking in the terrible heat. It makes them tired and troubled. Pressured by thirst, all they can do is continue walking on the road to a place under that withered tree where they want to stop and rest.

85. “Off to the side, there’s a clear-eyed person who sees that person headed for a place under that withered tree in search of a resting place. Then a clear-eyed person spies them and thinks, ‘This traveler is headed there, but it’s not a refreshing place that will continue their suffering.’ When he thinks that, the traveler walks by in front of them. The traveler might sit or lay there, but the result is as the clear-eyed person thought: It continues their suffering.

86. “Śāriputra, there’s a kind of person that falls to the hungry ghosts that’s like that. Whether it’s their hearts or minds, I fully know those people. As a result of their not knowing the practice of the correct path, they fall to a bad destination and are born among hungry ghosts when their body breaks up and their life ends, and it continues their suffering. The Tathāgata truly sees these events with his pure heavenly eye that transcends the human eye.

87. “Śāriputra, the Tathāgata therefore fully knows the destiny of hungry ghosts, the causes of hungry ghosts … the results experienced by sentient beings there.

Parable of Seeing Births as Asuras

88. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, I fully know that destiny of asuras, the cause of asuras … the results experienced by those sentient beings.

89. “Śāriputra, there’s the parable of the tree with an ant mound under it that’s as high or higher than a man’s height.

90. “Perhaps a person travels from a distant place in the sweltering heat in the middle of the summer months, and the landscape is baking in the terrible heat. It makes them tired and troubled. Pressured by thirst, all they can do is continue walking on the road to a place under that tree where they want to stop and rest.

91. “Off to the side, there’s a clear-eyed person who sees that traveler headed for a place under that tree with ants in search of a resting place. When that clear-eyed person spies them, they think, ‘This traveler is headed there, but it’s an insecure place that will continue their suffering.’ When that clear-eyed person thinks that, the traveler walks by in front of them. The traveler might sit or lay there, but the result is as he thought: It continues their suffering.

92. “Śāriputra, there’s a kind of person that falls to the destination of asuras that’s like that. Whether it’s their hearts or minds, I fully know those people. As a result of their not knowing the practice of the correct path, they fall to a bad destination among asuras when their body breaks up and their life ends, and it continues their suffering. The Tathāgata truly sees these events with his pure heavenly eye that transcends the human eye.

93. “Śāriputra, the Tathāgata therefore fully knows the destiny of asuras, the causes of asuras … the results experienced by sentient beings there. Parable of Seeing Births among Humans

94. [595b] “Furthermore, Śāriputra, I fully know that destiny of humans, the causes of the human destination … the results experienced by those sentient beings.

95. “Śāriputra, there’s the parable of a tree that’s as high or higher than a man’s height. With twisted roots, branches, and trunk, it’s large and spread out such that its branches and leaves aren’t equal to each other. Some are far apart and open, while others are crowded and hidden. The shade below that it provides also varies.

96. “Perhaps a person travels from a distant place in the sweltering heat in the middle of the summer months, and the landscape is baking in the terrible heat. It makes them tired and troubled. Pressured by thirst, all they can do is continue walking on the road to a place under that tree where they want to stop and rest.

97. “Off to the side, there’s a clear-eyed person who sees that traveler headed for a place under that tree with ants in search of a resting place. When that clear-eyed person spies them, they think, ‘This traveler is headed for that large tree. Whether they sit or lay down under it, they’ll have mixed feelings of pain and pleasure.’ When he thinks that, the traveler walks by in front of them. The traveler might sit or lay there, but the result is as the clear-eyed person thought: They have mixed feelings of pain and pleasure.

98. “Śāriputra, there’s a kind of person that’s born to the human destinations that’s like that. Whether it’s their hearts or minds, I fully know those people. As a result of their not knowing the practice of the noble path, they are born in the human destinations and have mixed feelings of pain and pleasure when their body breaks up and their life ends. The Tathāgata truly sees these events with his pure heavenly eye that transcends the human eye.

99. “Śāriputra, the Tathāgata therefore fully knows the destiny of humans, the causes of human destinations, and the results experienced by sentient beings there.

Parable of Seeing Births as Gods

100. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, I fully know that destiny of gods, the cause of divine destinations, and the results experienced by those sentient beings.

101. “Śāriputra, there’s the parable of a tall and wide tower. It has ornamentally plastered walls, and its stories are tightly joined without spaces or crevices between them. Their doors and windows are all latch shut to prevent too much wind or sun from coming in. Inside, seats are prepared with red silk cushions to make fine mattresses.

102. “Perhaps a person travels from a distant place in the sweltering heat in the middle of the summer months, and the landscape is baking in the terrible heat. It makes them tired and troubled. Pressured by thirst, they follow the road to the tower to climb up to its top where they want to stop and rest.

103. “Off to the side, there’s a clear-eyed person who sees that traveler headed for a place on top that tower in search of a resting place. When that clear-eyed person spies them, they think, ‘If this traveler climbs that tower with covered windows and doors and generous mattresses, it’ll be quite enjoyable and comfortable. Surely, he’ll experience pleasure.’ When he thinks that, the traveler walks by in front of them. The traveler climbs up that tower and might sit or lay there, but the result is as the clear-eyed person thought: They have a delightful experience.

104. “Śāriputra, [595c] there’s a kind of person that’s born in the heavenly realm that’s like that. Whether it’s their hearts or minds, I fully know those people. As a result of their not knowing the practice of the noble path, they are born in good destinations in the heavenly realm that are comfortable and delightful when their body breaks up and their life ends. The Tathāgata truly sees these events with his pure heavenly eye that transcends the human eye.

105. “Śāriputra, the Tathāgata therefore fully knows the destiny of gods, the causes of divine destinations, and the results experienced by sentient beings there.

Parable of Seeing Beings Enter Nirvāṇa

106. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, I fully know the noble path of nirvāṇa, the causes of nirvāṇa, and the fruit of nirvāṇa realized by sentient beings.

107. “Śāriputra, there’s the parable of the worldly city that has a heavenly pond not far from it. Each of its four sides is equal, its water is clean, clear, and lovely. All around it grow mango trees, rose apple trees, jackfruit trees … dragon beard trees, and the like. They shaded all four sides of the pool, and anyone touching its water is of great benefit to their limbs.

108. “Perhaps a person travels from a distant place in the sweltering heat in the middle of the summer months, and the landscape is baking in the terrible heat. It makes them tired and troubled. Pressured by thirst, they follow the road to visit that pool wanting to drink its water, immerse their body, and wash away the suffering of the heat and weariness.

109. “Off to the side, there’s a clear-eyed person who sees that traveler headed for a place by that pool. When that clear-eyed person spies them, they think, ‘This traveler has come from far away, and they’re suffering from exhaustion. If they go to that pool, they can drink its water, immerse their body in it, and get relief from the suffering of the heat and weariness. Afterward, they could go and sit or lay in the shade of the trees and do as they like. They’ll be safe and happy.’ When he thinks that, the traveler walks by in front of them, and the result is as the clear-eyed person thought.

110. “Śāriputra, there’s a kind of person that realizes nirvāṇa that’s like that. Whether it’s their hearts or minds, I fully know those people. As a result of their carrying out the practice of the noble path and cultivating the causes of nirvāṇa, they attain the fruit of nirvāṇa. Ending the contaminants and developing what’s not contaminated, their minds are liberated, and their wisdom is liberated. With their own miraculous power, they realize thus the teaching. The Tathāgata truly sees these events. He sees the ending of the contaminants and liberation of those sentient beings and the happiness of realizing the teaching: ‘My births have been ended, the religious life has been established, and the task has been accomplished. I’m not subject to a later existence.’

111. “Śāriputra, the Tathāgata therefore fully knows the path of nirvāṇa, the teaching of nirvāṇa … the fruit of nirvāṇa realized by sentient beings.

112. “Śāriputra, although he knew and saw such things, that prominent man’s son didn’t believe it, so he says this: ‘The ascetic Gautama doesn’t even [596a] have a teaching that’s supreme among humans. How could he be a noble one who knows and sees the realization of what’s supreme while debating problems? He proclaims teachings for his disciples on what to seek and cultivate with his own eloquence and not correct knowledge. How could they then realize anything from his teachings, much less escape to the end of suffering?’ Because he continues this criticism with his thoughts, words, and his views, he’ll quickly fall into hell, dropping like a heavy load.

113. “He’s also like a disciple monk training in precepts, concentration, and wisdom who has little use for strength in diligence to perfect them all. He thinks knowledge [alone] will obtain results and realizations without any problem. That prominent man’s son will fall to an unpleasant destination in the same way.

Kinds of Priests in the World

114. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who performs fire rituals, imagining it to be pure. They say to each other, ‘Some person or another performs fire rituals; they will attain purity.’ Śāriputra, those fire rituals are very impure. It’s not that I didn’t cultivate it in the past. Although I did cultivate it, it was never of superior benefit. From the beginningless past until now, I’ve been in the world for an eternity, but I didn’t escape birth and death.

115. “Still, the warriors, priests, and prominent men in great clans who follow that practice aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? Why is that? By imagining that, they can’t comprehend noble wisdom, and they don’t awaken to it. Since they don’t awaken to noble wisdom, how can they escape to the end of suffering? Śāriputra, if they awaken to noble wisdom as it really is, then they can open its three doors, end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

116. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who organizes sacrificial rituals to make merit, imagining it to be pure. They say to each other, ‘Some person or another organizes sacrificial rituals to make merit; they will attain purity.’ Śāriputra, organizing sacrificial rituals to make merit is very impure. It’s not that I didn’t cultivate it in the past. Although I did cultivate it, it was never of superior benefit. From the beginningless past until now, I’ve been in the world for an eternity, but I didn’t escape birth and death.

117. “Still, warriors, priests, and prominent men in great clans see many types of ceremonies being practiced, such as sacrificing horses to the gods, sacrificing humans to the gods, sacrificing elephants to the gods, and sacrificing sheep to the gods. They try to make their own assembly no different [than the gods] by giving food. They create pure things with many-colored lotus flowers and with white lotus flowers. They perform sacrifices to the gods by throwing things into a fire, perform ceremonies for Lord Śakra, perform ceremonies for the moon god, and organize sacrifices of gold and treasure, and so forth.

118. “They cultivate such things, but they aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? [596b] Why is that? By imagining that, they can’t comprehend noble wisdom, and they don’t awaken to it. Since they don’t awaken to noble wisdom, how can they escape to the end of suffering? Śāriputra, if they awaken to noble wisdom, then they can open its three doors, end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

119. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who has magical incantations in his teaching, imagining it to be pure. They say to each other, ‘Some person or another uses those magical incantations; they will attain purity.’ Śāriputra, those magical incantations are very impure. It’s not that I didn’t cultivate it in the past. Although I did cultivate it, it was never of superior benefit. From the beginningless past until now, I’ve been in the world for an eternity, but I didn’t escape birth and death.

120. “Still, the warriors, priests, and prominent men in great clans who follow that practice aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? Why is that? They can’t comprehend noble wisdom, and they don’t awaken to it. Since they don’t awaken to noble wisdom, how can they escape to the end of suffering? Śāriputra, if they awaken to noble wisdom as it really is, then they can open its three doors, end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

121. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who experiences the body of birth and death in transmigration, imagining it to be pure. They say to each other, ‘Some person or another experiences the body of birth and death in transmigration; they will attain purity.’ Śāriputra, the transmigration of birth and death is very impure. It’s not that I didn’t pass through birth and death it in the past. From the beginningless past until now, I’ve been in the world for an eternity, but I wasn’t able escape it, aside from the five Śuddhâvāsa Heavens. Śāriputra, after one birth in the Śuddhâvāsa Heavens, a being isn’t reborn among humans. In that heavenly destination, they realize nirvāṇa.

122. “Śāriputra, those who’ve yet to exit from birth and death aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? Why is that? By imagining that, they can’t comprehend noble wisdom, and they don’t awaken to it. Since they don’t awaken to noble wisdom, how can they escape to the end of suffering? Śāriputra, if they awaken to noble wisdom as it really is, then they can open its three doors, end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

123. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who imagines the six destinations of rebirth to be pure. They say to each other, ‘Some person or another traverses the six destinations of rebirth; they will [596c] attain purity.’ Śāriputra, those six destinations are very impure. It’s not that I didn’t pass through birth and death it in the past. From the beginningless past until now, I’ve been in the world for an eternity transmigrating in the six destinations, aside from the five Śuddhâvāsa Heavens. Śāriputra, after one birth in the Śuddhâvāsa Heavens, a being isn’t reborn among humans. In that heavenly destination, they realize nirvāṇa.

124. “Śāriputra, those who’ve yet to part with those destinations aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? Why is that? By imagining that, they can’t comprehend noble wisdom, and they don’t awaken to it. Since they don’t awaken to noble wisdom, how can they escape to the end of suffering? Śāriputra, if they awaken to noble wisdom as it really is, then they can open its three doors, end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

125. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who imagines certain birth places to be pure. They say to each other, ‘Some person or another was born in a certain place; they will attain purity.’ Śāriputra, those birth places are very impure. It’s not that I didn’t pass through births in the past. From the beginningless past until now, I’ve been in the world for an eternity and didn’t escape birth and death, aside from the five Śuddhâvāsa Heavens. Śāriputra, after one birth in the Śuddhâvāsa Heavens, a being isn’t reborn among humans. In that heavenly destination, they realize nirvāṇa.

126. “Śāriputra, those who’ve yet to part with those births aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? Why is that? By imagining that, they can’t comprehend noble wisdom, and they don’t awaken to it. Since they don’t awaken to noble wisdom, how can they escape to the end of suffering? Śāriputra, if they awaken to noble wisdom as it really is, then they can open its three doors, end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

127. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who imagines their own kin to be pure. They say to each other, ‘Some person or another supports their own kin; they will attain purity.’ Śāriputra, those seeds of theirs are very impure. It’s not that I didn’t support a kind of birth in the past. From the beginningless past until now, I’ve been in the world for an eternity, but I didn’t escape birth and death, aside from the five Śuddhâvāsa Heavens. Śāriputra, after one birth in the Śuddhâvāsa Heavens, a being isn’t reborn among humans. In that heavenly destination, they realize nirvāṇa.

128. “Śāriputra, those who’ve yet to escape birth and death aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. [597a] How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? Why is that? By imagining that, they can’t comprehend noble wisdom, and they don’t awaken to it. Since they don’t awaken to noble wisdom, how can they escape to the end of suffering? Śāriputra, if they awaken to noble wisdom as it really is, then they can open its three doors, end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

129. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who makes this claim: ‘If four kinds of teaching are cultivated and can be perfected, this religious practice is pure.’ Śāriputra, I fully know that when the cultivation of those four teachings is considered the religious practice, they do attain purity. It was from this that I became supreme. What are the four? First is their cultivation. I was equal their supreme cultivation. Second is their renunciation. I was equal to their supreme renunciation. Third is their self-mortification. I was equal to their supreme self-mortification. Fourth is their tranquility. I was equal to their supreme tranquility.

130. “Śāriputra, what is their equally supreme cultivation? It means those of other religions who always raise their hands. I was the same as them, too. Perhaps they don’t sit on couches, always squat on their heels, eat refuse and crude rice meals, don’t stay at a particular place but travel wherever they please, cut off their hair and beard, lay on beds of nails, lay on wooden boards, live in empty huts, stand in one place, bath three times a day … and oppress themselves with various hardships. I’ve also followed each of these practices. This is their equally supreme cultivation.

131. What’s their equally supreme renunciation? Śāriputra, it means those of other religions who part with clothing and go naked and accept their meals with upraised hand. I also followed that practice. Perhaps they don’t accept food from the foul-mouthed or from scowling people. They don’t eat the food from between a pair of mortars, from between a pair of pestles, from between a pair of sticks, or from between a pair of walls. They don’t accept food from pregnant women or that’s taken from a roast. They don’t share food between two people with a single bowl.

132. “If there’s a beggar who’s at a door of a given place, they don’t eat there. If there’s a dog at the door of a given place, they don’t eat there, either. If flies buzzing around a given place, they don’t eat there. They don’t accept food from mute people or from talkative people. If a person says, ‘Go away,’ they don’t accept their food. If a person says, ‘Come here,’ they don’t accept their food. If making the meal causes an argument, then they don’t accept it.

133. “Sometimes, they only accept food from [597b] one household. Sometimes, they get food from two, three … seven households. Sometimes, one meal is a single swallow; sometimes, it’s two, three … seven swallows of food. Sometimes, they have one meal a day, sometimes it’s [one meal in] two, three or even seven days. Sometimes, they have one meal in a half-month or a whole month.

134. “In those meals, they don’t eat rice meal, don’t eat cooked rice, and don’t eat lentils. They drink wine made from leftover flowers and fruits or wine made from grain. They don’t eat meat, don’t eat curds and whey or butter. They don’t eat honey or syrup made from fruit, and they don’t drink juice. They don’t eat the many kinds of roasted meat. They only drink water from washing rice plants, taking it as sustenance.

135. “Sometimes, they eat rice dregs, cut grass, and date tree fruit. They might eat rice shoots, cow dung, tree roots, branches, leaves, and fruit. They might only go to the wilderness and gather many kinds of roots, stems, branches, leaves, and seeds to eat. Śāriputra, I also followed those practices. This was my cultivation of supreme renunciation.

136. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, what’s their equally supreme self-mortification? It refers to [the way] my body and limbs were covered in dust and dirt. At first, it was a little, but it gradually built up. Like the dust on a pale moon ebony tree’s branches and leaves, it’s fine but gradually builds up until it’s great. My body and limbs were likewise.

137. “Śāriputra, although I was covered in built-up dirt, I still never thought, day and night, ‘Oh, why does my body have such dirt? Who will brush it off for me?’ Śāriputra, this is their equally supreme self-mortification.

138. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, what’s their equally supreme tranquility? It means sitting, laying, and living in a tranquil place in the wilderness that’s far away from noise and business. They abandon keeping accoutrements [597c] and live alone in a quiet and appropriate abode. Śāriputra, when I thus practiced the same as them, there might be a cowherd, an animal husbandman, a wood gatherer, a park keeper, or a traveler. When I saw them, I rushed to a remote hiding place and didn’t see them again. I was like a wild deer when it looks up at a person like a cowherd. It runs off to a hiding place far away, being afraid it’ll be seen. I lived in the wilderness far away from business in the same way. This is their practice of equally supreme tranquility.

139. “Śāriputra, although they thus practice, they aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? Why is that? They can’t comprehend noble wisdom, and they don’t awaken to it. Since they don’t awaken to noble wisdom, how can they escape to the end of suffering? Śāriputra, if they awaken to noble wisdom as it really is, then they can open its three doors, end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

140. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who makes this claim: ‘During the first eight nights of the winter season, when there’s snow and wind, I was helpless there on a desolate plain or next to a riverbank. My body was naked in the deep snow. I would lay in one direction until the night passed. I imagine such practices are pure.’ Śāriputra, I know this to be the case, for I also practiced the same way. During the first eight nights of the winter season, when there’s snow and wind, I was helpless there on a desolate plain or next to a riverbank. My body was naked in the deep snow. I would lay in one direction until the night passed.

141. “Śāriputra, although they thus practice, they aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? Why is that? They can’t comprehend noble wisdom, and they don’t awaken to it. Since they don’t awaken to noble wisdom, how can they escape to the end of suffering? Śāriputra, if they awaken to noble wisdom as it really is, then they can open its three doors, end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

142. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who makes this claim: ‘During the first eight nights of the winter season, when there’s snow and wind, I was wading through deep water that was higher than my neck. I stood in that water through the night. I imagine such practices are pure.’ Śāriputra, I know this to be the case, for I also practiced the same way. During the first eight nights of the winter season, when there’s snow and wind, I was waded through deep water that was higher than my neck. I stood in [598a] that water through the night.

143. “Śāriputra, although they thus practice, they aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? … end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

144. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who makes this claim: ‘During the sweltering heat in the middle of the summer months, the landscape is baking in the terrible heat. At noon, I stood in sand piled up higher than my knees. As I did that, my body was naked, and I stood on one foot, turning to stay facing the sun’s light as it moved. I imagine such practices are pure.’ Śāriputra, I know this to be the case, for I also practiced the same way. During the sweltering heat in the middle of the summer months, the landscape is baking in the terrible heat. At noon, I stood in sand higher than my knees. As I did that, my body was naked, and I stood on one foot, turning to stay facing the sun’s light as it moved.

145. “Śāriputra, at the time, whether they were men or women, everyone who knew I was doing this would run and form a line, wanting look at me. The crowd would talk amongst themselves, but my mind was self-governed and maintained its comfort, not thinking of the miserable heat. Slacking off didn’t occur to me.

146. “Śāriputra, although they thus practice, they aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? … end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

147. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who makes this claim: ‘I undertake hardships and obtain food with difficulty. I imagine this is pure.’ Śāriputra, I know this to be the case, for I also practiced the same way. Through what kinds of difficulties did I search for food? I would only go to desolate plains where herds of cattle lived and search for calves’ milk. I used what I could find for food. These are the difficult ways I searched for food.

148. “Śāriputra, although they thus practice, they aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? … end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

149. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who only eats wheat, imagining it to be pure. They make this claim: ‘If someone only eats wheat, then they will attain purity by cultivating that practice.’ After they obtain wheat, they might grind it with a pestle, wash it with water, or eat it to sustain themselves while managing many kinds of affairs. Śāriputra, I know this to be the case, for I also practiced the same way. What were the ways that I ate the wheat I obtained? Śāriputra, I only [598b] obtained a single grain to eat, without adding a second one. Later, my body would be a little more filled out as a result of eating the wheat, or it would have more luster. I then didn’t have the thought to eat any more than that. I’d obtain wheat to eat, but only a single grain without adding a second one.

150. “Śāriputra, I was extremely emaciated because of eating one grain of wheat. The parts of my body from top to bottom were like the partridge or similar birds. Moreover, my feet and lower legs were withered and thin. It was bad to people who saw them, no different from a camel or sheep’s feet. Also, the bones were clearly visible on the back of my neck, alternatingly sunken and protruding like stones tied together unevenly, high and low. Also, my two cheeks were transparent like open ground or an empty and quiet grass hut. They were like when boards were knock out [of a panel] to make an open space between them. They looked like that. It was also like the hot months when the sun’s heat evaporates water. In the evening, when people would go out for water under the starlight, the water is very deep down [in the ground]. Only a minute amount might be apparent. My two eyes were sunk very deep down, resembling that in the same way. It was also like a bitter gourd that’s green before it’s ripe. When someone harvests it, its stem and leaves wither, and the gourd slowly dries up. Later, it becomes a dry container. My body parts from head to toe were likewise. First my body became emaciated, then it slowly became enfeebled, and finally became desiccated skin holding bones.

151. “Śāriputra, first my body’s power gathered itself together. Bending and stretching was [like moving through] thorny brambles. Its strength was insufficient when I wanted to get up or sit back down. My limbs and joints were loose and scattered, and my head and neck hung down. I was so weak I couldn’t speak and looked like a dumb sheep. Even though that was so, I was steadfast and internally collected my mind. My body was an external barb as I skillfully controlled my breathing. Again, my whole body, continued to become filthy with earth. Because the dirt had accumulated so much, my body hair was completely worn away.

152. “Śāriputra, at the time, whether they were men or women, the people from the surrounding cities and towns all rushed and jostled with each other to look at me. They all said, ‘Such misery, such misery! The ascetic Gautama’s body is desiccated and turned blue and black. In earlier days, his form was wonderful and handsome with a majestic glow. How did it disappear?’ ‘This ascetic training is what has made his appearance this way!’

153. “Śāriputra, although they thus practice, they aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? … end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

154. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who only eats rice, imagining [598c] it to be pure. They make this claim: ‘If someone only eats rice, then they will attain purity by cultivating that practice.’ After they obtain rice, they might grind it with a pestle, wash it with water, or eat it to sustain themselves while managing many kinds of affairs. Śāriputra, I know this to be the case, for I also practiced the same way. What were the ways that I at the rice I obtained? Śāriputra, I only obtained a single grain to eat, without adding a second one. Later, my body would be a little more filled out as a result of eating the rice, or it would have more luster. I then didn’t have the thought to eat any more than that. I’d obtain rice to eat, but only a single grain without adding a second one. Śāriputra, I would cultivate such ascetic practices.

155. “The people then came and said, ‘In earlier days, his form was wonderful and handsome, and he had a majestic glow. How did it disappear?’ ‘His ascetic training is what has made his appearance this way!’

156. “Śāriputra, although they thus practice, they aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? … end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

157. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who only eats sesame, imagining it to be pure. They make this claim: ‘If someone only eats sesame, then they will attain purity by cultivating that practice.’ After they obtain sesame, they might grind it with a pestle, wash it with water, or eat it to sustain themselves while manage many kinds of affairs. Śāriputra, I know this to be the case, for I also practiced the same way. What were the ways that I ate the sesame I obtained? Śāriputra, I only obtained a single grain to eat, without adding a second one. Later, my body would be a little more filled out as a result of eating the sesame, or it would have more luster. I then didn’t have the thought to eat any more than that. I’d obtain sesame to eat, but only a single grain without adding a second one. I would cultivate such ascetic practices.

158. “The people then came and said, ‘In earlier days, his form was wonderful and handsome, and he had a majestic glow. How did it disappear?’ ‘His ascetic training is what has made his appearance this way!’

159. “Śāriputra, although they thus practice, they aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? … end the path of birth and death, and not be reborn anymore.

160. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, the world has a kind of priest who doesn’t eat anything, imagining it to be pure. They thus claim, ‘If someone doesn’t eat anything, then those who cultivate not eating will attain purity.’ Śāriputra, I know this to be the case, for I also practiced that way. I didn’t eat anything that was edible, [599a] and my body became emaciated as a result of not eating.

161. His cultivation of the ascetic practice up to “the people came and said, ‘Such misery, such misery! The ascetic Gautama’s body is desiccated like a bird. In earlier days, his form was wonderful and handsome with a majestic glow. How did it disappear?’ ‘This ascetic training is what has made his appearance this way!’

How the Correct Path Was Practiced

162. “Śāriputra, at that point I thought to myself, ‘The world’s ascetics and priests oppress themselves by enduring extreme hardships and add to that the further harm of ridicule. They do that in search of purity. Here, I’ve followed what they do, and even if I pulverized my body and reduced it to dust, none of this is a superior benefit … all the ascetics and priests in the past, future, and present have oppressed themselves by enduring extreme hardships and add to that the further harm of ridicule. They do that in search of purity. Here, I’ve followed what they all do, and even if I were to pulverize my body to dust, none of this is a superior benefit. I won’t continue with this asceticism that oppresses me. Those seekers aren’t able to attain even a small part of the supreme teaching among humans that they seek. How could they attain the noble one’s knowing and seeing the realization of what’s supreme? I therefore know this path is not the way to the correct awakening, I won’t continue cultivating it.’

163. “Śāriputra, I also thought, ‘After I first left home, I sat peacefully under a rose apple tree in the Śākya clan’s park. The angle of the sun didn’t change its shade, which was a refreshing shelter. At the time, I parted with the defilement of desire and unskillful qualities. With perception and investigation, that seclusion gave rise to joy and happiness, and I realized the first meditation. This is the correct path, fully understood as it really is. The other places where I endeavored on successive paths were outside of this correct path. None of these other paths are genuine. How will I use this body that’s emaciated, exhausted, and ruined from not eating anything to take up that path? Now, it should be possible for me to follow it by eating, so I’ll make use of food.’

164. “When I had this thought, there was a sage from another religion who upheld the ascetic practice and knew my thought. He came to me and said, ‘Noble Gautama, it would not be fitting for you to retreat from your ascetic practice. I can produce a powerful light from the hair pores of my body to assist you. It will spontaneously nourish your body and limbs.’

165. “Śāriputra, I again had the thought, ‘All the people in the country’s towns and villages have heard about my not eating anything. “The ascetic Gautama cultivates the ascetic practice of not eating anything, and his body is emaciated!” Now, I might say, “There’s a sage possessing the ascetic practice whose body produces a powerful light that can assist me with nourishment.” Wouldn’t those people take me for a liar? I’m afraid [599b] that will be a lie, so I’ll reject that sage’s words and not accept his offer.’

166. “Śāriputra, after I had that thought, I slowly increased the amount of food that I ate. I improved my health with green bean broth, yellow bean broth, or red bean broth. Because I gradually began eating progressively more, strength in my body and limbs gradually grew. Once my strength grew, I first went to Dragon River and then to Nairañjanā River. When I arrived, I eased myself in the water and bathed my body, cleansing and refreshing it. I then made my way to a village where there was a woman named Sujātā who presented an offering of rice gruel to me. Once I had eaten it, I went to a sage’s residence to ask for auspicious grass. Getting some, I took it and made my way to the great bodhi tree. Arriving there, I circled the tree three times and spread the auspicious grass under it to make a seat.

167. “Śāriputra, when I sat on it with crossed legs, upright body, and correct mindfulness, I parted with the defilement of desire and unskillful qualities. With perception and investigation, that seclusion gave rise to joy and happiness, and I realized the first meditation. Next, I had to stop perception and investigation. My inner mind was pure and fixed on a single object. Without perception or investigation, concentration gave rise to joy and happiness, and I realized the second meditation. Next, I had to part with the abode of joy and practice equanimity and mindfulness. Correctly knowing as it really was, I personally experienced a sublime happiness, and I realized the third meditation. Next, I had to completely end pleasure and pain. As before, I fully parted with attachment to comfortable and vexing mental states. With no pleasure or pain, my equanimity and mindfulness were pure, and I realized the fourth meditation.

168. “Śāriputra, the next thing I did was abide in the mental attainment that’s pure and immaculate, and I was free of secondary afflictions and the lesser type of actions. I rested peacefully and unmoving during the first part of the night. Having realized as it really is the attainment of the knowledge of the heavenly eye, my mind was skillful, open, and clear. Śāriputra, with that realization of the pure heavenly eye that transcends the human eye, I observed all the sentient beings of the world being born and dying that were beautiful and ugly. Whether noble or inferior, they experienced what followed from their actions. I fully knew it as it really was.

169. “If sentient beings performed unskillful physical, verbal, and mental actions that are criticized by noble ones and that produced wrong views, then they fell to a bad destination and were born in hell when their bodies broke up and their lives ended as a result of accumulating those wrong views and actions. If sentient beings performed many skillful physical, verbal, and mental actions that aren’t criticized by noble ones and that produced right view, then they were born in a good destination in the heavenly realm when their bodies broke up and their lives ended as a result of accumulating right view and actions. I fully knew and saw such events with the pure heavenly eye.

170. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, what I did next was abide in the mental attainment that’s pure and immaculate, being free of the secondary afflictions and the lesser type of [599c] actions. I rested peacefully and unmoving during the middle part of the night. I realized as it really was attainment of the knowledge of past lives. My mind was skillful, open, and clear. Śāriputra, I could know the variety of past events with that realization of the knowledge of past lives. That is, [I remembered] one birth, two births, three, four, or five births; 10, 20 … 100 births; and a thousand births, hundred thousand births, countless hundreds of thousands of births. During such countless births, whether during an eon of formation, decay, or formation and decay, there were past events: ‘Such was my surname, such was my given name, such was my caste and clan, such was my form and appearance, such were my meals, such was my life span, and events that were painful and pleasant.’ ‘Dying here, I was born there. Dying there, I was born here.’ I remembered as they really were such countless kinds of events with the knowledge power of past lives.

171. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, what I did next was abide in the mental attainment that’s pure and immaculate, being free of secondary afflictions and the lesser type of actions. I rested peacefully and unmoving during the last part of the night. I realized as it really was attainment of the knowledge that the contaminants had ended. My mind was skillful, open, and clear. Next, a bright star appeared that was auspicious and joyful. I was a great elephant among humans, a lion among humans, a great sage among humans, a hero among humans, a many-colored lotus flower among humans, a white lotus flower among humans, supreme among humans, a supremely skilled trainer among humans, and a gentleman trainer among humans who knew what should be known, attained what should be attained, awakened to what should be awakened, and realized what should be realized in all places. Thus, in the span of a moment, everything produced a corresponding mental state. I achieved the path of correct awakening with the knowledge of what really is.

The Decline of the Buddha’s Teaching

172. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, I know the world has ascetics and priests that make this claim: ‘When someone is young with a glowing appearance and a blue-black head of lustrous hair, they’re vigorous and healthy, and the powers of their mind are complete. At 20 or more years old, a person is capable of correct wisdom and applying themselves to cultivation. If, again, someone is senior in years and elderly, their powers of mind have declined, and they are about to disappear from the world. This person isn’t capable of right wisdom and applying themselves to cultivation.’

173. “Śāriputra, I’m elderly now that I’ve reached the age of 80, and I’m bent and waiting to disappear from the world. I’m just like a decayed cartwheel that’s held together with rope to keep it turning. Śāriputra, you can travel on foot from country to country and town to town and observe the disciples of the Tathāgata that are there and their bodies, penetrating knowledge, powers, greater wisdom, and eloquence. These five things are all diminishing. Śāriputra, if someone traveled on foot from country to country and town to town with a fire bowl on their head, it wouldn’t be too difficult, but to prevent greater wisdom and eloquence from diminishing would be difficult.

174. [600a] “Furthermore, Śāriputra, perhaps there’s a person who goes contrary and makes a false teaching even though they meet the Tathāgata, the great teacher who arose in the world, who proclaims right speech with an entirely pure mind regarding painful, pleasant, and neither painful nor pleasant things. Śāriputra, they shouldn’t make a false teaching from the Buddha’s right speech. Why is that? The Tathāgata, the great teacher who arose in the present world, proclaims right speech with an entirely pure mind regarding painful, pleasant, and neither painful nor pleasant things. It’s not a false teaching.

175. “Śāriputra, there have been four Tathāgatas who’ve appeared in the world during this fortunate eon, and the disciples of those four Buddhas have successively reached the age of a 100. Their mindful practice, wisdom, and life spans were fully perfected. They were like a strong man who pulls back a bow, shoots straight, and hits the target dead center. Śāriputra, the disciples of the previous three Tathāgatas were likewise. Their mindful practice, wisdom, and life spans were fully perfected. From day to day, they were nearby for others to ask about the meaning of the teachings.

176. “Śāriputra, the disciples have one whom they can ask in my present teaching, but none can go beyond that. Furthermore, one hears my explanation but isn’t able to have a detailed understanding about that lecture’s text, meaning, and principles. How will it be for future generations of disciples? Whenever they eat meals, they’ll savor the flavors. They’ll sleep when exhausted and move to relax. When they relieve themselves and perform chores, they’ll always be hindered. Śāriputra, the disciples of the three previous Buddhas lived a long time, but today our life span is so short at a hundred years.

177. “Śāriputra, when a hundred years have passed, their greater wisdom and eloquence will be reduced. Śāriputra, at that point, the disciples will make false teachings from the right speech of the Tathāgata, the great teacher who arose in the world. Śāriputra, they shouldn’t falsify what the Buddha taught with right speech. Why is that? The Tathāgata, the great teacher who arose in the present world, proclaims right speech with an entirely pure mind regarding painful, pleasant, and neither painful nor pleasant things. It’s not a false teaching.”

Conclusion

178. At the time, there was a venerable in the assembly named Nāgapāla. He was standing near the Buddha as his attendant and fanning him with peacock feather fan. He put the fan down and bowed in front of the Buddha with his palms together. He said, “When I hear this correct teaching, the hair of my body stood up, and I felt great joy. Bhagavān, what’s the name of this sūtra? How should we maintain it?”

179. The Buddha replied, “Nāgapāla, this correct teaching is called ‘Hair-Raising Joy.’ You should accept and maintain it with such a title.”

180. After the Buddha spoke this sūtra, the assembly of monks in the greatest grove near the greatest city of Vaiśālī [600b] who heard what the Buddha taught rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. This sūtra is parallel with MN 12. [back]
  2. The Chinese translation (Good Star) matches the meaning of Pali Sunakkhatta in MN 12. I therefore have adopted the Skt. equivalent. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 24 November 2020