by Paul Carus
REJOICE at the glad tidings! The Buddha our Lord has found the
root of all evil; he has shown us the way of salvation. The Buddha
dispels the illusions of our mind and redeems us from the terror of
The Buddha, our Lord, brings comfort to the weary and
sorrow-laden; he restores peace to those who are broken down under the
burden of life. He gives courage to the weak when they would fain give
up self-reliance and hope. You who suffer from the tribulations of
life, you who have to struggle and endure, you who yearn for a life of
truth, rejoice at the glad tidings! There is balm for the wounded, and
there is bread for the hungry. There is water for the thirsty, and
there is hope for the despairing. There is light for those in
darkness, and there is inexhaustible blessing for the upright.
Heal your wounds, you wounded, and eat your fill, you hungry.
Rest, you weary, and you who are thirsty quench your thirst. Look up
to the light, you who sit in darkness; be full of good cheer, you
who are forlorn.
Trust in truth, You who love the truth, for the kingdom of
righteousness is founded upon earth. The darkness of error is
dispelled by the light of truth. We can see our way and take firm
and certain steps. The Buddha, our Lord, has revealed the truth. The
truth cures our diseases and redeems us from perdition; the truth
strengthens us in life and in death; the truth alone can conquer the
evils of error. Rejoice at the glad tidings!
LOOK about and contemplate life! Everything is transient and nothing
endures. There is birth and death, growth and decay; there is
combination and separation. The glory of the world is like a flower:
it stands in full bloom in the morning and fades in the heat of the
Wherever you look, there is a rushing and a struggling, and an eager
pursuit of pleasure. There is a panic flight from pain and death,
and hot are the flames of burning desires. The world is Vanity Fair,
full of changes and transformations. All is Samsara, the turning Wheel
Is there nothing permanent in the world? Is there in the universal
turmoil no resting-place where our troubled heart can find peace? Is
there nothing everlasting? Oh, that we could have cessation of
anxiety, that our burning desires would be extinguished! When shall
the mind become tranquil and composed?
The Buddha, our Lord, was grieved at the ills of life. He saw the
vanity of worldly happiness and sought salvation in the one thing that
will not fade or perish, but will abide for ever and ever.
You who long for life, learn that immortality is hidden in
transiency. You who wish for happiness without the sting of regret,
lead a life of righteousness. You who yearn for riches, receive
treasures that are eternal. Truth is wealth, and a life of truth is
All compounds will be dissolved again, but the verities which
determine all combinations and separations as laws of nature endure
for ever and aye. Bodies fall to dust, but the truths of the mind will
not be destroyed.
Truth knows neither birth nor death; it has no beginning and no end.
Welcome the truth. The truth is the immortal part of mind. Establish
the truth in your mind, for the truth is the image of the eternal;
it portrays the immutable; it reveals the everlasting; the truth gives
unto mortals the boon of immortality.
The Buddha has proclaimed the truth; let the truth of the Buddha
dwell in your hearts. Extinguish in yourselves every desire that
antagonizes the Buddha, and in the perfection of your spiritual growth
you will become like unto him. That of your heart which cannot or will
not develop into Buddha must perish, for it is mere illusion and
unreal; it is the source of your error; it is the cause of your
You attain to immortality by filling your minds with truth.
Therefore, become like unto vessels fit to receive the Master's words.
Cleanse yourselves of evil and sanctify your lives. There is no
other way of reaching truth.
Learn to distinguish between Self and Truth. Self is the cause of
selfishness and the source of evil; truth cleaves to no self; it is
universal and leads to justice and righteousness. Self, that which
seems to those who love their self as their being, is not the eternal,
the everlasting, the imperishable. Seek not self, but seek the truth.
If we liberate our souls from our petty selves, wish no ill to
others, and become clear as a crystal diamond reflecting the light
of truth, what a radiant picture will appear in us mirroring things as
they are, without the admixture of burning desires, without the
distortion of erroneous illusion, without the agitation of clinging
Yet you love self and will not abandon self-love. So be it, but
then, verily, you should learn to distinguish between the false self
and the true self. The ego with all its egotism is the false self.
It is an unreal illusion and a perishable combination. He only who
identifies his self with the truth will attain Nirvana; and he who has
entered Nirvana has attained Buddhahood; he has acquired the highest
good; he has become eternal and immortal.
All compound things shall be dissolved again, worlds will break to
pieces and our individualities will be scattered; but the words of
Buddha will remain for ever.
The extinction of self is salvation; the annihilation of self is the
condition of enlightenment; the blotting out of self is Nirvana.
Happy is he who has ceased to live for pleasure and rests in the
truth. Verily his composure and tranquility of mind are the highest
Let us take our refuge in the Buddha, for he has found the
everlasting in the transient. Let us take our refuge in that which
is the immutable in the changes of existence. Let us take our refuge
in the truth that is established through the enlightenment of the
Buddha. Let us take our refuge in the community of those who seek
the truth and endeavor to live in the truth.
THE things of the world and its inhabitants are subject to change.
They are combinations of elements that existed before, and all
living creatures are what their past actions made them; for the law of
cause and effect is uniform and without exception.
But in the changing things there is a constancy of law, and when the
law is seen there is truth. The truth lies hidden in Samsara as the
permanent in its changes.
Truth desires to appear; truth longs to become conscious; truth
strives to know itself.
There is truth in the stone, for the stone is here; and no power
in the world, no god, no man, no demon, can destroy its existence. But
the stone has no consciousness. There is truth in the plant and its
life can expand; the plant grows and blossoms and bears fruit. Its
beauty is marvelous, but it has no consciousness. There is truth in
the animal; it moves about and perceives its surroundings; it
distinguishes and learns to choose. There is consciousness, but it
is not yet the consciousness of Truth. It is a consciousness of self
The consciousness of self dims the eyes of the mind and hides the
truth. It is the origin of error, it is the source of illusion, it
is the germ of evil. Self begets selfishness. There is no evil but
what flows from self. There is no wrong but what is done by the
assertion of self. Self is the beginning of all hatred, of iniquity
and slander, of impudence and indecency, of theft and robbery, of
oppression and bloodshed. Self is Mara, the tempter, the evil-doer,
the creator of mischief. Self entices with pleasures. Self promises
a fairy's paradise. Self is the veil of Maya, the enchanter. But the
pleasures of self are unreal, its paradisian labyrinth is the road
to misery, and its fading beauty kindles the flames of desires that
never can be satisfied.
Who shall deliver us from the power of self? Who shall save us
from misery? Who shall restore us to a life of blessedness?
There is misery in the world of Samsara; there is much misery and
pain. But greater than all the misery is the bliss of truth. Truth
gives peace to the yearning mind; it conquers error; it quenches the
flames of desires; it leads to Nirvana. Blessed is he who has found
the peace of Nirvana. He is at rest in the struggles and
tribulations of life; he is above all changes; he is above birth and
death; he remains unaffected by the evils of life.
Blessed is he who has found enlightenment. He conquers, although
he may be wounded; he is glorious and happy, although he may suffer;
he is strong, although he may break down under the burden of his work;
he is immortal, although he will die. The essence of his being is
purity and goodness.
Blessed is he who has attained the sacred state of Buddhahood, for
he is fit to work out the salvation of his fellow beings. The truth
has taken its abode in him. Perfect wisdom illumines his
understanding, and righteousness ensouls the purpose of all his
actions. The truth is a living power for good, indestructible and
invincible! Work the truth out in your mind, and spread it among
mankind, for truth alone is the savior from evil and misery. The
Buddha has found the truth and the truth has been proclaimed by the
Buddha! Blessed be the Buddha!
There was in Kapilavatthu a Sakya king, strong of purpose and
reverenced by all men, a descendant of the Okkakas, who call
themselves Gotama, and his name was Suddhodana or Pure-Rice. His
wife Mayadevi was beautiful as the water-lily and pure in mind as
the lotus. As the Queen of Heaven, she lived on earth, untainted by
desire, and immaculate.
The king, her husband, honored her in her holiness, and the spirit
of truth, glorious and strong in his wisdom like unto a white
elephant, descended upon her. When she knew that the hour of
motherhood was near, she asked the king to send her home to her
parents; and Suddhodana, anxious about his wife and the child she
would bear him, willingly granted her request.
At Lumbini there is a beautiful grove, and when Mayadevi passed
through it the trees were one mass of fragrant flowers and many
birds were warbling in their branches. The Queen, wishing to stroll
through the shady walks, left her golden palanquin, and, when she
reached the giant sala tree in the midst of the grove, felt that her
hour had come. She took hold of a branch. Her attendants hung a
curtain about her and retired. When the pain of travail came upon her,
four pure-minded angels of the great Brahma held out a golden net to
receive the babe, who came forth from her right side like the rising
sun bright and perfect.
The Brahma-angels took the child and placing him before the mother
said: "Rejoice, O queen, a mighty son has been born unto thee."
At her couch stood an aged woman imploring the heavens to bless
the child. All the worlds were flooded with light. The blind
received their sight by longing to see the coming glory of the Lord;
the deaf and dumb spoke with one another of the good omens
indicating the birth of the Buddha to be. The crooked became straight;
the lame walked. All prisoners were freed from their chains and the
fires of all the hells were extinguished.
No clouds gathered in the skies and the polluted streams became
clear, whilst celestial music rang through the air and the angels
rejoiced with gladness. With no selfish or partial joy but for the
sake of the law they rejoiced, for creation engulfed in the ocean of
pain was now to obtain release. The cries of beasts were hushed; all
malevolent beings received a loving heart, and peace reigned on earth.
Mara, the evil one, alone was grieved and rejoiced not.
The Naga kings, earnestly desiring to show their reverence for
most excellent law, as they had paid honor to former Buddhas, now went
to greet the Bodhisattva. They scattered before him mandara flowers,
rejoicing with heartfelt joy to pay their religious homage.
The royal father, pondering the meaning of these signs, was now full
of joy and now sore distressed. The queen mother, beholding her
child and the commotion which his birth created, felt in her
timorous heart the pangs of doubt.
Now there was at that time in a grove near Lumbini Asita, a rishi,
leading the life of a hermit. He was a Brahman of dignified mien,
famed not only for wisdom and scholarship, but also for his skill in
the interpretation of signs. And the king invited him to see the royal
The seer, beholding the prince, wept and sighed deeply. And when the
king saw the tears of Asita he became alarmed and asked: "Why has
the sight of my son caused thee grief and pain?"
But Asita's heart rejoiced, and, knowing the king's mind to be
perplexed, he addressed him, saying: "The king, like the moon when
full, should feel great joy, for he has begotten a wondrously noble
son. I do not worship Brahma, but I worship this child; and the gods
in the temples will descend from their places of honor to adore him.
Banish all anxiety and doubt. The spiritual omens manifested
indicate that the child now born will bring deliverance to the whole
"Recollecting that I myself am old, on that account I could not hold
my tears; for now my end is coming on and I shall not see the glory of
this babe. For this son of thine will rule the world. The wheel of
empire will come to him. He will either be a king of kings to govern
all the lands of the earth, or verily will become a Buddha. He is born
for the sake of everything that lives. His pure teaching will be
like the shore that receives the shipwrecked. His power of
meditation will be like a cool lake; and all creatures parched with
the drought of lust may freely drink thereof. On the fire of
covetousness he will cause the cloud of his mercy to rise, so that the
rain of the law may extinguish it. The heavy gates of despondency will
he open, and give deliverance to all creatures ensnared in the
self-entwined meshes of folly and ignorance. The king of the law has
come forth to rescue from bondage all the poor, the miserable, the
When the royal parents heard Asita's words they rejoiced in their
hearts and named their new-born infant Siddhattha, that is he who
has accomplished his purpose."
And the queen said to her sister, Pajapati: "A mother who has
borne a future Buddha will never give birth to another child. I
shall soon leave this world, my husband, the king, and Siddhattha,
my child. When I am gone, be thou a mother to him." And Pajapati
wept and promised.
When the queen had departed from the living, Pajapati took the boy
Siddhattha and reared him. And as the light of the moon increases
little by little, so the royal child grew from day to day in mind
and in body; and truthfulness and love resided in his heart. When a
year had passed Suddhodana the king made Pajapati his queen and
there was never a better stepmother than she.
WHEN Siddhattha had grown to youth, his father desired to see
married, and he sent to all his kinsfolk, commanding them to bring
their princesses that the prince might select one of them as his wife.
But the kinsfolk replied and said: "The prince is young and
delicate; nor has he learned any of the sciences. He would not be able
to maintain our daughter, and should there be war he would be unable
to cope with the enemy."
The prince was not boisterous, but pensive in his nature. He loved
to stay under the great jambu-tree in the garden of his father, and,
observing the ways of the world, gave himself up to meditation. And
the prince said to his father: "Invite our kinsfolk that they may
see me and put my strength to the test." And his father did as his son
When the kinsfolk came, and the people of the city Kapilavatthu
had assembled to test the prowess and scholarship of the prince, he
proved himself manly in all the exercises both of the body and of
the mind, and there was no rival among the youths and men of India who
could surpass him in any test, bodily or mental. He replied to all the
questions of the sages; but when he questioned them, even the wisest
among them were silenced.
Then Siddhattha chose himself a wife. He selected his cousin
Yasodhara, the gentle daughter of the king of Koli. In their wedlock
was born a son whom they named Rahula which means "fetter" or "tie,"
and King Suddhodana, glad that an heir was born to his son, said: "The
prince having begotten a son, will love him as I love the prince. This
will be a strong tie to bind Siddhattha's heart to the interests of
the world, and the kingdom of the Sakyas will remain under the scepter
of my descendants."
With no selfish aim, but regarding his child and the people at
large, Siddhattha, the prince, attended to his religious duties,
bathing his body in the holy Ganges and cleansing his heart in the
waters of the law. Even as men desire to give happiness to their
children, so did he long to give peace to the world.
THE palace which the king had given to the prince was resplendent
with all the luxuries of India; for the king was anxious to see his
son happy. All sorrowful sights, all misery, and all knowledge of
misery were kept away from Siddhattha, for the king desired that no
troubles should come nigh him; he should not know that there was
evil in the world.
But as the chained elephant longs for the wilds of the jungles, so
the prince was eager to see the world, and he asked his father, the
king, for permission to do so. And Suddhodana ordered a
jewel-fronted chariot with four stately horses to be held ready, and
commanded the roads to be adorned where his son would pass.
The houses of the city were decorated with curtains and banners, and
spectators arranged themselves on either side, eagerly gazing at the
heir to the throne. Thus Siddhattha rode with Channa, his
charioteer, through the streets of the city, and into a country
watered by rivulets and covered with pleasant trees.
There by the wayside they met an old man with bent frame, wrinkled
face and sorrowful brow, and the prince asked the charioteer: "Who
is this? His head is white, his eyes are bleared, and his body is
withered. He can barely support himself on his staff."
The charioteer, much embarrassed, hardly dared speak the truth. He
said: "These are the symptoms of old age. This same man was once a
suckling child, and as a youth full of sportive life; but now, as
years have passed away, his beauty is gone and the strength of his
life is wasted."
Siddhattha was greatly affected by the words of the charioteer,
and he sighed because of the pain of old age. "What joy or pleasure
can men take," he thought to himself, when they know they must soon
wither and pine away!"
And lo! while they were passing on, a sick man appeared on the
way-side, gasping for breath, his body disfigured, convulsed and
groaning with pain. The prince asked his charioteer: "What kind of man
is this?" And the charioteer replied and said: "This man is sick.
The four elements of his body are confused and out of order. We are
all subject to such conditions: the poor and the rich, the ignorant
and the wise, all creatures that have bodies are liable to the same
And Siddhattha was still more moved. All pleasures appeared stale to
him, and he loathed the joys of life.
The charioteer sped the horses on to escape the dreary sight, when
suddenly they were stopped in their fiery course. Four persons
passed by, carrying a corpse; and the prince, shuddering at the
sight of a lifeless body, asked the charioteer: "What is this they
carry? There are streamers and flower garlands; but the men that
follow are overwhelmed with grief!"
The charioteer replied: "This is a dead man: his body is stark;
his life is gone; his thoughts are still; his family and the friends
who loved him now carry the corpse to the grave." And the prince was
full of awe and terror: "Is this the only dead man, he asked, or
does the world contain other instances?"
With a heavy heart the charioteer replied: "All over the world it is
the same. He who begins life must end it. There is no escape from
With bated breath and stammering accents the prince exclaimed: "O
worldly men! How fatal is your delusion! Inevitably your body will
crumble to dust, yet carelessly, unheedingly, ye live on." The
charioteer observing the deep impression these sad sights had made
on the prince, turned his horses and drove back to the city.
When they passed by the palace of the nobility, Kisa Gotami, a young
princess and niece of the king, saw Siddhattha in his manliness and
beauty, and, observing the thoughtfulness of his countenance, said:
"Happy the father that begot thee, happy the mother that nursed
thee, happy the wife that calls husband this lord so glorious."
The prince hearing this greeting, said: "Happy are they that have
found deliverance. Longing for peace of mind, I shall seek the bliss
Then asked Kisa Gotami: "How is Nirvana attained?" The prince
paused, and to him whose mind was estranged from wrong the answer
came: "When the fire of lust is gone out, then Nirvana is gained; when
the fires of hatred and delusion are gone out, then Nirvana is gained;
when the troubles of mind, arising from blind credulity, and all other
evils have ceased, then Nirvana is gained!"
Siddhattha handed her his precious pearl necklace as a reward for
the wisdom she had inspired in him, and having returned home looked
with disdain upon the treasures of his palace.
His wife welcomed him and entreated him to tell her the cause of his
grief. He said: "I see everywhere the impression of change; therefore,
my heart is heavy. Men grow old, sicken, and die. That is enough to
take away the zest of life."
The king, his father, hearing that the prince had become estranged
from pleasure, was greatly overcome with sorrow and like a sword it
pierced his heart.
IT was night. The prince found no rest on his soft pillow; he
arose and went out into the garden. "Alas!" he cried "all the world is
full of darkness and ignorance; there is no one who knows how to
cure the ills of existence." And he groaned with pain.
Siddhattha sat down beneath the great jambu-tree and gave himself to
thought, pondering on life and death and the evils of decay.
Concentrating his mind he became free from confusion. All low
desires vanished from his heart and perfect tranquility came over him.
In this state of ecstasy he saw with his mental eye all the misery
and sorrow of the world; he saw the pains of pleasure and the
inevitable certainty of death that hovers over every being; yet men
are not awakened to the truth. And a deep compassion seized his heart.
While the prince was pondering on the problem of evil, he beheld
with his mind's eye under the jambu tree a lofty figure endowed with
majesty, calm and dignified. "Whence comest thou, and who mayst thou
be asked the prince.
In reply the vision said: "I am a samana. Troubled at the thought of
old age, disease, and death I have left my home to seek the path of
salvation. All things hasten to decay; only the truth abideth forever.
Everything changes, and there is no permanency; yet the words of the
Buddhas are immutable. I long for the happiness that does not decay;
the treasure that will never perish; the life that knows of no
beginning and no end. Therefore, I have destroyed all worldly thought.
I have retired into an unfrequented dell to live in solitude; and,
begging for food, I devote myself to the one thing needful.
Siddhattha asked: "Can peace be gained in this world of unrest? I am
struck with the emptiness of pleasure and have become disgusted with
lust. All oppresses me, and existence itself seems intolerable."
The samana replied: "Where heat is, there is also a possibility of
cold; creatures subject to pain possess the faculty of pleasure; the
origin of evil indicates that good can be developed. For these
things are correlatives. Thus where there is much suffering, there
will be much bliss, if thou but open thine eyes to behold it. Just
as a man who has fallen into a heap of filth ought to seek the great
pond of water covered with lotuses, which is near by: even so seek
thou for the great deathless lake of Nirvana to wash off the
defilement of wrong. If the lake is not sought, it is not the fault of
the lake. Even so when there is a blessed road leading the man held
fast by wrong to the salvation of Nirvana, if the road is not walked
upon, it is not the fault of the road, but of the person. And when a
man who is oppressed with sickness, there being a physician who can
heal him, does not avail himself of the physician's help, that is
not the fault of the physician. Even so when a man oppressed by the
malady of wrong-doing does not seek the spiritual guide of
enlightenment, that is no fault of the evil-destroying guide."
The prince listened to the noble words of his visitor and said:
"Thou bringest good tidings, for now I know that my purpose will be
accomplished. My father advises me to enjoy life and to undertake
worldly duties, such as will bring honor to me and to our house. He
tells me that I am too young still, that my pulse beats too full to
lead a religious life."
The venerable figure shook his head and replied: "Thou shouldst know
that for seeking a religious life no time can be inopportune."
A thrill of joy passed through Siddhattha's heart. "Now is the
time to seek religion," he said; "now is the time to sever all ties
that would prevent me from attaining perfect enlightenment; now is the
time to wander into homelessness and, leading a mendicant's life, to
find the path of deliverance."
The celestial messenger heard the resolution of Siddhattha with
approval. "Now, indeed he added, is the time to seek religion. Go,
Siddhattha, and accomplish thy purpose. For thou art Bodhisatta, the
Buddha-elect; thou art destined to enlighten the world. Thou art the
Tathagata, the great master, for thou wilt fulfill all righteousness
and be Dharmaraja, the king of truth. Thou art Bhagavat, the Blessed
One, for thou art called upon to become the savior and redeemer of the
world. Fulfill thou the perfection of truth. Though the thunderbolt
descend upon thy head, yield thou never to the allurements that
beguile men from the path of truth. As the sun at all seasons
pursues his own course, nor ever goes on another, even so if thou
forsake not the straight path of righteousness, thou shalt become a
Buddha. Persevere in thy quest and thou shalt find what thou
seekest. Pursue thy aim unswervingly and thou shalt gain the prize.
Struggle earnestly and thou shalt conquer. The benediction of all
deities, of all saints of all that seek light is upon thee, and
heavenly wisdom guides thy steps. Thou shalt be the Buddha, our
Master, and our Lord; thou shalt enlighten the world and save
mankind from perdition.
Having thus spoken, the vision vanished, and Siddhattha's heart
was filled with peace. He said to himself: "I have awakened to the
truth and I am resolved to accomplish my purpose. I will sever all the
ties that bind me to the world, and I will go out from my home to seek
the way of salvation. The Buddhas are beings whose words cannot
fail: there is no departure from truth in their speech. For as the
fall of a stone thrown into the air, as the death of a mortal, as
the sunrise at dawn, as the lion's roar when he leaves his lair, as
the delivery of a woman with child, as all these things are sure and
certain-even so the word of the Buddhas is sure and cannot fail.
Verily I shall become a Buddha."
The prince returned to the bedroom of his wife to take a last
farewell glance at those whom he dearly loved above all the
treasures of the earth. He longed to take the infant once more into
his arms and kiss him with a parting kiss. But the child lay in the
arms of his mother, and the prince could not lift him without
awakening both. There Siddhattha stood gazing at his beautiful wife
and his beloved son, and his heart grieved. The pain of parting
overcame him powerfully. Although his mind was determined, so that
nothing, be it good or evil, could shake his resolution, the tears
flowed freely from his eyes, and it was beyond his power to check
their stream. But the prince tore himself away with a manly heart,
suppressing his feelings but not extinguishing his memory.
The Bodhisattva mounted his noble steed Kanthaka, and when he left
the palace, Mara stood in the gate and stopped him: "Depart not, O
my Lord," exclaimed Mara. "In seven days from now the wheel of
empire will appear, and will make thee sovereign over the four
continents and the two thousand adjacent islands. Therefore, stay,
The Bodhisattva replied: "Well do I know that the wheel of empire
will appear to me; but it is not sovereignty that I desire. I will
become a Buddha and make all the world shout for joy."
Thus Siddhattha, the prince, renounced power and worldly
pleasures, gave up his kingdom, severed all ties, and went into
homelessness. He rode out into the silent night, accompanied only by
his faithful charioteer Channa. Darkness lay upon the earth, but the
stars shone brightly in the heavens.
SIDDHATTHA had cut his waving hair and had exchanged his royal
robe for a mean dress of the color of the ground. Having sent home
Channa, the charioteer, together with the noble steed Kanthaka, to
King Suddhodana to bear him the message that the prince had left the
world, the Bodhisattva walked along on the highroad with a beggar's
bowl in his hand.
Yet the majesty of his mind was ill-concealed under the poverty of
his appearance. His erect gait betrayed his royal birth and his eyes
beamed with a fervid zeal for truth. The beauty of his youth was
transfigured by holiness and surrounded his head like a halo. All
the people who saw this unusual sight gazed at him in wonder. Those
who were in haste arrested their steps and looked back; and there
was no one who did not pay him homage.
Having entered the city of Rajagaha, the prince went from house to
house silently waiting till the people offered him food. Wherever
the Blessed One came, the people gave him what they had; they bowed
before him in humility and were filled with gratitude because he
condescended to approach their homes. Old and young people were
moved and said: "This is a noble muni! His approach is bliss. What a
great joy for us!"
And King Bimbisara, noticing the commotion in the city, inquired the
cause of it, and when he learned the news sent one of his attendants
to observe the stranger. Having heard that the muni must be a Sakya
and of noble family, and that he had retired to the bank of a
flowing river in the woods to eat the food in his bowl, the king was
moved in his heart; he donned his royal robe, placed his golden
crown upon his head and went out in the company of aged and wise
counselors to meet his mysterious guest.
The king found the muni of the Sakya race seated under a tree.
Contemplating the composure of his face and the gentleness of his
deportment, Bimbisara greeted him reverently and said: "O samana,
thy hands are fit to grasp the reins of an empire and should not
hold a beggar's bowl. I am sorry to see thee wasting thy youth.
Believing that thou art of royal descent, I invite thee to join me
in the government of my country and share my royal power. Desire for
power is becoming to the noble-minded, and wealth should not be
despised. To grow rich and lose religion is not true gain. But he
who possesses all three, power, wealth, and religion, enjoying them in
discretion and with wisdom, him I call a great master."
The great Sakyamuni lifted his eyes and replied: "Thou art known,
O king, to be liberal and religious, and thy words are prudent. A kind
man who makes good use of wealth is rightly said to possess a great
treasure; but the miser who hoards up his riches will have no
profit. Charity is rich in returns; charity is the greatest wealth,
for though it scatters, it brings no repentance.
"I have severed all ties because I seek deliverance. How is it
possible for me to return to the world? He who seeks religious
truth, which is the highest treasure of all, must leave behind all
that can concern him or draw away his attention, and must be bent upon
that one goal alone. He must free his soul from covetousness and lust,
and also from the desire for power.
"Indulge in lust but a little, and lust like a child will grow.
Wield worldly power and you will be burdened with cares. Better than
sovereignty over the earth, better than living in heaven, better
than lordship over all the worlds, is the fruit of holiness. The
Bodhisattva has recognized the illusory nature of wealth and will
not take poison as food. Will a fish that has been baited still
covet the hook, or an escaped bird love the net? Would a rabbit
rescued from the serpent's mouth go back to be devoured? Would a man
who has burnt his hand with a torch take up the torch after he had
dropped it to the earth? Would a blind man who has recovered his sight
desire to spoil his eyes again?
"The sick man suffering from fever seeks for a cooling medicine.
Shall we advise him to drink that which will increase the fever? Shall
we quench a fire by heaping fuel upon it?
"I pray thee, pity me not. Rather pity those who are burdened with
the cares of royalty and the worry of great riches. They enjoy them in
fear and trembling, for they are constantly threatened with a loss
of those boons on whose possession their hearts are set, and when they
die they cannot take along either their gold or the kingly diadem.
"My heart hankers after no vulgar profit, so I have put away my
royal inheritance and prefer to be free from the burdens of life.
Therefore, try not to entangle me in new relationships and duties, nor
hinder me from completing the work I have begun. I regret to leave
thee. But I will go to the sages who can teach me religion and so find
the path on which we can escape evil.
"May thy country enjoy peace and prosperity, and may wisdom be
shed upon thy rule like the brightness of the noon-day sun. May thy
royal power be strong and may righteousness be the scepter in thine
The king, clasping his hands with reverence, bowed down before
Sakyamuni and said: "Mayest thou obtain that which thou seekest, and
when thou hast obtained it, come back, I pray thee, and receive me
as thy disciple." The Bodhisattva parted from the king in friendship
and goodwill, and purposed in his heart to grant his request.
ALARA and Uddaka were renowned as teachers among the Brahmans,
there was no one in those days who surpassed them in learning and
philosophical knowledge. The Bodhisattva went to them and sat at their
feet. He listened to their doctrines of the atman or self, which is
the ego of the mind and the doer of all doings. He learned their views
of the transmigration of souls and of the law of karma; how the
souls of bad men had to suffer by being reborn in men of low caste, in
animals, or in hell, while those who purified themselves by
libation, by sacrifices, and by self-mortification would become kings,
or Brahmans, or devas, so as to rise higher and higher in the grades
of existence. He studied their incantations and offerings and the
methods by which they attained deliverance of the ego from material
existence in states of ecstasy.
Alara said: "What is that self which perceives the actions of the
five roots of mind, touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing? What is
that which is active in the two ways of motion, in the hands and in
the feet? The problem of the soul appears in the expressions 'I
say,' 'I know and perceive,' 'I come,' and 'I go' or 'I will stay
here.' Thy soul is not thy body; it is not thy eye, not thy ear, not
thy nose, not thy tongue, nor is it thy mind. The I is the one who
feels the touch in thy body. The I is the smeller in the nose, the
taster in the tongue, the seer in the eye, the hearer in the ear,
and the thinker in the mind. The I moves thy hands and thy feet. The I
is thy soul. Doubt in the existence of the soul is irreligious, and
without discerning this truth there is no way of salvation. Deep
speculation will easily involve the mind; it leads to confusion and
unbelief; but a purification of the soul leads to the way of escape.
True deliverance is reached by removing from the crowd and leading a
hermit's life, depending entirely on alms for food. Putting away all
desire and clearly recognizing the non-existence of matter, we reach a
state of perfect emptiness. Here we find the condition of immaterial
life. As the munja grass when freed from its horny case, as a sword
when drawn from its scabbard, or as the wild bird escaped from its
prison, so the ego liberating itself from all limitations, finds
perfect release. This is true deliverance, but those only who will
have deep faith will learn."
The Bodhisattva found no satisfaction in these teachings. He
replied: "People are in bondage, because they have not yet removed the
idea of the ego. The thing and its quality are different in our
thought, but not in reality. Heat is different from fire in our
thought, but you cannot remove heat from fire in reality. You say that
you can remove the qualities and leave the thing, but if you think
your theory to the end, you will find that this is not so.
"Is not man an organism of many aggregates? Are we not composed of
various attributes? Man consists of the material form, of sensation,
of thought, of dispositions, and, lastly, of understanding. That which
men call the ego when they say 'I am' is not an entity behind the
attributes; it originates by their co-operation. There is mind;
there is sensation and thought, and there is truth; and truth is
mind when it walks in the path of righteousness. But there is no
separate ego-soul outside or behind the thought of man. He who
believes the ego is a distinct being has no correct conception. The
very search for the atman is wrong; it is a wrong start and it will
lead you in a false direction.
"How much confusion of thought comes from our interest in self,
and from our vanity when thinking 'I am so great,' or 'I have done
this wonderful deed?' The thought of thine ego stands between thy
rational nature and truth; banish it, and then wilt thou see things as
they are. He who thinks correctly will rid himself of ignorance and
acquire wisdom. The ideas 'I am' and 'I shall be' or 'I shall not
be' do not occur to a clear thinker.
"Moreover, if our ego remains, how can we attain true deliverance?
If the ego is to be reborn in any of the three worlds, be it in
hell, upon earth, or be it even in heaven, we shall meet again and
again the same inevitable doom of sorrow. We shall remain chained to
the wheel of individuality and shall be implicated in egotism and
wrong. All combination is subject to separation, and we cannot
escape birth, disease, old age, and death. Is this a final escape?"
Said Uddaka: "Consider the unity of things. Things are not their
parts, yet they exist. The members and organs of thy body are not
thine ego, but thine ego possesses all these parts. What, for
instance, is the Ganges? Is the sand the Ganges? Is the water the
Ganges? Is the hither bank the Ganges? Is the hither bank the
Ganges? Is the farther bank the Ganges? The Ganges is a mighty river
and it possesses all these several qualities. Exactly so is our ego."
But the Bodhisattva replied: "Not so, sir! If we remove the water,
the sand, the hither bank and the farther bank where can we find any
Ganges? In the same way I observe the activities of man in their
harmonious union, but there is no ground for an ego outside its
The Brahman sage, however, insisted on the existence of the ego,
saying: "The ego is the doer of our deeds. How can there be karma
without a self as its performer? Do we not see around us the effects
of karma? What makes men different in character, station, possessions,
and fate? It is their karma, and karma includes merit and demerit. The
transmigration of the soul is subject to its karma. We inherit from
former existences the evil effects of our evil deeds and the good
effects of our good deeds. If that were not so, how could we be
The Tathagata meditated deeply on the problems of transmigration and
karma, and found the truth that lies in them. "The doctrine of
karma, he said, is undeniable, but the theory of the ego has no
foundation. Like everything else in nature, the life of man is subject
to the law of cause and effect. The present reaps what the past has
sown, and the future is the product of the present. But there is no
evidence of the existence of an immutable ego-being, of a self which
remains the same and migrates from body to body. There is rebirth
but no transmigration.
"Is not this individuality of mine a combination, material as well
as mental? Is it not made up of qualities that sprang into being by
a gradual evolution? The five roots of sense perception in this
organism have come from ancestors who performed these functions. The
ideas which I think, came to me partly from others who thought them,
and partly they rise from combinations of the ideas in my own mind.
Those who have used the same sense-organs, and have thought the same
ideas before I was composed into this individuality of mine, are my
previous existences; they are my ancestors as much as the I of
yesterday is the father of the I of today, and the karma of my past
deeds affects the fate of my present existence.
"Supposing there were an atman that performs the actions of the
senses then if the door of sight were torn down and the eye plucked
out, that atman would be able to peep through the larger aperture
and see the forms of its surroundings better and more clearly than
before. It would be able to hear sounds better if the ears were torn
away; smell better if the nose were cut off; taste better if the
tongue were pulled out; and feel better if the body were destroyed.
"I observe the preservation and transmission of character; I
perceive the truth of karma, but see no atman whom your doctrine makes
the doer of your deeds. There is rebirth without the transmigration of
a self. For this atman, this self, this ego in the 'I say' and in
the 'I will' is an illusion. If this self were a reality, how could
there be an escape from selfhood? The terror of hell would be
infinite, and no release could be granted. The evils of existence
would not be due to our ignorance and wrong-doing, but would
constitute the very nature of our being."
Then the Bodhisattva went to the priests officiating in the temples.
But the gentle mind of the Sakyamuni was offended at the unnecessary
cruelty performed on the altars of the gods. He said: "Ignorance
only can make these men prepare festivals and hold vast meetings for
sacrifices. Far better to revere the truth than try to appease the
gods by shedding blood. What love can a man possess who believes
that the destruction of life will atone for evil deeds? Can a new
wrong expiate old wrongs? And can the slaughter of an innocent
victim blot out the evil deeds of mankind? This is practicing religion
by the neglect of moral conduct. Purify your hearts and cease to kill;
that is true religion. Rituals have no efficacy; prayers are vain
repetitions; and incantations have no saving power. But to abandon
covetousness and lust, to become free from evil passions, and to
give up all hatred and ill-will, that is the right sacrifice and the