by Paul Carus
THE Blessed One thus addressed the bhikkhus: "It is through
understanding the four noble truths, O bhikkhus, that we had to wander
so long in the weary path of samsara, both you and I.
"Through contact thought is born from sensation, and is reborn by
a reproduction of its form. Starting from the simplest forms, the mind
rises and falls according to deeds, but the aspirations of a
Bodhisattva pursue the straight path of wisdom and righteousness,
until they reach perfect enlightenment in the Buddha.
"All creatures are what they are through the karma of their deeds
done in former and in present existences.
"The rational nature of man is a spark of the true light; it is
the first step on the upward road. But new births are required to
insure an ascent to the summit of existence, the enlightenment of mind
and heart, where the immeasurable light of moral comprehension is
gained which is the source of all righteousness. Having attained
this higher birth, I have found the truth and have taught you the
noble path that leads to the city of peace. I have shown you the way
to the lake of ambrosia, which washes away all evil desire. I have
given you the refreshing drink called the perception of truth, and
he who drinks of it becomes free from excitement, passion, and
"The very gods envy the bliss of him who has escaped from the floods
of passion and has climbed the shores of Nirvana. His heart is
cleansed from all defilement and free from all illusion. He is like
unto the lotus which grows in the water, yet not a drop of water
adheres to its petals. The man who walks in the noble path lives in
the world, and yet his heart is not defiled by worldly desires.
"He who does not see the four noble truths, he who does not
understand the three characteristics and has not grounded himself in
the uncreate, has still a long path to traverse by repeated births
through the desert of ignorance with its mirages of illusion and
through the morass of wrong. But now that you have gained
comprehension, the cause of further migrations and aberrations is
removed. The goal is reached. The craving of selfishness is destroyed,
and the truth is attained. This is true deliverance; this is
salvation; this is heaven and the bliss of a life immortal."
JOTIKKHA, the son of Subhadda, was a householder living in Rajagaha.
Having received a precious bowl of sandalwood decorated with jewels,
he erected a long pole before his house and put the bowl on its top
with this legend: "Should a samana take this bowl down without using a
ladder or a stick with a hook, or without climbing the pole, but by
magic power, he shall receive as reward whatever he desires."
The people came to the Blessed One, full of wonder and their
mouths overflowing with praise, saying: "Great is the Tathagata. His
disciples perform miracles. Kassapa, the disciple of the Buddha, saw
the bowl on Jotikkha's pole, and, stretching out his hand, he took
it down, carrying it away in triumph to the vihara."
When the Blessed One heard what had happened, he went to Kassapa,
and, breaking the bowl to pieces, forbade his disciples to perform
miracles of any kind.
Soon after this it happened that in one of the rainy seasons many
bhikkhus were staying in the Vajji territory during a famine. And
one of the bhikkhus proposed to his brethren that they should praise
one another to the householders of the village, saying: "This
bhikkhu is a saint; he has seen celestial visions; and that bhikkhu
possesses supernatural gifts; he can work miracles." And the villagers
said: "It is lucky, very lucky for us, that such saints are spending
the rainy season with us." And they gave willingly and abundantly, and
the bhikkhus prospered and did not suffer from the famine.
When the Blessed One heard it, he told Ananda to call the bhikkhus
together, and he asked them: "Tell me, O bhikkhus, when does a bhikkhu
cease to be a bhikkhu?"
And Sariputta replied: "An ordained disciple must not commit any
unchaste act. The disciple who commits an unchaste act is no longer
a disciple of the Sakyamuni. Again, an ordained disciple must not take
except what has been given him. disciple who takes, be it so little as
a penny's worth, is no longer a disciple of the Sakyamuni. And lastly,
an ordained disciple must not knowingly and malignantly deprive any
harmless creature of life, not even an earthworm or an ant. The
disciple who knowingly and malignantly deprives any harmless
creature of its life is no longer a disciple of the Sakyamuni. These
are the three great prohibitions."
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus and said: "There is
another great prohibition which I declare to you: An ordained disciple
must not boast of any superhuman perfection. The disciple who with
evil intent and from covetousness boasts of a superhuman perfection,
be it celestial visions or miracles, is no longer a disciple of the
Sakyamuni. I forbid you, O bhikkhus, to employ any spells or
supplications, for they are useless, since the law of karma governs
all things. He who attempts to perform miracles has not understood the
doctrine of the Tathagata."
THE VANITY OF WORLDLINESS
THERE was a poet who had acquired the spotless eye of truth, and
he believed in the Buddha, whose doctrine gave him peace of mind and
comfort in the hour of affliction. It happened that an epidemic
swept over the country in which he lived, so that many died, and the
people were terrified. Some of them trembled with fright, and in
anticipation of their fate were smitten with all the horrors of
death before they died, while others began to be merry, shouting
loudly, "Let us enjoy ourselves today, for we know not whether
tomorrow we shall live"; yet was their laughter no genuine gladness,
but a mere pretense and affectation.
Among all these worldly men and women trembling with anxiety, the
Buddhist poet lived in the time of the pestilence, as usual, calm
and undisturbed, helping wherever he could and ministering unto the
sick, soothing their pains by medicine and religious consolation.
And a man came to him and said:
"My heart is nervous and excited, for I see people die. I am not
anxious about others, but I tremble because of myself. Help me; cure
me of my fear."
The poet replied: "There is help for him who has compassion on
others, but there is no help for thee so long as thou clingest to
thine own self alone. Hard times try the souls of men and teach them
righteousness and charity. Canst thou witness these sad sights
around thee and still be filled with selfishness? Canst thou see thy
brothers, sisters, and friends suffer, yet not forget the petty
cravings and lust of thine own heart? Noticing the desolation in the
mind of the pleasure-seeking man, the Buddhist poet composed this song
and taught it to the brethren in the vihara:
"Unless you take refuge in the Buddha and find rest in Nirvana,
Your life is but vanity-empty and desolate vanity.
To see the world is idle, and to enjoy life is empty.
The world, including man, is but like a phantom, and the hope of
heaven is as a mirage.
"The worldling seeks pleasures, fattening himself like a
But the Buddhist saint flies up to the sun like the wild crane.
The fowl in the coop has food but will soon be boiled in the pot;
No provisions are given to the wild crane, but the heavens and the
earth are his.
The poet said: "The times are hard and teach the people a
yet do they not heed it." And he composed another poem on the vanity
"It is good to reform, and it is good to exhort people to
The things of the world will all be swept away.
Let others be busy and buried with care.
My mind all unvexed shall be pure.
"After pleasures they hanker and find no satisfaction;
Riches they covet and can never have enough.
They are like unto puppets held up by a string.
When the string breaks they come down with a shock.
"In the domain of death there are neither great nor small;
Neither gold nor silver is used, nor precious jewels.
No distinction is made between the high and the low.
And daily the dead are buried beneath the fragrant sod.
"Look at the sun setting behind the western hills.
You lie down to rest, but soon the cock will announce morn.
Reform today and do not wait until it be too late
Do not say it is early, for the time quickly passes by.
"It is good to reform and it is good to exhort people to
It is good to lead a righteous life and take refuge in the Buddha's
Your talents may reach to the skies, your wealth may be untold-
But all is in vain unless you attain the peace of Nirvana."
SECRECY AND PUBLICITY
THE Buddha said: "Three things, O disciples, are characterized
secrecy: love affairs, priestly wisdom, and all aberrations from the
path of truth. Women who are in love, O disciples seek secrecy and
shun publicity; priests who claim to be in possession of special
revelation, O disciples, seek secrecy and shun publicity; all those
who stray from the path of truth, O disciples, seek secrecy and shun
"Three things, O disciples, shine before the world and cannot be
hidden. What are the three? The moon, O disciples, illumines the world
and cannot be hidden; the sun, O disciples, illumines the world and
cannot be hidden; and the truth proclaimed by the Tathagata
illumines the world and cannot be hidden. These three things, O
disciples, illumine the world and cannot be hidden. There is no
secrecy about them."
THE ANNIHILATION OF SUFFERING
THE Buddha said: "What, my friends, is evil? Killing is evil;
stealing is evil; yielding to sexual passion is evil; lying is evil;
slandering is evil; abuse is evil; gossip is evil; envy is evil;
hatred is evil; to cling to false doctrine is evil; all these
things, my friends, are evil.
"And what, my friends, is the root of evil? Desire is the root of
evil; hatred is the root of evil; illusion is the root of evil;
these things are the root of evil.
"What, however, is good? Abstaining from killing is good; abstaining
from theft is good; abstaining from sensuality is good; abstaining
from falsehood is good; abstaining from slander is good; suppression
of unkindness is good; abandoning gossip is good; letting go all
envy is good; dismissing hatred is good; obedience to the truth is
good; all these things are good.
"And what, my friend, is the root of the good? Freedom from desire
is the root of the good; freedom from hatred and freedom from
illusion; these things, my friends, are the root of the good.
"What, however, O brethren, is suffering? What is the origin of
suffering? What is the annihilation of suffering? Birth is
suffering; old age is suffering; disease is suffering; death is
suffering; sorrow and misery are suffering; affliction and despair are
suffering; to be united with loathsome things is suffering; the loss
of that which we love and the failure in attaining that which is
longed for are suffering; all these things, O brethren, are suffering.
"And what, O brethren, is the origin of suffering? It is lust,
passion, and the thirst for existence that yearns for pleasure
everywhere, leading to a continual rebirth I It is sensuality, desire,
selfishness; all these things, O brethren, are the origin of
"And what is the annihilation of suffering? The radical and total
annihilation of this thirst and the abandonment, the liberation, the
deliverance from passion, that, O brethren, is the annihilation of
"And what, O brethren, is the path that leads to the annihilation of
suffering? It is the holy eightfold path that leads to the
annihilation of suffering, which consists of right views, right
decision, right speech, right action, right living, right
struggling, right thoughts, and right meditation.
"In so far, O friends, as a noble youth thus recognizes suffering
and the origin of suffering, as he recognizes the annihilation of
suffering, and walks on the path that leads to the annihilation of
suffering, radically forsaking passion, subduing wrath, annihilating
the vain conceit of the "I-am, leaving ignorance, and attaining to
enlightenment, he will make an end of all suffering even in this
AVOIDING THE TEN EVILS
THE Buddha said: "All acts of living creatures become bad
things, and by avoiding the ten things they become good. There are
three evils of the body, four evils of the tongue, and three evils
of the mind.
"The evils of the body are, murder, theft, and adultery; of the
tongue, lying, slander, abuse, and idle talk; of the mind,
covetousness, hatred, and error.
"I exhort you to avoid the ten evils: 1. Kill not, but have regard
for life. 2. Steal not, neither do ye rob; but help everybody to be
master of the fruits of his labor. 3. Abstain from impurity, and
lead a life of chastity. 4. Lie not, but be truthful. Speak the
truth with discretion, fearlessly and in a loving heart. 5. Invent not
evil reports, neither do ye repeat them. Carp not, but look for the
good sides of your fellow-beings, so that ye may with sincerity defend
them against their enemies. 6. Swear not, but speak decently and
with dignity. 7. Waste not the time with gossip, but speak to the
purpose or keep silence. 8. Covet not, nor envy, but rejoice at the
fortunes of other people. 9. Cleanse your heart of malice and
cherish no hatred, not even against your enemies; but embrace all
living beings with kindness. 10. Free your mind of ignorance and be
anxious to learn the truth, especially in the one thing that is
needful, lest you fall a prey either to scepticism or to errors.
Scepticism will make you indifferent and errors will lead you
astray, so that you shall not find the noble path that leads to life
THE PREACHER'S MISSION
THE Blessed One said to his disciples: "When I have passed
and can no longer address you and edify your minds with religious
discourse, select from among you men of good family and education to
preach the truth in my stead. And let those men be invested with the
robes of the Tathagata, let them enter into the abode of the
Tathagata, and occupy the pulpit of the Tathagata.
"The robe of the Tathagata is sublime forbearance and patience.
The abode of the Tathagata is charity and love of all beings. The
pulpit of the Tathagata is the comprehension of the good law in its
abstract meaning as well as in its particular application.
"The preacher must propound the truth with unshrinking mind. He must
have the power of persuasion rooted in virtue and in strict fidelity
to his vows. The preacher must keep in his proper sphere and be steady
in his course. He must not flatter his vanity by seeking the company
of the great, nor must he keep company with persons who are
frivolous and immoral. When in temptation, he should constantly
think of the Buddha and he will conquer. All who come to hear the
doctrine, the preacher must receive with benevolence, and his sermon
must be without invidiousness. The preacher must not be prone to
carp at others, or to blame other preachers; nor speak scandal, nor
propagate bitter words. He must not mention by name other disciples to
vituperate them and reproach their demeanor.
"Clad in a clean robe, dyed with good color, with appropriate
undergarments, he must ascend the pulpit with a mind free from blame
and at peace with the whole world. He must not take delight in
quarrelous disputations or engage in controversies so as to show the
superiority of his talents, but be calm and composed. No hostile
feelings shall reside in his heart, and he must never abandon the
disposition of charity toward all beings. His sole aim must be that
all beings become Buddhas. Let the preacher apply himself with zeal to
his work, and the Tathagata will show to him the body of the holy
law in its transcendent glory. He shall be honored as one whom the
Tathagata has blessed. The Tathagata blesses the preacher and also
those who reverently listen to him and joyfully accept the doctrine.
"All those who receive the truth will find perfect enlightenment.
And, verily, such is the power of the doctrine that even by the
reading of a single stanza, or by reciting, copying, and keeping in
mind a single sentence of the good law, persons may be converted to
the truth and enter the path of righteousness which leads to
deliverance from evil. Creatures that are swayed by impure passions,
when they listen to the voice, will be purified. The ignorant who
are infatuated with the follies of the world will, when pondering on
the profundity of the doctrine, acquire wisdom. Those who act under
the impulse of hatred will, when taking refuge in the Buddha, be
filled with good-will and love.
"A preacher must be full of energy, and cheerful hope, never
tiring and never despairing of final success. A preacher must be
like a man in quest of water who digs a well in an arid tract of land.
So long as he sees that the sand is dry and white, he knows that the
water is still far off. But let him not be troubled or give up the
task as hopeless. The work of removing the dry sand must be done so
that he can dig down deeper into the ground. And often the deeper he
has to dig, the cooler and purer and more refreshing will the water
be. When after some time of digging he sees that the sand be comes
moist, he accepts it as a token that the water is near. So long as the
people do not listen to the words of truth, the preacher knows that he
has to dig deeper into their hearts; but when they begin to heed his
words he apprehends that they will soon attain enlightenment.
"Into your hands, O you men of good family and education who take
the vow of preaching the words of the Tathagata, the Blessed One
transfers, intrusts, and commends the good law of truth. Receive the
good law of truth, keep it, read and re-read it, fathom it, promulgate
it, and preach it to all beings in all the quarters of the universe.
"The Tathagata is not avaricious, nor narrow-minded, and he is
willing to impart the perfect Buddha-knowledge unto all who are
ready and willing to receive it. Do you be like him. Imitate him and
follow his example in bounteously giving, showing, and bestowing the
truth. Gather round you hearers who love to listen to the benign and
comforting words of the law; rouse the unbelievers to accept the truth
and fill them with delight and joy. Quicken them, edify them, and lift
them higher and higher until they see the truth face to face in all
its splendor and infinite glory."
When the Blessed One had thus spoken, the disciples said: "O thou
who rejoicest in kindness having its source in compassion, thou
great cloud of good qualities and of benevolent mind, thou quenchest
the fire that vexeth living beings, thou pourest out nectar, the
rain of the law! We shall do, O Lord, what the Tathagata commands.
We shall fulfill his behest; the Lord shall find us obedient to his
And this vow of the disciples resounded through the universe, and
like an echo it came back from all the Bodhisattvas who are to be
and will come to preach the good law of Truth to future generations.
And the Blessed One said: "The Tathagata is like unto a powerful
king who rules his kingdom with righteousness, but being attacked by
envious enemies goes out to wage war against his foes. When the king
sees his soldiers fight he is delighted with their gallantry and
will bestow upon them donations of all kinds. Ye are the soldiers of
the Tathagata, while Mara, the Evil One, is the enemy who must be
conquered. And the Tathagata will give to his soldiers the city of
Nirvana, the great capital of the good law. And when the enemy is
overcome, the Dharma-raja, the great king of truth, will bestow upon
all his disciples the most precious crown, which jewel brings
perfect enlightenment, supreme wisdom, and undisturbed peace."
THIS is the Dharmapada, the path of religion pursued by those
are followers of the Buddha: Creatures from mind their character
derive; mind-marshaled are they, mind-made. Mind is the source
either of bliss or of corruption. By oneself evil is done; by
oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone; by oneself one is
purified. Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify
another. You yourself must make an effort. The Tathagatas are only
preachers. The thoughtful who enter the way are freed from the bondage
of Mara. He who does not rouse himself when it is time to rise; who,
though young and strong, is full of sloth; whose will and thoughts are
weak; that lazy and idle man will never find the way to enlightenment.
If a man hold himself dear, let him watch himself carefully; the
truth guards him who guards himself. If a man makes himself as he
teaches others to be, then, being himself subdued, he may subdue
others; one's own self is indeed difficult to subdue. If some men
conquer in battle a thousand times a thousand men, and if another
conquer himself, he is the greatest of conquerors. It is the habit
of fools, be they laymen or members of the clergy, to think, this is
done by me. May others be subject to me. In this or that transaction a
prominent part should be played by me." Fools do not care for the duty
to be performed or the aim to be reached, but think of themselves
alone. Everything is but a pedestal of their vanity.
Bad deeds, and deeds hurtful to ourselves, are easy to do; what is
beneficial and good, that is very difficult. If anything is to be
done, let a man do it, let him attack it vigorously!
Before long, alas! this body will lie on the earth, despised,
without understanding, like a useless log; yet our thoughts will
endure. They will be thought again, and will produce action. Good
thoughts will produce good actions, and bad thoughts will produce
Earnestness is the path of immortality, thoughtlessness the path
of death. Those who are in earnest do not die; those who are
thoughtless are as if dead already. Those who imagine they find
truth in untruth, and see untruth in truth, will never arrive at
truth, but follow vain desires. They who know truth in truth, and
untruth in untruth, arrive at truth, and follow true desires. As
rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion will break
through an unreflecting mind. As rain does not break through a
well-thatched house, passion will not break through a
well-reflecting mind. lead the water wherever they like; fletchers
bend the arrow; carpenters bend a log of wood; wise people fashion
themselves; wise people falter not amidst blame and praise. Having
listened to the law, they become serene, like a deep, smooth, and
If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him as
the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the wagon. An evil
deed is better left undone, for a man will repent of it afterwards;
a good deed is better done, for having done it one will not repent. If
a man commits a wrong let him not do it again; let him not delight
in wrongdoing; pain is the outcome of evil. If a man does what is
good, let him do it again; let him delight in it; happiness is the
outcome of good.
Let no man think lightly of evil, saying in his heart, It will not
come nigh unto me." As by the falling of waterdrops a water-pot is
filled, so the fool becomes full of evil, though he gather it little
by little. Let no man think lightly of good, saying in his heart, It
will not come nigh unto me." As by the falling of water-drops a
water-pot is filled, so the wise man becomes full of good, though he
gather it little by little.
He who lives for pleasure only, his senses uncontrolled,
immoderate in his food, idle, and weak, him Mara, the tempter, will
certainly overthrow, as the wind throws down a weak tree. He who lives
without looking for pleasures, his senses well-controlled, moderate in
his food, faithful and strong, him Mara will certainly not
overthrow, any more than the wind throws down a rocky mountain.
The fool who knows his foolishness, is wise at least so far. But a
fool who thinks himself wise, he is a fool indeed. To the evil-doer
wrong appears sweet as honey; he looks upon it as pleasant so long
as it bears no fruit; but when its fruit ripens, then he looks upon it
as wrong. And so the good man looks upon the goodness of the Dharma as
a burden and an evil so long as it bears no fruit; but when its
fruit ripens, then he sees its goodness.
A hater may do great harm to a hater, or an enemy to an enemy; but a
wrongly-directed mind will do greater mischief unto itself. A
mother, a father, or any other relative will do much good; but a
well-directed mind will do greater service unto itself.
He whose wickedness is very great brings himself down to that
state where his enemy wishes him to be. He himself is his greatest
enemy. Thus a creeper destroys the life of a tree on which it finds
Do not direct thy thought to what gives pleasure, that thou mayest
not cry out when burning, "This is pain." The wicked man burns by
his own deeds, as if burnt by fire. Pleasures destroy the foolish; the
foolish man by his thirst for pleasures destroys himself as if he were
his own enemy. The fields are damaged by hurricanes and weeds; mankind
is damaged by passion, by hatred, by vanity, and by lust. Let no man
ever take into consideration whether a thing is pleasant or
unpleasant. The love of pleasure begets grief and the dread of pain
causes fear; he who is free from the love of pleasure and the dread of
pain knows neither grief nor fear.
He who gives himself to vanity, and does not give himself to
meditation, forgetting the real aim of life and grasping at
pleasure, will in time envy him who has exerted himself in meditation.
The fault of others is easily noticed, but that of oneself is
difficult to perceive. A man winnows his neighbor's faults like chaff,
but his own fault he hides, as a cheat hides the false die from the
gambler. If a man looks after the faults of others, and is always
inclined to take offense, his own passions will grow, and he is far
from the destruction of passions. Not about the perversities of
others, not about their sins of commission or omission, but about
his own misdeeds and negligences alone should a sage be worried.
Good people shine from afar, like the snowy mountains; bad people
are concealed, like arrows shot by night.
If a man by causing pain to others, wishes to obtain pleasure for
himself, he, entangled in the bonds of selfishness, will never be free
from hatred. Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil
by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth!
For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time; hatred ceases by
not hatred, this is an old rule.
Speak the truth, do not yield to anger; give, if thou art asked;
by these three steps thou wilt become divine. Let a wise man blow
off the impurities of his self, as a smith blows off the impurities of
silver, one by one, little by little, and from time to time.
Lead others, not by violence, but by righteousness and equity. He
who possesses virtue and intelligence, who is just, speaks the
truth, and does what is his own business, him the world will hold
dear. As the bee collects nectar and departs without injuring the
flower, or its color or scent, so let a sage dwell in the community.
If a traveler does not meet with one who is his better, or his
equal, let him firmly keep to his solitary journey; there is no
companionship with fools. Long is the night to him who is awake;
long is a mile to him who is tired; long is life to the foolish who do
not know the true religion. Better than living a hundred years not
seeing the highest truth, is one day in the life of a man who sees the
Some form their Dharma arbitrarily and fabricate it artificially;
they advance complex speculations and imagine that good results are
attainable only by the acceptance of their theories; yet the truth
is but one; there are not different truths in the world. Having
reflected on the various theories, we have gone into the yoke with him
who has shaken off all sin. But shall we be able to proceed together
The best of ways is the eightfold path. This is the path. There is
no other that leads to the purifying of intelligence. Go on this path!
Everything else is the deceit of Mara, the tempter. If you go on
this path, you will make an end of pain! Says the Tathagata, The
path was preached by me, when I had understood the removal of the
thorn in the flesh.
Not only by discipline and vows, not only by much learning, do I
earn the happiness of release which no worldling can know. Bhikkhu, be
not confident as long as thou hast not attained the extinction of
thirst. The extinction of evil desire is the highest religion.
The gift of religion exceeds all gifts; the sweetness of religion
exceeds all sweetness; the delight in religion exceeds all delights;
the extinction of thirst overcomes all pain. Few are there among men
who cross the river and reach the goal. The great multitudes are
running up and down the shore; but there is no suffering for him who
has finished his journey.
As the lily will grow full of sweet perfume and delight upon a
heap of rubbish, thus the disciple of the truly enlightened Buddha
shines forth by his wisdom among those who are like rubbish, among the
people that walk in darkness. Let us live happily then, not hating
those who hate us! Among men who hate us let us dwell free from
Let us live happily then, free from all ailments among the ailing!
Among men who are ailing let us dwell free from ailments! Let us
live happily, then, free from greed among the greedy! Among men who
are greedy let us dwell free from greed!
The sun is bright by day, the moon shines by night, the warrior is
bright in his armor thinkers are bright in their meditation; but among
all, the brightest, with splendor day and night, is the Buddha, the
Awakened, the Holy, Blessed.
THE TWO BRAHMANS
AT one time when the Blessed One was journeying through Kosala
came to the Brahman village which is called Manasakata. There he
stayed in a mango grove. And two young Brahmans came to him who were
of different schools. One was named Vasettha and the other Bharadvaja.
And Vasettha said to the Blessed One:
"We have a dispute as to the true path. I say the straight path
which leads unto a union with Brahma is that which has been
announced by the Brahman Pokkharasati, while my friend says the
straight path which leads unto a union with Brahma is that which has
been announced by the Brahman Tarukkha. Now, regarding thy high
reputation, O samana, and knowing that thou art called the Enlightened
One, the teacher of men and gods, the Blessed Buddha, we have come
to ask thee, are all these paths salvation? There are many roads all
around our village, and all lead to Manasakata. Is it just so with the
paths of the sages? Are all paths to salvation, and do they all lead
to a union with Brahma?
Then the Blessed One proposed these questions to the two Brahmans:
"Do you think that all paths are right?" Both answered and said: "Yes,
Gotama, we think so."
"But tell me, continued the Buddha has any one of the Brahmans,
versed in the Vedas, seen Brahma face to face?" "No sir!" was the
"But, then," said the Blessed One, has any teacher of the
Brahmans, versed in the Vedas, seen Brahma face to face?" The two
Brahmans said: "No, sir."
"But, then," said the Blessed One, has any one of the authors of the
Vedas seen Brahma face to face?" Again the two Brahmans answered in
the negative and exclaimed: "How can any one see Brahma or
understand him, for the mortal cannot understand the immortal." And
the Blessed One proposed an illustration, saying:
"It is as if a man should make a staircase in the place where four
roads cross, to mount up into a mansion. And people should ask him,
Where, good friends, is this mansion, to mount up into which you are
making this staircase? Knowest thou whether it is in the east, or in
the south, or in the west, or in the north? Whether it is high, or
low, or of medium size?' And when so asked he should answer, 'I know
it not.' And people should say to him, 'But, then, good friend, thou
art making a staircase to mount up into something-taking it for a
mansion-which all the while thou knowest not, neither hast thou seen
it.' And when so asked he should answer, That is exactly what I do;
yea I know that I cannot know it.' What would you think of him?
Would you not say that the talk of that man was foolish talk?"
"In sooth, Gotama, said the two Brahmans, it be foolish talk!" The
Blessed One continued: "Then the Brahmans should say, 'We show you the
way unto a union with what we know not and what we have not seen."
This being the substance of Brahman lore, does it not follow that
their task is vain?"
"It does follow, replied Bharadvaja.
Said the Blessed One: "Thus it is impossible that Brahmans versed in
the three Vedas should be able to show the way to a state of union
with that which they neither know nor have seen. Just as when a string
of blind men are clinging one to the other. Neither can the foremost
see, nor can those in the middle see, nor can the hindmost see. Even
so, methinks the talk of the Brahmans versed in the three Vedas is but
blind talk; it is ridiculous, consists of mere words, and is a vain
and empty thing. Now suppose," added the Blessed One that a man should
come hither to the bank of the river, and, having some business on the
other side, should want to cross. Do you suppose that if he were to
invoke the other bank of the river to come over to him on this side,
the bank would come on account of his praying?"
"Certainly not, Gotama."
"Yet this is the way of the Brahmans. They omit the practice of
those qualities which really make a man a Brahman, and say, 'Indra, we
call upon thee; Soma, we call upon thee; Varuna, we call upon thee;
Brahma, we call upon thee.' Verily, it is not possible that these
Brahmans, on account of their invocations, prayers, and praises,
should after death be united with Brahma.
"Now tell me," continued the Buddha, "what do the Brahmans say of
Brahma? Is his mind full of lust?" And when the Brahmans denied
this, the Buddha asked: "Is Brahma's mind full of malice, sloth, or
"No sir!" was the reply. "He is the opposite of all this."
And the Buddha went on: "But are the Brahmans free from these
vices?" "No, sir!" said Vasettha.
The Holy One said: "The Brahmans cling to the five things leading to
worldliness and yield to the temptations of the senses; they are
entangled in the five hindrances, lust, malice, sloth, pride, and
doubt. How can they be united to that which is most unlike their
nature? Therefore the threefold wisdom of the Brahmans is a
waterless desert, a pathless jungle, and a hopeless desolation."
When the Buddha had thus spoken, one of the Brahmans said: "We are
told, Gotama, that the Sakyamuni knows the path to a union with
And the Blessed One said: "What do you think, O Brahmans, of a man
born and brought up in Manasakata? Would he be in doubt about the most
direct way from this spot to Manasakata?"
"Certainly not, Gotama."
"Thus," replied the Buddha, the Tathagata knows the straight path
that leads to a union with Brahma. He knows it as one who has
entered the world of Brahma and has been born in it. There can be no
doubt in the Tathagata."
The two young Brahmans said: "If thou knowest the way show it to
And the Buddha said: "The Tathagata sees the universe face to face
and understands its nature. He proclaims the truth both in its
letter and in its spirit, and his doctrine is glorious in its
origin, glorious in its progress, glorious in its consummation. The
Tathagata reveals the higher life in its purity and perfection. He can
show you the way to that which is contrary to the five great
hindrances. The Tathagata lets his mind pervade the four quarters of
the world with thoughts of love. And thus the whole wide world, above,
below, around, and everywhere will continue to be filled with love,
far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure. just as a mighty
trumpeter makes himself heard-and that without difficulty-in all the
four quarters of the earth; even so is the coming of the Tathagata:
there is not one living creature that the Tathagata passes by or
leaves aside, but regards them all with mind set free, and deep-felt
"This is the sign that a man follows the right path: Uprightness
is his delight, and he sees danger in the least of those things
which he should avoid. He trains himself in the commands of
morality, he encompasseth himself with holiness in word and deed; he
sustains his life by means that are quite pure; good is his conduct,
guarded is the door of his senses; mindful and self-possessed, he is
altogether happy. He who walks in the eightfold noble path with
unswerving determination is sure to reach Nirvana. The Tathagata
anxiously watches over his children and with loving care helps them to
see the light.
"When a hen has eight or ten or twelve eggs, over which she has
properly brooded, the wish arises in her heart, 'O would that my
little chickens would break open the eggshell with their claws, or
with their beaks, and come forth into the light in safety!' yet all
the while those little chickens are sure to break the egg-shell and
will come forth into the light in safety. Even so, a brother who
with firm determination walks in the noble path is sure to come
forth into the light, sure to reach up to the higher wisdom, sure to
attain to the highest bliss of enlightenment."
GUARD THE SIX QUARTERS
WHILE the Blessed One was staying at the bamboo grove near Rajagaha,
he once met on his way Sigala, a householder, who, clasping his hands,
turned to the four quarters of the world, to the zenith above, and
to the nadir below. The Blessed One, knowing that this was done
according to the traditional religious superstition to avert evil,
asked Sigala: "Why performest thou these strange ceremonies?"
And Sigala in reply said: "Dost thou think it strange that I protect
my home against the influences of demons? I know thou wouldst fain
tell me, O Gotama Sakyamuni, whom people call the Tathagata and the
Blessed Buddha, that incantations are of no avail and possess no
saving power. But listen to me and know, that in performing this
rite I honor, reverence, and keep sacred the words of my father."
Then the Tathagata said: Thou dost well, O Sigala, to honor,
reverence, and keep sacred the words of thy father; and it is thy duty
to protect thy home, thy wife, thy children, and thy children's
children against the hurtful influences of evil spirits. I find no
fault with the performance of thy father's rite. But I find that
thou dost not understand the ceremony. Let the Tathagata, who now
speaks to thee as a spiritual father and loves thee no less than did
thy parents, explain to thee the meaning of the six directions.
"To guard thy home by mysterious ceremonies is not sufficient;
thou must guard it by good deeds. Turn to thy parents in the East,
to thy teachers in the South, to thy wife and children in the West, to
thy friends in the North, and regulate the zenith of thy religious
relations above thee, and the nadir of thy servants below thee. Such
is the religion thy father wants thee to have, and the performance
of the ceremony shall remind thee of thy duties."
And Sigala looked up to the Blessed One with reverence as to his
father and said: "Truly, Gotama, thou art the Buddha, the Blessed One,
the holy teacher. I never knew what I was doing, but now I know.
Thou hast revealed to me the truth that was hidden as one who bringeth
a lamp into the darkness. I take my refuge in the Enlightened Teacher,
in the truth that enlightens, and in the community of brethren who
have been taught the truth."
SIMHA'S QUESTION CONCERNING ANNIHILATION
AT that time many distinguished citizens were sitting together
assembled in the town-hall and spoke in many ways in praise of the
Buddha, of the Dharma, and of the Sangha. Simha, the general-in-chief,
a disciple of the Niggantha sect, was sitting among them. And Simha
thought: "Truly, the Blessed One must be the Buddha, the Holy One. I
will go and visit him."
Then Simha, the general, went to the place where the Niggantha
chief, Nataputta, was; and having approached him, he said: "I wish,
Lord to visit the samana Gotama." Nataputta said: "Why should you,
Simha, who believe in the result of actions according to their moral
merit, go to visit the samana Gotama, who denies the result of
actions? The samana Gotama, O Simha, denies the result of actions;
he teaches the doctrine of non-action; and in this doctrine he
trains his disciples."
Then the desire to go and visit the Blessed One, which had risen
in Simha, the general, abated. Hearing again the praise of the Buddha,
of the Dharma, and of the Sangha, Simha asked the Niggantha chief a
second time; and again Nataputta persuaded him not to go.
When a third time the general heard some men of distinction extol
the merits of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, the general
thought: "Truly the samana Gotama must be the Holy Buddha. What are
the Nigganthas to me, whether they give their consent or not? I
shall go without asking their permission to visit him, the Blessed
One, the Holy Buddha." And Simha, the general, said to the Blessed
One: "I have heard, Lord, that the samana Gotama denies the result
of actions; he teaches the doctrine of non-action, saying that the
actions of sentient beings do not receive their reward, for he teaches
annihilation and the contemptibleness of all things; and in this
doctrine he trains his disciples. Teachest thou the doing away of
the soul and the burning away of man's being? Pray tell me, Lord, do
those who speak thus say the truth, or do they bear false witness
against the Blessed One, passing off a spurious Dharma as thy Dharma?"
The Blessed One said "There is a way, Simha, in which one who says
so, is speaking truly of me; on the other hand, Simha, there is a
way in which one who says the opposite is speaking truly of me, too.
Listen, and I will tell thee: I teach, Simha, the not-doing of such
actions as are unrighteous, either by deed, or by word, or by thought;
I teach the not-bringing about of all those conditions of heart
which are evil and not good. However, I teach, Simha, the doing of
such actions as are righteous, by deed, by word, and by thought; I
teach the bringing about of all those conditions of heart which are
good and not evil.
"I teach, Simha, that all the conditions of heart which are evil and
not good, unrighteous action by deed, by word, and by thought, must be
burnt away. He who has freed himself, Simha, from all those conditions
of heart which are evil and not good, he who has destroyed them as a
palm-tree which is rooted out, so that they cannot grow up again, such
a man has accomplished the eradication of self.
"I proclaim, Simha, the annihilation of egotism, of lust, of
ill-will, of delusion. However, I do not proclaim the annihilation
of forbearance, of love, of charity, and of truth. I deem, Simha,
unrighteous actions contemptible, whether they be performed by deed,
or by word, or by thought; but I deem virtue and righteousness
Simha said: "One doubt still lurks in my mind concerning the
doctrine of the Blessed One. Will the Blessed One consent to clear the
cloud away so that I may understand the Dharma as the Blessed One
The Tathagata having given his consent, Simha continued: "I am a
soldier, O Blessed One, and am appointed by the king to enforce his
laws and to wage his wars. Does the Tathagata who teaches kindness
without end and compassion with all sufferers, permit the punishment
of the criminal? and further, does the Tathagata declare that it is
wrong to go to war for the protection of our homes, our wives, our
children, and our property? Does the Tathagata teach the doctrine of a
complete self-surrender, so that I should suffer the evil-doer to do
what he pleases and yield submissively to him who threatens to take by
violence what is my own? Does the Tathagata maintain that all
strife, including such warfare as is waged for a righteous cause
should be forbidden?"
The Buddha replied: "He who deserves punishment must be punished,
and he who is worthy of favor must be favored. Yet at the same time he
teaches to do no injury to any living being but to be full of love and
kindness. These injunctions are not contradictory, for whosoever
must be punished for the crimes which he has committed, suffers his
injury not through the ill-will of the judge but on account of his
evildoing. His own acts have brought upon him the injury that the
executer of the law inflicts. When a magistrate punishes, let him
not harbor hatred in his breast, yet a murderer, when put to death,
should consider that this is the fruit of his own act. As soon as he
will understand that the punishment will purify his soul, he will no
longer lament his fate but rejoice at it."
The Blessed One continued: "The Tathagata teaches that all warfare
in which man tries to slay his brother is lamentable, but he does
not teach that those who go to war in a righteous cause after having
exhausted all means to preserve the peace are blameworthy. He must
be blamed who is the cause of war. The Tathagata teaches a complete
surrender of self, but he does not teach a surrender of anything to
those powers that are evil, be they men or gods or the elements of
nature. Struggle must be, for all life is a struggle of some kind. But
he that struggles should look to it lest he struggle in the interest
of self against truth and righteousness.
"He who struggles in the interest of self, so that he himself may be
great or powerful or rich or famous, will have no reward, but he who
struggles for righteousness and truth, will have great reward, for
even his defeat will be a victory. Self is not a fit vessel to receive
any great success; self is small and brittle and its contents will
soon be spilt for the benefit, and perhaps also for the curse, of
others. Truth, however, is large enough to receive the yearnings and
aspirations of all selves and when the selves break like soap-bubbles,
their contents will be preserved and in the truth they will lead a
"He who goeth to battle, O Simha, even though it be in a righteous
cause, must be prepared to be slain by his enemies, for that is the
destiny of warriors; and should his fate overtake him he has no reason
for complaint. But he who is victorious should remember the
instability of earthly things. His success may be great, but be it
ever so great the wheel of fortune may turn again and bring him down
into the dust. However, if he moderates himself and, extinguishing all
hatred in his heart lifts his down-trodden adversary up and says to
him, Come now and make peace and let us be brothers, he will gain a
victory that is not a transient success, for its fruits will remain
forever. Great is a successful general, O Simha, but he who has
conquered self is the greater victor.
"The doctrine of the conquest of self, O Simha, is not taught to
destroy the souls of men, but to preserve them. He who has conquered
self is more fit to live, to be successful, and to gain victories than
he who is the slave of self. He whose mind is free from the illusion
of self, will stand and not fall in that battle of life. He whose
intentions are righteousness and justice, will meet with no failure,
but be successful in his enterprises and his success will endure. He
who harbors in his heart love of truth will live and not die, for he
has drunk the water of immortality. Struggle then, O general,
courageously; and fight thy battles vigorously, but be a soldier of
truth and the Tathagata will bless thee."
When the Blessed One had spoken thus, Simha, the general, said:
"Glorious Lord, glorious Lord! Thou hast revealed the truth. Great
is the doctrine of the Blessed One. Thou, indeed, art the Buddha,
the Tathagata, the Holy One. Thou art the teacher of mankind. Thou
showest us the road of salvation, for this indeed is true deliverance.
He who follows thee will not miss the light to enlighten his path.
He will find blessedness and peace. I take my refuge, Lord, in the
Blessed One, and in his doctrine, and in his brotherhood. May the
Blessed One receive me from this day forth while my life lasts as a
disciple who has taken refuge in him."
The Blessed One said: "Consider first, Simha, what thou doest. It is
becoming that persons of rank like thyself should do nothing without
Simha's faith in the Blessed One increased. He replied: "Had other
teachers, Lord, succeeded in making me their disciple, they would
carry around their banners through the whole city of Vesali, shouting:
"Simha the general has become our disciple! For the second time, Lord,
I take my refuge in the Blessed One, and in the Dharma, and in the
Sangha; may the Blessed One receive me from this day forth while my
life lasts as a disciple who has taken his refuge in him."
Said the Blessed One: "For a long time, Simha, offerings have been
given to the Nigganthas in thy house. Thou shouldst therefore deem
it right also in the future to give them food when they come to thee
on their alms-pilgrimage." And Simha's heart was filled with joy. He
said: "I have been told, Lord: 'The samana Gotama says: To me alone
and to nobody else should gifts be given. My pupils alone and the
pupils of no one else should receive offerings.' But the Blessed One
exhorts me to give also to the Nigganthas. Well, Lord, we shall see
what is seasonable. For the third time, Lord, I take my refuge in
the Blessed One, and in his Dharma, and in his fraternity."
ALL EXISTENCE IS SPIRITUAL
THERE was an officer among the retinue of Simha who had heard
discourses of the Blessed One, and there was some doubt left in his
heart. This man came to the Blessed One and said: "It is said, O Lord,
that the samana Gotama denies the existence of the soul. Do they who
say so speak the truth, or do they bear false witness against the
And the Blessed One said: "There is a way in which those who say
so are speaking truly of me; on the other hand, there is a way in
which those who say so do not speak truly of me. The Tathagata teaches
that there is no self. He who says that the soul is his self and
that the self is the thinker of our thoughts and the actor of our
deeds, teaches a wrong doctrine which leads to confusion and darkness.
On the other hand, the Tathagata teaches that there is mind. He who
understands by soul mind, and says that mind exists, teaches the truth
which leads to clearness and enlightenment."
The officer said: "Does, then, the Tathagata maintain that two
things exist? that which we perceive with our senses and that which is
Said the Blessed One: "I say to thee, thy mind is spiritual, but
neither is the sense-perceived void of spirituality. The bodhi is
eternal and it dominates all existence as the good law guiding all
beings in their search for truth. It changes brute nature into mind,
and there is no being that cannot be transformed into a vessel of
IDENTITY AND NON-IDENTITY
KUTADANTA, the head of the Brahmans in the village of Danamati,
having approached the Blessed One respectfully, greeted him and
said: "I am told, O samana, that thou art the Buddha, the Holy One,
the All-knowing, the Lord of the world. But if thou wert the Buddha,
wouldst thou not come like a king in all thy glory and power?" Said
the Blessed One: "Thine eyes are holden. If the eye of thy mind were
undimmed thou couldst see the glory and the power of truth."
Said Kutadanta: "Show me the truth and I shall see it. But thy
doctrine is without consistency. If it were consistent, it would
stand; but as it is not, it will pass away." The Blessed One
replied: "The truth will never pass away."
Kutadanta said: "I am told that thou teachest the law, yet thou
tearest down religion. Thy disciples despise rites and abandon
immolation, but reverence for the gods can be shown only by
sacrifices. The very nature of religion consists in worship and
sacrifice." Said the Buddha: "Greater than the immolation of
bullocks is the sacrifice of self. He who offers to the gods his
evil desires will see the uselessness of slaughtering animals at the
altar. Blood has no cleansing power, but the eradication of lust
will make the heart pure. Better than worshiping gods is obedience
to the laws of righteousness."
Kutadanta, being of a religious disposition and anxious about his
fate after death, had sacrificed countless victims. Now he saw the
folly of atonement by blood. Not yet satisfied, however, with the
teachings of the Tathagata, Kutadanta continued: "Thou believest, O
Master, that beings are reborn; that they migrate in the evolution
of life; and that subject to the law of karma we must reap what we
sow. Yet thou teachest the non-existence of the soul! Thy disciples
praise utter self-extinction as the highest bliss of Nirvana. If I
am merely a combination of the sankharas, my existence will cease when
I die. If I am merely a compound of sensations and ideas and
desires, whither can I go at the dissolution of the body?"
Said the Blessed One: "O Brahman, thou art religious and earnest.
Thou art seriously concerned about thy soul. Yet is thy work in vain
because thou art lacking in the one thing that is needful. There is
rebirth of character, but no transmigration of a self. Thy
thought-forms reappear, but there is no ego-entity transferred. The
stanza uttered by a teacher is reborn in the scholar who repeats the
"Only through ignorance and delusion do men indulge in the dream
that their souls are separate and self-existent entities. Thy heart, O
Brahman, is cleaving still to self; thou art anxious about heaven
but thou seekest the pleasures of self in heaven, and thus thou
canst not see the bliss of truth and the immortality of truth.
"I say to thee: The Blessed One has not come to teach death, but
to teach life, and thou discernest not the nature of living and dying.
This body will be dissolved and no amount of sacrifice will save it.
Therefore, seek thou the life that is of the mind. Where self is,
truth cannot be; yet when truth comes, self will disappear. Therefore,
let thy mind rest in the truth; propagate the truth, put thy whole
will in it, and let it spread. In the truth thou shalt live forever.
Self is death and truth is life. The cleaving to self is a perpetual
dying, while moving in the truth is partaking of Nirvana which is life
Then Kutadanta said: "Where, O venerable Master, is Nirvana?"
"Nirvana is wherever the precepts are obeyed replied the Blessed One.
"Do I understand thee aright," rejoined the Brahman, "That Nirvana
is not a place, and being nowhere it is without reality?" "Thou dost
not understand me aright," said the Blessed One, "Now listen and
answer these questions: Where does the wind dwell
"Nowhere," was the reply.
Buddha retorted: "Then, sir, there is no such thing as wind."
Kutadanta made no reply; and the Blessed One asked again: "Answer
me, O Brahman, where does wisdom dwell? Is wisdom a locality?"
"Wisdom has no allotted dwelling-place replied Kutadanta. Said the
Blessed One: "Meanest thou that there is no wisdom, no
enlightenment, no righteousness, and no salvation, because Nirvana
is not a locality? As a great and mighty wind which passeth over the
world in the heat of the day, so the Tathagata comes to blow over
the minds of mankind with the breath of his love, so cool, so sweet,
so calm, so delicate; and those tormented by fever assuage their
suffering and rejoice at the refreshing breeze."
Said Kutadanta: "I feel, O Lord, that thou proclaimest a great
doctrine, but I cannot grasp it. Forbear with me that I ask again:
Tell me, O Lord, if there be no atman [soul], how can there be
immortality? The activity of the mind passeth, and our thoughts are
gone when we have done thinking."
Buddha replied: "Our thinking is gone, but our thoughts continue.
Reasoning ceases, but knowledge remains." Said Kutadanta: "How is
that? Are not reasoning and knowledge the same?"
The Blessed One explained the distinction by an illustration: "It is
as when a man wants, during the night, to send a letter, and, after
having his clerk called, has a lamp lit, and gets the letter
written. Then, when that has been done, he extinguishes the lamp.
But though the writing has been finished and the light has been put
out the letter is still there. Thus does reasoning cease and knowledge
remain; and in the same way mental activity ceases, but experience,
wisdom, and all the fruits of our acts endure."
Kutadanta continued: "Tell me, O Lord, pray tell me, where, if the
sankharas are dissolved, is the identity of my self. If my thoughts
are propagated, and if my soul migrates, my thoughts cease to be my
thoughts and my soul ceases to be my soul. Give me an illustration,
but pray, O Lord, tell me, where is the identity of my self?"
Said the Blessed One: "Suppose a man were to light a lamp; would
it burn the night through?" "Yes, it might do so," was the reply.
"Now, is it the same flame that burns in the first watch of the
night as in the second?" Kutadanta hesitated. He thought it is the
same flame, but fearing the complications of a hidden meaning, and
trying to be exact, he said: "No, it is not."
"Then," continued the Blessed One, "there are two flames, one in the
first watch and the other in the second watch." "No, sir," said
Kutadanta. "In one sense it is not the same flame, but in another
sense it is the same flame. It burns the same kind of oil, it emits
the same kind of light, and it serves the same purpose."
"Very well said the Buddha and would you call those flames the
same that have burned yesterday and are burning now in the same
lamp, filled with the same kind of oil, illuminating the same room?"
"They may have been extinguished during the day," suggested Kutadanta.
Said the Blessed One: "Suppose the flame of the first watch had been
extinguished during the second watch, would you call it the same if it
burns again in the third watch?" Replied Kutadanta: "In one sense it
is a different flame, in another it is not."
The Tathagata asked again: "Has the time that elapsed during the
extinction of the flame anything to do with its identity or
non-identity?" "No, sir," said the Brahman, "it has not. There is a
difference and an identity, whether many years elapsed or only one
second, and also whether the lamp has been extinguished in the
meantime or not."
"Well, then, we agree that the flame of today is in a certain
sense the same as the flame of yesterday, and in another sense it is
different at every moment. Moreover, the flames of the same kind,
illuminating with equal power the same kind of rooms, are in a certain
sense the same." "Yes, sir," replied Kutadanta.
The Blessed One continued: "Now, suppose there is a man who feels
like thyself, thinks like thyself, and acts like thyself, is he not
the same man as thou?" "No, sir," interrupted Kutadanta.
Said the Buddha: "Dost thou deny that the same logic holds good
for thyself that holds good for the things of the world?" Kutadanta
bethought himself and rejoined slowly: "No, I do not. The same logic
holds good universally; but there is a peculiarity about my self which
renders it altogether different from everything else and also from
other selves. There may be another man who feels exactly like me,
thinks like me, and acts like me; suppose even he had the same name
and the same kind of possessions, he would not be myself."
"True, Kutadanta, answered Buddha, he would not be thyself. Now,
tell me, is the person who goes to school one, and that same person
when he has finished his schooling another? Is it one who commits a
crime, another who is punished by having his hands and feet cut
off?" "They are the same, was the reply.
"Then sameness is constituted by continuity only?" asked the
Tathagata. "Not only by continuity," said Kutadanta, but also and
mainly by identity of character."
"Very well, concluded the Buddha, then thou agreest that persons can
be the same, in the same sense as two flames of the same kind are
called the same; and thou must recognize that in this sense another
man of the same character and product of the same karma is the same as
thou." "Well, I do," said the Brahman.
The Buddha continued: "And in this same sense alone art thou the
same today as yesterday. Thy nature is not constituted by the matter
of which thy body consists, but by thy sankharas, the forms of the
body, of sensations, of thoughts. The person is the combination of the
sankharas. Wherever they are, thou art. Whithersoever they go, thou
goest. Thus thou wilt recognize in a certain sense an identity of
thy self, and in another sense a difference. But he who does not
recognize the identity should deny all identity, and should say that
the questioner is no longer the same person as he who a minute after
receives the answer. Now consider the continuation of thy personality,
which is preserved in thy karma. Dost thou call it death and
annihilation, or life and continued life?"
"I call it life and continued life," rejoined Kutadanta, "for it
is the continuation of my existence, but I do not care for that kind
of continuation. All I care for is the continuation of self in the
other sense, which makes of every man, whether identical with me or
not, an altogether different person."
"Very well," said Buddha. "This is what thou desirest and this is
the cleaving to self. This is thy error. All compound things are
transitory: they grow and they decay. All compound things are
subject to pain: they will be separated from what they love and be
joined to what they abhor. All compound things lack a self, an
atman, an ego."
"How is that?" asked Kutadanta. "Where is thy self? asked the
Buddha. And when Kutadanta made no reply, he continued: "Thy self to
which thou cleavest is a constant change. Years ago thou wast a
small babe; then, thou wast a boy; then a youth, and now, thou art a
man. Is there any identity of the babe and the man? There is an
identity in a certain sense only. Indeed there is more identity
between the flames of the first and the third watch, even though the
lamp might have been extinguished during the second watch. Now which
is thy true self, that of yesterday, that of today, or that of
tomorrow, for the preservation of which thou clamorest?" Kutadanta was
bewildered. "Lord of the world," he said, I see my error, but I am
The Tathagata continued: "It is by a process of evolution that
sankharas come to be. There is no sankhara which has sprung into being
without a gradual becoming. Thy sankharas are the product of thy deeds
in former existences. The combination of thy sankharas is thy self.
Wheresoever they are impressed thither thy self migrates. In thy
sankharas thou wilt continue to live and thou wilt reap in future
existences the harvest sown now and in the past."
"Verily, O Lord," rejoined Kutadanta, this is not a fair
retribution. I cannot recognize the justice that others after me
will reap what I am sowing now."
The Blessed One waited a moment and then replied: "Is all teaching
in vain? Dost thou not understand that those others are thou thyself
Thou thyself wilt reap what thou sowest, not others. Think of a man
who is ill-bred and destitute, suffering from the wretchedness of
his condition. As a boy he was slothful and indolent, and when he grew
up he had not learned a craft to earn a living. Wouldst thou say his
misery is not the product of his own action, because the adult is no
longer the same person as was the boy?
"I say to thee: Not in the heavens, not in the midst of the sea, not
if thou hidest thyself away in the clefts of the mountains, wilt
thou find a place where thou canst escape the fruit of thine evil
actions. At the same time thou art sure to receive the blessings of
thy good actions. To the man who has long been traveling and who
returns home in safety, the welcome of kinfolk, friends, and
acquaintances awaits. So, the fruits of his good works bid him welcome
who has walked in the path of righteousness, when he passes over
from the present life into the hereafter."
Kutadanta said: "I have faith in the glory and excellency of thy
doctrines. My eye cannot as yet endure the light; but I now understand
that there is no self, and the truth dawns upon me. Sacrifices
cannot save, and invocations are idle talk. But how shall I find the
path to life everlasting? I know all the Vedas by heart and have not
found the truth."
Said the Buddha: "Learning is a good thing; but it availeth not.
True wisdom can be acquired by practice only. Practice the truth
that thy brother is the same as thou. Walk in the noble path of
righteousness and thou wilt understand that while there is death in
self, there is immortality in truth."
Said Kutadanta: "Let me take my refuge in the Blessed One, in the
Dharma, and in the brotherhood. Accept me as thy disciple and let me
partake of the bliss of immortality."
THE BUDDHA OMNIPRESENT
AND the Blessed One thus addressed the brethren: "Those only
do not believe, call me Gotama, but you call me the Buddha, the
Blessed One, the Teacher. And this is right, for I have in this life
entered Nirvana, while the life of Gotama has been extinguished.
Self has disappeared and the truth has taken its abode in me. This
body of mine is Gotama's body and it will be dissolved in due time,
and after its dissolution no one, neither God nor man, will see Gotama
again. But the truth remains. The Buddha will not die; the Buddha will
continue to live in the holy body of the law.
"The extinction of the Blessed One will be by that passing away in
which nothing remains that could tend to the formation of another
self. Nor will it be possible to point out the Blessed One as being
here or there. But it will be like a flame in a great body of
blazing fire. That flame has ceased; it has vanished and it cannot
be said that it is here or there. In the body of the Dhanna,
however, the Blessed One can be pointed out; for the Dharma has been
preached by the Blessed One.
"You are my children, I am your father; through me you have been
released from your sufferings. I myself having reached the other
shore, help others to cross the stream; I myself having attained
salvation, am a savior of others; being comforted, I comfort others
and lead them to the place of refuge. I shall fill with joy all the
beings whose limbs languish; I shall give happiness to those who are
dying from distress; I shall extend to them succor and deliverance.
"I was born into the world as the king of truth for the salvation of
the world. The subject on which I meditate is truth. The practice to
which I devote myself is truth. The topic of my conversation is truth.
My thoughts are always in the truth. For lo! my self has become the
truth. Whosoever comprehendeth the truth will see the Blessed One, for
the truth has been preached by the Blessed One."
ONE ESSENCE, ONE LAW, ONE AIM
THE Tathagata addressed the venerable Kassapa, to dispel the
uncertainty and doubt of his mind, and he said: "All things are made
of one essence, yet things are different according to the forms
which they assume under different impressions. As they form themselves
so they act, and as they act so they are. It is, Kassapa, as if a
potter made different vessels out of the same clay. Some of these pots
are to contain sugar, others rice, others curds and milk; others still
are vessels of impurity. There is no diversity in the clay used; the
diversity of the pots is only due to the moulding hands of the
potter who shapes them for the various uses that circumstances may
"And as all things originate from one essence, so they are
developing according to one law and they are destined to one aim which
is Nirvana. Nirvana comes to thee, Kassapa, when thou understandest
thoroughly, and when thou livest according to thy understanding,
that all things are of one essence and that there is but one law.
Hence, there is but one Nirvana as there is but one truth, not two
"And the Tathagata is the same unto all beings, differing in his
attitude only in so far as all beings are different. The Tathagata
recreates the whole world like a cloud shedding its waters without
distinction. He has the same sentiments for the high as for the low,
for the wise as for the ignorant, for the noble-minded as for the
"The great cloud full of rain comes up in this wide universe
covering all countries and oceans to pour down its rain everywhere,
over all grasses, shrubs, herbs, trees of various species, families of
plants of different names growing on the earth, on the hills, on the
mountains, or in the valleys. Then, Kassapa, the grasses, shrubs,
herbs, and wild trees suck the water emitted from that great cloud
which is all of one essence and has been abundantly poured down; and
they will, according to their nature, acquire a proportionate
development, shooting up and producing blossoms and their fruits in
season. Rooted in one and the same soil, all those families of
plants and germs are quickened by water of the same essence.
"The Tathagata, however, O Kassapa, knows the law whose essence is
salvation, and whose end is the peace of Nirvana. He is the same to
all, and yet knowing the requirements of every single being, he does
not reveal himself to all alike. He does not impart to them at once
the fullness of omniscience, but pays attention to the disposition
of various beings."