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 him
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
THE Bodhisattva went in search of a better system and came to a
settlement of five bhikkhus in the jungle of Uruvela; and when the
Blessed One saw the life of those five men, virtuously keeping in
check their senses, subduing their passions, and practicing austere
self-discipline, he admired their earnestness and joined their
company. With holy zeal and a strong heart, the Sakyamuni gave himself
up to meditative thought and a rigorous mortification of the body.
Whereas the five bhikkhus were severe, the Sakyamuni was severer
still, and so they revered him, their junior, as their master.
So the Bodhisattva continued for six years patiently torturing
himself and suppressing the wants of nature. He trained his body and
exercised his mind in the modes of the most rigorous ascetic life.
At last, he ate each day one hemp grain only, seeking to cross the
ocean of birth and death and to arrive at the shore of deliverance.
And when the Bodhisattva was ahungered, lo! Mara, the Evil One,
approached him and said: "Thou art emaciated from fasts, and death
is near. What good is thy exertion? Deign to live, and thou wilt be
able to do good work." But the Sakyamuni made reply: "O thou friend of
the indolent, thou wicked one; for what purpose hast thou come? Let
the flesh waste away, if but the mind becomes more tranquil and
attention more steadfast. What is life in this world? Death in
battle is better to me than that I should live defeated."
And Mara withdrew, saying: "For seven years I have followed the
Blessed One step by step, but I have found no fault in the Tathagata."
The Bodhisattva was shrunken and attenuated, and his body was like a
withered branch; but the fame of his holiness spread in the
surrounding countries, and people came from great distances to see him
and receive his blessing. However, the Holy One was not satisfied.
Seeking true wisdom he did not find it, and he came to the
conclusion that mortification would not extinguish desire nor afford
enlightenment in ecstatic contemplation.
Seated beneath a jambu-tree, he considered the state of his mind and
the fruits of his mortification. His body had become weaker, nor had
his fasts advanced him in his search for salvation, and therefore when
he saw that it was not the right path, he proposed to abandon it. He
went to bathe in the Neranjara River, but when he strove to leave
the water he could not rise on account of his weakness. Then espying
the branch of a tree and taking hold of it, he raised himself and left
the stream. But while returning to his abode, he staggered and lay
as though dead.
There was a chief herdsman living near the grove whose eldest
daughter was called Nanda; and Nanda happened to pass by the spot
where the Blessed One had swooned, and bowing down before him she
offered him rice-milk and he accepted the gift. When he had partaken
of the rice-milk all his limbs were refreshed, his mind became clear
again, and he was strong to receive the highest enlightenment.
After this occurrence, the Bodhisattva again took some food. His
disciples, having witnessed the scene of Nanda and observing the
change in his mode of living, were filled with suspicion. They
feared that Siddhattha's religious zeal was flagging and that he
whom they had hitherto revered as their Master had become oblivious of
his high purpose.
When the Bodhisattva saw the bhikkhus turning away from him, he felt
sorry for their lack of confidence, and was aware of the loneliness of
his life. Suppressing his grief he wandered on alone, and his
disciples said, "Siddhattha leaves us to seek a more pleasant abode."
THE Holy One directed his steps to that blessed Bodhitree beneath
whose shade he was to accomplish his search. As he walked, the earth
shook and a brilliant light transfigured the world. When he sat down
the heavens resounded with joy and all living beings were filled
with good cheer. Mara alone, lord of the five desires, bringer of
death and enemy of truth, was grieved and rejoiced not. With his three
daughters, Tanha, Raga and Arati, the tempters, and with his host of
evil demons, he went to the place where the great samana sat. But
Sakyamuni heeded him not. Mara uttered fear-inspiring threats and
raised a whirlwind so that the skies were darkened and the ocean
roared and trembled.
But the Blessed One under the Bodhi-tree remained calm and feared
not. The Enlightened One knew that no harm could befall him.
The three daughters of Mara tempted the Bodhisattva, but he paid
no attention to them, and when Mara saw that he could kindle no desire
in the heart of the victorious samana, he ordered all the evil spirits
at his command to attack him and overawe the great muni. But the
Blessed One watched them as one would watch the harmless games of
children. All the fierce hatred of the evil spirits was of no avail.
The flames of hell became wholesome breezes of perfume, and the
angry thunderbolts were changed into lotus-blossoms.
When Mara saw this, he fled away with his army from the
Bodhi-tree, whilst from above a rain of heavenly flowers fell, and
voices of good spirits were heard: "Behold the great muni! his heart
unmoved by hatred. The wicked Mara's host 'gainst him did not prevail.
Pure is he and wise, loving and full of mercy. As the rays of the
sun drown the darkness of the world, so he who perseveres in his
search will find the truth and the truth will enlighten him."
THE Bodhisattva, having put Mara to flight, gave himself up to
meditation. All the miseries of the world, the evils produced by
evil deeds and the sufferings arising therefrom, passed before his
mental eye, and he thought:
"Surely if living creatures saw the results of all their evil deeds,
they would turn away from them in disgust. But selfhood blinds them,
and they cling to their obnoxious desires. They crave pleasure for
themselves and they cause pain to others; when death destroys their
individuality, they find no peace; their thirst for existence abides
and their selfhood reappears in new births. Thus they continue to move
in the coil and can find no escape from the hell of their own
making. And how empty are their pleasures, how vain are their
endeavors! Hollow like the plantain-tree and without contents like the
bubble. The world is full of evil and sorrow, because it is full of
lust. Men go astray because they think that delusion is better than
truth. Rather than truth they follow error, which is pleasant to
look at in the beginning but in the end causes anxiety, tribulation,
And the Bodhisattva began to expound the Dharma. The Dharma is the
truth. The Dharma is the sacred law. The Dharma is religion. The
Dharma alone can deliver us from error, from wrong and from sorrow.
Pondering on the origin of birth and death, the Enlightened One
recognized that ignorance was the root of all evil; and these are
the links in the development of life, called the twelve nidanas: In
the beginning there is existence blind and without knowledge; and in
this sea of ignorance there are stirrings formative and organizing.
From stirrings, formative and organizing, rises awareness or feelings.
Feelings beget organisms that live as individual beings. These
organisms develop the six fields, that is, the five senses and the
mind. The six fields come in contact with things. Contact begets
sensation. Sensation creates the thirst of individualized being. The
thirst of being creates a cleaving to things. The cleaving produces
the growth and continuation of selfhood. Selfhood continues in renewed
birth. The renewed births of selfhood are the causes of sufferings,
old age, sickness, and death. They produce lamentation, anxiety, and
The cause of all sorrow lies at the very beginning; it is hidden
in the ignorance from which life grows. Remove ignorance and you
will destroy the wrong desires that rise from ignorance; destroy these
desires and you will wipe out the wrong perception that rises from
them. Destroy wrong perception and there is an end of errors in
individualized beings. Destroy the errors in individualized beings and
the illusions of the six fields will disappear. Destroy illusions
and the contact with things will cease to beget misconception. Destroy
misconception and you do away with thirst. Destroy thirst and you will
be free of all morbid cleaving. Remove the cleaving and you destroy
the selfishness of selfhood. If the selfishness of selfhood is
destroyed you will be above birth, old age, disease, and death, and
you will escape all suffering.
The Enlightened One saw the four noble truths which point out the
path that leads to Nirvana or the extinction of self: The first
noble truth is the existence of sorrow. The second noble truth is
the cause of suffering. The third noble truth is the cessation of
sorrow. The fourth noble truth is the eightfold path that leads to the
cessation of sorrow.
This is the Dharma. This is the truth. This is religion. And the
Enlightened One uttered this stanza:
"Through many births I sought in vain
The Builder of this House of Pain.
Now, Builder, You are plain to see,
And from this House at last I'm free;
I burst the rafters, roof and wall,
And dwell in the Peace beyond them all."
There is self and there is truth. Where self is, truth is not.
truth is, self is not. Self is the fleeting error of samsara; it is
individual separateness and that egotism which begets envy and hatred.
Self is the yearning for pleasure and the lust after vanity. Truth
is the correct comprehension of things; it is the permanent and
everlasting, the real in all existence, the bliss of righteousness.
The existence of self is an illusion, and here is no wrong in this
world, no vice, no evil, except what flows from the assertion of self.
The attainment of truth is possible only when self is recognized as an
illusion. Righteousness can be practiced only when we have freed our
mind from passions of egotism. Perfect peace can dwell only where
all vanity has disappeared.
Blessed is he who has understood the Dharma. Blessed is he who
does no harm to his fellow-beings. Blessed is he who overcomes wrong
and is free from passion. To the highest bliss has he attained who has
conquered all selfishness and vanity. He has become the Buddha, the
THE Blessed One tarried in solitude seven times seven days, enjoying
the bliss of emancipation. At that time Tapussa and Bhallika, two
merchants, came traveling on the road near by, and when they saw the
great samana, majestic and full of peace, they approached him
respectfully and offered him rice cakes and honey.
This was the first food that the Enlightened One ate after he
And the Buddha addressed them and pointed out to them the way of
salvation. The two merchants, seeing the holiness of the conqueror
of Mara, bowed down in reverence and said: "We take our refuge,
Lord, in the Blessed One and in the Dharma." Tapussa and Bhallika were
the first that became followers of the Buddha and they were lay
THE Blessed One having attained Buddhahood while resting under
shepherd's Nigrodha tree on the banks of the river Neranjara,
pronounced this solemn utterance:
"How sure his pathway in this wood,
Who follows truth's unchanging call!
How blessed, to be kind and good,
And practice self-restraint in all!
How light, from passion to be free,
And sensual joys to let go by!
And yet his greatest bliss will be
When he has quelled the pride of 'I'.
"I have recognized the deepest truth, which is sublime and
peace-giving' but difficult to understand; for most men move in a
sphere of worldly interests and find their delight in worldly desires.
The worldling will not understand the doctrine, for to him there is
happiness in selfhood only, and the bliss that lies in a complete
surrender to truth is unintelligible to him. He will call
resignation what to the enlightened mind is the purest joy. He will
see annihilation where the perfected one finds immortality. He will
regard as death what the conqueror of self knows to be life
everlasting. The truth remains hidden from him who is in the bondage
of hate and desire. Nirvana remains incomprehensible and mysterious to
the vulgar whose minds are beclouded with worldly interests. Should
I preach the doctrine and mankind not comprehend it, it would bring me
only fatigue and trouble."
Mara, the Evil One, on hearing the words of the Blessed Buddha,
approached and said: "Be greeted, thou Holy One. Thou hast attained
the highest bliss and it is time for thee to enter into the final
Then Brahma Sahampati descended from the heavens and, having
worshiped the Blessed One, said: "Alas! the world must perish,
should the Holy One, the Tathagata, decide not to teach the Dharma. Be
merciful to those that struggle; have compassion upon the sufferers;
pity the creatures who are hopelessly entangled in the snares of
sorrow. There are some beings that are almost free from the dust of
worldliness. If they hear not the doctrine preached, they will be
lost. But if they hear it, they will believe and be saved."
The Blessed One, full of compassion, looked with the eye of a Buddha
upon all sentient creatures, and he saw among them beings whose
minds were but scarcely covered by the dust of worldliness, who were
of good disposition and easy to instruct. He saw some who were
conscious of the dangers of lust and wrong doing. And the Blessed
One said to Brahma Sahampati: "Wide open be the door of immortality to
all who have ears to hear. May they receive the Dharma with faith."
Then the Blessed One turned to Mara, saying: "I shall not pass
into the final Nirvana, O Evil One, until there be not only brethren
and sisters of an Order, but also lay disciples of both sexes, who
shall have become true hearers, wise, well trained, ready and learned,
versed in the scriptures, fulfilling all the greater and lesser
duties, correct in life, walking according to the precepts-until they,
having thus themselves learned the doctrine, shall be able to give
information to others concerning it, preach it, make it known,
establish it, open it, minutely explain it, and make it clear-until
they, when others start vain doctrines, shall be able to vanquish
and refute them, and so to spread the wonderworking truth abroad. I
shall not die until the pure religion of truth shall have become
successful, prosperous, widespread, and popular in all its full
extent-until, in a word, it shall have been well proclaimed among
Then Brahma Sahampati understood that the Blessed One had granted
his request and would preach the doctrine.
Now the Blessed One thought: "To whom shall I preach the doctrine
first? My old teachers are dead. They would have received the good
news with joy. But my five disciples are still alive. I shall go to
them, and to them shall I first proclaim the gospel of deliverance."
At that time the five bhikkhus dwelt in the Deer Park at Benares,
and the Blessed One rose and journeyed to their abode, not thinking of
their unkindness in having left him at a time when he was most in need
of their sympathy and help, but mindful only of the services which
they had ministered unto him, and pitying them for the austerities
which they practiced in vain.
Upaka, a young Brahman and a Jain, a former acquaintance of
Siddhattha, saw the Blessed One while he journeyed to Benares, and,
amazed at the majesty and sublime joyfulness of his appearance, said
to him: "Thy countenance, my friend, is serene; thine eyes are
bright and indicate purity and blessedness."
The holy Buddha replied: "I have obtained deliverance by the
extinction of self. My body is chastened, my mind is free from desire,
and the deepest truth has taken abode in my heart. I have obtained
Nirvana, and this is the reason that my countenance is serene and my
eyes are bright. I now desire to found the kingdom of truth upon
earth, to give light to those who are enshrouded in darkness and to
open the gate of deathlessness."
Upaka replied: "Thou professest then, friend, to be Jina, the
conqueror of the world, the absolute one and the holy one.
The Blessed One said: "Jinas are all those who have conquered self
and the passions of self; those alone are victorious who control their
minds and abstain from evil. Therefore, Upaka, I am the Jina."
Upaka shook his head. "Venerable Gotama, he said, "thy way lies
yonder," and taking another road he went away.
ON seeing their old teacher approach, the five bhikkus agreed
among themselves not to salute him, nor to address him as a master,
but by his name only. "For," so they said, "he has broken his vow
and has abandoned holiness. He is no bhikkhu, but Gotama, and Gotama
has become a man who lives in abundance and indulges in the
pleasures of worldliness." But when the Blessed One approached in a
dignified manner, they involuntarily rose from their seats and greeted
him in spite of their resolution. Still they called him by his name
and addressed him as "friend Gotama."
When they had thus received the Blessed One, he said: "Do not call
the Tathagata by his name nor address him as 'friend,' for he is the
Buddha, the Holy One. The Buddha looks with a kind heart equally on
all living beings, and they therefore call him 'Father.' To disrespect
a father is wrong; to despise him, is wicked. The Tathagata, the
Buddha continued, does not seek salvation in austerities, but
neither does he for that reason indulge in worldly pleasures, nor live
in abundance. The Tathagata has found the middle path.
"There are two extremes, O bhikkhus, which the man who has given
up the world ought not to follow-the habitual practice, on the one
hand, of self-indulgence which is unworthy, vain and fit only for
the worldly-minded and the habitual practice, on the other hand, of
self-mortification, which is painful, useless and unprofitable.
"Neither abstinence from fish and flesh, nor going naked, nor
shaving the head, nor wearing matted hair, nor dressing in a rough
garment, nor covering oneself with dirt, nor sacrificing to Agni, will
cleanse a man who is not free from delusions. Reading the Vedas,
making offerings to priests, or sacrifices to the gods,
self-mortification by heat or cold and many such penances performed
for the sake of immortality, these do not cleanse the man who is not
free from delusions. Anger, drunkenness, obstinacy, bigotry,
deception, envy, self-praise, disparaging others, superciliousness and
evil intentions constitute uncleanness; not verily the eating of
"A middle path, O bhikkhus avoiding the two extremes, has been
discovered by the Tathagata-a path which opens the eyes, and bestows
understanding, which leads to peace of mind, to the higher wisdom,
to full enlightenment, to Nirvana! What is that middle path, O
bhikkhus, avoiding these two extremes, discovered by the
Tathagata-that path which opens the eyes, and bestows understanding,
which leads to peace of mind, to the higher wisdom, to full
enlightenment, to Nirvana? Let me teach you, O bhikkhus, the middle
path, which keeps aloof from both extremes. By suffering, the
emaciated devotee produces confusion and sickly thoughts in his
mind. Mortification is not conducive even to worldly knowledge; how
much less to a triumph over the senses!
"He who fills his lamp with water will not dispel the darkness,
and he who tries to light a fire with rotten wood will fail. And how
can any one be free from self by leading a wretched life, if he does
not succeed in quenching the fires of lust, if he still hankers
after either worldly or heavenly pleasures? But he in whom self has
become extinct is free from lust; he will desire neither worldly nor
heavenly pleasures, and the satisfaction of his natural wants will not
defile him. However, let him be moderate, let him eat and drink
according to the need of the body.
"Sensuality is enervating; the self-indulgent man is a slave to
his passions, and pleasure-seeking is degrading and vulgar. But to
satisfy the necessities of life is not evil. To keep the body in
good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim
the lamp of wisdom, and keep our minds strong and clear. Water
surrounds the lotus flower, but does not wet its petals. This is the
middle path, O bhikkhus, that keeps aloof from both extremes." And the
Blessed One spoke kindly to his disciples, pitying them for their
errors, and pointing out the uselessness of their endeavors, and the
ice of ill-will that chilled their hearts melted away under the gentle
warmth of the Master's persuasion.
Now the Blessed One set the wheel of the most excellent law rolling,
and he began to preach to the five bhikkhus, opening to them the
gate of immortality, and showing them the bliss of Nirvana.
The Buddha said: "The spokes of the wheel are the rules of pure
conduct: justice is the uniformity of their length; wisdom is the
tire; modesty and thoughtfulness are the hub in which the immovable
axle of truth is fixed. He who recognizes the existence of
suffering, its cause, its remedy, and its cessation has fathomed the
four noble truths. He will walk in the right path.
"Right views will be the torch to light his way. Right aspirations
will be his guide. Right speech will be his dwelling-place on the
road. His gait will be straight, for it is right behavior. His
refreshments will be the right way of earning his livelihood. Right
efforts will be his steps: right thoughts his breath; and right
contemplation will give him the peace that follows in his footprints.
"Now, this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning suffering:
Birth is attended with pain, decay is painful, disease is painful,
death is painful. Union with the unpleasant is painful, painful is
separation from the pleasant; and any craving that is unsatisfied,
that too is painful. In brief, bodily conditions which spring from
attachment are painful. This, then, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth
"Now this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the origin of
suffering: Verily, it is that craving which causes the renewal of
existence, accompanied by sensual delight, seeking satisfaction now
here, now there, the craving for the gratification of the passions,
the craving for a future life, and the craving for happiness in this
life. This, then, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the origin
"Now this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the destruction
of suffering: Verily, it is the destruction, in which no passion
remains, of this very thirst; it is the laying aside of, the being
free from, the dwelling no longer upon this thirst. This, then, O
bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the destruction of suffering.
"Now, this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the way
which leads to the destruction of sorrow. Verily, it is this noble
eightfold path; that is to say: Right views; right aspirations;
right speech; right behavior; right livelihood; right effort; right
thoughts; and right contemplation. This, then, O bhikkhus, is the
noble truth concerning the destruction of sorrow.
"By the practice of loving-kindness I have attained liberation of
heart, and thus I am assured that I shall never return in renewed
births. I have even now attained Nirvana."
When the Blessed One had thus set the royal chariot wheel of truth
rolling onward, a rapture thrilled through all the universes. The
devas left their heavenly abodes to listen to the sweetness of the
truth; the saints that had parted from life crowded around the great
teacher to receive the glad tidings; even the animals of the earth
felt the bliss that rested upon the words of the Tathagata: and all
the creatures of the host of sentient beings, gods, men, and beasts,
hearing the message of deliverance, received and understood it in
their own language.
And when the doctrine was propounded, the venerable Kondanna, the
oldest one among the five bhikkhus, discerned the truth with his
mental eye, and he said: "Truly, O Buddha, our Lord, thou hast found
the truth!" Then the other bhikkhus too, joined him and exclaimed:
"Truly, thou art the Buddha, thou hast found the truth."
And the devas and saints and all the good spirits of the departed
generations that had listened to the sermon of the Tathagata, joyfully
received the doctrine and shouted: "Truly, the Blessed One has founded
the kingdom of righteousness. The Blessed One has moved the earth;
he has set the wheel of Truth rolling, which by no one in the
universe, be he god or man, can ever be turned back. The kingdom of
Truth will be preached upon earth; it will spread; and
righteousness, good-will, and peace will reign among mankind."