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 of
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."
THE LESSON GIVEN TO RAHULA
BEFORE Rahula, the son of Gotama Siddhattha and Yasodhara,
attained to the enlightenment of true wisdom, his conduct was not
always marked by a love of truth, and the Blessed One sent him to a
distant vihara to govern his mind and to guard his tongue. After
some time the Blessed One repaired to the place, and Rahula was filled
The Blessed One ordered the boy to bring him a basin of water and to
wash his feet, and Rahula obeyed. When Rahula had washed the
Tathagata's feet, the Blessed One asked: "Is the water now fit for
"No, my Lord," replied the boy, "the water is defiled. Then the
Blessed One said: "Now consider thine own case. Although thou art my
son, and the grandchild of a king, although thou art a samana who
has voluntarily given up everything, thou art unable to guard thy
tongue from untruth, and thus defilest thou thy mind." And when the
water had been poured away, the Blessed One asked again: "Is this
vessel now fit for holding water to drink?"
"No, my Lord," replied Rahula, "the vessel, too, has become
unclean." And the Blessed One said: "Now consider thine own case.
Although thou wearest the yellow robe, art thou fit for any high
purpose when thou hast become unclean like this vessel?" Then the
Blessed One, lifting up the empty basin and whirling it round,
asked: "Art thou not afraid lest it shall fall and break?" "No, my
Lord," replied Rahula, it is cheap, its loss will not amount to much."
"Now consider thine own case, said the Blessed One. Thou art whirled
about in endless eddies of transmigration, and as thy body is made
of the same substance as other material things that will crumble to
dust, there is no loss if it be broken. He who is given to speaking
untruths is an object of contempt to the wise."
Rahula was filled with shame, and the Blessed One addressed him once
more: "Listen, and I will tell thee a parable: There was a king who
had a very powerful elephant, able to cope with five hundred
ordinary elephants. When going to war, the elephant was armed with
sharp swords on his tusks, with scythes on his shoulders, spears on
his feet, and an iron ball at his tail. The elephant-master rejoiced
to see the noble creature so well equipped, and, knowing that a slight
wound by an arrow in the trunk would be fatal, he had taught the
elephant to keep his trunk well coiled up. But during the battle the
elephant stretched forth his trunk to seize a sword. His master was
frightened and consulted with the king, and they decided that the
elephant was no longer fit to be used in battle.
"O Rahula! if men would only guard their tongues all would be
well! Be like the fighting elephant who guards his trunk against the
arrow that strikes in the center. By love of truth the sincere
escape iniquity. Like the elephant well subdued and quiet, who permits
the king to mount on his trunk, thus the man that reveres
righteousness will endure faithfully throughout his life." Rahula
hearing these words was filled with deep sorrow; he never again gave
any occasion for complaint, and forthwith he sanctified his life by
THE SERMON ON ABUSE
THE Blessed One observed the ways of society and noticed how much
misery came from malignity and foolish offenses done only to gratify
vanity and self-seeking pride. And the Buddha said: "If a man
foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my
ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall
go from me; the fragrance of goodness always comes to me, and the
harmful air of evil goes to him."
A foolish man learning that the Buddha observed the principle of
great love which commends the return of good for evil, came and abused
him. The Buddha was silent, pitying his folly. When the man had
finished his abuse, the Buddha asked him, saying: "Son, if a man
declined to accept a present made to him, to whom would it belong?"
And he answered: "In that case it would belong to the man who
"My son," said the Buddha thou hast railed at me, but I decline to
accept thy abuse, and request thee to keep it thyself. Will it not
be a source of misery to thee? As the echo belongs to the sound, and
the shadow to the substance, so misery will overtake the evil-doer
The abuser made no reply, and Buddha continued: "A wicked man who
reproaches a virtuous one is like one who looks up and spits at
heaven; the spittle soils not the heaven, but comes back and defiles
his own person. The slanderer is like one who flings dust at another
when the wind is contrary; the dust does but return on him who threw
it. The virtuous man cannot be hurt and the misery that the other
would inflict comes back on himself." The abuser went away ashamed,
but he came again and took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the
THE BUDDHA REPLIES TO THE DEVA
ON a certain day when the Blessed One dwelt at jetavana, the
garden of Anathapindika, a celestial deva came to him in the shape
of a Brahman whose countenance was bright and whose garments were
white like snow. The deva asked questions which the Blessed One
The deva said: "What is the sharpest sword? What is the deadliest
poison? What is the fiercest fire? What is the darkest night?" The
Blessed One replied: "A word spoken in wrath is the sharpest sword;
covetousness is the deadliest poison; passion is the fiercest fire;
ignorance is the darkest night."
The deva said: "Who gains the greatest benefit? Who loses most?
Which armor is invulnerable? What is the best weapon?" The Blessed One
replied: "He is the greatest gainer who to others, and he loses most
who greedily receives without gratitude. Patience is an invulnerable
armor; wisdom is the best weapon."
The deva said: "Who is the most dangerous thief? What is the most
precious treasure? Who is most successful in taking away by violence
not only on earth, but also in heaven? What is the securest
treasure-trove?" The Blessed One replied: "Evil thought is the most
dangerous thief; virtue is the most precious treasure. The mind
takes possession of everything not only on earth, but also in
heaven, and immortality is its securest treasure-trove."
The deva said: "What is attractive? What is disgusting? What is
the most horrible pain? What is the greatest enjoyment?" The Blessed
One replied: "Good is attractive; evil is disgusting. A bad conscience
is the most tormenting pain; deliverance is the height of bliss."
The deva asked: "What causes ruin in the world? What breaks off
friendships? What is the most violent fever? Who is the best
physician?" The Blessed One replied: "Ignorance causes the ruin of the
world. Envy and selfishness break off friendships. Hatred is the
most violent fever, and the Buddha is the best physician."
The deva then asked and said: "Now I have only one doubt to be
solved; pray, clear it away: What is it fire can neither burn, nor
moisture corrode, nor wind crush down, but is able to reform the whole
world?" The Blessed One replied: "Blessing! Neither fire, nor
moisture, nor wind can destroy the blessing of a good deed, and
blessings reform the whole world."
The deva, having heard the words of the Blessed One, was full of
exceeding joy. Clasping his hands, he bowed down before him in
reverence, and disappeared suddenly from the presence of the Buddha.
WORDS OF INSTRUCTION
THE bhikkhus came to the Blessed One, and having saluted him with
clasped hands they said: "O Master, thou all-seeing one, we all wish
to learn; our ears are ready to hear, thou art our teacher, thou art
incomparable. Cut off our doubt, inform us of the blessed Dharma, O
thou of great understanding; speak in the midst of us, O thou who
art all-seeing, as is the thousand-eyed Lord of the gods. We will
ask the muni of great understanding, who has crossed the stream,
gone to the other shore, is blessed and of a firm mind: How does a
bhikkhu wander rightly in the world, after having gone out from his
house and driven away desire?"
The Buddha said: "Let the bhikkhu subdue his passion for human and
celestial pleasures, then, having conquered existence, he will command
the Dhartna. Such a one will wander rightly in the world. He whose
lusts have been destroyed, who is free from pride, who has overcome
all the ways of passion, is subdued, perfectly happy, and of a firm
mind. Such a one will wander rightly in the world. Faithful is he
who is possessed of knowledge, seeing the way that leads to Nirvana;
he who is not a partisan; he who is pure and virtuous, and has removed
the veil from his eyes. Such a one will wander rightly in the world."
Said the bhikkhus: "Certainly, O Bhagavat, it is so: whichever
bhikkhu lives in this way, subdued and having overcome all bonds, such
a one will wander rightly in the world."
The Blessed One said: "Whatever is to be done by him who aspires
to attain the tranquility of Nirvana let him be able and upright,
conscientious and gentle, and not proud. Let a man's pleasure be the
Dharma, let him delight in the Dharma, let him stand fast in the
Dharma, let him know how to inquire into the Dharma, let him not raise
any dispute that pollutes the Dharma, and let him spend his time in
pondering on the well-spoken truths of the Dharma.
"A treasure that is laid up in a deep pit profits nothing and may
easily be lost. The real treasure that is laid up through charity
and piety, temperance, self-control, or deeds of merit, is hid
secure and cannot pass away. it is never gained by despoiling or
wronging others, and no thief can steal it. A man, when he dies,
must leave the fleeting wealth of the world, but this treasure of
virtuous acts he takes with him. Let the wise do good deeds; they
are a treasure that can never be lost."
Then the bhikkhus praised the wisdom of the Tathagata: "Thou hast
passed beyond pain; thou art holy, O Enlightened One, we consider thee
one that has destroyed his passions. Thou art glorious, thoughtful,
and of great understanding. O thou who puttest an end to pain, thou
hast carried us across our doubt. Because thou sawest our longing
and carriedst us across our doubt, adoration be to thee, O muni, who
hast attained the highest good in the ways of wisdom. The doubt we had
before, thou hast cleared away, O thou clearly-seeing one; surely thou
art a great thinker, perfectly enlightened, there is no obstacle for
thee. All thy troubles are scattered and cut off; thou art calm,
subdued, firm, truthful.
Adoration be to thee, O noble sage, adoration be to thee, O thou
best of beings; in the world of men and gods there is none equal to
thee. Thou art the Buddha, thou art the Master, thou art the muni that
conquers Mara; after having cut off desire thou hast crossed over
and carriest this generation to the other shore."
AMITABHA, THE UNBOUNDED LIGHT
ONE of the disciples came to the Blessed One with a trembling
heart and his mind full of doubt. And he asked the Blessed One: "O
Buddha, our Lord and Master, in what way do we give up the pleasures
of the world, if thou forbiddest us to work miracles and to attain the
supernatural? Is not Amitabha, the infinite light of revelation, the
source of innumerable miracles?"
And the Blessed One, seeing the anxiety of a truth seeking mind,
said: "O savaka, thou art a novice among the novices, and thou art
swimming on the surface of samsara. How long will it take thee to
grasp the truth? Thou hast not understood the words of the
Tathagata. The law of karma is unbreakable, and supplications have
no effect, for they are empty words."
Said the disciple: "Sayest thou there are no miraculous and
The Blessed One replied: "Is it not a wonderful thing, mysterious
and miraculous to the worldling, that a man who commits wrong can
become a saint, that by attaining true enlightenment he will find
the path of truth and abandon the evil ways of selfishness? The
bhikkhu who renounces the transient pleasures of the world for the
eternal bliss of holiness, performs the only miracle that can truly be
called a miracle. A holy man changes the curses of karma into
blessings. But the desire to perform miracles arises either from
covetousness or from vanity. The mendicant does right who does not
think: "People should salute me; who, though despised by the world,
yet cherishes no ill-will towards it. That mendicant does right to
whom omens, meteors, dreams, and signs are things abolished; he is
free from all their evils. Amitabha, the unbounded light, is the
source of wisdom, of virtue, of Buddhahood. The deeds of sorcerers and
miracle-mongers are frauds, but what is more wondrous, more
mysterious, more miraculous than Amitabha?"
"But, Master," continued the savaka, is the promise of the happy
region vain talk and a myth?"
"What is this promise?" asked the Buddha; and the disciple
replied: "There is in the west a paradise called the Pure Land,
exquisitely adorned with gold and silver and precious gems. There
are pure waters with golden sands, surrounded by pleasant walks and
covered with large lotus flowers. Joyous music is heard, and flowers
rain down three times a day. There are singing birds whose
harmonious notes proclaim the praises of religion, and in the minds of
those who listen to their sweet sounds, remembrance arises of the
Buddha, the law, and the brotherhood. No evil birth is possible there,
and even the name of hell is unknown. He who fervently and with a
pious mind repeats the words 'Amitabha Buddha' will be transported
to the happy region of this pure land, and when death draws nigh,
the Buddha, with a company of saintly followers, will stand before
him, and there will be perfect tranquility."
"In truth," said the Buddha, "there is such a happy paradise. But
the country is spiritual and it is accessible only to those that are
spiritual. Thou sayest it lies in the west. This means, look for it
where he who enlightens the world resides. The sun sinks down and
leaves us in utter darkness, the shades of night steal over us, and
Mara, the evil one, buries our bodies in the grave. Sunset is
nevertheless no extinction, and where we imagine we see extinction,
there is boundless light and inexhaustible life."
"I understand," said the savaka that the story of the Western
Paradise is not literally true."
"Thy description of paradise," the Buddha continued, "is
beautiful; yet it is insufficient and does little justice to the glory
of the pure land. The worldly can speak of it in a worldly way only;
they use worldly similes and worldly words. But the pure land in which
the pure live is more beautiful than thou canst say or imagine.
However, the repetition of the name Amitabha Buddha is meritorious
only if thou speak it with such a devout attitude of mind as will
cleanse thy heart and attune thy will to do works of righteousness. He
only can reach the happy land whose soul is filled with the infinite
light of truth. He only can live and breathe in the spiritual
atmosphere of the Western Paradise who has attained enlightenment. I
say to thee, the Tathagata lives in the pure land of eternal bliss
even now while he is still in the body. The Tathagata preaches the law
of religion unto thee and unto the whole world, so that thou and thy
brethren may attain the same peace, the same happiness."
Said the disciple: "Teach me, O Lord, the meditations to which I
must devote myself in order to let my mind enter into the paradise
of the pure land."
Buddha said: "There are five meditations. The first meditation is
the meditation of love in which thou must so adjust thy heart that
thou longest for the weal and welfare of all beings, including the
happiness of thine enemies.
"The second meditation is the meditation of pity, in which thou
thinkest of all beings in distress, vividly representing in thine
imagination their sorrows and anxieties so as to arouse a deep
compassion for them in thy soul.
"The third meditation is the meditation of joy in which thou
thinkest of the prosperity of others and rejoicest with their
"The fourth meditation is the meditation on impurity, in which
thou considerest the evil consequences of corruption, the effects of
wrongs and evils. How trivial is often the pleasure of the moment
and how fatal are its consequences!
"The fifth meditation is the meditation on serenity, in which thou
risest above love and hate, tyranny and thraldom, wealth and want, and
regardest thine own fate with impartial calmness and perfect
"A true follower of the Tathagata founds not his trust upon
austerities or rituals, but giving up the idea of self relies with his
whole heart upon Amitabha, which is the unbounded light of truth."
The Blessed One after having explained his doctrine of Amitabha, the
immeasurable light which makes him who receives it a Buddha, looked
into the heart of his disciple and saw still some doubts and
anxieties. And the Blessed One said: "Ask me, my son, the questions
which weigh upon thy soul."
The disciple said: "Can a humble monk, by sanctifying himself,
acquire the talents of supernatural wisdom called Abhinnas and the
supernatural powers called Iddhi? Show me the Iddhi-pada, the path
to the highest wisdom. Open to me the Jhanas which are the means of
acquiring samadhi, the fixity of mind which enraptures the soul. And
the Blessed One said: "Which are the Abhinnas?"
The disciple replied: "There are six Abhinnas: The celestial eye;
the celestial ear; the body at will or the power of transformation;
the knowledge of the destiny of former dwellings, so as to know former
states of existence; the faculty of reading the thoughts of others;
and the knowledge of comprehending the finality of the stream of
And the Blessed One replied: "These are wondrous things; but verily,
every man can attain them. Consider the abilities of thine own mind;
thou wert born about two hundred leagues from here and canst thou
not in thy thought, in an instant travel to thy native place and
remember the details of thy father's home? Seest thou not with thy
mind eye the roots of the tree which is shaken by the wind without
being overthrown? Does not the collector of herbs see in his mental
vision, whenever he pleases, any plant with its roots, its stern,
its fruits, leaves, and even the uses to which it can be applied?
Cannot the man who understands languages recall to his mind any word
whenever he pleases, knowing its exact meaning and import? How much
more does the Tathagata understand the nature of things; he looks into
the hearts of men and reads their thoughts. He knows the evolution
of beings and foresees their ends."
Said the disciple: "Then the Tathagata teaches that man can attain
through the Jhanas the bliss of Abhinna." And the Blessed One asked in
reply: "Which are the Jhanas through which man reaches Abhinna?"
The disciple replied: "There are four Jhanas. The first Jhana is
seclusion in which one must free his mind from sensuality; the
second Jhana is a tranquility of mind full of joy and gladness; the
third Jhana is a taking delight in things spiritual; the fourth
Jhana is a state of perfect purity and peace in which the mind is
above all gladness and grief."
"Good, my son," enjoined the Blessed One. "Be sober and abandon
wrong practices which serve only to stultify the mind." Said the
disciple: "Forbear with me, O Blessed One, for I have faith without
understanding and I am seeking the truth. O Blessed One, O
Tathagata, my Lord and Master, teach me the Iddhipada."
The Blessed One said: "There are four means by which Iddhi is
acquired: Prevent bad qualities from arising. Put away bad qualities
which have arisen. Produce goodness that does not yet exist.
Increase goodness which already exists.-Search with sincerity, and
persevere in the search. In the end thou wilt find the truth."
THE TEACHER UNKNOWN
THE Blessed One said to Ananda: "There are various kinds of
assemblies, O Ananda; assemblies of nobles, of Brahmans, of
householders, of bhikkhus, and of other beings. When I used to enter
an assembly, I always became, before I seated myself, in color like
unto the color of my audience, and in voice like unto their voice. I
spoke to them in their language and then with religious discourse I
instructed, quickened, and gladdened them.
"My doctrine is like the ocean, having the same eight wonderful
qualities. Both the ocean and my doctrine become gradually deeper.
Both preserve their identity under all changes. Both cast out dead
bodies upon the dry land. As the great rivers, when falling into the
main, lose their names and are thenceforth reckoned as the great
ocean, so all the castes, having renounced their lineage and entered
the Sangha, become brethren and are reckoned the sons of Sakyamuni.
The ocean is the goal of all streams and of the rain from the
clouds, yet is it never overflowing and never emptied: so the Dharma
is embraced by many millions of people, yet it neither increases nor
decreases. As the great ocean has only one taste, the taste of salt,
so my doctrine has only one flavor, the flavor of emancipation. Both
the ocean and the Dharma are full of gems and pearls and jewels, and
both afford a dwelling-place for mighty beings. These are the eight
wonderful qualities in which my doctrine resembles the ocean.
"My doctrine is pure and it makes no discrimination between noble
and ignoble, rich and poor. My doctrine is like unto water which
cleanses all without distinction. My doctrine is like unto fire
which consumes all things that exist between heaven and earth, great
and small. My doctrine is like unto the heavens, for there is room
in it, ample room for the reception of all, for men and women, boys
and girls, the powerful and the lowly.
"But when I spoke, they knew me not and would say, 'Who may this
be who thus speaks, a man or a god?' Then having instructed,
quickened, and gladdened them with religious discourse, I would vanish
away. But they knew me not, even when I vanished away."
PARABLES & STORIES
THE Blessed One thought: "I have taught the truth which is
in the beginning, excellent in the middle, and excellent in the end;
it is glorious in its spirit and glorious in its letter. But simple as
it is, the people cannot understand it. I must speak to them in
their own language. I must adapt my thoughts to their thoughts. They
are like unto children, and love to hear tales. Therefore, I will tell
them stories to explain the glory of the Dharma. If they cannot
grasp the truth in the abstract arguments by which I have reached
it, they may nevertheless come to understand it, if it is
illustrated in parables.
THE WIDOW'S MITE, AND THE THREE MERCHANTS
THERE was once a lone widow who was very destitute, and having
gone to the mountain she beheld hermits holding a religious
assembly. Then the woman was filled with joy, and uttering praises,
said, It is well, holy priests! but while others give precious
things such as the ocean caves produce, I have nothing to offer."
Having spoken thus and having searched herself in vain for something
to give, she recollected that some time before she had found in a
dung-heap two coppers, so taking these she offered them forthwith as a
gift to the priesthood in charity.
The superior of the priests, a saint who could read the hearts of
men, disregarding the rich gifts of others and beholding the deep
faith dwelling in the heart of this poor widow, and wishing the
priesthood to esteem rightly her religious merit, burst forth with
full voice in a canto. He raised his right hand and said, "Reverend
priests attend!" and then he proceeded:
"The poor coppers of this widow
To all purpose are more worth
Than all the treasures of the oceans
And the wealth of the broad earth.
"As an act of pure devotion
She has done a pious deed;
She has attained salvation,
Being free from selfish greed."
The woman was mightily strengthened in her mind by this thought,
said, It is even as the Teacher says: what I have done is as much as
if a rich man were to give up all his wealth."
And the Teacher said: "Doing good deeds is like hoarding up
treasures, and he expounded this truth in a parable: "Three
merchants set out on their travels each with his wealth; one of them
gained much, the second returned with his wealth, and the third one
came home after having lost his wealth. What is true in common life
applies also to religion.
"The wealth is the state a man has reached, the gain is heaven;
the loss of his wealth means that a man will be reborn in a lower
state, as a denizen of hell or as an animal. These are the courses
that are open to the sinner.
"He who brings back his wealth, like unto one who is born again as a
man. Those who through the exercise of various virtues become pious
householders will be born again as men, for all beings will reap the
fruit of their actions. But he who increases his wealth is like unto
one who practices eminent virtues. The virtuous, excellent man attains
in heaven to the glorious state of the gods."
THE MAN BORN BLIND
THERE was a man born blind, and he said: "I do not believe
world of light and appearance. There are no colors, bright or
somber. There is no sun, no moon, no stars. No one has witnessed these
things." His friends remonstrated with him, but he clung to his
opinion: "What you say that you see," he objected, "are illusions.
If colors existed I should be able to touch them. They have no
substance and are not real. Everything real has weight, but I feel
no weight where you see colors."
A physician was called to see the blind man. He mixed four
simples, and when he applied them to the cataract of the blind man the
gray film melted, and his eyes acquired the faculty of sight. The
Tathagata is the physician, the cataract is the illusion of the
thought "I am," and the four simples are the four noble truths.
THE LOST SON
THERE was a householder's son who went away into a distant
country, and while the father accumulated immeasurable riches, the son
became miserably poor. And the son while searching for food and
clothing happened to come to the country in which his father lived.
The father saw him in his wretchedness, for he was ragged and
brutalized by poverty, and ordered some of his servants to call him.
When the son saw the place to which he was conducted, he thought, "I
must have evoked the suspicion of a powerful man, and he will throw me
into prison." Full of apprehension he made his escape before he had
seen his father.
Then the father sent messengers out after his son, who was caught
and brought back in spite of his cries and lamentations. Thereupon the
father ordered his servants to deal tenderly with his son, and he
appointed a laborer of his son's rank and education to employ the
lad as a helpmate on the estate. And the son was pleased with his
new situation. From the window of his palace the father watched the
boy, and when he saw that he was honest and industrious, he promoted
him higher and higher.
After some time, he summoned his son and called together all his
servants, and made the secret known to them. Then the poor man was
exceedingly glad and he was full of joy at meeting his father. Just so
little by little, must the minds of men be trained for higher truths.
THE GIDDY FISH
THERE was a bhikkhu who had great difficulty in keeping his senses
and passions under control; so, resolving to leave the Order, he
came to the Blessed One to ask him for a release from the vows. And
the Blessed One said to the bhikkhu: "Take heed, my son, lest thou
fall a prey to the passions of thy misguided heart. For I see that
in former existences, thou hast suffered much from the evil
consequences of lust, and unless thou learnest to conquer thy
sensual desire, thou wilt in this life be ruined through thy folly.
"Listen to a story of another existence of thine, as a fish. The
fish could be seen swimming lustily in the river, playing with his
mate. She, moving in front, suddenly perceived the meshes of a net,
and slipping around escaped the danger; but he, blinded by love,
shot eagerly after her and fell straight into the mouth of the net.
The fisherman pulled the net up, and the fish, who complained bitterly
of his sad fate, saying, 'this indeed is the bitter fruit of my
folly,' would surely have died if the Bodhisattva had not chanced to
come by, and, understanding the language of the fish, took pity on
him. He bought the poor creature and said to him: 'My good fish, had I
not caught sight of thee this day, thou wouldst have lost thy life.
I shall save thee, but henceforth avoid the evil of lust.' With
these words he threw the fish into the water.
"Make the best of the time of grace that is offered to thee in thy
present existence, and fear the dart of passion which, if thou guard
not thy senses, will lead thee to destruction."
THE CRUEL CRANE OUTWITTED
A TAILOR who used to make robes for the brotherhood was wont to
cheat his customers, and thus prided himself on being smarter than
other men. But once, on entering upon an important business
transaction with a stranger, he met his master in the way of cheating,
and suffered a heavy loss.
The Blessed One said: "This is not an isolated incident in the
greedy tailor's fate; in other incarnations he suffered similar
losses, and by trying to dupe others ultimately ruined himself. This
same greedy character lived many generations ago as a crane near a
pond, and when the dry season set in he said to the fishes with a
bland voice: care you not anxious for your future welfare There is
at present very little water and still less food in this pond. What
will you do should the whole pond become dry, in this drought?'
'Yes, indeed' said the fishes what should we do?' Replied the crane:
'I know a fine, large lake, which never becomes dry. Would you not
like me to carry you there in my beak?' When the fishes began to
distrust the honesty of the crane, he proposed to have one of them
sent over to the lake to see it; and a big carp at last decided to
take the risk for the sake of the others, and the crane carried him to
a beautiful lake and brought him back in safety. Then all doubt
vanished, and the fishes gained confidence in the crane, and now the
crane took them one by one out of the pond and devoured them on a
"There was also a lobster in the pond, and when the crane wanted
to eat him too, he said: 'I have taken all the fishes away and put
them in a fine, large lake. Come along. I shall take thee, too!'
'But how wilt thou hold me to carry me along?' asked the lobster. 'I
shall take hold of thee with my beak, said the crane. 'Thou wilt let
me fall if thou carry me like that. I will not go with thee!'
replied the lobster. 'Thou needst not fear,' rejoined the crane; 'I
shall hold thee quite tight all the way.'
"Then said the lobster to himself: 'If this crane once gets hold
of a fish, he will certainly never let him go in a lake! Now if he
should really put me into the lake it would be splendid; but if he
does not, then I will cut his throat and kill him!' So he said to
the crane: 'Look here, friend, thou wilt not be able to hold me
tight enough; but we lobsters have a famous grip. If thou wilt let
me catch hold of thee round the neck with my claws, I shall be glad to
go with thee.'
"The crane did not see that the lobster was trying to outwit him,
and agreed. So the lobster caught hold of his neck with his claws as
securely as with a pair of blacksmith's pincers, and called out:
'Ready, ready, go!' crane took him and showed him the lake, and then
turned off toward the varana-tree. 'My dear uncle!' cried the lobster,
"The lake lies that way, but thou art taking me this other way.'
Answered the crane: 'Thinkest so? Am I thy dear uncle? Thou meanest me
to understand, I suppose, that I am thy slave, who has to lift thee up
and carry thee about with him, where thou pleasest! Now cast thine eye
upon that heap of fish-bones at the root of yonder varana-tree. Just
as I have eaten those fish, every one of them, just so will I devour
"'Ah! those fishes got eaten through their own stupidity, answered
the lobster, 'but I am not going to let thee kill me. On the contrary,
it is thou that I am going to destroy. For thou, in thy folly, hast
not seen that I have outwitted thee. If we die, we both die
together; for I will cut off this head of thine and cast it to the
ground!' So saying, he gave the crane's neck a pinch with his claws as
with a vise.
"Then gasping, and with tears trickling from his eyes, and trembling
with the fear of death, the crane besought the lobster, saying: 'O, my
Lord! Indeed I did not intend to eat thee. Grant me my life!' 'Very
well! fly down and put me into the lake,' replied the lobster. And the
crane turned round and stepped down into the lake, to place the
lobster on the mud at its edge. Then the lobster cut the crane's
neck through as clean as one would cut a lotus-stalk with a
hunting-knife, and then entered the water!"
When the Teacher had finished this discourse, he added: "Not now
only was this man outwitted in this way, but in other existences, too,
by his own intrigues."