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Simplified Teaching of Buddha

The following is culled from the Chinese translation of the discourse Buddha's Final Bequest by the Indian Acarya Kumarajiva (343/344–413 CE).

The Bequeathed Teaching Sutra (Also called the Sutra of Admonitions Imparted in Brief by the Buddha at His Final Decease) was translated into Chinese around 400 CE. It became an influential text often cited and commented on among Chinese Buddhists in the Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties. In Chan (Zen) communities it was considered a basic reference, and taught and studied through the ages.

The teaching is about how to live to get freed from various entanglements. Buddha warns the monks not to seek wealth and property, social position, or political power, nor to play on the credulity of the people as fortune-tellers and healers. He also teaches monks: avoid sophistry and trivial argument alike. Monks should work well for enlightenment throughout, and thus allow good qualities to develop.

Buddha calls the whole system of his teachings as Dharma. The ancient Sanskrit word means the Law of the Universe too. Preaching his Dharma is called setting in motion the wheel of Dharma. (Chou Hsian-kuang, 2000, 3)

The selected essentials may suit laypersons by good tips. How to live up to them and make life better, is a different matter.

A. Occasion

Lion posture
Lion posture

When about to attain final nirvana, Buddha was lying between the twin sala trees in the middle watch of the night. Then for the sake of his disciples he told of essentials of Dharma.

B. Cultivate Neat Virtues

1. Keep the given precepts

Keep the basic precepts [patimokkha, ie, rules of conduct for monks and nuns] are your chief guide.

You should not covet fields or buildings as monks, nor cut down trees.

Leave grass alone as you can.

Conduct yourselves in purity and sometimes seek solitude.

You should seek proficiency first, and then with a steadfast mind and with Right Mindfulness (samma sati), work up your Enlightenment.

Neither conceal your faults (within), nor work wonders (without) [except on special occasions].

You may receive offerings when offered. Hoarding mars, though, as being misplaced.

2. Control of Mind and Body

Stay well attuned to the basic recepts, go further inward - get rid of the disturbances for it. Thereby your mind-control can increase. *

In an evil-doer indulging the five senses, his desires tend to become uncontrollable.

Wise men need to guard themselves.

You should well control the mind.

Hasten to control base and downgrading desires and do not let them go unrestrained.

3. Moderate eating

Have fulfilling food and drinks to support your bodies, staying hunger and thirst.

Accept just enough of what people offer to you so as to avoid or eliminate distress. *

The wise man, having estimated the strength of his ox, does not wear out its strength by overloading.

4. Sleeping

By day you should practice good Dharma and not allow yourselves to waste time.

Do not allow yourselves to pass your lives vainly and fruitlessly on account of sleep. Do not spend that much time in sleep.

Unskilful actions (akusalakamma) are something to be ashamed of in time.

5. Refraining from anger and ill will

Guard your speech and refrain from reviling [less fortunate ones].

Who can practice patience can be called great and strong.

Harm caused by anger and resentment shatters your goodness and greatly spoils your good name.

Steadily guard yourselves against angry thoughts.

Among the main afflictions, none steals merit more than anger and resentment: In householders that have no way to control themselves, anger may still be [a little] excusable.

6. Refrain from arrogance and contempt

When thoughts of arrogance or contempt arise, quickly let them subside, for they are not proper. *

7. No flattery is welcome

A mind inclined to flattery is incompatible with Dharma, therefore examine and correct such a mind.

Flattery is nothing but deception; those who have entered the way of Dharma-practice have no use for it. So be certain to examine and correct the errors of the mind, for to do so is basic.

C. It Is Good to Develop

1. Have only sound and handsome wishes

Those who have many desires, by reason of their desire for selfish profit, experience much dukkha [stress, tension, suffering, etc.].

Seek to lessen your desires, and never suffer from want.

2. Great contentment

To escape from all kinds of dukkha, see to that you are contented.

Great contentment gives peace.

Unworthy people feel poor even though they are rich. They can be greatly pitied.

3. Seclusion

You can leave your own and live alone, reflecting (to develop insight) on dukkha.

Those who rejoice in the pleasures of company must also bear the pains of company.

An old elephant bogged down in a swamp may not be able to extricate himself from it.

4. Striving

Skilful practice is better than energetic striving. *

5. Go for improved attentiveness

You can seek for a worthy or noble friend (kalyanamitta).

A worthy friend may best assist you in going for unbroken attention.

Keep your mind steadily attentive to develop greatly.

6. Collectedness (samadhi)

A well guarded mind will be able to remain in a state of steady collectedness.

Go for sound practice of the stages of absorption (jhana).

Guard the wisdom you have got, so that it does not leak out.

7. Inner Wisdom, called Prajna

Do not hunger to display your innate wisdom. [You may display the wisdom of others, though.].

Sound wisdom is a good medicine for some who are ill. *.

Go for increasing your benefits (by regular Dharma) - and seeing clearly.

8. Restraint from idle talk

You should as soon as possible drop chaotic thoughts and idle discussions.

C. Self-Exertion

It is for you to exert yourself to practice this teaching, and diligently, lest you come to regret the many lost benefits afterwards.

A good guide points out the best road; but if, having heard of it, the enquirer does not take it, the fault is not with the guide.

D. Clearing up doubts

If dukkha is lessened, it may be because the cause of dukkha has been lessened.

Regularly do what should be done (that is, get Enlightened.).

My disciples must continue to practice (in the ascribed, fit way): Exert yourself diligently and well for winning inner Freedom. *

Ever exert your mind well, seeking the Way out (of the Wandering-on, or samsara).

A Few More

Abstracts from J. C. Cleary's translation from 2005 follow.

After I am gone, you should honour and respect [the discipline that liberates], as if you have found a light in the darkness. This will be your great teacher. It will be no different than when I was in the world." (p. 7)

Those who maintain pure discipline, should lead a pure and independent life and seek salvation with a proper mentality and correct mindfulness. (p. 7)

You must be careful. (p. 8)

The mind . . . no metaphor will suffice . . . is like a monkey in a tree, leaping and frolicking about. (p. 8)

An intelligent person calculates how much the strength of an ox will bear, and does not exhaust it by overloading it. (p. 9)

Do not let time slip away. (p. 9)

Do not let your whole life pass in vain. (p. 9)

A black cobra sleeping in your room - you must get rid of it right away. (p. 9)

Monks should feel shame at all times. (p. 9)

The harm done by anger can destroy a good reputation, so that no one in the present or future will be happy to see you. (p. 9)

People who do not know satisfaction are poor even if they are rich. (p. 10)

It is not the doctor's fault if the prescribed medicine is not taken. (p. 11)

If the people hear good directions but do not follow them, it is not the guide's mistake. (p. 11)

Wisdom is the solid and secure ship for crossing the sea of old age, sickness, and death. It is also the great bright lamp amid the darkness of ignorance, the good medicine for all diseases. (p. 12)

Realize that all worldly things are impermanent. (p. 13)

You should work hard, make energetic progress, and seek liberation as soon as possible. (p. 13)

The world really is perilous and fragile and insecure. (p. 14)

Earnestly seek a way out. (p. 14)


Buddha's Last Bequest, Sutra of Admonitions Imparted in Brief by the Buddha at His Final Decease, Mahayana Buddhist Literature  

Buddhist Association of the United States (BAUS). The Buddha's Last Bequest. Buddhism Study and Practice Group (

Buddhist Publication Society. 2008. The Buddha's Last Bequest: A Translation from the Chinese Tipitaka. The Wheel Publication No. 112. Kandy, SL: Buddhist Publication Society.

The Buddhist Text Translation Society, tr. 1999. Sutra on the Buddha's Bequeathed Teaching. Ukiah, CA: City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

Chou Hsian-kuang, tr. 1977. The Sutra of Buddha's Bequeathed Teaching. Singapore: Nanyang Buddhist Culture Service.

Cleary, J. C., tr. 2005. "The Bequeathed Teaching Sutra." (Taisho Vol. 12, No. 389) In BDK's Apocryphal Scriptures. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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