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Parables and Stories

"Birth is painful, old age is painful, sickness is painful, association with unloved objects is painful, separation from loved objects is painful, the desire which one does not obtain, is painful too." - Buddha

Highlighted The Blessed One thought: "I have taught the truth which is excellent 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 to 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 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 went on:

"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, and 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, is like to 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 to 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 in the world of light and appearance. There are no colours, 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 colours 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 colours."

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 grey film melted, and his eyes could see. The Tathagatha is the physician, the cataract is the illusion . . . 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 you fall a prey to the passions of your misguided heart. For I see that in former existences, you have suffered much from the evil consequences of lust, and unless you learn to conquer your sensual desire, you will in this life be ruined through your folly.

"Listen to a story of another existence of yours, 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 you today, you would have lost your life. I shall save you, but from now on 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 you in your present existence, and fear the dart of passion which, if you do not guard your senses, will lead you 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 on 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 big varana-tree.

"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 you, too!' 'But how will you hold me to carry me along?' asked the lobster. 'I shall take hold of you with my beak, said the crane. 'You will let me fall if you carry me like that. I will not go with you!' replied the lobster. 'You needst not fear,' rejoined the crane; 'I shall hold you 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, you will not be able to hold me tight enough; but we lobsters have a famous grip. If you will let me catch hold of you round the neck with my claws, I shall be glad to go with you.'

"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!' The 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 you are taking me this other way.' Answered the crane: 'Think so? Am I your dear uncle? You want me to understand, I suppose, that I am your slave, who has to lift you up and carry you about with him, where you please! Now cast your eye on 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 you also!'

"'Ah! those fishes got eaten through their own stupidity, answered the lobster, 'but I am not going to let you kill me. On the contrary, it is you that I am going to destroy. For you, in your folly, have not seen that I have outwitted you. If we die, we both die together; for I will cut off this head of yours 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 you. 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."

Four Kinds of Merit

There was a rich man who used to invite all the Brahmans of the neighborhood to his house, and, giving them rich gifts, offered great sacrifices to the gods.

But the Blessed One said: "If a man each month repeat a thousand sacrifices and give offerings without ceasing, he is not equal to him who but for one moment fixes his mind on righteousness." The Buddha continued: "There are four kinds of offering: first, when the gifts are large and the merit small; secondly, when the gifts are small and the merit small; thirdly, when the gifts are small and the merit large; and fourthly, when the gifts are large and the merit is also large.

"The first is the case of the deluded man who takes away life for the purpose of sacrificing to the gods, accompanied by carousing and feasting. Here the gifts are great, but the merit is small indeed. Next, the gifts are small and the merit is also small, when from covetousness and an evil heart a man keeps to himself a part of that which he intends to offer.

"The merit is great, however, while the gift is small, when a man makes his offering from love and with a desire to grow in wisdom and in kindness. And lastly, the gift is large and the merit is large, when a wealthy man, in an unselfish spirit and with the wisdom of a Buddha, gives donations and founds institutions for the best of mankind to enlighten the minds of his fellow-men and to administer to their needs."

The Light of the World

There was a certain Brahman in Kosambi, a wrangler and well versed in the Vedas. As he found no one whom he regarded his equal in debate he used to carry a lighted torch in his hand, and when asked for the reason of his strange conduct, he replied: 'The world is so dark that I carry this torch to light it up, as far as I can."

A samana sitting in the market-place heard these words and said: "My friend, if your eyes are blind to the sight of the omnipresent light of the day, do not call the world dark. Your torch adds nothing to the glory of the sun and your intention to illumine the minds of others is as futile as it is arrogant."

Whereupon the Brahman asked: "Where is the sun of which you speak?"

And the samana replied: "The wisdom of the Tathagatha is the sun of the mind. His radiancy is glorious by day and night, and he whose faith is strong will not lack light on the path to Nirvana where he will inherit bliss everlasting."

Luxurious Living

While the Buddha was preaching his doctrine for the conversion of the world in the neighborhood of Savatthi, a man of great wealth who suffered from many ailments came to him with clasped hands and said: "World-honored Buddha, pardon me for my want of respect in not saluting you as I ought but I suffer greatly from obesity, excessive drowsiness, and other complaints, so that I cannot move without pain."

The Tathagatha, seeing the luxuries with which the man was surrounded asked him: "Have you a desire to know the cause of your ailments?" And when the wealthy man expressed his willingness to learn, the Blessed One said: "There are five things which produce the condition of which you complain: opulent dinners, love of sleep, hankering after pleasure, thoughtlessness, and lack of occupation. Exercise self-control at your meals, and take on yourself some duties that will exercise your abilities and make you useful to your fellow-men. In following this advice you will prolong your life."

The rich man remembered the words of the Buddha and after some time having recovered his lightness of body and youthful buoyancy returned to the World-honored One and, coming afoot without horses and attendants, said to him: "Master, you have cured my bodily ailments; I come now to seek enlightenment of my mind."

And the Blessed One said: "The worldling nourishes his body, but the wise man nourishes his mind. He who indulges in the satisfaction of his appetites works his own destruction; but he who walks in the path will have both the salvation from evil and a prolongation of life."

The Communication of Bliss

Annabhara, the slave of Sumana, having just cut the grass on the meadow, saw a samana with his bowl begging for food. Throwing down his bundle of hay he ran into the house and returned with the rice that had been provided for his own food. The samana ate the rice and gladdened him with words of religious comfort.

The daughter of Sumana having observed the scene from a window called out: "Good! Annabhara, good! Very good!" Sumana hearing these words inquired what she meant, and on being informed about Annabhara's devotion and the words of comfort he had received from the samana, went to his slave and offered him money to divide the bliss of his offering. "My lord, said Annabhara, let me first ask the venerable man." And approaching the samana, he said: "My master has asked me to share with him the bliss of the offering I made you of my allowance of rice. Is it right that I should divide it with him?"

The samana replied in a parable. He said: "In a village of one hundred houses a single light was burning. Then a neighbor came with his lamp and lit it; and in this same way the light was communicated from house to house and the brightness in the village was increased. Thus the light of religion may be diffused without stinting him who communicates it. Let the bliss of your offering also be diffused. Divide it."

Annabhara returned to his master's house and said to him: "I present you, my lord, with a share of the bliss of my offering. Deign to accept it." Sumana accepted it and offered his slave a sum of money, but Annabhara replied: "Not so, my lord; if I accept your money it would appear as if I sold you my share. Bliss cannot be sold; I beg you will accept it as a gift." The master replied: "Brother Annabhara, from this day forth you shall be free. Live with me as my friend and accept this present as a token of my respect."

The Listless Fool

There was a rich Brahman, well advanced in years, who, unmindful of the impermanence of earthly things and anticipating a long life, had built himself a large house. The Buddha wondered why a man so near to death had built a mansion with so many apartments, and he sent Ananda to the rich Brahman to preach to him the four noble truths and the eightfold path of salvation. The Brahman showed Ananda his house and explained to him the purpose of its numerous chambers, but to the instruction of the Buddha's teachings he gave no heed. Ananda said: "It is the habit of I fools to say, 'I have children and wealth.' He who says so is not even master of himself; how can he claim possession of children, riches, and servants? Many are the anxieties of the worldly, but they know nothing of the changes of the future."

Scarcely had Ananda left, when the old man was stricken with apoplexy and fell dead. The Buddha said, for the instruction of those who were ready, to learn: "A fool, though he live in the company of the wise, understands nothing of the true doctrine, as a spoon tastes not the flavor of the soup. He thinks of himself only, and unmindful of the advice of good counselors is unable to deliver himself."

Rescue in the Desert

There was a disciple of the Blessed One, full of energy and zeal for the truth, who, living under a vow to complete a meditation in solitude, flagged in a moment of weakness. He said to himself: "The Teacher said there are several kinds of men; I must belong to the lowest class and fear that in this birth there will be neither path nor fruit for me. What is the use of a hermit's life if I cannot by constant endeavor attain the insight of meditation to which I have devoted myself?" And he left the solitude and returned to the Jetavana.

When the brethren saw him they said to him: "You have done wrong, brother, after taking a vow, to give up the attempt of carrying it out"; and they took him to the Master. When the Blessed One saw them he said: "I see, mendicants, that you have brought this brother here against his will. What has he done?"

"Lord, this brother, having taken the vows of sanctifying a faith, has abandoned the endeavor to accomplish the aim of a member of the order, and has come back to us." Then the Teacher said to him: Is it true that you have given up trying?"

"It is true, Blessed One," I was the reply.

The Master said: "This present life of yours is a time of grace. If you fail now to reach the happy state you will have to suffer remorse in future existences. How is it, brother, that you have proved so irresolute? Why, in former states of existence you wert full of determination. By your energy alone the men and bullocks of five hundred wagons obtained water in the sandy desert, and were saved. How is it that you now give up?" By these few words that brother was re-established in his resolution. But the others besought the Blessed One, saying: "Lord! Tell us how this was."

"Listen, then, mendicants!" said the Blessed One; and having thus excited their attention, he made manifest a thing concealed by change of birth. Once on a time, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Kasi, the Bodhisattva was born in a merchant's family; and when he grew up, he went about trafficking with five hundred carts. One day he arrived at a sandy desert many leagues across. The sand in that desert was so fine that when taken in the closed fist it could not be kept in the hand. After the sun had risen it became as hot as a mass of burning embers, so that no man could walk on it. Those, therefore, who had to travel over it took wood, and water, and oil, and rice in their carts, and traveled during the night. And at daybreak they formed an encampment and spread an awning over it, and, taking their meals early, they passed the day lying in the shade. At sunset they supped, and when the ground had become cool they yoked their oxen and went on. The traveling was like a voyage over the sea: a desert-pilot had to be chosen, and he brought the caravan safe to the other side by his knowledge of the stars.

"Thus the merchant of our story crossed the desert. And when he had passed over fifty-nine leagues he thought, "Now, in one more night we shall get out of the sand, and after supper he directed the wagons to be yoked, and so set out. The pilot had cushions arranged on the foremost cart and lay down, looking at the stars and directing the men where to drive. But worn out by want of rest during the long march, he fell asleep, and did not perceive that the oxen had turned round and taken the same road by which they had come. The oxen went on the whole night through. Towards dawn the pilot woke up, and, observing the stars, called out: "Stop the wagons, stop the wagons!" The day broke just as they stopped and were drawing up the carts in a line. Then the men cried out: "Why, this is the very encampment we left yesterday! We have but little wood left and our water is all gone! We are lost!" And unyoking the oxen and spreading the canopy over their heads, they lay down in despondency, each one under his wagon.

But the Bodhisattva said to himself, "If I lose heart, all these will perish, and walked about while the morning was yet cool. On seeing a tuft of kusa-grass, he thought: "This could have grown only by soaking up some water which must be beneath it." And he made them bring a spade and dig in that spot. And they dug sixty cubits deep. And when they had got thus far, the spade of the diggers struck on a rock; and as soon as it struck, they all gave up in despair. But the Bodhisattva thought, "There must be water under that rock," and descending into the well he got on the stone, and stooping down applied his ear to it and tested the sound of it. He heard the sound of water gurgling beneath, and when he got out he called his page. "My lad, if you give up now, we shall all be lost. Do not lose heart. Take this iron hammer, and go down into the pit, and give the rock a good blow."

The lad obeyed, and though they all stood by in despair, he went down full of determination and struck at the stone. The rock split in two and fell below, so that it no longer blocked the stream, and water rose till its depth from the bottom to the brim of the well was equal to the height of a palm-tree. And they all drank of the water, and bathed in it. Then they cooked rice and ate it, and fed their oxen with it. And when the sun set, they put a flag in the well, and went to the place appointed. There they sold their merchandise at a good profit and returned to their home, and when they died they passed away according to their deeds. And the Bodhisattva gave gifts and did other virtuous acts, and he also passed away according to his deeds.

After the Teacher had told the story he formed the connection by saying in conclusion, "The caravan the Bodhisattva, the future Buddha; the page who at that time despaired not, but broke the stone, and gave water to the multitude, was this brother without perseverance; and the other men were attendants on the Buddha."

The Sower

Bharadvaja, a wealthy Brahman farmer, was celebrating his harvest-thanksgiving when the Blessed One came with his alms-bowl, begging for food. Some of the people paid him reverence, but the Brahman was angry and said: "samana, it would be more fitting for you to go to work than to beg. I plough and sow, and having ploughed and sown, I eat. If you did likewise, you, too, would have something to eat."

The Tathagatha answered him and said: "Brahman, if too, plough and sow, and having ploughed and sown, I eat." "Do you profess to be a husbandman?" replied the Brahman. "Where, then, are your bullocks? Where is the seed and the plough?"

The Blessed One said: "Faith is the seed I sow: good works are the rain that fertilizes it; wisdom and modesty are the plough; my mind is the guiding-rein; I lay hold of the handle of the law; earnestness is the goad I use, and exertion is my draught-ox. This ploughing is ploughed to destroy the weeds of illusion. The harvest it yields is the immortal fruits of Nirvana, and thus all sorrow ends." Then the Brahman poured rice-milk into a golden bowl and offered it to the Blessed One, saying: "Let the Teacher of mankind partake of the rice-milk, for the venerable Gautama ploughs a ploughing that bears the fruit of immortality."

The Outcast

When Bhagavat dwelt at Savatthi in the Jetavana, he went out with his alms-bowl to beg for food and approached the house of a Brahman priest while the fire of an offering was blazing on the altar. And the priest said: "Stay there, shaveling; stay there, wretched samana; you are an outcast."

The Blessed One replied: "Who is an outcast? An outcast is the man who is angry and bears hatred; the man who is wicked and hypocritical, he who embraces error and is full of deceit. Whosoever is a provoker and is avaricious, has evil desires, is envious, wicked, shameless, and without fear to commit wrong, let him be known as an outcast. Not by birth does one become an outcast, not by birth does one become a Brahman; by deeds one becomes an outcast, by deeds one becomes a Brahman."

The Woman at the Well

Ananda, the favorite disciple of the Buddha, having been sent by the Lord on a mission, passed by a well near a village, and seeing Pakati, a girl of the Matanga caste, he asked her for water to drink. Pakati said: "Brahman, I am too humble and mean to give you water to drink, do not ask any service of me lest your holiness be contaminated, for I am of low caste." And Ananda replied: "I ask not for caste but for water"; and the Matanga girl's heart leaped joyfully and she gave Ananda to drink.

Ananda thanked her and went away; but she followed him at a distance. Having heard that Ananda was a disciple of Gautama Sakyamuni, the girl repaired to the Blessed One and cried: "Lord help me, and let me live in the place where Ananda your disciple dwells, so that I may see him and minister to him, for I love Ananda." The Blessed One understood the emotions of her heart and he said: "Pakati, your heart is full of love, but you understand not your own sentiments. It is not Ananda that you love, but his kindness. Accept, then, the kindness you have seen him practice to you, and in the humility of your station practice it to others. Verily there is great merit in the generosity of a king when he is kind to a slave; but there is a greater merit in the slave when he ignores the wrongs which he suffers and cherishes kindness and good-will to all mankind. He will cease to hate his oppressors, and even when powerless to resist their usurpation will with compassion pity their arrogance and supercilious demeanor.

"Blessed are you, Pakati, for though you are a Matanga you will be a model for noblemen and noble women. You are of low caste, but Brahmans may learn a lesson from you. Swerve not from the path of justice and righteousness and you will outshine the royal glory of queens on the throne."

The Peacemaker

It is reported that two kingdoms were on the verge of war for the possession of a certain embankment which was disputed by them. And the Buddha seeing the kings and their armies ready to fight, requested them to tell him the cause of their quarrels. Having heard the complaints on both sides, he said:

"I understand that the embankment has value for some of your people; has it any intrinsic value aside from its service to your men?"

"It has no intrinsic value whatever was the reply.

The Tathagatha continued: "Now when you go to battle is it not sure that many of your men will be slain and that you yourselves, kings, are liable to lose your lives?" And they said: "It is sure that many will be slain and our own lives be jeopardized."

"The blood of men, however," said Buddha, "has it less intrinsic value than a mound of earth?" "No," the kings said, "The lives of men and above all the lives of kings, are priceless." Then the Tathagatha concluded: care you going to stake that which is priceless against that which has no intrinsic value whatever?-The wrath of the two monarchs abated, and they came to a peaceable agreement.

The Hungry Dog

There was a great king who oppressed his people and was hated by his subjects; yet when the Tathagatha came into his kingdom, the king desired much to see him. So he went to the place where the Blessed One stayed and asked: "Sakyamuni, can you teach a lesson to the king that will divert his mind and benefit him at the same time?"

And the Blessed One said: "I shall tell you the parable of the hungry dog: There was a wicked tyrant; and the god Indra, assuming the shape of a hunter, came down on earth with the demon Matali, the latter appearing as a dog of enormous size. Hunter and dog entered the palace, and the dog howled so woefully that the royal buildings shook by the sound to their very foundations. The tyrant had the awe-inspiring hunter brought before his throne and inquired after the cause of the terrible bark. The hunter said, "The dog is hungry," whereupon the frightened king ordered food for him. All the food prepared at the royal banquet disappeared rapidly in the dog's jaws, and still he howled with portentous significance. More food was sent for, and all the royal store-houses were emptied, but in vain. Then the tyrant grew desperate and asked: 'Will nothing satisfy the cravings of that woeful beast?' "Nothing," replied the hunter, nothing except perhaps the flesh of all his enemies.' 'And who are his enemies?' anxiously asked the tyrant. The hunter replied: 'The dog will howl as long as there are people hungry in the kingdom, and his enemies are those who practice injustice and oppress the poor." The oppressor of the people, remembering his evil deeds, was seized with remorse, and for the first time in his life he began to listen to the teachings of righteousness."

Having ended his story, the Blessed One addressed the king, who had turned pale, and said to him: "The Tathagatha can quicken the spiritual ears of the powerful, and when you, great king, hear the dog bark, think of the teachings of the Buddha, and you may still learn to pacify the monster."

The Despot Cured

King Brahmadhatta happened to see a beautiful woman, the wife of a Brahman merchant and, conceiving a passion for her ordered a precious jewel secretly to be dropped into the merchant's carriage. The jewel was missed, searched for, and found. The merchant was arrested on the charge of stealing, and the king pretended to listen with great attention to the defense, and with seeming regret ordered the merchant to be executed, while his wife was consigned to the royal harem.

Brahmadatta attended the execution in person, for such sights were wont to give him pleasure, but when the doomed man looked with deep compassion at his infamous judge, a flash of the Buddha's wisdom lit up the king's passion beclouded mind; and while the executioner raised the sword for the fatal stroke, Brahmadatta felt the effect in his own mind, and he imagined he saw himself on the block. "Hold, executioner!" shouted Brahmadatta, it is the king whom you slay!" But it was too late! The executioner had done the bloody deed. The king fell back in a swoon, and when he awoke a change had come over him. He had ceased to be the cruel despot and henceforth led a life of holiness and rectitude. The people said that the character of the Brahman had been impressed into his mind.

you who commit murders and robberies! The evil of self-delusion covers your eyes. If you could see things as they are, not as they appear, you would no longer inflict injuries and pain on your own selves. You see not that you will have to atone for your evil deeds, for what you sow you will reap.

Vasavadatta, the Courtesan

There was a courtesan in Mathura named Vasavadatta. She happened to see Upagutta, one of Buddha's disciples, a tall and beautiful youth, and fell desperately in love with him. sent an invitation to the young man, but he replied: "The time has not yet arrived when Upagutta will visit Vasavadatta." The courtesan was astonished at the reply, and she sent again for him, saying: "Vasavadatta desires love, not gold, from Upagutta." But Upagutta made the same enigmatic reply and did not come.

A few months later Vasavadatta was having a love intrigue with the chief of the artisans. But at that time a wealthy merchant came to Mathura, and fell in love with Vasavadatta. Seeing his wealth, and fearing the jealousy of her other lover, she contrived the death of the chief of the artisans, and concealed his body under a dung-hill. When the chief of the artisans had disappeared, his relatives and friends searched for him and found his body. Vasavadatta was tried by a judge, and condemned to have her ears and nose, her hands and feet cut off, and flung into a graveyard. Vasavadatta had been a passionate girl, but kind to her servants, and one of her maids followed her, and out of love for her former mistress ministered to her in her agonies, and chased away the crows.

Now the time had arrived when Upagutta decided to visit Vasavadatta. When he came, the poor woman ordered her maid to collect and hide under a cloth her severed limbs; and he greeted her kindly, but she said with petulance: "Once this body was fragrant like the lotus, and I offered you my love. In those days I was covered with pearls and fine muslin. Now I am mangled by the executioner and covered with filth and blood."

"Sister," said the young man, "it is not for my pleasure that I approach you. It is to restore to you a nobler beauty than the charms which you have lost. I have seen with mine eyes the Tathagatha walking on earth and teaching men his wonderful doctrine. But you would not have listened to the words of righteousness while surrounded with temptations while under the spell of passion and yearning for worldly pleasures. You would not have listened to the teachings of the Tathagatha, for your heart was wayward, and you set your trust on the sham of your transient charms. The charms of a lovely form are treacherous, and quickly lead into temptations, which have proved too strong for you. But there is a beauty which will not fade, and if you will but listen to the doctrine of our Lord, the Buddha, you will find that peace which you would have found in the restless world of sinful pleasures."

Vasavadatta became calm and a spiritual happiness soothed the tortures of her bodily pain; for where there is much suffering there is also great bliss. Having taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, she died in pious submission to the punishment of her crime.

The Marriage-Feast In Jambunada

There was a man in Jambunada who was to be married the next day, and he thought, "Would that the Buddha, the Blessed One, might be present at the wedding." And the Blessed One passed by his house and met him, and when he read the silent wish in the heart of the bridegroom, he consented to enter. When the When the Holy One appeared with the retinue of his many bhikkhus, the host, whose means were limited, received them as best he could, saying: "Eat, my Lord, and all your congregation, according to your desire."

While the holy men ate, the meats and drinks remained undiminished, and the host thought to himself: "How wondrous is this! I should have had plenty for all my relatives and friends. Would that I had invited them all. all." When this thought was in the host's mind, all his relatives and friends entered the house; and although the hall in the house was small there was room in it for all of them. They sat down at the table and ate, and there was more than enough for all of them. The Blessed One was pleased to see so many guests full of good cheer and he quickened them and gladdened them with words of truth, proclaiming the bliss of righteousness:

"The greatest happiness which a mortal man can imagine is the bond of marriage that ties together two loving hearts. But there is a greater happiness still: it is the embrace of truth. Death will separate husband and wife, but death will never affect him who has espoused the truth. Therefore be married to the truth and live with the truth in holy wedlock. The husband who loves his wife and desires for a union that shall be everlasting must be faithful to her so as to be like truth itself, and she will rely on him and revere him and minister to him. And the wife who loves her husband and desires a union that shall be everlasting must be faithful to him so as to be like truth itself; and he will place his trust in her, he will provide for her. Verily, I say to you, their children will become like their parents and will bear witness to their happiness. Let no man be single, let every one be wedded in holy love to the truth. And when Mara, the destroyer, comes to separate the visible forms of your being, you will continue to live in the truth, and will partake of the life everlasting, for the truth is immortal."

There was no one among the guests but was strengthened in his, spiritual life, and recognized the sweetness of a life of righteousness; and they took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

In Search of a Thief

Having sent out his disciples, the Blessed One himself wandered from place to place till he reached Uruvela. On his way he sat down in a grove to rest, and it happened that in that same grove was a party of thirty friends who were enjoying themselves with their wives; and while they were sporting, some of their goods were stolen. Then the whole party went in search of the thief and, meeting the Blessed One sitting under a tree, saluted him and said: "Pray, Lord, did you see the thief pass by with our goods?"

And the Blessed One said: "Which is better for you, that you go in search for the thief or for yourselves?" And the youths cried: "In search for ourselves!"

"Well then," said the Blessed One "sit down and I will preach the truth to you." And the whole party sat down and they listened eagerly to the words of the Blessed One. Having grasped the truth, they praised the doctrine and took refuge in the Buddha.

In the Realm of Yamaraja

There was a Brahman, a religious man and fond in his affections but without deep wisdom. He had a son of great promise, who, when seven years old, was struck with a fatal disease and died. The unfortunate father was unable to control himself; he threw himself on the corpse and lay there as one dead. The relatives came and buried the dead child and when the father came to himself, he was so immoderate in his grief that he behaved like an insane person. He no longer gave way to tears but wandered about asking for the residence of Yamaraja, the king of death, humbly to beg of him that his child might be allowed to return to life.

Having arrived at a great Brahman temple the sad father went through certain religious rites and fell asleep. While wandering on in his dream he came to a deep mountain pass where he met a number of samanas who had acquired supreme wisdom. "Kind sirs," he said, "Can you not tell me where the residence of Yamaraja is?" And they asked him, "Good friend, why would you know?" Whereupon he told them his sad story and explained his intentions. Pitying his self-delusion, the samanas said: "No mortal man can reach the place where Yama reigns, but some four hundred miles westward lies a great city in which many good spirits live; every eighth day of the month Yama visits the place, and there mayst you see him who is the King of Death and ask him for a boon."

The Brahman rejoicing at the news went to the city and found it as the samanas had told him. He was admitted to the dread presence of Yama, the King of Death, who, on hearing his request, said: "Your son now lives in the eastern garden where he is disporting himself; go there and ask him to follow you." Said the happy father: "How does it happen that my son, without having performed one good work, is now living in paradise?" Yamaraja replied: "He has obtained celestial happiness not for performing good deeds, but because he died in faith and in love to the Lord and Master, the most glorious Buddha. The Buddha says: 'The heart of love and faith spreads as it were a beneficent shade from the world of men to the world of gods.' This glorious utterance is like the stamp of a king's seal on a royal edict."

The happy father hastened to the place and saw his be beloved child playing with other children, all transfigured by the peace of the blissful existence of a heavenly life. He ran up to his boy and cried with tears running down his cheeks: "My son, my son, do you not remember me, your father who watched over you with loving care and tended you in your sickness? Return home with me to the land of the living." But the boy, while struggling to go back to his playmates, upbraided him for using such strange expressions as father and son. "In my present state, he said, "I know no such words, for I am free from delusion."

On this, the Brahman departed, and when he woke from his dream he bethought himself of the Blessed Master of mankind, the great Buddha, and resolved to go to him, lay bare his grief, and seek consolation. Having arrived at the Jetavana, the Brahman told his story and how his boy had refused to recognize him and to go home with him.

And the World-honored One said: "Truly you are deluded. When man dies the body is dissolved into its elements, but the spirit is not entombed. It leads a higher mode of life in which all the relative terms of father, son, wife, mother, are at an end, just as a guest who leaves his lodging has done with it, as though it were a thing of the past. Men concern themselves most about that which passes away; but the end of life quickly comes as a burning torrent sweeping away the transient in a moment. They are like a blind man set to look after a burning lamp. A wise man, understanding the transiency of worldly relations, destroys the cause of grief, and escapes from the seething whirlpool of sorrow. Religious wisdom lifts a man above the pleasures and pains of the world and gives him peace everlasting." The Brahman asked the permission of the Blessed One to enter the community of his bhikkhus, so as to acquire that heavenly wisdom which alone can give comfort to an afflicted heart.

The Mustard Seed

There was a rich man who found his gold suddenly transformed into ashes; and he took to his bed and refused all food. A friend, hearing of his sickness, visited the rich man and learned the cause of his grief. And the friend said: "You did not make good use of your wealth. When you hoarded it up it was not better than ashes. Now heed my advice. Spread mats in the bazaar; pile up these ashes, and pretend to trade with them." The rich man did as his friend had told him, and when his neighbors asked him, "Why do you sell ashes?" he said: "I offer my goods for sale."

After some time a young girl, named Kisa Gotami, an orphan and very poor, passed by, and seeing the rich man in the bazaar, said: "My lord, why do you pile up gold and silver for sale like this?" And the rich man said: "Will you please hand me that gold and silver?" And Kisa Gotami took up a handful of ashes, and lo! they changed back into gold. Considering that Kisa Gotami had the mental eye of spiritual knowledge and saw the real worth of things, the rich man gave her in marriage to his son, and he said: "With many, gold is no better than ashes, but with Kisa Gotami ashes become pure gold."

And Kisa Gotami had an only son, and he died. In her grief she carried the dead child to all her neighbors, asking them for medicine, and the people said: "She has lost her senses. The boy is dead. At length Kisa Gotami met a man who replied to her request: "I cannot give you medicine for your child, but I know a physician who can." The girl said: "Pray tell me, sir; who is it?" And the man replied: "Go to Sakyamuni, the Buddha."

Kisa Gotami repaired to the Buddha and cried: "Lord and Master, give me the medicine that will cure my boy." The Buddha answered: "I want a handful of mustard-seed." And when the girl in her joy promised to procure it, the Buddha added: "The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend." Poor Kisa Gotami now went from house to house, and the people pitied her and said: "Here is mustard-seed; take it!" But when she asked, "Did a son or daughter, a father or mother, die in your family?" they answered her: "Alas the living are few, but the dead are many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief." And there was no house but some beloved one had died in it.

Kisa Gotami became weary and hopeless, and sat down at the wayside, watching the lights of the city, as they flickered up and were extinguished again. At last the darkness of the night reigned everywhere. And she considered the fate of men, that their lives flicker up and are extinguished. And she thought to herself: "How selfish am I in my grief! Death is common to all; yet in this valley of desolation there is a path that leads him to immortality who has surrendered all selfishness."

Putting away the selfishness of her affection for her child, Kisa Gotami had the dead body buried in the forest. Returning to the Buddha, she took refuge in him and found comfort in the Dharma, which is a balm that will soothe all the pains of our troubled hearts.

The Buddha said: "The life of mortals in this world is troubled and brief and combined with pain. For there is not any means by which those that have been born can avoid dying; after reaching old age there is death; of such a nature are living beings. As ripe fruits are early in danger of falling, so mortals when born are always in danger of death. As all earthen vessels made by the potter end in being broken, so is the life of mortals. Both young and adult, both those who are fools and those who are wise, all fall into the power of death; all are subject to death.

"Of those who, overcome by death, depart from life, a father cannot save his son, nor kinsmen their relations. Mark I while relatives are looking on and lamenting deeply, one by one mortals are carried off, like an ox that is led to the slaughter. So the world is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world. In whatever manner people think a thing will come to pass, it is often different when it happens, and great is the disappointment; see, such are the terms of the world.

"Not from weeping nor from grieving will any one obtain peace of mind; on the contrary, his pain will be the greater and his body will suffer. He will make himself sick and pale, yet the dead are not saved by his lamentation. People pass away, and their fate after death will be according to their deeds. If a man live a hundred years, or even more, he will at last be separated from the company of his relatives, and leave the life of this world. He who seeks peace should draw out the arrow of lamentation, and complaint, and grief. He who has drawn out the arrow and has become composed will obtain peace of mind; he who has overcome all sorrow will become free from sorrow, and be blessed."

Walking On Water

South of Savatthi is a great river, on the banks of which lay a hamlet of five hundred houses. Thinking of the salvation of the people, the World-honored One resolved to go to the village and preach the doctrine. Having come to the riverside he sat down beneath a tree, and the villagers seeing the glory of his appearance approached him with reverence; but when he began to preach, they believed him not.

When the world-honored Buddha had left Savatthi Sariputta felt a desire to see the Lord and to hear him preach. Coming to the river where the water was deep and the current strong, he said to himself: "This stream shall not prevent me. I shall go and see the Blessed One, and he stepped on the water which was as firm under his feet as a slab of granite. When he arrived at a place in the middle of the stream where the waves were high, Sariputta's heart gave way, and he began to sink. But rousing his faith and renewing his mental effort, he proceeded as before and reached the other bank.

The people of the village were astonished to see Sariputta, and they asked how he could cross the stream where there was neither a bridge nor a ferry. Sariputta replied: "I lived in ignorance till I heard the voice of the Buddha. As I was anxious to hear the doctrine of salvation, I crossed the river and I walked over its troubled waters because I had faith. Faith. nothing else, enabled me to do so, and now I am here in the bliss of the Master's presence."

The World-honored One added: "Sariputta, you have spoken well. Faith like yours alone can save the world from the yawning gulf of migration and enable men to walk dryshod to the other shore." And the Blessed One urged to the villagers the necessity of ever advancing in the conquest of sorrow and of casting off all shackles so as to cross the river of worldliness and attain deliverance from death. Hearing the words of the Tathagatha, the villagers were filled with joy and believing in the doctrines of the Blessed One embraced the five rules and took refuge in his name.

The Sick Bhikkhu

An old bhikkhu of a surly disposition was afflicted with a loathsome disease the sight and smell of which was so nauseating that no one would come near him or help him in his distress. And it happened that the World-honored One came to the vihara in which the unfortunate man lay; hearing of the case he ordered warm water to be prepared and went to the sick-room to administer to the sores of the patient with his own hand, saying to his disciples:

"The Tathagatha has come into the world to befriend the poor, to succor the unprotected, to nourish those in bodily affliction, both the followers of the Dharma and unbelievers, to give sight to the blind and enlighten the minds of the deluded, to stand up for the rights of orphans as well as the aged, and in so doing to set an example to others. This is the consummation of his work, and thus he attains the great goal of life as the rivers that lose themselves in the ocean."

The World-honored One administered to the sick bhikkhu daily so long as he stayed in that place. And the governor of the city came to the Buddha to do him reverence and having heard of the service which the Lord did in the vihara asked the Blessed One about the previous existence of the sick monk, and the Buddha said:

"In days gone by there was a wicked king who used to extort from his subjects all he could get; and he ordered one of his officers to lay the lash on a man of eminence. The officer little thinking of the pain he inflicted on others, obeyed; but when the victim of the king's wrath begged for mercy, he felt compassion and laid the whip lightly on him. Now the king was reborn as Devadatta, who was abandoned by all his followers, because they were no longer willing to stand his severity, and he died miserable and full of penitence. The officer is the sick bhikkhu, who having often given offense to his brethren in the vihara was left without assistance in his distress. The eminent man, however, who was unjustly beaten and begged for mercy was the Bodhisattva; he has been reborn as the Tathagatha. It is now the lot of the Tathagatha to help the wretched officer as he had mercy on him."

And the World-honored One repeated these lines: "He who inflicts pain on the gentle, or falsely accuses the innocent, will inherit one of the ten great calamities. But he who has learned to suffer with patience will be purified and will be the chosen instrument for the alleviation of suffering."

The diseased bhikkhu on hearing these words turned to the Buddha, confessed his ill-natured temper and repented, and with a heart cleansed from error did reverence to the Lord.

The Patient Elephant

While the Blessed One was residing in the Jetavana, there was a householder living in Savatthi known to all his neighbors as patient and kind, but his relatives were wicked and contrived a plot to rob him. One day they came to the householder and by worrying him with all kinds of threats took away a goodly portion of his property. He did not go to court, nor did he complain, but tolerated with great forbearance the wrongs he suffered. The neighbors wondered and began to talk about it, and rumors of the affair reached the ears of the brethren in Jetavana. While the brethren discussed the occurrence in the assembly hall, the Blessed One entered and asked "What was the topic of your conversation?" And they told him.

Said the Blessed One: "The time will come when the wicked relatives will find their punishment. brethren, this is not the first time that this occurrence took place; it has happened before," and he told them a world-old tale: Once on a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisattva was born in the Himalaya region as an elephant. He grew up strong and big, and ranged the hills and mountains, the peaks and caves of the torturous woods in the valleys. Once as he went he saw a pleasant tree, and took his food, standing under it. Then some impertinent monkeys came down out of the tree, and jumping on the elephant's back, insulted and tormented him greatly; they took hold of his tusks, pulled his tail and disported themselves, thereby causing him much annoyance. The Bodhisattva, being full of patience, kindliness and mercy, took no notice at all of their misconduct which the monkeys repeated again and again.

"One day the spirit that lived in the tree, standing on the tree-trunk, addressed the elephant saying, 'My lord elephant, why do you put up with the impudence of these bad monkeys?' And he asked the question in a couplet as follows:

"'Why do you patiently endure each freak
These mischievous and selfish monkeys wreak?'

"The Bodhisattva, on hearing this, replied, "If, tree sprite, I cannot endure these monkeys' ill treatment without abusing their birth, lineage and persons, how can I walk in the eightfold noble path? But these monkeys will do the same to others thinking them to be like me. If they do it to any rogue elephant, he will punish them indeed, and I shall be delivered both from their annoyance and the guilt of having done harm to others." Saying this he repeated another stanza:

"If they will treat another one like me,
He will destroy them; and I shall be free."

A few days after, the Bodhisattva went elsewhere, and another elephant, a savage beast, came and stood in his place. The wicked monkeys thinking him to be like the old one, climbed on his back and did as before. The rogue elephant seized the monkeys with his trunk, threw them on the ground, gored them with his tusk and trampled them to mincemeat under his feet."

When the Master had ended this teaching, he declared the truths, and identified the births, saying: "At that time the mischievous monkeys were the wicked relatives of the good man, the rogue elephant was the one who will punish them, but the virtuous noble elephant was the Tathagatha himself in a former incarnation."

After this discourse one of the brethren rose and asked leave to propose a question and when the permission was granted he said: "I have heard the doctrine that wrong should be met with wrong and the evil doer should be checked by being made to suffer, for if this were not done evil would increase and good would disappear. What shall we do?" Said the Blessed One: "Nay, I will tell you You who have left the world and have adopted this glorious faith of putting aside selfishness, you shall not do evil for evil nor return hate for hate. Neither think that you can destroy wrong by retaliating evil for evil and thus increasing wrong. Leave the wicked to their fate and their evil deeds will sooner or later in one way or another bring on their own punishment." And the Tathagatha repeated these stanzas:

"Who harms the man who does no harm,
Or strikes at him who strikes him not,
Shall soon some punishment incur
Which his own wickedness begot,-
"One of the gravest ills in life,
Either a loathsome dread disease,
Or sad old age, or loss of mind,
Or wretched pain without surcease,
"Or conflagration, loss of wealth;
Or of his nearest kin he shall
See some one die that's dear to him,
And then he'll be reborn in hell."

The Last Days

Conditions of Welfare

When the Blessed One was residing on the mounted called Vulture's Peak, near Rajagaha, Ajatasattu king of Magadha, who reigned in the place of Bimbisara, planned an attack on the Vajjis, and he said to Vassakara, his prime mister: "I will root out the Vajjis, mighty though they be. I will destroy the Vajjis; I will bring them to utter ruin! Come now, Brahman, and go to the Blessed One; inquire in my name for his health, and tell him my purpose. Bear carefully in mind what the Blessed One may say, and repeat it to me, for the Buddhas speak nothing untrue."

When Vassakara, the prime minister, had greeted the Blessed One and delivered his message, the venerable Ananda stood behind the Blessed One and fanned him, and the Blessed One said to him: "Have you heard, Ananda, that the Vajjis hold full and frequent public assemblies?" He replied, "Lord, so I have heard."

"So long, Ananda," said the Blessed One, "as the Vajjis hold these full and frequent public assemblies, they may be expected not to decline, but to prosper. So long as they meet together in concord, so long as they honor their elders, so long as they respect womanhood, so long as they remain religious, performing all proper rites, so long as they extend the rightful protection, defense and support to the holy ones, the Vajjis may be expected not to decline, but to prosper." Then the Blessed One addressed Vassakara and said: "When I stayed, Brahman, at Vesali, I taught the Vajjis these conditions of welfare, that so long as they should remain well instructed, so long as they will continue in the right path, so long as they live up to the precepts of righteousness, we could expect them not to decline, but to prosper."

As soon as the king's messenger had gone, the Blessed One had the brethren, that were in the neighborhood of Rajagaha, assembled in the service-hall and addressed them, saying: "I will teach you, bhikkhus, the conditions of the welfare of a community. Listen well, and I will speak.

"So long, bhikkhus, as the brethren hold full and frequent assemblies, meeting in concord, rising in concord, and attending in concord to the affairs of the Sangha; so long as they, bhikkhus, do not abrogate that which experience has proved to be good, and introduce nothing except such things as have been carefully tested; so long as their elders practice justice; so long as the brethren esteem, revere, and support their elders, and hearken to their words; so long as the brethren are not under the influence of craving, but delight in the blessings of religion, so that good and holy men shall come to them and dwell among them in quiet; so long as the brethren shall not be addicted to sloth and idleness; so long as the brethren shall exercise themselves in the sevenfold higher wisdom of mental activity, search after truth, energy, joy, modesty, self-control, earnest contemplation, and equanimity of mind, so long the Sangha may be expected to prosper. Therefore, bhikkhus, be full of faith, modest in heart, afraid of sin, anxious to learn, strong in energy, active in mind, and full of wisdom.

Sariputta's Faith

The Blessed One proceeded with a great company of the brethren to Nalanda; and there he stayed in a mango grove. Now the venerable Sariputta came to the place where the Blessed One was, and having saluted him, took his seat respectfully at his side, and said: "Lord! such faith have I in the Blessed One, that methinks there never has been, nor will there be, nor is there now any other, who is greater or wiser than the Blessed One, that is to say, as regards the higher wisdom."

Replied the Blessed One: "Grand and bold are the words of your mouth, Sariputta: verily, you have burst forth into a song of ecstasy! Surely then you have known all the Blessed Ones who in the long ages of the past have been holy Buddhas?" "Not so, Lord!" said Sariputta.

And the Lord continued: "Then you have perceived all the Blessed Ones who in the long ages of the future shall be holy Buddhas?" "Not so, Lord!"

"But at least then, Sariputta, you know me as the holy Buddha now alive, and have penetrated my mind." "Not even that, Lord!"

"You see then, Sariputta, that you do not know the hearts of the holy Buddhas of the past nor the hearts of those of the future. Why, therefore, are your words so grand and bold? Why do you burst forth into such a song of ecstasy?"

"Lord! I do not have the knowledge of the hearts of all the Buddhas that have been and are to come, and now are. I only know the lineage of the faith. Just as a king, Lord, might have a border city, strong in its foundations, strong in its ramparts and with one gate only; and the king might have a watchman there, clever, expert, and wise, to stop all strangers and admit only friends. And on going over the approaches all about the city, he might not be able so to observe all the joints and crevices in the ramparts of that city as to know where such a small creature as a cat could get out. That might well be. Yet all living beings of larger size that entered or left the city, would have to pass through that gate. Thus only is it, Lord, that I know the lineage of the faith. I know that the holy Buddhas of the past, putting away all lust, ill-will, sloth, pride, and doubt, knowing all those mental faults which make men weak, training their minds in the four kinds of mental activity, thoroughly exercising themselves in the sevenfold higher wisdom, received the full fruition of Enlightenment. And I know that the holy Buddhas of the times to come will do the same. And I know that the Blessed One, the holy Buddha of today, has done so now."

"Great is your faith, Sariputta," replied the Blessed One, "but take heed that it be well grounded."

The Visit to Pataliputta

When the Blessed One had stayed as long as convenient at Nalanda, he went to Pataliputta, the frontier town of Magadha; and when the disciples at Pataliputta heard of his arrival, they invited him to their village rest-house. And the Blessed One robed himself, took his bowl and went with the brethren to the rest-house. There he washed his feet, entered the hall, and seated himself against the center pillar, with his face towards the east. The brethren, also, having washed their feet, entered the hall, and took their seats round the Blessed One, against the western wall, facing the east. And the lay devotees of Pataliputta, having also washed their feet, entered the hall, and took their seats opposite the Blessed One against the eastern wall, facing towards the west.

Then the Blessed One addressed the lay-disciples of Pataliputta, and he said: "Fivefold householders, is the loss of the wrong-doer through his want of rectitude. In the first place, the wrong-doer, devoid of rectitude, falls into great poverty through sloth; in the next place, his evil repute gets noised abroad; thirdly, whatever society he enters, whether of Brahmans, nobles, heads of houses, or samanas, he enters shyly and confusedly; fourthly, he is full of anxiety when he dies; and lastly, on the dissolution of the body after death, his mind remains in an unhappy state. Wherever his karma continues, there will be suffering and woe. This, householders, is fivefold loss of the evil-doer!

"Fivefold, householders, is the gain of the well-doer through his practice of rectitude. In the first place the well doer, strong in rectitude, acquires property through his industry; in the next place, good reports of him are spread abroad; thirdly, whatever society he enters, whether of nobles, Brahmans, heads of houses, or members of the order, he enters with confidence and self-possession; fourthly, he dies without anxiety; and, lastly, on the dissolution of the body after death, his mind remains in a happy state. Wherever his karma continues, there will be heavenly bliss and peace. This, householders, is the fivefold gain of the well doer." When the Blessed One had taught the disciples, and incited them, and roused them, and gladdened them far into the night with religious edification, he dismissed them, saying, "The night is far spent, householders. It is time for you to do what you deem most fit."

"Be it so, Lord!" answered the disciples of Pataliputta, and rising from their seats, they bowed to the Blessed One, and keeping him on their right hand as they passed him, they departed thence.

While the Blessed One stayed at Pataliputta, the king of Magadha sent a messenger to the governor of Pataliputta to raise fortifications for the security of the town. The Blessed One seeing the laborers at work predicted the future greatness of the place, saying: "The men who build the fortress act as if they had consulted higher powers. For this city of Pataliputta will be a dwelling-place of busy men and a center for the exchange of all kinds of goods. But three dangers hang over Pataliputta, that of fire, that of water, that of dissension."

When the governor heard of the prophecy of Pataliputta's future, he greatly rejoiced and named the city-gate through which the Buddha had gone towards the river Ganges, "The Gautama Gate." Meanwhile the people living on the banks of the Ganges arrived in great numbers to pay reverence to the Lord of the world; and many persons asked him to do them the honor to cross over in their boats. But the Blessed One considering the number of the boats and their beauty did not want to show any partiality, and by accepting the invitation of one to offend all the others. He therefore crossed the river without any boat, signifying thereby that the rafts of asceticism and the gaudy gondolas of religious ceremonies were not staunch enough to weather the storms of samsara, while the Tathagatha can walk dry-shod over the ocean of worldliness. And as the city gate was called after the name of the Tathagatha so the people called this passage of the river "Gautama Ford."

The Mirror of Truth

The Blessed One proceeded to the village Nadika with a great company of brethren and there he stayed at the Brick Hall. And the venerable Ananda went to the Blessed One and mentioning to him the names of the brethren and sisters that had died, anxiously inquired about their fate after death, whether they had been reborn in animals or in hell, or as ghosts, or in any place of woe.

The Blessed One replied to Ananda and said: "Those who have died after the complete destruction of the three bonds of lust, of covetousness and of the egotistical cleaving to existence, need not fear the state after death. They will not be reborn in a state of suffering; their minds will not continue as a karma of evil deeds or sin, but are assured of final salvation.

"When they die, nothing will remain of them but their good thoughts, their righteous acts, and the bliss that proceeds from truth and righteousness. As rivers must at last reach the distant main, so their minds will be reborn in higher states of existence and continue to be pressing on to their ultimate goal which is the ocean of truth, the eternal peace of Nirvana. Men are anxious about death and their fate after death; but consider, it is not at all strange, Ananda, that a human being should die. However, that you shouldst inquire about them, and having heard the truth still be anxious about the dead, this is wearisome to the Blessed One. I will, therefore, teach you the mirror of truth and let the faithful disciple repeat it:

"'Hell is destroyed for me, and rebirth as an animal, or a ghost, or in any place of woe. I am converted; I am no longer liable to be reborn in a state of suffering, and am assured of final salvation.'

"What, then, Ananda, is this mirror of truth? It is the consciousness that the elect disciple is in this world possessed of faith in the Buddha, believing the Blessed One to be the Holy One, the Fully-enlightened One, wise, upright, happy, world-knowing, supreme, the Bridler of men's wayward hearts, the Teacher of gods and men, the blessed Buddha. It is further the consciousness that the disciple is possessed of faith in the truth believing the truth to have been proclaimed by the Blessed One, for the benefit of the world, passing not away, welcoming all, leading to salvation, to which through truth the wise will attain, each one by his own efforts.

"And, finally, it is the consciousness that the disciple is possessed of faith in the order, believing in the efficacy of a union among those men and women who are anxious to walk in the noble eightfold path; believing this church of the Buddha, of the righteous, the upright, the just, the law abiding, to be worthy of honor, of hospitality, of gifts, and of reverence; to be the supreme sowing-ground of merit for the world; to be possessed of the virtues beloved by the good, virtues unbroken, intact, unspotted, unblemished, virtues which make men truly free, virtues which are praised by the wise, are untarnished by the desire of selfish aims, either now or in a future life, or by the belief in the efficacy of outward acts, and are conducive to high and holy thought. This is the mirror of truth which teaches the straightest way to enlightenment which is the common goal of all living creatures. He who possesses the mirror of truth is free from fear; he will find comfort in the tribulations of life, and his life will be a blessing to all his fellow-creatures."

The Courtesan Ambapali

Then the Blessed One proceeded with a great number of brethren to Vesali, and he stayed at the grove of the courtesan Ambapali. And he said to the brethren: "Let a brother, bhikkhus, be mindful and thoughtful. Let a brother, while in the world, overcome the grief which arises from bodily craving, from the lust of sensations, and from the errors of wrong reasoning. Whatever you do, act always in full presence of mind. Be thoughtful in eating and drinking, in walking or standing, in sleeping or waking, while talking or being silent."

When the courtesan Ambapali heard that the Blessed One was staying in her mango grove, she was exceedingly glad and went in a carriage as far as the ground was passable for carriages. There she alighted and thence proceeding to the place where the Blessed One was, she took her seat respectfully at his feet on one side. As a prudent woman goes forth to perform her religious duties, so she appeared in a simple dress without any ornaments, yet beautiful to look on. The Blessed One thought to himself: "This woman moves in worldly circles and is a favorite of kings and princes; yet is her heart calm and composed. Young in years, rich, surrounded by pleasures, she is thoughtful and steadfast. This, indeed, is rare in the world. Women, as a rule, are scant in wisdom and deeply immersed in vanity; but she, although living in luxury, has acquired the wisdom of a master, taking delight in piety, and able to receive the truth in its completeness."

When she was seated, the Blessed One instructed, aroused, and gladdened her with religious discourse. As she listened to the law, her face brightened with delight. Then she rose and said to the Blessed One: "Will the Blessed One do me the honor of taking his meal, together with the brethren, at my house tomorrow?" And the Blessed One gave, by silence, his consent.

Now, the Licchavi, a wealthy family of princely rank, hearing that the Blessed One had arrived at Vesali and was staying at Ambapali's grove, mounted their magnificent carriages, and proceeded with their retinue to the place where the Blessed One was. The Licchavi were gorgeously dressed in bright colours and decorated with costly jewels. And Ambapali drove up against the young Licchavi, axle to axle, wheel to wheel, and yoke to yoke, and the Licchavi said to Ambapali, the courtesan: "How is it, Ambapali, that you drive up against us thus?"

"My lords," said she, "I have just invited the Blessed One and his brethren for their tomorrow's meal." And the princes replied: "Ambapali! give up this meal to us for a hundred thousand."

"My lords, were you to offer all Vesali with its subject territory, I would not give up so great an honor!"

Then the Licchavi went on to Ambapali's grove. When the Blessed One saw the Licchavi approaching in the distance, he addressed the brethren, and said: "brethren, let those of the brethren who have never seen the gods gaze on this company of the Licchavi, for they are dressed gorgeously, like immortals."

And when they had driven as far the ground was passable for carriages, the Licchavi alighted and went on foot to the place where the Blessed One was, taking their seats respectfully by his side. And when they were thus seated, the Blessed One instructed, aroused, and gladdened them with religious discourse. Then they addressed the Blessed One and said: "Will the Blessed One do us the honor of taking his meal, together with the brethren, at our palace tomorrow?"

"Licchavi," said the Blessed One, I have promised to dine tomorrow with Ambapali, the courtesan." Then the Licchavi, expressing their approval of the words of the Blessed One, arose from their seats and bowed down before the Blessed One, and, keeping him on their right hand as they passed him, they departed thence; but when they came home, they cast up their hands, saying: "A worldly woman has outdone us; we have been left behind by a frivolous girl!"

At the end of the night Ambapali, the courtesan, made ready in her mansion sweet rice and cakes, and on the next day announced through a messenger the time to the Blessed One, saying, "The hour, Lord, has come, and the meal is ready!" And the Blessed One robed himself early in the morning, took his bowl, and went with the brethren to the place where Ambapali's dwelling-house was; and when they had come there they seated themselves on the seats prepared for them. Ambapali, the courtesan, set the sweet rice and cakes before the order, with the Buddha at their head, and waited on them till they refused to take more.

When the Blessed One had finished his meal, the courtesan had a low stool brought, and sat down at his side, and addressed the Blessed One, and said: "Lord, I present this mansion to the order of bhikkhus, of which the Buddha is the chief." And the Blessed One accepted the gift; and after instructing, arousing, and gladdening her with religious edification, he rose from his seat and departed thence.

The Buddha's Farewell

When the Blessed One had remained as long as he wished at Ambapali's grove, he went to Beluva, near Vesali. There the Blessed One addressed the brethren, and said: "Mendicants, take up your abode for the rainy season round about Vesali, each one according to the place where his friends and near companions may live. I shall enter on the rainy season here at Beluva."

When the Blessed One had thus entered on the rainy season there fell on him a dire sickness and sharp pains came on him even to death. But the Blessed One, mindful and self-possessed, bore his ailments without complaint. Then this thought occurred to the Blessed. It would not be right for me to pass away from life without addressing the disciples, without taking leave of the order. Let me now, by a strong effort of the will, subdue this sickness, and keep my hold on life till the allotted time have come." And the Blessed One by a strong effort of the will subdued the sickness, and kept his hold on life till the time he fixed on should come. And the sickness abated.

Thus the Blessed One began to recover; and when he had quite got rid of the sickness, he went out from the monastery, and sat down on a seat spread out in the open air. And the venerable Ananda, accompanied by many other disciples, approached where the Blessed One was, saluted him, and taking a seat respectfully on one side, said: "'I have beheld, Lord, how the Blessed One was in health, and I have beheld how the Blessed One had to suffer. And though at the sight of the sickness of the Blessed One my body became weak as a creeper, and the horizon became dim to me, and my faculties were no longer clear, yet notwithstanding I took some little comfort from the thought that the Blessed One would not pass away from existence till at least he had left instructions as touching the order."

The Blessed One addressed Ananda in behalf of the order, saying: "What, then, Ananda, does the order expect of me? I have preached the truth without making any distinction between doctrine hidden or revealed; for in respect of the truth, Ananda, the Tathagatha has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher, who keeps some things back.

"Surely, Ananda, should there be any one who harbor the thought, "It is I who will lead the brotherhood,' or, 'The order is dependent on me,' he should lay down instructions in any matter concerning the order. Now the Tathagatha, Ananda, thinks not that it is he who should lead the brotherhood, or that the order is dependent on him. Why, then, should the Tathagatha leave instructions in any matter concerning the order?

"I am now grown old, Ananda, and full of years; my journey is drawing to its close, I have reached the sum of my days, I am turning eighty years of age. Just as a wornout cart can not be made to move along without much difficulty, so the body of the Tathagatha can only be kept going with much additional care. It is only when the Tathagatha, Ananda, ceasing to attend to any outward thing, becomes plunged in that devout meditation of heart which is concerned with no bodily object, it is only then that the body of the Tathagatha is at ease.

"Therefore, Ananda, be you lamps to yourselves. Rely on yourselves, and do not rely on external help. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Seek salvation alone in the truth. Look not for assistance to any one besides yourselves.

"And how, Ananda, can a brother be a lamp to himself, rely on himself only and not on any external help, holding fast to the truth as his lamp and seeking salvation in the truth alone, looking not for assistance to any one besides himself? Herein, Ananda, let a brother, as he dwells in the body, so regard the body that he, being strenuous, thoughtful, and mindful, may, while in the world, overcome the grief which arises from the body's cravings. While subject to sensations let him continue so to regard the sensations that he, being strenuous, thoughtful, and mindful, may, while in the world, overcome the grief which arises from the sensations. And so, also, when he thinks or reasons, or feels, let him so regard his thoughts that being strenuous, thoughtful and mindful he may, while in the world, overcome the grief which arises from the craving due to ideas, or to reasoning, or to feeling.

"Those who, either now or after I am dead, shall be lamps to themselves, relying on themselves only and not relying on any external help, but holding fast to the truth as their lamp, and seeking their salvation in the truth alone, and shall not look for assistance to any one besides themselves, it is they, Ananda, among my bhikkhus, who shall reach the very topmost height! But they must be anxious to learn."

The Buddha Announces His Death

Said the Tathagatha [that is, the Buddha] to Ananda: "In former years, Ananda, Mara, the Evil One, approached the holy Buddha three times to tempt him. And now, Ananda, Mara, the Evil One, came again today to the place where I was, and, standing beside me, addressed me in the same words as he did when I was resting under the shepherd's Nigrodha tree on the bank of the Neranjara River: 'Be greeted, you Holy One. You have attained the highest bliss and it is time for you to enter into the final Nirvana.'-And when Mara had thus spoken, Ananda, I answered him and said: 'Make yourself happy, wicked one; the final extinction of the Tathagatha shall take place before long."

The venerable Ananda addressed the Blessed One and said: "Vouchsafe, Lord, to remain with us, Blessed One I for the good and the happiness of the great multitudes, out of pity for the world, for the good and the gain of mankind!" Said the Blessed One: "Enough now, Ananda, beseech not the Tathagatha!"

And again, a second time, the venerable Ananda besought the Blessed One in the same words. He received from the Blessed One the same reply. And again, the third time, the venerable Ananda besought the Blessed One to live longer; and the Blessed One said: "Have you faith, Ananda?" Said Ananda: "I have, my Lord!"

The Blessed One, seeing the quivering eyelids of Ananda, read the deep grief in the heart of his beloved disciple, and he asked again: "Have you, indeed, faith, Ananda?" And Ananda said: "I have faith, my Lord."

Then the Blessed One continued: "If you have faith, Ananda in the wisdom of the Tathagatha, why, then, Ananda, do you trouble the Tathagatha even till the third time? Have I not formerly declared to you that it is in the very nature of all compound things that they must be dissolved again? We must separate ourselves from all things near and dear to us, and must leave them. How then, Ananda, can it be possible for me to remain, since everything that is born, or brought into being, and organized, contains within itself the inherent necessity of dissolution? How, then, can it be possible that this body of mine should not be dissolved? No such condition can exist! And this mortal existence, Ananda, has been relinquished, cast away, renounced, rejected, and abandoned by the Tathagatha."

And the Blessed One said to Ananda: "Go now, Ananda, and assemble in the Service Hall such of the brethren as reside in the neighborhood of Vesali."

Then the Blessed One proceeded to the Service Hall, and sat down there on the mat spread out for him. And when he was seated, the Blessed One addressed the brethren, and said: "brethren, you to whom the truth has been made known, having thoroughly made yourselves masters of it, practice it, meditate on it, and spread it abroad, in order that pure religion may last long and be perpetuated, in order that it may continue for the good and happiness of the great multitudes, out of pity for the world, and to the good and gain of all living beings! Star-gazing and astrology, forecasting lucky or unfortunate events by signs, prognosticating good or evil, all these are things forbidden. He who lets his heart go loose without restraint shall not attain Nirvana; therefore, must we hold the heart in check, and retire from worldly excitements and seek tranquility of mind. Eat your food to satisfy your hunger, and drink to satisfy your thirst. Satisfy the necessities of life like the butterfly that sips the flower, without destroying its fragrance or its texture. It is through not understanding and grasping the four truths, brethren, that we have gone astray so long and wandered in this weary path of transmigrations, both you and I, till we have found the truth. Practice the earnest meditations I have taught you. Continue in the great struggle against sin. Walk steadily in the roads of saintship. Be strong in moral powers. Let the organs of your spiritual sense be quick. When the seven kinds of wisdom enlighten your mind, you will find the noble, eightfold path that leads to Nirvana.

"Behold, brethren, the final extinction of the Tathagatha will take place before long. I now exhort you, saying: All component things must grow old and be dissolved again. Seek you for that which is permanent, and work out your salvation with diligence."

Chunda, the Smith

The Blessed One went to Pava. When Chunda, the worker in metals, heard that the Blessed One had come to Pava and was staying in his mango grove, he came to the Buddha and respectfully invited him and the brethren to take their meal at his house. And Chunda prepared rice-cakes and a dish of dried boar's meat.

When the Blessed One had eaten the food prepared by Chunda, the worker in metals, there fell on him a dire sickness, and sharp pain came on him even to death. But the Blessed One, mindful and self-possessed, bore it without complaint. And the Blessed One addressed the venerable Ananda, and said: "Come, Ananda, let us go on to Kusinara."

On his way the Blessed One grew tired, and he went aside from the road to rest at the foot of a tree, and said: "Fold the robe, I pray you, Ananda, and spread it out for me. I am weary, Ananda, and must rest awhile!" "Be it so, Lord!" said the venerable Ananda; and he spread out the robe folded fourfold. The Blessed One seated himself, and when he was seated he addressed the venerable Ananda, and said: "Fetch me some water, I pray you, Ananda. I am thirsty, Ananda, and would drink."

When he had thus spoken, the venerable Ananda said to the Blessed One: "But just now, Lord, five hundred carts have gone across the brook and have stirred the water; but a river, Lord, is not far off. Its water is clear and pleasant, cool and transparent, and it is easy to get down to it. the Blessed One may both drink water and cool his limbs."

A second time the Blessed One addressed the venerable Ananda, saying: "Fetch me some water, I pray you, Ananda, I am thirsty, Ananda, and would drink."

And a second time the venerable Ananda said: "Let us go to the river."

Then the third time the Blessed One addressed the venerable Ananda, and said: "Fetch me some water, I pray you, Ananda, I am thirsty, Ananda and would drink." "Be it so, Lord!" said the venerable Ananda in assent to the Blessed One; and, taking a bowl, he went down to the streamlet. And lo! the streamlet, which, stirred up by wheels, had become muddy, when the venerable Ananda came up to it, flowed clear and bright and free from all turbidity. And he thought: "How wonderful, how marvelous is the great might and power of the Tathagatha!"

Ananda brought the water in the bowl to the Lord, saying: "Let the Blessed One take the bowl. Let the Happy One drink the water. Let the Teacher of men and gods quench his thirst. Then the Blessed One drank of the water.

Now, at that time a man of low caste, named Pukkusa, a young Malla, a disciple of Alara Kalama, was passing along the high road from Kusinara to Pava. Pukkusa, the young Malla, saw the Blessed One seated at the foot of a tree. On seeing him he went up to the place where the Blessed One was, and when he had come there, he saluted the Blessed One and took his seat respectfully on one side. Then the Blessed One instructed, edified, and gladdened Kukkusa, the young Malla, with religious discourse.

Aroused and gladdened by the words of the Blessed One, Pukkusa, the young Malla, addressed a certain man who happened to pass by, and said: "Fetch me, I pray you, my good man, two robes of cloth of gold, burnished and ready for wear."

"Be it so, sir!" said that man in assent to Pukkusa, the young Malla; and he brought two robes of cloth of gold, burnished and ready for wear.

The Malla Pukkusa presented the two robes of cloth of gold, burnished and ready for wear, to the Blessed One, saying: "Lord, these two robes of burnished cloth of gold are ready for wear. May the Blessed One show me favor and accept them at my hands!"

The Blessed One said: "Pukkusa, robe me in one, and Ananda in the other one." And the Tathagatha's body appeared shining like a flame, and he was beautiful above all expression.

The venerable Ananda said to the Blessed One: "How wonderful a thing is it, Lord, and how marvelous, that the colour of the skin of the Blessed One should be so clear, so exceedingly bright! When I placed this robe of burnished cloth of gold on the body of the Blessed One, lo! it seemed as if it had lost its splendor!"

The Blessed One said: "There are two occasions on which a Tathagatha's appearance becomes clear and exceeding bright. In the night, Ananda, in which a Tathagatha attains to the supreme and perfect insight, and in the night in which he passes finally away in that utter passing away which leaves nothing whatever of his earthly existence to remain.

And the Blessed One addressed the venerable Ananda, and said: "Now it may happen, Ananda, that some one should stir up remorse in Chunda, the smith, by saying: 'It is evil to you, Chunda, and loss to you, that the Tathagatha died, having eaten his last meal from your provision.' Any such remorse, Ananda, in Chunda, the smith, should be checked by saying: 'It is good to you, Chunda, and gain to you, that the Tathagatha died, having eaten his last meal from your provision. From the very mouth of the Blessed One, Chunda, have I heard, from his own mouth have I received this saying, "These two offerings of food are of equal fruit and of much greater profit than any other: the offerings of food which a Tathagatha accepts when he has attained perfect enlightenment and when he passes away by the utter passing away in which nothing whatever of his earthly existence remains behind-these two offerings of food are of equal fruit and of equal profit, and of much greater fruit and much greater profit than any other. There has been laid up by Chunda, the smith, a karma redounding to length of life, redounding to good birth, redounding to good fortune, redounding to good fame, redounding to the inheritance of heaven and of great power."' In this way, Ananda, should be checked any remorse in Chunda, the smith."

Then the Blessed One, perceiving that death was near, uttered these words: "He who gives away shall have real gain. He who subdues himself shall be free, he shall cease to be a slave of passions. The righteous man casts off evil; and by rooting out lust, bitterness, and illusion, do we reach Nirvana."


The Blessed One proceeded with a great company of the brethren to the sala grove of the Mallas, the Upavattana of Kusinara on the further side of the river Hirannavati, and when he had arrived he addressed the venerable Ananda, and said: "Make ready for me, I pray you, Ananda, the couch with its head to the north, between the twin sala trees. I am weary, Ananda, and wish to lie down."

"Be it so, Lord!" said the venerable Ananda, and he spread a couch with its head to the north, between the twin sala trees. And the Blessed One laid himself down, and he was mindful and self-possessed.

Now, at that time the twin sala trees were full of bloom with flowers out of season; and heavenly songs came wafted from the skies, out of reverence for the successor of the Buddhas of old. And Ananda was filled with wonder that the Blessed One was thus honored. But the Blessed One said: "Not by such events, Ananda, is the Tathagatha rightly honored, held sacred, or revered. But the devout man, who continually fulfills the greater and lesser duties, walking according to the precepts, it is who rightly honors, holds sacred, and reveres the Tathagatha with the worthiest homage. Therefore, Ananda, be you constant in the fulfillment of the greater and of the lesser duties, and walk according to the precepts; thus, Ananda, will you honor the Master."

Then the venerable Ananda went into the vihara, and stood leaning against the doorpost, weeping at the thought: "Alas! I remain still but a learner, one who has yet to work out his own perfection. And the Master is about to pass away from me-who is so kind!"

Now, the Blessed One called the brethren, and said: "Where, brethren, is Ananda?" One of the brethren went and called Ananda. And Ananda came and said to the Blessed One: "Deep darkness reigned for want of wisdom; the world of sentient creatures was groping for want of light; then the Tathagatha lit up the lamp of wisdom, and now it will be extinguished again, before he has brought it out."

The Blessed One said to the venerable Ananda, as he sat there by his side: "Enough, Ananda Let not your self be troubled; do not weep! Have I not already, on former occasions, told you that it is in the very nature of all things most near and dear to us that we must separate from them and leave them? The foolish man conceives the idea of 'self,' the wise man sees there is no ground on which to build the idea of 'self,' thus he has a right conception of the world and well concludes that all compounds amassed by sorrow will be dissolved again, but the truth will remain. Why should I preserve this body of flesh, when the body of the excellent law will endure? I am resolved; having accomplished my purpose and attended to the work set me, I look for rest I For a long time, Ananda, you have been very near to me by thoughts and acts of such love as is beyond all measure. You have done well, Ananda I Be earnest in effort and you too shall soon be free from evils, from sensuality, from selfishness, from delusion, and from ignorance!"

Ananda, suppressing his tears, said to the Blessed One: "Who shall teach us when you are gone?"

And the Blessed One replied: "I am not the first Buddha who came on earth, nor shall I be the last. In due time another Buddha will arise in the world, a Holy One, a supremely enlightened One, endowed with wisdom in conduct, auspicious, knowing the universe, an incomparable leader of men, a master of angels and mortals. He will reveal to you the same eternal truths which I have taught you. He will preach his religion, glorious in its origin, glorious at the climax, and glorious at the goal, in the spirit and in the letter. He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfect and pure; such as I now proclaim."

Ananda said: "How shall we know him?" The Blessed One said: "He will be known as Metteyya, which means 'he whose name is kindness.'"

Entering Nirvana

Then the Mallas, with their young men and maidens and their wives, being grieved, and sad, and afflicted at heart, went to the Upavattana, the sala grove of the Mallas, and wanted to see the Blessed One, in order to partake of the bliss that devolves on those who are in the presence of the Holy One.

The Blessed One addressed them and said: "Seeking the way, you must exert yourselves and strive with diligence. It is not enough to have seen me Walk as I have commanded you; free yourselves from the tangled net of sorrow. Walk in the path with steadfast aim. A sick man may be cured by the healing power of medicine and will be rid of all his ailments without beholding the physician. He who does not do what I command sees me in vain. This brings no profit; while he who lives far off from where I am and yet walks righteously is ever near me. A man may dwell beside me, and yet, being disobedient, be far away from me. Yet he who obeys the Dharma will always enjoy the bliss of the Tathagatha's presence."

Then the mendicant Subhadda went to the sala grove of the Mallas and said to the venerable Ananda: "I have heard from fellow mendicants of mine, who were deep stricken in years and teachers of great experience: 'Sometimes and full seldom do Tathagathas appear in the world, the holy Buddhas.' Now it is said that today in the last watch of the night, the final passing away of the samana Gautama will take place. My mind is full of uncertainty, yet have I faith in the samana Gautama and trust he will be able so to present the truth that I may become rid of my doubts. that I might be allowed to see the samana Gautama!"

When he had thus spoken the venerable Ananda said to the mendicant Subhadda: "Enough! friend Subhadda. Trouble not the Tathagatha. The Blessed One is weary." Now the Blessed One overheard this conversation of the venerable Ananda with the mendicant Subhadda. And the Blessed One called the venerable Ananda, and said: "Ananda! Do not keep out Subhadda. Subhadda may be allowed to see the Tathagatha. Whatever Subhadda will ask of me, he will ask from a desire for knowledge, and not to annoy me, and whatever I may say in answer to his questions, that he will quickly understand."

Then the venerable Ananda said: "Step in, friend Subhadda; for the Blessed One gives you leave."

When the Blessed One had instructed Subhadda, and aroused and gladdened him with words of wisdom and comfort, Subhadda said to the Blessed One: "Glorious Lord, glorious Lord! Most excellent are the words of your mouth, most excellent! They set up that which has been overturned, they reveal that which has been hidden. They point out the right road to the wanderer who has gone astray. They bring a lamp into the darkness so that those who have eyes to see can see. Thus, Lord, the truth has been made known to me by the Blessed One and I take my refuge in the Blessed One, in the Truth, and in the Order. May the Blessed One accept me as a disciple and true believer, from this day forth as long as life endures."

And Subhadda, the mendicant, said to the venerable Ananda: "Great is your gain, friend Ananda, great is your good fortune, that for so many years you have been sprinkled with the sprinkling of discipleship in this brotherhood at the hands of the Master himself!"

Now the Blessed One addressed the venerable Ananda, and said: "It may be, Ananda, that in some of you the thought may arise The word of the Master is ended, we have no teacher more!' But it is not thus, Ananda, that you should regard it. It is true that no more shall I receive a body, for all future sorrow has now forever passed away. But though this body will be dissolved, the Tathagatha remains. The truth and the rules of the order which I have set forth and laid down for you all, let them, after I am gone, be a teacher to you.When I am gone, Ananda, let the order, if it should so wish, abolish all the lesser and minor precepts."

Then the Blessed One addressed the brethren, and said: "There may be some doubt or misgiving in the mind of a brother as to the Buddha, or the truth, or the path. Do not have to reproach yourselves afterwards with the thought, 'We did not inquire of the Blessed One when we were face to face with him.' Therefore inquire now, brethren, inquire freely."

The brethren remained silent. Then the venerable Ananda said to the Blessed One: "Verily, I believe that in this whole assembly of the brethren there is not one brother who has any doubt or misgiving as to the Buddha, or the truth, or the path!"

Said the Blessed One: "It is out of the fullness of faith that you have spoken, Ananda! But Ananda, the Tathagatha knows for certain that in this whole assembly of the brethren there is not one brother who has any doubt or misgiving as to the Buddha, or the truth, or the path! For even the most backward, Ananda, of all these brethren has become converted, and is assured of final salvation."

Then the Blessed One addressed the brethren and said: "If you now know the Dharma the cause of all suffering, and the path of salvation, disciples, will you then say: 'We respect the Master, and out of reverence for the Master do we thus speak?'" The brethren replied: "That we shall not, Lord."

And the Holy One continued: "Of those beings who live in ignorance, shut up and confined, as it were, in an egg, I have first broken the egg-shell of ignorance and alone in the universe obtained the most exalted, universal Buddhahood. Thus, disciples, I am the eldest, the noblest of beings.

"But what you speak, disciples, is it not even that which you have yourselves known, yourselves seen, yourselves realized?" Ananda and the brethren said: "It is, Lord."

Once more the Blessed One began to speak: "Behold now, brethren, said he, I exhort you, saying, 'Decay is inherent in all component things, but the truth will remain forever Work out your salvation with diligence!" This was the last word of the Tathagatha. Then the Tathagatha fell into a deep meditation, and having passed through the four jhanas, entered Nirvana.

When the Blessed One entered Nirvana there arose, at his passing out of existence, a mighty earthquake, terrible and awe-inspiring: and the thunders of heaven burst forth, and of those of the brethren who were not yet free from passions some stretched out their arms and wept, and some fell headlong on the ground, in anguish at the thought: "Too soon has the Blessed One died! Too soon has the Happy One passed away from existence! Too soon has the Light of the world gone out!"

Then the venerable Anuruddha exhorted the brethren and said: "Enough, my brethren! Weep not, neither lament! Has not the Blessed One formerly declared this to us, that it is in the very nature of all things near and dear to us, that we must separate from them and leave them, since everything that is born, brought into being, and organized, contains within itself the inherent necessity of dissolution? How then can it be possible that the body of the Tathagatha should not be dissolved? No such condition can exist! Those who are free from passion will bear the loss, calm and self-possessed, mindful of the truth he has taught us."

The venerable Anuruddha and the venerable Ananda spent the rest of the night in religious discourse. Then the venerable Anuruddha said to the venerable Ananda: "Go now, brother Ananda, and inform the Mallas of Kusinara saying, 'The Blessed One has passed away: do, then, whatsoever seemeth fit!'" And when the Mallas had heard this saying they were grieved, and sad, and afflicted at heart.

Then the Mallas of Kusinara gave orders to their attendants, saying, "Gather together perfumes and garlands, and all the music in Kusinara!" And the Mallas of Kusinara took the perfumes and garlands, and all the musical instruments, and five hundred garments, and went to the sala grove where the body of the Blessed One lay. There they passed the day in paying honor and reverence to the remains of the Blessed One, with hymns, and music, and with garlands and perfumes, and in making canopies of their garments, and preparing decorative wreaths to hang thereon. And they burned the remains of the Blessed One as they would do to the body of a king of kings.

When the funeral pyre was lit, the sun and moon withdrew their shining, the peaceful streams on every side were torrent-swollen, the earth quaked, and the sturdy forests shook like aspen leaves, while flowers and leaves fell untimely to the ground, like scattered rain, so that all Kusinara became strewn knee-deep with mandara flowers raining down from heaven.

When the burning ceremonies were over, Devaputta said to the multitudes that were assembled round the pyre: "Behold, brethren, the earthly remains of the Blessed One have been dissolved, but the truth which he has taught us lives in our minds and cleanses us from all error. Let us, then, go out into the world, as compassionate and merciful as our great master, and preach to all living beings the four noble truths and the eightfold path of righteousness, so that all mankind may attain to a final salvation, taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha."

Lion Posture

When the Blessed One had entered into Nirvana and the Mallas had burned the body with such ceremonies as would indicate that he was the great king of kings, ambassadors came from all the empires that at the time had embraced his doctrine, to claim a share of the relics; and the relics were divided into eight parts and eight dagobas were erected for their preservation. One dagoba was erected by the Mallas, and seven others by the seven kings of those countries whose people had taken refuge in the Buddha.


Closing Lines

When the Blessed One had passed away into Nirvana, the disciples came together and consulted what to do in order to keep the Dharma pure and uncorrupted by heresies.

Upali rose, saying: "Our great Master used to say to the brethren: 'Bhikkhus! after my final entrance into Nirvana you must reverence and obey the law. Regard the law as your master. The law is like to a light that shines in the darkness, pointing out the way; it is also like to a precious jewel to gain which you must shun no trouble, and be ready to bring any sacrifice; even, should it be needed, your own lives. Obey the Dharma which I have revealed to you; follow it carefully and if as in no way different from myself.' Such were the words of the Blessed One. The law, accordingly, which the Buddha has left us as a precious inheritance has now become the visible body of the Tathagatha. Let us, therefore, revere it and keep it sacred. For what is the use of erecting dagobas for relics, if we neglect the spirit of the Master's teachings?"

Then Anuruddha arose and said: "Let us bear in mind, brethren, that Gautama Siddhartha has revealed the truth to us. He was the Holy One and the Perfect One and the Blessed One, because the eternal truth had taken abode in him. The Tathagatha taught us that the truth existed before he was born into this world, and will exist after he has entered into Nirvana. The Tathagatha said: 'The truth is omnipresent and eternal, endowed with excellencies innumerable, above all human nature, and ineffable in its holiness.'

"Now let us bear in mind that not this or that law which is revealed to us in the Dhanna is the Buddha, but the entire truth, the truth which is eternal, omnipresent, immutable, and most excellent. Many regulations of the Sangha are temporary; they were prescribed because they suited the occasion and were needed for some transient emergency. The truth, however, is not temporary. The truth is not arbitrary nor a matter of opinion, but can be investigated, and he who earnestly searches for the truth will find it. The truth is hidden to the blind, but he who has the mental eye sees the truth. The truth is Buddha's essence, and the truth will remain the ultimate standard. Let us, then, revere the truth; let us inquire into the truth and state it, and let us obey the truth. For the truth is Buddha our Master, our Teacher."

And Kassapa rose and said: "Truly you have spoken well, brother Anuruddha. Neither is there any conflict of opinion on the meaning of our religion. For the Blessed One possesses three personalities and each of them is of equal importance to us. There is the Dharma Kaya. There is the Nirmana Kaya. There is the Sambhoga Kaya. Buddha is the all-excellent truth, eternal, omnipresent, and immutable: this is the Sambhoga Kaya which is in a state of perfect bliss. Buddha is the all-loving teacher assuming the shape of the beings whom he teaches: this is the Nirmana Kaya, his apparitional body. Buddha is the all-blessed dispensation of religion; he is the spirit of the Sangha and the meaning of the commands left us in his sacred word, the Dharma: this is the Dharma Kaya, the body of the most excellent law.

"If Buddha had not appeared to us as Gautama Sakyamuni, how could we have the sacred traditions of his doctrine? And if the generations to come did not have the sacred traditions preserved in the Sangha, how could they know anything of the great Sakyamuni? And neither we nor others would know anything about the most excellent truth which is eternal, omnipresent, and immutable. Let us then keep sacred and revere the traditions; let us keep sacred the memory of Gautama Sakyamuni, so that people may find the truth."

Then the brethren decided to convene a synod to lay down the doctrines of the Blessed One, to collate the sacred writings, and to establish a canon which should serve as a source of instruction for future generations.

The above is the last third of a book collated by Paul Carus. The first part is Buddhist discourses, and the second part is a life of Buddha.


Buddha Parables from Gospel of Buddha by Paul Carus, Buddhist tales, Buddhism, Literature  

Carus, Paul. The Gospel of Buddha: Compiled from Ancient Records. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1984 and 1915.

Pali Canon collections:

AN - Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses arranged according to numbers)

DN - Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses)

MN - Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Middle-Length Discourses)

SN - Samyutta Nikaya (Collection of Kindred Sayings)


Harvesting the hay

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

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