The Connected Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

Chapter 11. Sakkasaṃyutta: Connected Discourses with Sakka

I. The First Subchapter (Suvīra)

1 (1) Suvīra
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus!”
    “Venerable sir!” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:
    “Bhikkhus, once in the past the asuras marched against the devas. Then Sakka, lord of the devas, addressed Suvīra, a young deva, thus: ‘Dear Suvīra, these asuras are marching against the devas. Go, dear Suvīra, launch a counter-march against the asuras.’ – ‘Yes, your lordship,’ Suvīra replied, but he became negligent. A second time Sakka addressed Suvīra … <467> … but a second time Suvīra became negligent. A third time Sakka addressed Suvīra … but a third time Suvīra became negligent. [217] Then, bhikkhus, Sakka addressed Suvīra in verse:

858 “‘Where one need not toil and strive
      Yet still may attain to bliss:
      Go there, Suvīra,
      And take me along with you.’

[Suvīra:]

859 “‘That a lazy man who does not toil
      Nor attend to his duties
      Might still have all desires fulfilled:
      Grant me that, Sakka, as a boon.’ <468>

[Sakka:]

860 “‘Where a lazy man who does not toil
      Might achieve unending bliss:
      Go there, Suvīra,
      And take me along with you.’

[Suvīra:]

861 “‘The bliss, supreme deva, we might find
      Without doing work, O Sakka,
      The sorrowless state without despair:
      Grant me that, Sakka, as a boon.’

[Sakka:]

862 “‘If there exists any place anywhere
      Where without work one won’t decline,
      That is indeed Nibbāna’s path:
      Go there, Suvīra,
      And take me along with you.’

“So, bhikkhus, if Sakka, lord of the devas, subsisting on the fruit of his own merit, <469> exercising supreme sovereignty and rulership over the Tāvatiṃsa devas, will be one who speaks in praise of initiative and energy, then how much more would it be fitting here for you, who have gone forth in such a well-expounded Dhamma and Discipline, to toil, struggle, and strive for the attainment of the as-yet-unattained, for the achievement of the as-yet-unachieved, for the realization of the as-yet-unrealized.”

2 (2) Susīma
(This sutta is identical with the preceding one, except that a young deva is named Susīma. Verses 863–67 = 858–62.) [218] <470–72>

3 (3) The Crest of the Standard
At Sāvatthī. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus!”610
    “Venerable sir!” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:
    “Bhikkhus, once in the past the devas and the asuras were arrayed for battle. Then Sakka, lord of the devas, addressed the Tāvatiṃsa devas thus: ‘Dear sirs, when the devas are engaged in battle, [219] if fear or trepidation or terror should arise, on that occasion you should look up at the crest of my standard. For when you look up at the crest of my standard, whatever fear or trepidation or terror you may have will be abandoned.611
    “‘If you cannot look up at the crest of my standard, then you should look up at the crest of the deva-king Pajāpati’s standard. For when you look up at the crest of his standard, whatever fear or trepidation or terror you may have will be abandoned.
    “‘If you cannot look up at the crest of the deva-king Pajāpati’s standard, then you should look up at the crest of the deva-king Varuṇa’s standard…. If you cannot look up at the crest of the deva-king Varuṇa’s standard, then you should look up at the crest of the deva-king Êsāna’s standard…. For when you look up at the crest of his standard, whatever fear or trepidation or terror you may have will be abandoned.’ <473>
    “Bhikkhus, for those who look up at the crest of the standard of Sakka, lord of the devas; or of Pajāpati, the deva-king; or of Varuṇa, the deva-king; or of Êsāna, the deva-king, whatever fear or trepidation or terror they may have may or may not be abandoned. For what reason? Because Sakka, lord of the devas, is not devoid of lust, not devoid of hatred, not devoid of delusion; he can be timid, petrified, frightened, quick to flee.
    “But, bhikkhus, I say this: If you have gone to a forest or to the foot of a tree or to an empty hut, and fear or trepidation or terror should arise in you, on that occasion you should recollect me thus: ‘The Blessed One is an arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, fortunate, knower of the world, unsurpassed leader of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.’ For when you recollect me, bhikkhus, whatever fear or trepidation or terror you may have will be abandoned. [220]
    “If you cannot recollect me, then you should recollect the Dhamma thus: ‘The Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed One, directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise.’ For when you recollect the Dhamma, bhikkhus, whatever fear or trepidation or terror you may have will be abandoned.
    “If you cannot recollect the Dhamma, then you should recollect the Saṅgha thus: ‘The Saṅgha of the Blessed One’s disciples is practising the good way, <474> practising the straight way, practising the true way, practising the proper way; that is, the four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals—this Saṅgha of the Blessed One’s disciples is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world.’ For when you recollect the Saṅgha, bhikkhus, whatever fear or trepidation or terror you may have will be abandoned.
    “For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, the Tathāgata, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One is devoid of lust, devoid of hatred, devoid of delusion; he is brave, courageous, bold, ready to stand his place.”
    This is what the Blessed One said. Having said this, the Fortunate One, the Teacher, further said this:

868 “In a forest, at the foot of a tree,
      Or in an empty hut, O bhikkhus,
      You should recollect the Buddha:
      No fear will then arise in you.

869 “But if you cannot recall the Buddha,
      Best in the world, the bull of men,
      Then you should recall the Dhamma,
      Emancipating, well expounded.

870 “But if you cannot recall the Dhamma,
      Emancipating, well expounded,
      Then you should recall the Saṅgha,
      The unsurpassed field of merit. <475>

871 “For those who thus recall the Buddha,
      The Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, bhikkhus,
      No fear or trepidation will arise,
      Nor any grisly terror.”

4 (4) Vepacitti (or Patience)
At Sāvatthī. The Blessed One said this: [221]
    “Once in the past, bhikkhus, the devas and the asuras were arrayed for battle. Then Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, addressed the asuras thus: lsquo;Dear sirs, in the impending battle between the devas and the asuras, <476> if the asuras win and the devas are defeated, bind Sakka, lord of the devas, by his four limbs and neck and bring him to me in the city of the asuras.’ And Sakka, lord of the devas, addressed the Tāvatiṃsa devas thus: ‘Dear sirs, in the impending battle between the devas and the asuras, if the devas win and the asuras are defeated, bind Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, by his four limbs and neck and bring him to me in the Sudhamma assembly hall.’
    “In that battle, bhikkhus, the devas won and the asuras were defeated. Then the Tāvatiṃsa devas bound Vepacitti by his four limbs and neck and brought him to Sakka in the Sudhamma assembly hall. When Sakka was entering and leaving the Sudhamma assembly hall, Vepacitti, bound by his four limbs and neck, abused and reviled him with rude, harsh words. Then, bhikkhus, Mātali the charioteer addressed Sakka, lord of the devas, in verse:

872 “‘When face to face with Vepacitti
      Is it, Maghavā, from fear or weakness <477>
      That you endure him so patiently,
      Listening to his harsh words?’

[Sakka:]

873 “‘It is neither through fear nor weakness
      That I am patient with Vepacitti.
      How can a wise person like me
      Engage in combat with a fool?’

[Mātali:]

874 “‘Fools would vent their anger even more
      If no one would keep them in check.
      Hence with drastic punishment
      The wise man should restrain the fool.’

[Sakka:]

875 “‘I myself think this alone
      Is the way to check the fool:
      When one knows one’s foe is angry
      One mindfully maintains one’s peace.’

[Mātali:]

876 “‘I see this fault, O Vāsava,
      In practising patient endurance:
      When the fool thinks of you thus,
      “He endures me out of fear,” <478>
      The dolt will chase you even more
      As a bull does one who flees.’ [222]

[Sakka:]

877 “‘Let it be whether or not he thinks,
      “He endures me out of fear,”
      Of goals that culminate in one’s own good
      None is found better than patience.

878 “‘When a person endowed with strength
      Patiently endures a weakling,
      They call that the supreme patience;
      The weakling must be patient always.

879 “‘They call that strength no strength at all—
      The strength that is the strength of folly—
      But no one can reproach a person
      Who is strong because guarded by Dhamma.

880 “‘One who repays an angry man with anger
      Thereby makes things worse for himself.
      Not repaying an angry man with anger, <479>
      One wins a battle hard to win.

881 “‘He practises for the welfare of both,
      His own and the other’s,
      When, knowing that his foe is angry,
      He mindfully maintains his peace.

882 “‘When he achieves the cure of both—
      His own and the other’s—
      The people who consider him a fool
      Are unskilled in the Dhamma.’

“So, bhikkhus, if Sakka, lord of the devas, subsisting on the fruit of his own merit, exercising supreme sovereignty and rulership over the Tāvatiṃsa devas, will be one who speaks in praise of patience and gentleness, then how much more would it be fitting here for you, who have gone forth in such a well-expounded Dhamma and Discipline, to be patient and gentle.”

5 (5) Victory by Well-Spoken Counsel
<480> At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, once in the past the devas and the asuras were arrayed for battle. Then Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, said to Sakka, lord of the devas: ‘Lord of the devas, let there be victory by well-spoken counsel.’ [And Sakka replied:] ‘Vepacitti, let there be victory by well-spoken counsel.’
    “Then, bhikkhus, the devas and the asuras appointed a panel of judges, saying: ‘These will ascertain what has been well spoken and badly spoken by us.’
    “Then Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, said to Sakka, lord of the devas: ‘Speak a verse, lord of the devas.’ When this was said, Sakka said to Vepacitti: ‘You, Vepacitti, being the senior deva here, speak a verse.’ [223] When this was said, Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, recited this verse:

883 “‘Fools would vent their anger even more
      If no one would keep them in check.
      Hence with drastic punishment
      The wise man should restrain the fool.’

“When, bhikkhus, Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, spoke this verse, the asuras applauded but the devas were silent. Then Vepacitti said to Sakka: ‘Speak a verse, lord of the devas.’ When this was said, Sakka, lord of the devas, recited this verse:

884 “‘I myself think this alone <481>
      Is the way to check the fool:
      When one knows one’s foe is angry
      One mindfully maintains one’s peace.’

“When, bhikkhus, Sakka, lord of the devas, spoke this verse, the devas applauded but the asuras were silent. Then Sakka said to Vepacitti: ‘Speak a verse, Vepacitti.’ When this was said, Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, recited this verse:

885 “‘I see this fault, O Vāsava,
      In practising patient endurance:
      When the fool thinks of you thus,
      “He endures me out of fear,”
      The dolt will chase you even more
      As a bull does one who flees.’

“When, bhikkhus, Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, spoke this verse, the asuras applauded but the devas were silent. Then Vepacitti said to Sakka: ‘Speak a verse, lord of the devas.’ When this was said, Sakka, lord of the devas, recited these verses:

886–891 “‘Let it be whether or not he thinks,
      … (verses = 877–82)… [224] <482>
      Are unskilled in the Dhamma.’

“When, bhikkhus, these verses were spoken by Sakka, lord of the devas, the devas applauded but the asuras were silent. Then the panel of judges appointed by the devas and the asuras said this: ‘The verses spoken by Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, are in the sphere of punishment and violence; hence [they entail] conflict, contention, and strife. But the verses spoken by Sakka, lord of the devas, <483> are in the sphere of nonpunishment and nonviolence; hence [they entail] freedom from conflict, freedom from contention, and freedom from strife. Sakka, lord of the devas, has won the victory by well-spoken counsel.’
    “In this way, bhikkhus, Sakka, lord of the devas, won the victory by well-spoken counsel.”

6 (6) The Bird Nests
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, once in the past the devas and the asuras were arrayed for battle. In that battle the asuras won and the devas were defeated. In defeat the devas withdrew towards the north while the asuras pursued them. Then Sakka, lord of the devas, addressed his charioteer Mātali in verse:

892 “‘Avoid, O Mātali, with your chariot pole
      The bird nests in the silk-cotton woods;
      Let’s surrender our lives to the asuras <484>
      Rather than make these birds nestless.’

“‘Yes, your lordship,’ Mātali the charioteer replied, and he turned back the chariot with its team of a thousand thoroughbreds.
    “Then, bhikkhus, it occurred to the asuras: ‘Now Sakka’s chariot with its team of a thousand thoroughbreds has turned back. [225] The devas will engage in battle with the asuras for a second time.’ Stricken by fear, they entered the city of the asuras. In this way, bhikkhus, Sakka, lord of the devas, won a victory by means of righteousness itself.”

7 (7) One Should Not Transgress
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, once in the past, when Sakka, lord of the devas, was alone in seclusion, the following reflection arose in his mind: ‘Though someone may be my sworn enemy, I should not transgress even against him.’
    “Then, bhikkhus, Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, <485> having known with his own mind the reflection in Sakka’s mind, approached Sakka, lord of the devas. Sakka saw Vepacitti coming in the distance and said to him: ‘Stop, Vepacitti, you’re caught!’ – ‘Dear sir, do not abandon the idea that just occurred to you.’ – ‘Swear, Vepacitti, that you won’t transgress against me.’

[Vepacitti:]

893 ‘“Whatever evil comes to a liar,
      Whatever evil to a reviler of noble ones,
      Whatever evil to a betrayer of friends,
      Whatever evil to one without gratitude:
      That same evil touches the one
      Who transgresses against you, Sujā’s husband.’”

8 (8) Verocana, Lord of the Asuras
At Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove. Now on that occasion the Blessed One had gone for his day’s abiding and was in seclusion. Then Sakka, <486> lord of the devas, and Verocana, lord of the asuras, approached the Blessed One and stood one at each door post. Then Verocana, lord of the asuras, recited this verse in the presence of the Blessed One:625

894 “A man should make an effort
      Until his goal has been achieved.
      Goals shine when achieved:
      This is the word of Verocana.” [226]

[Sakka:]

895 “A man should make an effort
      Until his goal has been achieved.
      Of goals that shine when achieved,
      None is found better than patience.”

[Verocana:]

896 “All beings are bent on a goal
      Here or there as fits the case,
      But for all creatures association
      Is supreme among enjoyments.
      Goals shine when achieved:
      This is the word of Verocana.” <487>

[Sakka:]

897 “All beings are bent upon a goal
      Here or there as fits the case,
      But for all creatures association
      Is supreme among enjoyments.
      Of goals that shine when achieved,
      None is found better than patience.”

9 (9) Seers in a Forest
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, once in the past a number of seers who were virtuous and of good character had settled down in leaf huts in a tract of forest. Then Sakka, lord of the devas, and Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, approached those seers.
    “Vepacitti, lord of the asuras, put on his boots, bound his sword on tightly, and, with a parasol borne aloft, entered the hermitage through the main gate; then, having turned his left side towards them, he walked past those seers who were virtuous and of good character. But Sakka, lord of the devas, took off his boots, handed over his sword to others, <488> lowered his parasol, and entered the hermitage through an [ordinary] gate; then he stood on the lee side, raising his joined hands in reverential salutation, paying homage to those seers who were virtuous and of good character.
    “Then, bhikkhus, those seers addressed Sakka in verse:

898 “‘The odour of the seers long bound by their vows,
      Emitted from their bodies, goes with the wind.
      Turn away from here, O thousand-eyed god,
      For the seers’ odour is foul, O deva-king.’

[Sakka:]

899 “‘Let the odour of the seers long bound by their vows,
      Emitted from their bodies, go with the wind;
      We yearn for this odour, O venerable sirs,
      As for a garland of flowers on the head. [227]
      The devas do not perceive it as repulsive.’” <489>

10 (10) Seers by the Ocean
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, once in the past a number of seers who were virtuous and of good character had settled down in leaf huts along the shore of the ocean. Now on that occasion the devas and the asuras were arrayed for a battle. Then it occurred to those seers who were virtuous and of good character: ‘The devas are righteous, the asuras unrighteous. There may be danger to us from the asuras. Let us approach Sambara, lord of the asuras, and ask him for a guarantee of safety.’631
    “Then, bhikkhus, just as quickly as a strong man might extend his drawn-in arm or draw in his extended arm, those seers who were virtuous and of good character disappeared from their leaf huts along the shore of the ocean and reappeared in the presence of Sambara, lord of the asuras. Then those seers addressed Sambara in verse:

900 “‘The seers who have come to Sambara
      Ask him for a guarantee of safety. <490>
      For you can give them what you wish,
      Whether it be danger or safety.’

[Sambara:]

901 “‘I’ll grant no safety to the seers,
      For they are hated devotees of Sakka;
      Though you appeal to me for safety,
      I’ll give you only danger.’

[The seers:]

902 “‘Though we have asked for safety,
      You give us only danger.
      We receive this at your hands:
      May ceaseless danger come to you!

903 “‘Whatever sort of seed is sown,
      That is the sort of fruit one reaps:
      The doer of good reaps good;
      The door of evil reaps evil.
      By you, dear, has the seed been sown;
      Thus you will experience the fruit.’

“Then, bhikkhus, having put a curse on Sambara, lord of the asuras, just as quickly as a strong man might extend his drawn-in arm <491> or draw in his extended arm, those seers who were virtuous and of good character disappeared from the presence of Sambara and reappeared in their leaf huts on the shore of the ocean. [228] But after being cursed by those seers who were virtuous and of good character, Sambara, lord of the asuras, was gripped by alarm three times in the course of the night.” <492>
 

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© Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2000)

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