Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

V. Uposatha

41 (1) In Brief
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: “Bhikkhus!”
    “Venerable sir!” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:
    “Bhikkhus, observed complete in eight factors, the uposatha is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive. And how is the uposatha observed complete in eight factors, so that it is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive? [249]
    (1) “Here, bhikkhus, a noble disciple reflects thus: As long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from the destruction of life; with the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, they dwell compassionate toward all living beings. Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from the destruction of life; with the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, I too shall dwell compassionate toward all living beings. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ This is the first factor it possesses.
    (2) “‘As long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from taking what is not given; they take only what is given, expect only what is given, and dwell with honest hearts devoid of theft. Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from taking what is not given; I shall accept only what is given, expect only what is given, and dwell with an honest heart devoid of theft. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ This is the second factor it possesses.
    (3) “‘As long as they live the arahants abandon sexual activity and observe celibacy, living apart, abstaining from sexual intercourse, the common person’s practice. Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon sexual activity and observe celibacy, living apart, abstaining from sexual intercourse, the common person’s practice. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ This is the third factor it possesses.
    (4) “‘As long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from false speech; they speak truth, adhere to truth; they are trustworthy and reliable, no deceivers of the world. Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from false speech; [250] I shall speak truth, adhere to truth; I shall be trustworthy and reliable, no deceiver of the world. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ This is the fourth factor it possesses.
    (5) “‘As long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness. Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ This is the fifth factor it possesses.
    (6) “‘As long as they live the arahants eat once a day, abstaining from eating at night and from food outside the proper time. Today, for this night and day, I too shall eat once a day, abstaining from eating at night and from food outside the proper time. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ This is the sixth factor it possesses.
    (7) “‘As long as they live the arahants abstain from dancing, singing, instrumental music, and unsuitable shows, and from adorning and beautifying themselves by wearing garlands and applying scents and unguents. Today, for this night and day, I too shall abstain from dancing, singing, instrumental music, and unsuitable shows, and from adorning and beautifying myself by wearing garlands and applying scents and unguents. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ This is the seventh factor it possesses.
    (8) “‘As long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from the use of high and luxurious beds; they lie down on a low resting place, either a small bed or a straw mat. Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from the use of high and luxurious beds; I shall lie down on a low resting place, either a small bed or a straw mat. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect [251] and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ This is the eighth factor it possesses.
    “It is in this way, bhikkhus, that the uposatha is observed complete in eight factors, so that it is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive.”

42 (2) In Detail
“Bhikkhus, observed complete in eight factors, the uposatha is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive. And how is the uposatha observed complete in eight factors, so that it is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive?
    (1) “Here, bhikkhus, a noble disciple reflects thus: As long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from the destruction of life; with the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, they dwell compassionate toward all living beings. Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from the destruction of life; with the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, I too shall dwell compassionate toward all living beings. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ This is the first factor it possesses … [as in 8:41 down to] …
    (8) “‘As long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from the use of high and luxurious beds; they lie down on a low resting place, either a small bed or a straw mat. Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from the use of high and luxurious beds; I shall lie down on a low resting place, either a small bed or a straw mat. I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’ This is the eighth factor it possesses.
    “It is in this way, bhikkhus, that the uposatha is observed complete in eight factors, so that it is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive.” [252]
    “To what extent is it of great fruit and benefit? To what extent is it extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive? Suppose one were to exercise sovereignty and kingship over these sixteen great countries abounding in the seven precious substances, that is, [the countries of] the Aṅgans, the Magadhans, the Kāsis, the Kosalans, the Vajjis, the Mallas, the Cetis, the Vaṃsas, the Kurus, the Pañcālas, the Macchas, the Sūrasenas, the Assakas, the Avantis, the Gandhārans, and the Kambojans: this would not be worth a sixteenth part of the uposatha observance complete in those eight factors. For what reason? Because human kingship is poor compared to celestial happiness.
    “For the devas [ruled by] the four great kings, a single night and day is equivalent to fifty human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of those devas is five hundred such celestial years. It is possible, bhikkhus, for a woman or man who observes the uposatha complete in these eight factors, with the breakup of the body, after death, to be reborn in companionship with the devas [ruled by] the four great kings. It was with reference to this that I said human kingship is poor compared to celestial happiness.
    “For the Tāvatiṃsa devas, a single night and day is equivalent to a hundred human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of those devas is a thousand such celestial years. [253] It is possible, bhikkhus, for a woman or man who observes the uposatha complete in these eight factors, with the breakup of the body, after death, to be reborn in companionship with the Tāvatiṃsa devas. It was with reference to this that I said human kingship is poor compared to celestial happiness.
    “For the Yāma devas, a single night and day is equivalent to two hundred human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of those devas is two thousand such celestial years. It is possible, bhikkhus, for a woman or man who observes the uposatha complete in these eight factors, with the breakup of the body, after death, to be reborn in companionship with the Yāma devas. It was with reference to this that I said human kingship is poor compared to celestial happiness.
    “For the Tusita devas, a single night and day is equivalent to four hundred human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of those devas is four thousand such celestial years. It is possible, bhikkhus, for a woman or man who observes the uposatha complete in these eight factors, with the breakup of the body, after death, to be reborn in companionship with the Tusita devas. It was with reference to this that I said human kingship is poor compared to celestial happiness.
    “For the devas who delight in creation, a single night and day is equivalent to eight hundred human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of those devas is eight thousand such celestial years. It is possible, bhikkhus, for a woman or man [254] who observes the uposatha complete in these eight factors, with the breakup of the body, after death, to be reborn in companionship with the devas who delight in creation. It was with reference to this that I said human kingship is poor compared to celestial happiness.
    “For the devas who control what is created by others, a single night and day is equivalent to sixteen hundred human years; thirty such days make up a month, and twelve such months make up a year. The life span of those devas is sixteen thousand such celestial years. It is possible, bhikkhus, for a woman or man who observes the uposatha complete in these eight factors, with the breakup of the body, after death, to be reborn in companionship with the devas who control what is created by others. It was with reference to this that I said human kingship is poor compared to celestial happiness.”

One should not kill living beings or take what is not given;
one should not speak falsehood or drink intoxicants;
one should refrain from sexual activity, from unchastity;
one should not eat at night or outside the prescribed time.

One should not wear garlands or apply scents;
one should sleep on a [low] bed or a mat on the ground;
this, they say, is the eight-factored uposatha
proclaimed by the Buddha,
who reached the end of suffering.

As far as the sun and moon revolve,
shedding light, so beautiful to gaze upon,
dispellers of darkness, moving through the firmament,
they shine in the sky, brightening up the quarters. [255]

Whatever wealth exists within this sphere—
pearls, gems, and beryl, an excellent stone,
siṅgī gold or [natural mountain] gold,
and the gold called haṭaka
those are not worth a sixteenth part
of an uposatha complete in the eight factors,
just as all the hosts of stars
[do not match] the moon’s radiance.

Therefore a virtuous woman or man,
having observed the uposatha complete in eight factors
and having made merit productive of happiness,
blameless goes to a heavenly state.

43 (3) Visākhā (1)
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Migāramātā’s Mansion in the Eastern Park. Then Visākhā Migāramātā approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The Blessed One then said to her:
    “Visākhā, observed complete in eight factors, the uposatha is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive. And how is the uposatha observed complete in eight factors, so that it is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive?”
    [All as in 8:42, including the verses.] [256-258]

44 (4) Vāseṭṭha
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesālī in the hall with the peaked roof in the Great Wood. Then the male lay follower Vāseṭṭha approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The Blessed One then said to him:
    “Vāseṭṭha, observed complete in eight factors, the uposatha is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive …
    [All as in 8:42, including the verses.] …
    When this was said, the male lay follower Vāseṭṭha said to the Blessed One: [259] “Bhante, if my beloved relatives and family members would observe the uposatha complete in eight factors, that would lead to their welfare and happiness for a long time. If all khattiyas would observe the uposatha complete in eight factors, that would lead to their welfare and happiness for a long time. If all brahmins … vessas … suddas would observe the uposatha complete in eight factors, that would lead to their welfare and happiness for a long time.”
    “So it is, Vāseṭṭha, so it is! If all khattiyas would observe the uposatha complete in eight factors, that would lead to their welfare and happiness for a long time. If all brahmins … vessas … suddas would observe the uposatha complete in eight factors, that would lead to their welfare and happiness for a long time. If the world with its devas, Māra, and Brahmā, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its devas and humans, would observe the uposatha complete in eight factors, that would lead to the welfare and happiness of the world for a long time. If these great sal trees would observe the uposatha complete in eight factors, that would lead to the welfare and happiness of these great sal trees for a long time, [if they could choose]. How much more then for a human being!”

45 (5) Bojjhā
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī at Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. Then the female lay follower Bojjhā approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The Blessed One then said to her:
    “Bojjhā, observed complete in eight factors, the uposatha is of great fruit and benefit, extraordinarily brilliant and pervasive.” [260]
    [All as in 8:42, including the verses.] [261-62]

46 (6) Anuruddha
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Kosambī in Ghosita’s Park. Now on that occasion the Venerable Anuruddha had gone off to pass the day and was in seclusion when a number of agreeable-bodied deities approached him, paid homage to him, stood to one side, and said to him:
    “Bhante Anuruddha, we [263] agreeable-bodied deities exert mastery and exercise control over three things. We immediately acquire whatever color we want. We immediately acquire whatever pleasure we want. And we immediately acquire whatever voice we want. We agreeable-bodied deities exert mastery and exercise control over these three things.”
    Then the Venerable Anuruddha thought: “May all these deities become blue, of blue complexion, with blue clothes and blue ornaments.” Having known the Venerable Anuruddha’s thought, those deities all became blue, of blue complexion, with blue clothes and blue ornaments. Then the Venerable Anuruddha thought: “May all these deities become yellow … red … white, of white complexion, with white clothes and white ornaments.” Having known the Venerable Anuruddha’s thought, those deities all became white, of white complexion, with white clothes and white ornaments.
    Then one of those deities sang, one danced, and one snapped her fingers. Just as, when a musical quintet is well trained and its rhythm well coordinated, and it is composed of skilled musicians, its music is exquisite, tantalizing, lovely, captivating, and intoxicating, [264] just so those deities’ performance was exquisite, tantalizing, lovely, captivating, and intoxicating. Thereupon the Venerable Anuruddha drew in his sense faculties. Then those deities, [thinking:] “Master Anuruddha is not enjoying [this],” disappeared right on the spot.
    Then, in the evening, the Venerable Anuruddha emerged from seclusion and approached the Blessed One. He paid homage to the Blessed One, sat down to one side, and said to him: “Here, bhante, I had gone off to pass the day and was in seclusion … [he reports everything that happened down to] [265] … Then those deities, [thinking:] ‘Master Anuruddha is not enjoying [this],’ disappeared right on the spot.
    “Bhante, how many qualities should a woman possess so that, with the breakup of the body, after death, she is reborn in companionship with the agreeable-bodied deities?”
    “If she possesses eight qualities, Anuruddha, a woman, with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in companionship with the agreeable-bodied deities. What eight?
    (1) “Here, Anuruddha, to whichever husband her parents give her—doing so out of a desire for her good, seeking her welfare, taking compassion on her, acting out of compassion for her—a woman rises before him and retires after him, undertaking whatever needs to be done, agreeable in her conduct and pleasing in her speech.
    (2) “She honors, respects, esteems, and venerates those whom her husband respects—his mother and father, ascetics and brahmins—and when they arrive she offers them a seat and water.
    (3) “She is skillful and diligent in attending to her husband’s domestic chores, whether knitting or weaving; she possesses sound judgment about them in order to carry out and arrange them properly.
    (4) “She finds out what her husband’s domestic helpers [266]—whether slaves, messengers, or workers—have done and left undone; she finds out the condition of those who are ill; and she distributes to each an appropriate portion of food.
    (5) “She guards and protects whatever income her husband brings home— whether money, grain, silver or gold—and she is not a spendthrift, thief, wastrel, or squanderer of his earnings.
    (6) “She is a female lay follower who has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha.
    (7) “She is virtuous, abstaining from the destruction of life, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, false speech, and liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness.
    (8) “She is generous, one who dwells at home with a heart devoid of the stain of miserliness, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in relinquishment, devoted to charity, delighting in giving and sharing.
    “Possessing these eight qualities, Anuruddha, a woman, with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in companionship with the agreeable-bodied deities.”

She does not despise her husband,
the man who constantly supports her,
who ardently and eagerly
always brings her whatever she wants.

Nor does a good woman scold her husband
with speech caused by jealousy;
the wise woman shows veneration
to all those whom her husband reveres.

She rises early, works diligently,
manages the domestic help;
she treats her husband in agreeable ways
and safeguards the wealth he earns.

The woman who fulfills her duties thus,
following her husband’s will and wishes,
is reborn among the devas
called “the agreeable ones.” [267]

47 (7) Visākhā (2)
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Migāramātā’s Mansion in the Eastern Park. Then Visākhā Migāramātā approached the Blessed One … The Blessed One then said to her:
    “Visākhā, possessing eight qualities, a woman, with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in companionship with the agreeable-bodied deities. What eight?”
    [As in 8:46, including the verses.] [268]

48 (8) Nakula
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Bhaggas in Suṃsumāragira in the deer park at Bhesakalā Grove. Then the housewife Nakulamātā approached the Blessed One … The Blessed One then said to her:
    “Nakulamātā, possessing eight qualities, a woman, with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in companionship with the agreeable-bodied deities. What eight?”
    [As in 8:46, including the verses.] [269]

49 (9) The Present World (1)
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Migāramātā’s Mansion in the Eastern Park. Then Visākhā Migāramātā approached the Blessed One … The Blessed One then said to her:
    “Visākhā, possessing four qualities, a woman is heading for victory in the present world and her life in this world succeeds. What four? Here, a woman is capable at her work; she manages the domestic help; she behaves agreeably to her husband; and she safeguards his earnings.
    (1) “And how, Visākhā, is a woman capable at her work? Here, a woman is skillful and diligent in attending to her husband’s domestic chores, whether knitting or weaving; she possesses sound judgment about them in order to carry out and arrange them properly. It is in this way that a woman [270] is capable at her work.
    (2) “And how does a woman manage the domestic help? Here, a woman finds out what her husband’s domestic helpers—whether slaves, messengers, or workers—have done and left undone; she finds out the condition of those who are ill; and she distributes to each an appropriate portion of food. It is in this way that a woman manages the domestic help.
    (3) “And how does a woman behave agreeably to her husband? Here, a woman would not commit any misdeed that her husband would consider disagreeable, even at the cost of her life. It is in this way that a woman behaves agreeably to her husband.
    (4) “And how does a woman safeguard his earnings? Here, a woman guards and protects whatever income her husband brings home—whether money or grain, silver or gold—and she is not a spendthrift, thief, wastrel, or squanderer of his earnings. It is in this way that a woman safeguards his earnings.
    “Possessing these four qualities, a woman is heading for victory in the present world and her life in this world succeeds.
    “Possessing four [other] qualities, Visākhā, a woman is heading for victory in the other world and her life in the other world succeeds. What four? Here, a woman is accomplished in faith, accomplished in virtuous behavior, accomplished in generosity, and accomplished in wisdom.
    (5) “And how, Visākhā, is a woman accomplished in faith? Here, a woman is endowed with faith. She places faith in the enlightenment of the Tathāgata thus: The Blessed One is an arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, fortunate, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.’ It is in this way that a woman is accomplished in faith.
    (6) “And how is a woman accomplished in virtuous behavior? [271] Here, a woman abstains from the destruction of life … from liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness. It is in this way that a woman is accomplished in virtuous behavior.
    (7) “And how is a woman accomplished in generosity? Here, a woman dwells at home with a heart devoid of the stain of miserliness, freely generous, open-handed, delighting in relinquishment, devoted to charity, delighting in giving and sharing. It is in this way that a woman is accomplished in generosity.
    (8) “And how is a woman accomplished in wisdom? Here, a woman is wise; she possesses the wisdom that discerns arising and passing away, which is noble and penetrative and leads to the complete destruction of suffering.  It is in this way that a woman is accomplished in wisdom.
    “Possessing these four qualities, Visākhā, a woman is heading for victory in the other world and her life in the other world succeeds.”

Capable in attending to her work,
managing the domestic help,
she treats her husband in agreeable ways
and safeguards the wealth he earns.

Rich in faith, possessed of virtue,
charitable and devoid of miserliness,
she constantly purifies the path
that leads to safety in the future life.

They call any woman
who has these eight qualities,
virtuous, firm in Dhamma,
a speaker of truth.

Accomplished in sixteen aspects,
complete in eight factors,
such a virtuous female lay follower
is reborn in an agreeable deva world.

50 (10) The Present World (2)
“Bhikkhus, possessing four qualities, a woman is heading for victory in the present world and her life in this world succeeds. What four? [272]
    [What follows is identical with 8:49, inclusive of the verses, but addressed to the bhikkhus.] [273-74]
 

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© Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2012)

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