The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

IV. The Wheel

31 (1) The Wheel
“Bhikkhus, there are these four wheels. When these four wheels turn, those devas and humans who possess them soon attain greatness and abundance of wealth. What four? Dwelling in a suitable locality, relying on good persons, right resolution, and merits done in the past. These are the four wheels. When these four wheels turn, those devas and humans who possess them soon attain greatness and abundance of wealth.”

When a person dwells in a suitable locality
and makes friends with the noble ones,
when he has formed right resolutions,
and done deeds of merit in the past,
grain, riches, fame, and reputation,
along with happiness accrue to him.

32 (2) Attracting and Sustaining
“Bhikkhus, there are these four means of attracting and sustaining others. What four? Giving, endearing speech, beneficent conduct, and impartiality. These are the four means of attracting and sustaining others.”

Giving, endearing speech,
beneficent conduct, and impartiality
under diverse worldly conditions,
as is suitable to fit each case:
these means of attracting and sustaining
are like the linchpin of a rolling chariot.

If there were no such means
of attracting and sustaining,
neither mother nor father
would be able to obtain esteem
and veneration from their son.

But these means of
attracting and sustaining exist,
and therefore the wise respect them;
thus they attain to greatness
and are highly praised. [33]

33 (3) The Lion
“Bhikkhus, in the evening the lion, the king of beasts, comes out from his lair, stretches his body, surveys the four quarters all around, and roars his lion’s roar three times. Then he sets out in search of game.
    “Whatever animals hear the lion roaring for the most part are filled with fear, a sense of urgency, and terror. Those who live in holes enter their holes; those who live in the water enter the water; those who live in the woods enter the woods; and the birds resort to the sky. Even those royal bull elephants, bound by strong thongs in the villages, towns, and capital cities, burst and break their bonds asunder; frightened, they urinate and defecate and flee here and there. So powerful among the animals is the lion, the king of beasts, so majestic and mighty.
    “So too, bhikkhus, when the Tathāgata arises in the world, 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, he teaches the Dhamma thus: ‘(1) Such is personal existence, (2) such the origin of personal existence, (3) such the cessation of personal existence, (4) such the way to the cessation of personal existence.’
    “When those devas who are long-lived, beautiful, abounding in happiness, dwelling for a long time in lofty palaces, hear the Tathāgata’s teaching of the Dhamma, for the most part they are filled with fear, a sense of urgency, and terror thus: ‘It seems that we are actually impermanent, though we thought ourselves permanent; it seems that we are actually transient, though we thought ourselves everlasting; it seems that we are actually non-eternal, though we thought ourselves eternal. It seems that we are impermanent, transient, non-eternal, included in personal existence.’ So powerful is the Tathāgata, so majestic and mighty is he in this world together with its devas.” [34]

When, through direct knowledge,
the Buddha, the teacher, the peerless person
in this world with its devas,
sets in motion the wheel of Dhamma,
[he teaches] personal existence, its cessation,
the origin of personal existence,
and the noble eightfold path
that leads to the calming down of suffering.

Then even those devas with long life spans—
beautiful, ablaze with glory—
become fearful and filled with terror,
like beasts who hear the lion’s roar.
“It seems that we are impermanent,
not beyond personal existence,” [they say],
when they hear the word of the Arahant,
the Stable One who is fully freed.

34 (4) Confidence
“Bhikkhus, there are these four foremost kinds of confidence. What four?
    (1) “To whatever extent there are beings, whether footless or with two feet, four feet, or many feet, whether having form or formless, whether percipient or non-percipient, or neither percipient nor non-percipient, the Tathāgata, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One is declared the foremost among them. Those who have confidence in the Buddha have confidence in the foremost, and for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is foremost.
    (2) “To whatever extent there are phenomena that are conditioned, the noble eightfold path is declared the foremost among them. Those who have confidence in the noble eightfold path have confidence in the foremost, and for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is foremost.
    (3) “To whatever extent there are phenomena conditioned or unconditioned, dispassion is declared the foremost among them, that is, the crushing of pride, the removal of thirst, the uprooting of attachment, the termination of the round, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, nibbāna. Those who have confidence in the Dhamma have confidence in the foremost, and for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is foremost.
    (4) “To whatever extent there are Saṅghas or groups, the Saṅgha of the Tathāgata’s disciples is declared the foremost among them, 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. [35] Those who have confidence in the Saṅgha have confidence in the foremost, and for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is foremost.
   “These are the four foremost kinds of confidence.”

For those confident in regard to the foremost,
knowing the foremost Dhamma,
confident in the Buddha—the foremost—
unsurpassed, worthy of offerings;

for those confident in the foremost Dhamma,
in the blissful peace of dispassion;
for those confident in the foremost Saṅgha,
the unsurpassed field of merit;

for those giving gifts to the foremost,
the foremost kind of merit increases:
the foremost life span, beauty, and glory,
good reputation, happiness, and strength.

The wise one who gives to the foremost,
concentrated upon the foremost Dhamma,
having become a deva or a human being,
rejoices, having attained the foremost.

35 (5) Vassakāra
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the squirrel sanctuary. Then the brahmin Vassakāra, the chief minister of Magadha, approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him. When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, he sat down to one side and said to the Blessed One:
    “Master Gotama, we describe someone who possesses four qualities as a great man with great wisdom. What four? (1) Here, someone is highly learned in the various fields of learning. (2) He understands the meaning of various statements, so that he can say: ‘This is the meaning of this statement; this is the meaning of that one.’ (3) He has a good memory; he remembers and recollects what was done and said long ago. (4) He is skillful and diligent in attending to the diverse chores of a householder; he possesses sound judgment about them in order to carry out and arrange them properly. We describe someone who possesses these four qualities as a great man with great wisdom. If Master Gotama thinks what I say should be approved, let him approve it. If he thinks what I say should be rejected, let him reject it.”
    “I neither approve of your [statement], brahmin, nor do I reject it. [36] Rather, I describe one who possesses four [other] qualities as a great man with great wisdom. What four? (1) Here, he is practicing for the welfare and happiness of many people; he is one who has established many people in the noble method, that is, in the goodness of the Dhamma, in the wholesomeness of the Dhamma. (2) He thinks whatever he wants to think and does not think what he does not want to think; he intends whatever he wants to intend and does not intend what he does not want to intend; thus he has attained to mental mastery over the ways of thought. (3) He gains at will, without trouble or difficulty, the four jhānas that constitute the higher mind and are pleasant dwellings in this very life. (4) With the destruction of the taints, he has realized for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life, the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom; and having entered upon it, he dwells in it.
    “I neither approve of your [statement], brahmin, nor do I reject it. But I describe someone who possesses these four qualities as a great man with great wisdom.”
    “It is astounding and amazing, Master Gotama, how well this has been stated by Master Gotama. And we consider Master Gotama as one who possesses these four qualities. (1) For he is practicing for the welfare and happiness of many people; he is one who has established many people in the noble method, that is, in the goodness of the Dhamma, in the wholesomeness of the Dhamma. (2) He thinks whatever he wants to think and does not think what he does not want to think; he intends whatever he wants to intend and does not intend what he does not want to intend; thus he has attained to mental mastery over the ways of thought. (3) He gains at will, without trouble or difficulty, the four jhānas that constitute the higher mind and are pleasant dwellings in this very life. (4) With the destruction of the taints, he has realized for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life, the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom; and having entered upon it, he dwells in it.” [37]
    “Surely, brahmin, your words are prying and intrusive. Nevertheless, I will answer you. (1) Indeed, I am practicing for the welfare and happiness of many people; I have established many people in the noble method, that is, in the goodness of the Dhamma, in the wholesomeness of the Dhamma. (2) I think what I want to think and do not think what I do not want to think; I intend what I want to intend and do not intend what I do not want to intend; thus I have attained to mental mastery over the ways of thought. (3) I gain at will, without trouble or difficulty, the four jhānas that constitute the higher mind and are pleasant dwellings in this very life. (4) With the destruction of the taints, I have realized for myself with direct knowledge, in this very life, the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom; and having entered upon it, I dwell in it.”

He who found for the sake of all beings
release from the snare of death;
who revealed the Dhamma, the method,
for the benefit of devas and humans;
he in whom many people gain confidence
when they see and listen to him;
the one skilled in the path and what is not the path,
the taintless one who accomplished his task;
the Enlightened One bearing his final body
is called “a great man of great wisdom.”

36 (6) Doṇa
On one occasion the Blessed One was traveling along the highway between Ukkaṭṭhā and Setavya. The brahmin Doṇa was also traveling along the highway between Ukkaṭṭhā and Setavya. The brahmin Doṇa then saw the thousand-spoked wheels of the Blessed One’s footprints, with their rims and hubs, complete in all respects, and thought: “It is astounding and amazing! These surely could not be the footprints of a human being!” [38]
    Then the Blessed One left the highway and sat down at the foot of a tree, folding his legs crosswise, straightening his body, and establishing mindfulness in front of him. Tracking the Blessed One’s footprints, the brahmin Doṇa saw the Blessed One sitting at the foot of the tree—graceful, inspiring confidence, with peaceful faculties and peaceful mind, one who had attained to the highest taming and serenity, [like] a tamed and guarded bull elephant with controlled faculties. He then approached the Blessed One and said to him:
    (1) “Could you be a deva, sir?”
    “I will not be a deva, brahmin.”
    (2) “Could you be a gandhabba, sir?”
    “I will not be a gandhabba, brahmin.”
    (3) “Could you be a yakkha, sir?”
    “I will not be a yakkha, brahmin.”
    (4) “Could you be a human being, sir?”
    “I will not be a human being, brahmin.”
    “When you are asked: ‘Could you be a deva, sir?’ you say: ‘I will not be a deva, brahmin.’ When you are asked: ‘Could you be a gandhabba, sir?’ you say: ‘I will not be a gandhabba, brahmin.’ When you are asked: ‘Could you be a yakkha, sir?’ you say: ‘I will not be a yakkha, brahmin.’ When you are asked: ‘Could you be a human being, sir?’ you say: ‘I will not be a human being, brahmin.’ What, then, could you be, sir?”
    (1) “Brahmin, I have abandoned those taints because of which I might have become a deva; I have cut them off at the root, made them like palm stumps, obliterated them so that they are no longer subject to future arising. (2) I have abandoned those taints because of which I might have become a gandhabba … (3) … might have become a yakkha … (4) … might have become a human being; I have cut them off at the root, made them like palm stumps, obliterated them so that they are no longer subject to future arising. Just as a blue, red, or white lotus flower, though born in the water and grown up in the water, rises above the water and stands [39] unsoiled by the water, even so, though born in the world and grown up in the world, I have overcome the world and dwell unsoiled by the world. Remember me, brahmin, as a Buddha.

“I have destroyed those taints by which
I might have been reborn as a deva
or as a gandhabba that travels through the sky;
by which I might have reached the state of a yakkha,
or arrived back at the human state:
I have dispelled and cut down these taints.

“As a lovely white lotus
is not soiled by the water,
I am not soiled by the world:
therefore, O brahmin, I am a Buddha.”

37 (7) Non-Decline
“Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who possesses four qualities is incapable of decline and is in the vicinity of nibbāna. What four? Here, a bhikkhu is accomplished in virtuous behavior, guards the doors of the sense faculties, observes moderation in eating, and is intent on wakefulness.
    (1) “And how is a bhikkhu accomplished in virtuous behavior? Here, a bhikkhu is virtuous; he dwells restrained by the Pātimokkha, possessed of good conduct and resort, seeing danger in minute faults. Having undertaken the training rules, he trains in them. It is in this way that a bhikkhu is accomplished in virtuous behavior.
    (2) “And how does a bhikkhu guard the doors of the sense faculties? Here, having seen a form with the eye, a bhikkhu does not grasp its marks and features. Since, if he left the eye faculty unrestrained, bad unwholesome states of longing and dejection might invade him, he practices restraint over it; he guards the eye faculty, he undertakes the restraint of the eye faculty. Having heard a sound with the ear … Having smelt an odor with the nose … Having tasted a taste with the tongue … Having felt a tactile object with the body … Having cognized a mental phenomenon with the mind, a bhikkhu does not grasp its marks and features. Since, if he left the mind faculty unrestrained, bad unwholesome states of longing and dejection [40] might invade him, he practices restraint over it; he guards the mind faculty, he undertakes the restraint of the mind faculty. It is in this way that a bhikkhu guards the doors of the sense faculties.
    (3) “And how does a bhikkhu observe moderation in eating? Here, reflecting thoroughly, a bhikkhu consumes food neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the support and maintenance of this body, for avoiding harm, and for assisting the spiritual life, considering: ‘Thus I shall terminate the old feeling and not arouse a new feeling, and I shall be healthy and blameless and dwell at ease.’ It is in this way that a bhikkhu observes moderation in eating.
    (4) “And how is a bhikkhu intent on wakefulness? Here, during the day, while walking back and forth and sitting, a bhikkhu purifies his mind of obstructive qualities. In the first watch of the night, while walking back and forth and sitting, he purifies his mind of obstructive qualities. In the middle watch of the night he lies down on the right side in the lion’s posture, with one foot overlapping the other, mindful and clearly comprehending, after noting in his mind the idea of rising. After rising, in the last watch of the night, while walking back and forth and sitting, he purifies his mind of obstructive qualities. It is in this way that a bhikkhu is intent on wakefulness.
    “A bhikkhu who possesses these four qualities is incapable of decline and is in the vicinity of nibbāna.”

Established in virtuous behavior,
restrained in the sense faculties,
moderate in eating,
intent on wakefulness:

a bhikkhu dwells thus ardently,
unwearying by day and night,
developing wholesome qualities
to attain security from bondage.

A bhikkhu who delights in heedfulness,
seeing the danger in heedlessness,
is incapable of decline:
he is close to nibbāna. [41]

38 (8) Drawn Back
“Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who has dispelled personal truths, totally renounced seeking, and tranquilized bodily activity is said to have drawn back.
    (1) “And how, bhikkhus, has a bhikkhu dispelled personal truths? Here, whatever ordinary personal truths may be held by ordinary ascetics and brahmins—that is, ‘The world is eternal’ or ‘The world is not eternal’; ‘The world is finite’ or ‘The world is infinite’; ‘The soul and the body are the same’ or ‘The soul is one thing, the body another’; ‘The Tathāgata exists after death,’ or ‘The Tathāgata does not exist after death,’ or ‘The Tathāgata both exists and does not exist after death,’ or ‘The Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist after death’—a bhikkhu has discarded and dispelled them all, given them up, rejected them, let go of them, abandoned and relinquished them. It is in this way that a bhikkhu has dispelled personal truths.
    (2) “And how has a bhikkhu totally renounced seeking? Here, a bhikkhu has abandoned the search for sensual pleasures and the search for existence and has allayed the search for a spiritual life. It is in this way that a bhikkhu has totally renounced seeking.
    (3) “And how has a bhikkhu tranquilized bodily activity? Here, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and dejection, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the fourth jhāna, neither painful nor pleasant, which has purification of mindfulness by equanimity. It is in this way that a bhikkhu has tranquilized bodily activity.
    (4) “And how has a bhikkhu drawn back? Here, a bhikkhu has abandoned the conceit ‘I am,’ cut it off at the root, made it like a palm stump, obliterated it so that it is no longer subject to future arising. It is in this way that a bhikkhu has drawn back.
    “Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who has dispelled personal truths, totally renounced seeking, and tranquilized bodily activity is said to have drawn back.” [42]

Seeking for sense pleasures,
seeking for existence,
seeking for a spiritual life;
the tight grasp “Such is the truth,”
viewpoints [that are] swellings:

for one entirely detached from lust,
liberated by the destruction of craving,
such seeking has been relinquished,
and viewpoints are uprooted.

That peaceful, mindful bhikkhu,
tranquil, undefeated, enlightened
by breaking through conceit,
is called “one who has drawn back.”

39 (9) Ujjaya
Then the brahmin Ujjaya approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him. When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, he sat down to one side and said to the Blessed One:
    “Does Master Gotama praise sacrifice?”
    “I do not praise all sacrifice, brahmin, nor do I withhold praise from all sacrifice. (1) I do not praise a violent sacrifice at which cattle, goats, rams, chickens, and pigs are slain, at which various creatures are led to slaughter. (2) For what reason? Because arahants and those who have entered the path to arahantship do not attend a violent sacrifice.
    (3) “But I praise a non-violent sacrifice at which cattle, goats, rams, chickens, and pigs are not slain, where various creatures are not slaughtered, that is, a regular giving, a sacrifice offered by family custom. (4) For what reason? Because arahants and those who have entered the path to arahantship attend a non-violent sacrifice.”

The horse sacrifice, human sacrifice,
sammāpāsavājapeyya, [43] niraggaḷa:
these grand sacrifices, fraught with violence,
do not bring great fruit.

The great seers of right conduct
do not attend a sacrifice
where goats, rams, cattle,
and various creatures are slain.

But when they regularly offer by family custom
sacrifices free from violence,
no goats, sheep, and cattle
or various creatures are slain.

That is the sacrifice the great seers
of right conduct attend.
The wise person should offer this;
this sacrifice is very fruitful.

For one who makes such sacrifice
it is indeed better, never worse.
Such a sacrifice is truly vast
and the deities too are pleased.

40 (10) Udāyī
Then the brahmin Udāyī approached the Blessed One ... and said to him:
    [The prose portion is identical with that of 4:39.]

When a sacrifice is timely and allowable,
well prepared and non-violent, [44]
the self-controlled followers of the spiritual life
attend such a sacrifice as this.

Those in the world who have removed the coverings,
transcenders of time and destination,
the Buddhas who are proficient in sacrifice,
praise this kind of sacrifice.

Having prepared an appropriate gift,
whether of the ordinary kind or in memory of the dead,
one makes the sacrifice with a confident mind
to a fertile field, to followers of the spiritual life.

When what has been properly obtained
is properly offered, properly sacrificed,
to those worthy of offerings,
the sacrifice is vast and the deities are pleased.

The wise person endowed with faith,
having sacrificed thus with a generous mind,
is reborn in a happy world,
in [a realm] without affliction.

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

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