Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

I. The Fool

1 (1) Peril
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, whatever perils arise all arise on account of the fool, not on account of the wise person. Whatever calamities arise all arise on account of the fool, not on account of the wise person. Whatever misfortunes arise all arise on account of the fool, not on account of the wise person. Just as a fire that starts in a house made of reeds or grass burns down even a house with a peaked roof, plastered inside and out, draft-free, with bolts fastened and shutters closed; so too, whatever perils arise … all arise on account of the fool, not on account of the wise person. (1) Thus, bhikkhus, the fool brings peril, the wise person brings no peril; (2) the fool brings calamity, the wise person brings no calamity; (3) the fool brings misfortune, the wise person brings no misfortune. There is no peril from the wise person; there is no calamity from the wise person; there is no misfortune from the wise person.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: ‘We will avoid the three qualities possessing which one is known as a fool, and we will undertake and practice those three qualities possessing which one is known as a wise person.’ It is in this way that you should train yourselves.” [102]

2 (2) Characteristics
“Bhikkhus, the fool is characterized by his actions; the wise person is characterized by his actions. Wisdom shines in its manifestation.
    “Bhikkhus, one who possesses three qualities should be known as a fool. What three? Bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, and mental misconduct. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a fool. One who possesses three qualities should be known as a wise person. What three? Bodily good conduct, verbal good conduct, and mental good conduct. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a wise person.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: ‘We will avoid the three qualities possessing which one is known as a fool, and we will undertake and observe those three qualities possessing which one is known as a wise person.’ It is in this way that you should train yourselves.”

3 (3) Thinking
“Bhikkhus, the fool has these three characteristics of a fool, marks of a fool, manifestations of a fool. What three? Here, a fool thinks badly, speaks badly, and acts badly. If the fool did not think badly, speak badly, and act badly, how would wise people know of him: ‘This fellow is a fool, a bad person’? But because the fool thinks badly, speaks badly, and acts badly, wise people know of him: ‘This fellow is a fool, a bad person.’ These are the fool’s three characteristics of a fool, marks of a fool, manifestations of a fool.
    “The wise person has these three characteristics of a wise person, marks of a wise person, manifestations of a wise person. What three? Here, a wise person thinks well, speaks well, and acts well. If the wise person did not think well, speak well, and act well, how would wise people know of him: ‘This fellow is wise, a good person’? [103] But because the wise person thinks well, speaks well, and acts well, wise people know of him: ‘This fellow is wise, a good person.’ These are the wise person’s three characteristics of a wise person, marks of a wise person, manifestations of a wise person.
    “Therefore … [as in 3:2] … It is in this way that you should train yourselves.”

4 (4) Transgression
“Bhikkhus, one who possesses three qualities should be known as a fool. What three? (1) He does not see his transgression as a transgression. (2) When he sees his transgression as a transgression, he does not make amends for it in accordance with the Dhamma. (3) When another person confesses a transgression to him, he does not accept it in accordance with the Dhamma. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a fool.
    “One who possesses three qualities should be known as a wise person. What three? (1) He sees a transgression as a transgression. (2) When he sees a transgression as a transgression, he makes amends for it in accordance with the Dhamma. (3) When another person confesses a transgression to him, he accepts it in accordance with the Dhamma. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a wise person.
    “Therefore … It is in this way that you should train yourselves.”

5 (5) Carelessly
“Bhikkhus, one who possesses three qualities should be known as a fool. What three? (1) He formulates a question carelessly; (2) he replies to a question carelessly; (3) when another person replies to a question carefully, with well-rounded and coherent words and phrases, he does not approve of it. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a fool.
    “One who possesses three qualities should be known as a wise person. What three? (1) He formulates a question carefully; (2) he replies to a question carefully; (3) when another person replies to a question carefully, with well-rounded and coherent words and phrases, he approves of it. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a wise person.
    “Therefore… It is in this way that you should train yourselves.”

6 (6) Unwholesome
“Bhikkhus, one who possesses three qualities should be known as a fool. What three? [104] Unwholesome bodily action, unwholesome verbal action, and unwholesome mental action. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a fool.
    “One who possesses three qualities should be known as a wise person. What three? Wholesome bodily action, wholesome verbal action, and wholesome mental action. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a wise person.
    “Therefore … It is in this way that you should train yourselves.”

7 (7) Blameworthy
“Bhikkhus, one who possesses three qualities should be known as a fool. What three? Blameworthy bodily action, blameworthy verbal action, and blameworthy mental action. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a fool.
    “One who possesses three qualities should be known as a wise person. What three? Blameless bodily action, blameless verbal action, and blameless mental action. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a wise person.
    “Therefore … It is in this way that you should train yourselves.”

8 (8) Afflictive
    “Bhikkhus, one who possesses three qualities should be known as a fool. What three? Afflictive bodily action, afflictive verbal action, and afflictive mental action. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a fool.
    “One who possesses three qualities should be known as a wise person. What three? Unafflictive bodily action, unafflictive verbal action, and unafflictive mental action. One who possesses these three qualities should be known as a wise person.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: ‘We will avoid the three qualities possessing which one is known as a fool, and we will undertake and observe those three qualities possessing which one is known as a wise person.’ It is in this way that you should train yourselves.” [105]

9 (9) Maimed
“Bhikkhus, possessing three qualities, the foolish, incompetent, bad person maintains himself in a maimed and injured condition; he is blameworthy and subject to reproach by the wise; and he generates much demerit. What three? Bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, and mental misconduct. Possessing these three qualities, the foolish, incompetent, bad person maintains himself in a maimed and injured condition; he is blameworthy and subject to reproach by the wise; and he generates much demerit.
    “Bhikkhus, possessing three qualities, the wise, competent, good person preserves himself unmaimed and uninjured; he is blameless and beyond reproach by the wise; and he generates much merit. What three? Bodily good conduct, verbal good conduct, and mental good conduct. Possessing these three qualities, the wise, competent, good person preserves himself unmaimed and uninjured; he is blameless and beyond reproach by the wise; and he generates much merit.”

10 (10) Stains
“Bhikkhus, possessing three qualities and without having abandoned three stains, one is deposited in hell as if brought there. What three? (1) One is immoral and has not abandoned the stain of immorality. (2) One is envious and has not abandoned the stain of envy. (3) One is miserly and has not abandoned the stain of miserliness. Possessing these three qualities and without having abandoned these three stains, one is deposited in hell as if brought there.
    “Bhikkhus, possessing three qualities and having abandoned three stains, one is deposited in heaven as if brought there. What three? (1) One is virtuous and has abandoned the stain of immorality. (2) One is not envious and has abandoned the stain of envy. (3) One is not miserly and has abandoned the stain of miserliness. Possessing these three qualities and having abandoned these three stains, one is deposited in heaven as if brought there.” [106]

How to cite this document:
© Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2012)

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