The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

III. Persons

21 (1) Saviṭṭha
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. Then the Venerable Saviṭṭha and the Venerable Mahākoṭṭhita approached the Venerable Sāriputta and exchanged greetings with him. When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, they sat down to one side. The Venerable Sāriputta then said to the Venerable Saviṭṭha:
    “Friend Saviṭṭha, there are these three kinds of persons found existing in the world. What three? The body witness, the one attained to view, and the one liberated by faith. These are the three kinds of persons found existing in the world. Which of these three kinds of persons do you consider the most excellent and sublime?”
    “Friend Sāriputta, of those three kinds of persons, I consider the one liberated by faith to be the most excellent and sublime. For what reason? Because this person’s faculty of faith is predominant.”
    Then the Venerable Sāriputta said to the Venerable Mahākoṭṭhita: “Friend Koṭṭhita, there are these three kinds of persons found existing in the world…. [119] Which of these three kinds of persons do you consider the most excellent and sublime?”
    “Friend Sāriputta, of those three kinds of persons, I consider the body witness to be the most excellent and sublime. For what reason? Because this person’s faculty of concentration is predominant.”
    Then the Venerable Mahākoṭṭhita said to the Venerable Sāriputta: “Friend Sāriputta, there are these three kinds of persons found existing in the world…. Which of these three kinds of persons do you consider the most excellent and sublime?”
    “Friend Koṭṭhita, of those three kinds of persons, I consider the one attained to view to be the most excellent and sublime. For what reason? Because this person’s faculty of wisdom is predominant.”
    Then the Venerable Sāriputta said to the Venerable Saviṭṭha and the Venerable Mahākoṭṭhita: “Friends, we have each explained according to our own ideal. Come, let’s approach the Blessed One and report this matter to him. We will retain it in mind as he explains it to us.”
    “Yes, friend,” the Venerable Saviṭṭha and the Venerable Mahākoṭṭhita replied. Then the Venerable Sāriputta, the Venerable Saviṭṭha, and the Venerable Mahākoṭṭhita approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. [120] The Venerable Sāriputta then reported to him the entire conversation that had taken place.
    [The Blessed One said:] “It isn’t easy, Sāriputta, to make a definitive declaration about this matter and say: ‘Of these three kinds of persons, this one is the most excellent and sublime.’
    (1) “For it is possible that a person liberated by faith is practicing for arahantship, while a body witness and one attained to view are once-returners or non-returners. It isn’t easy, Sāriputta, to make a definitive declaration about this matter and say: ‘Of these three kinds of persons, this one is the most excellent and sublime.’
    (2) “It is possible that a person who is a body witness is practicing for arahantship, while one liberated by faith and one attained to view are once-returners or non-returners. It isn’t easy, Sāriputta, to make a definitive declaration about this matter and say: ‘Of these three kinds of persons, this one is the most excellent and sublime.’
    (3) “It is possible that a person attained to view is practicing for arahantship, while one liberated by faith and a body witness are once-returners or non-returners. It isn’t easy, Sāriputta, to make a definitive declaration about this matter and say: ‘Of these three kinds of persons, this one is the most excellent and sublime.’“

22 (2) Patients
“Bhikkhus, there are these three kinds of patients found existing in the world. What three? (1) Here, one patient will not recover from his illness whether or not he gets suitable food, suitable medicine, [121] and a competent attendant. (2) Another patient will recover from his illness whether or not he gets suitable food, suitable medicine, and a competent attendant. (3) Still another patient will recover from his illness only if he gets suitable food, not if he fails to get it; only if he gets suitable medicine, not if he fails to get it; and only if he gets a competent attendant, not if he fails to get one.
    “Food and medicine and a competent attendant are prescribed particularly for the sake of the patient who will recover from his illness only if he gets suitable food, not if he fails to get it; only if he gets suitable medicine, not if he fails to get it; and only if he gets a competent attendant, not if he fails to get one. But because of this patient, the other patients should also be served. These are the three kinds of patients found existing in the world.
    “So too, bhikkhus, there are these three kinds of persons similar to patients found existing in the world. What three? (1) Here, some person will not enter upon the fixed course [consisting in] rightness in wholesome qualities whether or not he gets to see the Tathāgata and whether or not he gets to hear the Dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Tathāgata. (2) Then another person will enter upon the fixed course [consisting in] rightness in wholesome qualities whether or not he gets to see the Tathāgata and whether or not he gets to hear the Dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Tathāgata. (3) And still another person will enter upon the fixed course [consisting in] rightness in wholesome qualities only if he gets to see the Tathāgata, not if he fails to see him; only if he gets to hear the Dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Tathāgata, not if he fails to hear it. [122]
    “The teaching of the Dhamma is prescribed particularly for the sake of the person who will enter upon the fixed course [consisting in] rightness in wholesome qualities only if he gets to see the Tathāgata, not if he fails to see him; only if he gets to hear the Dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Tathāgata, not if he fails to hear it. But because of this person, the Dhamma should also be taught to the others. These are the three kinds of persons similar to patients found existing in the world.”

23 (3) Volitional Activities
“Bhikkhus, there are three kinds of persons found existing in the world. What three?
    (1) “Here, bhikkhus, some person generates afflictive bodily activities, afflictive verbal activities, and afflictive mental activities. In consequence, he is reborn in an afflictive world. When he is reborn in an afflictive world, afflictive contacts touch him. Being touched by afflictive contacts, he feels afflictive feelings, exclusively painful, as in the case of hell-beings.
    (2) “Someone else generates an unafflictive bodily activities, unafflictive verbal activities, and unafflictive mental activities. In consequence, he is reborn in an unafflictive world. When he is reborn in an unafflictive world, unafflictive contacts touch him. Being touched by unafflictive contacts, he feels unafflictive feelings, exclusively pleasant, as in the case of the devas of refulgent glory.
    (3) “Still another generates bodily activities that are both afflictive and unafflictive, verbal activities that are both afflictive and unafflictive, and mental activities that are both afflictive and unafflictive. In consequence, [123] he is reborn in a world that is both afflictive and unafflictive. When he is reborn in a world that is both afflictive and unafflictive, both afflictive and unafflictive contacts touch him. Being touched by both afflictive and unafflictive contacts, he feels both afflictive and unafflictive feelings, mingled pleasure and pain, as in the case of human beings, some devas, and some beings in the lower worlds.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the three kinds of persons found existing in the world.”

24 (4) Helpful
“Bhikkhus, these three persons are helpful to another person. What three?
    (1) “The person through whom another has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha. This person is helpful to the other person.
    (2) “Again, the person through whom another comes to understand as it really is: ‘This is suffering,’ and ‘This is the origin of suffering,’ and ‘This is the cessation of suffering,’ and ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ This person is helpful to the other person.
    (3) “Again, the person through whom, with the destruction of the taints, another realizes for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life, the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom; and having entered upon it, dwells in it. This person is helpful to the other person.
    “These three persons are helpful to another person.
    “I say, bhikkhus, that there is no one more helpful to another person than these three persons. I say, too, that it is not easy to repay these three persons by paying homage to them, by rising up for them, by reverential salutation, by proper conduct, and by presenting them with robes, almsfood, lodging, and medicines and provisions for the sick.”

25 (5) Diamond
“Bhikkhus, there are these three kinds of persons found existing in the world. [124] What three? One whose mind is like an open sore, one whose mind is like lightning, and one whose mind is like a diamond.
    (1) “And what, bhikkhus, is the person whose mind is like an open sore? Here, some person is prone to anger and easily exasperated. Even if he is criticized slightly he loses his temper and becomes irritated, hostile, and stubborn; he displays irritation, hatred, and bitterness. Just as a festering sore, if struck by a stick or a shard, will discharge even more matter, so too some person here is prone to anger … and displays irritation, hatred, and bitterness. This person is said to have a mind like an open sore.
    (2) “And what is the person whose mind is like lightning? Here, some person understands at it really is: ‘This is suffering,’ and ‘This is the origin of suffering,’ and ‘This is the cessation of suffering,’ and ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ Just as, in the dense darkness of night, a man with good sight can see forms by a flash of lightning, so too some person here understands at it really is: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ This person is said to have a mind like lightning.
    (3) “And what is the person whose mind is like a diamond? Here, with the destruction of the taints, some person realizes for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life, the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom; and having entered upon it, dwells in it. Just as there is nothing that a diamond cannot cut, whether gem or stone, so too, with the destruction of the taints, some person realizes for himself with direct knowledge … the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom; and … dwells in it. This person is said to have a mind like a diamond.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the three kinds of persons found existing in the world.”

26 (6) To Be Associated With
“Bhikkhus, there are these three kinds of persons found existing in the world. What three? (1) There is a person who is not to be associated with, followed, and served; (2) a person who is to be associated with, followed, and served; and (3) [125] a person who is to be associated with, followed, and served with honor and respect.
    (1) “And what kind of person, bhikkhus, is not to be associated with, followed, and served? Here, some person is inferior [to oneself] in virtuous behavior, concentration, and wisdom. Such a person is not to be associated with, followed, and served except out of sympathy and compassion.
    (2) “And what kind of person is to be associated with, followed, and served? Here, some person is similar [to oneself] in virtuous behavior, concentration, and wisdom. Such a person is to be associated with, followed, and served. For what reason? [Because one considers:] ‘Since we are similar with regard to virtuous behavior, we will have a discussion on virtuous behavior, and it will flow on smoothly between us, and we will feel at ease. Since we are similar with regard to concentration, we will have a discussion on concentration, and it will flow on smoothly between us, and we will feel at ease. Since we are similar with regard to wisdom, we will have a discussion on wisdom, and it will flow on smoothly between us, and we will feel at ease.’ Therefore such a person is to be associated with, followed, and served.
    (3) “And what kind of person is to be associated with, followed, and served with honor and respect? Here, some person is superior [to oneself] in virtuous behavior, concentration, and wisdom. Such a person is to be associated with, followed, and served with honor and respect. For what reason? [Because one considers:] ‘In such a way I will fulfill the aggregate of virtuous behavior that I have not yet fulfilled or assist with wisdom in various respects the aggregate of virtuous behavior that I have fulfilled. I will fulfill the aggregate of concentration that I have not yet fulfilled or assist with wisdom in various respects the aggregate of concentration that I have fulfilled. I will fulfill the aggregate of wisdom that I have not yet fulfilled or assist with wisdom in various respects the aggregate of wisdom that I have fulfilled.’ Therefore such a person is to be associated with, followed, and served with honor and respect.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the three kinds of persons found existing in the world.” [126]

One who associates with an inferior person declines;
one who associates with an equal does not decline;
attending on a superior person one develops quickly;
therefore you should follow one superior to yourself.

27 (7) Disgust
“Bhikkhus, there are these three kinds of persons found existing in the world. What three? (1) There is a person who is to be looked upon with disgust, not to be associated with, followed, and served; (2) a person who is to be looked upon with equanimity, not to be associated with, followed, and served; and (3) a person who is to be associated with, followed, and served.
    (1) “And what kind of person, bhikkhus, is to be looked upon with disgust, not to be associated with, followed, and served? Here, some person is immoral, of bad character, impure, of suspect behavior, secretive in his actions, not an ascetic though claiming to be one, not a celibate though claiming to be one, inwardly rotten, corrupt, depraved. Such a person is to be looked upon with disgust, not to be associated with, followed, and served. For what reason? Even though one does not follow the example of such a person, a bad report still circulates about oneself: ‘He has bad friends, bad companions, bad comrades.’ Just as a snake that has passed through feces, though it does not bite one, would smear one, so too, though one does not follow the example of such a person, a bad report still circulates about oneself: ‘He has bad friends, bad companions, bad comrades.’ Therefore such a person is to be looked upon with disgust, not to be associated with, followed, and served.
    (2) “And what kind of person is to be looked upon with equanimity, not to be associated with, followed, and served? Here, some person is prone to anger [127] and easily exasperated. Even if he is criticized slightly he loses his temper and becomes irritated, hostile, and stubborn; he displays irritation, hatred, and bitterness. Just as a festering sore, if struck by a stick or a shard, will discharge even more matter, so too… Just as a firebrand of the tinduka tree, if struck by a stick or shard, will sizzle and crackle even more, so too… Just as a pit of feces, if struck by a stick or a shard, becomes even more foul-smelling, so too some person here is prone to anger and… displays irritation, hatred, and bitterness. Such a person is to be looked upon with equanimity, not to be associated with, followed, and served. For what reason? [With the thought:] ‘He might insult me, revile me, and do me harm.’ Therefore such a person is to be looked upon with equanimity, not to be associated with, followed, and served.
    (3) “And what kind of person is to be associated with, followed, and served? Here, some person is virtuous and of good character. Such a person is to be associated with, followed, and served. For what reason? Even though one does not follow the example of such a person, a good report still circulates about oneself: ‘He has good friends, good companions, good comrades.’ Therefore such a person is to be associated with, followed, and served.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the three kinds of persons found existing in the world.”

[A verse is attached identical with that in 3:26.]

28 (8) Speech Like Dung
“Bhikkhus, there are these three kinds of persons found existing in the world. [128] What three? The one whose speech is like dung, the one whose speech is like flowers, and the one whose speech is like honey.
    (1) “And what, bhikkhus, is the person whose speech is like dung? Here, if he is summoned to a council, to an assembly, to his relatives’ presence, to his guild, or to the court, and questioned as a witness thus: ‘So, good man, tell what you know,’ then, not knowing, this person says, ‘I know,’ or knowing, he says, ‘I do not know’; not seeing, he says, ‘I see,’ or seeing, he says, ‘I do not see.’ Thus he consciously speaks falsehood for his own ends, or for another’s ends, or for some trifling worldly end. This is called the person whose speech is like dung.
    (2) “And what is the person whose speech is like flowers? Here, if he is summoned to a council, to an assembly, to his relatives’ presence, to his guild, or to the court, and questioned as a witness thus: ‘So, good man, tell what you know,’ then, not knowing, this person says, ‘I do not know,’ or knowing, he says, ‘I know’; not seeing, he says, ‘I do not see,’ or seeing, he says, ‘I see’; he does not consciously speak falsehood for his own ends, or for another’s ends, or for some trifling worldly end. This is called the person whose speech is like flowers.
    (3) “And what is the person whose speech is like honey? Here, some person, having abandoned harsh speech, abstains from harsh speech. He speaks such words as are gentle, pleasing to the ear, and lovable, as go to the heart, are courteous, desired by many, and agreeable to many. This is the person whose speech is like honey.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the three kinds of persons found existing in the world.”

29 (9) Blind
“Bhikkhus, there are these three kinds of persons found existing in the world. What three? The blind person, the one-eyed person, and the two-eyed person.
    (1) “And what, bhikkhus, is the blind person? Here, some person lacks the kind of eye [129] with which one can acquire wealth not yet acquired and increase wealth already acquired, and he also lacks the kind of eye with which one can know wholesome and unwholesome qualities, blameworthy and blameless qualities, inferior and superior qualities, dark and bright qualities with their counterparts. This is called the blind person.
    (2) “And what is the one-eyed person? Here, some person has the kind of eye with which one can acquire wealth not yet acquired and increase wealth already acquired, but he lacks the kind of eye with which one can know wholesome and unwholesome qualities, blameworthy and blameless qualities, inferior and superior qualities, dark and bright qualities with their counterparts. This is called the one-eyed person.
    (3) “And what is the two-eyed person? Here, some person has the kind of eye with which one can acquire wealth not yet acquired and increase wealth already acquired, and he also has the kind of eye with which one can know wholesome and unwholesome qualities, blameworthy and blameless qualities, inferior and superior qualities, dark and bright qualities with their counterparts. This is called the two-eyed person.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the three kinds of persons found existing in the world.”

He does not possess such wealth,
nor does he do deeds of merit;
the blind man destitute of eyes
casts an unlucky throw in both respects.

The person described as one-eyed
is a hypocrite who seeks wealth,
[sometimes] righteously
[and sometimes] unrighteously.

Both by thievish cheatful acts
and by means of false speech
the man indulging in sensual pleasures
is skilled in amassing wealth.
Having gone from here to hell,
the one-eyed person is tormented.

One with two eyes is said to be
the best kind of person.
His wealth is acquired by his own exertion,
with goods righteously gained. [130]

With best intentions he then gives,
this person with an undivided mind.
He goes to [rebirth in] an excellent state
where, having gone, one does not sorrow.

One should avoid from afar
the blind one and the one-eyed person,
but should befriend the one with two eyes,
the best kind of person.

30 (10) Inverted
“Bhikkhus, there are these three kinds of persons found existing in the world. What three? The person with inverted wisdom, the person with lap-like wisdom, and the person with wide wisdom.
    (1) “And what, bhikkhus, is the person with inverted wisdom? Here, some person often goes to the monastery to listen to the Dhamma from the bhikkhus. The bhikkhus teach him the Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing; they reveal the perfectly complete and pure spiritual life. While he is sitting in his seat, he does not attend to that talk at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. After he has risen from his seat, he still does not attend to that talk at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. Just as, when a pot is turned upside down, the water that had been poured into it runs off and does not remain there, so too, some person often goes to the monastery to listen to the Dhamma from the bhikkhus…. After he has risen from his seat, he still does not attend to that talk at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. This is called the person with inverted wisdom.
    (2) “And what is the person with lap-like wisdom? Here, some person often goes to the monastery to listen to the Dhamma from the bhikkhus. The bhikkhus teach him the Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing; they reveal the perfectly complete and pure spiritual life. While he is sitting in his seat, he attends to that talk at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. But after he has risen from his seat, he does not attend to that talk at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. Just as, when a person has various food stuffs strewn over his lap—sesamum seeds, rice grains, cakes, and jujubes—if he loses his mindfulness when rising from that seat, [131] he would scatter them all over, so too, some person often goes to the monastery to listen to the Dhamma from the bhikkhus…. But after he has risen from his seat, he does not attend to that talk at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. This is called the person with lap-like wisdom.
    (3) “And what is the person with wide wisdom? Here, some person often goes to the monastery to listen to the Dhamma from the bhikkhus. The bhikkhus teach him the Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing; they reveal the perfectly complete and pure spiritual life. While he is sitting in his seat, he attends to that talk at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. After he has risen from his seat, again he attends to that talk at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. Just as, when a pot is kept upright, the water that had been poured into it stays there and does not run off, so too, some person often goes to the monastery to listen to the Dhamma from the bhikkhus…. After he has risen from his seat, again he attends to that talk at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. This is called the person with wide wisdom.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the three kinds of persons found existing in the world.”

The person with inverted wisdom,
stupid and undiscerning,
often goes to visit bhikkhus
[to hear them teach the Dhamma].

Yet this person cannot grasp
anything from the talk,
at its beginning, middle, and end,
for he utterly lacks wisdom.

The person with lap-like wisdom
is said to be better than the former.
He too often goes to visit bhikkhus
[to hear them teach the Dhamma].

While sitting in his seat,
he grasps the phrasing of the talk,
at its beginning, middle, and end.
But after rising, he no longer understands,
but forgets what he had learned.

The person with wide wisdom
is said to be the best of these.
He too often goes to visit bhikkhus
[to hear them teach the Dhamma].

While sitting in his seat,
he comprehends the phrasing,
at the beginning, middle, and end
of the talk [given by the bhikkhu].

This person of the best intentions,
his mind undivided, retains [what he hears].
Practicing in accordance with the Dhamma,
he can make an end of suffering. [132]
 

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

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