Nagasena Bhiksu Sutra 2.39

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T 1670B Nāgasena Bhikṣu Sūtra

Part 2: Dialogues 2.39. The Benefits of Previous Endeavour

The king asked Nāgasena again, “Suppose a man were to do good deeds, should he have done it previously, or should he do it after now?”

“He should have done it before, because the good deeds done after now are not beneficial to him, but the good deeds done previous are beneficial to him.” Then Nāgasena asked the king, “Suppose, great king, when you are thirsty and want to drink, and you ask your men to have a well dug out, could that meet the king’s thirst?”

“Certainly not, it cannot meet the immediate thirst of the king. The well should be dug beforehand.”

“It is the same with regard to a person, if a person were to do good deeds, he should have done it early. If he does it late, it is not so beneficial to him.”

Nāgasena again asked the king, “Suppose, when the king feels hungry, then he asks his men to plough the field, to manure it and to sow crops. Could his belly be filled by doing so?”

“Certainly not, there should be a savings of grain.”

“It is the same with regard to a person, he should have done good deeds in advance. If he does good deeds only when he is in danger, it is not beneficial to him.”

Then Nāgasena asked the king, “Suppose, the king has an opponent who he suddenly confronts in battle without preparation, could the king order people to train horses, elephants and men in warfare and also to make weapons?” The king replied, “No, those things should have been prepared in advance. Then the king could go out to the battle at any moment.

If the war has broken out already, it is useless for the king to ask his people to train horses, elephants and men.” Nāgasena said, “Thus the Buddha has said in the sutras: ‘People should strive to perform bodily good actions before (disaster strikes), as good actions performed afterwards are not useful or beneficial. One should not give up the right path and adopt the wrong path, do not follow the ignorant ones who discard good and performs evil and who have to lament and wail afterwards, it is of no use. People who discard righteousness and adopt crookedness are going to repent on their death-bed.’”

“Excellent, Nāgasena.”