Samyuktagama 264

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Saṃyuktāgama 264. Discourse on a Small Ball of Earth

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park.

At that time a certain monk, while meditating and reflecting, had the thought: “Is there a bodily form that is permanent, lasting and unchanging, that firmly remains. In the same way, is there a feeling … perception … formations … consciousness that is permanent, lasting and unchanging, that firmly remains?”

Then in the afternoon the monk rose from his meditation and approached the Buddha. He paid homage with his head at the Buddha’s feet, withdrew to stand at one side and said to the Buddha:

“Blessed One, while meditating and reflecting, I had the thought: ‘Is there a bodily form that is permanent, lasting and unchanging, that firmly remains. In the same way, is there a feeling … perception … formations … consciousness that is permanent, lasting and unchanging, that firmly remains?’ I now ask the Blessed One: ‘Is there a bodily form that is permanent, lasting and unchanging, that firmly remains? Is there a feeling … perception … formations … consciousness that is permanent, lasting and unchanging, that firmly remains?’”

At that time the Blessed One took in his hand a small ball of earth and said to the monk: “Do you see the ball of earth in my hand?”

The monk said to the Buddha: “I have seen it, Blessed One.”

The Buddha said: “Monk, even a self as much as this small ball of earth cannot be obtained, supposing one could obtain a self which is of a nature to be permanent, lasting and unchanging, that firmly remains.”

The Buddha said to the monk: “I recall in former lives I cultivated merits for a long time, attaining superior, sublime, agreeable, and lovable fruits. For seven years I cultivated a mind of benevolence (mettā). For seven aeons of evolution and destruction I did not return to this world. For seven aeons of destruction I was born in the Heaven of Radiance (ābhassara), for seven aeons of evolution I was in turn born in an empty palace in the Brahmā world, becoming the great Brahmā king, without superior, without anyone higher, ruler over a thousand world systems. After that I became the heavenly king Sakka thirty-six times.

“For a hundred-thousand times I became a noble wheel-turning king, ruler of the four continents, governing by the right Dharma, endowed with the seven treasures, that is, the wheel treasure, the elephant treasure, the horse treasure, the jewel treasure, the precious woman treasure, the master steward treasure, and the master general treasure. I was endowed with a thousand sons, all brave and strong. In the four oceans and on level land there were no poisonous thorns. Without threat, without coercion, I governed by relying on the Dharma.

“As is customary for a consecrated king, I had eighty-four thousand elephants, all adorned with various jewels and decorated, covered with a net of jewels, with bejewelled banners put on them; foremost of them was the elephant-king Uposatha. In the morning and in the afternoon, at these two times they met in front of the palace on their own. Then I thought: ‘This great crowd of elephants come and go again and again, day in day out, killing innumerable beings by stepping on them. Let me now have only forty-two thousand elephants come once in a hundred years.’ According to my wish, out of the eighty-four thousand elephants, only forty-two thousand elephants came once in a hundred years.

“As is customary for a consecrated king, I had also eighty-four thousand horses, with riding equipment made of pure gold, covered with golden nets; foremost of them was the horse-king Valāhaka.

“As is customary for a consecrated king, I had eighty-four thousand chariots, that is, golden chariots, silver chariots, beryl chariots, and crystal chariots, with lion, tiger, leopard hides, and variously coloured woollen blankets as covering and lining; foremost of them was the chariot Vejayanta of beautiful sound.

“As is customary for a consecrated king, I had eighty-four thousand cities, peaceful and flourishing, with abundant people; foremost of them was the royal town Kusāvatī.

“As is customary for a consecrated king, I had eighty-four thousand palaces, that is, of gold, silver, beryl, crystal, and precious gems; foremost of them was the palace Vyūha.

“Monk, as is customary for a consecrated king, I had eighty-four thousand types of bejewelled beds, that is, of gold, silver, beryl, and crystal, with various silk mattresses, woollen rugs, and woollen coverlets, with antelope hide as bedding and red pillows placed on top.

“Again, monk, as is customary for a consecrated king, I had eighty-four thousand garments, that is, silk, linen, cotton, and woollen garments.

“Again, monk, as is customary for a consecrated king, I had eighty-four thousand precious women, that is, women from the warrior class, or women from classes similar to the warrior class, and other women as well.

“Again, monk, as is customary for a consecrated king, I had eighty-four thousand vessels with meals, endowed with a variety of flavours.

“Monk, out of the eighty-four thousand precious women, I had only one waiting on me; out of the eighty-four thousand bejewelled garments, I wore only one garment; out of the eighty-four thousand bejewelled beds, I lay down on only one bed; out of the eighty-four thousand palaces, I dwelled in only one palace; out of the eighty-four thousand cities, I lived in only one city, called Kusāvatī; out of the eighty-four thousand chariots, on going out of the town for sightseeing I drove in only one chariot, called Vejayanta by name; out of the eighty-four thousand horses, I rode only one horse, called Valāhaka, whose hair and tail were of purplish colour; out of the eighty-four thousand elephants, on going out of the town for sightseeing I rode only one elephant, called Uposatha.

“Monk, attaining such might and comfort is the fruit of what deeds? It is the fruit of three types of deed. What are the three? The first is giving, the second is self-discipline, and the third is cultivating the path.

“Monk, you should know, a worldling is defiled by pursuing the five sensual pleasures, without getting enough of them. A noble person, who is accomplished in wisdom, will always be contented.

“Monk, all these formations are from the past and have ceased, they are from the past and have changed. Those various natural endowments that could be given a name, they all have been obliterated.

“Therefore, monk, let all formations be forever appeased, be disenchanted with them, abandon desire for them and be liberated from them!

“Monk, is bodily form permanent or is it impermanent?”

The monk said to the Buddha: “It is impermanent, Blessed One.”

The Buddha said: “What is impermanent, is it dukkha?”

The monk said to the Buddha: “It is dukkha, Blessed One.”

The Buddha said to the monk: “What is impermanent, dukkha, of a nature to change, would a noble disciple herein further conceive it as the self, as distinct from the self in the sense of being owned by it, as existing within the self, or the self as existing within it?”

The monk said to the Buddha: “No, Blessed One.”

The Buddha said: “In the same way, is feeling … perception … formations … consciousness permanent or is it impermanent?”

The monk said to the Buddha: “It is impermanent, Blessed One.”

The Buddha said: “What is impermanent, is it dukkha?”

The monk said to the Buddha: “It is dukkha, Blessed One.”

The Buddha said to the monk: “What is impermanent, dukkha, of a nature to change, would a noble disciple herein further conceive it as the self, as distinct from the self in the sense of being owned by it, as existing within the self, or the self as existing within it?”

The monk said to the Buddha: “No, Blessed One.”

The Buddha said to the monk: “Any bodily form, whether past, future or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, sublime or repugnant, far or near, all such bodily form is not self, is not distinct from the self in the sense of being owned by it, does not exist within the self, nor does a self exist within it. In the same way feeling … perception … formations … consciousness, whether past, future or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, sublime or repugnant, far or near, all that is not self, is not distinct from the self in the sense of being owned by it, does not exist within the self, nor does a self exist within it.

“Monk, you should give rise to disenchantment in regard to bodily form, be free from desire for it and become liberated from it. In the same way you should give rise to disenchantment in regard to feeling … perception … formations … consciousness, be free from desire for it and become liberated from it. Being liberated you will know and see: ‘Birth for me has been eradicated, the holy life has been established, what had to be done has been done, I myself know that there will be no receiving of further existence.’”

Then that monk, having heard what the Buddha had said, was thrilled with delight, paid homage and left. Constantly mindful of the teaching he had received on the earth ball simile, being alone in a quiet place he energetically gave attention to it, being established in it without negligence. Having been established in it without negligence, he came to know that for whose sake a clansman’s son shaves off beard and hair, and out of right faith goes forth into homelessness to train in the path for the unsurpassed supreme holy life, personally knowing here and now and realizing directly that ‘birth for me has been eradicated, the holy life has been established, what had to be done has been done, I myself know that there will be no receiving of further existence.’

Then that venerable one, understanding the Dharma accordingly, with his mind attaining liberation, became an arahant.