Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

I. Bhaṇḍagāma

1 (1) Understood
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Vajjis at Bhaṇḍagāma. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus: “Bhikkhus!”
    “Venerable sir!” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this: “Bhikkhus, it is because of not understanding and penetrating four things that you and I have roamed and wandered for such a long stretch of time. What four?
    “It is, bhikkhus, because of not understanding and penetrating noble virtuous behavior, noble concentration, noble wisdom, and noble liberation that you and I have roamed and wandered for such a long stretch of time.
    “Noble virtuous behavior has been understood and penetrated. Noble concentration has been understood and penetrated. Noble wisdom has been understood and penetrated. Noble liberation has been understood and penetrated. Craving for existence has been cut off; the conduit to existence has been destroyed; now there is no more renewed existence.”
    This is what the Blessed One said. Having said this, the Fortunate One, the Teacher, further said this: [2]

“Virtuous behavior, concentration, wisdom,
and unsurpassed liberation:
these things the illustrious Gotama
understood by himself.

“Having directly known these things,
the Buddha taught the Dhamma to the bhikkhus.
The Teacher, the end-maker of suffering,
the One with Vision, has attained nibbāna.”

2 (2) Fallen
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, one who does not possess four things is said to have fallen from this Dhamma and discipline. What four? (1) One who does not possess noble virtuous behavior is said to have fallen from this Dhamma and discipline. (2) One who does not possess noble concentration … (3) One who does not possess noble wisdom … (4) One who does not possess noble liberation is said to have fallen from this Dhamma and discipline. One who does not possess these four things is said to have fallen from this Dhamma and discipline.
    “But, bhikkhus, one who possesses four things is said to be secure in this Dhamma and discipline. What four? (1) One who possesses noble virtuous behavior is said to be secure in this Dhamma and discipline. (2) One who possesses noble concentration … (3) One who possesses noble wisdom … (4) One who possesses noble liberation is said to be secure in this Dhamma and discipline. One who possesses these four things is said to be secure in this Dhamma and discipline.”

Collapsed and fallen, they fall away;
the greedy ones come back again.
Done is the task, the delightful is delighted in;
happiness is reached by happiness.

3 (3) Maimed (1)
“Bhikkhus, possessing four qualities, the foolish, incompetent, bad person maintains himself in a maimed and injured condition; he is blameworthy [3] and subject to reproach by the wise; and he generates much demerit. What four?
    (1) “Without investigating and scrutinizing, he speaks praise of one who deserves dispraise. (2) Without investigating and scrutinizing, he speaks dispraise of one who deserves praise. (3) Without investigating and scrutinizing, he believes a matter that merits suspicion. (4) Without investigating and scrutinizing, he is suspicious about a matter that merits belief. Possessing these four 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 four 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 four?
    (1) “Having investigated and scrutinized, he speaks dispraise of one who deserves dispraise. (2) Having investigated and scrutinized, he speaks praise of one who deserves praise. (3) Having investigated and scrutinized, he is suspicious about a matter that merits suspicion. (4) Having investigated and scrutinized, he believes a matter that merits belief. Possessing these four 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.”

He who praises one deserving blame,
or blames one deserving praise,
casts with his mouth an unlucky throw
by which he finds no happiness.

Slight is the unlucky throw at dice
that results in the loss of one’s wealth,
[the loss] of all, oneself included;
much worse is this unlucky throw
of harboring hate against the fortunate ones.

For a hundred thousand and thirty-six
nirabbudas, plus five abbudas, [4]
the slanderer of noble ones goes to hell,
having defamed them with evil speech and mind.

4 (4) Maimed (2)
“Bhikkhus, behaving wrongly toward four persons, 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 four? (1) Behaving wrongly toward his mother, 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. (2) Behaving wrongly toward his father … (3) Behaving wrongly toward the Tathāgata … (4) Behaving wrongly toward a disciple of the Tathāgata ... Behaving wrongly toward these four persons, 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, behaving rightly toward four persons, 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 four? (1) Behaving rightly toward his mother, the wise, competent, good person preserves himself unmaimed and uninjured; he is blameless and beyond reproach by the wise; and he generates much merit. (2) Behaving rightly toward his father … (3) Behaving rightly toward the Tathāgata… (4) Behaving rightly toward a disciple of the Tathāgata… Behaving rightly toward these four persons, the wise, competent, good person preserves himself unmaimed and uninjured; he is blameless and beyond reproach by the wise; and he generates much merit.”

A person who behaves wrongly
toward his mother and father,
toward the enlightened Tathāgata,
or toward his disciple, [5]
generates much demerit.

Because of that unrighteous conduct
toward mother and father,
the wise criticize one here in this world
and after death one goes to the plane of misery.

A person who behaves rightly
toward his mother and father,
toward the enlightened Tathāgata,
or toward his disciple,
generates much merit.

Because of that righteous conduct
toward mother and father,
the wise praise one in this world
and after death one rejoices in heaven.

5 (5) Along with the Stream
“Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of persons found existing in the world. What four? The person who goes along with the stream; the one who goes against the stream; the one who is inwardly firm; and the one who has crossed over and gone beyond, the brahmin who stands on high ground.
    (1) “And what is the person who goes along with the stream? Here, someone indulges in sensual pleasures and performs bad deeds. This is called the person who goes along with the stream.
    (2) “And what is the person who goes against the stream? Here, someone does not indulge in sensual pleasures or perform bad deeds. Even with pain and dejection, weeping with a tearful face, he lives the complete and purified spiritual life. This is called the person who goes against the stream.
    (3) “And what is the person who is inwardly firm? Here, with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters, some person is of spontaneous birth, due to attain final nibbāna there without ever returning from that world. This is called the person who is inwardly firm.
    (4) “And what is the one who has crossed over and gone beyond, the brahmin who stands on high ground? [6] Here, with the destruction of the taints, some person 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. This is called the person who has crossed over and gone beyond, the brahmin who stands on high ground.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the four kinds of persons found existing in the world.”

Those people who are uncontrolled in sense pleasures,
not rid of lust, enjoying sense pleasures here,
repeatedly coming back to birth and old age,
immersed in craving, are “the ones who go along with the stream.”

Therefore a wise person with mindfulness established,
not resorting to sense pleasures and bad deeds,
should give up sense pleasures even if it’s painful:
they call this person “one who goes against the stream.”

One who has abandoned five defilements,
a fulfilled trainee, unable to retrogress,
attained to mind’s mastery, his faculties composed:
this person is called “one inwardly firm.”

One who has comprehended things high and low,
burnt them up, so they’re gone and exist no more:
that sage who has lived the spiritual life,
reached the world’s end, is called
“one who has gone beyond.”

6 (6) One of Little Learning
“Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of persons found existing in the world. What four? One of little learning who is not intent on what he has learnt; one of little learning who is intent on what he has learnt; one of much learning who is not intent on what he has learnt; and one of much learning who is intent on what he has learnt.
    (1) “And how is a person one of little learning who is not intent on what he has learnt? [7] Here, someone has learnt little—that is, of the discourses, mixed prose and verse, expositions, verses, inspired utterances, quotations, birth stories, amazing accounts, and questions-and-answers—but he does not understand the meaning of what he has learnt; he does not understand the Dhamma; and he does not practice in accordance with the Dhamma. In such a way, a person is one of little learning who is not intent on what he has learnt.
    (2) “And how is a person one of little learning who is intent on what he has learnt? Here, someone has learnt little—that is, of the discourses ... questions-and-answers—but having understood the meaning of what he has learnt, and having understood the Dhamma, he practices in accordance with the Dhamma. In such a way, a person is one of little learning who is intent on what he has learnt.
    (3) “And how is a person one of much learning who is not intent on what he has learnt? Here, someone has learnt much—that is, of the discourses … questions-and-answers—but he does not understand the meaning of what he has learnt; he does not understand the Dhamma; and he does not practice in accordance with the Dhamma. In such a way, a person is one of much learning who is not intent on what he has learnt.
    (4) “And how is a person one of much learning who is intent on what he has learnt? Here, someone has learnt much—that is, of the discourses ... questions-and-answers—and having understood the meaning of what he has learnt, and having understood the Dhamma, he practices in accordance with the Dhamma. In such a way, a person is one of much learning who is intent on what he has learnt.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the four kinds of persons found existing in the world.”

If one has little learning
and is not settled in the virtues,
they criticize him on both counts,
virtuous behavior and learning.

If one has little learning
but is well settled in the virtues,
they praise him for his virtuous behavior;
his learning has succeeded.

If one is highly learned
but is not settled in the virtues,
they criticize him for his lack of virtue;
his learning has not succeeded. [8]

If one is highly learned
and is settled in the virtues,
they praise him on both counts,
virtuous behavior and learning.

When a disciple of the Buddha is highly learned,
an expert on the Dhamma, endowed with wisdom,
like a coin of refined mountain gold,
who is fit to blame him?
Even the devas praise such a one;
by Brahmā too he is praised.

7 (7) They Adorn
“Bhikkhus, these four kinds of persons who are competent, disciplined, self-confident, learned, experts on the Dhamma, practicing in accordance with the Dhamma, adorn the Saṅgha. What four?
    (1) “A bhikkhu who is competent, disciplined, self-confident, learned, an expert on the Dhamma, practicing in accordance with the Dhamma, adorns the Saṅgha. (2) A bhikkhunī who is competent … (3) A male lay follower who is competent … (4) A female lay follower who is competent, disciplined, self-confident, learned, an expert on the Dhamma, practicing in accordance with the Dhamma, adorns the Saṅgha.
    “Bhikkhus, these four kinds of persons who are competent, disciplined, self-confident, learned, upholders of the Dhamma, practicing in accordance with the Dhamma, adorn the Saṅgha.”

One who is competent and self-confident,
learned, an expert on the Dhamma,
practicing in accord with the Dhamma,
is called an adornment of the Saṅgha.

A bhikkhu accomplished in virtue,
a learned bhikkhunī,
a male lay follower endowed with faith,
a female lay follower endowed with faith:
these are the ones that adorn the Saṅgha;
these are the Saṅgha’s adornments.

8 (8) Self-Confidence
“Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of self-confidence that the Tathāgata has, possessing which he claims the place of the chief bull, [9] roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and sets in motion the brahma wheel. What four?
    (1) “I do not see any ground on the basis of which an ascetic or brahmin or deva or Māra or Brahmā or anyone in the world might reasonably reprove me, saying: ‘Though you claim to be perfectly enlightened, you are not fully enlightened about these things.’ Since I do not see any such ground, I dwell secure, fearless, and self-confident.
    (2) “I do not see any ground on the basis of which an ascetic or brahmin or deva or Māra or Brahmā or anyone in the world might reasonably reprove me, saying: ‘Though you claim to be one whose taints are destroyed, you have not fully destroyed these taints.’ Since I do not see any such ground, I dwell secure, fearless, and self-confident.
    (3) “I do not see any ground on the basis of which an ascetic or brahmin or deva or Māra or Brahmā or anyone in the world might reasonably reprove me, saying: ‘These things that you have said to be obstructive are not able to obstruct one who engages in them.’ Since I do not see any such ground, I dwell secure, fearless, and self-confident.
    (4) “I do not see any ground on the basis of which an ascetic or brahmin or deva or Māra or Brahmā or anyone in the world might reasonably reprove me, saying: ‘The Dhamma does not lead one who practices it to the complete destruction of suffering, the goal for the sake of which you teach it.’ Since I do not see any such ground, I dwell secure, fearless, and self-confident.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the four kinds of self-confidence that the Tathāgata has, possessing which he claims the place of the chief bull, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and sets in motion the wheel of Brahmā.”

These pathways of doctrine,
formulated in diverse ways,
relied upon by ascetics and brahmins,
do not reach the Tathāgata,
the self-confident one who has passed
beyond the pathways of doctrine.

Consummate, having overcome [everything],
he set in motion the wheel of Dhamma
out of compassion for all beings.
Beings pay homage to such a one,
the best among devas and humans,
who has gone beyond existence. [10]

9 (9) Craving
“Bhikkhus, there are these four ways in which craving arises in a bhikkhu. What four? Craving arises in a bhikkhu because of robes, almsfood, lodgings, or for the sake of life here or elsewhere. These are the four ways in which craving arises in a bhikkhu.”

With craving as companion
a person wanders during this long time.
Going from one state to another,
he does not overcome saṃsāra.

Having known this danger—
that craving is the origin of suffering—
free from craving, devoid of grasping,
a bhikkhu should wander mindfully.

10 (10) Bonds
“Bhikkhus, there are these four bonds. What four? The bond of sensuality, the bond of existence, the bond of views, and the bond of ignorance.
    (1) “And what, bhikkhus, is the bond of sensuality? Here, someone does not understand as they really are the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to sensual pleasures. When one does not understand these things as they really are, then sensual lust, sensual delight, sensual affection, sensual infatuation, sensual thirst, sensual passion, sensual attachment, and sensual craving lie deep within one in regard to sensual pleasures. This is called the bond of sensuality.
    (2) “Such is the bond of sensuality. And how is there the bond of existence? Here, someone does not understand as they really are the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to states of existence. When one does not understand these things as they really are, then lust for existence, delight in existence, affection for existence, infatuation with existence, thirst for existence, passion for existence, attachment to existence, and craving for existence lie deep within one in regard to states of existence. This is called the bond of existence.
    (3) “Such are the bond of sensuality and the bond of existence. And how is there the bond of views? Here, someone does not understand as they really are the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to views. When one does not understand these things as they really are, [11] then lust for views, delight in views, affection for views, infatuation with views, thirst for views, passion for views, attachment to views, and craving for views lie deep within one in regard to views. This is called the bond of views.
    (4) “Such are the bond of sensuality, the bond of existence, and the bond of views. And how is there the bond of ignorance? Here, someone does not understand as they really are the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to the six bases for contact. When one does not understand these things as they really are, then, ignorance and unknowing lie deep within one in regard to the six bases for contact. This is called the bond of ignorance. Such are the bond of sensuality, the bond of existence, the bond of views, and the bond of ignorance.
    “One is fettered by bad unwholesome states that are defiling, conducive to renewed existence, troublesome, ripening in suffering, leading to future birth, old age, and death; therefore one is said to be ‘not secure from bondage.’ These are the four bonds.
    “There are, bhikkhus, these four severances of bonds. What four? The severance of the bond of sensuality, the severance of the bond of existence, the severance of the bond of views, and the severance of the bond of ignorance.
    (1) “And what, bhikkhus, is the severance of the bond of sensuality? Here, someone understands as they really are the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to sensual pleasures. When one understands these things as they really are, then sensual lust, sensual delight, sensual affection, sensual infatuation, sensual thirst, sensual passion, sensual attachment, and sensual craving do not lie within one in regard to sensual pleasures. This is called the severance of the bond of sensuality.
    (2) “Such is the severance of the bond of sensuality. And how is there the severance of the bond of existence? Here, someone understands as they really are the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to states of existence. When one understands these things as they really are, then lust for existence, delight in existence, affection for existence, infatuation with existence, thirst for existence, passion for existence, attachment to existence, and craving for existence do not lie within one in regard to states of existence. This is called the severance of the bond of existence.
    (3) “Such are the severance of the bond of sensuality and the severance of the bond of existence. And how is there the severance of the bond of views? Here, someone understands as they really are the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and [12] the escape in regard to views. When one understand these things as they really are, then lust for views, delight in views, affection for views, infatuation with views, thirst for views, passion for views, attachment to views, and craving for views do not lie within one in regard to views. This is called the severance of the bond of views.
    (4) “Such are the severance of the bond of sensuality, the severance of the bond of existence, and the severance of the bond of views. And how is there the severance of the bond of ignorance? Here, someone understands as they really are the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to the six bases for contact. When one understands these things as they really are, then ignorance and unknowing do not lie within one in regard to the six bases for contact. This is called the severance of the bond of ignorance. Such are the severance of the bond of sensuality, the severance of the bond of existence, the severance of the bond of views, and the severance of the bond of ignorance.
    “One is detached from bad unwholesome states that are defiling, conducive to renewed existence, troublesome, ripening in suffering, leading to future birth, old age, and death; therefore one is said to be ‘secure from bondage.’ These are the four severances of bonds.”

Fettered by the bond of sensuality
and the bond of existence,
fettered by the bond of views,
preceded by ignorance,
beings go on in saṃsāra,
led on in birth and death.

But having entirely understood
sense pleasures and the bond of existence,
having uprooted the bond of views
and dissolved ignorance,
the sages have severed all bonds;
they have gone beyond bondage. [13]
 

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

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