The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

I. Brahmins

51 (1) Two Brahmins (1)
Then two brahmins who were old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage, a hundred and twenty years of age, approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him. When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, they sat down to one side and said to the Blessed One:
    “We are brahmins, Master Gotama, old, aged … a hundred and twenty years of age. But we have not done anything good and wholesome, nor have we made a shelter for ourselves. Let Master Gotama exhort us and instruct us in a way that will lead to our welfare and happiness for a long time!”
    “Truly, brahmins, you are old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage, a hundred and twenty years of age, but you have not done anything good and wholesome, nor have you made a shelter for yourselves. Indeed, this world is swept away by old age, illness, and death. But though the world is swept away by old age, illness, and death, when one has departed, bodily, verbal, and mental self-control will provide a shelter, a harbor, an island, a refuge, and a support.”

Life is swept along, short is the life span,
no shelters exist for one who has grown old.
Seeing clearly this peril in death,
one should do deeds of merit that bring happiness.

When one departs [this life],
self-control over body, speech, and mind,
and the deeds of merit one did while living,
lead to one’s happiness. [156]

52 (2) Two Brahmins (2)
Then two brahmins who were old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage, a hundred and twenty years of age, approached the Blessed One … and said to him:
    “We are brahmins, Master Gotama, old, aged … a hundred and twenty years of age. But we have not done anything good and wholesome, nor have we made a shelter for ourselves. Let Master Gotama exhort us and instruct us in a way that will lead to our welfare and happiness for a long time!”
    “Truly, brahmins, you are old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage, a hundred and twenty years of age, but you have not done anything good and wholesome, nor have you made a shelter for yourselves. Indeed, this world is burning with old age, illness, and death. But though the world is burning with old age, illness, and death, when one has departed, bodily, verbal, and mental self-control will provide a shelter, a harbor, an island, a refuge, and a support.”

When one’s house is ablaze
the vessel taken out
is the one that will be useful to you,
not the one that is burnt inside.

So since the world is ablaze
with old age and death,
one should take out by giving:
what is given is well taken out.

When one departs [this life],
self-control over body, speech, and mind,
and the deeds of merit one did while alive,
lead to one’s happiness.

53 (3) A Certain Brahmin
Then a certain brahmin approached the Blessed One … and said to him:
    “Master Gotama, it is said: ‘A directly visible Dhamma, a directly visible Dhamma.’ In what way is the Dhamma directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise?”
    (1) “Brahmin, one excited by lust, overcome by lust, with mind obsessed by it, [157] intends for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, and for the affliction of both, and he experiences mental suffering and dejection. But when lust is abandoned, he does not intend for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he does not experience mental suffering and dejection. It is in this way that the Dhamma is directly visible.…
    (2) “One full of hate, overcome by hatred, with mind obsessed by it, intends for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, and for the affliction of both, and he experiences mental suffering and dejection. But when hatred is abandoned, he does not intend for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he does not experience mental suffering and dejection. It is in this way, too, that the Dhamma is directly visible.…
    (3) “One who is deluded, overcome by delusion, with mind obsessed by it, intends for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, and for the affliction of both, and he experiences mental suffering and dejection. But when delusion is abandoned, he does not intend for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he does not experience mental suffering and dejection. It is in this way, too, that the Dhamma is directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise.”
    “Excellent, Master Gotama! Excellent, Master Gotama! Master Gotama has made the Dhamma clear in many ways, as though he were turning upright what had been overthrown, revealing what was hidden, showing the way to one who was lost, or holding up a lamp in the darkness so those with good eyesight can see forms. I now go for refuge to Master Gotama, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha of bhikkhus. Let Master Gotama consider me a lay follower who from today has gone for refuge for life.”

54 (4) A Wanderer
Then a certain brahmin wanderer approached the Blessed One … and said to him:
    “Master Gotama, it is said: ‘A directly visible Dhamma, a directly visible Dhamma.’ In what way is the Dhamma directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise?”
    (1) “Brahmin, one excited by lust, overcome by lust, with mind obsessed by it, intends for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he experiences mental suffering and dejection. But when lust is abandoned, he does not intend for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he does not experience mental suffering and dejection. [158] One excited by lust, overcome by lust, with mind obsessed by it, engages in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when lust is abandoned, he does not engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. One excited by lust, overcome by lust, with mind obsessed by it, does not understand as it really is his own good, the good of others, or the good of both. But when lust is abandoned, he understands as it really is his own good, the good of others, and the good of both. It is in this way, brahmin, that the Dhamma is directly visible … to be personally experienced by the wise
    (2) “One full of hate, overcome by hatred …
    (3) “One who is deluded, overcome by delusion, with mind obsessed by it, intends for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he experiences mental suffering and dejection. But when delusion is abandoned, he does not intend for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he does not experience mental suffering and dejection. One who is deluded, overcome by delusion, with mind obsessed by it, engages in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when delusion is abandoned, he does not engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. One who is deluded, overcome by delusion, with mind obsessed by it, does not understand as it really is his own good, the good of others, or the good of both. But when delusion is abandoned, he understands as it really is his own good, the good of others, and the good of both. It is in this way, too, that the Dhamma is directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise.”
    “Excellent, Master Gotama! … Let Master Gotama consider me a lay follower who from today has gone for refuge for life.”

55 (5) Nibbāna
Then the brahmin Jāṇussoṇī approached the Blessed One … and said to him:
    “Master Gotama, it is said: ‘Directly visible nibbāna, directly visible nibbāna.’ In what way is nibbāna directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise?” [159]
    (1) “Brahmin, one excited by lust, overcome by lust, with mind obsessed by it, intends for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he experiences mental suffering and dejection. But when lust is abandoned, he does not intend for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he does not experience mental suffering and dejection. It is in this way that nibbāna is directly visible.
    (2) “One full of hate, overcome by hatred …
    (3) “One who is deluded, overcome by delusion, with mind obsessed by it, intends for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he experiences mental suffering and dejection. But when delusion is abandoned, he does not intend for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he does not experience mental suffering and dejection. It is in this way, too, that nibbāna is directly visible.
    “When, brahmin, one experiences the remainderless destruction of lust, the remainderless destruction of hatred, and the remainderless destruction of delusion, it is in this way, too, that nibbāna is directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise.”
    “Excellent, Master Gotama! … Let Master Gotama consider me a lay follower who from today has gone for refuge for life.”

56 (6) Depopulation
Then a certain affluent brahmin approached the Blessed One … and said to him:
    “Master Gotama, I have heard older brahmins who are aged, burdened with years, teachers of teachers, saying: ‘In the past this world was so thickly populated one would think there was no space between people. The villages, towns, and capital cities were so close that cocks could fly between them.’ Why is it, Master Gotama, that at present the number of people has declined, depopulation is seen, and villages, [160] towns, cities, and districts have been forsaken?”
    (1) “At present, brahmin, people are excited by illicit lust, overcome by unrighteous greed, afflicted by wrong Dhamma. As a result, they take up weapons and slay one another. Hence many people die. This is a reason why at present the number of people has declined, depopulation is seen, and villages, towns, cities, and districts have been forsaken.
    (2) “Again, at present people are excited by illicit lust, overcome by unrighteous greed, afflicted by wrong Dhamma. When this happens, sufficient rain does not fall. As a result, there is a famine, a scarcity of grain; the crops become blighted and turn to straw. Hence many people die. This is another reason why at present the number of people has declined, depopulation is seen, and villages, towns, cities, and districts have been forsaken.
    (3) “Again, at present people are excited by illicit lust, overcome by unrighteous greed, afflicted by wrong Dhamma. When this happens, the yakkhas release wild spirits. Hence many people die. This is yet another reason why at present the number of people has declined, depopulation is seen, and villages, towns, cities, and districts have been forsaken.”
    “Excellent, Master Gotama! … Let Master Gotama consider me a lay follower who from today has gone for refuge for life.”

57 (7) Vaccha
Then the wanderer Vacchagotta approached the Blessed One ... and said to him:
    “Master Gotama, I have heard: ‘The ascetic Gotama says: “Alms should be given only to me, [161] not to others; alms should be given only to my disciples, not to the disciples of others. Only what is given to me is very fruitful, not what is given to others; only what is given to my disciples is very fruitful, not what is given to the disciples of others.”‘ Do those who speak thus state what has been said by Master Gotama and not misrepresent him with what is contrary to fact? Do they explain in accordance with the Dhamma so that they would not incur any reasonable criticism or ground for censure? For we do not want to misrepresent Master Gotama.”
    “Those, Vaccha, who say: ‘The ascetic Gotama says: “Alms should be given only to me … only what is given to my disciples is very fruitful, not what is given to the disciples of others,”‘ do not state what has been said by me but misrepresent me with what is untrue and contrary to fact. One who prevents another from giving alms creates an obstruction and stumbling block for three people. What three? He creates an obstruction to the donor’s acquiring merit, to the recipients’ gaining a gift, and already he has maimed and injured himself. One who prevents another from giving alms creates an obstruction and stumbling block for these three people.
    “But, Vaccha, I say that one acquires merit even if one throws away dishwashing water in a refuse dump or cesspit with the thought: ‘May the living beings here sustain themselves with this!’ How much more, then, [does one acquire merit] when one gives to human beings! However, I say that what is given to one of virtuous behavior is more fruitful than [what is given] to an immoral person. And [the most worthy recipient] is one who has abandoned five factors and possesses five factors.
    “What five factors has he abandoned? Sensual desire, ill will, dullness [162] and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, and doubt. These are the five factors that he has abandoned.
    “And what five factors does he possess? The virtuous behavior, concentration, wisdom, liberation, and knowledge and vision of liberation of one beyond training. These are the five factors that he possesses.
    “It is in such a way, I say, that what is given to one who has abandoned five factors and possesses five factors is very fruitful.”

Among cattle of any sort,
whether black, white, red, or golden,
mottled, uniform, or pigeon-colored,
the tamed bull is born,
the one that can bear the load,
possessing strength, advancing with good speed.
They yoke the burden just to him;
they are not concerned about his color.

So too, among human beings
it is in any kind of birth—
among khattiyas, brahmins, vessas,
suddas, caṇḍālas, or scavengers—
among people of any sort
that the tamed person of good manners is born:
one firm in Dhamma, virtuous in conduct,
truthful in speech, endowed with moral shame;
one who has abandoned birth and death,
consummate in the spiritual life,
with the burden dropped, detached,
who has done his task, free of taints;
who has gone beyond all things [of the world]
and by non-clinging has reached nibbāna:
an offering is truly vast
when planted in that spotless field.

Fools devoid of understanding,
dull-witted, unlearned,
do not attend on the holy ones
but give their gifts to those outside.
Those, however, who attend on the holy ones,
on the wise ones esteemed as sagely,
and those whose faith in the Fortunate One
is deeply rooted and well established,
go to the world of the devas
or are born here in a good family.
Advancing in successive steps,
those wise ones attain nibbāna. [163]

58 (8) Tikaṇṇa
Then the brahmin Tikaṇṇa approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him … Then, sitting to one side, the brahmin Tikaṇṇa, in the presence of the Blessed One, spoke praise of the brahmins who had mastered the threefold knowledge: “Such are the brahmins who are masters of the threefold knowledge; thus are the brahmins who are masters of the threefold knowledge.”
    [The Blessed One said:] “But how, brahmin, do the brahmins describe a brahmin who is a master of the threefold knowledge?”
    “Here, Master Gotama, a brahmin is well born on both his maternal and paternal sides, of pure descent, unassailable and impeccable with respect to birth as far back as the seventh paternal generation. He is a reciter and preserver of the hymns, a master of the three Vedas with their vocabularies, ritual, phonology, and etymology, and the histories as a fifth; skilled in philology and grammar, he is fully versed in natural philosophy and in the marks of a great man. It is in this way that the brahmins describe a brahmin who is a master of the threefold knowledge.”
    “Brahmin, a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline is quite different from a brahmin who is a master of the threefold knowledge as the brahmins describe him.”
    “But in what way, Master Gotama, is one a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline? It would be good if Master Gotama would teach me the Dhamma in such a way as to make clear how one is a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline.”
    “Well then, brahmin, listen and attend closely. I will speak.”
    “Yes, sir,” the brahmin Tikaṇṇa replied. The Blessed One said this:
    “Here, brahmin, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the first jhāna, which consists of rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by thought and examination. With the subsiding of thought and examination, he enters and dwells in the second jhāna, which has internal placidity and unification of mind and consists of rapture and pleasure born of concentration, without thought and examination. With the fading away as well of rapture, he dwells equanimous and, mindful and clearly comprehending, he experiences pleasure with the body; he enters and dwells in the third jhāna of which the noble ones declare: ‘He is equanimous, mindful, one who dwells happily.’ With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and dejection, [164] he enters and dwells in the fourth jhāna, neither painful nor pleasant, which has purification of mindfulness by equanimity.
    (1) “When his mind is thus concentrated, purified, cleansed, unblemished, rid of defilement, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to the knowledge of the recollection of past abodes. He recollects his manifold past abodes, that is, one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, a hundred births, a thousand births, a hundred thousand births, many eons of world-dissolution, many eons of world-evolution, many eons of world-dissolution and world-evolution thus: ‘There I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my life span; passing away from there, I was reborn elsewhere, and there too I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my life span; passing away from there, I was reborn here.’ Thus he recollects his manifold past abodes with their aspects and details.
    “This is the first true knowledge attained by him. Ignorance is dispelled, true knowledge has arisen; darkness is dispelled, light has arisen, as happens when one dwells heedful, ardent, and resolute.
    (2) “When his mind is thus concentrated, purified, cleansed, unblemished, rid of defilement, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to the knowledge of the passing away and rebirth of beings. With the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, he sees beings passing away and being reborn, inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and he understands how beings fare on in accordance with their kamma thus: ‘These beings who engaged in misconduct by body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong view, and undertook kamma based on wrong view, with the breakup of the body, after death, have been reborn in the plane of misery, in a bad destination, in the lower world, in hell; but these beings who engaged in good conduct by body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right [165] view, and undertook kamma based on right view, with the breakup of the body, after death, have been reborn in a good destination, in a heavenly world.’ Thus with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, he sees beings passing away and being reborn, inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and he understands how beings fare on in accordance with their kamma.
    “This is the second true knowledge attained by him. Ignorance is dispelled, true knowledge has arisen; darkness is dispelled, light has arisen, as happens when one dwells heedful, ardent, and resolute.
    (3) “When his mind is thus concentrated, purified, cleansed, unblemished, rid of defilement, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to the knowledge of the destruction of the taints. He understands as it really is: ‘This is suffering’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘These are the taints’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of the taints’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of the taints’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of the taints.’
    “When he knows and sees thus, his mind is liberated from the taint of sensuality, from the taint of existence, and from the taint of ignorance. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘[It’s] liberated.’ He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming back to any state of being.’
    “This is the third true knowledge attained by him. Ignorance is dispelled, true knowledge has arisen; darkness is dispelled, light has arisen, as happens when one dwells heedful, ardent, and resolute.”

He whose virtue has no vacillation,
who is alert and meditative,
whose mind has been mastered,
one-pointed, well concentrated;

the wise one, dispeller of darkness,
the triple-knowledge bearer, victor over death;
the one they call an abandoner of all,
benefactor of devas and humans;

the one possessing the three knowledges,
who dwells without delusion;
they worship him, the Buddha
Gotama, bearing his final body.

The one who knows his past abodes
and sees heaven and the plane of misery,
the sage consummate in direct knowledge
who has reached the destruction of birth:
he is a triple-knowledge brahmin
through these three kinds of knowledge.
I call him a triple-knowledge master,
not the other one who utters incantations. [166]

   “It is in this way, brahmin, that one is a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline.”
    “Master Gotama, a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline is quite different from a master of the threefold knowledge according to the brahmins. And a master of the threefold knowledge according to the brahmins is not worth a sixteenth part of a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline.
    “Excellent, Master Gotama!… Let Master Gotama consider me a lay follower who from today has gone for refuge for life.”

59 (9) Jāṇussoṇī
Then the brahmin Jāṇussoṇī approached the Blessed One ... and said to him:
    “Master Gotama, whoever has a sacrifice, a memorial meal, an offering dish, or something to be given should give the gift to brahmins who are masters of the threefold knowledge.”
    [The Blessed One said:] “But how, brahmin, do the brahmins describe a brahmin who is a master of the threefold knowledge?”
    “Here, Master Gotama, a brahmin is well born on both sides … [as in 3:58] … and [skilled] in the marks of a great man. It is in this way that the brahmins describe a master of the threefold knowledge.”
    “Brahmin, a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline is quite different from the one that the brahmins describe.”
    “But in what way, Master Gotama, is one a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline? It would be good if Master Gotama would teach me the Dhamma in such a way as to make clear how one is a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline.”
    “Well then, brahmin, listen and attend closely. I will speak.”
    “Yes, sir,” the brahmin Jāṇussoṇī replied. The Blessed One said this:
    “Here, brahmin, secluded from sensual pleasures … [all as in 3:58, down to] [167] … This is the third true knowledge attained by him. Ignorance is dispelled, true knowledge has arisen; darkness is dispelled, light has arisen, as happens when one dwells heedful, ardent, and resolute.”

Possessing virtue and observances,
resolute, concentrated,
his mind mastered,
one-pointed, well concentrated;

one who knows his past abodes
and sees heaven and the plane of misery;
the sage consummate in direct knowledge,
who has reached the end of birth: [168]

by possessing these three knowledges
one is a triple-knowledge brahmin.
I call him a triple-knowledge master,
not the other who utters incantations.

    “It is in this way, brahmin, that one is a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline.”
    “A master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline, Master Gotama, is quite different from a master of the threefold knowledge according to the brahmins. And a master of the threefold knowledge according to the brahmins is not worth a sixteenth part of a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline.
    “Excellent, Master Gotama!… Let Master Gotama consider me a lay follower who from today has gone for refuge for life.”

60 (10) Saṅgārava
Then the brahmin Saṅgārava approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him … Then, sitting to one side, the brahmin Saṅgārava said this to the Blessed One:
    “Master Gotama, we brahmins sacrifice and enjoin others to offer sacrifices. Now both one who himself sacrifices and one who enjoins others to offer sacrifices engage in a meritorious practice that extends to many people, that is, one based on sacrifice. But one who leaves his family and goes forth from the household life into homelessness tames only himself, calms only himself, and leads to nibbāna only himself. In such a case, he engages in a meritorious practice that extends to only one person, that is, one based on going forth.”
    “Well then, brahmin, I will question you about this matter. You should answer as you see fit. What do you think, brahmin? Here, a Tathāgata arises in the world, an arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, fortunate, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, an Enlightened One, a Blessed One. He says thus: ‘Come, this is the path, this is the way. Practicing in accordance with it, I have realized for myself with direct knowledge the unsurpassed culmination of the spiritual life and make it known to others. Come, you too practice thus. Practicing in accordance with it, you too will realize for yourselves with direct knowledge the unsurpassed culmination of the spiritual life and dwell in it.’ Thus the teacher teaches this Dhamma and others [169] practice accordingly. There are many hundreds, many thousands, many hundreds of thousands who do so. What do you think? When this is the case, is that act of going forth a meritorious practice that extends to one person or to many people?”
    “When that is the case, Master Gotama, this is a meritorious practice that extends to many people, that is, one based on going forth.”
    When this was said, the Venerable Ānanda said to the brahmin Saṅgārava: “Of these two practices, brahmin, which appeals to you more as being simpler and less harmful, and as being more fruitful and beneficial?”
    Thereupon the brahmin Saṅgārava said to the Venerable Ānanda: “I consider Master Gotama and Master Ānanda worthy of veneration and praise.”
    A second time the Venerable Ānanda said to the brahmin: “Brahmin, I am not asking you whom you consider worthy of veneration and praise. I am asking you which of those two practices appeals to you as being simpler and less harmful, and as being more fruitful and beneficial?”
    But a second time the brahmin Saṅgārava replied: “I consider Master Gotama and Master Ānanda worthy of veneration and praise.”
    A third time the Venerable Ānanda said to the brahmin: “Brahmin, I am not asking you whom you consider worthy of veneration and praise. I am asking you which of those two practices appeals to you as being simpler and less harmful, and as being more fruitful and beneficial?”
    But a third time the brahmin Saṅgārava replied: “I consider Master Gotama and Master Ānanda worthy of veneration and praise.” [170]
    Then the Blessed One thought: “Even for a third time the brahmin Saṅgārava, on being asked a legitimate question by Ānanda, falters and does not answer. Let me release him.” Then the Blessed One said to the brahmin Saṅgārava: “What conversation, brahmin, arose today among the king’s retinue when they assembled and were sitting in the royal palace?”
    “The conversation was this, Master Gotama: ‘Formerly there were fewer bhikkhus, but more who displayed superhuman wonders of psychic potency. But now there are more bhikkhus, but fewer who display superhuman wonders of psychic potency.’ This was the conversation that arose today among the king’s retinue.”
    “There are, brahmin, these three kinds of wonders. What three? The wonder of psychic potency, the wonder of mind-reading, and the wonder of instruction.
    (1) “And what, brahmin, is the wonder of psychic potency? Here, a bhikkhu wields the various kinds of psychic potency: having been one, he becomes many; having been many, he becomes one; he appears and vanishes; he goes unhindered through a wall, through a rampart, through a mountain as though through space; he dives in and out of the earth as though it were water; he walks on water without sinking as though it were earth; seated cross-legged, he travels in space like a bird; with his hand he touches and strokes the moon and sun so powerful and mighty; he exercises mastery with the body as far as the brahmā world. This is called the wonder of psychic potency.
    (2) “And what, brahmin, is the wonder of mind-reading? There is one who, by means of some clue, declares: ‘Your thought is thus, such is what you are thinking, your mind is in such and such a state.’ And even if he makes many declarations, they are exactly so and not otherwise.
    “Again, someone does not declare [the state of mind] on the basis of a clue, [171] but he hears the sound of people, spirits, or deities [speaking] and then declares: ‘Your thought is thus, such is what you are thinking, your mind is in such and such a state.’ And even if he makes many declarations, they are exactly so and not otherwise.
    “Again, someone does not declare [the state of mind] on the basis of a mark, or by hearing the sound of people, spirits, or deities [speaking], but he hears the sound of the diffusion of thought as one is thinking and examining [some matter] and then declares: ‘Your thought is thus, such is what you are thinking, your mind is in such and such a state.’ And even if he makes many declarations, they are exactly so and not otherwise.
    “Again, someone does not declare [the state of mind] on the basis of a mark, or by hearing the sound of people, spirits, or deities [speaking], or by hearing the sound of the diffusion of thought as one is thinking and examining [some matter], but with his own mind he encompasses the mind of one who has attained concentration without thought and examination and he understands: ‘This person’s mental activities are so disposed that immediately afterwards he will think this thought.’ And even if he makes many declarations, they are exactly so and not otherwise. This is called the wonder of mind-reading.
    (3) “And what, brahmin, is the wonder of instruction? Here, someone instructs [others] thus: ‘Think in this way and not in that way! Attend to this and not to that! Abandon this and enter and dwell in that!’ This is called the wonder of instruction.
    “These, brahmin, are the three kinds of wonders. Of these three wonders, which appeals to you as the most excellent and sublime?”
    “Among these, Master Gotama, when someone performs this wonder by which he wields the various kinds of psychic potency … exercises mastery with the body as far as the brahmā world, only the one who performs this wonder experiences it and it occurs only to him. This wonder seems to me like a magical trick.
    “Again, Master Gotama, when someone performs this wonder by which he declares another’s state of mind on the basis of a clue … by hearing the sound of people, spirits, or deities … by hearing the sound of the diffusion of thought while he is thinking and examining [some matter] … by encompassing with his own mind the mind of one who has attained concentration that is without thought and examination such that he understands: [172] ‘This person’s mental activities are so disposed that immediately afterwards he will think this thought,’ and, even if he makes many declarations, they are exactly so and not otherwise—again, only the one who performs this wonder experiences it and it occurs only to him. This wonder, too, seems to me like a magical trick.
    “But, Master Gotama, when someone performs this wonder by which he instructs [others] thus: ‘Think in this way and not in that way! Attend to this and not to that! Abandon this and enter and dwell in that!’—this wonder appeals to me as the most excellent and sublime of those three wonders.
    “It is astounding and amazing, Master Gotama, how well this has been stated by Master Gotama! We consider Master Gotama to be one who can perform these three wonders. For Master Gotama wields the various kinds of psychic potency … exercises mastery with the body as far as the brahmā world. Master Gotama encompasses with his own mind the mind of one who has attained concentration that is without thought and examination such that he understands: ‘This person’s mental activities are so disposed that immediately afterwards he will think this thought.’ And Master Gotama instructs [others] thus: ‘Think in this way and not in that way! Attend to this and not to that! Abandon this and enter and dwell in that!’”
    “Surely, brahmin, your words are prying and intrusive. Nevertheless, I will answer you. I do wield the various kinds of psychic potency … exercise mastery with the body as far as the brahmā world. I do encompass with my own mind the mind of one who has attained a state of concentration that is without thought and examination such that I understand: ‘This person’s mental activities are so disposed that immediately following this state of mind he will think this thought.’ And I do instruct [others] thus: ‘Think in this way and not in that way! Attend to this and not to that! Abandon this and enter and dwell in that!’”
    “But, Master Gotama, is there even one other bhikkhu apart from Master Gotama who can perform these three wonders?”
    “There is not just one hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, or five hundred bhikkhus, but even more who can perform these three wonders.”
    “But where are those bhikkhus presently dwelling?” [173]
    “Right here, brahmin, in this Saṅgha of bhikkhus.”
    “Excellent, Master Gotama!… Let Master Gotama consider me a lay follower who from today has gone for refuge for life.”
 

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

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