Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
II. Majjhima Paṇṇāsa
1. Gahapati Vagga

Sacred Books of the Buddhists
Volume V
Dialogues of the Buddha
Part IV

Further Dialogues of the Buddha
Volume I

Translated from the Pali
by Lord Chalmers
G.C.B.
Sometime Governor of Ceylon

London
Humphrey Milford
Oxford University Press
1926
Public Domain

Sutta 58

Abhaya-Rāja-Kumāra Suttaɱ

Of Choosing One's Words

 


[392] [282]

[1][pts][than][upal] THUS have I heard:

Once when the Lord was staying among the Rājagaha
in the Bamboo-grove where the squirrels are fed,
Prince Abhaya went to Nātaputta the Nigaṇṭha and after salutations took his seat to one side and was thus addressed by Nātaputta:|| ||

Go, prince, and confute the recluse Gotama;
it will greatly redound to your credit and repute
when people say that Prince Abhaya has confuted him,
despite all his power and might.

[283] But how am I to do it?

Go to him, prince,
and ask him this question:

Would a truth-finder say anything
which would be displeasing
and disagreeable to others?

If, on the One hand, he says yes,
ask him how then he differs from the ordinary man, -
who does say what is displeasing
and disagreeable to others.

But if he says no,
[393] then ask him how then it was
that he declared Devadatta to be a reprobate,
a child Of perdition,
doomed to purgatory for ages,[1]
and beyond all hope of redemption, -
words which angered and upset Devadatta.

This two-edged question
which you will put to him, prince,
is more than he will be able either to spew out
or to swallow down.

Just like a bar of iron
fastened on a man's neck
which he can neither spew out
nor swallow down,
even so will this two-edged question
prove to the recluse Gotama;
he will not be able either to spew
or to swallow it.

Yes, sir, said Prince Abhaya obediently.

Then, rising from his seat
he took his leave reverently of Nātaputta
and betook him to the Lord,
whom he saluted
before taking his seat to One side.

But when he was seated,
a glance at the sun
suggested to the prince
that the hour was not well-timed
for achieving his purpose that day
and that he had better defer confuting the recluse Gotama
till the morrow
and under his own roof.

So he invited the Lord
with three others
to a meal next day;
and when by his silence the Lord intimated his consent,
the prince rose up
and departed with a reverent leave-taking.

At that night's close the Lord,
duly robed and bowl in hand,
made his way early to the prince's abode
and sat down on the seat set for him.

The prince provided an excellent meal
of food both solid and soft,
which he served with his own hands
till the Lord had had his fill.

The Lord's meal over and done,
Prince Abhaya seated himself to one side
on a lower seat and said:

Would a truth-finder, sir,
say anything which would be displeasing
and disagreeable to others?

[284] This needs qualification, prince.

Then, sir, the Nigaṇṭhas would be at fault.[2]

Why do you say that?

[394] Well, sir, when I was sitting with Nātaputta the Nigaṇṭha,
he said to me:

Go, prince, and confute the recluse Gotama ...
(etc., as above) ...
Gotama will not be able either to spew or to swallow it.

Now at that time the prince was nursing his little boy,
a babe who could not yet stand.

Said the Lord:

What [395] think you, prince?

If, from inattention on your part
or his nurse's,
he were to get a stick
or a pebble into his mouth,
what would you do with him?

I should remove it from him, sir.

If I could not get it away at once,
I should grasp his head with my left hand,
crook a finger of my right hand
and pull it out, -
even if blood flowed.

And why?

Out of pity for the child.

Precisely in the same spirit, prince,
the truth-finder never says anything
which he knows to be false,
untrue
and unprofitable,
and also displeasing and disagreeable to others;
never says anything
which he knows to be a fact
and true,
but unprofitable
and also displeasing and disagreeable to others;
but, should it be a fact
and true
and profitable,
but also displeasing and disagreeable to others,
then the truth-finder knows
the due season to state it.

He never says anything
which he knows to be false,
untrue
and unprofitable,
albeit pleasing and agreeable to others to hear;
never says anything
which he knows to be a fact
and true
but unprofitable,
albeit pleasing and agreeable to others to hear;
but, if it be a fact
and true
and profitable,
while pleasing and agreeable to others to hear,
then the truth-finder knows
the due season when to state it.

And why?

Out of pity for creatures.

When, sir, learned scholars -
who are Nobles or brahmins
or heads of houses
or recluses -
come to the [285] truth-finder with a question which they have elaborated,
has the Lord previously reflected
what their question will be
and what his answer will be?

Or does he answer offhand?

Then, prince, I will ask you a question in reply,
for such answer as you may see fit to give.

What think you?

Do you know all about the several parts of a chariot?

Yes, sir; I know all about that.

What think you, prince?

If people come to ask you what a particular part is,
have you previously reflected
[396] what their question
and your answer will be?

Or would you answer offhand?

As a charioteer of repute,
I am versed in all the parts of a chariot,
and my answer would come to me offhand.

Just in the same way, prince,
when learned scholars come to the truth-finder
with a question which they have elaborated,
his answer comes to him offhand.

And why?

Because, prince, I have plumbed that particular constituent of the Doctrine
and because my answer therefore comes to me offhand.

Hereupon, Prince Abhaya said to the Lord:

Wonderful, sir! wonderful!

Just as a man might set upright again
what has been cast down,
or reveal what had been hidden away,
or tell a man who had gone astray
which was his way,
or bring a lamp into darkness
so that those with eyes to see
might see the things about them, -
even so, in many a figure,
has the Lord made his Doctrine clear.

I come to the Lord as my refuge
and to his Doctrine
and to his Confraternity.

I ask the Lord to accept me
as a disciple who has found his refuge
from this day forth while life lasts.

 


[1] Cf. Vinaya Texts III, 254.

[2] So Bu. (naṭṭhā Nigaṇṭha). But the P.T.S. Dict. derives anassuɱ (see sub v.) from anusūyati, in which case the meaning would be: That is what I heard from the Nigaṇṭha.


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