Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
II. Majjhima Paṇṇāsa
3. Paribbājaka Vagga

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

Further Dialogues of the Buddha
Volume II

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

London
Humphrey Milford
Oxford University Press
1927
Public Domain

Sutta 80

Vekhanassa Suttaɱ

More So-Called Perfection

 


[40] [21]

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

Once when the Lord was staying at Sāvatthī in Jeta's grove
in Anāthapiṇḍica's pleasaunce,
the Wanderer Vekhanassa[1] came to the Lord
and after an exchange of courteous greetings took [22] his stand to one side,
exclaiming with deep emotion:

Here is perfection!

here is perfection!

Why do you say this?

What is this perfection?

The perfection than which
nothing is higher or more excellent.

What is the perfection
than which nothing is higher or more excellent?

It is the perfection than which
nothing is higher or more excellent.

This argument of yours, Kaccāna,
would be protracted.

You affirm perfection
but never define it.

[41-42] It is just as if a man were to say
his longing and his heart's desire
was for the belle of the land
but were to confess,
on being questioned,
that he did not know
what rank she belonged to;
or what her name was;
or what family she belonged to;
or whether she was tall,
short,
or middle-sized;
or whether she was black or brown or dusky;
or what village or township or city she belonged to; - and,
finally,
that he did not know her nor had ever seen her.

In such a case,
does not the man's statement prove unhelpful?

Certainly, sir,
it would be, -
in such a case.

Just in the same way you affirm perfection but never define it.

Even, sir, as a gem -
bright and of the purest water,
with eight facets,
excellently cut,
and strung on a yellow thread
- shines and glitters and sparkles,
with the like perfection
shows the hale Self after death.

Which think you shines and sparkles the most, -
your gem or the fire-fly of the night?

The fire-fly.

How does a lamp compare?

Better still.

And a conflagration in the night?

Better still.

And the morning stars,
at dawn in a cloudless sky?

Better still.

And the full moon
in a clear sky at midnight?

Better still.

And the sun at his zenith
at the end of the rains?

Better still.

Further, it is within my personal cognizance,
Udāyi,
that many, very many, deities
are so luminous in themselves
that they draw no light from sun or moon.

Yet I do not speak of a perfection
than which nothing is higher or more excellent,
whereas you declare your perfection to be less than,
and inferior to,
a fire-fly,
but never define it.

Five strands, Kaccāna,
make up pleasures of sense,
namely,
visible shapes,
sounds,
odours,
tastes and touch,
[43] all of them pleasant and agreeable and delightful,
all of them bound up with pleasure and exciting.

The pleasure and satisfaction which they start
is called sensuous pleasure,
built up from the foregoing five,
and culminating in that refinement of pleasure
which is accounted the highest of all.

Here Vekhanassa said: -

It is wonderful, sir,
it is marvellous,
how well put is.

Your observation that pleasures of sense
build up sensuous pleasure,
culminating in that refinement of pleasure
which is accounted the highest of all!

All this is hard for you to grasp, Kaccāna, -
you who hold different views
and a different creed,
who have a different objective,
a different allegiance
and a different teaching.

But it would be known to those Almsmen
who are Arahats,
in whom Cankers are dead,
who have greatly lived,
whose task is done,
who have cast off their burthen,
who have won their weal,
whose bonds are broken,
who by utter Knowledge have won Deliverance.

Here, in his annoyance and rage,
the Wanderer Vekhanassa, actually daring
to flout and scoff at the Lord to his face,
said to the Lord,
with the idea that
'the recluse Gotama' would be annoyed: -

So this is how some 'recluses and brahmins,'
knowing naught of what has been before
and seeing nothing of what shall [23] come hereafter,
yet profess:

Rebirth is now no more;
I have lived the highest life;
my task is done;
and now for me there is now no more
of what I have been!

These professions of theirs
prove ridiculous,
mere words,
empty and without substance!

[44] Your censure is quite just,
Kaccāna,
with regard to such recluses and brahmins
as, knowing naught of what has been before
and seeing nothing of what shall come hereafter,
yet profess all this.

But let us leave what has been
and what will be hereafter.

Let there come along a man of intelligence,
guileless,
honest and straightforward,
who avers that he has a message to deliver
and a Doctrine to preach,
and that any man who walks according to that message
will not be long ere of himself he will know
and of himself will see;
for thereby comes release from the direst of bonds -
namely ignorance.

It is just like a tiny babe
which cannot yet sit up
and has fivefold swaddlings round its neck
and is all bandages.

If, as he grows
and develops his faculties,
those bandages are taken off,
he would know that he was released
and that his bandages were gone.

It is just the same
when a man of intelligence comes along,
guileless,
honest and straightforward,
who avers that he has a message to deliver
and a Doctrine to preach,
and that any man who walks according to that message
will not be long ere of himself he will know
and of himself will see;
for thereby comes release from the direst of bonds -
namely ignorance.

Hereupon, the Wanderer Vekhanassa said to the Lord: -

Wonderful, Gotama; wonderful!

It is just as if a man should set upright again
what had been cast down,
or reveal what was 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 reverend Gotama made his Doctrine clear.

I come to Gotama as my refuge
and to his Doctrine
and to his Confraternity;
I ask him to accept me as a follower
who has found an abiding refuge
from this day onward while life shall last.

 


[1] Bu. says he was the teacher of the Sakuludāyi of the previous Suttas.


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