2. Nidāna Vagga
The Book of the Kindred Sayings
The Book Called the Nidāna-Vagga
Containing Kindred sayings on Cause
and Other Subjects
Kindred Sayings on Lakkhana's Questions
A Lump of Bones
Originally Published by
The Pali Text Society
 Thus have I heard:
The Exalted One was once staying at Rājagaha
in the Bamboo Grove
at the Squirrels' Feeding-ground.
And the venerable Mahā-Moggallāna
rising at an early hour
and taking bowl and robe
went to see the venerable Lakkhana
'Let us go, friend Lakkhana,
and enter Rājagaha for alms.'
And the venerable Lakkhana consented.
Now the venerable Mahā-Moggallāna
as he was descending the hill
and passing a certain place
Then Lakkhana said to him:
'What is the reason,
what is the cause, friend Moggallāna,
that you smile?
'It is not the right time for that question, friend Lakkhana.
Ask me the question in the Exalted One's presence.'
Then when the twain had made their alms-round in Rājagaha,
and come away from their meal,
they went into the presence of the Exalted One,
and took their seat beside him.
the venerable Lakkhana said to Mahā-Moggallāna:-
'As the venerable Mahā-Moggallāna was descending Vulture's Peak hill just now,
 as he came to a certain place
What was the reason,
what was the cause for the smile?
'Just now, friend,
as I was descending Vulture's Peak hill,
I saw a skeleton going through the air,
kept flying after it,
pecking at its ribs,
pulling it apart
while it uttered cries of pain.
To me, friend, came this thought:-
"0 but this is wonderful!
0 but this is marvellous
that a person will come to have such a shape,
that the individuality acquired
will come to have such a shape!"'
Then the Exalted One addressed the brethren: -
"Disciples, brethren, live the life of vision,
yea, of insight,
since a disciple will know,
or will see,
or will testify
to a thing like this.
I also, brethren, had seen that being before now,
yet I did not reveal it.
I might have revealed it,
and others would not have believed me.
Had they not believed me,
it would have been to their hurt and their sorrow.
'This being, brethren,
was a cattle-butcher
in this very Rajagaha.
He by the effect of that work
has been punished for many years,
for many hundreds,
nay, hundred thousands of years
Now by the remaining effect of that work
he has acquired a personality of that kind.'
 This was a thera, one of the 1,000 Jaṭilas ordained by the Buddha when the three famous Kassapas were converted by him (Vin. Texts i, 132-5), and he had preached the 'Burning' Sermon; a very worthy saint. Comy.
 * Aṭṭhisankhalikaṃ.
 Comy. reads vitudenti. On vitacchenti, tearing, cf. M. i, 364. Cf. with virājeyyuṃ there, the more intelligible vibhajenti here. Cf. also, here, text p. 256, nn. 2, 3.
 Or inside of, or between, or about.
 Sāssūdarṃ = Sa sudaṃ.
 Pacitvā, matured.
 The comment on the vision may thus be summarized:- The skeleton was a Peta. He and the birds, not being earth-dwellers, could only be seen clairvoyantly. They would not come into the focus of the earthly eye (pasāda-cakkhu). M.-M. should have felt pity - why did he smile? He thought of how the Buddha's wisdom and he too had prevailed, so that never could he come again to such a state. His exclamations were prompted by pity. Lakkhana could also have seen the vision, but he was not attending as a clairvoyant must.