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Buddhist Suttas

Translated from Pāli by T. W. Rhys Davids

Oxford, the Clarendon Press
Vol. XI of The Sacred Books of the East
translated by various Oriental scholars and edited by F. Max Müller

Public Domain
This work has been reformatted for presentation on BuddhaDust
Thanks to J.B. Hare's Internet Sacred Text Archives for originally posting this material
Digitized and formatted for Internet Sacred Text Archives by Cristopher M. Weimer

Mahā-Sudassana Sutta
Legend of the Great King of Glory


Mahā Sudassana Jātaka
The Great King of Glory

['How transient are all component things.' This the Master told when lying on his death-couch, concerning that word of Ānanda the Thera, when he said, 'Do not, O Blessed One, die in this little town,' and so on.
When the Tathāgata was at the Jetavana[1] he thought 'the Thera Sāriputta, who was born at Nālagāma, has died, on the day of the full moon in the month of Kattika, in that very village[2]; and Mahā Moggallāna in the latter, the dark half of that same month. As my two chief disciples are thus dead; I too will pass away at Kusinārā.' Thereupon he proceeded straight on to that place, and lay down on the Uttara-sīsaka couch, between the twin Sāla trees, never to rise again.
Then the venerable Ānanda besought him, saying, 'Let [239] not the Blessed One die in this little township[3], in this little town in the jungle, in this branch township. Let the Blessed One die in one of the other great cities, such as Rājagaha, and the rest!'
But the Master answered, 'Say not, Ānanda, that this is a little township, a little town in the jungle, a branch township. I was dwelling formerly in this town at the time when I was Sudassana, the king of kings; and then it was a great city, surrounded by a jewelled rampart, twelve leagues in length!'
And at the request of the Thera, he, telling the tale, uttered the Mahā-Sudassana Sutta.]

Now on that occasion when Queen Subhaddā saw Mahā Sudassana, when he had come down out of the Palace of Righteousness, and was lying down, not far off, on the appropriate couch, spread out in the grove of the seven kinds of gems, and when she said: 'Thine, O king, are these four and eighty thousand cities, of which the chief is the royal city of Kusavātī. Quicken thy desire after these!'

Then replied Mahā Sudassana, 'Speak not thus, O queen! but exhort me rather, saying, "Cast away desire for these, long not after them[4]!"

And when she asked, 'Why so, O king?' 'To-day my time is come, and I shall die!' was his reply.

Then the weeping queen, wiping her eyes, brought herself with difficulty and distress to address him accordingly. And having spoken, she wept, and lamented; and the other four and eighty thousand women wept too, and lamented; and of the attendant courtiers not one could restrain himself, but all also wept.

But the Bodisat stopped them all, saying, 'Enough my friends! Be still!' And he exhorted the queen, saying, 'Neither do thou, O queen, weep: neither do thou lament. For even unto a grain of sesamum fruit there is no such [240] thing as a compound which is permanent! All are transient, all have the inherent quality of dissolution!'

And when he had so said, he further uttered this stanza:

'How transient are all component things!
Growth is their nature and decay:
They are produced, they are dissolved again:
And then is best, — when they have sunk to rest!'[5]

[In these verses the words 'How transient are all component things!' mean 'Dear lady, Subhaddā, wheresoever and by whatsoever causes made or come together, compounds[6], — that is, all those things which possess the essential constituents (whether material or mental) of existing things[7], — all these compounds are impermanence itself. For of these form[8] is impermanent, reason[9] is impermanent, the (mental) eye[10] is impermanent, and qualities[11] are impermanent. And whatever treasure there be, whether conscious or unconscious, that is transitory. Understand therefore "How transient are all component things!"
'And why? "Growth is their nature and decay." These, all, have the inherent quality of coming into (individual) existence, and have also the inherent quality of growing old; or (in other words) their very nature is to come into existence and to be broken up. Therefore should it be understood that they are impermanent.
'And since they are impermanent, when "they are produced, they are dissolved again." Having come into existence, having reached a state[12], they are surely dissolved. For all these things come into existence, taking an individual form; and are dissolved, being broken up. To them as soon as there is birth, there is what is called a state; as soon as there is a state, there is what is called [241] disintegration[13]. For to the unborn there is no such thing as state, and there is no such thing as a state which is without disintegration. Thus are all compounds, having attained to the three characteristic marks (of impermanency, pain, and want of any abiding principle[14]), subject, in this way and in that way, to dissolution. All these component things therefore, without exception, are impermanent, momentary[15], despicable, unstable, disintegrating, trembling, quaking, unlasting, sure to depart[16], only for a time[17], and without substance; — as temporary as a phantom, as the mirage, or as foam!
'How then in these, dear lady Subhaddā, is there any sign of ease? Understand rather that "then is best, when they have sunk to rest;" but their sinking to rest, their cessation, comes from the cessation of the whole round (of life), and is the same as Nirvāṇa. That and this are one[18]. And hence there is no such thing as ease.']



And when Mahā Sudassana had thus brought his discourse to a point with the ambrosial great Nirvāṇa, he made exhortation also to the rest of the great multitude, saying, 'Give gifts! Observe the precepts! Keep the sacred days[19]!' and became an inheritor of the world of the gods.

[When the Master had concluded this lesson in the truth, he summed up the Jātaka, saying, 'She who was then Subhaddā the queen was the mother of Rāhula, the great adviser was Rāhula, the rest of the retinue the Buddha's retinue, and Mahā Sudassana I myself.']






[1]It is not easy with our present materials to reconcile the apparently conflicting statements with regard to the Buddha's last journey. According to the Mālālaṅkāra-vatthu this refers here to a residence at the Jetavana, which took place between the end of § 30 in Chap. II, in the Book of the Great Decease, and the beginning of § 31. It will be noticed that § 31 speaks of 'the monastery,' which is apparently an undesigned confirmation of this tradition. (Such undesigned circumstances, however really undesigned, are very far, of course, from proving the actual truth of the tradition. They would only show that it was older than the time when the works in which they occur were put into their present shape.)
Mr. Fausböll, by his punctuation, includes these words in the following thought ascribed to the Blessed One, but I think they only describe the time at which the thought is supposed to have arisen.

[2]Or perhaps 'at Varaka.' I do not understand the word varaka, which has puzzled Mr. Fausböll. The modern name of the village, afterwards the site of the famous Buddhist university of Nālanda, is Baragaon. The full-moon day in Kattika is the 1st of December. An account of the death of Sāriputta will be found in the Mālālaṅkāra-vatthu (Bigandet, 'Legend,' &c., 3rd ed., II, 1-25), and of the murder of Moggallāna by the Nigaṇthas in the Dhammapada commentary (Fausböll, p. 298 seq.), of which Spence Hardy's account ('Manual of Buddhism,' p. 338) is nearly a translation; and Bigandet's account (loc. cit. pp. 25-27) is an abridgment.

[3]Khuddaka-nagarake. See the note on Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, ver. 60. Both these speeches are different from those given on the same occasion in the Sutta below.

[4]This question and answer are not in the Sutta.

[5][edfnVI.j.1]All this is omitted in the Sutta. It is true the verse occurs there, but it is placed in the Sutta in the mouth of the Teacher, after the account of Mahā Sudassana's death.
The last clause is literally, 'Blessed is their cessation,' where the word for cessation, upasamo, is derived from the word sam, 'to be calm, to be quiet,' and means cessation by sinking into rest. Compare below.









[14]Aneccaɱ, dukkhaɱ, anattaɱ. See Jātaka I, 275; and, on the last, Mahāparinibbāna Sutta I, to, and Mahā Vagga I, vi, 38-47.

[15]Khaṇikā. See Oldenberg's note on Dīpavamsa I, 53.

[16]Pāyātā, literally 'departed.' The forms payāti and payāto, given by Childers, should be corrected into pāyāti and pāyāto. See Jātaka I, 146.

[17]Tāvakālikā, See Jātaka I, 121, where the word is used of a cart let out on hire for a time only.

[18]'Tad ev ekaɱ ekaɱ, which is not altogether without ambiguity.

[19]This paragraph, too, is omitted in the Sutta.]


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