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Saɱyutta Nikāya
II. Nidāna Vagga
15. Anamat'agga-Saɱyuttaɱ
I. Paṭhama Vagga

The Book of the Kindred Sayings
II. The Book Called the Nidāna-Vagga
Containing Kindred sayings on Cause
and Other Subjects
15. Kindred Sayings on the Incalculable Beginning
1. [Untitled]

Sutta 8

Gaṅgā Suttaɱ


Translated by Mrs. Rhys Davids
Assisted by F. L. Woodward

Originally Published by
The Pali Text Society
Public Domain



[1][than] Thus have I heard:

The Exalted One was once staying at Rājagaha
at the Bamboo Grove.

Now a certain brahmin came to the Exalted One saluted him and sat down beside him.

"How many aeons, Master Gotama, have passed and gone by?"

"Many, brahmin, are the aeons passed and gone by."

Them it is not easy to count up:
so many aeons,
so many hundreds,
so many thousands,
so many hundred thousand aeons."

"Can it be done, Master Gotama, by a parable?"

"It can, brahmin," said the Exalted One.

"Take whence the river Ganges has its source
and where it reaches the sea.

The sand that lies between,
that is not easy to count -
so many [grains of] sand,
so many hundreds,
so many thousands,
so many hundred thousand grains of sand.[1]

More than that
are [124] the aeons that have passed and gone by.

Even so many aeons, brethren,
have passed and gone by.

Them it is not easy to count up:
so many aeons,
so many hundreds,
so many thousands,
so many hundred thousand aeons.

Why is this?

Incalculable is the beginning, brethren, of this faring on.

The earliest point is not revealed
of the faring on, running on,
of beings cloaked in ignorance,
tied to craving.

Thus many a day, brethren,
have ye been suffering ill,
have ye been suffering pain,
have ye been suffering disaster,
have the charnel-fields been growing.

Thus far enough is there, brethren,
for you to be repelled
by all the things of this world,
enough to lose all passion for them,
enough to be delivered therefrom."

When he had thus said,
that brahmin said to the Exalted One:

"Excellent, master Gotama!

Excellent, master Gotama!

Just as if a man were to set up
that which had been thrown down,
or were to reveal
that which was hidden away,
or were to point out the right road
to him who had gone astray,
or were to bring a lamp into the darkness,
so that those who had eyes could see shapes, -
even so, lord, has the lord Gotama shown me
his doctrine in various ways.

May master Gotama accept me as a follower
who from this day forth
as long as life shall last
has taken refuge under him!"


[1] That is 500 yojanas, reckons the Commentary. Our gazetteers reckon the river as 1,455 miles in length. This gives us the disputed length of the yojana as nearly three miles (2 91/100 miles). I do not know whether this is borne out by Buddhaghosa's estimate of the distance from Benares to Gaya as 18 yojanas. There are a few others. Rhys Davids concludes, from the distance given in the Mahāvaɱsa from Anurādhapura to Mahintale as one yojana, in favour of 7-1/2 miles (Ancient Coins and Measures of Ceylon).

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