(1) INTRODUCTION TO THE SUTRA
Sakyamuni Buddha, when he first set in motion the wheel of Dharma, saved AjnataKaundinya, and in his last sermon he saved Subhadra. Those who were to be saved he has saved, and now he lay among the twin Sal-trees under which Buddha was about to enter Nirvana. The time was the middle of the night, calm and noiseless. For the sake of all the disciples he briefly spoke of the most important Dharma doctrines.
(2) TO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS
Ye Bhikshus! After my annihilation you must revere, value and respect, the Pratimoksa. They are like finding a light in the darkness, like a poor man securing the precious treasure. You ought to know, therefore, they are indeed your Guru, there shall be no difference in these than when I myself lived in this world. Those who would keep pure commandments should not buy, sell, or trade. They should not covet fields and buildings, nor accumulate servants or female slaves or animals. From all planting and all sorts of wealth ought they to keep away like one would move afar off a fiery-pit. You should not cut trees and grasses, plow the soil, hoe the lands, mix medicines, to prophesy good or evil from a man's physiognomy, to look up the position of constellations, cast horoscopes by the waxing and the waning of the moon, not reckon day of good fortune, as all these things are improper for the Bhikshus to do. Restrain the body, eat at proper time and conduct your life in purity and chastity. You ought not to concern yourselves with the worldly affairs and be away from unexpected blame and praise. You should not concern yourselves in reciting incantations, nor use the elixir of life, nor bind yourselves to prominent persons in friendship, nor become familiar and have indecent behaviour with them so that you may be able to boast of it. You ought to, with fixed mind, in right contemplation, seek for salvation. You should not conceal your faults and defects, nor give rise to heresy, nor lead people astray. Of the four offerings for a monk, you know the limits, you understand what is enough. When you have received a small provision, you must not store it up. Here, therefore, I shall speak briefly about the phenomena of keeping the commandments. The commandments are the basis of the decision of liberation. Therefore they are called the Pratimoksa. If you rely on the cause of the commandments, you will attain many stages of ChĎan and Ting and shall have wisdom of the extinction from suffering. For this reason, Bhikshus, you should always keep the commandments pure and must not break and destroy them. The man who can keep these commandments pure. indeed will be of good conduct in the world, if there are no pure commandments, no meritorious virtues can arise at all. You ought to know for this reason that the meritorious virtues of the place of perfect solid is acquired throughout the commandments.
(3) TO CONTROL THE MIND
Ye Bhikshus! If already you are able to keep the commandments, you must control the five roots, i.e., the five organs of senses. Their five desires ought not to enter through your self-indulgence. It is just like a cowherd, taking a stick and watching the cows, does not allow them to run to another manís field which is ripe for the harvest. So, if you indulge the five organs of senses, not only will their desires not be stopped within the limited boundary, but, like failing to control a had horse by holding the reins, soon it will make a man fall into a pit. Likewise, you will be subject to suffering through many Yugas if you were oppressed by it. The evils of that brigand (the five organs of senses) extends through many lives and creates very great harm for which you have to be careful yourself. The wise men, therefore, control them and are not attached to them. These desires should be kept like thieves in prison, who are not allowed to run wild. Even those who entertain them, which may be extinguished before long. As for these five organs of sense, the mind acts as their master. So you must always control your mind well. Being much more than a poisonous snake, fierce beasts and fettered thieves, the mind ought to be feared dissatisfaction. It. is indescribable that how terrible it is like a big fire beyond control. It is like, for instance, a man who, carrying a vessel of honey, goes jumping and dancing along his path looking only at the vessel of honey, and fails to notice a deep pit. Or, again, it is like a mad elephant without a goad, or like a monkey who, getting up a tree, is prancing and jumping, and cannot, except with difficulty, be stopped and controlled. You must haste to deflect these desires and should not allow them to run wild. If you were indulgent to this very mind, you would lose the good of being a man. If you limit these desires in one place, there is nought you cannot accomplish. For this reason, Ye Bhikshus you ought to acquire progress skillfully and diligently, and subdue your minds.
(4) ON TEMPERANCE IN EATING
Ye Bhikshus! In receiving all food and drink you ought to accept them as though you are taking medicine. You should not increase and decrease the things which you like or dislike; food should support just your bodies and avoid starvation and thirst. As the bee in seeking flowers, takes only the taste of them, but does not harm their fragrance and color, so also Bhikshus, do ye accept just enough of peopleís offerings to avoid self-distress. Donít have many demands and thereby break their good hearts. A man of wisdom, for example, having judged the amount of the capacity of his oxís strength, does not wear out its strength by overloading.
(5) ADMONISHING ON SLEEP1NG
Ye Bhikshus ! With diligence of mind cultivate and practice the Good Dharma by day. Donít waste your time. In the early evening nor even late at night, do not cease your cultivation. Even in the mid-night you must examine yourself, waning and waxing on the task better by reciting the Sutras. You will gain nothing by passing your whole life in vain by sleeping. You ought to think of the fire of the inconstant burning upon the world, and you must save yourself at earliest time, and must not sleep. The Brigand of all Klesa (pain, affliction and distress) is always stalking and killing people much more than one would try to kill the enemy. How can you sleep without arousing and cautioning yourself? The Klesa is a poisonous snake sleeping in your mind. It is like a black cobra sleeping in your room. It can be quickly got rid of with the spear of keeping the commandments. Only when that dormant snake has fled can you sleep peacefully. If you sleep without the snake being gone, you are a shameless person. The consciousness of ashamedness, among all glorious adornments, is the best. The consciousness of ashamedness is like an iron goad which can control manís unrighteousness. Ye Bhikshus, you must always be conscientious on ashamedness and do not ignore it for a moment. If you leave off the consciousncss of ashamedness, you will lose all meritious virtues. One who has consciousness of ashamedness, will have good conduct. One who has no consciousness of ashmedness, will not be different from birds and beasts.
(6) ADMONISHING ON ANGER AND RAGE
Ye, Bhikshus ! If there were a man who came and mutilated your body and cut your limbs away at every joint, you must not hate and be angry with him, but rather keep your mind in one point. And you ought to guard your mouth, so that no evil words come out of it. If you pave a way to hateful thoughts there is a hindrance on your own way and you would lose the benefit of meritorious virtues. Patience is a virtue which the keeping of every cornmandment or any other austerity cannot equal. He who can practice patience can truly be called the great man of strength. He who cannot endure the poison of evil abuses, as if it were ambrosia to be drunk, cannot be called a Buddhist or a man of wisdom. How is this? Because the harm of anger and rage shatters all good Dharma and spoil your good fame and name, so that, in present or future generations, people will not like to behold them. You should know that the angry mind is worse than a fierce fire. You ought always to guard and watch yourselves and do not let them obtain entrance. No brigand could steal your merit and virtue than anger and rage. Those householders, dressed in white clothes, who have desires hut do not practice the Buddha Dharma, are not in a position to control themselves; but anger is excusable in them. Those who have left home and are practicing Buddha Dharma without any desires, but are still subject to anger and rage, are inexcusable indeed. For example, the light-ning and a clap of thunder cannot appear in the bracing cloud.
(7) ADMONISHING ON SELF-INDULGENCE
Ye Bhikshus ! To feel with hands upon your head you ought to think of yourself like this: "I have already given up all fine ornaments. I wear plain coloured clothing and have an alms-bowl to beg my living." If arrogance and pride arise, you should immediately extinguish them. The growth of arrogance and pride is not suitable even for the white clothed common people, much less for those who have left home and entered the way of Dharma in order to achieve deliverance, subdue their social position and practice begging.
(8) ADMONISHING ON FLATTERY
Ye Bhikshus! A mind full of flattery is contrary to the way of Buddha-Dharma. Therefore you ought in simplicity and sincerity to correct such a mind. You should know that flattery is a thing of cheating, and lying. It has no proper place for a man who has entered the way of Dharma. For this reason, yon all must have a correct mind and base yourselves on simplicity.
(9) LESSENING OF DESIRES
Ye Bhikshus! you ought to know that a man of many desires, by reason of his desire for profit, has much suffering too. The man who
has less of desires, neither securing anything nor wishing anything, therefore, does not have such a distress. But if you wish to lessen your desires, you ought to practice it. Even much more than this, is the result of meritorious virtues of your practicing the lessening of desires. One who has less desires need not by flattery sway anotherís mind, nor is he pulling along with all the roots (faculty of sense). One who practices the lessening of desires, has a contented mind, and has no cause for sorrow and fear. The things he gets are enough and there is never an insufficiency at all. One who has little desire, would attain Nirvana. This is what is called "the lessening of desires."
(10) THE SATISFACTION
Ye Bhikshus If you wish to leave off all sufferings, you ought to see what satisfaction is. The means of satisfaction is the basis of obtaining the rich joy, peace and solidity. A man of satisfaction, even though he lies on the ground, still is in the mood of peace and happiness. One who is not satisfied, even if he were in the heavenly abode, still would not accord in his desire. One who is not satisfied, even though he be rich, is poor. One who is satisfied, even though he be poor, is rich. One who is not satisfied is pulled by the five desires and, therefore, is pitied by the man who is satisfied. This is what is called "Satisfaction."
(11) THE SECLUSION
Ye Bhikshus! If you wish quietude, inaction, peace and joy, you should always he away from confusion and noise, and live alone in a quiet retreat. One who lives in a quiet retreat will be respected by the sovereign Sakra and Devas of all heavens. This is why you should leave off your own and other communities to live alone in seclusion, to think the way out of sufferings. If you rejoice in company, have the sufferings of company, just as when many birds flock upon the big tree, it is in danger of rolling and falling. Attachment to the mundane world drowns one in human suffering, just as an old elephant, sinking in the mud, cannot get himself out. This is what is called "Seclusion."
(12) THE UNADULTERATED PROGRESS
Ye Bhikshus If you strive energetically for the unadulterated progress, there is nothing that is difficult. Ye, therefore, must strive energetically for the unadulterated progress. For example, a constant trickle of water will bore a hole in a rock. If the mind of an Acarin (performing the duties of a disciple) becomes in many ways lazy and inattentive frequently, it is just like making a fire by friction and resting before it is hot. Though you want to have fire, you cannot get it. This is what is called "the unadulterated progress."
(13) TO APPREHEND AND HOLD IN THOUGHT
Ye Bhikshus! Seek a good friend (one, who is well known and intimate), seek a good assistant, there is nothing like you to apprehend and hold in your wandering thought. If one apprehends and holds wandering thought, all the brigands of Klesas are unable to enter in him. You, therefore, ought to keep your mind concentrated. If one loses his concentration of mind, he will lose all meritorious virtues. If your power of mental concentration is strong and solid, even though you are caught by the five desires, they will be unable to harm you; as if you have worn an armour to go to the battlefield, there will be no fear at all. This is what is called "Apprehending and holding of thought."
(14) DHYANA AND SAMADHI
Ye Bhikshus! If you can keep one-pointed mind, your mind is then fixed in abstraction. As your mind is in a fixed abstraction, you can understand the characteristics of things in birth and death in the mundane world. Ye brethren, practice and cultivate the various stages of Samadhi (a fixed abstraction) diligently and progressively. One who attains Samadhi, his mind will not cheer up. Just as a man, whose house with little water is carefully conserved, can also regulate the reservoir well, so also are the disciples of the Buddha. For the sake of obtaining the water of wisdom, you should practice the Dhyana (meditation) and fixing of the abstraction (samadhi), and should not let it leak away. This is what is called "Samadhi."
(15) THE PRAJNA
Ye Bhikshus If you have Prajna. Then you will have freedom from greed. You should always look into yourself and do not let yourself have any fault. Thereby then, you will obtain salvation within my teachings of Dharma. If you do not do so, you are already neither a follower of Dharma nor the common people. There would be no name to call you in a suitable way. The true Prajna is a strong and firm ship which will carry you across the ocean of old age, decay and death. Again, it is a great brilliant light in deep darkness of ignorance. It is a fine medicine for all who are sick. It is a sharp axe which cuts the tree of Klesa (delusion, trial of the passions and of ignorance, which disturb and distress the mind). For this reason, you must struggle for hearing the word and become wise in it, so that you can benefit yourself and improved. If a man who has the clarity of Prajna, though he has the physical eyes to view things, he is a man of view of non-ignorance. This is what is called "Prajna."
(16) UNSOPHISTICATED ARGUMENT
Ye Bhihshus! If you enter into many kinds of sophisticated arguments, then your mind will he disturbed and distressed, and though you have left home, still you will not attain salvation. Ye Bhikshus ! You ought immediately to renounce the wandering thought and sophisticated arguments. If you want to obtain the bliss of calm annihilation, you need only extinguish the illness of sophisticated arguments. This is what is called "unsophisticated arguments.íí
Ye Bhikshus! In all kinds of meritorious virtues you ought whole-heartedly to get rid of laxity frequently, just as you take leave from hateful brigands. World-Honoured One, the Most Compassionate who after all has preached the doctrine (of improving oneself) for benefiting others. Yet ye ought to practice it diligently. Whether you live on the mountains or marshy place, whether you live under the shadow of tree or you live in seclusion in the quiet room (for practicing meditation), think of those Dharmas which you have received from your Teacher and do not let them be neglected. You should always exert yourself to practice them zealously and progressively. Do not remain passive and die for nothing. It would be made a great regret later on. I am like a good physician who knows the cause of illness and prescribes a medicine; but whether it will actually be taken or not is not the responsibility of the physician. Again. I am like a good guide who directs a man to the proper path. If, on hearing that, he does not go along it, the fault is not with the guide.
(18) TO ELUCIDATE DOUBTS
"Ye Bhikshus! If you have any doubts regarding the sufferings, etc., in the Four Noble Truths, you may ask immediately. Do not conceal doubts to avoid elucidation of them." The World Honoured One spoke thus thrice, hut no one questioned him. What was the matter? Because the assembly had no doubts at all. At that time, Aniruddha, who was looking into what was in the minds of those assembled there, said to the Buddha: "The World-honoured One. The moon might be made hot and the sun might grow cool, but the Four Noble Truths which Buddha taught could not he changed. The truth of suffering taught by Buddha is of real suffering and it would not become joy. The cause of suffering is a real cause and there can never he another cause therein. If the suffering is annihilated, it is only when its cause has been annihilated. If the cause of suffering is annihilated its result has also been annihilated. The way of annihilating the suffering is the path of true Dharma and there is no other path that remains. The World-Honoured one! All these Bhikshus have firmly believed in it, and are without any doubt about the Four Noble Truths."
(19) ALL THE LIVING SENTIENT BEINGS ARE TO BE SAVED
If those gathered in this assembly have not accomplished their task to he done, perhaps on seeing the passing away of Buddha, shall have feeling of sorrow, if there is anyone who has already entered the way of Dharma, on hearing what Buddha has been preaching, would attain the salvation. As one sees the lightning in the night, he is able to attain the stage of beholding the truth. Is there anyone who has accomplished his task and has crossed over the ocean of sufferings, but will think only this: "The Worldhonoured One has annihilated away, why was this done so rapidly?" Although Anjruddha has spoken these words. those who were gathered in the assembly had all penetrated the meaning of the Four Noble Truths. The World-honoured One who wished to make all those who were gathered in the assembly to have a firm and strong mind. With a mind of great pity, he again spoke for the benefit of the assembly. "Ye Bhjkshus! Do not feel sad and distressed. If I were to live in this mundane world for the whole period of Kalpa, our association would still be ended. It is impossible to obtain any association that does not separate. The doctrine of improving oneself for the purpose of benefiting others has been completed. If I were to live in this mundane world, it would be of no benefit to us. Those who were to he saved both in heaven and earth, have already been saved. Those who have not been saved, they have all made the causes for their attaining salvation"
(20) THE ETERNAL REALITY OF DHARMA-KAYA
Henceforth, all disciples of mine, turning it over in their minds. must practice it; thereby it is that the eternal reality of the Dharma-kaya of Tathagata will never be annihilated. You will, therefore, come to know that the mundane world is all transient, and meeting certainly implies separation. Do not feel sorrow and distress since the phenomenon of the world is like this. You must strive in zeal to progress towards immediate salvation. With the Prajna's light destroy all darkness of ignorance. The world is dangerous and perishable, and there is nothing of strength and stability in it. To attain annihilation is just like getting rid of an evil disease. Which we call physical body is a criminal and evil thing that ought to he abandoned. It is sunk in the great ocean of decay, sickness, birth and death. Is there any wise man who would be glad to get rid of this, just like the one who would kill a hateful brigand?
(21) THE CONCLUSION
Ye Bhikshus Ye ought always to aspire wholeheartedly to the way of salvation. The changeable and unchangeable phenomenon is in appearance corrupt and disturbing. Stop ye a moment and do not speak any more. The time will pass away and I wish to be in the state of annihilation. This is what I have taught at the last.