Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Buddha's father shows off his son

Dhr. Seven, Pat Macpherson, Ashley Wells (eds.), based on Ven. Thanissaro aka Geoffrey DeGraff (trans.), Nalaka Sutra: "Message to Nalaka" (Sn 3.11, PTS Sn 679-723), 6/21/20, Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha did this for his father: guided him to the second stage of enlightenment.
Asita the seer in his midday meditation saw
the shining ones (devas) of the Thirty-Three
— exultant, ecstatic, dressed in pure white,
honoring Indra (Sakka),
holding up banners, cheering wildly,
and seeing them thus joyful and happy,
he paid his respects and asked:

"Why is the community of shining ones
wildly elated, holding up banners
and waving them around?
Even after the war with the titans (asuras)
— when victorious having defeated them —
there was no excitement like this.
Seeing what marvel
are the shining ones this joyful?
They shout, sing, play music,
clap their hands, and dance.
So I ask those who live on the summit of Mt. Meru,
Quickly dispel my doubts, please, dear sirs."

My son, my heir, Prince Siddhartha!
"The Bodhisattva, foremost jewel,
gem unequalled, has been reborn
for the welfare and gain of the human plane,
in a town in the Scythian countryside,
the garden grove of Lumbini.
That's why we're all wildly elated. He, the highest
of all beings, the ultimate person,
a bull among humans, foremost of all people,
will set rolling the Wheel [of the Dharma]
in the Grove of Seers, like a roaring lion,
conqueror of beasts."

Hearing these words, Asita quickly descended
[from a celestial world] and went to [the Buddha's
father] King Suddhodana's dwelling. There,
taking a seat, he said to the Scythians:
"Where is the prince? I, too, wish to see him!"
The Scythians then showed the child
to the seer Asita -- this their son, the prince,
like gold aglow, burnished by a skillful smith
in the mouth of a furnace, blazing with glory,
flawless in color.
On seeing the prince ablaze like flame,
pure as the bull of the stars moving across the sky
— the burning sun, released from autumn clouds —
Asita was exultant and abundantly filled with rapture.
The shining ones kept aloft in the sky
a thousand-spoked disk of a thousand circles.
Gold-handled whisks waved up and down,
but those holding the whisks and the disk
could not be seen.

The matted-haired seer named Dark Splendor,
seeing the boy, like an ornament of gold
on a red woolen blanket,
a white parasol held over his head,
received him, happy and well pleased.
Receiving the bull of the Scythians,longingly,
the master of mantras and signs
exclaimed with a confident mind:
"This one is unsurpassed, highest
of those with two feet."
Then, foreseeing his own imminent passing,
dejected, he began to shed tears.
Seeing him weeping, the Scythians asked:
"Surely there will be no danger for the prince?"
Seeing the Scythians' concern he replied,
"I foresee for the prince no harm.
Nor for him will there be any danger.
This one is high-born, rest assured.
This prince will touch the ultimate awakening.
He, seeing the utmost purity, will set rolling
the Wheel of the Dharma out of sympathy
for the welfare of the many. His version of the 
supreme-life will spread far and wide.
But as for me, my life here has little remaining;
my passing will take place before then.
I will not get to hear the Dharma of this one
with a peerless role. That's why I'm stricken,
afflicted, and pained."

Having brought the Scythians abundant rapture,
the follower of the supreme-life left the inner
chamber and, out of sympathy for his nephew [Nalaka],
urged him on toward the Dharma of the one
with the peerless role: "When you hear
from another the word 'Awakened One,' or
'Attaining self-awakening, he lays open
the path of the Dharma," go there and ask him
yourself. Follow the supreme-life under that
Blessed One."

Instructed by the one whose mind was set on his benefit,
Such, seeing in the future the utmost purity, Nalaka,
who had laid up a store of merit, awaited the Victor
with great expectations, guarding his senses.
On hearing word of the Victor's turning of the foremost
wheel, he went, he saw the bull among seers. Confident,
he asked the foremost sage about the highest wisdom,
now that Asita's forecast had come to pass.

[Nalaka:] Now that I know Asita's words to be true,
I ask you, Gautama, you who have gone beyond
all things: I'm intent on the homeless life;
I long for the alms round.
Tell me, sage, when I ask,
the utmost state of wisdom.

[The Buddha:] I'll explain a wisdom hard to do,
hard to endure. Come now, I'll make know to you.
Be steadfast. Be firm. Practice even-mindedness,
for in a village there's praise and blame.
Ward off any flaw in the heart. Go about calmed
and not haughty.
High and low things will come up
like flames of fire in a forest.
Women seduce a sage.
May they not seduce you [Note 1].
Abstaining from sexual intercourse,
abandoning the variety of sensuous pleasures,
be unopposed, unattached to beings moving and still.
'As I am, so are these. As are these, so am I.'
Drawing the parallel to yourself,
neither kill nor urge others to kill.
Abandoning the wants and greed
where ordinary, uninstructed people are stuck,
practice with vision, cross over this hell.
Stomach unfull,
moderate in food,
having few wants,
being ungreedy,
not hankering after desires:
one free of hankering
is one who's quenched (nirvanered).

Having gone on alms round, a sage
should then go to the forest,
standing or taking a seat
at the root of a tree. The enlightened one,
intent on meditative absorption,
should delight in the forest,
should practice meditative absorption
at the root of a tree, attaining satisfaction.
Then, at the end of the night,
one should go to the village,
not delighting in an invitation
or gift from the village.
Having gone to the village,
a sage should with care, not carelessly,
go among families.
Cutting off idle chatter, not uttering
a scheming word. 'I got something,
that's fine. I got nothing, that's fine.'
Being impartial with regard to both,
one returns to the very same tree.
Wandering with alms bowl in hand
— not dumb, but seemingly dumb —
one does not despise a small gift
nor disparage the giver.

High and low are the practices
proclaimed by the wandering ascetic.
They do not go twice to the further shore.
This [nirvana] is not sensed but once [2]. 

In one who is free of clinging —
the monastic who has cut off the stream,
abandoning what is and is not a duty —
no fever is found.

I'll explain wisdom: be like the razor's edge.
Pressing tongue against palate,
restrain stomach.
Neither lazy in mind
nor having many thoughts.
Commit to taintlessness, independent,
having the supreme-life as the aim.
Train in solitude and the wandering ascetic's task,
Solitude [mental withdrawal] is called wisdom.
Alone, truly delight and shine in the ten directions.

On hearing the fame of the enlightened
— those who practice absorption,
relinquishing sensual pleasures —
a disciple should foster all the more
confidence and conscience.

Know from the rivers in clefts and caves:
those in small channels flow noisily,
the great flow silent.
Whatever is unfull makes noise.
Whatever is full is quiet.
The fool is like a half-empty pot;
one who is wise is like a full lake.
A wandering ascetic who speaks a great deal
endowed with meaning, knowing,
one teaches the Dharma, knowing,
one speaks a great deal.
But one who, knowing, is restrained,
knowing, does not speak a great deal,
such a one is a sage worthy of sagehood;
one is a sage with sagehood attained.

1. For an instance of a man who tried to seduce a nun, see Therigatha XIV.
2. According to the Commentary, the high and low practices taught by the Buddha are, respectively, the mode of practice that is pleasant with quick attainment, and the mode of practice that is painful with slow attainment. (See AN 4.162; The Wings to Awakening, Passage 84). These modes of practice do not "go twice to the further shore" in the sense that each of the four paths — to stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, and full enlightenment — abandons whatever defilements it is capable of abandoning once and for all. There is no necessity of repeating the path. Nirvana is not attained "only once" in the sense that it is contacted as the result of each of the four paths.

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