The Questions of King Milinda

Book 4: The solving of dilemmas

Chapter 1

5.1.9. On the Advantages Of Meditation

‘Venerable Nāgasena, your people say that everything which a Tathāgata has to accomplish that had the Blessed One already carried out when he sat at the foot of the Tree of Wisdom. There was then nothing that he had yet to do, nothing that he had to add to what he had already done. But then there is also talk of his having immediately afterwards remained plunged for three months in ecstatic contemplation. If the first statement be correct, then the second must be false. And if the second be right, then the first must be wrong. There is no need of any contemplation to him who has already accomplished his task. It is the man who still has something left to do, who has to think about it. It is the sick man who has need of medicine, not the healthy; the hungry man who has need of food, not the man whose hunger is quenched. This too is a double-headed dilemma, and you have to solve it!’

‘Both statements, O king, are true. Contemplation has many virtues. All the Tathāgatas attained, in contemplation, to Buddhahood, and practised it in the recollection of its good qualities. And they did so in the same way as a man who had received high office from a king would, in the recollection of its advantages, of the prosperity he enjoyed by means of it, remain constantly in attendance on that king—in the same way as a man who, having been afflicted and pained with a dire disease, and having recovered his health by the use of medicine, would use the same medicine again and again, calling to mind its virtue.’

‘And there are, O king, these twenty and eight good qualities of meditation in the perception of which the Tathāgatas devoted themselves to it. And which are they? Meditation preserves him who meditates, it gives him long life, and endows him with power, it cleanses him from faults, it removes from him any bad reputation giving him a good name, it destroys discontent in him filling him with content, it releases him from all fear endowing him with confidence, it removes sloth far from him filling him with zeal, it takes away lust and ill-will and dullness, it puts an end to pride, it breaks down all doubt, it makes his heart to be at peace, it softens his mind, it makes him glad, it makes him grave, it gains him much advantage, it makes him worthy of reverence, it fills him with joy, it fills him with delight, it shows him the transitory nature of all compounded things, it puts an end to rebirth, it obtains for him all the benefits of renunciation. These, O king, are the twenty and eight virtues of meditation on the perception of which the Tathāgatas devote themselves to it. But it is because The Tathāgatas, O king, long for the enjoyment of the bliss of attainment, of the joy of the tranquil state of Nirvāna, that they devote themselves to meditation, with their minds fixed on the end they aim at.

‘And there are four, reasons for which the Tathāgatas, O king, devote themselves to meditation. And what are the four? That they may dwell at ease, O king—and on account of the abundance of the advantages of meditation, advantages without drawback—and on account of its being the road to all noble things without exception-and because it has been praised and lauded and exalted and magnified by all the Buddhas. These are the reasons for which the Tathāgatas devote themselves to it. So it is not, great king, because they have anything left to do, or anything to add to what they have already accomplished, but because they have perceived how diversified are the advantages it possesses, that they devote themselves to meditation.’

‘Very good, Nāgasena! That is so, and I accept it as you say.’

Here ends the dilemma as to meditation.