Samyukta Āgama (2) 17

Bhikkhu Saṃyutta

A deva tempts a monk and is granted an interview with the Buddha

Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying in Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove of Kalanda.

At that time a monk, in the last light of the day, went to the riverbank, folded his clothes, put them aside and entered the river to bathe. He came naked out of the water and let his body dry on the riverside. There a deva, emitting rays and illuminating the riverbank, addressed him: “You have not long gone forth. Your body is strong and your hair is lovely. Why don’t you enjoy the five sensual pleasures? Haven’t you gone forth at the wrong time?”

The monk answered: “I have gone forth at the right time, to attain the timeless.” The deva said: “What does it mean to ‘have gone forth at the right time, to attain the timeless’?” The monk replied: “The Buddha, the World-honored One, has explained how the five sensual pleasures are bound to time, the Buddhadhamma, however, is not bound to time. The five sensual pleasures bring very little pleasure, but multiply our sufferings, accumulate our worries. In the Buddhadhamma I have found certainty within this very body, with no more troubling passions. In everything we do, regardless of the time, when we sow even a little karmic seed, we will obtain the full fruit of its results.”

Again the deva asked: “Why does the Buddha say the five sensual pleasures are bound to time, why does he say the Buddhadhamma is not bound to time?” The monk said: “I am still young and have not long gone forth. My learning is still shallow. How could I expound the wide and deep aspects of the utmost truth of the Tathāgata? The Bhagavant is staying near here in the Bamboo Grove of Kalanda. You can go and put your questions to him yourself.”

The deva replied: “The Buddha is served by many powerful and virtuous devas gathered around him left and right. I, weak and lowly as I am, will not be allowed to see him. Go and speak to the World-honored One on my behalf. If the Tathāgata out of compassion graciously agrees to listen, I will go and seek his counsel to dispel my doubts.” The monk: “Come along then, I will inform the World-honored One that you seek counsel.” The deva said: “I will follow you to the World-honored One.” There the monk went to where the Buddha was staying, and having paid homage at his feet, stood to one side and put the deva’s questions to the World-honored One.

There the World-honored One spoke a verse:

“Whoever says that the signs /
arising from name-and-form do truly exist,
know that this person /
is on the road of death.

Perceiving in name-and-form /
emptiness and absence of self-nature
this is called to respect the Buddhas /
for ever free from the realms of existence.”

The Buddha asked the deva: “Did you understand that?” The deva replied: “Not yet, World-honored One.” Then the Buddha spoke another verse:

“The conceit of being better than others, the conceit of being equal /
and the conceit of being inferior to others;
those with these three conceits /
are apt to have arguments;
those who have done away with them /
are called of unmovable mind.”

And the Buddha asked the deva: “Did you understand that?” The deva replied: “Not yet, World-honored One.” Then the Buddha spoke another verse:

“By cutting off attachment to name-and-form /
one extinguishes the three conceits,
avoids all desires /
extinguishes hate and anger.
In one who pulls out the poisonous root /
all mental discrimination, wishes and desires cease;
those who are able to do this /
cross over the ocean of birth and death.”

The deva said to the Buddha: “Now I understand.” The monks, having listened to what the Buddha had said, were happy and remembered it well.