Samyukta Āgama (2) 44

Sakka Saṃyutta

Sakka and Vepacitti meet a group of Sages

Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī at the Jeta Grove in the Anāthapiṇḍika Park.

At that time the World-honoured One said to the monks: “Long ago in a far-away place, some sages (ṛṣis) lived in the forest. Near that spot the devas and asuras were doing battle. At that time Vepacitti, the king of the asuras, came to their place adorned with the five regal insignia. He wore his crown and held his bejewelled chowrie, a parasol was held above him; he wore his sword at his side and high boots inlaid with gems. He did not come through the door, but entered through the wall. Moreover, he did not speak with the sages, did not exchange pleasantries, but instead left again through the wall. Then one of the sages said: ‘This Vepacitti has no respect. Leaving through the wall like this without even exchanging pleasantries with us sages!’ Another sage said: ‘If the asuras would show some respect and exchange pleasantries, they might defeat the devas. Too bad they don’t.’ Another sage asked: ‘Who was that?’ Another said in reply: ‘That was Vepacitti, the king of the asuras.’ Another sage added: ‘The asuras are by nature of shallow knowledge and vision, they are uneducated, without respect, like farmers. Surely the devas will win and the asuras lose.’

At that time Sakka came to the place of the Sages. He took off the five insignia of a deva king, entered through the gate, greeted the sages, looked politely around, and spoke to the sages: ‘Are all of you in peace here, without trouble?’ Having thus inquired he left again through the gate. There a sage asked: ‘Who was that? Inquiring after our health, looking politely around, leaving again … Very educated, of pleasant appearance!’ Another sage answered: ‘That was Sakka.’ Still another said: ‘The devas know well when to pay respects, their behavior is appropriate. Certainly the devas will win and the asuras lose.’

When Vepacitti heard that the sages were praising the devas and severely criticizing the asuras he became very angry. When the sages heard this, they went to the asuras and said: ‘We hear you are angry.’ Then they spoke a verse:

“We therefore came ourselves /
desiring to ask a boon.
Grant us that we do not have to fear you /
never again let anger against us arise.
If we are at fault /
we ask for instruction and censure.”

Vepacitti answered in verse:

“I will not grant you fearlessness; /
you have slandered me.
Being respectful about Sakka /
and criticizing me!
You ask to be free from fear. /
I will give you fear!”

At that time the sages answered in verse:

“Of his own actions /
a man gets the fruits.
Acting in a wholesome way, one obtains wholesome fruits /
acting in an unwholesome way, unwholesome will be the fruits
It is like planting a seed: /
one receives fruit according to its kind.
If you plant a bitter seed now /
that is what you will certainly get later.

We asked for freedom from fear /
but instead you give us terror.
From this day on /
your fear will have no end.”

Having said this to the asura’s face the sages rose into the air and vanished. During that night Vepacitti dreamed he met Sakka in battle, woke up and felt great fear. This happened a second time. When it happened a third time, Sakka and his armies did indeed come to fight; Vepacitti met them in battle. The asuras were defeated and, pursued by Sakka, they retreated to their asura palace.

Having gained victory in various battles, Sakka went to where the sages dwelt. They took seats on opposite sides, the sages to the east, Sakka to the west. At that time there was an easterly wind and the sages addressed Sakka in verse:

“We have left home long ago, /
our armpits stink.
The wind is blowing in your direction /
go and sit to the south!
Such foul smells /
the devas do not enjoy.”

Sakka replied with a verse:

“Gathering all kinds of flowers, /
weaving them into wreaths,
They give off so many scents; /
one cannot tire of these!

You sages have left the household life /
your scent is like that of flower wreaths.
We bow to receive it, /
experiencing no distaste.”

The Buddha said to the monks: “Sakka, who is king of the devas, always pays respect to those who have left the household life. How much more should you, monks, who out of faith have left the household life, pay deep respect to all renunciants.”

When the Buddha had finished, the monks, having listened to what he had said, were happy and remembered it well.