The ancient way of the noble ones
Thus have I heard.
Then, the World-Honoured One said to the monks: “I recollect that once, before I had attained the highest enlightenment, when alone in a quiet place, concentrated energetically on meditation, I had this thought:
“Then, rightly thinking, I came to grasp the nature of phenomena as they really are, directly: Because birth exists, aging-and-death exist; conditioned by birth, aging-and-death exist; and similarly for becoming, attachment, craving, feeling, contact, the six sense-spheres, name-and-material form.
“Then, rightly thinking, I came to grasp the nature of phenomena as they really are, directly: Because consciousness exists, name-and-material form exist; conditioned by consciousness, name-and-material form come to be.
“That is to say: Conditioned by consciousness are name-and-material form; conditioned by name-and-material form are the six sense-spheres; conditioned by the six sense-spheres is contact; conditioned by contact is feeling; conditioned by feeling is craving; conditioned by craving is attachment; conditioned by attachment is becoming; conditioned by becoming is birth; conditioned by birth is aging-sickness-and-death, along with depression, sorrow, affliction, and suffering. Thus arises this whole mass of suffering.
“Then, rightly thinking, I came to grasp the nature of phenomena as they really are, directly: When birth does not exist, aging-and-death do not exist; when birth ceases, aging-and-death cease. And similarly it is to be said of birth, becoming, attachment, craving, feeling, contact, the six sense-spheres, name-and-material form, consciousness, the activities.
“Then, rightly thinking, I came to grasp the nature of phenomena as they really are, directly: When ignorance does not exist, activities do not exist; when ignorance ceases, activities cease; when activities cease, consciousness ceases; when consciousness ceases, name-and-material form ceases; when name-and-material form ceases, the six sense-spheres cease; when six sense-spheres cease, contact ceases; when contact ceases, feeling ceases; when feeling ceases, craving ceases; when craving ceases, attachment ceases; when attachment ceases, becoming ceases; when becoming ceases, birth ceases; when birth ceases, aging-sickness-and-death ceases, along with depression, sorrow, affliction, and suffering; and thus ceases this whole mass of suffering.
“Then I thought thus: I have attained to the ancient way of the noble ones, the path of the noble ones, the ancient way trodden by the noble ones, along which passed the noble ones of ancient times, and which I am now following.
“It is just as if a man travelling through the forest, through the wild woods, were suddenly to come upon an ancient way, a path where men had walked in ancient times. He goes along it and, slowly moving forwards, sees an ancient city, and an ancient king’s palace, and gardens, and pools, and pleasant groves, and he thinks:
“I should go and tell the king of this. And then he goes and tells the king: ‘Your Majesty should know this. As I was travelling through the forest through the wild woods, I suddenly came upon an ancient way, a path where men walked in ancient times; then I went along it, and when I had gone along it, I saw an ancient city, and an ancient king’s palace, and gardens, and pools, and pleasant groves and streams. Your Majesty could go and live in that city.’ Then, the king goes there, and lives there, and the city becomes prosperous and flourishing, and teeming with people.
“In the same way, I had now arrived at the ancient way of the noble ones, the ancient path of the noble ones, the ancient way trodden by the noble ones, along which passed the noble ones of ancient times, and which I should now follow, namely this Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right aim, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right skilful means (effort), right mindfulness, right concentration.
“I have gone along this path and seen aging-sickness-and-death, the origin of aging-sickness-and-death, the ceasing of aging-sickness-and-death, the path leading to the ceasing of aging-sickness-and-death.
“I have seen birth …, becoming …, attachment …, craving …, feeling …, contact …, the six sense-spheres …, name-and-material form …, consciousness …, activities, the origin of activities, the ceasing of activities, the path leading to the ceasing of activities.
“I have by myself become enlightened regarding this dharma and have attained the highest enlightenment. I have taught and declared to monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, to followers of other sects, to recluses and brahmins, to householders, and to those who have left the household life, so that all these four groups may hear the dharma, find the right direction, gain faith and happiness, know the goodness of the dharma, increase in the noble life, and derive greater benefit.”