T 1670B Nāgasena Bhikṣu Sūtra

Part 2: Dialogues

2.18. Wisdom of the Liberated and that of Ordinary People

The king asked, “Is the wisdom possessed by the person who is not to be born again different from that of the ordinary person?”

“Yes,” Nāgasena said, “it is different from the ordinary person.”

“Has the ordinary man intelligence?”

“Yes, he has.”

“What is the difference between wisdom and intelligence?”

“They are both the same.”

“Would he, with his intelligence and wisdom, know everything? Is there anything he does not know?”

“In regard to some things, he knows, in regard to others, he does not know.”

“With his intelligence, what does he know and what does he not know?”

“He knows the things that he has learned, and he does not know the things that he has not learned. The person endowed with wisdom knows that men and phenomena are impermanent and not independent, and that all will finally pass away. Craving is the source of all suffering and it will lead to suffering. The person endowed with wisdom knows impermanence, the rise and fall of all matters. This is the difference between the person who is wise and those who are not.”

(a) “If a person is endowed with wisdom could he still have ignorance?”

“If a person is endowed with wisdom, all his delusions will disappear.”

Then Nāgasena gave a simile, “It is like a person entering a dark room while holding a lamp, the room will be lit and the darkness will disappear. Wisdom is like this. If a person has wisdom, all his delusions will disappear.”

(b) “Then what has his wisdom become?” asked the king.

“When wisdom of reasoning has done its work, then this wisdom of reasoning disappears, but its work, its effect remains.”

Then Nāgasena gave a simile, “It is just as a person writes during the night under a lamp. When the lamp has been extinguished, the writing will still be there. It is the same with regard to the wise. When the wise have accomplished the work, their wisdom ceases, but their work still remains there.”

“What do you mean, by ‘when the wise have accomplished their work, their wisdom ceases to be’?”

Nāgasena again gave a simile, “It is just like a person who prepares five pots of water in case that there might be a fire. If a fire breaks out the person could take the five pots of water to extinguish the fire. After the fire has been extinguished, does the person still wish to take the pots back home to use them?”

“The person would not wish to take back the pots, because the pots are broken, the fire has been extinguished, what would be the use of getting them back again?”

“A trainee in the Dharma, with the five kinds of virtues, eliminates all the evils. It is also like putting out the fire using the pots of water.”

“What are the five kinds of virtues?” asked the king.

“(1) Faith in goodness and in the existence of evil; (2) not infringing the precepts; (3) energy; (4) being endowed with wisdom and mindful of goodness; and (5) concentration on the Dharma. These are the five virtues and good qualities. If a person acts according to these five good qualities, then he gains wisdom, knowing that the body and all other things in the world are impermanent, and knows suffering, that everything is not in his command, and also knows that everything is without self.”

“It is just like a physician who goes to a sick man’s home with the five kinds of drugs and gives them to the sick man to drink, thereby curing the sick man of his illness. Would the physician in that case think of using the same medicine on the sick man again?”

“No, certainly he would not use the same medicine on the sick man again.”

“The five kinds of medicines are like the five good qualities or virtues, the physician is like the trainee in the Dharma. The sickness is like evil (klesa), the ignorant (prthagjana) are like the sick man and the one who has crossed over to the other shore is like the sick man who has recovered from illness. By the wisdom of reasoning, one crosses to the other shore, when one has crossed to the other shore, this wisdom ceases to be.”

Then Nāgasena gave more similes, “It is like a warrior who takes his bow and arrows and goes to battle to fight the foe. With five arrows, he defeats the foe. Does the warrior want to get back his arrows?”

“No, he does not want them back.”

“The five arrows are like the five wisdoms, and the wise who attain the Path with this wisdom are like the warrior who defeats the foe. Evil is like the foe, and a trainee on the Path eliminates all evils with five good qualities. When all evils are removed, pure wisdom arises. A person, by this wisdom, has crossed out of this world, and his attainment will last forever.”

“Excellent, Nāgasena.”