T 1670B Nāgasena Bhikṣu Sūtra

Part 2: Dialogues

2.25. The Root of Past, Present and Future Dharmas

The king asked, “What is the root cause, Nāgasena, of past things, of present things and of future things?”

Nāgasena replied, “Ignorance is the root cause of past, future and present things. Because of ignorance, the spirit comes into being; conditioned by spirit, {the body comes into being; conditioned by body,} name comes into being; conditioned by name, form comes into being; conditioned by form, the six sense awarenesses come into being: (1) the eye awareness, (2) the ear awareness, (3) the nose awareness, (4) the tongue awareness, (5) the body awareness, and (6) the mind awareness. These are the six sense awarenesses. These six sense organs are all open to the outside (world). How do they open to the outside world? The eyes see forms, the ears listen to sounds, the nose smells odors, the tongue tastes flavors, the body feels the touch of smoothness, and the mind inclines towards craving. These are the six outside things. Going towards the object is called flowing. When these (flowings) are joined together, one is able to know suffering and happiness. From suffering and happiness, there comes craving, from craving, comes lustful desire; from lustful desire, comes becoming; from becoming, comes birth; from birth, comes old age; from old age, comes disease or sickness; from disease or sickness, comes death; from death, comes lamentation; from lamentation, comes grief; from grief, comes inner despair. All these sufferings of life coming together is called a person. Because of all these (worries and sufferings), the person is subject to birth and death without an end. Therefore, the same old body of a person cannot be obtained.”

Then Nāgasena gave a simile, “It is just like sowing grain. A man sows the five kinds of grains, from the grains come the roots, then comes stalks, leaves and fruits. After all these comes grain. Then the next year, he sows grain again and also gets much grain.”

Then Nāgasena asked the king, “It is like a man who sows grain every year. Is there an end or a stop to the production of grain?”

“If he sows grain every year, there will be no end to its production.”

“Just so is the life of a person. There is no end to this cycle of birth and death.”

Then Nāgasena gave a simile, “Just like a hen that lays an egg. From the egg comes a hen, from the hen comes another egg. So it is in a person. The cycle of birth and death continues without end.”

Then the Elder Nāgasena drew a cycle of the wheel on the ground and asked the king, “Are there angles to this wheel?”

“This is a complete cycle. There is no angle to it,” said the king. Then Nāgasena said, “In a sutras, the Buddha says, ‘The cycle of birth and death of a person is like the wheel of a chariot rolling on continuously without an end.’”

Nāgasena continued,

(a) “When the eyes make contact with various forms, then the eye consciousness arises. When these three (the eye, the form and the eye-consciousness) come together, happiness or suffering arise; from happiness and suffering, craving or attachment arises; from craving, lustful desire arises; from lustful desire, becoming arises; from becoming, there arises birth; from birth, there arise good and bad activities; then there again arises birth.”

(b) “When the ears hear good sounds, ear-consciousness arises, then these three come together. With the contact of these three, happiness and suffering arise; from happiness and suffering, craving arises; from craving, lustful desire arises; from lustful desire, becoming arises; from becoming, birth arises; from birth, good and bad activities arise; from these good and bad activities, birth again arises.”

(c) “When the nose smells good odors, nose-consciousness arises; from the contact of these three, happiness and suffering arise; from happiness and suffering, craving arises; from craving, lustful desire arises; from lustful desire, becoming arises; from becoming, birth arises; from birth, good and bad activities arise; from good and bad activities, birth again arises.”

(d) “When the tongue tastes a flavor, then tongue-consciousness arises; from the contact of these three, happiness and suffering arise; from happiness and suffering, craving arises; from craving, lustful desire arises; from lustful desire, becoming arises; from becoming, birth arises; from birth, good and bad activities arise; from good and bad activities, birth again arises.”

(e) “When the body touches smoothness and softness, then body-consciousness arises; from the contact of these three, happiness and suffering arise; from happiness and suffering, craving arises; from craving, lustful desire arises; from lustful desire, becoming arises; from becoming, birth arises; from birth, good and bad activities arise; from good and bad activities, birth again arises.”

(f) “When the mind thinks over something, mind-consciousness arises; from the contact of these three, happiness and suffering arise; from happiness and suffering, craving arises; from craving, lustful desire arises; from lustful desire, becoming arises; from becoming, birth arises; from birth, good and bad activities arise; from good and bad activities, birth again arises.” Nāgasena continued, “Thus, a person is subject to birth and death like a wheel without an end.”

“Excellent, Nāgasena.”