T 1670B Nāgasena Bhikṣu Sūtra

Part 2: Dialogues

2.27. The Origin of Things

The king asked Nāgasena, “Is there anything in the world arising spontaneously?” Then Nāgasena replied, “There is nothing in this world that arises spontaneously. All things originate through causes and conditions.”

(1) Simile of the hall

Then Nāgasena asked the king, “What do you think, did this great hall in which you are sitting come spontaneously into being or come into being owing to the endeavor of men?”

“It is due to the moil and toil of men. The woods come from forest, the clay and mud come from earth.”

Nāgasena said, “It is the same with regard to a person. The combination of eighteen dhatus or twelve ayatanas is called a person. Therefore there is nothing that arises spontaneously. There must be causes and conditions for a thing to arise.”

(2) Simile of earthen ware pot

Then Nāgasena gave a simile, “It is just like a potter who makes earthen-wares. He takes water and earth, makes them into mud, shapes them into various forms and fires them into various earthen-wares. The mud itself cannot become earthen-ware. There must be man’s effort and the burning of wood before it becomes earthen-ware. There is nothing that arises spontaneously in this world.”

(3) Simile of music

Nāgasena again gave a simile and said to the king, “It is like a lute (vina).

If there is no string, no frame, no one to play it, can it produce any sounds?”

“Certainly not Sir.” said the king.

“Then, if there is a lute with string, frame and there is also a man to play it, can it produce sounds?”

“Yes, it can.”

“Thus, there is nothing that arises spontaneously in this world. There must be causes and conditions for a thing to arise.”

(4) Simile of making fire

Nāgasena said to the king, “It is like making fire by rubbing two sticks together. If there are no sticks, no human effort or exertion, could there be fire?”

“Certainly not.”

“If there are two sticks and also human effort or exertion, could there be fire?”

“Yes, there could be fire.”

“Thus there is nothing that arises spontaneously in this world. There must be causes and conditions for a thing to arise.”

(5) Simile of fire

Nāgasena asked the king, “It is like a lens without a person holding it, and without the sun, or a clear sky, could it produce fire?”

“Certainly not.”

“Then if there is a person holding the lens, and there is the sun and clear sky, can it produce fire?”

“Yes, it can produce fire.”

“Thus, there is nothing in this world that arises spontaneously. There must be causes and conditions for a thing to arise.”

(6) Simile of the image

Nāgasena asked the king again, “Suppose a man has no mirror, and there is also no light, but he wants to see himself in the mirror. Can he see his own image?”

“No, he cannot see his own image.”

“But, if there is a mirror, light and also a person looking at the mirror, can he see his own image?”

“Yes, he can see his own image.”

“Thus, there is nothing in this world that arises spontaneously. There must be causes and conditions for a thing to arise.”

“Excellent, Nāgasena.”