T 1670B Nāgasena Bhikṣu Sūtra

Part 2: Dialogues

2.3. Nāgasena’s Wit in Answering Questions

“Revered sir, I have a question to ask you,” said the king.

“Please ask it, Sire,” said Nāgasena.

“I have asked it already, your reverence.”

“I have already answered it.”

“What was your answer?”

“O King, what was your question?”

“I have asked nothing.”

“I made no reply.”

Then the king thought to himself, “This sramana is of great wisdom and intelligence. I have just started, and have a number of points on which to question him.” Again the king thought to himself, “However, the sun will soon set. It would be better to carry on the discussion tomorrow. I shall invite Nāgasena to the palace in order to have a thorough discussion.”

Then the king told Devamantiya to tell Nāgasena that the sun is setting and the king would like to invite him to come to his palace tomorrow and have a good discussion. Devamantiya told Nāgasena accordingly, “It is time for the king to go back to the palace, and the king wants to invite Your Reverence, Nāgasena to the palace tomorrow.”

Nāgasena said, “Very good.” And so saying, the king mounted his horse and returned to the palace. Whilst riding home he muttered, “Nāgasena, Nāgasena.”

Thus he had Nāgasena in his mind until the next morning. The next day, Devamantiya and other ministers asked the king, “Should we invite His Reverence Nāgasena to come today?”

“Yes, invite him.” said the king.

Then Devamantiya asked, “How many sramanas should we invite Nāgasena to bring along with him?”

“As many sramanas as he likes,” replied the king.

The treasurer of the king named Sabbadinna said, “Invite him to bring ten sramanas.” But the king repeated, “Let him come with as many as he likes.” Sabbadinna said once again, “Let him come with ten sramanas.” The king repeated, “Let him come with as many as he likes.” But Sabbadinna also repeated again, “Let him come with ten sramanas.”

When the king heard Sabbadinna’s words for the third time, the king scolded him severely with anger and said, “You are really stingy. Your name is Sabbadinna (lit: stingy), and it is not inappropriate. If you begrudge the imperial goods, how much more would you value your own goods? Is it not known to you that anyone who is against my wish will be punished or even killed?”

The king said, “But I pity you and remit your punishment. Do you suppose that I am not capable of feeding so many sramana?” Then Sabbadinna was ashamed and dared not speak another word. Devamantiya and Mankura went to Nāgasena’s place, worshipped him and said, “The king invites Revered Nāgasena to come to the palace.”

“How many sramanas does the king allow me to bring along?” asked Nāgasena.

“With as many sramanas as you like”, said Devamantiya. Then Nāgasena went with Ayupala and other sramanas about eighty in number. Devamantiya and Mankura all went together to accompany Nāgasena.