Bimbisâra Râga Becomes a Disciple

Life of BuddhaAśvaghoṣa

And now those five men, Asvagit Vâshpa, and the others, having heard that he (Kaundinya) “knew” the law, with humble mien and self-subdued, their hands joined, offered their homage, and looked with reverence in the teacher’s face. Tathâgata, by wise expedient, caused them one by one to embrace the law. And so from first to last the five Bhikshus obtained reason and subdued their senses, like the five stars which shine in heaven, waiting upon the brightening moon. At this time in the town of Ku-i there was a noble’s son called Yasas; lost in night-sleep suddenly he woke, and when he saw his attendants all, men and women, with ill-clad bodies, sleeping, his heart was filled with loathing; reflecting on the root of sorrow, he thought how madly foolish men were immersed in it. Clothing himself, and putting on his jewels, he left his home and wandered forth; then on the way he stood and cried aloud, “Alas! alas! what endless chain of sorrows.” Tathâgata, by night, was walking forth, and hearing sounds like these, “Alas! what sorrow,” forthwith replied, “You are welcome! here, on the other hand, there is a place of rest—the most excellent, refreshing, Nirvâna, quiet and unmoved, free from sorrow.” Yasas hearing Buddha’s exhortation, there rose much joy within his heart. And in the place of the disgust he felt, the cooling streams of holy wisdom found their way, as when one enters first a cold pellucid lake. Advancing then, he came where Buddha was—his person decked with common ornaments, his mind already freed from all defects; by power of the good root obtained in other births, he quickly reached the fruit of an Arhat. The secret light of pure wisdom’s virtue enabled him to understand, on listening to the law; just as a pure silken fabric with ease is dyed a different color. Thus having attained to self-illumination, and done that which was to be done, he was converted; then looking at his person richly ornamented, his heart was filled with shame. Tathâgata knowing his inward thoughts, in gâthas spoke the following words: “Though ornamented with jewels, the heart may yet have conquered sense; looking with equal mind on all that lives, in such a case the outward form does not affect religion; the body, too, may wear the ascetic’s garb, the heart, meanwhile, be immersed in worldly thoughts; dwelling in lonely woods, yet covetous of worldly show, such men are after all mere worldlings; the body may have a worldly guise, the heart mount high to things celestial. The layman and the hermit are the same, when only both have banished thought of ‘self,’ but if the heart be twined with carnal bonds, what use the marks of bodily attention? He who wears martial decorations, does so because by valor he has triumphed o’er an enemy—so he who wears the hermit’s colored robe, does so for having vanquished sorrow as his foe.” Then he bade him come, and be a member of his church; and at the bidding, lo! his garments changed! and he stood wholly attired in hermit’s dress, complete; in heart and outward look, a Sramana. Now Yasas had in former days some light companions, in number fifty and four; when these beheld their friend a hermit, they, too, one by one, attained true wisdom. By virtue of deeds done in former births, these deeds now bore their perfect fruit. Just as when burning ashes are sprinkled by water, the water being dried, the flame bursts forth. So now, with those above, the disciples were altogether sixty, all Arhats; entirely obedient and instructed in the law of perfect discipleship. So perfected he taught them further:—“Now ye have passed the stream and reached ‘the other shore,’ across the sea of birth and death; what should be done, ye now have done! and ye may now receive the charity of others. Go then through every country, convert those not yet converted; throughout the world that lies burnt up with sorrow, teach everywhere; instruct those lacking right instruction. Go, therefore! each one travelling by himself; filled with compassion, go! rescue and receive. I too will go alone, back to yonder Kia-ke mountain; where there are great Rishis, royal Rishis, Brahman Rishis too, these all dwell there, influencing men according to their schools. The Rishi Kâsyapa, enduring pain, reverenced by all the country, making converts too of many, him will I visit and convert.” Then the sixty Bhikshus respectfully receiving orders to preach, each according to his fore-determined purpose, following his inclination, went through every land. The honored of the world went on alone, till he arrived at the Kia-ke mountain, then entering a retired religious dell, he came to where the Rishi Kâsyapa was. Now this one had a “fire grot” where he offered sacrifice, where an evil Nâga dwelt, who wandered here and there in search of rest, through mountains and wild places of the earth. The honored of the world, wishing to instruct this hermit and convert him, asked him, on coming, for a place to lodge that night. Kâsyapa, replying, spake to Buddha thus:—“I have no resting-place to offer for the night, only this fire grot where I sacrifice; this is a cool and fit place for the purpose, but an evil dragon dwells there, who is accustomed, as he can, to poison men.” Buddha replied, “Permit me only, and for the night I’ll take my dwelling there.” Kâsyapa made many difficulties, but the world-honored one still asked the favor. Then Kâsyapa addressed Buddha, “My mind desires no controversy, only I have my fears and apprehensions, but follow you your own good pleasure.” Buddha forthwith stepped within the fiery grot, and took his seat with dignity and deep reflection; and now the evil Nâga seeing Buddha, belched forth in rage his fiery poison, and filled the place with burning vapor. But this could not affect the form of Buddha. Throughout the abode the fire consumed itself, the honored of the world still sat composed: Even as Brahma, in the midst of the kalpa-fire that burns and reaches to the Brahma heavens, still sits unmoved, without a thought of fear or apprehension, so Buddha sat; the evil Nâga seeing him, his face glowing with peace, and still unchanged, ceased his poisonous blast, his heart appeased; he bent his head and worshipped. Kâsyapa in the night seeing the fire-glow, sighed:—“Ah! alas! what misery! this most distinguished man is also burnt up by the fiery Nâga.” Then Kâsyapa and his followers at morning light came one and all to look. Now Buddha having subdued the evil Nâga, had straightway placed him in his pâtra, beholding which, and seeing the power of Buddha, Kâsyapa conceived within him deep and secret thoughts:—“This Gotama,” he thought, “is deeply versed in religion, but still he said, ‘I am a master of religion.‘” Then Buddha, as occasion offered, displayed all kinds of spiritual changes, influencing Kâsyapa’s heart-thoughts, changing and subduing them, making his mind pliant and yielding, until at length prepared to be a vessel of the true law, he confessed that his poor wisdom could not compare with the complete wisdom of the world-honored one. And so, convinced at last, humbly submitting, he accepted right instruction. Thus U-pi-lo Uravilva Kâsyapa, and five hundred of his followers following their master, virtuously submissive, in turn received the teaching of the law. Kâsyapa and all his followers were thus entirely converted. The Rishi then, taking his goods and all his sacrificial vessels, threw them together in the river, which floated down upon the surface of the current. Nadi and Gada, brothers, who dwelt down the stream, seeing these articles of clothing and the rest floating along the stream disorderly, said, “Some great change has happened,” and deeply pained, were restlessly concerned. The two, each with five hundred followers, going up the stream to seek their brother. Seeing him now dressed as a hermit, and all his followers with him, having got knowledge of the miraculous law—strange thoughts engaged their minds—“our brother having submitted thus, we too should also follow him.” Thus the three brothers, with all their band of followers, were brought to hear the lord’s discourse on the comparison of a fire sacrifice: and in the discourse he taught, “How the dark smoke of ignorance arises, whilst confused thoughts, like wood drilled into wood, create the fire. Lust, anger, delusion, these are as fire produced, and these inflame and burn all living things. Thus the fire of grief and sorrow, once enkindled, ceases not to burn, ever giving rise to birth and death; but whilst this fire of sorrow ceases not, yet are there two kinds of fire, one that burns but has no fuel left. So when the heart of man has once conceived distaste for sin, this distaste removing covetous desire, covetous desire extinguished, there is rescue; if once this rescue has been found, then with it is born sight and knowledge, by which distinguishing the streams of birth and death, and practising pure conduct, all is done that should be done, and hereafter shall be no more life.” Thus the thousand Bhikshus hearing the world-honored preach, all defects forever done away, their minds found perfect and complete deliverance. Then Buddha for the Kâsyapas’ sakes, and for the benefit of the thousand Bhikshus, having preached, and done all that should be done, himself with purity and wisdom and all the concourse of high qualities excellently adorned, he gave them, as in charity, rules for cleansing sense. The great Rishi, listening to reason, lost all regard for bodily austerities, and, as a man without a guide, was emptied of himself, and learned discipleship. And now the honored one and all his followers go forward to the royal city (Râgagriha), remembering, as he did, the Magadha king, and what he heretofore had promised. The honored one when he arrived, remained within the “staff grove”; Bimbisâra Râga hearing thereof, with all his company of courtiers, lords and ladies all surrounding him, came to where the master was. Then at a distance seeing Buddha seated, with humbled heart and subdued presence, putting off his common ornaments, descending from his chariot, forward he stepped; even as Sakra, king of gods, going to where Brahmadeva-râga dwells. Bowing down at Buddha’s feet, he asked him, with respect, about his health of body; Buddha in his turn, having made inquiries, begged him to be seated on one side. Then the king’s mind reflected silently:—“This Sâkya must have great controlling power, to subject to his will these Kâsyapas who now are round him as disciples.” Buddha, knowing all thoughts, spoke thus to Kâsyapa, questioning him:—“What profit have you found in giving up your fire-adoring law?” Kâsyapa hearing Buddha’s words, rising with dignity before the great assembly, bowed lowly down, and then with clasped hands and a loud voice addressing Buddha, said:—“The profit I received, adoring the fire spirit, was this—continuance in the wheel of life, birth and death, with all their sorrows growing—this service I have therefore cast away. Diligently I persevered in fire-worship, seeking to put an end to the five desires, in return I found desires endlessly increasing: therefore have I cast off this service. Sacrificing thus to fire with many Mantras, I did but miss escape from birth; receiving birth, with it came all its sorrows, therefore I cast it off and sought for rest. I was versed, indeed, in self-affliction, my mode of worship largely adopted, and counted of all most excellent, and yet I was opposed to highest wisdom. Therefore have I discarded it, and gone in quest of the supreme Nirvâna. Removing from me birth, old age, disease, and death, I sought a place of undying rest and calm. And as I gained the knowledge of this truth, then I cast off the law of worshipping the fire.”

The honored-of-the-world, hearing Kâsyapa declaring his experience of truth, wishing to move the world throughout to conceive a heart of purity and faith, addressing Kâsyapa further, said: “Welcome! great master, welcome! Rightly have you distinguished law from law, and well obtained the highest wisdom; now before this great assembly, pray you! exhibit your excellent endowments; as any rich and wealthy noble opens for view his costly treasures, causing the poor and sorrow-laden multitude to increase their forgetfulness awhile; and honor well your lord’s instruction.” Forthwith in presence of the assembly, gathering up his body and entering Samâdhi, calmly he ascended into space, and there displayed himself, walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, emitting fiery vapor from his body, on his right and left side water and fire, not burning and not moistening him. Then clouds and rain proceeded from him, thunder with lightning shook the heaven and earth; thus he drew the world to look in adoration, with eyes undazzled as they gazed; with different mouths, but all in language one, they magnified and praised this wondrous spectacle, then afterwards drawn by spiritual force, they came and worshipped at the master’s feet, exclaiming:—“Buddha is our great teacher! we are the honored one’s disciples.” Thus having magnified his work and finished all he purposed doing, drawing the world as universal witness, the assembly was convinced that he, the world-honored, was truly the “Omniscient!” Buddha, perceiving that the whole assembly was ready as a vessel to receive the law, spoke thus to Bimbisâra Râga: “Listen now and understand: The mind, the thoughts, and all the senses are subject to the law of life and death. This fault of birth and death, once understood, then there is clear and plain perception. Obtaining this clear perception, then there is born knowledge of self; knowing oneself and with this knowledge laws of birth and death, then there is no grasping and no sense-perception. Knowing oneself, and understanding how the senses act, then there is no room for ‘I’ (soul) or ground for framing it; then all the accumulated mass of sorrow, sorrows born from life and death, being recognized as attributes of body, and as this body is not ‘I,’ nor offers ground for ‘I,’ then comes the great superlative, the source of peace unending. This thought of ‘self’ gives rise to all these sorrows, binding as with cords the world, but having found there is no ‘I’ that can be bound, then all these bonds are severed. There are no bonds indeed—they disappear—and seeing this there is deliverance. The world holds to this thought of ‘I,’ and so, from this, comes false apprehension. Of those who maintain the truth of it, some say the ‘I’ endures, some say it perishes; taking the two extremes of birth and death, their error is most grievous! For if they say the ‘I’ is perishable, the fruit they strive for, too, will perish; and at some time there will be no hereafter: this is indeed a meritless deliverance. But if they say the ‘I’ is not to perish, then in the midst of all this life and death there is but one identity as space, which is not born and does not die. If this is what they call the ‘I,’ then are all things living, one—for all have this unchanging self—not perfected by any deeds, but self-perfect. If so, if such a self it is that acts, let there be no self-mortifying conduct, the self is lord and master; what need to do that which is done? For if this ‘I’ is lasting and imperishable, then reason would teach it never can be changed. But now we see the marks of joy and sorrow, what room for constancy then is here? Knowing that birth brings this deliverance then I put away all thought of sin’s defilement; the whole world, everything, endures! what then becomes of this idea of rescue? We cannot even talk of putting self away, truth is the same as falsehood; it is not ‘I’ that do a thing, and who, forsooth, is he that talks of ‘I’? But if it is not ‘I’ that do the thing, then there is no ‘I’ that does it, and in the absence of these both, there is no ‘I’ at all, in very truth. No doer and no knower, no lord, yet notwithstanding this, there ever lasts this birth and death, like morn and night ever recurring. But now attend to me and listen: The senses six and their six objects united cause the six kinds of knowledge, these three united bring forth contact, then the intervolved effects of recollection follow. Then like the burning glass and tinder through the sun’s power cause fire to appear, so through the knowledge born of sense and object, the lord of knowledge (self) is born. The shoot springs from the seed, the seed is not the shoot, not one and yet not different: such is the birth of all that lives.” The honored of the world preaching the truth, the equal and impartial paramârtha, thus addressed the king with all his followers. Then King Bimbisâra filled with joy, removing from himself defilement, gained religious sight, a hundred thousand spirits also, hearing the words of the immortal law, shook off and lost the stain of sin.

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