DN2.3.2. The Doctrine of Makkhali Gosāla

Sāmaññaphala Sutta ("The Fruits of the Ascetic Life")

One time, sir, I approached Makkhali Gosāla and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, I sat down to one side, and asked him the same question.

He said: ‘Great king, there is no cause or condition for the corruption of sentient beings. Sentient beings are corrupted without cause or condition. There’s no cause or condition for the purification of sentient beings. Sentient beings are purified without cause or condition. One does not act of one’s own volition, one does not act of another’s volition, one does not act from a person’s volition. There is no power, no energy, no manly strength or vigor. All sentient beings, all living creatures, all beings, all souls lack control, power, and energy. Molded by destiny, circumstance, and nature, they experience pleasure and pain in the six classes of rebirth. There are 1.4 million main wombs, and 6,000, and 600. There are 500 deeds, and five, and three. There are deeds and half-deeds. There are 62 paths, 62 sub-eons, six classes of rebirth, and eight stages in a person’s life. There are 4,900 Ājīvaka ascetics, 4,900 wanderers, and 4,900 naked ascetics. There are 2,000 faculties, 3,000 hells, and 36 realms of dust. There are seven percipient embryos, seven non-percipient embryos, and seven embryos without attachments. There are seven gods, seven humans, and seven goblins. There are seven lakes, seven winds, 700 winds, seven cliffs, and 700 cliffs. There are seven dreams and 700 dreams. There are 8.4 million great eons through which the foolish and the astute transmigrate before making an end of suffering. And here there is no such thing as this: “By this precept or observance or mortification or spiritual life I shall force unripened deeds to bear their fruit, or eliminate old deeds by experiencing their results little by little,” for that cannot be. Pleasure and pain are allotted. Transmigration lasts only for a limited period, so there’s no increase or decrease, no getting better or worse. It’s like how, when you toss a ball of string, it rolls away unraveling. In the same way, after transmigrating the foolish and the astute will make an end of suffering.’

And so, when I asked Makkhali Gosāla about the fruits of the ascetic life apparent in the present life, he answered with the doctrine of purification through transmigration. It was like someone who, when asked about a mango, answered with a breadfruit, or when asked about a breadfruit, answered with a mango. I thought: ‘How could one such as I presume to rebuke an ascetic or brahmin living in my realm?’ So I neither approved nor dismissed that statement of Makkhali Gosāla. I was displeased, but did not express my displeasure. Neither accepting what he said nor contradicting it, I got up from my seat and left.

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