DN2.4.1. The First Fruit of the Ascetic Life

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

And so I ask the Buddha: Sir, there are many different professional fields. These include elephant riders, cavalry, charioteers, archers, bannermen, adjutants, food servers, warrior-chiefs, princes, chargers, great warriors, heroes, leather-clad soldiers, and sons of bondservants. They also include bakers, barbers, bathroom attendants, cooks, garland-makers, dyers, weavers, basket-makers, potters, accountants, finger-talliers, or those following any similar professions. All these live off the fruits of their profession which are apparent in the present life. With that they bring happiness and joy to themselves, their parents, their children and partners, and their friends and colleagues. And they establish an uplifting religious donation for ascetics and brahmins that’s conducive to heaven, ripens in happiness, and leads to heaven. Sir, can you point out a fruit of the ascetic life that’s likewise apparent in the present life?”

“I can, great king. Well then, I’ll ask you about this in return, and you can answer as you like. What do you think, great king? Suppose you had a person who was a bondservant, a worker. They get up before you and go to bed after you, and are obliging, behaving nicely and speaking politely, and gazing up at your face. They’d think: ‘The outcome and result of good deeds is just so incredible, so amazing! For this King Ajātasattu is a human being, and so am I. Yet he amuses himself, supplied and provided with the five kinds of sensual stimulation as if he were a god. Whereas I’m his bondservant, his worker. I get up before him and go to bed after him, and am obliging, behaving nicely and speaking politely, and gazing up at his face. I should do good deeds. Why don’t I shave off my hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from the lay life to homelessness?’

After some time, that is what they do. Having gone forth they’d live restrained in body, speech, and mind, living content with nothing more than food and clothes, delighting in seclusion. And suppose your men were to report all this to you. Would you say to them: ‘Bring that person to me! Let them once more be my bondservant, my worker’?”

“No, sir. Rather, I would bow to them, rise in their presence, and offer them a seat. I’d invite them to accept robes, alms-food, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick. And I’d arrange for their lawful guarding and protection.”

“What do you think, great king? If this is so, is there a fruit of the ascetic life apparent in the present life or not?”

“Clearly, sir, there is.”

“This is the first fruit of the ascetic life that’s apparent in the present life, which I point out to you.”

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