This text was said to be the first official Buddhist literature
which was composed for the Chinese by two early Indian
missionaries, Kashyapa Matanga and Gobharana, during the reign of
Emperor Ming of the Later Han Dynasty. The translators extracted
all the passages from different Buddhism scriptures which they
brought along for their missionary purposes. It was complied after
the fashion of the Confucian Analects to suit the Chinese and
therefore each section begins with "The Buddha said" which
corresponds to the Confucian "Confucius said". It was therefore
specially prepared for the Chinese Buddhists and it contains a
good collection of moral and religious sayings of the Buddha.
The main text:
When the World-Honoured One had become Enlightened, he reflected
thus, "To be free from the passions and to be calm, this is the
most excellent Way." He was absorbed in Great Meditation, subdued
all evil ones and later in the Deer Park caused to turn the Wheel
of Dharma, which consisted of the Four Noble Truths:
1. Life is Suffering.
2. Ignorance is the cause of Suffering.
3. The Cessation of Suffering which is the goal of life as it
transcends pains and pleasure.
4. The Way to Cessation of Suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path
which consists of:
(1) Right Understanding
(2) Right Thoughts
(3) Right Speech
(4) Right Action
(5) Right Livelihood
(6) Right Effort
(7) Right Mindfulness
(8) Right Concentration.
He converted the five bhikshus, Kaudinya and the others, inducing
them to attain Enlightenment.
Again, there were other bhikshus who implored the Buddha to remove
their doubts which they had concerning his doctrine. The World-Honoured
One illuminated all their minds through his authoritative
teachings. The bhikshus, joining their hands reverentially
prostrating, following his sacred instructions.
1. The Buddha said, "Those who, taking leave of their families and
adopting the life of renunciation, understand the mind, reach the
source, and comprehend the immaterial, are called Sramanas.
Those who observe the two hundred and fifty precepts of morality,
who are pure and spotless in their behaviours, and who exert
themselves for the attainment of the stages of progress, are
called Arhats. The Arhat is able to fly through space and assume
different forms; his life is eternal, and there are times when he
causes heaven and earth to quake.
Below them is the Anagamin who, at the end of a long life, ascend
in spirit to the nineteenth heaven and obtains Arhatship.
Next come the Skridagamin who ascends to the heavens (after his
death), comes back to the earth once more, and then attains
Then come the Srotaapanna who cannot become Arhat until he has
passed seven more rounds of birth and death. By the severance of
the passions is meant that like the limbs severed they are never
again made use of."
2. The Buddha said, "The renunciate Sramana cuts off the passions,
frees himself of attachments, understands the source of his own
mind, penetrates the deepest doctrine of Buddha, and comprehends
the Dharma which is immaterial. He has no prejudice in his heart,
he has nothing to hanker after. He is not hampered by the thought
of the Way, nor is he entangled in karma. No prejudice, no
compulsion, so discipline, no enlightenment, and no going up
through the grades, and yet in possession of all honours in itself
- this is what is meant by the Way."
3. The Buddha said, "Those who shaving their heads and faces and
becomes Sramanas and have accepted the Doctrine of the Way, should
surrender all worldly possessions and be contented with whatever
they obtain by begging. Only one meal a day and loding under a
tree, he desires nothing else. For what makes one stupid and
irrational is attachments and passions."
4. The Buddha said, "There are ten things considered good by all
beings, and ten things evil. What are they? Three of them depend
upon the body, four upon the mouth, and three upon the mind.
The three evil deeds depending upon the body are: killing,
stealing and unchaste deeds. The four depending upon the mouth
are: slendering, cursing, lying and flattery. The three depending
upon the mind are: jealousy, hatred and ignorance. All these
things are not in keeping with the Holy Way, and are therefore
evil. When these evils are not done, they are ten good deeds."
5. The Buddha said, "If a man who has committed many sins, does
not repent and purify his heart of evil, retribution will come
upon his person as sure as the streams runs into the ocean which
becomes ever deeper and wider. If a man who has committed sins,
come to the knowledge of it, reforms himself, and practises
goodness, the force of retribution will gradually exhaust itself
as a disease gradually loses its baneful influence when the
6. The Buddha said, "When an evil-man, seeing you practise
goodness, comes and maticiously insults you, you should patiently
endure it and not feel angry with him, for the evil-man is
insulting himself by trying to insult you."
7. The Buddha said, "Once a man came unto me and denounced me on
account of my observing the Way and practicing great
loving-kindness. But I kept silent and did not answer him. The
denunciation ceased. Then I asked him. 'If you bring a present to
your neighbour and he accepts it not; does the present come back
to you?' He replied, 'It will.' I said, 'You denounce me now, but
as I accept it not, you must take the wrong deed back on your own
person. It is like echo succeeding sound, it is like shadow
following object; you never escape the effect of your own evil
deeds. Be therefore mindful, and cease from doing evil."
8. The Buddha said, "Evil-doers who denounce the wise resemble a
person who spits against the sky; the spittle will never reach the
sky; but comes down on himself. Evil-doers again resemble a man
who stirs the dust against the wind, the dust is never raised
without doing him injury. Thus, the wise will never be hurt but
the curse is sure to destroy the evil-doers themselves."
9. The Buddha said, "If you endeavour to embrace the Way through
much learning, the Way will not understood. If you observe the Way
with simplicity of heart, great indeed is this Way."
10. The Buddha said, "Those who rejoice in seeing others observe
the Way will obtain great blessing." A Sramana asked the Buddha,
"Would this blessing be destroyed?" The Buddha replied, "It is
like a lighted torch whose flame can be distributed to ever so
many others torches which flame can be distributed to ever so many
other torches which people may bring along; and therewith they
will cook food and dispel darkness, while the original torch
itself remains burning ever the same. It is even so with the bliss
of the Way."
11. The Buddha said, "It is better to feed a good man than one
hundred bad men. It is better to feed one who observe the Five
Precepts of the Buddha than to feed one thousand good men. It is
better to feed one Srotaapanna (Stream-enteree) than to feed ten
thousands of those who observe the Five Precepts of Buddha. It is
better to feed one Skriddagamin than to feed one million
Srotaapanna. It is better to feed one Anagamin than to feed one
Arhat than to feed one hundred millions of Anagamins. It is better
to feed one Pratyekabuddha than to feed one billion of Arhats. It
is better to feed one of the Buddha, either of the present, or of
the past, or of the future, than to feed ten billions of
Pratyekabuddhas. It is better to feed one who is above knowledge,
one-sidedness, discipline, and enlightenment than to feed one
hundred billions of Buddhas of the past, present, or future.
12. The Buddha said, "There are twenty difficult things to attain
in this world:
1. It is hard for the poor to practice charity.
2. It is hard for the strong and rich to observe the Way.
3. It is hard to disregard life and go to certain death.
4. It is only a favoured few that get acquainted with a Buddhist
5. It is hard to be born in the age of the Buddha.
6. It is hard to conquer the passions, to suppress selfish
7. It is hard not to hanker after that which is agreeable.
8. It is hard not to get into a passion when slighted.
9. It is hard not to abuse one's authority.
10. It is hard to be even-minded and simple hearted in all one's
dealings with others.
11. It is hard to be thorough in learning and exhaustive in
12. It is hard to subdue selfish pride.
13. It is hard not to feel contempt toward the unlearned.
14. It is hard to be one in knowledge and practice.
15. It is hard not to express an opinion about others.
16. It is by rare opportunity that one is introduced to a true
17. It is hard to gain an insight into the nature of being and
to practice the Way.
18. It is hard to follow the way of a saviour.
19. It is hard to be always the master of oneself.
20. It is hard to understand thoroughly the Ways of Buddha."
13. A monk asked the Buddha, "Under what conditions is it possible
to come to the knowledge of the past and to understand the most
supreme Way?" The Buddha answered, "Those who are pure in heart
and single in purpose are able to understand the most supreme Way.
It is like polishing a mirror, which becomes bright when the dust
is removed. Remove your passions, and have no hankering, and the
past will be revealed to you."
14. A monk asked the Buddha, "What is good, and what is great?"
The Buddha replied, "Good is to practice the Way and to follow the
truth. Great is the heart that is in accord with the Way."
15. A monk asked the Buddha, "What is most powerful, and what is
most illuminating?" The Buddha replied, "Meekness is most
powerful, for it harbours no evil thoughts, and, moreover, it is
restful and full of strength. as it is free from evils, it is sure
to be honoured by all.
The most illuminating is a mind that is thoroughly cleansed of
dirt, and which, remaining pure, retains no blemishes. From the
time when there was yet no heaven and earth till the present day,
there is nothing in the ten quarters which is not seen, or known,
or heard by such a mind, for it has gained all-knowledge, and for
that reason it is called 'illuminating'."
16. The Buddha said, "Those who have passions are never able to
preceive the Way; for it is like stirring up clear water with
hands; people may come there wishing to find a reflection of their
faces, which, however, they will never see. A mind troubled and
vexed with the passions is impure, and on that account it never
sees the Way. O monks, do away with passions. When the dirt of
passion is removed the Way will manifest itself."
17. The Buddha said, "Seeing the Way is like going into a dark
room with a torch; the darkness instantly departs, while the light
alone remains. When the Way is attained and the truth is seen,
ignorance vanishes and enlightenment abides forever."
18. The Buddha said, "My doctrine is to think the thought that is
unthinkable, to practise the deed that is non-doing, to speak the
speech that is inexpressible, and to be trained in the discipline
that is deyond discipline. Those who understand this are near,
those who are confused are far. The Way is beyond words and
expressions, is bound by nothing earthly. Lose sight of it to an
inch, or miss it for a moment, and we are away from it forever
19. The Buddha said, "Look up to heaven and down on earth, and
they will remind you of their impermanency. Look about the world,
and it will remind you of its impermanency. But when you gain
spiritual enlightenment, you shall then find wisdom. The knowledge
thus attained leads you quickly to the Way."
20. The Buddha said, "You should think of the four elements of
which the body is exposed. Each of them has its own name, and
there is no such thing there known as ego. As there is really no
ego, it is like unto a mirage."
21. The Buddha said, "Moved by their selfish desires, people seek
after fame and glory. But when they have acquired it, they are
already strikened in years. If you hanker after wordly fame and
practise not the Way, your labours are wrongfully applied and your
energy is wasted. It is like unto burning an incense stick."
22. The Buddha said, "People cleave to their worldly possessions
and selfish passions so blindly as to sacrifice their own lives
for them. They are like a child who tries to eat a little honey
smeared on the edge of a knife. The amount is by no means
sufficient to appease his appetite, but he runs the risk of
wounding the tongue."
23. The Buddha said, "Men are tied up to their famililes and
possessions more helplessly than in a prison. There is an
occassion for the prisoner to be released, but the housholders
entertain no desire to be relieved from the ties of family. Even
into the paws of a tiger, he will jump. Those who are thus drowned
in the filth of passion are called the ignorant. Those who are
able to overcome it are saintly Arhats."
24. The Buddha said, "There is nothing like lust. Lust may be said
to be the most powerful passion. Fortunately, we have but one
thing which is more powerful. If the thirst for truth were weaker
than passion, how many of us in the world will be able to follow
the way of righteousness?"
25. The Buddha said, "Men who are addicted to the passions are
like the torch-carrier running against the wind; his hands are
sure to be burned."
26. The Lord of Heaven offered a beautiful fairy to the Buddha,
desiring to tempt him to the evil path. But the Buddha said, "Be
gone. What use have I for the leather bag filled with filth which
you brought to me?" Then, the god reverently bowed and asked the
Buddha about the essence of the Way, in which having been
instructed by the buddha, it is said he attained the fruit of
27. The Buddha said, "Those who are following the Way should
behave like a piece of timber which is drifting along a stream. If
the log is neither held by the banks, nor seized by men, nor
obstructed by the gods, nor kept in the whirlpool, nor itself goes
to decay, I assure you that this log will finally reach the ocean.
If monks waling on the Way are neither tempted by the passions,
nor led astray by some evil influences; but steadily pursue their
course of Nirvana, I assure you that these monks will finally
28. The Buddha said, "Rely not upon your own will. It is not
trustworthy. Guard yourself against sensualism, for it surely
leads to the path of evil. Your own will becoomes trustworthy only
when you have attained Arhatship."
29. The Buddha said, "O monks, you should not see women. (If you
have to see them), refrain from talking to them. (If you have to
talk to them), you should reflect in a right spirit: 'I am now a
homeless mendicant. In the world of sin, I must behave myself like
unto the lotus flower whose purity is not defiled by the mud. Old
ones I will treat as my mother; elderly ones as elder sisters;
younger ones as younger sisters; and little ones as daughters.'
And in all this you should habour no evil thoughts, but think of
30. The Buddha said, "Those who walk the Way should avoid
sensualism as those who carry hay would avoid coming near the
31. The Buddha said, "There was once a man who, being in despair
over his inability to control his passions, wished to multilate
himself." The Buddha said to Him, "Better destroy your own evil
thoughts than do harm to your own person. The mind is lord. When
the lord himself is claimed the servant will themselves be
yielding. If your mind is purified of evil passions, what avails
it to multilate yourself?" Thereupon, the Buddha recited the gatha:
"Passions grow from the will,
The will grows from thought and imagination.
When both are calmed,
There is neither sensualism nor transmigration."
The Buddha said that this gatha was taught by Kashyapa Buddha.
32. The Buddha said, "From the passions arise worry, and from
worry arises fear. Away with passions, and no fear, no worry."
33. The Buddha said, "Those who follow the Way are like unto
warriors who fight single-handed with a multitude of foes. They
may al go out of the fort in full armour; but among them are some
who are faint-hearted, and some who go halfway and beat a retreat,
and some who are killed in the affray, and some who come home
O monks! If you desire to attain enlightenment, you should
steadily walk in your Way, with a resolute heart, with courage,
and should be fearless in whatever environment you may happen to
be, and destroy every evil influence that you may across for thus
you shall reach the goal."
34. One night a monk was reciting a sutra, bequeathed by Kashyapa
Buddha. His tone was so mournful and his voice was so fainting, as
if he was going out of existence. The Buddha asked him, "What was
your occupation before you become a homeless monk?" The monk
replied, "I was very fond of playing a stringed instrument." The
Buddha said, "How did you find it when the strings were too
loose?" "No sound is possible." was the reply. "How did you find
it when the strings were too tight?" "They will break." "How did
you find when they were neither too tight nor too loose?" "Every
note sounds in its proper tone."
35. The Buddha then said to the monk, "Religious discipline is
also like unto playing such a stringed instrument. When the mind
is properly adjusted and quietly applied, the Way is attainable.
But when you are too feverntly bent on it, your body grows tired,
and when your body is tired, your spirit becomes weary, your
discipline will relax, and with the relaxation of discipline there
follows many an evil. Therefore, be calm and pure, and the Way
will be gained."
36. The Buddha said, "Even if one escapes from the evil creations,
it is one's rare fortune to be born as a human being. Even if one
is born as a human, it is one's rare fortune to be born as a man
and not a woman. Even if one is born as a man, it is one's rare
fortune to be perfected in all the six senses. Even if he is
perfected in all the six senses, it is his rare fortune to be born
in the middle kingdom. Even if he is born in the middle kingdom,
it is rare fortune to be born in the time of a Buddha. Even if he
is born in the time of a Buddha, it is rare fortunate to see the
Enlightened One. Even if he is able to see the Enlightened One, it
is his rare fortune to have his heart awakened in faith. Even if
he has faith, it is his rare fortune to awaken the heart of
wisdom. Even if he awakens the heart of wisdom, it is his rare
fortune to realise a spiritual state which is above discipline and
37. The Buddha said, "O Sons of the Buddha! You are away from me
ever so many miles, but if you remember and think of my precepts,
you shall surely gain the fruit of enlightenment. You may standing
by my side, see me always, but if you observe not my precepts, you
shall never gain enlightenment."
38. The Buddha asked another monk, "How do you measure the length
of a man's life?" He answered, "By days." The Buddha said, "You do
not understand the Way." The Buddha asked another monk, "How do
you measure the length of a man's life?" The monk answered, "By
the time that passes during a meal." The Buddha said, "You do not
understand the Way." The Buddha asked the third monk, "How do you
measure the length of a man's life?" The monk answered, "By the
breadth." The Buddha said, "Very well, you know the Way."
39. The Buddha said, "Those who study the doctrine of the Buddhas
will do well to believe and observe all that is taught by them. It
is like unto honey; it is sweet within, it is sweet without, it is
sweet throughout; so is the Buddhas' teaching."
40. The Buddha said, "O monks, you must not walk on the way as the
ox is attached to the wheel. His body moves, but his heart is not
willing. But when your hearts are in accord with the Way, there is
no need of troubling yourselves about your outward demeanor."
41. The Buddha said, "Those who practice the Way might well follow
the example of an ox that marches through the deep mire carrying a
heavy load. He is tired, but he is steadily gazed, looking
forward. Will never relax until he comes out of the mire, and it
is only then that he takes a respite. O monks, remember that
passions and sins are more than filthy mire, and that you can
escape misery only by earnestly and steadily thinking of the Way."
42. The Buddha said, "I consider the dignities of kings and lords
as a particle of dust that floats in the sunbeam. I consider the
treasure of precious metals and stones as bricks and pebbles. I
consider the gaudy dress of silk and brocades as a worn-out rag. I
consider this universe as small as the holila fruit. I consider
thelake of Anavatapa as a drop of oil which one smears the feet. I
consider the various methods of salvation taught by the Buddhas as
a treasure created by imagination. I consider the profound
doctrine of the Buddhas as precious metal or priceless fabric seen
in a dream. I consider the teaching of the Buddhas as a flower
before my eyes. I consider the practice of Dhyana as a pillar
supporting the Mount Sumeru. I consider Nirvana as awakening from
a day dream or nightmare. I consider the struggle between the
heterdox and orthodox as the antics of the six (mythical) dragons.
I consider the doctrine of equality as the absolute ground of
reality. I consider all the religious works done for universal
salvation as like the plants in the four seasons."