The Buddha’s Words in Relation to the Three Signs

The Buddha’s Words

A. Direct Knowledge of the Three Characteristics

Monks, phys­i­cal form is imper­ma­nent. What­ev­er is imper­ma­nent is dukkha; what­ev­er is dukkha is non­self. What­ev­er is non­self should be seen as it tru­ly is with cor­rect wis­dom thus: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’1 [The same for feel­ing, per­cep­tion, voli­tion­al for­ma­tions, and con­scious­ness.]

 

Monks, phys­i­cal form is imper­ma­nent … painful (dukkha) … and non­self. So too, the caus­es for the aris­ing of phys­i­cal form are imper­ma­nent … painful … and non­self. As phys­i­cal form has orig­i­nat­ed from caus­es that are imper­ma­nent … painful … and non­self, how could it be per­ma­nent, plea­sur­able or self?2 [The same for feel­ing, per­cep­tion, voli­tion­al for­ma­tions, and con­scious­ness.]

 

But Friend, a learned, noble dis­ci­ple, who has seen the noble ones and is skilled and well-trained in their teach­ing, who has seen the wor­thy ones and is skilled and well-trained in their teach­ing, does not regard phys­i­cal form as self, or self as pos­sess­ing form, or form as in self, or self as in form. He does not regard feel­ing as self … per­cep­tion as self … voli­tion­al for­ma­tions as self … con­scious­ness as self, or self as pos­sess­ing con­scious­ness, or con­scious­ness as in self, or self as in con­scious­ness. He under­stands as it tru­ly is imper­ma­nent form as ‘imper­ma­nent form’ … imper­ma­nent con­scious­ness as ‘imper­ma­nent con­scious­ness.’ He under­stands as it tru­ly is stress­ful (dukkha) form as ‘stress­ful form’ … stress­ful con­scious­ness as ‘stress­ful con­scious­ness.’ He under­stands as it tru­ly is self­less form as ‘self­less form’ … self­less con­scious­ness as ‘self­less con­scious­ness.’ He under­stands as it tru­ly is con­di­tioned form as ‘con­di­tioned form’ … con­di­tioned con­scious­ness as ‘con­di­tioned con­scious­ness.’ He under­stands as it tru­ly is mur­der­ous form as ‘mur­der­ous form’ … mur­der­ous con­scious­ness as ‘mur­der­ous con­scious­ness.’ He does not assume, grasp or deter­mine form as ‘my self.’ He does not assume feel­ing … per­cep­tion … voli­tion­al for­ma­tions … con­scious­ness; he does not grasp or deter­mine it as ‘my self.’ Not grasped or attached to, these five aggre­gates of cling­ing lead to his long-last­ing wel­fare and happiness.3

 

How, house­hold­er, is one afflict­ed in body and afflict­ed in mind? Here, an untaught ordi­nary per­son, who has not seen the noble ones and is unskilled and undis­ci­plined in their teach­ing … regards phys­i­cal form, feel­ing, per­cep­tion, voli­tion­al for­ma­tions and con­scious­ness as self, regards self as pos­sess­ing form … regards form in self … regards self in form … regards self in con­scious­ness. He lives obsessed by the notions: ‘I am form,’ ‘my form,’ ‘I am feel­ing,’ ‘my feel­ing,’ ‘I am per­cep­tion,’ ‘my per­cep­tion,’ ‘I am voli­tion­al for­ma­tions,’ ‘my voli­tion­al for­ma­tions,’ ‘I am con­scious­ness,’ ‘my con­scious­ness.’ As he lives obsessed by these notions, that form … con­scious­ness of his changes and alters. With the change and alter­ation of form, feel­ing, per­cep­tion, voli­tion­al for­ma­tions and con­scious­ness, there aris­es in him sor­row, lamen­ta­tion, pain, grief and despair.

And how, house­hold­er, is one afflict­ed in body but not afflict­ed in mind? Here, the instruct­ed noble dis­ci­ple … does not regard phys­i­cal form, feel­ing, per­cep­tion, voli­tion­al for­ma­tions and con­scious­ness as self, regard self as pos­sess­ing form … regard form in self … regard self in form … regard self in con­scious­ness. He does not live obsessed by the notions: ‘I am form,’ ‘my form,’ ‘I am feel­ing,’ ‘my feel­ing,’ ‘I am per­cep­tion,’ ‘my per­cep­tion,’ ‘I am voli­tion­al for­ma­tions,’ ‘my voli­tion­al for­ma­tions,’ ‘I am con­scious­ness,’ ‘my con­scious­ness.’ As he lives unob­sessed by these notions, that form … con­scious­ness of his changes and alters. With the change and alter­ation of form, feel­ing, per­cep­tion, voli­tion­al for­ma­tions and con­scious­ness, there do not arise in him sor­row, lamen­ta­tion, pain, grief and despair.4

 

How, monks, is there non-agi­ta­tion through non-cling­ing? Here, an instruct­ed noble dis­ci­ple … does not regard phys­i­cal form as self, self as pos­sess­ing form, self in form, or form in self. That form of his changes and alters. Despite the change and alter­ation of form, his con­scious­ness is not pre­oc­cu­pied with this phys­i­cal change. No agi­ta­tion and con­stel­la­tion of men­tal states (dham­ma-samup­pā­da) aris­ing from pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with phys­i­cal change remain over­pow­er­ing his mind. Because his mind is not over­pow­ered, he is not fright­ened, dis­tressed or anx­ious, and through non-cling­ing he does not become agitated.5 [The same for feel­ing, per­cep­tion, voli­tion­al for­ma­tions and con­scious­ness.]

 

Monks, when one has under­stood the imper­ma­nence, alter­ation, fad­ing away and ces­sa­tion of phys­i­cal form, and when one sees as it tru­ly is with cor­rect wis­dom thus: ‘Form, both past and present, is imper­ma­nent, dukkha and sub­ject to change,’ then one aban­dons sor­row, lamen­ta­tion, pain, grief and despair. By aban­don­ing sor­row … despair, one is not agi­tat­ed. Unag­i­tat­ed one dwells hap­pi­ly. A monk who dwells hap­pi­ly is said to be quenched in that respect (tadaṅ­ga-nibbu­ta).6 [The same for feel­ing, per­cep­tion, voli­tion­al for­ma­tions and con­scious­ness.]

 

An untaught ordi­nary per­son reflects unwise­ly (ayon­iso-man­asikāra) thus: ‘In the far-reach­ing past did I exist? Did I not exist? What was I? How was I? Hav­ing been what, what did I become? In the far-reach­ing future will I exist? Will I not exist? What will I be? How will I be? Hav­ing been what, what will I become?’ Or else he doubts about the present thus: ‘Do I exist or do I not exist? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where will it go?’

When he reflects unwise­ly in this way, one of the six views aris­es in him. There aris­es the view (belief) as true and real: ‘I have a self,’ ‘I do not have a self,’ ‘I per­ceive the self by way of the self,’ ‘I per­ceive non­self by way of the self,’ ‘I per­ceive the self by way of non­self.’ Or else he has some such view as this: ‘It is this self of mine that directs, feels and expe­ri­ences here and there the fruits of good and bad actions; it is per­ma­nent, sta­ble, eter­nal, not sub­ject to change, and it will endure like this for­ev­er.’ Monks, this spec­u­la­tive view is called the thick­et of views, the wilder­ness of views, the dis­tur­bance of views, the wrig­gling of views, the fet­ter of views. Fet­tered by the fet­ter of views, the untaught ordi­nary per­son is not freed from birth, aging, and death, from sor­row, lamen­ta­tion, pain, grief and despair; he is not freed from suf­fer­ing, I say.

Monks, a well-taught noble dis­ci­ple … under­stands what things are fit for reflec­tion and what things are unfit for reflec­tion. He does not reflect on those things unfit for reflec­tion, and he reflects on those things fit for reflec­tion.

What are the things unfit for reflec­tion that he does not reflect on? They are the things such that when he reflects on them, the unarisen taints of sen­su­al lust, becom­ing, and igno­rance arise in him, and arisen taints increase. These are the things unfit for reflec­tion that a noble dis­ci­ple does not reflect on.

And what are the things fit for reflec­tion that a noble dis­ci­ple reflects on? They are the things such that when he reflects on them, the unarisen taints of sen­su­al lust, becom­ing and igno­rance do not arise, and arisen taints are aban­doned. These are the things fit for reflec­tion that he reflects on. By not reflect­ing on things unfit for reflec­tion and by reflect­ing on things fit for reflec­tion, unarisen taints do not arise in him and arisen taints are aban­doned.

That noble dis­ci­ple reflects wise­ly (yon­iso-man­asikāra) thus: ‘This is suf­fer­ing … this is the cause of suf­fer­ing … this is the ces­sa­tion of suf­fer­ing … this is the way to the ces­sa­tion of suf­fer­ing.’ When he reflects wise­ly in this way, three fet­ters are aban­doned in him: Per­son­al­i­ty-view (sakkāyadiṭṭhi), doubt (vici­kic­chā), and adher­ence to rules and obser­vances (sīlab­bat­a­parāmāsa).7

 

B. Practical Benefits of the Three Characteristics

The Ephemeral Nature of Life & the Value of Time

 

Form is like a lump of foam,

Feel­ing like a water bub­ble;

Per­cep­tion is like a mirage,

Voli­tions like a plan­tain trunk,

And con­scious­ness like an illu­sion,

So explained the Kins­man of the Sun.

How­ev­er one may con­sid­er (these five aggre­gates),

And care­ful­ly inves­ti­gate,

They are but void and emp­ty

When one dis­cerns them thor­ough­ly.

With ref­er­ence to this body

The One of Broad Wis­dom has taught

The aban­don­ment of three things.*

(*Author: Lob­ha, dosa & moha, or taṇhā, māna & diṭṭhi.)

Behold the body thrown aside;

When vital­i­ty, heat and con­scious­ness

Depart from this phys­i­cal body,

Then it lies there cast away:

A sense­less thing, mere food for oth­ers.

Such is this con­tin­u­um (of life),

This illu­sion, beguil­er of fools.

These five aggre­gates are known as a mur­der­er;

Here no sub­stance can be found.

A monk with ener­gy aroused

Should look upon the aggre­gates thus,

Whether by day or by night,

Com­pre­hend­ing, ever mind­ful.

He should dis­card all the fet­ters

And make a refuge for him­self;

Let him fare as with head ablaze,

Aim­ing for the imper­ish­able state.8

 

Monks, this lifes­pan of human beings is short; one must pass on to the future life. You should reflect wise­ly, do good, and live a pure life (brah­macariya). One born can­not avoid death; one who lives long lives a hun­dred years or a frac­tion more.

Short is the life span of human beings,

The good man should dis­dain it.

You should live like one with head aflame:

No one can avoid Death’s arrival.

Days and nights pass by;

Life is brought to a halt.

The life of mor­tals is exhaust­ed

Like the water of small streams.9

 

Life in this world is unpre­dictable and uncer­tain.

Life here is dif­fi­cult, short and bound up with suf­fer­ing.

There are no means to help those born to avoid death.

Even for one reach­ing old age, death pre­vails; such is the nature of liv­ing crea­tures.

As ripe fruit is in con­stant dan­ger of falling, so too liv­ing beings are in con­stant dan­ger of death.

As clay pots made by the pot­ter end up shat­tered, so it is with the life of mor­tals.

The young and the old, the fool­ish and the wise, all are trapped by death, all have death as their end.

When they are over­come by death, going from here to the next world, even a father can­not save his son, or a fam­i­ly its rel­a­tives.

Look: while rel­a­tives are watch­ing, tear­ful and wail­ing, humans are car­ried off one by one, like cat­tle being led to slaugh­ter.

The world is smit­ten by death and old age;

The wise do not grieve, know­ing the nature of the world.

You can­not know a person’s path, nei­ther its ori­gin nor its des­ti­na­tion.

Not see­ing these ends, to grieve for him is futile.

If a delud­ed per­son should gain any good by lament and self-tor­ment, a wise per­son would act so too.

Grief does not lead to peace of mind.

On the con­trary, it leads to more mis­ery and harm.

Tor­ment­ing him­self, a mourn­er grows thin and pale.

He can­not there­by aid the depart­ed; lamen­ta­tion is of no avail.

With­out aban­don­ing grief a per­son suf­fers fur­ther anguish;

Mourn­ing the depart­ed makes him a slave to sor­row.

Look at peo­ple set to depart in con­for­mi­ty with their actions;

All beings are ter­ri­fied when trapped by Death.

What peo­ple expect is always dif­fer­ent from what actu­al­ly hap­pens; such is the nature of sep­a­ra­tion.

See the way of the world: a per­son may live for a hun­dred years or more,

But in the end he is part­ed from his rel­a­tives, and he too for­sakes life here.

Hav­ing lis­tened to the Wor­thy Ones, dis­pel your grief.

See­ing some­one who has passed away say: ‘I can­not bring him back again.’

A wise, skilled and learned per­son elim­i­nates sor­row as soon as it aris­es,

Like dous­ing a fire, or the wind blow­ing away a tuft of cot­ton.

A per­son search­ing for hap­pi­ness should allay bereave­ment, pin­ing, and dis­tress; he should pull out this pierc­ing arrow.

Hav­ing pulled out the arrow he is free and gains peace of mind.

He pass­es beyond all grief, sor­row­less and quenched.10

 

Once con­ceived in the womb at day or night, human beings go onwards with­out return.

Despite abun­dant vigour, their bat­tles against aging and death are futile;

Aging and death over­run all beings; for this rea­son I resolve to prac­tice the Dham­ma.

Kings may defeat a fear­some four­fold army [of ele­phants, hors­es, char­i­ots and infantry], but they are unable to defeat the Lord of Death….

Sur­round­ed by a four­fold army, kings may escape an enemy’s clutch­es, but they are unable to escape from Death….

With ele­phants, hors­es, char­i­ots, and infantry a hero may assail and destroy an ene­my, but he is unable to destroy Death….

Peo­ple can pro­pi­ti­ate furi­ous demons, spir­its and ghosts, but they are unable to pla­cate Death….

A crim­i­nal, felon or rogue may still receive the king’s clemen­cy, but Death will nev­er show mer­cy….

Not roy­al­ty or nobil­i­ty, not the rich, the pow­er­ful or the strong; Death pities no one.

For this rea­son I resolve to prac­tice the Dham­ma….

Indeed right­eous­ness pro­tects the right­eous; Truth when well-observed brings the reward of joy.

Those who observe the Truth to a woe­ful state do not go.

For right­eous­ness and unright­eous­ness have not equal ends; Unright­eous­ness leads to hell; right­eous­ness leads to a hap­py abode.11

 

Just as moun­tains of sol­id rock,

Mas­sive, reach­ing to the sky,

Might draw togeth­er from all sides,

Crush­ing all in the four quar­ters—

So aging and death come

Over­whelm­ing liv­ing beings.

Kings, brah­mans, peas­ants, ser­vants,

Out­castes and scav­engers:

Aging and death spare none along the way,

Crush­ing every­thing.

No bat­tle­field exists there for ele­phants,

For char­i­ots and infantry.

One can­not defeat them by incan­ta­tions

Or bribe them with wealth.

There­fore let a wise per­son, out of regard for his own wel­fare,

Estab­lish faith in the Bud­dha, Dham­ma and Saṅgha.

When one con­ducts one­self right­eous­ly with body, speech and mind, one is praised here in the present life, and after death one rejoic­es in heaven.12

 

The world is smit­ten by Death and besieged by old age; the world is pierced by the arrow of crav­ing, con­stant­ly seething with desire.

The world is mauled by Death and engulfed by old age; it is defence­less and relent­less­ly beat­en like a thief receiv­ing pun­ish­ment.

Death, dis­ease and old age pur­sue us like three huge fires; no pow­er exists to with­stand them, no speed to run away.

Do not let the days pass in vain—accomplish some­thing, great or lit­tle.

With the pass­ing of each day and night, life’s oppor­tu­ni­ties dwin­dle.

Your last moment approach­es: whether walk­ing, stand­ing, sit­ting or lying, there is no time for you to be negligent.13

 

I see your young sons cry­ing ‘Mom­my, Dad­dy’; they are adorable and hard to come by.

Alas, even before reach­ing old age they suc­cumb to death.

I see your young daugh­ters, maid­ens love­ly to behold; but their life ends like an uproot­ed ten­der bam­boo.

Tru­ly both men and women though of youth­ful age can die; who is assured of life, say­ing, ‘I am still young?’

The days and nights pass by; life’s dura­tion con­stant­ly shrinks, like the time remain­ing for a school of fish in an evap­o­rat­ing pond.

What reas­sur­ance is youth?

The world is smit­ten by Death and besieged by old age; the days do not pass in vain….

Just as thread is used up by weavers, so too is the life of human beings.

Just as a brim­ming riv­er does not return to the heights, so too human beings do not return to youth.

Just as a swollen riv­er sweeps away the trees along its banks, so too old age and death sweep away all liv­ing beings….

Just as ripe fruit is in con­stant dan­ger of falling, so too liv­ing beings are in con­stant dan­ger of death.

In the morn­ing we see many peo­ple; by evening some are no longer in sight.

In the evening we see many peo­ple; by morn­ing some are no longer in sight.

We should has­ten to make effort today; who knows if we shall die tomor­row?

For there is no post­pon­ing Death and his hordes.14

 

My son dis­card­ed his body as a snake casts off old skin; no use for his body, he passed away….

From anoth­er world he came unsum­moned; depart­ing this world I gave not my leave.

As he came so he went; what good is there in griev­ing his depar­ture?

If I keen my body will waste away; what ben­e­fit is there in this?

My friends and rel­a­tives would anguish even more….

As chil­dren cry in vain to grasp the moon above, so peo­ple idly mourn the loss of those they love.

Those dead and cre­mat­ed feel not their rel­a­tives’ lament.

There­fore, I do not grieve; he fares the way he had to tread.15

 

Rather than mourn the deceased we should mourn for our­selves, who are con­stant­ly under Death’s domin­ion.

As peo­ple stand, sit, lie or walk, life’s con­stituents are not remiss; our years wear away in each blink­ing of the eye.

Alas, as our lives expire so, we must face sep­a­ra­tion.

We should have pity on those beings remain­ing rather than mourn for those who have passed away.16

 

Monks, there are these five states not obtain­able by ascetic, brah­man, god, Māra or Brah­mā, nor by any­one in the world. What five? The ful­fil­ment of these requests: ‘May what is sub­ject to age­ing not age,’ ‘may what is sub­ject to sick­ness not sick­en,’ ‘may the mor­tal not die,’ ‘may the tran­sient not end,’ and ‘may the unsta­ble not be destroyed.’

For an untaught ordi­nary per­son, some­thing sub­ject to aging ages, some­thing sub­ject to sick­ness sick­ens, some­thing mor­tal dies, some­thing tran­sient ends, and some­thing unsta­ble is destroyed. (When this hap­pens) that ordi­nary per­son … does not reflect thus: ‘Not to me only … (does this hap­pen), but as long as beings come and go, arise and pass away, to all, that which is sub­ject to aging ages … that which is unsta­ble is destroyed. When that which is sub­ject to aging ages … that which is unsta­ble is destroyed, if I grieve, pine, lament, beat my breast, wail and anguish, food would have no appeal, the body would lan­guish, affairs would be neglect­ed, ene­mies would rejoice, while friends would be dis­traught’…. (When those con­di­tions come about) he grieves, pines, laments and wails. This per­son is called an untaught ordi­nary per­son; pierced by the poi­soned dart of sor­row, he tor­ments him­self.

To the learned, noble dis­ci­ple also, that which is prone to aging ages … that which is unsta­ble is destroyed. (When this hap­pens) that noble dis­ci­ple … reflects thus: ‘Not to me only … (does this hap­pen), but as long as beings come and go, arise and pass away, to all, that which is sub­ject to aging ages … that which is unsta­ble is destroyed. When that which is sub­ject to aging ages … that which is unsta­ble is destroyed, if I grieve, pine, lament, beat my breast, wail and anguish, food would have no appeal, the body would lan­guish, affairs would be neglect­ed, ene­mies would rejoice, while friends would be dis­traught’…. (When those con­di­tions come about) he does not grieve, pine, lament or wail. This per­son is called a learned, noble dis­ci­ple; drawn out is the poi­soned dart of sor­row with which the untaught ordi­nary per­son tor­ments him­self. This noble dis­ci­ple, hav­ing extin­guished the fires of anguish, is sor­row­less, dart-free and quenched.

Nei­ther grief nor lamen­ta­tion offers any gain;

And ene­mies rejoice to see our grief and pain.

But the sage, skilled in dis­crim­i­na­tion,

Does not trem­ble in the face of mis­for­tune.

See­ing the sage’s face unchanged and as before,

Rather his ene­mies are pained.

Wher­ev­er and how­ev­er one gains the good,

By dis­course, con­sul­ta­tion, or well-word­ed speech,

By gifts or by cus­toms right­ly kept,

Make effort here with these means.

And if one knows that a desired end is out of reach,

Both for one­self and for oth­ers,

One should not grieve, but rather halt

And with firm resolve inquire:

How shall I now proceed.’17

 

Dying we go alone; born we arrive alone; asso­ci­a­tions amongst beings are mere encoun­ters.

There­fore a sage, eru­dite, per­ceiv­ing both this world and the next, and ful­ly com­pre­hend­ing Truth, is not anguished even by the sever­est woe.

I will bestow hon­our and wealth to the wor­thy, and sup­port spouse, rel­a­tives and fel­low cit­i­zens’;

This is the duty of a wise person.18

 

Here I will live in the rainy sea­son, here in the win­ter and the sum­mer’: unaware of dan­ger, so mus­es the fool.

Pre­oc­cu­pied with chil­dren and live­stock, attached to pos­ses­sions, Death car­ries him away as a great flood sweeps away a slum­ber­ing vil­lage.

When one is over­come by Death, nei­ther chil­dren, nor par­ents, nor friends can offer pro­tec­tion; fam­i­ly pro­vides no refuge.

Real­iz­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of this, let the wise and vir­tu­ous per­son swift­ly clear the path lead­ing to Nibbāna.19

 

Short indeed is this life; a per­son dies with­in a hun­dred years, and even if one exceeds that one sure­ly per­ish­es from old age.

Peo­ple grieve for things they attach to as ‘mine,’ but no cher­ished pos­ses­sion lasts for­ev­er.

A per­son see­ing this inevitable sep­a­ra­tion should live the home­less life.

What­ev­er one con­ceives of as ‘mine’ one must relin­quish at death.

Know­ing this let a wise per­son devot­ed to the Bud­dha shy away from pos­ses­sive­ness.

Just as a wak­ing per­son does not see what he met in a dream,

Like­wise one does not meet loved ones when they are dead and gone.

One sees and hears of spe­cif­ic peo­ple, but when they have passed away one is left only recit­ing their names.

A per­son greedy for pos­ses­sions can­not renounce grief, lamen­ta­tion and stingi­ness.

Hence the sage dis­cern­ing true safe­ty aban­dons guard­ed pos­ses­sions and wan­ders forth.

The wise declare that he who escapes the cycle of births is a suit­able com­pan­ion for a monk cul­ti­vat­ing seclu­sion and dwelling in soli­tude.

Free from attach­ment, a sage cre­ates no objects of love or loathing.

Sor­row and self­ish­ness do not stain the sage, as water does not stain a lotus leaf.

Just as water does not adhere to a lotus leaf, as a lotus is not taint­ed by water, a sage does not cling to what is seen, heard or per­ceived.

A wise per­son does not give undue import to what is seen, heard or per­ceived, nor does he wish for puri­ty by oth­er means.

He is nei­ther impas­sioned nor disaffected.20

 

At times wealth parts from its own­er; at oth­er times, a per­son departs from his wealth.

See here, you pur­suer of plea­sure: mor­tals do not live for­ev­er.

There­fore, I do not grieve whilst oth­ers are griev­ing.

The full moon ris­es and then wanes; the sun illu­mines the earth and sets.

I see through the world­ly vicis­si­tudes; there­fore, I do not grieve whilst oth­ers are grieving.21

 

Plea­sure and pain, fame and dis­re­pute,

Gain and loss, praise and blame:

For human beings these things are tran­sient,

Incon­stant and bound to change.

One mind­ful and wise dis­cerns them well,

Obser­vant of their alter­ations.

Pleas­ant things do not stir his mind

And those unpleas­ant do not annoy.

All par­tial­i­ty and enmi­ty is dis­pelled,

Elim­i­nat­ed and abol­ished.

Aware now of the stain­less, grief­less state,

He ful­ly knows, hav­ing gone beyond.22

 

The phys­i­cal form of mor­tals decays,

Their name and ances­try do not decay.23

 

Time all beings devours, and con­sumes itself as well.24

 

Life under­goes destruc­tion night and day.25

 

Time flies by, the days swift­ly pass; the stages of life suc­ces­sive­ly end.

See­ing clear­ly this dan­ger in death, a seek­er of peace should release the world’s bait.26

 

Nowhere have I com­mit­ted any evil;

There­fore, I fear not impend­ing death.27

 

Firm­ly ground­ed in the Dham­ma,

One need not fear the oth­er world.28

 

Now, Ānan­da … at that time I was King Mahā­su­das­sana. Those eighty-four thou­sand cities of which Kusā­vatī was the chief were mine, those eighty-four thou­sand palaces of which the Truth-Palace was the chief were mine … those eighty-four thou­sand car­riages adorned with gold orna­ments, gold ban­ners and spread with gold nets of which Vejayan­ta was the chief were mine…. And of those eighty-four thou­sand cities I dwelt in just one, Kusā­vatī; of those eighty-four thou­sand palaces I dwelt in just one, the Truth-Palace … and of those eighty-four thou­sand car­riages I rode in only one, Vejayan­ta…. See, Ānan­da, how all those con­di­tions are past; they have van­ished and changed. Thus, Ānan­da, con­di­tioned states are imper­ma­nent; they are unsta­ble and can bring us no com­fort. This alone is enough for us to grow weary of con­di­tioned states, to detach from them, and to be lib­er­at­ed from them….

Indeed, all con­di­tioned things are imper­ma­nent, prone to arise and pass away. Hav­ing arisen, they cease; their com­ing to rest is truest bliss.’29

 

My city is Kapilavatthu; my father is King Sud­dho­dana; my moth­er who bore me is called Māyāde­vī. I was a house­hold­er for twen­ty-nine years; I had three mag­nif­i­cent palaces: Sucan­da, Kokanu­da and Koñ­ca, with eighty-four thou­sand beau­ti­ful­ly adorned roy­al con­cu­bines. My wife’s name is Yasod­harā and my son’s name is Rāhu­la. Hav­ing seen the four signs, I left the house­hold life behind; for six years I strove and under­took aus­ter­i­ties. I pro­claimed the Wheel of Dham­ma in the deer-park of Isi­patana at Bārāṇasī. I am the enlight­ened Bud­dha named Gota­ma, the refuge for all beings…. My life-span in this era is a mere one hun­dred years. Despite liv­ing so briefly, I have aid­ed many peo­ple in cross­ing beyond suf­fer­ing, and have set up the Torch of Right­eous­ness to awak­en future gen­er­a­tions. Soon, I along with my dis­ci­ples will attain Parinib­bā­na, like a fire is extin­guished for lack of fuel. This body pos­sessed of supe­ri­or qual­i­ties, graced with the thir­ty-two char­ac­ter­is­tics and peer­less splen­dour, along with the Per­fec­tions, the Ten Pow­ers, and the six-hued aura illu­mi­nat­ing as the sun the ten direc­tions, all this will com­plete­ly dis­ap­pear. Indeed, all con­di­tioned things are with­out essence, they are empty.30

 

The young and the old, the fool­ish and the wise, the wealthy and the poor, all are des­tined for death.

As a potter’s ves­sels, both small and large, both fired and unfired, end up shat­tered, so too the lives of all beings end in death.

Ripe I am in years. Only a lit­tle of my life remains.

Now I depart from you; I have made myself my own refuge.

Monks, be vig­i­lant, mind­ful and of pure virtue; com­pose your thoughts, and guard your mind.

In this Doc­trine and Dis­ci­pline, a per­son who abides dili­gent­ly

escapes the round of rebirth and makes an end of misery.31

 

Nowa­days, O monks, speak­ing truth­ful­ly one should say: ‘Short is the life of human beings, lim­it­ed and brief; it is fraught with pain and tribu­la­tion. Reflect wise­ly, do good, and lead the sub­lime life (brah­macariya); for none who is born is immor­tal.’ Today one who lives long lives for a hun­dred years or a lit­tle more. And when liv­ing for a hun­dred years, it is just for three hun­dred sea­sons…. When liv­ing for three hun­dred sea­sons, it is just for twelve hun­dred months…. When liv­ing for twelve hun­dred months, it is just for twen­ty-four hun­dred fort­nights…. And when liv­ing for twen­ty-four hun­dred fort­nights, it is just for 36,000 days…. And when liv­ing for 36,000 days, a per­son eats just 72,000 meals: 24,000 meals in win­ter, 24,000 in sum­mer and 24,000 in the rains. And this includes the drink­ing of mother’s milk and the times with­out food. These are the times with­out food: when resent­ful, trou­bled, or ill, when observ­ing a fast, and when not find­ing any­thing to eat. Thus, O monks, I have reck­oned the life of a cen­te­nar­i­an: the lim­it of his lifes­pan, the num­ber of sea­sons, of years, months and fort­nights, of days and nights, of his meals and food­less times. What­ev­er should be done by a com­pas­sion­ate teacher, who out of good­will seeks the wel­fare of his dis­ci­ples, that I have done for you. These are the roots of trees, O monks, these are emp­ty huts. Med­i­tate, monks, do not be neg­li­gent, lest you regret it lat­er. This is my instruc­tion to you.32

 

Monks, con­sid­er­ing per­son­al well-being, you should accom­plish it with care. Con­sid­er­ing oth­ers’ well-being, you should accom­plish it with care. Con­sid­er­ing the well-being of both, you should accom­plish it with care.33

 

Developing a Sense of Urgency & Preparing for the Future

 

Heed­ful­ness is the path to the death­less, heed­less­ness is the path to death.

The heed­ful do not die; the heed­less are as if already dead….

An earnest, atten­tive per­son obtains abun­dant bliss.34

 

There­fore, with the remain­der of your lives,

Care­ful­ly attend to your duties.35

 

One who has gone forth should reflect repeat­ed­ly so: ‘The days and nights are relent­less­ly pass­ing, how am I spend­ing my time?’36

 

Do not let the oppor­tu­ni­ty pass you by….

With per­se­ver­ance and knowl­edge remove the pierc­ing arrow.37

 

You should prompt­ly do the deed you know leads to your own well-being.38

 

The lazy, lethar­gic slack­er who, although still young and strong,

Does not devote him­self to time­ly tasks and wal­lows in heed­less fan­tasies does not find the path to wisdom.39

 

A per­son of lit­tle learn­ing grows old like an ox;

His mus­cles devel­op but his wis­dom does not.40

 

They who have not led the pure life, who in youth have not acquired wealth,

Sit deject­ed like old herons at a pond void of fish.

They who have not led the pure life, who in youth have not acquired wealth,

Lie bemoan­ing the past like spent, wast­ed arrows.41

 

All prof­it is found­ed on two things:

Obtain­ing the unac­quired and pro­tect­ing the acquired.42

 

What­so­ev­er fam­i­lies, Monks, attain great wealth and last a long time, all of them do so because of these four rea­sons or one or oth­er of them, name­ly, they seek for what is lost, repair the worn, con­sume in mod­er­a­tion, and put in author­i­ty a vir­tu­ous woman or man.43

 

Heed­ful­ness is the path to the death­less, heed­less­ness is the path to death.

The heed­ful do not die; the heed­less are as if already dead.

Indul­gence leads to heed­less­ness, heed­less­ness to degen­er­a­cy, and degen­er­a­cy to calami­ty.

You with the respon­si­bil­i­ty to rule the nation, do not be heed­less!

Many reck­less rulers have lost both their good for­tune and their state.

Like­wise, reck­less house­hold­ers loose their homes, and reck­less home­less ones their renun­ciant life.

When a nation’s ruler throws cau­tion to the wind, the nation’s wealth is utter­ly destroyed; such is a king’s mis­for­tune.

Care­less­ness is the ene­my of Truth.

Through a ruler’s exces­sive neg­li­gence, thieves destroy a rich, pros­per­ous coun­try;

Descen­dants, gold and trea­sure are all lost; once plun­dered, a country’s wealth is no more.

Despite being king, when all wealth is lost, friends and rel­a­tives do not respect your judge­ment;

Your dependants—mahouts, knights, char­i­o­teers, and foot-sol­diers

—do not respect your judge­ment.

The glo­ry of a wit­less, mis­guid­ed leader wanes, like a worn-out snake-skin.

But a dili­gent, indus­tri­ous leader, who man­ages affairs well and in a time­ly fash­ion, grows in rich­es, as a bull enhances the for­tunes of his herd.

There­fore, O King, jour­ney and inspect the coun­try­side, and hav­ing com­plet­ed your inspec­tion per­form your roy­al duties.44

 

Let a wise per­son in hope stand fast and not be dis­cour­aged.

Myself, I see clear­ly the ful­fil­ment of all my desires.45

 

I have real­ized, Monks, (the val­ue of) two things: Not to be con­tent with good states of mind so far achieved, and to be unremit­ting in the strug­gle for the goal…. Through dili­gence have I won enlight­en­ment, through dili­gence have I won the unsur­passed secu­ri­ty from bondage.46

 

Do not rest con­tent mere­ly by keep­ing pre­cepts and obser­vances,

nor by great learn­ing; nor by deep con­cen­tra­tion,

Nor by a seclud­ed life; nor even by think­ing: ‘I enjoy the bliss of renun­ci­a­tion not expe­ri­enced by an ordi­nary per­son.’

O Monks, you should not rest con­tent until reach­ing the utter destruc­tion of the taints.47

 

Car­ry out your respon­si­bil­i­ties in prepa­ra­tion for the future;

Let not those tasks oppress you when they no longer can be postponed.48

 

Fear that which ought to be feared; pro­tect your­self from poten­tial dan­ger.

A wise per­son inspects this world and the next con­sid­er­ing future danger.49

 

Monks, rec­og­niz­ing these five future dan­gers (i.e., the pos­si­bil­i­ty of old age, ill­ness, famine, social unrest, and a schism in the saṅgha), you should be earnest, ardent and res­olute to attain the unat­tained, mas­ter the unmas­tered, and real­ize the unrealized.50

 

Monks, these five future dan­gers (i.e., there will be monks untrained in body, virtue, mind, and wis­dom, who will act as pre­cep­tors for high­er ordi­na­tion, act as men­tors, recite dis­cours­es on the Abhid­ham­ma and Cat­e­chism, who will not lis­ten atten­tive­ly to the Buddha’s ser­mons, and who will be elders liv­ing lax­ly and lux­u­ri­ous­ly), which have not yet arisen, will arise in the future. Be aware of these dan­gers; being aware, endeav­our to pre­vent them.51

 

Monks, these five future dan­gers (i.e., there will be monks who long for fine robes, rich food, and pleas­ant lodg­ings and will seek these by vio­lat­ing the dis­ci­pline; there will be monks who over­ly asso­ciate with nuns and female novices, and who will over­ly asso­ciate with lay stew­ards and male novices), which have not yet arisen, will arise in the future. Be aware of these dan­gers; being aware, endeav­our to pre­vent them.52

 

Here Sāriput­ta, the Lords Kaku­sand­ha, Konāga­mana and Kas­s­apa were dili­gent in teach­ing the Dham­ma in detail to their dis­ci­ples, and they had many dis­cours­es in prose, in prose and verse … and cat­e­chet­i­cal dis­cours­es. They pre­scribed the train­ing rules for their dis­ci­ples, and laid down the Pāṭimokkha. When these Bud­dhas, these Blessed Ones, and their awak­ened dis­ci­ples passed away, dis­ci­ples of lat­er gen­er­a­tions of var­i­ous names, fam­i­lies and clans went forth and pre­served the teach­ing for a very long time. It is as if var­i­ous flow­ers, loose on a plank of wood, well tied togeth­er by a thread, are not scat­tered and dis­persed by a gust of wind. This is because they are well tied togeth­er by the thread…. It is for this rea­son that the teach­ing of the Lords Kaku­sand­ha, Konāga­mana and Kas­s­apa last­ed long.53

 

And then the Ven­er­a­ble Sāriput­ta addressed the monks and said: ‘Friends, this Dham­ma has been well-pro­claimed and well-impart­ed by our Lord the Per­fect­ly Enlight­ened One; it leads to sal­va­tion and is con­ducive to peace. All of us should there­fore con­vene and recite this teach­ing with­out dis­agree­ment, so that this dis­pen­sa­tion (brah­macariya) may be endur­ing and estab­lished for a long time, thus to be for the wel­fare and hap­pi­ness of the mul­ti­tude, out of com­pas­sion for the world, for the ben­e­fit, wel­fare and hap­pi­ness of gods and humans.’54

 

Then the Ven­er­a­ble Kas­s­apa the Great addressed the monks, say­ing: ‘Come your rev­er­ences, let us recite the Dham­ma and Dis­ci­pline before what is not Dham­ma shines out and the Dham­ma is eclipsed, before what is not Dis­ci­pline shines out and Dis­ci­pline is eclipsed, before those who speak what is not Dham­ma become strong and those who speak Dham­ma weak­en, before those who speak what is not Dis­ci­pline become strong and those who speak Dis­ci­pline weaken.’55

 

Ānan­da, as long as the Vajjians hold reg­u­lar and fre­quent assem­blies … as long as the Vajjians meet in har­mo­ny, break up in har­mo­ny, and car­ry on their busi­ness in har­mo­ny, they may be expect­ed to pros­per and not decline….

Monks, as long as the monks hold reg­u­lar and fre­quent assem­blies … as long as they meet in har­mo­ny, break up in har­mo­ny, and car­ry on their busi­ness in har­mo­ny, they may be expect­ed to pros­per and not decline….

Monks, as long as the monks con­tin­ue with faith, with mod­esty, with fear of wrong­do­ing, with much learn­ing (bahus­su­ta), with ener­getic resolve, with estab­lished mind­ful­ness, and with wis­dom, they may be expect­ed to pros­per and not decline.56