The Sermon At Rajagaha
Thus Have I Heard:
At one time the Blessed One traveled to Rajagaha, accompanied by a great number of monks. Many of these monks were former fire-worshippers who all joined the Sangha at the same time as their chief, Kassapa.
When the King Of Magadha, Seniya Bimbisara, heard of the arrival of Shakyamuni Buddha, of whom people said, ‘he is the Holy One, the Blessed Buddha, the Teacher of high and low,’ he went, attended by his generals and Councilors, and came to the grove where the Blessed One was.
There they saw the Blessed One in the company of Kassapa, the great religious leader of the fire worshippers and they were astonished and thought: “Has the great Shakyamuni placed himself under the spiritual direction of Kassapa, or has Kassapa become a disciple of the Buddha?”
And the Buddha, seeing the faces of the people, said to Kassapa: “what knowledge have you gained, Kassapa, and what has induced you to renounce the sacred fire and give up austere penances?”
Kassapa said: “The profit I derived from adoring the fire was continuance in the wheel of individuality with all its sorrows and vanities. This service I have cast away, and instead of continuing penances and sacrifices I have gone in quest of the highest Nirvana. Since I have seen the light of truth, I have abandoned worshipping the fire.”
The Buddha, seeing that the assembly was ready to receive the doctrine, spoke the following to Bimbisara the king:
“Those who know the nature of self and understand how the senses act, find no room for selfishness, and therefore they will attain peace unending. The world holds the thought of self, and from this arises false apprehension (trepidation).
Some say that the self endures after death, some say it perishes. Both are wrong and their error is most grievous.
For if they say the self is perishable, the fruit they strive for will perish too, and at some time there will be no hereafter. Good and evil would be indifferent. This salvation from selfishness is without merit.
When some, on the other hand, say the self will not perish, then in the midst of all life and death there is but one identity unborn and undying. If such is their self, then it is perfect and cannot be perfected by deeds. The lasting, imperishable self could never be changed. The self would be lord and master, and there would not be use in perfecting the perfect; moral aims and salvation would be unnecessary.
But now we see the marks of joy and sorrow. Where is any constancy? If there is no permanent self that does our deeds, then there is no self; there is no actor behind our actions, no perceiver behind our perception, no lord behind our deeds.
Now attend and listen: the senses meet the object and from their contact sensation is born, and from that results recollection. Thus, as the sun’s power through a burning glass causes fire to appear, so through the cognizance born of sense and object, the mind originates and with it the ego, the thought of self, whom some Brahman teachers call ‘the lord.’ The shoot springs from the seed; the seed is not the shoot; both are not one and the same, but successive phases in a continuous growth. Such is the birth of animated life.
Those of you who are slaves of the self and toil in its service from morning to night, those of you who live in constant fear of birth, old age, sickness and death, receive the good news that your cruel master does not exist!
Self is an error, an illusion, and a dream. Open your eyes and awaken. See things as they are and you will be comforted.
Those who are awake will no longer be afraid of nightmares. Those who have recognized the nature of the rope that seemed to be serpent will cease to tremble.
Those that have found that there is no self will let go all the lusts and desires of egotism.
The clinging to things, covetousness, and sensuality inherited from former existences, are the causes of the misery and vanity in the world.
Surrender the grasping disposition of selfishness, and you will attain to that calm state of mind, which conveys perfect peace, goodness, and wisdom.”
And the Buddha made this solemn utterance:
“Do not deceive, do not despise
each other, anywhere.
do not be angry, nor should you
bear secret resentment.
For, as a mother risks her life
and watches over her child,
so boundless, should be your love to all,
so tender, kind and mild!
Indeed, cherish goodwill and dispense it right and left,
all around, early and late,
and without hindrance, without stint,
free from envy and hate,
while standing, walking, sitting down,
whatever you have in mind,
the rule of life that is always best
is to be loving and kind.”
“Gifts are great, the founding of viharas is meritorious, meditations and religious exercises pacify the heart, comprehension of the truth leads to Nirvana, but greater then all is loving kindness. As the light of the moon is sixteen times stronger than the light of all the stars, so loving-kindness is sixteen times more efficacious in liberating the heart than all other religious accomplishments taken together.
This state of heart is the best in the world. Let beings remain steadfast in it while they are awake, whether they are standing, walking, sitting, or lying down.”
When the Enlightened One had finished his sermon the King of Magadha said to the Blessed One:
“In former days, Lord, when I was a prince, I cherished five wishes. I wished that I might be inaugurated as a king. This was my first wish, and it has been fulfilled. Further, I wished: might the Holy Buddha, the Perfect One, appear on Earth while I rule and might he come to my kingdom. This was my second wish and it is fulfilled now. Further I wished: might I pay my respects to him. This was my third wish and it is fulfilled now. The fourth wish was: might the Blessed One preach the doctrine to me, and this is fulfilled now. The greatest wish, however, was the fifth wish: might I understand the doctrine of the Blessed One! And this wish is fulfilled too.
Most glorious is the truth preached by the Tathágata! Our Lord, the Buddha, sets up what has been overturned; he reveals what was hidden; he points out the way to the wanderer who has gone astray; he lights a lamp in the darkness so that those who have eyes may see.
I take my refuge in the Buddha. I take my refuge in the Dharma. I take my refuge in the Sangha.”
The Tathágata, by exercise of his virtue and by wisdom, showed his unlimited spiritual power. He subdued and harmonized all minds. He made them see and accept the truth, and throughout the kingdom the seeds of virtue were sown.