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AN 3:51-52 An Island of Refuge

Translated from the Pali by Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi


Once two frail and old brahmins, aged, advanced in years, at life’s end, one hundred and twenty years of age, approached the Blessed One and said to him:

“We are brahmins, Master Gotama, frail and old … one hundred and twenty years of age. But we have not done anything that is good and wholesome, we have not made a shelter for ourselves. Let Master Gotama admonish us and exhort us, so that it may lead to our welfare and happiness for a long time!”

“Truly, brahmins, you are frail and old … and you have not done anything good and wholesome, you have not made a shelter for yourselves. Indeed, brahmins, this world is swept away by old age, illness and death. Though the world is thus swept away by old age, illness and death, for one who departs from this world self-control in deeds, words, and thoughts will provide shelter and safety, an island of refuge and succour.”

Life is swept away, brief is our span of years, There are no shelters for one who has reached old age. Perceiving the peril that lurks in death, Perform good deeds that entail happiness.

When one is restrained in body, Restrained by speech and by mind, The deeds of merit one did while alive Bring happiness when one departs.

When a house is burning, the goods removed from it, Will be of use, but not what burns inside. Thus, in this world aflame with age and death, Save what you own by liberality— Your goods given, are well removed and safe.

When one is restrained in body, Restrained by speech and by mind, The deeds of merit one did while alive Bring happiness when one departs.

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