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Janavasabha Sutta

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Tipitaka >> Sutta Pitaka >> Digha Nikaya >> Janavasabha Sutta

Translated by T. W. Rhys Davids


Thus have I heard:

1. The Exalted One was once staying in Nadika, at the Brick House. Now at that time the Exalted One was wont to make declarations as to the rebirths of such followers (of the doctrine) as had passed away in death among the tribes round about on every side — among the Kasis and Kosalans, the Vajjians and Mallas, the Chetis and Vamsas, the Kurus and Panchalas, the Macchas and Surasenas — saying : ' Such an one has been reborn there, and such an one there 2 . From Nadika upwards of fifty adherents, who passed away in death after having completely destroyed the Five Bonds that bind people to this world 3 , have become inheritors of the highest heavens, there to pass utterly away, thence never to return. Full ninety adherents in Nadika, who have passed away in death after having completely destroyed the Three Bonds, and reduced to a minimum lust ill-will and delusion, have become Once-returners, and on their first return to this world shall make an end of pain. Over five hundred adherents of Nadika, who have passed away in death after having completely destroyed the Three Bonds, and become converted, cannot be reborn in any state of woe, but are assured of attaining to the Insight (of the higher stages of the Path).'

2. Now the adherents at Nadika, when they heard these revelations, were pleased, gladdened and filled with joy and happiness at these solutions by the Exalted One of the problems that had been put to him.

3. Now the venerable Ananda heard [of these declarations made by the Exalted One, and of the satisfaction felt by the adherents at Nadika].

4. And this idea occurred to him : — ' But there were also [202] adherents in , many of them, and of long religious experience, who have passed away in death. One might think that Anga and were void of adherents who have passed away in death. For they too had entire faith in the Buddha the Law and the Order, they had fulfilled the moral precepts. And yet concerning them, since they passed away in death, nothing has been declared by the Exalted One. It were surely a good thing to evoke a response as to them ; for much folk would believe, and would hereafter enter into bliss. Then too there was Seniya Bimbisara, king of , righteous and ruling righteously, benign to priests and laymen, to town-folk and country-folk. His fame are men verily spreading abroad saying: — " Dead is our so righteous king of righteous rule who made us so happy! How well have we lived in the kingdom of that righteous king ! " Now he too had entire faith in the Buddha the Law and the Order, and fulfilled the moral precepts. And people verily have also said, " Seniya Bimbisara, king of , who up to the day of his death was given to praises of the Exalted One, is dead." Concerning him who has passed away in death nothing has been declared by the Exalted One. It were surely a good thing to evoke a response as to him ; for much folk would believe, and would here- after enter into bliss. Moreover the Exalted One attained supreme Insight in . Now where that took place, how should there be no declaration from the Exalted One concerning adherents in who have passed away in death ? [203] If the Exalted One declare nothing concerning them they will be hurt. And since they would be hurt, how can the Exalted One keep silence ? '

5, 6. Having thus pondered, alone and privately, concerning the Magadhese adherents, the venerable Ananda rose up the next morning and came into the presence of the Exalted One, and being come, saluted him and sat down on one side. And so sitting, he told the Exalted One [all that he had heard and thought 1]. [204] And when he had made an end of thus speaking before the Exalted One, he rose from his seat, saluted the Exalted One rightwise, and went away.

7. Then the Exalted One, not long after the venerable Ananda had gone away, robed himself in the morning and, taking a bowl and cloak, went forth for alms to Nadika. And when he had walked through Nadika for alms, after his meal, when he had come back again from his round for alms and bathed his feet, he entered the Brick House and sat down on a seat made ready, thinking over and cogitating upon and concentrating his whole mind on the Magadhese adherents, saying to himself : ' I will find out their future, their fate after this life, whither these good men are bound, what their destiny is.' And he, the Exalted One, saw the Magadhese adherents, whither they were bound, [205] and what their destiny was. Then at eventide the Exalted One, arising from his meditation, went out of the Brick House, and sat down on a mat spread in the shade behind the lodging place.

8. Then the venerable Ananda came into the presence of the Exalted One, saluted him and sat down on one side. Thus seated he said to the Exalted One : — ' My lord the Exalted One looks serene, his complexion shines forth, as it were, owing to the tranquillity of his faculties. Has the lord the Exalted One spent a pleasant day ?'

9. ' When you had made that speech to me, Ananda, concerning the Magadhese adherents and had gone away, I, when I had gone to Nadika for alms, had dined, returned, bathed my feet and entered the Brick House, sat me down on a mat spread there and thought over, cogitated upon, and concentrated my whole mind on those Magadhese adherents, resolving to know their future, their fate after this life, whither these good men were bound, what their destiny would be. And I saw, Ananda, those Magadhese adherents, whither the good men were bound, what their destiny would be. Thereupon an invisible spirit made himself heard, saying : — " I am Jana-vasabha, O Exalted One ; I am jana-vasabha, O Welcome One ! " Now do you allow, Ananda, that you have ever heard of any one bearing such a name as Jana-vasabha 2' ' I confess, lord, that I have never heard of one bearing such a name as Jana-vasabha. Moreover, lord, on hearing such a name as Jana-vasabha, I am thrilled with excitement 1 and I fancy [206] it can be no ordinary spirit who bears such a name as Jana-vasabha 2 .'

10. ' After those words had been spoken, Ananda, the spirit himself appeared before me, a splendid presence. And he made a second utterance : — " I am Bimbisara, O Exalted One ! I am Bimbisara, O Welcome One ! 'Tis now the seventh time, lord, that I am reborn into the communion of the great King Vessavana. Deceased as a human king, I am in heaven become a non-human king .

Hence seven, thence seven, in all fourteen rebirths — So much I know of lives I've lived in the long past. Long, lord, have I, who am destined not to be reborn in states of woe, been conscious of that destiny, and now is there desire in me to become a Once- eturner."

' Wonderful is this, marvellous is this that you, the venerable spirit Jana-vasabha, tell me : — " Long have I who am destined not to be reborn in states of woe, been conscious of that destiny ; " and again : — " Now is there desire in me to become a Once-returner." How has it come about that Jana-vasabha the venerable spirit recognizes his attainment to a distinction so splendid ? '

11." Nowise save through thy word, O Exalted One, nowise save through thy word, O Blessed One ! From the moment when I had gone over, in absolute and entire faith to the Exalted One, from that moment, lord, [207] did I who am destined not to be reborn in states of woe, been conscious of that destiny ; and I now desire to become a Once-returner. Now, lord, I have been sent on a message concerning some business by King Vessava;za to King Viru/haka ; and on my way I saw the Exalted One entering the Brick House, and sitting down to think over, to cogitate upon, to concentrate his whole mind upon the deceased Magadhese adherents, in the resolve to know their future, their fate after this life ; whither the good men are bound, what their destiny is. Now it was only the moment before, lord, that I had heard face to face and had understood from his own mouth from King Vessavana, how he had said to his assembly whither those good men were bound, and what their destiny was, so it occurred to me that I would visit the Exalted One, and I would announce it to him. These, lord, are the two reasons why I came forth to visit the Exalted One 1

12. In days gone by, lord, in days long long gone by, it came to pass that on the night of the feast of the fifteenth day at the full moon in the month for entering upon Retreat 3 , the month Asalhi, the whole of the gods in the retinue of the Thirty-Three were assembled together, seated in the hall of Good Counsel. And around them on every side a vast celestial company was seated ; and at the four quarters of the firmament sat the Four Great Kings. There was Dhatarattha, king of the East, seated facing the west, presiding over his host ; Virulhaka, king of the South, seated facing the north, presiding over his host ; Virupakkha, king of the West, seated facing the east, presiding over his host ; and Vessava;m, king of the North, seated facing the south, presiding over his host. [208] Whenever, lord, all the gods in the heaven of the Thirty-Three are assembled and seated in their hall of Good Counsel, with a vast celestial company seated around them on every side, and with the Four Great Kings at the four quarters of the firmament, this is the order of the seats of the Four. After that come our seats. . And those gods, lord, who had been recently reborn in the hosts of the Thirty-Three because they had lived the higher life under the Exalted One, they outshone the other gods in appearance and in glory. And thereat, lord, the Thirty-Three were glad and of good cheer, were filled with joy and happiness, saying : — " Verily, sirs, the celestial hosts are waxing, the titanic hosts are waning."

13. Now, lord, Sakka, ruler of the gods, when he saw the satisfaction felt by the retinue of the Three- and-Thirty, expressed his approval in these verses : —

The Three-and-Thirty, verily, both gods and lord, rejoice, Tathagata they honour and the cosmic law sublime 1, Whereas they see the gods new-risen, beautiful and bright, Who erst the holy life had lived, under the Happy One, The Mighty Sage's hearers, who had won to higher truths,

Come hither ; and in glory all the other gods outshine.

This they behold right gladly, both lord and Thirty-Three,

Tathagata they honour and the cosmic law sublime.

Hereat [209], lord, the Three-and-Thirty Gods were even more abundantly glad and of good cheer and filled with joy and happiness, saying : — " Verily the celestial hosts are waxing, the titanic hosts are waning ! "

14. Then, lord, concerning the object for which the Three-and-Thirty gods were assembled in their seats in the Hall of Good Counsel, they took counsel and deliberated about it ; and with respect to that object the Four Great Kings were addressed, and with respect to that object the Four Great Kings were admonished, standing by their seats : —

The uttered word th' admonished Kings accepted there, Serene in mind and calm they stood each at his place.

15. Then, lord, a splendid light came forth out of the North, and a radiance shone around surpassing the divine glory of the gods. And, lord, then did Sakka, king of the gods, say to the retinue of the Thirty- Three : — " According, friends, to the signs now seen, — the light that ariseth, the radiance that appeareth — Brahma will be manifested. For this is the herald sign of the manifestation of Brahma to wit, when the light ariseth and the glory shineth 1 " : —

The portents now are seen, so Brahma draweth nigh, For this is Brahma's sign, this glorious splendour vast.

16. Then, lord, the gods of the Thirty-Three sat down in their own places, saying : — " We will ascertain what shall be the result of this radiance, when we have realized it, we will go to meet him. The Four Great Kings also sat down in their own places, saying the same. [210] And when they had heard this, the gods of the Three-and-Thirty were all together agreed : — " We will ascertain what shall be the result of this radiance ; when we have realized it, we will go to meet him."

17. When, lord, Brahma Sanawzkumara l appears before the Thirty-Three gods, he appears as a (relatively) gross personality which he has specially created. For Brahmas usual appearance is not sufficiently materialized to impress the vision of the Thirty-Three Gods. And, lord, when Brahma Sanamkumara appears before the Thirty-Three Gods, he outshines the other gods in colour and in glory. Just, lord, as a figure made of gold outshines the human frame, so, when Brahma Sanamkumara appears before the Thirty-Three Gods, does he outshine the other gods in colour and in glory. And when, lord, Brahma Sanamkumara appears before the Thirty-Three Gods, there is no god in all that assembly that salutes him, or rises up, or invites him to be seated. They all sit in silence, with clasped hands and cross-legged, thinking- : — " Of whichever god Brahma Sanamkumara now desires anything, he will sit down on that god's divan." And by whichever god he does sit down, that god is filled with a sublime satisfaction, a sublime happiness, even as a Kshatriya king newly anointed and crowned is filled with a sublime satisfaction, a sublime happiness.

18. [211] So, lord, Brahma Sana;;zkumara having created a grosser personality and become in appearance as the youth Five-crest 2 , manifested himself thus to the gods of the company of the Thirty-Three. Rising up into the air he sat down cross-legged in the sky. Just, lord, as easily as a strong man might sit down cross-legged on a well-spread divan or a smooth piece of ground, even so did Brahma Sanawkumara, rising up into the air, sit down cross-legged in the sky. And seeing the tranquillity of the gods of the company of the Thirty-Three he expressed his pleasure in these verses : —

The Three-and-Thirty, verily, both gods and lord, rejoice,

Tathagata they honour and the cosmic law sublime,

Whereas they see these gods new-risen, beautiful and bright,

Who erst the holy life had lived, under the Happy One,

The Mighty Sage's hearers, who had won to higher truths,

Come hither ; and in glory all the other gods outshine.

This they behold right gladly, both lord and Thirty- Three,

Tathagata they honour and the cosmic law sublime.

19. This was the matter of Brahma Sanamkumara's speech. And he spoke it with a voice of eightfold characteristics — in a voice that was fluent, intelligible, sweet, audible, continuous, distinct, deep, and resonant. And whereas, lord, Brahma Sana;;/kumara communicated with that assembly by his voice, the sound thereof did not penetrate beyond the assembly. He whose voice has these eight characteristics is said to be Brahma-voiced.

20. Then, lord, Brahma Sana;/zkumara, having created thirty-three shapes of himself [212], sitting each on the couch of each of the Thirty-Three Gods, thus addressed the Gods : —

" Now what think ye, my lord gods Thirty-and-Three ? Inasmuch as the Exalted One hath acted for the welfare of the peoples, for the happiness of the peoples, out of pity for the world, for the advantage, for the welfare, for the happiness of gods and men, they, whoever they be, Sirs, who have taken the Buddha for their refuge, the Truth for their refuge, the Order for their refuge, they, on the dissolution of the body after death, have been reborn, some of them into the communion of the Paranimmita-Vasavatti gods, some of them into the communion of the Tusita ofods, or of the crods in the retinue of Yama, or of the Thirty-Three Gods, or of the Four Great Kings. Those who fill the number of the lowest group, they go to fill the number of the Gandharva host."

21. This was the matter of Brahma Sanawkumara's speech. And he spoke it with such a voice, that each god fancied 1 : — "He who is on my divan, he alone hath spoken."

Speaks but one Brahma-shape, the Thirty-Three all speak ; Silently sits one shape, they all in silence sit. Then all the Three-and-Thirty with their king too think, Pie who is on my couch, 'tis he alone that spake 2 .

22. Then, lord, Brahma Sana^kumara betook himself to one end [of the Hall] and then [213] sitting down on the divan of Sakka, lord of the gods, addressed the Thirty-Three Gods : —

" Now what think ye, my lord gods Thirty-and-Three, of the completeness wherewith the Exalted One, who knows, who sees, the Arahant, Buddha Supreme, hath revealed the Four Ways to Iddhi for the development, thereof, for proficiency therein, for the elaboration thereof? Which are the ? In the first place a brother practises that way which is compounded of concentration and effort with desire. In the second place a brother practises that way which is compounded of concentration and effort with energy. In the third place a brother practises that way which is compounded of concentration and effort with a [dominant] idea. In the fourth place a brother practises that way which is compounded of concentration and effort with investigation. These, sir, are the Four Ways to Iddhi revealed by the Exalted One who knows, who sees, the Arahant, Buddha Supreme, for the development thereof, for proficiency therein, for the elaboration thereof 1 . Now those recluses or brahmins who, in past times, have enjoyed Iddhi in one or more of its forms, they have all done so through practice and improvement in just these . And those recluses or brahmins who, in future times, will enjoy Iddhi in one or more of its forms, they will all do so through practice and improvement in just these . And those recluses or brahmins who, at the present time, enjoy Iddhi in one or more of its forms, they all do so through practice and im- provement in just these .

Do ye see, my lord gods Thirty-and-Three, in me a potency of Iddhi like that ? "

" Yea, Brahma."

" I too, Sirs, through practice and improvement in just these to Iddhi [214], have acquired such power and potency therein."

23. Such was the matter of Brahma Sanamkumara's speech. And having thus spoken he addressed the Thirty-Three Gods : —

" Now what think ye, my lord gods Thirty-and- Three, of the Three Avenues for arriving at Bliss manifested by the Exalted One who knows, who sees, by the Arahant, Buddha Supreme ? Which are the Three ?

In the first place, Sirs, take a brother who is living in indulgence in the pleasures of sense, in association with bad conditions. He on a certain occasion hears the Aryan Truth, studies it and acquires both the main and the subsidiary doctrines. Having come to this hearing, studying and acquisition, he takes to a life detached from the pleasures of sense, not associated with bad conditions. Under these circumstances he experiences ease and more than ease, happiness. Just as a feeling of complacency may develop into gladness, so does for him, under those circumstances, first ease arise, and, then more than ease, happiness. This, Sirs, is the for arriving at Bliss manifested by the Exalted One . . . Buddha Supreme.

24. In the next place, Sirs, take a brother in whom the grosser conditions precedent 1 to action, speech and thought are not entirely calmed down. He on a certain occasion hears the Aryan Truth preached, studies it and acquires both the main and subsidiary doctrines. Having arrived at this hearing, studying and acquisi- tion, the grosser conditions precedent to action, speech and thought in him become entirely calmed down. And from this ease is experienced, and then more than ease, happiness. Just as a feeling of complacency may develop into gladness, so does for him, under those circumstances, first ease arise and then more than ease, happiness. [215] This, Sirs, is the for arriving at Bliss manifested by the Exalted One . . . Buddha Supreme.

25. In the third place, Sirs, take the case of a brother who does not really know that ' This is good,' ' This is bad,' ' This is wrong,' ' This is not wrong,' ' This is to be followed,' ' This is to be avoided,' ‘ This is base,' ' This is excellent,' ' This is of mixed dark and bright quality.' He on a certain occasion hears the Aryan Truth, studies it and acquires the main and subsidiary doctrines. Having arrived at this hearing, study and acquisition, he now really knows that ' This is good,' he really knows that ' This is bad,' ' This is wrong,' ' This is not wrong,' ' This is to be followed,' ‘ This is to be avoided,' ' This is base,' ' This is excellent,' ' This is of mixed dark and bright quality.' For him thus knowing, thus seeing, ignorance is put away, wisdom has arisen. From this extinction of ignorance, from the arising of wisdom, a sense of ease arises and, then more than ease, happiness. Just as a feeling of complacency may develop into gladness, so does for him, under these circumstances, first ease arise, and then more than ease, happiness. This, Sirs, is now the for arriving at Bliss manifested by the Exalted One who knows, who sees, Arahant, Buddha Supreme.

These, Sirs, are [216] the Three Avenues for arriving at Bliss manifested by the Exalted One, who knows and sees, the Arahant, Buddha Supreme."

26. On this matter, lord, did Brahma Sanamkumara speak. And having so spoken he addressed the Thirty-Three Gods : —

"Now what think ye, my lord gods Thirty-and-Three, of the completeness wherewith the Exalted One, who knows, who sees, the Arahant, Buddha Supreme, hath revealed the Four Inceptions of Mindfulness 1 for attaining" to the Good. And which are the Four ? Take, Sirs, a brother who abides subjectively watchful over the body, ardent self-possessed mindful, that he may discern the unhappiness arising from coveting the things of the world. So, subjectively watchful, he attains to right concentration and right calm. He, having right concentration and right calm in his physical being, evokes knowledge of and insight into all other physical forms external to himself. So, again, he abides subjectively watchful over his feelings . . . over his heart, . . . over his ideas, ardent self-possessed mindful, that he may discern the unhappiness arising from coveting the things of the world. So, subjectively watchful, he attains to right concentration and right calm. He, having right concentration and right calm in his feelings ... his heart ... his ideas, evokes knowledge of and insight into the ideas of others external to himself.

These, Sirs, are the Four Inceptions of Deliberation for attaining to the Good completely revealed by the Exalted One, who knows, who sees, the Arahant, Buddha Supreme."

27. On this matter did Brahma Sanamkumara speak. And having spoken he addressed the Thirty- Three Gods : —

" Now what think ye, my lord gods Thirty-and Three, of the completeness wherewith the Exalted One, who knows, who sees, the Arahant, Buddha Supreme, hath revealed the Seven Requisites of Intellectual Concentration 1 for practice of right Rapture, for the perfecting of Rapture ? Which are the Seven ? Right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, [217] right effort, right mindfulness. That concentration of thought, Sirs, which is prepared by these seven factors, is called the Noble Right Rapture together with its bases, together with its requisites. Right intention suffices to maintain right views, right speech suffices to maintain right intention, right action suffices to maintain right speech, right livelihood suffices to maintain right action, right effort suffices to maintain right livelihood, right mindfulness suffices to maintain right effort, right rapture suffices to maintain right mindfulness, right knowledge suffices to maintain right rapture, right freedom suffices to maintain right knowledge.

If any one uttering right speech, Sirs, were to say : — 'Well hath the Exalted One proclaimed the Truth, — the Norm that in this life beareth fruit, that avails not for a time only -, that welcometh every one, that leadeth away and onward, that each one who hath intelligence may of and by himself understand ! ' Then in saying : " Wide opened are the portals to Nirvana !

For, Sirs, whosoever has unwavering 1 faith in the Buddha, unwavering faith in the Truth, unwavering faith in the Order, and is endowed with the virtues pleasing to the Noble Ones ; and whatsoever new gods have appeared in our midst, led hither by the Law, to wit more than twenty-four lacs of disciples now dead and gone 2 ; these all through complete destruction of the Three Bonds, have become converted, and cannot be reborn in any state of woe, but are assured of attaining to the Insight (of the highest stages of the Path). [218] Moreover there are here Once-returners ;

" But of that other Breed to tell, Of higher merit 3 , lo ! the tale I cannot reckon, lest perchance I should offend against the truth."

28. This, lord, was the matter of Brahma Sanamkumara's speech. And concerning what he had spoken, the reflection arose in the mind of the Great King- Vessavana : — " Wonderful truly is it, Sirs, marvellous is it, that there should be so glorious a Teacher, so glorious a proclaiming of the Truth, and that such glorious avenues to distinction 4 should be made known !"

Then, lord, Brahma Sanawkumara discerning this reflection in the mind of the Great King Vessavana, spake thus to him : —

" Now what thinks my lord, the Great King Vessavana. ? There both has been in past times, a Teacher so glorious, a proclaiming of the Truth so glorious, a making known such glorious avenues to distinction, and there will be also in future times a Teacher so glorious, [214] a proclaiming of the Truth so glorious, a making known such glorious avenues to distinction."

29. This was the matter whereof Brahma Sanamkumara spoke to the Thirty-Three Gods. And this matter the Great Kingf Vessavana, when he had, in his own person, heard it and assented to it, reported to his own following. And this matter the spirit Jana- vasabha, when he had in his own person heard it so reported by Vessavana, reported to the Exalted One. And this matter the Exalted One, when he had in his own person heard it and assented to it, and had also intuitively discerned it v reported to Ananda. And this matter the venerable Ananda, when he had in his own person heard it from the Exalted One and assented to it, reported to the brethren and the sisterhood, to believing laymen and laywomen. And the System waxed influential and prosperous and expanded and broadened with the numbers that joined, so well was it spread abroad among men. 1

Here endeth the Jana-vasabha's Story.

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