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Tipitaka >> Sutta Pitaka >> Khuddaka Nikaya >> Milindapanha >> Book II: The Distinguishing Characteristics of Ethical Qualities - Lakkhana Panha Chapter 2


Translated by T. W. Rhys Davids


1. The king said: 'He who is born, Nâgasena, does he remain the same or become another?'

'Neither the same nor another.'

'Give me an illustration.'

'Now what do you think, O king? You were once a baby, a tender thing, and small in size, lying flat on your back. Was that the same as you who are now grown up?'

'No. That child was one, I am another.'

'If you are not that child, it will follow that you have had neither mother nor father, no! nor teacher. You cannot have been taught either learning, or behaviour, or wisdom. What, great king! is the mother of the embryo in the first stage different from the mother of the embryo in the second stage, or the third, or the fourth ? Is the mother of the baby a different person from the mother of the grown-up man? Is the person who goes to school one, and the same when he has finished his schooling another? Is it one who commits a crime, another who is punished by having his hands or feet cut off ?'

'Certainly not. But what would you, Sir, say to that? '

The Elder replied: 'I should say that I am the same person, now I am grown up, as I was when I was a tender tiny baby, flat on my back. For all these states are included in one by means of this body.'

'Give me an illustration.'

'Suppose a man, O king, were to light a lamp, would it burn the night through?'

'Yes, it might do so.'

'Now, is it the same flame that burns in the first watch of the night, Sir, and in the second?'

'No.'

'Or the same that burns in the second watch and in the third?'

'No.'

'Then is there one lamp in the first watch, and another in the second, and another in the third?'

'No. The light comes from the same lamp all the night through.'

'Just so, O king, is the continuity of a person or thing maintained. One comes into being, another passes away; and the rebirth is, as it were, simultaneous. Thus neither as the same nor as another does a man go on to the last phase of his self-consciousness .'

'Give me a further illustration.'

'It is like milk, which when once taken from the cow, turns, after a lapse of time, first to curds, and then from curds to butter, and then from butter to ghee. Now would it be right to say that the milk was the same thing as the curds, or the butter, or the ghee?'

'Certainly not; but they are produced out of it.'

'Just so, O king, is the continuity of a person or thing maintained. One comes into being, another passes away; and the rebirth is, as it were, simultaneous. Thus neither as the same nor as another does a man go on to the last phase of his self-consciousness.'

'Well put, Nâgasena!'

2 . The king said: 'Is a man, Nâgasena, who will not be reborn, aware of the fact?'

'Yes, O king.'

'And how does he know it

'By the cessation of all that is cause, proximate or remote , of rebirth.'

'Give me an illustration.'

'Suppose a farmer, great king, had ploughed and sown and filled his granary; and then for a period should neither plough nor sow, but live on the stored-up grain, or dispose of it in barter, or deal with it as he had need. Would the farmer be aware, great king, that his granary was not getting filled?'

'Yes, he ought to know it.'

'But how?'

'He would know that the cause, proximate and remote, of the filling of the granary had ceased.'

'Just so with the man you spoke of. By the cessation of all that leads to rebirth, he would be conscious of having escaped his liability to it.'

'Well explained, Nâgasena!'

3 . The king said: 'He who has intelligence, Nâgasena, has he also wisdom ?'

'Yes, great king.'

'What; are they both the same?'

'Yes.'

'Then would he, with his intelligence--which, you say, is the same as wisdom--be still in bewilderment or not?'

'In regard to some things, yes; in regard to others, no.'

'What would he be in bewilderment about?'

'He would still be in bewilderment as to those parts of learning he had not learnt, as to those countries he had not seen, and as to those names or terms he had not heard.'

'And wherein would he not be in bewilderment?'

'As regards that which has been accomplished by insight--(the perception, that is,) of the impermanence of all beings, of the suffering inherent in individuality, and of the non-existence of any soul .'

'Then what would have become of his delusions on those points.'

'When intelligence has once arisen, that moment delusion has died away.'

'Give me an illustration.'

'It is like the lamp, which when a man has brought into a darkened room, then the darkness would vanish away, and light would appear.'

'And what, Nâgasena, on the other hand, has then become of his wisdom?'

'When the reasoning wisdom has effected that which it has to do, then the reasoning ceases to go on. But that which has been acquired by means of it remains--the knowledge, to wit, of the impermanence of every being, of the suffering inherent in individuality, and of the absence of any soul.'

'Give me an illustration, reverend Sir, of what you have last said.'

'It is as when a man wants, during the night, to send a letter, and after having his clerk called, has a lamp lit, and gets the letter written. Then, when that has been done, he extinguishes the lamp. But though the lamp had been put out the writing would still be there. Thus does reasoning cease, and knowledge remain.'

'Give me a further illustration.'

'In Eastern districts the peasants have a custom of arranging five pots full of water behind each hut with the object of putting out at once any spark of fire that may be kindled. Suppose now the house had caught fire, and they had thrown those five potfulls of water over the hut, and the fire had gone out, would those peasants then think of still going on using the water-pots?'

'No, Sir, the water-pots would be done with. What would be the use of them (on that occasion) any more?'

'The five water-pots are the five organs of moral sense--faith, to wit, and perseverance in effort, and mindfulness, and meditation, and the reasoning wisdom. The peasantry are the recluse, who is devoted in effort ; the fire is sinfulness. As the fire is put out by the water in the five pots, so is sinfulness extinguished by the five organs of moral sense, and when once extinguished it does not again arise .'

'Give me a further illustration.'

'It is like a physician who goes to the sick man with the five kinds of drugs made from medicinal roots , and grinding them up, gives him to drink, and thereby his sickness passes away. Would the physician in that case think of making any further use of the medicine?'

'Certainly not, the medicine has done its work. What would be the use of any more?'

'Just so, O king, when sinfulness is destroyed by the five moral powers, then reasoning ceases, but knowledge remains.'

'Give me a further illustration.'

'It is like a warrior, at home in war, who takes five javelins and goes down to 'battle to conquer the foe. And when he has cast them the enemy is broken. There is no need for him to go on casting javelins any more.'

'Well put, Nâgasena!'

4. The king said: 'He who will not be reborn, Nâgasena, does he still feel any painful sensation?'

The Elder replied: 'Some he feels and some not.'

'Which are they?'

'He may feel bodily pain, O king; but mental pain he would not.'

'How would that be so?'

'Because the causes, proximate or remote, of bodily pain still continue, he would be liable to it. But the causes, proximate or remote, of mental agony having ceased, he could not feel it. For it has been said by the Blessed One: "One kind of pain he suffers, bodily pain: but not mental."'

'Then why, Sir, does he not die?'

'The Arahat, O king, has need neither to curry favour nor to bear malice. He shakes not down the unripe fruit, but awaits the full time of its maturity. For it has been said, O king, by the Elder, Sâriputta, the Commander of the faith:

"It is not death, it is not life I welcome; As the hireling his wage, so do I bide my time. It is not death, it is not life I want; Mindful and thoughtful do I bide my time "'

'Well put, Nâgasena!'

5. The king said: 'Is a pleasant sensation, Nâgasena, good or evil or indifferent?'

'It may be any one of the three.'

'But surely, Sir, if good conditions are not painful, and painful ones not good, then there can arise no good condition that is at the same time painful .'

'Now, what do you think, great king? Suppose a man were to hold in one hand a red-hot ball of iron, and in the other a lump of icy snow, would they both hurt him?'

'Yes; they both would.'

'But are they both hot?'

'Certainly not.'

'But are they both cold?'

'No.'

'Then acknowledge yourself put in the wrong! If the heat hurts, and they are not both hot, the pain cannot come from the heat. If the cold hurts, and they are not both cold, the pain cannot come from the cold. How then, O king, can they both hurt you, since they are not both hot, nor both cold, and (as one is hot and the other cold) the pain comes neither from the hot nor from the cold?'

'I am not equal to argument with you. Be so good, Sir, as to explain how the matter stands.'

Then the Elder reasoned with king Milinda, persuading him by talk on the subject drawn from the Abhidhamma, such as: 'There are these six pleasures, O king, connected with life in the world, and these other six with renunciation. There are six griefs connected with life in the world, and six with renunciation. There are six kinds of indifference to pleasure and to grief connected with life in the world, and six with renunciation. Altogether there are thus six series of six, that is to say, thirty-six kinds of sensations in the present, and the like number in the past, and the like in the future. And adding all these up in one total we arrive at one hundred and eight kinds of sensation.'

'Well put, Nâgasena!'

6 . The king said: 'What is it, Nâgasena, that is reborn?'

'Name-and-form is reborn.'

'What, is it this same name-and-form that is reborn?'

'No: but by this name-and-form deeds are done, good or evil, and by these deeds (this Karma) another name-and-form is reborn.'

'If that be so, Sir, would not the new being be released from its evil Karma ?'

The Elder replied: 'Yes, if it were not reborn. But just because it is reborn, O king, it is therefore not released from its evil Karma.'

'Give me an illustration.'

'Suppose, O king, some man were to steal a mango from another man, and the owner of the mango were to seize him and bring him before the king, and charge him with the crime. And the thief were to say: "Your Majesty! I have not taken away this man's mangoes. Those that he put in the ground are different from the ones I took. I do not deserve to be punished." How then? would he be guilty?'

'Certainly, Sir. He would deserve to be punished.'

'But on what ground?'

'Because, in spite of whatever he may say, he would be guilty in respect of the last mango which resulted from the first one (the owner set in the ground).'

'Just so, great king, deeds good or evil are done by this name-and-form and another is reborn. But that other is not thereby released from its deeds (its Karma).'

'Give me a further illustration.'

'It is like rice or sugar so stolen, of which the same might be said as of the mango. Or it is like the fire which a man, in the cold season, might kindle, and when he had warmed himself, leave still burning, and go away. Then if that fire were to set another man's field on fire, and the owner of the field were to seize him, and bring him before the king, and charge him with the injury, and he were to say: "Your Majesty! It was not I who set this man's field on fire. The fire I left burning was a different one from that which burnt his field. I am not guilty." Now would the man, O king, be guilty?'

'Certainly, Sir.'

'But why?'

'Because, in spite of whatever he might say, he would be guilty in respect of the subsequent fire that resulted from the previous one.'

'Just so, great king, deeds good or evil are done by this name-and-form and another is reborn. But that other is not thereby released from its deeds (its Karma).'

'Give me a further illustration.'

'Suppose, O king, a man were to take a lamp and go up into the top storey of his house, and there eat his meal. And the lamp blazing up were to set the thatch on fire, and from that the house should catch fire, and that house having caught fire the whole village should be burnt. And they should seize him and ask: "What, you fellow, did you set our village on fire for?" And he should reply: "I've not set your village on fire! The flame of the lamp, by the light of which I was eating, was one thing; the fire which burnt your village was another thing." Now if they, thus disputing, should go to law before you, O king, in whose favour would you decide the case?'

'In the villagers' favour.'

'But why?'

'Because, Sir, in spite of whatever the man might say, the one fire was produced from the other.'

'Just so, great king, it is one name-and-form which has its end in death, and another name-and-form, which is reborn. But the second is the result of the first, and is therefore not set free from its evil deeds.'

'Give me a further illustration.'

'Suppose, O king, a man were to choose a young girl in marriage, and give a price for her and go away. And she in due course should grow up to full age, and then another man were to pay a price for her and marry her. And when the first one had come back he should say: "Why, you fellow, have you carried off my wife?" And the other were to reply: "It's not your wife I have carried off! The little girl, the mere child, whom you chose in marriage and paid a price for is one; the girl grown up to full age whom I chose in marriage and paid a price for, is another." Now if they, thus disputing, were to go to law about it before you, O king, in whose favour would you decide the case?'

'In favour of the first.'

'But why?'

'Because, in spite of whatever the second might say, the grown-up girl would have been derived from the other girl.'

'Just so, great king, it is one name-and-form which has its end in death, and another name-and-form which is reborn. But the second is the result of the first, and is therefore not set free from its evil deeds.'

'Give me a further illustration.'

'Suppose a man, O king, were to buy of a herdsman a vessel of milk, and go away leaving it in his charge, saying: "I will come for it to-morrow;" and the next day it were to become curds. And when the man should come and ask for it, then suppose the other were to offer him the curds, and he should say: "It was not curds I bought of you; give me my vessel of milk." And the other were to reply: "Without any fault of mine your milk has turned to curds." Now if they, thus disputing, were to go to law about it before you, O king, in whose favour would you decide the case?'

'In favour of the herdsman.'

'But why?'

'Because, in spite of whatever the other might say, the curds were derived from the milk.'

'Just so, great king, it is one name-and-form that finds its end in death, and another that is reborn. But that other is the result of the first, and is therefore not thereby released from its evil deeds (its bad Karma).'

'Very good, Nâgasena!'


7 . The king said: 'Will you, Nâgasena, be reborn?'

Nay, great king, what is the use of asking that question again? Have I not already told you that if, when I die, I die with craving in my heart, I shall; but if not, not ?'

'Give me an illustration.'

'Suppose, O king, a man were to render service to the king : and the king, pleased with him, were to bestow an office upon him. And then that he, while living through that appointment, in the full possession and enjoyment of all the pleasures of sense, should publicly declare that the king had repaid him naught. Now would that man, O king, be acting rightly?'

'Most certainly not.'

'Just so, great king, what is the use of asking that question again? Have I not already told you that if, when I die, I die with craving in my heart, I shall; and if not, not?'

'You are ready, Nâgasena, in reply.'


8. The king said: 'You were talking just now of name-and-form. What does "name" mean in that expression, and what "form"?'

'Whatever is gross therein, that is "form": whatever is subtle, mental, that is "name."'

'Why is it, Nâgasena, that name is not reborn separately, or form separately?'

'These conditions, great king, are connected one with the other; and spring into being together.'

'Give me an illustration.'

'As a hen, great king, would not get a yoke or an egg-shell separately, but both would arise in one, they two being intimately dependent one on the other; just so, if there were no name there would be no form. What is meant by name in that expression being intimately dependent on what is meant by form, they spring up together. And this is, through time immemorial, their nature .'

'You are ready, Nâgasena, in reply.'


9. The king said: 'You speak, Nâgasena, of time immemorial. What does this word "time" mean?'

'Past time, O king, and present, and future.'

'But what? is there such a thing as time?'

'There is time which exists, and time which does not.'

'Which then exists, and which not?'

'There are Confections (constituent potentialities of being) , O king, which are past in the sense of having passed away, and ceased to be, or of having been dissolved, or altogether changed. To them time is not. But there are conditions of heart which are now producing their effect, or still have in them the inherent possibility of producing effect, or which will otherwise lead to reindividualisation. To them time is. Where there are beings who, when dead, will be reborn, there time is. Where there are beings who, when dead, will not be reborn, there time is not; and where there are beings who are altogether set free (who, having attained Nirvâna in their present life, have come to the end of that life), there time is not--because of their having been quite set free .'

'You are ready, Nâgasena, in reply.'


Here ends the Second Chapter.

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