The Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters
Translated by D.T. Suzuki
Having attained Buddhahood, the World-honored One thought thus: “To be free from the passions and to be calm, this is the most excellent Way.
He was absorbed in Great Meditation, subdued all evil ones, and in Deer Park caused to revolve the Wheel of Dharma, which was the Fourfold Truth and converted the five Bhikshus, Kaudinya, etc., introducing them to attain Enlightenment.
Again, there were other Bhikshus who implored the Buddha to remove their doubts, which they had concerning his doctrine. The World-honored One illumined all their minds through his authoritative teachings. The Bhikshus, joining their hands and reverentially bowing, followed his august instructions.
1. The Buddha said, “Those who leave their parents, go out of the home, understand the mind, reach the source and comprehend the immaterial, are called Çramana.
“Those who observe the two hundred and fifty precepts of morality, who are pure and spotless in their behavior, and who exert themselves for the attainment of the four fruits of saint-ship are called Arhats.
“The Arhat is able to fly through space and assume different forms; his life is eternal, and there are times when he causes heaven and earth to quake.
“Next is the Anâgâmin. At the end of his life, the spirit of the Anâgâmin ascends to the nineteenth heaven and obtains Arhat-ship.
“Next is the Skridâgâmin. The Skridâgâmin ascends to the heavens [after his death], comes back to the earth once more and then attains Arhat-ship.
“Next is the Srotaâpanna. The Srotaâpanna dies seven times and is born seven times, when he finally attains Arhat-ship.
“By the severance of the passions is meant that like limbs severed they are never again made use of.”
2. The Buddha said: “The homeless Çramana cuts off the passions, frees himself of attachments, understands the source of his own mind, penetrates the deepest doctrine of Buddha and comprehends the Dharma which is immaterial. He has no prejudice in his heart, he has nothing to hanker after. He is not hampered by the thought of the Way, nor is he entangled in karma. No prejudice, no compulsion, no discipline, no enlightenment, and no going up through the grades, and yet in possession of all honors in itself — this is called the Way.”
3. The Buddha said, “Those who shaving their heads and faces become Çramanas and who receive instruction in the Way, should surrender all worldly possessions and be contended with whatever they obtain by begging. One meal a day and one lodging under a tree, and neither should be repeated. For what makes one stupid and irrational is attachments and the passions.”
4. The Buddha said: “There are ten things considered good by all beings, and ten things evil. What are they? Three of them depend upon the body, four upon the mouth and three upon thought.
“Three evil deeds depending upon the body are: killing, stealing and committing adultery. The four depending upon the mouth are: slandering cursing, lying and flattery. The three depending upon thought are: envy, anger and infatuation. All these things are against the Holy Way and therefore they are evil.
When these evils are not done, there are ten good deeds.”
5. The Buddha said: “If a man who has committed many a misdemeanor does not repent and cleanse his heart of the evil, retribution will come upon his person as sure as the streams run into the ocean which becomes ever deeper and wider
“If a man who has committed a misdemeanor come to the knowledge of it, reform himself and practice goodness, the force of retribution will gradually exhaust itself as a disease gradually loses its baneful influence when the patient perspires.”
6. The Buddha said, “When an evil-doer, seeing you practice goodness, comes and maliciously insults you, you should patiently endure it and not feel angry with him, for the evil-doer is insulting himself by trying to insult you.”
7. The Buddha said: “Once a man came unto me and denounced me on account of my observing the way and practicing great loving-kindness. But I kept silent and did not answer him. The denunciation ceased. I then asked him ‘If you bring a present to your neighbor and he accepts it not, does the present come back to you?’ The man replied, ‘It will.’ I said, ‘you denounce me now, but as I accept it not, you must take the wrong deed back on your own person. I is like echo succeeding sound, it is like shadow following object; you never escape the effect of your own evil deeds. Be therefore mindful, and cease from doing evil.’”
8. The Buddha said: “Evil-doers who denounce the wise resemble a person who spits against the sky; the spittle will never reach the sky, but comes down on himself. Evildoers again resemble a man who stirs the dust against the wind; the dust is never raised without doing him injury. Thus the wise will never be hurt, but the curse is sure to destroy the evil-doers themselves.”
9. The Buddha said: “If you endeavor to embrace the Way through much learning, the Way will not be understood. If you observe the Way with simplicity of heart, great indeed is this Way.”
10. The Buddha said: “Those who rejoice in seeing others observe the way will obtain great blessing.” A Çramana asked the Buddha, “Would this blessing ever be destroyed?” The Buddha said, “It is like a lighted torch whose flame can be distributed to ever so many other torches which people may bring along; and therewith they will cook food and dispel darkness while the original torch itself remains burning ever the same. It is even so with the bliss of the Way.”
11. The Buddha said: “It is better to feed one good man that to feed one hundred bad men. It is better to feed one who observes the five precepts of Buddha than to feed one thousand good men. It is better to feed one Srotaâpana than to feed ten thousands of those who observe the five precepts of Buddha. It is better to feed one Skridâgâmin than to feed one million of Srotaâpannas. It is better to feed one Anâgâmin than to feed ten millions of Skridâgâmins. It is better to feed one Arhat than to feed one hundred millions of Anâgâmins. It is better to feed one Pratyekabuddha than to feed one billion of Arhats. It is better to feed one of the Buddhas, either of the present or of the past, or of the future, than to feed ten billions of Pratyekabuddhas. It is better to feed one who is above knowledge, one-sided-ness, discipline and enlightenment than to feed one hundred billions of Buddhas of the past, present, or future.
12. There are twenty difficult things to attain [or to accomplish] in this world: 1. It is difficult for the poor to practice charity; 2. It is difficult for the strong and rich to observe the Way; 3. It is difficult to disregard life and go to certain death; 4. It is only a favored few that get acquainted with a Buddhist sutra; 5. It is by rare opportunity that a person is born in the age of Buddha; 6. It is difficult to conquer the passions, to suppress selfish desires; 7. It is difficult not to hanker after that which is agreeable; 8. It is difficult not to get into a passion when slighted; 9. It is difficult not to abuse one’s authority; 10. It is difficult to be even-minded and simple-hearted in all one’s dealings with others; 11. It is difficult to be thorough in learning and exhaustive in investigation; 12. It is difficult not to feel contempt toward the unlearned; 14. It is difficult to be one in knowledge and practice; 15. It is difficult not to express an opinion about others; 16. It is by rare opportunity that one is introduced to a true spiritual teacher; 17. It is difficult to gain an insight into the nature of being and to practice the Way; 18. It is difficult to follow the steps of a savior; 19. It is difficult to be always the master of oneself; 20. It is difficult to understand thoroughly the Ways of Buddha.
13. A monk asked the Buddha: “Under what conditions is it possible to come to the knowledge of the past and to understand the most supreme Way?” The Buddha said: “Those who are pure in heart and single in purpose are able to understand the most supreme Way. It is like polishing a mirror, which becomes bright when the dust is removed. Remove your passions and have no hankering, and the past will be revealed unto you.”
14. A monk asked the Buddha, “What is good, and what is great?” The Buddha answered: “Good is to practice the Way and to follow the truth. Great is the heart that is in accord with the Way.”
15. A monk asked the Buddha: “What is most powerful, and what is most illuminating?” The Buddha said: “Meekness is most powerful, for it harbors no evil thoughts, and moreover, it is restful and full of strength. As it is free from evils, it is sure to be honored by all.
“The most illuminating is a mind which is thoroughly cleansed of dirt, and which, remaining pure, retains no blemishes. From the time when there was yet no heaven and earth till the present day, there is nothing in the ten quarters which is not seen, or known, or heard by such a mind, for it has gained all-knowledge, and for that reason it is called ‘illuminating.’”
16. The Buddha said, “Those who have passions are never able to perceive the Way; for it is like stirring up clear water with hands; people may come there wishing to find a reflection of their faces, which, however, they will never see. A mind troubled and vexed with the passions is impure, and on that account it never sees the Way. O monks, do away with passions. When the dirt of passion is removed the Way will manifest itself.”
17. The Buddha said: “Seeing the Way is like going into a dark room with a torch; the darkness instantly departs, while the light alone remains. When the Way is attained and the truth is seen, ignorance vanishes and enlightenment abides forever.”
18. The Buddha said, “My doctrine is to think the thought that is unthinkable, to practice the deed that is not-doing, to speak the speech that is inexpressible, and to be trained in the discipline that is beyond discipline. Those who understand this are near, those who are confused are far. The way is beyond words and expressions, is bound by nothing earthly. Lose sight of it to an inch, or miss it for a moment, and we are away from it forevermore.”
19. The Buddha said: “Look up to heaven and down on earth, and they will remind you of their impermanency. Look about the world, and it will remind you of its impermanency. But when you gain spiritual enlightenment, you shall then find wisdom. The knowledge thus attained leads you anon to the Way.”
20. The Buddha said, “You should think of the four elements of which the body is composed. Each of them has its own name, and there is no such thing there known as ego. As there is really no ego, it is like unto a mirage.”
21. The Buddha said: “Moved by their selfish desires, people seek after fame and glory. But when they have acquired it, they are already stricken in years. If you hanker after worldly fame and practice not the Way, your labors are wrongfully applied and your energy is wasted. It is like unto burning an incense stick. However much its pleasing odor be admired, the fire that consumes is steadily burning up the stick.”
22. The Buddha said: “People cleave to their worldly possessions and selfish passions so blindly as to sacrifice their own lives for them. They are like a child who tries to eat a little honey smeared on the edge of a knife. They amount is by no means sufficient to appease his appetite, but he runs the risk of wounding his tongue.”
23. The Buddha said: “Men are tied up to their families and possessions more helplessly than in a prison. There is an occasion for the prisoner to be released, but householders entertain no desire to be relieved from the ties of family. When a man’s passion is aroused nothing prevents him from ruining himself. Even into the maws of a tiger will he jump. Those who are drowned in the filth of passion are called ignorant. Those who overcome it are saintly Arhats.”
24. The Buddha said: “There is nothing like lust. Lust may be said to be the most powerful passion. Fortunately, we have but one thing, which is more powerful. If the thirst for truth were weaker than passion, how many of us in the world would be able to follow the way of righteousness?”
25. The Buddha said: “Men who are addicted to the passions are like the torch-carrier running against the wind; his hands are sure to be burned.”
26. The Lord of Heaven offered a beautiful fairy to the Buddha, desiring to tempt him to the evil path. But the Buddha said, “Be gone. What use have I for the leather bag filled with filth which you have brought to me?” Then, the god reverently bowed and asked the Buddha about the essence of the Way, in which having been instructed by the Buddha, it is said, he attained the Srotaâpanna-fruit.
27. The Buddha said: “Those who are following the Way should behave like a piece of timber which is drifting along a stream. If the log is neither held by the banks, nor seized by men, nor obstructed by the gods, nor kept in the whirlpool, nor itself goes to decay, I assure you that this log will finally reach the ocean. If monks walking on the Way are neither tempted by the passions, nor led astray by some evil influences, but steadily pursue their course for Nirvana, I assure you that these monks will finally attain enlightenment.”
28. The Buddha said: “Rely not upon you own will. Your own will is not trustworthy. Guard yourselves against sensualism, for it surely leads to the path of evil. Your own will becomes trustworthy only when you have attained Arhat-ship.”
29. The Buddha said: “O monks, you should not see women. [If you should have to see them], refrain from talking to them. [If you should have to talk], you should reflect in a right spirit, ‘I am now a homeless mendicant. In the world of sin, I must behave myself like unto the lotus flower whose purity is not defiled by the mud. Old ones I will treat as my mother; elderly ones as elder sisters; younger ones as younger sisters; and little ones as daughters.’ And in all this you should harbor no evil thoughts, but think of salvation.
30. The Buddha said: “Those who walk in the way should avoid sensualism as those who carry hay would avoid coming near the fire.”
31. The Buddha said: “There was once a man who, being in despair over his inability to control his passions, wished to mutilate himself. The Buddha said to him ‘Better destroy your evil thoughts than to do harm to your own person. The mind is lord. When the lord himself is calmed the servants will of themselves be yielding. If your mind is not cleansed of evil passions, what avails it to mutilate yourself?’ “Thereupon the Buddha recited the gâthâ:
“Passions grow from the will.
The will grows from thought and imagination.
When both are calmed,
There is neither sensualism nor transmigration.”
The Buddha said this gâthâ was taught before by Kâshyapabuddha.
32. The Buddha said: “From the passions arise worry, and from worry arises fear. Away with the passions, and no fear, no worry.”
33. The Buddha said: “Those who follow the way are like unto warriors who fight single handed with a multitude of foes. They may all go out of the fort in full armor; but among them are some who are faint-hearted, and some who go halfway and beat a retreat, and some who are killed in the affray and some who come home victorious. O monks, if you desire to attain enlightenment, you should steadily walk in your Way, with a resolute heart, with courage, and should be fearless in whatever environment you may happen to be, and destroy every evil influence that you may come across; for thus you shall reach the goal.”
34. One night a monk was reciting a sutra bequeathed by Kâshyapabuddha. His tone was so mournful, and his voice so fainting, as if he were doing out of existence. The Buddha asked the monk, “What was your occupation before you became a homeless monk?” Said the monk, “I was very fond of playing the guitar.” The Buddha said, “How did you find it when the strings were too loose?” Said the monk, “No sound is possible.” “How when the strings were too tight?” “They crack.” “How when they were neither too tight nor too loose?” “Every note sounds in its proper tone.” The Buddha then said to the monk, “Religious discipline is also like playing the guitar. When the mind is properly adjusted and quietly applied, the Way is attainable; but when you are too fervently bent on it, your body grows tired; and when your body is tired, your spirit becomes weary; when your spirit is weary, your discipline will relax; and with the relaxation of discipline there follows many an evil. Therefore be calm and pure, and the Way will be gained.
35. The Buddha said: “When a man makes utensils out of a metal which has been thoroughly cleansed of dross, the utensils will be excellent. You monks, who wish to follow the Way, make your own hearts clean from the dirt of evil passion, and your conduct will be unimpeachable.”
36. The Buddha said: “Even if one escapes from the evil creations, it is one’s rare fortune to be born a human being. Even if one be born as human, it is one’s rare fortune to be born as a man and not a woman. Even if one be born a man, it is one’s rare fortune to be perfect in all the six sense. Even if he be perfect in all the six senses, it is his rare fortune to be born in the middle kingdom, it is his rare fortune to be born in the time of a Buddha. Even if he be born in the time of a Buddha, it is his rare fortune to see the enlightened. Even if he be able to see the enlightened, it is his rare fortune to have his heart awakened in faith. Even if he awakens the heart of intelligence, it is his rare fortune to realize a spiritual state which is above discipline and attainment.”
37. The Buddha said, “O children of Buddha! You are away from me ever so many thousand miles, but if you remember and think of my precepts, you shall surely gain the fruit of enlightenment. You may, standing by my side, see me always, but if you observe not my precepts, you shall never gain enlightenment.”
38. The Buddha asked a monk, “How do you measure the length of a man’s life?” The monk answered, “By days.” The Buddha said, “You do not understand the Way.”
The Buddha asked another monk, “How do you measure the length of a man’s life?” The monk answered, “By the time that passes during a meal.” The Buddha said, “You do not understand the Way.”
The Buddha asked a third monk, “How do you measure the length of a man’s life?” The monk answered, “By the breath.” The Buddha said, “Very well, you know the Way.”
39. The Buddha said, “Those who study the doctrine of the Buddhas will do well to believe and observe all that is taught by them. It is like unto honey; it is sweet within, it is sweet without, it is sweet throughout; so is the Buddhas’ teaching.”
40. The Buddha said: “O monks, you must not walk on the Way as the ox that is attached to the wheel. His body moves, but his heart is not willing. But when your hearts are in accord with the Way, there is no need of troubling yourselves about your outward demeanor.”
41. The Buddha said: “Those who practice the Way might well follow the example of an ox that marches through the deep mire carrying a heavy load. He is tired, but his steady gaze, looking forward, will never relax until he come out of the mire, and it is only then that he takes a respite. O monks, remember that passions and sins are more than the filthy mire, and that you can escape misery only by earnestly and steadily thinking of the Way.”
42. The Buddha said: “I consider the dignities of kings and lords as a particle of dust that floats in the sunbeam. I consider the treasure of precious metals and stones as bricks and pebbles. I consider the gaudy dress of silks and brocades as a worn-out rag. I consider this universe as small as the holila fruit. I consider the lake of Anavatapta as a drop of oil with which one smears the feet. I consider the various methods of salvation taught by the Buddhas as a treasure created by the imagination. I consider the transcendental doctrine of Buddhism as precious metal or priceless fabric seen in a dream. I consider the teaching of Buddhas as a flower before my eyes. I consider the practice of Dhyana as a pillar supporting the Mount Sumeru. I consider Nirvana as awakening from a daydream or nightmare. I consider the struggle between the heterodox and orthodox as the antics of the six [mythical] dragons. I consider the doctrine of sameness as the absolute ground of reality. I consider all the religious works done for universal salvation as like the plants in the four seasons.”