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Alavaka Sutta

To the Alavaka Yakkha

Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
For free distribution only.

 Translator's note: This discourse is the source of many proverbs frequently quoted in Theravadin countries. In 1982, when Thailand was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the founding of the current dynasty, His Majesty the King structured his chief address to the Thai people around the four qualities mentioned in the Buddha's last verse.

 I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Alavi in the haunt of the Alavaka yakkha. Then the Alavaka yakkha went to the Blessed One and on arrival said to him: "Get out, contemplative!"

[Saying,] "All right, my friend," the Blessed One went out.

"Come in, contemplative!"

[Saying,] "All right, my friend," the Blessed One went in.

A second time... A third time, the Alavaka yakkha said to the Blessed One, "Get out, contemplative!"

[Saying,] "All right, my friend," the Blessed One went out.

"Come in, contemplative!"

[Saying,] "All right, my friend," the Blessed One went in.

Then a fourth time, the Alavaka yakkha said to the Blessed One, "Get out, contemplative!"

"I won't go out, my friend. Do what you have to do."

"I will ask you a question, contemplative. If you can't answer me, I will possess your mind or rip open your heart or, grabbing you by the feet, hurl you across the Ganges."

"My friend, I see no one in the cosmos with its devas, Maras & Brahmas, its contemplatives & priests, its royalty & commonfolk, who could possess my mind or rip open my heart or, grabbing me by the feet, hurl me across the Ganges. But nevertheless, ask me what you wish."

[Alavaka:]

What    is a person's highest wealth?
What, when well-practiced, brings bliss?
What    is the highest of savors?
Living in what way
        is one's life called the best?

[The Buddha:]

Conviction     is a person's highest wealth.
Dhamma,     when well-practiced, brings bliss.
Truth is the highest of savors.
Living with discernment,
        one's life is called best.

[Alavaka:]

How         does one cross over the flood?
How         cross over the sea?
How         does one overcome suffering & stress?
How         is a person purified?

[The Buddha:]

Through conviction    one crosses over the flood.
Through heedfulness,    the sea.
Through persistence    one overcomes
        suffering & stress.
Through discernment        a person is purified.

[Alavaka:]

How         does one gain discernment?
How         does one find wealth?
How         does one attain honor?
How         bind friends to oneself?
    Passing from this world
    to
    the next world,
how        does one not grieve?

[The Buddha:]

Convinced of the arahants' Dhamma
for attaining Unbinding,
-- heedful, observant --
one listening well
        gains discernment.
Doing what's fitting,
enduring burdens,
one with initiative
        finds wealth.
Through truth
        one attains honor.
Giving
        binds friends to oneself.

Endowed with these four qualities,
    -- truth,
    self-control,
    stamina,
    relinquishment --
a householder of conviction,
on passing away, doesn't grieve.

Now, go ask others,
common priests & contemplatives,
if anything better than
    truth,
    self-control,
    endurance,
    & relinquishment
here can be found.

[Alavaka:]

How could I go ask
common priests & contemplatives? --
now that today I understand
what benefits
the next life.

It was truly for my well-being
that the Awakened One came
to stay in Alavi.
Today I understand
where what is given
bears great fruit.

I will wander from village to village,
town to town,
paying homage to the Self-awakened One
& the true rightness of the Dhamma.    

 

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