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Visakhuposatha Sutta

The Discourse to Visakha on the Uposatha with the Eight Practices

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

 

Thus have I heard:

At one time the Exalted One was staying near Savatthi at the Eastern monastery in the mansion given by Migara's mother. Then Visakha, [1] Migara's mother, approached the Exalted One; having approached and bowed down she sat down in a suitable place. When she was seated the Exalted One spoke thus to Visakha, Migara's Mother:

"Visakha, when the Uposatha undertaken with its eight component practices, [2] is entered on, it is of great fruit, of great advantage, of great splendor, of great range. And how, Visakha, is the Uposatha undertaken with its eight component practices, entered on, is of great fruit, great advantage, great splendor and great range?

"Here, [3] Visakha, a noble disciple considers thus:

"'For all their lives the Arahants dwell having abandoned killing living beings, refrain from killing living beings, they have laid down their staffs, laid down their weapons, they are conscientious, [4] sympathetic, compassionate for the good of all living beings; so today I dwell, for this night and day, having abandoned killing living beings, refraining from killing living beings, I am one who has laid down my staff, laid down my weapon, I am conscientious, sympathetic, compassionate for the good of all living beings. By this practice, following after the Arahants, the Uposatha will be entered on by me.'

"It is undertaken by this first practice.

"He considers: 'For all their lives the Arahants dwell having abandoned taking what is not given, refrain from taking what is not given, they are takers of what is given, those who expect only what is given, themselves become clean without thieving; so today I dwell, for this night and day, having abandoned taking what is not given, refraining from taking what is not given. I am a taker of what is given, one who expects only what is given, by myself become clean without thieving. By this practice, following after the Arahants, the Uposatha will be entered on by me.'

"It is undertaken by this second practice.

"He considers: 'For all their lives the Arahants dwell having abandoned unchaste conduct, they are of chaste conduct, living aloof, refrain from sex which is the way of common society; so today I dwell, for this night and day, having abandoned unchaste conduct, I am of chaste conduct, living aloof, refraining from sex which is the common way of society. By this practice, following after the Arahants, the Uposatha will be entered on by me.'

"It is undertaken by this third practice.

"He considers: 'For all their lives the Arahants dwell having abandoned false speech, refrain from false speech, they are speakers of truth, joiners of truth, [5] firm-in-truth, [6] grounded-on-truth, [7] not speakers of lies to the world; so today I dwell, for this night and day, having abandoned false speech, refraining from false speech, a speaker of truth, a joiner of truth, firm-in-truth, grounded-on-truth, not a speaker of lies to the world. By this practice, following after the Arahants, the Uposatha will be entered on by me.'

"It is undertaken by this fourth practice.

"He considers: 'For all their lives the Arahants dwell having abandoned distilled and fermented intoxicants which are the occasion for carelessness and refrain from them; so today I dwell, for this night and day, having abandoned distilled and fermented intoxicants which are the occasion for carelessness, refraining from them. By this practice, following after the Arahants, the Uposatha will be entered on by me.'

"It is undertaken by this fifth practice.

"He considers: 'For all their lives the Arahants are one-mealers, refrain from eating outside the time, desisting at night, [8] so today I am a one-mealer, refraining from eating outside the time, desisting at night. By this practice, following after the Arahants, the Uposatha will be entered on by me.'

"It is undertaken by this sixth practice.

"He considers: 'For all their lives the Arahants refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, wearing garments, smartening with perfumes and beautifying with cosmetics; so today I refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, wearing ornaments, smartening with perfumes and beautifying with cosmetics. By this practice, following after the Arahants, the Uposatha will be entered on by me.'

"It is undertaken by this seventh practice.

"He considers: 'For all their lives the Arahants having abandoned high beds [9] and large beds, [10] refraining from high beds and large beds, they make use of a low sleeping place, a (hard) bed or a strewing of grass; so today I have abandoned high beds and large beds, refraining from high beds and large beds, I make use of a low sleeping place, a (hard) bed or a strewing of grass. By this practice, following after the Arahants the Uposatha will be entered on by me.'

"It is undertaken by this eighth practice.

"Thus indeed, Visakha is the Uposatha entered on and undertaken with its eight component practices, of great fruit, of great advantage, of great splendor, of great range. "How great a fruit? How great an advantage? How great a splendor? How great a range?

"Just as though, Visakha, one might have power, dominion and kingship [11] over sixteen great countries abounding in the seven treasures [12] -- that is to say, Anga, Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vajji, Malla, Ceti, Vansa, Kure, Pancala, Maccha, Surasena, Assaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kamboja, yet it is not worth a sixteenth part of the Uposatha undertaken with its eight practices. For what reason? Miserable is kingship over men compared with heavenly bliss.

"That which among men is fifty years, Visakha, is one night and day of the devas of the Four Great Kings, their month has thirty of those days, their year twelve of those months; the lifespan of the devas of the Four Great Kings is five hundred of those heavenly years. Now here a certain woman or man, having entered on the Uposatha undertaken with its eight practices, at the break up of the body, after death, may arise to fellowship with the devas of the Four Great Kings -- such a thing indeed is known, Visakha. It was in connection with this that I have said: Miserable is kingship over men compared with heavenly bliss.

"That which among men is a hundred years, Visakha, is one night and day of the devas of the Thirty-three, their month has thirty of those days, their year twelve of those months; the lifespan of the devas of the Thirty-three is one thousand of those heavenly years. [13] Now here a certain woman or man, having entered on the Uposatha undertaken with the eight practices, at the break up of the body, after death, may arise to fellowship with the devas of the Thirty-three -- such a thing indeed is known, Visakha. It was in connection with this that I have said: Miserable is kingship over men compared with heavenly bliss.

"That which among men is two hundred years, Visakha, is one night and day of the Yama devas, their month has thirty of those days, their year twelve of those months; the lifespan of the Yama devas is two thousand of those heavenly years. Now here a certain woman or man, having entered on the Uposatha undertaken with the eight practices, at the break-up of the body, after death, may arise to fellowship with the Yama devas -- such a thing indeed is known, Visakha. It was in connection with this that I have said: Miserable is kingship over men compared with heavenly bliss.

"That which among men is four hundred years, Visakha, is one night and day of the Tushita devas, their month has thirty of those days, their year twelve of those months; the lifespan of the Tushita devas is four thousand of those heavenly years. Now here a certain woman or man, having entered on the Uposatha undertaken with the eight practices, at the break up of the body, after death, may arise to fellowship with the Tushita devas -- such a thing indeed is known, Visakha. It was in connection with this that I have said: Miserable is kingship over men compared with heavenly bliss.

"That which among men is eight hundred years, Visakha, is one night and day of the Nimmanarati devas, their month has thirty of those days, their year twelve of those months; the lifespan of the Nimmanarati devas is eight thousand of those heavenly years. Now here a certain woman or man, having entered on the Uposatha undertaken with the eight practices, at the break up of the body, after death may arise to fellowship with the Nimmanarati devas -- such a thing indeed is known, Visakha. It was in connection with this that I have said: Miserable is kingship over men compared with heavenly bliss.

"That which among men is sixteen hundred years, Visakha, is one night and day of the Paranimmitavasavatti devas, their month has thirty of those days, their year twelve of those months; the lifespan of the Paranimmitavasavatti devas is sixteen thousand of those heavenly years. Now here a certain woman or man, having entered on the Uposatha undertaken with the eight practices, at the break up of the body, after death, may arise to fellowship with the Paranimmitavasavatti devas -- such a thing indeed is known, Visakha. It was in connection with this that I have said: Miserable is kingship over men compared with heavenly bliss.

"Kill no life, nor take what is not given, speak no lie, nor be an alcoholic, refrain from sex and unchaste conduct, at night do not eat out-of-time food, neither bear garlands nor indulge with perfume, and make your bed a mat upon the ground: this indeed is called the eight-part uposatha taught by the Buddha gone to dukkha's end. The radiance of the sun and moon, both beautiful to see, follow on from each other, dispelling the darkness as they go through the heavens, illumining the sky and brightening the quarters and the treasure found between them: pearls and crystals and auspicious turquoises, gold nuggets and the gold called "ore," monetary gold with gold dust carried down -- compared with the eight-part uposatha, though they are enjoyed, are not a sixteenth part -- as the shining of the moon in all the groups of stars. Hence indeed the woman and the man who are virtuous enter on uposatha having eight parts and having made merits [14] bringing forth happiness blameless they obtain heavenly abodes."

The Upasaka Vasettha, when he heard this discourse, after the Buddha had finished speaking the above verses, exclaimed:

"Lord, if my dear kin and relatives were to enter on the uposatha undertaken with its eight practices, it would be for their benefit and happiness for many a day. Lord, if all the warrior-nobles, Brahmans, merchants and laborers were to enter on the uposatha undertaken with its eight practices, it would be for their benefit and happiness for many a day."

"So it is, Vasettha. If all the warrior-nobles, Brahmans, merchants and laborers were to enter on the uposatha undertaken with its eight practices, it would be for their benefit and happiness for many a day. If this world with its devas, Maras and brahmas, this generation with its Samanas and Brahmans, together with its rulers and mankind were to enter on the uposatha undertaken with its eight practices, it would be for their benefit and happiness for many a day. Vasettha, if these great sala trees were to enter on the uposatha undertaken with its eight practices it would be for their benefit and happiness for many a day, that is, if they were conscious, what to speak of mankind."

 

Footnotes

1. Visakha: a very generous woman lay-disciple who, by listening frequently to Dhamma, became a Stream-winner and who was, perhaps, already a noble disciple (ariya) when this discourse was spoken.

2. anga: lit. part, component, practice; here meaning practices composing the Uposatha.

3. "Here": meaning "in the Buddhasasana," the Buddha's instructions or religion.

4. lajji: one who has shame (hiri) of doing evil, and fear of doing evil (ottappa), the two qualities which are called "the world guardians."

5. saccasandha: "they join the truth" (Comm.).

6. theta: lit. "firm, established," that is, in the experience of ultimate truth.

7. paccayika: truth that has been seen by perceiving its conditional arising.

8. Bhikkhus do not eat after midday until the following dawn.

9. High beds means luxurious beds which are soft and well-sprung.

10. Large beds means those in which two people can sleep.

11. rajjam: lit., "kingship," but meaning generally great authority.

12. The seven treasures: gold, silver, pearls, crystal, turquoise, diamond, coral.

13. If calculated in human years, the devas of the Four Great Kings live 9,000,000 years; of the Thirty-three 36,000,000 years; of the Yama 144,000,000 years; of the Tushita 576,000,000 years; of the Nimmanarati 2,304,000,000 years; of the Paranimminitavasavatti devas the life is 9,216,000,000 years. Man can live at most one day in the life of the Thirty-three. It is worth reading the story in the Dhammapada Commentary (trans. "Buddhist Legends," Harvard Oriental Series Vol. 29, reissued by the Pali Text Society, London, 1969), called Husband-honorer, which brings to life this comparative time scale.

14. merit (pua): good kamma which purifies and cleanses the mind of the doer, such as the practice of the three ways of merit-making: giving, moral conduct (or precepts), and meditation.



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