From: Ephanius Wilson, Spiritual Books of the East, rev. ed. (London: The Colonial Press, 1900), pp. 158, 160-61, 171-72, repr. In Mark A. Kishlansky, ed., Sources of World History, Volume I, (New York City: HarperCollins CollegePublishers, 1995), pp. 67-71
[ Kishlansky Introduction] Siddhartha Gautama (ca. 563-483 BCE.) was the kid of the king of a small Indian state. Legend holds that it was predicted at his birth that he would either be a terrific emperor or a fantastic Buddha (literally, “an enlightened one”) His father, expecting the former, raised Siddhartha in luxury. However at the age of 29 Siddhartha experienced a vision of human suffering that led him to renounce his worldly status and items and take to the roadway as a roaming ascetic. He signed up with at least two ascetic sects, whose approaches he quickly mastered but neither permitted him to accomplish the greatest reality. He lastly achieved this objective when one night while he was meditating he had the ability to comprehend his past and future lives. Siddhartha figured out to teach the realities he had recognized; he gathered disdiples and preached a middle way in between worldliness and asceticism. His mentors swept throughout east Asia, ending up being the foundation for among the world’s excellent religious beliefs. Buddhist customs grew in both India and China, although they developed independently.
The mentors of the Buddha were recorded by his students and after that codified over the next 500 years. The Buddha’s preachings are related to by scholars as mainly authentic, and part of his very first preaching, the Preaching at Benares, is reproduced here. The choice that follows is a disquisition on the concept of Nirvana.
NOTE: The first part of this file includes a version of Buddha’s first preaching. It is useful to compare it with the other version, by Rhys David and Herman Oldenberg, distributed independently. The second part of this document is an unique conversation of the nature of Nirvana.
THE PREACHING AT BENARES
On seeing their old teacher approach, the 5 bhikkhus concurred amongst themselves not to salute him, nor to address him as a master, however by his name just. “For,” so they said, “he has broken his vow and has actually abandoned holiness. He is no bhikkhu but Gotama, and Gotama has ended up being a man who resides in abundance and indulges in the enjoyments of worldliness.”
But when the Blessed One approached in a dignified way, they involuntarily rose from their seats and greeted him in spite of their resolution. Still they called him by his name and addressed him as “friend Gotama.”
When they had actually hence gotten the Blessed One, he stated: “Do not call the Tathagata by his name nor address him as ‘good friend,’ for he is the Buddha, the Holy One. The Buddha looks with a kind heart similarly on all living beings, and they for that reason call him ‘Dad.’ To disrespect a daddy is incorrect; to despise him, is wicked.
“The Tathagata,” the Buddha continued, “does not seek redemption in austerities, but neither does he for that reason delight in worldly satisfaction, nor live in abundance. The Tathagata has discovered the middle course.
“There are 2 extremes, O bhikkhus, which the male who has actually quit the world ought not to follow-the regular practice, on the one hand, of self-indulgence which is not worthy, vain and fit only for the worldly-minded and the regular practice, on the other hand, of self-mortification, which hurts, worthless and unprofitable.
“Neither abstaining from fish or flesh, nor going naked, nor shaving the head, nor wearing matted hair, nor wearing a rough garment, nor covering oneself with dirt, nor sacrificing to Agni, will clean a guy who is not free from deceptions.
“Reading the Vedas, making offerings to priests, or sacrifices to the gods, self-mortification by heat or cold, and many such penances performed for the sake of immortality, these do not clean the man who is not free from delusions.
“Anger, drunkenness, obstinacy, bigotry, deception, envy, self-praise, disparaging others, superciliousness and evil intentions constitute uncleanness; not verily the consuming of flesh. “
A middle path, O bhikkhus, preventing the two extremes, has actually been found by the Tathagata-a course which opens the eyes, and bestows understanding, which leads to peace of mind, to the higher knowledge, to complete enlightenment, to Nirvana!
“What is that middle path, O bhikkhus, preventing these 2 extremes, discovered by the Tathagata – that path which opens the eyes, and bestows understanding, which results in comfort, to the higher knowledge, to full enlightenment, to Nirvana?
“Let me teach you, O bhikkhus, the middle path, which keeps aloof from both extremes. By suffering, the emaciated enthusiast produces confusion and sickly thoughts in his mind. Mortification is not favorable even to worldly knowledge; just how much less to an accomplishment over the senses !
“He who fills his light with water will not eliminate the darkness, and he who tries to light a fire with rotten wood will fail. And how can anyone be free from self by leading a wretched life, if he does not prosper in quenching the fires of desire, if he still hankers after either worldly or heavenly- pleasures. However he in whom self has become extinct is devoid of desire: he will desire neither worldly nor divine enjoyments, and the satisfaction of his natural desires will not defile him. However, let him be moderate, let him drink and eat according to the needs of the body.
“Sensuality is enervating: the “self-indulgent” male is a slave to enjoyment to his passions, and pleasure-seek. ing is degrading and vulgar.
“But to please the needs of life is not wicked. To keep the body in excellent health is a duty for otherwise we shall not have the ability to cut the lamp of wisdom, and keep our mind strong and clear. Water surrounds the lotus-flower, but does not wet its petals.
“This is the middle course, O bhikkhus. that keeps aloof from both extremes.
And the Blessed One spoke kindly to his disciples, pitying them for their mistakes, and mentioning the uselessness of their endeavors, and the ice of ill-will that cooled their hearts dissolved under the mild heat of the Master’s persuasion.
Now the Blessed One set the wheel of the most exceptional law rolling, and he started to preach to the 5 bhikkhus, opening to them eviction of immortality, and revealing them the happiness of Nirvana.
The Buddha said:
“The spokes of the wheel are the rules of pure conduct: justice is the harmony of their length, wisdom is the tire; modesty and consideration are the center in which the unmovable axle of reality is repaired.
“He who acknowledges the existence of suffering, its cause, its remedy, and its cessation has fathomed the four honorable truths. He will walk in the right path.
“Right views will be the torch to light his way. Right goals will be his guide. Right speech will be his dwelling-place on the roadway. flis gait will be straight, for it is best behavior. His beverages will be properly of earning his livelihood. right efforts will be his steps right thoughts his breath; and ideal contemplation will give him the peace that follows in his footprints.
“Now, this, O bhikkhus, is the honorable reality worrying suffering:
“Birth is participated in with discomfort, decay is painful, disease hurts, death is painful. Union. with the unpleasant hurts, uncomfortable is separation from the enjoyable, and any craving that is unsatisfied, that too is painful. In short, bodily conditions which derive from attachment hurt.
“This, then, O bhikkus, is the noble fact concerning suffering.
“Now this, O bhikkhus, is the worthy reality worrying the origin of suffering:
“Verily, it is that yearning which causes the renewal of existence, accompanied by sensuous delight, seeking complete satisfaction now here, now there, the craving for the satisfaction of the enthusiasms, the craving for a future life, and the yearning for happiness in this life.
“This, then, O bhikkhus, is the noble reality concerning the origin of suffering-
“Now this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth worrying the destruction of suffering:
“Verily, it is the damage, in which no passion stays, of this really thirst; it is the laying aside of, the being devoid of, the house no longer upon this thirst.
“This then, O bhikkhus, is the worthy fact concerning the damage of suffering-
‘Now this, O bhikkhus, is the honorable fact worrying the method which causes the damage of sadness. Verily! it is this worthy eightfold path: that is to say:
“Right views; best goals; right speech; right habits; right income, ideal effort; right thoughts; and right reflection.
“This, then, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the damage of grief. “By the practice of lovingkindness I have achieved freedom of heart, and therefore I am guaranteed that I shall never return in renewed births. I have actually even now attained Nirvana.”
And when the Blessed One had actually thus set the royal chariot wheel of reality rolling onward, a rapture delighted through all the universes. The devas left their heavenly houses to listen to the sweetness of the reality; the saints that had actually parted from this life crowded around the excellent instructor to receive the delighted tidings; even the animals of the earth felt the happiness that rested upon the words of the Tagathata: and all the creatures of the host of sentient beings, gods, males, and beasts, hearing the message of deliverance, received and understood it in their own language.
And when the teaching was recommended, the venerable Kondanna, the earliest one amongst the five bhikkhus, recognized the truth with his mental eye, and he said: “Genuinely, O Buddha, our Lord, thou hast discovered the truth!” Then the other bhikkhus too, joined him and exclaimed: “Truly, thou art the Buddha, thou has actually found the reality. “
And the devas and saints and all the great spirits of the departed generations that had actually listened to the sermon of the Tathagata, joyfully got the doctrine and shouted: “Genuinely, the blessed One has actually founded the kingdom of righteousness. The Blessed One has actually moved the earth; he has actually set the wheel of Reality rolling, which by no one in deep space, be he god or man, can ever be reversed. The kingdom of Truth will be preached upon earth; it will spread out; and righteousness, good-will, and peace will reign amongst mankind.”
WHAT IS NIRVANA?
“Revered Nagasena, things produced of karma are seen worldwide, things produced of cause are seen, things produced of nature are seen. Tell me what on the planet is born not of karma, not of cause, not of nature.” “These two, sire, in. the world are born not of karma, not of cause, not of nature. which 2? Ether, sire, and Nirvana.”
“Do not, revered Nagasena, corrupt the Conqueror’s words and answer the question ignorantly.”
“What did I state, sire, that you speak therefore to me!”
“Revered Nagasena, what you said about ether – that it is born not of karma nor of cause nor of nature-is right. But with many a hundred reasons did the Lord, revered Nagasena, explain to disciples the Method to the realization of Nirvana and after that you speak thus: ‘Nirvana is born of no cause.”‘
“It holds true, sire, that with numerous a hundred reasons did the Lord explain to disciples the Method to the awareness of Nirvana; but he did not mention a cause for the production o f Nirvana.”
“Well then, sire, participate in thoroughly, listen closely, and I will inform the factor regarding this. Would a male, sire, with his natural strength have the ability to go from here up a high Himalayan mountain?”
‘Yes, revered Nagasena.”
“But would that male, sire, with his natural strength have the ability to bring a high Himalayan mountain here.
“Definitely not, revered sir.”
“Even so, sire, it is possible to point out the Method for the awareness of Nirvana, but impossible to show a cause for the production of Nirvana. Would it be possible, sire, for a man who, with his natural strength, has actually crossed over the terrific sea in a boat to reach the farther coast!”
“Yes, revered sir.”
“But would it be possible, sire, for that man, with his natural strength, to bring the farther coast of the fantastic sea here?”
“Definitely not, revered sir.”
“Even so, sire, it is possible to mention the Method to the realization of Nirvana, however difficult to show a cause for the production of Nirvana. For what reason? It is since of the uncompounded nature of the important things.” “Revered Nagasena, is Nirvana uncompounded!”
“Yes, sire, Nirvana is uncompounded; it is made by nothing at all. Sire, one can not state of Nirvana that it arises or that it does not develop or that it is to be produced or that it is previous or future or present, or that it is cognizable by the eye, ear, nose, tongue or body.”
“If, revered Nagasena, Nirvana neither emerges nor does not develop and so on. as you say. well then, revered Nagasena, you suggest Nirvana as a thing that is not: Nirvana is not.”
“Sire, Nirvana is; Nirvana is cognizable by mind; an ariyan-disciple, faring along appropriately with a mind that is cleansed, lofty, straight, without obstructions, without temporal desires, sees Nirvana.”
“But what, revered sir, is that Nirvana like that can be highlighted by similes! Persuade me with factors according to which a thing that is can be highlighted by similes.”
“Is there, sire, what is called wind?”
“Yes, revered sir.”
“Please, sire, show the wind by its color or setup or as thin or thick or long or brief.”
“But it is not possible, revered Nagasena, for the wind to be shown; for the wind can not be understood in the hand or touched, but yet there is the wind.”
“If, sire, it is not possible for the wind to be shown, well then, there is no wind.”
“I, revered Nagasena, know that there is wind, I am convinced of it, but I am unable to show the wind.”
“Nevertheless, sire, there is Nirvana; however it is not possible to show Nirvana by color or configuration.”
“Great, revered Nagasena, well shown is the simile. well seen the factor: thus it is and I accept it as you state: There is Nirvana.”