Nālaka Sutta | Sn III-11


11. Nālaka Sutta

Discourse on the Ascetic Nālaka

684. While resting during the heat of the day in the Tāvatiṁsa celestial world, Asita Kanhadevila, the Recluse, saw the Devas in great merriment:

Dressed in pure white, tossing up their celestial dresses in the air in glee, and dancing and frolicking to their hearts’ content, the celestials were throbbing with joy.

There was also Sakka the Lord of Tāvatiṁsa there. (1)

685. On seeing, the pleased devas in high spirits, Asita courteously asked the Devas:

How’s that, O devas, you look very pleased. What’s behind your tossing up your dresses and all this merry-making? (2)

686. Even when you went to war with the Asuras and won your victory over them, you were not as jubilant as now. This is unprecedented. Your body hairs bristle with joy. What extraordinary event do you see? (3)

687. Why, you whistle, you sing, you play music, you slap your arms with the hand, you dance. O, you dwellers a top-mount-Śumeru, may I ask you the reasons for this jollity. I’m dying to know it. (4)

688. The Buddha-to-be, the Jewel, the unique one, has been born in the human world!

There, for the great benefit of all beings, in the Lumbini Park, in the Province of Sakka, the Bodhisatta has been born. That’s why we are so pleased. That’s why we are overjoyed beyond measure (5)

689. The Buddha-to-be, the Noblest of all beings, the Greatest of all beings, the Leader of mankind, will proclaim the process of the Great Peace (set the Wheel of Knowledge Turning) in the Deer Park, a bold utterance ever to be made, like the lion’s roar. (6)

690. On hearing this, Asita descended forthwith from the celestial world and went to King Suddhodana’s palace.

There he asked the royal Śākya princes the new born princeling was, for he wanted to see him. (7)

691. Thereupon the infant princeling, with a complexion like that of sterling gold after repeated refinement, radiant with rare handsomeness, was brought before Asita (alias) Kanhadevila the recluse by the Śākya princes. (8)

692. On seeing the princeling, a blazing beauty, like the moon, queen of the stars radiating her splendour from the clear sky, like the beaming sun on a cloudless November day, the delight of all, Asita was overwhelmed with joy. (9)

693. Up above, the devas held up magnificent ceremonial umbrellas with a thousand circular canopies held by multiple branched, gold-handled whisks made of the yak’s tail waved in the sky.

The bearers of the royal umbrellas and the royal whisks were not visible, thought. (10)

694. Devila, the good old recluse with knotted hair, also known as Kanhasiri, on seeing the princeling, like a lump of gold, laid on the red velvet, his head by the white regal umbrella, was elated and took the baby in his hands joyfully. (11)

695. Having received the infant in his hands, the recluse, accomplished in the Vedas, Inspected the princeling carefully and in all clearness he saw, said:

Among all men and devas, this one is the greatest. (12)

696. Then, on contemplating his destiny to another existence, he felt sorry and tears flowed from his eyes.

The Śākya princes, seeing the good recluse weep, got alarmed and asked, Is the prince coming to any harm. (13)

697. On seeing the misery in the Śākya princes’ faces, the recluse replied,

Oh no no! There’s nothing wrong with the baby. No harm will come to him. He is of no mean promise. Rejoice yourselves! (14)

698. This princeling will attain the Noble Omniscience; he will see the highest and the pure that is Nibbāna; and for the benefit of the multitudes he will reveal, the Dharmacakra, the Wheel of the Dhamma, his Doctrine, the Noble Practice, will spread far and wide. (15)

699. (But alas!) my lease of life here won’t last much, for even before the prince attains Buddhahood, I’m destined to die.

Yes, I shall miss the Teaching of the Supremely Diligent Buddha. That’s why I am a distressed, unfortunate and miserable man. (16)

700. After putting the princes in an exultant mood, the good recluse left the palace, and having pity on his nephew, he urged him to follow the Teaching of the Supremely Diligent Buddha. (17)

701. When in future you hear the news that the Buddha, the One who attains Omniscience, has opened the way to Nibbāna.

Do visit him (without delay), ask of him the way, and take upon yourself the Noble Practice. (18)


702. Being thus admonished (advised) by Asita, Nālaka, with such accumulation of past merit that he anticipated the benefit (of seeing the Buddha), for which he was to realize the Supreme Purity (Nibbāna) and become a recluse, cultivated sense-control, awaiting the coming of the Great Conqueror, the Buddha (19)

703. Then came the rumbling voices that echoed the happy news of the Buddha’s coming, his (first) discourse on the Wheel of the Dhamma.

Nālaka, as advised by Asita, went to Isipatana Park, the venue of the great gathering.

There, on seeing the superb recluse the Buddha, he was filled with joy and asked of the Buddha, the Foremost Muni the conduct of a good Muni. (20)

End of the Background story

704. O Gotama Buddha, I am certain about (the late) Asita’s prophecy. Passed master of all Dhammas, may I ask you a question? (21)

705. O Buddha, as a recluses who has left lay life, who has imbibed a recluses conduct and who earns his food by alms-rounds, may I asked of you the Noble Practice of a good Muni? (22)

706. (The Buddha said:) About the Noble Practice of a Muni, quite difficult to practice, and no less difficult an attainment, I will explain to you.

Now, (first) I say, you must be firm, resolute, and purposeful. (23)

707. In the village, (with the multitude,) regard the spiteful and the reverent on the same footing. Keep your mind free from fault, that is, don’t feel dejected when abused, nor elated when worshipped. (24)

708. In the forest, (in solitude,) desires, good or bad, both like fire of consuming nature, are apt to arise. Moreover, women have their way of tempting the Muni (Bhikkhu). Don’t ever be tempted so. (25)

709. Avoid all sensuality good or bad; sexual abstinence must be held to be free from antagonism against every being, do not have any infatuation with all beings, high or low. (26)

710. In respect to all living being, be they lustful or free from lust, ponder thus:

In the same way as I want to be safe and sound, will they do feel the same: Likewise, in as much as they want to be safe and sound, I do feel the same:

Thus, taking oneself as an example, do not kill, nor let another do the killing. (27)

711. A worldling feels attachment to the 4 material requisites of a Bhikkhu; (Therefore,) covetousness and greed about these things must be dropped.

Have discernment in your conduct in this matter, for the abysmal danger of greed must be overcome. (28)

712. Keep your belly flat with a thin waistline, as a result of moderation in eating. Be sparing with your wants, never be covetous. At all times don’t let the urging desire drive you; being not driven by desires is peaceful. (29)

713. A Muni after the daily alms-round makes his retreat to the forest, dwelling beneath a (shady) tree, standing or sitting there. (30)

714. He should make a practice of concentration, cultivate a steadfast mind, and adapt himself well to forest living.

At the foot of a tree he should strive for concentration until he is fully satisfied with himself (with his attainment in Insight-Development). (31)

715. On the next morning, he should enter the village for his alms-round. He should not be greatly pleased with an invited meal, or a meal carried to him from the village. (32)

716. A Muni visiting the village should not share the weal and woe of his lay-supporters. Never motioning about his need for food, he should not make the slighted hint that would do licit alms. (33)

717. Getting something, he feels, It’s well, and getting nothing, he feels, It’s alright; for he is unmoved by both the conditions.

And getting or not getting, a good Muni returns to his sylvan abode, unconcerned, unperturbed, like he would regard the trees. (34)

718. On his alms-round, he goes about speechless, so that people take him as a dumb one, even the dumb he is not. Should he receive just a tiny morsel, he mustn’t despise the donor for his little offering. (35)

719. Cultivation for Insight-Knowledge may be painful or pleasant, as the Great Samaṇa, the Buddha has explained, in attaining the Path,

however, it is the same, for none realize Nibbāna twice at a certain stage of the Path, yet Nibbāna is not realizable in a single stroke because certain defilements die hard; they are whittled down persistently (at the 4 stages of the Path). (36)

720. The Bhikkhu has no diffusion of defilements in his heart, the stream of craving has been cut off. Having passed volitional actions in both righteous and evil, he has no grief (that follows lust for life). (37)

721. O Nālaka, I will (further) expound on the Bhikkhu (Muni) practice:

A Muni behaves as though under the razor’s edge: His tongue tamed as if in close contact with the razor: He must know what extent of eating is proper for him. (38)

722. Purely detached, without indulging in fancies, he should purge out the stretch of defilements. Not inclined to any form of existence, he relies only on the Noble Practice. (39)

723. Bhikkhu should fare alone; meditation for concentration must be practised. Living without company, I call Muni, the proper way for a Muni. If you can adapt well to a lone life your fame well spread to the 10 directions. (40)

724. One who is devoted to the Buddha strives for concentration: Paying heed to the loud acclaim of the virtues, particularly that of shame for evil, and faith in the Noble Practice. (41)

725. Understand it by the example of the river: Small streams flowing through crags make gushing and splashing sound, whereas big rivers flow past without a murmur. (42)

726. A pot not fully filled makes a splashing sound, but a pot that is full makes no sound. Half-filled pots are like fools: Fully-filled ones, like wise men. (43)

727. The Samaṇa, the Buddha speaks much concerning causes and consequences that would benefit the hearer. He preaches the Dhamma because he understands it well. And knowing well, he preaches profusely. (44)

728. He, who knows the Dhamma well, keeps a steady mind. He, who understands the Dhamma well, does not waste words. Such a disciplined Muni deserves Arahatship, he is bound for it.

(Thus said the Buddha). (45)

End of the 11th Nālaka Sutta