Ekottara Agama 21.1

 

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Twelfth Fascicle

(The Triple Gem)

 

[i]‘Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying in Śrāvastī, at Jetṛ’s[ii] Grove, in Anthāpiṇḍada’s Park. Then the Exalted One said to the bhikṣus:

There are three [kinds of] virtue (guṇa) pertaining to taking refuge (svayaṁ śaraṇaṁ gam) of one’s own accord. Which are the three? The first [kind of] virtue pertains to taking refuge in the Buddha, the second to taking refuge in the Dharma[iii] (T2, 602a) and the third to taking refuge in the monastic Community.

What does virtue pertaining to taking refuge in the Buddha mean? Among all sentient beings - bipeds, quadrupeds, those with many feet, those with form or without form, those with perception or without perception and finally the gods [belonging the sphere of] Neither-Perception-Nor-Nonperception (naivasaṁjñānāsaṁjñāyatana)[iv] - the Tathāgata is superior (adhika), he is foremost (agrya) and without equal.

[Just as] from a cow one gets milk (kṣīra), from milk curds (dadhi), from curds [butter, from butter] ghee (sarpis), and from ghee the skimmings of melted butter (sarpirmaṇḍa),[v] and just as the skimmings of melted butter are superior, foremost and without equal,[vi] even so among all sentient beings – bipeds, quadrupeds... and finally the gods [belonging to the sphere of] Neither-Perception-Nor-Nonperception – the Tathāgata is superior, foremost and without equal.

[When] there are sentient beings that have faith[vii] in the Buddha, this is called virtue pertaining to faith in what is the best (agra). [Those who] are possessed of virtue pertaining to [faith in] what is the best, will have the good fortune to be [born] among gods [or] as the most splendid (ṣreśṭha) among human beings; this is what is called virtue pertaining to [faith] in what is the best.

What does taking refuge of one’s own accord in the Dharma mean? As for that which signifies the existential constituents, there are the dharmas under the sway of the malign influences (sāsrava), the dharmas free from the malign influences (anāsrava), the conditioned (saṁskṛta), and the unconditioned (asaṁskṛta) dharmas, that which is free from greed (vigatarāga) and undefiled (akliṣṭa), cessation (nirodha), Nirvāṇa. It is the [unconditioned] dharma Nirvāṇa which, among all existential constituents, is superior, foremost, and without equal.

[Just as] from a cow one gets milk... and just as the skimmings of melted butter are superior, foremost, and without equal, even so among the so-called existential constituents - the dharmas under the sway of the malign influences and those free from them, the conditioned and unconditioned dharmas, that which is free from greed and undefiled, cessation, Nirvāṇa - it is the dharma Nirvāṇa which, among all dharmas, is superior, foremost and without equal.

[When] there are sentient beings that have faith in the Dharma, this is called virtue pertaining to faith in what is the best. [Those who] are possessed of virtue pertaining to [faith in] what is the best, will have the good fortune to be [born] among gods [or] as the most splendid among human beings; this is that is called virtue pertaining to [faith] in what is the best.

What does taking refuge of one’s own accord in the Sangha of the Noble Ones mean? As for that which is referred to as the Community of the Noble Ones (āryasaṁgha), among [all] forms of monastic communities and [all] kinds of assemblies in society the Tathāgata’s Sangha is superior, foremost, and without equal.

[Just as] from a cow one gets milk... and just as the skimmings of melted butter are superior... without equal, - even so as for that which is referred to as the Community of the Noble Ones, among [all] forms of monastic communities and [all] kinds of assemblies in society the Tathāgata’s Sangha is... without equal.

[When there are sentient beings that have faith in the Community of the Noble Ones,] this is called virtue pertaining to faith in what is the best. [Those who] are possessed of virtue pertaining to [faith in] what is the best, will have the good fortune to be [born] among gods [or] as the most splendid among human beings; this is what is called virtue pertaining to [faith] in what is the best.

Then the Exalted One uttered the following verses:

The first object of faith is the Buddha, foremost and

Without equal; the second object of faith is the

Dharma which is free from greed and attachment;

Reverence and offerings [are due to] the Sangha of

Men of truth (satpuruṣa) who are the most excellent

Field of merit (puṇyakṣetra). Those who know what is

The best, will gain outstanding merit: Having been

[Re]born as gods [or] human beings, it will go well for

Them wherever they will be; to them, moreover, will be

Offered the highest seats of honour and, as a matter of

Course, they will partake of ambrosia (amṛta); they will

Wear garments adorned with the seven kinds of jewels,[viii]

Being respected by everyone. [Those who know what is

the best,] will be most conscientious in their moral

Training; they will not be wanting in any of the spiritual

Faculties[ix] and will realise an ocean of insight-knowledge

And wisdom. In due course they will reach the sphere of

Nirvāṇa.[x] [Whoever] takes this threefold refuge will

Make good progress on his way without difficulty. -

After listening to the Buddha’s words, the bhikṣus were pleased and respectfully applied themselves to practice.’[xi]



[i] CBETA, T02, no. 125, p. 601, c27-p. 602, b11; Hayashi, p. 190 ff. This translation originally published as Ekottarāgama XXX, Buddhist Studies Review 19.2, 2002, p 183-185. Translated from the Chinese version by Thích Huyên-Vi and Bhikkhu Pāsādika in collaboration with Sara Boin-Webb.

[ii] Read with Hayashi . [This reading also adopted by CBETA]

[iii] Here it seems preferable not to translate dharma because, according to the context, rather than ‘Teaching’ the meaning of ‘existential constituents, facts’ is implied. This latter meaning is fully borne out in the Pali parallel given below.

[iv] Cf. BHSD, p. 313a; Nyanatiloka, p. 98.

[v] Soothill, p. 115b (醍醐, sarpirmaṇḍa): for ‘ghee’ read ‘skimmings of ghee’; cf. Karashima, p. 442….

[vi] As for this simile occuring, though, in another context, cf. A II, p. 95: Seyyathāpi bhikkhave gavā khīraṁ, khīramhā dadhi… sappimhā sappimaṇḍo, tattha aggaṁ akkhāyati…; F.L. Woodward, Gradual Sayings II, PTS, 1933 p. 104 f.: ‘Just as, monks, from a cow comes milk…from ghee the skimmings of ghee, and that is reckoned the best…’

[vii] here in the sense of ‘to confess, acknowledge’; 承事rendering prasanna ‘rejoicing, full of faith’, seems peculiar to EA.

[viii] Cf. BHSD, p. 450b (ratna, ‘seven precious substances’).

[ix] Cf. BHSD, p. 115a (s.v. indriya); Nyanatiloka, p. 61

[x] BHSD, p. 283b (s.v. nirvāṇa-dhātu).

[xi] Cf. A II, p. 34 f.: Cattāro’me bhikkhave aggappasāda. Katame cattāro? Yāvatā bhikkhave sattā apadā vā dipadā vā… Tathāgato tesaṁ aggaṁ akkhāyati..Ye.. Buddhe pasannā agge te pasannā agge kho pana pasannānaṁ aggo vipāko hoti… Woodward, op.cit., p. 38 ff.: ‘Monks, there are these four best faiths. What four? Monks, as compared with creatures, whether footless, bipeds… a Tathāgata… is reckoned best of them… They who have faith in the Buddha have faith in the best: of those who have faith in the best the result is best…’

As Woodward notes (ibid.., n. 4), this discourse is included in the sutta at A III, p. 35 f. and also occurs at It, p. 87 ff. Whilst in the two places of A ‘four best faiths’ (/best activity) (faith in the triple gem and in the ‘Ariyan eightfold way’ (ariye aṭṭhaṅgike magge)/ perfecting oneself in the moral training cherished by the Noble Ones (ariyakantesu sīlesu paripūrikārino)) are explained, in It – as in EᾹ – ‘three best faiths’ are dealt with.

In Vasubandhu (Abhidharmakośabhāṣya, ed. P. Pradhan, Patna 1975, p. 93, 1.5-6) is found a short quotation from SᾹ which is a parallel to the corresponding passage in EᾹ: ye kecid dharmāḥ saṁskṛtā vā virāgas teṣām agra ākhyāyate. The same quotation also occurs in the Abhidharmakośavyākhyā (for references – to which should be added: AN II, 34 and EᾹ, T2, 602a12-13 – see Bh. Pasadika, Kanonische Zitate im Abhidharmakośabhāṣya des Vasubandhu, Gottingen 1989, p. 44 [125]).