At one time the Buddha’s relatives, the Sakyā, were taking up arms to fight with their neighbours, the Koliyā, over the irrigation waters of the river Rohīṇī, which divided their territories. The Buddha admonished them, asking them which was more valuable, blood or water, and the conflict was averted. Out of gratitude, 250 youths from each clan went forth as monks.
“Fear is born from taking up weapons. See how people fight!
I will tell you of the urgency,¹ that arose in me.
“Seeing the people thrashing about like fish in shallow water,
Having enmity for each other, seeing them alarm ² arose in me.
“Throughout the entire world, emptiness pervaded all directions.
Wanting an abode for myself, I saw nowhere that was unoccupied.
“Seeing them locked in continuous conflict I became alarmed.²
Then I perceived a dart, difficult to see, buried deep in their hearts.
“Whoever is pierced by this arrow, runs about in all directions.
However, once it is pulled out, one neither runs nor sinks.
“Therein, whatever skills are learnt in this infatuated world,³
One should not be intent on sensual pleasures,
But should train oneself for nibbāna.
“Truthful and not impudent, honest and free from slander,
The evils of anger, greed, and avarice should be overcome by a sage.
“Shun sleeping, laziness, and sloth, do not associate with the heedless.
Not remaining conceited, a man should focus on cessation.
“Do not be led into falsehood, do not be infatuated by forms,
Fully understand pride, do not act in haste.
“Do not delight in the old, do not form affection for the new.
Do not sorrow over the past, nor develop craving for what is imagined.⁴
“Greed I call the great flood, obsession I call longing.
The foundation of fixation is the mire of sensuality so difficult to transcend.
“The sage, not deviating from the truth, is a brahmin standing on firm ground.
Having relinquished everything, he is indeed called a saint who is calmed.
“The wise man who truly knows, having realised the Dhamma independently,
Behaving rightly in the world, he envies no one here.
“One here who crosses over desire, breaks the bond so hard to transcend.
Neither grieves nor worries, having cut the stream is without bonds.
“Wither away what came before, after let there be nothing.
In between grasp nothing, wandering at peace.
“In all mind and matter, regard nothing as one’s own.
Not grieving for what does not exist, one loses nothing in the world.
“One who does not think, ‘This is mine,’ or ‘That belongs to others,’
Not finding anything as a self, he cannot grieve thinking, ‘This is not mine.’
“Neither cruel nor greedy, free from desire, he is equanimous everywhere.
That is the benefit that I declare, if asked about one who is unshakeable.
“Desireless, understanding, accumulating nothing.
Abstaining from any endeavour,⁵ he sees peace everywhere.
“The sage does not say that he is the same, nor inferior, nor superior.
The calmed saint is without meanness, he does not take nor reject.”
1. Urgency (saṃvega).
2. Alarm (bhaya). The Buddha is entirely free from fear, but foreseeing the danger for his relatives, he knew that he needed to intervene immediately to stop pointless slaughter and much evil kamma.
3. Skills are learnt (sikkhānugīyanti) in this world to earn a living. Every responsible parent urges their children to get a good education and learn some trade in order to earn a living. Someone who has no skill or qualification can only do some menial labour. The motivation is to enjoy better and more refined sensual pleasures. It is better to be intent on gaining knowledge and skills to help others achieve well-being and happiness, than to be intent on enjoying sensual pleasures.
4. Ākāsa: The sky, space, or a game played in one’s mind. If people cannot enjoy sensual pleasures in the present, they recollect pleasures enjoyed in the past, or fantasize about pleasures that they wish to enjoy in the future. One should abandon day-dreams, and dwell in the present.
5. One who has not yet attained Arahantship has to strive and make an effort to achieve that goal, but one who has attained the goal is at peace. He has no more ambition.