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Nakhasikhā Suttaṃ

(S.ii.133)

The Tip of a Fingernail

Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi in Prince Jeta’s grove at the monastery of Anāthapiṇḍika. Then the Blessed One picked up a small amount of dust on the tip of his fingernail and said to the monks: “What do you think, monks, which is greater? This small amount of dust on my fingernail, or the great earth?”

“Venerable sir, the great earth is far greater. The small amount of dust on the Blessed One’s fingernail is insignificant. The small amount of dust on the Blessed One’s fingernail is not even a hundredth, a thousandth, or even a hundred thousandth the amount of the great earth.”

“Even so, monks, a noble disciple endowed with right-view, an individual who has gained realisation, the suffering that is totally destroyed and exhausted is far greater; while that remaining is insignificant. Not even a hundredth part, or a thousandth part, or a hundred thousandth part of the former mass of suffering that has been totally destroyed and exhausted remains in a maximum of seven lifetimes. Thus, monks, realisation of the Dhamma is of such great benefit, that is the great benefit of gaining the eye of the Dhamma (Dhammacakkhu).” (S.ii.133)

The Tip of a Fingernail (2)

Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi in Prince Jeta’s grove at the monastery of Anāthapiṇḍika. Then the Blessed One picked up a small amount of dust on the tip of his fingernail and said to the monks: “What do you think, monks, which is greater? This small amount of dust on my fingernail, or the great earth?”

“Venerable sir, the great earth is far greater. The small amount of dust on the Blessed One’s fingernail is insignificant. The small amount of dust on the Blessed One’s fingernail is not even a hundredth, a thousandth, or even a hundred thousandth the amount of the great earth.”

“Even so, monks, few are those reborn again as human beings, those reborn elsewhere are far more numerous.¹ Therefore, monks, you should train yourselves: ‘I will dwell heedfully.’ Thus, monks, you should train yourselves.” (S.ii.263)

1. Manussacutiniraya Suttaṃ

(S.v.474)

Deceased Human Beings Reborn in Hell

Then the Blessed One picked up a small amount of dust on the tip of his fingernail and said to the monks: “What do you think, monks, which is greater? This small amount of dust on my fingernail, or the great earth?”

“Venerable sir, the great earth is far greater. The small amount of dust on the Blessed One’s fingernail is insignificant. The small amount of dust on the Blessed One’s fingernail is not even a hundredth, a thousandth, or even a hundred thousandth the amount of the great earth.”

“Even so, monks, only a few deceased human beings are born again as human beings; far more numerous are those who are reborn in hell. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.”

2. Manussacutitiracchāna Suttaṃ

Deceased Human Beings Reborn as Animals

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased human beings are born again as human beings; far more numerous are those who are reborn as animals. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

3. Manussacutipettivisayasuttaṃ

Deceased Human Beings Reborn as Hungry Ghosts

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased human beings are born again as human beings; far more numerous are those who are reborn as hungry ghosts. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

4-6. Manussacutidevanirayādisuttaṃ

(S.v.475)

Deceased Human Beings Reborn as Deities, etc.

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased human beings are born again as deities; far more numerous are those who are reborn in hell … as animals … as hungry ghosts. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

7-9. Devacutinirayādisuttaṃ

Deceased Deities Reborn as in Hell etc.

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased deities are born again as deities; far more numerous are those who are reborn in hell … as animals … as hungry ghosts. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

10-12. Devamanussanirayādisuttaṃ

Deceased Deities Reborn as Human Beings, etc.

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased deities are born again as human beings; far more numerous are those who are reborn in hell … as animals … as hungry ghosts … in hell. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

13-15. Nirayamanussanirayādisuttaṃ

Deceased Hell Beings Reborn as Human Beings, etc.

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased from hell are born again as human beings; far more numerous are those who are reborn in hell … as animals … as hungry ghosts. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

16-18. Nirayadevanirayādisuttaṃ

Deceased Hell Beings Reborn as Deities, etc.

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased from hell are born again as deities; far more numerous are those who are reborn as animals … as hungry ghosts … in hell. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

19-21. Tiracchānamanussanirayādisuttaṃ

(S.v.476)

Deceased Animals Reborn as Human Beings, etc.

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased animals are reborn as human beings; far more numerous are those who are reborn in hell … as animals … as hungry ghosts. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

22-24. Tiracchānadevanirayādisuttaṃ

Deceased Animals Reborn as Deities, etc.

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased animals are reborn as deities; far more numerous are those who are reborn in hell … as animals … as hungry ghosts. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

25-27. Pettimanussanirayādisuttaṃ

Deceased Hungry Ghosts Reborn as Human Beings, etc.

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased hungry ghosts are reborn as human beings; far more numerous are those who are reborn in hell … as animals … as hungry ghosts. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

28-29. Pettidevanirayādisuttaṃ

Deceased Hungry Ghosts Reborn as Deities, etc.

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased hungry ghosts are reborn as deities; far more numerous are those who are reborn in hell … as animals … as hungry ghosts. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

30. Pettidevapettivisayasuttaṃ

(S.v.477)

Deceased Hungry Ghosts Reborn as Deities, etc.

… “Even so, monks, only a few deceased hungry ghosts are reborn as deities; far more numerous are those who are reborn in hell … as animals … as hungry ghosts. Therefore, monks, devote yourselves to contemplating, ‘This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering’.” …

Thus spoke the Blessed One. The monks rejoiced in what the Blessed One had said.

Notes:

1. There are several similar passages in the Book of Ones (A.i.35ff) emphasising how rebirth in the human or celestial realms is extremely rare. See A Precious Human Rebirth.

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