Visākha preaches well
Translation of BZA 008. First version published in Buddhist Studies Review vol. 23-1 (2006).
Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī at the Jeta Grove in the Anāthapiṇḍika Park.
At that time the renunciant Visākha, son of Pañcāla, had assembled a number of monks in the Dhamma hall and preached the Dhamma for them. His words were perfect and what he said was flawless. He was able to delight and comfort his audience, letting them listen without getting bored, and understand his meaning right away. The monks, on hearing him, were so happy they could hardly sit still; they listened whole-heartedly, reverently, with undivided attention. They heard how he was speaking not in order to gain offerings or fame, how his arguments were compelling and far-reaching, and how he let his listeners remember well what he had said.
At that time a great number of people heard him preaching in this way. A number of monks went to the Buddha, paid homage to his feet and sat to one side. They told the Buddha: ‘World-honored One! The monk Visākha, son of Pañcāla, preaches to a large number of people in the Dhamma hall, not in order to gain offerings nor to acquire fame. His arguments are compelling and far-reaching. He is able to make his listeners remember what he had said and not forget’. The Buddha told the monks: ‘Go and and call this Visākha, son of Pañcāla’. Having received the order, the monks went to summon Visākha. When he received the summons, he went to the Buddha, paid homage to his feet and sat to one side. The Buddha asked Visākha: ‘Is it true that you assemble the monks and preach Dhamma to them and that they listen whole-heartedly. Is this a fact?’. Visākha answered: ‘It is true’. There the Buddha praised him: ‘Very good, very good, Visākha. You assembled the monks in the Dhamma hall, preached the Dhamma for them, and not in order to gain offerings or fame. Your words were perfect, the listeners delighted and you reached their hearts. From now on keep on preaching the Dhamma in this way, generously for [their] benefit. And you, monks, no matter if many of you are gathered in one place or only a few, you should practise two things: First, you should talk about the principles of Dhamma. Second, if you have nothing to say [about the Dhamma], be silent. Do not discuss all kinds of secular topics. Now, do not make lightly of this silence, silence has great benefits’.
At that time the Buddha spoke a verse:
Gathered in a crowd / the foolish and the wise are mixed together.//
If nothing is said / the difference between them cannot be known.//
If something is said / then the difference can be told.//
This is why you now / should talk about the principles of the Dhamma;//
let the flame of the Dhamma burn brightly / hoist the banner of the sage://
all Arahats / take the wondrous Dhamma as their banner//
all sages / take well-spoken speech as their banner.//
When the Buddha had finished, the monks, having listened to what he had said, were happy and practised accordingly.
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