A deva tempts a monk and is granted an interview with the Buddha
Translation of BZA 017. First version published in Buddhist Studies Review vol. 23-1 (2006).
Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying in Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove of Jialantuo.
At that time a monk, in the last light of the day, went to the riverbank, folded his clothes, put them aside and entered the river to take a bath. He came naked out of the water and let his body dry on the riverside. There a deva, emitting rays and illuminating the riverbank, addressed him: ‘You haven’t gone forth for long yet. Your body is strong and lovely your hair. Why don’t you enjoy the five sensual pleasures [of sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch]? Haven’t you gone forth untimely?’.
The monk answered: ‘I have gone forth right on time, attaining timelessness’. The deva replied: ‘What does it mean to “have gone forth right on time, attaining timelessness”?’. The monk: ‘The Buddha, the World-honored One, has explained how the five sensual pleasures are bound to time, the Buddhadhamma, however, is not bound to time. The five sensual pleasures bring very little pleasure, but multiply our sufferings, accumulate our worries. In the Buddhadhamma I have found certainty within this very body, no more troubling passions. In everything we do, independently of time, when we sow a little karmic seed, we will obtain the full fruit of its results’.
Again the deva asked: ‘Why does the Buddha say the five sensual pleasures are bound to time, why does he say the Buddhadhamma is not bound to time?’. The monk said: ‘I am still young and have not gone forth for long. My learning is still shallow. How could I expound the wide and deep aspects of the utmost truth of the Tathāgata? The Bhagavant is staying near here in the Bamboo Grove of Jialantuo. You can go and put your questions to him yourself’.
The deva replied: ‘The Buddha is served by many powerful and virtuous devas gathered around him left and right. I, weak and lowly as I am, will not be allowed to see him. Go and speak to the World-honored One on my behalf. If the Tathāgata out of compassion graciously agrees to listen, I will go and seek his counsel to dispel my doubts’. The monk: ‘Come along then, I will inform the World-honored One that you seek counsel’. The deva said: ‘I will follow you to the World-honored One’. There the monk went to where the Buddha stayed, and having paid homage to his feet, sat to one side and put the deva’s questions to the World-honored One.
There the World-honored One spoke a verse:
Whoever says the signs / arising from name-and-form do truly exist, //
know this person / is on the road of death. //
In name-and-form perceiving / [their] empty nature, [their] absence of self-nature //
this is called to respect the Buddhas / forever escaping the realms of existence. //
And to the deva: ‘Did you understand that?’. The deva replied: ‘Not yet, World-honored One’. There the Buddha spoke another verse:
The conceit of being better [than others], the conceit of being equal / and the conceit of being inferior [to others]; //
those with these three conceits / are apt to have arguments; //
those who have done away with them / are called of unmovable mind. //
And the Buddha asked the deva: ‘Did you understand that?’. The deva replied: ‘Not yet, World-honored One’. There the Buddha spoke another verse:
By cutting off attachment to name-and-form / one extinguishes the three conceits, //
avoids all desires / extinguishes hate and anger. //
By pulling out the poisoned root / all mental discrimination, wishes and desires cease; //
those who are able to do this / cross over the ocean of birth and death. //
There the deva said: ‘Now I understand’.
The monks, having listened to what the Buddha had said, were happy and practised accordingly.
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「如世尊說： 『非時之欲，少味多苦，少利多難；我今於現法中已離熾然，不待時節，能自通達，現前觀察，緣自知覺。』 如是──天子！──，是名 『捨非時樂，得現前樂。』 」
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