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[[ Home > Translation Archives > I. The Four gamas >


Taisho No. 26: Madhyma gama ]]
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The Middle-length
gama Sutra
A Translation from the
Chinese Madhyma gama
by
Charles D. Patton, II
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Section I: The Sevens


1.
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3.
4.
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6.
7.
8.
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10.

The Good Dharma


The Day of Liberation Tree
The City Parable
The Water Parable
The Wood Pile Parable
Departure of the Good Person
Worldly Merit
Seven Days
Seven Carts
The End of the Outflows

(1) The Good Dharma1

1.1 I have heard thus: Once, the Buddha travelled to the


kingdom of rvast and stayed at Anthapi??ada's Park in
Jeta's Grove.
1.2 At that time, the World Honored One addressed the bhik?us:
"A bhik?u who achieves seven things is to the Noble Ones an
encouragement, an elation, a happiness; for he is rightly headed
towards the end of the outflows.2 What are the seven? They are
knowing the Dharma, knowing the meaning, knowing the time,
knowing moderation, knowing oneself, knowing the assembly,
and knowing the greater likenesses of people.
1.3 "What is a bhik?u's knowing the Dharma? It means a bhik?u
who knows the true sutras, geyas, vykara?as, gths, nidnas,
itiv?ttakas, jtakas, udnas, avadnas, vaipulyas, adbhutadharmas, and upadeas.3 This is called a bhik?u who knows the
Dharma. Suppose there is a bhik?u who does not know the
Dharma, that is to say that he does not know the true sutras,
geyas, vykara?as, gths, nidnas, itiv?ttakas, jtakas,
udnas, avadnas, vaipulyas, adbhuta-dharmas, and upadeas.
This bhik?u does not know the Dharma. Suppose there is a
bhik?u who well knows the Dharma, that is to say that he knows
the true sutras, geyas, vykara?as, gths, nidnas, itiv?ttakas,
jtakas, udnas, avadnas, vaipulyas, adbhuta-dharmas, and
upadeas. This bhik?u well knows the Dharma.
1.4 "What is a bhik?u's knowing the meaning? It means a bhik?u
knows that those discourses and doctrines have this or that
meaning. This is called a bhik?u who knows the meaning.
Suppose there is a bhik?u who does not know the meaning, that
is to say that he does not know that those discourses and
doctrines have this or that meaning. Such a bhik?u does not
know the meaning. Suppose there is a bhik?u who well knows
[421b] the meaning, that is to say that he knows that those
discourses and doctrines have this or that meaning. This is
called a bhik?u who well knows the meaning.4
1.5 "What is a bhik?u's knowing the time? It means a bhik?u
knows the time to cultivate lower appearances, the time to
cultivate higher appearances, and the time to cultivate the

renunciation of appearances. This is called a bhik?u who knows


the time.5 Suppose there a bhik?u who does not know the time,
that is to say that he does not know the time to cultivate lower
appearances, the time to cultivate higher appearances, and the
time to cultivate the renunciation of appearances. Such a bhik?u
does not know the time. Suppose there is a bhik?u who well
knows the time, that is to say that he knows the time to cultivate
lower appearances, the time to cultivate higher appearances, and
the time to cultivate the renunciation of appearances. This is
called the bhik?u who well knows the time.
1.6 "What is a bhik?u's knowing moderation? It means a bhik?u
knows moderation in drink, food, going, standing, sitting, laying
down, talking, remaining silent, or great and small
conveniences,6 pulling himself out of drowsiness and cultivating
his practice with right knowledge. This is called a bhik?u who
knows moderation. Suppose there is a bhik?u who does not
know moderation, that is to say that he does not know
moderation in drink, food, going, standing, sitting, laying down,
talking, remaining silent, or great and small conveniences,
pulling himself out of drowsiness and cultivating his practice
with right knowledge. Such a bhik?u does not know moderation.
Suppose there is a bhik?u who well knows moderation, that is to
say that he well knows moderation in drink, food, going,
standing, sitting, laying down, talking, remaining silent, or great
and small conveniences, pulling himself out of drowsiness and
cultivating his practice with right knowledge. This is called a
bhik?u who well knows moderation.
1.7 "What is a bhik?u's knowing oneself? It means a bhik?u who
knows: 'Thus is my belief, discipline, audiences,7 generosity,
wisdom, discernment of the gamas, and my attainments.'8 This
is called a bhik?u who knows himself. Suppose there is a bhik?u
who does not know himself, that is to say that he does not know:
'Thus is my belief, discipline, audiences, generosity, wisdom,
discernment of the gamas, and my attainments.' Such a bhik?u
does not know himself. Suppose a bhik?u well knows himself,
that is to say that he knows: 'Thus is my belief, discipline,
audiences, generosity, wisdom, discernment of the gamas, and

my attainments.' This is called a bhik?u who well knows


himself.
1.8 "What is a bhik?u's knowing the assembly? It means a
bhik?u knows: 'This is a k?atriya assembly, this a brhma?a
assembly, this a householder assembly, and this a rama?a
assembly. In these assemblies I should thus go, thus stand, thus
sit, thus speak, and thus remain silent.' This is called a bhik?u
who knows the assembly. Suppose there is a bhik?u who does
not know the assembly, that is to say that he does not know:
'This is a k?atriya assembly, this a brhma?a assembly, this a
householder assembly, and this a rama?a assembly. In these
assemblies I should thus [422c] go, thus stand, thus sit, thus
speak, and thus remain silent.' Such a bhik?u does not know the
assembly. Suppose there is a bhik?u who well knows the
assembly, that is to say that he well knows: 'This is a k?atriya
assembly, this a brhma?a assembly, this a householder
assembly, and this a rama?a assembly. In these assemblies I
should thus go, thus stand, thus sit, thus speak, and thus remain
silent.' This is called a bhik?u who well knows the assembly.
1.9 "What is a bhik?u's knowing the greater likenesses of
people? It means a bhik?u who knows there are two kinds of
people. There are the faithful and the unfaithful. If one is
faithful, that is excellent. One who is not faithful is not so.
1.10 "Of faithful people, there are again two kinds: those who
frequently go to see the bhik?us and those who do not frequently
go to see the bhik?us. If one frequently goes to see the bhik?us,
that is excellent. One who does not frequently go to see the
bhik?us is not so.
1.11 "Of those who frequently go to see the bhik?us, there are
two kinds: those who respectfully salute the bhik?us and those
who do not respectfully salute the bhik?us. If one respectfully
salutes the bhik?us, that is excellent. One who does not
respectfully salute is not so.
1.12 "Of those who respectfully salute the bhik?us, there are two
kinds: those who ask about the sutras and those who do not ask
about the sutras. If one asks about the sutras, that is excellent.
One who does not ask about the sutras is not so.

1.13 "Of those who ask about the sutras, there are two kinds:
those who single-mindedly listen to them and those who do not
single-mindedly listen to the sutras. If one single-mindedly
listens to the sutras, that is excellent. One who does not singlemindedly listen to the sutras is not so.
1.14 "Of those who single-mindedly listen to the sutras, there
are two kinds: those who hear and retain the Dharma and those
who hear but do not retain the Dharma. If one hears and retains
the Dharma, that is excellent. One who hears but does not retain
the Dharma is not so.
1.15 "Of those who hear and retain the Dharma, there are two
kinds: those who hear the Dharma and contemplate its meaning
and those who hear the Dharma but do not contemplate its
meaning. If one hears the Dharma and contemplates its
meaning, that is excellent. One who hears but does not
contemplete the Dharma is not so.
1.16 "Of those people who hear the Dharma and contemplete its
meaning, there are two kinds: those who know the Dharma,
know its meaning, incline towards the Dharma, arrive at the
Dharma, conform to the Dharma, and conduct themselves
according to it; and those who do not know the Dharma, know
its meaning, incline towards the Dharma, arrive at the Dharma,
conform to the Dharma, and conduct themselves according to it.
If one knows the Dharma, knows its meaning, inclines towards
the Dharma, arrives at the Dharma, conforms to the Dharma,
and conducts himself according to it, that is excellent. One who
does not know the Dharma, know its meaning, incline towards
the Dharma, arrive at the Dharma, conform to the Dharma, and
conduct himself according to it is not so.
1.17 "Of those people who know the Dharma, know its
meaning, incline towards the Dharma, arrive at the Dharma,
conform to the Dharma, and conduct themselves according to it,
there are two kinds: those who are themselves benefited and
who benefit others, benefting many people, having mercy for
the world, seeking the meaning for the benefit of gods and
humans, [422a] and seeks the tranquil happiness; and those who
are not themselves benefited, who do not benefit others, do not

benefit many people, do not have mercy for the world, do not
seek the meaning for the benefit of gods and humans, and do not
seek the tranquil happiness. If one is himself benefited and
benefits others, benefits many people, has mercy for the world,
seeks the meaning for the benefit of gods and humans, and seeks
the tranquil happiness, this person is the very best among the
others: great, superior, exceptional, excellent, honored, and
wondrous.
1.18 "It is just as it is because of a cow that there is milk,
because of milk that there is cream, because of cream that there
is butter, because of butter that there is refined butter, and
because of refined butter that there is ghee. Ghee is the very best
of them: great, superior, exceptional, excellent, honored, and
wondrous. Thus is the person who benefits himself and benefits
others, benefits many people, has mercy for the world, seeks the
meaning for the benefit of gods and humans, and seeks the
tranquil happiness: he is said to be superior of these two people,
discerned to be the superior, reckoned to be the superior of
them. He is the best, great, superior, exceptional, excellent,
honored, and wondrous. This is called a bhik?u who knows the
greater likenesses of people."
1.19 The Buddha spoke thus. Those bhik?us who heard the
Buddha's discourse were elated, took it up, and left.
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Endnotes
1.
Taisho Vol. 1, pp. 421a-422a. This Sutra is equivalent to
the Pli Anguttara Nikya AN.VII.64 Dhammau.
Translations of this text can also be found in Chinese at Taisho
No. 27, Taisho No. 125, 39.1, and in the Mahyna Great
Parinirv?a Sutra (Taisho No. 375, chapter 20).
2.
By "outflows" is meant the savas.
3.
The twelve categories of Buddhist scriptures. The
translator chose to transliterate the terms for these twelve genres
of scripture. Sutras are texts which begin with "Thus I have

heard" and end with "Elated, [the audience] took it up and left."
This is the signature format for scriptures purporting to relate
events, sermons, etc that occurred during Gautama's lifetime.
They are usually accounts of his own sermons, but sometimes
relate discourses given by his disciples. The next eleven
categories are actually different types of sutras. Geyas are sutras
in which verses are used to summarize the content of a previous
prose discourse. Vykara?as are sutras in which a prediction is
made about someone's future rebirth, usually about their future
Buddhahood. Gths are single, four-line verses extracted from
other sutras for their pithiness. The Dhammapda would be an
example of a collection of gths. Nidnas are usually defined
as sutras in which a root gth is interpreted by someone
besides the Buddha or when the Buddha simply provides a
gth as comment on some event or person's behavior.
Itiv?ttakas are sutras in which the Buddha relates events of the
past, such as of the past Buddhas, or about the past lives of an
interlocutor, etc. Jtakas are sutras relating the events of
Gautama's past lives as a bodhisattva. Udnas are sutras in
which the Buddha gives a discourse without being prompted by
an interlocutor. Avadnas are sutras which employ parables,
similes, and metaphors. Vaipulyas are Mahyna Sutras, so
named because they are often quite large and universalist in
tone. Adbhuta-dharmas are sutras in which miraculous ("things
that have never been before") events occur, such as the account
of Gautama's birth, in which he landed standing upright, walked,
and spoke. Or, the time when the Mr Ppyn was
transformed into a bull ox, etc. Upadea sutras are those in
which the meaning of a discourse is interpreted, either by the
Buddha or someone else.
4.
Since the meaning of the texts is a separate item in this list,
we can surmise that the previous "knowing the Dharma" refers
simply to knowing the words of the texts, not necessarily what
they mean. It is not surprising that this distinction is made. In
the early sa?gha, the Dharma texts were memorized and passed
down through the generations as stories and chanted recittals. It
would be one thing to have the text in one's memory and another

to fully and rightly understand it, just as in modern times it


would be one thing to own a book and quite another to
understand the meaning the author intended it to impart.
5.
Pli and Chinese depart here. The Chinese is the more
cryptic passage, since no context is provided for what "lower
appearances" or "higher appearances" means. It may simply be
taking inferior and superior social roles. The Paali refers to
activities: recitation, questioning, effort, solitude. The version
found in the Mahyna Great Parinirv?a Sutra refers to
tranquil meditation, cultivating effort, concentration, and
renunciation, making offerings to Buddhas, and the six
pramits (T375.20.17).
6.
This is actually a Chinese euphemism for defecation and
urination.
7.
The Chinese literally reads "hearing," but it refers not to
the faculty of hearing but rather to the extent that one has heard
sermons, discourses, and so on. Hence, it is an expression of
learnedness. In a society that had yet to widely use writing, this
was roughly equivalent to the modern expression of being "well
read," which means a person has read (and presumably learned)
a great deal. This is the root of the later term rvaka, "hearer,"
which meant those who had heard the Teacher's discourses
personally.
8.
In other words, he is capable of accurately appraising his
abilities, knowledge, etc. One that does not know these things
might be completely unaware, or perhaps appraises them
inaccurately, thinking himself more or less advanced than he
actually is.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------Last Revised: 8/1/2005