Translated from Sanskrit by
Yau Chin Tripitaka Dharma Master Kumarjiva

Translated from Chinese by: The Buddhist Text Translation Society
Dharma Realm Buddhist University

Talmage, California, USA  (


When Shakyamuni Buddha first turned the Wheel of Dharma, he crossed
over the Venerable Ajnatakaundinya. The very last time he spoke the
Dharma, he crossed over the Venerable Subhadhra. All of those whom
he should have crossed over had already been crossed over. He lay
between the Twin Sala trees and was about to enter Nirvana. At this
time, in the middle period of the night, all was quiet,without any
sound. Then for the sake of all of his disciples he spoke on the
essentials of the Dharma.


All of you Bhikshus, after my Nirvana, you should reverence and
honor the Pratimoksha. It is like finding a light in darkness, or
like a poor person obtaining a treasure. You should know that it is
your great teacher, and is not different from my actual presence in
the world. Those of you who uphold the pure precepts should not buy,
sell or trade. You should not covet fields or buildings, or keep
servants or raise animals. You should stay far away from all kinds
of agriculture and wealth as you would avoid a pit of fire. You
should not cut down grass or trees, plow fields or dig the earth.
Nor may you compound medicines, prophesize good and evil, observe
the constellations, cast horoscopes by the waxing and waning of the
moon, or compute astrological fortunes. All of these activities are

Regulate yourselves by eating at the appropriate time and by living
in purity. You should not participate in worldly affairs or act as
an envoy, nor should you become involved with magical spells and
elixiers of immortality, or with making connections with high
people, being affectionate towards them and condescending
towards the lowly.

With an upright mind and proper mindfulness you should seek to cross
over. Do not conceal your faults or put on a special appearance to
delude the multitudes. Know the limits and be content with the four
kinds of offerings. When you receive offerings, do not store them up.
This is a general explanation of the characteristics of upholding
the precepts. The precepts are the root of proper freedom; therefore
they are called the Pratimoksha (lit. the root of freedom). By
relying on these precepts, you will give rise to all dhyana
concentrations, and reach the wisdom of the cessation of suffering.
For this reason, Bhikshus, you should uphold the pure precepts and
not allow them to be broken. If a person is able to uphold the pure
precepts, he will, as a result, be able to have good dharmas. If one
is without the pure precepts no good merit and virtue can arise.
Therefore you should know that the precepts are the dwelling place
for the foremost and secure merit and virtue.


All of you Bhikshus, if you are already able to abide by the
precepts, you should restrain the five sense organs, not allowing
them to enter the five desires as they please. It is like a person
tending cattle who carries a staff while watching them, not allowing
them to run loose and trample others sprouting grains. If you let
your five sense organs run loose, not only will the five desires
become boundless, they will be uncontrollable. They are like a
violent horse unrestrained by reins who drags a person along so that
he falls into a pit. If you are robbed or injured you will suffer
for a single life, but the injury from the plundering done by the
five sense organs brings misfortunes which extend for many lives.
Because their harm is extremely heavy, it is impermissible to be

For this reason wise people restrain the five sense organs and do
not go along with them. They restrain them like thieves who are not
to run loose. If you let them run loose for a while, before
long you will observe their destruction. Since the five sense organs
have the mind as their ruler, you should restrain the mind well.
Your mind is as dangerous as an extremely poisonous snake, a
savage beast or a hateful robber. A great fire rushing upon you is
still not a satisfactory analogy for it. It is like a person
carrying a container of honey who, as he moves along in haste, only
pays attention to the honey, and does not notice a deep pit. It is
like a mad elephant without a barb, or a monkey in a tree jumping
about, which are both difficult to restrain. You should hasten to
control it and not allow it to run loose. Those who allow their
minds to wander freely loose the good situation of being a human
being. By restraining it in one place there is no affair which
cannot be completed. For this reason, Bhikshus, you should
vigorously subdue your mind.


All of you Bhikshus, you should receive various kinds of food and
drink as if you were taking medicine. Whether they be good or bad,
do not take more or less of them, but use them to cure hunger and
thirst and to maintain the body. Bhikshus should be the same way as
bees gathering from flowers, only taking the pollen without harming
their form or scent; receive peoples' offerings to put an end to
distress, but do not seek to obtain too much and spoil their good
hearts. Be like a wise man, who having estimated the load that suits
the strength of his ox, does not exceed that amount and exhaust its


All of you Bhikshus, during the day, with a vigorous mind, cultivate
the Dharma and don't allow the opportunity to be lost. In the first
and last periods of the night also do not be lax, and during the
middle period of the night, chant Sutras to make yourself well
informed. Do not let the causes and conditions of sleep cause your
single life to pass in vain, so that you don't obtain anything at
all. You should be mindful of the fire of impermanence which burns
up all the world. Seek to cross yourself over and do not sleep.
The robber afflictions are always about to kill you even more than
your enemies. How can you sleep? How can you not rouse yourself to
awaken? With the hook of the precepts you should quickly remove the
poisonous snake afflictions that are sleeping in your heart. When
the sleeping snake is gone, then you can sleep at ease. Those who
sleep even though it hasn't yet gone, are without shame. The
clothing of shame, among all adornments, is the very best. Shame can
be compared to an iron barb which can restrain people from doing
evil. Therefore you should always have a sense of shame, and not be
without it even for a moment, for if you have no sense of shame you
will lose all of your merit and virtue. Those who have shame have
good dharmas; one without it is no different from the birds and


All of you Bhikshus, if a person dismembered you piece by piece your
mind should be self-contained. Do not allow yourself to become
angry. Moreover, you should guard your mouth and not give rise to
evil speech. If you allow yourself to have thoughts of anger, you
will hinder your own Way, and lose the merit and virtue you have
gained. Patience is a virtue which neither upholding the precepts
nor the ascetic practises are able to compare with. One who is able
to practise patience can be called a great person who has strength;
if you are unable to happily and patiently undergo the poison of
malicious abuse, as if drinking sweet dew, you cannot be called a
wise person who has entered the Way. Why is this? The harm from
anger ruins all good dharmas and destroys one's good reputation.
People of the present and of the future will not even wish to see
this person. You should know that a heart of anger is worse than a
fierce fire. You should always guard against it, and not allow it to
enter you, for of the thieves which rob one's merit and virtue, none
surpasses anger. Anger may be excusable in lay people who indulge in
desires, and in people who do not cultivate the Way, who are without
the means to restrain themselves, but for people who have left the
home-life, who cultivate the Way and are without desires
, harboring
anger is impermissable
. Within a clear, cool cloud, there should not
be a sudden blazing clash of thunder.


All of you Bhikshus, you should rub your heads for you have
relinquished fine adornments, you wear the garments of a Buddhist
monk, and you carry the alms bowl to use in begging for your
livelihood; look at yourself in this way. If thoughts of arrogance
arise you should quickly destroy them, because the increase of
arrogance is not appropriate even among the customs of lay people,
how much the less for a person who has left the home-life and
entered the Way. For the sake of liberation, you should humble
yourself and practice begging for food.


All of you Bhikshus, a mind of flattery is contradictory to the Way.
Therefore you should have a straightforward disposition of mind. You
should know that flattery is only deceit, so for people who have
entered the Way, it has no use. For this reason, all of you should
have an upright mind, and take a straightforward disposition as
your basis.


All of you Bhikshus, you should know that people with many desires,
because they have much seeking for advantage, have much suffering.
People who reduce their desires, who are without seeking or longing
are without this trouble. Straight-away reduce your desires and in
addition cultivate appropriately. One who reduces his desires is
more able to produce all merit and virtue. People who reduce their
, do not flatter in order to get what they want from others.
Moreover they are not dragged along by their sense organs. People
who reduce their desires have, as a consequence, a mind which is
peaceful, without worry or fear. In meeting with situations they are
always satisfied and never discontent. One who reduces his desires
has Nirvana. This is known as reducing desires.


All of you Bhikshus, if you wish to be free from all suffering and
difficulty, you should be content. The dharma of contentment is the
dwelling of blessings, happiness, and peace. People who are content,
although they might sleep on the ground are peaceful and happy.
Those who are not content, although they might abide in the heavens,
are still dissatisfied. Those who are not content, even if they are
rich, they are poor. Those who are content, although they might be
poor, they are rich. Those who are discontent are always dragged
by their five sense organs, and are pitied by those who are
content. This is known as contentment.


All of you Bhikshus, seek quietude, the Unconditioned peace, and
happiness. You should be apart from confusion and disturbances, and
dwell alone in seclusion. People who dwell in quietude are
reverenced by the heavenly ruler Shakra and all the gods
. For this
reason you should renounce your own group and other groups, and
dwell alone in seclusion in order to contemplate the basis for the
cessation of suffering. If you delight in crowds, you will undergo a
lot of affliction. It is like when a flock of birds gathers in a
great tree, it is in danger of withering and collapsing. One who is
bound and attached to the world drowns in a multitude of suffering,
like an old elephant sunk in mud, who is unable to get himself out.
This is known as seclusion.


All of you Bhikshus, if you are vigorous no affair will be difficult
for you; for this reason all of you should be vigorous. It is like
a small stream flowing for a long time which is able to bore through
stone. If, on the other hand, the mind of one who cultivates
frequently becomes lax, it is like trying to make a fire by friction
but resting before there is any heat; though one wants to make a
fire, the fire is difficult to obtain. This is known as vigor.


All of you Bhikshus, seeking for a Good and Wise Advisor, or for a
wholesome benefactor, does not compare with mindfulness. If you do
not neglect mindfulness, none of the thieves of the afflictions can
enter you. For this reason all of you should constantly collect the
thoughts in your mind. If you lose mindfulness you will lose all
merit and virtue. If your power of mindfulness is firm and strong,
though you enter among the thieves of the five desires, they cannot
harm you. It is like entering a battle wearing armour, thus there is
nothing to fear. This is known as mindfulness.


All of you Bhikshus, if you collect your mind, it will be
Because the mind is concentrated, the production and
destruction of the appearances of dharmas in the world can be known.
For this reason, all of you should constantly and vigorously
concentration. If you attain concentration your mind will
not be scattered. It is like a household that uses its water
sparingly and is able to regulate its irrigation ditches. One who
cultivates concentration is also the same way; for the sake of the
water of wisdom he well cultivates dhyana concentration so it
doesn't leak away. This is known as concentration.


All of you Bhikshus, if you have wisdom, you will be without greed
or attachment.
Always examine yourselves, and do not allow
yourselves to have faults, for it is in this way that you will be
able to obtain liberation within my Dharma. If one is not like this,
since he is neither a person of the Way, nor a layperson, there is
no name for him. One with wisdom has a secure boat for crossing over
the ocean of birth, old age, sickness, and death. Wisdom is also
like a great bright lamp in the darkness of ignorance, a good
medicine for those who are sick, and a sharp axe for cutting down
the tree of afflictions. For this reason all of you should
increasingly benefit yourselves by learning, considering, and
cultivating wisdom. Even though a person only has flesh eyes, if he
has illuminating wisdom, he has clear understanding. This is known
as wisdom.


All of you Bhikshus, if you have all sorts of idle discussions,
your mind will be scattered, and even though you have left the
home-life, you will not attain liberation. For this reason,
Bhikshus, you should quickly renounce a scattered mind and idle
discussions. If you wish to be one who attains the happiness of
still tranquility, you only need to be good and eliminate the evil
of idle discussions. This is known as not having idle discussions.


All of you Bhikshus, with respect to all merit and virtue, you
should always have a single purpose. Relinquish all laziness as you
leave a hateful thief. That which the greatly compassionate
World Honored One has explained for your benefit is already
finished; all of you need only to practice it diligently. Whether
you are in the mountains, in a desolate marsh, beneath a tree, or in
an empty and quiet dwelling, be mindful of the Dharma you have
received and do not allow it to be forgotten. You should always
exert yourselves and practice it vigorously. You don't want to reach
the time of death and be filled with remorse because of a life spent
in vain. I am like a good doctor who understands illnesses and
prescribes medicine. Whether it is taken or not is not the
responsibility of the doctor. Moreover I am like a virtuous guide
who points out a good path. If those who hear of it do not walk down
it, it is not the guide's fault.


All of you Bhikshus, if you have doubts about suffering and the
other Four Truths, you may quickly ask about them now. Do not
harbor doubts and fail to clear them up.

At that time the World Honored One repeated this three times, yet no
one asked him a question. And why was this? Because the assembly did
not harbor any doubts.

At that time Venerable Aniruddha contemplated the minds of the
assembly and said to the
Buddha, "World Honored One, the moon can
become hot and the sun can become cold, but the Four Truths
proclaimed by the
Buddha cannot be otherwise. The Truth of Suffering
taught by the
Buddha is actually suffering, and cannot become
happiness. Accumulation is truly the cause of it, besides which
there is no other cause. If one is to destroy suffering, the cause
of suffering must be destroyed, because if the cause is destroyed
then the result is destroyed. The path leading to the destruction of
suffering is truly the real path, besides which there is no other
path. World Honored One, all of these Bhikshus are certain and have
no doubts about the Four Truths."


"When those in this assembly who have not yet done what should be
done see the
Buddha cross over to Nirvana they will certainly feel
sorrow. Those who have newly entered the Dharma and heard what the
Buddha taught, will all cross over. They have seen the Way, like a
flash of lightning in the night. But those who have already done
what was to be done who have already crossed over the ocean of
suffering, will only have this thought: 'Why has the World Honored
One crossed over to Nirvana so soon?'

Aniruddha spoke these words. Everyone in the assembly had penetrated
the meaning of the Four Holy Truths. The World Honored One wished
all in that great assembly to be firm, so with a mind of great
compassion he spoke again for their sake.

"All of you Bhikshus do not be grieved or distressed. If I were to
live in the world for a kalpa, my association with you would still
come to an end. A meeting without a separation can never be. The
Dharma for benefiting oneself and others is complete. If I were to
live longer it would be of no further benefit. All of those who
could be crossed over, whether in the heavens above or among humans,
have already crossed over, and all of those who have not yet crossed
have already created the causes and conditions for crossing


From now on all of my disciples must continuously practice. Then the
Thus Come One's Dharma body will always be present and
indestructible. You should know therefore, that everything in the
world is impermanent. Meetings necessarily have separations, so do
not harbor grief. Every appearance in the world is like this, so
you should be vigorous and seek for an early liberation. Destroy the
darkness of delusion with the brightness of wisdom. The world is
truly dangerous and unstable, without any durability.

My present attainment of Nirvana is like being rid of a malignant
sickness. The body is a false name, drowning in the great ocean of
birth, sickness, old age and death. How can one who is wise not be
happy when he gets rid of it, like killing a hateful thief?


All of you Bhikshus, you should always single-mindedly and diligently
seek the way out of all the moving and unmoving dharmas of the
world, for they are all destructible, unfixed appearances. All of
you, stop; there is nothing more to say. Time is passing away, and
I wish to cross over to Nirvana. These are my very last instructions.