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Dharmapada: Chapter on Auspicious Signs

            During his stay at Rajagriha on Vulture Peak, the Buddha taught the Three Dharma Vehicles to gods, people, dragons, and yakshas. At that time, dwelling on the bank of the Ganges River on the south side of Vulture Peak, there was a Brahman whose scope of knowledge was wide and deep. The Brahman educated his 500 disciples by thoroughly teaching them astronomy, feng shui, human affairs, good and bad omens, good and bad retributions, plentiful and barren harvests; there was no subject that he did not study in depth.

            One day, the disciples of the Brahman came near the place where the Buddha had attained Enlightenment. Sitting on the bank of the river, they discussed auspicious signs, and they began to wonder what people in other countries of the world considered as auspicious signs. Not arriving at any answer, they went to look for their teacher.

            After prostrating to their Brahman teacher, they joined their palms and asked: “We have studied for many years, and we have vast knowledge, but we still do not know what people in other countries consider as the greatest auspicious signs?”

            The Brahman said: “You asked an excellent question! In this land Jambudvipa (India), there are 16 big countries and 8400 small countries. The people of each country have different views concerning auspicious signs; there are people who consider the appearance of gold, silver, crystals and lapis-lazuli as auspicious signs. There are people who consider the appearance of a full moon, magical gems, elephants, horses, jeweled women, coral reefs, precious stones, phoenixes and peacocks as auspicious signs. There are also people who consider the appearance of stars, precious vases, four kinds of great beings and ascetics as auspicious signs. Evidently, each group of people has a different view about auspicious signs.”

            His disciples asked: “Is there a determining factor or sign that can let us know for certain that we will attain happiness in this life and that we will be reborn in heaven after we die?”

            The Brahman said: “Those who have come before us have neither taught nor written about this subject.”

            The disciples said: “Recently, we heard that there was a person with the name Sakya who ordained to seek the Way. After six years of meditation, he conquered Mara, became awakened and attained the Three Knowledges. Venerable Teacher, shall we go to him to learn more?”

            Thus, the Brahman and his disciples, numbering more than five hundred, crossed mountains and forests to arrive at the place the Buddha was dwelling. After prostrating to the Buddha, the ascetics joined their palms and politely asked: “World Honored One, each country in the world has a different view about auspicious signs. According to the Tathagatha, what is the truest auspicious sign?”

            The Buddha said: “In the world, whatever people see that is in accord with their wishes and desires, they will regard it as an auspicious sign, and whatever people see that is not in accord with their wishes and desires, they will regard it as a bad sign. These ‘auspicious signs’ designated by worldly people, however, are not enough to save their spirits or to help them overcome suffering. According to the Tatagatha, the true auspicious sign is that which has the capacity to bring true happiness in this very life, and it also has the capacity to help liberate people from the three worlds and attain nirvana.” Then the Buddha taught the following gatha:

 

1. The Buddha is the most revered in the realm of gods and humans.

The Buddha has the capacity to expound the wonderful teaching of a Tathagatha.

One day a Brahman came to ask a question:

What is the greatest auspicious sign?

 

2. With great empathy, the Buddha expounded

What was essential and true.

He taught: To have faith and to be glad while studying the Dharma —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

3. To not run after gods and humans,

To not beg for merit or for protection from misfortune,

To not have the need to pray for favors in shrines —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

4. To choose a good environment and to have practitioners for friends,

To have the opportunity to do good deeds,

To keep a pure and upright heart —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

5. To abandon the unwholesome ways and to follow the good,

To abstain from alcohol and to practice self-restraint,

To not drown in sensual pleasures —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

6. To be well learned and to uphold the Mindfulness Trainings,

To diligently practice the Dharma and the Vinaya,

To know how to nourish body and mind, and to not get caught up in people’s disputes —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

7. To be a person with filial piety, taking good care of your parents,

To know how to care for your family, maintaining a harmonious household,

To not let your family fall into poverty or hunger —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

8. To not be arrogant, to not think of yourself as superior,

To be content with what you have, to be rational,

To have time to read and recite sutras —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

9. To listen patiently and deeply to things that may seem unpleasant and disagreeable,

To rejoice every time you meet a monk or a nun,

To receive the Dharma wholeheartedly in order to put it into practice —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

10. To be a vegetarian, to practice right sexual conduct,

To gather in the company of those who are gentle and virtuous,

To take refuge in wise people —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

11. To have faith, to lead a spiritual life,

To have an upright mind, to be free from doubts and suspicions,

To be determined to stay far away from the three lower realms —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

12. To give generously without discrimination,

To serve the enlightened ones,

To respect those who are worthy of respect in the worlds of both humans and gods —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

13. To avoid watering and to transform the seeds of

Greed, sexual craving, anger and ignorance,

To always practice in order to attain Right View —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

14. To abandon unwholesome careers and actions,

To be capable of applying the Dharma in your daily life,

To pursue a worthy ideal —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

15. To serve all living beings,

To cultivate the immeasurable mind of loving-kindness,

To nourish true love in order to bring peace to the world —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

16. To be a wise person in this life,

Always putting into practice these auspicious signs,

Until you yourself attain the highest understanding —

This is the greatest auspicious sign.

 

Sutra 211 exercise 4 DTTT

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