His Highness King Prasenajit who was in the assembly, stood up and addressed the Lord Buddha, saying:

Honorable Lord, formerly before I had been under the instruction of my Lord, I visited Katyayana and Vairotiputra (two heretic teachers). They both taught that after one’s death, the destruction of body and mind meant Nirvana. Afterwards, I have been occasionally with my Lord, I have had doubts within my mind and even now the matter is not clear. How can I clearly understand and realize this state of non-death and non-rebirth. I think that all the disciples present who have not yet attained Arhatship, are equally desirous of more perfectly understanding this profound teaching from my Lord Buddha.

The Lord addressed the King, saying: Your Majesty! May I have the honor of asking you some questions about your present body. Is your Majesty’s body as permanent and enduring as gold and steel, or is it impermanent and destructible?

Oh, my Lord, my present body of flesh will soon come to destruction.

Your Majesty! While your body has not yet come to destruction, how do you know that it ever will?

My Lord, it is true that this body has not yet come to total destruction, but as I have watched it and reflected about it, I have seen it constantly changing and needing constant renewal. It seems as though it was slowly being changed into ashes, gradually decreasing and fading away. From this I am convinced that it will ultimately come to destruction.

Yes, your Majesty, it is all too true. You are growing old and your health is becoming imperfect. Tell me a little about your present appearance as compared with your boyhood.

Your Lordship! When I was a boy, my skin was tender and smooth, in young manhood my blood and energy were in full supply, now as I am getting old, my strength is failing, my appearance is languid and dull, my brain is dull and uncertain, my hair has become grey and white, my face wrinkled. All these changes certainly show that I can not live much longer. How can I compare my present with my youth?

The Lord Buddha replied kindly: Your Majesty, do not be discouraged, your appearance will not become decrepit as quickly as all that.

Your Lordship! It is true that these changes have been going on so secretly that I have hardly felt them, but as winters and summers pass I know that I have been gradually changing into my present condition. At twenty I was young for my age but my appearance was very different than at ten; at thirty I was older; at forty, still older; and now after twenty years I am sixty and am what I am. I recollect that at fifty years of age I felt comparatively young and strong. Your Lordship! I am conscious that these processes and changes are still going on secretly and that in a brief time, perhaps ten limited years, the end will come.

Moreover, Lord, as I think about these changes, I see that it is not a matter of changes in one or two decades, the process is going on yearly. And not only yearly, but month by month, yes, day by day. Now I think of it, the changes are going on faster than that even, breath by breath, changes incessantly going on faster than thought. In the end my body will be given over to destruction.

The Lord Buddha said: Your Majesty from watching this process of change going on you have become convinced that ultimately your body will be given over to destruction. At the time of the destruction of your body, do you think there is anything within your body that is not destructible?

The King Prasenajit pressed his hands together and replied soberly: Certainly, Lord, I do not know. I wish I did.

The Lord Buddha said: Your Majesty! I will now show you the nature of no-dying and no-rebirth. At the time you first saw the river Ganges, your Majesty, how old were you?

The King replied: I can remember when my mother brought me there to worship the Deva god. I was then just three years old. I can remember when we crossed the river; I can remember hearing it called the Ganges.

The Lord Buddha said: Your Majesty! You were three years old at that time. As you have said, when ten years had passed, you were older, and down to the age of sixty the processes of change have been going on year after year, month after month, day after day and thought after thought. Your Majesty, you said that when you first saw the river Ganges, you were three years of age. Tell me, when you were thirteen years of age and saw the Ganges, how did it appear to you? Was the sight of it, your mind’s perception of the sight, any different?

The King replied: My sight of it was just the same as when I was three years of age. And now at my present age of sixty-two, while the sight of my eyes is not as good, my perception of the sight is just the same as ever.

The Lord Buddha continued: Your Majesty! You have been saddened by the changes in your personal appearance since your youth — your greying hair and wrinkled face — but you say that your perception of sight compared with it when you were a youth, shows no change. Tell me. Your Majesty, is there any youth and old age in the perception of sight?

Not at all, Lord.

The Lord Buddha continued: Your Majesty! Though your face has become wrinkled, in the perception of your eyes, there are no signs of age, no wrinkles. Then, wrinkles are the symbol of change, and the un-wrinkled is the symbol of the unchanging. That which is changing must suffer destruction, of course, but the un-changing is naturally free from deaths and rebirths. How is it, Your Majesty, that the un-changing perception of Mind still suffers the illusion of deaths and rebirths and you are still clinging to the teaching of the heretic, who claimed that after the death of the body, everyone was completely destroyed?

After listening to this wonderful instruction that implied that after one’s death something survived to reappear in a new body, the King and the whole assembly were much cheered and filled with joy. It was a most interesting occasion.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།
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