Who Has Ever Gone Beyond

The student asked the Buddha: “Why is it that wise women and men in the world—priestesses, rulers, and others—always offer sacrifices to the gods?”

The Buddha answered: “They offer things to the gods because as they get older they want to keep their lives as they are and have no misfortunes.”

“But, Buddha, does it ever make any difference to their old age by making these careful offerings?”

“Their prayers and praises and offerings and hopes are all made on the basis of possessions, rewards, and longings for pleasure. These experts in prayer are longing to continue becoming. But it will make no difference to their old age.”

“Please tell me, Buddha, if all the offerings from these experts don’t get them beyond old age, then who has ever gone beyond?”

The Buddha said: “When a person has thoroughly understood the world, from top to bottom, when there is nothing in the world that agitates them anymore, then they have become somebody who is free from confusion and fears and tremblings and the longings of desire. They have gone beyond getting old and beyond birth and death.”

—Sutta Nipata, from The Pocket Buddha Reader

Dust Motes in a Sunbeam

The Buddha said:
“I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes in a sunbeam. I see the treasures of gold and gems as broken tiles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see the myriad worlds of the universe as small seeds and the great Indian Ocean as drops of mud that soil one’s feet. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusions of magicians. I look upon the judgement of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of dragons, and the rise and fall of beliefs as the traces left by the four seasons.”

—from Teachings of the Buddha, adapted from the Sutra of Forty-Two Sections, translated by Samuel Beal