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Samyutta Nikaya

Saṁyutta Nikāya 3.25 Pabbatupa Sutta
The Simile of the Mountain

What should one do when old age and death are close by?

At the city of Sāvatthī…

King Pasenadi sat to one side, and the Buddha asked him, “So, great king, where are you coming from in the middle of the day?”

“Bhante, I am a powerful and famous king. I am very rich. I am the owner of many lands and properties. I have much work to do to make them more prosperous. Today I have been very busy fulfilling those duties.”

“What do you think, great king? Suppose a trustworthy and reliable man were to come from the east. He’d approach you and say, ‘Please sir, you should know this. I come from the east. There I saw a massive boulder rolling this way, crushing all beings. Great king, do what you can to stop it!’

“Then suppose a second trustworthy and reliable man were to come from the west … a third from the north … and a fourth from the south. He’d approach you and say, ‘Please sir, you should know this. I come from the south. There I saw a massive boulder rolling this way, crushing all beings. Great king, do what you can to stop it!’

“Great king, if such a terrible and fearful threat arises, as someone who has gained a rare human life, what would you do?”

“Bhante, what could I do but practice the Dhamma, practice good actions, practice wholesome actions and make merit?”

“I have to tell you, great king, I have to announce to you, old age and death are rolling over you. With old age and death rolling over you, what actions will you take?”

“Bhante, what could I do but practice the Dhamma, practice good actions, practice wholesome actions and make merit? Bhante, there are powerful and famous kings. They are very rich. They are the owners of many lands and properties. Such kings engage in battles of elephants, horses, chariots, or armies. But such battles are of no use when old age and death are rolling over me.

“In this royal family, there are officials who are capable of dividing enemies by political coups. But such political coups are of no use when old age and death are rolling over me.

“In this royal family there is plenty of gold and silver stored in multiple treasuries. Using this wealth, we can bribe any approaching enemies. But such bribery is of no use when old age and death are rolling over me.

“Bhante, when old age and death are rolling over me, what could I do but practice the Dhamma, practice good actions, practice wholesome actions and make merit?”

“That’s so true, great king! That’s so true! When old age and death are rolling over you, what could you do but practice the Dhamma, practice good actions, practice wholesome actions and make merit?”

That is what the Buddha said. Then the Blessed One further said,

“Suppose there were massive boulders
of solid rock touching the sky
drawing in from all sides
and crushing everything in all directions.
So too old age and death
roll in on all living beings—
kings, high caste people, merchants,
workers, low caste people, and untouchables.
Old age and death leave nothing behind,
and crush all beings.
Armies of elephants, chariots, soldiers or
political coups and wealth
can’t defeat old age and death.

That’s why an energetic person,
seeing what’s good for himself,
being wise, should place faith
in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha.

Whoever practises the Dhamma
in body, speech, and mind,
is praised in this life
and departs to rejoice in heaven.”

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Saṁyutta Nikāya 3.25 Pabbatupa Sutta: The Simile of the Mountain

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