Simha's Question Concerning Annihilation
At that time many distinguished citizens were sitting together
assembled in the town-hall and spoke in many ways in praise of
the Buddha, of the Dharma, and of the Sangha. Simha, the
general-in-chief, a disciple of the Niggantha sect, was sitting
among them. And Simha thought: "Truly, the Blessed One must be
the Buddha, the Holy One. I will go and visit him."
Then Simha, the general, went to the place where the Niggantha
chief, Nataputta, was; and having approached him, he said: "I
wish, Lord, to visit the samana Gotama."
Nataputta said: "Why should you, Simha, who believe in the result
of actions according to their moral merit, go to visit the samana
Gotama, who denies the result of actions? The samana Gotama, O
Simha, denies the result of actions; he teaches the doctrine of
non-action; and in this doctrine he trains his disciples."
Then the desire to go and visit the Blessed One, which had arisen
in Simha, the general, abated.
Hearing again the praise of the Buddha, of the Dharma, and of the
Sangha, Simha asked the Niggantha chief a second time; and again
Nataputta persuaded him not to go.
When a third time the general heard some men of distinction extol
the merits of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, the general
thought: "Truly the samana Gotama must be the Holy Buddha. What
are the Nigganthas to me, whether they give their consent or not?
I shall go without asking their permission to visit him, the
Blessed One, the Holy Buddha."
And Simha, the general, said to the Blessed One: "I have heard,
Lord, that the samana Gotama denies the result of actions; he
teaches the doctrine of non-action, saying that the actions of
sentient beings do not receive their reward, for he teaches
annihilation and the contemptibleness of all things; and in this
doctrine he trains his disciples. Teachest thou the doing away of
the soul and the burning away of man's being? Pray tell me, Lord,
do those who speak thus say the truth, or do they bear false
witness against the Blessed One, passing off a spurious Dharma as
The Blessed One said:
"There is a way, Simha, in which one who says so, is speaking
truly of me; on the other hand, Simha, there is a way in which
one who says the opposite is speaking truly of me, too. Listen,
and I will tell thee:
"I teach, Simha, the not-doing of such actions as are
unrighteous, either by deed, or by word, or by thought; I teach
the not-bringing about of all those conditions of heart which are
evil and not good. However, I teach, Simha, the doing of such
actions as are righteous, by deed, by word, and by thought; I
teach the bringing about of all those conditions of heart which
are good and not evil.
"I teach, Simha, that all the conditions of heart which are evil
and not good, unrighteous actions by deed, by word, and by
thought, must be burnt away. He who has freed himself, Simha,
from all those conditions of heart which are evil and not good,
he who has destroyed them as a palm-tree which is rooted out, so
that they cannot grow up again, such a man has accomplished the
eradication of self.
"I proclaim, Simha, the annihilation of egotism, of lust, of
ill-will, of delusion. However, I do not proclaim the
annihilation of forbearance, of love, of charity, and of truth.
"I deem, Simha, unrighteous actions contemptible, whether they be
performed by deed, or by word, or by thought; but I deem virtue
and righteousness praiseworthy."
And Simha said: "One doubt still lurks in my mind concerning the
doctrine of the Blessed One. Will the Blessed One consent to
clear the cloud away so that I may understand the Dharma as the
Blessed One teaches it?"
The Tathagata having given his consent, Simha continued: "I am a
soldier, O Blessed One, and am appointed by the king to enforce
his laws and to wage his wars. Does the Tathagata who teaches
kindness without end and compassion with all sufferers, permit
the punishment of the criminal? and further, does the Tathagata
declare that it is wrong to go to war for the protection of our
homes, our wives, our children, and our property? Does the
Tathagata teach the doctrine of a complete self-surrender, so
that I should suffer the evil-doer to do what he pleases and
yield submissively to him who threatens to take by violence what
is my own? Does the Tathagata maintain that all strife, including
such warfare as is waged for a righteous cause, should be
The Buddha replied: "He who deserves punishment must be punished,
and he who is worthy of favor must be favored. Yet at the same
time he teaches to do no injury to any living being but to be
full of love and kindness. These injunctions are not
contradictory, for whosoever must be punished for the crimes
which he has committed, suffers his injury not through the
ill-will of the judge but on account of his evil-doing. His own
acts have brought upon him the injury that the executer of the
law inflicts. When a magistrate punishes, let him not harbor
hatred in his breast, yet a murderer, when put do death, should
consider that this is the fruit of his own act. As soon as he
will understand that the punishment will purify his soul, he will
no longer lament his fate but rejoice at it."
And the Blessed One continued: "The Tathagata teaches that all
warfare in which man tries to slay his brother is lamentable, but
he does not teach that those who go to war in a righteous cause
after having exhausted all means to preserve the peace are
blameworthy. He must be blamed who is the cause of war.
"The Tathagata teaches a complete surrender of self, but he does
not teach a surrender of anything to those powers that are evil,
be they men or gods or the elements of nature. Struggle must be,
for all life is a struggle of some kind. But he that struggles
should look to it lest he struggle in the interest of self
against truth and righteousness.
"He who struggles in the interest of self, so that he himself may
be great or powerful or rich or famous, will have no reward, but
he who struggles for righteousness and truth, will have great
reward, for even his defeat will be a victory.
"Self is not a fit vessel to receive any great success; self is
small and brittle and its contents will soon be spilt for the
benefit, and perhaps also for the curse, of others.
"Truth, however, is large enough to receive the yearnings and
aspirations of all selves and when the selves break like
soap-bubbles, their contents will be preserved and in the truth
they will lead a life everlasting.
"He who goeth to battle, O Simha, even though it be in a
righteous cause, must be prepared to be slain by his enemies, for
that is the destiny of warriors; and should his fate overtake him
he has no reason for complaint.
"But he who is victorious should remember the instability of
earthly things. His success may be great, but be it ever so great
the wheel of fortune may turn again and bring him down into the
"However, if he moderates himself and, extinguishing all hatred
in his heart lifts his down-trodden adversary up and says to him,
'Come now and make peace and let us be brothers,' he will gain a
victory that is not a transient success, for its fruits will
"Great is a successful general, O Simha, but he who has conquered
self is the greater victor.
"The doctrine of the conquest of self, O Simha, is not taught to
destroy the souls of men, but to preserve them. He who has
conquered self is more fit to live, to be successful, and to gain
victories than he who is the slave of self.
"He whose mind is free from the illusion of self, will stand and
not fall in the battle of life.
"He whose intentions are righteousness and justice, will meet
with no failure, but be successful in his enterprises and his
success will endure.
"He who harbors in his heart love of truth will live and not die,
for he has drunk the water of immortality.
"Struggle then, O general, courageously; and fight thy battles
vigorously, but be a soldier of truth and the Tathagata will
When the Blessed One had spoken thus, Simha, the general, said:
"Glorious Lord, glorious Lord! Thou hast revealed the truth.
Great is the doctrine of the Blessed One. Thou, indeed, art the
Buddha, the Tathagata, the Holy One. Thou art the teacher of
mankind. Thou showest us the road of salvation, for this indeed
is true deliverance. He who follows thee will not miss the light
to enlighten his path. He will find blessedness and peace. I take
my refuge, Lord, in the Blessed One, and in his doctrine, and in
his brotherhood. May the Blessed One receive me from this day
forth while my life lasts as a disciple who has taken refuge in
And the Blessed One said: "Consider first, Simha, what thou
doest. It is becoming that persons of rank like thyself should do
nothing without due consideration."
Simha's faith in the Blessed One increased. He replied: "Had
other teachers, Lord, succeeded in making me their disciple, they
would carry around their banners through the whole city of
Vesali, shouting: 'Simha, the general has become our disciple!
For the second time, Lord, I take my refuge in the Blessed One,
and in the Dharma, and in the Sangha, may the Blessed One receive
me from this day forth while my life lasts as a disciple who has
taken his refuge in him."
Said the Blessed One: "For a long time, Simha, offerings have
been given to the Nigganthas in thy house. Thou shouldst
therefore deem it right also in the future to give them food when
they come to thee on their alms-pilgrimage."
And Simha's heart was filled with joy. He said: "I have been
told, Lord: 'The samana Gotama says: To me alone and to nobody
else should gifts be given. My pupils alone and the pupils of no
one else should receive offerings.' But the Blessed One exhorts
me to give also to the Nigganthas. Well, Lord, we shall see what
is seasonable. For the third time, Lord, I take my refuge in the
Blessed One, and in his Dharma, and in his fraternity."
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