Chapter 1: Impermanence
The Bhagavān then traveled to the great meeting hall at Markaṭahrada (Monkey Lake) near Vaiśālī.
At that time, there were many youths of Vaiśālī assembled there, and they each had this thought, “We ought to go together as a group to question the Bhagavān and pay homage to him.” Some of those youths had chariots with blue horses and blue coverings, and they were wearing blue. Others had chariots that were blue, yellow, red, and white, and they wore all white. Drummers played as they followed in front and behind the chariots as they went to the Bhagavān.
The Bhagavān then addressed the monks, “All of you should know, if some of you haven’t seen the gods sight-seeing in gardens and ponds, you should look now at these youths. The Dharma clothes they wear and the chariots they ride are no different than those gods. The reason for that is there’s no difference between the clothing of gods and their own.”
At that moment, many hundreds of thousands of sentient beings were seated, and they each thought, “We ought to make a solemn pledge: After we are born in the heavens or among humans, we’ll always wear this Dharma clothing and never be separated from it. In a future era, a buddha will arise, and then we’ll hear the profound teaching. We’ll be forever separated from suffering and enter the realm of nirvāṇa.”
The Tathāgata knew this thought that the sentient beings were thinking to seek birth in the three existences and not part with suffering. He then spoke this verse with the great assembly:
- “What’s formed is impermanent;
- It’s something that’s worn away.
- Not being dependable,
- It changes and doesn’t stay.”
At the time, the sentient beings who heard this single verse were indescribable hundreds of thousands of sentient beings. Here in the present, they ended their contaminants, were mentally freed, and attained the fruit of the path.
Translated to Chinese by Śramaṇa Chu Fonian
Translated to English by Charles D. Patton, II
First Edition (July 29, 2019)