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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 t
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

thy Dharma?"

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

remain forever.

"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

bless thee."

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."