The rules of conduct which the Buddha enjoined on the members of his Order are embodied, as almost always, in a story; and again, as always, this story is told with the charming iteration which has been likened to the love of children for a favorite tale, told over and over again in exactly the same words; an iteration sanative and soothing to the mind in these hectic days of rush and hurry.

But, in addition to charm, there was a very practical purpose in this verbal sameness; both those who told the stories, disciples spreading the knowledge of their Master’s teaching, and those who heard, had the lesson of each discourse engraved on their memories, as by the continual falling of water-drops on stone; thus was the teaching carried abroad and perpetuated.

Since this story is of no great length, it may be worth while to follow all the repetitions, to reveal to our feverish time the mental quietude of an earlier and wiser day, when disciples and laymen had time to hear, mark, learn and inwardly digest. So we come to the story:

“Thus have I heard. Once upon a time the Master was walking on the high road between Rajagaha and Nalanda with a great company of disciples, with five hundred disciples. Suppiya also, the Pilgrim, was walking on the high road between Rajagaha and Nalanda with his pupil, Brahmadatta the youth. There indeed Suppiya the Pilgrim speaks dispraise of the Buddha, speaks dispraise of the Law of Righteousness, speaks dispraise of the Order; and again Suppiya the Pilgrim’s pupil, Brahmadatta the youth, speaks praise of the Buddha, speaks praise of the Law of Righteousness, speaks praise of the Order. Thus these two, teacher and pupil, flatly contradicting each other, held close to the Master and to the company of disciples.

“And so the Master halted at the king’s rest-house at Ambalatthika to pass one night there, with the company of disciples. Suppiya also, the Pilgrim, halted at the king’s rest-house at Ambalatthika to pass one night there, with his pupil Brahmadatta the youth. There also, indeed, Suppiya the Pilgnm in many a phrase speaks dispraise of the Buddha, speaks dispraise of the Law of Righteousness, speaks dispraise of the Order, and again Suppiya the Pilgrim’s pupil, Brahmadatta the youth, speaks praise of the Buddha, speaks praise of the Law of Righteousness, speaks praise of the Order. Thus these two, teacher and pupil, flatly contradicting each other, held close to the Master and to the company of disciples.

“And so, what time night ended and dawn came, many of the disciples assembled together within the circle of the hall, and as they were seated together this manner of talk arose: ‘Wonderful, brethren, admirable, brethren, is this, that by the Master, the sage, the seer, the Arhat, the supreme and perfect Buddha, the differing character of beings should be so clearly discerned. For this Suppiya the Pilgrim in many a phrase speaks dispraise of the Buddha, speaks dispraise of the Law of Righteousness, speaks dispraise of the Order, and again Suppiya the Pilgrim’s pupil, Brahmadatta the youth, speaks praise of the Buddha, speaks praise of the Law of Righteousness, speaks praise of the Order. Thus these two, teacher and pupil, flatly contradicting each other, hold close to the Master and to the company of disciples.’

“And so the Master, seeing the manner of talk of these disciples, drew near to the circle of the hall, and having drawn near, seated himself on the seat prepared for him. And being seated, the Master addressed the disciples: ‘In what talk, disciples, are you engaged, seated together, and what discourse is set forth among you?’ Thus addressed, the disciples said to the Master: ‘Here, Sire, what time the night ended and the dawn came, we were assembled together within the circle of the hall, and as we were seated together, this manner of talk arose: “Wonderful, brethren, admirable, brethren, is this, that by the Master, the sage, the seer, the Arhat, the supreme and perfect Buddha, the differing character of beings should be so clearly discerned. For this Suppiya the Pilgrim in many a phrase speaks dispraise of the Buddha, speaks dispraise of the Law of Righteousness, speaks dispraise of the Order, and again Suppiya the Pilgrim’s pupil, Brahmadatta the youth, speaks praise of the Buddha, speaks praise of the Law of Righteousness, speaks praise of the Order. Thus these two, teacher and pupil, flatly contradicting each other, hold close to the Master and the company of disciples.” This was the discourse set forth among us when the Master came.’

“’If other men, disciples, should speak dispraise of me, or should speak dispraise of the Law of Righteousness, or should speak dispraise of the Order, there should not be anger and indignation and wrath of heart among you. For if, disciples, others should speak dispraise of me, or should speak dispraise of the Law of Righteousness, or should speak dispraise of the Order, if you should thereupon be angry and beside yourselves, this would be a barrier to you. If other men, disciples, should speak dispraise of me, or should speak dispraise of the Law of Righteousness, or should speak dispraise of the Order, and you should be angry and beside yourselves, could you know whether it had been well spoken or ill spoken?’

“’Not so, Sire!’

“’If other men, disciples, should speak dispraise of me, or should speak dispraise of the Law of Righteousness, or should speak dispraise of the Order, then what is not so should by you be unravelled as being not so, saying, “For such reasons this is not so, this is not the truth, this is not among us, this is not found among us.”

“’Or if other men, disciples, should speak praise of me, or should speak praise of the Law of Righteousness, or should speak praise of the Order, there should not be joy, and rejoicing and exultation of heart among you. For if, disciples, other men should speak praise of me, or should speak praise of the Law of Righteousness, or should speak praise of the Order, and there should be joy and rejoicing and exultation among you, this would be a barrier to you. If other men, disciples, should speak praise of me, or should speak praise of the Law of Righteousness, or should speak praise of the Order, then what is so should by you be acknowledged as being so, saying: “This is so, this is the truth, this is among us, this is found among us.”

“’Things of minor import, disciples, concerned with this lower world, matters of outward conduct would a man of the world speak of, speaking praise of the Tathagata. And what, disciples, are these things of minor import, concerned with this lower world, matters of outward conduct that a man of the world would speak of, speaking praise of the Tathagata?

“’“Abstaining from the taking of life, the ascetic Gotama refrains from taking life, he has laid the mace aside, he has laid weapons aside, he is gentle, pitiful, he lives with compassionate kindness for every being that has life”; thus, disciples, would speak the man of the world, speaking praise of’ the Tathagata.

“’“Abstaining from taking what is not given, the ascetic Gotama refrains from taking what is not given, accepting what is given, awaiting what is given, he lives with honest and pure heart”; thus, disciples, would speak the man of the world, speaking praise of the Tathagata.

“’“Abstaining from unchastity, the ascetic Gotama follows chastity, he lives a holy life, not entering into marriage, not following the way of the world”; thus, disciples, would speak the man of the world, speaking praise of the Tathagata.

“’“Abstaining from malicious speech, the ascetic Gotama refrains from malicious speech; having heard here, he does not repeat there, to cause enmity against these; or having heard there, he does not repeat here, to cause enmity against those; he lives, binding together the divided, confirming the united, a lover of harmony, rejoicing in harmony, speaking words that make for harmony”; thus, disciples, would speak the man of the world, speaking praise of the Tathagata.

“’“Abstaining from harsh speech, the ascetic Gotama refrains from harsh speech. Whatever words are innocent, pleasant to the ear, kind, going to the heart, urbane, grateful to mankind, delighting mankind, such words does he speak”; thus, disciples, would speak the man of the world, speaking praise of the Tathagata.

“’“Abstaining from idle talk, the ascetic Gotama refrains from idle talk. His words are timely, his words are true, he speaks to the point, he speaks of righteousness, he speaks of discipline, he speaks words to be treasured, fitly illustrated, ordered, effective”; thus, disciples, would speak the man of the world, speaking praise of the Tathagata.’”

These are admirable qualities, full of sweetness and light; why then does the Buddha speak of them as things of minor import, concerned with this lower world, matters of outward conduct?

The answer is given a little later in the story, where the Buddha says: “There are, disciples, other things, profound, hard to see, hard to realize in consciousness, bringing peace, excellent, not to be attained by argument, subtile, to be known only by the wise; which the Tathagata proclaims, having himself realized them and seen them face to face; they who would rightly praise the Tathagata in accordance with reality, would speak of these.” These larger matters include not only the whole range of scientific, philosophic and religious thought, but also all the higher states of spiritual consciousness, with their insight and their powers, up to, and including, Nirvana. In comparison with these greater themes, the rules of conduct are minor matters, concerned with the outer world. A good and pious man might possess them all without being in any real sense a disciple, an Occultist; but a candidate for discipleship must possess them all before he can become in any real sense a disciple, before he can make any real progress in Occultism.

For the disciple, these qualities and virtues are indispensable. They are equally a part of the life of the Master. The Buddha practised each and all of them himself before he enjoined them on the disciples of his Order, and he and his Arhats continued to practise them. For they are enjoined on all disciples of the Order. In a later episode exactly the same list of virtues is repeated, with the single difference that the disciple, instead of the ascetic Gotama, is described as practicing them.

In the third rule, the word translated “chastity” is “Brahma-charya”; it means chastity in the fullest sense: chastity in thought, chastity in word, chastity in act. But it means more, and this larger meaning gives us a clue to the law, the principle involved. For, literally translated, the word means “service of the Eternal,” or “walking in the way of the Eternal.” It implies a completeness of devotion, a singleness of heart and mind and act, that exclusive service which is an indispensable condition of any real advance in Occultism.

The Master Christ has set forth the same principle in a passage which is the foundation and justification of all monastic orders, even though many of their members may not understand its full import:

“The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”

This profound saying is in no sense a condemnation of marriage, which may be, and should be, a sacrament, instinct with sacrifice and mutual service, offering each day spiritual lessons that must be learned before the higher way is entered. And the Master Christ has laid down an ideal for wedded life, closing with the words: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

But when it is a question of those who shall be accounted worthy of that world, then the higher law, the higher way of life, supersedes the lower; man is passing from the life and growth and activities of the natural body to the life and growth and activities of the spiritual body, in which he is destined to attain conscious immortality. The development of the spiritual body, following the birth from above, is set forth by Paul, writing to the Master’s followers at Corinth; it is taught in the same terms, but in more complete detail, by the Buddha, closely following and incorporating the far older teaching of the Upanishads. These passages have already been quoted and need only be referred to here. The point is that this new way, this entry into a higher world, calls for every atom of force and effort that the man possesses. He cannot follow two ways at the same time.

The Buddha not only enjoined celibacy and chastity on the members of his Order, those whom he selected because with spiritual eye he discerned that they were “worthy of that world”; he even intervened, almost in the midst of the ceremony, to prevent the marriage of one whom he wished to enroll in his Order.

The whole story is related with that rich and gracious humour that is so characteristic of the Buddhist records, in virtue of which Siddhartha the Compassionate should be recognized not only as an Avatar of Holiness, but as the Avatar of Humour also. The persons of the story are close kin of his; the bridegroom in prospect is his cousin Prince Nanda, a son of the sister of Queen Maya, Prince Siddhartha’s mother. And the prospective bride is the Buddha’s younger sister, a lovely princess, who bore the name, Beauty of the Land, so fair that she was in love with her own beauty. And the dramatic events of the story took place at a time when the Buddha was on a visit to his royal father, King Suddhodana, at the ancient city of Kapila.

When the ceremonies in preparation for the marriage of Prince Nanda were in progress, the Master entered the house, as though seeking an offering of food, in conformity with the rule that he received only what was freely given. He placed his bowl in the hands of Prince Nanda and wished him good fortune. Then rising from his seat, he departed without taking his bowl from the hands of the Prince. From reverence for the Tathagata, Prince Nanda did not dare to say: “Reverend Sir, take your bowl,” but thought within himself, “He will take the bowl at the head of the stairs.” But even when the Master reached the head of the stairs, he did not take the bowl. Prince Nanda thought: “He will take the bowl at the foot of the stairs.” But even there the Master did not take the bowl. Prince Nanda thought: “He will take the bowl in the palace court.” But even there the Master did not take the bowl. Prince Nanda greatly desired to return to his bride, and followed the Master much against his will. But so great was his reverence for the Master that he did not dare to say: “Take the bowl,” but continued to follow the Master, thinking to himself: “He will take the bowl here! He will take the bowl there! He will take the bowl there!”

Meanwhile, they brought word to the bride, Beauty of the Land, saying:

“Lady, the Master has taken Prince Nanda away with him; it is his purpose to take him from you!” Then Beauty of the Land, with tears streaming down her face and with hair unkempt, ran swiftly after Prince Nanda and said to him: “Noble sir, I pray you to come back.” Her words shook the heart of Nanda; but the Master, still without taking the bowl, led him to the abode of the Order and said to him, “Nanda, dost thou desire to become a disciple?” So great was Prince Nanda’s reverence for the Buddha that he refrained from saying, “I do not wish to become a disciple,” and said instead, “Yes, I wish to become a disciple.” Then the Master said: “Admit Nanda as a disciple.”

Meanwhile Anathapindaka, the princely giver, had built a great abode for the Master and the Order of disciples, and the Buddha went thither and took up his residence. While the Buddha was residing there, we are told that the disciple Nanda became discontented, and began to relate his sorrows to the other disciples, saying: “Brethren, I am dissatisfied. I am now living the life of a disciple, but I cannot bear to live the life of a disciple any longer. I intend to abandon the higher precepts and return to the lower life, the life of a layman.”

The Master, hearing of this, sent for Nanda and said to him: “Nanda, it is said that you spoke thus to a company of disciples: ‘Brethren, I am dissatisfied. I am now living the life of a disciple, but I cannot bear to live the life of a disciple any longer. I intend to abandon the higher precepts and return to the lower life, the life of a layman.’ Is this true?” “It is true, Master.” “But, Nanda, why are you dissatisfied with the life of a disciple? Why cannot you bear to live the life of a disciple? Why do you wish to abandon the higher precepts and return to the lower life, the life of a layman?” “Master, when I left my home, my noble bride, Beauty of the Land, with tears streaming down her face and with hair unkempt, parting from me, said: ‘Noble sir, I pray you to come back.’ Master, it is because I constantly remember her that I am dissatisfied with the life of a disciple, that I cannot bear to live the life of a disciple any longer, that I intend to abandon the higher precepts and return to the lower life, the life of a layman.” The episode which follows is even more surprising than the story itself.

It is related that the Master, exerting his spiritual power, induced a vision in the consciousness of Prince Nanda, carrying him in imagination to one of the celestial worlds. As they were proceeding thither, the Buddha showed Nanda a burnt field where a monkey that had been singed in the fire sat disconsolate on a stump. In the celestial world, the Buddha showed Nanda a group of rosy-footed nymphs, attendants of King Indra, and asked him this question: “Nanda, which do you consider more beautiful, your bride, Beauty of the Land, or these rosy-footed nymphs?”

Somewhat unchivalrously, as it seems, Nanda made reply that, in measure as the lady was more beautiful than the singed, disconsolate monkey, so the rosy-footed nymphs were more beautiful than the lady.

Thereupon, the Buddha promised Nanda that, if he remained steadfast in the life of a disciple, he would receive as a reward the rosy-footed nymphs. The vision was at an end, and the Buddha and Nanda returned to the consciousness of the outer world.

We are not told who revealed this astonishing incident, but the recorder informs us that it was not long before there was common talk among the disciples to this effect: “It appears that it is in the hope of winning rosy-footed nymphs that the disciple Nanda is living the life of a disciple; it appears that the Master has promised him that he shall receive as a reward the rosy-footed nymphs.”

Thereupon, his fellow-disciples treated Nanda as a hireling, one bought with a bribe, saying to him: “It appears that the disciple Nanda is a hireling; it appears that the disciple Nanda is bought with a bribe. It appears that he is living the life of a disciple in the hope of winning rosy-footed nymphs; it appears that the Master has promised him that he shall receive the rosy-footed nymphs as a reward.”

But the disciple Nanda paid no heed to them, even though they called him a hireling, one bought with a bribe. Dwelling in solitude, withdrawn from the world, mindful, ardent, resolute, in no long time he attained the supreme illumination seeking which they leave the worldly life for the life of the disciple. Thus illumined, he knew that his bondage to rebirth was ended, that he had attained the goal, that he should return no more. Thus Nanda attained to Arhatship.

And the Buddha, fully illumined, knew that Nanda had attained to the supreme illumination, that he had attained to Arhatship. As the Buddha perceived this, Nanda himself approached the Master, saying: “Master, I release the Master from the promise that I should receive as a reward the rosy-footed nymphs.” And the Buddha replied: “Nanda, with my consciousness I grasped your consciousness, and saw that you had attained to liberation, that you had attained to illumination. When your heart was released from desire, at that same time I was released from my promise.”

As was their wont, the disciples discussed the matter, saying:

“Brethren, the Buddhas are wonderful! The disciple Nanda became dissatisfied with the life of a disciple because of Beauty of the Land; the Master, by the lure of the rosy-footed nymphs, won Nanda to complete obedience.” The Master, approaching, asked: “Disciples, what is the manner of your talk as you sit here together?” And when they told him, the Master said: “Disciples, this is not the first time that Nanda has been won to obedience by the lure of the other sex; this also happened in a former birth.” Thereupon, the Master related the following birth-story:

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, there dwelt at Benares a merchant named Kappata. Now Kappata had a donkey which was wont to carry loads of pottery for him, and each day he journeyed seven miles. On a certain day Kappata loaded his donkey with a load of earthen pots, and went with him as far as Takkasila. And while he vended his wares, he allowed the donkey to run loose. As the donkey wandered along a bank beside a watercourse, he beheld a lady donkey and straightway went to converse with her. When she had. greeted him, she said: “Whence come you?” “From Benares.” “Why have you come?” “I have come on business.” “How large was your load?” “A large load of earthen pots.” “How many miles did you travel, carrying so large a load?” “Seven miles.” “In the places to which you journey, is there anyone to rub your weary feet and back?” “There is no one.” “If that be so, your life is indeed a hard one.”

As the fruit of her words, dissatisfaction arose within the heart of the donkey. When the merchant had sold his wares, returning to the donkey, he said: “Come, let us set forth.” “Go yourself; I shall remain here.”

Time and again with gentle words the merchant sought to persuade him; but when, for all his persuasion, the donkey would not be moved, the merchant fell to using harsh words, saying: “I will make a goad with a long spike; I will tear your body to shreds. Know this, donkey!”

But the donkey replied: “You say you will make a goad with a long spike. Very good! Then I will set my forefeet firm and, kicking with my hind feet, I will knock your teeth out. Know this, merchant!”

When the merchant heard this, he meditated, questioning within himself what might be the cause. As he looked this way and that, the eyes of the merchant fell on the lady donkey. “Ho!” said he, “without doubt it was she who incited him. Therefore, let me say to him: ‘I will bestow on you a mate like that.’” So the merchant said to the donkey: “A four-footed mate, possessing all the marks of beauty, with a face like mother-of-pearl. will I bestow on you. Know this, donkey!”

Hearing this, the heart of the donkey rejoiced, and he replied: “A four-footed mate, possessing all the marks of beauty, will you bestow on me. If that be so, merchant, while until now I have traveled seven miles a day, henceforth I will travel fourteen miles a day.”

“Good!” said Kappata, “let us proceed.” Taking the donkey, he led him back to the cart.

Not many days passed when the donkey said to the merchant: “Did you not promise me a mate?” The merchant answered, “I did so promise, and I will keep my word. I will provide for you a mate. But I will provide food only for you. It may not be enough for you and your mate; that is for you to settle. Nor, should offspring be born to you, will there be more food. Whether it will suffice for you all, is for you to settle.”

When the merchant spoke thus, desire died in the heart of the donkey.

In conclusion, the Master said: “In that birth, the lady donkey was Beauty of the Land; the male donkey was Nanda; I myself was the merchant. Thus in a former birth was Nanda won to obedience by the lure of the other sex.”

There remains the fate of the lady, Beauty of the Land. It should be understood that, though bereft of her bridegroom, she did not suffer hardship or privation in other ways. A princess in the palace of a wealthy father, all her needs and wishes, save only her wish for Nanda, were supplied; nor does it appear that she suffered any discredit or unkindness because of the interrupted marriage.

So she appears to have lived in comparative content while, one after another, the members of her family gave their spiritual allegiance to the Buddha and became members of the Order. So, for sheer loneliness and without any genuine vocation, Beauty of the Land decided that she too would join the Order, to be nearer to her kin. The recorder makes quite clear that, though a member of the Order, she was still as much in love with her own beauty as in bygone days; she even shunned her mighty brother because she feared that he might speak disparagingly of her charms.

Finally, however, she became curious to hear him, and drew near, hoping that the Buddha might not recognize her. But his divine vision immediately made the whole situation clear, and, to cure her of self-love, he created the form of a heavenly nymph, of celestial beauty far surpassing the beauty of mortal women, so that even Beauty of the Land confessed to herself that she was far outshone. Then the Buddha caused the phantom nymph to pass through the years in a few minutes, until she was afflicted with painful wrinkles and white hair, toothless and bent like a crooked stick; finally fate overcame her, and cruel death, and Beauty of the Land knew her own charms would likewise wither and die. So, realizing the impermanence of the impermanent, and confirmed in the right way by the Buddha, the lady reached enlightenment. The story is told at length in Burlingame’s translation of the Dhammapada Commentary, from which we have condensed it.

The moral is exactly the same as that which Paul conveyed, writing to the disciples at Colosse: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above . . . Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth . . . seeing that ye have put off the old man, and have put on the new . . .” Or, as he wrote in more universal terms to the disciples at Corinth: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”