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Thus have I heard: at one time the Buddha was staying in the Magpie Garden, in the Bamboo Grove, near the city of Rajagrha together with great bhikshus, Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, and beings of the eightfold division of ghosts and spirits, thirty-six thousand in all. On that occasion there were five hundred Brahmans of different schools in the assembly who rose from their seats and said to the Buddha, “We have heard that the Buddha’s path is so profound that it has no equal. Therefore, we have come to ask you to explain it to us.”

“Very well,” said the Buddha.

“Is the universe existent or non-existent?” asked a Brahman.

“It is both existent and non-existent,” the Buddha replied.

The Brahman asked, “If it is now existent, how can you say it is non-existent? I fit is now non-existent, how can you say it is existent?”

The Buddha replied, “The living say it is existent, but the dead say it is non-existent. Consequently, I say it can be existent and non-existent.”

The Brahman asked, “What do people live on?”

The Buddha replies, “People live on grains.”

“Where do the five grains come from?” he asked.

“They come from the four elements of fire, wind, water, and earth,” the Buddha replied.

“Where do the four elements come from?” asked the Brahman.

“They come from the void,” the Buddha replied.

“Where does the void come from?” asked the Brahman.

“From Nirvana,” the Buddha replied.

“Where does Nirvana come from?” asked the Brahman.

The Buddha said, “Why do you ask about such profound matters? Nirvana is the Dharma of non-birth and non-death.”

“Has the Buddha attained Nirvana?” he asked.

“I have not yet reached Nirvana,” the Buddha replied.

“Since you have not yet reached Nirvana, how do you know Nirvana is eternal bliss?”

The Buddha said, “Now, let me ask you: Are sentient beings in the world happy or do they suffer?”

“Sentient beings suffer,” replied the Brahman.

The Buddha said, “How do you know they suffer?”

“Seeing how at death beings experience unbearable pain, I thereby know that their death is suffering,” replied the Brahman.

“Now you are not yet dead, but you nevertheless know that death is suffering. Likewise, seeing how all Buddhas of the ten directions have neither being born nor dying, I know; therefore, that Nirvana is eternal bliss,” said the Buddha.

The five hundred Brahmans were delighted, understood his words, and sought to receive the five precepts. They enlightened to the fruition of Shrotappana. When they had returned to their seats the Buddha said, “Listen carefully to me for I shall now speak to you extensively of many parables.”

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