Raja Sutta: The Emperor
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Which is better: being a world leader, or gaining the four factors of stream-entry?
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At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said, "Monks, even though a wheel-turning emperor, having exercised sovereign lordship over the four continents, on the break-up of the body, after death, reappears in the good destination, the heavenly world, in the company of the devas of the Thirty-three, and enjoys himself there in the Nandana grove, surrounded by a consort of nymphs, supplied and endowed with the five strings of heavenly sensual pleasure, still — because he is not endowed with four qualities — he is not freed from [the possibility of going to] hell, not freed from the animal womb, not freed from the realm of hungry shades, not freed from the plane of deprivation, the bad destinations, the lower realms.
"And even though a disciple of the noble ones lives off lumps of alms food and wears rag-robes, still — because he is endowed with four qualities — he is freed from hell, freed from the animal womb, freed from the realm of hungry shades, freed from the plane of deprivation, the bad destinations, the lower realms.
"And what are the four? There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Awakened One: 'Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.'
"He/she is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma: 'The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, to be seen here & now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.'
"He/she is endowed with verified confidence in the Sangha: 'The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples who have practiced well...who have practiced straight-forwardly...who have practiced methodically...who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four types of noble disciples when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as individual types — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.'
"He/she is endowed with virtues that are appealing to the noble ones: untorn, unbroken, unspotted, unsplattered, liberating, praised by the wise, untarnished, leading to concentration.
"He/she is endowed with these four qualities.
"And between the gaining of the four continents and the gaining of these four qualities, the gaining of the four continents is not equal to one sixteenth of the gaining of these four qualities."
1. The four pairs are (1) the person on the path to stream-entry, the person experiencing the fruit of stream-entry; (2) the person on the path to once-returning, the person experiencing the fruit of once-returning; (3) the person on the path to non-returning, the person experiencing the fruit of non-returning; (4) the person on the path to arahantship, the person experiencing the fruit of arahantship. The eight individuals are the eight types forming these four pairs.
2. These four qualities — the factors of stream-entry — characterize the person who has attained the first of the four levels of awakening.
3. Dhp 178 provides what would appear to be a verse summary of this last paragraph:
- Sole dominion over the earth,
going to heaven,
lordship over all worlds:
the fruit of stream-entry