Lakkhaṇa Sutta: The Marks of a Great Man | 1 Part

Lakkhaṇa Sutta: The Marks of a Great Man

Part 1

1.1. Thus have I heard:

Once the Lord was staying at Sāvatthi, in Jetavana, Anāthapiṇḍika’s park. 'Monks!' he said, and the monks replied: 'Lord.'

The Lord said: 'There are, monks, these thirty-two marks peculiar to a Great Man, and for that Great Man who possesses them, only two careers are open.

If he lives the household life, he will become a ruler, a wheel-turning righteous monarch of the law, conqueror of the four quarters, who has established the security of his realm and is possessed of the seven treasures.

These are: the Wheel Treasure, the Elephant Treasure, the Horse Treasure, the Jewel Treasure, the Woman Treasure, the Householder Treasure, and, as seventh, the Counsellor Treasure.

He has more than a thousand sons who are heroes, of heroic stature, conquerors of the hostile army. He dwells having conquered this sea-girt land without stick or sword, by the law.

But if he goes forth from the household life into homelessness, he will become an Arahant, a fully-enlightened Buddha, who has drawn back the veil from the world.

1.2. 'And what are these thirty-two marks? He has feet with level tread. This is one of the marks of a Great Man.

On the soles of his feet are wheels with a thousand spokes, complete with felloe and hub. He has projecting heels. He has long fingers and toes. He has soft and tender hands and feet.

His hands and feet are net-like. He has high-raised ankles. His legs are like an antelope's. Standing and without bending, he can touch and rub his knees with either hand. His male organs are enclosed in a sheath.

His complexion is bright, the colour of gold. His skin is delicate and so smooth that no dust can adhere to his body. His body-hairs are separate, one to each pore. His body-hairs grow upwards, each one bluish-black like collyrium, curling in rings to the right.

His body is divinely straight. He has the seven convex surfaces. The front part of his body is like a lion's. There is no hollow between his shoulders.

He is proportioned like a banyan-tree: the height of his body is the same as the span of his outstretched arms, and conversely. His bust is evenly rounded.

He has a perfect sense of taste. He has jaws like a lion's. He has forty teeth. His teeth are even. There are no spaces between his teeth. His canine teeth are very bright. His tongue is very long.

(28) He has a Brahma-like voice, like that of the karavīka-bird.

(29) His eyes are deep blue. He has eyelashes like a cow's. The hair between his eyes is white and soft like cotton- down. His head is like a royal turban. This is one of the marks of a Great Man.

1.3. 'These, monks, are the thirty-two marks peculiar to a Great Man, and for that Great Man who possesses them only two courses are open...

And sages of other communions know these thirty-two marks, but they do not know the karmic reasons for the gaining of them.

1.4. 'Monks, in whatever former life, former existence or dwelling-place the Tathagata, being born a human being, undertook mighty deeds to good purpose,

unwavering in good conduct of body, speech and thought, in generosity, self- discipline, observance of the fast-day, in honouring parents, ascetics and Brahmins and the head of the clan, and in other highly meritorious acts;

by performing that kamma, heaping it up, lavishly and abundantly, at the breaking-up of the body after death he was reborn in a happy state, in a heavenly world,

where he was endowed beyond other devas in ten respects: in length of heavenly life, beauty, happiness, splendour, influence, and in heavenly sights, sounds, smells, tastes and contacts.

Falling away from there and coming to be reborn here on earth, he acquired this mark of the Great Man: feet with level tread, so that he places his foot evenly on the ground, lifts it evenly, and touches the ground evenly with the entire sole.

1.5. 'Being endowed with this mark, if he keeps to the household life, he will become a wheel-turning monarch... Conquering without stick or sword, but by justice,

he rules over this earth as far as its ocean-boundaries, a land open, uninfested by brigands, free from jungle, powerful, prosperous, happy and free from perils.

As a ruler, how does he benefit? He cannot be impeded by any human foe with ill-intent. That is his benefit as a ruler.

And if he goes forth into homelessness, he will become a fully-enlightened Buddha... As such, how does he benefit?

He cannot be impeded by any enemy or adversary from within or without, from greed, hatred or delusion, nor by any ascetic or Brahmin, any deva, māra or Brahma, or any being in the world.

That is his benefit as a Buddha.' This was what the Lord declared.

1.6. About this it was said:
'Truthful, righteous, tamed and stilled,
Pure and virtuous, keeping fasts,
Generous, harming none, at peace
He undertook this mighty task,
And at his end to heaven went,
To dwell in joy and happiness.
Returned from there to earth, his feet
With level tread did touch the ground.
Assembled augurs then declared:
"For him who level treads the ground,
No obstacles can bar his path,
If he leads the household life,
Or if he leaves the world behind:
This the mark does clearly show.
If a layman, no adversary,
No foe can stand before him.
No human power exists that can
Deprive him of his kamma's fruit.
Or if the homeless life's his choice:
On renunciation bent, and clear
Of vision — chief of men he'll be,
Peerless, never more reborn:
This the law shall be for him."'

1.7. 'Monks, in whatever former life... the Tathagata, being born a human being, lived for the happiness of the many, as a dispeller of fright and terror, provider of lawful protection and shelter, and supplying all necessities, by performing that kamma,... was reborn in a happy state, a heavenly world...

Falling away from there and coming to be reborn here on earth, he acquired this mark of the Great Man: on the soles of his feet are wheels of a thousand spokes, complete with felloe and hub.

1.8. 'Being endowed with this mark, if he keeps to the household life, he will become a wheel-turning monarch...

As a ruler, how does he benefit?

He has a great retinue: he is surrounded by Brahmin householders, citizens and villagers, treasurers, guards, doorkeepers, ministers, tributary kings, tenants- in-chief, and pages. That is his benefit as a ruler.

And if he goes forth into homelessness, he will become a fully-enlightened Buddha...As such, how does he benefit?

He has a large retinue: he is surrounded by monks, nuns, male and female lay-followers, devas and humans, asuras, nagas and gandhabbas. That is his benefit as a Buddha.'

This was what the Lord declared.

1.9. About this it was said:
'In times gone by, in former births
As man, to many doing good,
Dispelling fright and panic fear,
Eager to guard and give defence,
He undertook this mighty task,
And at his end to heaven went,
To dwell in joy and happiness.
Returned from there to earth, his feet
Are found to bear the mark of wheels,
Each a thousand-spoked, complete.
Assembled augurs then declared,
Seeing these many marks of merit:
"Great will be his following,
All his foes he will subdue.
This is the wheel-marks clearly show.
If he does not renounce the world,
He'll turn the Wheel, and rule the earth.
The nobles will his vassals be,
All in attendance on his power.
But if the homeless life's his choice:
On renunciation bent, and clear
Of vision — men and devas
asuras, Sakka’s, Rākṣasas,
gandhabbas, nāgas, Garuḍas,
Four-foot beasts will serve him too,
Unrivalled, by devas and by men
Alike revered in all his glory."'

1.10. 'Monks, in whatever former life... the Tathagata, being born a human being, rejecting the taking of life and abstaining from it, and laying aside stick and sword,

dwelt, kind and compassionate, having friendship and sympathy for all living beings, by performing that kamma,... was reborn in a happy state...

Falling away from there and coming to be reborn on earth, he acquired these three marks of the Great Man: projecting heels, long fingers and toes, and a divinely straight body.

1.11. 'Being endowed with these marks, if he keeps to the household life,... as a ruler, how does he benefit?

He is long- lived, long-enduring, attaining a great age, and during that time no human foe can possibly take his life...

As a Buddha, how does he benefit? He is long-lived...; no foe, whether an ascetic or Brahmin, a deva, māra or Brahma, or anyone in the world can possibly take his life. That is his benefit as a Buddha.'

This was what the Lord declared.

1.12. About this it was said:
'Knowing well their dread of death,
Beings he forbore to kill.
This goodness earned him heavenly birth,
Where he rejoiced in merit's fruit.
Returning thence to earth he bore
On his person these three marks:
His heels are full and very long,
Brahma like he's straight of form,
Fair to see, and shapely-limbed,
His fingers tender, soft and long.
By these three marks of excellence
It's known the youth will be long-lived.
"Long he'll live in household life
Longer still as homeless one
Practising the noble powers:
So the three marks indicate."'

1.13. 'Monks, in whatever former life...the Tathagata became a giver of fine food, delicious and tasty, hard and soft, and of drinks, by performing that kamma,... he was reborn in a heavenly world...

Falling away from there and being reborn here on earth, he acquired this mark of the Great Man: the seven convex surfaces, on both hands, both feet, both shoulders and his trunk.

1.14 'Being endowed with this mark,...as a ruler, how does he benefit? He receives fine food and drinks... As a Buddha, likewise.' This is what the Lord said.

1.15. About this it was said:
'Dispenser of delicious foods
And finest-tasting drinks he was.
This goodness brought him happy birth,
And long he dwelt in Nandana.
To earth returned, the seven signs
On gently-swelling limbs he bore.
Assembled augurs then declared,
Fine food and drink he would enjoy:
Not merely in the household life —
For though he should renounce the world
And cut the bonds of worldly living,
Delicious food he'd still receive!'

1.16. 'Monks, in whatever former life...the Tathagata made himself beloved through the four bases of sympathy: generosity, pleasing speech, beneficial conduct and impartiality, ...

on returning to this earth he acquired these two marks of the Great Man: soft and tender hands and feet, and net-like hands and feet.

1.17. 'Being endowed with these two marks,...

as a ruler, how does he benefit? All his retinue are well-disposed to him: Brahmin householders, citizens and villagers, treasurers, guards, doorkeepers,. . . pages.

As a Buddha, how does he benefit? All his followers are well-disposed to him: monks, nuns, male and female lay-followers, devas and humans, asuras, nagas, gandhabbas.

That is his benefit as a Buddha.' This is what the Lord said.

1.18. About this it was said:
'Through giving and through helpful acts,
Pleasing speech and evenness
Of mind, of benefit to all,
He at death to heaven went.
When he thence returned to earth,
His hands and feet were soft and tender,
His toes and fingers net-wise spread.
Very fair he was to see:
Thus the infant was endowed.
"He'll be ruler of the people,
Surrounded by a faithful flock.
Fair of speech, to good deeds given,
In conduct virtuous and wise.
But if the joys of sense he spurns,
A Conqueror, he will teach the path,
And, delighted by his words,
All those who hear will follow him
In Dhamma's great and lesser ways!"'

1.19. 'Monks, in whatever former life...the Tathagata became a speaker to the people about their welfare, about Dhamma, explaining this to people and being a bearer of welfare and happiness to beings, a dispenser of Dhamma,...

on returning to this earth he acquired these two marks of the Great Man: high-raised ankles, and upward-growing body- hairs.

1.20. 'Being endowed with these marks,...as a ruler, how does he benefit? He becomes the chief, foremost, highest, supreme among the unrenounced ...

As a Buddha, he becomes the chief, foremost, highest, supreme among all beings. That is his benefit as a Buddha.' This was what the Lord declared.

1.21. About this it was said:
'One time he spoke of all that's good,
Preaching loud to all mankind,
Bringing blessings to all beings,
Liberal dispenser of the law.
For such conduct and such deeds,
Heavenly birth was his reward.
Here returned, two marks were his,
Marks of happiness supreme:
Upward-growing body-hairs,
Ankles high above the foot,
Built up beneath the flesh and skin,
Well-formed above, and beautiful.
"If he leads the household life,
The greatest riches will be his,
No greater man will be found:
As Jambudīpa's Lord he'll rule.
If, supremely strong, he leaves the world,
He will be the chief of beings,
No man greater will be found:
As Lord of all the world he'll rule."'

1.22. 'Monks, in whatever former life...the Tathagata became a skilled exponent of a craft, a science, a way of conduct or action, thinking: "What can I learn quickly and acquire, quickly practise, ‘without undue weariness?"...

on returning to earth, he acquires this mark of the Great Man: legs like an antelope's.

1.23. 'Being endowed with this mark,...as a ruler he quickly acquires whatever things befit a ruler, the things that pertain to a ruler, delight him and are appropriate to him. As a Buddha, likewise.'

This was what the Lord declared.

1.24. About that it was said:
'Arts and sciences, ways and deeds:
"Let me learn with ease", he says.
Skills that harm no living thing
Fast he learnt, with little toil.
From such deeds, skilled and sweet,
Graceful and fair his limbs will be,
While fairly set in spiral curves
From tender skin the hairs stand up.
Antelope-legged is such a man:
Wealth, they say, will soon be his.
"Each single hairlet brings him luck,
If he maintains the household life.
But should he choose to leave the world
On renunciation set,
Clear-eyed, all things he'll quickly find
Befitting such a lofty course."'

1.25. 'Monks, in whatever former life...the Tathagata approached an ascetic or Brahmin and asked: "Sir, what is the good, what is the bad? What is blameworthy, what is not?

What course is to be followed, what is not? What, if I do it, will be to my lasting sorrow and harm, what to my lasting happiness?"...

on returning to this earth, he acquired this mark of the Great Man: his skin is so delicate and smooth that no dust can adhere to his body.

1.26. 'Being endowed with this mark,... as a ruler he will be very wise, and among the unrenounced there will be none equal or superior to him in wisdom...

As a Buddha he will have great wisdom, extensive wisdom, joyous wisdom, swift wisdom, penetrative wisdom, discerning wisdom, and among all beings there will be none equal to him or superior to him in wisdom.'

This was what the Lord declared.

1.27. About this it was said:
'In former days, in former births,
Eager to know, a questioner,
He waited on the homeless ones:
Keen to learn the truth, he would
Heed their words about life's goal.
The fruit of this, when born again
As man, his skin was soft and tender.
Assembled augurs thus declared:
"Subtle meanings he'll discern.
If he does not leave the world,
He'll be a wheel-revolving king
Wise to know all subtleties,
Equalled or surpassed by none.
But should he choose to leave the world.
On renunciation set,
Highest wisdom will be his,
Enlightenment supreme and vast."'

1.28. 'Monks, in whatever former life...the Tathagata lived without anger, perfectly unruffled, and even after many words had been uttered was not abusive,

or agitated, or wrathful, or aggressive, displaying neither anger nor hatred nor resentment, but was in the habit of giving away fine, soft rugs, cloaks, fine linen, cotton, silk and woollen stuffs,...

on returning to this earth, he acquired this mark of the Great Man: (n) a bright complexion, the colour of gold.

1.29. 'Being endowed with this mark,...as a ruler he will receive such fine stuffs,...as a Buddha, likewise.' This was what the Lord declared.

1.30. About this it was said:
'Established in goodwill, he gave
Gifts of clothing, soft and fine.
In former lives he thus dispensed
As the rain-god pours down showers.
This goodness brought him heavenly birth.
Where he rejoiced in merit's fruit.
That time past, like fine-wrought gold
His body is, more fair than all
The gods he seems, great Indra's like.
'If he lives the household life,
He'll regulate this wicked world,
And, for what he's done, receive
Clothes of finest quality,
Rugs and coverlets of the best.
And should he choose to leave the world,
Such things likewise he'll receive:
Virtue's fruit cannot be lost."'

1.31. 'Monks, in whatever former life...the Tathagata reunited those long-lost with relatives, friends and companions who had missed them,

reunited mother with child and child with mother, father with child and child With father, brother with brother, brother with sister and sister with brother, making them one again with great rejoicing,...

on returning to earth he acquired this mark of the Great Man: his male organs are enclosed in a sheath.

1.32. 'Being endowed with this mark,...as a ruler he will have numerous sons, more than a thousand sons, powerfully built heroes, crushers of the enemy host. As a Buddha, likewise.'

This was what the Lord declared.

1.33. About this it was said:
'In former days, in former births,
Long-lost friends and relatives,
Companions too, he brought together,
Thus uniting them in joy.
This good deed brought heavenly birth,
Bliss and joy were his reward.
When he thence returned to earth,
Sheath-enclosed his organs were.
"Numerous children such will have,
More than a thousand sons are his,
Hero-champions, conquerors,
And filial too, the layman's joy.
But if he leaves the world, still more
With children he will be endowed:
Those who depend upon his word.
And so, renounced or not, this sign
Such benefits as this portends."'

[End of first recitation-section]