THE Blessed One proceeded with a great company of the brethren to Nalanda; and there he stayed in a mango grove. Now the venerable Sariputta came to the place where the Blessed One was, and having saluted him, took his seat respectfully at his side, and said: "Lord! such faith have I in the Blessed One, that methinks there never has been, nor will there be, nor is there now any other, who is greater or wiser than the Blessed One, that is to say, as regards the higher wisdom."
Replied the Blessed One: "Grand and bold are the words of thy mouth, Sariputta: verily, thou hast burst forth into a song of ecstasy! Surely then thou hast known all the Blessed Ones who in the long ages of the past have been holy Buddhas?" "Not so, O Lord!" said Sariputta.
And the Lord continued: "Then thou hast perceived all the Blessed Ones who in the long ages of the future shall be holy Buddhas?" "Not so, O Lord!"
"But at least then, O Sariputta, thou knowest me as the holy Buddha now alive, and hast penetrated my mind." "Not even that, O Lord!"
"Thou seest then, Sariputta, that thou knowest not the hearts of the holy Buddhas of the past nor the hearts of those of the future. Why, therefore, are thy words so grand and bold? Why burstest thou forth into such a song of ecstasy?"
"O Lord! I have not the knowledge of the hearts of all the Buddhas that have been and are to come, and now are. I only know the lineage of the faith. Just as a king, Lord, might have a border city, strong in its foundations, strong in its ramparts and with one gate only; and the king might have a watchman there, clever, expert, and wise, to stop all strangers and admit only friends. And on going over the approaches all about the city, he might not be able so to observe all the joints and crevices in the ramparts of that city as to know where such a small creature as a cat could get out. That might well be. Yet all living beings of larger size that entered or left the city, would have to pass through that gate. Thus only is it, Lord, that I know the lineage of the faith. I know that the holy Buddhas of the past, putting away all lust, ill-will, sloth, pride, and doubt, knowing all those mental faults which make men weak, training their minds in the four kinds of mental activity, thoroughly exercising themselves in the sevenfold higher wisdom, received the full fruition of Enlightenment. And I know that the holy Buddhas of the times to come will do the same. And I know that the Blessed One, the holy Buddha of today, has done so now."
"Great is thy faith, O Sariputta," replied the Blessed One, "but take heed that it be well grounded."