Once the Lord Buddha was staying in Magadha, East of Rajagaha, at a Brahmin village called Ambasanda. There he stayed in the Indasala Cave on the Vediya Mountain . At that time Sakka, king of gods, wanted to see the Lord. HE thought: 'Where is the Blessed Lord, the fully-enlightened Buddha, staying now? Then, perceiving where the Lord was, Sakka said to the 33 Gods: 'Gentlemen, the Blessed Lord is staying in Magadha, shall we go and visit the Lord?' They replied: 'Very good, Lord, and may good fortune go with you'.
Then Sakka told Pancasikha of the gandhabbas of his intention to visit the Buddha. Then Paiicasikha took his yellow beluva-wood lute and he followed in attendance on Sakka. Very swiftly Sakka, surrounded by the Thirty-Three Gods and attended by Paiicasikha, vanished from the heaven of the Thirty-Three and appeared in Magadha on Mount Vediya. At that moment, a tremendous light shone over Mount Vediya, illuminating the village of Ambasanda. So great was the power of the gods, villagers thought Mount Vediya is on fire, burning in flames and they were so terrified that their hair stood on end.
Then Sakka said: 'Pancasikha, it is hard for the likes of us to get near the Tathagatas when they are enjoying the bliss of meditation. But if you, Paficasikha, were first to please the Blessed Lord, then we might be able to approach and see the Blessed Lord, the fully-enlightened Buddha.' So Pancasikha took his yellow beluva-wood lute and approached the Indasala Cave to a position not too near and not too far from the Buddha to hear his voice. He stood to one side, played his lute and he sang these verses extolling the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Arahants and love:
Lady, your father Timbaru greet, Oh Sunshine fair, I give him honour due, By whom was sired a maid as fair as you Who are the cause of all my heart's delight.
Delightful as the breeze to one who sweats, Or as a cooling draught to one who thirsts, Your radiant beauty is to me as dear As the Dhamma is to Arahants.
Just as medicine to him who's ill, Or nourishment to one who's starving still, Bring me, gracious lady, sweet release With water cool from my consuming flames.
The elephant, oppressed by summer heat, Seeks out a lotus-pool upon which float Petals and pollen of that flower, So into your bosom sweet I'd plunge.
As an elephant, urged by the goad, Pays no heed to pricks of lance and spear, So I, unheeding, know not what I do, Intoxicated by your beauteous form.
By you my heart is tightly bound in bonds, All my thoughts are quite transformed, and I Can no longer find my former course: I'm like a fish that's caught on baited hook.
Come, embrace me, maiden fair of thighs, Seize and hold me with your lovely eyes, Take me in your arms, it's all I ask! My desire was slight at first, O maid Of waving tresses, but it grew apace, As grow the gifts that Arahants receive.
Whatever merit I have gained by gifts To those Noble Ones, may my reward When it ripens, be your love, most fair!
As the Sakyans' Son in jhana rapt Intent and mindful, seeks the deathless goal, Thus intent I seek your love, my Sun!
Just as that Sage would be rejoiced, if he Were to gain supreme enlightenment, So I'd rejoice to be made one with you
If Sakka, Lord of Three-and-Thirty Gods Were perchance to grant a boon to me, It's you I'd crave, my love for you's so strong.
Your father, maid so wise, I venerate Like a sal-tree fairly blossoming, For his offspring's sake, so sweet and fair.'
After he heard these verses, Buddha said: 'Pancasikha, the sound of your strings blends so well with your song, and your song with the strings, that neither prevails excessively over the other. When did you compose these verses on the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Arahants, and love?
Pancasikha replied : 'Lord, it was when the Blessed Lord was staying on the bank of the River Neranjara, under the goatherd's banyan tree prior to his enlightenment. At that time I fell in love with the lady Bhadda, the daughter of King Timbaru of the gandhabbas. But she was in love with somebody else, Sikhaddi, who was the son of Matali the charioteer. When I found that I could not win the lady by any means, I took my yellow beluva-wood lute and went to the home of King Timbaruof the gandhabbas, and there I sang these verses. After hearing the verses, lady Bhadda Suriyavaccasa said to me : " I have not seen that Blessed Lord, though I heard of him when I went to the Sudhamma Hall of the Thirty-Three Gods to dance. Since you praise that Blessed Lord so highly, let us meet today."That's when i met the lady.
At that moment Sakka thought: 'Pancasikha and the Lord are in friendly conversation' so he called to Pancasikha to inform Buddha that he himself, Sakka, king of the gods, together with his ministers and followers would like to pay homage at the feet of the Blessed Lord.
Buddha replied: ''Pancasikha, may Sakka, king of the gods, his ministers and followers be happy, for they all desire happiness: devas, humans, asuras, nagas, gandhabbas, and whatever other groups of beings there are!' After this greeting, Sakka entered the Indasala Cave, saluted the Lord and stood to one side. The Thirty-Three Gods, with Pancasikha, did the same. Then in the Indasala Cave the rough passages became smooth, the narrow parts became wide, and the pitch-dark cavern became bright, owing to the power of the devas.
Then the Lord Buddha said to Sakka: 'It is wonderful, it is marvellous that the Venerable Kosiya with so much and so many things to do would come hgre!' Sakka replied: 'Lord, I have long wished to visit the Blessed one but I have always been so busy on behalf of the Thirty-Three that I was unable to come. Once the Blessed Lord was staying at Savatthi in the Salala hut, and I went to Savatthi to see the Lord. That time the Blessed Lord was seated in some form of meditation, and King Vessavana's wife Bhunjati was waiting on him, venerating him with palms together. I (sakka) said to her: "Lady, please salute the Blessed Lord for me and inform him that Sakka, the king of the gods, with his ministers and followers would like to pay homage'. But she replied that it is not the right time to see the Blessed Lord as he is in retreat." Then i told the lady to inform me once the Blessed one has rise from meditation. ' Then Sakka asked if Buddha remember that the lady saluted on his behalf. Buddha replied that she did salute me and he remembered what she said. Buddha also mentioned that it was the sound of Sakka's chariot-wheels that roused him from his meditation.
Sakka continued: "Lord, those gods who arose in the heaven of the Thirty- Three before I did have told me and assured me that whenever a Tathagata, a fully-enlightened Arahant Buddha arises in the world, the ranks of devas increase, and those of the asuras decline in numbers. In fact I have witnessed this myself. There was right here in Kapilavatthu a Sakyan girl called Gopika who had faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha and she observed the precepts scrupulously. She rejected the status of a woman and developed the thought of becoming a man. After her death, she went to a happy destination being reborn in a heaven-state among the Thirty-Three Gods, as one of our sons, becoming known as Gopaka the devas' son. Also, there were 3 monks who having observed the holy life under the Blessed Lord were reborn in the inferior condition of gandhabbas. They lived indulging in the five sensual pleasures, as our attendants and servants. At this, Gopaka rebuked them, saying: "What were you about that you did not listen to the Blessed Lord's teaching? I was a woman who had faith in the Buddha, I rejected the status of a woman and was reborn among the Thirty-Three Gods. But you after having observed the holy life under the Blessed Lord were instead reborn in the inferior condition of gandhabbas! It is a sorry sight for us to see our fellows in the Dhamma reborn in the inferior condition of gandhabbas!" After being rebuked, two out of three those devas immediately developed mindfulness and attained to the Realm of the Retinue of Brahma. But one of them remained attached to sensual pleasures."
In Gopaka's words: "'Disciple once of Him-Who-Sees, The name I bore then Gopika. In Buddha, Dhamma firmly trusting I served the Sangha cheerfully. For loyal service paid to him See me now, a Sakka-son, Mighty, in the Threefold Heaven
Resplendent; Gopaka my name. Then former monks I saw, who'd reached No higher than gandhabba's rank, Who before had human birth and led the life the Buddha taught. We supplied their food and drink and waited on them in our homes. Had they no ears, that they thus blest Still could not grasp the Buddha's law?
Each for himself must understand That Dhamma taught by Him-Who-Sees, And well-proclaimed. I, serving you, Heard the Noble Ones' good words, And so I'm born, a Sakka-son, Mighty, in the Threefold Heaven, And resplendent, whereas you, Though you served the Prince of Men And led the matchless life he taught, Have reappeared in humble state, And not attained your proper rank,
A sorry sight it is to see One's Dhamma-fellows sunk so low That, gandhabba-spirits, you But come to wait upon the gods, While as for me - I am transformed! From household life, and female, I Am now reborn a male, a god, Rejoicing in celestial bliss!"
When thus rebuked by Gopaka, Disciple true of Gotama, In sore distress they all replied: "Alas, let's go, and strive amain, And be no longer others' slaves!"
And of the three, two struggled hard, And bore in mind the Teacher's word. They purified their hearts of lust, Perceiving peril in desires, And like the elephant that bursts All restraining bonds, they broke The fetters and the bonds of lust, Those fetters of the evil one So hard to overcome - and thus The very gods, the Thirty-Three, With Indra and Pajapati, Who sat enthroned in Council Hall, These two heroes, passions purged, Outstripped, and left them far behind.
On seeing which, Vasava, dismayed, Chief amidst that throng of gods, Cried: "See how these of lesser rank Outstrip the gods, the Thirty-Three!" Then hearing of his ruler's fears, Gopaka said to Vasava: "Lord Indra, in the world of men A Buddha, called the Sakyan Sage, Has gained the mastery of lust, And these his pupils, who had failed In mindfulness when claimed by death, Have now regained it with my help.
Though one of them is left behind. And still among gandhabbas dwells, These two, on highest wisdom set, In deep absorption spurn the gods! Let no disciple ever doubt That truth may yet be realized By those who dwell in these abodes. To him who's crossed the flood and made An end of doubts, our homage due, The Buddha, Victor, Lord, we give."
Even here, they gained the truth, and so Have passed beyond to greater eminence. Those two have gained a higher place than this In Realms of Brahma's Retinue. And we Have come, 0 Lord, in hope that we may gain That truth, and, if the Lord will give us leave, To put our questions to the Blessed Lord.'
Then Lord Buddha thought: 'Sakka has lived a pure life for a long time. Whatever questions he may ask will be to the point and not frivolous and he will be quick to understand my answers.' So the Blessed Lord replied to Sakka in this verse: 'Ask me, Sakka, all that you desire! On what you ask, I'll clear your doubts.'
After the invitation, Sakka, ruler of the gods, put his first question to the Lord: 'By what fetters, are beings bound - gods, humans, asuras, nagas, gandhabbas and whatever other kinds there may be - whereby, although they wish to live without hate, harming, hostility or malignity, and in peace, yet they live in hate, harming one another, hostile and malign?' Buddha replied: 'Sakka, it is the bonds of jealousy and avarice that bind beings.' Sakka was delighted, exclaimed: 'So it is, Lord, so it is, Well-Farer! Through the Lord's answer I have overcome my doubt and got rid of uncertainty!'
Then Sakka having expressed his appreciation, asked the second question: 'But sir, what gives rise to jealousy and avarice? what is their origin, how are they born, how do they arise? Owing to the presence of what do they arise, owing to the absence of what do they not arise?' Buddha replied: 'Jealousy and avarice, Sakka, take rise from like and dislike, this is their origin, this is how they are born, how they arise. When these are present, they arise; when these are absent, they do not arise.'
Sakka asked the 3rd question: 'But, sir, what gives rise to like and dislike? Owing to the presence of what do they arise, owing I to the absence of what do they not arise?' Buddha replied: 'They arise, Sakka, from desires. Owing to the presence of desire they arise, owing to the absence of desire they do not arise.'
Then Sakka asked further :'But sir, what gives rise to desire?'. Buddha replied: 'Desire, Sakka, arises from thinking. When the mind thinks about something, desire arises and when the mind thinks about nothing, desire does not arise.'
Sakka asked again : 'But, sir, what gives rise to thinking?' Buddha replied : 'Thinking, Sakka, arises from the tendency to proliferation.When this tendency is present, thinking arises; when it is absent, thinking does not arise.'
Sakka then asked another question: 'Well, sir, what practice has that monk undertaken to has reach the right way which is needful and leading to the cessation of the tendency to proliferation?' Buddha replied: 'Sakka, I declare that there are two kinds of happiness: the kind to be pursued and the kind to be avoided. The same applies to unhappiness and equanimity. Why have I declared this in regard to happiness? This is how I understood happiness: When I observed that in the pursuit of such happiness, unwholesome factors increased and wholesome factors decreased, then that happiness must be avoided. When I observed that in the pursuit of such happiness, unwholesome factors decreased and wholesome ones increased, then that happiness was to be sought after. Such happiness as is accompanied by thinking and pondering and of that which is not so accompanied, the latter is the more excellent. The same applies to unhappiness and to equanimity. This is the practice that monk has undertaken who has reached the right way which leads to the cessation of the tendency to proliferation.' Sakka expressed his delight at the Lord's answer.
Then Sakka asked another question: 'Well, sir, what practice has that monk undertaken that leads to self-restraint?' Buddha replied: 'Sakka, I declare that there are two kinds of bodily conduct: the kind to be pursued and the kind to be avoided. The same applies to conduct of speech and to the pursuit of goals. This is how I understood bodily conduct: When I observed that by the performance of certain actions, unwholesome factors increased and wholesome factors decreased, then that form of bodily action was to be avoided. When I observed that by the performance of such actions unwholesome factors decreased and wholesome ones increased, then such bodily action was to be followed. That is why I make this distinction. The same applies to conduct of speech and the pursuit of goals. This Sakka, is the practice that monk has undertaken who has acquired the restraint required by the rules.' Sakka expressed his delight at the Lord's answer.
Then Sakka asked another question: 'Well, sir, what practice has that monk undertaken such that he will acquire control of his sense-faculties?' Buddha replied: 'Sakka, I declare that things perceived by the eye are of two kinds: the kind to be pursued, and the kind to be avoided. The same applies to things perceived by the ear, the nose, the tongue, the body and the mind (the six senses).' At this, Sakka said: 'Lord, I understand in full the true meaning of what the Blessed Lord has outlined in brief. Whatever object perceived by the eye, if its pursuit leads to the increase of unwholesome factors and the decrease of wholesome ones, that is not to be sought after; if its pursuit leads to the decrease of unwholesome factors and the increase of wholesome ones, such an object is to be sought after. And the same applies to things perceived by the ear, the nose, the tongue, the body and the mind. Thus I understand in full the true meaning of what the Blessed Lord has outlined in brief, and thus through the Lord's answer I have overcome my doubt and got rid of uncertainty.'
Then Sakka asked another question: 'Do all ascetics and Brahmins teach the same doctrine, practice the same discipline, want the same thing and pursue the same goal?' Buddha replied: 'No, Sakka, they don't.' Sakka asked Buddha why not. Buddha replied: 'The world is made up of many and various elements. As such, beings adhere to one or other of these various things, and whatever they adhere to they become extremely addicted to it and declare: 'This alone is the truth, everything else is false!' Therefore they do not all teach the same doctrine, practice the same discipline, want the same thing, pursue the same goal.'
Sakka asked: 'Sir, are all ascetics and Brahmins fully proficient, freed from bonds, perfect in the holy life, have they perfectly reached the goal?' Buddha replied: 'No. Only those who are liberated by the destruction of craving are fully proficient, freed from the bonds, perfect in the holy life and have perfectly reached the goal.' Then Sakka said: 'Passion is a disease, a boil, a dart. It seduces a man, drawing him into this or that state of becoming, so that he is reborn in high states or low. Other ascetics and Brahmins of differing viewpoints did not give me chance to ask these questions whereas the Lord has instructed me at length and thus removed the dart of doubt and uncertainty from me.' Buddha asked Sakka if he had asked the ascetics and brahmins the same question he asked him?' Sakka replied: 'Yes, Lord.' Then Buddha asked Sakka to tell him how the ascetics and brahmins answer those questions.
Sakka explained his experience with the other ascetic and brahmins: " I went to those I considered to be ascetics and Brah-mins because of their solitary life in the woods and I put I these questions to them. Instead of giving me a proper answer, they asked me in return: "Who are you, Venerable Sir?' I replied that I was Sakka, ruler of the gods and they asked me what had brought me there. Then I taught them the Dhamrna as far as I had heard it and practiced it. But they were very pleased with that much i told them and they said: 'We have seen Sakka, the ruler of the gods and he has answered the questions we put to him!" Subsequently they became my pupils instead of me becoming theirs. But I am a disciple of the Blessed Lord, a Stream-Winner, not subject to rebirth in states of woe, firmly established and destined for full enlightenment.
Buddha: 'Sakka, do you admit to having ever previously experienced rejoicing and happiness similarly to what you experience now?' Sakka replied :'Yes, Lord. In the past, war had broken out between the gods and the asuras and the gods had defeated the asuras. After the battle, as victor, I thought: "The victory's happiness and satisfaction which was due to war does not conduce to dispassion, detachment, cessation, peace, higher knowledge, enlightenment, Nibbana. But the happiness and satisfaction that is obtained by hearing the Dhamma from the Blessed Lord which is not due to war does conduce to dispassion, detachment, cessation, peace, higher knowledge, enlightenment, Nibbana.'
Buddha: "Sakka, what things do you recall in mind when you admit to experiencing such satisfaction and happiness as this?' Sakka replied: 'Lord, the six things come to mind at which I rejoice:
I who merely as a god exist, have gained the chance, by kamma, of another earthly life.
Leaving this non-human realm of gods behind, Unerringly I'll seek the womb I wish to find
My problems solved, I'll gladly live by Buddha's law, Controlled and mindful, and with clear awareness filled.
Should thereby enlightenment arise in me, As one-who-knows I'll dwell, and there await my end
Then when I leave the human world again, I'll be Once more be a god and one of highest rank
More glorious than devas are the Peerless Among whom dwelling I shall make my final home
Then Sakka recited this poem: 'Long I wandered, unfulfilled, in doubt, In quest of the Tathagata. I thought at first that hermits who live secluded and austere must surely be enlightened: I'll seek them.
What must I do to gain success, and what course but leads to failure?" They could not tell me how to tread the path. Instead when they found out that I am king Of gods, they asked me why I'd come to them And it was I who taught them what I knew Of Dhamma, and at that rejoicing they Cried: "It's Vasava, the Lord, we've seen!"
But now that i've seen the Buddha, and my doubts are all dispelled, my fears are allayed And now to the Enlightened One I pay Homage Due to him who's drawn the dart Of craving, to the Buddha, peerless Lord, Mighty hero, kinsman of the Sun! Just as Brahma's worshiped by the gods, So likewise today we worship you, Enlightened One, and Teacher unsurpassed, Whom none can equal in the human world, Or in the heavens, dwelling of the gods!'
Then Sakka, the ruler of the gods, said to Pancasikha of the gandhabbas: 'You have been of great help to me for gaining the chance to speak with the Blessed Lord. It was through you that we were admitted to the presence of the Blessed Lord, the Arahant, the supremely enlightened Buddha. I will be a father to you, you shall be king of the gandhabbas and I will give you Bhadda Suriya-vaccasa, whom you desired.'
Then Sakka touched the earth with his hand and called out three times: 'Homage to the Blessed One, the Arahant, the supremely enlightened Buddha! Homage to the Blessed One, the Arahant, the supremely enlightened Buddha! Homage to the Blessed One, the Arahant, the supremely enlightened Buddha!'
While he was speaking in this dialogue, the pure and spotless Dhamma-Eye arose within Sakka and he knew: 'Whatever things that arises must come to cessation.' And the same thing happened to 80,000 devas as well. Such were the questions which Sakka, was desirous to ask and which the Lord answered for him. Therefore this discourse is called 'Sakka's Questions.'
In summary, this sutta talks about how Sakka, the king of gods finally get to meet the Buddha and asked the questions that he has doubts on. These questions could not be answered by other ascetics or brahmins which he met. The ten questions he asked Buddha were:
By what fetters are beings bound into mutually self-destructive dysfunctional patterns?
What is the cause of jealousy and avarice?
What is the cause of like and dislike?
What is the cause of desire?
What is the cause of thinking?
What practice is the right way which is needful and leading to the cessation of the tendency to proliferation?
What practice leads to self-restraint?
What practice leads to the control of the sense-faculties?
Do all ascetics and Brahmans teach the same doctrine and practice the same practice?
Are all ascetics and Brahmans proficient in the dhamma?
References: 1. www.accesstoinsight.org 2. https://suttacentral.net/ 3. The long discourses of the Buddha (Bhikkhu Bodhi)