On a certain day when the Buddha dwelt at Jetavana, a celestial deva came to
him in the shape of a Brahman, whose countenance was bright and whose garments
were white as snow. The deva asked Buddha, "What is the sharpest sword? What
is the deadliest poison? What is the fiercest fire? What is the darkest night?"
The Buddha replied, "A word spoken in wrath is the sharpest sword; covetousness
is the deadliest poison; hatred is the fierc- est fire; ignorance is the darkest
night." The deva asked, "What is the greatest gain? What is the greatest
loss? What armor is invulnerable? What is the best weapon?" The Buddha replied,
"The greatest gain is to give to others; the greatest loss is to receive
without gratitude. Patience is an invulnerable armor; wisdom is the best weapon."
The deva asked, "Who is the most dangerous thief? What is the most precious
treasure?" The Bud- dha replied, "Unwholesome thought is the most dangerous
thief; virtue is the most precious treasure." The deva asked, "What
is attractive? What is unpleasant? What is the most horrible pain? What is the
greatest enjoy- ment?" The Buddha replied, "Wholesomeness is attractive;
unwholesomeness in unpleasant. A bad conscience is the most tormenting pain; Awakening
is the height of bliss." The deva asked: "What causes ruin in the world?
What breaks off friendships? What is the most violent fever? Who is the best physician?"
The Buddha replied, "Ignorance causes ruin in the world; envy and selfishness
break off friendships; hatred is the most violent fever; the Buddha is the best
physi- cian." The deva continued, "Now I have only one doubt to be cleared
away: What is it fire cannot burn, nor mois- ture corrode, nor wind crush down,
but is able to benefit the whole world?" The Buddha replied, "Blessing!
Neither fire, nor moisture, nor wind can destroy the blessing of a good deed,
and blessings benefit the whole world." Hearing these answers, the deva was
filled with joy. Bowing down in respect, he disappeared suddenly from the presence
of the Buddha.