Nyanaponika Thera

The Greater Discourse on the Elephant-Footprint Simile

The Greater Discourse on the Elephant-Footprint Simile

The Greater Discourse on the Elephant-footprint Simile (Mahāhatthipadopama Sutta) is the 28th sutta of the Majjhima-Nikāya (Middle Collection). This discourse was spoken by the great chief disciple of the Buddha, the Venerable Sāriputta, whose wisdom, it is said, was surpassed only by that of the Buddha himself.

How profoundly the Great Elder had understood the vast range of the Four Noble Truths is illustrated by the discourse translated in the following pages.

To impress upon his hearers the all-comprehensive scope of the Four Noble Truths, the Venerable Sāriputta begins by comparing these Truths with the great footprint of the elephant, which can encompass the foot mark of any smaller being. Similarly, the Four Noble Truths comprise as the Elder says, all that is beneficial; i.e., all that is truly worth knowing and following after. This he illustrates by making explicit some of the insights contained in the Truths and the practical conduct deriving from those insights.

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About Nyanaponika Thera

Nyanaponika Thera (Siegmund Feniger) was born on 21 July 1901 in Hanau, Germany. He came into contact with Buddhism early in his youth and left for Sri Lanka in 1936, where he was ordained as a novice and a year later as a monk by the famous German monk Nyanatiloka.

Interned in camps like Dehra Dun's in India, he worked intensively during the war years on translations of Pali texts. Not only as author of the now classic The Heart of Buddhist Meditation and of many other books and translations, but also as co-founder in 1958, editor and president of the Buddhist Publication Society he made a great contribution to the international dissemination of the Theravāda teachings. He died on October 19, 1994 in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

You yourselves must strive, the Buddhas only point the way

Buddha, Dhp 276