Once upon a time the Exalted One was in residence at Savatthi, at Jetavana, in Jivaka's Mango Grove. At that time the Exalted One addressed the monks: "Monks!" "Reverend Sir!" replied those monks to the Exalted One. The Exalted One said this:
"Without conceivable beginning, monks, is this Round of Existences. Unknown is a starting-point in the past of beings impeded by the Impediment of Ignorance, fettered by the Fetter of Craving, hasting, hurrying, from birth to birth. The ancestors of a man are more numerous than all the blades of grass and sticks and branches and leaves in India; more numerous than all the particles of dust that compose the earth. The tears shed, the mother's milk drunk by a man in his previous states of existence, are more abundant than all the water contained in the four great oceans.
"How long is a cycle of time?--Longer than would be required for a range of mountains a league in length, a league in breadth, a league in height, of solid rock, without a cleft, without a crack, to waste and wear away, were it to be wiped once in a century with a silken cloth; longer than would be required for a heap of mustard-seed of the same dimensions to disappear, were but a single seed to be removed once in a century. Of cycles of time as long as this, there have elapsed many hundreds of cycles, many thousands of cycles, many hundreds of thousands of cycles. Indeed, it is impossible to count them in terms of cycles or hundreds of cycles or thousands of cycles or hundreds of thousands of cycles. For example, were each of four centenarians to call to mind a hundred thousand cycles of time every day of his life, all four would die or ever they could count them all.
"The cycles of time that have elapsed are more numerous than all the sands that lie between the source and the mouth of the Ganges. The bones left by a single individual in his passage from birth to birth during a single cycle of time would form a pile so huge that were all the mountains of Vepulla-range to be gathered up and piled in a heap, that heap of mountains would appear as naught beside it. The head of every man has been cut off so many times in his previous states of existence, either as a human being or as an animal, as to cause him to shed blood more abundant than all the water contained in the four great oceans. For so long a time as this, you have endured suffering, you have endured agony, you have endured calamity. In view of this, you have every reason to feel disgust and aversion for all existing things and to free yourselves from them."
Thus spoke the Exalted One. When he, the Happy One, had thus spoken, he, the Teacher, spoke thus further:
"Impermanent are all existing things: