Bhikkhu Sujato's translation of SN 15.3:

As we understand the Buddha’s teaching, the flow of tears we’ve shed while roaming and transmigrating is more than the water in the four oceans.

Where else in the suttas did the Buddha teach the above about "the flow of tears"?

If the above is not taught elsewhere, does it conform with the Four Great Standards mentioned in DN 16?

1 Answer 1


It's mentioned in Thig 16.1

Remember the ocean of tears, of milk, of blood—
transmigration with no known beginning.
Remember the bones piled up
by beings transmigrating.

Remember the four oceans
compared with tears, milk, and blood.
Remember bones piled up high as Mount Vipula
in the course of a single eon.

does it conform with the Four Great Standards

I think so.

"Tears" or at least grief are mentioned elsewhere, the first that comes to my mind is from ThigA 10.1

Under the influence of her sorrow-to-the-point-of-madness,
she took the dead corpse on her hip and
wandered in the city from the door of one house to another
[pleading]: "Give medicine to me for my son!"

I've cried literal tears myself in similar circumstances, so when the First Noble Truth says that "death is dukkha" I take that as a synonym for "tears" (though of course you also have other less literal interpretations of what e.g. "birth" means in that context).

And I assume that tears/death/suffering is an incentive or motive for people to study Buddhism at all -- see also the story of the Divine Messengers and the Buddha's own Noble Search -- see also SN 3.25.

So yes that is a recurrent theme.

As for "ocean", of course that appears in a lot of imagery to mean various things. But there are several places where the Buddhist canon tries to explain what "a very, very, very long time" might be -- aeons -- for one reason or another. There's SN 56.48 saying something like, there's a lot of other stuff, a lot of wandering -- take this present opportunity.

  • reasonable research but Thig can be dodgy, doubtful it satisfies the great standards since the Buddha mostly taught things are "not yours" rather than "yours" Apr 14, 2022 at 23:21
  • It's because of Gotami's losing "her" child that she had a problem.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 15, 2022 at 1:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .