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An elephant's footprint.

Cūḷahatthipadopamasutta (C. Xiangjiyu jing kyŏng 象跡經), or "The Shorter Simile of the Elephant Footprint," is a sutta that appears in both the Pali and Chinese cannons.[1][2]

In this sutta, a disciple asks the Buddha if one can infer the qualities of the Buddha and his teachings in the same way one can infer the size of an elephant by looking at his footprint. The buddha cautions that one can only judge the qualities of the Buddha and his teachings by applying the teachings to oneself and seeing if they work, in the same way that a hunter can only truly determine the size of an elephant by following the elephant tracks and seeing the elephant directly.[2]

This sutta also presents the full training of a monastic.[1]

Mahinda preached this sutta to King Devānaṃpiyatissa of Sri Lanka, resulting in Devānaṃpiyatissa's conversion to Buddhism.


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  1. 1.0 1.1 SuttaCentral icon square 170px.png Cūḷahatthipadopamasutta, SuttaCentral
  2. 2.0 2.1 Robert E. Buswell Jr., Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton: 2014), s.v. Cūḷahatthipadopamasutta