Aṅguttara Nikāya

The Book of the Threes

56. Depopulation

Then a certain affluent brahmin approached the Blessed One … and said to him:

“Master Gotama, I have heard older brahmins who are aged, burdened with years, teachers of teachers, saying: ‘In the past this world was so thickly populated one would think there was no space between people. The villages, towns, and capital cities were so close that cocks could fly between them.’ Why is it, Master Gotama, that at present the number of people has declined, depopulation is seen, and villages, towns, cities, and districts have vanished?”

(1) “At present, brahmin, people are excited by illicit lust, overcome by unrighteous greed, afflicted by wrong Dhamma. As a result, they take up weapons and slay one another. Hence many people die. This is a reason why at present the number of people has declined, depopulation is seen, and villages, towns, cities, and districts have vanished.

(2) “Again, at present people are excited by illicit lust, overcome by unrighteous greed, afflicted by wrong Dhamma. When this happens, sufficient rain does not fall. As a result, there is a famine, a scarcity of grain; the crops become blighted and turn to straw. Hence many people die. This is another reason why at present the number of people has declined, depopulation is seen, and villages, towns, cities, and districts have vanished.

(3) “Again, at present people are excited by illicit lust, overcome by unrighteous greed, afflicted by wrong Dhamma. When this happens, the yakkhas release wild spirits. Hence many people die. This is yet another reason why at present the number of people has declined, depopulation is seen, and villages, towns, cities, and districts have vanished.”

“Excellent, Master Gotama! … Let Master Gotama consider me a lay follower who from today has gone for refuge for life.”