Black and white stones to keep count of wholesome and unwholesome thoughts

This morning, I was listening to a talk from Bhante Sujato from 2013 on the dhammanet podcast:
Thought: Past, Present, Future and the Camel:

It’s a very helpful talk. In it, he mentioned a sutta that described a monk (Sanikavasin?) and a shopkeeper (Upagupta? who wanted to go forth) around the 24:22->26:30 minute mark of the talk. The monk describes a useful approach to manage wholesome and unwholesome thoughts which involves using black and white stones. I thought it was a lovely sutta and tried to look it up, but couldn’t find it. I also checked on Suttacentral. I am writing today to ask if you could help me identify the correct spelling of the names, or the sutta number, so that I could read the original.

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Sounds like story 26 of the Divyāvadāna


Yes, it’s a story from the Divyavanadana, and probably other places, rather than the suttas. I read it in John Strong’s The Legend and Cult of Upagupta, one of the finest books on Buddhist mythology and sociological history ever written.


Thank you! I found a website that has a free pdf of the book and I’ve downloaded it.