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Dependent Origination by Ajahn Brahm
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Dependent Origination

Preface

This revised edition is produced not only in print but also in an electronic format in order that this valuable insight will be more readily available and accessible, reaching a wider audience.


Acronyms: The following acronyms are used in this book. Each one refers to a book in the Pali version of the Sutta Piṭaka (Basket of Discourses) from the Buddhist Canon. For more information see suttacentral.net

DN Digha Nikāya
MN Majjhima Nikāya
SN Saṁyutta Nikāya
AN Aṅguttara Nikāya

This latest online edition includes two additional addenda. The first is a short letter by Ajahn Brahm written in May 1994 (some 8 years before the main text) entitled “Some Remarks on Dependent Origination”. The second is all of the suttas referenced in the main text. They are translated by Bhante Sujato and sourced from suttacentral.net

Wisdom & Wonders book project team
2021

Introduction

The Buddha’s teaching called paṭicca samuppāda, usually translated as “dependent origination”, is fundamental to the Dhamma (Truth) awakened to by the Buddha on the night of his enlightenment. The Buddha is recorded to have said (MN28):

“One who sees dependent origination,
  sees the Dhamma.
One who sees the Dhamma,
  sees dependent origination.”

Furthermore, the understanding of dependent origination is an integral part of the delusion-shattering insight that brings one to the state of “one who has entered the stream” (sotāpanna), destined for full enlightenment within a maximum of seven more lives. It is stated by the Buddha that one who has entered the stream may be considered as possessing five attributes (SN12.27; AN5.25):

  1. Unshakeable faith in the Buddha, as opposed to other religious leaders.
  2. Unshakeable faith in the Dhamma, as opposed to other religious beliefs.
  3. Unshakeable faith in the Sangha, the enlightened members of the monastic community.
  4. Very high standard of morality, “dear to the enlightened ones”.
  5. Accurate understanding of dependent origination, and its corollary idappaccayatā (causality).

Therefore it is fair to say that the correct understanding of dependent origination can only be known by the enlightened ones, that is by the streamwinners, once-returners, non-returners and arahants. This goes a long way to answering the question why there is so much difference of opinion on the meaning of dependent origination.

In this essay I will discuss the meaning of the twelve factors that make up the standard description of dependent origination. Then I will analyse the nature of the causes linking each pair of neighbouring factors, using a Western model of causality. Having explained what the Buddha meant by dependent origination, I will then examine perhaps the most interesting question: Why did the Buddha place such importance on dependent origination? What is its purpose? In this final section, I will propose that the function of dependent origination is threefold:

  1. To explain how there can be rebirth without a soul.
  2. To answer the question “What is life?”
  3. To understand why there is suffering, and where suffering comes to an end.

So let us begin by seeing what the Buddha meant by dependent origination.

1. Dependent Origination
—Standard Description

Avijjāpaccayā, bhikkhave, saṅkhāra; saṅkhāra­paccayā viññāṇaṁ; viññāṇa­paccayā nāmarūpaṁ; nāmarūpa­paccayā saḷāya­tanaṁ; saḷāya­tana­paccayā phasso; phassa­paccayā vedanā; vedanā­paccayā taṇhā; taṇhā­paccayā upādānaṁ; upādāna­paccayā bhavo; bhava­paccayā jāti; jāti­paccayā jarā­maraṇaṁ soka­pari­deva­dukkha­domanassu­pāyāsā sambha­vanti. Evame­tassa kevalassa dukkha­kkhandhassa samudayo hoti. Ayaṁ vuccati, bhikkhave, paṭicca­samuppādo.

Avijjāya tveva asesa­virāga­nirodhā saṅkhāra­nirodho; saṅkhāra­nirodhā viññāṇa­nirodho; viññāṇa­nirodhā nāmarūpa­nirodho; nāmarūpa­nirodhā saḷāyatana­nirodho; saḷāyatana­nirodhā phassa­nirodho; phassa­nirodhā vedanā­nirodho; vedanā­nirodhā taṇhā­nirodho; taṇhā­nirodhā upādāna­nirodho; upādāna­nirodhā bhava­nirodho; bhava­nirodhā jāti­nirodho; jāti­nirodhā jarā­maraṇaṁ soka­parideva­dukkha­domanassu­pāyāsā niruj­jhanti. Evame­tassa keva­lassa dukkhak­khandhassa nirodho hoti.

“From delusion as condition, volitional formations (come to be); from volitional formations as condition, consciousness; from consciousness as condition, name-and-form; from name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases; from the six sense bases as condition, contact; from contact as condition, feeling; from feeling as condition craving; from craving as condition, clinging; from clinging as condition, existence; from existence as condition, birth; from birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.

But from the remainderless fading away and cessation of delusion comes cessation of volitional formations; from the cessation of volitional formations, cessation of consciousness; from the cessation of consciousness, cessation of name-and-form; from the cessation of name-and form, cessation of the six sense bases; from the cessation of the six sense bases, cessation of contact; from cessation of contact, cessation of feeling; from the cessation of feeling, cessation of craving; from the cessation of craving, cessation of clinging; from the cessation of clinging, cessation of existence; from the cessation of existence, cessation of birth; from the cessation birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”

—Saṁyutta Nikāya (SN12.1)

1.1 The meaning of the twelve factors, as defined by the Buddha

It is important for us to understand exactly what the Buddha meant by these twelve terms. Fortunately, when the Buddha taught the Dhamma, he also explained in great detail what he meant by what he said. Admittedly, some terms would be used in slightly different contexts in different suttas. The Nidāna Saṁyutta (SN12), however, is a collection of suttas that are completely concerned with paṭicca samuppāda. The second sutta in this collection is called the Vibhaṅga Sutta (SN12.2). Vibhaṅga means the explanation of the terms used. As far as dependent origination is concerned, in this sutta the Buddha gives the clearest explanation of what each of these terms mean.

Using Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of the Vibhaṅga Sutta1, the meaning of these twelve terms will now be explained. Also, with the aid of some other suttas, the meaning of two of the most controversial terms will be clarified.

First of all, the Buddha said:

“What, bhikkhus, is aging-and-death? The aging of the various beings in the various orders of beings, their growing old, brokenness of teeth, greyness of hair, wrinkling of skin, decline of vitality, degeneration of the faculties: this is called aging. The passing away of the various beings from the various orders of beings, their perishing, their break up, disappearance, mortality, death, completion of time, the break up of the aggregates, the laying down of the carcass: this is called death. Thus this aging and this death are together called aging-and-death.”

It is quite clear here that the Buddha was talking about death in the usual meaning of the term, not a death in a moment (which is a term that some people mistakenly use). It means the death that you call an undertaker to settle.

“And what, bhikkhus, is birth? The birth of the various beings into the various orders of beings, their being born, descent (into the womb), production (abhinibbatti = rebirth), the manifestation of the aggregates, the obtaining of the sense bases. This is called birth.”

The meaning of the term “various orders of beings”, is fully brought out by a passage in another sutta specifically dealing with dependent origination, the Mahānidāna Sutta2 (DN15):

“With birth as condition there is aging and death. How that is so, Ānanda, should be understood in this way. If there were absolutely and utterly no birth of any kind anywhere—that is, of gods into the state of gods, of celestials into the state of celestials, of spirits, demons, human beings, quadrupeds, winged creatures, reptiles, each into their own state—if there were no birth of beings, of any sort into any state, then, in the complete absence of birth, with the cessation of birth, would aging and death be discerned?”

“Certainly not, venerable sir.”

Again, it is quite clear here that birth means what we would normally consider it to be: the arising in the human realm of a being in the womb.

“And what, bhikkhus, is existence (bhava)? There are these three kinds of existence: sense-sphere existence, form-sphere existence, formless-sphere existence. This is called existence.”

Because this term, bhava, is often misunderstood I will explain its meaning in further detail.

The above classification of existence into three realms is sometimes called the tiloka, the three worlds. The kāmaloka are the worlds dominated by the five senses. They are the human realm, the animal realm, the realm of ghosts, the hell realms and the deva realms up to, but not including the brahmaloka. The rūpaloka are the silent worlds wherein one exists in the jhāna attainments. They begin with the brahmaloka and include several other realms based on higher jhānas. The arūpaloka are the worlds of pure mind, wherein one exists in one of the four immaterial attainments. The rūpaloka and arūpaloka are the jhāna experiences attained at the moment of death that continues for vast periods of time, transcending cataclysms of universes and counted in, sometimes, thousands of aeons.

To understand the full meaning of bhava one has to go to the Aṅguttara Nikāya (AN3.76), where Venerable Ānanda asks the Buddha, “What is bhava?” The Buddha responds by questioning Ānanda: “If there was no kamma ripening in the kāmaloka, would there be existence in the realm dominated by the five senses?” He then asks the same about the other two realms: “If there was no kamma ripening in the rūpaloka, would there be existence in the rūpaloka?” “If there was no kamma ripening in the arūpaloka, would there be existence in the arūpaloka?” Accordingly, Ānanda replies “certainly not” to each question. The Buddha then further explains: “So, Ānanda, you can regard kamma [the actions of body, speech and mind] as the field, you can regard consciousness as the seed, and you can regard craving as the moisture. Thus, for beings who are blinded by ignorance and fettered by craving, there is the establishment of the consciousness in this lower realm [in the hīnadhātu, ie. the realms dominated by the five senses; and so forth for the two higher realms of existence]. Thus there is in the future more existence [punabbhava], rebirth [abhinibbatti]”. Here the Buddha was giving the simile of plants growing, with kamma as the field, and consciousness as the seed, which is fed by the moisture of craving to explain how bhava is a cause for rebirth (jāti).

“And what, bhikkhus, is clinging [sometimes translated as “fuel”]? There are these four kinds of clinging: clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to (wrong) views, clinging to rules and vows, clinging to a doctrine of self. This is called clinging.

And what, bhikkhus, is craving? There are these six classes of craving: craving for forms [sights], craving for sounds, craving for odours, craving for tastes, craving for tactile objects, craving for mental phenomena. This is called craving.

And what, bhikkhus, is feeling [vedanā3]? There are these six classes of feeling: feeling born of eye-contact, feeling born of ear-contact, feeling born of nose-contact, feeling born of tongue-contact, feeling born of body-contact, feeling born of mind-contact. This is called feeling.

And what, bhikkhus, is contact? There are these six classes of contact: eye-contact, ear-contact, nose-contact, tongue-contact, body-contact, mind-contact. This is called contact.

And what, bhikkhus, are the six sense bases? The eye base, the ear base, the nose base, the tongue base, the body base, the mind base. These are called the six sense bases.

And what, bhikkhus, is name-and-form [nāma-rūpa]? Feeling, perception, volition [cetanā], contact [phassa], and attention [manasikāra]: this is called name. The four great elements and the form derived from the four great elements: this is called form. Thus this name and this form are together called name-and-form.

And what, bhikkhus, is consciousness? There are these six classes of consciousness: eye-con­scious­ness, ear-con­scious­ness, nose-con­scious­ness, tongue-con­scious­ness, body-con­scious­ness, and mind-con­scious­ness. This is called con­scious­ness.

And what, bhikkhus, are the volitional formations [saṅkhāra]? There are these three kinds of volitional formations: the bodily volitional formation, the verbal volitional formation, the mental volitional formation. These are called the volitional formations.”

The meaning of saṅkhāra is sometimes debated because this is a word that does have many meanings in different places. If one wishes to see the word saṅkhāra used as a cause for rebirth, one can go to the Saṅkhā­rupa­patti Sutta (MN120). Saṅkhā­rupa­patti means “rebirth according to saṅkhāra”. Here, the Buddha talks about how certain beings arise in different realms according to their planned actions of body, speech or mind. These are actions of body, speech and mind, which are accompanied by will (cetanā); and it is this kamma which gives rise to future rebirth. This is called saṅkhāra.

In another sutta (SN12.51) the Buddha talks about how, if a person who has ignorance (avijjāgato, “who has gone to ignorance”) plans a meritorious saṅkhāra (puññaṁ saṅkhāraṁ abhisankaroti), his consciousness goes to a meritorious place. If he plans a demeritorious saṅkhāra (a-puññaṁ saṅkhāraṁ abhisaṅkharoti), his consciousness goes to an apuñña place, a demeritorious place. If he plans an āneñja saṅkhāra (āneñja being something in-between), then his consciousness goes to that place accordingly. Again, this shows that there are three types of saṅkhāra—meritorious, demeritorious and in-between—and that saṅkhāra is the working of kamma. In much the same way that kamma can be made by body, speech and mind, so too there are three types of saṅkhāra—body, speech and mind saṅkhāra.

“And what, bhikkhus, is ignorance (avijjā)? Not knowing suffering, not knowing the origin of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way leading to the cessation of suffering. This is called ignorance.”

1.2 Causality and the twelve factors

Alongside dependent origination, the Buddha also taught idappaccayatā, causality. The standard formula of causality is as follows (SN12.21):

“When this is, that is.
  From the arising of this, that arises.
When this is not, that is not.
 From the ceasing of this, that ceases.”

Iti imasmiṁ sati idaṁ hoti,
  imassuppādā idaṁ uppajjati.
Imasmiṁ asati idaṁ na hoti,
  imassa nirodhā idaṁ nirujjhati.

The first feature of such causality that must be emphasized is that there can be a substantial time interval between a cause and its effect. It is a mistake to assume that the effect follows one moment after its cause, or that it appears simultaneously with its cause. In Buddhist causality, the cause and its effect can be separated by any length of time.

The above two Pali phrases imasmiṁ sati idaṁ hoti and imasmiṁ asati idaṁ na hoti are grammatical constructions called in Pali “locative absolutes”. In Professor A.K. Warder’s Introduction to Pali, the author states categorically that, in such a grammatical construction, the subordinate action (the cause) can precede or be simultaneous with the main action (the effect). As far as the Pali is concerned, the grammar allows the cause to precede the effect by any length of time interval.

For example, in the Nidāna Saṁyutta (SN12.10) the Buddha states:

“When birth is,
  death is.
From the arising of birth,
  death arises.”

It has been shown already that in the Nidāna Saṁyutta (SN12) “birth” and “death” are to be understood in their common meanings. It is clear that birth and death do not happen simultaneously. Nor does birth precede death by just one moment. Birth can sometimes precede death by many years—80, 90, 100, even 120 years.

I have emphasized this point because of the misunderstandings about dependent origination presented by some modern authors on the subject. The fact remains that there can be a substantial time interval between a cause and its effect.

2. On the Meaning of
Sandiṭṭhika and Akālika

Some modern writers have suggested that the effect must arise simultaneously with its cause, or arise just one moment after, for this to qualify as a Dhamma which can be “seen here and now” and be “immediate”. They argue that since the Dhamma is sandiṭṭhika and akālika, and dependent origination is one of the central features of the Dhamma, therefore dependent origination must be sandiṭṭhika and akālika. But does sandiṭṭhika mean “seen here and now”? Does akālika mean “immediate”? As I will now show, these translations can be misleading.

The passage in the suttas which gives the clearest indication of the meaning of sandiṭṭhika is in the Mahādukkhakkhandha Sutta (MN13). In this sutta, the dangers of sensual pleasures are described by seven examples of consequences to be experienced in this life, and all seven are described as sandiṭṭhika. This is in contrast to the consequence of sensual pleasures described in the sutta’s next paragraph that are to be experienced after death and are called samparāyika. Clearly, sandiṭṭhika and samparāyika are antonyms (words with opposite meanings). In this context, sandiṭṭhika must mean “visible in this life”. Although some Pali words carry slightly different meanings in different contexts, this is rare and it seems reasonable to assume that sandiṭṭhika means “visible in this life” in all other contexts as well.

Sandiṭṭhika and kālika (the opposite of akālika) are used together in a revealing phrase which occurs three times in the suttas. (SN1.20, SN4.21, and MN70) The phrase, with minor variations in each sutta is as follows:

“I don’t run after what is kālika,
  having abandoned what is sandiṭṭhika.
I run after what is sandiṭṭhika,
  having abandoned what is kālika.”

N’ahaṁ sandiṭṭhikaṁ hitvā,
  kālikam anudhāvāmi.

Kālikaṁ hitvā,
  sandiṭṭhikaṁ anudhāvāmi.

In these three contexts, sandiṭṭhika and kālika are clearly direct opposites, antonyms again. Thus it is reasonable to assume that the opposite of kālika, akālika, must be synonymous with sandiṭṭhika. That is, sandiṭṭhika and akālika have essentially the same meaning. They both refer to that which is “visible in this life”.

For example, the Buddha encouraged such practices as maraṇassati, the meditation on death, and many monks, nuns and lay Buddhists practise this method of meditation with liberating results. Maraṇassati is certainly a part of the Dhamma that is sandiṭṭhika and akālika. So, if these two Pali words really did mean “here and now” and “immediate”, maraṇassati would be next to impossible—one would need to be dead to be able to contemplate death in the “here and now”, “immediately”! Obviously, sandiṭṭhika and akālika do not have such a meaning. They both refer to something visible in this life, as opposed to what may only be known after one has died.

It is because each one of the twelve factors of dependent origination can be seen in this life, and their causal relationship can also be seen in this life, that dependent origination spanning more than one life qualifies as a Dhamma that is sandiṭṭhika and akālika.

You may not be able to directly see your own death, but you can see death occurring every day in the hospitals, on the television or in the newspapers. You don’t have to wait until some afterlife to understand the truth of death. You have also seen birth, maybe not your own, but that of many others. You can verify the truth of birth in this very life. Then by seeing human beings in their various stages from birth to death, you can verify in this life that birth is the cause of death. This is why the part of dependent origination “with birth as a condition, aging and death” is a Dhamma that is sandiṭṭhika and akālika, “to be seen in this life”.

You cannot see all the twelve factors in this moment, because they do not occur all in one moment. But you can see a manifestation of each factor in this very life. That, also is why dependent origination is sandiṭṭhika and akālika.

You can also see in this life the causality that links each pair of neighbouring factors. Through the development of penetrating insight empowered by tranquil meditation, you can see in this life how feeling (vedanā) gives rise to craving (taṇhā). You can similarly witness how craving gives rise to clinging/fuel (upādāna). And you can likewise understand in this life how craving and clinging/fuel produces existence (bhava) and birth (jāti) in the next life.

The way that one sees such causality stretching beyond death may be explained by paraphrasing the Buddha’s simile in the Mahāsīhanāda Sutta. (MN12) One can know from data seen in this life that a person’s conduct will lead them to an unpleasant rebirth in just the same way that one can know that a person walking along a path with no fork must fall into a pit of coals further along that path. Thus, even the causality that links connected factors on either side of death also qualifies as a Dhamma which is sandiṭṭhika and akālika, to be seen in this life.

I have discussed this issue at length here only because the misunderstandings over the meaning of sandiṭṭhika and akālika have resulted in a misconceived rejection of the Buddha’s clear intention to let his dependent origination span more than one life.

3. Causality and the Necessary
and Sufficient Conditions

I have already introduced the Buddha’s formula for causality, idappaccayatā, earlier on in this essay. Here I will show how idappaccayatā relates to what in Western logic we call a “necessary condition” and a “sufficient condition”. This modern analysis of causes throws much light on idappaccayatā and dependent origination.

A necessary condition is a cause without which there would be no effect. For example, fuel is a necessary condition for a fire. Without fuel there can be no fire. The necessary condition is expressed by the second half of idappaccayatā:

“When this is not,
  that is not.
From the ceasing of this,
  that ceases.”

A sufficient condition is a cause that must always produce the effect. For example, a fire is a sufficient condition for heat. A fire must cause heat. The sufficient condition is expressed by the first half of idappaccayatā:

“When this is,
  that is.
From the arising of this,
  that arises.”

In order to demonstrate the difference between these two types of causes I will use the example just given. Fuel is a necessary condition for fire, because with the ceasing of fuel, the fire ceases. But fuel is not a sufficient condition for fire, because fuel doesn’t always produce fire—some fuel remains unlit. Fire is a sufficient condition for heat, because fire must cause heat. But fire is not a necessary condition for heat, because without fire there can still be heat—heat can be generated from other sources.

So a necessary condition is a cause without which there would be no effect, and it is expressed by the second half of idappaccayatā. A sufficient condition is a cause that must produce the effect, and it is expressed by the first half of idappaccayatā. Together they make up Buddhist causality.

The “forward” order of paṭicca samuppāda, when analysed, shows that only some of the first eleven factors are a sufficient condition for the factor following. Those factors linked by a sufficient condition, meaning that the following factor must come about sooner or later as a consequence of the preceding factor, are as follows:

  • avijjā - saṅkhāra
  • viññāṇa - nāmarūpa
  • nāmarūpa - saḷāyatana
  • saḷāyatana - phassa
  • phassa - vedanā
  • taṇha - upādāna
  • bhava - jāti
  • jāti - dukkha

Thus, when there is avijjā, there will inevitably occur some kamma formations inclining to rebirth. When there is viññāṇa, there must be nāmarūpa, saḷāyatana, phassa and vedanā. When there is taṇha, there will be upādāna. Also, bhava is sufficient to produce birth (see AN3.76). Then, most importantly, jāti must produce dukkha. Having been born one must suffer dukkha. Therefore, the only escape from suffering is to cease being reborn. As Venerable Sāriputta said:

“In brief, to be reborn is dukkha, not to be reborn is sukha (happiness).” (AN10.65)

It is of interest now to look at the links that are not sufficient conditions.

Saṅkhāra is not a sufficient condition for rebirth-linking consciousness and the stream of consciousness that follows. This is because, having produced many rebirth-inclining kamma formations early on in one’s life, it is possible to make them all null and void (called ahosi kamma) with the attainment of arahantship, which attainment eliminates the stream of consciousness that would otherwise begin at rebirth.

The fact that upādāna is not a sufficient condition for bhava is similar to saṅkhāra not being a sufficient condition for viññāṇa. Through the development of the noble eightfold path as far as full enlightenment, no new upādāna is generated and all previous upādāna becomes ineffective in producing a ground for a new existence or bhava. The upādāna previous to full enlightenment becomes, as it were, ahosi upādāna.

Even more obvious, vedanā is not a sufficient condition for taṇhā. Vedanā are certainly experienced by arahants, but they never generate taṇhā. Moreover, for ordinary people, not every vedanā produces craving.


Some Western Buddhists have proposed that the “forward” order of paṭicca samuppāda can be halted by “cutting” the process between vedanā and taṇhā. Often I have heard some suggest that rebirth can be avoided through using sati (mindfulness) on vedanā to stop it generating taṇhā and the following factors of paṭicca samuppāda. This is, in my understanding, misconceived on two grounds.

First, the “forward” order of paṭicca samuppāda was never intended to demonstrate how the process should be “cut”. The “forward” order is only meant to show how the process continues. The teaching on how the process is “cut”, or rather ceases, is the purpose reserved for the “reverse” order of paṭicca samuppāda or “dependent cessation”.

Secondly, even though vedanā does not inevitably produce taṇhā, because it is not a sufficient condition, it is well stated by the Buddha that only when avijjā ceases once and for all does vedanā never generate taṇha! This means that one doesn’t “cut” the process using sati on vedanā. Sati is not enough. The process stops from the cessation of avijjā, as dependent cessation makes abundantly clear. The cessation of avijjā is much more than the practice of sati.

4. Misreading the Suttas

There is a sutta in the Aṅguttara collection that is often presented as evidence that dependent origination does not span more than one life. This sutta is called “Tenets” in the Pali Text Society’s translation (AN3.61). Some interpret this sutta as stating that vedanā is not caused by kamma formations (saṅkhāra) done in a past life. Therefore the link called saṅkhāra in dependent origination (which does cause vedanā) cannot mean kamma formations of a previous life. I will show below that this conclusion is wrong, as it comes from a misreading of the suttas.

The relevant part of this sutta presents three theories to explain why one feels pleasant, unpleasant or neutral vedanā. The first theory states that everything one feels is due to what one did in the past (sabbaṁ taṁ pubbe katahetu). The other two theories state that everything one feels is either caused by God or by chance. The Buddha categorically states in this sutta that all three theories are wrong.

The first theory, the one pertinent to this discussion, that everything that one feels now is due to what one did in the past, is repeated in the Devadaha Sutta (MN101) where it is said to be a belief of the Jains. The Jains held that all the suffering one experienced in this life was due to bad kamma from a previous life. Indeed, this sutta clarifies this first theory as meaning everything that one feels now is due to what one did in a past life. The Devadaha Sutta disproves this theory.

So it is true that the Buddha denied that everything that one feels, happiness or suffering or neutral feeling, is due to what one did in a past life (i.e. due to kamma formations of a past life). This should be obvious. Some of what one feels is caused by kamma formations from a past life, some caused by past kamma formations earlier in this life, and some caused by kamma formations being performed now. What the Buddha was denying was that all happiness or suffering or neutral feelings are caused by kamma from a previous life.

It should be pointed out that the Buddha is here referring to the type of feeling, rather than to feeling itself. It is true that whichever one of the three types of feeling that one experiences, happiness or suffering or neutral, is not always due to kamma from a past life. But it is also true that the situation whereby one can experience feeling at all, the fact that vedanā exists, is due to kamma from a past life.

A simile might make this clearer. The situation that you possess a TV on a public holiday is due to you having purchased it on some previous day. Its presence, as it were, is due to kamma from a past day. But whichever one of the three available channels that appears on the screen, Channel Happiness or Channel Suffering or Channel Neutral, is not always due to what you did on some previous day. The content is not all due to kamma from the past.

In the same way, the Buddha states that the existence of vedanā in this life is due to kamma formations done in the previous life. But the particular type of feeling, happiness or suffering or neutral, is not always due to kamma from a previous life.

Once the distinction is made between vedanā and the contents of vedanā (happiness or suffering or neutral), it is clear that the Tenets Sutta doesn’t state that vedanā is not caused by kamma formations from a previous life. It does not disprove the orthodox understanding of dependent origination as spanning three lives.

Indeed, the latter part of the Tenets Sutta introduces dependent origination from a unique starting point:

“Depending on the six elements (earth, air, fire, water, space and consciousness) there is the descent of the being to be born into the womb; when there is descent, there is name-and-form; with name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, contact; with contact as condition, feeling.”

Channaṁ, bhikkhave, dhātūnaṁ upādāya gabbhass’­āvakkanti hoti; okkantiyā sati nāmarūpaṁ, nāmarūpa-paccayā saḷāya­tanaṁ, saḷāya­tana-paccayā phasso, phassa-paccayā vedanā.

Thus the Buddha is clearly showing the origin of vedanā as due to the descent of the being to be born into the womb. This can now be compared to the Mahānidāna Sutta (DN15) and its definition of nāmarūpa:

“It was said ‘with consciousness as condition there is name-and-form’. How this is so, Ānanda, should be understood in this way. If consciousness were not to descend into the mother’s womb, would name-and-form take shape in the womb?”

“No, venerable sir.”

“‘Viññāṇa-paccayā nāmarūpan’ti iti kho pan’etaṁ vuttaṁ, tadānanda, imināpetaṁ pariyāyena veditabbaṁ, yathā viññāṇa-paccayā nāmarūpaṁ. Viññāṇañca hi, ānanda, mātukuc­chismiṁ na okkamis­satha, api nu kho nāma­rūpaṁ mātu­kucchi­smiṁ samuccis­sathā”ti?

“No hetaṁ, bhante”.

This clearly equates the descent of the being to be born into the womb of the Tenets Sutta with the descent of (rebirth linking) consciousness into the womb of the Mahānidāna Sutta (DN15). Thus vedanā is said in the Tenets Sutta to be caused by the first consciousness arising in this life, whose own cause can only be found in a previous life.

Thus the sutta in the Aṅguttara collection which is often presented as evidence that dependent origination does not span more than one life, when read accurately and completely, actually clearly proves the opposite. The situation that vedanā exists at all is due to avijjā and kamma formations from the previous life, and dependent origination, as taught by the Buddha, does indeed span more than a single life.

5. The Purpose of Dependent Origination

So far, I have described what dependent origination means. I have shown, by quoting from the original texts, that the factor viññāṇa refers to the stream of consciousness beginning in a life after the avijjā and kamma formations that caused the rebirth. I have shown how causality, the link between one factor and the next can involve a substantial interval of time, even extending beyond this life into a future life. In summary, I have shown that paṭicca samuppāda, as taught by the Buddha in the suttas, can only mean a process that spans three lives. To believe that paṭicca samuppāda must be restricted to a single life, or even to a few moments, is simply untenable in light of reason and facts.

It is now time to consider the purpose of dependent origination. One can gain understanding of a thing, not only by finding out what it is made of, but also by investigating what it does. Now I am going to discuss the function of paṭicca samuppāda. I will discuss three purposes of paṭicca samuppāda:

  1. To explain how there can be rebirth without a soul.
  2. To answer the question “What is life?”
  3. To understand why there is suffering, and where suffering comes to an end.

5.1. Rebirth without a soul

One of the most common questions that I am asked is how can there be rebirth when there is no soul to be reborn. The answer to that question is dependent origination. Paṭicca samuppāda shows the empty process—empty of a soul, that is—which flows within a life and overflows into another life. It also shows the forces at work in the process, which drive it this way and that, even exercising sway in a subsequent life. Dependent origination also reveals the answer to how kamma done in a previous life can affect a person in this life.

Dependent origination presents two sequences that generate rebirth:

  1. Delusion (avijjā) + kamma → the stream of consciousness beginning at rebirth (viññāṇa).
  2. Craving (taṇhā) + fuel (upādāna) → existence (bhava) + rebirth into that existence (jāti).

These are parallel processes. They describe the same operation viewed from two different angles. I will now combine them:

Deluded kamma and craving produce the fuel which generates existence and rebirth (into that existence), thereby giving rise to the start of the stream of consciousness that is at the heart of the new life.

It is kamma and craving, both under the sway of delusion, that is the force propelling the stream of consciousness into a new life.


I will now offer some similes to illustrate this operation. These similes are only approximations and, therefore, will never perfectly match paṭicca samuppāda. This is because dependent origination is mainly a process describing the flow of the mental consciousness, whilst the similes at my disposal are from the more well known material world. Still, they should help to clarify one’s understanding.

Someone goes to an airport to fly to another country. If they have enough money for the fare and they have a desire to go to a new country, then they may arrive in that land. If they have the fare but not the desire, or the desire but not the fare, or they lack both, then they will not arrive in the new country.

In this simile the person stands for the stream of consciousness; the airport stands for death; the new country stands for the next life; the fare stands for the person’s accumulated kamma; and their desire to go there stands for craving. With much good kamma and a craving for happiness, or just the craving to be, the stream of consciousness that one thinks of as “me” is propelled into one’s chosen next life. With much bad kamma and a craving for happiness, one cannot reach the happiness one wants, and thus one is propelled into an unsatisfactory next life. With much bad kamma and a craving for punishment, what we recognize in this life as the guilt complex, one falls into a next life of suffering. Then with much good kamma and no craving at all, one goes nowhere. Like the traveller at the airport, they have enough money to go wherever they want first-class, but the delusion has been shattered and the desire that generated all this coming-and-going is no more. They cease at the airport.

How does one seed produce a new seed? Suppose a seed is planted in a good field, it is fed by moisture carrying essential nutrients, and it grows to maturity producing another seed at its death. There is no soul or self in the seed, yet one seed has evolved into another seed following a process of cause and effect. The original seed and the new seed are completely different. Almost certainly, there isn’t even one molecule of the original seed to be found in the new seed. Even the DNA, though similar, is not the same. It is an example of a well-known process which spans a life, but with nothing that one can identify as an essence passing unaltered from the original seed to the new seed. Rebirth, as it were, has happened with no “seed-soul” going across. I mention this example because it is similar to a metaphor of the Buddha:

“Kamma is like the field, craving like the moisture, and the stream of consciousness like the seed. When beings are blinded by delusion and fettered with craving, the stream of consciousness becomes established, and rebirth of a new seed [consciousness] takes place in the future.” (paraphrased from AN3.76)

It is interesting to describe how a recent, real instance of kamma and craving worked together to change bhava, the kind of one’s existence. In the late 1970’s in Britain, many uneconomical coalmines were permanently closed. One particular disused mine was close to a heavily populated area in South Wales. When some of the poor of that area had unwanted kittens, they would cheaply dispose of them by cruelly throwing them down into the abandoned mineshaft. Several years later, some engineers entered that mine to check on its safety. They found a remarkable discovery. Some of the kittens had survived the fall and, in the space of only a few generations, had evolved into a completely new species of cat, blind in their eyes but with enormous ears. Craving and behavioural conditioning (kamma) had been the obvious driving forces that produced the mutation.

The above examples only begin to give an indication of the process that is paṭicca samuppāda.
Dependent origination, after all, is mainly a process that describes the flow of mental consciousness, and this is fundamentally different from material processes. If one can imagine a beach of white sand, then the stretch looks continuous. On closer examination, though, one finds that the beach is made up of an uncountable number of small grains, each close to the next. If one looks even closer, one discovers that the grains aren’t even touching, that each grain is alone. Similarly, when one’s mindfulness has been empowered by jhāna meditation, one may see the stream of consciousness in much the same way. Before, it looked like a continuous stretch of unbroken cognition. But now it is revealed as granular, tiny moments of consciousness, uncountable in number, close together but not touching, and each one alone. Having seen the true nature of consciousness, only then can one see how one moment of consciousness influences what follows. Kamma, like a discrete particle of behavioural conditioning, together with craving combine to make the impersonal forces that steer the journey of consciousness, like an aircraft on an automatic super-pilot. Furthermore, when the insight comes, based uniquely on the data of jhāna, that the mental consciousness is independent of the body and must clearly survive the death of the body, then one sees with absolute certainty that the forces of kamma and craving that drive mental consciousness now, will continue to drive the mind through and beyond death. Rebirth and its process are seen. Paṭicca-samuppāda is understood.

The Buddha said to Venerable Ānanda at the opening of the Mahānidāna Sutta (DN15):

“This dependent origination, Ānanda, is deep and it appears deep.”

In my opinion, one needs the experience of jhāna to see it clearly. Nevertheless, I hope that the explanation and similes that I have given will help throw some light onto the true nature and purpose of this impersonal process that drives the mind from life to life. At least you can know that when paṭicca samuppāda is fully understood, it is also clearly seen how rebirth happens without any soul.

5.2. What is life?

One of the major difficulties that Buddhists find with the teaching of anattā is that if there is no soul or self, then what is this? What is it that thinks, wills, feels or knows? What is it that is reading this? In summary, what is life?

In one of the most profound of all suttas in the Buddhist scriptures, the Kaccānagotta Sutta (SN12.15), which was to play a major role in later Buddhist history, the Buddha stated that, for the most part, people’s views on the nature of life fall into one of two extremes. Either they maintain that there is a soul, or they hold that there is nothing at all. Unfortunately, too many Buddhists confuse the teaching of anattā and side with the view that there is nothing at all.

The Buddha condemned both extremes with a devastating argument based on experience. It is untenable to maintain that there is a soul because anything that can be meaningfully considered as a soul or self—the body, will, love, consciousness or mind—can all be seen as impermanent. As the Buddha put it “One cannot say that there is (a soul), because a cessation (of all that can be a soul) is seen”. On the other hand, it is untenable to maintain that there is nothing at all, because it is obvious that life is! As the Buddha put it “One cannot say that there is nothing, because an arising (of all phenomena) is seen”. Thus, as the Buddhist philosopher-monk Nāgārjuna (2nd century CE) was to remind everyone, the Buddha clearly denied the doctrine of absolute emptiness.

Even today, most people fall into one of these two extremes. Either that there is nothing at all and the mind, love, life is complete illusion, or that there is an eternal soul with God as the corollary. Both are wrong.

The Kaccānagotta Sutta continues with the Buddha pointing out that there is a middle that has been excluded in this dichotomy of views. There is a third option that avoids both extremes. So what is this “middle” between the extremes of a soul and nothingness? That middle, said the Buddha, is paṭicca samuppāda.

When the Buddha stated that it is untenable to hold that there is a soul or self (or a God) because a cessation is seen, he explained what he meant as:

“From the cessation of delusion, kamma formations cease; from the cessation of kamma formations consciousness ceases … from the cessation of birth, dukkha4 ceases.”

He was referring to the passing away process called dependent cessation. This impersonal process is the very thing that we identify as life. Moreover, it includes all the “usual suspects” that masquerade as a soul: the body (part of nāmarūpa), will (part of the kamma formations, sometimes taṇhā), love (part of the kamma formations and mostly part of upādāna, clinging), consciousness (viññāṇa) and mind (part of saḷāyatana and often equivalent to viññāṇa). These usual suspects are clearly seen in the light of dependent cessation as transient, insubstantial, granular and fading away soon after they arise. They are all conditioned. They exist only as long as they are supported by their external causes, which are themselves unstable. When the external supporting causes disappear, so do each of the usual suspects. Because these things do not persist, since they do not continue in being, it is untenable to hold that there is a soul, a self or a God.

When the Buddha stated that it is also untenable to maintain that all is pure emptiness, void, nothing, because an arising is seen, he explained what he meant as:

“From the arising of delusion, kamma formations arise, from kamma formations arises the stream of consciousness in the next life … from birth arises dukkha!

He was referring to the arising process called dependent origination. Again, this impersonal process includes all that we can know as “life”. Because this arising is seen, one cannot say they are not. It is not an illusion. These phenomena are real.

A simile might help here. In mathematics a point is a concept drawn from the science of life. It describes aspects of real phenomena. Yet a point has no size. It is smaller than any measure that you can suggest, yet it is bigger than nothing. In a sense, one cannot say a point is, because it does not persist, it does not continue in space. Yet one cannot say it is not, as it is clearly different from nothing. The point is similar to the momentary nature of conscious experience. Nothing continues in being therefore it cannot be something. Something arises therefore it cannot be nothing. The solution to this paradox, the excluded middle, is the impersonal process.

In Advaita Vedanta, one common method is to pursue the enquiry “Who am I?” That is a loaded question. It carries an implicit premise that has yet to be agreed on. The question “Who am I?” assumes that “I am”, only one doesn’t know what. In the Sabbāsava Sutta (MN2) the Buddha called such enquiries “attending unwisely” (ayoniso manasikāra), and in the Mahātaṇhāsankhaya Sutta (MN38) the Buddha described this as remaining “inwardly perplexed” (kathaṁkathā). In other words, it doesn’t lead to anything penetrating. This enquiry of Advaita Vedanta is said to end with an experience of ultimate reality described as “You are that”, or tat tvam asi in Sanskrit. But such an end-doctrine is plainly begging the question. What is this “That” that you are? The Buddha never circled around the issue in such a fruitless way. For The Buddha would say:

Paṭicca samuppādo tvaṁ asi.

“You are dependent origination.”

What was once assumed to be “me”, a self or a soul, or assumed to be an illusion or complete emptiness, is now clearly seen as the impersonal process of dependent origination, a causal sequence rolling on from life to life, containing all and anything that can meaningfully be a soul, the “usual suspects” as I call them, but nothing continuing in being.

So, if you wanted to find out who you are, now you have the answer: dependent origination! And if you wanted to find out what is life, now you also have the answer: dependent origination!

Paṭicca samuppāda—that’s life!

5.3. Why suffering?

The main purpose of paṭicca samuppāda is to establish the reason why we suffer, and to find a way of eliminating suffering once and for all. To understand this point, we must now take a look at the Buddha’s discovery of dependent origination in the context of the story of the Buddha’s life.

The Bodhisatta (an unenlightened being soon to become Enlightened) sat under the Bodhi Tree on the night of his enlightenment for the sole purpose of finding a solution to suffering. As a young man, he had been deeply moved by the tragic sights of an old man, a sick man, and a dead man. Realizing that the suffering of old age, sickness and death was the certain destiny of himself as well, he left home in order to find a way out of all suffering. Under the Bodhi Tree, the Bodhisatta entered the jhānas for the first time since he was a small boy. Having thus empowered his mind, he then pursued a method of enquiry called yoniso manasikāra, which literally means “work of the mind which goes back to the source”. The problem was suffering, in particular the seemingly inescapable suffering associated with old age, sickness and death. Tracing the problem back to the source, the source was seen as birth.

Jāti-paccayā dukkha, “Suffering is caused by birth.”

As shown above, birth is a sufficient cause for suffering, that is, birth must give rise to dukkha. Every being that is born will get old, get sick and die, and experience the inescapable dukkha associated with that process. Thus birth is the problem.

This first link of paṭicca samuppāda is rarely given the attention it deserves. It has enormous implications. Before the great insight into dependent origination under the Bodhi Tree, the Bodhisatta, like most people, had lived in hope that somehow he could attain perfect happiness in this existence or some future existence. Now he saw that all existence (bhava) is inextricably involved with suffering. There is no perfect happiness to be found in any form of existence. As the Buddha said in the Aṅguttara collection (AN1.328):

“Just as a tiny bit of faeces has a bad smell, so I do not recommend even a tiny bit of existence, not even for so long as a fingersnap.”

A simile might help. A person born in a harsh prison, raised in that prison, who has spent all their time in the prison, can only know prison life. They don’t even suspect that anything beyond their prison can exist. So they make the best of prison. Those who think positively, because they have gone to prison seminars, begin to think that the harsh prison is instead a wonderful place. They even compose songs like “All jails bright and beautiful … the good Lord made them all!” Others get involved with social service, compassionately decorating the prison cells of others. When someone gets tortured or otherwise punished in jail, they think something has gone wrong and look for someone to blame. If someone suggests that it is the very nature of jail to be suffering, then they are dismissed as a pessimist and told to “Get a life!” One full moon night, a prisoner discovers a door leading out of the jail and goes through. Only then does he realize that jail was inherently suffering and you can’t make it otherwise. He goes back to tell his fellow prisoners. Most don’t believe him. They can’t even imagine anything other than their jail. When he says that the jail is suffering and the cessation of imprisonment is happiness, he is accused by one and all of escapism.

Sometimes people rebuke me, saying, “You monks are just trying to escape from the real world!” I reply “Well done! At last someone else has understood Buddhism!” What’s wrong with escapism, especially when one realises that the real world is the harsh prison.

The enlightenment experience of the Buddha began with the experience of jhānas. These “stages of letting go” are also stages of increasing bliss. After jhāna, one can reflect on the reason why these jhānas are by far the most pure and powerful happiness of one’s life. What is the cause of such happiness? Ajahn Chah used to say that it is like having had a tight rope around one’s neck for as long as one can remember. Then one day the rope is suddenly released. The bliss and ease that is felt is because a huge burden of suffering has gone. The ecstasy of jhāna is because one has escaped, albeit temporarily, from what people mean by “the real world”. When the Buddha reflected on jhāna, he realized that the real world is suffering, it is a jail, and release from it is bliss. He could only know this once he had stepped out beyond jail. That is one of the purposes of jhāna. Jhāna is also called vimokkha, which means “release”.

Even arahants, enlightened monks and nuns, experience suffering. They are not released from suffering, they are still in the world, in jail. The main difference between an ordinary “prisoner” and an arahant is that the latter is certain to leave soon. Using the simile from the Theragātha (Thag.17.2), an arahant is like a workman having completed the job and now calmly waiting for his wages. In the sutta called “The Dart” (SN36.6) suffering is compared to being stabbed with two darts. An arahant is only stabbed with one dart. The two “darts” refer to bodily suffering and mental suffering. The arahant, alone of this world, only experiences bodily suffering. But it is still enough to say that an arahant in this life still experiences suffering. As the enlightened nun Vajirā explained (SN5.10), what it feels like to be an arahant is just experiencing suffering arising and suffering passing away, and this was confirmed by the Buddha in the Kaccānagotta Sutta (SN12.15), already mentioned above. Arahants experience suffering because all existence (bhava) or birth (jāti) is suffering. Only when they pass away, or parinibbāna, when existence ceases, does suffering end once and for all.

Bhava-nirodho nibbānaṁ

Nibbāna is the cessation of existence.” (SN12.68)

Having discovered that existence (bhava) and birth (jāti) are a sufficient cause of suffering (dukkha), that they must create suffering, the problem became how to put an end to more existence (punabhava) and rebirth. As it became popularly and accurately known, the goal of Buddhist practice (for those who realize that the real world’s a jail and are not in denial of this truth) is to make an end of samsara, the incredibly long journey through countless lives, and get off the crushing wheel of rebirth.

Thus, the Bodhisatta continued to pursue yoniso manasikāra, “the work of the mind that goes back to the source”, to find the causes of bhava and jāti. He traced the sequence of causes, now known as dependent origination, through craving (taṇhā) back to delusion (avijjā). It was delusion that was seen as the basic culprit.

What is this delusion? Avijjā is consistently explained as not fully understanding the four noble truths. In other word, one doesn’t realize that one is in jail. It is amazing how so many people are in such profound denial of life’s suffering that they show severe signs of maladjustment to old age, sickness and death. Some people are even surprised that these things even happen, and exhibit such derangements as anger and grief when they do! Our delusion is that life can be fixed.

As every Buddhist would know, the way to get out of jail, to put an end to rebirth and the inevitable suffering that follows, is to develop the noble eightfold path culminating in jhāna (sammā-samādhi). But that is a subject for another essay.

Here I want to add that dependent origination is often cited as an alternative definition of the second noble truth, the cause of suffering. And dependent cessation is an alternative definition of the third noble truth, the cessation of suffering. (SN12.43) Thus the main purpose of dependent origination, equivalent to the Second Noble Truth, is to answer the question “Why suffering?” And the main purpose of dependent cessation, equivalent to the third noble truth, is to answer the question “How can suffering be stopped?”

Conclusion

In this essay, I have attempted to describe what paṭicca samuppāda is all about. I began by presenting the standard sequence of the twelve factors, and then their meaning as defined by the Buddha himself. It should have been clear from these definitions that paṭicca samuppāda, as the Buddha meant it to be understood, spans more than one life.

I then went on to discuss a Western model of causality, the necessary and sufficient conditions, and how these slotted so neatly into idappaccayatā, the Buddha’s model of causality. I later used the “necessary and sufficient conditions” model to throw more light on the different forms of causal relationships between each pair of factors.

A digression on the meaning of sandiṭṭhika and akālika, and a section called “Misreading the Suttas”, were meant to address some objections (misconceived, as I hope that I have proved) to the fact that paṭicca samuppāda in the suttas does span more than one life. Although the argument here was somewhat technical, it highlighted the importance of kamma and rebirth to the Buddha’s Dhamma. Kamma and rebirth are obviously not a mere cultural accretion, as some modern misinformed authors would have us believe, but are essential to the central teaching of paṭicca samuppāda.

Lastly, I introduced a section rarely mentioned in essays about paṭicca samuppāda: what is its purpose? I have shown that the purpose of paṭicca samuppāda is much more than mere food for intellectual debate. Indeed, paṭicca samuppāda demonstrates how there can be rebirth without a soul, it reveals what life is, and it explains why there is suffering together with the way suffering is totally ended. Paṭicca samuppāda answers the big questions.

It is no exaggeration to state that paṭicca samuppāda is at the very heart of the Dhamma. As the Buddha stated, one who understands paṭicca samuppāda accurately, also sees the Dhamma. And the one who sees the Dhamma fully, is one who has entered the stream and will soon put an end to all suffering. May that be you!

-- END OF PHYSICAL BOOK --
-- ADDENDUM FOLLOWS --

Addendum 1

1. Some Remarks on Dependent Origination

The following addendum is from a letter by Ajahn Brahm written in May 1994 (some 8 years before the main text). It is entitled “Some Remarks on Dependent Origination” and covers much of the same ground as the main text. It is presented here, reformatted to aid understanding, together with some reference clarifications.

The meaning of the Terms in Paṭicca Samuppāda

The Paṭicca Samuppāda is explained in detail at two places in the Sutta Piṭaka: in the Mahānidāna Sutta, No 15 of the Digha Nikāya (DN15); and in the Nidāna Saṁyutta, Saṁyutta No XII of the Saṁyutta Nikāya (SN12).

The Nidāna Saṁyutta (SN12) begins with a simple expression of the 12 links in forward and reverse order (SN12.1). The following Sutta, Vibhaṅga, No 2 of the Nidāna Saṁyutta (SN12.2), explains the meaning of each of the 12 terms.

I recommend that you read this Sutta carefully so that you will see for yourself what the Buddha meant by each term. In particular, you will see that Jāti can only mean birth, the sort of birth which for a human occurs in a mother’s womb:

Katamā ca bhikkhave jāti? Yā tesaṁ tesaṁ sattānaṁ, tamhi tamhi satta-nikāye, jāti, sañjāti, okkanti, abhinibbatti, khandhānaṁ pātubhāvo, āyatanānaṁ paṭilābho, ayaṁ vuccati bhikkhave jāti

SN12.2

“What monks is Jāti? With regard to these and those beings, among the various classes of beings, that which is Jāti, Sañjāti (a synonym of Jāti), descent (into the womb, Okkanti as at DN15 - verse 21: ‘Viññāṇaṁ ... mātu-kucchim, okkamitvā’ = ‘the consciousness ... having descended into the mother’s womb’), birth (Abhinibbatti), the appearance of the (five) Khandhas, the acquiring of the sense-faculties (Ayatananam paṭilābho), that monks is called Jāti

Elsewhere, perhaps, Jāti may mean different things, but here, in the Sutta defining the meanings of the terms in the Paṭicca Samuppāda, Jāti unmistakeably means the appearance of a being in a particular class of beings, or “birth” as is generally understood for a human being.

The meaning of Bhava can be found at AN3.76. Look this up in Pali and you will relish its deeper meaning.

The meaning of Viññāṇa can not readily be discerned from SN12.2, but if you look at DN15, you will find the following at verse 21:

“It was said: ‘With consciousness as condition there is mentality-materiality’. How that is so, Ananda, should be understood in this way. If consciousness (Viññāṇa) were not to descend into the mother’s womb, would mentality-materiality (Nāma-rūpa) take shape in the womb?”’

“Certainly not venerable Sir”

—‘The Great Discourse on Causation’ by Bhikkhu Bodhi, page 5.

So, the way the Buddha said Viññāṇa, in the context of Paṭicca Samuppāda, should be understood is clearly as the Viññāṇa which descends into a mother’s womb at conception, what the Commentaries call Rebirth-Linking-Consciousness.

The meaning of Saṅkhāra as something which produces rebirth can easily be discerned in the Saṅkhāra-uppatti-sutta, (MN120). Uppatti is usually translated as rebirth and if you look at the context this meaning is obvious. A typical passage in this Sutta is analysed in Rune E A Johansson’s ‘Pali Buddhist Texts - explained to the beginner’. I recommend that you find this book, look up the passage on pages 66 and 67 and see how the word Saṅkhāra is used in the meaning of a willed activity of body, speech or mind which causes rebirth.

It is essential to know precisely what the Buddha meant when he used each of the 12 terms in the Paṭicca Samuppāda. There is no need to go to the Commentary to find these meanings. They are clearly evident in the Suttas themselves, as I hope I have indicated. Only when one accurately understands the meaning of each of the 12 links is there a hope that one will understand the profundity of the whole Paṭicca Samuppāda as the Buddha meant it to be understood.

The Fallacy of The “One Life” Interpretation Of Paṭicca Samuppāda

Once one sees what the Buddha meant by Jāti in the context of Paṭicca Samuppāda (see SN12.2 and DN15 - Verse 4) then wriggle as one might, one will have to accept that the Buddha meant Paṭicca Samuppāda to span more than one life. What becomes before Jāti, eg Bhava, Upādāna, Taṇhā ..., must refer to something occurring before birth (a cause is simultaneous with, or more often precedes, its effect), ie in what is called a previous existence. To maintain otherwise is merely to ignore the facts and throw away all reason.

Having seen the process that is described by Paṭicca Samuppāda moving from one life to another around Jāti, having broken the fixation on a wrong idea, it is easy to accept the meaning of Viññāṇa as the first consciousness which arises in the new life as implied by DN15, Verse 21:

“If consciousness were not to descend into the mother’s womb, would mentality-materiality (Nāma-rūpa) take shape in the womb?”

—‘The Great Discourse on Causation’ by Bhikkhu Bodhi, page 59

That Viññāṇa as the starting point of a new life is the meaning in the context of Paṭicca Samuppāda is also made clear at AN3.61 - Verse IX:

“Channaṁ, bhikkhave, dhātūnaṁ upādāya gabbhass’­āvakkanti hoti; okkantiyā sati nāmarūpaṁ, nāmarūpa-paccayā saḷāya­tanaṁ, saḷāya­tana-paccayā phasso, phassa-paccayā vedanā.”

“Monks, based on the 6 elements, there is descent into the womb. This descent taking place, name and shape come to pass. Conditioned by name-and-shape is the six-fold sphere (of sense). Conditioned by the six-fold sphere is contact. Conditioned by contact is feeling”

—Gradual Sayings, Vol 1 page 160, Woodward’s translation.

A similar formula can be seen in SN12.39.


Lastly, it becomes obvious that the full Paṭicca Samuppāda cannot be interpreted as existing in one life when one looks at the first 3 links in reverse order: When Avijjā ceases so does Saṅkhāra and, consequently, so does Viññāṇaṁ. In other words the ending of Avijjā causes the ending of Viññāṇaṁ. Now what type of Viññāṇaṁ can possibly cease as a result of a person eradicating Avijjā, the ignorance of the full meaning of the Four Noble Truths? We all know that an Arahat, one who has eradicated Avijjā, remains fully conscious, retaining Viññāṇaṁ, after his attainment. He does not become unconscious at the moment of his attainment, ever more to be comatose until he dies! So Viññāṇaṁ cannot mean the ordinary, arising in every moment, type of consciousness. However, we all know that sometime after the attainment of Arahat, after a period of days or years after Avijjā is ended, the Arahat’s life span ends, the 5 Khandhas dissolve and they never arise again. In particular, the 5th Khandha, the binding Viññāṇaṁ, ceases after the life span of an Arahat ends. Thus, it is very clear that the Viññāṇaṁ which is caused to cease by the ending of Avijjā is the first arising of consciousness in a new life, or in other words the rebirth linking consciousness of the Commentary. Nothing else makes sense. No advocate of the “one-life” interpretation of Paṭicca Samuppāda has ever been able to explain how Viññāṇaṁ can be something existing in this life and yet ceases in this life for an Arahat!

The Meaning of the Paṭicca Samuppāda According to the Buddha

It becomes quite clear that Paṭicca Samuppāda explains the process of rebirth. It gives the answer to the often asked question. “How can there be rebirth when there is no-self?” In explaining the process of rebirth it uncovers the causes of rebirth. So, one can eliminate rebirth by eliminating the causes. Remember that the point of this exercise is to stop being reborn, to get off the “wheel of rebirth”, Saṁsāra, or as Ven.Sariputta once answered to a Brahmin who asked what is the true difference between Sukha and Dukkha:

“To be reborn (Abhinibbatti) friend is Dukkha.

Not to be reborn is Sukha?”.

AN10.65

The Paṭicca Samuppāda explains the process of rebirth in 2 ways starting at 2 causes:

  1. Avijjā → Saṅkhāra → birth → Viññāṇaṁ → Nāmarūpaṁ → Saḷāyatana → Phassa → Vedanā
  2. Taṇhā → Upādāna → Bhava → birth → Jāti → Jarā-maraṇaṁ-soka-parideva- dukkha-domanassa-upāyāsa.

The cause of Dukkha, and rebirth, can be said to be Avijjā or can be said to be Taṇhā. When one stops the other stops immediately. Thus it gives two ways of explaining the process of rebirth, first through willed actions (Saṅkhāra) of body speech and mind originated through Avijjā, and second through Taṇhā giving rise to clinging (Upādāna) giving rise to existence (Bhava - see the explanation of Bhava at AN3.76) producing rebirth (Jāti). The first sequence can be seen in the Suttas at AN3.61 - Verse IX. The second sequence can be found in DN15, Verses 9-18.

The Arguments Given Against Paṭicca Samuppāda Describing Rebirth

1: Words have different meanings in different contexts and so, for example, can’t Jāti mean a metaphorical birth?


However the Incomparable Teacher, the Buddha, foresaw possible confusion by giving precise definitions of the terms he used when he used them. Thus at the beginning of SN12.2, the Buddha explained methodically the meaning of each term. Even in DN15 he made certain that no uncertainty as to meanings could remain:

“How that is so, Ananda, should be understood in this way. If there were absolutely and utterly no birth of any kind anywhere - that is, of gods into the state of gods, of celestials into the state of celestials, of spirits, demons, human beings, quadrupeds, winged creatures, and reptiles, each into their own state - if there were no birth of beings of any sort into any state ... ”

—‘The Great Discourse on Causation’ by Bhikkhu Bodhi, page 54.

How more clear can one make it?! If one actually looks at DN15, or at SN12.2, the meaning ascribed to these words in the context of Paṭicca Samuppāda by the Buddha become obvious. In particular, Jāti is clearly not intended to be used metaphorically. It is meant by the Buddha to refer to the beginning of life in the various classes of existence, the birth of a living being.


2: All dhammas, at least useful ones anyway, are supposed to be Sandiṭṭhiko and Akāliko. How does this apply to the Paṭicca Samuppāda if it spans more than one life?


I am confident that no-one will argue that Maraṇa-sati is a useful Dhamma, and yet Maraṇa-sati is described by the Buddha as contemplation of one’s physical death, which is something which has not happened yet! The same can be said of recollection of one’s past liberality. Cāgānussati, one of the 40 Kammaṭṭhāna, it is something which happened in the past. How can these be Sandiṭṭhiko and Akāliko?

The point is that Sandiṭṭhiko does not mean, cannot mean, something existing in the present moment experienced in the present moment! It means something which can be understood in the present moment. Understanding (Paññā) is different to experience (Viññāṇa), see the beginning of the Mahāvedalla Sutta (MN43). One can understand each step, each link, of the Paṭicca Samuppāda here and now. Old age (Jarā) and death (Maraṇaṁ) one can see in others, just as the Bodhisatta Gotama saw them as two of the “Devadūta”. They are Sandiṭṭhika and Akālikā Dhamma even though one may not be personally experiencing them now! They can be clearly understood without doubt, for oneself, here and now, that is what makes them Sandiṭṭhika and Akālikā. Similarly one can understand Jāti, the birth of a human being here and now.

Personally, I have never witnessed a human birth but I have not the slightest doubt that we all come into this present life through the same way, by birth! The possibility of full understanding (Paññā) here and now in regard to birth, Jāti, makes it a Sandiṭṭhika and Akālikā Dhamma. Bhava can be understood here and now and, if one has a very clear mind, can be experienced as the very same process described at AN3.76. The same can be said of Upādāna, Taṇhā, Vedanā, Phassa, Saḷāyatana and Nāmarūpaṁ. The Viññāṇaṁ as the first consciousness arising in a life can only be understood here and now in the same way that death (Maraṇa) can be understood. Thus if the death of a being, Maraṇaṁ qualifies as Sandiṭṭhika and Akālikā Dhamma so does the Paṭisandhi Viññāṇa (rebirth consciousness). Saṅkhāra, the willed Kamma done by body speech and mind which gives rise to rebirth can be experienced as well as understood here and now. In fact, the only link of the Paṭicca Samuppāda which, strictly speaking, can never be experienced even when it is happening but it can be understood is Avijjā. Only the Arahat properly understands Avijjā and by then it is no more. Of course, no one would argue that Avijjā is not part of the Buddha’s Teaching because it can not be experienced! All agree that even Avijjā is Sandiṭṭhika and Akālikā Dhamma, because it can be understood here and now!


The causal relationship between the 12 links can be harder to understand. Indeed, only the Sotapanna and higher Ariyas will fully understand these causal relationships. It must be borne in mind that in such causal relationships, the cause may precede the effect by a lengthy interval. For example, in the causal relationship between birth (Jāti) and Maraṇaṁ (death); the cause, birth, may precede the effect, death, by 100 or more years. A cause which produces an effect after an interval of time is called Purejātapaccayo, pre-nascence condition, the 10th of the 24 Paccaya which we chant at funerals. Because the cause may have ceased before the effect arises, much of causality can not be experienced “in the moment”. Instead, causal relations are discerned using Yoniso Manasikārā, the work of the mind which goes back to the source (Yoni). Indeed, Yoniso Manasikārā is the main cause for the arising Sammādiṭṭhi (eg at MN43) and Sammādiṭṭhi includes understanding Paṭicca Samuppāda (eg at AN10.92). Thus Paṭicca Samuppāda is understood, here and now, by applying Yoniso Manasikārā. It is in this way that the causal relations between the 12 links become discerned by Paññā and, having been understood here and now, become Sandiṭṭhika and Akālikā Dhamma.

It is misleading of anyone to claim that one needs Pubbenivāsānussati, memory of previous lives, to be able to understand the process of rebirth described in the Paṭicca Samuppāda! One understands Paṭicca Samuppāda using Yoniso Manasikārā in the way described above. And, whatever can be understood here and now becomes Sandiṭṭhika and Akālikā Dhamma.


3: A Sutta in the Anguttara Nikāya has been understood by some to imply that “Vedanā is not always the karmic result of a previous life” and therefore none of the links in the Paṭicca Samuppāda can refer to a previous life.


The Sutta in question is AN3.61, verses I-IV. Interestingly, those who quote this part of the Sutta fail to notice verse IX in the same Sutta which I have quoted twice in this letter to support Paṭicca Samuppāda being an explanation of the rebirth process!

The part of the Sutta which is relevant here is verses I-IV which three tenets are put forward and roundly refected by the Buddha as wrong. The first is:

yaṁ kiñcā purisapuggalo paṭisaṁvedeti sukhaṁ vā dukkhaṁ vā adukkhama sukhaṁ vā, sabbaṁ taṁ pubbe katahetū” ...

“Whatsoever weal or wore or neutral feeling is experienced, all that is due to some previous action”

—Woodward’s translation in the PTS’s Gradual Sayings Vol 1 page 157.

The other two tenets are that ... all that is due to the creation of a Supreme Deity ... (and) all that are uncaused and unconditioned.

It is instructive to notice that this first tenet is repeated verbatim in the Devadaha - Sutta (MN101), where it is attributed to the Jains. In that Sutta it is clear that the tenet in full is holding that “Whatever Sukha, Dukkha or neutral feeling is experienced, all that is due to some previous action in a past life.” This is obviously wrong, as the Buddha pointed out in both Suttas, for everyone should know that some Sukha, some Dukkha and some neutral feelings that are experienced are due to some previous action in this life!

But something else needs to be pointed out about this tenet. If you look at the Pali carefully you may notice that it is referring to the types of feeling that one experiences not to the faculty of feeling (Vedanā) in general. It should be understood that the fact that one has Vedanā, the faculty of feeling, at all is due to craving and ignorance in a previous life; but the particular type of feeling, the content of Vedanā if you like, does not necessarily depend on kamma of a previous life. Let me offer a simile. A man buys a TV, a year later he moves to a new house and there he sometimes watches channel 1, sometimes channel 2 and sometimes channel 3. The fact that in his present house he has a TV, the fact that he can experience television at all, is because of an act be performed while in his previous house - but the programme he chooses to experience are not all conditioned by some preference or other he built up while in his previous house. In this rough simile, the TV corresponds to Vedanā, the programme channels appearing on that TV, channels 1, 2 and 3, correspond to Sukha, Dukkha and Adukkhama Sukha. Again, the fact that one has Vedanā of some sort is due to craving and ignorance in a previous life, but the content of that Vedanā or rather the particular type of feeling which is experienced is not necessarily caused by an action in a previous life. When one understands this one understands that the tenet being discussed, which originates in AN3.61, Verses I-IV, that is has no bearing on Paṭicca Samuppāda.

But in case someone is still not convinced that Vedanā has a cause originating in a previous life, I cite the Bhumija Sutta (SN12.25).

Santāvuso eke samaṇabrāhmaṇā kammavādā:

  1. sayaṅkataṁ sukhadukkhaṁ paññapenti.
  2. paraṅkataṁ sukhadukkhaṁ paññapenti.
  3. sayaṅkatañca paraṅkatañca sukhadukkhaṁ paññapenti.
  4. asayaṅkāraṁ aparaṅkāraṁ adhiccasamuppannaṁ sukhadukkhaṁ paññapenti

There are, friend, certain recluses and brahmins, believer in karma:

  1. who declare that happiness and ill have been wrought by oneself,
  2. who declare that happiness and ill have been wrought by another,
  3. who declare that happiness and ill have been wrought by oneself as well as by others,
  4. who declare that happiness and ill is neither wrought by oneself nor by another but arises by chance
—Kindred Saying Vol 2 page 30

Ven Sariputta replies when asked by Ven Bhumija which of the four is correct,

Paṭiccasamuppannaṁ kho, āvuso, sukhadukkhaṁ vuttaṁ bhagavatā. Kiṁ paṭicca? Phassaṁ paṭicca! Iti vadaṁ vuttavādī ceva bhagavato assa, na ca bhagavantaṁ abhūtena abbhācikkheyya...

“The Exalted One has said that happiness and ill (Sukha Dukkha) come to pass through a cause (Paticca). What cause? The cause is contact (Phassa)! Saying thus you would be repeating the words of the Exalted One correctly and not misrepresenting him”

—compare Kindred Sayings Vol 12 page 31, which is heavily abbreviated.(SN12.25)

The rest of the Bhumija - Sutta is also of interest for it indicates the role of Saṅkhāra in the performance of Kamma. What Woodward translates as “plan those planned deeds conditioned by ignorance” is in Pali “Avijjā paccaya. Kaya or Vaci or Mano - saṅkhāraṁ abhisankharoti...” which shows Saṅkhāra in the context of Paṭicca Samuppāda means “Karmic actions of body, speech or mind conditioned by ignorance”.

Thus Vedanā is always caused by Phassa. Furthermore we all know that Phassa is caused by Nāma-rūpa and Nāma-rūpa is caused by Viññāṇa. These mind and bodily processed are caused by ignorance and craving in a previous life. Any Buddhist monk who does not agree with this, who does not accept the teaching of rebirth should look at MN117: there are 2 forms of Sammādiṭṭhi, one for those who still have Asava (Sammādiṭṭhi sāsava puññabhāgiyā upadhi-vepakka) and one for the Ariya’s without Asava (Sammādiṭṭhi ariya anasava ...) The type of right view which concerns most monks is the former and it is “the view that alms and offerings are not useless, that there is fruit and result, both of good and bad actions, that there are such things as this life and the next life ...”. Thus belief in rebirth is clearly stated to be Sammādiṭṭhi, its rejection would thus be Micchaditthi.


This completes the refutation of the 3 arguments given against Paṭicca Samuppāda being a description of the process of rebirth. They should be compared with the arguments against the “one-life” interpretation given in the "The Fallacy of The “One Life” Interpretation Of Paṭicca Samuppāda" section above, and held alongside the positive arguments for Paṭicca Samuppāda in the other sections, as a process spanning more than one life. Then you can make your own decision based on the Suttas.

A Last Word on the Question of how to “Use” Paṭicca Samuppāda In “Daily Life”

On any journey one needs a map. An accurate map. The true understanding of Paṭicca Samuppāda as describing the process of rebirth and exposing its causes is a large part of that map, if not the whole. That map is acquired at Sotapanna-phala. Before one has that attainment, one doesn’t really get very far at all. That is why only after the attainment of Sotapanna-phala until one completes one’s work is one called Sekha “in training”. Before Sotapanna, without the map, one is neither Sekha nor Asekha. Without Sammādiṭṭhi, without the map, one wanders in circles. With the arising of Sammādiṭṭhi, when the Path becomes clear (Maggo Sanjayati see AN4.170) One can start walking that Path, one can start training. The Ariyan Eightfold Path is the eightfold Path walked by the Ariyan. The Putthujjana walks another Eightfold Path which is not yet deserving of the adjective Ariyan.

So it is vitally important to obtain that map, to gain Sammādiṭṭhi of the Ariyan kind. Suttas such as the Mahavedella Sutta (MN43) show that this sort of Sammādiṭṭhi arises due to 2 causes: Yoniso Manasikārā and listening/understanding the words of another (Parato Ghoso) (see Middle Length Sayings Vol 1 - I.B. Horner, page 353) and is supported by 5 factors: Sila, Suta (equivalent to what we would call “book-knowledge), Sakaccha (discussing the Dhamma), Samatha and Vipassana. Thus if one aspires to become a Sotapanna look to either one (or both) of the 2 causes and support them with the 5 factors. That is how one should be practising in daily life.

After Sotapanna, one practises according to the Ariyan Eightfold Path which is then abundantly clear to one.

The point is, Paticca-samuppada, or rather its true realisation, is the heart of Sammādiṭṭhi of the Ariyan. It forms the foundation for further practise of the Ariyan, for the putthujjana, one practises in order to realise the Paṭicca Samuppāda, especially by Yoniso Manasikārā supported by the Five factors. The putthujjana practices aspiring to uncover the Paticca- samuppada, not assuming he knows it!

Gambhīro cāyaṁ, ānanda, paṭicca-samuppādo gambhīrāvabhāso ca!

“This Dependent Arising, Ananda, is deep and appears deep!”

DN15, Verse 1

2. Figures

Pages 66 and 67 taken from Rune E A Johansson’s ‘Pali Buddhist Texts - explained to the beginner’ 3rd edition 1981.

Rune Pg.66 Rune Pg.66

Addendum 2

All suttas translated by Bhikkhu Sujato, 2018.
Origin: SuttaCentral

AN1.328

“Just as, mendicants, even a tiny bit of fecal matter still stinks, so too I don’t approve of even a tiny bit of continued existence, not even as long as a finger-snap.”

AN3.61. Sectarian Tenets

“Mendicants, these three sectarian tenets—as pursued, pressed, and grilled by the astute—when taken to their conclusion, end with inaction. What three?

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Everything this individual experiences—pleasurable, painful, or neutral—is because of past deeds.’

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Everything this individual experiences—pleasurable, painful, or neutral—is because of the Lord God’s creation.’

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Everything this individual experiences—pleasurable, painful, or neutral—has no cause or reason.’

Regarding this, I went up to the ascetics and brahmins whose view is that everything that is experienced is because of past deeds, and I said to them: ‘Is it really true that this is the venerables’ view?’ And they answered, ‘Yes’. I said to them: ‘In that case, you might kill living creatures, steal, be unchaste; use speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical; be covetous, malicious, or have wrong view, all because of past deeds.’

Those who believe that past deeds are the most important thing have no enthusiasm or effort, no idea that there are things that should and should not be done. Since they don’t acknowledge as a genuine fact that there are things that should and should not be done, they’re unmindful and careless, and can’t rightly be called ascetics. This is my first legitimate refutation of the ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view.

Regarding this, I went up to the ascetics and brahmins whose view is that everything that is experienced is because of the Lord God’s creation, and I said to them: ‘Is it really true that this is the venerables’ view?’ And they answered, ‘Yes’. I said to them: ‘In that case, you might kill living creatures, steal, be unchaste; use speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical; be covetous, malicious, or have wrong view, all because of the Lord God’s creation.’

Those who believe that the Lord God’s creative power is the most important thing have no enthusiasm, no effort, no idea that there are things that should and should not be done. Since they don’t acknowledge as a genuine fact that there are things that should and should not be done, they’re unmindful and careless, and can’t rightly be called ascetics. This is my second legitimate refutation of the ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view.

Regarding this, I went up to the ascetics and brahmins whose view is that everything that is experienced has no cause or reason, and I said to them: ‘Is it really true that this is the venerables’ view?’ And they answered, ‘Yes’. I said to them: ‘In that case, you might kill living creatures, steal, be unchaste; use speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical; be covetous, malicious, or have wrong view, all without cause or reason.’

Those who believe that the absence of cause or reason is the most important thing have no enthusiasm, no effort, no idea that there are things that should and should not be done. Since they don’t acknowledge as a genuine fact that there are things that should and should not be done, they’re unmindful and careless, and can’t rightly be called ascetics. This is my third legitimate refutation of the ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view.

These are the three sectarian tenets—as pursued, pressed, and grilled by the astute—which, when taken to their conclusion, end with inaction.

But the Dhamma that I’ve taught is irrefutable, uncorrupted, beyond reproach, and not scorned by sensible ascetics and brahmins. What is the Dhamma that I’ve taught?

‘These are the six elements’: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught …

‘These are the six fields of contact’: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught …

‘These are the eighteen mental preoccupations’: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught …

‘These are the four noble truths’: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught that is irrefutable, uncorrupted, beyond reproach, and is not scorned by sensible ascetics and brahmins.

‘“These are the six elements”: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught …’ That’s what I said, but why did I say it?

There are these six elements: the elements of earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness.

‘“These are the six elements”: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught …’ That’s what I said, and this is why I said it.

‘“These are the six fields of contact”: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught …’ That’s what I said, but why did I say it?

There are these six fields of contact: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind contact.

‘“These are the six fields of contact”: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught …’ That’s what I said, and this is why I said it.

‘“These are the eighteen mental preoccupations”: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught …’ This is what I said, but why did I say it?

Seeing a sight with the eye, one is preoccupied with a sight that’s a basis for happiness or sadness or equanimity.

Hearing a sound with the ear …

Smelling an odor with the nose …

Tasting a flavor with the tongue …

Feeling a touch with the body …

Becoming conscious of a thought with the mind, one is preoccupied with a thought that’s a basis for happiness or sadness or equanimity.

‘“These are the eighteen mental preoccupations”: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught …’ That’s what I said, and this is why I said it.

‘“These are the four noble truths”: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught …’ That’s what I said, but why did I say it?

Supported by the six elements, an embryo is conceived. When it is conceived, there are name and form. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields. The six sense fields are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. It’s for one who feels that I declare: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering’.

And what is the noble truth of suffering? Rebirth is suffering; old age is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress are suffering; association with the disliked is suffering; separation from the liked is suffering; not getting what you wish for is suffering. In brief, the five grasping aggregates are suffering. This is called the noble truth of suffering.

And what is the noble truth of the origin of suffering? Ignorance is a condition for choices. Choices are a condition for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields. The six sense fields are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. This is called the noble truth of the origin of suffering.

And what is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering? When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. When consciousness ceases, name and form cease. When name and form cease, the six sense fields cease. When the six sense fields cease, contact ceases. When contact ceases, feeling ceases. When feeling ceases, craving ceases. When craving ceases, grasping ceases. When grasping ceases, continued existence ceases. When continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases. When rebirth ceases, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress cease. That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases. This is called the noble truth of the cessation of suffering.

And what is the noble truth of the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering? It is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion. This is called the noble truth of the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering.

‘“These are the four noble truths”: this is the Dhamma I’ve taught that is irrefutable, uncorrupted, beyond reproach, and is not scorned by sensible ascetics and brahmins.’ That’s what I said, and this is why I said it.”

AN3.76. Continued Existence (1st)

Then Venerable Ānanda went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him:

“Sir, they speak of this thing called ‘continued existence’. How is continued existence defined?”

“If, Ānanda, there were no deeds to result in the sensual realm, would continued existence in the sensual realm still come about?”

“No, sir.”

“So, Ānanda, deeds are the field, consciousness is the seed, and craving is the moisture. The consciousness of sentient beings—hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving—is established in a lower realm. That’s how there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future.

If there were no deeds to result in the realm of luminous form, would continued existence in the realm of luminous form still come about?”

“No, sir.”

“So, Ānanda, deeds are the field, consciousness is the seed, and craving is the moisture. The consciousness of sentient beings—hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving—is established in a middle realm. That’s how there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future.

If there were no deeds to result in the formless realm, would continued existence in the formless realm still come about?”

“No, sir.”

“So, Ānanda, deeds are the field, consciousness is the seed, and craving is the moisture. The consciousness of sentient beings—hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving—is established in a higher realm. That’s how there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future. That’s how continued existence is defined.”

AN4.170. In Conjunction

So I have heard. At one time Venerable Ānanda was staying near Kosambi, in Ghosita’s Monastery. There Ānanda addressed the mendicants: “Reverends, mendicants!”

“Reverend,” they replied. Ānanda said this:

“Reverends, all of the monks and nuns who declare in my presence that they have attained perfection, did so by one or other of four paths.

What four?

Take a mendicant who develops serenity before discernment. As they do so, the path is born in them. They cultivate, develop, and make much of it. By doing so, they give up the fetters and eliminate the underlying tendencies.

Another mendicant develops discernment before serenity. As they do so, the path is born in them. They cultivate, develop, and make much of it. By doing so, they give up the fetters and eliminate the underlying tendencies.

Another mendicant develops serenity and discernment in conjunction. As they do so, the path is born in them. They cultivate, develop, and make much of it. By doing so, they give up the fetters and eliminate the underlying tendencies.

Another mendicant’s mind is seized by restlessness to realize the teaching. But there comes a time when their mind is stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi. The path is born in them. They cultivate, develop, and make much of it. By doing so, they give up the fetters and eliminate the underlying tendencies.

All of the monks and nuns who declare in my presence that they have attained perfection, did so by one or other of these four paths.”

AN5.25. Supported

“Mendicants, when right view is supported by five factors it has freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom as its fruit and benefit.

What five? It’s when right view is supported by ethics, learning, discussion, serenity, and discernment. When right view is supported by these five factors it has freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom as its fruit and benefit.”

AN10.65. Happiness (1st)

At one time Venerable Sāriputta was staying in the land of the Magadhans near the little village of Nālaka. Then the wanderer Sāmaṇḍakāni went up to Venerable Sāriputta and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, Sāmaṇḍakāni sat down to one side, and said to Sāriputta:

“Reverend Sāriputta, what is happiness and what is suffering?”

“Rebirth is suffering, reverend, no rebirth is happiness. When there is rebirth, you can expect this kind of suffering. Cold, heat, hunger, thirst, defecation, and urination. Contact with fire, clubs, and knives. And relatives and friends get together and annoy you. When there is rebirth, this is the kind of suffering you can expect. When there is no rebirth, you can expect this kind of happiness. No cold, heat, hunger, thirst, defecation, or urination. No contact with fire, clubs, or knives. And relatives and friends don’t get together and annoy you. When there is no rebirth, this is the kind of happiness you can expect.”

AN10.92. Dangers

Then the householder Anāthapiṇḍika went up to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. The Buddha said to him:

“Householder, when a noble disciple has quelled five dangers and threats, has the four factors of stream-entry, and has clearly seen and comprehended the noble cycle with wisdom, they may, if they wish, declare of themselves: ‘I’ve finished with rebirth in hell, the animal realm, and the ghost realm. I’ve finished with all places of loss, bad places, the underworld. I am a stream-enterer! I’m not liable to be reborn in the underworld, and am bound for awakening.’

What are the five dangers and threats they have quelled? Anyone who kills living creatures creates dangers and threats both in the present life and in lives to come, and experiences mental pain and sadness. Anyone who refrains from killing living creatures creates no dangers and threats either in the present life or in lives to come, and doesn’t experience mental pain and sadness. So that danger and threat is quelled for anyone who refrains from killing living creatures.

Anyone who steals … Anyone who commits sexual misconduct … Anyone who lies … Anyone who uses alcoholic drinks that cause negligence creates dangers and threats both in the present life and in lives to come, and experiences mental pain and sadness. Anyone who refrains from using alcoholic drinks that cause negligence creates no dangers and threats either in the present life or in lives to come, and doesn’t experience mental pain and sadness. So that danger and threat is quelled for anyone who refrains from using alcoholic drinks that cause negligence. These are the five dangers and threats they have quelled.

What are the four factors of stream-entry that they have? It’s when a noble disciple has experiential confidence in the Buddha: ‘That Blessed One is perfected, a fully awakened Buddha, accomplished in knowledge and conduct, holy, knower of the world, supreme guide for those who wish to train, awakened, blessed.’ They have experiential confidence in the teaching: ‘The teaching is well explained by the Buddha—visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves.’ They have experiential confidence in the Saṅgha: ‘The Saṅgha of the Buddha’s disciples is practicing the way that’s good, direct, methodical, and proper. It consists of the four pairs, the eight individuals. This is the Saṅgha of the Buddha’s disciples that is worthy of offerings dedicated to the gods, worthy of hospitality, worthy of a religious donation, worthy of greeting with joined palms, and is the supreme field of merit for the world.’ And a noble disciple’s ethical conduct is loved by the noble ones, unbroken, impeccable, spotless, and unmarred, liberating, praised by sensible people, not mistaken, and leading to immersion. These are the four factors of stream-entry that they have.

And what is the noble cycle that they have clearly seen and comprehended with wisdom? It’s when a noble disciple reflects: ‘When this exists, that is; due to the arising of this, that arises. When this doesn’t exist, that is not; due to the cessation of this, that ceases. That is: Ignorance is a condition for choices. Choices are a condition for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields. The six sense fields are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. When consciousness ceases, name and form cease. When name and form cease, the six sense fields cease. When the six sense fields cease, contact ceases. When contact ceases, feeling ceases. When feeling ceases, craving ceases. When craving ceases, grasping ceases. When grasping ceases, continued existence ceases. When continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases. When rebirth ceases, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress cease. That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.’ This is the noble cycle that they have clearly seen and comprehended with wisdom.

When a noble disciple has quelled five dangers and threats, has the four factors of stream-entry, and has clearly seen and comprehended the noble cycle with wisdom, they may, if they wish, declare of themselves: ‘I’ve finished with rebirth in hell, the animal realm, and the ghost realm. I’ve finished with all places of loss, bad places, the underworld. I am a stream-enterer! I’m not liable to be reborn in the underworld, and am bound for awakening.’”

DN15. The Great Discourse on Causation

1. Dependent Origination

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying in the land of the Kurus, near the Kuru town named Kammāsadamma.

Then Venerable Ānanda went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him, “It’s incredible, sir, it’s amazing, in that this dependent origination is deep and appears deep, yet to me it seems as plain as can be.”

“Don’t say that, Ānanda, don’t say that! This dependent origination is deep and appears deep. It is because of not understanding and not penetrating this teaching that this population has become tangled like string, knotted like a ball of thread, and matted like rushes and reeds, and it doesn’t escape the places of loss, the bad places, the underworld, transmigration.

When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for old age and death?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’ If they say, ‘What is a condition for old age and death?’ you should answer, ‘Rebirth is a condition for old age and death.’

When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for rebirth?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’ If they say, ‘What is a condition for rebirth?’ you should answer, ‘Continued existence is a condition for rebirth.’

When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for continued existence?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’ If they say, ‘What is a condition for continued existence?’ you should answer, ‘Grasping is a condition for continued existence.’

When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for grasping?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’ If they say, ‘What is a condition for grasping?’ you should answer, ‘Craving is a condition for grasping.’

When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for craving?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’ If they say, ‘What is a condition for craving?’ you should answer, ‘Feeling is a condition for craving.’

When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for feeling?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’ If they say, ‘What is a condition for feeling?’ you should answer, ‘Contact is a condition for feeling.’

When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for contact?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’ If they say, ‘What is a condition for contact?’ you should answer, ‘Name and form are conditions for contact.’

When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for name and form?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’ If they say, ‘What is a condition for name and form?’ you should answer, ‘Consciousness is a condition for name and form.’

When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for consciousness?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’ If they say, ‘What is a condition for consciousness?’ you should answer, ‘Name and form are conditions for consciousness.’

So: name and form are conditions for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

‘Rebirth is a condition for old age and death’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no rebirth for anyone anywhere. That is, there were no rebirth of sentient beings into their various realms—of gods, fairies, spirits, creatures, humans, quadrupeds, birds, or reptiles, each into their own realm. When there’s no rebirth at all, with the cessation of rebirth, would old age and death still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of old age and death, namely rebirth.

‘Continued existence is a condition for rebirth’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no continued existence for anyone anywhere. That is, continued existence in the sensual realm, the realm of luminous form, or the formless realm. When there’s no continued existence at all, with the cessation of continued existence, would rebirth still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of rebirth, namely continued existence.

‘Grasping is a condition for continued existence’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no grasping for anyone anywhere. That is, grasping at sensual pleasures, views, precepts and observances, and theories of a self. When there’s no grasping at all, with the cessation of grasping, would continued existence still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of continued existence, namely grasping.

‘Craving is a condition for grasping’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no craving for anyone anywhere. That is, craving for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts. When there’s no craving at all, with the cessation of craving, would grasping still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of grasping, namely craving.

‘Feeling is a condition for craving’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no feeling for anyone anywhere. That is, feeling born of contact through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. When there’s no feeling at all, with the cessation of feeling, would craving still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of craving, namely feeling.

So it is, Ānanda, that feeling is a cause of craving. Craving is a cause of seeking. Seeking is a cause of gaining material possessions. Gaining material possessions is a cause of assessing. Assessing is a cause of desire and lust. Desire and lust is a cause of attachment. Attachment is a cause of possessiveness. Possessiveness is a cause of stinginess. Stinginess is a cause of safeguarding. Owing to safeguarding, many bad, unskillful things come to be: taking up the rod and the sword, quarrels, arguments, and fights, accusations, divisive speech, and lies.

‘Owing to safeguarding, many bad, unskillful things come to be: taking up the rod and the sword, quarrels, arguments, and fights, accusations, divisive speech, and lies’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no safeguarding for anyone anywhere. When there’s no safeguarding at all, with the cessation of safeguarding, would those many bad, unskillful things still come to be?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition for the origination of those many bad, unskillful things, namely safeguarding.

‘Stinginess is a cause of safeguarding’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no stinginess for anyone anywhere. When there’s no stinginess at all, with the cessation of stinginess, would safeguarding still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of safeguarding, namely stinginess.

‘Possessiveness is a cause of stinginess’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no possessiveness for anyone anywhere. When there’s no possessiveness at all, with the cessation of possessiveness, would stinginess still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of stinginess, namely possessiveness.

‘Attachment is a cause of possessiveness’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no attachment for anyone anywhere. When there’s no attachment at all, with the cessation of attachment, would possessiveness still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of possessiveness, namely attachment.

‘Desire and lust is a cause of attachment’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no desire and lust for anyone anywhere. When there’s no desire and lust at all, with the cessation of desire and lust, would attachment still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of attachment, namely desire and lust.

‘Assessing is a cause of desire and lust’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no assessing for anyone anywhere. When there’s no assessing at all, with the cessation of assessing, would desire and lust still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of desire and lust, namely assessing.

‘Gaining material possessions is a cause of assessing’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no gaining of material possessions for anyone anywhere. When there’s no gaining of material possessions at all, with the cessation of gaining material possessions, would assessing still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of assessing, namely the gaining of material possessions.

‘Seeking is a cause of gaining material possessions’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no seeking for anyone anywhere. When there’s no seeking at all, with the cessation of seeking, would the gaining of material possessions still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of gaining material possessions, namely seeking.

‘Craving is a cause of seeking’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no craving for anyone anywhere. That is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for continued existence, and craving to end existence. When there’s no craving at all, with the cessation of craving, would seeking still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of seeking, namely craving. And so, Ānanda, these two things are united by the two aspects of feeling.

‘Contact is a condition for feeling’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were totally and utterly no contact for anyone anywhere. That is, contact through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. When there’s no contact at all, with the cessation of contact, would feeling still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of feeling, namely contact.

‘Name and form are conditions for contact’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were none of the features, attributes, signs, and details by which the category of mental phenomena is found. Would linguistic contact still be found in the category of physical phenomena?”

“No, sir.”

“Suppose there were none of the features, attributes, signs, and details by which the category of physical phenomena is found. Would impingement contact still be found in the category of mental phenomena?”

“No, sir.”

“Suppose there were none of the features, attributes, signs, and details by which the categories of mental or physical phenomena are found. Would either linguistic contact or impingement contact still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“Suppose there were none of the features, attributes, signs, and details by which name and form are found. Would contact still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of contact, namely name and form.

‘Consciousness is a condition for name and form’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. If consciousness were not conceived in the mother’s womb, would name and form coagulate there?”

“No, sir.”

“If consciousness, after being conceived in the mother’s womb, were to be miscarried, would name and form be born into this state of existence?”

“No, sir.”

“If the consciousness of a young boy or girl were to be cut off, would name and form achieve growth, increase, and maturity?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of name and form, namely consciousness.

‘Name and form are conditions for consciousness’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. If consciousness were not to become established in name and form, would the coming to be of the origin of suffering—of rebirth, old age, and death in the future—be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of consciousness, namely name and form. This is the extent to which one may be reborn, grow old, die, pass away, or reappear. This is how far the scope of language, terminology, and description extends; how far the sphere of wisdom extends; how far the cycle of rebirths proceeds so that this state of existence is to be found; namely, name and form together with consciousness.

2. Describing the Self

How do those who describe the self describe it? They describe it as physical and limited: ‘My self is physical and limited.’ Or they describe it as physical and infinite: ‘My self is physical and infinite.’ Or they describe it as formless and limited: ‘My self is formless and limited.’ Or they describe it as formless and infinite: ‘My self is formless and infinite.’

Now, take those who describe the self as physical and limited. They describe the self as physical and limited in the present; or in some future life; or else they think: ‘Though it is not like that, I will ensure it is provided with what it needs to become like that.’ This being so, it’s appropriate to say that a view of self as physical and limited underlies them.

Now, take those who describe the self as physical and infinite … formless and limited … formless and infinite. They describe the self as formless and infinite in the present; or in some future life; or else they think: ‘Though it is not like that, I will ensure it is provided with what it needs to become like that.’ This being so, it’s appropriate to say that a view of self as formless and infinite underlies them. That’s how those who describe the self describe it.

3. Not Describing the Self

How do those who don’t describe the self not describe it? They don’t describe it as physical and limited … physical and infinite … formless and limited … formless and infinite: ‘My self is formless and infinite.’

Now, take those who don’t describe the self as physical and limited … physical and infinite … formless and limited … formless and infinite. They don’t describe the self as formless and infinite in the present; or in some future life; and they don’t think: ‘Though it is not like that, I will ensure it is provided with what it needs to become like that.’ This being so, it’s appropriate to say that a view of self as formless and infinite doesn’t underlie them. That’s how those who don’t describe the self don’t describe it.

4. Regarding a Self

How do those who regard the self regard it? They regard feeling as self: ‘Feeling is my self.’ Or they regard it like this: ‘Feeling is definitely not my self. My self does not experience feeling.’ Or they regard it like this: ‘Feeling is definitely not my self. But it’s not that my self does not experience feeling. My self feels, for my self is liable to feel.’

Now, as to those who say: ‘Feeling is my self.’ You should say this to them: ‘Reverend, there are three feelings: pleasant, painful, and neutral. Which one of these do you regard as self?’ Ānanda, at a time when you feel a pleasant feeling, you don’t feel a painful or neutral feeling; you only feel a pleasant feeling. At a time when you feel a painful feeling, you don’t feel a pleasant or neutral feeling; you only feel a painful feeling. At a time when you feel a neutral feeling, you don’t feel a pleasant or painful feeling; you only feel a neutral feeling.

Pleasant feelings, painful feelings, and neutral feelings are all impermanent, conditioned, dependently originated, liable to end, vanish, fade away, and cease. When feeling a pleasant feeling they think: ‘This is my self.’ When their pleasant feeling ceases they think: ‘My self has disappeared.’ When feeling a painful feeling they think: ‘This is my self.’ When their painful feeling ceases they think: ‘My self has disappeared.’ When feeling a neutral feeling they think: ‘This is my self.’ When their neutral feeling ceases they think: ‘My self has disappeared.’ So those who say ‘feeling is my self’ regard as self that which is evidently impermanent, a mixture of pleasure and pain, and liable to rise and fall. That’s why it’s not acceptable to regard feeling as self.

Now, as to those who say: ‘Feeling is definitely not my self. My self does not experience feeling.’ You should say this to them, ‘But reverend, where there is nothing felt at all, would the thought “I am” occur there?’”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why it’s not acceptable to regard self as that which does not experience feeling.

Now, as to those who say: ‘Feeling is definitely not my self. But it’s not that my self does not experience feeling. My self feels, for my self is liable to feel.’ You should say this to them, ‘Suppose feelings were to totally and utterly cease without anything left over. When there’s no feeling at all, with the cessation of feeling, would the thought “I am this” occur there?’”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why it’s not acceptable to regard self as that which is liable to feel.

Not regarding anything in this way, they don’t grasp at anything in the world. Not grasping, they’re not anxious. Not being anxious, they personally become extinguished. They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’

It wouldn’t be appropriate to say that a mendicant whose mind is freed like this holds the following views: ‘A Realized One exists after death’; ‘A Realized One doesn’t exist after death’; ‘A Realized One both exists and doesn’t exist after death’; ‘A Realized One neither exists nor doesn’t exist after death’.

Why is that? A mendicant is freed by directly knowing this: how far language and the scope of language extend; how far terminology and the scope of terminology extend; how far description and the scope of description extend; how far wisdom and the sphere of wisdom extend; how far the cycle of rebirths and its continuation extend. It wouldn’t be appropriate to say that a mendicant freed by directly knowing this holds the view: ‘There is no such thing as knowing and seeing.’

5. Planes of Consciousness

Ānanda, there are seven planes of consciousness and two dimensions. What seven?

There are sentient beings that are diverse in body and diverse in perception, such as human beings, some gods, and some beings in the underworld. This is the first plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that are diverse in body and unified in perception, such as the gods reborn in Brahmā’s Host through the first absorption. This is the second plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that are unified in body and diverse in perception, such as the gods of streaming radiance. This is the third plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that are unified in body and unified in perception, such as the gods replete with glory. This is the fourth plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond perceptions of form. With the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite’, they have been reborn in the dimension of infinite space. This is the fifth plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond the dimension of infinite space. Aware that ‘consciousness is infinite’, they have been reborn in the dimension of infinite consciousness. This is the sixth plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond the dimension of infinite consciousness. Aware that ‘there is nothing at all’, they have been reborn in the dimension of nothingness. This is the seventh plane of consciousness.

Then there’s the dimension of non-percipient beings, and secondly, the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.

Now, regarding these seven planes of consciousness and two dimensions, is it appropriate for someone who understands them—and their origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape—to take pleasure in them?”

“No, sir.”

“When a mendicant, having truly understood the origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape regarding these seven planes of consciousness and these two dimensions, is freed by not grasping, they’re called a mendicant who is freed by wisdom.

6. The Eight Liberations

Ānanda, there are these eight liberations. What eight?

Having physical form, they see visions. This is the first liberation.

Not perceiving form internally, they see visions externally. This is the second liberation.

They’re focused only on beauty. This is the third liberation.

Going totally beyond perceptions of form, with the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite’, they enter and remain in the dimension of infinite space. This is the fourth liberation.

Going totally beyond the dimension of infinite space, aware that ‘consciousness is infinite’, they enter and remain in the dimension of infinite consciousness. This is the fifth liberation.

Going totally beyond the dimension of infinite consciousness, aware that ‘there is nothing at all’, they enter and remain in the dimension of nothingness. This is the sixth liberation.

Going totally beyond the dimension of nothingness, they enter and remain in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. This is the seventh liberation.

Going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, they enter and remain in the cessation of perception and feeling. This is the eighth liberation.

These are the eight liberations.

When a mendicant enters into and withdraws from these eight liberations—in forward order, in reverse order, and in forward and reverse order—wherever they wish, whenever they wish, and for as long as they wish; and when they realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements, they’re called a mendicant who is freed both ways. And, Ānanda, there is no other freedom both ways that is better or finer than this.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, Venerable Ānanda was happy with what the Buddha said.

MN2. All the Defilements

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants, “Mendicants!”

“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, I will teach you the explanation of the restraint of all defilements. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, I say that the ending of defilements is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know or see. For one who knows and sees what? Proper attention and improper attention. When you pay improper attention, defilements arise, and once arisen they grow. When you pay proper attention, defilements don’t arise, and those that have already arisen are given up.

Some defilements should be given up by seeing, some by restraint, some by using, some by enduring, some by avoiding, some by dispelling, and some by developing.

1. Defilements Given Up by Seeing

And what are the defilements that should be given up by seeing? Take an uneducated ordinary person who has not seen the noble ones, and is neither skilled nor trained in the teaching of the noble ones. They’ve not seen good persons, and are neither skilled nor trained in the teaching of the good persons. They don’t understand to which things they should pay attention and to which things they should not pay attention. So they pay attention to things they shouldn’t and don’t pay attention to things they should.

And what are the things to which they pay attention but should not? They are the things that, when attention is paid to them, give rise to unarisen defilements and make arisen defilements grow; the defilements of sensual desire, desire to be reborn, and ignorance. These are the things to which they pay attention but should not.

And what are the things to which they do not pay attention but should? They are the things that, when attention is paid to them, do not give rise to unarisen defilements and give up arisen defilements; the defilements of sensual desire, desire to be reborn, and ignorance. These are the things to which they do not pay attention but should.

Because of paying attention to what they should not and not paying attention to what they should, unarisen defilements arise and arisen defilements grow.

This is how they attend improperly: ‘Did I exist in the past? Did I not exist in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? After being what, what did I become in the past? Will I exist in the future? Will I not exist in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? After being what, what will I become in the future?’ Or they are undecided about the present thus: ‘Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? This sentient being—where did it come from? And where will it go?’

When they attend improperly in this way, one of the following six views arises in them and is taken as a genuine fact. The view: ‘My self exists in an absolute sense.’ The view: ‘My self does not exist in an absolute sense.’ The view: ‘I perceive the self with the self.’ The view: ‘I perceive what is not-self with the self.’ The view: ‘I perceive the self with what is not-self.’ Or they have such a view: ‘This self of mine is he who speaks and feels and experiences the results of good and bad deeds in all the different realms. This self is permanent, everlasting, eternal, and imperishable, and will last forever and ever.’ This is called a misconception, the thicket of views, the desert of views, the trick of views, the evasiveness of views, the fetter of views. An uneducated ordinary person who is fettered by views is not freed from rebirth, old age, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress. They’re not freed from suffering, I say.

But take an educated noble disciple who has seen the noble ones, and is skilled and trained in the teaching of the noble ones. They’ve seen good persons, and are skilled and trained in the teaching of the good persons. They understand to which things they should pay attention and to which things they should not pay attention. So they pay attention to things they should and don’t pay attention to things they shouldn’t.

And what are the things to which they don’t pay attention and should not? They are the things that, when attention is paid to them, give rise to unarisen defilements and make arisen defilements grow; the defilements of sensual desire, desire to be reborn, and ignorance. These are the things to which they don’t pay attention and should not.

And what are the things to which they do pay attention and should? They are the things that, when attention is paid to them, do not give rise to unarisen defilements and give up arisen defilements; the defilements of sensual desire, desire to be reborn, and ignorance. These are the things to which they do pay attention and should.

Because of not paying attention to what they should not and paying attention to what they should, unarisen defilements don’t arise and arisen defilements are given up.

They properly attend: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering’. And as they do so, they give up three fetters: identity view, doubt, and misapprehension of precepts and observances. These are called the defilements that should be given up by seeing.

2. Defilements Given Up by Restraint

And what are the defilements that should be given up by restraint? Take a mendicant who, reflecting properly, lives restraining the faculty of the eye. For the distressing and feverish defilements that might arise in someone who lives without restraint of the eye faculty do not arise when there is such restraint. Reflecting properly, they live restraining the faculty of the ear … the nose … the tongue … the body … the mind. For the distressing and feverish defilements that might arise in someone who lives without restraint of the mind faculty do not arise when there is such restraint.

For the distressing and feverish defilements that might arise in someone who lives without restraint do not arise when there is such restraint. These are called the defilements that should be given up by restraint.

3. Defilements Given Up by Using

And what are the defilements that should be given up by using? Take a mendicant who, reflecting properly, makes use of robes: ‘Only for the sake of warding off cold and heat; for warding off the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and reptiles; and for covering up the private parts.’

Reflecting properly, they make use of almsfood: ‘Not for fun, indulgence, adornment, or decoration, but only to sustain this body, to avoid harm, and to support spiritual practice. In this way, I shall put an end to old discomfort and not give rise to new discomfort, and I will live blamelessly and at ease.’

Reflecting properly, they make use of lodgings: ‘Only for the sake of warding off cold and heat; for warding off the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and reptiles; to shelter from harsh weather and to enjoy retreat.’

Reflecting properly, they make use of medicines and supplies for the sick: ‘Only for the sake of warding off the pains of illness and to promote good health.’

For the distressing and feverish defilements that might arise in someone who lives without using these things do not arise when they are used. These are called the defilements that should be given up by using.

4. Defilements Given Up by Enduring

And what are the defilements that should be given up by enduring? Take a mendicant who, reflecting properly, endures cold, heat, hunger, and thirst. They endure the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and reptiles. They endure rude and unwelcome criticism. And they put up with physical pain—sharp, severe, acute, unpleasant, disagreeable, and life-threatening.

For the distressing and feverish defilements that might arise in someone who lives without enduring these things do not arise when they are endured. These are called the defilements that should be given up by enduring.

5. Defilements Given Up by Avoiding

And what are the defilements that should be given up by avoiding? Take a mendicant who, reflecting properly, avoids a wild elephant, a wild horse, a wild ox, a wild dog, a snake, a stump, thorny ground, a pit, a cliff, a swamp, and a sewer. Reflecting properly, they avoid sitting on inappropriate seats, walking in inappropriate neighborhoods, and mixing with bad friends—whatever sensible spiritual companions would believe to be a bad setting.

For the distressing and feverish defilements that might arise in someone who lives without avoiding these things do not arise when they are avoided. These are called the defilements that should be given up by avoiding.

6. Defilements Given Up by Dispelling

And what are the defilements that should be given up by dispelling? Take a mendicant who, reflecting properly, doesn’t tolerate a sensual, malicious, or cruel thought that has arisen, but gives it up, gets rid of it, eliminates it, and obliterates it. They don’t tolerate any bad, unskillful qualities that have arisen, but give them up, get rid of them, eliminate them, and obliterate them.

For the distressing and feverish defilements that might arise in someone who lives without dispelling these things do not arise when they are dispelled. These are called the defilements that should be given up by dispelling.

7. Defilements Given Up by Developing

And what are the defilements that should be given up by developing? It’s when a mendicant, reflecting properly, develops the awakening factors of mindfulness, investigation of principles, energy, rapture, tranquility, immersion, and equanimity, which rely on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripen as letting go.

For the distressing and feverish defilements that might arise in someone who lives without developing these things do not arise when they are developed. These are called the defilements that should be given up by developing.

Now, take a mendicant who, by seeing, has given up the defilements that should be given up by seeing. By restraint, they’ve given up the defilements that should be given up by restraint. By using, they’ve given up the defilements that should be given up by using. By enduring, they’ve given up the defilements that should be given up by enduring. By avoiding, they’ve given up the defilements that should be given up by avoiding. By dispelling, they’ve given up the defilements that should be given up by dispelling. By developing, they’ve given up the defilements that should be given up by developing. They’re called a mendicant who lives having restrained all defilements, who has cut off craving, untied the fetters, and by rightly comprehending conceit has made an end of suffering.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with what the Buddha said.

MN12. The Longer Discourse on the Lion’s Roar

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Vesālī in a woodland grove behind the town.

Now at that time Sunakkhatta the Licchavi had recently left this teaching and training. He was telling a crowd in Vesālī:

“The ascetic Gotama has no superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones. He teaches what he’s worked out by logic, following a line of inquiry, expressing his own perspective. And his teaching leads those who practice it to the complete ending of suffering, the goal for which it’s taught.”

Then Venerable Sāriputta robed up in the morning and, taking his bowl and robe, entered Vesālī for alms. He heard what Sunakkhatta was saying.

Then he wandered for alms in Vesālī. After the meal, on his return from alms-round, he went to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and told him what had happened.

“Sāriputta, Sunakkhatta, that silly man, is angry. His words are spoken out of anger. Thinking he criticizes the Realized One, in fact he just praises him. For it is praise of the Realized One to say: ‘His teaching leads those who practice it to the complete ending of suffering, the goal for which it’s taught.’

But there’s no way Sunakkhatta will infer about me from the teaching: ‘That Blessed One is perfected, a fully awakened Buddha, accomplished in knowledge and conduct, holy, knower of the world, supreme guide for those who wish to train, teacher of gods and humans, awakened, blessed.’

And there’s no way Sunakkhatta will infer about me from the teaching: ‘That Blessed One wields the many kinds of psychic power: multiplying himself and becoming one again; appearing and disappearing; going unimpeded through a wall, a rampart, or a mountain as if through space; diving in and out of the earth as if it were water; walking on water as if it were earth; flying cross-legged through the sky like a bird; touching and stroking with the hand the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful; controlling the body as far as the Brahmā realm.’

And there’s no way Sunakkhatta will infer about me from the teaching: ‘That Blessed One, with clairaudience that is purified and superhuman, hears both kinds of sounds, human and divine, whether near or far.’

And there’s no way Sunakkhatta will infer about me from the teaching: ‘That Blessed One understands the minds of other beings and individuals, having comprehended them with his own mind. He understands mind with greed as “mind with greed,” and mind without greed as “mind without greed.” He understands mind with hate … mind without hate … mind with delusion … mind without delusion … constricted mind … scattered mind … expansive mind … unexpansive mind … mind that is supreme … mind that is not supreme … mind immersed in samādhi … mind not immersed in samādhi … freed mind as “freed mind,” and unfreed mind as “unfreed mind.”’

The Realized One possesses ten powers of a Realized One. With these he claims the bull’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and turns the holy wheel. What ten?

Firstly, the Realized One truly understands the possible as possible, and the impossible as impossible. Since he truly understands this, this is a power of the Realized One. Relying on this he claims the bull’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and turns the holy wheel.

Furthermore, the Realized One truly understands the result of deeds undertaken in the past, future, and present in terms of causes and reasons. Since he truly understands this, this is a power of the Realized One. …

Furthermore, the Realized One truly understands where all paths of practice lead. Since he truly understands this, this is a power of the Realized One. …

Furthermore, the Realized One truly understands the world with its many and diverse elements. Since he truly understands this, this is a power of the Realized One. …

Furthermore, the Realized One truly understands the diverse attitudes of sentient beings. Since he truly understands this, this is a power of the Realized One. …

Furthermore, the Realized One truly understands the faculties of other sentient beings and other individuals after comprehending them with his mind. Since he truly understands this, this is a power of the Realized One. …

Furthermore, the Realized One truly understands corruption, cleansing, and emergence regarding the absorptions, liberations, immersions, and attainments. Since he truly understands this, this is a power of the Realized One. …

Furthermore, the Realized One recollects many kinds of past lives. That is: one, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand rebirths; many eons of the world contracting, many eons of the world expanding, many eons of the world contracting and expanding. He remembers: ‘There, I was named this, my clan was that, I looked like this, and that was my food. This was how I felt pleasure and pain, and that was how my life ended. When I passed away from that place I was reborn somewhere else. There, too, I was named this, my clan was that, I looked like this, and that was my food. This was how I felt pleasure and pain, and that was how my life ended. When I passed away from that place I was reborn here.’ And so he recollects his many kinds of past lives, with features and details. Since he truly understands this, this is a power of the Realized One. …

Furthermore, with clairvoyance that is purified and superhuman, the Realized One sees sentient beings passing away and being reborn—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, in a good place or a bad place. He understands how sentient beings are reborn according to their deeds. ‘These dear beings did bad things by way of body, speech, and mind. They spoke ill of the noble ones; they had wrong view; and they chose to act out of that wrong view. When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in a place of loss, a bad place, the underworld, hell. These dear beings, however, did good things by way of body, speech, and mind. They never spoke ill of the noble ones; they had right view; and they chose to act out of that right view. When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm.’ And so, with clairvoyance that is purified and superhuman, he sees sentient beings passing away and being reborn—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, in a good place or a bad place. He understands how sentient beings are reborn according to their deeds. Since he truly understands this, this is a power of the Realized One. …

Furthermore, the Realized One has realized the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and lives having realized it with his own insight due to the ending of defilements. Since he truly understands this, this is a power of the Realized One. Relying on this he claims the bull’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and turns the holy wheel.

A Realized One possesses these ten powers of a Realized One. With these he claims the bull’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and turns the holy wheel.

When I know and see in this way, suppose someone were to say this: ‘The ascetic Gotama has no superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones. He teaches what he’s worked out by logic, following a line of inquiry, expressing his own perspective.’ Unless they give up that speech and that thought, and let go of that view, they will be cast down to hell. Just as a mendicant accomplished in ethics, immersion, and wisdom would reach enlightenment in this very life, such is the consequence, I say. Unless they give up that speech and thought, and let go of that view, they will be cast down to hell.

Sāriputta, a Realized One has four kinds of self-assurance. With these he claims the bull’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and turns the holy wheel. What four?

I see no reason for anyone—whether ascetic, brahmin, god, Māra, or Brahmā, or anyone else in the world—to legitimately scold me, saying: ‘You claim to be fully awakened, but you don’t understand these things.’ Since I see no such reason, I live secure, fearless, and assured.

I see no reason for anyone—whether ascetic, brahmin, god, Māra, or Brahmā, or anyone else in the world—to legitimately scold me, saying: ‘You claim to have ended all defilements, but these defilements have not ended.’ Since I see no such reason, I live secure, fearless, and assured.

I see no reason for anyone—whether ascetic, brahmin, god, Māra, or Brahmā, or anyone else in the world—to legitimately scold me, saying: ‘The acts that you say are obstructions are not really obstructions for the one who performs them.’ Since I see no such reason, I live secure, fearless, and assured.

I see no reason for anyone—whether ascetic, brahmin, god, Māra, or Brahmā, or anyone else in the world—to legitimately scold me, saying: ‘The teaching doesn’t lead those who practice it to the complete ending of suffering, the goal for which you taught it.’ Since I see no such reason, I live secure, fearless, and assured.

A Realized One has these four kinds of self-assurance. With these he claims the bull’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and turns the holy wheel.

When I know and see in this way, suppose someone were to say this: ‘The ascetic Gotama has no superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones …’ Unless they give up that speech and that thought, and let go of that view, they will be cast down to hell.

Sāriputta, there are these eight assemblies. What eight? The assemblies of aristocrats, brahmins, householders, and ascetics. An assembly of the gods under the Four Great Kings. An assembly of the gods under the Thirty-Three. An assembly of Māras. An assembly of Brahmās. These are the eight assemblies. Possessing these four kinds of self-assurance, the Realized One approaches and enters right into these eight assemblies. I recall having approached an assembly of hundreds of aristocrats. There I used to sit with them, converse, and engage in discussion. But I don’t see any reason to feel afraid or insecure. Since I see no such reason, I live secure, fearless, and assured.

I recall having approached an assembly of hundreds of brahmins … householders … ascetics … the gods under the Four Great Kings … the gods under the Thirty-Three … Māras … Brahmās. There too I used to sit with them, converse, and engage in discussion. But I don’t see any reason to feel afraid or insecure. Since I see no such reason, I live secure, fearless, and assured.

When I know and see in this way, suppose someone were to say this: ‘The ascetic Gotama has no superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones …’ Unless they give up that speech and that thought, and let go of that view, they will be cast down to hell.

Sāriputta, there are these four kinds of reproduction. What four? Reproduction for creatures born from an egg, from a womb, from moisture, or spontaneously.

And what is reproduction from an egg? There are beings who are born by breaking out of an eggshell. This is called reproduction from an egg. And what is reproduction from a womb? There are beings who are born by breaking out of the amniotic sac. This is called reproduction from a womb. And what is reproduction from moisture? There are beings who are born in a rotten fish, in a rotten corpse, in rotten dough, in a cesspool or a sump. This is called reproduction from moisture. And what is spontaneous reproduction? Gods, hell-beings, certain humans, and certain beings in the lower realms. This is called spontaneous reproduction. These are the four kinds of reproduction.

When I know and see in this way, suppose someone were to say this: ‘The ascetic Gotama has no superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones …’ Unless they give up that speech and that thought, and let go of that view, they will be cast down to hell.

There are these five destinations. What five? Hell, the animal realm, the ghost realm, humanity, and the gods.

I understand hell, and the path and practice that leads to hell. And I understand how someone practicing that way, when their body breaks up, after death, is reborn in a place of loss, a bad place, the underworld, hell. I understand the animal realm … the ghost realm … humanity … gods, and the path and practice that leads to the world of the gods. And I understand how someone practicing that way, when their body breaks up, after death, is reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm. And I understand extinguishment, and the path and practice that leads to extinguishment. And I understand how someone practicing that way realizes the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and lives having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements.

When I’ve comprehended the mind of a certain person, I understand: ‘This person is practicing in such a way and has entered such a path that when their body breaks up, after death, they will be reborn in a place of loss, a bad place, the underworld, hell.’ Then some time later I see that they have indeed been reborn in hell, where they experience exclusively painful feelings, sharp and severe. Suppose there was a pit of glowing coals deeper than a man’s height, full of glowing coals that neither flamed nor smoked. Then along comes a person struggling in the oppressive heat, weary, thirsty, and parched. And they have set out on a path that meets with that same pit of coals. If a person with good eyesight saw them, they’d say: ‘This person is proceeding in such a way and has entered such a path that they will arrive at that very pit of coals.’ Then some time later they see that they have indeed fallen into that pit of coals, where they experience exclusively painful feelings, sharp and severe. …

When I’ve comprehended the mind of a certain person, I understand: ‘This person … will be reborn in the animal realm.’ Then some time later I see that they have indeed been reborn in the animal realm, where they suffer painful feelings, sharp and severe. Suppose there was a sewer deeper than a man’s height, full to the brim with feces. Then along comes a person struggling in the oppressive heat, weary, thirsty, and parched. And they have set out on a path that meets with that same sewer. If a person with good eyesight saw them, they’d say: ‘This person is proceeding in such a way and has entered such a path that they will arrive at that very sewer.’ Then some time later they see that they have indeed fallen into that sewer, where they suffer painful feelings, sharp and severe. …

When I’ve comprehended the mind of a certain person, I understand: ‘This person … will be reborn in the ghost realm.’ Then some time later I see that they have indeed been reborn in the ghost realm, where they experience many painful feelings. Suppose there was a tree growing on rugged ground, with thin foliage casting dappled shade. Then along comes a person struggling in the oppressive heat, weary, thirsty, and parched. And they have set out on a path that meets with that same tree. If a person with good eyesight saw them, they’d say: ‘This person is proceeding in such a way and has entered such a path that they will arrive at that very tree.’ Then some time later they see them sitting or lying under that tree, where they experience many painful feelings. …

When I’ve comprehended the mind of a certain person, I understand: ‘This person … will be reborn among human beings.’ Then some time later I see that they have indeed been reborn among human beings, where they experience many pleasant feelings. Suppose there was a tree growing on smooth ground, with abundant foliage casting dense shade. Then along comes a person struggling in the oppressive heat, weary, thirsty, and parched. And they have set out on a path that meets with that same tree. If a person with good eyesight saw them, they’d say: ‘This person is proceeding in such a way and has entered such a path that they will arrive at that very tree.’ Then some time later they see them sitting or lying under that tree, where they experience many pleasant feelings. …

When I’ve comprehended the mind of a certain person, I understand: ‘This person … will be reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm.’ Then some time later I see that they have indeed been reborn in a heavenly realm, where they experience exclusively pleasant feelings. Suppose there was a stilt longhouse with a peaked roof, plastered inside and out, draft-free, with latches fastened and windows shuttered. And it had a couch spread with woolen covers—shag-piled, pure white, or embroidered with flowers—and spread with a fine deer hide, with a canopy above and red pillows at both ends. Then along comes a person struggling in the oppressive heat, weary, thirsty, and parched. And they have set out on a path that meets with that same stilt longhouse. If a person with good eyesight saw them, they’d say: ‘This person is proceeding in such a way and has entered such a path that they will arrive at that very stilt longhouse.’ Then some time later they see them sitting or lying in that stilt longhouse, where they experience exclusively pleasant feelings. …

When I’ve comprehended the mind of a certain person, I understand: ‘This person is practicing in such a way and has entered such a path that they will realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements.’ Then some time later I see that they have indeed realized the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements, experiencing exclusively pleasant feelings. Suppose there was a lotus pond with clear, sweet, cool water, clean, with smooth banks, delightful. And nearby was a dark forest grove. Then along comes a person struggling in the oppressive heat, weary, thirsty, and parched. And they have set out on a path that meets with that same lotus pond. If a person with good eyesight saw them, they’d say: ‘This person is proceeding in such a way and has entered such a path that they will arrive at that very lotus pond.’ Then some time later they would see that person after they had plunged into that lotus pond, bathed and drunk. When all their stress, weariness, and heat exhaustion had faded away, they emerged and sat or lay down in that woodland thicket, where they experienced exclusively pleasant feelings.

In the same way, when I’ve comprehended the mind of a person, I understand: ‘This person is practicing in such a way and has entered such a path that they will realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements.’ Then some time later I see that they have indeed realized the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements, experiencing exclusively pleasant feelings. These are the five destinations.

When I know and see in this way, suppose someone were to say this: ‘The ascetic Gotama has no superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones. He teaches what he’s worked out by logic, following a line of inquiry, expressing his own perspective.’ Unless they give up that speech and that thought, and let go of that view, they will be cast down to hell. Just as a mendicant accomplished in ethics, immersion, and wisdom would reach enlightenment in this very life, such is the consequence, I say. Unless they give up that speech and thought, and let go of that view, they will be cast down to hell.

Sāriputta, I recall having practiced a spiritual path consisting of four factors. I used to be a self-mortifier, the ultimate self-mortifier. I used to live rough, the ultimate rough-liver. I used to live in disgust at sin, the ultimate one living in disgust at sin. I used to be secluded, in ultimate seclusion.

And this is what my self-mortification was like. I went naked, ignoring conventions. I licked my hands, and didn’t come or stop when asked. I didn’t consent to food brought to me, or food prepared specially for me, or an invitation for a meal. I didn’t receive anything from a pot or bowl; or from someone who keeps sheep, or who has a weapon or a shovel in their home; or where a couple is eating; or where there is a woman who is pregnant, breastfeeding, or who has a man in her home; or where food for distribution is advertised; or where there’s a dog waiting or flies buzzing. I accepted no fish or meat or liquor or wine, and drank no beer. I went to just one house for alms, taking just one mouthful, or two houses and two mouthfuls, up to seven houses and seven mouthfuls. I fed on one saucer a day, two saucers a day, up to seven saucers a day. I ate once a day, once every second day, up to once a week, and so on, even up to once a fortnight. I lived committed to the practice of eating food at set intervals.

I ate herbs, millet, wild rice, poor rice, water lettuce, rice bran, scum from boiling rice, sesame flour, grass, or cow dung. I survived on forest roots and fruits, or eating fallen fruit.

I wore robes of sunn hemp, mixed hemp, corpse-wrapping cloth, rags, lodh tree bark, antelope hide (whole or in strips), kusa grass, bark, wood-chips, human hair, horse-tail hair, or owls’ wings. I tore out hair and beard, committed to this practice. I constantly stood, refusing seats. I squatted, committed to the endeavor of squatting. I lay on a mat of thorns, making a mat of thorns my bed. I was committed to the practice of immersion in water three times a day, including the evening. And so I lived committed to practicing these various ways of mortifying and tormenting the body. Such was my practice of self-mortification.

And this is what my rough living was like. The dust and dirt built up on my body over many years until it started flaking off. It’s like the trunk of a pale-moon ebony tree, which builds up bark over many years until it starts flaking off. But it didn’t occur to me: ‘Oh, this dust and dirt must be rubbed off by my hand or another’s.’ That didn’t occur to me. Such was my rough living.

And this is what my living in disgust of sin was like. I’d step forward or back ever so mindfully. I was full of pity even regarding a drop of water, thinking: ‘May I not accidentally injure any little creatures that happen to be in the wrong place.’ Such was my living in disgust of sin.

And this is what my seclusion was like. I would plunge deep into a wilderness region and stay there. When I saw a cowherd or a shepherd, or someone gathering grass or sticks, or a lumberjack, I’d flee from forest to forest, from thicket to thicket, from valley to valley, from uplands to uplands. Why is that? So that I wouldn’t see them, nor they me. I fled like a wild deer seeing a human being. Such was my practice of seclusion.

I would go on all fours into the cow-pens after the cattle had left and eat the dung of the young suckling calves. As long as my own urine and excrement lasted, I would even eat that. Such was my eating of most unnatural things.

I would plunge deep into an awe-inspiring forest grove and stay there. It was so awe-inspiring that normally it would make your hair stand on end if you weren’t free of greed. And on days such as the cold spell when the snow falls in the dead of winter, I stayed in the open by night and in the forest by day. But in the last month of summer I’d stay in the open by day and in the forest by night. And then these verses, which were neither supernaturally inspired, nor learned before in the past, occurred to me:

‘Scorched and frozen,
alone in the awe-inspiring forest.
Naked, no fire to sit beside,
the sage still pursues his quest.’

I would make my bed in a charnel ground, with the bones of the dead for a pillow. Then the cowboys would come up to me. They’d spit and piss on me, throw mud on me, even poke sticks in my ears. But I don’t recall ever having a bad thought about them. Such was my abiding in equanimity.

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Purity comes from food.’ They say: ‘Let’s live on jujubes.’ So they eat jujubes and jujube powder, and drink jujube juice. And they enjoy many jujube concoctions. I recall eating just a single jujube. You might think that at that time the jujubes must have been very big. But you should not see it like this. The jujubes then were at most the same size as today. Eating so very little, my body became extremely emaciated. Due to eating so little, my limbs became like the joints of an eighty-year-old or a corpse, my bottom became like a camel’s hoof, my vertebrae stuck out like beads on a string, and my ribs were as gaunt as the broken-down rafters on an old barn. Due to eating so little, the gleam of my eyes sank deep in their sockets, like the gleam of water sunk deep down a well. Due to eating so little, my scalp shriveled and withered like a green bitter-gourd in the wind and sun. Due to eating so little, the skin of my belly stuck to my backbone, so that when I tried to rub the skin of my belly I grabbed my backbone, and when I tried to rub my backbone I rubbed the skin of my belly. Due to eating so little, when I tried to urinate or defecate I fell face down right there. Due to eating so little, when I tried to relieve my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair, rotted at its roots, fell out.

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Purity comes from food.’ They say: ‘Let’s live on mung beans.’ … ‘Let’s live on sesame.’ … ‘Let’s live on ordinary rice.’ … Due to eating so little, when I tried to relieve my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair, rotted at its roots, fell out.

But Sāriputta, I did not achieve any superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones by that conduct, that practice, that grueling work. Why is that? Because I didn’t achieve that noble wisdom that’s noble and emancipating, and which leads someone who practices it to the complete ending of suffering.

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Purity comes from transmigration.’ But it’s not easy to find a realm that I haven’t previously transmigrated to in all this long time, except for the gods of the pure abodes. For if I had transmigrated to the gods of the pure abodes I would not have returned to this realm again.

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Purity comes from rebirth.’ But it’s not easy to find any rebirth that I haven’t previously been reborn in …

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Purity comes from abode of rebirth.’ But it’s not easy to find an abode where I haven’t previously abided …

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Purity comes from sacrifice.’ But it’s not easy to find a sacrifice that I haven’t previously offered in all this long time, when I was an anointed aristocratic king or a well-to-do brahmin.

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Purity comes from serving the sacred flame.’ But it’s not easy to find a fire that I haven’t previously served in all this long time, when I was an anointed aristocratic king or a well-to-do brahmin.

There are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘So long as this gentleman is youthful, young, black-haired, blessed with youth, in the prime of life he will be endowed with perfect lucidity of wisdom. But when he’s old, elderly, and senior, advanced in years, and has reached the final stage of life—eighty, ninety, or a hundred years old—he will lose his lucidity of wisdom.’ But you should not see it like this. For now I am old, elderly, and senior, I’m advanced in years, and have reached the final stage of life. I am eighty years old. Suppose I had four disciples with a lifespan of a hundred years. And they each were perfect in memory, range, retention, and perfect lucidity of wisdom. Imagine how easily a well-trained expert archer with a strong bow would shoot a light arrow across the shadow of a palm tree. That’s how extraordinary they were in memory, range, retention, and perfect lucidity of wisdom. They’d bring up questions about the four kinds of mindfulness meditation again and again, and I would answer each question. They’d remember the answers and not ask the same question twice. And they’d pause only to eat and drink, go to the toilet, and sleep to dispel weariness. But the Realized One would not run out of Dhamma teachings, words and phrases of the teachings, or spontaneous answers. And at the end of a hundred years my four disciples would pass away. Even if you have to carry me around on a stretcher, there will never be any deterioration in the Realized One’s lucidity of wisdom.

And if there’s anyone of whom it may be rightly said that a being not liable to delusion has arisen in the world for the welfare and happiness of the people, for the benefit, welfare, and happiness of gods and humans, it’s of me that this should be said.”

Now at that time Venerable Nāgasamāla was standing behind the Buddha fanning him. Then he said to the Buddha:

“It’s incredible, sir, it’s amazing! While I was listening to this exposition of the teaching my hair stood up! What is the name of this exposition of the teaching?”

“Well, Nāgasamāla, you may remember this exposition of the teaching as ‘The Hair-raising Discourse’.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, Venerable Nāgasamāla was happy with what the Buddha said.

MN13. The Longer Discourse on the Mass of Suffering

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery.

Then several mendicants robed up in the morning and, taking their bowls and robes, entered Sāvatthī for alms. Then it occurred to them, “It’s too early to wander for alms in Sāvatthī. Why don’t we go to the monastery of the wanderers who follow other paths?” Then they went to the monastery of the wanderers who follow other paths, and exchanged greetings with the wanderers there. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, they sat down to one side. The wanderers said to them:

“Reverends, the ascetic Gotama advocates the complete understanding of sensual pleasures, and so do we. The ascetic Gotama advocates the complete understanding of sights, and so do we. The ascetic Gotama advocates the complete understanding of feelings, and so do we. What, then, is the difference between the ascetic Gotama’s teaching and instruction and ours?”

Those mendicants neither approved nor dismissed that statement of the wanderers who follow other paths. They got up from their seat, thinking, “We will learn the meaning of this statement from the Buddha himself.”

Then, after the meal, when they returned from alms-round, they went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and told him what had happened. The Buddha said:

“Mendicants, when wanderers who follow other paths say this, you should say to them: ‘But reverends, what’s the gratification, the drawback, and the escape when it comes to sensual pleasures? What’s the gratification, the drawback, and the escape when it comes to sights? What’s the gratification, the drawback, and the escape when it comes to feelings?’ Questioned like this, the wanderers who follow other paths would be stumped, and, in addition, would get frustrated. Why is that? Because they’re out of their element. I don’t see anyone in this world—with its gods, Māras, and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its gods and humans—who could provide a satisfying answer to these questions except for the Realized One or his disciple or someone who has heard it from them.

And what is the gratification of sensual pleasures? There are these five kinds of sensual stimulation. What five? Sights known by the eye that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. Sounds known by the ear … Smells known by the nose … Tastes known by the tongue … Touches known by the body that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. These are the five kinds of sensual stimulation. The pleasure and happiness that arise from these five kinds of sensual stimulation: this is the gratification of sensual pleasures.

And what is the drawback of sensual pleasures? It’s when a gentleman earns a living by means such as computing, accounting, calculating, farming, trade, raising cattle, archery, government service, or one of the professions. But they must face cold and heat, being hurt by the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and reptiles, and risking death from hunger and thirst. This is a drawback of sensual pleasures apparent in this very life, a mass of suffering caused by sensual pleasures.

That gentleman might try hard, strive, and make an effort, but fail to earn any money. If this happens, they sorrow and wail and lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion, saying: ‘Oh, my hard work is wasted. My efforts are fruitless!’ This too is a drawback of sensual pleasures apparent in this very life, a mass of suffering caused by sensual pleasures.

That gentleman might try hard, strive, and make an effort, and succeed in earning money. But they experience pain and sadness when they try to protect it, thinking: ‘How can I prevent my wealth from being taken by rulers or bandits, consumed by fire, swept away by flood, or taken by unloved heirs?’ And even though they protect it and ward it, rulers or bandits take it, or fire consumes it, or flood sweeps it away, or unloved heirs take it. They sorrow and wail and lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion: ‘What used to be mine is gone.’ This too is a drawback of sensual pleasures apparent in this very life, a mass of suffering caused by sensual pleasures.

Furthermore, for the sake of sensual pleasures kings fight with kings, aristocrats fight with aristocrats, brahmins fight with brahmins, and householders fight with householders. A mother fights with her child, child with mother, father with child, and child with father. Brother fights with brother, brother with sister, sister with brother, and friend fights with friend. Once they’ve started quarreling, arguing, and fighting, they attack each other with fists, stones, rods, and swords, resulting in death and deadly pain. This too is a drawback of sensual pleasures apparent in this very life, a mass of suffering caused by sensual pleasures.

Furthermore, for the sake of sensual pleasures they don their sword and shield, fasten their bow and arrows, and plunge into a battle massed on both sides, with arrows and spears flying and swords flashing. There they are struck with arrows and spears, and their heads are chopped off, resulting in death and deadly pain. This too is a drawback of sensual pleasures apparent in this very life, a mass of suffering caused by sensual pleasures.

Furthermore, for the sake of sensual pleasures they don their sword and shield, fasten their bow and arrows, and charge wetly plastered bastions, with arrows and spears flying and swords flashing. There they are struck with arrows and spears, splashed with dung, crushed with spiked blocks, and their heads are chopped off, resulting in death and deadly pain. This too is a drawback of sensual pleasures apparent in this very life, a mass of suffering caused by sensual pleasures.

Furthermore, for the sake of sensual pleasures they break into houses, plunder wealth, steal from isolated buildings, commit highway robbery, and commit adultery. The rulers would arrest them and subject them to various punishments—whipping, caning, and clubbing; cutting off hands or feet, or both; cutting off ears or nose, or both; the ‘porridge pot’, the ‘shell-shave’, the ‘demon’s mouth’, the ‘garland of fire’, the ‘burning hand’, the ‘grass blades’, the ‘bark dress’, the ‘antelope’, the ‘meat hook’, the ‘coins’, the ‘caustic pickle’, the ‘twisting bar’, the ‘straw mat’; being splashed with hot oil, being fed to the dogs, being impaled alive, and being beheaded. These result in death and deadly pain. This too is a drawback of sensual pleasures apparent in this very life, a mass of suffering caused by sensual pleasures.

Furthermore, for the sake of sensual pleasures, they conduct themselves badly by way of body, speech, and mind. When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in a place of loss, a bad place, the underworld, hell. This is a drawback of sensual pleasures to do with lives to come, a mass of suffering caused by sensual pleasures.

And what is the escape from sensual pleasures? Removing and giving up desire and greed for sensual pleasures: this is the escape from sensual pleasures.

There are ascetics and brahmins who don’t truly understand sensual pleasures’ gratification, drawback, and escape in this way for what they are. It’s impossible for them to completely understand sensual pleasures themselves, or to instruct another so that, practicing accordingly, they will completely understand sensual pleasures. There are ascetics and brahmins who do truly understand sensual pleasures’ gratification, drawback, and escape in this way for what they are. It is possible for them to completely understand sensual pleasures themselves, or to instruct another so that, practicing accordingly, they will completely understand sensual pleasures.

And what is the gratification of sights? Suppose there was a girl of the brahmins, aristocrats, or householders in her fifteenth or sixteenth year, neither too tall nor too short, neither too thin nor too fat, neither too dark nor too fair. Is she not at the height of her beauty and prettiness?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The pleasure and happiness that arise from this beauty and prettiness is the gratification of sights.

And what is the drawback of sights? Suppose that some time later you were to see that same sister—eighty, ninety, or a hundred years old—bent double, crooked, leaning on a staff, trembling as they walk, ailing, past their prime, with teeth broken, hair grey and scanty or bald, skin wrinkled, and limbs blotchy.

What do you think, mendicants? Has not that former beauty vanished and the drawback become clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“This is the drawback of sights.

Furthermore, suppose that you were to see that same sister sick, suffering, gravely ill, collapsed in her own urine and feces, being picked up by some and put down by others.

What do you think, mendicants? Has not that former beauty vanished and the drawback become clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“This too is the drawback of sights.

Furthermore, suppose that you were to see that same sister as a corpse discarded in a charnel ground. And she had been dead for one, two, or three days, bloated, livid, and festering.

What do you think, mendicants? Has not that former beauty vanished and the drawback become clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“This too is the drawback of sights.

Furthermore, suppose that you were to see that same sister as a corpse discarded in a charnel ground. And she was being devoured by crows, hawks, vultures, herons, dogs, tigers, leopards, jackals, and many kinds of little creatures …

Furthermore, suppose that you were to see that same sister as a corpse discarded in a charnel ground. And she had been reduced to a skeleton with flesh and blood, held together by sinews … a skeleton rid of flesh but smeared with blood, and held together by sinews … a skeleton rid of flesh and blood, held together by sinews … bones without sinews scattered in every direction. Here a hand-bone, there a foot-bone, here a shin-bone, there a thigh-bone, here a hip-bone, there a rib-bone, here a back-bone, there an arm-bone, here a neck-bone, there a jaw-bone, here a tooth, there the skull. …

Furthermore, suppose that you were to see that same sister as a corpse discarded in a charnel ground. And she had been reduced to white bones, the color of shells … decrepit bones, heaped in a pile … bones rotted and crumbled to powder.

What do you think, mendicants? Has not that former beauty vanished and the drawback become clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“This too is the drawback of sights.

And what is the escape from sights? Removing and giving up desire and greed for sights: this is the escape from sights.

There are ascetics and brahmins who don’t truly understand sights’ gratification, drawback, and escape in this way for what they are. It’s impossible for them to completely understand sights themselves, or to instruct another so that, practicing accordingly, they will completely understand sights. There are ascetics and brahmins who do truly understand sights’ gratification, drawback, and escape in this way for what they are. It is possible for them to completely understand sights themselves, or to instruct another so that, practicing accordingly, they will completely understand sights.

And what is the gratification of feelings? It’s when a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. At that time a mendicant doesn’t intend to hurt themselves, hurt others, or hurt both; they feel only feelings that are not hurtful. Freedom from being hurt is the ultimate gratification of feelings, I say.

Furthermore, a mendicant enters and remains in the second absorption … third absorption … fourth absorption. At that time a mendicant doesn’t intend to hurt themselves, hurt others, or hurt both; they feel only feelings that are not hurtful. Freedom from being hurt is the ultimate gratification of feelings, I say.

And what is the drawback of feelings? That feelings are impermanent, suffering, and perishable: this is their drawback.

And what is the escape from feelings? Removing and giving up desire and greed for feelings: this is the escape from feelings.

There are ascetics and brahmins who don’t truly understand feelings’ gratification, drawback, and escape in this way for what they are. It’s impossible for them to completely understand feelings themselves, or to instruct another so that, practicing accordingly, they will completely understand feelings. There are ascetics and brahmins who do truly understand feelings’ gratification, drawback, and escape in this way for what they are. It is possible for them to completely understand feelings themselves, or to instruct another so that, practicing accordingly, they will completely understand feelings.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with what the Buddha said.

MN28. The Longer Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There Sāriputta addressed the mendicants, “Reverends, mendicants!”

“Reverend,” they replied. Sāriputta said this:

“The footprints of all creatures that walk can fit inside an elephant’s footprint, so an elephant’s footprint is said to be the biggest of them all. In the same way, all skillful qualities can be included in the four noble truths. What four? The noble truths of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering.

And what is the noble truth of suffering? Rebirth is suffering; old age is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress are suffering; not getting what you wish for is suffering. In brief, the five grasping aggregates are suffering. And what are the five grasping aggregates? They are as follows: the grasping aggregates of form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness.

And what is the grasping aggregate of form? The four primary elements, and form derived from the four primary elements.

And what are the four primary elements? The elements of earth, water, fire, and air.

And what is the earth element? The earth element may be interior or exterior. And what is the interior earth element? Anything hard, solid, and appropriated that’s internal, pertaining to an individual. This includes: head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, undigested food, feces, or anything else hard, solid, and appropriated that’s internal, pertaining to an individual. This is called the interior earth element. The interior earth element and the exterior earth element are just the earth element. This should be truly seen with right understanding like this: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’ When you truly see with right understanding, you grow disillusioned with the earth element, detaching the mind from the earth element.

There comes a time when the exterior water element flares up. At that time the exterior earth element vanishes. So for all its great age, the earth element will be revealed as impermanent, liable to end, vanish, and perish. What then of this ephemeral body appropriated by craving? Rather than take it to be ‘I’ or ‘mine’ or ‘I am’, they still just consider it to be none of these things.

If others abuse, attack, harass, and trouble that mendicant, they understand: ‘This painful feeling born of ear contact has arisen in me. That’s dependent, not independent. Dependent on what? Dependent on contact.’ They see that contact, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness are impermanent. Based on that element alone, their mind becomes eager, confident, settled, and decided.

Others might treat that mendicant with disliking, loathing, and detestation, striking them with fists, stones, sticks, and swords. They understand: ‘This body is such that fists, stones, sticks, and swords strike it. But the Buddha has said in the Simile of the Saw:

“Even if low-down bandits were to sever you limb from limb, anyone who had a malevolent thought on that account would not be following my instructions.” My energy shall be roused up and unflagging, my mindfulness established and lucid, my body tranquil and undisturbed, and my mind immersed in samādhi. Gladly now, let fists, stones, sticks, and swords strike this body! For this is how the instructions of the Buddhas are followed.’

While recollecting the Buddha, the teaching, and the Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on the skillful may not become stabilized in them. In that case they stir up a sense of urgency: ‘It’s my loss, my misfortune, that while recollecting the Buddha, the teaching, and the Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on the skillful does not become stabilized in me.’ They’re like a daughter-in-law who stirs up a sense of urgency when they see their father-in-law. But if, while recollecting the Buddha, the teaching, and the Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on the skillful does become stabilized in them, they’re happy with that. At this point, much has been done by that mendicant.

And what is the water element? The water element may be interior or exterior. And what is the interior water element? Anything that’s water, watery, and appropriated that’s internal, pertaining to an individual. This includes: bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, snot, synovial fluid, urine, or anything else that’s water, watery, and appropriated that’s internal, pertaining to an individual. This is called the interior water element. The interior water element and the exterior water element are just the water element. This should be truly seen with right understanding like this: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’ When you truly see with right understanding, you grow disillusioned with the water element, detaching the mind from the water element.

There comes a time when the exterior water element flares up. It sweeps away villages, towns, cities, countries, and regions. There comes a time when the water in the ocean sinks down a hundred leagues, or two, three, four, five, six, up to seven hundred leagues. There comes a time when the water in the ocean stands just seven palm trees deep, or six, five, four, three, two, or even just one palm tree deep. There comes a time when the water in the ocean stands just seven fathoms deep, or six, five, four, three, two, or even just one fathom deep. There comes a time when the water in the ocean stands just half a fathom deep, or waist deep, or knee deep, or even just ankle deep. There comes a time when there isn’t enough water in the ocean even to wet the tip of your finger. So for all its great age, the water element will be revealed as impermanent, liable to end, vanish, and perish. What then of this ephemeral body appropriated by craving? Rather than take it to be ‘I’ or ‘mine’ or ‘I am’, they still just consider it to be none of these things. … If, while recollecting the Buddha, the teaching, and the Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on the skillful does become stabilized in them, they’re happy with that. At this point, much has been done by that mendicant.

And what is the fire element? The fire element may be interior or exterior. And what is the interior fire element? Anything that’s fire, fiery, and appropriated that’s internal, pertaining to an individual. This includes: that which warms, that which ages, that which heats you up when feverish, that which properly digests food and drink, or anything else that’s fire, fiery, and appropriated that’s internal, pertaining to an individual. This is called the interior fire element. The interior fire element and the exterior fire element are just the fire element. This should be truly seen with right understanding like this: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’ When you truly see with right understanding, you grow disillusioned with the fire element, detaching the mind from the fire element.

There comes a time when the exterior fire element flares up. It burns up villages, towns, cities, countries, and regions until it reaches a green field, a roadside, a cliff’s edge, a body of water, or cleared parkland, where it’s extinguished for lack of fuel. There comes a time when they go looking for a fire, taking just chicken feathers and strips of sinew as kindling. So for all its great age, the fire element will be revealed as impermanent, liable to end, vanish, and perish. What then of this ephemeral body appropriated by craving? Rather than take it to be ‘I’ or ‘mine’ or ‘I am’, they still just consider it to be none of these things. …

If, while recollecting the Buddha, the teaching, and the Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on the skillful does become stabilized in them, they’re happy with that. At this point, much has been done by that mendicant.

And what is the air element? The air element may be interior or exterior. And what is the interior air element? Anything that’s wind, windy, and appropriated that’s internal, pertaining to an individual. This includes: winds that go up or down, winds in the belly or the bowels, winds that flow through the limbs, in-breaths and out-breaths, or anything else that’s wind, windy, and appropriated that’s internal, pertaining to an individual. This is called the interior air element. The interior air element and the exterior air element are just the air element. This should be truly seen with right understanding like this: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’ When you truly see with right understanding, you reject the air element, detaching the mind from the air element.

There comes a time when the exterior air element flares up. It sweeps away villages, towns, cities, countries, and regions. There comes a time, in the last month of summer, when they look for wind by using a palm-leaf or fan, and even the grasses in the drip-fringe of a thatch roof don’t stir. So for all its great age, the air element will be revealed as impermanent, liable to end, vanish, and perish. What then of this ephemeral body appropriated by craving? Rather than take it to be ‘I’ or ‘mine’ or ‘I am’, they still just consider it to be none of these things. …

If others abuse, attack, harass, and trouble that mendicant, they understand: ‘This painful feeling born of ear contact has arisen in me. That’s dependent, not independent. Dependent on what? Dependent on contact. They see that contact, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness are impermanent. Based on that element alone, their mind becomes eager, confident, settled, and decided.

Others might treat that mendicant with disliking, loathing, and detestation, striking them with fists, stones, sticks, and swords. They understand: ‘This body is such that fists, stones, sticks, and swords strike it. But the Buddha has said in the Simile of the Saw: “Even if low-down bandits were to sever you limb from limb, anyone who had a thought of hate on that account would not be following my instructions.” My energy shall be roused up and unflagging, my mindfulness established and lucid, my body tranquil and undisturbed, and my mind immersed in samādhi. Gladly now, let fists, stones, sticks, and swords strike this body! For this is how the instructions of the Buddhas are followed.’

While recollecting the Buddha, the teaching, and the Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on the skillful may not become stabilized in them. In that case they stir up a sense of urgency: ‘It’s my loss, my misfortune, that while recollecting the Buddha, the teaching, and the Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on the skillful does not become stabilized in me.’ They’re like a daughter-in-law who stirs up a sense of urgency when they see their father-in-law. But if, while recollecting the Buddha, the teaching, and the Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on the skillful does become stabilized in them, they’re happy with that. At this point, much has been done by that mendicant.

When a space is enclosed by sticks, creepers, grass, and mud it becomes known as a ‘building’. In the same way, when a space is enclosed by bones, sinews, flesh, and skin it becomes known as a ‘form’.

Reverends, though the eye is intact internally, so long as exterior sights don’t come into range and there’s no corresponding engagement, there’s no manifestation of the corresponding type of consciousness. Though the eye is intact internally and exterior sights come into range, so long as there’s no corresponding engagement, there’s no manifestation of the corresponding type of consciousness. But when the eye is intact internally and exterior sights come into range and there is corresponding engagement, there is the manifestation of the corresponding type of consciousness.

The form produced in this way is included in the grasping aggregate of form. The feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness produced in this way are each included in the corresponding grasping aggregate.

They understand: ‘So this is how there comes to be inclusion, gathering together, and joining together into these five grasping aggregates. But the Buddha has said: “One who sees dependent origination sees the teaching. One who sees the teaching sees dependent origination.” And these five grasping aggregates are indeed dependently originated. The desire, adherence, attraction, and attachment for these five grasping aggregates is the origin of suffering. Giving up and getting rid of desire and greed for these five grasping aggregates is the cessation of suffering.’ At this point, much has been done by that mendicant.

Though the ear … nose … tongue … body … mind is intact internally, so long as exterior thoughts don’t come into range and there’s no corresponding engagement, there’s no manifestation of the corresponding type of consciousness.

Though the mind is intact internally and exterior thoughts come into range, so long as there’s no corresponding engagement, there’s no manifestation of the corresponding type of consciousness. But when the mind is intact internally and exterior thoughts come into range and there is corresponding engagement, there is the manifestation of the corresponding type of consciousness.

The form produced in this way is included in the grasping aggregate of form. The feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness produced in this way are each included in the corresponding grasping aggregate. They understand: ‘So this is how there comes to be inclusion, gathering together, and joining together into these five grasping aggregates.

But the Buddha has also said: “One who sees dependent origination sees the teaching. One who sees the teaching sees dependent origination.” And these five grasping aggregates are indeed dependently originated. The desire, adherence, attraction, and attachment for these five grasping aggregates is the origin of suffering. Giving up and getting rid of desire and greed for these five grasping aggregates is the cessation of suffering.’ At this point, much has been done by that mendicant.”

That’s what Venerable Sāriputta said. Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with what Sāriputta said.

MN38. The Longer Discourse on the Ending of Craving

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery.

Now at that time a mendicant called Sāti, the fisherman’s son, had the following harmful misconception: “As I understand the Buddha’s teachings, it is this very same consciousness that roams and transmigrates, not another.”

Several mendicants heard about this. They went up to Sāti and said to him, “Is it really true, Reverend Sāti, that you have such a harmful misconception: ‘As I understand the Buddha’s teachings, it is this very same consciousness that roams and transmigrates, not another’?”

“Absolutely, reverends. As I understand the Buddha’s teachings, it is this very same consciousness that roams and transmigrates, not another.”

Then, wishing to dissuade Sāti from his view, the mendicants pursued, pressed, and grilled him, “Don’t say that, Sāti! Don’t misrepresent the Buddha, for misrepresentation of the Buddha is not good. And the Buddha would not say that. In many ways the Buddha has said that consciousness is dependently originated, since without a cause, consciousness does not come to be.”

But even though the mendicants pressed him in this way, Sāti obstinately stuck to his misconception and insisted on stating it.

When they weren’t able to dissuade Sāti from his view, the mendicants went to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and told him what had happened.

So the Buddha addressed a certain monk, “Please, monk, in my name tell the mendicant Sāti that the teacher summons him.”

“Yes, sir,” that monk replied. He went to Sāti and said to him, “Reverend Sāti, the teacher summons you.”

“Yes, reverend,” Sāti replied. He went to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. The Buddha said to him, “Is it really true, Sāti, that you have such a harmful misconception: ‘As I understand the Buddha’s teachings, it is this very same consciousness that roams and transmigrates, not another’?”

“Absolutely, sir. As I understand the Buddha’s teachings, it is this very same consciousness that roams and transmigrates, not another.”

“Sāti, what is that consciousness?”

“Sir, it is he who speaks and feels and experiences the results of good and bad deeds in all the different realms.”

“Silly man, who on earth have you ever known me to teach in that way? Haven’t I said in many ways that consciousness is dependently originated, since consciousness does not arise without a cause? But still you misrepresent me by your wrong grasp, harm yourself, and make much bad karma. This will be for your lasting harm and suffering.”

Then the Buddha said to the mendicants, “What do you think, mendicants? Has this mendicant Sāti kindled even a spark of wisdom in this teaching and training?”

“How could that be, sir? No, sir.” When this was said, Sāti sat silent, embarrassed, shoulders drooping, downcast, depressed, with nothing to say.

Knowing this, the Buddha said, “Silly man, you will be known by your own harmful misconception. I’ll question the mendicants about this.”

Then the Buddha said to the mendicants, “Mendicants, do you understand my teachings as Sāti does, when he misrepresents me by his wrong grasp, harms himself, and makes much bad karma?”

“No, sir. For in many ways the Buddha has told us that consciousness is dependently originated, since without a cause, consciousness does not come to be.”

“Good, good, mendicants! It’s good that you understand my teaching like this. For in many ways I have told you that consciousness is dependently originated, since without a cause, consciousness does not come to be. But still this Sāti misrepresents me by his wrong grasp, harms himself, and makes much bad karma. This will be for his lasting harm and suffering.

Consciousness is reckoned according to the specific conditions dependent upon which it arises. Consciousness that arises dependent on the eye and sights is reckoned as eye consciousness. Consciousness that arises dependent on the ear and sounds is reckoned as ear consciousness. Consciousness that arises dependent on the nose and smells is reckoned as nose consciousness. Consciousness that arises dependent on the tongue and tastes is reckoned as tongue consciousness. Consciousness that arises dependent on the body and touches is reckoned as body consciousness. Consciousness that arises dependent on the mind and thoughts is reckoned as mind consciousness.

It’s like fire, which is reckoned according to the specific conditions dependent upon which it burns. A fire that burns dependent on logs is reckoned as a log fire. A fire that burns dependent on twigs is reckoned as a twig fire. A fire that burns dependent on grass is reckoned as a grass fire. A fire that burns dependent on cow-dung is reckoned as a cow-dung fire. A fire that burns dependent on husks is reckoned as a husk fire. A fire that burns dependent on rubbish is reckoned as a rubbish fire.

In the same way, consciousness is reckoned according to the specific conditions dependent upon which it arises. …

Mendicants, do you see that this has come to be?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you see that it originated with that as fuel?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you see that when that fuel ceases, what has come to be is liable to cease?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Does doubt arise when you’re uncertain whether or not this has come to be?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Does doubt arise when you’re uncertain whether or not this has originated with that as fuel?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Does doubt arise when you’re uncertain whether or not when that fuel ceases, what has come to be is liable to cease?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Is doubt given up in someone who truly sees with right understanding that this has come to be?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Is doubt given up in someone who truly sees with right understanding that this has originated with that as fuel?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Is doubt given up in someone who truly sees with right understanding that when that fuel ceases, what has come to be is liable to cease?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Are you free of doubt as to whether this has come to be?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Are you free of doubt as to whether this has originated with that as fuel?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Are you free of doubt as to whether when that fuel ceases, what has come to be is liable to cease?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have you truly seen clearly with right understanding that this has come to be?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have you truly seen clearly with right understanding that this has originated with that as fuel?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have you truly seen clearly with right understanding that when that fuel ceases, what has come to be is liable to cease?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Pure and bright as this view is, mendicants, if you cherish it, fancy it, treasure it, and treat it as your own, would you be understanding how the Dhamma is similar to a raft: for crossing over, not for holding on?”

“No, sir.”

“Pure and bright as this view is, mendicants, if you don’t cherish it, fancy it, treasure it, and treat it as your own, would you be understanding how the Dhamma is similar to a raft: for crossing over, not for holding on?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Mendicants, there are these four fuels. They maintain sentient beings that have been born and help those that are about to be born. What four? Solid food, whether coarse or fine; contact is the second, mental intention the third, and consciousness the fourth.

What is the source, origin, birthplace, and inception of these four fuels? Craving.

And what is the source of craving? Feeling.

And what is the source of feeling? Contact.

And what is the source of contact? The six sense fields.

And what is the source of the six sense fields? Name and form.

And what is the source of name and form? Consciousness.

And what is the source of consciousness? Choices.

And what is the source of choices? Ignorance.

So, ignorance is a condition for choices. Choices are a condition for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields. The six sense fields are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

‘Rebirth is a condition for old age and death.’ That’s what I said. Is that how you see this or not?”

“That’s how we see it.”

“‘Continued existence is a condition for rebirth.’ …

‘Ignorance is a condition for choices.’ That’s what I said. Is that how you see this or not?”

“That’s how we see it.”

“Good, mendicants! So both you and I say this. When this exists, that is; due to the arising of this, that arises. That is: Ignorance is a condition for choices. Choices are a condition for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields. The six sense fields are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. When consciousness ceases, name and form cease. When name and form cease, the six sense fields cease. When the six sense fields cease, contact ceases. When contact ceases, feeling ceases. When feeling ceases, craving ceases. When craving ceases, grasping ceases. When grasping ceases, continued existence ceases. When continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases. When rebirth ceases, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress cease. That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.

‘When rebirth ceases, old age and death cease.’ That’s what I said. Is that how you see this or not?”

“That’s how we see it.”

‘When continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases.’ …

‘When ignorance ceases, choices cease.’ That’s what I said. Is that how you see this or not?”

“That’s how we see it.”

“Good, mendicants! So both you and I say this. When this doesn’t exist, that is not; due to the cessation of this, that ceases. That is: When ignorance ceases, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. When consciousness ceases, name and form cease. When name and form cease, the six sense fields cease. When the six sense fields cease, contact ceases. When contact ceases, feeling ceases. When feeling ceases, craving ceases. When craving ceases, grasping ceases. When grasping ceases, continued existence ceases. When continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases. When rebirth ceases, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress cease. That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.

Knowing and seeing in this way, mendicants, would you turn back to the past, thinking, ‘Did we exist in the past? Did we not exist in the past? What were we in the past? How were we in the past? After being what, what did we become in the past?’?”

“No, sir.”

“Knowing and seeing in this way, mendicants, would you turn forward to the future, thinking, ‘Will we exist in the future? Will we not exist in the future? What will we be in the future? How will we be in the future? After being what, what will we become in the future?’?”

“No, sir.”

“Knowing and seeing in this way, mendicants, would you be undecided about the present, thinking, ‘Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? This sentient being—where did it come from? And where will it go?’?”

“No, sir.”

“Knowing and seeing in this way, would you say, ‘Our teacher is respected. We speak like this out of respect for our teacher.’?”

“No, sir.”

“Knowing and seeing in this way, would you say, ‘Our ascetic says this. It’s only because of him that we say this’?”

“No, sir.”

“Knowing and seeing in this way, would you acknowledge another teacher?”

“No, sir.”

“Knowing and seeing in this way, would you believe that the observances and noisy, superstitious rites of the various ascetics and brahmins are the most important things?”

“No, sir.”

“Aren’t you speaking only of what you have known and seen and realized for yourselves?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good, mendicants! You have been guided by me with this teaching that’s visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves. For when I said that this teaching is visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves, this is what I was referring to.

Mendicants, when three things come together an embryo is conceived. In a case where the mother and father come together, but the mother is not in the fertile part of her menstrual cycle, and the spirit being reborn is not present, the embryo is not conceived. In a case where the mother and father come together, the mother is in the fertile part of her menstrual cycle, but the spirit being reborn is not present, the embryo is not conceived. But when these three things come together—the mother and father come together, the mother is in the fertile part of her menstrual cycle, and the spirit being reborn is present—an embryo is conceived.

The mother nurtures the embryo in her womb for nine or ten months at great risk to her heavy burden. When nine or ten months have passed, the mother gives birth at great risk to her heavy burden. When the infant is born she nourishes it with her own blood. For mother’s milk is regarded as blood in the training of the Noble One.

That boy grows up and his faculties mature. He accordingly plays childish games such as toy plows, tipcat, somersaults, pinwheels, toy measures, toy carts, and toy bows.

That boy grows up and his faculties mature further. He accordingly amuses himself, supplied and provided with the five kinds of sensual stimulation. Sights known by the eye that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing.

Sounds known by the ear …

Smells known by the nose …

Tastes known by the tongue …

Touches known by the body that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing.

When they see a sight with their eyes, if it’s pleasant they desire it, but if it’s unpleasant they dislike it. They live with mindfulness of the body unestablished and their heart restricted. And they don’t truly understand the freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom where those arisen bad, unskillful qualities cease without anything left over.

Being so full of favoring and opposing, when they experience any kind of feeling—pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral—they approve, welcome, and keep clinging to it. This gives rise to relishing. Relishing feelings is grasping. Their grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

When they hear a sound with their ears …

When they smell an odor with their nose …

When they taste a flavor with their tongue …

When they feel a touch with their body …

When they know a thought with their mind, if it’s pleasant they desire it, but if it’s unpleasant they dislike it. They live with mindfulness of the body unestablished and their heart restricted. And they don’t truly understand the freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom where those arisen bad, unskillful qualities cease without anything left over.

Being so full of favoring and opposing, when they experience any kind of feeling—pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral—they approve, welcome, and keep clinging to it. This gives rise to relishing. Relishing feelings is grasping. Their grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

But consider when a Realized One arises in the world, perfected, a fully awakened Buddha, accomplished in knowledge and conduct, holy, knower of the world, supreme guide for those who wish to train, teacher of gods and humans, awakened, blessed. He has realized with his own insight this world—with its gods, Māras and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, gods and humans—and he makes it known to others. He proclaims a teaching that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing. He reveals an entirely full and pure spiritual life.

A householder hears that teaching, or a householder’s child, or someone reborn in some good family. They gain faith in the Realized One, and reflect, ‘Living in a house is cramped and dirty, but the life of one gone forth is wide open. It’s not easy for someone living at home to lead the spiritual life utterly full and pure, like a polished shell. Why don’t I cut off my hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from lay life to homelessness?’ After some time they give up a large or small fortune, and a large or small family circle. They shave off hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from the lay life to homelessness.

Once they’ve gone forth, they take up the training and livelihood of the mendicants. They give up killing living creatures, renouncing the rod and the sword. They’re scrupulous and kind, living full of compassion for all living beings.

They give up stealing. They take only what’s given, and expect only what’s given. They keep themselves clean by not thieving.

They give up unchastity. They are celibate, set apart, avoiding the common practice of sex.

They give up lying. They speak the truth and stick to the truth. They’re honest and trustworthy, and don’t trick the world with their words.

They give up divisive speech. They don’t repeat in one place what they heard in another so as to divide people against each other. Instead, they reconcile those who are divided, supporting unity, delighting in harmony, loving harmony, speaking words that promote harmony.

They give up harsh speech. They speak in a way that’s mellow, pleasing to the ear, lovely, going to the heart, polite, likable and agreeable to the people.

They give up talking nonsense. Their words are timely, true, and meaningful, in line with the teaching and training. They say things at the right time which are valuable, reasonable, succinct, and beneficial.

They avoid injuring plants and seeds. They eat in one part of the day, abstaining from eating at night and food at the wrong time. They avoid dancing, singing, music, and seeing shows. They avoid beautifying and adorning themselves with garlands, perfumes, and makeup. They avoid high and luxurious beds. They avoid receiving gold and money, raw grains, raw meat, women and girls, male and female bondservants, goats and sheep, chickens and pigs, elephants, cows, horses, and mares, and fields and land. They avoid running errands and messages; buying and selling; falsifying weights, metals, or measures; bribery, fraud, cheating, and duplicity; mutilation, murder, abduction, banditry, plunder, and violence.

They’re content with robes to look after the body and alms-food to look after the belly. Wherever they go, they set out taking only these things. They’re like a bird: wherever it flies, wings are its only burden. In the same way, a mendicant is content with robes to look after the body and alms-food to look after the belly. Wherever they go, they set out taking only these things. When they have this entire spectrum of noble ethics, they experience a blameless happiness inside themselves.

When they see a sight with their eyes, they don’t get caught up in the features and details. If the faculty of sight were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, they practice restraint, protecting the faculty of sight, and achieving its restraint.

When they hear a sound with their ears …

When they smell an odor with their nose …

When they taste a flavor with their tongue …

When they feel a touch with their body …

When they know a thought with their mind, they don’t get caught up in the features and details. If the faculty of mind were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, they practice restraint, protecting the faculty of mind, and achieving its restraint. When they have this noble sense restraint, they experience an unsullied bliss inside themselves.

They act with situational awareness when going out and coming back; when looking ahead and aside; when bending and extending the limbs; when bearing the outer robe, bowl and robes; when eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting; when urinating and defecating; when walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, waking, speaking, and keeping silent.

When they have this noble spectrum of ethics, this noble sense restraint, and this noble mindfulness and situational awareness, they frequent a secluded lodging—a wilderness, the root of a tree, a hill, a ravine, a mountain cave, a charnel ground, a forest, the open air, a heap of straw.

After the meal, they return from alms-round, sit down cross-legged with their body straight, and establish mindfulness right there. Giving up desire for the world, they meditate with a heart rid of desire, cleansing the mind of desire. Giving up ill will and malevolence, they meditate with a mind rid of ill will, full of compassion for all living beings, cleansing the mind of ill will. Giving up dullness and drowsiness, they meditate with a mind rid of dullness and drowsiness, perceiving light, mindful and aware, cleansing the mind of dullness and drowsiness. Giving up restlessness and remorse, they meditate without restlessness, their mind peaceful inside, cleansing the mind of restlessness and remorse. Giving up doubt, they meditate having gone beyond doubt, not undecided about skillful qualities, cleansing the mind of doubt.

They give up these five hindrances, corruptions of the heart that weaken wisdom. Then, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, they enter and remain in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. Furthermore, as the placing of the mind and keeping it connected are stilled, a mendicant enters and remains in the second absorption … third absorption … fourth absorption.

When they see a sight with their eyes, if it’s pleasant they don’t desire it, and if it’s unpleasant they don’t dislike it. They live with mindfulness of the body established and a limitless heart. And they truly understand the freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom where those arisen bad, unskillful qualities cease without anything left over.

Having given up favoring and opposing, when they experience any kind of feeling—pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral—they don’t approve, welcome, or keep clinging to it. As a result, relishing of feelings ceases. When their relishing ceases, grasping ceases. When grasping ceases, continued existence ceases. When continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases. When rebirth ceases, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress cease. That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.

When they hear a sound with their ears …

When they smell an odor with their nose …

When they taste a flavor with their tongue …

When they feel a touch with their body …

When they know a thought with their mind, if it’s pleasant they don’t desire it, and if it’s unpleasant they don’t dislike it. They live with mindfulness of the body established and a limitless heart. And they truly understand the freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom where those arisen bad, unskillful qualities cease without anything left over.

Having given up favoring and opposing, when they experience any kind of feeling—pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral—they don’t approve, welcome, or keep clinging to it. As a result, relishing of feelings ceases. When their relishing ceases, grasping ceases. When grasping ceases, continued existence ceases. When continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases. When rebirth ceases, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress cease. That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.

Mendicants, you should memorize that brief statement on freedom through the ending of craving. But the mendicant Sāti, the fisherman’s son, is caught in a vast net of craving, a tangle of craving.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with

MN43. The Great Classification

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery.

Then in the late afternoon, Venerable Mahākoṭṭhita came out of retreat, went to Venerable Sāriputta, and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side and said to Sāriputta:

“Reverend, they speak of ‘a witless person’. How is a witless person defined?”

“Reverend, they’re called witless because they don’t understand. And what don’t they understand? They don’t understand: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering.’ They’re called witless because they don’t understand.”

Saying “Good, reverend,” Mahākoṭṭhita approved and agreed with what Sāriputta said. Then he asked another question:

“They speak of ‘a wise person’. How is a wise person defined?”

“They’re called wise because they understand. And what do they understand? They understand: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering.’ They’re called wise because they understand.”

“They speak of ‘consciousness’. How is consciousness defined?”

“It’s called consciousness because it cognizes. And what does it cognize? It cognizes ‘pleasure’ and ‘pain’ and ‘neutral’. It’s called consciousness because it cognizes.”

“Wisdom and consciousness—are these things mixed or separate? And can we completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them?”

“Wisdom and consciousness—these things are mixed, not separate. And you can never completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them. For you understand what you cognize, and you cognize what you understand. That’s why these things are mixed, not separate. And you can never completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them.”

“Wisdom and consciousness—what is the difference between these things that are mixed, not separate?”

“The difference between these things is that wisdom should be developed, while consciousness should be completely understood.”

“They speak of this thing called ‘feeling’. How is feeling defined?”

“It’s called feeling because it feels. And what does it feel? It feels pleasure, pain, and neutral. It’s called feeling because it feels.”

“They speak of this thing called ‘perception’. How is perception defined?”

“It’s called perception because it perceives. And what does it perceive? It perceives blue, yellow, red, and white. It’s called perception because it perceives.”

“Feeling, perception, and consciousness—are these things mixed or separate? And can we completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them?”

“Feeling, perception, and consciousness—these things are mixed, not separate. And you can never completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them. For you perceive what you feel, and you cognize what you perceive. That’s why these things are mixed, not separate. And you can never completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them.”

“What can be known by purified mind consciousness released from the five senses?”

“Aware that ‘space is infinite’ it can know the dimension of infinite space. Aware that ‘consciousness is infinite’ it can know the dimension of infinite consciousness. Aware that ‘there is nothing at all’ it can know the dimension of nothingness.”

“How do you understand something that can be known?”

“You understand something that can be known with the eye of wisdom.”

“What is the purpose of wisdom?”

“The purpose of wisdom is direct knowledge, complete understanding, and giving up.”

“How many conditions are there for the arising of right view?”

“There are two conditions for the arising of right view: the words of another and proper attention. These are the two conditions for the arising of right view.”

“When right view is supported by how many factors does it have freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom as its fruit and benefit?”

“When right view is supported by five factors it has freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom as its fruit and benefit. It’s when right view is supported by ethics, learning, discussion, serenity, and discernment. When right view is supported by these five factors it has freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom as its fruit and benefit.”

“How many states of existence are there?”

“Reverend, there are these three states of existence. Existence in the sensual realm, the realm of luminous form, and the formless realm.”

“But how is there rebirth into a new state of existence in the future?”

“It’s because of sentient beings—hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving—taking pleasure in various different realms. That’s how there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future.”

“But how is there no rebirth into a new state of existence in the future?”

“It’s when ignorance fades away, knowledge arises, and craving ceases. That’s how there is no rebirth into a new state of existence in the future.”

“But what, reverend, is the first absorption?”

“Reverend, it’s when a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. This is called the first absorption.”

“But how many factors does the first absorption have?”

“The first absorption has five factors. When a mendicant has entered the first absorption, placing the mind, keeping it connected, rapture, bliss, and unification of mind are present. That’s how the first absorption has five factors.”

“But how many factors has the first absorption given up and how many does it possess?”

“The first absorption has given up five factors and possesses five factors. When a mendicant has entered the first absorption, sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, and doubt are given up. Placing the mind, keeping it connected, rapture, bliss, and unification of mind are present. That’s how the first absorption has given up five factors and possesses five factors.”

“Reverend, these five faculties have different scopes and different ranges, and don’t experience each others’ scope and range. That is, the faculties of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body. What do these five faculties, with their different scopes and ranges, have recourse to? What experiences their scopes and ranges?”

“These five faculties, with their different scopes and ranges, have recourse to the mind. And the mind experiences their scopes and ranges.”

“These five faculties depend on what to continue?”

“These five faculties depend on life to continue.”

“But what does life depend on to continue?”

“Life depends on warmth to continue.”

“But what does warmth depend on to continue?”

“Warmth depends on life to continue.”

“Just now I understood you to say: ‘Life depends on warmth to continue.’ But I also understood you to say: ‘Warmth depends on life to continue.’ How then should we see the meaning of this statement?”

“Well then, reverend, I shall give you a simile. For by means of a simile some sensible people understand the meaning of what is said. Suppose there was an oil lamp burning. The light appears dependent on the flame, and the flame appears dependent on the light. In the same way, life depends on warmth to continue, and warmth depends on life to continue.”

“Are the life forces the same things as the phenomena that are felt? Or are they different things?”

“The life forces are not the same things as the phenomena that are felt. For if the life forces and the phenomena that are felt were the same things, a mendicant who had attained the cessation of perception and feeling would not emerge from it. But because the life forces and the phenomena that are felt are different things, a mendicant who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling can emerge from it.”

“How many things must this body lose before it lies forsaken, tossed aside like an insentient log?”

“This body must lose three things before it lies forsaken, tossed aside like an insentient log: vitality, warmth, and consciousness.”

“What’s the difference between someone who has passed away and a mendicant who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling?”

“When someone dies, their physical, verbal, and mental processes have ceased and stilled; their vitality is spent; their warmth is dissipated; and their faculties have disintegrated. When a mendicant has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, their physical, verbal, and mental processes have ceased and stilled. But their vitality is not spent; their warmth is not dissipated; and their faculties are very clear. That’s the difference between someone who has passed away and a mendicant who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling.”

“How many conditions are necessary to attain the neutral release of the heart?”

“Four conditions are necessary to attain the neutral release of the heart. Giving up pleasure and pain, and ending former happiness and sadness, a mendicant enters and remains in the fourth absorption, without pleasure or pain, with pure equanimity and mindfulness. These four conditions are necessary to attain the neutral release of the heart.”

“How many conditions are necessary to attain the signless release of the heart?”

“Two conditions are necessary to attain the signless release of the heart: not focusing on any signs, and focusing on the signless. These two conditions are necessary to attain the signless release of the heart.”

“How many conditions are necessary to remain in the signless release of the heart?”

“Three conditions are necessary to remain in the signless release of the heart: not focusing on any signs, focusing on the signless, and a previous determination. These three conditions are necessary to remain in the signless release of the heart.”

“How many conditions are necessary to emerge from the signless release of the heart?”

“Two conditions are necessary to emerge from the signless release of the heart: focusing on all signs, and not focusing on the signless. These two conditions are necessary to emerge from the signless release of the heart.”

“The limitless release of the heart, and the release of the heart through nothingness, and the release of the heart through emptiness, and the signless release of the heart: do these things differ in both meaning and phrasing? Or do they mean the same thing, and differ only in the phrasing?”

“There is a way in which these things differ in both meaning and phrasing. But there’s also a way in which they mean the same thing, and differ only in the phrasing.

And what’s the way in which these things differ in both meaning and phrasing?

Firstly, a mendicant meditates spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. They meditate spreading a heart full of compassion … They meditate spreading a heart full of rejoicing … They meditate spreading a heart full of equanimity to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of equanimity to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. This is called the limitless release of the heart.

And what is the release of the heart through nothingness? It’s when a mendicant, going totally beyond the dimension of infinite consciousness, aware that ‘there is nothing at all’, enters and remains in the dimension of nothingness. This is called the heart’s release through nothingness.

And what is the release of the heart through emptiness? It’s when a mendicant has gone to a wilderness, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut, and reflects like this: ‘This is empty of a self or what belongs to a self.’ This is called the release of the heart through emptiness.

And what is the signless release of the heart? It’s when a mendicant, not focusing on any signs, enters and remains in the signless immersion of the heart. This is called the signless release of the heart.

This is the way in which these things differ in both meaning and phrasing.

And what’s the way in which they mean the same thing, and differ only in the phrasing?

Greed, hate, and delusion are makers of limits. A mendicant who has ended the defilements has given these up, cut them off at the root, made them like a palm stump, and obliterated them, so they are unable to arise in the future. The unshakable release of the heart is said to be the best kind of limitless release of the heart. That unshakable release of the heart is empty of greed, hate, and delusion.

Greed is something, hate is something, and delusion is something. A mendicant who has ended the defilements has given these up, cut them off at the root, made them like a palm stump, and obliterated them, so they are unable to arise in the future. The unshakable release of the heart is said to be the best kind of release of the heart through nothingness. That unshakable release of the heart is empty of greed, hate, and delusion.

Greed, hate, and delusion are makers of signs. A mendicant who has ended the defilements has given these up, cut them off at the root, made them like a palm stump, and obliterated them, so they are unable to arise in the future. The unshakable release of the heart is said to be the best kind of signless release of the heart. That unshakable release of the heart is empty of greed, hate, and delusion.

This is the way in which they mean the same thing, and differ only in the phrasing.”

This is what Venerable Sāriputta said. Satisfied, Venerable Mahākoṭṭhita was happy with what Sāriputta said.

MN70. At Kīṭāgiri

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was wandering in the land of the Kāsīs together with a large Saṅgha of mendicants. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants:

“Mendicants, I abstain from eating at night. Doing so, I find that I’m healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably. You too should abstain from eating at night. Doing so, you’ll find that you’re healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied.

Then the Buddha, traveling stage by stage in the land of the Kāsīs, arrived at a town of the Kāsīs named Kīṭāgiri, and stayed there.

Now at that time the mendicants who followed Assaji and Punabbasuka were residing at Kīṭāgiri. Then several mendicants went up to them and said, “Reverends, the Buddha abstains from eating at night, and so does the mendicant Saṅgha. Doing so, they find that they’re healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably. You too should abstain from eating at night. Doing so, you’ll find that you’re healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably.”

When they said this, the mendicants who followed Assaji and Punabbasuka said to them, “Reverends, we eat in the evening, the morning, and at the wrong time of day. Doing so, we find that we’re healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably. Why should we give up what is visible in the present to chase after what takes effect over time? We shall eat in the evening, the morning, and at the wrong time of day.”

Since those mendicants were unable to persuade the mendicants who were followers of Assaji and Punabbasuka, they approached the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and told him what had happened.

So the Buddha addressed a certain monk, “Please, monk, in my name tell the mendicants who follow Assaji and Punabbasuka that the teacher summons them.”

“Yes, sir,” that monk replied. He went to those mendicants and said, “Venerables, the teacher summons you.”

“Yes, reverend,” those mendicants replied. They went to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side.

The Buddha said to them, “Is it really true, mendicants, that several mendicants went to you and said: ‘Reverends, the Buddha abstains from eating at night, and so does the mendicant Saṅgha. Doing so, they find that they’re healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably. You too should abstain from eating at night. Doing so, you’ll find that you’re healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably.’ When they said this, did you really say to them: ‘Reverends, we eat in the evening, the morning, and at the wrong time of day. Doing so, we find that we’re healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably. Why should we give up what is visible in the present to chase after what takes effect over time? We shall eat in the evening, the morning, and at the wrong time of day.’”

“Yes, sir.”

“Mendicants, have you ever known me to teach the Dhamma like this: no matter what this individual experiences—pleasurable, painful, or neutral—their unskillful qualities decline and their skillful qualities grow?”

“No, sir.”

“Haven’t you known me to teach the Dhamma like this: ‘When someone feels this kind of pleasant feeling, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline. But when someone feels that kind of pleasant feeling, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow. When someone feels this kind of painful feeling, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline. But when someone feels that kind of painful feeling, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow. When someone feels this kind of neutral feeling, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline. But when someone feels that kind of neutral feeling, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow’?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good, mendicants! Now, suppose I hadn’t known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels this kind of pleasant feeling, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline.’ Not knowing this, would it be appropriate for me to say: ‘You should give up this kind of pleasant feeling’?”

“No, sir.”

“But I have known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels this kind of pleasant feeling, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline.’ Since this is so, that’s why I say: ‘You should give up this kind of pleasant feeling.’ Now, suppose I hadn’t known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels that kind of pleasant feeling, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow.’ Not knowing this, would it be appropriate for me to say: ‘You should enter and remain in that kind of pleasant feeling’?”

“No, sir.”

“But I have known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels that kind of pleasant feeling, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow.’ Since this is so, that’s why I say: ‘You should enter and remain in that kind of pleasant feeling.’

Now, suppose I hadn’t known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels this kind of painful feeling, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline.’ Not knowing this, would it be appropriate for me to say: ‘You should give up this kind of painful feeling’?”

“No, sir.”

“But I have known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels this kind of painful feeling, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline.’ Since this is so, that’s why I say: ‘You should give up this kind of painful feeling.’ Now, suppose I hadn’t known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels that kind of painful feeling, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow.’ Not knowing this, would it be appropriate for me to say: ‘You should enter and remain in that kind of painful feeling’?”

“No, sir.”

“But I have known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels that kind of painful feeling, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow.’ Since this is so, that’s why I say: ‘You should enter and remain in that kind of painful feeling.’

Now, suppose I hadn’t known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels this kind of neutral feeling, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline.’ Not knowing this, would it be appropriate for me to say: ‘You should give up this kind of neutral feeling’?”

“No, sir.”

“But I have known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels this kind of neutral feeling, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline.’ Since this is so, that’s why I say: ‘You should give up this kind of neutral feeling.’ Now, suppose I hadn’t known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels that kind of neutral feeling, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow.’ Not knowing this, would it be appropriate for me to say: ‘You should enter and remain in that kind of neutral feeling’?”

“No, sir.”

“But I have known, seen, understood, realized, and experienced this with wisdom: ‘When someone feels that kind of neutral feeling, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow.’ Since this is so, that’s why I say: ‘You should enter and remain in that kind of neutral feeling.’

Mendicants, I don’t say that all these mendicants still have work to do with diligence. Nor do I say that all these mendicants have no work to do with diligence. I say that mendicants don’t have work to do with diligence if they are perfected, with defilements ended, having completed the spiritual journey, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, achieved their own goal, utterly ended the fetters of rebirth, and become rightly freed through enlightenment. Why is that? They’ve done their work with diligence. They’re incapable of being negligent.

I say that mendicants still have work to do with diligence if they are trainees, who haven’t achieved their heart’s desire, but live aspiring to the supreme sanctuary. Why is that? Thinking: ‘Hopefully this venerable will frequent appropriate lodgings, associate with good friends, and control their faculties. Then they might realize the supreme culmination of the spiritual path in this very life, and live having achieved with their own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.’ Seeing this fruit of diligence for those mendicants, I say that they still have work to do with diligence.

Mendicants, these seven people are found in the world. What seven? One freed both ways, one freed by wisdom, a personal witness, one attained to view, one freed by faith, a follower of the teachings, and a follower by faith.

And what person is freed both ways? It’s a person who has direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. And, having seen with wisdom, their defilements have come to an end. This person is called freed both ways. And I say that this mendicant has no work to do with diligence. Why is that? They’ve done their work with diligence. They’re incapable of being negligent.

And what person is freed by wisdom? It’s a person who does not have direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. Nevertheless, having seen with wisdom, their defilements have come to an end. This person is called freed by wisdom. I say that this mendicant has no work to do with diligence. Why is that? They’ve done their work with diligence. They’re incapable of being negligent.

And what person is a personal witness? It’s a person who has direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. And, having seen with wisdom, some of their defilements have come to an end. This person is called a personal witness. I say that this mendicant still has work to do with diligence. Why is that? Thinking: ‘Hopefully this venerable will frequent appropriate lodgings, associate with good friends, and control their faculties. Then they might realize the supreme culmination of the spiritual path in this very life, and live having achieved with their own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.’ Seeing this fruit of diligence for this mendicant, I say that they still have work to do with diligence.

And what person is attained to view? It’s a person who doesn’t have direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. Nevertheless, having seen with wisdom, some of their defilements have come to an end. And they have clearly seen and clearly contemplated with wisdom the teaching and training proclaimed by the Realized One. This person is called attained to view. I say that this mendicant also still has work to do with diligence. Why is that? Thinking: ‘Hopefully this venerable will frequent appropriate lodgings, associate with good friends, and control their faculties. Then they might realize the supreme culmination of the spiritual path in this very life, and live having achieved with their own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.’ Seeing this fruit of diligence for this mendicant, I say that they still have work to do with diligence.

And what person is freed by faith? It’s a person who doesn’t have direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. Nevertheless, having seen with wisdom, some of their defilements have come to an end. And their faith is settled, rooted, and planted in the Realized One. This person is called freed by faith. I say that this mendicant also still has work to do with diligence. Why is that? Thinking: ‘Hopefully this venerable will frequent appropriate lodgings, associate with good friends, and control their faculties. Then they might realize the supreme culmination of the spiritual path in this very life, and live having achieved with their own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.’ Seeing this fruit of diligence for this mendicant, I say that they still have work to do with diligence.

And what person is a follower of the teachings? It’s a person who doesn’t have direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. Nevertheless, having seen with wisdom, some of their defilements have come to an end. And they accept the teachings proclaimed by the Realized One after considering them with a degree of wisdom. And they have the following qualities: the faculties of faith, energy, mindfulness, immersion, and wisdom. This person is called a follower of the teachings. I say that this mendicant also still has work to do with diligence. Why is that? Thinking: ‘Hopefully this venerable will frequent appropriate lodgings, associate with good friends, and control their faculties. Then they might realize the supreme culmination of the spiritual path in this very life, and live having achieved with their own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.’ Seeing this fruit of diligence for this mendicant, I say that they still have work to do with diligence.

And what person is a follower by faith? It’s a person who doesn’t have direct meditative experience of the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form. Nevertheless, having seen with wisdom, some of their defilements have come to an end. And they have a degree of faith and love for the Realized One. And they have the following qualities: the faculties of faith, energy, mindfulness, immersion, and wisdom. This person is called a follower by faith. I say that this mendicant also still has work to do with diligence. Why is that? Thinking: ‘Hopefully this venerable will frequent appropriate lodgings, associate with good friends, and control their faculties. Then they might realize the supreme culmination of the spiritual path in this very life, and live having achieved with their own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.’ Seeing this fruit of diligence for this mendicant, I say that they still have work to do with diligence.

Mendicants, I don’t say that enlightenment is achieved right away. Rather, enlightenment is achieved by gradual training, progress, and practice.

And how is enlightenment achieved by gradual training, progress, and practice? It’s when someone in whom faith has arisen approaches a teacher. They pay homage, lend an ear, hear the teachings, remember the teachings, reflect on their meaning, and accept them after consideration. Then enthusiasm springs up; they make an effort, weigh up, and persevere. Persevering, they directly realize the ultimate truth, and see it with penetrating wisdom.

Mendicants, there has not been that faith, that approaching, that paying homage, that listening, that hearing the teachings, that remembering the teachings, that reflecting on their meaning, that acceptance after consideration, that enthusiasm, that making an effort, that weighing up, or that striving. You’ve lost the way, mendicants! You’re practicing the wrong way! Just how far have these foolish people strayed from this teaching and training!

There is an exposition in four parts, which a sensible person would quickly understand when it is recited. I shall recite it for you, mendicants. Try to understand it.”

“Sir, who are we to be counted alongside those who understand the teaching?”

“Even with a teacher who values material things, is an heir in material things, who lives caught up in material things, you wouldn’t get into such haggling: ‘If we get this, we’ll do that. If we don’t get this, we won’t do it.’ What then of the Realized One, who lives utterly detached from material things?

For a faithful disciple who is practicing to fathom the Teacher’s instructions, this is in line with the teaching: ‘The Buddha is my Teacher, I am his disciple. The Buddha knows, I do not know.’ For a faithful disciple who is practicing to fathom the Teacher’s instructions, the Teacher’s instructions are nourishing and nutritious. For a faithful disciple who is practicing to fathom the Teacher’s instructions, this is in line with the teaching: ‘Gladly, let only skin, sinews, and bones remain! Let the flesh and blood waste away in my body! I will not relax my energy until I have achieved what is possible by human strength, energy, and vigor.’ A faithful disciple who is practicing to fathom the Teacher’s instructions can expect one of two results: enlightenment in the present life, or if there’s something left over, non-return.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with what the Buddha said.

MN101. At Devadaha

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying in the land of the Sakyans, near the Sakyan town named Devadaha. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants, “Mendicants!”

“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, there are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Everything this individual experiences—pleasurable, painful, or neutral—is because of past deeds. So, due to eliminating past deeds by mortification, and not doing any new deeds, there’s nothing to come up in the future. With nothing to come up in the future, deeds end. With the ending of deeds, suffering ends. With the ending of suffering, feeling ends. And with the ending of feeling, all suffering will have been worn away.’ Such is the doctrine of the Jain ascetics.

I’ve gone up to the Jain ascetics who say this and said, ‘Is it really true that this is the venerables’ view?’ They admitted that it is.

I said to them, ‘But reverends, do you know for sure that you existed in the past, and it is not the case that you didn’t exist?’

‘No we don’t, reverend.’

‘But reverends, do you know for sure that you did bad deeds in the past?’

‘No we don’t, reverend.’

‘But reverends, do you know that you did such and such bad deeds?’

‘No we don’t, reverend.’

‘But reverends, do you know that so much suffering has already been worn away? Or that so much suffering still remains to be worn away? Or that when so much suffering is worn away all suffering will have been worn away?’

‘No we don’t, reverend.’

‘But reverends, do you know about giving up unskillful qualities in the present life and embracing skillful qualities?’

‘No we don’t, reverend.’

‘So it seems that you don’t know any of these things. In that case, it’s not appropriate for the Jain venerables to declare this.

Now, supposing you did know these things. In that case, it would be appropriate for the Jain venerables to declare this.

Suppose a man was struck by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, causing painful feelings, sharp and severe. Their friends and colleagues, relatives and kin would get a field surgeon to treat them. The surgeon would cut open the wound with a scalpel, causing painful feelings, sharp and severe. They’d probe for the arrow, causing painful feelings, sharp and severe. They’d extract the arrow, causing painful feelings, sharp and severe. They’d apply cauterizing medicine to the wound, causing painful feelings, sharp and severe. After some time that wound would be healed and the skin regrown. They’d be healthy, happy, autonomous, master of themselves, able to go where they wanted.

They’d think, “Earlier I was struck by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, causing painful feelings, sharp and severe. My friends and colleagues, relatives and kin got a field surgeon to treat me. At each step, the treatment was painful. But these days that wound is healed and the skin regrown. I’m healthy, happy, autonomous, my own master, able to go where I want.”

In the same way, reverends, if you knew about these things, it would be appropriate for the Jain venerables to declare this.

But since you don’t know any of these things, it’s not appropriate for the Jain venerables to declare this.’

When I said this, those Jain ascetics said to me, ‘Reverend, the Jain leader Nāṭaputta claims to be all-knowing and all-seeing, to know and see everything without exception, thus: “Knowledge and vision are constantly and continually present to me, while walking, standing, sleeping, and waking.”

He says: “O reverend Jain ascetics, you have done bad deeds in a past life. Wear them away with these severe and grueling austerities. And when you refrain from such deeds in the present by way of body, speech, and mind, you’re not doing any bad deeds for the future. So, due to eliminating past deeds by mortification, and not doing any new deeds, there’s nothing to come up in the future. With nothing to come up in the future, deeds end. With the ending of deeds, suffering ends. With the ending of suffering, feeling ends. And with the ending of feeling, all suffering will have been worn away.” We like and accept this, and we are satisfied with it.’

When they said this, I said to them, ‘These five things can be seen to turn out in two different ways. What five? Faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, and acceptance of a view after consideration. These are the five things that can be seen to turn out in two different ways. In this case, what faith in your teacher do you have when it comes to the past? What preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration?’ When I said this, I did not see any legitimate defense of their doctrine from the Jains.

Furthermore, I said to those Jain ascetics, ‘What do you think, reverends? At a time of intense exertion and striving do you suffer painful, sharp, severe, acute feelings due to overexertion? Whereas at a time without intense exertion and striving do you not suffer painful, sharp, severe, acute feelings due to overexertion?’

‘Reverend Gotama, at a time of intense exertion we suffer painful, sharp feelings due to overexertion, not without intense exertion.’

‘So it seems that only at a time of intense exertion do you suffer painful, sharp feelings due to overexertion, not without intense exertion. In that case, it’s not appropriate for the Jain venerables to declare: “Everything this individual experiences—pleasurable, painful, or neutral—is because of past deeds. …”

If at a time of intense exertion you did not suffer painful, sharp feelings due to overexertion, and if without intense exertion you did experience such feelings, it would be appropriate for the Jain venerables to declare this.

But since this is not the case, aren’t you experiencing painful, sharp feelings due only to your own exertion, which out of ignorance, unknowing, and confusion you misconstrue to imply: “Everything this individual experiences—pleasurable, painful, or neutral—is because of past deeds. …”?’ When I said this, I did not see any legitimate defense of their doctrine from the Jains.

Furthermore, I said to those Jain ascetics, ‘What do you think, reverends? If a deed is to be experienced in this life, can exertion make it be experienced in lives to come?’

‘No, reverend.’

‘But if a deed is to be experienced in lives to come, can exertion make it be experienced in this life?’

‘No, reverend.’

‘What do you think, reverends? If a deed is to be experienced as pleasure, can exertion make it be experienced as pain?’

‘No, reverend.’

‘But if a deed is to be experienced as pain, can exertion make it be experienced as pleasure?’

‘No, reverend.’

‘What do you think, reverends? If a deed is to be experienced when fully ripened, can exertion make it be experienced when not fully ripened?’

‘No, reverend.’

‘But if a deed is to be experienced when not fully ripened, can exertion make it be experienced when fully ripened?’

‘No, reverend.’

‘What do you think, reverends? If a deed is to be experienced strongly, can exertion make it be experienced weakly?’

‘No, reverend.’

‘But if a deed is to be experienced weakly, can exertion make it be experienced strongly?’

‘No, reverend.’

‘What do you think, reverends? If a deed is to be experienced, can exertion make it not be experienced?’

‘No, reverend.’

‘But if a deed is not to be experienced, can exertion make it be experienced?’

‘No, reverend.’

‘So it seems that exertion cannot change the way deeds are experienced in any of these ways. This being so, your exertion and striving are fruitless.’

Such is the doctrine of the Jain ascetics. Saying this, the Jain ascetics deserve rebuke and criticism on ten legitimate grounds.

If sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of past deeds, clearly the Jains have done bad deeds in the past, since they now experience such intense pain. If sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of the Lord God’s creation, clearly the Jains were created by a bad God, since they now experience such intense pain. If sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of circumstance and nature, clearly the Jains arise from bad circumstances, since they now experience such intense pain. If sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of the class of rebirth, clearly the Jains have been reborn in a bad class, since they now experience such intense pain. If sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of exertion in the present, clearly the Jains exert themselves badly in the present, since they now experience such intense pain.

The Jains deserve criticism whether or not sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of past deeds, or the Lord God’s creation, or circumstance and nature, or class of rebirth, or exertion in the present. Such is the doctrine of the Jain ascetics. The Jain ascetics who say this deserve rebuke and criticism on these ten legitimate grounds. That’s how exertion and striving is fruitless.

And how is exertion and striving fruitful? It’s when a mendicant doesn’t bring suffering upon themselves; and they don’t give up legitimate pleasure, but they’re not besotted with that pleasure. They understand: ‘When I actively strive I become dispassionate towards this source of suffering. But when I develop equanimity I become dispassionate towards this other source of suffering.’ So they either actively strive or develop equanimity as appropriate. Through active striving they become dispassionate towards that specific source of suffering, and so that suffering is worn away. Through developing equanimity they become dispassionate towards that other source of suffering, and so that suffering is worn away.

Suppose a man is in love with a woman, full of intense desire and lust. Then he sees her standing together with another man, chatting, giggling, and laughing.

What do you think, mendicants? Would that give rise to sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress for him?”

“Yes, sir. Why is that? Because that man is in love that woman, full of intense desire and lust.”

“Then that man might think: ‘I’m in love with that woman, full of intense desire and lust. When I saw her standing together with another man, chatting, giggling, and laughing, it gave rise to sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress for me. Why don’t I give up that desire and lust for that woman?’ So that’s what he did. Some time later he sees her again standing together with another man, chatting, giggling, and laughing.

What do you think, mendicants? Would that give rise to sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress for him?”

“No, sir. Why is that? Because he no longer desires that woman.”

“In the same way, a mendicant doesn’t bring suffering upon themselves; and they don’t give up legitimate pleasure, but they’re not besotted with that pleasure. They understand: ‘When I actively strive I become dispassionate towards this source of suffering. But when I develop equanimity I become dispassionate towards this other source of suffering.’ So they either actively strive or develop equanimity as appropriate. Through active striving they become dispassionate towards that specific source of suffering, and so that suffering is worn away. Through developing equanimity they become dispassionate towards that other source of suffering, and so that suffering is worn away. That’s how exertion and striving is fruitful.

Furthermore, a mendicant reflects: ‘When I live as I please, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline. But when I strive painfully, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow. Why don’t I strive painfully?’ So that’s what they do, and as they do so unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow. After some time, they no longer strive painfully. Why is that? Because they have accomplished the goal for which they strived painfully.

Suppose an arrowsmith was heating an arrow shaft between two firebrands, making it straight and fit for use. After it’s been made straight and fit for use, they’d no longer heat it to make it straight and fit for use. Why is that? Because they have accomplished the goal for which they heated it.

In the same way, a mendicant reflects: ‘When I live as I please, unskillful qualities grow and skillful qualities decline. But when I strive painfully, unskillful qualities decline and skillful qualities grow. Why don’t I strive painfully?’ … After some time, they no longer strive painfully. That too is how exertion and striving is fruitful.

Furthermore, a Realized One arises in the world, perfected, a fully awakened Buddha, accomplished in knowledge and conduct, holy, knower of the world, supreme guide for those who wish to train, teacher of gods and humans, awakened, blessed. He has realized with his own insight this world—with its gods, Māras and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, gods and humans—and he makes it known to others. He teaches Dhamma that’s good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, meaningful and well-phrased. And he reveals a spiritual practice that’s entirely full and pure.

A householder hears that teaching, or a householder’s child, or someone reborn in some clan. They gain faith in the Realized One, and reflect: ‘Living in a house is cramped and dirty, but the life of one gone forth is wide open. It’s not easy for someone living at home to lead the spiritual life utterly full and pure, like a polished shell. Why don’t I shave off my hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from the lay life to homelessness?’ After some time they give up a large or small fortune, and a large or small family circle. They shave off hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from the lay life to homelessness.

Once they’ve gone forth, they take up the training and livelihood of the mendicants. They give up killing living creatures, renouncing the rod and the sword. They’re scrupulous and kind, living full of compassion for all living beings. They give up stealing. They take only what’s given, and expect only what’s given. They keep themselves clean by not thieving. They give up unchastity. They are celibate, set apart, avoiding the common practice of sex. They give up lying. They speak the truth and stick to the truth. They’re honest and trustworthy, and don’t trick the world with their words. They give up divisive speech. They don’t repeat in one place what they heard in another so as to divide people against each other. Instead, they reconcile those who are divided, supporting unity, delighting in harmony, loving harmony, speaking words that promote harmony. They give up harsh speech. They speak in a way that’s mellow, pleasing to the ear, lovely, going to the heart, polite, likable and agreeable to the people. They give up talking nonsense. Their words are timely, true, and meaningful, in line with the teaching and training. They say things at the right time which are valuable, reasonable, succinct, and beneficial. They avoid injuring plants and seeds. They eat in one part of the day, abstaining from eating at night and food at the wrong time. They avoid dancing, singing, music, and seeing shows. They avoid beautifying and adorning themselves with garlands, perfumes, and makeup. They avoid high and luxurious beds. They avoid receiving gold and money, raw grains, raw meat, women and girls, male and female bondservants, goats and sheep, chickens and pigs, elephants, cows, horses, and mares, and fields and land. They avoid running errands and messages; buying and selling; falsifying weights, metals, or measures; bribery, fraud, cheating, and duplicity; mutilation, murder, abduction, banditry, plunder, and violence.

They’re content with robes to look after the body and alms-food to look after the belly. Wherever they go, they set out taking only these things. They’re like a bird: wherever it flies, wings are its only burden. In the same way, a mendicant is content with robes to look after the body and alms-food to look after the belly. Wherever they go, they set out taking only these things. When they have this entire spectrum of noble ethics, they experience a blameless happiness inside themselves.

When they see a sight with their eyes, they don’t get caught up in the features and details. If the faculty of sight were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, they practice restraint, protecting the faculty of sight, and achieving its restraint. When they hear a sound with their ears … When they smell an odor with their nose … When they taste a flavor with their tongue … When they feel a touch with their body … When they know a thought with their mind, they don’t get caught up in the features and details. If the faculty of mind were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, they practice restraint, protecting the faculty of mind, and achieving its restraint. When they have this noble sense restraint, they experience an unsullied bliss inside themselves.

They act with situational awareness when going out and coming back; when looking ahead and aside; when bending and extending the limbs; when bearing the outer robe, bowl and robes; when eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting; when urinating and defecating; when walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, waking, speaking, and keeping silent.

When they have this noble spectrum of ethics, this noble sense restraint, and this noble mindfulness and situational awareness, they frequent a secluded lodging—a wilderness, the root of a tree, a hill, a ravine, a mountain cave, a charnel ground, a forest, the open air, a heap of straw. After the meal, they return from alms-round, sit down cross-legged with their body straight, and establish mindfulness right there.

Giving up desire for the world, they meditate with a heart rid of desire, cleansing the mind of desire. Giving up ill will and malevolence, they meditate with a mind rid of ill will, full of compassion for all living beings, cleansing the mind of ill will. Giving up dullness and drowsiness, they meditate with a mind rid of dullness and drowsiness, perceiving light, mindful and aware, cleansing the mind of dullness and drowsiness. Giving up restlessness and remorse, they meditate without restlessness, their mind peaceful inside, cleansing the mind of restlessness and remorse. Giving up doubt, they meditate having gone beyond doubt, not undecided about skillful qualities, cleansing the mind of doubt.

They give up these five hindrances, corruptions of the heart that weaken wisdom. Then, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, they enter and remain in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. That too is how exertion and striving is fruitful.

Furthermore, as the placing of the mind and keeping it connected are stilled, they enter and remain in the second absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of immersion, with internal clarity and confidence, and unified mind, without placing the mind and keeping it connected. That too is how exertion and striving is fruitful.

Furthermore, with the fading away of rapture, a mendicant enters and remains in the third absorption, where they meditate with equanimity, mindful and aware, personally experiencing the bliss of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous and mindful, one meditates in bliss.’ That too is how exertion and striving is fruitful.

Furthermore, giving up pleasure and pain, and ending former happiness and sadness, they enter and remain in the fourth absorption, without pleasure or pain, with pure equanimity and mindfulness. That too is how exertion and striving is fruitful.

When their mind has become immersed in samādhi like this—purified, bright, flawless, rid of corruptions, pliable, workable, steady, and imperturbable—they extend it toward recollection of past lives. They recollect many kinds of past lives, that is, one, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand rebirths; many eons of the world contracting, many eons of the world expanding, many eons of the world contracting and expanding. They remember: ‘There, I was named this, my clan was that, I looked like this, and that was my food. This was how I felt pleasure and pain, and that was how my life ended. When I passed away from that place I was reborn somewhere else. There, too, I was named this, my clan was that, I looked like this, and that was my food. This was how I felt pleasure and pain, and that was how my life ended. When I passed away from that place I was reborn here.’ And so they recollect their many kinds of past lives, with features and details. That too is how exertion and striving is fruitful.

When their mind has become immersed in samādhi like this—purified, bright, flawless, rid of corruptions, pliable, workable, steady, and imperturbable—they extend it toward knowledge of the death and rebirth of sentient beings. With clairvoyance that is purified and superhuman, they see sentient beings passing away and being reborn—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, in a good place or a bad place. They understood how sentient beings are reborn according to their deeds: ‘These dear beings did bad things by way of body, speech, and mind. They spoke ill of the noble ones; they had wrong view; and they chose to act out of that wrong view. When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in a place of loss, a bad place, the underworld, hell. These dear beings, however, did good things by way of body, speech, and mind. They never spoke ill of the noble ones; they had right view; and they chose to act out of that right view. When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm.’ And so, with clairvoyance that is purified and superhuman, they see sentient beings passing away and being reborn—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, in a good place or a bad place. They understand how sentient beings are reborn according to their deeds. That too is how exertion and striving is fruitful.

When their mind has become immersed in samādhi like this—purified, bright, flawless, rid of corruptions, pliable, workable, steady, and imperturbable—they extend it toward knowledge of the ending of defilements. They truly understand: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering’. They truly understand: ‘These are defilements’ … ‘This is the origin of defilements’ … ‘This is the cessation of defilements’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of defilements’.

Knowing and seeing like this, their mind is freed from the defilements of sensuality, desire to be reborn, and ignorance. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed.

They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’ That too is how exertion and striving is fruitful. Such is the doctrine of the Realized One. Saying this, the Realized One deserves praise on ten legitimate grounds.

If sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of past deeds, clearly the Realized One has done good deeds in the past, since he now experiences such undefiled pleasure. If sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of the Lord God’s creation, clearly the Realized One was created by a good God, since he now experiences such undefiled pleasure. If sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of circumstance and nature, clearly the Realized One arises from good circumstances, since he now experiences such undefiled pleasure. If sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of the class of rebirth, clearly the Realized One was reborn in a good class, since he now experiences such undefiled pleasure. If sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of exertion in the present, clearly the Realized One exerts himself well in the present, since he now experiences such undefiled pleasure.

The Realized One deserves praise whether or not sentient beings experience pleasure and pain because of past deeds, or the Lord God’s creation, or circumstance and nature, or class of rebirth, or exertion in the present. Such is the doctrine of the Realized One. Saying this, the Realized One deserves praise on these ten legitimate grounds.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with what the Buddha said.

MN117. The Great Forty

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants, “Mendicants!”

“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, I will teach you noble right immersion with its vital conditions and its prerequisites. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“And what is noble right immersion with its vital conditions and its prerequisites? They are: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, and right mindfulness. Unification of mind with these seven factors as prerequisites is called noble right immersion with its vital conditions and also with its prerequisites.

In this context, right view comes first. And how does right view come first? When you understand wrong view as wrong view and right view as right view, that’s your right view.

And what is wrong view? ‘There’s no meaning in giving, sacrifice, or offerings. There’s no fruit or result of good and bad deeds. There’s no afterlife. There are no duties to mother and father. No beings are reborn spontaneously. And there’s no ascetic or brahmin who is well attained and practiced, and who describes the afterlife after realizing it with their own insight.’ This is wrong view.

And what is right view? Right view is twofold, I say. There is right view that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment. And there is right view that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path.

And what is right view that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment? ‘There is meaning in giving, sacrifice, and offerings. There are fruits and results of good and bad deeds. There is an afterlife. There are duties to mother and father. There are beings reborn spontaneously. And there are ascetics and brahmins who are well attained and practiced, and who describe the afterlife after realizing it with their own insight.’ This is right view that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment.

And what is right view that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path? It’s the wisdom—the faculty of wisdom, the power of wisdom, the awakening factor of investigation of principles, and right view as a factor of the path—in one of noble mind and undefiled mind, who possesses the noble path and develops the noble path. This is called right view that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path.

They make an effort to give up wrong view and embrace right view: that’s their right effort. Mindfully they give up wrong view and take up right view: that’s their right mindfulness. So these three things keep running and circling around right view, namely: right view, right effort, and right mindfulness.

In this context, right view comes first. And how does right view come first? When you understand wrong thought as wrong thought and right thought as right thought, that’s your right view.

And what is wrong thought? Thoughts of sensuality, of malice, and of cruelty. This is wrong thought.

And what is right thought? Right thought is twofold, I say. There is right thought that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment. And there is right thought that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path.

And what is right thought that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment? Thoughts of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness. This is right thought that is accompanied by defilements.

And what is right thought that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path? It’s the thinking—the placing of the mind, thought, applying, application, implanting of the mind, verbal processes—in one of noble mind and undefiled mind, who possesses the noble path and develops the noble path. This is right thought that is noble.

They make an effort to give up wrong thought and embrace right thought: that’s their right effort. Mindfully they give up wrong thought and take up right thought: that’s their right mindfulness. So these three things keep running and circling around right thought, namely: right view, right effort, and right mindfulness.

In this context, right view comes first. And how does right view come first? When you understand wrong speech as wrong speech and right speech as right speech, that’s your right view.

And what is wrong speech? Speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical. This is wrong speech.

And what is right speech? Right speech is twofold, I say. There is right speech that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment. And there is right speech that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path.

And what is right speech that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment? The refraining from lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, and talking nonsense. This is right speech that is accompanied by defilements.

And what is right speech that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path? It’s the desisting, abstaining, abstinence, and refraining from the four kinds of bad verbal conduct in one of noble mind and undefiled mind, who possesses the noble path and develops the noble path. This is right speech that is noble.

They make an effort to give up wrong speech and embrace right speech: that’s their right effort. Mindfully they give up wrong speech and take up right speech: that’s their right mindfulness. So these three things keep running and circling around right speech, namely: right view, right effort, and right mindfulness.

In this context, right view comes first. And how does right view come first? When you understand wrong action as wrong action and right action as right action, that’s your right view.

And what is wrong action? Killing living creatures, stealing, and sexual misconduct. This is wrong action.

And what is right action? Right action is twofold, I say. There is right action that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment. And there is right action that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path.

And what is right action that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment? Refraining from killing living creatures, stealing, and sexual misconduct. This is right action that is accompanied by defilements.

And what is right action that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path? It’s the desisting, abstaining, abstinence, and refraining from the three kinds of bad bodily conduct in one of noble mind and undefiled mind, who possesses the noble path and develops the noble path. This is right action that is noble.

They make an effort to give up wrong action and embrace right action: that’s their right effort. Mindfully they give up wrong action and take up right action: that’s their right mindfulness. So these three things keep running and circling around right action, namely: right view, right effort, and right mindfulness.

In this context, right view comes first. And how does right view come first? When you understand wrong livelihood as wrong livelihood and right livelihood as right livelihood, that’s your right view.

And what is wrong livelihood? Deceit, flattery, hinting, and belittling, and using material possessions to chase after other material possessions. This is wrong livelihood.

And what is right livelihood? Right livelihood is twofold, I say. There is right livelihood that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment. And there is right livelihood that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path.

And what is right livelihood that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment? It’s when a noble disciple gives up wrong livelihood and earns a living by right livelihood. This is right livelihood that is accompanied by defilements.

And what is right livelihood that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path? It’s the desisting, abstaining, abstinence, and refraining from wrong livelihood in one of noble mind and undefiled mind, who possesses the noble path and develops the noble path. This is right livelihood that is noble.

They make an effort to give up wrong livelihood and embrace right livelihood: that’s their right effort. Mindfully they give up wrong livelihood and take up right livelihood: that’s their right mindfulness. So these three things keep running and circling around right livelihood, namely: right view, right effort, and right mindfulness.

In this context, right view comes first. And how does right view come first? Right view gives rise to right thought. Right thought gives rise to right speech. Right speech gives rise to right action. Right action gives rise to right livelihood. Right livelihood gives rise to right effort. Right effort gives rise to right mindfulness. Right mindfulness gives rise to right immersion. Right immersion gives rise to right knowledge. Right knowledge gives rise to right freedom. So the trainee has eight factors, while the perfected one has ten factors. And here too, the eradication of many bad, unskillful qualities is fully developed due to right knowledge.

In this context, right view comes first. And how does right view come first? For one of right view, wrong view is worn away. And the many bad, unskillful qualities that arise because of wrong view are worn away. And because of right view, many skillful qualities are fully developed. For one of right thought, wrong thought is worn away. … For one of right speech, wrong speech is worn away. … For one of right action, wrong action is worn away. … For one of right livelihood, wrong livelihood is worn away. … For one of right effort, wrong effort is worn away. … For one of right mindfulness, wrong mindfulness is worn away. … For one of right immersion, wrong immersion is worn away. … For one of right knowledge, wrong knowledge is worn away. … For one of right freedom, wrong freedom is worn away. And the many bad, unskillful qualities that arise because of wrong freedom are worn away. And because of right freedom, many skillful qualities are fully developed.

So there are twenty on the side of the skillful, and twenty on the side of the unskillful. This exposition of the teaching on the Great Forty has been rolled forth. And it cannot be rolled back by any ascetic or brahmin or god or Māra or Brahmā or by anyone in the world.

If any ascetic or brahmin imagines they can criticize and reject the exposition of the teaching on the Great Forty, they deserve rebuke and criticism on ten legitimate grounds in the present life. If such a gentleman criticizes right view, they praise and honor the ascetics and brahmins who have wrong view. If they criticize right thought … right speech … right action … right livelihood … right effort … right mindfulness … right immersion … right knowledge … right freedom, they praise and honor the ascetics and brahmins who have wrong freedom. If any ascetic or brahmin imagines they can criticize and reject the exposition of the teaching on the Great Forty, they deserve rebuke and criticism on these ten legitimate grounds in the present life.

Even those wanderers of the past, Vassa and Bhañña of Ukkalā, who taught the doctrines of no-cause, inaction, and nihilism, didn’t imagine that the Great Forty should be criticized or rejected. Why is that? For fear of blame, attack, and condemnation.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with what the Buddha said.

MN120. Rebirth by Choice

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants, “Mendicants!”

“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“I shall teach you rebirth by choice. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. They think: ‘If only, when my body breaks up, after death, I would be reborn in the company of well-to-do aristocrats!’ They settle on that thought, stabilize it and develop it. Those choices and meditations of theirs, developed and cultivated like this, lead to rebirth there. This is the path and the practice that leads to rebirth there.

Furthermore, take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. They think: ‘If only, when my body breaks up, after death, I would be reborn in the company of well-to-do brahmins … well-to-do householders.’ They settle on that thought, stabilize it and develop it. Those choices and meditations of theirs, developed and cultivated like this, lead to rebirth there. This is the path and the practice that leads to rebirth there.

Furthermore, take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. And they’ve heard: ‘The Gods of the Four Great Kings are long-lived, beautiful, and very happy.’ They think: ‘If only, when my body breaks up, after death, I would be reborn in the company of the Gods of the Four Great Kings!’ They settle on that thought, stabilize it and develop it. Those choices and meditations of theirs, developed and cultivated like this, lead to rebirth there. This is the path and the practice that leads to rebirth there.

Furthermore, take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. And they’ve heard: ‘The Gods of the Thirty-Three … the Gods of Yama … the Joyful Gods … the Gods Who Love to Create … the Gods Who Control the Creations of Others are long-lived, beautiful, and very happy.’ They think: ‘If only, when my body breaks up, after death, I would be reborn in the company of the Gods Who Control the Creations of Others!’ They settle on that thought, stabilize it and develop it. Those choices and meditations of theirs, developed and cultivated like this, lead to rebirth there. This is the path and the practice that leads to rebirth there.

Furthermore, take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. And they’ve heard: ‘The Brahmā of a thousand is long-lived, beautiful, and very happy.’ Now the Brahmā of a thousand meditates determined on pervading a galaxy of a thousand solar systems, as well as the sentient beings reborn there. As a person might pick up a gallnut in their hand and examine it, so too the Brahmā of a thousand meditates determined on pervading a galaxy of a thousand solar systems, as well as the sentient beings reborn there. They think: ‘If only, when my body breaks up, after death, I would be reborn in the company of the Brahmā of a thousand!’ They settle on that thought, stabilize it and develop it. Those choices and meditations of theirs, developed and cultivated like this, lead to rebirth there. This is the path and the practice that leads to rebirth there.

Furthermore, take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. And they’ve heard: ‘The Brahmā of two thousand … the Brahmā of three thousand … the Brahmā of four thousand … the Brahmā of five thousand is long-lived, beautiful, and very happy.’ Now the Brahmā of five thousand meditates determined on pervading a galaxy of five thousand solar systems, as well as the sentient beings reborn there. As a person might pick up five gallnuts in their hand and examine them, so too the Brahmā of five thousand meditates determined on pervading a galaxy of five thousand solar systems, as well as the sentient beings reborn there. They think: ‘If only, when my body breaks up, after death, I would be reborn in the company of the Brahmā of five thousand!’ They settle on that thought, stabilize it and develop it. Those choices and meditations of theirs, developed and cultivated like this, lead to rebirth there. This is the path and the practice that leads to rebirth there.

Furthermore, take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. And they’ve heard: ‘The Brahmā of ten thousand is long-lived, beautiful, and very happy.’ Now the Brahmā of ten thousand meditates determined on pervading a galaxy of ten thousand solar systems, as well as the sentient beings reborn there. Suppose there was a beryl gem that was naturally beautiful, eight-faceted, well-worked. When placed on a cream rug it would shine and glow and radiate. In the same way the Brahmā of ten thousand meditates determined on pervading a galaxy of ten thousand solar systems, as well as the sentient beings reborn there. They think: ‘If only, when my body breaks up, after death, I would be reborn in the company of the Brahmā of ten thousand!’ They settle on that thought, stabilize it and develop it. Those choices and meditations of theirs, developed and cultivated like this, lead to rebirth there. This is the path and the practice that leads to rebirth there.

Furthermore, take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. And they’ve heard: ‘The Brahmā of a hundred thousand is long-lived, beautiful, and very happy.’ Now the Brahmā of a hundred thousand meditates determined on pervading a galaxy of a hundred thousand solar systems, as well as the sentient beings reborn there. Suppose there was a pendant of river gold, fashioned by an expert smith, well wrought in the forge. When placed on a cream rug it would shine and glow and radiate. In the same way the Brahmā of a hundred thousand meditates determined on pervading a galaxy of a hundred thousand solar systems, as well as the sentient beings reborn there. They think: ‘If only, when my body breaks up, after death, I would be reborn in the company of the Brahmā of a hundred thousand!’ They settle on that thought, stabilize it and develop it. Those choices and meditations of theirs, developed and cultivated like this, lead to rebirth there. This is the path and the practice that leads to rebirth there.

Furthermore, take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. And they’ve heard: ‘The Radiant Gods … the Gods of Limited Radiance … the Gods of Limitless Radiance … the Gods of Streaming Radiance … the Gods of Limited Glory … the Gods of Limitless Glory … the Gods Replete with Glory … the Gods of Abundant Fruit … the Gods of Aviha … the Gods of Atappa … the Gods Fair to See … the Fair Seeing Gods … the Gods of Akaniṭṭha … the gods of the dimension of infinite space … the gods of the dimension of infinite consciousness … the gods of the dimension of nothingness … the gods of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception are long-lived, beautiful, and very happy.’ They think: ‘If only, when my body breaks up, after death, I would be reborn in the company of the gods of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception!’ They settle on that thought, stabilize it and develop it. Those choices and meditations of theirs, developed and cultivated like this, lead to rebirth there. This is the path and the practice that leads to rebirth there.

Furthermore, take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. They think: ‘If only I might realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with my own insight due to the ending of defilements.’ They realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life. And they live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements. And, mendicants, that mendicant is not reborn anywhere.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with what the Buddha said.

SN1.20. With Samiddhi

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Rājagaha in the Hot Springs Monastery.

Then Venerable Samiddhi rose at the crack of dawn and went to the hot springs to bathe. When he had bathed and emerged from the water he stood in one robe drying himself.

Then, late at night, a glorious deity, lighting up the entire hot springs, went up to Samiddhi, and, standing in the air, addressed him in verse:

“Mendicant, you seek alms before you eat;
you wouldn’t seek alms after eating.
But you should eat first, then seek alms:
don’t let the time pass you by.”

“I actually don’t know the time;
it’s hidden and unseen.
That’s why I seek alms before eating,
so that the time may not pass me by!”

Then that deity landed on the ground and said to Samiddhi, “You’ve gone forth while young, mendicant. You’re black-haired, blessed with youth, in the prime of life, and you’ve never flirted with sensual pleasures. Enjoy human sensual pleasures! Don’t give up what is visible in the present to chase after what takes effect over time.”

“I’m not, good sir; I’m giving up what takes effect over time to chase after what is visible in the present. For the Buddha has said that sensual pleasures take effect over time, with much suffering and distress, and they’re all the more full of drawbacks. But this teaching is visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves.”

“But in what way, mendicant, has the Buddha said that sensual pleasures take effect over time, with much suffering and distress, and they’re all the more full of drawbacks? And how is this teaching visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves?”

“I’m junior, good sir, recently gone forth, newly come to this teaching and training. I’m not able to explain this in detail. But the Blessed One, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha is staying near Rājagaha in the Hot Springs Monatery. You should go to him and ask about this matter. And you should remember it in line with the Buddha’s answer.”

“It’s not easy for us to approach the Buddha, as he is surrounded by other illustrious deities. If you go to the Buddha and ask him about this matter, we’ll come along and listen to the teaching.”

“Yes, good sir,” Venerable Samiddhi replied. He went to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and told him what had happened. Then he added:

“Sir, if that deity spoke the truth, he’ll be close by.”

When he had spoken, that deity said to Samiddhi, “Ask, mendicant, ask! For I have arrived.”

Then the Buddha addressed the deity in verse:

“Sentient beings who perceive the communicable,
become established in the communicable.
Not understanding the communicable,
they fall under the yoke of Death.

But having fully understood the communicable,
they don’t identify as a communicator,
for they have nothing
by which they might be described.
Tell me if you understand, spirit.”

“I don’t understand the detailed meaning of the Buddha’s brief statement. Please teach me this matter so I can understand the detailed meaning.”

“If you think that ‘I’m equal,
special, or worse’, you’ll get into arguments.
Unwavering in the face of the three discriminations,
you’ll have no thought ‘I’m equal or special’.
Tell me if you understand, spirit.”

“I don’t understand the detailed meaning of the Buddha’s brief statement. Please teach me this matter so I can understand the detailed meaning.”

“Judging is given up, conceit rejected;
craving for name and form is cut off right here.
They’ve cut the ties, untroubled, with no need for hope.
Though gods and humans search for them
in this world and the world beyond, they never find them,
not in heaven nor in any abode.

Tell me if you understand, spirit.”

“This is how I understand the detailed meaning of the Buddha’s brief statement:

“You should never do anything bad
by speech or mind or body in all the world.
Having given up sensual pleasures, mindful and aware,
you shouldn’t keep doing what’s painful and pointless.”

SN4.21. Several

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying in the land of the Sakyans near Silāvatī.

Now at that time several mendicants were meditating not far from the Buddha, diligent, keen, and resolute.

Then Māra the Wicked manifested in the form of a brahmin with a large matted dreadlock, wearing an antelope hide. He was old, bent double, wheezing, and held a staff made of cluster fig tree wood. He went up to those mendicants and said, “You’ve gone forth while young, reverends. You’re black-haired, blessed with youth, in the prime of life, and you’ve never flirted with sensual pleasures. Enjoy human sensual pleasures. Don’t give up what is visible in the present to chase after what takes effect over time.”

“Brahmin, that’s not what we’re doing. We’re giving up what takes effect over time to chase after what is visible in the present. For the Buddha says that sensual pleasures take effect over time; they give much suffering and distress, and they are all the more full of drawbacks. But this teaching is visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves.”

When they had spoken, Māra the Wicked shook his head, waggled his tongue, raised his eyebrows until his brow puckered in three furrows, and departed leaning on his staff.

Then those senior mendicants went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and told him what had happened. The Buddha said, “Mendicants, that was no brahmin. That was Māra the Wicked who came to pull the wool over your eyes!”

Then, knowing the meaning of this, on that occasion the Buddha recited this verse:

“When a person has seen where suffering comes from
how could they incline towards sensual pleasures?
Realizing that attachment is a chain in the world,
a person would train to remove it.”

SN5.10. With Vajirā

At Sāvatthī.

Then the nun Vajirā robed up in the morning and, taking her bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms. She wandered for alms in Sāvatthī. After the meal, on her return from alms-round, she went to the Dark Forest, plunged deep into it, and sat at the root of a tree for the day’s meditation.

Then Māra the Wicked, wanting to make the nun Vajirā feel fear, terror, and goosebumps, wanting to make her fall away from immersion, went up to her and addressed her in verse:

“Who created this sentient being?
Where is its maker?
Where has the being arisen?
And where does it cease?”

Then the nun Vajirā thought, “Who’s speaking this verse, a human or a non-human?”

Then she thought, “This is Māra the Wicked, wanting to make me feel fear, terror, and goosebumps, wanting to make me fall away from immersion!”

Then Vajirā, knowing that this was Māra the Wicked, replied to him in verse:

“Why do you believe there’s such a thing as a ‘sentient being’?
Māra, is this your theory?
This is just a pile of conditions,
you won’t find a sentient being here.

When the parts are assembled
we use the word ‘chariot’.
So too, when the aggregates are present
‘sentient being’ is the convention we use.

But it’s only suffering that comes to be,
lasts a while, then disappears.
Naught but suffering comes to be,
naught but suffering ceases.”

Then Māra the Wicked, thinking, “The nun Vajirā knows me!” miserable and sad, vanished right there.

SN12.1. Dependent Origination

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants, “Mendicants!”

“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, I will teach you dependent origination. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“And what is dependent origination? Ignorance is a condition for choices. Choices are a condition for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields. The six sense fields are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. This is called dependent origination.

When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. When consciousness ceases, name and form cease. When name and form cease, the six sense fields cease. When the six sense fields cease, contact ceases. When contact ceases, feeling ceases. When feeling ceases, craving ceases. When craving ceases, grasping ceases. When grasping ceases, continued existence ceases. When continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases. When rebirth ceases, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress cease. That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.”

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with what the Buddha said.

SN12.2. Analysis

At Sāvatthī.

“Mendicants, I will teach and analyze for you dependent origination. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“And what is dependent origination? Ignorance is a condition for choices. Choices are a condition for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields. The six sense fields are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

And what is old age and death? The old age, decrepitude, broken teeth, grey hair, wrinkly skin, diminished vitality, and failing faculties of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings. This is called old age. The passing away, perishing, disintegration, demise, mortality, death, decease, breaking up of the aggregates, and laying to rest of the corpse of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings. This is called death. Such is old age, and such is death. This is called old age and death.

And what is rebirth? The rebirth, inception, conception, reincarnation, manifestation of the aggregates, and acquisition of the sense fields of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings. This is called rebirth.

And what is continued existence? There are these three states of existence. Existence in the sensual realm, the realm of luminous form, and the formless realm. This is called continued existence.

And what is grasping? There are these four kinds of grasping. Grasping at sensual pleasures, views, precepts and observances, and theories of a self. This is called grasping.

And what is craving? There are these six classes of craving. Craving for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts. This is called craving.

And what is feeling? There are these six classes of feeling. Feeling born of contact through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. This is called feeling.

And what is contact? There are these six classes of contact. Contact through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. This is called contact.

And what are the six sense fields? The sense fields of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. These are called the six sense fields.

And what are name and form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, and attention. This is called name. The four primary elements, and form derived from the four primary elements. This is called form. Such is name and such is form. These are called name and form.

And what is consciousness? There are these six classes of consciousness. Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind consciousness. This is called consciousness.

And what are choices? There are three kinds of choices. Choices by way of body, speech, and mind. These are called choices.

And what is ignorance? Not knowing about suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering. This is called ignorance.

And so, ignorance is a condition for choices.

Choices are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. … That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.”

SN12.10. Gotama

“Mendicants, before my awakening—when I was still unawakened but intent on awakening—I thought: ‘Alas, this world has fallen into trouble. It’s born, grows old, dies, passes away, and is reborn, yet it doesn’t understand how to escape from this suffering, from old age and death. Oh, when will an escape be found from this suffering, from old age and death?’

Then it occurred to me: ‘When what exists is there old age and death? What is a condition for old age and death?’ Then, through proper attention, I comprehended with wisdom: ‘When rebirth exists there’s old age and death. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death.’

Then it occurred to me: ‘When what exists is there rebirth? … continued existence … grasping … craving … feeling … contact … the six sense fields … name and form … consciousness … ‘When what exists are there choices? What is a condition for choices?’ Then, through proper attention, I comprehended with wisdom: ‘When ignorance exists there are choices. Ignorance is a condition for choices.’

And so, ignorance is a condition for choices.

Choices are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. ‘Origination, origination.’ Such was the vision, knowledge, wisdom, realization, and light that arose in me regarding teachings not learned before from another.

Then it occurred to me: ‘When what doesn’t exist is there no old age and death? When what ceases do old age and death cease?’ Then, through proper attention, I comprehended with wisdom: ‘When rebirth doesn’t exist there’s no old age and death? When rebirth ceases, old age and death cease.’

Then it occurred to me: ‘When what doesn’t exist is there no rebirth? … continued existence … grasping … craving … feeling … contact … the six sense fields … name and form … consciousness … ‘When what doesn’t exist are there no choices? When what ceases do choices cease?’ Then, through proper attention, I comprehended with wisdom: ‘When ignorance doesn’t exist there are no choices. When ignorance ceases, choices cease.’

And so, when ignorance ceases, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. … That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases. ‘Cessation, cessation.’ Such was the vision, knowledge, wisdom, realization, and light that arose in me regarding teachings not learned before from another.”

SN12.15. Kaccānagotta

At Sāvatthī.

Then Venerable Kaccānagotta went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him:

“Sir, they speak of this thing called ‘right view’. How is right view defined?”

“Kaccāna, this world mostly relies on the dual notions of existence and non-existence.

But when you truly see the origin of the world with right understanding, you won’t have the notion of non-existence regarding the world. And when you truly see the cessation of the world with right understanding, you won’t have the notion of existence regarding the world.

The world is for the most part shackled by attraction, grasping, and insisting.

But if—when it comes to this attraction, grasping, mental fixation, insistence, and underlying tendency—you don’t get attracted, grasp, and commit to the notion ‘my self’, you’ll have no doubt or uncertainty that what arises is just suffering arising, and what ceases is just suffering ceasing. Your knowledge about this is independent of others.

This is how right view is defined.

‘All exists’: this is one extreme.

‘All doesn’t exist’: this is the second extreme.

Avoiding these two extremes, the Realized One teaches by the middle way:

‘Ignorance is a condition for choices. Choices are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. … That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.’”

SN12.21. The Ten Powers

At Sāvatthī.

“Mendicants, a Realized One has ten powers and four kinds of self-assurance. With these he claims the bull’s place, roars his lion’s roar in the assemblies, and turns the holy wheel.

Such is form, such is the origin of form, such is the ending of form. Such is feeling, such is the origin of feeling, such is the ending of feeling. Such is perception, such is the origin of perception, such is the ending of perception. Such are choices, such is the origin of choices, such is the ending of choices. Such is consciousness, such is the origin of consciousness, such is the ending of consciousness.

When this exists, that is; due to the arising of this, that arises. When this doesn’t exist, that is not; due to the cessation of this, that ceases. That is:

Ignorance is a condition for choices.

Choices are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. … That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.”

SN12.25. With Bhūmija

At Sāvatthī.

Then in the late afternoon, Venerable Bhūmija came out of retreat, went to Venerable Sāriputta, and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side and said to him:

“Reverend Sāriputta, there are ascetics and brahmins who teach the efficacy of deeds. Some of them declare that pleasure and pain are made by oneself. Some of them declare that pleasure and pain are made by another. Some of them declare that pleasure and pain are made by both oneself and another. Some of them declare that pleasure and pain arise by chance, not made by oneself or another. What does the Buddha say about this? How does he explain it? How should we answer so as to repeat what the Buddha has said, and not misrepresent him with an untruth? How should we explain in line with his teaching, with no legitimate grounds for rebuke and criticism?”

“Reverend, the Buddha said that pleasure and pain are dependently originated. Dependent on what? Dependent on contact. If you said this you would repeat what the Buddha has said, and not misrepresent him with an untruth. You would explain in line with his teaching, and there would be no legitimate grounds for rebuke and criticism.

Consider the ascetics and brahmins who teach the efficacy of deeds. In the case of those who declare that pleasure and pain are made by oneself, that’s conditioned by contact. … In the case of those who declare that pleasure and pain arise by chance, not made by oneself or another, that’s also conditioned by contact.

Consider the ascetics and brahmins who teach the efficacy of deeds. In the case of those who declare that pleasure and pain are made by oneself, it’s impossible that they will experience that without contact. … In the case of those who declare that pleasure and pain arise by chance, not made by oneself or another, it’s impossible that they will experience that without contact.”

Venerable Ānanda heard this discussion between Venerable Sāriputta and Venerable Bhūmija. Then Venerable Ānanda went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and informed the Buddha of all they had discussed.

“Good, good, Ānanda! It’s just as Sāriputta has so rightly explained. I have said that pleasure and pain are dependently originated. Dependent on what? Dependent on contact. Saying this you would repeat what I have said, and not misrepresent me with an untruth. You would explain in line with my teaching, and there would be no legitimate grounds for rebuke and criticism.

Consider the ascetics and brahmins who teach the efficacy of deeds. In the case of those who declare that pleasure and pain are made by oneself, that’s conditioned by contact. … In the case of those who declare that pleasure and pain arise by chance, not made by oneself or another, that’s also conditioned by contact.

Consider the ascetics and brahmins who teach the efficacy of deeds. In the case of those who declare that pleasure and pain are made by oneself, it’s impossible that they will experience that without contact. … In the case of those who declare that pleasure and pain arise by chance, not made by oneself or another, it’s impossible that they will experience that without contact.

Ānanda, as long as there’s a body, the intention that gives rise to bodily action causes pleasure and pain to arise in oneself. As long as there’s a voice, the intention that gives rise to verbal action causes pleasure and pain to arise in oneself. As long as there’s a mind, the intention that gives rise to mental action causes pleasure and pain to arise in oneself. But these only apply when conditioned by ignorance.

By oneself one instigates the choice that gives rise to bodily, verbal, and mental action, conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise in oneself. Or else others instigate the choice … One consciously instigates the choice … Or else one unconsciously instigates the choice …

Ignorance is included in all these things. But when ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, there is no body and no voice and no mind, conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise in oneself. There is no field, no ground, no scope, no basis, conditioned by which that pleasure and pain arise in oneself.”

SN12.27. Conditions

At Sāvatthī.

“Ignorance is a condition for choices.

Choices are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

And what is old age and death? The old age, decrepitude, broken teeth, grey hair, wrinkly skin, diminished vitality, and failing faculties of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings. This is called old age. The passing away, perishing, disintegration, demise, mortality, death, decease, breaking up of the aggregates, and laying to rest of the corpse of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings. This is called death. Such is old age, and such is death. This is called old age and death. Rebirth is the origin of old age and death. When rebirth ceases, old age and death cease. The practice that leads to the cessation of old age and death is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.

And what is rebirth? … And what is continued existence? … And what is grasping? … And what is craving? … And what is feeling? … And what is contact? … And what are the six sense fields? … And what are name and form? … And what is consciousness? …

And what are choices? There are three kinds of choices. Choices by way of body, speech, and mind. These are called choices. Ignorance is the origin of choices. When ignorance ceases, choices cease. The practice that leads to the cessation of choices is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.

A noble disciple understands conditions, their origin, their cessation, and the practice that leads to their cessation. Such a noble disciple is called ‘one accomplished in view’, ‘one accomplished in vision’, ‘one who has come to the true teaching’, ‘one who sees this true teaching’, ‘one endowed with a trainee’s knowledge’, ‘one who has entered the stream of the teaching’, ‘a noble one with penetrative wisdom’, and ‘one who stands pushing open the door of the deathless’.”

SN12.39. Intention (2nd)

At Sāvatthī.

“Mendicants, what you intend or plan, and what you have underlying tendencies for become a support for the continuation of consciousness. When this support exists, consciousness becomes established. When consciousness is established, name and form are conceived. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields. The six sense fields are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. … craving … grasping … continued existence … rebirth … old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

If you don’t intend or plan, but still have underlying tendencies, this becomes a support for the continuation of consciousness. When this support exists, consciousness becomes established. When consciousness is established, name and form are conceived. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

If you don’t intend or plan or have underlying tendencies, this doesn’t become a support for the continuation of consciousness. With no support, consciousness is not established. When consciousness is not established, name and form are not conceived. When name and form cease, the six sense fields cease. … That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.”

SN12.43. Suffering

At Sāvatthī.

“Mendicants, I will teach you the origin and ending of suffering. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“And what, mendicants, is the origin of suffering? Eye consciousness arises dependent on the eye and sights. The meeting of the three is contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. This is the origin of suffering.

Ear consciousness arises dependent on the ear and sounds. … Nose consciousness arises dependent on the nose and smells. … Tongue consciousness arises dependent on the tongue and tastes. … Body consciousness arises dependent on the body and touches. … Mind consciousness arises dependent on the mind and thoughts. The meeting of the three is contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. This is the origin of suffering.

And what is the ending of suffering? Eye consciousness arises dependent on the eye and sights. The meeting of the three is contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. When that craving fades away and ceases with nothing left over, grasping ceases. When grasping ceases, continued existence ceases. When continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases. When rebirth ceases, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress cease. That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases. This is the ending of suffering.

Ear consciousness arises dependent on the ear and sounds. … Nose consciousness arises dependent on the nose and smells. … Tongue consciousness arises dependent on the tongue and tastes. … Body consciousness arises dependent on the body and touches. … Mind consciousness arises dependent on the mind and thoughts. The meeting of the three is contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. When that craving fades away and ceases with nothing left over, grasping ceases. When grasping ceases, continued existence ceases. When continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases. When rebirth ceases, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress cease. That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases. This is the ending of suffering.”

SN12.51. A Full Inquiry

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants, “Mendicants!”

“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, how do you define a mendicant who is making a full inquiry for the complete ending of suffering?”

“Our teachings are rooted in the Buddha. He is our guide and our refuge. Sir, may the Buddha himself please clarify the meaning of this. The mendicants will listen and remember it.”

“Well then, mendicants, listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Mendicants, take a mendicant who makes a full inquiry: ‘The suffering that arises in the world starting with old age and death takes many and diverse forms. What is the source, origin, birthplace, and inception of this suffering? When what exists do old age and death come to be? When what does not exist do old age and death not come to be?’ While making a full inquiry they understand: ‘The suffering that arises in the world starting with old age and death takes many and diverse forms. The source of this suffering is rebirth. When rebirth exists, old age and death come to be. When rebirth doesn’t exist, old age and death don’t come to be.’

They understand old age and death, their origin, their cessation, and the fitting practice for their cessation. And they practice in line with that path. This is called a mendicant who is practicing for the complete ending of suffering, for the cessation of old age and death.

Then they inquire further: ‘But what is the source of this rebirth? When what exists does rebirth come to be? And when what does not exist does rebirth not come to be?’ While making a full inquiry they understand: ‘Continued existence is the source of rebirth. When continued existence exists, rebirth comes to be. When continued existence does not exist, rebirth doesn’t come to be.’

They understand rebirth, its origin, its cessation, and the fitting practice for its cessation. And they practice in line with that path. This is called a mendicant who is practicing for the complete ending of suffering, for the cessation of rebirth.

Then they inquire further: ‘But what is the source of this continued existence? …’ … ‘But what is the source of this grasping? …’ … ‘But what is the source of this craving? …’ … ‘But what is the source of this feeling? …’ … ‘But what is the source of this contact? …’ … ‘But what is the source of these six sense fields? …’ … ‘But what is the source of this name and form? …’ … ‘But what is the source of this consciousness? …’ … ‘But what is the source of these choices? When what exists do choices come to be? When what does not exist do choices not come to be?’ While making a full inquiry they understand: ‘Ignorance is the source of choices. When ignorance exists, choices come to be. When ignorance does not exist, choices don’t come to be.’

They understand choices, their origin, their cessation, and the fitting practice for their cessation. And they practice in line with that path. This is called a mendicant who is practicing for the complete ending of suffering, for the cessation of choices.

If an ignorant individual makes a good choice, their consciousness enters a good realm. If they make a bad choice, their consciousness enters a bad realm. If they make an imperturbable choice, their consciousness enters an imperturbable realm. When a mendicant has given up ignorance and given rise to knowledge, they don’t make a good choice, a bad choice, or an imperturbable choice. Not choosing or intending, they don’t grasp at anything in the world. Not grasping, they’re not anxious. Not being anxious, they personally become extinguished.

They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’

If they feel a pleasant feeling, they understand that it’s impermanent, that they’re not attached to it, and that they don’t take pleasure in it. If they feel a painful feeling, they understand that it’s impermanent, that they’re not attached to it, and that they don’t take pleasure in it. If they feel a neutral feeling, they understand that it’s impermanent, that they’re not attached to it, and that they don’t take pleasure in it. If they feel a pleasant feeling, they feel it detached. If they feel a painful feeling, they feel it detached. If they feel a neutral feeling, they feel it detached.

Feeling the end of the body approaching, they understand: ‘I feel the end of the body approaching.’ Feeling the end of life approaching, they understand: ‘I feel the end of life approaching.’ They understand: ‘When my body breaks up and my life has come to an end, everything that’s felt, since I no longer take pleasure in it, will become cool right here. Only bodily remains will be left.’

Suppose a person were to remove a hot clay pot from a potter’s kiln and place it down on level ground. Its heat would dissipate right there, and the shards would be left behind.

In the same way, feeling the end of the body approaching, they understand: ‘I feel the end of the body approaching.’ Feeling the end of life approaching, they understand: ‘I feel the end of life approaching.’ They understand: ‘When my body breaks up and my life has come to an end, everything that’s felt, since I no longer take pleasure in it, will become cool right here. Only bodily remains will be left.’

What do you think, mendicants? Would a mendicant who has ended the defilements still make good choices, bad choices, or imperturbable choices?”

“No, sir.”

“And when there are no choices at all, with the cessation of choices, would consciousness still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“And when there’s no consciousness at all, would name and form still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“And when there are no name and form at all, would the six sense fields still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“And when there are no six sense fields at all, would contact still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“And when there’s no contact at all, would feeling still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“And when there’s no feeling at all, would craving still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“And when there’s no craving at all, would grasping still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“And when there’s no grasping at all, would continued existence still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“And when there’s no continued existence at all, would rebirth still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“And when there’s no rebirth at all, would old age and death still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“Good, good, mendicants! That’s how it is, not otherwise. Trust me on this, mendicants; be convinced. Have no doubts or uncertainties in this matter. Just this is the end of suffering.”

SN12.68. At Kosambī

At one time the venerables Musīla, Saviṭṭha, Nārada, and Ānanda were staying near Kosambī in Ghosita’s monastery. Then Venerable Saviṭṭha said to Venerable Musila:

“Reverend Musila, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, do you know for yourself that rebirth is a condition for old age and death?”

“Reverend Saviṭṭha, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, I know and see that rebirth is a condition for old age and death.”

“Reverend Musila, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, do you know for yourself that continued existence is a condition for rebirth … grasping is a condition for continued existence … craving is a condition for grasping … feeling is a condition for craving … contact is a condition for feeling … the six sense fields are conditions for contact … name and form are conditions for the six sense fields … consciousness is a condition for name and form … choices are a condition for consciousness … ignorance is a condition for choices?”

“Reverend Saviṭṭha, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, I know and see that ignorance is a condition for choices.”

“Reverend Musila, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, do you know for yourself that when rebirth ceases, old age and death cease?”

“Reverend Saviṭṭha, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, I know and see that when rebirth ceases, old age and death cease.”

“Reverend Musila, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, do you know for yourself that when continued existence ceases, rebirth ceases … when grasping ceases, continued existence ceases … when craving ceases, grasping ceases … when feeling ceases, craving ceases … when contact ceases, feeling ceases … when the six sense fields cease, contact ceases … when name and form cease, the six sense fields cease … when consciousness ceases name and form cease … when choices cease consciousness ceases … when ignorance ceases, choices cease?”

“Reverend Saviṭṭha, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, I know and see that when ignorance ceases, choices cease.”

“Reverend Musila, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, do you know for yourself that the cessation of continued existence is extinguishment?”

“Reverend Saviṭṭha, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, I know and see that the cessation of continued existence is extinguishment.”

“Then Venerable Musila is a perfected one, with defilements ended.” When he said this, Musila kept silent.

Then Venerable Nārada said to Venerable Saviṭṭha, “Reverend Saviṭṭha, please let me answer these questions. Ask me and I will answer them for you.”

“By all means, Venerable Nārada, try these questions. I’ll ask you and you can answer them for me.”

(Saviṭṭha repeats exactly the same series of questions, and Nārada answers just as Musila did.)

“Reverend Nārada, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, do you know for yourself that the cessation of continued existence is extinguishment?”

“Reverend Saviṭṭha, apart from faith, preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, or acceptance of a view after consideration, I know and see that the cessation of continued existence is extinguishment.”

“Then Venerable Nārada is a perfected one, with defilements ended.”

“I have truly seen clearly with right wisdom that the cessation of continued existence is extinguishment. Yet I am not a perfected one. Suppose there was a well on a desert road that had neither rope nor bucket. Then along comes a person struggling in the oppressive heat, weary, thirsty, and parched. They’d know that there was water, but they couldn’t physically touch it.

In the same way, I have truly seen clearly with right wisdom that the cessation of continued existence is extinguishment. Yet I am not a perfected one.”

When he said this, Venerable Ānanda said to Venerable Saviṭṭha, “Reverend Saviṭṭha, what do you have to say to Venerable Nārada when he speaks like this?”

“Reverend Ānanda, I have nothing to say to Venerable Nārada when he speaks like this, except what is good and wholesome.”

SN36.6. An Arrow

“Mendicants, an uneducated ordinary person feels pleasant, painful, and neutral feelings. An educated noble disciple also feels pleasant, painful, and neutral feelings. What, then, is the difference between an ordinary uneducated person and an educated noble disciple?”

“Our teachings are rooted in the Buddha. …”

“When an uneducated ordinary person experiences painful physical feelings they sorrow and wail and lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion. They experience two feelings: physical and mental.

It’s like a person who is struck with an arrow, only to be struck with a second arrow. That person experiences the feeling of two arrows.

In the same way, when an uneducated ordinary person experiences painful physical feelings they sorrow and wail and lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion. They experience two feelings: physical and mental.

When they’re touched by painful feeling, they resist it. The underlying tendency for repulsion towards painful feeling underlies that.

When touched by painful feeling they look forward to enjoying sensual pleasures. Why is that? Because an uneducated ordinary person doesn’t understand any escape from painful feeling apart from sensual pleasures. Since they look forward to enjoying sensual pleasures, the underlying tendency to greed for pleasant feeling underlies that.

They don’t truly understand feelings’ origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape. The underlying tendency to ignorance about neutral feeling underlies that.

If they feel a pleasant feeling, they feel it attached. If they feel a painful feeling, they feel it attached. If they feel a neutral feeling, they feel it attached.

They’re called an uneducated ordinary person who is attached to rebirth, old age, and death, to sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress, I say.

When an educated noble disciple experiences painful physical feelings they don’t sorrow or wail or lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion. They experience one feeling: physical, not mental.

It’s like a person who is struck with an arrow, but was not struck with a second arrow. That person would experience the feeling of one arrow.

In the same way, when an educated noble disciple experiences painful physical feelings they don’t sorrow or wail or lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion. They experience one feeling: physical, not mental.

When they’re touched by painful feeling, they don’t resist it. There’s no underlying tendency for repulsion towards painful feeling underlying that.

When touched by painful feeling they don’t look forward to enjoying sensual pleasures. Why is that? Because an educated noble disciple understands an escape from painful feeling apart from sensual pleasures. Since they don’t look forward to enjoying sensual pleasures, there’s no underlying tendency to greed for pleasant feeling underlying that.

They truly understand feelings’ origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape. There’s no underlying tendency to ignorance about neutral feeling underlying that.

If they feel a pleasant feeling, they feel it detached. If they feel a painful feeling, they feel it detached. If they feel a neutral feeling, they feel it detached.

They’re called an educated noble disciple who is detached from rebirth, old age, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress, I say.

This is the difference between an educated noble disciple and an uneducated ordinary person.

A wise and learned person isn’t affected
by feelings of pleasure and pain.
This is the great difference in skill
between the wise and the ordinary.

A learned person who has appraised the teaching
discerns this world and the next.
Desirable things don’t disturb their mind,
nor are they repelled by the undesirable.

Both favoring and opposing
are cleared and ended, they are no more.
Knowing the stainless, sorrowless state,
they understand rightly, going beyond rebirth.”

Thag.17.2. Sāriputta

“One who’s mindful as per their conduct and mindfulness,
  diligent as per their intentions and meditation,
happy inside, serene, solitary, contented:
  that is what they call a mendicant.

When eating fresh or dried food,
  one shouldn’t be overly replete.
A mendicant should wander mindfully,
  with unfilled belly, taking limited food.

Four or five mouthfuls before you’re full,
  drink some water;
this is enough for a resolute mendicant
  to live in comfort.

If they cover themselves with a robe
  that’s allowable and fit for purpose;
this is enough for a resolute mendicant
  to live in comfort.

When sitting cross-legged,
  the rain doesn’t fall on the knees;
this is enough for a resolute mendicant
  to live in comfort.”

“When you’ve seen happiness as suffering,
  and suffering as a dart,
and that there’s nothing between the two—
  what keeps you in the world? What would you become?

Thinking, ‘May I have nothing to do with those of bad wishes,
  lazy, lacking energy,
uneducated, lacking regard for others’—
  what keeps you in the world? What would you become?”

“An intelligent, learned person,
  steady in ethics,
devoted to serenity of heart—
  let them stand at the head.”

“A beast who likes to proliferate,
  enjoying proliferation,
fails to win extinguishment,
  the supreme sanctuary.

But one who gives up proliferation,
  enjoying the state of non-proliferation,
wins extinguishment,
  the supreme sanctuary.”

“Whether in the village or the wilderness,
  in a valley or the uplands,
wherever the perfected ones live
  is a delightful place.”

“The wilderness is so lovely!
  Though most people don’t like it,
those free of greed are happy there,
  as they don’t seek sensual pleasures.”

“Regard one who sees your faults
  as a guide to a hidden treasure.
Stay close to one so wise and astute
  who corrects you when you need it.
Sticking close to such an impartial person,
  things get better, not worse.”

“Advise and instruct;
  curb wickedness:
for you shall be loved by the good,
  and disliked by the bad.”

“The Blessed One, the Buddha, the seer
  was teaching Dhamma to another.
As he taught the Dhamma,
  I lent an ear to get the meaning.

My listening wasn’t wasted:
  I’m freed, without defilements.”

“Not for knowledge of past lives,
  nor even for clairvoyance;
not for psychic powers, or reading the minds of others,
  nor for knowing people’s passing away and being reborn;
not for purifying the power of clairaudience,
  did I have any wish.”

“His only shelter is the foot of a tree;
  shaven, wrapped in his outer robe,
the senior monk foremost in wisdom,
  Upatissa himself practices absorption.

Entering meditation without thought,
  a disciple of the Buddha
is at that moment blessed
  with noble silence.

As a rocky mountain
  is unwavering and well grounded,
so when delusion ends,
  a monk, like a mountain, doesn’t tremble.

“To the man who has not a blemish,
  who is always seeking purity,
even a hair-tip of evil
  seems as big as a cloud.”

“I don’t long for death;
  I don’t long for life;
I will lay down this body,
  aware and mindful.

I don’t long for death;
  I don’t long for life;
I await my time,
  like a worker waiting for their wages.”

“Both what came before and what follows after
  are nothing but death, not the deathless.
Practice, don’t perish—
  don’t let the moment pass you by.

Just like a frontier city,
  is guarded inside and out,
so you should ward yourselves—
  don’t let the moment pass you by.
For if you miss your moment
  you’ll grieve when sent to hell.”

“Calm and quiet,
  thoughtful in counsel, and stable—
he shakes off bad qualities
  as the wind shakes leaves off a tree.

Calm and quiet,
  thoughtful in counsel, and stable—
he plucks off bad qualities
  as the wind plucks leaves off a tree.

Calm and free of despair,
  clear and unclouded,
of good morals, intelligent:
  one would make an end of suffering.”

“Some householders, and even some renunciants,
  are not to be trusted.
Some who were good later become bad;
  while some who were bad become good.”

“Sensual desire, ill will,
  dullness and drowsiness,
restlessness, and doubt:
  these are the five mental stains for a monk.”

“Whether they’re honored
  or not honored, or both,
their immersion doesn’t waver
  as they live diligently.

They persistently practice absorption
  with subtle view and discernment.
Rejoicing in the ending of grasping,
  they’re said to be a good person.”

“The oceans and the earth,
  the mountains and the wind—
none of these can compare
  with the Teacher’s magnificent liberation.”

“The senior monk who keeps the wheel rolling,
  he is very wise and serene.
Like earth, like water, like fire,
  he is neither attracted nor repelled.

He has attained the perfection of wisdom,
  so intelligent and thoughtful.
He is bright, but seems to be dull;
  he always wanders, quenched.”

“I’ve served the teacher
  and fulfilled the Buddha’s instructions.
The heavy burden is laid down,
  the attachment to rebirth is eradicated.”

“Persist with diligence:
  this is my instruction.
Come, I’ll realize quenching—
  I am everywhere free.”

-- END OF BOOK --
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