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Saɱyutta Nikāya
4. Saḷāyatana Vagga
36. Vedanā Saɱyutta
3. Aṭṭha-Sata-Pariyāya Vagga

Sutta 21

Moḷiya-Sīvaka Suttaɱ

To Sivaka

Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Proofed against and modified in accordance with the revised edition at dhammatalks.org
Provenance, terms and conditons

 


 

Translator's note

While acknowledging the soundness of this explanation, there was a much simpler way of answering the objection: The Pali reads: 'Yaɱ kiñcāyaɱ purisa-puggalo paṭisaŋvedeti sukhaɱ vā dukkhaɱ vā adukkha-m-asukhaɱ vā sabbantaɱ pubbe kata-hetu' ti. " "By whatsoever it is that a person is made to experience pleasure ... all that is driven by past doings." This view is declared to be incorrect. Bhk. Thanissaro's: "entirely" makes the case clear: What is experienced, even that which is rightly attributed to kamma, cannot be said to be based entirely on one thing; be it kamma or an external force. Birth itself is said to be a consequence of kamma, so from one point of view it could be said that all things a person experiences are a result of kamma; but this would entirely ignore the obvious fact that there are worldly conditions which result in various experiences. Here we have a clear example of how conventional or concensus reality is to be respected in our thinking.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

Some people have interpreted this sutta as stating that there are many experiences that cannot be explained by the principle of kamma. A casual glance of the alternative factors here — drawn from the various causes for pain that were recognized in the medical treatises of his time — would seem to support this conclusion. However, if we compare this list with his definition of old kamma in SN XXV.145, we see that many of the alternative causes are actually the result of past actions. Those that aren't are the result of new kamma. For instance, MN 101 counts asceticism — which produces pain in the immediate present — under the factor harsh treatment. The point here is that old and new kamma do not override other causal factors operating in the universe — such as those recognized by the physical sciences — but instead find their expression within those factors. A second point is that some of the influences of past kamma can be mitigated in the present — a disease caused by bile, for instance, can be cured by medicine that brings the bile back to normal. Similarly with the mind: Suffering caused by physical pain can be ended by understanding and abandoning the attachment that led to that suffering. In this way, the Buddha's teaching on kamma avoids determinism and opens the way for a path of practice focused on eliminating the causes of suffering in the here and now.

 


 

[1][pts][bodh][nypo] On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rājagaha in the Bamboo Forest, the Squirrel’s Sanctuary.

There Moḷiyasivaka the wanderer went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him.

After an exchange of friendly greetings and courtesies, he sat to one side.

As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, "Master Gotama, there are some contemplatives and brahmans who are of this doctrine, this view:

Whatever an individual feels — pleasure, pain, neither-pleasure-nor-pain — is entirely caused by what was done before.

Now what does Master Gotama say to that?"

[The Buddha:] "There are cases where some feelings arise based on bile [i.e., diseases and pains that come from a malfunction of the gall bladder].

You yourself should know how some feelings arise based on bile.

Even the world is agreed on how some feelings arise based on bile.

So any contemplatives and brahmans who are of the doctrine and view that whatever an individual feels — pleasure, pain, neither-pleasure-nor-pain — is entirely caused by what was done before — slip past what they themselves know, slip past what is agreed on by the world.

Therefore I say that those contemplatives and brahmans are wrong."

"There are cases where some feelings arise based on phlegm... based on internal winds... based on a combination of bodily humors... from the change of the seasons... from uneven [‘out-of-tune’] care of the body... from harsh treatment... from the result of kamma.

You yourself should know how some feelings arise from the result of kamma.

Even the world is agreed on how some feelings arise from the result of kamma.

So any contemplatives and brahmans who are of the doctrine and view that whatever an individual feels — pleasure, pain, neither pleasure-nor-pain — is entirely caused by what was done before — slip past what they themselves know, slip past what is agreed on by the world.

Therefore I say that those contemplatives and brahmans are wrong."

When this was said, Moḷiyasivaka the wanderer said to the Blessed One:

"Magnificent, lord!

Magnificent!

Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to point out the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has the Blessed One — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear.

I go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha of monks.

May the Blessed One remember me as a lay follower who has gone for refuge from this day forward, for life."

"Bile, phlegm, wind, a combination,
Season, uneven, harsh treatment,
and through the result of kamma as the eighth."[1]

 


[1] This concluding verse seems to have been added by the compilers of the Canon as a mnemonic device.

 


 

Of Related Interest:

MN 101

 


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