Aŋguttara Nikāya


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Aŋguttara Nikāya
Chakka Nipāta
V. Dhammika Vagga

Sutta 46

Mahā Cunda Suttaɱ

Mahā Cunda

Translated from the Pali
by
Michael M. Olds

 


 

Translator's Introduction

Today, as 2500 years ago, there is tension between two groups of students of the Dhamma; between those who specialize in Dhamma research and those who concentrate their practice on developing skills in jhāna. The tension comes primarily from not seeing the path to the goal as being a very broad and complex thing indeed; seeing one's own choice of path as being the superior or perhaps the only path to the goal. In fact attainment of the goal requires at least a bit of both specialties. Jhāna practice without knowledge of the theory of Pain and its origin and ending and the subtle aspects of attachment to existence found in the Magga, is going to go off in a wrong direction; Dhamma research without a foundation in actual practice is going to be based on faulty logic and lead to working towards a wrong goal (e.g., activist Buddhism). We need to listen to the wise Cunda and fill ourselves with respect for both sides of the practice.

 


 

[1][pts][than] I HEAR TELL:

Once upon a time the Elder, Mahā Cunda,
Cetī-land revisiting,
Sahajātiyaɱ.

There then the Elder, Mahā Cundo, said this to the bhikkhus:

"Beggar friends!"

And the beggars responding "Yes?"
Mahā Cundo said this:

2. Here friends Dhamma-yogi beggars disparage gnostic beggars,[1] saying:

"These, actually burning, inflamed, say:

'We are gnostics! We are gnostics!' —

What in fact is this gnosticism?

Why is this 'gnosticism'?

How is this, in fact, gnosticism!?"

So saying, the Dhamma-yogi beggars are not being brilliant,
and the gnostic beggars are not made out to be brilliant,
and such is not helpful for the majority
does not lead to the happiness of the majority
does not lead to the happiness and benefit of the majority of gods or men.

3. Here friends gnostic beggars disparage Dhamma-yogi beggars, saying:

"These, thoroughly puffed up,
excitable,
unsteady,
mouthy,
loose-lipped,
forgetful,
without self-awareness,
scatter-brained,
mentally deranged,
out-of-control forces say:

"We are Dhamma-yogis! We are Dhamma-yogis!"

What in fact is this Dhamma-yoking?

Why is this 'Dhamma-yoking'?

Indeed how is this Dhamma-yoking!?"

So saying, the gnostic beggars are not being brilliant,
and the Dhamma-yogi beggars are not made out to be brilliant,
and such is not helpful for the majority
does not lead to the happiness of the majority
does not lead to the happiness and benefit of the majority of gods or men.

4. Here further, friends, Dhamma-yogi beggars just speak highly[2] of Dhamma-yogi beggars,
do not speak highly of gnostic beggars.

So saying, the Dhamma-yogi beggars are not being brilliant,
and the gnostic beggars are not made out to be brilliant,
and such is not helpful for the majority
does not lead to the happiness of the majority
does not lead to the happiness and benefit of the majority of gods or men.

5. Here further, friends, gnostic beggars just speak highly of gnostic beggars,
do not speak highly of Dhamma-yogi beggars.

So saying, the gnostic beggars are not being brilliant,
and the Dhamma-yogi beggars are not made out to be brilliant,
and such is not helpful for the majority
does not lead to the happiness of the majority
does not lead to the happiness and benefit of the majority of gods or men.

 

§

 

Therefore friends, train yourselves this way:

'Being Dhamma-yogis we will speak highly of gnostic beggars.'

This is how you should train yourselves.

How come?

A snapping-fine thing, friends,
and not easy to gain in this world
is the sight of such men
as those who live in bodily contact with the deathless.

7. Therefore friends, train yourselves this way:

'Being gnostics, we will speak highly of Dhamma-yogi beggars.'

This is how you should train yourselves.

How come?

A snapping-fine thing, friends,
and not easy to gain in this world
is the sight of such men
as they who pierce with vision
and see in detail
the deep wisdom of the path to the goal.

 


[1] Jhāyī. To burn or shine. Cunning, ken, knowing. In English we miss the link between 'burning' and 'knowing'. The link between 'jha' and 'know' [γνω > 'gno'] is clear; the word 'jhāna' means 'to know' ... but in a higher way than we credit to the term 'know'. Such a higher meaning is found in the term 'gnosis'. In Buddhism 'jhāna' is a 'higher knowing,' specifically, a knowing of things as they really are. The jhānas are a series of stages advancing towards fully seeing things as they are such as makes clear the goal of abandoning the whole thing. The link is understood in our sense of 'burning to learn' or 'shining with brilliance'. But we do not have (at least in common usage) a good term for the activity. (In some places in the U.S. and the world, the kind of deep trance of seers is sometimes called 'shining' ... as per the movie) Brighten, englighten, illuminate, inflame are all possibilities. Jhāna is now usually translated 'meditation', but that term smacks too much of thinking and reasoning where this practice moves quickly from thinking and pondering to direct perception and actively involves the letting go that results from perceiving things as they are, hense 'burning off' or 'burning up' of the unskillful. A term as alien to the ear as 'burning' is, I suggest, really better because it is closer to the actual behavior involved and reflects the term as originally heard, better than a misleading comfortably familiar term such as 'meditation,' but adopting such a term is really best left as a product arising from a group understanding: the way a group dedicated to a discipline quickly develops a specialized vocabulary.

[2] Vaṇṇa. 'Colorfully'? But we have given this a bad connotation. Alternatively this could mean 'not in accordance with their rank or value'.

 


 

Of Related Interest:

AN 11.10 See this one for another translation using 'gnosis' for 'jhāna'. Sandha is encouraged not to pracice jhāna with worldly objectives. He is then instructed as to how to practice such that his jhāna is not dependent on earth, etc. and yet he does have jhāna.
AN 11 7 The Buddha explains how it can be that a monk's winning of serenity (samadhi) may be of such a sort that he is not, even in the midst of earth, percepient of earth, nor is he, in the midst of water, percepient of water, nor in the midst of firelight, percepient of firelight, nor in the midst of wind, percepient of wind, nor in the midst of The Realm Space, percepient of The Realm Space, nor in the midst of The Realm Consciousness, percepient of The Realm Consciousness, nor in the midst of The Realm No-Things-There, percepient of The Realm No-Things-There, nor in the midst of The Realm of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception, percepient of The Realm of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception, nor in the midst of This world, percepient of This world, nor in the midst of The World Beyond, percepient of The World Beyond, nor in the midst of The Seen, Heard, Sensed, Known, percepient of The Seen, Heard, Sensed, Known, nor in the midst of the attained, the saught-after, the explored in mind, percepient of the attained, the saught-after, the explored in mind — that of such he has no perception and yet he is perceiving.

 


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