The Questions Of Malunkyaputta
Translated from the Pali by E. J. Thomas, M.A.
Originally Published by
John Murray, Albermarle Street, W. London, 1913
Adapted from the text scanned and proofed at Sacred-Texts.com, February 2010, by John Bruno Hare.
Reformatted for inclusion on this site.
This text is in the Public Domain
The Lord was once dwelling near Sāvatthi, at Jetavana in the park of Anāthapiṇḍika.
Now the elder Malunkyaputta had retired from the world, and as he meditated the thought arose:
"These theories have been left unexplained by the Lord, set aside, and rejected, whether the world is eternal or not eternal, whether the world is finite or not, whether the soul (life) is the same as the body, or whether the soul is one thing and the body another, whether a Buddha (Tathāgata) exists after death or does not exist after death, whether a Buddha both exists and does not exist after death, and whether a Buddha is non-existent and not non-existent after death — these things the Lord does not explain to me, and that he does not explain them to me does not please me, it does not suit me.
I will approach the Lord, and ask about this matter ... If the Lord does not explain to me, I will give up the training, and return to a worldly life."
[When Malunkyaputta had approached and put his questions the Lord replied:]
"Now did I, Malunkyaputta, ever say to you,
'Come, Malunkyaputta, lead a religious life with me, and I will explain to you whether the world is eternal or not eternal [and so on with the other questions]?'"
"You did not, reverend sir."
"Anyone, Malunkyaputta, who should say 'I will not lead a religious life with the Lord, until the Lord explains to me whether the world is eternal or not eternal [etc.] ... ' that person would die, Malunkyaputta, without its being explained.
It is as if a man had been wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends, companions, relatives, and kinsmen were to get a surgeon to heal him, and he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow pulled out, until I know by what man I was wounded, whether he is of the warrior caste, or a brahmin, or of the agricultural, or the lowest caste.'
Or if he were to say, 'I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know of what name or family the man is ... or whether he is tall, or short, or of middle height ... or whether he is black, or dark, or yellowish ... or whether he comes from such and such a village, or town, or city ... or until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a chapa or a kodanda, or until I know whether the bow-string was of swallow-wort, or bamboo-fibre, or sinew, or hemp, or of milk-sap tree, or until I know whether the shaft was from a wild or cultivated plant ... or whether it was feathered from a vulture's wing or a heron's or a hawk's, or a peacock's, or a sithilahanu-bird's ... or whether it was wrapped round with the sinew of an ox, or of a buffalo, or of a ruru-deer, or of a monkey ... or until I know whether it was an ordinary arrow, or a razor-arrow, or a vekanda, or an iron arrow or a calf-tooth arrow, or one of a karavira leaf.'
That man would die, Malunkyaputta, without knowing all this.
"It is not on the view that the world is eternal, Malunkyaputta, that a religious life depends; it is not on the view that the world is not eternal that a religious life depends.
Whether the view is held that the world is eternal, or that the world is not eternal, there is still re-birth, there is old age, there is death, and grief, lamentation, suffering, sorrow, and despair, the destruction of which even in this life I announce.
It is not on the view that the world is finite ...
It is not on the view that a Tathāgata exists after death ...
Therefore, Malunkyaputta, consider as unexplained what I have not explained, and consider as explained what I have explained.
And what, Malunkyaputta, have I not explained?
Whether the world is eternal I have not explained, whether the world is not eternal ... whether a Tathāgata is both non-existent and not nonexistent after death I have not explained.
And why, Malunkyaputta, have I not explained this?
Because this, Malunkyaputta, is not useful, it is not concerned with the principle of a religious life, does not conduce to aversion, absence of passion, cessation, tranquillity, supernatural faculty, perfect knowledge, Nirvana, and therefore I have not explained it.
"And what, Malunkyaputta, have I explained?
Suffering have I explained, the cause of suffering, the destruction of suffering, and the path that leads to the destruction of suffering have I explained.
For this, Malunkyaputta, is useful, this is concerned with the principle of a religious life; this conduces to aversion, absence of passion, cessation, tranquillity, supernatural faculty, perfect knowledge, Nirvana, and therefore have I explained it.
Therefore, Malunkyaputta, consider as unexplained what I have not explained, and consider as explained what I have explained."
Thus spoke the Lord, and with joy the elder Malunkyaputta applauded the words of the Lord.