Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
I. Mūlapaṇṇāsa
1. Mūlapariyāya Vagga

The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha

Sutta 2

Sabbāsava Sutta

All the Taints

Translated from the Pali by Ñanamoli Thera.
edited and revised by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

© 1995 Bhikkhu Bodhi
Published by
Wisdom Publications
Boston, MA 02115

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 


 

[1][bs][chlm][than][upal][olds] I HEAR TELL:

On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Sāvatthī in Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's Park. There he addressed the bhikkhus thus: "Bhikkhus." - "Venerable sir," they replied. The Blessed One said this:

2. "Bhikkhus, I shall teach you a discourse on the restraint of all the taints.[32] Listen and attend closely to what I shall say." - "Yes, venerable sir," the bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:

3. "Bhikkhus, I say that the destruction of the taints is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know and see. Who knows and sees what? Wise attention and unwise attention.[33] When one attends unwisely, unarisen taints arise and arisen taints increase. When one attends wisely, unarisen taints do not arise and arisen taints are abandoned.

4. "Bhikkhus, there are taints that should be abandoned by seeing. There are taints that should be abandoned by restraining. There are taints that should be abandoned by using. There are taints that should be abandoned by enduring. There are taints that should be abandoned by avoiding. There are taints that should be abandoned by removing. There are taints that should be abandoned by developing.[34]

5. "What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by seeing?[35] Here, bhikkhus, an untaught ordinary person, who has no regard for noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, who has no regard for true men and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, does not understand what things are fit for attention and what things are unfit for attention. Since that is so, he attends to those things unfit for attention and he does not attend to those things fit for attention.[36]

6. "What are the things unfit for attention that he attends to? They are things such that when he attends to them, the unarisen taint of sensual desire arises in him and the arisen taint of sensual desire increases, the unarisen taint of being arises in him and the arisen taint of being increases, the unarisen taint of ignorance arises in him and the arisen taint of ignorance increases. These are the things unfit for attention that he attends to.[37] And what are the things fit for attention that he does not attend to? They are things such that when he attends to them, the unarisen taint of sensual desire does not arise in him and the arisen taint of sensual desire is abandoned, the unarisen taint of being does not arise in him and the arisen taint of being is abandoned, the unarisen taint of ignorance does not arise in him and the arisen taint of ignorance is abandoned. These are the things fit for attention that he does not attend to. By attending to things unfit for attention and by not attending to things fit for attention, both unarisen taints arise in him and arisen taints increase.

7. "This is how he attends unwisely: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what did I become in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I become in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the present thus: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where will it go?'[38]

8. "When he attends unwisely in this way, one of six views arises in him.[39] The view 'self exists for me' arises in him as true and established; or the view 'no self exists for me' arises in him as true and established; or the view 'I perceive self with self' arises in him as true and established; or the view 'I perceive not­self with self' arises in him as true and established; or the view 'I perceive self with not-self' arises in him as true and established; or else he has some such view as this: 'It is this self of mine that speaks and feels and experiences here and there the result of good and bad actions; but this self of mine is permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and it will endure as long as eternity.'[40] This speculative view, bhikkhus, is called the thicket of views, the wilderness of views, the contortion of views, the vacillation of views, the fetter of views. Fettered by the fetter of views, the untaught ordinary person is not freed from birth, ageing, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair; he is not freed from suffering, I say.

9. "Bhikkhus, a well-taught noble disciple, who has regard for noble ones and is skilled and disciplined in their Dhamma, who has regard for true men and is skilled and disciplined in their Dhamma, understands what things are fit for attention and what things are unfit for attention. Since that is so, he does not attend to those things unfit for attention and he attends to those things fit for attention.

10. "What are the things unfit for attention that he does not attend to? They are things such that when he attends to them, the unarisen taint of sensual desire arises in him and the arisen taint of sensual desire increases, the unarisen taint of being arises in him and the arisen taint of being increases, the unarisen taint of ignorance arises in him and the arisen taint of ignorance increases. These are the things unfit for attention that he does not attend to. And what are the things fit for attention that he attends to? They are things such that when he attends to them, the unarisen taint of sensual desire does not arise in him and the arisen taint of sensual desire is abandoned, the unarisen taint of being does not arise in him and the arisen taint of being is abandoned, the unarisen taint of ignorance does not arise in him and the arisen taint of ignorance is abandoned. These are the things fit for attention that he attends to. By not attending to things unfit for attention and by attending to things fit for attention, unarisen taints do not arise in him and arisen taints are abandoned.

11. "He attends wisely: 'This is suffering'; he attends wisely: 'This is the origin of suffering'; he attends wisely: 'This is the cessation of suffering'; he attends wisely: 'This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.'[41] When he attends wisely in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: personality view, doubt, and adherence to rules and observances. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by seeing.[42]

12. "What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by restraining?[43] Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, abides with the eye faculty restrained. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who abides with the eye faculty unrestrained, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who abides with the eye faculty restrained.[44 Reflecting wisely, he abides with the ear faculty restrained. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who abides with the ear faculty unrestrained, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who abides with the ear faculty restrained. Reflecting wisely, he abides with the nose faculty restrained. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who abides with the nose faculty unrestrained, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who abides with the nose faculty restrained. Reflecting wisely, he abides with the tongue faculty restrained. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who abides with the tongue faculty unrestrained, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who abides with the tongue faculty restrained. Reflecting wisely, he abides with the body faculty restrained. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who abides with the body faculty unrestrained, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who abides with the body faculty restrained. Reflecting wisely, he abides with the mind faculty restrained. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who abides with the mind faculty unrestrained, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who abides with the mind faculty restrained. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who abides with the faculties unrestrained, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who abides with the faculties restrained. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by restraining.

13. "What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by using?[45] Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, uses the robe only for protection from cold, for protection from heat, for protection from contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things, and only for the purpose of concealing the private parts.

14. "Reflecting wisely, he uses almsfood neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the endurance and continuance of this body, for ending discomfort, and for assisting the holy life, considering: 'Thus I shall terminate old feelings without arousing new feelings and I shall be healthy and blameless and shall live in comfort.'

15. "Reflecting wisely, he uses the resting place only for protection from cold, for protection from heat, for protection from contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things, and only for the purpose of warding off the perils of climate and for enjoying retreat.

16. "Reflecting wisely, he uses the medicinal requisites only for protection from arisen afflicting feelings and for the benefit of good health.

17. "While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not use the requisites thus, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who uses them thus. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by using.

18. "What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by enduring? Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, bears cold and heat, hunger and thirst, and contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things; he endures ill-spoken, unwelcome words and arisen bodily feelings that are painful, racking, sharp, piercing, disagreeable, distressing, and menacing to life. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not endure such things, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who endures them. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by enduring.

19. "What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by avoiding? Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, avoids a wild elephant, a wild horse, a wild bull, a wild dog, a snake, a stump, a bramble patch, a chasm, a cliff, a cesspit, a sewer. Reflecting wisely, he avoids sitting on unsuitable seats, wandering to unsuitable resorts,[46] and associating with bad friends, since if he were to do so wise companions in the holy life might suspect him of evil conduct. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not avoid these things, there are no taints, vexation, and fever in one who avoids them. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by avoiding.

20. "What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by removing? Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, does not tolerate an arisen thought of sensual desire; he abandons it, removes it, does away with it, and annihilates it. He does not tolerate an arisen thought of ill will; he abandons it, removes it, does away with it, and annihilates it. He does not tolerate an arisen thought of cruelty; he abandons it, removes it, does away with it, and annihilates it. He does not tolerate arisen evil unwholesome states; he abandons them, removes them, does away with them, and annihilates them.[47] While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not remove these thoughts, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who removes them. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by removing.

21. "What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by developing? Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, develops the mindfulness enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment. He develops the investigation-of-states enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment. He develops the energy enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment. He develops the rapture enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment. He develops the tranquillity enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment.He develops the concentration enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment. the equanimity enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment.[48] While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not develop these enlightenment factors, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who develops them. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by developing. [49]

22. "Bhikkhus, when for a bhikkhu the taints that should be abandoned by seeing have been abandoned by seeing, when the taints that should be abandoned by restraining have been abandoned by restraining, when the taints that should be abandoned by using have been abandoned by using, when the taints that should be abandoned by enduring have been abandoned by enduring, when the taints that should be abandoned by avoiding have been abandoned by avoiding, when the taints that should be abandoned by removing have been abandoned by removing, when the taints that should be abandoned by developing have been abandoned by developing - then he is called a bhikkhu who dwells restrained with the restraint of all the taints. He has severed craving, flung off the fetters, and with the complete penetration of conceit he has made an end of suffering."[50]

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One's words.

 


 

[ 32 ] The taints (asāva), a category of defilements existing at the deepest and most fundamental level, are discussed in the Introduction, p. 38. MA explains that restraint (saɱvara) is fivefold: through virtue, mindfulness, knowledge, energy, and patience. In the present sutta, restraint through virtue is illustrated by avoiding unsuitable seats and resorts (§19); restraint through mindfulness, by restraining the sense faculties (§12); restraint through knowledge, by the repeated phrase "reflecting wisely"; restraint through energy, by the removing of unwholesome thoughts (§20); and restraint through patience, by the passage on enduring (§18).

[ 33 ] Wise attention (yoniso manasikāra) is glossed as attention that is the right means (upāya), on the right track (patha). It is explained as mental advertence, consideration, or preoccupation that accords with the truth, namely, attention to the impermanent as impermanent, etc. Unwise attention (ayoniso manasikāra) is attention that is the wrong means, on the wrong track (uppatha), contrary to the truth, namely, attention to the impermanent as permanent, the painful as pleasurable, what is not self as self, and what is foul as beautiful. Unwise attention, MA informs us, is at the root of the round of existence, for it causes ignorance and craving to increase; wise attention is at the root of liberation from the round, since it leads to the development of the Noble Eightfold Path. MA sums up the point of this passage thus: the destruction of the taints is for one who knows how to arouse wise attention and who sees to it that unwise attention does not arise.

[ 34 ] Six of these - omitting the taints to be abandoned by seeing - are mentioned in the catechism on the taints in AN 6:58/iii.387-90.

[ 35 ] The word "seeing" (dassana) here refers to the first of the four supramundane paths-the path of stream-entry (sotāpattimagga) - so designated because it offers the first glimpse of Nibbāna. The higher three paths are called the paths of development (bhāvāna) because they develop the vision of Nibbāna to the point at which all defilements are eradicated.

[ 36 ] MA makes the important point that there is no fixed determination in things themselves as to whether they are fit or unfit for attention. The distinction consists, rather, in the mode of attention. That mode of attention that is a causal basis for unwholesome states of mind should be avoided, while that mode of attention that is a causal basis for wholesome states should be developed. This same principle applies to §9.

[ 37 ] MA illustrates the growth of the taints through unwise attention as follows: When he attends to gratification in the five cords of sensual pleasure, the taint of sensual desire arises and increases; when he attends to gratification in the exalted states (the jhāna), the taint of being arises and increases; and when he attends to any mundane things through the four "perversions" (of permanence, etc. - see n.5), the taint of ignorance arises and increases.

[ 38 ] According to MA, this passage is undertaken to show the taint of views (diṭṭhāsava, not expressly mentioned in the discourse) under the heading of doubt. However, it might be more correct to say that the taint of views, disclosed by §8, emerges out of unwise attention in the form of doubt. The various types of doubt are already pregnant with the wrong views that will come to explicit expression in the next section.

[ 39 ] Of these six views, the first two represent the simple antinomy of eternalism and annihilationism; the view that "no self exists for me" is not the non-self doctrine of the Buddha, but the materialist view that identifies the individual with the body and thus holds that there is no personal continuity beyond death. The next three views may be understood to arise out of the philosophically more sophisticated observation that experience has a built­in reflexive structure that allows for self-consciousness, the capacity of the mind to become cognizant of itself, its contents, and the body with which it is interconnected. Engaged in a search for his "true nature," the untaught ordinary person will identify self either with both aspects of the experience (view 3), or with the observer alone (view 4), or with the observed alone (view 5). The last view is a full-blown version of eternalism in which all reservations have been discarded.

[ 40 ] The self as speaker represents the conception of the self as the agent of action; the self as feeler, the conception of the self as the passive subject. "Here and there" suggests the self as the transmigrating entity that retains its identity through a succession of different incarnations. The same view is maintained by the bhikkhu Sāti at MN 38.2.

[ 41 ] This is, of course, the formula for the Four Noble Truths, treated as a subject of contemplation and insight. MA says that up to the attainment of the path of stream­entry, attention denotes insight (vipassanā), but at the moment of the path it denotes path-knowledge. Insight directly apprehends the first two truths, since its objective range is the mental and material phenomena comprised under dukkha and its origin; it can know the latter two truths only inferentially. Path-knowledge makes the truth of cessation its object, apprehending it by penetration as object (ārammaṇa). Path-knowledge performs four functions regarding the four truths: it fully understands the truth of suffering, abandons the origin of suffering, realises the cessation of suffering, and develops the way to the cessation of suffering.

[ 42 ] The path of stream-entry has the function of cutting off the first three fetters binding to saɱsāra. MA says that identity view and adherence to rules and observances, being included in the taint of views, are taints as well as fetters, while doubt is (ordinarily) classified as only a fetter, not a taint; but because it is included here among the "taints to be abandoned by seeing," it may be spoken of as a taint.

[ 43 ] If abandonment of the taints is understood in the strict sense as their ultimate destruction, then only two of the seven methods mentioned in the sutta effect their abandonment - seeing and development - which between them comprise the four supramundane paths. The other five methods cannot directly accomplish the destruction of the taints, but they can keep them under control during the preparatory stages of practice and thereby facilitate their eventual eradication by the supramundane paths.

[ 44 ] The primary factor responsible for exercising this restraint over the sense faculties is mindfulness. A fuller formula for sense restraint is given in many other suttas - e. g., MN 27.15 - and analysed in detail at Vsm I, 53-59. MA explains "fever" (pari'āha) in the above passage as the fever of defilements and of their (kammic) results.

45 The passages that follow here have become the standard formulas that bhikkhus use in their daily reflections upon the four requisites of the holy life. They are explained in detail at Vsm I, 85-97.

[46] Unsuitable seats are the two kinds mentioned in the Pātimokkha - sitting with a woman on a screened seat convenient for sexual intercourse, and sitting alone with a woman in a private place. Various kinds of unsuitable resort are mentioned at Vsm I, 45.

[ 47 ] The first three types of unwholesome thought - of sensual desire, ill will, and cruelty - constitute wrong thought or wrong intention, the opposite of the second factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. The three types of wrong thought and their opposites are dealt with more fully in MN 19.

[ 48 ] These are the seven enlightenment factors (satta bojjhangā) included among the thirty-seven requisites of enlightenment, and treated more extensively below at MN 10.42 and MN 118.29-40. The present section explains the seven enlightenment factors specifically as aids for developing the three higher supramundane paths, by which the taints that escaped eradication by the first path will be eradicated. The terms "seclusion" (viveka), "dispassion" (virāga), and "cessation" (nirodha) may all be understood as referring to Nibbāna. Their use in this context signifies that the development of the enlightenment factors is directed to Nibbāna as its goal during the preparatory stages of the path, and as its object with the attainment of the supramundane paths. MA explains that the word vossagga, rendered as "relinquishment," has the two meanings of "giving up" (pariccāga), i.e., the abandonment of defilements, and "entering into" (pakkhandana), i.e., culminating in Nibbāna.

[ 49 ] The taint of sensual desire is eradicated by the path of non-returning, the taints of being and of ignorance only by the final path, that of arahantship.

[ 50 ] The ten fetters that must be destroyed to gain full deliverance have been enumerated in the Introduction, pp. 42-43. Conceit, at the most subtle level, is the conceit "I am," which lingers in the mental continuum until the attainment of arahantship. The "penetration of conceit" (mānābhisamaya) means seeing through conceit and abandoning it, which are both accomplished simultaneously by the path of arahantship. The bhikkhu has "made an end of suffering" in the sense that he has put an end to the suffering of the round of saɱsāra (vaṭṭadukkha).


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