Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
I. Mūlapaṇṇāsa
2. Sīhanāda Vagga

The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha

Sutta 14

Cūḷa Dukkhakkhandha Suttaɱ

The Shorter Discourse on the Mass of Suffering

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

Also: (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1993).
Copyright ©1993 Buddhist Publication Society.

Also: Used here based on the conditions for publication on Access to Insight for which see: Provenance, terms and conditons

 


 

[1][chlm][pts][than][upal] THUS HAVE I HEARD. On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Sakyan country at Kapilavatthu in Nigrodha's Park.

2. Then Mahānāma the Sakyan[205] went to the Blessed One, and after paying homage to him, he sat down at one side and said: "Venerable sir, I have long understood the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One thus: 'Greed is an imperfection that defiles the mind, hate is an imperfection that defiles the mind, delusion is an imperfection that defiles the mind.' Yet while I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One thus, at times states of greed, hate, and delusion invade my mind and remain. I have wondered, venerable sir, what state is still unabandoned by me internally, owing to which at times these states of greed, hate, and delusion invade my mind and remain."[206]

3. "Mahānāma, there is still a state unabandoned by you internally, owing to which at times states of greed, hate, and delusion invade your mind and remain; for were that state already abandoned by you internally you would not be living the home life, you would not be enjoying sensual pleasures.[207] It is because that state is unabandoned by you internally that you are living the home life and enjoying sensual pleasures.

4. "Even though a noble disciple has seen clearly as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them, as long as he still does not attain to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, he may still be attracted to sensual pleasures.[ 208 ] But when a noble disciple has seen clearly as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them, and he attains to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, then he is no longer attracted to sensual pleasures.

5. "Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too clearly saw as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them, but as long as I still did not attain to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, I recognised that I still could be attracted to sensual pleasures. But when I clearly saw as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them, and I attained to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, I recognised that I was no longer attracted to sensual pleasures.

6-14. "And what is the gratification in the case of sensual pleasures? Mahānāma, there are these five cords of sensual pleasure ... (as Sutta 13, §§7-15) ... Now this is a danger in the case of sensual pleasures, a mass of suffering in the life to come, having sensual pleasures as its cause, sensual pleasures as its source, sensual pleasures as its basis, the cause being simply sensual pleasures.

15. "Now, Mahānāma, on one occasion I was living at Rājagaha on the mountain Vulture Peak. On that occasion a number of Nigaṇṭhas living on the Black Rock on the slopes of Isigili were practising continuous standing, rejecting seats, and were experiencing painful, racking, piercing feelings due to exertion.[209]

16. "Then, when it was evening, I rose from meditation and went to the Nigaṇṭhas there. I asked them: 'Friends, why do you practise continuous standing, rejecting seats, and experience painful, racking, piercing feelings due to exertion?'

17. "When this was said, they replied: 'Friend, the Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta is omniscient and all-seeing and claims to have complete knowledge and vision thus: "Whether I am walking or standing or asleep or awake, knowledge and vision are continuously and uninterruptedly present to me." He says thus:
"Nigaṇṭhas, you have done evil actions in the past; exhaust them with the performance of piercing austerities. And when you are here and now restrained in body, speech, and mind, that is doing no evil actions for the future. So by annihilating with asceticism past actions and by doing no fresh actions, there will be no consequence in the future. With no consequence in the future, there is the destruction of action. With the destruction of action, there is the destruction of suffering. With the destruction of suffering, there is the destruction of feeling. With the destruction of feeling, all suffering will be exhausted." This is [the doctrine] we approve of and accept, and we are satisfied with it.'

18. "When this was said, I told them: 'But, friends, do you know that you existed in the past, and that it is not the case that you did not exist?' - 'No, friend.' - 'But, friends, do you know that you did evil actions in the past and did not abstain from them?' - 'No, friend.' - 'But, friends, do you know that you did such and such evil actions?' - 'No, friend.' - 'But, friends, do you know that so much suffering has already been exhausted, or that so much suffering has still to be exhausted, or that when so much suffering has been exhausted all suffering will have been exhausted?' - 'No, friend.' - 'But, friends, do you know what the abandoning of unwholesome states is and what the cultivation of wholesome states is here and now?' - 'No, friend.'

19. "'So, friends, it seems that you do not know that you existed in the past and that it is not the case that you did not exist; or that you did evil actions in the past and did not abstain from them; or that you did such and such evil actions; or that so much suffering has already been exhausted, or that so much suffering has still to be exhausted, or that when so much suffering has been exhausted all suffering will have been exhausted; or what the abandoning of unwholesome states is and what the cultivation of wholesome states is here and now. That being so, those who are murderers, bloody-handed evil-doers in the world, when they are reborn among human beings, go forth into homelessness as Nigaṇṭhas.'210

20. "'Friend Gotama, pleasure is not to be gained through pleasure; pleasure is to be gained through pain. For were pleasure to be gained through pleasure, then King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha would gain pleasure, since he abides in greater pleasure than the venerable Gotama.'
"'Surely the venerable Nigaṇṭhas have uttered those words rashly and without reflection. Rather it is I who ought to be asked: "Who abides in greater pleasure, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha or the venerable Gotama?"'
"'Surely, friend Gotama, we uttered those words rashly and without reflection. But let that be. Now we ask the venerable Gotama: Who abides in greater pleasure, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha or the venerable Gotama?'

21. "'Then, friends, I shall ask you a question in return. Answer it as you like. What do you think, friends? Can King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha abide without moving his body or uttering a word, experiencing exclusively pleasure for seven days and nights?' - 'No, friend.' - 'Can King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha abide without moving his body or uttering a word, experiencing exclusively pleasure for six, five, four, three, or two days and nights? ...for one day and night?' - 'No, friend.'

22. "'But, friends, I can abide without moving my body or uttering a word, experiencing exclusively pleasure for one day and night ...for two, three, four, five, and six days and nights ...for seven days and nights.[211] What do you think, friends? That being so, who dwells in greater pleasure, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha or I?'
"'That being so, the venerable Gotama abides in greater pleasure than King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha."'

That is what the Blessed One said. Mahanāma the Sakyan was satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One's words.

 


 

[ 205 ] Mahānāma the Sakyan was a cousin of the Buddha and the brother of the monks Anuruddha and Ānanda. He chose to remain a householder and let Anuruddha become a monk. The story is told in Ñāṇamoli, The Life of the Buddha, pp. 80-81.

[ 206 ] According to MA, Mahānāma had long ago attained the fruit of the once-returner, which only weakens greed, hate, and delusion but does not eradicate them. MA says that he had the mistaken notion that greed, hate, and delusion are eradicated by the path of the once-returner. Thus, when he saw that they still arose in his mind, he realised that they were not abandoned and inquired from the Buddha the cause for their arising. Noble disciples can be mistaken about which defilements are abandoned by which path.

[ 207 ] From the ensuing discussion on the danger in sensual pleasures, it seems that the "state" (dhamma) unabandoned by Mahānāma was sensual desire, which kept him tied to the home life and the enjoyment of sensual pleasures.

[ 208 ] The "rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures" are the rapture and pleasure pertaining to the first and second jhāna; the states "more peaceful than that" are the higher jhāna. From this passage it seems that a disciple may attain even to the second path and fruit without possessing mundane jhāna.

[ 209 ] The Nigaṇṭhas or Jains, followers of the teacher Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta (also known as Mahāvīra), stressed the practice of austerities to wear off the accumulations of past evil kamma. The purpose of this passage, according to MA, is to show the escape, which was not shown earlier along with the gratification and the danger in sensual pleasures. The Buddha brings in the Jain practice of asceticism to demonstrate that his own teaching is a "middle way" free from the two extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification.

[ 210 ] The Jains held the view that whatever a person experiences is caused by past kamma. If that were so, the Buddha argues, the severe pains to which they subjected themselves as part of their ascetic discipline would have to be rooted in grave actions of their previous lives.

[ 211 ] MA: This refers to his own experience of the pleasure of fruition attainment, i.e., the attainment of the fruit of arahantship (arahattaphalasamāpatti)


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