Majjhima Nikaya

[Home]  [Sutta Indexes]  [Glossology]  [Site Sub-Sections]

Majjhima Nikāya
1. Mūla-Paṇṇāsa
3. Tatiya Vagga

Sutta 29

Mahā Saropama Suttaṃ

The Core of
The Greater Heartwood Sutta

Michael M. Olds



The main body of this sutta presents a simile. A man sets out looking for heartwood, but mistaking the leaves and twigs for heartwood, carries them off thinking they are the heartwood.

This is a simile for a man setting out to find Awakening who settles for gains, honors and reputation.

Similarly the other layers of a tree are used to describe a seeker who settles for less than the heartwood. The one who settles for accomplishment in ethics, the one who settles for accomplishment in serenity, the one who settles for accomplishment in knowing and seeing. In each of these cases the man is declared to be ignorant both of the thing he has accomplished and the goal. Finally, the heartwood is presented as being the unshakable heart's release.

I have done a translation of the final paragraph because it briefly states a very important message which is very much in need of being heard today.

I should also like to point out to readers a few of the ways the simile of the 'great, stable and pithy tree' (the Dhamma as taught by Gotama) is used throughout the suttas: We have the raft which is made up from limbs and twigs; we have the limbs of wisdom; we have the trunk of existence (the khandhas); and here we find the heartwood.

The Pāḷi:

18. "Iti kho bhikkhave nayidaṃ Brahma lābha-sakkāra-silokānisaṃsaṃ,||
na sila-sampadā nisaṃsaṃ,||
na samādhi-sampadā nisaṃsaṃ,||
na ñāṇa-dassanā-nisaṃsaṃ.
|| ||

Yā ca kho ayaṃ bhikkhave akuppā ceto-vimutti,||
etadatthamidaṃ bhikkhave Brahma.
|| ||

Etaṃ sāraṃ.|| ||

Etaṃ pariyosānan" ti.|| ||





So it is, monks, that this Brahmā-faring is not for advantage in gains, honors, fame;
it is not for advantage in moral habit,
it is not for advantage in concentration,
it is not for advantage in knowledge and vision.

That, monks, which is unshakable freedom of mind,
this is the goal,
monks, of this Brahmā-faring,
this the path,
this the culmination.

Mrs. Horner translates nisaṃsa 'advantage' but leaves sampada untranslated. Or is it the reverse? She apparently translates 'etaṃ sāraṃ' as 'this is the goal' which misses the tie-in to heartwood. I like 'culmination' for 'pariyosanti' circum-d'end.





So then, bhikkhus, the holy life is led not for, gain, honor and fame,
not for the endowment of virtues,
not for the endowment of concentration,
not for the endowment of knowledges and vision.

Bhikkhus, it is for the unshakeable release of mind that is the essence and end of the holy life.




Bhikkhu Thanissaro:

"Monks, this holy life doesn't have as its reward gain, offerings, and fame,
doesn't have as its reward consummation of virtue,
doesn't have as its reward consummation of concentration,
doesn't have as its reward knowledge and vision,
but the unprovoked awareness-release:
That is the purpose of this holy life,
that is its heartwood,
that its final end."

Bhikkhu Thanissaro translates nisaṃsa 'reward' and 'sampada' as consummation. He separates himself from the pack translating akuppā as 'unprovoked', saying: "This term is sometimes translated as 'unshakable,' but it literally means, 'unprovoked.'" [MO: it could also mean not upset, not disturbed, not unsteadied, unmoved, not agitated, not made to quiver, etc.]

PED: Akuppa (adj.) [a + kuppa, grd. of kup, cp. BSanskrit akopya M Vastu III.200] not to be shaken, immovable; sure, steadfast, safe Vin I.11 (akuppā me ceto-vimutti) = S II.239; Vin II.69; IV.214; D III.273; M I.205, 298; S II.171; A III.119, 198; Miln 361.

Kuppa (adj.) [ger. of kuppati] shaking, unsteady, movable; A III.128 (-dhammo, unsteady, of a pāpa-bhikkhu); Sn 784; of a kamma: a proceeding that can be quashed Vin II.71 (also a-). nt. kuppaṃ anger Vin II.133 (karissāmi I shall pretend to be angry). - akuppa (adj.) and akuppaṃ (nt.) steadfast, not to be shaken, an Ep. of arahant and nibbāna (cp. asankuppa); akuppa-dhammo Pug 11 (see akuppa). Akuppaṃ as freedom from anger at Vin II.251.

Kuppati [Sanskrit kupyate, *qup to be agitated, to shake = Latin cupio, cupidus, "to crave with agitation," cp. semantically Latin tremere Fr. craindre] to shake, to quiver, to be agitated, to be disturbed, to be angry. aor. kuppi, pp. kupita, ger. kuppa, caus. kopeti A III.101; Sn. 826, 854; Pug 11, 12, 30. Of the wind Miln 135; of childbirth udaravāto kuppi (or kupita) J II.393, 433; paccanto kuppi the border land was disturbed J IV.446 (cp. kupita).

OK, this is not, um, earth-shaking, but I don't see literal 'provocation' in this word. Also, the term is describing a state which cannot be shaken or provoked, not a state which is not shaken or provoked. Bhk. Thanissaro's translation leaves open the possibility of being provoked in the future.




Bhikkhus Nanamoli and Bodhi:

"So this holy life, bhikkhus, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit,
or the attainment of virtue for its benefit,
or the attainment of concentration for its benefit,
or knowledge and vision for its benefit.

But it is this unshakeable deliverance of mind that is the goal of this holy life,
its heartwood,
and its end."





So then, Beggars, here the best course does not have a gains-honor-reputation-core
nor an accomplishment-in-ethics-core
nor a accomplishment-in-serenity-core
nor a knowledge-vision-core.

But there is beggars, unshakable heart-release —
here, beggars the best course is for attainment of this.

This is its hardwood.

This is its encompassing end.

To bring out the feel of this statement I have stuck as close as I could to its original syntax and the literal meanings of the terms. For 'sampada' I have used 'accomplishment' where the literal meaning is 'conquest' sam = con, pada = path, but where the idea is the destination, its goal, the mastering or attaining of the purpose of the quest. In English the term 'conquest' is just a little off message.

For nisaṃsa, seeing no compelling reason to go to 'nissāya' as the others have apparently done, I have gone to 'nisāra' and then jumped, with this slight hint to the pun I have used.

CONE: nisāra (a tree) of firm pith, or great strength;? hardwood;?


Copyright Statement