Majjhima Nikāya Abstracts
Mula Pariyāya Vagga
(Suttas M 1 to M 10)
Abstracts of Pali Canon Suttas
|M 1 Mūlapariyāyautta||Synopsis of Fundamentals|
|M 2 Sabbāsavasutta ||All the Taints|
|M 3 Dhammadāyādayasutta ||Inheritance of the Dhamma|
|M 4 Bhayaberavasutta||Fear and Dread|
|M 5 Anañganasutta ||Blemishes|
|M 6 Akankeyyasutta||What One may Wish|
|M 7 Vathūpamasutta||The Simile of the Cloth|
|M 8 Sallekasutta||Effacement|
|M 9 Sammāditthisutta||Right Views|
|M 10 Mahāsatipattānasutta||Applications of Mindfulness|
M1. Mūla Pariyāyasutta
Synopsis of Fundamentals
This sutta deals with some 24 categories in the Dhamma. They are referred to by the Pali term Mūlā which could be translated as Roots, Basics, or Fundamentals. Initiallty in Part A we consider the sequence of the Sutta as delivered by the Buddha. In Part B the 24 fundamental are considered in the various categories to which the belong. ]
Part A: The Buddha's Discourse
This Sutta was given at Jetavana to the monks. It was common belief at the time that all things were made up of four
which could be translated as Roots, Basics, or Fundamentals. These were: earth (patavi
), water (āpo
), Fire (thejo
) and wind (vāyu
). The Buddha goes on to explain how these were conceived by the different types of persons.
The ordinary person (putujjana
) with respect to the first element earth would (i) know (maññāti
) earth as earth, (ii) know things about earth, (iii) know things in earth, (iv) know things coming out of earth, (v) know earth as 'mine'. The same way of knowing is extended to the other three elements water, fire and wind.
They also know the same way about the various divine beings of whom are specifically are mentioned Pajāpati, Brahmā, the luminous gods, the gods of refulgent glory, the gods of abundant fruit as also the Great Being.
[4 - 6]
They also know of other abstract concepts in the same way. In this regards the following are mentioned: The dimension of the infinitude of space, the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, the dimension of nothingness, the dimension of neither-perception-nor-non-perception; the seen, the heard, the sensed, the cognized; singleness, multiplicity, the All, and finally Nibbāna itself.
On Nibbāna he know it as Nibbāna, he conceives things about Nibbāna, he conceives things in Unbinding, he conceives things coming out of Nibbāna, he conceives Nibbāna as 'mine,' he delights in Nibbāna. All this because has not comprehended whatever is being
The trainee monks also looks at these fundamental in a similar way except that whereas the ordinary man only "knows" about these things the trainee monk "directly knows" (abhijānāti
). The other change is that instead of conceiving things about these fundamentals he is asked "not to conceive" (ma maññi
) things about them. He is probably asked not to do so by his teacher.
[8 - 11]
These sections deal with how the Arhat who has destroyed all mental fermentations (āsavā
). Like the trainee his knowledge about these things is also direct. As to conceiving things about the fundamentals while the trainee is asked not to
conceive these things the Arhat is said not to conceive about these things nor to take delight in them.
[12 - 13]
Finally the Tathāgata has complete comprehension (pariññātantaṃ
) about the fundaments. He has no liking to them and does not consider them as 'mine'. He is totally awakened,].
Part B: Summary and Analysis
This sutta given to the monks at Jetavana deals with some 24 categories in the Dhamma. It was common knowledge at the time that all things were made up of four
) which could be translated as Roots, Basics, or Fundamentals. They are classified under six heads and are given in the following table.
This Sutta which opens the Majjhima Nikāya plays a role similar to that of the first sutta in the Dīgha (the Brahmajāla). It defines 24 fundamental concepts that apply to the whole of the Majjhima Nikāya just as the Brahmajāla makes a
comprehensive list of 64 wrong views current at that time. However in neither place are the lists comprehensive from a modern rationalist point of view.
The Twenty-Four Fundamentals
Luminous gods (Abhissara deva)
Refulgent gods (Supakhinedeva)
Many Fruit gods (Vehappala deva)
Abhihu (Higest deva)
|Infinity of space(Akasayatana)|
Infinity of Consciousness (Viññāna-)
Neither Perception-nor-Non-P. (Nevasanna-nevāsasannā )
It is best to consider these 24 fundamentals in terms of the five categories into which they are grouped as given by the 5
columns in the Table above. These could be considered in turn:
1. The Great Elements (Mahābhutā).
These were considered the elements that made up all things (dhammā
modern counterpart is the atomic theory that sees all matter as being composed of various combinations of atoms.
The four components identified (earth, water, fire and wind) relate to the physical appearance of the various things rather than their inner composition. In scientific terms three of them could be compared to the appearance of matter at normal temperature as solids, liquids or gases. But the
third one (fire or heat) is of a different nature to the other three. In modern terms heat is seen as a a physical effect generated by the speed at which the atoms vibrate and could relate to any substance whether solid, liquid or gaseous and is not an independent substance. This view of course was not known at the time.
Sometimes these 4 basic components are interpreted more abstractly. Thus the earth elements is taken as representing "extension"
or solidity, the water element as representing "fluidity" and air as "motion". Only heat is left as itself.
2. Beings (Sattā)
Here we move away from inorganic matter to living things. Even though 8 categories of beings are mentioned only the first category comprising of terrestrial beings (humans and animals) of which we have empirical proof. The rest are "gods" who are really
supernatural beings of whom no empirical evidence exist.
Prajapati, next mentioned, is copied from the Vedic pantheon. He is supposed to be another name for the head of the gods. Next comes Brahmā also sometimes considered head of the gods. But later Hindus moved away from Brahmā towards other deities like Vishnu, Ganesh and other gods now worshipped by them. However it was the Buddhists who
embraced the Brahma idea and even created heaven to accommodate them.
Next comes three categories of gods (devas
) the Pali terms describing being usually translated as "Luminous", "Refulgent" and "Many-fruit". These probably occupy many of the deva worlds but they are purely imaginary.
Finally the Highest God is mentioned even though no personal name is given. It could be Sakra usually considered the head of the gods in Buddhist legend.
3. Spheres of Meditation (āyatanā)
These four "Spheres of meditation" are said to be capable of being reached through jhānic meditation. They are called the Infinity of Space, the infinity of Consciousness, Nothingness, and finally Neither-perception-nor-non-perception. Obviously they cannot be described verbally to a person who had not reached them through meditation. There is no way of
verifying if any meditator has reached them.
4. Cognization (Parijānanā)
These are the methods of apprehending things either physical or mental. Four methods are identified, either by sight (the eye), hearing (ear), sensing (body) or purely through thought (mind).
5. How seen (Dassanā)
This refers to the scope of things observed and that is how it is distinguished from the previous category of
conisation. They could be considered either singly, or several at a time, or everything at once. No further detail of these ways of apprehension is given.
Nibbāna and Saṃsāra
The last mentioned under this group is Nibbāna the highest goal of Buddhism. But the concept of Nibbāna is not described in detail either here or elsewhere in the Canon. It is defined largely negatively as when all defilements have been eliminated. The closest one comes to describing positively is that it is that it is where the process of rebirth ends, i.e. the end of Samsāra.
Rebirth and Samsāra are not included directly as belonging to the fundamentals of the Dhamma. However the inclusion of Nibbāna can be taken as repairing this omission. But since Nibbāna is left largely undefined so is its opposite Saṃsāra. Since the engine that keeps one is rebirth (via unexpended kamma)
is also unexplained the concept of rebirth is also left unexplained.
The 24 fundamentals are considered from four viewpoints those of the layperson, the
bhikkhu in training, the arhat who has reached the goal and finally the Tathāgata (i.e. the Buddha). We may illustrate how each of these persons
view these 24 fundamental by considering how they regard the first of these fundamentals, viz. earth (extension).
An "uninstructed average person" regards (sañjānāti
) earth as earth, he thinks (maññati
) of earth, and regards as mine and rejoices in earth. That is he takes earth for granted as real in the conventional sense. Every other of the fundamentals are regarded in the same manner.
The monk in training should know earth intuitively (abhijānāti
). He is then told not to think of earth, nor consider it as
'mine' nor rejoice in it. This is then repeated to the other fundamentals.
The position with the arhat is that he has realized what the bhikkhu in training is instructed to do. This means that he has undergone the full training successfully. The position of the Tathāgata
is also that of the Arhat but in his case he discovered this by himself and not
by following the instruction of a Buddha.
All the Taints
[NOTE: The Pali term 'āsava' has been translated as 'canker', 'intoxication', 'taint', 'influx', 'fermentation', etc. It refers to a basic human
impulse that leads to habitual conduct, usually considered as wrong-doing. Four kinds of taint are usually mentioned: sensuality (kāma), existence bhāva), wrong view (diṭṭhi) and ignorance (avijjā). We shall use any of the synonyms given according to the context, but it could be substituted by any other term or the Pali term used]
[14 - 16] This Sutta was given to monks at the Jetavana monastery. He advised them to "see and know" the taints appropriately and seek to
abandon them appropriately. The ways of abandoning them given are by (1) seeing, (2) restraining, (3) using, (4) tolerating, (5) abandoning, (7) destroying and (8) developing. Most of the attention in this sutta is devoted to a consideration of these seven ways of
overcoming the taints.
[17 - 21] 1. Ridding Taints through Vision (dassanā pahātabbāsasava)
It has been stated that in the Chinese version of this sutta this factor is omitted and only the other six are mentioned. However in the Pali version this gets the most attention. Here vision is used in the sense of right view especially for the stream winner. The stream winner is said to get a clear
glimpse of Nirvāna, but has still not got there. The path of vision differs from the path of cultivation (bhavana) which are appropriate for the once-returner and the non-returner. Here wise attention (yoniso manasikāra) is the dominant factor.
If there is unwise attention the then it is easy for the influx of sense deire to arise and take hold. This would lead to other influxes mentioned later in this sutta.
 2. Ridding Taints through Restraint (samvara pahātabbāsasava)
Here restraint is used in the sense preventing (indriya samvara). It is therefore usually a
Vinaya method of eliminating the taints. Thus taints originating from the wrong use of impressions generated by the sense organs. Restraint of eye impressions come into this category rather than the preceding because dassana there refers more to
intellectual views rather than the physical one generated by the eye. But restraint of what is generated by the other organs (ear etc.) are also mentioned.
There is also a reference to restraint by way of Dhamma for those so inclined (manasikaraṇīye dhamme pajānāti) but it is not developed fully in this sutta.
 3. Ridding Taints through Use (patisevana pahātabbāsasava)
The use meant here is the proper use of requisites provided for the monk. Thus robes should used to ward off cold heat as well as for purposes of modesty. Food
should not be used for gluttony, gaining weight or a beautiful appearance.
 4. Ridding Taints through Toleration (adhivāsana pahātabbāsasava
Toleration here seems to apply to toleration of physical discomforts. Thus there is reference to toleration of "cold, heat, hunger, thirst; the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and reptiles". But tolerations can also apply to "ill-spoken, unwelcome words" and also to bodily feelings.
 5. Ridding Taints through Avoiding (parivajjanā pahātabbāsasava)
Under this there is reference to monks avoiding "a wild elephant, a wild horse, a wild bull, a wild dog, a snake, a stump, a bramble patch, a chasm, a cliff, a cesspool, an open sewer". In
addition to these obvious dangers there is reference to going to unsuitable places and associating with bad friends.
 6. Ridding Taints through Destroying (vinodanā pahātabbāsasava
The destruction referred to here is purely mental destruction, not physical destruction. It relates to thoughts of
Sensuality, Ill-will, Cruelty and the like. It is said that if these thoughts are not eliminated the moment the arise they could do much
 7. Ridding Taints through Development (bhāvaā pahātabbāsasava
This refers largely to qualities developed through mediation.
 In his concluding words of this Sutta the Buddha says that the seven methods given here have been successful in ridding all the taints affecting a monk then he is called a monk with the restraint of all taints. and has put an end to suffering. This means, though it is not
directly stated here, he has achieved Nibbāna.
This sutta is essentially an ethical sutta. It does not contain any supernatural matter to expunge. As an ethical system it applies to both monks and laypersons, even though it is delivered to monks.
Some of these methods of riddance may be impractical in certain situations. Thus under Method 3 (Endurance) it may
not be possible to avoid being bitten by a poisonous snake which may lead to death. And under Method 4 (Avoidance) one is asked to avoid wild animals (probably there will be no need to kill them if they
do not become threatening). But if a wild elephant is chaseing one or
ravaging one's crops it may not to be possible to simple avoid the situation. Most of the other methods of riddance may be practicable for
the keen practitioner.
M3 - Dhammadāyāda Sutta
 This Sutta begins with a discourse by the Buddha with what his followers expect from him.; This is whether his "inheritance" (dāyāda) to his followers should be his teaching (the Dhamma) or his material things (āmisa). This is usually taken as a exhortation to follow the Dhamma and not yearn for material things in general. But there is an ambiguity as what the Buddha means by āmisadāyāda.
The Inheritance of the Dhamma
 This is seen in the example provided by the Buddha. He speaks of him receiving his daily meal but after consuming what he could there is some left over. He contemplates discarding the left over. But at the same time there are two monks who have not had their meal. One argues that they should take the left-overs from the Buddha as otherwise it would be thrown away. The other argues that the left-over should not be consumed as it would consist of taking material things from the Buddha. Accordingly this monk would remain hungry. The Buddha observes that while the monk who took the left-over would have appeased his hunger it is the second monk who is more reverential and praiseworthy (pujjataro ca pāsaṃsataro ca). This leads the Buddha to enunciate a rule: "...my disciples should be heirs of the teaching not heirs of my material things (me sāvakā dhammadāyādā bhaveyyum, no āmisadāyādā)
However many of those interpreting this sutta take āmisa to be material things in general not necessarily of the Buddha alone. Therefore the purpose of the Sutta is for his followers to follow the teaching of the Buddha rather than seek material things. This would make sense after the Buddha had passed away.
 After the Buddha has left Sāriputta arrives and raises a related but not identical problem. This is that when the teacher is in seclusion what should the disciples do. This is because the Buddha had
actually gone into seclusion without telling the disciples what thjey should do. He says that the disciples should be praised if they do three things:
- The disciples should also train in the seclusion adopted by the teacher.
- They should avoid or dispel the things that the teacher dispels.
- They should not live in abundance and lethargy.
[32-33] Sāriputta concludes his discourse by urging the Bhikkhus to
give up greed and ill-will. This could be done by following the eight-fold path.
This sutta contains no supernatural material and could be considered to be wholly in the rational domain. The principle involved in the Buddha's discourse is summed on the rule he enunciate that acquiring the Dhamma is better than acquiring material things.
On the other hand Sāriputta speaks on the practical matter of what the Bhikkhus should do while the Buddha is in retirement. His advise to the monks is that they should return to their principal task, viz. to follow the example of the Buddha and find their own way to emancipation by following the eightfold path.
M4 - Bhayaberava Sutta
 Given at Sāvatthi Jetha grove. The Interlocutor was the Brahmin Janussoni. After first inquiring if the Buddha was the leader (pubbaṅgamo) he asks how his disciples can endure isolated forest or wilderness dwellings (araññavanapatthāni ).
Fear and Dread
[35-36] The Buddha replied that he too thought so before his Enlightenment but realized that this fear and dread comes to persons with bodily
activities not purified (aparisuddhakāyakammantā). It is also the case with those with
not purified verbal, mental and
[37- 48] The Buddha then gives a list of 12 conditions which pollute samanas and
Brahmans but not the Buddha. This list includes the following:
- Covetousness and fierce passion for sensual pleasures
- Minds of ill-will with destructive attitues
- Overcome by sloth and drowsiness
- Restless with unstilled mind
- Uncertainty and doubting
- Praising oneself and disparaging others
- Tending towards pain and dread
- Desiring gains, offerings and fame
- Being lazy and lacking persistence
- Being muddled in mindfulness and unalert
- Not being concentrated with straying minds
- Being "drooling idiots" (Horner's translation)
[49-50] The Buddha then gives an account of how he overcame fear even on days considered
inauspicious. He tried the experiment of going to a remote area on a day considered inauspicious and the only sounds he heard were twigs falling or animal noises. If fear and terror came while he was standing or walking he continued to do what he was doing and fear abated. But some recluses and
Brahmans were dwelling in delusion even having no perception of day and night until a being like him arises.
[51-54] The Buddha then recounted his experiences when he underwent the process of Enlightenment which led to him acquiring his present status. These were:
 The Buddha's final advice to the Brahman Janussoni was that he (the Buddha) resorts to secluded places is not because he is not free of passion, aversion an delusion. It is because of two things: seeing a pleasant abiding in the present and feeling sympathy for future generations.
- Establishing mindfulness and making the body calm and unaroused and the mind concentrated.
- Achieving of the four jhānas which led to him overcoming both pleasure and pain.
- Acquiring the First Knowledge which was that of recollecting past lives even
up to a hundred thousand and the many aeons of cosmic expansion and contraction.
- Acquiring the Second Knowledge which was that of the passing away and reappearance of beings. This gave him and insight into the operation of the law of kamma.
- Acquiring the Third Knowledge which was that of the ending of mental fermentations (āsavas).
 The final section of the sutta records the acclamation of Janussoni which is stated in the stereotyped phrase of placing upright something that was upturned, and bringing a light into darkness so that people could see. He becomes a follower of the Buddha for life.
The Buddha's solution to overcoming the fear and dread that comes to ordinary people when they go to remote and secluded places is to achieved a degree of
purification in their bodily actions. It is the impure bodily actions (aparisuddhakāya-kammanto) that is the cause of fear and dread.
This is a profound psychological observation which
can be tried out by anyone who retires to isolated places for meditation. Obviously the pure actions that are required are things that have to be acquired before one goes into forest meditation.
Also isolated living does not lead to many of the problems that communal living
M5 - Anañgana Sutta
At the Jeta grove this is a discussion between by Sāriputta and Mahā Mogallāna in front of a
bhikkhu audience. Sāriputta initiates the discussion by considering two classes of people, one with a blemish (sāñgaṇa
) and the other without a blemish (añgaṇa
). Each group is further
subdivided into two types. In the first group a person is is aware where he has a blemish and is termed the superior (settapuriso
), and in the other type the person does not know that he has a blemish and is
considered the inferior (hinapuriso
). The other group of persons who do not have a blemish there are also two types one type aware that they are pure and are so called superior, and the other type where the persons are unaware that they are pure and are termed the
inferior. This gives four Types as follows.
- have blemish and are aware of it - Superior.
- have blemish and are not aware of it - Inferior
- do not have blemish and are aware of this - Superior.
- do not have blemish and are not aware of this - Inferior
Mogallāna inquires why of the two with blemish one should be
superior and the other inferior and of the two without blemish one person is considered superior in each case and the other inferior.
Sāriputta's explanation for superiority or inferiority is this: In the case of Type 2 since the person does not know that he has a blemish he will not make an effort to remove the blemish. So he is inferior. In the case of Type1 who is aware of his blemish will try to overcome it. So he is superior.
In the case of Type 3 since he is aware that he has no blemish he will not be overvome with greed, hate and delusion and will die with an undefiled pure mind. But being pure he will try make himself even more pure. That makes him superior. In the case of Type 4 he too will die with an undefiled mind but he is inferior to Type 3 because he is not aware of his real state.
 Moggallāna then asks what is a blemish. They are said to be evil deeds (pāpakam) or
unskilful ones (akusala). They cold
also be wanderings of evil thoughts (iccāvacarānaṃ) that make a monk angry (kopo) and averse (appaccayo). They are blemishes. Many of the examples cited are petty
jealousies that would arise in a monk community. Some typical instances are given. A bhikkhu who wants to lead the alms round find that some other bhikkhu is given this task,
which leads his mind to wander in jealous thoughts. Or another bhikkhu may be given the most prominent seat in an assembly. Or a Bhikkhu may find some other bhikkhu is given the task of giving merit after a meal.
Or another bhikkhu is given the task of preaching to bhikkhunis who come to the temple. Many other examples of this kind are given in this sutta.
 In whatever bhikkhu these wanderings of thought in evil demerit are seen and heard to be present his co-associates in the holy life will not
honour, revere and venerate him.
 To whatever bhikkhu these wanderings of thought in evil demerit are seen and heard to be dispelled, his co-associates in the holy life will
honour, revere and venerate him.
 Mogallāna recounts an incident when a wheelwright made an error in making a wheel and when this was pointed out he corrected it. He says that those making a livelihood using wrong methods will benefit from this discourse.
This is a fairly straight forward Sutta not involving any supernatural elements. The moral of the Sutta is that person whether he is pure or not should be aware of his own condition. This is what makes the person inferior or superior not being good or bad in oneself but being aware of his real state and not harbour delusions about himself.
M6 Akankeyya Sutta
What one may wish
Given at the Jeta Monastery to the monks. He exhorted them to observe the Pātimokkha obligations and see danger in the
Here the Buddha advises monks what they should do if they wish (āhaṅkeyya
) for certain things. The Buddha enumerates a number of things that a
bhikkhu may wish for. But in each case what the bhikkhu has to do is the same. This is given in a stereotyped phrase which is the same for all things wished. This runs as follows:
[The bhikkhu is one who] fulfils the moral habits (sīlesvevassa paripūrakārī), who is intent on mental tranquillity within (ajjhattaṃ cetosamathamanuyutto), whose meditation is uninterrupted (anirākatajjhāno vajjesu bhayadassavino), who is endowed with vision (vipassanāya samannāgato), a cultivator of empty places (brūhetā suññāgārānaṃ).
The things that a Bhikkhu may wish for are given as:
- be agreeable to fellow monks
- receive their reverence and respect;
- receive robes and other requisites;
- consider that the giver of robes etc. have great merit;
- be of advantage to kith and kin who recollect the departed;
- overcome aversions and not be overcome by them;
- overcome fear and deread;
- acquire the four jhānas;
- realize the incorporeal deliverances;
- become a stream winner;
- become a once-returner;
- acquire nibbāna;
- acquire psychic powers;
- acquire divine hearing;
- know intuitively the mind of others;
- recollct former lives;
- know how others obtain the results of their kamma;
- abide in the freedom of mind.
If a monk wishes for all of the above he should be one who fulfils the moral habits, who is intent on mental tranquillity within, who does not interrupt (his) meditation, who is endowed with vision, a cultivator of empty places. That of which I have spoken thus was spoken in relation to this: Fare along, monks, possessed of moral habit, possessed of the Obligations, fare along controlled by the control of the Obligations, possessed of right conduct and resort, seeing danger in the slightest faults; undertaking them rightly, train yourselves in the rules of training.
What this list of things which a bhikkhu should wish is essentially what the bhikkhu had wanted when he entered the discipline when he entered the order. However there are a few that require some additional comment. The first and second wishes relate to how the Bhikkhus should behave towars each other. This is to avoid the ever present danger of dissention within the order of which several incidents ae recored in the Canon.
The next three are concerned with relations with the laity. Wishes 3 and 4 relate to the laypersons who give robes and other requisites including the daily meal. This probably implies reminding them of the merit they get by these acts of charity. There is no custom of formally thanking the giver and this is also true in the soceity at large. Whether the firfit wish implies the practice of giving merit to dead relations of those giving robes etc. is not clear. This has become a common practice but there is little sanction for it in the Buddha's instructions and this is perhaps where he comes closest to it.
The seventh wish relates to overcoming fear and dread and is the subject of the previous sutta in this collection. The remainsng wishes relate to what shoul be done to realize the goal of attaining arahntship. This has been summarised as how a bhikkhu should develop sīla, samādhi and paññā, instead of hankering after gain and fame; how he should restrain his faculties, seeing danger in the slightest fault."
M7 Vathūpama Sutta
The Simile of the Cloth
This discourse was given by the Buddha to the monks at the Jetavana in Dāvatthi. The Buddha starts with an analogy of dyeing a cloth.
If a cloth is dirty it will not take the dye well but will do so only if it is clean. This leads the Buddha to consider defilements of the mind (cittassa upakkilesā
). In this connection the Buddha mentions 16 kinds of mental defilements In the following Table the Pali word is first given and some translations of this term by well known translators are given.
The Buddha then enumerates 16 qualities that have to be abandoned by a monk. These are given in the left column in the Table below with some common translations after each term:
|| hostility ||
|| hypocrisy ||
|| fraud ||
|| presumption ||
|| conceit ||
|| arrogance ||
[73-76] The Buddha's advice to the monks is to abandon these defilements of the mind. When they have done that they get unwavering confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. The even the eating of choice alms food will not be an obstacle for such a monk.
 Such a monk will then suffice his mind with the divine abodes (brahmavihārā) of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. He will then extend them in all directions of the universe. He then frees his mind from the cankers (āsava) of sensual desire, becoming, and ignorance. He then could be called one "bathed in the inner bathing" (sināto antarena sinānenā).
[78-80] The Brahmin Sundarika Bharadvaja who had overheard the discourse then asked whether the Buddha goes to holy Bahuka river to bathe, which question would have been prompted by the Buddha's reference to inner bathing. [NOTE: What Sundarika had in mind is the practice of Brahmins that bathing in holy rivers will wash away sins.] The Buddha answers him verse that this kind of external bathing will not wash away the sins of an evil doer. What is needed is the internal bathing by the purification of the mind as given by the Buddha in this discourse. Baradvaja was converted and joined the order and reached Nibbbāna.
This discourse could be classed as an ethical discourse of the Buddha. It is free from reference to mythical entities and there is no reference to the doctrine of rebirth. It reiterates the consant message of the Budha to his monk followers: they should develop sīila, samādhi and paññā,
and not hanker after gain and fame; they should restrain their faculties and see
danger in the slightest fault.
M8 Salleka Sutta
This is a discourse given at Jetavana in Sāvatthi. The Sutta commences with Mahācunda asking the Buddha: 'Does the abandonment of self-views (attavāda
) and world-views (lokavāda
) by a monk occur only at the beginning of his meditations ?' [NOTE:
It is the rejection of these views that is meant by Sallekha (expunging or effacement) in this sutta.]
The Buddha's reply is that this rejection takes place only in those with right wisdom (sammapaññā passato
). This is further explained as considering them as 'not mine' (netaṃ mama
), 'this I am not' (nesohamasmi
) and 'this is not my self ' (na me so attā
The Buddha then states that achieving the four jhānas does not cause the rejection of these views. Nor does the attainment of peaceful
abiding (santā ete vihārā
) lead to this rejection. These abidings are three-fold involving the abandonment of corporeality (rūpasaññāna
), sense-response (paṭighasaññā
) and variety (nānattasaññā
The Buddha then says that in order to reject self-view and world-view the
bhikkhu should should engage in 44 moral practices. These are:
- A person given to harmfulness has non-harming by which to avoid it.
- A person given to killing living beings has abstention from killing by which to avoid it.
- A person given to taking what is not given has abstention from taking what is not given by which to avoid it.
- A person given to unchastity has chastity by which to avoid it.
- A person given to false speech has abstention from false speech by which to avoid it.
- A person given to malicious speech has abstention from malicious speech by which to avoid it.
- A person given to harsh speech has abstention from harsh speech by which to avoid it.
- A person given to gossip has abstention from gossip by which to avoid it.
- A person given to covetousness has non-covetousness by which to avoid it.
- A person given to thoughts of ill will has non-ill will by which to avoid it.
- A person given to wrong view has right view by which to avoid it.
- A person given to wrong intention has right intention by which to avoid it.
- A person given to wrong speech has right speech by which to avoid it.
- A person given to wrong action has right action by which to avoid it.
- A person given to wrong livelihood has right livelihood by which to avoid it.
- A person given to wrong effort has right effort by which to avoid it.
- A person given to wrong mindfulness has right mindfulness by which to avoid it.
- A person given to wrong concentration has right concentration by which to avoid it.
- A person given to wrong knowledge has right knowledge by which to avoid it.
- A person given to wrong deliverance has right deliverance by which to avoid it.
- A person overcome by sloth and torpor has freedom from sloth and torpor by which to avoid it.
- A person given to agitation has non-agitation by which to avoid it.
- A person given to doubting has freedom from doubt by which to avoid it.
- A person given to anger has freedom from anger by which to avoid it.
- A person given to hostility has freedom from hostility by which to avoid it.
- A person given to denigrating has non-denigrating by which to avoid it.
- A person given to domineering has non-domineering by which to avoid it.
- A person given to envy has non-envy by which to avoid it.
- person given to jealousy has non-jealousy by which to avoid it.
- A person given to fraud has non-fraud by which to avoid it.
- A person given to hypocrisy has non-hypocrisy by which to avoid it.
- A person given to obstinacy has non-obstinacy by which to avoid it.
- A person given to arrogance has non-arrogance by which to avoid it.
- A person difficult to admonish has amenability by which to avoid it.
- A person given to making bad friends has making good friends by which to avoid it.
- A person given to negligence has heedfulness by which to avoid it.
- A person given to faithlessness has faith by which to avoid it.
- A person given to shamelessness has shame by which to avoid it.
- A person without conscience has conscience by which to avoid it.
- A person without learning has acquisition of great learning by which to avoid it.
- A person given to idleness has energetic endeavor by which to avoid it.
- A person without mindfulness has the establishment of mindfulness by which to avoid it.
- A person without wisdom has wisdom by which to avoid it.
- A person given to misapprehending according to his individual views, to holding on to them tenaciously and not discarding them easily, has non-misapprehension of individual views, non-holding on tenaciously and ease in discarding by which to avoid it.
This is a comprehensive list of moral principles going far beyond the five and the 8 precepts which are usually expected of laypersons. In fact some of them are not stipulated in the rules of the Vinaya for monks and bhikkhunis.]
The Buddha then goes on to say that not only the doing of these 44
moralities given is efficacious but even the thought of not violating them is efficacious. He then repeats the 44 rules this time positively giving the parable of two roads one even and the other uneven and doing these ethical rules positively is like taking the even road. This is called the way
The Buddha then gives the simile of a person stuck in the mud who cannot pull another on so stuck to safety. Similarly it is not possible that one who is himself not restrained, not disciplined and passions not quenched should make others restrained, disciplined and quenched. But it is possible that one who is himself restrained, disciplined and fully quenched can make others to the full quenching.
The Buddha's final instruction to Cunda is to find roots of trees and other empty places and meditate. Here he is not referring to jhānic meditation but to insight meditation which allows one to rid oneself of self-view and world-view.
This Sutta is primarily an ethical discourse. It is not specifically directed to monks and is equally applicable to lay persons. It goes considerably beyond the five precepts which is usually considered the Buddha's rules for lay conduct.
But it starts as a philosophical discourse because the question that triggers it is Mahā Chunda's question how philosophical views about the world and the self could be eliminated. Clearly the observance of the 44 ethical rules may be good in itself but it could be questioned how it would erase the wrong views in question. The solution to this
conundrum is that for the Buddha there is a strong link between the philosophical and the ethical. Unless one develops a pure moral outlook that person cannot get rid of wrong philosophical views.
On the question of meditation there is the view expressed that it is vipassanā meditation and not jhānic meditation that is more
conducive to self purity.
M9 Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta
This is a discourse given by Sāriputta to the bhikkus at Jetavana. He begins by saying that to be of right view one must understand 'kusala' and 'akusala' and the roots thereof. These terms have been translated as
skilful/unskilful or as wholesome/unwholesome amongst others. The first translation goes to the root meaning of the terms, and the second to their ethical import. Here we shall use the Pali terms as they could be translated in several ways.
Acts considered akusala are those people are asked to avoid in the familiar precepts of Buddhism (taking life, stealing, sensual misconduct, false speech, malicious speech, harsh speech, and gossip) to which are added covetousness (abhijjhā
), ill-will (abyāpāda
) and wrong view (miccādiṭṭhi
). The roots of akusala are greed (lobha
), hate (dosa
) and delusion (moha
). Acts considered kusala are the opposite of those considered akusala (as given above). The roots of kusala are given as the opposite of the three roots of akusala. The bhikkhus then ask Sāriputta repeatedly if there is another way in which disciples could come to the true dhamma (sadhamma
Sāriputta says that there is and gives a different version when the
bhikkhus keep repeating their request. In response to their requests Sāriputta
gives 14 other ways by which the true Dhamma may reached. Apart from the first
two (nutriment and the four noble truths) and the last (the taints) the
remaining 12 are steps in the well-known chain of Dependent Origination (going from birth to ignorance). The chain of dependent origination is developed more fully in other parts of the Canon and will be considered there.
Sāriputta's 14 ways to the pure dhamma are given in sections 90 to 104.]
). Nutriment is of four kinds: physical food, contact, mental volition, and consciousness. The way leading to the cessatin of nutriment the Noble Eightfold Path.
Four Noble Truths (dukkha, samudaya, nirodha, niroddhagāma
). These are defined as in the First Discourse. The way out is
the Eightfold path.
Ageing and Death (jarāmaraṇa
). These are described
in the conventional way and the way out is the Eightfold Path.
). The birth of beings into the various orders of beings, their coming to birth, precipitation [in a womb], generation, manifestation of the aggregates, obtaining the bases for contact this is called birth. Cessation is through the Eightfold Path.
). There are three kinds of being: sense-sphere being, fine-material being and immaterial being. Cessation is through the Edightfold Path.
). Four kinds are identified: clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, clinging to rituals and rites, and clinging to a doctrine of self. Cessation is through the
). Craving can be for forms, sounds, odors,
flavours, tangibles, or mind-objects. Cessation is through the Eightfold Path.
Six classes of feeling are defined. These are feeling through each of the six sense organs.
). Contact is classified according to the six organs of sense which makes the contact. The escape is through the Eightfold Path.
The Sixfold Base (salāyatana
). This again is classified according to the six sense organs. The cessation is the Eightfold Path.
). Feeling, perception, volition, contact and attention are called mentality. Materiality is the four great elements. Their cessation is again through the Path.
). There are six classes of
consciousness corresponding to the six sense organs. Cessation is through the Path,
). The three kinds of formations are the bodily, the verbal and the mental. Cessation is through the Path,
). Ignorance is defined as ignorance of the Four Noble Truths. Alternatively it is said that with the arising of the taints there is the arising of ignorance.
). The taints are threefold: sensual desire, being and ignorance. It is said that with the arising of ignorance taints. Since it was said previously that ignorance arises with the arising of the taints, it may be that both ignorance and taints arise
This is another example of the combination of philosophy with ethics. Sāriputta first poses the question what right view is. He traces this to the doing of meritorious things (kusala
) which is given as following the five precepts of Buddhism. According to the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path Right View comes before the ethical elements of the Path. While Right View can be taken to meaning understanding that the kusala actions are good it goes to something deeper viz. the realization of Four Noble Truths of which ethics is only a component.
Many of the fundamental concepts are not defined. Thus for instance Sāriputta asking 'What is craving?' he lists the objects for which there is craving but
there is no definition of what 'craving ' is; it is assumed to be understood
M10 Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta
Applications of Mindfulness
This is perhaps the best known sutta in the Sutta Piṭka. It occurs here in the Majjhima and also in the Dīgha Nikāya in a longer version. In both versions there is a great deal of
repetition. It will be considered in greater detail in the Abstract of the version in the Digha Nikāya. However to complete the suttas in the first Vagga of the Majjhima it is included here in an extremely truncated form.]
 This sutta was given to the monks at a place called Kammasadhamma in the Kuru country [near modern Delhi].
 It starts by claiming that there is a "direct path" (ekāyano) to purification, often mistranslated as the only path. This is called direct as it enables a person in
isolation to reach the goal of purification (visuddhiyā). Purification may not mean the goal of
Enlightenment but only the avoidance of gross wrongdoing. The method given is usually considered as one involving only meditation which is only one element in the broader Eightfold Path which leads towards Enlightenment.
The method given is a series of four of contemplations: (1) on the body, (2) on feelings, (3) on the mind, and (4) on mental qualities. These are considered in sequence in the sutta and will be done so here.
[107-112] 1. Contemplation on the body (kāyānupassanā.
It begins with the posture to be adopted either in the forest or under a tree or in an empty place (perhaps a room). The usual "lotus position" is recommended. Then the meditator first beigns by giving attention to breathing (usually called
although that term does not occur in the sutta). Attention should be focussed both
internally and externally on the body. The knowledge of anatomy in that time was derived partly from the
widespread practice of animal sacrifice in the old Vedic religion in which animals were killed and
dismember and their flesh eaten and given to the gods. The tradition listing of body parts given in this sutta
goes as follows: "head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, gorge,
faeces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints, urine." .
After attention to sitting meditation focus is shifted to walking, standing and lying down. Finally comes the cemetery contemplations. It was the custom to leave dead bodies to decompose naturally and the contemplation of dead bodies in various stages of decomposition is
recommended. In modern times it is not possible to do this kind of morbid reflection and abstract contemplation is often substituted.
[113-115] 2. Contemplation on feelings (vedanānupassanā)l
The feelings mentioned are those that are painful, pleasant or neutral. The meditator is urged to be aware of these feelings, to reflect on their cause and also to be aware of their passing away.
No specific instruction is given how to rid one self from these feelings, especially painful feelings which might make it impossible to
continue with the meditation. The implication seems to be that these feelings rise and fall
[116-118] 3. Contemplation on the mind (Cittānupassanā)
The reflection mentioned here is to the emotion that is currently experienced in the mind. The mind could be charged with passion (rāga
) or with aversion (dosa
) or with delusion (moha
). These are the three main negative emotions that could beset the mind. The meditator should be aware if his mind is charged or not charged with these three kinds of feeling.
4. Contemplation on the dhammas (Dhammānupassanā)
The term dhamma is a polyglot term in Buddhism. It could refer to doctrine or simply to a thing material or mental. Which of these are meant here is not clear. Many people interpret it as referring to the latter, especially to mental qualities. This is strengthened by the reference to five hindrances (pañca nīvaraṇa
There are five hindrances in Buddhism: (1) sensual desire, (2) ill will, (3) sloth & drowsiness, (4) restlessness & anxiety, and (5) uncertainty. With respect to each of these the meditator is asked to contemplate if he has the particular hindrance, how it arises, how it ceases, and how it could be abandoned.
Finally looking at dhamma in the doctrinal sense the meditator is asked to consider the four noble truths. This then becomes a more intellectual rather than a purely psycho-mental activity.
Clearly the scope of this activity could cover the whole of the doctrinal teaching of the Buddha.
While many Buddhists consider the Satipaṭṭhāna the most important of the mental activities to indulge in it is rarely done to the full extent. Most meditators only practice the first of the four applications. This is the contemplation of the breath. This usually called anāpāna or samata meditation. While this is relatively easy to indulge in the benefit it gives is only temporary, that is until the activity lasts. Its benefits are usually lost when the meditator abandons the
meditation. Very often this kind of meditation is taken for very long times under the mistaken belief that its benefits can be extended. But this is often a waste of time.
Satipaṭṭhāna meditation requires that after the first application is set up the meditator turns
to the second application and so on until the last is achieved. These meditations are in increasing order of difficulty.
The second meditation, that on feelings can either be easy or difficult depending on the sensations that is present at the time this stage in the meditation. The feelings are usually related like painful feelings from the posture adopted, but could be other feelings that could be present. If it is a painful feeling concentrating on it could lead to its destruction. But if the feeling on the whole is
pleasant the meditator should not stick to it. He should progress to the third application.
This is the contemplation of the mind. This might be the most difficult of the contemplations because it means contemplating on what arises in the mind. Buddhism emphasises the fickleness of the mind, where the mind can drift from one thing to the next in rapid progression. This contemplation is one aimed at stilling the mind. It may take a long time to reach the state of mental calmness, but this is possible if the two previous meditations had been undertaken successfully.
The final contemplation on mental qualities or objects is the one to which the most space is given in this sutta. It is also the one that requires the most amount time. We have explained some of the problems involved in this meditation previously and it is best to be left at that.
It will be noticed that the instruction given in this sutta becomes extremely imprecise as the meditator proceeds in successive meditations. It is here that meditation instructors have led those instructed to do various idiosyncratic things. The meditation instructor takes command on the person instructed. But it is clear that this is contrary to the intentions of the Sutta. The very requirement that the meditation should be undertaken in an empty environment
means that no instructor should be present. The meditator should rely on his or her own
resources. Thus a thorough understanding of the Dhamma is needed to undertake these meditations. They cannot be achieved in a short retreat and requires an intensive period on study of the
Dhamma before the meditations in this sutta are to be achieved.