Majjhima Nikāya
Tatiya (Oppuma) Vagga


CONTENTS
M 21 KakapūpamasuttaParable of the Saw
M 22 Agaladūpamasutta The Water Snake
M 23 Vammikasutta   The Ant Hill
M 24 RathavītasuttaThe Relay of Chariots
M 25 Nivāpasutta Discourse on the Bait
M 26 AriyapariyesanasuttaThe Noble Search
M 27 CūlahatthipadomasuttaLesser Elephants' Footprint
M 28 MahāhatthipadomasuttaGreater Elephants' Footprint
M 29 MahāsṇropamasuttaGreater Discourse on the Pith
M 30 CūlasṇropamasuttaLesser Discourse on the Pith

M21. Kakacūpama Sutta
The Saw*



[NOTE: This Sutta opens the third Chapter (vagga) of the Majjihma. It is referred to simply as the 'Third (tatiya)' Chapter but because the suttas in this chapter contain many parables or similes (oppuma) it is also referred to as the Oppuma Vagga. ]

[222] This sutta given at Jetavana deals with a number of issues relating to the bhikkhu life.

1. Associating with Bhikkhunis
The monk Mogliya Pagguna is accused by fellow monks of associating too much with bhikkhunis and getting angry when bhikkhunis are blamed. Although some commentators have imputed a motive of lust for Pagguna's behaviour this is not specifically stated in the sutta. The bhikkkhunis in turn defend Pagguna if he is blamed in their presence.

[223-224] This is reported to the Buddha who summons Pagguna. Phagguna readily agrees to the accusation made by his fellow bhikkhus. The Buddha reminds Pagguna that he is 'clansman' (a free citizen) who had gone forth out of faith. He then advises Phagguna as follows:
  1. It is not suitable for a monk to be too closely associated with bhikkhunis.
  2. If bhikkhnis are blamed in Pagguna's presence he should give up worldly interest and thoughts. Instead he should train himself thus: "My mind will not be perverted, I will not utter evil words, I will abide with compassion and loving kindness without anger." This formula which occurs several times in the sutta will be referred as the formula of self-training.
  3. Pagguna should react in the same even if bhikkhunis are assaulted in his presence, using the formula of self-training.
  4. He should do likewise even if he himself is disparaged or even assaulted using the formula of self-training.
Pagguna is not referred to again in this sutta. Nor are we told if Pagguna followed the Buddha's advice.

[225] 2. Taking One meal a day, developing mindfulness and growing in the discipline.

The Buddha then advises the bhikkhus to eat only one meal a day as the Buddha himself does. This is not only for any spiritual reason but also because it is good for their health. The Buddha said that as a result of his eating habits he had few ailments (appabadhā), few disorders (appātaṅkatā), lightness (lahuṭṭhanañca)), power (balañca), and comfort (phāsu).

The Buddha then says that further advice was not necessary as the mere arousal of mindfulness (satuppādakaraṇīya ) is sufficient. To illustrate this he gave his first simile, The Parable of the Chariot. Suppose that a fully harnessed chariot is left on the road but without a driver. If a skilled charioteer comes along he could get in and drive the chariot to and fro. In this parable the chariot can be taken to be the body, the horses the mind, and the charioteer mindfulness. Other interpretations are possible but the Buddha does not give any explanation of the parable,

If the monks desire to grow and develop in the Dhamma they should dispel demerit and gather merit. To illustrate this the Buddha gave his next simile The Parable of the Sal Trees . In this a man enters a Sal forest and notes that the trees are stunted due to heavy undergrowth. He then clears the undergrowth and allows the Sal trees to grow freely. So too should the monks clear their minds of various impediments and they too will grow and develop in the Dhamma.

[226] 3. Control of Anger: the case of Videhikā

The Buddha then cites the case of a well-to-do lady of Sāvatthi called Videhikā. She was reputed to be gentle, humble and calm. One day her slave girl Kālī who was generally active and clever wanted to test her mistress. So progressively she began getting up later and later giving no reason. Kālī noticed that her mistress got angrier and angrier speaking more and more distasteful words. Finally her mistress assaulted her severely splitting her head with a sharp instrument. When this got around people changed their opinion that Videhikā was a calm, controlled and disciplined person.

Similarly a monk may appear to be calm, collected and non-angry until he encounters a person or situation which tries him to the utmost. This may even happen if he is not getting his alms and other requisites. He then urged the monks that with respect to the Dhamma they should be one who honours it (sakkaronto), respects it (garu karonto), esteems it (manennto), venerates it (pujento), and reveres it (apacayamano). The Buddha implies that by doing so and being guided by the Dhamma the Bhikkhus can maintain their equanimity at all times.

[227] 4. The Five Ways of Speech.

The Buddha said that there are five ways of speech (vadamānā) that others might use when they address the Bhikkhus. They are (1) timely or untimely (kālena vā akālena vā), (2) true or untrue (bhūtena vā abhūtena vā), (3) gentle or harsh (saṇhena vā pharusena vā), (4) connected with the goal or unconnected with it (atthasaṃhitena vā anatthasaṃhitena vā), (5) with loving kindness or hate (mettacittā vā dosantarā vā).

Then the Buddha said when people address you in any of these ways you should train yourselves thus: "Our minds will not be perverted, we will not utter evil words, we will abide compassionate with thoughts of loving kindness not hate, we will pervade the person uttering the words with thoughts of loving kindness, and with that same thought of loving kindness grown great and measureless, without enmity we will abide pervading everywhere with loving kindness."

The Buddha then gave four more parables to illustrate the use of this rule training compared to futile actions that people may engage in. These are:
  1. [228] Parable of trying to dig up the earth. Here the Buddha speaks of a man who comes with a hoe and basket and tries to dig up the whole earth. The Buddha then asks the bhikkhus whether he will succeed. When the bhikkkhus say no the Buddha says: In the same manner it is with the five ways of speech. The bhikkhus should train themselves with the rule of training given above.
  2. [229] Parable of trying to draw pictures in space. Here the Buddha speaks of a man who comes with brush and paint and tries to draw a picture in the air. The Buddha then asks the bhikkhus whether he will succeed. When the bhikkkhus say no the Buddha says: In the same manner it is with the five ways of speech. The bhikkhus should train themselves with the rules of training given above.
  3. [230] Parable of trying to burn up the Ganges with a grass torch. Here the Buddha speaks of a man who comes with grass torch and tries to heat up the Ganges and made its water evaporate. The Buddha then asks the bhikkhus whether he will succeed. When the bhikkkhus say no the Buddha says: In the same manner it is with the five ways of speech. The bhikkhus should train themselves with the rules of training given above.
  4. [231] Parable of the catskin bag. Here the Buddha speaks of a catskin bag which had been made supple by scrubbing, polishing, and so on that it is as smooth as cotton and will not make a sound even if it is harshly treated. Along comes a man with a stick who says that he can make this bag to emit a sound by beating it with his stick. The Buddha then asks the monks if the man will succeed in this. When the bhikkkhus say no the Buddha says: In the same manner it is with the five ways of speech. The bhikkhus should train themselves with the rules of training given above.
[232-233] The Buddha finally ends the discourse with the Parable of the Saw (which gives the name to the sutta) thus:
"O! Bhikkhus, even if robbers cut your limbs one after another with a two handled saw, if your mind be defiled on account of that, you have not done the duty in my dispensation Then too you should train thus. Our minds will not change, we will not utter evil words. We will abide compassionate with thoughts of loving kindness not angry. We will pervade that person with thoughts of loving kindness. In the same way, grown great and developed extensively, I pervade and abide. Bhikkhus, you should train thus." (Translation of Sister Uppalavanna).
Summary Analysis

This sutta is concerned more with problems of bhikkhu life than with doctrinal points. Proper relations between monks and bhikkhnis seem to have been common even in those early days. The Buddha was reluctant to start a Bhikkhuni order and did so with some special rules. However the problem is no longer relevant because the bhikkhni order has died out in Theravada countries.

The other problems highlighted in this sutta are the control of anger, and ways of speaking. The Buddha reminds the monks that the test of anger arises when they are confronted with a trying circumstance. The Buddha's rule of training relating to speech is stated in several place. It is of course part of the Eightfold Path (Right Speech or sammāvācā.

The Parable of the Saw with which the sutta concludes may appear to be almost impossible to follow. It is obviously given as an extreme circumstance.

M22. Alagaddūpama Sutta
The Water Snake Parable

[234] This Sutta was given at Jetavana monastery when the Buddha's attention was drawn to the heresy of a monk named Ariṭṭha described as a former vulture tamer or killer (gaddabādhi). It then goes on to consider many other points in the Dhamma.

The Wrong View of Ariṭṭha


Ariṭṭha's view was that what the Buddha considered to be obstacles (antarāyikā, also rendered as stumbling-blocks or obstructions), to the Dhamma were no obstacles to Ariṭṭha. The obstacles in question were sensual pleasures not defined in greater detail.

The other monks sought to dissuade Ariṭṭha from his view saying that the Buddha had at least in 10 different discourses compared sensual pleasures successively to a skeleton, a lump of flesh, a grass torch, a pit of burning coals, a dream, goods that were borrowed, a tree bearing bad fruit, a slaughter house, a stake of swords, and a snake's head. Like these things sensuality gives little pleasure, and more suffering, disappointment and peril. But they were not able to convince Ariṭṭha of his error.

[235-237] The monks then went to the Buddha and reported what had happened. The Buddha summoned Ariṭṭha and admonished him as the other monks had done previously but with no more success. Ariṭṭha held on to his wrong view. The Buddha then turns to the monks and asks them if they considered what Ariṭṭha said to be correct. Naturally the monks agreed with the Buddha that it was a pernicious view. After this Ariṭṭha drops out of the picture and the Buddha turns to other matters.

[238] The Parable of the Water Snake.


The Buddha then gives this parable in connection with people who study the Dhamma but have a wrong grasp of it. These people do not get the wise meaning (paññāya atthaṃ) of the teaching. (This phrase is sometimes translated as "intuitive wisdom" but see the comment in Analysis below). They use the Dhamma for the wrong purpose. They use it for reproaching others (upārambha) or for pouring out gossip (itivādapamokkha).

It is in this connection that the Buddha gives the parable of the water snake (alagaddha). A man may go in search of a water snake but after finding it if he grasps it wrongly it will bite his hand or elsewhere and cause him extreme agony or even death. But if the man uses a forked stick to hold the snake back and grasps it carefully around the neck then even if the snake coils itself around his arm he would not come to any harm.

[239] Similarly young men who master the Dhamma, test its meaning wisely, use it not for reproaching others or gossiping have a right grasp of the Dhamma.

[240] The Parable of the Raft.

The Buddha next gives this well-known parable of the raft. A man on a journey comes across a stretch of water which he has to cross. He builds a raft with sticks, grass, branches and foliage. Using this raft he manages to cross the water to the other shore. Then the question arises what he should do with the raft after he has crossed the water. The Buddha asks the monks if he should carry the raft with him on his onward journey. The answer of the monks is "No". The Buddha then endorses this answer.

The Buddha's final summing of the Parable of the Raft is as follow:

"Monks I have taught the parable of the raft for crossing over not for keeping. You who understand this parable should abandon even good teachings how much more false ones (bhikkhave, kullūpamo mayā dhammo desito nittharaṇatthāya, no gahaṇatthāya. Kullūpamaṃ vo, bhikkhave, dhammaṃ desitaṃ, ājānantehi dhammāpi vo pahātabbā pageva adhammā)".
Some Other Dhamma Topics.

The rest of this Sutta contains a discussion of a number of topics. These are dealt extensively in other places in the Buddhist Canon. They are:
  1. [241] Wrong Views (diṭṭhi).
    Here the un-instructed worldling is compared to the instructed disciple. With respect to the causal relations recognized in Buddhism the worldling thinks "This is mine, this am I, this is my self". On the other hand the instructed disciple thinks the opposite: "This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self".
    The six causal relations mentioned in this connection are: Material-shape, Perception, Habitual-tendencies, Consciousness, Mind Objects (seen-heard-sensed-etc.), Views (on world etc.)
     
  2. [242] Anxiety and Uncertainty.
    Here a series of questions are raised by a monk whether a monk would have anxiety relating to uncertainty about things external (like the monk's requisites) or internal (like his views on the world or self). In response the Buddha concedes that such anxiety might arise in a monk but a proper understanding of the Dhamma would allay that anxiety. The reasoning here appears somewhat convoluted.
     
  3. [243] [244] Impermanence and not-self.
    In this section the Buddhist views of self and no self are reaffirmed by the Buddha and the monks agree with him. The Buddha asks the monks whether they know of a permanent possession. They answer in the negative with which the Buddha agrees. Then the Buddha asks if the monks would accept the assumption of a self theory from which no suffering and lamentation would result. Again the answer is negative with which the Buddha agrees. The same method is applied to show that there are no (wrong) views (diṭṭhi) that do not lead to sorrow and lamentation.
     
  4. [244] The Three characteristics.
    The conversation between the monks and the Buddha now turns again to the three characteristics of suffering, impermanence and insubstantiality. The Buddha asks if that which is impermanent, painful and subject to change can be considered as "This is mine, this am I, this is my self". The monks say "No" and the Buddha approves.
     
  5. [245] The Arhat.
    Then comes the description of the Arhat who has liberated himself. Various metaphors are used such as one who has lifted the barrier of ignorance (ukkhittapaligho), filled the moat of re-birth (saññāparikkho), pulled up the pillar (of craving) (abbuhesiko), withdrawn the bolts of fetters (niraggo). He thus becomes noble or pure by ridding himself of the conceit of self.
     
  6. [246-247] Misunderstanding.
    When a monk is completely free even the (Vedic) gods like Indra, Brahma, Prajapati, cannot find his consciousness as it becomes untraceable. This creates the possibility that an Arhat or the Tathāgats has been completely annihilated. This could be a misunderstanding.

    This misunderstanding is attributed to certain recluses and brahmins who assert that the Samana Gotama has the characteristics of a nihilist (venayiko samaṇo gotamo, sato sattassa ucchedaṃ vināsaṃ vibhavaṃ paññāpetī). This matter will be noticed in the section on the Analysis below.
     
  7. Praise and Blame.
    The Buddha states that with criticisms like the above or with insults the Buddha will not feel annoyance, dejection or displeasure. He advices the monks to do likwise in the face of such criticism or insult. This is another restatement of the absence of blasphemy in Buddhism.
     
  8. [248] Not Yours.
    Here the Buddha advices monks to give up "what is not your yours". He clarifies that by this means the feeling selfhood, perceptions, feelings and other dependent factors.
     
  9. Explicit Teaching and its fruit.
    Here the Buddha praises his teaching saying that there is nothing hidden. The other virtues of the Dhamma are stated.

Summary Analysis.

This sutta is the longest of the 10 suttas in the Tatiya (Oppuma) Vagga of the Majjhima Nikāya. However its principal part, the heresy of Ariṭṭha is relatively short. This is supplemented by a large number of other topics that are not directly connected to the incident which leads to this discourse. Some commentators have claimed that the other errors which are mentioned in this sutta are also wrong views held by Ariṭṭha. But there is no justification for this in the Pali text of the sutta.

While Ariṭṭha's heresy which is that sensuality is not an obstacle for the Dhamma is roundly denounced there is no clear statement what Ariṭṭha meant by this term. Sensuality could be used for a range of things from liking a luxurious bed to sexual intercourse there is no clear statement what Ariṭṭha meant by that term. So commentators have tried to give the extreme interpretation of sexual misconduct to this. It is true that Ariṭṭha is said to have associated with the bhikkhinis but it is not stated that he was attracted to a particular bhikkhuni or that his relationship had any sexual aspect to it. So this extreme interpretation cannot be accepted.

A few comments on a couple of pointed noted in this Abstract is appropriate:
  1. In the discussion on the wrong grasp of a sutta the phrase "paññāya atthaṃ" is often rendered as "intuitive wisdom". Intuition is usually considered as a special gift as not everyone is intuitive. The opposite to this is rational. Buddhism has always been on the rational side as against theistic religion where the apprehension of God is attributed to intuition as there is no rational evidence to support it. Thus wisdom is something that could by rational thinking not by a supra-rational process.
  2. Another misconception to which attention was drawn is the tendency the equate the no-self (anatta) idea in Buddhism to the nihilism of materialists. The Buddha tries to make a distinction between the two but while the nihilist idea of annihilation is easily comprehended. The no-self idea is less easily grasped. In Buddhism this idea is equated to no-soul ('atta' being considered the Pali word for soul). The nihilists too deny the soul, so making a distinction between the ucceda and the anatta has become difficult without getting into metaphysics which the Buddha avoided.
  3. There are references to Vedic gods like Indra, Brahmā and Prajapati. These are of course mythical figures but they occur frequently in Buddhist suttas showing the close connection between the Sutta compilers and the prevailing Indian beliefs. If it is not clear if the Buddha endorsed these references.

M23. Vammika Sutta
The Ant Hill


[249] This sutta is a parable set out as a narrative. It starts with a monk Kumāra Kassapa living at the Blind Men's Forest. A deity (deva) appears before Kassapa and says pointing to an anthill: "This anthill smokes at night and blazes in the day". Then a brahmin says to a wise (or clever) man named Sumedha, "Bring a tool". When this was brought Sumedo is told to dig out the Anthill. Sumeda begins digging and enounters successively several items. These were a bolt, a toad, a forked path, a sieve, a tortoise, a butchers chopping block, a tendon of flesh and finally a snake. Each time he digs an item he is asked to put it aside and continue digging. The final item brought up was the snake. Sumeda is not asked to put it aside but to pay homage to it. This completes the excavation of the anthill.

[250] Then the brahmin (or the deity to whom it is later attributed) asks Kassapa to approach the Buddha, who was at Jetavana, and ask him the meaning of the persons and things mentioned in the narrative treating them as a set of riddles. The deity then vanished, and Kassapa went to the Buddha and asked the meaning of the terms in the narrative including the items that were uncovered during the excavation.

[251] The following is the Buddha's explanation of the people in the narrative and the items that were excavated from the anthill.
  1. The Anthill. This is the body made up of the four elements and subject to stress, dissolution and dispersion.
  2. Digging. This is the exertion of effort.
  3. Smoking by night. This is what one ponders about the day's actions.
  4. Blazing by day. This represents the actions of body, speech and mind done during the day.
  5. Brahmin. This is a term for the Tathāgata.
  6. Wise One (Sumedha). This is the learner Bhikkhu.
  7. Tool (sattan). This is a term for wisdom.
  8. Bolt (laṅgī). This is a term for Ignorance.
  9. Toad (uddumayika). This is a term for anger and despair. Abandon (ukkhipa) the toad is abandon dispair and anger.
  10. The forked path (dvidhāpatha) This is a term for doubt. Abandoning the forked path is abandon doubt.
  11. The sieve (caṅgavāran) is a term for the five hindrances. Abandoning the sieve stands for abandoning the five hindrances.
  12. The tortoise (kummasa) is term for the five aggregates of clinging. Abandoning the tortoise stands for abandoning the five aggregates.
  13. The chopping block and knife (asisuna) is term for the five sense-pleasures. Abandoning them is abandoning these sense pleasuers.
  14. The tendon of flesh (maṃsapeti) is a term for greed. This too has to be abandoned.
  15. The snake (nāga) is a term for the liberated bhikkhu.
Summary and Analysis

The parable of the anthill shows the eradication of the all the obstacles by the monk who has given up the household life until he is fully liberated. It is a convenient summary of the things that have to be discarded.

M24. Rathavinita Sutta
The Relay of Chariots


[252] This sutta deals with a monk called Puṇṇa Mantāniputta (hereafter abbreviated to Puṇṇa) from an (unidentified) outlying ethnic region (jātibhūmi). He came to the attention of the Buddha when he was residing at Rajagaha. A group of monks from that region had come to see the Buddha and meet with him.

The Buddha asked these monks who in their native country talks to them of these ten virtues having accomplished himself in them: (1) fewness of wants (appicca), (2) contentment (santuṭṭa), (3) seclusion (pavivitta), (4) not socializing (asaṃsaṭṭa), (5) exerting effort (vīriyasampanna), (6) accomplishment in moral virtue (sīlasampanna), (7) accomplishment in concentration (samādhisampanna), (8) accomplishment in wisdom (paññā), (9) accomplishment in liberation (vimuttiñāṇadassana), (10) accomplishment in the knowledge and vision of liberation (ovādako viññāṇāpako sandassako). And if there was anyone who could be an exhort and instruct the Brahmafarers (monks following the holy life). The monks answered that there was indeed such a monk. His name was Puṇṇa.

[253] Meanwhile Venerable Sāriputta who had been seated in the vicinity and heard this conversation between the monks and the Buddha. At the end of the conversation with the monks the Buddha thought that it would be good if at some time and place he could meet and converse with this Puṇṇa who had been so highly praised his fellow monks.

[254-255] Shortly after this the Buddha began his return journey to Sāvatthi. When the news of the Buddha's return to the Jetavana monastery in Sāvatthi reached him Ven Puṇṇa packed his belongings and set out to Sāvatthi to meet the Buddha. On arrival he camped in the Blind Men's Grove and went to see the Buddha. Very little is said of this meeting betwen the two except the stereotyped phrase that the Buddha "instructed, urged, roused, and encouraged (sandassesi samādapesi samuttejesi sampahasesi) Puṇṇa with a Dhamma talk. After this Puṇṇa departed to his resting place at the Blind Men's grove.

[256-258] Then Ven Sāriputta who had been informed of Puṇṇa's arrival in Sāvatthi went to meet him. Sāriputta successively asked Puṇṇa if he took to the holy life for the sake of the purification (1) of moral virtue, (2) of mind, (3) of views, (4) of overcoming doubt, (5) of gaining knowledge and vision of what is and is not, (6) of knowledge and vision of the way, (7) of knowledge and vision". These have been called the seven methods of purification. To all these methods Puṇṇa simply said "No, friend".

Then Sāriputta asked "For the sake of what, then is the holy life lived under the Blessed One?" The reply to this was "The holy life is lived under the Blessed One for the sake of final nirvana without clinging". Then Sāriputta asked further is each of the seven states of purification was the final Nirvana without clinging. To each of these again the answer was "No, friend". Then Sāriputtta asked: "How should the meaning of what you have said be seen ?". To this Puṇṇa said that if the Blessed One had declared that any of the states of purification to be final Nirvana without clinging he would be declaring that final Nirvana without clinging as still having some kind of clinging.

[259] Then Puṇṇa gave the Parable of the Relay of Chariots to explain his meaning. He said that if the King of Kosala wanted to travel from Sāvatthi to Sāketa he would need a relay of 7 chariots, the king transferring from one to the next (at various staging points). Similarly the purification of moral virtue is for achieving the purification of mind. That for the purification of views and so on until we reach the final nirvana without clinging to it. This means that each purification is for the reaching of the next and is abandoned when that is reached.

[260] After this the two monks introduced themselves to each other. Each congratulates the other for a full understanding of the teaching of the Buddha.

Summary Analysis

This Sutta has the distinction as the one in which the seven purifications are stated as a whole. Individual items in these purifications are stated in many places in the Canon but not as a sequence of achievements. In other places the achievements are stated individually. It is also stated that when one progresses from one to the next the previous one is abandoned.

The sequence of purifications are considered to be the basis of the interpretation of the Dhamma in the later Theravada as by Buddhaghosa. They have been compared to the Bodhisattva vows in the Mahāyāna and may have been derived from them in later times. This might imply that this sutta is a later addition to the Canon.

M25. Nivāpa Sutta
The Bait

[261] This sutta was given by the Buddha to the monks at Jetavana in Sāvatthi. It takes the form of a lengthy parable and then an explanation of the parable by the Buddha. The word 'nivāpa' in the title means a 'bait' but in this case the bait is a crop sown in an enclosure to act as bait for deer so the term is also taken to mean a crop.

In the parable the sower of the bait (or crop) seeks to capture the deer attracted to eat the crop and fall into the power of the sower. There is no mention of what the sower does with the captured deer but presumably they are sold or slaughtered for food. There are four herds of deer who came to the enclosure and their fate is given as follows:
  1. [262] The first herd ate so much of the bait that they got intoxicated, swooned, and became negligent and fell into the power of the sower.
  2. [263]The second herd knowing the fate of the preceding herd did not eat the crop but left the enclosure and fed in the forest but in the hot season when food got scarce they came to the enclusure and began feeding on the crop and suffered the fate of the preceding herd.
  3. [264]The third herd knowing the fate of the previous herds made a settlement within the enclosure and alternated between the settlement and the forest. But the sower saw the settlement and he and his followers put a fence around it and so captured the herd.
  4. [265]The fourth herd also made a settlement but they hid it with sticks and so on so that the sower did not see this settlement. They were thus able to escape the power of the sower.

[266]   The Buddha's explanation of the parable is that the bait (fodder) stands for the five strands of sensual pleasure, the sower is Māra, his followers are Māra's followers, and the herds of deer are recluses and brahmins.

[267 ]In the first part of the parable the recluses and brahmins partook of the worldly matter provided by Māra got intoxicated and negligent and fell into the power of Māra.

[268] In the second part the recluses and brahmins avoided sense pleasures provided by Māra went into the forest and ate vegetarian food. But in the summer months when it was difficult to get vegetarian food they were tempted by the sensual pleasures supplied by Māra and like the first set fell under the power of Māra.

[269] In the third part the recluses and brahmins decided to partake of a limited amount of Māra's worldly offering and not get intoxicated by it. But they were vexed by the unresolved questions of the Buddha such as: Is the world eternal or not eternal, limited or not. Is the soul and body one or different. Does the Liberated One after death exist or not or neither. So the third set was also not released from the power of Māra.

[270] The fourth set of recluses and brahmins acted like the third set and made their settlement in Māra's domain but managed to make it invisble and inaccessible to Māra. Thus they were released from Māra's domain.

[271] Then the Buddha describes a monk entering the three jhānas followed ny the various planes of concentration ending up in the the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. These are described in the usual stereotyped way in which they occur in many discourses of the Buddha. The Buddha then says that this when the Bhikkhu becomes invisible to Māra.

Summary Analysis

Clearly this sutta is intended to show to the bhikkhu how he can escape death (or Māra). In Buddhism escaping death or reaching the stage of the deathless is to reach Nirvana, which is often conceived as ending the cycle of rebirth. Whether this parable conveys how this could be done is questionable. The normal way to do this in Buddhism is the pursuit of the Eightfold Path and this is not mentioned in this sutta.

There are also problems in the parable itself especially relating to the third and the fourth groups of recluses and brahmins. It appears that the third group could not escape Mara because they could not resolve the unanswered questions of the Buddha. But these questions cannot be resolved, that is why they remain unanswered. So there may be no possibility of escaping Māra. The usual Buddhist position is that these questions should be ignored

We are told that the last group managed escape Māra that is escape death. But how they did this we are not told. Was it through the traditional ways like the traverse of the Eightfold Path or fulfilling the seven Purifications ?


M26. Ariyapariyesana Sutta
The Ariyan Quest


[272] In this Sutta the monks approach Ven Ananda at the Jetavana monastery and told him that they desired to hear a Dhamma discourse from the Buddha. Ananda directed them to the hermitage of the brahman Rammaka. Then the Buddha who had gone on his alms round in Sāvatthi returned to Jetavana and after his meal suggested to Ananda that they go to the Eastern Park for the day's abiding. Having gone there the Buddha bathed and after that Ananda suggested that they go to Rammaka's hermitage close by where Ananda knew that the monks would have assembled.

[273-274] The Buddha agreed and they proceeded thither. Thus the scene was set for the Buddha to give the discourse that the monks had wanted. The Buddha began by making a distinction between the ignoble search and the noble search. The ignoble search is where someone subject to birth, aging, illness, death, sorrow and defilement seeks happiness in things that are also subject to the same kind of birth, aging etc. These include humans, animals, and even inanimate things like gold and silver.

[275] The noble search is where someone who is liable to birth seeing its disadvantages (ādḷnaṃ) seek the unborn (ajātaṃ ), the highest (anuttaraṃ) security fom bonds (yogakkhemaṃ) nibbāna. Then the Buddha recounts his own noble quest.

[276-277] The Buddha recalled that when he was a Bodhisattava while in the prime of youth, while his parents wept, he cut off his hair and beard and put on the yellow robes and went into homelessness. The first incident he mentions in his search is the encounter with Alāra Kālāma generally considered to be a Vedantic teacher. He asked Alāra how far he had progressed in his dhamma. Kālāma replied that he had reached the plane of nothingness (ākiñcaññāyatana). The Bodhisattva then thought that he too like Alāra had conviction (saddhā), persistence (vīriya), mindfulness (sati),, concentration (samādhi), and discernment (paññā). With these qualities he quickly mastered Kālāma's dhamma. Kālāma asked the Bodhisattva to be a co-leader of his group. But he declined because he realized that Kālāma's dhamma does not lead to disregard (nibbidāya) nor to dispassion (virāgāya) nor to stopping (nirodāya) nor to tranquillity (upsasmāya) nor to super-knowledge (abiññāya) nor to awakening (nibbāna).

[278] The next episode in the quest that is mentioned is the encounter with Uddakka Rāmaputta. From him too the Bodhisattva asked the question: "How far does your dhamma go ?" The answer was that it led to the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception (nevasaññānāsaññāyatana). He mastered this dhamma too but felt that it did not reach the goal he was seeking. So he left Udakka too.

[279-280] The Bodhisattva continued on his journey through Magadha until he reached what he considered to be an ideal spot in Uruvelā. It was here that he reached his ultimate goal. His statement of this is extremely laconic: "Knowledge & vision arose in me: 'Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.' (ñāṇañca pana me dassanaṃ udapādi akuppā me vimutti, ayamantimā jāti, natthi dāni punabbhavo').

[281] Then occurred in the mind of the Buddha (as he was now) the thought whether he should proclaim his newly acquired knowledge. This he expressed in a well-known verse (here given as translated by Horner):
This that through many toils I've won 'Kicchena me adhigata
Enough ! why should I make it known? halaṃ dāni pakāsituṃ
By folk with lust and hate consumed rāgadosaparetehi,
This dhamma is not understood. nayaṃ dhammo susambudho.
Leading on against the stream, Paṭisotagamiṃ nipuṇaṃ
Deep, subtle, difficult to see, delicate, gambhiraṃ duddasaṃ aṇuṃ
Unseen 'twill be by passion's slaves rāgarattā na dakkhanti,
Cloaked in the murk of ignorance. tamokkhandena āvuṭā

[282-283] Then follows the intervention of the Brahmā Sahampati. He comes magically from the Brahma-world and persuades the Buddha to teach the Dhamma if only for the benefit of the few who can understand it. The Buddha surveying the world with his Divine Eye saw that there were beings with little dust in their eyes, others much dust, some with acute faculties others dull, some with good dispositions others bad and so on. So he was able to proclaim to the Brahma that he will indeed teach.

[284] Then the question arose whom to teach. He first thought of Alāra Kālāma but was informed by deities that the had died. Then he thought of Uddaka Rāmaputta but was informed that he too had died, The Buddha then thought of the five monks who had been companions in the search but had left him before he had come to Uruvelā. [Curiously there is no mention of these five mnks in the account of his search he was relating.] Using his Deva Vision he saw that they were now staying in the deer park at Isipathana near Benares. So he decided to go there.

[285] Only one incident is mentioned during his travel to Isipatana. This is the encounter with the Naked Ascetic Upaka. Upaka inquired who the Buddha was and when he was told that he was indeed the Buddha Apaka remained sceptical and saying "So be it, Your Reverence" he took a different route.

[286] The final part of the Sutta is set at Isipatana when the Buddha caught up with his erstwhile five companions. The following is a brief account of this encounter.
  1. The five monks first agreed not to acknowledge Gotama but in the event did so.
  2. Gotama was able to convince the five monks that their view that he had reverted to a life of abundance was wrong.
  3. Gotama then lives with the five sending three and then two to gather alms food and all of them subsisting on what they brought.
  4. Gotama exhorted the five on what he had discovered until knowledge and vision arose in them and they too achieved nibbāna.
  5. [287] Gotama gives the monks a discourse on the five strands of sense pleasure.
  6. Gotama gives the monks instruction in the various stages of jhānic meditation, repeating the refrain that a monk who has reached each stage is a "bhikkhu who has blinded Mara, is trackless, he has destroyed Mara's vision and has become invisible to the Evil One (bhikkhu andhamakāsi māraṃ apadaṃ, vadhitvā māracakkhuṃ adassanaṃ gato pāpimato).

Summary Analysis

This sutta has provided important information in compiling the biography of the Buddha. However there are omissions when compared with the fuller biography which has been constructed by supplementing the information given here with other sources. Thus some other episodes in the story of the search are left out such as details of his flight from his palace to become a monk, his meeting with King Bimbisara of Magadha, his austerities, joining the five monks, Sujāta's offer of alms just before the enlightenment, etc. The weeks he spent at Uruvelā after the Enlightenment are also glossed over. So are details of is encounter with the five monks at Isipatana, the important discourses he delivered like the First Sermon on the Noble Truths and the Second one on Anatta are not mentioned.

While much of the narrative is realistic there are some divine interjections like the appearance of Brahmā Sahampati and the devas who gave information of the death of his earlier teachers. These have to be construed as being metaphoric.

M27. Culahatthipadopama Sutta
The Elephant's Footprint (Shorter)


[288] The preamble to this Sutta is a chance conversation between the Brahman Janussonin and the wanderer Pilotika (also called Vaccayana). While Janussonin was making a journey in his carriage he met Pilotika who was returning from a visit to Gotama the Buddha.

In their conversation Janussonin wanted to know if Pilotika considered Gotama to be clever and lucid in wisdom (paññā). Pilotoka answered that he was not fit to judge Gotama but those that are have given him high praise. The Brahmin asked why Pilotika has such high trust (abhipasanna) in Gotama. It was in response to this that Pilotika gave his version of the Parable of the Elephant's Footprint.

[289] This parable is that if an elephant tracker sees a large elephant footprint he would conclude that there is a large bull elephant in that forest. Pilotika said that he had observed four "footprints" of Gotama. These were:
  1. The people of a certain Khattiya (warrior caste) village who were clever disputants, planned to ask Gotama a trick question and if he answered it in a wrong way they would refute him. But Gotama gave a discourse on Dhamma which so pleased the people the question was not asked of him. Instead they became followers of Gotama. This is the first foot print.
  2. This is the same as the previous except that the village was a brahmin village. They too did not get a chance to put their prepared question after hearing Gotama's Dhamma discourse. The outcome is the same in this the second footprint.
  3. This is the same as the two previous situations except that the village was one of ordinary householders (gahapati). The outcome is the same. This is the third footprint.
  4. This is the same except the village was one of contemplative (samana) people. The outcome is the same. This is the fourth footprint.
Pilotika said that because of these four footprints he had a high opinion of Gotama.

[290] Then Janussonin descended from his carriage and turning in the direction where Gotama was and made reverential homage three times. He hoped to meet venerable Gotama at some time and have conversation with him. Soon after Janusonin went to see Gotama. He related the entire conversation that he had with the wanderer Pilotika.

[291] The Buddha observed that Pilotika's Parable of the Elephant Footprint was not complete. The big elephant footprint which the elephant tracker saw may not be from a big bull elephant. It could be a small female elephant with big feet called a Vāmanikā. If the tracker investigates further and sees grazing signs and scratch marks in tall trees that too may not be evidence of a bull elephant. It could have been made from a female elephant with long tusks called a Ucca Kālarikā. Only if the tracker sees a big bull elephant can he associates the footprint with that big bull elephant.

The Buddha then changes the metaphor and says that just as the bull elephant may appear suddenly in the same way a Tathāgata (i.e a Buddha) appears in the world. He preaches the pure Dhamma. A householder's son hearing the discourse decides to become a novice in the bhikkhu order donning the yellow robe. The novice then begins the practice of the lesser section of moral virtue.

[292] For this he does the following:
  1. Abandons the destruction  of life and dwells conscientious, merciful and compassionar for all beings.
  2. Abstains from taking what is not given.
  3. Lives a celibate life.
  4. Abandons false speech.
  5. Abstains from divisive speech.
  6. Abstains from abusive speech.
  7. Abandons idle chatter (gossip).
  8. [293-294] Abstains from damaging seeds and plant life.
  9. Eats once a day avoiding meals after mid-day.
  10. Abstains from dancing, singing, musinc and shows.
  11. Abstains from wearing garlands and beautifying himself.
  12. Abstains from high and luxurious beds and seats.
  13. Abstain from accepting gold and silver and from wrong livelihood.
  14. Abstains from accepting uncooked grain, raw meat, females, slaves, and animals.
  15. Abstains from accepting fields and land.
  16. Abstains from running messages.
  17. Abstains from buying and selling.
  18. Abstains from dealing in false scales, metals, and measures.
  19. Abstains from bribery, deception and fraud.
  20. Abstains from wounding, executing, imprisoning, robbery, plunder and violence.

[295] Then the practitioner turns to the cultivation of concentration (samādhi). This involves the restraint of the bodily faculties. Restraint of the eye faculty means that he does not grasps everything he sees. Similarly for the ear faculty relating to sounds, the nose faculty relating to smells, the tongue faculty relating to tase, the body faculty relating to touch, and finally the mind faculty with respect to mind objects. (As usual no bodily organ is given for the mind faculty).

[296] After all this cultivation of virtues, the development of sense restraint and with mindfulness and full awareness the practitioner prepares himself for meditation. For this he seeks a secluded place, such as foot of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a jungle grove, the open air, or a heap of straw. He should abandon covetousness for the world, abandon ill will and anger, abandon sloth and torpor, abandon restlessness and remorse, and abandon spiritual doubt.

[297] Then he is ready to embark one the four jhānas. These are described in the traditional way.

[298] This is followed by the acquisition of the three knowledges. These are:
  1. The recollection of past births (which could go up to a hundred thousand births) and many aeons of cosmic expansion and conraction. The births are recalled in great detail as name, clan, appeafrnce, food, life-span etc.
  2. [299] The Divine Eye. Here he sees the process of re-birth, the way beings are reborn according to their karma.
  3. The Cultivation of Wisdom. This is the knowledge of the destruction of the taints (āsava). This is the final building block in the path to liberation.

After hearing this long discourse Janussoni was satisfied with the understanding of the real Parable of the Elephant's Footprint. It is none other than the footprint of the Tathāgata. He becomes a lay follower of the Buddha.

Summary Analysis

This sutta gives the path to liberation for the monk who has undertaken the quest. It is stated in many other suttas associated with other parables, e.g. the Lesser Parable of the Pith (M 30). In this the accomplishment of morality (sīlasampanna) is given in detail in a list of 20 items. In many other places this is dismissed as being of lesser imortance than other steps like the Jhānas and the Knowledges. It is alternatively given as the pursuit of the Noble Eightfold Path.

M28. Mahāhatthipadopama Sutta
The Elephant's Footprint (Greater)


[NOTE: Despite this sutta being called the Greater of the two similes of the Elephant's Footprint it is smaller than its counterpart the 'Shorter' version. It is an address to the Bhikkhus by Sāriputta thera. The only mention of the Buddha is that he was at the time living at the Jetavana monastery.]

[300] The Parable of the Elephant's footpring in this Sutta is different to that in the Shorter version. There the discovery of the footprint leads to the search for the animal. Here the footprint is said to be larger than that of any other animal. This leads to the assertion that all skilful states (kusala dhammā) fall within the Four Noble Truths.

[301] But only the first of these, that on suffering, is considered here, and it is stated much like in the First Sermon. This in turn is traced to the five aggregates of suffering (pañcupādānakkhandhā). Of these only the first aggregate of clinging, i.e. clinging to material things is considered. These material things are derived from the four elements (mahābhutā), i.e earth, water, fire and wind. The rest of the sutta deals with these four elements together with a final one on the dependent origination of the aggregates. We shalll first give an abstract of Sāriputta's description of these five sections and then in the section Summary and Analysis consider them critically.

[302] 1. The Earth Element

The earth element has two aspects the internal (ajjhattikā) and the external (bāhirā). The internal earth element is given as the physical constituents of the body like hair, teeth, sinews, kidney etc. The external element is the material things outside the body. To both internal and external elements this three-fold formula should be applied: 'This not mine, this I am not, this is not my self/soul' (netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā).

The external earth element is impermanent as when some external feature is washed away by a flood. If a monk is reviled or harassed it comes to the monk through sensory contact (an internal element) which is impermanent. The monks mind then plunges into that element and the mind brightens and becomes steady and resolute (tassa dhātārammaṇameva cittaṃ pakkhandati pasīdati santiṭṭhati adhimuccati). [On the common mistranslation of 'pasīdati' see Analysis below.] This means that the monk does not allow himself to be agitated by the reviling or harassment. Even if a monk is assaulted with sticks or knives he should follow the Buddha's advice of forbearance (samvegaṃ) given in the Parable of the Saw.

[303] 2. The Water Element

This is treated very much like the earth element. An internal and external form of the water element is identified. While examples of water externally are commonplace the examples of the internal water element given are: "bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat; fat, tears, urine, saliva, snot etc. Again the three-fold formula should be applied.

When the external water element is agitated it could create great harm as when whole villages could be washed away or the sea would inundate the land. Similarly if the internal water element causes agitation to a monk he should plunge into that very object that is that is the water element brighten his mind, become steady, and resolute.

[304] 3. The Fire Element

This also treated along the lines of the earth and the water elements with both an internal and an external application. Examples of the internal fire element given is digestion of food eaten and the ageing process. Examples of the external fire element given are fires which could burn whole villages, etc. Once again the monk should apply the three-fold formula to this element also whether internal or external. The monk should recollect the Three Jewels and develop equanimity and a sense of urgency.

[305] 43. The Wind Element

Here again the internal-external agency is made. Examples of internal wind given are ib breathing and out breathing, the up-going winds (burping) and the down-going winds (released from the belly). Examples of external winds are storms and gales that may blow away whole villages. The three-fold formula should be applied to the wind element, internal or external. The other comments made with reference to the previous elements also apply with appropriate changes.

[306] 5. Space Property and the arising of the aggregates

This section begins with an analogy. If a portion of space is enclosed by timber, clay, tiles etc. it be called a 'house'. Similarly if space is enclosed by bones, sinews, flesh and skin it is called a a form (rupaṃ), more particularly a human being. If this person has an unimpaired eye and an external form comes within its range and there is a conscious engagement with that "shape" or form eye conciousness arises. Then clinging to the object of conciousness could arise.

The same applies to the other sense organs like the ear. Thus arises the five aggregates of clinging. This is why the Buddha said: He who sees dependent arising sees dhamma, he who sees dhamma sees dependent arising (yo paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passati so dhammaṃ passati; yo dhammaṃ passati so paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passatī)". This concludes the sutta.

Summary Analysis
This analysis of the fundamental constituents of matter raises several consideration to the modern student of Dhamma. According to this all phenomena physical as well as mental could be resolved into the five Mahābhuthā of earth, water, heat, and wind. This was according to the pre-scientific views of the day. Modern science had considers that the ultimate constituents of every material thing are the hundred-odd atoms of the Periodic Table. These atoms combine in several ways to create the molecules of the various substances. These in turn have been broken down into sub-atomic particles likes electrons, protons etc.

In the face of this some modern exponents of dhamma have converted the Mahābhuthā into physical properties like solidity, fluidity, plasma, gas etc. But there is no support for this in the Pali texts. As we have seen the examples given by Sāriputta for both the external and the internal aspects of the aggregates are physical things, not abstact properties.

The other problem of the traditional approach is how the practitioner whether a bhikkhu or layperson should react to adverse aggregates that may assail him. As we have seem the recommendation seems to be to "plunge" the mind into the element that causes the affliction so that his mind "brightens and becomes steady and resolute". Some translators expands the word for 'brightens' (passadati) into 'brightens with faith' even though there is no reference to faith in the original Pali. How this leads to the person who is subject to the situation in the Parable of the Saw where he is cut into pieces with a saw is not clear.

A correct resolution may be not to justify views framed in an unscientific age with a rational consideration of the situation that presents itself. After all the Buddha's message could be stated in conformity with modern science if a rational approach to the Dhamma is adopted.

M29. Mahāsaropama Sutta
The Simile of the Pith (Greater)


[307] This discourse was given to the monks at the Vulture Peak near Rajagaha shortly after Devadatta had left the Buddha's Sangha. In the sutta the Buddha gives instances of a person, described as a son of good family, who gives up the household life for various reasons and goes in search of the Dhamma. This Dhamma Seeker (DS) either fails or succeeds in his quest for several reasons. He is compared to a Heartwood Seeker (HS) who goes in search of heartwood (or pith) . He too either fails or succeess in getting the heartwood that he is seeking. In the sutta 10 instances of ihe Dhamma Seeker [DS1 - DS10] and five instances of the Heartwood Seeker [HS1 - HS5] are given and it is this comparison that is the purpose of this sutta. [Note: There is no numbering of these instances in the Pali text, there are given here to avoid confusion.]

[308] In the first instance (DS1) the Buddha says that there is a certain person, the son of a good family, who beset by the suffering in the household life, had gone forth from the household life and become an ascetic to find the end of suffering. But he is tempted by the gain, offerings and fame he receives and begins exalting himself and disparaging others. As a result of being heedless he fails in his objective and dwells in suffering and stress.

Then the Buddha gave the instance of a Heartwood Seeker (HS1) going to a forest to find Hardwood. This person misses not only the Heartwood but also the softwood, bark, and young shoots, and only cuts down branches and foliage and takes them with him. But a man with vision points out his error and and he has failed in his quest.

There is here an obvious comparison of the failure of both the Dhamma seeker and the Heartwood seeker for the reasons given. In the rest of the sutta the Buddha gives other examples of the two kinds of seeker some failing and others succeding. It is not clear if the same person is involved in the various attempts but clearly the examples are only hypothetical ones and in the following the various seekers are numbered though not in the Pali text.

[309] In the next instance the Dhamma seeker (DS2) does the same thing as DS1. The only difference is that he is called "a monk who grasps the twigs & leaves of the holy life". He too fails in his objective.

[310] Then follows the instance of a Dhamma seeker (DS3) who is not intoxicated by the gain, offerings and fame he receives. To that extent he is not heedless and achieves consummation in virtue (sīlasampadaṃ ārāheti). But because of this success he exalts himself and disparages others. So he too fails in his objective. He is compared to a heartwood seeker (HS2) who going in search of Heartwood returns with the bark, not the heartwood.

The next Dhamma Seeker (DS4) like the previous one achieves consummation in virtue but in his disparagement of others he goes further than his predecessor and accuses them of being with evil minds (vibbhantacittā). He is called a monk who grasps "the outer bark of the holy life". So he too fails in his objective.

The next Dhamma Seeker (HS5) goes further than the previous one and achieves consummatino in concentration (samādhisampadaṃ ārādheti). At this point he makes the error of disparaging those who have not mastered concentration. As a result he too fails in his objective.

Next the Buddha gives another example of a heartwood seeker (HS3). Here the heartwood seeker goes only to the inner bark and carries that away with him. This is also not the pith, so he too fails in his goal. This is compared to the next Dhamma Seeker (DS6) who progresses in concentration up to the stage of one-pointedness of mind, but he too disparages those who had not made it so far. He is called the monk who grasps the inner bark of the holy life. Thus he too fails his goal.

[311] The next Dhamma Seeker (DS7)progresses further than his predecessor and reaches the stage of achieving knowledge and vision (ñāṇadassanaṃ ārādheti). Intoxicated with this achievement he falls into heedlessness and so fails in his mission. Then the Buddha gives another parable of the Heatwood Seeker (HS4) who progresses up to the sapwood and takes it away thinking that it is heartwood. So he too fails in his objective. The next Dhamma Seeker (DS 8) progresses up to the point of achieving consummation in concentration (samādhisampadaṃ ārādheti). This leads him to disparage other monks who have not reached this stage and so fails in his goal. He is described as one who grasps the sapwood of the holy life.

The next Dhamma Seeker (DS9) proceeds to a stage called "freedom from time" (asamayavimokkhaṃ ārādheti). This has also been translated as "non-occcasional liberation". As the state is not described in detail it is difficult to speculate what is really meant by this term. Perhaps it means that his liberation is temporary not permanent. The result is that he has not achieved his goal.

Then comes the final parable of the Heartwood Seeker (HS 5). Here the seeker reaches the heartwood and carries it away thus accomplishing his purpose. His counterpart in the Dhamma analogy is the last Dhamma Seeker (DS10). He achieves what all others have achieved but he does not disparage anyone. Thus he has fully achieved his goal of liberation from suffering.

The Buddha then sums up the message of this sutta. This is that the goal of the holy life is not gain, offerings an fame, not the conusmmation of virtue, not the consummation of concentration, not knowledge and vision but unprovoked awareness-release (akuppā cetovimutti–etadatthamidaṃ).

Summary Analysis

Thiis is a fairly straight forward sutta and the Buddha's short statement at the end sums up the essence of the message. This is to get full liberation one has to satisfy all the requirements. Full filling the ethical precepts is not enough, achieving full concentration in meditation is not sufficient. One must achieve full liberation in mind. This is simply the eradication of the āsavas (taints, cankers, influxes, fermentations and other translations of this term). This is what keeps one tied to Saṃsāra.


M30. Cūlasaropama Sutta
The Simile of the Pith (Smaller)


[312] This is a discourse delivered by the Buddha at Jetavana monstery in answer to a question by the brahmin Piṅgalokocca. Pingala's question was whether the other teachers of the time (Purāṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Ajita Kesakambalin, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Sañjaya Velaṭṭputta, Nigaṇṭha Nāṭputtta) had understood what they were preaching fully or in part or none at all. The Buddha set aside this question and gave a smaller version of the Parable of the Heartwood. The Greater version of this Parable had been given at Rajagaha shortly after the departure of Devadatta from the Buddha's fraternity.

In both the Greater and the Shorter versions of this Parable there is a comparison between a person trying to get at the heartwood of a tree and that of a seeker of the Dhamma to get at the heart of the Dhamma. In both cases the seeker goes through the peripheral things until he arrives at the centre of what he is seeking.

The person looking for the heartwood makes five attempts to get at the heartwood and ech times takes away the following parts of the tree in succession:
  1. [313] Branches and leaves. These does not serve the purpose for which heartwood is needed.
  2. [314] Shoots. This too does not serve the purpose for which heartwood is needed.
  3. [315] Bark. This is getting closer to the objective.
  4. [316] Sapwood. This is very close to the objective of the search which is still not satistifed.
  5. [317] Heartwood. This is what was searched and marks the complete success in the search.
From this the Buddha turns to the search for the Dhamma.

[318] A son of good family thinks "birth, ageing and death give me sorrows and despair. Perhaps the end of this suffering may be found". He then gives up the household life and becomes a monk. He then gets gain, offerings and fame. This exalts him and he begins to disparage other monks. He does not aim for higher things. He becomes one infatuated (olīnavuttiko) and lax (sātaliko). He is like the heartwood seeker who takes away the branches and leaves.

[319] A certain individual becomes a monk for the same reason. He goes on to achieve consummation of virtue (sīlasampadaṃ ārādheti). Then he begins to disparage other monks. He becomes infatuated and lax. He is like the heartwood seeker who carries away the outer bark.

[320] A certain individual becomes a monk for the same reason. He achieves more than the previous person and reaches the stage of consummation of concentration (samādhisampadaṃ ārādheti). Then he begins to disparage other monks. He becomes infatuated and lax. He becomes He is like the heartwood seeker who carries away the inner bark.

[321] A certain individual becomes a monk for the same reason. He achieves more than the previous person and achieves knowledge and vision (ñāṇadassanaṃ ārādheti). Then he begins to disparage other monks. He becomes infatuated and lax. He becomes He is like the heartwood seeker who carries away the sapwood.

[322] A certain individual becomes a monk for the same reason. Like the previous person he achieves knowledge and vision. But he is not satisfied with it and does not disparage other monks. He exerts himself to achieve qualities higher than knowledge and vision.

[323] What then are the qualities are higher than knowledge and vision ? These are the successive achievents of the following (these being stated in the usual stereotype formula):
  1. The First Jhāna. This comes after sensuality and unskilful actions are overcome but allows for discursive reasoning and evaluation.
  2. The Second Jhāna. This comes after discursive thinking is abandoned with the rapture of concentration and unified awareness.
  3. The Third Jhāna. Here rapture gives way to mindfulness and equanimity.
  4. The Fourth Jhāna. Here both pleasure and distress are abandoned.
  5. Infinitude of Space.
  6. Infinitude of Consciousness.
  7. Dimension of Nothingness. This was the achievement of Alāra Kālāma.
  8. Dimension of Neither-Perception-nor-non-Perception. This was the achievement of Ramaputta.
  9. Cessation of Perception and Feeling. This is the achievement of the Buddha.
[324] This ends the fermentations (āsava). It is like the heartwood seeker finally getting the heartwood. As often happens in discourses of this king the brahmin Piṅgalokocca is converted to the Buddha's way of thinking and become a lay follower for the rest of his life.

Summary and Analysis

While covering the same ground this version of the Parable of the Heartwood is not only shorter but also better presented than the preceding Greater version. The comments in the Abstract of that sutta will apply.