Majjhima Nikāya
Mahāyamaka Vagga

Suttas M 31 - M 40


M 31 CūlagosiṅgasuttaLesser Discourse in Gosinga
M 32 MahāgosiṅgasuttaGreater Discourse in Gosinga
M 33 MahāgopālakasuttaGreater Discourse on the Cowherd
M 34 CūḷagopālakasuttaLesser Discourse on the Cowherd
M 35 Cūḷasaccakasutta Lesser Discourse to Saccaka
M 36 MahāsaccakasuttaGtrster Discourse to Saccaka
M 37 CūḷataṇhāsaṅkhayasuttaLesser Discourse on Craving
M 38 Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhayasutta Greater Discourse on Craving
M 39 Mahā-assapurasuttaGreater Discourse at Assapura
M 40 Cūḷa-assapurasuttaLesser Discourse at Assapura

M 31. Cūlagosiṅga Sutta
Lesser Discourse at Gosinga

NOTE With this sutta we commence the third division of the Majjihma Nikāya called the Great Division of the Pairs (Mahāyamakavagga) which contains 10 suttas (M 31 to M40). The numbers in square brackets in bold face correspond to the numbering of sections in the Pali Text of the Sixth Council (Caṭṭha Saṅgāyana) held in Burma in 1954.]

       [325] This Sutta starts with a visit of the Buddha to three monks Anuruddha, Nandiya and Kinmbila who were living in the Gosiṅga forest in the Vajjian territory. It is not usual for the Buddha to visit monks as it is usually they who visit him.
       [326] After a general enquiry the Buddha pointedly asks if the monks were living in unity and harmony. To this Ven Anuruddha answered that they were united and getting on like milk and water. Then both Anuruddha and Nandiya assert that they exercise loving-kindness to the other monks in bodily verbal and mental actions. They discard their own thoughts and concede to the thoughts of the other.
       [327] To the question how they live diligent, ardent and resolute (appamattā ātāpino pahitattā) they answer by sharing their alms food and doing the housework together.
       [328] To further questioning on whether they had achieved any super-human capabilities (uttarimanussadhammā) Anuruddha replied that they abide in the achievement of the four jhānas. These are described in the usual ways progressing from the first jhāna with initial and sustained application (savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ) to the second where they are given up and inner tranquillity and oneness of mind attained, then to the third with its equanimity and mindfulness, and finally to the fourth jhāna which is neither painful nor pleasant, and with mindfulness fully purified by equanimity.
       [329] To the next inquiry whether they had achieved more super-human capabilities Anuruddha answers that they had achieved the sphere of infinite space, the sphere of infinite consciousness, the sphere of nothingness, and the cessation of perception and feeling. These are described in usual stereotyped phraseology.
       [330] Then the Buddha departs. In the answer to the Buddha's question about the superhuman achievements it was Anuruddha who had spoken on behalf of the three and who had attained all the superhuman attainments. Now Nandiya and Kimbila asked how Anuruddha had known that they had achieved these as they had not revealed this to Anuruddha, But Anuruddha said that he had divined this by penetrating their minds. Also the gods had informed him of this when the Buddha questioned on this.
       [331] In this final section of the Sutta there is the intervention of a demon Dīgha who approaches the Buddha and says that it is good that the Buddha and the three monks are well. The sound of Dīgha's voice reverberates through the deva worlds right up to the Brahmā world. The Buddha says that whoever in the worlds of gods and men, Mārā and Brahmā worlds who recalls the achievement of these three monks with pleasant mind will conduce to their happiness for a long time.

Summary Analysis
       Except for the very last section with the divine intervention most of this sutta is a realistic narrative. It remains a mystery why the Buddha would have asked the three monks if they lived in amity as he could have found the answer by the exercise of his Divine Eye. But it is simply an excuse for the three monks to describe how they achieved the ultimate goal.
       One method of doing this especially for monks is to through the jhānas and the Knowledges. This is the route adopted by these three monks. But usually before embarking on this journey it is said that the aspirant should achieve consummation in virtue (i.e. the ethics of Buddhism). But there is no mention that the three monks had done this although this does not mean that they had not done it. All that is said of the monks is that the had been kind considerate with each other with minds of loving kindness.
       As to the intervention of the demon Dīgha and the gods in their respective deva worlds they do not have a logical place in this narrative. It is possible that this is a later addition.

M 32. Mahāgosiṅga Sutta
Greater Discourse at Gosiṅga

[332] This sutta gives a discussion amongst the Buddha (when he was living at the Gosiṅga Sal forest) and some of his leading disciples on a moonlit night. The monks involved in the discussion were Venerables Sāriputta, Mahāmoggallāna, Mahākassapa, Anuruddha, Revata and Ananda. The subject of the discussion was what kind of bhikkhu will best adorn the Sal forest. Ven Sāriputta seems to have taken over as presiding over the discussion.

[333] Ven Ananda was the first to be asked to express his opinion. He said that such a monk should be a learned bhikkhu, who knows and treasures the Teaching and leads a pure holy life. He should be an exemplar and penetrator of the Teaching, and be able to impart it to various gatherings fluently so as to destroy latent (evil) tendencies of those who have them.

[334] Sāriputta next asks Revata for his view. Revata says that the suitable monk should be one who delights in solitude, enjoys solitude, devoted to mental calm, never neglecting dhyana, accomplished in insight, and a frequents empty places. While Ananda emphasised learning Revata emphasises meditation.
[335] Sāriputta next asks Anuruddha for his opinion. Anuruddha says: "a monk surveys a thousand worlds with the divine eye, purified, surpassing that of the human. ... that monk surveys a thousand worlds with the divine eye, purified, surpassing that of the human" Clearly for Anuruddha it is possessing psychic power, particularly the Divine Eye that makes a monk fit to illuminate the entire Sal grove.

[336] Sāriputta next turn Mahā Kassapa. He gives several qualifications for the ideal monk who would be best suited to live in the Sal grove. These are:
  1. a forest dweller who praises forest-dwelling;
  2. praises living on alms-food;
  3. resorts to dust-heap cloth, uses only the three robes;
  4. has few wishes praises having only few wishes;
  5. is one who is contented, and praises contentment;
  6. is one who lives in solitude and praises solitude;
  7. is one who is above socializing and praises non-socializing;
  8. is one who exerts effort, and praises the exertion of effort;
  9. is one accomplished in moral virtue;
  10. is accomplished in concentration;
  11. is accomplished in wisdom;
  12. is accomplished in liberation;
  13. is accomplished in the knowledge and vision of liberation;
It will be noticed that requirements 1 to 7 are Vinaya rules and Kassapa clealy gives priority to them. Requirements 8 and 9 are those of an ethical or moral nature, and the remainder is the standard path for liberation for the practicing monk.
[337] It is now the turn of Mahā Moggallana. His answer is fairly simple. He says that it is a monk who while discussing a deep point of Dhamma will not fall out with the others and the talk should be timely and beneficial. Clearly the implication is that if the other monk has a different view this would not create disharmony between them.

[338] Now that everyone has answered, Moggallana asks Sāriputta who had so far acted as some kind of compeer for his view on this issue. His main requirements of the monk who will glorify the Sal grove are: He compares the first of these requirement to a king or chief minister who chooses what he wants to wear in the morning, mid-day or evening. [Clearly what this means is the Bhikkhu will not give in to whatever happens to be in his mind but that he should exercise control over what is in the mind.]

[339 - 344] After all the monks had expressed their views Sāriputta suggested that they consult the Buddha's views on this matter. They went to see the Buddha and related the circumstances that led to their discussion. Then they repeated the views expressed expressed by the venerables Ananda, Revata, Anuruddha, Mahā Kassapa, Mahā Mogallāna and Sāriputta in exact detail.

[345] Then Sāriputta asked the Buddha which of them had spoken well. The Buddha's reply was:
"Sariputta, you have all spoken well, each in your own way. But listen now to me, too, on the kind of monk who would beautify Gosiṅga sal forest. Here, Sariputta, a monk, after returning from his alms round and finishing his meal, sits cross legged, keeping his body upright, establishes mindfulness before himself, thinking, 'I will not break this sitting posture if I have not freed my mind, through not clinging, from the mental influxes! Such a monk, Sāriputta, would beautify the Gosiṅga sal forest".
Then comes the usual ending: "The Blessed One said this. The venerable monks joyfully delighted in the Blessed One's word".

Summary Analysis
        This is the rare instance of a Sutta where the fully enlightened monks give slightly different, but not completely incompatible, answers to a common question. The question who will glorify the Gosṅinga Sal forest is equivalent to who is the best monk.

       The difference in emphasis put by these monks show the different approaches to the Dhamma but not only monks but also by lay people. Ananda emphasises learning, Revata solitude, Anuruddha on divine powers, Mahā Kassapa gives a whole list but the important ones seem to be keeping the Vinaya rules, Mahā Miggallāna on maintaining one's equanimity even when there are disagreements, and Sāriputta on the control of the mind. The Buddha sees a value in all these things but his concern is determination to get rid of the influxes (āsavā).

M 33. Mahāgopālaka Sutta
Greater Discourse on the Cowherd

 [346] In this sutta (given at Jetavana Monastery) to the monks the Buddha compares a cowherd caring for his flock and a monk caring for the Dhamma. The Buddha gives eleven characteristics for a cowherd to fail in his duty and eleven characteristics that will make a monk fail in growing in Dhamma. Then he gives eleven opposite characteristics which will allow the cowherd to increase his flock, and eleven characteristics that will allow a bhikkhu to grow in Dhamma.
       The Buddha begins by identifying eleven qualities which would make a person a good cowherd (described as one who can increase the flock). These are:
  1. does not know material shapes (perhaps does not know the types of cows);
  2. is not clever in identifying (branding) marks;
  3. does not know to remove nits (flies infesting the cows);
  4. does not dress wounds;
  5. does not make smoke (perhaps fumigation required for some purpose);
  6. does not know the ford;
  7. does not know a watering place (the word pita used here may mean either a drink or joy)
  8. does not know the path;
  9. is not clever in finding pastures;
  10. is one who does not leave a remainder (in this case does not leave some milk for the calf).
  11. does not pay attention to the stud bulls.
  [347] Here eleven characteristics that prevent a monk in growing in the Dhamma are given. These are:
  1. Not knowing material shapes. This is ignoring the four constituents of matter (mahābutā) and not knowing that they are "not mine".
  2. Not knowing the fool and the clever person by their actions.
  3. Not knowing fly-infestation is enduring sensual, angry and non-meritorious thoughts and not chasing them away.
  4. Not dressing wounds is equivalent to not cognizing the danger that comes from the faculties, i.e the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body (touch) and mind (thought).
  5. Not explaining the teaching to others is like not knowing how to make smoke.
  6. Not knowing the ford is like not recognizing learned teachers and questioning them.
  7. Not being joyous or not having a drink is when the monk does not understand what the teacher is teaching.
  8. Not knowing the path is not knowing the Eightfold Path.
  9. Not finding the pastures is not knowing the foundations of mindfulness.
  10. Not leaving a remainder is taking more than is necessary from things offered by householders.
  11. The bulls are the leaders of the community and their spiritual needs have to be satisfied.
It is not possible for monks wth these characteristics to grow in Dhamma.
       [348] These are the eleven factors that enable the cowherd to grow his flock. They are in fact the opposite of the eleven negative factors given in section 346 above.
       [349] These are the opposite of the eleven characteristics of the negligent monk given in section 347 above. These can be restated again as:
  1. The bhikkhus that all matter are made up of the four great elements and should not be taken as "mine".
  2. The bhikkhu knows as it really is, the fool by his actions, and the wise one by his actions.
  3. The bhikkhu does not endure sensual thoughts or angry thoughts or hurtful thoughts or de-meritorious thoughts. He chases them out and does not make them rise again.
  4. Here the monk should take due cognizance of his faculties such as those involved in seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking.
  5. The Bhikku should explain the teaching to others.
  6. The bhikkhu should approach learned bearers of the Teaching and Discipline and question and cross question them to know the meaning of the teaching.
  7. This is the joy and satisfaction ofknowing the meaning of the Dhamma.
  8. This is developing a knowledge of the noble eightfold path as it really is.
  9. Here the bhikkhu knows, as it really is, the four establishments of mindfulness.
  10. He the Bhikkhu knows to accept requites given by householders (especiallu when ill) knowing the amount to accept.
  11. Here the bhikkhu attends with bodily, verbal and mental actions of loving kindness towards the leaders of the Community.
The sutta ends with the usual acclamation from the monks.

M 34. Cūlagopālaka Sutta
Lesser Discourse on the Cowherd

 [350] This short discourse was delivered by the Buddha at a place called Ukkacela on the banks of the Ganges in the country of the Vajjis. It starts by giving the story of a foolish cowherd of Magadha who wanted to take his herd across the Ganges in the period after the rains when the river level would have been low. But he carelessly used a wrong place without a ford so that the animals got into difficulty in the mid-stream and were presumably lost.

This is compared to someone who puts his faith in recluses and Brahmans who are unskilled in this and the other world, and similarly those unskilled in Māra's realm and the realm of death who will suffer woe and anguish for a long time.

[351] This gives the counter example to the foolish cowherd. This wise cowherd fist found a suitable place (a ford) to make his cattle cross the Ganges. Then he sent the strongest animals first and gradually the weaker ones until the whole herd had crossed over.

Similarly recluses and brahmins who are clever know the realm of death and those who have faith in them it will be for their welfare for a long time.

[352] Here perfected bhikkhus are compared to the lead bulls who led the herd to safety across the Ganges. Similarly monks who have cut their links to the sensual world will be freed from death (i.e. they will not be born again). They are compared to the weaker cows who too crossed the Ganges. But as they have cut only the three lower fetters would be reborn in this world once more. Those who have faith in the teaching are compared to the very youg calves who followed their mothjers to the other shore. Their human counterparts are destined for ultimate liberation from death.

The Buddha ends by saying that he is clever (kusalo) in this and the other word, in the domain of death and non-death, clever in Mara's realm (māradeyya) and its opposite, clever in the sphere of death (maccudeyya) and its opposite. Those who listen to hi and have confidence in him there will be welfare and happiness for a long time. He concludes the sutta with a verse expressing those sentiments.

Summary Analysis

In this sutta there are explicit references to the doctrine of rebirth even though no term is used to denote this explicitly. Instead there is reference to conquering the realm (or sphere) of death and of course the promise of deathlessness (amata) is made for those who follow the path.

But everyone, even the Buddha suffers physical death. What is meant by conquering death is in reality conquering birth. This means that re-birth takes place either in this world or in some other plane of existence. On the fate of the liberated person this is one of the unanswered questions.

M 35. Cūlasaccaka Sutta
Lesser Discourse to Saccaka

 [353] This Sutta is set in Vesali where the Buddha was then staying in the Great Forest. Saccaka (also referred to as Aggivessana), a follower of Nigaṇṭa Nātaputtta (or Mahāvira the Jain) was boasting before the Vesali Assembly that no one could debate with him. A follower of the Buddha Assaji met him while on the alms-round and Saccaca asked him what doctrine Gotama taught his disciples. Assaji told him that Gotama taught that "Form (rūpa), Feeling (vedanā), Perception (saññā), Fabrications (saṅkhārā) and Consciousness (viññāṇa) are inconstant, and not-self. [These five groups will be referred to collectively henceforth as the five khandas]. Saccaka called this an evil view (pāpakā diṭṭhigatā). Saccaka hoped that there could be a discussion with Gotama.

[354-355] Then Saccaka announced to 500 Licchavis that he would challenge Gotama. Some thought that Saccaka would win, others that Gotama would win. Then Saccaka with this crowd went to find Gotama and being told that he was resting under a tree at the Great Forest went thither. Their greeting with Gotama is stated in the usual stereotyped way.

[356] Saccaka asked the same question he asked Assaji and got the same answer from the Buddha (i.e the five khandas were inconstant and not self). Then Saccaka gave a simile. As seeds depend on earth for growth so too do all activities requiring strength. The five khandas as self produce merit and demerit. When asked if this meant that each of the five khandas could be taken as an individual's "self" (attā) Saccaka agrees.

[357] The Buddha then asks if a king like Pasanedi or Ajātasattu had power to execute, fine or banish offenders in their domains and Saccaka agrees. Then Gotama asked since you say that form is your self do you have power to order your form to be thus or not thus? Saccaka remained silent, and a second time too when it was asked he was silent.

Then the Buddha said that if a just question of the Buddha is not answered for the third time the head of that person would get split. Then the yakkha (demon) Vajrapani makes an appearance and stands above Saccaka's head holding a club and saying that if Saccaka does not answer Gotama's just question for the third time he will split his head. This frightens Saccaka.

[358] Now Saccaka admits that he has no power or control over what his 'form' is or is not. Not only that he completely falls in line with the Buddha's argument: "Is form permanent or impermanent?" – "Impermanent, master Gotama"; "Is what is impermanent suffering?" – "Suffering, master Gotama"; "Is what is impermanent, suffering and subject to change fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this I am, this is my self'?" – "No, master Gotama". This marks Saccaka's complete surrender on the first aggregate of personality. He is also to make the same surrender on the aggregates from feeling to consciousness.

[359] Then the Buddha gives a version of the heartwood parable. Here the man seeking heartwood selects a banana tree and finds no heartwood there. This is to refute Saccaka's boast to the Vesali Assembly that no one can defeat him in debate. But now he is sweating in defeat but the Buddha shows that he has no sweat on his (the Buddha's) person.

[360] Here another Liccavi Dummikha gives another simile. Here he speaks of some children who capture a crab puts it on dry ground and breaks his claws making it impossible for it to crawl back to the pond. Saccaka is then taken as being in the position of the unfortunate crab.

[361] Here Saccaka asks a further question: how far is a disciple of the Buddha a doer of the Teaching (sāsanakara) and a follower the instruction (ovādapatikara). Gotama answers that a stream winner or someone with less attainment understands that the khandas are impermanent, suffering and not-self. The arahat however has accomplished the three supremacies (anuttariyā), namely those of vision (dassana), practice (patipadā) and liberation (vimutti), so has a more firm understanding.

[362] Here Saccaka apologises for his previous attacks on the Buddha "statement by statement' and now says that while there may be safety for a person attacked by fire or a snake there is none for one who attacks the Buddha.

[363] Here Saccaka invites the Buddha and the rest for a meal the next day and asks the people assembled to make what contribution they can.

Summary Analysis       

The most important aspect of this sutta is the complete conversion of Saccaka from being a stern critic of the Buddha to becoming a near complete supporter. The question is whether this is due to the logic of the Buddha's argument. The transition takes place after the intervention of the demon Vajrapani who hovers above Saccaka threatening to split his head if he does not answer the Buddha. We are told that Saccaka's hair stood on end at the sight of Vajrapani. The demon's intervention seems to make a big difference to the course of the conversation.

The Buddha's logic is to make Saccaka admit that the khandas are impermanent. While this is objectively true, the next step that they involve suffering is a subjective view. It is on this that the no-self view is predicated.

M 36. Mahāsaccaka Sutta
Greater Discourse to Saccaka

 [NOTE: This discourse is set in Vesali like the Lessser Saccaka Sutta (M 35). But there is a problem in the relation between these two Saccaka suttas. In this Greater sutta Ananda spotting Saccake coming to see the Buddha says that Saccaka "dispraises" the Buddha. But in the Lesser sutta he abandons his dispraise and becomes a convert to the Buddha's views. This might suggest that this sutta comes before the Lesser one, but this is not possible as here too Saccaka does not dispraise the Buddha. The inability to resolve this matter gives rise to the view that the Greater sutta is a contrived one to give an opportunity to relate the Buddha's personal experiences from his leaving the household life to his Enlightenment at Uruvelā. Much of the personal details are also given in other suttas notably the Ariyapariyesana Sutta (M 26) for which an Abstract exists, so for this reason some of the personal details are left out in this Abstract.]

 [364] Here the circumstances of the Buddha's meeting with Saccaka is different to that in the Lesser version of this Sutta. The Buddha is on his alms round in Vesali with Ananda when the latter spots Saccaka and seats the Buddha in preparation for the encounter with him.

[365] The issue raised by Saccaka is that some recluses and brahmins concentrate on developing the body rather than the mind and others do the opposite. He recounts various physical ailments and says that their cause is the non-development of the mind. Then recounts various kinds of mental pain and says that their cause is the non-development of the body.

[366-9] In these sections Saccaka answers questions from the Buddha on how recluses and brahmins the develop the body and the mind. As far as the body is concerned various eating practices are described. These relate mainly to eating habits of recluses. On the mind Saccaka was not able to say anything much. The Buddha says that the development of the body given by Saccaka is not the right development for an Ariyan and hence there is no proper development of the body. The Buddha explains how non-development of body arises from way the pleasurable feelings are handled.

[370] Here the Buddha shows how an instructed person handles the body-mind problem. If pleasurable feelings arise then he is not addicted to them and they are stopped. Then if a painful feeling may arise and this too could be handled in the same way. The Buddha concludes thus:
"... there are these two alternatives thus: a pleasurable feeling that has arisen, impinging on the mind, does not persist, because of the development of body; and a painful feeling that has arisen, impinging on the mind, does not persist, because of the development of mind. He thus comes to be, Aggivessana [Saccaka], both developed as to body and developed as to mind."
[371-386] At this point the Buddha diverts into a long account of his experience as a Bodhisattva. It covers the period from his leaving the household life until he reaches full enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. It is an auto-biographical narrative that is best left in the original without being Abstracted. Accordingly no Abstract of this portion of the Sutta is given.

[387] The Buddha then asserts that he teaches not to attack his listeners but give knowledge. To Saccaka's question whether he slept in the day he said that he had done so while still mindful and alert. Saccaka then said that some recluses and brahmins would call this 'abiding in delusion (sammohavihāra)'. He then goes on to explain what delusion is.

[388] The Budddha then stated that an undeluded person is on in whom the āsavas (cankers, fermentations, influxes, taints) have been rooted out. This is the case with a Tathāgata.

[389] This is the last comment made by the Buddha in this sutta. Saccaka thaks the Buddha observing that even when the Buddha is addressed rudely the colour of his skin becomes clear and his face brightens. This was not the case with the other teachers with whom Saccaka has had discourse.


M 37. Cūlataṇhāsaṅkhaya Sutta
Lesser Discourse on the Destruction of Craving

 [NOTE. This Sutta begins with Sakka, King of the Gods coming to earth to have a conversation with the Buddha. This is followed by Ven. Moggallana going to the Deva world to talk to Sakka. So this cannot be taken as a realistic account of events except by the most credulous. It could only be treated as a kind of metaphor or parable listing the conditions necessary to reach nibbāna (extinction).]

[390] This Sutta begins with the Buddha residing at Sāvatthi in the Pubbārāma. Then Sakka, the King of the Gods (devas) comes and questions the Buddha as to how a monk can reach complete liberation (i.e. become an Arahant) The Buddha says that he should know the following 7 things if he wants to achieve this goal:
  1. he should not be inclined towards all psycho-physical conditions (sabbe dhammā nālaṃ abhinivesāyāti).
  2. he should know all these conditions thoroughly (sabbaṃ dhammaṃ abhijānāti).
  3. he should know all these conditions accurately (sabbaṃ dhammaṃ parijānāti).
  4. he sees impermanence in all feelings that he has (yaṃ kiñci vedanaṃ vedeti, so tāsu vedanāsu aniccānupassī viharati).
  5. he abides viewing dispassion (virāgānupassī viharati).
  6. he abides viewing stopping (nirodhānupassī viharati).
  7. he abides viewing renunciation (paṭinissaggānupassī viharati).
If the monks does these things he grasps after nothing, is untroubled, and attains nibbāna. After this Sakka vanishes.

[391] Mahā Moggallāna who was sitting nearby then thought: "Has this deva grasped the Buddha's words". Then he vanished from where he was and appeared before the devas of the Tavatimsa heaven. Then Sakka who was listening to music provided by 500 musicians saw Mahā Mogallāna and approached him dismissing the musicians.

[392] Then Mahā Moggallāna told Sakka "How did the Blessed One explain to you the destruction of cravings in short. We too would like to hear it". Sakka replied "We heard it, grasped it well, thoroughly considered it and bore it in mind". Sakka did not tell what the Buddha had told him, instead he went on to describe a Palace called Vijayanta which had built to celebrate the victory of the devas over the demons. He said that the palace had hundred towers each with seven gabled houses, each house had seven nymphs and for each nymph there were seven attendants. He invited Moggallāna to see this palace which the monk accepted in silence.

[393] Then they approached the Palace and Sakka invited the monk to see the wonders in the interior. But the monk knowing that this deva lives in ignorance wanted to teach him a lesson, Using his psychic power he caused the Palace to shake violently with the toe of his foot. Then Moggallāna again asked his original question: "How did the Blessed One tell you the release through the destruction of craving in short".

[394] This time Sakka repeated in full what the Buddha had told him. Moggallāna was pleased and returned magically to the Pubbārāma in Sāvatthi.

[395] After his return Moggallṇna reminded the Buddha of Sakka's visit to him. The Buddha again repeated to Moggalāna what he had told Sakka.

Summary Analysis

Clearly this is a fictitious story used to illustrate the seven factors that will enable a monk to reach Nirvāna. It incidentally gives what Buddhists believe what the sensuous deva world looks like. When it comes to carnal pleasures it reassembles the Paradise of the Muslims !

M 38. Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhaya Sutta
Greater Discourse on the Destruction of Craving

 [NOTE. This Sutta is well known for the Buddha's refutation of the heretical view of Bhikkhu Sāti and his comments on the process of rebirth.]

[396-397] This Sutta was given at the Jeta Monastery in Sāvatthi. What led to it was a pernicious viewpoint (diṭṭhigata) held by a monk named Bhikkhu Sāti which is given as: "As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, it is just this consciousness that runs and wanders on [from birth to birth], not another." (tathāhaṃ bhagavatā dhammaṃ desitaṃ ājānāmi yathā tadevidaṃ viññāṇaṃ sandhāvati saṃsarati anaññan;ti.). The other monks tried to dissuade Sāti from his wrong view but failed. The Bhikkhus then went the Buddha and related the whole incident to him.

[398] The Buddha then summoned Sāti. When questioned Sāti stuck to his previous position. Then the Buddha asked Sāti what the consciousness (viññāṇa) that he was talking about was. To this Sāti replied: "... it is that which speaks and feels and experiences here and there the result of good and bad actions (yvāyaṃ vado vedeyyo tatra tatra kalyṇapāpakānaṃ kammānaṃ vipākaṃ paṭisaṃvedetī'ti). The Buddha then called Sāti a foolish man (moghapurisa) and asked "Where have I taught such a doctrine. You have represented us with a wrong view".

[399] Then Sāti sat dejected and the Buddha asked the other bhikkhus if he had taught such a view. They said "No" and added that "in many discourses the Blessed One has stated consciousness to be dependently arisen, since without a condition there is no origination of consciousness (anekapariyayena hi no, bhante, paṭiccasamuppannaṃ viñññāṇaṃ vuttaṃ bhagavata, añññatra paccaya natthi viññaṇassa sambhavo'ti").

[400] The Buddha went on to assert the consciousness is always defined in relation to the organ which produces, such as eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness and intellect consciousness. [NOTE: In the last type of consciousness no organ is identified as at that time the role of the brain the human body was not known.] He compared it to fire being classified depending on what causes it such as a wood fire, a cow-dung fire, etc.

[NOTE: From this point onwards the Buddha turns away from the error of Sāti to the principle of dependent origination of which it is a part.]

[401] Here the Buddha establishes that things come to be because of some nutriment and if the nutriment ceases the thing ceases. If someone is uncertain of this then doubt arises. Then the Bhikkhs agree that they are free from doubt.

The Buddha says that even though this principle is pure (parisuddha) amd bright (pariyoda) if bhikkhus were to treat it as "mine" then they would not be in accordance with the Parable of the Raft viz. that the raft is for crossing not carrying.

[402] The Buddha then asserts that all being (existing or seeking to come into existence) need four kinds of nutriment: physical food (āhāra), contact (phassa), inteliectual intention (manosañcetana), and conciousness (viññāṇa).

The Buddha then chases the chain of causations backwards. The four nutriments have as their cause craving, the cause of craving is feeling, that of feeling is contact, that of contact is the six sense media, that of this is name-and-form that of name-and-form is consciousness, that of consciousness is the formations, that of formations is ignorance.

[403-404] Then the chain is traced forwards: ignorance leads to fabrications, fabrications to consciousness, consciousness to name-and-form, name-and-form to the six sense organs, the six sense organs to contact, contact to feeling, feeling to craving, craving to clinging/sustenance, clinging/sustenance to becoming, becoming to birth, and birth to ageing and death. The Buddha asks the monks if this was true and the monks agree.
The Buddha then said "It's good, monks, that you say that, and I say that too". Then he repeats the whole sequence from ignorance right down to aging-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress and suffering.

[405-406] Then the Buddha considers the cessation of the entire mass of stress and suffering. He starts with the cessation of ignorance. This leads to the cessation of fabrications, then cessation of consciousness, then cessation of name-&-form, then cessation of the six sense media, then cessation of contact, then cessation of feeling, then cessation of craving, then cessation of clinging/sustenance, then cessation of becoming, then cessation of birth, then then cessation of aging-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

[407] In the light of their knowledge of the Chain of Causation the Buddha asked several questions from the monks. These questions and their answers were as follows: The Buddha approved of these answers.

[408] Here the Buddha considers the three factors on which a being will be conceived in the mother's womb. These three things are whether the sexual union of the parents had taken place, whether the mother is in season and whether the Gandhabba (the "being to be born") is present. [NOTE: On the Gandhabba see the Summary Analysis below). The Buddha's position is that if any one of these conditions is not satisfied there will be no conception and no birth. If all three factors are present then a birth takes place and the child will grow into adulthood with all his sense faculties working well [Two alternative destinies for the child are given in the two sections in the sutta that follow immediately.]

[409] This deal with the situation if the person is one with limited awareness. Because of lack of mindfulness and body-awareness he reacts wrongly to all sense impressions relishing and finding pleasure in them with no control over the sense impressions. The result is that the process of dependent origination takes place and he ends with sorrow and death. Moreover he becomes subject to birth and going all through it again.

[410] This deals with the situation when a Tathagata appears and preaches the Dhamma. Then persons like the one in the previous section could hear the Dhamma, gain confidence in the teacher, abandon the household life and go into homelessness. Then an opposite destiny to that given in the previous section awaits him.

[411] This deals with what takes place when the person given above who has gone forth and begun the monks' training & livelihood. It begins with a long section on the morality and ethical precepts he has to follow. This is given in very much the way in which it appears in other suttas on the achievement of moral perfection.

[412-413] This deal with what has to be done after moral perfection and sense restraint has been achieved. Next comes the abandonment of the five Hindrances. These are (1) covetousness, (2) ill-will and anger, (3) sloth and drowsiness, (4) restlessness and anxiety (5) uncertainly. Next he must develop the four jhānas. The process of doing this is given in the usual formula.

[414] Then follows a description of the unlimited awareness that the fully liberated person achieves. The Buddha concludes this sutta by says "Monks, remember this, my brief account of release through the destruction of craving; and of Sāti, the monk, who is tied up in the great net of craving, the great tangle of craving." As usual the monks were delighted in the Blessed One's words.

Summary Analysis

There are several point of interest in this Sutta which are not found in other places in the Pali Canon. The main issue which precipitated this sutta, viz. the heresy of Bhikkhu Sāti is one. Sāti had maintained that it was consciousness which is the link between the dead person and the reborn one. One of the conundrums of the rebirth theory is what is that is reborn. In religions like Hinduism this problem is not there as it assumes that Soul (atta) exists which is what is reborn. As the Buddha has rejected the notion of a soul the question arises what is reborn. The answer given by most is that it is citta or cetana or other correlates of consciousness. But with the Buddha denouncing the 'heresy' of Sāti this problem still remains unresolved.

This Sutta advances the view that a Gandhabba is needed for rebirth to take place. What the Gandhabba is  is not defined. It sounds very much like a soul or a puggala (person) which incompatible with the Buddha's fundamental views. In the Vedic system a Gandabbha was a kind of heavenly musician so it could be a kind of divine being. This is similar to the "being to be born" (saṃbhavesi) to which also there is at least one reference in this sutta. What these problems highlight is the difficulty of integrating the doctrine of rebirth with the other views of the Buddha like the anatta doctrine.

There are many references to the doctrine of Dependent Origination in this Sutta. While there is the cause and the result given there is no explanation how the cause leads to the result. In particular how Ignorance leads to Birth and how the Karmic Disposition lead to Birth. It is on this kind of link that the rebirth doctrine grounded. All these make this sutta an important one in the ontological problem involved in the doctrine of the Buddha.


M 39. Mahā-Assapura Sutta
Greater Discourse at Assapura

[415] This Sutta was delivered to monks at Assapura in the Aṅga region. The Buddha said that a follower of his is called a samana a term usually translated as 'recluse' or 'contemplative' though neither completely conveys its meaning. That being so the Buddha asked the Bhikkhus how should you train yourself as a samana as distinct from a brāhmana or brahmin, so that those providing your necessities will gain merit. It is to this that the sutta is directed.

[416 - 424] The Buddha identified eight qualities that a samana should be foremost in. These are given as (without further explanation):
  1. Shame and Remorse for Wrong-doing (hirotappena samannāgatā).
  2. Bodily Purity (kāyacīsamācāra).
  3. Mental Purity (manosamācāra).
  4. Purity of Livelihood (ājivasamācāra).
  5. Restraint of Senses (indriyesu guttadvārā bhavissāma).
  6. Moderation in Eating (bojane mattaññuna).
  7. Wakefulness (jāgariyaṃ anuyuttā bhavissāma)
  8. Mindfullness (satisampajaññena samannāgatā)
[425 - 426] The Buddha then asks: What more should be done? He says that the monk should get rid of the five hindrances which are: Covetousness, Ill-will, Sloth-and-drowsiness, Restlessness-and-Anxiety, and Uncertainty. [NOTE: As is usual no specific instructions are given as to how these hindrances could be overcome.]

The Buddha compares the monk who has overcome the hindrances successively to a person who has overcome a debt, a sickness, a prison stay, slavery, and a road through desolate country. The following similes are given to illustrate each of these:

  1. A man, taking a loan, invests it in his business affairs. His business affairs succeed. He gains joy and experiences happiness.
  2. A man falls into a serious sickness. Somehow or other he gets cured. He gains joy and experiences happiness.
  3. A man is sent to prison. Some time later he is released with no loss of property. He gains joy and experiences happiness..
  4. A man is subject to others and cannot go where he likes. At a later time he is released from that slavery. He gains joy and experiences happiness.
  5. A man is carrying money and goods, travelling on a road through a desolate country. He reaches his destination suffering no harm He gains joy and experiences happiness.
[427 - 430] It is suggested that the monk should now practice the four jhānas. Thse are described in the usual stereotyped way in which the progress through the Jhānas is always described.

[431 - 433] These are the Three Knowledges which the monk is next expected to acquire. The precondition for this is that the mind should be concentrated, purified and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability. This kind of mind would be acquired if the four jhānas which would have been successfully traversed.
       The first knowledge is the knowledge of past lives and of the aeons of cosmic contraction and expansion. The monk should be able to recall up to one hundred thousand past lives. They should be detailed as to name, appearance, food and experiences both pleasurable and painful.
       The second knowledge is that of the Divine Eye. With this he can see beings being reborn according to their karma. He is able to see this extremely vividly. He discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.
       The third knowledge is the knowledge of the destruction of the āsavas (cankers, taints, influxes etc). This is what marks the final liberation of the monk. In fact it is the passport to Nibbāna.,

Summary Analysis.

If any section in this sutta could be considered exclusive to it then it would be the initial 8 factors that differentiate between the samana-bhikkhu and the brāhmana. Even these cannot be considered as being unique to the bhikkhu. The subsequent accomplishments like overcoming the hindrances, the jhānas and the Knowledges would be only true marks of the accomplished Bhikkhu. The monk-in-training can only aspire to do these things. It is interesting to note that no rituals are giving as belonging exclusively to the Bhikkhu.

M 40. Cula-Assapura Sutta
Smaller Discourse at Assapura*

[435] This Sutta is given at Assapura in the Aṅga country to the Bhikkhus. The Buddha said that we are called recluses (samanā) and this is acknowledged by us. The bhikkhus should therefore follow the methods of recluse-ship. This will then be of much fruit (mahapphalā) to those who provide the requisites to Bhikkhus. The Bhikkhus should train thus.

[436] The Buddha begins by listing the qualities that a bhikkhu should avoid. These are covetousness (abhijjhā), a corrupt heart (byāpāda), anger (kodha), ill-will (upanāha), hypocrisy (makkha), malice (paasa), jealousy (issa), selfishness (macchariyaṃ), craftiness (sāṭheyyaṃ), deceit (māyā), evil desires (pāpikā icchā). and wrong view (micchādiṭṭhi).

He reminded the bhikkhus that they should look at their robe as being wrapped by a sharp knife on both sides.

[437] Furthermore a Bhikkhu cannot be considered a recluse for the following things: wearing three robes, going naked, living with dust and dirt, descending to water, sitting at the root of a tree, living in open space, maintaining the standing posture, taking food at regular intervals, reciting the Teaching, or wearing a head-dress.

[438] The Buddha then considers what makes a bhikkhu into a recluse. Firstly all those qualities as not befitting a real recluse in section [436] have to be replaced by their opposites. The Buddha lists these opposites but these need not be reproduced here.

The dispelling of th evil tendencies brings relief to the bhikkkhu. When relieved he is delighted. Then joy arises. Then the mind is appeased which appeases the body. An appeased body feels pleasant. The pleasant mind concentrates. He abides pervading all directions with thoughts of limitless loving kindness. Then with feelings of compassion and equanimity. The Buddha compares the feeling of Bhikkhu thus freed to those of a person who comes thirsty to a cool pond. Everyone whether they come from the warrior caste, the brahmin caste, the householder caste, or even outcastes who destroy their desires and release their minds through wisdom is a recluse.

Summary Analysis.

This is a brief description of a bhikkhu. No ideological issues are raised. The description of the robe as being wrapped with a knife on both sides is a reference to the possibility of doing both internal harm to oneself and external harm to others always exists.