Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikaya
II. Majjhima-Pannasa
3. Paribbajaka Vagga

The Middle Length Sayings
II. The Middle Fifty Discourses
3. The Division on Wanderers

Sutta 72

Aggi-Vacchagotta Suttam

Discourse to Vacchagotta on Fire

Translated from the Pali by I.B. Horner, M.A.
Associate of Newham College, Cambridge
First Published in 1954

Copyright The Pali Text Society
Commercial Rights Reserved
Creative Commons Licence
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[483] [162]

[1][wrrn][chlm][than][upal] THUS have I heard:

At one time the Lord was staying near Savatthi
in the Jeta Grove in Anathapindika's monastery.

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta approached the Lord;
[484] having approached,
he exchanged greetings with the Lord;
having conversed in a friendly and courteous way,
he sat down at a respectful distance.

As he was sitting down at a respectful distance,
the wanderer Vaeehagotta spoke thus to the Lord:

"Now, good Gotama,
is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The world is eternal,[1]
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The world is eternal,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"Then good Gotama,
is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The world is not eternal,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The world is not eternal,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"Now, good Gotama,
is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The world is an ending thing,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The world is an ending thing,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

[163] "Then, good Gotama,
is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The world is not an ending thing,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The world is not an ending thing,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"Now, good Gotama,
is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The life-principle and the body are the same,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The life-principle and the body are the same,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"Then, good Gotama, is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The life-principle is one thing,
the body another,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The life-principle is one thing,
the body another,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"Now, good Gotama, is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The Tathagata is after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The Tathagata is after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"Then, good Gotama, is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The Tathagata is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The Tathagata is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"Now, good Gotama, is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The Tathagata both is
and is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

[485] "I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The Tathagata both is
and is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"

"Then, good Gotama, is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The Tathagata neither is
nor is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The Tathagata neither is
nor is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

 


 

"Now, good Gotama,
the revered Gotama,
on being asked:

"Now, good Gotama,
is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The world is eternal,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

says:

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The world is eternal,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"On being asked:

"Then good Gotama,
is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The world is not eternal,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

says:

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The world is not eternal,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"On being asked:

"Now, good Gotama,
is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The world is an ending thing,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

says:

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The world is an ending thing,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"On being asked:

"Then, good Gotama,
is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The world is not an ending thing,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

says:

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The world is not an ending thing,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"On being asked:

"Now, good Gotama,
is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The life-principle and the body are the same,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?

says:

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The life-principle and the body are the same,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"On being asked:

"Then, good Gotama, is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The life-principle is one thing,
the body another,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

says:

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The life-principle is one thing,
the body another,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"On being asked:

"Now, good Gotama, is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The Tathagata is after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

says:

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The Tathagata is after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"On being asked:

"Then, good Gotama, is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The Tathagata is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

says:

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The Tathagata is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"On being asked:

"Now, good Gotama, is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The Tathagata both is
and is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

says:

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The [164] Tathagata both is
and is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

"

"On being asked:

"Then, good Gotama, is the revered Gotama of this view:

'The Tathagata neither is
nor is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood'?"

says:

"I, Vaccha, am not of this view:

'The Tathagata neither is
nor is not after dying,
this is indeed the truth,
all else is falsehood.'"

 


 

What is the peril
the revered Gotama beholds
that he thus does not approach
any of these (speculative) views?"

"Vaccha, to think that 'the world is eternal' -
this is going to a (speculative) view,[2]
holding a view,
the wilds of views,
the wriggling of views,
the scuffling of views,
the fetter of views;
it is accompanied by anguish,
distress,
misery,
fever;
it does not conduce
to turning away from,
nor to dispassion,
stopping,
calming,
super-knowledge,
awakening,
nor to nibbana.

Vaccha, to think that
'the world is not eternal' -
this is going to a (speculative) view,
holding a view,
the wilds of views,
the wriggling of views,
the scuffling of views,
the fetter of views;
it is accompanied by anguish,
distress,
misery,
fever;
it does not conduce
to turning away from,
nor to dispassion,
stopping,
calming,
super-knowledge,
awakening,
nor to nibbana.

Vaccha, to think that
'the world is an ending thing' -
this is going to a (speculative) view,
holding a view,
the wilds of views,
the wriggling of views,
the scuffling of views,
the fetter of views;
it is accompanied by anguish,
distress,
misery,
fever;
it does not conduce
to turning away from,
nor to dispassion,
stopping,
calming,
super-knowledge,
awakening,
nor to nibbana.

Vaccha, to think that
'the world is not an ending thing' -
this is going to a (speculative) view,
holding a view,
the wilds of views,
the wriggling of views,
the scuffling of views,
the fetter of views;
it is accompanied by anguish,
distress,
misery,
fever;
it does not conduce
to turning away from,
nor to dispassion,
stopping,
calming,
super-knowledge,
awakening,
nor to nibbana.

Vaccha, to think that
'the life-principle and the body are the same' -
this is going to a (speculative) view,
holding a view,
the wilds of views,
the wriggling of views,
the scuffling of views,
the fetter of views;
it is accompanied by anguish,
distress,
misery,
fever;
it does not conduce
to turning away from,
nor to dispassion,
stopping,
calming,
super-knowledge,
awakening,
nor to nibbana.

Vaccha, to think that
'the life-prineiple is one thing, the body another' -
this is going to a (speculative) view,
holding a view,
the wilds of views,
the wriggling of views,
the scuffling of views,
the fetter of views;
it is accompanied by anguish,
distress,
misery,
fever;
it does not conduce
to turning away from,
nor to dispassion,
stopping,
calming,
super-knowledge,
awakening,
nor to nibbana.

Vaccha, to think that
'the Tathagata is after dying' -
this is going to a (speculative) view,
holding a view,
the wilds of views,
the wriggling of views,
the scuffling of views,
the fetter of views;
it is accompanied by anguish,
distress,
misery,
fever;
it does not conduce
to turning away from,
nor to dispassion,
stopping,
calming,
super-knowledge,
awakening,
nor to nibbana.

[486]Vaccha, to think that
'the Tathagata is not after dying' -
this is going to a (speculative) view,
holding a view,
the wilds of views,
the wriggling of views,
the scuffling of views,
the fetter of views;
it is accompanied by anguish,
distress,
misery,
fever;
it does not conduce
to turning away from,
nor to dispassion,
stopping,
calming,
super-knowledge,
awakening,
nor to nibbana.

Vaccha, to think that
'the Tathagata both is and is not after dying' -
this is going to a (speculative) view,
holding a view,
the wilds of views,
the wriggling of views,
the scuffling of views,
the fetter of views;
it is accompanied by anguish,
distress,
misery,
fever;
it does not conduce
to turning away from,
nor to dispassion,
stopping,
calming,
super-knowledge,
awakening,
nor to nibbana.

Vaccha, to think that
'the Tathagata neither is nor is not after dying' -
this is going to a (speculative) view,
holding a view,
the wilds of views,
the wriggling of views,
the scuffling of views,
the fetter of views;
it is accompanied by anguish,
distress,
misery,
fever;
it does not conduce
to turning away from,
nor to dispassion,
stopping,
calming,
super-knowledge,
awakening,
nor to nibbana.

I, Vaccha, beholding that this is a peril,
thus do not approach
any of these (speculative) views."

 


 

"But does the good Gotama have any (speculative) view?"

"Vaccha, going to 'speculative view' -
this has been got rid of
by the Tathagata.

But this, Vaccha,
has been seen by the Tathagata:

'Such is material shape,
such is the arising of material shape,
such the going down of material shape;

such is feeling,
such is the arising of feeling,
such the going down of feeling;

such is perception,
such is the arising of perception,
such the going down of perception;

such are the habitual tendencies,
such is the arising of the habitual tendencies,
such the going down of the habitual tendencies;

such is consciousness,
such is the arising of consciousness,
such the going down of consciousness.'

Therefore I say
that by the destruction,
dispassion,
stopping,
giving up,
casting out
of all imaginings,[3]
all supposings,
all latent pride that [165]
'I am the doer,
mine is the doer,'
a Tathagata is freed
without clinging."

"But, good Gotama, where does a monk arise
whose mind is freed thus?"

'Arise,' Vaccha, does not apply."

"Well then, good Gotama, does he not arise?"

"'Does not arise,' Vaccha, does not apply."

"Well then, good Gotama, does he both arise and not arise?"

"'Both arises and does not arise,' Vaccha, does not apply."

"Well then, good Gotama, does he neither arise nor not arise?"

"'Neither arises nor does not arise,' Vaccha, does not apply."

"But, good Gotama, on being asked:

"But, good Gotama, where does a monk arise
whose mind is freed thus?"

you say:

'Arise,' Vaccha, does not apply."

"But, good Gotama, on being asked:

"Well then, good Gotama, does he not arise?"

you say:

"'Does not arise,' Vaccha, does not apply."

"But, good Gotama, on being asked:

"Well then, good Gotama, does he both arise and not arise?"

you say:

"'Both arises and does not arise,' Vaccha, does not apply."

"But, good Gotama, on being asked:

"Well then, good Gotama, does he neither arise nor not arise?"

you say:

"'Neither arises nor does not arise,' Vaccha, does not apply."

[487] I am at a loss on this point, good Gotama,
I am bewildered,
and that measure of satisfaction I had
from former conversation with the good Gotama -
even that have I now lost."

"You ought to be at a loss, Vaccha,
you ought to be bewildered.

For, Vaccha, this dhamma is deep,
difficult to see,
difficult to understand,
peaceful,
excellent,
beyond dialectic,
subtle,
intelligible to the wise;
but it is hard for you
who are of another view,
another allegiance,
another objective,
of a different observance,
and under a different teacher.[4]

Well then, Vaccha,
I will now question you in return.

Answer as it pleases you.

What do you think about this, Vaccha?

If a fire were blazing in front of you
would you know:

'This fire is blazing in front of me'?"

"Good Gotama, if a fire were blazing in front of me
I should know:

'This fire is blazing in front of me.'"

"But if, Vaccha,
someone were to question you thus:

'This fire that is blazing in front of you -
what is the reason that this fire is blazing?' -

what would you, Vaccha,
reply when questioned thus?"

"If, good Gotama,
someone were to question me thus:

'This fire that is blazing in front of you -
what is the reason that this fire is [166] blazing?' -

I, good Gotama,
on being questioned thus
would reply thus:

'This fire that is blazing in front of me -
this fire is blazing because of a supply[5]
of grass and sticks."

"If that fire that was in front of you, Vaccha,
were to be quenched,[6]
would you know:

'This fire that was in front of me
has been quenched'?"

"If, good Gotama,
that fire that was in front of me
were to be quenched,
I would know:

This fire that was in front of me
has been quenched."

"But if someone were to question you thus, Vaccha:

'That fire that was in front of you
and that has been quenched -
to which direction has that fire gone from here,
to the east
or west
or north
or south?

On being questioned thus,
what would you, Vaccha, reply?"

"It does not apply, good Gotama.

For, good Gotama,
that fire blazed
because of a supply of grass and sticks,
yet from having totally consumed this
and from the lack of other fuel,
being without fuel
it is reckoned to be quenched."

"Even so, Vaccha,
that material shape
by which one recognising the Tathagata
might recognise him -
that material shape
has been got rid of
by the Tathagata,
cut off at the root,
made like a palm-tree stump
that can come to no further existence
and is not liable to arise again
in the future.

Freed from denotation by material shape
is the Tathagata, Vaccha,
he is deep,
immeasurable,
unfathomable as is the great ocean.

'Arises' does not apply,
'does not arise' does not apply,
[488] 'both arises and does not arise' does not apply,
'neither arises nor does not arise' does not apply.

"That feeling
by which one recognising the Tathagata
might recognise him -
that feeling
has been got rid of
by the Tathagata,
cut off at the root,
made like a palm-tree stump
that can come to no further existence
and is not liable to arise again
in the future.

Freed from denotation by feeling
is the Tathagata, Vaccha,
he is deep,
immeasurable,
unfathomable as is the great ocean.

'Arises' does not apply,
'does not arise' does not apply,
'both arises and does not arise' does not apply,
'neither arises nor does not arise' does not apply.

"That perception
by which one recognising the Tathagata
might recognise him -
that perception
has been got rid of
by the Tathagata,
cut off at the root,
made like a palm-tree stump
that can come to no further existence
and is not liable to arise again
in the future.

Freed from denotation by perception
is the Tathagata, Vaccha,
he is deep,
immeasurable,
unfathomable as is the great ocean.

'Arises' does not apply,
'does not arise' does not apply,
'both arises and does not arise' does not apply,
'neither arises nor does not arise' does not apply.

"Those habitual tendencies
by which one recognising the Tathagata
might recognise him -
those habitual tendencies
have been got rid of
by the Tathagata,
cut off at the root,
made like a palm-tree stump
that can come to no further existence
and is not liable to arise again
in the future.

Freed from denotation by habitual tendencies
is the Tathagata, Vaccha,
he is deep,
immeasurable,
unfathomable as is the great ocean.

'Arises' does not apply,
'does not arise' does not apply,
'both arises and does not arise' does not apply,
'neither arises nor does not arise' does not apply.

"That consciousness
by which one recognising the Tathagata
might recognise him -
that consciousness
has been got rid of
by the Tathagata,
cut off at the root,
made like a palm-tree stump
that can come to no further existence
and is not liable to arise again
in the future.

Freed from denotation by consciousness
is the Tathagata, Vaccha,
he is deep,
immeasurable,
unfathomable as is the great ocean.

'Arises' does not apply,
'does not arise' does not apply,
'both arises and does not arise' does not apply,
'neither arises nor does not arise' does not apply.

When this had been said, the wanderer Vacchagotta spoke thus to the Lord:

"Good Gotama, it is like a great sal-tree
not far from a village or market town
whose branches and foliage might be dis- [167] solved because of their impermanence,
whose bark and young shoots might be dissolved,
whose softwood might be dissolved,
so that after a time
the branches and foliage gone,
the bark and young shoots gone,
the softwood gone,
clear of them
it would be established on the pith.[7]

It is excellent, good Gotama,
excellent, good Gotama.

It is as if, good Gotama,
one might set upright what had been upset,
or might disclose what was covered,
or point out the way
to one who had gone astray,
or might [489] bring an oil-lamp into the darkness
so that those with vision might see material shapes -
even so is dhamma made clear
in many a figure by the good Gotama.

I am going to the revered Gotama for refuge,
and to dhamma
and to the Order of monks.

May the revered Gotama accept me
as a lay-follower,
one gone for refuge from today forth
for as long as life lasts."

Discourse to Vacchagotta on Fire:
The Second

 


[1] cf. S. iv. 391 ff., where Vacchagotta is recorded to put all the following questions to Moggallana; cf. S. iii. 257 ff.

[2] Cf. M. i. 8, 431. Since the Tathagata knows and comprehends, he does not hold any speculative view; see below. In this paragraph I have mostly translated ditthi as view, but speculative view is meant.

[3] mannita. MA. iii. 198 gives three: craving, false views, pride, as does SA. ii. 363. Vbh. 390 gives nine. cf. S. iv. 21-22.

[4] As at M. ii. 43; D. i. 87, iii. 36.

[5] upadana, fuel, supply; grasping, attachment.

[6] nibbayeyya, were to be extinguished, put out, quenched.

[7] suddho assa sare patitthito, as at M. i. 31-32. Cf. M. Stas 20, 30; also M. i. 434.

 


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