Aŋguttara Nikāya


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Aŋguttara-Nikāya
III. Tika Nipāta
VIII. Ānanda Vagga

The Book of the Gradual Sayings
The Book of the Threes

Sutta 73

Mahānāma Sakka Suttaɱ

Mahānāma the Sakkyan

Translated from the Pali
by
Michael M. Olds

 


Translator's Introduction

Mahānāma asks the question: "Which comes first? Knowledge [ñāṇa] or Serenity [samādhī]. This is another way of asking which comes first samatha [calming down] or vipassana [insight].

Ānanda's response shows that the method is more complex than this simple construction. It is a chicken or egg problem.

He explains a progression:

First one becomes knowledgable by way of developing one's ethics, perfecting serenity, and developing wisdom (a mixture of understanding ethics and putting ethical thinking and behavior into practice, developing samādhi through the jhānas, and with experience developing wisdom) and then using these faculties to see and understand the Four Truths. So far one is still a seeker, not an adept.

Then, with this mixture of faculties complete, and this knowledge of the Truths seen clearly, directing the mind to the destruction of the corrupting influences, (lust for sense pleasures, becoming, and blindness); having destroyed them, abiding in a heart free from corruption, a mind with corruption-free perception.

 


 

[73][pts][than] I HEAR TELL

Once upon a time, The Lucky Man,
Sakka-land, Kapilavatthu,
Nigrodha's Woods, revisiting.

Now at this time The Lucky Man was just recovered from illness,
not-long recovered from illness.

There then Mahānāma the Sakkyan approached The Lucky Man
and drew near.

Having drawn near and exchanged greetings,
he took a seat to one side.

Seated to one side then, Mahānāma the Sakkyan said this to The Lucky Man:

"For a long time, bhante, I have understood the Lucky Man to have taught Dhamma thus:

'Comprehending knowledge is for the self-collected
not for the scatterbrained.'[1]

Is it then, bhante, that serenity comes first,
knowledge after;
or is it that knowledge comes first,
then serenity?"

2. At this point then, it occurred to the elder Ānanda that:

"Here the Lucky Man is just recovered from illness,
is not-long recovered from illness;
and now Mahānāma the Sakkyan would question The Lucky Man
on this very deep postulate —
how about if I were to take Mahānāma the Sakkyan to one side
and teach him Dhamma?"

So then the elder Ānanda
leading Mahānāma the Sakkyan by the arm
took him to one side and said this to him:

3. "The seeker's ethics
has been specifically addressed by The Lucky Man, Mahānāma
as has the ethics of the accomplished;
the seeker's serenity
has been specifically addressed by the Lucky Man,
as has the serenity of the accomplished;
the seeker's wisdom
has been specifically addressed by the Lucky Man,
as hs the wisdom of the accomplished.

And what, Mahānāma, is the seekers ethics?

Here, Mahānāma, a bhikkhu lives
by the ethical standards,
conduct, restraints, and pasture
delineated by the Pātimokkha,
seeing danger in the slightest faults.

This is called, Mahānāma, 'the ethics of the seeker'.

And what, Mahānāma, is the seeker's serenity?

Here, Mahānāma, a beggar

separated from sensuality,
separated from unskillful things,
with thinking,
with pondering solitude-born pleasurable excitement
enters upon and abides in the First Gnosis;

settling down thinking/pondering
internally self-composed
whole-heartedly single-minded,
without thinking,
without pondering serenity-born pleasurable enthusiasm,
enters upon and abides in the Second Gnosis;

living detached from enthusiasm and disgust
mindful and self-composed
experiencing in body
that pleasure described by the Aristocrats as:
'Detached, mindful — a sweet abiding!'
enters upon and abides in the Third Gnosis;

by letting go of pleasure,
by letting go of pain,
by first settling down mental pleasures/mental pains,
without pain,
without pleasure,
detached-mindful-throughly pure
enters upon and abides in the Fourth Gnosis.

This is called, Mahānāma, 'the serenity of the seeker'.

And what, Mahānāma, is the seeker's wisdom?

Here, Mahānāma, a beggar knows as it is:
'this is pain';
here, Mahānāma, a beggar knows as it is:
'this is the arising to self of pain';
here, Mahānāma, a beggar knows as it is:
'this is the ending of pain';
here, Mahānāma, a beggar knows as it is:
'this is the walk to walk to the ending of pain.'

This is called, Mahānāma, 'the wisdom of the seeker'.

 

§

 

Then, Mahānāma, the student of the Aristocrat
thus accomplished in ethics,
thus accomplished in serenity,
thus accomplished in wisdom,
by destroying the corrupting influences,
in this seen thing experiences for himself
through higher knowledge
corruption-free freedom of heart,
freedom of perception,
entering upon and abiding therein.

Thus then Mahānāma has the seeker's ethics
been specifically addressed by The Lucky Man
as has the ethics of the accomplished;
the seeker's serenity
has been specifically addressed by the Lucky Man,
as has the serenity of the accomplished;
the seeker's wisdom
has been specifically addressed by the Lucky Man,
as hs the wisdom of the accomplished."

 


[1] Ājānāmi samāhitassa ñāṇaɱ, no asamāhitassā. Bhk. Bodhi: "Knowledge occurs for one who is concentrated, not for one who lacks concentration.' This makes for 'confusion' with his translation of 'samādhi' as 'concentration,' (in the very next line!) and omits either 'Ājānāmi' (understanding) or 'ñāṇaɱ' (knowledge). The same problem occurs with Woodward ("Knowledge belongs to the man of composed mind, not to the restless-minded.") and Bhk. Thanissaro ("There is knowledge for one who is concentrated, not for one who is not concentrated.").

 


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