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Aŋguttaranikāyo
Catukkanipāto
XVIII: Sañcetana Vagga

The Book of the Gradual Sayings
The Book of the Fours
Chapter XVIII: Intention

Sutta 174

Mahākoṭṭhita Sutta

Kotthita the Great
or
Unconfusing the Unconfusing

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


 

[161]

[1][pts][ati] Once then Old Man MahaKotthita approached Old Man Sariputta
Having approached Old Man Sariputta,
given salutation,
and having exchanged polite talk and courtesies,
he took a seat to one side.
Seated to one side
Old Man MahaKotthita said this
to Old Man Sariputta:

Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is another something?

No, indeed, friend!

Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is not another something?

No, indeed, friend!

Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is both another something
and no other something?

No, indeed, friend!

Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is neither another something
nor no other something?

No, indeed, friend!

 

§

 

[2][pts][ati] 'Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is another something?'
thus asked in this connection,
the response is
'No, indeed, friend'.

'Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is not another something?'
thus asked in this connection,
the response is
'No, indeed, friend'.

'Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is both another something
and no other something?'
thus asked in this connection,
the response is
'No, indeed, friend'.

'Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is neither another something
nor no other something?'
thus asked in this connection,
the response is
'No, indeed, friend'.

How then, friend, is what was said to be seen?

[3][pts][ati] To say:
'Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is another something?'
— this is to confuse the unconfused.[1]

To say:
'Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is not another something?'
— this is to confuse the unconfused.

To say:
'Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is both another something
and no other something?'
— this is to confuse the unconfused.

To say:
'Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is neither another something
nor no other something?'
— this is to confuse the unconfused.

Insofar, friend,
as there is had the six spheres of contact,
so far is there had confusion.

Insofar, friend,
as there is had confusion [162]
so far is there had the six spheres of contact.

The six spheres of contact
having been eradicated without remaider,
confusion is eradicated,
confusion is overcome.

 


 

[4][pts] Once then Old Man Ananda approached Old Man MahaKotthita
Having approached Old Man MahaKotthita, given salutation, and having exchanged polite talk and courtesies, took a seat to one side.
Seated to one side Old Man Ananda said this to Old Man MahaKotthita:

Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is another something?

No, indeed, friend!

Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is not another something?

No, indeed, friend!

Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is both another something and no other something?

No, indeed, friend!

Is it, friend,
the six spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is neither another something nor no other something?

No, indeed, friend!

 

§

 

[5][pts] 'Is it, friend,
the spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is another something?'
thus asked in this connection,
the response is
'No, indeed, friend'.

'Is it, friend,
the spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is not another something?'
thus asked in this connection,
the response is
'No, indeed, friend'.

'Is it, friend,
the spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is both another something and no other something?'
thus asked in this connection,
the response is
'No, indeed, friend'.

'Is it, friend,
the spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is neither another something nor no other something?'
thus asked in this connection,
the response is
'No, indeed, friend'.

How then, friend, is what was said to be seen?

[6][pts] To say: 'Is it, friend,
the spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is another something?'
— this is to confuse the unconfused.

To say: 'Is it, friend,
the spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is not another something?'
— this is to confuse the unconfused.

To say: 'Is it, friend,
the spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is both another something and no other something?'
— this is to confuse the unconfused.

To say: 'Is it, friend,
the spheres of contact having been eradicated without remainder,
that there is neither another something nor no other something?'
— this is to confuse the unconfused.

Insofar, friend, as there is had the six spheres of contact,
so far is there had confusion.

Insofar, friend, as there is had confusion
so far is there had the six spheres of contact.

The six spheres of contact having been eradicated without remaider,
confusion is eradicated,
confusion is overcome.

 


[1] Bhk. Thanissaro Footnotes:
"...points out, the root of the classifications and perceptions of complication is the thought, "I am the thinker." This thought forms the motivation for the questions that Ven. Maha Kotthita is presenting here: [the sense of "I am the thinker" can either fear or desire annihilation in the course of Unbinding.] Both concerns get in the way of the abandoning of clinging, which is essential for the attainment of Unbinding, which is why the questions should not be asked." (Where the sentence in [] does not make sense...but can be inferred to mean something like:
"the sense of self evidenced by the thought 'I am the thinker' can fear or desire annihilation..."
 
I believe the inclusion of the second half of this sutta, where Ananda is asking the questions and Maha Kotthita is answering is intended to indicate the nature of this sutta as being 'helpful' in the beginning as well as in the middle and end. At the least it shows that MahaKotthita is not to be understood as asking these questions out of ignorance. He was undoubtedly asking while in front of his own following, asking a question he understood to be on their minds. This sutta is not then, exclusively about beginners, although beginners face the issue as described in Bhante Thanissaro's footnote.
This is primarily about meditators who have reached the state where they are 'bouncing' off complete detachment [Upekkha] AKA: the eradication without remainder of the six spheres of contact. I would say the mental state of the Stream-winner/Non-returner trying to 'figure out' how to detach from the world, understanding that what is meant by 'the World' is absolutely everything conceivable, yet still looking for something 'to be.'
This is one of those places in the Pali where one faces the issue that is dealt with by the Zen koan. One must at this position simply refrain from 'thinking about' this issue. Investigate without 'word-thought'. The koan tries to accomplish this by providing an ultimately frustrating challenge to think something out that cannot be thought out. This is an extra step. Maha K goes straight to the issue: The initiation of such 'thinking about the issue' requires a 'formulation' form-root-making haha, a conceptualizing of self and Nibbana. This is the process (if successful) of naming. Name does not exist without form and the conscious intent provided in this case by the effort to name. Naming is forming. Nibbana is not formed. That which is formed by this 'thinking about' will be a state other than Nibbana...e.g., Buddha Nature. So it's not that the question is not to be asked (which it shouldn't be), it's that the question is already answered adequately by the instruction to eradicate 'without remainder' the six spheres of contact. Doing it is 'the one and only way' to see Nibbana.

 


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