Anguttara Nikaya


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Aŋguttara Nikāya
Chakkanipata
IV. Devatā Vagga

Sutta 41

Darukakhandha Sutta

The Numbers Bag
The Book of Sixes
Devas

The Treetrunk

As retold by Mike Olds

 


 

[1][pts][than] I HEAR TELL:

Once upon a time the elder Sariputta was residing in Rajagaha,
back-round Vulture's Peak.

Then having earlier attended to his bowl and robes,
the elder Sariputta,
descening Vulture's Peak followed by many beggars,
and noticing a certain large tree-trunk[1]
asked those beggars:

"Do you see, friends, that large tree-trunk there?

"We do, friend."

[2][pts][ati] If he so wished, friends,
a beggar who was a Master of Power[2],
one with mental control,
could determine[3] that tree-trunk as earth.

How so?

There is, friends, in that tree-trunk
the earth-element,
consequently if he so wished,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could by means of that
determine that tree-trunk as earth.

[3][pts][ati] If he so wished, friends,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could determine that tree-trunk as water.

How so?

There is, friends, in that tree-trunk
the water-element,
consequently if he so wished,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could by means of that
determine that tree-trunk as water.

[4][pts][ati] If he so wished, friends,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could determine that tree-trunk as fire.

How so?

There is, friends, in that tree-trunk
the fire-element,
consequently if he so wished,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could by means of that
determine that tree-trunk as fire.

[5][pts][ati] If he so wished, friends,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could determine that tree-trunk as wind.

How so?

There is, friends, in that tree-trunk
the wind-element,
consequently if he so wished,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could by means of that
determine that tree-trunk as wind.

[6][pts][ati] If he so wished, friends,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could determine that tree-trunk as beautiful.

How so?

There is, friends, in that tree-trunk
the beauty-element,
consequently if he so wished,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could by means of that
determine that tree-trunk as beautiful.

[7][pts][ati] If he so wished, friends,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could determine that tree-trunk as ugly.

How so?

There is, friends, in that tree-trunk
the uglyness element,
consequently if he so wished,
a beggar who was a Master of Power,
one with mental control,
could by means of that
determine that tree-trunk as ugly.

 


[1] Dārukkhandha. Hare has "log"; PED would have "woodpile"; Woodpile has the benefit of retaining the idea of "kkhandha" as well as not indicating a living tree, but I am going with "tree-trunk" because what I have always seen when reading this sutta is an old, dead, tree stump lay'n on it's side.

[2] Iddhimā. Hare translates "Adept", but this word has the disadvantage of being used frequently by other translators for Asekha. Also it doesn't convey the idea that this is not necessarily an Adept in this Dhamma alone, but one who has mastered magic powers in general.

[3] Adhimucceyya/Adhimuccati [Pass. of adhi + muc] "over-set"; The meaning in this case is the specialized one of Men of Power: to determine, not in the sense of discover, but in the sense of "fixing" in place for a time. Similar to the "resolve" used for insuring that one's stay in Jhana will last for a certain determined period of time, or that one's possessions will not come to harm by fire or water, etc., during one's time in jhana. This word is necessary to use in this context because of it's accuracy. It is not that it is seen that there is earth "in" the log, or that the log "is earth"; (things are with the log, as they are with everything in this system, determined by various conditions), but that the log has the property of earth (solidity) and at times can behave, so to speak, as though it were solid. Therefore in order to present the idea to his friends that it is possible to interact with matter in a variety of ways by mental power, Sariputta needs to show that this is done by projecting a 'determination' onto the tree-trunk that it be possible to interact with it in accordance with certain properties for a time. While consciousness depends on Nama/Rupa, it is a two-way street, and one with mental control can determine a consciousness on which nama/rupa depend.
A similar idea is found in Castenada's Don Juan's use of the term "focusing on intent".
Hare translates: "An adept monk, reverend sirs, won to mind-control, can, if he wish, view it as earth." (but by a footnote to this term indicates his uncertainty)
The other side of this is that if this were just a matter of seeing, it would not take a Master of Power to do it. We pretty near all of us can look at a piece of wood and see solidity, liquidity (in the sap, for example), heat (by feel), and motion (in decay), it's pleasant and unpleasant qualities.

 


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