Anguttara Nikaya


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Anguttara Nikaya
Book of the Tens
One-Mind Chapter

Sutta 58

The Root

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


 

Translator's Introduction

The Buddha teaches ten important ideas by posing them as questions that might be asked of bhikkhus (or any Buddhist) by outsiders. There is an interesting manipulation of the term 'dhamma' here which illustates it's dual meaning as 'thing' and 'Form' (in the sense of 'Good Form') or 'The Teaching.' (This translation of 'Dhamma' as 'Good Form' comes from the discussion of the term in Rhys David's Buddhist India pg 292 where he points to the etymological root as "identical with the Latin forma" our 'form'. This serves very well for this word where it must stand for 'thing' and is a synonym for 'rūpa' (often translated 'form') in this sense, and also for 'the best way to do a thing', or 'Good Form'. This use for 'form' is found in asian cultures where the idea is exactly that there is a perfectly correct and efficient way to do even the smallest things. The expression 'Doing Forms' is also used as the English translation for the term in asian martial arts that stands for various groups of moves in practice routines. At this time the word 'Dhamma' for Gotama's teaching is relatively well known here and it will probably stick, but there is confusion that results when the word must be used for 'things' and ... 'Good form' in general.)

 


 

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

What would you say, beggars, if questioned like this by seekers:[2]

'What, friend, is the root of all things?[3]
What brings all things to life?
What is the support of all things?
What is the confluence of all things?[4]
What is at the interface[5] of all things?
Ruled over by what are all things?
Directed[6] at what are all things?
What is at the heart of all things?
What is the pitfall of all things?
What is the end of all things?'

Thus questioned by seekers, beggars, what would you answer, what explanation would you make of this?

The Bhagava is the root of things for us, broke-tooth; The Bhagava is the resource; The Bhagava is the recourse.

Good for us, broke-tooth, if that response which was well said occurred to the Bhagava.

Hearing it from the Bhagava the beggars will retain it in mind.

In that case, beggars, pay attention, give ear, I will speak!

Even so, broke-tooth!

And this is what the Bhagava said to them: --

This is what you should say, beggars, if questioned thus by seekers:

'What, friend, is the root of all things?
What brings all things to life?
What is the support of all things?
What is the confluence of all things?
What is at the interface of all things?
Ruled over by what are all things?
Directed at what are all things?
What is at the heart of all things?
What is the pitfall of all things?
What is the end of all things?'

Wanting is the root of all things, friend.
Work of mind brings all things to life.
Contact supports all things.
All things converge in sense experience.
Serenity[7] is at the interface of all things.
Ruled over by mind are all things.
Directed at wisdom are all Dhammas.
Freedom is at the heart of all Dhammas.
Falling into the deathless are all Dhammas.
Ending in Nibbana are all Dhammas.

Thus questioned by seekers, beggars, thus should you answer, thus should you explain this.

 


[1] No nidana for this specific sutta, the series begins on page 105, where the location is given as Jeta Grove, Anathapindika's Park in Savatthi.

[2] Paribbājakā: A wanderer. I am putting into this word the idea that the reason they are wandering is that they are seeking out The Truth of things.

[3] This sutta requires one to hear the pun between 'dhamma' as meaning "thing" and 'Dhamma' as meaning "teaching." The seekers are actually looking for one word as the answer to all these questions, that is, "tanha," the Buddha turns this into a useful lesson.

[4]Samosara: PED: [saŋ+osaraṇa] coming together, meeting, union, junction; Woodward: conjoined

[5] Pamukha:1 PED: [pa+mukha] lit. "in front of the face," fore-part, first, foremost, chief, prominent; Woodward: headed by

[6] Uttara: uttermost, outer limit; Woodward: ultimate.

[7] Samādhi: Woodward uses "concentration." I think not. This is the state experienced by those who have gotten high, where the feeling is that they are on top of it all, where meaning is in focus: from this point, all things are possible. I also think that this is the pivot point of the riddle: with the next, the mind, as the fulcrum, from here the answers require the understanding that what is being spoken of is the Dhamma, not just things in general — things in general are not directed at wisdom, do not have freedom at their heart, do not plunge into the deathless, or end in Nibbana. So this change fits the idea of Serenity being the interface between all things.

 


 

References:

See also: AN 8.83 where I translate some terms differently. I think my choices here are not incorrect, but I think the better choice, and coming closer to the Pali, is with AN 8.083. I think it is incorrect to say 'Rooted in Bhagava'. The Bhikkhus are saying 'we are rooted in Bhagava', not 'things' or 'all things' are rooted in Bhagava.

 


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