Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
III. Upari Paṇṇāsa
3. Suññata Vagga

Sutta 122

Mahā Suññata Suttaɱ

A Great Spell of Emptiness

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


 

[1][chlm][pts][ntbb][than][upal] I HEAR TELL:

Once upon a time Bhagava, Sakkaland revisiting, Kapilavatthu town, Nigrodha's Woods.

[2] [pts] [ntbb] There Bhagava, having arisen earlier, having attended to bowl and robes, went into Kapilavathu on his begging rounds.

Having gone on his begging rounds in Kapilavatthu, having returned, having eaten, he then went to the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence to spend the afternoon.

Now at this time in the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence there was a large group of bedrolls and sitting mats in evidence.
Seeing the large group of bedrolls and sitting mats in evidence [110] in the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence
it occured to Bhagava:
'There is a large group of bedrolls and sitting mats in evidence in the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence,
I wonder if a large group of bhikkhus resides here?'[1]

Now at this time the Ancient One[2], Ananda, together with a large group of bhikkhus was making robe-cloth at the Sakkyan Ghataya's residence.

Then, emerging from his reflections at even-tide,
The Lucky Man went to the Sakkyan Ghataya's residence
and there sat down on a prepared seat.
So seated The Lucky man said this to the Ancient Ananda:

'There is a large group of bedrolls and sitting mats in evidence in the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence,
is a large group of bhikkhus residing there?'

There is a large group of bedrolls and sitting mats in evidence in the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence.
There is a large group of bhikkhus residing there.
Robe-cloth making time, bhante, has rolled around again.

[3] [pts] [ntbb] It is not brilliant, Ananda, for a beggar to resort to association, to resort to taking pleasure from association, to be intent on the pleasure of resorting with associates,
to resort to gatherings, to resort to taking pleasure from gatherings, to enjoy gatherings.

For a beggar, Ananda, who resorts to association, who resorts to taking pleasure from association, who is intent on the pleasure of resorting with associates,
who resorts to gatherings, who resorts to taking pleasure from gatherings, who enjoys gatherings
that such a one should get pleasure from renunciation, get pleasure from solitude, get pleasure from calm, get pleasure from self-awakening,
that such a one should enjoy the pleasure of progress without trouble, without aggrivation —
such a thing is not to be seen.

But, Ananda, for a beggar,
who lives alone, secluded from associations
that such a one should get pleasure from renunciation, get pleasure from solitude, get pleasure from calm, get pleasure from self-awakening,
that such a one should enjoy the pleasure of progress without trouble, without aggrivation —
such a thing is to be seen.

[4] [pts] [ntbb] For a beggar, Ananda, who resorts to association, who resorts to taking pleasure from association, who is intent on the pleasure of resorting with associates,
who resorts to gatherings, who resorts to taking pleasure from gatherings, who enjoys gatherings
to enter into and reside in either the time-bound[3] and happy,
or the non-time-bound and unshakable hearts release —
such a thing is not to be seen.

But, Ananda, for a beggar,
who lives alone, secluded from associations
to enter into and reside in either the time-bound and happy,
or the non-time-bound and unshakable hearts release —
such a thing is to be seen.

 

§

 

[5] [pts] [ntbb] I do not, Ananda, behold one material thing
the devotion to which, the obsession with which
because of the vicissitudes befalling material things,
does not produce grief and lamentation,
pain and misery,
and despair.

[6] [pts] [ntbb] This, however, Ananda,
is a habit awakened to by the Getter of the Getting:
through not studying any identifying marks whatsoever,
the entering into and making a habitat of inward emptiness.

And if, Ananda, while the Getter of the Getting
is inhabitating this habitat
there come beggars, female beggars,
laymen and laywomen,
kings and the ministers of kings,
scholars and the students of other schools,
— then, Ananda, The Getter of the Getting,
with heart inclined to separation,
tending towards separation,
bent on separation,
firm in seclusion,
devoted to renunciation,
bringing to an end all things standing for corruption,
speaks exclusively about such as has to do with disengagement.

[7] [pts] [ntbb] Therefore, Ananda, if a beggar should resolve:

"Let me enter into and make a habitat of inward emptiness."

Then Ananda, a beggar needs to set up, settle down
compose and focus the heart on the internal.

And how, Ananda, does a beggar set up, settle down,
compose and focus the heart on the internal?

[8] [pts] [ntbb] Here, Ananda, a beggar,
separated from pleasures of the senses
separated from gross envolvements
with the internal dialog, with rambling thoughts
with the interest, enjoyment, and sense of ease
that come with solitude,
enters into the first burning
and makes a habitat of that.

Separated from the internal dialog and meandering thoughts,
with impassivity and having become concentrated in mind,
bringing the attention to the interest, enjoyment, and sense of ease
that come with getting high,
without internal dialog and meandering thoughts,
he enters the second burning
and makes a habitat of that.

Separated from interest and enjoyment,
with impassivity, detachment, and clear consciousness
bringing the attention to the pleasure
that comes with that sense of ease
the Aristocrats describe as:
'Detached, remembering, he's got the sweet life!'
he enters The Third Burning
and makes a habitat of that.

Letting go of pain
letting go of pleasure
letting go of any predisposition to return to
bodily pains and pleasures
without pain
without pleasure
clearly conscious, detached,
satisfied with the
bright
shiny
clean-clear-through
radiance
of
detachment
he enters The Fourth Burning
and makes a habitat-a-that.

This is how, Ananda, a beggar sets up, settles down,
composes and focuses the heart on the internal.

[9] [pts] [ntbb] [112] Then he studiously examines the internal emptiness.

While he studiously examines the internal emptiness
his heart does not leap up, is not made peaceful, is not made steady, is not released.

This being so, Ananda, a beggar is cognizant thus:
While I studiously examined the internal emptiness
my heart does not leap up, is not made peaceful, is not made steady, is not released.

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines the external emptiness.[4]

While he studiously examines the external emptiness
his heart does not leap up, is not made peaceful, is not made steady, is not released.

This being so, Ananda, a beggar is cognizant thus:
While I studiously examined the external emptiness
my heart does not leap up, is not made peaceful, is not made steady, is not released.

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines the internal-external emptiness.

While he studiously examines the internal-external emptiness
his heart does not leap up, is not made peaceful, is not made steady, is not released.

This being so, Ananda, a beggar is cognizant thus:
While I studiously examined the internal-external emptiness
my heart does not leap up, is not made peaceful, is not made steady, is not released.

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines unshakability.

While he studiously examines unshakability
his heart does not leap up, is not made peaceful, is not made steady, is not released.

This being so, Ananda, a beggar is cognizant thus:
While I studiously examined unshakability
my heart does not leap up, is not made peaceful, is not made steady, is not released.

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

[10] [pts] [ntbb] Then, Ananda, that beggar needs to set up, settle down
compose and focus the heart on the first indication of getting high on the internal.

Then he studiously examines the internal emptiness.

While he studiously examines the internal emptiness
his heart leaps up, is made peaceful, is made steady, is released.

This being so, Ananda, a beggar is cognizant thus:
While I studiously examined the internal emptiness
my heart leaps up, is made peaceful, is made steady, is released.

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines the external emptiness.

While he studiously examines the external emptiness
his heart leaps up, is made peaceful, is made steady, is released.

This being so, Ananda, a beggar is cognizant thus:
While I studiously examined the external emptiness
my heart leaps up, is made peaceful, is made steady, is released.

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines the internal-external emptiness.

While he studiously examines the internal-external emptiness
his heart leaps up, is made peaceful, is made steady, is released.

This being so, Ananda, a beggar is cognizant thus:
While I studiously examined the internal-external emptiness
my heart leaps up, is made peaceful, is made steady, is released.

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines unshakability.

While he studiously examines unshakability
his heart leaps up, is made peaceful, is made steady, is released.

This being so, Ananda, a beggar is cognizant thus:
"While I studiously examined unshakability
my heart leaps up, is made peaceful, is made steady, is released."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

[11] [pts] [ntbb] When, Ananda, a beggar inhabiting this habitat sets his heart on walking, he thinks:
"While walking let me not be corrupted by bad, unskillful states of wishing and discontent."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

When, Ananda, a beggar inhabiting this habitat sets his heart on standing, he thinks:
"While standing let me not be corrupted by bad, unskillful states of wishing and discontent."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

When, Ananda, a beggar inhabiting this habitat sets his heart on sitting, he thinks:
"While sitting let me not be corrupted by bad, unskillful states of wishing and discontent."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

When, Ananda, a beggar inhabiting this habitat sets his heart on reclining, he thinks:
"While reclining let me not be corrupted by bad, unskillful states of wishing and discontent."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

[12] [pts] [ntbb] When, Ananda, a beggar
inhabiting this habitat
sets his heart on discourse, he thinks:
"While discoursing,
let me not talk such talk as is low,
rustic,
plebian,
unaristocratic,
not conducive to complete turning away from,
to detachment,
stopping,
calm,
super-knowledge,
self-awakening,
Nibbana,
that is to say:
talk of
kings and ministers of state,
robbers and thieves,
the horrors of war and battle;
talk of food, drink, clothes, beds, garlands and perfumes;
talk of cities, towns, villages,
relationships, men and women,
heroes and villains;
gossip at the corner,
over the back fence,
or at the well
talk of those alive or of those who are departed;
talk comparing differences between this and that;
speculative talk about creation,
existence or non-existence —
Let me not talk talk like this."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

But, that talk which is lofty,
a help to opening up the mind
and which conduces to complete turning away from,
to detachment,
stopping,
calm,
super-knowledge,
self awakening
and Nibbana,
that is to say talk about wanting little,
talk about contentment,
talk about impassivity,
talk about living in solitude,
talk about putting forth energy,
talk about ethical conduct,
talk about getting high,
talk about wisdom,
talk about freedom,
talk about the knowledge and vision of freedom, he thinks:
"Let me talk talk like this."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

[13] [pts] [ntbb] When, Ananda, a beggar
inhabiting this habitat
sets his heart on thinking, he thinks:
"While thinking,
let me not think such thoughts as are low,
rustic,
plebian,
unaristocratic,
not conducive to complete turning away from,
to detachment,
stopping,
calm,
super-knowledge,
self-awakening,
Nibbana,
that is to say:
thoughts of lust,
thoughts of anger,
thoughts of harming —
let me not think such thoughts as these."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

But, Ananda, such thoughts as are aristocratic,
setting down the way out,
setting down for the doer thereof
the consummate destruction of pain,
suchas:
thinking about renunciation,
thinking about non-violence, he thinks:
"Let me think such thoughts as these."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

 

§

 

[14] [pts] [ntbb] Five, Ananda, are the strands of sense-pleasure.
What five?

Forms perceptable by the eye, wished for, enjoyed, charming,
forms that are loved, connected with sense-pleasures, making for lust,
forms perceptable by the ear, wished for, enjoyed, charming,
forms that are loved, connected with sense-pleasures, making for lust,
forms perceptable by nose, wished for, enjoyed, charming,
forms that are loved, connected with sense-pleasures, making for lust,
forms perceptable by tongue, wished for, enjoyed, charming,
forms that are loved, connected with sense-pleasures, making for lust,
forms perceptable by the body, wished for, enjoyed, charming,
forms that are loved, connected with sense-pleasures, making for lust.

These, Ananda, are the five strands of sense-pleasure

[15] [pts] [ntbb] In this case a beggar should review his state of mind in this way:

Does there currently arise to mind in one way or another such as has to do with the five strands of sense-pleasure?

If, Ananda, when a beggar reviews thus he knows:
"There does currently arise to mind in one way or another such as has to do with the five strands of sense-pleasure."
Such being the case, Ananda, a beggar knows:
"Desire and lust for the five strands of sense pleasures have not been let go by me."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

If, Ananda, when a beggar reviews thus he knows:
"There does not currently arise to mind in one way or another such as has to do with the five strands of sense-pleasure."
Such being the case, Ananda, a beggar knows:
"Desire and lust for the five strands of sense pleasures have been let go by me."

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

 

§

 

[16] [pts] [ntbb] Five, Ananda, are the bound-up stockpiles concerning which a beggar should live attentive to their comings and goings:

This is material form,
this is the arising of material form
This is the going of material form.

This is sensation,
this is the arising of sensation,
This is the going of sensation.

This is perception,
this is the arising of perception,
This is the going of perception.

This is own-making,
this is the arising of own-making,
This is the going of own-making.

This is consciousness,
this is the arising of consciousness,
This is the going of consciousness.

[17] [pts] [ntbb] When he so lives attentive to the comings and goings of these five bound-up stockpiles, any pride of ownership coming from the five bound-up stockpiles is let go.

This being so, Ananda, a beggar knows it thus:
"In me the pride of ownership for the five bound-up stockpiles has been let go.

In this way he makes himself conscious of the matter.

[18] [pts] [ntbb] These things, Ananda have only to do with what is skilled, Aristocratic, other-worldly, beyond the scope of The Bad Guy.

 

§

 

[19] [pts] [ntbb] What do you think, Ananda, what advantage does the student of the Aristocrats see that he should follow a Teacher even though being repeatedly nudged?

For us, bhante, the Dhamma is rooted in the Lucky Man, channeled by the Bhagava, depends on the Lightning-bearer.
It would be good, bhante, if the point of this were to occur to Bhagava to explain. The Bhagava saying it, the beggars will bear it in mind.

[20] [pts] [ntbb] It is not, Ananda, for the sake of hearing suttas, verses, expositions, that the student of the Aristocrats should follow a Teacher.
How come?
There is many a long day, Ananda, for such things to be heard, retained, talked over, collected, analyzed in mind; for their theses to be well-penetrated.
But, Ananda, talk about minding your own business[5], leading to the unobstructed heart, utter indifference, and dispassion, a help to ending, settling down, self-awakening, Nibbana,
suchas:
talk about having few wishes, talk about contentment, talk about seclusion, talk about withdrawl, talk about rousing up energy, talk about ethics, talk about getting high, talk about wisdom, talk about freedom, talk about knowing and seeing freedom —
it is for the sake of such talk as this, Ananda, that the student of the Aristocrats sees that he should follow a Teacher even though being repeatedly nudged.

 

§

 

[21] [pts] [ntbb] Thus there is that, Ananda, which is annoyance to be had by teachers;
there is annoyance to be had by students;
there is annoyance to be had by those living the best of lives.

[22] [pts] [ntbb] And how, Ananda, is there annoyance to be had by teachers?

Here Ananda, a teacher resorts to sleeping and sitting alone, secluded, in some park, at the root of some tree, in the mountains, in a cave, on the edge of a cliff, in the charnal grounds, in the forest wilderness, in the open air, on a pile of straw.
Living secluded in this way, brahmins and householders, inhabitants of town and countryside come round to visit.
Then, brahmins and householders, inhabitants of town and countryside, coming round to visit, he gets rigid, filled with hankering, exhibits greed, and returns to luxury.

This, Ananda, is what is called 'annoyance to be had by teachers.'

A teacher thus annoyed is harassed by bad unskillful things, connected with slime, leading to rebirth, fearful, with painful result in future birth, aging, and death.

This is how, Ananda, there is annoyance to be had by teachers.

[23] [pts] [ntbb] And how, Ananda, is there annoyance to be had by students?

In this case, Ananda, the teacher's student, imagining he is cultivating aloofness, resorts to sleeping and sitting alone, secluded, in some park, at the root of some tree, in the mountains, in a cave, on the edge of a cliff, in the charnal grounds, in the forest wilderness, in the open air, on a pile of straw.
Living secluded in this way, brahmins and householders, inhabitants of town and countryside come round to visit.
Then, brahmins and householders, inhabitants of town and countryside, coming round to visit, he gets rigid, filled with hankering, exhibits greed, and returns to luxury.

This, Ananda, is what is called 'annoyance to be had by students.'

A student thus annoyed is harassed by bad unskillful things, connected with slime, leading to rebirth, fearful, with painful result in future birth, aging, and death.

This is how, Ananda, there is annoyance to be had by students.

[24] [pts] [ntbb] And how, Ananda, is there annoyance to be had by those living the best of lives?

Here Ananda, a Getter-of-the-Getting appears in the world, Aristocrat, Number One Self-Awakened One, with fully developed vision, the welcome one, seer of the world, incomparable dhamma-trainer of men, teacher of gods and men, a Buddha, the Lucky Man.

He resorts to sleeping and sitting alone, secluded, in some park, at the root of some tree, in the mountains, in a cave, on the edge of a cliff, in the charnal grounds, in the forest wilderness, in the open air, on a pile of straw.
Living secluded in this way, brahmins and householders inhabitants of town and countryside come round to visit.
Then, brahmins and householders, inhabitants of town and countryside, coming round to visit, he does not get rigid, is not filled with hankering, does not exhibit greed or return to luxury,
But, Ananda, this teacher's student, imagining he is cultivating aloofness, resorts to sleeping and sitting alone, secluded, in some park, at the root of some tree, in the mountains, in a cave, on the edge of a cliff, in the charnal grounds, in the forest wilderness, in the open air, on a pile of straw.
Living secluded in this way, brahmins and householders inhabitants of town and countryside come round to visit.
Then, brahmins and householders, inhabitants of town and countryside, coming round to visit, he gets rigid, filled with hankering, exhibits greed, and returns to luxury.

This, Ananda, is what is called 'annoyance to be had by those leading the best of lives.'

One living the best of lives thus annoyed is harassed by bad unskillful things, connected with slime, leading to rebirth, fearful, with painful result in future birth, aging, and death.

This is how, Ananda, there is annoyance to be had by those living the best of lives.

But in this case, Ananda, that annoyance of the liver of the best of lives results in even more pain, results in even more bitterness than that annoyance of the teacher, that annoyance of the student, and further it leads to ruin.[6]

[25] [pts] [ntbb] Therefore, Ananda, act towards me with friendliness, not hostility,
and that will be for your wellbeing and happiness on many a long night.

[26] [pts] [ntbb] How then does a student act towards his teacher with hostility, not friendliness?

Here, Ananda, the teacher teaches dhamma pointing out out the beneficial out of kindness of heart, saying:

"This is for your benefit, this is for your well-being."

But these students do not want to learn,
do not listen,
do not apply themselves,
do not prepare their hearts for omniscience.
They veer off,
turning away from the teachers instruction.

This is the way, Ananda, students behave towards their teacher with hostility not friendliness.

And how then does a student act towards his teacher with friendliness not hostility?

Here, Ananda, the teacher teaches dhamma pointing out the beneficial out of kindness of heart, saying:

"This is for your benefit, this is for your well-being."

These students want to learn,
do listen,
do apply themselves,
do prepare their hearts for omniscience.
They do not veer off,
do not turn away from the teachers instruction.

This is the way, Ananda, students behave towards their teacher with friendliness not hostility.

Therefore, [118] Ananda, behave towards me with friendliness not hostility,
This will be for your benefit and well-being on many a long night.

[27] [pts] [ntbb] Not for me, Ananda, is the over-protection
of the potter for the unfired vessel
I will speak to you, Ananda, constantly correcting, constantly correcting.
I will speak to you, Ananda, contstantly pushing, constantly pushing.
The essence will stand.

Thus spoke the Lucky Man and the Ancient Ananda was greatly delighted thereat.

 


[1]Objection! How does he know?

[2] But Ananda here is likely to have still been quite young.

[3]Sāmayikaɱ. Usually: 'temporary'.

[4]This is not the usual method of the Buddha in expounding a multi-part process. His usual technique is to take each unit (e.g., internal emptiness) and fully develop it (it didn't work; it worked) and then go on to the second, third, fourth units.
Again, prior to these 'studious examinations' we see that the mind was prepared by attainment of the four jhanas and this is termed focus of the mind on the internal. Such treatment is not given the additional units.

[5]Abhisallekhi. Bodhi: effacement; Horner: austere.

[6]I take this to mean not that the one leading the best of lives is by this harassment subject to rebirth, but that the student harassing such a one is so reborn.

 


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