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Saŋyutta Nikaya
2. Nidāna Vagga
12. Nidāna Saŋyutta
7. Mahā Vagga

Sutta 63

Puttamaɱsa Sutta

A Son's Flesh

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


 

[1][pts][wp][ati] I HEAR TELL:

Once upon a time Bhagava, Savatthi-town revisiting, Anathapindika's Jeta-forest park.

There to the beggars gathered round he said:

Four, me beggars, are the foods for sustaining living beings
or for the assistance of beings seeking to become.

What Four?

Material Food, hard or soft,
contact for a second,
intentions for a third,
consciousness for a fourth.

Material Food

And how, Beggars, is Material Food to be regarded?

Imagine, Beggars, a loving family of three:
Father,
Mother,
and their only child,
a newly born infant,
dearly beloved.

Then imagine this family has gotten itself lost in the desert,

sign #1one,

sign #2two,

sign #3three days,

their food used up,
tired,
thirsty
and hungry...

four, five, six days...
seven days...
... eight days ...
... nine days ...
... ten days ...
... and maybe even longer ...

but whatever the case, Beggars,
there comes a time
sooner or later
when that Mother and Father decide,
tearful and broken up in heart:
"Let us then use our only child,
dearly beloved
as food,
so that we do not all perish!"

And then they slay that child of theirs,
a newly born infant,
dearly beloved,
and cutting it up
they divide it into fresh pieces
and pieces to be dried,
weeping and lamenting.

And by eating this food
with tears in their eyes
and sorrow in their hearts
they survive that desert
and arrive safely back at their home.

Although they might live many years longer,
would they ever lose consciousness of the fact
that they had slain their only child,
a newly born infant,
dearly beloved
in order to survive?

In the same way, Beggars,
is Material food to be regarded by you.

"By one who understands Material Food in this way,
the passions of the five senses are understood;
when the passions of the five senses are understood;
the yokes that bind to rebirth in this world
have ceased to exist."[1]

Sense Stimulation

And how, Beggars is the food that is sense stimulation to be considered?

Imagine a cow with a sore hide.

If she stands leaning against a wall
the creatures living on the wall bite her;
if she stands leaning against a tree,
the creatures living on the tree bite her;
whatever she leans against,
there the creatures that live there bite her.

If she stands in the water,
the creatures that live there bite her;
if she stands in the open air,
the creatures that live there bite her;
whatever she leans against,
there the creatures that live there bite her.

This is the way sense stimulation is to be considered.

He who understands the food that is sense stimulation in this way
understands the three sense experiences;
when the three sense experiences are understood[2]
there is nothing more that needs to be done.

Intention

And how is the food that is intention[3] to be considered?

A pit of smokeless charcoal,
deeper than a man is tall,
red hot,
glowing,
ablaze
— a simile for woman.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

Imagine a pit of smokeless charcoal,
deeper than a man is tall,
red hot,
glowing,
ablaze
and here come some beggar who loves life,
dislikes death,
loves happiness,
dislikes pain,
and two strong men grab him
one at each arm
and drag him,
twisting This Way and that,
to that very pit of smokeless charcoal,
deeper than a man is tall,
red hot,
glowing,
ablaze.

What do you think, beggars,
would that man not wish to be out of that situation,
out of the grip of those two strong men,
far from that place?

And, How Come?

Because he would be thinking:

"Ho boy! I fall in
with that pit of smokeless charcoal,
deeper than a man is tall,
red hot,
glowing,
ablaze,
it's death
or excruciating deadly pain
for me,
for sure!

That's how come.

This is the way intention is to be considered.

When the food that is intention is understood,
the three thirsts[4] are understood;
when the three thirsts are understood,
there is nothing more that needs to be done.

Consciousness

And how is the food that is consciousness to be considered?

Imagine a criminal who is brought before the king.

The guards say:

"Your Highness, this is a robber,
a thief,
an evil-doer,
a no-good,
good for nuth'n,
murder'n sum-gum
fo shu.

Let your Highness inflict upon him
such punishment as he deserves."

So the king says:

"Take this man
and bind him hand and foot
and place him in a cart
and parade him around town
and then take him out the south gate
and there cut him a hundred times[5].

And the guards do just that.

Then at noon the King asks:

"How is that man?"

And the guards respond:

"At this time he is still living, sir."

Then the king says:

"Well then, cut this man another hundred times."

And the guards do that,
and again at dusk the King asks:

"How is that man?"

and the guards respond:

"At this time he is still living, sir."

And again the king commands
that the guards cut him
with another hundred cuts.

What do you think about that?

Would that man,
thus cut 300 times
experience death
or excruciating deadly pains
as a consequence?

This is how the food that is consciousness is to be considered.

When consciousness is considered in this way,
named form is understood
and when named form is understood
there is nothing more that needs to be done.[6]

 


[1] This is the meaning of The First Lesson: that by thoroughly understanding this one thing, āhāra, Food, one can reach the end of Dukkha.

[2] This is the meaning of The Third Lesson: that by thoroughly understanding these three things, The Tisso vedanā, The Three Sensations, one can reach the end of Dukkha.

[3] (manosancetana= Mind One With Heart; Mrs. Rhys Davids has: "will of mind")

[4] (for sense pleasures, for life, for more life -- or, as vibhava is usually translated, for the end of life, which I understand not only as a death wish, or theory that individualized life comes to an end at the death of the body, but also as the desire to get away from the unpleasant aspects of life -- aversion, or flight)

[5] "with a hundred knives" satti, sharp instrument, from an earlier meaning for "ability"; I find it difficult to believe that the similarity to sati would not have been deliberate.

[6] This is the meaning of The Second Lesson: that by thoroughly understnding these two things: Nāma and Rūpa, Name and Form, one can reach the end of Dukkha.


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