Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
I. Mūlapaṇṇāsa
3. Tatiya Vagga

Sacred Books of the Buddhists
Volume V
Dialogues of the Buddha
Part IV

Further Dialogues of the Buddha
Volume I

Translated from the Pali
by Lord Chalmers, G.C.B.
Sometime Governor of Ceylon

London
Humphrey Milford
Oxford University Press
1926
Public Domain

Sutta 22

Alagaddūpama Suttaɱ

The Venomous Snake

 


 

[1][pts][than][ntbb][nypo][upal] THUS have I heard:

Once when the Lord was staying at Sāvatthī in Jeta's grove in Anāthapiṇḍika's pleasaunce,
an Almsman named Ariṭṭha who had originally been a vulture-catcher
had come to hold the pernicious heresy that,
as he understood the Lord's exposition of the Doctrine,
the states of mind declared by the Lord
to be the stumbling-blocks
are not such at all
to him who indulges in them.[1]

[91] As soon as this reached their ears,
a number of Almsmen went to ask Ariṭṭha
whether he was correctly reported
as holding a heresy so pernicious;
and, on learning from him
that he undoubtedly did hold it,
they sought to wean him from it
by enquiry,
expostulation,
and remonstrance.

Do not, said they,
misrepresent the Lord;
it is not right
to impute this to him,
for he would not say so;
(on the contrary) it has been by the Lord
laid down in many a figure
that the states of mind
declared by him to be stumbling-blocks
are veritable stumbling-blocks
to him who indulges in them.

Pleasures of sense
he has described as giving little satisfaction,
much Ill
and much tribulation,
and as being dogged by perils greater still.

He has described these pleasures of sense
in the (ten) Parables,[2] -
of the bare bone,
the lump of carrion,
the hay-torch,
the pit of embers,
the dream,
the loan,
the hanging fruit,
the slaughter-house,
the impaling stake,
the snake's head, -
always as giving little satisfaction,
much Ill,
and much tribulation,
and always as being dogged by perils greater still.

But say what they might,
Ariṭṭha would not yield to their expostulations
but stoutly maintained
and upheld
his pernicious heresy.

So, when Ariṭṭha could not be got to recede from his position,
those Almsmen went to the Lord
and recounted all that passed;
and he sent an Almsman to summon Ariṭṭha to his presence.

When Ariṭṭha had obediently come
and had taken his seat to one side after due obeisance,
the Lord asked him whether he was correctly reported
as having come to hold that,
as he understood the Doctrine taught by the Lord,
the states of mind declared to be stumbling-blocks
were not such at all
to him who indulged in them.

Yes, he undoubtedly did so hold.

Then said the Lord:

To whom, foolish man,
do you aver that I ever so taught the Doctrine?

Have I not [92] foolish man,
laid it down in many a figure
that the states of mind declared by me to be stumbling-blocks
are veritable stumbling-blocks
to him who indulges in them?

Pleasures of sense I have described
as giving little satisfaction,
much Ill,
and much tribulation,
and as being dogged by perils greater still;
I have so described pleasures of sense in ten Parables.

Yet you, foolish man,
employ what you yourself misunderstand
not only to misrepresent me
but also to undermine yourself
and to lay up a store of demerit, -
to your lasting hurt and harm.

Turning then to the Almsmen,
the Lord said:

Do you think this Brother Ariṭṭha,
the vulture-catcher of the past,
has got even a spark of illumination
in this Doctrine and Rule?

How could he, sir?

For, it is not the fact.

Hereat, Ariṭṭha sat silent and glum,
with his shoulders hunched up
and eyes downcast,
much exercised in his mind
but finding no words to utter.

Marking his plight,
the Lord said:

And now, foolish man,
you shall be shewn up
in respect of this pernicious view;
I will question the Almsmen on the point.

Accordingly the Lord addressed the Almsmen as follows:

Whilom. OE: hwil, hwilum > a-time, a-while. 'at one time', 'once', 'formerly'.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

Now do you too, Almsmen,
understand me to have taught the Doctrine
in the fashion in which Ariṭṭha here,
this whilom vulture-catcher,
employs what he himself misunderstands,
not only to misrepresent me
but also to undermine himself
and to lay up a store of demerit?

No, sir;
for, in many a figure
we have heard from the Lord
that the states of mind declared by him to be stumbling-blocks
are veritable stumbling-blocks
to him who indulges in them;
pleasures of sense the Lord
has described as giving little satisfaction,
much Ill,
and much tribulation,
and as being dogged by perils greater still.

Quite right, Almsmen;
you rightly understand my teaching;
for, indeed, I have, as you say,
so taught in many a figure and parable.

Yet here is this former vulture-catcher, Ariṭṭha,
employing what he himself [93] misunderstands,
not only to misrepresent me
but also to undermine himself
and to lay up a store of demerit, -
to his lasting hurt and Ill.

No one can possibly indulge in pleasures of sense
without harbouring sensuality within himself
or without perceiving it
and thinking about it.

Take the case of some foolish persons
who have learned by heart the Doctrine, -
the Suttas[3] in prose
or in prose and verse,
with the Poems
and the Triumphant Utterances
and the Quotations
and the Jātakas
and the Miracles
and the Miscellanies, -
yet, though they have learned it all by heart,
fail to study its import
for the comprehension of all it embodies,
and consequently find no joy in it,
profiting by their learning by rote
solely for strictures on others
or for bandying verbal quotations,
and quite missing the real object of their memorizing;
so that these divers aspects of the Doctrine
which they have failed to grasp
conduce to their lasting hurt and Ill.

And why?

Because they have grasped it all wrong.

It is just like a man who is in quest of a serpent for his needs
and who in the course of his searching
finds a big serpent,
which he seizes by its coils or tail,
with the result that it turns on him
and bites him on hand or arm
or elsewhere on his body,
so that he comes thereby
by his death
or deadly hurt.

And why?

Because he has wrongly grasped his snake.

And it is just the same with those foolish persons
who have learned by heart ...
wrongly grasped them.

Take now the case of young men
who have likewise learned the Doctrine by heart
in all its aspects
but study its import
for the comprehension of all it embodies,
and consequently find joy in it, -
learning it [94] by heart
not for strictures on others
or for bandying verbal quotations,
but for securing the real object of their memorizing,
so that the divers aspects of the Doctrine
which they have succeeded in mastering
conduce to their lasting good and welfare.

And why?

Because they have grasped it all aright.

It is just like a man who is in quest of a serpent for his needs
and who in the course of his searching
finds a big serpent
which he pins securely down with a forked stick
before grasping it tightly by its neck.

Coil itself as the serpent may
round his hand
or arm
or other part of his body,
the man does not come thereby
by his death or deadly hurt.

And why?

Because he has grasped it aright.

And it is just the same with those young men who have likewise learned by heart ...
grasped it all aright.

Therefore, Almsmen, when you understand the import of what I say,
so treasure it up in your memories;
but if you fail to understand,
then ask me
or some outstanding Almsmen.

By the parable of the raft
I will teach how to abandon
and not to retain.

Listen
and pay attention;
and I will speak.

Yes, sir,
said they in response;
and the Lord began:

It is like a man
who after travelling a long way
finds the floods out,
with danger and peril on the hither side
and with security and safety on the further side,
but with no ferry or suspension-bridge;
and to him comes the thought
to win his way across the floods
to safety from the perils which encompass him
by collecting grass
and sticks
and branches
and boughs
wherewith to fashion a raft
on which to paddle himself safely across with his hands and feet;
and to him, when he has done all this
and has paddled himself safely across,
the thought comes
that the raft had been so useful
that he might do well to take it along with him
packed on his head or shoulders.

Think you he would be doing the right thing with the raft?

No, sir.

How should he act so as to do the right thing with his raft?

Well, suppose that,
when he was safely over,
he, recognizing how [95] useful the raft had been,
were to deem it well,
before going on his way,
either to beach it
or to leave it afloat; -
clearly thus he would be doing the right thing with his raft.

In this wise I have taught you
by the parable of the raft
how to abandon
and not to retain.

If you understand this parable of the raft,
you have to discard good things,
and à fortiori bad things.

Speculative tenets are sixfold.

Take the case of an uninstructed everyday man
who takes no count of the Noble,
who is unversed and untrained in the Doctrine of the Noble,
who takes no count of the Excellent, -
who is unversed in the Doctrine of the Excellent, -
who regards as 'mine' or
'I am this' or
'this is my Self,' either
(i) visible form, - or
(ii) feeling - or
(iii) perception - or
(iv) the plastic forces - or
(v) whatsoever he sees,
hears,
touches,
is aware of,
or by the mind attains,
seeks out,
and reflects on, - or
(vi) the speculative tenet that
'the world around me is the Self
which I shall hereafter become, -
eternal and permanent,
everlasting and unchangeable,
standing fast like heaven and earth.'

But the instructed man,
the disciple of the Noble
who does take count of the Noble
and is both versed and trained in their Doctrine,
who does take count of the Excellent
and is both versed and trained in their Doctrine, -
he refuses to regard visible form -
or the rest of the six -
as mine or I am this, or this is my Self.

Refusing so to regard these things,
he is not worried over the non-existent.

At this point an Almsman asked
whether there could be worry
over the externally non-existent.

Yes, answered the Lord.

Suppose a Brother thinks he once had something
which he now has not got,
or that he would like to have something
he cannot get;
he grieves and mourns and laments,
he beats his breast
and is distraught.

That is how there comes worry
over the externally non-existent.

Being asked further
if there could be an absence of worry
over the externally non-existent,
the Lord said:

Yes; suppose an Almsman never thinks
that [96] he once had something
which he now has not got,
or that he would like to have something
he cannot get;
he does not grieve and mourn and lament,
he does not beat his breast
nor is he distraught.

That is how there is an absence of worry
over the externally non-existent.

Being asked further
if there could be worry
over the internally non-existent,
the Lord said:

Yes; as for instance
in the case of an Almsman
who comes to hold the speculative idea
that the world around me is the Self,
which I shall hereafter become, -
eternal and permanent,
everlasting and unchangeable,
standing fast like heaven and earth.

From the Truth-finder
or a disciple of his
he hears preached the Doctrine to remove all tendency,
inclination,
and bias
towards speculative tenets,
to still all plastic forces,
to discard all the material of rebirth,
to extirpate cravings,
in the passionless calm of Nirvana.

Thinks he to himself:

'Then I shall be cut off
and perish utterly,
there will be an end of me for ever
and at the thought
he grieves and mourns and laments,
beats his breast,
and is distraught.

That is how there is worry
over the internally non-existent.

Being asked further
whether there could be an absence of worry
over the internally non-existent,
the Lord:

Yes; as for instance
in the case of an Almsman
who, holding no speculative idea
that the world around him is the Self,
into which he will hereafter merge for ever and ever,
hears the Doctrine preached by the Truth-finder
or a disciple of his,
without a thought
that this means he will be cut off and perish utterly
and be ended for ever;
so he does not grieve and mourn and lament,
he does not beat his breast
nor is he distraught.

That is how there is an absence of worry
over the internally non-existent.

You would like to possess
something that was eternal and permanent,
everlasting and unchangeable,
standing fast like heaven and earth; -
but, can you see any such possession?

No, sir.

Quite right, Almsmen; -
nor do I.

[97] You would like to have a grip on personal immortality
such that thereby you would escape all grief,
lamentation,
sorrow,
woe
and tribulation; -
but, can you see any such grip?

No, sir.

Quite right, Almsmen; -
nor do I.

You would like a foundation
for speculative beliefs
so sure that thereby you would escape all grief,
lamentation,
sorrow,
woe,
and tribulation; -
but, can you see any such foundation?

No, sir.

Quite right, Almsmen; -
nor do I.

If there were a Self,
would there be something of the nature of a
'Self of mine'?

Yes, sir.

And if there were something of the nature of a Self of mine,
would there be a 'my-self'?

Yes, sir.

But, if really and truly
there is to be found neither Self
nor anything of the nature of Self,
is it not mere absolute folly
to hold the speculative view
that the world around me is 'the Self',
into which I shall pass hereafter, -
eternal and permanent,
everlasting and unchangeable,
standing fast like heaven and earth?

How, sir, could it not be mere absolute folly?

What do you think, Almsmen?

Is visible form permanent or impermanent?

Impermanent, sir.

And is the impermanent a weal or a woe?

A woe, sir.

But can a woe
that is impermanent and changeable
properly be regarded as mine,
or as I am this,
or as this is my Self?

No, sir.

[And the same argument applies also to
feelings,
perception,
plastic forces,
and consciousness.]

From which it results, Almsmen,
that all visible forms -
or feelings -
or perceptions -
or plastic forces -
or consciousness -
all this,
whether past,
present,
or future,
whether internal or external,
whether [98] gross or subtle,
high or low,
far or near,
have all to be viewed -
if their real nature is comprehended aright -
as 'not mine',
as 'I am not this',
and as 'this is no Self of mine'.

So viewing all these things,
the instructed disciple of the Noble
grows aweary of visible forms
and the rest of them;
weariness leads him to passionlessness,
and passionlessness to Deliverance,
wherein he comes to know his Deliverance
in the sure conviction:

Rebirth is no more;
I have lived the highest life;
my task is done;
and now there is no more of what I have been.

Cribbed and cabined. Terms for being confined to a small area, caged.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

Such an Almsman is known
as one who is quit of bolt and bar,
has filled in his moat,
has got rid of the itch of wanting,
is cribbed and cabined no more;
he is known as the Noble
who has flung away prides banner,
has cast off his burthen,
and is emancipate.

Now, how is he quit of bolt and bar?

When ignorance has passed away,
grubbed up by the roots,
like the cleared site
where once a palm-tree grew,
a thing that once has been
and now can be no more.

How does he fill in his moat?

When the round of birth and rebirth has passed away ... no more.

How does he get rid of the itch of wanting?

When craving has passed away ... no more.

How is he cribbed and cabined no more?

When the five worldly bonds have passed away ... no more.

How is he the Noble
who has flung away pride's banner,
has cast off his burthen,
and is emancipate?

When the pride in an Ego[4]
has passed away ... no more.

When his heart is thus Delivered,
not Indra or Brahmā or Pajāpatī,
with all their trains of gods,
can succeed in tracking down
aught on which depends a truth-finders consciousness.

And why?

Because, say I,
already,
here and now,
the truth-finder[5] is untrace- [99] able.

Though this is what I affirm
and what I preach,
yet some recluses and brahmins -
wrongly, erroneously, and falsely -
charge me,
in defiance of facts,
with being an annihilationist
and with preaching the disintegration,
destruction
and extirpation of existing creatures.

It is just what I am not,
and what I do not affirm,
that is wrongly, erroneously, and falsely charged against me
by these good people
who would make me out to be an annihilationist.

Both in the past and to-day,
I have consistently preached Ill
and the ending of Ill.

If therein people denounce
and abuse
and revile
the truth-finder, -
this begets in him
no resentment
or annoyance
or dissatisfaction.

Nor, again, if people shew the truth-finder honour
and reverence,
devotion
and worship, -
does that bring him pleasure,
satisfaction
or elation;
he only thinks that such homage
is consequent on the truth he mastered long ago.

Therefore, if people denounce
and abuse
and revile you too,
let this breed in you
no resentment
or annoyance
or dissatisfaction.

Nor, if people shew you too
honour
and reverence,
devotion
or worship,
let that not bring you pleasure,
satisfaction,
or elation;
let your sole thought be
that such homage is consequent
on the truth you mastered long ago.

Put from you then
what is not yours;
and thereby you will come to lasting weal and well-being.

Now what, Almsmen,
is that which is not yours?

Visible forms are not yours;
and so put them from you
and ensure thereby
your lasting weal and well-being.

Similarly, put from you feelings,
perceptions,
the plastic forces,
and consciousness;
and ensure thereby
your lasting weal and well-being.

What think you?

If a man were to collect
or burn
or otherwise do what he liked
with the grass,
sticks,
branches
and foliage
in this grove of Jeta's, -
would it occur to you
that it was you whom he was collecting
or burning
or otherwise doing what he liked with?

No, sir;
and why?

Because nothing of all this
is either our Self
or anything of the nature of a Self of ours.

[100] Just in the same way
put from you what is not yours, -
visible forms,
feelings,
and the rest;
and ensure thereby
your lasting weal and well-being.

In this wise has the Doctrine
been by me set forth aright,
the Doctrine which is clear,
open,
luminous,
and flawless,
wherein and whereby -
there is no tracing
of the course of those Almsmen who are Arahats,
in whom the Cankers are no more,
who have greatly lived,
whose task is done,
who have cast off their burthens,
who have won their weal,
and who by utter knowledge
have won deliverance;

all those who have thrown off
the five fetters of this world,
will all be translated to realms above,
from which they will never return to earth;

all those who have thrown off
the three fetters
and have also reduced passion, hate and folly to a minimum
will return only once more to this world
and will then make an end of Ill;

all those who have simply thrown off
three fetters,
have entered the stream of sanctification,
will escape all future states of misery,
have their future assured,
and are destined to win the fullest enlightenment;

all those whose life accords
with the Doctrine
and with faith,
are all destined to win the fullest enlightenment; and

all who have but faith in me
and love for me,
have heaven as their destiny.

Thus spoke the Lord.

Glad at heart,
those Almsmen rejoiced in what the Lord had said.

 


What Chalmers here is saying is that Ariṭṭha is maintaining that an Arahant can purposefully, actively, intentionally, with grasping, indulge (meaning not simply to passively experience the pleasure accompanying such, but to seek out experience of) in pleasures of the senses without losing his Arahantship. So Chalmers position is that 1. an Arahant could so indulge, and 2. that so doing he would lose his Arahantship. This is a distortion of the situation. It is not possible for the Arahant to purposefully seek out, intentionally pursue indulgence in sense pleasures. (By 'not possible' what is meant is something like the 'inability' of one with sense to intentionally put his hand into a fire.) But Ariṭṭha is maintaining that one can become an Arahant while still so intentionally endulging, so he is not precisely maintaining the idea that an Arahant can 'fall back'. The Vinaya Texts, cited supports this understanding (that is that A. is not speaking of the falling back of the Arahant, but that such indulgence is no barrier to the attaining of Arahantship. His view would be saying that the Arahant's engaging in such indulgence would not even be called falling back.

Vinaya Texts, I, 47: "If a Sāmaṇera even should say thus: 'In this wise do I understand that the Dhamma has been proclaimed by the Blessed One; that to him who cultivates those Qualities which have been called "dangerous" by the Blessed One there is not sufficient danger (to prevent his attaining to spiritual gifts);'... And if that Sāmaṇera.. shall persist ... [he] should be addressed [thus]: "From this day forth, good Sāmaṇera, neither can that Blessed One be referred to by you as your Teacher, nor can the privilege, which the other Sāmaṇeras enjoy, of sleeping in the same place with the Bhikkhus for two or three nights, any longer be yours! Depart! away with you!"

This is temporary exclusion not the permanent exclusion of 'defeat'. Rehabilitation would come with a declaration of error.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[1] Cf. I, 72. The whole Ariṭṭha episode occurs verbatim in Vinaya Texts, II, 377. See Vinaya Texts, I, 47 for the penalty of excommunication for maintaining that a Saint cannot fall from grace. It will be noted that here, as in Sutta 38, the recalcitrant is branded as belonging by origin to a murderous calling.

[2] See Sutta No. 54 for the first seven of these in detail.

Florilegia. 'floral-gathering' bouquet, > anthology

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[3] In this stock passage-here naively put into the mouth of the still living and preaching Buddha by later recensionists - Bu. interprets Sutta as including the Vinaya and Abhidhamma, and therefore as signifying the Pitakas at large, - not being either exclusively in verse (like the Dhammapada and the Thera- and Therī-gāthās) or purely expository (like Sutta No. 9 above or the Vedalla Suttas Nos. 43 and 44 infra) or florilegia (like the Udāna).

[4] So in the earliest days of his Buddhahood, Gotama (Vinaya Texts, I, 81) preached that supreme bliss came from the putting away of the conceit which comes from the thought 'I am.'

[5] Here, clearly, tathāgata means not a Buddha but simply an arahat.


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