Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
I. Mūlapaṇṇāsa
2. Sīhanāda Vagga

The Middle Length Sayings
I. The First Fifty Discourses
2. The Division of the Lion's Roar

Sutta 20

Vitakka-Santhāna Suttaɱ

Discourse on the Forms of Thought

Translated from the Pali by I.B. Horner, M.A.
Associate of Newham College, Cambridge
First Published in 1954

Copyright The Pali Text Society
Commercial Rights Reserved
Creative Commons Licence
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[1][chlm][soma][ntbb][upal][than] THUS have I heard:

At one time the Lord was staying near Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anathapiṇḍika's monastery.

While he was there the Lord addressed the monks, saying:

"Monks."

"Revered One," these monks answered the Lord in assent.

The Lord spoke thus:

[2][soma][ntbb][upal][than] "Monks, if a monk is intent on the higher thought,[1]
from time to time
he should attend to five characteristics.

What five?

[3][soma][ntbb][upal][than] Herein, monks, whatever may be the characteristic which a monk attends to,
if there arise evil unskilled thoughts associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
that monk should attend,
instead of to that characteristic,
to another characteristic
which is associated with what is skilled.

By-attending to this other characteristic
which is associated with what is skilled
instead of to that characteristic,
those evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion
are got rid of,
they come to an end.

From getting rid of these,
his mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

As, monks, a skilled carpenter[2]
or a carpenter's apprentice
might knock out,
drive out,
draw out
a large peg with a small peg —
even so, monks, whatever may be the characteristic which a monk attends to,
if there arise evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
that monk should attend,
instead of to that characteristic,
to another characteristic
which is associated with what is skilled.

By attending to this other characteristic
which is associated with what is skilled
instead of to that characteristic,
those evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion —
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

From getting rid of these,
his mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

[4][soma][ntbb][upal][than] Monks, if while the monk is attending,
instead of to that characteristic,
to this other characteristic
which is associated with what is skilled,
there still arise evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
then the peril of these thoughts should be scrutinised by that monk, thinking:

'Indeed these are unskilled thoughts,
indeed these are thoughts that have errors,
indeed these are thoughts that are of painful results.'

While he is scrutinising the peril of these thoughts,
those evil unskilled thoughts that are associated with desire,
associated with aversion,
associated with confusion,
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these,
his mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

Monks, it is like[3] a woman or a man,
young,
in the prime of life,
fond of adornment,
who, if the carcase of a snake
or the carcase of a dog
or the carcase of a human being
were hanging round the neck,
would be revolted,
ashamed,
disgusted —
even so, monks, while the monk is attending,
instead of to this characteristic,
to that other characteristic
which is associated with what is skilled,
there still arise evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
then the peril of these thoughts should be scrutinised by that monk, thinking:

'Indeed these are unskilled thoughts,
indeed these are thoughts that have errors,
indeed these are thoughts that are of painful results.'

While he is scrutinising the peril of these thoughts,
those evil unskilled thoughts that are associated with desire,
associated with aversion,
associated with confusion,
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these,
his mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

[5][soma][ntbb][upal][than] Monks, if while the monk is scrutinising the peril of those thoughts,
there still arise evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
that monk should bring about forgetfulness of
and lack of attention to those thoughts;
having come to forgetfulness[4] of
and lack of attention to these thoughts,
those evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion -
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these,
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

Monks, it is like a man with vision
who might not want to see the material shapes
that come within his range of vision;
he would close his eyes
or look another way -
even so, monks,
if while the monk is scrutinising the peril of those thoughts
there still arise evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
that monk should bring about forgetfulness of
and lack of attention to those thoughts;
having come to forgetfulness of
and lack of attention to these thoughts,
those evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion -
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these,
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

[6][soma][ntbb][upal][than] Monks, if when the monk has brought about forgetfulness of
and lack of attention to those thoughts,
there still arise evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion, monks,
that monk should attend to the thought function
and form of those thoughts.

While he is attending to the thought function
and form of those thoughts,
those that are evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

Monks, even as it might occur to a man
who is walking quickly:

'Now, why do I walk quickly?

Suppose I were to walk slowly?'

It might occur to him
as he was walking slowly:

'Now, why do I walk slowly?

Suppose I were to stand?'

It might occur to him as he was standing:

'Now, why do I stand?

Suppose I were to sit down?'

It might occur to him as he was sitting down:

'Now, why do I sit down?

Suppose I were to lie down?' -

even so, monks, the man,
having abandoned the very hardest posture,
might take to the easiest posture itself.

Even so, monks, if while the monk has brought about forgetfulness of
and lack of attention to those thoughts
there still arise evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion, monks,
that monk should attend to the thought function
and form of those thoughts.

While he is attending to the thought function
and form of those thoughts,
those that are evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

[7][soma][ntbb][upal][than] Monks, if while the monk is attending to the thought function
and form of those thoughts,
there still arise evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion, monks,
that monk, his teeth clenched,[5]
his tongue pressed against his palate,
should by his mind subdue,
restrain
and dominate the mind.

While, with his teeth clenched,
his tongue pressed against his palate,
he is with the mind subduing,
restraining and dominating the mind,
those evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these,
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

Monks, even as a strong man,
having taken hold of a weaker man by the head or shoulders,
might subdue,
restrain
and dominate him,
even so, monks,
if while that monk is attending to the thought function
and form of those thoughts,
there still arise evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
then, monks, that monk,
his teeth clenched,
his tongue pressed against his palate,
should by his mind subdue,
restrain and dominate his mind.

While, with his teeth clenched,
his tongue pressed against his palate,
he is by the mind subduing,
restraining and dominating the mind,
those evil unskilled thoughts associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
are got rid of,
they come to an end.

By getting rid of these,
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

[8][soma][ntbb][upal][than] Monks, if while a monk,
in regard to some characteristic,
is attending to that characteristic,
there arise evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
then if he attends,
instead of to that characteristic,
to some other characteristic
which is associated with what is skilled,
those evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these,
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

And by scrutinising the peril of these thoughts,
those evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these,
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

If he comes to forgetfulness of
and lack of attention to
those evil unskilled thoughts
that are associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.
By getting rid of these,
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

And by attending to the thought function
and form of these thoughts,
those evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these,
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

With the teeth clenched,
with the tongue pressed against the palate,
if he subdues,
restrains,
dominates the mind by the mind,
those evil unskilled thoughts
associated with desire
and associated with aversion
and associated with confusion,
these are got rid of,
these come to an end.

By getting rid of these,
the mind subjectively steadies,
calms,
is one-pointed,
concentrated.

Monks, this monk is called
one who is master in the method and paths of thought;
he can think whatever thought he wishes;
he will not think any thought that he does not wish;
he has cut off craving,[6]
done away with fetter, and,
by fully mastering pride,
has made an end of anguish."

Thus spoke the Lord.

Delghted, these monks rejoiced in what the Lord had said.

Discourse on the Forms of Thought: the Tenth
Division of the Lion's Roar: the Second

 


[1] adhicitta. MA. ii. 87 explains: "the thought that arises in relation to the ten skilled ways of acting is just thought; the thought that is higher than that thought — the higher thought — is based on vision, it is thought in respect of the eight attainments." The ways of acting are ten: 3 of body, 4 of speech. 3 of thought. The eight attainments are the four jhānas and the four succeeding planes of the meditative process.

[2] palagaṇḍa, occurring in another simile at S. iii. 154 (phalag-) and A. iv. 127. MA. ii. 90, vaḍḍhakī.

[3] Cf. A. iv. 376; Vin. iii. 68.

[4] asati-amanasikāra. MA. ii. 90 says that they should neither be remembered nor attended to. Cf. A. iii. 186.

[5] As at M. i. 242.

[6] As at M. i. 12; see above, p. 16, for further references.


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