Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
I. Mūlapaṇṇāsa
3. Tatiya Vagga

The Middle Length Sayings
I. The First Fifty Discourses
3. The Third Division

Sutta 29

Mahā Sāropama Suttaɱ

Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Pith

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
For details see Terms of Use.

 


 

[1][chlm][than][ntbb][upal] THUS have I heard:

At one time the Lord was staying near Rājagaha
on Mount Vulture Peak not long after Devadatta had left (the Order).[1].

There the Lord addressed the monks concerning Devadatta:

"Here, monks,[2] some young man of family
has gone forth from home into homelessness
through faith
and thinks:

'I am beset by birth,
ageing
and dying,
by grief,
sorrow,
suffering,
lamentation
and despair.

I am beset by anguish,
overwhelmed by anguish.

Maybe the annihilation
of this whole mass of anguish
can be shown.'

He, gone forth thus,
receives gains,
honours,
fame.[3]

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he becomes satisfied,
his purpose is fulfilled.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he exalts himself
and disparages others,
saying:

'It is I who am a recipient,
being famous,
but those other monks[4]
are little known,
of little esteem.'[5]

He, because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
is exultant,
indolent,
and falls into sloth;
being indolent,
he dwells ill.

Monks, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith,
seeking for the pith,
looking [239] about for the pith
of a great, stable and pithy tree,[6]
who passes by the pith itself,
passes by the softwood,
passes by the bark,
passes by the young shoots,
and who,
having cut down the branches and foliage,
might go away taking them with him
thinking they were the pith.

A man with vision,
having seen him,
might say:

'Indeed this good man
does not know the pith,
he does not know the softwood,
he does not know the bark,
he does not know the young shoots,
he does not know the branches and foliage,
inasmuch as this good man,
walking about aiming at the pith,
seeking for the pith,
looking about for the pith
of a great, stable and pithy tree,
passes by the pith itself,
passes by the softwood,
passes by the bark,
passes by the young shoots,
and having cut down the branches and foliage,
is going away taking them with him
thinking they are the pith.

So will he not get the good
that could be done by the pith
because it is the pith.'

Even so, monks,
some young man of family here,
having gone forth from home into homelessness
through faith,
thinks:

'I am beset by birth,
ageing
and dying,
by grief,
sorrow,
suffering,
lamentation
and despair,
I am beset by anguish,
overwhelmed by anguish.

Maybe the annihilation
of this whole mass of anguish
can be shown.'

He, gone forth thus,
receives gains,
honours,
fame.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he becomes satisfied,
his purpose is fulfilled.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he exalts himself
and disparages others,
saying:

'It is I who am a recipient,
being famous,
but those other monks
are little known,
of little esteem.'

He, because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
is exultant,
indolent,
and falls into sloth;
being indolent,
he dwells ill.

Monks, this is called
a monk who takes hold of the branches and foliage
of the Brahma-faring,
and because of this
he fails of (full) accomphshment.[7]

 


 

But, monks, some young man of family here
comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness
through faith,
and thinks:

'I am beset by birth,
ageing
and dying,
by grief,
sorrow,
suffering,
lamentation
and despair,
I am beset by anguish,
overwhelmed by anguish.

Maybe the annihilation
of this whole mass of anguish
can be shown.'

He, gone forth thus,
receives gains,
honours,
fame.

But because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not become satisfied,
his purpose is not fulfilled.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not exalt himself,
he does not [240] disparage others.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he attains success in moral habit.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
becomes satisfied,
his purpose is fulfilled.

Because of this success in moral habit,
he exalts himself,
disparages others,
thinking:

'It is I who am of (good) moral habit,
lovely in character,
but these other monks
are of wrong moral habit,
evil in character.'

Because of this success in moral habit,
he is exultant,
he is indolent,
he falls into sloth.

Being indolent,
he dwells ill.

Monks, it is like a man walking about
aiming at the pith,
seeking for the pith,
looking about for the pith
of a great, stable and pithy tree,
who passes by the pith itself,
passes by the softwood,
passes by the bark,
and who,
having cut off the young shoots,
might go away
taking them with him
thinking they were the pith.

A man with vision,
having seen him,
might say:

'Indeed this good man
does not know the pith,
he does not know the softwood,
he does not know the bark,
he does not know the young shoots,
he does not know the branches and foliage,
inasmuch as this good man,
walking about aiming at the pith,
seeking for the pith,
looking about for the pith
of a great, stable and pithy tree,
passes by the pith itself,
passes by the softwood,
passes by the bark,
and having cut down the young shoots,
is going away taking them with him
thinking they are the pith.

So will he not get the good
that could be done by the pith
because it is the pith.'

Even so, monks,
some young man of family,
having gone forth from home into homelessness,
thinks:

'I am beset by birth,
ageing
and dying,
by grief,
sorrow,
suffering,
lamentation
and despair,
I am beset by anguish,
overwhelmed by anguish.

Maybe the annihilation
of this whole mass of anguish
can be shown.'

He, gone forth thus,
receives gains,
honours,
fame.

But because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not become satisfied,
his purpose is not fulfilled.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not exalt himself,
he does not disparage others.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he attains success in moral habit.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
becomes satisfied,
his purpose is fulfilled.

Because of this success in moral habit,
he exalts himself,
disparages others,
thinking:

'It is I who am of (good) moral habit,
lovely in character,
but these other monks
are of wrong moral habit,
evil in character.'

Because of this success in moral habit,
he is exultant,
he is indolent,
he falls into sloth.

Being indolent,
he dwells ill.

Monks, this is called
a monk who takes hold of the young shoots of the Brahma-faring,
and because of this
he fails of (full) accomplishment.

 


 

But, monks, some young man of family here
comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness
through faith,
and thinks:

'I am beset by birth,
ageing
and dying,
by grief,
sorrow,
suffering,
lamentation
and despair,
I am beset by anguish,
overwhelmed by anguish.

Maybe the annihilation
of this whole mass of anguish
can be shown.'

He, gone forth thus,
receives gains,
honours,
fame.

But because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not become satisfied,
his purpose is not fulfilled.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not exalt himself,
he does not disparage others.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he attains success in moral habit.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

He, because [241] of this success in moral habit,
does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he gains success in concentration.

He, because of this success in concentration,
becomes satisfied,
his purpose is fulfilled.

He, because of this success in concentration,
exalts himself,
disparages others,
saying:

'It is I who am concentrated,
their minds are wandering.'

He, because of this success in concentration,
is exultant,
indolent,
he falls into sloth.

Being indolent,
he dwells ill.

Monks, it is like a man walking about
aiming at the pith,
seeking for the pith,
looking about for the pith
of a great, stable and pithy tree,
who passes by the pith itself,
passes by the softwood,
and who,
having cut off the bark,
might go away taking it with him
thinking it was the pith.

A man with vision,
having seen him,
might say:

'Indeed this good man
does not know the pith,
he does not know the softwood,
he does not know the bark,
he does not know the young shoots,
he does not know the branches and foliage,
inasmuch as this good man,
walking about aiming at the pith,
seeking for the pith,
looking about for the pith
of a great, stable and pithy tree,
passes by the pith itself,
passes by the softwood,
and having cut off the bark,
is going away taking it with him
thinking it is the pith.

So will he not get the good
that could be done by the pith
because it is the pith.'

Even so, monks, some young man of family here
comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness
through faith,
and thinks:

'I am beset by birth,
ageing
and dying,
by grief,
sorrow,
suffering,
lamentation
and despair,
I am beset by anguish,
overwhelmed by anguish.

Maybe the annihilation
of this whole mass of anguish
can be shown.'

He, gone forth thus,
receives gains,
honours,
fame.

But because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not become satisfied,
his purpose is not fulfilled.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not exalt himself,
he does not disparage others.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he attains success in moral habit.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he gains success in concentration.

He, because of this success in concentration,
becomes satisfied,
his purpose is fulfilled.

He, because of this success in concentration,
exalts himself,
disparages others,
saying:

'It is I who am concentrated,
their minds are wandering.'

He, because of this success in concentration,
is exultant,
indolent,
he falls into sloth.

Being indolent,
he dwells ill.

Monks, this is called
a monk who takes hold of the bark of the Brahma-faring,
and because of this
he fails of (full) accomplishment.

 


 

But, monks, some young man of family here
comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness
through faith,
and thinks:

'I am beset by birth,
ageing
and dying,
by grief,
sorrow,
suffering,
lamentation
and despair,
I am beset by anguish,
overwhelmed by anguish.

Maybe the annihilation
of this whole mass of anguish
can be shown.'

He, gone forth thus,
receives gains,
honours,
fame.

But because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not become satisfied,
his purpose is not fulfilled.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not exalt himself,
he does not disparage others.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he attains success in moral habit.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

He, [242] because of this success in moral habit,
does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he gains success in concentration.

He, because of this success in concentration,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

He, because of this success in concentration,
does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

He, because of this success in concentration,
is not exultant,
not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he gains knowledge and insight.

He, because of this knowledge and insight,
becomes satisfied,
his purpose is fulfilled.

Because of this knowledge and insight,
he exalts himself,
disparages others,
saying:

'It is I who dwell knowing,
seeing,
but these other monks
dwell not knowing,
not seeing.'

Because of this knowledge and insight
he is exultant,
indolent,
he falls into sloth.

Being indolent,
he lives ill.

Monks, it is like a man walking about
aiming at the pith,
seeking for the pith,
looking about for the pith
of a great, stable and pithy tree,
who passes by the pith itself,
having cut out the softwood
might go away taking it with him
thinking it was the pith.

A man with vision,
having seen him,
might say:

'Indeed this good man
does not know the pith,
he does not know the softwood,
he does not know the bark,
he does not know the young shoots,
he does not know the branches and foliage,
inasmuch as this good man,
walking about aiming at the pith,
seeking for the pith,
looking about for the pith
of a great, stable and pithy tree,
passes by the pith itself,
and having cut out of the softwood,
goes away taking it with him
thinking it is the pith.

So will he not get the good
that could be done by the pith
because it is the pith.'

Even so, monks some young man of family here
comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness
through faith,
and thinks:

'I am beset by birth,
ageing
and dying,
by grief,
sorrow,
suffering,
lamentation
and despair,
I am beset by anguish,
overwhelmed by anguish.

Maybe the annihilation
of this whole mass of anguish
can be shown.'

He, gone forth thus,
receives gains,
honours,
fame.

But because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not become satisfied,
his purpose is not fulfilled.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not exalt himself,
he does not disparage others.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he attains success in moral habit.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he gains success in concentration.

He, because of this success in concentration,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

He, because of this success in concentration,
does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

He, because of this success in concentration,
is not exultant,
not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he gains knowledge and insight.

He, because of this knowledge and insight,
becomes satisfied,
his purpose is fulfilled.

Because of this knowledge and insight,
he exalts himself,
disparages others,
saying:

'It is I who dwell knowing,
seeing,
but these other monks
dwell not knowing,
not seeing.'

Because of this knowledge and insight
he is exultant,
indolent,
he falls into sloth.

Being indolent,
he lives ill.

Monks, this is called
a monk who takes hold of the softwood of the Brahma-faring,
and because of this
he fails of (full) accomplishment.

 


 

But, monks, some young man of family here
comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness
through faith,
and thinks:

'I am beset by birth,
ageing
and dying,
by grief,
sorrow,
suffering,
lamentation
and despair,
I am beset by anguish,
overwhelmed by anguish.

Maybe the annihilation
of this whole mass of anguish
can be shown.'

He, gone forth thus,
receives gains,
honours,
fame.

But because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not become satisfied,
his purpose is not fulfilled.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not exalt himself,
he does not disparage others.

Because of the gains,
[243] honours,
fame,
he is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he attains success in moral habit.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he gains success in concentration.

He, because of this success in concentration,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

He, because of this success in concentration,
does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

He, because of this success in concentration,
is not exultant,
not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he gains knowledge and insight.

He, because of this knowledge and insight,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

Because of this knowledge and vision
he does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

Because of this knowledge and vision,
he is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he obtains release as to things of time.[8]

The situation occurs, monks,
when that monk falls away from freedom as to things of time.[9]

Monks, it is like a man walking about
aiming at the pith,
seeking for the pith,
looking about for the pith
of a great, stable and pithy tree,
and who,
having cut out the pith itself,
might go away taking it with him,
knowing it to be the pith.

A man with vision,
having seen him,
might say:

'Indeed this good man knows the pith,
he knows the softwood,
he knows the bark,
he knows the young [244] shoots,
he knows the branches and fohage,
inasmuch as this good man
walking about aiming at the pith,
seeking for the pith,
looking about for the pith
of a great, stable and pithy tree,
having cut out the pith itself,
is going away taking it with him,
knowing it to be the pith.

So will he get the good
that could be done by the pith
because it is the pith.'

Even so, monks, some young man of family here
comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness
through faith,
and thinks:

'I am beset by birth,
ageing
and dying,
by grief,
sorrow,
suffering,
lamentation
and despair,
I am beset by anguish,
overwhelmed by anguish.

Maybe the annihilation
of this whole mass of anguish
can be shown.'

He, gone forth thus,
receives gains,
honours,
fame.

But because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not become satisfied,
his purpose is not fulfilled.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he does not exalt himself,
he does not disparage others.

Because of the gains,
honours,
fame,
he is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he attains success in moral habit.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

He, because of this success in moral habit,
is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he gains success in concentration.

He, because of this success in concentration,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

He, because of this success in concentration,
does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

He, because of this success in concentration,
is not exultant,
not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he gains knowledge and insight.

He, because of this knowledge and insight,
becomes satisfied,
but not yet is his purpose fulfilled.

Because of this knowledge and vision
he does not exalt himself,
does not disparage others.

Because of this knowledge and vision,
he is not exultant,
he is not indolent,
he does not fall into sloth.

Being diligent,
he obtains release as to things that are timeless.

This is impossible, monks,
it cannot come to pass,
that a monk should fall away
from freedom as to things that are timeless.

 


 

So it is, monks,
that this Brahma-faring[10]
is not for advantage in gains,
honours,
fame;
it is not for advantage in moral habit,
it is not for advantage in concentration,
it is not for advantage in knowledge and vision.

That, monks, which is unshakable freedom of [245] mind,[11]
this is the goal,[11] monks,
of this Brahma-faring,
this the pith,[11]
this the culmination."[11]

Thus spoke the Lord.

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

Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Pith:
The Ninth

 


[1] As at S. i. 153; and cf. Vin. ii. 199, where it is said that Devadatta, having created a schism in the Order, went to Gayāsīsa with five hundred monks. See also Miln. 160.

[2] As at M. i. 200, 46O = A. ii. 123.

[3] Cf. S. ii. 226 ff.; A. ii. 73, ii. [sic iii] 343.

[4] Cf. M. iii. 38.

[5] See under appesakkha in CPD. MA. ii. 231 not only says appaparivārā (seldom "invited"), but "going before or after (the meal) they do not receive (anything)."

[6] See S. v. 163 f.

[7] MA. ii. 231, he thinks that it is enough that he has attained the essence up to this point.

[8] samayavimokkha. This is probably a release both as to things that are worldly, mundane and temporal, and as to what is passing or temporary in its nature. As such it is of a less high order than asamayavimokkha, below, from which there is no falling away, for it is "unshakable." MA. ii. 232, quoting Pts. ii. 40 says this is the four ways, the four fruits and nibbāna; while samayavimokkha is the four meditations and the four attainments in immateriality. Vimokkha may have an objective reference to the things one is freed from; while vimutti may be the subjective experience of (mental) freedom. It is curious that the preliminaries to attaining samayavimokkha and asamayavimokkha appear to be identical. This may be due either to some error on the part of a scribe or transcriber, or to some lacuna in the text. For this passage, speaking of ever greater and greater powers won by a monk, may have intended to show that asamayavimokkha was a higher achievement than samayavimokkha.

[9] samayavimutti. Word occurrs also at Sn. 54; A. iii. 349. And for samayavimutta see A. iii. 173; Kvu. 91; Pug. 4, 11.

[10] As at M. i. 204-5.

[11] MA. ii 232 explains all these terms by the fruit of arahantship.


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