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 30

Cūḷa Sāropama Suttaɱ

Lesser 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][upal] THUS have I heard:

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

Then the brahman Piŋgalakoccha[1] approached the Lord;
having approached,
he exchanged greetings with the Lord;
having exchanged greetings of friendliness and courtesy,
he sat down at a respectful distance.

As he was sitting down at a respectful distance,
the brahman Piŋgalakoccha spoke thus to the Lord:

"Good Gotama, those who are leaders in rehgious life,[2]
heads of companies,
heads of groups,
teachers of groups,
well known,
famous,
founders of sects,[3]
much honoured[4] by the many folk,
that is to say,
Pūraṇa Kassapa,[5]
Makkhali of the Cowpen,
Ajita of the Hair-blanket,
Pakudha Kaccāyana,
Sañjaya Belaṭṭha's son,[6] the Jain [246] (Nigaṇṭha) Nātha's son -
did all these,
according to their own assertion,
understand[1]
or did they not all understand,
or did some understand,
and did some not understand?"

"Enough, brahman, let this be:

'Did all these,
according to their own assertion,
understand
or did they not all understand,
or did some understand,
and did some not understand?

I will teach you dhamma, brahman,
listen to it,
attend carefully,
and I will speak."

"Yes, Lord," the brahman Piŋgalakoccha answered the Lord in assent.

"Brahman, 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,
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.'

Or, Brahman, 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.'

[247] Or, Brahman, 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.'

Or, Brahman, 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.'

Or, Brahman, 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 shoots,
he knows 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,
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, brahman, some person here
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.

[248] But perhaps 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 is satisfied,
his purpose is fulfilled.

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

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

And he does not develop the desie for
nor does he srive for
realising those other things
which are higher and more excellent
than gains
honours,
fame.

He becomes remiss and lax.

Brahman, 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,
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.'

In accordance with this simile, brahman
do I call this person.

 


 

But, brahman, some person 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.

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

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

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

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

And he develops a desire for
and strives
for realising those other things
which are higher and more elcellent than gains,
honours,
fame.

He does not become remiss or lax.

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.'

And he does not develop the desie for
nor does he srive for
realising those other things
which are higher and more excellent
than success in moral habit.

He becomes remiss and lax.

Brahman, 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.'

In accordance with this simile, brahman
do I call this person.

 


 

But, brahman, some person 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.

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

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

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

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

And he develops a desire for
and strives
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excellent than gains,
honours,
fame.

He does not become remiss or lax.

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
and he develops a desire for
and strives
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excllent than
success in moral habit.

He does not become remiss or lax.

He attains 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.'

And he does not develop a desire for
and strive
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excellent than success in concentration.

He becomes remiss and lax.

Brahman, 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.'

In accordance with this simile, brahman
do I call this person.

 


 

But, brahman, some person 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.

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

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

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

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

And he develops a desire for
and strives
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excellent than gains,
honours,
fame.

He does not become remiss or lax.

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
and he develops a desire for
and strives
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excllent than
success in moral habit.

He does not become remiss or lax.

He attains 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.

And he develops a desire for
and strives
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excellent than success in concentration.

He does not become remiss or lax.

He attains knowledge and vision.

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

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

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

And he does not develop a desire for
and strive
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

He becomes remiss and lax.

Brahman, 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.'

In accordance with this simile, brahman
do I call this person.

 


 

But, brahman, some person 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.

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

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

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

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

And he develops a desire for
and strives
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excellent than gains,
honours,
fame.

He does not become remiss or lax.

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
and he develops a desire for
and strives
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excllent than
success in moral habit.

He does not become remiss or lax.

He attains 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.

And he develops a desire for
and strives
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excellent than success in concentration.

He does not become remiss or lax.

He attains knowledge and vision.

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

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

And he develops a desire for
and strives
for realising those other things
which are higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

He does not become remiss or lax.

And what, brahman, are the things
that are higher
and more excellent
than knowledge and vision?

Brahman, some monk here,
aloof from the pleasures of the senses,
aloof from unskilled states of mind,
entering into the first meditation
which is accompanied by initial thought
and discursive thought,
is born of aloofness,
and is rapturous and joyful,
abides in it.

This, brahman, is a state
that is higher
and more excellent
than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, the monk,
by allaying initial and discursive thought,
with the mind subjectively tranquillised
and fixed on one point,
enters into
and abides in
the second meditation,
which is devoid of initial and discursive thought,
is born of concentration,
and is rapturous and joyful.

This, brahman, is a state
that is higher
and more excellent
than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, the monk,
by the fading out of rapture,
dwells with equanimity,
attentive and clearly conscious;
and he experiences in his person
that joy of which the ariyans say:
'Joyful lives he who has equanimity and is mindful';
and entering into the third meditation,
he abides in it.

This, brahman, is a state
that is higher
and more excellent
than knowledge and vision.

And [252] again, brahman, the monk
by getting rid of joy,
by getting rid of anguish,
and by the going down
of his former pleasures and sorrows,
entering into the fourth meditation,
which has neither anguish nor joy,
and which is entirely purified
by equanimity and mindfulness,
abides in it.

This, brahman, is a state
that is higher
and more excellent
than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, a monk,
by passing quite beyond
all perception of material shapes,
by the going down of perception of sensory reactions,
by not attending to perceptions of variety,
thinking:
'Ether is unending,'
entering on the plane of infinite ether,
abides in it.

This, brahman, is a state
that is higher
and more excellent
than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, a monk,
by passing quite beyond the plane of infinite ether,
thinking:
'Consciousness is unending,'
entering on the plane of infinite consciousness,
abides in it.

This, brahman, is a state
that is higher
and more excellent
than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, a monk,
by passing quite beyond the plane of infinite consciousness,
thinking,
'There is not anything,'
entering on the plane of no-thing,
abides in it.

This, brahman, is a state
that is higher
and more excellent
than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, a monk,
by passing quite beyond the plane of no-thing,
entering on the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception,
abides in it.

This, brahman, is a state
that is higher
and more excellent
than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, a monk,
by passing quite beyond the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception,
entering on the stopping of perception and feeling,
abides in it.

And having seen by intuitive wisdom
his cankers are utterly destroyed.

This too, brahman, is a state
that is higher
and more excellent
than knowledge and vision.

These, brahman, are the states
that are higher and more exeeUent
than knowledge and vision.

Brahman, 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 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.'

In accordance with this simile, brahman,
do I call this person.

So it is, brahman, that this Brahma-faring
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, brahman, which is unshakable [253] freedom of mind,
this is the goal, brahman,
of this Brahma-faring,
this the pith,
this the culmination."

When this had been said, Piŋgalakoccha the brahman spoke thus to the Lord:

"It is wonderful, good Gotama,
good Gotama it is wonderful.

It is as if, good Gotama,
one might set upright what had been upset,
or might disclose what was covered,
or point out the way
to one who had gone astray,
or might bring an oil-lamp into the darkness
so that those with vision might see material shapes -
even so is dhamma made clear
in many a figure by the good Gotama.

I am going to the revered Gotama for refuge,
and to dhamma
and to the Order of monks.

May the good Gotama accept me
as a lay-follower,
one gone for refuge from today forth
for as long as life lasts."

Lesser Discourse on the Simile of the Pith:
the Tenth

 


[1] MA. ii. 232 says Koccha was his name, and he was called piñgala because he was tawny. A similar meeting with the following conversation with the Lord is ascribed to the wanderer Subhadda at D. ii. 150-51.

[2] samaṇabrāhmaṇā, but see reasons given at Dial. ii. 165 n. for translating here as above; also see M. i. 227.

[3] titthakarā, see Fur. Dial. i. 143, n.

[4] sādhu, MA. ii. 233 sādhu, sundarā, sappurisa.

[5] The doctrines of these six "heretical" teachers are set forth at D. i. 58-64. Their names occur also at M. i. 250. MA. ii. 233-34, in explaining them, resembles DA. 142-44. On Pūraṇa Kassapa and Makkhali Gosālā, see A.L. Basham, History and Doctrines of the Ājīvikas, 1950.

[6] MA. ii. 234 = DA. i. 144 says Belaṭṭhassa putto. So "the son of the Belaṭṭhi slave-girl" of Dial. ii. 166 is not corroborated by these two commentarial passages. But there is also the reading Belaṭṭhiputto as at M. i. 547.

[7] According to MA. ii. 234, if their assertion was one that led onwards, then they understood.


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