Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikaaya
III. Upari Pa.n.naasa
3. Su~n~nata Vagga

The Middle Length Sayings
III. The Final Fifty Discourses
3. The Division on Emptiness

Sutta 121

Cuu.la Su~n~nata Sutta.m

The Lesser Discourse on Emptiness

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

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[1][chlm][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] THUS HAVE I HEARD:

At one time the Lord was staying near Saavatthii in the Eastern monastery in the palace of Migara's mother.

[2][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] Then the venerable Aananda,
emerging from solitary meditation towards evening, approached the Lord;
having approached and greeted the Lord,
he sat down at a respectful distance.
As he was sitting down at a respectful distance,
the venerable Aananda spoke thus to the Lord:

[3][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] "At one time, revered sir, the Lord was staying among the Sakyans.
Nagaraka is the name of a market town of the Sakyans.
And while I was there, revered sir,
face-to-face with the Lord I heard,
face-to-face I learnt:
'I Aananda,
through abiding in (the concept of) emptiness,
am now abiding in the fullness thereof.'[1]
I hope that I heard this properly, revered sir,
learnt it properly,
attended to it properly
and understood it properly?"

"Certainly, Aananda,
you heard this properly,
learnt it properly,
attended to it properly
and understood it properly.

Formerly I, Aananda,
as well as now,
through abiding in (the concept of) emptiness,
abide in the fullness thereof.

[4][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] As this palace of Migara's mother
is empty of elephants, cows, horses and mares,
empty of gold and silver,
empty of assemblages of men and women,
and there is only this that is not emptiness,
that is to say the solitude[2] grounded on the Order of monks;[3]
even so, Aananda, a monk,
not attending to the perception of village,
not attending to the perception of human beings,
attends to solitude grounded on the perception of forest.[4]

His mind is satisfied with,[5]
pleased with,
set on
and freed in[6]
the [148] perception of forest.

He comprehends thus:
'The disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of village do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of human beings do not exist here.
There is only this degree of disturbance,
that is to say solitude grounded on the perception of forest.'

He comprehends,
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of village.'
He comprehends,
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of human beings.
And there is only this that is not emptiness,
that is to say solitude grounded on the perception of forest.'

He regards that which is not there as empty of it.
[105] But in regard to what remains there he comprehends,
'That being, this is.'

Thus, Aananda, this comes to be for him a true,
not a mistaken,
utterly purified realization of (the concept of) emptiness.[7]

[5][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] And again, Aananda, a monk,
not attending to the perception of human beings,
not attending to the perception of forest,
attends to solitude grounded on the perception of earth.

Aananda, it is like a bull's hide well stretched on a hundred pegs, its virtue gone.
Even so, Aananda, a monk,
not attending to anything on this earth:
dry land and swamps,[8] rivers and marshes,[9] (plants) bearing stakes and thorns, hills and plains,
attends to solitude grounded on the perception of earth.

His mind is satisfied with,
pleased with,
set on
and freed in
the perception of earth.

He comprehends thus:
'The disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of human beings do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of forest do not exist here.
There is only this degree of disturbance,
that is to say solitude grounded on the perception of earth.'

He comprehends,
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of human beings;
this perceiving is empty of the perception of forest.
And there is only this that is not emptiness,
that is to say solitude grounded on the perception of earth.'

He regards that which is not there as empty of it.
But in regard to what remains there he comprehends,
'That being, this is.'

Thus, Aananda, this too comes to be for him a true,
not a mistaken,
and utterly purified realization of (the concept of) emptiness.

[6][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] And again, Aananda, a monk,
not attending to the perception of forest,
not attending to the perception of earth,
attends to solitude grounded on the perception of the plane of infinite aakaasa.

His mind is satisfied with,
pleased with,
set on
and freed in
the perception [149] of the plane of infinite aakaasa.

He comprehends thus:
'The disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of forest do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be [106] resulting from the perception of earth do not exist here.
There is only this degree of disturbance,
that is to say solitude grounded on (the perception of[10]) the plane of infinite aakaasa.

He comprehends,
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of forest.'
He comprehends,
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of earth.
And there is only this that is not emptiness,
that is to say the solitude grounded on the perception of the plane of infinite aakaasa.'

He regards that which is not there as empty of it.
But in regard to what remains there he comprehends,
'That being, this is.'

Thus, Aananda, this too comes to be for him a true
not a mistaken,
and utterly purified realisation of (the concept of) emptiness.

[7][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] And again, Aananda, a monk,
not attending to the perception of earth,
not attending to the perception of the plane of infinite aakaasa,
attends to solitude grounded on (the perception of) the plane of infinite consciousness.

His mind is satisfied with,
pleased with,
set on
and freed in
the perception of the plane of infinite consciousness.

He comprehends thus:
'The disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of earth do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of the plane of infinite aakaasa do not exist here.
There is only this degree of disturbance,
that is to say solitude grounded on the perception of the plane of infinite consciousness.'

He comprehends,
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of earth.'
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of the plane of infinite aakaasa.
And there is only this that is not emptiness,
that is to say solitude grounded on the perception of the plane of infinite consciousness.'

He regards that which is not there as empty of it.
But in regard to what remains he comprehends,
'That being, this is.'

Thus, Aananda, this too comes to be for him a true
not a mistaken,
and utterly purified realization of (the concept of) emptiness.

[8][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] And again, Aananda, a monk,
not attending to the perception of the plane of infinite aakaasa,
not attending to the perception of the plane of infinite consciousness,
attends to solitude grounded on the perception of the plane of no-thing.

His mind is satisfied with
pleased with,
set on
and freed in
the perception of the plane of no-thing.

He comprehends thus:
'The disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of the plane of infinite aakaasa do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of the plane of infinite consciousness do not exist here.
There is only this degree of disturbance,
that is to say solitude grounded on [150] the perception of the plane of no-thing.'

He comprehends,
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of the plane of infinite aakaasa.'
[107] He comprehends,
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of the plane of infinite consciousness.
And there is only this that is not emptiness,
that is to say solitude grounded on the perception of the plane of no-thing.'

He regards that which is not there as empty of it.
But in regard to what remains there he comprehends,
'That being, this is.'

Thus, Aananda, this too comes to be for him a true
not a mistaken,
and utterly purified realization of (the concept of) emptiness.

[9][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] And again, Aananda, a monk,
not attending to the perception of the plane of infinite consciousness,
not attending to the perception of the plane of no-thing,
attends to solitude grounded on the perception of the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.

His mind is satisfied with
pleased with,
set on
and freed in
the perception of the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.

He comprehends thus:
'The disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of the plane of infinite consciousness do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of the plane of no-thing do not exist here.
There is only this degree of disturbance,
that is to say solitude grounded on the perception of the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.'

He comprehends,
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of the plane of infinite consciousness.
He comprehends,
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of the plane of no-thing.
And there is only this that is not emptiness,
that is to say solitude grounded on the perception of the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.'

He regards that which is not there as empty of it.
But in regard to what remains there he comprehends,
'That being, this is.'

Thus, Aananda, this too comes to be for him a true
not a mistaken,
and utterly purified realization of (the concept of) emptiness.

[10][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] And again, Aananda, a monk,
not attending to the perception of the plane of no-thing,
not attending to the perception of the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception,
attends to solitude grounded on the concentration of mind that is signless.[11]

His mind is satisfied with
pleased with,
set on
and freed in
the concentration of mind that is signless.

He comprehends thus:
'The disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of the plane of no-thing do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be resulting from the perception of the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception do not exist here.
There is only this degree of disturbance,
that is to say the six sensory fields that,
conditioned by life,
are grounded on this [151] body itself.

[108] He comprehends:
'This perceiving is empty of the plane of no-thing;
He comprehends:
'This perceiving is empty of the perception of the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.
And there is only this that is not emptiness,
that is to say the six sensory fields that,
conditioned by life,
are grounded on this body itself.'

He regards that which is not there as empty of it.
But in regard to what remains there he comprehends,
'That being, this is.'

Thus, Aananda, this too comes to be for him a true, not a mistaken, utterly purified realization of (the concept of) emptiness.

[11][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] And again, Aananda, a monk,
not attending to the perception of the plane of no-thing,
not attending to the perception of the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception,
attends to solitude grounded on the concentration of mind that is signless.[12]

His mind is satisfied with,
pleased with,
set on
and freed in
the concentration of mind that is signless.

He comprehends thus,
'This concentration of mind that is signless is effected and thought out.[13]
But whatever is effected and thought out,
that is impermanent,
it is liable to stopping.'

When he knows this thus,
sees this thus,
his mind is freed from the canker of sense-pleasures
and his mind is freed from the canker of becoming
and his mind is freed from the canker of ignorance.

In freedom is the knowledge that he is freed
and he comprehends:
'Destroyed is birth,
brought to a close the Brahma-faring,
done is what was to be done,
there is no more of being such or so.'

[12][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] He comprehends thus:
'The disturbances there might be resulting from the canker of sense-pleasures do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be resulting from the canker of becoming do not exist here;
the disturbances there might be resulting from the canker of ignorance do not exist here.
And there is only this degree of disturbance,
that is to say the six sensory fields that,
conditioned by life,
are grounded on this body itself.'

He comprehends:
'This perceiving is empty of the canker of sense-pleasures.'
He comprehends:
'This perceiving is empty of the canker of becoming.'
He comprehends:
'This perceiving is empty of the canker of ignorance.
And there is only this that is not emptiness,
that is to say the six sensory fields that,
conditioned by life,
are grounded on this body itself.'

He regards that which is not there as empty of it.
But in regard to what remains he comprehends;
'That being, [152] this is.'

Thus, Aananda, this [109] comes to be for him a true,
not a mistaken,
utterly purified and incomparably highest realization of (the concept of) emptiness.

[13][nymo][ntbb][than][olds] And those recluses or brahmans, Aananda,
who in the distant past,
entering on the utterly purified and incomparably highest (concept of) emptiness,
abided therein
- all these, entering on precisely this utterly purified and incomparably highest (concept of) emptiness, abided therein.
And those recluses or brahmans, Aananda,
who in the distant future,
entering on the utterly purified and incomparably highest (concept of) emptiness,
will abide therein
- all these, entering on precisely this utterly purified and incomparably highest (concept of) emptiness, will abide therein.
And those recluses or brahmans, Aananda,
who at present,
entering on the utterly purified and incomparably highest (concept of) emptiness,
are abiding in it
- all these, entering on precisely this utterly purified and incomparably highest (concept of) emptiness, are abiding therein.

Wherefore, Aananda, thinking:
'Entering on the utterly purified and incomparably highest (concept of) emptiness, I will abide therein'
- this is how you must train yourself, Aananda."

Thus spoke the Lord. Delighted, the venerable Aananda rejoiced in what the Lord had said.

 


 

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[1] Cf. M. iii. 294, Vin. ii. 304. See Pts. Contr., p. 142, n. 4 and Bud. Psych. Ethics, p. 91, n.2

[2] ekatta is also unity, oneness MA. iv. 151 explains by ekabhaava.

[3] bhikkhusa.mgha.m pa.ticca ekatta.m.

[4] He attends to one (particular) forest, thinking, "this is the forest, this is a tree, this an incline, this a thicket," MA. iv. 151. Cf. A. iii. 343, ara~n~nasa~n~na.m yeva manasikarissati ekatta.m; and Thag. 110, ara~n~nasa~n~ni.m.

[5] pakkhandati, perhaps "leaps forward," glossed at MA. iv. 151 by otarati, goes down into. Cf. M. i. 186 for this sequence of terms, also Miln. 326.

[6] vimuccati throughout the text, adhimuccati in the Comy.

[7] su~n~nataavakkanti.

[8] ukkuulavikuula as at A. i. 35; MA. iv. 153 says the dry parts and the swamps.

[9] As at A. i. 35.

[10] Omitted in the text, but needed for the sake of consistency.

[11] The concentration of mind in insight, vipassanaacittasamaadhi, MA. iv.153, which also says that as it is without a permanent sign it is called "signless," animitta.

[12] MA. iv. 154 says that animitta is spoken of again in order to show vipassanaaya pa.tivipassana.m, the insight that is complementary to (? pa.ti-) insight, or a reflex of it.

[13] Cf. M. i. 350, iii. 244, S. ii. 65, A. v. 343.


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