Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
3. Upari Paṇṇāsa
3. Suññata Vagga

Sutta 122

Mahā Suññata Suttaṃ

A Great Spell of Emptiness

Translated from the Pali
by
Michael M. Olds

 


 

[1][chlm][pts][ntbb][than][upal] I Hear Tell:

Once upon a time Bhagava,
Sakkaland revisiting,
Kapilavatthu town,
Nigrodha's Woods.

[2] [pts] [ntbb] There Bhagava, having arisen earlier,
having attended to bowl and robes,
went into Kapilavathu on his begging rounds.

Having gone on his begging rounds in Kapilavatthu,
having returned,
having eaten,
he then went to the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence
to spend the afternoon.

Now at this time in the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence
there was a large group of bedrolls and sitting mats in evidence.

Seeing the large group of bedrolls and sitting mats in evidence
in the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence
it occurred to Bhagava:

'There is a large group of bedrolls and sitting mats in evidence
in the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence,
I wonder if a large group of bhikkhus resides here?'[1]

Now at this time the Ancient One[2], Ānanda,
together with a large group of bhikkhus
was making robe-cloth
at the Sakkyan Ghataya's residence.

Then, emerging from his reflections at even-tide,
The Lucky Man went to the Sakkyan Ghataya's residence
and there sat down on a prepared seat.

So seated The Lucky man said this to the Ancient Ānanda:

'There is a large group of bedrolls and sitting mats in evidence
in the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence,
is a large group of bhikkhus residing there?'

There is a large group of bedrolls and sitting mats in evidence
in the Sakkyan Kalakhemaka's residence.

There is a large group of bhikkhus residing there.

Robe-cloth making time, bhante, has rolled around again.

[3] [pts] [ntbb] It is not brilliant, Ānanda,
for a beggar to resort to association,
to resort to taking pleasure from association,
to be intent on the pleasure of resorting with associates,
to resort to gatherings,
to resort to taking pleasure from gatherings,
to enjoy gatherings.

For a beggar, Ānanda,
who resorts to association,
who resorts to taking pleasure from association,
who is intent on the pleasure of resorting with associates,
who resorts to gatherings,
who resorts to taking pleasure from gatherings,
who enjoys gatherings
that such a one
should get pleasure from renunciation,
get pleasure from solitude,
get pleasure from calm,
get pleasure from self-awakening,
that such a one
should enjoy the pleasure of progress without trouble,
without aggrivation —
such a thing is not to be seen.

But, Ānanda, for a beggar,
who lives alone,
secluded from associations
that such a one
should get pleasure from renunciation,
get pleasure from solitude,
get pleasure from calm,
get pleasure from self-awakening,
that such a one
should enjoy the pleasure of progress without trouble,
without aggrivation —
such a thing is to be seen.

[4] [pts] [ntbb] For a beggar, Ānanda,
who resorts to association,
who resorts to taking pleasure from association,
who is intent on the pleasure of resorting with associates,
who resorts to gatherings,
who resorts to taking pleasure from gatherings,
who enjoys gatherings
to enter into and reside in
either the time-bound[3] and happy,
or the non-time-bound and unshakable hearts release —
such a thing is not to be seen.

But, Ānanda, for a beggar,
who lives alone,
secluded from associations
to enter into and reside in
either the time-bound and happy,
or the non-time-bound and unshakable hearts release —
such a thing is to be seen.

 

§

 

[5] [pts] [ntbb] I do not, Ānanda, behold one material thing
the devotion to which,
the obsession with which
because of the vicissitudes befalling material things,
does not produce grief and lamentation,
pain and misery,
and despair.

[6] [pts] [ntbb] This, however, Ānanda,
is a habit awakened to
by the Getter of the Getting:
through not studying any identifying marks whatsoever,
the entering into
and making a habitat of
inward emptiness.

And if, Ānanda,
while the Getter of the Getting
is inhabitating this habitat
there come beggars,
female beggars,
laymen and laywomen,
kings and the ministers of kings,
scholars and the students of other schools,
— then, Ānanda, The Getter of the Getting,
with heart inclined to separation,
tending towards separation,
bent on separation,
firm in seclusion,
devoted to renunciation,
bringing to an end all things standing for corruption,
speaks exclusively about such
as has to do with disengagement.

[7] [pts] [ntbb] Therefore, Ānanda, if a beggar should resolve:

'Let me enter into
and make a habitat of
inward emptiness.'

Then Ānanda, a beggar needs to set up,
settle down
compose
and focus the heart
on the internal.

And how, Ānanda, does a beggar set up,
settle down,
compose
and focus the heart on the internal?

[8] [pts] [ntbb] Here, Ānanda, a beggar,
separated from pleasures of the senses
separated from gross envolvements
with the internal dialog,
with rambling thoughts
with the interest,
enjoyment,
and sense of ease
that come with solitude,
enters into the first burning
and makes a habitat of that.

Separated from the internal dialog
and meandering thoughts,
with impassivity
and having become whole-heartedly single-minded,
bringing the attention to the interest,
enjoyment,
and sense of ease
that come with serenity,
without internal dialog
without meandering thoughts,
he enters the second burning
and makes a habitat of that.

Separated from interest and enjoyment,
with impassivity,
detachment,
and clear consciousness
bringing the attention to the pleasure
that comes with that sense of ease
the Aristocrats describe as:

'Detached,
minding,
he's got the sweet life!'

he enters The Third Burning
and makes a habitat of that.

Letting go of pain
letting go of pleasure
letting go of their anticedent
mental pleasures and miseries,
without pain
without pleasure
clearly conscious,
detached,
mindful of the
bright
shiny
clean-clear-through
radiance
of
detachment
he enters The Fourth Burning
and makes a habitat-a-that.

This is how, Ānanda,
a beggar sets up,
settles down,
composes
and focuses the heart
on the internal.

[9] [pts] [ntbb] Then he studiously examines
the internal emptiness.

While he studiously examines the internal emptiness
his heart does not leap up,
is not made peaceful,
is not made steady,
is not released.

This being so, Ānanda,
a beggar is cognizant thus:

'While I studiously examined
the internal emptiness
my heart did not leap up,
was not made peaceful,
was not made steady,
was not released.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines
the external emptiness.[4]

While he studiously examines
the external emptiness
his heart does not leap up,
is not made peaceful,
is not made steady,
is not released.

This being so, Ānanda,
a beggar is cognizant thus:

'While I studiously examined
the external emptiness
my heart did not leap up,
was not made peaceful,
was not made steady,
was not released.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines
the internal-external emptiness.

While he studiously examines the internal-external emptiness
his heart does not leap up,
is not made peaceful,
is not made steady,
is not released.

This being so, Ānanda,
a beggar is cognizant thus:

'While I studiously examined the internal-external emptiness
my heart did not leap up,
was not made peaceful,
was not made steady,
was not released.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines unshakability.

While he studiously examines unshakability
his heart does not leap up,
is not made peaceful,
is not made steady,
is not released.

This being so, Ānanda,
a beggar is cognizant thus:

While I studiously examined unshakability
my heart did not leap up,
was not made peaceful,
was not made steady,
was not released.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

[10] [pts] [ntbb] Then, Ānanda, that beggar needs to set up, settle down
compose
and focus the heart
on the first sign of serenity
concerning the internal.

Then he studiously examines
the internal emptiness.

While he studiously examines the internal emptiness
his heart leaps up,
is made peaceful,
is made steady,
is released.

This being so, Ānanda,
a beggar is cognizant thus:

'While I studiously examine the internal emptiness
my heart leaps up,
is made peaceful,
is made steady,
is released.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines
the external emptiness.

While he studiously examines the external emptiness
his heart leaps up,
is made peaceful,
is made steady,
is released.

This being so, Ānanda,
a beggar is cognizant thus:

While I studiously examine the external emptiness
my heart leaps up,
is made peaceful,
is made steady,
is released.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines the internal-external emptiness.

While he studiously examines the internal-external emptiness
his heart leaps up,
is made peaceful,
is made steady,
is released.

This being so, Ānanda,
a beggar is cognizant thus:

'While I studiously examine the internal-external emptiness
my heart leaps up,
is made peaceful,
is made steady,
is released.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

Then he studiously examines unshakability.

While he studiously examines unshakability
his heart leaps up,
is made peaceful,
is made steady,
is released.

This being so, Ānanda,
a beggar is cognizant thus:

'While I studiously examine unshakability
my heart leaps up,
is made peaceful,
is made steady,
is released.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

[11] [pts] [ntbb] When, Ānanda, a beggar
inhabiting this habitat
sets his heart on walking,
he thinks:

'While walking
let me not be corrupted
by bad,
unskillful states
of wishing and discontent.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

When, Ānanda, a beggar
inhabiting this habitat
sets his heart on standing,
he thinks:

'While standing
let me not be corrupted
by bad,
unskillful states
of wishing and discontent.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

When, Ānanda, a beggar
inhabiting this habitat
sets his heart on sitting,
he thinks:

'While sitting
let me not be corrupted
by bad,
unskillful states
of wishing and discontent.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

When, Ānanda, a beggar
inhabiting this habitat
sets his heart on reclining,
he thinks:

'While reclining
let me not be corrupted
by bad,
unskillful states
of wishing and discontent.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

[12] [pts] [ntbb] When, Ānanda, a beggar
inhabiting this habitat
sets his heart on discourse,
he thinks:

'While discoursing,
let me not talk such talk
as is low,
rustic,
plebian,
unaristocratic,
not conducive
to complete turning away from,
to detachment,
stopping,
calm,
super-knowledge,
self-awakening,
Nibbāna;
that is to say:
talk of
kings and ministers of state,
robbers and thieves,
the horrors of war and battle;
talk of food, drink, clothes, beds, garlands and perfumes;
talk of cities, towns, villages,
relationships, men and women,
heroes and villains;
gossip at the corner,
over the back fence,
or at the well
talk of those alive
or of those who are departed;
talk comparing differences between this and that;
speculative talk about creation,
existence or non-existence —

Let me not talk talk like this.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

But, that talk
which is lofty,
a help to opening up the mind
and which conduces
to complete turning away from,
to detachment,
stopping,
calm,
super-knowledge,
self awakening
Nibbāna;
that is to say:
talk about wanting little,
talk about contentment,
talk about impassivity,
talk about living in solitude,
talk about putting forth energy,
talk about ethical conduct,
talk about serenity,
talk about wisdom,
talk about freedom,
talk about the knowledge and vision of freedom,
he thinks:

'Let me talk talk like this.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

[13] [pts] [ntbb] When, Ānanda, a beggar
inhabiting this habitat
sets his heart on thinking,
he thinks:

'While thinking,
let me not think such thoughts
as are low,
rustic,
plebian,
unaristocratic,
not conducive to
complete turning away from,
detachment,
stopping,
calm,
super-knowledge,
self-awakening,
Nibbāna;
that is to say:
thoughts of lust,
thoughts of anger,
thoughts of harming —
let me not think such thoughts as these.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

But, Ānanda, such thoughts
as are aristocratic,
setting down the way out,
setting down for the doer thereof
the consummate destruction of pain,
suchas:
thinking about renunciation,
thinking about non-violence,
he thinks:

'Let me think such thoughts as these.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

 

§

 

[14] [pts] [ntbb] Five, Ānanda,
are the strands of sense-pleasure.

What five?

Forms perceptible by the eye,
wished for,
enjoyed,
charming,
forms that are loved,
connected with sense-pleasures,
making for lust;

Forms perceptible by the ear,
wished for,
enjoyed,
charming,
forms that are loved,
connected with sense-pleasures,
making for lust;

Forms perceptible by the nose,
wished for,
enjoyed,
charming,
forms that are loved,
connected with sense-pleasures,
making for lust;

Forms perceptible by the tongue,
wished for,
enjoyed, charming,
forms that are loved,
connected with sense-pleasures,
making for lust;

Forms perceptible by the body,
wished for,
enjoyed,
charming,
forms that are loved,
connected with sense-pleasures,
making for lust.

These, Ānanda, are
the five strands of sense-pleasure

[15] [pts] [ntbb] In this case
a beggar should review his state of mind
in this way:

'Does there currently arise to mind
in one way or another
such as has to do with
the five strands of sense-pleasure?'

If, Ānanda, when a beggar reviews thus
he knows:

'There does currently arise to mind
in one way or another
such as has to do with
the five strands of sense-pleasure.'

Such being the case, Ānanda,
a beggar knows:

'Desire and lust for
the five strands of sense pleasures
have not been let go by me.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

If, Ānanda, when a beggar reviews thus
he knows:

'There does not currently arise to mind
in one way or another
such as has to do with
the five strands of sense-pleasure.'

Such being the case, Ānanda,
a beggar knows:

'Desire and lust for
the five strands of sense pleasures
has been let go by me.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

 

§

 

[16] [pts] [ntbb] Five, Ānanda, are
the bound-up stockpiles
concerning which a beggar
should live attentive
to their comings and goings:

'This is material form,
this is the arising of material form,
this is the going of material form.

This is sense-experience,
this is the arising of sense-experience,
this is the going of sense-experience.

This is perception,
this is the arising of perception,
this is the going of perception.

This is own-making,
this is the arising of own-making,
this is the going of own-making.

This is consciousness,
this is the arising of consciousness,
this is the going of consciousness.

[17] [pts] [ntbb] When he so lives
attentive to the comings and goings
of these five bound-up stockpiles,
any pride of ownership
coming from the five bound-up stockpiles
is let go.

This being so, Ānanda,
a beggar knows it thus:

'In me
the pride of ownership
for the five bound-up stockpiles
has been let go.'

In this way
he makes himself conscious of the matter.

[18] [pts] [ntbb] These things, Ānanda
have only to do with what is skilled,
Aristocratic,
other-worldly,
beyond the scope of The Bad Guy.

 

§

 

[19] [pts] [ntbb] What do you think, Ānanda?

What advantage
does the student of the Aristocrats see
that he should follow a Teacher
even though being repeatedly nudged?"

"For us, bhante,
the Dhamma is rooted in the Lucky Man,
channeled by the Bhagava,
depends on the Lightning-bearer.

It would be good, bhante,
if the point of this
were to occur to Bhagava
to explain.

The Bhagava saying it,
the beggars will bear it in mind."

[20] [pts] [ntbb] "It is not, Ānanda,
for the sake of hearing suttas,
verses,
expositions,
that the student of the Aristocrats
should follow a Teacher.

How come?

There is many a long day, Ānanda,
for such things to be heard,
retained,
talked over,
collected,
analyzed in mind;
for their theses to be well-penetrated.

But, Ānanda,
talk about minding your own business,[5]
leading to the unobstructed heart,
utter indifference,
and dispassion,
a help to ending,
settling down,
self-awakening,
Nibbāna,
suchas:
talk about having few wishes,
talk about contentment,
talk about seclusion,
talk about withdrawl,
talk about rousing up energy,
talk about ethics,
talk about serenity,
talk about wisdom,
talk about freedom,
talk about knowing and seeing freedom —
it is for the sake of such talk as this, Ānanda,
that the student of the Aristocrats
sees that he should follow a Teacher
even though being repeatedly nudged.

 

§

 

[21] [pts] [ntbb] There is that, Ānanda,
which is annoyance suffered by teachers;
there is that,
which is annoyance suffered by students;
there is that,
which is annoyance suffered
by those living the best of lives.

[22] [pts] [ntbb] And how, Ānanda,
is there annoyance suffered by teachers?

Here Ānanda, a teacher resorts
to sleeping and sitting alone,
secluded,
in some park,
at the root of some tree,
in the mountains,
in a cave,
on the edge of a cliff,
in the charnal grounds,
in the forest wilderness,
in the open air,
on a pile of straw.

Living secluded in this way,
brahmins and householders,
inhabitants of town and countryside
come round to visit.

Then, brahmins and householders,
inhabitants of town and countryside,
coming round to visit,
he gets rigid,
filled with hankering,
exhibits greed,
and returns to luxury.

This, Ānanda,
is what is called
'annoyance suffered by teachers.'

A teacher thus annoyed
is harassed by bad unskillful things,
connected with slime,
leading to rebirth
fearful,
with painful result in future
birth, aging, and death.

This is how, Ānanda,
there is annoyance to be had by teachers.

[23] [pts] [ntbb] And how, Ānanda,
is there annoyance to be had by students?

In this case, Ānanda,
the teacher's student,
imagining he is cultivating aloofness,
resorts to sleeping and sitting alone,
secluded,
in some park,
at the root of some tree,
in the mountains,
in a cave,
on the edge of a cliff,
in the charnal grounds,
in the forest wilderness,
in the open air,
on a pile of straw.

Living secluded in this way,
brahmins and householders,
inhabitants of town and countryside
come round to visit.

Then, brahmins and householders,
inhabitants of town and countryside,
coming round to visit,
he gets rigid,
filled with hankering,
exhibits greed,
and returns to luxury.

This, Ānanda,
is what is called
'annoyance to be had by students.'

A student thus annoyed
is harassed by bad unskillful things,
connected with slime,
leading to rebirth,
fearful,
with painful result in future
birth, aging, and death.

This is how, Ānanda,
there is annoyance to be had by students.

[24] [pts] [ntbb] And how, Ānanda,
is there annoyance to be had
by those living the best of lives?

Here Ānanda,
a Getter-of-the-Getting appears in the world,
Aristocrat,
Number One Self-Awakened One,
with fully developed vision,
the welcome one,
seer of the world,
incomparable dhamma-trainer of men,
teacher of gods and men,
a Buddha,
the Lucky Man.

He resorts to sleeping and sitting alone,
secluded,
in some park,
at the root of some tree,
in the mountains,
in a cave,
on the edge of a cliff,
in the charnal grounds,
in the forest wilderness,
in the open air,
on a pile of straw.

Living secluded in this way,
brahmins and householders,
inhabitants of town and countryside
come round to visit.

Then, brahmins and householders,
inhabitants of town and countryside,
coming round to visit,
he does not get rigid,
is not filled with hankering,
does not exhibit greed
or return to luxury,
but, Ānanda, this teacher's student,
imagining he is cultivating aloofness,
resorts to sleeping and sitting alone,
secluded,
in some park,
at the root of some tree,
in the mountains,
in a cave,
on the edge of a cliff,
in the charnal grounds,
in the forest wilderness,
in the open air,
on a pile of straw.

Living secluded in this way,
brahmins and householders
inhabitants of town and countryside
come round to visit.

Then, brahmins and householders,
inhabitants of town and countryside,
coming round to visit,
he gets rigid,
filled with hankering,
exhibits greed,
and returns to luxury.

This, Ānanda,
is what is called
'annoyance suffered
by those leading the best of lives.'

One living the best of lives
thus annoyed
is harassed by bad unskillful things,
connected with slime,
leading to rebirth,
fearful,
with painful result in future
birth, aging, and death.

This is how, Ānanda,
there is annoyance suffered
by those living the best of lives.

But in this case, Ānanda,
that annoyance
of the liver of the best of lives
results in even more pain,
results in even more bitterness
than that annoyance of the teacher,
that annoyance of the student,
and further it leads to ruin.[6]

[25] [pts] [ntbb] Therefore, Ānanda,
act towards me with friendliness,
not hostility,
and that will be
for your wellbeing and happiness
on many a long night.

[26] [pts] [ntbb] How then does a student
act towards his teacher
with hostility,
not friendliness?

Here, Ānanda,
the teacher teaches dhamma
pointing out out the beneficial
out of kindness of heart,
saying:

'This is for your benefit,
this is for your well-being.'

But these students
do not want to learn,
do not listen,
do not apply themselves,
do not prepare their hearts for omniscience.

They veer off,
turning away
from the teachers instruction.

This is the way, Ānanda,
students behave towards their teacher
with hostility
not friendliness.

And how then does a student
act towards his teacher
with friendliness
not hostility?

Here, Ānanda,
the teacher teaches dhamma
pointing out the beneficial
out of kindness of heart,
saying:

'This is for your benefit,
this is for your well-being.'

These students want to learn,
do listen,
do apply themselves,
do prepare their hearts for omniscience.

They do not veer off,
do not turn away
from the teachers instruction.

This is the way, Ānanda,
students behave towards their teacher
with friendliness
not hostility.

Therefore, Ānanda,
behave towards me
with friendliness
not hostility.

This will be for your benefit
and well-being
on many a long night.

[27] [pts] [ntbb] Not for me, Ānanda,
is the over-protection of the potter
for the unfired vessel.

I will speak to you, Ānanda,
constantly correcting,
constantly correcting.

I will speak to you, Ānanda,
contstantly nudging,
constantly nudging.

The essence will stand.

This is what Bhagava said.

"Delightful!" said the Ancient Ānanda,
uplifted in mind
by what the Lucky Man said.

 


[1]Objection! How does he know?

[2] But Ānanda here is likely to have still been quite young.

[3] Sāmayikaṃ. Usually: 'temporary'.

[4] This is not the usual method of the Buddha in expounding a multi-part process. His usual technique is to take each unit (e.g., internal emptiness) and fully develop it (it didn't work; it worked) and then go on to the second, third, fourth units.
Again, prior to these 'studious examinations' we see that the mind was prepared by attainment of the four jhānas and this is termed focus of the mind on the internal. Such treatment is not given the additional units.

[5] Abhisallekhi. Bodhi: effacement; Horner: austere.

[6] I take this to mean not that the one leading the best of lives is by this harassment subject to rebirth, but that the student harassing such a one is so reborn. Either that or that it is just that the harassments could lead to such ends. Either that or 'the one leading the best of lives' is not speaking about the arahant or the Buddha himself (which I believe it is) but only of someone properly walking the walk.

 


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