Nibbàna Sermon 12
by Bhikkhu K. Ñänananda



Nibbana Sermons Part 1 - 7


Nibbàna Sermon 08

Nibbàna Sermon 09

Nibbàna Sermon 10

Nibbàna Sermon 11

Nibbàna Sermon 12

Nibbàna Sermon 13

Nibbàna Sermon 14

Nibbàna Sermon 15

Nibbàna Sermon 16

Nibbàna Sermon 17

Nibbàna Sermon 18

Nibbàna Sermon 19

Nibbàna Sermon 20

Nibbàna Sermon 21

Nibbàna Sermon 22

Nibbàna Sermon 23

Nibbàna Sermon 24

Nibbàna Sermon 25


Nibbàna Sermon 12


Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammàsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammàsambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammàsambuddhassa


Etaü santaü, etaü paõãtaü, yadidaü sabbasaïkhàrasamatho sabbåpadhipañinissaggo taõhakkhayo viràgo nirodho nibbànaü.[1]

"This is peaceful, this is excellent, namely the stilling of all prepa­rations, the relinquishment of all assets, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction". With the permission of the Most Venerable Great Preceptor and the assembly of the venerable medi­tative monks.

This is the twelfth sermon in the series of sermons on Nibbàna. At the beginning of our last sermon, we brought up the two terms papa¤ca and nippapa¤ca, which help us rediscover quite a deep di­mension in Buddhist philosophy, hidden under the sense of time. In our attempt to clarify the meaning of these two terms, initially with the help of the Madhupiõóikasutta, what we could determine so far is the fact that papa¤ca signifies a certain gross state in sense-percep­tion.

Though in ordinary linguistic usage papa¤ca meant `elaboration', `circumlocution', and `verbosity', the Madhupiõóikasutta has shown us that in the context of sensory perception it has some special sig­nificance. It portrays how a person, who directed sense perception, is overwhelmed by papa¤casa¤¤àsaïkhà with regard to sense-objects relating to the three periods of time, past, present, and future, as a re­sult of his indulging in papa¤ca based on reasoning about percepts.

All this goes to show that papa¤ca has connotations of some kind of delusion, obsession, and confusion arising in a man's mind due to sense perception. In explaining the meaning of this term, commen­tators very often make use of words like pamatta, `excessively in­toxicated', `indolent', pamàda, `headlessness', and madana, `intoxi­cation'. For example: Kenaññhena papa¤co? Mattapamattàkàra­pà­pan­aññhena papa¤co.[2] "Papa¤ca in what sense? In the sense that it leads one on to a state of intoxication and indolence." Sometimes it is commented on as follows: papa¤cità ca honti pamattàkàrapattà.[3] "They are subject to papa¤ca, that is, they become more or less ine­briated or indolent." Or else it is explained as madanàkàrasaõñhito kilesapapa¤co.[4] "Papa¤ca of a defiling nature which is of an ine­bri­at­ing character".

On the face of it, papa¤ca looks like a term similar in sense to pamàda, indolence, heedlessness. But there is a subtle difference in meaning between them. Pamàda, even etymologically, conveys the basic idea of `excessive intoxication'. It has a nuance of inactivity or inefficiency, due to intoxication. The outcome of such a state of af­fairs is either negligence or heedlessness. But as we have already pointed out, papa¤ca has an etymological background suggestive of expansion, elaboration, verbosity and circumlocution. Therefore, it has no connotations of inactivity and inefficiency. On the other hand, it seems to imply an inability to reach the goal due to a deviation from the correct path.

Let us try to understand the distinction in meaning between pa­màda and papa¤ca with the help of an illustration. Suppose we ask someone to go on an urgent errant to Colombo. If instead of going to Colombo, he goes to the nearest tavern and gets drunk and sleeps there - that is a case of pamàda. If, on the other hand, he takes to a long labyrinthine road, avoiding the shortest cut to Colombo, and fi­nally reaches Kandy instead of Colombo - that is papa¤ca.

There is such a subtle difference in the nuances associated with these two terms. Incidentally, there is a couplet among the Sixes of the Aïguttara Nikàya, which sounds like a distant echo of the illus­tration we have already given.

Yo papa¤cam anuyutto

papa¤càbhirato mago,

viràdhayã so Nibbànaü,

yogakkhemaü anuttaraü.

Yo ca papa¤caü hitvàna,

nippapa¤ca pade rato,

àràdhayã so Nibbànaü,

yogakkhemaü anuttaraü.[5]

"The fool who indulges in papa¤ca,

Being excessively fond of it,

Has missed the way to Nibbàna,

The incomparable freedom from bondage.

He who, having given up papa¤ca,

delights in the path to nippapa¤ca,

Is well on the way to Nibbàna,

The incomparable freedom from bondage."

In this way we can understand the difference between the two words papa¤ca and pamàda in respect of the nuances associated with them.

Commentaries very often explain the term papa¤ca simply as a synonym of craving, conceit, and views, taõhàdiññhimànànam etaü adhivacanaü.[6] But this does not amount to a definition of papa¤ca as such. It is true that these are instances of papa¤ca, for even in the Madhupiõóikasutta we came across the three expressions abhinan­ditabbaü, abhivaditabbaü, and ajjhositabbaü, suggestive of them.[7]

Abhinanditabbaü means `what is worth delighting in', abhi­vadi­tab­baü means `what is worth asserting', ajjhositabbaü means `what is worth clinging on to'. These three expressions are very often used in the discourses to denote the three defilements craving, con­ceit and views. That is to say, `delighting in' by way of craving with the thought `this is mine'; `asserting' by way of conceit with the thought `this am I'; and `clinging on to' with the dogmatic view `this is my soul'.

Therefore the commentarial exegesis on papa¤ca in terms of craving, conceit and views is to a great extent justifiable. However, what is particularly significant about the term papa¤ca is that it con­veys the sense of proliferation and complexity of thought, on the lines of those three basic tendencies. That is why the person con­cerned is said to be `overwhelmed by papa¤casa¤¤àsaïkhà'.[8]

Here we need to clarify for ourselves the meaning of the word saïkhà. According to the commen­tary, it means `parts', papa¤ca­sa¤­¤à­saïkhà'ti ettha saïkhà'ti koññhàso,[9] "`papa¤casa¤¤àsaïkhà', here­in `saïkhà' means parts". In that case papa¤casaïkhà could be ren­dered as `parts of papa¤ca', which says nothing significant about saï­khà itself. On the other hand, if one carefully examines the con­texts in which the terms papa¤casa¤¤àsaïkhà and papa¤casaïkhà are used in the discourses, one gets the impression that saïkhà means something deeper than `part' or `portion'.

Saïkhà, sama¤¤à and pa¤¤atti are more or less synonymous terms. Out of them, pa¤¤atti is fairly well known as a term for `des­ignation'. Saïkhà and sama¤¤à are associated in sense with pa¤¤atti. Saïkhà means `reckoning' and sama¤¤à is `appellation'. These three terms are often used in connection with worldly usage.

We come across quite a significant reference, relevant to this question of papa¤ca, in the Niruttipathasutta of the Khandhasaü­yut­ta in the Saüyutta Nikàya. It runs: Tayome, bhikkhave, nirutti­pathà, adhivacanapathà, pa¤¤attipathà asaïkiõõà asaïkiõõapubbà, na saï­kãyanti, na saïkãyissanti, appañikuññhà samaõehi bràhmaõehi vi¤­¤å­hi. Katame tayo? Yaü, bhikkhave, råpaü atãtaü niruddhaü vi­pari­õataü `ahosã'ti tassa saïkhà, `ahosã'ti tassa sama¤¤à, `ahosã'ti tassa pa¤¤atti, na tassa saïkhà `atthã'ti, na tassa saïkhà `bhavis­satã'ti.[10]

"Monks, there are these three pathways of linguistic usage, of syno­nyms and of designation, that are not mixed up, have never been mixed up, that are not doubted and will not be doubted, and are un­despised by intelligent recluses and brahmins. What are the three? Whatever form, monks, that is past, ceased, transformed, `it was' is the reckoning for it, `it was' is its appellation, `it was' is its designa­tion, it is not reckoned as `it is', it is not reckoned as `it will be'."

The burden of this discourse, as it proceeds in this way, is the maxim that the three periods of time should never be mixed up or confounded. For instance, with regard to that form that is past, a verb in the past tense is used. One must not imagine what is past to be ex­isting as something present. Nor should one imagine whatever be­longs to the future as already existing in the present.

Whatever has been, is past. Whatever is, is present. It is a com­mon mistake to conceive of something that is yet to come as some­thing already present, and to imagine whatever is past also as pre­sent. This is the confusion the world is in. That is why those recluses and brahmins, who are wise, do not mix them up.

Just as the above quoted paragraph speaks of whatever is past, so the discourse continues to make similar statements with regard to whatever is present or future. It touches upon all the five aggregates, for instance, whatever form that is present is reckoned as `it is', and not as `it was' or `it will be'. Similarly, whatever form that is yet to come is reckoned as `it will be', and not as `it was' or `it is'. This is how the Niruttipathasutta lays down the basic principle of not con­founding the linguistic usages pertaining to the three periods of time.

Throughout this discourse, the term saïkhà is used in the sense of `reckoning'. In fact, the three terms saïkhà, sama¤¤à and pa¤¤at­ti are used somewhat synonymously in the same way as nirutti, adhi­vacana and pa¤¤atti. All these are in sense akin to each other in so far as they represent the problem of worldly usage.

This makes it clear that the intriguing term papa¤casa¤­¤à­saï­khà has a relevance to the question of language and modes of linguis­tic usages. The term could thus be rendered as `reckonings born of pro­lific perceptions'.

If we are to go deeper into the significance of the term saïkhà, we may say that its basic sense in linguistic usage is connected with nu­merals, since it means `reckoning'. As a matter of fact, numerals are more primitive than letters, in a language.

To perceive is to grasp a sign of permanence in something. Per­ception has the characteristic of grasping a sign. It is with the help of signs that one recognizes. Perceptions of forms, perceptions of sounds, perceptions of smells, perceptions of tastes, etc., are so many ways of grasping signs. Just as a party going through a forest would blaze a trail with an axe in order to find their way back with the help of notches on the trees, so does perception catch a sign in order to be able to recognize.

This perception is like the groping of a blind man, fumbling in the dark. There is a tendency in the mind to grasp a sign after whatever is felt. So it gives rise to perceptions of forms, perceptions of sounds, etc. A sign necessarily involves the notion of permanence. That is to say, a sign stands for permanence. A sign has to remain unchanged until one returns to it to recognize it. That is also the secret behind the mirage nature of perception as a whole.[11]

As a matter of fact, the word sa¤¤à, used to denote perception as such, primarily means the `sign', `symbol', or `mark', with which one recognizes. But recognition alone is not enough. What is recog­nized has to be made known to the world, to the society at large. That is why sa¤¤à, or perception, is followed by saïkhà, or reckoning.

The relationship between saïkhà, sama¤¤à and pa¤¤atti in this connection could also be explained. Saïkhà as `reckoning' or `count­ing' totals up or adds up into groups of, say, five or six. It fa­cilitates our work, particularly in common or communal activities. So the most primitive symbol in a language is the numeral.

Sama¤¤à, or appellation, is a common agreement as to how some­thing should be known. If everyone had its own may of making known, exchange of ideas would be impossible. Pa¤¤atti, or desig­nation, determines the pattern of whatever is commonly agreed upon. This way we can understand the affinity of meaning between the terms saïkhà, sama¤¤à and pa¤¤atti.

Among them, saïkhà is the most primitive form of reckoning. It does not simply mean reckoning or adding up in terms of numerals. It is characteristic of language too, as we may infer from the occur­rence of the expression saïkhaü gacchati in many discourses. There the reckoning meant is a particular linguistic usage. We come across a good illustration of such a linguistic usage in the MahàHatthipa­dopamasutta, where Venerable Sàriputta is addressing his fellow monks.

Seyyathàpi, àvuso, kaññha¤ca pañicca valli¤ca pañicca tiõa¤ca pañicca mattika¤ca pañicca àkàso parivàrito agàraü tveva saïkhaü gacchati; evameva kho, àvuso, aññhi¤ca pañicca nahàru¤ca pañicca maüsa¤ca pañicca camma¤ca pañicca àkàso parivàrito råpaü tveva saïkhaü gacchati.[12]

"Friends, just as when space is enclosed by timber and creepers, grass and clay, it comes to be reckoned as `a house'; even so, when space is enclosed by bones and sinews, flesh and skin, it comes to be reckoned as `material form'."

Here the expression saïkhaü gacchati stands for a designation as a concept. It is the way something comes to be known. Let us go for another illustration from a sermon by the Buddha himself. It is one that throws a flood of light on some deep aspects of Buddhist phi­loso­phy, relating to language, grammar and logic. It comes in the Poñ­ñhapàdasutta of the Dãgha Nikàya, where the Buddha is exhorting Citta Hatthisàriputta.

Seyyathàpi, Citta, gavà khãraü, khãramhà dadhi, dadhimhà nava­nãtaü, navanãtamhà sappi, sappimhà sappimaõóo. Yasmiü samaye khãraü hoti, neva tasmiü samaye dadhã'ti saïkhaü gacchati, na nava­nãtan'ti saïkhaü gacchati, na sappã'ti saïkhaü gacchati, na sap­pimaõóo'ti saïkhaü gacchati, khãraü tveva tasmiü samaye saï­khaü gacchati.[13]

"Just, Citta, as from a cow comes milk, and from milk curds, and from curds butter, and from butter ghee, and from ghee junket. But when it is milk, it is not reckoned as curd or butter or ghee or junket, it is then simply reckoned as milk."

We shall break up the relevant quotation into three parts, for fa­cility of comment. This is the first part giving the introductory sim­ile. The simile itself looks simple enough, though it is suggestive of something deep. The simile is in fact extended to each of the other stages of milk formation, namely curd, butter, ghee, and junket, pointing out that in each case, it is not reckoned otherwise. Now comes the corresponding doctrinal point.

Evameva kho, Citta, yasmiü samaye oëàriko attapañilàbho hoti, neva tasmiü samaye manomayo attapañilàbho'ti saïkhaü gacchati, na aråpo attapañilàbho'ti saïkhaü gacchati, oëàriko attapañilàbho tveva tasmiü samaye saïkhaü gacchati.

"Just so, Citta, when the gross mode of personality is going on, it is not reckoned as `the mental mode of personality', nor as `the form­less mode of personality', it is then simply reckoned as `the gross mode of personality'."

These three modes of personality correspond to the three planes of existence, the sensuous, the form, and the formless. The first re­fers to the ordinary physical frame, sustained by material food, ka­ba­ëãkàràhàrabhakkho, enjoying the sense pleasures.[14] At the time a per­son is in this sensual field, possessing the gross mode of person­ality, one must not imagine that the mental mode or the formless mode of per­sonality is hidden in him.

This is the type of confusion the ascetics entrenched in a soul the­ory fell into. They even conceived of self as fivefold, encased in con­centric shells. Whereas in the Taittirãya Upaniùad one comes across the pa¤cako÷a theory, the reference here is to three states of the self, as gross, mental and formless modes of personality. Out of the five selves known to Upaniùadic philosophy, namely annamaya, pràõa­maya, saüj¤àmaya, vij¤àõamaya and ànandamaya, only three are men­tioned here, in some form or other. The gross mode of per­sonal­ity corresponds to annamayàtman, the mental mode of person­ality is equivalent to saüj¤àmayàtman, while the formless mode of person­ality stands for vij¤àõamayàtman.

The correct perspective of understanding this distinction is pro­vided by the milk simile. Suppose someone gets a jhàna and attains to a mental mode of personality. He should not imagine that the formless mode of personality is already latent in him. Nor should he think that the former gross mode of personality is still lingering in him. They are just temporary states, to be distinguished like milk and curd. This is the moral the Buddha is trying to drive home.

Now we come to the third part of the quotation, giving the Bud­dha's conclusion, which is extremely important. Imà kho, Citta, lo­ka­sama¤¤à lokaniruttiyo lokavohàrà lokapa¤¤attiyo, yàhi Tathàgato vo­harati aparàmasaü. "For all these, Citta, are worldly apparitions, worldly expressions, worldly usages, worldly designations, which the Tathàgata makes use of without tenacious grasping."

It is the last word in the quotation, aparàmasaü, which is ex­treme­ly important. There is no tenacious grasping. The Buddha uses the language much in the same way as parents make use of a child's homely prattle, for purpose of meditation. He had to present this Dham­ma, which goes against the current,[15] through the medium of worldly language, with which the worldlings have their transaction in defilements. That is probably the reason why the Buddha at first hesi­tated to preach this Dhamma. He must have wondered how he can convey such a deep Dhamma through the terminology, the gram­mar and the logic of worldlings.

All this shows the immense importance of the Poññhapàdasutta. If the ordinary worldling presumes that ghee is already inherent in the milk obtained from the cow, he will try to argue it out on the grounds that after all it is milk that becomes ghee. And once it becomes ghee, he might imagine that milk is still to be found in ghee, in some latent form.

As a general statement, this might sound ridiculous. But even great philosophers were unaware of the implications of their theories. That is why the Buddha had to come out with this homely milk sim­ile, to bring them to their senses. Here lies the secret of the soul the­ory. It carried with it the implication that past and future also exist in the same sense as the present.

The Buddha, on the other hand, uses the verb atthi, `is', only for what exists in the present. He points out that, whatever is past, should be referred to as ahosi, `was', and whatever is yet to come, in the future, should be spoken of as bhavissati, `will be'. This is the fundamental principle underlying the Niruttipathasutta already quoted. Any departure from it would give rise to such confusions as referred to above.

Milk, curd, butter and ghee are merely so many stages in a certain process. The worldlings, however, have put them into watertight com­partments, by designating and circumscribing them. They are caught up in the conceptual trap of their own making.

When the philosophers started working out the logical relation­ship between cause and effect, they tended to regard these two as to­tally unrelated to each other. Since milk becomes curd, either the two are totally different from each other, or curd must already be latent in milk for it to become curd. This is the kind of dilemma their logic posed for them.

Indian philosophical systems reflect a tendency towards such logical subtleties. They ended up with various extreme views con­cerning the relation between cause and effect. In a certain school of Indian philosophy, known as àrambhavàda, effect is explained as something totally new, unrelated to the cause. Other schools of phi­losophy, such as satkàriyavàda and satkaraõavàda, also arose by confusing this issue. For them, effect is already found hidden in the cause, before it comes out. Yet others took only the cause as real. Such extreme conclusions were the result of forgetting the fact that all these are mere concepts in worldly usage. Here we have a case of getting caught up in a conceptual trap of one's own making.

This confusion regarding the three periods of time, characteristic of such philosophers, could be illustrated with some folk tales and fables, which lucidly bring out a deep truth. There is, for instance, the tale of the goose that lays golden eggs, well known to the West. A certain goose used to lay a golden egg every day. Its owner, out of excessive greed, thought of getting all the as yet ones. He killed the goose and opened it up, only to come to grief. He had wrongly imag­ined the future to be already existing in the present.

This is the kind of blunder the soul theorists also committed. In the field of philosophy, too, the prolific tendency led to such subtle complications. It is not much different from the proliferations in­dulged in by the ordinary worldling in his daily life. That is why reck­onings born of prolific perception are said to be so overwhelm­ing. One is overwhelmed by one's own reckonings and figurings out, under the influence of prolific perceptions.

An Indian poet once spotted a ruby, shining in the moon light, and eagerly approached it, enchanted by it, only to find a blood red spittle of beetle. We often come across such humorous stories in lit­erature, showing the pitfalls of prolific conceptualisation.

The introductory story, leading up to the Dhammapada verse on the rambling nature of the mind, dåraïgamaü ekacaraü, asarãraü guhàsayaü, as recorded in the commentary to the Dhammapada, is very illustrative.[16] The pupil of venerable Saïgharakkhita Thera, a nephew of his, indulged in a papa¤ca while fanning his teacher. In his imagination, he disrobed, got married, had a child, and was coming in a chariot with his wife and child to see his former teacher. The wife, through carelessness, dropped the child and the chariot run away. So he whipped his wife in a fit of anger, only to realize that he had dealt a blow on his teacher's head with the fan still in his hand. Being an arahant with psychic powers, his teacher immediately un­derstood the pupil's state of mind, much to the latter's discomfiture.

A potter in Sanskrit literature smashed his pots in a sort of busi­ness papa¤ca and was remorseful afterwards. Similarly the proud milk maid in English literature dropped a bucket of milk on her head in a day dream of her rosy future. In all these cases one takes as pre­sent something that is to come in the future. This is a serious confu­sion between the three periods of time. The perception of perma­nence, characteristic of concepts, lures one away from reality into a world of fantasy, with the result that one is overwhelmed and ob­sessed by it.

So this is what is meant by papa¤casa¤¤àsaïkhasamudàcàra. So overwhelming are reckonings born of prolific perception. As we saw above, the word saïkhà is therefore nearer to the idea of reckoning than that of part or portion.

Tathàgatas are free from such reckonings born of prolific percep­tion, papa¤casa¤¤àsaïkhà, because they make use of worldly lin­guistic usages, conventions and designation, being fully aware of their worldly origin, as if they were using a child's language. When an adult uses a child's language, he is not bound by it. Likewise, the Buddhas and arahants do not forget that these are worldly usages. They do not draw any distinction between the relative and the abso­lute with regard to those concepts. For them, they are merely con­cepts and designations in worldly usage. That is why the Tathàgatas are said to be free from papa¤ca, that is to say they are nippapa¤ca, whereas the world delights in papa¤ca. This fact is clearly expressed in the following verse in the Dhammapada.

âkàse va padaü natthi

samaõo natthi bàhire,

papa¤càbhiratà pajà,

nippapa¤cà Tathàgatà.[17]

"No track is there in the air,

And no recluse elsewhere,

This populace delights in prolificity,

But `Thus-gone-ones' are non-prolific."

It is because the Tathàgatas are non-prolific that nippapa¤ca is regarded as one of the epithets of Nibbàna in a long list of thirty-three.[18] Like dukkhåpasama, quelling of suffering, papa¤ca­vå­pa­sama, `quelling of prolificity', is also recognized as an epithet of Nib­bàna. It is also referred to as papa¤canirodha, `cessa­tion of pro­lificity'. We come across such references to Nibbàna in terms of pa­pa¤ca quite often.

The Tathàgatas are free from papa¤casa¤¤àsaïkhà, although they make use of worldly concepts and designations. In the Kalaha­vivàdasutta we come across the dictum sa¤¤ànidànà hi papa¤ca­saï­khà,[19] according to which reckonings through prolificity arise from perception. Now the Tathàgatas have gone beyond the pale of per­ception in attaining wisdom. That is why they are free from papa¤ca­sa¤¤àsaïkhà, reckonings born of prolific perception.

Such reckonings are the lot of those who grope in the murk of ig­norance, under the influence of perception. Since Buddhas and ara­hants are enlightened with wisdom and released from the limitations of perception, they do not entertain such reckonings born of prolific perception. Hence we find the following statement in the Udàna: Tena kho pana samayena Bhagavà attano papa¤casa¤¤àsaï­khà­pa­hànaü paccavekkhamàno nisinno hoti.[20] "And at that time the Ex­alted One was seated contemplating his own abandonment of reckon­ings born of prolific perception." The allusion here is to the bliss of eman­cipation. Quite a meaningful verse also occurs in this particular context.

Yassa papa¤cà ñhiti ca natthi,

sandànaü paligha¤ca vãtivatto,

taü nittaõhaü muniü carantaü,

nàvajànàti sadevako pi loko.[21]

"To whom there are no proliferations and standstills,

Who has gone beyond the bond and the deadlock,

In that craving-free sage, as he fares along,

The world with its gods sees nothing to decry."

The two words papa¤ca and ñhiti in juxtaposition highlight the primary sense of papa¤ca as a `rambling' or a `straying away'. Ac­cording to the Nettippakaraõa, the idiomatic standstill mentioned here refers to the latencies, anusaya.[22] So the rambling papa¤cas and doggedly persisting anusayas are no longer there. The two words san­óànaü and palighaü are also metaphorically used in the Dham­ma. Views, diññhi, are the bond, and ignorance, avijjà, is the dead­lock.[23]

The fact that papa¤ca is characteristic of worldly thoughts, con­nected with the household life, emerges from the following verse in the Saëàyatanasaüyutta of the Saüyutta Nikàya.

Papa¤casa¤¤à itarãtarà narà,

papa¤cayantà upayanti sa¤¤ino,

manomayaü gehasita¤ca sabbaü,

panujja nekkhammasitaü irãyati.[24]

"The common run of humanity, impelled by prolific perception,

Approach their objects with rambling thoughts, limited by per­ception as they are,

Dispelling all what is mind-made and connected with the house­hold,

One moves towards that which is connected with renunciation."

The approach meant here is comparable to the approach of that imaginative poet towards the ruby shining in moonlight, only to dis­cover a spittle of beetle. The last two lines of the verse bring out the correct approach of one who is aiming at Nibbàna. It requires the dis­pelling of such daydreams connected with the household as en­tertained by the nephew of Venerable Saïgharakkhita Thera.

Worldlings are in the habit of constructing speculative views by taking too seriously linguistic usage and grammatical structure. All pre-Buddhistic philosophers made such blunders as the confusion between milk and curd. Their blunders were mainly due to two rea­sons, namely, the persistent latency towards perception and the dog­matic adherence to views. It is precisely these two points that came up in the very first statement of the Madhupiõóikasutta, discussed in our previous sermon. That is to say, they formed the gist of the Bud­dha's cursory reply to the Sakyan Daõóapàõi's question. For the lat­ter it was a riddle and that is why he raised his eyebrows, wagged his tongue and shook his head. The question was: "What does the re­cluse assert and what does he proclaim?"[25] The Buddha's reply was: "According to whatever doctrine one does not quarrel or dispute with anyone in the world, such a doctrine do I preach. And due to what­ever statements, perceptions do not underlie as latencies, such state­ments do I proclaim."

This might well appear a strange paradox. But since we have al­ready made some clarification of the two terms sa¤¤à and pa¤¤à, we might as well bring up now an excellent quotation to distinguish the difference between these two. It is in fact the last verse in the Mà­gan­diyasutta of the Sutta Nipàta, the grand finale as it were.

Sa¤¤àviratassa na santi ganthà,

pa¤¤àvimuttassa na santi mohà,

sa¤¤a¤ca diññhi¤ca ye aggahesuü,

te ghaññhayantà vicaranti loke.[26]

"To one unattached to percepts no bonds exist,

In one released through wisdom no delusions persist,

But they that cling to percepts and views,

Go about rambling in this world."

In the Pupphasutta of the Khandhasaüyutta one comes across the following declaration of the Buddha. Nàhaü, bhikkhave, lokena vi­va­dàmi, loko va mayà vivadati.[27] "Monks, I do not dispute with the world, it is the world that is disputing with me."

This looks more or less like a contradictory statement, as if one would say `he is quarrelling with me but I am not quarrelling with him'. However, the truth of the statement lies in the fact that the Buddha did not hold on to any view. Some might think that the Bud­dha also held on to some view or other. But he was simply using the child's language, for him there was nothing worth holding on to in it.

There is a Canonical episode which is a good illustration of this fact. One of the most well-known among the debates the Buddha had with ascetics of other sects is the debate with Saccaka, the ascetic. An account of it is found in the CåëaSaccakasutta of the Majjhima Nikàya. The debate had all the outward appearance of a hot dispute. However, towards the end of it, the Buddha makes the following challenge to Saccaka: "As for you, Aggivessana, drops of sweat have come down from your forehead, soaked through your upper robe and reached the ground. But, Aggivessana, there is no sweat on my body now." So saying he uncovered his golden-hued body in that assem­bly, iti Bhagavà tasmiü parisatiü suvaõõavaõõaü kàyaü vivari.[28]

Even in the midst of a hot debate, the Buddha had no agitation be­cause he did not adhere to any views. There was for him no bond­age in terms of craving, conceit and views. Even in the thick of a heated de­bate the Buddha was uniformly calm and cool.

It is the same with regard to perception. Percepts do not persist as a latency in him. We spoke of name-and-form as an image or a re­flection. Buddhas do no have the delusion arising out of name-and-form, since they have comprehended it as a self-image. There is a verse in the Sabhiyasutta of the Sutta Nipàta which puts across this idea.

Anuvicca papa¤ca nàmaråpaü,

ajjhattaü bahiddhà ca rogamålaü,

sabbarogamålabandhanà pamutto,

anuvidito tàdi pavuccate tathattà.[29]

"Having understood name-and-form, which is a product of pro­lificity,

And which is the root of all malady within and without,

He is released from bondage to the root of all maladies,

That Such-like-one is truly known as `the one who has under­stood'."

Name-and-form is a product of papa¤ca, the worldling's prolific­ity. We spoke of the reflection of a gem in a pond and the image of a dog on a plank across the stream.[30] One's grasp on one's world of name-and-form is something similar. Now as for the Buddha, he has truly comprehended the nature of name-and-form. Whatever mala­dies, complications and malignant conditions there are within beings and around them, the root cause of all that malady is this papa¤ca nàmaråpa. To be free from it is to be `such'. He is the one who has really understood.

If we are to say something in particular about the latency of per­ception, we have to pay special attention to the first discourse in the Majjhima Nikàya. The advice usually given to one who picks up the Majjhima Nikàya these days is to skip the very first sutta. Why? Be­cause it is not easy to understand it. Even the monks to whom it was preached could not understand it and were displeased. `It is too deep for us, leave it alone.'

But it must be pointed out that such an advice is not much differ­ent from asking one to learn a language without studying the alpha­bet. This is because the first discourse of the Majjhima Nikàya, name­ly the Målapariyàyasutta, enshrines an extremely vital first principle in the entire field of Buddhist philosophy. Just as much as the first discourse of the Dãgha Nikàya, namely the Brahmajàlasutta, is of great relevance to the question of views, even so the Målapari­yàyasutta is extremely important for its relevance to the question of perception.

Now what is the basic theme of this discourse? There is a certain pattern in the way objects occur to the mind and are apperceived. This discourse lays bare that elementary pattern. The Buddha opens this discourse with the declaration, sabbadhammamålapariyàyaü vo, bhikkhave, desessàmi,[31] "monks, I shall preach to you the basic pat­tern of behaviour of all mind objects."

In a nutshell, the discourse deals with twenty-four concepts, rep­resentative of concepts in the world. These are fitted into a schema to illustrate the attitude of four types of persons towards them.

The twenty-four concepts mentioned in the sutta are pañhavi, àpo, tejo, vàyo, bhåta, deva, Pajàpati, Brahma, âbhassara, Subhakinha, Ve­happhala, abhibhå, àkàsàna¤càyatanaü, vi¤¤àõa¤càyatanaü, àki¤­ca¤àyatanaü, nevasa¤¤ànàsa¤¤àyatanaü, diññhaü, sutaü, mu­taü, vi¤¤àtaü, ekattaü, nànattaü, sabbaü, Nibbànaü. "Earth, wa­ter, fire, air, beings, gods, Pajàpati, Brahma, the Abhassara Brah­mas, the Subhakinha Brahmas, the Vehapphala Brahmas, the over­lord, the realm of infinite space, the realm of infinite consciousness, the realm of nothingness, the realm of neither-perception-nor-non-per­ception, the seen, the heard, the sensed, the cognised, unity, diver­sity, all, Nibbàna."

The discourse describes the differences of attitude in four types of persons with regard to each of these concepts. The four persons are:

1) An untaught ordinary person, who has no regard for the Noble Ones and is unskilled in their Dhamma, assutavà puthujjana.

2) A monk who is in higher training, whose mind has not yet reached the goal and who is aspiring to the supreme security from bondage, bhikkhu sekho appattamànaso.

3) An arahant with taints destroyed who has lived the holy life, done what has to be done, laid down the burden, reached the goal, destroyed the fetters of existence and who is completely liberated through final knowledge, arahaü khãõàsavo.

4) The Tathàgata, accomplished and fully enlightened, Tathàgato arahaü sammàsambuddho.

Out of these, the second category comprises the Stream-winner, the Once-returner and the Non-returner. Though there are four types, according to the analysis of their attitudes, the last two can be re­garded as one type, since their attitudes to those concepts are the same. So we might as well speak of three kinds of attitudes. Let us now try to understand the difference between them.

What is the world-view of the untaught ordinary person, the worldling? The Buddha describes it as follows: Pañhaviü pañhavito sa¤jànàti. Pañhaviü pañhavito sa¤¤atvà pañhaviü ma¤¤ati, pañha­vi­yà ma¤¤ati, pañhavito ma¤¤ati, `pañhaviü me'ti ma¤¤ati, pañhaviü abhinandati. Taü kissa hetu? Apari¤¤àtaü tassà'ti vadàmi.

"He perceives earth as `earth'. Having perceived earth as `earth', he imagines `earth' as such, he imagines `on the earth', he imagines `from the earth', he imagines `earth is mine', he delights in earth. Why is that? I say that it is because he has not fully comprehended it."

The untaught ordinary person can do no better than to perceive earth as `earth', since he is simply groping in the dark. So he per­ceives earth as `earth' and goes on imagining, for which the word used here is ma¤¤ati, methinks. One usually methinks when a simile or a metaphor occurs, as a figure of speech. But here it is something more than that. Here it refers to an indulgence in a deluded mode of thinking under the influence of craving, conceit and views. Perceiv­ing earth as `earth', he imagines earth to be substantially `earth'.

Then he resorts to inflection, to make it flexible or amenable to his methinking. `On the earth', `from the earth', `earth is mine', are so many subtle ways of methinking, with which he finally finds de­light in the very concept of earth. The reason for all this is the fact that he has not fully comprehended it.

Then comes the world-view of the monk who is in higher train­ing, that is, the sekha. Pañhaviü pañhavito abhijànàti. Pañhaviü pañha­vito abhi¤¤àya pañhaviü mà ma¤¤i, pañhaviyà mà ma¤¤i, pañhavito mà ma¤¤i, `pañhaviü me'ti mà ma¤¤i, pañhaviü màbhi­nandi. Taü kissa hetu? Pari¤¤eyyaü tassà'ti vadàmi.

"He understands through higher knowledge earth as `earth'. Hav­ing known through higher knowledge earth as `earth', let him not imag­ine `earth' as such, let him not imagine `on the earth', let him not imagine `from the earth', let him not imagine `earth is mine', let him not delight in earth. Why is that? I say it is because it should be well comprehended by him." As for the monk who is in higher train­ing, he does not merely perceive, but understands through higher knowl­edge.

Here we are against a peculiar expression, which is rather prob­lematic, that is, mà ma¤¤i. The commentary simply glosses over with the words ma¤¤atã'ti ma¤¤i, taking it to mean the same as ma¤¤ati, "imagines".[32] Its only explanation for the use of this peculiar expres­sion in this context is that the sekha, or the one in higher training, has already done away with diññhima¤¤anà or imagining in terms of views, though he still has imaginings through craving and conceit. So, for the commentary, mà ma¤¤i is a sort of mild recognition of re­sidual imagining, a dilly-dally phrase. But this interpretation is not at all convincing.

Obviously enough the particle has a prohibitive sense here, and mà ma¤¤i means `let one not imagine', or `let one not entertain imaginings', ma¤¤anà. A clear instance of the use of this expression in this sense is found at the end of the Samiddhisutta, discussed in an earlier sermon.[33] Venerable Samiddhi answered Venerable Sàriput­ta's catechism creditably and the latter acknowledged it with a "well-done", sàdhu sàdhu, but cautioned him not to be proud of it, tena ca mà ma¤¤i, "but do not be vain on account of it".[34]

The use of the prohibitive particle with reference to the world-view of the monk in higher training is quite apt, as he has to train himself in overcoming the tendency to go on imagining. For him it is a step of training towards full comprehension. That is why the Bud­dha concludes with the words "why is that? I say it is because it should be well comprehended by him."

1 M I 436, MahàMàlunkyasutta. < back

2 Sv III 721. < back

3 Spk III 73. < back

4 Mp III 348. < back

5 A III 294, Bhaddakasutta and Anutappiyasutta. < back

6 Ps II 10. < back

7 M I 109, Madhupiõóikasutta. < back

8 M I 112, Madhupiõóikasutta. < back

9 Ps II 75. < back

10 S III 71, Niruttipathasutta. < back

11 Marãcikåpamà sa¤¤à at S III 142, Pheõapiõóåpamasutta. < back

12 M I 190, MahàHatthipadopamasutta. < back

13 D I 201, Poññhapàdasutta. < back

14 D I 195, Poññhapàdasutta. < back

15 Pañisotagàmi at M I 168, Ariyapariyesanasutta. < back

16 Dhp 37, Cittavagga; Dhp-a I 301. < back

17< Dhp 254, Malavagga. < back

18 S IV 370, Asaïkhatasaüyutta. < back

19 Sn 874, Kalahavivàdasutta. < back

20 Ud 77, Papa¤cakhayasutta. < back

21 Ud 77, Papa¤cakhayasutta. < back

22 Nett 37. < back

23 Ud-a 373. < back

24 S IV 71, Adanta-aguttasutta. < back

25 M I 108, Madhupiõóikasutta. < back

26 Sn 847, Màgandiyasutta. < back

27 S III 138, Pupphasutta. < back

28 M I 233, CåëaSaccakasutta. < back

29 Sn 530, Sabhiyasutta. < back

30 See sermons 6 and 7 (dog simile) and sermon 9 (gem simile). < back

31 M I 1, Målapariyàyasutta. < back

32 Ps I 41. < back

33 See sermon 9. < back

34 A IV 386, Samiddhisutta. < back



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