Majjhima Nikāya

The Middle Length Sayings

Cūḷadukkhakkhandha Suttaṃ

14. Lesser Discourse on the Stems of Anguish

Thus have I heard:

At one time the Lord was staying among the Sakyans at Kapilavatthu in Nigrodha's park. Then Mahānāma the Sakyan approached the Lord; having approached, having greeted the Lord, he sat down at a respectful distance. As Mahānāma the Sakyan was sitting down at a respectful distance, he spoke thus to the Lord:

“For a long time, Lord, I have thus understood Dhamma taught by the Lord: ‘Greed is a depravity of the mind, aversion is a depravity of the mind, confusion is a depravity of the mind.’ It is thus that I, Lord, understand Dhamma taught by the Lord: ‘Greed is a depravity of the mind, aversion is a depravity of the mind, confusion is a depravity of the mind.’ But at times things belonging to greed, taking hold of my mind, persist, and things belonging to aversion, taking hold of my mind, persist, and things belonging to confusion, taking hold of my mind, persist. It occurred to me thus, Lord: ‘Now what can be the quality in me, not got rid of subjectively, on account of which at times things belonging to greed, taking hold of my mind, persist, and things belonging to aversion, taking hold of my mind, persist, and things belonging to confusion, taking hold of my mind, persist?’”

“Indeed there is a quality in you, Mahānāma, not got rid of subjectively, on account of which at times things belonging to greed, taking hold of your mind, persist, and things belonging to aversion, taking hold of your mind, persist, and things belonging to confusion, taking hold of your mind, persist. But this quality could be got rid of subjectively by you, Mahānāma, if you would not dwell in a house, if you would not enjoy pleasures of the senses. But inasmuch as this quality, Mahānāma, is not got rid of by you subjectively, therefore you dwell in a house and enjoy pleasures of the senses. Pleasures of the senses are of little satisfaction, of much ill, of much tribulation wherein is more peril.

Yet if this, Mahānāma, comes to be well seen as it really is, through perfect intuitive wisdom by an ariyan disciple, but if he does not come to rapture and joy apart from pleasures of the senses, apart from unskilled states of mind, or to something better than that, then he is not yet one unseduced by pleasures of the senses. But when, Mahānāma, an ariyan disciple thinks: ‘Pleasures of the senses are of little satisfaction, of much ill, of much tribulation wherein is more peril.’ and if this comes to be well seen, as it really is, through perfect intuitive wisdom by the ariyan disciple, and if he comes to rapture and joy apart from pleasures of the senses, apart from unskilled states of mind, and to something better than that, then he is one who is not seduced by pleasures of the senses.

And I too, Mahānāma, before my awakening while I was still the bodhisatta, not fully awakened, thought: ‘Pleasures of the senses are of little satisfaction, of much ill, of much tribulation wherein is more peril.’ and although this came to be well seen thus, as it really is, through perfect intuitive wisdom, I came to no rapture and joy apart from pleasures of the senses, apart from unskilled states of mind, nor to anything better than that. So I was conscious that I was not yet one unseduced by pleasures of the senses. But when, Mahānāma, I thought: ‘Pleasures of the senses are of little satisfaction, of much ill, of much tribulation wherein is more peril.’ and when this was well seen thus, as it really is, through perfect intuitive wisdom, and I came to rapture and joy apart from the pleasures of the senses, apart from unskilled states of mind, and to something better than that, then was I conscious that I was one not seduced by pleasures of the senses.

And what, Mahānāma, is the satisfaction in pleasures of the senses? These five, Mahānāma, are the strands of sense-pleasures. What five? Material shapes cognisable by the eye, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring. Sounds cognisable by the ear, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring. Smells cognisable by the nose, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring. Tastes cognisable by the tongue, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring. Touches cognisable by the body, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring. These, Mahānāma, are the five strands of sense-pleasures. Whatever pleasure, whatever happiness arises in consequence of these five strands of sense-pleasures, this is the satisfaction in sense-pleasures.

And what, Mahānāma, is the peril in sense-pleasures? In this case, Mahānāma, a young man of family earns his living by some craft, such as reckoning on the fingers, such as calculation, such as computing, such as agriculture, such as being in a rajah's service, such as by another craft. He is afflicted by the cold, he is afflicted by the heat, suffering from the touch of gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, creeping things, dying of hunger and thirst. This, Mahānāma, is a peril in pleasures of the senses that is present, a stem of ill, having pleasures of the senses as the cause, having pleasures of the senses as the provenance, being a consequence of pleasures of the senses, the very cause of pleasures of the senses.

If, Mahānāma, this young man of family rouses himself, exerts himself, strives thus, but if these possessions do not come to his hand, he grieves, mourns, laments, beating his breast and wailing, he falls into disillusionment, and thinks: ‘Indeed my exertion is vain, indeed my striving is fruitless.’ This too, Mahānāma, is a peril in the pleasures of the senses that is present, a stem of ill, having pleasures of the senses as the cause, having pleasures of the senses as the provenance, being a consequence of pleasures of the senses, the very cause of pleasures of the senses.

If, Mahānāma, this young man of family rouses himself, exerts himself, strives thus, and these possessions come to his hand, he experiences suffering and sorrow in consequence of looking after them, and thinks: ‘Now by what means may neither kings nor thieves take away my possessions, nor fire burn them, nor water carry them away, nor heirs whom I do not like take them away?’ Although he looks after these possessions and guards them, kings do take them away or thieves take them away, or fire burns them or water carries them away, or heirs whom he does not like take them away. He grieves, mourns, laments, beating his breast and wailing, he falls into disillusionment, and thinks: ‘I do not even have that which was mine.’ This too, Mahānāma, is a peril in the pleasures of the senses that is present, a stem of ill, having pleasures of the senses as the cause, having pleasures of the senses as the provenance, being a consequence of pleasures of the senses, the very cause of pleasures of the senses.

And again, Mahānāma, when sense-pleasures are the cause, sense-pleasures the provenance, sense-pleasures the consequence, the very cause of sense-pleasures, kings dispute with kings, nobles dispute with nobles, brahmans dispute with brahmans, householders dispute with householders, a mother disputes with her son, a son disputes with his mother, a father disputes with his son, a son disputes with his father, a brother disputes with a brother, a brother disputes with a sister, a sister disputes with a brother, a friend disputes with a friend. Those who enter into quarrel, contention, dispute and attack one another with their hands and with stones and with sticks and with weapons, these suffer dying then and pain like unto dying. This too, Mahānāma, is a peril in the pleasures of the senses that is present, a stem of ill, having pleasures of the senses as the cause, having pleasures of the senses as the provenance, being a consequence of pleasures of the senses, the very cause of pleasures of the senses.

And again, Mahānāma, when sense-pleasures are the cause, sense-pleasures the provenance, sense-pleasures the consequence, the very cause of sense-pleasures, having taken sword and shield, having girded on bow and quiver, both sides mass for battle and arrows are hurled and knives are hurled and swords are flashing. These who wound with arrows and wound with knives and decapitate with their swords, these suffer dying then and pain like unto dying. This too, Mahānāma, is a peril in the pleasures of the senses that is present, a stem of ill, having pleasures of the senses as the cause, having pleasures of the senses as the provenance, being a consequence of pleasures of the senses, the very cause of pleasures of the senses.

And again, Mahānāma, when sense-pleasures are the cause, sense-pleasures the provenance, sense-pleasures the consequence, the very cause of sense-pleasures, having taken sword and shield, having girded on bow and quiver, they leap on to the newly daubed ramparts, and arrows are hurled and knives are hurled and swords are flashing. Those who wound with arrows and wound with knives and pour boiling cow-dung over them and crush them with the (falling) portcullis and decapitate them with their swords, these suffer dying then and pain like unto dying. This too, Mahānāma, is a peril in the pleasures of the senses that is present, a stem of ill, having pleasures of the senses as the cause, having pleasures of the senses as the provenance, being a consequence of pleasures of the senses, the very cause of pleasures of the senses.

And again, Mahānāma, when sense-pleasures are the cause, sense-pleasures the provenance, sense-pleasures the consequence, the very cause of sense-pleasures, they break into a house and carry off the booty and behave as a thief and wait in ambush and go to other men's wives. Kings, having arrested such a one, deal out various punishments. They lash him with whips and they lash him with canes and they lash him with (birch) rods, and they cut off his hand, and they cut off his foot, and they cut off his hand and foot, and they cut off his ear, and they cut off his nose, and they cut off his ear and nose, and they give him the ‘gruel-pot’ punishment, and they give him the ‘shell-tonsure’ punishment, and they give him the ‘Rahu's mouth.’ punishment, and they give him the ‘fire-garland’ punishment, and they give him the ‘flaming hand’ punishment, and they give him the ‘hay-twist’ punishment, and they give him the ‘bark-dress’ punishment, and they give him the ‘antelope’ punishment, and they give him the ‘flesh-hooking’ punishment, and they give him the ‘disc-slice’ punishment, and they give him the ‘pickling process’ punishment, and they give him the ‘circling the pin.’ punishment, and they give him the ‘straw mattress.’ punishment, and they spray him with boiling oil, give him as food to the dogs, impale him alive on stakes and decapitate him with a sword. This too, Mahānāma, is a peril in the pleasures of the senses that is present, a stem of ill, having pleasures of the senses as the cause, having pleasures of the senses as the provenance, being a consequence of pleasures of the senses, the very cause of pleasures of the senses.

And again, Mahānāma, when sense-pleasures are the cause, sense-pleasures the provenance, sense-pleasures the consequence, the very cause of sense-pleasures, they behave wrongly in body, they behave wrongly in speech, they behave wrongly in thought. These, having behaved wrongly in body, in speech, in thought, at the breaking up of the body after dying, arise in a sorrowful state, a bad bourn, the abyss, Niraya Hell. This, Mahānāma, is a peril in pleasures of the senses that is of the future, a stem of ill, having pleasures of the senses as the cause, having pleasures of the senses as the provenance, being a consequence of pleasures of the senses, the very cause of pleasures of the senses.

At one time I, Mahānāma, was staying near Rājagaha on Mount Vulture Peak. Now at that time several Jains on the Black Rock on the slopes of (Mount) Isigili came to be standing erect and refusing a seat; they were experiencing feelings that were acute, painful, sharp, severe. Then I, Mahānāma, having emerged from solitary meditation towards evening, approached the slopes of (Mount) Isigili, the Black Rock and those Jains; having approached I spoke thus to those Jains: ‘Why do you, reverend Jains, standing erect and refusing a seat, experience feelings that are acute, painful sharp, severe? When I had thus spoken, Mahānāma, those Jains spoke thus to me: ‘Your reverence, Nāthaputta the Jain is all-knowing, all-seeing; he claims all-embracing knowledge-and-vision, saying: “Whether I am walking or standing still or asleep or awake, knowledge-and-vision is permanently and continuously before me.” He speaks thus: “If there is, Jains, an evil deed that was formerly done by you, wear it away by this severe austerity. That which is the non-doing of an evil deed in the future is from control of body, from control of speech, from control of thought here, now. Thus by burning up, by making an end of former deeds, by the non-doing of new deeds, there is no flowing in the future. Prom there being no flowing in the future is the destruction of deeds; from the destruction of deeds is the destruction of ill; from the destruction of ill is the destruction of feeling; from the destruction of feeling all ill will become worn away.” And because that is approved of by us as well as being pleasing to us, therefore we are delighted.’

When they had spoken thus, I, Mahānāma, spoke thus to those Jains: ‘But do you, reverend Jains, know that you yourselves were in the past, that you were not not?’ ‘Not this, your reverence.’ ‘But do you, reverend Jains, know that you yourselves did this evil deed in the past, that you did not not do it?’ ‘Not this, your reverence.’ ‘But do you, reverend Jains, know that you did not do an evil deed like this or like that?’ ‘Not this, your reverence.’ ‘But do you, reverend Jains, know that so much ill is worn away, or that so much ill is to be worn away, or that when so much ill is worn away, all ill will become worn away?’ ‘Not this, your reverence.’ ‘But do you, reverend Jains, know the getting rid of unskilled states of mind here and now, the uprising of skilled states?’ ‘Not this, your reverence.’

‘From what you say, reverend Jains, you do not know then whether you yourselves were in the past, whether you were not not; you do not know whether in the past you yourselves did this evil deed, whether you did not not do it; you do not know whether you did an evil deed like this or like that; you do not know so much ill is worn away, or that so much ill is to be worn away, or that when so much ill is worn away all ill will become worn away; you do not know the getting rid of unskilled states of mind, the uprising of skilled states.

This being so, reverend Jains, do those who are born again among men in the world and are hunters, bloody-handed, dealing in cruelty, do these go forth among the Jains?’ ‘Now, reverend Gotama, happiness is not to be achieved through happiness, happiness is to be achieved through pain. If, reverend Gotama, happiness were to be achieved through happiness, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha could achieve happiness, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha would be more of a dweller in happiness than the venerable Gotama.’

‘Undoubtedly this speech was made hastily by the reverend Jains, without deliberation: “Now, reverend Gotama, happiness is not to be achieved through happiness, happiness is to be achieved through pain. If, reverend Gotama, happiness were to be achieved through happiness, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha could achieve happiness, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha would be more of a dweller in happiness than the venerable Gotama.” For it is I who should be questioned thus on this subject: ‘Which of these venerable ones is more of a dweller in happiness: King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha or the venerable Gotama?’

‘Undoubtedly, reverend Gotama, this speech was made by us hastily, without deliberation: “Now, reverend Gotama, happiness is not to be achieved through happiness, happiness is to be achieved through pain. If, reverend Gotama, happiness were to be achieved through happiness, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha could achieve happiness, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha would be more of a dweller in happiness than the venerable Gotama.” But let that be, for now we will question the venerable Gotama: Which of the venerable ones is more of a dweller in happiness: King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha or the venerable Gotama?’

‘Well then, reverend Jains, I will ask you a question in return on that very subject. As it pleases you, so reply to it. What do you think about this, reverend Jains? Is King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha, without moving his body, without uttering a word, able to stay experiencing nothing but happiness for seven nights and days?’ ‘No, your reverence.’ ‘What do you think about this, reverend Jains? Is King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha, without moving his body, without uttering a word, able to stay experiencing nothing but happiness for six nights and days?’ ‘No, your reverence.’ Is King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha, without moving his body, without uttering a word, able to stay experiencing nothing but happiness for five nights and days, for four nights and days, for three nights and days, for two nights and days, for one night and day?’ ‘No, your reverence.’ ‘But I, reverend Jains, am able, without moving my body, without uttering a word, to stay experiencing nothing but happiness for one night and day. I, reverend Jains, am able, without moving my body, without uttering a word, to stay experiencing nothing but happiness for two nights and days, for three nights and days, four nights and days, five nights and days, six nights and days, for seven nights and days.

What do you think about this, reverend Jains? This being so, who is more of a dweller in happiness, King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha or I?’ ‘This being so, the venerable Gotama himself is more of a dweller in happiness than King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha.’”

Thus spoke the Lord. Delighted, Mahānāma the Sakyan rejoiced in what the Lord had said.

The Lesser Discourse on the Stems of Anguish: The Fourth