Majjhima Nikāya

The Middle Length Sayings

Vammīka Suttaṃ

23. Discourse on the Anthill

Thus have I heard:

At one time the Lord was staying near Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. Now at that time the venerable Kassapa the Boy was staying in the Blind Men's Grove. Then, when the night was far spent a certain deva with a glorious skin, having illuminated the whole of the Blind Men's Grove, approached the venerable Kassapa the Boy; and having approached stood at one side. While standing at one side this deva spoke thus to the venerable Kassapa the Boy:

“Monk, monk, this ant-hill smokes by night, blazes up by day. A brahman speaks thus:

‘Bringing a tool, clever one, dig it up.’

The clever one, digging when he had brought a tool saw a bolt and said:

‘A bolt, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the bolt, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a frog, and said:

‘A frog, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the frog, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a forked path, and said:

‘A forked path, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the forked path, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a strainer, and said:

‘A strainer, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the strainer, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a tortoise, and said:

‘A tortoise, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the tortoise, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a slaughter-house, and said:

‘A slaughter-house, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the slaughter-house, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a piece of flesh, and said:

‘A piece of flesh, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the piece of flesh, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a cobra, and said:

‘A cobra, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Let the cobra be, do not touch the cobra, do reverence to the cobra.’

If you, monk, having approached the Lord, were to ask him about these questions, then you could remember as the Lord explains to you. I, monk, do not see anyone in the world with its devas, with its Māras, with its Brahmās, in creation, with its recluses and brahmans, its devas and men, who could turn his mind to expounding these questions except a Tathāgata, or a Tathāgata's disciple, or one who has heard (the teaching) from them.”

Thus spoke that deva; and vanished then and there, having said this.

Then the venerable Kassapa the Boy approached the Lord towards the end of that night; having approached, having greeted the Lord, he sat down at a respectful distance. As he was sitting down at a respectful distance, the venerable Kassapa the Boy spoke thus to the Lord:

“During this night, Lord, when the night was far spent, a certain deva with a glorious skin, having illumined the whole of the Blind Men's Grove, approached me, and having approached, stood at one side. While standing to one side, Lord, that deva spoke thus to me:

“Monk, monk, this ant-hill smokes by night, blazes up by day. A brahman speaks thus:

‘Bringing a tool, clever one, dig it up.’

The clever one, digging when he had brought a tool saw a bolt and said:

‘A bolt, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the bolt, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a frog, and said:

‘A frog, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the frog, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a forked path, and said:

‘A forked path, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the forked path, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a strainer, and said:

‘A strainer, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the strainer, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a tortoise, and said:

‘A tortoise, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the tortoise, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a slaughter-house, and said:

‘A slaughter-house, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the slaughter-house, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a piece of flesh, and said:

‘A piece of flesh, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Take out the piece of flesh, dig on, clever one, bringing a tool.’

The clever one, digging on when he had brought a tool, saw a cobra, and said:

‘A cobra, revered one.’

The brahman spoke thus:

‘Let the cobra be, do not touch the cobra, do reverence to the cobra.’

If you, monk, having approached the Lord, were to ask him about these questions, then you could remember as the Lord explains to you. I, monk, do not see anyone in the world with its devas, with its Māras, with its Brahmās, in creation, with its recluses and brahmans, its devas and men, who could turn his mind to expounding these questions except a Tathāgata, or a Tathāgata's disciple, or one who has heard (the teaching) from them.”

This is what the deva said, Lord, and vanished then and there, having said this.

Now what, Lord is the anthill?

What is smoking by night?

What is blazing up by day?

Who is the brahman?

Who the clever one?

What is the tool?

What the digging up?

What the bolt?

What the frog?

What the forked path?

What the strainer?

What the tortoise?

What the slaughter-house?

What the piece of flesh?

What the cobra?”

“The anthill, monk, this is a synonym for the body made of the four great elements, originated from mother and father, nourished on gruel and sour milk, of a nature to be constantly rubbed away, pounded away, broken up and scattered.

Whatever, monk, one thinks upon and ponders upon during the night concerning the day's affairs, this is smoking by night.

Whatever affairs, monk, one sets going by day, whether by body, speech or thought, having pondered and reflected upon them during the night, this is blazing up by day.

Brahman, monk, this is a synonym for the Tathāgata, perfected one, fully self-awakened one.

Clever one, monk, this is a synonym for a monk who is a learner.

The tool, monk, this is a synonym for the Ariyan intuitive wisdom.

Digging, monk, this is a synonym for the output of energy.

The bolt, monk, this is a synonym for ignorance. Take out the bolt, get rid of ignorance, dig, clever one, bringing a tool. This is the meaning of that.

The frog, monk, this is a synonym for the turbulence of wrath. Take out the frog, get rid of the turbulence of wrath, dig, clever one, bringing a tool. This is the meaning of that.

The forked path, monk, this is a synonym for perplexity. Take out the forked path, get rid of perplexity, dig, clever one, bringing a tool. This is the meaning of that.

The strainer, monk, this is a synonym for the five hindrances: for the hindrance of desire for sense-pleasures, for the hindrance of malevolence, for the hindrance of sloth and torpor, for the hindrance of restlessness and worry, for the hindrance of perplexity. Take out the strainer, get rid of the five hindrances, dig, clever one, bringing a tool. This is the meaning of that.

The tortoise, monk, this is a synonym for the five grasping groups, that is to say: for the group of grasping after material shape, for the group of grasping after feeling, for the group of grasping after perception, for the group of grasping after the habitual tendencies, for the group of grasping after consciousness. Take out the tortoise, get rid of the five grasping groups, dig, clever one, bringing a tool. This is the meaning of that.

The slaughter-house, monk, this is a synonym for the five strands of sense-pleasures: (1) for material shapes cognisable by the eye, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring; (2) for sounds cognisable by the ear agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring; (3) for smells cognisable by the nose agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring; (4) for savours cognisable by the tongue agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring; (5) for touches cognisable by the body, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring. Take out the slaughter-house, get rid of the five strands of sense-pleasures, dig, clever one, bringing a tool. This is the meaning of that.

The piece of flesh, monk, this is a synonym for the passion of delight. Take out the piece of flesh, get rid of the passion of delight, dig, clever one, bringing a tool. This is the meaning of that.

The cobra, monk, this is a synonym for a monk whose cankers are destroyed. Let the cobra be, do not touch the cobra, do reverence to the cobra. This is the meaning of that.”

Thus spoke the Lord. Delighted the venerable Kassapa the Boy rejoiced in what the Lord had said.

The Discourse on the Ant-hill: The Third