Majjhima Nikāya

The Middle Length Sayings

Cūḷasāropama Suttaṃ

30. Lesser Discourse on the Simile of the Pith

Thus have I heard:

At one time the Lord was staying near Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. Then the brahman Piṅgalakoccha approached the Lord; having approached, he exchanged greetings with the Lord; having exchanged greetings of friendliness and courtesy, he sat down at a respectful distance. As he was sitting down at a respectful distance, the brahman Piṅgalakoccha spoke thus to the Lord:

“Good Gotama, those who are leaders in religious life, heads of companies, heads of groups, teachers of groups, well known, famous, founders of sects, much honoured by the many folk, that is to say, Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali of the Cowpen, Ajita of the Hair-blanket, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Saṇjaya Belaṭṭha's son, the Jain (Nigaṇṭha) Nātha's son—did all these, according to their own assertion, understand or did they not all understand, or did some understand, and did some not understand?”

“Enough, brahman, let this be: ‘Did all these, according to their own assertion, understand or did they not all understand, or did some understand, and did some not understand? I will teach you Dhamma, brahman, listen to it, attend carefully, and I will speak.”

“Yes, Lord,” the brahman Piṅgalakoccha answered the Lord in assent.

“Brahman, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, who passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, passes by the bark, passes by the young shoots, and who, having cut down the branches and foliage, might go away taking them with him thinking they were the pith. A man with vision, having seen him, might say: ‘Indeed this good man does not know the pith, he does not know the softwood, he does not know the bark, he does not know the young shoots, he does not know the branches and foliage, inasmuch as this good man, walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, passes by the bark, passes by the young shoots, and having cut down the branches and foliage, is going away taking them with him thinking they are the pith. So will he not get the good that could be done by the pith because it is the pith.’

Or, Brahman, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, who passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, passes by the bark, and who, having cut off the young shoots, might go away taking them with him thinking they were the pith. A man with vision, having seen him, might say: ‘Indeed this good man does not know the pith, he does not know the softwood, he does not know the bark, he does not know the young shoots, he does not know the branches and foliage, inasmuch as this good man, walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, passes by the bark, and having cut down the young shoots, is going away taking them with him thinking they are the pith. So will he not get the good that could be done by the pith because it is the pith.’

Or, Brahman, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, who passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, and who, having cut off the bark, might go away taking it with him thinking it was the pith. A man with vision, having seen him, might say: ‘Indeed this good man does not know the pith, he does not know the softwood, he does not know the bark, he does not know the young shoots, he does not know the branches and foliage, inasmuch as this good man, walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, and having cut off the bark, is going away taking it with him thinking it is the pith. So will he not get the good that could be done by the pith because it is the pith.’

Or, Brahman, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, who passes by the pith itself, having cut out the softwood might go away taking it with him thinking it was the pith. A man with vision, having seen him, might say: ‘Indeed this good man does not know the pith, he does not know the softwood, he does not know the bark, he does not know the young shoots, he does not know the branches and foliage, inasmuch as this good man, walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, passes by the pith itself, and having cut out of the softwood, goes away taking it with him thinking it is the pith. So will he not get the good that could be done by the pith because it is the pith.’

Or, Brahman, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, and who, having cut out the pith itself, might go away taking it with him, knowing it to be the pith. A man with vision, having seen him, might say: ‘Indeed this good man knows the pith, he knows the softwood, he knows the bark, he knows the young shoots, he knows the branches and foliage, inasmuchas this good man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, having cut out the pith itself, is going away taking it with him, knowing it to be the pith. So will he get the good that could be done by the pith because it is the pith.’

“Even so, brahman, some person here has gone forth from home into homelessness through faith and thinks: ‘I am beset by birth, ageing and dying, by grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation and despair. I am beset by anguish, overwhelmed by anguish. But perhaps the annihilation of this whole mass of anguish can be shown.’ He, gone forth thus, receives gains, honours, fame. Because of the gains, honours, fame, he is satisfied, his purpose is fulfilled. Because of the gains, honours, fame, he exalts himself disparages others, saying: ‘It is I who am a recipient, being famous, but those other monks are little known, of little esteem.’ And he does not develop the desire for nor does he strive for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than gains honours, fame. He becomes remiss and lax.

Brahman, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, who passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, passes by the bark, passes by the young shoots, and who, having cut down the branches and foliage, might go away taking them with him thinking they were the pith. A man with vision, having seen him, might say: ‘Indeed this good man does not know the pith, he does not know the softwood, he does not know the bark, he does not know the young shoots, he does not know the branches and foliage, inasmuch as this good man, walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, passes by the bark, passes by the young shoots, and having cut down the branches and foliage, is going away taking them with him thinking they are the pith. So will he not get the good that could be done by the pith because it is the pith.’

In accordance with this simile, brahman do I call this person. But, brahman, some person here comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness through faith, and thinks: ‘I am beset by birth, ageing and dying, by grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation and despair, I am beset by anguish, overwhelmed by anguish. But perhaps the annihilation of this whole mass of anguish can be shown.’ He, gone forth thus, receives gains, honours, fame. He because of the gains, honours, fame, he does not become satisfied, his purpose is not fulfilled. He because of the gains, honours, fame, he does not exalt himself, he does not disparage others. And he develops a desire for and strives for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than gains, honours, fame. He does not become remiss or lax. He attains success in moral habit. He, because of this success in moral habit, becomes satisfied, his purpose is fulfilled. Because of this success in moral habit, he exalts himself, disparages others, thinking: ‘It is I who am of (good) moral habit, lovely in character, but these other monks are of wrong moral habit, evil in character.’ And he does not develop the desire for nor does he strive for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than success in moral habit. He becomes remiss and lax.

Brahman, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, who passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, passes by the bark, and who, having cut off the young shoots, might go away taking them with him thinking they were the pith. A man with vision, having seen him, might say: ‘Indeed this good man does not know the pith, he does not know the softwood, he does not know the bark, he does not know the young shoots, he does not know the branches and foliage, inasmuch as this good man, walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, passes by the bark, and having cut down the young shoots, is going away taking them with him thinking they are the pith. So will he not get the good that could be done by the pith because it is the pith.’

In accordance with this simile, brahman do I call this person. But, brahman, some person here comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness through faith, and thinks: ‘I am beset by birth, ageing and dying, by grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation and despair, I am beset by anguish, overwhelmed by anguish. But perhaps the annihilation of this whole mass of anguish can be shown.’ He, gone forth thus, receives gains, honours, fame. He because of the gains, honours, fame, he does not become satisfied, his purpose is not fulfilled. He because of the gains, honours, fame, he does not exalt himself, he does not disparage others. And he develops a desire for and strives for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than gains, honours, fame. He does not become remiss or lax. He attains success in moral habit. He, because of this success in moral habit, becomes satisfied, but not yet is his purpose fulfilled. He, because of this success in moral habit, does not exalt himself, does not disparage others and he develops a desire for and strives for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than success in moral habit. He does not become remiss or lax. He attains success in concentration. He, because of this success in concentration, becomes satisfied, his purpose is fulfilled. He, because of this success in concentration, exalts himself, disparages others, saying: ‘It is I who am concentrated, their minds are wandering.’ And he does not develop a desire for and strive for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than success in concentration. He becomes remiss and lax.

Brahman, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, who passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, and who, having cut off the bark, might go away taking it with him thinking it was the pith. A man with vision, having seen him, might say: ‘Indeed this good man does not know the pith, he does not know the softwood, he does not know the bark, he does not know the young shoots, he does not know the branches and foliage, inasmuch as this good man, walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, passes by the pith itself, passes by the softwood, and having cut off the bark, is going away taking it with him thinking it is the pith. So will he not get the good that could be done by the pith because it is the pith.’

In accordance with this simile, brahman do I call this person. But, brahman, some person here comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness through faith, and thinks: ‘I am beset by birth, ageing and dying, by grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation and despair, I am beset by anguish, overwhelmed by anguish. But perhaps the annihilation of this whole mass of anguish can be shown.’ He, gone forth thus, receives gains, honours, fame. He because of the gains, honours, fame, he does not become satisfied, his purpose is not fulfilled. He because of the gains, honours, fame, he does not exalt himself, he does not disparage others. And he develops a desire for and strives for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than gains, honours, fame. He does not become remiss or lax. He attains success in moral habit. He, because of this success in moral habit, becomes satisfied, but not yet is his purpose fulfilled. He, because of this success in moral habit, does not exalt himself, does not disparage others and he develops a desire for and strives for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than success in moral habit. He does not become remiss or lax. He attains success in concentration. He, because of this success in concentration, becomes satisfied, but not yet is his purpose fulfilled. He, because of this success in concentration, does not exalt himself, does not disparage others. And he develops a desire for and strives for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than success in concentration. He does not become remiss or lax. He attains knowledge and vision. He, because of this knowledge and vision, becomes satisfied, his purpose is fulfilled. Because of this knowledge and vision, he exalts himself, disparages others, saying: ‘It is I who dwell knowing, seeing, but these other monks dwell not knowing, not seeing.’ And he does not develop a desire for and strive for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision. He becomes remiss and lax.

Brahman, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, who passes by the pith itself, having cut out the softwood might go away taking it with him thinking it was the pith. A man with vision, having seen him, might say: ‘Indeed this good man does not know the pith, he does not know the softwood, he does not know the bark, he does not know the young shoots, he does not know the branches and foliage, inasmuch as this good man, walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, passes by the pith itself, and having cut out of the softwood, goes away taking it with him thinking it is the pith. So will he not get the good that could be done by the pith because it is the pith.’

In accordance with this simile, brahman do I call this person. But, brahman, some person here comes to have gone forth from home into homelessness through faith, and thinks: ‘I am beset by birth, ageing and dying, by grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation and despair, I am beset by anguish, overwhelmed by anguish. But perhaps the annihilation of this whole mass of anguish can be shown.’ He, gone forth thus, receives gains, honours, fame. He because of the gains, honours, fame, he does not become satisfied, his purpose is not fulfilled. He because of the gains, honours, fame, he does not exalt himself, he does not disparage others. And he develops a desire for and strives for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than gains, honours, fame. He does not become remiss or lax. He attains success in moral habit. He, because of this success in moral habit, becomes satisfied, but not yet is his purpose fulfilled. He, because of this success in moral habit, does not exalt himself, does not disparage others and he develops a desire for and strives for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than success in moral habit. He does not become remiss or lax. He attains success in concentration. He, because of this success in concentration, becomes satisfied, but not yet is his purpose fulfilled. He, because of this success in concentration, does not exalt himself, does not disparage others. And he develops a desire for and strives for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than success in concentration. He does not become remiss or lax. He attains knowledge and vision. He, because of this knowledge and vision, becomes satisfied, but not yet is his purpose fulfilled. Because of this knowledge and vision he does not exalt himself, does not disparage others. And he develops a desire for and strives for realising those other things which are higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision. He does not become remiss or lax. And what, brahman, are the things that are higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision?

Brahman, some monk here, aloof from the pleasures of the senses, aloof from unskilled states of mind, entering into the first meditation which is accompanied by initial thought and discursive thought, is born of aloofness, and is rapturous and joyful, abides in it. This, brahman, is a state that is higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, the monk, by allaying initial and discursive thought, with the mind subjectively tranquillised and fixed on one point, enters into and abides in the second meditation, which is devoid of initial and discursive thought, is born of concentration, and is rapturous and joyful. This, brahman, is a state that is higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, the monk, by the fading out of rapture, dwells with equanimity, attentive and clearly conscious; and he experiences in his person that joy of which the ariyans say: ‘Joyful lives he who has equanimity and is mindful’; and entering into the third meditation, he abides in it. This, brahman, is a state that is higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, the monk by getting rid of joy, by getting rid of anguish, and by the going down of his former pleasures and sorrows, entering into the fourth meditation, which has neither anguish nor joy, and which is entirely purified by equanimity and mindfulness, abides in it. This, brahman, is a state that is higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, a monk, by passing quite beyond all perception of material shapes, by the going down of perception of sensory reactions, by not attending to perceptions of variety, thinking: ‘Ether is unending,’ entering on the plane of infinite ether, abides in it. This, brahman, is a state that is higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, a monk, by passing quite beyond the plane of infinite ether, thinking: ‘Consciousness is unending,’ entering on the plane of infinite consciousnes, abides in it. This, brahman, is a state that is higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, a monk, by passing quite beyond the plane of infinite consciousness, thinking, ‘There is not anything,’ entering on the plane of no-thing, abides in it. This, brahman, is a state that is higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, a monk, by passing quite beyond the plane of no-thing, entering on the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, abides in it. This, brahman, is a state that is higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

And again, brahman, a monk, by passing quite beyond the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, entering on the stopping of perception and feeling, abides in it. And having seen by intuitive wisdom his cankers are utterly destroyed. This too, brahman, is a state that is higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

These, brahman, are the states that are higher and more excellent than knowledge and vision.

Brahman, it is like a man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, and who, having cut out the pith itself, might go away taking it with him, knowing it to be the pith. A man with vision, having seen him, might say: ‘Indeed this good man knows the pith, he knows the softwood, he knows the bark, he knows the young shoots, he knows the branches and foliage, inasmuch as this good man walking about aiming at the pith, seeking for the pith, looking about for the pith of a great, stable and pithy tree, having cut out the pith itself, is going away taking it with him, knowing it to be the pith. So will he get the good that could be done by the pith because it is the pith.’ In accordance with this simile, brahman, do I call this person.

So it is, brahman, that this Brahma-faring is not for advantage in gains, honours, fame, it is not for advantage in moral habit, it is not for advantage in concentration, it is not for advantage in knowledge and vision. That, brahman, which is unshakable freedom of mind, this is the goal, brahman, of this Brahma-faring, this the pith, this the culmination.”

When this had been said, Piṅgalakoccha the brahman spoke thus to the Lord: “It is wonderful, good Gotama, good Gotama it is wonderful. It is as if, good Gotama, one might set upright what had been upset, or might disclose what was covered, or point out the way to one who had gone astray, or might bring an oil-lamp into the darkness so that those with vision might see material shapes—even so is Dhamma made clear in many a figure by the good Gotama. I am going to the revered Gotama for refuge, and to Dhamma and to the Order of monks. May the good Gotama accept me as a lay-follower, one gone for refuge from today forth for as long as life lasts.”

Lesser Discourse on the Simile of the Pith: The Tenth