Majjhima Nikāya

The Middle Length Sayings

Cūḷa Dhamma-Samādāna Suttaṃ

45. Lesser Discourse on the (Ways of) Undertaking Dhamma

Thus have I heard: At one time the Lord was staying near Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. While he was there the Lord addressed the monks, saying: “Monks.” “Revered One,” these monks answered the Lord in assent. The Lord spoke thus:

“These four, monks, are (ways of) undertaking Dhamma. What four? There is, monks, the undertaking of Dhamma that is happiness in the present but results in suffering in the future. There is, monks, the undertaking of Dhamma that is both suffering in the present as well as resulting in suffering in the future. There is, monks, the undertaking of Dhamma that is suffering in the present but results in happiness in the future. There is, monks, the undertaking of Dhamma that is both happiness in the present as well as resulting in happiness in the future.

And what, monks, is the undertaking of Dhamma that is happiness in the present, but results in suffering in the future? There are, monks, some recluses and brahmans who speak like this and are of these views: ‘There is no fault in pleasures of the senses.’ These come to indulgence in pleasures of the senses; these gratify themselves with girl-wanderers who tie their hair into top-knots; these speak thus: ‘How can these worthy recluses and brahmans, seeing future peril among sense-pleasures, speak of getting rid of sense-pleasures, lay down a full knowledge of sense-pleasures?’ Saying: ‘Happiness is in the young, soft and downy arms of this girl-wanderer,’ these come to indulgence in pleasures of the senses. These, having come to indulgence in sense-pleasures, at the breaking up of the body after dying arise in a sorrowful state, a bad bourn, the abyss, Niraya Hell. Here they experience feelings that are painful, sharp, acute. They speak thus: ‘These worthy recluses and brahmans, seeing future peril in sense-pleasures, speak of getting rid of sense-pleasures and lay down a full knowledge of sense-pleasures. But we, because of sense-pleasures, are experiencing these feelings that are painful, sharp, acute, their provenance being sense-pleasures.’

It is as if, monks, in the last month of the hot weather, a creeper's seed-pod should burst and a seed of the creeper, monks, should fall at the root of a sāl-tree. Then, monks, the devatā residing in that sāl-tree, afraid, agitated, might fall a-trembling. Then, monks, the friends and acquaintances, the kith and kin of that devatā who resides in that sāl-tree: devatās of parks, devatās of groves, devatās of trees, devatās residing in medicinal herbs, grasses and woods, gathering together and assembling might give comfort thus: ‘Do not be afraid, revered one, do not be afraid, revered one. For a peacock might swallow this creeper's seed, or a deer might consume it, or a forest-fire might burn it, or workers in the wood might remove it, or white ants might eat it, or it might not germinate.’ But, monks, if neither a peacock should swallow this creeper's seed, nor a deer consume it, nor a forest-fire burn it, nor workers in the wood remove it, nor white ants eat it, it might germinate. Rained on heavily by the monsoon clouds, it might grow apace, and a young, soft and downy creeper, clinging to it might fasten on to that sāl-tree. Then, monks, it might occur to the devatā residing in that sāl-tree: ‘Why then, did these worthy friends and acquaintances, kith and kin: devatās of parks, devatās of groves, devatās of trees, devatās residing in medicinal herbs, grasses and woods, seeing future peril in this creeper's seed, gathering together and assembling, give comfort thus: ‘Do not be afraid, revered one, do not be afraid, revered one. For a peacock might swallow this creeper's seed, or a deer might consume it, or a forest-fire might burn it, or workers in the wood might remove it, or white ants might eat it, or it might not germinate?’ Pleasant is the touch of this young, soft, downy and clinging creeper.’ It might cover that sāl-tree; when it had covered that sāl-tree, it might form a canopy above it, it might produce dense undergrowth; when it had produced a dense undergrowth, it might strangle every great branch of that sāl-tree.

Then, monks, it might occur to the devatā residing in that sāl-tree: ‘It was because of seeing this future peril in the creeper's seed, that those worthy friends and acquaintances, kith and kin: devatās of parks, devatās of groves, devatās of trees, devatās residing in medicinal herbs, grasses and woods, seeing future peril in this creeper's seed, gathering together and assembling, give comfort thus: ‘Do not be afraid, revered one, do not be afraid, revered one. For a peacock might swallow this creeper's seed, or a deer might consume it, or a forest-fire might burn it, or workers in the wood might remove it, or white ants might eat it, or it might not germinate.’ For I, because of this creeper's seed, am experiencing painful, sharp, acute feelings.’

Even so, monks, there are some worthy recluses and brahmans who speak thus and are of these views: ‘There is no fault in pleasures of the senses.’ These, come to indulgence in sense-pleasures, at the breaking up of the body after dying, arise in a sorrowful state, a bad bourn, the abyss, Niraya Hell. Here they experience feelings that are painful, sharp, acute. They speak thus: ‘These worthy recluses and brahmans, seeing future peril in sense-pleasures, speak of getting rid of sense-pleasures and lay down a full knowledge of sense-pleasures. But we, because of sense-pleasures, are experiencing these feelings that are painful, sharp, acute, their provenance being sense-pleasures.’ This, monks, is called the undertaking of Dhamma that is happiness in the present, but results in suffering in the future.

And what, monks, is the undertaking of Dhamma that is both suffering in the present, as well as resulting in suffering in the future? Here, monks, there is some unclothed (ascetic), flouting life's decencies licking his hands (after meals), not one to come, when asked to do so, not one to stand still, when asked to do so. He does not consent (to accept food) offered to (him) or specially prepared for (him) nor to (accept) an invitation (to a meal). He does not accept (food) straight from a cooking pot or pan, nor within the threshold, nor among the faggots, nor among the rice-pounders, nor when two people were eating, nor from a pregnant woman, nor from one giving suck, nor from one co-habiting with a man, nor from gleanings, nor near where a dog is standing, nor where flies are swarming, nor fish, nor meat. He drinks neither fermented liquor nor spirits nor rice-gruel. He is a one-house-man, a one-piece-man, or a two-house-man, a two-piece-man, or a three-house-man, a three-piece-man, or a four-house-man, a four-piece-man, or a five-house-man, a five-piece-man, or a six-house-man, a six-piece-man, or a seven-house-man, a seven-piece-man. He subsists on one little offering, and he subsists on two little offerings and he subsists on three little offerings and he subsists on four little offerings and he subsists on five little offerings and he subsists on six little offerings and he subsists on seven little offerings. He takes food only once a day, and once in two days and once in three days and once in four days and once in five days and once in six days and once in seven days. He lives intent on the practice of eating rice at regular fort-nightly intervals. He comes to be one feeding on potherbs, or feeding on millet, or on wild rice, or on snippets of skin, or on water-plants, or on the red powder of rice husks, or on the discarded scum of rice on the boil, or on the flour of oil-seeds, or grass, or cowdung. He is one who subsists on forest roots and fruits, eating the fruits that had fallen. He wears coarse hempen cloths, and he wears mixed cloths, and he wears cerements, and he wears rags taken from the dust heap, and he wears tree-bark fibre, and he wears antelope skins, and he wears strips of antelope skin, and he wears cloths of kusa-grass, and he wears cloths of bark, and he wears cloths of wood shavings, and he wears a blanket of human hair, and he wears a blanket of animal hair, and he wears owls’ feathers. He is one who plucks out the hair of his head and beard, intent on the practice of plucking out the hair of head and beard. He becomes one who stands upright, refusing a seat. He becomes one who squats on his haunches, intent on the practice of squatting. He becomes one for covered thorns, making his bed on covered thorns; and he is intent on the practice of going down to the water to bathe up to three times in an evening. He, at the breaking up of the body after dying, arises in a sorrowful state, a bad bourn, the abyss, Niraya Hell. This, monks, is called the undertaking of Dhamma that is both suffering in the present, as well as resulting in suffering in the future.

And what, monks, is the undertaking of Dhamma that is suffering in the present but results in happiness in the future? Here, monks, there is someone who is full of attachment by nature and who constantly experiences suffering and grief born of attachment; he is full of hatred by nature and who constantly experiences suffering and grief born of hatred; full of confusion by nature, and constantly experiences suffering and grief born of confusion. With suffering and with grief, his face covered with tears and crying, he fares the Brahma-faring that is utterly fulfilled, utterly pure. He, at the breaking up of the body after dying, arises in a good bourn, a heaven world. This, monks, is called the undertaking of Dhamma that is suffering in the present, but results in happiness in the future.

And what, monks, is the undertaking of Dhamma that is both happiness in the present, as well as resulting in happiness in the future? Here, monks, someone is not full of attachment by nature and who does not constantly experiences suffering and grief born of attachment; he is not full of hatred by nature and does not constantly experiences suffering and grief born of hatred; he is not full of confusion by nature, and does not constantly experiences suffering and grief born of confusion. (1) He, 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. (2) And again, he, by allaying initial and discursive thought, his mind subjectively tranquillised and fixed on one point, enters on and abides in the second meditation which is devoid of initial and discursive thought, is born of concentration and is rapturous and joyful. (3) And again, he, by the fading out of rapture, dwells with equanimity, attentive and clearly conscious, and experiences in his person that joy of which the ariyans say: ‘Joyful lives he who has equanimity and is mindful,’ and he enters on and abides in the third meditation. (4) And again, he, by getting rid of joy, by getting rid of anguish, by the going down of his former pleasures and sorrows, enters on and abides in the fourth meditation which has neither anguish nor joy, and which is entirely purified by equanimity and mindfulness. At the breaking up of the body, after dying, he arises in a good bourn, a heaven world. This, monks, is called the undertaking of Dhamma that is both happiness in the present, as well as resulting in happiness in the future.

These, monks, are the four (ways of) undertaking Dhamma.”

Thus spoke the Lord. Delighted, these monks rejoiced in what the Lord had said.

Lesser Discourse on the (Ways of) Undertaking Dhamma: The Fifth