Majjhima Nikāya

The Middle Length Sayings

Anaṅgaṇa Suttaṃ

5. Discourse on No Blemishes

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 venerable Sāriputta addressed the monks, saying:

“Reverend monks.”

“Your reverence,” these monks answered the venerable Sāriputta in assent. Then the venerable Sāriputta spoke thus:

“Your reverences, these four kinds of persons are found existing in the world. What are the four? (1) Your reverences, there is here some person with a blemish who thinks: ‘I have a subjective blemish,’ but who does not comprehend it as it really is. (2) And there is the person with a blemish who, thinking: ‘I have a subjective blemish,’ comprehends it as it really is. (3) There is here the person without a blemish who thinks: ‘I have no subjective blemish,’ but who does not comprehend it as it really is. (4) And there is the person without a blemish who, thinking: ‘I have no subjective blemish,’ comprehends it as it really is.

Where, your reverences, there is this person with a subjective blemish who thinks, ‘I have a subjective blemish,’ but does not comprehend it as it really is, this one, of these two persons with a blemish, is shown to be the inferior man.

Where, your reverences, there is a person with a subjective blemish who thinks, ‘I have a subjective blemish,’ and comprehends it as it really is, this one, of these two persons with a blemish, is shown to be the best man.

Where, your reverences, there is a person without a subjective blemish who thinks, ‘I have no subjective blemish,’ but does not comprehend it as it really is, this one, of these two persons without a blemish, is shown to be the inferior man.

Where, your reverences, there is a person without a subjective blemish who thinks, ‘I have no subjective blemish,’ and comprehends it as it really is, this one, of these two persons without a blemish, is shown to be the best man.”

When this had been said, the venerable Moggallāna the Great spoke thus to the venerable Sāriputta: “Now, reverend Sāriputta, what is the cause, what the reason why, of these two persons with a blemish, one is shown as being the inferior man, while the other is shown as being the best man?”

“Where, your reverence, there is this person with a blemish who thinks: ‘I have a subjective blemish,’ but who does not comprehend it as it really is, this may be expected for him: that he will not generate desire, or strive, or stir up energy for getting rid of that blemish; he will pass away while he has attachment, aversion, and confusion, while he has the blemish, while his mind is tarnished. Your reverence, it is like a bronze bowl, brought back from a shop or smithy covered with dust and dirt and that the owners would not make use of or clean, but would throw away in the dust. In consequence, your reverence, would that bronze bowl become more tarnished with dirt after a time?”

“Yes, your reverence.”

“Even so, your reverence, for that person with a blemish who thinks: ‘I have a subjective blemish,’ but does not comprehend it as it really is, this is to be expected: that he will not generate desire, or strive, or stir up energy for getting rid of that blemish; he will pass away while he has attachment, aversion, confusion, while he has the blemish, while his mind is tarnished.

Where, your reverence, there is this person with a blemish who thinks: ‘I have a subjective blemish,’ and comprehends it as it really is, this may be expected for him: that he will generate desire, and strive, and stir up energy for getting rid of that blemish; he will pass away without attachment, without aversion, without confusion, without the blemish, his mind untarnished. Your reverence, it is like a bronze bowl, brought back from a shop or smithy covered with dust and dirt, but which the owners would use and would clean, and would not throw away in the dust. In consequence, your reverence, would that bronze bowl become cleaner after a time with the cleaning?”

“Yes, your reverence.”

“Even so, your reverence, for that person with a blemish who thinks: ‘I have a subjective blemish,’ and who comprehends it as it really is, this is to be expected: that he will generate desire and strive, and stir up energy for getting rid of that blemish; he will pass away without attachment, without aversion, without confusion, without the blemish, his mind untarnished.

Where, your reverence, there is this person without a blemish who thinks, ‘I have no subjective blemish,’ but who does not comprehend it as it really is, this may be expected for him: that he will attend to the fair aspect (of things); because of attention to the fair aspect, attachment will deprave his mind; he will pass away while he has attachment, aversion and confusion, while he has a blemish, while his mind is tarnished. Your reverence, it is like a bronze bowl, brought back from a shop or smithy quite pure, quite clean, but which its owners would neither use nor clean, but would throw away in the dust. In consequence, your reverence, would that bronze bowl become more tarnished with dirt after a time?”

“Yes, your reverence.” “Even so, your reverence, for that person without a blemish but who does not comprehend it as it really is, this may be expected for him; that he will attend to the fair aspect (of things); because of attention to the fair aspect, attachment will deprave his mind; he will pass away while he has attachment, aversion and confusion, while he has a blemish, while his mind is tarnished.

Where, your reverence, there is this person without a blemish who thinks, ‘I have no subjective blemish,’ and comprehends it as it really is, this may be expected for him: that he will not attend to the fair aspect (of things); because there is no attention to the fair aspect, attachment will not deprave his mind; he will pass away without attachment, without aversion, without confusion, without a blemish, his mind untarnished. Your reverence, it is like a bronze bowl, brought back from a shop or smithy quite pure, quite clean, but which the owners would use and would clean, and would not throw away in the dust. In consequence, your reverence, would that bronze bowl become cleaner after a time with the cleaning?”

“Yes, your reverence.”

“Even so, your reverence, for this person without a blemish who thinks, ‘I have no subjective blemish,’ and who comprehends it as it really is, this may be expected for him: that he will not attend to the fair aspect (of things); because there is no attention to the fair aspect, attachment will not deprave his mind; he will pass away without attachment, without aversion, without confusion, without blemish, his mind untarnished.

This, reverend Moggallāna, is the cause, this the reason why, of these two persons with a blemish, the one is shown to be the inferior man, while the other is shown to be the best man.

This, reverend Moggallāna, is the cause, this the reason why, of these two persons without a blemish, the one is shown to be the inferior man, while the other is shown to be the best man.”

“‘Blemish, blemish,’ is it called, your reverence? Now, of what is this a synonym, your reverence, that is to say ‘blemish’?”

“Your reverence, this, that is to say ‘blemish’, is a synonym for being occupied with evil unskilled wishes. This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘Indeed, should I fall into an offence, the monks might not find out about me, that I have fallen into an offence.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when monks may find out about that monk, that he has fallen into an offence. He, thinking that the monks have found out that he has fallen into an offence, becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘But if I have fallen into an offence, the monks might reprove me in private, not in the midst of an Order.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when monks might reprove him in the midst of an Order, not in private. He, thinking: ‘The monks are reproving me in the midst of an Order, not in private, becomes angry and discontented.’ Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘Should I have fallen into an offence, an equal should reprove me, not one who is not an equal.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when one who is not an equal might reprove that monk. He, thinking: ‘One who is not an equal is reproving me, not one who is an equal,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may the Teacher teach dhamma to the monks, having interrogated me only time and again.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when the Teacher may teach dhamma to the monks having interrogated some other monk time and again, and when the Teacher may teach dhamma to the monks not having interrogated that monk time and again. He, thinking: ‘The Teacher teaches dhamma to the monks having interrogated another monk time and again; the Teacher teaches dhamma to the monks not having interrogated me time and again,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may the monks enter the village for rice having put me in front; may the monks not enter the village for rice having put another monk in front.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when the monks may enter the village for rice having put another monk in front, they may enter a village for rice not having put that monk in front. He, thinking: ‘The monks are entering the village for rice having put another monk in front, they are entering the village for rice not having put me in front,’ becomes angry and discontented.’ Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may I receive the best seat, the best water, the best almsfood in a refectory, may no other monk receive the best seat, the best water, the best almsfood in the refectory.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when another monk may receive the best seat, the best water, the best almsfood in a refectory, when that monk does not receive the best seat the best water, the best almsfood in the refectory. He, thinking: ‘Another monk is receiving the best seat the best water, the best almsfood in the refectory; I am not receiving the best seat the best water, the best almsfood in the refectory,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may I, when I have eaten in a refectory, give the thanks, may no other monk, when he has eaten in a refectory, give the thanks.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when another monk, when he has eaten in the refectory, may give the thanks, when that monk, when he has eaten in the refectory, may not give the thanks. He, thinking: ‘Another monk, when he has eaten in the refectory, is giving the thanks; I, when I have eaten in the refectory, am not giving the thanks,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may I teach dhamma to the monks who are in a monastery, may no other monk teach dhamma to the monks who are in the monastery.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when another monk may teach dhamma to the monks who are in a monastery, when that monk may not teach dhamma to the monks who are in a monastery. He, thinking, ‘Another monk is teaching dhamma to the monks who are in a monastery, I am not teaching dhamma to the monks who are in the monastery,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may I teach dhamma to the nuns who are in a monastery may no other monk teach dhamma to the nuns who are in the monastery.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when another monk may teach dhamma to the nuns who are in a monastery, when that monk may not teach dhamma to the nuns who are in a monastery. He, thinking, ‘Another monk is teaching dhamma to the nuns who are in a monastery, I am not teaching dhamma to the nuns who are in the monastery,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may I teach dhamma to the layfollowers who are in a monastery may no other monk teach dhamma to the layfollowers who are in the monastery.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when another monk may teach dhamma to the layfollowers who are in a monastery, when that monk may not teach dhamma to the layfollowers who are in a monastery. He, thinking, ‘Another monk is teaching dhamma to the layfollowers who are in a monastery, I am not teaching dhamma to the layfollowers who are in the monastery,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may I teach dhamma to women layfollowers who are in a monastery, may no other monk teach dhamma to the women layfollowers who are in a monastery.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when some other monk may teach dhamma to the women layfollowers who are in a monastery, when that monk does not teach dhamma to the women layfollowers who are in a monastery. He, thinking: ‘Another monk is teaching dhamma to the women layfollowers who are in a monastery, I am not teaching dhamma to the women layfollowers who are in a monastery, becomes angry and discontented.’ Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may the monks revere, esteem, venerate, honour me, may the monks revere, esteem, venerate, honour no other monk.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when the monks revere, esteem, venerate, honour some other monk, when the monks do not revere, esteem, venerate, honour that monk. He, thinking: ‘The monks revere, esteem, venerate, honour some other monk, the monks do not revere, esteem, venerate, honour me, becomes angry and discontented.’ Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may the nuns revere, esteem, venerate, honour me, may the nuns revere, esteem, venerate, honour no other monk.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when the nuns revere, esteem, venerate, honour some other monk, when the nuns do not revere, esteem, venerate, honour that monk. He, thinking: ‘The nuns revere, esteem, venerate, honour some other monk, the nuns do not revere, esteem, venerate, honour me,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may the layfollowers revere, esteem, venerate, honour me, may the layfollowers revere, esteem, venerate, honour no other monk.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when the layfollowers revere, esteem, venerate, honour some other monk, when the layfollowers do not revere, esteem, venerate, honour that monk. He, thinking: ‘The layfollowers revere, esteem, venerate, honour some other monk, the layfollowers do not revere, esteem, venerate, honour me,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may the women layfollowers revere, esteem, venerate, honour me, may the women layfollowers revere, esteem, venerate, honour no other monk.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when the women layfollowers revere, esteem, venerate, honour some other monk, when the women layfollowers do not revere, esteem, venerate, honour that monk. He, thinking: ‘The women layfollowers revere, esteem, venerate, honour some other monk, the women layfollowers do not revere, esteem, venerate, honour me,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may I receive fine robe-material, may no other monk receive fine robe-material.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when another monk may receive fine robe-material, when that monk does not receive fine robe-material. He, thinking: ‘Another monk is receiving fine robe-material, I am not receiving fine robe-material,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may I receive fine almsfood, may no other monk receive fine almsfood.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when another monk may receive fine almsfood, when that monk does not receive fine almsfood. He, thinking: ‘Another monk is receiving fine almsfood, I am not receiving fine almsfood,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may I receive fine lodgings, may no other monk receive fine lodgings.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when another monk may receive fine lodgings, when that monk does not receive fine lodgings. He, thinking: ‘Another monk is receiving fine lodgings, I am not receiving fine lodgings,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This situation occurs, your reverence, when a wish such as this may arise in some monk here: ‘O may I receive fine requisites of medicines for the sick, may no other monk receive fine requisites of medicines for the sick.’ This situation occurs, your reverence, when another monk may receive fine requisites of medicines for the sick, when that monk does not receive fine requisites of medicines for the sick. He, thinking: ‘Another monk is receiving fine requisites of medicines for the sick, I am not receiving fine requisites of medicines for the sick,’ becomes angry and discontented. Whatever is anger, your reverence, whatever is discontent, both are a blemish.

This, your reverence, that is to say ‘blemish’, is a synonym for being occupied with evil unskilled wishes. In whatever monk, your reverence, it is seen and also heard that these occupations with evil unskilled wishes are not destroyed, even though he be a forest-dweller whose lodgings are remote, one who walks for almsfood on continuous almsround, a rag-robe wearer who wears robes that are worn thin, then his fellow Brahma-farers do not revere, esteem, venerate, honour him. What is the cause of this? It is that these see and also hear of this reverend one that his occupations with evil unskilled wishes are not destroyed. Your reverence, it is like a bronze bowl brought back from a shop or smithy quite pure, quite clean; its owners, having filled it with a dead snake or a dead dog or a dead human being, and having enclosed it in another bronze bowl, might take it back inside the shop. People, on seeing it, would say: ‘Just look, what is this that has been brought back like a very lovely thing?’ Having lifted it up and opened it, they would look at it; at the sight of it, repugnance would set in and loathing would set in and disgust would set in; those who had been hungry would have no desire for food, far less those who had eaten already. Even so, your reverence, of whatever monk it is seen and heard that these occupations with evil unskilled wishes are not destroyed, even though he be a forest-dweller whose lodgings are remote, one who walks for almsfood on continuous almsround, a rag-robe wearer who wears robes that are worn thin, then his fellow Brahma-farers do not revere, esteem, venerate, honour him. What is the cause of this? This reverend one's occupations with evil unskilled, wishes are seen as well as heard to be not destroyed.

In whatever monk, your reverence, these occupations with evil unskilled wishes are seen and are heard to be destroyed, even though he were staying near a village, were one who is invited, were one who wears householder's robe-material, then his fellow Brahma-farers would revere, esteem, venerate, honour him. What is the cause of this? It is that these see and also hear of that reverend one that his occupations with evil unskilled wishes are destroyed. Your reverence, it is like a bronze bowl, brought back from a shop or smithy quite pure, quite clean. Its owners, having filled it with fine rice; rice-water, the black grains removed, with various curries, various vegetables, and having enclosed it in another bronze bowl, might take it back inside the shop. People, seeing it, would say: ‘Just look, what is this that has been brought back like a very lovely thing?’ Having lifted it up, having opened it, they would look at it. On seeing it, liking would set in, and no loathing would set in and no disgust would set in; even those who had eaten would have a desire for food, how much more those who were hungry? Even so, your reverence, of whatever monk it is seen and heard that these occupations with evil unskilled wishes are destroyed, even though he were staying near a village, were one who is invited, were one who wears householder's robe-material, then his fellow Brahma-farers would revere would revere, esteem, venerate, honour him. What is the cause of this? It is that these see and also hear of this reverend one that his occupations with evil unskilled wishes are destroyed.”

When this had been said, the venerable Moggallāna the Great spoke thus to the venerable Sāriputta: “A simile occurs to me, reverend Sāriputta.” “Let it be evident, reverend Moggallāna.”

“Once I, your reverence, was staying near Rājagaha in the mountain Cowpen. Then I, your reverence, having dressed in the morning, taking my bowl and robe, entered Rājagaha for alms-food. Now at that time Samīti, the son of a vehicle maker, was shaping a felloe, and the Naked Ascetic, Paṇḍu's son, who had formerly been the son of a vehicle maker, was standing near him. Then, your reverence, this reasoning arose in the mind of the Naked Ascetic, Paṇḍu's son, who had formerly been the son of a vehicle maker: ‘O that this Samīti, the son of a vehicle maker, might shape away this felloe's crookedness, its twist and notch, so that the felloe, without crookedness, without twist, without notch, might be clear and placed on the pith.’ Even while there was this reasoning in the mind of the Naked Ascetic, Paṇḍu's son, who had formerly been a vehicle maker, so did Samīti, the son of a vehicle maker, shape away that crookedness and that twist and that notch from the felloe. Then, your reverence, the Naked Ascetic, Paṇḍu's son, who had formerly been the son of a vehicle maker, was delighted; he let forth a cry of delight: ‘It seems as if he is shaping it away because with his heart he knows my heart.’

Even so, your reverence, those persons who are without faith, but who, in want of a way of living, have gone forth from home into homelessness, not from faith, who are crafty, fraudulent, deceitful, who are unbalanced and puffed up, who are shifty, scurrilous and of loose talk, the doors of whose sense-faculties are not guarded, who do not know moderation in eating, who are not intent on vigilance, indifferent to recluseship, not of keen respect for the training, ones for abundance, lax, taking the lead in backsliding, shirking the burden of seclusion who are indolent, of feeble energy, of confused mindfulness, not clearly conscious, not concentrated but of wandering minds, who are weak in wisdom, drivellers, it seems that the venerable Sāriputta, because he knows their hearts with his heart, is shaping them by means of this disquisition on dhamma. But those young men of respectable families who, from faith, have gone forth from home into homelessness, who are not crafty, fraudulent or deceitful, who are not unbalanced, not puffed up, not shifty, not scurrilous or of loose talk, the doors of whose sense-faculties are guarded, who know moderation in eating, who are intent on vigilance, who long for recluseship, who are of keen respect for the training, not ones for abundance, not lax, shirking back-sliding, taking the lead in seclusion, who are of stirred up energy, self-resolute, with mindfulness aroused, clearly conscious, who are concentrated, their minds one-pointed, who have wisdom, are not drivellers, these, having heard this disquisition on dhamma from the venerable Sāriputta, seem to drink it, seem to savour it with speech as well as with mind. Indeed it is good that a fellow Brahma-farer, having caused one to rise up from what is unskilled, establishes him in what is skilled.

Your reverence, it is like a woman or a man, young and of tender years, fond of adornment, who, having washed the head, having acquired a garland of lotuses or a garland of jasmine or a garland of acacia creeper, and having taken it in both hands should place it on the top of the head, even so, your reverence, those young men of respectable families who have gone forth from home into homelessness from faith, who are not crafty, fraudulent or deceitful, who are not unbalanced, not puffed up, not shifty, not scurrilous or of loose talk, the doors of whose sense-faculties are guarded, who know moderation in eating, who are intent on vigilance, who long for recluseship, who are of keen respect for the training, not ones for abundance, not lax, shirking back-sliding, taking the lead in seclusion, who are of stirred up energy, self-resolute, with mindfulness aroused, clearly conscious, who are concentrated, their minds one-pointed, who have wisdom, are not drivellers, having heard this disquisition on dhamma from the venerable Sāriputta, seem to drink it, seem to savour it with speech as well as with mind. Indeed it is good that a fellow Brahma-farer, having caused one to rise up from what is unskilled, establishes him in what is skilled.”

In this wise did each of these great beings rejoice together in what was well spoken by the other.

Discourse on No Blemishes: The Fifth