Saṃyutta Nikāya 35

Connected Discourses on the Six Sense Bases

241. The Simile of the Great Log (1)

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Kosambī on the bank of the river Ganges. The Blessed One saw a great log being carried along by the current of the river Ganges, and he addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Do you see, bhikkhus, that great log being carried along by the current of the river Ganges?”

“Yes, venerable sir.”

“If, bhikkhus, that log does not veer towards the near shore, does not veer towards the far shore, does not sink in mid-stream, does not get cast up on high ground, does not get caught by human beings, does not get caught by nonhuman beings, does not get caught in a whirlpool, and does not become inwardly rotten, it will slant, slope, and incline towards the ocean. For what reason? Because the current of the river Ganges slants, slopes, and inclines towards the ocean.

“So too, bhikkhus, if you do not veer towards the near shore, do not veer towards the far shore, do not sink in mid-stream, do not get cast up on high ground, do not get caught by human beings, do not get caught by nonhuman beings, do not get caught in a whirlpool, and do not become inwardly rotten, you will slant, slope, and incline towards Nibbāna. For what reason? Because right view slants, slopes, and inclines towards Nibbāna.”

When this was said, a certain bhikkhu asked the Blessed One: “What, venerable sir, is the near shore? What is the far shore? What is sinking in mid-stream? What is getting cast up on high ground? What is getting caught by human beings, what is getting caught by nonhuman beings, what is getting caught in a whirlpool? What is inward rottenness?”

“‘The near shore,’ bhikkhu: this is a designation for the six internal sense bases. ‘The far shore’: this is a designation for the six external sense bases. ‘Sinking in mid-stream’: this is a designation for delight and lust. ‘Getting cast up on high ground’: this is a designation for the conceit ‘I am.’

“And what, bhikkhu, is getting caught by human beings? Here, someone lives in association with laypeople; he rejoices with them and sorrows with them, he is happy when they are happy and sad when they are sad, and he involves himself in their affairs and duties. This is called getting caught by human beings.

“And what, bhikkhu, is getting caught by nonhuman beings? Here, someone lives the holy life with the aspiration to be reborn into a certain order of devas, thinking: ‘By this virtue or vow or austerity or holy life I will become a deva or one among the devas.’ This is called getting caught by nonhuman beings.

“‘Getting caught in a whirlpool’: this, bhikkhu, is a designation for the five cords of sensual pleasure.

“And what, bhikkhu, is inward rottenness? Here someone is immoral, one of evil character, of impure and suspect behaviour, secretive in his acts, no ascetic though claiming to be one, not a celibate though claiming to be one, inwardly rotten, corrupt, depraved. This is called inward rottenness.”

Now on that occasion the cowherd Nanda was standing near the Blessed One. He then said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, I will not veer towards the near shore, I will not veer towards the far shore, I will not sink in mid-stream, I will not get cast up on high ground, I will not get caught by human beings, I will not get caught by nonhuman beings, I will not get caught in a whirlpool, I will not become inwardly rotten. May I receive the going forth under the Blessed One, may I receive the higher ordination?”

“In that case, Nanda, return the cows to their owners.”

“The cows will go back of their own accord, venerable sir, out of attachment to the calves.”

“Return the cows to their owners, Nanda.”

Then the cowherd Nanda returned the cows to their owners, came back to the Blessed One, and said: “The cows have been returned to their owners, venerable sir. May I receive the going forth under the Blessed One, may I receive the higher ordination?”

Then the cowherd Nanda received the going forth under the Blessed One, and he received the higher ordination. And soon, not long after his higher ordination, dwelling alone, withdrawn, diligent, ardent, and resolute … the Venerable Nanda became one of the arahants.”