SUMMARY OF 25 MAJOR DISCOURSES
IN MIDDLE LENGTH DISCOURSES
OF THE BUDDHA
Middle Length Discourses consists of 152 discourses of the Buddha. This book has established itself as the most widely used text containing the Buddha's teachings. Here are 25 major discourses (Pali. sutta). Title first and then a summary.
This section is followed by essential groups of the teachings, such as the Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path etc.
Sutta 1 The Root of all Things
Sutta 2 All the Taints
Sutta 7 Simile of the Cloth
Sutta 9 Right View
Sutta 10 Foundations of Mindfulness
Sutta 18 The Honeyball
Sutta 22 Simile of the Snake
Sutta 26 The Noble Searc
Sutta 28 Greater Discourse on the Elephant’s Footprint
Sutta 29 Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Heartwood
Sutta 37 Shorter Discourse on the Destruction of Craving
Sutta 39: Greater Discourse at Assupura
Sutta 44: Shorter Discourse on Questions and Answers
Sutta 46: Discourse on Way of Undertaking Things
Sutta 62: Greater Discourse to Rahula
Sutta 70: Discourse at Kitagiri
Sutta 86: Discourse to Angulimala
Sutta 101: Discourse at Devedaha
Sutta 115: Discourse on the Many Kinds of Elements
Sutta 118 Mindfulness of Breathing
Sutta 121 Shorter Discourse on Emptiness
Sutta 137 Exposition of the Sixfold Base
Sutta 139: Discourse on the Exposition of Non-Conflict
Sutta 140: Discourse on the Exposition of the Elements
Sutta 148: Discourse on the Six Sets of Six.
From: Middle Length Discourses
translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Nanamoli
Wisdom Publications,199 Elm Street
Somerville, MA 02144, USA.
SUTTA 1: THE ROOT OF ALL THINGS
In this sutta, the Buddha analyses four types of individuals in the world from the standpoint of the Dharma.
Untaught ordinary person, who perceives everything as reality without any understanding
The noble dharma student who knows liberation but with tendencies to work on
The fully liberated one free from arising of such tendencies.
The fully liberated, and fully enlightened one, who teaches the Dharma
This sutta calls upon us to explore the way we perceive our experiences and relationship to life, and the way we conceive of it.
The ordinary, uninstructed person gets caught up in various perceptions treating each one as reality. (Earth can refer to things, body etc.)
The earth is me.
I am in the earth.
I am separate from earth.
The earth is mine.
He or she takes pleasure in grasping onto the earth.
Why does one perceive in this way?
Because I have not fully understood, including the most profound of experiences such as realizing our relationship to Nirvana.
Nirvana is in me.
I am in Nirvana.
I am separate from Nirvana.
Nirvana is mine.
He or she takes pleasure in grasping onto Nirvana.
Why does one perceive in this way? Because it is not fully understood.
Whereas a noble student in higher training he or she will perceive in this way:
The earth is not me.
I am not in earth.
I am not separate from the earth.
The earth is not mine.
I do not take pleasure in grasping onto the earth.
Why do I perceive in this way? So, I may fully understand
Nirvana is not me.
I am not in Nirvana.
I am not separate from Nirvana.
Nirvana is not mine. I do not delight in Nirvana.
Why do I perceive in this way? So, I may fully understand it
For the noble student – the second kind of person - there is still conceit and craving in the mind but he or she knows what liberation is.
The third kind of person is a fully liberated one (arahant), who has understood the way things truly are and has seen through conceit and craving.
The fourth kind of person is the fully enlightened one who also teaches the Dharma.
SUTTA 2: ALL THE TAINTS
The Buddha teaches seven ways to overcome the taints in the mind that cause suffering. The taints referred to are:
Craving for sensual pleasures,
Craving for being
Basically, "when one attends unwisely, unarisen taints arise and arisen taints increase. When one attends wisely, unarisen taints do not arise and arisen taints are abandoned."
Essentially, the Buddha is concerned with the non-arising of sensual desire, of being, and of ignorance.
There are four perversions (of perception). These are
seeing the impermanent as permanent,
seeing what is unsatisfactory as pleasurable,
what is not self as self
what is foul as beautiful
SEVEN WAYS TO ABANDON THE TAINTS:
Seeing: Seeing refers to seeing of what arises from within in terms of past, present and future, to understand what is fit for attention and what is unfit for attention.
Restraining: Restraining the use of the eye, nose, tongue, body and mind faculty.
Using: Wise use of the clothes, food, resting place and medicine. Using each for protection.
Enduring: Endures cold, heat, hunger, and discomfort of the physical body, painful bodily experiences, and ill-spoken and unwelcome words.
Avoiding: Dangerous animals and environment; placing oneself in vulnerable situations, associating with unwise people
Removing: Arisen thoughts of sensual desire, ill-will, cruelty, evil, unwholesome states.
Developing: the seven factors of enlightenment, namely mindfulness, inquiry, energy, happiness, calmness, meditative concentration and equanimity.
SUTTA 7: SIMILE OF THE CLOTH
The Buddha compares a piece of cloth that has become stained to the mind. He then lists the stains in the mind as covetousness, greed, ill will, anger, revenge, contempt, domineering attitude, envy, avarice, deceit, fraud, obstinacy, presumption, conceit, arrogance, vanity, negligence.
If a cloth were pure and bright, it would look well dyed and pure in color. Why? Because of the purity of the cloth.
With direct knowledge of the imperfection of the mind, one abandons it, and this brings full confidence in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. One gains ‘inspiration in the meaning of the dharma’ bringing gladness, happiness, calmness and concentration.
As a result of non-harming, one naturally abides with a mind imbued with the Four Divine Abidings.
‘He abides pervading everywhere with loving kindness,
So above, below, around and everywhere,
And to all as to himself,
He abides pervading the all-encompassing world
With a mind imbued with loving-kindness,
Abundant, exalted, immeasurable,
Without hostility, and without ill will.’
Similarly, with the other three Divine Abidings
He understands thus: ‘There is this, there is the inferior, there is the superior, and beyond there is an escape from this whole field of perception.’
A Brahmin listening to the Buddha said that others say one should go to bathe in the sacred river in Bodh Gaya. The Buddha replies: A fool may there forever bathe yet will not purify dark deeds. If you live without causing any harm, what need is there to go to Bodh Gaya, ‘for any well will be your Gaya.’
The Brahmin responds with the much-loved words that the Buddha has ‘made the Dharma clear in many ways, as though he were turning upright what had been overthrown, revealing what was hidden, showing the way to one who was lost, or holding up a lamp in the dark for those with eyesight to see forms. I got for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.’
SUTTA 9: RIGHT VIEW
Sariputta speaks about right view and what is wholesome and the root of the wholesome, and what is unwholesome and the root of unwholesome. He says
The Buddha names the ways in which a noble disciple is “one with right view”.
A noble disciple needs to understand the unwholesome and the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome and the root of the wholesome
The 10 unwholesome courses of action:
killing 2. stealing 3. sexual misconduct 4. false speech 5. malicious speech 6. harsh speech 7. gossip 8. covetousness 9. ill-will 10). wrong view.
The root of these unwholesome actions is greed, hatred and delusion.
The 10 wholesome courses of actions are non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion. When this is understood one abandons the underlying tendency to the view and conceit ‘I am.” and here and now makes an end to suffering.
There are 4 kinds of nutriment,
physical food for the physical body,
The Buddha says Four Noble Truths
applies to each of the 12 links of Dependent Arising. The Way is the Noble Eightfold Path, namely Right Understanding, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Meditative Concentration.
So, for example
Ageing and Death
aging and death
being—three kinds of being: sense-sphere being, fine- material being and immaterial being.
clinging—clinging to sensual pleasures, views, rules and rituals, and self
craving—six classes of craving: craving for forms, sounds, smells, flavors, tangibles, craving for mind-objects
feeling—classes of feeling are pleasant, unpleasant or neither, worldly or spiritual, body and mind
contact—or initial impressions through the senses and the mind
the sixfold base—six bases: eye-base, ear, nose tongue, body, mind-base
name and form—5 mental factors - feeling, perception, volition, contact, attention; materiality -- the four elements and the material which is formed from them
consciousness—six classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind-consciousness
formations—3 kinds of formations: bodily, verbal, mental
ignorance - is not knowing the Four Noble Truths
SUTTA 10: THE FOUNDATIONS OF MINDFULNESS
This sutta is the primary resource for the teaching of Insight (Vipassana) Meditation. The different traditions of Vipassana reflect the different interpretations of this discourse. The Buddha says the Four Foundations (i.e. Applications) of Mindfulness are the direct path for overcoming grief and despair, for attaining the direct way and for the realization of Nirvana.
The Buddha says apply mindfulness to see
body as a body.
feelings as feelings,
states of mind as states of mind
Dharma as Dharma.
One contemplate-these four objects of mindfulness
arising factors and
simply established in knowing ‘there is body’, or "there is feeling", or "there is a state of mind", or "there is dharma.
mindfulness is applied to the extent necessary for bare knowing and mindfulness so that one abides independent, not clinging to anything whatsoever.
1. One applies mindfulness to the body through
the four postures
parts of the body
2. One applies mindfulness to feelings
pleasant, painful and neither pleasant or painful feelings, body and mind
worldly feelings and spiritual feelings and one contemplate internally, externally etc.
3. One applies mindfulness to States of Mind
Mind affected by lust and unaffected
Hate and unaffected by hate
Delusion and unaffected by it
Contracted and Distracted
Exalted and unexalted
Surpassed and unsurpassed
Concentrated and unconcentrated
Liberated and unliberated
4. One applied mindfulness to Dharma
five hindrances; five aggregates;
six sense bases; seven factors of enlightenment,
Four Noble Truths.
The Buddha concludes that if the Four Foundations of Mindfulness are developed for a week
one could expect full liberation or liberation with only a ‘trace of clinging.’
See Heart of Buddhist Meditation by Bhikkhu Nyanaponika (published by Rider Books, London)
for commentary on this sutta
SUTTA 18: THE HONEYBALL
The Buddha gives teachings on papanca (projections and proliferations of the mind). After the Buddha expounds, Mahà Kaccàna gives the detailed meaning.
Three major conditions for papanca are craving, conceit, and views. The mind sees in terms of ‘I’ ‘mine’ and ‘myself’.
The Buddha encourages one to understand and track the process, namely:
Dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises.
The meeting of eye, form and eye-consciousness is called contact.
With contact as the condition, there is feeling.
What one feels, that one perceives.
What one perceives, that one thinks about.
What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates (papanca)
With what one has mentally proliferated as the source, perceptions and notions tinged by mental proliferation (i.e. projections) beset one with respect to past, future, and present forms.
The sutta explains in detail the process of dependent arising that leads to papanca. Unless there was manifestation of the senses, contact feelings, perceptions, it would be impossible for thinking to arise and mental proliferation and projections to take place.
He also points out that there can be papanca about papanca. That means proliferation of various projections about one’s proliferations and projections.
See Concept and Reality by Bhikkhu Nanananda
published by the Buddhist Publication Society,
Kandy, Sri Lanka,
for a commentary on this discourse.
SUTTA 22: THE SIMILE OF THE SNAKE
The Buddha points out the obstructions that block liberation. He says that the meaning of the Dharma must be examined to gain a ‘reflective acceptance ‘of them. One does not learn the Dharma for the sake of criticizing others. The sutta is divided into several important sections., each one standing by itself.
He said grasping unwisely onto the Dharma was like grabbing a poisonous snake by the tail – meaning that if the teachings are wrongly grasped, they will cause suffering. If we correctly take hold of the teachings, they ‘serve our welfare and benefit for a long time.’
In the famous simile of the raft, the Buddha says there is a great expanse of water, whose near shore is dangerous and fearful. The far shore is safe and free of fear. One builds a raft to carry one over the water but need not carry the raft on one’s head when arriving at the other shore. In other words, the Dharma is not worth clinging to.
A noble student of the dharma understands each of the five aggregates "This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self". Regarding in this way, one is not agitated.
To be free of agitation about what is non-existent externally (loss or non-acquisition of things); one does not think "I had it! I've lost it! May I have it! I do not get it!”
To be free of agitation about what is non-existent internally: not to have the view "This is self, this is the world; after death I shall be permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change; I shall endure as long as eternity".
When one hears the Dharma, for the elimination of all standpoints, and underlying tendencies, for the destruction of craving, for cessation for Nirvana, one does not think thus. "So, I shall be annihilated! So, I shall perish! I shall be no more!" One neither clings to existence nor non-existence.
Seeing "not myself" in the 5 aggregates, one becomes disenchanted, dispassionate, and liberated.
The fully liberated one is untraceable here and now (since the ‘I’ is not found either in or outside the five aggregates).
In a famous remark, the Buddha says: ‘What I teach is suffering and the cessation of suffering.’
If someone scolds or harasses us, we feel no bitterness. If someone reveres or venerates us, we feel no joy or elation. We simply teach what we know to be true.
He encourages the ‘letting go of what is not yours’ – namely body, feelings, perceptions formations (thoughts) and consciousness.
He concludes that the Dharma is ‘clear and open.’
SUTTA 26: THE NOBLE SEARCH
The Buddha describes his quest for enlightenment from the time when he was a prince until he gave his first teachings in Sarnath to his five close friends on the spiritual path.
The Buddha says there are two kinds of search, one that is subject to birth, ageing, pain and death and the noble search for enlightenment that is not subject to birth and death.
"If I am subject to birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilements, why should I seek that which is the same. And he names what is subject to these things. This is the ignoble search.
Then he says, what is the noble search: the unborn supreme security, “Nirvana; the unaging, the deathless, the sorrowless, the undefiled supreme security.” And to achieve Nirvana, one must “still all formations, relinquish all attachments, and destroy craving.]”
The Buddha then refers to his contact with two spiritual teachers, namely Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. He says that he experienced their deepest teachings but felt the teachings had not gone far enough. (There was a duality of going into a deep experience and coming out of it).
The Buddha then describes his night under a tree by a river near Urevela (Bodh Gaya) where he realized the truth that was fully liberating.
He then felt that others were so caught up, it would be hard for them to understand the Dharma and so he felt it would be ‘wearying’ to teach it. But Brahma Sahampati said the famous one line ‘there are beings with little dust in their eyes.’
After seven weeks under the tree, the Buddha walked to Sarnath to give his first discourse to his five friends. He also speaks of the four jhanas and four formless realms of experience, liberation and going beyond Mara.
In liberation, one sits, walks stand and reclines without fear.
SUTTA 28: GREATER DISCOURSE
ON THE SIMILE OF THE ELEPHANT’S FOOTPRINT
Sàriputta speaks about the importance of the Four Noble Truths. "Just as the footprint of any living being that walks can be placed within the elephant's footprint...the elephant's footprint is chief...so too, all wholesome states can be included in the Four Noble Truths."
He also refers to the five aggregates “affected by clinging elements.” and the world of the four elements that are usually described as “belonging to oneself and clung to”.
For each element it is said, both the internal and the external element, are simply the (earth, water, fire and air) element," When one sees with the view of not-self, this makes one dispassionate toward the elements.
If one is scolded or harassed, one can reflect: "There is a painful feeling at the ear door. Is it dependent or independent? It is dependent on contact. That contact is impermanent, that feeling is impermanent, perception, formations, and consciousness is impermanent." This makes one imperturbable.
Sàriputta encourages recollection of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to develop equanimity. He also reminds us about the limitations of the elements.
Earth—there comes a time when the earth element vanishes. Even this great earth element is impermanent, subject to destruction, disappearance, and change, what of this body, which lasts but a while?
Water, sometimes carrying away villages, countries. When water of the great oceans is abundant, sometimes it is not even ankle deep, not enough to wet a joint of a finger...what of this body, which lasts but a while?
Fire--can burn up villages, countries, and goes out due to lack of fuel only when it comes to a road, rock water, or and fair open space. Comes a time when one tries to make fire with cock's feathers and hide parings...what of this body which lasts just a while?
Air--sweeps away villages, countries. In the last month of the hot season when one seeks wind by means of a fan, even the strands of straw in the drip-fringe of the thatch do not stir...what of this body, which lasts but a while?
Just as when a space is enclosed by timber and creepers, grass, and clay, it comes to be termed "house", so too, when a space is enclosed by bones and sinews, flesh and skin, it comes to be termed 'material form.'"
Sàriputta goes through each aggregate and says, "In the material form, in what has thus come to be is included in the material form aggregate."
This means that "what has thus come to be" includes the entire complex of factors arisen by the way to all the senses. What is the material form aggregate affected by clinging? It is the four great elements and the material form derived from the four great elements." This is everything right there.
Famous quote is then stated: "One who sees dependent arising sees the Dharma; one sees the Dharma sees dependent arising.
“These five aggregates affected by clinging are dependently arising. The removal of desire and lust for these five aggregates affected by clinging is the cessation of suffering.”
SUTTA 29: GREATER DISCOURSE
ON THE SIMILE OF THE HEARTWOOD
The Buddha uses the simile of a great tree possessed of heartwood, sapwood, inner bark and outer bark, twigs and leaves. In other words we can wander in the forest for the heart of the tree (say the root) and mistake sap, inner bark, twigs and leaves for it.
The last paragraph is the summary of the entire sutta and is one of the most profound summaries of the Buddha’s teachings.
“The spiritual life does not have gain, honour, and renown for its benefit,
or the attainment of virtues for its benefit,
or the attainment of concentration for its benefit,
or knowledge and vision for its benefit.
But it is this unshakeable deliverance of mind
that the goal of the spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end.”
.See Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree
By Ajahn Buddhadasa
Published by Wisdom Publications, Boston, USA
for a commentary on this sutta.
SUTTA 37: SHORTER DISCOURSE
ON THE DESTRUCTION OF CRAVING
This is a brief discourse by the Buddha on the destruction of craving--an important one to contemplate The Buddha tells Sakka that ‘nothing is worth clinging to’ – the very essence of the Buddha’s teachings.
“When a bhikkhu has heard that nothing is worth adhering to,
he directly knows everything;
having directly known everything,
he fully understands everything;
having fully understood everything,
whatever feeling he feels,
whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant,
he abides contemplating impermanence in those feelings,
contemplating fading away,
contemplating letting go.
he does not cling to anything in the world.
When he does not cling, he is not agitated.
When he is not agitated, he attains Nirvana.”
‘Birth is destroyed, the spiritual life has been lived, what has to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.’ The Buddha concludes that liberation comes through the destruction of craving.
SUTTA 39: GREATER DISCOURSE AT ASSAPURA
The Buddha encourages spiritual practitioners to live up to their name as practitioners. He says practitioners need to show regret (hiri) for unskilful action and apprehension (ottapa) about repeating such behaviour in the future.
The Buddha taught for bodily, verbal and mental conduct to be pure, clear, open and restrained. He said also not to praise oneself, nor put down others in such matters.
“Do not fall short of the goal of liberation while there is more to be done.”
He gave the same message with regard to
a pure expression of right livelihood
to guarding the senses
moderation in eating
“Reflecting wisely, we will take food for neither amusement nor intoxication, nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness but only for the endurance and continuance of the body, for ending discomfort and for assisting the spiritual life... I shall be healthy and blameless and live in comfort.”
The Buddha said: “We will be devoted to wakefulness day and night, sitting and walking and practicing to clear the mind of obstructive states.”
One applies mindfulness to every activity during the day including getting dressed, drinking, using the toilet, talking and keeping silent
One abandons the five hindrances – selfishness, anger, boredom/apathy, restlessness/anxiety and doubt/fear. The Buddha said to be free from the hindrances is comparable to experiencing the happiness of finally paying off a debt, getting released from prison or safely crossing a desert.
Through the practice, one can enter the four absorptions, come to direct knowledge about one’s history, witness change and understand how people experience the fruits of their actions.
Finally, there is the understanding that the “spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more becoming.”
SUTTA 44: SHORTER DISCOURSE OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Dhammadina, the nun, talks to her ex-husband about an essential understanding of the Dharma.
She states that our concept of our personality is formed through which aspects of the five aggregates that we cling to. Thus, the ending of the notion of having a personality ends with the clinging to any of the five aggregates.
Personality arises through seeing body, feelings, perceptions, thought formations and consciousness as self, or as possessing self, or in self, or self in the five aggregates. If we do not regard self and five aggregates as tied in some way to each other, then the concept of personality will not arise.
Dhammadina states that sila (ethics) consists of right speech, action and livelihood
Right effort, mindfulness and meditative concentration are the aggregate of meditative concentration (samadhi).
Right intention and understanding are the aggregate of wisdom.
The nun explains that unification of mind is meditative concentration.
She also explains that with pleasurable feelings there can be the underlying tendency towards desire, aversion underlying painful feelings and ignorance in feelings neither pleasant nor painful.
She tells her ex-husband that these underlying tendencies do not have to be abandoned but access to deep absorptions overcomes these tendencies.
Dhammadina then says the pleasurable and the painful are the counterpart of each other and ignorance is the counterpart of neither pleasant nor painful feelings. True knowledge is the counterpart of ignorance. Liberation is the counterpart of true knowledge and Nirvana is the counterpart of liberation.
The Buddha told Visakha he would have said the same thing.
SUTTA 46: GREATER DISCOURSE
ON WAYS OF UNDERTAKING THINGS
The Buddha speaks of four ways of undertaking action and says, “attend closely to what I shall say.”
Those who have no regard for the Dharma do not know what should be followed and what should not be followed. As a result, disagreeable things increase for him. “This is what happens to one who does not see.”
The Buddha says we drink from what is offered without reflecting beforehand.
1. The way that is pleasant now and ripens in the future as pain (like a pleasant tasting poison).
2. The way that is painful now and ripens in the future as pain (like a painful poison)
3. The way that is painful now and ripens in the future as pleasant (like a painful medicine)
4. The way that is pleasant now and ripen in the future as pleasant (like a pleasant medicine)
He reminds listeners again that an ignorant person does not know what things should and should not be cultivated. A wise person knows.
In conclusion, the Buddha states: “When the sky is clear and cloudless, the sun rises above the earth dispelling all darkness from space leaving a shining radiance. So too the way of undertaking things that is pleasant now and ripens in the future as pleasant dispels teachings of the priests.”
SUTTA 62: GREATER DISCOURSE OF ADVICE TO RAHULA
After six years of leaving his wife, Yashodara, as a single mother, the Buddha resumed his responsibilities as a father. In this talk to Rahula, his son, the Buddha gives him meditative teachings to see the five aggregates with wisdom as “not mine, this I am not, this is not myself.”
He then encourages Rahula to meditate
on mindfulness of breathing
to see the body as the makeup of elements, namely earth, water, fire, air and space
to develop meditation so that he is like the Earth – able to withstand excrement, spittle and abuse.
so that agreeable and disagreeable contacts “will not invade your mind.”
Develop loving kindness to abandon negativity
Develop compassion to abandon revenge
Develop appreciative joy to overcome discontent and envy
Develop equanimity to overcome aversion
Develop meditation on foulness to overcome desire
Develop meditation on impermanence to overcome conceit of “I am” and belief in continuity
Develop mindfulness of breathing for depths of calmness and happiness and
Develop complete letting go right to the point of the last breath of life.
Rahula was delighted with what his father told him.
SUTTA 70: DISCOURSE AT KITAGIRI
After encouraging moderation in eating, the Buddha says he teaches so that wholesome states of mind increase in the world and unwholesome decrease. He also explains that there are seven kinds of noble persons in the world. He speaks of the importance of saddha (faith, trust, confidence).
1.Liberated both ways – through calm depths of meditation and insight
2. Liberated by wisdom
For advanced practitioners there are the:
1. Body witness. Has depth of meditation experiences, transcended forms, and some taints dissolved but still inner work to do.
2. Attained to view: Does not have depth of meditation experiences but through wisdom has transcended forms, some taints dissolved but still inner work to do.
3. Liberated by faith: His faith is “planted, rooted and established in the One who has Gone Beyond.”
4. Dharma Followers: Has an acceptance of the teachings through reflection.
5. Faith or Confidence followers: Has enough faith and love in the Buddha to cultivate necessary spiritual faculties. Enthusiasm arises, will power and through scrutinising the teachings he strives to realise the ultimate truth.
A faithful student who is intent on understanding the Buddha’s teachings, one of two fruits may be expected – either complete knowledge of liberation here and now or only a trace of clinging remaining.
SUTTA 86: DISCOURSE ON ANGULIMALA
This is the famous story of Angulimala, a murderer and robber, who cut off a finger of the victim and wore it as a garland.
Angulimala called on the Buddha to stop. “Stop recluse! Stop, recluse!
He said: While you are walking you tell me you have stopped
But now when I have stopped, you say I have not stopped.
I ask you now about the meaning:
How is that you have stopped, and I have not?”
The Buddha said
You have no restraint towards things that live:
That is why I have stopped, and you have not.”
The Buddha and Angulimala walked into Savatthi. King Pasenadi said “It is marvellous how the Buddha tames the untamed, brings peace to the unpeaceful. We ourselves could not tame him with force and weapons yet the Buddha has tamed him without force and weapons. And now we depart. We are busy and have much to do.
When on the streets alone the following day, people attacked Angulimala cutting his head open and tearing his clothes. Seeing what happened, the Buddha said to Angulimala: “Bear it. You are experiencing here and now the results of past deeds.
Angulimala said: “Who once did live in negligence
And then is negligent no more
He illuminates the world
Like the moon freed from a cloud.
“Do not give way to negligence
Nor seek delight in sensual pleasures
But meditate with diligence
So as to reach sublime happiness.”
SUTTA 101: DISCOURSE AT DEVEDAHA
The Buddha criticised those who claim that “whatever a person feels, all that is caused by what was done in the past.” He said they believe that by ending past actions (karma), by making no fresh actions, there will be no consequence in the future, so there will be no more action (karma). Through no karma, there will be the destruction of feeling and the destruction of suffering.
The Buddha then asked Nigantha, the founder of the Jain sect, who taught this: “Do you know if you have exhausted your past karma? Do you know how much suffering you had in the past? Do you know how much suffering you have left to exhaust?
The Buddha said there are five things that may turn out in two different ways here and now. Faith (trust, confidence), approval, oral tradition, reason and reflective acceptance. The Buddha explained that none of the five justified Nigantha’s position abut exhausting past karma.
“You are experiencing painful, piercing feelings from your self-imposed exertion, and this is through ignorance, unknowing and delusion.”
The Buddha puts questions to Nigantha to show him the limitations of “exertion and striving” as a resolution to dealing with action (karma of body, speech and mind) and the results of such activities.
Can you make the results of an action that is here and now come later?
Can you make the results of an action that comes later arrive here and now?
Can you change the results of an action from pleasant to painful?
Can you change the result of an action from painful to pleasant?
The Buddha said:
If all pleasure and pain was caused by the past, then you must have all engaged in bad deeds to experience such pain.
If all pleasure and pain was caused by a Supreme God, then this God must be evil to create such painful feelings for people.
If caused by chance, then you must experience a lot of bad luck to go through painful feelings
If caused by birth and class, then you must have been born into a bad caste.
If caused by exertion, then we must be striving badly
If caused by our past deeds, then you should be censured for what you did in the past.
The Buddha speaks of the value of equanimity. If a man has an intense desire for a woman, and he sees her chatting, joking and laughing with another man, then sorrow and despair might arise in him. Why? Because his mind has become bound to her through intense desire. If he abandoned this desire, then he would also abandon the sorrow and despair.
He gives example of the arrowsmith, who exerts himself to make straight and workable the arrow. He applies heat to the arrow shaft. He would not need to do it again once the arrow has been made. Similarly, when making the mind straight one does not have to keep exerting oneself. The purpose for which exertion took place has been achieved. The Buddha said that appropriate striving and exertion is useful to develop deep samadhi, recollection of the past, understanding of change and liberation from suffering.
SUTTA 115: DISCOURSE ON THE MANY KINDS OF ELEMENTS
The Buddha says that fears and troubles only arise for the foolish person, not for the wise person. One who is skilled in seeing and knowing of the elements, skilled in seeing and knowing dependent arising, seeing and knowing what is possible and what is impossible, this person is wise and an inquirer.
He then explains 18 types of elements
eye, eye consciousness and forms
ear, ear consciousness and sounds
nose, nose consciousness and smells
taste, taste consciousness and flavours
body, body consciousness and tangible
mind element, mind consciousness and objects in the mind
Six types of elements
Earth, water, fire, air, space and consciousness
Six types of elements
pleasure, pain, joy, grief, equanimity and ignorance.
Six types of elements
sensual desire, renunciation, negativity, without negativity,
cruelty and without cruelty.
“When one knows and see the elements one is skilled in the elements.”
sense sphere (everyday consciousness), fine material sphere (jhanas), immaterial elements (formless realms of experience).
The condition and the unconditioned.
There is the possible and the impossible.
One with right view understands that no formation could be permanent. It is impossible. He also understands that it is impossible to treat anything as having any kind of ‘self’, but he understands that an ordinary person might treat something as having self.
One understands that it would be impossible to deprive his mother and father of their life or to cause physical harm to the Buddha or cause a schism in the sangha or pursue another teacher, but it is possible for an ordinary person to do this.
One understands that it is not possible for a woman (in the patriarchal, housebound culture at the time of a Buddha) to become a Buddha. (Buddhahood has no relationship to the biology of a human being).
One understands that it not possible for someone engaged in evil action can go to a heavenly destination after death.
One understands that it is not possible for someone engaged in good conduct can go to a hellish destination after
It is in this way that one can be skilled in what is possible and impossible.
SUTTA 118: MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING
This sutta explains the process of Deep Calmness (Samatha) Meditation to liberation.
One sits with body erect and establishes mindfulness in front of one.
There are then four tetrads.
One is clear about breathing in and out long breaths
One is clear about breathing in and out short breaths
Experiencing the whole body
Calming the whole body
One breathes experiencing bliss
One breathes experiencing joy
Experiencing mental formations
Calming mental formations
Breathe in and out experiencing states of mind
Breathe in and out gladdening the mind
Breathe concentrating the mind
Breathe liberating the mind
breathing and contemplating impermanence
breathing and contemplating fading away
breathing and contemplating cessation
breathing and contemplating letting go.
The Buddha says the practice of Mindfulness of Breathing fulfils the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. This developed and cultivated fulfill true knowledge and liberation.
See Mindfulness with Breathing by
Ajahn Buddhadasa, published in Bangkok
SUTTA 121 CULASUNNATA SUTTA
SHORTER DISCOURSE ON EMPTINESS
The Buddha points to emptiness. He says that there is nothing that should disturb us that is not present.
There is only what is present in this moment. So, it is empty of everything else. One sees what is not present is empty and what remains is present.
What is present does not have its own existence but is dependent on the perception of it. So, it is also empty.
The Buddha tells Ananda that there is then a genuine, undistorted pure descent into Emptiness.
The Buddha then refers to this exploration of emptiness in terms of the palace, forest, people etc. and in the realms of profound experiences such as experience of infinite consciousness, infinite space etc.
Nothing has its own existence, and everything is conditioned by other factors, ‘conditioned by life’
The Buddha then encourages Ananda to train himself to abide in pure emptiness.
At the end of the Sutta 122, the Buddha mentions that one should not go to a teacher just to listen to the discourses. One should go for talk that deals with the mind's release, direct knowledge, enlightenment and not turn away from such teachings.
One shows respect by wholeheartedly doing the practice and listening carefully to his or her teachings, since the teacher is wholeheartedly, out of compassion, giving the teachings for one's welfare, happiness and liberation.
SUTTA 137: EXPOSITION OF THE SIXFOLD BASE
In this sutta the Buddha gives a range of teachings suitable for reflection and understanding
One explores an object of one of the six sense doors that produces joy, grief and equanimity.
"36 positions of being" (18 positions of the householder and 18 for the renunciate) all based in the exploration of joy, grief and equanimity through each of the six senses (including mind).
Householder's joy: When an object is cognized by one of the six sense bases that is wished for, desirable, associated with the world, or in the mind, joy arises.
Renunciate's joy: Knowing impermanence, change, fading away, seeing with wisdom as it is, past or present, joy arises.
Householder's grief: cognizing an object at any of the six doors that wasn't acquired, has passed, changed or ceased, past or present, grief arises.
Renunciate's grief: Seeing impermanence...one feels longing for the supreme liberation
Householder's equanimity: the equanimity of unknowing; with each of the six objects, one is blind to the danger; It "does not transcend the form but sticks to the form like flies to a ball of sugar."
Renunciate's equanimity: equanimity based on insight; no lusting after or aversion to any of the six objects; When one knows impermanence, this transcends the object.
The Buddha says the renunciate sees the six kinds of joy and abandons the grief or longing. He sees the six kinds of equanimity to abandon the joy. He sees the six kinds of equanimity that is unified to abandon worldly equanimity.
In the next sutta, the Maha Kaccana says:
“Agitated states of mind, born of preoccupation arise
and remain obsessing his mind.
Because his mind is obsessed,
he is anxious, distressed and concerned,
and due to clinging he becomes agitated.
This is how there is agitation due to clinging.”
When one is ‘skilled and disciplined in the Dharma, such mental states born of preoccupation do not arise.’
SUTTA 139: DISCOURSE ON THE EXPOSITION OF NON-CONFLICT
The Buddha explains what leads to and what does not lead to conflict.
What to leads to non-conflict?
1. Not to pursue pleasure that is vulgar, coarse, ignoble and unbeneficial. It is beset with suffering, vexation and despair.
2. Not to engage in self-hate. It is also painful, ignoble and unbeneficial.
3. Not to praise oneself and put down others for their failures.
4. Instead of claiming that those who pursue vulgar pleasures or engage in self-hate are on the “wrong path” one simply explains that such pursuits are “beset with suffering.”
The jhanas are referred to as the joy of renunciation, the joy of seclusion and the joy of inner peace and should be developed and cultivated, not feared.
One develops speech that is “true, correct and beneficial, including sharp speech knowing it is the right time. One develops speech that is unhurried, distinct and easy to understand. One does not override local usage of language.
“We shall know the state with conflict, and we shall know the state without conflict, and knowing, these, we shall enter upon the state without conflict.
The listeners were delighted with what the Buddha said.
SUTTA 140 EXPOSITION OF THE ELEMENTS
Spending a night in a potter’s workshop, the Buddha met Pukkhusati, who followed the Buddha’ s teachings but had never met the Buddha. The Buddha did not reveal his identity to Pukkhusati but gave him teachings.
He explained that the `’tides of conceiving do not sweep over one who stands upon the elements.’ He is a ‘sage of peace’ who lives this way.
The Buddha then states the Six Elements are earth, water, fire air, space and consciousness.
The Six Bases of Contact are eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and contact with the mind.
18 kinds of Inquiry into the Mind (manovicara)
On seeing form with the eye, one inquires into what produces joy, grief and equanimity
On hearing sounds with the eye, one inquires into what produces, joy, grief and equanimity
On smelling odours with the nose, one inquires into produces joy, grief and equanimity
On tasting flavours with the tongue, one inquires into what produces joy, grief and equanimity
On cognizing mental objects with the mind, one inquires into what produces joy, grief and equanimity.
The Buddha also says the person who has swept away the tide of conceiving has found Four Foundations, namely
The foundation of wisdom
The foundation of truth
The foundation of letting go
The foundation of peace
One does not neglect wisdom; one preserves truth, cultivates letting go and trains to live in peace.
Each of the six elements is to be ‘seen as it actually is with proper wisdom ‘this is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’
After treating each of the elements this way, ‘there remains only consciousness, purified and bright. What does one cognise with consciousness? One cognizes this is pleasant, unpleasant or neither pleasant nor unpleasant. In dependence on a contact, pleasant, unpleasant (or painful) or neither pleasant nor unpleasant feeling arises. With the cessation of contact so the feeling ceases and subsides.
Through seeing things clearly, there is equanimity ‘bright, malleable, and radiant.’ Going deep into the nature of infinite consciousness, one does ‘not form any condition or generate any volition tending towards either being or non-being. Consequently, he does ‘ not cling to anything in the world and thus attains Nirvana through non-clinging.
This ‘ noble wisdom reveals as the knowledge of the destruction of all suffering. His liberation is founded upon truth, is unshakeable. That which is true has an undeceptive nature.’
‘I am ‘is a conceiving
‘I am this’ is a conceiving
‘I shall be’ is a conceiving
‘I shall not be’ is a conceiving
Conceiving is a ‘disease, tumor, dart. One is called a sage at peace who is not born, does not age, does not die and is not agitated. There is nothing present in him by which he might be born so how could he age and die?’
Pukkhusati was overjoyed with the teaching and apologised to the Buddha for treating him only as a friend. The Buddha said: ‘It is growth in the Noble One’s discipline when one sees one’s transgression as such, makes amends in accordance with the Dharma, and undertakes restraint in the future.’ After the night in the workshop, Pukkhusati went out and was killed by a stray cow. The Buddha said Pukkhusati had gone to the Pure Abodes, would not return to this world of greed, hate and delusion and would attain final Nirvana.
SUTTA 148: SIX SETS OF SIX
The Buddha says he teaches the Dharma that is “good in the beginning, good in the middle and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing.”
The Buddha explores the dependent arising of the contact of sense doors with sense objects and the feelings that arise.
He says it is “not tenable” to regard any of the sense as self since they arise and fall according to conditions, similarly with feelings and desires, and objects of attention in the mind. One regards the senses and desires as “this is not mine, this I am not, this is not myself.”
“Dependent on eye and form, eye consciousness arises; the meeting of the three is contact. (Also, for other four senses and the mind). With contact as a condition there arises a feeling.
If one holds onto the pleasant feeling, then the underlying tendency to desire lies within one.
If one becomes anguished over a painful feeling, then the underlying tendency to aversion lies within one.
If one does not understand the “origination, disappearance, gratification, danger and release, then the underlying feeling towards ignorance lies within one.
If one understands, then the underlying tendency towards desire, aversion and ignorance is abandoned.
Seeing thus, a well taught noble student becomes disillusioned with desires. Through being disillusioned, he experiences an absence of wanting and is liberated. “When liberated, there is the knowledge: “This is liberation.” The spiritual life has been lived, what must be done has been done.
Sixty listeners were liberated while listening to these teachings.
The Practices of Recollection
of the Essential Teachings
You may find it worthwhile to remember several of the core teachings of the Buddha-Dharma. These include the:
Three Jewels, Four Truths of the Noble Ones, Noble Eightfold Path, Four Applications of Mindfulness, Five Hindrances, Three Characteristics of Existence and Five Fold Training.
THREE JEWELS: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.
FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS. Sufferings, Causes and Conditions, Resolution, Way to Resolution.
NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH. Right understanding (right view), right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right meditative concentration.
FOUR APPLICATIONS OF MINDFULNESS. Body, Feelings, States of Mind, Dharma
FIVE HINDRANCES. Greed/blind pursuit of pleasure, negativity/anger, boredom/apathy, restlessness/anxiety, doubt/fear.
THREE CHARACTERISTICS. Impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, non-self (impersonal).
FIVE-FOLD TRAINING. Ethics, meditative concentration, wisdom, (transformative) knowledge and knowing liberation.