Friday, December 21, 2018

In the seen, let there be only the seen (sutra)

Maurice O'Connell Walshe (trans.), Malunkyaputta Sutra (SN 35.95) edited and updated by Dhr. Seven, Ellie Askew, Ananda (D.M.I.), Wisdom Quarterly

Grasshopper, what would you have me say?
[The Buddhist monk Ven. Malunkyaputta ("Mel") once requested of the Buddha:]
"Venerable sir, it would be good for me if the Blessed One would teach me in brief a doctrine so that, having heard it, I might dwell withdrawn, secluded (from all distractions and sense desires), full of energy, ardent, and resolute."
"Well now, Mel, what am I to say to the younger monastics if you -- a frail, aged, and venerable man far gone in years, at the end of your life -- ask for instruction in brief?"
"What do you think, Mel? Objects cognizable by the eye, not seen, that you have not seen before, that you do not see now, and do not wish to see -- have you any desire, lust, or fondness for them?"
"No, indeed, venerable sir."
  • [The same is then said regarding sounds, scents, flavors, tangibles, and mental objects.]
"Well then, Mel, in things seen, heard, otherwise sensed (muta, smelled, tasted, or touched), or cognized:
"In the seen, let there be only the seen, in the heard only the heard, in the otherwise sensed only the otherwise sensed, in the cognized only the cognized...
"Then, Mel, there will be no 'thereby'* for you.
  • *This is almost impossible to translate adequately because, literally, there is no agent here,  no "seer," "feeler," or "knower." "There will be no 'thereby' whereby one will be lustful, hateful, or deluded (SA [SN commentary])."
"Having no 'thereby' you have no 'there.'*
  • *If there is no agent (i.e., no "self") then there is nowhere such an agent can be located. "You will have no 'there'": you will not be bound "here" nor attached "there," i.e., with regard to the seen, heard,  otherwise sensed, or cognized (SA).
"Having no 'there,' Mel, there will be for you neither this world, nor the next, nor anywhere in between.* That in itself is the end of suffering."
  • *"You will realize that [in an ultimate sense] nothing [no "self" or "ego" of any kind] is really reborn."
"Indeed, venerable sir, I understand in full the meaning of what the Blessed One has stated in brief."
Forms perceived cause loss of mindfulness,
If we dwell on their endearing charms,
Passion grips the heart, and feeling flows,
Clinging has us firmly in its grip:
So emotions rise and grow in strength,
Of diverse kinds, all based on what was seen.
Some of greed and some of hate born —
Grievously they all afflict the human heart,
Heaping up his store of pain and disappointment:
Thus for such a person nirvana's far away.
  • [The same is said for sounds, scents, tastes, tangibles, and thoughts (objects of mind).]
One who's not inflamed by things one sees,
Seeing forms retains one's mindfulness,
Not in passion's grip, simply feels,
On such a one, clinging cannot get any hold.
If one just observes the things one sees,
Not reacting to their shape or form,
One will pull down the pile, not build it up.
Mindfully proceeding on one's way,
Heaping up no store of pain or disappointment:
Then for one nirvana's very near.
  • [The same is said for sounds, scents, tastes, tangibles, and thoughts (mind objects).]
"Indeed, venerable sir, I understand in full the meaning of what the Blessed One has stated in brief."
  • [This would mean that Mel has become enlightened to at least the first stage (stream entry) by understanding and  penetrating the impersonal nature of all existence, the Five Aggregates clung to as self. Indeed, the Buddha confirms Mel's words. In due course, Mel/Ven. Malunkyaputta becomes fully enlightened, an arahant.]

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