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Sutta Nipata V.6

Upasiva-manava-puccha

Upasiva's Questions


Upasiva:
Alone, Sakyan, & with nothing to rely on,
I can't venture across
the great flood.
Tell me, All-around Eye,
the support to rely on
for crossing over this flood.
The Buddha:
Mindfully focused on nothingness, [1]
relying on 'There isn't,'
you should cross over the flood.
Abandoning sensual pleasures,
abstaining from conversations,
keep watch for the ending of
craving, night & day.
Upasiva:
One free from passion
for all sensual pleasures
relying on nothingness, letting go of all else,
released in the highest emancipation of perception:
    Does he stay there unaffected?
The Buddha:
One free from passion
for all sensual pleasures
relying on nothingness, letting go of all else,
released in the highest emancipation of perception:
    He stays there unaffected.
Upasiva:
If he stays there, O All-around Eye,
unaffected for many years,
    right there
would he be cooled & released?
Would his consciousness be like that?
The Buddha:
As a flame overthrown by the force of the wind
    goes to an end
    that cannot be classified,[2]
so the sage free from naming activity
    goes to an end
    that cannot be classified.
Upasiva:
He who has reached the end:
    Does he not exist,
    or is he for eternity
    free from dis-ease?
Please, sage, declare this to me
    as this phenomenon has been known by you.
The Buddha:
One who has reached the end
    has no criterion [3]
by which anyone would say that --
    for him it doesn't exist.
When all phenomena are done away with,
    all means of speaking
    are done away with as well.

Notes

1. "Nothingness" here denotes the sphere of nothingness, one of the four levels of mental absorption on formless themes. One attains this level, after surmounting the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, by focusing on the perception, "There is nothing." MN 26 tells us that Alara Kalama, the Buddha's first teacher when the latter was still a Bodhisatta, had attained this level of mental absorption and had thought that it was the highest possible attainment. The Bodhisatta left him upon realizing that it was not true liberation from stress and suffering. Nevertheless, the sphere of nothingness can be used as a basis for the insight leading to that liberation. On this point, see Sn.V.14 and AN IX.36. [Go back]

2. For a discussion of this passage in light of early Buddhist theories of fire, see The Mind Like Fire Unbound, Chapter 1. [Go back]

3. For a discussion of the meaning of "criterion" in this passage, see The Mind Like Fire Unbound, Chapter 1. [Go back]

Source: ATI - For Free Distribution Only, as a Gift of Dhamma.

Dhamma Essay:
Path and Fruit by Ayya Khema


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