Should anyone say that he does not wish to lead the holy life
under the Blessed One, unless the Blessed One first tells him,
whether the world is eternal or temporal, finite or infinite;
whether the life principle is identical with the body, or something different;
whether the Perfect One continues after death, and so on such a man
would die, ere the Perfect One could tell him all this.
It is as if a man were pierced by a poisoned arrow, and his friends,
companions, or near relations, should send for a surgeon; but that man
should say: "I will not have this arrow pulled out, until I know who
the man is that has wounded me: whether he is a noble, a priest, a
citizen, or a servant"; or: "what his name is, and to what family he
belongs"; or: "whether he is tall, or short, or of medium height."
Verily, such a man would die, ere he could adequately learn all this.
Therefore, the man who seeks his own welfare, should pull out this
arrow - this arrow of lamentation, pain, and sorrow.
For, whether the theory exists, or whether it does not exist, that
the world is eternal, or temporal, or finite, or infinite-certainly,
there is birth, there is decay, there is death, sorrow, lamentation,
pain, grief, and despair, the extinction of which, attainable even
in this present life, I make known unto you.
There is, for instance, an unlearned worldling, void of regard for
holy men, ignorant of the teaching of holy men, untrained in the noble
doctrine. And his heart is possessed and overcome by Self-Illusion, by
Skepticism, by attachment to mere Rule and Ritual, by Sensual Lust,
and by will; and how to free himself from these things, he does not
Self-Illusion may reveal itself as "Eternalism" or Eternity-belief"
i.e., the belief that one's Ego is existing independently of the
material body, and continuing even after the dissolution of the
latter; or as "Annihilationism," or "Annihilation-belief" i.e., the
materialistic belief that this present life constitutes the Ego, and
hence that it is annihilated at the death of the material body.
Not knowing what is worthy of consideration, and what is unworthy of
consideration, he considers the unworthy, and not the worthy.
And unwisely he considers thus:
"Have I been in the past? Or. have I
not been in the past? What have I been in the past? How have I been in
the past? From what state into what state did I change in the
past?-Shall I be in the future? Or, shall I not be in the future? What
shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? From what
state into what state shall I change in the future?"
And the present
also fills him with doubt:
"Am I? Or, am I not? What am I? How am I?
This being, whence has it come? Whither will it go?"
And with such unwise considerations, he falls into one or other of
the six views, and it becomes his conviction and firm belief:
"I have an Ego"; or: "I have no Ego"; or: "With the Ego I perceive the
Ego"; or: "With that which is no Ego, I perceive the Ego"; or: "With
the Ego I perceive that which is no Ego. Or, he falls into the
following view: "This my Ego, which can think and feel, and which, now
here, now there, experiences the fruit of good and evil deeds; this my
Ego is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, and will
thus eternally remain the same."
If there really existed the Ego, there would be also something which
belonged to the Ego. As, however, in truth and reality, neither the
Ego, nor anything belonging to the Ego, can be found, is it not
therefore really an utter fool's doctrine to say: "This is the
world, this am I; after death, I shall be permanent, persisting, and
These are called mere views, a thicket of views, a puppet show of
views, a toil of views, a snare of views; and ensnared in the fetter
of views, the ignorant worldling will not be freed from rebirth,
from decay, and from death, from sorrow, pain, grief, and despair;
he will not be freed, I say, from suffering.
The Sotapan, or "Stream - Enterer
The learned and noble disciple, however, who has regard for holy
men, knows the teaching of holy men, is well trained in the noble
doctrine, he understands what is worthy of consideration, and what
And knowing this, he considers the worthy, and not the
What suffering is, he wisely considers.
What the origin of suffering is, he wisely considers;
what the extinction of suffering is, he wisely considers;
what the path is that leads to the extinction of suffering, he wisely considers.
And by thus considering, three fetters vanish, namely:
Self-illusion, Skepticism, and Attachment to mere Rule and Ritual.
But those disciples in whom these three fetters have vanished have
"entered the Stream," have forever escaped the states of woe, and
are assured of final enlightenment.
More than any earthly power,
More than all the joys of heaven,
More than rule o'er all the world,
Is the Entrance to the Stream.
And, verily, those who are filled with unshaken faith in me, all
those have entered the stream.
There are ten "Fetters" by which beings are bound to the wheel of
They are: Self-Illusion, Skepticism, Attachment to mere
Rule and Ritual, Sensual Lust, Ill-will, Craving for the World of pure
Form, Craving for the Formless World, Conceit, Restlessness,
A Sotapan, or "Stream-Enterer" i.e. "one who has entered the
stream leading to Nirvana," is free from the first three fetters.
A Sakadagamin, or "Once-Returned"-namely to this sensuous sphere-has
overcome the 4th and 5th fetters in their grosser form.
or "Non-Returner," is wholly freed from the first five fetters,
which bind to rebirth in the sensuous sphere; after death, whilst
living in the sphere of pure form, he will reach the goal. An
Arahat, or perfectly "Holy One," is freed from all fetters.
The Two Understandings
Therefore, I say, Right Understanding is of two kinds:
1. The view that alms and offerings are not useless; that there is
fruit and result, both of good and bad actions; that there are such
things as this life, and the next life; that father and mother as
spontaneously born beings (in the heavenly worlds) are no mere
words; that there are monks and priests who are spotless and
perfect, who can explain this life and the next life, which they
themselves have understood: this is called the "Mundane Right
Understanding," which yields worldly fruits, and brings good results.
2. But whatsoever there is of wisdom, of penetration, of right
understanding, conjoined with the Path-the mind being turned away from
the world, and conjoined with the path, the holy path being turned
away from the world, and conjoined with the path, the holy path
being pursued;-this is called the "Ultramundane Right
Understanding," which is not of the world, but is ultramundane, and
conjoined with the Path.
Thus, there are two kinds of the Eightfold Path: the "mundane,"
practiced by the "worldling"; and the "ultra-mundane," practiced by
the "Noble Ones."
Now, in understanding wrong understanding as wrong, and right
understanding as right, one practices Right Understanding [1st step];
and in making efforts to overcome wrong understanding, and to
arouse right understanding, one practices. Right Effort [6th step];
and in overcoming wrong understanding with attentive mind, and
dwelling with attentive mind in the possession of right understanding,
one practices Right-Attentiveness [7th step].
Hence, there are three
things that accompany and follow upon right understanding, namely:
right understanding, right effort, and right attentiveness.
Now, if any one should put the question, whether I admit any view at
all, he should be answered thus:
The Perfect One is free from any theory, for the Perfect One has
understood what corporeality is, and how it arises, and passes away.
He has understood what feeling is, and how it arises, and passes away.
He has understood what perception is, and how it arises, and passes
He has understood what the mental formations are, and how they
arise, and pass away.
He has understood what consciousness is, and how
it arises, and passes away.
Therefore, I say, the Perfect One has
won complete deliverance through the extinction, fading-away,
disappearance, rejection, and getting rid of all opinions and
conjectures, of all inclination to the vainglory of "I" and "mine."
Whether Perfect Ones [Buddhas] appear in the world or whether
Perfect Ones do not appear in the world, it still remains a firm
condition, an immutable fact and fixed law: that all formations are
impermanent" that all formations are "subject to suffering"; that
everything is "without an Ego."
The word sankhara (formations) comprises all things which have
a beginning and an end, the so-called created, or "formed" things,
i.e., all possible physical and mental constituents of existence.
A corporeal phenomenon, a feeling, a perception, a mental formation,
a consciousness, that is permanent and persistent, eternal and not
subject to change: such a thing the wise men in this world do not
recognize; and I also say, there is no such thing.
And it is impossible that a being possessed of Right Understanding
should regard anything as the Ego.
Now, if someone should say that Feeling is his Ego, he should be
answered thus: "There are three kinds of feeling: pleasurable,
painful, and indifferent feeling.
Which of these three feelings,
now, do you consider your Ego?"
At the moment namely of experiencing
one of these feelings one does not experience the other two.
three kinds of feelings are impermanent, of dependent origin, are
subject to decay and dissolution, to fading-away and extinction.
Whosoever, in experiencing one of these feelings, thinks that this
is his Ego, will, after the extinction of that feeling, admit that his
Ego has become dissolved.
And thus he will consider his Ego already in
this present life as impermanent, mixed up with pleasure and pain,
subject to rising and passing away.
If any one should say that Feeling is not his Ego, and that his
Ego is inaccessible to feeling, he should be asked thus: "Now, where
there is no feeling, is it there possible to say: 'This am I?'"
Or, someone might say: "Feeling, indeed, is not my Ego, but it
also is untrue that my Ego is inaccessible to feeling; for it is my
Ego that feels, for my Ego has the faculty of feeling.
" Such a one
should be answered thus: "Suppose, feeling should become altogether
totally extinguished; now, if there, after the extinction of
feeling, no feeling whatever exists, it is then possible to say: 'This
To say that the mind, or the mind-objects, or the
mind-consciousness, constitute the Ego; such an assertion is
unfounded. For an arising and a passing away is seen there; and seeing
this, one should come to the conclusion that one's Ego arises and
It would be better for the unlearned worldling to regard this
body, built up of the four elements, as his Ego, rather than the mind.
For it is evident that this body may last for a year, for two years,
for three years, four, five, or ten years, or even a hundred years and
more; but that which is called thought, or mind, or consciousness,
is continuously, during day and night, arising as one thing, and
passing away as another thing.
Therefore, whatsoever there is of corporeality, of feeling, of
perception, of mental formations, of consciousness, whether one's
own or external, gross or subtle, lofty or low, far or near; there one
should understand according to reality and true wisdom:
"This does not
belong to me; this am I not; this is not my Ego."
To show the Egolessness, utter emptiness of existence,
Visuddhi-Magga XVI quotes the following verse:
Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found;
The deed is, but no doer of the deed is there;
Nirvana is, but not the man that enters it;
The Path is, but no traveler on it is seen.
Past, Present and Future
If, now, any one should ask:
"Have you been in the past, and is it
untrue that you have not been?
Will you be in the future, and is it
untrue that you will not be?
Are you, and is it untrue that you are
not?" - you may say that you have been in the past, and it is untrue
that you have not been; that you will be in the future, and it is
untrue that you will not be; that you are, and it is untrue that you
In the past only the past existence was real, but unreal the
future and present existence. In the future only the future
existence will be real, but unreal the past and present existence. Now
only the present existence is real, but unreal the past and future
Verily, he who perceives the Dependent Origination, perceives the
truth and he who perceives the truth, perceives the dependent
For, just as from the cow comes milk, from milk curds,
from curds butter, from butter ghee, from ghee the scum of ghee; and
when it is milk, it is not counted as curds, or butter, or ghee, or
scum of ghee, but only as milk; and when it is curds, it is only
counted as curds - just so was my past existence at that time real,
but unreal the future and present existence; and my future existence
will be at one time real, but unreal the past and present existence;
and my present existence is now real, but unreal the past and future
All these are merely popular designations and
expressions, mere conventional terms of speaking, mere popular
notions. The Perfect One, indeed, makes use of these, without,
however, clinging to them.
Thus, he who does not understand corporeality, feeling,
perception, mental formations and consciousness according to reality
i.e., as void of a personality, or Ego, and not their arising,
their extinction, and the way to their extinction, he is liable to
believe, either that the Perfect One continues after death, or that he
does not continue after death, and so forth.
Verily, if one holds the view that the vital principle [Ego] is
identical with this body, in that case a holy life is not possible;
or, if one holds the view that the vital principle is something
quite different from the body, in that case also a holy life is not
possible. Both these two Extremes the Perfect One has avoided, and
shown the Middle Doctrine, saying:
On Delusion depend the Karma-Formations.
On the karma-formations depends Consciousness
[starting with rebirth-consciousness in the womb of the mother].
On consciousness depends the Mental and Physical
On the mental and physical existence depend the Six
On the six sense-organs depends the Sensory
On the sensory impression depends Feeling.
On feeling depends; Craving.
On craving depends Clinging.
On clinging depends the Process of Becoming.
On the process of becoming [here: karmaprocess] depends Rebirth.
On rebirth depend Decay and Death, sorrow,
lamentation, pain, grief and despair.
Thus arises this whole mass of
suffering. This is called the noble truth of the origin of suffering.
In whom, however, Delusion has disappeared and wisdom arisen, such a
disciple heaps up neither meritorious, nor demeritorious, nor
Thus, through the entire fading away and extinction of this
Delusion, the Karma-Formations are extinguished.
extinction of the Karma-formations, Consciousness [rebirth] is
Through the extinction of consciousness, the Mental
and Physical Existence is extinguished.
Through the extinction of
the mental and physical existence, the six Sense-Organs are
Through the extinction of the six sense-organs, the
Sensory Impression is extinguished.
Through the extinction of the
sensory impression, Feeling is extinguished.
Through the extinction of
feeling, Craving is extinguished.
Through the extinction of craving,
Clinging is extinguished.
Through the extinction of clinging, the
Process of Becoming is extinguished.
Through the extinction of the
process of becoming, Rebirth is extinguished.
Through the extinction
of rebirth, Decay and Death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and
despair are extinguished.
Thus takes place the extinction of this
whole mass of suffering. This is called the Noble Truth of the
Extinction of Suffering.
Karma : Rebirth - Producing and Barren
Verily, because beings, obstructed by Delusion, and ensnared by
Craving, now here now there seek ever fresh delight, therefore such
action comes to ever fresh Rebirth.
And the action that is done out of greed, anger and delusion, that
springs from them, has its source and origin there:
this action ripens
wherever one is reborn;
and wherever this action ripens, there one
experiences the fruits of this action, be it in this life, or the next
life, or in some future life.
However, through the fading away of delusion through the arising
of wisdom, through the extinction of craving, no future rebirth
takes place again
For the actions, which are not done out of greed, anger and
delusion, which have not sprung from them, which have not their source
and origin there - such actions are, through the absence of greed, anger
and delusion, abandoned, rooted out, like a palm-tree torn out of
the soil, destroyed, and not liable to spring up again.
In this respect one may rightly say of me: that I teach
annihilation, that I propound my doctrine for the purpose of
annihilation, and that I herein train my disciples; for, certainly,
I do teach annihilation-the annihilation, namely, of greed, anger
and delusion, as well as of the manifold evil and unwholesome things.
"Dependent Origination" is the teaching of the strict conformity to
law of everything that happens, whether in the realm of the
physical, or the psychical.
It shows how the totality of phenomena,
physical and mental, the entire phenomenal world that depends wholly
upon the six senses, together with all its suffering-and this is the
vital point of the teaching is not the mere play of blind chance,
but has an existence that is dependent upon conditions; and that,
precisely with the removal of these conditions, those things that have
arisen in dependence upon them-thus also all suffering-must perforce
disappear and cease to be.