Reading the Buddha's Discourses in Pāli

1. The Four Noble Truths: The Matrix of the Teaching

– +

8485

1. The Four Noble Truths: The Matrix of the Teaching

Image

INTRODUCTION

THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS are generally regarded as the most concise formulation of the Buddha’s program of liberation. The Buddha’s chief disciple, Sāriputta, declared as much in an often-quoted statement: “Just as the footprints of all other animals that walk can fit into the footprint of an elephant, which is declared chief with respect to size, so whatever wholesome teachings there are can all fit into the four noble truths” (MN 28, I 184,26–30). The four noble truths were so central to the Buddha’s exposition of the Dhamma that the compilers of the Saṃyutta Nikāya devoted an entire chapter to suttas on this topic, and indeed the four truths might be seen as the implicit framework of the entire Saṃyutta Nikāya, as shown in the general introduction.

The Buddha revealed the four noble truths in his first discourse, thereby “setting in motion the wheel of the Dhamma.” It was upon learning these truths that his first disciples, the five monks, attained the “eye of the Dhamma,” marking the entry to the liberating path. The Buddha spent his teaching career proclaiming and expounding the four truths. He would begin his standard discourse to newcomers with a talk on generosity and morality, and only when he knew that the minds of his listeners were sufficiently ripe would he speak about the truths. According to 1.10, the things that the Buddha directly knew were many, like the leaves in a forest grove, but the things he expounded were few, like the leaves he took up in his hand. These few things were suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path.

The first discourse, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, provides formal explanations of the four noble truths. Most of these explanations are also included in 1.4, which differs from those in the first discourse only by offering a more concise definition of the first truth. Omitting the detailed manifestations 86of dukkha that begin with birth, this sutta explains the first truth simply by way of the five clinging-aggregates, which in the first discourse are said to encapsulate the truth of suffering “in brief.” Text 1.9 assigns specific tasks to each of the four truths, in this respect also echoing the middle portion of the first discourse. Thus the truth of suffering is to be fully understood; the truth of its origin, craving, is to be abandoned; the truth of its cessation, the eradication of craving, is to be realized; and the truth of the way, the noble eightfold path, is to be developed.

The four noble truths served the Buddha not only as a teaching device but as the objects of cultivation and realization. When describing his own attainment of enlightenment, he brings the exposition to its climax by declaring that in the last watch of the night: “When my concentrated mind was purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, I directed it to knowledge of the destruction of the influxes. I directly knew as it actually is: ‘This is suffering, this its origin, this its cessation, this the way leading to its cessation.’” With the arising of this insight, “Ignorance was banished and clear knowledge arose, darkness was banished and light arose,” and his mind was liberated from the influxes.68

In several suttas the Buddha generalizes from his own experience to highlight the centrality of the four noble truths to the attainment of enlightenment and liberation throughout all periods of time, thus universalizing their significance. Text 1.2 states that all those who attain full enlightenment do so by becoming fully enlightened to the four noble truths. The verb found in this passage, abhisambujjhati, seems to be used solely in relation to a buddha’s enlightenment (in contrast to that of his disciples); thus the text is implicitly saying that all buddhas — past, future, and present — become enlightened to these same four truths. Other suttas not included here reinforce this point in relation to disciples. SN 56:3 says that all those who rightly go forth into the homeless life do so for the purpose of realizing the four noble truths as they really are, and SN 56:4 says that all those who have rightly gone forth and realized things as they really are, realize the four noble truths as they really are.

Lack of knowledge of the four noble truths is the blind spot that keeps 87us bound to the round of birth and death. Because we have not seen these truths, we run pointlessly from one existence to the next, passing through the repetitive cycle of birth, aging, and death, and then new birth. Just as a stick thrown into the air falls sometimes on its bottom, sometimes on its top, so sentient beings who have not seen the four truths, being hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, migrate up and down among the multiple realms of existence (1.11). It is because we have not penetrated the four noble truths, 1.5 tells us, that we have roamed through the “long journey” of saṃsāra, and it is with the penetration of these truths that the journey comes to an end. Even seekers dedicated to the pursuit of liberation fail to achieve their aim if they do not understand the four truths. According to 1.15, those ascetics and brahmins who do not understand these truths “generate volitional activities” that lead to birth, old age, and death, and by doing so they fall down “the deep precipice” of birth, old age, and death, meeting anguish and misery.

The purpose of the Buddha’s appearance in the world — indeed, the reason for the appearance of any buddha — is to proclaim the four noble truths. So long as a buddha has not appeared, says 1.14, the world is enveloped in spiritual darkness, like the world before the sun and moon have appeared. But when a buddha arises, there is “the explaining, teaching, proclaiming, establishing, disclosing, analyzing, and elucidation of the four noble truths.” Just as it is impossible to construct the upper story of a house without having first constructed the lower story, so 1.16 says, without breaking through to these truths it is impossible to make an end of suffering.

For this reason, the Buddha constantly presses his disciples to make an effort to realize the four noble truths. Each of the discourses in the Saccasaṃyutta ends with the injunction: “Therefore an exertion should be made [to understand]: ‘This is suffering’ . . . ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’” He instructs the monks not to indulge in thoughts connected with sensuality, ill will, and harmfulness, but to think instead about the four noble truths (1.2). They are not only to reflect on the truths, but to develop concentration as a basis for seeing them with direct vision (1.1). He insists they undertake this task with a compelling sense of urgency, just as a person whose turban or hair were on fire would make an urgent effort to extinguish the flames (see 1.12).

The initial vision of the four noble truths brings the attainment of stream-entry. Those who see the four noble truths through this initial breakthrough 88become “accomplished in view” (diṭṭhisampanna) and will migrate at most through seven more lives, as stated in 1.18. But for the Buddha even the attainment of stream-entry is insufficient. The final goal of the path is the extinction of the influxes, the defilements of sensual craving, craving for existence, and ignorance. This, too, according to 1.6, is attained only by those who see the four noble truths. Having made the initial breakthrough, the texts say, one should not pause until one can declare, like the Buddha: “Craving for existence has been cut off; the conduit to existence has been destroyed; now there is no more renewed existence” (1.5).

1. Samādhisutta

Concentration (SN 56:1; V 414)

“Samādhiṃ, bhikkhave, bhāvetha. Samāhito, bhikkhave, bhikkhu yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti.

“Concentration, monks, develop. Concentrated, monks, a monk as-really-is understands.

“Monks, develop concentration. A concentrated monk, monks, understands [things] as they really are.

“Kiñca yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti? ‘Idaṃ dukkhan’ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti.

“What-and as-really-is understands? ‘This suffering’ as-really-is understands. ‘This suffering-origin’ as-really-is understands. ‘This suffering-cessation’ as-really-is understands. ‘This suffering-cessation-going way’ as-really-is understands.

“And what does he understand as it really is? He understands as it really is: ‘This is suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’

89

“Samādhiṃ, bhikkhave, bhāvetha. Samāhito, bhikkhave, bhikkhu yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti.

“Concentration, monks, develop. Concentrated, monks, a monk as-really-is understands.

“Monks, develop concentration. A concentrated monk, monks, understands [things] as they really are.

“Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, ‘idaṃ dukkhan’ti yogo karaṇīyo, ‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti yogo karaṇīyo, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ti yogo karaṇīyo, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti yogo karaṇīyo”ti.

“Therefore, monks, ‘This suffering’ exertion should-be-made; ‘This suffering-origin’ exertion should-be-made; ‘This suffering-cessation’ exertion should-be-made; ‘This suffering-cessation-going way’ exertion should-be-made.”

“Therefore, monks, an exertion should be made [to understand]: ‘This is suffering.’ An exertion should be made [to understand]: ‘This is the origin of suffering.’ An exertion should be made [to understand]: ‘This is the cessation of suffering.’ An exertion should be made [to understand]: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

GRAMMATICAL EXPLANATIONS

samādhiṃ: “concentration”; singular accusative of the masculine noun samādhi, the object of the verb bhāvetha.

bhikkhave: a vocative plural of bhikkhu, monk; the other vocative plural, generally used at the beginning of a discourse to call attention, is bhikkhavo.69

bhāvetha: second-person plural imperative of bhāveti, “develops.” The verb, a causative of bhavati, “comes to be,” literally means “brings into being.”

samāhito: “concentrated”; the past participle of the passive verb samādhiyati, from which the noun samādhi is also derived. It here functions 90as an adjective agreeing in gender, number, and case with the subject, bhikkhu.

bhikkhu: “monk”; a masculine singular noun in the nominative case.

yathābhūtaṃ: “as it really is”; an indeclinable adverbial compound (see p. 44) describing the manner in which one understands. It is composed of yathā, “as, in accordance with,” and bhūtaṃ, the past participle of bhavati: “what has come to be, what is real.”

pajānāti: “understands”; a third-person singular verb, in the present indicative. The verb is composed of the prefix pa- added to jānāti, “knows.” Here it is in agreement with bhikkhu. In the following sentences, though no subject is mentioned, bhikkhu is implicit in the verb itself. Often in Pāli sentences a subject is not mentioned when it is clear from the context.

kiñca: the interrogative pronoun kiṃ, “what,” followed by ca, “and.” By sandhi, - is changed to , the palatal nasal corresponding to the palatal ca (see p. 16).

idaṃ: “this”; a neuter singular nominative pronoun in agreement with dukkhaṃ.

dukkhaṃ: “suffering”; a neuter singular noun in the nominative case. In other contexts dukkha functions as an adjective, as in dukkhā vedanā, “painful feeling,” but here, as the subject of the four noble truths, it is a noun. Idaṃ dukkhaṃ is an equational sentence, with idaṃ as the subject and dukkhaṃ the predicate; hence no verb is needed.

ti: the marker for the end of a direct quotation or an emphatic statement. Before ti, short vowels are lengthened and - changes to -n, the corresponding dental nasal.

ayaṃ: “this”; a masculine singular nominative pronoun, in agreement with samudayo.

dukkhasamudayo: “origin of suffering”; a genitive tappurisa compound (see p. 39) in the nominative case. The compound is made up of dukkha and the masculine singular noun samudayo, “origin.”

dukkhanirodho: “cessation of suffering”; another genitive tappurisa in the nominative case made up of dukkha and the masculine singular noun nirodho, “cessation.”

ayaṃ: The pronoun ayaṃ, “this,” can be either masculine or feminine, depending on the noun it qualifies. Here it is feminine singular nominative in agreement with paṭipadā.

91

dukkhanirodhagāminī: “going to the cessation of suffering.” This is a complex accusative tappurisa compound in the nominative case, qualifying paṭipadā. It is made up of dukkhanirodha, a genitive tappurisa, and the suffix -gāminī (feminine singular of -gāmin), “going to, leading to,” which takes dukkhanirodha as its object in an accusative relationship.70

paṭipadā: “way, practice”; a feminine singular noun in the nominative case.

tasmātiha: ind. “therefore,” often followed by an imperative (or, as here, a future passive participle suggesting a command). It is probably derived from Vedic Skt tasmāt, “therefore,” and iha, “here, in this case.”

yogo: “exertion, effort”; a masculine singular in the nominative case.

karaṇīyo: “should be done, should be made”; a future passive participle (see pp. 31–33) based on the verb karoti, “does, makes.” It is here masculine singular nominative in agreement with yogo.

2. Samaṇabrāhmaṇasutta

Ascetics and Brahmins (SN 56:5; V 416–17)

“Ye hi keci, bhikkhave, atītamaddhānaṃ samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhiṃsu, sabbe te cattāri ariyasaccāni yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhiṃsu. Ye hi keci, bhikkhave, anāgatamaddhānaṃ samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhissati, sabbe te cattāri ariyasaccāni yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhissanti. Ye hi keci, bhikkhave, etarahi samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhanti, sabbe te cattāri ariyasaccāni yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhanti.

“Whatever, monks, past period ascetics or brahmins or as-really-is were fully-enlightened, all those the four noble-truths as-really-is were fully-enlightened. Whatever, monks, future period ascetics or brahmins as-really-is will be fully-enlightened, all those four noble-truths as-really-is will be fully-enlightened. Whatever, monks, now ascetics or brahmins as-really-is are fully-enlightened, all those four noble-truths as-really-is are fully-enlightened.

“Whatever ascetics or brahmins in the past, monks, were fully enlightened [to things] as they really are, they were all fully enlightened to the four 92noble truths as they really are. Whatever ascetics or brahmins in the future, monks, will be fully enlightened [to things] as they really are, they will all be fully enlightened to the four noble truths as they really are. Whatever ascetics or brahmins now, monks, are fully enlightened [to things] as they really are, they are all fully enlightened to the four noble truths as they really are.

“Katamāni cattāri? Dukkhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ, dukkhasamudayaṃ ariyasaccaṃ, dukkhanirodhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ, dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā ariyasaccaṃ. Ye hi keci bhikkhave, atītamaddhānaṃ samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā . . . anāgatamaddhānaṃ samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā . . . etarahi samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhanti, sabbe te imāni cattāri ariyasaccāni yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhanti.

“What four? Suffering noble-truth, suffering-origin noble-truth, suffering-cessation noble-truth, suffering-cessation-going way noble-truth. Whatever, monks, past period ascetics or brahmins . . . future period ascetics or brahmins . . . now ascetics or brahmins as-really-is are fully-enlightened, all those these four noble-truths as-really-is are fully-enlightened.

“What four? The noble truth of suffering, the noble truth of the origin of suffering, the noble truth of the cessation of suffering, the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering. Whatever ascetics or brahmins in the past . . . Whatever ascetics or brahmins in the future . . . Whatever ascetics or brahmins now are fully enlightened [to things] as they really are, they are all fully enlightened to these four noble truths as they really are.

“Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, ‘idaṃ dukkhan’ti yogo karaṇīyo, ‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti yogo karaṇīyo, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ti yogo karaṇīyo, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti yogo karaṇīyo”ti.

“Therefore, monks, ‘This suffering’ exertion should-be-made; ‘This suffering-origin’ exertion should-be-made; ‘This suffering-cessation’ exertion should-be-made; ‘This suffering-cessation-going way’ exertion should-be-made.”

“Therefore, monks, an exertion should be made [to understand]: ‘This is suffering.’ An exertion should be made [to understand]: ‘This is the origin of suffering.’ An exertion should be made [to understand]: ‘This is the cessation 93of suffering.’ An exertion should be made [to understand]: This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”71

GRAMMATICAL EXPLANATIONS

ye hi keci: “whatever,” a general pronoun. Ye is a relative pronoun, masculine plural in the nominative case; hi, a mere emphatic; keci, an indefinite pronoun. The general pronoun extends to all instances of the noun it qualifies, here samaṇā and brāhmaṇā. It is correlated with sabbe te, “all those,” where te is the demonstrative pronoun and sabbe a pronominal adjective qualifying te (see p. 20).

atītam: “past”; a past participle of acceti, “goes by, elapses.” It is here used as an adjective qualifying addhānaṃ; through sandhi with the following vowel, - becomes -m.

addhānaṃ: “period of time”; an accusative of addhan, “an extent [of space or time].” Accusatives are used adverbially to represent a period of time (Duroiselle §598,viii; Perniola §247h).72

samaṇā . . . brāhmaṇā: “ascetics [or] brahmins”; the subjects of the relative clause, masculine plurals in the nominative case.

: “or,” a disjunctive particle. In Pāli, the copulative particles ca or pi and the disjunctive particle are usually repeated after each term in the series.

abhisambujjhiṃsu, abhisambujjhissanti, abhisambujjhanti: These are respectively the aorist (past), future, and present tense forms of the verb abhisambujjhati, here third-person plurals. The primary verb is bujjhati, “understands, becomes enlightened to, awakens to,” with two prefixes, abhi and sam, which respectively suggest superiority and completeness. Abhisambujjhati is used only in relation to the perfect enlightenment of a buddha.

sabbe te: “all those”; a pronominal expression completing the relative pronoun ye hi keci that opens the sentence.

cattāri: the number “four” in the accusative neuter plural.

94

ariyasaccāni: “noble truths”; the compound can be understood as either a kammadhāraya consisting of an adjective and a noun, “truths that are noble,” or a genitive tappurisa, “truths of the noble one.” In support of the former, see p. 108; in support of the latter, p. 109. As the object of abhisambujjhiṃsu, the compound is a plural accusative.

katamāni: the interrogative pronominal adjective “what?” in the neuter plural nominative (Duroiselle §342; Perniola §43).

anāgatam: “future,” literally, “not yet come.” Āgata is a past participle of āgacchati, “comes,” negated by the prefix an-.

etarahi: “now, at present.”

dukkhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ . . . dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā ariyasaccaṃ: There is a disparity between the grammatical construction of the first three truths and the fourth. In the first three, the name of the truth takes on the gender of saccaṃ, as is evident in the second and third truths, where the masculine nouns samudaya and nirodha form neuter compounds, presumably because they function as bahubbīhis qualifying neuter ariyasaccaṃ. However, in the fourth truth paṭipadā occurs as a feminine, its own proper gender, qualified by a compound ending in -gāminī, a feminine termination.

3. Vitakkasutta

Thought (SN 56:7; V 417–18)

“Mā, bhikkhave, pāpake akusale vitakke vitakketha, seyyathīdaṃ: kāmavitakkaṃ, vyāpādavitakkaṃ, vihiṃsāvitakkaṃ. Taṃ kissa hetu? N’ete, bhikkhave, vitakkā atthasaṃhitā nādibrahmacariyakā na nibbidāya na virāgāya na nirodhāya na upasamāya na abhiññāya na sambodhāya na nibbānāya saṃvattanti.

“Do not, monks, bad unwholesome thoughts think, that is, sensual-desire-thought, ill-will-thought, harming-thought. That for what reason? Not these, monks, thoughts good-connected, not-basis-spiritual-life, not to disenchantment, not to dispassion, not to cessation, not to peace, not to direct-knowledge, not to enlightenment, not to nibbāna lead.

“Monks, do not think bad unwholesome thoughts — that is, sensual thought, thought of ill will, thought of harming. For what reason? These thoughts, monks, are unbeneficial; they do not pertain to the basis for the 95spiritual life; they do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to nibbāna.

“Vitakkentā ca kho tumhe, bhikkhave, ‘idaṃ dukkhan’ti vitakkeyyātha, ‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti vitakkeyyātha, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ti vitakkeyyātha, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti vitakkeyyātha. Taṃ kissa hetu? Ete, bhikkhave, vitakkā atthasaṃhitā ete ādibrahmacariyakā ete nibbidāya virāgāya nirodhāya upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattanti.”

“Thinking, but, you, monks, ‘This suffering’ should think; ‘This suffering-origin’ should think; ‘This suffering-cessation’ should think; ‘This suffering-cessation-going way’ should think. That for what reason? These, monks, thoughts good-connected, these basis-spiritual-life, these to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct-knowledge, to enlightenment, to nibbāna lead.”

“When you think, monks, you should think: ‘This is suffering’; you should think: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; you should think: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; you should think: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ For what reason? These thoughts, monks, are beneficial; they pertain to the basis for the spiritual life; they lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to nibbāna.”

GRAMMATICAL EXPLANATIONS

: a prohibitive particle, “do not,” used with an imperative or aorist verb. Here the verb vitakketha is a second-person plural imperative of vitakketi, “thinks.”

pāpake: “bad, evil”; an adjective qualifying vitakke.

akusale: “unwholesome, unskillful”; another adjective qualifying vitakke.

vitakke: “thoughts”; a masculine plural in the accusative case as the object of vitakketha.

seyyathīdaṃ: an indeclinable meaning “that is, as follows, namely,” usually introducing a set of terms.73

96

kāmavitakkaṃ: “sensual thought”; a tappurisa compound of kāma, “desire, sensuality, sensual pleasure,” and vitakka, “thought”; as the object of vitakketha, it is in the accusative case singular.74

vyāpādavitakkaṃ, vihiṃsāvitakkaṃ: “thought of ill will, thought of harming”; also tappurisa compounds constructed like kāmavitakkaṃ.

taṃ: an impersonal pronoun, “that,” representing the matter being interrogated.

kissa hetu: an idiomatic expression used when asking about the reason for a statement. The commentaries gloss this with kiṃkāraṇā or kena kāraṇena, “For what reason?”

n’ete: a sandhi formation of na ete, “not these.”

atthasaṃhitā: “beneficial”; an instrumental tappurisa compound composed of attha, “good, benefit, meaning,” and saṃhitā, a past participle meaning “connected with, endowed with.” The compound, which functions as an adjective, is masculine plural nominative in agreement with vitakkā.

ādibrahmacariyakā: “pertaining to the basis for the spiritual life”; a bahubbīhi compound composed of ādi, “beginning, basis,” and brahmacariya, “the spiritual life, the holy life,”75 with the suffix -kā turning the compound into an adjective qualifying vitakkā.

nibbidāya, virāgāya, nirodhāya, upasamāya, abhiññāya, sambodhāya, nibbānāya: “to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to nibbāna.” These are datives of purpose (Duroiselle §597,vi; Perniola §259a).

saṃvattanti: “lead to, conduce to”; a third-person plural verb in the present tense.

vitakkentā: “thinking”; a present participle of vitakketi, masculine plural nominative.

97

ca: here used in the disjunctive sense, as meaning “but” rather than “and.” See DOP ca2 2.

kho: According to DOP, this indeclinable “emphasizes the preceding word(s), but is often merely expletive.” Here, following ca, it reinforces the disjunctive sense of “but.” Elsewhere, especially in the expression atha kho, it “marks a change of subject or a further stage in a narrative” (DOP).

vitakkeyyātha: “should think”; a second-person plural verb in the optative.

4. Khandhasutta

Aggregates (SN 56:13; V 425–26)

“Cattār’imāni, bhikkhave, ariyasaccāni. Katamāni cattāri? Dukkhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ, dukkhasamudayaṃ ariyasaccaṃ, dukkhanirodhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ, dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā ariyasaccaṃ.

“Four these, monks, noble-truths. What four? Suffering noble-truth, suffering-origin noble-truth, suffering-cessation noble-truth, suffering-cessation-going way noble-truth.

“There are, monks, these four noble truths. What four? The noble truth of suffering, the noble truth of the origin of suffering, the noble truth of the cessation of suffering, the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

“Katamañca, bhikkhave, dukkhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ? ‘Pañc’upādānakkhandhā’ti ’ssa vacanīyaṃ, seyyathīdaṃ: rūpupādānakkhandho, vedanupādānakkhandho, saññupādānakkhandho, saṅkhārupādānakkhandho, viññāṇupādānakkhandho. Idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, ‘dukkhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ.’

“What-and, monks, the suffering noble-truth? ‘Five-clinging-aggregates’ should be said, that is, the form-clinging-aggregate, the feeling-clinging-aggregate, the perception-clinging-aggregate, the volitional-activities-clinging-aggregate, the consciousness-clinging-aggregate. This is called, monks, the ‘suffering noble-truth.’

“And what, monks, is the noble truth of suffering? ‘The five clinging-aggregates,’ 98it should be said — that is, the form clinging-aggregate, the feeling clinging-aggregate, the perception clinging-aggregate, the volitional activities clinging-aggregate, the consciousness clinging-aggregate. This is called, monks, the ‘noble truth of suffering.’

“Katamañca, bhikkhave, dukkhasamudayaṃ ariyasaccaṃ? Yāyaṃ taṇhā ponobhavikā nandirāgasahagatā tatratatrābhinandinī, seyyathīdaṃ: kāmataṇhā, bhavataṇhā, vibhavataṇhā. Idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, ‘dukkhasamudayaṃ ariyasaccaṃ.’

“What-and, monks, the suffering-origin noble-truth? Which-this craving again-existence-causing, delight-lust-accompanied, there-there-delighting, that is, sensual-pleasure-craving, existence-craving, non-existence-craving. This is called, monks, the ‘suffering-origin noble-truth.’

“And what, monks, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering? It is this craving causing renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, delighting here and there — that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for non-existence. This is called, monks, the ‘noble truth of the origin of suffering.’

“Katamañca, bhikkhave, dukkhanirodhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ? Yo tassāyeva taṇhāya asesavirāganirodho cāgo paṭinissaggo mutti anālayo. Idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, ‘dukkhanirodhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ.’

“What-and, monks, the suffering-cessation noble-truth? Which of that-same craving without-remainder-fading-cessation, giving-up, relinquishment, freedom, non-attachment. This is called, monks, the ‘suffering-cessation noble-truth.’

“And what, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering? It is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, its giving up, relinquishment, freedom [from it], non-attachment. This is called, monks, the ‘noble truth of the cessation of suffering.’

99

“Katamañca, bhikkhave, dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā ariyasaccaṃ? Ayameva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo, seyyathīdaṃ: sammādiṭṭhi sammāsaṅkappo sammāvācā sammākammanto sammā-ājīvo sammāvāyāmo sammāsati sammāsamādhi. Idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, ‘dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā ariyasaccaṃ.’ Imāni kho, bhikkhave, cattāri ariyasaccāni.”

“What-and, monks, the suffering-cessation-going way noble-truth? This-just noble eightfold path, that is: right-view, right-intention, right-speech, right-action, right-livelihood, right-effort, right-mindfulness, right-concentration. This is called, monks, the ‘suffering-cessation-going way noble-truth.’ These, monks, the four noble truths.”

“And what, monks, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering? It is just this noble eightfold path — that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is called, monks, the ‘noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ These, monks, are the four noble truths.”

GRAMMATICAL EXPLANATIONS

cattār’imāni: cattāri, “four,” and imāni, the pronoun “these,” with an -i dropping off on account of sandhi. Both are neuter plural nominatives qualifying saccāni, truths. In the Nikāyas, opening statements about numerical sets usually place the number before the pronoun, as here, probably for emphasis. Note that both the nominative and accusative plural of neuter nouns ending in -a terminate in -āni, and thus the case of the noun must be determined from the context. In equational sentences like this Pāli does not require a verb, but in translation we should add “there are.”

katamañca: a sandhi formation of katamaṃ, “what?” and ca, “and.” Katamaṃ is neuter singular nominative in agreement with saccaṃ. The copulative ca, it seems, links the expositions of each of the four truths.

pañc’upādānakkhandhā: “five clinging-aggregates”; a numerical compound of pañca, “five,” and upādānakkhandhā, a genitive tappurisa compound in the nominative masculine plural. The commentaries explain that the upādānakkhandhā are the aggregates that serve as “the objective 100domain of clinging.”76 For more on the relationship between upādāna and khandhā, see p. 190.

’ssa vacanīyaṃ = assa vacanīyaṃ: The initial vowel a- is elided on account of sandhi with the preceding ti. Assa is the third-person singular optative of atthi, hence “should be,” here used as an auxiliary verb in relation to vacanīyaṃ, a future passive participle of vuccati, “is said.” The optative auxiliary verb and the future passive participle in combination mean “should be said.” The suttas often use the construction ti ’ssa vacanīyaṃ when explaining how to reply to a question about the teaching.

idaṃ: the neuter singular nominative pronoun, “this,” qualifying dukkhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ.

vuccati: “is called”; a passive verb based on the root vac. The present active verb vatti (Skt vakti) is not found in the suttas, but the a-aorists avoca and avocuṃ are common.

yāyaṃ: a sandhi of , “which,” a relative pronoun, and ayaṃ, “this.” and ayaṃ are feminine as qualifying taṇhā, craving; they are correlated with the demonstrative pronoun idaṃ, which is neuter because it qualifies ariyasaccaṃ (see p. 64).

ponobhavikā: “causing renewed existence”; a bahubbīhi compound derived from punabbhava, “renewed existence,” composed of the adverb puna(r), “again,” and the noun bhava, “existence.” In forming the compound, the first vowel of puna(r) is strengthened (u > o) and -ar becomes o.77 Because pono ends in the heavy syllable -no, the bh in bhava is not duplicated as it is in punabbhava. The suffix -ikā enables the compound to serve as an adjective qualifying taṇhā. The Saṃyutta commentary (Spk II 264,7) glosses ponobhavikā with punabbhavanibbattikā, “productive of renewed existence.”

nandirāgasahagatā: “accompanied by delight and lust”; a complex instrumental tappurisa compound (Duroiselle §554) describing taṇhā. It includes a dvanda (see p. 36) made up of nandi, “delight,” and rāga, “lust,” with the suffix -sahagatā, “going along with, accompanying.” As modifying taṇhā, the compound is feminine singular.

101

tatratatrābhinandinī: “delighting here and there”; a complex bahubbīhi, with tatratatra a dvanda meaning “in various objects” or “in various realms” (Perniola §127a). Abhinandinī, “delighting,” is based on the neuter noun abhinandana, with the feminine suffix -inī facilitating its adjectival function as modifying taṇhā.

kāmataṇhā, bhavataṇhā, vibhavataṇhā: “craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for non-existence”; three locative tappurisa compounds enumerating the kinds of craving, which takes its objects in the locative case. The Dīgha commentary defines them thus: “Sensual craving is a name for lust for the five objects of sensual pleasure. Craving for existence is a designation for lust that has arisen as a yearning for existence — that is, lust for existence in the form and formless realms accompanied by the eternalist view — and attachment to jhāna. Craving for non-existence is a designation for lust accompanied by the annihilationist view.”78

yo: a relative pronoun qualifying -nirodho, hence nominative masculine singular; it is correlated with the neuter idaṃ, which qualifies ariyasaccaṃ.

tassāyeva: tassā is a feminine demonstrative pronoun in the genitive case, qualifying taṇhāya, with eva an emphatic indicating that the cessation of dukkha depends on the cessation of “that same” craving spoken of in the second noble truth. The semivowel -y- is inserted for euphony.

asesavirāganirodho: “the remainderless fading away and cessation”; a complex kammadhāraya compound with asesa, “remainderless” (negation of sesa, “remainder”), modifying both virāga, “fading away,” and nirodho, “cessation.” Virāga occurs in the suttas in two senses: fading away and dispassion. The former is more apt here. The Saṃyutta commentary explains: “All these terms are synonyms for nibbāna. Since it is in dependence on nibbāna that craving fades away and ceases without remainder, nibbāna is called the ‘remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving.’”79

102

cāgo paṭinissaggo mutti anālayo: “giving up, relinquishment, freedom [from it], non-attachment”; four additional terms signifying the elimination of craving, all nominative singulars.

ayameva: the masculine nominative pronoun ayaṃ followed by the emphatic eva, with change from - to -m due to sandhi with the vowel.

aṭṭhaṅgiko: “eightfold”; a bahubbīhi built on a numerical compound (Duroiselle §551; Perniola §138d), composed of aṭṭha, “eight,” and aṅga, “factor,” with the suffix -iko facilitating its function as an adjective qualifying maggo.

sammādiṭṭhi: “right view.” For definitions of the eight path factors, see pp. 477–81. All the terms for the path factors are kammadhāraya compounds composed of the adverb sammā and the noun denoting the specific factor.

5. Koṭigāmasutta

Koṭigāma (SN 56:21; V 431–42)

Ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā vajjīsu viharati koṭigāme. Tatra kho bhagavā bhikkhū āmantesi:

Join Wisdom

This content is only available to All-Access, and Plus members of the Wisdom Experience. Please log in, upgrade your membership, or join now.

Join Now
rotate left rotate right