The Discourse Concerning Māluṅkyaputta

(Māluṅkyaputtasutta, Saṁyuttanikāya 35. 95)

Translated by Ānandajoti Bhikkhu

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The Request

Then venerable Māluṅkyaputta approached the Gracious One, and after approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, he sat down on one side. While sitting on one side the venerable Māluṅkyaputta said this to the Gracious One:

“Please, reverend Sir, may the Gracious One preach the Dhamma to me in brief, then I, having heard the Gracious One's Dhamma, may dwell solitary, secluded, heedful, ardent, and resolute.”

“Now what shall we say to the young monks, Māluṅkyaputta, if you, who are an old monk, elderly, of great age, far gone, advanced in years, ask for advice in brief?” The commentary says the Buddha speaks like this both to reproach Māluṅkyaputta, and to encourage him, for while on the one hand he had been heedless during his youth, here he was in his old age dwelling in the wilderness and asking for a meditation subject.01

“Although I, reverend Sir, am old, elderly, of great age, far gone, advanced in years, let the Gracious One preach the Dhamma to me in brief, reverend Sir, let the Fortunate One preach the Dhamma to me in brief, I will surely understand the meaning of what is spoken by the Gracious One, I will surely be an heir to what is spoken by the Gracious One.”

The Questions

“Then what do you think, Māluṅkyaputta, those forms cognizable by the eye, which have not been seen - which formerly have not been seen, (which) you are not seeing, and which you do not expect to see - can there be desire or passion or love relating to them?”

“Surely not, reverend Sir.”

“Those sounds cognizable by the ear, which have not been heard - which formerly have not been heard, (which) you are not hearing, and which you do not expect to hear - can there be desire or passion or love relating to them?”

“Surely not, reverend Sir.”

“Those smells cognizable by the nose, which have not been smelt - which formerly have not been smelt, (which) you are not smelling, and which you do not expect to smell - can there be desire or passion or love relating to them?”

“Surely not, reverend Sir.”

“Those tastes cognizable by the tongue, which have not been tasted - which formerly have not been tasted, (which) you are not tasting, and which you do not expect to taste - can there be desire or passion or love relating to them?”

“Surely not, reverend Sir.”

“Those tangibles cognizable by the body, which have not been touched - which formerly have not been touched, (which) you are not touching, and which you do not expect to touch - can there be desire or passion or love relating to them?”

“Surely not, reverend Sir.”

“Those thoughts cognizable by the mind, which have not been cognized - which formerly have not been cognized, (which) you are not cognizing, and which you do not expect to cognize - can there be desire or passion or love relating to them?”

“Surely not, reverend Sir.”

The Instruction The instruction given here is identical to that given to Bahiya in the Udāna (Ud 1. 10). The latter, who immediately understood the teaching, and put it into practice, attained to Arahantship then and there. Note that some of the notes given here are drawn from the Udāna commentary.02

“Now here for you, Māluṅkyaputta, in regard to things that are seen, heard, sensed, or cognized,

in what is seen there must be only what is seen,
in what is heard there must be only what is heard,
in what is sensed there must be only what is sensed,
in what is cognized there must be only what is cognized. Commentary: Just as when a form comes into focus eye consciousness is not excited (not impassioned), not tainted, not deluded, so, being devoid of passion etc., in regard to the measure of eye consciousness there must be no impulsion.

Translator: Ethically impulsion (javana) is the most important stage in the cognitive series, because it is in the seven mind moments that are termed javana that wholesome and unwholesome volition takes place, and kamma is made. According to the instruction given here the cognitive process should be checked by mindfulness before it reaches the javana stage.
03

The Result

And since for you, Māluṅkyaputta, in regard to things that are seen, heard, sensed, or cognized,

in what is seen there will be only what is seen,
in what is heard there will be only what is heard,
in what is sensed there will be only what is sensed,
in what is cognized there will be only what is cognized,

therefore, Māluṅkyaputta, you will not be with that,
and since, Māluṅkyaputta, you will not be with that,
therefore, Māluṅkyaputta, you will not be in that,
and since, Māluṅkyaputta, you will not be in that, Udāna commentary: ...since you will not be excited with passion, tainted with hate, or confused with delusion...therefore you will not be in that which is seen etc. Or, you will not be adhering to, or established on, that which is seen, heard, (sensed), or cognized by way of craving, conceit, or views, thinking: ‘this is mine, this I am, this is my self’...04

therefore, Māluṅkyaputta, you will not be here or hereafter or in between the two - just this is the end of suffering.” The commentary to the Udāna is at pains to point out that in the Abhidhamma (and the tradition it embodies) there is no intermediate becoming ‘between the two’, but that what is meant here is either ‘you will not be here or hereafter or in both’ - which seems a bit strained - or, ‘you will not be here or hereafter, and nor is there anywhere in between the two.’05

Verses on Passion 06

“Of this, reverend Sir, that was spoken in brief by the Gracious One thus do I understand the meaning in detail:

Having seen a form and forgotten mindfulness,
Applying the mind to an object held dear,
He feels (it) with an excited mind, and persists in indulging it:
So for him increase various feelings that originate with form,
And by covetousness and by violence is his mind destroyed -
For one heaping up suffering like this nibbāna is said to be far away. These verses bring out very clearly the crucial finction that mindfulness (sati) plays in meditation practice, and in particular its relation to restraint (saṁvara), one of the four right endeavours. Someone who is un-mindful, or who for the moment forgets to be mindful, is liable to fall prey to all sorts of proliferation (papañca), which can very quickly end up in giving an opening to one of the unwholesome roots (akusalamūla) of lust (lobha), hate (dosa), or delusion (moha). It is for this reason that mindfulness, which when properly understood and applied, protects the aspirant from these roots, is regarded as basic to the practice of meditation.07

Having heard a sound and forgotten mindfulness,
Applying the mind to an object held dear,
He feels (it) with an excited mind, and persists in indulging it:
So for him increase various feelings that originate with sound,
And by covetousness and by violence is his mind destroyed -
For one heaping up suffering like this nibbāna is said to be far away.

Having smelt a smell and forgotten mindfulness,
Applying the mind to an object held dear,
He feels (it) with an excited mind, and persists in indulging it:
So for him increase various feelings that originate with smells,
And by covetousness and by violence is his mind destroyed -
For one heaping up suffering like this nibbāna is said to be far away.

Having savoured a taste and forgotten mindfulness,
Applying the mind to an object held dear,
He feels (it) with an excited mind, and persists in indulging it:
So for him increase various feelings that originate with tastes,
And by covetousness and by violence is his mind destroyed -
For one heaping up suffering like this nibbāna is said to be far away.

Having touched a tangible and forgotten mindfulness,
Applying the mind to an object held dear,
He feels (it) with an excited mind, and persists in indulging it:
So for him increase various feelings that originate with tangibles,
And by covetousness and by violence is his mind destroyed -
For one heaping up suffering like this nibbāna is said to be far away.

Having cognized a thought and forgotten mindfulness,
Applying the mind to an object held dear,
He feels (it) with an excited mind, and persists in indulging it:
So for him increase various feelings that originate with thoughts,
And by covetousness and by violence is his mind destroyed -
For one heaping up suffering like this nibbāna is said to be far away.

Verses on Dispassion

Not being excited by forms, having seen a form he is mindful,
He feels (it) with an unexcited mind, and does not persist in indulging it:
For he who sees a form and experiences the feeling in this way,
(Corruptions) are destroyed, not heaped up, he thus lives mindfully -
For one reducing suffering like this nibbāna is said to be near. This and the following verse show how important it is to maintain a balanced and objective state of mind if one wishes to establish mindfulness. One who is initially dispassionate in regard to sensory contact can easily attend to mindfulness. In that case there is simply the feeling (vedanā), but it doesn't lead to craving (taṇhā), and so the arising of the whole mass of suffering as outlined in conditional arising (paṭiccasamuppāda) is terminated at this point.08

Not being excited by sounds, having heard a sound he is mindful,
He feels (it) with an unexcited mind, and does not persist in indulging it:
For he who hears a sound and experiences the feeling in this way,
(Corruptions) are destroyed, not heaped up, he thus lives mindfully -
For one reducing suffering like this nibbāna is said to be near.

Not being excited by smells, having smelt a smell he is mindful,
He feels (it) with an unexcited mind, and does not persist in indulging it:
For he who smells a smell and experiences the feeling in this way,
(Corruptions) are destroyed, not heaped up, he thus lives mindfully -
For one reducing suffering like this nibbāna is said to be near.

Not being excited by tastes, having savoured a taste he is mindful,
He feels (it) with an unexcited mind, and does not persist in indulging it:
For he who savours a taste and experiences the feeling in this way,
(Corruptions) are destroyed, not heaped up, he thus lives mindfully -
For one reducing suffering like this nibbāna is said to be near.

Not being excited by tangibles, having touched a tangible he is mindful,
He feels (it) with an unexcited mind, and does not persist in indulging it:
For he who touches a tangible and experiences the feeling in this way,
(Corruptions) are destroyed, not heaped up, he thus lives mindfully -
For one reducing suffering like this nibbāna is said to be near.

Not being excited by thoughts, having cognized a thought he is mindful,
He feels (it) with an unexcited mind, and does not persist in indulging it:
For he who cognizes a thought and experiences the feeling in this way,
(Corruptions) are destroyed, not heaped up, he thus lives mindfully -
For one reducing suffering like this nibbāna is said to be near.

Of this, reverend Sir, that was spoken in brief by the Gracious One so do I understand the meaning in detail.”

“Good, good, Māluṅkyaputta, it is good, Māluṅkyaputta, of what was spoken in brief by me so do you understand the meaning in detail:

(The Buddha here repeats all 12 verses that were spoken by venerable Māluṅkyaputta, and then adds:)  

Of this, Māluṅkyaputta, that was spoken in brief by me so should you understand the meaning in detail.”

Then venerable Māluṅkyaputta having rejoiced in and been gladdened by the Gracious One's speech, having risen from his seat and worshipped the Gracious One, after circumambulating (him) departed.

Then venerable Māluṅkyaputta while dwelling solitary, secluded, heedful, ardent, and resolute, after no long time (attained) that good for which young gentlemen rightly go forth from the house to the houseless life, that unsurpassed conclusion to the spiritual life, and dwelt having known, experienced, and attained (it) himself in this very life.

Destroyed is (re)birth
accomplished is the spiritual life
done is what ought to be done
there is no more of being in this mundane state - this he knew.

And venerable Māluṅkyaputta became another of the Worthy Ones.