SN 44.10 Ānanda: Is There a Self? – Dependent Origination

SN 44.10 Ānanda (Is There a Self?)

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta approached the Blessed One … and said to him:

“How is it now, Master Gotama, is there a self?”

When this was said, the Blessed One was silent.

“Then, Master Gotama, is there no self?”

A second time the Blessed One was silent.

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta rose from his seat and departed.

Then, not long after the wanderer Vacchagotta had left, the Venerable Ānanda said to the Blessed One: “Why is it, venerable sir, that when the Blessed One was questioned by the wanderer Vacchagotta, he did not answer?”

“If, Ānanda, when I was asked by the wanderer Vacchagotta, ‘Is there a self?’ I had answered, ‘There is a self,’ this would have been siding with383 those ascetics and brahmins who are eternalists. And if, when I was asked by him, ‘Is there no self?’ I had answered, ‘There is no self,’ [401] this would have been siding with those ascetics and brahmins who are annihilationists.

“If, Ānanda, when I was asked by the wanderer Vacchagotta, ‘Is there a self?’ I had answered, ‘There is a self,’ would this have been consistent on my part with the arising of the knowledge that ‘all phenomena are nonself’?”384

“No, venerable sir.”

“And if, when I was asked by him, ‘Is there no self?’ I had answered, ‘There is no self,’ the wanderer Vacchagotta, already confused, would have fallen into even greater confusion, thinking, ‘It seems that the self I formerly had does not exist now.’”385

In SN 22.85, Yamaka had the wrong view that a Buddha or Arahant is “annihilated at death”.

SN 22.85 (3) Yamaka

On one occasion the Venerable Sāriputta was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. Now on that occasion the following pernicious view had arisen in a bhikkhu named Yamaka: “As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death.”151

A number of bhikkhus heard that such a pernicious view had arisen in the bhikkhu Yamaka. Then they approached the Venerable Yamaka and exchanged greetings with him, after which they sat down to one side and said to him: “Is it true, friend Yamaka, that such a pernicious view as this has arisen in you: [110] ‘As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death’?”

“Exactly so, friends. As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death.”

“Friend Yamaka, do not speak thus. Do not misrepresent the Blessed One. It is not good to misrepresent the Blessed One. The Blessed One would not speak thus: ‘A bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death.’”

Yet, although he was admonished by the bhikkhus in this way, the Venerable Yamaka still obstinately grasped that pernicious view, adhered to it, and declared: “As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death.”

Since those bhikkhus were unable to detach the Venerable Yamaka from that pernicious view, they rose from their seats, approached the Venerable Sāriputta, and told him all that had occurred, adding: “It would be good if the Venerable Sāriputta would approach the bhikkhu Yamaka out of compassion for him.” The Venerable Sāriputta consented by silence.

Then, in the evening, the Venerable Sāriputta emerged from seclusion. He approached the Venerable Yamaka and exchanged greetings with him, after which he sat down to one side and said to him: “Is it true, friend Yamaka, that such a pernicious view as this has arisen in you: ‘As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, [111] a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death’?”

“Exactly so, friend.”

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, is form permanent or impermanent?” – “Impermanent, friend.”… – “Therefore … Seeing thus … He understands: ‘… there is no more for this state of being.’152

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard form as the Tathāgata?” – “No, friend.” – “Do you regard feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness as the Tathāgata?” – “No, friend.”

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard the Tathāgata as in form?” – “No, friend.” – “Do you regard the Tathāgata as apart from form?” – “No, friend.” – “Do you regard the Tathāgata as in feeling? As apart from feeling? As in perception? As apart from perception? As in volitional formations? As apart from volitional formations? As in consciousness? As apart from consciousness?” – “No, friend.”

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness [taken together] as the Tathāgata?” – “No, friend.” [112]

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard the Tathāgata as one who is without form, without feeling, without perception, without volitional formations, without consciousness?” – “No, friend.”153

“But, friend, when the Tathāgata is not apprehended by you as real and actual here in this very life,154 is it fitting for you to declare: ‘As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death’?”

“Formerly, friend Sāriputta, when I was ignorant, I did hold that pernicious view, but now that I have heard this Dhamma teaching of the Venerable Sāriputta I have abandoned that pernicious view and have made the breakthrough to the Dhamma.”155

“If, friend Yamaka, they were to ask you: ‘Friend Yamaka, when a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, what happens to him with the breakup of the body, after death?’—being asked thus, what would you answer?”

“If they were to ask me this, friend, I would answer thus: ‘Friends, form is impermanent; what is impermanent is suffering; what is suffering has ceased and passed away. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness is impermanent; what is impermanent is suffering; what is suffering has ceased and passed away.’ Being asked thus, friend, I would answer in such a way.”156

“Good, good, friend Yamaka! Now, friend Yamaka, I will make up a simile for you in order to convey this same meaning even more clearly. Suppose, friend Yamaka, there was a householder or a householder’s son, a rich man, with much wealth and property, protected by a bodyguard. Then some man would appear who wanted to ruin him, to harm him, to endanger him, to take his life. [113] It would occur to that man: ‘This householder or householder’s son is a rich man, with much wealth and property, protected by a bodyguard. It won’t be easy to take his life by force. Let me get close to him and then take his life.’

“Then he would approach that householder or householder’s son and say to him: ‘I would serve you, sir.’ Then the householder or householder’s son would appoint him as a servant. The man would serve him, rising up before him, retiring after him, doing whatever he wants, agreeable in his conduct, endearing in his speech. The householder or householder’s son would consider him a friend,157 a bosom friend, and he would place trust in him. But when the man becomes aware that the householder or householder’s son has placed trust in him, then, finding him alone, he would take his life with a sharp knife.

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, when that man had approached that householder or householder’s son and said to him: ‘I would serve you, sir,’ wasn’t he a murderer even then, though the other did not recognize him as ‘my murderer’? And when the man was serving him, rising up before him, retiring after him, doing whatever he wants, agreeable in his conduct, endearing in his speech, wasn’t he a murderer then too, though the other did not recognize him as ‘my murderer’? And when the man came upon him while he was alone and took his life with a sharp knife, wasn’t he a murderer then too, though the other did not recognize him as ‘my murderer’?”

“Yes, friend.”

“So too, friend Yamaka,158 the uninstructed worldling, who is not a seer of the noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, who is not a seer of superior persons and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, regards form as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form.

“He regards feeling as self … perception as self … volitional formations as self … consciousness as self, [114] or self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in self, or self as in consciousness.

“He does not understand as it really is impermanent form as ‘impermanent form’159 … impermanent feeling as ‘impermanent feeling’ … impermanent perception as ‘impermanent perception’ … impermanent volitional formations as ‘impermanent volitional formations’ … impermanent consciousness as ‘impermanent consciousness.’

“He does not understand as it really is painful form as ‘painful form’ … painful feeling as ‘painful feeling’ … painful perception as ‘painful perception’ … painful volitional formations as ‘painful volitional formations’ … painful consciousness as ‘painful consciousness.’

“He does not understand as it really is selfless form as ‘selfless form’ … selfless feeling as ‘selfless feeling’ … selfless perception as ‘selfless perception’ … selfless volitional formations as ‘selfless volitional formations’ … selfless consciousness as ‘selfless consciousness.’

“He does not understand as it really is conditioned form as ‘conditioned form’ … conditioned feeling as ‘conditioned feeling’ … conditioned perception as ‘conditioned perception’ … conditioned volitional formations as ‘conditioned volitional formations’ … conditioned consciousness as ‘conditioned consciousness.’

“He does not understand as it really is murderous form as ‘murderous form’ … murderous feeling as ‘murderous feeling’ … murderous perception as ‘murderous perception’ … murderous volitional formations as ‘murderous volitional formations’ … murderous consciousness as ‘murderous consciousness.’

“He becomes engaged with form, clings to it, and takes a stand upon it as ‘my self.’160 He becomes engaged with feeling … with perception … with volitional formations … with consciousness, clings to it, and takes a stand upon it as ‘my self.’ These same five aggregates of clinging, to which he becomes engaged and to which he clings, lead to his harm and suffering for a long time.

“But, friend, the instructed noble disciple, who is a seer of the noble ones … does not regard form as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form.

“He does not regard feeling as self … perception as self … volitional formations as self … consciousness as self, or self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in self, or self as in consciousness. [115]

“He understands as it really is impermanent form as ‘impermanent form’ … impermanent consciousness as ‘impermanent consciousness.’

“He understands as it really is painful form as ‘painful form’ … painful consciousness as ‘painful consciousness.’

“He understands as it really is selfless form as ‘selfless form’ … selfless consciousness as ‘selfless consciousness.’

“He understands as it really is conditioned form as ‘conditioned form’ … conditioned consciousness as ‘conditioned consciousness. ’

“He understands as it really is murderous form as ‘murderous form’ … murderous consciousness as ‘murderous consciousness.’

“He does not become engaged with form, cling to it, and take a stand upon it as ‘my self.’ He does not become engaged with feeling … with perception … with volitional formations … with consciousness, cling to it, and take a stand upon it as ‘my self.’ These same five aggregates of clinging, to which he does not become engaged and to which he does not cling, lead to his welfare and happiness for a long time.”

“So it is, friend Sāriputta, for those venerable ones who have such compassionate and benevolent brothers in the holy life to admonish and instruct them. And now that I have heard this Dhamma teaching of the Venerable Sāriputta, my mind is liberated from the taints by nonclinging.” [116]

This is what the Venerable Sāriputta said. Elated, the Venerable Yamaka delighted in the Venerable Sāriputta’s statement.161

AN 1:49 VI. LUMINOUS

49 (9)
“Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements.”46

50 (10)
“Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, and it is freed from adventitious defilements.”

51 (1)
“Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements. The uninstructed worldling does not understand this as it really is; therefore I say that for the uninstructed worldling there is no development of the mind.”47
52 (2)
“Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, and it is freed from adventitious defilements. The instructed noble disciple understands this as it really is; therefore I say that for the instructed noble disciple there is development of the mind.”48
53 (3)
“Bhikkhus, if for just the time of a finger snap a bhikkhu pursues a mind of loving-kindness, he is called a bhikkhu who is not devoid of jhāna, who acts upon the teaching of the Teacher, who responds to his advice, and who does not eat the country’s almsfood in vain.49 How much more, then, those who cultivate it!”
56 (6)
“Bhikkhus, whatever qualities are unwholesome, partake of the unwholesome, and pertain to the unwholesome, all have the mind as their forerunner.50 Mind arises first followed by the unwholesome qualities.”

SN 12. 2 (2) Analysis of Dependent Origination

At Sāvatthı̄. “Bhikkhus, I will teach you dependent origination and I will analyse it for you. Listen to that and attend closely, I will speak.”

“Yes, venerable sir,” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:

“And what, bhikkhus, is dependent origination? With ignorance as condition, volitional formations [come to be]; with volitional formations, consciousness … (as in preceding sutta) … Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.

“And what, bhikkhus, is aging-and-death? The aging of the various beings in the various orders of beings, their growing old, brokenness of teeth, greyness of hair, wrinkling of skin, decline of vitality, degeneration of the faculties: this is called aging. [3] The passing away of the various beings from the various orders of beings, their perishing, breakup, disappearance, mortality, death, completion of time, the breakup of the aggregates, the laying down of the carcass: this is called death.2 Thus this aging and this death are together called aging-and-death.

“And what, bhikkhus, is birth? The birth of the various beings into the various orders of beings, their being born, descent [into the womb], production, the manifestation of the aggregates, the obtaining of the sense bases. This is called birth.3

“And what, bhikkhus, is existence? There are these three kinds of existence: sense-sphere existence, form-sphere existence, formless-sphere existence. This is called existence.4

“And what, bhikkhus, is clinging? There are these four kinds of clinging: clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, clinging to rules and vows, clinging to a doctrine of self. This is called clinging.5

5 Spk defines clinging as tight grasping (upādānan ti daḷhaggahaṇaṃ vuccati). Definitions of the four kinds of clinging are at Dhs §§1214-17. In brief, clinging to sensual pleasures (kāmupādāna) is identical with sensual desire, sensual lust, sensual delight, sensual craving, etc. Clinging to views (diṭṭhupādāna) is the adoption of any wrong view except those included in the third and fourth types of clinging; Dhs §1215 mentions as an example the nihilist view (see 24:5). The expression sīlabbatupādāna is often translated “clinging to rites and rituals,” but neither the canon nor commentaries supports this. I render sīla as rules and vata as vows, though the intention is actual modes of behaviour prescribed by rules and vows. The laconic definition at Dhs §1222 reads: “Clinging to rules and vows is the view of ascetics and brahmins outside of here (i.e., outside the Buddhist fold) that purification is achieved by rules, by vows, by rules and vows” (condensed). The reference is evidently to the various types of austerities that the Buddha’s contemporaries adopted in the belief that they lead to heaven or to ultimate purification. An example is the “dog rule, dog vow” (kukkurasīla, kukkuravata) at MN I 387,18-20; see too the common phrase, iminā ’haṃ sīlena vā vatena vā tapena vā brahmacariyena vā devo vā bhavissāmi devaññataro vā (e.g., at MN I 102,10-11). Clinging to a doctrine of self (attavādupādāna) is defined by way of the twenty types of identity view (sakkāyadiṭṭhi), on which see 22:7, etc.

“And what, bhikkhus, is craving? There are these six classes of craving: craving for forms, craving for sounds, craving for odours, craving for tastes, craving for tactile objects, craving for mental phenomena. This is called craving.

“And what, bhikkhus, is feeling? There are these six classes of feeling: feeling born of eye-contact, feeling born of ear-contact, feeling born of nose-contact, feeling born of tongue-contact, feeling born of body-contact, feeling born of mind-contact. This is called feeling.

“And what, bhikkhus, is contact? There are these six classes of contact: eye-contact, ear-contact, nose-contact, tongue-contact, body-contact, mind-contact. This is called contact.

“And what, bhikkhus, are the six sense bases? The eye base, the ear base, the nose base, the tongue base, the body base, the mind base. These are called the six sense bases.

“And what, bhikkhus, is name-and-form? Feeling, perception, volition, contact, attention: this is called name. The four [4] great elements and the form derived from the four great elements: this is called form. Thus this name and this form are together called name-and-form.6

6 On the translation of nāmarūpa, see the General Introduction, pp. 47-49. Vism 558,23-28 (Ppn 17:187) explains that nāma denotes the three aggregates—of feeling, perception, and volitional formations—which are called thus because of their “bending” (namana) on to an object (in the act of cognizing it). Volition, contact, and attention belong to the aggregate of volitional formations and, according to Spk, have been selected to represent that aggregate here because they are operative even in the weakest classes of consciousness.

“And what, bhikkhus, is consciousness? There are these six classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, mind-consciousness. This is called consciousness.

“And what, bhikkhus, are the volitional formations? There are these three kinds of volitional formations: the bodily volitional formation, the verbal volitional formation, the mental volitional formation. These are called the volitional formations.7

“And what, bhikkhus, is ignorance? Not knowing suffering, not knowing the origin of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way leading to the cessation of suffering. This is called ignorance.8

“Thus, bhikkhus, with ignorance as condition, volitional formations [come to be]; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of volitional formations; with the cessation of volitional formations, cessation of consciousness…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”9

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