SN 12.63 Son’s Flesh – four kinds of nutriment

SN 12.63 (3) Son’s Flesh

At S̄vattı̄.160 [98] “Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of nutriment(āhārā) for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be. What four? The nutriment edible food, gross or subtle(kabalinkārāhāra 段食); second, contact (phassa 触食) ; third, mental volition (mano-sancetanā 思食) ; fourth, consciousness (vinnāna 识食) . These are the four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be.

“And how, bhikkhus, should the nutriment edible food be seen? Suppose a couple, husband and wife, had taken limited provisions and were travelling through a desert. They have with them their only son, dear and beloved. Then, in the middle of the desert, their limited provisions would be used up and exhausted, while the rest of the desert remains to be crossed. The husband and wife would think: ‘Our limited provisions have been used up and exhausted, while the rest of this desert remains to be crossed. Let us kill our only son, dear and beloved, and prepare dried and spiced meat. By eating our son’s flesh we can cross the rest of this desert. Let not all three of us perish!’

“Then, bhikkhus, the husband and wife would kill their only son, dear and beloved, prepare dried and spiced meat, and by eating their son’s flesh they would cross the rest of the desert. While they are eating their son’s flesh, they would beat their breasts and cry: ‘Where are you, our only son? Where are you, our only son?’

“What do you think, bhikkhus? Would they eat that food for amusement or for enjoyment [99] or for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness?”

“No, venerable sir.”

“Wouldn’t they eat that food only for the sake of crossing the desert?”

“Yes, venerable sir.”

“It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment edible food should be seen.161 When the nutriment edible food is fully understood, lust for the five cords of sensual pleasure is fully understood.162 When lust for the five cords of sensual pleasure is fully understood, there is no fetter bound by which a noble disciple might come back again to this world.163

“And how, bhikkhus, should the nutriment contact be seen? Suppose there is a flayed cow. If she stands exposed to a wall, the creatures dwelling in the wall would nibble at her. If she stands exposed to a tree, the creatures dwelling in the tree would nibble at her. If she stands exposed to water, the creatures dwelling in the water would nibble at her. If she stands exposed to the open air, the creatures dwelling in the open air would nibble at her. Whatever that flayed cow stands exposed to, the creatures dwelling there would nibble at her.

“It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment contact should be seen.164 When the nutriment contact is fully understood, the three kinds of feeling are fully understood. When the three kinds of feeling are fully understood, I say, there is nothing further that a noble disciple needs to do.165

“And how, bhikkhus, should the nutriment mental volition be seen? Suppose there is a charcoal pit deeper than a man’s height, filled with glowing coals without flame or smoke. A man would come along wanting to live, not wanting to die, desiring happiness and averse to suffering. Then two strong men would grab him by both arms and drag him towards the charcoal pit. The man’s volition would be to get far away, his longing would be to get far away, his wish would be to get far away [from the charcoal pit]. [100] For what reason? Because he knows: ‘I will fall into this charcoal pit and on that account I will meet death or deadly suffering.’

“It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment mental volition should be seen.166 When the nutriment mental volition is fully understood, the three kinds of craving are fully understood. When the three kinds of craving are fully understood, I say, there is nothing further that a noble disciple needs to do.167

“And how, bhikkhus, should the nutriment consciousness be seen? Suppose they were to arrest a bandit, a criminal, and bring him before the king, saying: ‘Sire, this man is a bandit, a criminal. Impose on him whatever punishment you wish.’ The king says to them: ‘Go, men, in the morning strike this man with a hundred spears.’ In the morning they strike him with a hundred spears. Then at noon the king asks: ‘Men, how’s that man?’–‘Still alive, sire.’–‘Then go, and at noon strike him with a hundred spears.’ At noon they strike him with a hundred spears. Then in the evening the king asks: ‘Men, how’s that man?’–‘Still alive, sire.’ –‘Then go, and in the evening strike him with a hundred spears.’ In the evening they strike him with a hundred spears.

“What do you think, bhikkhus? Would that man, being struck with three hundred spears, experience pain and displeasure on that account?”

“Venerable sir, even if he were struck with one spear he would experience pain and displeasure on that account, not to speak of three hundred spears.”

“It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment consciousness should be seen.168 When the nutriment consciousness is fully understood, name-and-form is fully understood. When name-and-form is fully understood, I say, there is nothing further that a noble disciple needs to do.”169 [101]

SN 12.12 (2) Moḷiyaphagguna

At Sāvatthı̄. [13] “Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be. What four? The nutriment edible food, gross or subtle; second, contact; third, mental volition; fourth, consciousness. These are the four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be.”20

When this was said, the Venerable Moḷiyaphagguna said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, who consumes the nutriment consciousness?” 21

“Not a valid question,” the Blessed One replied. “I do not say, ‘One consumes.’22 If I should say, ‘One consumes,’ in that case this would be a valid question: ‘Venerable sir, who consumes?’ But I do not speak thus. Since I do not speak thus, if one should ask me, ‘Venerable sir, for what is the nutriment consciousness [a condition]?’23 this would be a valid question. To this the valid answer is: ‘The nutriment consciousness is a condition for the production of future renewed existence.24 When that which has come into being exists, the six sense bases [come to be];25 with the six sense bases as condition, contact.’”

“Venerable sir, who makes contact?”

“Not a valid question,” the Blessed One replied. “I do not say, ‘One makes contact.’ If I should say, ‘One makes contact,’ in that case this would be a valid question: ‘Venerable sir, who makes contact?’ But I do not speak thus. Since I do not speak thus, if one should ask me, ‘Venerable sir, with what as condition does contact [come to be]?’ this would be a valid question. To this the valid answer is: ‘With the six sense bases as condition, contact [comes to be]; with contact as condition, feeling.’”

“Venerable sir, who feels?”

“Not a valid question,” the Blessed One replied. “I do not say, ‘One feels.’ If I should say, ‘One feels,’ in that case this would be a valid question: ‘Venerable sir, who feels?’ But I do not speak thus. Since I do not speak thus, if one should ask me, ‘Venerable sir, with what as condition does feeling [come to be]?’ this would be a valid question. To this the valid answer is: ‘With contact as condition, feeling [comes to be]; with feeling as condition, craving.’”

“Venerable sir, who craves?”

“Not a valid question,” the Blessed One replied. “I do not say, ‘One craves.’ [14] If I should say, ‘One craves,’ in that case this would be a valid question: ‘Venerable sir, who craves?’ But I do not speak thus. Since I do not speak thus, if one should ask me, ‘Venerable sir, with what as condition does craving [come to be]?’ this would be a valid question. To this the valid answer is: ‘With feeling as condition, craving [comes to be]; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, existence….26 Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.’

“But, Phagguna, with the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact comes cessation of contact; with the cessation of contact, cessation of feeling; with the cessation of feeling, cessation of craving; with the cessation of craving, cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of existence; with the cessation of existence, cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”

SN 12.64 (4) If There Is Lust

At Sāvatthı̄. “Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be. What four? The nutriment edible food, gross or subtle; second, contact; third, mental volition; fourth, consciousness. These are the four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be.

“If, bhikkhus, there is lust for the nutriment edible food, if there is delight, if there is craving, consciousness becomes established there and comes to growth.170 Wherever consciousness becomes established and comes to growth, there is a descent of name-and-form.171 Where there is a descent of name-and-form, there is the growth of volitional formations.172 Where there is the growth of volitional formations, there is the production of future renewed existence. Where there is the production of future renewed existence, there is future birth, aging, and death. Where there is future birth, aging, and death, I say that is accompanied by sorrow, anguish, and despair.

170 Spk explains lust (rāga), delight (nandī), and craving (taṇhā) as synonyms for greed (lobha). Consciousness becomes established there and comes to growth (patiṭṭhitaṃ tattha viññāṇaṃ virūḷhaṃ): having impelled a kamma, it “becomes established and comes to growth” through its ability to drag along a rebirth. On the establishing of consciousness, see 12:38 and n. 112, and on the descent of name-and-form, 12:39 and n. 115.

171 Spk: Wherever (yattha) is a locative referring to the round of existence with its three planes. Or else, in all instances, this locative is used with reference to the correlative term in the preceding phrase. [Spk-pṭ: This locative expression yattha … tattha is used with reference to each preceding phrase, which is its sphere of application.]

172 Atthi tattha saṅkhārānaṃ vuddhi. Spk: This is said with reference to the volitional formations that are the cause of a future round of existence for one abiding in the present round of results.
The variation here on the usual sequence is very interesting. When “the growth of volitional formations” is placed between name-and-form and future existence, this implies that the expression corresponds to three critical terms of the standard formula—craving, clinging, and (kamma-)existence—with āyatiṃ punabbhavābhinibbatti signifying the process of entering the new existence.

Spk: The painter represents kamma with its adjuncts [Spkpṭ: craving and ignorance, and time and destination, etc.]; the panel, wall, or canvas represents the round with its three realms. As the painter creates a figure on the panel, so kamma with its adjuncts creates a form in the realms of existence. As the figure created by an unskilled painter is ugly, deformed, and disagreeable, so the kamma performed with a mind dissociated from knowledge gives rise to an ugly, deformed, disagreeable figure. But as the figure created by a skilled painter is beautiful and well shaped, so the kamma performed with a mind associated with knowledge gives rise to a beautiful and comely figure.

“If, bhikkhus, there is lust for the nutriment contact, or for the nutriment mental volition, or for the nutriment consciousness, if there is delight, if there is craving, consciousness becomes established there and comes to growth. Wherever consciousness becomes established and comes to growth … I say that is accompanied by sorrow, anguish, and despair.

“Suppose, bhikkhus, an artist or a painter, using dye or lac or turmeric or indigo or crimson, [102] would create the figure of a man or a woman complete in all its features on a well-polished plank or wall or canvas. So too, if there is lust for the nutriment edible food, or for the nutriment contact, or for the nutriment mental volition, or for the nutriment consciousness, if there is delight, if there is craving, consciousness becomes established there and comes to growth. Wherever consciousness becomes established and comes to growth … I say that is accompanied by sorrow, anguish, and despair.173

173 Spk: The painter represents kamma with its adjuncts [Spkpṭ: craving and ignorance, and time and destination, etc.]; the panel, wall, or canvas represents the round with its three realms. As the painter creates a figure on the panel, so kamma with its adjuncts creates a form in the realms of existence. As the figure created by an unskilled painter is ugly, deformed, and disagreeable, so the kamma performed with a mind dissociated from knowledge gives rise to an ugly, deformed, disagreeable figure. But as the figure created by a skilled painter is beautiful and well shaped, so the kamma performed with a mind associated with knowledge gives rise to a beautiful and comely figure.

“If, bhikkhus, there is no lust for the nutriment edible food, or [103] for the nutriment contact, or for the nutriment mental volition, or for the nutriment consciousness, if there is no delight, if there is no craving, consciousness does not become established there and come to growth. Where consciousness does not become established and come to growth, there is no descent of name-and-form. Where there is no descent of name-and-form, there is no growth of volitional formations. Where there is no growth of volitional formations, there is no production of future renewed existence. Where there is no production of future renewed existence, there is no future birth, aging, and death. Where there is no future birth, aging, and death, I say that is without sorrow, anguish, and despair.

“Suppose, bhikkhus, there was a house or a hall with a peaked roof, with windows on the northern, southern, and eastern sides. When the sun rises and a beam of light enters through a window, where would it become established?”

“On the western wall, venerable sir.”

“If there were no western wall, where would it become established?”

“On the earth, venerable sir.”

“If there were no earth, where would it become established?”

“On the water, venerable sir.”

“If there were no water, where would it become established?”

“It would not become established anywhere, venerable sir.”

“So too, bhikkhus, if there is no lust for the nutriment edible food … for the nutriment contact … for the nutriment mental volition … for the nutriment consciousness … consciousness does not become established there and come to growth. Where consciousness does not become established and come to growth … [104] … I say that is without sorrow, anguish, and despair.”174

174 Spk: The kamma of the arahant is similar to the sunbeam. However, the sunbeam does exist, but because there is no place for it to settle it is said to be unestablished (appatiṭṭhitā). But the arahant’s kamma is said to be unestablished because it is nonexistent. Although he has a body, etc., no wholesome or unwholesome kamma is thereby created. His deeds are merely functional, not productive of results (kiriyamatte ṭhatvā avipākaṃ hoti). In this connection, see 12:25 and n. 81.
It should be noted that Spk explains the statement that the arahant’s consciousness is unestablished to mean that his kamma is unestablished. This seems too free an interpretation. Nevertheless, I think it would be wrong to interpret the sutta as saying that after his parinibbāna the arahant’s consciousness persists in some mode that can only be described as unestablished. The present passage is clearly speaking of the arahant’s consciousness while he is alive. Its purport is not that an “unestablished consciousness” remains after the arahant’s parinibbāna, but that his consciousness, being devoid of lust, does not “become established in” the four nutriments in any way that might generate a future existence.

Published by Vimutta Fellowship Toronto

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