MN 63 Cūḷamālunkya Sutta – The World

MN 63 Cūḷamālunkya Sutta – The Shorter Discourse to Mālunkyāputta

THUS HAVE I HEARD. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park.

Then, while the venerable Mālunkyāputta was alone in meditation, the following thought arose in his mind:

“These speculative views have been left undeclared by the Blessed One, set aside and rejected by him, namely: ‘the world is eternal’ and ‘the world is not eternal’; ‘the world is finite’ and ‘the world is infinite’; ‘the soul is the same as the body’ and ‘the soul is one thing and the body another’; and ‘after death a Tathāgata exists’ and ‘after death a Tathāgata does not exist’ and ‘after death a Tathāgata both exists and does not exist’ and ‘after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist.’ The Blessed One does not declare these to me, and I do not approve of and accept the fact that he does not declare these to me, so I shall go to the Blessed One and ask him the meaning of this. If he declares to me either ‘the world is eternal’ or ‘the world is not eternal’…or ‘after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,’ then I will lead the holy life under him; if he does not declare these to me, then I will abandon the training and return to the low life.” [427]Then, when it was evening, the venerable Mālunkyāputta rose from meditation and went to the Blessed One. After paying homage to him, he sat down at one side and told him:

“Here, venerable sir, while I was alone in meditation, the following thought arose in my mind: ‘These speculative views have been left undeclared by the Blessed One…If he does not declare these to me, then I will abandon the training and return to the low life.’ If the Blessed One knows ‘the world is eternal,’ let the Blessed One declare to me ‘the world is eternal’; if the Blessed One knows ‘the world is not eternal,’ let the Blessed One declare to me ‘the world is not eternal.’ If the Blessed One does not know either ‘the world is eternal’ or ‘the world is not eternal, ’ then it is straightforward for one who does not know and does not see to say: ‘I do not know, I do not see.’

“If the Blessed One knows ‘the world is finite,’…‘the world is infinite,’…‘the soul is the same as the body,’…‘the soul is one thing and the body another,’…‘after death a Tathāgata exists,’ [428]…’after death a Tathāgata does not exist,’…If the Blessed One knows ‘after death a Tathāgata both exists and does not exist,’ let the Blessed One declare that to me; if the Blessed One knows ‘after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,’ let the Blessed One declare that to me. If the Blessed One does not know either ‘after death a Tathāgata both exists and does not exist’ or ‘after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,’ then it is straightforward for one who does not know and does not see to say: ‘I do not know, I do not see.’”“How then, Mālunkyāputta, did I ever say to you: ‘Come, Mālunkyāputta, lead the holy life under me and I will declare to you “the world is eternal”…or “after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist”’?”—“No, venerable sir.”—“Did you ever tell me: ‘I will lead the holy life under the Blessed One, and the Blessed One will declare to me “the world is eternal”…or “after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist”’?”—“No, venerable sir.”—“That being so, misguided man, who are you and what are you abandoning?

“If anyone should say thus: ‘I will not lead the holy life under the Blessed One until the Blessed One declares to me “the world is eternal”…or “after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,”’ [429] that would still remain undeclared by the Tathāgata and meanwhile that person would die. Suppose, Mālunkyāputta, a man were wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends and companions, his kinsmen and relatives, brought a surgeon to treat him. The man would say: ‘I will not let the surgeon pull out this arrow until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble or a brahmin or a merchant or a worker.’ And he would say: ‘I will not let the surgeon pull out this arrow until I know the name and clan of the man who wounded me;…until I know whether the man who wounded me was tall or short or of middle height;… until I know whether the man who wounded me was dark or brown or golden-skinned;…until I know whether the man who wounded me lives in such a village or town or city;…until I know whether the bow that wounded me was a long bow or a cross-bow; …until I know whether the bowstring that wounded me was fibre or reed or sinew or hemp or bark;…until I know whether the shaft that wounded me was wild or cultivated;… until I know with what kind of feathers the shaft that wounded me was fitted—whether those of a vulture or a heron or a hawk or a peacock or a stork;…until I know with what kind of sinew the shaft that wounded me was bound—whether that of an ox or a buffalo or a deer or a monkey;…until I know what kind of arrowhead it was that wounded me—whether spiked or razor-tipped or curved or barbed or calf-toothed or lancet-shaped.’ [430] “All this would still not be known to that man and meanwhile he would die. So too, Mālunkyāputta, if anyone should say thus: ‘I will not lead the holy life under the Blessed One until the Blessed One declares to me: “the world is eternal”…or “after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,”’ that would still remain undeclared by the Tathāgata and meanwhile that person would die.

“Mālunkyāputta, if there is the view ‘the world is eternal,’ the holy life cannot be lived; and if there is the view ‘the world is not eternal,’ the holy life cannot be lived. Whether there is the view ‘the world is eternal’ or the view ‘the world is not eternal,’ there is birth, there is ageing, there is death, there are sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the destruction of which I prescribe here and now.

“If there is the view ‘the world is finite,’…‘the world is infinite, ’…‘the soul is the same as the body,’…‘the soul is one thing and the body another,’…‘after death a Tathāgata exists,’…‘after death a Tathāgata does not exist,’ the holy life cannot be lived… [431] If there is the view ‘after death a Tathāgata both exists and does not exist,’ the holy life cannot be lived; and if there is the view ‘after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,’ the holy life cannot be lived. Whether there is the view ‘after death a Tathāgata both exists and does not exist’ or the view ‘after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist,’ there is birth, there is ageing, there is death, there are sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the destruction of which I prescribe here and now.“Therefore, Mālunkyāputta, remember what I have left undeclared as undeclared, and remember what I have declared as declared. And what have I left undeclared? ‘The world is eternal’—I have left undeclared. ‘The world is not eternal’—I have left undeclared. ‘The world is finite’—I have left undeclared. ‘The world is infinite’—I have left undeclared. ‘The soul is the same as the body’—I have left undeclared. ‘The soul is one thing and the body another’—I have left undeclared. ‘After death a Tathāgata exists’—I have left undeclared. ‘After death a Tathāgata does not exist’—I have left undeclared. ‘After death a Tathāgata both exists and does not exist’—I have left undeclared. ‘After death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist’—I have left undeclared.

“Why have I left that undeclared? Because it is unbeneficial, it does not belong to the fundamentals of the holy life, it does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna. That is why I have left it undeclared.

“And what have I declared? ‘This is suffering’—I have declared. ‘This is the origin of suffering’—I have declared. ‘This is the cessation of suffering’—I have declared. ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’—I have declared.

“Why have I declared that? Because it is beneficial, it belongs to the fundamentals of the holy life, it leads to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna. That is why I have declared it.

“Therefore, Mālunkyāputta, [432] remember what I have left undeclared as undeclared, and remember what I have declared as declared.”

That is what the Blessed One said. The venerable Mālunkyāputta was satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words.648

SN 12.15 Kaccānagotta

At Sāvatthı̄. [17] Then the Venerable Kaccānagotta approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him: “Venerable sir, it is said, ‘right view, right view.’ In what way, venerable sir, is there right view?”

“This world, Kaccāna, for the most part depends upon a duality—upon the notion of existence and the notion of nonexistence. 29 But for one who sees the origin of the world as it really is with correct wisdom, there is no notion of nonexistence in regard to the world. And for one who sees the cessation of the world as it really is with correct wisdom, there is no notion of existence in regard to the world.30

“This world, Kaccāna, is for the most part shackled by engagement, clinging, and adherence.31 But this one [with right view] does not become engaged and cling through that engagement and clinging, mental standpoint, adherence, underlying tendency; he does not take a stand about ‘my self.’32 He has no perplexity or doubt that what arises is only suffering arising, what ceases is only suffering ceasing. His knowledge about this is independent of others. It is in this way, Kaccāna, that there is right view.33 “‘All exists’: Kaccāna, this is one extreme. ‘All does not exist’: this is the second extreme. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathāgata teaches the Dhamma by the middle: ‘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.” [18]

29 Dvayanissito khvāyaṃ Kaccāna loko yebhuyyena atthitañ c’ eva natthitañ ca. Spk: “For the most part” (yebhuyyena) means: for the great multitude, with the exception of the noble individuals (ariyapuggala). The notion of existence (atthitā) is eternalism (sassata); the notion of nonexistence (natthitā) is annihilationism (uccheda). Spk-pṭ: The notion of existence is eternalism because it maintains that the entire world (of personal existence) exists forever. The notion of nonexistence is annihilationism because it maintains that the entire world does not exist (forever) but is cut off.
In view of these explanations it would be misleading to translate the two terms, atthitā and natthitā, simply as “existence” and “nonexistence” and then to maintain (as is sometimes done) that the Buddha rejects all ontological notions as inherently invalid. The Buddha’s utterances at 22:94, for example, show that he did not hesitate to make pronouncements with a clear ontological import when they were called for. In the present passage atthitā and natthitā are abstract nouns formed from the verbs atthi and natthi. It is thus the metaphysical assumptions implicit in such abstractions that are at fault, not the ascriptions of existence and nonexistence themselves. I have tried to convey this sense of metaphysical abstraction, conveyed in Pāli by the terminal -tā, by rendering the two terms “the notion of existence” and “the notion of nonexistence,” respectively. On the two extremes rejected by the Buddha, see 12:48, and for the Buddha’s teaching on the origin and passing away of the world, 12:44.

Unfortunately, atthitā and bhava both had to be rendered by “existence,” which obscures the fact that in Pāli they are derived from different roots. While atthitā is the notion of existence in the abstract, bhava is concrete individual existence in one or another of the three realms. For the sake of marking the difference, bhava might have been rendered by “being” (as was done in MLDB), but this English word, I feel, is too broad (suggestive of “Being,” the absolute object of philosophical speculation) and does not sufficiently convey the sense of concreteness intrinsic to bhava.

30 Spk: The origin of the world: the production of the world of formations. There is no notion of nonexistence in regard to the world: there does not occur in him the annihilationist view that might arise in regard to phenomena produced and made manifest in the world of formations, holding “They do not exist.” Spk-pṭ: The annihilationist view might arise in regard to the world of formations thus: “On account of the annihilation and perishing of beings right where they are, there is no persisting being or phenomenon.” It also includes the wrong view, having those formations as its object, which holds: “There are no beings who are reborn.” That view does not occur in him; for one seeing with right understanding the production and origination of the world of formations in dependence on such diverse conditions as kamma, ignorance, craving, etc., that annihilationist view does not occur, since one sees the uninterrupted production of formations.
Spk: The cessation of the world: the dissolution (bhaṅga) of formations. There is no notion of existence in regard to the world: There does not occur in him the eternalist view which might arise in regard to phenomena produced and made manifest in the world of formations, holding “They exist.” Spk-pṭ: The eternalist view might arise in regard to the world of formations, taking it to exist at all times, owing to the apprehension of identity in the uninterrupted continuum occurring in a cause-effect relationship. But that view does not occur in him; because he sees the cessation of the successively arisen phenomena and the arising of successively new phenomena, the eternalist view does not occur.

Spk: Further, “the origin of the world” is direct-order conditionality (anuloma-paccayākāra); “the cessation of the world,” reverse-order conditionality (paṭiloma-paccayākāra). [Spk-pṭ: “Direct-order conditionality” is the conditioning efficiency of the conditions in relation to their own effects; “reverse-order conditionality” is the cessation of the effects through the cessation of their respective causes.] For in seeing the dependency of the world, when one sees the nontermination of the conditionally arisen phenomena owing to the nontermination of their conditions, the annihilationist view, which might otherwise arise, does not occur. And in seeing the cessation of conditions, when one sees the cessation of the conditionally arisen phenomena owing to the cessation of their conditions, the eternalist view, which might otherwise arise, does not occur.

32 Tañ cāyaṃ upayupādānaṃ cetaso adhiṭṭhānaṃ abhinivesānusayaṃ na upeti na upādiyati nādhiṭṭhāti “attā me” ti. I have unravelled the difficult syntax of this sentence with the aid of Spk, which glosses ayaṃ as “this noble disciple” (ayaṃ ariyasāvako). Spk says that craving and views are also called “mental standpoints” (adhiṭṭhāna) because they are the foundation for the (unwholesome) mind, and “adherences and underlying tendencies” (abhinivesānusaya) because they adhere to the mind and lie latent within it. Spk connects the verb adhiṭṭhāti to the following “attā me,” and I conform to this interpretation in the translation.

33 Spk explains dukkha here as “the mere five aggregates subject to clinging” (pañcupādānakkhandhamattam eva). Thus what the noble disciple sees, when he reflects upon his personal existence, is not a self or a substantially existent person but a mere assemblage of conditioned phenomena arising and passing away through the conditioning process governed by dependent origination. In this connection see the verses of the bhikkhunī Vajirā, I, vv. 553-55. Spk: By just this much—the abandonment of the idea of a being (sattasaññā )—there is right seeing.
Aparappaccayā ñāṇaṃ, “knowledge independent of others,” is glossed by Spk as “personal direct knowledge without dependence on another” (aññassa apattiyāyetvā attapaccakkhañāṇaṃ ). This is said because the noble disciple, from the point of stream-entry on, has seen the essential truth of the Dhamma and thus is not dependent on anyone else, not even the Buddha, for his or her insight into the Dhamma. Until arahantship is attained, however, such a disciple might still approach the Buddha (or another enlightened teacher) for practical guidance in meditation.

AN4. 45 (5) Rohitassa (1)

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. Then, when the night had advanced, the young deva Rohitassa, of stunning beauty, illuminating the entire Jeta’s Grove, approached the Blessed One. He paid homage to the Blessed One, stood to one side, and said:
“Is it possible, Bhante, by traveling to know, see, or reach the end of the world, where one is not born, does not grow old and die, [48] does not pass away and get reborn?”
“I say, friend, that by traveling one cannot know, see, or reach that end of the world where one is not born, does not grow old and die, does not pass away and get reborn.”
“It is astounding and amazing, Bhante, how well this was stated by the Blessed One: ‘I say, friend, that by traveling one cannot know, see, or reach that end of the world where one is not born, does not grow old and die, does not pass away and get reborn.’
“In the past, Bhante, I was a seer named Rohitassa, son of Bhoja, one

possessing psychic potency, able to travel through the sky. My speed was like that of a light arrow easily shot by a firm-bowed724 archer—one trained, skillful, and experienced725—across the shadow of a palmyra tree. My stride was such that it could reach from the eastern ocean to the western ocean. Then, while I possessed such speed and such a stride, the wish arose in me: ‘I will reach the end of the world by traveling.’ Having a life span of a hundred years, living for a hundred years, I traveled for a hundred years without pausing except to eat, drink, chew, and taste, to defecate and urinate, and to dispel fatigue with sleep; yet I died along the way without having reached the end of the world.
“It is astounding and amazing, Bhante, how well this was stated by the Blessed One: ‘I say, friend, that by traveling one cannot know, see, or reach that end of the world where one is not born, does not grow old and die, does not pass away and get reborn.’”
“I say, friend, that by traveling one cannot know, see, or reach that end of the world where one is not born, does not grow old and die, does not pass away and get reborn. Yet I say that without having reached the end of the world there is no making an end of suffering. It is in this fathom-long body endowed with perception and mind that I proclaim (1) the world, (2) the origin of the world, (3) the cessation of the world, and (4) the way leading to the cessation of the world.” [49]

The end of the world can never be reached
by means of traveling [across the world];
yet without reaching the world’s end
there is no release from suffering.


Hence the wise one, the world-knower,
who has reached the world’s end and lived the spiritual life,
having known the world’s end, at peace,
does not desire this world or another.

Published by Vimutta Fellowship Toronto

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