SN 22.79 Being Devoured

At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, those ascetics and brahmins who recollect their manifold past abodes all recollect the five aggregates subject to clinging or a certain one among them.108 What five?

“When recollecting thus, bhikkhus: ‘I had such form in the past,’ it is just form that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such a feeling in the past,’ it is just feeling that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such a perception in the past,’ it is just perception that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such volitional formations in the past,’ it is just volitional formations that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such consciousness in the past,’ it is just consciousness that one recollects.

“And why, bhikkhus, do you call it form?109 ‘It is deformed,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called form.110 Deformed by what? Deformed by cold, deformed by heat, deformed by hunger, deformed by thirst, deformed by contact with flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and serpents. ‘It is deformed,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called form.

110 Ruppatī ti kho bhikkhave tasmā rūpan ti vuccati. I have tried, though clumsily, to capture the subtle word play of the Pāli, which capitalizes on the apparent correspondence between the verb ruppati and the noun rūpa. Etymologically, the two are not related. Ruppati is a passive verb from the root rup (= Skt lup), “to break, injure, spoil.” MW lists rupyate (s.v. rup), “to suffer violent or racking pain.” See too PED, s.v. ruppati. Spk glosses: Ruppatī ti kuppati ghaṭṭīyati pīḷīyati, bhijjatī ti attho; “It is deformed: it is disturbed, stricken, oppressed, meaning ‘it is broken.’”
At KS 2:73, n. 1, Woodward has misunderstood the point of the commentary. It is not the case that Buddhaghosa misconstrues “these various contacts not as referring to this life, but as ‘informing’ creatures in other spheres.” Rather, he merely cites the cold hells, hot hells, etc., as the realms where the different types of “deformation” are most evident (pākaṭa). Spk adds that being “deformed” is the specific characteristic (paccattalakkhaṇa) of form, which distinguishes it from feeling and the other aggregates; but the general characteristics (sāmaññalakkhaṇa) are what they have in common, namely, impermanence, suffering, and nonself.

109 Spk: Even though emptiness has been discussed, the discussion is not yet definitive because the characteristic of emptiness (suññatālakkhaṇa) has not been discussed. The present passage is introduced to show the characteristic of emptiness. Spk-pṭ: Since form, etc., are neither a self nor the belongings of a self, but are insubstantial and ownerless, they are empty of that (self). Their nature is emptiness, their characteristic is “being deformed,” etc.

“And why, bhikkhus, do you call it feeling? ‘It feels,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called feeling.111 And what does it feel? It feels pleasure, it feels pain, [87] it feels neither-pain-nor-pleasure. ‘It feels,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called feeling.

“And why, bhikkhus, do you call it perception? ‘It perceives,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called perception. And what does it perceive? It perceives blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white. ‘It perceives,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called perception.

“And why, bhikkhus, do you call them volitional formations? ‘They construct the conditioned,’ bhikkhus, therefore they are called volitional formations.112 And what is the conditioned that they construct? They construct conditioned form as form;113 they construct conditioned feeling as feeling; they construct conditioned perception as perception; they construct conditioned volitional formations as volitional formations; they construct conditioned consciousness as consciousness. ‘They construct the conditioned,’ bhikkhus, therefore they are called volitional formations.

112 Saṅkhataṃ abhisaṅkharontī ti bhikkhave tasmā saṅkhārā ti vuccanti . Unfortunately English is a poor medium for capturing the interconnections of this sentence in the Pāli, with the object (saṅkhataṃ), the verb (abhisaṅkharonti), and the subject (saṅkhārā) all derived from the same stem. See my discussion of saṅkhārā in the General Introduction, pp. 44-47. To replicate the Pāli we might have rendered it, “They construct the constructed, therefore they are called volitional constructions,” though this would bear certain connotations quite alien to the original. It is also an unfortunate coincidence that “volitional formations,” my rendering for saṅkhārā, is related to “form,” my rendering for rūpa. In Pāli there is no etymological tie between rūpa and saṅkhārā. To capture the several nuances of the verb abhisaṅkharoti we might have taken the liberty of rendering it, in this passage, by two verbs: “to generate,” which conveys the idea that the volitional formations actually produce the other aggregates (see the following note); and “to form,” which makes apparent the correspondence with the noun “formations.”
This passage shows the active role of cetanā, volition, in constructing experienced reality. Not only does volition influence the objective content of the experience, but it also shapes the psychophysical organism within which it has arisen and, via its role as kamma, shapes the future configurations of the five aggregates to be produced by kamma. In this connection see 35:146, on the six sense bases as “old kamma.”

113 All three printed eds. of SN read, rūpaṃ rūpattāya saṅkhataṃ abhisaṅkharonti, and so for the other aggregates, except viññāṇa, where Ee reads, viññāṇatthāya; however, since Ee has no note on vv.ll., this is almost certainly an editorial inconsistency rather than a meaningful variant. Spk (Se and Ee) reads rūpatthāya in its lemma, implying that the termination -atthāya should apply to every aggregate, and apparently old Sinhalese mss of SN had this reading. Spk (Be), however, has rūpattāya. The explanation in Spk is equally intelligible on either reading of SN.
I follow Be here: “As one is said to cook conjee as conjee, to bake a cake as a cake, so it [Spk-pṭ: the collection of states headed by volition] constructs, builds up, amasses (abhisaṅkharoti āyūhati sampiṇḍati) form itself—called ‘the conditioned’ because it is made by a combination of conditions—so that it becomes ‘conditioned form’ in accordance with its nature, for its formness (tathattāya rūpabhāvāya); the meaning is that it produces it (nipphādetī ti attho). This is the sense in brief: It constructs, produces the form arising along with itself and the associated feeling, etc. Here, too, the Blessed One shows just the specific characteristic of volitional formations, whose characteristic is volition. [Spk-pṭ: This is said because volition is the chief of the states belonging to the aggregate of volitional formations.]”

The eight flavours are: , , , , , , , ; see too . The explanation of here is very similar to that of , the difference being only in the type of sense object they cognize. Spk explains that the difference in object highlights a difference in their cognitive functions: “Perception is analysed by way of the eye door because it is evident in grasping the appearance and shape of the object; consciousness is analysed by way of the tongue door because it can grasp particular distinctions in an object even when there is no appearance and shape.” Spk continues with an explanation (also found at Vism 437; Ppn 14:3-5) according to which , , and are cognitive functions of increasing depth, discriminative acumen, and power of comprehension; this, however, is difficult to reconcile with the account of these factors found in the Nikāyas. Usually in the suttas is presented simply as the basic awareness of an object through one of the sense bases, i.e., as bare “consciousness of” rather than as a discriminative capacity. A parallel treatment of at MN I 292,26-29 defines it through its ability to cognize the three types of feelings (pleasant, painful, neutral); this just shifts the problem to that of distinguishing between and . Hamilton discusses the problem posed by these passages (, pp. 53-55, 92-93). She offers the helpful suggestion that although is here defined in a way that encroaches upon the domain of , we should understand that does the actual discrimination (of objects at all five senses) while “is the awareness by which we experience every stage of the cognitive process, including the process of discriminating” (p. 92). From the commentarial standpoint, is discussed more fully at As 110-11 and (under the name ) at As 63-64.

commentary: Saṃyutta Nikāya-aṭṭhakathā, also known by its proper name, the Sāratthappakāsinī (abbr: Spk), “The Elucidator of the Essential Meaning.”By Ācariya Buddhaghosa.

subcommentary: the Saṃyutta Nikāya-ṭīkā,also known as the Sāratthappakāsinī-purāṇa-ṭīkā(abbr: Spk-pṭ)and the Līnatthappakāsanā (Part III), “The Elucidation of the Implicit Meaning.” By Ācariya Dhammapāla, a century or two after Buddhaghosa.

Be Burmese-script ed. of SN
Ee Roman-script ed. of SN (for Part 1: Ee1 = 1884 ed.; Ee2 = 1998 ed.)
Se Sinhala-script ed. of SN
SN Saṃyutta Nikāya
Spk (Be) Sāratthappakāsinī, Saṃyutta Nikāya-aṭṭhakathā (Burmese-script ed.)
Spk (Se) Sāratthappakāsinī, Saṃyutta Nikāya-aṭṭhakathā (Sinhala-script ed.)
Spk-pṭ Sāratthappakāsinī-purāṇa-ṭīkā, Saṃyutta-ṭīkā (Burmese-script ed.)
SS Sinhala-script mss. of SN (referred to in notes of Ee)

Note: References to Spk without any additional qualification are to Be. Spk (Be) and Spk (Se) are distinguished only when discussing variant readings between the two eds.

“And why, bhikkhus, do you call it consciousness? ‘It cognizes, ’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called consciousness. And what does it cognize? It cognizes sour, it cognizes bitter, it cognizes pungent, it cognizes sweet, it cognizes sharp, it cognizes mild, it cognizes salty, it cognizes bland. ‘It cognizes,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called consciousness.114

“Therein, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am now being devoured by form.115 In the past too I was devoured by form in the very same way that I am now being devoured by present form. If I were to seek delight in future form, then in the future too I shall be devoured by form in the very same way that I am now being devoured by present form.’ Having reflected thus, he becomes indifferent towards past form, he does not seek delight in future form, and he is practising for revulsion towards present form, for its fading away and cessation.

“[He reflects thus:] ‘I am now being devoured by feeling.’ … [88] … ‘I am now being devoured by perception.’ … ‘I am now being devoured by volitional formations.’ … ‘I am now being devoured by consciousness. In the past too I was devoured by consciousness in the very same way that I am now being devoured by present consciousness. If I were to seek delight in future consciousness, then in the future too I shall be devoured by consciousness in the very same way that I am now being devoured by present consciousness.’ Having reflected thus, he becomes indifferent towards past consciousness, he does not seek delight in future consciousness, and he is practising for revulsion towards present consciousness, for its fading away and cessation.

“What do you think, bhikkhus, is form permanent or impermanent? … Is feeling … perception … volitional formations … [89] consciousness permanent or impermanent?”116 – “Impermanent, venerable sir.” – “Is what is impermanent suffering or happiness?” – “Suffering, venerable sir.” – “Is what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?” – “No, venerable sir.”

“Therefore, bhikkhus, any kind of form whatsoever … Any kind of feeling whatsoever … Any kind of perception whatsoever … Any kind of volitional formations whatsoever … Any kind of consciousness whatsoever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all consciousness should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

“This is called, bhikkhus, a noble disciple who dismantles and does not build up; who abandons and does not cling; who scatters and does not amass; who extinguishes and does not kindle.117

“And what is it that he dismantles and does not build up? He dismantles form and does not build it up. He dismantles feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness and does not build it up.

“And what is it that he abandons and does not cling to? He abandons form and does not cling to it. He abandons feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness and does not cling to it.

“And what is it that he scatters and does not amass? He scatters form and does not amass it. He scatters feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness and does not amass it. [90]

“And what is it that he extinguishes and does not kindle? He extinguishes form and does not kindle it. He extinguishes feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness and does not kindle it.

“Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple experiences revulsion towards form, revulsion towards feeling, revulsion towards perception, revulsion towards volitional formations, revulsion towards consciousness. Experiencing revulsion, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion [his mind] is liberated. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It’s liberated.’ He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.’

“This is called, bhikkhus, a noble disciple who neither builds up nor dismantles, but who abides having dismantled; who neither abandons nor clings, but who abides having abandoned; who neither scatters nor amasses, but who abides having scattered; who neither extinguishes nor kindles, but who abides having extinguished.118

118 Spk: This shows the arahant, who abides having dismantled the round.

Pādas cd should be read: . See AN V 324-26 and MN I 140,3-6. Spk states that at the end of this discourse five hundred bhikkhus were established in arahantship.


“And what is it, bhikkhus, that he neither builds up nor dismantles, but abides having dismantled? He neither builds up nor dismantles form, but abides having dismantled it. He neither builds up nor dismantles feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness, but abides having dismantled it.

“And what is it that he neither abandons nor clings to, but abides having abandoned? He neither abandons nor clings to form, but abides having abandoned it. He neither abandons nor clings to feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness, but abides having abandoned it.

“And what is it that he neither scatters nor amasses, but abides having scattered? He neither scatters nor amasses form, but abides having scattered it. He neither scatters nor amasses feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness, but abides having scattered it.

“And what is it that he neither extinguishes nor kindles, but abides having extinguished? He neither extinguishes nor kindles form, but abides having extinguished it. He neither extinguishes nor kindles feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness, but abides having extinguished it.

“When, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu is thus liberated in mind, the devas together with Indra, Brahmā, and Pajāpati pay homage to him from afar: [91]
“‘Homage to you, O thoroughbred man!
Homage to you, O highest among men!
We ourselves do not directly know
Dependent upon what you meditate.’”119

119 Pādas cd should be read: yassa te nābhijānāma, yampi nissāya jhāyati. See AN V 324-26 and MN I 140,3-6. Spk states that at the end of this discourse five hundred bhikkhus were established in arahantship.

Spk: After spending the rains residence at Sāvatthī, the Buddha had set out for Kapilavatthu together with a large company of bhikkhus. When they arrived, the Sakyans came to see him, bringing many gifts for the Saṅgha. A noisy quarrel broke out among the bhikkhus over the distribution of the gifts, and it was for this reason that the Teacher dismissed them. He wanted to teach them, “It isn’t for the sake of such things as robes, etc., that you have gone forth into homelessness, but for the sake of arahantship.”

SN 27 Kilesasaṃyutta Connected Discourses on Defilements

1 The Eye

At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, desire and lust for the eye is a corruption of the mind.273 Desire and lust for the ear … for the nose … for the tongue … for the body … for the mind is a corruption of the mind. When a bhikkhu has abandoned the mental corruption in these six cases, his mind inclines to renunciation. A mind fortified by renunciation becomes wieldy in regard to those things that are to be realized by direct knowledge.”274

2 Forms

At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, desire and lust for forms is a corruption of the mind. Desire and lust for sounds … for odours … for tastes … for tactile objects … for mental phenomena is a corruption of the mind. When a bhikkhu has abandoned the mental corruption in these six cases, his mind inclines to renunciation. A mind fortified by renunciation becomes wieldy in regard to those things that are to be realized by direct knowledge.”

3 Consciousness

“Bhikkhus, desire and lust for eye-consciousness … for mind-consciousness is a corruption of the mind. When a bhikkhu has abandoned the mental corruption in these six cases … [233] … [his mind] becomes wieldy in regard to those things that are to be realized by direct knowledge.”

4 Contact

“Bhikkhus, desire and lust for eye-contact … for mind-contact is a corruption of the mind. When a bhikkhu has abandoned the mental corruption in these six cases … [his mind] becomes wieldy in regard to those things that are to be realized by direct knowledge.”

5 Feeling

“Bhikkhus, desire and lust for feeling born of eye-contact … for feeling born of mind-contact is a corruption of the mind. When a bhikkhu has abandoned the mental corruption in these six cases … [his mind] becomes wieldy in regard to those things that are to be realized by direct knowledge.”

6 Perception

“Bhikkhus, desire and lust for perception of forms … for perception of mental phenomena is a corruption of the mind. When a bhikkhu has abandoned the mental corruption in these six cases … [his mind] becomes wieldy in regard to those things that are to be realized by direct knowledge.”

7 Volition

“Bhikkhus, desire and lust for volition regarding forms … [234] … for volition regarding mental phenomena is a corruption of the mind. When a bhikkhu has abandoned the mental corruption in these six cases … [his mind] becomes wieldy in regard to those things that are to be realized by direct knowledge.”

8 Craving

“Bhikkhus, desire and lust for craving for forms … for craving for mental phenomena is a corruption of the mind. When a bhikkhu has abandoned the mental corruption in these six cases … [his mind] becomes wieldy in regard to those things that are to be realized by direct knowledge.”

9 Elements

“Bhikkhus, desire and lust for the earth element … for the water element … for the heat element … for the air element … for the space element … for the consciousness element is a corruption of the mind. When a bhikkhu has abandoned the mental corruption in these six cases … [his mind] becomes wieldy in regard to those things that are to be realized by direct knowledge.”

10 Aggregates

“Bhikkhus, desire and lust for form … for feeling … for perception … for volitional formations … for consciousness is a corruption of the mind.
(“Yo, bhikkhave, rūpasmiṃ chandarāgo贪着, cittasseso upakkileso染污 … pe … yo viññāṇasmiṃ chandarāgo, cittasseso upakkileso.)

When a bhikkhu has abandoned the mental corruption in these five cases, his mind inclines to renunciation. A mind fortified by renunciation becomes wieldy in regard to those things that are to be realized by direct knowledge.”
(Nekkhammaparibhāvitaṃ cittaṃ kammaniyaṃ khāyati, abhiññā sacchikaraṇīyesu dhammesū)

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