Digha Nikaya 9
Potthapāda Sutta
States of Consciousness


[178] 1. Thus have I heard:

  Introduction

Once the Blessed One was living at Savatthi in Jeta's grove, Anathapindika's park. Now at that time Potthapāda, the wandering mendicant, was living at the debating hall built in Queen Mallikā's Park - the hall set round with a row of Tinduka trees. And there was with him a great following of wanderers, around three hundred.

2. Now the Blessed One, who had dressed in the early morning in his robes, proceeded with his bowl in his hand, into Sāvatthi for alms. And he thought: "It is too early now to enter Sāvatthi for alms. Let me go to The Hall, the debating hall in the Mallikā Park, where Potthapāda is." And he did so.

3. Now at that time Potthapāda was seated with the company of the wanderers all talking with loud voices, with shouts and tumult, all sorts of worldly talk: to wit, tales of kings, of robbers, of ministers of state; tales of war, of terrors, of battles; talk about food and drink, about clothes and beds and garlands and perfumes; talk about relatives; talk about carriages, villages, towns, cities, and countries; tales about women and heroes; street- and well-gossip; ghost stories; desultory chatter; legends about the creation of the land and sea; and speculations about existence and non-existence.

[179] 4. Potthapāda, the wanderer, caught sight of the Blessed One approaching in the distance. And at the sight of him he called the assembly to order, saying: "Be still, venerable Sirs, and make no noise. Here is the recluse Gotama coming. That venerable one delights in quiet, and speaks in praise of quietude. How well it would be, if seeing how quiet this assembly is, he should see fit to join us!" And when he said this, the wanderers fell silent.

5. Now the Blessed One came to where Potthapāda, the wanderer, was. And the latter said to him: "May the Blessed One come near. We bid him welcome. It is long since the Blessed One came our way. Let him take a seat. Here is a place made ready."

And the Blessed One sat down. And Potthapāda, the wanderer, brought a low stool, and sat down beside him. And the Blessed One said to Potthapāda: "What was the subject, Potthapāda, that you were gathered here together to debate; and what was the talk among you that has been interrupted?"

  The Question on the Cessation of Consciousness

6. And when the Lord had spoken, Potthapāda said: "Never mind, Lord, about the subject we were gathered together to debate. There will be no difficulty in the Blessed One hearing afterwards about that. But, Lord, on several occasions, when various teachers, recluses and Brahmans, had met together and were seated in the debating hall, the talk fell on Abhisaņņā-nirodho [the cessation of higher-consciousness], and the question was: [180] 'How is the cessation of consciousness brought about? '

"Now about this some said: 'Perceptions come to a man without a reason and without a cause, and also they pass away [without a cause]. At the time when they spring up within him, then he becomes conscious; when they pass away, then he becomes unconscious.' Thus they explained the cessation of consciousness.

"But another said: 'That is not how it happens. Consciousness is a man's self [or soul]. It is the self that comes and goes. When the self comes into a man then he becomes conscious, when the self goes out of a man then he becomes unconscious.' Thus others explained the cessation of consciousness this way.

"Still another said: 'That is not how it happens. There are certain recluses and Brahmans of great power and influence. It is they who infuse consciousness into a man, and draw it away out of him. When they infuse it into him he becomes conscious, when they draw it away he becomes unconscious.' Thus others explained the cessation of consciousness that way.

"Then I remembered the Blessed One and thought: 'If only the Blessed One, the Happy One were here; he is so skilled in these psychic states. Surely the Blessed One would know how the cessation of consciousness is brought about.' How, then, Lord, does the cessation of consciousness come about?"

7. "Well, as to that, Potthapāda, those recluses and Brahmans who said that consciousness comes to a man and passes away without a reason, and without a cause, are wrong from the very beginning. For it is precisely because of a reason, by means of a cause, that consciousness comes and goes. [181] It is by training some forms of consciousness arise. And by training others pass away.

"And what is that training?" continued the Blessed One.

  The Training

"A Tathagata arises in the world, a worthy one, perfectly enlightened, endowed with clear knowledge and conduct, accomplished, a knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of men to be tamed, teacher of gods and men, enlightened and exalted. Having realized by his own direct knowledge this world with its gods, its Maras, and its Brahmas, this generation with its recluses and brahmins, its rulers and people, he makes it known to others. He teaches the Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, possessing meaning and phrasing; he reveals the holy life that is fully complete and purified.

"A householder, or a householder's son, or one born into some other family, hears the Dhamma. Having heard the Dhamma, he gains faith in the Tathagata. Endowed with such faith, he reflects: 'The household life is crowded, a path of dust. Going forth is like the open air. It is not easy living at home to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, like a polished shell. What if I were to shave off my hair and beard, put on the saffron robes, and go forth from the household life into homelessness?'

"After some time he abandons his accumulation of wealth, be it large or small; he abandons his circle of relatives, be it large or small; he shaves off his hair and beard, puts on saffron robes, and goes forth from the household life into homelessness.

"When he has thus gone forth, he lives restrained by the rules of the monastic code, possessed of proper behavior and resort. Having taken up the rules of training, he trains himself in them, seeing danger in the slightest faults. He comes to be endowed with wholesome bodily and verbal action, his livelihood is purified, and he is possessed of moral discipline. He guards the doors of his sense faculties, is endowed with mindfulness and clear comprehension, and is content.

  The Small Section on Moral Discipline

"And how is a bhikkhu possessed of moral discipline? Abandoning the taking of life, he abstains from the taking of life. He dwells with his rod laid down, his knife laid down, scrupulous, merciful, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings. This is part of moral discipline.

"Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he abstains from taking what is not given. He takes only what is given, accepts only what is given, lives not by stealth but in honesty with a pure mind. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Abandoning incelibacy, he lives a celibate life, aloof, refraining from the sexual act that is the villager's way. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Abandoning false speech, he abstains from false speech. He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Abandoning divisive speech he abstains from divisive speech. What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he does not tell here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Abandoning abusive speech, he abstains from abusive speech. He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing and pleasing to people at large. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Abandoning idle chatter, he abstains from idle chatter. He speaks in season, speaks what is factual, what is in accordance with the goal, the Dhamma, and the Discipline. He speaks words worth treasuring, seasonable, reasonable, circumscribed, connected with the goal. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"He abstains from damaging seed and plant life.

"He eats only in one part of the day, refraining from food at night and from eating at improper times.

"He abstains from dancing, singing, instrumental music, and from witnessing unsuitable shows.

"He abstains from wearing garlands and from beautifying himself with scents and cosmetics.

"He abstains from high and luxurious beds and seats.

"He abstains from accepting gold and silver.

"He abstains from accepting uncooked grain... raw meat... women and girls... male and female slaves... goats and sheep... fowl and pigs... elephants, cattle, steeds, and mares... fields and property.

"He abstains from running messages... from buying and selling... from dealing with false scales, false metals, and false measures... from bribery, deception, and fraud.

"He abstains from mutilating, executing, imprisoning, highway robbery, plunder, and violence.

"This, too, is part of moral discipline.

  The Intermediate Section on Moral Discipline

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to damaging seed and plant life such as these -- plants propagated from roots, stems, joints, buddings, and seeds -- he abstains from damaging seed and plant life such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to consuming stored-up goods such as these -- stored-up food, stored-up drinks, stored-up clothing, stored-up vehicles, stored-up bedding, stored-up scents, and stored-up meat -- he abstains from consuming stored-up goods such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to watching shows such as these -- dancing, singing, instrumental music, plays, ballad recitations, hand-clapping, cymbals and drums, magic lantern scenes, acrobatic and conjuring tricks, elephant fights, horse fights, buffalo fights, bull fights, goat fights, ram fights, cock fights, quail fights; fighting with staves, boxing, wrestling, war-games, roll calls, battle arrays, and regimental reviews -- he abstains from watching shows such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to heedless and idle games such as these -- eight-row chess, ten-row chess, chess in the air, hopscotch, spillikins, dice, stick games, hand-pictures, ball-games, blowing through toy pipes, playing with toy plows, turning somersaults, playing with toy windmills, toy measures, toy chariots, toy bows, guessing letters drawn in the air, guessing thoughts, mimicking deformities -- he abstains from heedless and idle games such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to high and luxurious furnishings such as these -- over-sized couches, couches adorned with carved animals, long-haired coverlets, multi-colored patchwork coverlets, white woolen coverlets, woolen coverlets embroidered with flowers or animal figures, stuffed quilts, coverlets with fringe, silk coverlets embroidered with gems; large woolen carpets; elephant, horse, and chariot rugs, antelope-hide rugs, deer-hide rugs; couches with awnings, couches with red cushions for the head and feet -- he abstains from using high and luxurious furnishings such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to scents, cosmetics, and means of beautification such as these -- rubbing powders into the body, massaging with oils, bathing in perfumed water, kneading the limbs, using mirrors, ointments, garlands, scents, creams, face-powders, mascara, bracelets, head-bands, decorated walking sticks, ornamented water-bottles, swords, fancy sunshades, decorated sandals, turbans, gems, yak-tail whisks, long-fringed white robes -- he abstains from using scents, cosmetics, and means of beautification such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to talking about lowly topics such as these -- tales of kings, of robbers, of ministers of state; tales of war, of terrors, of battles; talk about food and drink, about clothes and beds and garlands and perfumes; talk about relatives; talk about carriages, villages, towns, cities, and countries; tales about women and heroes; street- and well-gossip; ghost stories; desultory chatter; legends about the creation of the land and sea; and speculations about existence and non-existence -- he abstains from talking about lowly topics such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to debates such as these -- 'You understand this doctrine and discipline? I'm the one who understands this doctrine and discipline. How could you understand this doctrine and discipline? You're practicing wrongly. I'm practicing rightly. I'm being consistent. You're not. What should be said first you said last. What should be said last you said first. What you took so long to think out has been refuted. Your doctrine has been overthrown. You're defeated. Go and try to salvage your doctrine; extricate yourself if you can!' -- he abstains from debates such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to running messages and errands for people such as these -- kings, ministers of state, noble warriors, priests, householders, or youths [who say], 'Go here, go there, take this there, fetch that here' -- he abstains from running messages and errands for people such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, engage in scheming, persuading, hinting, belittling, and pursuing gain with gain, he abstains from forms of scheming and persuading [improper ways of trying to gain material support from donors] such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

  The Large Section on Moral Discipline

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as:

he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as: determining lucky and unlucky gems, garments, staffs, swords, spears, arrows, bows, and other weapons; women, boys, girls, male slaves, female slaves; elephants, horses, buffaloes, bulls, cows, goats, rams, fowl, quails, lizards, long-eared rodents, tortoises, and other animals -- he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as forecasting:

he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as forecasting:

he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as forecasting:

or they earn their living by counting, accounting, calculation, composing poetry, or teaching hedonistic arts and doctrines -- he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as:

he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

"Whereas some priests and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as:

he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these. This, too, is part of moral discipline.

8. "Just as a head-anointed noble warrior who has defeated his enemies sees no danger anywhere from his enemies, so the bhikkhu who is thus possessed of moral discipline sees no danger anywhere in regard to his restraint by moral discipline. Endowed with this noble aggregate of moral discipline, he experiences within himself a blameless happiness.

  Restraint of the Sense Faculties

9. "And how does a bhikkhu guard the doors of his senses? On seeing a form with the eye, he does not grasp at any theme or details by which -- if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye -- evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. On hearing a sound with the ear... On smelling an odor with the nose... One tasting a flavor with the tongue... On touching a tactile sensation with the body... On cognizing an idea with the intellect, he does not grasp at any theme or details by which -- if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the intellect -- evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. Endowed with this noble restraint over the sense faculties, he experiences within himself an unblemished happiness. This is how a bhikkhu guards the doors of his senses.

  Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension

"And how is a bhikkhu possessed of mindfulness and clear comprehension? In going forward and returning, a bhikkhu acts with clear comprehension. In looking ahead and looking aside, he acts with clear comprehension. In bending and stretching his limbs, he acts with clear comprehension. In wearing his robes and cloak and using his almsbowl, he acts with clear comprehension. In eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting, he acts with clear comprehension. In defecating and urinating, he acts with clear comprehension. In walking, standing, sitting, lying down, waking up, speaking, and remaining silent, he acts with clear comprehension. This is how a bhikkhu is possessed of mindfulness and clear comprehension.

  Contentment

"And how is a bhikkhu content? Just as a bird, wherever it goes, flies with its wings as its only burden; so too is he content with a set of robes to provide for his body and almsfood to provide for his hunger. Wherever he goes, he takes only his barest necessities along. This is how a bhikkhu is content.

  The Abandoning of the Hindrances

"Endowed with this noble aggregate of moral discipline, this noble restraint over the sense faculties, this noble mindfulness and clear comprehension, and this noble contentment, he resorts to a secluded dwelling - a forest, the foot of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a cremation ground, a jungle grove, the open air, a heap of straw. After returning from his alms-round, following his meal, he sits down, crosses his legs, holds his body erect, and sets up mindfulness before him.

"Abandoning covetousness with regard to the world, he dwells with an awareness devoid of covetousness. He cleanses his mind of covetousness. Abandoning ill will and anger, he dwells with an awareness devoid of ill will, sympathetic with the welfare of all living beings. He cleanses his mind of ill will and anger. Abandoning sloth and drowsiness, he dwells with an awareness devoid of sloth and drowsiness, mindful, alert, percipient of light. He cleanses his mind of sloth and drowsiness. Abandoning restlessness and worry, he dwells undisturbed, his mind inwardly stilled. He cleanses his mind of restlessness and worry. Abandoning doubt, he dwells having crossed over doubt, with no perplexity with regard to skillful mental qualities. He cleanses his mind of doubt.

"Suppose that a man, taking a loan, invests it in his business affairs. His business affairs succeed. He repays his old debts and there is extra left over for maintaining his wife. The thought would occur to him, 'Before, taking a loan, I invested it in my business affairs. Now my business affairs have succeeded. I have repaid my old debts and there is extra left over for maintaining my wife.' Because of that he would experience joy and happiness.

"Now suppose that a man falls sick -- in pain and seriously ill. He does not enjoy his meals, and there is no strength in his body. As time passes, he eventually recovers from that sickness. He enjoys his meals and there is strength in his body. The thought would occur to him, 'Before, I was sick... Now I am recovered from that sickness. I enjoy my meals and there is strength in my body.' Because of that he would experience joy and happiness.

"Now suppose that a man is bound in prison. As time passes, he eventually is released from that bondage, safe and sound, with no loss of property. The thought would occur to him, 'Before, I was bound in prison. Now I am released from that bondage, safe and sound, with no loss of my property.' Because of that he would experience joy and happiness.

"Now suppose that a man is a slave, subject to others, not subject to himself, unable to go where he likes. As time passes, he eventually is released from that slavery, subject to himself, not subject to others, freed, able to go where he likes. The thought would occur to him, 'Before, I was a slave... Now I am released from that slavery, subject to myself, not subject to others, freed, able to go where I like.' Because of that he would experience joy and happiness.

"Now suppose that a man, carrying money and goods, is traveling by a road through desolate country. As time passes, he eventually emerges from that desolate country, safe and sound, with no loss of property. The thought would occur to him, 'Before, carrying money and goods, I was traveling by a road through desolate country. Now I have emerged from that desolate country, safe and sound, with no loss of my property.' Because of that he would experience joy and happiness.

"In the same way, when these five hindrances are not abandoned in himself, the bhikkhu regards it as a debt, a sickness, a prison, slavery, a road through desolate country. But when these five hindrances are abandoned in himself, he regards it as unindebtedness, good health, release from prison, freedom, a place of security. When he sees that these five hindrances have been abandoned within himself, gladness arises. When he is gladdened, rapture arises. When his mind is filled with rapture, his body becomes tranquil; tranquil in body, he experiences happiness; being happy, his mind becomes concentrated.

  Practicing the Jhanas

10. "Quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and remains in the first Jhana which is filled with rapture and happiness born of seclusion and is accompanied by thinking and examining. And whatever sense desires he previously had disappear. At that time there arises a true but subtle perception of rapture and happiness born of seclusion, and he becomes one who is conscious of this rapture and happiness. Thus it is through training one type of consciousness arises; and through training another passes away. And this is the training I spoke of," said the Blessed One.

11. "With the stilling of thinking and examining, by gaining inner tranquility and oneness of mind, he enters and remains in the second Jhana which is without thinking and examining; born of concentration, and is filled with rapture and happiness. His former true but subtle perception of rapture and happiness born of seclusion disappears. At that time there arises a true but subtle perception of rapture and happiness born of concentration, and he becomes one who is conscious of that rapture and happiness. Thus it is through training one type of consciousness arises; and through training another passes away.

12. "With the fading away of rapture, remaining imperturbable, mindful, and clearly aware, he enters and remains in the third Jhana, and of him the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous and mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding.' His former true but subtle perception of rapture and happiness born of concentration disappears. At that time there arises a true but subtle perception of equanimity and happiness, and he becomes one who is conscious of that equanimity and happiness. Thus it is through training one type of consciousness arises; and through training another passes away.

13. "With the the abandoning of pleasure and pain -- as with the earlier disappearance of joy and sorrow -- he enters and remains in the fourth Jhana: which is beyond pleasure and pain; and purified by equanimity and mindfulness. His former true but subtle perception of equanimity and happiness disappears. At that time there arises a true but subtle perception of neither happiness nor unhappiness, and he becomes one who is conscious of that perception of neither happiness nor unhappiness. Thus it is through training one type of consciousness arises; and through training another passes away.

14. "By passing beyond bodily sensations, by the ending of all sense of resistance, by paying no attention to perceptions of diversity, thinking: 'Space is infinite,' he reaches and remains in the Sphere Infinite Space. His former true but subtle perception of neither happiness nor unhappiness disappears. At that time there arises a true but subtle perception of Infinite Space, and he becomes one who is conscious of Infinite Space. Thus it is through training one type of consciousness arises; and through training another passes away.

[184] 15. "By passing beyond Infinite Space, thinking: 'Consciousness is infinite,' he reaches and remains in the Sphere Infinite Consciousness. His former true but subtle perception of Infinite Space disappears. At that time there arises a true but subtle perception of Infinite Consciousness, and he becomes one who is conscious of Infinite Consciousness. Thus it is through training one type of consciousness arises; and through training another passes away.

16. "By passing beyond Infinite Consciousness, thinking: 'There is nothing that really is,' he reaches and remains in the Sphere of No-thingness. His former true but subtle perception of Infinite Consciousness disappears. At that time there arises a true but subtle perception of No-thingness, and he becomes one who is conscious of No-thingness. Thus it is through training one type of consciousness arises; and through training another passes away.

  The Cessation of Higher-Consciousness

17. "So from the time, Potthapāda, that the Bhikkhu has gain the controlled perception [of the First Jhana], he goes from one stage to the next, and from that to the next until he reaches the summit of consciousness. And when he is on the summit it may occur to him: 'Mental activity is an inferior state. It would better not to be thinking. Were I to go on thinking and planning, these states of consciousness I have reached, would pass away, but other coarser ones, might arise. So I will neither think nor plan any more.' And so he does not think or plan. And to him, neither thinking nor planning, the states of consciousness he had, pass away; but no others, coarser than they, arise. So he attains Abhisaņņā-nirodho [the cessation of higher-consciousness]. This is how, Potthapāda, that the attainment of the cessation of conscious takes place step by step.

18. "Now what do you think, Potthapāda? Have you ever heard of this gradual attainment of the cessation of conscious before?"

"No, Lord, I have not. But I now understand what you say as follows: [and he repeated the words of section 17]"

"That is right, Potthapāda."

[185] 19. "And does the Blessed One teach that there is one summit of consciousness, or that there are several?"

"In my opinion, Potthapāda, there is one and there are also several."

"But how can the Blessed One teach that there both is one and that there are also several?"

"As he attains to the cessation of one [state of consciousness] after another, so does he reach to different summits, one after another, up to the last. So, Potthapāda, I teach both one summit and several."

20. "Lord, does the state of consciousness arises first, and then knowledge; or does knowledge arise first, and then the state of consciousness; or do both arise simultaneously?"

"It is the state of consciousness, Potthapāda, that arises first, and then knowledge. And the arising of knowledge is dependent on the arising of the state of consciousness. And this may be understood from the fact that a man understands: 'It is from this cause that knowledge has arisen to me.'"

  Questions about The Self

21. "Is then, Lord, the consciousness identical with a man's self, or is consciousness one thing, and the self another?"

"Potthapāda, do you postulate a self?"

[186] "Lord, I postulate a material self, having form, built up of the four elements, nourished by solid food."

"And if there is such a self, Potthapāda, then your consciousness would be one thing, and your self another. Potthapāda, you can see this by considering the following: if there is a material self, having form, built up of the four elements, nourished by solid food; some perceptions and states of consciousness would arise in the man, and others would pass away. Because of this, Potthapāda, you can see how consciousness must be one thing, and self another."

22. "Then, Lord, I postulate a mind made self, with all its major and minor parts complete, not deficient in any organ."

"And granting, Potthapāda, that you had such a self, the same argument would apply."

[187] 23. "Then, Lord, I postulate a self without form and made of consciousness."

"And granting, Potthapāda, that you had such a self, the same argument would still apply."

24. " But is it possible, Lord, for me to understand whether consciousness is the same or different from a person's self?"

"Potthapāda it is hard for one, such as you, holding different views, with a different faith, with different aims, striving after a different perfection, trained in a different system of doctrine, to grasp this matter!"

  The Standard Philosophical Questions

25-27. "Then, Lord, if that is so, at least tell me: Is the world eternal? Is this alone the truth, and any other view false?"

"That, Potthapāda, is a matter about which I have expressed no opinion."

"Is the world not eternal?" ... "Is the world finite?" ... "Is the world infinite?" ... [188] "Is the self the same as the body?" ... "Is the self one thing, and the body another?" ... "Does one who has fully realized the truth live again after death?" ... "Does he not live again after death?" ... "Does he both live again, and not live again, after death?" ... "Does he neither live again, nor not live again, after death?"

"All of those, Potthapāda, are matters about which I have expressed no opinion."

28. "But why has the Blessed One expressed no opinion about these?"

"These questions are not profitable, they are not concerned with the Dhamma, they do not lead to right conduct, nor to disenchantment, nor to dispassion, nor to calm, nor to tranquility, nor to higher knowledge, nor to the insights [of the higher stages of the Path], nor to Nibbana. Therefore I have expressed no opinion about these matters."

[189] 29. "Then what has Blessed One expressed an opinion about?"

"Potthapāda, I have taught what dukkha is; I have taught what is the origin of dukkha; I have taught what is the cessation of dukkha; I have taught the method by which one can reach the cessation of dukkha."

30. "And why has the Blessed One taught this?"

"Because, Potthapāda, this is profitable; it is concerned with the Dhamma, it leads to right conduct, to disenchantment, to dispassion, to calm, to tranquility, to higher knowledge, to the insights [of the higher stages of the Path], to Nibbana. Therefore, Potthapāda, I have taught this."

"That is so, O Blessed One. That is so, O Happy One. And now let the Blessed One do what seems fit to him."

And the Blessed One rose from his seat, and departed.

31. Now no sooner had the Blessed One gone away than those wanderers bore down upon Potthapāda, the wanderer, from all sides with a torrent of jeering and biting words, saying: "Potthapāda approves of whatever the recluse Gotama says, with his: 'That is so, O Blessed One. That is so, O Happy One.' Now we, on the other hand, fail to see that the recluse Gotama has put forward any doctrine with regard to any one of the ten points raised: Is the world eternal or not? Finite or Infinite? Is the self the same as the body or not? What happens at death to one who has realized the Truth?"

[190] But Potthapāda replied: "Neither do I see that he puts forward any proposition with respect to those points. But the recluse Gotama teaches a method in accordance with the nature of things, true and fit, based on Dhamma and grounded in Dhamma. So how could I refuse to approve what has been so well said by the recluse Gotama?"

  Citta and Potthapāda ask the Buddha more about The Self

32. Two or three days later, Citta, the son of the elephant trainer, and Potthapāda, the wanderer, came to the place where the Blessed One was staying. Upon their arrival Citta, the son of the elephant trainer, bowed low to the Blessed One and took a seat to one side. Potthapāda, the wanderer, exchanged greetings and courtesies with the Blessed One and also took a seat to one side. And when he was seated, he told the Blessed One how the wanderers had jeered at him, and how he had replied.

[191] 33. "All those wanderers, Potthapāda, are blind and sightless. You are the only one among them with eyes to see. Some things, Potthapāda, I have taught as certain, other things I have as declared uncertain. The latter are those ten questions that you raised, and for the reasons given I hold them to be matters of uncertainty. The former are the Four Truths I expounded, and for the reasons given I hold them to be matters of certainty.

[192] 34. "There are some recluses and Brahmans, Potthapāda, who hold the following opinion: 'The self is perfectly happy and healthy after death.' I went to them and asked whether that was their view or not. And they acknowledged that it was. And I asked them whether, so far as they knew and perceived, if there was a place in the world that was perfectly happy, and they answered: 'No.'

"Then I asked them: 'Further, Sirs, have you yourselves ever been perfectly happy for a whole night, or for a whole day, or even for half a night or day? 'And they answered: 'No.'

"Then I asked to them: 'Sirs, do you know a way or a method by which you can realize a state that is altogether happy?' And to that question they also answered: 'No.'

"And then I asked: 'Have you, Sirs, ever heard the voices of gods who had realized rebirth in a perfectly happy world, saying: 'Be earnest, O men, and direct your effort towards the realization of [rebirth in] a world of perfect happiness. For we, as a consequence of similar effort, have been reborn in such a world.'" And still they answered: 'No.'

"Now what think, Potthapāda? This being so, does not the talk of those recluses and Brahmans turn out to be witless?

[193] 35. "Just as if a man should say: 'How I long for, how I love the most beautiful woman in the land!'

"And people would ask him: 'Well, good friend! this most beautiful woman in the land, whom you so love and long for, do you know whether she is a noble lady, or of priestly rank, or of the trader class, or of menial birth? '

"And when so asked, he would have to answer: 'No.'

"And people would asked him: 'Well, good friend! This most beautiful woman in the land, whom you so love and long for, do you know what her name is, or her family name, or whether she is tall, or short, or of medium height; whether she is dark or fair or golden in color; or in what village, or town, or city she dwells?'

"And when so asked, he would have to answer: 'No.'

"Then people would say to him: 'So then, good friend, you love and long for someone you do not know and never have seen.'

"And when so asked, he would have to answer: 'Yes.'

"Now what do you think, Potthapāda? Would not the talk of that man be witless talk?"

"Certainly, Lord."

[194] 36, 37. "And so it also is, Potthapāda, with the recluses and Brahmans who talk about the self being perfectly happy and healthy after death. It is just, Potthapāda, as if a man were to build a staircase for a palace at a crossroad. People would say to him: ' Well, good friend! this palace, for which you are making this staircase, do you know whether it faces east or west or south or north? Do you know whether it is high, or low, or of medium size?'

"And when so asked, he would have to answer: 'No.'

"Then people would say to him: 'But then, good friend, you are making a staircase for a palace that you know not of, nor have you seen!

"And when so asked, he would have to answer: 'Yes.'

"Now what do you think, Potthapāda? Would not the talk of that man be witless talk?"

"Certainly, Lord."

38. "And so it is also, Potthapāda, with the recluses and Brahmans who talk about the self being perfectly happy and healthy after death. For they acknowledge that they know no such state in this world now. They acknowledge that they cannot say their own selves have been happy here even for half a day. And they acknowledge that they know no way, no method, of ensuring such a result. Now what do you think, Potthapāda? Does not their talk also turn out to be equally witless?"

[195] "Certainly, Lord."

  The Three Kinds of Self

39. "Potthapāda, there are three kinds of commonly assumed self: material, mind-made, and formless. The first has form, is made up of the four elements, and is nourished by solid food. The second has form, is made by the mind, and has all its limbs and organs complete and perfect. The third is without form, and is made up of consciousness only.

40-42. "Now I teach a doctrine, Potthapāda, that leads to the abandoning of the mistaken assumptions about all three of these assumed selves. If you follow this doctrine, unwholesome mental states disappear and the states which tend to purification increase; and one realizes and remains in the full perfection and purity of wisdom here and now.

[196] "Now it might be, Potthapāda, that you think even if one's unwholesome mental states disappear and the states which tend to purification increase; and one realizes and remains in the full perfection and purity of wisdom here and now, that one might continue to be unhappy. But, Potthapāda, that would be an inaccurate judgment. When such conditions are fulfilled, then there will only be joy and happiness, tranquility, continual mindfulness and clear awareness - and that is a happy state.

[197] 43-45. "Potthapāda, outsiders might question us thus: 'What then, Sir, is that material (or that mental, or that formless) self that you preach such a doctrine for the abandoning assumptions about?' And to that I should reply [describing it in the words I have just used to you]: 'Why this very one that you see before you is what I mean.'

[198] "Now what think you of that, Potthapāda, this being so, would not the talk turn out to be well grounded?"

"Certainly, Lord, it would."

46. "Just, Potthapāda, as if a man were to construct a staircase, to climb into the upper storey of a palace, at the foot of the very palace itself. If men should say to him: 'Well, good friend! that palace, for which you are constructing this staircase so as to climb into, do you know whether it faces east or west or south north; whether it is high or low or of medium size?'

"And when so asked, he would answer: 'Why! here is the very palace itself ! It is at the very foot of it I am constructing my staircase so as to climb into it.'

"What think you of that, Potthapāda, this being so, would not the talk turn out to be well grounded?"

"Certainly, Lord, it would."

[199] 47. "In just the same way, Potthapāda, if others ask me about the assumed self, when I answer as above, does not the talk turn out to be well grounded?"

"Certainly, Lord, it does."

  Citta's Question on the Three Kind of Self

48. Then Citta, the son of the elephant trainer, said to the Blessed One: "At that time, Lord, when the material self is assumed, would if be wrong to assume the existence of the mind-made and formless selves? Is the material self the only one that is real? But if the mind-made self is assumed, then are the other two not real? And if the formless self is assumed, are the other two not real?"

49. "At the time, Citta, when any one of the three assumed selves is present, then we do not speak of the other two. We speak only of the one that is currently assumed.

[200] "If people should ask you, Citta: 'Did you exist in the past, or not? Will you exist in the future, or not? Do you exist now, or not?' - How would you answer?"

"I should say that I existed in the past, and didn't not exist; that I shall exist in the future, and shall not not exist; that I do exist now, and I don't not exist."

50. "Then if they reply: 'Well! that past self that you had, is that your real self; and the future and present selves unreal? Or the future self that you will have, is that real one; and the past and present ones unreal? Or is the self that you have now the real you; and the past and future ones unreal?' - How would you answer?"

[201] "I should say that the past self that I had was real to me at the time when I had it; and the others were unreal. The present self is real to me now; and the others are unreal. In the future, the future self will be real and the others unreal."

51. "Just so, Citta, when any one of the three assumed selves is present, then we do not speak of either of the other two.

52. "Just, Citta, as from a cow comes milk, and from the milk curds, and from the curds butter, and from the butter ghee, and from the ghee junket; but when it is milk it is not called curds, or butter, or junket; and when it is curds or butter or ghee or junket, it is not called by any of the other names.

[202] 53. "In the same way, Citta, when any one of the three assumed selves is present, then we do not speak of either of the other two. For these, Citta, are merely names, expressions, turns of speech, designations in common use in the world. But a Tathāgata [one who has fully realized the truth] makes use of them, but does not misapprehend them."

54. And when he had thus spoken, Potthapāda, the wanderer, said to the Blessed One: "Excellent, Lord! Excellent! Just as if one were to turn upright what had been turned upside down, or to reveal what was hidden, or to point out the right path to one who was lost, or to bring a lamp into a dark place so that those with keen sight could see forms, in the same way, Lord, the Blessed One has revealed the Dhamma in numerous ways. I go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Bhikkhu Sangha. Let the Blessed One accept me as a lay follower gone for refuge from this day onwards as long as I live."

55. But Citta, the son of the elephant trainer, said to the Blessed One: "Excellent, Lord! Excellent! Just as if one were to turn upright what had been turned upside down, or to reveal what was hidden, or to point out the right path to one who was lost, or to bring a lamp into a dark place so that those with keen sight could see forms, in the same way, Lord, the Blessed One has revealed the Dhamma in numerous ways. I go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Bhikkhu Sangha. May I receive the going-forth from Blessed One; may I receive admission into his Order." [203]

56. And Citta received the going-forth at the Lord's hand and entered the Order. And the newly ordained Citta, the son of the elephant trainer, remained alone and secluded, earnest, zealous, and resolute. And before long he attained to that supreme goal of the holy life for the sake of which clansmen go forth from the household life to homelessness, having realized here and now by his own super-knowledge and dwelt therein, knowing: 'Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is nothing further beyond this.'

And the venerable Citta, the son of the elephant trainer, became another of the Arahats.


Section heading match those in Bhikkhu Bodhi's Discourse on the Fruits of Recluseship where possible; the others are unique to this edition; none, of course, appear in the Pali Canon.

Verse numbers match those in the Digha Nikaya, translated by Maurice Walshe, Wisdom Publications.

Numbers in brackets like [178] refer to page numbers in the PTS Pali edition.


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