Contact, Feeling, & Mental Proliferation (The Honeyball Sutta)

MN 18
PTS: M i 108
Madhupiṇḍika Sutta
(The Honeyball Sutta)

1. Thus have I heard.

On one occasion the Blessed One was living among the Sakyans in Kapilavatthu at Nigrodha’s park.

2. Then the Blessed One, having dressed early in the morning, carrying his bowl and outer robe, entered Kapilavatthu for alms. After he had walked in Kapilavatthu for alms, eaten his meal, and returned from the almsround, he went to the Great Wood for the day’s rest. Having entered into the Great Wood, he sat down at the root of a small marmelo tree.

3. Daṇḍapāni, the Sakyan, who was walking about and wandering around, also entered the Great Wood. Having also entered the Great Wood, he approached the Blessed One at the small marmelo tree. When he had approached the Blessed One, he exchanged courtesies, friendly talk, and greetings with him, and then stood to one side leaning on his stick. Standing to one side, Daṇḍapāni said this to the Blessed One, “What is the teaching of the religious wanderer? What does he point out?”

4. “According to my teaching, friend, there is no disputing with anyone in the world, in a world with its devās, Māras and Brahmās, and in this generation of religious wanderers and Brahmins, devās and men; such a teaching holds that perceptions do not obsess that person living the holy life who dwells detached from sensual pleasures, without uncertainty, who has cut off worry and is devoid of craving for becoming or non-becoming. This, friend, is my teaching; this is what I point out.”

5. When this had been said, Daṇḍapāni shook his head, wagged his tongue, raised three wrinkles on his forehead, and went away leaning on his stick.

6. In the evening, when the Blessed One had emerged from seclusion, he approached Nigrodha’s park. Having reached the park, he sat down in the appointed seat. After he sat down, he addressed the bhikkhus, recounting his actions and the encounter with Daṇḍapāni.

7. Then a certain bhikkhu said this to the Blessed One: “Lord, what is this teaching that ‘the Blessed One does not dispute with anyone in the world, in a world with its devās, Māras and Brahmās, and in this generation of religious wanderers and Brahmins, devās and men?’ And how is it, Lord, that ‘perceptions do not obsess the person living the holy life who dwells detached from sensual pleasures, without uncertainty, who has cut off worry and is devoid of craving for becoming or non-becoming?’”

8. “Whatever is the cause, bhikkhu, by which mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions assail a person, if there is nothing here to rejoice at, to welcome, to hold onto, then this is the end of the propensity to attachment, the end of the propensity to aversion, the end of the propensity to speculative views, the end of the propensity to uncertainty, the end of the propensity to conceit, the end of the propensity to passion for becoming, the end of the propensity to ignorance, the end of the propensity to taking up a stick, taking up a weapon, quarreling, disputing, contention, accusation, slander, and false speech. Here these unskillful and unwholesome states cease without remainder.”

9. That is what the Blessed One said. Having said this, the Well-Farer rose from his seat and entered his dwelling.

10. Then, not long after the Blessed One had gone, the bhikkhus had this thought: “The Blessed One has given this teaching in brief, but he has not explained its meaning in detail. He rose from his seat and entered his dwelling after saying: ‘Whatever is the cause, bhikkhu, by which mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions assail a person, if there is nothing here to rejoice at, to welcome, to hold onto, then this is the end of the propensity to attachment, the end of the propensity to aversion, the end of the propensity to speculative views, the end of the propensity to uncertainty, the end of the propensity to conceit, the end of the propensity to passion for becoming, the end of the propensity to ignorance, the end of the propensity to taking up a stick, taking up a weapon, quarreling, disputing, contention, accusation, slander, and false speech. Here these unskillful and unwholesome states cease without remainder.’ Now who will explain in detail the meaning of this teaching which the Blessed One has given in brief, but the meaning of which he did not explain?”

Then they had this thought: “The venerable Mahākaccāna is praised by the Teacher and honored by wise companions in the holy life. The venerable Mahākaccāna will be able to explain in detail the meaning of this brief teaching. Suppose we were to approach the venerable Mahākaccāna and, having approached the venerable Mahākaccāna, we were to ask him the meaning of this.”

11. Then the bhikkhus approached the venerable Mahākaccāna. Having approached the venerable Mahākaccāna, they exchanged courtesies and friendly greetings with him and sat down to one side. When they were seated to one side, they said this to the venerable Mahākaccāna: “Brother Kaccāna, the Blessed One has given a brief teaching, but he did not explain its meaning in detail. He rose from his seat and entered his dwelling after saying: ‘Whatever is the cause, bhikkhu, by which mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions assail a person, if there is nothing here to rejoice at, to welcome, to hold onto, then this is the end of the propensity to attachment, the end of the propensity to aversion, the end of the propensity to speculative views, the end of the propensity to uncertainty, the end of the propensity to conceit, the end of the propensity to passion for becoming, the end of the propensity to ignorance, the end of the propensity to taking up a stick, taking up a weapon, quarreling, disputing, contention, accusation, slander, and false speech. Here these unskillful and unwholesome states cease without remainder.’ Then, brother Kaccāna, not long after the Blessed One had gone, we had this thought: ‘The venerable Mahākaccāna is praised by the Teacher and honored by wise companions in the holy life. The venerable Mahākaccāna will be able to explain in detail the meaning of this brief teaching. Suppose we were to approach the venerable Mahākaccāna and, having approached the venerable Mahākaccāna, we were to ask him the meaning of this.’ Let the venerable Mahākaccāna explain it.”

12. “Friends, it is just as if a person roaming about looking for heartwood, searching for heartwood, on a quest for heartwood, passing by the root of a great standing tree, passing by the trunk, that person might think that heartwood is to be sought in the branches and foliage. Just so is this situation of the venerable ones–having had the Blessed One before you and having failed to ask when you were face to face with the Teacher, you think that I should be asked the meaning of this. But knowing, the Blessed One knows; seeing, he sees–he has become sight, he has become knowledge, he has become the Dhamma, he has become the holy one–the propounder, the proclaimer, the leader to the goal, the giver of the Deathless, the lord of the Dhamma, the Tathāgata. When you were with the Blessed One, that was the time when you should have asked him the meaning of this. You should have learned it the way the Blessed One would have explained it to you.”

13. “Surely, brother Kaccāna, knowing, the Blessed One knows; seeing, he sees–he has become sight, he has become knowledge, he has become the Dhamma, he has become the holy one–the propounder, the proclaimer, the leader to the goal, the giver of the Deathless, the lord of the Dhamma, the Tathāgata. When we were with the Blessed One, that was the time when we should have asked him the meaning of this. We should have learned it the way the Blessed One would have explained it to us. But the venerable Mahākaccāna is praised by the Teacher and honored by wise companions in the holy life. The venerable Mahākaccāna is able to explain in detail the meaning of this teaching which the Blessed One gave in brief, but the meaning of which he did not explain. Let the venerable Mahākaccāna explain it, if it is not troublesome.”

14. “Then listen, friends, and attend closely to what I shall say.”—“Yes, friend,” the bhikkhus replied. The venerable Mahākaccāna said this:

15. “The Blessed One rose from his seat and entered his dwelling after saying: ‘Whatever is the cause, bhikkhu, by which mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions assail a person, if there is nothing here to rejoice at, to welcome, to hold onto, then this is the end of the propensity to attachment, the end of the propensity to aversion, the end of the propensity to speculative views, the end of the propensity to uncertainty, the end of the propensity to conceit, the end of the propensity to passion for becoming, the end of the propensity to ignorance, the end of the propensity to taking up a stick, taking up a weapon, quarreling, disputing, contention, accusation, slander, and false speech. Here these unskillful and unwholesome states cease without remainder.’–Of this teaching which the Blessed One gave in brief, but the meaning of which he did not explain, I understand the meaning in full in this way:

16. “Dependent on the eye and visible forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on contact, there is feeling. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. Based on what one mentally proliferates, a person is assailed by mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions in regard to past, future, and present visible forms cognizable by the eye.

“Dependent on the ear and sounds, ear-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on contact, there is feeling. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. Based on what one mentally proliferates, a person is assailed by mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions in regard to past, future, and present sounds cognizable by the ear.

“Dependent on the nose and odors, nose-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on contact, there is feeling. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. Based on what one mentally proliferates, a person is assailed by mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions in regard to past, future, and present odors cognizable by the nose.

“Dependent on the tongue and flavors, tongue-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on contact, there is feeling. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. Based on what one mentally proliferates, a person is assailed by mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions in regard to past, future, and present flavors cognizable by the tongue.

“Dependent on the body and tactile objects, body-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on contact, there is feeling. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. Based on what one mentally proliferates, a person is assailed by mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions in regard to past, future, and present tactile objects cognizable by the body.

“Dependent on the mind and mental phenomena, mind-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on contact, there is feeling. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. Based on what one mentally proliferates, a person is assailed by mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions in regard to past, future, and present mental phenomena cognizable by the mind.

17. “When there is an eye, a visible form, and eye-consciousness, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is a manifestation of contact, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is a manifestation of feeling, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is a manifestation of perception, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is a manifestation of thinking, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

“When there is an ear, a sound, and ear-consciousness, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is a manifestation of contact, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is a manifestation of feeling, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is a manifestation of perception, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is a manifestation of thinking, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

“When there is a nose, an odor, and nose-consciousness, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is a manifestation of contact, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is a manifestation of feeling, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is a manifestation of perception, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is a manifestation of thinking, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

“When there is a tongue, a flavor, and tongue-consciousness, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is a manifestation of contact, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is a manifestation of feeling, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is a manifestation of perception, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is a manifestation of thinking, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

“When there is a body, a tactile object, and body-consciousness, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is a manifestation of contact, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is a manifestation of feeling, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is a manifestation of perception, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is a manifestation of thinking, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

“When there is a mind, a mental phenomenon, and mind-consciousness, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is a manifestation of contact, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is a manifestation of feeling, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is a manifestation of perception, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is a manifestation of thinking, it is possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

18. “When there is no eye, no visible form, or no eye-consciousness, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is no manifestation of contact, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is no manifestation of feeling, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is no manifestation of perception, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is no manifestation of thinking, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

“When there is no ear, no sound, or no ear-consciousness, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is no manifestation of contact, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is no manifestation of feeling, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is no manifestation of perception, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is no manifestation of thinking, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

“When there is no nose, no odor, or no nose-consciousness, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is no manifestation of contact, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is no manifestation of feeling, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is no manifestation of perception, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is no manifestation of thinking, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

“When there is no tongue, no flavor, or no tongue-consciousness, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is no manifestation of contact, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is no manifestation of feeling, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is no manifestation of perception, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is no manifestation of thinking, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

“When there is no body, no tactile object, or no body-consciousness, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is no manifestation of contact, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is no manifestation of feeling, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is no manifestation of perception, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is no manifestation of thinking, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

“When there is no mind, no mental phenomenon, or no mind-consciousness, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of contact. When there is no manifestation of contact, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of feeling. When there is no manifestation of feeling, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of perception. When there is no manifestation of perception, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of thinking. When there is no manifestation of thinking, it is not possible for one to point out a manifestation of the activities of mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions.

19. Friends, when the Blessed One rose from his seat and went into his dwelling after giving a brief teaching without explaining its meaning in detail, that is: ‘Whatever is the cause, bhikkhu, by which mentally proliferated perceptions and obsessive notions assail a person, if there is nothing here to rejoice at, to welcome, to hold onto, then this is the end of the propensity to attachment, the end of the propensity to aversion, the end of the propensity to speculative views, the end of the propensity to uncertainty, the end of the propensity to conceit, the end of the propensity to passion for becoming, the end of the propensity to ignorance, the end of the propensity to taking up a stick, taking up a weapon, quarreling, disputing, contention, accusation, slander, and false speech. Here these unskillful and unwholesome states cease without remainder,’ I understand the meaning in full to be thus. Now, friends, if you wish, go to the Blessed One and ask him about the meaning of this. As the Blessed One explains it to you, so you should remember it.”

20. Then the bhikkhus, having delighted and rejoiced in what the venerable Mahākaccāna had said, rose from their seats and approached the Blessed One. When they had approached the Blessed One, they greeted him and sat down to one side. When they were seated to one side, they addressed the Blessed One, recounted their actions and the encounter with the venerable Mahākaccāna, and added: “Lord, the venerable Mahākaccāna explained the meaning to us by these methods, by these words, and in these terms.”

21. “Bhikkhus, venerable Mahākaccāna is learned and wise. If you had asked me the meaning of this, I would have explained it exactly as Mahākaccāna explained it. Such is its meaning, and so you should remember it.”

22. When this had been said, the venerable Ānanda said this to the Blessed One: “Lord, just as person who is overcome by hunger and tiredness might come across a honeyball and experience a sweet and delectable flavor from each bite, so too would a bhikkhu whose mind has an intelligent nature, by investigating the meaning of this discourse on Dhamma with his wisdom, experience delight and satisfaction from each bite. By what name, Lord, should one call this discourse on Dhamma?”

“Ānanda, you can remember this discourse on the Dhamma as ‘The Honeyball Sutta.’”

That is what the Blessed One said. The venerable Ānanda delighted and rejoiced in the Blessed One’s words.

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