Detailed Analysis of a Brief Teaching

MN 138
PTS: M iii 223
Uddesavibhaṅga Sutta
(A Brief Teaching and Its Detailed Analysis)

1. Thus have I heard.

On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus.” – “Venerable sir.” they replied. The Blessed One said this:

2. “Bhikkhus, I shall give you a brief teaching and its detailed analysis. Listen and attend closely to what I shall say.”—“Yes, venerable sir,” the bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:

3. “Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu should examine things in such a way that while he is examining them, his consciousness is not distracted and scattered externally nor stuck internally, and by not clinging he does not become agitated. If his consciousness is not distracted and scattered externally nor stuck internally, and if by not clinging he does not become agitated, then for him there is no future arising of birth, aging and death, nor the conditions for suffering.”

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

5. Then, not long after the Blessed One had gone, the bhikkhus had this thought: “The Blessed One rose from his seat and entered his dwelling after giving a teaching in brief, but he has not explained its meaning in detail. Now who will explain its meaning in detail?” 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.”

6. Then the bhikkhus approached the venerable Mahākaccāna and, 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: ‘Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu should examine things in such a way that while he is examining them, his consciousness is not distracted and scattered externally nor stuck internally, and by not clinging he does not become agitated. If his consciousness is not distracted and scattered externally nor stuck internally, and if by not clinging he does not become agitated, then for him there is no future arising of birth, aging and death, nor the conditions for suffering.’ 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.”

7. “Friends, it is just as if a person roaming about looking for heartwood, searching for heartwood, on a quest for heartwood, having passed by the root of a great standing tree, passed 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.”

8. “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 brief teaching. Let the venerable Mahākaccāna explain it, if it is not troublesome.”

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

10. “The Blessed One rose from his seat and went into his dwelling after saying: ‘Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu should examine things in such a way that while he is examining them, his consciousness is not distracted and scattered externally nor stuck internally, and by not clinging he does not become agitated. If his consciousness is not distracted and scattered externally nor stuck internally, and if by not clinging he does not become agitated, then for him there is no future arising of birth, aging and death, nor the conditions for suffering.’–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:

“How is consciousness called ‘distracted and scattered externally’? Here, when a bhikkhu has seen a visible form with the eye, if his consciousness flows after the sign of the visible form, is tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the visible form, is fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the visible form, then his consciousness is called ‘distracted and scattered externally.’

“When he has heard a sound with the ear, if his consciousness flows after the sign of the sound, is tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the sound, is fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the sound, then his consciousness is called ‘distracted and scattered externally.’

“When he has smelled an odor with the nose, if his consciousness flows after the sign of the odor, is tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the odor, is fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the odor, then his consciousness is called ‘distracted and scattered externally.’

“When he has tasted a flavor with the tongue, if his consciousness flows after the sign of the flavor, is tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the flavor, is fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the flavor, then his consciousness is called ‘distracted and scattered externally.’

“When he has touched a tactile object with the body, if his consciousness flows after the sign of the tactile object, is tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the tactile object, is fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the tactile object, then his consciousness is called ‘distracted and scattered externally.’

“When he has cognized a mental phenomenon with the mind, if his consciousness flows after the sign of the mental phenomenon, is tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the mental phenomenon, is fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the mental phenomenon, then his consciousness is called ‘distracted and scattered externally.’

11. “And how, friends, is consciousness called ‘not distracted and scattered externally’? Here, when a bhikkhu has seen a visible form with the eye, if his consciousness does not flow after the sign of the visible form, is not tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the visible form, is not fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the visible form, then his consciousness is called ‘not distracted and scattered externally.’

“When he has heard a sound with the ear, if his consciousness does not flow after the sign of the sound, is not tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the sound, is not fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the sound, then his consciousness is called ‘not distracted and scattered externally.’

“When he has smelled an odor with the nose, if his consciousness does not flow after the sign of the odor, is not tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the odor, is not fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the odor, then his consciousness is called ‘not distracted and scattered externally.’

“When he has tasted a flavor with the tongue, if his consciousness does not flow after the sign of the flavor, is not tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the flavor, is not fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the flavor, then his consciousness is called ‘not distracted and scattered externally.’

“When he has touched a tactile object with the body, if his consciousness does not flow after the sign of the tactile object, is not tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the tactile object, is not fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the tactile object, then his consciousness is called ‘not distracted and scattered externally.’

“When he has cognized a mental phenomenon with the mind, if his consciousness does not flow after the sign of the mental phenomenon, is not tied to and shackled by gratification in the sign of the mental phenomenon, is not fettered by the fetter of gratification in the sign of the mental phenomenon, then his consciousness is called ‘not distracted and scattered externally.’

12. “And how, friends, is the mind called ‘stuck internally’? Here, having abandoned sensual pleasures, detached from unskillful mental states, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in first jhāna, wherein there is rapture and happiness born of detachment. If his consciousness flows after the rapture and happiness born of detachment, is tied to and shackled by gratification in the rapture and happiness born of detachment, is fettered by the fetter of gratification in the rapture and happiness born of detachment, then his mind is called ‘stuck internally.’

13. “Again, with the subsiding of directed thought and evaluation, internally purified, having unification of mind that is free from directed thought and evaluation, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in second jhāna, wherein there is rapture and happiness born of concentration. If his consciousness flows after the rapture and happiness born of concentration, is tied to and shackled by gratification in the rapture and happiness born of concentration, is fettered by the fetter of gratification in the rapture and happiness born of concentration, then his mind is called ‘stuck internally.’

14. “Again, with the fading away as well of rapture, dwelling in equanimity, mindful and clearly comprehending, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in third jhāna, wherein he experiences happiness with the body, of which the Noble Ones declare: ‘He who has equanimity and mindfulness dwells happily.’ If his consciousness flows after the equanimity, is tied to and shackled by gratification in the equanimity, is fettered by the fetter of gratification in the equanimity, then his mind is called ‘stuck internally.’

15. “Again, with the abandoning of happiness and suffering, and with the previous passing away of joy and grief, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in fourth jhāna, wherein there is neither happiness nor suffering, but the purity of mindfulness and equanimity. If his consciousness flows after the neither-suffering-nor-happiness, is tied to and shackled by gratification in the neither-suffering-nor-happiness, is fettered by the fetter of gratification in the neither-suffering-nor-happiness, then his mind is called ‘stuck internally.’

16. “And how, friends, is the mind called ‘not stuck internally’? Here, having abandoned sensual pleasures, detached from unskillful mental states, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in first jhāna, wherein there is rapture and happiness born of detachment. If his consciousness does not flow after the rapture and happiness born of detachment, is not tied to and shackled by gratification in the rapture and happiness born of detachment, is not fettered by the fetter of gratification in the rapture and happiness born of detachment, then his mind is called ‘not stuck internally.’

17. “Again, with the subsiding of directed thought and evaluation, internally purified, having unification of mind that is free from directed thought and evaluation, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in second jhāna, wherein there is rapture and happiness born of concentration. If his consciousness does not flow after the rapture and happiness born of concentration, is not tied to and shackled by gratification in the rapture and happiness born of concentration, is not fettered by the fetter of gratification in the rapture and happiness born of concentration, then his mind is called ‘not stuck internally.’

18. “Again, with the fading away as well of rapture, dwelling in equanimity, mindful and clearly comprehending, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in third jhāna, wherein he experiences happiness with the body, of which the Noble Ones declare: ‘He who has equanimity and mindfulness dwells happily.’ If his consciousness does not flow after the equanimity, is not tied to and shackled by gratification in the equanimity, is not fettered by the fetter of gratification in the equanimity, then his mind is called ‘not stuck internally.’

19. “Again, with the abandoning of happiness and suffering, and with the previous passing away of joy and grief, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in fourth jhāna, wherein there is neither happiness nor suffering, but the purity of mindfulness and equanimity. If his consciousness does not flow after the neither-suffering-nor-happiness, is not tied to and shackled by gratification in the neither-suffering-nor-happiness, is not fettered by the fetter of gratification in the neither-suffering-nor-happiness, then his mind is called ‘not stuck internally.’

20. “How, friends, is there agitation due to clinging? Here an untaught ordinary person who has no regard for noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, who has no regard for true men and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, regards material form as self, or self as possessing material form, or material form as in self, or self as in material form. That material form of his changes and becomes otherwise. With the change and becoming otherwise of that material form, his consciousness is preoccupied with the change of material form. Agitated mental states born of preoccupation with the change of material form arise together and remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is obsessed, he is anxious, distressed, and concerned, and due to clinging he becomes agitated.

“He regards feeling as self, or self as possessing feeling, or feeling as in self, or self as in feeling. That feeling of his changes and becomes otherwise. With the change and becoming otherwise of that feeling, his consciousness is preoccupied with the change of feeling. Agitated mental states born of preoccupation with the change of feeling arise together and remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is obsessed, he is anxious, distressed, and concerned, and due to clinging he becomes agitated.

“He regards perception as self, or self as possessing perception, or perception as in self, or self as in perception. That perception of his changes and becomes otherwise. With the change and becoming otherwise of that perception, his consciousness is preoccupied with the change of perception. Agitated mental states born of preoccupation with the change of perception arise together and remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is obsessed, he is anxious, distressed, and concerned, and due to clinging he becomes agitated.

“He regards mental formations as self, or self as possessing mental formations, or mental formations as in self, or self as in mental formations. Those mental formations of his change and become otherwise. With the change and becoming otherwise of those mental formations, his consciousness is preoccupied with the change of mental formations. Agitated mental states born of preoccupation with the change of mental formations arise together and remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is obsessed, he is anxious, distressed, and concerned, and due to clinging he becomes agitated.

“He regards consciousness as self, or self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in self, or self as in consciousness. That consciousness of his changes and becomes otherwise. With the change and becoming otherwise of that consciousness, his consciousness is preoccupied with the change of consciousness. Agitated mental states born of preoccupation with the change of consciousness arise together and remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is obsessed, he is anxious, distressed, and concerned, and due to clinging he becomes agitated.

“That is how there is agitation due to clinging.

21. “And how, friends, is there non-agitation due to non-clinging? Here a well-taught noble disciple who has regard for noble ones and is skilled and disciplined in their Dhamma, who has regard for true men and is skilled and disciplined in their Dhamma, does not regard material form as self, or self as possessing material form, or material form as in self, or self as in material form. That material form of his changes and becomes otherwise. With the change and becoming otherwise of that material form, his consciousness is not preoccupied with the change of material form. Agitated mental states born of preoccupation with the change of material form do not arise together and remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is not obsessed, he is not anxious, distressed, and concerned, and due to non-clinging he does not become agitated.

“He does not regard feeling as self, or self as possessing feeling, or feeling as in self, or self as in feeling. That feeling of his changes and becomes otherwise. With the change and becoming otherwise of that feeling, his consciousness is not preoccupied with the change of feeling. Agitated mental states born of preoccupation with the change of feeling do not arise together and remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is not obsessed, he is not anxious, distressed, and concerned, and due to non-clinging he does not become agitated.

“He does not regard perception as self, or self as possessing perception, or perception as in self, or self as in perception. That perception of his changes and becomes otherwise. With the change and becoming otherwise of that perception, his consciousness is not preoccupied with the change of perception. Agitated mental states born of preoccupation with the change of perception do not arise together and remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is not obsessed, he is not anxious, distressed, and concerned, and due to non-clinging he does not become agitated.

“He does not regard mental formations as self, or self as possessing mental formations, or mental formations as in self, or self as in mental formations. Those mental formations of his change and become otherwise. With the change and becoming otherwise of those mental formations, his consciousness is not preoccupied with the change of mental formations. Agitated mental states born of preoccupation with the change of mental formations do not arise together and remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is not obsessed, he is not anxious, distressed, and concerned, and due to non-clinging he does not become agitated.

“He does not regard consciousness as self, or self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in self, or self as in consciousness. That consciousness of his changes and becomes otherwise. With the change and becoming otherwise of that consciousness, his consciousness is not preoccupied with the change of consciousness. Agitated mental states born of preoccupation with the change of consciousness do not arise together and remain obsessing his mind. Because his mind is not obsessed, he is not anxious, distressed, and concerned, and due to non-clinging he does not become agitated.

“That is how there is non-agitation due to non-clinging.

22. “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: ‘Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu should examine things in such a way that while he is examining them, his consciousness is not distracted and scattered externally nor stuck internally, and by not clinging he does not become agitated. If his consciousness is not distracted and scattered externally nor stuck internally, and if by not clinging he does not become agitated, then for him there is no future arising of birth, aging and death, nor the conditions for suffering,’ 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.”

23. Then the bhikkhus, having delighted and rejoiced in what the venerable Mahākaccāna said, rose from their seats and approached the Blessed One. After paying homage to him, they sat down to one side and told the Blessed One all that had taken place after he had left, adding: “Then, venerable sir, we went to the venerable Mahākaccāna and asked him about the meaning. The venerable Mahākaccāna explained the meaning to us by these methods, by these words, and in these terms.”

24. “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.”

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

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