Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The Connected Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

Chapter 56. Saccasaṃyutta: Connected Discourses on the Truths

IV. The Siṃsapā Grove

31 (1) The Siṃsapā Grove
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Kosambī in a siṃsapā grove. Then the Blessed One took up a few siṃsapā leaves in his hand and addressed the bhikkhus thus: “What do you think, bhikkhus, which is more numerous: these few siṃsapā leaves that I have taken up in my hand or those in the siṃsapā grove overhead?” [438]
    “Venerable sir, the siṃsapā leaves that the Blessed One has taken up in his hand are few, but those in the siṃsapā grove overhead are numerous.”
    “So too, bhikkhus, the things I have directly known but have not taught you are numerous, while the things I have taught you are few. And why, bhikkhus, have I not taught those many things? Because they are unbeneficial, irrelevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, and do not lead to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna. Therefore I have not taught them.
    “And what, bhikkhus, have I taught? I have taught: ‘This is suffering’; I have taught: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; I have taught: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; I have taught: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ And why, bhikkhus, have I taught this? Because this is beneficial, relevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, and leads to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna. Therefore I have taught this.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

32 (2) Acacia
“Bhikkhus, if anyone should speak thus: ‘Without having made the breakthrough to the noble truth of suffering as it really is, without having made the breakthrough to the noble truth of the origin of suffering as it really is, without having made the breakthrough to the noble truth of the cessation of suffering as it really is, without having made the breakthrough to the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering as it really is, I will completely make an end to suffering’—this is impossible.
    “Just as, bhikkhus, if someone should speak thus: ‘Having made a basket of acacia leaves or of pine needles or of myrobalan leaves, [439] I will bring water or a palm fruit,’ this would be impossible; so too, if anyone should speak thus: ‘Without having made the breakthrough to the noble truth of suffering as it really is … I will completely make an end to suffering’—this is impossible.
    “But, bhikkhus, if anyone should speak thus: ‘Having made the breakthrough to the noble truth of suffering as it really is, having made the breakthrough to the noble truth of the origin of suffering as it really is, having made the breakthrough to the noble truth of the cessation of suffering as it really is, having made the breakthrough to the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering as it really is, I will completely make an end to suffering’—this is possible.
    “Just as, bhikkhus, if someone should speak thus: ‘Having made a basket of lotus leaves or of kino leaves or of māluva leaves, I will bring water or a palm fruit,’ this would be possible; so too, if anyone should speak thus: ‘Having made the breakthrough to the noble truth of suffering as it really is … I will completely make an end to suffering’—this is possible.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

33 (3) Stick
“Bhikkhus, just as a stick thrown up into the air falls now on its bottom, now on its top, so too as beings roam and wander on, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, now they go from this world to the other world, now they come from the other world to this world. For what reason? Because they have not seen the Four Noble Truths. What four? The noble truth of suffering … the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering. [440]
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

34 (4) Clothes
“Bhikkhus, if one’s clothes or head were ablaze, what should be done about it?”
    “Venerable sir, if one’s clothes or head were ablaze, to extinguish one’s blazing clothes or head one should arouse extraordinary desire, make an extraordinary effort, stir up zeal and enthusiasm, be unremitting, and exercise mindfulness and clear comprehension.”
    “Bhikkhus, one might look on equanimously at one’s blazing clothes or head, paying no attention to them, but so long as one has not made the breakthrough to the Four Noble Truths as they really are, in order to make the breakthrough one should arouse extraordinary desire, make an extraordinary effort, stir up zeal and enthusiasm, be unremitting, and exercise mindfulness and clear comprehension. What four? The noble truth of suffering … the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

35 (5) A Hundred Spears
“Bhikkhus, suppose there were a man with a life span of a hundred years, who could live a hundred years. Someone would say to him: ‘Come, good man, in the morning they will strike you with a hundred spears; at noon they will strike you with a hundred spears; in the evening they will strike you with a hundred spears. And you, good man, being struck day after day by three hundred spears will have a life span of a hundred years, will live a hundred years; and then, after a hundred years have passed, you will make the breakthrough to the Four Noble Truths, to which you had not broken through earlier.’ [441]
    “It is fitting, bhikkhus, for a clansman intent on his good to accept the offer. For what reason? Because this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning; a first point cannot be discerned of blows by spears, blows by swords, blows by axes. And even though this may be so, bhikkhus, I do not say that the breakthrough to the Four Noble Truths is accompanied by suffering or displeasure. Rather, the breakthrough to the Four Noble Truths is accompanied only by happiness and joy. What four? The noble truth of suffering … the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

36 (6) Creatures
“Bhikkhus, suppose a man were to cut up whatever grass, sticks, branches, and foliage there is in this Jambudīpa and collect them into a single heap. Having done so, he would impale the large creatures in the ocean on the large stakes, the middle-sized creatures on the middle-sized stakes, and the small creatures on the small stakes. Still, bhikkhus, the gross creatures in the ocean would not be exhausted even after all the grass, sticks, branches, and foliage in Jambudīpa had been used up and exhausted. The small creatures in the ocean that could not easily be impaled on stakes would be even more numerous than this. For what reason? [442] Because of the minuteness of their bodies.
    “So vast, bhikkhus, is the plane of misery. The person who is accomplished in view, freed from that vast plane of misery, understands as it really is: ‘This is suffering.’… ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

37 (7) The Sun (1)
“Bhikkhus, this is the forerunner and precursor of the rising of the sun, that is, the dawn. So too, bhikkhus, for a bhikkhu this is the forerunner and precursor of the breakthrough to the Four Noble Truths as the really are, that is, right view. It is to be expected that a bhikkhu with right view will understand as it really is: ‘This is suffering.’… ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

38 (8) The Sun (2)
“Bhikkhus, so long as the sun and moon have not arisen in the world, for just so long there is no manifestation of great light and radiance, but then blinding darkness prevails, a dense mass of darkness; for just so long day and night are not discerned, the month and fortnight are not discerned, the seasons and the year are not discerned.
    “But, bhikkhus, when the sun and moon arise in the world, then there is the manifestation of great light and radiance; [443] then there is no blinding darkness, no dense mass of darkness; then day and night are discerned, the month and fortnight are discerned, the seasons and year are discerned.
    “So too, bhikkhus, so long as a Tathāgata has not arisen in the world, an Arahant, a Perfectly Enlightened One, for just so long there is no manifestation of great light and radiance, but then blinding darkness prevails, a dense mass of darkness; for just so long there is no explaining, teaching, proclaiming, establishing, disclosing, analysing, or elucidating of the Four Noble Truths.
    “But, bhikkhus, when a Tathāgata arises in the world, an Arahant, a Perfectly Enlightened One, then there is the manifestation of great light and radiance; then no blinding darkness prevails, no dense mass of darkness; then there is the explaining, teaching, proclaiming, establishing, disclosing, analysing, and elucidating of the Four Noble Truths. What four? The noble truth of suffering … the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

39 (9) Indra’s Pillar
“Bhikkhus, those ascetics or brahmins who do not understand as it really is ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’—they look up at the face of another ascetic or brahmin, thinking: ‘This worthy is surely one who really knows, who really sees.’
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, a tuft of cotton wool or kapok, light, wafted by the wind, had settled on an even piece of ground. [444] An easterly wind would drive it westward; a westerly wind would drive it eastward; a northerly wind would drive it southward; a southerly wind would drive it northward. For what reason? Because of the lightness of the tuft.
    “So too, bhikkhus, those ascetics or brahmins who do not understand as it really is ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’—they look up at the face of another ascetic or brahmin, thinking: ‘This worthy is surely one who really knows, who really sees.’ For what reason? Because they have not seen the Four Noble Truths.
    “But, bhikkhus, those ascetics or brahmins who understand as it really is ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’—they do not look up at the face of another ascetic or brahmin, thinking: ‘This worthy is surely one who really knows, who really sees.’
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, there was an iron pillar or an Indra’s pillar with a deep base, securely planted, immobile, unshaking. Even if a forceful blast of wind comes—whether from the east, the west, the north, or the south—that pillar would not shake, quake, or tremble. For what reason? Because the pillar has a deep base and is securely planted.
    “So too, bhikkhus, those ascetics or brahmins who understand as it really is ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’—they do not look up at the face of another ascetic or brahmin, thinking: ‘This worthy is surely one who really knows, who really sees.’ For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, they have clearly seen the Four Noble Truths. What four? [445] The noble truth of suffering … the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

40 (10) Seeking an Argument
“Bhikkhus, if any bhikkhu understands as it really is: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering,’ and then an ascetic or brahmin comes along—whether from the east, the west, the north, or the south—seeking an argument, searching for an argument, thinking: ‘I will refute his thesis,’ it is impossible that he could make that bhikkhu shake, quake, or tremble.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, there was a stone column sixteen yards long: an eight yards’ portion of it would be sunk in the ground, an eight yards’ portion above ground. Even if a forceful blast of wind comes along—whether from the east, the west, the north, or the south—the column would not shake, quake, or tremble. For what reason? Because it has a deep base and is securely planted.
    “So too, bhikkhus, if any bhikkhu understands as it really is ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering,’ [446] and then an ascetic or a brahmin comes along … it is impossible that he could make that bhikkhu shake, quake, or tremble. For what reason? Because he has clearly seen the Four Noble Truths. What four? The noble truth of suffering … the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”
 

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© Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2000)

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