Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

I. Hindrances

51 (1) Obstructions
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus: “Bhikkhus!”
    “Venerable sir!” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:
    “Bhikkhus, there are these five obstructions, hindrances, encumbrances of the mind, states that weaken wisdom. What five? (1) Sensual desire is an obstruction, a hindrance, an encumbrance of the mind, a state that weakens wisdom. (2) Ill will … (3) Dullness and drowsiness … (4) Restlessness and remorse … (5) Doubt is an obstruction, a hindrance, an encumbrance of the mind, a state that weakens wisdom. These are the five obstructions, hindrances, encumbrances of the mind, states that weaken wisdom.
    “Bhikkhus, without having abandoned these five obstructions, hindrances, encumbrances of the mind, states that weaken wisdom, it is impossible that a bhikkhu, with his powerless and feeble wisdom, might know his own good, the good of others, [64] or the good of both, or realize a superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones. Suppose a river was flowing down from a mountain, traveling a long distance, with a swift current, carrying along much flotsam. Then, on both of its banks, a man would open irrigation channels. In such a case, the current in the middle of the river would be dispersed, spread out, and divided, so that the river would no longer travel a long distance, with a swift current, carrying along much flotsam. So too, without having abandoned these five obstructions … it is impossible that a bhikkhu … might realize a superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones.
    “But, bhikkhus, having abandoned these five obstructions, hindrances, encumbrances of the mind, states that weaken wisdom, it is possible that a bhikkhu, with his powerful wisdom, might know his own good, the good of others, and the good of both, and realize a superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones. Suppose a river was flowing down from a mountain, traveling a long distance, with a swift current, carrying along much flotsam. Then a man would close up the irrigation channels on both of its banks. In such a case, the current in the middle of the river would not be dispersed, spread out, and divided, so that the river could travel a long distance, with a swift current, carrying along much flotsam. So too, having abandoned these five obstructions … it is possible that a bhikkhu … might realize a superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones.” [65]
   

52 (2) A Heap 
“Bhikkhus, saying ‘a heap of the unwholesome,’ it is about the five hindrances that one could rightly say this. For the five hindrances are a complete heap of the unwholesome. What five? The hindrance of sensual desire, the hindrance of ill will, the hindrance of dullness and drowsiness, the hindrance of restlessness and remorse, and the hindrance of doubt. Bhikkhus, saying ‘a heap of the unwholesome,’ it is about these five hindrances that one could rightly say this. For these five hindrances are a complete heap of the unwholesome.”

53 (3) Factors 
“Bhikkhus, there are these five factors that assist striving. What five?
    (1) “Here, a bhikkhu is endowed with faith. He places faith in the enlightenment of the Tathāgata thus: ‘The Blessed One is an arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, fortunate, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.’
    (2) “He is seldom ill or afflicted, possessing an even digestion that is neither too cool nor too hot but moderate and suitable for striving.
    (3) “He is honest and open, one who reveals himself as he really is to the Teacher and his wise fellow monks.
    (4) “He has aroused energy for abandoning unwholesome qualities and acquiring wholesome qualities; he is strong, firm in exertion, not casting off the duty of cultivating wholesome qualities.
    (5) “He is wise; he possesses the wisdom that discerns arising and passing away, which is noble and penetrative and leads to the complete destruction of suffering.
    “These, bhikkhus, are the five factors that assist striving.”

54 (4) Occasions 
“Bhikkhus, there are these five unfavorable occasions for striving. What five? [66]
    (1) “Here, a bhikkhu is old, overcome by old age. This is the first unfavorable occasion for striving.
    (2) “Again, a bhikkhu is ill, overcome by illness. This is the second unfavorable occasion for striving.
    (3) “Again, there is a famine, a poor harvest, a time when almsfood is difficult to obtain and it is not easy to subsist by means of gleaning. This is the third unfavorable occasion for striving.
    (4) “Again, there is peril, turbulence in the wilderness, and the people of the countryside, mounted on their vehicles, flee on all sides. This is the fourth unfavorable occasion for striving.
    (5) “Again, there is a schism in the Saṅgha, and when there is a schism in the Saṅgha there are mutual insults, mutual reviling, mutual disparagement, and mutual rejection. Then those without confidence do not gain confidence, while some of those with confidence change their minds. This is the fifth unfavorable occasion for striving.
    “These are the five unfavorable occasions for striving.
    “There are, bhikkhus, these five favorable occasions for striving. What five?
    (1) “Here, a bhikkhu is young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessing of youth, in the prime of life. This is the first favorable occasion for striving.
    (2) “Again, a bhikkhu is seldom ill or afflicted, possessing an even digestion that is neither too cool nor too hot but moderate and suitable for striving. This is the second favorable occasion for striving.
    (3) “Again, food is plentiful; there has been a good harvest [67] and almsfood is abundant, so that one can easily sustain oneself by means of gleaning. This is the third favorable occasion for striving.
    (4) “Again, people are dwelling in concord, harmoniously, without disputes, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with eyes of affection. This is the fourth favorable occasion for striving.
    (5) “Again, the Saṅgha is dwelling at ease—in concord, harmoniously, without disputes, with a single recitation. When the Saṅgha is in concord, there are no mutual insults, no mutual reviling, no mutual disparagement, and no mutual rejection. Then those without confidence gain confidence and those with confidence increase [in their confidence]. This is the fifth favorable occasion for striving.
    “These are the five favorable occasions for striving.”

55 (5) Mother and Son
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. Now on that occasion a mother and a son, being respectively a bhikkhunī and a bhikkhu, had entered the rains residence at Sāvatthī. They often wanted to see one another, the mother often wanting to see her son, and the son his mother. Because they often saw one another, a bond was formed; because a bond formed, intimacy arose; because there was intimacy, lust found an opening. With their minds in the grip of lust, without having given up the training and declared their weakness, they engaged in sexual intercourse.
    Then a number of bhikkhus approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and reported what had happened. [68] [The Blessed One said:]
    “Bhikkhus, did that foolish man think: ‘A mother does not fall in love with her son, or a son with his mother’? (1) Bhikkhus, I do not see even one other form that is as tantalizing, sensuous, intoxicating, captivating, infatuating, and as much of an obstacle to achieving the unsurpassed security from bondage as the form of a woman. Beings who are lustful for the form of a woman—ravenous, tied to it, infatuated, and blindly absorbed in it—sorrow for a long time under the control of a woman’s form. (2) I do not see even one other sound … (3) … even one other odor … (4) … even one other taste … (5) … even one other touch that is as tantalizing, sensuous, intoxicating, captivating, infatuating, and as much of an obstacle to achieving the unsurpassed security from bondage as the touch of a woman. Beings who are lustful for the touch of a woman—ravenous, tied to it, infatuated, and blindly absorbed in it—sorrow for a long time under the control of a woman’s touch.
    “Bhikkhus, while walking, a woman obsesses the mind of a man; while standing … while sitting … while lying down … while laughing … while speaking … while singing … while crying a woman obsesses the mind of a man. When swollen, too, a woman obsesses the mind of a man. Even when dead, a woman obsesses the mind of a man. If, bhikkhus, one could rightly say of anything: ‘Entirely a snare of Māra,’ it is precisely of women that one could say this.” [69]

One might talk with a murderous foe;
one might talk with an evil spirit;
one might even approach a viper
whose bite means certain death;
but with a woman, one to one,
one should never talk.

They bind one whose mind is muddled
with a glance and a smile,
with their dress in disarray,
and with gentle speech.
It is not safe to approach such a person
though she is swollen and dead.

These five objects of sensual pleasure
are seen in a woman’s body:
forms, sounds, tastes, and odors,
and also delightful touches.

Those swept up by the flood of sensuality,
who do not fully understand sense pleasures,
are plunged headlong into saṃsāra, [into] time,
destination, and existence upon existence.

But those who have fully understood sense pleasures
live without fear from any quarter.
Having attained the destruction of the taints,
while in the world, they have gone beyond.

56 (6) Preceptor
Then a certain bhikkhu approached his own preceptor and said to him: “Bhante, my body now seems as if it has been drugged, I have become disoriented, and the teachings are no longer clear to me. Dullness and drowsiness obsess my mind. I live the spiritual life dissatisfied and have doubt about the teachings.”
    Then that [preceptor-] bhikkhu took that pupil-bhikkhu and approached the Blessed One. He paid homage to the Blessed One, sat down to one side, and told the Blessed One what his pupil had said. [70] [The Blessed One said:]
    “So it is, bhikkhu! (1) When one is unguarded in the doors of the sense faculties, (2) immoderate in eating, (3) and not intent on wakefulness; (4) when one lacks insight into wholesome qualities, (5) and one does not dwell intent on the endeavor to develop the aids to enlightenment in the earlier and later phases of the night, one’s body seems as if it had been drugged, one becomes disoriented, and the teachings are no longer clear to one. Dullness and drowsiness obsess one’s mind. One lives the spiritual life dissatisfied and has doubt about the teachings.
    “Therefore, bhikkhu, you should train yourself thus: (1) ‘I will be guarded in the doors of the sense faculties, (2) moderate in eating, (3) and intent on wakefulness; (4) I will have insight into wholesome qualities, (5) and will dwell intent on the endeavor to develop the aids to enlightenment in the earlier and later phases of the night.’ It is in such a way, bhikkhu, that you should train yourself.”
    Then, having received such an exhortation from the Blessed One, that bhikkhu rose from his seat, paid homage to the Blessed One, circumambulated him keeping the right side toward him, and departed. Then, dwelling alone, withdrawn, heedful, ardent, and resolute, in no long time that bhikkhu realized for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life, that unsurpassed consummation of the spiritual life for the sake of which clansmen rightly go forth from the household life into homelessness; and having entered upon it, he dwelled in it. He directly knew: “Destroyed is birth, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming back to any state of being.” And that bhikkhu became one of the arahants.
    Then, after attaining arahantship, that bhikkhu approached his own preceptor and said to him: “Bhante, my body now no longer seems as if it had been drugged, I have become well oriented, and the teachings are clear to me. Dullness and drowsiness do not obsess my mind. I live the spiritual life joyfully and have no doubt about the teachings.”
    Then that [preceptor-] bhikkhu took that pupil-bhikkhu and approached the Blessed One. [71] He paid homage to the Blessed One, sat down to one side, and told the Blessed One what his pupil had said. [The Blessed One said:]
    “So it is, bhikkhu! When one is guarded in the doors of the sense faculties, moderate in eating, and intent on wakefulness; when one has insight into wholesome qualities, and dwells intent on the endeavor to develop the aids to enlightenment in the earlier and later phases of the night, one’s body does not seem as if it had been drugged, one becomes well oriented, and the teachings are clear to one. Dullness and drowsiness do not obsess one’s mind. One lives the spiritual life joyfully and has no doubt about the teachings.
    “Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: (1) ‘We will be guarded in the doors of the sense faculties, (2) moderate in eating, and (3) intent on wakefulness; (4) we will have insight into wholesome qualities, (5) and will dwell intent on the endeavor to develop the aids to enlightenment in the earlier and later phases of the night.’ It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that you should train yourselves.”

57 (7) Themes 
“Bhikkhus, there are these five themes that should often be reflected upon by a woman or a man, by a householder or one gone forth. What five? (1) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to old age; I am not exempt from old age.’ (2) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to illness; I am not exempt from illness.’ (3) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to death; I am not exempt from death.’ (4) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect [72] thus: ‘I must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable to me.’ (5) A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do.’
    (1) “For the sake of what benefit, bhikkhus, should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to old age; I am not exempt from old age’? In their youth beings are intoxicated with their youth, and when they are intoxicated with their youth they engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, the intoxication with youth is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to old age; I am not exempt from old age.’
    (2) “And for the sake of what benefit should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to illness; I am not exempt from illness’? In a state of health beings are intoxicated with their health, and when they are intoxicated with their health they engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, the intoxication with health is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to illness; I am not exempt from illness.’
    (3) “And for the sake of what benefit should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to death; I am not exempt from death’? During their lives beings are intoxicated with life, and when they are intoxicated with life they engage in misconduct by body, speech, [73] and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, the intoxication with life is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am subject to death; I am not exempt from death.’
    (4) “And for the sake of what benefit should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable to me’? Beings have desire and lust in regard to those people and things that are dear and agreeable, and excited by this lust, they engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, the desire and lust in regard to everyone and everything dear and agreeable is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable to me.’
    (5) “And for the sake of what benefit should a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, often reflect thus: ‘I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do’? People engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when one often reflects upon this theme, such misconduct is either completely abandoned or diminished. It is for the sake of this benefit that a woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do.’
    (1) “This noble disciple, bhikkhus, reflects thus: [74] ‘I am not the only one who is subject to old age, not exempt from old age. All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, are subject to old age; none are exempt from old age.’ As he often reflects on this theme, the path is generated. He pursues this path, develops it, and cultivates it. As he does so, the fetters are entirely abandoned and the underlying tendencies are uprooted.
    (2) “This noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am not the only one who is subject to illness, not exempt from illness. All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, are subject to illness; none are exempt from illness.’ As he often reflects on this theme, the path is generated. He pursues this path, develops it, and cultivates it. As he does so, the fetters are entirely abandoned and the underlying tendencies are uprooted.
    (3) “This noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am not the only one who is subject to death, not exempt from death. All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, are subject to death; none are exempt from death.’ As he often reflects on this theme, the path is generated. He pursues this path, develops it, and cultivates it. As he does so, the fetters are entirely abandoned and the underlying tendencies are uprooted.
    (4) “This noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am not the only one who must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable. All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable.’ As he often reflects on this theme, the path is generated. He pursues this path, develops it, and cultivates it. As he does so, the fetters are entirely abandoned and the underlying tendencies are uprooted.
    (5) “This noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am not the only one who is the owner of one’s kamma, the heir of one’s kamma; who has kamma as one’s origin, kamma as one’s relative, kamma as one’s resort; who will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that one does. All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, are owners of their kamma, heirs of their kamma; all have kamma as their origin, kamma as their relative, kamma as their resort; all will be heirs of whatever kamma, good or bad, that they do.’ [75] As he often reflects on this theme, the path is generated. He pursues this path, develops it, and cultivates it. As he is does so, the fetters are entirely abandoned and the underlying tendencies are uprooted.

“Worldlings subject to illness,
old age and death, are disgusted
[by other people] who exist
in accordance with their nature.

“If I were to become disgusted
with beings who have such a nature,
that would not be proper for me
since I too have the same nature.

“While I was dwelling thus,
having known the state without acquisitions,
I overcame all intoxications—
intoxication with health,
with youth, and with life—
having seen security in renunciation.

“Zeal then arose in me
as I clearly saw nibbāna.
Now I am incapable
of indulging in sensual pleasures.
Relying on the spiritual life,
never will I turn back.”

58 (8) Licchavi Youths
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesālī in the hall with the peaked roof in the Great Wood. Then, in the morning, the Blessed One dressed, took his bowl and robe, and entered Vesālī for alms. Having walked for alms in Vesālī, after the meal, when he had returned from his alms round, he entered the Great Wood and sat down at the foot of a tree to dwell for the day.
    Now on that occasion a number of Licchavi youths had taken their strung bows and were walking and wandering in the Great Wood, accompanied by a pack of dogs, when they saw the Blessed One seated at the foot of a tree to dwell for the day. When they saw him, they put down their strung bows, sent the dogs off to one side, and approached him. They paid homage to the Blessed One [76] and silently stood in attendance upon him with their hands joined in reverential salutation.
    Now on that occasion the Licchavi youth Mahānāma was walking and wandering for exercise in the Great Wood when he saw the Licchavi youths silently standing in attendance upon the Blessed One with their hands joined in reverential salutation. He then approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and uttered this inspired utterance: “They will be Vajjis! They will be Vajjis!”
    [The Blessed One said:] “But why, Mahānāma, do you say: ‘They will be Vajjis! They will be Vajjis!’?”
    “These Licchavi youths, bhante, are violent, rough, and brash. They are always plundering any sweets that are left as gifts among families, whether sugar cane, jujube fruits, cakes, pies, or sugarballs, and then they devour them. They give women and girls of respectable families blows on their backs. Now they are standing silently in attendance upon the Blessed One with their hands joined in reverential salutation.”
    “Mahānāma, in whatever clansman five qualities are found—whether he is a consecrated khattiya king, a country gentleman, the general of an army, a village headman, a guildmaster, or one of those who exercise private rulership over various clans—only growth is to be expected, not decline. What five?
    (1) “Here, Mahānāma, with wealth acquired by energetic striving, amassed by the strength of his arms, earned by the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained, a clansman honors, respects, esteems, [77] and venerates his parents. His parents, being honored, respected, esteemed, and venerated, have compassion on him with a good heart, thinking: ‘May you live long and maintain a long life span.’ When a clansman’s parents have compassion for him, only growth is to be expected for him, not decline.
    (2) “Again, Mahānāma, with wealth acquired by energetic striving, amassed by the strength of his arms, earned by the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained, a clansman honors, respects, esteems, and venerates his wife and children, his slaves, workers, and servants. Being honored, respected, esteemed, and venerated, they have compassion on him with a good heart, thinking: ‘May you live long!’ When a clansman’s wife and children, slaves, workers, and servants have compassion for him, only growth is to be expected for him, not decline.
    (3) “Again, Mahānāma, with wealth acquired by energetic striving, amassed by the strength of his arms, earned by the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained, a clansman honors, respects, esteems, and venerates the owners of the neighboring fields and those with whom he does business. Being honored, respected, esteemed, and venerated, they have compassion on him with a good heart, thinking: ‘May you live long!’ When the owners of the neighboring fields and those with whom he does business have compassion for a clansman, only growth is to be expected for him, not decline.
    (4) “Again, Mahānāma, with wealth acquired by energetic striving, amassed by the strength of his arms, earned by the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained, a clansman honors, respects, esteems, and venerates the oblational deities. Being honored, respected, esteemed, and venerated, they have compassion on him with a good heart, thinking: ‘May you live long!’ When the oblational deities have compassion for a clansman, only growth is to be expected for him, not decline.
    (5) “Again, Mahānāma, with wealth acquired by energetic striving, amassed by the strength of his arms, earned by the sweat of his brow, righteously gained, a clansman honors, respects, esteems, and venerates ascetics and brahmins. Being honored, respected, esteemed, and venerated, they have compassion on him with a good heart, thinking: ‘May you live long!’ When ascetics and brahmins have compassion [78] for a clansman, only growth is to be expected for him, not decline.
    “Mahānāma, in whatever clansman these five qualities are found—whether he is a consecrated khattiya king, a country gentleman, the general of an army, a village headman, a guildmaster, or one of those who exercise private rulership over various clans—only growth is to be expected, not decline.”

He always does his duty toward his parents;
he promotes the welfare of his wife and children.
He takes care of the people in his home
and those who live in dependence on him.

The wise person, charitable and virtuous,
acts for the good of both kinds of relatives,
those who have passed away
and those still living in this world.

[He benefits] ascetics and brahmins,
and [also] the deities;
he is one who gives rise to joy
while living a righteous life at home.

Having done what is good,
he is worthy of veneration and praise.
They praise him here in this world
and after death he rejoices in heaven.

59 (9) Gone Forth in Old Age (1)
“Bhikkhus, it is rare to find one gone forth in old age who possesses five qualities. What five? It is rare to find one gone forth in old age (1) who is astute; (2) who has the proper manner; (3) who is learned; (4) who can speak on the Dhamma; and (5) who is an expert on the discipline. It is rare to find one gone forth in old age who possesses these five qualities.”

60 (10) Gone Forth in Old Age (2)
“Bhikkhus, it is rare to find one gone forth in old age who possesses five qualities. What five? It is rare to find one gone forth in old age (1) who is easy to correct; [79] (2) who firmly retains in mind what he has learned; (3) who accepts instruction respectfully; (4) who can speak on the Dhamma; and (5) who is an expert on the discipline. It is rare to find one gone forth in old age who possesses these five qualities.”
 

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© Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2012)

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