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Sutta Nipata IV.4

Suddhatthaka Sutta


Read an alternate translation

"I see the pure, the supreme,
    free from disease.
It's in connection
with what's seen
that a person's purity

Understanding thus,
having known the "supreme,"
& remaining focused
    on purity,
one falls back on that knowledge.
If it's in connection
with what is seen
that a person's purity is,
or if stress is abandoned
in connection with knowledge,
then a person with acquisitions
    is purified
in connection with something else,[2]
    for his view reveals that
    in the way he asserts it.

No brahmin[3]
says purity
comes in connection
with anything else.
Unsmeared with regard
to what's     seen, heard, sensed,
        precepts or practices,
        merit or evil,
not creating
anything here,
he's let go
    of what he had embraced,
he's let go of self.

Abandoning what's first,
they depend on    what's next.[4]
Following distraction,
they don't cross over attachment.
They embrace & reject
    -- like a monkey releasing a branch
        to seize at another[5] --
a person undertaking practices on his own,
goes high & low,
latched onto perception.
But having clearly known
through vedas,[6] having encountered
    the Dhamma,
one of profound discernment
    doesn't go
    high & low.

He's enemy-free[7]
with regard to     all things
seen, heard, or sensed.
By whom, with what,[8]
should he
be pigeonholed
here in the world?
    -- one who has seen in this way,
    who goes around

They don't conjure, don't yearn,
don't proclaim "utter purity."
Untying the tied-up knot of grasping,
they don't form a desire for
at all in the world.

The brahmin
gone beyond territories,[10]
has nothing that
-- on knowing or seeing --
he's grasped.
Unimpassionate     for passion,
not impassioned     for dis-,[11]
he has nothing here
that's he's grasped as supreme.


1. An ancient Indian belief, dating back to the Vedas, was that the sight of certain things or beings was believed to purify. Thus "in connection with what's seen" here means both that purity is brought about by means of seeing such a sight, and that one's purity is measured in terms of having such a sight. This belief survives today in the practice of darshan. [Go back]

2. In other words, if purity were simply a matter of seeing or knowing something, a person could be pure in this sense and yet still have acquisitions (= defilements), which would not be true purity. [Go back]

3. "Brahmin" in the Buddhist sense, i.e., a person born in any caste who has become an arahant. [Go back]

4. Nd.I: Leaving one teacher and going to another; leaving one teaching and going to another. This phrase may also refer to the mind's tendency to leave one craving to go to another. [Go back]

5. "Like a monkey releasing a branch to seize at another" -- an interesting example of a whole phrase that functions as a "lamp," i.e., modifying both the phrase before it and the phrase after it. [Go back]

6. Vedas -- Just as the word "brahmin" is used in a Buddhist sense above, here the word veda is given a Buddhist sense. According to the Commentary, in this context it means the knowledge accompanying four transcendent paths: the paths to stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, and arahantship. [Go back]

7. Nd.I: The enemies here are the armies of Mara -- all unskillful mental qualities. For a detailed inventory of the armies of Mara, see Sn III.2. [Go back]

8. By whom, with what -- two meanings of the one Pali word, kena. [Go back]

9. Nd.I: "Open" means having a mind not covered or concealed by craving, defilement, or ignorance. This image is used in Ud V.5. It is in contrast to the image discussed in note 1 to Sn IV.2. An alternative meaning here might be having one's eyes open. [Go back]

10. Nd.I: "Territories" = the ten fetters (samyojana) and seven latent tendencies (anusaya). [Go back]

11. Nd.I: "Passion" = sensuality; "dispassion" = the jhana states that bring about dispassion for sensuality. [Go back]

See also: MN 24
Source: ATI - For Free Distribution Only, as a Gift of Dhamma.

Dhamma Essay:
Supreme Efforts by Ayya Khema

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