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17. "Thus, Cunda, I have shown to you the instruction on effacement, I have shown to you the instruction on thought's arising, I have shown to you the instruction on avoidance, I have shown to you the instruction on the way upward, I have shown to you the instruction on quenching.

18. "What can be done for his disciples by a Master who seeks their welfare and has compassion and pity on them, that I have done for you, Cunda.[27] There are these roots of trees, there are empty places. Meditate, Cunda, do not delay, lest you later regret it. 'This is my message to you."

Thus spoke the Blessed One. Satisfied, the venerable Cunda rejoiced in the Blessed One's words.

* * *

[The concluding verse added by the 'Theras of the First Council:]

Deep like the ocean is this Suttanta on Effacement,
Dealing with forty-four items,
showing them in five sections.


1. Maha-Cunda Thera was the brother of the venerable Sariputta Thera. [Go back]

2. Self-doctrines or world-doctrines (atta-vada, lokavada). According to Comy., this refers: (a) to the twenty types of personality-belief (sakkaya-ditthi), i.e., four for each of the five aggregates (khandha); (b) to eight wrong views about self and world, as being eternal, not eternal, both eternal and not eternal, neither eternal nor not eternal, and the same four alternatives concerning finite and infinite. [Go back]

3. In a monk who is only at the beginning of his (meditative) reflections (adim-eva manasikaroto). Comy.: "This refers to one who is at the beginning of his insight-meditation (vipassana-bhavana) and has not yet attained to Stream-entry," when the fetter of personality-belief is finally eliminated. The beginner's insight-practice extends from the "discernment of mentality and corporeality" (namarupa-pariccheda) up to the "knowledge of rise and fall" (udayabbaya-ñana), on which see Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga), Chs. XVIII, XX, XXI.

According to the Comy., the Thera's question concerns those who overrate the degree of their achievement, i.e., those who believe that, in their meditative practice, they have achieved this or that result while actually they have not. Overestimation (abhimana), in that sense, "does not arise in ignorant common people (bala-puthujjana) who are entirely engrossed in worldly life, nor does it arise in Noble Disciples (ariya-savaka); because in a Stream-winner the overestimation does not arise that he is a Once-returner, etc. Self-overestimation can occur only in one who actually practices (meditation) and has temporarily subdued the defilements by way of tranquillity or insight. Maha-Cunda Thera, being an Arahat, was no self-overrater himself, but in formulating his question, he put himself in the place of one who is; or, as others say, there may have been such "self-overraters" among his pupils, and for conveying to them the Buddha's reply, he put his question. [Go back]

4. (The object) in which (yattha). Comy.: yattha (where) = yasmim arammane. The object, or basis, the five aggregates, because all false views on self and world can refer only to the five aggregates to one of them. See Discourse on the Snake Simile (Wheel No. 47/48), p. 8, and //Anatta and Nibbana, by Nyanaponika Thera (Wheel No. 11), p. 18 (quotation). [Go back]

5. In which these views arise (yattha uppajjanti), i.e., arise for the first time, without having occurred earlier (Comy.).

Underlie (anusenti), i.e., habitually occur (cf. anusaya, "tendency," which may be latent or active). Comy.: "This refers to views which, having been indulged in repeatedly, have become strong and have not been removed." Sub.Comy.: "By ultimate elimination (samuccheda-vinaya-vasena)."

Become active (samudacaranti). Comy.: "Wrong views have arrived at the (action-) doors of body and speech," i.e., which have found expression in words and deeds. [Go back]

6. With right wisdom (sammappaññaya). Comy.: "With insight-wisdom, ending with the knowledge pertaining to the path of Stream-entry." [Go back]

7. As it actually is (yatha-bhutam). Comy.: "Because the five aggregates exist only in that manner (i.e., as something 'that is not mine,' etc.). But if conceived in the way 'It is mine,' etc., it simply does not exist (n'ev'atthi)." [Go back]

8. This is not mine: hereby craving (tanha) is rejected. [Go back]

9. This I am not: this refers to the rejection of conceit (mana). [Go back]

10. This is not my self: this refers to the rejection of false views (ditthi). [Go back]

11. Abandoning...discarding (pahanam...patinissaggo). Comy.: "Both terms are synonymous with the ultimate eradication of wrong views, taking place at Stream-entry when the fetter of personality belief is destroyed." [Go back]

12. Now the Buddha speaks, on his own, of another type of "self-overrater," i.e., of those who have realized any of the eight meditative attainments (samapatti) and believe that this signifies true "effacement" (sallekha).

The common meaning of sallekha* is austere practice or asceticism; but in the Buddha's usage it is the radical "effacing" or removal of the defilements.

*[Sallekha (= sam-lekha) is derived from the verbal root likh, to scratch; hence likhati (a) to scratch in, to write; (b) to scratch off, to remove: samlikhati, "to remove fully." An interesting parallel is "ascesis," derived from the Greek askeuein, to scratch. The rendering by "effacement" is Ñanamoli Thera's; Soma Thera has "cancelling"; I. B. Horner, "expunging."]

The eight stages of meditation given here in the discourse, consist of the four fine-material absorptions (rupajjhana) and the four immaterial absorptions (arupajjhana). Comy. says that these meditative attainments "are in common with the ascetics outside (the Buddha's Dispensation)."

Comy.: "The overrater's meditative absorption is neither 'effacement' nor is it the 'path of practice for effacement' (sallekha-patipada). And why not? Because that jhana is not used by him as a basis for insight; that is, after rising from jhana he does not scrutinise the (physical and mental) formations" (see Visuddhimagga transl. by Ñanamoli, Ch. XVIII, 3). His jhana produces only one-pointedness of mind, and is, as our text says, an "abiding in ease here and now." [Go back]

13. "By 'perceptions of corporeality' (rupasañña) are meant the absorptions of the fine-material sphere (rupajjhana) as well as those things that are their objects" (Visuddhimagga). [Go back]

14. Perceptions of sense-response (lit. resistance, patigha-sañña) are perceptions arisen through the impact of the physical sense bases (eye, etc.) and their objects. [Go back]

15. Perceptions of variety (ñanatta-sañña) are perceptions that arise in a variety of fields, or various perceptions in various fields. This refers to all perceptions belonging to the sense sphere (kamavacara). [Go back]

16. Comy.: "Now, the Blessed One shows in forty-four ways where effacement should be practced. But why are harmlessness and the other states regarded as effacement, unlike the eight meditative attainments? Because they are a basis for the supramundane (lokuttara-padaka); while, for outsiders, the eight attainments are merely a basis for (continuing) the round of existence (vatta-padaka), (because by non-Buddhists they are practced for the sake of rebirth in higher worlds). But in the Buddha's Dispensation, even the Going for Refuge is a basis for the supramundane.

Sub.Comy.: "If one, wishing to overcome the suffering of samsara, goes with joyful confidence for refuge to the Triple Gem, then this Refuge will be for him a supporting condition for higher virtue, etc. (i.e., higher mentality and higher wisdom), and it may gradually lead him to the attainment of the path of understanding (dassana-magga; i.e., Stream-entry)."

The Forty-four Ways of Effacement

[Go back]

17. Comy.: "Harmlessness is called 'effacement,' because it effaces harmfulness, i.e., it cuts it off (chindati). This method of explanation applies to all other terms."

Sub.Comy.: "But why is harmlessness (or nonviolence, ahimsa) mentioned at the very beginning? Because it is the root of all virtues; harmlessness, namely, is a synonym of compassion. Especially, it is the root-cause of morality because it makes one refrain from immorality which has as its characteristic mark the harming of others. Just as the killing of living beings has the harming of others as its mark, so also the taking away of others' property; for 'robbing a man's wealth is worse than stabbing him.'* Similarly, chastity removes the cause for the pains of child bearing, etc., and there is hardly a need to mention the harm done by adultery.

*[This is given in Pali as direct speech or quote; perhaps it was a common adage.]

"Obvious is also the harm done to others by deception, by causing dissension and by backbiting. The mark of harming others is also attached to gossip because it takes away what is beneficial and causes to arise what is not beneficial; to covetousness, as it causes one to take what is not given; to ill will, as it causes killing, etc.; to wrong views, as they are the cause of all that is un-beneficial. One who holds wrong views may, in the conviction of acting righteously, kill living beings and incite others to do likewise. There is nothing to say about other (and lesser immoral acts induced by false views).

"Harmlessness (i.e., the principle of non-violence) has the characteristic mark of making one refrain from immorality which, on its part, has the mark of harming. Hence harmlessness is an especially strong productive cause of morality; and morality, again, is the basis for concentration of mind, while concentration is the basis for wisdom. In that way harmlessness (non-violence) is the root of all virtues.

"Furthermore, in the case of the highest type of men (uttamapurisa) who have noble aspirations, who act considerately and wisely, also their mental concentration and their wisdom, just as their morality, is conducive to the weal and happiness of others. In that way, too, compassion is the root of all virtues, and therefore it has been mentioned at the beginning.

"Now, (after harmlessness), the salutary courses of action (kusala-kammapatha; 2-11) are to show that these states are produced by harmlessness. Then follow the eight states of rightness (11-18) to show that they must be brought about by basing them on morality, which is the root of these virtues. Now the separation from the hindrances (21-23, and 16, 17) is included to indicate that this is the primary task for one intent on purifying (his practice of) the eightfold path. Then follows the cleansing from the defilements (24-33) to indicate that effacement is accomplished by giving up anger (24), etc. And the cleansing from the defilements will be successful when aided by amenability to advice, noble friendship and heedful diligence (34-36).

"Now the seven noble qualities (37-43) are included to show that they will come to perfection in him who is endowed with amenability and the other (two factors); and that they, on their part, after having strengthened insight, will lead to the paths of sanctitude. (See end of Note 16.)

"Finally, the passage on 'misapprehending according to one's individual views,' etc. (44) is meant to indicate that for such a one (i.e., for one bent on effacement) that wrong attitude is an obstacle to the attainment of the supramundane virtues and is, therefore, to be avoided totally. This passage on misapprehending (about which see Note 18) is also meant to show that one who, by the right conduct here described, is in the process of attaining one of the paths of sanctitude, win be led to the acme of effacement (by this last-mentioned threefold way of effacement).

"In this manner should be understood the purpose of stating these forty-four modes of effacement as well as the order in which they appear in the discourse." [Go back]

18. Comy.: "A single wrong view (or wrong attitude), which is an obstacle for the supramundane qualities and hence does not lead to emancipation, is here described in three aspects:

[Go back]

19. Salutary: kusala, also translated by wholesome, profitable, skilful. There salutary things, says Sub. Comy., are the modes of effacement mentioned. [Go back]

20. Sub.Comy.: "For those who cannot take up, by actual application, the practice of effacement, even the arising of a thought (cittuppado), i.e., an inclination for it, is of great importance.

Comy. says that a salutary thought is of great importance as it leads entirely to weal and happiness, and as it is the cause for the subsequent actions conforming to it. Examples are given beginning with the intention to give almsfood to monks, up to the aspiration for Buddhahood. The Sub.Comy., however, says that in some cases the importance is not in the thought itself but only in the actual execution of it. This certainly applies to the intention to give alms, etc. But in the efforts for effacing the defilements, the formation of a mental attitude directed towards it, in other words, the heart's resolve, is certainly an important factor.

This section of the discourse has been condensed in the present translation. But he who has chosen the path of effacement as his way of practice (patipada) is well advised to repeat all forty-four items, linking them with his heart's earnest resolve. Also, the last two sections of the discourse have been condensed. [Go back]

21. Comy.: "Parikkamana (lit. going around, circumventing) has the meaning of 'avoiding' (parivajjana). For the avoiding of harmfulness there is the ready road of harmlessness, walking on which one may easily experience felicity among humans or deities, or one may cross over (by that ford) from this world (to the other shore, Nibbana). The same method of explanation applies to the other sentences." [Go back]

22. Comy.: "The meaning is this: Any unsalutary states of mind, whether they produce rebirth or not, and whether, in a given rebirth, they produce kamma results or not -- all, because of their type, i.e., by being unsalutary, lead downwards (to lower worlds). They are just like that because, on the occasion of their yielding a kamma result, that result will be undesirable and unpleasant.

"Any salutary states of mind, whether they produce rebirth or not, and whether, in a given rebirth, they produce kamma results or not -- all, because of their type, lead upwards. They are just like that because, on the occasion of their yielding a kamma result, that result will be desirable and pleasant.

"The connection (in the discourse, between the general principle stated first, and its specific application to the forty-four cases) is as follows: just as unsalutary states lead downwards, so it is with that one state of harmfulness for him who is harmful. Just as all salutary states lead upwards, so it is with that one state of harmlessness for him who is harmless." [Go back]

23. Comy.: "In the Noble One's discipline, the 'mire' is a name for the five sense desires." [Go back]

24. Not fully quenched (aparinibbuto) Comy.: "with defilements not extinguished (anibbuta-kilesa)." [Go back]

25. Comy.: "There may be those who object that this is not correct because some come to penetration of the Dhamma (dhammabhisamaya, i.e., Stream-entry) after listening to an exposition of the Teaching by monks or nuns, male or female lay followers, who are still worldlings (puthujjana; i.e., have not attained to any of the paths of sanctitude). Hence one who is still in the mire can pull out others. (Reply:) This should not be understood in that way. It is the Blessed One who here does the pulling out.

"Suppose there is a king who sends a letter to the border region, and the people there, unable to read it by themselves, have the letter read to them by another able to do it. Having learned of the contents, they respond with respect, knowing it as the king's order. But they do not think that it is the letter reader's order; he will receive praise only for his smooth and fluent reading of the letter. Similarly, even if preachers of the ability of Sariputta Thera expound the Dhamma, still they are just like readers of a letter written by another. Their sermon should truly be attributed to the Blessed One, like the decree to the king. The preachers, however, receive their limited praise, just because they expound the Dhamma with a smooth and fluent diction. Hence that statement in the discourse is correct." [Go back]

26. For the connection between the modes of effacement and the preceding simile, Comy. gives two alterative explanations:

[Go back]

27. Comy.: "So far goes a compassionate teacher's task namely, the correct exposition of his teaching; that, namely, the practice (according to the teaching; patipatti), is the task of the disciples." [Go back]

Source: ATI - For Free Distribution Only, as a Gift of Dhamma.

Dhamma Essay:
Subrahma's problem by Bhikkhu Bodhi

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