Buddhist Wisdom: Three Principal Pali Buddhist Texts

Buddha Bo Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The harsh fact is that nothing attributed to Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha of history was written down before several centuries after his death, no fewer than three, and possibly as many as six. That said the compilations of his teachings collected in Pali (sadly, not the language he actually spoke) which claim to be his authentic teachings, are what we have. And, if we’re hoping to find the person and his teachings presented, those are the closest we’re ever going to be able to see. 

That noted, the three texts that follow each address  Buddhist Wisdom (prajana in Sanskrit and panna in Pali) attributed as the Buddha’s own words. The first two texts are said to be the Buddha’s first teachings. The third delivered not much after. 

All are translated by the British born and Oxford educated Osbert John St Moore, best known as the monk Nanamoli Thera.

 

Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth (Dhamma-cakka-ppavattana-sutta)

Thus I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Benares in the Deer Park at Isipatana (the Resort of Seers). There he addressed the bhikkhus of the group of five.

“Bhikkhus, these two extremes ought not to be cultivated by one gone forth from the house-life. What are the two? There is devotion to indulgence of pleasure in the objects of sensual desire, which is inferior, low, vulgar, ignoble, and leads to no good; and there is devotion to self-torment, which is painful, ignoble and leads to no good.

“The middle way discovered by a Perfect One avoids both these extremes; it gives vision, it gives knowledge, and it leads to peace, to direct acquaintance, to discovery, to nibbana. And what is that middle way? It is simply the noble eightfold path, that is to say, right view, right intention; right speech, right action, right livelihood; right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. That is the middle way discovered by a Perfect One, which gives vision, which gives knowledge, and which leads to peace, to direct acquaintance, to discovery, to nibbana.

“Suffering, as a noble truth, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; association with the loathed is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering — in short, suffering is the five categories of clinging objects.

“The origin of suffering, as a noble truth, is this: It is the craving that produces renewal of being accompanied by enjoyment and lust, and enjoying this and that; in other words, craving for sensual desires, craving for being, craving for non-being.

“Cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, is this: It is remainderless fading and ceasing, giving up, relinquishing, letting go and rejecting, of that same craving.

“The way leading to cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, is this: It is simply the noble eightfold path, that is to say, right view, right intention; right speech, right action, right livelihood; right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

“‘Suffering, as a noble truth, is this.’ Such was the vision, the knowledge, the understanding, the finding, the light, that arose in regard to ideas not heard by me before. ‘This suffering, as a noble truth, can be diagnosed.’ Such was the vision, the knowledge, the understanding, the finding, the light, that arose in regard to ideas not heard by me before. ‘This suffering, as a noble truth, has been diagnosed.’ Such was the vision, the knowledge, the understanding, the finding, the light, that arose in regard to ideas not heard by me before.

“‘The origin of suffering, as a noble truth, is this.’ Such was the vision… ‘This origin of suffering, as a noble truth, can be abandoned.’ Such was the vision… ‘This origin of suffering, as a noble truth, has been abandoned.’ Such was the vision… in regard to ideas not heard by me before.

“‘Cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, is this.’ Such was the vision… ‘This cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, can be verified.’ Such was the vision… ‘This cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, has been verified.’ Such was the vision… in regard to ideas not heard by me before.

“‘The way leading to cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, is this.’ Such was the vision… ‘This way leading to cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, can be developed.’ Such was the vision… ‘This way leading to the cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, has been developed.’ Such was the vision… in regard to ideas not heard by me before.

“As long as my knowing and seeing how things are, was not quite purified in these twelve aspects, in these three phases of each of the four noble truths, I did not claim in the world with its gods, its Maras and high divinities, in this generation with its monks and brahmans, with its princes and men to have discovered the full awakening that is supreme. But as soon as my knowing and seeing how things are, was quite purified in these twelve aspects, in these three phases of each of the four noble truths, then I claimed in the world with its gods, its Maras and high divinities, in this generation with its monks and brahmans, its princes and men to have discovered the full awakening that is supreme. Knowing and seeing arose in me thus: ‘My heart’s deliverance is unassailable. This is the last birth. Now there is no renewal of being.'”

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus of the group of five were glad, and they approved his words.

Now during this utterance, there arose in the venerable Kondañña the spotless, immaculate vision of the True Idea: “Whatever is subject to arising is all subject to cessation.”

When the Wheel of Truth had thus been set rolling by the Blessed One the earthgods raised the cry: “At Benares, in the Deer Park at Isipatana, the matchless Wheel of truth has been set rolling by the Blessed One, not to be stopped by monk or divine or god or death-angel or high divinity or anyone in the world.”

On hearing the earth-gods’ cry, all the gods in turn in the six paradises of the sensual sphere took up the cry till it reached beyond the Retinue of High Divinity in the sphere of pure form. And so indeed in that hour, at that moment, the cry soared up to the World of High Divinity, and this ten-thousandfold world-element shook and rocked and quaked, and a great measureless radiance surpassing the very nature of the gods was displayed in the world.

Then the Blessed One uttered the exclamation: “Kondañña knows! Kondañña knows!” and that is how that venerable one acquired the name, Añña-Kondañña — Kondañña who knows.

— SN 56.11

The Not-self Characteristic (Anatta-lakkhana-sutta)

Thus I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Benares, in the Deer Park at Isipatana (the Resort of Seers). There he addressed the bhikkhus of the group of five: “Bhikkhus.” — “Venerable sir,” they replied. The Blessed One said this.

“Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.’ And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.’

“Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self…

“Bhikkhus, perception is not-self…

“Bhikkhus, determinations are not-self…

“Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: ‘Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.’ And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of consciousness: ‘Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.’

“Bhikkhus, how do you conceive it: is form permanent or impermanent?” — “Impermanent, venerable Sir.” — “Now is what is impermanent painful or pleasant?” — “Painful, venerable Sir.” — “Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this is I, this is my self'”? — “No, venerable sir.”

“Is feeling permanent or impermanent?…

“Is perception permanent or impermanent?…

“Are determinations permanent or impermanent?…

“Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?” — “Impermanent, venerable sir.” — “Now is what is impermanent pleasant or painful?” — “Painful, venerable sir.” — “Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this is I, this is my self'”? — “No, venerable sir.”

“So, bhikkhus any kind of form whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near, must with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: ‘This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.’

“Any kind of feeling whatever…

“Any kind of perception whatever…

“Any kind of determination whatever…

“Any kind of consciousness whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near must, with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: ‘This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my self.’

“Bhikkhus, when a noble follower who has heard (the truth) sees thus, he finds estrangement in form, he finds estrangement in feeling, he finds estrangement in perception, he finds estrangement in determinations, he finds estrangement in consciousness.

“When he finds estrangement, passion fades out. With the fading of passion, he is liberated. When liberated, there is knowledge that he is liberated. He understands: ‘Birth is exhausted, the holy life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond.'”

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were glad, and they approved his words.

Now during this utterance, the hearts of the bhikkhus of the group of five were liberated from taints through clinging no more.

— SN 22.59

The Fire Sermon (Aditta-pariyaya-sutta)

Thus I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Gaya, at Gayasisa, together with a thousand bhikkhus. There he addressed the bhikkhus.

“Bhikkhus, all is burning. And what is the all that is burning?

“The eye is burning, forms are burning, eye-consciousness is burning, eye-contact is burning, also whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with eye-contact for its indispensable condition, that too is burning. Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of delusion. I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.

“The ear is burning, sounds are burning…

“The nose is burning, odors are burning…

“The tongue is burning, flavors are burning…

“The body is burning, tangibles are burning…

“The mind is burning, ideas are burning, mind-consciousness is burning, mind-contact is burning, also whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with mind-contact for its indispensable condition, that too is burning. Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of delusion. I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.

“Bhikkhus, when a noble follower who has heard (the truth) sees thus, he finds estrangement in the eye, finds estrangement in forms, finds estrangement in eye-consciousness, finds estrangement in eye-contact, and whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful- nor-pleasant that arises with eye-contact for its indispensable condition, in that too he finds estrangement.

“He finds estrangement in the ear… in sounds…

“He finds estrangement in the nose… in odors…

“He finds estrangement in the tongue… in flavors…

“He finds estrangement in the body… in tangibles…

“He finds estrangement in the mind, finds estrangement in ideas, finds estrangement in mind-consciousness, finds estrangement in mind-contact, and whatever is felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant that arises with mind-contact for its indispensable condition, in that too he finds estrangement.

“When he finds estrangement, passion fades out. With the fading of passion, he is liberated. When liberated, there is knowledge that he is liberated. He understands: ‘Birth is exhausted, the holy life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond.'”

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were glad, and they approved his words.

Now during his utterance, the hearts of those thousand bhikkhus were liberated from taints through clinging no more.

— SN 35.28

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