Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Atisītaṃ atiuṇhaṃ, atisāyamidaṃ ahu;
iti vissaṭṭhakammante1, khaṇā accenti2 māṇave.
Yo ca sītañca uṇhañca, tiṇā3 bhiyyo na maññati;
karaṃ purisakiccāni, so sukhā na vihāyati4.
Dabbaṃ kusaṃ poṭakilaṃ, usīraṃ5 muñjapabbajaṃ;
urasā6 panudissāmi7, vivekamanubrūhayan8”ti9.
It’s too cold, too hot and too late in the evening,
People who say this, shirking their work, thus the moment passes them by.
Whoever regards neither cold nor heat as no more than grass,
And performs his manly duties thus won’t fall away from ease.
With my chest I push through shrubs and grass, through wild grass,
Spear grass, roots, reeds and bulrush, cultivating my mindset towards seclusion.
A certain landowner in Kosala by the name of Mātaṅga had a son, who was idle, lazy and slothful. Often his father and relatives reprimanded him for his idleness, lazyness and easygoing ways. When he came in contact with the Bhikkhus he got attracted by their seemingly ‘happy’ life: ‘‘sukhajīvino ime samaṇā sakyaputtiyā’’ti and he desired to follow them. He got especially thrilled by the iddhi of the Bhikkhus he encountered and he aspired for the same.10 Further inspired by a discourse of the Buddha he took robes, was known as Mātaṅgaputtatthera—the Elder, son of Mātaṅga—developed dilligence and effort and attained arahantship. After his attainment of the chaḷabhiñño11 he uttered the verses quoted as an introduction to this lesson - may they serve as inspiring example!
The apparent adversaries of energy, effort and steadfast perserverance are laziness, idleness and lethargy. Therefore the quotations chosen for this lesson articulate the warning the Buddha expressed at various occasions. In the Pamādādivaggo12 he points to pamādo and kosajjaṃ:
‘‘Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yo evaṃ mahato anatthāya saṃvattati yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, pamādo. Pamādo, bhikkhave, mahato anatthāya saṃvattatī’’ti
“I do not see a single thing, Bhikkhus, that leads to greater damage than heedlessness. Heedlessness, Bhikkhus, leads to great damage”.
‘‘Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yo evaṃ mahato anatthāya saṃvattati yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, kosajjaṃ. Kosajjaṃ, bhikkhave, mahato anatthāya saṃvattatī’’ti.
“I do not see a single thing, Bhikkhus, that leads to greater damage than slothfulness. Slothfulness, Bhikkhus, leads to great damage”.
Likewise emphasises the Buddha repeatedly that it is āraddhavīriya—unrelenting energy—if put forth as volition and contributor towards liberation, then it functions as a stabilising factor that supports the elimination of distracting thoughts and fosters establishing alleviating mental contents:
‘‘Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yena anuppannā vā kusalā dhammā uppajjanti uppannā vā akusalā dhammā parihāyanti yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, vīriyārambho. Āraddhavīriyassa, bhikkhave, anuppannā ceva kusalā dhammā uppajjanti uppannā ca akusalā dhammā parihāyantī’’ti.13
“I do not see a single thing, Bhikkhus, that causes unarisen wholesome qualities to arise and arisen unwholesome qualities to diminish like unyielding energy. Through unyielding energy, Bhikkhus, unarisen wholesome qualities arise and arisen unwholesome qualities diminish”.
The Buddha expresses a further distinct warning when speaking with Venerable Anuruddha where he points to the direct antagonism between vīriyo and kusīta. Clearly he emphasises that the Dhamma he teaches is NOT suitable for anyone, who is lazy, slothful or lethargic:
Āraddhavīriyassāyaṃ, bhikkhave, dhammo, nāyaṃ dhammo kusītassā’ti, iti kho panetaṃ vuttaṃ, kiñcetaṃ paṭicca vuttaṃ? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu āraddhavīriyo viharati akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ pahānāya kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ upasampadāya thāmavā14 daḷhaparakkamo15 anikkhittadhuro16 kusalesu dhammesu. ‘Āraddhavīriyassāyaṃ, bhikkhave, dhammo, nāyaṃ dhammo kusītassā’ti, iti yaṃ taṃ vuttaṃ idametaṃ paṭicca vuttaṃ.17
When pointed out: ‘Bhikkhus, this Dhamma is for those of unyielding energy, this Dhamma is not for those being lazy!’ in what respect it has been said? Here a Bhikkhu dwells striving persisitently to abandon unwholesome mental states and to aquire wholesome mental states, resolute, steadfastly stiving he applies to the wholesome states not laying down his burden to develop wholesome qualities! The statement: ‘Bhikkhus, this Dhamma is for those of unyielding energy, this Dhamma is not for those being lazy!’ has been said in this respect!
When King Milinda asked the Venerable Nagasena about the characteristic quality of vīriya – vīriyalakkhaṇa – he received the following definition18: ‘‘Bhante nāgasena, kiṃlakkhaṇaṃ vīriya’’nti? ‘‘Upatthambhanalakkhaṇaṃ19, mahārāja, vīriyaṃ, vīriyūpatthambhitā sabbe kusalā dhammā na parihāyantī’’ti. – “Now, Bhante Nāgasena, what is the characteristic quality of vigorous energy?” “The distinct mark of vigorous energy, O’ King, is that of rendering support. Being supported by vigorous energy wholesome states do not fade!”
The Venerable Nagasena, on being asked to give an illustrating simile compares vīriya with a ridge pole that supports a house that is about to fall apart – similar all the wholesome states being supported by vīriya will not diminish: - ‘‘Opammaṃ karohī’’ti. ‘‘Yathā, mahārāja, puriso gehe patante20 aññena dārunā upatthambheyya, upatthambhitaṃ santaṃ evaṃ taṃ gehaṃ na pateyya. Evameva kho, mahārāja, upatthambhanalakkhaṇaṃ vīriyaṃ, vīriyūpatthambhitā sabbe kusalā dhammā na parihāyantī’’ti.
1. vissaṭṭhakammante: (vi + s + saṭṭha(pp.) + kammante): dismiss + work
2. accenti: pass, elapse
3. tiṇā: (pl.) grass, weed
4. vihāyati: vijahati (ger.): forsake, abandon
5. dabbaṃ kusaṃ poṭakilaṃ, usīraṃ muñjapabbajaṃ—these are different kinds of grass, reed, roots etc.
6. urasā: (instr.): with the breast, heart
7. panudissāmi: panudati (fut.): I will push away
8. vivekamanubrūhayaṃ: (viveka+m+anu+brūhayaṃ): seclusion + cultivation
9. Mātaṅgaputtattheragāthā, Tikanipāto, Theragāthāpāḷi, Khuddakanikāye
10. So viññutaṃ patto alasajātiko hutvā kiñci kammaṃ akaronto ñātakehi aññehi ca garahito ‘‘sukhajīvino ime samaṇā sakyaputtiyā’’ti sukhajīvitaṃ ākaṅkhanto bhikkhūhi kataparicayo hutvā satthāraṃ upasaṅkamitvā dhammaṃ sutvā paṭiladdhasaddho pabbajitvā aññe bhikkhū iddhimante disvā iddhibalaṃ patthetvā satthu santike kammaṭṭhānaṃ gahetvā bhāvanaṃ anuyuñjanto chaḷabhiñño ahosi. (Mātaṅgaputtattheragāthāvaṇṇanā, Theragāthā-aṭṭhakathā)
11. chaḷabhiñño: cha + ḷ + abhiñño: six (supernatural powers): iddhividhaṃ; dibbasotaṃ; cetopariyañāṇaṃ paresaṃ; pubbenivāsānussatiñāṇaṃ; dibbacakkhu; āsavakkhayañāṇaṃ. (Kūṭadantasuttavaṇṇanā, Sīlakkhandhavaggaṭṭhakathā, Dīghanikāye, select)
12. Pamādādivaggo, Ekakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo
13. Vīriyārambhādivaggo, Ekakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo
14. thāmavā: resolute
15. daḷhaparakkamo: daḷha + parakkamo: firm + striving, exertion
16. anikkhittadhuro: a + nikkhitta + dhuro: not + putting down + yoke, burden
17. Anuruddhamahāvitakkasuttaṃ, Gahapativaggo, Paṭhamapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Aṭṭhakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo
18. Vīriyalakkhaṇapañho, Milindapañho
19. upatthambhanalakkhaṇaṃ: upatthambhana + lakkhaṇaṃ: support + characterisitc mark
20. patante: patati (ppr.): falling
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