Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.7.3: Saṃvarasuttaṃ 

How can Right Effort get Perfected?  



Anto jaṭā bahijaṭā, jaṭāya jaṭitā pajā;

taṃ taṃ gotama pucchāmi, ko imaṃ vijaṭaye jaṭan”ti


Sīle patiṭṭhāya naro sapañño, cittaṃ paññañca bhāvayaṃ;

ātāpī nipako bhikkhu, so imaṃ vijaṭaye jaṭaṃ.

Yesaṃ rāgo ca doso ca, avijjā ca virājitā1;

khīṇāsavā arahanto, tesaṃ vijaṭitā jaṭāti;

Yattha nāmañca rūpañca, asesaṃ uparujjhati2;

paṭighaṃ rūpasaññā ca, etthesā chijjate jaṭā3.


“A tangle inside and a tangle in the outer world, people are entangled in a tangle.

Therefore Gotama, this is what I ask you here who can disentangle this tangle?”


A man firmly established in virtue, wise, developing discernment and wisdom,

A Bhikkhu, ardent and prudent he can disentangle this tangle.

With greed, aversion and ignorance all abandoned,

Arahants, their impurities destroyed, for them the tangle is untangled.

Where mind and body completely cease to be,

As well as sensory reaction and perception towards form – that is where the tangle is cut off.



     These verses concluded Bhante Nāgasenā’s reply to King Milinda regarding the characteristics of sīla, quoted in the Sīlalakkhaṇapañho4. Likewise Bhadantācariya Buddhaghosa based the first chapters of his composition and presentation of the Buddha’s teaching, known as Visuddhimagga, on these famous verses. Jaṭā – tangle refers to the complex system of craving that encroaches through all the sense doors. Craving may focus on the desires regarding one’s own psychic or material field – anto jaṭā – but also towards objects of the outer world – bahijaṭā. Similar to a brave man who stands on solid ground, upholds his sharpened sword cutting himself to a thicket of bamboo this craving can be cut, the tangle of yearning demolished by standing on the solid ground of sīla, through pragmatic wisdom by applying the strength of effort and the knife of wisdom gained through Vipassana with sharpened concentration5.

     The present lesson, the Saṃvarasutta, focusses on a more detailed explanation of the Buddha how to remain at guard and not to fall into the trap of yearning by putting forth right effort and exertion:

·      How to ward off impacts on the mind that would by reacting to these result in unwholesome mental statessaṃvarappadhānaṃ.

·      How to reject mental waves of greed, ill will and violence that – if welcoming them – likewise would result in unwholesomeness—pahānappadhānaṃ.

·      How to develop mental qualities that – if fostered and strengthened – lead onwards on the path towards liberation—bhāvanāppadhānaṃ.

·      How to cultivate and maintain focus on objects of concentration that help to nurture and deepen one’s samādhianurakkhaṇāppadhānaṃ.


     The designations ‘wholesome mental states’kusalā dhammāand respectively the adversary ‘unwholesome mental states’pāpakā akusalā dhammāneed to be understood properly in this context. Anything that impedes, obstructs or hampers the mental ability of a meditator to remain focussed on his chosen object of meditation that distracts from the purpose of his meditation or entices him towards worldly enjoyments falls under the category of pāpakā akusalā dhammā. Anything that nurtures, supports and helps to develop determination to keep in view one’s dedication to walk on the path and to endorse the chosen object of meditation may classified as kusalā dhammā.

     For any earnestly striving meditator it will be quickly apparent that all sort of input that impinges itself on the mental continuum through any of the sense doors will attempt to distract, divert and befuddle. Whether it may impose itself directly through any sense door, by means of sullied thoughts, intruding imaginations, dreams or fantasies, plans or memories – it all has the same effect of distraction and bewilderment6. This distraction again may reveal itself in form of any of the five hindrances, the pañcanīvaraṇa that delude the mind, irritate mental focus and weaken the determination: kāmacchanda, byāpādo, thinamiddha, uddhaccakukkucca, vicikicchā7.

     Variations of sensual yearning may present themselves not only in their pre-dominant form as sensual lust kāmacchanda, they may also intrude in the shape of all kind of desire towards worldly gain, possession or fame. Byāpādo intrudes in different forms of strong negativity from ill will to hatred mainly towards persons - but at times also directs itself towards situations past and future – both spring from the unwholesome deep roots of greed and aversion.

     Whenever the mind gets dull, fed up and bored, drowsy, dozy or lethargic ignorance presents itself in the form of thinamiddha. While here strong tendency towards sleepiness deludes and distracts uddhaccakukkucca intervenes with forceful inclination towards agitation, restlessness or apprehension and worry. Powerful speedy and intense thoughts hasten through plans and ideas and get interrupted through remorse, concern and fretfulness all embodiments of ignorance. Doubt, distrust and misgiving towards one’s practise ot teaching vicikicchā encroach to hinder resolution, commitment and effort on the path again footing on ignorance. Buddha gives a strong warning about these different variations of one’s own impediments, enemies, foes that can impinge at any time: ‘‘Tayome, bhikkhave, antarāmalā antarāamittā antarāsapattā antarāvadhakā antarāpaccatthikā. Katame tayo?

     Lobho, bhikkhave, antarāmalo antarāamitto antarāsapatto antarāvadhako8 antarāpaccatthiko9. Doso, bhikkhave, antarāmalo antarāamitto antarāsapatto antarāvadhako antarāpaccatthiko. Moho, bhikkhave, antarāmalo antarāamitto antarāsapatto antarāvadhako antarāpaccatthiko. Ime kho, bhikkhave, tayo antarāmalā antarāamittā antarāsapattā antarāvadhakā antarāpaccatthikā’’ti.10 “There are, Bhikkhus, three inner stains, three inner enemies, three inner foes, three inner murderers, three inner opponents. What are the three?

     Greed, Bhikkhus, is the inner stain, the inner enemy, the inner foe, the inner murderer, the inner opponent. Aversion is, Bhikkhus, is the inner stain, the inner enemy, the inner foe, the inner murderer, the inner opponent. Delusion, Bhikkhus, is the inner stain, the inner enemy, the inner foe, the inner murderer, the inner opponent. These three, oh Bhikkhus, are the inner stains, the inner enemies, the inner foes, the inner murderers, the inner opponents.”


     Being able of putting forth effort, perseverance and determination, of exerting oneself to maintain one’s practise and the object of meditation unobstructed requires certain important prerequisites. In the Padhāniyaṅgasutta11 the Buddha points to five necessary pre-conditions, limbs of striving or constituents of exertion to turn one’s efforts into successful progress: saddho, appābādho, amāyāvī, āraddhavīriyo, paññavā 12:

     “Pañcimāni, bhikkhave, padhāniyaṅgāni. Katamāni pañca? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu saddho hoti, saddahati tathāgatassa bodhiṃ – ‘itipi so bhagavā arahaṃ sammāsambuddho vijjācaraṇasampanno sugato lokavidū anuttaro purisadammasārathi satthā devamanussānaṃ buddho bhagavā’ti. Appābādho hoti appātaṅko; samavepākiniyā13 gahaṇiyā samannāgato nātisītāya nāccuṇhāya majjhimāya padhānakkhamāya14; asaṭho15 hoti amāyāvī16; yathābhūtaṃ attānaṃ āvikattā17 satthari vā viññūsu vā sabrahmacārīsu; āraddhavīriyo viharati akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ pahānāya kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ upasampadāya, thāmavā daḷhaparakkamo anikkhittadhuro18 kusalesu dhammesu; paññavā hoti, udayatthagāminiyā19 paññāya samannāgato ariyāya nibbedhikāya sammā dukkhakkhayagāminiyā. Imāni kho, bhikkhave, pañca padhāniyaṅgānī’’ti. -

     Bhikkhus, there are five constituents of that support endeavour. What are the five? Here a Bhikkhu is filled with faith, with faith in the enlightenment of the Tathāgata:Such truly is he: freed from impurities, having destroyed all mental defilements, fully enlightened by his own efforts, perfect in theory and in practice, having reached the final goal, knower of the entire universe, incomparable trainer of men, teacher of gods and humans, the Buddha, the Blessed One’.

     He has only few ailments, rarely suffers from sickness, enjoys good digestion, with appropriate consuming order, neither too hot nor too cold, suitable for striving. He is neither fraudulent nor deceitful, he reveals himself towards his teachers, wise one’s or colleagues on the holy life with the truth according to fact. He exerts unyielding effort to get rid of unwholesome mental states, firm and resolute in embracing wholesome mental states, not casting off his burden. He is wise, full of wisdom perceiving the process of arising and passing and endowed with wisdom that leads to the complete destruction of suffering. These, Bhikkhus, are the five constituents of endeavour.

     In another sutta20 the Buddha highlights five opposite factors - asamayā padhānāya - circumstances that are unfavourable for exerting oneself: jiṇṇo hoti jarāyābhibhūto – old and overcome by age; byādhito hoti byādhinābhibhūto – ill and taken by sickness; dubbhikkhaṃ hoti dussassaṃ dullabhapiṇḍaṃ – famine, few crops and scarcity of food – bhayaṃ hoti aṭavisaṅkopo21 – fear and unrest in the woods; saṅgho bhinno hoti – schism in the Saṅgha.


May many encounter the good opportunity and get encouraged to adopt and embrace the path while such favourable factors are available!


1. virājitā: virājeti (caus.; pp.): clean, put away, discard

2. uparujjhati: (passive) to be annihilated, stopped, broken

3. Jaṭāsutta, Sattivaggo, Devatāsaṃyuttaṃ, Sagāthāvaggapāḷi, Saṃyuttanikāye, Suttantapiṭaka

5. Yathā nāma puriso pathaviyaṃ patiṭṭhāya sunisitaṃ satthaṃ ukkhipitvā mahantaṃ veḷugumbaṃ vijaṭeyya, evamevaṃ sīle patiṭṭhāya samādhisilāyaṃ sunisitaṃ vipassanāpaññāsatthaṃ vīriyabalapaggahitena pārihāriyapaññāhatthena ukkhipitvā sabbampi taṃ attano santāne patitaṃ taṇhājaṭaṃ vijaṭeyya sañchindeyya sampadāleyyāti. (Jaṭāsuttavaṇṇanā, Sagāthāvagga-aṭṭhakathā)

8. antarāvadhako: antara + a + vadhako: inner + murderous

9. antarāpaccatthikā: antara +a + paccatthikā: inner + adverse, hostile

10. Antarāmalasutta, Catutthavaggo, Tikanipāto, Itivuttakapāḷi

11. Padhāniyaṅgasuttaṃ, Nīvaraṇavaggo, Dutiyapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Pañcakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo

12. Compare also the Padhānasuttaṃ, Apaṇṇakavaggo, Dutiyapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Catukkanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo for a a similar explanation: ‘‘Catūhi, bhikkhave, dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu apaṇṇakappaṭipadaṃ paṭipanno hoti, yoni cassa āraddhā hoti āsavānaṃ khayāya. Katamehi catūhi? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sīlavā hoti, bahussuto hoti, āraddhavīriyo hoti, paññavā hoti. Imehi kho, bhikkhave, catūhi dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu apaṇṇakappaṭipadaṃ paṭipanno hoti, yoni cassa āraddhā hoti āsavānaṃ khayāyā’’ti. – A Bhikkhu, if endowed with four qualities he has entered the assured path, from the very beginning designed for the destruction of impurities. What are the four? Here, Bhikkhus, the Bhikkhu is maintaining sīla, is well learned, upholds unyielding effort and is wise. Bhikkhus, if endowed with these four qualities a bhikkhu has entered the assured path, from the very beginning designed for the destruction of impurities.

13. samavepākin (adj.): promoting a good digestion

14. padhānakkhamāya: padhānakkhamāya: striving + suitable

15. asaṭho: a + saṭho: not + fraudulent, dishonest

16. amāyāvī: a + māyāvī: not + deceitful, deluded

17. āvikattā: one who manifests

18. anikkhittadhuro: a + nikkhitta + dhuro: not + laying down, casting off + burden

19. udayatthagāminiyā: udayattha + gāminiyā: rise + fall + path

20. Samayasuttaṃ, Nīvaraṇavaggo, Dutiyapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Pañcakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo

21. aṭavisaṅkopo: unrest in the forest, disturbance of bandits


Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.7.3

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Last modified: Tuesday, 9 August 2022, 7:49 PM