Lesson 3.3.4: Cintasuttaṃ (Thoughts to Be Avoided and to Be Performed)
Introduction to 3.3.4
(Thoughts to be Avoided and to be Performed)
Mā, bhikkhave, pāpake akusale vitakke vitakkeyyātha ……
Mā, bhikkhave, pāpakaṃ akusalaṃ cittaṃ cinteyyātha……
This sutta, describing the ten antinomies widespread during the time of the Buddha along with other micchadiṭṭhī (see lesson 3.2.10) proceeds with similar wording as the preceding one. So for the Pāli student this text should be a simple repetitive exercise.
Although by subject this Cintasuttaṃ - The Thought Sutta - could have been more appropriate placed among the lessons of the previous chapter it reveals once more how crucial it is to avoid unwholesome, diverting thoughts that lead away from the emphasis the Buddha has given for the realization of the Four Noble Truths. These antinomies had been so distracting to the dedication of some contemporaries of the Buddha that they even led them away from the practise of secluded meditation. The example of the Bhikkhu Mālunkyāputta depicts how overpowering and distracting ‘philosophical’ thoughts can become and can even provoke stopping all efforts for one’s progress. Thus the Bhikkhu Mālunkyāputa1 during solitude in his meditation was pondering thus: Atha kho āyasmato Mālukyaputtassa rahogatassa paṭisallīnassa evaṃ cetaso parivitakko udapādi – ‘‘yānimāni diṭṭhigatāni bhagavatā abyākatāni2 ṭhapitāni3 paṭikkhittāni4.” – these speculative views have been left undeclared, left aside and rejected by the Bhagava.” He then pondered discursively through all of the ten views and decided that he needed to go to see the Buddha and request clarification with the predetermined decision that, if the Buddha was not to explain these he would give up the holy life and return to the low life of a householder: – “……evāhaṃ sikkhaṃ paccakkhāya5 hīnāyāvattissāmī6’’. When he then presented his queries the Buddha replied that he had never invited anyone to join his teaching by expecting that these antinomies would ever be explained by him. He continued with a simile: a certain person wounded with an arrow heavily smeared with poison, rather than demanding that the arrow should be pulled out would instead start requesting explanations as to who shot this arrow, what was his name, what his complexion, where did he come from, from what material was the bow made, the bowstring, the feathers etc. And by the time these replies would have been given he would have passed away. Likewise anyone waiting for any explanation by the Tathāgatha about these views would wait and would eventually pass away unsatisfied. Then the Buddha underscores that anyone who would uphold any of these respective speculative views will not be able to live the holy life: “Sassato loko’ti, …… mālukyaputta, diṭṭhiyā sati brahmacariyavāso7 abhavissāti” The Buddha concluded his instruction with pointing out that he left all these undeclared because they are not conducive to the fundamentals of the holy life: “Kasmā cetaṃ, mālukyaputta, mayā abyākataṃ? Na hetaṃ, mālukyaputta, atthasaṃhitaṃ na ādibrahmacariyakaṃ na nibbidāya na virāgāya na nirodhāya na upasamāya na abhiññāya na sambodhāya na nibbānāya saṃvattati. Tasmā taṃ mayā abyākataṃ.” He then points that he has declared what is conducive to the holy life: “Kiñca, mālukyaputta, mayā byākataṃ? ‘Idaṃ dukkha’nti, mālukyaputta, mayā byākataṃ; ‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti – mayā byākataṃ; ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ti – mayā byākataṃ; ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti – mayā byākataṃ. Kasmā cetaṃ, mālukyaputta, mayā byākataṃ? Etañhi, mālukyaputta, atthasaṃhitaṃ etaṃ ādibrahmacariyakaṃ nibbidāya virāgāya nirodhāya upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati.” The Buddha then concluded not to get diverted by anything different from what he has declared and emphasized the importance of what he has declared: “Tasmā taṃ mayā byākataṃ. Tasmātiha, mālukyaputta, abyākatañca me abyākatato dhāretha; byākatañca me byākatato dhārethā 8”.
May these two suttas help to keep one focussed on the emphasis the Buddha has given in his teaching and to avoid distracting, irritating thoughts and wrong, unwholesome intentions!
2. abyākatāni: a + byākaroti: (pp): not + explained, undefined
3. ṭhapitāni: ṭhapeti (caus. /pp.) leave out, place aside
4. paṭikkhittāni: paṭikkhipati: (pp.) rejected, refused
5. paccakkhāya: paccakkhāti: (ger.) rejecting, abandoning
6. hīnāyāvattissāmī: hīna + ay + āvattissāmī: (fut.): low + return to
7. brahmacariyavāso: brahmacariya + vāso: holy life + living
8. dhāreti: bear in mind, hold up, keep
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