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Aggivaccha Suttaṃ

(M.i.483)

A Discourse on Fire to Vaccha

Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi in Prince Jeta’s grove at the monastery of Anāthapiṇḍika. Then a wanderer of the Vaccha clan approached the Blessed One, [484] and having approached, exchanged friendly greetings. Having engaged in polite conversation he sat down at one side. Sitting there, the wanderer of the Vaccha clan said to the Blessed One:–

“How is it, friend Gotama, ‘The world is eternal, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama?”

“My view is not thus, ‘The world is eternal, only this is true, all else is vain.”

“How is it, friend Gotama, ‘The world is not eternal, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama?”

“My view is not thus, ‘The world is not eternal, only this is true, all else is vain.”

“How is it, friend Gotama, ‘The world is infinite, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama?”

“My view is not thus, ‘The world is infinite, only this is true, all else is vain.”

“How is it, friend Gotama, ‘The world is finite, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama?”

“My view is not thus, ‘The world is finite, only this is true, all else is vain.”

“How is it, friend Gotama, ‘The soul and the body are the same thing, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama?”

“My view is not thus, ‘The soul and the body are the same thing, only this is true, all else is vain.”

“How is it, friend Gotama, ‘The soul and the body are different things, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama?”

“My view is not thus, ‘The soul and the body are different things, only this is true, all else is vain.”

“How is it, friend Gotama, ‘Does the Tathāgata exist after death, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama?”

“My view is not thus, ‘The Tathāgata exists after death, only this is true, all else is vain.”

“How is it, friend Gotama, ‘Does the Tathāgata not exist after death, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama?”

“My view is not thus, ‘The Tathāgata does not exist after death, only this is true, all else is vain.”

“How is it, friend Gotama, ‘Does the Tathāgata both exist and not exist after death, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama?”

“My view is not thus, ‘The Tathāgata both exists and does not exist after death, only this is true, all else is vain.” [485]

“How is it, friend Gotama, ‘Does the Tathāgata neither exist nor not exist after death, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama?”

“My view is not thus, ‘The Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist after death, only this is true, all else is vain.”

“How is it, friend Gotama, when asked ‘The world is eternal, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama … ‘Does the Tathāgata neither exist nor not exist after death, only this is true, all else is vain,’ is this the view of the good Gotama? he answers, ‘My view is not thus.’ What danger does friend Gotama see that he does not accept any of these views?”

“Vaccha, accepting the view ‘The world is eternal,’ is grasping a view, a wilderness of views, a wriggling of views, a struggle of views, a fetter of views, that is beset with suffering, vexation, despair, passion. It does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, tranquillity, higher knowledge, enlightenment, nor to cessation. Seeing this danger, Vaccha, I do not accept these views.

“Vaccha, accepting the view ‘The world is not eternal,’ … ‘The world is infinite,’ … ‘The world is finite,’ … ‘The soul and the body are the same thing,’ … ‘The soul and the body are different things,’ … ‘The Tathāgata exists after death,’ [486] … ‘The Tathāgata does not exist after death,’ … ‘The Tathāgata both exists and does not exist after death,’ … ‘The Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist after death,’ is grasping a view, a wilderness of views, a wriggling of views, a struggle of views, a fetter of views, that is beset with suffering, vexation, despair, passion. It does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, tranquillity, higher knowledge, enlightenment, nor to cessation. Seeing this danger, Vaccha, I do not accept these views.”

“Then does the good Gotama hold any view at all?”

“Holding onto views, Vaccha, has been dispelled by the Tathāgata. This has been seen, Vaccha, by the Tathāgata — ‘Thus is form, thus is the origin of form, thus is its disappearance; thus is feeling, thus is the origin of feeling, thus is its disappearance; thus is perception, thus is the origin of perception, thus is its disappearance; thus are mental formations, thus are the origin of mental formations, thus is their disappearance; thus is consciousness, thus is the origin of consciousness, thus is its disappearance. Therefore, with the destruction, dispassion, cessation, giving up, relinquishing of all illusions, all speculations, all ‘I-making,’ all ‘mine-making,’ and the latent tendency to conceit, I declare that the Tathāgata is liberated by not clinging.”

“When, good Gotama, a monk’s mind is liberated thus, where is he reborn?” “Reborn, Vaccha, does not apply.”

“Then is he not reborn?” “Not reborn, Vaccha, does not apply.”

“Then is he both reborn and not reborn?” “Both reborn and not reborn, Vaccha, does not apply.”

“Then is he neither reborn nor not reborn?” “Neither reborn nor not reborn, Vaccha, does not apply.”

“When thus asked about the rebirth of one of liberated mind, the good Gotama replies [in each case] that this does not apply. [487] Herein, good Gotama, I meet with unknowing and confusion. Whatever confidence I had in the good Gotama from the previous friendly conversation is now gone.”

“It is proper, Vaccha, that you are unknowing and confused. This teaching is deep, Vaccha, difficult to see (duddaso), difficult to realise (duranobodho), peaceful (santo), excellent (paṇīto), beyond logical reasoning (atakkāvacaro), subtle (nipuṇo), to be experienced by the wise (paṇḍitavedanīyo). It is difficult for you to understand as you hold a different view, belong to another faith, depend on another’s influence, practise a different discipline, and have a different teacher.

“I will ask you, Vaccha, a counter-question; please answer however you see fit. What do you think, Vaccha, if a fire was burning in front of you, would you know: ‘This fire is burning in front of me’?” “If, good Gotama, a fire was burning in front of me, I would know: ‘This fire is burning in front of me.”

“If then, Vaccha, you were asked: ‘Dependent on what is this fire burning?’ how would you reply?” “If, good Gotama, I was asked: ‘Dependent on what is this fire burning?’ I would reply: ‘This fire that is burning in front of me is burning dependent on grass and sticks’.”

“If, Vaccha, that fire burning in front of you were to go out, would you know: ‘This fire that was burning in front of me has gone out’?” “If, good Gotama, the fire burning in front of me were to go out, I would know: ‘This fire that was burning in front of me has gone out’.”

“If then, Vaccha, you were asked: ‘That fire in front of you that has gone out, in which direction has it gone — east (puratthimaṃ), south (dakkhiṇaṃ), west (pacchimaṃ), or north (uttaraṃ)?’ how would you reply?” “It does not apply, good Gotama. That fire, good Gotama, that was burning dependent on grass and sticks no longer burns because the fuel is consumed, and without getting any more fuel it is reckoned as having gone out.”

“Thus also, Vaccha, by whatever material form the Tathāgata might be described, he has abandoned it, cut it off at the root, made it like a palm-tree stump, made becoming cease entirely by which there might be any future arising. Liberated from reckoning by material form, Vaccha, the Tathāgata is profound, immeasurable, difficult to fathom like the great ocean. ‘Exists after death’ does not apply; ‘does not exist after death’ does not apply, [488] ‘both exists and does not exist after death’ does not apply; ‘neither exists nor does not exist after death’ does not apply.

“By whatever feeling the Tathāgata might be described, he has abandoned it, cut it off at the root, made it like a palm-tree stump, made becoming cease entirely by which there might be future arising. Liberated from reckoning by feeling … by perception … by mental formations … by consciousness Vaccha, the Tathāgata is profound, immeasurable, difficult to fathom like the great ocean. ‘Exists after death’ does not apply; ‘does not exist after death’ does not apply, ‘both exists and does not exist after death’ does not apply; ‘neither exists nor does not exist after death’ does not apply.”

When this was said, the wanderer of the Vaccha clan said to the Blessed One:– “It is as if, good Gotama, not far from a village or a market town there was a great Sāl tree. In time it would become divest of its branches and leaves, its bark and outer wood, it would be stripped bare with only its heartwood remaining; thus the discourse of the good Gotama is divest of branches and leaves, bark and outer wood, with only the heartwood remaining. It is wonderful, good Gotama! It is marvellous, good Gotama! It is as if, good Gotama, someone had set upright what had been overturned, revealed what was hidden, pointed out the path to one who was lost, brought a light into the darkness [489] so that those with eyes can see. Thus, the good Gotama has explained the Dhamma in various ways. I go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha. May the Blessed One regard me as a disciple who has taken refuge from today for as long as I shall live.”


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