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The Connected Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

Chapter 12. Nidānasaṃyutta: Connected Discourses on Causation

VI. Suffering (or The Tree)

51 (1) Thorough Investigation
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus!”
    “Venerable sir!” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:
    “Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is making a thorough investigation, in what way should he thoroughly investigate for the utterly complete destruction of suffering?”
    “Venerable sir, our teachings are rooted in the Blessed One, guided by the Blessed One, [81] take recourse in the Blessed One. It would be good if the Blessed One would clear up the meaning of this statement. Having heard it from him, the bhikkhus will remember it.”
    “Then listen and attend closely, bhikkhus, I will speak.”
    “Yes, venerable sir,” the bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:
    “Here, bhikkhus, when he makes a thorough investigation, a bhikkhu thoroughly investigates thus: ‘The many diverse kinds of suffering that arise in the world [headed by] aging-and-death: what is the source of this suffering, what is its origin, from what is it born and produced? When what exists does aging-and-death come to be? When what does not exist does aging-and-death not come to be?’
    “As he thoroughly investigates he understands thus: ‘The many diverse kinds of suffering that arise in the world [headed by] aging-and-death: this suffering has birth as its source, birth as its origin; it is born and produced from birth. When there is birth, aging-and-death comes to be; when there is no birth, aging-and-death does not come to be.’
    “He understands aging-and-death, its origin, its cessation, and the way leading on that is in conformity with its cessation. He practises that way and conducts himself accordingly. This is called a bhikkhu who is practising for the utterly complete destruction of suffering, for the cessation of aging-and-death.
    “Then, investigating further, he thoroughly investigates thus: ‘What is the source of this birth, what is its origin, from what is it born and produced?… What is the source of this existence?… this clinging?… this craving?… this feeling?… this contact?… these six sense bases?… this name-and-form?… this consciousness?… What is the source of these volitional formations, what is their origin, from what are they born and produced? When what exists do volitional formations come to be? When what does not exist do volitional formations not come to be?’
    “As he thoroughly investigates he understands thus: ‘Volitional formations have ignorance as their source, ignorance as their origin; they are born and produced from ignorance. [82] When there is ignorance, volitional formations come to be; when there is no ignorance, volitional formations do not come to be.’
    “He understands volitional formations, their origin, their cessation, and the way leading on that is in conformity with their cessation. He practises that way and conducts himself accordingly. This is called a bhikkhu who is practising for the utterly complete destruction of suffering, for the cessation of volitional formations.
    “Bhikkhus, if a person immersed in ignorance generates a meritorious volitional formation, consciousness fares on to the meritorious; if he generates a demeritorious volitional formation, consciousness fares on to the demeritorious; if he generates an imperturbable volitional formation, consciousness fares on to the imperturbable. But when a bhikkhu has abandoned ignorance and aroused true knowledge, then, with the fading away of ignorance and the arising of true knowledge, he does not generate a meritorious volitional formation, or a demeritorious volitional formation, or an imperturbable volitional formation. Since he does not generate or fashion volitional formations, he does not cling to anything in the world. Not clinging, he is not agitated. Not being agitated, he personally attains Nibbāna. He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.’
    “If he feels a pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent’; he understands: ‘It is not held to’; he understands: ‘It is not delighted in.’ If he feels a painful feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent’; he understands: ‘It is not held to’; he understands: ‘It is not delighted in.’ If he feels a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understands: ‘It is impermanent’; he understands: ‘It is not held to’; he understands: ‘It is not delighted in.’
    “If he feels a pleasant feeling, he feels it detached; if he feels a painful feeling, he feels it detached; if he feels a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he feels it detached. [83]
    “When he feels a feeling terminating with the body, he understands: ‘I feel a feeling terminating with the body.’ When he feels a feeling terminating with life, he understands: ‘I feel a feeling terminating with life.’ He understands: ‘With the breakup of the body, following the exhaustion of life, all that is felt, not being delighted in, will become cool right here; mere bodily remains will be left.’
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, a man would remove a hot clay pot from a potter’s kiln and set it on smooth ground: its heat would be dissipated right there and potsherds would be left. So too, when he feels a feeling terminating with the body … terminating with life…. He understands: ‘With the breakup of the body, following the exhaustion of life, all that is felt, not being delighted in, will become cool right here; mere bodily remains will be left.’
    “What do you think, bhikkhus, can a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed generate a meritorious volitional formation, or a demeritorious volitional formation, or an imperturbable volitional formation?”
    “No, venerable sir.”
    “When there are utterly no volitional formations, with the cessation of volitional formations, would consciousness be discerned?”
    “No, venerable sir.”
    “When there is utterly no consciousness, with the cessation of consciousness, would name-and-form be discerned?”
    “No, venerable sir.”
    “When there is utterly no name-and-form … no six sense bases … [84] … no contact … no feeling … no craving … no clinging … no existence … no birth, with the cessation of birth, would aging-and-death be discerned?”
    “No, venerable sir.”
    “Good, good, bhikkhus! It is exactly so and not otherwise! Place faith in me about this, bhikkhus, resolve on this. Be free from perplexity and doubt about this. Just this is the end of suffering.”

52 (2) Clinging
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can be clung to, craving increases. With craving as condition, clinging [comes to be]; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, [85] a great bonfire was burning, consuming ten, twenty, thirty, or forty loads of wood, and a man would cast dry grass, dry cowdung, and dry wood into it from time to time. Thus, sustained by that material, fuelled by it, that great bonfire would burn for a very long time. So too, when one lives contemplating gratification in things that can be clung to, craving increases…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating danger in things that can be clung to, craving ceases. With the cessation of craving comes cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of existence … cessation of birth … aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, a great bonfire was burning, consuming ten, twenty, thirty, or forty loads of wood, and a man would not cast dry grass, dry cowdung, or dry wood into it from time to time. Thus, when the former supply of fuel is exhausted, that great bonfire, not being fed with any more fuel, lacking sustenance, would be extinguished. So too, when one lives contemplating danger in things that can be clung to, craving ceases…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.” [86]

53 (3) Fetters (1)
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, craving increases. With craving as condition, clinging [comes to be]; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, an oil lamp was burning in dependence on oil and a wick, and a man would pour oil into it and adjust the wick from time to time. Thus, sustained by that oil, fuelled by it, that oil lamp would burn for a very long time. So too, when one lives contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, craving increases…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating danger in things that can fetter, craving ceases. With the cessation of craving comes cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of existence … cessation of birth … aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, an oil lamp was burning in dependence on oil and a wick, and the man would not pour oil into it or adjust the wick from time to time. Thus, when the former supply of fuel is exhausted, that oil lamp, not being fed with any more fuel, lacking sustenance, would be extinguished. So too, when one lives contemplating danger in things that can fetter, craving ceases…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.” [87]

54 (4) Fetters (2)
(This sutta is identical with the preceding one except that in both the sections on origination and cessation the similes come first and their applications only afterwards.)

55 (5) The Great Tree (1)
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can be clung to, craving increases. With craving as condition, clinging [comes to be]…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, there was a great tree, and all its roots going downwards and across would send the sap upwards. Sustained by that sap, nourished by it, that great tree would stand for a very long time. So too, when one lives contemplating gratification in things that can be clung to, craving increases…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. [88]
    “When, bhikkhus, one dwells contemplating danger in things that can be clung to, craving ceases. With the cessation of craving comes cessation of clinging…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, there was a great tree. Then a man would come along bringing a shovel and a basket. He would cut down the tree at its foot, dig it up, and pull out the roots, even the fine rootlets and root-fibre. He would cut the tree into pieces, split the pieces, and reduce them to slivers. Then he would dry the slivers in the wind and sun, burn them in a fire, and collect the ashes. Having done so, he would winnow the ashes in a strong wind or let them be carried away by the swift current of a river. Thus that great tree would be cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that it is no more subject to future arising.
    “So too, bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating danger in things that can be clung to, craving ceases…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”

56 (6) The Great Tree (2)
(This sutta is identical with the preceding one except that in both the sections on origination and cessation the similes come first and their applications only afterwards.) [89]

57 (7) The Sapling
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, craving increases. With craving as condition, clinging [comes to be]…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, there was a sapling, and from time to time a man would clear the area around the roots, from time to time provide it with good soil, from time to time water it. Sustained by that care, nourished by it, that sapling would attain to growth, increase, and expansion. So too, when one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, craving increases…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “When, bhikkhus, one dwells contemplating danger in things that can fetter, craving ceases. With the cessation of craving comes cessation of clinging…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering. [90]
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, there was a sapling. Then a man would come along bringing a shovel and a basket. He would cut down the sapling at its foot … (as in §55) … he would winnow the ashes in a strong wind or let them be carried away by the swift current of a river. Thus that sapling would be cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that it is no more subject to future arising.
    “So too, bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating danger in things that can fetter, craving ceases…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”

58 (8) Name-and-Form
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, there is a descent of name-and-form. With name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases [come to be]…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, there was a great tree, and all its roots going downwards and across would send the sap upwards. Sustained by that sap, nourished by it, that great tree would stand for a very long time. So too, when one lives contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, there is a descent of name-and-form…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “When, bhikkhus, one dwells contemplating danger in things that can fetter, there is no descent of name-and-form. [91] With the cessation of name-and-form comes cessation of the six sense bases…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, there was a great tree. Then a man would come along bringing a shovel and a basket. He would cut down the tree at its foot … he would winnow the ashes in a strong wind or let them be carried away by the swift current of a river. Thus that great tree would be cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that it is no more subject to future arising.
    “So too, bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating danger in things that can fetter, there is no descent of name-and-form…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”

59 (9) Consciousness
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, there is a descent of consciousness. With consciousness as condition, name-and-form [comes to be]…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, there was a great tree, and all its roots going downwards and across would send the sap upwards. Sustained by that sap, nourished by it, that great tree would stand for a very long time. So too, when one lives contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, there is a descent of consciousness…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “When, bhikkhus, one dwells contemplating danger in things that can fetter, there is no descent of consciousness. With the cessation of consciousness comes cessation of name-and-form…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, bhikkhus, there was a great tree. Then a man would come along bringing a shovel and a basket. He would cut down the tree at its foot … he would winnow the ashes in a strong wind or let them be carried away by the swift current of a river. Thus that great tree would be cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that it is no more subject to future arising.
    “So too, bhikkhus, when one dwells contemplating danger in things that can fetter, there is no descent of consciousness…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.” [92]

60 (10) Causation
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Kurus, where there was a town of the Kurus named Kammāsadamma. Then the Venerable Ānanda approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him:
    “It is wonderful, venerable sir! It is amazing, venerable sir! This dependent origination is so deep and so deep in implications, yet to me it seems as clear as clear can be.”
    “Not so, Ānanda! Not so, Ānanda! This dependent origination is deep and deep in implications. It is because of not understanding and not penetrating this Dhamma, Ānanda, that this generation has become like a tangled skein, like a knotted ball of thread, like matted reeds and rushes, and does not pass beyond the plane of misery, the bad destinations, the nether world, saṃsāra.
    “Ānanda, when one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can be clung to, craving increases. With craving as condition, [93] clinging [comes to be]…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, Ānanda, there was a great tree, and all its roots going downwards and across would send the sap upwards. Sustained by that sap, nourished by it, that great tree would stand for a very long time. So too, when one lives contemplating gratification in things that can be clung to, craving increases…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.
    “When, Ānanda, one dwells contemplating danger in things that can be clung to, craving ceases. With the cessation of craving comes cessation of clinging…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.
    “Suppose, Ānanda, there was a great tree. Then a man would come along bringing a shovel and a basket. He would cut down the tree at its foot … he would winnow the ashes in a strong wind or let them be carried away by the swift current of a river. Thus that great tree would be cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that it is no more subject to future arising.
    “So too, Ānanda, when one dwells contemplating danger in things that can be clung to, craving ceases. With the cessation of craving comes cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of existence; with the cessation of existence, cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”
 

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© Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2000)

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