Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

13. The Great Method of Conditionality

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was staying in Kuru at Kalmāṣa’s Residence.[2] He was accompanied by a large assembly of 1,250 monks.

Ānanda’s Question

2. It was then that Ānanda was staying in a quiet place and thought, “Amazing! Extraordinary! The twelve dependent originations that are taught by the Bhagavān are the light of the teaching![3] They are profound and difficult to understand, but my mind observes them as though they were right in front of my eyes. Why are they so profound?”

3. Ānanda then emerged from his quiet room, went to the Bhagavān, bowed his head at his feet, and sat to one side. He said to the Bhagavān, “I was in a quiet room and thought to myself, ‘Amazing! Extraordinary! The twelve dependent originations that are taught by the Bhagavān are the light of the teaching! They are profound and difficult to understand, but my mind observes them as though they were right in front of my eyes. Why are they so profound?’”

4. The Bhagavān then told Ānanda, “Stop, stop! Don’t say, ‘The twelve dependent originations are the light of the teaching. They are profound and difficult to understand.’ Ānanda, these twelve dependent originations are difficult to see and difficult to know. Dependent origination is unknown to the gods, Māra, Brahmā, ascetics, and priests. If they were to ponder, investigate, and discern its meaning, they would become confused, being unable to see it.

The Dependent Origination of Suffering

5. “Ānanda, I’ll discuss it with you now. There’s a condition for old age and death. Suppose someone were to ask, ‘What’s the condition for old age and death?’ They should be answered, ‘Birth is the condition for old age and death.’

6. “Suppose they also ask, ‘What’s the condition for birth?’ They should be answered, ‘Existence is the condition for birth.’

7. “Suppose they also ask, ‘What’s the condition for existence?’ They should be answered, ‘Grasping is the condition for existence.’

8. “Suppose they also ask, ‘What’s the condition for grasping?’ They should be answered, ‘Craving is the condition for grasping.’

9. “Suppose they also ask, ‘What’s the condition for craving?’ They should be answered, ‘Feeling is the condition for craving.’

10. “Suppose they also asked, ‘What’s the condition for feeling?’ They should be answered, ‘Contact is the condition for feeling.’

11. “Suppose they also ask, ‘What’s the condition for contact?’ They should be answered, ‘The six sense fields are the condition for contact.’

12. “Suppose they also ask, ‘What’s the condition for the six sense fields?’ They should be answered, ‘Name and form are the condition for the six sense fields.’

13. “Suppose they also ask, ‘What’s the condition for name and form?’ They should be answered, ‘Consciousness is the condition for name and form.’

14. “Suppose they also ask, ‘What’s the condition for consciousness?’ They should be answered, ‘Action is the condition for consciousness.’

15. “Suppose they also ask, ‘What’s the condition for action?’ They should be answered, ‘Delusion is the condition for action.’

16. “Thus, Ānanda, action exists conditioned by delusion. Consciousness exists conditioned by action. Name and form exist conditioned by consciousness. The six sense fields exist conditioned by name and form. Contact exists conditioned by the six sense fields. Feeling exists conditioned by contact. Craving exists conditioned by feeling. Grasping exists conditioned by craving. Existence exists conditioned by grasping. Birth exists conditioned by existence. The formation of the great calamity of old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, and suffering exists conditioned by birth. These are the conditions for this great mass of suffering.”

The Dependent Origination of Old Age and Death

17. The Buddha told Ānanda, “‘Old age and death exist conditioned by birth.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being was subject to birth. Would there be old age and death?”

Ānanda replied, “There wouldn’t be.”

18. “Therefore, Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know old age and death comes from birth. ‘Old age and death exist conditioned by birth.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

19. He also told Ānanda, “‘Birth exists conditioned by existence.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any existence in the desire realm or in the form or formless realms. Would there be birth?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

20. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know birth comes from existence. ‘Birth exists conditioned by existence.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

21. He also told Ānanda, “‘Existence exists conditioned by grasping.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any grasping of desires, views, precepts, or self. Would there be existence?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

22. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know existence comes from grasping. ‘Existence exists conditioned by grasping.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

23. He also told Ānanda, “‘Grasping exists conditioned by craving.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any craving for desires, existences, or non-existence. Would there be clinging?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

24. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know grasping comes from craving. ‘Grasping exists conditioned by craving.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

25. He also told Ānanda, “‘Craving exists conditioned by feeling.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any pleasant, painful, or neither pleasant nor painful feelings. Would there be craving?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

26. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know craving comes from feeling. ‘Craving exists conditioned by feeling.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

Dependent Origination of Weapons and Fighting

27. “Ānanda, you should know that seeking exists because of craving. Profit exists because of seeking. Use exists because of profit. Desire exists because of use. Attachment exists because of desire. Jealousy exists because of attachment. Guarding exists because of jealousy. Safeguards exist because of guarding. Ānanda, weapons, fighting, and the making of countless evils come from the existence of safeguards. That’s the meaning of what I said.

28. “Ānanda, what does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any safeguards. Would there be weapons, fighting, and the arising of countless evils?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

29. “Therefore, Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know weapons and fighting are produced from safeguards. ‘Weapons and fighting exist conditioned by safeguards.’ Ānanda, that’s the meaning of what I said.

30. He also told Ānanda, “‘Safeguards exist conditioned by guarding.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had anything to guard. Would there be safeguards?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

31. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know safeguards come from guarding. ‘Safeguards exist conditioned by guarding.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

32. “Ānanda, ‘guarding exists conditioned by jealousy.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any jealousy. Would there be guarding?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

33. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know guarding comes from jealousy. ‘Guarding exists conditioned by jealousy.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

34. “Ānanda, ‘jealousy exists conditioned by attachment.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any attachments. Would there be jealousy?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

35. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know jealousy comes from attachment. ‘Jealousy exists conditioned by attachment.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

36. “Ānanda, ‘attachment exists conditioned by desire.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any desire. Would there be attachment?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

37. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know attachment comes from desire. ‘Attachment exists conditioned by desire.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

38. “Ānanda, ‘desire exists conditioned by use.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had use [for anything]. Would there be desire?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

39. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know desire comes from use. ‘Desire exists conditioned by use.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

40. “Ānanda, ‘use exists conditioned by profit.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any profit. Would there be something to use?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

41. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know use comes from profit. ‘Use exists conditioned by profit.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

42. “Ānanda, ‘profit exists conditioned by seeking.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had [anything to] seeking. Would there be profit?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

43. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know profit comes from seeking. ‘Profit exists conditioned by seeking.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

44. He also told Ānanda, “‘Seeking exists conditioned by craving.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any craving. Would there be seeking?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

45. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know seeking comes from craving. ‘Seeking exists conditioned by craving.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

46. He also told Ānanda, “Seeking exists conditioned by craving up to guarding and safeguards. Feeling is likewise. Seeking exists because of feeling up to guarding and safeguards.

Dependent Origination of Feeling

47. The Buddha told Ānanda, “‘Feeling exists conditioned by contact.’ What does this mean? Suppose that there were no eye, form, and visual consciousness. Would there be contact?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

48. “Suppose that there were no ear, sound, or auditory consciousness … no nose, odor, or olfactory consciousness … no tongue, flavor, or gustatory consciousness … no body, touch, or somatic consciousness … no mind, notion, or cognitive consciousness. Would there be contact?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

49. “Ānanda, suppose that no sentient being had any contact. Would there be feeling?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

50. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know feeling comes from contact. ‘Feeling exists conditioned by contact.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

51. “Ānanda, ‘contact exists conditioned by name and form.’ What does this mean? Suppose that no sentient being had any name and form. Would there be mental contact?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

52. “Suppose that no sentient being had any physical form or appearance. Would there be physical contact?

“There wouldn’t be.”

53. “Ānanda, suppose that there were no name and form. Would there be contact?

“There wouldn’t be.”

54. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know contact comes from name and form. ‘Contact exists conditioned by name and form.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

55. “Ānanda, ‘name and form exist conditioned by consciousness.’ What does this mean? Suppose that consciousness didn’t enter the mother’s womb. Would there be name and form?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

56. “Suppose that consciousness entered the womb but didn’t come out. Would there be name and form?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

57. “Suppose that consciousness left the womb, but the infant perished. Would name and form grow?”

“It wouldn’t.”

58. “Ānanda, suppose there was no consciousness. Would there be name and form?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

59. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know name and form comes from consciousness. ‘Name and form exist conditioned by consciousness.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

60. “Ānanda, “‘Consciousness exists conditioned by name and form.’ What does this mean? If consciousness didn’t abide in name and form, then consciousness would have nowhere to reside. If it had nowhere to reside, would there be birth, old age, illness, death, sorrow, lamentation, and suffering?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

61. “Ānanda, if there were no name and form, would there be consciousness?”

“There wouldn’t be.”

62. “Ānanda, it’s for this reason that we know consciousness comes from name and form. ‘Consciousness exists conditioned by name and form.’ That’s the meaning of what I said.

63. “Therefore, Ānanda, name and form conditions consciousness. Consciousness conditions name and form. Name and form conditions the six sense fields. The six sense fields condition contact. Contact conditions feeling. Feeling conditions craving. Craving conditions grasping. Grasping conditions existence. Existence conditions birth. Birth conditions old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, and suffering, which forms the great mass of suffering.

Liberation by Wisdom

64. “Ānanda, this is the extent of language, the extent of answers, the extent of limits, the extent of explanations, the extent of wise observation, and the extent of sentient beings.

65. “Ānanda, when monks truly and correctly observe this [series of] principles, their minds will be uncontaminated and liberated. Ānanda, these monks should be called ‘those liberated by wisdom.’ Such a liberated monk also knows that the Tathāgata has an end, knows that the Tathāgata doesn’t have an end, knows that the Tathāgata has and doesn’t have an end, and knows that the Tathāgata neither has nor doesn’t have an end. Why?

66. “Ānanda, this is the extent of language, the extent of answers, the extent of limits, the extent of explanations, the extent of wise observation, and the extent of sentient beings. Thus, having fully known it, a liberated monk whose mind is uncontaminated doesn’t know or see such knowing and seeing [of those four alternatives].

The View That Feeling Is Self

67. “Ānanda, how many views are there that postulate a self? Name and form and feeling are both taken to be the self.

68. “Some people say, ‘Feeling is not self, but the self is feeling.’ Others say, ‘Feeling is not self, the self is not feeling, but what feels is the self.’ Others say, ‘Feeling is not self, the self is not feeling, and what feels is not self. Only craving [for feeling] is the self.’

69. “Ānanda, someone who has a view of self and says that feeling is self should be told, ‘The Tathāgata teaches that there are three feelings: Pleasant feelings, painful feelings, and feelings that are neither pleasant nor painful. When there’s pleasant feeling, there isn’t any feeling that’s painful or neither pleasant nor painful. When there’s painful feeling, there isn’t any feeling that’s pleasant or neither pleasant nor painful. When there’s feeling that’s neither pleasant nor painful, there isn’t any feeling that’s painful or pleasant.’

70. “Why is that? Ānanda, pleasant contact is the condition that gives rise to pleasant feeling. If pleasant contact ceases, the feeling also ceases. Ānanda, painful contact is the condition that gives rise to painful feeling. If painful contact ceases, the feeling also ceases. Contact that’s neither pleasant nor painful is the condition that gives rise to feeling that’s neither pleasant nor painful. If contact that’s neither pleasant nor painful ceases, the feeling also ceases.

71. “Ānanda, it’s like rubbing a pair of sticks together to start a fire. When each stick is put in a different place, there won’t be any fire. This is likewise. Because of the condition of pleasant contact, pleasant feeling arises. If pleasant contact ceases, both it and the feeling cease. Because of the condition of painful contact, painful feeling arises. If painful contact ceases, both it and the feeling cease. Because of the condition of contact that’s neither pleasant nor painful, feeling that’s neither pleasant nor painful arises. If contact that’s neither pleasant nor painful ceases, both it and the feeling cease.

72. “Ānanda, these three feelings are created and impermanent. They are things that arise from causes and conditions, that end, that cease, and that disintegrate. When truly examined with right knowledge, they are not possessed by self, and the self isn’t possessed by them. Ānanda, the view that takes feeling to be the self is incorrect.

The View That Self Is Feeling

73. “Ānanda, some have a view of self and say feeling is not self, but self is feeling. They should be told, ‘The Tathāgata teaches that there are three feelings: Painful feeling, pleasant feeling, and feeling that’s neither pleasant nor painful. If pleasant feeling were the self, then there would be a second self when that pleasant feeling ceases. This then is in error. If painful feeling were the self, then there would be a second self when that painful feeling ceases. This then is in error. If feeling that’s neither pleasant nor painful were the self, then there would be a second self when that feeling that’s neither pleasant nor painful ceases. This then is in error.’ Ānanda, some have a view of a self that says feeling is not self, but self is feeling. It’s not correct.

The View That Self Is What Feels

74. Ānanda, some who postulate a self make this statement: ‘Feeling is not self, and the self is not feeling, but what feels is the self.’ They should be told, ‘If everything is without feeling, how can you say there’s something that feels? Are you the thing that feels?’ The answer would be, ‘No.’

75. “Therefore, Ānanda, some postulate a self and say feeling is not self, and self is not feeling, but what feels is self. They are incorrect.

The View That Craving Is Self

76. “Ānanda, some postulate a self and make this claim, ‘Feel is not self, the self is not feeling, and what feels is not self. Only the craving is the self.’ They should be told, ‘If everything is without feeling, how would there be craving? Are you this craving?’ The answer would be, ‘No.’

77. “Therefore, Ānanda, some postulate a self and say feeling is not self, the self is not feeling, and what feels is not self, but craving is self. They are incorrect.

78. “Ānanda, this is the extent of language, the extent of answers, the extent of limits, the extent of explanations, the extent of wise observation, and the extent of sentient beings.

79. “Ānanda, when monks truly and correctly observe this [series of] principles, their minds will be uncontaminated and liberated. Ānanda, these monks should be called ‘those liberated by wisdom.’ Such a liberated monk will know the existence of the self, the non-existence of the self, both the existence and non-existence of the self, and neither the existence nor non-existence of the self. Why?

80. “Ānanda, this is the extent of language, the extent of answers, the extent of limits, the extent of explanations, the extent of wise observation, and the extent of sentient beings. Thus, having fully known it, a liberated monk whose mind is uncontaminated doesn’t know or see such knowing and seeing [of those four alternatives].”

Views That Self Is Form and Formless

81. The Buddha told Ānanda, “Some who postulate a self have reached the extent of certainty. Postulating a self, they might say, ‘Self is a little bit of form.’ They might say, ‘Self is a large amount of form.’ They might say, ‘Self is something little and formless.’ They might say, ‘Self is something large and formless.’

82. “Ānanda, those who say self is a little bit of form are certain that the self is a little bit of form: ‘This is my view of it; anything else is incorrect.’ [Those who say] the self is a large amount of form are certain that the self is a large amount of form: ‘This is my view of it; anything else is incorrect.’ [Those who say] the self is something little and formless are certain the self is something little and formless: ‘This is my view of it; anything else is incorrect.’ [Those who say] the self is something large and formless are certain the self is something large and formless: ‘This is my view of it; anything else is incorrect.’”

The Seven Abodes of Consciousness

83. The Buddha told Ānanda, “There are seven abodes of consciousness and two spheres. Ascetics and priests say, ‘These abodes are peaceful, saving, protecting, sheltering, lamps, lights, refuges, not false, and not afflicting.’ What are the seven?

84. “Some sentient beings have diverse bodies and diverse perceptions. These gods and humans are the first abode of consciousness. Ascetics and priests say, ‘This abode is peaceful, saving, protecting, sheltering, a lamp, a light, a refuge, not false, and not afflicting.’

85. “Ānanda, suppose that a monk knows the first abode of consciousness and knows its formation, cessation, enjoyment, trouble, and escape. Truly knowing it, Ānanda, that monk would say, ‘Truly knowing and seeing it, that’s not self, and the self isn’t that.’

86. “Some sentient beings have diverse bodies but the same perception. They are Brahmas of the Ābhāsvara Heaven … Some sentient beings have the same body but diverse perceptions. They are in the Ābhāsvara Heaven … Some sentient beings have the same body and the same perception. They are in the Śubhakṛtsnā Heaven … Some sentient beings reside in the abode of emptiness … Some sentient beings reside in the abode of consciousness … Some sentient beings reside in the abode of nothingness. This is the seventh abode of consciousness. Some ascetics and priests say, ‘This abode is peaceful, saving, protecting, sheltering, a lamp, a light, a refuge, not false, and not afflicting.’

87. “Ānanda, suppose that a monk knows the seventh abode of consciousness and knows its formation, cessation, enjoyment, trouble, and escape. Truly knowing it, Ānanda, that monk would say, ‘Truly knowing and seeing it, that’s not self, and the self isn’t that.’ These are the seven abodes of consciousness.

The Two Spheres

88. “What are the two spheres? They are the sphere without perception and the sphere that’s neither perception nor without perception … These are the two spheres, Ānanda. Some ascetics and priests say, ‘This abode is peaceful, saving, protecting, sheltering, a lamp, a light, a refuge, not false, and not afflicting.’

89. “Ānanda, suppose that a monk knows the two spheres and knows their formation, cessation, enjoyment, trouble, and escape. Truly knowing and seeing them, Ānanda, that monk would say, ‘Truly knowing and seeing it, that’s not self, and the self isn’t that.’ These are the two spheres.

The Eight Liberations

90. “Ānanda, there are also eight liberations. What are the eight? Form observed as form is the first liberation. Observing form externally without an internal perception of form is the second liberation. The liberation of purity is the third liberation. Going beyond perception of forms, ceasing perception of resistance, not attending to diverse perceptions, and abiding in the abode of emptiness is the fourth liberation. Going beyond the abode of emptiness and abiding in the abode of consciousness is the fifth liberation. Going beyond the abode of consciousness and abiding in the abode of nothingness is the sixth liberation. Going beyond the abode of nothingness and abiding in the abode of with and without perception is the seventh liberation. The samādhi of complete cessation is the eighth liberation.

91. “Ānanda, monks who traverse these eight liberations forward and backward, entering and exiting them at will, are monks who’ve attained liberation in both ways.”

92. When Ānanda heard what the Buddha taught, he rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. Parallels for this sutra include DN 15, MĀ 97, T14, and T52. [back]
  2. Kuru. Ch. 拘流沙, P. Kurūsu, Skt. Kuruṣu.
    Kalmāṣa’s Residence. Ch. 劫摩沙住處, P. Kammāsadamma, Skt. Kalmāṣadamya. [back]
  3. While this introduction presents the classic twelve links of dependent origination, there will only be ten links discussed later in the sutra. When we compare the introductions in the direct parallels, we find four different versions while the body of the sutra presents the same ten links. This suggests to me that the introduction is a later addition to an older sutra. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 25 April 2021