The Numerical Discourses
Chapter 9: The Only Son
7. A Man’s Perception
1. Thus I have heard: One time, the Buddha was staying at Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park in Jeta’s Grove of Śrāvastī.
2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the monks, “I don’t see a single thing in this assembly so supreme and sublime that prevents the benighted worldly person from reaching eternal peace and chains them in a prison where they have no freedom. That is, when a man sees a woman’s form, he becomes attached to the perceptions it produces. A man’s mind craves and esteems it so much that it prevents him from reaching eternal peace and chains him in a prison where he has no freedom. His mind won’t abandon it, and then he goes round and round being reborn. In this world and the next, he circulates among the five destinies for numerous eons.”
3. The Bhagavān then spoke in verse:
“With Brahma’s gentle voice,
The Tathāgata says what’s hard to see.
Sometimes, when a man sees a woman,
His attention fixes to what’s before his eyes.
But don’t go with that woman,
For rebirth goes with her talk.
She hunts for a man with a net,
And keeps him from reaching the unconditioned.”
4. “Therefore, monks, one should abandon forms. Don’t become attached to the perceptions they produce. Thus, monks, you should train yourselves.”
5. When the monks heard what the Buddha taught, they rejoiced and approved.
- This sutra’s content is parallel with AN 1.1-5 and the first half of T792. It’s notable that these parallels appear to be evidence of dividing a single sūtra about men and women’s attraction to each other’s forms (T792) into two (EĀ 9.7-8), and then ten (AN 1.1-10), smaller sūtras. There appears to be little reason to do this other than to produce a larger number of sūtras. This pattern reaches its logical extreme in AN, where some sūtras appear to be divided into individual lines and phrases to produce whole vaggas at times. EĀ shows only minimal sūtra division by comparison. Mainly, pairs of sūtras were created from individual sūtras that juxtaposed two opposites or corollaries. This suggests that, in general, this version of EĀ represents an earlier stage of development than AN does, despite it’s inclusion of some later passages involving bodhisattvas. For more on the subject of multiplying sūtras in AN and EĀ, cf. Kuan and Bucknell. [back]
- for numerous eons. C. 動歴劫數. I suspect 動 (“to move, disturb”) is a typo for 更. Then, 更歷 (“to experience, undergo”) would make better sense in the passage. I’ve translated it assuming something to this effect was the case. [back]
Translator: Charles Patton
Last Revised: 3 March 2023