Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Numerical Discourses

Chapter 9: The Only Son

9. Notions of Desire

1. Thus I have heard:[1] 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, “In this assembly, I don’t see a single thing that produces notions of desire where there are none and increases notions of the desire that have arisen … produces anger where there is none and increases anger that has arisen … produces sleepiness where there is none and increases sleepiness that has arisen … produces agitation where there is none and increases agitation that has arisen … produces doubt where there is none and increases doubt that has arisen …

3. “One should contemplate the foul discharges and perceptions of impurity. If one becomes distracted,[2] then notions of desire will arise where there were none and notions of desire that have arisen will increase … anger … sleepiness … [agitation] … notions of doubt will arise where there were none and doubts that have arisen will increase.

4. “Therefore, monks, don’t become distracted and keep your thinking focused. Thus, monks, you should train yourselves.”

5. When the monks heard what the Buddha taught, they rejoiced and approved of it.


  1. This sūtra is similar to AN 1.11-15, but in AN it has been divided into five suttas, one for each hindrance. It may be that EĀ 9.9-10 and AN 1.11-20 are later divisions of an older sūtra in the same way that EĀ 9.7-8 and AN 1.1-10 appear to divide a single sūtra like T792.
    In AN 1.11-20, each sutta identifies a particular reason (P. nimitta) for a hindrance to arise or cease. EĀ 9.9-10 instead address all five hindrances in the context of contemplating the impurities, suggesting that the specific context of the hindrances being impediments to samādhi has been lost in the AN parallels.
    EĀ 9.9-10 are not without their own loss, however. Each appears to have suffered a lacuna, or unfortunate abbreviation, that omitted the conclusion of the initial “one thing” statement. When we reach the end of these sūtras, however, we find that the “one thing” appears to be distraction (亂想) and focused thought (專意), which generally agrees in meaning with “improper” (P. ayoniso) and “proper attention” (P. yoniso manasi) in the conclusions of AN 1.11-20. [back]
  2. becomes distracted. C. 作亂想. Lit. “make distracting perceptions” or “ideas.” The expression functions the same as English “to become distracted.” Technically, it means straying from the perceptions that are the subjects of the contemplation of impurity. In those moments of distraction, the five hindrances can arise or become stronger like a hunter catching his prey unaware, as the old Buddhist metaphor goes. This would appear to be a preparation for dhyāna meditation since the goal is to suppress the five hindrances. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 20 March 2023