Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Numerical Discourses

Chapter 11: The Non-Returner

7. Alms

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, “There was a person thinking in this assembly, and I fully knew it.[2] Afterward, it wasn’t possible for this person to eat their meal, for they had spoken falsely in the great assembly. On some other occasion, I examined this person, and they had become obsessed with thoughts about valuable things. Then, they spoke falsely to the great assembly. Why was that? Monks, obsessions with valuable things are very difficult to abandon. They cause people to fall to the three bad destinations and not reach the unconditioned state.

3. “Therefore, monks, one must abandon these thoughts that have arisen. If they have yet to arise, then don’t create anymore thoughts that are obsessed with valuable things. Thus, monks, you should train yourselves.”

4. When the monks heard what the Buddha taught, they rejoiced and approved.


  1. This sūtra and the next are very similar in subject and format to SN 17.11-20, but they don’t use specific examples of valuable things like gold and silver. [back]
  2. It should be noted that the C. translations garbled in the opening paragraphs of this and next the sūtra, but knowledge of their parallels makes it possible to sort out what the original said. For example, the opening line of this sūtra could easily be read to say: “If there’s a person in this assembly who thinks, ‘I fully know it’” (i.e., 若有一人而作是念:「我悉知之」). But the parallels make it clear that the Buddha was fully knew what the person was thinking. The nature of those thoughts isn’t described here, which may well be because of a loss of text. The situation is even more confusing in the next sūtra’s opening line because it doesn’t indicate who is thinking. On the other hand, it includes a description of the person’s thinking before they became obsessed with valuable things. Thus, between the two sūtras, we can more-or-less reconstruct what the opening lines said with help from the Theravāda parallels. Nonetheless, I’ve added as little as possible to the extant C. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 07 May 2023