Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Medium Discourses

15. Intention

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha traveled to Śrāvastī and stayed at Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park in Jeta’s Grove.

2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the monks, “If an act is done intentionally, I say that person is sure to experience its result, whether in the present life or a later life. If an act is done unintentionally, I say it’s not sure that they’ll experience its result.

3. “Someone who intentionally does three physical acts that are unskillful with painful effects will experiences painful results … does four verbal acts … does three mental acts that are unskillful with painful effects will experience painful results.

4. “What are the three intentional physical acts that are unskillful with painful effects and bring painful results? First is killing beings. The height of evil is drinking blood, desiring to injure, and being unkind to sentient beings, even if they’re insects and worms.

5. “Second is taking what’s not given. Being attached to another’s valuables, that person steals them and intends to take them.

6. “Third is wrong sex. [A woman] might be guarded by her father, her mother, both her parents, her sister, her brother, her mother’s parents, her friend, or someone from the same clan. The woman violated might be someone else’s wife, someone who fears punishment, someone reputed to borrow flower garlands, or a friend.

7. “These are known as the three intentional physical acts that are unskillful with painful effects and bring painful results.

8. “What are the four intentional verbal acts that are unskillful with painful effects and bring painful results? First is false speech. It might be in an assembly, among followers, or with the king’s household. When someone’s questioned, ‘Tell us what you know,’ they say they know something that they don’t or that they don’t know something that they do. They say they saw something that they didn’t or that they didn’t see something that they did. Whether it’s for themselves, someone else, or something valuable, they knowingly speak falsely.

9. “Second is being duplicitous. Wanting others to be divided, they hear something here and tell it to others there wanting to damage the people here. They hear something there and tell it to people here, wanting to damage people there. Wanting to divide those who are united and further divide those who are estranged, they form cliques, delight in cliques, and commend cliques.

10. “Third is coarse speech. If someone’s words, expressions, or feelings are coarse and mean, bad sounding, disagreeable to the ear, displease many, aren’t loved by many, cause others to suffer, or make samādhi impossible, they speak such words.

11. “Fourth is frivolous speech. This is untimely speech, untrue speech, pointless speech, not Dharma speech, and non-stop speech. Again, it’s praising matters that aren’t calming, going against the occasion, unskillful teaching, and unskillful admonishment.

12. “These are known as the four intentional verbal acts that are unskillful with painful effects and bring painful results.

13. “What are the three intentional mental acts that are unskillful with painful effects and bring painful results? First is covetousness. Seeing another’s valuables and essentials for living, a person constantly pursues, hopes, and wishes, ‘May I obtain them.’

14. “Second is animosity. Bearing hatred in their mind, a person thinks, ‘That sentient being should be killed, bound, arrested, avoided, or chased away.’ That desire causes them to experience measureless suffering.

15. “Third is wrong view. A person’s views are mistaken, seeing it this way and saying, ‘There’s no giving, no observances, and no incantations. There are no good and bad acts, no results of good and bad acts, no present life or the next, and no father or mother. The world doesn’t have realized people who go to good abodes, who depart well and are headed well. Nor do they accomplish and dwell in their own knowledge, perception, and realization of this world and the next.’

16. “These are known as the three intentional mental acts that are unskillful with painful effects and bring painful results.

17. “A well-versed noble disciple abandons unskillful physical acts and cultivates skillful physical acts. They abandon unskillful verbal and mental acts and cultivate skillful verbal and mental acts. That well-versed noble disciple thus perfects their effort, precepts, and virtue. Accomplishing pure physical action and accomplishing pure verbal and mental action, they’re free of anger and quarreling. They shake off sleepiness, aren’t arrogant, end doubt, and are freed from pride.

18. “With right mindfulness and right knowledge, they lack foolishness. They accomplish and dwell in one direction pervaded with mind and kindness. They do this in two, three, and four directions, the four counterpoints, and up and down, pervading everywhere with their mind and kindness. Having no bonds, enmity, anger, or quarrel, they accomplish and dwell in pervading the whole world, [their mind being] broad and vast, measureless, and well cultivated.

19. “They have this thought, ‘This mind of mine was small and not well cultivated in the past, but now this mind of mine is measureless and well cultivated.’ The well-versed noble disciple’s mind thus is measureless and well cultivated.

20. “If, as a result of bad friends in the past, they’re careless in conduct and commit unskillful acts, the well-versed noble disciple won’t be led astray, can’t be defiled, and won’t follow them anymore. If a young man or woman is born and then practices this liberation of kindness, would they commit unskillful physical, verbal, and mental acts afterward?”

The monks answered, “No, Bhagavān. Why is that? They wouldn’t commit bad acts themselves, so where would [future] bad acts come from?”

21. “Therefore, this man or woman, whether living at home or having left home, will always diligently cultivate the liberation of kindness. If that man or woman, whether living at home or having left home, cultivates the liberation of kindness, they won’t keep this body when they go to another life. They’ll depart from here just according to their minds.

22. “A monk should think, ‘I’ve been careless in the past and committed unskillful acts. I might experience the results of all of them in the present instead of in a later life.’ If he thus practices the liberation of kindness and [his mind becomes] measureless and well cultivated, he’ll surely become a non-returner or another high attainment.

23. “Thus, having no bonds, enmity, anger, or quarrel, they accomplish and dwell in pervading the whole world with mind and sympathy … joy … equanimity, [their minds being] broad, vast, measureless, and well cultivated.

24. “They have this thought, ‘This mind of mine was small and not well cultivated in the past, but now this mind of mine is measureless and well cultivated.’ The well-versed noble disciple’s mind thus is measureless and well cultivated.

25. “If, as a result of bad friends in the past, they’re careless in conduct and commit unskillful acts, the well-versed noble disciple won’t be led astray, can’t be defiled, and won’t follow them anymore. If a young man or woman is born and then practices this liberation of equanimity, would they commit unskillful physical, verbal, and mental acts afterward?”

The monks answered, “The monks answered, “No, Bhagavān. Why is that? They wouldn’t commit bad acts themselves, so where would [future] bad acts come from?”

26. “Therefore, this man or woman, whether living at home or having left home, will always diligently cultivate the liberation of equanimity. If that man or woman, whether living at home or having left home, cultivates the liberation of equanimity, they won’t keep this body when they go to another life. They’ll depart from here just according to their minds.

27. “A monk should think, ‘I’ve been careless in the past and committed unskillful acts. I might experience the results of all of them in the present instead of in a later life.’ If he thus practices the liberation of equanimity and [his mind becomes] measureless and well cultivated, he’ll surely become a non-returner or another high attainment.

28. Thus did Buddha speak. Those monks who heard what the Buddha had taught rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. The direct parallels for this sutra include AN 10.217-219, EĀ 48.1. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 19 June 2022