Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Related Discourses

1. The Aggregates

17. Cause and Condition

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was staying in the Kalandaka’s Bamboo Park of Rājagṛha. At the time, the Venerable Śāriputra and Mahākauṣṭhila was present on Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa.

2. In the afternoon, Mahākauṣṭhila got up from meditation and visited Śāriputra. They exchanged greetings and pleasantries, and then he sat to one side.

3. Mahākauṣṭhila then said to Śāriputra, “Sir, I would like to ask a question. Would you have a moment to answer it?”

Śāriputra said, “Sir, you may ask. I’ll answer with that I know.”

4. Mahākauṣṭhila then asked Śāriputra, “If a monk who has yet to attain direct realization wishes to pursue it, what method does he pursue? What teaching does he contemplate?”

Śāriputra replied, “If a monk who has yet to attain direct realization wants to pursue it, he diligently contemplates this: ‘The five acquired aggregates are like illnesses, abscesses, thorns, and killers. They are impermanent, painful, empty, and not self.’ Why is that? Because it’s appropriate for his situation. If a monk diligently contemplates the five acquired aggregates, he’ll realize the fruit of stream entry.”

5. Mahākauṣṭhila also asked, “Śāriputra, suppose someone wants to realize the fruit of once-returning after realizing the fruit of stream entry. What teaching should they contemplate?”

Śāriputra replied, “Kauṣṭhila, someone who wants to realize the fruit of once-returning after realizing the fruit of stream entry should also diligently contemplate this: ‘The five acquired aggregates are like illnesses, abscesses, thorns, and killers. They are impermanent, painful, empty, and not self.’ Why is that? Because it’s appropriate for their situation. If a monk diligently contemplates these five acquired aggregates, he’ll realize the fruit of once-returning.”

6. Mahākauṣṭhila also asked Śāriputra, “Suppose someone wants to realize the fruit of non-returning after realizing the fruit of once-returning. What teaching should they contemplate?”

Śāriputra replied, “Kauṣṭhila, someone who wants to realize the fruit of non-returning after realizing the fruit of once-returning should also diligently contemplate this: ‘The five acquired aggregates are like illnesses, abscesses, thorns, and killers. They are impermanent, painful, empty, and not self.’ Why is that? Because it’s appropriate for their situation. If a monk diligently contemplates [65c] these five acquired aggregates, he’ll realize the fruit of non-returning.”

7. Mahākauṣṭhila also asked Śāriputra, “Suppose someone wants to realize the fruit of the arhat after realizing the fruit of non-returning. What teaching should they contemplate?”

Śāriputra replied, “Kauṣṭhila, someone who wants to realize the fruit of the arhat after realizing the fruit of non-returning should also diligently contemplate this: ‘The five acquired aggregates are like illnesses, abscesses, thorns, and killers. They are impermanent, painful, empty, and not self.’ Why is that? Because it’s appropriate for their situation. If a monk diligently contemplates these five acquired aggregates, he’ll realize the fruit of the arhat.”

8. Mahākauṣṭhila also asked Śāriputra, “What teaching do they contemplate after attaining the fruit of the arhat?”

Śāriputra replied, “Mahākauṣṭhila, an arhat also contemplates this: ‘The five acquired aggregates are like illnesses, abscesses, thorns, and killers. They are impermanent, painful, empty, and not self.’ Why is that? Because he has attained what was yet to be attained, realized what was yet to be realized, and sees the teaching’s abode of happiness.”

9. When those two upright men each heard what was taught, they rejoiced and departed.

Notes

  1. This sūtra is parallel with SN 22.122-123 and EĀ 34.1. Note that the EĀ version matches the Pali in that “direct realization” isn’t mentioned. Instead, the initial question is about an “ethical” monk. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 6 April 2021