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Tipitaka >> Sutta Pitaka >> Anguttara Nikaya >> Three Sectarian Tenets

AN 3:61 Three Sectarian Tenets

Translated from the Pali by Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi


There are, O monks, three sectarian tenets which, if they are fully examined, investigated, and discussed, will end in a doctrine of inaction, even if adopted because of tradition. What are these three tenets?

There are, monks, some ascetics and brahmins who teach and hold this view: “Whatever a person experiences, be it pleasure, pain or a neutral feeling, all that is caused by past action.” There are others who teach and hold this view: “Whatever a person experiences … all that is caused by God’s creation.” And there are still other ascetics and brahmins who teach and hold this view: “Whatever a person experiences … is uncaused and unconditioned.”

(1) Now, monks, I approached those ascetics and brahmins (holding the first view) and said to them: “Is it true, as they say, that you venerable ones teach and hold the view that whatever a person experiences … all that is caused by past action?” When they affirmed it, I said to them: “If that is so, venerable sirs, then it is due to past action (done in a former life) that people kill, steal and engage in sexual misconduct; that they speak falsehood, utter malicious words, speak harshly and indulge in idle talk; that they are covetous and malevolent and hold false views. But those who have recourse to past action as the decisive factor will lack the impulse and effort for doing this or not doing that. Since they have no real valid ground for asserting that this or that ought to be done or ought not to be done, the term ’ascetics’ does not rightly apply to them, living without mindfulness and self-control.”

This, monks, is my first justified rebuke to those ascetics and brahmins who teach and hold such a view.

(2) Again, monks, I approached those ascetics and brahmins (holding the second view) and said to them: “Is it true, as they say, that you venerable ones teach and hold the view that whatever a person experiences … all that is caused by God’s creation?” When they affirmed it, I said to them: “If that is so, venerable sirs, then it is due to God’s creation that people kill … and hold false views. But those who have recourse to God’s creation as the decisive factor will lack the impulse and effort for doing this or not doing that. Since they have no real valid ground for asserting that this or that ought to be done or ought not to be done, the term ’ascetics’ does not rightly apply to them, living without mindfulness and self-control.”

This, monks, is my second justified rebuke to those ascetics and brahmins who teach and hold such a view.

(3) Again, monks, I approached those ascetics and brahmins (holding the third view) and said to them: “Is it true, as they say, that you venerable ones teach and hold the view that whatever a person experiences … all that is uncaused and unconditioned?” When they affirmed it, I said to them: “If that is so, venerable sirs, then it is without cause and condition that people kill … and hold false views. But those who have recourse to an uncaused and unconditioned (order of events) as the decisive factor will lack the impulse and effort for doing this or not doing that. Since they have no real valid ground for asserting that this or that ought to be done or ought not to be done, the term ’ascetics’ does not rightly apply to them, living without mindfulness and self-control.”

This, monks, is my third justified rebuke to those ascetics and brahmins who teach and hold such a view.

These, monks, are the three sectarian tenets which, if fully examined, investigated, and discussed, will end in a doctrine of inaction, even if adopted because of tradition.

Now, monks, this Dhamma taught by me is unrefuted, untarnished, unblamed, and uncensored by intelligent ascetics and brahmins. And what is that Dhamma?

“These are the six elements”—that is the Dhamma taught by me, which is unrefuted … by intelligent ascetics and brahmins

“These are the six bases of contact” … “These are the eighteen mental examinations” … “These are the Four Noble Truths”—that is the Dhamma taught by me, which is unrefuted, untarnished, unblamed, and uncensured by intelligent ascetics and brahmins.

Now on account of what was it said that the six elements are the Dhamma taught by me? These are the six elements: the elements of earth, water, heat, air, space, and consciousness.

Now on account of what was it said that the six bases of contact are the Dhamma taught by me? These are the six bases of contact: the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind as bases of contact.

Now on account of what was it said that the eighteen mental examinations are the Dhamma taught by me? These are the eighteen mental examinations: Seeing a form with the eye, one examines a form that may give rise either to joy, sadness, or indifference. Hearing a sound with the ear … Smelling an odour with the nose … Tasting a flavour with the tongue … Feeling a tactile object with the body … Cognizing a mental object with the mind, one examines an object that may give rise either to joy, sadness or indifference. These are the eighteen mental examinations.

Now, on account of what was it said that the Four Noble Truths are the Dhamma taught by me? Based on the six elements there is descent into the womb. Such descent taking place, there is name-and-form. With name-and-form as condition there are the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition there is contact; with contact as condition there is feeling. Now it is for one who feels that I make known, “This is suffering,” “This is the origin of suffering,” “This is the cessation of suffering,” “This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.”

What now, monks, is the noble truth of suffering? Birth is suffering; ageing is suffering; illness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are suffering; association with the unloved is suffering; separation from the loved is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.

And what, monks, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering? With ignorance as condition volitional formations come to be. With the volitional formations as condition, consciousness; with consciousness as condition, name-and-form; with name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, contact; with contact as condition, feeling; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, the process of becoming; with the process of becoming as condition, birth; with birth as condition, ageing and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. This, monks, is called the noble truth of the origin of suffering.

And what, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering? With the entire fading away and cessation of this ignorance, the volitional formations cease. With the cessation of the volitional formations, consciousness ceases. With the cessation of consciousness, name-and-form ceases. With the cessation of name-and-form, the six sense bases cease. With the cessation of the six sense bases, contact ceases. With the cessation of contact, feeling ceases. With the cessation of feeling, craving ceases. With the cessation of craving, clinging ceases. With the cessation of clinging, the process of becoming ceases. With the cessation of the process of becoming, birth ceases. With the cessation of birth, ageing and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering. This, monks, is called the noble truth of the cessation of suffering.

And what, monks, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering? It is just this Noble Eightfold Path, namely, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. This, monks, is called the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

These Four Noble Truths are the Dhamma taught by me, which is unrefuted, untarnished, unblamed, and uncensured by intelligent ascetics and brahmins.

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