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Tipitaka >> Sutta Pitaka >> Samyutta Nikaya >> Phena Sutta

SN 22:95 A Lump of Froth

Translated from the Pali by John D. Ireland

“At one time the Lord was staying at Ayojjhaya on the bank of the river Ganges. There the Lord addressed the Bhikkhus as follows: ’Suppose, Bhikkhus, a large lump of froth was floating on this river Ganges and a clear-sighted man were to see it, observe it and properly examine it. Seeing it, observing it, properly examining it, it would appear to him to be empty (ritta), unsubstantial (tuccha), without essence (asara). What essence, Bhikkhus, could there be in a lump of froth?

“In the same way, Bhikkhus, whatsoever body, past, future or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, that a Bhikkhu sees, observes and properly examines … it would appear to him to be empty, unsubstantial, without essence. What essence, Bhikkhus, could there be in body?

“Suppose, Bhikkhus, in autumn when it is raining in large drops a bubble arises and disappears on the water, and a clear-sighted man were to see it, observe it and properly examine it. Seeing it, observing it, properly examining it, it would appear to him to be empty, unsubstantial, without essence. What essence, Bhikkhus, could there be in a water-bubble?

“In the same way, Bhikkhus, whatsoever feeling, past, future or present … that a Bhikkhus sees, observes and properly examines … it would appear to him to be empty, unsubstantial, without essence. What essence, Bhikkhus, could there be in feeling?

“Suppose, Bhikkhus, in the last month of the hot season at midday a mirage appeared and a clear-sighted man were to see it, observe it and properly examine it. Seeing it, observing it, properly examining it, it would appear to him to be empty, unsubstantial, without essence. What essence, Bhikkhus, could there be in a mirage?

“In the same way, Bhikkhus, whatsoever perception … that a Bhikkhu sees, observes and properly examines … it would appear to him to be empty, unsubstantial, without essence. What essence, Bhikkhus, could there be in perception?

“Suppose, Bhikkhus, a man, needing sound timber, going about seeking, looking for sound limber, and, taking a sharp axe, should enter a forest and there see a large plantain tree, straight-trunked, young, of great height. And he were to cut it down at the root. Having cut it down at the root he were to chop off the top and remove the outer skin. On removing the outer skin he would find no soft wood, not to speak of sound timber. Then a clear-sighted man were to see it, observe it and properly examine it. Seeing it, observing it, properly examining it, it would appear to him to be empty, unsubstantial, without essence. What essence, Bhikkhus, could there be in a plantain tree?

“In the same way, Bhikkhus, whatsoever mental activities … a Bhikkhu sees, observes and properly examines … they would appear to him to be empty, unsubstantial, without essence. What essence, Bhikkhus, could there be in mental activities?

“Suppose, Bhikkhus, a magician or a magician’s assistant should produce an illusion on the high road and a clear-sighted man were to see it, observe it and properly examine it. Seeing it, observing it, properly examining it, it would appear to him to be empty, unsubstantial, without essence. What essence, Bhikkhus, could there be in a magical illusion?

“In the same way, Bhikkhus, whatsoever consciousness … a Bhikkhu sees, observes and properly examines … it would appear to him to be empty, unsubstantial, without essence. What essence, Bhikkhus, could there be in consciousness?

“So seeing, the instructed noble disciple is dispassionate towards the body, towards feeling, perception, mental activities and consciousness. Being dispassionate he detaches himself, being detached he is released and in release is the knowledge of being released and he knows: ’Finished is birth, lived is the holy life, done is what had to be done, there is no more of this or that state.’”

So spoke the Lord and when he had so spoken the Happy One, the Teacher, added further:

“The body’s like a lump of froth, Feeling’s like a water-bubble, As a mirage is perception, As a plantain tree are activities, A magical illusion consciousness: So the Kinsman of the Adicca did illustrate.

“In whatever way it is observed And properly examined, Empty it is and unsubstantial, To him who sees it wisely.

“This body at the outset, Was taught by him of wisdom wide, When abandoned of three things Is cast aside, rejected: Life, warmth and consciousness, When body is bereft of these, Then thrown away it lies Insentient, mere food for others.

“Such is the fate of it, A prattling illusion, A murderer, it is called; No essence here is found.

“Thus should the aggregates be looked upon By a Bhikkhu of strong energy, Continually both day and night, Clearly aware and mindful.

“Let him leave behind all fetters, Make a refuge for himself and, As though his head were all afire, Act aspiring for the deathless state.”

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