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Sabbāsava Suttaṃ

(M.i.6)

A Discourse on All of the Outflows

Introduction

This discourse explains seven different methods for getting rid of unwholesome mental states or outflows (āsavā). As a carpenter needs several different tools, a meditator needs to know how to pick the right tool for the job in hand. A translator should know how to use different translations according to context. Here, I have used “wisely” for “yoniso” in one context, but “systematically” in another context.

I have abbreviated the translation in places to avoid some repetitions that are not needed when writing.

Translation

Thus have I heard — On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi in Prince Jeta’s grove at the monastery of Anāthapiṇḍika. Then the Blessed One address the monk: “Monks.”

“Venerable sir,” the monks replied to the Blessed One.

Then the Blessed One said — “I will teach you the exposition on restraining all of the outflows.”

“Very good, venerable sir,” those monks replied to the Blessed One.

The Blessed One said —

“I declare, monks, that the destruction of the outflows ¹ (āsavā) is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know and does not see. What is known and seen by one in whom I declare the destruction of the outflows? Systematic attention ² (yoniso manasikāra) and unsystematic attention (ayoniso manasikāra). In one with unsystematic attention, monks, unarisen outflows arise, and arisen outflows increase. In one with systematic attention, monks, unarisen outflows do not arise, and arisen outflows are abandoned (pahīyanti).

“There are, monks, outflows that should be abandoned by vision (dassanā), there are outflows that should be abandoned by restraint (saṃvarā), there are outflows that should be abandoned by use (paṭisevanā), there are outflows that should be abandoned by endurance (adhivāsanā), there are outflows that should be abandoned by avoidance (parivajjanā), there are outflows that should be abandoned by dispelling (vinodanā), there are outflows that should be abandoned by cultivation (bhāvanā).

1. Outflows to Be Abandoned by Vision

“What, monks, are the outflows to be abandoned by vision? Here, monks, an unlearned ³ (assutavā) ordinary person (puthujjano) who has not met the noble ones (ariyānaṃ adassāvī),⁴ who is unskilled (akovido)⁵ in the teaching of the noble ones, untrained (avinīto) in the teaching of the noble ones, who has not met good men, who is unskilled in the teaching of good men, untrained in the teaching of good men, does not know the things that deserve attention, nor the things that do not deserve attention. Not knowing this, he pays attention to things that do not deserve attention and does not pay attention to things that deserve attention.

“What, monks, are the things not deserving attention to which he pays attention?

“Those things, monks, that if attended to, the unarisen outflow of sensual desire arises or the arisen sensual desire increases; the unarisen outflow of becoming arises or the arisen outflow of becoming increases; the unarisen outflow of ignorance arises or the arisen outflow of ignorance increases. He pays attention to these things not deserving attention.

“What, monks, are the things deserving attention to which he does not pay attention?

“Those things, monks, that if attended to, the unarisen outflow of sensual desire does not arise or the arisen sensual desire is abandoned;  the unarisen outflow of becoming does not arise or the arisen outflow of becoming is abandoned; the unarisen outflow of ignorance does not arise or the arisen outflow of ignorance is abandoned. He does not pay attention to these things deserving attention.

“By paying attention to things not deserving attention and by not paying attention to things deserving attention, unarisen outflow arise and arisen outflows increase.

“Thus he attends unsystematically: ‘Did I exist in the past? Did I not exist in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what did I become in the past? Will I exist in the future? Will I not exist in the future? What will I become in the future? How will I become in the future? Having become what, what will I become in the future?’ Or, he is perplexed about the present: ‘Do I exist? Do I not exist? What am I? How am I? From where has this being come? Where will it go in the future?

“As he thus attends unsystematically one of six views arises:⁶ the view ‘The self exists,’ is established as true; the view ‘The self does not exist,’ is established as true; the view ‘I perceive the self,’ is established as true; the view ‘I perceive not-self,’ is established as true; the view ‘I perceive not-self with self, is established as true; or some other view arises such as: ‘It is this self that speaks, feels, and experiences here and now the result of good and evil kamma, and this self is permanent, stable, unchanging, and eternal.’ This, monks, is called resorting to views (diṭṭhigata), the tangle of views (diṭṭhigahana), the obstructed path of views (diṭṭhikantāra), the wriggling of views (diṭṭhivisūka), the vacillation of views (diṭṭhiphanditaṃ), the fetter of views (diṭṭhisaṃyojanaṃ). Fettered by views, monks, the uninstructed ordinary person is not released from birth, aging, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair — I declare, is not released from suffering.

“Monks, the instructed disciple of the noble ones — one who meets the noble ones, learned in the teachings of the noble ones, well-trained in the teaching of the noble ones, who meets good men, is learned in the teachings of good men, well-trained in the teaching of good men — knows the things that deserve attention, and the things that do not deserve attention. Knowing this, he pays attention to things that deserve attention and does not pay attention to things that do not deserve attention.

“What, monks, are the things not deserving attention to which he does not pay attention?

“Those things, monks, that if attended to, the unarisen outflow of sensual desire arises or the arisen sensual desire increases;  the unarisen outflow of becoming arises or the arisen outflow of becoming increases; the unarisen outflow of ignorance arises or the arisen outflow of ignorance increases. He does not pay attention to these things not deserving attention.

“What, monks, are the things deserving attention to which he pays attention?

“Those things, monks, that if attended to, the unarisen outflow of sensual desire does not arise or the arisen sensual desire is abandoned;  the unarisen outflow of becoming does not arise or the arisen outflow of becoming is abandoned; the unarisen outflow of ignorance does not arise or the arisen outflow of ignorance is abandoned. He pays attention to these things deserving attention.

“By not paying attention to things not deserving attention and by paying attention to things deserving attention, unarisen outflow do not arise and arisen outflows are abandoned.

“He pays attention systematically: ‘This is suffering,’ ‘This is the arising of suffering,’ ‘This is the cessation of suffering,’ ‘This is the path leading to the cessation of suffering.’ By thus paying attention systematically three fetters are abandoned — personality-view, sceptical doubt, and adherence to rites and rituals. These monks, are called the outflows that should be abandoned by vision.”

2. Outflows to Be Abandoned by Restraint

“And what, monks, are the outflows to be abandoned by restraint? Here, monks, a monk reflecting wisely restrains the eye-faculty. The outflows, fever, and vexation that might arise if the eye-faculty is unrestrained do not arise in one who dwells with the eye-faculty restrained. A monk reflecting wisely restrains the ear-faculty … the mind-faculty. The outflows, fever, and vexation that might arise if the mind-faculty is unrestrained do not arise in one who dwells with the mind-faculty restrained.

“The outflows, fever, and vexation that might arise in one who dwells without restraint do not arise in one who dwells with restraint. These, monks, are called the outflows to be abandoned by restraint.”

3. Outflows to Be Abandoned by Use

“And what, monks, are the outflows to be abandoned by use? Here, monks, a monk uses the robes reflecting wisely ² — ‘Only for warding off cold and heat, to ward off gad-flies, mosquitos, wind, sun, and creeping things, only for the sake concealing the private parts ⁷ for modesty.’

“He uses almsfood ⁸ reflecting wisely, ‘Not for amusement (davāya), not for intoxication (madāya), not for smartening (maṇḍanāya), not for embellishment (vibhūsanāya), but only keeping the body healthy (yāpanāya), avoiding discomfort (vihiṃsūparatiyā), for supporting the holy life (brahma­cariyānug­gahāya), I will remove the former feeling [of hunger] and prevent the arising of new feelings, and I will be blameless (anavajjatā) and abide in comfort (phāsuvihāro).

“He uses the dwelling place reflecting wisely, ‘Only to ward off cold and heat, to ward off gad-flies, mosquitos, wind and sun, only for protection from the weather and for the sake of solitude.

“He uses medicinal requisites for the sick reflecting wisely, ‘Only for warding off arisen painful feelings ⁹ and for the sake of freedom from oppression.’

“The outflows, fever, and vexation that might arise in one who dwells without using the requisites do not arise in one who uses them. These, monks, are called the outflows to be abandoned by use.”

4. Outflows to Be Abandoned by Endurance

“And what, monks, are the outflows to be abandoned by endurance? Here, monks, a monk reflects wisely to endure cold, heat, hunger, thirst, the touch of gad-flies, mosquitos, wind, sun, and creeping things, to endure derogatory (duruttānaṃ) and disagreeable (durāgatānaṃ) speech, and arisen painful bodily feelings, sharp (tibbānaṃ), rough (kharānaṃ), severe (kaṭukānaṃ), disagreeable (asātānaṃ), displeasing (amanāpānaṃ), life-threatening (pāṇaharānaṃ), and unbearable (adhivāskajātiko).

“The outflows, fever, and vexation that might arise in one who dwells without endurance do not arise in one who endures. These, monks, are called the outflows to be abandoned by endurance.”

5. Outflows to Be Abandoned by Avoidance

“And what, monks, are the outflows to be abandoned by avoidance? Here, monks, reflecting wisely avoids a ferocious elephant, a ferocious horse, a ferocious bull, a ferocious dog, a snake, a tree stump, a thorny place, a pit, a precipice, a cesspit, or a refuse dump. Reflecting wisely, he avoids sitting in unsuitable seats,¹⁰ walking for alms in unsuitable places,¹¹ associating with evil friends such that his wise companions in the holy-life might suspect him of misconduct.

“The outflows, fever, and vexation that might arise in one who does not avoid what should be avoided do not arise in one who avoids them. These, monks, are called the outflows to be abandoned by avoidance.”

6. Outflows to Be Abandoned by Dispelling

“And what, monks, are the outflows to be abandoned by dispelling? Here, monks, a monk reflects wisely regarding a thought of sensuality that has arisen, he does not tolerate it (nādhivāseti), he abandons it (pajahati), destroys it (vinodeti), and crushes it (byantīkaroti), bringing it to cessation (anabhāvaṃ gameti). He reflects wisely regarding a thought of ill-will … cruelty … any evil unwholesome state that has arisen, he does not tolerate it, he abandons it, destroys it, and crushes it, bringing it to cessation.

“The outflows, fever, and vexation that might arise in one who does not dispel what should be dispelled are abandoned by one who dispels them. These, monks, are the outflows to be abandoned by dispelling.”

7. Outflows to Be Abandoned by Cultivation

“And what, monks, are the outflows to be abandoned by cultivation? Here, monks, a monk reflecting wisely develops the enlightenment factor of mindfulness, supported by seclusion, supported by dispassion, supported by cessation, maturing in relinquishment. Reflecting wisely he develops the enlightenment factor of investigation … energy … joy … tranquillity … concentration … equanimity, supported by seclusion (vivekanissitaṃ), supported by dispassion (virāganissitaṃ), supported by cessation (nirodhanissitaṃ), maturing in relinquishment (vossaggapariṇāmiṃ).

“The outflows, fever, and vexation that might arise in one who does not cultivate what should be cultivated are abandoned by one who cultivates them. These, monks, are the outflows to be abandoned by cultivation.

“When, monks, a monk has abandoned by vision those outflows that should be abandoned by vision, has abandoned those outflows by restraint that should be abandoned by restraint, has abandoned by use those outflows that should be abandoned by use, has abandoned those outflows by endurance those outflows that should be abandoned by endurance, has abandoned by avoidance those outflows that should be abandoned by avoidance, has abandoned by dispelling those outflows that should be abandoned by dispelling, has abandoned by cultivation those outflows that should be abandoned by cultivation; then, monks, he is called ‘A monk who dwells restrained by all of the restraints. He has cut off craving, untied the fetters,¹² perfectly understood conceit, and made an end of suffering.”

Thus spoke the Blessed One. Delighted, the monks rejoiced in what the Blessed One had said. (M.i.6)

Notes:

1. Āsavā is a difficult word to translate. See note 4 to the Kīṭāgiri Sutta.

2. Yoniso is given in the PTS Dictionary under the word heading Yoni (womb or origin) as meaning "Down to its origin or foundation," i.e. thoroughly, orderly, wisely, properly, judiciously.

3. Assutavā means literally one who has not heard. One can learn by listening to discourses, by being taught, or by reading the Buddha’s teachings for oneself. An ordinary person (puthujjana), refers to anyone who is not a Noble One (ariya), but here an unlearned ordinary person means someone who knows little or nothing about the true Dhamma.

4. Ariyānaṃ adassāvī means literally one who has not seen the Noble Ones, but how could anyone know if another was a noble one just by looking at them? The Buddha advised the Venerable Vammika: “One who sees the Dhamma sees me; one who does not see the Dhamma does not see me.” So, we should imply by this phrase that someone has met the Noble Ones and has understood the Dhamma at least to some extent. The rest of the passage makes this clearer, repeating the terms for good men (sappurisa), which also means good women of course. They may be noble ones or not, but they are learned and well-trained in the teachings.

5. Akovido: Unskilled. One may know the letter of the teachings, but not be skilled in practising them. Kovido is similar in meaning to wise (paṇḍita).

6. The Buddha’s teaching on not-self is often misunderstood and there are endless debates about this topic. When the wanderer Vacchagotta asked the Buddha directly if he had a self or not, the Buddha declined to answer, knowing that Vacchagotta was incapable of understanding the teaching. One should read the Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhaya Sutta and the Cūḷasaccaka Sutta. One should also practise insight meditation at least to the stage of knowledge of comprehension to gain direct insight into the truth of not-self. One should then be able to avoid these six wrong-views.

7. For concealing the private parts (hirikopīnap­paṭicchādanatthaṃ). Hiri means shame, kopīna is a loin-cloth, paṭicchādana means to conceal, atthaṃ means for the sake of. The robes should be worn to conceal more than just the private parts. When entering the village for alms, monks should cover both shoulders and tie the upper-robe with a toggle to prevent it blowing in the wind to reveal the under-robe. Within the monastery compound a monk should wear the upper-robe over one shoulder. While working, the upper-robe may be removed and put aside, but the upper body is still covered with a shirt. While bathing, a bathing cloth is used to cover the lower limbs.

8. This section on wise reflection while using the four requisites is explained in the Path of Purification: Vism.31-32. Neither for amusement: neither for the purpose of amusement, as with village boys, etc.; for the sake of sport, is what is meant. Nor for intoxication: not for the purpose of intoxication, as with boxers, etc.; for the sake of intoxication with strength and for the sake of intoxication with manhood, is what is meant. Nor for smartening: not for the purpose of smartening, as with royal concubines, courtesans, etc.; for the sake of plumpness in all the limbs, is what is meant. Nor for embellishment: not for the purpose of embellishment, as with actors, dancers, etc.; for the sake of a clear skin and complexion, is what is meant.

9. “Hunger is the greatest disease.” (Dhp v 203). The five tonics (ghee, butter, oil, honey, and sugar) are allowable for one who is sick, not for one who is not sick. The Vinaya rule allowing the five tonics was laid down by the Blessed One when some monks were suffering from jaundice and vomited their meals. They were thus famished and unable to abide in comfort. The tonics may be taken at any time for seven days after receiving them to alleviate hunger and weakness. Other medicines such as vitamins or antibiotics may be kept and used at any time for as long as they last.

10. He avoids sitting alone with women.

11. He does not go for alms in red-light districts, to pubs or bars, to kings or king’s ministers, to non-believers.

12. There are five lower fetters connected with the sensual realms: personality-view (sakkāya-diṭṭhi), sceptical doubt (vicikicchā), adherence to rites and rituals (sīlabbataparāmāsa), sensual desire (kāmacchanda), ill-will (byāpāda). There are five higher fetters: desire for realms of form (rūpa­rāga), desire for formless realms (arūparāga), conceit (māna), restlessness (uddhaccaṃ), and ignorance (avijjā).