MN 03-02-05- Bahu-Dhatuka Sutta

115 – The Many Kinds of Elements

§ 1. THUS HAVE I HEARD.
On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s Park. There he addressed the bhikkhus thus:
“Bhikkhus.” – “Venerable sir,” they replied. The Blessed One said this:

§ 2. “Bhikkhus,
whatever fears arise, all arise because of the fool, not because of the wise man;
whatever troubles arise, all arise because of the fool, not because of the wise man;
whatever calamities arise, all arise because of the fool, not because of the wise man.

Just as a fire that starts in a shed made of rushes or grass burns down even a house with a peaked roof, with walls plastered inside and outside, shut off, secured by bars, with shuttered windows; so too, bhikkhus, whatever fears arise.;.all arise because of the fool, not because of the wise man.

Thus: the fool brings fear, the wise man brings no fear;
the fool brings trouble, the wise man brings no trouble;
the fool brings calamity, the wise man brings no calamity.

No fear comes from the wise man, no trouble comes from the wise man, no calamity comes from the wise man. Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train thus:
‘We shall be wise men, we shall be inquirers.'” [62]

§ 3. When this was said, the venerable Ananda asked the Blessed One:
“In what way, venerable sir, can a bhikkhu be called a wise man and an inquirer?”
“When, Ananda,

  • a bhikkhu is skilled in the elements,
  • skilled in the bases,
  • skilled in dependent origination,
  • skilled in what is possible and what is impossible,
  • in that way he can be called a wise man and an inquirer.”
(THE ELEMENTS)

§ 4 . “But, venerable sir, in what way can a bhikkhu be called skilled in the elements?”
“There are, Ananda, these eighteen elements:

  • The eye element, the form element, the eye-consciousness element;
  • the ear element, the sound element, the ear-consciousness element;
  • the nose element, the odour element, the nose-consciousness element;
  • the tongue element, the flavour element, the tongue consciousness element;
  • the body element, the tangible element, the body-consciousness element;
  • the mind element, the mind object element, the mind-consciousness element.

When he knows and sees these eighteen elements, a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements.”1077

1077 :- The eighteen elements are defined at Vbh §§183-84/ 87-90 and are explained in detail at Vsm XV, 17-43.
Briefly, the mind element (mano-dhatu), according to the Abhidhamma, includes the consciousness that adverts to the five sense objects impinging on the five sense faculties (panca-dvara-vajjana-citta) and the consciousness that receives the object after it has been cognized through the senses (sampaticchana-citta). The mind-consciousness element (mano-vinnana-dhatu) includes all types of consciousness except the five sense consciousnesses and the mind-element.
The mind-object element (dhamma-dhatu) includes the types of subtle material phenomena not involved in sense cognition, the three mental aggregates of feeling, perception, and formations, and Nibbana. It does not include concepts, abstract ideas, judgements, etc. Though these latter are included in the notion of mind-object (dhammarammana), the mind-object element includes only things that exist by their own nature, not things constructed by the mind
.

§ 5 .”But, venerable sir, might there be another way in which a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements?”
“There might be, Ananda. There are, Ananda, these six elements:
the earth element,
the water element,
the fire element,
the air element,
the space element, and
the consciousness element.
When he knows and sees these six elements, a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements.”

§ 6.”But, venerable sir, might there be another way in which a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements?”
“There might be, Ananda. There are,
Ananda, these six elements:

  • the pleasure element,
  • the pain element,
  • the joy element,
  • the grief element,
  • the equanimity element, and the
  • ignorance element.

When he knows and sees these six elements, a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements.”1078

1078: These are defined at Vbh §180/85-86. The pleasure and pain elements are bodily pleasant and painful feeling; the joy and grief elements are mental pleasant and painful feeling; the equanimity element is neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling. MA says that ignorance is brought in because of its apparent similarity to the equanimity element

§ 7 . “But, venerable sir, might there be another way in which a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements?”
“There might be, Ananda. There are, Ananda, these six elements:

  • the sensual desire element,
  • the renunciation element,
  • the ill will element,
  • the non-ill will element, [63]
  • the cruelty element, and
  • the non-cruelty element.

When he knows and sees these six elements, a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements.”1079
[Vbh §183/86-87 defines these as the six corresponding types of applied thought (vitakka); see MN 19.2.]

§ 8 . “But, venerable sir, might there be another way in which a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements?”
“There might be, Ananda.
There are, Ananda, these three elements:

  • the sense-sphere element,
  • the fine-material element, and
  • the immaterial element.

When he knows and sees these three elements, a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements.”1080

1080 : MA explains the sense-sphere element as the five aggregates pertaining to the sense-sphere (kamavacara), the fine-material element as the five aggregates pertaining to the fine-material sphere (rupavacara), and the immaterial element as the four aggregates pertaining to the immaterial sphere (arupavacara).

§ 9. “But, venerable sir, might there be another way in which a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements?”
“There might be, Ananda.
There are, Ananda, these two elements:
the conditioned element and
the unconditioned element.
When he knows and sees these two elements, a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the elements.”1081
[MA: the conditioned element includes everything produced by conditions and is a designation for the five
aggregates. The unconditioned element is Nibbana
]

(THE BASES)

§ 10 .”But, venerable sir, in what way can a bhikkhu be called skilled in the bases?”
“There are, Ananda, these six internal and external bases:

  • the eye and forms,
  • the ear and sounds,
  • the nose and odours,
  • the tongue and flavours,
  • the body and tangibles,
  • the mind and mind-objects.1082

1082:- The twelve bases are defined at Vbh §§155-167/70-73 and explained at Vsm XV, 1-16. The mind base includes all types of consciousness, and thus comprises all seven elements that exercise the function of consciousness. The mind-object base is identical with the mind-object element.

When he knows and sees these six internal and external bases, a bhikkhu can be called skilled in the bases.”

(DEPENDENT ORIGINATION)

§ 11 .”But, venerable sir, in what way can a bhikkhu be called skilled in dependent origination?”1083

1083 :-On the terms in the formula of dependent origination,
The middle two truths as stated in the general formulation of the Four Noble Truths are actually telescoped versions of a longer formulation that discloses the origin and cessation of bondage in samsara. The doctrine in which this expanded version of the two truths is set forth is called paticca samuppada, dependent origination. In its fullest statement the doctrine spells out the origination and cessation of suffering in terms of twelve factors connected together in eleven propositions. This formulation, laid down schematically, will be found at MN 38.17 in its order of arising and at MN 38.20 in its order of ceasing. MN 115.11 includes both sequences together preceded by a statement of the general principle of conditionality
that underlies the applied doctrine. A more elaborate version giving a factorial analysis of each term in the series is presented at MN 9.21-66, and a version exemplified in the course of an individual life at MN 38.26-

40. Condensed versions are also found, notably’at MN 1.171, MN 11.16, and MN 75.24-25. The venerable Sariputta quotes the Buddha as saying that one who sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma and one who sees the Dhamma sees dependent origination (MN 28.28). According to the usual interpretation, the series of twelve factors extends over three lives and divides into causal and resultant phases. The gist of it can be briefly explained as follows.
Because of ignorance (avijja) – defined as non-knowledge of the Four Noble Truths – a person engages in volitional actions or kamma, which may be bodily, verbal, or mental, wholesome or unwholesome.
These kammic actions are the formations (sankhara), and they ripen in states of consciousness (vinnana) –
first as the rebirth-consciousness at the moment of conception and thereafter as the passive states of consciousness resulting from kamma that matures in the course of a lifetime. Along with consciousness there arises mentality-materiality (nama-rupa), the psychophysical organism, which is equipped with the sixfold base (salayatana), the five physical sense faculties and mind as the faculty of the higher cognitive functions. Via the sense faculties contact (phassa) takes place between consciousness and its objects, and contact conditions feeling (vedana).

The links from consciousness through feeling are the products of past kamma, of the causal phase represented by ignorance and formations. With the next link the kammically active phase of the present brought to light in the suttas. The middle two truths as stated in the general formulation of the Four Noble Truths are actually telescoped versions of a longer formulation that discloses the origin and cessation of bondage in samsara. The doctrine in which this expanded version of the two truths is set forth is called paticca samuppada, dependent origination. In its fullest statement the doctrine spells out the origination and cessation of suffering in terms of twelve factors connected together in eleven propositions. This formulation, laid down schematically, will be found at MN 38.17 in its order of arising and at MN 38.20 in its
order of ceasing. MN 115.11 includes both sequences together preceded by a statement of the general principle of conditionality that underlies the applied doctrine. A more elaborate version giving a factorial analysis of each term in the series is presented at MN 9.21-66, and a version exemplified in the course of an
individual life at MN 38.26-40. Condensed versions are also found, notably’at MN 1.171, MN 11.16, and MN 75.24-25.
The venerable Sariputta quotes the Buddha as saying that one who sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma and one who sees the Dhamma sees dependent origination (MN 28.28).
According to the usual interpretation, the series of twelve factors extends over three lives and divides into causal and resultant phases. The gist of it can be briefly explained as follows.

Because of ignorance (avijja) – defined as non-knowledge of the Four Noble Truths – a person engages in volitional actions or kamma, which may be bodily, verbal, or mental, wholesome or unwholesome. These kammic actions are the formations (sankhara), and they ripen in states of consciousness (vinnana) – first as the rebirth-consciousness at the moment of conception and thereafter as the passive states of consciousness resulting from kamma that matures in the course of a lifetime. Along with consciousness there arises mentality-materiality (nama-rupa), the psychophysical organism, which is equipped with the six-fold base (salayatana), the five physical sense faculties and mind as the faculty of the higher cognitive functions. Via the sense faculties contact (phassa) takes place between consciousness and its objects, and contact conditions feeling (vedana). The links from consciousness through feeling are the products of past kamma, of the causal phase represented by ignorance and formations. With the next link the kammically active phase of the present

Introduction 31
life begins, productive of a new existence in the future.
Conditioned by feeling, craving (tanha) arises, this being the second noble truth. When craving intensifies it gives rise to clinging (upadana), through which one again engages in volitional actions pregnant with a renewal of existence (bhava). The new existence begins with birth (jati), which inevitably leads to ageing
and death (jara-marana).
The teaching of dependent origination also shows how the round of existence can be broken. With the arising of true knowledge, full penetration of the Four Noble Truths, ignorance is eradicated. Consequently the mind no longer indulges in craving and clinging, action loses its potential to generate rebirth, and deprived thus of its fuel, the round comes to an end. This marks the goal of the teaching

“Here, Ananda, a bhikkhu knows thus:
‘When this exists, that comes to be;
with the arising of this, that arises.
When this does not exist, that does not come to be;
with the cessation of this, that ceases.

That is, with ignorance as condition, formations [come to be];
with formations as condition, consciousness;
with consciousness as condition, mentality-materiality; with mentality materiality as condition, the sixfold base; with the six-fold base as condition,
contact; with contact as condition,
feeling; with feeling as condition,
craving; with craving as condition,
clinging; with clinging as condition, [64]
being; with being 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.

‘”But with the remainder-less fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of formations;
with the cessation of formations, cessation of consciousness;
with the cessation of consciousness, cessation of mentality-materiality;
with the cessation of mentality-materiality, cessation of the six-fold base;
with the cessation of the six-fold base, cessation of contact; with the cessation of contact, cessation of feeling; with the cessation of feeling, cessation of craving; with the cessation of craving, cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of being; with the cessation of being, cessation of birth; 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.’ In this way, Ananda, a bhikkhu can be called skilled in dependent origination.”

(THE POSSIBLE AND THE IMPOSSIBLE)

§ 12 ,”But, venerable sir, in what way can a bhikkhu be called skilled in what is possible and what is impossible?”
“Here, Ananda, a bhikkhu understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that a person possessing right view could treat any formation as permanent – there is no such possibility.’1084
[1084 :-MA: A person possessing right view (ditthisampanno) is one possessing the view of the path, a noble disciple at the minimal level of a stream-enterer. “Formation” here is to be understood as a conditioned formation (sankhatasankhara), i.e., anything conditioned]

And he understands: ‘It is possible that an ordinary person might treat some formation as permanent – there is such a possibility.’
He understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that a person possessing right view could treat any formation as pleasurable there is no such possibility.‘1085

[1085 :-MA points out that a noble disciple below the level of arahantship can still apprehend formations as pleasurable with a mind dissociated from wrong view, but he cannot adopt the view that any formation is pleasurable.
Although perceptions and thoughts of formations as pleasurable arise in him, he knows reflectively that such notions are mistaken.]

And he understands:
‘It is possible that an ordinary person might treat some formation as pleasurable – there is such a possibility.’ He understands:
‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that a person possessing right view could treat anything as self – there is no such possibility.’
And he understands: ‘It is possible that an ordinary person might treat something as self – there is such a possibility.’1086

[1086:- In the passage on self, sankhara, “formation,” is replaced by dhamma, “thing.” MA explains that this substitution is made to include concepts, such as a kasina sign, etc.,
which the ordinary person is also prone to identify as self. However, in view of the fact that Nibbana is described as imperishable (accuta) and as bliss (sukha), and is also liable to be misconceived as self (see MN 1.26), the word sankhara may be taken to include only the conditioned, while dhamma includes both the conditioned and the unconditioned. This interpretation, however, is not endorsed by the commentaries of Acariya Buddhaghosa.
]

§ 13 . “He understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that a person possessing right view could deprive his mother of life -there is no such possibility.’1087 And he understands: ‘It is possible that an ordinary person might deprive his mother of life – there is such a possibility.’

[1087: This section distinguishes the ordinary person and noble disciple in terms of the five heinous crimes. MA points out that a noble disciple is in fact incapable of intentionally depriving any living being of life, but the contrast is made here by way of matricide and patricide to stress the dangerous side of the ordinary person’s condition and the strength of the noble disciple]

§ 14 . He understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that [65] a person possessing right view could deprive his father of life…could deprive an arahant of life – there is no such possibility.’
And he understands: ‘It is possible that an ordinary person might deprive his father of life…might deprive an arahant of life – there is such a possibility.’

He understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that a person possessing right view could, with a mind of hate, shed a Tathagata’s blood – there is no such possibility.’
And he understands: ‘It is possible that an ordinary person might, with a mind of hate, shed a Tathagata’s blood – there is such a possibility.’

He understands:
‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that a person possessing right view could cause a schism in the Sangha…could acknowledge another teacher1088

[1088: That is, could acknowledge anyone other than the Buddha as the supreme spiritual teacher.]

there is no such possibility.’ And he understands:
‘It is possible that an ordinary person might cause a schism in the Sangha…might acknowledge another teacher – there is such a possibility.’

§14 ‘He understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that two Accomplished Ones, Fully Enlightened Ones, could arise contemporaneously in one world-system – there is no such possibility.’1089

[1089 MA: The arising of another Buddha is impossible from the time a bodhisatta takes his final conception in his mother’s womb until his Dispensation has completely disappeared. The problem is discussed at Milinda Panha 236-39.]

§ 14 .And he understands: ‘It is possible that one Accomplished One, a Fully Enlightened One, might arise in one world-system – there is such a possibility.’ He understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that two Wheel-turning Monarchs
could arise contemporaneously in one world-system…It is possible that one Wheel-turning Monarch might arise in one world system there is such a possibility.’

“He understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that a woman could be an Accomplished One, a Fully Enlightened One – there is no such possibility.’1090 And he understands: ‘It is possible that a man might be an Accomplished One, a Fully Enlightened One – there is such a possibility.’

[1090:-This statement asserts only that a Fully Enlightened Buddha always has the male sex, but does not deny that a person who is now a woman may become a Fully Enlightened Buddha in the future. To do so, however, at an earlier point she will have had to be reborn as a man.]

§ 15. He understands:
‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that a woman could be a Wheel-turning Monarch.. .
that a woman could occupy the position of Sakka [66]…
that a woman could occupy the position of Mara…
that a woman could occupy the position of Brahma —
there is no such possibility.

‘ And he understands:
‘It is possible that a man might be a Wheel-turning Monarch…
that a man might occupy the position of Sakka…
that a man might occupy the position of Mara…
that a man might occupy the position of Brahma –
there is such a possibility.’

§ 16 . “He understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that an unwished for, undesired, disagreeable result could be produced from good bodily conduct…from good verbal conduct…from good mental conduct – there is no such possibility.’ And he understands:’It is possible that a wished for, desired, agreeable result might be produced from good bodily conduct.. .from good verbal conduct.. .from good mental conduct – there is such a possibility.’ “He understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that a person engaging in bodily misconduct [67].. .engaging in verbal misconduct…engaging in mental misconduct could on that account, for that reason, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world – there is no such possibility.’1091

In this passage the phrase “on that account, for that reason” (tannidana tappaccaya) is of prime importance. As the Buddha will show in MN 136 Maha Kamma Vibhanga Sutta , a person who engages in evil conduct may be reborn in a heavenly world and a person who engages in good conduct may be reborn in a lower world. But in those cases the rebirth will be caused by some kamma different from the kamma in which the person habitually engages. Strict lawfulness applies only to the relation between kamma and its result.

And he understands:
‘It is possible that a person engaging in bodily misconduct…
engaging in verbal misconduct.. .
engaging in mental misconduct might on that account, for that reason, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell – there is such a possibility.’

“He understands:
It is impossible, it cannot happen that a person engaging in good bodily conduct.. .
engaging in good verbal conduct…
engaging in good mental conduct
could on that account, for that reason, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell – there is no such possibility.’

And he understands:
‘It is possible that a person engaging in good bodily conduct…
engaging in good verbal conduct…
engaging in good mental conduct
might on that account, for that reason, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world.’
“In this way, Ananda, a bhikkhu can be called skilled in what is possible and what is impossible.”

(CONCLUSION)

§ 19 . When this was said, the venerable Ananda said to the Blessed One:

“It is wonderful, venerable sir, it is marvelous!
What is the name of this discourse on the Dhamma?”
“You may remember this discourse on the Dhamma, Ananda, as ‘The Many Kinds of Elements’ and as ‘The Four Cycles’1092 and as ‘The Mirror of the Dhamma’ and as ‘The Drum of the Deathless’ and as ‘The Supreme Victory in Battle.'”
1092 :The “four cycles” are the elements, the bases, dependent origination, and the possible and the impossible.

That is what the Blessed One said. The venerable Ananda was satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

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