074 Long Nailed Ascetic

MN 02-03-04
Dighanakha Sutta

Listen to Ajahn Brahmavamso’s Explanation

§ 1. THUS HAVE I HEARD.
On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Rajagaha in the Boar’s Cave on the mountain Vulture Peak.

§ 1. THUS HAVE I HEARD.
On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Rajagaha in the Boar’s Cave on the mountain Vulture Peak.

§ 2. Then the wanderer Dighanakha went to the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him.730 When this courteous and amiable talk was finished, he stood at one side and said to the Blessed One: “Master Gotama, my doctrine and view is this: ‘Nothing is acceptable to me.'”731

[730: Dlghanakha was Ven. Sariputta’s nephew. At the time he approached the Buddha, Sariputta had been a bhikkhu for only two weeks and was still a stream-enterer]

[731: MA holds that Dlghanakha is an annihilationist (ucchedavadin) and explains this assertion to mean: “No [mode of] rebirth is acceptable to me.” However, the text itself does not give any concrete evidence supporting this interpretation. It seems much more likely that Dighanakha’s statement, “Nothing is acceptable to me” (sabbamme na khamati), is intended to apply specifically to other philosophical views, and thus shows Dlghanakha to be a radical sceptic of the class satirically characterised at MN 76.30 as “eel-wrigglers”. His assertion would then be tantamount to a wholesale repudiation of all philosophical views.]

“This view of yours, Aggivessana, ‘Nothing is acceptable to me’ –
is not at least that view acceptable to you?”
“If this view of mine were acceptable to me, Master Gotama, it too would be the same, it too [498] would be the same.”732

[732 : This exchange, as interpreted by MA and MT, should be understood as follows: The Buddha suggests, by his question, that Dighanakha’s assertion involves an inherent contradiction. For he cannot reject everything without also rejecting his own view, and this would entail the opposite position, namely, that something is acceptable to him. However, though Dlghanakha recognises the implication of the Buddha’s question, he continues to insist on his view that nothing is acceptable to him.]

§ 3. “Well, Aggivessana, there are plenty in the world who say:
‘It too would be the same, it too would be the same,’ yet they do not abandon that view and they take up still some other view. Those are few in the world who say: ‘It too would be the same, it too would be the same,’ and who abandon that view and do not take up some other view.733

[733:- MA says that the first sentence refers to those who first take up a basic eternalist or annihilationist view and then subsequently adopt secondary variations on that view; the second sentence refers to those who abandon their basic view without adopting an alternative. But if, as seems plausible, Dlghanakha was a radical sceptic, then the Buddha’s statement might be understood to point to an unsatisfactoriness inherent in the sceptic’s position: it is psychologically uncomfortable to insist on remaining in the dark. Thus most sceptics, while professing a rejection of all views, surreptitiously adopt some definite view, while a few abandon their scepticism to seek a path to personal knowledge ]

§ 4 . “Aggivessana, there are some recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this:
‘Everything is acceptable to me.’
There are some recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this:
Nothing is acceptable to me.’
And there are some recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this:
Something is acceptable to me, something is not acceptable to me.‘734

[734:- MA identifies the three views here as eternalism, annihilationism, and partial eternalism. The eternalist view is close to lust {saragaya santike), etc., because it affirms and delights in existence in however sublimated a form; annihilatiohism is close to non-lust, etc., because, though involving a wrong conception of self, it leads to disenchantment with existence. If the second view is understood as radical scepticism, it could also be seen as close to non-lust in that it expresses disillusionment with the attempt to buttress the attachment to existence with a theoretical foundation and thus represents a tentative, though mistaken, step in the direction of dispassion ]

Among these, the view of those recluses and brahmins who hold the doctrine and view ‘Everything is acceptable to me‘ is close to lust, close to bondage, close to delighting, close to holding, close to clinging.

The view of those recluses and brahmins who hold the doctrine and view ‘Nothing is acceptable to me‘ is close to non-lust, close to non-bondage, close to non-delighting, close to non-holding, close to non-clinging.”

§ 5 when this was said the wanderer Dighanaka remarked”Master Gotama commends my point of view, Master Gotama recommends my point of view.”

” Aggivessana, as to those recluses and brahmins who hold the doctrine and view ‘Something is acceptable to me, something is not acceptable to me’ – the view of theirs as to what is acceptable is close to lust, close to bondage, close to delighting, close to holding, close to clinging, while the view of theirs as to what is not acceptable is close to non-lust, close to non-bondage, close to non-delighting, close to non-holding, close to non-clinging.

§ 6 . “Now, Aggivessana, a wise man among those recluses and brahmins who hold the doctrine and view ‘Everything is acceptable to me’ considers thus:735

[735:- MA: This teaching is undertaken to show Dlghanakha the danger in his view and thereby encourage him to discard it.]

‘If I obstinately adhere to my view . “Everything is acceptable to me” and declare: “Only this is true, anything else is wrong,” then I may clash with the two others: with a recluse or brahmin who holds the doctrine [499] and view “Nothing is acceptable to me” and with a recluse or brahmin who holds the doctrine and view “Something is acceptable to me, something is not acceptable to me.” I may clash with these two, and when there is a clash, there are disputes; when there are disputes, there are quarrels; when there are quarrels, there is vexation.’ Foreseeing for himself clashes, disputes, quarrels, and vexation, he abandons that view and does not take up some other view. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of these views; this is how there comes to be the relinquishing of these views.

§ 7. “A wise man among those recluses and brahmins who hold the doctrine and view ‘Nothing is acceptable to me‘ considers thus: ‘If I obstinately adhere to my view “Nothing is acceptable to me” and declare: “Only this is true, anything else is wrong,” then I may clash with the two others: with a recluse or brahmin who holds the doctrine and view “Everything is acceptable to me” and with a recluse or brahmin who holds the doctrine and view “Something is acceptable to me, something is not acceptable to me.” I may clash with these two, and when there is a clash, there are disputes; when there are disputes, there are quarrels; when there are quarrels, there is vexation.’ Foreseeing for himself clashes, disputes, quarrels, and vexation, he abandons that view and does not take up some other view. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of these views; this is how there comes to be the relinquishing of these views.

§ 8 “A wise man among those recluses and brahmins who hold the doctrine and view ‘Something is acceptable to me, something is not acceptable to me’ considers thus: ‘If I obstinately adhere to my view “Something is acceptable to me, something is not acceptable to me” and declare: “Only this is true, anything else is wrong,” then I may clash with the two others: with a recluse or brahmin who holds the doctrine and view “Everything is acceptable to me” and with a recluse or brahmin who holds the doctrine and view “Nothing is acceptable to me.” I may clash with these two, and when there is a clash, there are disputes; when there are disputes, there are quarrels; when there are quarrels, there is vexation.’ Foreseeing for himself clashes, disputes, quarrels, and vexation, he abandons that view and does not take up some other view. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of these views; this is how there comes to be the relinquishing of these views. [500]

§ 9. “Now, Aggivessana,736 this body made of material form, consisting of the four great elements, procreated by a mother and father, and built up out of boiled rice and porridge, is subject to impermanence, to being worn and rubbed away, to dissolution and disintegration. It should be regarded as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as a tumour, as a dart, as a calamity, as an affliction, as alien, as disintegrating, as void, as not self. When one regards this body thus> one abandons desire for the body, affection for the body, subservience to the body.

[736:- MA: At this point Dlghanakha has discarded his annihilationist view. Thus the Buddha now undertakes to teach him insight meditation, first by way of the impermanence of the body and then by way of the impermanence of the mental factors under the heading of feeling

§10. “There are, Aggivessana, three kinds of feeling: pleasant feeling, painful feeling, and neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling. On the occasion when one feels pleasant feeling, one does not feel painful feeling or neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling; on that occasion one feels only pleasant feeling. On the occasion when one feels painful feeling, one does not feel pleasant feeling or neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling; on that occasion one feels only painful feeling. On the occasion when one feels neither painful- nor-pleasant feeling, one does not feel pleasant feeling or painful feeling; on that occasion one feels only neither painful- nor-pleasant feeling.

§ 11. “Pleasant feeling, Aggivessana, is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, subject to destruction, vanishing, fading away, and ceasing. Painful feeling too is impermanent, conditioned, dependency arisen, subject to destruction, vanishing, fading away, and ceasing. Neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling too is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, subject to destruction, vanishing, fading away, and ceasing.

§12 “Seeing thus, a well-taught noble disciple becomes disenchanted with pleasant feeling, disenchanted with painful feeling, disenchanted with neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling. Being disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion [his mind] is liberated. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It is liberated.’ He understands: ‘Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.’

§ 13. “A bhikkhu whose mind is liberated thus, Aggivessana, sides with none and disputes with none; he employs the speech currently used in the world without adhering to it.”737

[737:- MA quotes a verse that says that an arahant may use the words “1” and “mine” without giving rise to conceit or misconceiving them as referring to a self or ego (SN l:5/i.l4). See too DN 9.53/i.202, where the Buddha says of expressions employing the word “self”: “These are merely names, expressions, turns of speech, designations in common use in the world, which the Tathagata uses without misapprehending them.”]

§ 14 . Now on that occasion the venerable Sariputta was standing behind the Blessed One, [501] fanning him. Then he thought:
The Blessed One, indeed, speaks of the abandoning of these things through direct knowledge; the Sublime One, indeed, speaks of the relinquishing of these things through direct knowledge.”
As the venerable Sariputta considered this, through not clinging his mind was liberated from the taints.738

[738:- MA: Having reflected on the discourse spoken to his nephew, Ven. Sariputta developed insight and attained arahantship. Dlghanakha attained the fruit of stream-entry.]

§ 15. But in the wanderer Dighanakha the spotless immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose:
“All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation.”
The wanderer Dighanakha saw the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma, understood the Dhamma, fathomed the Dhamma; he crossed beyond doubt, did away with perplexity, gained intrepidity, and became independent of others in the Teacher’s Dispensation.739

[739:- MA: Vision of the Dhamma (dhamma-cakkhu) is the path of stream-entry. The phrase “All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation” shows the mode in which the path arises. The path takes cessation (Nibbana) as its object, but its function is to penetrate all conditioned states as subject to arising and cessation.
.. The “Dhamma” referred to here is the Four Noble Truths. Having seen these truths for himself, he has cut off the fetter of doubt and now possesses the “view that is noble and emancipating and (which) leads the one who practises in accordance with it to the complete destruction of suffering” (MN 48.7).
]

§ 16 . Then he said to the Blessed One:
“Magnificent, Master Gotama! Magnificent, Master Gotama! Master Gotama has made the Dhamma clear in many ways, as though he were turning upright what had been overthrown, revealing what was hidden, showing the way to one who was lost, or holding up a lamp in the dark for those with eyesight to see forms.

I go to Master Gotama for refuge and to the Dhamma and to the Sangha of bhikkhus. From today let Master Gotama remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge for life.”

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