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With Soṇa —Bhikkhu Sujato

Numbered Discourses 6

6. The Great Chapter

55. With Soṇa

1.1So I have heard. 1.2At one time the Buddha was staying near Rājagaha, on the Vulture’s Peak Mountain.

1.3Now at that time Venerable Soṇa was staying at Rājagaha in the Cool Wood. 1.4Then as he was in private retreat this thought came to his mind, 1.5“I am one of the Buddha’s most energetic disciples. 1.6Yet my mind is not freed from defilements by not grasping. But my family has wealth. I could enjoy that wealth and make merit. 1.7Why don’t I reject the training and return to a lesser life, so I can enjoy my wealth and make merit?”

2.1Then the Buddha knew what Venerable Soṇa was thinking. As easily as a strong person would extend or contract their arm, he vanished from the Vulture’s Peak and reappeared in the Cool Wood in front of Soṇa, 2.2and sat on the seat spread out. 2.3Soṇa bowed to the Buddha and sat down to one side.

2.4The Buddha said to him, 3.1“Soṇa, as you were in private retreat didn’t this thought come to your mind: 3.2‘I am one of the Buddha’s most energetic disciples. 3.3Yet my mind is not freed from defilements by not grasping. But my family has wealth. I could enjoy that wealth and make merit. 3.4Why don’t I reject the training and return to a lesser life, so I can enjoy my wealth and make merit?’”

3.5“Yes, sir.”

4.1“What do you think, Soṇa? 4.2When you were still a layman, weren’t you a good harp player?”

4.3“Yes, sir.”

4.4“When your harp’s strings were tuned too tight, was it resonant and playable?”

4.5“No, sir.”

5.1“When your harp’s strings were tuned too slack, was it resonant and playable?”

5.2“No, sir.”

6.1“But when your harp’s strings were tuned neither too tight nor too slack, but fixed at an even tension, was it resonant and playable?”

6.2“Yes, sir.”

7.1“In the same way, Soṇa, when energy is too forceful it leads to restlessness. When energy is too slack it leads to laziness. 7.2So, Soṇa, you should apply yourself to energy and serenity, find a balance of the faculties, and learn the pattern of this situation.”

7.3“Yes, sir,” Soṇa replied.

7.4After advising Soṇa like this, the Buddha, as easily as a strong person would extend or contract their arm, vanished from the Cool Wood and reappeared on the Vulture’s Peak.

8.1After some time Soṇa applied himself to energy and serenity, found a balance of the faculties, and learned the pattern of this situation. 8.2Then Soṇa, living alone, withdrawn, diligent, keen, and resolute, soon realized the supreme culmination of the spiritual path in this very life. He lived having achieved with his own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.

8.3He understood: “Rebirth is ended; the spiritual journey has been completed; what had to be done has been done; there is no return to any state of existence.” 8.4And Venerable Soṇa became one of the perfected.

9.1Then, when Soṇa had attained perfection, he thought, 9.2“Why don’t I go to the Buddha and declare my enlightenment in his presence?” 9.3Then Soṇa went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him:

10.1“Sir, a mendicant who is perfected—with defilements ended, who has completed the spiritual journey, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, achieved their own true goal, utterly ended the fetters of rebirth, and is rightly freed through enlightenment—is dedicated to six things. 10.2They are dedicated to renunciation, seclusion, kindness, the ending of craving, the ending of grasping, and mental clarity.

11.1It may be, sir, that one of the venerables here thinks: 11.2‘Maybe this venerable is dedicated to renunciation solely out of mere faith.’ 11.3But it should not be seen like this. 11.4A mendicant with defilements ended does not see in themselves anything more to do, or anything that needs improvement. They’re dedicated to renunciation because they’re free of greed, hate, and delusion with the end of greed, hate, and delusion.

12.1It may be, sir, that one of the venerables here thinks: 12.2‘Maybe this venerable is dedicated to seclusion because they enjoy possessions, honor, and popularity.’ 12.3But it should not be seen like this. … 12.4

13.1It may be, sir, that one of the venerables here thinks: 13.2‘Maybe this venerable is dedicated to kindness because they believe that adhering to precepts and observances is the most important thing.’ 13.3But it should not be seen like this. … 13.4

14.1They’re dedicated to the ending of craving because they’re free of greed, hate, and delusion with the end of greed, hate, and delusion.

15.1They’re dedicated to the ending of grasping because they’re free of greed, hate, and delusion with the end of greed, hate, and delusion.

16.1They’re dedicated to clarity of mind because they’re free of greed, hate, and delusion with the end of greed, hate, and delusion.

17.1When a mendicant’s mind is rightly freed like this, even if compelling sights come into the range of vision they don’t overcome their mind. 17.2The mind remains unaffected. It is steady, imperturbable, observing disappearance. 17.3Even if compelling sounds … 17.4smells … 17.5tastes … 17.6touches … 17.7and thoughts come into the range of the mind they don’t overcome the mind. 17.8The mind remains unaffected. It is steady, imperturbable, observing disappearance.

17.9Suppose there was a mountain that was one solid mass of rock, without cracks or holes. 17.10Even if violent storms were to blow up out of the east, the west, the north, and the south, 17.11 17.12they couldn’t make it shake or rock or tremble.

17.13In the same way, when a mendicant’s mind is rightly freed like this, even if compelling sights come into the range of vision they don’t overcome their mind. … 17.14 17.15 17.16 17.17 17.18 17.19 17.20The mind remains unaffected. It is steady, imperturbable, observing disappearance.

18.1When you’re dedicated to renunciation
18.2and seclusion of the heart;
18.3when you’re dedicated to kindness
18.4and the end of grasping;

19.1when you’re dedicated to the ending of craving
19.2and clarity of heart;
19.3and you’ve seen the arising of the senses,
19.4your mind is rightly freed.

20.1For that one, rightly freed,
20.2a mendicant with peaceful mind,
20.3there’s nothing to be improved,
20.4and nothing more to do.

21.1As the wind cannot stir
21.2a solid mass of rock,
21.3so too sights, tastes, sounds,
21.4smells, and touches—the lot—

22.1and thoughts, whether liked or disliked,
22.2don’t disturb the poised one.
22.3Their mind is steady and free
22.4as they observe disappearance.”