Aṅguttara Nikāya

The Book of the Threes

58. Tikaṇṇa

Then the brahmin Tikaṇṇa approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him…. Then, sitting to one side, the brahmin Tikaṇṇa, in the presence of the Blessed One, spoke praise of the brahmins who had mastered the threefold knowledge: “Such are the brahmins who are masters of the threefold knowledge; thus are the brahmins who are masters of the threefold knowledge.”

The Blessed One said: “But how, brahmin, do the brahmins describe a brahmin who is a master of the threefold knowledge?”

“Here, Master Gotama, a brahmin is well born on both his maternal and paternal sides, of pure descent, unassailable and impeccable with respect to birth as far back as the seventh paternal generation. He is a reciter and preserver of the hymns, a master of the three Vedas with their vocabularies, ritual, phonology, and etymology, and the histories as a fifth; skilled in philology and grammar, he is fully versed in natural philosophy and in the marks of a great man. It is in this way that the brahmins describe a brahmin who is a master of the threefold knowledge.”

“Brahmin, a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline is quite different from a brahmin who is a master of the threefold knowledge as the brahmins describe him.”

“But in what way, Master Gotama, is one a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline? It would be good if Master Gotama would teach me the Dhamma in such a way as to make clear how one is a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline.”

“Well then, brahmin, listen and attend closely. I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” the brahmin Tikaṇṇa replied. The Blessed One said this:

“Here, brahmin, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the first jhāna, which consists of rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by thought and examination. With the subsiding of thought and examination, he enters and dwells in the second jhāna, which has internal placidity and unification of mind and consists of rapture and pleasure born of concentration, without thought and examination. With the fading away as well of rapture, he dwells equanimous and, mindful and clearly comprehending, he experiences pleasure with the body; he enters and dwells in the third jhāna of which the noble ones declare: ‘He is equanimous, mindful, one who dwells happily.’ With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and dejection, he enters and dwells in the fourth jhāna, neither painful nor pleasant, which has purification of mindfulness by equanimity.

(1) “When his mind is thus concentrated, purified, cleansed, unblemished, rid of defilement, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to the knowledge of the recollection of past abodes. He recollects his manifold past abodes, that is, one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, a hundred births, a thousand births, a hundred thousand births, many eons of world-dissolution, many eons of world-evolution, many eons of world-dissolution and world-evolution, thus: ‘There I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my life span; passing away from there, I was reborn elsewhere, and there too I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my life span; passing away from there, I was reborn here.’ Thus he recollects his manifold past abodes with their aspects and details.

“This is the first true knowledge attained by him. Ignorance is dispelled, true knowledge has arisen; darkness is dispelled, light has arisen, as happens when one dwells heedful, ardent, and resolute.

(2) “When his mind is thus concentrated, purified, cleansed, unblemished, rid of defilement, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to the knowledge of the passing away and rebirth of beings. With the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, he sees beings passing away and being reborn, inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and he understands how beings fare in accordance with their kamma thus: ‘These beings who engaged in misconduct by body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong view, and undertook kamma based on wrong view, with the breakup of the body, after death, have been reborn in the plane of misery, in a bad destination, in the lower world, in hell; but these beings who engaged in good conduct by body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right view, and undertook kamma based on right view, with the breakup of the body, after death, have been reborn in a good destination, in a heavenly world.’ Thus with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, he sees beings passing away and being reborn, inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and he understands how beings fare in accordance with their kamma.

“This is the second true knowledge attained by him. Ignorance is dispelled, true knowledge has arisen; darkness is dispelled, light has arisen, as happens when one dwells heedful, ardent, and resolute.

(3) “When his mind is thus concentrated, purified, cleansed, unblemished, rid of defilement, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to the knowledge of the destruction of the taints. He understands as it really is: ‘This is suffering’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘These are the taints’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of the taints’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of the taints’; he understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of the taints.’

“When he knows and sees thus, his mind is liberated from the taint of sensuality, from the taint of existence, and from the taint of ignorance. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It’s liberated.’ He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming back to any state of being.’

“This is the third true knowledge attained by him. Ignorance is dispelled, true knowledge has arisen; darkness is dispelled, light has arisen, as happens when one dwells heedful, ardent, and resolute.

“He whose virtue has no vacillation,
who is alert and meditative,
whose mind has been mastered,
one-pointed, well concentrated;

“the wise one, dispeller of darkness,
the triple-knowledge bearer, victor over death;
the one they call an abandoner of all,
benefactor of devas and humans;

“the one possessing the three knowledges,
who dwells without delusion;
they worship him, the Buddha
Gotama, bearing his final body.

“One who knows his past abodes,
who sees heaven and the plane of misery,
and has reached the destruction of birth
is a sage consummate in direct knowledge.

“Through these three kinds of knowledge
one is a triple-knowledge brahmin.
I call him a triple-knowledge master,
not the other who utters incantations.

“It is in this way, brahmin, that one is a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline.”

“Master Gotama, a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline is quite different from a master of the threefold knowledge according to the brahmins. And a master of the threefold knowledge according to the brahmins is not worth a sixteenth part of a master of the threefold knowledge in the Noble One’s discipline.

“Excellent, Master Gotama! … Let Master Gotama consider me a lay follower who from today has gone for refuge for life.”