Aṅguttara Nikāya

The Book of the Threes

61. Sectarian

“Bhikkhus, there are these three sectarian tenets which, when questioned, interrogated, and cross-examined by the wise, and taken to their conclusion, will eventuate in non-doing. What are the three?

(1) “There are, bhikkhus, some ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view as this: ‘Whatever this person experiences—whether pleasure, pain, or neither-pain-nor-pleasure—all that is caused by what was done in the past.’ (2) There are other ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view as this: ‘Whatever this person experiences—whether pleasure, pain, or neither-pain-nor-pleasure—all that is caused by God’s creative activity.’ (3) And there are still other ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view as this: ‘Whatever this person experiences—whether pleasure, pain, or neither-pain-nor-pleasure—all that occurs without a cause or condition.’

(1) “Bhikkhus, I approached those ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view as this: ‘Whatever this person experiences—whether pleasure, pain, or neither-pain-nor-pleasure—all that is caused by past deeds,’ and I said to them: ‘Is it true that you venerable ones hold such a doctrine and view?’ When I ask them this, they affirm it. Then I say to them: ‘In such a case, it is due to past deeds that you might destroy life, take what is not given, indulge in sexual activity, speak falsehood, utter divisive speech, speak harshly, indulge in idle chatter; that you might be full of longing, have a mind of ill will, and hold wrong view.’

“Those who fall back on past deeds as the essential truth have no desire to do what should be done and to avoid doing what should not be done, nor do they make an effort in this respect. Since they do not apprehend as true and valid anything that should be done or should not be done, they are muddle-minded, they do not guard themselves, and even the personal designation ‘ascetic’ could not be legitimately applied to them. This was my first legitimate refutation of those ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view.

(2) “Then, bhikkhus, I approached those ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view as this: ‘Whatever this person experiences—whether pleasure, pain, or neither-pain-nor-pleasure—all that is caused by God’s creative activity,’ and I said to them: ‘Is it true that you venerable ones hold such a doctrine and view?’ When I ask them this, they affirm it. Then I say to them: ‘In such a case, it is due to God’s creative activity that you might destroy life … and hold wrong view.’

“Those who fall back on God’s creative activity as the essential truth have no desire to do what should be done and to avoid doing what should not be done, nor do they make an effort in this respect. Since they do not apprehend as true and valid anything that should be done or should not be done, they are muddle-minded, they do not guard themselves, and even the personal designation ‘ascetic’ could not be legitimately applied to them. This was my second legitimate refutation of those ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view.

(3) “Then, bhikkhus, I approached those ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view as this: ‘Whatever this person experiences—whether pleasure, pain, or neither-painnor-pleasure—all that occurs without a cause or condition,’ and I said to them: ‘Is it true that you venerable ones hold such a doctrine and view?’ When I ask them this, they affirm it. Then I say to them: ‘In such a case, it is without a cause or condition that you might destroy life … and hold wrong view.’

“Those who fall back on absence of cause and condition as the essential truth have no desire to do what should be done and to avoid doing what should not be done, nor do they make an effort in this respect. Since they do not apprehend as true and valid anything that should be done or should not be done, they are muddle-minded, they do not guard themselves, and even the personal designation ‘ascetic’ could not be legitimately applied to them. This was my third legitimate refutation of those ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view.

“These, bhikkhus, are the three sectarian tenets which, when questioned, interrogated, and cross-examined by the wise, and taken to their conclusion, will eventuate in non-doing.

“But, bhikkhus, this Dhamma taught by me is unrefuted, undefiled, irreproachable, and uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins. And what is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, irreproachable, and uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins?

“‘These are the six elements’: this, bhikkhus, is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted … uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins. ‘These are the six bases for contact’ … ‘These are the eighteen mental examinations’ … ‘These are the four noble truths’: this, bhikkhus, is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, irreproachable, and uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins.

“When it was said: ‘“These are the six elements”: this, bhikkhus, is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted … uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins,’ for what reason was this said? There are these six elements: the earth element, the water element, the fire element, the air element, the space element, and the consciousness element. When it was said: ‘“These are the six elements”: this, bhikkhus, is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted … uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins,’ it is because of this that this was said.

“When it was said: ‘“These are the six bases for contact”: this, bhikkhus, is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted … uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins,’ for what reason was this said? There are these six bases for contact: the eye as a base for contact, the ear as a base for contact, the nose as a base for contact, the tongue as a base for contact, the body as a base for contact, and the mind as a base for contact. When it was said: ‘“These are the six bases for contact”: this, bhikkhus, is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted … uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins,’ it is because of this that this was said.

“When it was said: ‘“These are the eighteen mental examinations”: this, bhikkhus, is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted … uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins,’ for what reason was this said? Having seen a form with the eye, one examines a form that is a basis for joy; one examines a form that is a basis for dejection; one examines a form that is a basis for equanimity. Having heard a sound with the ear … Having smelled an odor with the nose … Having tasted a taste with the tongue … Having felt a tactile object with the body … Having cognized a mental phenomenon with the mind, one examines a mental phenomenon that is a basis for joy; one examines a mental phenomenon that is a basis for dejection; one examines a mental phenomenon that is a basis for equanimity. When it was said: ‘“These are the eighteen mental examinations”: this, bhikkhus, is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted … uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins,’ it is because of this that this was said.

“When it was said: ‘“These are the four noble truths”: this, bhikkhus, is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted … uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins,’ for what reason was this said? In dependence on the six elements the descent of a future embryo occurs. When the descent takes place, there is name-and-form; with name-and-form as condition, there are the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, there is contact; with contact as condition, there is feeling. Now it is for one who feels that I proclaim: ‘This is suffering,’ and ‘This is the origin of suffering,’ and ‘This is the cessation of suffering,’ and ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’

“And what, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering? Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and anguish are suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering. This is called the noble truth of suffering.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering? With ignorance as condition, volitional activities come to be; with volitional activities as condition, consciousness; with consciousness as condition, name-and-form; with name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, contact; with contact as condition, feeling; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and anguish come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. This is called the noble truth of the origin of suffering.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering? With the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of volitional activities; with the cessation of volitional activities, cessation of consciousness; with the cessation of consciousness, cessation of name-and-form; with the cessation of name-and-form, cessation of the six sense bases; with the cessation of the six sense bases, 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 existence; with the cessation of existence, cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and anguish cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering. This is called the noble truth of the cessation of suffering.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering? It is just this noble eightfold path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. This is called the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

“When it was said: ‘“These are the four noble truths”: this, bhikkhus, is the Dhamma taught by me that is unrefuted, undefiled, irreproachable, and uncensured by wise ascetics and brahmins,’ it is because of this that this was said.”