Saṃyutta Nikāya 22

Connected Discourses on the Aggregates

85. Yamaka

On one occasion the Venerable Sāriputta was dwelling at Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapiṇḍika’s Park. Now on that occasion the following pernicious view had arisen in a bhikkhu named Yamaka: “As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death.”

A number of bhikkhus heard that such a pernicious view had arisen in the bhikkhu Yamaka. Then they approached the Venerable Yamaka and exchanged greetings with him, after which they sat down to one side and said to him: “Is it true, friend Yamaka, that such a pernicious view as this has arisen in you: ‘As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death’?”

“Exactly so, friends. As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death.”

“Friend Yamaka, do not speak thus. Do not misrepresent the Blessed One. It is not good to misrepresent the Blessed One. The Blessed One would not speak thus: ‘A bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death.’”

Yet, although he was admonished by the bhikkhus in this way, the Venerable Yamaka still obstinately grasped that pernicious view, adhered to it, and declared: “As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death.”

Since those bhikkhus were unable to detach the Venerable Yamaka from that pernicious view, they rose from their seats, approached the Venerable Sāriputta, and told him all that had occurred, adding: “It would be good if the Venerable Sāriputta would approach the bhikkhu Yamaka out of compassion for him.” The Venerable Sāriputta consented by silence.

Then, in the evening, the Venerable Sāriputta emerged from seclusion. He approached the Venerable Yamaka and exchanged greetings with him, after which he sat down to one side and said to him: “Is it true, friend Yamaka, that such a pernicious view as this has arisen in you: ‘As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death’?”

“Exactly so, friend.”

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, is form permanent or impermanent?”—“Impermanent, friend.”…—“Therefore … Seeing thus … He understands: ‘… there is no more for this state of being.’

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard form as the Tathagata?”—“No, friend.”—“Do you regard feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness as the Tathagata?”—“No, friend.”

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard the Tathagata as in form?”—“No, friend.”—“Do you regard the Tathagata as apart from form?”—“No, friend.”—“Do you regard the Tathagata as in feeling? As apart from feeling? As in perception? As apart from perception? As in volitional formations? As apart from volitional formations? As in consciousness? As apart from consciousness?”—“No, friend.”

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness taken together as the Tathagata?”—“No, friend.”

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, do you regard the Tathagata as one who is without form, without feeling, without perception, without volitional formations, without consciousness?”—“No, friend.”

“But, friend, when the Tathagata is not apprehended by you as real and actual here in this very life, is it fitting for you to declare: ‘As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death’?”

“Formerly, friend Sāriputta, when I was ignorant, I did hold that pernicious view, but now that I have heard this Dhamma teaching of the Venerable Sāriputta I have abandoned that pernicious view and have made the breakthrough to the Dhamma.”

“If, friend Yamaka, they were to ask you: ‘Friend Yamaka, when a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, what happens to him with the breakup of the body, after death?’—being asked thus, what would you answer?”

“If they were to ask me this, friend, I would answer thus: ‘Friends, form is impermanent; what is impermanent is suffering; what is suffering has ceased and passed away. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness is impermanent; what is impermanent is suffering; what is suffering has ceased and passed away.’ Being asked thus, friend, I would answer in such a way.”

“Good, good, friend Yamaka! Now, friend Yamaka, I will make up a simile for you in order to convey this same meaning even more clearly. Suppose, friend Yamaka, there was a householder or a householder’s son, a rich man, with much wealth and property, protected by a bodyguard. Then some man would appear who wanted to ruin him, to harm him, to endanger him, to take his life. It would occur to that man: ‘This householder or householder’s son is a rich man, with much wealth and property, protected by a bodyguard. It won’t be easy to take his life by force. Let me get close to him and then take his life.’

“Then he would approach that householder or householder’s son and say to him: ‘I would serve you, sir.’ Then the householder or householder’s son would appoint him as a servant. The man would serve him, rising up before him, retiring after him, doing whatever he wants, agreeable in his conduct, endearing in his speech. The householder or householder’s son would consider him a friend, a bosom friend, and he would place trust in him. But when the man becomes aware that the householder or householder’s son has placed trust in him, then, finding him alone, he would take his life with a sharp knife.

“What do you think, friend Yamaka, when that man had approached that householder or householder’s son and said to him: ‘I would serve you, sir,’ wasn’t he a murderer even then, though the other did not recognize him as ‘my murderer’? And when the man was serving him, rising up before him, retiring after him, doing whatever he wants, agreeable in his conduct, endearing in his speech, wasn’t he a murderer then too, though the other did not recognize him as ‘my murderer’? And when the man came upon him while he was alone and took his life with a sharp knife, wasn’t he a murderer then too, though the other did not recognize him as ‘my murderer’?”

“Yes, friend.”

“So too, friend Yamaka, the uninstructed worldling, who is not a seer of the noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, who is not a seer of superior persons and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, regards form as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form.

“He regards feeling as self … perception as self … volitional formations as self … consciousness as self, or self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in self, or self as in consciousness.

“He does not understand as it really is impermanent form as ‘impermanent form’ … impermanent feeling as ‘impermanent feeling’ … impermanent perception as ‘impermanent perception’ … impermanent volitional formations as ‘impermanent volitional formations’ … impermanent consciousness as ‘impermanent consciousness.’

“He does not understand as it really is painful form as ‘painful form’ … painful feeling as ‘painful feeling’ … painful perception as ‘painful perception’ … painful volitional formations as ‘painful volitional formations’ … painful consciousness as ‘painful consciousness.’

“He does not understand as it really is selfless form as ‘selfless form’ … selfless feeling as ‘selfless feeling’ … selfless perception as ‘selfless perception’ … selfless volitional formations as ‘selfless volitional formations’ … selfless consciousness as ‘selfless consciousness.’

“He does not understand as it really is conditioned form as ‘conditioned form’ … conditioned feeling as ‘conditioned feeling’ … conditioned perception as ‘conditioned perception’ … conditioned volitional formations as ‘conditioned volitional formations’ … conditioned consciousness as ‘conditioned consciousness.’

“He does not understand as it really is murderous form as ‘murderous form’ … murderous feeling as ‘murderous feeling’ … murderous perception as ‘murderous perception’ … murderous volitional formations as ‘murderous volitional formations’ … murderous consciousness as ‘murderous consciousness.’

“He becomes engaged with form, clings to it, and takes a stand upon it as ‘my self.’ He becomes engaged with feeling … with perception … with volitional formations … with consciousness, clings to it, and takes a stand upon it as ‘my self.’ These same five aggregates of clinging, to which he becomes engaged and to which he clings, lead to his harm and suffering for a long time.

“But, friend, the instructed noble disciple, who is a seer of the noble ones … does not regard form as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form.

“He does not regard feeling as self … perception as self … volitional formations as self … consciousness as self, or self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in self, or self as in consciousness.

“He understands as it really is impermanent form as ‘impermanent form’ … impermanent consciousness as ‘impermanent consciousness.’

“He understands as it really is painful form as ‘painful form’ … painful consciousness as ‘painful consciousness.’

“He understands as it really is selfless form as ‘selfless form’ … selfless consciousness as ‘selfless consciousness.’

“He understands as it really is conditioned form as ‘conditioned form’ … conditioned consciousness as ‘conditioned consciousness. ’

“He understands as it really is murderous form as ‘murderous form’ … murderous consciousness as ‘murderous consciousness.’

“He does not become engaged with form, cling to it, and take a stand upon it as ‘my self.’ He does not become engaged with feeling … with perception … with volitional formations … with consciousness, cling to it, and take a stand upon it as ‘my self.’ These same five aggregates of clinging, to which he does not become engaged and to which he does not cling, lead to his welfare and happiness for a long time.”

“So it is, friend Sāriputta, for those venerable ones who have such compassionate and benevolent brothers in the holy life to admonish and instruct them. And now that I have heard this Dhamma teaching of the Venerable Sāriputta, my mind is liberated from the taints by nonclinging.”

This is what the Venerable Sāriputta said. Elated, the Venerable Yamaka delighted in the Venerable Sāriputta’s statement.