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Cords of Sensual Pleasure—Bhikkhu Bodhi

Saṃyutta Nikāya 35

Connected Discourses on the Six Sense Bases

117. Cords of Sensual Pleasure

“Bhikkhus, before my enlightenment, while I was still a bodhisatta, not yet fully enlightened, the thought occurred to me: ‘My mind may often stray towards those five cords of sensual pleasure that have already left their impression on the heart but which have passed, ceased, and changed, or towards those that are present, or slightly towards those in the future.’ Then it occurred to me: ‘Being set on my own welfare, I should practise diligence, mindfulness, and guarding of the mind in regard to those five cords of sensual pleasure that have already left their impression on the heart, which have passed, ceased, and changed.’

“Therefore, bhikkhus, in your case too your minds may often stray towards those five cords of sensual pleasure that have already left their impression on the heart but which have passed, ceased, and changed, or towards those that are present, or slightly towards those in the future. Therefore, bhikkhus, being set on your own welfare, you should practise diligence, mindfulness, and guarding of the mind in regard to those five cords of sensual pleasure that have already left their impression on the heart but which have passed, ceased, and changed.

“Therefore, bhikkhus, that base should be understood, where the eye ceases and perception of forms fades away. That base should be understood, where the ear ceases and perception of sounds fades away.… That base should be understood, where the mind ceases and perception of mental phenomena fades away. That base should be understood.”

Having said this, the Blessed One rose from his seat and entered his dwelling. Then, soon after the Blessed One had left, the bhikkhus considered … all as in preceding sutta down to: [99–100] … The Venerable Ānanda said this:

“Friends, when the Blessed One rose from his seat and entered his dwelling after reciting a synopsis in brief without expounding the meaning in detail—that is: ‘Therefore, bhikkhus, that base should be understood, where the eye ceases and perception of forms fades away…. That base should be understood, where the mind ceases and perception of mental phenomena fades away. That base should be understood’—I understand the detailed meaning of this synopsis as follows: This was stated by the Blessed One, friends, with reference to the cessation of the six sense bases.

“Friends, when the Blessed One rose from his seat and entered his dwelling after reciting a synopsis in brief without expounding the meaning in detail … I understand the meaning of this synopsis in detail to be thus. Now, friends, if you wish, go to the Blessed One and ask him about the meaning of this. As the Blessed One explains it to you, so you should remember it.”

“Yes, friends,” those bhikkhus replied, and having risen from their seats, they went to the Blessed One. After paying homage to him, they sat down to one side and told the Blessed One all that had taken place after he had left, adding: “Then, venerable sir, we approached the Venerable Ānanda and asked him about the meaning. The Venerable Ānanda expounded the meaning to us in these ways, with these terms, with these phrases.”

“Ānanda is wise, bhikkhus, Ānanda has great wisdom. If you had asked me the meaning of this, I would have explained it to you in the same way that it has been explained by Ānanda. Such is the meaning of this, and so you should remember it.”