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Speculation About the World —Bhikkhu Sujato

Linked Discourses 56

5. A Cliff

41. Speculation About the World

1.1At one time the Buddha was staying near Rājagaha, in the Bamboo Grove, the squirrels’ feeding ground. 1.2There the Buddha addressed the mendicants:

1.3“Once upon a time, mendicants, a certain person left Rājagaha, thinking ‘I’ll speculate about the world.’ They went to the Sumāgadhā lotus pond and sat down on the bank speculating about the world. 1.4Then that person saw an army of four divisions enter a lotus stalk. 1.5When he saw this he thought, 1.6‘I’ve gone mad, really, I’ve lost my mind! 1.7I’m seeing things that don’t exist in the world.’

2.1Then that person entered the city and informed a large crowd, 2.2‘I’ve gone mad, really, I’ve lost my mind! 2.3I’m seeing things that don’t exist in the world.’

2.4‘But how is it that you’re mad? How have you lost your mind? 2.5And what have you seen that doesn’t exist in the world?’

2.6‘Sirs, I left Rājagaha, thinking “I’ll speculate about the world.” I went to the Sumāgadhā lotus pond and sat down on the bank speculating about the world. 2.7Then I saw an army of four divisions enter a lotus stalk. 2.8That’s why I’m mad, that’s why I’ve lost my mind. 2.9And that’s what I’ve seen that doesn’t exist in the world.’

2.10‘Well, mister, you’re definitely mad, you’ve definitely lost your mind. 2.11And you’re seeing things that don’t exist in the world.’

3.1But what that person saw was in fact real, not unreal. 3.2Once upon a time, a battle was fought between the gods and the demons. 3.3In that battle the gods won and the demons lost. 3.4The defeated and terrified demons entered the demon city through the lotus stalk only to confuse the gods.

4.1So mendicants, don’t speculate about the world. 4.2For example: the world is eternal, or not eternal, or finite, or infinite; the soul and the body are the same thing, or they are different things; after death, a Realized One exists, or doesn’t exist, or both exists and doesn’t exist, or neither exists nor doesn’t exist. 4.3Why is that? 4.4Because those thoughts aren’t beneficial or relevant to the fundamentals of the spiritual life. They don’t lead to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment.

5.1When you think something up, you should think: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering’. 5.2Why is that? 5.3Because those thoughts are beneficial and relevant to the fundamentals of the spiritual life. They lead to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment.

6.1That’s why you should practice meditation …”