Indian Philosophy – Buddha’s Mid-Length Discourses

1 – The Mulapariyaya Sutta – The Root of All Things

Thus it was heard Buddha said the untaught and untrained see earth as earth, see themselves as like earth, see themselves as unlike earth, think earth is theirs, and enjoy earth, and the same for water, fire and air, because they do not fully understand.  They think that being itself, the gods, God (Brahma), enlightenment, the infinite, nothingness, unity and diversity are what they are, are like and unlike them, and enjoy them, because they do not fully understand.

The enlightened do not think of themselves as enlightened.  The enlightened see earth as earth, but do not see themselves as like or unlike earth, do not think earth is theirs, and do not enjoy earth because they have fully understood it, and the same for water, fire, air, being, non-being, the gods, ignorance and enlightenment. Buddha does not delight in earth because this is the root of suffering and craving and this is what the Buddha understands.  The followers who listened did not like hearing this at all.

4 – The Bhayabherava Sutta – Fear & Dread in Savatthi

Thus it was heard the Hindu Brahmin Janussoni visited Buddha in Savatthi and asks him why he leads others out in the jungle where it is hard to live and think.  Buddha says that if he was afraid living in the jungle would inspire fear in others, but because he has no fear living in the jungle inspires hope and courage in others.  Whenever others are angry or afraid in the jungle, Buddha isn’t and this shows wisdom to the others, which is comforting to others and Buddha.

In the jungle we can conquer fear and dread better than anywhere else, and conquering fear is what frees us from fear.  When fear is conquered, insight takes its place, and we see that one thing turns to another in countless births and deaths, at one time superior, another inferior, here beautiful, there ugly, here fortunate, here unfortunate. A mind beyond all stain sees all as all.  Janussoni is delighted, and becomes a follower.

7 – The Vatthupama Sutta – The Metaphor of the Cloth

Thus it was heard Buddha said if a cloth was stained and dipped in dyes of any color it would look horrible because the stains would make the color impure, and when the mind is calm and pure it reflects and displays all things purely, which anyone can experience tangibly for themselves with wisdom, unshakable trust in all things and inspired by all things.  Those with such a mind can accept and eat offerings of choice hillside rice and fine curry sauces without becoming impure, just as a furnace makes gold pure and bright. (Jains would disagree.)

The Brahmin Bharadvaja was sitting nearby and asked if Buddha bathes in the Bahuka River, which can grant good karma and liberation.  Buddha says that a fool could bathe in this river forever and not come clean. No river can wash away crimes, and Bharadvaja would do better to bathe in the fairness of the pure heart.  Those who don’t harm, lie or take what isn’t given don’t need to bathe in holy rivers. Bharadvaja takes the vows of a monk, and later becomes enlightened through disciplined practice on his own.

11 – The Vanapattha Sutta – The Jungle Thickets

Thus it was heard Buddha said that in one jungle thicket, someone doesn’t get enlightened, life is hard, they should be aware of this, and leave.  In another jungle thicket, someone doesn’t get enlightened, life is easy, they should know this and leave. In another jungle thicket someone gets enlightened, life is hard, they should be aware of this, and they should stay.  In another jungle thicket someone gets enlightened, life is easy, they should know this and stay for the rest of their lives.

In one village, someone has it hard, isn’t enlightened, and should leave.  In another village, someone has it easy, isn’t enlightened, and should leave.  In another village, someone has it hard, is enlightened and should stay. In another village, someone has it easy, gets enlightened, and should stay for life.  Buddha repeats the same four positions for towns, cities, countries, and dependence on a person, such as the Buddha himself, ending with the thought that if someone follows another, such as the Buddha himself, and they have it easy, and get enlightened, and are aware of all this, then they should stay a follower for life.

22 – The Alagaddupama Sutta – The Metaphor of the Snake

Thus it was heard Arittha, follower of the Buddha and a former member of the Vulture Killers gang, said that Buddha teaches that nothing makes us impure, no matter what we do.  Buddha heard this, called Arittha to him and said that he taught over and over again with many metaphors that we can be bound up and stained by anything and everything.

Buddha says that someone hunting a snake would be bitten and poisoned if they grabbed the snake by the wrong end, by the tail rather than the head, and Arittha has his grasp of the Buddha’s words the wrong-way-round.

Buddha says that someone who weaves a fine raft to cross a dangerous river should leave the raft by the river for others rather than carry it with them on their shoulders after getting across.  Similarly, words are for getting across, not for carrying with us as a burden.