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Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind, getting rid of something and gathering something together, /

The practitioner makes the four dhyānas1 his own, and duly acquires the five powers of knowing: // 16.1 //


The principal transcendent power, taking many forms; then being awake to what others are thinking; /

And remembering past lives from long ago; and divine lucidity of ear; and of eye. // 16.2 //


From then on, through investigation of what is, he applies his mind to eradicating the polluting influences, /

For on this basis he fully understands suffering and the rest, the four true standpoints: // 16.3 //


This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble; this is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it; /

This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away. And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path. // 16.4 //


Understanding these noble truths, by a process of reasoning, while getting to know the four as one, /

He prevails over all pollutants, by the means of mental development, and, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming. // 16.5 //


For by failing to wake up and come round to this four, whose substance is the reality of what is, /

Humankind goes from existence to existence without finding peace, hoisted in the swing of saṁsāra. // 16.6 //


Therefore, at the root of a tragedy like growing old, see, in short, that birth is suffering. /

For, as the earth supports the life of all plants, this birth is the field of all troubles. // 16.7 //


The birth of a sentient bodily form, again, is the birth of suffering in all its varieties; /

And he who begets such an outgrowth is the begetter of death and of disease. // 16.8 //


Good food or bad food, if mixed with poison, makes for ruin and not for sustenance. /

Likewise, whether in a world on the flat or above or below, all birth makes for hardship and not for ease. // 16.9 //


The many and various disappointments of men, like old age, occur as long as their doing goes on. /

(For, even when violent winds blow, trees do not shake that never sprouted.) // 16.10 //


As wind is born from the air, as fire sleeps in the womb of śamī wood, /

And as water gestates inside the earth, so does suffering spring from an expectant mind-and-body. // 16.11 //


The fluidity of water, the solidity of earth, the motion of wind, and the constant heat of fire /

Are innate in them; as also it is in the nature of both the body and the mind to suffer. // 16.12 //


Insofar as there is a body, there is the suffering of sickness, aging and so on; and also of hunger and thirst, and of the rains, and summer heat and winter cold. /

Insofar as a mind is bonded, tied to phenomena, there is the suffering of grief, discontent, anger, fear and so on. // 16.13 //


Seeing now before your eyes that birth is suffering, recognise that likewise in the past it was suffering. /

And just as that was suffering and this is suffering, know that likewise in the future it will be suffering. // 16.14 //


For just as it is evident to us now what kind of thing a seed is, we can infer that it was so in the past and that it will be so in the future. /

And just as fire burning before us is hot, so was it hot and so will it be hot. // 16.15 //


In conformity with its kind, then, a distinguishable bodily form develops, wherein, O man of noble conduct, /

Suffering exists, right there -- for nowhere else will suffering exist or has it existed or could it exist. // 16.16 //


And this, the suffering of doing, in the world, has its cause2 in clusters of faults which start with thirsting -- /

The cause is certainly not in God, nor in primordial matter, nor in time; nor even in one’s inherent constitution, nor in predestination or self-will. // 16.17 //


Again, you must understand how, due to this cause, because of men's faults, the cycle of doing goes on, /

So that they succumb to death who are afflicted by the dust of the passions and by darkness; but he is not reborn who is free of dust and darkness. // 16.18 //


Insofar as the specific desire exists to do this or that, an action like going or sitting happens; /

Hence, in just the same way, by the force of their thirsting living creatures are reborn -- as is to be observed: // 16.19 //


See sentient beings in the grip of attachment, dead set on pleasure among their own kind; /

And, from their habitual practice of faults, observe them presenting with those very faults. // 16.20 //


Just as the anger, lust, and so on of sufferers of those afflictions give rise in the present to a personality trait, /

So too in new lives, in various manifestations, does the affliction-created trait develop: // 16.21 //


In a life dominated by anger arises violent anger, in the lover of passion arises burning passion, /

And in one dominated by ignorance arises overwhelming ignorance. In one who has a lesser fault, again, the lesser fault develops. // 16.22 //


Seeing what fruit is before one's eyes, one knows, from past knowledge of that fruit, the seed it was in the past. /

And having identified a seed before one's eyes, one knows the fruit it may be in the future.3 // 16.23 //


In whichever realms of existence a man has ended faults, thanks to that dispassion he is not born in those realms. /

Wherever he remains susceptible to a fault, that is where he makes his appearance, whether he likes it or not. // 16.24 //


So my friend, with regard to the many forms of becoming, know their causes to be [the faults] that start with thirsting /

And cut out those [faults], if you wish to be freed from suffering; for ending of the effect follows from eradication of the cause. // 16.25 //


Again, the ending of suffering follows from the disappearance of its cause. Experience that reality for yourself as peace and well-being, /

A place of rest, a cessation, an absence of the red taint of thirsting, a primeval refuge which is irremovable and noble, // 16.26 //


In which there is no becoming, no aging, no dying, no illness, no being touched by unpleasantness, /

No disappointment, and no separation from what is pleasant: It is an ultimate and indestructible step, in which to dwell at ease. // 16.27 //


A lamp that has gone out reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky, /

Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point: Because its oil is spent it reaches nothing but extinction. // 16.28 //


In the same way, a man of action who has come to quiet reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky, /

Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point: From the ending of his afflictions he attains nothing but extinction. // 16.29 //


A means for gaining that end is the path of threefold wisdom and twofold tranquillity. /

It is to be cultivated by a wakeful person working to principle -- abiding in untainted threefold integrity. // 16.30 //


Using the voice well and the body well in tandem, and making a clean living in a suitable manner: /

These three, pertaining to conduct, are for the mastery, based on integrity, of one's dharma-duty.4 // 16.31 //


Noble insight into suffering and the other truths, along with thinking straight, and initiative: /

These three, pertaining to know-how, are for dissolution, based on wisdom, of the afflictions. // 16.32 //


True mindfulness, properly harnessed so as to bring one close to the truths; and true balance: /

These two, pertaining to practice, are for mastery, based on tranquillity, of the mind. // 16.33 //


Integrity no more propagates the shoots of affliction than a bygone spring propagates shoots from seeds. /

The faults, as long as a man's integrity is untainted, venture only timidly to attack his mind. // 16.34 //


But balance casts off the afflictions like a mountain casts off the mighty torrents of rivers. /

The faults do not attack a man who is standing firm in balanced stillness: like charmed snakes, they are spellbound. // 16.35 //


And wisdom destroys the faults without trace, as a mountain stream in the monsoon destroys the trees on its banks. /

Faults consumed by it do not stand a chance, like trees in the fiery wake of a thunderbolt. // 16.36 //


Giving oneself to this path with its three divisions and eight branches -- this straightforward, irremovable, noble path -- /

One abandons the faults, which are the causes of suffering, and comes to that step which is total well-being. // 16.37 //


Attendant on it are constancy and straightness; modesty, attentiveness, and reclusiveness; / 

Wanting little, contentment, and freedom from forming attachments; no fondness for worldly activity, and forbearance. // 16.38 //


For he who knows suffering as it really is, who knows its starting and its stopping: / 

It is he who reaches peace by the noble path -- going along with friends in the good. // 16.39 //


He who fully appreciates his illness, as the illness it is, who sees the cause of the illness and its remedy: /

It is he who wins, before long, freedom from disease -- attended by friends in the know. // 16.40 //


So with regard to the truth of suffering, see suffering as an illness; with regard to the faults, see the faults as the cause of the illness; /

With regard to the truth of stopping, see stopping as freedom from disease; and with regard to the truth of a path, see a path as a remedy. // 16.41 //


Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; /

Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back. // 16.42 //


Though your head and clothes be on fire direct your mind so as to be awake to the truths. /

For in failing to see the purport of the truths, the world has burned, it is burning now, and it will burn. // 16.43 //


When a man sees a separate bodily form as decrepit, that insight of his is accurate; /

In seeing accurately he is disenchanted, and from the ending of exuberance ends the red taint of passion. // 16.44 //


By the ending of the duality which is exuberance and gloom, I submit, his mind is fully set free. /

And when his mind is fully liberated from that duality, there is nothing further for him to do. // 16.45 //


For in him who sees a separate bodily form as it is, and who sees its origin and passing away, /

From the very fact of his knowing and seeing, I predict the complete eradication of the pollutants. // 16.46 //


So my friend garner your energy greatly and strive quickly to put an end to polluting influences, /

Examining in particular the elements -- as suffering, as impermanent and as devoid of self. // 16.47 //


For in knowing the six elements of earth, water, fire and the rest, generically, and each as specific to itself,5 /

He who knows nothing else but those elements, knows total release from those elements. // 16.48 //


One set on abandoning the afflictions, then, should attend to timing and method; / 

For even practice itself, done at the wrong time and relying on wrong means, makes for disappointment and not for the desired end. // 16.49 //


If a cow is milked before her calf is born, milking at the wrong time will yield no milk. /

Or even at the right time no milk will be got if, through ignorance, a cow is milked by the horn. // 16.50 //


Again, one who wants fire from damp wood, try as he might, will not get fire. /

And even if he lays down dry wood, he won't get fire from that, with bad bushcraft. // 16.51 //


Having given due consideration to the time and place as well as to the extent and method of one's practice, /

One should, reflecting on one's own strength and weakness, persist in an effort that is not inconsistent with them. // 16.52 //


That factor6 said to be "garnering" does not serve when the emotions are inflamed, /

For thus the mind does not come to quiet, like a fire being fanned by the wind. // 16.53 //


A factor ascertained to be calming has its time when one's mind is excited; /

For thus the mind subsides into quietness, like a blazing fire doused with water. // 16.54 //


A factor ascertained to bring calm does not serve when one's mind is dormant; /

For thus the mind sinks further into lifelessness, like a feeble fire left unfanned. // 16.55 //


A factor determined to be garnering, has its time when one's mind is lifeless, /

For thus the mind becomes fit for work, like a feebly-burning fire plied with fuel. // 16.56 //


Nor is equanimity7 a valid factor when one's mind is either lifeless or excited. /

For that might engender severe adversity, like the neglected illness of a sick man. // 16.57 //


A factor ascertained to conduce to equanimity has its time when one's mind is in its normal state; /

For thus one may set about work to be done, like a wagon setting off with well-trained horses. // 16.58 //


Again, when the mind is filled with the red joys of passion, direction towards oneself of loving-kindness is not to be practised; /

For a passionate type is stupefied by love, like a sufferer from phlegm taking oil. // 16.59 //


Steadiness lies, when the mind is excited by ardour, in resorting to an unpleasant factor;8 /

For thus a passionate type obtains relief, like a phlegmatic type taking an astringent. // 16.60 //


When the mind is wound up, however, with the fault of malice, unpleasantness is not the factor to be deployed; /

For unpleasantness is destructive to a hating type, as acid treatment is to a man of bilious nature. // 16.61 //


When the mind is agitated by the fault of malice, loving-kindness should be cultivated, by directing it towards oneself. /

For loving-kindness is calming to a hate-afflicted soul, as cooling treatment is to the man of bilious nature. // 16.62 //


When there is wandering of the mind, tied to delusion, both loving-kindness and unpleasantness are unsuitable, /

For a deluded man is further deluded by these two, like a windy type given an astringent. // 16.63 //


When working of the mind is delusory, one should appreciate the causality therein; /

For this is a path to peace when the mind is bewildered, like treating a wind condition with oil. // 16.64 //


Holding gold in the mouth of a furnace, a goldsmith in this world blows it at the proper time, /

Douses it with water at the proper time, and gradually, at the proper time, he leaves it be. // 16.65 //


For he might burn the gold by blowing at the wrong time, he might make it unworkable by plunging it into water at the wrong time, /

And he would not bring it to full perfection if at the wrong time he were just to leave it be. // 16.66 //


Likewise, for garnering as also for calming, as also when appropriate for leaving well alone, /

One should readily attend to the appropriate factor; because even diligence is destructive when accompanied by a wrong approach." // 16.67 //


Thus, on retreat from muddling through, and on the principle to come back to, the One Who Went Well spoke to Nanda; / 

And knowing the varieties of behaviour, he detailed further the directions for abandoning ideas. // 16.68 //


Just as, for a disorder of bile, phlegm, or wind -- for whatever disorder of the humours has manifested the symptoms of disease -- /

A doctor prescribes a course of treatment to cure that very disorder; so did the Buddha prescribe for the faults: // 16.69 //


It may not be possible, following a single method, to kill off bad ideas that habit has so deeply entrenched; /

In that case, one should commit to a second course but never give up the good work. // 16.70 //


Because of the instinct-led accumulation, from time without beginning, of the powerful mass of afflictions, /

And because true practice is so difficult to do, the faults cannot be cut off all at once. // 16.71 //


Just as a deep splinter, by means of the point of another sharp object, is removed by a man skilled in that task, /

Likewise an unpromising stimulus may be dispensed with through deployment of a different stimulus.9 // 16.72 //


There again, because of your personal inexperience, a bad idea might not give way. /

You should abandon it by observing the fault in it, as a traveller abandons a path on which there is a wild beast. // 16.73 //


A man who wishes to live, even when starving, declines to eat poisoned food. /

Likewise, observing that it brings with it a fault, a wise person leaves alone an unpleasant stimulus.10 // 16.74 //


When a man does not see a fault as a fault, who is able to restrain him from it? /

But when a man sees the good in what is good, he goes towards it despite being restrained. // 16.75 //


For those brought up well are ashamed of unpleasant occurrences going on in the mind, / 

As one who is bright, young and good-looking is ashamed of unsightly, ill-arranged objects hanging around his neck. // 16.76 //


If, though they are being shaken off, a trace persists of unhelpful thoughts, /

One should resort to different tasks, such as study or physical work, as a means of consigning those thoughts to oblivion. // 16.77 //


A clear-sighted person should even sleep or resort to physical exhaustion, /

But should never dwell on a bad stimulus, pending on which might be an adverse reaction. // 16.78 //


For just as a man afraid of thieves in the night would not open his door even to friends, /

So does a wise man withhold consent equally to the doing of anything bad or anything good that involves the faults. // 16.79 //


If, though fended off by such means, faults do not turn back, /

Then, eliminated in order of their grossness, they must be driven out like impurities from gold. // 16.80 //


Just as a man who feels depressed following a torrid love affair /

Takes refuge in activities like quick marching, so should a wise person proceed with regard to the faults. // 16.81 //


If their counteragent cannot be found and unreal fancies do not subside, / 

They must not for a moment be left unchecked: no whiff of them should be tolerated, as if they were snakes in the house. // 16.82 //


Grit tooth against tooth, if you will, press the tongue forward and up against the palate, /

And grip the mind with the mind -- make an effort, but do not yield to them. // 16.83 //


Is it any wonder that a man without any delusions should not become deluded when he has contentedly repaired to the forest? /

[But] a man who is not shaken when challenged to the core by the stimuli of the aforementioned [ideas, thoughts, and fancies]:11 he is a man of action; he is a steadfast man. // 16.84 //


So, in order to make the noble truths your own, first clear a path according to this plan of action, /

Like a king going on campaign to subdue his foes, wishing to conquer unconquered dominions. // 16.85 //


These salubrious wilds that surround us are suited to practice and not thronged with people. /

Furnishing the body with ample solitude, cut a path for abandoning the afflictions. // 16.86 //


Kauṇḍinya, Nanda, Kṛmila, Aniruddha, Tiṣya, Upasena, Vimala, Rādha, /

Vāśpa, Uttara, Dhautaki, Moha-rāja, Kātyāyana, Dravya, Pilinda-vatsa,12 // 16.87 //


Bhaddāli, Bhadrāyaṇa, Sarpa-dāsa, Subhūti, Go-datta, Sujāta, Vatsa, /

Saṁgrāmajit, Bhadrajit, Aśvajit, Śrona and Sona Koṭikarna,13 // 16.88 //


Kṣemā, Ajita, the mothers of Nandaka and Nanda, Upāli, Vāgīśa, Yaśas, Yaśoda, / 

Mahāhvaya, Valkalin, Rāṣṭra-pāla, Sudarśana, Svāgata and Meghika,14 // 16.89 //


Kapphina, Kāśyapa of Uruvilvā, the great Mahā-kāśyapa, Tiṣya, Nanda, /

Pūrṇa and Pūrṇa as well as Pūrṇaka and Pūrṇa Śonāparānta,15 // 16.90 //


The son of Śāradvatī, Subāhu, Cunda, Kondeya, Kāpya, Bhṛgu, Kuṇṭha-dhāna, /

Plus Śaivala, Revata and Kauṣṭhila, and he of the Maudgalya clan16 and Gavām-pati-- // 16.91 //


Be quick to show the courage that they have shown in their practice, working to principle. /

Then you will assuredly take the step that they took and will realise the splendour that they realised. // 16.92 //


Just as a fruit may have flesh that is bitter to the taste and yet is sweet when eaten ripe, /

So heroic effort, through the struggle it involves, is bitter and yet, in accomplishment of the aim, its mature fruit is sweet. // 16.93 //


Directed energy is paramount: for, in doing what needs to be done, it is the foundation; without directed energy there is no accomplishment at all; /

All success in this world arises from directed energy -- and in the absence of directed energy wrongdoing is rampant. // 16.94 //


No gaining of what is yet to be gained, and certain loss of what has been gained, /

Along with low self-esteem, wretchedness, the scorn of superiors,

Darkness, lack of spirit, and the breakdown of learning, restraint and contentment: /

For men without directed energy a great fall awaits. // 16.95 //


When a capable person hears the guiding principle but realises no growth,

When he knows the most excellent method but realises no upward repose, /

When he leaves home but in freedom realises no peace:

The cause is the laziness in him and not an enemy. // 16.96 //


A man obtains water if he digs the ground with unflagging exertion,

And produces fire from fire-sticks by continuous twirling. /

But those are sure to reap the fruit of their effort whose energies are harnessed to practice,

For rivers that flow swiftly and constantly cut through even a mountain. // 16.97 //



After ploughing and protecting the soil with great pains, a farmer gains a bounteous crop of corn;

After striving to plumb the ocean's waters, a diver revels in a bounty of coral and pearls; /


After seeing off with arrows the endeavour of rival kings, a king enjoys royal dominion.

So direct your energy in pursuit of peace, for in directed energy, undoubtedly, lies all growth." // 16.98 //




The 16th Canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "Exposition of the Noble Truths."







1 The four stages of sitting-meditation, described from 17.42 to 17.55.

2 Here (as also in 12.39-40) nimittam is identified with kāraṇa, and means cause.

3 Rather than discuss the principle of cause and effect in the abstract, here the Buddha speaks of seed and fruit.

4 Or, according to the variant preferred by EHJ, “for the mastery of one's karma-conduct.”

5 The sense of realizing elements “all together, and one after another,” echoes 16.5, as well as 10.19.

6 Paradoxically, nimittam means both (a) mark, target, object (see 13.41 “objectified image”), and (b) cause (see 16.17, 16.96), causal factor or stimulus (see 16.72, 16.84). It also means sign (see 1.32; 5.10). In the series of verses from 16.53 to 16.67 apparently dealing with the practice of mental development (bhāvanā), whose aim is the removal of polluting influences, primarily through the use of antidotes, nimitta might be understood as meaning (a) a target/area/subject [for development/ cultivation], or (b) a stimulus used in such practice (as in resort to a disagreeable or unpleasant stimulus; see 16.60), or indeed as both (a) and (b) together – insofar as a target is itself a kind of stimulus. Up to this point, Aśvaghoṣa has used nimitta in various distinct meanings; from here he seems to use nimitta in such a way that it cannot be definitively understood in any of these meanings -- say, as cause/stimulus, or as target/object. When we are short of energy, for example, what is an appropriate nimitta? To eat a bowl of porridge, and have a lie down? Sometimes, yes. To think a motivating thought? Sometimes, yes. To attend to causes? Sometimes, yes. On the contrary, to keep one's eyes o the prize, the desired effect? Sometimes, yes. Amid this ambiguity and uncertainty, "factor" has been selected as a translation of nimitta, in the hope that the meaning of “factor” might be broad enough not to rule anything definitively in or out.

7As a noun from upa-√īkṣ, which means “to look on, overlook, disregard, neglect, leave be,” aupekṣika can be understood (a) as the practice of not interfering (16.65), or (b) as the state of mind associated with such practice, that is “indifference,” or (as it is usually translated in the context of meditation) “equanimity” (17.54).

8 Aśubhaṃ nimittam, “an unpleasant factor,” is generally understood to refer to the so-called impurity meditation, in which some unattractive object is conjured up in the mind and contemplated. If we take nimittam to mean “cause,” however, an aśubhaṃ nimittam need not be anything as imaginative as an impurity meditation: it might mean, for example, getting on with some disagreeable job.

9 Or “a different factor.” In this particular context nimitta seems to invite the translation “stimulus.” “Stimulus” might also work in the series of verses from 16.53, though that translation might be far from conventional understanding of what nimitta means in the context of bhāvanā practice.

10 Aśubhaṃ nimittam is conventionally understood to mean “impurity meditation” – the kind of contemplation that some celibate monastics practice as an antidote to sexual desire. This kind of contemplation seems to be described in 17.38. But aśubhaṃ nimittam doesn't seem to indicate such practice, here. Or does it? Was Aśvaghoṣa circumspectly calling into question the purity of the so-called “impurity meditation,” which tends to involve the kind of pessimistic thinking in which the striver engages, during his tirade against women in Canto 8?

11 Again Aśvaghoṣa seems to be playing with the multiplicity of possible meanings of nimitta, which cannot mean the same here as in the series of verses from 16.53. The evident difficulty of dealing with the ambiguity of nimitta caused LC to amend tan-nimittair to tad-vitarkaiḥ (“by such thoughts”). EHJ retained tan-nimittair but translated as “before the onslaught of such ideas.”

12 Kauṇḍinya (mentioned in 3.13) was celebrated as one of the Buddha's ten great disciples, as were Aniruddha and Kātyāyana. The non-handsome-Nanda of this verse was formerly a cowherd.

13 Subhūti was another of the Buddha's ten great disciples. A record of the Buddha's teaching addressed to Baddhāli is preserved in Pali in the Baddhāli Sutta.

14 Upāli was another of the Buddha's ten great disciples.

15 Two of these nine individuals are included in the list of the Buddha's ten great disciples; namely, one of the Pūrṇas, and Mahā-kāśyapa.

16 Maudgalyāyana (he of the Maudgalya clan) was another of the Buddha's ten great disciples. The two of the ten great disciples not mentioned on this list of 62 excellent individuals are Śāriputra and Ānanda.






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