Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind,
Getting rid of something and gathering something together,
The practitioner makes the four dhyānas his own,
And duly acquires the five powers of knowing:
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.
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:
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.
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.
For by failing to wake up and come round
To this four, whose substance is what is,
Humankind goes from existence to existence without finding peace,
Hoisted in the swing of saṁsāra.
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.
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.
Good food or bad food, if mixed with poison,
Makes for ruin not for sustenance.
Likewise, whether in a world on the flat or above or below,
All birth makes for hardship not for ease.
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.)
As wind is born from the air,
As fire sleeps in the womb of śamī wood,
And as water gestates inside the earth,
So, from an expectant mind-body, does suffering spring.
Fluidity of water, solidity of earth,
Motion of wind, and constant heat of fire,
Are innate in them; as also it is in the nature
Of both the body and the mind to suffer.
Insofar as there is a body, there is the suffering of sickness, aging and the like;
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.
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.
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 and so will it be, hot.
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.
And this, the suffering of doing, in the world,
Has its cause in clusters of faults which start with thirsting --
Certainly not in God, nor in primordial matter, nor in time;
Nor even in one’s inherent constitution, and not in predestination or self-will.
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;
He is not reborn who is free of dust and darkness.
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:
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.
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:
In a life dominated by anger arises violent anger,
In the lover of passion arises burning passion,
And in the predominantly ignorant, overwhelming ignorance.
In one who has a lesser fault, again, the lesser fault develops.
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.
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.
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.
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,
In which there is no becoming, no aging, no dying,
No illnesses, no being touched by unpleasantness,
No disappointment, or separation from what is pleasant:
It is an ultimate and indestructible step, in which to dwell at ease.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Noble insight into the truths, beginning with the truth of suffering,
Along with thinking straight, and initiative:
These three, pertaining to know-how,
Are for dissolution, based on wisdom, of the afflictions.
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.
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.
But balance casts off the afflictions
Like a mountain 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.
And wisdom destroys the faults without trace,
As a mountain stream in the monsoon destroys the trees on its banks.
Faults consumed by it stand no chance,
Like trees in the fiery wake of a thunderbolt.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then comprehend that suffering is doing
And witness the faults impelling it forward.
Realise its stopping as non-doing,
And know the path as a turning back.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So my friend garner your energy greatly
And strive quickly to put an end to polluting influences,
Examining in particular -- as suffering and impermanent and devoid of self --
For in knowing the six elements of earth, water, fire and the rest,
Generically, and each as specific to itself,
He who knows nothing else but them,
Knows total release from them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That factor [in the field of mental development] 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.
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.
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.
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.
Nor is not interfering valid as a factor [for development]
When one's mind is either lifeless or excited.
For that might engender severe adversity,
Like the neglected illness of a sick man.
A factor ascertained to conduce to non-interference,
Has its time when one's mind is in its normal state;
For thus one can set about the work to be done,
Like a wagon setting off with well-trained horses.
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.
Steadiness lies, when the mind is excited by ardour,
In resorting to an unpleasant factor;
For thus a passionate type obtains relief,
Like a phlegmatic type taking an astringent.
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.
When the mind is agitated by the fault of malice,
Loving-kindness should be cultivated
by channeling it, through one's friends, towards oneself.
For loving-kindness is calming to a hate-afflicted soul,
As cooling treatment is to the man of bilious nature.
Where 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.
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.
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.
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.
Likewise, for garnering as also for calming,
As also when appropriate for leaving well alone,
One should readily attend to the proper factor [for development];
Because even diligence is destructive when accompanied by a wrong approach."
Thus, on retreat from muddling through
And on the principle to come back to, the One Who Went Well spoke to him;
And knowing the varieties of behaviour,
He detailed further the directions for abandoning ideas.
Just as a physician, for a disorder of bile, phlegm, or wind,
-- For whatever disorder of the humours has manifested the symptoms of disease --
Prescribes a course of treatment to cure that very disorder,
So did the Buddha prescribe for the faults:
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]:
He is a man of action; he is a steadfast man.
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 riches.
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.
Kauṇḍinya, Nanda, Kṛmila, Aniruddha,
Tiṣya, Upasena, Vimala and Rādha,
Vāśpa, Uttara, Dhautaki, Moha-rāja,
Kātyāyana, Dravya, Pilinda-vatsa,
Bhaddāli, Bhadrāyaṇa, Sarpa-dāsa,
Subhūti, Go-datta, Sujāta, Vatsa,
Saṁgrāmajit, Bhadrajit, and Aśvajit,
Śrona and Sona Koṭikarna,
Kṣemā, Ajita, the mothers of Nandaka and Nanda,
Upāli, Vāgīśa, Yaśas, Yaśoda,
Mahāhvaya, Valkalin, Rāṣṭra-pāla,
Sudarśana, Svāgata and Meghika,
Kapphina, Kāśyapa of Uruvilvā,
The great Mahā-kāśyapa, Tiṣya, Nanda,
Pūrṇa and Pūrṇa as well as Pūrṇaka
And Pūrṇa Śonāparānta,
The son of Śāradvatī, Subāhu, Cunda,
Kondeya, Kāpya, Bhṛgu, Kuṇṭha-dhāna,
Plus Śaivala, Revata and Kauṣṭhila,
And he of the Maudgalya clan and Gavām-pati --
The courage they have shown in their practice,
Be quick to show the same, working to principle.
Then you will assuredly take the step they took
And will realise the splendour they realised.
Just as the flesh of a fruit may be bitter to the taste
And yet it 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
The 16th Canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "Exposition of the Noble Truths."