On Origination

Translated by Maurice Walshe

"By whatever properties, features, signs or indications the mind-factor is conceived of, in the absence of these is there any contact to be found?" "No, Lord."

"Then, Ananda, just this, namely mind-and-body, is the root, the cause, the origin, the condition for all contact.

"I have said: 'Consciousness conditions mind-and-body.' . . . If consciousness were not to come into the mother's womb, would mind-and-body develop there?" "No, Lord."

"Or if consciousness, having entered the mother's womb, were to be deflected, would mind-and-body come to birth in this life?" "No, Lord." "And is the consciousness of such a tender young being, boy or girl, were thus cut off, would mind-and-body grow, develop and mature?" "No, Lord." "Therefore, Ananda, just this, namely consciousness, is the root, the cause, the origin, the condition of mind-and-body.

"I have said: 'Mind-and-body conditions consciousness.' . . . If consciousness did not find a resting-place in mind-and-body, would there subsequently be an arising and coming-to-be of birth, aging, death and suffering?" "No, Lord." "Therefore, Ananda, just this, namely mind-and-body, is the root, the cause, the origin, the condition of consciousness. Thus far then, Ananda, we can trace birth and decay, death and falling into other states and being reborn, thus far extends the way of designation, of concepts, thus far is the sphere of understanding, thus far the round goes as far as can be discerned in this life, namely to mind-and-body together with consciousness.

"In what ways, Ananda, do people explain the nature of the self? Some declare the self to be material and limited, saying: 'My self is material and limited'; some declare it to be material and unlimited. . . ; some declare it to be immaterial and limited . . . ; some declare it to be immaterial and unlimited, saying: 'My self is immaterial and unlimited.'

"Whoever declares the self to be material and limited, considers it to be so either now, or in the next world, thinking: 'Though it is not so now, I shall acquire it there.' That being so, that is all we need say about the view that the self is material and limited, and the same applies to the other theories. So much, Ananda, for those who proffer an explanation of the self.

"How is it with those who do not explain the nature of the self? . . .

"In what ways, Ananda, do people regard the self? They equate the self with feeling: 'Feeling is my self,' or: 'Feeling is not my self, my self is impercipient,' or: 'Feeling is not my self, but my self is not impercipient, it is of a nature to feel.'

"Now, Ananda, one who says: 'Feeling is my self' should be told: 'There are three kinds of feeling, friend: pleasant, painful, and neutral. Which of the three do you consider to be your self?' When a pleasant feeling is felt, no painful or neutral feeling is felt, but only pleasant feeling. When a painful feeling is felt, no pleasant or neutral feeling is felt, but only painful feeling. And when a neutral feeling is felt, no pleasant or painful feeling is felt, but only neutral feeling.

"Pleasant feeling is impermanent, conditioned, dependently-arisen, bound to decay, to vanish, to fade away, to cease—and so too are painful feeling and neutral feeling. So anyone who, on experiencing a pleasant feeling, thinks: 'This is my self,' must, at the cessation of that pleasant feeling, think: 'My self has gone!' and the same with painful and neutral feelings. Thus whoever thinks: 'Feeling is my self' is contemplating something in this present life that is impermanent, a mixture of happiness and unhappiness, subject to arising and passing away. Therefore it is not fitting to maintain: 'Feeling is my self.'

"But anyone who says: 'Feeling is not my self, my self is impercipient' should be asked: 'If, friend, no feelings at all were to be experienced, would there be the thought: "I am"?' [to which he would have to reply:] "No, Lord." Therefore it is not fitting to maintain: 'Feeling is not my self, my self is impercipient. '

"And anyone who says: 'Feeling is not my self, but my self is not impercipient, my self is of a nature to feel' should be asked: 'Well, friend, if all feelings absolutely and totally ceased, could there be the thought: "I am this?" [to which he would have to reply:] "No, Lord." "Therefore it is not fitting to maintain: 'Feeling is not my self, but my self is not impercipient, my self is of a nature to feel.'

"From the time, Ananda, when a monk no longer regards feeling as the self, or the self as being impercipient, or as being percipient and of a nature to feel, by not so regarding, he clings to nothing in the world; not clinging, he is not excited by anything, and not being excited he gains personal liberation, and he knows: 'Birth is finished, the holy life has been led, done was what had to be done, there is nothing more here.'”

Excerpted from Thus Have I Heard: The Long Discourses of the Buddha, translated by Maurice Walshe. Reprinted with permission from Wisdom Publications, Boston.

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