Revised:Tue 23 November 1999

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/majjhima/mn121.html

Majjhima Nikàya 121

Cula-Suññata Sutta

The Lesser Discourse on Emptiness

For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma


I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Sàvatthi in the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migara's mother. Then in the evening, Ven. ânanda, coming out of seclusion, approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat down to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One: "On one occasion, when the Blessed One was staying among the Sakyans in a Sakyan town named Nagaraka, there -- face to face with the Blessed One -- I heard and learned this: 'I now often remain in an attitude of emptiness.' Did I hear that correctly, learn it correctly, attend to it correctly, remember it correctly?"

[The Buddha:] "Yes, ânanda, you heard that correctly, learned it correctly, attended to it correctly, remembered it correctly. Now, as well as before, I often remain in an attitude of emptiness. Just as this palace of Migara's mother is empty of elephants, cattle & mares, empty of gold & silver, empty of assemblies of women & men, and there is only this non-emptiness -- the singleness based on the community of monks; even so, ânanda, a monk -- not attending to the perception (mental note) of village, not attending to the perception of human being -- attends to the singleness based on the perception of forest. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of forest.

"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of village are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of forest.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of village. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of forest.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(The Perception of Earth)

"Further, ânanda, the monk -- not attending to the perception of human being, not attending to the perception of forest -- attends to the singleness based on the perception of earth. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of earth. Just as a bull's hide is stretched free from wrinkles with a hundred stakes, even so -- without attending to all the ridges & hollows, the river ravines, the tracts of stumps & thorns, the craggy irregularities of this earth -- he attends to the singleness based on the perception of earth. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of earth.

"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being are not present. Whatever disturbances would exist based on the perception of forest are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of earth.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of forest. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of earth.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(The Infinitude of Space)

"Further, ânanda, the monk -- not attending to the perception of forest, not attending to the perception of earth -- attends to the singleness based on the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space.

"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of forest are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of earth are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of forest. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of earth. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(The Infinitude of Consciousness)

"Further, ânanda, the monk -- not attending to the perception of earth, not attending to the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space -- attends to the singleness based on the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness.

"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of earth are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of earth. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(Nothingness)

"Further, ânanda, the monk -- not attending to the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space, not attending to the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness -- attends to the singleness based on the perception of the sphere of nothingness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of the sphere of nothingness.

"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of the sphere of nothingness.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of the sphere of nothingness.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(Neither Perception nor Non-Perception)

"Further, ânanda, the monk -- not attending to the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, not attending to the perception of the sphere of nothingness -- attends to the singleness based on the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception.

"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the sphere of nothingness are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the sphere of nothingness. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(Theme-Less Concentration)

"Further, ânanda, the monk -- not attending to the perception of the sphere of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception -- attends to the singleness based on the theme-less concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its theme-less concentration of awareness.

"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances would exist based on the perception of the sphere of nothingness are not present. Whatever disturbances would exist based on the perception of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the sphere of nothingness. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. There is only this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(Release)

"Further, ânanda, the monk -- not attending to the perception of the sphere of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception -- attends to the singleness based on the theme-less concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its theme-less concentration of awareness.

"He discerns that 'This theme-less concentration of awareness is fabricated & mentally fashioned.' And he discerns that 'Whatever is fabricated & mentally fashioned is inconstant & subject to cessation.' For him -- thus knowing, thus seeing -- the mind is released from the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances would exist based on the effluent of sensuality...the effluent of becoming...the effluent of ignorance, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the effluent of sensuality...becoming...ignorance. And there is just this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, pure -- superior & unsurpassed.

"ânanda, whatever contemplatives and priests who in the past entered & remained in an emptiness that was pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all entered & remained in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and priests who in the future will enter & remain in an emptiness that will be pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all will enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and priests who at present enter & remain in an emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.

"Therefore, ânanda, you should train yourselves: 'We will enter & remain in the emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. ânanda delighted in the Blessed One's words.