Arrow Parable

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Arrow Parable: aka Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta: The Shorter Instructions to Malunkya translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu © 1998–2011 I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. Then, as Ven. Malunkyaputta was alone in seclusion, this train of thought arose in his awareness: These positions that are undeclared, set aside, discarded by the Blessed One — 'The cosmos is eternal,' 'The cosmos is not eternal,' 'The co
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  Arrow Parable: akaCula-Malunkyovada Sutta: The Shorter Instructions to Malunkyatranslated from the Pali byThanissaro Bhikkhu© 1998–2011I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta's Grove,Anathapindika's monastery. Then, as Ven. Malunkyaputta was alone in seclusion, this train of thoughtarose in his awareness: These positions that are undeclared, set aside, discarded by the Blessed One — 'The cosmos is eternal,' 'The cosmos is not eternal,' 'The cosmos is finite,' 'The cosmos is infinite,' 'Thesoul & the body are the same,' 'The soul is one thing and the body another,' 'After death a Tathagataexists,' 'After death a Tathagata does not exist,' 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist,''After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist' — I don't approve, I don't accept that theBlessed One has not declared them to me. I'll go ask the Blessed One about this matter. If he declares tome that 'The cosmos is eternal,' that 'The cosmos is not eternal,' that 'The cosmos is finite,' that 'Thecosmos is infinite,' that 'The soul & the body are the same,' that 'The soul is one thing and the bodyanother,' that 'After death a Tathagata exists,' that 'After death a Tathagata does not exist,' that 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist,' or that 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor doesnot exist,' then I will live the holy life under him. If he does not declare to me that 'The cosmos iseternal,'... or that 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' then I will renounce thetraining and return to the lower life. Then, when it was evening, Ven. Malunkyaputta arose from seclusion and went to the Blessed One. Onarrival, having bowed down, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, Lord, just now, as I was alone in seclusion, this train of thought arose in my awareness: 'These positions that are undeclared, set aside, discarded by the Blessed One... I don't approve, I don't acceptthat the Blessed One has not declared them to me. I'll go ask the Blessed One about this matter. If hedeclares to me that The cosmos is eternal, ... or that After death a Tathagata neither exists nor doesnot exist, then I will live the holy life under him. If he does not declare to me that The cosmos iseternal, ... or that After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist, then I will renounce thetraining and return to the lower life.' Lord, if the Blessed One knows that 'The cosmos is eternal,' then may he declare to me that 'Thecosmos is eternal.' If he knows that 'The cosmos is not eternal,' then may he declare to me that 'Thecosmos is not eternal.' But if he doesn't know or see whether the cosmos is eternal or not eternal, then,in one who is unknowing & unseeing, the straightforward thing is to admit, 'I don't know. I don't see.'...If he doesn't know or see whether after death a Tathagata exists... does not exist... both exists & doesnot exist... neither exists nor does not exist,' then, in one who is unknowing & unseeing, thestraightforward thing is to admit, 'I don't know. I don't see.' Malunkyaputta, did I ever say to you, 'Come, Malunkyaputta, live the holy life under me, and I willdeclare to you that 'The cosmos is eternal,' or 'The cosmos is not eternal,' or 'The cosmos is finite,' or 'The cosmos is infinite,' or 'The soul & the body are the same,' or 'The soul is one thing and the bodyanother,' or 'After death a Tathagata exists,' or 'After death a Tathagata does not exist,' or 'After death aTathagata both exists & does not exist,' or 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist'? No, lord.   And did you ever say to me, 'Lord, I will live the holy life under the Blessed One and [in return] hewill declare to me that 'The cosmos is eternal,' or 'The cosmos is not eternal,' or 'The cosmos is finite,'or 'The cosmos is infinite,' or 'The soul & the body are the same,' or 'The soul is one thing and the bodyanother,' or 'After death a Tathagata exists,' or 'After death a Tathagata does not exist,' or 'After death aTathagata both exists & does not exist,' or 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist'? No, lord. Then that being the case, foolish man, who are you to be claiming grievances/making demands of anyone? Malunkyaputta, if anyone were to say, 'I won't live the holy life under the Blessed One as long as hedoes not declare to me that The cosmos is eternal, ... or that After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist, ' the man would die and those things would still remain undeclared by the Tathagata. It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends &companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won'thave this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a priest,a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name& clan name of the man who wounded me... until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short... untilI know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored... until I know his home village, town, or city... until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow... until Iknow whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or  bark... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated... until I knowwhether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound withthe sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrowremoved until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, acurved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.' The man would die and those thingswould still remain unknown to him. In the same way, if anyone were to say, 'I won't live the holy life under the Blessed One as long as hedoes not declare to me that 'The cosmos is eternal,'... or that 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' the man would die and those things would still remain undeclared by the Tathagata. Malunkyaputta, it's not the case that when there is the view, 'The cosmos is eternal,' there is the livingof the holy life. And it's not the case that when there is the view, 'The cosmos is not eternal,' there is theliving of the holy life. When there is the view, 'The cosmos is eternal,' and when there is the view, 'Thecosmos is not eternal,' there is still the birth, there is the aging, there is the death, there is the sorrow,lamentation, pain, despair, & distress whose destruction I make known right in the here & now. It's not the case that when there is the view, 'The cosmos is finite,' there is the living of the holy life.And it's not the case that when there is the view, 'The cosmos is infinite,' there is the living of the holylife. When there is the view, 'The cosmos is finite,' and when there is the view, 'The cosmos is infinite,'there is still the birth, there is the aging, there is the death, there is the sorrow, lamentation, pain,despair, & distress whose destruction I make known right in the here & now. It's not the case that when there is the view, 'The soul & the body are the same,' there is the living of the holy life. And it's not the case that when there is the view, 'The soul is one thing and the bodyanother,' there is the living of the holy life. When there is the view, 'The soul & the body are the same,'and when there is the view, 'The soul is one thing and the body another,' there is still the birth, there isthe aging, there is the death, there is the sorrow, lamentation, pain, despair, & distress whosedestruction I make known right in the here & now.  It's not the case that when there is the view, 'After death a Tathagata exists,' there is the living of theholy life. And it's not the case that when there is the view, 'After death a Tathagata does not exist,' thereis the living of the holy life. And it's not the case that when there is the view, 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist,' there is the living of the holy life. And it's not the case that when there isthe view, 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist' there is the living of the holy life.When there is the view, 'After death a Tathagata exists'... 'After death a Tathagata does not exist'...'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist'... 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor doesnot exist,' there is still the birth, there is the aging, there is the death, there is the sorrow, lamentation, pain, despair, & distress whose destruction I make known right in the here & now. So, Malunkyaputta, remember what is undeclared by me as undeclared, and what is declared by me asdeclared. And what is undeclared by me? 'The cosmos is eternal,' is undeclared by me. 'The cosmos isnot eternal,' is undeclared by me. 'The cosmos is finite'... 'The cosmos is infinite'... 'The soul & the bodyare the same'... 'The soul is one thing and the body another'... 'After death a Tathagata exists'... 'After death a Tathagata does not exist'... 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist'... 'After death aTathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' is undeclared by me. And why are they undeclared by me? Because they are not connected with the goal, are notfundamental to the holy life. They do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, directknowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That's why they are undeclared by me. And what is declared by me? 'This is stress,' is declared by me. 'This is the srcination of stress,' isdeclared by me. 'This is the cessation of stress,' is declared by me. 'This is the path of practice leadingto the cessation of stress,' is declared by me. And why are they declared by me? Because they areconnected with the goal, are fundamental to the holy life. They lead to disenchantment, dispassion,cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That's why they are declared by me. So, Malunkyaputta, remember what is undeclared by me as undeclared, and what is declared by me asdeclared. That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Malunkyaputta delighted in the Blessed One's words.
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