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Titthāyatanādi Suttaṃ

(A.i.173)

A Discourse on Heretical Views

Introduction

The title of the sutta could be translated as Heretics (Titthi), Faculties (āyatana), and so forth (ādi). The word “āyatana” has a broad range of meanings. 1. Stretch, extent, reach, compass, region; sphere, locus, place, spot; position, occasion; 2. Exertion, doing, working, practice, performance. 3. Sphere of perception or sense in general, object of thought, sense-organ and object; relation, order.

I have paraphrased or removed some repetitions for the sake of brevity.

Translation

“Monks, there are three heretical views ¹ that when cross-questioned, examined, and asked for reasons by the wise will resolve as being views of inaction (akiriyāya). What three?

  1. There are monks, some recluses and priests who say this and hold this view: ‘Whatever a person experiences, whether pleasant, painful, or neutral, all of that is caused by something done before
  2. There are monks, some recluses and priests who say this and hold this view: ‘Whatever a person experiences, whether pleasant, painful, or neutral, all of that is created by God
  3. There are monks, some recluses and priests who say this and hold this view: ‘Whatever a person experiences, whether pleasant, painful, or neutral, all of that has no cause or condition.” ⁴

“Then, monks, I approached those recluses and priests who are fatalists and asked them if that is their view, they replied that it was, then I said to them: ‘Then according to what you say a person will be a murderer due to something done before, one will be a thief, unchaste, a liar, a slanderer, an abuser, an idle chatterer, covetous, malicious, will hold wrong-views due to something done before.’

“Those who rely on what was done before as the essence have no desire or effort for what should be done or should not be done. Thus being unable to decide the truth of what should or should not be done he is muddle-headed and dwells unprotected, and cannot rightly call himself a recluse. This, monks, was my first righteous refutation of those recluses and priests who say thus, and hold this fatalistic view.

“Then, monks, I approached those recluses and priests who are creationists and asked them if that was their view, they replied that it was, then I said to them: ‘Then according to what you say a person will be a murderer due to being created by God, one will be a thief, unchaste, a liar, a slanderer, an abuser, an idle chatterer, covetous, malicious, will hold wrong-views due to being created by God.’

“Those who rely on God’s creation as the essence have no desire or effort for what should be done or should not be done. Thus being unable to decide the truth of what should or should not be done he is muddle-headed and dwells unprotected, and cannot rightly call himself a recluse. This, monks, was my second righteous refutation of those recluses and priests who say thus, and hold this creationist view.

“Then, monks, I approached those recluses and priests who say there is no cause or condition and asked them if that was their view, when they replied that it was, then I said to them: ‘Then according to what you say a person will be a murderer due to no cause or reason, one will be a thief, unchaste, a liar, a slanderer, an abuser, an idle chatterer, covetous, malicious, will hold wrong-views due to no cause or reason.’

“Those who rely on there being no cause or reason as the essence have no desire or effort for what should be done or should not be done. Thus being unable to decide the truth of what should or should not be done he is muddle-headed and dwells unprotected, and cannot rightly call himself a recluse. This, monks, was my third righteous refutation of those recluses and priests who say thus, and hold this view of no cause or condition.

“These three heretical views, monks when cross-questioned, examined, and asked for reasons by the wise will resolve as being views of inaction.

“This, monks, is the Dhamma taught by me, which cannot be refuted (aniggahito), is undefiled (asaṃkiliṭṭho), blameless (anupavajjo), and not censured (appaṭikuṭṭho) by wise recluses and priests. What is that teaching? These are the six elements, these are the six faculties of contact, these are the eighteen mental investigations (manopavicārāti), these are the four noble truths, which cannot be refuted, are undefiled, blameless, and not censured by wise recluses and priests.

“These, monks, are the six elements. This is the Dhamma taught by me, which cannot be refuted, is undefiled, blameless, and not censured by wise recluses and priests. This was said. Why was this said? There are the six elements — earth-element (pathavī-dhātu), water-element (āpodhātu), fire-element (tejo-dhātu), air-element (vāyo-dhātu), space-element (ākāsa-dhātu), and consciousness-element (viññāṇa-dhātu). These six elements, monks, are the Dhamma taught by me, which cannot be refuted …

“These, monks, are the six faculties of contact. This is the Dhamma taught by me, which cannot be refuted, is undefiled, blameless, and not censured by wise recluses and priests. This was said. Why was this said? These, monks, are the six faculties of contact — eye-contact, ear-contact, nose-contact, tongue-contact, body-contact, mind-contact. These six faculties of contact, monks, are the Dhamma taught by me, which cannot be refuted …

“These are the eighteen mental investigations, monks. This is the Dhamma taught by me, which cannot be refuted, is undefiled, blameless, and not censured by wise recluses and priests. This was said. Why was this said? Having seen a form with the eye, one investigates a form that is the basis for happiness, one investigates a form that is the basis for sorrow, one investigates a form that is the basis for indifference. Having heard a sound with the ear … Having smelled an odour with the nose … having tasted a flavour with the tongue … having felt a touch with the body … having understood an idea with the mind one investigates an idea that is the basis for happiness, one investigates an idea that is the basis for sorrow, one investigates an idea that is the basis for indifference. These eighteen mental investigations, monks, are the Dhamma taught by me, which cannot be refuted …

“These are the four noble truths, monks. This the Dhamma taught by me, which cannot be refuted, is  undefiled, blameless, and not censured by wise recluses and priests. This was said. Why was this said? Depending on the six elements there is appearance in the womb (gabbhassāvakkanti).⁵ When there is appearance, there is mind and matter (nāmarūpaṃ); dependent on mind and matter there are the six sense faculties (saḷāyatanaṃ); dependent on the six sense faculties there is contact (phasso); dependent on contact there is feeling (vedanā). For one who feels, monks, I point out (paññapemi): ‘This is suffering,’ ‘This is the arising of suffering,’ ‘This is the cessation of suffering, and ‘This is the practice leading to the cessation of suffering (dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā).

“And what, monks, is the noble truth of suffering? Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, [disease is suffering],⁶ death is suffering, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair are suffering, association with the unloved is suffering,⁷ separation from loved ones is suffering,⁷ not getting what one wants is suffering, in brief, the five aggregates of attachment are suffering. This, monks, is called the noble truth of suffering.

“And what, monks, is the noble truth of the arising of suffering? Dependent on ignorance there are mental formations, dependent on mental formations there is consciousness, dependent on consciousness there is feeling, dependent on feeling there is craving, dependent on craving there is attachment, dependent on attachment there is becoming, dependent on becoming there is birth, dependent on birth aging, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair come into being. Thus this whole mass of suffering arises. This, monks, is called the noble truth of the cause of suffering.

“And what, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering? With the complete cessation and fading away of ignorance, mental formations cease; with the cessation of mental formations, consciousness ceases; with the cessation of consciousness, mind and matter cease; with the cessation of mind and matter, the six sense faculties cease; with the cessation of the six sense faculties, contact ceases; with the cessation of contact, feeling ceases; with the cessation of feeling, craving ceases; with the cessation of craving, attachment ceases; with the cessation of attachment, becoming ceases; with the cessation of becoming, birth ceases; with the cessation of birth, aging, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair cease. Thus this whole mass of suffering ceases. This, monks, is called the noble truth of the cessation of suffering.

“And what, monks, is the noble truth of the practice leading to the cessation of suffering? It is this very noble eightfold path, namely: right-view, right-thought, right-speech, right-action, right-livelihood, right-effort, right-mindfulness, and right-concentration. This, monks, is called the noble truth of the practice leading to the cessation of suffering. These four noble truths, monks, are the Dhamma taught by me, which cannot be refuted, are undefiled, blameless, and not censured by wise recluses and priests. Thus it was said, and for this reason it was said.”⁸

Notes:

1. The leaders of other groups of recluses and ascetic during the time of the Buddha were known as Titthi, which means literally “a ford, a place to cross.” They claimed to teach doctrines leading to liberation. Modern translators are wary of using the word “heretic” because of its Catholic connotations. However, in my opinion, it is the most accurate term to use. The WordWeb Thesaurus gives the second meaning of heretic as “A person who holds unorthodox opinions in any field (not merely religion).” The discourse clearly shows that their views are blameworthy and do not lead to liberation. They are not sectarians, i.e. those who follow unorthodox schools of Buddhism, but those entirely outside of Buddhism.

2. The wrong-view of fatalism (pubbakatahetu-diṭṭhi).

3. The wrong-view of creationism (issaranimmānahetu-diṭṭhi).

4. The wrong-view of nihilism (akiriyahetu-diṭṭhi). Note that western philosophical terms do not match exactly the meaning of the views as taught by the heretics.

5. Appearance in the womb (gabbhassāvakkanti), often translated as “Descent into the womb,” but nothing descends from above. Rebirth can take place from the lower realms or the human realm into the human realm, as well as from the heavenly realms. Even in the case of the Bodhisatta’s decease from Tusita and taking rebirth in the womb it is misleading to say “descent,” since consciousness in Tusita ceased and rebirth-consciousness (paṭisandhi-viññāṇa) arose in the womb. I labour this point as a wrong-view may be adopted regarding the transmigration of consciousness, as that view held by Bhikkhu Sāti discredited by the Buddha in the Mahātaṇhasaṅkhaya Sutta.

6. Disease is suffering (byādipi dukkho) is not found in the Burmese edition of the text.

7. Association with the unloved (appiyehi sampayogo dukkho), and separation from loved ones (piyehi vippayogo dukkho) are found only in the Burmese edition of the text.

8. The discourse clearly ends here, but the CST4 Tipiṭaka is missing the heading for the second discourse in this chapter — the Bhayasuttaṃ. The Commentary has the heading for [63] 2. Bhayasuttavaṇṇanā.

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