Anuradha Sutta Authentic Dhamma

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Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked inline and at the end of this article. ([x])

Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  [1]  Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

His first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the singular path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [2,3] Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta | Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

The Anuradha Sutta is another sutta where the Buddha is asked questions whose basis is rooted in views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. Clinging to views established in ignorance can only continue ignorance and continue as a source of foolish speculation, conjecture, disappointment, and ongoing deluded thinking. This sutta is similar to the Vacchagotta Sutta and other suttas on the dangers of following false “dharmas” in that the questioner(s) is seeking answers to fabricated views whose answers could only continue fabrications and continue ignorance of Four Noble Truths. It is this confused ideology that seeks to establish a permanent and sustainable “being” in all realms, physical or non-physical, real or conveniently imagined. [4,5]  Fabrications | Teaching An Authentic Dhamma

This compulsive need to establish a “self” in every thought, word, and idea that occurs is the powerful and extremely subtle strategy that anatta, a confused, self-referential ego-personality uses to ignore its own ignorance of these Four Truths. In this way, this sutta is another sutta that references  Three Marks Of Existence. [6,7] Four Noble Truths  |  Three Marks Of Existence

Attempting to establish a “self” int any speculative non-physical realm is shown by the Buddha’s to arise from this same ignorance of Four Noble Truths. This speculative attempt at non-physical self-establishment is rooted in this initial ignorance and commonly manifests as a belief in an inner Buddha-nature or inner Buddhahood. Imaginary non-physical self-establishment is also commonly encouraged by modern “Buddhist” practices that teach future “salvation” in non-physical realms as a reward for good behavior and sufficient “effort” while disregarding what the Buddha taught as authentic and useful Dhamma practice. [8] Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views

Any imaginary self-establishment separates the mind from the body and negates the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Any mystical, magical, or simply an imagined mundane view of self, including past views or future speculation is rooted in fabricated views of self and is to be recognized and abandoned by a wise Dhamma practitioner.

The Five Clinging-Aggregates describes the ongoing personal experience of suffering arising from ignorance. When seen in the intended context of the Buddha’s Dhamma, the Five Clinging-Aggregates arise from ongoing fabricated view and so are an imaginary self-establishment that is always prone to confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing stress and suffering. [9] Five Clinging-Aggregates

The Buddha never saw himself or his capacity to awaken as different than any human being. The Buddha’s reference below to himself (Tathagata) is also a reference to any wise Dhamma practitioner who has wholeheartedly engaged with the Dhamma.

My Comments within the sutta are in italics.

Anuradha Sutta – Authentic Dhamma And Five Clinging-Aggregates

Samyutta Nikaya 223.86

I have heard that on one occasion the Buddha was staying near Vesali. Venerable Anuradha has visited the Buddha from his forest hut.

While traveling to the Buddha a group of wandering sectarians encountered Anuradha. The group had common questions for Anuradha:

“The Tathagata, the awakened one, has been described as having one of these views:

  • The Tathagata exists after death.
  • The Tathagata does not exist after death.
  • The Tathagata both exists and does not exist after death.
  • The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death.

Venerable Anuradha replied that “the Tathagata, the awakened one, is not described as having any of these views.”

The wandering sectarians said to Anuradha, “You are either an inexperienced newcomer or a foolish elder.” The sectarians took their leave of Anuradha.

Not long after Anuradha thought “If I am questioned again by seekers how will I answer in such a way that will not misrepresent the Buddha’s Dhamma so that those  whose thinking is in line with the Dhamma will have grounds for criticizing me?”

Anuradha went to the Buddha. He bowed and, sat to one side. “Great teacher, a group of wandering sectarians, asked me if you hold any views that agree with these views:

  • The Tathagata exists after death.
  • The Tathagata does not exist after death.
  • The Tathagata both exists and does not exist after death.
  • The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death.

“I said to them, ‘Friends, the Tathagata, the awakened one, is not described as having any of these views.’ They assumed I was an inexperienced newcomer or a foolish elder. I misrepresented your Dhamma. How should I respond in the future to present your authentic Dhamma so that I won’t be criticized by the wise?

The following refers to Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha –  Impermanence, The Not-Self Characteristic, and ongoing confused and deluded thinking. [7] Three Marks Of Existence

The Buddha responds: “What do you think, Anuradha: Is form permanent or impermanent?”

“Form is impermanent, Master.”

“And is that which is impermanent easeful or stressful?”

“That which is impermanent is stressful, Master.”

“And is it authentic to my Dhamma to join with what is stressful, to self-identify with what is stressful by regarding what is impermanent, stressful, subject to change as ‘This is mine. This is myself. This is what I am’?”

“No, it is not, Master.”

The following refers to Five Clinging-Aggregates (form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, consciousness):

“Is feeling permanent or impermanent?”

“Feeling is impermanent, Master.”

“Is perception permanent or impermanent?”

“Perception is impermanent, Master.”

“Are fabrications permanent or impermanent?”

“Fabrications are impermanent, Master.”

“Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?

“Consciousness is impermanent, Master.”

“And is that which is impermanent easeful or stressful?”

“That which is impermanent is stressful, Master.”

“And is it authentic to my Dhamma to join with what is stressful, to self-identify with what is stressful by regarding what is impermanent, stressful, subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is myself. This is what I am’?”

Clinging a view of “self” to any of these impermanent aggregates is the ongoing attempt at establishing an imaginary and speculative self that has no relevance to the reality of Four Noble Truths. This is the self-created personal experience of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences. It is by clinging to these aggregates as “self” through magical rituals and speculative “practices” that obscures the Buddha’s Dhamma and provides seemingly “reasonable| strategies to ignore one’s own ignorance of Four Noble Truths. [8]  Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views

“No, it is not, Master.”

“Anuradha, do you regard form as the Tathagata?”

“No, I do not, Master.”

The following refers to Five Clinging-Aggregates.[9]

“Do you regard feeling as the Tathagata?”

“No, I do not, Master.”

“Do you regard perception as the Tathagata?”

“No, I do not, Master.”

“Do you regard fabrications as the Tathagata?”

“No, I do not, Master.”

“Do you regard consciousness as the Tathagata?”

“No, I do not, Master..”

“Well, Anuradha,

“Do you view the Tathagata as being in form?

“Do you view the Tathagata as being other than form?

“ Do you view the Tathagata as being in feeling?

“Do you view the Tathagata as being other than feeling?

“Do you view the Tathagata as being in perception?

“ Do you view the Tathagata as being other than perception?

“Do you view the Tathagata as being in fabrications?

“Do you view the Tathagata as being other than fabrications?

“Do you view the Tathagata as being in consciousness?

“Do you view the Tathagata as being in other than consciousness?”

“No, I do not, Master.”

“Anuradha, do you view the Tathagata as Five Clinging-Aggregates, as form. feelings, perceptions,  mental fabrications, and consciousness?”

“No, I do not, Master.”

“Do you view the Tathagata as without form, without feeling, without perception, without fabrications, without consciousness?”

“No, I do not, Master.”

“So, Anuradha, when you cannot describe or establish the Tathagata as a permanent truth in this present life is it authentic for you to declare that the Tathagata, the awakened one, has any of these qualities you described?

“No, it is not, Master.”

“Anuradha. You have learned well. Remember what I teach: At all times it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.”

End Of Sutta

 

  1. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. Fabrications
  5. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma
  6. Four Noble Truths
  7. Three Marks Of Existence
  8. Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
  9. Five Clinging-Aggregates

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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

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