Anuradha Sutta Authentic Dhamma

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Introduction

The Anuradha Sutta is another sutta where the Buddha is asked questions whose basis is rooted wrong views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. Views established in ignorance can only continue ignorance and continue as a source of conjecture, disappointment, and ongoing deluded thinking. This sutta is similar to the Vacchagotta Sutta in that the questioner(s) is seeking answers to common existential ideology. 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.

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 self-referential ego-personality, uses to ignore its ignorance of these Four Truths.

In this sutta, the Buddha refers to Three Marks Of Existence and Five Clinging-Aggregates. [1,2]

My Comments within the sutta are in italics.

Anuradha Sutta, Authentic Dhamma

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 Anurudha:

“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 and 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. [1]

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.”

“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’?”

“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.[2]

“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 bein 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

As with all suttas, this sutta must be seen in the context of the Buddha’s Dhamma. As stated in the Paticcasamuppada Sutta, the sutta on Dependent Origination, [3] it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths [4] that leads to all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing experience. It is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that establishes the environment where foolish ideas leading to these common existential questions seem reasonable. When seen in the proper context it is clearly understood that these questions are rooted in I-making and do not incline the mind towards developing a penetrative and profound understanding of Dukkha.

Peace.

 

  1. Three Marks Of Existence
  2. Five Clinging-Aggregates
  3. Dependent Origination
  4. Four Noble Truths

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 Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland and Maurice Walsh, 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 contextual edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

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