Simsapa Sutta A Handful Of Leaves

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Introduction

The Simsapa Sutta is more commonly known as the “Handful Of Leaves” sutta. Here the Buddha is describing the pure and direct focus of his Dhamma. He knew the foolishness and cruelty of continuing ignorance of Four Noble Truths by teaching anything that would develop further confusion and deluded thinking. With great clarity and profound insight grounded in unsurpassed wisdom, and from awakened compassion, he taught a Dhamma free of anything extraneous, protective, or self-serving. It is due to this awakened man’s unconditioned commitment to only Four Noble Truths that the Buddha’s Dhamma continues in relevance and effectiveness 2,600 years after he first taught.

Simsapa Sutta: The Simsapa Leaves

Samyutta Nikaya 56.31

On one occasion the Buddha was staying with a group of disciples in a Simsapa (Indian Rosewood) forest in Kosambi. He reached down picking up a handful of leaves. He then asked those gathered: What is greater in number, the leaves in my hand or those in the trees?

The disciples replied “The leaves in your hand are few, the trees have many more.

“Just as the leaves in the trees are more numerous, the things that I know from direct knowledge are far more numerous than what I teach as my Dhamma. The reason I do not teach these other things is that they are not a part of my Dhamma, they are not related to my Dhamma, and they do not support the principles of a life integrated with the Eightfold Path. These other things do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to calm, to direct knowledge, to cessation, or to self-awakening. These other things do not lead to unbinding (from views ignorant of Four Noble Truths.)

“I teach Four Noble Truths: [1]

  1. This is stress.
  2. This is the origination of stress.
  3. This the cessation of stress.
  4. The Eightfold Path [2] is the path developing the cessation of stress.

“This is what I teach. I teach these things because they are related to my Dhamma and they support the principles of a life integrated with the Eightfold Path. These things that I teach lead directly to disenchantment, to dispassion, to calm, to direct knowledge, to cessation, and to self-awakening. These things that I teach lead directly to unbinding (from views ignorant of Four Noble Truths.)

“This is why I teach these things.

“So this is your practice:

  • Understanding stress
  • Understanding the origination of stress
  • Experiencing the cessation of stress.
  • Developing the Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of stress.

End of Sutta

  1.  Four Noble Truths
  2. Eightfold Path

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, 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 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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