The Meghiya Sutta

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In the Meghiya  Sutta, the Buddha teaches Meghiya five qualities that bring awakening, or full human maturity. Meghiya, having taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Buddha’s sangha and living as a monk for a reasonable amount of time, finds himself still troubled by three unwholesome qualities of mind.

In seclusion, the thought arises in Meghiya “It is indeed strange and remarkable. I have gone forth from home to homelessness and have been developing the Dhamma, yet I continue to be overwhelmed by three troubling kinds of thoughts – sensual thoughts, malevolent thoughts, and cruel thoughts.”

Meghiya seeks out the Buddha one afternoon: “Revered teacher, I continue to be troubled by sensual thoughts, by malevolent thoughts, and by cruel thoughts.”

“Meghiya, when your mindfulness is not fully refined, still immature, there are five qualities that develop full maturity and the cessation of troubling qualities of mind.

“The first quality to develop are skillful and honorable friends and associations. Avoid unskillful, distracting, and troubling associations.

“The second quality to develop is restraint in conduct, avoiding the danger in even the slightest transgressions. Train yourself to keep all the precepts and to practice Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood.

“The third quality to develop is speech that is effacing and that does not promote the (ego) self. Effacing speech relaxes the mind and conduces towards dispassion, peace, direct knowledge, unbinding, enlightenment, nibbana.

“The fourth quality to develop is energy and (Right) effort for abandoning unwholesome qualities and developing wholesome qualities (of mind). Be vigorous and persevering with regard to wholesome qualities.

“The fifth quality to develop is wisdom born of penetrative knowledge of the arising and passing away of suffering, knowledge with regard to the Four Noble Truths.

“When mindfulness is still unrefined and immature these are the five qualities to be developed that lead directly to full maturity, to awakening.

“It is to be expected, Meghiya, that one who has skillful friends and associates that they will be restrained in conduct and follow the precepts. One who has skillful friends and associates will be effacing in speech conducing their mind towards direct knowledge and unbinding. One who has skillful friends will  have the energy and effort to abandon unwholesome qualities and develop wholesome qualities. One who has skillful friends will be wise born of penetrative knowledge of the arising and passing away of suffering, knowledge with regard to the Four Noble Truths.

“Furthermore Meghiya, one who has established these five qualities should develop four additional qualities:

  • Sensual craving should be abandoned.
  • Metta (goodwill, lovingkindness) should be cultivated.
  • Mindfulness of the breath should be maintained to interrupt discursive and conditioned thinking.
  • Impermanence should be fully understood to cease I-making and understand not-self. When the interplay between impermanence and not-self (anicca and anatta) I-making (selfing) is abandoned and suffering (dukkha) ends. This is nibbana here and now.

The Buddha concludes this sutta with verse:

Trivial thoughts, subtle thoughts,
Mental reactions that continue to distract,
Not understanding conditioned thinking
One wanders endlessly in samsara (ignorance).

Understanding the roots of ignorance
The ardent and mindful restrains ignorance,
The fully awakened completely abandons ignorance
And the mental reactions that continue to distract.

End of Sutta

In this concise teaching to Meghiya the Buddha is placing great importance on having admirable friends and associates. This can easily be seen as an aspect of Right View and initial wisdom.

Restraint in conduct refers to Right Intention as the resolve necessary to abandon unskillful behavior. Being mindful of Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood provides the refined mindfulness necessary to recognize unskillful thoughts, words, and actions. Effacing speech diminishes I-making and conceit. Enthusiasm for developing the Dhamma is an aspect of Right View and knowing that the most profound and useful teachings of all time continues – true Dhamma lineage is established in each mind that engages with the Eightfold Path.

One who has penetrated the Three Marks of Existence, the arising and passing away of all things, including wrong views of self, has fully developed an awakened, fully mature mind.

These five foundational qualities are maintained through sensual restraint, loving-kindness towards self and others, mindfulness of what is occurring, and continually recognizing impermanence as life unfolds.

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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 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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Becoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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