BUDDHA SABBASAVA SUTTA

ALL THE ASAVAS*

‘Thus have I heard.  The Blessed One, Gautama Buddha, was once staying at Savatthi, at the Jetavana, in Anatha Pindika’s park.

There Gautama Buddha, the Blessed One, addressed the Bhikkhus, and said, ‘Bhikkhus.’

‘Yea, Lord!’ said those Bhikkhus, in assent, to the Blessed One, Gautama Buddha.

‘I will teach you, O Bhikkhus, the lesson of the subjugation of all the Asavas.  Listen well, and attend, and I will speak!’

‘Even so, Lord!’  said the Bhikkhus, in assent, to Gautama Buddha, the Blessed One.

Then the Blessed One, spake:

‘I say that there is destruction of the Asavas, Bhikkhus, to him who knows, to him who sees; not to him who knows not, to him who sees not.  And what do I say, Bhikkhus, is the destruction of the Asavas to him who knows, to him who sees?  It is (a matter of) wise consideration, and of foolish consideration.

In him, Bhikkhus, who considers unwisely, Asavas which have not arisen spring up, and Asavas which have arisen are increased.  In him, Bhikkhus, who considers wisely, Asavas which have not arisen spring not up, and Asavas which have arisen do not increase.

There are Asavas which should be abandoned, Bhikkhus, by insight, there are Asavas which should be abandoned by subjugation, there are Asavas which should be abandoned by right use, there are Asavas which should be abandoned by endurance, there are Asavas which should be abandoned by avoidance, there are Asavas which should be abandoned by removal, there are Asavas which should be abandoned by cultivation.

And which, Bhikkhus, are the Asavas which should be abandoned by insight? [1]

In the first place, Bhikkhus, the ignorant, unconverted man, who perceives not the Aryas, who comprehends not, nor is trained according to the doctrine of the Aryas; who perceives not good men, who comprehends not, nor is trained according to the doctrine of good men; he neither understands what things ought to be considered, nor what things ought not to be considered; the things that ought not to be considered, those he considers; and the things that ought to be considered, those he does not consider.

And which, Bhikkhus, are those things which he should not consider, which he nevertheless considers?

There are things which, when a man considers them, the Asava of Lust springs up within him, which had not sprung up before; and the Asava of Lust, which had sprung up, grows great;  the Asava of  Life [life in the sense of individuality, of self] springs up within him, which had not sprung up before; and the Asava of Life, which had sprung up, grows great; the Asava of Ignorance springs up within him, which had not sprung up before; and the Asava of Ignorance, which had sprung up, grows great.

These are the things which ought not to be considered, things which he considers.

And which, Bhikkhus, are those things which should be considered, which he nevertheless does not consider?

There are things, Bhikkhus, which, when a man considers them, the Asava of Lust, if it had not sprung up before, springs not up within him; and the Asava of Lust, which had sprung up, is put away; the Asava of Life, if it had not sprung up before, springs not up within him; and the Asava of Life, which had sprung up, is put away; the Asava of Ignorance, if it had not sprung up before, springs not up within him; and the Asava of Ignorance, which had sprung up, is put away.

These are the things which ought to be considered, things which he does not consider.

It is by his consideration of those things, which ought not to be considered; and by his non-consideration of those things, which ought to be considered, that Asavas arise within him which had not sprung up; and Asavas which had sprung up, grow great.’

Unwisely doth he consider thus:

“Have I existed during the ages that are past, or have I not?  What was I during the ages that are past?  How was I during the ages that are past ?  Having been what, what did I become in the ages that are past?  Shall I exist during the ages of the future, or shall I not?  What shall I be during the ages of the future?  How shall I be during the ages of the future?  Having been what, what shall I become during the ages of the future?”

Or he debates within himself as to the present:

‘Do I after all exist, or am I not?  How am I?  This is a being; whence now did it come, and whither will it go?”

In him, thus unwisely considering, there springs up one or other of the six (absurd) notions. [2]

As something true and real he gets the notion:  “I have a self!”

As something true and real he gets the notion:  “I have not a self!”

As something true and real he gets the notion:  “By my self, I am conscious of my self!”

As something true and real he gets the notion: “By myself I am conscious of my non-self!”

Or, again, he gets the notion:  “This soul of mine can be perceived, it has experienced the result of good and evil actions committed here and there;  now this soul of mine is permanent, lasting, eternal, has the inherent quality of never changing, and will continue for ever and ever!”

This, Bhikkhus, is called the walking in delusion, the jungle of delusion [3],  the wilderness of delusion, the puppet show of delusion, the writhing of delusion, the fetter of delusion.

Bound, Bhikkhus, with this fetter of delusion, the ignorant unconverted man becomes not freed from birth, decay, and death, from sorrows, lamentations, pains, and griefs, and from the practice of rites, ceremonies, and the worship of gods, he does not become free, I say, from pain.

But the wise man, Bhikkhus, the Bhikkhu walking in the Ariyas Path, who perceives the Ariyas ones; who comprehends, and is trained according to, the Ariyas Dhamma; who perceives good men, who comprehends, and is trained according to, the doctrine of good men; he understands both what things ought to be considered, and what things ought not to be considered – and thus understanding, the things that ought to be considered those he considers; and the things that ought not to be considered, those he does not consider.

And which, Bhikkhus, are those things which ought not to be considered, and which he does not consider?

There are things which, when a man considers them, the Asava of Lust springs up withing him, which had not sprung up before; and the Asava of Lust, which had sprung up, grows great; the Asava of Life springs up within him, which had not sprung up before; and the Asava of Life, which had sprung up, grows great;  the Asava of Ignorance springs up within him, which had not sprung up before; and the Asava of Ignorance, which had sprung up, grows great.

These are the things which ought not to be considered, things which he considers.

And which, Bhikkhus, are those things which should be considered, and which he does consider?

There are things, Bhikkhus, which, when a man considers them, the Asava of Lust, if it had not sprung up before, springs not up within him; and the Asava of Lust, which had sprung up, is put away;  the Asava of Life, if it had not sprung up before, springs not up within him; and the Asava of Life, which had sprung up, is put away; the Asava of Ignorance, if it had not sprung up before, springs not up within him; and the Asava of Ignorance, which had sprung up, is put away.

These are the things which ought to be considered, things which he does not consider.

It is by his not considering those things which ought to be considered, and by his considering those things which ought not to be considered, that Asavas which had not sprung up within him spring not up, and Asavas which had sprung up are put away.

He considers: “This is suffering.”  He considers, “This is the origin of suffering.”  He considers, “This is the cessation of suffering.”  He considers, “This is the way which leads to the cessation of suffering.”  And from him, thus considering, the three fetters fall away – the delusion of self, hesitation, and the dependence on rites and ceremonies.

These are the Asavas, Bhikkhus, which are to be abandoned by insight.”

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Foot Notes:

[ * ] – ‘The word Asava seems in this Sutta to be used in a general sense, not confined only to the Asavas of sensuality, individuality, delusion, and ignorance, but including the more various defilements or imperfections of mind, out of which those especial defilements will proceed.  Incidentally reference is made to the well-known Buddhist doctrine, that the right thing is to seek after the Nirvana of a perfect life in Arhatship, and not to trouble and confuse oneself by the discussion of speculative questions as to past or future existence, or even as to the presence within the body of a soul.  Buddhism is not only independent of the theory of soul, but regards the consideration of that theory as worse than profitless, as the source of manifold delusions and superstitions.  Practically this comes, however, to much the same thing as the denial of the existence of the soul.  And we have seen above that anattam, the absence of a soul or self as abiding principle, is one of the three parts of Buddhist wisdom [vigga] and of Buddhist perception [sanna].   I may add that the importance of the Asavas appears from the fact that elsewhere the knowledge of them, of their origin, of their cessation, and of the way that leads to their cessation is placed on the road to Arhatship immediately after, and parallel to, the knowledge of Suffering, of its origin, of its cessation, and of the way that leads to its cessation – the knowledge, that is, of the four Ariyas Truths. The Asavas there meant are sensuality, individuality (or life), and ignorance; and the expressions ‘to him who knows, to him who sees’in Pali is ganato passato.   I am unable to suggest any good translation of the term itself – simple though it is.  It means literally ‘a running or flowing’, or (thence), ‘a leak;’ but as that figure is not used in English in a higher sense, it is necessary to choose some other figure; and it is not easy to find one that is appropriate.  I leave the word Asava untranslated.’  

[1] – Dassana.

[2] – Khannam ditthinam.

[3] – Ditthi-gahanam, with allusion, doubtless, if the reading is correct, to gahanam.

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[To be continued].

 

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