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SN 12.63:  Puttamansa Sutta: A Son's Flesh

posted Aug 21, 2013, 7:03 PM by Sung Yang
At Savatthi.

"There are, O monks, four nutriments[1] for the sustenance of beings born, and for the support of beings seeking birth.[2] What are the four?

"Edible food, coarse and fine;[3] secondly, sense-impression;[4] thirdly, volitional thought;[5] fourthly, consciousness.[6]

"How, O monks, should the nutriment edible food be considered? Suppose a couple, husband and wife, have set out on a journey through the desert, carrying only limited provisions. They have with them their only son, dearly beloved by them. Now, while these two traveled through the desert, their limited stock of provisions ran out and came to an end, but there was still a stretch of desert not yet crossed. Then the two thought: 'Our small stock of provisions has run out, it has come to an end; and there is still a stretch of desert that is not yet crossed. Should we not kill our only son, so dearly beloved, prepare dried and roasted meat, and eating our son's flesh, we may cross in that way the remaining part of the desert, lest all three of us perish?'

"And these two, husband and wife, killed their only son, so dearly beloved by them, prepared dried and roasted meat, and, eating their son's flesh, crossed in that way the remaining part of the desert. And while eating their son's flesh, they were beating their breast and crying: 'Where are you, our only and beloved son? Where are you, our only and beloved son?'

"What do you think, O monks? Will they eat the food for the pleasure of it, for enjoyment, for comeliness' sake, for (the body's) embellishment?"[7]

"Certainly not, O Lord."

"Will they not rather eat the food merely for the sake of crossing the desert?"

"So it is, O Lord."

"In the same manner, I say, O monks, should edible food be considered. If, O monks, the nutriment edible food is comprehended, the lust for the five sense-objects is (thereby) comprehended. And if lust for the five sense-objects is comprehended, there is no fetter enchained by which a noble disciple might come to this world again.[8]

"And how, O monks, should the nutriment sense-impression be considered? Suppose, O monks, there is a skinned cow that stands close to a wall, then the creatures living in the wall will nibble at the cow; and if the skinned cow stands near a tree, then the creatures living in the tree will nibble at it; if it stands in the water, the creatures living in the water will nibble at it; if it stands in the open air, the creatures living in the air will nibble at it. Wherever that skinned cow stands, the creatures living there will nibble at it.

"In that manner, I say, O monks, should the nutriment sense-impression be considered. If the nutriment sense-impression is comprehended, the three kinds of feeling[9] are thereby comprehended. And if the three kinds of feeling are comprehended, there is, I say, no further work left to do for the noble disciple.[10]

"And how, O monks, should the nutriment volitional thought be considered? Suppose, O monks, there is a pit of glowing embers, filled to cover a man's height, with embers glowing without flames and smoke. Now a man comes that way, who loves life and does not wish to die, who wishes for happiness and detests suffering. Then two strong men would seize both his arms and drag him to the pit of glowing embers. Then, O monks, far away from it would recoil that man's will, far away from it his longing, far away his inclination. And why? Because the man knows: 'If I fall into that pit of glowing embers, I shall meet death or deadly pain.'

"In that manner, I say, O monks, should the nutriment volitional thought be considered. If the nutriment volitional thought is comprehended, the three kinds of craving[11] are thereby comprehended. And if the three kinds of craving are comprehended, there is, I say, no further work left to do for the noble disciple.

"And how, O monks, should the nutriment consciousness be considered? Suppose, O monks, people have seized a criminal, a robber, and brought him before the king saying: 'This is a criminal, a robber, O Majesty! Mete out to him the punishment you think fit!' Then the king would tell them: 'Go, and in the morning strike this man with a hundred spears!' And they strike him in the morning with a hundred spears. At noon the king would ask his men: 'How is that man?' — 'He is still alive, Your Majesty.' — 'Then go and strike him again at noontime with a hundred spears!' So they did, and in the evening the king asks them again: 'How is that man?' — 'He is still alive.' — 'Then go and in the evening strike him again with a hundred spears!' And so they did.

"What do you think, O monks? Will that man, struck with three hundred spears during a day, suffer pain and torment owing to that?"

"Even if he were to be struck only by a single spear, he would suffer pain and torment owing to that. How much more if he is being struck by three hundred spears!"

"In that manner, I say, O monks, should the nutriment consciousness be considered. If the nutriment consciousness is comprehended, mind-and-matter are thereby comprehended. And if mind and body are comprehended, there is, I say, no further work left to do for the noble disciple."

Notes

1.
Paali: aahaara; from aaharati, to take up, to take on to oneself; to bring, carry, fetch.
2.
Of beings born — bhuutaanam; lit.: of those who have come to existence. — Of beings seeking birth — bhavesinam, lit.: of these seeking existence. The latter term refers, according to the Commentary, in the case of egg-born and womb-born beings, to the period before they have emerged from the egg shell or the membranous sheath. Beings born of moisture (sedaja) or spontaneously (opapaatika) are called "seeking birth" at their first thought moment.
3.
"Edible food," kabali"nkaaro aahaaro, lit.: "morsel-made food."  Comy: "It is a term for the nutritive essence (ojaa) of which boiled rice etc., is the (coarse) basic (vatthu)."
4.
"Sense-impression" (or contact; phassa) is sixfold: through eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind.
5.
"Volitional thought" mano-sancetanaa, is according to Comy. identical with cetanaa, and refers here to kammic volition.
6.
"Consciousness" (viññaa"na) refers to all types of consciousness.
7.
The same phrases occur in the monk's reflection on his alms food, e.g., at MN 2; explained in Visuddhimagga, trans. by Naa.namoli, p. 31 ff.
8.
That is he has become a non-returner (anaagaami) by eradicating the fetter of sensuous desire (kaamaraaga-samyojana) which, according to Comy. forms a unit with those other fetters which are given up (pahaanekattha) at this stage, i.e., personality belief, skeptical doubt, attachment to rites and rituals, and ill-will.
9.
Pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feeling.
10.
This refers to the attainment of sainthood (arahatta).
11.
Sensual craving, craving for (eternal) existence, craving for self-annihilation.
See also: SN 12.11; SN 12.12; SN 12.31; SN 12.64; AN 10.27; The Four Nutriments of Life by Nyanaponika Thera.


©1981 Buddhist Publication Society. 

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