The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

Commentary, Visuddhi Magga

"Next, after he has put on his waist cloth as one who hides an abscess,
and tied his waist band as one who ties a bandage on a wound, and robed
himself in his upper robes as one who hides a skeleton, and takes out his
bowl as one who takes out a pan for medicine, when he reaches the vicinity
of the village gate, perhaps the sight of an elephant's carcase, a horse's
carcase, a buffalo's carcase, a human carcase, a snake's carcase, or a
dog's carcase, awaits him, and not only that but he has to suffer his nose
to be assailed by the smell of them." - from Visuddhi Magga, The Path of
Purification, by Buddhaghosa, trans. Nanamoli.

"And thus, bhikkhu, what is enlightenment, what is the cessation of suf-
fering, in the body that suffers, that does not comprehend what it does or
does not suffer, which no longer understands beyond the pain of the wound,
the disease? What is to be done with senescence, with delirium, with decay
within which the name is no longer spoken, the ears no longer hear, the
eyes no longer see, the mind no longer remembers the paths of meditation,
nor does not remember to forget them, nor forget to remember them? And
what, bhikkhu, if I am not in my right mind, if I am subject to such
visions that I am the subject of such visions, if such visions are the
breadth and depth of my world? What is then enlightenment, all but forgot-
ten in the quagmire of nightmare which does not abandon me in the light of
day? What then? What if it is the decay of my body that forms the decay of
my body and the decay of my mind? What if, near death, I am not conscious
of death, not conscious of world and non-world, not conscious of Buddha
and non-Buddha, not conscious of dhamma, what then? For are we not always
of this path of deterioration, of mental incapacity, of sickness unto
death, are we not always of this path of inconceivability, impossibility,
of such illness that the mind no longer speaks, nor thinks, nor imagines,
nor dreams? And what is an exception to this, and what is the norm of
this? And what are the vagaries of fevers, that nothing remains in focus,
that pain cannot be banished from pain, what then? And must we not drive
our body and our mind, but drive them just so far, before the limit and
degree of cessation, before right-mind is lost, before dependent origina-
tion is no longer cause for concern, no longer understood, spoken, in and
out of mind, present and non-present, remembered and forgotten? Do we not
teeter on the edge of the abyss before all is lost, before sickness car-
ries us to the nonsense of meditation, the absurdity of absurdity? Are we
not driven by our own instincts to crawl upon the earth, to swallow it, in
order to remain alive, our mind no longer thinking, no longer ours, yours,
no longer not-ours, not yours? What is enlightenment, what can be done,
when there is nothing to be done, no one to be doing, no thing, no doing,
but not language, memory, meditation, state, paradox, consciousness,
dream, unconsciousness, nothing, not even the annihilation of death, not
even cessation, not even the cessation of cessation, what then? For then
there shall be no speaking, no asking, no remembering, no chanting, no
meditation, no dreaming, no forgetting? And what then? For then there
shall be pain, no pain, and what then? Mind disappears into ignorance,
ignorance disappears. Why, bhikkhu, is there enlightenment at one time and
not another? Why must one be healthy, or unhealthy, or hungry, or of
satiation, or thirsty, or fulfilled? Why must one negate all desires, or
negate none of them? Why enlightenment? Why purity, and why not impurity?
When impurity breeds impurity, when ought is pure? When purity breeds
purity, when ought is impure? Of what use, what concern, bhikkhu? When one
no longer speaks of these things, when one can no longer speak of these
things, when one can no longer speak, when nothing at all, what then?

"There are here in the Victor's Dispensation
"Seekers gone forth from home to homelessness,
"And who although desiring purity
"Have no right knowledge of the sure straight way --"

And what, bhikkhu, given all that I have said and thought, what if there
is no knowledge, no right knowledge, no false knowledge, what of sickness
and unthinking, what of dementia and no rightness, what if there is no
way, what if there is no straightness, if the eye cannot see, the ear
cannot hear, the mind cannot think, cannot unthinking, cannot desire
purity or impurity, cannot desire, what if there is no mindfulness, what
if there is no home? What then, bhikkhu, what then?

Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.