In his book Reading the Buddha’s Discourses in Pali, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi presents original sutta text from the Saṃyutta Nikāya, the third part of the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon, followed by two translations: a literal translation of each sentence and a more natural English rendering, which is in bold below. The book is meant for students who have a basic grasp of Pali and want to progress in their reading, and for anyone who hasn’t studied Pali grammar but is interested in the idioms of the text. The following passage—which includes the original sutta text and the two translations—comes from chapter five and focuses on The Five Aggregates: form (rupa); perceptions (samjna); feeling (vedana); mental formations (sankhara); and consciousness (vijnana).


[1. Form]

Ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā ayojjhāyaṃ viharati gaṅgāya nadiyā tīre. Tatra kho bhagavā bhikkhū āmantesi: “Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, ayaṃ gaṅgā nadī mahantaṃ pheṇapiṇḍaṃ āvaheyya. Tamenaṃ cakkhumā puriso passeyya nijjhāyeyya yoniso upaparikkheyya. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyeyya, tucchakaññeva khāyeyya, asārakaññeva khāyeyya. Kiṃ hi siyā, bhikkhave, pheṇapiṇḍe sāro?

One occasion the Blessed One at Ayojjhā was dwelling, of Ganges River on the bank. There the Blessed One the monks addressed: “Suppose, monks, this Ganges River a great foam-­lump would carry along. That-­this an eye-possessing man would see, would ponder, thoroughly would investigate. To him that seeing, pondering, thoroughly investigating, void-­just would appear, hollow-­just would appear, insubstantial-­just would appear. What for could be, monks, in foam-­lump substance?

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Ayojjhā on the bank of the Ganges River. There the Blessed One addressed the monks: “Suppose, monks, this Ganges River would carry along a great lump of foam. A clear-sighted man would see this, ponder it, and thoroughly investigate it. As he is seeing it, pondering it, and thoroughly investigating it, it would appear to him to be just void, it would appear just hollow, it would appear just insubstantial. For what substance could there be in a lump of foam?

“Evameva kho, bhikkhave, yaṃ kiñci rūpaṃ atītānāgatapaccuppannaṃ ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vāyaṃ dūre santike vā, taṃ bhikkhu passati nijjhāyati yoniso upaparikkhati. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyati, tucchakaññeva khāyati, asārakaññeva khāyati. Kiṃ hi siyā, bhikkhave, rūpe sāro?

“Just so, monks, whatever form past-­future-­present, internal or external or, gross or subtle or, inferior or superior or, which far near or, that a monk sees, ponders, thoroughly investigates. To him that seeing, pondering, thoroughly investigating, void-­just would appear, hollow-­just would appear, insubstantial-just would appear. What for could be, monks, in form substance?

“So too, monks, whatever form there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: a monk sees it, ponders it, and thoroughly investigates it. As he is seeing it, pondering it, and thoroughly investigating it, it would appear to him to be just void, it would appear just hollow, it would appear just insubstantial. For what substance could there be in form?

[2. Feeling]

“Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, saradasamaye thullaphusitake deve vassante udake udakabubbuḷaṃ uppajjati c’eva nirujjhati ca. Tamenaṃ cakkhumā puriso passeyya nijjhāyeyya yoniso upaparikkheyya. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyeyya, tucchakaññeva khāyeyya, asārakaññeva khāyeyya. Kiṃ hi siyā, bhikkhave, udakabubbuḷe sāro?

“Suppose, monks, in autumn-­time, when the big-­drops sky raining, on the water a water-­bubble arises and ceases and. That-­this an eye-­possessing man would see, would ponder, thoroughly would investigate. To him that seeing, pondering, thoroughly investigating, void-­just would appear, hollow-­just would appear, insubstantial-­just would appear. What for could be, monks, in water-­bubble substance?

“Suppose, monks, in the autumn, when the sky is raining with big raindrops falling, a water bubble arises and ceases on the water. A clear-sighted man would see this, ponder it, and thoroughly investigate it. As he is seeing it, pondering it, and thoroughly investigating it, it would appear to him to be just void, it would appear just hollow, it would appear just insubstantial. For what substance could there be in a water bubble?

“Evameva kho, bhikkhave, yā kāci vedanā atītānāgatapaccuppannā ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā yaṃ dūre santike vā, taṃ bhikkhu passati nijjhāyati yoniso upaparikkhati. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyati, tucchakaññeva khāyati, asārakaññeva khāyati. Kiṃ hi siyā, bhikkhave, vedanāya sāro?

“Just so, monks, whatever feeling past-­future-­present, internal or external or, gross or subtle or, inferior or superior or, which far near or, that a monk sees, ponders, thoroughly investigates. To him that seeing, pondering, thoroughly investigating, void-­just would appear, hollow-­just would appear, insubstantial-­ just would appear. What for could be, monks, in feeling substance?

“So too, monks, whatever feeling there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: a monk sees it, ponders it, and thoroughly investigates. As he is seeing it, pondering it, and thoroughly investigating it, it would appear to him to be just void, it would appear just hollow, it would appear just insubstantial. For what substance could there be in feeling?

[3. Perception]

“Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, gimhānaṃ pacchime māse ṭhite majjhanhike kāle marīcikā phandati. Tamenaṃ cakkhumā puriso passeyya nijjhāyeyya yoniso upaparikkheyya. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyeyya, tucchakaññeva khāyeyya, asārakaññeva khāyeyya. Kiṃ hi siyā, bhikkhave, marīcikāya sāro?

“Suppose, monks, of summer in last month, when stood mid-­day time, a mirage shimmers. That-­this an eye-­possessing man would see, would ponder, thoroughly would investigate. To him that seeing, pondering, thoroughly investigating, void-­just would appear, hollow-­just would appear, insubstantial-­ just would appear. What for could be, monks, in a mirage substance?

“Suppose, monks, in the last month of the hot season, at midday, a mirage shimmers. A clear-sighted man would see this, ponder it, and thoroughly investigate it. As he is seeing it, pondering it, and thoroughly investigating it, it would appear to him to be just void, it would appear just hollow, it would appear just insubstantial. For what substance could there be in a mirage?

“Evameva kho, bhikkhave, yā kāci saññā atītānāgatapaccuppannā ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā yaṃ dūre santike vā, taṃ bhikkhu passati nijjhāyati yoniso upaparikkhati. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyati, tucchakaññeva khāyati, asārakaññeva khāyati. Kiṃ hi siyā, bhikkhave, saññāya sāro?

“Just so, monks, whatever perception past-­future-­present, internal or external or, gross or subtle or, inferior or superior or, which far near or, that a monk sees, ponders, thoroughly investigates. To him that seeing, pondering, thoroughly investigating, void-­just would appear, hollow-­just would appear, insubstantial-­just would appear. What for could be, monks, in perception substance?

“So too, monks, whatever perception there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: a monk sees it, ponders it, and thoroughly investigates it. As he is seeing it, pondering it, and thoroughly investigating it, it would appear to him to be just void, it would appear just hollow, it would appear just insubstantial. For what substance could there be in perception?

[4. Volitional activities]

“Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, puriso sāratthiko sāragavesī sārapariyesanaṃ caramāno tiṇhaṃ kuṭhāriṃ ādāya vanaṃ paviseyya. So tattha passeyya mahantaṃ kadalikkhandhaṃ ujuṃ navaṃ akukkukajātaṃ. Tamenaṃ mūle chindeyya; mūle chetvā agge chindeyya; agge chetvā pattavaṭṭiṃ vinibbhujeyya. So tassa pattavaṭṭiṃ vinibbhujanto pheggumpi nādhi-gaccheyya, kuto sāraṃ? Tamenaṃ cakkhumā puriso passeyya nijjhāyeyya yoniso upaparikkheyya. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyeyya, tucchakaññeva khāyeyya, asārakaññeva khāyeyya. Kiṃ hi siyā, bhikkhave, kadalikkhandhe sāro?

“Suppose, monks, a man heartwood-­needing, heartwood-­seeking, heartwood-­search wandering, a sharp axe having taken, a woods would enter. He there would see a large plaintain-­trunk, straight, fresh, without shoots. That-­this at the root would cut; at the root having cut, at the top would cut; at the top having cut, the coil would unroll. He its coil unrolling softwood even not would find, how then heartwood? That-­this an eye-­possessing man would see, would ponder, thoroughly would investigate. To him that seeing, pondering, thoroughly investigating, void-­just would appear, hollow-­just would appear, insubstantial-­just would appear. What for could be, monks, in plantain-­trunk substance?

“Suppose, monks, a man needing heartwood, seeking heartwood, wandering on a search for heartwood, would take a sharp axe and enter a woods. There he would see a large plantain trunk, straight, fresh, without an inflorescence. He would cut it down at the root; having cut it down at the root, he would cut it off at the crown; having cut it off at the crown, he would unroll the coil. As he unrolls the coil, he would not find even softwood, how then heartwood? A clear-sighted man would see this, ponder it, and thoroughly investigate it. As he is seeing it, pondering it, and thoroughly investigating it, it would appear to him to be just void, it would appear just hollow, it would appear just insubstantial. For what substance could there be in a plantain trunk?

“Evameva kho, bhikkhave, ye keci saṅkhārā atītānāgatapaccuppannā ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā yaṃ dūre santike vā, taṃ bhikkhu passati nijjhāyati yoniso upaparikkhati. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyati, tucchakaññeva khāyati, asārakaññeva khāyati. Kiṃ hi siyā, bhikkhave, saṅkhāresu sāro?

“Just so, monks, whatever volitional-­activities past-­future-­present, internal or external or, gross or subtle or, inferior or superior or, which far near or, that a monk sees, ponders, thoroughly investigates. To him that seeing, pondering, thoroughly investigating, void-­just would appear, hollow-­just would appear, insubstantial-­just would appear. What for could be, monks, in volitional-­activities substance?

“So too, monks, whatever volitional activities there are, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: a monk sees them, ponders them, and thoroughly investigates them. As he is seeing them, pondering them, and thoroughly investigating them, they would appear to him to be just void, they would appear just hollow, they would appear just insubstantial. For what substance could there be in volitional activities?

[5. Consciousness]

“Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, māyākāro vā māyākārantevāsī vā catummahāpathe māyaṃ vidaṃseyya. Tamenaṃ cakkhumā puriso passeyya nijjhāyeyya yoniso upaparikkheyya. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyeyya, tucchakaññeva khāyeyya, asārakaññeva khāyeyya. Kiṃ hi siyā, bhikkhave, māyāya sāro?

“Suppose, monks, a magician or a magician-­apprentice or at a crossroads a magical-­illusion would display. That-­this an eye-­possessing man would see, would ponder, thoroughly would investigate. To him that seeing, pondering, thoroughly investigating, void-­just would appear, hollow-­just would appear, insubstantial-­just would appear. What for could be, monks, in a magical-­illusion substance?

“Suppose, monks, a magician or a magician’s apprentice would display a magical illusion at a crossroads. A clear-sighted man would see this, ponder it, and thoroughly investigate it. As he is seeing it, pondering it, and thoroughly investigating it, it would appear to him to be just void, it would appear just hollow, it would appear just insubstantial. For what substance could there be in a magical illusion?

“Evameva kho, bhikkhave, yaṃ kiñci viññāṇaṃ atītānāgatapaccuppannaṃ ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā yaṃ dūre santike vā, taṃ bhikkhu passati nijjhāyati yoniso upaparikkhati. Tassa taṃ passato nijjhāyato yoniso upaparikkhato rittakaññeva khāyati, tucchakaññeva khāyati, asārakaññeva khāyati. Kiṃ hi siyā, bhikkhave, viññāṇe sāro?

“Just so, monks, whatever consciousness past-­future-­present, internal or external or, gross or subtle or, inferior or superior or, which far near or, that a monk sees, ponders, thoroughly investigates. To him that seeing, pondering, thoroughly investigating, void-­just would appear, hollow-­just would appear, insubstantial-­just would appear. What for could be, monks, in consciousness substance?

“So too, monks, whatever consciousness there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: a monk sees it, ponders it, and thoroughly investigates it. As he is seeing it, pondering it, and thoroughly investigating it, it would appear to him to be just void, it would appear just hollow, it would appear just insubstantial. For what substance could there be in consciousness?

[6. Liberation]

“Evaṃ passaṃ, bhikkhave, sutavā ariyasāvako rūpasmimpi nibbindati, vedanāyapi nibbindati, saññāyapi nibbindati, saṅkhāresupi nibbindati, viññāṇasmimpi nibbindati. Nibbindaṃ virajjati. Virāgā vimuccati. Vimut-tasmiṃ vimuttamiti ñāṇaṃ hoti. ‘Khīṇā jāti vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānātī”ti.

“Thus seeing, monks, the learned noble-­disciple in form-­too is disenchanted, in feeling-­too is disenchanted, in perception-­too is disenchanted, in volitional-­activities-­too is disenchanted, in consciousness-­too is disenchanted. Being disenchanted, becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion is liberated. In liberated ‘liberated’ thus knowledge occurs. ‘Finished birth, lived the spiritual-­life, done what-­is-­to-­be-­done, not-­further for such-­a-­state,’ understands.”

“Thus seeing, monks, the learned noble disciple becomes disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with volitional activities, disenchanted with consciousness. Being disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion he is liberated. In regard to what is liberated, the knowledge occurs thus: ‘Liberated.’ He understands: ‘Finished is birth, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no further for this state of being.’”

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