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Aṅguttara Nikāya - The Numerical Discourses

6: The Book of the Sixes

55. Soṇa

1Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Rājagaha on Mount Vulture Peak. Now on that occasion the Venerable Soṇa was dwelling at Rājagaha in the Cool Grove.[n.1367] This is Soṇa Koḷivīsa, declared by the Buddha foremost among those who arouse energy (see AN1.205). His verses are at Th 632–44. Th 638–39 refer to the simile of the lute; Th 640–44 are identical with the verses at the end of this sutta. The story of Soṇa appears in an expanded version at Khandaka 5, where it leads to the Buddha’s granting permission to the monks to wear sandals.

Then, while the Venerable Soṇa was alone in seclusion, the following course of thought arose in his mind: "I am one of the Blessed One's most energetic disciples, yet my mind has not been liberated from the taints by non-clinging. Now there is wealth in my family, and it is possible for me to enjoy my wealth and do meritorious deeds. Let me then give up the training and return to the lower life, so that I can enjoy my wealth and do meritorious deeds."

2Then, having known with his own mind the course of thought in the Venerable Soṇa's mind, just as a strong man might extend his drawn-in arm or draw in his extended arm, the Blessed One disappeared on Mount Vulture Peak and appeared in the Cool Grove in the presence of the Venerable Soṇa. The Blessed One sat down on the seat prepared for him. The Venerable Soṇa paid homage to the Blessed One and sat down to one side. The Blessed One then said to him:

3"Soṇa, when you were alone in seclusion, didn’t the following course of thought arise in your mind: ‘I am one of the Blessed One's most energetic disciples, yet my mind has not been liberated from the taints by non-clinging. Now there is wealth in my family, and it is possible for me to enjoy my wealth and do meritorious deeds. Let me then give up the training and return to the lower life, so that I can enjoy my wealth and do meritorious deeds’?"

"Yes, Bhante."


4"Tell me, Soṇa, in the past, when you lived at home, weren’t you skilled at the lute?"

"Yes, Bhante."


"What do you think, Soṇa? When its strings were too tight, was your lute well tuned and easy to play?"

"No, Bhante."


5"When its strings were too loose, was your lute well tuned and easy to play?"

"No, Bhante."


6"But, Soṇa, when its strings were neither too tight nor too loose but adjusted to a balanced pitch, was your lute well tuned and easy to play?"

"Yes, Bhante."


7"So too, Soṇa, if energy is aroused too forcefully this leads to restlessness, and if energy is too lax this leads to laziness. Therefore, Soṇa, resolve on a balance of energy, achieve evenness of the spiritual faculties, and take up the object there."[n.1368] Reading with Ce and Ee: Viriyasamataṃ adhiṭṭhaha, indriyānaṃ ca samataṃ paṭivijjha, tattha ca nimittaṃ gaṇhāhi. Where Ce and Ee have viriyasamataṃ, Be has vīriyasamathaṃ (but just below, indriyānañca samataṃ). Mp (Ce) also reads viriyasamathaṃ in the lemma. The explanation in Mp seems to support viriyasamathaṃ.
Mp: “Resolve on evenness of energy: Resolve on serenity combined with energy (viriyasampayuttaṃ samathaṃ adhiṭṭhaha). The meaning is, ‘Link energy with serenity.’ Achieve evenness of the spiritual faculties: Keep to evenness, a balance of the spiritual faculties of faith, etc. When faith is linked with wisdom and wisdom with faith; when energy is linked with concentration and concentration with energy, then the balance of the faculties is maintained. But mindfulness is useful everywhere, so it should always be strong…. Seize the object there: When such balance exists, the object can arise clearly, like the reflection of one’s face in a mirror; and you should take up (gaṇhāhi) this object—bring forth (nibbattehi) the object of serenity, of insight, of the path, and of the fruit. Thus the Buddha explained the meditation subject to him, leading up to arahantship.”
Chinese parallels to this passage offer quite different readings of the Buddha’s injunction, as follows: T I 612a28–29: "Therefore you should distinguish this time (could samataṁ have mutated into samayaṁ?), examine this mark, and do not be heedless" (); T II 62c17–18: "Therefore you should practice by taking up (the object) in a balanced way; do not cling, do not be heedless, and do not grasp marks" (); T II 612b19–20: "If you can stay in the middle, this is the superior practice" (); T XXII 844c1–2 is closest to the Pāli: "You should balance your energy, balance the faculties" ().

"Yes, Bhante," the Venerable Soṇa replied.

When the Blessed One had finished giving the Venerable Soṇa this exhortation, just as a strong man might extend his drawn-in arm or draw in his extended arm, he disappeared in the Cool Grove and reappeared on Mount Vulture Peak.

8Then, some time later, the Venerable Soṇa resolved on a balance of energy, achieved evenness of the spiritual faculties, and took up the object there. Then, dwelling alone, withdrawn, heedful, ardent, and resolute, in no long time the Venerable Soṇa realized for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life, that unsurpassed consummation of the spiritual life for the sake of which clansmen rightly go forth from the household life into homelessness, and having entered upon it, he dwelled in it. He directly knew: "Destroyed is birth, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming back to any state of being." And the Venerable Soṇa became one of the arahants.

9Having attained arahantship, the Venerable Soṇa thought: "Let me go to the Blessed One and declare final knowledge in his presence." Then he approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said:


10"Bhante, when a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, who has lived the spiritual life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached his own goal, utterly destroyed the fetters of existence, and become completely liberated through final knowledge, he is intent upon six things: on renunciation, on solitude, on non-affliction, on the destruction of craving, on the destruction of clinging, and on nonconfusion.[n.1369] In Pāli: nekkhammādhimutto, pavivekādhimutto, abyāpajjhādhimutto, taṇhakkhayādhimutto, upādānakkhayādhimutto, asammohādhimutto. Mp says that each expression signifies arahantship.

11(1) "It may be, Bhante, that some venerable one here thinks: ‘Could it be that this venerable one is intent upon renunciation on account of mere faith?’ But it should not be seen in such a way. A bhikkhu with taints destroyed, who has lived the spiritual life and done his task, does not see in himself anything further to be done or any need to increase what has been done.[n.1370] Karaṇīyaṁ attano asamanupassanto katassa vā paṭicayaṁ. Mp glosses paṭicayaṁ with "growth by repeated activity" (punappunaṁ karaṇena vaḍḍhiṁ). He is intent upon renunciation because he is devoid of lust through the destruction of lust; because he is devoid of hatred through the destruction of hatred; because he is devoid of delusion through the destruction of delusion.

12(2) "It may be that some venerable one here thinks: ‘Could it be that this venerable one is intent upon solitude because he is hankering after gain, honor, and praise?’ But it should not be seen in such a way. A bhikkhu with taints destroyed, who has lived the spiritual life and done his task, does not see in himself anything further to be done or any need to increase what has been done. He is intent upon solitude because he is devoid of lust through the destruction of lust; because he is devoid of hatred through the destruction of hatred; because he is devoid of delusion through the destruction of delusion.

13(3) "It may be that some venerable one here thinks: ‘Could it be that this venerable one is intent upon non-affliction because he has fallen back on the wrong grasp of behavior and observances as the essence?’[n.1371] Sīlabbataparāmāsaṁsārato paccāgacchanto. This expression normally refers to the extreme austerities of those who believe them to be the core of spiritual cultivation. See AN3.78. But it should not be seen in such a way. A bhikkhu with taints destroyed, who has lived the spiritual life and done his task, does not see in himself anything further to be done or any need to increase what has been done. He is intent upon non-affliction because he is devoid of lust through the destruction of lust; because he is devoid of hatred through the destruction of hatred; because he is devoid of delusion through the destruction of delusion.

14(4) " … He is intent upon the destruction of craving because he is devoid of lust through the destruction of lust; because he is devoid of hatred through the destruction of hatred; because he is devoid of delusion through the destruction of delusion.[n.1372] All three editions abridge the last three items as is done here.

15(5) " … He is intent upon the destruction of clinging because he is devoid of lust through the destruction of lust; because he is devoid of hatred through the destruction of hatred; because he is devoid of delusion through the destruction of delusion.

16(6) " … He is intent upon non-confusion because he is devoid of lust through the destruction of lust; because he is devoid of hatred through the destruction of hatred; because he is devoid of delusion through the destruction of delusion.


17"Bhante, when a bhikkhu is thus perfectly liberated in mind, even if powerful forms cognizable by the eye come into range of the eye, they do not obsess his mind; his mind is not at all affected. It remains steady, attained to imperturbability, and he observes its vanishing.[n.1373] Vayañc’assānupassati. Mp: "He sees the arising and vanishing of that mind" (tassa c’esa cittassa uppādampi vayampi passati). Even if powerful sounds cognizable by the ear come into range of the ear … Even if powerful odours cognizable by the nose come into range of the nose … Even if powerful tastes cognizable by the tongue come into range of the tongue … Even if powerful tactile objects cognizable by the body come into range of the body … Even if powerful phenomena cognizable by the mind come into range of the mind, they do not obsess his mind; his mind is not at all affected. It remains steady, attained to imperturbability, and he observes its vanishing.

"Suppose, Bhante, there were a stone mountain, without clefts or fissures, one solid mass. If a violent rainstorm should come from the east, it could not make it quake, wobble, and tremble; if a violent rainstorm should come from the west … from the north … from the south, it could not make it quake, wobble, and tremble. So too, when a bhikkhu is thus perfectly liberated in mind, even if powerful forms cognizable by the eye come into range of the eye … Even if powerful phenomena cognizable by the mind come into range of the mind, they do not obsess his mind; his mind is not at all affected. It remains steady, attained to imperturbability, and he observes its vanishing."


18If one is intent on renunciation
and solitude of mind;
if one is intent on non-affliction
and the destruction of clinging;

19if one is intent on craving's destruction
and non-confusion of mind:
when one sees the sense bases’ arising,
one's mind is completely liberated.

20For a bhikkhu of peaceful mind,
one completely liberated,
there's nothing further to be done,
no need to increase what has been done.

21As a stone mountain, one solid mass,
is not stirred by the wind,
so no forms and tastes, sounds,
odours, and tactile objects,

22and phenomena desirable or undesirable
stir the stable one's mind.
His mind is steady and freed,
and he observes its vanishing.

1Evaṁ me sutaṁ—​   ekaṁ samayaṁ bhagavā rājagahe viharati gijjhakūṭe pabbate. Tena kho pana samayena āyasmā soṇo rājagahe viharati sītavanasmiṁ.

Atha kho āyasmato soṇassa rahogatassa paṭisallīnassa evaṁ cetaso parivitakko udapādi:  "ye kho keci bhagavato sāvakā āraddhavīriyā viharanti, ahaṁ tesaṁ aññataro. Atha ca pana me na anupādāya āsavehi cittaṁ vimuccati, saṁvijjanti kho pana me kule bhogā, sakkā bhogā ca bhuñjituṁ puññāni ca kātuṁ. Yannūnāhaṁ sikkhaṁ paccakkhāya hīnāyāvattitvā bhoge ca bhuñjeyyaṁ puññāni ca kareyyan"ti.

2Atha kho bhagavā āyasmato soṇassa cetasā cetoparivitakkamaññāya – seyyathāpi nāma balavā puriso samiñjitaṁ vā bāhaṁ pasāreyya, pasāritaṁ vā bāhaṁ samiñjeyya; evamevaṁ kho – gijjhakūṭe pabbate antarahito sītavane āyasmato soṇassa sammukhe pāturahosi. Nisīdi bhagavā paññatte āsane. Āyasmāpi kho soṇo bhagavantaṁ abhivādetvā ekamantaṁ nisīdi. Ekamantaṁ nisinnaṁ kho āyasmantaṁ soṇaṁ bhagavā etadavoca: 

3"Nanu te, soṇa, rahogatassa paṭisallīnassa evaṁ cetaso parivitakko udapādi:  ‘ye kho keci bhagavato sāvakā āraddhavīriyā viharanti, ahaṁ tesaṁ aññataro. Atha ca pana me na anupādāya āsavehi cittaṁ vimuccati, saṁvijjanti kho pana me kule bhogā, sakkā bhogā ca bhuñjituṁ puññāni ca kātuṁ. Yannūnāhaṁ sikkhaṁ paccakkhāya hīnāyāvattitvā bhoge ca bhuñjeyyaṁ puññāni ca kareyyan’"ti?

"Evaṁ, bhante".


4"Taṁ kiṁ maññasi, soṇa, kusalo tvaṁ pubbe agāriyabhūto vīṇāya tantissare"ti?

"Evaṁ, bhante".


"Taṁ kiṁ maññasi, soṇa, yadā te vīṇāya tantiyo accāyatā honti, api nu te vīṇā tasmiṁ samaye saravatī vā hoti kammaññā vā"ti?

"No hetaṁ, bhante".


5"Taṁ kiṁ maññasi, soṇa, yadā te vīṇāya tantiyo atisithilā honti, api nu te vīṇā tasmiṁ samaye saravatī vā hoti kammaññā vā"ti?

"No hetaṁ, bhante".


6"Yadā pana te, soṇa, vīṇāya tantiyo na accāyatā honti nātisithilā same guṇe patiṭṭhitā, api nu te vīṇā tasmiṁ samaye saravatī vā hoti kammaññā vā"ti?

"Evaṁ, bhante".


7"Evamevaṁ kho, soṇa, accāraddhavīriyaṁ uddhaccāya saṁvattati, atisithilavīriyaṁ kosajjāya saṁvattati. Tasmātiha tvaṁ, soṇa, vīriyasamathaṁ adhiṭṭhaha, indriyānañca samataṁ paṭivijjha, tattha ca nimittaṁ gaṇhāhī"ti.

"Evaṁ, bhante"ti kho āyasmā soṇo bhagavato paccassosi.

Atha kho bhagavā āyasmantaṁ soṇaṁ iminā ovādena ovaditvā – seyyathāpi nāma balavā puriso samiñjitaṁ vā bāhaṁ pasāreyya, pasāritaṁ vā bāhaṁ samiñjeyya; evamevaṁ kho – sītavane antarahito gijjhakūṭe pabbate pāturahosi.

8Atha kho āyasmā soṇo aparena samayena vīriyasamathaṁ adhiṭṭhāsi, indriyānañca samataṁ paṭivijjhi, tattha ca nimittaṁ aggahesi. Atha kho āyasmā soṇo eko vūpakaṭṭho appamatto ātāpī pahitatto viharanto nacirasseva – yassatthāya kulaputtā sammadeva agārasmā anāgāriyaṁ pabbajanti, tadanuttaraṁ – brahmacariyapariyosānaṁ diṭṭheva dhamme sayaṁ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja vihāsi. "Khīṇā jāti, vusitaṁ brahmacariyaṁ, kataṁ karaṇīyaṁ, nāparaṁ itthattāyā"ti abbhaññāsi. Aññataro ca panāyasmā soṇo arahataṁ ahosi.

9Atha kho āyasmato soṇassa arahattappattassa etadahosi:  "yannūnāhaṁ yena bhagavā tenupasaṅkameyyaṁ; upasaṅkamitvā bhagavato santike aññaṁ byākareyyan"ti. Atha kho āyasmā soṇo yena bhagavā tenupasaṅkami; upasaṅkamitvā bhagavantaṁ abhivādetvā ekamantaṁ nisīdi. Ekamantaṁ nisinno kho āyasmā soṇo bhagavantaṁ etadavoca: 


10"Yo so, bhante, bhikkhu arahaṁ khīṇāsavo vusitavā katakaraṇīyo ohitabhāro anuppattasadattho parikkhīṇabhavasaṁyojano sammadaññāvimutto, so cha ṭhānāni adhimutto hoti – nekkhammādhimutto hoti, pavivekādhimutto hoti, abyāpajjādhimutto hoti, taṇhākkhayādhimutto hoti, upādānakkhayādhimutto hoti, asammohādhimutto hoti.

11Siyā kho pana, bhante, idhekaccassa āyasmato evamassa:  ‘kevalaṁsaddhāmattakaṁ nūna ayamāyasmā nissāya nekkhammādhimutto’ti. Na kho panetaṁ, bhante, evaṁ daṭṭhabbaṁ. Khīṇāsavo, bhante, bhikkhu vusitavā katakaraṇīyo karaṇīyaṁ attano asamanupassanto katassa vā paṭicayaṁ khayā rāgassa vītarāgattā nekkhammādhimutto hoti, khayā dosassa vītadosattā nekkhammādhimutto hoti, khayā mohassa vītamohattā nekkhammādhimutto hoti. (1)

12Siyā kho pana, bhante, idhekaccassa āyasmato evamassa:  ‘lābhasakkārasilokaṁ nūna ayamāyasmā nikāmayamāno pavivekādhimutto’ti. Na kho panetaṁ, bhante, evaṁ daṭṭhabbaṁ. Khīṇāsavo, bhante, bhikkhu vusitavā katakaraṇīyo karaṇīyaṁ attano asamanupassanto katassa vā paṭicayaṁ khayā rāgassa vītarāgattā pavivekādhimutto hoti, khayā dosassa vītadosattā pavivekādhimutto hoti, khayā mohassa vītamohattā pavivekādhimutto hoti. (2)

13Siyā kho pana, bhante, idhekaccassa āyasmato evamassa:  ‘sīlabbataparāmāsaṁ nūna ayamāyasmā sārato paccāgacchanto abyāpajjādhimutto’ti. Na kho panetaṁ, bhante, evaṁ daṭṭhabbaṁ. Khīṇāsavo, bhante, bhikkhu vusitavā katakaraṇīyo karaṇīyaṁ attano asamanupassanto katassa vā paṭicayaṁ khayā rāgassa vītarāgattā abyāpajjādhimutto hoti, khayā dosassa vītadosattā abyāpajjādhimutto hoti, khayā mohassa vītamohattā abyāpajjādhimutto hoti. (3)

14Khayā rāgassa vītarāgattā taṇhākkhayādhimutto hoti, khayā dosassa vītadosattā taṇhākkhayādhimutto hoti, khayā mohassa vītamohattā taṇhākkhayādhimutto hoti. (4)

15Khayā rāgassa vītarāgattā upādānakkhayādhimutto hoti, khayā dosassa vītadosattā upādānakkhayādhimutto hoti, khayā mohassa vītamohattā upādānakkhayādhimutto hoti. (5)

16Khayā rāgassa vītarāgattā asammohādhimutto hoti, khayā dosassa vītadosattā asammohādhimutto hoti, khayā mohassa vītamohattā asammohādhimutto hoti. (6)


17Evaṁ sammā vimuttacittassa, bhante, bhikkhuno bhusā cepi cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā cakkhussa āpāthaṁ āgacchanti, nevassa cittaṁ pariyādiyanti. Amissīkatamevassa cittaṁ hoti ṭhitaṁ āneñjappattaṁ vayañcassānupassati. Bhusā cepi sotaviññeyyā saddā … ghānaviññeyyā gandhā … jivhāviññeyyā rasā … kāyaviññeyyā phoṭṭhabbā … manoviññeyyā dhammā manassa āpāthaṁ āgacchanti, nevassa cittaṁ pariyādiyanti. Amissīkatamevassa cittaṁ hoti ṭhitaṁ āneñjappattaṁ vayañcassānupassati.

Seyyathāpi, bhante, selo pabbato acchiddo asusiro ekagghano. Atha puratthimāya cepi disāya āgaccheyya bhusā vātavuṭṭhi neva naṁ saṅkampeyya na sampakampeyya na sampavedheyya, atha pacchimāya cepi disāya āgaccheyya bhusā vātavuṭṭhi … atha uttarāya cepi disāya āgaccheyya bhusā vātavuṭṭhi … atha dakkhiṇāya cepi disāya āgaccheyya bhusā vātavuṭṭhi neva naṁ saṅkampeyya na sampakampeyya na sampavedheyya; evamevaṁ kho, bhante, evaṁ sammāvimuttacittassa bhikkhuno bhusā cepi cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā cakkhussa āpāthaṁ āgacchanti, nevassa cittaṁ pariyādiyanti. Amissīkatamevassa cittaṁ hoti, ṭhitaṁ āneñjappattaṁ vayañcassānupassati. Bhusā cepi sotaviññeyyā saddā … ghānaviññeyyā gandhā … jivhāviññeyyā rasā … kāyaviññeyyā phoṭṭhabbā … manoviññeyyā dhammā manassa āpāthaṁ āgacchanti, nevassa cittaṁ pariyādiyanti. Amissīkatamevassa cittaṁ hoti ṭhitaṁ āneñjappattaṁ vayañcassānupassatīti.


18Nekkhammaṁ adhimuttassa,
pavivekañca cetaso;
Abyāpajjādhimuttassa,
upādānakkhayassa ca.

19Taṇhākkhayādhimuttassa,
asammohañca cetaso;
Disvā āyatanuppādaṁ,
sammā cittaṁ vimuccati.

20Tassa sammā vimuttassa,
santacittassa bhikkhuno;
Katassa paṭicayo natthi,
karaṇīyaṁ na vijjati.

21Selo yathā ekagghano,
vātena na samīrati;
Evaṁ rūpā rasā saddā,
gandhā phassā ca kevalā.

22Iṭṭhā dhammā aniṭṭhā ca,
nappavedhenti tādino;
Ṭhitaṁ cittaṁ vippamuttaṁ,
vayañcassānupassatī"ti.

Paṭhamaṁ.