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Saṁyutta Nikāya — The Connected Discourses

SN12: Connected Discourses on Causation

SN12:63 Son's Flesh

1At Sāvatthī.[n.160] A translation of the long commentary to this sutta is included in Nyanaponika, The Four Nutriments of Life. Spk explains that the Buddha spoke this discourse because the Bhikkhu Saṅgha was receiving abundant almsfood and other requisites, and the Buddha wanted to place before the bhikkhus "a mirror of the Dhamma for their self-control and restraint, so that, contemplating on it again and again, the bhikkhus of the future will make use of the four requisites only after due reflection." The opening paragraph is identical with that of SN12.11. sn.ii.98 "Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be. What four? The nutriment edible food, gross or subtle; second, contact; third, mental volition; fourth, consciousness. These are the four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be.

2"And how, bhikkhus, should the nutriment edible food be seen? Suppose a couple, husband and wife, had taken limited provisions and were travelling through a desert. They have with them their only son, dear and beloved. Then, in the middle of the desert, their limited provisions would be used up and exhausted, while the rest of the desert remains to be crossed. The husband and wife would think: ‘Our limited provisions have been used up and exhausted, while the rest of this desert remains to be crossed. Let us kill our only son, dear and beloved, and prepare dried and spiced meat. By eating our son's flesh we can cross the rest of this desert. Let not all three of us perish!’

"Then, bhikkhus, the husband and wife would kill their only son, dear and beloved, prepare dried and spiced meat, and by eating their son's flesh they would cross the rest of the desert. While they are eating their son's flesh, they would beat their breasts and cry: ‘Where are you, our only son? Where are you, our only son?’


3"What do you think, bhikkhus? Would they eat that food for amusement or for enjoyment sn.ii.99 or for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness?"

"No, venerable sir."

"Wouldn’t they eat that food only for the sake of crossing the desert?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

"It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment edible food should be seen.[n.161] Spk: Edible food should be considered as similar to son's flesh by way of the ninefold repulsiveness: the repulsiveness of having to go out for it, of having to seek it, of eating it, of the bodily secretions, of the receptacle for the food (i.e., the stomach), of digestion and indigestion, of smearing, and of excretion. (For details see Vism 342–46; Ppn 11:5–26; there ten aspects are mentioned, the additional one being "fruit," i.e., the repulsive parts of the body produced by food.) A bhikkhu should use his almsfood in the way the couple eat their son's flesh: without greed and desire, without pickiness, without gorging themselves, without selfishness, without delusion about what they are eating, without longing to eat such food again, without hoarding, without pride, without disdain, and without quarreling. When the nutriment edible food is fully understood, lust for the five cords of sensual pleasure is fully understood.[n.162] Spk: When the nutriment edible food is fully understood: It is fully understood by these three kinds of full understanding: (i) the full understanding of the known (ñātapariññā); (ii) the full understanding by scrutinization (tiraṇapariññā); and (iii) the full understanding as abandonment (pahānapariññā). Therein, (i) a bhikkhu understands: "This nutriment edible food is ‘form with nutritive essence as the eighth’ (see n. 18) together with its base. This impinges on the tongue-sensitivity, which is dependent on the four great elements. Thus nutriment, tongue-sensitivity, and the four elements—these things are the form aggregate. The contact pentad (contact, feeling, perception, volition, consciousness) arisen in one who discerns this—these are the four mental aggregates. All these five aggregates are, in brief, name-and-form." Next he searches out the conditions for these phenomena and sees dependent origination in direct and reverse order. By thus seeing name-and-form with its conditions as it actually is, the nutriment of edible food is fully understood by the full understanding of the known. (ii) Next he ascribes the three characteristics to that same name-and-form and explores it by way of the seven contemplations (of impermanence, suffering, nonself, revulsion, dispassion, cessation, and relinquishment—see Vism 607; Ppn 20:4). Thus it is fully understood by the full understanding by scrutinization. (iii) It is fully understood by the full understanding as abandonment when it is fully understood by the path of nonreturning, which cuts off desire and lust for that same name-and-form.
Lust for the five cords of sensual pleasure is fully understood: It is fully understood by (i) the singlefold full understanding (ekapariññā), namely, that the craving for tastes arisen at the tongue door is the same craving that arises at all five sense doors; (ii) the comprehensive full understanding (sabbapariññā), namely, that lust for all five cords of sensual pleasure arises even in regard to a single morsel of food placed in the bowl (for food stimulates desire in all five senses); (iii) the root full understanding (mūlapariññā), namely, that nutriment is the root for all five types of sensual lust, since sensual desire thrives when people are well fed.
When lust for the five cords of sensual pleasure is fully understood, there is no fetter bound by which a noble disciple might come back again to this world.[n.163] Spk: There is no fetter bound by which: This teaching is taken only as far as the path of nonreturning; but if one develops insight into the five aggregates by way of these same forms, etc., it is possible to explain it as far as arahantship.

4"And how, bhikkhus, should the nutriment contact be seen? Suppose there is a flayed cow. If she stands exposed to a wall, the creatures dwelling in the wall would nibble at her. If she stands exposed to a tree, the creatures dwelling in the tree would nibble at her. If she stands exposed to water, the creatures dwelling in the water would nibble at her. If she stands exposed to the open air, the creatures dwelling in the open air would nibble at her. Whatever that flayed cow stands exposed to, the creatures dwelling there would nibble at her.

"It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment contact should be seen.[n.164] Spk: Just as a cow, seeing the danger of being eaten by the creatures living in the places she might be exposed to, would not wish to be honoured and venerated, or to be massaged, rubbed, given hot baths, etc., so a bhikkhu, seeing the danger of being eaten by the defilement-creatures rooted in the nutriment contact, becomes desireless towards contact in the three planes of existence. When the nutriment contact is fully understood, the three kinds of feeling are fully understood. When the three kinds of feeling are fully understood, I say, there is nothing further that a noble disciple needs to do.[n.165] Spk explains the full understanding of contact in the same way as for edible food, except that contact is taken as the starting point for the discernment of the five aggregates. When contact is fully understood the three feelings are fully understood because they are rooted in contact and associated with it. The teaching by way of the nutriment contact is carried as far as arahantship.

5"And how, bhikkhus, should the nutriment mental volition be seen? Suppose there is a charcoal pit deeper than a man's height, filled with glowing coals without flame or smoke. A man would come along wanting to live, not wanting to die, desiring happiness and averse to suffering. Then two strong men would grab him by both arms and drag him towards the charcoal pit. The man's volition would be to get far away, his longing would be to get far away, his wish would be to get far away from the charcoal pit. sn.ii.100 For what reason? Because he knows: ‘I will fall into this charcoal pit and on that account I will meet death or deadly suffering.’

"It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment mental volition should be seen.[n.166] Spk: The charcoal pit represents the round of existence with its three planes; the man wanting to live, the foolish worldling attached to the round; the two strong men, wholesome and unwholesome kamma. When they grab the man by both arms and drag him towards the pit, this is like the worldling's accumulation of kamma; for the accumulated kamma drags along a rebirth. The pain from falling into the charcoal pit is like the suffering of the round. When the nutriment mental volition is fully understood, the three kinds of craving are fully understood. When the three kinds of craving are fully understood, I say, there is nothing further that a noble disciple needs to do.[n.167] Spk: The three kinds of craving are fully understood: The three kinds of craving are craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, and craving for extermination. They are fully understood because craving is the root of mental volition. Here too the teaching is carried as far as arahantship by way of mental volition.


6"And how, bhikkhus, should the nutriment consciousness be seen? Suppose they were to arrest a bandit, a criminal, and bring him before the king, saying: ‘Sire, this man is a bandit, a criminal. Impose on him whatever punishment you wish.’ The king says to them: ‘Go, men, in the morning strike this man with a hundred spears.’ In the morning they strike him with a hundred spears. Then at noon the king asks: ‘Men, how's that man?’ –‘Still alive, sire.’ –‘Then go, and at noon strike him with a hundred spears.’ At noon they strike him with a hundred spears. Then in the evening the king asks: ‘Men, how's that man?’ –‘Still alive, sire.’ –‘Then go, and in the evening strike him with a hundred spears.’ In the evening they strike him with a hundred spears.


"What do you think, bhikkhus? Would that man, being struck with three hundred spears, experience pain and displeasure on that account?"

"Venerable sir, even if he were struck with one spear he would experience pain and displeasure on that account, not to speak of three hundred spears."

"It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment consciousness should be seen.[n.168] Spk: The king represents kamma; the criminal, the worldling; the three hundred spears, the rebirth-consciousness. The time the king gives his command is like the time the worldling is driven towards rebirth by King Kamma. The pain from being struck by the spears is like the resultant suffering in the course of existence once rebirth has taken place. When the nutriment consciousness is fully understood, name-and-form is fully understood. When name-and-form is fully understood, I say, there is nothing further that a noble disciple needs to do."[n.169] Spk: Name-and-form is fully understood when consciousness is fully understood because it is rooted in consciousness and arises along with it. By way of consciousness too the teaching is carried as far as arahantship. sn.ii.101

1Sāvatthiyaṁ … "cattārome, bhikkhave, āhārā bhūtānaṁ vā sattānaṁ ṭhitiyā sambhavesīnaṁ vā anuggahāya. Katame cattāro? Kabaḷīkāro āhāro oḷāriko vā sukhumo vā, phasso dutiyo, manosañcetanā tatiyā, viññāṇaṁ catutthaṁ. Ime kho, bhikkhave, cattāro āhārā bhūtānaṁ vā sattānaṁ ṭhitiyā sambhavesīnaṁ vā anuggahāya.

2Kathañca, bhikkhave, kabaḷīkāro āhāro daṭṭhabbo? Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, dve jāyampatikā parittaṁ sambalaṁ ādāya kantāramaggaṁ paṭipajjeyyuṁ. Tesamassa ekaputtako piyo manāpo. Atha kho tesaṁ, bhikkhave, dvinnaṁ jāyampatikānaṁ kantāragatānaṁ yā parittā sambalamattā, sā parikkhayaṁ pariyādānaṁ gaccheyya. Siyā ca nesaṁ kantārāvaseso anatiṇṇo. Atha kho tesaṁ, bhikkhave, dvinnaṁ jāyampatikānaṁ evamassa: ‘amhākaṁ kho yā parittā sambalamattā sā parikkhīṇā pariyādiṇṇā. Atthi cāyaṁ kantārāvaseso anittiṇṇo. Yannūna mayaṁ imaṁ ekaputtakaṁ piyaṁ manāpaṁ vadhitvā vallūrañca soṇḍikañca karitvā puttamaṁsāni khādantā evaṁ taṁ kantārāvasesaṁ nitthareyyāma, mā sabbeva tayo vinassimhā’ti. Atha kho te, bhikkhave, dve jāyampatikā taṁ ekaputtakaṁ piyaṁ manāpaṁ vadhitvā vallūrañca soṇḍikañca karitvā puttamaṁsāni khādantā evaṁ taṁ kantārāvasesaṁ nitthareyyuṁ. Te puttamaṁsāni ceva khādeyyuṁ, ure ca paṭipiseyyuṁ: ‘kahaṁ, ekaputtaka, kahaṁ, ekaputtakā’ti.


3Taṁ kiṁ maññatha, bhikkhave, api nu te davāya vā āhāraṁ āhāreyyuṁ, madāya vā āhāraṁ āhāreyyuṁ, maṇḍanāya vā āhāraṁ āhāreyyuṁ, vibhūsanāya vā āhāraṁ āhāreyyun"ti?

"No hetaṁ, bhante".

"Nanu te, bhikkhave, yāvadeva kantārassa nittharaṇatthāya āhāraṁ āhāreyyun"ti?

"Evaṁ, bhante".

"‘Evameva khvāhaṁ, bhikkhave, kabaḷīkāro āhāro daṭṭhabbo’ti vadāmi. Kabaḷīkāre, bhikkhave, āhāre pariññāte pañca kāmaguṇiko rāgo pariññāto hoti. Pañca kāmaguṇike rāge pariññāte natthi taṁ saṁyojanaṁ yena saṁyojanena saṁyutto ariyasāvako puna imaṁ lokaṁ āgaccheyya.

4Kathañca, bhikkhave, phassāhāro daṭṭhabbo? Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, gāvī niccammā kuṭṭañce nissāya tiṭṭheyya. Ye kuṭṭanissitā pāṇā te naṁ khādeyyuṁ. Rukkhañce nissāya tiṭṭheyya, ye rukkhanissitā pāṇā te naṁ khādeyyuṁ. Udakañce nissāya tiṭṭheyya, ye udakanissitā pāṇā te naṁ khādeyyuṁ. Ākāsañce nissāya tiṭṭheyya, ye ākāsanissitā pāṇā te naṁ khādeyyuṁ. Yaṁ yadeva hi sā, bhikkhave, gāvī niccammā nissāya tiṭṭheyya, ye tannissitā pāṇā te naṁ khādeyyuṁ.

Evameva khvāhaṁ, bhikkhave, ‘phassāhāro daṭṭhabbo’ti vadāmi. Phasse, bhikkhave, āhāre pariññāte tisso vedanā pariññātā honti. Tīsu vedanāsu pariññātāsu ariyasāvakassa natthi kiñci uttarikaraṇīyanti vadāmi.

5Kathañca, bhikkhave, manosañcetanāhāro daṭṭhabbo? Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, aṅgārakāsu sādhikaporisā puṇṇā aṅgārānaṁ vītaccikānaṁ vītadhūmānaṁ. Atha puriso āgaccheyya jīvitukāmo amaritukāmo sukhakāmo dukkhappaṭikūlo. Tamenaṁ dve balavanto purisā nānābāhāsu gahetvā taṁ aṅgārakāsuṁ upakaḍḍheyyuṁ. Atha kho, bhikkhave, tassa purisassa ārakāvassa cetanā ārakā patthanā ārakā paṇidhi. Taṁ kissa hetu? Evañhi, bhikkhave, tassa purisassa hoti: ‘imañcāhaṁ aṅgārakāsuṁ papatissāmi, tatonidānaṁ maraṇaṁ vā nigacchāmi maraṇamattaṁ vā dukkhan’ti.

Evameva khvāhaṁ, bhikkhave, ‘manosañcetanāhāro daṭṭhabbo’ti vadāmi. Manosañcetanāya, bhikkhave, āhāre pariññāte tisso taṇhā pariññātā honti. Tīsu taṇhāsu pariññātāsu ariyasāvakassa natthi kiñci uttarikaraṇīyanti vadāmi.


6Kathañca, bhikkhave, viññāṇāhāro daṭṭhabbo? Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, coraṁ āgucāriṁ gahetvā rañño dasseyyuṁ: ‘Ayaṁ te, deva, coro āgucārī, imassa yaṁ icchasi taṁ daṇḍaṁ paṇehī’ti. Tamenaṁ rājā evaṁ vadeyya: ‘gacchatha, bho, imaṁ purisaṁ pubbaṇhasamayaṁ sattisatena hanathā’ti. Tamenaṁ pubbaṇhasamayaṁ sattisatena haneyyuṁ. Atha rājā majjhanhikasamayaṁ evaṁ vadeyya: ‘ambho, kathaṁ so puriso’ti? ‘Tatheva, deva, jīvatī’ti. Tamenaṁ rājā evaṁ vadeyya: ‘gacchatha, bho, taṁ purisaṁ majjhanhikasamayaṁ sattisatena hanathā’ti. Tamenaṁ majjhanhikasamayaṁ sattisatena haneyyuṁ. Atha rājā sāyanhasamayaṁ evaṁ vadeyya: ‘ambho, kathaṁ so puriso’ti? ‘Tatheva, deva, jīvatī’ti. Tamenaṁ rājā evaṁ vadeyya: ‘gacchatha, bho, taṁ purisaṁ sāyanhasamayaṁ sattisatena hanathā’ti. Tamenaṁ sāyanhasamayaṁ sattisatena haneyyuṁ.


Taṁ kiṁ maññatha, bhikkhave, api nu so puriso divasaṁ tīhi sattisatehi haññamāno tatonidānaṁ dukkhaṁ domanassaṁ paṭisaṁvediyethā"ti?

"Ekissāpi, bhante, sattiyā haññamāno tatonidānaṁ dukkhaṁ domanassaṁ paṭisaṁvediyetha; ko pana vādo tīhi sattisatehi haññamāno"ti.

"Evameva khvāhaṁ, bhikkhave, viññāṇāhāro daṭṭhabboti vadāmi. Viññāṇe, bhikkhave, āhāre pariññāte nāmarūpaṁ pariññātaṁ hoti, nāmarūpe pariññāte ariyasāvakassa natthi kiñci uttarikaraṇīyanti vadāmī"ti.

Tatiyaṁ.