Ud 6.9:Adhipataka Sutta/Upāti Sutta: Like Moths to the Flame

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Ud 6.9:Adhipataka Sutta/Upāti Sutta: Like Moths to the Flame

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:48 pm

Ud 6.9 PTS: Ud 72
Adhipataka Sutta: Like Moths to the Flame
translated from the Pali by Andrew Olendzki


Like moths to a flame, we are drawn by sense desire.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .olen.html

One time the Buddha was staying near Savatthi, in Jeta's grove, at the garden of Anathapindika. At that time he was seated under the open sky, on a night of blinding darkness, while oil lamps were burning. And also at that time a great number of winged insects were flying around and falling into those oil lamps, thus meeting with misfortune, meeting with ruin, meeting with both misfortune and ruin. The Buddha saw those great number of winged insects flying around and falling into those oil lamps... And then the Buddha, understanding the meaning of this, gave utterance — at that moment — to this profound utterance:

    Rushing up but then too far, they miss the point;
    Only causing ever newer bonds to grow.
    So obsessed are some by what is seen and heard,
    They fly just like these moths — straight into the flames.

Translator's note

This is a wonderful example of the Buddha using whatever situation presents itself as an opportunity for teaching, and his remarks, as usual, can be taken on many different levels.

The insects are drawn irresistibly in the dark night to the shining lamps, but in their zeal to approach the light they go too far and only meet their doom. Humans likewise are drawn to the pleasures of the senses, to what is seen and heard, not realizing the dangers involved. When we get too close — when we hold on with too much attachment — we get burned by suffering. The senses can still be enjoyed, as the moth can stay circling the flame, but only when one holds the proper distance. This quality of "stepping back" or "standing off" from obsession with the senses is something that is cultivated with the practice of mindfulness meditation.

But the fire can also be taken as a symbol of wisdom. We are naturally drawn to the light of truth, to the teachings of the Buddha for example, but must take care not to over-shoot the mark. Getting too attached to views, even if these views are correct, can also lead to harm and the strengthening of bondage. The word translated here as "point" is sara, which can mean the heart, the essence or the crux of something. The subtle idea that seems to be expressed is that rushing or running will never reveal what is essential — the pith can never be approached headlong. What is needed is the tranquility of mind that meditation brings, and the ability to keep even wisdom in proper perspective.

The passage is in the form of an Udana, a solemn utterance, and is in the tristubh meter of eleven syllables per line. The order of the last two lines has been re-arranged in translation to better reflect the syntax of English.
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Re: Ud 6.9:Adhipataka Sutta/Upāti Sutta: Like Moths to the Flame

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:49 pm

Ud 6.9 PTS: Ud 72
Upāti Sutta: Rushing
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. Now on that occasion, in the pitch-black darkness of the night, the Blessed One was sitting in the open air while oil lamps were burning. And on that occasion, many flying insects, flying into & around those lamps, were meeting their downfall, meeting their misfortune, meeting their downfall & misfortune in those oil lamps. The Blessed One saw those flying insects, flying into & around those lamps, meeting their downfall, meeting their misfortune, meeting their downfall & misfortune in those oil lamps.

Then, on realizing the significance of that, the Blessed One on that occasion exclaimed:

    Rushing headlong,
    missing what's essential,
    bringing on one new bond
    after another,
    they fall, like insects into a flame:
    those intent
    on things seen,
    things heard.
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Re: Ud 6.9:Adhipataka Sutta/Upāti Sutta: Like Moths to the Flame

Postby Sam Vara » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:04 pm

When we get too close — when we hold on with too much attachment — we get burned by suffering. The senses can still be enjoyed, as the moth can stay circling the flame, but only when one holds the proper distance.


Is there a right amount of attachment, and can one hold the proper distance? I often hear and read that sensual enjoyment is OK; it's just the attachment to it that is the problem. Maybe I lack discernment in this, but in the various formulations of dependent arising attachment/clinging is preceded by craving, which is preceded by feeling. "Enjoyment" seems to occupy an intermediate place between feeling and craving, and I find it a dangerous place.
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