SN 1.44 SN 44 Ekamūla SN i 32 SN i 68 With-but-one-root
Translated by Bhikkhu Ñananandahttp://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... #passage-4
With but one root and turning twice
With triple stain and arenas five
The ocean with its eddies twelve
The quaking abyss — the sage has crossed. Note
 This is a riddle verse the clue to which lies in the identification of the metaphors used. According to the comm., the root is craving; the two whirlpools (ie. 'dviraava.t.tam': rendered above as 'turning-twice') are the eternalist and annihilationist views; the three stains are lust, hatred and delusion; the five arenas are the five types of sense-pleasure; the ocean is craving itself in its insatiable aspect; the twelve eddies are the internal and external spheres (of sense) and the abyss is craving in its 'bottomless' aspect. (Note that craving plays a triple role in this interpretation).
The validity of the interpretation is doubtful as there is Canonical evidence to show that some of the metaphors are suggestive of a different order of facts. To begin with, the 'abyss' (paataala) is clearly defined in the eponymous sutta at S. IV. 206
in terms of physical pains. "A synonym, monks, is this for painful feelings of the body, namely, the 'abyss.'" Similarly, 'the ocean' is defined for us at S. IV. 157
in the 'Ocean' Sutta ('samuddo') in words which are in full accord with the imagery of the verse: "The eye, monks, is the ocean for a man. It has the 'force' of visual forms. Whoever withstands that force of visual forms, he, O monks, is called 'one who has crossed the ocean of eye with its waves, eddies, seizures and demons. Having crossed over and gone beyond the saint stands on dry ground... The ear... The nose... The tongue... The body... The mind, monks, is the ocean... stands on dry ground." This quotation itself provides the clue to the twelve eddies, which, as the comm. also suggests, are the internal and external spheres of sense. The five arenas are, indeed, the five types of sense-pleasures, for, at S. I. 126
the arahant is called 'one who has crossed the five floods.' It is the floods or currents that provide the sphere of action for the eddies and the abyss. The three stains can also be interpreted, in accordance with the comm., as lust (raago), hatred (doso) and ignorance (avijjaa), on the strength of the following reference at S. IV. 158
(Cf. Itiv. 57
): "He in whom lust, hatred and ignorance have faded away, is the one who has crossed this ocean so hard to cross, with its seizures, demons, and the danger of waves." The 'turning-twice' most probably refers to the painful feeling and the pleasant feeling which form the counterparts in the 'see-saw' experience of the worldling. (See below Note 24
). That it is a kind of blind alley for him, is clearly stated at S. IV. 208
: "He, on being touched (phu.t.tho samaano) by painful feeling, delights in sense-pleasures. And why is this? Because the uninstructed worldling, O monks, knows no way out of painful feeling other than the sense-pleasures..." Lastly, as for the significance of that one root, in the verse, the following citation from 'Phassamuulaka Sutta' (Rooted-in-Contact') at S. IV. 215
, should suffice: "Monks, there are these three feelings which are born of contact, rooted in contact, originating from contact and which depend on contact. Which are the three? Pleasant feeling, unpleasant feeling and neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant feeling."
It is the painful bodily feeling that constitutes the most immediate and palpable aspect of suffering. The arahant's claim to have transcended all suffering will not be fully valid unless he has 'crossed over' this 'quaking abyss' as well. That paradoxical samaadhi of the arahant is just the 'refuge' (or 'island') from the 'floods,' the 'eddies' and the 'abyss.' The most emphatic illustration of this fact is perhaps the Sakalika-Sutta at S. I. 27.
, where the Buddha, being mindful and aware, is seen bearing up with an unruffled brow, the bodily pains which are painful, sharp, acute, distressing and unwelcome, while gods draw near and express wonder and admiration at this remarkable feat of endurance. (See above, Note 10
). This aspect of Nibbaanic bliss is summed up in a verse at S. IV. 204
: 'Concentrated, mindful and aware, the disciple of the Buddha, understands feelings, the origin of feelings, the state wherein they are destroyed and the path leading thereto. By the destruction of feelings, the monk is devoid of hankering and is fully appeased (parinibbuta).'
The significance of the metaphor used with reference to painful bodily feelings can also be appreciated in the context of the Buddha's definition of the 'development of the body' (kaayabhaavanaa) and the 'development of the mind' (cittabhaavanaa) in the Mahaa Saccaka Sutta (M. I. 239
). "In whomsoever, Aggivessana, in this manner and on either side, the pleasant feelings that are arisen do not obsess the mind due to the development of his body, and the painful feelings that are arisen do not obsess the mind due to the development of his mind, it is thus, Aggivessana, that he becomes one who is developed as to body (bhaavitakaayo) and as to mind, too (bhaavitacitto)." The arahant, in attaining to the 'Influx-free Deliverance of the Mind and the Deliverance through Wisdom' (...'anaasava.m cetovimutti.m pa~n~navimutti.m...' — D. I. 156) reaches the perfection of these two ideals. As the 'unshakable deliverance of the mind' ('akuppaa cetovimutti'), arahantship is the unfailing refuge and shelter even from the quaking abyss of bodily feelings. While the 'Influx-free Deliverance of the Mind' provides him with an inner retreat from painful bodily feelings, the 'Deliverance through Wisdom' serves as a permanent safe-guard against the seductive and deluding character of pleasant feeling. (Cf. "Experiencing taste, the revered Gotama partakes of food, but not experiencing an attachment to taste" — Brahmaayu S., M. II. 138). The arahant 'freed-in-both-ways' (ubhatobhaagavimutta) can, therefore, disengage himself from all percepts in addition to remaining undeluded in the face of experience.
sa~n~navirattassa na santi ganthaa
pa~n~navimuttassa na santi mohaa...
— Sn. V. 847
'Unto him who is detached from percepts, there are no fetters, and to him who is emancipated through wisdom there are no delusions.'