SN 35.204 (245): Kimsuka Sutta:The Riddle Tree

Each week we study and discuss a different sutta or Dhamma text

Moderator: mikenz66

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10831
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

SN 35.204 (245): Kimsuka Sutta:The Riddle Tree

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 06, 2011 10:35 am

SN 35.204 PTS: S iv 191 CDB ii 1251 (corresponds to CDB SN 35.245)
Kimsuka Sutta: The Riddle Tree
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


The Buddha explains how tranquillity (samatha) and insight (vipassana) function together as a "swift pair of messengers" to guide the meditator onwards to Nibbana.

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

A certain monk went to another monk and, on arrival, said to him, "To what extent, my friend, is a monk's vision said to be well-purified?"

"When a monk discerns, as it actually is, the origination & passing away of the six media of sensory contact, my friend, it is to that extent that his vision is said to be well-purified."

The first monk, dissatisfied with the other monk's answer to his question, went to still another monk and, on arrival, said to him, "To what extent, my friend, is a monk's vision said to be well-purified?"

"When a monk discerns, as it actually is, the origination & passing away of the five clinging-aggregates, my friend, it is to that extent that his vision is said to be well-purified."

The first monk, dissatisfied with this monk's answer to his question, went to still another monk and, on arrival, said to him, "To what extent, my friend, is a monk's vision said to be well-purified?"

"When a monk discerns, as it actually is, the origination & passing away of the four great elements [earth, water, wind, & fire], my friend, it is to that extent that his vision is said to be well-purified."

The first monk, dissatisfied with this monk's answer to his question, went to still another monk and, on arrival, said to him, "To what extent, my friend, is a monk's vision said to be well-purified?"

"When a monk discerns, as it actually is, that whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation, my friend, it is to that extent that his vision is said to be well-purified."

The first monk, dissatisfied with this monk's answer to his question, then went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he [reported to the Blessed One his conversations with the other monks. The Blessed One then said:]

"Monk, it's as if there were a man who had never seen a riddle tree.[1] He would go to another man who had seen one and, on arrival, would say to him, 'What, my good man, is a riddle tree like?"

"The other would say, 'A riddle tree is black, my good man, like a burnt stump.' For at the time he saw it, that's what the riddle tree was like.

"Then the first man, dissatisfied with the other man's answer, went to still another man who had seen a riddle tree and, on arrival, said to him, 'What, my good man, is a riddle tree like?'

"The other would say, 'A riddle tree is red, my good man, like a lump of meat.' For at the time he saw it, that's what the riddle tree was like.

"Then the first man, dissatisfied with this man's answer, went to still another man who had seen a riddle tree and, on arrival, said to him, 'What, my good man, is a riddle tree like?'

"The other would say, 'A riddle tree is stripped of its bark, my good man, and has burst pods, like an acacia tree.' For at the time he saw it, that's what the riddle tree was like.

"Then the first man, dissatisfied with this man's answer, went to still another man who had seen a riddle tree and, on arrival, said to him, 'What, my good man, is a riddle tree like?'

"The other would say, 'A riddle tree has thick foliage, my good man, and gives a dense shade, like a banyan.' For at the time he saw it, that's what the riddle tree was like.

"In the same way, monk, however those intelligent men of integrity were focused when their vision became well purified is the way in which they answered.

"Suppose, monk, that there were a royal frontier fortress with strong walls & ramparts and six gates. In it would be a wise, experienced, intelligent gatekeeper to keep out those he didn't know and to let in those he did. A swift pair of messengers, coming from the east, would say to the gatekeeper, 'Where, my good man, is the commander of this fortress?' He would say, 'There he is, sirs, sitting in the central square.' The swift pair of messengers, delivering their accurate report to the commander of the fortress, would then go back by the route by which they had come. Then a swift pair of messengers, coming from the west... the north... the south, would say to the gatekeeper, 'Where, my good man, is the commander of this fortress?' He would say, 'There he is, sirs, sitting in the central square.' The swift pair of messengers, delivering their accurate report to the commander of the fortress, would then go back by the route by which they had come.

"I have given you this simile, monk, to convey a message. The message is this: The fortress stands for this body — composed of four elements, born of mother & father, nourished with rice & barley gruel, subject to constant rubbing & abrasion, to breaking & falling apart. The six gates stand for the six internal sense media. The gatekeeper stands for mindfulness. The swift pair of messengers stands for tranquillity (samatha) and insight (vipassana). The commander of the fortress stands for consciousness. The central square stands for the four great elements: the earth-property, the liquid-property, the fire-property, & the wind-property. The accurate report stands for Unbinding (nibbana). The route by which they had come stands for the noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration."

Note

1. Literally, a "what's it" tree — apparently Butea frondosa, the flame of the forest. It is often the subject of riddles in lands where it grows because its seasonal changes — e.g., losing all its leaves just before its striking red flowers bloom — are so vivid and unusual.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10831
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 35.204 (245): Kimsuka Sutta:The Riddle Tree

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 06, 2011 10:38 am

SN 35.204 PTS: S iv 191 CDB ii 1251 (corresponds to CDB SN 35.245)
Ki.msukaa Sutta: The 'What's It' Tree (Ki.msuka)
translated from the Pali by Maurice O'Connell Walshe


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

[1] A certain monk visited another monk and said: "Tell me, friend, how does a monk's vision become fully purified?"

"Friend, when a monk fully comprehends as they really are the arising and passing away of the six spheres of contact,[2] to that extent his vision becomes fully purified."

But that monk was dissatisfied with the other's answer, so he went to another monk...

"Friend, when a monk fully comprehends as they really are the arising and passing away of the five groups of clinging,[3] to that extent his vision becomes fully purified."

But that monk was dissatisfied with the other's answer, and he went to another monk...

"Friend, when a monk fully comprehends as they really are the arising and passing away of the four great elements,[4] to that extent his vision becomes fully purified."

But that monk was dissatisfied with the other's answer, so he went to another monk...

"Friend, when a monk fully comprehends as it really is that whatever is of a nature to arise is bound to pass away,[5] to that extent his vision becomes fully purified."

But that monk was dissatisfied with the other's answer, and he went to the Blessed One...

"Suppose, monk, a man had never seen a 'what's it' tree. So he went to someone who had seen one,[6] and said: 'Tell me, good sir, what does a "what's it" tree look like?' The other man replied: 'Well now, a "what's it" tree is sort of blackish, like a burnt stump.' But that man was not long satisfied with this answer, so he went to another man... 'Well now, a "what's it" tree is sort of reddish, like a lump of meat.' But that man was not long satisfied with this answer, so he went to another man... 'Well now, a "what's it" tree is stripped of its bark, with burst pods, rather like an acacia.' But that man was not long satisfied with this answer, so he went to another man... 'Well now, a "what's it" tree has very thick leaves. It gives close shade like a banyan.' So for a while he sees the 'what's it' tree as that man sees it.

"In the same way, monk, according to the way the vision of these wise monks[7] has become purified, so they explain it, each according to his disposition.

"It is, monk, just like some king's border-city, with strong walls and arches, and with six gates. And there is a wise, skilled and experienced gatekeeper who keeps out the unknown and admits the known. From the east there come a swift pair of messengers, and they say to the gatekeeper: 'Where is the lord of this city?' — 'He is over there, sirs, at the cross-roads in the center.' Then the two messengers take a truthful report to the lord of the city, and return the way they came. [Likewise from the west, south, north.]

"I have given you a parable, monk, and so that you can understand it, this is the explanation: 'The city' is a name for the body, composed of the four great elements, born of mother and father, an accumulation of rice and gruel, impermanent, subject to abrasion, dissolution and disintegration. 'The six gates' denote the six internal sense-spheres.[8] 'The gatekeeper' denotes mindfulness. 'The two swift messengers' denote calm and insight.[9] 'The lord of the city' denotes consciousness. 'The cross-roads at the center' denotes the four great elements: the earth-element, the water-element, the fire-element, the air-element. 'The truthful report' denotes Nibbaana. 'The way they came,' monk, denotes the Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration."


Notes

1. Butea frondosa, a tall tree known as "flame of the forest." The title "Judas Tree" (K.S. [Book of the Kindred Sayings, trans. of the Sa.myutta Nikaaya, Vol. IV, PTS 1927]) arouses inappropriate associations. The literal meaning of the Pali is "What's It," which is entirely appropriate to the humor of the story of the doubting monk's questionings.

2. Eye and visible object, ear and sound, etc, the sixth pair being, of course, mind and mind-object (objects of thought).

3. The five khandhas: body (ruupa), feeling (vedanaa), perception (saññaa), the mental formations (sankhaaraa) and consciousness (viññaa.na). See Vol. I, n. 49. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#fn-49

4. The earth-element (pa.thavii-dhaatu) or "extension"; the water-element (apo-dhaatu) or "cohesion"; the fire-element (tejo-dhaatu) or "temperature"; the air-element (vaayo-dhaatu) or "motion." These are, of course, not to be confused with "elements" in the modern sense: they are qualities of matter, and all four are present in varying degree in every physical object.

5. A frequently recurring formulation of a very basic Buddhist tenet.

6. Dassaavii. This word is generally used in the pregnant sense of one "seeing with insight" — which is of course hinted at here. The descriptions of the tree are as it appears at different seasons.

7. Sappurisa, somewhat inadequately rendered "worthies" by Woodward. It is a term of higher (and less ambiguous) praise than that: see SN 22.7, n. 2. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#fn-2

8. Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body (as organ of touch), mind. The "internal" halves of the six pairs mentioned in n. 2.

9. Samatha-vipassanaa: the two branches of bhaavanaa (generally rendered "meditation" but better called "mind-training"). Samatha "calm, tranquillity" is developed by the practice of the eighth step of the Noble Eightfold Path (sammaa-samaadhi), and vipassanaa "insight" by the seventh (sammaa-sati). Both are necessary parts of the Buddhist training, though vipassanaa is the practice that leads to the goal.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10831
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 35.204 (245): Kimsuka Sutta:The Riddle Tree

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 06, 2011 9:11 pm

It's interesting that this sutta contains two bits, both of which are interesting, but the connection seems rather tenuous. I.e.

1. The initial similes about how different practitioners approach the Dhamma, and describe their realisations, differently.

2. The "swift pair of messengers" simile.

Starting with (1) here's a question for discussion:

    Is the Buddha saying that there are different ways of gaining insight, and it is not necessary to master all of the different ways, or any particular way?

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
cooran
Posts: 7808
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: SN 35.204 (245): Kimsuka Sutta:The Riddle Tree

Postby cooran » Tue Sep 06, 2011 9:37 pm

Hello Mike, all,

Regarding the simile of the‘’king’s border-city’’ ….
Spk: Why is this introduced? If that bhikkhu understood (the meaning being conveyed by the kimsuka simile), then it is introduced to teach him the Dhamma.
If he did not understand, this simile of the city is introduced to explain and clarify the meaning……………
(Beginning of quite a long note on a more elaborate version of this simile and its explanation, in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of this sutta.)

With metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 14815
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: SN 35.204 (245): Kimsuka Sutta:The Riddle Tree

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:44 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:It's interesting that this sutta contains two bits, both of which are interesting, but the connection seems rather tenuous.

Yes - that was my impression too.

mikenz66 wrote:Is the Buddha saying that there are different ways of gaining insight, and it is not necessary to master all of the different ways, or any particular way?

The common factors seems to be that they all relate to the:

1. Full comprehension of the arising and passing away, of;
2. Sankhata-dhammas (formed dhammas)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10831
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 35.204 (245): Kimsuka Sutta:The Riddle Tree

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:44 am

Some comments from Bhikku Bodhi and Spk on SN35.245.

"In what way, friend, is a bhikkhu's vision well purified?"

BB: The purification of vision (dassana) usually means the attainment of stream entry, the gaining of "the vision of the Dhamma" (dhammacakkhu). Here, however, the qualification "well purified" (suvisuddham) seems to imply that the question concerns the path to arahantship. It is so taken by Spk.

Spk says that all the bhikkhus who replied were arahants; they answered in accordance with their own method of practice. The inquirer was dissatisfied with the reply of the first because it mentioned the formations only partly; he was dissatisfied with the others because they seemed to contradict one another.

Answers. Understands as they really are:
1. The origin and the passing away of the six bases for contact;
2. The origin and the passing away of the five aggregates subject to clinging;
3. The origin and the passing away of the four great elements;
4. Whatever is subject to origination is subject so cessation.


Bhikkhu, suppose there was a man who had never before seen a kimsuka tree.

BB: Kimsuka means literally "what's is?". The name may have originated from an ancient Indian folk riddle. (BB goes on with some discussion of Botanical classifications...).

The different modes of the kimsuka tree:
1. Blackish, like a charred stump;
2. Reddish, like a piece of meat;
3. Has strips of bark hanging down, and burst pods, like an acacia tree;
4. Has plenty of leaves and abundant shade, like a banyan tree.

BB: An acacia is the Bodhi tree of the Buddha Kakusandha (DN 14)

The Kimsukopama Jataka begins with an incident similar to this one, but employs a different story to make the same point. In the Jataka version the kimsuka appears like a charred stump at the time the buds are sprouting; like the banyan tree, when the leaves turn green; like a piece of meat, at the time of blossoming; like an acacia, when bearing fruit.

According to Spk the Kimsuka is
1. Like a charred stump when the leaves have been shed;
2. Like a piece of meat when blossoming;
3. With strips of bark hanging down and burst pods when bearing fruit;
4. Giving abundant shade, when covered with leaves.

The similarity of its flowers to meat is the theme of a humorous poem in Visuddhimagga 6:91. The chapter on foulness as a meditation subject.
91. And then, when any such bits of it as head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth,
spittle, snot, excrement or urine have dropped off the body, beings will not touch
them; they are ashamed, humiliated and disgusted. But as long as anyone of
these things remains in it, though it is just as repulsive, they take it as agreeable,
desirable, permanent, [196] pleasant, self, because they are wrapped in the murk
of ignorance and dyed with affection and greed for self. Taking it as they do,
they resemble the old jackal who saw a flower not yet fallen from a kiísuka tree in
a forest and yearned after it, thinking, “This is a piece of meat, it is a piece of
meat.”

92. There was a jackal chanced to see
A flowering kmsuka in a wood;
In haste he went to where it stood:
“I have found a meat-bearing tree!”

He chewed the blooms that fell, but could,
Of course, find nothing fit to eat;
He took it thus: “Unlike the meat
There on the tree, this is no good.”

A wise man will not think to treat
As foul only the part that fell,
But treats as foul the part as well
That in the body has its seat.

Fools cannot in their folly tell;
They take the body to be fair,
And soon get caught in Evil’s snare
Nor can escape its painful spell.

But since the wise have thus laid bare
This filthy body’s nature, so,
Be it alive or dead, they know
There is no beauty lurking there.

93.For this is said:
“This filthy body stinks outright
Like ordure, like a privy’s site;
This body men that have insight
Condemn, as object of a fool’s delight.

“A tumour where nine holes abide
Wrapped in a coat of clammy hide
And trickling filth on every side,
Polluting the air with stenches far and wide.

“If it perchance should come about
That what is inside it came out,
Surely a man would need a knout
With which to put the crows and dogs to rout.”

94. So a capable bhikkhu should apprehend the sign wherever the aspect of
foulness is manifest, whether in a living body or in a dead one, and he should
make the meditation subject reach absorption.
...


Spk: Just as the four men who described the kimsuka described is just as they had seen it, so these four bhikkhus, having attained arahantship aby purifying their vision, described Nibbana, the purifier of vision, in accordance with the path by which they themselves had attained it.

Spk draws parallels between the four modes of appearance and the four different approaches. BB does not give the details. Perhaps something for us to figure out?

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10831
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 35.204 (245): Kimsuka Sutta:The Riddle Tree

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Sep 10, 2011 2:35 am

"Suppose, bhikkhus, a king had a frontier city with strong ramparts, walls, and arches, and six gates...

Spk: Why is this introduced? If that bhikkhu understood (the meaning being conveyed by the kimsuka simile), then it is introduced to teach him the Dhamma.
If he did not understand, this simile of the city is introduced to explain and clarify the meaning.

Similes:
1. City - Body.
2. Six gates - internal sense bases.
3. Gatekeeper - mindfulness.
4. Swift pair of messengers - serenity and insight.
5. Lord of the city - conciousness.
6. Central square - four great elements.
7. Message of reality - Nibbana.
8. Route by which they had arrived - Noble eightfold path.

BB: Spk gives a much more elaborate version:
Lord is a prince, son of a virtuous world monarch, who had been appointed by his father to administer one of the outlying provinces. Under the influence of bad friends the prince had become dissolute and passed his time drinking liquor and enjoying music and dance.

The king sent the two messengers to admonish the prince to abandon his heedless ways and resume his duties. One messenger is a brave warrior (representing the samatha meditation subject), the other a wise minister (representing the vipassana meditation subject).

The brave warrior grabs hold of the wayward prince by the head and threatens to decapitate him if he doesn't change his ways: this is like the time the mind has been grabbed and made motionless by the concentration arisen through the first jhana. The fleeing of the prince's dissolute friends [I don't see this, and many following details in the sutta...] is like the disappearance of the five hindrances when the first jhana has arisen. When the prince agrees to follow the king's command, this is like the time when the meditator, with his mind made pliable through concentration, develops insight meditation.

When the two messenger raise up the white canopy over the prince after he has been coronated, this is like the time the white canopy of liberation is raised over the meditator after he has attained arahantship by means of serenity and insight.


"'The city': this is a designation for this body consisting of the four great elements, originating from mother and father, built up out of boiled rice and gruel, subject to impermanence, to being worn and rubbed away, to breaking apart and dispersal."

BB: Also at 35.103.
http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... ggo-e.html
34. 10. 10.
(103) Uddako: Uddaka Ramaputta

A stock description of the body. Spk explains that rubbing (ucchandana) as the application of scents and ointments to remove its bad smell, and pressing (parimaddana) as massaging with water to dispel affliction in the limbs. The entire description shows, in stages, the origination, growth, decline, and destruction of the body.


Spk identifies the conciousness simile as referring to the insight-mind (vipassanacitta), which is the prince to be coronated with the coronation of arahantship by the two messengers, serenity and insight. This interpretation strikes me as too narrow. I see the point to be simply that conciousness is the functional centre of personal experience.

Spk says that Nibbana is called the "message of reality" (yathabhutam vacanam) because in its real nature it is unshakable and immutable.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10831
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 35.204 (245): Kimsuka Sutta:The Riddle Tree

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:57 am

Other suttas mentioning samadhi and vipassana:

AN 2.30 PTS: A i 61 II,iii,10
Vijja-bhagiya Sutta: A Share in Clear Knowing
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

AN 4.94 PTS: A ii 93 Samadhi Sutta: Concentration (Tranquillity and Insight)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

AN 4.170 PTS: A ii 156 Yuganaddha Sutta: In Tandem
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Return to “Study Group”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests