The Lesser Blind Alley(1)
Cūḷabyūha Sutta


Maintaining their own fixed views,
Different experts say:
“Whoever knows this knows Truth.
Whoever rejects it is not perfected”.

Sakaṃsakaṃdiṭṭhiparibbasānā viggayha nānā kusalā vadanti
Yo evaṃ jānāti sa vedi dhammaṃ idaṃ paṭikkosamakevalī so


Thus contentious, they squabble:
“My opponent is a fool. He is no expert”.
Given that they all claim to be experts,
Which of these statements is true?

Evampi viggayha vivādayanti bālo paro akkusaloti cāhu
Sacco nu vādo katamo imesaṃ sabbeva hīme kusalā vadānā

The Buddha

If rejecting an opponent’s religious teachings makes one a “fool”,
One of inferior wisdom,
Then all of them are fools of very inferior wisdom,(2)
All those who maintain that their own views are 'The Highest'.

Parassa ce dhammamanānujānaṃ bālomako hoti nihīnapañño
Sabbeva bālā sunihīnapaññā sabbevime diṭṭhiparibbasānā


But if each is intrinsically cleansed by their views,
Of perfected wisdom,
An expert,
Then none of them are of inferior wisdom,
For all of them are accomplished in their own views.

Sandiṭṭhiyā ceva na vīvadātā saṃsuddhapaññā kusalā mutīmā
Na tesaṃ koci parihīnapañño diṭṭhī hi tesampi tathā samattā


I definitely do not say
“This [my view] is Truth”(3)
As fools say to one another.
They each make out their own views to be Truth
And therefore brand their opponents as ‘fools’.

Na vāhametaṃ tathiyanti brūmi yamāhu bālā mithu aññamaññaṃ
Sakaṃsakaṃdiṭṭhimakaṃsu saccaṃ tasmā hi bāloti paraṃ dahanti


What some say is Actuality, Truth, others say is Vanity, Falsehood.(4)
Thus contentious, they squabble.
Why don’t ascetics say one and the same thing?

Yamāhu saccaṃ tathiyanti eke tamāhu aññe tucchaṃ musāti
Evampi viggayha vivādayanti kasmā na ekaṃ samaṇā vadanti

The Buddha

The Truth is single.
There is not another Truth about which mankind should contend.
Ascetics proclaim their own various ‘Truths’;
That’s why they don’t say one and the same thing.

Ekañhi saccaṃ na dutīyamatthi yasmiṃ pajā no vivade pajānaṃ
Nānā te saccāni sayaṃ thunanti tasmā na ekaṃ samaṇā vadanti


But why do they proclaim differing Truths,
These argumentative so-called experts?
Have they come across many differing Truths
Or are they merely speculating?

Kasmā nu saccāni vadanti nānā pavādiyāse kusalā vadānā
Saccāni sutāni bahūni nānā udāhu te takkamanussaranti

The Buddha

Apart from the mere notion of it
There are not many and various eternal Truths in the world.
But by resorting to sophistry,
The so-called experts say that, in respect to views,
There is a fixed duality: Truth and Falsehood.

Na heva saccāni bahūni nānā aññatra saññāya niccāni loke
Takkañca diṭṭhīsu pakappayitvā saccaṃ musāti dvayadhammamāhu


Tethered to what is seen, heard, or cognised,
Or to precepts and practices
A person shows contempt for others.
Abiding by his fixed opinions,
And pleased with himself,
He says:
“My opponent’s a fool. He is no expert”.

Diṭṭhe sute sīlavate mute vā ete ca nissāya vimānadassī
Vinicchaye ṭhatvā pahassamāno bālo paro akkusaloti cāha


Upon whatever basis he regards his opponent a fool
Is the same upon which he regards himself an expert.
To the extent to which he rates himself an expert
He despises anyone else who makes the same claim.

Yeneva bāloti paraṃ dahāti tenātumānaṃ kusaloti cāha
Sayamattanā so kusalo vadāno aññaṃ vimāneti tadeva pāva


In his own overestimated view he is perfected.
Drunk with pride,
He supposes he is fully accomplished.
In his mind he consecrates himself.
His views, likewise, he regards as also perfect.

Atisāradiṭṭhiyāva so samatto mānena matto paripuṇṇamānī
Sayameva sāmaṃ manasābhisitto diṭṭhī hi sā tassa tathā samattā


If by the word of somebody else one were inferior,
That ‘somebody else’ would be of inferior wisdom also.(5)
But if, by one’s own reckoning, one were knowledgeable and wise
Then none among ascetics would be a fool.

Parassa ce hi vacasā nihīno tumo sahā hoti nihīnapañño
Atha ce sayaṃ vedagū hoti dhīro na koci bālo samaṇesu atthi


“Those who proclaim religious teachings different from this have strayed from purity.
They are not perfected”.
Members of other sects each say this
Because they are each burning with passion about their own views.

Aññaṃ ito yābhivadanti dhammaṃ aparaddhā suddhimakevalī te
Evampi titthyā puthuso vadanti sandiṭṭhirāgena hi tebhirattā


 “Here alone is purity” they say,
And say that there is no intrinsic purity in other religious teachings.
Thus are members of other sects established at odds with each other,
And thus are they committed to their own so-called paths.

Idheva suddhi iti vādayanti nāññesu dhammesu visuddhimāhu
Evampi titthyā puthuso niviṭṭhā sakāyane tattha daḷhaṃ vadānā


Although someone is committed to his own so-called path,
What person could he take to be a fool in regards to it?
If he said that another person was a fool following impure religious teachings
He would simply invite trouble on himself

Sakāyane vāpi daḷhaṃ vadāno kamettha bāloti paraṃ daheyya
Sayameva so medhagamāvaheyya paraṃ vadaṃ bālamasuddhidhammaṃ


Steadfast in his fixed opinions,
Measuring others by his own criteria,
He enters ever more disputes in the world.
But the person who has abandoned all fixed opinions
Creates no more trouble in the world.

Vinicchaye ṭhatvā sayaṃ pamāya uddhaṃ sa lokasmiṃ vivādameti
Hitvāna sabbāni vinicchayāni na medhagaṃ kubbati jantu loketi

Notes for Readers:

  • Note (1) Title of the Discourse) A blind alley is defined in the scriptures as a road where “they depart the same way they entered” (Vin.4.271). Arguments about Truth – the subject of this discourse - are called blind alleys because they lead nowhere.
  • Note (2) all of them are fools: Each person says that other people's teachings are contemptible (says v.905); therefore, each person is likely to be accused by others of having a contemptible teaching, and so of being a fool. The Buddha says they are of “very little wisdom” because they are accused in the same terms by which they accuse others.
  • Note (3) This [my view] is Truth: one who has realised Truth has done so by detaching from everything (v.946). Therefore no view can be called Truth. Though tathiya is an adjective, it is apparently a synonym of saccaṃ in the next line.
  • Note (4) So-called experts call their own views ‘Truth’, and call their opponents’ views ‘Falsehood’. See v.886.
  • Note (5) That ‘somebody else’ would be of inferior wisdom also: because “each person says that the others’ teachings are contemptible” (v.905).

Notes on Translation:

  • Verse 878) Truth: dhammaṃ is here synonymous with saccaṃ in v.882.
  • Verse 880) The text reads “maintain their own views”. From v.796, I take this to mean “maintain their own views are 'The Highest' ”.
  • Verse 881) vīvadātā: derived from odāta, which PED says is an adjective and a past participle.
  • Verse 886) Fixed duality: in this verse the Buddha says Truth is eternal. The sophists apparently agree with this. Therefore they presumably regard the duality they proclaim (dvayadhammamāhu) to be fixed.

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