The Greater Blind Alley
Mahābyūha Sutta


For those who dispute, maintaining a fixed view,
Saying “This is very Truth”,
Is criticism all that they experience?
Do they not indeed also receive praise?

Ye kecime diṭṭhiparibbasānā idameva saccanti vivādayanti
Sabbeva te nindamanvānayanti atho pasaṃsampi labhanti tattha

The Buddha

What praise they receive is trifling,
Not enough to bring them any consolation.
I say that disputes have only two fruits:
Praise and criticism.
Seeing this, you should not dispute.
Regard instead non-dispute as the grounds for peace.

Appañhi etaṃ na alaṃ samāya duve vivādassa phalāni brūmi
Etampi disvā na vivādayetha khemābhipassaṃ avivādabhūmiṃ


Those who are wise do not involve themselves with commonplace opinions.
If someone is without attachment,
Why would he then become involved?
He is someone who does not relish what is seen or heard.

Yā kācimā sammutiyo puthujjā sabbāva etā na upeti vidvā
Anūpayo so upayaṃ kimeyya diṭṭhe sute khantimakubbamāno


Those for whom virtuous conduct is the supreme practice
Say that purity is intrinsic to self-restraint.
Having undertaken such a practice, they dedicate themselves to it.
They think:
“We should train ourselves in just this, for it is purity”.(1)
These so-called experts are thus led on to further existence.

Sīluttamā saññamenāhu suddhiṃ vataṃ samādāya upaṭṭhitāse
Idheva sikkhema athassa suddhiṃ bhavūpanītā kusalā vadānā


But if someone like this falls from his precepts and practices
He is agitated, having failed in conduct.
He yearns and longs for purity
Like a wretched merchant living far away, for his home.

Sace cuto sīlavatato hoti pavedhatī kamma virādhayitvā
Pajappatī patthayatī ca suddhiṃ satthāva hīno pavasaṃ gharamhā


But one who is detached from precepts and practices,
And all conduct, both flawed and not flawed,
Not yearning for either purity or impurity,
Would abide abstaining from initiating new kamma,
Peaceful, free of grasping.

Sīlabbataṃ vāpi pahāya sabbaṃ kammañca sāvajjanavajjametaṃ
Suddhiṃ asuddhinti apatthayāno virato care santimanuggahāya


Tethered to ascetic practices and self-mortification
Or to what is seen, heard or cognised,
With raised voices they wail for purity,
Not rid of wishes for existence.

Tapūpanissāya jigucchitaṃ vā athavāpi diṭṭhaṃ va sutaṃ mutaṃ vā
Uddhaṃsarā suddhimanutthunanti avītataṇhāse bhavābhavesu


One who longs, indeed has attachments.
With regards to his own concocted views about existence there is anxiety.
But one for whom there is neither death nor rearising,
Why would he be anxious?
To what would he be attached?

Patthayamānassa hi jappitāni pavedhitaṃ vāpi pakappitesu
Cutūpapāto idha yassa natthi sa kena vedheyya kuhiṃva jappe


The religious teachings that some call 'The Highest' is what others call 'The Contemptible'.
Which statement of all of these so-called experts is true?

Yamāhu dhammaṃ paramanti eke tameva hīnanti panāhu aññe
Sacco nu vādo katamo imesaṃ sabbeva hīme kusalā vadānā


They each say their own religious teachings are perfect,
While the teachings of others they call contemptible.
Thus contentious, they squabble.
Each one says their own opinion is Truth.

Sakañhi dhammaṃ paripuṇṇamāhu aññassa dhammaṃ pana hīnamāhu
Evampi viggayha vivādayanti sakaṃ sakaṃ sammutimāhu saccaṃ

The Buddha

If a religious teaching becomes contemptible because an opponent reviles it
Then none of the teachings have any merit,
For each person says that the others’ teachings are contemptible
Whilst steadfastly asserting their own.

Parassa ce vambhayitena hīno na koci dhammesu visesi assa
Puthū hi aññassa vadanti dhammaṃ nihīnato samhi daḷhaṃ vadānā


Just as they honour their own teachings,
So they praise their own paths.
If all their statements were true,
Purity would, of course, be individually theirs.

Saddhammapūjāpi nesaṃ tatheva yathā pasaṃsanti sakāyanāni
Sabbeva vādā tathiyā bhaveyyuṃ suddhī hi nesaṃ paccattameva


In regards to dogmatic religious teachings,
A Brahman has no attachment that could be inferred in him by others.
Therefore he has gone beyond disputes.
He does not regard the knowledge of a religious teaching as best.

Na brāhmaṇassa paraneyyamatthi dhammesu niccheyya samuggahītaṃ
Tasmā vivādāni upātivatto na hi seṭṭhato passati dhammamaññaṃ


Some say:
“I know. I see. This is precisely how it is:
Some people’s purity is intrinsic to their vision”.

Even if someone has seen something, what use is it to him?
He has gone too far.
He speaks of purity as being intrinsic to an auxiliary basis of attachment.

Jānāmi passāmi tatsheva etaṃ diṭṭhiyā eke paccenti suddhiṃ
Addakkhi ce kiñhi tumassa tena atisitvā aññena vadanti suddhiṃ


A person, in seeing, sees only physical and mental phenomena.
Having seen, he will know just that much.
Whether he sees a little or a lot,
The good do not say that purity is intrinsic to that.

Passaṃ naro dakkhati nāmarūpaṃ disvāna vā ñassati tānimeva
Kāmaṃ bahuṃ passatu appakaṃ vā na hi tena suddhiṃ kusalā vadanti


A person with rigid views does not easily understand this.
He blindly follows the views he has concocted.
Wherever he is tethered is his so-called ‘sacrosanctity’.
He calls it ‘purity’.
It is there that he sees Truth.

Nivissavādī na hi subbināyo pakappitaṃ diṭṭhi purekkharāno
Yaṃ nissito tattha subhaṃ vadāno suddhiṃvado tattha tathaddasā so


The Brahman cannot be reckoned in terms of time.
He does not blindly follow views.
He is not bound even to knowledge.
And having recognised commonplace opinions which other people grasp,
He remains indifferent to them.

Na brāhmaṇo kappamupeti saṅkhā na diṭṭhisārī napi ñāṇabandhu
Ñatvā ca so sammutiyo puthujjā upekkhatī uggahaṇanti maññe


Having loosened his bonds in the world,
The sage does not take sides when disputes have arisen.
Amongst those not at peace, he is at peace.
He remains equanimous,
Not grasping what other people grasp.

Vissajja ganthāni munīdha loke vivādajātesu na vaggasārī
Santo asantesu upekkhako so anuggaho uggahaṇanti maññe


Giving up old defilements,
Not concocting new ones,
He is not governed by longing.
He is not dogmatic.
He is totally liberated from opinionatedness.
He is wise.
He does not cling to the world.
He does not rebuke himself.

Pubbāsave hitvā nave akubbaṃ na chandagū nopi nivissavādī
Sa vippamutto diṭṭhigatehi dhīro na limpati loke anattagarahī


He is peaceful amidst all things, whether seen, heard or cognised.
His burden is laid down.
The sage is totally liberated.
He neither restrains himself from what is temporal
Nor yearns for it.

Sa sabbadhammesu visenibhūto yaṃ kiñci diṭṭhaṃ va sutaṃ mutaṃ vā
Sa pannabhāro muni vippamutto na kappiyo nūparato na patthiyoti

Notes for Readers:

  • Note (1) “We should train ourselves in just this, for it is purity”: This is an example of concocting a religious teaching and blindly following it, thinking “This is complete purity” - as described in Verse 794.

Notes on Translation:

  • Verse 897) relish (khantimakubbamāno): Norman calls it ‘preference’ though his notes say that khantimakubbamāno is synonymous with pemaṃ akaronto. Khanti occurs in v.944 in the parallel phrase: “He should not be nostalgic (nābhinandeyya) for the past/ Nor relish (khantiṃ na kubbaye) what is new”. Here khanti correlates with abhinandati.
  • Verse 900) Abstaining from initiating new kamma: in this sentence, virato care has no object. Because the verse is about kamma, I take it to mean “abstaining from initiating new kamma”, because the same concept also occurs at v.953 (virato so viyārambhā). Norman translates virato care as “he would dwell detached”, whereas in vv.943 and 953, where there is an object, he calls virato ‘abstaining’.
  • Verse 900) ‘peaceful, free of grasping’: I take santimanuggahāya to be synonymous with anuggahāya santo of v.839.
  • Verse 902) concocted views about existence: pakappitā. ‘Concoct’ is related in the Octads to a variety of subjects: religious teachings (dhammā) (v.784); views about existence (diṭṭhi bhavābhavesu) (v.786); concepts about what is seen, heard or cognised (v.802); opinions (vinicchayā) (v.838); sophistry (v.886); views (diṭṭhi) (v.910). I have followed the subject suggested in the last line of the previous verse.
  • Verse 903) true: sacca is an adjective; saccaṃ (next verse) a noun, Truth.
  • Verse 907) In regards to dogmatic religious teachings, a Brahman has no attachment (na...atthi dhammesu niccheyya samuggahītaṃ - ‘not anything in regards to dogmatic religious teachings’): I take the ‘anything’ to mean attachment (i.e. the Brahman has no attachment) because the phrase dhammesu niccheyya samuggahītaṃ is linked to nivesanā (attachment) at v.801: “no attachment to dogmatic religious teachings”.
  • Verse 908) an auxiliary basis of attachment: for translation of aññena, see translation notes.
  • Verse 911) ‘blindly follow’: I take sāreti (sārī) to be a synonym of purakkharoti.

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