Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The Ādittapariyāya Sutta (Pali, "Fire Sermon Discourse") or, more simply, Āditta Sutta is a discourse from the Pali Canon, popularly known as the Fire Sermon. In this discourse, theBuddha preaches about achieving liberation from suffering through detachment from the five senses and mind.
In the Pali Canon, the Adittapariyaya Sutta is found in the Samyutta Nikaya ("Connected Collection," abbreviated as either "SN" or "S") and is designated by either "SN 35.28" or "S iv 1.3.6" or "S iv 19". This discourse is also found in the Buddhist monastic code (Vinaya) at Vin I 35.
English speakers might be familiar with the name of this discourse due to T. S. Eliot's entitling the third section of his celebrated poem, The Waste Land, as "The Fire Sermon." In a footnote, Eliot states that this Buddhist discourse "corresponds in importance to the Sermon on the Mount.
In the Vinaya, the Fire Sermon is the third discourse delivered by the Buddha (after the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta and the Anattalakkhana Sutta), several months after his enlightenment, on top of the Gayasisa Hill, near Gaya, India. He delivered it to a thousand newly converted ascetics who formerly practiced a sacred fire ritual (agnihotra).
The 5th c. CE post-canonical Pali commentary, Sāratthappakāsini (Spk.), attributed to Buddhaghosa, draws a direct connection between the ascetics' prior practices and this discourse's main rhetorical device:
Having led the thousand bhikkhus monks to Gayā's Head, the Blessed One reflected, 'What kind of Dhamma talk would be suitable for them?' He then realized, 'In the past they worshipped the fire morning and evening. I will teach them that the twelve sense bases are burning and blazing. In this way they will be able to attain arahantship.
In this discourse, the Buddha describes the sense bases and resultant mental phenomena as "burning" with passion, aversion, delusion and suffering. Seeing such, a noble disciple becomes disenchanted with, dispassionate toward and thus liberated from the senses bases, achieving arahantship. This is described in more detail below.
After a prefatory paragraph identifying this discourse's location of deliverance (Gaya) and audience (a thousand monks or bhikkhus), the Buddha proclaims (represented here in English and Pali):
"Bhikkhus, all is burning."
Sabbaṃ bhikkhave ādittaṃ
|Figure 1: The Pali Canon's Six Sextets:|
|Source: MN 148 (Thanissaro, 1998) | diagram details|
The ensuing text reveals that "all" (sabba) refers to:
- the six internal sense bases (ayatana): eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind
- the six external sense bases: visible forms, sound, smells, tastes, touches and mental objects
- consciousness (viññāṇa) contingent on these sense bases
- the contact (samphassa) of a specific sense organ (such as the ear), its sense object (sound) and sense-specific consciousness.
- what is subsequently felt (vedayita): pleasure (sukha), pain (dukkha), or neither (adukkhamasukhaṃ).
By "burning" (āditta) is meant:
- the fire of passion (rāgagginā)
- the fire of aversion (dosagginā)
- the fire of delusion (mohagginā)
- the manifestations of suffering: birth, aging and death, sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses and despairs.
According to the Buddha, a well-instructed noble disciple (sutavā ariyasāvako) sees this burning and thus becomes disenchanted (nibbindati) with the sense bases and their mental sequelae. The text then uses a formula found in dozens of discourses to describe the manner in which such disenchantment leads to liberation from suffering:
"Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate.
Through dispassion, he is fully released.
With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.'
He discerns that 'Birth is ended,
the holy life fulfilled,
the task done.
There is nothing further for this world.'"
vimuttasmiṃ vimuttamiti ñāṇaṃ hoti,
nāparaṃ itthattāyāti pajānātī ti. '
A closing paragraph reports that, during this discourse, the thousand monks in attendance became liberated.
Related canonical discourses
Cambodia • Laos
Burma • Thailand
While the central metaphor of burning combined with "the all" (sense bases, etc.) make this discourse unique in the Pali Canon, its core message can be found throughout, condensed and embellished in a number of instructive ways.
Andhabhūta/Addhabhūta Sutta (SN 35.29)
The very next discourse listed in the Samyutta Nikaya (SN 35.29) is nearly identical with the Fire Sermon with the significant exception that, instead of the central metaphor of the senses being "aflame" (āditta), this next discourse uses a different metaphor. Bhikkhu Bodhi notes that different editions of the Tipitaka vary as to what this subsequent discourse's central metaphor is: Sinhala editions use the term andhabhūta — meaning "figuratively blinded" or "ignorant" — while the Burmese edition and commentary use addhabhūta — meaning "weighed down." Regardless which edition is referenced, both the Fire Sermon and this subsequent discourse, with their seemingly diametric similes of burning and oppressiveness, underline that the senses, their objects and associated mental impressions are unto themselves beyond our complete control and are aversive; and, thus provide the escape of disenchantment, dispassion and release.
Āditta Sutta (SN 22.61)
In this discourse, instead of describing the sense bases (ayatana) as being aflame, the Buddha describes the five aggregates (khandha) in this manner:
- "Bhikkhus, form is burning, feeling is burning, perception is burning, volitional formations are burning, consciousness is burning. Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple experiences revulsion towards form ... feeling ... perception ... volitional formations ... consciousness .... Through dispassion [this mind] is liberated...."
Kukkuḷa Sutta (SN 22.136)
Like the Fire Sermon, this discourse has a central metaphor related to fire — likening our physical and mental apparatus to hot embers (Pali: kukkuḷa) — and concludes with the well-instructed noble disciple becoming disenchanted with, dispassionate about and liberated from these burning constituents. Unlike the Fire Sermon, instead of using the sense bases and their mental sequelae as the basis for this burning and disenchantment, this discourse uses the five aggregates (khandha) for the underlying physical-mental framework.
Ādittapariyāya Sutta (SN 35.235)
Also entitled "Fire Sermon," this discourse cautions that it is better for an internal sense base (eye, ear, etc.) to be lacerated by a burning implement than for one to "grasp the sign" (nimittaggāho) of an external sense base (visible form, sound, etc.); for such grasping might lead to rebirth in a lower realm. Instead of grasping, the well-instructed noble disciple discriminates (paṭisañcikkhati) the impermance of the internal sense base, external sense base, related consciousness and contact, and the resultant feeling. Such discrimination leads to liberation