Na Cēta­nākara­nīya Sutta

May 21, 2018; revised May 23, 2018

1. “Na Cēta­nākara­nīya Sutta” is the correct name of the sutta, NOT “Cēta­nākara­nīya Sutta” as it entitled at several websites including the Sutta Central website: “Cetanākaraṇīyasutta (AN 11.2)“. The English translation there is entitled accordingly and erroneously: “Making a Wish”.

  • Cetana is what one intends or wishes; karaniya means “what one should do”, and “na” means “not”. What the sutta is teaching is “Just by wishing such and such one will not get to Nibbāna“.
  • The correct title appears in the Pāli/Sinhala Buddha JayanathiTipitaka Series XXIII, Angutttara Nikāya (Part 6, p.586).
  • Therefore, the English title of the sutta should be something like “Making a Wish Will Not Work”.

2. It is a fairly short sutta. So, I decided to translate the full sutta and put it side-by-side with the Pāli version, so that one can see how it is translated.

  • As mentioned above, there is no point in just chanting or repeating to oneself, “May I be free of this, May I be that”, etc.
  • One needs to map out what needs to be done to stop future suffering and follow that path. There are no easy solutions like sitting down in a quiet place and just chanting or even meditating, even though that should be a part of the whole process.
  • This step-by-step process is summarized clearly in the sutta.
  • I have put in bold every other verse, so it would be easier to match the English and Pāli verses.

 

“For a person engaged in moral conduct (sila), and is thus moral and virtuous, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I be able to act with a calm mind”. It is in the nature of things that agitation of the mind does not arise in a person engaged in sila, and is virtuous.

“For a person free from an agitated mind, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May happiness arise in me”. It is in the nature of things that happiness (tranquility) arises in a person free from agitation in the mind.

“For a  person with happiness (tranquility of mind), there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May joy arise in me”. It is in the nature of things that joy arises in a person with a peaceful mind.

“For a joyful person, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I feel lightness in the body”. It is in the nature of things that a joyful person attains bodily lightness (passaddhi).

“For a person with bodily lightness, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I experience sukha”. It is in the nature of things that a person with bodily lightness experiences sukha.

“For a person experiencing sukha, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May my mind get to samādhi“. It is in the nature of things that the mind of a person experiencing sukha gets to samādhi.

“For a person who gets to samādhi, there is no need to wish (cetanā): : “May I know and see the true nature of things in this world (yathābhūta ñāna or comprehension of Tilakkhana)”. It is in the nature of things that a person who gets to  samādhi will see the true nature of this world. (Here it is assumed that one is exposed Tilakkhana from an Ariya; see #3, #4 below).

“For a person with yathābhūta ñāna, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I not be attracted to  temptations in this world (virāga) “. It is in the nature of things that a person who knows and sees things as they actually are, will be dispassionate towards things in this world.

“For a person who thus naturally dispassionate, there is no need to wish (cetanā):  “May I be free of cravings for things in this world”.  It is in the nature of things that a person who dispassionate through understanding of the real nature of things will be free of cravings.

“For a  person who is free of cravings, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I realize the knowledge of the final release from all suffering (vimutti­ñāṇadas­sana)”. It is in the nature of things that a  person who is free of cravings will attain the final release from all suffering.

“In this way, bhikkhus, freedom from cravings (dispassion) has release from all suffering as its reward, Disenchantment has dispassion as its reward,  yathābhūta ñāna has , disenchantment as its reward, samādhi has yathābhūta ñāna as its reward, sukha has samādhi as its reward, bodily lightness (passaddhi) has sukha as its reward, calm mind has bodily lightness as its reward. Joy has calm mind as its reward, freedom from an agitated mind has joy as its reward,  moral conduct has freedom from an agitated mind as its reward.

“In this way, dhamma qualities cultivate and fulfill more dhamma qualities in the Noble Path in  getting to from this shore to the Far shore (Nibbāna).”

 

“Sīlavato, bhikkhave, sīla­sam­pannassa na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘avippaṭisāro me uppajjatū’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ sīlavato sīla­sam­pannassa avippaṭisāro uppajjati.

Avippa­ṭisārissa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘pāmojjaṃ me uppajjatū’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ avippa­ṭisārissa pāmojjaṃ uppajjati.

Pamuditassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘pīti me uppajjatū’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ pamuditassa pīti uppajjati.

Pītimanassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘kāyo me passambhatū’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ pītimanassa kāyo passambhati.

Passad­dha­kāyassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘sukhaṃ vediyāmī’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vediyati.

Sukhino, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘cittaṃ me samādhiyatū’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.

Samāhitassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘yathābhūtaṃ jānāmi passāmī’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ samāhito yathābhūtaṃ jānāti passati.

Yathābhūtaṃ, bhikkhave, jānato passato na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘nibbindāmī’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ yathābhūtaṃ jānaṃ passaṃ nibbindati.

Nibbinnassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘virajjāmī’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ nibbinno virajjati.

Virattassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘vimutti­ñāṇadas­sanaṃ sacchikaromī’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ viratto vimutti­ñāṇadas­sanaṃ sacchikaroti.

Iti kho, bhikkhave, virāgo vimutti­ñāṇadas­sanat­tho vimutti­ñāṇadas­sanā­nisaṃso, nibbidā virāgatthā virāgānisaṃsā, yathā­bhūta­ñāṇadas­sanaṃ nibbidatthaṃ nibbi­dā­nisaṃ­saṃ, samādhi yathā­bhūta­ñāṇadas­sanat­tho yathā­bhūta­ñāṇadas­sanā­nisaṃso, sukhaṃ samādhatthaṃ samā­dhā­nisaṃ­saṃ, passaddhi sukhatthā sukhānisaṃsā, pīti passaddhatthā passad­dhā­nisaṃsā, pāmojjaṃ pītatthaṃ pītānisaṃsaṃ, avippaṭisāro pāmojjattho pāmojjānisaṃso, kusalāni sīlāni avippa­ṭisārat­thāni avippa­ṭisārā­nisaṃ­sāni. Iti kho, bhikkhave, dhammā dhamme abhisandenti, dhammā dhamme paripūrenti apārā pāraṃ gamanāyā”ti.

3. The path to Nibbāna is not a straight step-by-step process in a linear fashion. Rather, a given person cycles through the steps over and over until the Arahant phala moment is attained.

  • One starts with mundane sila, and can get to early stages of samādhi even without hearing about Tilakkhana. One cannot proceed beyond that with just sila, which is on shaky grounds until one comprehends Tilakkhana
  • Once one starts comprehending Tilakkhana (and becomes a Sōtapanna/Sōtapanna Anugāmi), one’s sila (moral conduct) will become unbreakable: It is called Ariyakānta sila.
  • That is when one really gets into the Noble Eightfold Path.

4. In other words, there are two paths: One starts on the mundane path and with the comprehension of Tilakkhana, one switches over to the Noble Path; see, “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart“.

  • Only a Sammasambuddha or a pacceka Buddha can figure out (or comprehend) Tilakkhana, by themselves; all others have to learn Tilakkhana from an Ariya.

5. Another key thing to note is that there is no mention about the need to attain jhānas.

Jhanas are a special kind of samādhi. It is good to cultivate jhānas, but they are not necessary to attain magga phala.

And there are an innumerable types of samādhi; one gets to Ariya samādhi (conducive to attain Nibbāna) with the comprehension of Tilakkhana.

6. Key words:

  • Avippatisāra (විපිලිසර බව  in Sinhala): One’s mind is normally agitated. It tends to go everywhere. This is why it is hard for most people to comprehend Dhamma. When one really focus on maintaining moral conduct (sila) and stays away from dasa akusala, this agitation of the mind will gradually diminish, and one will be able to concentrate on a given concept for longer times.
  • pāmojja (සතුට or ප්‍රමෝදය in Sinhala): Happiness or tranquility of mind is the closest English translation. This is below the “joyful state of mind” or pīti (ප්‍රීති in Sinhala).
  • passambhati/passaddhacalming down (lightness) of the physical body (කායික සැහැල්ලුව).
  • nibbindati: get weary of, unsatisfied with (කලකිරීම).
  • virajjati (related to virāga): absence of cravings.
  • vimutti: becomes free of suffering, final release (විමුක්ති ).

 

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