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Chapter 3

Citta Vagga
(Text and Translation by Ven. Nàrada)


1. Phandana§ capala§ citta§ Þ
            durakkha§ dunnivàraya§
Uju§ karoti medhàvã Þ
            usukàro'va tejana§. 33.
2. Vàrijo'va thale khitto Þ
            okamokata ubbhato
Pariphandati'mida§ citta§ Þ
            Màradheyya§ pahàtave. 34.


1. The flickering, fickle mind, 1 difficult to guard, difficult to control - the wise person straightens it as a fletcher straightens an arrow. 33.

2. Like a fish that is drawn from its watery abode and thrown upon land, even so does this mind flutter. Hence should the realm of the passions be shunned. 2 34.


    A monk was overcome by evil thoughts. The Buddha admonished him to subdue his mind.


3. Dunniggahassa lahuno Þ
            yattha kàmanipàtino
Cittassa damatho sàdhu Þ
            citta§ danta§ sukhàvaha§. 35.

3. The mind is hard to check, swift, flits wherever it listeth: to control it is good. A controlled mind is conducive to happiness. 35.


    A devout woman, receiving instruction from the monks, attained Anàgàmi, the third stage of Sainthood, with supernormal powers such as reading others' thoughts, even before the monks had gained their Deliverance. Understanding the physical needs of the monks, she ministered to them well. Before long they too attained Arahantship. An avaricious monk, hearing of her powers, visited the place. She did everything he desired. The monk, fearing that evil thoughts might arise in him, went to the Buddha and reported the matter. The Buddha advised him to subdue his uncontrollable mind.

4. Sududdasa§ sunipuõa§ Þ
Citta§ rakkhetha medhàvã Þ
            citta§ gutta§ sukhàvaha§. 36.


4. The mind is very hard to perceive, extremely subtle, flits wherever it listeth. Let the wise person guard it; a guarded mind is conducive to happiness. 36.


    A devout follower entered the Order, but soon found the Holy Life too embarrassing, owing to the large number of obligatory rules. The Buddha advised him not to worry about them but to guard only his thoughts.


5. Dåraïgama§ ekacara§ Þ
            asarãra§ guhàsaya§
Ye citta§ sa¤¤amessanti Þ
            mokkhanti màrabandhanà. 37.


5. Faring far, wandering alone, 3 bodiless, 4 lying in a cave, 5 is the mind. Those who subdue it are freed from the bond of Màra. 37.


    An uncle and nephew were leading the Holy Life. One day the nephew received two pieces of cloth and he presented one to his uncle but he declined the offer. He was displeased and planned to leave the Order while fanning his uncle. He thought that he would sell one piece of cloth and buy a she-goat and earn some money. Eventually he would get married and would have a son. Then he would pay a visit to his uncle with his wife and child. On the way his wife would accidentally kill his child and he would get angry and beat his wife. Day dreaming thus he struck his uncle with the fan. The uncle read his thoughts and brought him to his senses. The nephew felt ashamed, dropped the fan and ran away. The monks seized him and brought him to the Buddha's presence. The Buddha described the fleeting nature of the mind.


6. Anavaññhitacittassa Þ
            saddhamma§ avijànato
Pariplavapasàdassa Þ
            pa¤¤à na paripårati. 38.
7. Anavassutacittassa Þ
Pu¤¤apàpapahãõassa Þ
            natthi jàgarato bhaya§. 39.


6. He whose mind is not steadfast, he who knows not the true doctrine, he whose confidence wavers - the wisdom 6 of such a one will never be perfect. 38.

7. He whose mind is not soaked (by lust) he who is not affected (by hatred), he who has transcended both good and evil 7 - for such a vigilant 8 one there is no fear. 39.


    A farmer entered the Order thinking to lead an easy life. Six times he discarded the robe and each time he re-entered the Order. Once seeing his pregnant wife in disarray, he was disgusted of worldly life. On the way to the monastery he meditated and became a Stream - Winner (Sotàpanna) and entreated the unwilling monks to reordain him. He received his ordination and, before long attained Arahantship. When the monks mentioned to the Buddha that he claimed Arahantship the Buddha explained his state of mind before and after his realization of Nibbàna.


8. Kumbhåpama§ kàyamima§ viditvà Þ
            nagaråpama§ cittamida§ ñhapetvà
Yodhetha màra§ pa¤¤àyudhena Þ
            jita¤ ca rakkhe anivesano siyà. 40.


8. Realizing that this body is (as fragile) as a jar, establishing this mind (as firm) as a (fortified) city he should attack Màra 9 with the weapon of wisdom. He should guard his conquest 10 and be without attachment. 11 40.


    Many monks who were meditating in a forest were troubled by the tree-deities. When they sought the advice of the Buddha they were advised to extend their loving-kindness towards them all. They did so with the result that those very deities later proved very helpful to them. Comparing the body to a vessel, the monks developed insight. The Buddha read their thoughts and projecting Himself before them confirmed what they thought.


9. Acira§ vat'aya§ kàyo Þ
            pañhavi§ adhisessati
Chuddho apetavi¤¤àõo Þ
            nirattha§'va kaëiïgara§. 41.

9. Before long, alas! this body will lie upon the ground, cast aside, devoid of consciousness, even as a useless charred log. 12 41.


    The Buddha ministered to a sick monk, deserted by his co-celibates. He himself washed his stinking body with warm water. Then He sat on his bed and preached to him on the fleeting nature of the body.

10. Diso disa§ ya§ ta§ kayirà Þ
            verã và pana verina§
Micchàpanihita§ citta§ Þ
            pàpiyo na§ tato kare. 42.


10. Whatever (harm) a foe may do to a foe, or a hater to a hater, an ill-directed mind 13 can do one far greater (harm). 42.


    A wealthy herdsman entertained the Buddha. When the Buddha departed he accompanied Him for some distance and turned back. As he was returning he was accidentally killed by a stray arrow. The monks remarked that if the Buddha had not visited that place, the man would not have met with that fatal accident. The Buddha replied that under no circumstances would he have escaped his death owing to a past evil Kamma and added that the internal ill-directed mind would become very inimical to oneself.


11. Na ta§ màtà pità kayirà Þ
            a¤¤e và pi ca ¤àtakà
Sammà panihita§ citta§ Þ
            seyyaso na§ tato kare. 43.


11. What neither mother, nor father, nor any other relative can do, a well-directed mind 14 does and thereby elevates one. 43.


    Once a wealthy person harboured a lustful thought on seeing an Arahant. Subsequently he controlled his passion and entered the Order. Before long he attained Arahantship. Hearing of his transformation and attainment, the Buddha praised him and added that a well-directed mind could bestow great blessings such as would not be within the power of even a mother or a father to confer.

End Notes

1 Citta is derived from the root cit, to think. The traditional interpretation of the term is "that which is aware of an object" (cinteti = vijànàti). Actually it is not that which thinks of an object as the term implies. If it could be said "it thinks" as one says in English "it rains", it would be more in consonance with the Buddha's teaching. From an ultimate standpoint citta may be defined as the awareness of an object, since Buddhism denies a subjective agent like a soul. According to Buddhism no distinction is made between mind and consciousness, terms which are used as equivalents for citta.

2 Pahàtave is used in the sense of pahàtabba = should be shunned.

3 Because no two thought moments arise at a particular time.

4 The imperceptible mind is immaterial and colourless.

5 Guhàsaya§ - i.e., the seat of consciousness. It is clear that the Buddha has not definitely assigned a specific basis for consciousness as He had done with the other senses. It was the cardiac theory (the theory that the heart is the seat of consciousness) that prevailed in His time, and this was evidently supported by the Upanishads. The Buddha could have adopted this popular theory, but He did not commit Himself. In the Paññhàna, the Book of Relations, the Buddha refers to the basis of consciousness in such indirect terms as ya§ råpa§ nissàya, dependent on that material thing. What the material thing was the Buddha did not positively assert. According to the views of commentators like the Venerables Buddhaghosa and Anuruddha the seat of consciousness is the heart (hadayavatthu).

One wonders whether one is justified in presenting the cardiac theory as Buddhistic when the Buddha Himself neither rejected nor accepted this popular theory.

6 Namely: spiritual wisdom or insight.

7 The deeds of an Arahant, a perfect Saint, are neither good nor bad because he has gone beyond both good and evil. This does not mean that he is passive. He is active but his activity is selfless and is directed to help others to tread the path he has trod himself. His deeds, ordinarily accepted as good, lack creative power as regards himself in producing Kammic effects. He is not however exempt from the effects of his past actions. He accumulates no fresh kammic activities. Whatever actions he does, as an Arahant, are termed "inoperative" (kiriya), and are not regarded as Kamma. They are ethically ineffective. Understanding things as they truly are, he has finally shattered the cosmic chain of cause and effect.

8 It should not erroneously be understood that Arahants do not sleep. Whether asleep or awake they are regarded as sleepless or vigilant ones, since the five stimulating virtues - namely confidence (saddhà), energy (viriya), mindfulness (sati), concentration (samàdhi), and wisdom (pa¤¤à) are ever present in them.

9 The passions.

10 By conquest is here meant the newly developed insight (vipassanà).

11 For the Jhànas (absorptions or ecstasies) which the aspirant has developed. The Jhànas are highly developed mental states obtained by intensified concentration.

12 Kaëingara§, a rotten log which cannot be used for any purpose.

13 That is, the mind directed towards the ten kinds of evil - namely: 1. killing, 2. stealing, 3. sexual misconduct, 4. lying, 5. slandering, 6. harsh speech, 7. vain talk, 8. covetousness, 9. ill-will, and 10. false belief.

14 That is the mind directed towards the ten kinds of meritorious deeds (kusala) - namely: 1. generosity, 2. morality, 3. meditation, 4. reverence, 5. service, 6. transference of merit, 7. rejoicing in others' merit, 8. hearing the doctrine, 9. expounding the doctrine, and 10. straightening one's right views.