Mahasaccaka Sutta

The Greater Discourse to Saccaka

Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi

Featured in Mountain Record 25.4, Summer 2007


Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Vesali in the Great Wood in the Hall with the Peaked Roof.

Now on that occasion, when it was morning, the Blessed One had finished dressing and had taken his bowl and outer robe, desiring to go into Vesali for alms.
Then, as Saccaka the Nigantha’s son was walking and wandering for exercise, he came to the Hall with the Peaked Roof in the Great Wood. The venerable Ananda saw him coming in the distance and said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, here comes Saccaka the Nigantha’s son, a debater and a clever speaker regarded by many as a saint. He wants to discredit the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. It would be good if the Blessed One would sit down for a while out of compassion.” The Blessed One sat down on the seat made ready. Then Saccaka the Nigantha’s son went up to the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him. When this courteous and amiable talk was finished, he sat down at one side and said to the Blessed One:

“Master Gotama, there are some recluses and brahmins who abide pursuing developmentof body, but not development of mind. They are touched by bodily painful feeling. In the past, when one was touched by bodily painful feeling, one’s thighs would become rigid, one’s heart would burst, hot blood would gush from one’s mouth, and one would go mad, go out of one’s mind. So then the mind was subservient to the body, the body wielded mastery over it. Why is that? Because the mind was not developed. But there are some recluses and brahmins who abide pursuing development of mind, but not development of body. They are touched by mental painful feeling. In the past, when one was touched by mental painful feeling, thighs would become rigid, one’s heart would burst, hot blood would gush from one’s mouth, and one would go mad, go out of one’s mind. So then the body was subservient to the mind, the mind wielded mastery over it. Why is it? Because the body was not developed. Master Gotama, it has occurred to me: ‘Surely Master Gotama’s disciples abide pursuing development of mind, but not development of body.’

“But, Aggivessana, what have you learned about development of body?”

Well, there are, for example, Nanda Vaccha, Kisa Sankicca, Makkhali Gosala. They go naked, rejecting conventions, licking their hands, not coming when asked, not stopping when asked; they do not accept food brought or food specially made or an invitation to a meal; they receive nothing from a pot, from a bowl, across a threshold, across a stick, across a pestle, from two eating together, from a pregnant woman, from a woman giving suck, from a woman lying with a man, from where food is advertised to be distributed, from where a dog is waiting, from where flies are buzzing; they accept no fish or meat, they drink no liquor, wine or fermented brew. They keep to one house, to one morsel; they keep to two houses, to two morsels... they keep to seven houses, to seven morsels. They live on one saucerful a day, on two saucerfuls a day... on seven saucerfuls a day. They take food once a day, once every two days... once every seven days, and so on up to once every fortnight; they dwell pursuing the practice of taking food at stated intervals.”

“But do they subsist on so little, Aggivessana?”

"No, Master Gotama, sometimes they consume excellent hard food, eat excellent soft food, taste excellent delicacies, drink excellent drinks. Thereby they again regain their strength, fortify themselves, and become fat.”

“What they earlier abandoned, Aggivessana, they later gather together again. That is how there is increase and decrease of this body. But what have you learned about development of mind?”

When Saccaka the Nigantha’s son was asked by the Blessed One about development of mind, he was unable to answer.

Then the Blessed One told him: “What you have just spoken of as development of body, Aggivessana, is not development of body according to the Dhamma in the Noble One’s Discipline. Since you do not know what development of body is, how could you know what development of mind is? Nevertheless, Aggivessana, as to how one is undeveloped in body and undeveloped in mind, listen and attend closely to what I shall say.” —‘Yes, sir,” Saccaka the Nigantha’s son replied. The Blessed One said this:

“How, Aggivessana, is one undeveloped in body and undeveloped in mind? Here, Aggivessana, pleasant feeling arises in an untaught ordinary person. Touched by that pleasant feeling, he lusts after pleasure and continues to lust after pleasure. That pleasant feeling of his ceases. With the cessation of the pleasant feeling, painful feeling arises. Touched by that painful feeling, he sorrows, grieves, and laments, he weeps beating his breast and becomes distraught. When that pleasant feeling has arisen in him, it invades his mind and remains because body is not developed. And when that painful feeling has arisen in him, it invades his mind and remains because mind is not developed. Anyone in whom, in this double manner, arisen pleasant feeling invades his mind and remains because body is not developed, and arisen painful feeling invades his mind and remains because mind is not developed, is thus undeveloped in body and undeveloped in mind.