At Kālaka’s Park (AN.IV.24)
Translated from Pāli by Christopher J. Ash
At one time the flourishing one was staying at Sāketa, in Kālaka’s monastery, where he addressed the mendicants:
“Sir,” they replied.
“Practitioners, whatever there is – in the world, with its gods, it Māras and Brahmas; among the beings consisting of recluses, brahmins, gods and men – whatsoever is seen, heard, sensed, and cognized, attained, sought after, and ruminated on by the mind: I know all that. I have fully comprehended all that; all that is known to a Tathāgata,* but a Tathāgata does not ground themselves in that knowledge.
“If I were to say: ‘Practitioners, whatsoever in the world . . . . whatsoever is seen and heard . . . . . by the mind, all that I do not know,’ It would be false of me. If I were to say: ‘I both know it and know it not,’ that, too, would be false of me. If I were to say: ‘I neither know it, nor am I ignorant of it,’ it would be a fault in me.
“Practitioners, when seeing, a Tathāgata does not conceive of a seen; he does not conceive of an unseen; he does not conceive of a ‘possible-to-see’;** and, he does not conceive of a seer.
“When hearing, he does not conceive of a thing heard; he does not conceive of an unheard; he does not conceive of a ‘possible-to-hear’; and, he does not conceive of a hearer.
“When sensing, he does not conceive of a thing sensed; he does not conceive of an un-sensed; he does not conceive of a ‘possible-to-sense’; and, he does not conceive of one sensing.
“When cognizing, he does not conceive of a thing cognized; he does not conceive of an uncognized; he does not conceive of a ‘possible-to-cognize’; and, he does not conceive of a cognizer.
“Thus, Practitioners, a Tathāgata being ‘such’ in regard to all phenomena seen, heard, sensed and cognized, is ‘such.’ Moreover, I say: than one who is ‘such,’ there is none greater or more excellent.
“Whatever is seen, heard, sensed, or clung to,
is valued as ‘truth’ by other folk.
Amid those who are stuck in their views,
I hold nothing as true or false, being ‘such.’
“This snag I beheld, long before,
whereupon humankind is hooked, is impaled:
‘I know, I see, `tis truly so.’
No such clinging for Tathāgatas.”
© 2015, Christopher J. Ash
* It is helpful to think of Tathagāta as referring to a person who comes and goes in suchness – that is, who is completely unidentified with anything that comes and goes.
** This is literally ‘to-be-seen,’ which could refer to a future seeing. Ñāṇananda translates it as ‘a thing-worth-seeing.’ Bodhi: ‘What can be seen.’ Thanissaro: ‘to-be-seen.’ Given the context, I’ve taken it as closer to Ñāṇananda’s translation, and Bodhi’s. I suggest it represents some desire for a different kind of object, wishing for another kind of experience.
So, I suggest that the Tathagāta doesn’t conceive of objects as actual, independent, and over there; objects in any condition – an object seen, an object not seen, an object possible to see (imagined). Neither does she doesn’t conceive of a seer.