Anuradha discourse

I heard these words of the Buddha one time when the Lord was staying in the gabled house in the Great Forest near the town of Vesali. At that time, the Venerable Anuradha was staying in a hermitage in the forest not far from where the Buddha was.

One day a group of recluses came to see the Venerable Anuradha, and after exchanging greetings and courtesies, asked the venerable monk, “Venerable Anuradha, the Tathagata is often praised for having reached the highest fruit of awakening. He must have explained to you his understanding of these four propositions:

1. “After death, the Tathagata continues to exist.
2. “After death, the Tathagata ceases to exist.
3. “After death, the Tathagata both continues and ceases to exist.
4. “After death, the Tathagata neither continues nor ceases to exist.

“Please tell us which of these propositions is true.” The Venerable Anuradha replied, “Friends, the Tathagata, the World-Honored One, the one who has realized the highest fruit of awakening, has never proposed or spoken about these four propositions.” When they heard the Venerable Anuradha’s reply, the recluses said, “It is possible that this monk has just been ordained, or if he was ordained some time ago, he must be of slow wits.” Not satisfied with Venerable Anuradha’s answer, they left him, thinking that he was either newly ordained or of little intelligence.

When the recluses had gone, the Venerable Anuradha thought, “If recluses continue to ask me these questions, how should I answer so as to speak the truth and not misrepresent the teachings of the Buddha? How should I answer so as to be in harmony with the right Dharma and not to be criticized by the adherents of the Buddha’s path?” Then Anuradha went to where the Buddha was staying, bowed to the Buddha, spoke words of greeting, and then told the Buddha what had happened.

The Buddha asked him, “What do you think, Anuradha? Can you find the Tathagata in form?”

“No, World-Honored One.”

“Can you find the Tathagata outside of form?”

“No, World-Honored One.”

“Can you find the Tathagata in feelings, perceptions, mental formations, or consciousness?”

“No, World-Honored One.”

“Can you find the Tathagata outside of feelings, perceptions, mental formations, or consciousness?”

“No, World-Honored One.”

“Well then, Anuradha, do you think that the Tathagata transcends form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness?”

“No, World-Honored One.”

“Anuradha, if you cannot find the Tathagata even while he is still alive, can you find the Tathagata within these four propositions:

1. “After death, the Tathagata continues to exist.
2. “After death, the Tathagata ceases to exist.
3. “After death, the Tathagata both continues and ceases to exist.
4. “After death, the Tathagata neither continues nor ceases to exist.”

“No, World-Honored One.”

“Quite so, Anuradha. The Tathagata has only spoken and taught in relation to one thing: suffering and the end of suffering.”

Samyutta Nikaya 22.86

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Just as vegetation is sensible to sunlight, mental formations are sensitive to mindfulness. Mindfulness is the energy that can embrace and transform all mental formations. Mindfulness helps us leave behind "upside-down perceptions" and wakes us up to what is happening.
- Thich Nhat Hanh