7. Jaliya Sutta

The Question of Mandissa and Jaliya

Once, two wanderers approached the Buddha – the ascetics Mandissa and Jaliya. They exchanged friendly words and a respectful with the Blessed One greeting and stood aside. Then they turned to the Blessed with the question: is the living being the same as its body or the living being is one, and its body is another?

The Buddha’s Answer

The Buddha’s answer is presented in the sutta in the form of a coherent and consistent preaching of the path, word for word repeating the text of the sermon on the visible fruits of hermitage in the Samaññaphala Sutta (Digha Nikaya 2), including the themes of morality, overcoming mental disturbances, attaining the four Jhānas (stages of concentration) , knowledge of past and future incarnations of beings. After outlining each of these topics, the Buddha asks the wanderers whether it is fitting for those who have passed this stage of the journey to ask the question of the identity or difference of the living being and the body. Up to the last stage of the explanation, the wanderers say that this question should be asked (i.e., the question remains open). Finally, the Buddha describes the last stage of attaining Arahatship: the re-birth is destroyed; what has to be done is done; there is nothing following this state; suffering, its causes, the cessation of suffering and the way to end suffering are perceived; the unskillful properties of the mind, their reason, the cessation of the inept qualities of the mind and the way to stop the inept properties of the mind are perceived. This time the wanderers confirm that it is not appropriate for anyone who has comprehended such a state to ask the question of the identity or difference of a living being and a body.

The meaning of pilgrims’ questions and the Buddha’s answer

The purpose of the question of pilgrims is to find confidence. If the living being and the body are different, then the sufferings experienced in the visible world are insignificant, and it makes sense to concentrate entirely on the absolute characteristics of the living being, i.e. attach importance only to austerity. If, on the contrary, the body and the living being are identical, then the austerity completely loses its meaning. The pilgrims continue to doubt until the last explanation of the Buddha, because none of the described experiences is final and permanent. Not being constant, experience is not capable of giving a complete certainty of the relation of the living being to the body. Nevertheless, throughout the whole chain of experiences, one can see an increasingly subtle interaction of the living being and the body: at the stage of controlling the senses and behavior, the living entity becomes master to the body; at the stage of overcoming mental disturbances and passing through the stages of concentration, the living entity experiences the bliss of weakening the flesh bonds; at the stage of development of supernatural forces, an illusory body is created, which is extracted from the ordinary body, like a sword from its scabbard (but, nevertheless, it is created from the ordinary body). At the stage of knowledge of past and future births, the living entity is perceived practically separate from the body (there is still a doubt whether the living being is dependent on the incarnations, or it can be independent, possessing some constant “I”).

The description of the state of the Arhat clarifies the fact that neither the body nor the living entity is permanent (unlike the state of the Arhat). Since neither the body nor the living entity is permanent, there cannot be a constant identity or difference between them.

Now the pilgrims are satisfied, because they have received, as a constant support for the mind, knowledge of the path to the cessation of suffering.

Vladimir Pyatsky & Smadar Pyatsky
Translation: Natalia Tsimbler