Anangana Sutta, Absence of vices, Majjhima Nikaya 5

Introduction

This Sutta tells us about two Nagas (the great beings), Shariputra and Mahamoggallana, the senior disciples of the Buddha, preaching the doctrine of eliminating vices. Vice is the presence of sensual thirst, anxiety and ill-will in one’s mind. The development of vices leads to rebirth in the Lower Worlds.

The awareness of presence and absence of vices

Shariputra said: when a person who has vices believes that they do not have one, they will not make efforts to purify the mind and, as a result, they will die with a contaminated consciousness, and then they will be reborn in the Lower Worlds. When a person who has a vice recognizes that they have it, they will be inclined to get rid of this interference, and they will die with a purer consciousness, getting rid of the attraction to the lower spheres. If a person sees the good qualities of mind as “insufficient”, they will start to seek pleasantness (which they do not find in good qualities), and the search for pleasantness will develop vices. If a person, when developing good qualities, is aware of the absence of a vice in them, they are calm and keep their purity. Such person’s mind does not become contaminated, even if the conditions of their life are pleasant, and they are free from hardship and difficulties.

Bad state of concealed vice

If a certain person, who have seemingly taken Refuge, continues to carry pride in themselves, they do not want to hear unpleasant instructions but want to receive honor and praise, they will develop the Three Thirsts. Even observance of strict austerity is not able to brighten the hidden vice. After all, if a decaying corpse of a snake, a dog or a man were laid on a beautiful dish and covered with another beautiful dish, it would be disgusting and horrifying for those who will take off the top dish, hoping to find delicious food inside.

Praise of Mahamoggallana to Shariputra

Mahamoggallana was delighted and said that Shariputra removes obstacles very cleverly. Just as a master who makes wheels eliminates all the unevenness in a wheel to make it roll smoothly, so is Shariputra’s sermon on a correct attitude to vice removes all the roughness from the hearts of practitioners.

Vladimir Pyatsky and Smadar Pyatsky
Translation: Natasha Tsimbler