Vattha Sutta, The Cloth, Majjhima Nikaya 7

The Cloth and the Paint

In the conversation with disciples, the Buddha compares a mind to a cloth, and the state of mind after the dissolution of the body – with the paint. If dirty cloth is dipped into the paint – it will be painted badly and the color will deteriorate. If a clean cut of the fabric is dipped into the paint, the paint will dye the cloth well, and the cloth will keep bright, clear color. The same can be said about the mind: if it is defiled, then with the dissolution of the body, clear light will not embrace it, and the mind will reach the worlds of suffering. If the mind is pure, then the clear light will sweep it, leading to the good worlds.

Types of the defilement of the mind

Covetousness, stinginess, insatiability, vanity;

Mendacity and hypocrisy;

Envy, domineering, contempt, impudence, arrogance;

Ill will, anger, resentment;

Conceit and negligence.

Stages of purification of the mind or inner ablution

Having found the Refuge, disciples create the certainty that defilement can be eliminated;

Then, having weakened the coarsest manifestations of defilement, they acquire spiritual delight and peace of the body;

Filling all sides of the space around them with the Immeasurable Feelings – goodwill, gratitude (joy of being on the Path), compassion and serenity, the disciples comprehend freedom from the Lower Spheres of existence and attain the Path to the Higher Spheres;

By attaining these states, disciples see the sensual thirst, the thirst for existence and ignorance (the thirst for nonexistence) as spots that they should eliminate. Then comes the higher knowledge: the holy life is being lived, the duty is being fulfilled, and there is nothing higher than this state.

The Buddha calls those who have gone through this Path “those who have completed the inner ablution”.

The question of the Brahman Sundarika

Brahman Sundarika, after listening to the preaching of the Buddha, asked: After all, many of them have all the necessary properties.

The Buddha’s answer

There are many sacred rivers and springs,
And a lot of people are looking for the impossible in them.
However, no matter how much those fools and villains will bathe in them,
Their minds and hearts will not obtain purity in the waters of those rivers.

But if you do not harm living beings,
Do not steal, do not cheat,
If you are generous and a haven for living beings –
You will find holy water in every well.

Hearing the Buddha’s response, Sundarika gained deep faith. He received the necessary instructions and, practicing diligently, reached the state of an Arhat.

Vladimir Pyatsky
Translation: Natalia Tsimbler