Sheaves of Reeds
Naḷakalāpiyo Sutta  (SN 12:67)

On one occasion Ven. Sāriputta and Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita were staying near Vārāṇasī in the Deer Park at Isipatana. Then in the evening, emerging from his seclusion, Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita went to Ven. Sāriputta and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to Ven. Sāriputta, “Now tell me, Sāriputta my friend: Are aging-&-death self-made or other-made or both self-made & other-made, or—without self-making or other-making—do they arise spontaneously?”

“It’s not the case, Koṭṭhita my friend, that aging-&-death are self-made, that they are other-made, that they are both self-made & other-made, or that—without self-making or other-making—they arise spontaneously. However, from birth as a requisite condition comes aging-&-death.”

“Now tell me, friend Sāriputta: Is birth.… Is becoming.… Is clinging/sustenance… Is craving.… Is feeling.… Is contact.… Are the six sense media self-made or other-made or both self-made & other-made, or—without self-making or other-making—do they arise spontaneously?”

“It’s not the case, Koṭṭhita my friend, that the six sense media are self-made, that they are other-made, that they are both self-made & other-made, or that—without self-making or other-making—they arise spontaneously. However, from name & form as a requisite condition come the six sense media.”

“Now tell me, friend Sāriputta: Is name-&-form self-made or other-made or both self-made & other-made, or—without self-making or other-making—does it arise spontaneously?”

“It’s not the case, Koṭṭhita my friend, that name-&-form is self-made, that it is other-made, that it is both self-made & other-made, or that—without self-making or other-making—it arises spontaneously. However, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.”

“Now tell me, friend Sāriputta: Is consciousness self-made or other-made or both self-made & other-made, or—without self-making or other-making, does it arise spontaneously?”

“It’s not the case, Koṭṭhita my friend, that consciousness is self-made, that it is other-made, that it is both self-made & other-made, or that—without self-making or other-making—it arises spontaneously. However, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.”

“Just now, I understood Ven. Sāriputta’s statement as, ‘It’s not the case, Koṭṭhita my friend, that name-&-form is self-made, that it is other-made, that it is both self-made & other-made, or that—without self-making or other-making—it arises spontaneously. However, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form’ But then I understood your statement as, ‘It’s not the case, Koṭṭhita my friend, that consciousness is self-made, that it is other-made, that it is both self-made & other-made, or that—without self-making or other-making—it arises spontaneously. However, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.’ Now how is the meaning of these statements to be understood?”

“Very well then, Koṭṭhita my friend, I will give you an analogy; for there are cases where it is through the use of an analogy that intelligent people can understand the meaning of what is being said. It is as if two sheaves of reeds were to stand leaning against one another. In the same way, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name & form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of suffering & stress.

“If one were to pull away one of those sheaves of reeds, the other would fall; if one were to pull away the other, the first one would fall. In the same way, from the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness, from the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering & stress.”

“It’s amazing, friend Sāriputta. It’s astounding, friend Sāriputta, how well that was said by Ven. Sāriputta. And I rejoice in Ven. Sāriputta’s good statements with regard to these 36 topics.1 If a monk teaches the Dhamma for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, & cessation with regard to aging-&-death, he deserves to be called a monk who is a speaker of Dhamma. If he practices for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, & cessation with regard to aging-&-death, he deserves to be called a monk who practices the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma.2 If—through disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, and lack of clinging/sustenance with regard to aging-&-death—he is released, then he deserves to be called a monk who has attained unbinding in the here & now.

“If a monk teaches the Dhamma for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, & cessation with regard to birth, he deserves to be called a monk who is a speaker of Dhamma. If he practices for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, & cessation with regard to birth, he deserves to be called a monk who practices the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma. If—through disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, and lack of clinging/sustenance with regard to birth—he is released, then he deserves to be called a monk who has attained unbinding in the here & now.

[Similarly with becoming, clinging/sustenance, craving, feeling, contact, the six sense media, name & form, and consciousness.]

“If a monk teaches the Dhamma for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, & cessation with regard to fabrications, he deserves to be called a monk who is a speaker of Dhamma. If he practices for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, & cessation with regard to fabrications, he deserves to be called a monk who practices the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma. If—through disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, and lack of clinging/sustenance with regard to fabrications—he is released, then he deserves to be called a monk who has attained unbinding in the here & now.

“If a monk teaches the Dhamma for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, & cessation with regard to ignorance, he deserves to be called a monk who is a speaker of Dhamma. If he practices for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, & cessation with regard to ignorance, he deserves to be called a monk who practices the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma. If—through disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, and lack of clinging/sustenance with regard to ignorance—he is released, then he deserves to be called a monk who has attained unbinding in the here & now.”

Notes

1. The 36 topics are the three qualities—teaching, practice, and attainment—that Ven. Mahā Koṭṭhita is about to mention with regard to each factor in the twelve-factored formula for dependent co-arising.

2. DN 16 states that to practice of the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma is to pay true homage to the Buddha. For other descriptions of what is meant by “practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma,” see SN 22:39–42.

See also: DN 15; SN 12:17–18; SN 12:25; SN 12:46