Courtesy: jsarcadia (click image)

In the Middle Length sayings, one of the few parts of the Pali Canon most Western Buddhists actually do get exposed to, there is a very interesting and beautiful triage of suttas which circle around the following stanza uttered by the Buddha:

Atītaṃ nānvāgameyya, nappaṭikaṅkhe anāgataṃ;

Yadatītaṃ pahīnaṃ taṃ, appattañca anāgataṃ.

Paccuppannañca yo dhammaṃ, tattha tattha vipassati;

Asaṃhīraṃ asaṃkuppaṃ, taṃ vidvā manubrūhaye.

Ajjeva kiccamātappaṃ, ko jaññā maraṇaṃ suve;

Na hi no saṅgaraṃ tena, mahāsenena maccunā.

Evaṃ vihāriṃ ātāpiṃ, ahorattamatanditaṃ;

Taṃ ve bhaddekarattoti, santo ācikkhate muni

The name of the sutta is quite odd. There are existing basically two alternative English translations, because, in fact, “bhaddekaratta” could be translated as either “having one beautiful night” or “being rightly delighted alone”. More important than the name though (which sounds like both ideas could be intended 🙂 is the content. Lets have a look at one traditional English translation which runs along the following lines:

You shouldn’t chase after the past
or place expectations on the future.
What is past is left behind.
The future is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there, right there.
Not taken in, unshaken,
that’s how you develop the heart.
Ardently doing what should be done today,
for — who knows? — tomorrow death.
There is no bargaining
with Mortality & his mighty horde.
Whoever lives thus ardently, relentlessly both day & night,
has truly had an auspicious day: so says the Peaceful Sage.

The crucial lines are obviously 3 & 4. After poetically capturing the fact that neither past nor future are worth chasing after the stanza tries to capture a meditative mind-set which we should try to adopt instead to reap ultimate benefits.

Paccuppannañca yo dhammaṃ, tattha tattha vipassati;

Asaṃhīraṃ asaṃkuppaṃ, taṃ vidvā manubrūhaye.

Several remarks:  “Paccuppannañca yo dhammaṃ”  whatever object exists in this moment, “tattha tattha vipassati” there, there see it clearly.  Now, if we did not know better, this would be a straight forward description of what vipassana meditation is all about. The doubling of a word in pali could mean a generalization, translated as “wherever”. However, if you ever did some vipassana meditation yourself, you might remember the speed of which objects turn up and how, from one moment to the other you note a sound, then a thought, then again a feeling… “physically” (the mind tends to proliferate, remember) it feels (!) like a “there” and then “there” again … each time you try to simply see it, very good, clearly; or, if we look at the prefix “vi-” in its “splitting” characteristic [link] you look at the object in the present, wherever it manifests closer and closer, getting to know it real good.

Now we come to the even more interesting part. Bhikkhu Bodhis seems to follow in his translation Ven. Nyanananda, who interprets this verse to reflect the state of an arahants concentration on nibbana (arahatta-phala-samapatti). Personally, i think this text rather tries to show/teach the right mind set for the training which will lead, eventually, to that particular state. That is why in some translations you will find the term “Asaṃhīraṃ” translated as  “Invincible” (Thanissaros version quoted above seems more valid in this respect). After the above it should be clear that we have to deal here with a very insight related setting. Taking this position, let me guide you through a translation attempt:

Asaṃhīraṃ consists of a- (un- in English, a negating prefix) and sam- (together) + hiram. Hiram comes from harati, “to collect, to gather up, to take up”. But hiram is not the normal verb form. It is the passive form (see PTS dictionary entry below). So, hiram will mean something like “to be taken up, to be gathered”. You take in/take up to gather and grow. This is what we try not (a-) to do!

Think about it: If a sense impression catches your attention your mind starts spinning around it, trying to heap up even more impressions – however, not by looking at it closely from where and how it originated in a fashion which would be “yoniso manasikaro” (yoniso = origin/source/womb/) but rather with “ayoniso manasikaro” with blind (avijja) thirst. So, the Buddha says, there is a different way of looking at things.

Putting it all together does this make sense then to suspect something along the lines of:

Whatever present object, clearly look at it wherever (it appears)

Not-being-taken-up-by-it, Not-being-shaken-by-it, knowing this practise it persistently.

In two of the three suttas surrounding this verse this important part of the stanza is explained by Ven. Mahakaccayana thus:

‘‘Kathañca, āvuso, paccuppannesu dhammesu saṃhīrati? Yañcāvuso, cakkhu ye ca rūpā – ubhayametaṃ paccuppannaṃ. Tasmiṃ ce paccuppanne chandarāgappaṭibaddhaṃ hoti viññāṇaṃ, chandarāgappaṭibaddhattā viññāṇassa tadabhinandati, tadabhinandanto paccuppannesu dhammesu saṃhīrati.

How, o friends, is one being carried away (taken up) by present objects? The sense of seeing and the forms both are the presence [lit. arisen-against each other]. When in this presence the consciousness is bound by attraction and impulse then, based on the consciousness bound by impulse and attraction one finds delight there. Finding delight in the present objects one “is taken up” (by them).

If the exercise of vipassana would wish for a poetic summary, this little stanza would leave nothing to desire for. But then, the whole Tipitaka is full of such verses 🙂

Recommended further reading:  Ideal Solitude, (Bhikkhu Ñana-nanda)


These guys definitely show a good taste in naming their sites…after the Bhaddekaratta Hermitage there seems to be some building of a Isipatana hermitage.

Mu~nca pure mu~nca pacchato
majjhe mu~nca bhavassa paaraguu
Sabbattha vimuttamaanaso
na puna jaatijara.m upehisi
Let go what has gone before
Let go that which comes after
Let go thy hold on the middle as well
And get beyond all existence
Thus with mind released in every way
Thou comest never more to birth and decay.

— Dhp v.348


PTS Definition:

Saŋharati [saŋ+harati] 1. to collect, fold up Vin i.46; ii.117, 150; M iii.169; J i.66, 422; Dāvs iv.12; PvA 73. — 2. to draw together Vin ii.217. — 3. to gather up, take up SnA 369 (rūpaŋ). — 4. to heap up Pviv.14 (saŋharimha=sañcinimha PvA 279). — asaŋhāriya (grd.) which cannot be destroyed (see also saŋhīra) S v.219. <-> Caus. II. ˚harāpeti to cause to collect, to make gather or grow Vin iv.259 (lomāni), 260 (id.). — Pass. saŋhīrati (q. v.). — pp. saŋhata. Cp. upa˚.
Anubrūheti   Anubrūheti [brūheti] to do very much or often, to practice, frequent, to be fond of (c. acc.), foster S i.178 (anubrūhaye); M iii.187 (id., so read for manu˚), Th 2, 163 (˚ehi); Cp. iii.12 (saŋvegaŋ anubrūhayiŋ aor.); J iii.191 (suññāgāraŋ). Often in phrase vivekaŋ anubrūheti to devote oneself to detachment or solitude, e.g. J i.9 (inf. ˚brūhetuŋ); iii.31 (˚brūhessāmi), Dh 75 (˚brūhaye = ˚brūheyya vaḍḍheyya DhAii.103). — pp. anubrūhita (q.v.) Cp. also brūhana. [=> The usage of this verb in the sutta above  is another indication (to me at least)  for this verse to highlight the training aspect of vipassana not its end result.]
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  1. aaloka

    This is one of my favorite suttas in MN. I have those first 2 stanzas scribbled on a post-it note on my work station. 🙂

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