the simile of the cloth


Majjhima Nikāya 7 of 152

Translation by Bhikkhu Sujato read by Roland Kitchen

Description (Nyanamoli Bhikkhu ©)

Dirty stained cloth takes dye badly, like a dirty stained mind takes one to low states of birth full of suffering. New cloth well washed, on the other hand takes dye well, likewise when a pure mind when good rebirth can be expected. What are the dirt and stains of the mind? Things we know well like covetousness and unrighteous greed, ill will, anger, revenge and so on – these are our stained and dirty states on mind. Getting to know them is good for then they are seen as a source of trouble (dukkha) and so more easily abandoned. As one practises Dhamma and sees for oneself that the defilements are becoming steadily less powerful so one gains strong faith in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. One’s insight eventually reaches to the Noble Paths and Fruits when that faith becomes unshakeable. The Discourse goes on to show how after practising the Divine Abidings (in which one lives like Brahma or God), one then should aspire to Arahantship and attain Nībbāna. No doubt the Buddha was aware that a divine (brahmin) sitting nearby was interested in his discourse as well as being a spiritually capable person, hence his mention of the Divine (Brahma) Abidings. The brahmin’s interest was indeed aroused and he asked whether the Buddha went to bathe his sins away in the supposedly holy river Bahukā. This question has caused the splendid flow of the Buddha’s reply in verse. This ability to speak impromptu verse was much esteemed by the brahmins and it seems as though this and the straightforward content of their teaching reached to that Brahmin’s heart so that he said. “Magnificant, Master Gotama … And the venerable Bhāradvāja became one of the Arahants”.