[L. 97 | 104] 24 July 1964

I am glad to get a letter from you again after this interval and I shall be happy to take up our correspondence again. It has been very considerate of you not to have written before this and, indeed, I have really been feeling little inclined to answer letters. Ever since I left Colombo (and also while I was there) I have been getting a slight daily fever. This slight rise in temperature is quite enough to rule out any kind of intelligent thinking. Besides, as I foresaw quite well, my stay in Colombo provided plenty of stimulation for my already over-stimulated sensual appetite, and the effect has been taking some time to wear off. It is quite plain that if I were to have a prolonged stay in a town it would take little to induce me to disrobe.

But even if (as anticipated) my stay in Colombo brought about no improvement in my health (except for the cure of aluham,[1] which covered half my body), it was not, I think, altogether a waste of time. In the first place, people who might otherwise have been worrying both themselves and me will now be satisfied that, medically speaking, there does not appear to be anything very much that can be done to improve my condition. This, at least, clears the air a little. And in the second place, I decided to speak openly to the Colombo Thera about a certain matter (which, I think, did not come as a surprise to you).[2]

It was not originally my intention to speak about this matter at all, but I found myself more and more at cross-purposes with various people, and the increasing strain of trying to provide a plausible account of my behaviour without mentioning the most important item eventually persuaded me that I was perhaps not justified in perpetuating false situations in this way. Whether my decision was right I am not sure (it is not the sort of thing about which one can consult someone else), but I feel that my position is much simplified since this rather awkward cat is out of the bag and is semi-public property for which I am no longer solely responsible. This seems to make living rather easier for me (though, of course, it also makes it easier to die). But what the effect of the announcement (which was actually intended for the Colombo Thera's ears only) on other people will be—whether of benefit to them or not, I mean—I really don't know.

It is fortunate, in any case, that the Notes have already made their appearance since (i) they provide something more solid than a mere assertion for anyone who wants to make up his mind about the author, and (ii) they are perhaps sufficiently forbidding—and unpalatable—to protect their author from becoming a popular figure (it is, to my mind, of the greatest importance that no occasion should be given for complacency about the traditional interpretation of the Suttas—people must not be encouraged to think that they can reach attainment by following the Commentaries).

Now, as to the two Suttas you mention, the first goes like this:

-- What, lord, is the benefit, what is the advantage, of skilful virtue?
-- Non-remorse, Ānanda, is the benefit, is the advantage, of skilful virtue.
Knowing-and-seeing in accordance with reality
Disgust and dispassion
Knowing-and-seeing of release
. . . . . . . . of non-remorse.
. . . . . . . . of gladness.
. . . . . . . . of joy.
. . . . . . . . of calm.
. . . . . . . . of pleasure.
. . . . . . . . of concentration.
. . . . . . . . of knowing-and-seeing in accordance with reality.
. . . . . . . . of disgust and dispassion.
Thus it is, Ānanda, that skilful virtue gradually leads to the summit. (A. X,1: v,1-2)
Strictly speaking, this Sutta refers only to the sekha and not to the puthujjana, since the latter needs more than just good sīla to take him to release. It is the sekha who has the ariyakanta sīla that leads to (sammā-)samādhi. But, samādhi becomes sammāsamādhi when one gains the magga. Of course even the puthujjana needs to have good sīla and be free from remorse if he hopes to make progress in his non-ariya samādhi.

The second Sutta (A. X,61: v,113-16) runs like this:

An earliest point of nescience, monks, is not manifest: 'Before this, nescience was not; then afterwards it came into being'. Even if that is said thus, monks, nevertheless it is manifest: 'With this as condition, nescience'. I say, monks, that nescience, too, is with sustenance, not without sustenance. And what is the sustenance of nescience? The five constraints (hindrances).[3] I say, monks, that the five constraints, too, are with sustenance, not without sustenance. And what is the sustenance of the five constraints? The three bad behaviours[4].... Non-restraint of the faculties.... Non-mindfulness-and-non-awareness.... Improper attention.... Absence of faith.... Not hearing the Good Teaching (saddhamma).... Not frequenting Good Men (sappurisa, i.e. ariyapuggala).
Then later you have:
I say, monks, that science-and-release, too, is with sustenance, not without sustenance. And what is the sustenance of science-and-release? The seven awakening-factors[5].... The four stations of mindfulness.... The three good behaviours.... Restraint of the faculties.... Mindfulness-and-awareness.... Proper attention.... Faith.... Hearing the Good Teaching.... Frequenting Good Men.
I am, very slowly, re-typing the Notes, correcting mistakes (I found I had misunderstood the Commentary in one place—a lamentable exhibition of carelessness!) and making additions.

Editorial notes:

[97.1] aluham: Ash-skin, skin with ash-colored spots: a dry scaly mildly-itching disease, widespread in the drier areas of Sri Lanka. [Back to text]

[97.2] a certain matter: During his stay in Colombo the author handed over L. 1 to the Colombo Thera. The envelope of L. 1 was inscribed: 'In the event of my death, this envelope should be delivered to, and opened by, the senior bhikkhu of the Island Hermitage, Dodanduwa. Ñānavīra Bhikkhu, 20th September 1960.' Apparently the letter had been kept at Bundala until 1964, when it was handed over already opened and its contents were then discussed. This discussion became known to others, and thus the author's attainment of sotāpatti came to be known (and accepted and denied and debated) even before his death. [Back to text]

[97.3] The five constraints (nīvarana) are desire-and-lust, ill-will, sloth-and-torpor, distraction-and-worry, and doubt. [Back to text]

[97.4] The three bad behaviours: i.e. by body, speech, and mind. [Back to text]

[97.5] The seven awakening-factors (satta-bojjhangā) are: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena, energy, gladness, tranquillity, concentration, and indifference (equanimity). [Back to text