At Kālaka’s Park (Anguttara Nikāya IV.24)

At one time the flourishing one was staying at Sāketa, in Kālaka’s monastery, where he spoke to the mendicants.


“Sir,” they replied.

“Practitioners, whatever there is – in the world, with its gods, it Māras and Brahmas; among the beings consisting of recluses, brahmins, gods and men – whatsoever is seen, heard, sensed, and cognized; whatever is attained, sought after, and ruminated on by thinking: I have fully comprehended all that. All that is seen by a Tathāgata1, but a Tathāgata does not serve that knowing.

“If I were to say: ‘Practitioners, whatsoever in the world . . . . whatsoever is seen and heard . . . . . ruminated upon by thinking, all that I do not know,’ It would be false of me.  If I were to say: ‘I both know it and know it not,’ that, too, would be false of me. If I were to say: ‘I neither know it, nor am I ignorant of it,’ it would be a fault in me.

“From here, Practitioners, when seeing, a Tathāgata does not conceive2 of a seen; he does not conceive of an unseen; he does not conceive of a ‘possible-to-see’3; and, he does not conceive of a seer.

“When hearing, he does not conceive of a thing heard; he does not conceive of an unheard; he does not conceive of a ‘possible-to-hear’; and, he does not conceive of a hearer.

When sensing, he does not conceive of a thing sensed; he does not conceive of an un-sensed; he does not conceive of a ‘possible-to-sense’; and, he does not conceive of one sensing.

When cognizing, he does not conceive of a thing cognized; he does not conceive of an uncognized; he does not conceive of a ‘possible-to-cognize’; and, he does not conceive of a cognizer.

Thus, Practitioners, a Tathāgata being ‘such’ in regard to all phenomena seen, heard, sensed and cognized, is ‘such.’ Moreover, I say: than one who is ‘such,’ there is none greater or more excellent.

Whatever is seen, heard, sensed, or clung to,
is valued as ‘truth’ by other folk.
Amid those who are stuck in their views,
I hold nothing as true or false, being ‘such.’

This snag I beheld, long before,
whereupon humankind is hooked, is impaled:
‘I know, I see, `tis truly so.’
No such clinging for Tathāgatas.


Translated from Pāli by Christopher J. Ash © 2021, Christopher J. Ash


1. It is helpful to think of Tathāgata as referring to a person who comes and goes in suchness – that is, who is completely unidentified with anything occurring.

2. An intricate activity, this. The PED etymology includes such states as moods, thinking, wishing, opining, intending, and loving. As for a definitions, it has 1. to think, to be of opinion, to imagine, to deem; 2. to know, to be convinced, to be sure; 3. to imagine, to be proud (of), to be conceited, to boast.

The gist in this context, I think, is ‘imagining,’ which, although having its uses as creative process, can equally serve delusion.

3. This is literally ‘to-be-seen,’ which could refer to a future seeing. Ñāṇananda translates it as ‘a thing-worth-seeing.’ Bodhi: ‘What can be seen.’ Thanissaro: ‘to-be-seen.’ Given the context, I’ve taken it as closer to  Ñāṇananda’s translation, and Bodhi’s. So, I have a seer and: an object seen, an object not seen, and an object possible to see (that is, one which a person can imagine could be seen under such and such conditions).