The Capala Sutra

The Capala “Nodding” Sutra

Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

All dharmas are unworthy of attachment

Once the Blessed One was living among the Bhaggas in the Deer Park at Bhesakaḷā Forest, near Crocodile Haunt. At that time Ven. Maha Moggallana sat nodding near the village of Kallavālamutta, in Magadha. The Blessed One, with his purified divine eye, surpassing the human, saw Ven. Maha Moggallana as he sat nodding near the village of Kallavalamutta in Magadha. As soon as he saw this, just as a strong man might flex or extend his arm he disappeared from among the Bhaggas in the Deer Park at Bhesakaḷa Forest and re-appeared near the village of Kallavalamutta in Magadha, right in front of Ven. Maha Moggallana. There the Blessed One sat down on a prepared seat and said to Ven. Maha Moggallana: Are you nodding, Moggallana? Are you nodding?

Yes, Lord.

Well then, Moggallana, whatever thought you have in mind when drowsiness descends on you, don’t attend to that thought, don’t pursue it. It’s possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don’t shake off your drowsiness, then recall to your awareness the Dhamma as you have heard and memorized it: re-examine it, and ponder it over in your mind. It’s possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don’t shake off your drowsiness, then repeat aloud in detail the Dhamma as you have heard and memorized it. It’s possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don’t shake off your drowsiness, then pull both your earlobes and rub your limbs with your hands. It’s possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don’t shake off your drowsiness, then get up from your seat and, after splashing water in your eyes, look around in all directions and upward to the major stars and constellations. It’s possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don’t shake off your drowsiness, then attend to the perception of light: imagine it is daytime, by night as by day, and by day as by night. By means of an awareness thus open and unhindered, develop an illuminated mind. It’s possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don’t shake off your drowsiness, then, aware of what lies before and behind you, set a distance to meditate walking back and forth, your senses inwardly immersed, your mind not straying outwards. It’s possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don’t shake off your drowsiness, then reclining on your right side take up the lion’s posture, one foot placed on top of the other, mindful, alert, with your mind set on getting up. As soon as you wake up, get up quickly, with the thought: I won’t stay indulging in the pleasure of lying down, the pleasure of reclining, the pleasure of drowsiness. Thus you should train yourself.

Moreover, Moggallana, you should train yourself thus: I will not visit families with my pride [lit. elephant-trunk] raised high. That is how you should train yourself. Among families there are many tasks that have to be done, so that people don’t pay attention to a visiting monk. If a monk visits them with his trunk raised high, the thought will occur to him, ‘Now who, I wonder, has caused a split between me and this family? The people seem to have no liking for me.’ Getting nothing, he becomes abashed. Abashed, he becomes restless. Restless, he becomes unrestrained. Unrestrained, his mind is far from concentration.

Moreover, Moggallana, you should train yourself thus: ‘I will utter no confrontational speech.’ That is how you should train yourself. When there is confrontational speech, a lot of argument can be expected. When there is a lot of argument, there is restlessness. One who is restless becomes unrestrained. Unrestrained, his mind is far from concentration.

It is not the case, Moggallana, that I favor association of every sort; nor is it the case that I view association of every sort with disfavor. I don’t favor association with householders and renunciates; but as for dwelling places that are free from hurry, free from noise, their surroundings devoid of people, appropriately secluded for resting undisturbed by human beings, I favor association with dwelling places of this sort.

When this was said, Ven. Moggallana said to the Blessed One: Briefly, lord, how is a monk liberated through the cessation of craving, so that he is utterly complete, utterly freed from limitations, a follower of the utterly holy life, utterly consummate, foremost among devas and sentient beings?

There is the case, Moggallana, where a monk has heard: All dharmas are unworthy of attachment. Having heard that all dharmas are unworthy of attachment, he has direct knowledge of every dharma. Directly knowing every dharma, he comprehends every dharma. Comprehending every dharma, whatever feeling he experiences—pleasurable, painful, neither pleasurable nor painful—he remains focused on its impermanence, focused on dispassion, focused on the cessation of craving, focused on letting go of that feeling. As he remains focused on impermanence, focused on dispassion, focused on the cessation of craving, focused on letting go of that feeling, he is not dependent on anything in the world. Independent, he is unperturbed. Unperturbed, he is completely liberated right within. He discerns: Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.

It is in this way, Moggallana, that a monk is liberated through the cessation of craving, utterly complete, utterly free from limitations, a follower of the utterly holy life, utterly consummate, foremost among devas and human beings.

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