AN 5.89 Busyness

I first came across these interesting teaching a few years ago. They are conducive to samadhi and generally not getting entangled.

“These five things lead to the decline of a mendicant trainee. What five?
They relish work,
and company. And they don’t review the extent of their mind’s freedom.
These five things lead to the decline of a mendicant trainee.

…and of course included is the opposite teachings:

These five things don’t lead to the decline of a mendicant trainee. What five? They don’t relish work, talk, sleep, and company. And they review the extent of their mind’s freedom. These five things don’t lead to the decline of a mendicant trainee.” AN5.89

“Pañcime, bhikkhave, dhammā sekhassa bhikkhuno parihānāya saṃvattanti. Katame pañca? Kammārāmatā, bhassārāmatā, niddārāmatā, saṅgaṇikārāmatā, yathāvimuttaṃ cittaṃ na paccavekkhati— ime kho, bhikkhave, pañca dhammā sekhassa bhikkhuno parihānāya saṃvattanti. AN5.89

with metta


Can’t see that work in itself must lead to a decline in practicing and developing firm “sati” - if it was true then I would be quite stuck, because I do work a lot, but don’t think about it as “my job” …

Ajhan Brahm has a nice insight from his early days when the “torture of the training” under Ajahn Chah became a bit to much, and a aussie monk reminded him of this little gem:

Pushing the wheel barrow is easy, thinking about pushing the wheel barrow is hard

I fear that I am doomed to experience many more lifetimes. :sweat:

Somewhat relevant to the topic, I vaguely remember a sutta where a business-owner wanted to become a monastic. The Buddha asked him how often he has negative ideations, he replied hardly ever, to which the Buddha was skeptical. The Tathāgata asked him to get black and white stones and a basket, and every time he had a positive ideation put a white stone in the basket and conversely negative with black stones. He shouldn’t consider becoming a monastic until there are no more black stones. Something like that, maybe someone here knows the specific sutta.

I like this one because it shows one way Buddhist practice can be done even at work. It also shows a directly empirical way of measuring progress.


Practically speaking it is difficult to maintain perfect sati when we are busy- I think this is just a nod in the direction of having less things to be be busy with and being concerned with the quietude of the mind IMO. It is unrealistic to expect development of tranquility when we don’t have any rest. Our lives are the foundation on which the state of our minds and practice rely on to survive and thrive.

Often coming back from retreat it is hard to maintain that level of stillness. But if we take some steps towards making our lives less busy we are laying some foundations for protecting some of that.

with metta


If one want or need’s perfect sati then I would also guess one has to withdraw completely to get to that level … - not that I know what that would be, because I only know the levels I been experiencing in my own practice, and also know that those have been enough for moving forward in a pace that been satisfactory here.

I actually find a busy city as peaceful as the local forest monastery, and experienced those two different training grounds to be fruitful because they are equalizing each other into being the point that includes and the point that excludes

A lot of practitioners says that they have to do it just like this!, and loose practice when the environment changes, and that looks to me a lot more stressful, and I my guess makes development a bit harder also …

And another question is how much perfect stillness is actually needed for “getting it”, regarding that this is called the middle way, not the extreme stillness way

But I like to add that I don’t participate in everything one calls “normal life” - have few friends, few talks, and other distractions that ordinary people find necessary to live happily


Interesting, because I’ve haven’t seen or heard about that sutta myself



I believe this story may be from the Ashokāvadāna, part of the Divyāvadāna, an anthology of tales largely taken from the Mūlasarvāstivādin vinaya, rather than from a sutta.

But the inspiration behind the tale is probably from the Dvedhāvitakka Sutta (MN19).


Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge

It gave me some nice searching and reading to do here where I sit and night watch over a older patient


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Here’s a nice sutta excerpt on stillness in a crowd:

With attendants carrying torches, he set out in full royal pomp from Rājagaha to Jīvaka’s mango grove.

But as he drew near the mango grove, the king became frightened, scared, his hair standing on end. He said to Jīvaka: “My dear Jīvaka, I hope you’re not deceiving me! I hope you’re not betraying me! I hope you’re not turning me over to my enemies! For how on earth can there be no sound of coughing or clearing throats or any noise in such a large Saṅgha of 1,250 mendicants?”

“Do not fear, great king, do not fear! I am not deceiving you, or betraying you, or turning you over to your enemies. Go forward, great king, go forward! Those are lamps shining in the pavilion.”

Then King Ajātasattu rode on the elephant as far as the terrain allowed, then descended and approached the pavilion door on foot, where he asked Jīvaka: “But my dear Jīvaka, where is the Buddha?” “That is the Buddha, great king, that is the Buddha! He’s sitting against the central column facing east, in front of the Saṅgha of mendicants.”

Then the king went up to the Buddha and stood to one side. He looked around the Saṅgha of monks, who were so very silent, like a still, clear lake, and spoke these words of inspiration: “May my son, Prince Udāyibhadda, be blessed with such peace as the Saṅgha of mendicants now enjoys!” “Has your mind gone to one you love, great king?” “I love my son, sir, Prince Udāyibhadda. May he be blessed with such peace as the Saṅgha of mendicants now enjoys!” DN2

With metta

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