Arahants don't intend or plan? Are SN 12.38-12.40 reliable?

Hello friends,

The following paragraph is mentioned in SN 12.39:

“But, bhikkhus, when one does not intend, and one does not plan, and one does not have a tendency towards anything, no basis exists for the maintenance of consciousness. When there is no basis, there is no support for the establishing of consciousness. When consciousness is unestablished and does not come to growth, there is no descent of name-and-form. With the cessation of name-and-form comes cessation of the six sense bases…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”

The above teaching doesn’t seem to be in line with the teaching found in other suttas.

I suppose that the Buddha and arahants actually intended, planned, and had good tendencies towards things during their human lives. For instance, the Buddha intended and planned to teach the first 5 disciples upon his awakening.

The three Agama parallels (SA 359-361) do not have “intend”, “plan”, or “have a tendency towards anything”; instead, all three used “have pondering” (思量) and “have deluded thinking”(妄想), which makes much more sense: “若思量、若妄想 者,則有使攀緣識住;有攀緣識住故,入於 名色;…”.

Is it possible that SN 12.38-12.40 are mispreserved?

Thanks and metta,



Well, the Pali here is:

ceteti yañca pakappeti yañca anuseti

Which seems to me a bit stronger than “planning” … more like “ruminating and fixing the mind on.” More like planning a vendetta than a walk in the park.

Curious to hear what real Pali scholars have to say though. :slight_smile:


SN 12.39 has specialized terminology in “obsession” (see note 1):

"Staying at Savatthi… [the Blessed One said,] “What one intends, what one arranges, and what one obsesses about:[1]”—Thanissaro


Hello Bhante Khemarato and Paul,

Many thanks for your kind help. I agree with Ajahn Thanissaro’s translation, which does make sense. I’d change the second word “arrange” into Paul’s word “ruminate”. Then it’s more in line with the Agama parallels.

Much metta,