Did Buddha advise us to refrain from both wholesome and unwholesome?

It appears above is a misconception among many Buddhist.
However, I can recall a Suta to support the question raised in OP.
How can we apply this in a practical way?

I think it is more a case of going beyond these than refraining from these.

How do you that?

Don’t be attached to them - but cultivate the wholesome and stop doing the unwholesome.

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a) good deed -> upadana -> punnabhisankhara -> (kusala kamma) -> long life (good/bad)
b) good deed -> no upadana -> (kusala dhamma) -> no long life (excellent)

You want to do b)

a - is not good because it delays final liberation.
b - is the best way.


By allowing the fulfilment of the four ennobling tasks take place.

It may be helpful to check out Suttas like MN117, SN46.3, SN12.23 and AN10.2 / AN11.2 to get an idea of how that may take place.

Good luck! :anjal:

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For varied, sweet, delightful are desires of sense;
blind, foolish common men long have lain in them
seeking after birth again, 'tis they who wish for ill,
by mind they are led on to perish in hell.


with metta

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Can someone recall this Sutta?
It says “let go of wholesome deed as well”

The constant refrain in the Suttas is that akusala is to be abandoned and kusala to be developed.

Perhaps you are thinking of the phrase puññapāpapahīna in Dhp. 39, but if so this is not a prescription of a task to be done but rather a description of the natural state of the arahant who is no longer a creator of fresh kamma.

Anavassutacittassa, ananvāhatacetaso,
Puññapāpapahīnassa, natthi jāgarato bhayaṃ.

“There is no fear for an awakened one, whose mind is not sodden (by lust) nor afflicted (by hate), and who has gone beyond both merit and demerit.”


I can’t identify the sutta, but I don’t think that there is much controversy that, according to the Buddha, there is no mind state to which we should cling. We should regard all mind states as not self and forbear from clinging to any of them.

But that doesn’t mean that we should forbear from performing wholesome acts and, thus, from having wholesome intentions. It’s just that when these intentions arise, being conditioned dhammas, we should regard them as possessing the three marks of all conditioned phenomena.

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I don’t think it’s the sutta you’re referring to, but vaguely in the ballpark and might be of interest is the Dvedhāvitakka sutta MN19

Albeit that good thoughts do not…

lead to my own affliction, or to others’ affliction, or to the affliction of both; it aids wisdom, does not cause difficulties, and leads to Nibbāna.


But with excessive thinking and pondering I might tire my body, and when the body is tired, the mind becomes strained, and when the mind is strained, it is far from concentration.’

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I think this make sense.
The action of the Puthujana is intended and fabricated while Arahant is not.

Another discussion related to this topic.


Your memory may be pointing you to the concept of kamma that leads to the end of kamma:

“Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
This is called kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma.”
- AN4.237

I have just checked the parallel discussion in DhammaWheel and noticed someone there quoted the Snp3.2:

O Evil One,
O Cousin of the Negligent,
you have come here for your own ends.

Now, merit I need not at all.
Let Māra talk of merit then,
to those that stand in need of it.

For I have faith and energy,
and I have understanding, too.
So while I thus subdue myself,
why do you speak to me of life?

It is noteworthy that this was Buddha’s reply to Mara when he asked him:

O you are thin and you are pale,
and you are in death’s presence too:

a thousand parts are pledged to death
but life still holds one part of you.
Live, sir! Life’s the better way;
you may gain merit if you live,

come live the life of purity, pour
libations on the holy fires
and thus a world of merit gain.
What can you do by struggling now?

The path of struggling too is rough,
and difficult and hard to bear.

I don’t think we can take this passage as an advice to refrain from wholesome. The Buddha is telling Brahma of his condition as the threshold of awakening was being crossed and in reply to a very specific call to follow a path of brahmanic worshipping.

Hope it helps.


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This is a good point.
If a person follows the NEP, there is no need for additional wholesome actions.
Is Noble Eightfold Path neither wholesome nor Unwholesome?

In the sutta I quoted above (AN4.237) you see the Buddha saying that the cultivation of the path is “called kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma.

If you take dark as a synonym of unwholesome and bright as a synonym for wholesome, then you can rephrase it as:

The path is neither unwholesome nor wholesome with neither unwholesome nor wholesome result, leading to the ending of kamma.



I think only the supermundane NEP is neither dark nor bright.
The mundane NEP could be bright kamma.

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