Dry up the remains of your past

In the Sutta-Nipata Snp 5.11 Jatukanni’s Question, in paragraph 4 the Buddha says: « Dry up the remains of your past and have nothing for your future. If you do not cling to the present then you can go from place to place in peace. »

This is the only sutta I know of where the Buddha says that we have to make peace, let go of our grief with the past. This is what Modern Psychology is offering us to do with programs such as The Hoffman Process where one goes thru a process that allow to make complete peace with one’s family of origin (usually father and mother) and progressively abandon the unwholesome traits one has inherited from this family of origin.

Does anyone know of other suttas where the Buddha indicates this “drying up of the remains of the past”?


I think the issue is not the memories but the defilements around those memories. In trauma work for example the memories remain after the psychological work is done, but the emotion around it (fear, grief, anger) is drained away, using various methodology.

The Buddha doesn’t enumerate the objects of craving, for example, or aversion. These can be vary from person to person.

with metta

Thanks Mat.
What about my question about other suttas that talk about this issue?

Its found here, as well. I cant recall anything particularly about the past, except the pansadovaka sutta talks about not wanting to be despised as a subtle or hard to remove defilement. I think that stems from attachment issues in childhood.

We could also consider the Buddha saying if the mind ponders on something a lot, that will be the inclination (or the direction of development) of the mind (dvedavitakka sutta?). Equally that which is left unstirred have a tendency to fade away. However as long as defilements are active around them, they will keep coming up, hence the need to work on defilements.

with metta

I see in 944 “He should not be nostalgic about the past”. This is not relevent to my topic.
I think the importance of making peace with the past is totally underestimated in the dhamma that has been transmitted to us.


I think there are perhaps more important things like craving, aversion and delusion. Attachment to past issues is what keeps clients dependant on ‘never ending’ therapy!

with metta

Well, if you look carefully the Buddha was surrounded by men and women who would have abandoned completely their family lives to give the path a try. Isn’t this a sign of not only peace with the past but as well letting go of it?

Is not it a crucial and fundamental part of the embracing of the path as found in suttas like DN2 this transition into homelessness?

What about the suttas about thoughts about who one was in the past or will be in the future (see MN2) ? Can’t we say this includes as well thoughts, memories and traumas related to family issues?

Totally agree that this is what we have to eliminate. My point is : our individual cravings and aversions are the result of what happened during our first say 17 years of live. I believe we will succeed in eliminating our specific aversions (and their associated desires) only by going thru a psychological process similar to the one I mentioned above. This essential mental development that we all have to do is not described in the suttas.

Seeking awakening is what they were at.
Leaving home does not imply they had suddenly made peace with the past and let go of it. The mind does not work that way unfortunately.
This is one problem I have with the dhamma: it says what needs achieving, some of the tools to use but not how to. So we all have to rediscover the recipes for ourselves.
That would have been nice if the Buddha or any Arahat told us how he made peace with his past.

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maybe not exactly what you’re looking for, but close

from 'A Single Excellent Night'

MN 131 Bhadd-eka-ratta-sutta (Gāthā)
MN 131 auspicious-single-night-discourse (verses)
“Atītaṃ nānvāgameyya,
“(The) Past, (one) should-not-chase.
Nap-paṭi-kaṅkhe an-āgataṃ;
Nor-have-expectations [for time] not-arrived (yet).
Yad-atītaṃ pahīnaṃ taṃ,
That-past (has been) left-behind.
appattañca an-āgataṃ.
Un-attained (is the) not-yet-arrived [future].
Pacc-uppannañ-ca yo dhammaṃ,
[Presently]-arisen-** ** phenomena,
Tattha tattha vipassati;
[right]-there, [right-there] he-sees [insightfully].
A-saṃhīraṃ a-saṃkuppaṃ,
Im-movable, un-shakeable,
Taṃ vidvā manubrūhaye.
That is how you develop the heart.
Ajjeva kiccam-ātappaṃ,
Today, (in one’s)-duties-(one should)-ardently-strive.
ko jaññā maraṇaṃ suve;
who knows [if] death [comes] tomorrow?
Na hi no saṅgaraṃ tena,
** indeed no bargain can-be-made
mahāsenena maccunā.
(with the) great-army (of) death.
Evaṃ-vihāriṃ ātāpiṃ,
Thus-dwelling ardently,
Taṃ ve bhadd-eka-ratto-ti,
that indeed (is) {one}-auspicious-night,
santo ācikkhate muni.
(the) peaceful ******** sage {declared}.

I think there are different ways of approaching the same problem; let’s take an example: a child was criticised frequently by his parents and develops an inferiority complex. This has various adverse impacts on his life growing up.

Buddhist approach: watch self-criticism arising in certain situations. Remove (pahana) defilements of aversion towards oneself. See through the illusion of self. Dismantle thoughts pertaining to self and the sense of self. Develop equanimity and peace were previously anxiety and sadness arose.

Therapy (Cognitive behavioural) approach: elicit negative core beliefs about oneself and find evidence against those negative core beliefs. Challenge negative automatic thoughts. Make behavioural changes that make this person feel better.

There would be psychodynamic approaches for example that would be further different to what I mentioned above. Mental problems are conceptualised in different ways and are amenable to different approaches. Buddhism has its own approach and is typically a self help method.

With metta

I think this Sutta say the same thing in a different way.


"Then, Malunkyaputta, with regard to phenomena to be seen, heard, sensed, or cognized: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Malunkyaputta, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."[2]


The sutta doesn’t say anything like that. There is a reliable translation on SC.

Ok. So your question was more about Socratic questioningthan anything.

I get your point.

I am just not sure we can support exactly that understanding with sutta quotes or reference.

Nothing to do with Socrates at all. I’m concerned not finding much in the dhamma about dealing with the negative imprints received by everyone on earth during their childhood teenager time. It is an emotional work that needs to be done not an intellectual one.

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Many thanks Mat for presenting the Buddhist approach that must work as after all many people became awakened over the centuries, so they would have succeeded removing the aversion fetter.

Alain, my reference to Socratic questioning was made as I recognize your intent here is to constructively achieve a

"disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, to follow out logical implications of thought or to control the discussion. "

This is what Socratic questioning means and it is a very good way of developing discourse/dialogue! Specially when triggered by someone as well intended as you my friend. :anjal:

Now let’s take a harder case.
This girl or boy has been raped by a member of her family, her father, her uncle, whoever.
Do you think that the Buddhist method you presented will work for her/him to eliminate hatred for the perpetrator?

These types of patients do present and present with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the current best evidence for their treatment lies in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and trauma focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. They are cited in the National Institute of Clinical Excellence guidelines for treating PTSD in UK, for example. If the trauma is particularly complex or happened over a long period of time, their effectiveness diminishes. We know that Buddha’s methods allowed a few hundred if not a few thousand people to eradicate all defilements. This means the method works, if it is possible to practice it to its conclusion. Different people have different strengths and weaknesses and some as we know, even while having the Buddha with them, were not able to attain full enlightenment, but were pretty much assured stream entry. If some poor person was so traumatised that they suffer from flashbacks, nightmares and all kinds of emotional upheaval caused by PTSD they may not be able to practice the dhamma much. I remember teaching mindfulness of breath to a survivor of Ruwandan genocide and he found it helped him a lot, though it reminded him of when he was hiding underwater in a river breathing through bamboo sticks just to stay alive. So I think it would be reasonable to say that there are elements like mindfulness and coming to the present moment in EMDR for example and some carefully chosen Buddhist practices maybe helpful in many scenarios I cannot guarantee it will cure the PTSD, or any other psychological issue. No form of therapy gives this assurance either, incidentally.

However if we bring rebirth into the equation, the longer term view over a few lifetimes would be more favorable, of course, assuming stream entry is achieved at least. In that scenario, enlightenment and much more, would be guaranteed.

with metta


This is a beautiful reply dear Mat. Many thanks.

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