Help finding a sutta: merchants traveling to a market

I recall a sutta where the Buddha compares people who speculate about life after death with merchants traveling to a market they have never been to before and hoping that the market has the product they want, can anyone tell me where to find this? thanks.

Sorry, not heard of it :person_shrugging:.

with metta

Found it! MN102 !

Why is that?Taṁ kissa hetu?

Because all of those ascetics and brahmins only assert their attachment to heading upstream:
Sabbepime bhonto samaṇabrāhmaṇā uddhaṁ saraṁ āsattiṁyeva abhivadanti:

‘After death we shall be like this! After death we shall be like that!’‘iti
pecca bhavissāma, iti pecca bhavissāmā’ti.

Suppose a trader was going to market, thinking:
Seyyathāpi nāma vāṇijassa vāṇijjāya gacchato evaṁ hoti:

‘With this, that shall be mine! This way, I shall get that!’
‘ito me idaṁ bhavissati, iminā idaṁ lacchāmī’ti;

In the same way, those ascetics and brahmins seem to be like traders when they say:
evamevime bhonto samaṇabrāhmaṇā vāṇijūpamā maññe paṭibhanti:‘

After death we shall be like this! After death we shall be like that!’
‘iti pecca bhavissāma, iti pecca bhavissāmā’ti.


It’s interesting that this sutta mentions three gradual meditative states in increasing refinement:

  • rapture of seclusion
  • spiritual bliss
  • neutral feeling

I think this is obviously referring to the jhānas. The rapture of seclusion is the first, spiritual bliss the 2nd/3rd, and neutral feeling the fourth. Afterwards the Buddha mentions extinguishment and non-grasping of course (but criticizes those who think they have attained it yet regard themselves as having attained it with a sense of conceit). What’s noteworthy about it is the lack of a clean, 4-way formulaic distinction which was standard for all of Buddhism. I think this type of presentation of the jhānas is much more likely to be early than late.

This sutta seems somewhat “corrupt,” or if not, odd. What I mean by this is that sometimes the flow of the text is choppy or confusing in non-natural ways. It has clearly been compiled via stock passages. But some of it seems very early. The mention of universal/limitless consciousness and its ties to the domain of nothingness are very reminiscent of Ālāra Kālāma’s Upanisadic/mystic Brahmanical doctrine. It dseems that to make these connections one would have to be familiar with the teachings of the people (such as Alara) who taught this. The Buddha, of course, was familiar; many later Buddhists it seems were not.

I don’t think we can really assess earliness/lateness but I could see this one going either way. It’s possible this is the modern version of a very old, intentionally compiled recitation discourse. Perhaps an earlier form of the Brahmajāla Sutta.

Just some observations more than anything.


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Yeah its one that for years I have just put to one side as too wierd to grok with. The thing i notice now is the hierarchy of positionsnat the start.

First a percipient post mortem self is proposed, but this is “trumped” by a non percipient one, which in turn is trumped by the niether nor one.

(Undeclared points alert)

Then annihilationism is posited as better than the preceding positions on the basis that attachment to post mortem survival undelies them.

Then the Buddha criticises the annihilationist position of basically havimg the same flaw in reverse to the precptionist lot, that its obesessed with the manifest body (but is disgusted with it rather than in love with it).

Then there is an interlude about biews of the past which gives fourfold undeclared points versions of several of the points at DN1 that are given in 2 fold form.

Then those who can cast of these views about the past and future, as you say, enter something that looks very much like jhana.

Then the version of the 4th jhana that is understood without conceit is indicated to be the supreme awakening.

As for early or late, well, my sense is something like yours too, perhaps we are looking at the product of some slightly heterodox or marginal geoup who have preserved thier own teaching and it has been deemed too valuable to lose and therefore added to the canon after the formulas where fixed?

It has no chinese parallel…

Alas the tibetan parallel has no english translation.


Just on this sutta, suttacentral clearly relies on a very different manuscript to Digital Pali Reader in this case, half the words I paste in there from here just don’t come up, it leads me to wonder, how many editions of the Pali are available for this text and how variable are they? @sujato perhaps you could point me in the right direction for investigating this?