How to understand these suttas (AN 5.17-20) correctly?

I hope this letter finds you happy and healthy.

Once again, I turn to the people of a large and powerful forum, getting good answers to my questions.

How to understand these suttas AN 5.17 -20 correctly?

  1. Do suttas represent four different classifications that there are four types of different mendicants with five qualities.

  2. Or are these suttas explaining development process if a mendicant has five qualities then first practising for 1) his own welfare, 2) welfare to others 3) neither for their own welfare, nor that of others, and then 4) both their own welfare and that of others.

  3. What’s your opinion about it?

1 Like

Read in the context of AN4.96 - AN4.99 it would seem to mean that mendicants who have all the five properties described can be classified into four groups according to how they practice.


That I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the many individuals who have progressed far enough to think not only of their own liberation, but also to leave trail markers for those who follow. The “In the Buddhas words” reading guide is only one example of where I have benefitted from the time/effort invested by others.


“Monks, the establishing of mindfulness is to be practiced with the thought, ‘I’ll watch after myself.’ The establishing of mindfulness is to be practiced with the thought, ‘I’ll watch after others.’ When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself.”—SN 47.19

By observing mindfulness you look after yourself and others simultaneously just as acrobats concentrate on their own task. This also communicates that life is an art-form requiring skill, that’s why it’s wise to limit outside involvement and only deal with what you can process dhamma-wise. This is the balance referred to between the mind being ‘constricted’ (lack of energy) and ‘scattered’ (outwardly) in the Satipatthana sutta. Being preoccupied with other people’s business does not help yourself or them, it could be disastrous.


I think AN 5.17-20 probably should be read as a single text like AN 4.96, as @faujidoc1 has indicated. It’s a case of the four alternatives being applied with different example qualities that represent proper cultivation. The distinctions of people who are concerned with only themselves or both themselves and others (the latter being considered superior) is found in other suttas like AN 7.68. Here, two more alternatives are added to the same idea.


Thank you for your answer.

Do I understand correctly that this is not a step-by-step four-level development process (AN 5.17, 18, 19, 20), but separate texts explaining four different mendicant practices with 5 qualities?

It is taking 4 different categories of mendicants (each mendicant having the same 5 qualities otherwise) and arranging them from less skillful to more skillful based on their practice so that the reader can see where they are, and what they should aim for.