SN 12.60 metaphor found in the commentaries?

SN 12.60 (among other suttas in that vagga) has the metaphor for the role of lusts in paṭiccasamuppāda in the form of a tree which is sustained by drawing the sap up through its roots and into its limbs. The aṭṭhakathā doesn’t say much about the metaphor. I was wondering if anyone who’s more knowledgeable about commentarial literature or Abhidhamma knew if this metaphor received much treatment subsequently? Thank you.


The broader description is in the Visuddhimagga beginning Section 111 “Understanding” (Wisdom- sila/samadhi/panna):

Chap XIV “32. (v) HOW IS IT DEVELOPED? Now, the things classed as aggregates, bases,
elements, faculties, truths, dependent origination, etc., are the soil of this
understanding, and the [first] two purifications, namely, purification of virtue
and purification of consciousness, are its roots, while the five purifications,
namely, purification of view, purification by overcoming doubt, purification by
knowledge and vision of what is the path and what is not the path, purification
by knowledge and vision of the way, and purification by knowledge and vision,
are the trunk. Consequently, one who is perfecting these should first fortify his
knowledge by learning and questioning about those things that are the “soil”
after he has perfected the two purifications that are the “roots,” then he can
develop the five purifications that are the “trunk.” This is in brief. The detail is as

This illustrates how a comprehensive understanding of the path cannot be developed without having some knowledge of the Visuddhimagga.

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Thank you very much @paul1 for your response. This is not the same analogy, however, as 12.60 explains the dependently originated arising of suffering, and the Visuddhimagga selection you offered is an analogy of the path in terms of aggregates, elements, and so on. It is interesting, though. Thank you.

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The simile first occurs in SN12.55, the Mahārukkha Sutta. So it’s the commentary to this earlier sutta that you need to consult.

In Connected Discourses Bhikkhu Bodhi has translated some parts of it.

The great tree represents the round of existence with its three planes; the roots, the sense bases; the sending up of the sap through the roots, the building up of kamma through the six sense doors; the stability of the tree, the blind worldling’s long continuation in saṃsāra as he repeatedly sustains the round by building up kamma.

The man wishing to destroy the great tree represents the meditator, his shovel (or axe) knowledge, the basket concentration.

The time the tree is cut down at its root is like the occasion when wisdom arises in the meditator as he attends to his meditation subject.

The cutting of the tree into pieces is like attending to the body in brief by way of the four great elements; the splitting of the pieces is like attending to the body in detail in forty-two aspects (Vism 348-51; Ppn 11:31-38); reducing the pieces to slivers is like the discernment of name-and-form by way of derived form and consciousness; cutting up the roots is like the search for the conditions of name-and-form.

The time of burning the slivers is like the time when the meditator attains the supreme fruit (of arahantship).

The collecting of the ashes is like the arahant’s life up to the time of his parinibbāna.

The winnowing of the ashes, or their being carried away by the river, is like the stilling of the round when the arahant attains parinibbāna by the Nibbāna element without residue.


Thank you for this, Bhante! I thought I had checked all the surrounding suttas’ commentaries, but obviously not.

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