What did the Teacher intend by the verse in AN 6.63?

There is a single verse in AN 6.63 which is one of my favorites:

Greedy intention is a person’s sensual pleasure.
The world’s pretty things aren’t sensual pleasures.
Greedy intention is a person’s sensual pleasure.
The world’s pretty things stay just as they are,
but a wise one removes desire for them.

This sutta is titled penetrative and to my mind is very important. Given this is the only verse in the sutta and given that verses like these are likely some of the oldest parts of the canon, I think it deserves special attention. To my mind this verse is very deep, profound, and indeed penetrative.

I’d like to start a discussion about what this verse is trying to convey; what did the Teacher wish us to understand by speaking this dhamma? Why did the Teacher make a distinction between sensual stimulation (the world’s pretty things) and sensual pleasure? What does it mean that, “world’s pretty things stay just as they are?”


Namo Buddhaya!

As i understand it,

For example if a monk hears music when he goes for alms, or maybe the weather is very pleasant, or he might smell his favorite food being prepared.

Should he feel guilty about it?

There would be guilt only to the extent to which he consented, relished & welcomed the pleasant experience. Because it is the lustful intent/conception/resolve that is his sensuality rather than the pleasant feeling, sight or sound that there is.

On the flip side if he was to see a deformed sick person, he would not have any problem with this lest he gave rise to disgust & aversion. It is not the unpleasant sight that is his anger but the aversive intent in regards to the seen.

Another example of this coming into play, imho, is when i see monks make their food disgusting because they fear greed in regards to cake & whatnot, they might mix it with curry and be miserable.

I think this is extreme and along the lines of mutilating the womenfolk. Nevermind hyperbole, just an extreme example.

I think that while not seeing cake is altogether preferable, if one has to see it, the training is more so about minimizing exposure, quenching the thirst internally by being very attentive & developing the perception of the food-unattractiveness, rather than overextending and risking discontent due to leaning towards self-mortification.

Fearing sensual pleasure to the extent of making food ugly, i wouldn’t much discourage it if the person was a very skilled meditator & can without difficulty sit for many hours. Otherwise i don’t think he can be expected to last long without making himself comfortable and I’d rather give more attention to not seeing, asubha, upekkha, etc, and I would have both do this either way. I think this making things ugly is not good in general, enemies wish eachother to see ugly things and eat cake with curry.

Remove craving for the sensual pleasures rather than removing those things themselves.

Also these verses have been edited into the sutta. The original is SN 1.34


Interesting! This is the immediately preceding verse:

Misery is born of desire; suffering is born of desire;
when desire is removed, misery is removed;
when misery is removed, suffering is removed.


Yes, misery here being the aggregates

At Savatthi. “Bhikkhus, I will teach you misery and the root of misery. Listen to that….

“And what, bhikkhus, is misery? Form is misery; feeling is misery; perception is misery; volitional formations are misery; consciousness is misery. This is called misery.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the root of misery? It is this craving that leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination. This is called the root of misery.”

SN 22.31



Why do you feel it deserves special attention?

Because, “to my mind this verse is very deep, profound, and indeed penetrative.” :slight_smile: But seriously, I opened this discussion because I was curious and hopeful to learn what others thought. Not looking to expand and proliferate my own misguided ideas. I think the verse deserves special attention, but for sure what I think isn’t very important and does not need any special attention. :pray:

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Do you really think there is something as the worlds pretty things?

Just a quick note here, this is interesting from a literary point of view, as it doesn’t follow the normal form of verses. Typically a verse is either a whole piece; or a summary at the end of a piece; or is quoted to be commented on. But this doesn’t fall into any such category.

It also has two odd characteristics: it has five lines, and it appears without announcement so that its removal would not affect the flow of the sutta at all.

It appears elsewhere in the canon at SN 1.34, where the repeated line is not repeated, making it a standard four line verse. So it seems to me—and one would want to look further before making a conclusion—that SN 1.34 is likely to be the original context, and it was copied over to AN 6.63 because of its thematic similarity.

This suggests that, while it might perhaps make no difference, the meaning should be first sought in the context of SN 1.34.


Hello Venerable!

Yes, it seems unusual to me as well. At least I haven’t come across another usage of verse like this. However, I’m not sure about the second characteristic? The verse immediately follows a teaching by the Buddha that seemingly differentiates between sensual stimulation and sensual pleasure. I think the verse is either a poetic utterance that reinforces the differentiation or the Teacher here is recalling a previous poetic utterance by someone and approving it and expanding upon it?

Hmm, I’m not sure. The five line versus the four line is unusual, but I’m not sure it can be used to justify inference about the original context. The best case for SN 1.34 being the original context I think is the fact that it is contained in a larger work of verse.

SN 1.34 suggests the verses came from a particular individual in a group of deities. Strangely, the verses also seemingly quote two other persons; one of them being Venerable Mogharājā and the other the Teacher himself. Seems odd.

Regardless, whichever one is the original context, it doesn’t readily appear that it would alter the meaning? That is, I think both sutta are congruent and not in tension when it comes to meaning at least to my mind.

A few people have messaged me in private with some thoughts about this verse which I found fascinating. Thank you for your insights!

Something that occurred to me as a result of these messages I wanted to share/ask others… would it be appropriate to state something like:

Greedy dispossession is a person’s sensual pain.
The world’s ugly things aren’t sensual pains.
Greedy dispossesion is a person’s sensual pain.
The world’s ugly things stay just as they are,
but a wise one removes aversion for them.

Here I’m trying to convey the opposite of pleasure and how it might be treated in a symmetrical way? Probably could be stated with much more eloquence but I have no poets heart. Anyway, is this appropriate and can the meaning be inverted in a symmetrical way like this?

Also, what of the words pretty and ugly? Are we to believe the Teacher was conveying that the world’s things are characteristically pretty or ugly in some independent sense? If not, why not?


Sure, the verse fits the context, it’s just that normally it would be intoduced with a line like “And then the teacher went on to exclaim the following verse” or something like that. Here there’s nothing; you can literally just snip the verse out and nothing else needs to change. IMHO taken together with other indications this suggests it was an import.

Oh, interesting, it seems fine, I hadn’t thought of it like that.

The Pali is citra, which doesn’t really invert like that. The basic meaning is “various, diverse”, but also “colorful, attractive”. In this kind of context it means the diverse and colorful phenomena experienced in the world that attract the mind and delight the senses.

There’s an old Hindu fable that explains this point well…

Once upon a time, there was a great fakir [an ascetic] who lived a simple life. He ate whatever he found, drank water from the nearby river and meditated under the tree in the forest on the outskirts of a town. Word spread and the king of the province came to know about the fakir.

He decided to meet the fakir. The king was so impressed with the fakir’s unpretentious demeanor that he invited the fakir to live with him in the palace.

The fakir agreed readily, which surprised the king; he was expecting that the fakir will have to be persuaded a lot to accept the invitation. Nevertheless, the king took him along and made lavish arrangements for his stay.

The ascetic settled down quickly and started enjoying all the luxuries of the palace — imperial clothes, royal food and a life of absolute comfort. There was a not a trace of self-denial. Soon, the king started suspecting that perhaps he was being hoodwinked by the fakir.

But he kept his thoughts to himself and continued to observe the man. Six months on, the fakir was still enjoying his stay and didn’t seem to mind this majestic life one bit.

By now the king had become convinced that the fakir had only been pretending in the forest. He decided to confront him. On meeting the fakir, the king said, “When I first met you, I was impressed by your austere lifestyle and minimum needs. Your life was an example of renunciation. But what I now see is totally the opposite. You seem to be enjoying every material pleasure there is. So what is the difference between you and me?”

The fakir smiled and said, “I was waiting for you to ask me this question but I will answer you tomorrow morning.” The next morning the fakir appeared before the king wearing his old tattered clothes.

The fakir said, “I am leaving for an unknown destination. If you really want the answer, you will have to leave your palace, your family, your kingdom and accompany me.” The king was stunned. He said, “You know, I can’t do that!”

The fakir smiled and replied, “Yes, I know. And that is the difference between you and me. I can leave all pleasures and comforts whenever I want because I am not attached to them. You are. I hope you have your answer now.”

It dawned on the king that the fakir was indeed great. He pleaded him to stay on but the fakir had made up his mind. As he was leaving, he said to the king, “Remember, what you hold on to, holds you. And since I hold on to nothing, I have nothing to renounce. I am forever free.”

Detachment is the opposite of attachment, not the opposite of enjoyment
The Upanishads


Namo Buddhaya!

Having thought more about this. I think this teaching can explain how a being can train even in the heavenly realms & pure abodes where being surrounded by pleasure one can maintain perception & judgement.

Imagine the monk who’s meditating in the forest, and all of a sudden his mind moves back to the sight of a pretty lady in the village he visited for his alms round.
The initial recollection cannot be avoided, whatever comes next however is determined by the mental state. If desire is present the thoughts and images will multiply. If it’s not (and a repulsion counter was not used, since that requires maintenance) the image will fade away.
This is how stimulation and pleasure are different.

Now I have a gift for you, to ponder.
Due to it’s position in the sutta and it’s style, you consider this verse special.
I’d say that’s a prime example of sensual pleasure, in this case the reading (eye) or hearing (ear) of the verse in it’s context.
It’s a verse, pretty as it is. The “deep”, “profound” and “penetrative” are added by you, you < want > it to be special and thus make it special. You created a saṅkhāra out of dhamma. :wink:

Thats the core of the message.


Thank you for this gift. :pray: