5:4  Mettagū’s Questions

I ask you, Blessed One.

Please tell me.

I regard you as an attainer-of-knowledge,

developed in mind.

From what have the many

forms of stress

arisen in the world?

The Buddha:

You ask me

the source of stress.

I’ll tell it to you

as one who discerns.

From acquisition1 as cause

the many forms of stress

come into being in the world.

Whoever, unknowing,

makes acquisitions

—the dullard—

comes to stress

again & again.

Therefore, discerning,

you shouldn’t create acquisitions

as you stay focused on

the birth & origin of stress.2


What we asked, you’ve expounded.

Now we ask something else.

Please tell us.

How do the enlightened

cross over the flood of

birth & aging,

lamentation & sorrow?

Please, sage, declare this to me

as this Dhamma has

been known by you.

The Buddha:

I will expound to you Dhamma


not quoted words—

knowing which, living mindfully,

you’ll cross over beyond

entanglement in the world.


And I relish,     Great Seer,

that Dhamma     supreme,

knowing which, living mindfully,

I’ll cross over beyond

entanglement in the world.

The Buddha:

Whatever you’re alert to,

above, below,

across, in between3:

Dispelling any delight,

any entrenchment

in those things,

consciousness should not take a stance

in becoming.4

The monk who dwells thus

—mindful, heedful—

letting go of his sense of mine,

knowing right here would abandon

birth & aging,

lamentation & sorrow,



I relish, Gotama, the Great Seer’s words

well-expounded, without acquisition,

for yes, Blessed One,

you’ve abandoned stress

as this Dhamma has

been known by you.

And they, too, would abandon stress

those whom you, sage,

would admonish unceasingly.

Having met you, I bow down to you,


Perhaps you will admonish me


The Buddha:

Whoever you recognize

as a brahman, an attainer-of-knowledge

possessing nothing,


in sensuality & becoming—

yes, he has crossed over this flood.

Having crossed to the far shore,

he’s free from rigidity, free

from doubt.

And anyone who has realized,

who is an attainer-of-knowledge here,

having unentangled the bond

to becoming and non-,5

free of craving,



I tell you, has crossed over birth

& aging.

vv. 1049–1060


1. On the meaning of “acquisition,” see Sn 3:12, note 2.

2. This verse is identical with the second set of verses in Sn 3:12.

3. Nd II gives six different valid interpretations for ‘above, below, across, in between’:

a) above = the future; below = the past; across and in between = the present,

b) above = the deva world; below = hell; across and in between = the human world,

c) above = skillfulness; below = unskillfulness; across and in between = indeterminate mental qualities,

d) above = the property of formlessness; below = the property of sensuality; across and in between = the property of form,

e) above = feelings of pleasure; below = feelings of pain; across and in between = feelings of neither pleasure nor pain,

f) above = the body from the feet on up; below = the body from the crown of the head on down; across and in between = the middle of the body.

4. On unestablished consciousness, see SN 12:38, SN 12:63–64, SN 22:53–54, and 22:87. See also the discussion of this topic in The Paradox of Becoming, chapter 7.

5. Becoming and non-becoming (or dis-becoming) are the two most subtle objects of craving that lead on to continued existence—and suffering—in the round of birth and death. See Ud 3:10, Iti 49, and MN 49, note 10. See also, The Paradox of Becoming.

See also: SN 35:197; AN 3:77–78