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A Little Spell of Emptiness

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds


I hear tell:
Once Upon A Time, The Lucky Man, Saatthi!To"n, #ast!Park, The Palace of Mi$ara%s Mother came!
a!isitin$& At this time, 'nanda, (ust emer$in$ from his afternoon%s sit do"n practice, "ent to the
Teacher, $reeted him, and sat do"n to one side& There he said:
Sir, at one time, The Lucky Man "as residin$ amon$ the Sakyans in the market to"n of )a$araka, and
I, also, "as there& In that place, I recall hain$ heard, learnt, studied, $rasped, face!to!face "ith the
Lucky Man, this statement made by him: *At this time, 'nanda, I reside in the fullness of emptiness&*
+id I hear this correctly,
-es, 'nanda, you heard, learnt, studied, $rasped this correctly& Preiously, as "ell as no", I reside in
the fullness of emptiness&
In the same "ay, 'nanda, as this Palace of Mi$ara%s Mother .1/ is empty of the disturbances of the city:
empty of elephants, co"s, horses, asses0 empty of dealin$s "ith $old and siler0 empty of $roups of
men and "omen, and there is only this that remains to disturb the emptiness: that is, the ibration
emanatin$ off the be$$ars here0 in the same "ay, a be$$ar, payin$ no attention to the disturbances of
the city, payin$ no attention to human bein$s, pays attention only to the ibration emanatin$ off the
forest& 1e takes to payin$ attention only to perception of the forest, and cleans out, tidies up and
liberates his mind&
1e understands: *This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of the city& This "ay
there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of human bein$s& This "ay there is only that
disturbance "hich emanates off perception of the forest&* Thus: *This "ay is empty of disturbance
emanatin$ from perception of the city& This "ay is empty of disturbance emanatin$ from perception of
human bein$s& This "ay there is only this that disturbs the emptiness: that is, the ibration "hich
emanates off perception of the forest&*
In this "ay he re$ards that "hich is present as empty of that "hich is not present0 and, "ith re$ard to
"hat remains, he understands that: 2That bein$0 this is&%
Thus, 'nanda, there is in the case of this case, a sittin$!do"n!to!empty!out that results in surpassin$
purity&
And a$ain, 'nanda, deeper than that, payin$ no attention to human bein$s, payin$ no attention to the
forest, he takes to payin$ attention only to perception of earth, and cleans out, tidies up and liberates his
mind&
In the same "ay as he "ould re$ard a bull%s hide, stretched out to cure, held do"n by a hundred pe$s,
it%s life done $one0 "hen he pays attention to earth, he does not think about anythin$ on earth such as
dry land or riers or s"amps or marshes "ith plants "ith branches and thorns or mountains or plains,
but he only (ust pays attention to the ibration "hich emanates off perception of earth& 1e takes to
payin$ attention only to perception of earth, and cleans out, tidies up and liberates his mind&
1e understands: *This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of human bein$s& This
"ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of the forest&* Thus: *This "ay is empty of
disturbance emanatin$ from perception of human bein$s& This "ay is empty of disturbance emanatin$
from perception of the forest& This "ay there is only this that disturbs the emptiness: that is, the
ibration "hich emanates off perception of earth&*
In this "ay he re$ards that "hich is present as empty of that "hich is not present0 and, "ith re$ard to
"hat remains, he understands that: 2That bein$0 this is&%
Thus, 'nanda, there is in the case of this case, a sittin$!do"n!to!empty!out that results in surpassin$
purity&
And a$ain, 'nanda, deeper than that, payin$ no attention to the forest, payin$ no attention to earth, he
takes to payin$ attention only to perception of The Sphere of Unlimited Space, and cleans out, tidies up
and liberates his mind&
1e understands: *This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of the forest& This "ay
there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of earth&* Thus: *This "ay is empty of disturbance
emanatin$ from perception of the forest& This "ay is empty of disturbance emanatin$ from perception
of earth& This "ay there is only this that disturbs the emptiness: that is, the ibration "hich emanates
off perception of the Sphere of Unlimited Space&*
In this "ay he re$ards that "hich is present as empty of that "hich is not present, and, "ith re$ard to
"hat remains, he understands that 2That bein$, this is&%
Thus, 'nanda, there is in the case of this case, a sittin$!do"n!to!empty!out that results in surpassin$
purity&
And a$ain, 'nanda, deeper than that, payin$ no attention to earth, payin$ no attention to The Sphere of
Unlimited Space, he takes to payin$ attention only to perception of the Sphere of Unlimited
3onsciousness, and cleans out, tidies up and liberates his mind&
1e understands: *This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of earth& This "ay there
is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of The Sphere of Unlimited Space&* Thus: *This "ay is
empty of disturbance emanatin$ from perception of earth& This "ay is empty of disturbance emanatin$
from perception of The Sphere of Unlimited Space& This "ay there is only this that disturbs the
emptiness: that is, the ibration "hich emanates off perception of the Sphere of Unlimited
3onsciousness&*
In this "ay he re$ards that "hich is present as empty of that "hich is not present, and, "ith re$ard to
"hat remains, he understands that 2That bein$, this is&%
Thus, 'nanda, there is in the case of this case, a sittin$!do"n!to!empty!out that results in surpassin$
purity&
And a$ain, 'nanda, deeper than that, payin$ no attention to The Sphere of Unlimited Space, payin$ no
attention to The Sphere of Unlimited 3onsciousness, he takes to payin$ attention only to perception of
The Sphere 4here )o Thin$%s There, and cleans out, tidies up and liberates his mind&
1e understands: *This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of The Sphere of
Unlimited Space& This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from the perception of The Sphere of
Unlimited 3onsciousness&* Thus: *This "ay is empty of disturbance emanatin$ from perception of the
Sphere of Unlimited Space& This "ay is empty of disturbance emanatin$ from perception of The
Sphere of Unlimited 3onsciousness& This "ay there is only this that disturbs the emptiness: that is, the
ibration "hich emanates off perception of the Sphere 4here )o Thin$%s There&*
In this "ay he re$ards that "hich is present as empty of that "hich is not present, and, "ith re$ard to
"hat remains, he understands that 2That bein$, this is&%
Thus, 'nanda, there is in the case of this case, a sittin$!do"n!to!empty!out that results in surpassin$
purity&
And a$ain, 'nanda, deeper than that, payin$ no attention to The Sphere of Unlimited 3onsciousness,
payin$ no attention to The Sphere 4here )o Thin$%s There, he takes to payin$ attention only to
perception of The Sphere of )either Perception )or )on Perception, and cleans out, tidies up and
liberates his mind&
1e understands: *This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of The Sphere of
Unlimited 3onsciousness& This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of The Sphere
4here )o Thin$%s There&* Thus: *This "ay is empty of disturbance emanatin$ from perception of the
Sphere of Unlimited 3onsciousness& This "ay is empty of disturbance emanatin$ from the perception
of The Sphere 4here )o Thin$%s There& This "ay there is only this that disturbs the emptiness: that is,
the ibration "hich emanates off perception of the Sphere of )either Perception )or )on Perception&*
In this "ay he re$ards that "hich is present as empty of that "hich is not present, and, "ith re$ard to
"hat remains, he understands that 2That bein$, this is&%
Thus, 'nanda, there is in the case of this case, a sittin$!do"n!to!empty!out that results in surpassin$
purity&
And a$ain, 'nanda, deeper than that, payin$ no attention to The Sphere 4here )o Thin$%s There,
payin$ no attention to The Sphere of )either Perception )or )on Perception, he takes to payin$
attention only to the mental 1i$h!5ettin$ that is Si$n!less, and cleans out, tidies up and liberates his
mind&
1e understands: *This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of The Sphere 4here )o
Thin$%s There& This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from perception of the Sphere of )either
Perception )or )on Perception&* Thus: *This "ay is empty of disturbance emanatin$ from perception
of The Sphere 4here )o Thin$%s There& This "ay is empty of disturbance emanatin$ from perception
of The Sphere of )either Perception )or )on Perception& This "ay there is only this that disturbs the
emptiness: that is, the si6 sense!realms bound to this body reactin$ to life&*
In this "ay he re$ards that "hich is present as empty of that "hich is not present, and, "ith re$ard to
"hat remains, he understands that 2That bein$, this is&%
Thus, 'nanda, there is in the case of this case, a sittin$!do"n!to!empty!out that results in surpassin$
purity&
And a$ain, 'nanda, deeper than that, payin$ no attention to The Sphere 4here )o Thin$%s There,
payin$ no attention to The Sphere of )either Perception )or )on Perception, he takes to payin$
attention only to the mental 1i$h!5ettin$ that is Si$n!less, and cleans out, tidies up and liberates his
mind&
1e understands: *This Mental 1i$h!5ettin$ that is Si$n!less is somethin$ that has been constructed,
thou$ht out& 4hateer has been constructed or thou$ht out is sub(ect to chan$e and comin$ to an end&*
7no"in$ and seein$ this, his heart is free from the $rip of sense pleasures, his heart is freed from the
$rip of liin$, his mind is free from the $rip of blindness& In 8reedom comes the kno"led$e of
8reedom, and he kno"s: *Left 9ehind is :ebirth, Lied is the 9est of Lies, +one is +uty%s +oin$,
3rossed oer Am I0 )o More It%n and At%n for Me;*
1e understands: *This "ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from the $rip of sense pleasures& This
"ay there is no disturbance emanatin$ from the $rip of liin$& This "ay there is no disturbance
emanatin$ from the $rip of blindness&* Thus: *This "ay is empty of the disturbance emanatin$ from the
$rip of sense pleasures& This "ay is empty of the disturbance emanatin$ from the $rip of liin$& This
"ay is empty of the disturbance emanatin$ from the $rip of blindness& This "ay there is only this that
disturbs the emptiness, that is the si6 sense!realms bound to this body reactin$ to life&*
In this "ay he re$ards that "hich is present as empty of that "hich is not present, and, "ith re$ard to
"hat remains, he understands that 2That bein$, this is&%
Thus, 'nanda, there is in the case of this case, a sittin$!do"n!to!empty!out that results in surpassin$
purity&
And, 'nanda, all those Shamen or 9rahmen of the lon$ distant past "ho attained the hi$hest surpassin$
purity of emptiness and made it a habitat, all of them did so by attainin$ this same hi$hest surpassin$
purity of emptiness and makin$ it a habitat&
And, 'nanda, all those Shamen or 9rahmen "ho in the far distant future "ill attain the hi$hest
surpassin$ purity of emptiness and make it a habitat, all of them "ill do so by attainin$ this same
hi$hest surpassin$ purity of emptiness and makin$ it a habitat&
And, 'nanda, all those Shamen or 9rahmen "ho at present are able to attain the hi$hest surpassin$
purity of emptiness and make it a habitat, all of them do so by attainin$ this same hi$hest surpassin$
purity of emptiness and makin$ it a habitat&
4herefore, 'nanda, train yourself this "ay: *I "ill attain the hi$hest surpassin$ purity of emptiness
and make a habitat of that&*

Footnote:
.1/ Pasade: Palace, 9alustrade, Terraced house0 as "e understand it today not much more ele$ant than
"hat "ould hae been a "ell constructed t"o!story adobe home in "hat "e mi$ht call an *open space
presere* !! a bit of forest nearby to"n& The Palace "as apparently coered top to bottom in precious
ru$s and cloth coerin$s&