Buddhist Scriptures, by E.J. Thomas, , at sacred-texts.com
The same questions as in the two previous passages occur in the following discourse with the wandering ascetic Vacchagotta. When asked why he refuses to answer them, Buddha gives the following reply.
"Vaccha, the view that the world is eternal is a jungle, a wilderness, a theatrical show, a perversion, a fetter, and is coupled with suffering, destruction, despair, and pain, and does not tend to aversion, absence of passion, cessation, tranquillity, supernatural faculty, perfect knowledge, Nirvana. . . . Considering it disadvantageous, Vaccha, I have accordingly adopted none of these views." "But has Gotama any view?" "The Tathāgata, Vaccha, is free from views, for this is what the Tathāgata holds: form, the cause of form, the destruction of form, sensation, the cause of sensation, the destruction of sensation, perception, the aggregates of qualities, consciousness, how they arise and perish. Therefore with the destruction of, and indifference towards, and the ceasing and abandonment of
all imaginings, all agitations, all false views of the self or of anything belonging to a self, the Tathāgata is liberated, thus I say."
"But where is the monk re-born, sir Gotama, whose mind is thus liberated?" "It does not fit the case, Vaccha, to say he is re-born." "Then, sir Gotama, he is not re-born." "It does not fit the case, Vaccha, to say he is not re-born." "Then, sir Gotama, he is both re-born and not re-born." "It does not fit the case, Vaccha, to say he is both re-born and not re-born." Then, sir Gotama, he is neither re-born nor not re-born." "It does not fit the case, Vaccha, to say he is neither re-born nor not re-born" . . . "In this matter, sir Gotama, I feel in a state of ignorance and confusion, and the small amount of faith that I had in Gotama through a former conversation has now disappeared." "Enough of your ignorance and confusion, Vaccha, for deep is this doctrine, difficult to be seen and comprehended, good, excellent, beyond the sphere of reasoning, subtle, intelligible only to the wise. It is difficult to be understood by you, who hold other views, another faith, other inclinations, another discipline, and have another teacher. Therefore, Vaccha, I will ask you this, and do you explain it as you may please. Do you think, Vaccha, that if a fire were burning before you, you would know that a fire was burning before you?" "If a fire were burning before me, sir Gotama, I
should know that a fire was burning before me." "And if some one asked you on what the fire burning before you depends, how would you explain it?" . . . "I should say that this fire which is burning before me depends on its clinging to grass and sticks." "If the fire before you were to go out, would you know that the fire before you had gone out?" "If the fire before me were to go out, I should know that the fire had gone out." "And if some one were to ask you, 'Vaccha, in what direction has the fire gone which has gone out, to the east, west, north, or south,' if you were thus asked, how would you explain it?" "It does not fit the case, sir Gotama, to say so, for the fire burned through depending on its clinging to grass and sticks, and through its consuming this, and not getting any other, it is without food, and comes to be what is called extinct." "And just so, Vaccha, that form by which one would assert the existence of a Tathāgata has ceased, it is uprooted, it is pulled up like a taliput-palm, made non-existent, and not liable to arise again in the future. The Tathāgata, who is released from what is called form, is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, and like a great ocean. It does not fit the case to say he is born again, to say he is not born again, to say he is both born again and not born again, or to say he is neither born again nor not born again. . . ."
At these words the wandering ascetic Vaccha said to the Lord, "Sir Gotama, it is as if there were a great sal-tree near a village or town, and from the nature of its growth its branches and leaves were to fall, the pieces of bark, and fibrous wood; and afterwards, with the disappearance of these branches, leaves, pieces of bark, and small fibre, it were to be established, pure in its strength. Even so does this discourse of Gotama, with the disappearance of branches, leaves, pieces of bark and small fibre, stand established, pure in its strength. Wonderful, sir Gotama, wonderful, sir Gotama, it is as if one were setting up what was overturned, or revealing what was hidden, or showing the way to one who was lost, or putting a lamp in the dark—they who have eyes see visible things—even so has the doctrine been expounded by Gotama in many ways. I go to Gotama as a refuge, and to the doctrine, and to the assembly of brethren. May Gotama take me as a lay-disciple from this day forth while my life lasts, who have come to him for refuge." (Majjh. Nik. I. 485 ff.)