The Sūtra on the Control of the Mind

Taishō no. 96

Anonymous Translator (dating to 265-316)

Translated into English by Shaku Shingan (23.12.2023)

The Buddha said:

Having been endowed with Ānāpānasmṛti [recollection of exhalation and inhalation] as a practice in accord with the Dharma and wishing to train step by step, accord with the Buddha's teachings to attain illumination in the world, like the moon emerging from the clouds: establish the mind in the body, whether sitting or reclining. 

For a bhikṣu who has established their mind in such a way, there is benefit before and after; having benefitted before and after, they will no longer see disturbing thoughts; having stilled the mind, one also guards against the six corruptors [i.e., the senses]; always guarding without interruption, one knows the body without activity. 

If every thought is constantly guarding the body, one ceases longing, neither longing for becoming, nor doubting becoming, nor doubting non-becoming, and step by step, practising amidst doubts, one quickly transcends birth and death. If one has thoughts of alarm, one knows establishment in joy and purity; constantly contemplating the Dharma, one can transcend old age and illness. Thus, if one could be alarmed by illness, one who diligently practises the Path and knows one's own thoughts can sever the bonds of birth and old age and attain the exhaustion of suffering in this life. Having listened to admonishment, they turn sleep into wakefulness, being alert when lying down, and being fearless due to alertness. Having diligently studied day and night amidst awareness and rest, seeking the deathless, they thus attain the cessation of suffering. 

One with these benefits takes refuge in the Buddha, constantly keeping the Buddha in their thoughts day and night, having awakened to awakening, as the Buddha's disciples always do. If, throughout the night, one constantly recollects the Dharma, and likewise the Saṅgha, and the practice of the precepts, and generosity, and protection of the body, and the practice of meditation, and one does not harm others, and one concentrates the mind, and likewise regarding emptiness, then, having awakened, one can awaken: as the Buddha's disciples always do.


How does one know the body without activity?

Teacher's answer:

The polluted body is the body without activity.

What is practising step by step?

Practising step by step means to remove obstacles as they arise constantly.

What is constantly contemplating the Dharma?

Constantly contemplating the Dharma means constantly discerning the six senses as they perceive.

What is practising the Path and knowing one's own thoughts?

This is to teach people diligence: first, practise regarding one's own thoughts: guard one's own body and guard one's own thoughts; this is regarding self-benefit. When the benefit for devas is not yet fulfilled, guard oneself [in this way] and having [obtained] the [necessary] merit, it is completed, and one attains dhyāna.

Translator's note:

This text contains atypical phrasing and grammatical structures that are not usually found in Buddhist Chinese. Moreover, it does not use standard Buddhist terminology and may have been adapted from a non-canonical source or simplified for a particular audience. Moreover, the final exchange is also particularly atypical, with "teacher's answer" being given where we would usually expect the name of a student or teacher (presumably the Buddha, in this case). The provenance of the source text is unknown as its translator, and there are no known parallels.