The Middle Length Discourses: MN 143 Advice to Anathapindika, Anathapindikovada Sutta
Pages 1109 – 1113
To be read out loud: sections 4 – 15
In this sutta, the generous lay disciple Anathapindika asks Sariputta to visit him as he lay on his deathbed in tremendous pain. As we read and reflect on Sariputta’s instructions to Anathapindika, it is important to remember that Anathapindika had realized the first stage of awakening.
In a systematic and thorough manner, Sariputta encourages Anathapindika to refrain from clinging to anything in this world. He ends his instructions with the following statement: “Householder, you should train thus: ‘I will not cling to what is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, encountered, sought after, and examined by the mind, and my consciousness will not be dependent on that.’ Thus you should train.”
We can speculate how the instructions might have been different if Anathapindika were not so advanced in his practice. Maybe Sariputta would have started by reminding him of all his past acts of generosity in order to provide pleasant and wholesome memories to help bring his mind back into balance. In any case, the instruction on non-clinging seemed to help. Let’s reflect on and train with this instruction on non-clinging this month. Remember, non-clinging is meant to be a training, not a view. It is not about believing that nothing in the world is worth clinging to. We could have endless arguments about that. Rather, it is about observing directly what is more skillful in your life, relating with an attitude of clinging or relating to experience with an attitude of non-clinging. As the Buddha emphasized, the path of practice is always about suffering and the ending of suffering. It is not about coming to some philosophical conclusion about the world.