The Root of All Evil

Many people think that money is the root of all evil, but the Buddha teaches something totally different in the Mula (or Root) Sutta (Sutra).

In this sutra, the Buddha asks, “In what are all phenomena rooted?” and, as in all sutras, he answers his own question.

Thanissara (Mary Weinberg), a former nun in the Thai Forest tradition gave a dharma talk on this last Sunday night, and I was delighted to learn about this wonderful teaching.


A section of Thanissaro Bhikkhu‘s translation of the Mula Sutta  reads

“‘All phenomena are rooted in desire.

“‘All phenomena come into play through attention.

“‘All phenomena have contact as their origination.

“‘All phenomena have feeling as their meeting place.

“‘All phenomena have concentration as their presiding state.

“‘All phenomena have mindfulness as their governing principle.

“‘All phenomena have discernment as their surpassing state.

“‘All phenomena have release as their heartwood.

“‘All phenomena gain their footing in the deathless.

“‘All phenomena have Unbinding as their final end.’

In the notes, we learn that “all phenomena” refer to the five aggregates (skandhas) of form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness.

As Thanissara read the original Pali, she translated the words of the sutta into English and offered her own interpretation as they related to the five aggregates.

For desire, she also offered an explanation of interest, attention, enthusiasm, speculation and habit.

As she progressed through the subsequent phrases, she kept referring back to the use of the breath to connect with the attributes of the five aggregates as each one of them arises and falls away.

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