What is Ablaze?

I got this excerpt from PANKAJ MISHRA's An End to Suffering (The Buddha in the World): Picador India, a great book on the Buddha's journey on planet Earth. It's an amazing book on Siddhartha Gautama and his travels on this plane, his teachings and how they make sense to a Western logician. I for one didn't know about this Fire Sermon until I read this book. This is what the Buddha is supposed to have preached to a thousand matt-locked ascetics on top of a hill in Gaya. He's giving them a different take on the FIRE they have been worshipping for ages.

"The eyes are ablaze. The form is ablaze. The mental functions are ablaze. The contact of the eye is ablaze. The sensations produced by the contact of the eye are ablaze.

The ears are ablaze. Sounds are ablaze. The nose is ablaze. Smells are ablaze. The tongue is ablaze. Tastes are ablaze. The body is ablaze. The mind is ablaze. Mental functions are ablaze.

But what are they ablaze (with)? They are ablaze with the fire of greed, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of delusion, ablaze with the fire of birth, old age, death, grief, lamentation, suffering, sorrow, and despair....

A disciple who is well-learned, Bhikshus, when he considers things in this way, he grows weary of the eye... He grows weary of the ear. He grows weary of the mental functions of the eyes and ears.... Growing weary of them, he rids himself of greed. Being rid of greed, he is liberated.

Being liberated, he becomes aware of his liberation and realises that birth is exhausted, that what is necessary has been done. And that he will not return to this world again."

From the original 'Samyutta Nikaya' (translated as The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, Boston, Wisdom Publications, 2000)


  1. have you read "the wasteland"? eliot sa'ab.

    among the gazillion other references in this obscure piece of work, one of the most solid ones is to the Fire Sermon. that's where i got introduced to it.

  2. Dhiraj, I'm confused. Do you refer to the fire worship within the Vedic tradition ("FIRE they have been worshipping for ages")? Or are you just following the metaphor and fire stands in for human vice?

  3. And when he gets a taste of this new found liberation, his entire being is ablaze to maintain that state forever....i don't think one can be ever be rid of this charming spunk. It never dies out of us :)

  4. Methinks, I haven't :( read the wasteland YET, but PM makes a reference to it in the book. I think it must have been a very hypnotic scene.

    I did mean the Vedic fire worship Mikra. Infact I'd imagine this sermon to be taking place around a huge fire.

    Yeah, I think the Buddha must be ablaze with some kind of cold fire (an incandescence that does not burn him) while preaching this sermon. I can almost see this sermon as a film.... BTW the story doesn't end there the 1000 sadhus cut their matt locks and joined the Sangha shortly after the Fire Sermon.

  5. Really liked the book too...found it very well-researched. I had always liked the statues of Buddha (gave a sense of peace, depending on which era and region the statue came from though) and whatever knowledge I had was bits and pieces, this book added a whole new dimension.

  6. Kaushik-Bidisha I'd recommend two more Buddha books: A Spoke in the Wheel by Amita Kanekar and Karen Armstrong's Buddha.


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