There are a few questions I have about this Sutta (SN 42.12 Rasiya Sutta) based on the following passages:

They make themselves happy and pleased. This is the second ground for praise.

They don’t make themselves happy and pleased. This is the second ground for criticism.

Is the Buddha advocating delighting in sensuality here? If so is that not in line with the majority of what he teaches?

They enjoy that wealth untied, uninfatuated, unattached, seeing the drawbacks, and understanding the escape. This is the fourth ground for praise. This pleasure seeker may be praised on these four grounds.

How does someone enjoy sensual pleasures and yet be unattached to them?

In this case, the third self-mortifier may be criticized on one ground, and praised on two. What is the one ground for criticism? They mortify and torment themselves. This is the one ground for criticism. What are the two grounds for praise? They achieve a skillful quality. This is the first ground for praise. They realize a superhuman distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones. This is the second ground for praise. This self-mortifier may be criticized on this one ground, and praised on two.

How does self mortification lead to a superhuman state and if so why is it praiseworthy?

2 Answers 2


"Making oneself happy and pleased" refers to Emotional Intelligence - maintaining one's mind in a positive state as opposed to cultivating a maimed and wounded condition.

This is the point I did not understand for many years of my Buddhist practice - that cultivating a positive, energized, confident state of mind is a critical piece of the Buddhist puzzle.

This is very different from pursuit of sensory pleasures. When you chase after sensory pleasures - you are either hungry and looking for more, or you are tired and exhausted from overindulging.

In contrast with that, Buddha is talking about being self-sufficient and stable.

In case of the householder that means cultivating a peaceful and harmonious environment (within one's control) and dwelling in that - which by itself is a kind of lay Buddhist practice.

For the ordained, that means being satisfied with the homeless life, and ultimately refers to the practice of the First Jhana and subsequent jhanas all the way to Liberation itself.


Since this sutta is not a short one, it's important to note the context: it basically distinguishes various types of householders along a graded scale of excellence, and the sutta also evaluates different types of ascetics using similar analysis. Ven. Bodhi's note in "Connected Discourses" citing Commentary's explanation:

Spk: The pursuit of sensual happiness is mentioned to show the types who enjoy sensual pleasure (II–III); the pursuit of self-mortification to show the ascetics (IV–V); the middle way to show the three types of wearing away (VI). What is the purpose in showing all this? The Tathagata, who attained perfect enlightenment by abandoning the two extremes and by following the middle way, does not criticize or praise all enjoyers of sensual pleasures or all ascetics. He criticizes those who deserve criticism and praises those who deserve praise.

So, the part where it says: "They make themselves happy and pleased" needs to be kept within the context of the householders's level, where enjoyment of the fruit of their labor thru lawful means and effort is a ground for praise, as opposed to making a living thru cheating or unlawful means would be a ground for criticism.

The part where it says the householder using his wealth without being tied to it indicates s/he's not stingy. Not only s/he appropriately uses their wealth for their own happiness, but also share it and do meritorious deeds that benefit many others too.

Regarding the part on self-mortification, the paragraph pretty much speaks for itself. The Buddha praises the parts where it needs to be praised while criticizes the part where it needs to be criticized.

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