Ploughing the Realm of Mind – Kasibharadvaja sutta

Dhamma Quote - Ploughing the realm of mind - Kasibharadvaja sutta

Conviction (śraddhā) is the seed,

Austerity (tapas) the rain,

Wisdom (prajñā) my yoke and plow,
Conscience (hrī) the pole, mind (manas) the strap,

Mindfulness (smrti) my plowshare and goad.
Guarding the body, guarding the speech,

Restrained in food and belly,
Truthfully (satyam) I dig out weeds,

And gently I cast them away.
Heroic effort (vīrya) is the ox carrying the yoke,

Pulling me to ultimate safety (yogakṣemam),
It goes without turning back.

Having gone, there is no grief.
This is how I plough, and

The fruit that it yields is deathlessness.
Having ploughed in this way,

There is release from all suffering .

– the Buddha in Kasībhāradvāja-sutta (The sutra instructing the farmer Bharadvaja)

Kasibharadvaja sutta is the teaching that the Buddha gave to the farmer Bharadvaja. Though Bharadvaja was already familiar with some style of meditation to calm the mind, he did not know what mental cultivation really meant.

For Bharadvaja, meditation turned out to be just a way of relaxing at the end of a day’s hard effort. It was very much like how most people now-a-days approach meditation. They hear that there is something wonderful called meditation. They think that they too should meditate because it is so much hyped up and life is supposedly incomplete without it. So, after a day’s productive work they just sit idle, blissed-out and withdrawn for a while and think that it is meditation.

One day, the Buddha saw with his insight that Bharadvaja would be a good receptacle for the teaching and that his mind was ripe to understand the true meaning of contemplation. Thus, during his alms round, the Buddha went to the field of the farmer Bharadvaja.

When the Buddha approached him for alms, Bharadvaja told, “I too am a contemplative, but I also plough and sow. And, having ploughed and sown, I eat. You should also plough and sow your own food”.

The Buddha, with his smile imbued with loving kindness answered, “I too, O contemplative, plough and sow. And, daving ploughed and sown, I eat.”

Bharadvaja was perplexed to hear that. He exclaimed that he didn’t see or hear about any produce that the Buddha cultivated by ploughing. Where is his farm! Then, the Buddha explained with the above quoted words.

With these words, the Buddha teaches that just as how we cultivate food in a farmland, we can cultivate great qualities in the vast space of mind. The Buddha teaches how to cultivate mind. Meditation is not about sitting idle and being blissed out. With right level of effort, right wisdom and right discipline, one observes whatever arises in the mind. Then, carefully and gently one weeds out the unwholesome habits, and nourishes the wholesome. Once the weeds are removed in this way and the ground is made fertile, finest of qualities can flourish within us.

Conviction coming from having analysed the teaching and developed certainty regarding the Way is the seed. The readiness to strive and take on difficulties on the Way is the bountiful rain. The wisdom is the yoke and plow that balances and churn the soil of mind. With conscience, vigilance and mindfulness one performs a fine job of ploughing. With restraints on body, speech and food, one truthfully discerns what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. Then, the weeds of unwholesome habits are dug out. One’s own heroic and joyous perseverance on the path are the sturdy oxes that carry one forward to welfare without ever turning back.

Thus, having ploughed the realm of mind, having sowed the seeds of the way, having put the right effort on nurturing the crops, one reaches deathlessness. Here, deathlessness is the release from all kinds of suffering, the state of boundless joy and peace.

Having heard the words from the Buddha, the farmer Bharadvaja realised the right meaning of contemplation. He went for refuge on the Buddha and became a lay disciple. Then, he cultivated not only his food, but also his mind – correctly, carefully and ardently. As it is said in kasibharadvaja sutta, before long, Bharadvaja reaped the fruit and became an Arhat.

In fact, a contemplative who cultivates his or her own mind in this prudent way, also contributes greatly to the welfare of the society at large. What do the contemplatives give to the world? They radiate peace, they lead others to peace, they inspire virtue and harmony, and they lay the foundations of a welfare society with loving kindness and compassion. The great emperors of the past, such as Emperor Ashoka, built their welfare state on such foundations.

Yogi Prabodha Jnana
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