Fire Sermon

The "Ādittapariyāya Sutta" (Pali, "Fire Sermon Discourse") or, more simply, "Āditta Sutta" is a discourse from the Pali Canon, popularly known as the Fire Sermon. [For instance, while the Sinhala SLTP edition refers to this discourse as the [ "IAST|Ādittapariyāyasuttaṃ",] the Burmese CSCD edition refers to it as [ "IAST|Ādittasuttaṃ".] [ Ñanamoli (1981),] [ Thanissaro (1993)] and other English translators consistently refer to this (or mention its being referred to) as "The Fire Sermon."] In this discourse, the Buddha preaches about achieving liberation from suffering through detachment from the five senses and mind.

In the Pali Canon, the "Adittapariyaya Sutta" is found in the Samyutta Nikaya ("Connected Collection," abbreviated as either "SN" or "S") and is designated by either "SN 35.28" ["SN 35.28" denotes that this discourse is the twenty-eighth discourse in the 35th group ("IAST|Saḷāyatanasaṃyutta") in the Samyutta Nikaya. (Note that in the Sri Lankan edition of the Canon, the "IAST|Saḷāyatanasaṃyutta" is the 34th group.) As an example, [ Thanissaro (1993)] uses this designation.] or "S iv 1.3.6" ["S iv 1.3.6" denotes that this is the sixth discourse in third group of ten discourses ("Sabbavaggo") in the fourth book ("Catutthobhāgo") in the Samyutta Nikaya. As an example, [ La Trobe University (n.d.)] uses this designation.] or "S iv 19". ["S iv 19" denotes that, in the Pali Text Society edition of the Canon, this discourse starts on page 19 of the fourth volume of the Samyutta Nikaya.] This discourse is also found in the Buddhist monastic code ("Vinaya") at Vin I 35. [La Trobe University (n.d.), Vinaya Pitaka, "Mahavagga", [ BJT p. 72] ; [ Rhys Davids & Oldenberg (1881), the Mahavagga, First Khandhaka,] ch. 21; Bodhi (2005), p. 449, "n". 38; and, Gombrich (1990), p. 16.]

English speakers might be familiar with the name of this discourse due to T. S. Eliot's entitling the third section of his celebrated poem, "The Waste Land", as "The Fire Sermon." In a footnote, Eliot states that this Buddhist discourse "corresponds in importance to the Sermon on the Mount." [Allison "et al". (1975), p. 1042 "n". 9. Eliot concludes "The Fire Sermon" section with: "Burning burning burning burning / O Lord Thou pluckest me out / O Lord Thou pluckest // burning" and associates the identified footnote with the first line represented here ("Burning burning....").]


In the Vinaya, the Fire Sermon is the third discourse delivered by the Buddha (after the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta and the Anattalakkhana Sutta), several months after his enlightenment, on top of the Gayasisa Hill, near Gaya, India. He delivered it to a thousand newly converted ascetics who formerly practiced a sacred fire ritual (Pali: "aggihutta"; Skt.: "agnihotra"). [ [ Rhys Davids & Oldenberg (1881), the Mahavagga, First Khandhaka,] chs. 15 - 21; Gombrich (1990), p. 16; [ Ñanamoli (1981),] "Introduction"; and, La Trobe University (n.d.), Vinaya Pitaka, "Mahavagga", [ BJT pp. 70"ff".] ]

The 5th c. CE post-canonical Pali commentary, "Sāratthappakāsini" (Spk.), attributed to Buddhaghosa, draws a direct connection between the ascetics' prior practices and this discourse's main rhetorical device:::"Having led the thousand bhikkhus [monks] to Gayā's Head, the Blessed One reflected, 'What kind of Dhamma talk would be suitable for them?' He then realized, 'In the past they worshipped the fire morning and evening. I will teach them that the twelve sense bases are burning and blazing. In this way they will be able to attain arahantship.' " [Bodhi (2000), p. 1401, "n". 13.] "


In this discourse, the Buddha describes the sense bases and resultant mental phenomena as "burning" with passion, aversion, delusion and suffering. Seeing such, a noble disciple becomes disenchanted with, dispassionate toward and thus liberated from the senses bases, achieving arahantship. This is described in more detail below. [English based on [ Ñanamoli (1981)] and [ Thanissaro (1993).] Pali based on La Trobe University (n.d.), Samyutta Nikaya, book 4, [ BJT pp. 38] - [ 42] .]

After a prefatory paragraph identifying this discourse's location of deliverance (Gaya) and audience (a thousand monks or "bhikkhus"), the Buddha proclaims (represented here in English and Pali):

"Bhikkhus, all is burning." [ [ Ñanamoli (1981)] .] "IAST|Sabbaṃ bhikkhave ādittaṃ" [ [ La Trobe University (n.d.), Samyutta Nikaya, Book iv, BJT p. 38] (retrieved 28 Sep 2007).]

The ensuing text reveals that "all" ("sabba") refers to:
* the six "internal" sense bases ("ayatana"): eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind
* the six "external" sense bases: visible forms, sound, smells, tastes, touches and mental objects
* consciousness ("IAST|viññāṇa") contingent on these sense bases
* the contact ("samphassa") of a specific sense organ (such as the ear), its sense object (sound) and sense-specific consciousness.
* what is subsequently felt ("vedayita"): pleasure ("sukha"), pain ("dukkha"), or neither ("IAST|adukkhamasukhaṃ").

By "burning" ("āditta") is meant:
* the fire of passion ("rāgagginā")
* the fire of aversion ("dosagginā")
* the fire of delusion ("mohagginā")
* the manifestations of suffering: birth, aging and death, sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses and dispairs. [While this discourse does not explicitly use the word "dukkha" to designate what is here called "suffering" (and, in fact, the word "dukkha" is used in the specific physical notion of "pain"), nonetheless the frequently repeated formula for the Buddhist technical notion of "dukkha" is repeatedly stated, translated here as "birth, aging and death, sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses and dispairs" (Pali: "IAST|jātiyā jarāmaraṇena, sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi").]

According to the Buddha, a well-instructed noble disciple ("sutavā ariyasāvako") sees this burning and thus becomes disenchanted ("nibbindati") with the sense bases and their mental sequelae. The text then uses a formula found in dozens of discourses [For instance, using the search engine at [ La Trobe University (n.d.),] this formulaic phrase (with varying punctuation) was found in MN 11, MN 147, SN 12.61, SN 22.79, SN 22.95, SN 22.136, SN 35.28, SN 35.29, SN 35.60, SN 35.73, SN 35.74, etc.] to describe the manner in which such disenchantment leads to liberation from suffering:

"Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate.
Through dispassion, he is fully released.
With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.'
He discerns that 'Birth is ended,
the holy life fulfilled,
the task done.
There is nothing further for this world.'" [ [ Thanissaro (1993)] .]
"IAST| Nibbindaṃ virajjati
virāgā vimuccati,
vimuttasmiṃ vimuttamiti ñāṇaṃ hoti,
khīṇā jāti,
vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ,
kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ
nāparaṃ itthattāyāti pajānātī ti.
' [ [ La Trobe University (n.d.), Samyutta Nikaya, Book iv, BJT p. 42] (retrieved 28 Sep 2007).]

A closing paragraph reports that, during this discourse, the thousand monks in attendance became liberated.

Related canonical discourses

While the central metaphor of burning combined with "the all" (sense bases, etc.) make this discourse unique in the Pali Canon, its core message can be found throughout, condensed and embellished in a number of instructive ways.

"Andhabhūta/Addhabhūta Sutta" (SN 35.29)

The very next discourse listed in the Samyutta Nikaya (SN 35.29) is nearly identical with the Fire Sermon with the significant exception that, instead of the central metaphor of the senses being "aflame" ("āditta"), this next discourse uses a different metaphor. [For instance, see Bodhi (2000), p. 1144; La Trobe University (n.d.), [ BJT p. 42;] and, Vipassana Research Institute (n.d.), [ IAST|Saḷāyatanasaṃyuttaṃ.]
Beside the central metaphor, the Fire Sermon and the Andhabhuta/Addhabuta Sutta differ in terms of locale and in regards to whom is being addressed; additionally, the last paragraph in the Fire Sermon (regarding the congregation's gratification, delight and release) is not present in the subsequent discourse.
] Bhikkhu Bodhi notes that different editions of the Tipitaka vary as to what this subsequent discourse's central metaphor is: Sinhala editions use the term "andhabhūta" — meaning "figuratively blinded" or "ignorant" — while the Burmese edition and commentary use "addhabhūta" — meaning "weighed down." [Bodhi (2000), p. 1401, "n". 14. Bodhi himself uses the Burmese edition as the basis for his own translation. The translation of "andhabhūta" here is based on Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 49, entry for [ "Andha".] The translation of "addhabhūta" is from Bodhi (2000), p. 1144. To compare the different editions, see the [ Sinhala SLTP] and [ Burmese CSCD] .] Regardless which edition is referenced, both the Fire Sermon and this subsequent discourse, with their seemingly diametric similes of burning and oppressiveness, underline that the senses, their objects and associated mental impressions are unto themselves beyond our complete control and are aversive; and, thus provide the escape of disenchantment, dispassion and release.

"Āditta Sutta" (SN 22.61)

In this discourse, instead of describing the sense bases ("ayatana") as being aflame, the Buddha describes the five aggregates ("khandha") in this manner::"Bhikkhus, form is burning, feeling is burning, perception is burning, volitional formations are burning, consciousness is burning. Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple experiences revulsion towards form ... feeling ... perception ... volitional formations ... consciousness .... Through dispassion [this mind] is liberated...." [Bodhi (2000), pp. 904-5. Square brackets are included in the original. In an associated end note to this discourse (p. 1067, "n". 94), Bodhi writes: "This [SN 22.61] is a compressed version of the fuller Āditta Sutta at [SN] 35:28 ...."]

"IAST|Kukkuḷa Sutta" (SN 22.136)

Like the Fire Sermon, this discourse has a central metaphor related to fire — likening our physical and mental apparatus to hot embers (Pali: "kukkuḷa") — and concludes with the well-instructed noble disciple becoming disenchanted with, dispassionate about and liberated from these burning constituents. Unlike the Fire Sermon, instead of using the sense bases and their mental sequelae as the basis for this burning and disenchantment, this discourse uses the five aggregates ("khandha") for the underlying physical-mental framework. [English based on Bodhi (2000), p. 976. Pali based on La Trobe University (n.d.), [ SN iii, BJT p. 314.] ]

ee also

*Ayatana - includes description of "the All"
*Dukkha ("suffering")
*Agnihotra - type of fire worship previously performed by this discourse's monks according to the Vinaya
*Gaya, India#Holy Sites in Gaya - includes location where this discourse was reputedly delivered



* Allison, Alexander W., Herbert Barrows, Caesar R. Blake, Arthur J. Carr, Arthur M. Eastman and Hubert M. English, Jr. (1975, rev.). "The Norton Anthology of Poetry". NY: W.W. Norton Co. ISBN 0-393-09245-3.

* Bodhi, Bhikkhu (tr.) (2000). "The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the IAST|Saṃyutta Nikāya". Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-331-1.

* Bodhi, Bhikkhu (2005). "In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon". Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-491-1.

* Gombrich, Richard (1990). "Recovering the Buddha's message," in David Seyfort Ruegg & Lambert Schmithausen (eds.), "Earliest Buddhism and Madhyamaka" (1990). Leiden: E.J.Brill. ISBN 90-04-09246-3. Retrieved 26 Sep 2007 from "Google Book Search" at,M1.

* La Trobe University (n.d.), "Pali Canon Online Database," online search engine of Sri Lanka Tripitaka Project's (SLTP) Pali Canon. Retrieved 26 Sep 2007 at

* Ñanamoli Thera (1981). "Three Cardinal Discourses of the Buddha" (The Wheel No. 17). Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society. Retrieved 26 Sep 2007 from "Access to Insight" (1995) at

* Rhys Davids, T.W. & Hermann Oldenberg ("tr.") (1881). "Vinaya Texts". Oxford: Claredon Press. Retrieved 26 Sep 2007 from "Internet Sacred Texts Archive" at

* Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921-5). "The Pali Text Society’s Pali–English Dictionary". Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for the PED is available at

* Thanissaro Bhikkhu (tr.) (1993). "Adittapariyaya Sutta: The Fire Sermon" (SN 35.28). Retrieved 25 Sep 2007 from "Access to Insight" at

* Vipassana Research Institute (n.d.), "The IAST|Pāḷi Tipiṭaka - Roman," online hierarchical organization of the IAST|Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana Tipitaka. Retrieved 28 Sept 2007 from ""The IAST|Pāḷi Tipiṭaka" at

External links

* [ Fire Sermon read aloud] by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • fire-and-brim|stone — fire and brimstone, 1. the fires and tortures of hell; hellfire. 2. any severe punishment or trial. 3. angry or violent denunciation or recrimination: »[The] hearings did not produce the same fire and brimstone over the subject that might have… …   Useful english dictionary

  • fire-and-brimstone — [fīr′ ən brim′stōn΄] adj. characterized by an emphasis on damnation and eternal punishment [a fire and brimstone sermon] …   English World dictionary

  • Sermon — A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, or religious topic, usually expounding on a type of belief or law within both past and present contexts. DeliveryIn Christianity, a sermon (also …   Wikipedia

  • Sermon of the roar of a camel — The roar of a camel (Arabic: al Shiqshiqiyya or ash Shiqshiqiyya ) is a sermon believed by Shi a to have been delivered by Ali. It is most famous for being included in the letter and sermon collection Nahj al Balagha. The sermon has also been… …   Wikipedia

  • fire and brimstone — noun (Old Testament) God s means of destroying sinners (Freq. 1) his sermons were full of fire and brimstone • Topics: ↑Old Testament • Hypernyms: ↑damnation, ↑eternal damnation * * * …   Useful english dictionary

  • fire-and-brimstone — ˌ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷ˈ ̷ ̷(ˌ) ̷ ̷ adjective Etymology: fire and brimstone : of or relating to an ultimate day of violent reckoning and retribution : apocalyptic a hive of revivalism, hymn singing, and fire and brimstone auguries from self appointed minor… …   Useful english dictionary

  • fire and brimstone — 1. noun The traditional punishments of Hell. 2. adjective a) Referencing the power or wrath of God. That preacher gave a real fire and brimstone sermon! b) Stereotypical descriptive for a …   Wiktionary

  • fire-and-brimstone — /fuyeur euhn brim stohn /, adj. threatening punishment in the hereafter: a fire and brimstone sermon. [1795 1805] * * * …   Universalium

  • sermon — I (New American Roget s College Thesaurus) n. homily, lecture, discourse, dissertation, exhortation. See rite, teaching, disapprobation, speech. II (Roget s IV) n. Syn. discourse, address, exhortation, lesson, doctrine, lecture; see also speech 3 …   English dictionary for students

  • fire-and-brimstone — /ˌfaɪər ən ˈbrɪmstoʊn/ (say .fuyuhr uhn brimstohn) adjective relating to a preacher who or sermon which puts emphasis on hell and its eternal torments …   Australian English dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.