Bhikkhu Nanananda, Nibbana Sermon 5. http://lirs.ru/do/sutra/Nibbana_Sermons,Nanananda.pdf
"`Monks, have you seen a picture called a movie (caraṇa)?'
`Yes, Lord.' `Monks, even that picture called a movie is some-
thing thought out by the mind. But this mind, monks, is more
picturesque than that picture called a movie. Therefore, monks,
you should reflect moment to moment on your own mind with
the thought: For a long time has this mind been defiled by lust,
hate, and delusion. By the defilement of the mind, monks, are
beings defiled. By the purification of the mind, are beings pu-
Monks, I do not see any other class of beings as picturesque
as beings in the animal realm. But those beings in the animal
realm, monks, are also thought out by the mind. And the mind,
monks, is far more picturesque than those beings in the ani-
mal realm. Therefore, monks, should a monk reflect moment
to moment on one's own mind with the thought: For a long
time has this mind been defiled by lust, hate, and delusion. By
the defilement of the mind, monks, are beings defiled. By the
purification of the mind, are beings purified."
Here the Buddha gives two illustrations to show how mar-
vellous this mind is. First he asks the monks whether they have
seen a picture called caraṇa. Though the word may be rendered
by movie, it is not a motion picture of the sort we have today.
According to the commentary, it is some kind of variegated
painting done on a mobile canvas-chamber, illustrative of the
results of good and evil karma. Whatever it may be, it seems
to have been something marvellous. But far more marvellous,
according to the Buddha, is this mind. The reason given is that
even such a picture is something thought out by the mind.
Then, by way of an advice to the monks, says the Buddha:
`Therefore, monks, you should reflect on your mind moment to
moment with the thought: For a long time this mind has been
defiled by lust, hate, and delusion.' The moral drawn is that be-
ings are defiled by the defilement of their minds and that they
are purified by the purification of their minds. This is the illus-
tration by the simile of the picture.
And then the Buddha goes on to make another significant
declaration: `Monks, I do not see any other class of beings as
picturesque as beings in the animal realm.' But since those be-
ings also are thought out by the mind, he declares that the mind
is far more picturesque than them. Based on this conclusion, he
repeats the same advice as before.
At first sight the sutta, when it refers to a picture, seems
to be speaking about the man who drew it. But there is some-
thing deeper than that. When the Buddha says that the picture
called caraṇa is also something thought out by the mind, he is
not simply stating the fact that the artist drew it after thinking
it out with his mind. The reference is rather to the mind of the
one who sees it. He, who sees it, regards it as something mar-
vellous. He creates a picture out of it. He imagines something
picturesque in it.
In fact, the allusion is not to the artist's mind, but to the
spectator's mind. It is on account of the three defilements lust,
hate, and delusion, nurtured in his mind for a long time, that he
is able to appreciate and enjoy that picture. Such is the nature
of those influxes.
That is why the Buddha declared that this mind is far more
picturesque than the picture in question. So if one turns back
to look at one's own mind, in accordance with the Buddha's ad-
vice, it will be a wonderful experience, like watching a movie.
Why? Because reflection reveals the most marvellous sight in
But usually one does not like to reflect, because one has to
turn back to do so. One is generally inclined to look at the thing
in front. However, the Buddha advises us to turn back and look
at one's own mind every moment. Why? Because the mind is
more marvellous than that picture called caraṇa, or movie.
It is the same declaration that he makes with reference to
the beings in the animal realm. When one comes to think about
it, there is even less room for doubt here, than in the case of the
picture. First of all, the Buddha declares that there is no class
of beings more picturesque than those in the animal realm. But
he follows it up with the statement that even those beings are
thought out by the mind, to draw the conclusion that as such
the mind is more picturesque than those beings of the animal
Let us try to sort out the point of this declaration. Gener-
ally, we may agree that beings in the animal realm are the most
picturesque. We sometimes say that the butterfly is beautiful.
But we might hesitate to call a blue fly beautiful. The tiger is
fierce, but the cat is not. Here one's personal attitude accounts
much for the concepts of beauty, ugliness, fierceness, and in-
nocence of animals. It is because of the defiling influence of
influxes, such as ignorance, that the world around us appears
Based on this particular sutta, with its reference to the
caraṇa picture as a prototype, we may take a peep at the mod-
ern day's movie film, by way of an analogy. It might facilitate
the understanding of the teachings on paṭicca samuppāda and
Nibbāna in a way that is closer to our everyday life. The prin-
ciples governing the film and the drama are part and parcel of
the life outside cinema and the theatre. But since it is generally
difficult to grasp them in the context of the life outside, we shall
now try to elucidate them with reference to the cinema and the
Usually a film or a drama is shown at night. The reason for
it is the presence of darkness. This darkness helps to bring out
the darkness of ignorance that dwells in the minds of beings. So
the film as well as the drama is presented to the public within
a framework of darkness. If a film is shown at day time, as a
matinee show, it necessitates closed windows and dark curtains.
In this way, films and dramas are shown within a curtained en-
There is another strange thing about these films and dramas.
One goes to the cinema or the theatre saying: "I am going to
see a film show, I am going to see a drama". And one returns
saying: "I have seen a film show, I have seen a drama". But
while the film show or the drama is going on, one forgets that
one is seeing a show or a drama.
Such a strange spell of delusion takes over. This is due to
the intoxicating influence of influxes. If one wishes to enjoy a
film show or a drama, one should be prepared to get intoxicated
by it. Otherwise it will cease to be a film show or a drama for
What do the film producers and dramatists do? They pre-
pare the background for eliciting the influxes of ignorance, la-
tent in the minds of the audience. That is why such shows and
performances are held at night, or else dark curtains are em-
ployed. They have an intricate job to do. Within the framework
of darkness, they have to create a delusion in the minds of their
audience, so as to enact some story in a realistic manner.
To be successful, a film or a drama has to be given a touch of
realism. Though fictitious, it should be apparently real for the
audience. There is an element of deception involved, a hood-
wink. For this touch of realism, quite a lot of make-up on the
part of actors and actresses is necessary. As a matter of fact,
in the ancient Indian society, one of the primary senses of the
word saṅkhāra was the make-up done by actors and actresses.
Now in the present context, saṅkhāra can include not only
this make-up in personal appearance, but also the acting itself,
the delineation of character, stage-craft etc.. In this way, the
film producers and dramatists create a suitable environment,
making use of the darkness and the make-up contrivances.
These are the saṅkhāras, or the `preparations'.
However, to be more precise, it is the audience that make
preparations, in the last analysis. Here too, as before, we are
compelled to make a statement that might appear strange: So
far not a single cinema has held a film show and not a single
theatre has staged a drama.
And yet, those who had gone to the cinema and the theatre
had seen film shows and dramas. Now, how can that be? Usu-
ally, we think that it is the film producer who produced the film
and that it is the dramatist who made the drama.
But if we are to understand the deeper implications of what
the Buddha declared, with reference to the picture caraṇa, a
film show or drama is produced, in the last analysis, by the spec-
tator himself. When he goes to the cinema and the theatre, he
takes with him the spices needed to concoct a film or a drama,
and that is: the influxes, or āsavas. Whatever technical defects
and shortcomings there are in them, he makes good with his
As we know, in a drama there is a certain interval between
two scenes. But the average audience is able to appreciate even
such a drama, because they are influenced by the influxes of
sense desire, existence, and ignorance.
With the progress in science and technology, scenes are
made to fall on the screen with extreme rapidity. All the same,
the element of delusion is still there. The purpose is to create
the necessary environment for arousing delusion in the minds
of the audience. Whatever preparations others may make, if the
audience does not respond with their own preparations along
the same lines, the drama will not be a success. But in general,
the worldlings have a tendency to prepare and concoct, so they
would make up for any short comings in the film or the drama
with their own preparations and enjoy them.
Now, for instance, let us think of an occasion when a film
show is going on within the framework of darkness. In the
case of a matinee show, doors and windows will have to be
closed. Supposing the doors are suddenly flung open, while a
vivid technicolour scene is flashing on the screen, what happens
then? The spectators will find themselves suddenly thrown out
of the cinema world they had created for themselves. Why?
Because the scene in technicolour has now lost its colour. It
has faded away. The result is dejection, disenchantment. The
film show loses its significance.
That film show owed its existence to the dark framework
of ignorance and the force of preparations. But now that the
framework has broken down, such a vast change has come over,
resulting in a disenchantment. Now the word rāga has a nuance
suggestive of colour, so virāga, dispassion, can also literally
mean a fading away or a decolouration. Here we have a possible
instance of nibbidā virāga, disenchantment, dispassion, at least
in a limited sense.
A door suddenly flung open can push aside the delusion,
at least temporarily. Let us consider the implications of this
little event. The film show, in this case, ceases to be a film
show because of a flash of light coming from outside. Now,
what would have happened if this flash of light had come from
within - from within one's mind? Then also something similar
would have happened. If the light of wisdom dawns on one's
mind while watching a film show or a drama, one would even
wonder whether it is actually a film or a drama, while others are
Speaking about the film show, we mentioned above that the
spectator has entered into a world of his own creation. If we
are to analyse this situation according to the law of dependent
origination, we may add that in fact he has a consciousness and
a name-and-form in line with the events of the story, based on
the preparations in the midst of the darkness of ignorance. With
all his experiences in seeing the film show, he is building up his
Therefore, when the light of wisdom comes and dispels the
darkness of ignorance, a similar event can occur. One will come
out of that plane of existence. One will step out of the world of
sense desires, at least temporarily.