SN 12.2 – Paticcasamuppada Vibhaṅga Sutta

Alternate translation: 

At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus (those who see the danger), I will teach and analyze for you dependent origination. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.” “Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

What is dependent origination? Ignorance is a condition for fabricators. Fabricators are a condition for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for mentality and materiality. Mentality and materiality are conditions for the six sense spheres. The six sense spheres are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for attachment. Attachment is a condition for becoming. Becoming is a condition for birth (identity). Birth is a condition for aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

And what is aging and death? The aging, decrepitude, broken teeth, grey hair, wrinkly skin, diminished vitality and failing faculties of them & those beings in this & that category [singular] of beings. This is called aging. The passing away, perishing, disintegration, demise, mortality, death, decease, breaking up of the aggregates and laying to rest of the corpse of them & those beings in this & that category [singular] of beings. This is called death. Such is aging and such is death. This is called aging and death.

And what is birth (identity)? Whatever them & those beings in this & that category [singular] of beings; their identity; their development/transformation; their entry/rites of passage; their production/nurturing/grooming; the appearance/manifestation of their aggregates; their acquisition/appropriation/ taking possession of [whatever relevant] sense spheres. This is called ‘birth’.

And what is becoming? There are these three states of becoming: sensual becoming, form becoming and formless becoming. This is called becoming.

And what is attachment? There are these four kinds of attachment. Sensual pleasure attachment, views & opinions attachment, precepts and observances attachment and theories of a self attachment. This is called attachment.

And what is craving? There are these six classes of craving. Craving for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches and mind objects. This is called craving.

And what is feeling? There are these six classes of feeling. Feeling born of contact through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. This is called feeling.

And what is contact? There are these six classes of contact. Contact through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. This is called contact.

And what are the six sense spheres? The sense fields of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. These are called the six sense spheres.

And what is mentality and materiality? Feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention. This is called mentality. The four primary elements, and form derived from the four primary elements. This is called materiality. Such is mentality and such is materiality. This is called mentality and materiality.

And what is consciousness? There are these six classes of consciousness. Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind consciousness. This is called consciousness.

And what are fabricators? There are three kinds of fabricators: the body fabricator, the speech fabricator and the mind fabricator. These are called fabricators.

And what is ignorance? Not knowing about suffering, the origination of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path of practice that leads to the extinguishing of suffering. This is called ignorance.

And so, ignorance is a condition for fabricators. fabricators are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. When ignorance fades away and extinguishes with nothing left over, fabricators extinguish. When fabricators extinguish, consciousness extinguishes. … That is how this entire mass of suffering extinguishes.

What is right mindfulness?

‘Mindfulness’ is a translation of the Pali word ‘sati’, which means ‘to remember’ or ‘keep in mind’, as described in the following suttas: 

And what is the faculty of mindfulness? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, is mindful, highly meticulous, remembering & able to call to mind even things that were done & said long ago. – SN 48.10 

One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one’s right mindfulness.

 One is mindful to abandon wrong resolve & to enter & remain in right resolve: This is one’s right mindfulness.

One is mindful to abandon wrong speech & to enter & remain in right speech: This is one’s right mindfulness.

One is mindful to abandon wrong action & to enter & remain in right action: This is one’s right mindfulness. 

One is mindful to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter & remain in right livelihood: This is one’s right mindfulness.

MN 117

In Buddhism, ‘mindfulness’ is often misunderstood to be ‘observing’ or ‘watching’ or ‘awareness’ because of  misreading the following standard definition of Right Mindfulness: 

And what, bhikkhus is right mindfulness? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating (ānupassī) the body in the body, ardent (ātāpī), clearly comprehending (sampajāno), mindful (satimā), having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. He dwells contemplating feelings in feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. He dwells contemplating mind in mind, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. He dwells contemplating phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. This is called right mindfulness. SN 45.8

If the above definition is read clearly, it is found the Pali word “ānupassī” (and not “sati”) means to “contemplate” or “observe”. More crucially, the role of “sati” above is to continually remember to “remove/abandon covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world”.  

The Buddha taught in his Right View that the cause of suffering, namely, craving, is to be abandoned. 

It follows the teaching about right mindfulness in MN 117, SN 45.8 and in the meditation suttas of MN 10 and MN 118 is the same, namely, the role of mindfulness is to remember to abandon craving and enter and remain in a state of mind without craving. 

This is affirmed at the end of MN 118, which states right mindfulness matures as “letting go”, “abandonment” or “relinquishment”: 

There is the case where a monk develops mindfulness as a factor for awakening dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. MN 118

Therefore, mindfulness is not related to observing objects. All mindfulness does is keep the mind clear so the mind itself, automatically, observes, discerns & examines objects. 

Again, in the following passage, care must be taken to not mistakenly impute the role of examining objects onto mindfulness. Instead, the only action mindfulness performs in the following passage is putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.

On whatever occasion the monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world, on that occasion his mindfulness is steady & without lapse. When his mindfulness is steady & without lapse, then mindfulness as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it and, for him, it goes to the culmination of its development.

Remaining mindful in this way, he [the mind] examines, analyzes & comes to a comprehension of dhammas with discernment. When he remains mindful in this way — [together with] examining, analyzing & coming to a comprehension of dhammas with discernment — then analysis of dhammas as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it and, for him, it goes to the culmination of its development.

MN 118

Again, for the sake of clarity, MN 43 is quoted below to show it is not “mindfulness” (‘sati”) that examines and discerns objects. MN 43 below states it is “consciousness” (“vinnana”) that discerns objects. 

Discernment & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It’s not possible, having separated them one from the other, to delineate the difference between them. For what one discerns, that one cognizes. What one cognizes, that one discerns. MN 43

To conclude, ‘mindfulness’ means to continually ‘remember’ or ‘keep in mind’. In Buddhist meditation, what is continually remembered or kept in mind is the abandonment of craving. When craving is abandoned, the mind will be silent, clear, sensitive and will automatically know and discern the meditation objects, such as the breathing. When craving is abandoned, there is no need for an act of will to be aware of the breathing. The breathing automatically and naturally will become the meditation object of the quiet silent craving-free mind. 

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“Rebirth” (upapajjati and upapanna)

There are many different words in the Pali suttas translators may universally translate as “rebirth” or “reborn”, such as: (i) abhinibbatti; (ii) opapātikā; (iii) paccājāyati; (iv) upapajjamāne; (v) upapajjissati; (vi) sopapajjati; (vii) upapajjare; (viii) upapatti; (ix) ponobbhavikā; (x) punabbhavo; and (xi) jati. It seems unlikely the Buddha would have used many different words to refer to a sole phenomena of “rebirth”. 

The word “jati” (“birth”; a noun) has previously been explained on this blog to not mean “rebirth”; based on its contextual usage in the texts. Also, the very fact “jati” is the condition for “marana” (“death”) but, to the contrary, “death” (“marana”) is the condition for “rebirth”, shows “jati”cannot be “rebirth”.  

Three most common related Pali words translated as “reborn” are the verb “upapajjati” (“to be reborn”), its past participle “upapanna” (“is/was reborn”) and the resultant verbal noun “upapatti” (“rebirth”).

This explanation will make a case “upapajjati” and “upapanna” do not literally mean “reborn” or “reincarnated” but simply generally mean “to proceed/follow closely from the former”; based in the Pali prefix “upa”, meaning “near” or “close” (I assume “from”) and the root “pad”, meaning “walk, travel or proceed”. 

The word “upapajjati” is found in the contexts of AN 4.6, MN 148 and MN 72, which obviously do not refer to “rebirth” or “reincarnation”:

Appassuto sutena upapanno

Has little learning but from this has proceeded to the point of learning.

AN 4.6

‘Cakkhu attā’ ti yo vadeyya taṃ na upapajjati. Cakkhussa uppādopi vayopi paññāyati.

‘The eye is self ’. Such as statement does not follow/proceed from the arising and vanishing of the eye being evident. 

MN 148

MN 72 offers a compelling example, which says the “non-rebirth” (“na upapajjatī”) of an Arahant does not apply. The suttas commonly say for an Arahant “birth/identity” (jati) is destroyed (SN 22.59); that an Arahant does not take birth (na jāyati; MN 140). Yet MN 72 shows the word “upapajjati” obviously does not mean “rebirth” but something different.

Evaṃ vimuttacitto pana, bho gotama, bhikkhu kuhiṃ upapajjatī ti?

But Master Gotama, when a monk’s mind is freed like this, where do they proceed to/go to?

Upapajjatīti kho, vaccha, na upeti.

‘They proceed/they go’ doesn’t apply, Vaccha.

Tena hi, bho gotama, na upapajjatī ti?

Well then, do they not proceed/not go anywhere?

Na upapajjatīti kho, vaccha, na upeti.

‘They don’t proceed/don’t go’ doesn’t apply, Vaccha.

MN 72

The above is explained in MN 72, with the metaphor an extinguished fire does not go anywhere nor does it not go anywhere, since the fire is “out”; there is no fire. It is also explained because an Arahant cannot be defined or reckoned (saṅkhaya) via a description of the five aggregates, the Arahant, like the fire, has gone “out”; there is no Arahant (with the ending of all identifying, ego, possessiveness & underlying tendency to conceit). 

In other words, because “upapajjati” may possibly mean, as suggested “to proceed/follow closely from the former”; since there is no “former”, there is nothing to proceed or follow from; let alone nothing to not proceed or not follow from. Since the Arahant is not born; the Arahant is not “reborn”; nor is the Arahant not “not reborn”.

It follows the words “upapajjati”, “upapanna” and “upapatti” cannot mean “reincarnation” because the Arahant is not “not upapajjati”. 

In conclusion, it appears the words “upapajjati” and “upapanna” do not literally refer to “rebirth” or “reincarnation” but merely mean something that follows or proceeds from another thing.

So tena kammena evaṃ samattena evaṃ samādinnena kāyassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā apāyaṃ duggatiṃ vinipātaṃ nirayaṃ upapajjati.

Because of undertaking such deeds, at the break up of the body (kaya), after death (marana), they follow on/proceed into a place of loss, a bad place, the underworld, hell.

MN 135

As for the words: “at the break up of the body (kaya), after death (marana)”; these have been explained previously to mean the break up of the “group” or “collection” (kaya) of aggregates to form the basis of the identity (rather than physical death); i.e. “death” (“marana”) of a self-identity or “a being” (“satta”) born from a self-view at “jati’. 

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SN 12.51 – Parivimamsana Sutta

Together with SN 12.25 (Bhūmija Sutta), SN 12.51 (Parivīmaṃsana Sutta) is a sutta that has historically been wrongly used to justify a wrong interpretation of the “sankhara” condition of Dependent Origination. 

As previously posted in this blog, the “sankhara” condition of Dependent Origination properly refers to the kaya sankhara (in & out breathing); vaci sankhara (initial & sustained thought); and citta sankhara (perception & feeling), as defined in MN 44. 

The primary reason why the Parivīmaṃsana Sutta does not explain what “sankhara” are in Dependent Origination is because the meritorious, demeritorious and imperturbable volitional formations mentioned in the sutta are mental states of attachment or clinging, as follows:

He does not generate a meritorious volitional formation, or a demeritorious volitional formation, or an imperturbable volitional formation. Since he does not generate or fashion volitional formations, he does not cling to anything in the world. Not clinging, he is not agitated. Not being agitated, he personally attains Nibbāna. 

SN 12.51

Since meritorious, demeritorious and imperturbable volitional formations are states of clinging (upadana), they form part of the 9th condition of Dependent Origination rather than are the 2nd condition of Dependent Origination. 

Also, the Pali uses the verbs abhisaṅkharoti and anabhisañcetayanto in describing the generation of these volitional formations. Since volition or “cetana” is first mentioned in the 4th condition of Dependent Origination (i.e., at ‘nama-rupa’), volitional formations cannot be generated at the 2nd condition of Dependent Origination. 

More importantly, the Pali term “sankhara” in the 2nd condition of Dependent Origination is a plural. Since it is not possible to generate each of the meritorious, demeritorious and imperturbable volitional formations in one mind moment, these cannot represent sankhara as a plural.

To the contrary, with the arising of ignorance in one mind moment, it is possible for each of the  kaya sankhara (in & out breathing); vaci sankhara (initial & sustained thought); and citta sankhara (perception & feeling) to arise in one mind moment. For example, if ignorance is the arising of an outflow (asava) of sensual desire; sensual thoughts, sensual perceptions, sensual feelings and sensual breathing will arise together in one mind moment as sankhara. 

In summary, the meritorious, demeritorious and imperturbable volitional formations mentioned in the Parivīmaṃsana Sutta are states of clinging (upadana) that form part of the 9th condition of Dependent Origination rather than are the 2nd condition of Dependent Origination; as literally said in the Parivīmaṃsana Sutta. 

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‘Past lives’ – ‘pubbe nivāsaṃ’

In later times, more & more stories about literal past lives were introduced into Buddhism, such as the Jataka Tales. However, in the original or older Pali suttas, there are thousands of suttas but only a handful mention literal past lives, such as the Rathakara (Pacetana) Sutta.

In the original or older Pali suttas, the term that is widespread & often translated as ‘past lives’ is ‘pubbe nivāsaṃ’, most notably in the following stock passage:

When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past (pubbe) lives (nivāsaṃ). I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two… five, ten… fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction & expansion: ‘There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.’ Thus I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes & details.

The word ‘nivāsaṃ’ literally means ‘homes’, as shown below from SN 22.2:

icchāma mayaṃ, bhante, pacchābhūmaṃ janapadaṃ gantuṃ, pacchābhūme janapade nivāsaṃ kappetun ti.

Sir, we wish to go to a western land to take up residence there.

And from SN 22.87:

Tena kho pana samayena āyasmā vakkali kumbhakāranivesane viharati ābādhiko dukkhito bāḷhagilāno.

Now at that time Venerable Vakkali was staying in a potter’s shed, and he was sick, suffering, gravely ill.

As scholarship become more authentic, the main translators, particularly Bhikkhu Bodhi, have been using the more accurate translation of ‘past abodes’ more often for the term ‘pubbe nivasa’.

In the Pali, a word for ‘life’ is  ‘jīva’ or  ‘jīvita’. Therefore, the word ‘nivasa’ obviously appears to not mean ‘life’ or ‘lives’. In the Pali suttas, the words ‘nivasa’, ‘nivesa’ & ‘vāsa’ is used in the following contexts:

And how does one not live at home? Any desire, lust, delight, and craving, the engagement and clinging, the mental standpoints, adherences (ābhini­ve­sā) and underlying tendencies… these the Tathagata has abandoned, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Therefore the Tathagata is said to be not dwelling at home. 

Haliddakani Sutta

Bhikkhus, there are these ten abodes (vāsa) of the noble ones in which the noble ones abide in the past, present, or future. What ten?

Here, a bhikkhu (1) has abandoned five factors; (2) possesses six factors; (3) has a single guard (4) and four supports; (5) has dispelled personal truths, (6) totally renounced seeking, (7) purified his intentions, (8) tranquilized bodily activity, and become (9) well liberated in mind and (10) well liberated by wisdom.

AN 10.20

The abode (Āvāsaṃ) of the glorious male devas
Belonging to the host of Thirty.

SN 1.11

As was previously explained (on this blog site), the word ‘birth’ or ‘jati’ refers to when ‘beings’ (‘satta’) or ‘personhood’ are mentally imputed upon what, from an enlightened point of view, are merely aggregates and sense objects.

Therefore, whenever the mind imputes personhood upon mere aggregates & sense objects and whenever the mind believes itself to be some type of person, this ‘settling’ of the mind in a fixed self-view or self-identity is the (probable) meaning of a ‘nivasa’.

It follows the only sutta literally explaining the meaning of the phrase “recollecting pubbe nivasa” is SN 22.79. Here, “recollecting pubbe nivasa” obviously does not refer to recollecting past lives but, instead, recollecting in the past when the mind mistakenly through ignorance clung to an aggregate as “self”; as follows: 

Bhikkhus, those ascetics and brahmins who recollect their manifold past abodes all recollect the five aggregates subject to clinging or a certain one among them. What five?

When recollecting thus, bhikkhus: ‘I had such form in the past,’ it is just form that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such a feeling in the past,’ it is just feeling that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such a perception in the past,’ it is just perception that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such volitional formations in the past,’ it is just volitional formations that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such consciousness in the past,’ it is just consciousness that one recollects.

Therefore, bhikkhus, any kind of form whatsoever … Any kind of feeling whatsoever … Any kind of perception whatsoever … Any kind of volitional formations whatsoever … Any kind of consciousness whatsoever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all consciousness should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

This is called, bhikkhus, a noble disciple who dismantles and does not build up; who abandons and does not cling; who scatters and does not amass; who extinguishes and does not kindle.

And what is it that he dismantles and does not build up? He dismantles form and does not build it up. He dismantles feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness and does not build it up.

And what is it that he abandons and does not cling to? He abandons form and does not cling to it. He abandons feeling … perception … volitional formations … consciousness and does not cling to it.

SN 22.79 (translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Meditation: When in or near a diverse group of people, observe how the mind discriminates labels upon the different ‘people’. The mind may impute…….. Notice the emotional context (underlying cravings) of those imputations. Try to observe those ‘people’, sense objects or individual sets of five aggregates as merely aggregates, as merely sense objects. Try to discern the difference between undifferentiated perception of mere aggregates & mere sense objects with the differentiated discriminations that are ‘birth’. Try to see it is the mind itself that gives ‘birth’ to ideas of different kinds of people or “beings” (“satta”).

It is important to see, whenever the mind imputes personhood or “being” upon a set of aggregates that is ‘birth’. The mind can see how often it is subject to ‘birth’.

 

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‘The worlds’ – loka

MN 117 states moral or mundane right view includes the following view: 

There are fruits & results of good & bad actions.

There is this world & the other worlds.

The Pali word for ‘world’ or ‘worlds’ is ‘loka‘.

The ‘worlds’ are regarded as human, heavenly/godly, hell, animal & ghost.

Many Buddhists regard the ‘worlds’ to be other places or planes, similar to other planets. However, there are many teachings in the Pali suttas that give the impression that the ‘worlds’ are merely mental or psychological states of mind.

In AN 4.45, the word ‘world’ is used in the place of ‘suffering’ in the Four Noble Truths and it is explicitly said the ‘world’ arises & ceases within the mind:

It is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception & intellect, that I declare that there is the world, the origination of the world, the cessation of the world and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the world.

Similarly, in SN 12.44, the word ‘world’ is used in the place of suffering in the Dependent Origination:

And what is the origination of the world? Dependent on the eye & forms there arises eye-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging. From clinging as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. This is the origination of the world.

In SN 35.82, it is said:

Insofar as it disintegrates, monk, it is called the ‘world.’

In AN 8.6, it is said:

Gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. These are the eight worldly conditions that spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions.

In the Lokavagga of the Dhammapada, the ‘world’ refers to ‘worldly’ (unenlightened) states of mind: 

Follow not the vulgar way; live not in heedlessness; hold not false views; linger not long in worldly existence.

Blind is the world; here only a few possess insight. Only a few, like birds escaping from the net, go to realms of bliss.

As shown in the 1st quote above from MN 117, the doctrine of the ‘worlds’ is tied to the doctrine of ‘kamma-vipaka’ (action & results). AN 6.63 states:

And what is the diversity in kamma? There is kamma to be experienced in hell (niraya), kamma to be experienced in the realm of animals ( tiracchānayoni), kamma to be experienced in the realm of the hungry shades (pettivisaya), kamma to be experienced in the human world (manussaloka), kamma to be experienced in the world of the devas (devaloka). This is called the diversity in kamma.

Importantly, AN 6.63 states:

Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect. And what is the cause by which kamma comes into play? Contact is the cause by which kamma comes into play.

Similarly, SN 12.25 states:

Kamma…and…happiness & suffering are dependently co-arisen.

Dependent on what? Dependent on contact.

While the above quotes from AN 6.63 and SN 12.25 are not detailed or clear in their description, it appears they state the ‘worlds’ are dependent on sense contact and are actual states of sense contact (rather than external worlds, places, planes or planets).

About the ‘hell’ world, SN 35.135 unambiguously states there is a ‘hell’ at sense contact:

I have seen, bhikkhus, the hell named ‘Contact’s Sixfold Base.’ There whatever form one sees with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable. Whatever sound one hears with the ear … Whatever odour one smells with the nose … Whatever taste one savours with the tongue … Whatever tactile object one feels with the body … Whatever mental phenomenon one cognizes with the mind is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable..

SN 56.43 is similar:

Mendicants, there is a hell called ‘The Mighty Fever’. There, whatever sight you see with your eye is unlikable, not likable; undesirable, not desirable; unpleasant, not pleasant. Whatever sound you hear … Whatever odor you smell … Whatever flavor you taste … Whatever touch you feel … Whatever thought you know with your mind is unlikable, not likable; undesirable, not desirable; unpleasant, not pleasant.”

SN 56.43

Similarly, MN 79 refers to a ‘heavenly world’ within the mind, i.e., the blissful meditative jhana of the noble eightfold path: 

Here, Udayi, the bhikkhu secluded from sensual desires and thoughts of demerit abides in the first jhana: Overcoming thoughts and thought processes and the mind in one point internally appeased, without thoughts and thought processes abides in the second jhana. Again with equanimity to joy and detachment, feeling pleasant with the body too, abides in the third jhana. To this the noble ones say abiding in pleasantness with equanimity. Udayi, this is the course of actions, for realising the world of only pleasant feelings (ekantasukhassa lokassa).

In AN 3.23, it seems to be said ‘hell’ & ‘heaven’ exist in this world:

Bhikkhus, there are three kinds of persons found existing in the world. What three?

(1) “Here, bhikkhus, some person generates afflictive bodily activities, afflictive verbal activities, and afflictive mental activities. In consequence, he is reborn in an afflictive world. When he is reborn in an afflictive world, afflictive contacts touch him. Being touched by afflictive contacts, he feels afflictive feelings, exclusively painful, as in the case of hell-beings.

(2) “Someone else generates unafflictive bodily activities, unafflictive verbal activities, and unafflictive mental activities. In consequence, he is reborn in an unafflictive world. When he is reborn in an unafflictive world, unafflictive contacts touch him. Being touched by unafflictive contacts, he feels unafflictive feelings, exclusively pleasant, as in the case of the devas of refulgent glory.

(3) “Still another generates bodily activities that are both afflictive and unafflictive, verbal activities that are both afflictive and unafflictive, and mental activities that are both afflictive and unafflictive. In consequence, he is reborn in a world that is both afflictive and unafflictive. When he is reborn in a world that is both afflictive and unafflictive, both afflictive and unafflictive contacts touch him. Being touched by both afflictive and unafflictive contacts, he feels both afflictive and unafflictive feelings, mingled pleasure and pain, as in the case of human beings, some devas, and some beings in the lower worlds.

“These, bhikkhus, are the three kinds of persons found existing in the world.”

In AN 5.51, the ‘human state’ appears to be described as the mind free from the five hindrances and with knowledge & wisdom: 

Sensual desire… ill-will (anger)… sloth & drowsiness… restlessness & anxiety… uncertainty is an obstacle, a hindrance that overwhelms the mind and weakens wisdom… when a monk has not abandoned these five obstacles… for him to understand what is for his own benefit, to understand what is for the benefit of others, to understand what is for the benefit of both, to realize a superior human (manussa) state (dhammā), a truly noble distinction in knowledge & vision: that is impossible.

In SN 56.47, the ‘human state’ is described as the opposite to an animal-like state, i.e., the human state being a state of harmlessness & righteous conduct where there is not the mutual devouring of the weak: 

Bhikkhus, suppose a man would throw a yoke with a single hole into the great ocean, and there was a blind turtle which would come to the surface once every hundred years. What do you think, bhikkhus, would that blind turtle, coming to the surface once every hundred years, insert its neck into that yoke with a single hole?

If it would ever do so, venerable sir, it would be only after a very long time.

Sooner, I say, would that blind turtle, coming to the surface once every hundred years, insert its neck into that yoke with a single hole than the fool who has gone once to the nether world would regain the human state. For what reason? Because here, bhikkhus, there is no conduct guided by the Dhamma, no righteous conduct, no wholesome activity, no meritorious activity. Here there prevails mutual devouring, the devouring of the weak. For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, they have not seen the Four Noble Truths. What four? The noble truth of suffering … the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

Similarly, AN 6.39 equates non-greed. non-hatred & non-delusion with human & godly realms:

Bhikkhus, a god, a human or any other good state would not be evident from actions born of greed, hate and delusion. Yet, bhikkhus, from actions born of greed, hate and delusion a hellish being, an animal birth a ghostly birth or some other bad state would be evident.

In AN 2.9, immoral behaviour is again compared to animal behaviour: 

Bhikkhus, these two bright principles protect the world. What are the two? Shame and fear of wrongdoing. If, bhikkhus, these two bright principles did not protect the world, there would not be discerned respect for mother or maternal aunt or maternal uncle’s wife or a teacher’s wife or the wives of other honored persons, and the world would have fallen into promiscuity, as with goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, and jackals. But as these two bright principles protect the world, there is discerned respect for mother… and the wives of other honored persons.

In AN 10.93 & elsewhere, non-Dhamma talk by monks is explicitly called ‘animal talk’ (‘tiracchāna kathaṃ kathentā’): 

Now on that occasion the wanderers of other persuasions had come together in a gathering and were sitting, discussing many kinds of bestial topics, making a great noise and racket.

In the Tevijja Sutta, the Buddha is said to have taught Brahmans the way or path to Brahma is radiating unconditional love in all directions, without exception: 

And he lets his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of love, and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world—above, below, around, and everywhere—does he continue to pervade with heart of love, far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure….Verily this is the way to a state of union with Brahmā.

Finally & most interesting, the final suttas in the Samyutta Nikaya, namely, SN 56.102 to 131, refer to how animals, hell beings & ghosts can realise the Four Noble Truths to be ‘reborn’ (paccājāyanti) human or godly:

Beings (sattā) are few who, when they pass away from the animal realm (tiracchā­na­yoniyā) are reborn (paccājāyanti) among humans (manussesu)… those beings are more numerous are reborn in hell…. For what reason? They have not realised the Four Noble Truths.  

As previously posted on this blog, in relation to the topic ‘birth’ (‘jati’), the Pali term ‘satta’ or ‘beings’ primarily does not refer to life forms or organisms but, instead, to states of mental attachment (SN 23.2) & views of ‘personhood’ (SN 5.10). 

Also, the term ‘yoni’ (translated as ‘realm’) is used in SN 56.102 as a synonym for ‘loka’ (‘world’). About the term ‘yoni’ (‘generation’), MN 12 states there are four kinds, distinguishing clearly the physical from the mental, of which the mental arises spontaneously (opapātikā ):

Catasso kho imā sāriputta yoniyo. Katamā catasso? Aṇḍajā yoni, jalābujā yoni, saṃsedajā yoni, opapātikā yoni

There are these four kinds of generation. What are the four? Egg-born generation, womb-born generation, moisture-born generation and spontaneous generation.

What is egg-born generation? There are these beings born by breaking out of the shell of an egg; this is called egg-born generation. What is womb-born generation? There are these beings born by breaking out from the caul; this is called womb-born generation. What is moisture-born generation? There are these beings born in a rotten fish, in a rotten corpse, in rotten dough, in a cesspit, or in a sewer; this is called moisture-born generation. What is spontaneous generation? There are gods (devā) and denizens of hell (nerayikā) and certain (ekacce ca) human beings (manussā) and some (ekacce ca) destined to suffer (vinipāta); this is called spontaneous generation.

Devā nerayikā, ekacce ca manussā, ekacce ca vinipātikā

In conclusion, there are many examples in the Pali suttas that appear to point to the worlds or realms ‘loka’ as being mental states of mind rather than external worlds. 

buddha ignorane

 

Anapanasati: step 3 – sabbakāyapaṭisamvedī

In Theravada Buddhism, step 3 of anapanasati, namely, ‘sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī‘, is interpreted and translated in different ways. Examples of translations included: “sensitive to the entire body” (Thanissaro); “experiencing the whole body [of breath]” (Bhikkhu Bodhi); and “experiencing the whole (breath-) body” (Nyanasatta Thera).

These interpretations and translations are most likely inaccurate for the following reasons: 

(1) The whole body cannot be known in meditation, particularly at the beginning phase of meditation. Thanissaro’s assertion, for example, that “jhana is a state of whole-body awareness”, is obviously not related to step 3 since step 3 is not jhana. 

(2) Knowing the entire length of the breath was already instructed in steps 1 & 2. 

(3) Most crucially, unlike steps 1 & 2, and the same as every other step, step 3 begins with the instruction: “He trains himself“, which means training in the three trainings of higher morality (adhisīlasikkhā), higher concentration (adhicittasikkhā) and higher wisdom (adhipaññāsikkhā). Since only experiencing the whole breath or the whole body is only the practice of concentration, there is no higher morality & no higher wisdom training in such an experience.

The Thai monk  Buddhadasa Bhikkhu explained the word ‘sabba’ means ‘all’  rather than ‘whole’ (‘kevala’) and the term ‘sabba-kaya‘ means ‘all bodies’. In his book ‘Mindfulness with Breathing: Unveiling the Secrets of Life: a Manual for Serious Beginners’, Buddhadasa correctly discusses (per the definition in MN 44) how the breathing in & out is the ‘kaya-sankhara‘ or ‘body-conditioner’ and also explains that step 3 (‘experiencing all bodies’) is to experience the conditioning interrelationship between ‘two-bodies’, namely, the ‘breath body’ (‘the conditioner’) and the ‘flesh/physical body’ (‘the thing conditioned by the conditioner’). 

Buddhadasa’s explanation here follows the spirit of the Anapanasati Sutta because: 

(1) Experiencing a conditioning interrelationship between the breathing & the physical body fulfills the wisdom component of the three trainings; and 

(2) The Anapanasati Sutta explicitly states there is more than one ‘body’ or ‘kaya’, when it states: “Bhikkhus, I say that the in-breaths and the out-breaths are certain bodies among all bodies“. 

However, there is probably an obvious incompleteness, inaccuracy or error in Buddhadasa’s explanation, namely, if step 3 of anapanasati was about experiencing the conditioning interrelationship between the ‘two bodies’ of the ‘breath body’ & the ‘flesh body’, the instruction in step 3 would be phrased ‘experiencing the kaya-sankhara‘, similar to how step 7 is phrased ‘experiencing the citta-sankhara‘. 

While Buddhadasa’s explanation certainly accords with the spirit of the teachings (namely, experiencing causes & effects pertaining to suffering & freedom from suffering), it is most likely the phrase ‘experiencing all bodies’ refers to experiencing a conditioning interrelation between three kaya (groups/bodies) rather than two kaya, namely, the ‘mind group’ (nama-kaya), ‘breath group (breath-kaya)’ and the ‘physical group’ (rupa-kaya).  There being more than two kaya is probably the reason for the term ‘sabba-kaya‘ being used rather than ‘kaya-sankhara‘. 

In experiencing clearly how the state or quality of mind directly conditions/determines the state or quality of the breathing, which in turn conditions/determines the state or quality of the physical body – both the trainings in higher morality & higher wisdom are fulfilled. Experiencing directly how an unwholesome (defiled) mind makes the breathing & physical body agitated & stressed (and visa versa) fulfills higher training for both morality and wisdom. 

In conclusion, the mostly likely meaning of the phrase ‘sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī‘ in the Anapanasati Sutta is ‘experiencing all groups’, namely, experiencing how the state or quality of the mind conditions the quality or state of the breathing, which in turn conditions the quality or state of the physical body. In short, this is a very direct & intimate insight into the Four Noble Truths. 

For him — infatuated, attached, confused, not remaining focused on their drawbacks — the clinging to the five aggregates head toward future accumulation. The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now this & now that — grows within him. His bodily disturbances & mental disturbances grow. His bodily torments & mental torments grow. His bodily distresses & mental distresses grow. He is sensitive both to bodily stress & mental stress. MN 149

 

 

SN 12.19 – Bālapaṇḍita – The wise man & the fool

Sāvatthiyaṃ viharati. “Avijjā­nīvara­ṇassa, bhikkhave, bālassa taṇhāya sampayuttassa evamayaṃ kāyo samudāgato. Iti ayañceva kāyo bahiddhā ca nāmarūpaṃ, itthetaṃ dvayaṃ, dvayaṃ paṭicca phasso saḷevāyatanāni, yehi phuṭṭho bālo sukhadukkhaṃ paṭi­saṃve­dayati etesaṃ vā aññatarena.

At Savatthī. “Bhikkhus, for the fool, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, this collection (of five aggregates: kaya) goes towards (gato) origination (samudā). So there is this (internal) collection and external minds-and-bodies: thus this dyad. Dependent on the dyad there is contact. There are just six sense bases, contacted through which—or through a certain one among them—the fool experiences happiness and suffering.

Bhikkhus, for the wise man, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, this collection (of five aggregates: kaya) goes towards (gato) origination (samudā). So there is this (internal) collection and external minds-and-bodies: thus this dyad. Dependent on the dyad there is contact. There are just six sense bases, contacted through which—or through a certain one among them—the fool experiences happiness and suffering. What, bhikkhus, is the distinction here, what is the disparity, what is the difference between the wise man and the fool?

Bhikkhus, for the fool, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, this collection (of five aggregates: kaya) goes towards (gato) origination (samudā). For the fool at ignorance has not been abandoned and that craving has not been utterly destroyed. For what reason? Because the fool has not lived the holy life for the complete destruction of suffering. Therefore, with the breakup of the collection, the fool fares on to another collection. Faring on to another collection, he is not freed from birth, aging and death; not freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair; not freed from suffering, I say.

Bhikkhus, for the wise man, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, this collection (of five aggregates: kaya) goes towards (gato) origination (samudā).  For the wise man that ignorance has been abandoned and that craving has been utterly destroyed. For what reason? Because the wise man has lived the holy life for the complete destruction of suffering. Therefore, with the breakup of the collection, the wise man does not fare on to another collection. Not faring on to another collection, he is freed from birth, aging and death; freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair; freed from suffering, I say.

This, bhikkhus, is the distinction, the disparity, the difference between the wise man and the fool, that is, the living of the holy life.

Commentary: The above is an altered translation of SN 12.19, which is generally translated in a manner that is illogical & difficult to understand. 

The Pali word ‘kaya’, often used for the physical body, means ‘collection’ or ‘group’. Thus, in SN 12.19, it is appropriate to use the term ‘collection’ (referring to the five aggregates) rather than ‘body’ (since a physical body alone cannot engage in sense contact with the external world).

The Pali word ‘namarupam’ refers to external ‘bodies & minds’ (since a person or mind cannot experience external ‘names & forms’) given ‘naming’ is an internal process & forms are external (where as external minds can be experienced via the outward behaviour of other people & beings).

The Pali word ‘gato’ means ‘gone’ or ‘goes’. ‘Origination’ refers to the dependent origination of both happiness & suffering. The verse does not refer to pleasant & unpleasant feelings (vedana) from sense contact since the term ‘vedana’ is not found in the Pali.

In summary, the beginning of SN 12.19 should be regarded the same as the following verse from SN 12.81:

At Sāvatthī. Then Venerable Rāhula went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him: “Sir, how does one know and see so that there’s no ego, possessiveness, or underlying tendency to conceit for this conscious body and all external stimuli?” “Rāhula, one truly sees any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all form—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’ One truly sees any kind of feeling … perception … choices … consciousness at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all consciousness—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’ That’s how to know and see so that there’s no ego, possessiveness, or underlying tendency to conceit for this conscious body and all external stimuli.”

Also, the phrases ‘ breakup of the collection’ & ‘fare on to another collection’ in SN 12.19 refer to individual acts of karma or behaviour via attachment. For example, the act & results of indulging in delicious food requires & gives rise to a certain set of aggregates (such as using the body to eat, tasting with the tongue, desiring with the mind, feeling pleasure with the mind, being conscious of the food, etc). When the aggregates that perform such pleasurable acts end (‘break up’), eventually, due to conditioned craving, a person will fare on to seek other pleasures, which is another collection of the five aggregates. In other words, the sutta is not about reincarnation. Instead, it is about the continuation of craving & becoming. 

The alternative or wise process of ‘not faring on to another collection’ is more plainly explained in the Bhāra Sutta, as follows: 

“The five aggregates are truly burdens,
The burden-carrier is the person.
Taking up the burden is suffering in the world,
Laying the burden down is blissful.

Having laid the heavy burden down
Without taking up another burden,
Having drawn out craving with its root,
One is free from hunger, fully quenched.”

SN 22.22

 

 

The Deathless & Nibbana

In the Pali scriptures, the words the ‘Deathless’ & ‘Nibbana’ are synonymous, as follows:

This, bhikkhu, is a designation for the element of Nibbāna: the removal of lust, the removal of hatred, the removal of delusion. The destruction of the taints is spoken of in that way.

When this was said, that bhikkhu said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, it is said, ‘the Deathless, the Deathless.’ What now, venerable sir, is the Deathless? What is the path leading to the Deathless?”

The destruction of lust, the destruction of hatred, the destruction of delusion: this is called the Deathless. This Noble Eightfold Path is the path leading to the Deathless; that is, right view … right concentration.”

SN 45.7

As was explained in the posts on the topics of Dependent Origination: Aging-&-death & Dependent Origination: Birth, the term ‘birth’ (‘jati’) refers to the thought generated idea of ‘self’ or ‘a being’ (‘satta’) & ‘death’ (‘marana’)  refers to the painful traumatic sense that very same ‘self’ or ‘being’ (‘satta’) is ‘dying’.

Another scripture passage about the ‘Deathless’ states is as follows:

When the currents of conceiving do not flow, he is said to be a sage at peace. ‘I am’ is a conceiving . ‘I am this’ is a conceiving . ‘I shall be’ is a conceiving . ‘I shall not be’ is a conceiving. Conceiving is a disease, conceiving is a cancer, conceiving is an arrow. By going beyond all conceiving , he is said to be a sage at peace.

A sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die, is unagitated and is free from longing. He has nothing whereby he would be born. Not being born, will he age? Not aging, will he die? Not dying, will he be agitated? 

MN 140

 Therefore, it appears a subtle but crucial distinction in language is made here.

The term ‘the Deathless’, as already explained, simply means no (traumatic) ‘self-death’ occurs.

However, what does occur is the ending of life.  

The words ‘Deathless’ or ‘does not die’ do not mean that something lives forever since it is quite obvious the Buddha-Dhamma explains all mind & matter is impermanent, subject to vanishing. The ‘Deathless’ does not mean ‘Immortality’. 

Therefore, in the enlightened state, there is no ‘death’ but there is the ‘ending of life’, which, again, is shown in the following quotes:

Then, friend Yamaka, how would you answer if you are thus asked [by an unenlightened person in conventional language]: ‘A monk, a worthy one, with no more mental effluents: what is he on the break-up of the body, after death (parammaraṇā)?’

Thus asked, I would answer, ‘Form is impermanent… Feeling… Perception… Fabrications… Consciousness is impermanent. That which is impermanent is unsatisfactory. That which is unsatisfactory has ceased (niruddhaṃ) and gone to its end (tadatthagatanti).

Very good, my friend Yamaka. Very good.

SN 22.85

 

 

 

 

Two sorts of right view: tainted & noble

In the Majjhima Nikaya is the Maha-Cattarisaka Sutta, which is an extremely important discourse. Some scholars have suggested the Maha-Cattarisaka Sutta was not spoken by the Buddha because of the later-day language used in it (which is similar to the language of some later-day Commentaries). While this may possibly be the case, the Maha-Cattarisaka Sutta contains the crucial principle & distinction of ‘two sorts of right view’.  

‘Right view’ is the 1st factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. One argument suggesting the Buddha did not speak the Maha-Cattarisaka Sutta is that the standard teaching of  Noble Eightfold Path only contains the ‘supramundane’ or ‘transcendent’ (‘lokuttara’) definition of ‘Right View’, as follows:

And what, monks, is right view? Knowledge with regard to suffering, knowledge with regard to the origination of suffering, knowledge with regard to the cessation of suffering, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering: This, monks, is called right view. 

Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

The word ‘supramundane’ or ‘transcendent’ (‘lokuttara’), literally ‘beyond or above the world’, refers to the ending of attachment or self-clinging, which is the purpose of the Four Noble Truths. 

In contrast, the Maha-Cattarisaka Sutta also contains a ‘mundane’ (‘worldly’) & ‘tainted’ right view. This second kind of ‘right view’ covers the teachings given by the Buddha that were not for the purpose of enlightenment & Nibbana but, instead, for the purpose of nurturing morality (non-harming) in ordinary worldly people (‘puthujjana’) who had no real interest in abandoning attachment or self-clinging.

(It is important to keep in mind when the Buddha spoke his 1st sermon, he said the Noble Eightfold Path was for those who had left the household life.) 

For example, the Apannaka Sutta in the Majjhima Nikaya is a discourse exclusively spoken to ‘householders’ or ‘non-monks’. The Apannaka Sutta contains teachings that comprise of this ‘mundane’ & ‘tainted’ right view.

The  Maha-Cattarisaka Sutta defines this 2nd sort of ‘right view’ as follows: 

And what is the right view with effluents (‘asava’ – ‘taints’), siding with goodness (morality), resulting in acquisitions (‘upadhi’)? ‘There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions (‘kamma’). There is this world & the other worlds. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously born beings (sattā opapātikā); there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the others after having directly known & realized it for themselves.’

Reading this definition carefully, it states doctrines of good & bad ‘kamma’ are defiled or polluted (‘asava’) with the burden (‘upadi’) of self-views or attachment , which is the common “personal” concern of “I” am doing good & bad karma.

Reading this definition carefully, it also includes ‘blind faith’ in contemplatives & brahmans who teach about the fruits & results of good & bad actions. These results of actions include ‘spontaneous arising’ or ‘birth’ of ‘beings’ into the ‘other worlds’ of ‘heaven’, ‘hell’, ‘ghosts’ and ‘animal kingdom’.  

To contrast again, the Nibbedhika Sutta (being supramundane or transcendent) states the noble eightfold path — right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration — is the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma.

To contrast again, the Kalama Sutta & the supramundane  Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta discourage the adoption of ‘blind faith’ (which includes even in the Buddha himself).

To contrast again, the Apannaka Sutta (which is addressed to householders) states right view, for householders, is that of ‘eternalism’ or ‘continued’ or ‘self-existence’ (atthikavādo). 

Instead of stating practising this 2nd sort of right view leads to enlightenment & Nibbana, the Apannaka Sutta states practising this 2nd sort of right view leads to adopting & practicing  the three skillful activities (‘kusala dhamma’) of good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct & good mental conduct.

Conclusion: The Maha-Cattarisaka Sutta introduced the crucial understanding there are two sorts of ‘Right View’: (i) a right view for worldly people who have not gone beyond the view of ‘self’ & are interested in doing personal good kamma; and (ii) the original Right View that is noble, transcendent & a factor of the noble path. 

Discerning the difference between these two sorts of Right View can assist in reconciling impressions of contradictions in the Buddhist teachings. 

And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The wisdom (paññā ), the faculty (indriya) of wisdom, the power (bala) of wisdom, analysis of dhammas as a factor for awakening (dhamma vicaya sambojjhaṅgo), the path factor of right view in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble (ariyā), whose mind is without effluents (anāsavā), who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent (lokuttarā), a factor of the path.

Maha-cattarisaka Sutta