‘Past lives’ – ‘pubbe nivasa’

In later times, more & more stories about literal past lives were introduced into Buddhism, such as the Jataka Tales. In the original or older Pali suttas, there are thousands of suttas however 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 nivasa’, 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 (nivasa). 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 ‘nivasa’ literally means ‘homes’ and, 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, such as …………, and whenever the mind believes itself to be some type of person, such as ……, this ‘settling’ of the mind in a fixed self-view or self-identity is the (probable) meaning of a ‘nivasa’.

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’.


‘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..

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?

Tayome, bhikkhave, puggalā santo saṃvijjamānā lokasmiṃ. Katame tayo?

Idha, bhikkhave, ekacco puggalo sabyābajjhaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, sabyābajjhaṃ vacīsaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti, sabyābajjhaṃ manosaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti. So sabyābajjhaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ abhi­saṅ­kha­ritvā, sabyābajjhaṃ vacīsaṅkhāraṃ abhi­saṅ­kha­ritvā, sabyābajjhaṃ manosaṅkhāraṃ abhi­saṅ­kha­ritvā sabyābajjhaṃ lokaṃ upapajjati. Tamenaṃ sabyābajjhaṃ lokaṃ upapannaṃ samānaṃ sabyābajjhā phassā phusanti. So sabyābajjhehi phassehi phuṭṭho samāno sabyābajjhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayati ekantadukkhaṃ, seyyathāpi sattā nerayikā.

(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. 

SN 12.25 – Bhūmija Sutta – a critique

The Bhūmija Sutta in the Samyutta Nikaya appears to be not only historically established in mistranslation (e.g. by Bhikkhu Bodhi) but this mistranslation/misinterpretation is a crucial factor in maintaining the long held wrong (unverifiable) view that ‘sankhara’ in Dependent Origination refer to ‘volitional or kamma formations’. 

While the writer of this blog is not particularly fluent in the Pali language, I will point out the obvious questionable issues in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation.

1. The Bhūmija Sutta begins with a question by Bhūmija to Sariputta about two schools of thought, namely: (i) ‘the non-Buddhist proponents of kamma that believe happiness & suffering (sukhadukkhaṃ) are done by oneself or another’ and; (ii) the view of the Buddha that happiness & suffering are dependent upon sense contact (per AN 6.63, which states: ‘contact is the cause by which kamma comes into play‘). Despite this 1st part of the sutta where the doctrine of self-generated-kamma is clearly refuted as the Buddha’s doctrine, Bhikkhu Bodhi appears to translate the 2nd & 3rd parts of sutta in a way giving importance to the doctrine of kamma i .e., volition. 

2. In the 2nd part of the Bhūmija Sutta, the Buddha confirms to Ananda the explanation by Sariputta to Bhūmija is correct; that it is impossible to experience anything without sense contact. Then in the 3rd part, the Buddha explains a somewhat general, brief & modified version of Dependent Origination to Ananda, who, as in many suttas, is not given a complete teaching on a subject probably due to his inability to comprehend fully. 

3. In the 3rd section of the Bhūmija Sutta, the Buddha explains to Ananda in respect to the body (the same for speech & mind) that: volition in respect to the body (kāya­sañ­ceta­nā) is the cause (­hetu) for the arising or birth (uppajjati) of happiness & suffering (sukha dukkhaṃ); that this is all dependent upon ignorance as a condition (avijjāpaccayā).” 

4. It must be noted the Buddha is explaining here how the common idea of kamma really works since: (i) in AN 6.63 kamma is defined as ‘volition’ &; (ii) any teaching based around volitions of ‘body’, ‘speech’ & ‘mind’ (as ‘mano’) is generally related to kamma.  

5. Continuing, in the 3rd section, after ignorance is mentioned, the Buddha then explains how the kāyasaṅkhāraṃ (body conditioner, which is defined as ‘in & out breathing’ in MN 44) is conditioned, stirred up or fashioned (abhi­saṅ­kha­ronti). The same explanation is given for the vacīsaṅkhāraṃ (verbal conditioner, defined in MN 44 as ‘initial & sustained thought’) and for manosaṅkhāraṃ (which is similar to cittasaṅkhāraṃ, defined in MN 44 as perception & feeling). However, Bhikkhu Bodhi translates these terms kāyasaṅkhāraṃ, vacīsaṅkhāraṃ & manosaṅkhāraṃ  as ‘volitional formations’, implying they are acts of volition or kamma (per AN 6.63). This should not be correct because it would not be expected of the Buddha to use the term ‘kāya­sañ­ceta­nā’ in the 1st part and the term ‘kāyasaṅkhāraṃ’ in the 2nd part yet intend both of these different terms have the same meaning of ‘volition’, as Bhikkhu Bodhi is inferring with his translation of both terms. 

6. This said, there is certainly an issue here with the term ‘manosaṅkhāraṃ’ since it does not exactly conform with the term ‘cittasaṅkhāraṃ’ which is the 2nd condition in the standard Dependent Origination formula. The point here is the Bhūmija Sutta should not be used as an explanatory principle for Dependent Origination when the term ‘manosaṅkhāraṃ’is used instead of ‘cittasaṅkhāraṃ’ since the term ‘mano’ is generally used in explanations of kamma (actions), which do not occur at the beginning of Dependent Origination (refer to SN 14. 12, for example, which mentions kamma of body, speech & mind at the end of the sequence). 

7. Now, the suttas on Dependent Origination state ignorance is the condition (paccaya) for the conditioning, stirring up or fashioning of the kāyasaṅkhāraṃ, vacīsaṅkhāraṃ & cittasaṅkhāraṃ. The suttas also 1st mention ‘volition’ at the ‘nama-rupa’ condition. (These processes have been explained at the Dependent Origination sections of this blog.) Yet in the Bhūmija Sutta, despite it previously mentioning kāya­sañ­ceta­nāhetu, vacī­sañ­ceta­nā­hetu & satimano­sañ­ceta­nā­hetu are all dependent upon ignorance (avijjā) as a condition (paccayā), Bhikkhu Bodhi translates the Pali ‘sāmaṃ taṃ, ānanda, kāyasaṅkhāraṃ abhisaṅkharoti‘ to mean “on one’s own initiative, one generates a bodily volitional formation“.  The problem with this translation, regardless of what the dictionaries say the words ‘sāmaṃ taṃ’ mean, is that the rendering here by Bhikkhu Bodhi conforms with the very doctrines of self-generated-kamma that were refuted in the 1st part of the sutta by Sariputta. 

8. Based on the principles in the suttas of Dependent Origination, the Pali here in the Bhūmija Sutta, which is: “uppajjati (arises; is born) ajjhattaṃ (internally) sukhadukkhaṃ (happiness & suffering) avijjāpaccayā (conditioned by/dependent on ignorance) sāmaṃ taṃ, ānanda, kāyasaṅkhāraṃ (body conditioner; in & out breathing) abhisaṅkharoti (is fashioned; is concocted; is stirred up)” cannot refer to ‘onself’ (sāmaṃ) conditioning the ‘sankhara’ since all suttas state (e.g. SN 12.17) it is ignorance that conditions the sankhara & suffering rather than “oneself” or “another”. 

9. The last paragraph of the Bhūmija Sutta confirms what is stated above. The last paragraph states: “with the ending of ignorance, the body, speech & mind is no longer exist conditioned  (oppressed; beset; affected by) by those things that condition happiness & suffering“. In other words, the body, mind & speech are no longer conditioned in an adverse way to produce ‘kamma’ influenced by the kāyasaṅkhāraṃ, vacīsaṅkhāraṃ & manosaṅkhāraṃ, which should be translated as ‘body, verbal & mind conditioners, per the explanations in MN 44.

10. In conclusion, while the writer of this blog is unable to translate the Bhūmija Sutta precisely or impart the exact intent of the Buddha, there are obviously serious & crucial errors, misrepresentations & contradictions in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of the Bhūmija Sutta, which are obviously based on historical precedents of mistranslation that seeks to create a doctrine of past-life kamma using Dependent Origination. The Bhūmija Sutta explicitly states there can be no arising of kamma (volition) without sense contact yet the translation of Bhikkhu Bodhi appears to attempt to make a case that volition or kamma arises at the 2nd condition of Dependent Origination prior to sense contact (which is 1st mentioned at the 4th condition internally & the 6th condition externally). 

11. In short, the message of the Bhūmija Sutta is probably as follows: 

(i) Kamma productive of happiness & suffering cannot arise before sense contact, including internal sense contact. 

(ii) Happiness & suffering is caused (hetu) by three kinds of volition (sañ­ceta­nā), namely, kāya­sañ­ceta­nāhetu, vacī­sañ­ceta­nā­hetu & satimano­sañ­ceta­nā­hetu.

(iii) This volition has ignorance as its ultimate condition (rather than ‘oneself’ or ‘another self’). 

(iv) This ignorance, either based on internal stimuli (asava) or external stimuli, fashions, concocts & stirs up the in & out breathing (kayasankhara), internal thoughts (vacisankhara) and internal perceptions & feelings (citta/manosankhara), which in turn generate the intentions that produce kamma.

(v) When ignorance ceases, this fashioning of kammic volition by ignorance & sankharas ceases. Thus body, speech & mind cease to be oppressed or affected by ignorant sankharas. 






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 a sutta that 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 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.

The phrases ‘ breakup of the collection’ & ‘fare on to another collection’ 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