[ Give Ear ]
The first part of this page is an old notice. I am keeping it alive because there may still be some who have heard my previous translation of this term who need to know of the change. So:
I am making a change in my vocabulary. I am changing my translation for the term "n'evasannanasanna" from "Not-Even-Perceiving-Non-Perception" to the more usual "Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-Perception".
I don't know why I had never noticed it before, but while working on a sutta this afternoon I came across the very common statement concerning the belief in the self: "Those shaman and brahmin who describe the self as remaining intact and having perception after death describe this self as being one or another of the following:
3. both material and immaterial
4. neither material nor immaterial
the construction for alternative 4 is
N'eva rupim narupim
The 4th case cannot be stated "Not even matarial non-material" (I suppose it could be stated: "Not even non-material material", but why push it?) as it would need to be to fit my previous construction of the term for the jhana, so it must change.
The difference in connotation that I heard that prompted me to use the unusual construction to begin with was that I heard in the phrase "nor non-perception" the commentary describing the state as flitting back and forth between a sort of perceiving and the state of not perceiving. This is not how I learned one should identify the state.
How I learned it is that it compares roughly with the state of someone totally absorbed, say, in eating something really delicious, but complicated, like mini-lobster tails, which requires concentration to get at the delicious meat. He looses touch with his surroundings. When he comes to a break in his concentration, he looks up to see everyone at the table staring at him, the huge pile of empty shells, and clarified butter all-ova, and he says: "What?"
On the one hand you could say that there was no lack of perception there at all. On the other hand there was no self awareness at all. I just thought Not Being Aware of Not Being Aware (of any world where he was aware he was there) was a closer description than Neither Perceiving nor Non Perceiving, but I can live with it that way. Needless to say, my first hand experience is...um...somewhat limited...we...(um...he) ran out of mini lobster tails.
Here friends, a beggar elevating himself above all perceptions of materiality, allowing perceptions of resistance to subside, and not scrutinizing perceptions of diversity, thinking: 'Un-ending is space.' enters into and makes a habitat of the Space-dimension.
Elevating himself completely above the Space-dimension, thinking: 'Un-ending is consciousness.' he enters into and makes a habitat of the Consciousness-dimension.
Elevating himself completely above the No-thing-there-dimension he enters into and makes a habitat of the Dimension of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception.
 Cattaro arupa: Idh'avuso bhikkhu sabbaso rupa-sannanam samatikkama patigha-sannanam attha-gama nanatta-sannanam amanasi-kara 'Ananto akaso'ti akasanancayatanam upasampajja viharati. Sabbaso akasanancayatanam samatikkamma 'Anantam vinnanan ' ti.vinnanancayatanam upasampajja viharati. Sabbaso vinnanancayatanam samatikkamma 'N'atthi kinci ti akincannayatanam upasampajja viharati. Sabbaso akincannayatanam samatikkamma n'eva-sanna-na-sannayatanam upasampajja viharati.
akasanancayatanam, etc: I normally translate 'ayatana' as 'Sphere' or 'Realm.' But here I have been doing this series as though a-fresh, and looking at this compound I see: There is no 'limitless' there. He thinks (or says): 'Space is Endless', or 'Limitless,' but the name of the ayatana itself does not contain the term 'limitless' or 'endless.' So we are not justified in saying he enters the sphere, or realm of Limitless Space. We must say he enters the "Ayatana" of Space. Given that, I think we have a much more commonly understood description of the phenomena attained if we use the term 'Dimension.'
Here I would suggest that this Dimension of Space is what is understood by modern physics as the 5th Dimension. We have 'length' and 'width' and 'height' and 'Time' and the 5th Dimension is the world as though it was a hologram, capable of being perceived in it's entirety from any perspective. Above that, is the unknown-to-the-west element known in the Pali as "Consciousness".
'...not scrutinizing perceptions of diversity (nanatta)': then becomes much more easily understood as 'Time' or the phenomena perceived as time, that is, the swift flow of changes in mentality/materiality, that like a movie, produces the illusion of continuity ... for it is the question: 'How can I be seeing this, from outside, and account for Time?' that causes one to re-enter the ordinary world from this dimension: 'How does one emerge from the akasanancayatanam? By paying attention to all forms, perceptions of resistance, and scrutinizing perceptions of diversity.'
 ti: 'quote' or 'said'; so maybe not even 'thinking' but 'with the idea of'
The thesis is the world we normally perceive. The antithesis breaks this world into The Material (what in physics is referred to as "space"; that which occupies space - length, width, and height) and Time.
Space and Time as separate Dimensions cannot exist independantly of each other and are held together by what the Physicists are calling the 5th Dimension (what I am saying is, in the Pali, the Dimension of Space) = Space/Time.
But examining it, one quickly concludes that should this have any actual basis in reality, it would tear itself to shreds.
Just look at any one physical apparently unchanging thing in your environment while making yourself simultaneously aware of something else that is clearly changing (such as the second hand of a watch to make it easy).
It obviously cannot be happening as it is perceived: The one, apparently unchanging physical thing exists in the same "Time Frame" as the clearly changing thing.
This drives the perception that the apparently unchanging thing is in fact changing, but on the molecular level. This then drives one to the conclusion that even the molecules/atoms/etc must be changing, and this in turn is seen to depend on perception itself, or consciousness, which one must conclude is changing with every change. Then, if there is nothing there that is not changing, then there is No Thing There.
Next up from there is the inevitable conclusion that one must in fact be inhabiting a Dimension in which there is neither perception (you can't perceive what isn't there) nor non-perception (you can't not be perceiving what you are perceiving - or in the Buddhist sense, perception is occuring, but it is an impersonal, mechanical thing, essentially a reaction among elements, only conventionally spoken of as "perception".
This fits once again with my understanding of the actual experience of this Dimension the way it was originally taught to me.
Snap fingers, just like that.
Now I hear a Zen master and a student of the Abhidhamma out there and they are both saying "This is just hocum. Sophistry. Logic and Reasoning. Beating out with the mind some theoretical construct to account for experience!"
And to this I say: "Bravo! Exactly! That is all that all this arupajhana stuff is all about, let it go!"