Anguttara Nikaya


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Aŋguttaranikāyo
Catukkanipāto
XVII: Paṭipadā Vagga

Sutta 163

Asubha Suttaɱ

Unattractiveness

Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
For free distribution only.

 


 

[1][pts] "Monks, there are these four modes of practice.

Which four?

Painful practice with slow intuition, painful practice with quick intuition, pleasant practice with slow intuition, and pleasant practice with quick intuition.

2. "And which is painful practice with slow intuition?

There is the case where a monk remains focused on unattractiveness with regard to the body, percipient of loathsomeness with regard to food, percipient of non-delight with regard to the entire world, (and) focused on inconstancy with regard to all fabrications.

The perception of death is well established within him.

He dwells in dependence on the five strengths of a learner — strength of conviction, strength of conscience, strength of concern, strength of persistence, and strength of discernment — but these five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear weakly.

Because of their weakness, he attains only slowly the immediacy[1] that leads to the ending of the effluents.

This is called painful practice with slow intuition.

3. "And which is painful practice with quick intuition?

There is the case where a monk remains focused on unattractiveness with regard to the body, percipient of loathsomeness with regard to food, percipient of non-delight with regard to the entire world, (and) focused on inconstancy with regard to all fabrications.

The perception of death is well established within him.

He dwells in dependence on these five strengths of a learner — strength of conviction, strength of conscience, strength of concern, strength of persistence, and strength of discernment — and these five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear intensely.

Because of their intensity, he attains quickly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the effluents.

This is called painful practice with quick intuition.

4. "And which is pleasant practice with slow intuition?

There is the case where a monk — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana:

rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation.

With the stilling of directed thoughts and evaluations, he enters and remains in the second jhana:

rapture and pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought and evaluation — internal assurance.

With the fading of rapture he remains equanimous, mindful, and alert, and senses pleasure with the body.

He enters and remains in the third jhana, of which the noble ones declare,

'Equanimous and mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.'

With the abandoning of pleasure and pain — as with the earlier disappearance of joy and distress — he enters and remains in the fourth jhana:

purity of equanimity and mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.

He dwells in dependence on these five strengths of a learner — strength of conviction, strength of conscience, strength of concern, strength of persistence, and strength of discernment — but these five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear weakly.

Because of their weakness, he attains only slowly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the effluents.

This is called pleasant practice with slow intuition.[2]

5. "And which is pleasant practice with quick intuition?

There is the case where a monk — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana:

rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation.

With the stilling of directed thoughts and evaluations, he enters and remains in the second jhana:

rapture and pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought and evaluation — internal assurance.

With the fading of rapture he remains equanimous, mindful, and alert, and senses pleasure with the body.

He enters and remains in the third jhana, of which the noble ones declare,

'Equanimous and mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.'

With the abandoning of pleasure and pain — as with the earlier disappearance of joy and distress — he enters and remains in the fourth jhana:

purity of equanimity and mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.

He dwells in dependence on these five strengths of a learner — strength of conviction, strength of conscience, strength of concern, strength of persistence, and strength of discernment — and these five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear intensely.

Because of their intensity, he attains quickly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the effluents.

This is called pleasant practice with quick intuition.

"These are the four modes of practice."

 


[1] According to the Commentary, this means the concentration forming the Path. This is apparently a reference to this passage in Sn 2.1:

What the excellent Awakened One extolled as pure
and called the concentration
of unmediated knowing:
No equal to that concentration can be found.
This, too, is an exquisite treasure in the Dhamma.
By this truth may there be well-being.

[2] Because the description of pleasant practice here contains the standard jhana formula, while the description of painful practice contains no mention of jhana, some writers have taken this as proof that there is an alternative path to awakening that does not involve the jhanas.

However, this reading ignores the description of how painful practice and pleasant practice can yield either slow or quick intuition. Intuition comes slowly when the five faculties are present in a weak form, and quickly when they are present in an intense form. Now, in both cases, the faculty of concentration — which is defined with the standard formula for the jhanas (SN 48.10) — has to be present for the ending of the effluents. Because this is true both for painful practice and for pleasant practice, both sorts of practice need jhana in order to succeed.

 


 

References:

See also: AN 4.162; AN 4.164; AN 4.165.


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