Anguttara Nikaya


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Aŋguttara-Nikāya
III. Tikanipāta
IX. Samaṇa Vagga

The Book of the
Gradual Sayings
Part III
The Book of the Threes

Suttas 85-86-87

Study

An outline compiled from the Pali and various translations by Michael Olds

 


 

The Pali: [Sutta 85] [Sutta 86] [Sutta 87]
The Woodward translation: [Sutta 85][Sutta 86][Sutta 87]
The Bhikkhu Thanissaro translation: [Sutta 85][Sutta 86]

These three suttas would most profitably be read together.

In the first, The Buddha shows how serious commitment to the training in ethical practices interacts with various levels of accomplishment in training the heart and training in wisdom to result in Streamwinning, Once-returning, Non-returning or Arahantship. One who practices a little gets a little; one who practices thoroughly gets much.

The three together, by first providing a broad categorization, second providing a detailed categorization in ascending order and third by providing the same detailed categorization in descending order produce the following picture:

I. In Brief

I.1.

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture [sīla] In Full
Cultivation of serenity [samādhi] Partial
Cultivation of wisdom [paññāa] Partial

Breaking the three yokes [tini saṃyojana]

Breaking the attachment to views,
clearing up doubt about the Four Truths,
and letting go the belief that ethical conduct, good deeds, or ceremonies and rituals are sufficient to bring an end to Pain (dukkha) or attainment of Nibbāna. (Woodward translates 'release' which is misleading given that this is the usual translation for the vimokkhas which are only temporary releases and are attainable even by the Streamwinner. See discussion for the listing for AN 3.21)

Result:

Streamwinning: Assurance; rebirth in Hell, as a deamon, ghost or animal is precluded; awakening is certain.

Note: No time limit specified.

I.2.

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture: In Full
Cultivation of serenity: Partial
Cultivation of wisdom: Partial

Breaking the three yokes [tini saṃyojana]

Weakening lust, hate and stupidity [rāga-dosa-moha]

Result:

Once-returning: Returning once [sakid eva imam lokam] to this world he brings and end to Pain.

Note: The wording on this leaves open the possibility that between death in this world and the next return to this world there may be rebirths in other realms. This says: 'Returning Once'; this does not say: 'Taking rebirth only one more time.'

I.3.

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture: In Full
Cultivation of serenity: In Full
Cultivation of wisdom: Partial

Breaking the five yokes [pañca orambhāgani saṃyojana]
The above three plus: ending desire for pleasure and deviance (vyāpādo: via-not-path; intentional behavior contrary to the Magga)

Result:

Non-Returning. Spontaneous rebirth [opapātiko: without the experience of death here, reappearance without the experience of birth there, age: @15] there to attain Final Nibbāna without returning.

Note: Contrast this with the description of this attainment with those below. Here it would seem to justify the idea that following this life there was, for the non-returner, but one further life during which he would attain Final Nibbāna.
Woodward adds adds (and it is often assumed) that this rebirth is in the Pure Abodes. There are cases however where the rebirth of a non-returner is said to have been in the Tusita realm (see below), and there is nothing in this as stated here that even precludes rebirth as man. It does not say: 'Not returning to this world', it says: 'not returning from that world.' (again see discussion below) This meaning is also that presented for the Non-returner in MN 22 pañc'orambhāgiyāni saṃyojanāni pahīnāni sabbe te opapātikā tattha parinibbāyino anāvatthidhammā tasmā lokā 'the five yokes to the lower let go, all those spontaneously arise there to attain Final Nibbāna, not returning from there to this world.' The 'there' is not specified.

I.4.

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture: In Full
Cultivation of serenity: In Full
Cultivation of wisdom: In Full

Eliminating the Corrupting Influences [Āsavas] of Sense Pleasures, being and blindness [kāma, bhāva, avijja]. Sometimes 'diṭṭhi' [views] is added to this list, but that is not necessary in that it is encompassed by 'avijja.'

Result:

Arahantship in this life.

 


 

II.1. In Ascending Order:

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture In Full
Cultivation of serenity Partial
Cultivation of wisdom Partial

Breaking the three yokes

Result:

Streamwinning: Assurance; rebirth in Hell, as a deamon, ghost or animal is precluded;
awakening is certain.

Type 1: Seven rebirths at most, going up and down among gods and men.

Type 2: Rebirth in two or three good families.

By additionally weakening lust, hate and stupidity [rāga-dosa-moha] he becomes

Type 3: The "One-seeder". He takes rebirth as man once; he is a 'Once-returner' Returning once to this world becomes an Arahant here and attains Final Nibbāna.

Note: Again here the wording on this leaves open the possibility that between death in this world and the next return to this world there may be rebirths in other realms. This does not say: 'Taking rebirth only one more time.'

II.2.

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture: In Full
Cultivation of serenity: In Full
Cultivation of wisdom: Partial

Breaking the five yokes

Result:

Type 1:

Non-Returning. Not returning to rebirth as man, attaining the Akaniṭṭha realm he attains Final Nibbāna [parinibbāyī] there.

Note: Here the wording is 'upstream he gets the Akaniṭṭha realm' [uddhaṃsoto hoti akaniṭṭhagāmi]. This realm is the highest of the Pure Abodes. It is likely, but not absolutely clear that this means he is reborn directly in the Akaniṭṭha realm. It could be (and the commentaries, Bhk. Thanissaro and Bhk. Bodhi assume) he is reborn in lower Pure Abodes and travels upward to this realm. (see discussion below)

Type 2:

With-own-making [sa-saŋkhāra] Final Nibbāna

Note: (saŋkhāra; own-making, confounding, constructing, fabrication. Woodward has "with-" or below "without some trouble"; Bhk. Thanissaro has fabrications, adding '(of exertion)'; Bhk. Bodhi skips right to 'exertion'; presumably these translations are influenced by commentary and work off the translation of saŋkhāra as 'activities'; however this is translated, keep in mind that in this context 'activities' or 'exertion' would imply the intent to create personal experience.) attains final Nibbāna,
There is a contradiction in the PTS Pali in the ordering of this whole group and again with these two in this sutta and the next. Woodward translating saŋkhāra as 'trouble' creates a logic for reversing the order in the Pali of this sutta to match what is an error in the next, but 'not-saŋkhāra' is higher than 'saŋkhāra' always.

Type 3:

Without-own-making [a-saŋkhāra] Final Nibbāna

Type 4:

Cut-down [upahacca] Final Nibbāna

Note: Upahacca 'up-strike' or 'kill', or 'up-cut' or the way we usually have it 'to cut up' or 'cut down' or 'to strike down'; Woodward: 'by reduction of his time'; and relying on commentary: Bhk. Thanissaro: 'on arrival [in a Pure Abode]; Bhk. Bodhi; 'upon landing'; see Bhk. Thanissaro's discussion in his footnote. #4) attains Final Nibbāna, Note that the nature of what is cut down is not specified. What we can infer from the position of this type in the list here and below is that there is less time and effort involved in the attaining of Final Nibbāna for this type than for the previous types.

Type 5:

In-between [antarā] Final Nibbāna

Note: There is no confusion here about the term, but the meaning is subject to much debate. One question put is: "Is this an indication of a state between births?" If we see that in the case of this sutta where these last four are put in the descending order thus confirming their relationships to each other as being a progression from lower to higher, and we take the first type as meaning that the non-returner is reborn in some world to progress from that on towards the Akiniṭṭha Realm where there he attains Final Nibbāna, then these four attainments could be understood as:
Style one: Rebirth in some realm where there is still self-identification or a personal world and thereafter moving on up to the Akiniṭṭha and attaining Final Nibbāna, there;
Style two: Rebirth in some realm where there is no self-identification or personal world, such as the Ākiñcaññāyatana or N'evasannānasannāyatana and thereafter moving on up to the Akiniṭṭha and attaining Final Nibbāna, there;
Style three: Cutting down, killing off, cutting-back, the remainder of whatever life remains in whatever rebirth has been taken, and thereafter moving on up to the Akiniṭṭha and attaining Final Nibbāna, there.
Style four: Between death and subsequent rebirth in one of the previous three styles, moving on up to the Akiniṭṭha and attaining Final Nibbāna, there.
But this is not absolutely required by the wording which is in each case just that in this way (i.e., with own-making) he attains Final Nibbāna.
And, again, this is a list put in ascending order, which when (as in the next sutta) it is put in descending order states that it is a failing not to have attained the previous, higher development: [anabhisambhavaṃ: 'not-higher-self development of such'] and it is not possible to construct these last four styles in such a way as not to have them be successively shorter paths to Final Nibbāna than a progression through the Pure Abodes to the Akiniṭṭha. And why should that be objectionable? Is not attaining Arahantship in this life an even shorter path?
This would still allow the understanding of the first type to be a rebirth in some world below the Akiniṭṭha with a progression to there before the attaining of Final Nibbāna, but this would be inconsistant with the statement in MN 22] that 'all those who have broken the five yokes are spontaneously reborn (no specified location) and attain Final Nibbāna, there.
One more peramater needs to be factord in to the understanding of this list as a progression: that is, that it is frequently stated that the Non-returner reborn in one of the Pure Abodes, attains Final Nibbāna, at some point towards the middle of his lifespan. I am not aware of any place where the lifespan of those reborn in the Pure Abodes is stated. These realms are brahma-lokas, however and are calculated in kappas: aeons.
The construction we are left with then points to the understanding of the first type as a rebirth directly in the Akiniṭṭha (the wording in MN 22 is that he attains Final Nibbāna, there) and the subsequent types as indicating other, shorter, direct routes to Final Nibbāna, not by way of the Akiniṭṭha.
Finally, it should be remembered that at any point along any path, (Streamwinner on up) the practitioner might be able to drive himself to destroy the āsavas and become Arahant.

II.3

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture: In Full
Cultivation of serenity: In Full
Cultivation of wisdom: In Full

Eliminating the Corrupting Influences [Āsavas] of Sense Pleasures, being and blindness [kāma, bhāva, avijja].

Result:

Arahantship in this life.

 


 

III. In descending order.

III.1:

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture: In Full
Cultivation of serenity: In Full
Cultivation of wisdom: In Full

Eliminating the Corrupting Influences [Āsavas] of Sense Pleasures, being and blindness [kāma, bhāva, avijja].

Result:

Arahantship in this life.

III.2:

Note: This and the following types, the way the sutta reads, have all undertaken the training rules and have developed ethical culture, serenity, and wisdom in full and have eliminated the five yokes. Each is said to have not attained the preceding [anabhisambhavaṃ: 'not obtaining self development of such']; often put: 'failing that'.

Note: The PTS Pali, CSCD and apparently the Pali used by Bhk. Bodhi the order of this section is incorrectly reversed, going from highest to lowest where the rest of the sutta is going from lowest to highest. The order is put properly here:

Type 1:

In-between [antarā] Final Nibbāna

Type 2:

Cut-down [upahacca] Final Nibbāna

Type 3:

Without-own-making [a-sa-saŋkhāra] Final Nibbāna

Type 4:

With-own-making [sa-saŋkhāra] Final Nibbāna

Type 5:

Not returning to rebirth as man, attaining the Akaniṭṭha realm he attains Final Nibbāna [parinibbāyī] there.

Note: In this sutta in the PTS Pali there is an elipsis between 'upstream he gets' and 'goes to the Akaniṭṭha' [uddhaṃsoto hoti ... Akaniṭṭhagāmi]. This would make these into two different sorts of non-returner. The BJT Pali has 'Going to the Akaniṭṭha' as a separate sentence in this sutta, but not the previous. The CSCD Pali would read as Bhk. Bodhi translates: 'one bound upstream, heading toward the Akaniṭṭha realm,' no elipsis, no separate sentence, one category. I think the PTS Pali and translation (Woodward places elipses as with the PTS Pali) must be in error here as it is reletively certain that this sutta is to be understood as a repetition in reverse order of the previous sutta. There is no statement in this, at least in these suttas, that the first rebirth subsequent to this life is in the Pure Abodes. The breaking of the five yokes implies only no further rebirth in the 'Lower' Realms. That is defined by PED as meaning the kāma loka or realms where there is experience through the five senses. But since there is at least one case [that of Anāthapiṇḍika, and see also MN 143, and I believe there is at least one other person who was stated to be a non-returner and also to have been reborn in Tusita] of a non-returner being declared to have been reborn in the Tusita Realm, and since beyond the five yokes is still 'lust for form' [rūparāja] the inference is that the non-returner could be reborn in a realm at least as 'low' as that.

Again note that the order here implies more and more time, effort, involvement, attachment.

Type 6: (There is no separate category created here for the following):

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture In Full
Cultivation of serenity Partial
Cultivation of wisdom Partial

Breaking the three yokes

By additionally weakening lust, hate and stupidity [rāga-dosa-moha] he becomes

Result:

The "One-seeder". He takes rebirth as man once; he is a 'Once-returner' Returning once to this world he brings and end to Pain.

Note: Again here the wording on this leaves open the possibility that between death in this world and the next return to this world there may be rebirths in other realms. This does not say: 'Taking rebirth only one more time.' In fact, if the Once-returner is to be seen as one who is less advanced than the lowest non-returner, (and that is always the implication) some intervening life or lives must be assumed.

Type 7:

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture In Full
Cultivation of serenity Partial
Cultivation of wisdom Partial

Result:

Rebirth in two or three good families.

Note that except for the fact that human birth involves much more pain and struggle, and so imply increased effort for attainment of Final Nibbāna, the amount of time for this type of Streamwinner would be less than that for the swiftest non-returner. Or is it the case here as with the Once-returner, that there are intervening lives in other worlds?

Type 8:

Practice:

Undertaking the training rules which encompass ethical culture, serenity and wisdom, and having developed them as follows:

Ethical Culture In Full
Cultivation of serenity Partial
Cultivation of wisdom Partial

Result:

Streamwinning: Rebirth in Hell, as a deamon, ghost or animal is precluded;
awakening is certain.
Seven rebirths at most, going up and down among gods and men.

The effort here has only been to make the progression rational and consistent with the various ways this progression is mentioned throughout the suttas. There is no question that it is a matter of interest, but the safest course, if one does not see that one is a Streamwinner, is to aim at that. It is at that point at least that there is certainty without need of 'belief' and perception that one is safe from rebirth in the sorts of lives lower than human status.


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