Anguttara Nikaya


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Anguttara Nikāya
Sattaka Nipāta

Sutta 45

Satta-saññā Suttaṃ

Seven Perceptions

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


 

[1][pts][ati][mnl] I HEAR TELL:

Once upon a time, Bhagava, Savatthi-town revisiting.

Seven perceptions, me'beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
have great fruit,
great profit,
slip into[1] the deathless,
culminate in the deathless.

What seven?

2. Imperfection-perception,[2]
death-perception,[3]
food-repulsiveness[4]-perception,
whole-world-nothing-to-be-overjoyed-at-perception,[5]
inconsistancy-perception,[6]
pain-in-inconsistancy-perception,[7]
not-self-in-pain-perception.[8]

These, then, beggars, are the seven perceptions
developed,
made a big thing of,
which have great fruit,
great profit,
slip into the deathless,
culminate in the deathless.

 


[1] Amatogadhā. Ogadha: immersed, merging into, diving or plunging into. There is a sensation of sinking or slipping into or slipping away into connected with entering a jhana which is perhaps what this word indicates.

[2] Initially this is: 'There is a beautiful woman! Oh, but she is too tall, too short, too dark, too pale, too thin, too fat, too busty, not busty enough ... she has an unpleasant personality, poor morality, no self-control, she is dull witted, badly educated, uncouth, ... .' Ultimately one will know that there will be a ballerina with coal black hair, perfect in body ... not too tall ... . And if the ballerina has ugly feet, there will be a deva that would cause some man who saw her and could not obtain her to vomit blood. There's no end to it that way, although such a method might buy some time. The trick is to push the method so as to see: 'Ah like a flower in spring, she is indeed beautiful in her fashion and for her time, but before I can make a move, however swift I may be, she will change and become something different than I perceive.

[3] Seeing, and sooner or later you will get an opportunity to see with your own eyes in spite of this world sanitized as much as possible of visible death, a being now dead and think: 'This body too, is just like that, is made just like that, has not slipped passed that outcome, is subject to just such an end as that.' See how this is inevitably true.

[4] Paṭikkūla. Paṭi + kūla lit. against the slope; averse, objectionable, contrary, disagreeable. Consumption of food being that which sustains and furthers life or being, and the goal being the end of sustaining and furthering living or being, food is contra-indicated while at the same time it is a necessary evil. However acute the perception of the contrary nature of food with regard to attaining the goal, one has compassion for the body and does what one is able to insure that it is properly fed, if even only at the minimum. Sariputta: 'Two mouthsfull, chewed and swallowed' should do it.

Perception of the repulsive nature of food is not got through satiation. With the practice of eating moderately, just sufficient to sustain the body, eating more than is needed is seen to dull the wits and this is both dangerous and disagreeable to one who is concerned about the goal or finds delight in the mind. Seeing the reverse of this is also helpful: the hungry man quickly becomes tuned in to the instincts of the hunter and develops cunning, and magic powers and these things are seen to be more interesting than ordinary states and it is seen to be a disadvangage when because of eating too much, they become dull or disappear altoghether.

Again, the nature of food, however attractively presented is seen to be the same going in as that which comes out. Especially useful in this practice is the sense of smell. Some bhikkhus mush together all the food in the bowl to break up it's attractiveness.

[5] Sabbaloke anabhiratasaññā. Sabba-loka = all-world; an-abhi-rata-sanna = not-over-enjoyment-perception. This is not an intellectual attitude, world-weariness. Attitudes change. This is where it has become clear and is automatic to see that there is a universal law that applies to whatever has become: things change, nothing lasts. Therefore it is useless to invest energy/emotion in hoped-for outcomes. It is not the perception of the truth of that, it is seeing how that law applies with regard to everything one observes. A thousand disadvantages are perceived arising simultaneously with the arising of every ambition. This is understood as achieved when hope no longer arises and there is no feeling of sadness, there is even a feeling of freedom from disappointing engagement with the world. 'Abandon all hope, ye who enter here' This is the sign on the gate to hell. What Dante didn't say was on which side of the gate it was posted.

[6] Aniccasaññā. A = not; NI = down; c-ca = k-ka. Not down shit. Not stable. Unsettled. Out of control. Un-controlled. Changing. Impermanent. Or is it a mistake for or pun on: An iccha: not wished? So far this word escapes a good translation. It is not really 'change' because nothing changes but perception. The visible object that came into contact with the eye in connection with consciousness was what it was and then at the next perception is not the thing being perceived. It didnt' change, the subjective idea of what was there changed. But the subjective idea of what was there is also an object of perception, and that too is not the same from perception to perception. On and on. In any case it is perception of that that is what this term means. But it is not enough to know that because of the molecular nature of things, nothing is the same from perception to perception. There are people that see this and are quite happy to live with the notion that in some way or another there is a sense of self moving across time. The sense to develop here is that what is there is out of control unpredictable, unreliable. If it were really 'me', if I were really that, if it were mine, I could make it do what I wanted, not experience what I did not want to experience. Grow this out and see that 99 and 44/100ths % of what you think of as 'yours' is completly out of your hands. What you have as a subjective being, is the ability to act or deliberately not act. The rest, the outcome, is beyond your control. That's it.

[7] Anicce dukkhasaññā. Perceiving the unsettled, changeable nature of things one sees that it is because of the changeable, unsettled nature of things that there is experience of pain both mental and physical. Physical in being bound to a body subject to aging, sickness and death; mental in being bound to an identified-with situation subject to rebirth, pain and misery, grief and lamentation, and despair.

Seeking pleasure one identifies with the experience of something. The next perception is not of the same thing. Identifying with one thing, one experiences loss of the pleasant and gain of the unpleasant.

The perception here is to see that this applies to the experience of any 'thing' that has come into being, that has existence. No sadness. No sense of loss. Perceive freedom in that perception.

[8] Dukkhe anattasaññā. This is the culmination of the previous practices where one has worked around to what comes down to the first truth: 'This is Pain,' and needs only one step more: the actual perception that in this pain there is no self to be found.

 


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