Anguttara Nikaya


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Anguttara Nikāya
Sattaka Nipāta

Sutta 46

Vitthata Satta-saññā Suttaṃ

Seven Perceptions — In Detail

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


 

Translator's Introduction

Two things in this sutta should be very interesting to the careful reader. The first is that it is a complete path to the goal using perception as it's theme. The second is that each of the seven perceptions given as upward steps in this method can be made to encompass the other perceptions and are, therefore, themselves complete paths to the goal.

 


 

[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.

 


 

3. "Imperfection-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless."

So it is said.

And because of what is this said?

4. Making a big thing of
the imperfection-perception-wrapped heart, beggars,
a beggar lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of attaining sexual things,
but is repelled, composed and detached.

In the same way, beggars,
as a cock's wing
or a piece of meat,
thrown into a fire,
shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out,
even so, beggars,
a beggar making a big thing of,
the imperfection-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of attaining sexual things,
but is repelled, composed and detached.

If, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of,
the imperfection-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
given over to,
not disinclined towards,
fixed on,
attainment of sexual things
then this beggar should say to himself:
'not developed by me is imperfection-perception,
not attained by me is distinction between before and after,[9]
not got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

If, however, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of
the imperfection-perception-wrapped heart
lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of attaining sexual things,
but is repelled, composed and detached
then this beggar should say to himself:
'developed by me is imperfection-perception,
attained by me is distinction between before and after,
got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

Imperfection-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless.

So it is said.

And it is because of this that it is said.

 


 

5. "Death-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless."

So it is said.

And because of what is this said?

6. Making a big thing of
the death-perception-wrapped heart, beggars,
a beggar lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of wishing for life,
but is repelled, composed and detached.

In the same way, beggars,
as a cock's wing
or a piece of meat,
thrown into a fire,
shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out,
even so, beggars,
a beggar making a big thing of,
the death-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of wishing for life,
but is repelled, composed and detached.

If, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of,
the death-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
given over to,
not disinclined towards,
fixed on,
the thought of wishing for life
then this beggar should say to himself:
'not developed by me is death-perception,
not attained by me is distinction between before and after,
not got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

If, however, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of
the death-perception-wrapped heart
lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of wishing for life,
but is repelled, composed and detached
then this beggar should say to himself:
'developed by me is death-perception,
attained by me is distinction between before and after,
got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

Death-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless.

So it is said.

And it is because of this that it is said.

 


 

7. "Food-repulsiveness-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless."

So it is said.

And because of what is this said?

8. Making a big thing of
the food-repulsiveness-perception-wrapped heart, beggars,
a beggar lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of thirst for tastes,
but is repelled, composed and detached.

In the same way, beggars,
as a cock's wing
or a piece of meat,
thrown into a fire,
shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out,
even so, beggars,
a beggar making a big thing of,
the food-repulsiveness-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of thirst for tastes,
but is repelled, composed and detached.

If, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of,
the food-repulsiveness-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
given over to,
not disinclined towards,
fixed on,
the thought of thirst for tastes
then this beggar should say to himself:
'not developed by me is food-repulsiveness-perception,
not attained by me is distinction between before and after,
not got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

If, however, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of
the food-repulsiveness-perception-wrapped heart
lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of thirst for tastes,
but is repelled, composed and detached
then this beggar should say to himself:
'developed by me is food-repulsiveness-perception,
attained by me is distinction between before and after,
got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

Food-repulsiveness-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless.

So it is said.

And it is because of this that it is said.

 


 

9. "Whole-world-nothing-to-be-overjoyed-at-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless."

So it is said.

And because of what is this said?

10. Making a big thing of
the whole-world-nothing-to-be-overjoyed-at-perception-wrapped heart, beggars,
a beggar lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of worldly thoughts,
but is repelled, composed and detached.

In the same way, beggars,
as a cock's wing
or a piece of meat,
thrown into a fire,
shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out,
even so, beggars,
a beggar making a big thing of,
the whole-world-nothing-to-be-overjoyed-at-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of worldly thoughts,
but is repelled, composed and detached.

If, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of,
the whole-world-nothing-to-be-overjoyed-at-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
given over to,
not disinclined towards,
fixed on,
the thought of worldly thoughts
then this beggar should say to himself:
'not developed by me is whole-world-nothing-to-be-overjoyed-at-perception,
not attained by me is distinction between before and after,
not got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

If, however, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of
the whole-world-nothing-to-be-overjoyed-at-perception-wrapped heart
lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of worldly thoughts,
but is repelled, composed and detached
then this beggar should say to himself:
'developed by me is whole-world-nothing-to-be-overjoyed-at-perception,
attained by me is distinction between before and after,
got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

Whole-world-nothing-to-be-overjoyed-at-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless.

So it is said.

And it is because of this that it is said.

 


 

11. "Inconsistancy-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless."

So it is said.

And because of what is this said?

12. Making a big thing of
the inconsistancy-perception-wrapped heart, beggars,
a beggar lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of gains and honors,
but is repelled, composed and detached.

In the same way, beggars,
as a cock's wing
or a piece of meat,
thrown into a fire,
shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out,
even so, beggars,
a beggar making a big thing of,
the inconsistancy-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of gains and honors,
but is repelled, composed and detached.

If, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of,
the inconsistancy-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
given over to,
not disinclined towards,
fixed on,
the thought of gains and honors,
then this beggar should say to himself:
'not developed by me is inconsistancy-perception,
not attained by me is distinction between before and after,
not got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

If, however, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of
the inconsistancy-perception-wrapped heart
lives with a heart
that shrinks back,
shrivels up,
recoils and
does not stretch out
at the thought of gains and honors,
but is repelled, composed and detached
then this beggar should say to himself:
'developed by me is inconsistancy-perception,
attained by me is distinction between before and after,
got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

Inconsistancy-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless.

So it is said.

And it is because of this that it is said.

 


 

13. "Pain-in-inconsistancy-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless."

So it is said.

And because of what is this said?

14. Making a big thing of
the pain-in-inconsistancy-perception-wrapped heart, beggars,
a beggar lives with a heart
set up detached from
lassitude and indolance,
with a sharp sense of fear
of the results of
carelessness,
lack of devotion,
and lack of reflection,
in the same way as towards
a murderer with upraised sword.

If, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of,
the pain-in-inconsistancy-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
not set up detached from
lassitude and indolance,
with a sharp sense of fear
of the results of
carelessness,
lack of devotion,
and lack of reflection,
in the same way as towards
a murderer with upraised sword,
then this beggar should say to himself:
'not developed by me is pain-in-inconsistancy-perception,
not attained by me is distinction between before and after,
not got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

If, however, beggars, a beggar,
a big thing of
the pain-in-inconsistancy-perception-wrapped heart
lives with a heart
set up detached from
lassitude and indolance,
with a sharp sense of fear
of the results of
carelessness,
lack of devotion,
and lack of reflection,
in the same way as towards
a murderer with upraised sword,
then this beggar should say to himself:
'developed by me is pain-in-inconsistancy-perception,
attained by me is distinction between before and after,
got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

Pain-in-inconsistancy-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless.

So it is said.

And it is because of this that it is said.

 


 

15. "Not-self-in-pain-perception-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless."

So it is said.

And because of what is this said?

16. Making a big thing of
the not-self-in-pain-perception-wrapped heart, beggars,
a beggar lives with a heart
calm and well-freed,
and in this external body-with-consciousness
has passed all signs and varieties
of intent to get
I-making-my-making pleasure.

If, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of,
the not-self-in-pain-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
neither[10] calm nor well-freed,
and in this external body-with-consciousness
has not passed all signs and varieties
of intent to get
I-making-my-making pleasure,
then this beggar should say to himself:
'not developed by me is not-self-in-pain-perception,
not attained by me is distinction between before and after,
not got by me is the fruit of developing.'

If, however, beggars, a beggar,
making a big thing of,
the not-self-in-pain-perception-wrapped heart,
lives with a heart
calm and well-freed,
and in this external body-with-consciousness
has passed all signs and varieties
of intent to get
I-making-my-making pleasure,
then this beggar should say to himself:
'developed by me is not-self-in-pain-perception,
attained by me is distinction between before and after,
got by me is the fruit of developing.'

Thus by that he has set up self-awareness.

Not-self-in-pain-perception, beggars,
developed,
made a big thing of,
has great fruit,
great profit,
slips into the deathless,
culminates in the deathless.

So it is said.

And it is because of this that it is said.

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.

[9] Pubbenāparaṃ. The beggar that develops imperfection-perception to the point of attaining the benefits of that practice has a clear distinction in his consciousness of the way he saw things before and the way he sees things after such success in his practice.

[10] The negatives in this segment are not clear and are different in the different versions of the Pali. I have made the best sense of it as I can.


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