Anguttara Nikaya


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Anguttara Nikāya
Atthaka Nipāta
Rāgādipeyyālaṃ

Sutta 92

Abhibhāyatana Suttaṃ

The Spheres of Mastery Over Passion[1]

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


 

[1][pts] I HEAR TELL:

Once upon a time The Lucky Man, Savatthi Town revisiting.

There, to the Beggars gathered round he said:

Beggars!

And, Broke Tooth! they responded.

Beggars, for the complete understanding of passion eight things must be developed.

What eight?

2. When perceiving personal[2] form,
one sees external[3] forms
tiny,
beautiful or ugly,
there is the perception:

"The mastery of fear is known and seen': —

 


 

3. When perceiving personal form,
one sees external forms,
gigantic,
beautiful or ugly,
there is the perception:

"The mastery of fear is known and seen': —

 


 

4. When perceiving personal formlessness
one sees external forms,
tiny,
beautiful or ugly,
there is the perception:

"The mastery of fear is known and seen': —

 


 

5. When perceiving personal formlessness
one sees external forms,
gigantic,
beautiful or ugly,
there is the perception:

This the fourth sphere of mastery over fear.

 


 

6. When perceiving personal formlessness
one sees external forms,
blue,
of a blue color,
blue in all directions
radiantly blue,
there is the perception:

"The mastery of fear is known and seen': —

 


 

7. When perceiving personal formlessness
one sees external forms,
yellow,
of a yellow color,
yellow in all directions
radiantly yellow,
there is the perception:

"The mastery of fear is known and seen': —

 


 

8. When perceiving personal formlessness
one sees external forms,
red,
of a red color,
red in all directions
radiantly red,
there is the perception:

"The mastery of fear is known and seen': —

 


 

9. When perceiving personal formlessness
one sees external forms,
white,
of a white color,
white in all directions
radiantly white,
there is the perception:

"The mastery of fear is known and seen': —

Beggars, for the complete understanding of passion these eight things must be developed.

 


[1] This sutta is almost identical to AN 8.65. I have adapted the title there to fit the meaning here. The Pali retains the title Abhibhāyatana Suttaṃ: The Spheres of Mastery over Fear. Abhibhāyatanāni. PED gives: abhibhū + āyatana. Āyatana is 'sphere'; Ābhibhū is 'Overloard', refering to the idea of lordship (Childers: 'vanquisher'; CPD: sovereign, also: defeater, ruler) and also to the ruler of the sphere of non-perception. But also there is Abhibhūta: overcoming, or being overwhelmed, with specific reference to the involvements (hinderances, nīvaraṇā). Bhk. Bodhi accepts the commentarial explanation that these 'are approaches to the kasiṇas' and are describing the mastering or overcoming of the adverse qualities of such. To me this explains nothing and does not fit the word. How in this scheme are these 'spheres'? (OK, they are often round in the form which is known to Buddhaghosa, but what he calls a kasiṇa is a later 'abstract' version. For example, the earth kasiṇa which he has is a round 'sphere' of earth, but it's original form was simply a plowed field; the 'wind' kasiṇa was just the perception of leaves blowing in the wind, etc.) I think the meaning needs to be found in the terms themselves. For that I think it is not unreasonable to see that this word can also be broken down into: abhi + bhāya. Over-fear. Or putting the two definitions together (which I believe is often what was intended in the original coining of words) 'Overcoming fear' or 'Mastering Fear', the Spheres of Mastery Over Fear (or over those things which cause fear, such as 'passion' and the nīvaraṇā). At the end of the Eights (AN 8.92) that is exactly the meaning given to this group of ideas: that is that they are to be understood for the overcoming of passion.

[2] Ajjhatta. adhi + atta = over + self or: encompassing that which is held by the self. Hare: personally, Bhks. Bodhi and Thanissaro: internally. The idea is that which is identified as the self; the generic form used is because different beings regard different things as the self.

[3] Bahiddhā. Bahi + dha Outside + held. In opposition to Ajjhatta. External, impersonal, that which is 'held to be outside' Again the generic form is used because different individuals hold different ideas as to what belongs to the self and what belongs to the outside.

 


 

References:

DN 33.8 where I have translated this differently and drawn some different conclusions as to it's meaning. (linked to the Pali and PTS)
M. ii, 13;
AN 1.440 ff. Olds (linked to the Pali and PTS).
AN 10.29 (Cf. AN 10.29 Thanissaro
AN 8.92 which repeates this sutta prefaced by: 'For the complete understanding of passion these eight ...'


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