Anguttara Nikaya


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Anguttara Nikāya
Ekādasako Nipāto

The Numbers Bag
The Book of Elevens

Sutta 9

Sandha Suttaɱ

Sandha

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


Translator's Introduction

This translation is obviously an experiment in an effort to find a word which fits the ancient understanding of the term jhāna. A higher order 'knowing' than our 'knowing'. 'Gnosis' fits well, both etymologically and in the sense that it is a knowing of a higher sort. It has the disadvantage of being long out of popular use. Bhk. Bodhi has opted for the popular understanding by using 'meditation'. The problem with that is that jhāna is not just the act of pondering in mind, but is also the state of seeing things without the interference of inferential thinking ... without, even, in one sense, mind itself.

This is not just 'perceiving, perceiving, perceiving' when it comes to fodder. It is because the mind of the ill-bred horse is occupied with the delights of his fodder, that he does not see that the food he is given comes with strings attached. The well-bred horse sees the whole situation as it is.

The second thing about this sutta, and it is the most important thing, is the explanation made by the Buddha of how it can be that the well-trained practitioner of jhāna can, in perceiving things, not have things as the object of his perception, and yet there is still perceiving.

To understand this, it is necessary to understand the nature of existence as it is dealt with in the Pali (see DN 15 Ī22). It must be understood that there is, in the Pali, consciousness, perception and experience that is not identified with, is not 'consciousness in contact with named form', and is therefor not considered to exist and that for a thing to be considered as existing it must be 'consciousness in contact with named form' or stated another way, 'identified-with consciousness', 'experience' versus 'sense-experience' and 'perception' versus 'sense-perception'. It is only then that we can see that what is being said here in this sutta is: "It is because he has destroyed his identified-with conscious perception and experience through the senses of earth, that there is, without earth as its direct object, perception of earth." There is experience of extra-sensory perception of earth without the idea 'I am perceiving earth.' This perception, consciousness, experience is free. It has freedom from identified-with perception, identified-with consciousness and sense-experience of existence as its object. That is its food. And not existing, not having become, not having a changeable thing as its object, it is not subject to change and ending.

I am not unaware that this could/should be taken as a bombshell by just about every Buddhist school and scholar out there. So be it. It comes down to seeing what is in front of our eyes. It amounts to seeing the insanity of the position that there being no self this thing just comes to an end and yet is somehow to be considered salvation. How people can maintain this position and deny that they are annihilationists is beyond me.

Once finally understood, this idea of an extra-existent-consciousness, (or what now could really be called an extra-sensory experience) is to be found all over the suttas. There is use of each of the terms 'saññā', 'vedāna', and 'viṇṇṇāṇa' for the arahant and/or Nibbāna.

The difference between the position I am putting forth here and that of Bhk. Thanissaro is that the way he puts it, this extra-existent-consciousness is an on-going thing that is to be reached, in other words identical to the Bhodi mind. I am suggesting, and it should be clear from this sutta that it is the case, that this extra-existent state is conditioned (paccaya, nidana; not saŋkhara, own-made) by following the Magga; that it arises fresh as a separate instance as the result of not doing mistaken views, mistaken principles, mistaken speech, mistaken works, mistaken lifestyle, mistaken self-control, mistaken mind, mistaken serenity, mistaken vision, and mistaken detachment. Because it is not a matter of 'doing' but a matter of 'not-doing' it has not been 'own-made' and because of that it has no object other than freedom from having an object, and because of that detachment from the changeable and ending, does not itself come to an end.

 


 

[322]

[1] [pts][than] I HEAR TELL:

Once upon a time, Bhagava, Nādike revisiting,
abiding at [323] Brick Hall.

There then the Ancient Sandho drew near The Lucky Man.

Having drawn near he approached and sat down to one side.

The Lucky Man then said this to the Ancient Sandha:

2. "Gnosticate then the well-bread gnostication,[1] Sandha,
not the uncontrolled-gnostication.

3. And what, Sandha, is the uncontrolled-gnostication?

The uncontrolled-horse, Sandha, bound to his dole,
gnosticates, thinking:
'Hay! Hay!'.

How come?

Because the uncontrolled horse, Sandha,
bound to his dole,
has not the thought:

'Now what then, hum?, will the horse-trainer be having me do this day?

What will the trainer have in return?'

He, bound to his dole,
gnosticates, thinking:
'Hay! Hay!'.

Even thus then, Sandha, we have here some uncontrolled-man
just forrest-gone,
just root-of-tree-gone,
just some empty place-gone,
heart staked round with lust for sense-pleasures,
living overcome by lust for sense-pleasures
and stopping the flow
of his uprisen lust for sense pleasures
not being known by him as it is
he, secretly lusting for sense-pleasures,
does his gnosticating,
prognosticating,
diagnosticating,
pangnosticating.[2]

With heart staked round with deviousness,
living overcome by deviousness
and stopping the flow
of his uprisen deviousness
not being known by him as it is
he, secretly devious,
does his gnosticating,
prognosticating,
diagnosticating,
pangnosticating.

With heart staked round with lethargy and lazy ways,
living overcome by lethargy and lazy ways
and stopping the flow
of his uprisen lethargy and lazy ways
not being known by him as it is
he, secretly lethargic and lazy,
does his gnosticating,
prognosticating,
diagnosticating,
pangnosticating.

With heart staked round with trembling and vacillation
living overcome by trembling and vacillation
and stopping the flow
of his uprisen trembling and vacillation
not being known by him as it is
he, secretly trembling and vacillating,
does his gnosticating,
prognosticating,
diagnosticating,
pangnosticating.

With heart staked round with doubts
living overcome by doubts
and stopping the flow
of his uprisen doubts
not being known by him as it is
he, secretly doubtful,
does his gnosticating,
[324] prognosticating,
diagnosticating,
pangnosticating.

He, with just earth as the object, gnosticates,
with just water as the object, gnosticates,
with just fire as the object, gnosticates,
with just wind as the object, gnosticates,
with just the Realm of Space as the object, gnosticates,
with just the Realm of Consciousness as the object, gnosticates,
with just the Realm of Nothing's Had There as the object, gnosticates,
with just the Realm of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception as the object, gnosticates
with just this world as the object, gnosticates,
with just the world beyond as the object, gnosticates,
with just seeing,
hearing,
sensing,
consciousness,
attaining,
the searched-for,
the pondered over in mind as the object, gnosticates.

Even so, Sandha, is had the gnosticating of the uncontrolled man.

 


 

4. And what, Sandha is the well-bred gnosticating?

The well-bred, knowledgable horse, Sandha, bound to his dole,
does not gnosticate, thinking:
'Hay! Hay!'.

How come?

Because the well-bred knowledgable horse, Sandha,
bound to his dole,
has the thought:

'Now what then, hum? will the horse-trainer
be having me do this day?

What will the trainer have in return?'

He, bound to his dole,
does not gnosticate, thinking:
'Hay! Hay!'.

Indeed, Sandha, the well-bred, knowledgable horse,
regards taking such food as a debt,
as bondage,
as robbery,
as a bad seed,
and sees it thus as a goad.

Even so, Sandha the well-bred knowledgable man
just forrest-gone,
just root-of-tree-gone,
just some empty place-gone,
lives without heart staked round with lust for sense-pleasures,
not overcome by lust for sense-pleasures
and stopping the flow
of uprisen lust for sense pleasures
is known by him as it is.

He lives without heart staked round with deviousness,
not living overcome by deviousness
and stopping the flow
of uprisen deviousness
is known by him as it is.

He lives without heart staked round with lethargy and lazy ways,
not living overcome by lethargy and lazy ways
and stopping the flow
of uprisen lethargy and lazy ways
is known by him as it is.

He lives without heart staked round with trembling and vacillation,
not living overcome by trembling and vacillation
and stopping the flow
of uprisen trembling and vacillation
is known by him as it is.

He lives without heart staked round with doubts,
not living overcome by doubts
and stopping the flow
of uprisen doubts
is known by him as it is.

He, neither with earth as the object, gnosticates,
nor with water as the object, gnosticates,
nor with fire as the object, gnosticates,
nor with wind as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Space as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Consciousness as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Nothing's Had There as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception as the object, gnosticates
nor with this world as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the world beyond as the object, gnosticates,
nor with seeing,
hearing,
sensing,
consciousness,
attaining,
the searched-for,
the pondered over in mind as the object, gnosticates.

Gnostigating not on such objects,
there is, never-the-less, gnostigation.[4]

And thus gnostigating, Sandha,
the controlled, well-bred man is venerated
by the gods, including Indra, Brahma, and Pajapati, saying:

'Honor to you well-bred man,
honor to you man's ultimate

Even we cannot discover
the object of your gnosticating.'"

5. At this point the Ancient Sandho said this to the Lucky Man:

"How then, bhante, does the controlled, well-bred man gnosticate in that he,
neither with earth as the object, gnosticates,
nor with water as the object, gnosticates,
nor with fire as the object, gnosticates,
nor with wind as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Space as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Consciousness as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Nothing's Had There as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception as the object, gnosticates
nor with this world as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the world beyond as the object, gnosticates,
nor with seeing,
hearing,
sensing,
consciousness,
attaining,
the searched-for,
the pondered over in mind as the object, gnosticates
and yet gnostigating not on such objects,
there is, never-the-less, gnostigation
such that, gnostigating,
the controlled, well-bred man is venerated
by the gods, including Indra, Brahma, and Pajapati, saying:

'Honor to you well-bred man,
honor to you man's ultimate

Even we cannot discover
the object of your gnosticating.'?"

6. Here, Sandha, the controlled, well-bred man
has, of earth, earth-perception destroyed,[3]
has, of water, water-perception destroyed,
has, of fire, fire-perception destroyed,
has, of wind, wind-perception destroyed,
has, of the Realm of Space,
the Realm of Space-perception destroyed,
has, of the Realm of Consciousness,
the Realm of Consciousness-perception destroyed,
has, of the Realm of Nothing's Had There,
the Realm of Nothing's Had There-perception destroyed,
has, of the Realm of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception,
the Realm of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception-perception destroyed,
has, of this world,
this world-perception destroyed,
has, of the world beyond,
the world beyond-perception destroyed,
has, of seeing,
hearing,
sensing,
consciousness,
attaining,
the searched-for,
the pondered over in mind,
seeing-,
hearing-,
sensing-,
consciousness-,
attaining-,
the searched-for-,
the pondered over in mind-perception destroyed.

It is thus, Sandha, that the controlled well-bred man gnosticates such that he,
neither with earth as the object, gnosticates,
nor with water as the object, gnosticates,
nor with fire as the object, gnosticates,
nor with wind as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Space as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Consciousness as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Nothing's Had There as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the Realm of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception as the object, gnosticates
nor with this world as the object, gnosticates,
nor with the world beyond as the object, gnosticates,
nor with seeing,
hearing,
sensing,
consciousness,
attaining,
the searched-for,
the pondered over in mind as the object, gnosticates
and yet gnostigating not on such objects,
there is never-the-less gnostigation.

It is thus, Sandha, that, gnostigating,
the controlled, well-bred man is venerated
by the gods, including Indra, Brahma, and Pajapati, saying:

'Honor to you well-bred man,
honor to you man's ultimate

Even we cannot discover
the object of your gnosticating.'"

 


[1] Ājānīyajjhāyitaɱ kho [Sandha] jhāyatha. "Jhana the well-bred-jhana then Sandha." Which would be 'muse with the well-bred musing' of Woodward's translation of jhāyatha / jhāyitaɱ; 'absorb with the well-bred-absorption' of Bhk. Thanissaro; and 'meditate with the well-bred-meditation' of Bhk. Bodhi — though they all translate with a different syntax than here.

[2] jhāyati, pajjhāyati, nijjhāyati, apajjhāyati. The sense really requires the understanding of the root meaning 'to burn' (jhāya) in terms otherwise understood to be manners of deep mental cogitation: knowing; noting, understanding, planning, mastering, thinking through and seeing as it is. The useful meaning is: knows, knows forward, knows backward, knows all about. We have all these, but lack the link to burning, as in 'brilliant' or 'burning to learn' or 'shining with knowledge' and the very deep sense of knowing a thing in a profound way. Bhk. Bodhi: meditates, cogitates, ponders, and ruminates, but these all lack the unity in the root meaning of each term; Woodward: muses, bemused, im-mused, de-mused (which is, to my mind, too amusing); Bhk. Thanissaro: absorbs, besorbs, resorbs, and supersorbs; Chalmers: they trance, and en-trance, and un-trance, and de-trance. I choose to forgo the negative connotations that would appear with the use of 'burning' in favor of the positive case because later in the sutta it will be explained in a way that can be understood as saying: though he knows backwards and forwards, the object of his understanding is not as elevated as in the case of the well-bred.

[3] paṭhaviyā paṭhavisaññā vibhūtā hoti. PED has both 'destroyed' and 'clarified'. Woodward opts for 'clarified', Bhk. Bodhi for 'disappeared'; Bhk. Thanissaro, 'ceased to exist'. I am opting for 'un-living' on the more direct etymology and on the understanding that the goal is outside of that which is considered as existing according to the Buddha's way of understanding existing as being identified-with consciousness of named form, which would include identified-with perception and sense experience. On the other hand there is no real objection to seeing this as being a clarified state.

[4] Bhks. Bodhi and Thanissaro and Woodward all insert 'he' here where there is no 'he' and thus obscure the meaning with interpretation. The gnostigation at this point goes on without the intermediate person.

 


 

References:

MN 38 and especially Bhk. Thanissaro's translation of this sutta, footnote 1
MN 49 and again Bhk. Thanissaro's translation, footnote 9.
DN 15 Olds Ī22
DN 11
AN 11.7 and following suttas.
Is Nibbana Conditioned, essay in the Forum

 


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