Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
I. Mūlapaṇṇāsa
5. Cūḷa Yamaka Vagga

Sutta 43

Mahā Vedalla Suttaɱ

Mahā Vedalla Suttaɱ

A sutta outline, vocabulary, discussion

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


 

[1][chlm][pts][than][upal] This is a case where Maha Kotthita is questioning Sariputta.

Pañña: Wisdom[1]

[2] One is called Unwise (duppanno >?duppid?) because of not understanding (pajanati; pa=pass; janati=knowing; pass = under + knowing = understanding'), and here, specifically, the not understanding of the Four Truths.

[3] One is called Wise because of understanding, and here, specifically, the understanding of the Four Truths.

viññāṇa: Consciousness (double knowing knowing)

[4] It is called Consciousness because it recognizes (vijānāti; vi = Re; janati = knowing), and here, specifically, it recognizes sensation: unpleasant sensation, pleasant sensation, and sensation that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant.

[5] That which is Wisdom and that which is Consciousness are (saŋsaṭṭha = Co-Mastered; PED has mixed with, living in society with; but I hear the opposite: Self-Mastered, and get Un-self-mastered or ungrouped for visamsattha) grouped together (synonyms) and it is not possible to distinguish between the two even upon close repeated examination.

[6] The distinction is then made qualitatively: one grasps the fundamentals with consciousness while wisdom is to be developed over time. Alternatively consciousness is knowledge of things; wisdom is the knowledge of how to apply knowledge of things; something that must be developed over time.

Vedanā Sense Experience

[7] It is called Sense Experience because it Experiences (vedeti >vid to know, in the sense of "see" --video--; to draw out, distinguish and name, and thereby "possess"), and specifically what it knows is unpleasant sensation, pleasant sensation, or sensation that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant.

Saññā: Perception/Once-know

[8] It is called Perception because it is cognizing (Sanjānāti; san = one, once, one's own, own; first-own-knowing; con-knowing; it would be too easy to just leave it at Once-knowing, which is Perception clearly enough; but I believe the implication is towards the idea that this is a definite stage in the process of distinguishing between the background and what is being experienced by an individuality; for the Mulapariyaya[2] I have used "taking" "taking hold of" where the experience is of the first recognition of a thing by the ordinary common man, here the meaning is clearly more primary or descriptive of function and in this case it cognizes that a thing is, for example, dark green and yellow and red and white (the grasping of the identity of a thing at it's surface level; level of appearances.

First is the impression that a thing is pleasant, then one perceives certain basic properties.

Sense Experience, and Perception and Consciousness are grouped together and it is not possible to distinguish between them even upon close repeated examination. Whatever one experiences at the senses, that one perceives; whatever one perceives of that one is consciously aware.

[10] Mental consciousness purified of the sense experiences at the five faculties of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body masters the sphere of limitless space by thinking: "Space is Limitless." It masters the sphere of limitless consciousness by thinking: "Consciousness is limitless." It masters the sphere of No Thing There by thinking: "There is no thing there."

(Both Horner and Nanamoli/Bodhi next translate "dhamma" as "thing" (Horner: knowable mental object)(N/B: a state that can be known); I believe it should be Dhamma, The Teaching)

[11] One Understands Dhamma by way of the Eye of Wisdom (paññacakkhuna). But one can say 'one masters things through the Eye of Wisdom'.

[12] The Purpose of Wisdom is for higher-mastery, all-round mastery (abhiññatthā parriññatthā), and for Mastering Letting Go (pahānatthā).

[13] There are two grounds rebounding off which High View appears in individuals: The Word of Some Person; or Mentally Tracing things back to their origins (yoniso ca manisikaro).

Seeing or 'getting' 'High View' is the key to Stream-entry. Since once one grasps 'High View' arahantship will always eventually follow, the meaning is that 'Arahantship' can be attained in these two ways, that is, either by having heard this piece of information from someone, or having discovered by one's self it through tracing things back to their points of origin. This distinguishes Buddhas and Paticca-Buddhas from Arahant followers of a Sammasambuddha.

[14] If High View is put into practice and supported by Ethical Conduct, Hearing Dhamma, Discussing Dhamma (sākacchā), Calm (samatha), and Review (vipassana) it finds fruition in freedom of mind (ceto-vimutti) and it's advantages and freedom of wisdom (pañña-vimutti) and it's advantages.

In the above we see where the translation of pañña as wisdom breaks down in that we can understand, in English, the concept of Freedom of Mind, but we have no point of reference for understanding what "freedom of wisdom" might be. For us, Wisdom is more or less, by definition, free in that it is the idea that of choices, the wise choice will be made by one who is Wise. Both Horner and N/B get around this by suggesting the idea is "freedom of mind" and "freedom by wisdom." I think the two ways of stating these two identical constructions are too far different from each other to be justified. So what is it that is intended here? I think the clue is found in the statement:

"That which is Wisdom and that which is Consciousness are grouped together (synonyms) and it is not possible to distinguish between the two even upon close repeated examination.

As stated above, the distinction is then made qualitatively: one grasps the fundamentals with consciousness while wisdom is to be developed over time."
So then this is how I understand the progression from mere consciousness to Freedom of Wisdom:

We speak of plants as having one-sense; touch-consciousness;
humans and animals and other beings as having five lower senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) and one higher sense (mind);
to this point we have "viññāṇa" or just consciousness.
With development by way of memory (experience), comes ordinary worldly wisdom (pa (j)ñā; past (in the sense of higher) knowing) (entry level paññā).
With further development, by the elimination of the contaminants of mind associated with the five lower senses we attain to Pan-Knowledge (pan (j)ñā; all encompassing knowing) equivalent to the sphere of limitless consciousness; the unrestricted ability to see everything within the world from whatever viewpoint we began with ("Ordinary" Omniscience).
Through the introduction of the refined tools available to one with knowledge of Dhamma (further development by way of Ethical Culture, Hearing Dhamma, Discussing Dhamma, Calm, and Review focused through the lens of Samma Ditthi) we attain Higher Mastery and All-Round mastery, or Vision, or the ability to see All Through the lens of Samma Ditthi (pa aññā; past (higher than ordinary) omniscience).
If we then master Letting Go we attain to pan-aññā (all encompassing omniscience), or Wisdom free even of the need for the lens of Samma Ditthi, or, in other words: Freedom of Wisdom.)

[15] There are three categories of living: that characterized by focus on sense pleasure (kāmalokas); that characterized by degree of materiality (rūpalokas); and that characterized by the absence of any materiality (arūpalokas).

[16] Coming to life again for downbound blind individuals is brought about through the yoke to rebirth associated with delight and desire.

[17] Coming to life again is brought to a halt by the elimination of blindness, the arising of vision (vijja), and the radical extirpation (atsa up-root) of desire.

[18] This is the definition of and way to attain the First Burning:[3]

Rising above sensual pleasures (lustful fantasies);
Rising above unskillful conditions (the Nivaranas: wanting pleasure, anger, lazy ways and inertia, fear and trembling and doubt);
one enters on the First Burning (Jhana) in which the inner dialog (vitakka and vicara[4]) is still present; which springs from being above it all; and is characterized by pleasant enthusiasm[5].

[19] The First Burning, therefore, is said to have Five Factors: The two aspects of the inner dialogue, enthusiasm, pleasure, and concentration (or, better, having become 'whole-heartedly-single-minded,' focused) (citt'ekaggatā).

[20] Therefore one who has attained to the First Burning is said to have Let Go of Five Factors and to have Five Factors Remaining (i.e., is not said to have gained anything).

The Five Factors he has Let Go are: Wanting Pleasure, Anger, Lazy Ways and Inertia, Fear and Trembling, and Doubt.

The Five Factors remaining are: The two aspects of the inner dialog, enthusiasm, pleasure, and concentration.

[21] The Five Lower senses (Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting and Touching) do not interact (for example such that one could see sounds, hear smells, and so forth (sinesthesia)); but are synthesized by mental consciousness (such that one is able to be conscious in a way so as to say that one is able to see what one is smelling, hearing, tasting, etc).

[22] The Five Lower senses rebound bound up depending on the lifespan of the individual (Downbound living rebounds bound up supported by the five lower senses)(note this is not the exact sequence as will be found in the paṭicca samuppada but is a condensation that is equally valid) (lifespan = āyu; PED: same root as Greek "aeon", "always"; Latin aevum, Gothic aiws; Old High German ewa, io, "always; German ewig; eternal; Anglo Saxon ae eternity, a always, ever, aye; life, vitality, duration of life, longevity.)
[23] a lifespan is supoorted by, bound up with, depends on caloric energy (usmā; heat >usuma heat "who's your mama?" >usā = food, (manusa = human)
Caloric energy is a result of, is supported by, is bound up with, depends on life.

To assist in the understanding of this, a simile is given: In the same way as with an oil lamp, the light is seen because of the flame and the flame is seen because of the light; life depends on caloric energy and caloric energy depends on life.[6]

The own-making of the individualized lifespan (ayu-sankaram) is not a thing which is generated from the senses (vedaniya) (i.e., the lifespan does not depend on the senses interacting with their objects; the senses depend on the lifespan); if the making of one's own lifespan were a thing that was generated from the senses, then it would not be possible for a beggar who has attained the ending of perception and sense experience (saññā-vedayita-nirodhaɱ) to return from that state.

[24] The "death" of the body is said to have occurred when the lifespan is ended, caloric energy is gone, and consciousness is gone.

[25] The difference between a beggar who has attained the ending of perception and sense experience and the dead body is that in the beggar who has attained the ending of perception and sense experience activity of body, word-thought-and-speech, and mind have been brought to a halt and have disappeared, but the lifespan has not been completely ended, heat has not disappeared, and his powers (the various forces) (indriyāni) have become very clear.

[29] There are four factors connected with the freedom of mind that is neither painful nor pleasurable: Letting go of pain, letting go of pleasure, letting prior-existing mental pleasures and pains subside, and entering the Fourth Burning which is clean clear through bright shinny radiant with mental detachment.

[30] There are two factors connected with attaining the freedom of mind that is signless: Not paying attention to any signs and paying attention to the signless.

[31] There are three factors connected with prolonging the attainment of the freedom of mind that is signless: Not paying attention to any signs and paying attention to the signless, and having prepared ahead of time (for example: having marked out the time; having made various resolves; having prepared to not be interrupted; this applies to ordinary sit down practice as well as to this higher attainment).

[32] There are two factors connected with emerging from the freedom of mind that is signless: Paying attention to signs and not paying attention to the signless.

[33] There is a way to see Boundless Freedom of Mind, No-Thing-to-be-Had-There Freedom of Mind, Empty Freedom of Mind, and Signless Freedom of Mind as different both in connotation and denotation and there is a way to see them as the same in connotation, different only in denotation.

[34] The way to see them as different in both connotation and denotation:

Using the denotation "Boundless Freedom of Mind" for the practice of pervading the ten directions with Friendly Vibrations, Sympathetic Vibrations, Empathetic Vibrations, and Objective Detachment.[7]

Using the denotation "No-Thing-There Freedom of Mind" for the practice of attaining the Sphere of No Thing There by Letting Go of the Sphere of Limitless Consciousness.

Using the denotation "Empty Freedom of Mind" for the practice of attaining the state of Getting High (samadhi) that is Empty by going to one's place to be alone and reflecting "This practice is Empty of "Self" or "Self-ish-ness".[8]

Using the denotation "Signless Freedom of Mind" for the practice of attaining the state of Getting High that is Signless by not paying attention to any signs and paying attention to the signless.

[35] The way to see them as the same in connotation, different only in denotation.

Lust, Anger and Stupidity are conditions productive of Boundaries, are Things which are not Not-Things, which obstruct emptiness, and which produce Signs. For a Beggar who has got rid of the Corrupting Influences (asavas) Lust, Anger, and Stupidity are got rid of, radically extirpated, unable to reappear in the future.

The highest level of development of Freedom of Mind that is Boundless, No-Thing-There Freedom of Mind, Empty Freedom of Mind, and Signless Freedom of Mind is Unshakable (panākuppa) Freedom of Mind.

 


[1] Comparison of the translations of some words in the vocabulary of Majjhima Nikaya I, #43, the Mahavedallasutta

Pali MO Horner Nanamoli/Bhodhi
pañña Wisdom Wisdom Intuitive Wisdom
pajanati Understanding Comprehending Understanding
viññāṇa Consciousness/Double knowing knowledge Discriminateive Consciousness Consciousness
vijānāti Recognize discrimination cognition
vedanā Sense Experience Feeling Feeling
saññā Perception/Once-knowing Perception Perception
sanjānāti Take/connote/perceive Perceive Perceive

[2] See also: Examination of the Mulapariyaya

[3]Note, as a matter of interest in technique, how this sutta describes only the First Burning at this point and in this conventional manner, and that we hear nothing of the second and third Burnings at all. The Fourth burning comes into play later as "the attainment of freedom of mind which has neither pain nor pleasure.

[4] See: DhammaTalk: Re-Thinking Vitakka; Glossology: Vitakka and Vicara

[5] Pīti

[6] Today (Friday, December 19, 2003 5:43 AM) most people understand a little about plant life and photosynthesis: Photosynthesis (the generation of caloric energy by the green material in plants) depends on the fact that the plant is living; the plant depends for it's life on the process of photosynthesis.

[7] See: ../../dhammatalk/the_pali_line/course/gradualdana.htm#TheFourGodlyThoughts and,
../../the_pali_line/bag/4_godly_thoughts/kitbagallerygoodvibrations.htm

[8] See: Sunnata Resources


 

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