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[ Sitting Practice ]

The Powers of the Aristocrats

Majjhima Nikaya
Indriyabhavanasuttam[1]

Vocabulary:

Indriani: PED: ["Vedic indriya adj. only in meaning 'belonging to Indra'...but in specirfic Pali sense "belonging to the ruler", i.e., governing, ruling nt. governing, ruling or controlling principle] A. On term: Indriya is one of the most comprehensive and important categories of Buddhist psychological philosophy and ethics, meaning "controlling principle, directive force, ...(a) with reference to sense-perceptibility "faculty, function" , often wrongly interpreted as "organ" (b) w. ref. to objective aspects of form and matter "kind, characteristic, determinnating principle, sign mark" (c) w. ref. to moods of sensation and (d) to moral powers or motives controlling action "principle, controlling" force; (e) w. ref. to cognition and insight "category"

Indriani-bhāvanā: PED: cultivation of the moral qualities.

This is a word and idea that is older than Buddhism. "The Indrianis" are sometimes translated "Sense Organs". PED remarks that this is erroneous. In the straight forward sense this is correct, but what we have here is an idea that must be seen from an older higher perspective. Here you have "fresh man" observing the world as though for the first time, through the eyes (senses) of his god: Indra. So while modern man hears "seeing" as an indifferent, ordinary phenomena; what Indriani represents is the view that "seeing" is a god-like power. Where God sees The All through his mighty eye, Man sees "his world" like God sees The All...that is the pre-Buddhist sense of Indriani and why there was an early tendancy to translate the term as "sense organ."

Then, as with this sutta, the Buddha puts a twist on the idea (which was, if this sutta is good evidence, lost to those using it at the time anyway). The Buddha takes the concept and raises it, as a power, even above what Indra might have enjoyed.

paṭikkūla: PED: (paṭi + kūla) Lit. against the slope; averse, objectionable, contrary, disagreeable. appaṭikkūla: without objection, pleasant, agreeable

One more thing: this is the final sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya. In that context I think it is important to study it alongside the Mulapariyaya.

 


 

Outline of the Indriyabhavana Sutta

Becoming Indra
or
The Powers of the Aristocrats

I HEAR TELL,

Dark-Jungle Town, Mukhelu Grove

There, Uttara, a brahman youth who was the student of Parasariya, having approached the Lucky Man, having greeted him respectfully and exchanged polite talk, took a low seat to one side and waited in eager anticipation of the afternoon's discourse.

Then the Lucky man said this to Uttara the brahman youth: "Tell me, Uttara, does Parasariya teach Becoming Indra?"

"Yes, Good Gotama, Parasariya does teach Becoming Indra."

"How, exactly, Uttara, does Parasariya teach Becoming Indra?"

"Here, Good Gotama, Parasariya teaches 'See no material form with the eye, hear no sound with the ear.'

"In this case, Uttara, a blind man will have become Indra, a deaf man will have become Indra, for a blind man sees no material form with the eye, a deaf man hears no sound with the ear."

At this Uttara fell silent, shaken, bowled over, downcast, overwhelmed, at-a-loss, speechless.

Bhagava, seeing the shaken, bowled over, downcast, overwhelmed, at-a-loss, speechless state of Uttara, addressed the Venerable Ananda: "The way Parasariya teaches Becoming Indra is one thing, Ananda, the way Becoming Indra is taught in the Discipline of the Aristocrats is something altogether unsurpassed."

"What is The Unsurpssed Becoming Indra in the Discipline of the Aristocrats?

In the first case, when a Beggar sees a material form with the eye, from this there arises the liked, the disliked, the liked-and-disliked.[2]

He understands the situation this way: 'Present in me now is that which is liked, disliked, liked-and-disliked. This is occuring as a consequence of confouning, it is a biproduct, the rebound of an earlier conjuration...but this, this is calm, this is high, that is, objective detachment.' That way the birth of the liked, the birth of the disliked, the birth of the liked-and-disliked is aborted and objective detachment stands fast.

In the same way, Ananda, as a man with eyes in his head that can see, could open his eyes, or having opened his eyes could close them, such is the rapidity, such is the speed, such is the small amount of trouble involved in aborting the birth of the liked, the birth of the disliked, the birth of the liked-and-disliked and standing fast in objective detachment.[3]

And the same process is applied to the other senses.

This is The Way in the Discipline of the Aristocrats, The Unsurpassed Becoming Indra is taught.

This is how a beginner should train himself:

When a Beggar sees a material form with the eye, from this there arises the liked, the disliked, the liked-and-disliked.

So when the liked, the disliked, the liked-and-disliked has arisen he becomes aware of the danger, exercises humility and avoidance.[4]

And it is the same with the other senses.

This is The Way a beginner is taught to practice The Unsurpassed Becoming Indra in the Discipline of the Aristocrats.

This is how it is with an Aristocrat who has Become Indra:

When a Beggar sees a material form with the eye, from this there arises the liked, the disliked, the liked-and-disliked.

Sucha one as this may wish:

"Let me live not perceiving what goes against the grain in what goes against the grain," then he lives not perceiving what goes against the grain in what goes against the grain.

Or he may wish: "Let me live perceiving what goes against the grain in what does not go against the grain," then he lives perceiving what goes against the grain in what does not go against the grain.

Or he may wish: "Let me live not perceiving what goes against the grain in both what goes against the grain and what does not go against the grain," then he lives not perceiving what goes agains the grain in both what goes against the grain and what does not go against the grain.

Or he may wish: "Let me live perceiving what goes against the grain in both what goes against the grain and what does not go against the grain," then he lives perceiving what goes against the grain in both what goes against the grain and what does not go against the grain.

Or he may wish: "Let me live avoiding both what goes against the grain and what does not go against the grain, satisfied, clearly conscious, detached," then he lives avoiding both what goes against the grain and what does not go against the grain, satisfied, clearly conscious, detached.

This is The Way it is for an Aristocrat who has Become Indra.

 


 

Compare this practice with the practice of "Guarding the Senses"

 


[1] The full spinning-out of this sutta is at:
[MN.152]

[2] Manāpaṃ amanāpaṃ manāpāmanāpaṃ as contrasted with the more frequent sukhaṃ -n dukkhaṃ-n asukhaṃ-m-adukkhaṃ. Manāpa: PED: pleasing, pleasant, charming. I would make it "Mind-up". But PED says often in combination with piya (loved), so I think "liked" which is how Horner and others usually translate it. N/B have: "agreeable". The third alternative is forumulated in the opposite way to asukhaṃ-m-adukkhaṃ (neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant) liked-notliked.
Since we know that what results from the contact of eye and visible object is pleasant or unpleasant or neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant sense experience, then I think we are to understand that "manāpa" "amanāpa" and "manāpāmanāpa" are the categories of subjective reaction to sense experience. This is supported by the similes which indicate that the situation being discussed is not one of being free altogether from the experience, but the getting rid of any reaction to it as soon as it appears, or the disassociation from it as it occurs.
So it goes like this: the eye comes into contact with a visible object, pleasant sensation arises; pleasant sensation is a thing that is liked; becoming aware of the presence of pleasant sensation, he is aware that it is something that is liked, he remembers the danger in sucha phenomena and because he is aware of the danger it is not possible for liking to develop; unliked, the original sense experiences passes away in accordance with it's dependance on the conditions which brought it into being. It cannot develop further because it is not given fuel to do so.

[3] Note the rest of the similies are also sense-sensative.

[4] Horner: "...he is troubled about it, ashamed of it, loathes it."
N/B: "...he is ashamed, humiliated and disgusted..."
N/B footnote: "Although the sekha has already entered upon the way to final deliverance, he is still prone to subtle states of liking, aversion, and dull indifference in regard to sense objects. He experiences these, however, as impediments to his progress, and thus becomes ashamed, humiliated, and disgusted by them."
This reflects the difference in interpretation between B/N and Horner and myself. The former consider that the arising of the Liked, etc. is already the state I am describing as Liking. As above, I am saying that contact of eye and visible object gives rise to sensation whether in the seeker or the arahant. The sensation is the Liked, the reaction to the sensation is Liking.
So in the case of the learner, what he is being instructed to do is to see the danger in the presence of that which is liked in it's potential for causing in him Liking.
The wording in the Pali for the initial situation is the same for these two cases and the case to follow.

 


 

References:

[MN 152]
PTS: Majjhima Nikaya III: 152: Indriyabhavanasuttam, pp298
PTS: The Middle Length Sayings III: 152: Discourse on the Development of the Sense-Organs, Horner, trans., pp346
WP: The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, 152: The Development of the Faculties, Bhikkhu Nanamoli, Bhikkhu Bodhi, trans., pp1147
PTS: Psalms of the Early Buddhists II: Psalms of the Brethren, (Mrs) Rhys Davids, trans, pp295
PTS: Dictionary of Pali Proper Names II, G.P. Malalasekera, pp198


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