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 [Dhamma Talk]


AN 3.140

Three sets of three things that indicate one has attained the goal.

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Index to available translations: AN 3.140

The three sets of three are:


1. having the body of ethical practices of the adept.

2. having the body of serenity (samādhi) of the adept.

3. having the body of wisdom of the adept.

I do not recall the body of wisdom of the adept being defined, but it would likely consist of knowledge of the Paticca-samuppada, insight into it's implications, knowing the right time to act, and having the skills to act with effect.


1. Having the marvel of magic powers.

2. Having the marvel of ādesanā which PED, Woodward and Bhk. Bodhi translate 'mind-reading', but which is literally 'to-discourse'.

There is a real marvel in the occurance in one of a spontaneous discourse on the Dhamma and this may be the real meaning.

There are two sorts of mind-reading found in the Suttas. One is the reading by knowledge of one's own heart, the hearts of others [see DN 22 § 12], and the other is knowing by some sign or just by intuitively knowing the train of thought of another.

Since thought-reading is essentially 'hearing' the thinking (the vitakka and vicara, or word-thoughts) of another said to be possible on attaining the second jhāna, so the meaning could be 'to hear the discursive thinking' of another.

3. The marvel of giving efficatious advice, which Woodward translates 'teaching' and Bhk. Bodhi translates 'instruction' but which is more than just teaching (standing in front of a 'class' and muttering recollected words presumed to be knowledge), it is the ability to know what needs to be taught and having the skills to effectively teach it to a specific audience to bring about advancement towards an intended goal,


1. Having high view.

In this book of the suttas understanding this is complicated by the fact that this term is not, as it is elsewhere, defined as the Four truths. See discussion below for this.

2. Having high knowledge, (seeing the Paticca-samuppada as it really is).

3. Having attained high liberation (having attained freedom from the āsavas, seeing freedom as freedom, knowing one is free, that rebirth has been ended, one's duty has been done, one has lived the godly life, and that there is no more being some kind of an 'it' at any place of being 'at').

This is not a list of nine different things, it is three lists of three things, each list being a different way of saying the same thing, so by comparing each set with the others to be sure the meanings in it are encompassed by each of the other sets one will arrive at a clearer definition of the meanings of each of the terms.

This sutta is divided into three suttas by Bhk. Bodhi and CSCD. Since the usual number of suttas is met by having one sutta here, it looks likely that the original was the first set of three and that the second two sets were added after. This does not make them 'not-Dhamma'.




...he has right view;
he is reasonable in outlook,
holding that there are such things as gift,
fruit and ripening of deeds
done well or ill;
that this world is,
that the world beyond is;
that mother, father and beings of supernatural birth (in other worlds) do exist;
that there are in the world recluses and brāhmins who have gone rightly,
who fare rightly,
men who of their own comprehension
have realized this world and the world beyond
and thus declare it.
AN 3.200 - Woodward

Something that might be of interest to those researching the development of the Dhamma is the use in this and in suttas 200-205 (and likely intended to be understood this way from 180 on) of the term 'sammā diṭṭhi' (consummate view, high view, 'right' view) as defined in a way that is not the equivalent of the four truths (as 'sammā diṭṭhi' is defined, for example, in DN 22).

It is the converse of this definition of the term which is implied most frequently when speaking of those of low view (miccha diṭṭhi).

Use of this definition when speaking of non-believers is essential for the sake of reason in that prior to Gotama the four truths were unknown and had the criteria for higher births been knowing that, there would be no higher births outside the Buddha's Dhamma or in periods between Buddhas where the Dhamma is all but non-existent, something we are led to believe is not the case.

There is a problem here when it comes to understanding the first sutta (as we have it) where sammā diṭṭhi is not defined.

The four truths are given, but it is not stated that this is to be the definition of sammā diṭṭhi.

If the definition of sammā diṭṭhi was originally as we have it in these suttas it would be this definition that would be heard by the first five disciples, and that would imply that the Magga was to be understood as separate from the four truths.

It could have then been added into the Magga in the form of sammā ñāṇa, the ninth dimension, when the Magga is given with ten dimensions where it is known as the Asekha Pada, the path of the non-seeker or simply the Ariya Magga, no eightfold.

There what we usually find for it's definition is the Paticca Samuppada, and that is the equivalent of the Four Truths.

This would go a long way to explain what was seen as the need for a change of terms in the Pali for the ninth dimension as discussed in The Pali Line. That is, if the original ten part path began with sammā diṭṭhi as defined here, then sammā ñāṇa as 'knowledge' or 'book knowledge' would make sense where when sammā diṭṭhi is defined as the four truths, the redundancy does not go well.

This would mess up any theory as to the precision of the language of Gotama's awakening, but it would not be unreasonable to think of as an evolution in the formulation of the Dhamma.

Alternatively what we would need to assume is that the definition of sammā diṭṭhi as the Four Truths was an error in memory or is an editorial construction.

There is nothing in either of these two hypotheses which amounts to a contradiction in doctrine. A sacred cow might have to be slaughtered, but that would be a bloodless sacrifice.

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