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 [Dhamma Talk]


AN 4.178

The Buddha describes two pairs of individuals. One pair is striving to get rid of 'own-body', the other is striving to break up 'blindness'. In each of the pairs the persons have attained peaceful states of mind and liberation of heart and work at their objective but in one case there is no excitement at the task while in the other there is. The Buddha states that where this excitement is missing, the task is unlikely to be accomplished.

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Index to available translations: AN 4.178

The task of the first individual is said to be to eliminate 'own-body' (sakkāya-nirodha). Not 'own-body-view' (sakkāya-diṭṭhi). But there is no 'own-body' there to get rid of. How are we to understand this?

Bhk. Thanissaro translates it: 'cessation of self-identification',
Bhk. Bodhi: 'cessation of personal existence',
but Woodward translates it more closely to what is found in the Pali: 'ending of the person-pack'.

The task has two parts:

Breaking the hold of the view that the way one sees the self is 'the one true view' concerning the self (e.g., that body is the self, or belongs to the self or is a product of the self or has the self within it);
and actually attaining liberation from that body.

It looks as though what is being spoken of is the latter task, but the wording is not so clear as to allow certainty.

If the meaning is breaking the view, what we have here is advanced meditators who have gained liberation of heart working on the attainment of Streamwinning. (Not an impossibility, but it adds a dimension of complexity to the situation which is confusing.)

Similarly confusing is the second set of persons, those working on 'breaking up blindness' (avijjāppabheda).

PED: breaking or splitting up, opening. Giving the example of analyzing a word by way of breaking it into syllables.

Bhk. Thanissaro: 'the breaching of ignorance';
Woodward and Bhk. Bodhi: 'the breaking up of ignorance.'

This also can be divided into two tasks:

The first is intelectual comprehension of the truth of the four truths or the seeing that 'all that which has come to be comes to an end' (which would be 'breaching of ignorance'),
the second is the actual seeing of the truths at work, or the no longer seeing of things as working in accordance with the previously held view one believed was the 'one true view' because one is now able to know and see 'the dependence of this on that' as in the Paṭicca Samuppada (which would be the breaking up of ignorance).

And again here if the first task is being referred to we would have the case of an advanced meditator working on Streamwinning. If it is the second case, the task has gone beyond seeing the truth of the four truths (which is necessary to break through the sakkāya-diṭṭhi) and is now focused on all the peripheral or collateral misbegotten beliefs that accompany holding on to a view of self and things.

Since the term in the second group is 'breaking up' as in analyzing (where Bhk. Thanissaro has used a misleading term here that points to the attaining of Streamwinning) we have grounds for understanding the intent of the sutta to be the second stage in both sets of persons, that is that they are Streamwinners working on the higher accomplishments (Arahantship): ending self-view, all-round or complete detachment from body, or any sort of self-identification (we could say: 'the ending of 'own-body' in quotes, meaning not just the ending of the view, but the ending of the experience itself), and breking up blindness.

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