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 [Dhamma Talk]


 

AN 5.166

The point of this sutta is to discourse on the attributes which make a bhikkhu beloved of his fellow seekers. However the prelude, a debate between Sāriputta and Udāyī which takes up most of the sutta, is both interesting and obscure and is what we will consider here.

In the beginning of this sutta Sariputta makes the statement:

"Here friends, a beggar accomplished in ethical conduct,
accomplished in serenity (samādhi, in this case meaning jhāna),
accomplished in wisdom,
entering into
and rising up from
the (jhāna called) perception of the end of sense-experience (saññā-vedayita-nirodhaṃ) —
this attainment is established —

In other words: Having attained this much: Being of such and such a nature one is able to enter on and emerge from the ending of perception of sense-expperience. Then ...

if thus not accomplishing omniscience (aññā) in this seen thing (diṭṭh'eva dhamme a more precise name for 'the here and now'),

If he does not attain omniscience. ...

passing past the companionship of solid-food-eating devas (those beings born between the animal realm and the realm of the Gods of Manipulation, that is, below the Rupa Loka or the realms where the gods still have form: the Brahma gods through the gods of the Non-percepient realm and including the Pure Abodes. See The Realms of the Imagination)
being vested with one of the type with a mind-made (manomayaṃ) body
entering into
and rising up from
the perception of the end of sense-experience —
this attainment is established."

Having passed beyond solid-food eating devas, entering on and emerging from the ending of perception of sense experience, he attaines the realm of those with mind-made bodies.

At this point Venerable Udāyī objects, saying:

"This attainment is not thus established,
where if thus (by way of the previous process) not accomplishing omniscience in this seen thing,
passing past the companionship of solid-food-eating devas
being vested with one of the type with a mind-made body
entering into
and rising up from
the perception of the end of sense-experience —
this attainment is not established.

Failing the attainment of omniscience, the attainment of rebirth among those with a mind-made body is not established by passing beyond solid-food eating devas and entering on and emerging from the ending of perception of sense experience.

 

 

This translation is based on the understanding that this debate turns on the idea that the process of attaining omniscience is through the attainment of the perception of the end of sense-experience, by emerging therefrom, by perception that this body and all things own-made come to an end, through that perception giving up any further own-making of mental states, and by that attaining freedom, and in that freedom, seeing it as being the freedom one has sought, becoming absolutely and irrevocably free. See for this: Samma Upekkha. This is the meaning of the first half of Sariputta's statement. By doing this, this is attained.

The second half of Sariputta's statement is, 'but failing the ultimate attainment of omniscience, this is attained, that is: rebirth in some mind-made body (perhaps, but not necessarily, in the Pure Abodes)'.

This is in alignment with many other such statements made by Gotama, that practicing in such and such a way, the rebirth to be expected is such and such, or failing that such another state of a somewhat less degree.

What is it that Upālī thinks Sariputta has said, and how does that explain Gotama's question to Upālī as to what he thinks is the realm of those of mind-made bodies?

Upālī, when asked by the Buddha what he thinks is the realm of those with mind-made bodies, names the 'perception-made' devas of the formless realm — the Realms of Space, Consciousness, Nothing's Had, and Niether Perception-nor-Non-Perception. (Again see The Realms of the Imagination)

What Upālī has said is that it is not through entering on and emerging from the ending of perception of sense experience that the various Formless Realms are attained, for, for example, the Realm of Space is attained attaining the fourth jhāna and then, passing beyond that, with the thought 'Space is endless'; and similarly for the realms of consciousness, no-thing's had, and neither-perception-nor-non-perception. So he is talking apples and oranges, for Sāriputta is not speaking either about attaining these realms nor even about attaining any of the Form realms, but is discussing omniscience and what happens to one who has got as far as the entering on and arising from the ending of perception of sense-experience but who fails to attain omniscience.

 

 

Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation, accepting the ideas that what is being spoken about is 'again-entering' and that from the Pure Abodes, appears to be suggesting that the issue is the ability to re-enter the perception of the end of sense-experience, or the idea that the non-returner can return. However he forces this meaning by the insertion (in square brackets) of 'again' and in his note restricting the rebirth to the Pure Abodes which is not a limitation found in the Pali. In this case Sariputta's instruction would be understood to mean that it was precisely by re-entering the ending of perception of sense-experience that the Non-returner in the Pure Abodes attained omniscience. That is, that it could be done ... which part of Bhk. Bodhi's translation, accepting his additions to the Pali, is something we can find logical. But how can we accept his additions to the Pali? Then, under this construcion Upali's misunderstading would be that it was not possible for a formless being to enter the ending of the perception of sense experience which is not consistant with any statement in the doctrine (these beings are understood to have very long lifespans of such a nature as to make it virtually impossible to attain omniscience there, but those lifespans do eventually end and there is, following, rebirth in such realms as could attain the ending of perception of sense experience) and would amount to saying that those devas could never attain Nibbāna. I doubt this is his misunderstanding.

 

 

Hare's translation has partly correctly got the spirit and partly not. His 'provided he enter ~' throws the idea from it being a matter of what happens to one who fails to attain omniscience, to a matter of the method for attaining an arising in a 'mind-pictured' body. Essentially the misunderstanding of what Sāriputta is saying that is being made by Upālī, that 'witless fool'. Ahum.

 


 

The Pali:

"Idhāvuso, bhikkhu sīlasampanno||
samādhisampanno||
paññāsampanno||
saññā-vedayita-nirodhaṃ samāpajjeyya pi||
vuṭṭhaheyya' pi||
atth'etaṃ ṭhānaṃ.|| ||

No ce diṭṭh'eva dhamme aññaṃ ārādheyya,||
atikkamm'eva kabaliŋkārāhārabhakkhānaṃ devānaṃ sahavyataṃ aññataraṃ manomayaṃ kāyaṃ upapanno saññā-vedayita-nirodhaṃ||
samāpajjeyya pi||
vuṭṭhaheyya pi||
atth'etaṃ ṭhānan" ti.|| ||

Evaṃ vutte āyasmā Udāyī āyasmantaṃ Sāriputtaṃ etad avoca:|| ||

"Aṭṭhānaṃ kho etaṃ āvuso, Sāriputta, anavakāso||
yaṃ so bhikkhu atikkamm'eva kabaliŋkārāhārabhakkhānaṃ devānaṃ sahavyataṃ aññataraṃ manomayaṃ kāyaṃ upapanno||
saññā-vedayita-nirodhaṃ samāpajjeyya pi||
vuṭṭhaheyya pi,||
natth'etaṃ ṭhānan" ti.|| ||

 

 

The Hare translation:

'Herein, sirs, a monk,
who has achieved virtue,
achieved concentration,
achieved insight,
may both completely enter
the ending of perception and feeling
and may emerge therefrom —
this is so.

If here among visible things
he make not the gain of gnosis,
he will surely go beyond
the deva-community that feed on solid food
and arise in a mind-pictured body,
provided he enter
and emerge
from the ending of perception and feeling —
this is so.'

When he had thus spoken,
the venerable Udāyin said
to the venerable Sāriputta:

'This is not so, venerable Sāriputta,
nor happens it,
that should a monk enter and emerge
from the ending of perception and feeling,
he will surely go beyond
the deva-community that feed on solid food
and arise in a mind-pictured body —
it is not so!'

Hare footnotes:

There are these propositions:

there are no formless conditins at all and mind-made devas have form;

there are formless conditions and perception-made devas are formless;

there is no ending of becoming entirely and perception-made devas are formless;

there is ending of becoming entirely and Nibbāna here among these visible conditions (can be won).

Our Comy. observes that Udāyin hearing 'Mind-pictured' disagreed, thinking 'It ought to be among the formless.' [Ed.: this is saying that Udayin hearing that 'failing the attainment of omniscience by entering and arising from the ending of perception of sense-experience, because of entering and arising from the ending of perception of sense-experience one will be reborn in a 'mind-made' body among the devas with form', disagreed, thinking that the consequence of entering on and arising from the ending of perception of sense experience, entering a mind-made body, one would arise among the formless devas. But Sariputta's statement does not eliminate the possibility that one might enter a mind-made body and become one of the formless devas. His statement is that such a one passes those devas that subsist on solid food. He doesn't specify the location other than it is beyond those that subsist on solid food. So the Commentator's comment, if correctly represented here, is itself a misunderstanding of Udāyin's 'hearing'.]

 

 

The Bhk. Bodhi translation:

"Here, friends, a bhikkhu accomplished in virtuous behavior, concentration, and wisdom might enter and emerge from the cessation of perception and feeling.

There is this possibility.

But if he does not reach final knowledge in this very life, having been reborn among a certain group of mind-made [deities] that transcend the company of devas that subsist on edible food, he might [again] enter and emerge from the cessation of perception and feeling.

There is this possibility."

When this was said, the venerable Udāyī said to the venerable Sāriputta: "this is impossible, friend Sāriputta, it cannot happen that a bhikkhu, having been reborn among a certain group of mind-made [deities] that transcend the company of devas that subsist on edible food, might [again] enter and emerge from the cessation of perception and feeling. There is no such possibility."

Bhk Bodhi notes: "The devas that subsist on edible food: the deities of the sense sphere. A certain mind-made group: a certain group of brahmās in the pure abodes, who are reborn by the jhāna-mind.." and

Udāyī has confused the devas of the formless realm, who are said to be perception-made (saññāmaya) with the devas of the form realm (including the pure abodes), who are said to be mind-made (manomaya).

 

 

My translation without explanations:

"Here friends, a beggar accomplished in ethical conduct,
accomplished in serenity,
accomplished in wisdom,
entering into
rising up from
the perception of the end of sense-experience —
this attainment is established —
if thus not accomplishing omniscience in this seen thing,
passing past the companionship of solid-food-eating devas
being vested with one of the type with a mind-made body
entering into
rising up from
the perception of the end of sense-experience —
this attainment is established.

 


 

References:

AN 5.166


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