Aṅguttara Nikāya

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Aṅguttara Nikāya
X. Dasaka-Nipāta
VII. Yamaka Vagga

Sutta 64

Avecca-p-Pasanna Suttaṃ

A Satisfying Certainty

Translated from the Pali
Michael M. Olds


Translator's Introduction

Almost identical to the previous sutta except that here Gotama asserts that all those who have unwavering faith in him are Streamwinners. Something to consider for those insisting that there can be no stream-entry without breaking the first three samyojanas. The catch is of course the 'unwavering' part. It is an easy thing to say one has unwavering faith in something when one has studied it for years or decades or practiced it a little with good results, but this is a wide world and the mind is organized in hierarchies and unless the person has crossed the line marked by the 'dhamma eye': "all things that have come into existence are destined to come to an end" the mind which had latched onto faith through fear (not a high level in the hierarchy) could find a greater satisfaction in someone dying on the cross for their sins, for example, or in the idea that there was no self, or in the idea that this was a one-shot thing and there was no possibility of having to pay up, than in concepts such as compassion, giving or ethical behavior ... themselves not high up in the pecking order. In fact, faith based on such things is one of the three things that the usual definition of the streamwinner suggests must be broken. Still the possibility exists that a person with no more than a faith that the Buddha taught a way to freedom, or a way to the end of pain, might tenaceously hold on to that faith at death and that tenacious hanging on could drag them into a rebirth where their faith could find growth and develop into knowledge and vision, so it is a true statement to say it can be done by faith alone.
One more thing: there was a point not too far back where many of those of us who had faith in Gotama's teaching were trying to make the idea of faith sound palatable to a population heartily disenchanted with a faith that depended on faith that had proved incapable of inspiring it's leaders to remain on the path of righteousness, so to speak. There was a big effort to convince everyone that faith in Buddhism was not faith, but 'confidence' [e.g. Bhk. Bodhi in his translation of this sutta] or 'conviction' [Bhk. Thanissaro] or 'trust' or 'well-reasoned or grounded trust' [me], but here the plain fact of the case is that this sutta is speaking about blind faith and I think we need to accept the fact that there is this level of trust, conviction and confidence in Gotama and his system as well and that it is not without good results. There are those of us who would like to think of Gotama's system as mathematically pure science, which it is, but we need also to recognze that there are those who have blind faith even in pure mathematics, and that it is not therefore a danger to the system that there are such believers. ... it's when a person has confidence and conviction that their blind faith is well grounded and starts proselytizing that the trouble starts, but that is another story.


[1][pts] I Hear Tell:

Once upon a time Bhagava, Sāvatthi, Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's Park revisiting.

There then, the Lucky Man said:

"Whomsoever, beggars, takes a stand on me,
all these have attained to 'Stream-entry'[1] for themselves.

Of those who have attained to Stream-entry for themselves,
five of these take their stand here,
five of these take their stand after departing from here.

Which five take their stand here?

[1] He who comes to existence again a maximum of seven times;

[2] the clan-to-claner;

[3] the one-seeder;

[4] the Once-returner;

[5] and he who is Enobled[2] in this seen thing.

These are the five that take their stand here.

Which five take their stand after departing from here?[3]

[1] The in-between-thoroughly-cooled;[4]

[2] the cut-short-thoroughly-cooled;[5]

[3] the without-own-making-thoroughly-cooled;

[4] the with-own-making-thoroughly cooled;[6]

[5] the up-stream to Akaniṭṭha-goer.[7]

It is these five that take their stand after departing from here.

Whomsoever, beggars, takes a stand on me,
all these have attained to 'Stream-entry' for themselves.

Of those who have attained to Stream-entry for themselves,
five of these take their stand here,
five of these take their stand after departing from here."


[1] sotapannā Stream-entry.

[2] arahā. become Arahant.

[3] The arrangement here seems to be a strange one. Between the two sets the first is the highest and the second the lower, but within the first set the list goes from the lowest to the highest. (The criteria for low and high is the time it takes to accomplish the goal.) Whereas the usual form is for a list to go from the lowest to the highest, here, contrary to the first set, the list goes from the highest to the lowest.

[4] Antarā- tween. There is much argument about what this state may be. I translate literally, understanding the meaning to be subsequent to death but prior to taking a new birth which I believe is supported by #s 3 and 4 which point to one who has no and one who has some earlier own-making to live out in the state after death. The first of these (#3) would attain the goal swiftly, the second (#4) would, after rebirth sometimes go out quickly, sometimes flame up a little, sometimes flame up a lot and then go out. Having 'some own-making left' would require a state of existence or birth. For a state that was 'in between' it must therefore be prior to rebirth. Bhk Bodhi translated as 'in the interval' also meaning after death but prior to taking a new birth, and points out that this understanding is supported by the simile of the sparks (see AN 7.52; WP 55), where this spark is one that flys up and burns out before landing. The commentator would have this mean that this individual attains arahantship half-way through the next life in the Pure Abodes. But this is stated to be the case with all who attain rebirth in the Pure Abodes.

[5] upahacca- cut short. Bhk. Bodhi: 'upon-landing' (again relying on the simile of the sparks where, in this case the spark flys off and burns out after landing; Woodward: 'by reduction of his time.'

[6] asaṅkhāra- and sa-saṅkhāra- without and with own-making.

[7] uddhaṃ sotassa Akaniṭṭha-gāmino. The Akaniṭṭha Realm is the highest of the Suddhāvasā Brahma-lokas (Pure Abodes), and the highest of the Rūpa Brahmalokas. The lifespan there is 16,000 Kalpas. This realm is reported to be the highest physical point in the universe as opposed to Avīci, the lowest. Woodward footnotes that this is the home of the Four Great Brahmās. I am not so sure of that; it would make these four Non-returners, which I do not see confirmed in the suttas. The name itself translates as 'No youngsters'. The business of 'going upstream' is said to be because the Non-returner may initially be reborn after death in some lower Brahma-loka, or one of the four other, lower Pure Abodes and migrate upward in successive 'spontaneous' rebirths to end in the Akaniṭṭha. Non-returner being understood in this light as meaning not going backwards into a lower rebirth, not meaning not returning to birth at all.



Of Related Interest:

AN 7.52; WP 55
AN 10.63

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