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 [Dhamma Talk]


AN 4.030

The Buddha visits a Wanderer's park and teaches the four paths of good form that are ancient, long standing, traditional, primeval, pure and unadulterated, unconfused, respected by the wise. And in this case he adds emphasis by showing that disparaging these four subjects one to ridicule.

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Index to available translations: AN 4.30

We may have in this sutta a valuable opportunity to clarify our understanding of some important terms by their comparison with the factors said to be present when they are absent.

'Sammā-sati' for example, is contrasted with forgetfulness 'muṭṭhassati' and 'asampajāna' 'non-cognizance' (lack of understanding), but also, according to PED, lack of mindfulness and attentiveness.

We do have one word that means 'remember', 'mind', and 'pay attention to' in the word: 'mind' — (The mind, mind your manners, mind the children).

We should probably use that in spite of the fact that it sounds somewhat old fashioned. Old fashioned is sometimes more clear than the modern, and this is especially important in this system which is so mathematically constructed.

'Sammā-samādhi' is contrasted with 'asamāhitaɱ' literally 'non-confligration' which might seem like a good thing, but the meaning is 'not-kindled,' 'not lit,' (for which remember that one meaning of 'jhāna' is 'to burn') but also not-gathered together, composed, concentrated, collected, and 'vibbhantacittaɱ' 'a roving heart'.

I have spoken out against the translation of 'samādhi' as 'concentration' which is only one factor of samādhi and suggested 'serenity:'

From Latin sernus, clear, fair, calm (of weather) peaceful, cheerful; akin to OHG serawēn, to become dry; GK: χερον dry land. 1. completely clear, fine, or balmy suggesting or conducive to calm peacefulness free of storms or unpleasant change. Shining bright and steady and unobscured. 2. marked by or suggestive of utter calm and unruffled repose or quietude without suggestion of agitation, trouble, fitful activity, or sudden change. — Websters

After consideration of these contrasting terms, I still believe serenity is the better choice. It contains the germ of concentration while it encorporates ideas such as clarity and calm and lack of disruption caused by activities all of which are aspects of samādhi.

One might raise the argument against this choice that there is the existence of 'miccha-samādhi'; or 'low' or 'contrary' or 'mistaken' (but not wrong!) -samādhi, and that where there can be misdirected concentration, how is it possible to have misdirected serenity?

My response is that it is possible, as in the case of the serenity that sometimes occurs to those in battle and those engaged in highly worldly activities ... I'm thinking of painting, what were you thinking of?

Gotama is in this sutta speaking of 'Sammā-samadhi'. That which is less than perfect serenity could easily be characterized as being less than perfectly composed and subject to a roving heart.

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