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 [Dhamma Talk]


MN 113

The Buddha gives the bhikkhus a course leading to Nibbāna by way of contrasting the attitudes of the good man and the not so good man to each stage of the process.

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Recommended translation: Discourse on the Good Man Horner, translation
Index to available translations: MN 113



A very important sutta for meditators. At the point in this sutta where he begins describing the pride of a bad man in his accomplishments regarding the jhānas, we find the statement:

'Paṭhama-j-jhāna- [through to the n'eva-saññā-nāsaññāyatanaɱ] -samāpattiyā pi kho atammayatā vuttā Bhagavatā:|| ||

'Yena yena hi maññanti,
tato taɱ hoti aññathā' ti.
|| ||

Of just this not-'Thus'-made acquirer of the First- [~+] jhāna then, the Lucky Man has said:

'In whatever way, by whomsoever such is imagined,
from that it becomes otherwise.

1 atammayatā Not in PED. a + taṃ + mayata 'Thus' meaning awakened. But the explanation used by Ms. Horner serves just as well. The Awakened One is one who is Thirst-Freed'.

For a person who is not Arahant, all the jhānas from the first to the ending of perception and sense experience are states 'in the world'. They, in sequence, or from one only, are but a path to detachment, Nibbāna. Until the point where they are let go they are one and the same in their nature as part of the world: they are transient and do not belong to one though the 'not-Thus-made' imagines them to be 'acquired' 'by' 'himself' though they are none of these things. Subsequent to their being let go, they are let go and are seen as transient and not belonging to one.

The person not free from desire attains jhāna as a possession, not as a step along the way, itself to be seen as transient and not belonging to self and to be let go. He has imagined the state from what he has conceived it to be prior to attaining it and (however accurately he may have imagined it, as, for example, from a previous attainment) has therefore been chasing the past and that which he attains, upon its being attained, is not what he imagined, but something different and still 'in the world'.

In the same way a person experiencing hunger, remembers that which satisfied his hunger in past time and sets his mind on attaining that satisfaction again through the acquiring of that same meal again. What he does acquire is not what he imagined which is past and gone, but something new and different.

In essence, then, his effort at attainment has been fruitless: he has not gained what he imagined. Having focused on the jhāna itself he overlooks its function as a steppingstone to detachment. Finding nothing in jhāna but the worldly attributes of the jhāna, being attached to those worldly attributes, he remains downbound to the world and subject to its changeability and the pain that results from that changeability.
My say.

Horner: "Lack of desire2 even for the attainment of the first meditation has been spoken of by the Lord; for whatever they imagine it to be, it is otherwise'

She does not attempt to explain.

2 atammayatā This is ni-t-taṇhatā, while tammayatā is taṇha, MA. iv. 99, Cf. M. i. 319, iii. 220, A. i. 150.

Bhikkhu Thanissaro: 'The Blessed One has spoken of non-fashioning,3 even with regard to attainment of the first jhāna, for by whatever means they construe it, it becomes otherwise from that.

3 Atammayata

Which he explains in a footnote:

"In other words, whatever the condition of the ground on which one might base a state of becoming — a sense of one's self or the world one inhabits — by the time that state of becoming has taken shape, the ground has already changed. In this case, if one tries to shape a sense of self around one's attainment of jhana, the attainment itself has already changed."

Bhk. Bodhi/Ñanamoli [Not available on line]: "Non-identification4 (atammayatā,) even with the attainment of the first jhāna has been declared by the Blessed One; for in whatever way they conceive, the fact is ever other than that.'

4[#1066]: MA explains "non-identification" (atammayatā, lit. "not consisting of that") as the absence of craving. However, the context suggests that the absence of conceit may be the meaning. The statement "for in whatever way they conceive, the fact is ever other than that" (yena yena hi maññanti tato taɱ hoti aññathā) is a philosophical riddle appearing also at Sn 588, Sn 757, and Ud 3:10. Though MA is silent, the Udāna commentary explains it to mean that in whatever way worldly people conceive any of the five aggregates - as self or self's belonging, etc. - the thing conceived turns out to be other than the aspect ascribed to it; it is not self or self's belonging, not "I" or "mine."

MO: The not so good man exalts himself for attaining the jhāna, but the good man thinks: "(This jhāna) indeed, says the consummately awakened one, is just not made like that - for anyone whoever that so thinks has by that got some other thing.

In other words attaining jhāna is incompatible with such thoughts as 'I am better than' which reflect thirst (taṇhā). You cannot get what is got by letting go by way of grasping after it, and a person who thinks that attaining such is something that makes him superior to others is by definition grasping after that attainment and so could not have got it or if they had got it once would because of that grasping not be able to get it again so their basis for pride in their attainment is lost. This my reading.

Make up your own mind, but I think Bhk. Bodhi's explanation of his translation of atammayatā, as 'non-identification' is a little off track and not helpful in understanding the point. As to the rest of the comment it would better read: 'in whatever way worldly people conceive any thing (which described generally consists of the five piles: form, sense-experience, perception, own-making and consciousness) they will always be conceiving it as being permanent, belonging to self and pleasurable whereas the thing itself will always turn out to be transient, not belonging to the self and ultimately painful.

Sn V588 (Fausbøll): "In whatever manner people think (it will come to pass), different from that it becomes, so great is the disappointment (in this world); see, (such are) the terms of the world.

(Thanissaro): For however they imagine it, it always turns out other than that.

Sn V757 (Fausbøll): 34. 'Whichever way they think (it), it becomes otherwise, for it is false to him, and what is false is perishable.

(Thanissaro): Entrenched in name and form, they conceive that 'This is true.' In whatever terms they conceive it it turns into something other than that, and that's what's false about it: changing, its deceptive by nature.

UD III.10 (Bhk. Thanissaro, trans.): "By whatever it construes [things], that's always otherwise.

As for 'maññanti' ... translating as 'imagine' is probably better than the usual: 'think' which we find most frequently in the question: "What do you think?" ~, which is just as well translated 'What do you imagine?' This way it is distinct from vitakka and vicara, and we can conceive of the second jhāna and the rest as being without 'thinking' but still having 'imagining' as the work of several of the factors of jhāna that we find in MN 111.

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