Don't let the gloves intimidate you; the gloves are off.

[Home]  [Sutta Indexes]  [Glossology]  [Site Sub-Sections]


 [Give Ear]

Upekkhā and Upekkh'Indriyaɱ
Detachment and the Detachment-Force

Upon an experience that arises from either body or mind that is neither unpleasant nor pleasant, identify that experience as having given rise to the detachment-force and use it as a detachment-power to attain detachment.

In [SN 5.48.36] The Buddha gives detailed definitions of each of the five forces: the pleasure-force, pain-force, mental ease-force, mental discomfort-force and the detachment-force Upekkh'Indriyaɱ.

Woodward notes: Upekkhā here, it is to be noted, is the hedonic, not the intellectual (tatra-majjhatt'upekkhā) mental balance.

But the sutta speaks of both the bodily and mental!

Bhk. Bodhi notes (my clarifications/interjections in [italic] on separate lines):

"According to the Abhidhamma, all bodily feeling
[sensation, sensation arising from sense experience, or just 'sense-experience' or just 'experience'],
that is, feeling arising through bodily sensitivity (kāyappasāda), is either pleasant or painful; there is no neutral feeling based on bodily sensitivity.
[This first premise is to be questioned! Where is this assertion to be found in the suttas? And I object to the idea that adukkha-m-asukhā vedanā is 'neutral' feeling; it is experience that is not painful or pleasant which is a different thing altogether.]
Hence Spk explains the bodily equanimity upekkhā,
[- we have not yet arrived at the conclusion that this term is to be understood as 'equanimity.']
as feeling arising based on the other four senses, the eye, etc.
[All this so far not really helpful to know even if true.]
The word upekkhā, translated as equanimity, has two main denotations.
[Here Bhk. Bodhi begins to relate his translation to the idea expressed in Woodward's comment.]
In relation to feeling it denotes neutral feeling, adukkhamasukhā vedanā, feeling which is neither painful nor pleasant. As a mental quality, however,
[Wait a minute! There is no such distinction found in the way 'vedana' is applied; the same term is used for both bodily and mental ('sensations ...'). Bhk. Bodhi here is conflating upekkhā with upekkh'indriyaɱ.]
it deontes mental neutrality, impartiality, or balance of mind (called tatramajjhattatā) in the Abhidhamma, which assigns it to the saṅkhārakkhandha)
[own-made or constructed-group as opposed to that which is experienced as a result of externally originating stimulus which is true in the case of upekkh'indriyaɱ, but not necessarily true in the case of upekkhā].
In this sense it occurs as the fourth devine abode (impartiality towards beings), as the seventh factor of enlightenment
[limb of wisdom, dimension of awakening, where, again, what is being spoken of is upekkhā not upekkh'indriyaɱ]
(mental equipose),
[Objection! both mental equipose and utter detachment]
and as a quality of the meditative mind mentioned in the formulas for the third and fourth jhānas.
[Where, however, of upekkhā, it is stated: 'he experiences in body that joy of which the Aristocrats say: "Happy is he who lives with upekkhā,..."]
For a fuller discussion of the different types of upekkhā, see Vism 160-62 (Ppn 4:156-70).

What is all this saying?

It should be saying that upekkhā/upekkh'indriyaɱ has two aspects: that which is related to bodily or worldly experience (the five lower senses) and that which is dealing with the liberation of the heart. That is, that the translation for this term needs to mean the same thing whether relating to bodily or mental, or worldly or beyond the worldly experience. Thus: 'detachment' not 'equanimity' or 'indifference' both of which are directed towards worldly experience which is only one side of the way the term is used.

'Detachment' serves both for detachment from the world and the detachment even from detachment from the world (detachment related to things of time); it is an object-less detachment which is the heart's release and is an equivalant of Nibbāna.

Allowing that the statement made by Woodward (also based on commentary) is incorrect on the face of it, we didn't need to have all this explanation as this is the only conclusion that can be reached based on the wording of the sutta.

So then:

If the upekkh'indriyaɱ is a controlling power and upekkhā, is 'indifference' (as per Woodward) we get, according to him:

'the controlling power of indifference is indifference upon experience of bodily or mental sensation that is neither agreeable nor disagreeable.

But the objection here is that there is nothing in the Pali to justify the insertion of 'controlling'. A force, (think of electricity) can be used to contol, but does not itself control. And this is the meaning of 'indriya' as distinct from 'balani' as found in SN 5.48.43.

If upekkh'indriyaɱ is a faculty and upekkhā, is 'equanimity' (as per Bhk. Bodhi) we get, according to him:

'the faculty of equanimity is equanimity upon experience of bodily or mental sensation that is neither comfortable nor uncomfortable.

In the Pali, the upekkh'indriyaɱ is:

'Yaṃ kāyikaṃ vā||
cetasikaṃ vā||
n'eva sātaṃ nāsātaṃ vedayitaṃ'|| ||

'whatsoever is of body
or of the heart (mind)
experienced as neither (sweet, agreeable, comfortable) nor (bitter, disagreeable, uncomfortable).

I suggest:

The detachment-force is that neither sweet nor bitter detachment whether experienced as arising from body or mind.

The question is:

Is the upekkh'indriyaɱ dependent on a certain sort of experience,
or is the upekkh'indriyaɱ (the detachment-force) itself a certain sort of experience?

Ask yourself:

Is an indifference which depends on experience a controlling power? Or is it an experience which is itself controlled?

Is an equanimity depending on feeling that is neither comfortable nor uncomfortable really equanimity?

Or is it that the detachment-force is a force, a source of energy, which arises upon an experience which is neither sweet nor bitter and is useful, (may be applied or used as a power, i.e., a balani) for attaining Nibbāna, a synonym of which is upekkhā?

Upon an experience that arises from either body or mind that is neither unpleasant nor pleasant, identify that experience as having given rise to the detachment-force and use it as a detachment-power to attain detachment.

In the next sutta, [SN 5.48.37], The Buddha gives detailed definitions of each of the five forces. He then shows how each of these forces are to be regarded as experience.

In [SN 5.48.39] The Buddha uses the similie of rubbing two sticks together to produce fire to illustrate how it is by contact with the experience of sensations that the various forces arise and that when that contact is broken, the force is dissipated.

Upon an experience that arises from either body or mind that is neither unpleasant nor pleasant, identify that experience as having given rise to the detachment-force and use it as a detachment-power to attain detachment. When detachment has been achieved, let go of the force and power of detachment.

This is not an easy sutta to understand!

What does the expression: 'Sukhavedanīyaṃ phassaṃ' (contacting "the to be experienced as pleasant") mean?

Given that (at least in this case) experience is consequent on the intent (to cause pleasure, pain, or end kamma) with which things are done, what is to be experienced as pleasant (painful, etc.) is that which rebounds back upon one based on and reflecting back that intent.

Here the reflected result that appears (paṭicca uppajjati) is said to be a force (indriya) of which one is conscious.

If the two sticks are 'the to be experienced' and 'the identified-with experiencer', how is one to separate the two sticks?

How does one break contact?

At the point where an intentional act is about to take place.

At that point, opting not to act with intent to create pleasure or pain, one acts to end kamma which produces 'the to be experienced as neither pleasure nor pain.'

When the force (indriya) of that experience has been consumed (in the consciousness of freedom from the consequence of doing the deed with intent to create pleasure or pain), there is no further contact.

Since there is no going back to undo previously done intentional deeds, this undoing must be able to be done from the present moment.


By letting go of, the not-doing of all existing or 'the world', (a sort of generic facing of the entire mass of consequences of one's past deeds — we have X amount of that which is to be experienced as pain, X amount of that which is to be experienced as pleasure, the precise form, or intensity or level of consiousness at which it is to be experienced is not fixed and so can be massed together such that given high enough state of consciousness the whole of it could be dealt with in (so they say) as little as half a day, or, given sufficient understanding, seven lifetimes at most) that is, serenity samādhi practice ending in detachment upekkha.

In the next sutta, [SN 5.48.40], we see how this is done.

Here The Buddha explains how each of the five forces is to be understood in it's arising, in it's settling down and in the escape from it.

Note that even the detachment-force is to be escaped.

The detachment-force is the experience by an individuality of detachment from the world and is therefore not absolute detachment or absolute freedom.



Escape from the Forces

For each Force, the knowledge of it, knowledge of it's origin, settling down and escape is understanding that forces are identified by their signs, that they are tied to things, that they are own-made (constructed), and that they are the results of something and are therefore impermanent, painful, and not self and knowing it's origin in this way one knows that to bring it to an end the source in own-making must be brought to an end.

Force (Indriya) Way of Escape
Bodily Pain Separating from sensual pleasures,
separating from unsillful things,
with thinking,
with pondering,
one enters the first knowing:
solitude-born pleasurable enthusiasm.
Mental Pain Upon the disappearance of thinkng and pondering
internally self-composed,
whole-heartedly single-minded,
without thinking,
without pondering,
one enters the second knowing:
serenity-born pleasurable enthusiasm.
Bodily Pleasure Upon the fading of enthusiasm,
and living detached,
recollected and self-aware,
experiencing pleasure in body —
one enters the third knowing:
That of which the Aristocrats declare:
"Detached, recollected, one lives pleasantly."
Mental Pleasure Having let go pleasure,
having let go pain,
having previously settled down mental pleasure and mental pain,
without pain,
without pleasure,
one enters the fourth knowing:
pure detached recollection.
Detachment With the total surpassing
of the realm of neither-perception-nor-non-perception
one enters and abides in
the end of the experiencing of perception.




See also: SN 5.48.40 - Olds - Sutta and Translator's Introduction.
[SN 3.28.4] Upekkhā Suttaṃ. When Ānanda remarks to Sariputta on how clear his aura appears Sariputta explains that he had spent the afternoon in the Fourth Jhana and that entering, attaining or emerging from the first jhana there did not occur to him any thoughts of 'I-am'.
In reference to this sutta I again make the argument that the translation of 'Upekkhā' as 'Equanimity' used by Woodward and nearly every other translator is insufficient to the meaning. This is a term which must fit not only in the description of the Fourth Jhāna, where because the Fourth Jhāna, is still 'in this world' equanimity would be a possible fit, but it must also work where it is a synonym for Nibbāna and the experience of neither-unpleasant-nor-pleansant sensation ... in other words, not of the world. Equanimity is a term which describes a state of balance 'in the world' and for that reason will not do. The term that will serve both situations is 'detachment'. And that is what the word is telling you it means: 'UP PASS K-KHA'. Look it up. 'Up passed' is not 'balanced between' the two sides (pleasant and painful) of experience, it is the experience of neither of the two sides. For those who wish to develop 'nirutti', ask then why is UPA spelled UPE? PEK. UP PASS PEKKHA KKHA. Up passed wishing and wanting stuff. Grip the index finger of your right hand with the fingers of your left hand and then pull your index finger out of the grip. Don't get discourged if you can't do it. Keep your pecker up! (Be of good cheer!) Pecker = an instrument, like a pick or a beak, used to peck away at what one wishes to have. Upekkha = Detachment.

Copyright Statement