The Wings to Awakening

PART III F. CONCENTRATION and DISCERNMENT

We noted in II/A that some of the sets in the Wings to Awakening list jhana as a condition for discernment, while others list discernment as a condition for jhana. Place both of these patterns into the context of this/that conditionality, and they convey the point that jhana and discernment in practice are mutually supporting. Passage 171 states this point explicitly, while 165 and 166 show that the difference between the two causal patterns relates to differences in meditators: some develop strong powers of concentration before developing strong discernment, whereas others gain a sound theoretical understanding of the Dhamma before developing strong concentration. In either case, both strong concentration and sound discernment are needed to bring about Awakening. Passage 111 makes the point that when the practice reaches the culmination of its development, concentration and discernment act in concert. The passages in this section deal with this topic in more detail.

The role of jhana as a condition for transcendent discernment is one of the most controversial issues in the Theravada tradition. Three basic positions have been advanced in modern writings. One, following the commentarial tradition, asserts that jhana is not necessary for any of the four levels of Awakening and that there is a class of individuals-called "dry insight" meditators-who are "released through discernment" based on a level of concentration lower than that of jhana. A second position, citing a passage in the Canon [A.III.88; MFU, p. 103] stating that concentration is mastered only on the level of non-returning, holds that jhana is necessary for the attainment of non-returning and Arahantship, but not for the lower levels of Awakening. The third position states that the attainment of at least the first level of jhana is essential for all four levels of Awakening.

Evidence from the Canon supports the third position, but not the other two. As 106 points out, the attainment of stream-entry has eight factors, one of which is right concentration, defined as jhana. In fact, according to this particular discourse, jhana is the heart of the streamwinner's path. Secondly, there is no passage in the Canon describing the development of transcendent discernment without at least some skill in jhana. The statement that concentration is mastered only on the level of non-returning must be interpreted in the light of the distinction between mastery and attainment. A streamwinner may have attained jhana without mastering it; the discernment developed in the process of gaining full mastery over the practice of jhana will then lead him/her to the level of non-returning. As for the term "released through discernment," passage 168 shows that it denotes people who have become Arahants without experiencing the four formless jhanas. It does not indicate a person who has not experienced jhana.

Part of the controversy over this question may be explained by the fact that the commentarial literature defines jhana in terms that bear little resemblance to the canonical description. The Path of Purification-the cornerstone of the commentarial system-takes as its paradigm for meditation practice a method called kasina, in which one stares at an external object until the image of the object is imprinted in one's mind. This image then gives rise to a countersign that is said to indicate the attainment of threshold concentration, a necessary prelude to jhana. The text then tries to fit all other meditation methods into this mold, so that they too give rise to countersigns, but even by its own adission, breath meditation does not fit the mold very well. With the other methods, the stronger one's focus, the more vivid the object and the closer it is to producing a countersign; but with the breath, the stronger one's focus, the harder the object is to detect. As a result, the text states that only Buddhas and Buddhas' sons find the breath a congenial focal point for attaining jhana.

None of these assertions have any support in the Canon. Although a practice called kasina is mentioned tangentially in some of the discourses, the only point where it is described in any detail [M.121; MFU, pp. 82-85] makes no mention of staring at an object or gaining a countersign. If breath meditation were congenial only to Buddhas and Buddhas' sons, there seems little reason for the Buddha to have taught it so frequently and to such a wide variety of people. If the arising of a countersign were essential to the attainment of jhana, one would expect it to be included in the steps of breath meditation and in the graphic analogies used to describe jhana, but it isn't. Some Theravadins insist that questioning the commentaries is a sign of disrespect for the tradition, but it seems to be a sign of greater disrespect for the Buddha-or the compilers of the Canon-to assume that he or they would have left out something absolutely essential to the practice.

So it would seem that what jhana means in the commentaries is something quite different from what it means in the Canon. Because of this difference we can say that the commentaries are right in viewing their type of jhana as unnecessary for Awakening, but Awakening cannot occur without the attainment of jhana in the canonical sense.

We have already given a sketch in the preceding section of how jhana in its canonical sense can act as the basis for transcendent discernment. To recapitulate: On attaining any of the first seven levels of jhana, one may step back slightly from the object of jhana-entering the fifth factor of noble right concentration [150]-to perceive how the mind relates to the object. In doing this, one sees the process of causation as it plays a role in bringing the mind to jhana, together with the various mental acts of fabrication that go into keeping it there [182]. Passage 172 lists these acts in considerable detail. The fact that the passage emphasizes the amazing abilities of Sariputta, the Buddha's foremost disciple in terms of discernment, implies that there is no need for every meditator to perceive all these acts in such a detailed fashion. What is essential is that one develop a sense of dispassion for the state of jhana, seeing that even the relatively steady sense of refined pleasure and equanimity it provides is artificial and willed, inconstant and stressful [182], a state fabricated from many different events, and thus not worth identifying with. Jhana thus becomes an ideal test case for understanding the workings of kamma and dependent co-arising in the mind. Its stability gives discernment a firm basis for seeing clearly; its refined sense of pleasure and equanimity allow the mind to realize that even the most refined mundane states involve the inconstancy and stress common to all willed phenomena. Passage 167 lists a number of verbal mental acts surrounding the exercise of supranormal powers that can be regarded in a similar light, as topics to be analyzed so as to give rise to a sense of dispassion. The dispassion that results in either case enables one to experience the fading away and cessation of the last remaining activities in the mind, even the activity of discernment itself. When this process fully matures, it leads on to total relinquishment, resulting in the clear knowing and release of Arahantship.

In contrast to the issue of the role of jhana as a condition for discernment, the role of discernment as a condition for jhana is uncontroversial. Discernment aids jhana on two levels: mundane and transcendent. On the mundane level, it enables one to perceive the various factors that go into one's state of jhana so that one can master them and shed the factors that prevent one from attaining a higher level of jhana. This again involves the reflection that constitutes the fifth factor of noble right concentration, but in this case the results stay on the mundane level. For instance, as one masters the first level of jhana and can reflect on the elements of stress it contains, one may perceive that directed thought and evaluation should be abandoned because they have become unnecessary in maintaining one's concentration, just as the forms used in pouring a cement wall become unnecessary when the cement has hardened. In dropping these factors, one then goes on to the second level of jhana. Passage 175 gives a list of the factors that, in succession, are dropped in this way as one attains higher and higher levels of concentration.

On the transcendent level, the discernment that precipitates Awakening results in a supramundane level of jhana called the fruit of gnosis, which is described in 176-77-a type of jhana independent of all perceptions (mental labels) and intentional processes, beyond all limitations of cosmos, time, and the present: the Arahant's foretaste, in this lifetime, of the absolutely total Unbinding experienced by the awakened mind at death.

165. These four types of individuals are to be found existing in world. Which four?

There is the case of the individual who has attained internal tranquility of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. There is...the individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, but not internal tranquility of awareness. There is...the individual who has attained neither internal tranquility of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. And there is...the individual who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

The individual who has attained internal tranquility of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, should approach an individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment...and ask him: 'How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen and experienced: 'Fabrications should be regarded in this way...investigated in this way...seen in this way with insight.' Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

As for the individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, but not internal tranquility of awareness, he should approach an individual who has attained internal tranquility of awareness... and ask him, 'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen and experienced: 'The mind should be steadied in this way...made to settle down in this way... unified in this way...concentrated in this way.' Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

As for the individual who has attained neither internal tranquility of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, he should approach an individual who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment...and ask him, 'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated? How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen and experienced: 'The mind should be steadied in this way...made to settle down in this way...unified in this way...concentrated in this way. Fabrications should be regarded in this way...investigated in this way...seen in this way with insight.' Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

As for the individual who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, his duty is to make an effort in establishing ('tuning') those very same skillful qualities to a higher degree for the ending of the effluents.
A.IV.94

166. Ven. Ananda: Whenever a monk or nun declares the attainment of Arahantship in my presence, they all do it by means of one or another of four paths. Which four?

There is the case where a monk has developed insight preceded by tranquility. As he develops insight preceded by tranquility, the path is born. He follows that path, develops it, pursues it. As he follows the path, developing it and pursuing it-his fetters are abandoned, his latent tendencies abolished.

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk has developed tranquility preceded by insight. As he develops tranquility preceded by insight, the path is born. He follows that path....His fetters are abandoned, his latent tendencies abolished.

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk has developed tranquility and insight in concert. As he develops tranquility and insight in concert, the path is born. He follows that path....His fetters are abandoned, his latent tendencies abolished.

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk's mind has its restlessness concerning the Dhamma [Comm: the corruptions of insight] well under control. There comes a time when his mind grows steady inwardly, settles down, and becomes unified and concentrated. In him the path is born. He follows that path....His fetters are abandoned, his latent tendencies abolished.
Whenever a monk or nun declares the attainment of Arahantship in my presence, they all do it by means of one or another of these four paths.
A.IV.170

167. Then Ven. Anuruddha went to where Ven. Sariputta was staying and, on arrival, greeted him courteously. After an exchange of friendly greetings and courtesies, he sat down to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to Ven. Sariputta: By means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human, I see the thousand-fold cosmos. My persistence is aroused and unsluggish. My mindfulness is established and unshaken. My body is calm and unaroused. My mind is concentrated into singleness. And yet my mind is not released from the effluents through lack of clinging/sustenance.

Sariputta: My friend, when the thought occurs to you, 'By means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human, I see the thousand-fold cosmos,' that is related to your conceit. When the thought occurs to you, 'My persistence is aroused and unsluggish. My mindfulness is established and unshaken. My body is calm and unperturbed. My mind is concentrated into singleness,' that is related to your restlessness. When the thought occurs to you, 'And yet my mind is not released from the effluents through lack of clinging/sustenance,' that is related to your anxiety. It would be well if-abandoning these three qualities, not attending to these three qualities-you directed your mind to the Deathless property.'

So after that, Ven. Anuruddha-abandoning those three qualities, not attending to those three qualities-directed his mind to the Deathless property. Dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, and resolute, he in no long time reached and remained in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing and realizing it for himself in the here and now. He knew: 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world.' And thus Ven. Anuruddha became another one of the Arahants.
A.III.128

168. And what is an individual released in both ways? There is the case of the individual who remains touching with his body the peaceful liberations, the formlessnesses beyond forms; when he has seen with discernment, his effluents are totally ended. I do not say that such a monk has any duty to do with heedfulness. Why is that? Because he has done his duty with heedfulness; he is no more capable of being heedless.

And what is an individual released through discernment? There is the case of the individual who does not remain touching with his body the peaceful liberations, the formlessnesses beyond forms; but when he has seen with discernment, his effluents are totally ended. I do not say that such a monk has any duty to do with heedfulness. Why is that? Because he has done his duty with heedfulness; he is no more capable of being heedless.
M.70

169. Develop concentration, monks. A concentrated monk discerns things as they actually are present. And what does he discern as it actually is present?

'This is stress,' he discerns as it actually is present. 'This is the origination of stress...This is the cessation of stress...This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress,' he discerns as it actually is present....

Therefore your duty is the contemplation, 'This is stress...This is the origination of stress...This is the cessation of stress...This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'
S.LVI.1

170. Develop concentration, monks. A concentrated monk discerns things as they actually are present. And what does he discern as it actually is present?

The origination and disappearance of form...of feeling...of perception...of fabrications...of consciousness.
And what is the origination of form...of feeling...of perception...of fabrications... of consciousness? There is the case where one relishes, welcomes, and remains fastened. To what? One relishes form, welcomes it, and remains fastened to it. While one is relishing form, welcoming it, and remaining fastened to it, delight arises. Any delight in form is clinging. With that clinging as a condition there is becoming. With becoming as a condition there is birth. With birth as a condition then aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair all come into play. Thus is the origination of this entire mass of suffering and stress. (Similarly with feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness.)

And what is the disappearance of form...feeling...perception...fabrications... consciousness? There is the case where one does not relish, welcome or remain fastened. To what? One does not relish form, welcome it, or remain fastened to it. While one is not relishing form, welcoming it, or remaining fastened to it, one's delight in form ceases. From the cessation of that delight, clinging ceases. From the cessation of clinging, becoming ceases. From the cessation of becoming, birth ceases. From the cessation of birth, then aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair all cease. Thus is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering and stress [ 211]. (Similarly with feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness.)
S.XXII.5

171. There is no jhana
for one with no discernment,
no discernment
for one with no jhana.
But one with both jhana
and discernment:
he's on the verge
of Unbinding.
DHP.372

172. Monks, Sariputta is wise, of great discernment, deep discernment, wide...joyous...rapid...quick...penetrating discernment....There is the case where Sariputta...enters and remains in the first jhana. Whatever qualities there are in the first jhana-applied thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness (vl. intent), desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention-he ferrets them out one by one. Known to him they arise, known to him they remain, known to him they subside. He discerns, 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remains unattracted and unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He understands, 'There is a further escape,' and pursuing it, he confirms that 'There is.' (Similarly with the levels of jhana up through the sphere of nothingness.)

Furthermore, completely transcending the sphere of nothingness, he enters and remains in the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. He emerges mindful from that attainment. On emerging...he regards the past qualities that have ceased and changed: 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remains unattracted and unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He understands, 'There is a further escape,' and pursuing it, he confirms that 'There is.'

Furthermore, completely transcending the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, he enters and remains in the cessation of feeling and perception. When he sees with discernment, his effluents are totally ended. He emerges mindful from that attainment. On emerging...he regards the past qualities that have ceased and changed: 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remains unattracted and unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He understands, 'There is no further escape,' and pursuing it, he confirms that 'There isn't.'

If someone, rightly describing a person, were to say, 'He has attained mastery and perfection in noble virtue...noble concentration...noble discernment...noble release,' he would be rightly describing Sariputta....Sariputta takes the unexcelled wheel of Dhamma set rolling by the Tathagata, and keeps it rolling rightly.
M.111

173. I tell you, the ending of the effluents depends on the first jhana...the second jhana...the third...the fourth...the sphere of the infinitude of space...the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness...the sphere of nothingness...the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception.

'I tell you, the ending of the effluents depends on the first jhana.' Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said?... Suppose that an archer or archer's apprentice were to practice on a straw man or mound of clay, so that after a while he would become able to shoot long distances, to fire accurate shots in rapid succession, and to pierce great masses. In the same way, there is the case where a monk...enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, a void, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite-the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'

Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental effluents. Or, if not, then-through passion and delight for this very property [the discernment inclining to deathlessness] and from the total wasting away of the first of the five Fetters [self-identity views, grasping at precepts and practices, uncertainty, sensual passion, and irritation]-he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.

'I tell you, the ending of the effluents depends on the first jhana.' Thus it was said, and in reference to this was it said.
(Similarly with the other levels of jhana up through the sphere of nothingness.)

Thus, as far as the perception-attainments go, that is as far as gnosis-penetration goes. As for these two spheres-the attainment of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception and the attainment of the cessation of feeling and perception-I tell you that they are to be rightly explained by those monks who are meditators, skilled in attaining, skilled in attaining and emerging, who have attained and emerged in dependence on them.
A.IX.36

174. Then Dasama the householder from the city of Atthaka went to where Ven. Ananda was staying and on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to Ven. Ananda, 'Is there, venerable sir, any one condition explained by the Blessed One...whereby a monk-dwelling heedful, ardent, and resolute-releases his mind that is as yet unreleased, or whereby the effluents not yet brought to an end come to an end, or whereby he attains the unsurpassed security from bondage that he has not yet attained?

Ananda: Yes, householder, there is....There is the case where a monk...enters and remains in the first jhana....He notices that 'This first jhana is fabricated and willed.' He discerns, 'Whatever is fabricated and willed is inconstant and subject to cessation.' Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the effluents. Or, if not, then-through passion and delight for this very phenomenon [of discernment] and from the total ending of the first five Fetters-he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world. (Similarly with the other levels of jhana up through the sphere of nothingness and the four releases of awareness based on good will, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity.)
A.XI.17

175. Sariputta: This Unbinding is pleasant, friends. This Unbinding is pleasant.

Udayin: But what is the pleasure here, my friend, where there is nothing felt?

Sariputta: Just that is the pleasure here, my friend: where there is nothing felt. There are these five strands of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye-agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing; sounds...smells...tastes...tactile sensations cognizable via the body-agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Whatever pleasure or joy arises in dependence on these five strands of sensuality, that is sensual pleasure.

Now there is the case where a monk-quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities-enters and remains in the first jhana....If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with sensuality, that is an affliction for him. Just as pain arises as an affliction for a healthy person, even so the attention to perceptions dealing with sensuality that beset the monk is an affliction for him. Now the Blessed One has said that whatever is an affliction is stress. So by this line of reasoning it may be known how Unbinding is pleasant.

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk...enters and remains in the second jhana....If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with directed thought, that is an affliction for him....

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk...enters and remains in the third jhana....If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with rapture, that is an affliction for him....

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk...enters and remains in the fourth jhana....If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with equanimity, that is an affliction for him....

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk...enters and remains in the sphere of the infinitude of space. If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with form, that is an affliction for him....

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk...enters and remains in the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness. If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with the sphere of the infinitude of space, that is an affliction for him....

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk...enters and remains in the sphere of nothingness. If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, that is an affliction for him....

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk...enters and remains in the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, that is an affliction for him...whatever is an affliction is stress. So by this line of reasoning it may be known how Unbinding is pleasant.

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk...enters and remains in the cessation of perception and feeling. And, having seen [that] with discernment, his effluents are completely ended. So by this line of reasoning it may be known how Unbinding is pleasant.
A.IX.34

176. Ananda: It is amazing, my friend, it is marvelous, how the Blessed One has attained and recognized the opportunity for the purification of beings...and the direct realization of Unbinding, where the eye will be, and forms, and yet one will not be sensitive to that sphere; where the ear will be, and sounds...where the nose will be, and smells...where the tongue will be, and tastes...where the body will be, and tactile sensations, and yet one will not be sensitive to that sphere.

Udayin: Is one insensitive to that sphere with or without a perception in mind?

Ananda: ...with a perception in mind....

Udayin: ...what perception?

Ananda: There is the case where with the complete transcending of perceptions dealing with form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, thinking, 'infinite space,' one remains in the sphere of the infinitude of space: Having this perception in mind, one is not sensitive to that sphere.

Further, with the complete transcending of the sphere of the infinitude of space, thinking, 'infinite consciousness,' one remains in the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness: Having this perception in mind, one is not sensitive to that sphere.

Further, with the complete transcending of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, thinking, 'There is nothing,' one remains in the sphere of nothingness: Having this perception in mind, one is not sensitive to that sphere.

Once, friend, when I was staying in Saketa at the Game Refuge in the Black Forest, the nun Jatila Bhagika went to where I was staying, and on arrival-having bowed to me-stood to one side. As soon as she had stood to one side, she said to me: 'The concentration whereby-neither pressed down nor forced back, nor with mental fabrications kept blocked or suppressed-still as a result of release, contented as a result of stillness, and as a result of contentment one is not agitated: This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of what?'

I said to her, '...This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of gnosis [the knowledge of Awakening].' Having this sort of perception, friend, one is not sensitive to that sphere.
A.IX.37

177. The Buddha: Sandha, practice the absorption (jhana) of a thoroughbred horse, not the absorption of an unbroken colt. And how is an unbroken colt absorbed?

An unbroken colt, tied to the feeding trough, is absorbed with the thought, 'Barley grain! Barley grain!' Why is that? Because as he is tied to the feeding trough, the thought does not occur to him, 'I wonder what task the trainer will have me do today? What should I do in response?' Tied to the feeding trough, he is simply absorbed with the thought, 'Barley grain! Barley grain!'

In the same way, there are cases where an unbroken colt of a man, having gone to the wilderness, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, dwells with his awareness overcome by sensual passion, obsessed with sensual passion. He does not discern the escape, as it actually is present, from sensual passion once it has arisen. Making that sensual passion the focal point, he absorbs himself with it, besorbs, resorbs, and supersorbs himself with it.

He dwells with his awareness overcome by ill will...sloth and drowsiness... restlessness and anxiety...uncertainty, obsessed with uncertainty. He does not discern the escape, as it actually is present, from uncertainty once it has arisen. Making that uncertainty the focal point, he absorbs himself with it, besorbs, resorbs, and supersorbs himself with it.

He is absorbed dependent on earth...liquid...fire...wind...the sphere of the infinitude of space...the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness...the sphere of nothingness...the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception...this world...the next world...whatever is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect. That is how an unbroken colt of a man is absorbed.

And how is a thoroughbred absorbed? An excellent thoroughbred horse tied to the feeding trough, is not absorbed with the thought, 'Barley grain! Barley grain!' Why is that? Because as he is tied to the feeding trough, the thought occurs to him, 'I wonder what task the trainer will have me do today? What should I do in response?' Tied to the feeding trough, he is not absorbed with the thought, 'Barley grain! Barley grain!' The excellent thoroughbred horse regards the feel of the spur as a debt, an imprisonment, a loss, a piece of bad luck.

In the same way, an excellent thoroughbred of a man, having gone to the wilderness, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, dwells with his awareness not overcome by sensual passion, not obsessed with sensual passion. He discerns the escape, as it actually is present, from sensual passion once it has arisen.

He dwells with his awareness not overcome by ill will...sloth and drowsiness... restlessness and anxiety...uncertainty, obsessed with uncertainty. He discerns the escape, as it actually is present, from uncertainty once it has arisen.

He is absorbed dependent neither on earth, liquid, heat, wind, the sphere of the infinitude of space, the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, the sphere of nothingness, the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, this world, the next world, nor on whatever is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, or pondered by the intellect-and yet he is absorbed. And to this excellent thoroughbred of a man, absorbed in this way, the gods, together with Indra, the Brahmas, and Pajapati, pay homage even from afar:

'Homage to you, O thoroughbred man.
Homage to you, O superlative man-
of whom we have no direct knowledge
even by means of that with which
you are absorbed.'

Sandha: But in what way is the excellent thoroughbred of a man absorbed when he is absorbed...?

The Buddha: There is the case, Sandha, where for an excellent thoroughbred of a man the perception (mental note or label) of earth with regard to earth has ceased to exist; the perception of liquid with regard to liquid...the perception of fire with regard to fire...the perception of wind with regard to wind...the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of space with regard to the sphere of the infinitude of space...the perception of the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness with regard to the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness...the perception of the sphere of nothingness with regard to the sphere of nothingness...the perception of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception with regard to the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception...the perception of this world with regard to this world...the next world with regard to the next world...and whatever is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, or pondered by the intellect: the perception of that has ceased to exist.

Absorbed in this way, the excellent thoroughbred of a man is absorbed dependent neither on earth, liquid, fire, wind, the sphere of the infinitude of space, the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness, the sphere of nothingness, the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, this world, the next world, nor on whatever is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, or pondered by the intellect-and yet he is absorbed. And to this excellent thoroughbred of a man, absorbed in this way, the gods, together with Indra, the Brahmas, and Pajapati, pay homage even from afar:

'Homage to you, O thoroughbred man.
Homage to you, O superlative man-
of whom we have no direct knowledge
even by means of that with which
you are absorbed.'
A.XI.10

178. Knowledge of the ending of the effluents, as it is actually present, occurs to one who is concentrated, I tell you, and not to one who is not concentrated. So concentration is the path, monks. Non-concentration is no path at all.
A.VI.64


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