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Philosophy East and West, Volume 23, no.4, p. 435-455, University Press of Hawaii
|Of all forms of
religious practice, none exemplifies Buddhism better than the practice of meditation.
Anesaki and Takakusu claim that meditation is "...the universal method of mental
culture of all Indian religious schools, "(1) and Edward Conze writes,
"meditational practices constitute the very core of the Buddhist approach to life....
On the way to Nirvaa.na they serve to promote spiritual development, to diminish the
impact of suffering, to calm the mind and to reveal the true facts of existence."(2)
This article is an attempt to analyze the structure of Buddhist meditation within the Paali suttas. Our contention is that this structure is built around two foci--control and freedom. The ultimate aim of Buddhist meditation is freedom from the bondage of attachment to sense objects. This liberating state of being is reached through a process of consciousness control (samaadhi) and insight into the real nature of the world (vipassanaa). While Theravaada Buddhism tends to distinguish samaadhi and vipassanaa as two separate types of meditation, both aim to achieve enlightenment (sambodha) . Furthermore, as this article will show, they may be seen as basically complementary rather than as mutually exclusive methods.
The structure of Buddhist meditation, which emerges from a study of the Paali suttas, may be depicted by an hourglass figure(3):
The path to enlightenment begins with a general awareness and proceeds to a greater and greater degree of consciousness refinement. This process produces decreasing degrees of attachment to the world of sense objects. The jhaanas represent a transition from a narrowing of consciousness to its eventual expansion resulting in a condition of "hedonic neutrality," that is, upekkhaa. In this state the consciousness is totally freed (cetovimutti) from those conditions which qualify ordinary states of mind. It is characterized as immeasurable, nothingness, emptiness, and signless. In this mind-freed state, the knowledge of enlightenment (pa~n~naavimutti) is fully realized. Or, in a better knowledge of engligtenment (pa~n~n- aavimutti) is fully realized. Or, in a better known idiom, one has attained nibbaana.
SATI AND MINDFUL AWARENESS
The process of meditation and the control of consciousness begin with sati and sampaja~n~na, two practically inseparable terms in the Paali canon.(4) They are widely discussed in the Pi.takas and later commentaries, and according to
a contemporary Buddhist one of the suttas devoted entirely to an exposition of sati and sampaja~n~na is among the most highly respected and frequently memorized Buddhist texts in Ceylon.(5) The Paali word sati is related to Sanskrit sm.rti, meaning "remembered" or "recollected." In Hinduism the word has come to stand for a body of "remembered" literature (for example, the Epics, suutras, Puraa.nas) in contrast to "revealed" or `sruti texts (for example, Sa^mitaas, Braahma.nas, Upani.sads). The term in Paali has taken on, not only the connotation of something called to mind or remembered, but also mindfulness, intentness of mind, or wakeful- ness.(6) Nyaa.naponika interprets sati as "bare attention" and sampaja~n~na as "clear comprehension."(7) Sati as bare attention has a threefold value of helping the mind to know, shape, and liberate itself.(8) Its knowing function is to analyze the objects of existence through dissection and discrimination and realize the conditioned and conditioning nature of all phenomenal entities. Sati shapes individual's lives by causing reflective action rather than immediate responses. Thus the mind gains a new power and a new freedom from control by habitual action-response. As Nyaa.naponika expresses it, "Right Mindfulness recovers for man the lost pearl of his freedom snatching it from the jaws of the dragon Time."(9) The third value of sati is the freeing of the mind. Paradoxically the control of attention and reflection liberates the mind rather than confining it, for it is sati that produces the insight (vipassanaa) into the true nature of things. This realization leads to detachment from ordinary preoccupation with the objects and goals of the mundane world.
If sati, or bare attention, is a discipline of the consciousness appropriate to the act of meditation itself, sampaja~n~na call be understood as the integration of sati with right knowledge (~naa.na) or wisdom (pa~n~naa). Sampaja~n~na is applied to intentionality and action in particular, and more generally to the awareness that at no time is there an abiding personality or ego behind one's intentions and actions. The sampaja~n~na dimension of mindfulness emphasizes the fact that the fundamental nonbeingness (anattaa) of life is not limited to a serene moment of detached and quiet meditation, but conditions every act and thought of the individual.
Within the Nikaayas there are three suttas devoted entirely to a discussion of sati and sampaja~n~na: the Mahaasatipa.t.thaana Suttanta of the Diigha Nikaaya,
the Satipa.t.thaana Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya and the forty-seventh chapter of the Sa^myutta Nikaaya (Kindred Sayings on the Arisings of Mindfulness). The first Sutta in particular will serve as our guide for a more detailed exposition of sati.
The Mahaasatipa.t.thaana Suttanta is nearly identical with the Satipa.t.tana Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya with the exception of an exposition of the Four Noble Truths at its conclusion. We are told at the beginning of this dialogue that the only path leading to the purification of beings, of passing beyond grief and lamentation, of the dying out of suffering and misery and the realization of nibbaana is the fourfold setting up of mindfulness.(10) In order to come to grips with the full dimension of sati these four stages of mindfulness must be analyzed.
In the first place, mindfulness demands a control of the body (kaaya) which overcomes the desire and misery typical of the world.(11) This end is accomplished by practices of meditation and concentration. The bhikkhu is to isolate himself, assume a posture of meditation, and practice breathing exercises with a total consciousness of every act so that the bodily organism will be tranquilized.(12)
Mindfulness of the body begins with awareness of respiration. The Buddhist preoccupation with respiration exercises represents a continuity with earlier Indian thought. In the late.Rg Veda and the Braahma.nas, breath was one of the objects of cosmogonic speculation, the life force through which it was thought the world might have come into being.(13) Breathing exercises (praa.naayaama) also played an important role in Hindu ha.tha yoga. There the practice was eventually to arrest the movement of inhalation and exhalation. The purpose of breath control in yoga, however, was not merely to gain power over respiratory functions but access to higher states of consciousness. Thus Bhoja's commentary on the Yoga Suutras of Pata~njali reads: "All the functions of the organs being preceded by that of respiration--there being always a connection between respiration and consciousness in their respective functions--respiration, when all the functions of the organs are suspended, realizes concentration of consciousness on a single object."(14)
Breathing exercises as the initiation of sati seem to have a dual function not unlike that in the practice of ha.tha yoga, namely, to engender control over the body but also to produce an awareness of the real nature of the
body. As Nyaa.naponika Thera observes, the mindfulness of breathing is both a subject for ''tranquility-meditation" (samathabhaavanaa) as well as an act used for the development of insight (vipassanaabhaavanaa).(15)
Following the initiation of mindfulness through breathing exercises, the Mahaasatipa.t.thaana Suttanta moves to contemplation of various aspects of the body and its functions. They are in brief:
Turning first to the mindfulness of bodily postures the bhikkhu is enjoined to contemplate (anupassanaa) the body internally and externally as something that comes into being and passes away again.(16) Furthermore, such contemplation should accompany every act so that "...when [the bhikkhu] is walking, [he] is aware of it thus:--`I walk'; or when he is standing, or sitting, or lying down, he is aware of it."(17) The purpose of the mindfulness of the bodily postures is to gain the knowledge (~naa.na) that he dwells independent, grasping after nothing in the world.(18) Awareness of bodily postures, therefore, should produce such a total self-awareness in the adept that "In going, standing, sitting, sleeping, watching, talking or keeping silence he knows (sampajaana) what he is doing."(19) This total self-knowledge is directed toward two ends:
The contemplation of the parts of the body is an extension of mindfulness regarding the body and its functions. It begins with an enumeration of various physical organs and bodily products ranging from hair to the heart to urine. This description of the body and its parts is likened to a bag filled with various kinds of grain which can be separated out and identified: "...And a keen-eyed man... reflects as he pour(s) them out:--'that's rice, that's paddy, those are beans,' and so forth. Even so, bhikkhus, does a brother reflect on the body from the soles of the feet below upward to the crown of the head, as something enclosed in skin and full of divers impurities."(20)
Reflection on the parts of the body becomes even more discriminating or analytical, however. From physical parts, the bhikkhu moves his attention to the fundamental bases (dhaatu) or constituent elements of which the body is composed. In the Theravaada scheme of things these basic elements are
four--earth, water, heat, and air. Mindfulness of the fact that the body is composed of these elements is likened to the butcher who, when he has slain an ox, displays the carcass piece by piece.(21) There appears to be a twofold purpose behind the development of mindfulness regarding the various parts and constituent elements of the body:
This second purpose is carried to even greater extremes in the fourth aspect of bodily mindfulness, the cemetery contemplations. Here the bhikkhu is enjoined to contemplate his own body as though it were undergoing ever increasing degrees of decomposition after death. Initially he contemplates a body abandoned in a graveyard which is swollen and turning black and blue; then a body which has been partially eaten by wild animals; and finally a body which has been reduced to a mere heap of bones.(22) All of these contemplations are symbols of the transient nature of the body.(23)
The second stage of mindfulness is to arrive at the same degree of awareness of the true nature of the feelings (vedanaa) as was developed by the body. The bhikkhu must be able to distinguish among feelings that are pleasurable (sukha) , painful (dukkha), or neutral as well as feelings concerning either spiritual (saamisa) or material (niraamisa) things.(24) All of these types of vedanaa are subject to arising and dying away, just as is the body; hence, they are transient, ephemeral. Mindfulness of feelings, consequently, just as mindfulness regarding the body, produces a detachment, an independence from the things of this world.
After subjecting the body (kaaya) and the feelings (vedanaa) to the kind of objective scrutiny that leads to an understanding of their true nature, the bhikkhu developing mindfulness turns his attention to citta, "...the ever-changing, ever-active continuance of consciousness, or reacting intelligence"(25)
and also to dhamma, the ideas, cognizable objects or presentations beyond the stage of mere sensory reaction.(26) Regarding the citta or conscious thinking process the monk must become aware of its various modes, for example, lustful, dull, intelligent, attentive, or distrait. That this awareness or knowledge of the states of the mind is for the purpose of control is illustrated by the following passage from the Vitakkasanthaana Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya:
...if while the monk is attending to the thought function and form of those thoughts, there still arise evil unskilled thoughts associated with desire and associated with aversion and associated with confusion, ...that monk, his teeth clenched, his tongue pressed against his palate, should by his mind subdue, restrain and dominate his mind (citta).(27)
Through awareness directed toward the mind, the monk is enabled both to understand and subdue or control the mind or consciousness (citta). It is recognized that citta as well as kaaya and vedanaa comes into being but then passes away.(28)
Regarding the dhamma or ideas, the Mahaasatipa.t.thaana Suttanta specifically mentions five groups:
All of these groups of dhamma are to be reflected upon with the same scrutiny as body, feelings, and mind with the intent purpose of leading the monk to an independence where he grasps after nothing in the world.
Directing his attention toward the five aggregates (khandha) , the bhikkhu considers individually their arising and passing away until in a state of non-grasping he attains to mindfulness. Contemplating the six aayatanas or the internal and external spheres of sense, the monk is made aware that any fetters that bind him to the world are a result of the coming together of the organs of sense and the objects of sense. By his analysis he becomes of the arising and the putting aside of all fetters. Of the seven factors of enlightenment the bhikkhu must grow aware "... if they are subjectively present, or absent, and he is aware of how there comes an uprising of any factor not hitherto uprisen, and of how there comes a full development of such factors when it has arisen."(29) Finally the Mahaasatipa.t.thaana Suttanta expounds the four Aryan truths, which must also be considered in terms of the same pattern of their arising and passing away.
What in belief is the purpose of sati-sampaja~n~na? In general terms mind- fulness produces a profound self-awareness. More specifically it is intended to produce a detachment from the world of sense through controlling the sensory inputs, and realizing the fundamental impermanence or nonbeingness (anattaa) of existence. Mindfulness, therefore, offers both a theoretical and practical means for the "...realization of that liberating truth of no-self (anattaa), having the two aspects of egolessness and voidness of substance."(30) This realization is a "lived understanding." That is, it is arrived at through a carefully graded program in which control of the senses is coupled with an objective, discriminating knowing. The method of mindfulness conjoins psychomental programming, epistemological shifts, and ontological transformation. It lays the groundwork for later developments, in the meditative life.
SAMAADHI AND ONEPOINTEDNESS
Samaadhi represents a greater degree of control over the mind or consciousness (citta, vi~n~naa.na) than sati. As the word itself (sam-aa-dhaa) denotes, samaadhi is a bringing together, a concentration of the mind in contrast to the more general practice of mindfulness (sati). In early Buddhism the important relationship between samaadhi as the process whereby one concentrates his thoughts and controls his consciousness and siila or the ethical and moral behavior of the religious man is a general assumption. For our purposes, however, samaadhi has crucial implications for the higher goals of the salvation-quest.
In the Subha Sutta of the Diigha Nikaaya the young Brahman, Subha, asks AAnanda to expound the doctrine regarding samaadhi. The resulting answer includes elements which overlap with other categories of this exposition, but several points are made which will serve as a basis for our discussion of samaadhi.
In the first place the sutta affirms that one practices samaadhi by guarding the doors of the senses.(31) This particular practice is described as follows: when the monk sees an object with his eye he is not grasped either by its general appearance or by its details; he restrains whatever factor might cause the arising of evil elemental reactions; so restraining his sense of sight he attains mastery over his sense of sight.(32) In a similar fashion he controls his other sense organs: "... when he hears a sound with his ear, or smells an odor with his nose or tastes a flavor with his tongue or feels a touch with his body, or cognizes (vi~n~naaya) a phenomenon (dhamma) with his mind he is not grasped either by the general appearance or the details of it."(33) By so restraining all of his senses, including the manas or conscious mind, he experiences an unblemished happiness. Having so restrained and guarded all the sense organs so that no element (dhamma) of the mundane world may claim him, the bhikkhu is now mindful (sati) and with clear comprehension (sampaja~n~na). As described in the Subha Sutta, therefore, samaadhi begins when the senses are no longer subject to the rule of the objects of sense.
In the Cuu.lavedalla Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya the layman Visakha asks the nun Dhammadinnaa, "What is concentration (samaadhi), what are the distinguishing marks of concentration, what is the development of concentration?"(34) To this question the wise nun replies that samaadhi is onepointedness of mind (cittassa ekaggataa), its marks the four objects of mindfulness, its requisites the four right efforts and that whatever leads to the increase of these is, in effect, the development of concentration. (35) This passage points to the close relationship between sati and samaadhi. That is, concentration appears to presuppose the four objects of mindfulness. Samaadhi, however, goes beyond the awareness of impermanence and sensory detachment produced by sati. It is a refined control of the consciousness, a concentration of the mind to a single point, thereby eliminating all extraneous thoughts. Buddhaghosa in applying the definition cittassa ekaggataa to samaadhi elaborates as follows: "[samaadhi] is the centering of the consciousness and consciousness-concomitants evenly and rightly on a single object."(36) The man of concentrated (samaadhi) and one-pointed (ekaggataa) mind, therefore, stands in stark contrast to the profane man who is "empty-headed, frivolous and loose in talk."(37)
The Cuu.lavedalla Sutta's exposition of samaadhi also says that the requisites of concentration are the four right efforts. The four right efforts are described in various parts of the Nikaayas as follows: checking the rise of evil and wrong states of consciousness not yet arisen; shedding evil and wrong states that have already arisen; encouraging the rise of right states not yet arisen; ensuring that right states which are already there shall be multiplied and developed.(38) The four right efforts are frequently mentioned as one of the formula truths reported to have been perceived by the Buddha and passed on to his disciples.(39) While this formula does indeed point to a relationship between samaadhi and the production and retion of right constituent states of conscious being, it raises the broader issue of the place of samaadhi in a variety of conceptual structures illustrative of an enlightened state of mind. For instance all of the five iddhipaadas, the paths to the attainment of supranormal powers, are dependent on samaadhi.(40) The five forces (indriyaani) or organs of spiritual sense include samaadhi which is described by one Buddhist scholar as "the dominant faculty, which brings about concentration of thoughts and makes the adept rise higher and higher in meditations."(41) Samaadhi is also the sixth of the seven factors leading to enlightenment,(42) and it has already been pointed out that concentration is one of the three major divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path. On the basis of the crucial role played by samaadhi in the formulae cited, it is arguable that concentration of mind is the necessary step to the attainment of a higher truth and the powers accompanying it.
The Buddhist adept who chooses the way of samaadhi begins his religious quest with a general awareness of the nature of the self and reality but must move beyond the state of objective detachment produced by this mindfulness. He must progress to a unity of concentration which eliminates the flow of sensory material into his conscious mind. By such a concentrated effort he is able to rise to higher forms of apperception, to a mystic intuition of a reality veiled to ordinary perception.(43)
JHAANA, STAGES TO THE ULTIMATE
Buddhist meditation progresses from samaadhi to jhaana, or from concentration and onepointedness to the gradual expansion of the consciousness to hithertofore unexperienced dimensions. In the Paali Suttas, jhaana is often found as part of the formula of the four jhaanas, where it is translated as mental absorption or trance. By carefully analyzing this formula and the contexts in which it occurs, the significance of jhaana in relationship to the control of consciousness and saving-knowledge will become clear.
In the Brahmajaala Sutta a discussion of the four jhaanas occurs within the context of the question, "How may the self or soul (atta) attain to the highest Nibbaana in this visible world?" It is in answer to this question that an explication of the four jhaanas is set forth.
In this sutta it is accepted as an a priori condition of phenomenal existence that the self is subject to kaama or sensuous desires. It is also the case that sensuous desires are characterized by impermanence (anicca) . Phenomenal existence, therefore, necessarily involves suffering since sensory pleasures are constantly subject to change. The only way one can hope to achieve happiness and joy (piitisukha) is by cutting off kaama. In the first jhaana this state is accomplished by detachment (viveka) accompanied by reflection and investigation (vitakka-vicaara) . In order to understand this jhaana these three terms must be studied in some detail.
The term viveka has a threefold significance: a physical separation from the world in the sense of "seclusion"; an intellectual separation in the sense of "discrimination"; and an ethical separation in the sense of the mind (citta) "being separate from the World."(44) For instance, in the Mahaasu~n~nataa Sutta the Buddha tells AAnanda that a bhikkhu who delights in society cannot enjoy well-being or emancipation of mind (cetovimutti) but that such happiness demands renunciation, solitude, and enlightenment (sambodha).(45) The Buddha claims that as a Tathaagata he has reached such a state of isolation (viveka) by dismissing thoughts of all attendant phenomena and by developing and dwelling in a state of emptiness (su~n~nataa).(46) The sutta goes on to say that a monk who likewise desires to develop and dwell in inward emptiness should calm, tranquilize, focus and concentrate his mind inwardly.(47) This sutta clearly indicates that viveka implies both a physical separation from the delights of ordinary worldly intercourse as well as an isolation of the mind (citta). It is interesting to note that the resultant separation is described as a condition of inward emptiness (su~n~nataa) since in the later Maadhyamika tradition the perspective on this important term will shift from a psychophysical emphasis to an ontological one.
In the Na.lakapaana Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya, viveka is described in terms of separation from sensuous desires and from the evil constituents of being. This separation is said to result in the attainment of joy and happiness. The Tathaagata who has reached such a state has overcome the attachments to the mundane world known as the aasavas, which produce the suffering of "birth, old age and death."(48) Viveka, then, means a detachment from the world of sense with its accompanying desires and kammic resultants of rebirth.
The terms vitakka and vicaara should be taken together. In fact T. W. Rhys Davids contends that by examining the use of these two words in earlier and later works, one concludes that they once had synonymous meanings.(49) They came to have slightly different intentions, however, with vitakka referring in particular to initial thought or observation and vicaara denoting continuing or sustained investigation and reflection. Together they are used to indicate "...the whole of the mental process of thinking."(50)
In the Upakkilesa Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya both vitakka and vicaara are related to concentration (samaadhi). The Buddha is recorded as saying that by developing samaadhi in several modes beginning with vitakka and vicaara, he gained the knowledge (~naa.na) and the vision (dassana) that his final liberation (vimutti) was assured. Vitakka and vicaara, therefore are important to the concentration (samaadhi) of one's thoughts and act as one of the first steps toward the attainment of the apperception (dassana) of ultimate reality. They share with viveka the characteristics of directing the individual away from mere sensory reality. Thus in the Dasuttara Suttanta of the Diigha Nikaaya the eight thoughts (vitakka) of the great man (mahaapurisa) include the limitation of desires, detachment, and mental concentration.(51) As we shall see, however, vitakka can become dangerous. As the Sakkapa~nha Suttanta of the Diigha Nikaaya points out, vitakka can become a mental preoccupation which causes desire (chanda),(52) the root of attachment to the mundane World.(53)
In sum, the first jhaana is depicted primarily as a condition of detachment. It involves a physical, intellectual, and ethical separation from the phenomenal world. An important phase of the development of the concentration necessary to acquire the first jhaana is careful thought and analysis of one's self and the surrounding world.
The second jhaana is achieved when observation and investigation (vitakka and vicaara) are suppressed. In this stage these two mental functions are said to be o.laarika or gross, implying that they are necessarily involved in the empirical world. The second jhaana is characterized by joy and happiness (piitisukha) , born not of viveka or detachment but of samaadhi, translated by Rhys Davids in this passage as "serenity."(54) This state is further characterized by a tranquil inner nature and a concentrated mind or heart.(55)
Just as the first jhaana was labeled gross (o.laarika) since it involved vitakka and vicaara, the second acquires the same rubric because it is characterized by joy (piiti) and an exhilaration of the heart.(56) The qualities which are found in one who attains to the third jhaana are equanimity (upekkhaa) and mindfulness (sati), "self-possession" (sampajaana), dispassion (viraaga), and an abiding happiness. Finally in the fourth jhaana the attention of the heart on happiness is transcended as is a concern with its opposite, dukkha or suffering.(57) Similarly the polarity of somanassa and domanassa or mental distress is overcome. The last jhaana is, therefore, composed of pure equanimity and mindfulness (upekkhaasatiparisuddhi)(58) and is "a state where some maintain the complete happiness, in the visible world, of a living being."(59)
The fourfold jhaana formula appears again in the Saama~n~naphala Sutta, the discourse on the fruits of the life of a sama.na or recluse. In this sutta the discussion of the jhaanas is preceded by an overcoming of the five hindrances or niivara.nas and is followed by the acquisition of supranormal powers or iddhi and abhi~n~naa (supranormal knowledge) as well as the overcoming of the aasavas. To understand more fully the role of jhaana within the scope of Buddhist soteriology, we shall examine in some detail the most important of the concepts in this sutta, namely, niivara.na, iddhi, abhi~n~naa, and aasava.
The classical formula of the five niivara.nas(60) as found in the Saama~n~naphala Sutta and elsewhere in the Nikaayas (for example, Diigha III, 49) is described as follows:
One must overcome these hindrances so that in each case the mind may be purified. Separated from sensuous desires and evil elemental impulses the sama.na is enabled to enter into the sequence of the four jhaanas previously described.(62) With the exception of the fifth niivara.na the concern of this formula is clearly with those emotions which tend toward unreflective involvement in the phenomenal world. As Sa^myutta Nikaaya 5:83 puts it, the niivara.nas are conducive "...to the still more becoming and growth thereof."(63) Involvement in the becoming of the phenomenal world supposes lack of insight or ignorance described as blindness and loss of sight. One who has not overcome the niivara.nas obviously is unable to acquire any degree of knowledge beyond that granted through the agency of the senses in dependence on the empirical world.
The Saama~n~naphala Sutta makes clear, however, that one who passes through the jhaanas transcends an ordinary involvement in the phenomenal world exemplified by the niivaranas. Through attaining the four jhaanas the consciousness or mind (citta) is made pure (parisuddha), freed from blemish, devoid of evil (kilesa),(64) stable and immovable.(65) The citta is thereby freed to direct itself toward the "insight that comes from knowledge."(66) This insight is simply that this body (kaaya) has a form (ruupa) composed of the four great elements; that it is a result of a human birth; that it is perpetuated by partaking of foods; that it is impermanent and subject to dissolution and disintegration; and that consciousness itself (vi~n~na.na) depends on the body and is bound up with it.(67) With the citta purified and collected, the sama.na has the mental power to be able to create (maya) with it another body (a~n~na kaaya) than the body subject to the frailties described above. As the text describes this process it is "... as if a man were to pull out a reed from its sheath. He would know: `this is the reed, this the sheath. The reed is one thing, the sheath another. It is from the sheath that the reed has been drawn forth.' And similarly were he to take a snake out of its slough, or draw a sword from its scabbard."(68)
The notion of manomaya or mental power has significant possibilities for this study; however, on the basis of the Paali texts it is difficult to arrive at a specific interpretation. In general the term denotes being made or formed by the mind, particularly as though magically made.(69) For example, the Brahmajaala Sutta refers to the evolution of the world system to the point where most beings have been reborn in the "World of Radiance" and "there they dwell made of mind (manomaya), feeding on joy, radiating light from themselves, traversing the air [and] continuing in glory...."(70) A similar association of manomaya with a heavenly realm is found in the Apa.n.naka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya. There it is stated that the corporeal gods are a product of manomaya.(71) The two passages cited above clearly refer to the magical power of the mind by relating manomaya to the mythological realms of Buddhism. Indeed, manomaya's earliest meaning may have been magically oriented--the notion that mano was responsible for the attainment of heavenly rewards of some form or another; however, we find that manomaya comes to assume both ethical and ontic connotations.
For instance, the Dhammapaada opens with the following two verses:
In this passage the ethical and the ontic are definitely related in terms of mind, that is, the mind appears as the center point. It has, as it were, the power to create the "self." The ethical dimension stems from this fact. If the mind is ignorant and impure, one will suffer; if, on the other hand, the mind is enlightened and pure, one will attain happiness.
Having overcome the five hindrances, attained the four mental absorptions and the power of manomaya, the sama.na now acquires iddhi or supranormal power, and abhi~n~na or supranormal knowledge. The term iddhi is of pre-Buddhistic origin. In different contexts it may be used in the Paali texts to describe the potency of a king, a rich noble, a hunter, etc.(72) In the Saama~n~naphala Sutta, eight modes of iddhi are mentioned:
The above listed iddhis acquired by the Buddhist adept have striking similarities with the archaic phenomenon of shamanism.(74) The coincidence of characteristics between these two religious practitioners has been studied by Mircea Eliade in his monograph, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstacy.(75) In particular he points to the "identity in expression" between the superhuman experiences of the Buddhist yogin and the archaic symbolism of ascent and flight found so frequently in shamanism.(76) Symbols of ascent and flight are especially important since they illustrate the ecstatic experience at which
shamanism aims. The shaman through the medium of this experience obtains a superhuman state of being enhancing him with such powers as flight, especially for the purpose of reaching otherworldly realms. The magical aspect of this power is well illustrated by our particular text, which specifically indicates that prior to the acquisition of iddhi, the sama.na has exercised the power of manomaya, the "magic" of his mind, in order to create "another body." It would appear that the iddhi which follow are powers of that "other body" created as a result of passing through the four jhaanas.
The possible shamanistic and, hence, magically oriented origin of iddhi is furthered by what appears to be a growing suspicion on the part of early Buddhism toward the public display of paranormal or superhuman psychic powers, In the Kevaddha Sutta of the Diigha Nikaaya the Buddha is represented as warning against the use of magical wonders because they might be confused with the use of magical charms practiced in Gandhaara.(77) He is made to say, "It is because I perceive danger in the practice of mystic wonders, that I loath, and abhor, and am ashamed thereof."(78) In the Vinaya Pi.taka it is stated that a monk should not display psychic powers before the laity beyond the powers of ordinary men.(79) The Sampasaadaniiya Sutta of the Diigha Nikaaya makes it clear that there are indeed two types of iddhi, one which is termed ignoble and the other noble.(80) The ignoble are those powers discussed above in the Sama~n~naphala Sutta and elsewhere in the Nikaayas.(81) In the Sampasaadaniiya Sutta the iddhis are labeled ignoble since they are concomitant with mental intoxicants and worldly aims.(82) In other words, it is possible to employ the fruits of the jhaana or the iddhi in such a manner that the mundane world, rather than being transcended, becomes even more attractive and one's involvement within it is deepened even further. Iddhi produced through manomaya may become the occasion of a descent into the actual or phenomenal world rather than ascent into the real or noumenal.
In contrast to the ignoble powers, all of which involve some superhuman power, the Sampasaadaniiya Sutta describes the noble powers as follows: "When a bhikkhu can, if he so desire, remain unconscious of the disgust amid what is disgusting; or conscious of disgust amid what is not disgusting; or unconscious of disgust amid what is both disgusting and the opposite; or, avoiding both that which is disgusting and the opposite, should remain indifferent to them as such, mindful and understanding."(83) As should be expected, the
noble iddhis overcome the mental intoxicants (aasavas) and the worldly aims instead of becoming further embroiled in them. Rather than representing the superhuman or the magical, Aryan powers stand for control of sa~n~naa or perceptions and lead to an indifference (upekhaka) toward the disgusting and the nondisgusting, those polarities which qualify our perception of the phenomenal world.
The transformation of iddhi from an archaic, magical meaning is further illustrated by the Janavasabha Suttanta of the Diigha Nikaaya describing the four ways in which iddhi is developed. They are: concentration and effort with desire (chanda-samaadhi), concentration and effort with energy (viriya-samaadhi), concentration and effort with a "dominant idea" (citta-samaadhi), concentration and effort with investigation (viima.msaa-samaadhi) .(84) Here we find a progression not to a state of ecstasy leading to powers of invisibility and flight, but rather a progression from desire (chanda) to investigation (viima.msaa), or from motivation and effort to a more refined and sophisticated use of the mind. It appears that iddhi as the fruit of jhaana becomes, rather than supernatural powers acquired in shamanistic trance, a discriminating understanding (viima.msaa) of the phenomenal world engendering a detached objectivity (upekhaka) in the face of the polarities of impure/pure, loathsome/ nonloathsome, disgusting/nondisgusting typical of the phenomenal or mundane world.
In addition to iddhi, the Saama~n~naphala Sutta indicates that other powers are acquired by the sama.na who has overcome the niivara.nas and acquired the jhaanas. These powers are said to be the heavenly or divine ear; discernment of various types of minds or citta; knowledge of previous existences; the heavenly or divine eye with which the adept "...sees beings as they pass away from one form of existence and take shape in another...."(85) These supranormal powers eventually developed into a stereotyped list of six abhi~n~naas (higher knowledge). They appear in the Dasuttara Suttanta of the Diigha Nikaaya as follows:
We can discern in this list an amalgam of two different types of abhi~n~naa. In the first instance there is the type illustrated by the occurrence of the supranormal powers in the Saama~n~naphala Sutta. There the abhi~n~naas are acquired as the result of jhaana through the power of manomaya. In particular, however, abhi~n~naa seems to express a psychic or mental power in contrast to the extraordinary physical power of the iddhis. For example, the heavenly ear and the divine eye would appear above all else to indicate a heightened mode of perception enabling the adept to arrive at a supranatural knowledge bordering on omniscience. Thus iddhi and abhi~n~naa seem to complement each other, the one pointing to physical power, the other to mental power. It is just such a mutually supporting role, for example, that iddhi and abhi~n~naa play in the Akankheyya Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya.(87)
There is, on the other hand, another type of abhi~n~naa in the Dasuttara Suttanta list, a "higher knowledge" of the destruction of all attachments to the mundane and of the realization of ultimate reality or nibbaana. This aspect of the abhi~n~naas is found in the Samyutta Nikaaya, where they are preceded by the "middle path" and followed by enlightenment and nibbaana.(88) Or, again in the A^nguttara Nikaaya where it is said that the abhi~n~naas lead to full emancipation,(89) and the Diigha where we find that they are contrary to priestly superstitions and vain (sophistical) speculations.(90) In other words, abhi~n~naa, at this level, is insight into the truth claims of Buddhism regarding the nature of reality. It may be that the two seemingly different types of abhi~n~naa represent a synthesis of a more popular and "primitive," magically oriented tradition with the more sophisticated, ethically oriented tradition of the priests. It is difficult to assert, as the Paali Text Society Dictionary does, that the more magically oriented understanding of abhi~n~naa is later.(91) Perhaps all that can be safely said is that in the Nikaayas the two traditions came to be amalgamated. That is to say, it was expected that as a person gained detachment from the phenomenal world he not only gained a "higher knowledge" (abhi-j~naa), but supranormal powers (iddhis) as well.
Having destroyed the niivara.nas, attained the jhaanas, the iddhis, and abhi~n~naas, the Sama~n~naphala Sutta goes on to say that the sama~n~naa is then able to destroy the "deadly floods" or "intoxicants" (aasavas) that are part of the attachment of the profane man to the mundane world. In this sutta the aasavas are enumerated as kaama (sensual desire), bhaava (becoming or desire for future life), and avijjaa (ignorance of the four noble truths).(92) One of the most famous passages referring to the intoxicants is contained in a formula repeated throughout the Nikaayas, the Mahaaparinibbaana Sutta in particular. It illustrates the interrelationship of conduct (siila), concentration (samaadhi), and understanding (pa~n~naa) in overcoming the aasavas. After affirming that concentration must be accompanied by right conduct and understanding by concentration, the passage concludes that the mind (citta) of the individual surrounded by a profound understanding (pa~n~naa) of the nature of reality will be freed (vimuccati) from being "poured out" (aasava) into the mundane world through sensual desires, the wish for a life of continual becoming, false views, and ignorance of his true state of being.(93)
The aasavas, as do the niivara.nas, serve to clarify that from which the jhaanas free a man. Fundamentally it is the mundane, specifically as the world of sensuous desire, becoming, anger, worry, dullness, stupidity; or, in other words, ignorant, unthinking involvement in and attachment to the empirical world. The jhaanas represent stages by which an individual attains a power of mind (manomaya) which represents a new order of being, "another body" (a~n~na kaaya) as the text states it. This new being is g raphically illustrated by certain powers the texts describe partially in the terms of a popular, magical tradition and partially in terms of the higher knowledge represented by the Buddhist analysis of existence. We may conclude that the jhaanas preserve two types of knowledge in relationship to the salvation quest: ecstasy and a mode of knowledge characterized by viima.msaa, vitakka, and vicaara or more rational and discriminating forms of thinking. Knowledge as power, then, comes to take on a rather particular meaning. It is power over the world of becoming and change, but it is also the power of new being.
UPEKKHAA AND THE UNLIMITEDS
We have seen in our discussion of jhaana that upekkhaa (equanimity) appeared in the third stage and that in the fourth there remained only sati (mindfulness) and upekkhaa. Having discussed the former term, we now turn to an examination of upekkhaa. The word upekkhaa is derived from the Sanskrit root iik.s, meaning to gaze or look at, plus the prefix upa; hence, the word literally means to overlook or neglect.(94) Its meaning is extended, however, to denote patience, equanimity, or indifference. The Paali Text Society Dictionary defines upekkhaa as, "hedonic neutrality or indifference, the zero point between joy and sorrow."(95) A. B. Keith notes that upekkhaa, as a quality of the third and fourth jhaana, does not actually connote a hedonistic sense of indifference but rather an intellectual neutrality. Thus, upekkhaa, at least in its jhaanic context, is an impartial tolerance in regard to all mental states.(96)
A broad survey of the uses of upekkhaa in the Theravaada tradition is given by Edward Conze as follows:
In the Nikaayas themselves we discover that upekkhaa is used frequently in the formula of the four brahma vihaaras or the abodes of brahmaa. The brahma vihaaras are four "states of mind" that result, after death, in a rebirth in the heavenly worlds of brahmaa.(98) There is disagreement among Buddhist scholars as to the origin of the brahma vihaaras. T. W. Rhys Davids contends that they were almost certainly exclusively Buddhist, (99) whereas E. J. Thomas believes they show a direct connection with Brahmanical practices since they occur in the Yoga Suutras.(100) Regardless of origin, however, the brahma vihaaras are important as modes of heightened awareness, although they are not in themselves the highest goal of nibbaana.(101)
Another term used in the Nikaayas to define the brahma vihaaras is appaman~naa or "infinite feelings."(102) This term is applied to these states of mind or categories of consciousness dealing with mind expansion. Mahasudassana Suttanta of the Diigha Nikaaya reports the following attainments of "the Great King of Glory" after reaching the fourth jhaana: "And he let his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of love; and so the second quarter and so the third and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, to pervade with heart of love, far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure, free from the least trace of anger or ill will."(103) And in a similar fashion he pervaded the whole world with a consciousness of compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. The brahma vihaaras in general and upekkhaa in particular represent, if you will, universal states of consciousness. They are one of the somewhat paradoxical outcomes of the process of meditation and the control of the mind which has been described in the Nikaayas, a process that becomes even more refined in a later period. This outcome of Buddhist meditation is seemingly paradoxical in that the progression from sati to samaadhi, and even into the jhaanas, was primarily a narrowing down of the consciousness. But the narrowing of the consciousness was for the purpose of its ultimate liberation. The refinement of the mind was important primarily for the elimination of attachment to the objects of sense and concomitantly to develop such mental control that the mind developed the power to construct a new reality (manomaya). That is to say, the purpose of meditation in the Nikaayas is to free the mind from dependence on sensory objects so that it can be expanded to realities which defy empirical definition. Upekkhaa, therefore, becomes the last element in the seven factors of enlightenment and is a characteristic shared by both Arahants and buddhas.
Perhaps the significance of the difference in consciousness implied by upekkhaa and ordinary states of consciousness can be best demonstrated by referring to two Nikaaya texts. The Sa.laayatanavibha^nga Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya lists six indifferences (upekkhaa) . A worldly indifference is "...the indifference on seeing a thing which appertains to the ignorant and foolish average man...such indifference...fails to transcend the thing seen..."(104) By way of contrast the indifference of renunciation arises when "...on discerning the transitory nature of things seen and their mutability, instability and annihilation, indifference arises from causal understanding."(105) Upekkhaa denotes, therefore, a transcendence of the thing seen.
Assuming that meditation frees the mind from dependence on the mundane world, to what is it freed? The answer must of necessity be in abstract terms, and the person who is looking for a concrete definition of the knowledge of ultimates is bound to be disappointed; however, one answer given by the Nikaayas is found in the Mahaavadella Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya. There, in a conversation between Saariputta and Ko.t.thita the Great, Saariputta discusses four "freedoms" of the mind (cetovimutti): appamaa.naa (immeasurable) , aaki~nca~n~naa (nothingness) , su~n~nataa (emptiness), animittaa (signless).(106) All four of these characteristics of the cetovimutti are identical in that they connote a state or condition of nonattachment. They also point beyond themselves to a reality beyond definition, a reality that can be known but not in the way that people ordinarily know. The whole thrust of Buddhist meditation, therefore, is to produce a condition of consciousness in which ultimate reality can be known directly, just as objects are perceived directly in the phenomenal world. The Buddhist way of coming to know ultimate reality is to produce a condition of being in which reality can be perceived directly. It is because the
reality to be known is "other" than that which is ordinarily known that the process of meditation--sati, samaadhi, jhaan and upekkhaa--is undergone. The cognizing apparatus must be transformed since, indeed, to reach nibbaana involves a total transformation of consciousness and being.
The process of meditation described in the Paali suttas provides the proper context for a discussion of Buddhist epistemology. Epistemology in Buddhism is basically a soteriological and not a philosophical problem. To understand the Theravaada view of knowledge (vi~n~naana and pa~n~naa) demands a serious study of the structure of Buddhist meditation. This essay has attempted such a study. It has argued that within the progressive refinement of consciousness developed in the Buddhist meditative process, discriminating and analytical modes of knowledge played a decisive role, both in terms of understanding the true nature of things as well as in producing a state of detachment. It has further argued that meditation leads to a state of consciousness in which only a nondiscriminating mode of knowledge is appropriate. Such knowledge might be labeled mystical or intuitive but, finally, as the texts themselves point out, it is without any proper designation (animittaa)./.
(Donald K. Swearer is Associate Professor of Religion at Swarthmore College,USA)
Source: Digital Buddhist Library and
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