Reading the Suttas

I was brought up in the Roman Catholic tradition, and every Sunday we would go to Church. Each week, short passages from the Bible would be read. Even though I was a young boy and didn’t pay too much attention, still there is this memory in my mind of many of the things that are in the Bible. I know about the widow’s two coins, about the flood, about the bread and fishes.

Buddhism lacks this good tradition. Scriptural texts are usually recited in incomprehensible languages. And most of the texts that are studied and recited date from many hundreds, even thousands, of years after the Buddha. In this way the Buddhist tradition loses its sense of genuine connection with what the Buddha actually taught. In every tradition, stories and teachings from much later periods are unquestioningly accepted as the Word of the Buddha. This can lead to great confusion.

Since I started practicing Buddhism, I have found the Suttas to be an invaluable refuge. There is so much wisdom, so many amazing things – they are an inexhaustible trove of Dhamma. I encourage all Buddhists the have the habit of daily, or at least weekly, reading the Suttas.

The Suttas are not immediately striking. They are often repetitive, and can be mundane. But their beauty is a subtle thing. It lies in the balance, the sense of form, the reasonableness, the Buddha’s serenity and wisdom in every imaginable situation.

It’s best to read them a little at a time. One Middle-length Sutta is ideal for one session. Read it slowly, carefully. Notice if there are things that you don’t understand – and beware of what you think you already understand. When you have finished, check any footnotes or other guides to comprehension. Don’t get too analytic about it – try to soak in the whole essence of the teaching. If you read a Sutta before meditation, it can uplift and inspire your mind, and the meaning becomes clear.

Remember you are reading a translation. Don’t get hung up on the specific connotations of terminology – that’s just the choices of the translator. Become familiar, one word at a time, with the Pali/Sanskrit terms that underlie all Buddhist teachings.

Notice your own response to the text: what is inspiring, what is boring, what is dubious. Your responses belong to you, not the text.

Beware of the mind that wants to criticize the text. Even though I myself believe in the importance of text-critical studies, this is after many years of study and reflection. It takes time to get a sense for these things. Have compassion for the text. It was composed in an oral tradition in a far off time and place. It is a miracle that it exists at all, and we should not be put off if some of the modes of expression are alien to us.

Perhaps a bigger problem is the desire to literalize or insist on a particular reading. The Suttas have a word for this: idasaccabhinivesa – the insistence that ‘this alone is the truth’. Any text is open to different readings and emphases. It is easy enough to find cases where modern teachers or traditional schools teach things that differ from the Suttas. It is not so easy, but far more valuable, to understand why these changes came to be made, and to understand what aspect of Dhamma is at stake.

If you are in doubt, remember the poised attitude that the Suttas themselves speak of: ‘Neither accepting nor rejecting, I will inquire about the meaning…’. In Buddhism, we are not expected to believe literally every detail of the scriptures; but if we read them with a fault-finding mind, we will never really get it.

Whatever aspect of Dhamma – whether meditation, philosophy, ethics, or inspiring stories – there’s nothing like the real thing. Take the text, and live it. Try it out and see what it does in your life. I’ve been doing this for 18 years now, and I’ve never been let down. Whatever faults I have, they’re all because of my failing to live up to the Dhamma, not because of the Dhamma itself.

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69 thoughts on “Reading the Suttas

  1. This approach may also be of interest. We use it for our (Dharmagiri’s) year long study program that is currently running. It is being used by small groups and individuals in 10 different countries who follow the course. http://www.dharmagiri.org/13.html

    The contemplative reading of a Sutta can be done in a group or individually.
    Please click here for guidelines for this practice: http://www.box.net/shared/yifyua1nr2
    which follows the form used in Christian monastic practice called ‘Lectio Divina’

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lectio_Divina

    Many thanks to Rev Peter Woods (Methodist Church of Port Alfred, South Africa) for the transmission of this wonderful way of accessing the Suttas.

  2. Dear Bhante

    Thanks for that inspiring write-up. I’ve often wondered how lay Buddhists were supposed to fulfill this vision of the Buddha if we did not read suttas –

    ‘I shall not come to my final passing away, Evil One, until my bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, have come to be true disciples — wise, well disciplined, apt and learned, preservers of the Dhamma, living according to the Dhamma, abiding by the appropriate conduct, and having learned the Master’s word, are able to expound it, preach it, proclaim it, establish it, reveal it, explain it in detail, and make it clear; until, when adverse opinions arise, they shall be able to refute them thoroughly and well, and to preach this convincing and liberating Dhamma.’ – DN 16

  3. We certainly have a way of passing stories along, just not in the same way. There are many stories I learned when I was younger that were very dear to me—Lord Buddha’s life story, no less. Plus, there are some tales I remember as cultural stories that only very recently I learned were actually Jataka Tales. And I’m sure you have encountered the experience in Thailand where lay people can name many Buddhist concepts—dukkha, samudaya, nirodha, magga—but not quite know what they mean. In Khmer, there are so many Pali and Sanskrit terms used in every day language, which makes the bridge to learning Pali much more convenient (at least for me). These terms are so common that I have a hard time reading Pali in Khmer script—I want to read the Pali as though it’s Khmer. Communicating stories to children plants seeds that have the potential to sprout, if well-tended.

  4. Great post Bhante!
    I totally agree. Since I started reading suttas with interest, I noticed that it did have an effect on my mind. Reading them conditioned my behavior and mental processes. Just to take an example: that sutta about “one thought of ill-will and you’re not a disciple of mine” so whenever ill-will comes around it tends to stop more because of reading the Buddha’s teachings. That’s just an example. Or reading Buddha saying “if people only knew the benefits of generosity they wouldn’t eat without sharing it with others…” conditioned me to be more generous. Perhaps the conditioning is powerful because when people have faith and trust in the Buddha, the value they put on his teachings has a stronger conditioning than when listening to others. Also Buddha is very clear, straight to the point! I noticed he’s not ‘whishy washy’. He says it like it is!
    All this to say YES, more support towards reading suttas! :):)
    I heard whenever Ajahn Brahmali is senior monk at Bodhinyana he read a passage of the suttas before the meal when laypeople gathered for the blessing. I thought it was great and it seemed to be well accepted.
    Thank you Bhante for the GREAT POST!:

  5. Bhante, I for one am someone who doesn’t understand the suttas without a “guide” or commentator. I have difficulties reading them (and yes, I guess I struggle with the repetitiveness, even though I think I understand the mechanics behind this within the context of oral transmission).

    For me, it seems to work better listening to sutta talks, because the teachers can bring it into a frame of reference for me that I can work with.

    Does that count or would you feel that I
    am losing a learning opportunity by following the “audio plus” approach?

  6. I have only started reading the original suttas in the past year and find that it has widened, deepened and simplified my practice. While the writings of lay and monastic teachers have been tremendously valuable in giving an introduction and an overview, I find that the Buddha’s original teachings (or at least as passed down by the redactors of the Tipitaka) are often much simpler and direct. Seeing the Buddha teach in response to a question addressed to him is different from seeing the same teaching “handed down” modern book with little or no context, valuable though that has been.

    I’ve started to learn some Pali, which has also helped. Words never map precisely from one language to another, particularly when they deal with inward states rather than easily-identifiable physical objects, and to see original words in their original linguistic ecological niche is really helpful. I’ve seen “skhandhas” translated as “mental formations”, “impulses”, “volitions”, “emotions” (which is also a translation for “vedanas”), “concepts”, “intentional states” and probably a few more. They all more or less cluster together, but some don’t quite overlap, and starting to get to grips with the original is helping make more sense.

    I’ve been using “A New Course in Reading Pali: Entering the Word of the Buddha” by James W. Gair which seems pretty helpful. Do any more experienced linguists have any other recommendations?

    I’ve also had an experience similar to what sometimes happens when I learn a piece of guitar music. Sometimes a piece of music which sounds very simple looks a bit odd and much less simple on the page when it’s written down for the guitar. It usually emerges that the simple version would be impossible to play because it would need seven fingers each a foot long, so the composer adapted it to fit human hands, and when you play it, the way it falls under your fingers lets you know that they sat there doing exactly the same stretches that you’re doing. Similarly, when I read the Anapanasati Sutta, I know that the Buddha sat there contemplating his breathing just like I do. It’s a very stilling and somehow relieving experience.

    David

  7. Whatever works! Actually, in the Indian tradition, texts would have always been passed down orally. The standard Indian literary form is a brief text which is intended to be expanded by the teacher – this is in fact what the word ‘sutta’ means.

  8. Hi David,

    I’m also beginning to learn Pali and have found the book you’re using “A New Course in Reading Pali: Entering the Word of the Buddha” by James W. Gair to be the most accessible. In case you don’t know, Bhikkhu Bodhi has recordings of a Pali class he does available on-line and this is the book they use: http://www.bodhimonastery.net/bm/programs/pali-class-online.html

    A friend of mine who knows Pali says his favorite grammar reference book is “A Pali Grammar for Students” by Steven Collins. I find it to be very clearly organized (but I haven’t looked at any others).

    I wish I knew enough to be able to read the suttas completely in Pali, but even what little I have learned so far has already made a huge difference and been enormously helpful to me in how I read the suttas (and also how I investigate my own experience).

  9. Dear & Venerable Bhante Sujato,

    Thanks for these marvelous and inspiring words!

    I would like to let you know I made a free translation of this text into portuguese and published it in my blog.

    Best regards!

  10. Dear David,

    If you want to learn Pali well, I would suggest A.K. Warder’s “Introduction to Pali”. It is not a particularly easy book, but if you have the inclination to learn Pali you will benefit enormously from reading it. The word ‘Introduction’ in the title is actually quite misleading, since once you have been throught it you can pretty much read the suttas with the help of a dictionary. I have used this book in Pali classes at Bodhinyana Monastery for many years.

    By the way, you really mean sankhara, not skhandha/khandha.

    With metta,
    Bhikkhu Brahmali

  11. Dear Ayasma Brahmali

    It’s been a year, but I still can’t get past Lesson 7 of Warder. Sob, sob.

    Is there any useful strategy to approach Pali through Warder, other than through sheer grit and brute force?

  12. Dear Bhante Brahmali,

    Any tips you can share for learning Pali (especially for someone who has never learned a second language, and also is not near a monastery where Pali chanting is done?)

    Also, are any of your Pali classes available as recordings?

    Sylvester, I too find Warder rather difficult. I am proceeding very s-l-o-w-l-y along with other books, particularly the one David mentioned.

    Many thanks,
    Linda

  13. Dear Bhikkhu Brahmali

    I had seen Warder’s book but had been a little daunted. I think I will give it a go.

    Yes, I saw my error in one of those “doh” moments just after having pressed the “Submit Comment” button.

    Thank you!

    David

  14. Dear Sylvester, Linda and David,

    Yes, it does take a fair amount of dedication to get through Warder. For anyone with no or little background in philology, it is useful to have a teacher who can explain points of grammar. This is how I got started: Ajahn Brahm taught me the basics.

    Perhaps using a combination of Gair and Warder is the way to go. Gair and Karunatillake’s is much easier to read than Warder’s but it misses many small but important points of grammar. One might use Gair as an introduction and then Warder to deepen one’s understanding.

    One disadvantage with Warder is that he does not give a key to his exercises beyond chapter 6. Some years ago a produced a key for the entire book, which is now available on the access to insight website.

    Good luck to all of you!

    With metta,
    Bh. Brahmali

  15. Dear Bhante Brahmali,

    Thanks so much for your response! I will keep plugging away….

    With metta,
    Linda

  16. I like the website name … although the play on words does sound a little unfortunate to an ear listening in English …
    :-)

  17. I like the name for the city – I’d just never thought of it as a pun for “buddha” …

  18. I don’t know where you live (Australia?), but it just shows that we live in different realities – ending up in the same reality occasionly. :)

  19. Dear Sujato

    I recently bought the Wisdom sutta editions, and have been reading the suttas regularly.

    Among other things, they are full of regular references to devas, Brahmas, Tushita heavens and so on. What are these things and are they important?

    Regartds

    David

  20. The Buddha is the Teacher of gods (devas) and men.

    Brahmā in Buddhism is the name for a type of exalted passionless god (deva). Brahmā or “Great One” — an inhabitant of the non-sensual heavens of form or formlessness

    Tusita is the fourth of the six devā worlds where four hundred years of human life are equal to one day there. Sometimes Sakadāgāmins, Once-Returners are born there. According to tradition all Bodhisattas are born in Tusita in their last life but one.

    The Buddha Gotama’s name, while in Tusita, was Setaketu, and the Bodhisatta Metteyya, the future Buddha, is now living in Tusita under the name of Nathadeva.
    The Tusita realm is said to be the most beautiful of the celestial worlds.

    Among those reborn in Tusita are also mentioned Dhammika, Anāthapindika, and Mallikā.

  21. Dear Visakha

    I’m not sure if all Brahmas can be described as “passionless”. I’m assuming you are thinking of “raga” when you mentioned passionless. If, however, you were thinking of no kamacchanda in a Brahma, I would agree. However, raga (ruparaga and aruparaga) as a Higher Fetter is not abandoned even in the Suddhavasa Brahmas while they are still Anagamis.

    Dear David

    I think the frequency with which one encounters these beings and planes in the early Buddhist texts is to emphasise the importance of the idea of rebirth and kamma to the entire schema of the Buddha’s teachings.

  22. Re: “I think the frequency with which one encounters these beings and planes in the early Buddhist texts is to emphasise the importance of the idea of rebirth and kamma to the entire schema of the Buddha’s teachings.”

    And he adopted the existing cosmology, and much of the language, of the time… while giving words new meanings and clarifying how his teaching was different (eg. union with Brahma/rebirth in those realms isn’t the ‘be all and end all’, among many other things)

    Actually just writing that contemporary idiom (note: not the Buddha’s words!) makes me see what an oxymoron it is– ‘to be all and to end all’.. what a curiously contradictory figure of speech in the english language.

  23. Linda

    Actually I read it as a tautology!

    How slippery laguage can be, or how different our individual minds are. Or both.

    David

  24. Thanks Visakha

    How have you met these beings and been to these places? I know nothing of them.

    Thanks

    David

  25. Dear fellow Sutta readers

    As well as currently reading the suttas, I have recently read Ajahn Brahm’s “Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond”.

    References to basic mindfulness practices and to the jhanas appear pretty much throughout the suttas, but I haven’t found any references to nimittas, which are an important part of AB’s method. Can anybody point me in the right direction?

    Thanks

    David

  26. Dear David,

    The word nimitta is an untranslated pali term that AB purposely left untranslated with quotation marks around it sometimes while the rest of the text on the page is in English (maybe to emphasize that word, or because there are various possible translation for the term ). That’s why in his book this word will stand out or jump out at you and very easy to see. But in other books, you don’t see this word being single out and left untranslated while the rest get of the words on the page are shown in English. It is either the entire page get translated into English, or the entire page is in Pali. If you read the English translation of various suttas, you might not see this word nimitta. Instead it might have been translated into other words such as, theme, sign, image, object of thoughts, etc…It is possible to read these words and not knowing that its original pali term is nimitta because they seem rather ordinary. For example:

    ” Here, Ananda, a monk abides contemplating body as body* — ardent, fully aware, mindful — leading away the unhappiness that comes from wanting the things of the world. And for one who is abiding contemplating body as body,* a bodily object arises, or bodily distress, or mental sluggishness, that scatters his mind outward. Then the monk should direct his mind to some satisfactory image. When the mind is directed to some satisfactory image, happiness is born. From this happiness, joy is then born. With a joyful mind, the body relaxes. A relaxed body feels content, and the mind of one content becomes concentrated. He then reflects: “The purpose for which I directed my my mind has been accomplished. So now I shall withdraw [directed attention from the image].” He withdraws, and no longer thinks upon or thinks about [the image]. He understands: “I am not thinking upon or thinking about [anything]. Inwardly mindful, I am content.” This is directed meditation.”- SN 47.10 Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta: Directed and Undirected Meditation

    If a translator’s note is available and it explains the term nimitta ,we might be able to know that the word nimitta is present in the above sutta. Some might not. In this case there is :

    “His response here is not the warrior’s tone sometimes found elsewhere in the texts, whereby the practitioner should just overcome the unwholesome thoughts and rouse up sufficient heroic energy to re-establish mindfulness. Nor is it the gentler response we often hear in the dhamma hall, to just be aware of what is arising, without judgment of any kind, gently returning our attention to the breath or other primary object of meditation. Rather the Buddha’s suggestion is a deliberate re-direction of our attention to a “satisfactory image.”

    The pali words here are pasadaniya nimitta. A nimitta is an image or manifestation that appears in the mind — something akin to a sign, a vision or an appearance of an object in the “mind’s eye.” It is the term used in visualization meditations, and even has a slight connotation of “conjuring up” something in the mind.”
    – Andrew Olendzki

    Maurice O’Connell Walshe also translate the same sutta but would translate the word nimitta as object of thoughts.

    You might be able to see the word nimitta if you refer to the untranslated Pali version of various suttas.

  27. Dear David

    So that you do not languish for years in doubt, as I did with Ajahn Brahm’s description of nimittas, there’s another way of addressing the issue. Look not at the label, but at what phenomenon is denoted by the label.

    Ajahn Brahm employs the Commentarial usage of “nimitta” to describe a certain set of phenomena. Are those phenomena described in the suttas, albeit by a different name?

    Ajahn Sujato and myself have previously pointed out (but a view I now revise with iMeditation’s post) that while the suttas do not use the word “nimitta” to describe those phenomena, the phenomena are actually described in the suttas but using a different terminology. Here is a sample from the MN, describing not just any old nimitta, but one that was experienced by the Bodhisatta Gotama himself –

    “[Ven Anuruddha – Ven sir, as we abide here diligent, ardent and resolute, we perceive both light (obhasa) and a vision of forms (dasana.m rupana.m). Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappear, but we have not discovered the CAUSE for that.

    The Buddha – You should discover the CAUSE for that, Anuruddha. Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unelightened Bodhisatta, I too perceived both light and a vision of forms. Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappeared. I thought: ‘What is the cause and condition why the light and the vision of forms disappeared. Then I considered thus: ‘Doubt… inattention… sloth & torpor…fear (with a simile)…elation (with a simile)…inertia…excess of energy (with a simile)…deficiency of energy (with a simile)…longing…perception of diversity…excessive meditation upon forms… arose in me and because of doubt… inattention… sloth & torpor…fear …elation …inertia…excess of energy …deficiency of energy …longing…perception of diversity…excessive meditation upon forms my concentration fell away; when my concentration fell away, the light and the vision of forms disappeared. I shall so act that neither doubt nor inattention… sloth & torpor…fear (with a simile)…elation (with a simile)…inertia…excess of energy (with a simile)…deficiency of energy (with a simile)…longing…perception of diversity…excessive meditation upon forms will arise in me again.”

    I’ve capitalised the term “cause” as this was denoted by the word “nimitta” to give a flavour of its polysemous character.

    The sutta (Upakkilesa Sutta, MN 128) then goes on to give a very long treatment of the Bodhisatta’s progression to stabilise his “perception of light and a vision of forms.” Another problem encountered was the unbalanced perception of light and forms, such that only one was perceived but not the other. The Bodhisatta noticed that this was due to attention being given to only the “SIGN” of light or of forms. No surprises then that “sign” here is denoted by the Pali “nimitta”.

    All these sections about the Bodhisatta’s efforts to stabilise the “light and forms” precede the sections on Jhana.

    I guess somewhere along the way, the Commentaries decided to denote the “perception of light and a vision of forms” with “nimitta”. It’s a lot less of a mouthful than “obhāsañceva sañjānāmi dassanañca rūpānaṃ” :)

    Dear iMeditation

    Thanks also for the really useful pointer!

  28. Thanks iMeditation and Sylvester for pointing out these suttas. As both of you mention, it is interesting how many different meanings/nuances the word nimitta has in the suttas. Seems like the most common translation, at least according to Bhikhu Bodhi’s translations, is “sign”, although he uses others as well (ground, basis, image), depending on the context.

    Out of curiosity, yesterday I did a search for “nimitta” in the MN in the Pali. David, you can do it via the VRI site: http://tipitaka.org/
    although currently I’m unable to access it (probably cause I’m still using an ‘evil mac’–a reference to a discussion in a thread awhile back– which used to be compatible with their site but apparently no longer is). Anyway, I have an off-line version and a brief search turned up 120 instances of “nimitta” in the MN alone, and that doesn’t include other grammatical forms of the word!

    So I looked to see which suttas the word was used in (easy to do even if you don’t know Pali, as you can correlate the Pali sutta titles with Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation since he gives both in his table of contents. Although I knew some from being familiar with some of the suttas, unfortunately I’m only at a very elementary stage of reading Pali, so it wasn’t easy to quickly scan and understand all the various contexts. But with the Pali, along with BB’s translation and a Pali dictionary and grammar in hand, I did look up the first few ones in which it’s used.

    One of these very common usages, was in the Buddha’s exhortations to not grasp onto the “signs” and features of sense objects, inc. mind-objects, (eg. guarding doors in order to prevent the arising of unwholesome states or counteracting those that do arise), often in reference to that being a necessary condition for abandoning the hindrances and entering jhana.

    David, I would like to look further at suttas in which the word is used in specifically in relation to meditative states. In addition to the suttas that iMeditaion and Sylvester mentioned, I can think of a few (perhaps Bhante Sujato, Ajahn Brahmali and/or Ajhan Brahm or others could point us to others) such as MN 121 & 122.

    In MN the Buddha advises concentrating the mind on the “nimitta (sign) of concentration”. Both these also go further–discussing the “signless concentration of mind”, so it’s used both as a sign to make use of/focus on and also in terms of the mind letting go of all signs.

    There’s another beautiful sutta, MN 44( one of my “favorites”, which happens to be the only discourse in the MN given by a nun–someone please correct me if I’m wrong about this– though that’s not the reason I find it so eloquent, beautiful and profound!). Anyway, in this sutta Visakha asks the Bhikkhui Dhammadinna a series of questions about samadhi (and other aspects of the Dhamma), including “what is the basis of concentration”. I think here, “nimitta” is translated as “basis” (I need to doublecheck when I have some more time) and in her answer she speaks of the four foundations of mindfulness being the basis and goes on to elaborate further.

    And in the sutta before that, MN 43, which is similar in some ways, Sariputta discusses the conditions for the attainment, and also emergence from, the “signless deliverance of mind”. Nimitta is the word used, similar to MN 121 and 122.

    So it’s easy to see how both the more common usage of “nimitta” and the ways it’s used in reference to meditative states are related, in terms of the idea of a “sign”.

    If I’ve made any errors with the above, I hope someone with greater knowledge of Pali and the suttas will correct me.

    Linda

  29. Oops, typo–“guarding doors” should read “guarding the sense doors”. Too bad we don’t have an edit function here!

  30. Dear iMeditation and Sylvester

    Thank you to both of you. I thought it might be a translation thing, and I wanted to avoid “languishing for years in doubt”.

    Can either or both of you recommend a good source of the Pali Canon in Pali, preferably online and word-searchable?

    Regards

    David

  31. Linda

    Thanks for that link.

    It seems that we may both be conducting the same research in parallel. I’ll let you know if I find anything interesting or helpful.

    Regards

    David

  32. Another sutta question:

    From reading the vast majority of the suttas, it would be very easy to get the impression that bhikkhunis didn’t exist. The Buddha always seems to be accompanied by men. Most of his addresses (all of the ones that I’ve come across) start with “Oh Monks”.

    Where women do appear, the Buddha treats them just as respectfully as he treats everybody else, but they don’t seem to turn up very often, and much more often as laywomen than as nuns.

    Is my impression right, or is it a translation thing? In Pali is the term translated as “Oh Monks” a specifically masculine thing, or is is neuter and just translated wrong? When the text talks about “monks” assembling, is that term neuter too, or is it specifically masculine?

    Thanks

    David

  33. David,

    Here is another link, this one to the Sri Lanka Pali Canon database, with a search function.
    ttp://www.bodhgayanews.net/pali.htm

    I haven’t actually used it as I just use an off-line version of the VRI site (which is the Burmese version). I have no idea what all the differences may be. Bhante Sujato could probably tell us more about that. Bhikkhu Bodhi discusses the various versions he used for his translation of the SN (in the introduction). These details are beyond me, but if you use this site, I’d be curious how you like it.

    Linda

  34. I tried tipitaka.org but the search function doesn’t seem to work, or I don’t understand it. I’ll try the second one.

  35. I do not have the cite, and it might even be Sujato’s writings I get this from, but generally speaking I understand the conjugation to largely be one of inclusivity, the way someone in the States might say “Hey guys” to a group with mixed gender.

    IIRC, Pali doesn’t have gender-neutral conjugations for pronouns, but then I don’t know Pali.

  36. “I tried tipitaka.org but the search function doesn’t seem to work, or I don’t understand it. I’ll try the second one.”

    Hmmm… I’m not very computer literate and I can no longer even access their site with my mac, so I don’t know… I search on an off-line version I have (you used to be able to order it from them, but only for a pc). I think they do have a contact button on the site.

    Maybe another blog reader can help (if it’s even possible).. let me know if you find a way to do it.

  37. From the vinaya text, these terms used in every day business, one context where nimitta appears is for defining the monastery sima (boundary).
    For those whom it pleases, the relevant passage in pali can be found here http://studies.worldtipitaka.org/tipitaka/3V/2/2.4

    The sima can be defined by various nimittas (which here may be translated as ‘landmark’ or ‘marker’). Examples of these ‘nimittas’ : “a mountain, a rock, a wood, a tree, a path, an anthill, a river, a piece of water.”

    I call it a ‘cognizable’ (or ‘recognizable’). Because a rock can be cognized or identified as being an object distinct from the surroundings, a forest can be cognized as being distinct from the plains (which allows the border of the forest to be used as part of the boundary). These things are not actually distinct in reality, but the mental processes can separate them out.
    Quite literally, the rock is mentally ‘separated from’ and made distinct from the surrounding dirt/grass, it’s pulled out and made much of (as a defining point of the boundary between monastery and non-monastery).

    This is just the same as a nimitta in meditation, as described by Ajahn Brahm, the breath-nimitta is the breath which has been ‘pulled out’ from the surrounding sensory terrain and made much of. A metta-nimitta is the feeling of metta which has been ‘pulled out’ from the usual mess of sensory and mental phenomena, it’s zeroed in on and made crisp and clear in the mind.

    Perhaps to put it as simply as possible, a nimitta is something which is a focus for/of attention.

  38. It’s not so much a translation thing as a transmission thing.

    A great many Suttas have stock introductions. This is not evident when you only look at english translations, but is readily noticeable in the pali, because the pali is different in the introduction to the teaching itself. Words and inflections change in a highly unnatural way.

    Now the point is that whether the teaching was given to Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis or Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis, the stock template simply has “to the Bhikkhus” “hey Bhikkhus” “The Bhikkhus rejoiced”. Now sometimes in special cases suttas do deviate from the template, but a lot of the time it’s clear a stock introduction has just been bunged onto a fairly generic teaching.

    We don’t know what the Buddha actually said and did before and after giving those teachings. He might have chatted with the Monks and Nuns and answered questions and then felt inspired to give a teaching. But then only the teaching itself would be transmitted, and a stock introduction bunged on.

  39. I guess my question is when the text says something that is translated into English as “to the Bhikkhus”, “hey Bhikkhus”, “The Bhikkhus rejoiced”, “Oh Monks” or whatever, is the Pali word specifically masculine? Is it like the English word “mankind”, which used to be deemed to include womankind? (Now most people would say “humankind”.) Or is it neuter?

    If it is specifically masculine, it seems that it was the bungers on who wrote it, not the Buddha who said it. Is that right?

  40. Dear David

    I use –

    http://studies.worldtipitaka.org/

    I believe a few others here also swear by it. It appears they are migrating to a newer platform and in the meantime, the search function is not available. Can’t wait for it to be restored.

    I wonder if any of the users here might be able to shed light on which MS or version of the Tipitaka is captured in this site? The version recited at the 6th Council, or the Siamese version?

    I probably will never ever need it, but won’t it be nice if this site would one day include all the variant readings. Perhaps even borrow the functionalities of suttacentral for cross Nikaya-Agama correspondences? The last will probably be little used, save for a tiny pool of scholars who are au fait with both Chinese and Pali…

  41. Thanks Avuso Blake.

    It’s my experience from Thailand that most of the siimas are no longer determined by reference to natural geographical features. Actual stone markers are used, with elaborate ceremony in a “fang roop nimit” (ie placing the rupa nimitta).

    It’s interesting how the Vinaya’s solid nimittas were replaced by abstract nimittas that required a proxy rupa to mark the abstract point.

  42. Dear Anagarika Blake,

    Thanks for this information. I find it very interesting to see how Pali words are used in various contexts–it really helps in seeing the nuances of the meaning as well as clarifying the overall sense of the word, which is really impossible to do if one just has an english translation.

    Also thanks for the link (David, did you see that this site has a search function, and it doesn’t even require diacritics?)
    Linda

  43. I could be mistaken, but I vaguely recall the Visudhimagga suggesting that the reference to “Here, a bhikkhu (verb)…” is to be taken to mean any meditator.

  44. You’re most welcome.

    There’ll be more breast beating later, when you encounter the controversies over whether –

    1. the jhanas are empty of vinanna based on the 5 senses (but already covered by Ayasma Brahmali in another thread);

    2. there is cetana in jhana

    3. one can “do” satipatthana in jhana.

    I’m just so glad that all my doubts on these have been clarified and I’m ready to accept the states described by Ajahn Brahm as being jhana, if I’m fortunate enough to drop into one…

  45. It’s definitely masculine. Taking the Pali for the introduction to MN1

    tatra kho bhagavā bhikkhū āmantesi “bhikkhavo”ti.
    There the blessed one (to the) Bhikkhus addressed “Bhikkhus”
    (A personal pronoun isn’t used – but Bhikkhu is in any case masculine)

    “bhadante”ti te bhikkhū bhagavato paccassosuṃ.
    “Bhante” those Bhikkhus (to the) Blessed One responded.
    (Here ‘te’ is the masculine plural personal pronoun (‘those’), the feminine is ‘tā’ while the neuter is ‘tāni’ – however I don’t think ‘tāni’ is used to refer to a bunch of mixed-gender people, rather it would be used to refer to a bunch of neuter objects)

    The Pali says that the Buddha is addressing a bunch of guys who are Bhikkhus. Personally, I don’t think there’s any great crime in concluding ‘Bhikkhus’ implies ‘Bhikkhunis’ also. Here and elsewhere, both the Pali and the English translation, while talking in terms of men, does not strongly specify that it’s actually talking about a bunch of men – rather than the masculine being used for convenience.

    Another example would be an expression like “some samanas and brahmans” (hold wrong views or whatever), now the Pali is definitely masculine (including the pronoun for ‘some’), but it would seem totally unreasonable to expect that there are not at least a minority of females amongst the samana communities, since the suttas certainly talk about female ascetics. It might even be implied that ‘Brahmans’ automatically includes the Brahman’s wives!

    So I would say that Pali is about the same as English in this regard – including that it’s sometimes just too much of a pain to find a plural neuter word to refer to a bunch of people in a particular context.

  46. “There’ll be more breast beating later, when you encounter the controversies over whether …”

    And the answers are … ?!

    Thanks Sylvester, I appreciate your help.

  47. Tee hee, if you’ve not encountered the controversies yet, why seek them out?

    Perhaps, when you do start the breast beating, you can remember the discussion about “renunciation depression” in the Optimism thread and flog yourself with the thought –

    “When shall I enter upon and abide in that base that the noble ones now enter upon and abide in?”

    That may actually motivate you even more to read the suttas. Speaking for myself, self-validation of an idea by research and reference to the suttas is much sweeter than being force fed. But that’s just the Tauran in me.

    Not to worry, I’m prepared to mollycoddle when pressed thrice…

    Controversies #2 and #3 are related and overlap. They stem from the modernist readings that try to interpret passages as proof that satipatthana is done while in Jhana, eg –

    “… a bhikkhu enters upon and ABIDES in the xx jhana… Whatever exists therein …, he SEES those states as impermanent…. He TURNS his mind away…” eg MN 64

    Try reading what the Pali grammars have to say about the conjunction of 2 or more verbs in the present tense, and why certain pericopes contain “tasmin samaye” and passages such as the above do not.

    Have fun!

  48. I’m not really seeking out controversies, I’m seeking the way things are.

    Yes, learning for oneself is always much better, but if I need mollycoddling I shall ask twice more. Thanks for the offer :-)

    Basic question: I understand that the Buddha (or Bodhisatta as he was then) learned all the jhanas from two of his ascetic teachers and found that they didn’t lead to awakening. Why then does he teach that they are a necessary part of the 8FP? Is it seeing that even these blissful states bear the three seals?

    Also … when he recalls his childhood state under the rose-apple tree as a child and thinks “maybe that’s the way”, isn’t that the first jhana? Again, I wonder why the other seven are still necessary. (That’s a genuine question, not a way of expressing an opinion – I don’t have one.)

  49. Dear David

    I was just teasing. ;)

    As for the episode with Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, I believe you’re referring to the Mahasaccaka Sutta, MN 36. The Commentaries, I believe, state that the Bodhisatta learnt all the Jhanas and Arupa attainments from these 2. However, I’m not so sure if MN 36 itself goes that far. This is where Ajahn Brahm disagrees with the Commentarial position.

    Just taking the section on the Bodhisatta’s time with Alara, this is the Pali (starting from where the Bodhisatta infers that Alara had personally experienced “this Dhamma”)-

    “Tassa mayhaṃ, aggivessana, etadahosi— ‘na kho āḷāro kālāmo IMAM dhammaṃ kevalaṃ saddhāmattakena sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharāmīti pavedeti, addhā āḷāro kālāmo IMAM dhammaṃ jānaṃ passaṃ viharatī’ti.

    Atha khvāhaṃ, aggivessana, yena āḷāro kālāmo tenupasaṅkamiṃ; upasaṅkamitvā āḷāraṃ kālāmaṃ etadavocaṃ— ‘kittāvatā no, āvuso kālāma, IMAM dhammaṃ sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharāmīti pavedesī’ti? Evaṃ vutte, aggivessana, āḷāro kālāmo ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ pavedesi. Tassa mayhaṃ, aggivessana, etadahosi— ‘na kho āḷārasseva kālāmassa atthi saddhā, mayhampatthi saddhā; na kho āḷārasseva kālāmassa atthi vīriyaṃ, mayhampatthi vīriyaṃ; na kho āḷārasseva kālāmassa atthi sati, mayhampatthi sati; na kho āḷārasseva kālāmassa atthi samādhi, mayhampatthi samādhi; na kho āḷārasseva kālāmassa atthi paññā, mayhampatthi paññā; yannūnāhaṃ yaṃ dhammaṃ āḷāro kālāmo sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharāmīti pavedeti tassa dhammassa sacchikiriyāya padaheyyan’ti. So kho ahaṃ, aggivessana, nacirasseva khippameva TAM dhammaṃ sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja vihāsiṃ.”

    The capitalised IDA.M was the reference to “THIS Dhamma” declared by Alara. The capitalised TA.M was the reference to the Bodhisatta’s realisation of THAT Dhamma declared by Alara. Now, if the Dhamma declared by Alara was truly the “Base of Nothingness”, why does the Buddha not simply say that he realised for himself the Base of Nothingness? Instead, the Buddha simply says that he realised THAT Dhamma, which seems highly suggestive that whatever was declared by Alara, the Bodhisatta attained. Perhaps the Buddha, out of gratitude, did not wish to explicitly say that his teachers had over-estimated themselves.

    If you go further on with the Uddaka Ramaputta episode, something even more striking occurs. Uddaka, it seems, had not attained his father’s attainment; he merely taught the Bodhisatta what his father Rama had declared. The passage merely says that Uddaka declared the “Base of NPNNP”. There is no mention of Uddaka’s personal experience of the Base of NPNNP, only what his father Rama declared of his attainment. The Bodhisatta also attains THAT Dhamma which was declared, but the Buddha again does not say that he attained the Base of NPNNP.

    That’s just my simplistic and amateurish attempt at reading this passage. Hope the Pali pros in here can chime in, to see if the IDA.M and TA.M relations as I suggest are correct.

    The Jhanas are certainly necessary for enlightenment, but the Arupa attainments do not appear to be so. That is why there is the distinction between 2 types of Arahants – those released-both-ways (Ubhatobhāgavimutto), and those released by wisdom (pannavimutto). The former, apparently go all the way with the Arupas, but the latter apparently win enlightenment on the basis of realising the 3 signs in the Form Jhanas. It seems that the latter are quicker on the draw and “should be” wiser, but for some reason, the suttas extol the former as superior.

  50. Dear David,

    David Wrote : “I understand that the Buddha (or Bodhisatta as he was then) learned all the jhanas from two of his ascetic teachers and found that they didn’t lead to awakening. Why then does he teach that they are a necessary part of the 8FP? Is it seeing that even these blissful states bear the three seals?”

    I don’t think that the Buddha refute what he learned from his two teachers as wrong. He just didn’t think that it takes him far enough, or all the way to Nibbana. Beyond ” Neither Perception Nor Nonperception” is Nibbana.

    David wrote : ” Also … when he recalls his childhood state under the rose-apple tree as a child and thinks “maybe that’s the way”, isn’t that the first jhana? Again, I wonder why the other seven are still necessary. ”

    I believe the Buddha could have taught Awakening through the First Jhana and leave out the other Jhanas altogether. But it is possible that some people can’t realize the liberating wisdom with the first Jhana because they are still bound by the higher fetter of “Craving for immaterial existence”. That might be the reason why he taught both ways ( through the first Jhana that he recalls from his childhood , and by going beyond all eight jhanas).

    I agree with Sylvester when he pointed out that there are two types of arahants . One goes through all the jhana before Nibbana. The other just goes through the first Jhana and use it as a tool to realize wisdom. AB also explained both ways in ” Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond”.

  51. Dear David,

    It is quite true that the vast majority of suttas are addressed to ‘monks (bhikkhave, a masculine form). The masculine is the default gender in Pali, so this doesn’t really tell us who was actually there. many of the Mahayana Sutras mention bhikkhunis, laypeople, etc., which is one of the reasons they were considered in certain quarters to be less sexist – an argument I don’t find that persuasive.

    In “A History of Mindfulness” I did my little to redress the situation by adopting the form of address ‘Monks and nuns’ for the satipatthana Sutta, which is found in one of the Chinese versions of that Sutta.

  52. Dear David,

    David wrote : “I understand that the Buddha (or Bodhisatta as he was then) learned all the jhanas from two of his ascetic teachers and found that they didn’t lead to awakening. ”

    Although the Buddha said he learned the Dimension of Nothingness (7th Jhana) and the Dimension of Neither Perception Nor Non-Perception (8th Jhana) from Alara Kalama and Rama’s technique through Udakka, it doesn’t implies that he learned all eight from them. From what I learned, it is possible to access these stages randomly without a particular order like using an elevator to get to floor 6 without having set foot on floor 2 or 4. For example, there are people who practice the expansion technique rather than starting with focusing ( contracting/ narrowing down awareness). Instead of entering 1st Jhana, people goes directly to experience an expansion of consciousness where they feel the whole universe and cosmos as part of their body. This is similar to the “Sphere of Infinite Consciousness” (6). But without going through the 1st, 2nd, 3rth, or 4th Jhana they are not able to develop the wisdom for Awakening (1-4 are considered SAMMA Samadhi), it is possible for the person to mistake that state to be Awakening. It still leads to existence in another realm, and eventually rebirth.

    This explains why the Buddha said that he later recalled his 1st Jhana experience under the rose appletree as a child and no mention of any 1st Jhana experience under his teachers as an adult. If he had been taught to experienced and mastered the 1st-4th jhana during the adult years, there would be no need to recall one incident of a childhood 1st Jhana if he has been going in and out of 1st jhana to the point where he mastered it as an adult.

    The Buddha asked Alara Kalama: ‘To what extent do you declare that you have entered & dwell in this Dhamma?’ When this was said, he declared the dimension of nothingness…..

    “But the thought occurred to me, ‘This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of nothingness.’ So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.”

    The Buddha asked Uddaka:
    ‘To what extent did Rama declare that he had entered & dwelled in this Dhamma?’ When this was said, Uddaka declared the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.”

    ……”But the thought occurred to me, ‘This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.’ So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.”

    I don’t believe these states are considered Non-Returning or Arahantship (Awakening/Unbinding) . Rebirth is still possible after some period of time. That can be like going in circles in the rounds of rebirth.

    The Buddha considered the 1-4 Jhanas as Samma Samadhi, because they are conducive to awakening wisdom. That might be why when he teaches jhana he started with these four first, before going any further. The emphasis is mostly on the first 4 jhanas.

    I believe the 5-8 Jhanas are optional or in case where there are still attachment to the Immaterial/ Formless sphere of existence. However, it might not be possible to develop awakening wisdom with the 5-8 jhanas alone while leaving out the lower jhanas.

  53. Dear iMeditation

    Thanks for continuing to consider this and taking the time and trouble to post again.

    I had understood that you had to go through the jhanas in order from one to eight and back again. That seems to be what AB teaches. I wasn’t aware that one could “leapfrog”, as it were.

    You said that “Instead of entering 1st Jhana, people goes directly to experience an expansion of consciousness where they feel the whole universe and cosmos as part of their body. This is similar to the ‘Sphere of Infinite Consciousness’ (6).” Is this a jhana? Isn’t this just an obvious physical fact? Our body is made of the same stuff as everything else, it’s not separate and never was. AB says that the jhana’s only happen when the physical senses have shut down and we don’t experience the body. What you describe involves experiencing the body and seems more like Thanissaro’s teaching on jhana, which is obviously different from AB’s: “Many of us have heard that jhana is a very intense trance-like state that requires intense staring and shutting out the rest of the world. It sounds nothing like mindfulness at all. But if you look in the Canon where the Buddha describes jhana, that’s not the kind of state he’s talking about. To be in jhana is to be absorbed, very pleasurably, in the sense of the whole body altogether. A very broad sense of awareness fills the entire body.” (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/concmind.html)

    AB inserts jhana between stages 12 and 13 of the Anapansati Sutta, but his is the only interpretation of this sutta that I have seen that does this. Do you know if there are others? It doesn’t seem obvious from the sutta itself. Is this a commentarial tradition?

    References to the jhanas are littered throughout the suttas. Is there a sutta reference where the Buddha explicitly teaches how to enter them, in the same simple style as the Anapanasati and Satipatthana Suttas?

    Kind regards

    David

  54. Actually, there seems to be one sutta, the Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN 119) which puts stock jhana wording in the middle of stock satipatthana wording and ends the description of each jhana with “This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.”

    I guess AB would say that “kaya” does not actually mean body here, it means something else. Is there any other evidence for this assertion outside AB’s assertion itself?

    Thanks

    David

  55. Dear David,

    It was an interesting discussion about an important aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold ( Samma Samadhi) path that we often leave out.

    David wrote: “Is this a jhana? Isn’t this just an obvious physical fact? Our body is made of the same stuff as everything else, it’s not separate and never was. AB says that the jhana’s only happen when the physical senses have shut down and we don’t experience the body. What you describe involves experiencing the body and seems more like Thanissaro’s teaching on jhana, which is obviously different from AB’s:

    When I was studying and practicing various teachings from various faiths in the past, the meditation technique that they emphasize is expanding outward and doesn’t start with narrowing down to one-pointedness . I was taught that the goal of the meditation is to make consciousness expands to cover a large area, and eventually infinite space . If that happen, a person is considered enlightened. Some describes it as ” being possessed by god”. Others called it ” union with god” , or considers it to be a union between the individual consciousness and universal consciousness. One becomes identifies with this consciousness as the eternal self that is everlasting and eternal. There is no emphasis on developing wisdom to remove defilement .

    David wrote: “Many of us have heard that jhana is a very intense trance-like state that requires intense staring and shutting out the rest of the world. It sounds nothing like mindfulness at all. But if you look in the Canon where the Buddha describes jhana, that’s not the kind of state he’s talking about. To be in jhana is to be absorbed, very pleasurably, in the sense of the whole body altogether. A very broad sense of awareness fills the entire body”

    Although we are talking about breath meditation instead of body meditation, but AB does suggest that people begin with coming back to the present moment and just be aware of the sensations in the body , noticing whatever sensations arise at the moment. If your mindfulness allows you to remain with it without thoughts of past and future for some time, the sensation of the breath naturally comes to your awareness. There is no need voluntarily place it( awareness) there (breath). After a while, energy builds ups when you are breathing in and out with a silent mind. You can experience it as a pleasant feeling throughout the body. This is sometimes called rapture ( piti).

    “to be absorbed, very pleasurably, in the sense of the whole body altogether” sounds like rapture( piti). It is about step 4 of the 7 steps, with step 7 being jhana. It is described that as one stays with the breath while the mind is still for some time, waves of rapture or pleasant waves of energy can be felt throughout the body. This can rejuvenate and energize the body.

    If a person continues further in the meditation to step 5 – 6 , that’s when one goes beyond body and the experience of the 5 senses. A nimitta comes in step 6. It is sign that jhana is close by, it is different depending on the meditation object you meditate on. In the case of the breath , it usually appears like a bright light. In the Buddha’s case it is a bright light. For others , sometimes he gives them a cloth or a casino to meditate on, the sign of concentration might be different. I wouldn’t necessarily associate the word nimitta with a bright light, unless we’re talking about breath meditation. In other contexts it can mean an omen, features and attribute, etc…For example, when the Buddha addressed a certain retired man as a householder he got mad and said that he already handed over his possessions to his sons to manage. He just lives with them without managing it , how come the Buddha addressed him as a householder. The Buddha said, by your nimitta ( characteristic) you seem like a householder. I wouldn’t get hung up on this term. Just look at how the Buddha describes his meditation .I believe he just describes the light that he experiences without using the term nimitta ( a sign that jhana is close by, it can be a light ,etc..) to refer to it.

    “AB inserts jhana between stages 12 and 13 of the Anapansati Sutta, but his is the only interpretation of this sutta that I have seen that does this. Do you know if there are others? It doesn’t seem obvious from the sutta itself. Is this a commentarial tradition?References to the jhanas are littered throughout the suttas. Is there a sutta reference where the Buddha explicitly teaches how to enter them, in the same simple style as the Anapanasati and Satipatthana Suttas?”

    Basically, what it looks like to me is that one supposed to enter jhanas and when one comes out of it just place the unified attention on the aggregates to realize that they are not self. There are other things to reflect on with a purified mind also. For example, the Four Noble Truths and Dependent co-arising, etc…

    If you look at the Buddha’s description of his own enlightenment in the Maha-Saccaka Sutta , after entering jhanas 1-4 ( Samma samadhi) , he later comes out of it and directed his purified mind to reflects on the the nature of dukkha, finding out what is the cause of dukkha, how would dukha cease to exist, and the method to do that. In this way the knowledge and vision of the answers to these inquiries  came to him. It is later called the Four Noble Truths. With this realization, Ignorance ceased to be. ( To understand how ignorance cease to be with the realization of the 4 Noble Truths, just look at the meaning of ignorance in Dependent co-arising.)

    When Ignorance ceases to be, so does the rest of the links in Dependent Co-arising as well. There is liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

    There are people who tries to understand the four noble truths without proper preparation of the mind like the Buddha does, and end up not being able to remove ignorance with it ( the first link of dependent origination). Some misunderstood it and therefore considered it to be pessimistic.

    This is the way to liberation through the first four jhanas ( samma samadhi) and “yoniso manasikara”.

    Often it is either through arousing knowledge and vision through the first 4 jhanas or going all the way to what he calls ” Cessation of Feeling and Perception”. The Buddha doesn’t considers ” Nothingness ” or ” Neither Perception nor Non Perception” to be liberation/ awakening from samsara.

    Ariyapariyesana Sutta : http://legendofbuddha.webs.com/rollingthewheelofdhamma.htm

    There is a few indication in the sutta of Awakening with only the 1st Jhana also. However when it comes to not entering jhana at all, perhaps it might be possible for Stream -Entry. But for stages of Enlightenment such as Nonreturner and Arahants, the suttas indicate that jhana can be indispensable . To eliminate jhana or Samma Samadhi from the practice, we might end up at the most with mostly Stream Enterer with 7 lives left ( even this is uncertain) , and hardly any Nonreturners or Arahants.

    Best wishes,

  56. The word “casino” should be “kasina”. Somehow the automatic spell checker turns it into casino. lol

  57. Linda, thanks for the updated info.So grateful,at least, those who know Pali can cross check with the Pali text for post mortem. More heads better than a few heads(i.e.2 heads better than 1) to thrash out and fine-tune the suttas (if necessary) to come to a consensus to end any disputes,misconception and quarrels in the future,once and for all.

    This site had gradually become like a one-stop centre for latest buddhist info,changes and friendly debates/communication.Great, love it.

    I read in an earlier posts by one brother on the suggestion to have community hall or school hall to conduct meditation -it’s a great idea, and monks/nuns can be mobile going anywhere covering more places/people(regardless of religion,culture,race,gender)even to old folks home,autistic,welfare,rehabilitation centres etc, to educate people in meditation/dhamma i.e mobile monk/nun – very practical.

  58. There are various examples of the use of nimitta in relation to meditation in the suttas. For example, The Cook Sutta and SN 46.2 Kaya Sutta :

    cittassa Nimittam ( the sign of the mind)

    – the Cook.

    “And what, bhikkhus, is the food (nourishment,nutriment, ahara) that causes the appearance of the concentration as an Awakening Factor that still did not appear and increases and expands one that has arisen?

    “There is, bhikkhus, the sign of serenity ( SamathaNIMITTA, is serenity itself as well as its counterpart sign/ object) and the sign of non-dispersion : when you frequently place appropriate attention on them, they become food that produces the arising of concentration as an Awakening Factor that still did not appear and increases and expands one that has arisen.” – Kaya Sutta

  59. Nimitta in the Suda Sutta:

    “In the same way, there are cases where a wise, experienced, skillful monk dwelled focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference (related) to the world. While he dwelled focused on the body in & of itself, his mind becomes concentrated, his defilements ( the five Hindrances) are abandoned. He picks up that SIGN (NIMITTAM) .

    “He dwelled focused on feelings in & of themselves … the mind in & of itself … mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference (related) to the world. While he dwelled focused on mental qualities in & of themselves, his mind becomes concentrated, his defilements ( 5 hindrances) are abandoned. He picks up that SIGN (NIMITTAM).

    “As a result, he gains pleasant abiding in this very life, together with mindfulness & alertness. Why is that? Because the wise, experienced, skillful monk picks up on the SIGN (NIMITTAM) of his own mind (cittassa).”

  60. This is something to reflect on Kamma and how one makes choices in this conditioned world.
    “Murders committed by minors, ranging from shoplifting to murder for the cartels, have risen across Mexico this year, state officials say. Parents in the violent cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana on the U.S. border say children as young as 8 want to grow up to be drug lords, as the thrills and wealth of the trafficking world touches their lives.”
    This is the choices of boys, how are choices of girls in such a condition? To be high pay prostitutes or lovers of these lords!

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