Siddhattha’s practice of samadhi

Siddhattha attained samādhi as a child, and then again under his early teachers. When he was near the night of his Awakening, he recollected the jhana he experienced as a child, and realized that that was the path to Awakening. But why did he reject the experience under his early teachers, even though he reached even higher levels of samādhi, the formless attainments? I can make sense of this only in consideration of the broader context.

When he realized the attainment of jhana as a child his mind was free of theories and control. He was alone under the tree, that is, in the realm of nature. But the event was an ‘accident’. His attainment was part of the intuitive cycle of nature, and as a child he had no way of understanding or reflecting on what had happened.

Under his teachers Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta, however, he first learnt the theory, that is, the rational explanation of his mystical experiences. This point is emphasized in the original text, but ignored by most discussions of this point. It was that very theory that prevented these meditations from ripening in full Awakening, presumably because they identified a purified state of consciousness with the Eternal Self. Hence he rejected, not the meditative experiences as such, but ‘that Dhamma’, that is, the religious system which framed the meditative experience within a particular dogmatic framework. He started his practice with wrong view, and hence his samādhi was wrong samādhi: it did not lead to insight.

In each case his experience was unbalanced: the jhana as a child came from naïve playfulness with no under­standing of the deeper existential implications; while the experience under his early teachers was dominated by an abstract metaphysic in a patriarchal context.

Now he can return to the same practice on a deeper level of under­standing. He developed the stages of jhana, inspired by his childhood experience in nature, but with equanimity, not allowing the pleasure to overpower his mind. He was mature, balanced, possessed of the objectivity that allowed him to reflect on the conditionality and nature of the samādhi experience. This became ‘right samādhi': it lead to liberating understanding.

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33 thoughts on “Siddhattha’s practice of samadhi

  1. Thank you so much, Bhante.

    I have been wanting to ask this question for so long!

    Yours in the dhamma,

    dheerayupa

  2. Dear Bhante,

    Although I have no problems with your explanation here, I would like to suggest another one.

    It is well established that the Buddha used the existing vocabulary of the religious institutions of his time, often giving existing words new meanings. There are a number of academic papers available on this topic. The interesting point, it seems to me, is that the Buddha himself sometimes seems to employ this vocabulary in one way before his awakening – that is, in a way similar to that of other ascetics and brahmins – and then in another afterwards. One obvious example is the Buddha’s use of the word jhāna. In MN36 he employs the term appāṇaka jhāna (breathless jhāna) to describe his practice of breath control while still engaged in the practice of austerities. After his awakening, by contrast, jhāna is virtually always simply the four jhānas of the noble eightfold path. The Buddha seems to have made a shift from following the standard usage in society around him to establishing his own clearly defined terminology. It seems to me that a similar argument could made for a number of other terms.

    I would suggest, then, that when the Buddha uses the terms the “sphere of nothingness” and the “sphere of neither perception-nor-no-perception” after his awakening he may be redefining existing meditation vocabulary. That is, the meanings of these phrases may not be the same when used prior to the Buddha’s awakening, including his time under Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta, compared to usage afterwards. In sum, I would suggest that perhaps the attainments proclaimed by Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta were lesser forms of samādhi, not even jhāna, that shared some of the characteristics of the two highest immaterial attainments subsequently taught by the Buddha.

    With metta.

    • Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

      That’s a wonderful explanation Ajahn Brahmali ! Thanks for sharing.

      And it appears that the Buddha also did not consider these two states to be sufficient or considered it to be a fetter and suggests disciples to completely pass beyond it and abide in what he called the “Cessation of Perceptions and Feelings” whenever he taught about these states :

      “Here Udayin, a bhikkhu completely passes beyond the Sphere of Nothingness and abides in the Sphere of Neither -Perception- nor Non- Perception. That is passing beyond it. But that too, I say, is insufficient ( anala: not enough, not sufficient) . Abandon it, I say. Passing beyond it ( samatikkamatha) , I say.

      And what is passing beyond it? Here Udayin, a bhikkhu completely passes beyond the Sphere of Neither -Perception- nor Non- Perception and abides in the “Cessation of Perceptions and Feelings”. That is passing beyond it. “- MN 66

      “Thus I speak of even the abandoning of the Sphere of Neither -Perception- nor Non- Perception. Do you see any fetter, large or small, of whose abandoning I don’t speak?”- MN 66 :Latukikopama Sutta

    • It appears that the two meditations taught by his teachers are not exactly what they claimed, that’s why there is no need to go through the First Jhana for that. No where does the Buddha says he learned the other six states from his teachers. Instead, there is only the mention of recalling his childhood jhana 1 experience and build up the rest of the states from there. A person who actually practice the two formless states should have no trouble entering Jhana 1 . However, he from his memory he was only aware that he is too physically depleted to slip into that state as he did when he was a child sitting in physical comfort. Other than that, if we look at the Upakkilesa Sutta which provides further details showing how the Buddha tried to get back into the state he experienced during his childhood, it was a struggle, he had to struggle with numerous obstacles. It was not the case that he remembers his childhood Jhana level 1 experience and then immediately know ‘Oh! that is a Level 1 Jhana, I ‘ve been doing that for so many times and even went many stages beyond that. I will simply enter that state now.’ There were much struggles to actually be able to find his way back into Jhana 1 experienced in childhood. We should not assume that the Buddha practice the form jhana as an adult when he himself never said that. He only mentioned Jhana 1 in childhood. The claim that he practice the form jhana as an adult is an assumption.

      Some might ask, since the Buddha mentioned that his teachers claimed to have taught him Nothingness and NPNNP, then did he indicates somewhere that his teachers are capable of overestimating themselves in their claims and the two states taught by the two teachers are not actually Nothingness and NPNNP as they thought ?

      We can see that the Buddha does not know what kind of meditation these two teachers taught . That is why he had to asked them. He said one claimed Nothingness, the other claimed Neither Perception Nor Non Perception. After that he was left. The Buddha did not say that ‘ These two teachers taught me Nothingness and NPNNP’ , he just mentioned that they claimed.

      As we know, in the meditations taught by the Buddha, after the 4th Jhana , a person is not capable of receiving any kind of input from the 5 senses whatsoever no matter how loud , not to mention Nothingness and Neither perception nor non perception. When the carts going by Alara Kalama was oblivious to it with eyes closed. But the Buddha seems to indicates that if there were thunderstorm occurring Alara is not able to not notice it. That ‘s why the Buddha said:

      “Now what do you think, Pukkusa? What is more difficult to do, more difficult to meet with — that a man, while conscious and awake , should not see a great number of carts, even five hundred carts, that passed him by one after another, nor hear the noise, or that one conscious and awake , in the midst of a heavy rain, with thunder rolling, lightning flashing, and thunderbolts crashing, should neither see it nor hear the noise ?”

      “What, O Lord, are five hundred carts — nay, six, seven, eight, nine hundred, or a thousand or even hundreds of thousands of carts — compared with this?” – Mahaparinibbana Sutta

      If Alara Kalama was able to do both ( not noticing the carts rolling by and not noticing the thunderstorm) then there is no need to ask which is better. The Buddha asked this because his teacher was only able to do one ( not noticing the carts rolling by) but not the other ( not noticing the heavy thunderstorm). If a person is really beyond the 5 senses, he would notice neither the carts nor the thunderstorm. But here the Buddha’s statement indicated that Alara Kalama was only able to do one ( not noticing the carts) and if there is a loud thunderstorm, Alara Kalama would hear it. It shows that he is not able to go beyond the 5 senses. If a person really teaches the Sphere of Nothingness , he should be able to go beyond the senses and not hear any kind of sound whatsoever. But that is not the case with Alara Kalama despite his claims to teach that state.

      “When this had been said, Pukkusa of the Malla clan said to the Blessed One: “The faith, Lord, that I had in Alara Kalama I now scatter to the mighty wind, I let it be carried away as by a flowing stream! Excellent, O Lord, most excellent, O Lord!…And so, O Lord, I take my refuge in the Blessed One, the Dhamma, and the Community of Bhikkhus. May the Blessed One accept me as his disciple, one who has taken refuge until the end of life.”

      Alara Kalama does not seem to be able to go completely beyond the 5 senses yet. The state which he claims to teach is not actually the same as what the Buddha later taught where a person is way beyond any sort of 5 sense input in that state. If we look at the various teachers claiming to teach jhana today, we can also see examples of this case, where two teachers said they teach Jhana meditation. But if you look at the state they are pointing to , some are way different than the other and still called first jhana . Natalie Quli from the Graduate Theological Union’s article provides a good example to demonstrate this:

      http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:4ItSOsG__n8J:www.shin-ibs.edu/documents/pwj3-10/12Quli.pdf+buddha+discovered+jhana&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShzj213svuIYJSIVR0XyoXEpBaGhY7ZXfZG-pkWIj3Lt9ctN6FsL7XtQze2LN0i-igHOtAKFtMPboWiucasPPBww7qQRqwtypbeLzqXoToSiwFdH6KFsmx_11OvzcbO5r3lkw9N&sig=AHIEtbQ4L3gcg27eeUTjcI2NrsjrTPlctA

      In the Uddaka Sutta , the Buddha mentioned:

      “ Bhikkhus , though Uddaka Ramaputta was not himself a knowledge master, he declared: ‘ I am a knowledge master.’
      “ Though he was not himself a universal conquerer, he declared: ‘ I am a universal conquer.’
      “Though he had not excised the tumour’s root, he declared: ‘ I have excised the tumour’s root.’

      A closer look at the Sutta show some reasons why various stages of Jhana discussed by the Buddha was not practiced by people before the Buddha’s Enlightenment ( That is not to say that people didn’t practice it some time after the previous Buddha) .

      During the Buddha’s time there are Brahmins and Wandering Ascetics ( such as Jains, etc..).

      “One of the reasons why Jhana was not practiced before the Buddha’s Enlightenment was because people then either indulged in seeking pleasure and comfort of the body or else following a religion of tormenting the body. Both were caught up with the body and its five senses and knew no release from the five senses. Neither produced the sustained tranquility of the body necessary as the foundation for Jhana . “- Mindfulness Bliss & Beyond

      Alexander Wynne attempted to find parallels in Brahmanical texts to the meditative goals the two teachers taught, drawing especially on some of the Upanishads and the Mokshadharma chapter of the Mahabharata. But in the Brahmanical texts cited by Wynne assumed their final form long after the Buddha’s lifetime and all scholars agree that the Mokshadharma postdates him.

      BRAHMANICAL TRADITION DURING THAT PERIOD :

      Various examples can be found in the Ambattha Sutta and others. Ambattha , “ who was a student of the Vedas, who knew the mantras, perfected in the Three Vedas, a skilled expounder of the rules and rituals, the lore of sounds and meanings and, fifthly, oral tradition, complete in philosophy and in the marks of a Great Man, admitted and accepted by his master in the Three Vedas with the words: “ What I know, you know; what you know, I know.”
      He was sent to test the Buddha and was rude to him. He said “ These shaven little ascetics, menials, black scrapings from Brahma’s foot, what converse can they have with brahmins learned in the Three Vedas ?”

      The Buddha taught him that “ those who are enslaved by such things are far from attainment of the unexcelled knowledge – and – conduct, which is attained by abandoning all such things” when discussing about the vanities concerning who is worthy is to marry whom based on caste and status.

      “ But, Reverend Gotama, what is this conduct, what is this knowledge ?”

      The Buddha then taught him about morality, guarding the sense doors, jhanas, insights, and the like. Here is a man who mastered the Three Vedas and was declared by his teacher with the words : “ What I know, you know; what you know, I know.” , And yet still doesn’t know about sense restraints , much less, jhanas and panna :

      Buddha:
      1. “ A disciple goes forth and practices the moralities …( Sila)
      2, he guards the sense doors…..
      2. attains the four jhanas …… Thus he develops conduct ( Samadhi)
      3. He attains various insights ……( Panna)
      4. and the cessation of the corruptions……( Awakening)
      “…..What do you think, Ambattha ? Do you and your teacher live in accordance with this unexcelled knowledge and conduct ?”
      “ No indeed, Reverend Gotama! Who are my teacher and I in comparison? We are far from it!”

      The Buddha mentioned various sensory pleasure that Ambattha, his teachers and other Brahmins indulge in, which prevent them from experiencing the above ( observing sila, seclusion from sense pleasure, jhanas, insight, etc..) .
      1. “ Perfumed, their hair and beards trimmed, adorned with garlands, and wreaths,… indulging in the pleasures of the five senses and addicted to them”
      2. “ Amuse themselves with women dressed up in flounces and furbelows”
      3. “ Ride around chariots drawn by mares with braided tails, that they urged on with long goad-sticks…have themselves guarded in fortified towns with palisades and barricades, by men with long swords..”

      “ So , Ambattha, neither you nor your teacher are a sage or one trained in the way of a sage.”
      He also taught other many other learned brahmins masters ( about sila, sense restraints, jhana, insight, etc..) in Sonadanda Sutta, Kutadanta Sutta , etc…

      ASCETIC OR JAINS TRADITION DURING THAT PERIOD:

      On the other extreme we have the wandering ascetics who indulge in torturing their bodies.
      “When the Bodhisatta began the easy ‘practices leading to such tranquility of body, his first five disciples abandoned – him in disgust. Such practice was not regarded as valid. Therefore it was not practiced, and so Jhana never occurred.”

      For example, in the Nigantha Nataputta sutta of the Citta Samyutta # 41 ) , the Nigantha Nataputta ( Jain leader) does not even believe that it is possible, much less practice it, or attained it:

      Nigantha Nataputta said to Citta ( a non-returner disciple of the Buddha) : “ Householder, do you have faith in the ascetic Gotama when he says: “ There is a concentration without thought and examination, there is a cessaton of thought and examination?”

      Citta : “ In this manner, venerable sir, I do not go by faith in the Blessed One …..”

      Nigantha Nataputta said “ …….One who thinks that thought and examination can be stopped might imagine he could catch the wind in a net or arrest the current of the river Ganges with his own fist.”

      Citta then goes on to explain that he doesn’t just go by mere faith, but directly experienced it for himself. Also he explained how he entered these jhanas .

      —————————

      Some might think that the Eight Limbs of the yoga sutras shows Samadhi as one of its limbs. But the Eight limbs of the Yoga Sutra was only developed after the Buddha and is influenced by the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. The suttas show that during the time of the Buddha Nigantha Nataputta ( Jain leader) did not even believe that it is possible to enter a state where the thoughts and examination stop.

      Also , Rhys Davids and Maurice Walshe agreed that ” the term ‘ samadhi’ is not found in any pre-buddhist text. Hindu texts later used that term to indicate the state of enlightenment. This is not in conformity with Buddhist usage.” – From the Long Discourse of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya” ( pg. 1700)

      Although Samadhi where the mind stop was adopted by later hindu texts, but it was considered Enlightenment. However, the Buddha clearly taught an Eightfold Path consisting of three division: Sila, Samadhi, and Panna. Just Samadhi alone will not be sufficient for enlightenment. The Buddha himself entered Samadhi when he was a little boy, but without the third division ( Panna), he did not become enlightened back then. Later on he developed Panna using that Samadhi.

      ” In whatsoever Dhamma and Discipline, Subhadda, there exists not the Noble Eightfold Path, neither is there to be found a true samana of the first ( Stream Entry) , second ( Once Returner) , third ( Non-Returner) , or fourth ( Arahant) degree . But in whatsoever Dhamma and Discipline there is found the Noble Eightfold Path, there is found a true samana of the first, second, third, and fourth degree of saintliness. In this Dhamma and Discipline, Subhadda, there exists the Noble Eightfold Path; and in it alone are also found true samanas of the first, second, third, and fourth degrees of saintliness (enlightenment). The systems of other schools are empty of true samanas . If the bhikkhus live (practice) rightly, the world will not be empty of arahants. ” – Mahaparinibbana Sutta

      with Metta,

    • Dear iMeditation,

      You certainly know your suttas well! I particularly like your argument based on the Upakkilsa Sutta. Bhante Sujato, what do you think about this?

      With metta.

    • Hi Ven,

      Okay, here we go. Allow me to respond in some length, as I think this passage has been misinterpreted so often that it really needs a firm text-critical hand – i’m sure you won’t take this personally!

      Here we have two stories.

      Once upon a time, a man went to a meditation center. He did the practice there, which was a form of sub-samadhi, not even suppressing the hindrances. He said, “This is pretty crap, I’m outta here.”

      OR:

      Once upon a time, a man went to a meditation center. He did the practice there, which was the very highest form of meditation that had ever been attained in the most advanced contemplative society that the world has ever known. He learned to overcome all hindrances, go beyond the five senses, and even to transcend the the most refined mental images of form. He went beyond infinite space and consciousness, and entered realms of samadhi so profound that they led to union with the cosmos for periods of time that are measured in the tens of thousands of cosmic eons. Then he said, “This is pretty crap, i’m outta here.”

      Now, which one do you reckon is the better story? Or more to the point, which one is more suitable for the spiritual biography of the greatest contemplative teacher ever? Everything about the Buddha’s biography is clearly intended to show that he tried the very best of what was out there – the very best sensual pleasures, the very best austerities, the very best samadhi – and rejected that on his way to awakening.

      Regarding the use of pre-Buddhist terminology, this is a very thin argument. The Buddha used pre-Buddhist terminology – which is just another way of saying that he didn’t invent an entirely new language – and he sometimes redefined it. In the cases of the appanaka jhana, we are required to interpret jhana in a non-standard way here, as the context makes the normal meaning impossible. Whether such redefinitions can be located around the event of the awakening is an interesting idea, but not established by the example you give. The appanaka jhana is found in only one passage, and that context is not found elsewhere. If we were to find a description of the same practice with a revised terminology that avoided the use of jhana, then I would think there is something to it. But as it stands it just shows that the Buddha didn’t talk about the appanaka jhana very much. And, as you know, there are passages set in later times that use the word jhana in a sense other than the four jhanas – not many, but they do exist.

      In any case, the argument is a bit beside the point. Fine, the Buddha sometimes changed the meanings of words. But is there any reason to think that he did so in this case? I think not. Let’s refresh our memory as to what the passage says.

      1. Studying the scriptures (the ‘theravāda’): Soon, monks, I learned that Dhamma. As far as lip-recital and chanting goes, I could say I know and see…
      So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, nacirasseva khippameva taṃ dhammaṃ pariyāpuṇiṃ. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, tāvatakeneva oṭṭhapahatamattena lapitalāpanamattena ñāṇavādañca vadāmi theravādañca, ‘jānāmi passāmī’ti ca

      2. Both teacher and student possess faith, energy, mindfulness, samadhi, and wisdom, enabllng them to realize for themselves.
      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.

      3. teacher declares that nothingness (or neither perception nor non-perception) is the final goal of their system.
      ‘kittāvatā no, āvuso kālāma, imaṃ dhammaṃ sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharāmīti pavedesī’ti? Evaṃ vutte, bhikkhave, āḷāro kālāmo ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ pavedesi.

      4. Teacher and student are equal:
      Iti yāhaṃ dhammaṃ jānāmi taṃ tvaṃ dhammaṃ jānāsi, yaṃ tvaṃ dhammaṃ jānāsi tamahaṃ dhammaṃ jānāmi.

      5. Dissatisfaction, since this system only leads to rebirth in the realm of nothingness
      nāyaṃ dhammo nibbidāya na virāgāya na nirodhāya na upasamāya na abhiññāya na sambodhāya na nibbānāya saṃvattati, yāvadeva ākiñcaññāyatanūpapattiyā’ti. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, taṃ dhammaṃ analaṅkaritvā tasmā dhammā nibbijja apakkamiṃ.

      I have emphasized the use of dhamma throughout, as it is ‘that dhamma’ that is rejected at the end. Note that this applies to everything from the initial text-recital to the final realization of nothingness.

      The second stage involves the development of 5 factors which in Buddhist context always mean the five spiritual faculties/powers, and where samadhi always means jhana. If we are to apply your interpretation, we must re-interpret these terms. In some cases this is required anyway, namely the faculty of faith and wisdom, but in the other cases, including samadhi, I see no reason why the terms should be redefined. Then we come to the attainment itself, which as always in the Suttas is said to be dependent on the development of samadhi, which the Bodhisatta already had.

      Of course, in the Suttas the formless attainments are usually expressed in terms of the ‘gradual cessation’ or ‘gradual abiding’ in the successive states of jhana and formless, while here they are just mentioned by themselves. This has been taken by several scholars as a sign that the terms mean something different here. But this is not tenable: we have already heard that they are in fact based on samadhi, and the reason they are mentioned alone is that they are final goal of the system, not a stage on the path.

      Finally, the outcome of these states is said to be ‘rebirth in the realm of nothingness’. Obviously only the genuine article leads to such rebirth, not any mickey mouse sub-samadhi. Hence the Buddha became dissatisfied with ‘that Dhamma’, not because it was inherently wrong, but because it was insufficient (analaṅkaritvā) for his stated goal, the ending of all rebirth. This only has force in the narrative if we assume, along with the rest of the Buddhist tradition, that what he was rejecting was in fact the very highest attainment of samadhi.

      So if we are to follow your interpretation, we must assume that at least three terms in this passage are used in quite different meanings than in countless other texts: samadhi, ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ, and upapatti. There is no reason in the passage itself to suggest any of these terms need redefinition. The end result of these redefinitions is to create an impoverished, strangely pointless narrative. If i were a Hindu, I would look at this revised story and say, “Well, you see! This is the reason Siddhattha rejected Hinduism. He never actually practiced with the advanced yogis, only with these second-rate nobodies who weren’t even doing real samadhi. If only he had the chance to practice with the real sages of the Upanishads, he might have got somewhere! Such a shame, he had such talent…”

      On the other hand, the passage makes perfect sense when interpreted in its straightforward meaning, without making any assumptions. Siddhattha went to these teachers, learned the scriptures, practiced meditation until he realized samadhi, then on the advice of his teachers progressed as far as the base of nothingness. When he learned that this was the best that system had to offer he rejected it, as he knew that it only led to an exalted state of rebirth and he wanted escape from all forms of rebirth.

      The only reason for suggesting this revision of an important juncture of the Buddha’s path is, of course, to reconcile the apparent inconsistency of this passage with the episode of the Siddhattha doing jhanas as a child. But why not just redefine the childhood jhana as ‘not real jhana’? It’d be simpler and require less assumptions.

      No redefinition is necessary, however. I have already offered an interpretation that makes sense of both passages as they are, without redefining terms. It is a more powerful interpretation, as it takes into account more details of the actual passages (the setting in nature as a child; the scripture learning, development of samadhi, and rebirth aspects as an adult). And it is a more fruitful interpretation, as it leads, I believe, to not insignificant insights about the nature of samadhi, its role in the path, and its relation to right view. So, unless someone comes up with something more convincing, I’m going to dogmatically insist that my view is the one and only correct one… so there!

    • Dear Bhante

      It’s with trepidation that I venture this speculation, so pls handle this amateur with kids gloves.

      Now, I can appreciate that the 5 citations of “dhamma” which you plucked from the text can perhaps be read as denoting the same thing, ie teaching.

      But, is it absolutely necessary? Could not citation 2, 3 and 5 refer to “state” instead of “teaching”? I’m not completely au fait with how Dhamma as “teaching” is experienced, but I thought that abiding in/viharati is more typically used for dhamma as “state”, rather than as “teaching”.

      (Side-track – in citation 3’s passage –

      kittāvatā no, āvuso kālāma, imaṃ dhammaṃ sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharāmīti pavedesī’ti? Evaṃ vutte, bhikkhave, āḷāro kālāmo ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ pavedesi.

      Could the ākiñcaññāyatana be marked with the clitic “iti”, instead of being reported as indirect speech with “pavedesi”? I’m just asking if this report of indirect speech by the Buddha, would have been any different if the text portrayed the Buddha reporting Alara’s declaration in direct speech instead. Just checking if the report of indirect speech here actually “proves” the quality of the state attained, or it was just nothing more than a report of Alara’s declaration in iti markers.)

      Secondly, for citation 2 and the 5 spiritual faculties, you opine that “samadhi” must mean jhana. In DN 1’s litany of wrong views formed on the basis of psychic powers, those psychic powers find their basis on a template that has bits of the faculties in it, ie effort, exertion, application, earnestness, right attention and concentration of the mind (cetosamadhi)(ie Idha, bhikkhave, ekacco samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā ātappamanvāya padhānamanvāya anuyogamanvāya appamādamanvāya sammāmanasikāramanvāya tathārūpaṃ cetosamādhiṃ phusati).

      Now it might be possible that cetosamadhi in DN 1 could be read as Jhana, but later on in the Nibbana-Here-&-Now section, the 4 Jhanas are mentioned by name. This seems to suggest that at least in DN 1, a distinction can be drawn between samadhi (as the basis for psychic powers) and Jhana (as the basis for wrong view 59 to 62).

      With metta

    • Hi Sylvester,

      You’re quite right with your first point: i wasn’t trying to imply that ‘dhamma’ meant only ‘teaching’, but merely that it included teaching. In some cases dhamma clearly refers to the attainment itself.

      re the iti point, I don’t see that it matters, it can only be relevant if we’re assuming that the Buddha and Alara meant different things with the same word.

      re the final point, samadhi is always defined as jhana in every normal doctrinal context where it is defined. that means that we need a fairly good reason to take it in any other sense in other contexts. In the Brahmajala Sutta, the passages, as you mention, are in the context of developing psychic powers, and in mainstream Buddhism jhanas are always a prerequisite of psychic powers. So there is every reason to think that jhanas are meant here, although this passage may well preserve some non-Buddhist vocabulary (sammamanasikara, for example). the fact that the jhanas are mentioned elsewehere under their own name is irrelevant – this sort of thing happens all the time. That’s why we have the abhidhamma to sort these things out for us!

    • Thanks Bhante.

      I get the feel that the suttas are rather ambiguous, compared to the Commentarial position for Jhana being a pre-requisite for the iddhis.

      The Vinaya refers to putthujanika iddhi which was Devadatta’s attainment. That suggests that an Ariyan iddhi exists as a foil to the former. I could not make sense of this dichotomy, but something in the DN 2 model struck me. All of the iddhis are exercised after the “Vipassanāñāṇa” section on kaya, consciousness, rupa and the 4 elements, and this Vipassanāñāṇa is subsequent to the Jhana sequence. Might this Vipassanāñāṇa be what distinguishes one iddhi from another?

      It does not look all that unequivocal that the putthujanika iddhi needs to follow the DN 2 model, at least from the sutta perspective.

      _/\_

    • Bhante Sujato,

      I have different problem with this text. I’m wondering how Buddha-to-be could know that these attainments lead only to rebirth in correspondent realm, since we know from other text that he gained knowledge of passing away & re-appearing of beings according to their kamma at night of his Awakening.

      Was his dissatifaction based merely on supposition?

    • That’s a good question, which I have wondered myself. But the text really doesn’t make it clear, so I don’t have any answer.

    • If I’m not mistaken, these teachers themselves could have known/believed/taught that such a meditation state would lead to rebirth in such a realm. Okay I don’t have much to go on, but according to the Buddha’s biography, the seer Asita wept upon realizing that the infant Siddhattha would become a Buddha, because he (Asita) would be reborn in the formless realms.
      So it might have been a kind of “common knowledge” in those circles.

    • If it was common knowledge and it was known that the Buddha was a Buddha and the teachers new the Buddha was a Buddha and had maybe been one in a past life, which they probably would iwhy did he need these teachers in the first place…just to jog his memory maybe?

      Like people who are suppose to be Tulkus or the Dalai Lama’s why do they need teachers. I read here i think that Bhikku Brahmali said that information is not past though when reborn maybe that is why.

      Or maybe it all makes for a good story to teach people the pitfalls to finding enlightenment ie be careful of teachers with wrong view and intentions maybe.

    • Daisy,

      It seems that before the Buddha’s awakening, wise people and spiritual seekers at least knew the concept “buddha” in some sense. What exactly their understanding was, is hard to say.

      The Buddha did teach that some sages would recollect their past lives to a limited extent. This is of the same nature as the Buddha’s recollection, but doesn’t go nearly as deep. It doesn’t provide enough information. In some cases it provides misleading information, for example a person recollects their previous life where they did many evil deeds, and then were reborn as a human, and from that they conclude that there is no result of evil deeds (they don’t see further back to even earlier lives where they did the good kamma which resulted in the human birth, nor do they see the future where the bad kamma of the immediately previous life will ripen). So this does suggest that before the Buddha there would be some understanding of rebirth floating around, which would vary greatly in accuracy.

      Btw, while the Bodhisattas teachers did recognize him as an accomplished meditator, they didn’t recognize him as a future buddha (otherwise they wouldn’t have invited him to stay and teach their existing doctrine, they would’ve sent him on his merry way to finish getting fully enlightened). The whole 32 marks thing is more than a little weird, and even if it did have an historical basis, it was probably very limited in it’s spread, being an esoteric teaching learned by certain brahmans, apparently the samanas had not heard of it or else his samana buddies would’ve recognized Siddhattha as a future buddha.

      Nandiya.

    • Dear Bhante,

      Thank you for your long response. I have no doubt you will forgive me for taking this a little bit further.

      … the most advanced contemplative society that the world has ever known.

      I would hold that any society where bright nimittas are experienced is an “advanced contemplative society”. One is largely beyond the five senses and the hindrances, and proficient meditators tend to explain such experiences as other-worldly. It has become clear to me over the years how many meditators mistake pre-jhāna samādhi for the jhānas. That is, these are very powerful states. When you say further down that pre-jhāna samādhi attainers might be disparaged as “second-rate nobodies who weren’t even doing real samādhi” I think you are doing a disservice to something that is truly profound.

      Now, which one do you reckon is the better story? Or more to the point, which one is more suitable for the spiritual biography of the greatest contemplative teacher ever? Everything about the Buddha’s biography is clearly intended to show that he tried the very best of what was out there – the very best sensual pleasures, the very best austerities, the very best samadhi – and rejected that on his way to awakening.”

      I think we should be careful not to be blinded by how good the story is, since surely one part of textual criticism is to try to penetrate below the surface of things. Sometimes a story may simply be a bit too good, and perhaps that is the case in this instance.

      When you say “better story” and “intended to show” you seem to be assuming that the biography is idealized and that historical accuracy may have been sacrificed. It has been shown, however, in particular by Alexandre Wynne of Oxford University, that certain aspects of the Buddha biography are so peculiar that they are unlikely to have been made up. The passage Wynne refers to is precisely the one where the Buddha-to-be practices under Udaka Rāmaputta, more specifically where Udaka Rāmaputta says it was his (spiritual?) father who attained the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception rather than he himself. It is hard to see why such an irrelevant and complicating detail would be included in an idealized biography. I feel Wynne’s argument is a good one, and it shows that real facts about the life of the Buddha may be preserved in the biographies as we now have them.

      If the above is correct, it follows that the “good story” is not necessarily the most likely one. Life is messy and never ideal, even in the case of the Buddha, I would suggest. The closer one reads the Pali Canon the more this seems to come out. Thus, although it may well be true that later Buddhist tradition would like to show the Buddha-to-be as having attained to the summit of samādhi, whether this actually happened seems to me a much more open question.

      (And by the way, I don’t think it is strictly true that the Buddha-to-be enjoyed the very best of sensual pleasures, at least not according to the Pali Canon. It seems clear enough that there were richer and more powerful people around, such as the kings of the larger kingdoms, who presumably enjoyed even greater sensual pleasures.)

      I have emphasized the use of dhamma throughout, as it is ‘that dhamma’ that is rejected at the end. Note that this applies to everything from the initial text-recital to the final realization of nothingness.

      Presumably your point is that this is an integrated spiritual system based on wrong view. Perhaps so, and I don’t have problem with this. I am not arguing against your interpretation, but rather suggesting an alternative. The passage you quote does not help us in deciding between these interpretations.

      The second stage involves the development of 5 factors which in Buddhist context always mean the five spiritual faculties/powers, and where samadhi always means jhana. If we are to apply your interpretation, we must re-interpret these terms. In some cases this is required anyway, namely the faculty of faith and wisdom, but in the other cases, including samadhi, I see no reason why the terms should be redefined.

      Indeed, one is compelled to reinterpret the faculties of faith and wisdom. What this means, of course, is that we are not really dealing with the five faculties at all. This actually supports my argument: the Buddha later uses the same five factors but gives (at least some of) them a new meaning. Since we are not really dealing with the five faculties here, it is not given that samādhi in this case must mean the jhānas.

      That we are not dealing with the five faculties becomes even more clear if we consult parallel versions of this sutta. In the Chinese version (I am now relying on Ven. Anālayo’s comparative study of the Majjhima Nikaya) only 3 factors are found: faith, energy, and wisdom. Since neither the faith nor the wisdom can be that of the five faculties, we are at best left with the energy as being equivalent to the energy of the five faculties. But even this is probably stretching things too far: if only 3 of 5 factors are mentioned, it seems clear enough that we are not dealing with the indriyas at all. And applying the text critical tool of lectio difficilior (that the more unusual reading should be given preference), it seems that the āgama reading should be given the most weight. (The Pali reading could then be the result of a ‘normalisation’ of what was considered an originally incomplete list of three factors.) It seems possible, therefore, that whatever samādhi (and mindfulness) they had, it was not considered sufficiently profound to be worth mentioning at all. This certainly points to something short of jhāna.

      Finally, the outcome of these states is said to be ‘rebirth in the realm of nothingness’. Obviously only the genuine article leads to such rebirth, not any mickey mouse sub-samadhi.

      If there is a lesser state of samādhi that could be called “the plane of nothingness”, then there would also be a lesser rebirth that corresponds to that samādhi. This would not necessarily have to be a dedicated plane. (By the way, although it may be ‘mickey-mouse’ samādhi compared to the immaterial attainments, in most contexts it is far from a minor achievement. Even for full awakening this samādhi is almost sufficient.)

      Hence the Buddha became dissatisfied with ‘that Dhamma’, not because it was inherently wrong, but because it was insufficient (analaṅkaritvā) for his stated goal, the ending of all rebirth.

      It doesn’t matter which state of samādhi it was, since they all lead to rebirth, and this is what the Buddha-to-be was trying to end.

      This only has force in the narrative if we assume, along with the rest of the Buddhist tradition, that what he was rejecting was in fact the very highest attainment of samadhi.

      The “force in the narrative” may be slightly diminished if we assume a lesser state of samādhi, but then again these narratives may well have evolved over time precisely due to pressure to make them more forceful. A less forceful narrative is perhaps closer to what actually happened.

      So if we are to follow your interpretation, we must assume that at least three terms in this passage are used in quite different meanings than in countless other texts: samadhi,ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ, and upapatti.

      I have tried to make it clear that this is not the case. (As regards the use of upapatti, the general sutta term for rebirth in the plane of nothingness is ākiñcaññāyatanūpaga, not ākiñcaññāyatanūpapatti.)

      If i were a Hindu, I would look at this revised story and say, “Well, you see! This is the reason Siddhattha rejected Hinduism. He never actually practiced with the advanced yogis, only with these second-rate nobodies who weren’t even doing real samadhi. If only he had the chance to practice with the real sages of the Upanishads, he might have got somewhere! Such a shame, he had such talent…”

      A Buddhist could reasonably counter that the Buddha-to-be was sharp enough to see that any rebirth was unsatisfactory. He therefore did not need to scale the heights of samādhi to reject all such states as the goal of the spiritual life.

      The only reason for suggesting this revision of an important juncture of the Buddha’s path is, of course, to reconcile the apparent inconsistency of this passage with the episode of the Siddhattha doing jhanas as a child. But why not just redefine the childhood jhana as ‘not real jhana’? It’d be simpler and require less assumptions.

      I don’t understand what you are on about here; how would this solve the problem? If you reinterpret the childhood jhana, you take away the Buddha-to-be’s samadhi basis for reaching awakening. You would have to reinterpret the entire sutta pitaka for this to make sense.

      ——

      So, I still feel there is merit in my proposal. I think we should keep in mind that although India, by most standards, perhaps was a highly contemplative society before the time of the Buddha, the Buddha’s teachings were of an altogether different order. Yet even given these exceptional teachings, how many people actually attain the immaterial attainments? The few cases I have heard of people claiming to attain these states have been highly dubious, in my estimation. And if so few people are able to reach these states even with the help of Buddhism, then what can be expected of pre-Buddhist Indian society? I am not sure it is reasonable to assume that anyone at that time had this degree of samadhi.

      There is even some sutta evidence to support this. At SN41:8 the leader of the Jains, Nigantha Nataputta, is portrayed as never having heard of samadhi without vitakka-vicara. That is, he doesn’t seem to know anything about jhana, let alone the immaterial attainments. As the leader of one of the largest religious sects of the time one would have expected him to know a lot about meditation, even if only second hand.

      I feel there is a danger of perhaps idealizing ancient Indian society too much. Yes it was a contemplative society, but outside of Buddhist scriptures what evidence do we have on the depth of that contemplation? There are the Vedic scripture, but my sense is that they are too vague to help much in pinpointing exactly what sort of samadhi the meditators of that time actually practiced.

      For now at least, I stand my ground!

      With metta.

    • Dear Nandiya,

      Nandiya wrote: ” because he (Asita) would be reborn in the formless realms.”

      When I read the information on Asita there is only a section being attached to the Nalaka Sutta, and it only shows:

      ‘My life here will shortly be at an end, in the middle (of his life) there will be death for me; I shall not hear the Dhamma of the incomparable one; therefore I am afflicted, unfortunate, and suffering.’

      About the whole section ( vatthugattha, ‘verses of the story’) on Asita attached to the Nalaka Sutta in Sutta Nipata Edward Thomas stated that:

      “A number of the separate poems of this work contains prose introductions stating the circumstances in which they were given. No one maintains that they are as old as the poems ( Nalaka Sutta part) , and they may quite well be centuries later. In the case of several poems of this work the introductions are in verse , and are clearly marked off from the poems themselves by being called vatthugatha, ‘ verses of the story,’ as in the case of this sutta. The question of the date of the sutta is quite different from the question of the origin of the legend ( about Asita) and of its becoming attached to this sutta. It is clearly late……”

      There is no mention of him becoming reborn in the formless realm even in this section attached to the Nalaka Sutta. The mention of him being reborn in the formless realm only came from later commentators.

      Also , it appears that the commentator confused his attributes with Asita Devala ( a.k.a Kala Devala) who was a disciple of the Buddha during his past life as Sarabhanga ( Jataka 522) , long before the time he became a Buddha. Asita Devala had a brother named Narada. For more details on the growth of the Asita legend , see Edward Thomas.

      When it is said that the Buddha rediscovered the Four Jhanas along with the rest of the states ( not the other types of wrong jhanas / meditation mentioned/ practiced by the Buddha before enlightenment) , it shouldn’t be understood that no one had ever experienced these Jhanas before. Sometimes after the previous Buddha ( Kassapa Buddha) there were people practicing the the meditation that he taught.

      For example, in the Dhammika Sutta, the Buddha named six teachers of a past age who practiced . They are Hatthipala, Sunetta, Mugapakkha, Kuddalaka, , Aranemi, Jotipala, and Araka from another sutta. Most of these are actually the bodhisatta’s past lives long before he came to be a Buddha. Their stories can be found various Jatakas such as, the Temiya Jataka / Mugapakkha Jataka 538, Matanga Jataka 497, Kuddala Jataka 70, Hatthipala Jataka 509, Araka Jataka 169, and Maha Govinda Sutta.

      There are occasions where the Buddha mentioned that some people could see past lives and have iddhis , but he did not say that it was shortly before or during his time. Sometimes before the time of the Buddha ( Gautama Buddha) , knowledge of these Four Jhanas had disappeared , only the wrong ones remain ( such as apannaka jhana , sensual meditation / jhana, ect..) .

      When we check the early Vedas and the primary Upanishad that serve as commentaries or extension to each of the Vedas existing before the time of the Buddha, there is hardly anything on meditation , and the Four Jhanas certainly can’t be found in the primary Upanishad. Samadhi and the Four Jhanas are first found in the Pitakas of the Buddha’s teaching. Only long after the Buddha, it was added to later Upanishad in an incomplete form .

      When the Buddha mentioned that some people could see past lives and have iddhis , it was not shortly before or during his time. The discussions between the Buddha and brahmins in many suttas such as the Tevijja Sutta and Subha Sutta ( MN 99) showed the Buddha indicating in numerous occasions that not a single Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas, none of their teacher’s teacher, nor ancestor seven generations back of the teacher, seen Brahma face to face nor reborn in that realm after death. Not even the composers of the Three Vedas have been able to see Brahma face to face and does not lead to rebirth there after death, that includes Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa, Bhagu, etc… He later pointed out where their way of practice went wrong and taught the Jhanas :

      “So, Vasettha, not one of these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas has seen Brahma face to face, nor has one of their teachers, or teacher’s teachers, nor even the ancestor seven generations back of one of their teachers. Nor could any of the early sages say : “We know and see when, how and where Brahma appears.” So what these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas are saying is : “We teach this path to union with Brahma that we do not know or see, this is the only straight path … leading to union with Brahma.” “What do you think, Vasettha? Such being the case, does not what these Brahmins declare turn out to be ill-founded?” “Yes indeed, Reverend Gotama.”

      “Well, Vasettha, when these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas teach a path that they do not know or see, saying : “This is the only straight path …,” this cannot possibly be right. Just as a file of blind men go on, clinging to each other, and the first one sees nothing, the middle one sees nothing, and the last one sees nothing – so it is with the talk of these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas : the first one sees nothing, the middle one sees nothing, the last one sees nothing. The talk of these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas turns out to be laughable, mere words, empty and vain.” — Tevijja Sutta

      It is clear from the suttas that the Jhanas he taught enabled him and his accomplished disciples to visit the Brahma realm and any other planes in this very life ( MN 37, MN 49, DN 20, DN 11, DN 14 ) . People that are not able to reach any of the four stages of Enlightenment through the penetration of Anatta, Anicca, Dukkha could end up there after death:

      ” At that time to Brahma Baka this pernicous view had arisen: `This is always alike, it is certain and perpetual, complete and without decrease, not to be born, not to decay and die not to decrease and not to be born again, and there is no refuge more noble than this.
      The Blessed One knew this thought and thought process in Brahma Baka’s mind and as quickly as a strong man would stretch his bent arm or bend his stretched arm, disappeared from Jeta’s grove and appeared in the world of Brahma.” -Baka Brahma Sutta ( SN 6.1.4)

      ” Then the Blessed One sat in mid air, above that Brahma, legs crossed and entered the element of fire.

      Then it occurred to venerable Maha Moggallana: Where is the Blessed One abiding at the moment?
      Venerable MahaMoggallana with the purified heavenly eye, beyond human, saw the Blessed One sitting in mid air above that Brahma, legs crossed, entered into the element of fire. Then as quickly as a strong man would stretch his bent arm or bend his stretched arm, he disappeared from Jeta’s grove and appeared in that world of Brahma.
      Venerable MahaMoggallana sat in mid air, above that Brahma towards the east, legs crossed, entering the element of fire, less than the Blessed One.
      Then it occurred to venerable Maha-Kassapa: Where is the Blessed One, abiding at the moment?
      Venerable Maha-Kassapa with the purified heavenly eye, beyond human, saw the Blessed One sitting in mid air, above that Brahma, legs crossed, entered into the element of fire. Then as quickly as a strong man would stretch his bent arm or bend his stretched arm, he disappeared from Jeta’s grove and appeared in that world of Brahma.
      Venerable Maha-Kassapa sat in mid air, above that Brahma towards the south, legs crossed, entering the element of fire, less than the Blessed One.
      Then it occurred to venerable Mahà-Kappina: Where is the Blessed One, abiding at the moment?
      Venerable Maha-Kappina with the purified heavenly eye, beyond human saw the Blessed One sitting in mid air, above that Brahma, legs crossed, entered into the element of fire. Then as quickly as a strong man would stretch his bent arm or bend his stretched arm, he disappeared from Jeta’s grove and appeared in that world of Brahma.
      Venerable Maha-Kappina sat in mid air, above that Brahma towards the west, legs crossed, entering the element of fire, less than the Blessed One
      Then it occurred to venerable Anuruddha: Where is the Blessed One abiding at the moment?
      Venerable Anuruddha with the purified heavenly eye, beyond human saw the Blessed One sitting in mid air, above that Brahma, legs crossed, entered into the element of fire. Then as quickly as a strong man would stretch his bent arm or bend his stretched arm, he disappeared from Jeta’s grove and appeared in that world of Brahma.
      Venerable Anuruddha sat in mid air, above that Brahma towards the north, legs crossed, entering the element of fire, less than the Blessed One” – Aparadinnhi Sutta ( SN 6.1.5)

      The Tevijja sutta and numerous other suttas shows the Buddha pointing out that the Brahmins and the composers of the Vedas are not able to reborn there after death nor are they able to see Brahma in this life . If they actually practice even the first Jhana taught by the Buddha , they would automatically end up in the Brahma realm after death if they can’t develop the insight into the three characters to actually reach Entry Level Enlightenment and other levels of Enlightenment. Also if they actually practice the jhanas taught by the Buddha , they would have no trouble seeing Brahma face to face while living.

      With metta,

    • Dear Piotr,

      Piotr wrote: ” Was his dissatifaction based merely on supposition? ”

      Before enlightenment he couldn’t have known exactly that it would lead to rebirth in a particular realm. But when we look at the Upakkilesa, it is easy to see why he was not convinced that he reached enlightenment from that teaching . Defilements such as desire and aversion are still present in him and haven’t been uprooted yet ( MN 128) . Therefore, he was dissatisfied and left.

    • Ajahn Brahmali..with much respect and gratitude.

      I listened approximately ten times this past week your talk ‘Benefits of Reading the Suttas’ on Youtube.

      Betty Ann (NYC)

    • Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

      It appears that there is a disagreement on the topic. I am interested in hearing Ajahn Brahm’s input . It would be great if you can ask him for his comment. Thank’s in advance.

      With metta,

    • Dear iMeditation,

      Ajahn Brahm leans towards the idea that Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta taught a lesser form of samādhi. He reckons the Buddha-to-be would have recalled his meditation attainments under these two teachers if he had had them, notwithstanding the wrong view associated with them.

      With metta.

    • Cool, i also noticed that some words are used differently in different contexts in the suttas, such as Dhamma: before Gotama awakened the word “Dhamma” was used as a ‘truth’ rather than the Buddha’s teachings. So was ‘arahant’ used before the Buddha’s time.
      Another word is “bhikkhu” where in the context of the vinaya it’s meant as a male monastic, but in some suttas, it seems to refer to a serious practitioners since in one sutta the Buddha calls a man who is not ordained a bhikkhu (since he is requesting ordination). Also Dhammadina used ‘bhikkhu’ in her conversation to Vesaka.
      Another ‘ambiguous’ word is “yoniso manisikara”, Bhikkhu Analayo posted an encyclopedia article and examined the different cases in the suttas where ‘yoniso’ is used, and it means ‘thorough’ ‘wise’ ‘appropriate’ & ‘womb’ in difference contexts.

      http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/fileadmin/pdf/analayo/Yoniso.pdf

      This makes me quite cautious now with literally translating words! In the intro to Pali class (AK Warder) it says not to translate a word, but the meaning of a sentence. So it gives less pressure on the value of a word’s meaning.

      What quite convinced me was the Buddha recollected the jhana (& the pleasure of it) under the bodhi tree as being the way to Bodhi (he didn’t mention the states under Alara & the other one).
      Secondly, the Buddhist path is happy (the pleasure of the mind as the middle way) & meditation gives pleasure. It’s the niramissa sukkha. http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/fileadmin/pdf/analayo/Sukha.pdf
      So when Gotama was practicing asceticism under Alara & Udaka, it would not have been a pleasant practice! (since they were afraid of happiness and pleasure). Also this self mortification was popular at the time, and samadhi is the total opposite of self torture! So it doesn’t make sense that the Buddha would at the same time be practicing self-mortification & beating himself up, & at the same time blissing out in extremely subtle samadhi states.
      Also, in the sutta where Citta the householder talks with the leader of the Jains, the Jain leader couldn’t believe that one can stop thinking. If he didn’t hear this is possible, then it adds doubt if samadhi was practiced before the Buddha’s teachings.

    • Dear Bhikkhu Brahmali,

      My first encounter with this question came from reading Ajahn Brahm’s “Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond,” where he raises this question. As you point out in a later comment, Ajahn Brahm leans towards the idea that Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta taught a lesser form of samādhi. In fact, Ajahn Brahm focuses on the idea that the Buddha discovered the jhanas (“Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond,” 127-129), i.e. that what Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta taught was not the “real thing.”

      I would like to offer another perspective on this topic that, I hope, will make the case that what Bhante Sujato says about the reason why the meditations taught by Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta did not ripen in full Awakening (presumably, as Bhante says, because they identified a purified state of consciousness with the Eternal Self) and what you say about how the Buddha may have been redefining existing meditation vocabulary when he used the terms the “sphere of nothingness” and the “sphere of neither perception-nor-no-perception” after his awakening can perhaps compliment each other.

      While learning a great deal from the Dhamma talks of Ajahn Punnadhammo of Arrow River Forest Hermitage, I have found his emphasis on the importance of the Buddha’s insight of the third of the three marks of existence most helpful in my developing my own understanding. While anicca and dukkha are important for conventional right view, anattā is necessary for both conventional and supramundane right view. The Buddha’s discovery of anattā, then, seems to have been necessary for the Buddha’s meditation to ripen in full Awakening.

      In other words, with the discovery of the mark of anattā, the Buddha used existing meditation practices in an entirely new way and achieved his goal. So, by redefining the self as neither-eternal-nor-not-eternal (temporal and eternal being delusional dichotomies), as a product of causes and conditions, as a complex aggregate to which we cling, though we should not, he redefined the jhanas.

    • Dear Ratanadhammo,

      “In other words, with the discovery of the mark of anattā, the Buddha used existing meditation practices in an entirely new way and achieved his goal. So, by redefining the self as neither-eternal-nor-not-eternal (temporal and eternal being delusional dichotomies), as a product of causes and conditions, as a complex aggregate to which we cling, though we should not…”

      No doubt that the Buddha had to rediscover the third division of the Eightfold Path ( panna ) to realized the Anata and the like to Awaken after experiencing samadhi ( the 2nd division of the Path) . But that doesn’t prove that he he also practice First Jhana as an adult.

  3. This has never caused me any concern, in fact for me it’s a natural aspect of human psychology. I think the “first time is best” principle plays a part.

    For example, the first video game I played (Oh No more Lemmings) forever held a special place in my mind in terms of being the most captivating, the most pleasurable, even though video games I played later were objectively much “better”.

    If I were to conclude that the Monk’s life isn’t for me, and that video games are in fact the path of happiness, then it would be quite natural for me to recollect my earliest childhood experience of playing video games. I would think that I need to recapture that special quality of captivation, which is most prominent in those earliest experiences and less prominent in the “peak” of my career as a gamer.

  4. Bhante the other purpose of the story is as a premonition/omen or it points the way of the child and what is to come, sitting under a tree and entering samadhi achieving enlightenment. Although he was not ready for enlightenment at that time but it retains all the key features of his later achievement. it also points to how we have to unlearn in order to realise the wisdom/potetnial we a re born with. which in the buddha’s case meant he a near death experience before he could return to that state

    • Yes, very good point: Siddhattha had to ‘die’ (when doing his ascetic extreme) before he could be ‘born anew’ (by revisiting his childhood experience).

  5. Bhante

    I’m very interested in this phase of the Buddha’s teachings as it raises some interesting questions for me, which I’m hoping you will be able to clarify…

    What exactly was the Bodhisatta’s concern about his former teachers? Was it that they taught rebirth that was limited to the formless attainment realms (as opposed to Nibbana) or was it that the Bodhisatta realised these states was impermant (albeit after many eons) – (although I’m not quite sure how he realised this when he wasn’t the Buddha yet) or was it that his former teachers taught a pre-conceived notion of attainment (Atman) and the Bodhisatta wanted to start again with no pre-conceived doctrine, hence the appeal of his meditative experience as a child?

    Or was it all or a combination of the above? Or am I missing something?

    Furthermore, unlike the Bodhisatta who started again without any preconceived doctrine, we of course have 2,500 years of doctrine into impermanent, dukkha & non-self handed down to us. How can we be sure our attainments are not conditioned by a pre-conceived doctrine as were the Bodhisatta’s former teachers?

    Bhante, its also interesting that you have said (at your Friday night talks – if I haven’t misunderstood you) that these non Buddhist teachers reached a level of spiritual attainment (and would be reborn in these formless realms) which the vast majority of practicing Buddhists are unlikely to reach in this lifetime.

    Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • Dear Geoff,

      re your first question: I would say yes to all these – i think they are different aspects of the same thing. But the actual concern expressed in the text is that the state of samadhi leads to rebirth, which is what the Bodhisatta rejected.

      Q2: I think this is very true, and needs to be carefully managed as part of our spiritual practice. Think of it like a map. Alara had a map which led him to a good place, but it wasn’t where Siddhattha wanted to go. So lacking an accurate map, he set out on his own. He discovered that part of his journey coincided with Alaras, but at crucial junctures it diverged. Eventually he found his destiny, and described his journey with his own map which we can follow. It is quite possible to misread this map or go astray, as the Suttas actually say. One can read, say, a ‘hill’ on the map, identify it with this hill here and end up somewhere quite different. If you’ve read Pirsig’s Lila, he gives a lovely story of this: he steered his boat into harbor one night, and systematically mistook all the landmarks, buoys and signs, and it wasn’t until the morning that he realized that it was the wrong harbor. His preconceived notions of what the harbor should be like shaped his experience of the false harbor. this kind of thing happens all the time in spiritual practice. There is no special solution: just keep it real, don’t get swept up by any experience, keep on checking and investigating.

      Q3: yes, again, these teachers were regarded as having ‘little dust in their eyes’, and would have swiftly realized the Dhamma if they had heard it – those who have practiced samadhi are on the cusp of realization. Incidentally, this is another reason to think that their samadhi was the real deal.

  6. Hi Nandiya,

    Thank you for that. Yes it is weird to think that from some good karma in a past life you can get born human, but then not, due to karma from an even ‘paster’ life, or of course from this life.

    Kind Regards:)

    Daisy

  7. Bhante,

    I know I’m a bit late on this topic but I just came across an interesting book review which offers another perspective on the Ariyapariyesana Sutta. The book is The Origin of Buddhist Meditation by Alexander Wynne (colleague of Richard Gombrich at Oxford Uni).

    I would be interested in your response if you find the time…

    To quote the review, Wynne suggests the formless attainments may have been appended to the jhanas as they are “a vestige of the Buddha’s Brahmanical training”.

    “Wynne strengthens his argument that the Bodhisattva trained in these (Brahmanical) traditions by identifying apparently anomalous aspects of the Buddha’s mature teachings. For example, Buddhist meditation on the elements has no theoretical foundation in Buddhist cosmology, and Wynne concludes the
    Buddha had learned it from the two teachers and was happy to teach it
    himself. Wynne also undertakes a detailed analysis of the Buddha’s dialogue
    with the Brahmin Upasiva in the Pariyayavagga of the Sutta Nipata and shows
    that Upasiva understands the goal of meditation in terms of the practices that
    Alara Kalama taught, that the Buddha knows what he is referring to and that
    he is willing to use language with which Upasiva is familiar for the sake of
    communicating with him. But the Buddha then subverts Upasiva’s
    understanding by stressing that, far from merging him-or-herself with the
    sphere of nothingness, the meditator should remain mindful even while dwelling within it.”
    “The Buddha’s concern in his meditation teaching was not the cosmological
    significance of a particular meditative state but the meditator’s attitude
    towards it. Extending this point, Wynne suggests that the arupa dhyanas,
    which are defined in cosmological terms, are themselves a vestige of the
    Buddha’s Brahmanical training and have been rather unsatisfactorily
    appended to the list of the rupa dhyanas. These states, by contrast, are
    described in the nikayas in terms of observable mental experiences,
    especially self-awareness, equanimity and meditative joy. Similarly, the goal
    of the Buddha’s teaching was not union with a transcendent absolute but the
    insight into reality made possible by the deepening calm, joy and awareness
    that develops as the practitioner passes through the four rupa dhyanas. This
    explanation incidentally makes sense of a puzzling aspect of the story, also
    found in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta, of Gautama’s childhood experience of the
    first dhyana as he sat beneath a rose-apple tree, remembering which, he says
    he understood the correct path to awakening. Why should a man familiar with
    the seventh and eighth dhyanas have been so impressed by an experience of
    the first? The explanation suggested by Wynne’s account is that the rupa and
    the arupa dhyanas describe fundamentally different kinds of experience and
    in the earliest Buddhist teachings only the first of these was the ‘correct path’.”

    reviewed by Vishvapani (www.vishvapani.org)

    Thank you in advance
    Geoff

  8. Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

    Bhante Brahmali wrote: “He reckons the Buddha-to-be would have recalled his meditation attainments under these two teachers if he had had them, notwithstanding the wrong view associated with them.”

    Thanks for the info Ajahn Brahmali. The reason I am interested in Ajahn Brahm’s comment on this is because he has been teaching this type of meditation for years. And when it comes to the topic of meditation it is not necessarily the specialty of scholars. Mere speculations and mental proliferation is not enough sometimes when it comes to the subject of meditation.

    The Buddha did not say that Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta taught Nothingness and NPNNP , instead it was Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta. He only said that he recalled his childhood jhana 1 experience ( MN 36) and struggled to find his way into it again ( MN 128) and developed the other stages from there. He also developed the Panna division ( the third of the three division ) to complete the Eightfold Path.

    The Buddha never said he practice form jhana as an adult ( during the practicing years) in the sutta . The assumption that he did was based on another assumption that Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta are incapable of overestimating themselves in their claims. However, according to the Buddha that is not the case. For example:

    “ Bhikkhus , though Uddaka Ramaputta was not himself a knowledge master, he declared: ‘ I am a knowledge master.’

    “ Though he was not himself a universal conquerer, he declared: ‘ I am a universal conquer.’
    “Though he had not excised the tumour’s root, he declared: ‘ I have excised the tumour’s root.’- Uddaka Sutta

    The Four jhanas can’t be found in any pre-Buddhist texts, but later on others adapted them into the Mahabharata. That is not to say that other types of jhana do not exist ( such as “appana- kam jhana” ( breathingless meditation) :

    “Suppose I were to meditate on the non-breathing meditation (appana- kam jhana)”- MN 36

    Or jhana where someone focuses on a sensual meditation object :

    “Making that sensual passion the focal point, he absorbs himself with it, premeditates, outmeditates, and mismeditates…..This is the sort of meditation (jhana) that the Blessed One did not praise.”- MN 108

    Later when the Buddha used the word jhana in short, his diciples understood that he meant First – Fourth Jhana included in Samma Samadhi and not appana- kam jhana or any other types of meditation. When disciples of the Buddha use the word jhana nowadays, we are referring to the First to Fourth Jhana in particular.

    The word jhana can be used to mean ” meditation” in general. However, later when the Buddha teaches meditation he only considered 1-4 Jhana as the right meditation. Therefore, when speaking about jhana ( meditation) he was only referring to the 1-4 Jhana. The word jhana began to took on a different meaning among many of his disciples, and that is the 1-4 Jhana while excluding other types of meditation found during his time, such as “appana-kam jhana” ( where someone hold back the breath and it causes great pain) or focusing on a sensual meditation object , etc…For this reason, sometimes we see the word jhana being used in its earlier meaning to refer to just ” meditation” in general. Other times we see the word jhana being used to refer to 1-4 Jhana of the Buddha’s teaching in particular for short instead of saying First Jhana, Second Jhana, Third Jhana and Fourth Jhana.

    It is not difficult to see why the Buddha would use vocabulary that people of that time and location are familiar with when teaching instead of using a totally a new language to teach the concepts he wanted to convey.

    When teaching dharma to people today , even when a monk uses English if he uses old English and Shakespeare style to teach the dharma it would goes in one ear and come out the other . He would want to use everyday vocabulary that people in the culture use and are readily familiar with so that it is easier for them to relate and understand . This is crucial because some of the concepts are quite challenging, if the vocabulary he uses are also unknown it would be similar to giving a dharma talk to an English audience in Chinese without translation .

    If we look at the early English translation of the dharma , although it is still English but it is difficult to understand . For this reason it is not as engaging. The style in more recent English translation is easier to understand because it uses words that we are familiar with in day to day communication.

    —————————————————————————————————-
    Ajahn Brahmali wrote: ” I am not sure it is reasonable to assume that anyone at that time had this degree of samadhi.

    There is even some sutta evidence to support this. At SN41:8 the leader of the Jains, Nigantha Nataputta, is portrayed as never having heard of samadhi without vitakka-vicara. That is, he doesn’t seem to know anything about jhana, let alone the immaterial attainments. As the leader of one of the largest religious sects of the time one would have expected him to know a lot about meditation, even if only second hand.
    I feel there is a danger of perhaps idealizing ancient Indian society too much. Yes it was a contemplative society, but outside of Buddhist scriptures what evidence do we have on the depth of that contemplation?”

    Yes, the Four Jhanas can’t be found in any pre-Buddhist texts, but later on people adapted them into the Mahabharata. Also , samadhi is not found in any pre-Buddhist text, but it was later incorporated into later texts such as the Maitrayaniya Upanishad . Even the Buddha was incorporated into the Puranas .

    That connection made by Alexander Wyne was based on a texts that was written after the time of the Buddha. It shows Buddhist influence rather than the other way around.

    If we look into the early texts, the Tevijja Sutta , Subha sutta ( MN 99) , and numerous other suttas show that during that time the Brahmins engage in 5 sense indulgence in their path of practice. The Buddha taught them about the 5 hindrances : “in the Ariyan discipline these five hindrances are called obstacles”. He pointed out to them that their way of practice would prevent them from being able to go beyond the 5 hindrances .

    THE FOLLOWING SHOWS THAT PEOPLE WERE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE JHANAS TAUGHT BY THE BUDDHA , BECAUSE EVEN IF THEY EXPERIENCED THIS JHANA WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO DEVELOP THE PANNA DIVISION OF THE EIGHTFOLD PATH ( relating to non-self) TO REACH ENLIGHTENMENT, THEY WOULD STILL AUTOMATICALLY BECOME REBORN INTO THE BRAHMA REALM FOR A PERIOD OF TIME UNTIL THEIR MERITS EXHAUST. HOWEVER, THIS IS NOT THE CASE ACCORDING TO THE BUDDHA:

    Vasettha: “… do the ways of the various Brahmins … lead the one who follows them to union with Brahma?”

    You say: “They lead”, Vasettha?” I say: “They lead”, Reverend Gotama.
    You say: “They lead”, Vasettha?” I say: “They lead”, Reverend Gotama.
    You say: “They lead”, Vasettha?” I say: “They lead”, Reverend Gotama.

    But, Vasettha, is there then a single one of these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas who has seen Brahma face to face?” “No, Reverend Gotama.”

    “Then has the teacher’s teacher of any one of them seen Brahma face to face?”
    “No, Reverend Gotama.”

    “Then has the ancestor seven generations back of the teacher of one of them seen Brahma face to face?” “No, Reverend Gotama.”

    “Well then, Vasettha, what about the early sages of those Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas, the makers of the mantras, the expounders of the mantras, whose ancient verses are chanted, pronounced and collected by the Brahmins of today, and sung and spoken about – such as Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa, Bhagu 3 – did they ever say : “We know and see when, how and where Brahma appears?” “No, Reverend Gotama.”

    “So, Vasettha, not one of these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas has seen Brahma face to face, nor has one of their teachers, or teacher’s teachers, nor even the ancestor seven generations back of one of their teachers. Nor could any of the early sages say : “We know and see when, how and where Brahma appears.” So what these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas are saying is : “We teach this path to union with Brahma that we do not know or see, this is the only straight path … leading to union with Brahma.” “What do you think, Vasettha? Such being the case, does not what these Brahmins declare turn out to be ill-founded?” “Yes indeed, Reverend Gotama.”

    “Well, Vasettha, when these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas teach a path that they do not know or see, saying : “This is the only straight path …,” this cannot possibly be right. Just as a file of blind men go on, clinging to each other, and the first one sees nothing, the middle one sees nothing, and the last one sees nothing – so it is with the talk of these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas : the first one sees nothing, the middle one sees nothing, the last one sees nothing. The talk of these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas turns out to be laughable, mere words, empty and vain.”

    …………….“That is right, Vasettha. When these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas teach a path that they do not know and see, this cannot possibly be right.”

    “Well now, Vasettha, those Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas who persistently neglect what a Brahmin should do, and persistently do what a Brahmin should not do, declare : “We call on Indra, Soma, Varuna, Isana, Pajapati, Brahma, Mahiddhi, Yama.” But that such Brahmins who persistently neglect what a Brahmin should do, … will, as a consequence of their calling, begging, requesting or wheedling, attain after death, at the breaking-up of the body, to union with Brahma – that is just not possible. “-
    —————————————–

    “ Vasettha, in the Ariyan discipline these five strands of sense-desire are called bonds and fetters. Which five? Forms seen by the eye which are agreeable, loved, charming, attractive, pleasurable, arousing desire; sounds heard by the ear …; smells smelt by the nose … ; tastes savoured by the tongue … ; contacts felt by the body which are agreeable, … arousing desire. These five in the Ariyan discipline are called bonds and fetters. And, Vasettha, those Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas are enslaved, infatuated by these five strands of sense-desire, which they enjoy guiltily, unaware of danger, knowing no way out.”

    “But that such Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas, who persistently neglect what a Brahmin should do, … who are enslaved by these five strands of sense-desire, … knowing no way out, should attain after death, at the breaking-up of the body, to union with Brahma – that is just not possible.”

    “It is just as if this River Aciravati were brimful of water so that a crow could drink out of it, and a man should come along wishing to cross over … and were to lie down on this bank, covering his head with a shawl. What do you think, Vasettha? Would that man be able to get to the other side?” “No, Reverend Gotama.”

    “In the same way, Vasettha, in the Ariyan discipline these five hindrances are called obstacles, hindrances, coverings-up, envelopings. Which five? The hindrance of sensuality, of ill-will, of sloth-and-torpor, of worry-and-flurry, of doubt. These five are called obstacles, hindrances, coverings-up, envelopings. And these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas are caught up, hemmed in, obstructed, entangled in these five hindrances. But that such Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas, who persistently neglect what a Brahmin should do … and who are caught up, … entangled in these five hindrances, should attain after death, at the breaking-up of the body, to union with Brahma – that is just not possible.”

    THERE WERE TWO EXTREMES DURING THE BUDDHA’S TIME. THE BUDDHA CONSIDERED THE BRAHMIN’S WAY OF PRACTICE AS BELONGING TO THE EXTREME OF INDULGENCE WHICH NEITHER LEAD TO BRAHMA REALM NOR ENLIGHTENMENT BECAUSE IT IS NOT CONDUCIVE TO GOING BEYOND THE 5 HINDRANCES TO THE JHANA THAT HE TAUGHT :

    “What do you think, Vasettha? What have you heard said by Brahmins who are venerable, aged, the teachers of teachers? Is Brahma encumbered with wives and wealth,” or unencumbered?” “Unencumbered, Reverend Gotama.”…………..

    “And what do you think, Vasettha? Are the Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas encumbered with wives and wealth, or unencumbered?” “Encumbered, Reverend Gotama.”

    “Are they full of hate or without hate?” “Full of hate, Reverend Gotama.”
    “Are they full of ill-will or without ill-will?” “Full of ill-will, Reverend Gotama.”
    “Are they impure or pure?” “Impure, Reverend Gotama.”
    “Are they disciplined or undisciplined?” “Undisciplined, Reverend Gotama.”

    “So, Vasettha, the Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas are encumbered with wives and wealth, and Brahma is unencumbered. Is there any communion, anything in common between these encumbered Brahmins and the unencumbered Brahma?” “No, Reverend Gotama.”

    “That is right, Vasettha. That these encumbered Brahmins, learned in the Three Vedas, should after death, at the breaking-up of the body, be united with the unencumbered Brahma – that is just not possible.”

    “Likewise, do these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas and full of hate …, full of ill-will …, impure …, undisciplined, have any communion, anything in common with the disciplined Brahma?” “No, Reverend Gotama.”

    “That is right, Vasettha. That these undisciplined Brahmins should after death be united with Brahma is just not possible. But these Brahmins learned in the Three Vedas, having sat down on the bank, sink down despairingly, thinking maybe to find a dry way across. Therefore their threefold knowledge is called the threefold desert, the threefold wilderness, the threefold destruction.”

    VASETTHA ASKED THE BUDDHA THE WAY TO BRAHMA. THE BUDDHA THEN TAUGHT HIM ABOUT THE FOUR JHANAS IN HIS TEACHING AND OTHER DISCIPLINES THAT ARE CONDUCIVE TO ENTERING THE JHANAS :

    “Then, Vasettha, listen, pay proper attention, and I will tell you.” “Very good, Reverend Sir,” said Vasettha. The Lord said :

    “Vasettha, a Tathagata arises in the world, an Arahant, a fully-enlightened Buddha, endowed with wisdom and conduct, Well-Farer, Knower of the worlds, incomparable Trainer of men to be tamed, Teacher of Gods and humans, enlightened and blessed. He, having realised it by his own super-knowledge, proclaims this world with its Devas, Maras and Brahmas, its princes and people. He preaches the Dhamma which is lovely in its beginning, lovely in its middle, lovely in its ending, in the spirit and in the letter, and displays the fully perfected and purified holy life. A disciple goes forth, practises the moralities, attains the first jhana (as Digha Nikaya 2, verses 43-75).”

    ( NOTICE THE BUDDHA MENTIONED A ” Tathagata arises in the world, an Arahant, a fully-enlightened Buddha, … He, having realiszed it by his own super-knowledge, proclaims this world with its Devas, Maras and Brahmas, its princes and people. BEFORE SPEAKING ABOUT THE FOUR JHANAS THAT HE TAUGHT : “He preaches the Dhamma … and displays the fully perfected and purified holy life. A disciple goes forth, practices the moralities, attains the first jhana .” AND BEFORE INTRODUCING HIS PATH OF PRACTICE. IF THIS IS SOMETHING PEOPLE ALREADY KNOW IN THEIR SYSTEM THEN THERE IS NO NEED TO KEEP ON TELLING THEM ABOUT IT:

    ……….“What do you think, Vasettha? Is a monk dwelling thus encumbered with wives and wealth or unencumbered?” “Unencumbered, Reverend Gotama.” “He is without hate …, without ill-will …, pure and disciplined, Reverend Gotama.”

    “Then, Vasettha, the monk is unencumbered, and Brahma is unencumbered. Has that unencumbered monk anything in common with the unencumbered Brahma?” “Yes indeed, Reverend Gotama.”

    “That is right, Vasettha. Then that an unencumbered monk, after death, at the breaking-up of the body, should attain to union with the unencumbered Brahma – that is possible. Likewise a monk without hate …, without ill~will …, pure …, disciplined … Then that a disciplined monk, after death, at the breaking-up of the body, should attain to union with Brahma – that is possible.”

    At this the young Brahmins, Vasettha and Bharadvaja said to the Lord : “Excellent, Reverend Gotama, excellent! It is as if someone were to set up what had been knocked down, or to point out the way to one who had got lost, or to bring an oil-lamp into a dark place, so that those with eyes could see what was there. Just so the Reverend Gotama has expounded the Dhamma in various ways.”

    —————————————————————————————————-

    SIMILAR CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN THE BUDDHA AND THE BRAHMINS DURING THAT TIME CAN BE FOUND IN NUMEROUS OTHER SUTTAS, FOR EXAMPLE, THE SUBHA SUTTA ( MN 99):

    The Buddha pointed out to Subha that being ” covered up veiled and hemmed in, by these five hindrances, that he could see, know and realize some noble distinction above human is not possible” And taught Subha what is the ” joy that arises away from the five strands of sensual pleasures and away from thoughts of demerit?”. He said ” Here, young man, the bhikkhu away from sensual desires, and angry thoughts abides in the first jhana. This is joy away from sensual desires and angry thoughts.” :

    Subha son of Todeyya said to the Blessed One: ” ‘Good Gotama, the Brahmins say, that householders are capable of doing noble merit and those gone forth homeless are not capable of doing merit. What does good Gotama say about that?’ ………………”

    ‘Young man, these five are hindrances. What are the five? Interest for sensuality is a hindrance. Anger is a hindrance. Sloth and torpor is a hindrance. Restlessness and worry is a hindrance. To doubt is a hindrance. The Brahmin Pokkharasaati who has a happy face is covered up veiled and hemmed in, by these five hindrances, that he could see, know and realise some noble distinction above human is not possible.

    Young man, these five are the strands of sensual pleasures. What are the five? Agreeable pleasant forms cognisable by eye consciousness, arousing fondness and sensual desires…re… sounds,…re….. smells,…re….tastes,…re…and agreeable pleasant touches, cognisable by body consciousness, arousing fondness and sensual desires. These are the five strands of sensual pleasures. The Brahmin Pokkharasaati who has a happy face partakes the five strands of sensual pleasures, bound, swooned and enslaved not seeing the danger and the escape from it, that he could see, know and realise some noble distinction above human is not possible. Young man does fire burn supported on grass and sticks, or not supported on grass and sticks? What would the fire’s flame, colour and effulgence be?’

    ‘Good Gotama, if fire burns without the support of grass and sticks, yet it’s flame, colour and effulgence would be present.’

    ‘Young man, it is not possible that fire should burn, without grass and sticks, other than by some supernormal power. The joy that arises on account of the five strands of sensual pleasures is comparable to the fire that burns supported on grass and sticks. Young man what is that joy that arises away from the five strands of sensual pleasures and away from thoughts of demerit? Here, young man, the bhikkhu away from sensual desires, and angry thoughts abides in the first jhana. This is joy away from sensual desires and angry thoughts. Again, the bhikkhu overcoming thoughts and thought processes…re…. abides in the second jhana. This too is joy away from sensual desires and angry thoughts. ”

    ‘……………. with whom you see these things more prevalent, is it among householders or those gone forth homeless?’

    With metta,

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