Kāmā

Posted: July 17, 2018 by pathpress in Dhamma Article

by Ven. Ariyavaṃsa

dujjānaṃ kho etaṃ, kaccāna, tayā aññadiṭṭhikena aññakhantikena aññarucikena aññatrayogena aññatrācariyakena—kāmā vā kāmasukhaṃ vā…

This is difficult to understand, Kaccāna, for you with another view, with another belief, with another influence, with an association elsewhere, with a teacher from elsewhere—kāmā or the pleasure of kāmā

MN 80

1. “Let’s make some distinctions…”1

The Pali word kāmā is perhaps most frequently rendered in English as “sensual pleasures”. This translation is, I think, rather misleading, given the fact that the Buddha explicitly distinguished between kāmā and the pleasure that arises dependent on them.

pañca kho ime, ānanda, kāmaguṇā. katame pañca? cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā, sotaviññeyyā saddā…pe…. ghānaviññeyyā gandhā…pe…. jivhāviññeyyā rasā…pe…. kāyaviññeyyā phoṭṭhabbā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā—ime kho, ānanda, pañca kāmaguṇā. yaṃ kho, ānanda, ime pañca kāmaguṇe paṭicca uppajjati sukhaṃ somanassaṃ idaṃ vuccati kāmasukhaṃ.”

Ānanda, there are these five strands of kāmā. Which five? Sights cognizable by the eye which are wished for, desired, pleasing, loved, accompanied by kāma, impassioning. Sounds cognizable by the ear… tastes cognizable by the tongue… touches cognizable by the body which are wished for, desired, pleasing, loved, accompanied by kāma, impassioning. These, Ānanda, are the five strands of kāmā. Ānanda, whatever pleasure or happiness that arises dependent on these five strands of kāmā, this is called the pleasure of kāma.

MN 59

The five strands of kāmā are not pleasures but, rather, that dependent upon which a particular kind of pleasure arises. It would seem, therefore, that the phrase “sensual pleasure” would be a more appropriate translation for kāmasukha than for kāmā. In that case, if we translate kāmasukha as “sensual pleasure” or, perhaps, “the pleasure of sensuality”, we might choose to translate kāmā as “sensuality”. This would allow us to maintain this distinction between kāmā and kāmasukha. However, the English words “sensual” and “sensuality” have definite sexual connotations and it is probably not very helpful to create such a close link between kāmā and sex. Of course, the expression kāmesumicchācārā, which refers to wrong behaviour on account of kāmā, does indeed refer to sexual activity and is, quite appropriately, usually translated as “sexual misconduct”.

nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekarūpampi (ekasaddampi…pe…. ekagandhampi… ekarasampi… ekaphoṭṭhabbampi) samanupassāmi yaṃ evaṃ rajanīyaṃ evaṃ kamanīyaṃ evaṃ madanīyaṃ evaṃ bandhanīyaṃ evaṃ mucchanīyaṃ evaṃ antarāyakaraṃ anuttarassa yogakkhemassa adhigamāya yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, itthirūpaṃ (itthisaddampi…pe…. itthigandhampi… itthirasampi… itthiphoṭṭhabbampi). itthirūpe (itthisadde…pe…. itthigandhe… itthirase… itthiphoṭṭhabbe), bhikkhave, sattā rattā giddhā gathitā mucchitā ajjhosannā te dīgharattaṃ socanti itthirūpavasānugā (itthisaddavasānugā…pe…. itthigandhavasānugā… itthirasavasānugā… itthiphoṭṭhabbavasānugā).

Bhikkhus, I do not see one other sight (… sound… smell… taste… touch) that is so impassioning, so desirable, so intoxicating, so captivating, so infatuating, and so much of an obstacle to attaining unsurpassed security-from-bondage than the sight (…sound… smell… taste… touch) of a woman. Bhikkhus, beings who are impassioned by, greedy for, tied to, infatuated with, attached to the sight (…sound… smell… taste… touch) of a woman sorrow for a long time under the control of the sight (…sound… smell… taste… touch) of a woman.

AN 5:55

There may not be anything else that grips the mind of a man more powerfully than the sight, sound, smell, taste or touch of a woman, and yet that does not mean that kāmā should always be thought of in terms of sexual activity. There are countless other enticing things that overpower an untrained mind. In addition to this semantic issue there is also a grammatical point worth noting. The English word “sensuality” is a singular uncountable noun whereas kāmā is plural and countable. Although we do find it in the suttas in its singular form (kāma, kāmaṃ, etc.), it is more commonly given as a plural noun (kāmā, kāme, kāmesu, etc.). It may prove to be relatively inconsequential, but we may note here that to translate kāmā as “sensuality” does not allow for this plurality.

As well as distinguishing between kāmā and kāmasukha, the Buddha was also careful to explicitly distinguish between kāmā and kāmaguṇā. The pañca kāmaguṇā, as we have seen in MN 59, are accompanied by kāmā (or kāma). Also, in AN 6:63, a sutta which provides us with a description of kāmā, their origin, diversity, result, cessation, and the way leading to their cessation, we find the following:

pañcime, bhikkhave, kāmaguṇā — cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā, sotaviññeyyā saddā… ghānaviññeyyā gandhā… jivhāviññeyyā rasā… kāyaviññeyyā phoṭṭhabbā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā. api ca kho, bhikkhave, nete kāmā kāmaguṇā nāmete ariyassa vinaye vuccanti —

saṅkapparāgo purisassa kāmo,
nete kāmā yāni citrāni loke.
saṅkapparāgo purisassa kāmo,
tiṭṭhanti citrāni tatheva loke.
athettha dhīrā vinayanti chanda”nti.

Bhikkhus, there are these five kāmaguṇā. Sights cognizable by the eye which are wished for, desired, pleasing, loved, accompanied by kāma, impassioning. Sounds cognizable by the ear… tastes cognizable by the tongue… touches cognizable by the body which are wished for, desired, pleasing, loved, accompanied by kāma, impassioning. And yet, bhikkhus, these are not kāmā, these are called kāmaguṇā in the noble one’s discipline.

Kāma is the passion of a man’s thoughts,
It is not these kāmā that are the various things in the world.
Kāma is the passion of a man’s thoughts,
The various things remain just as they are in the world,
Whereas the wise remove desire.”

AN 6:63

It is quite clear that the Buddha wanted to distinguish between kāma, kāmasukha and kāmaguṇā. What, then, are the phenomena that these words are designating and how are we to translate them into English? The PTS Pali-English Dictionary provides the following definition:

kāma:

1. Objective: pleasantness, pleasure-giving, an object of sensual enjoyment;

2. Subjective: (a) enjoyment, pleasure on occasion of sense, (b) sense-desire.

The first thing we can note here is that the necessary distinctions between kāma, kāmasukha and kāmaguṇā are not accounted for. Second: it is unclear how objective “pleasantness” is to be distinguished from subjective “pleasure on occasion of sense”. However, the fundamental problem that needs to be addressed is the fact that this definition emerges out of the modern metaphysical assumption that our experience is divided into these two domains: the subjective and the objective. Because of this assumption, the phenomenon of kāma is obscured.

 

2. The subjective-objective schema

“This schema must be avoided: What exists are subjects and objects

Heidegger 1999: 62

In order to begin to dislodge the deep-rooted assumptions involved in this standard definition of kāma, we might begin with the preliminary observation that the words “objective” and “subjective” emerged relatively recently in our history. In fact, we might go so far as to say that applying this framework to the Buddha’s teaching is an anachronism. Thanks to the influence of a long line of thinkers since the Buddha, such as Aristotle, Descartes, Kant and, more recently, with the success of modern science, these terms have a significance for us today which would not have made sense in India, 2,500 years ago. To describe this in the terminology of Heidegger, our understanding of being (Seinsverständnis)2 has undergone radical transformations throughout history. According to Heidegger, in his later writings, being (Sein) is not a universal, acultural, ahistorical phenomenon. There is a history of being (Seinsgeschichte)3a history, that is, not of the particular thoughts, words, experiences or actions of man, but of the different background understandings that shape and constitute the meaning of all these foreground activities. It is the series of the different ways in which the being of what is (Das Sein des Seienden)—that understanding in virtue of which everything is what it is—has been given to us throughout history.4 For Heidegger, ontology—the study of this “being of what is”—is essentially “a theoretical inquiry which is explicitly devoted to the meaning of what is” (1962: 32[12]).5 Ontology, therefore, must be approached phenomenologically. And if we are to think diachronically in terms of the history of being, what is required is a phenomenological account of the history of meaning.

It is largely thanks to Descartes, writing in the 17th century, and then Kant in the 18th century, that things today tend to be revealed to us as objects which we, as subjects, are presented with. To be is to be an object representable to (or, for Kant, constituted by) a perceiving subject. Descartes claimed that he was “certain that I can have no knowledge of what is outside me except by means of the ideas I have within me” (Descartes 1642, cited in Taylor 2005: 26). Taylor (ibid) calls this framework of understanding a “mediational epistemology”. It is the assumption that our knowledge of the world (outer, objective) comes through, or is mediated by, the representations (inner, subjective) we form of it ourselves. It is important to recognise that for those who are gripped by this assumption, this is not just an opinion that they hold; it is a tacit structuring framework that guides all thinking.

It wasn’t until the second half of the last century that this background understanding was first recognised as such. Rather than being ‘the way things are’, the subject-object schema was seen as one particular way of understanding ‘the way things are’—and as historically contingent. Only then did it become clear that everyone had been held captive by this picture for so long. It had so powerfully dominated everyone’s thinking with a strength and perniciousness that came from its elusive, background nature.

Precisely because of its framework status, it was rarely consciously focused on; it just went on shaping the thoughts that were in the foreground, without our really being aware of its action. Or put another way, qua framework it felt obvious, unchallengeable, the necessary irreplaceable context for all thinking about these matters, hence not something one would ever need to examine. In this way, it worked insidiously and powerfully.

Taylor 2005: 28

Phenomenology—the philosophy which, at least in the work of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, was always rooted in the effort to transcend the subject-object dichotomy—reveals that there is something very wrong in employing these terms in our attempts to understand our phenomenal experience. It also provides us with a positive alternative—a perspective that can help to put us in the right direction in order to grasp the teachings of the Buddha. This perspective begins with the recognition that our experience is always meaningful. Things are not indifferently out there in the universe, standing over against us as independent objects. We do not first of all encounter bare, decontextualised things and then subsequently slap subjective meanings onto them. Rather, things can only ever be encountered in relation to our needs and interests. We always encounter things as something or other. Things are meaningfully present to us, they matter to us, they concern us, they are significant to us. But in order for there to always be this relation between us and the things we encounter, there must a priori be a space, a clearing (Heidegger), a field (Merleau-Ponty), which is always already open and functioning, within which that relation can be accessed. Indeed, according to Heidegger, Dasein is this always-already-operative thrown-open clearing. It is our nature, he says, to always find ourselves already thrown into our own ex-sistence6 as the open clearing.

When we talk in the ontically figurative way of the lumen naturale in man, we have in mind nothing other than the existential-ontological structure of this entity, that it is in such a way to be its “there”.7 To say that it is ‘illuminated’ [“erleuchtet] means that as being-in-the-world it is cleared [gelichtet] in itself, not through any other entity, but in such a way that it is itself the clearing [Lichtung].

Heidegger 1962: 171[133]

To talk about an objective world is to talk, not about my meaningful experience of things that concern me (made possible by this clearing), but about a world which is independent of my experience of it—a public world which precedes me and my concerns, which existed before I was born and will continue to exist after I have gone. The objective world is comprised of self-sufficient entities which do not need me to be what they are and whose properties are fully determinate, whether I am able to determine them for myself or not. The taking-for-granted of this objective world—what Husserl called “the natural attitude” and what Merleau-Ponty called “the prejudice of the world” (le préjugé du monde)—has obscured our capacity to see the existential-ontological structure which makes our lived experience possible.

Phenomenology is “a transcendental philosophy which places in abeyance the assertions arising out of the natural attitude, the better to understand them” (Merleau-Ponty 2002: vii). What we learn is that the natural attitude leads to a form of naïve realism, such that the things that are seen, heard, smelled, tasted and touched are assumed to be objectively real prior to my engagement with them. As Venerable Ñāṇavīra (2010) showed so well, this objective world has nothing whatsoever to do with the Buddha’s teaching, since the latter is concerned solely with the problem of one’s personal existence and this cannot be accessed objectively. However, what phenomenology has also taught us is that this belief in the objective world comes with the implication that one’s thoughts about that world are just in one’s head and are not ‘real’ in the same way. Subjectivity amounts to nothing more than the inner representations of one’s outer reality.

We pass from absolute objectivity to absolute subjectivity, but this second idea is not better than the first and is upheld only against it, which means by it.

Merleau-Ponty 2002: 45

Since it is comprised only of representations, our subjective experience can only be an incomplete, possibly inaccurate, depiction of ‘the things themselves’, obscured by one’s own subjective emotions, feelings, presumptions, inclinations. This is why the scientist disregards his unreliable subjective experience and focuses exclusively on the reliable empirical data of his five senses in order to get to ‘objective truth’. For him, objectivity is synonymous with truth, while subjectivity is nothing more than mental images, imaginary spectres, phantasms.

Not only does the objective world have nothing to do with the Dhamma, neither does the subjective. As Merleau-Ponty puts it: “what we discover by going beyond the prejudice of the objective world is not an occult inner world” (2002: 67).

This phenomenal field is not an ‘inner world’, the ‘phenomenon’ is not a ‘state of consciousness’, or a ‘mental fact’, and the experience of phenomena is not an act of introspection or an intuition…

Merleau-Ponty 2002: 66

If kāmā are not external, publicly accessible objects, then neither are they internal mental states to be found inside you by a process of introspection.

 

3. Defining kāmā

Let us now return to the suttas and attempt a definition of kāmā, taking the Pali as our guide. We can begin with the observation that kāma is clearly semantically connected with the verb kāmeti, which means “he desires”. As we have already seen, the word kāmaguṇā is used to describe the things one can see, hear, smell, taste and touch which one desires. But we may also take note of the fact that these things are described as being kāmūpasaṃhitā (“accompanied by kāma”). What is being referred to by the word kāma, then, is that more general phenomenon which is the desire that accompanies these desirable things. Kāma is the “desire” that comes with the things which one desires which one can access by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. The plural form, kāmā, simply refers to the various “desires” that accompany the various desirable things which one might encounter on account of these five senses. Since these desires are specifically confined to things which one accesses by means of the five senses, perhaps we can translate kāmā as “desires-of-the-senses” or “sense-desires”. We might think of kāma (desire-of-the-senses; sense-desire) as a particular kind of desire (chanda). Or, to approach from the other direction, chanda refers to a more general phenomenon which can only be recognised by surmounting the desire for things one can see, hear, smell, taste or touch. Chanda is the desire for phenomena in general (dhammā) and these are cognizable by the mind (mano). It is this kind of desire which Venerable Sāriputta discerned whilst he was secluded from kāmā and in jhāna (see MN 111). This would mean that kāmacchanda should be understood to be that particular kind of desire which is the desire that pertains to the five senses. In other words, kāmacchanda can be understood as simply being another way of saying kāma.

If kāmā are sense-desires, then the pañca kāmaguṇā are the five “strands of sense-desire”, the five ways in which sense-desire manifests, the five kinds of things which are experienced with kāma. Of course, there can be no desire without that which one desires, and there can be no thing which one desires if there is no desire present. When there is kāmā there is kāmaguṇā, when there is kāmaguṇā there is kāmā. But, even though kāmā and kāmaguṇā come together and are bound up with each other, they can be distinguished. We do not need to designate one as inner/subjective and the other as outer/objective—but we can recognise that they are different phenomena, each determining the other.

But in order to understand kāma correctly, there is an essential aspect which we have not yet considered which must now be acknowledged. That which one has kāma for, the kāmaguṇā, are not the things which I can actually see, hear, smell, taste or touch right now. They are things which are cakkhuviññeyyā, sotaviññeyyā, ghānaviññeyyā, jivhāviññeyyā and kāyaviññeyyā—cognizable by the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. They are the things which could possibly be present in these ways. They are the things which I might see, hear, smell, taste or touch, given that which I am actually seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or touching. That which is actually present affords various possibilities and it is in terms of these possibilities that this thing is understood to be what it is. To take Venerable Ñāṇavīra’s example:

A sheet of paper lying on a table is determined as a sheet of paper by its potentialities or possibilities—i.e. for what it is for. It can be used for writing on, for drawing on, for wrapping up something, for wiping up a mess, for covering another sheet, for burning, and so on… [I]f it were not for the fact that these particular potentialities are associated with the object on the table we would not see the object as a ‘sheet of paper’. These potentialities, which are not the object, determine it for what it is.

Ñāṇavīra 2010: 21

Whatever one attends to, that is understood to be something or other—but this understanding-something-to-be-something-or-other already presupposes and is made possible by that thing’s potentialities. “Greater than actuality stands possibility”, says Heidegger (1962: 63 [38]). Or, in the words of the Buddha:

manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā.

Things are preceded by mind, excelled by mind, made by mind.

Dhp 1

For every thing that one experiences, that thing is determined by its possibilities and, ordinarily, some of these possibilities will be desired over others. One who indulges in sense-desires is simply following after a possibility which has been suggested by (and, conversely, which makes intelligible) the particular thing that one is attending to. One who is gripped by sense-desire has been gripped by the desire for a possibility to become actual. Why is the potential actualisation of this particular possibility desired over others? Because of the pleasure that one assumes will be felt once this particular possibility is actualised. One who is overpowered by kāmā has been overpowered by nothing other than possibilities—possibilities of pleasure. But the pleasure of sense-desires is twofold: that which is desired is desired because of the assumption that it will be pleasurable once it is attained, and this very suggestion of pleasure is itself felt as pleasurable.

 

4. The danger of kāmā

One who indulges in sense-desires does so because he sees no alternative to the pleasure he attains on account of these sense-desires.

taṃ kutettha, aggivessana, labbhā. yaṃ taṃ nekkhammena ñātabbaṃ nekkhammena daṭṭhabbaṃ nekkhammena pattabbaṃ nekkhammena sacchikātabbaṃ taṃ vata jayaseno rājakumāro kāmamajjhe vasanto kāme paribhuñjanto kāmavitakkehi khajjamāno kāmapariḷāhena pariḍayhamāno kāmapariyesanāya ussuko ñassati vā dakkhati vā sacchi vā karissatī”ti — netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati.

Aggivessana, how is it possible that Prince Jayasena, dwelling in the midst of sense-desires, enjoying sense-desires, being consumed by thoughts of sense-desire, being burnt by the fever of sense-desires, active in the search for sense-desires, will understand or see or realise what should be understood by renunciation, what should be seen by renunciation, what should be attained by renunciation, what should be realised by renunciation—this is not possible.

MN 125

Because he is actively searching for sense-desires, everything he experiences is already determined by that which he has already set his sights upon. He is blinded to that which is superior by his desire for that which is inferior. If only he knew that there is a pleasure which far surpasses the pleasure of sense-desires, and that it would be far better for him to desire this.

yaṃ kho, ānanda, ime pañca kāmaguṇe paṭicca uppajjati sukhaṃ somanassaṃ idaṃ vuccati kāmasukhaṃ. yo kho, ānanda, evaṃ vadeyya — ‘etaparamaṃ sattā sukhaṃ somanassaṃ paṭisaṃvedentī’ti, idamassa nānujānāmi. taṃ kissa hetu? atthānanda, etamhā sukhā aññaṃ sukhaṃ abhikkantatarañca paṇītatarañca.

Ānanda, whatever pleasure and happiness that arises dependent on these five strands of sense-desire—this is called the pleasure of sense-desire. Ānanda, whoever might say: “This is the best pleasure and happiness that beings experience,” I do not go along with this. For what reason? Because, Ānanda, there is another pleasure more excellent and more sublime that this pleasure.

MN 14

In MN 75, the Buddha tells the wanderer Māgandiya that before he went forth into homelessness, when he was still living at home, he used to enjoy the pleasure of sense-desires. However, he later abandoned all desire for this pleasure.

“seyyathāpi, māgaṇḍiya, kuṭṭhī puriso arugatto pakkagatto kimīhi khajjamāno nakhehi vaṇamukhāni vippatacchamāno aṅgārakāsuyā kāyaṃ paritāpeyya. tassa mittāmaccā ñātisālohitā bhisakkaṃ sallakattaṃ upaṭṭhāpeyyuṃ. tassa so bhisakko sallakatto bhesajjaṃ kareyya. so taṃ bhesajjaṃ āgamma kuṭṭhehi parimucceyya, arogo assa sukhī serī sayaṃvasī yena kāmaṃ gamo. so aññaṃ kuṭṭhiṃ purisaṃ passeyya arugattaṃ pakkagattaṃ kimīhi khajjamānaṃ nakhehi vaṇamukhāni vippatacchamānaṃ aṅgārakāsuyā kāyaṃ paritāpentaṃ.

taṃ kiṃ maññasi, māgaṇḍiya, api nu so puriso amussa kuṭṭhissa purisassa piheyya aṅgārakāsuyā vā bhesajjaṃ paṭisevanāya vā”ti? “no hidaṃ, bho gotama. taṃ kissa hetu? roge hi, bho gotama, sati bhesajjena karaṇīyaṃ hoti, roge asati na bhesajjena karaṇīyaṃ hotī”ti. “evameva kho, māgandiya, … so aññe satte passāmi kāmesu avītarāge kāmataṇhāhi khajjamāne kāmapariḷāhena pariḍayhamāne kāme paṭisevante. so tesaṃ na pihemi, na tattha abhiramāmi. taṃ kissa hetu? yāhayaṃ, māgaṇḍiya, rati, aññatreva kāmehi aññatra akusalehi dhammehi — api dibbaṃ sukhaṃ samadhigayha tiṭṭhati — tāya ratiyā ramamāno hīnassa na pihemi, na tattha abhiramāmi.

Suppose, Māgandiya, a leper, with sores over his body, his body decaying, being eaten by worms, scratching the scabs with his nails, would scorch his body in a charcoal pit. His friends and relatives would provide him with a doctor. The doctor would make some medicine for him. On account of this medicine, he would be cured of leprosy, he would be healthy, happy, independent, going wherever he desires. Then he might see another leper, with sores over his body, his body decaying, being eaten by worms, scorching his body in a charcoal pit.

What do you think, Māgandiya, would this man envy that leper, with his charcoal pit, or his use of medicine?” “Of course not, Master Gotama. For what reason? Because when there is disease, there is a need for medicine, when there isn’t any disease, there isn’t a need for medicine.” “In just this way, Māgandiya… I see other beings not free from passion of sense-desires, being consumed by the craving of sense-desires, burning with the fever of sense-desires, indulging in sense-desires. I do not envy them; I do not delight in this. For what reason? Because, Māgandiya, there is this delight, somewhere other than sense-desires, somewhere other than unwholesome phenomena—which even surpasses heavenly pleasure. Delighting in that delight, I do not envy what is inferior; I do not delight in this.”

MN 75

After having abandoned sense-desire, whenever he sees people who crave for the pleasure of the senses, he does not envy them or delight in their situation because he now understands that there is a pleasure apart from sense-desires, which surpasses even the bliss of the highest heavens.

yo dukkhamaddakkhi yatonidānaṃ,
kāmesu so jantu kathaṃ nameyya.

Whoever is one who sees the source of suffering,
How could this man incline towards sense-desires?

SN 4:20

The ordinary person, not understanding the nature of sense-desires, does not see anything superior to the pleasure of sense-desires. As far as he can see, the only way to avoid painful feeling is to indulge in sense-desires.8 Not knowing any better, he thinks: natthi kāmesu doso’ti (“There is no fault in sense-desires”).9 This, the Buddha, tells us, is very dangerous.

yaṃ kho, udāyi, ime pañca kāmaguṇe paṭicca uppajjati sukhaṃ somanassaṃ idaṃ vuccati kāmasukhaṃ miḷhasukhaṃ puthujjanasukhaṃ anariyasukhaṃ, na sevitabbaṃ, na bhāvetabbaṃ, na bahulīkātabbaṃ; ‘bhāyitabbaṃ etassa sukhassā’ti vadāmi.

Udāyin, whatever pleasure or happiness arises dependent on these five strands of sense-desire, this is called the pleasure of sense-desire, a crap pleasure, a puthujjana’s pleasure, an ignoble pleasure. I say of this pleasure that it should not be followed, it should not be developed, it should not be made much of, it should be feared.

MN 66

Not only is the pleasure of sense-desires an inferior pleasure, surpassed by a far more refined pleasure that has nothing to do with sense-desire, but, unbeknownst to him, when the ordinary person indulges in the pleasure of sense-desires, he brings upon himself a whole lot of suffering. In MN 13, the Buddha describes the various dangers that come with sense-desires: facing cold, heat, mosquitoes, wind, burning and creeping things; risking death by hunger or thirst; working hard; worrying about protecting one’s property from kings, thieves, fire, water, hateful heirs; quarrelling with others; fighting with others; injuring others; killing others; going to war; being wounded or killed in war; being tortured by kings for one’s misconduct on account of sense-desires; and, after death, having to reappear in a hell realm on account of one’s misconduct. Although there is a pleasure involved in sense-desires, the danger and the suffering that comes with them is even greater.

‘appassādā kāmā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā, ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo’ti

Sense-desires are of little enjoyment, much suffering, much trouble, and there is even more danger here.’

MN 14

This is what the puthujjana does not see: that although there is a pleasure involved in sense-desires, this is a pleasure that brings with it a lot of pain. Sense-desires, therefore, are inherently deceitful. They offer a promise of pleasure but this promise is misleading.

aniccā, bhikkhave, kāmā tucchā musā mosadhammā

Bhikkhus, sense-desires are impermanent, empty, a lie, of the nature of lies

MN 106

In order to understand why sense-desires are of the nature of lies, one must be able to see this phenomenon of sense-desires as such. Until one clearly sees this for oneself, one remains bound to them, not seeing an escape from them, not knowing any other means of finding pleasure and, thereby, remaining subject to suffering.

kāmā, bhikkhave, veditabbā, kāmānaṃ nidānasambhavo veditabbo, kāmānaṃ vemattatā veditabbā, kāmānaṃ vipāko veditabbo, kāmanirodho veditabbo, kāmanirodhagāminī paṭipadā veditabbā.

Bhikkhus, sense-desires should be seen, the cause-&-origin of sense-desires should be seen, the diversity of sense-desires should be seen, the result of sense-desires should be seen, the cessation of sense-desires should be seen, the way leading to the cessation of sense-desires should be seen.

AN 6:63

In order to find an escape from sense-desires, a place where one is secluded (and where one knows that one is secluded) from sense-desires, one must understand the nature of sense-desires.

 

5. vivicceva kāmehi

Seclusion from sense-desires is a requirement for jhāna.

idhāvuso bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. tassa ce, āvuso, bhikkhuno iminā vihārena viharato kāmasahagatā saññāmanasikārā samudācaranti, svassa hoti ābādho. seyyathāpi, āvuso, sukhino dukkhaṃ uppajjeyya yāvadeva ābādhāya; evamevassa te kāmasahagatā saññāmanasikārā samudācaranti. svassa hoti ābādho.

Here, friend, quite secluded from sense-desires, secluded from unwholesome phenomena, a bhikkhu dwells having entered upon the first jhāna, with thinking, with pondering, a joy-&-happiness born from seclusion. Friend, if for a bhikkhu dwelling with this dwelling perceptions-&-attentions occur that are connected with sense-desire, for him this is an affliction. Friend, just as pain might arise for one who feels pleasure, only to the extent of an affliction, so too if perceptions-&-attentions occur for him that are connected with sense-desire, for him this is an affliction.

AN 9:34

Jhāna is where sense-desires cease.

kattha kāmā nirujjhanti, ke ca kāme nirodhetvā nirodhetvā viharantiahametaṃ na jānāmi ahametaṃ na passāmī’ti, iti yo evaṃ vadeyya, so evamassa vacanīyo — ‘idhāvuso, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. ettha kāmā nirujjhanti, te ca kāme nirodhetvā nirodhetvā viharantī’ti.

Where do sense-desires cease and who are those who dwell having completely ended sense-desires?—I do not understand this, I do not see this.” Whoever might speak in this way should be told this: “Here, friend, quite secluded from sense-desires, secluded from unwholesome phenomena, a bhikkhu dwells having entered upon the first jhāna, with thinking, with pondering, a joy-&-happiness born from seclusion. Here sense-desires cease and these are the ones who dwell having completely ended sense-desires.”

AN 9:33

It is theoretically possible for a puthujjana to dwell secluded from sense-desires.10 However, a careful reader of the suttas will notice that when the Buddha talks about jhāna he is usually addressing (or describing) not puthujjanas but sekhasthat is, those who have already attained sotāpatti and are practising in order to attain arahattaphala.

“‘sekkho, sekkho’ti, bhante, vuccati. kittāvatā nu kho, bhante, sekkho hotī”ti?

“idha, bhikkhu, sekkhāya sammādiṭṭhiyā samannāgato hoti … pe … sekkhena sammāsamādhinā samannāgato hoti. ettāvatā kho, bhikkhu, sekkho hotī”ti.

He is called ‘a trainee’, Bhante, ‘a trainee’. To what extent, Bhante, is he a trainee?”

Here, bhikkhu, one is endowed with the right view of a trainee… one is endowed with the right composure of a trainee. To this extent, bhikkhu, he is a trainee.”

SN 45:13

“‘sekho, sekho’ti, bhante, vuccati. kittāvatā nu kho, bhante, sekho hotī”ti?

sikkhatīti kho, bhikkhu, tasmā sekhoti vuccati. kiñca sikkhati? adhisīlampi sikkhati, adhicittampi sikkhati, adhipaññampi sikkhati. sikkhatīti kho, bhikkhu, tasmā sekhoti vuccatī”ti.

He is called ‘a trainee’, Bhante, ‘a trainee’. To what extent, Bhante, is he a trainee?”

“‘He trains’, bhikkhu, therefore he is called ‘a trainee’. And in what does he train? He trains in the higher virtue, he trains in the higher mind and he trains in the higher understanding. ‘He trains’, bhikkhu, therefore he is called ‘a trainee’.”

AN 3:85

katamā ca, bhikkhave, adhicittasikkhā? idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi … pe … catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, adhicittasikkhā.

And bhikkhus, which is the training in the higher mind? Here, bhikkhus, quite secluded from sense-desires… a bhikkhu dwells having entered upon the fourth jhāna. This, bhikkhus, is called the training in the higher mind.

AN 3:89

When the Buddha described the gradual training (e.g. MN 27), his description of the bhikkhu who dwells in jhāna applies to a noble disciple who has already acquired right view and, therefore, is practising properly (sāmīcippaṭipanna).

so iminā ca ariyena sīlakkhandhena samannāgato, iminā ca ariyena indriyasaṃvarena samannāgato, iminā ca ariyena satisampajaññena samannāgato vivittaṃ senāsanaṃ bhajati araññaṃ rukkhamūlaṃ… so pacchābhattaṃ piṇḍapātapaṭikkanto nisīdati pallaṅkaṃ ābhujitvā, ujuṃ kāyaṃ paṇidhāya, parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā…

so ime pañca nīvaraṇe pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkaraṇe, vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.

Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, endowed with this noble sense-restraint, endowed with this noble mindfulness-&-awareness, he makes use of secluded lodgings: a forest, the root of a tree… Returning from almsround, after the meal, he sits down, having crossed his legs, trying to keep his body upright, having set up mindfulness in front…

Having abandoned the five hindrances, the mental defilements that weaken understanding, quite secluded from sense-desires, secluded from unwholesome phenomena, he dwells having entered upon the first jhāna, with thinking, with pondering, a joy-&-happiness born from seclusion.

MN 27

What this suggests is that, rather than trying to attain jhāna, the puthujjana should be focusing on making the effort to cease being a puthujjana and to find the view that is noble, that leads him out, that leads him to the complete destruction of all suffering.11 It is more important for him to establish the right understanding of the nature of sense-desires. What’s more, the suttas tell us that even though a noble disciple, accomplished in view, possessed of right view, understands the nature of sense-desires, it is quite possible that he may not yet have found the pleasure of jhāna.

appassādā kāmā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā, ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo’ti — iti cepi, mahānāma, ariyasāvakassa yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya sudiṭṭhaṃ hoti, so ca aññatreva kāmehi aññatra akusalehi dhammehi pītisukhaṃ nādhigacchati, aññaṃ vā tato santataraṃ; atha kho so neva tāva anāvaṭṭī kāmesu hoti. yato ca kho, mahānāma, ariyasāvakassa ‘appassādā kāmā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā, ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo’ti — evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya sudiṭṭhaṃ hoti, so ca aññatreva kāmehi aññatra akusalehi dhammehi pītisukhaṃ adhigacchati aññaṃ vā tato santataraṃ; atha kho so anāvaṭṭī kāmesu hoti.

Mahānāma, even though it is clearly seen by a noble disciple, as it is, with right understanding: ‘Sense-desires are of little enjoyment, much suffering, much trouble, and there is even more danger here’, if he has not found a joy-&-happiness somewhere other than sense-desires, somewhere other than unwholesome phenomena, or more peaceful than that, then he will not he be unmoved by sense-desires. But wherever it is clearly seen by a noble disciple, as it is, with right understanding: ‘Sense-desires are of little enjoyment, much suffering, much trouble, and there is even more danger here’, and he has found a joy-&-happiness somewhere other than sense-desires, somewhere other than unwholesome phenomena, or more peaceful than that, then he will be unmoved by sense-desires.

MN 14

This is why the Buddha was able to distinguish, in MN 70, between the kāyasakkhi (“body witness”), who dwells having contacted with the body8 those peaceful immaterial liberations that pass beyond matter, and both the diṭṭhippatto (“one attained to view”) and the saddhāvimutto (“one liberated by faith”) who don’t. This is also why the jhānas are described as more sublime than the knowing-&-seeing that comes with sotāpatti.

idha, brāhmaṇa, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. ayampi kho, brāhmaṇa, dhammo ñāṇadassanena uttaritaro ca paṇītataro ca.

Here, brahmin, quite secluded from sense-desires, secluded from unwholesome phenomena, a bhikkhu dwells having entered upon the first jhāna, with thinking, with pondering, a joy-&-happiness born from seclusion. This, brahmin, is a phenomenon beyond, more sublime than knowing-&-seeing.

MN 30

The puthujjanas primary concern should be to develop the right understanding of sense-desires. Only once he has this understanding—and is no longer a puthujjanawill he be in a position to properly develop jhāna and fulfil the path factor of sammāsamādhi.

seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, saradasamaye viddhe vigatavalāhake deve ādicco nabhaṃ abbhussakkamāno sabbaṃ ākāsagataṃ tamagataṃ abhivihacca bhāsate ca tapate ca virocati ca.

evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, yato ariyasāvakassa virajaṃ vītamalaṃ dhammacakkhuṃ uppajjati, saha dassanuppādā, bhikkhave, ariyasāvakassa tīṇi saṃyojanāni pahīyanti — sakkāyadiṭṭhi, vicikicchā, sīlabbataparāmāso.

athāparaṃ dvīhi dhammehi niyyāti abhijjhāya ca byāpādena ca. so vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. tasmiṃ ce, bhikkhave, samaye ariyasāvako kālaṃ kareyya, natthi taṃ saṃyojanaṃ yena saṃyojanena saṃyutto ariyasāvako puna imaṃ lokaṃ āgaccheyyā”ti.

Suppose, bhikkhus, in the autumn season, when the sky is clear and the clouds have gone away, the sun, rising in the sky, having dispelled all darkness from the sky, shines, glows and radiates.

In just this way, bhikkhus, for whichever noble disciple the dust-free, stainless eye of Dhamma arises, together with the arising of seeing, for the noble disciple three fetters are abandoned: personality-view, doubt, holding to virtue-&-duties.

Furthermore, he gets out of the two phenomena of covetousness and ill-will. Quite secluded from sense-desires, secluded from unwholesome phenomena, with thinking, with pondering, the joy-&-happiness born of seclusion, he dwells having entered upon the first jhāna. Bhikkhus, if on this occasion the noble disciple dies, there is no fetter fettered by which the noble disciple might come again to this world.”

AN 3:94

How, then, does one who understands the nature of sense-desires go beyond them and dwell secluded from them? Here it may be helpful to investigate the meaning of the first part of the Buddha’s instruction in MN 106, where we are given a description of three different ways in which a noble disciple might surmount the domain of sense-desires, opening up a way that is suitable for entering upon the imperturbable. The three ways to do this are as follows: through mind, through body, through impermanence.

 

5.1 … mind

aniccā, bhikkhave, kāmā tucchā musā mosadhammā. māyākatame taṃ, bhikkhave, bālalāpanaṃ. ye ca diṭṭhadhammikā kāmā, ye ca samparāyikā kāmā; ca diṭṭhadhammikā kāmasaññā, ca samparāyikā kāmasaññāubhayametaṃ māradheyyaṃ, mārassesa visayo, mārassesa nivāpo, mārassesa gocaro. etthete pāpakā akusalā mānasā abhijjhāpi byāpādāpi sārambhāpi saṃvattanti. teva ariyasāvakassa idhamanusikkhato antarāyāya sambhavanti. tatra, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati — ‘ye ca diṭṭhadhammikā kāmā, ye ca samparāyikā kāmā; ca diṭṭhadhammikā kāmasaññā, ca samparāyikā kāmasaññāubhayametaṃ māradheyyaṃ, mārassesa visayo, mārassesa nivāpo, mārassesa gocaro. etthete pāpakā akusalā mānasā abhijjhāpi byāpādāpi sārambhāpi saṃvattanti, teva ariyasāvakassa idhamanusikkhato antarāyāya sambhavanti. yaṃnūnāhaṃ vipulena mahaggatena cetasā vihareyyaṃ abhibhuyya lokaṃ adhiṭṭhāya manasā. vipulena hi me mahaggatena cetasā viharato abhibhuyya lokaṃ adhiṭṭhāya manasā ye pāpakā akusalā mānasā abhijjhāpi byāpādāpi sārambhāpi te na bhavissanti. tesaṃ pahānā aparittañca me cittaṃ bhavissati appamāṇaṃ subhāvitan’ti. tassa evaṃpaṭipannassa tabbahulavihārino āyatane cittaṃ pasīdati. sampasāde sati etarahi āneñjaṃ samāpajjati paññāya adhimuccati kāyassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā. ṭhānametaṃ vijjati yaṃ taṃsaṃvattanikaṃ viññāṇaṃ assa āneñjūpagaṃ.

Bhikkhus, sense-desires are impermanent, empty, a lie, of the nature of lies. That which is deceitful is the utterance of fools. Whatever sense-desires in this world, whatever sense-desires to do with the next world, whatever perceptions-of-sense-desire in this world, whatever perceptions-of-sense-desire to do with the next world—both of these are Māra’s realm, the region of this Māra, the bait of this Māra, the feeding ground of this Māra. They lead here to these evil unwholesome mental phenomena of covetousness, ill-will and anger. They produce an obstacle here for the training of the noble disciple. In this case, bhikkhus, a noble disciple reflects thus: ‘Whatever sense-desires in this world, whatever sense-desires to do with the next world, whatever perceptions-of-sense-desire in this world, whatever perceptions-of-sense-desire to do with the next world—both of these are Māra’s realm, the region of this Māra, the bait of this Māra, the feeding ground of this Māra. They lead here to these evil unwholesome mental phenomena of covetousness, ill-will and anger. They produce an obstacle here for the training of the noble disciple. What if I were to dwell with a large, expanded mind, having overcome the world, with a mind that stands firmly. Dwelling with a large, expanded mind, having overcome the world, with a mind that stands firmly, there will not be any of those evil unwholesome mental phenomena of covetousness, ill-will or anger. And with the removal of these, my mind will be unlimited, measureless, well-developed.’ For one who practises in this way, often dwelling in this domain, the mind becomes clear. When there is clarity, he either enters upon the imperturbable now or he becomes clear with understanding with the break-up of the body after death. It is possible that the consciousness involved in this might become imperturbable.

MN 106

The puthujjana experiences sense-desire. His experience includes various bodily possibilities which he assumes will provide him with pleasure. But this pleasure is given as a pleasure that he could have in the future if he acts in the appropriate way. He must act now and wait for that pleasure to manifest. In other words, sense-desires involve time.

atha kho sā devatā paṭhaviyaṃ patiṭṭhahitvā āyasmantaṃ samiddhiṃ etadavoca — “daharo tvaṃ bhikkhu, pabbajito susu kāḷakeso, bhadrena yobbanena samannāgato, paṭhamena vayasā, anikkīḷitāvī kāmesu. bhuñja, bhikkhu, mānusake kāme; mā sandiṭṭhikaṃ hitvā kālikaṃ anudhāvī”ti.

na khvāhaṃ, āvuso, sandiṭṭhikaṃ hitvā kālikaṃ anudhāvāmi. kālikañca khvāhaṃ, āvuso, hitvā sandiṭṭhikaṃ anudhāvāmi. kālikā hi, āvuso, kāmā vuttā bhagavatā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā; ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo. sandiṭṭhiko ayaṃ dhammo akāliko ehipassiko opaneyyiko paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhī”ti.

Then the devatā, having set foot on the earth, said this to the venerable Samiddhi: “Bhikkhu, you went forth young, a boy, black-haired, endowed with blessing of youth, in the prime of life, not having amused yourself with sense-desires. Bhikkhu, enjoy human sense-desires. Do not be one who pursues what involves time, having abandoned what is immediately visible.”

“Friend, I do not pursue what involves time, having abandoned what is immediately visible. But, friend, I pursue what is immediately visible, having abandoned what involves time. Indeed, friend, the Blessed One has said that sense-desires pertain to time, are much suffering, much despair. The disadvantage in this case is even greater. This Dhamma is immediately visible, does not pertain to time, inviting one to come-&-see, leading on, to be seen for oneself by the wise.”

SN 1:20

Since sense-desires are kālika, they are intrinsically bound up with existence, with saṃsāra.

“tesaṃ kāmoghavūḷhānaṃ, kāme aparijānataṃ.
kālaṃ gatiṃ bhavābhavaṃ, saṃsārasmiṃ purakkhatā.

For those who are carried away by the flood of sense-desires, not fully understanding sense-desires,
There is time, passing on, existence-after-existence, in saṃsāra, which is presupposed.

AN 5:55

The puthujjana’s experience of sense-desires is inseparable from his sakkāyadiṭṭhi—i.e. his assumption regarding the existence of this entity which he is, which is apart from this experience, which stands outside (above, below, apart from) this experience and which, therefore, is that which owns or controls this experience. This entity is taken to be that which experienced pleasure-&-pain that arose in the past and that which will experience pleasure-&-pain that will arise in the future. This is why sense-desires, in their very nature, are deceitful, lies, of the nature of lies—they reinforce the wrong view of the puthujjana.

To assume that a possibility of pleasure can ‘become’ actual involves a fundamental misunderstanding of the distinction between actual and possible. Because of this misunderstanding, one who is entrenched in the prejudice of the natural world assumes that the possibilities which are now present can be made actual if one acts in such and such a way. The ice-cream just needs to be eaten and then the pleasure, which is only present as a possibility right now, will become real. However, it is also quite conceivable that even if one does act in the required way, that which one desires will not become actualised.

tassa ce kāmayānassa, chandajātassa jantuno.
te kāmā parihāyanti, sallaviddhova ruppati.

If for a person, desiring, with desire aroused,
Those sense-desires are unfulfilled,
9 he is hurt as though pierced by an arrow.

Sn 767

Perhaps the desire is a desire which cannot be fulfilled. Or perhaps the pleasure that one expects does not manifest (for example, when the ice-cream causes an unexpected pain in the tooth). Or perhaps somebody else does something to prevent you from getting what you want. Since this other person is now perceived as an obstacle to that which is desired, there is ill-will towards them. There is covetousness for the thing that is desired. There is anger and frustration towards the situation one finds oneself in. Recognising these phenomena of covetousness, ill-will and anger as obstacles, as unhelpful, the noble disciple sets out to abandon them. And how does he do this? By recognising that these unwholesome phenomena have arisen dependent upon an understanding of mind which is too small, too particular, too limited. The mind, as a structural aspect of experience, should not be understood as the particular possibility which one finds oneself projected towards in the hope of making it actual. Possibilities can never become actual. Rather, there are these two domains that are simultaneously present: the actual and the possible. Each of these domains can only be understood in terms of the other. They cannot cross over into each other. The domain of the possible is not a domain of the not-yet-actual. There is no temporal relationship between the two. The noble disciple, having abandoned the notion of something which I am which will experience pleasure in the future, understands that the only way in which one can talk about a ‘relationship’ between the actual and the possible is not in terms of time, but simply in terms of the simultaneous presence of these two domains. Or, as the Buddha describes it:

imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hoti, imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati; imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti, imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhatī’ti

When there is this, there is this; when this arises, this arises; when there isn’t this, this isn’t; when this ceases, this ceases.

MN 79

The actual situation I am in is only intelligible as such because there are various possibilities open to me right now. If those possibilities were not there, I would have no grasp of the situation I am in.10 On the other hand, the possibilities that present themselves to me right now only make sense in this actual situation I find myself in. If I were not in a situation, there would be no possibilities for action—and this is inconceivable. Everything already presupposes various possibilities which are simultaneously present and which form the background context because of which things are intelligible as the things that they are. Everything is given within a meaningful context. Everything shows up in a certain light. Earlier, in §2, we saw how Heidegger thought that the very nature of Dasein (ex-sistence) is to be this clearing which makes it possible for our experience to be meaningful. It is true that our encounter with things always takes place within an opened clearing. But this clearing is not what we are. We must now correct this mistake. This open space, the background context of possibilities in virtue of which anything (whether real or imaginary) is intelligible and understood as being the thing that it is, is called “mind”.11

The mind is a much larger, more general phenomenon than those particular possibilities on account of which one might experience the pleasure of sense-desires. The mind is that which makes it possible for things to be meaningfully present. It is the source of all intelligibility. Any feeling, any perception—and not just the possible gratification of one’s sense-desires—is determined by mind. When one develops the perception of this enlarged, expanded mind, it becomes possible to see any given sense-desire as one possibility out of many. One discerns the nature of sense-desires. One finds the higher ground—a place where one is unmoved by the pressure of the more particular phenomenon of sense-desire. One surmounts the domain of sense-desires, dwelling with a perspective that is more general than this, a perspective that involves the recognition of the nature of all intentions—the nature, that is, of mind. This is what is meant by “having overcome the world”. The prejudice of the world is the assumption that all that is real is that which I see, hear, smell, taste or touch. Having established the sign of mind—that is to say, when the phenomenon of mind becomes clear—one sees that the natural world of all that is seen, heard, smelled, tasted or touched is only intelligible because mind is already there. If mind were not there, there would be no meaning. But since our experience cannot not be meaningful, mind cannot not be there. It is by developing this understanding that one can establish “a mind that stands firmly”. One finds a place to dwell, having surmounted this or that particular thing which can be accessed by means of the five senses, such that one can no longer be disturbed on account of them. In this way, the noble disciple can become imperturbable.

chandajāto anakkhāte, manasā ca phuṭo siyā.
kāmesu ca appaṭibaddhacitto, uddhaṃsototi vuccati.

One with desire aroused for the undeclared, with a mind expanded,
And with a mind that is not bound up with sense-desires—he is called “one going upstream”.

Dhp 218

5.2 … body

puna caparaṃ, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati — ‘ye ca diṭṭhadhammikā kāmā, ye ca samparāyikā kāmā; yā ca diṭṭhadhammikā kāmasaññā, yā ca samparāyikā kāmasaññā; yaṃ kiñci rūpaṃ (sabbaṃ rūpaṃ) cattāri ca mahābhūtāni, catunnañca mahābhūtānaṃ upādāyarūpan’ti. tassa evaṃpaṭipannassa tabbahulavihārino āyatane cittaṃ pasīdati. sampasāde sati etarahi vā āneñjaṃ samāpajjati paññāya vā adhimuccati kāyassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā. ṭhānametaṃ vijjati yaṃ taṃsaṃvattanikaṃ viññāṇaṃ assa āneñjūpagaṃ. ayaṃ, bhikkhave, dutiyā āneñjasappāyā paṭipadā akkhāyati.

Furthermore, bhikkhus, a noble disciple reflects thus: Whatever sense-desires in this world, whatever sense-desires to do with the next world, whatever perceptions-of-sense-desire in this world, whatever perceptions-of-sense-desire to do with the next world, whatever matter, all matter is the four great elements and matter is taken up out of the four great elements.’ For one who practises in this way, often dwelling in this domain, the mind becomes clear. When there is clarity, he either enters upon the imperturbable now or he becomes clear with understanding with the break-up of the body after death. It is possible that the consciousness involved in this might become imperturbable.

MN 106

A noble disciple might also surmount sense-desires and become imperturbable by contemplating the nature of the body. The body is comprised of matter and all matter is comprised of the four mahābhūtā—namely: earth, water, fire and wind. But the noble disciple clearly sees the nature of these four elements.

ceva kho pana ajjhattikā pathavīdhātu ca bāhirā pathavīdhātu pathavīdhāturevesā … yā ceva kho pana ajjhattikā āpodhātu ca bāhirā āpodhātu āpodhāturevesā… yā ceva kho pana ajjhattikā tejodhātu ca bāhirā tejodhātu tejodhāturevesā… yā ceva kho pana ajjhattikā vāyodhātu ca bāhirā vāyodhātu vāyodhāturevesā. taṃnetaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’tievametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ. evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya disvā pathavīdhātuyā… āpodhātuyā… tejodhātuyā… vāyodhātuyā nibbindati, pathavīdhātuyā… āpodhātuyā… tejodhātuyā… vāyodhātuyā cittaṃ virājeti.

But whatever internal earth element and external earth element there is, these are only earth element… But whatever internal water element and external water element there is, these are only water element… But whatever internal fire element and external fire element there is, these are only fire element… But whatever internal wind element and external wind element there is, these are only wind element. This should be seen as it is with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’. Having seen this in this way, as it is, with right understanding, one turns away from the earth element… the water element… the fire element… the wind element, one become dispassionate towards the earth element… the water element… the fire element.

MN 62

The noble disciple understands that the four mahābhūtā cannot be appropriated. Having discerned the nature of the four mahābhūtā, he knows that he should not take any perception of the mahābhūtā to stand for the mahābhūtā, since the mahābhūtā are inaccessible to him via perception.12 They are that because of which all designation is possible in the first place, so they cannot themselves be designated. And even though the body is that particular bit of matter because of which one can feel, perceive and act, it is nevertheless only matter and shares the nature of matter.

puna caparaṃ, udāyi, akkhātā mayā sāvakānaṃ paṭipadā, yathāpaṭipannā me sāvakā evaṃ pajānanti — ‘ayaṃ kho me kāyo rūpī cātumahābhūtiko mātāpettikasambhavo odanakummāsūpacayo aniccucchādanaparimaddanabhedana-viddhaṃsanadhammo…

Furthermore, Udāyin, having told my disciples the way of practice, according to the way of practice, my disciples understand in this way: “This is my body, made of matter, made of the four great elements, born from mother-&-father, made up of boiled-rice & porridge, subject to impermanence, rubbing, crushing, breaking apart, destruction…

MN 77

This body, made up of boiled-rice & porridge, is fully dependent upon the nutriment it gets from the food I eat.

ko ca, bhikkhave, kāyassa samudayo? āhārasamudayā kāyassa samudayo; āhāranirodhā kāyassa atthaṅgamo.

And what is the origin of the body? With the origin of food, there is the origin of the body; with the cessation of food there is the passing away of the body.

SN 27:42

If all the food in the world were suddenly rendered poisonous, or inert, incapable of providing nutriment, then that would be the end of this body. The sustenance of the body is dependent upon something I have no control over. Understanding this, the noble disciple turns away from and becomes dispassionate towards the body, understanding that this body is not mine, I am not this body, this body is not my self.

kabaḷīkāre, bhikkhave, āhāre pariññāte pañcakāmaguṇiko rāgo pariññāto hoti.

Bhikkhus, when eating a mouthful of food is fully understood, the passion of the five strands of sense-desire is fully understood.

SN 12:63

Sense-desires are bodily possibilities. They are bodily, bound up with body. Therefore, one who becomes dispassionate towards the body also becomes dispassionate towards sense-desires. By understanding that any sense-desire (not just those sense-desires that are here right now, but any possible sense-desire in any possible situation) is determined by something which is not mine, which one has absolutely no control over, one loses all interest in trying to bring about the gratification of sense-desires. One has found a place where one can dwell secluded from them and is now capable of entering upon imperturbability.

 

5.3 … impermanence

puna caparaṃ, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati — ‘ye ca diṭṭhadhammikā kāmā, ye ca samparāyikā kāmā; ca diṭṭhadhammikā kāmasaññā, ca samparāyikā kāmasaññā; ye ca diṭṭhadhammikā rūpā, ye ca samparāyikā rūpā; ca diṭṭhadhammikā rūpasaññā, ca samparāyikā rūpasaññāubhayametaṃ aniccaṃ. yadaniccaṃ taṃ nālaṃ abhinandituṃ, nālaṃ abhivadituṃ, nālaṃ ajjhositun’ti. tassa evaṃpaṭipannassa tabbahulavihārino āyatane cittaṃ pasīdati. sampasāde sati etarahi āneñjaṃ samāpajjati paññāya adhimuccati kāyassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā. ṭhānametaṃ vijjati yaṃ taṃsaṃvattanikaṃ viññāṇaṃ assa āneñjūpagaṃ. ayaṃ, bhikkhave, tatiyā āneñjasappāyā paṭipadā akkhāyati.

Furthermore, bhikkhus, a noble disciple reflects thus: Whatever sense-desires in this world, whatever sense-desires to do with the next world, whatever perceptions-of-sense-desire in this world, whatever perceptions-of-sense-desire to do with the next world, whatever matter in this world, whatever matter to do with the next world, whatever perceptions-of-matter in this world, whatever perceptions-of-matter to do with the next world—both of these are impermanent. Whatever is impermanent is unsuitable for delighting in, unsuitable for welcoming, unsuitable for attaching to.’ For one who practises in this way, often dwelling in this domain, the mind becomes clear. When there is clarity, he either enters upon the imperturbable now or he becomes clear with understanding with the break-up of the body after death. It is possible that the consciousness involved in this might become imperturbable.

MN 106

The third way that the Buddha describes for the surmounting of sense-desires is by contemplating impermanence. The noble disciple understands that all that has the nature to arise has the nature to cease. Whatever sense-desires one might experience, whatever perception of sense-desires, whatever matter because of which one experiences sense-desires, whatever perception of that matter because of which one experiences sense-desires—because all of this has arisen, for that very reason it is impermanent, subject to change.

For as long as one is entranced by the prejudice of the objective world, one’s attention is confined to the things that one sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches and the things which one might possibly see, hear, smell, taste, touch in the future. That which could be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched is present as a possibility, but this possibility is not recognised as such. Rather, it is recognised as a need for action—not as an explicit statement about what should be done, but as a non-conceptual, felt tension, a feeling of deviation from an optimal grip, and a compulsion to reduce this tension by acting appropriately.

daharassa hi, mālukyaputta, kumārassa mandassa uttānaseyyakassa kāmātipi na hoti, kuto panassa uppajjissati kāmesu kāmacchando? anusetvevassa kāmarāgānusayo.

And, Mālukyaputta, for an innocent young baby boy lying on his back, there is no [notion of] “sense-desires” and so from where could the desire in sense-desires arise? Only from his underlying tendency for the passion of sense-desires which lies beneath.

MN 64

Even though a newborn baby has no capacity to conceptualise “sense-desires”, he is still one who seeks sense-desires (kāmagavesi).13 Sense-desires are experienced, not as articulate thoughts, but as solicitations to act in a certain way so that the possible might become actual. The pañca kāmaguṇā come with a tacit assumption that if one acts in order to actualise these possibilities, this will reduce the uneasy feeling of non-balance and will be felt as pleasant. They offer a promise of pleasure. But this promise is inherently deceptive. The noble disciple understands that this promise is just another phenomenon which has arisen and which, therefore, has the nature to cease. Sense-desires, being bound up with something which I have absolutely no control over, can be taken away from me at any moment. There is always the possibility that these possibilities will not be realised, that they will not provide the pleasure they promise, that they will not lead to that which they promise they will lead to. This becomes obvious when one cultivates mindfulness of death (maraṇassati).14 The noble disciple, having developed the perception of death (maraṇasaññā), as it is, with right understanding, becomes dispassionate, no longer pulled by the possibility of the gratification of sense-desires.

sace pana, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno maraṇasaññāparicitena cetasā bahulaṃ viharato jīvitanikantiyā cittaṃ patilīyati patikuṭati pativattati, na sampasāriyati upekkhā vā pāṭikulyatā vā saṇṭhāti

And if, bhikkhus, for a bhikkhu often dwelling with a mind acquainted with the perception of death, he draws back from, he shrinks back from, he moves back from, he is not pulled forward by the desire for life, either indifference or revulsion becomes established.

AN 7:49

The right perception of death involves an understanding that whatever possibilities are now present, these should not be delighted in, welcomed, attached to, since any assumption regarding their actualisation in the future remains subject to the possibility of being thwarted. Death is the possibility (which is there right now) of all these possibilities no longer being there. It is the possibility of there being no more possibilities.

[Dasein’s] death is the possibility of no-longer-being-able-to-be-there

Heidegger 1962: 294[250]

Death, as possibility, gives Dasein nothing to be ‘actualized’, nothing which Dasein, as actual, could itself be. It is the possibility of the impossibility of every way of comporting oneself towards anything…

ibid, p.307[262]

Death is not an event which will take place on some occasion in the future. Death is not something that can be understood in terms of time. Rather, as possibility, it is sandiṭṭhika (directly visible), akālika (timeless) and can be discerned right now as I am sitting here. Mindfulness of death is simply the discernment of this phenomenon, and it can be discerned for as long as one finds oneself in the midst of a meaningful world of possibilities. This is why Heidegger said: “Death is always a way to be, which Dasein takes over as soon as it is” (1962: 289[245]) and why he quotes a famous line from the Christian mystic Jakob Böhme: “As soon as man comes to life [zum Leben kommt], he is at once old enough to die right away” (ibid). As soon as one has an intelligible world, one is capable of recognising the possibility of the collapse of this world—i.e. the end of all possibilities.

By discerning the phenomenon of death, one understands that all the possibilities that are open to me right now can be swept away at any moment. For as long as one has any desire for and seeks after the actualisation of any possibility, one remains open to being rudely interrupted while in the midst of unfinished business. Seeing this, the noble disciple understands the gratuitousness of sense-desires. He sees that they arise on account of a misunderstanding and that they are the cause of much suffering. He trains himself to abandon all desire for the actualisation of any possibility. The perception of impermanence provides him with a dwelling place in which he finds seclusion from the deceptive pull of sense-desires and can dwell indifferent to them.15 If he does this to the extent necessary, he will understand what it is to be imperturbable.

accharāsaṅghātamattampi ce, bhikkhave, bhikkhu maraṇasaññaṃ bhāveti, ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave — ‘bhikkhu arittajjhāno viharati, satthusāsanakaro ovādapatikaro, amoghaṃ raṭṭhapiṇḍaṃ bhuñjati’. ko pana vādo ye naṃ bahulīkarontī”ti!

Bhikkhus, if for as long as a finger snap a bhikkhu develops the perception of death, this, bhikkhus, is called “a bhikkhu who dwells not without jhāna, complying with the teaching of the Teacher, following his advice, enjoying the country’s food not in vain”. What to speak of whoever makes much of it!

AN 1:466

6. “… where all the assumptions about the stuff of the world cease…”

And so the noble disciple, having seen sense-desires as they are, with right understanding, makes the effort to attend, not to this or that particular possibility, but to the more general, singular (i.e. unified) nature of mind. He makes the effort to keep this phenomenon of mind composed. This is his development of samādhi. It is in this way that he removes all the assumptions about the ‘stuff’ of the world20—all assumptions, that is, about the objective world—and develops an indifference towards the particular possibilities which he finds given—an indifference which comes from seeing the diversity of possibilities through the unified perspective brought about by discerning the nature of possibility as such. With this indifference he is capable of destroying the taints.

seyyathāpi, gahapati, kukkuro jighacchādubbalyapareto goghātakasūnaṃ paccupaṭṭhito assa. tamenaṃ dakkho goghātako vā goghātakantevāsī vā aṭṭhikaṅkalaṃ sunikkantaṃ nikkantaṃ nimmaṃsaṃ lohitamakkhitaṃ upasumbheyya. taṃ kiṃ maññasi, gahapati, api nu kho so kukkuro amuṃ aṭṭhikaṅkalaṃ sunikkantaṃ nikkantaṃ nimmaṃsaṃ lohitamakkhitaṃ palehanto jighacchādubbalyaṃ paṭivineyyā”ti?

no hetaṃ, bhante”.

taṃ kissa hetu”?

aduñhi, bhante, aṭṭhikaṅkalaṃ sunikkantaṃ nikkantaṃ nimmaṃsaṃ lohitamakkhitaṃ. yāvadeva pana so kukkuro kilamathassa vighātassa bhāgī assāti. evameva kho, gahapati, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati — ‘aṭṭhikaṅkalūpamā kāmā vuttā bhagavatā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā, ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo’ti. evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya disvā yāyaṃ upekkhā nānattā nānattasitā taṃ abhinivajjetvā, yāyaṃ upekkhā ekattā ekattasitā yattha sabbaso lokāmisūpādānā aparisesā nirujjhanti tamevūpekkhaṃ bhāveti.

seyyathāpi, gahapati, gijjho vā kaṅko vā kulalo vā maṃsapesiṃ ādāya uḍḍīyeyya. tamenaṃ gijjhāpi kaṅkāpi kulalāpi anupatitvā anupatitvā vitaccheyyuṃ vissajjeyyuṃ. taṃ kiṃ maññasi, gahapati, sace so gijjho vā kaṅko vā kulalo vā taṃ maṃsapesiṃ na khippameva paṭinissajjeyya, so tatonidānaṃ maraṇaṃ vā nigaccheyya maraṇamattaṃ vā dukkhan”ti?

evaṃ, bhante”.

evameva kho, gahapati, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati — ‘maṃsapesūpamā kāmā vuttā bhagavatā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā, ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo’ti. evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya disvā yāyaṃ upekkhā nānattā nānattasitā taṃ abhinivajjetvā yāyaṃ upekkhā ekattā ekattasitā yattha sabbaso lokāmisūpādānā aparisesā nirujjhanti tamevūpekkhaṃ bhāveti.

seyyathāpi, gahapati, puriso ādittaṃ tiṇukkaṃ ādāya paṭivātaṃ gaccheyya. taṃ kiṃ maññasi, gahapati, sace so puriso taṃ ādittaṃ tiṇukkaṃ na khippameva paṭinissajjeyya tassa sā ādittā tiṇukkā hatthaṃ vā daheyya bāhuṃ vā daheyya aññataraṃ vā aññataraṃ vā aṅgapaccaṅgaṃ daheyya, so tatonidānaṃ maraṇaṃ vā nigaccheyya maraṇamattaṃ vā dukkhan”ti?

evaṃ, bhante”.

evameva kho, gahapati, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati — ‘tiṇukkūpamā kāmā vuttā bhagavatā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā, ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo’ti. evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya disvā … pe … tamevūpekkhaṃ bhāveti.

seyyathāpi, gahapati, aṅgārakāsu sādhikaporisā, pūrā aṅgārānaṃ vītaccikānaṃ vītadhūmānaṃ. atha puriso āgaccheyya jīvitukāmo amaritukāmo sukhakāmo dukkhappaṭikkūlo. tamenaṃ dve balavanto purisā nānābāhāsu gahetvā aṅgārakāsuṃ upakaḍḍheyyuṃ. taṃ kiṃ maññasi, gahapati, api nu so puriso iticiticeva kāyaṃ sannāmeyyā”ti?

evaṃ, bhante”.

taṃ kissa hetu”?

viditañhi, bhante, tassa purisassa imañcāhaṃ aṅgārakāsuṃ papatissāmi, tatonidānaṃ maraṇaṃ vā nigacchissāmi maraṇamattaṃ vā dukkhan”ti. “evameva kho, gahapati, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati — ‘aṅgārakāsūpamā kāmā vuttā bhagavatā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā, ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo’ti. evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya disvā … pe … tamevūpekkhaṃ bhāveti.

seyyathāpi, gahapati, puriso supinakaṃ passeyya ārāmarāmaṇeyyakaṃ vanarāmaṇeyyakaṃ bhūmirāmaṇeyyakaṃ pokkharaṇirāmaṇeyyakaṃ. so paṭibuddho na kiñci paṭipasseyya. evameva kho, gahapati, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati — ‘supinakūpamā kāmā vuttā bhagavatā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā, ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo’ti … pe … tamevūpekkhaṃ bhāveti.

seyyathāpi, gahapati, puriso yācitakaṃ bhogaṃ yācitvā yānaṃ vā poriseyyaṃ pavaramaṇikuṇḍalaṃ. so tehi yācitakehi bhogehi purakkhato parivuto antarāpaṇaṃ paṭipajjeyya. tamenaṃ jano disvā evaṃ vadeyya — ‘bhogī vata, bho, puriso, evaṃ kira bhogino bhogāni bhuñjantī’ti. tamenaṃ sāmikā yattha yattheva passeyyuṃ tattha tattheva sāni hareyyuṃ. taṃ kiṃ maññasi, gahapati, alaṃ nu kho tassa purisassa aññathattāyā”ti?

evaṃ, bhante”.

taṃ kissa hetu”?

sāmino hi, bhante, sāni harantī”ti. “evameva kho, gahapati, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati — ‘yācitakūpamā kāmā vuttā bhagavatā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā, ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo’ti … pe … tamevūpekkhaṃ bhāveti.

seyyathāpi, gahapati, gāmassa vā nigamassa vā avidūre tibbo vanasaṇḍo. tatrassa rukkho sampannaphalo ca upapannaphalo ca, na cassu kānici phalāni bhūmiyaṃ patitāni. atha puriso āgaccheyya phalatthiko phalagavesī phalapariyesanaṃ caramāno. so taṃ vanasaṇḍaṃ ajjhogāhetvā taṃ rukkhaṃ passeyya sampannaphalañca upapannaphalañca. tassa evamassa — ‘ayaṃ kho rukkho sampannaphalo ca upapannaphalo ca, natthi ca kānici phalāni bhūmiyaṃ patitāni. jānāmi kho panāhaṃ rukkhaṃ ārohituṃ. yaṃnūnāhaṃ imaṃ rukkhaṃ ārohitvā yāvadatthañca khādeyyaṃ ucchaṅgañca pūreyyan’ti. so taṃ rukkhaṃ ārohitvā yāvadatthañca khādeyya ucchaṅgañca pūreyya. atha dutiyo puriso āgaccheyya phalatthiko phalagavesī phalapariyesanaṃ caramāno tiṇhaṃ kuṭhāriṃ ādāya. so taṃ vanasaṇḍaṃ ajjhogāhetvā taṃ rukkhaṃ passeyya sampannaphalañca upapannaphalañca. tassa evamassa — ‘ayaṃ kho rukkho sampannaphalo ca upapannaphalo ca, natthi ca kānici phalāni bhūmiyaṃ patitāni. na kho panāhaṃ jānāmi rukkhaṃ ārohituṃ. yaṃnūnāhaṃ imaṃ rukkhaṃ mūlato chetvā yāvadatthañca khādeyyaṃ ucchaṅgañca pūreyyan’ti. so taṃ rukkhaṃ mūlatova chindeyya. taṃ kiṃ maññasi, gahapati, amuko yo so puriso paṭhamaṃ rukkhaṃ ārūḷho sace so na khippameva oroheyya tassa so rukkho papatanto hatthaṃ vā bhañjeyya pādaṃ vā bhañjeyya aññataraṃ vā aññataraṃ vā aṅgapaccaṅgaṃ bhañjeyya, so tatonidānaṃ maraṇaṃ vā nigaccheyya maraṇamattaṃ vā dukkhan”ti?

evaṃ, bhante”.

evameva kho, gahapati, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati — ‘rukkhaphalūpamā kāmā vuttā bhagavatā bahudukkhā bahupāyāsā, ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo’ti. evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya disvā yāyaṃ upekkhā nānattā nānattasitā taṃ abhinivajjetvā yāyaṃ upekkhā ekattā ekattasitā yattha sabbaso lokāmisūpādānā aparisesā nirujjhanti tamevūpekkhaṃ bhāveti.

sa kho so, gahapati, ariyasāvako imaṃyeva anuttaraṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ āgamma āsavānaṃ khayā anāsavaṃ cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ diṭṭheva dhamme sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharati.

 

“Suppose, householder, a dog, overcome with hunger-&-weakness was present at a butcher shop. Then a skilled butcher or a butcher’s apprentice would chop up a skeleton, well and truly cut down, without flesh, smeared with blood. What do you think, householder? Would that dog, running away with that skeleton, well and truly cut down, without flesh, smeared with blood, subdue his hunger-&-weakness?”

“No, Bhante”.

“For what reason?”

“Bhante, that skeleton is well and truly cut down, without flesh, smeared with blood. And that dog will only partake of tiredness and frustration.” “In just this way, householder, a noble disciple contemplates thus: ‘Sense-desires are said by the Blessed One to be like the skeleton, lots of suffering, lots of trouble, and the danger in this case is even more’. Having seen this in this way as it really is, with right understanding, he avoids the indifference which is diversified, dependent on diversity, and wherever there is indifference which is unified, dependent on unity, where all the assumptions about the stuff of the world cease without remainder—just this indifference he develops.

Suppose, householder, a vulture or a heron or a hawk, having taken lump of flesh, would fly. Vultures and herons and hawks, having repeatedly attacked, would pluck at, would make him release this. What do you think, householder, if this vulture or heron or hawk did not give up that slice of flesh quickly enough, on account of that, would he undergo death or suffering as much as death?”

“Yes, Bhante”.

“In just this way, householder, a noble disciple contemplates thus: ‘Sense-desires are said by the Blessed One to be like the lump of flesh, lots of suffering, lots of trouble, and the danger in this case is even more’. Having seen this in this way as it really is, with right understanding, he avoids the indifference which is diversified, dependent on diversity, and wherever there is indifference which is unified, dependent on unity, where all the assumptions about the stuff of the world cease without remainder—just this indifference he develops.

Suppose, householder, a man, having taken a burning grass-torch, would walk against the wind. What do you think, householder, if that man didn’t quickly let go of that burning grass-torch, due to that burning grass-torch, wouldn’t his hand burn, or his arm burn, or some other part of the body burn, on account of which he would undergo death or suffering as much as death?

“Yes, Bhante”.

“In just this way, householder, a noble disciple contemplates thus: ‘Sense-desires are said by the Blessed One to be like the grass-torch, lots of suffering, lots of trouble, and the danger in this case is even more’. Having seen this in this way as it really is, with right understanding… just this indifference he develops.

Suppose, householder, there were a charcoal pit, deeper than a man’s height, full of charcoal, without flames, without smoke. Then a man would come, desiring life, not desiring death, desiring pleasure, averse to pain. Two strong men, having seized him by both arms, would drag him into the charcoal pit. What do you think, householder, would that man bend his body this and that way?

“Yes, Bhante”.

“For what reason?”

“Because it is seen by that man: ‘I will fall into this charcoal pit, on account of which I will undergo death of suffering as much as death’”. “In just this way, householder, a noble disciple contemplates thus: ‘Sense-desires are said by the Blessed One to be like the charcoal pit, lots of suffering, lots of trouble, and the danger in this case is even more’. Having seen this in this way as it really is, with right understanding… just this indifference he develops.

Suppose, householder, a man would see in a dream a delightful park, a delightful wood, a delightful garden, a delightful pond. On waking back up he wouldn’t see anything. “In just this way, householder, a noble disciple contemplates thus: ‘Sense-desires are said by the Blessed One to be like a dream, lots of suffering, lots of trouble, and the danger in this case is even more’. Having seen this in this way as it really is, with right understanding… just this indifference he develops.

Suppose, householder, a man borrowed some possessions on loan: a stylish carriage or excellent jewelled earrings. Putting them on and surrounding himself with these borrowed possessions, he would go into the market place. Having seen him, the people would say: ‘Well, there’s a rich man! Apparently it is in this way that the rich enjoy their riches’. Wherever the owner might see him, there he would take away their things. What do you think, householder, is it fitting for there to be a change in this man?”

“Yes, Bhante”.

“For what reason?”

“Bhante, the owners took back their things”. “In just this way, householder, a noble disciple contemplates thus: ‘Sense-desires are said by the Blessed One to be like the borrowed possessions, lots of suffering, lots of trouble, and the danger in this case is even more’. Having seen this in this way as it really is, with right understanding… just this indifference he develops.

Suppose, householder, there were a densely wooded grove. In this place there is a tree endowed with fruit and possessed of fruit, and none of the fruit has fallen onto the ground. Then a man would come, roaming around looking for fruit, seeking fruit, searching for fruit. Having entered into this wooded grove, he would see this tree endowed with fruit and possessed of fruit. For him there would be this: ‘This tree is endowed with fruit and possessed of fruit, and none of the fruit have fallen onto the ground. But I know how to climb the tree. Having climbed this tree, and having eaten as much as I like, I could fill my lap’. Having climbed the tree, and having eaten as much as he likes, he would fill his lap. Then a second man would come, roaming around looking for fruit, seeking fruit, searching for fruit, holding a sharp axe. Having entered into this wooded grove, he would see this tree endowed with fruit and possessed of fruit. For him there would be this: ‘This tree is endowed with fruit and possessed of fruit, and none of the fruit have fallen onto the ground. But I do not know how to climb this tree. Having cut this tree down from its root, and having eaten as much as I like, I could fill my lap’. He would cut down the tree from its very root. What do you think, householder, if that first man who had climbed the tree would not come down quickly, when the tree falls, wouldn’t he break his hand or break his foot or break some other part of his body, on account of which he would undergo death of suffering as much as death.

“Yes, Bhante”.

“In just this way, householder, a noble disciple contemplates thus: ‘Sense-desires are said by the Blessed One to be like the fruits on the tree, lots of suffering, lots of trouble, and the danger in this case is even more’. Having seen this in this way as it really is, with right understanding, he avoids the indifference which is diversified, dependent on diversity, and wherever there is indifference which is unified, dependent on unity, where all the assumptions about the stuff of the world cease without remainder—just this indifference he develops.

Householder, a noble disciple, having come to this very unsurpassed purity of the mindfulness of indifference, having realised by recognising for himself here-&-now, dwells having entered upon the liberation of mind, the liberation of understanding, which is taintless due to the destruction of the taints.

MN 54

 

References from the Pali Canon

MN Majjhima Nikāya
SN Saṃyutta Nikāya
AN Aṅguttara Nikāya
Dhp Dhammapada
Sn Suttanipāta

 

Other References

Heidegger, M. (2009) Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy (Tr. R. D. Metcalf and M. B. Tanzer). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Heidegger, M. (1999) Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity (Tr. J. v. Buren). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Heidegger, M. (1993) Basic Writings (Ed. D. F. Krell). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Heidegger, M. (1989) The End of Philosophy (Tr. J. Stambaugh). New York: Harper & Row.

Heidegger, M. (1962) Being and Time (Tr. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (2002) Phenomenology of Perception (Tr. C. Smith). Oxon: Routledge Classics.

Ñāṇavīra, Bhikkhu (2010) Clearing the Path. Path Press Publications.

Rhys Davids, T. W. and Stede W. (eds.) (2004) The Pali Text Society’s Pali-English Dictionary. Oxford: The Pali Text Society.

Sheehan, T. (2015) Making Sense of Heidegger: A Paradigm Shift. London: Rowman & Littlefield International.

Sheehan, T. (2011) Astonishing! Things Make Sense! Gatherings: The Heidegger Circle Annual, 1: 1-25.

Taylor, C. (2005) Merleau-Ponty and the Epistemological Picture. In T. Carman & M. B. N. Hansen (Eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Merleau-Ponty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wrathall, M. A. (2015) Heidegger and Unconcealment: Truth, Language, and History. New York: Cambridge University Press.

 

Endnotes

SN 36:6

MN 45

For example, the Bodhisatta Gotama’s first teachers, Āḷāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta (MN 26). See also AN 4:124, which describes the rebirth of a puthujjana who attains jhāna.

MN 48

lokāmisūpādānā: literally, “assumptions about the flesh (āmisa) of the world”; i.e. all the assumptions about the materiality, the physicality of the natural world; cf. Merleau-Ponty’s “préjugé du monde.

1Aristotle, Metaphysics Θ 6, 1048a26

2we always conduct our activities in an understanding of being… We do not know what ‘being’ means. But even if we ask ‘What is being?’, we keep within an understanding of the ‘is’, though we are unable to fix conceptually what that ‘is’ signifies. We do not even know the horizon in terms of which that meaning is to be grasped and fixed. But this vague average understanding of being is still a fact.” (Heidegger 1962: 25[5])

3The tradition of the truth about beings which goes under the title of “metaphysics” develops into a pile of distortions, no longer recognizing itself, covering up the primordial essence of being. Herein lies the reason for the necessity of the “destruction” of this distortion when thinking of the truth of being has become necessary (cf. Being and Time). But this destruction, like “phenomenology” and all hermeneutical-transcendental questions, has not yet been thought in terms of the history of being.” (Heidegger 1989:14-5)

4The history of being, a history traceable in the metaphysicians, falls, according to Heidegger, into four distinct periods: the Greek (in which what is was primarily understood as phusis or self-arising nature), the Medieval (in which what is was understood as “God’s creation”), the Modern (where “beings become objects that could be controlled and penetrated by calculation”) (Heidegger 1993: 201), and finally… the Technological (in which what is is understood as standing reserve—that is, as being constantly available for flexible reconfiguration and thus maximally exploitable).” (Wrathall 2015:181-2)

5Translation modified; my italics

6ex + sistere: “to be made to stand ahead [of oneself] and beyond [whatever one encounters]”—that is, to stand “open”. What one is ahead and beyond into is meaningfulness as such and, as the basis for that, the clearing. We note that the verb sistere does not mean “to stand” (by one’s own power, as it were) but “to be made to stand”, which in the present case draws attention to the inexorable [that which you cannot beg your way out of: in + ex + orare] thrown-openedness of both ex-sistence as one’s ontological structure and ex-sistence as one’s own personal life.” (Sheehan 2015: 135-6)

7Sheehan (2015: 136-7) convincingly argues that “[t]he Da of Da-sein should never be translated as “here” or “there”, as is customary in the current scholarship (for example: being there, being here, being t/here). Heidegger insists that Da ibi und ubi” (the Da of Da-sein is not a locative adverb at all: “here” or “there”). Rather, the Da should always be interpreted as “openedness” or “the open” in the sense of man’s being thrown-open, “[being] brought into one’s openedness but not of one’s own accord” (1962: 329[284]).”

8kāyena phusitvā viharati

9parihāyanti: this is usually translated as “to dwindle away”, “to decay”, “to diminish”, “to decrease”, and the like. This certainly seems to be the way this verb is used in MN 114 and DN 14. However, it is also translated as “to fall away from”: for example, see Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of SN 4:23. I see the meaning of parihāyati in that particular sutta to be very similar to the meaning here and one might translate it in both of these contexts as “to not fulfil”. Venerable Godhika “did not fulfil” or “did not complete” or “did not fully succeed in” that temporary liberation of mind. The prefix pari– indicates completeness and comes from pajahati: “to abandon, to give up”. Admittedly, this etymology does not fully justify my translation of “are unfulfilled”, but the meaning here is much better than “decrease” or “diminish”. If kāmā refers, not to the things that one desires, but to the desire that one has for things that one might see, hear, smell, taste and touch, then the word “diminish” is precisely the wrong word here. The diminishing of kāmā is what he should be trying to bring about, since it results in freedom from suffering.

10As long as it is, Dasein always has understood itself and always will understand itself in terms of possibilities.” (Heidegger 1962: 185[145])

11To his credit, in one of his early lecture courses, Heidegger says: “The primary openness of human beings is grounded in νοῦϛ” (2009: 220). Sheehan (2011: 8) provides the following commentary: ““Mind” [=νοῦϛ] as we use it here is neither a subject’s consciousness nor the neurological processes at work when it feels something, knows something, or chooses among options. Rather, it is the condition of the possibility of all of those. It is what allows for the specifically human form of knowing: discursiveness or διάνοια, the ability to understand something as something.”

12MN 1

13Dhp 99

14AN 6:19

15kāmesu anapekkho (SN 21:9)

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Kammaṭṭhāna

Posted: July 11, 2018 by pathpress in Dhamma Article

by Ven. Ariyavaṃsa

The word kammaṭṭhāna is usually translated as “meditation object” and it plays a central role in the Visuddhimagga, Burmese-style meditation systems, the Thai Forest tradition, and in many people’s meditation practice. According to the Visuddhimagga, one should develop samādhi by focusing on a single object. Here is Venerable Ñāṇamoli’s translation of the relevant passage:

kenaṭṭhena samādhīti samādhānaṭṭhena samādhi. kimidaṃ samādhānaṃ nāma? ekārammaṇe cittacetasikānaṃ samaṃ sammā ca ādhānaṃ, ṭhapananti vuttaṃ hoti. tasmā yassa dhammassānubhāvena ekārammaṇe cittacetasikā samaṃ sammā ca avikkhipamānā avippakiṇṇā ca hutvā tiṭṭhanti, idaṃ samādhānanti veditabbaṃ.

In what sense is it “concentration”? It is concentration in the sense of concentrating. What is this thing called concentrating? It is centering consciousness and consciousness-concomitants evenly and rightly on a single object—placing, is what is meant. So it is the state, in virtue of which consciousness and its concomitants remain evenly and rightly on a single object undistracted and unscattered—that should be understood as “concentrating”.

Vsm (Ch. III, §3)

In order to do this, we are later told (Ch. III, § 28), we should approach a kalyāṇamitta, one who can give us a kammaṭṭhāna. With the right kammaṭṭhāna—the one, from a list of forty, which most suits our own particular temperament—we are then supposed to focus our mind on this, so as to become concentrated. Read the rest of this entry »

Video Dhamma by Ajahn Nyanamoli Thero

Posted: April 3, 2018 by pathpress in News

28616798_10155128502431697_5701584613323861205_oSome are already familiar with Dhamma teaching by Ajahn Nyanamoli shared here on Path Press website. In addition today we can find on YouTube also number of short video clips from Hillside Hermitage, Sri Lanka, where Ajahn Nyanamoli is responding to simple questions on Dhamma. Few are already shared HERE, and more will follow soon.

NEW: The Silent Sages of Old [PDF]

Posted: March 1, 2018 by pathpress in eBook, News

SSoOlogoOpen/Download the PDF:  pdf-download

The Editor’s Introduction

This small selection of Suttas is by no means comparably small in its importance and significance. For the realization of Dhamma is beyond any descriptive words or concepts: truth is not subject to measurement, comparison or classification. The Buddha and his noble disciples were skilled in the use of words as a means to guide seekers toward the very same realization of Dhamma that they had experienced – to a liberation from all troubles and burdens – but there is not always a need for elaborate explanation of all that one might experience in life. Rather, more meaningful is that which words inspire: the courage to go ‘against the stream’ of the world, and to put aside its mundane values. To move to silent abodes, forests or mountains, where silence and solitude afford the space to uncover hidden weaknesses, and where there may develop an opportunity to examine and understand the phenomena of subjective experience at a most fundamental and universal level. In short, the invitation implicit in these Suttas is to actually do the work which can bear the fruit of liberation.

The book presented here thus contains words which perhaps touch the deep truths of life in a most condensed way. The silent sages of the past were not interested in speculative studies, nor were they concerned with any kind of accumulation, either mental or physical. That was their nature. But they were, perhaps, in their individual ways, appreciative of some few words of the Buddha which they had come to hold in their hearts, and to recite regularly among shady trees, mossy rocks or calming streams – thus bringing the Buddha close to themselves (Cf. Itivuttaka 92).

But this translation does not just honor the old hermits of a distant and forgotten era, when monks used to live close to nature and its dangers. This translation was actually made by just such a sagely hermit of the present age, living in a remote and simple jungle three-walled hut. He is living proof that real striving to be closer to the Dhamma is still a present reality. Moreover, the translator’s skill with the Pali language, perfected to a high scholarly level, has become, after almost five decades of secluded life, even part of his thinking mind. His remarkable linguistic expertise and precision speaks for itself in the pages that follow, confirming his remarkable qualification to translate those ancient words into a modern language. This fact alone makes The Silent Sages of Old of great value, a book that can rightly be treasured.

The Venerable Translator and all other forest monks and friends who have been involved in this project wish to join in the spirit of the Silent Sages and therefore remain anonymous.

PRINTING: If anyone wishes to print the book for free distribution, please feel very welcome to contact us and we would be happy to assist you.

by Ven. Ariyavaṃsa

catasso imā, bhikkhave, obhāsā. katame cattāro? candobhāso, sūriyobhāso, aggobhāso, paññobhāso — ime kho, bhikkhave, cattāro obhāsā. etadaggaṃ, bhikkhave, imesaṃ catunnaṃ obhāsānaṃ yadidaṃ paññobhāso”ti.

Bhikkhus, there are these four radiances. Which four? The radiance of the moon, the radiance of the sun, the radiance of fire, the radiance of understanding. These, bhikkhus, are the four radiances. This is foremost of these four radiances, that is: the radiance of understanding.

AN 4:144

Dasein is an entity which, in its very being, comports itself understandingly towards that being.

Heidegger 1962: 78 [SZ: 53]1

1. From psychology…

Observe sensations”, says the meditation teacher. Sensations, he says, are everything that is “felt” in the body—all of those various bodily experiences that are taking place right now: heat, pressure, tingling, itching, throbbing, pain. If one develops the capacity to keep one’s attention on these sensations, he tells us, if one learns to “see them as they really are”, without reacting to them, without any prejudice or preference towards them, then, by practising in this way, “wisdom” (or what he calls paññā) will arise. And so, having been taught in this way, people all over the world sit down cross-legged, close their eyes, and bring their attention to the sensations of the body, believing that they are practising in accordance with the teaching of the Buddha, waiting for insight, for paññā, to arrive. Read the rest of this entry »

Phassa

Posted: April 10, 2017 by pathpress in Dhamma Article

by Ven. Ariyavaṃsa

cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṃ. tiṇṇaṃ saṅgati phasso. phassapaccayā vedanā.

In dependence on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition, feeling.

SN 35: 60

In dependence on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises. But one might also say: “In dependence on eye-consciousness, the eye and forms arise”, because what is being referred to here is the simultaneous presence of, the juxtaposition of rūpa and viññāṇa out there. When there is matter, there must also be consciousness, since without consciousness there can be no experience whatsoever. Thus, matter requires, or is dependent upon, consciousness. But consciousness also requires matter. Since there can be no presence without that which is present, if there is consciousness there must also be that which there is consciousness of. To use Husserl’s terminology, consciousness is characterised by the quality of intentionality—it is a kind of ‘stretching forth’ or ‘being directed at’. When there is consciousness, something is there, something appears in one way or another (as actually present, as past, as possible, etc). This thereness or appearing is such a primitive and general notion that one cannot provide any more detail or explain it in terms of anything else. And since consciousness is nothing but the taking place of appearing—the presence of that which there is consciousness of—any attempt to find it will only lead one to that which there is consciousness of. The idea that one might encounter the presence of something without ipso facto finding that something whose presence it is is utterly inconceivable1. Thus, we can say: “In dependence on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness is there and in dependence upon eye-consciousness, the eye and forms are there.” With this, that is. With that, this is. Read the rest of this entry »

Satipaṭṭhāna – setting up mindfulness

Posted: February 2, 2017 by pathpress in Dhamma Article

by Ven. Ariyavaṃsa

ekāyano ayaṃ, bhikkhave, maggo sattānaṃ visuddhiyā, sokaparidevānaṃ samatikkamāya, dukkhadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamāya, ñāyassa adhigamāya, nibbānassa sacchikiriyāya, yadidaṃ cattāro satipaṭṭhānā.

Bhikkhus, this is the one-way path for the purification of beings, for passing beyond grief-&-lamentation, for setting down pain-&-displeasure, for the attainment of the method, for the realisation of Nibbāna—that is, the four ways to set up mindfulness.

MN 10

There is only one way to put an end to suffering and that is to attain the method (ñāya) which only the Buddha teaches. And what is this method?

katamo cassa ariyo ñāyo paññāya sudiṭṭho hoti suppaṭividdho? idha, gahapati, ariyasāvako paṭiccasamuppādaññeva sādhukaṃ yoniso manasi karoti—’iti imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hoti, imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti; imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati, imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhati. yadidaṃ avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā; saṅkhārapaccayā viññāṇaṃ … pe … evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti. avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā saṅkhāranirodho; saṅkhāranirodhā viññāṇanirodho … pe … evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hotī’”ti.

And which is the noble method that he has clearly seen and thoroughly penetrated with wisdom? Here, householder, the noble disciple attends closely and appropriately to dependent origination itself thus: “When this is, this is; when this is not, this is not. When this arises, this arises; when this ceases, this ceases.” That is, with ignorance as condition, determinations; with determinations as condition, consciousness… Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. But with the complete fading away and cessation of that very ignorance, cessation of determinations; with the cessation of determinations, cessation of consciousness… Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.

SN 12: 41

Only when mindfulness is set up in a way that allows one to see and penetrate paṭiccasamuppāda can it be said to be sammāsati, rather than micchāsati. This means that one must set up mindfulness not by focusing on a single object of meditation (as most people seem to believe) but in a way that allows one to attend to the simultaneous presence of two mutually dependent things (“When this is, this is”). Indeed, if one makes the effort to contemplate the nature of experience, one finds that the possibility of an experience of just one thing is inconceivable, and that there must be, at the very least, two things. As Merleau-Ponty showed, the idea that perception is built up out of single homogeneous “sensations” or “impressions” is mistaken. Any perception always involves two things: a figure on a background. Read the rest of this entry »

Citta

Posted: December 10, 2016 by pathpress in Dhamma Article

by Ven. Ariyavaṃsa

1. citta — the mind

The Pali word “samādhi” is usually translated as “concentration”. This is well and good—for as long as one knows what one is designating by this word “concentration”. The trouble is that the word “concentration” usually implies a kind of focusing or narrowing of attention on to a fixed object. This is not what samādhi is. The word “samādhi” comes from saŋ (meaning “together”) + dhā or dahati (meaning “to put; to place”). This is because samādhi means something like putting together, unifying, bringing together as one. The English word “composure” captures this meaning rather effectively since it resembles the Pali by being constituted by the Latin prefix com (meaning “together”) and the verb ponere (meaning “to put; to place”), whose past participle is positus. Samādhi involves composing the mind, bringing the mind together into one place such that one discerns the mind as one thing, as a phenomenon. Read the rest of this entry »