Kāyagatā sati – Mindfulness of the body

Posted: September 21, 2018 by pathpress in Dhamma Article

by Ven. Ariyavaṃsa

The Buddha tells us that there is one thing which, when developed, leads to the following:

  • great existential dread (AN 1:576)1
  • great benefit (AN 1:577)
  • great safety from bondage (AN 1:578)
  • mindfulness-&-awareness (AN 1:579)
  • the attainment of knowing-&-seeing (AN 1:580)
  • a pleasant dwelling in this very life (AN 1:581)
  • the realisation of the fruit of wisdom-&-liberation (AN 1:582)
  • the realisation of the fruit of stream-entry (AN 1:596)
  • the realisation of the fruit of once-returning (AN 1:597)
  • the realisation of the fruit of non-returning (AN 1:598)
  • the realisation of the fruit of arahatship (AN 1:599)

He also says that when this one thing is developed, we can expect the following results:

  • the body calms down, the mind calms down, thinking-&-pondering subsides and all things connected with wisdom become developed-&-fulfilled (AN 1:583)
  • unarisen unwholesome things do not arise and arisen unwholesome things are abandoned (AN 1:584)
  • unarisen wholesome things arise and arisen wholesome things lead to being more, to full development (AN 1:585)
  • ignorance is abandoned (AN 1:586)
  • wisdom arises (AN 1:587)
  • the conceit ‘I am’ is abandoned (AN 1:588)
  • the underlying tendencies become uprooted (AN 1:589)
  • the fetters are abandoned (AN 1:599)

katamo ekadhammo? kāyagatā sati.

Which one thing? Mindfulness of the body.

AN 1:576-615

It is no wonder, then, that the majority of people who practise meditation probably spend most of their time trying to pay attention to the body. However, what most people do not realise is that the Buddha also said this:

amataṃ tesaṃ, bhikkhave, anabhiññātaṃ yesaṃ kāyagatāsati anabhiññātā. amataṃ tesaṃ, bhikkhave, abhiññātaṃ yesaṃ kāyagatāsati abhiññātā”ti.

Bhikkhus, the deathless is not discerned by those for whom mindfulness of the body is not discerned. Bhikkhus, the deathless is discerned by those for whom mindfulness of the body is discerned.

AN 1:625

The puthujjana, who is characterised by the fact that he does not know the escape from suffering—or, in other words, by the fact that he has not discerned the deathless—, does not know what mindfulness of the body is. Of course, most people who have a regular meditation practice will no doubt think that they know how to practise mindfulness of the body. As a result, when confronted with the statement that they do not know what mindfulness of the body is, because it directly contradicts what they have taken for granted, they are likely to miss the meaning of what the Buddha is saying here. For this reason, I think that perhaps this needs some spelling out.

The word abhiññāta is the past participle of the verb abhijānāti—which might be translated as “he properly knows”, “he discerns”, “he recognises”. The verb jānāti is etymologically linked to the English “he knows”2 but, unfortunately, this word “know” has been taken over by so many epistemological assumptions that it now tends to imply some kind of adæquatio rei et intellectus—a correspondence between some objective thing in the world and some internal representation of that thing by the subject’s intellect. I have found that it is slightly easier to avoid this “mediational epistemology” by translating jānāti as “he understands”.3 Importantly, this enables us to talk about one’s “understanding” of things while allowing for the fact that this understanding may be a wrong understanding. The puthujjana’s understanding of things is a wrong understanding and can be distinguished from the right understanding that the ariyapuggala has access to, but it is an understanding nonetheless.

The prefix abhi- often seems to denote something like “over”, “on top of”, “higher than” or “beyond a threshold”. This is particularly evident in the Mūlapariyāya Sutta in the distinctions made between the puthujjana, the sekkha and the arahat.

idha, bhikkhave, assutavā puthujjano ariyānaṃ adassāvī ariyadhammassa akovido ariyadhamme avinīto, sappurisānaṃ adassāvī sappurisadhammassa akovido sappurisadhamme avinīto… nibbānaṃ nibbānato sañjānāti; nibbānaṃ nibbānato saññatvā nibbānaṃ maññati, nibbānasmiṃ maññati, nibbānato maññati, nibbānaṃ meti maññati, nibbānaṃ abhinandati. taṃ kissa hetu? ‘apariññātaṃ tassā’ti vadāmi.

yopi so, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sekkho appattamānaso anuttaraṃ yogakkhemaṃ patthayamāno viharati… sopi nibbānaṃ nibbānato abhijānāti; nibbānaṃ nibbānato abhiññāya nibbānaṃ mā maññi, nibbānasmiṃ mā maññi, nibbānato mā maññi, nibbānaṃ meti mā maññi, nibbānaṃ mābhinandi. taṃ kissa hetu? ‘pariññeyyaṃ tassā’ti vadāmi.

yopi so, bhikkhave, bhikkhu arahaṃ khīṇāsavo vusitavā katakaraṇīyo ohitabhāro anuppattasadattho parikkhīṇabhavasaṃyojano sammadaññā vimutto… sopi nibbānaṃ nibbānato abhijānāti; nibbānaṃ nibbānato abhiññāya nibbānaṃ na maññati, nibbānasmiṃ na maññati, nibbānato na maññati, nibbānaṃ meti na maññati, nibbānaṃ nābhinandati. taṃ kissa hetu? ‘pariññātaṃ tassā’ti vadāmi.

Here, bhikkhus, an uninstructed ordinary person, who does not see the noble ones, who is unskilled and untrained in the noble ones’ Dhamma, who does not see good men, who is unskilled and untrained in good men’s Dhamma… from Nibbāna he perceives Nibbāna. Having perceived Nibbāna from Nibbāna, he conceives Nibbāna, he conceives in Nibbāna, he conceives from Nibbāna, he conceives Nibbāna as mine, he delights in Nibbāna. For what reason? Because it has not been fully understood by him, I say

Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who is a trainee, having not yet reached his goal, who still dwells aspiring for the unsurpassed security from bondage… from Nibbāna he discerns Nibbāna. From Nibbāna having discerned Nibbāna, he should not conceive Nibbāna, he should not conceive in Nibbāna, he should not conceive from Nibbāna, he should not conceive Nibbāna as mine, he should not delight in Nibbāna. For what reason? Because it should be fully understood by him, I say.

Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who is an arahat with taints destroyed, who has lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached his goal, destroyed the fetters of being, and is liberated having understood perfectly… from Nibbāna he discerns Nibbāna. From Nibbāna having discerned Nibbāna, he does not conceive Nibbāna, he does not conceive in Nibbāna, he does not conceive from Nibbāna, he does not conceive Nibbāna as mine, he does not delight in Nibbāna. For what reason? Because it has been fully understood by him, I say.

MN 1

The puthujjana perceives (sañjānāti) Nibbāna. He has no access to Nibbāna other than by thinking about it and, for him, that thought about what Nibbāna is stands for Nibbāna. He takes this thought about Nibbāna to be Nibbāna. This is called “conceiving”.4 The noble disciple, on the other hand, does not perceive Nibbāna. He knows that Nibbāna is not something that can be perceived. Rather, he discerns or recognises or properly knows it. This is abhijānāti. He has broken past a threshold such that his understanding of Nibbāna no longer consists in taking a perception of Nibbāna to be Nibbāna and it is in this very way that he has discerned that which the Buddha designated by the word “Nibbāna”. This discernment is not a conceiving. It is recognition of something which cannot be accessed by conceiving. This recognition should be developed by him until his understanding can be said to be a full understanding5—in which case, he will have reached his goal.

parāyanañca vo, bhikkhave, desessāmi parāyanagāmiñca maggaṃ. taṃ suṇātha. katamañca, bhikkhave, parāyanaṃ? yo, bhikkhave, rāgakkhayo dosakkhayo mohakkhayo — idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, parāyanaṃ. katamo ca, bhikkhave, parāyanagāmī maggo? kāyagatāsati. ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, parāyanagāmimaggo.

Bhikkhus, I will teach you the goal and the way leading to the goal. Listen to this. And which, bhikkhus, is the goal? Bhikkhus, whatever destruction of passion, destruction of ill-will, destruction of delusion—this, bhikkhus, is called the goal. And which, bhikkhus, is the way leading to the goal? Mindfulness of the body. This, bhikkhus, is called the way leading to the goal.

SN 43:44

So, to return to the case of the puthujjana, if we take MN 1 and SN 1:625 together, we can see that (a) the puthujjana is someone who has not properly seen the deathless (i.e. Nibbāna), and (b) anyone who has not properly seen the deathless has not properly seen mindfulness of the body. It follows, therefore, that the puthujjana cannot develop mindfulness of the body because he does not know what mindfulness of the body actually is.

The reason why the puthujjana does not know what mindfulness of the body is is because he has not discerned what it is that the Buddha means by the word “body”.

Again, I expect many people would consider this an outlandish claim and would probably prefer to dismiss it as nonsense. Of course I know what my body is, they say. What could be more obvious? What could I possibly know better than the back of my hand? So, I ask, what is the body? The body is not that which you see, that which you feel.6 Neither is it that which you are thinking right now when you think: “This is my body”. Rather, the body is that because of which you can see, feel or think about your body. Anything which you see, feel or think about is part of what the Buddha called “external name-&-matter”. Anything which you see, feel or think about is a phenomenon. But for any phenomenon to manifest in experience, there must already be a body there in the first place. Without a body there would be no phenomena. In other words, our experience always involves a duality—two entirely separate domains which are simultaneously present, which require each other and which are inconceivable on their own:

  1. This body—that without which it would not be possible for anything to appear for us.
  2. All external phenomena—everything which appears in one way or another.

sāvatthiyaṃ viharati…pe…. “avijjānīvaraṇassa, bhikkhave, bālassa taṇhāya sampayuttassa evamayaṃ kāyo samudāgato. iti ayañceva kāyo bahiddhā ca nāmarūpaṃ, itthetaṃ dvayaṃ , dvayaṃ paṭicca phasso saḷevāyatanāni, yehi phuṭṭho bālo sukhadukkhaṃ paṭisaṃvedayati etesaṃ vā aññatarena”.

avijjānīvaraṇassa, bhikkhave, paṇḍitassa taṇhāya sampayuttassa evamayaṃ kāyo samudāgato. iti ayañceva kāyo bahiddhā ca nāmarūpaṃ, itthetaṃ dvayaṃ, dvayaṃ paṭicca phasso saḷevāyatanāni, yehi phuṭṭho paṇḍito sukhadukkhaṃ paṭisaṃvedayati etesaṃ vā aññatarena”.

tatra , bhikkhave, ko viseso ko adhippayāso kiṃ nānākaraṇaṃ paṇḍitassa bālenā”ti? “bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā, bhagavaṃnettikā, bhagavaṃpaṭisaraṇā. sādhu vata, bhante, bhagavantaṃyeva paṭibhātu etassa bhāsitassa attho. bhagavato sutvā bhikkhū dhāressantī”ti.

tena hi, bhikkhave, suṇātha, sādhukaṃ manasi karotha, bhāsissāmī”ti. “evaṃ, bhante”ti kho te bhikkhū bhagavato paccassosuṃ. bhagavā etadavoca —

yāya ca, bhikkhave, avijjāya nivutassa bālassa yāya ca taṇhāya sampayuttassa ayaṃ kāyo samudāgato, sā ceva avijjā bālassa appahīnā sā ca taṇhā aparikkhīṇā. taṃ kissa hetu? na, bhikkhave, bālo acari brahmacariyaṃ sammā dukkhakkhayāya. tasmā bālo kāyassa bhedā kāyūpago hoti, so kāyūpago samāno na parimuccati jātiyā jarāmaraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi. na parimuccati dukkhasmāti vadāmi.

yāya ca, bhikkhave, avijjāya nivutassa paṇḍitassa yāya ca taṇhāya sampayuttassa ayaṃ kāyo samudāgato, sā ceva avijjā paṇḍitassa pahīnā, sā ca taṇhā parikkhīṇā. taṃ kissa hetu? acari, bhikkhave, paṇḍito brahmacariyaṃ sammā dukkhakkhayāya. tasmā paṇḍito kāyassa bhedā na kāyūpago hoti. so akāyūpago samāno parimuccati jātiyā jarāmaraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi. parimuccati dukkhasmāti vadāmi. ayaṃ kho, bhikkhave, viseso , ayaṃ adhippayāso, idaṃ nānākaraṇaṃ paṇḍitassa bālena yadidaṃ brahmacariyavāso”ti.

At Sāvatthi… “Bhikkhus, for a fool, hindered by ignorance, connected to craving, in this way this body has come about. Thus there is this body and external name-&-matter. In such a way there is this duality. Because of this duality, contact. There are these six domains, contacted by which—or a certain one among them—the fool experiences pleasure-&-pain.

“Bhikkhus, for a wise man, hindered by ignorance, connected to craving, in this way this body has come about. Thus there is this body and external name-&-matter. In such a way there is this duality. Because of this duality, contact. There are these six domains, contacted by which—or a certain one among them—the fool experiences pleasure-&-pain.

“In that case, bhikkhus, what is the distinction, what is the disparity, what is the difference between the wise man and the fool?” “Bhante, for us the Dhamma is rooted in the Blessed One, guided by the Blessed One, helped by the Blessed One. It would be good, Bhante, if the Blessed One would clarify the meaning of this statement. Having heard the Blessed One the bhikkhus will remember.”

“Then, bhikkhus, listen, attend properly, I will speak.” “Yes, Bhante,” those bhikkhus replied to the Blessed One. The Blessed One said this:

“Bhikkhus, for whatever fool hindered by ignorance, connected to craving, [such that] this body has come about, that ignorance of the fool has not been abandoned and that craving has not been exhausted. For what reason? Bhikkhus, the fool has not lived the holy life correctly for the destruction of suffering. Therefore, with the breakup of the body, the fool is going to a body. Going to a body, he is not released from birth, ageing-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, unhappiness, despair. He is not released from suffering, I say.

“Bhikkhus, for whatever wise man hindered by ignorance, connected to craving, [such that] this body has come about, that ignorance of the wise man has been abandoned and that craving has been exhausted. For what reason? Bhikkhus, the wise man has lived the holy life correctly for the destruction of suffering. Therefore, with the breakup of the body, the wise man is not going to a body. Not going to a body, he is released from birth, ageing-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, unhappiness, despair. He is released from suffering, I say. This, bhikkhus, is the distinction, this is the disparity, this is the difference between the wise man and the fool—namely: living the holy life.

SN 12:19

This duality, which is seen by the noble ones, is not seen by a puthujjana. Whenever a puthujjana attends to his body, that body will appear as a phenomenon—and he takes this phenomenon at face value. He conceives the body by taking this phenomenon of the body to be his body. What he does not understand—and what the noble disciple does understand—is that this phenomenon of the body is not the same thing as this body because of which this phenomenon of the body has appeared.

But even here, that thought of “this body because of which this phenomenon of the body has appeared” is a phenomenon and is not the same thing as this body because of which this phenomenon of “this body because of which this phenomenon of the body has appeared” has appeared.

But even here, that thought of “this body because of which this phenomenon of “this body because of which this phenomenon of the body has appeared” has appeared” is a phenomenon and is not the same thing as this body because of which this phenomenon of “this body because of which this phenomenon of “this body because of which this phenomenon of the body has appeared” has appeared” has appeared.

But even here, that thought…

Of course, this is endless. But one does not have to keep going further like this. One simply needs to stop conceiving the body by not confusing these two entirely separate domains: the domain of these phenomena that have appeared and the domain of this body because of which these phenomena have appeared. Only then will one know (abhijānāti) what the body is. Only then is mindfulness of the body possible.

This body will only be recognised once one stops trying to find it as a determined phenomenon (saṅkhata dhamma) and learns how to recognise it as a determination (saṅkhāra), as a negative in relation to whatever positive is there right now, as a that-because-of-which this positive phenomenon has appeared—in a word, as peripheral. Only when one stops trying to find the body as an external phenomenon that one can directly see in front of oneself, when one understands that the body cannot be found in this way—only then will one understand what the body really is. The usual translation of abhijānāti is “he directly knows”. This translation is fine—as long as one understands it to refer to a knowing that knows things as they really are (yathābhūta), in the way that they have manifested, in the domain that they have manifested, to the extent that they have manifested. A puthujjana, who knows things only in terms of his perceptions of those things, can be said to have not yet “directly known” those things. However, it is possible that the translation of abhijānāti as “he directly knows” may lead to a misunderstanding—if one thinks that it involves directly finding something in front of one’s nose. The kind of knowing involved in abhijānāti gets to the things themselves, as they really are (and not as a perception of those things), but since this involves learning how to see things peripherally, it might be better to think of it as an indirect kind of knowing. To discern the body, one cannot see it directly but must learn to see it in this indirect manner.

“I observe external objects with my body, I handle them, examine them, walk around them, but my body itself is a thing which I do not observe: in order to be able to do so, I should need the use of a second body which itself would be unobservable… The body therefore is not one more among external objects, with the peculiarity of always being there.”

Merleau-Ponty 2002:104-5

For phenomena to manifest, there must be a conscious body. The body is that because of which phenomena can appear. But it also works the other way. The body because of which phenomena have appeared does not appear—and yet the only way of knowing that this body is there is precisely because these phenomena have appeared. A puthujjana thinks that in order to be mindful of the body, all he has to do is just feel it. He assumes that if he stops imagining his body, if he stops thinking about it and simply feels, then he can have direct access to it. But all he is accessing is a perception of the body—a phenomenon. He does not understand that this phenomenon is not the same thing as this body because of which this phenomenon of the body has appeared. And yet although any sight, feeling or thought of the body is not this body because of which these sights, feelings and thoughts have appeared, that is not to say that these sights, feelings or thoughts are inherently wrong. They are only wrong—or, better, misleading—if he takes these phenomena to stand for this body because of which these phenomena have appeared. But if he does not do this (in other words, if he has right view), then the phenomenon of the body which has appeared is not wrong, it does not confuse him, it does not induce ignorance, since it is not taken to be this body because of which this phenomenon of the body has appeared. Instead, he understands: “This is perception” (iti saññā); he understands: “This is matter” (iti rūpaṃ).7 In this way, he recognises the nature of the body as such. If there were no phenomenon of body present, he would have no way of properly discerning the body. Yes, these phenomena are not the same thing as this body because of which these phenomena are there, but without these phenomena, mindfulness of the body would be inconceivable. For there to be mindfulness of the body this body must appear in some way—it’s just that this phenomenon that has appeared is not confused with this body because of which this phenomenon has appeared. This phenomenon of the body which has appeared is that because of which this body can be recognised as such—just as much as this body is that because of which these phenomena have appeared. The two domains which constitute this fundamental duality of experience are mutually dependent. There is no ultimate ground.

Another way of saying this is to say that this body and all external phenomena are dependently originated (paṭiccasamuppanna). In order to properly discern the body, one must have access to the underlying principle or method (ñāya) which the Buddha calls paṭiccasamuppāda:

“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.

And which is the noble method which is properly seen by him [i.e. the noble disciple], properly penetrated with understanding? Here, householder, a noble disciple attends properly, from the source, to this very dependent origination:

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

SN 12:41

In order to see the body properly, one must see paṭiccasamuppāda—and one who sees paṭiccasamuppāda sees the Dhamma.8 It is only by applying this “noble method” (ariya ñāya) of paṭiccasamuppāda that one will see that the body can only be recognised thus:

When there is external name-&-matter, there is a body.
When there isn’t external name-&-matter, there isn’t a body.
When external name-&-matter arises, the body arises.
When external name-&-matter ceases, the body ceases.

“na, bhikkhave, sutavato ariyasāvakassa evaṃ hoti — ‘kiṃ nu kho kismiṃ sati kiṃ hoti, kissuppādā kiṃ uppajjati? …

“atha kho, bhikkhave, sutavato ariyasāvakassa aparappaccayā ñāṇamevettha hoti — ‘imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hoti, imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati. avijjāya sati saṅkhārā honti; saṅkhāresu sati viññāṇaṃ hoti; viññāṇe sati nāmarūpaṃ hoti; nāmarūpe sati saḷāyatanaṃ hoti; saḷāyatane sati phasso hoti; phasse sati vedanā hoti; vedanāya sati taṇhā hoti; taṇhāya sati upādānaṃ hoti; upādāne sati bhavo hoti; bhave sati jāti hoti; jātiyā sati jarāmaraṇaṃ hotī’ti. so evaṃ pajānāti — ‘evamayaṃ loko samudayatī’”ti.

“na, bhikkhave, sutavato ariyasāvakassa evaṃ hoti — ‘kiṃ nu kho kismiṃ asati kiṃ na hoti, kissa nirodhā kiṃ nirujjhati?…

“atha kho, bhikkhave, sutavato ariyasāvakassa aparappaccayā ñāṇamevettha hoti — ‘imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti, imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhati. avijjāya asati saṅkhārā na honti; saṅkhāresu asati viññāṇaṃ na hoti; viññāṇe asati nāmarūpaṃ na hoti; nāmarūpe asati saḷāyatanaṃ na hoti…pe…. bhavo na hoti… jāti na hoti… jātiyā asati jarāmaraṇaṃ na hotī’ti. so evaṃ pajānāti — ‘evamayaṃ loko nirujjhatī’”ti.

“yato kho, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako evaṃ lokassa samudayañca atthaṅgamañca yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako diṭṭhisampanno itipi, dassanasampanno itipi, āgato imaṃ saddhammaṃ itipi, passati imaṃ saddhammaṃ itipi, sekkhena ñāṇena samannāgato itipi, sekkhāya vijjāya samannāgato itipi, dhammasotaṃ samāpanno itipi, ariyo nibbedhikapañño itipi, amatadvāraṃ āhacca tiṭṭhati itipī”ti.

Bhikkhus, for a noble disciple, there isn’t this: ‘When there is what, is there what? When what arises, does what arise?’

Rather, bhikkhus, for a noble disciple there is this very knowledge here, independent of others: ‘When there is this, there is this; when this arises, this arises. When there is ignorance, there are determinations. When there are determinations, there is consciousness. When there is consciousness, there is name-&-matter. When there is name-&-matter, there are the six domains. When there are the six domains, there is contact. When there is contact, there is feeling. When there is feeling, there is craving. When there is craving, there is assuming. When there is assuming, there is being. When there is being, there is birth. When there is birth, there is ageing-&-death.’ He understands thus: ‘In this way this world is originated.

Bhikkhus, for a noble disciple, there isn’t this: ‘When there isn’t what, is there not what? When what ceases, does what cease?’

Rather, bhikkhus, for a noble disciple there is this very knowledge here, independent of others: ‘When there isn’t this, there isn’t this; when this ceases, this ceases. When there isn’t ignorance, there aren’t determinations. When there aren’t determinations, there isn’t consciousness. When there isn’t consciousness, there isn’t name-&-matter. When there isn’t name-&-matter, there aren’t the six domains. When there aren’t the six domains, there isn’t contact. When there isn’t contact, there isn’t feeling. When there isn’t feeling, there isn’t craving. When there isn’t craving, there isn’t assuming. When there isn’t assuming, there isn’t being. When there isn’t being, there isn’t birth. When there isn’t birth, there isn’t ageing-&-death.’ He understands thus: ‘In this way this world is ceased.

Bhikkhus, when a noble disciple understands in this way, as it really is, the origin and passing away of the world, this, bhikkhus, is called a noble disciple, who has succeeded in view, who has succeeded in seeing, who has arrived at this true Dhamma, who sees this true Dhamma, endowed with the trainee’s knowledge, endowed with the trainee’s wisdom, who has entered upon the stream of Dhamma, with noble penetrative understanding, who stands touching the door to the deathless.

SN 12:41

The puthujjana, not seeing the Dhamma, not seeing paṭiccasamuppāda, is incapable of seeing the duality of this body and external phenomena. He has not acquired the proper method for seeing it. He has not yet seen what the Buddha means when he talks about the body. For this very reason, the puthujjana cannot develop mindfulness of the body. But, because the noble disciple has seen paṭiccasamuppāda, he has—by not conceiving the body— properly discerned the body. This is why he is capable of developing mindfulness of the body. Only now that mindfulness of the body has been seen correctly, with right understanding, can it be developed.

“sati kāyagatā upaṭṭhitā,
chasu phassāyatanesu saṃvuto.
satataṃ bhikkhu samāhito,
jaññā nibbānamattano”ti

“With mindfulness of the body established,
Restrained in the six domains of contact,
A bhikkhu, always composed,
Would understand the extinguishing of the self.

Ud 3:5

The noble disciple’s recognition of the body is a recognition of the six internal domains (cha ajjhattikāni āyatanāni).9 This is the body. Having recognised this, the noble disciple now understands that by establishing mindfulness of the body, he is cultivating restraint of the faculties.

so cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā na nimittaggāhī hoti nānubyañjanaggāhī. yatvādhikaraṇamenaṃ cakkhundriyaṃ asaṃvutaṃ viharantaṃ abhijjhādomanassā pāpakā akusalā dhammā anvāssaveyyuṃ tassa saṃvarāya paṭipajjati, rakkhati cakkhundriyaṃ, cakkhundriye saṃvaraṃ āpajjati. sotena saddaṃ sutvā … pe … ghānena gandhaṃ ghāyitvā… jivhāya rasaṃ sāyitvā… kāyena phoṭṭhabbaṃ phusitvā… manasā dhammaṃ viññāya na nimittaggāhī hoti nānubyañjanaggāhī. yatvādhikaraṇamenaṃ manindriyaṃ asaṃvutaṃ viharantaṃ abhijjhādomanassā pāpakā akusalā dhammā anvāssaveyyuṃ tassa saṃvarāya paṭipajjati, rakkhati manindriyaṃ, manindriye saṃvaraṃ āpajjati. so iminā ariyena indriyasaṃvarena samannāgato ajjhattaṃ abyāsekasukhaṃ paṭisaṃvedeti.

Having seen a sight with the eye, he is not one who grasps at the signs, not one who grasps at the characteristics. On account of the fact that, dwelling with the eye-faculty unrestrained, evil unwholesome phenomena of covetousness-&-unhappiness would invade him, he practises for restraint, he protects the eye-faculty, he undergoes restraint in the eye-faculty. Having heard a sound with the ear… Having smelled a smell with the nose… Having tasted a taste with the tongue… Having touched a touch with the body… Having imagined a phenomenon with the mind, he is not one who grasps at the signs, not one who grasps at the characteristics. On account of the fact that, dwelling with the mind-faculty unrestrained, evil unwholesome phenomena of covetousness-&-unhappiness would invade him, he practises for restraint, he protects the mind-faculty, he undergoes restraint in the mind-faculty. Endowed with this noble restraint-of-the-faculties, he experiences an unsullied pleasure.

MN 27

By developing mindfulness of the body, he is not drawn to, or repelled by, the particular characteristics of anything he sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches or imagines. Rather than focusing on this or that particular characteristic of whatever has appeared, he is more concerned with the more general picture: namely, that there is this duality of these things that have appeared and this body because of which these things have appeared. He knows that this is all there can be. He knows that for as long as anything has appeared, he can only ever find that-because-of-which these things have appeared as always already there. What this means is that any sense of ownership or control in regard to that-because-of-which these things have appeared—a sense of ownership or control which itself would have to appear because of that-because-of-which these things have appeared—cannot possibly appear. He understands that that-because-of-which these things have appeared is utterly beyond his reach, that these things that have appeared are completely dependent upon something that is utterly beyond his reach. And so he finds himself becoming dispassionate towards, detached from, disinterested in these particular things which have appeared because of that-because-of-which these things have appeared. By developing mindfulness of the body, he develops restraint. By developing restraint, he develops equanimity.

kathañca , bhikkhave, asaṃvaro hoti? idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā piyarūpe rūpe adhimuccati, appiyarūpe rūpe byāpajjati, anupaṭṭhitakāyassati ca viharati parittacetaso. tañca cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ yathābhūtaṃ nappajānāti, yatthassa te uppannā pāpakā akusalā dhammā aparisesā nirujjhanti. sotena saddaṃ sutvā… ghānena gandhaṃ ghāyitvā… jivhāya rasaṃ sāyitvā… kāyena phoṭṭhabbaṃ phusitvā… manasā dhammaṃ viññāya piyarūpe dhamme adhimuccati, appiyarūpe dhamme byāpajjati, anupaṭṭhitakāyassati ca viharati parittacetaso, tañca cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ yathābhūtaṃ nappajānāti, yatthassa te uppannā pāpakā akusalā dhammā aparisesā nirujjhanti.

seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, puriso chappāṇake gahetvā nānāvisaye nānāgocare daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya. ahiṃ gahetvā daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya. susumāraṃ [suṃsumāraṃ (sī. syā. kaṃ. pī.)] gahetvā daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya. pakkhiṃ gahetvā daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya. kukkuraṃ gahetvā daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya . siṅgālaṃ gahetvā daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya. makkaṭaṃ gahetvā daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya. daḷhāya rajjuyā bandhitvā majjhe gaṇṭhiṃ karitvā ossajjeyya. atha kho, te, bhikkhave , chappāṇakā nānāvisayā nānāgocarā sakaṃ sakaṃ gocaravisayaṃ āviñcheyyuṃ [āviñjeyyuṃ (sī.)] — ahi āviñcheyya ‘vammikaṃ pavekkhāmī’ti, susumāro āviñcheyya ‘udakaṃ pavekkhāmī’ti, pakkhī āviñcheyya ‘ākāsaṃ ḍessāmī’ti, kukkuro āviñcheyya ‘gāmaṃ pavekkhāmī’ti, siṅgālo āviñcheyya ‘sīvathikaṃ [sivathikaṃ (ka.)] pavekkhāmī’ti, makkaṭo āviñcheyya ‘vanaṃ pavekkhāmī’ti. yadā kho te, bhikkhave, chappāṇakā jhattā assu kilantā, atha kho yo nesaṃ pāṇakānaṃ balavataro assa tassa te anuvatteyyuṃ, anuvidhāyeyyuṃ vasaṃ gaccheyyuṃ. evameva kho, bhikkhave, yassa kassaci bhikkhuno kāyagatāsati abhāvitā abahulīkatā, taṃ cakkhu āviñchati manāpiyesu rūpesu, amanāpiyā rūpā paṭikūlā honti…pe…. mano āviñchati manāpiyesu dhammesu, amanāpiyā dhammā paṭikūlā honti. evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, asaṃvaro hoti.

kathañca, bhikkhave, saṃvaro hoti? idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā piyarūpe rūpe nādhimuccati, appiyarūpe rūpe na byāpajjati, upaṭṭhitakāyassati ca viharati appamāṇacetaso, tañca cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, yatthassa te uppannā pāpakā akusalā dhammā aparisesā nirujjhanti…pe…. jivhā rasaṃ sāyitvā…pe…. manasā dhammaṃ viññāya piyarūpe dhamme nādhimuccati, appiyarūpe dhamme na byāpajjati, upaṭṭhitakāyassati ca viharati appamāṇacetaso, tañca cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti yatthassa te uppannā pāpakā akusalā dhammā aparisesā nirujjhanti.

seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, puriso chappāṇake gahetvā nānāvisaye nānāgocare daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya. ahiṃ gahetvā daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya. susumāraṃ gahetvā daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya. pakkhiṃ gahetvā…pe…. kukkuraṃ gahetvā… siṅgālaṃ gahetvā… makkaṭaṃ gahetvā daḷhāya rajjuyā bandheyya. daḷhāya rajjuyā bandhitvā daḷhe khīle vā thambhe vā upanibandheyya. atha kho te, bhikkhave, chappāṇakā nānāvisayā nānāgocarā sakaṃ sakaṃ gocaravisayaṃ āviñcheyyuṃ — ahi āviñcheyya ‘vammikaṃ pavekkhāmī’ti, susumāro āviñcheyya ‘udakaṃ pavekkhāmī’ti, pakkhī āviñcheyya ‘ākāsaṃ ḍessāmī’ti, kukkuro āviñcheyya ‘gāmaṃ pavekkhāmī’ti, siṅgālo āviñcheyya ‘sīvathikaṃ pavekkhāmī’ti, makkaṭo āviñcheyya ‘vanaṃ pavekkhāmī’ti . yadā kho te, bhikkhave, chappāṇakā jhattā assu kilantā , atha tameva khīlaṃ vā thambhaṃ vā upatiṭṭheyyuṃ, upanisīdeyyuṃ, upanipajjeyyuṃ. evameva kho, bhikkhave, yassa kassaci bhikkhuno kāyagatāsati bhāvitā bahulīkatā, taṃ cakkhu nāviñchati manāpiyesu rūpesu, amanāpiyā rūpā nappaṭikūlā honti…pe…. jivhā nāviñchati manāpiyesu rasesu…pe…. mano nāviñchati manāpiyesu dhammesu, amanāpiyā dhammā nappaṭikūlā honti. evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, saṃvaro hoti.

“‘daḷhe khīle vā thambhe vā’ti kho, bhikkhave, kāyagatāya satiyā etaṃ adhivacanaṃ. tasmātiha vo, bhikkhave, evaṃ sikkhitabbaṃ — ‘kāyagatā no sati bhāvitā bhavissati bahulīkatā yānīkatā vatthukatā anuṭṭhitā paricitā susamāraddhā’ti. evañhi kho, bhikkhave, sikkhitabba”nti.

And which, bhikkhus, is non-restraint? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, having seen a sight with the eye, inclines towards a pleasing sight, he is troubled by a displeasing sight, and he dwells without mindfulness of the body set up, with a limited mind. And he does not understand as it really is that liberation of mind, liberation of understanding, where those arisen evil unwholesome things cease for him without remainder. Having heard a sound with the ear… Having smelled a smell with the nose… Having tasted a taste with the tongue… Having touched a touch with the body… Having imagined a phenomenon with the mind, he inclines towards a pleasing phenomenon, he is troubled by a displeasing phenomenon, and he dwells without mindfulness of the body set up, with a limited mind. And he does not understand as it really is that liberation of mind, liberation of understanding, where those arisen evil unwholesome things cease for him without remainder.

Suppose, bhikkhus, a man, having taken hold of six animals, with different domains, different feeding grounds, would tie them up with a strong rope. Having taken hold of a snake, he would tie it up with a strong rope. Having taken hold of a crocodile, he would tie it up with a strong rope. Having taken hold of a bird, he would tie it up with a strong rope. Having taken hold of a dog, he would tie it up with a strong rope. Having taken hold of a jackal, he would tie it up with a strong rope. Having taken hold of a monkey, he would tie it up with a strong rope. Having tied them up with a strong rope, having made a knot in the middle, he would release them. Then, bhikkhus, those six animals, with different domains, different feeding grounds, would each pull towards its own feeding-ground-&-domain—the snake would pull: ‘I will enter an ant-hill.’ The crocodile would pull: ‘I will enter the water.’ The bird would pull: ‘I will fly up into the sky.’ The dog would pull: ‘I will enter the village.’ The jackal would pull: ‘I will enter the graveyard.’ The monkey would pull: ‘I will enter the woods.’ Bhikkhus, when those six animals would be worn out, exhausted, then whichever is the strongest out of the animals—they would submit to it, they would follow it, they would come under its control. In just this way, bhikkhus, for whatever bhikkhu mindfulness of the body is not developed, not made much of, the eye pulls into agreeable sights, disagreeable sights are repulsive… The mind pulls into agreeable phenomena, disagreeable phenomena are repulsive. In this way, bhikkhus, one is unrestrained.

And which, bhikkhus, is restraint? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, having seen a sight with the eye, does not incline towards a pleasing sight, is not troubled by a displeasing sight, and he dwells with mindfulness of the body set up, with an immeasurable mind. And he understands as it really is that liberation of mind, liberation of understanding, where those arisen evil unwholesome things cease for him without remainder. Having heard a sound with the ear… Having smelled a smell with the nose… Having tasted a taste with the tongue… Having touched a touch with the body… Having imagined a phenomenon with the mind, he does not incline towards a pleasing phenomenon, he is not troubled by a displeasing phenomenon, and he dwells with mindfulness of the body set up, with an immeasurable mind. And he understands as it really is that liberation of mind, liberation of understanding, where those arisen evil unwholesome things cease for him without remainder.

Suppose, bhikkhus, a man, having taken hold of six animals, with different domains, different feeding grounds, would tie them up with a strong rope. Having taken hold of a snake, he would tie it up with a strong rope. Having taken hold of a crocodile, he would tie it up with a strong rope. Having taken hold of a bird… Having taken hold of a dog… Having taken hold of a jackal… Having taken hold of a monkey, he would tie it up with a strong rope. Having tied them up with a strong rope, he would tie them on to a strong stake or post. Then, bhikkhus, those six animals, with different domains, different feeding grounds, would each pull towards its own feeding-ground-&-domain—the snake would pull: ‘I will enter an ant-hill.’ The crocodile would pull: ‘I will enter the water.’ The bird would pull: ‘I will fly up into the sky.’ The dog would pull: ‘I will enter the village.’ The jackal would pull: ‘I will enter the graveyard.’ The monkey would pull: ‘I will enter the woods.’ Bhikkhus, when those six animals would be worn out, exhausted, then they would stand next to, they would sit down next to, they would lie down next to that strong stake or post. In just this way, bhikkhus, for whatever bhikkhu mindfulness of the body is developed, made much of, the eye does not pull into agreeable sights, disagreeable sights are not repulsive… The mind does not pull into agreeable phenomena, disagreeable phenomena are not repulsive. In this way, bhikkhus, one is restrained.

‘A strong stake or post’—this, bhikkhus, is a designation for mindfulness of the body. Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train in this way: ‘Mindfulness of the body will be developed by us, made much of, made our vehicle, made our ground, carried out, practised, properly undertaken.’ In this way, bhikkhus, you should train.

SN 35:247

With this understanding, with this noble restraint, with this noble indifference, the noble disciple should now make the effort to stop conceiving the body once and for all—for whenever he conceives the body, he allows for some appropriation of the phenomena that have appeared and, as a result, is affected by them. Therefore, he should make the effort to develop mindfulness of the body until it has been fully understood, so that he can no longer be affected by anything which has appeared on account of this body.

amataṃ tesaṃ, bhikkhave, apariññātaṃ yesaṃ kāyagatāsati apariññātā. amataṃ tesaṃ, bhikkhave, pariññātaṃ yesaṃ kāyagatāsati pariññātā”ti.

Bhikkhus, the deathless is not fully understood by those for whom mindfulness of the body is not fully understood. Bhikkhus, the deathless is fully understood by those for whom mindfulness of the body is fully understood.

AN 1:626

This full understanding of mindfulness of the body is the understanding of the arahat (asekkhā paññā)10, who can no longer be troubled by anything that has the nature to appear.

dhono na hi tena maññati, yadidaṃ diṭṭhasutaṃ mutesu vā.

The purified one does not conceive that-because-of-which—that is, in the seen, heard or thought.

Sn 813

For the arahat, mindfulness of the body can no longer be disturbed. The possibility of conceiving the body is now inconceivable.

suppabuddhaṃ pabujjhanti, sadā gotamasāvakā.
yesaṃ divā ca ratto ca, niccaṃ kāyagatā sati.

Fully awakened, they are always awake, the disciples of Gotama,
For whom—day and night—mindfulness of the body is constant.

Dhp 299

 

References from the Pali Canon

DN Dīgha Nikāya
MN Majjhima Nikāya
SN Saṃyutta Nikāya
AN Aṅguttara Nikāya
Dhp Dhammapada
Ud Udāna
Sn Suttanipāta

 

Other References

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

 

Endnotes:

1Sutta references in this essay are, where possible, based on the numbering found in the Wisdom publications of the English translations by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

2The PTS dictionary provides the following etymology: Jānāti : Vedic jña, jānāti *genē & *gné, cp. Gr. gignw/skw, gnwto/s, gnw_sis; Lat. nosco, notus (i)gnarus

(cp E. i — gnorant); Goth. kunnan; Ohg. kennan, Ags cnāwan=E. know

3The noun paññā is derived from this verb jānāti [pa+jñā]. For a more detailed discussion of the meaning of paññā, see my essay Paññā: from psychology to hermeneutics. For more on Charles Taylor’s notion of “mediational epistemology”, see my essay Kāmā.

4maññati = “he thinks”, “he imagines”, “he conceives”

5parijānāti = “he fully understands” (past participle: pariññāta). The prefix pari- means something like “all around”, “altogether”, “completely”.

6I am using the word “feel” here (and throughout this essay) very loosely. In English we say, “I can feel a tingling in my legs” or, “I can’t feel my fingers”. However, it must be understood that what is being referred to here is not vedanā (“feeling”) but saññā (“perception”)in this case, the perception of touch. See Venerable Ñāṇamoli’s essay, Not Perceiving the Feeling.

7cf. dhammānupassanā khandhapabbaṃ in MN 10

8MN 28

9DN 33

10DN 33

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Comments
  1. Joseph says:

    Might one think of the body [1] as the vertex of a horizon? Just as the vertex is never seen within the horizon yet it is still a part of it. Given the role that the horizon plays in the structure of meaning for both Husserl and Heidegger, it may be a useful analogy to consider. Consider as well Ven. Ñanavira’s Fundamental Structure where “x” is an implicit internal aspect of the experience of the external manifestation of “o”.

    [1] The body would of course include mind, cf. Ñanavira’s SN on Mano.

    • ariyavamsa says:

      Perhaps. I don’t know. I don’t really understand what you mean by “the vertex of a horizon”. And I don’t fully grasp all of Venerable Ñāṇavīra’s moves with his x’s and o’s. I’m not a mathematician and, while for some there may be value in these things, I don’t find myself being drawn towards creating a geometrical/mathematical model of experience. As far as I see it, the Dhamma has been clearly and accurately described (svākkhāto). The model is already there, if you like. All that needs to be done is to recognise what has been described by the Buddha, for oneself, in one’s own experience—and then to develop this understanding to the extent necessary for arahatta.

      I don’t want to deny that some people may benefit from an abstract model (as long as it has been developed by someone with right view, of course, and so, properly speaking, is not abstract but phenomenological), but it’s important to remember that the body is not some abstract idea that needs to be ‘figured out’. Right now, in this very particular situation that you find yourself in, you have an understanding of what your body is. This, for you, is the body. Now, if you were to see this in the right way, with right view, you would understand that this body, in this particular situation, can only be discerned as a kind of negative in relation to these positive phenomena that have appeared. But this doesn’t mean that this body is abstract. It’s very real. It’s that very flesh-&-blood right there which makes it possible for you to be reading this right now.

      • ariyavamsa says:

        Or, to put it another way: that body which you’re thinking about as being the vertex of a horizon is not the same as that body because of which you’re sitting there thinking about that body being the vertex of a horizon.

        But even here, that thought of that body because of which you’re sitting there thinking about that body being the vertex of a horizon is not the same as that body because of which there is that thought of that body because of which you’re sitting there thinking about that body being the vertex of a horizon.

        But even here, that thought… etc. etc.

  2. Simon says:

    Dear Bhante!

    Thank you, once again, for this fascinating essay.
    Would it be correct to say that what you are trying to explain to us is the pre-phenomenal (structurally speaking) body as the matter (rūpa) on which the phenomenal body that shows in experience (when I look down, look in the mirror, touch it with the limbs etc.) necessarily depends? Could one say that mindfulness of the body then rather means to “look into the gap” (or abyss?) between these two separate domains while keeping them both “in the corner of one’s eyes” in the understanding that they depend on each other?

    But there is one thing I would like to ask if you could possibly clarify it: In the Kāyagatāsatisutta the Buddha explains how one develops (bhāveti) mindfulness of the body by reflecting (paccavekkhati), for example, on the anatomical parts of the body or the elements or by comparing (upasaṃharati) one’s own body to a body going through the progressive stages of decay. It seems to me that what is spoken of in those cases is to be located within the phenomenal domain and that reflecting on and comparing the body in the suggested manner is sufficient for an establishment of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna).

    Best wishes,

    Simon

    • ariyavamsa says:

      “Could one say that mindfulness of the body then rather means to “look into the gap” (or abyss?) between these two separate domains while keeping them both “in the corner of one’s eyes” in the understanding that they depend on each other?”

      … That, to me, seems like an excellent way of putting it.

      “In the Kāyagatāsatisutta the Buddha explains how one develops (bhāveti) mindfulness of the body by reflecting (paccavekkhati), for example, on the anatomical parts of the body or the elements or by comparing (upasaṃharati) one’s own body to a body going through the progressive stages of decay. It seems to me that what is spoken of in those cases is to be located within the phenomenal domain and that reflecting on and comparing the body in the suggested manner is sufficient for an establishment of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna).”

      … When you are contemplating your heart, your liver, your entrails, or any other disgusting thing enclosed by your skin, or when you are contemplating the fact that your body will end up decomposing in the ground, being eaten by worms, etc., then, yes, these thoughts are found within the phenomenal realm (external nāmarūpa). But this is no different from practising ānāpānassati, or being mindful of your bodily posture, or any other of the descriptions in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. When you understand “I am breathing in”, this thought about the bodily act of breathing has appeared. When you understand “I am sitting down”, that thought about you body has appeared. The body can only appear as part of external nāmarūpa. And yet that external nāmarūpa can only be there for as long as there is a conscious body there. In order to develop mindfulness of the body, you must include in your contemplation that very body right there which does not appear, which cannot appear… because it is that because of which whatever has appeared right now has appeared. In “Phassa” I said that the puthujjana’s world consists of everything that has appeared. But for the ariyasāvaka the world is not just all that has appeared—he includes that in the world because of which there is a world. As you contemplate the heart in your chest, don’t forget—i.e. remember (sarati=smṛ;, cp. smṛti=sati)—that heart, that lump of muscle out there, which cannot be accessed through conceiving, but without which there could be no perception of a heart. Or, if you are thinking about the graveyard, don’t forget this very body right here (that because of which you are sitting there thinking about the graveyard) which shares exactly the same nature as that dead body you are thinking about:

      so imameva kāyaṃ upasaṃharati — ‘ayampi kho kāyo evaṃdhammo evaṃbhāvī evaṃanatīto’ti.
      one compares it with this very body—‘This body is also of the nature of this, is going to be like this, has not gone beyond this.’

      Even with the paṭikūlamanasikārapabbaṃ and the navasivathikapabbaṃ, one should still ‘Mind the Gap’, as it were.

  3. Joseph says:

    Thank you for your response. I believe that Ven. Ñanavira explains the purpose behind FS quite nicely in his letter to the Hon. L. Samaratunga. I think it is in agreement with what you’ve explained about how the Suttas themselves are sufficient so long as one has a proper understanding of the significance of the body within the Buddha’s teaching. The here and now is always concrete with its mooring anchored ultimately to the body.

    “ Incidentally, this business of ‘starting from where we are’ is really the theme of FS, which you found puzzling. The point is that abstract or objective or scientific thought abolishes the distinction between ‘here’ and ‘elsewhere’, between ‘this’ and ‘other things’—in short, the negative or the principle of contradiction—, and is consequently unable to start from anywhere in particular, and starts from everywhere (or, what is the same thing, from nowhere). But an existing individual is always somewhere in particular, here and not elsewhere; and what is needed is to show the structure of existence without losing sight of this fact—nay, understanding that the entire structure of existence rests upon this fact. Since nobody else, so far as I know, has undertaken this task, I have had to do it myself (in order to clarify my own thinking—to see how I can think existence without ceasing to exist, i.e. to make plain the structure of “reflexive” thinking). But provided the principle of ‘starting from where we are’ presents no difficulty and is not forgotten, there is no need at all for anyone to attempt to follow the formal discussion of FS.” [L. 42 | 49] 22 March 1963

    It seems to me that the body is always “here” as oppose to “there”, and this begins at the most primitive level of experience. It’s their relationship that manifests namarupa. And when we place our body in this room, let us say, we are shifting our attention to a more complex idea that depends upon the more primitive relationships underlying it. The particular is the ontological foundation for the general. This I take to be the gist of the Madhupindika Sutta where the presence of the “describablity” of a thing is ultimately derived from phassa, with the presence of the “describability” of phassa itself being derived from the individual salayatana and the corresponding types of consciousness. (Note the use of the verb “as” throughout the sutta with its emphasis on existence.)

    Each of the six individual salayatana – prior to any relationship – would be rupa, i.e. unintelligible brute inertia or resistance. The body at its most primitive level would be the internal ayatana. Nature apart from the body would be the external ayatana. Both the body and nature are beyond our control. Our sense of control comes about through our making sense of our experience through nama.

    I always appreciate what you have to write. With winter moving in I’m hoping to devout a good deal of time reading through the Sutta Pitaka. Your insights have given me new ways to interpret the Suttas which I greatly value and will help guide me as I work my way through them.

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