Rather than make a bazillion different threads for each and every question, I figured I would contain my inquiries to one as they come up.
This question relates to a larger question about the place of vipassanā in the EBTs (disclaimer, I know absolutely nothing about vipassanā).
Specifically, this is a question about the usage of 觀 (guān):[quote]1. to observe; to watch; to view; to see
2. to observe closely; to scrutinise; to investigate
3. to read; to peruse
4. to display; to show
5. to visit; to go sightseeing
6. to play; to enjoy
7. appearance; looks
8. sight; view; perspective
9. concept; outlook
10. A surname.[/quote]In addition to these readings, the NTI Buddhist Chinese dictionary lists 觀 as being a frequent translations of vipaśyanā-vipassanā.
It appears in SA 176, in a termination formula that repeats several times, in which the Buddha seems to give meditational instructions.
The first context it comes up in is [quote]「為斷無常故，當隨修內身身觀住。[/quote]Ven Ānalayo gives this rendition: [quote]“For the sake of eradicating impermanent things, one should accordingly be established in contemplating the internal body as a body.[/quote]
The ending two characters (觀住) are clipped off in Ven Ānalayo’s translation, or they are accounted for elsewhere at the very least. 觀 has a variety of meanings, which in Buddhist discourse, can be limited down to these (based on the NTI dictionary): vipaśyanā, smṛti, or dṛṣṭi: insight, mindfulness, or it can refer to a particular “view”.
This is in addition to its standard meanings in Literary Chinese, as well as its generally reading, which is “to look [at]”.
住 (zhù) is the next character. This one has two main readings, which are not as related to each other as the various meanings of 觀 obviously are.
From going through the āgamāḥ on my own, it seems that the translators use it for “dwelling/abiding (pratiṣṭhita?)” and “cessation” chiefly. Some other usages are as follows:[quote]1. to live
2. to reside
3. to attach
4. to stop
5. to retain/to hold back
6. to reserve/preserve
7. to maintain[/quote] So knowing the semantic values of these two units we can look at the repeated terminatio formula in SA 176 to end in something like “looking at/viewing/insightful of” followed either by “dwelling in” or “ceasing/cessation”. This would be a very strange place for verb-stacking, so only one of these two is probably functioning as a verb (if either one is) and that necessitates the other character being a noun or adjective.
Looking at 觀住 a few possibilities come to mind (keep in mind we are talking about 修內身身 (cultivation of internal body [as?] body, kāye kāyānupassī, which Ven @sujato renders as “observing an aspect of the body”):
Of these, given that when 住 is employed in an āgama, the sutta-parallel usually has the cessation of something, it seems tentatively sensible to me that the ending of the formula is something like “observing cessation” or “observing its cessation”, or “observing attachment” or “observing [your?] attachment [to that]”.
Ven Ānalayo does not seem to include these characters in his English rendering of the āgama, which could be for any reason. I think that the English verb “contemplate” sort of combines the Chinese 修 (xiū, or bhāvanā) and 觀 “observing/observation”, and this could be why Ven Ānalayo felt the meaning of 觀 was accounted for in the English rendering.
Here are the rest of the times that the terminatio formula occurs, contextualized, I have chosen “insightful [of it’s] cessation” for the purposes of this list, but the above possibilities still stand:[quote]何等法無常？謂色無常，為斷彼故，當隨修內身身觀住。
Which ranks [of] dharmāḥ lack constancy? [One] calls substance [i.e. rūpa] lacking [in] constancy, for severing [from] that [the] purpose [of this is], act [to] pursue cultivation [of the] internal body [as] bodily[,] insightful [of it’s] cessation.
(Ven Ānalayo:)What things are impermanent? That is, bodily form is impermanent. For the sake of eradicating that [thing], one should accordingly be established in contemplating the internal body as a body.[/quote]
Thus so sensation, cognition, formation, consciousness lacks constancy, for severing [from] that [the] purpose [of this is], act [to] pursue cultivation [of the] internal body [as] bodily[,] insightful [of it’s] cessation."
In the same way feeling … perception … formations … consciousness is impermanent. For the sake of eradicating that [thing], one should accordingly be established in contemplating the internal body as a body.”[/quote]
Thus [all of these things] lack constancy, thus so finished past [substance, sensation, cognition, formation & consciousness] lack constancy, not-yet arisen substance [et al.], present extant substance [et al.] , finished past [and] not-yet arisen substance [et al.],
Just as “[bodily form] is impermanent”, in the same way “past bodily form is impermanent”, “future bodily form [is impermanent]”, “present bodily form [is impermanent]”, “past and future bodily form [is impermanent]”,
finished past [and] presently extant substance, not-yet arisen [and] presently extant substance, finished past [and] presently extant substance lacks constancy, severing [from] that [the] purpose [of this is], act [to] pursue cultivation [of the] body [as] bodily[,] insightful [of it’s] cessation.
“past and present bodily form [is impermanent]”, “future and present bodily form [is impermanent]”, “past, future, and present bodily form is impermanent. For the sake of eradicating that [thing], one should accordingly be established in contemplating the internal body as a body.[/quote]
Thusly act [to] pursue cultivation [of the] internal body [as] bodily[,] insightful [of it’s] cessation [in these] eight ways, thus so [of the] external body [do/act/perform/make] body insight, [of the] internal body [do/act/perform/make] body insight,
Just as “[one should] accordingly be established in contemplating the internal body as a body” in eight modes, in the same way “[one should] accordingly be established in contemplating the external body as a body”,[/quote]This list is getting a little bit unnecessarily long, so I will finish with an account of the closing formula : [quote]內受受觀、外受受觀、內外受受觀、內心心觀、.
[Of the] internal sensations [do/act/perform/make] sensation insight, [of the] external sensations [do/act/perform/make] sensation insight, [of the] internal [and] external sensations [do/act/perform/make] sensation insight, [of the] internal mind [i.e. citta] [do/act/perform/make] mind insight,
“in contemplating internal feelings as feelings”, “in contemplating external feelings as feelings”, “in contemplating internal and external feelings as feelings”,[/quote]
This formula appears four times. Four different nouns in total occupy the place after 外 or 內 (which, respectively, mean “internal” and “external”), namely, 身 (body), 受 (feelings, sensations), 心 (mind), & 法 (dharmāḥ, internal and external, very odd). These all occur between 外/內 and 觀.
So there we have an account of the curious usage of 觀 in SA 176, as well as the various “types” (?) of 觀 listed (身觀, 受觀, 心觀, 法觀). What do you think of this? Is this at all similar to modern vipassanā (keeping in mind that I know absolutely nothing about vipassanā)?
PS: The closing of the āgama is characteristically phrased with excellent writing by the scribe. I say the scribe/translator, rather than the Buddha directly, because it is a bit contentious as to if material after the scribal formula 佛說此經已, or “Buddha’s words this sūtra [was] thereafter” is indeed “Buddhavacana” or is just “Buddhist teachings” rephrased. Anyways here it is: [quote]如斷無常義，修四念處；如是知義、
Thus severing [from] lack [of] constant falsity [or “artificiality”], cultivate [the] four remembrance bases [i.e. cattāro satipatthānāno]; thus so discern kleśāḥ,
[there is an edit here, inserting readings based on @James2997’s corrections concerning 義]
End kleśāḥ, expel kleśāḥ, stop kleśāḥ, abandon falsity, end kleśāḥ’ cause [@James2997: “vanishing (of kilesa)”].
Pursue cultivation [of the] four remembrance (or “mindfulness”) bases, only thus [the] Bhagavān spoke*.
*concerning this last phrase, I assumed null-subject construction in the dependent clause, and misinterpreted 上 as to imply the word “如来” (rú lái), or “Tathāgata”. The correct reading of this is “also as above said”. It ambiguously marks the editorial postlude after the Buddhavacana as also being purported Buddhavacana all the same, however. [/quote]Ven Ānalayo does not include the ending of this āgama in his translation, probably because, I think it’s possible, that he does not believing the ending to be Buddhavacana, and believes it to be a scribal epilogue. This is a position shared by a few other studiers of āgamāḥ. I am not a professional, so I cannot say that Ven Ānalayo was wrong to not translate the ending as well, but I think that it is also possible that material after 佛說此經已 is also Buddhavacana, given the closing: 亦如上說, “only thus [did the] Bhagavān speak”, but again, I am not a professional.
The 四念處 (four remembrance/mindfulness bases?) at the end might line up with the four objects (?) of 觀 spoken of in the āgama, but that begs the question, if such was the case, why didn’t the āgama doesn’t just say something like 外受念 directly, but rather employs the differentiated language of 觀.