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." AN1.625
If one is not discerning the deathless, is one ‘doing’ mindfulness of the body?
In this sutta, is it not suggesting that, if one wants to be sure that one is practicing mindfulness of body correctly, and not wasting time, that the deathless will be discerned…at the same time or rather to the same extent?
One who does not discern the body, does not discern the deathless. Many people would say that they discern the body, so then where is the deathless?
I just take this an encouragement to engage in various aspects of path and practice if one wishes to attain Nibbana, aka The Deathless. Mindfulness of the body is just one example, albeit a popular one.
Earlier in AN various other aspects of the path are recommended:
Sure, it’s an encouragement, because if one is not experiencing the deathless, it’s saying that there is no mindfulness of the body, and so one can then re-evaluate ones understanding of what 'mindful of the body ’ is.
Most people discern the body, but they do not attempt to confront its imperfections, impermanence, and unsatisfying nature with equanimity and detachment. Most people who discern the body are trying to find a way to cling to it.
I think it means that without the first foundation of mindfulness (foulness, dhatu, cemetery) there’s no enlightenment- without giving up craving for the body it’s impossible to reach nibbana. I think it’s hard to substitute it with mindfulness of breath alone and success in letting go of the body will be extremely unlikely, though rarely the likes of Sariputta might be able to do it.
To say “I have achieved” is quite different than, say, coming back from the store with a jar of the Deathless.
Therefore, the question “where is the deathless?” is a bit odd. Does the Deathless have a location? And even if the Deathless were glimpsed momentarily, wouldn’t that glimpse just disappear again into the cloud of suffering that kept us from actually achieving it?
And what is the noble search?
It’s when someone who is themselves liable to be reborn, understanding the drawbacks in being liable to be reborn, seeks the unborn supreme sanctuary, extinguishment. Themselves liable to grow old, fall sick, die, sorrow, and become corrupted, understanding the drawbacks in these things, they seek the unaging, unailing, undying, sorrowless, uncorrupted supreme sanctuary, extinguishment.
If someone were to ask, “where are you coming from with all these questions?” Are they asking for your previous location?
Someone might say “In Buddhism, that is **where ** the truth can be found”
Im not actually asking for the location of the deathless, as though it could be found as an object of perception. However, it is still a valid question, which can induce contemplation on the subject.
"When asked, ‘And where do they gain their footing?’ you have answered, ‘They gain their footing in the deathless."AN9.14
They gain their footing in the deathless, that is where.
"Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops right view … right concentration, which has the Deathless as its ground, the Deathless as its destination, the Deathless as its final goal…"SN45.139
What does ‘destination’ here mean? It would be quite a stretch to assume that it is some physical location, like a village of some kind.
Well,if someone were to think " I have glimpsed Nibbana,but now have entered back into the state of ignorance,", that was not the Nibbana that is the goal, because it is irreversible. Having known the deathless,one cannot un-know it.
A glimpse of the deathless i.e having a thought, located in the mind, even though it might be correct as an idea, is still just a perceived thought which one will conceive and not the deathless which cannot be perceived.
An example of this is in MN1:
“He perceives Nibbāna as Nibbāna. Having perceived Nibbāna as Nibbāna, he conceives himself as Nibbāna, he conceives himself in Nibbāna, he conceives himself apart from Nibbāna, he conceives Nibbāna to be ‘mine,’ he delights in Nibbāna. Why is that? Because he has not fully understood it, I say.”
So where is the deathless then,is it in perception or somewhere else? What is the ‘discerning’ of the deathless mean?
For someone who is on the ‘noble search’, such questioning is valid, although it might sound silly and odd.
AN4.45“Is it possible, lord, by traveling, to know or see or reach a far end of the world where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away or reappear?”
“I tell you, friend, that it is not possible by traveling to know or see or reach a far end of the world where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away, or reappear. But at the same time, I tell you that there is no making an end of suffering & stress without reaching the end of the world. Yet it is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception & intellect, that I declare that there is the world, the origination of the world, the cessation of the world, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the world”
I take it to mean that without the first foundation of mindfulness the deathless can’t be achieved. And that to achieve the deathless, ONE of the things that are needed is well-developed mindfulness of the body. I don’t think it implies that it is a sufficient condition, only that it is a nessecary one.
One angle used by one teacher is an exhaustive investigation of the conditioning of every phenomena opens the possibility of touching the “unconditioned”. Analogously, thorough discernment of bodily phenomena, and their “dying”, and the ultimate death at the end of the body’s trajectory, can bring the mind to a point where the “deathless” “opens up”.
Renunciation would seem also in that direction. At a recent teaching-retreat, the Sayadaw noted that, at least in his tradition, the initial training of a new monk centers on death – death to former worldly life, death of the former persona (new name), etc. It was also mentioned, or maybe elsewhere, that entering the lobby of many monasteries (in one case that of Ajahn Chah), the decor is notably skeletons, coffins, other overt indications of death.
So fulfilled, “established” discernment of the phenomena (subjectively – the seeing – and objectively – the seen) relating to the body can clear the delusion induced by all attachment, clear the decks of impediments, where something “deathless” can emerge for the mind.
This all doesn’t say exactly how, or what the “deathless” is, but indicates traditional training that has proven, it’s claimed, to occasion experience of the “deathless”. Any means of discussing this in language is, like trying to define “God”, is at best apophatic – denial; exhaustively enumerating what it’s not.
I think amata ( the deathless ) is another one of those Brahmanic ideas that the Buddha used, but redefined. In the EBTs I understand it to be an epithet for Nibbana, rather than a literally deathless state. But of course there are different interpretations - it depends whether one views Nibbana as a radically different state of mind, or as a transcendent reality, a sphere that one connects with.
Yes, I think that would be the traditional interpretation. Given that Nibbana is a living experience, that would seem to make amata ( the deathless ) a consequence of Nibbana, ie amata would equate to pari-Nibbana, rather than to Nibbana.
However, the impression I have from the EBTs is that Nibbana = Amata.
See SN45.7 for example:
Here is a sutta which illustrates ,in regards to brahmaviharas, the same meaning of AN1.625.
If one thinks “I have developed mindfulness of the body, I practise it, yet I do not experience the deathless”, then they misrepresent the Blessed one.
Some say that they develop mindfulness of the body and that in the future, hopefully, doing the best they can, they will get to the deathless/Nibbana.
Some others say that by understanding what mindfulness of body is, is the same as understanding of the deathless.
Having Right mindfulness, knowing what body is, having Right view, one has understood the deathless.
And that one cannot think that one has Right mindfulness without Right view.
If there is no understanding of Nibbana, then one is not doing mindfulness of the body.