SuttaCentral

Bahiya revisited


#1

In the Bahiya Sutta we find the phrase “In what is seen, there must be only what is seen…”

What does this mean, practically speaking? Is it similar to the direct knowing of MN1? And what exactly is the seen?

And how does one actually practice this?


#2

I beleive they are the same. For some it could be a training. For those who have realized this becomes their nature. This is because discriminating consciousness ceases .


#3

The detailed explaination of the stanza

diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati, sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati, mute mutamattaṃ bhavissati, viññāte viññātamattaṃ bhavissatī’ti. Evañhi te, bāhiya, sikkhitabbaṃ. Yato kho te, bāhiya, diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati, sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati, mute mutamattaṃ bhavissati, viññāte viññātamattaṃ bhavissati, tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tena; yato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tena tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tattha; yato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tattha, tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, nevidha na huraṃ na ubhayamantarena. Esevanto dukkhassā”

can be found in Mālukyaputta Sutta SN 35.95

This was specific to bahiya, he had a developed mind where he could grasp and apply the practice directly.


#4

Thanks. SN 35.95 basically says the practice is to be “firmly mindful”, and not develop lust for sense-objects, avoiding an infatuated mind.


#5

It could be understood if we try to understand what normally happens when eye comes into contact with a form.
Form has various features, traits, signs and descriptions (DN.15) which are enticing. Therefore when contact takes place the ordinary person develops desire and that desire becomes grasping without the person knowing that it is (grasping) even happening within him or her.

So IMO what the Buddha says to Bahiya is to do the opposite. That is to not to get attracted by those features and traits etc but to mindfully consider the three characteristics of all formations sankhara. When Bahiya does that the contact becomes just a contact without leading to any attachment. When there is no attachment there is no continued existence and it is the end of suffering.

With Metta


#6

Suppose one fills a cup of water half-way.
One can fuss and think and squint and measure to see that half-way.

…or…

One can simply directly see that the cup is half full and stop filling it.

The first is reminiscent of first-time cooks measuring liquids.

The latter method is the most efficient and also the most difficult to do in daily life. It requires mindfulness.

Also consider that all masters of Japanese crafts do this automatically. It takes much training and practice to eliminate the dross of distractions.


#7

A favourite sutta, worth rereading.


#8

However, as one proceeds in Insight Meditation, one comes to reflect that in this mode of attention, there is present a certain illusion – a wrong notion one has been cherishing throughout ‘saṁsāra’. That is, the concept of two ends and a middle. When one notes a visual object as ‘a form’ and an auditory object as ‘a sound’, there is a kind of bifurcation between the eye and form, the ear and the sound. So thereby one is perpetuating the illusion, the wrong notion, of two ends. Wherever there are the two ends, there is also the middle. In short, this way of mental noting leaves room for a subject-object relationship. There is the meditator on one side, whoever it may be, and there is the object that comes to his mind; and he attends to it as an object, even though he may not go into its details. Now the meditator has to break through this barrier as well. He has to break this bondage. Why?

In the case of ‘saññā’ or perception, there are the six kinds of percepts – rūpa saññā, sadda-saññā, gandha saññā, rasa saññā, phoṭṭhabba saññā, dhamma saññā(i.e., the percepts of form, sound, smell, taste, touch and idea). These are the six objects of the senses. The Buddha has compared the aggregate of perception to a mirage. Now, if perception is a mirage, what is ‘rūpa-saññā’ or a visual percept? That also must be a mirage. What about ‘sadda saññā’? What about the auditory percept or what strikes the ear? That too must be a mirage. Though it is not something that one sees with the eye, it has the nature of a mirage.

To take as real what is of a mirage-nature, is a delusion. It is something that leads to a delusion. It is an illusion that leads to a delusion. In order to understand deeply this mirage-nature in sensory perception, there is a need for a more refined way of mental attending. So the meditator, instead of attending to these objects as ‘form’, ‘form’ or ‘sound’, ‘sound’, moves a step further and notes them as ‘seeing’ or ‘hearing’. Now he attends to these sense-percepts even more briefly, not allowing the mind to go far – as ‘seeing-seeing’, ‘hearing-hearing’, ‘feeling-feeling’, ‘thinking-thinking’.

In short, the attempt here, is to escape the net of ‘saññā’ or perception and to limit oneself to the bare awareness. To stop short just at the awareness. This is an attempt to escape the net of language, the net of logic and also to be free from the duality of the two ends which involves a middle. Everywhere one is confronted with a subject-object relationship. There is one who grasps and something to be grasped. There is a seer and an object seen. But this way of attending leaves room for delusion.

Now, if perception is a mirage, in order to get at this mirage nature, one has to be content with attending simply as ‘seeing, seeing’. One way or the other it is just a seeing or just a hearing. Thereby he stops short at the bare awareness. He stops short at the bare seeing, bare hearing, bare feeling and bare thinking. He does not grant it an object status. He does not cognize it as an object existing in the world. He does not give it a name. The purpose of this method of mental noting or attending, is the eradication of the conceit ‘AM’, which the meditator has to accomplish so as to attain release. The conceit ‘AM’ is ‘asmi-māna’.

Bhikkhu Katukurunde Ñāṇananda, “Seeing Through - A Guide to Insight Meditation”


#9

Thinking and seeing are very similar in nature. When we think we get involved in our thoughts very easily. This is because of two things. Firstly, it’s habit: it’s our habit to think, to become interested in what we are thinking about, the storyline and the concepts. Secondly, because of identification with the thinker. It’s the same with seeing. When we see, immediately our attention is with the concept “outside.” It’s the mind’s habit to take sights as objects and to be “out there,” rather than to be aware of the seeing. Also, when seeing is happening, we habitually identify with the see-er.

Sayadāw U Tejaniya


#10

Interesting quote from Sayadaw U Tejaniya. I work regularly with the sense bases, and have noticed a significant difference between “sights” and “seeing”, ie between sense-objects “out there”, and the actual activity of seeing.


#11

Seeing a form
— mindfulness lapsed —
attending
to the theme of ‘endearing,’
impassioned in mind,
one feels
and remains fastened there.
One’s feelings, born of the form,
grow numerous,
Greed & annoyance
injure one’s mind.
Thus amassing stress,
one is said to be far from Unbinding.

Hearing a sound…
Smelling an aroma…
Tasting a flavor…
Touching a tactile sensation…

Knowing an idea
— mindfulness lapsed —
attending
to the theme of ‘endearing,’
impassioned in mind,
one feels
and remains fastened there.
One’s feelings, born of the idea,
grow numerous,
Greed & annoyance
injure one’s mind.
Thus amassing stress,
one is said to be far from Unbinding.

Not impassioned with forms
— seeing a form with mindfulness firm —
dispassioned in mind,
one knows
and doesn’t remain fastened there.
While one is seeing a form
— and even experiencing feeling —
it falls away and doesn’t accumulate.
Thus one fares mindfully.
Thus not amassing stress,
one is said to be
in the presence of Unbinding.

Not impassioned with sounds…
Not impassioned with aromas…
Not impassioned with flavors…
Not impassioned with tactile sensations…

Not impassioned with ideas
— knowing an idea with mindfulness firm —
dispassioned in mind,
one knows
and doesn’t remain fastened there.
While one is knowing an idea
— and even experiencing feeling —
it falls away and doesn’t accumulate.
Thus one fares mindfully.
Thus not amassing stress,
one is said to be
in the presence of Unbinding.

SN35.95


#12

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Now on that occasion, in the pitch-black darkness of the night, the Blessed One was sitting in the open air while oil lamps were burning. And on that occasion, many flying insects, flying into & around those lamps, were meeting their downfall, meeting their misfortune, meeting their downfall & misfortune in those oil lamps. The Blessed One saw those flying insects, flying into & around those lamps, meeting their downfall, meeting their misfortune, meeting their downfall & misfortune in those oil lamps.

Then, on realizing the significance of that, the Blessed One on that occasion exclaimed:

Rushing headlong, missing what’s essential, bringing on one new bond after another, they fall, like insects into a flame: those intent on things seen, things heard.

Ud6.9


#13

@ancientbuddhism had some interesting stuff to say on dhammawheel about the Buddha’s instructions to Bahiya being related to abandoning teachings in the early Upanishads:

Another comparison with the phrase diṭṭhaṃ, sutaṃ, mutaṃ, viññātaṃ in the Nikāyas, to the dṛṣṭe, śrute, mate, vijñāte in the Upaniṣads, is in the Kāḷakārāma Sutta of Aṅguttara Nikāya (4.24), with reference to Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad III.8.11.

In this Upaniṣad the epithet for the Ātman is ‘Imperishable’ ( akṣaram ), of which…

  • ”…is unseen but is the seer, is unheard but is the hearer, unthought but is the thinker, unknown but is the knower. There is no other seer but this, there is no other hearer but this, there is no other thinker but this, there is no other knower but this.” [S. Radhakrishnan]

tad vā etad akṣaraṃ gārgy adṛṣṭaṃ draṣṭṛ, aśrutaṃ śrotṛ, amataṃ mantṛ, avijñātaṃ vijñātṛ, nānyad ato ‘sti draṣṭṛ, nānyad ato ‘sti śrotṛ, nānyad ato ‘sti mantṛ,nānyad ato ‘sti vijñātṛ

We find this echoed in the Kāḷakārāma Sutta where we read that for a Tathāgata, there are no imaginings ( maññati ) of a possessor of these, because a Tathāgata abides in the quality of ‘such ness ’ ( tādī ); a distillate quality of direct contemplative knowing:

  • ”Thus it is, bhikkhus, when the Tathāgata sees what is to be seen; he does not imagine the seen, does not imagine the not-seen, does not imagine what is to be seen, and does not imagine a seer. When hearing what is to be heard; does not imagine the heard, does not imagine the not-heard, does not imagine what is to be heard, and does not imagine a hearer. When thinking what is to be thought; does not imagine the thought, does not imagine the not-thought, does not imagine what is to be thought, and does not imagine a thinker. When cognizing what is to be cognized; does not imagine the cognized, does not imagine the not-cognized, does not imagine what is to be cognized, and does not imagine a cognizer.

ti kho, bhikkhave, tathāgato daṭṭhā daṭṭhabbaṃ, diṭṭhaṃ na maññati, adiṭṭhaṃ na maññati, daṭṭhabbaṃ na maññati, daṭṭhāraṃ na maññati; sutvā sotabbaṃ, sutaṃ na maññati, asutaṃ na maññati, sotabbaṃ na maññati, sotāraṃ na maññati; mutvā motabbaṃ, mutaṃ na maññati, amutaṃ na maññati, motabbaṃ na maññati, motāraṃ na maññati; viññatvā viññātabbaṃ, viññātaṃ na maññati, aviññātaṃ na maññati, viññātabbaṃ na maññati, viññātāraṃ na maññati .

“Thus it is, bhikkhus, being just such with the nature of what is to be seen, heard, thought, and cognized; the Tathāgata is such . And I say that of this such , not another such can be brought forth that surpasses it.

Iti kho, bhikkhave, tathāgato diṭṭhasutamutaviññātabbesu dhammesu tādīyeva tādī. Tamhā ca pana tādimhā añño tādī uttaritaro vā paṇītataro vā natthīti vadāmī’ti.

We should also make a comparison of this with the Bāhiya Sutta of Udāna 1.10, with reference to the state of being ‘merely’ ( mattaṃ ) present with these, also with no possessor to be found.

  • ”When, Bāhiya, the seen shall be merely the seen, the heard shall be merely the heard, the thought shall be merely the thought, and the cognized shall be merely the cognized; just so, Bāhiya, you will not be there. When, Bāhiya, you are not there; just so, Bāhiya, you will not be in that condition. When, Bāhiya, you are not in that condition; just so, Bāhiya, you will not be of that condition, nor in another, nor between the two. Just this is the release of dissatisfaction.”

Yato kho te Bāhiya, diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati, sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati, mute mutamattaṃ bhavissati, viññāte viññātamattaṃ bhavissati; tato tvaṃ Bāhiya na tena, yato tvaṃ Bāhiya na tena, tato tvaṃ Bāhiya na tattha, yato tvaṃ Bāhiya na tattha, tato tvaṃ Bāhiya nevidha, na huraṃ, na ubhayam-antare, esevanto dukkhassā .’ – Udāna 1.10 Link

The whole thread is worth reading, it’s awesome.


#14

Possibly the Bahayi passage is negating the Vedic idea of Paramatman as “observer”, but in my view it’s more likely just describing the cessation of self-view (sakkaya-ditthi).
“No you there…”


#15

I see the Bahiya teaching as very targeted toward the exceptional being that Bahiya was. He went from worlding to arahant with hearing a single teaching. This is exceedingly rare. I can’t recall another example of this in the suttas. Even the Buddha’s chief disciples started with stream-entry first, only eventually attaining arahantship after “dwelling alone, withdrawn, diligent, ardent, and resolute.” So it seems clear that Venerable Bahiya had already developed almost all of the necessary qualities for attaining arahantship before seeing the Buddha with the heard wisdom of the Buddhadhamma itself being the last thing he needed.

The point is that IMO, this teaching is of limited practical use for those of us who aren’t at such an advanced stage. Which is basically everybody. We should be focusing on developing the more “basic” aspects of practice that, only when we’re proficient in them, form the required foundation for true understanding of such deep and pithy teachings.