Book of Analysis, the bases of accomplishment (Vb 9): translator's introduction

By Waltham St. Lawrence

(9) Analysis Of The Bases Of Accomplishment (Iddhipādavibhaṅga).

Throughout the Buddhist Scriptures it is frequently pointed out that nothing happens other than by way of cause. This means [xlv] that no state or condition comes to be spontaneously, there is always some other state or condition which precedes it and stands in such particular relationship to it that it must be considered contributory and causal to its existence, Moreover, as a normal corollary to that statement it may be said that each state which comes to be as the result of a cause does of itself and in its own right become the cause of a future state or condition. Such is the continuity of process which takes place in all spheres of activity. This system of causal relationships, as has already been demonstrated in the sixth vibhaṅga, occurs most clearly in Paṭiccasamuppāda. However, in the sections of the vibhaṅga now under review, which deal with the methods and theory of release from suffering, a strong causal link between the subjects dealt with in the successive vibhaṅgas is also clearly to be seen, In Satipaṭṭhānavibhaṅga the Buddha states what is to be done. As the result of this, in itself a causal statement, the student of development toward release by the engendering of wish, by the making of effort, by the arousing of energy, by the exerting of the mind, strives for the eliminating of bad states and the fostering of good states. According to the fourfold division of these states, as was explained in the preceding section, they are called the Four Right Strivings (sammappadhāna). This, however, is not the end, it is only the first active stage in a causally related series. If in this striving the wish, the effort, the energy and exertion of mind are strong, constant and unfaltering, they automatically give rise to a degree of establishment which although still elementary in the path of development, and easily subject to deterioration, can nevertheless be considered as a basis, a stepping off point for further development. This stage is the gaining of what is called the Four Bases of Accomplishment. In this stage of gain the striving that is Right Striving is continued, still for the achieving of that fourfold elimination and fostering of bad and good states respectively. It is still backed by that wish, effort, energy and exertion of mind, However, on this newly developed and more established basis, the aspirant with that increased activity in striving gains concentration dominated by wish. Thus it is said in the text, "He develops the basis of accomplishment furnished with 'wish-concentration, striving-activity'". Similarly, he develops the other Bases of Accomplishment where the activity of striving is dominated by energy, consciousness and reason.

[xlvi] Here there must be a short digression on the matter of finding suitable English equivalents for compound but basically quite straight-forward Pāḷi terms. In the text of this ninth vibhaṅga, one of the earliest words used is "chandasamādhipadhānasaṅkhāra", which is followed closely by three similar terms in which the first component only, chanda, is changed into vīriya, citta and vīmaṃsa respectively. In English translation the direct equivalent for such a compound word does not exist in its own right, even as a compound, and to have to use on every occasion a phrase such as "striving, the activity of which is regulated by the concentration of wish" (or energy, consciousness or reason), besides introducing extra terms is inconvenient to handle and too wordy to be representative of the much more terse structure of Piṭaka Pāḷi expression. It was therefore decided in this case to coin a grouping of words by direct translation of the component parts of the Pāḷi, and arrange them according to their associations with each other. Thus the Pāḷi might be said to expand in this way:— Chanda + samādhi, adjectivally coupled with padhāna+saṅkhāra so that in English translation it might be said that the activity of striving is qualified as to its degree by the concentration of wish, thus, " wish-concentration, striving-activity". This is admittedly an awkward word, but if its meaning is understood it will perhaps suffice at this stage.

In this vibhaṅga the Four Bases of Accomplishment are the subject of analysis in three ways. The Suttanta section deals with the early methods and manifestations of mundane development, while the Abhidhamma analysis applies the same terminology to supramundane states in which, since there is not yet final establishment, the same precautionary measures have to be taken. Interrogation classifies each of the bases within the structure of the Triplets and Couplets.