Comparing SN 52.3 with AN 10.153 and possible implications

I would like to compare and discuss sn52.3 and an10.153

Here are the passages:

sn52.3:

imesañca panāhaṃ, āvuso, catunnaṃ satipaṭṭhānānaṃ bhāvitattā bahulīkatattā hīnaṃ dhammaṃ hīnato abbhaññāsiṃ, majjhimaṃ dhammaṃ majjhimato abbhaññāsiṃ, paṇītaṃ dhammaṃ paṇītato abbhaññāsin”ti.

an10.153:

katamo ca, bhikkhave, na anussaritabbo dhammo? micchādiṭṭhi … pe … micchāvimutti — ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, na anussaritabbo dhammo. katamo ca, bhikkhave, anussaritabbo dhammo? sammādiṭṭhi … pe … sammāvimutti — ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, anussaritabbo dhammo”ti. katamo ca, bhikkhave, anussaritabbo dhammo? sammādiṭṭhi … pe … sammāvimutti — ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, anussaritabbo dhammo”ti.

Here is Bhante Sujato’s translation for the SN 52.3 passage:

And it was by developing and cultivating these four kinds of mindfulness meditation that I directly knew the lower realm as lower, the middle realm as middle, and the higher realm as higher.

Here is Bhante Bodhi’s:

Further, friends, it is because I have developed and cultivated these four establishments of mindfulness that I directly knew the inferior state as inferior; that I directly knew the middling state as middling; that I directly knew the sublime state as sublime.”

He apparently follows the commentary but also notes:

On the three levels, Spk quotes Dhs §§1025-27, which defines inferior phenomena (hīnā dhammā) as the twelve unwholesome classes of consciousness; middling phenomena (majjhimā dhammā) as mundane wholesome states, resultants, functionals (kiriya), and form; and sublime phenomena (paṇītā dhammā) as the four paths,their fruits, and Nibbāna. See, however, AN I 223-24, where the three terms are correlated with the three realms of rebirth—the sensuous realm, the form realm, and the formless realm.

It seems that for whatever reason Bhante Sujato went along with the second interpretation. However, I went to AN I 223-24 to check and all I found are the expressions ‘hīnāya dhātuyā’, ‘majjhimāya dhātuyā’ and ‘paṇītāya dhātuyā’.

Therefore, this looks at first sight like a mistake on Bhante Bodhi’s and Bhante Sujato’s part.

Now here is Bhante Sujato’s translation of AN 10.153:

And what is the principle not to recollect? Wrong view, wrong thought, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, wrong immersion, wrong knowledge, and wrong freedom. This is called the principle not to recollect. And what is the principle to recollect? Right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right immersion, right knowledge, and right freedom. This is called the principle to recollect.

Here is Bhante Bodhi’s:

the Dhamma to be recollected and the one not to be recollected

He seems to have interpreted the word Dhamma as ‘teaching’ rather than ‘state’.

It seems to me that the expressions hīnaṃ / majjhimaṃ / paṇītaṃ dhammaṃ (inferior, middling and superior dhamma) (SN 52.3) on one hand and on the other hand the expressions uppādetabbo dhammo (dhamma to be aroused), āsevitabbo dhammo (dhamma to be pursued), bhāvetabbo dhammo (dhamma to be developped), bahulīkātabbo dhammo (dhamma to be cultivated), anussaritabbo dhammo (dhamma to be recollected) (AN 10.149-153) are comparable and might call to be translated along similar lines.

So what if in AN 10.153 the word Dhamma should be translated in a way similar with SN 52.3, that is as ‘state’ rather than ‘teaching’?

The implication would be that the states of mind contrary to the noble path should not be recollected and that one should not focus on anything negative oneself or anyone else has done. For example, one should not focus, recollect, and think too much about genocides, human rights violations etc. but instead focus for example on Metta for all parties involved etc.

What do you guys think of such an interpretation?

2 Likes

Do these suttas with no parallels have any interest ? Can’t there be other occurrences with parallels ?

Is there a strong case for dismissing every sutta that has no parallels as inauthentic? Or at least untrustworthy?

Apparently there aren’t.

Very strong there are.
Polysemy, for instance.

From what I know, parallels are not always useful to solve polysemy problems. But I can understand your general stance.

I still am interested in this particular issue however, so I guess there is no harm in asking what people think about it. You don’t find it worthy of discussion, fine, duly noted. Anyone else?

One major problem is parallels to pali are incomplete. The Agamas have fragments from at least 3 different EBT schools, all of them incomplete portions.

I would only be comfortable limiting myself to suttas with parallels if they were complete transmissions representing a majority of early buddhism.

I believe Bhante Sujato’s translation of Dhamma as “principle” is meant primarily as “Buddha’s teaching principle”, not “phenomena”.

In SN 46.2, dhamma-vicaya-bojjhanga, Dhamma is primarily “Buddha’s teaching”, not phenomena, and there hina/panita is also present:

(2. Dhamma vicaya ← kusal-ākusalā dhammā, sāvajj-ānavajjā dhammā, hīna-paṇītā dhammā, kaṇha-sukka-sap-paṭibhāgā dhammā)

In SN 46.3, it’s absolutely clear dhamma-vicaya is investigation of Buddha’s-teaching-principle, not “phenomna”. In SN 46.2, phenomena works, but if you look at enough contexts, Dhamma-anupassana of 4sp (satipatthana) and dhamma-vicaya-sambojjhanga is by far primarily referring to Buddha’s teaching.

1 Like

As I said to Thenoble in another thread, you can understand the all shebang of the Teaching, through any Nikayas’ suttas that has a parallel in the Agamas’ Saṃyukta.

I have also provided a link that lists the possible 1300 or so suttas.

Better to start light, with also a good background in Vedic philosophy.
My take.

Well I don’t think it would agree well with the texts. What makes more sense?

And what, bhikkhus, is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of discrimination of teachings and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of discrimination of states?

Ko ca, bhikkhave, āhāro anuppannassa vā dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgassa uppādāya, uppannassa vā dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūriyā?

There are, bhikkhus, wholesome and unwholesome teachings, blameable and blameless teachings, inferior and superior teachings, dark and bright teachings with their counterparts:

Atthi, bhikkhave, kusalākusalā dhammā, sāvajjānavajjā dhammā, hīnapaṇītā dhammā, kaṇhasukkasappaṭibhāgā dhammā.

frequently giving careful attention to them is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of discrimination of teachings and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of discrimination of states.

Tattha yonisomanasikārabahulīkāro—
ayamāhāro anuppannassa vā dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgassa uppādāya, uppannassa vā dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūriyā.

or

And what, bhikkhus, is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of discrimination of states and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of discrimination of states?

Ko ca, bhikkhave, āhāro anuppannassa vā dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgassa uppādāya, uppannassa vā dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūriyā?

There are, bhikkhus, wholesome and unwholesome states, blameable and blameless states, inferior and superior states, dark and bright states with their counterparts:

Atthi, bhikkhave, kusalākusalā dhammā, sāvajjānavajjā dhammā, hīnapaṇītā dhammā, kaṇhasukkasappaṭibhāgā dhammā.

frequently giving careful attention to them is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of discrimination of states and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of discrimination of states.

Tattha yonisomanasikārabahulīkāro—
ayamāhāro anuppannassa vā dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgassa uppādāya, uppannassa vā dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūriyā.

Not that sure.

As they live mindfully in this way they investigate, explore, and inquire into that teaching with wisdom.

So tathā sato viharanto taṃ dhammaṃ paññāya pavicinati pavicarati parivīmaṃsamāpajjati.

At such a time, a mendicant has activated the awakening factor of investigation of principles;

Yasmiṃ samaye, bhikkhave, bhikkhu tathā sato viharanto taṃ dhammaṃ paññāya pavicinati pavicarati parivīmaṃsamāpajjati, dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgo tasmiṃ samaye bhikkhuno āraddho hoti;

they develop it

dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgaṃ tasmiṃ samaye bhikkhu bhāveti;

and perfect it.

dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgo tasmiṃ samaye bhikkhuno bhāvanāpāripūriṃ gacchati.

This is assuming that both words ‘dhamma’ in bold above are to be translated by teaching. What if the first is to be translated as teaching and the second as states?

Same thing goes for dhammanupassana. When it says dhammesu dhammanupassi viharati, it seems to me that the first ‘dhamma’ means states and the second means teachings. Of course, my opinion, but so far I fail to see incontrovertible evidence for your position.

1 Like

Not a bad idea.
The problem is, what are you doing with the other occurrences. Viz. body, feeling, etc.?


Also, I agree with you @silence, on SN 46.2.

Dhamma has three principal meanings, as far as I know.

The first one is paticcasamupada as the ध dha (or √ dhā) - √ मन् man - somewhat meaning a “performed & established “thinking”” (dharma) [धर्मन् dharmán].

It is also the Teaching in general; derived from the preceding dharmán.
As such, dhammas can be principles (from the said Teaching).

It is also the phenomena. That is to say primarly what is served to us, by the namarupa nidana, made of the khandhas (as per Agamas definition), and delivered to our internal fields of sensory experience (ayatanani), through the external fields of sensory experience.
Again, see this sketch.

And in SN 46.2, it is the latter.
It is about not letting in those bad phenomena (the “paticcasamuppana made dhammas”, from the external khandhas in namarupa nidana).
Again, the simile of the city in SN 35.245 is the best example:

Suppose, bhikkhu, a king had a frontier city with strong ramparts, walls, and arches, and with six gates. The gatekeeper (this is a designation for mindfulness,) posted there would be wise, competent, and intelligent; one who keeps out strangers and admits acquaintances.

1 Like

No polysemy there, so no problem in the first place

What you say is that the extract would be:

Ajjhattaṃ vā dhamma dhammānupassī viharati.
Internally, he fetches distinctively (dwells ?) as a stateness-contemplator with reference to the Teaching.

But what about kaya for instance ?
What would be the last thing ?
Internally, he fetches distinctively as a bodyness-contemplator with reference to the ? .

Can’t be Teaching.

There must be some conforming logic throughout.

I would certainly not take that as a translation.

How about

a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body, … feelings in feelings… mind in mind… He dwells contemplating the teaching in phenomena

This was partially my translation. Indeed it is @sylvester 's translation. I have just replaced “dwell” by “fetch distinctively”.

"Body in the body” requires “kaye kayam”, says Sylvester.

But I am still questioning that a bit.

Indeed what sylvester says is that anupassin/anupassī is an adjective (as red or happy - that is to say “contemplative” - which is the proper adjective from the verb “contemplate”); then anupassī becomes the “contemplative body (bodies)” - and the translation might be:

Internally, he fetches distinctively the contemplative body (bodies), in the body.

Internally, he fetches distinctively the contemplative feeling (feelings), in the feeling.

Note that अनुपश् anupaś [ anu-√ paś ], in Sanskrit, means to look at , perceive, notice. (RV. , ŚBr., BṛĀr.Up, ChUp. ).

It is in post Buddhist litterature (MBh.) that it took the meaning of “contemplating”.
You can see in the following extract, that anupaś (anupassi) has the underlying of “perceiving with distinction”.

Thereupon Agni appeared to them: they offered to him; whereby they perceived that part of the sacrifice which was of Agni’s nature. Now of Agni’s nature is what is dry in the sacrifice: that they thereby perceived and spread.
athaibhyo 'gniḥ sārocata | tamayajantsa yadāgneyaṃ yajñasyāsīttadapaśyanyadvai
śuṣkaṃ yajñasya tadāgneyaṃ tadapaśyaṃstadatanvata
ŚBr. 3:2:3:9

So “contemplative” might well be replaced by “perceptive”, or “noticeable” (capable of being perceived) . The latter being also both adjectives.

So the translation might finally be:

Ajjhattaṃ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharāhi.
Internally, he separates (fetches distinctively) the noticeable body, in (or from) the bodies.

Internally, he separates (fetches distinctively) the noticeable feeling , in (or from) the feelings.

Internally, he separates (fetches distinctively) the noticeable citta , in (or from) the cittas.

Internally, he separates (fetches distinctively) the noticeable phenomena , in (or from) the phenomenas.

And that is pretty much in line with how a bhikkhu should always stay in his own resort, in his own ancestral domain (SN 47.6 or 8 & 10, etc - see here ).


It could be as per your translation; but there is no real logic into that.
If only we had another sutta hinting such an interpretation, that would be good.

see msg 1 and 5 in particular.

Dhamma (with a capital D), the Buddha’s teaching that leads to viraga…nirvana, is the compass. Without it, dhamma (lower case ‘d’), as “thing”, “phenomena”, or “mental object of mano”, is directionless and without clear purpose.

For the oral tradition to work, as SN 46.3 clearly shows, sati is “remembering”, sati-sambojjhanga is remembering one of the important Dhamma-teachings to investigate with Dhamma-vicaya-sambojjhanga.

In SN 46.2, kusala or akusala, savajja or anavajja, hina panita, etc, are not just talking about any old “thing” or “phenomena”. Take a couple of examples:

  1. fire: you couldn’t logically say fire is kusala or akusala, hina panita on it’s own as a “phenomena”. It’s the Dhamma of how “fire” is used that one could make that discrimination.
  2. internet: like fire, internet could be good or bad. as a phenomena, one can’t not say it’s kusala or akusala. But one can say HOW the internet is used, the “Dhamma of internet”, is akusala or kusala.

7sb (awakening factors) starts with the sati (remembering) of a particular Dhamma which leads to viraga…nirvana, one investigates that Dhamma, if one pacifies (passaddhi) body and mind into a 4jhana quality of samadhi, then upekkha (as a factor of 3rd and 4th jhana, also as upekkha-sambojjhanga), upekkha = upa + ikkhati. It’s not passive attitude of equanimity. One is doing dhamma-vicaya-sambojjhanga with a 4jhana quality of samadhi and upekkha.

If you say Dhamma (of 4sp and 7sb) is just phenomena, then the 7sb, right concentration become a formula that a bank robber develops a samadhi to rob a bank skillfully for example.

This is why Dhamma has to be first and foremost the Buddha Dhamma which lead to viraga…nirvana…end of dukkha (for 4sp and 7sb). It may also include “phenomena” as a secondary feature, but only phenomena restricted to the range of viraga-Dhamma, not any phenomena in the universe. The viraga-dhamma is the handful of leaves, not bare awareness of phenomena of any universal law of reality that doesn’t have a direct bearing to the end of dukkha.

edit: (addition) part of the reason it’s hard to change people’s opinion on this is because B. Bodhi and Thanissaro got it wrong in their widely read translations. It comes down to which sutta passages one gives weight and priority to, because unfortunately “dhamma” is one of those overloaded words that depends on context. But if you comprehensively read enough of sutta passages to see how “dhamma” is used, quantitatively and qualitatively the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of Dhamma as viraga-Dhamma teaching which leads to the end of Dukkha and nirvana. A very small minority of people will do that though (carefully check enough passages), so it’s an uphill battle. But at least you want to keep an open mind on this and be on the lookout so you can confirm yourself as you reread the suttas. I’d be extremely surprised if you didn’t change your mind on this within a couple of years.

2 Likes

Dhamma can refer to objects of the mind door, as well, I think.

With metta

from KN Snp 2.1 ratana sutta (thanissaro trans.)

♦ 227.
♦ khayaṃ virāgaṃ amataṃ paṇītaṃ,
The exquisite deathless—ending, dispassion—
yadajjhagā sakyamunī samāhito.
discovered by the Sakyan Sage in concentration:
♦ na tena dhammena samatthi kiñci,
There is nothing to equal that Dhamma.
idampi dhamme ratanaṃ paṇītaṃ.
This, too, is an exquisite treasure in the Dhamma.
♦ etena saccena suvatthi hotu.
By this truth may there be well-being.

Once you're hip to the idea and keep a look out for it, you'll see it everywhere. I feel like I can just randomly flip through some pages, and like this passage here, you'll see:

Dhamma = Buddha’s teaching, not any old teaching, and not just a mental quality experienced through mind door.

viraga…nirvana= linked through that sequence to the ending of dukkha

samadhi= samadhi sambojjhanga, leading to awakening, not bare mindfulness and samadhi directed at just any old phenomena.

1 Like

I don’t quite agree frankk, although I agree with the fact that the Teaching (viraga-Dhamma, as you put it, ) always preempts the phenomena. Just as mindfulness is first of all the recollection of the Teaching, then only after, the discernment of the phenomena as good or bad, and the ensuing closing or opening the doors of the six senses, so to speak.

SN 46.3 has a somewhat parallel in SA 723, that makes it clear that you should first clean the senses.
It is the Teaching that allows you discern the nature of the external dhamma or dhatu.
It is the Teaching that allows that; but you still have to act upon the phenomena.


However, I would not mix dhammavicaya with that.
Dhammavicaya comes in anapanasati for instance, after seclusion (viveka) with the external. One is in the internal in anapanasati (or satipathana).
Anapanasati or Satipatthana are - in the body, feeling, citta steps - an attempt to fully understand that the "external is not mine"
What one is working on is his/her own form (body/breath), which leads to an own experience (feeling). Then, this leads to a new kind of citta; an almost liberated citta, that is no more linked with the external.
Dhammavicaya, the next step is to discover that, not only the external is not mine, but that there is no “I” either. Even this internal experience is not “mine”, so to speak.
Aniccanupassi assassisamiti sikkhati.

[Here anicca has the original (Vedic) meaning of “not-inwardly” (outwardly-foreign). By extention, the meaning of “a-nicca” has become “impermanent” - and the foreign nature of the phenomena, (the combinations from form, feeling, perception, synergy and consciousness, ) is directly related to the externality of the phenomena - and even to the foreign nature of the internal one].
Aniccanupassi assassisamiti sikkhati = training breathing, with the desire to be able to perceive the “not-one’s owness” (the foreign nature) of the phenomena.


This is not a perfectly accurate translation of the anapanasati/jhana parallel ; but quite close.


How impermanence (anicca) is linked to the “not-one’s owness” of the phenomena is quite evident, if it is “not mine”; if “I am not this”, and if all this is not “I”.

Actually as far as 4sp go, I do not say that dhamma just means phenomena; what I say is that in my opinion in one occurrence it means teaching (or whatever you’d rather call it, be it principles-for-viraga or otherwise) and in the other it means p̶h̶e̶n̶o̶m̶e̶n̶a̶ states.

But why does it speak of dhammas inferior and superior, skillful and unskillful etc. then?

Sorry, not really convinced so far.

1 Like

Look at the expanded out version of the sutta
with all the repetitions in. Any of the 7sb can be used with any of the 16 APS steps independently, it doesn’t have to follow just one popular or common fixed sequence of 16APS.

Ven. Sujato, for 7sb, in SN 46.2 has Dhamma-vicaya (principles-investigation) , and within that passage, dhamma = qualities. That’s a reasonable position. “dhamma” lower case matching how he translates kusala/akusala dhamma in right effort (dhamma=qualities).

And what fuels the arising of the awakening factor of investigation of principles, or, when it has arisen, develops it to perfection? Ko ca, bhikkhave, āhāro anuppannassa vā dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgassa uppādāya, uppannassa vā dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūriyā? 10.2There are qualities that are skillful and unskillful, blameworthy and blameless, inferior and superior, and those on the side of dark and bright. Atthi, bhikkhave, kusalākusalā dhammā, sāvajjānavajjā dhammā, hīnapaṇītā dhammā, kaṇhasukkasappaṭibhāgā dhammā.

If your position is 4sp, contemplating dhamma(phenomena) in Dhamma(teachings), that’s reasonable as well, but it would be really confusing for it to dhammesu-Dhamma-anupassi to have different meanings of dhamma in the same compound word.

Just keep a look out as you read the suttas from now on. Phenomena can mean general principles, not just Buddha’s teaching, but I’m assuming B.Bodhi also uses “phenomena” in 4sp to cover “things” as object of mano/mind. In my post I’ve already explained with the examples of “fire” and “internet” as phenomena how they can’t be inherently kusala/akusala, hina/panita, etc. Similarly, with sense perceptions of “chocolate”, “beautiful woman”, etc. Those aren’t inherently kusala/akusala phenomena.

It’s always about dukkha and the cessation of dukkha. The eightfold path includes sila, which is a broad enough category where restricting Dhamma-vicaya-sambojjhanga’s (SN 46.2) range of kusal-ākusalā d, sāvajj-ānavajjā d, hīna-paṇītā d, kaṇha-sukka-sap-paṭibhāgā dhammā) to just “principles or Buddha’s teachings”, not the broader “qualities”, I don’t think would exclude anything of interest (to nirvana). Even in right effort, I think we could get away with akusala/kusala Dhamma (principles) there. Because right effort is concerned with purifying activity relevant to liberation, not how to improve the skill in robbing a bank or table manners in drinking tea with the queen.