DN 15: can sotapannas 'not cling to anything in the world'?

I just had a long exchange with one of our members about the implications of AN 9.37, and the conversation has become so bizarre that I would like to ask for the opinion of the larger SC community.

So here is the question:

The following formula is found at DN 15, MN 11, MN 37, MN 140, SN 12.51, SN 35.30, SN 35.31, SN 35.90, SN 35.91, SN 35.234, and AN 7.61:

na (ca) kiñci loke upādiyati, anupādiyaṃ na paritassati, aparitassaṃ paccattaññeva parinibbāyati, ‘khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānāti.

he does not cling to anything in the world. Not clinging, he is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains nibbāna. He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the spiritual life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming back to any state of being.’

Who do you think the phrase ‘he does not cling to anything in the world’ apply to?

  • I don’t know
  • Just anybody
  • Anyone who is an ariya
  • Anyone who is a non-returner
  • Only an arahant
  • Other (see comments)

0 voters

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I assume clinging here meant Upadana.

There are for type of Upadana.

sense-pleasure clinging (kamupadana)
wrong-view clinging (ditthupadana)
rites-and-rituals clinging (silabbatupadana)
self-doctrine clinging (attavadupadana

Only two Upadana is eliminated by the Sotapanna.
Three by Anagami.
All four by Arahant.

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I am glad you ask this question Silence.
I never thought about this until you ask the question.
I have never seen above answer in any other place.

Interesting question. Those four are given in SN 12.2 where the dependent arising factors are analyzed. However, just checking my “Fundamentals of Early Buddhism”, it does say that in the Chinese it is simply “attachment to self” rather than “attachment to self-theory” for the last item. What you say does seem logical according to the usual asava model. So I guess, by that thinking, the statement: “he does not cling to anything in the world” (meaning all clinging has gone) would mean an arahant. But that’s just the opinion of an amateur! :slight_smile:

This phrase appears 10x in the Satipatthana-sutta (MN10). Analayo (Direct Path, pp. 115) writes:

the stipulation to abide “without clinging to anything in the world” occurs immediately before realization takes place. This suggestst hat with this part of the “refrain”, satipatthãna contemplation gradually builds up to the constellation of mental qualities required for the event of awakening. According to the commentaries, “to abide independently” refers to the absence of dependency through craving and speculative views, while to avoid “clinging to anything in the world” stands for not identifying with any of the five aggregates.

So taking just this phrase, it seems as if it could actually refer to a good putthujjana meditator.

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The commentary to DN 22 says:

lokasmiṃ kiñci rūpaṃ vā . pe . viññāṇaṃ vā “ayaṃ me attā vā attaniyaṃ vā”ti na gaṇhāti.

He doesn’t grasp at any of the 5 aggregates in the world [considering:] ‘This is my self or what belongs to my self’.

SN 22.89 has an interesting twist about something related:

Some elder bhikkhus have the notion that:

If the Venerable Khemaka does not regard anything among these five aggregates subject to clinging as self or as belonging to self, then he is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed.

But here comes the twist:

The Venerable Khemaka replied… I do not regard anything among these five aggregates subject to clinging as self or as belonging to self, yet I am not an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed. Friends, the notion ‘I am’ has not yet vanished in me in relation to these five aggregates subject to clinging, but I do not regard anything among them as ‘This I am.’

I would however not jump too fast to conclusions because there are 2 important caveats here in my opinion:

  • If they are not corroborated by suttas, the Commentary’s opinions are always to be taken with a grain of salt
  • The commentary uses the verb ‘grasp’ (gaṇhāti), whereas SN 22.89 has ‘regard’ (samanupassati), so it should be investigated what gaṇhāti means exactly in the commentary and how similar or different its meaning is from samanupassati.

So I checked a little in the commentary and it turns out that in this same context, it seems to use gaṇhāti as a synonym for upādiyati (to cling), which suggests that in the quote from the OP, the statement (about clinging, that is at the gut level) is stronger than that of SN 22.89 (about ‘regarding/considering as’, that is, only at the intellectual level). This may suggest that the SN 22.89 twist does not apply to DN 22’s commentary statement.

Now there is SN 35.234:

bhikkhu chasu phassāyatanesu nevattānaṃ na attaniyaṃ samanupassati. so evaṃ samanupassanto na kiñci loke upādiyati. anupādiyaṃ na paritassati. aparitassaṃ paccattaññeva parinibbāyati. ‘khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānātī”ti.

a bhikkhu does not recognize either a self or anything belonging to a self in these six bases for contact. Since he does not recognize anything thus, he does not cling to anything in the world. Not clinging, he is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains Nibbāna. He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.’

It is interesting in that it provides a hint why the commentary to DN 22 came up with that phrase, but from the sutta itself, it is not clear what relationship the two following clauses are in, temporally speaking: ‘Since he does not recognize anything thus’ and ‘he does not cling to anything in the world’. Are they supposed to happen all at once, or is the second one a consequence from the first one that might come at a significantly later time? SN 22.89 seems to suggest it’s rather the latter that is the case.

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Do you have a source for this?

Ven. Nyanatiloka’s dictionary seems to disagree:

This traditional fourfold division of clinging is not quite satisfactory. Besides kamupādāna we should expect either rūpupādāna and arūpupādāna, or simply bhavupādāna. Though the Anāgāmī is entirely free from the traditional 4 kinds of upādāna, he is not freed from rebirth, as he still possesses bhavupādāna. The Com. to Vis.M. XVII, in trying to get out of this dilemma, explains kāmupādāna as including here all the remaining kinds of clinging.


My original line of reasoning involved the 9th and 10th link of dependent origination:

upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho; bhavanirodhā jātinirodho

with the cessation of clinging, cessation of existence; with the cessation of existence, cessation of birth

Then the argument went like this:

no clinging to anything at all in the world > no bhava at all > no birth anywhere whatsoever, which means the person is an arahant.

Taking the list of suttas given above, here are the persons identifiable -

MN 11 - implies a Non-Returner at least, since kāmupādāna is mentioned; all the other 3 have been transcended by the Stream Winner

MN 37 and AN 7.61 - implies a person engaged in the 3rd part of establishment of mindfulness “They meditate by observing the reasons for the origination of the feelings; they meditate by observing the reasons for the dissolution of the feelings; they meditate by observing the reasons for the origination and dissolution of the feelings”. Thanks @Florian

MN 140 - implies a Non-Returner at least. See how the “no cassaṃ no ca me siyā etc” contemplation leads to Non-Return : SN 22.55, and then MN 106 (with the same contemplation) for the same subject as MN 140 on equanimity. This is confirmed by DN 9, where the meditator who does not abhisaṅkharoti attains the Cessation of Perception and Feelings.

SN 12.51 - implies an arahant

SN 35.30 & SN 35.31 - implies a Stream Winner at least, on account of the loss of the view “That is mine”.

SN 35.90 and SN 35.91 - this is directed to the person that she “should not conceive” (na maññeyya). In MN 2, the advice that one should not conceive is directed to the Trainee, ie it excludes Arahants.

Thanks @silence for your list! I can now vote - anyone who is Noble.

But then, how do you reconcile your view with dependent origination?

upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho; bhavanirodhā jātinirodho

with the cessation of clinging, cessation of existence; with the cessation of existence, cessation of birth

In other words:

no clinging to anything at all in the world > no bhava at all > no birth anywhere whatsoever, which means the person is a deceased arahant

Come now, I’ve given my views of how the Cessation series begins to unravel for the one intent on sense retraint, for the Stream Winner and for the Non-Returner in that other thread. The fact that you did not respond to those points does not mean that I have not addressed it.

And again, you are treating anupādiyaṃ as a privative “totally without clinging”. I’ve given you a rather fulsome explanation that it does not mean that. I have pointed out your mistate in treating the related word, the absolutive anupādāya as another privative, because you did not audit the translation. I expressly gave you the example of SN 22.8 to demonstrate the nature of anupādāya as an absolutive, rather than as a privative. I suggest you check the CPD for the meaning of anupādiyaṃ and then check Warder if such class of word can function adjectivally.

One other thing - the Cessation series is an ideal type, since the standard formula starts with the remainderless cessation of Ignorance. But Trainees do not abandon Ignorance completely until Arahanta. They’ve had the glimpse of Nibbana with Stream Entry, when a large chunk of Ignorance has been dispelled by the content of Stream Entry. But there’s more to be done.

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I change my vote to the same now.
The reason being Noble Eightfold Path covers all noble ones.
My understanding is ten fetters are eliminated gradually by all Ariyas.
I like to know the opinion of Ven @Dhammanando about this survey.

Finally, something we can agree on!

Firstly, I am not unsympathetic to the Comy. If we assume that the Comy was working with a version of MN 10 that had already reached a form that is more evolved than the ­_Vibhaṅga_ version, then it is not surprising that they commented on the text as if it were a vipassana sutta. Secondly, the Comy is not exactly far off under the MN 117 model, where Right Mindfulness needs to have Right View as precursor.

Assuming that the sutta had not evolved and the commentators had only an Ur-text to comment upon, they might have ended still using the verb gaṇhāti.

Stripped of the vipassana content, satipaṭṭhāna is reinstated to its proper place in the Path as the cause of Right Concentration. But, what is the requisite for satipaṭṭhāna ?

Here, you will find a nice confluence between its references to “na kiñci loke upādiyati” (not clinging to anything with reference to the world) and an even earlier reference to the world -

vineyya loke abhij­jhā­do­manas­saṃ

having given up grief and covetousness with reference to the world

I translate vineyya as an absolutive and not as a continuing gerund, on account of the appearance of abhij­jhā­do­manas­saṃ in the sense restraint pericopes -

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā na nimittaggāhī hoti ­nānub­yañ­janag­gāhī. Yat­vādhika­ra­ṇa­menaṃ cakkhundriyaṃ asaṃvutaṃ viharantaṃ abhij­jhā­do­manassā pāpakā akusalā dhammā anvāssaveyyuṃ, tassa saṃvarāya paṭipajjati;

There is the case where a monk, on seeing a form with the eye, does not grasp at any theme or particulars by which—if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye—evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. He practices with restraint.

Covetousness and grief have already been surmounted by sense restraint, which explains why satipaṭṭhāna is predicated on fulfillment of sense restraint and the prior dispersal of like-&-dislike. I would imagine that the world in the sense restraint fulfillment formula must have something to do with the world in the not-clinging formula.

Now, here we have an interesting word nimittaggāhī (literally “a grasper of signs”). See the connection of gāhin with gaṇhāti? If the commentators had made a connection between the 2 lokas as pertaining to prior fulfillment of sense restraint, might they have interpreted the act of clinging as being equivalent to the grasping at signs?

In my opinion, the phrase is referring to a non-returner at the verge of becoming an arahat. Anagami end of the road.

Well, my position is that I don’t see how those points address my remark at all:

no clinging to anything at all in the entire world > no bhava at all > no birth anywhere whatsoever, which means the person is a deceased arahant

So, naturally, I don’t consider that those points were relevant, hence my bringing up the issue again and again.

I guess you are playing on the word ‘world’, interpreting it as ‘plane of existence’ rather than ‘the entire world’. Yet, you agreed yourself that ‘the world’ actually meant the 5 aggregates, which strongly supports the latter interpretation.

Once again, no. I treat ‘not clinging to anything in the world’ as ‘totally without clinging’, which is why I have always considered your focusing repeatedly only on the word anupādiyaṃ in the entire expression ‘na (ca) kiñci loke upādiyati, anupādiyaṃ…’ (he does not cling to anything in the world. Not clinging…) to be a strawman.

Obviously, there is a miscommunication here, and it would be interesting to have the opinion of third parties. Perhaps ven. @Sujato or ven. @Brahmali could give us their opinion.

There is only one little problem though. The word ‘world’ (loka) does not appear at all in the above sense restraint fulfillment formula. So do you rather mean to refer to the earlier satipatthana formula ‘vineyya loke abhij­jhā­do­manas­saṃ’?

There could actually be support from SN 22.89 for this opinion, in the form of the expression ‘five lower fetters’ (only abandoned by an anagami) that is used to explain how one may not regard (samanupassati) any of the 5 aggregates as self, and yet still not be an arahant, which suggests that the former applies to the latter case:

I do not speak of form as ‘I am,’ nor do I speak of ‘I am’ apart from form. I do not speak of feeling as ‘I am’ … nor of perception as ‘I am’ … nor of volitional formations as ‘I am’ … nor of consciousness as ‘I am,’ nor do I speak of ‘I am’ apart from consciousness. Friends, although the notion ‘I am’ has not yet vanished in me in relation to these five aggregates subject to clinging, still I do not regard anything among them as ‘This I am.’

“Friends, even though a noble disciple has abandoned the five lower fetters, still, in relation to the five aggregates subject to clinging, there lingers in him a residual conceit ‘I am,’ a desire ‘I am,’ an underlying tendency ‘I am’ that has not yet been uprooted. Sometime later he dwells contemplating rise and fall in the five aggregates subject to clinging: ‘Such is form, such its origin,
such its passing away; such is feeling … such is perception … such are volitional formations … such is consciousness, such its origin, such its passing away.’ As he dwells thus contemplating rise and fall in the five aggregates subject to clinging, the residual conceit ‘I am,’ the desire ‘I am,’ the underlying tendency ‘I am’ that had not yet been uprooted—this comes to be uprooted.

That being said, I have argued a few posts above for a rather strong difference between ‘regarding’ (samanupassati) and ‘clinging’ (upadiyati).

SN 22.89 suggests that one who does not ‘regard’ the 5 aggregates as self is an anagami, while DN 15 & friends speaks of something arguably stronger, one who does not ‘cling’ to anything in the world (arguably meaning the 5 aggregates).

I didn’t cast a vote because the passage “he does not cling…” is a process with unclear beginning, and it is not interested in where it starts - it just ends in arahantship. One way the EBT treat the Buddhist development is that anyone is a brahmacriya until they realized nibbana. And I don’t see why I’d need to jam in sotapanna etc. if the text doesn’t.

We often dealt with the need to make everything coherent. The commentaries and the abhidhamma are historical attempts to do the same. As if all the suttas offer different perspectives on the same thing. I don’t think so any more. I see different lines of transmission.

One transmission line of EBT is obsessed with rebirth and where people end up after death. This is where the sotapanna, once- and non-returner come in, but also rebirth in brahmaloka, heavens, devas, hell, etc. This obsession came with the interest of the Indians themselves. We know from early Greek sources that some Indian ascetics were talking about death and rebirth all the time…

Another transmission line of EBT is not bothered by that at all. Take the gradual training for example. It doesn’t say “first this, then going forth, then sotapanna, then this other practice, then non-returner…” It’s one development of practice until arahantship.

So the passage in the OP represents to me a view where you have three categories of people: lay people, monastic brahmacarins and arahants. And the passage deals specifically with the few last developments before arahantship.

Since it talks about people (not devas) the loka that is meant is ‘our loka’, i.e. not the intermediate loka and not the heavenly loka. Again, I don’t see why we should jam in the khandhas here. “he does not cling to anything in the world” means to me simply “he does not cling to anything in his realm of experience

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No. This is my opinion based on my present understanding.
Having said that I have another opinion that all fetters are eliminated gradually.
Ven @Dhammanando said that the fetters are not eliminated gradually.
For example doubt is fully eliminated at the Sotapanna stage.

Yes, I agree. My reason for saying an anagami on the verge of becoming an arahat is because if there is still clinging - then this individual would not be an arahat. With the statement he does not cling to anything in the world. Not clinging, he is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains nibbāna - this to me is describing something like a phase change - for example water becoming ice. Whether this is something that takes place in a fraction of a second or an hour - don’t know - but I believe it is describing this transition point Anagami->Arahat

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Another point we have to remember in this discussion is that a Sotapanna is assured Nibbana within seven lives. It is almost Nibbana considering seven lives is only a small fraction of Samsara or a grain of sand in the all sand on earth.
If I can become a Sotapanna I will consider my self an Arahant.

Actually, I have not taken that position; I have taken “world” to mean the 5 Aggregates/Suffering when I posted previously -

I hope that clarifies my position on the “world”. Moving on.

I hope you can help me out here a little bit with your assertion -

You do realise that is not what the handy search function on DD reveals. This is what you said in the other thread -

I’m not bothered by the state of the arahant. What I’m interested in is -

  1. why you have changed your original position by the inclusion of “entire” as bolded -

no clinging to anything at all in the entire world

  1. what is the basis for the inclusion of the “entire” into the “na kiñci loke upādiyati” formula? Where is the sabba/entire in the formula to justify this translation?

  2. Something I should have spotted earlier - how did you derive “at all” from the Pali? Where is the requisite adverb samatta in the text to justify this?

Moving on. I’m also now confused by this -

Which position are you actually taking?

no clinging to anything at all in the entire world

OR

not clinging to anything in the world

There is a world of difference between the 2 propositions, and that was why I urged you to check on the meaning of anupādiyaṃ. The English translations that use “clinging” for the substantive noun upādāna can be a bit confusing, as you need to be alive to the fact that “clinging” also renders the present participle, and as we have seen, the absolutive as well.

Actually, I hold “vineyya loke abhij­jhā­do­manas­saṃ” to be the sense restraint fulfilment formula, on account of the absolutive.

What do you mean by this? Brahmacariya means the celibate life of a monastic. By ‘anyone’, do you mean ‘any monastic’?

Exactly. This question was actually in response to @Sylvester claiming that this would mean that the person would become an arahant twice in a row (!) I suggest those are different ways of saying the same thing rather than a statement of the same thing happening twice in a row!

Actually, I had accepted the idea since I had seen it years ago put forward by the VRI in their satipatthana book, and then again by @Sylvester, who proposes SN 12.44 as evidence, but upon inspection, it seems rather difficult to infer such a statement from that sutta, and I could not find any sources in the VRI book. Maybe (s)he can enlighten us?