'Kāya' and 'body' in context


re: gnlaera 2017-02-13 14:40:39 UTC #19
Or are questions relating the philology et al to practice not proper here?
I brought up this question before. …"

My reference to practice is meant more specifically to idea of using phenomenological evidence in conjunction with philological evidence, i.e. as additional means of evaluation. The various alternative philological hypotheses at times would seen to correlate with alternative experiential possibilities.

For instance, the “body-kaya of the whole breath” vs the “whole body-kaya breathing” (to paraphrase). My “teacher” Thanissaro B. insists it should be the latter, but my “teacher” U. Jagara insists it can be the former – both referring to in-vivo experience as well as the semantic possibilities. And in my own experience I can re-create both versions, albeit in different frames-of-reference (modes of meditation). On the one hand, with pursuing jhana using the PaAuk method (U. Jagara has spent the last two decades at that monastery), the mind becomes so intensely focused (starting with the breath sensations as the nostrils/upper lip) that the breath becomes
the entirety of “physical” scope of awareness, so to speak the whole of bodily awareness at the moment; and after absorption the mind becomes so sharp that insight naturally follows. On the other hand, using Thanissaro’s (Ajahn Lee’s, actually) infusing the entire organism with breath awareness, and then with “qi and blood” awareness (using the Chinese medical equivalents for what Lee calls the breath through the nerves and vessels), and finally the “still-points” of the breath (these three levels actually closely correspond to the classical Chinese jing-qi-shen levels). Then the meditation (of Thanissaro’s sort) I find to resemble Mahasi’s vipassana-khanikha-samadhi – matching every arising phenomenon with concentrated penetrating knowledge.

The point being that alternative philological interpretations might be also verifiable phenomenologically, or perhaps in some cases, dis-proven or at least rendered less likely. Minus some kind of rubber-meets-the-road evaluation along these lines the philology risks degrading into “mere” scholasticism – abhidhamma in the pejorative
sense used at times by those who haven’t bothered to understand it.

More examples have some to mind (in following various discussions), and might be worth starting a separate thread here – unless this runs against the grain of SuttaCentral conventions.


Hi @cjmacie
This is exactly the kind of topics I (optimistically) assumed would be the focus of such new category/channel I asked whether we could have set up here.

However, if you follow the conversation in the thread linked, people called the attention that the chances are that it will become a huge mess like the existing practice-focused forums (as well linked in the thread /topic in question).

That in turn would overload further our already overloaded moderation/peacemaking-focused human resources - potentially moving them away from more important SuttaCentral development and maintenance workstreams.

All that said, I think it is really worth you consider to set up a new topic with exactly what you posted above. Let’s see what happens! :slight_smile:


Hi @Deeele. On that point, are you (or anyone else) able to please clarify for me the correct phraseology for the line in the Metta Sutta:
Sabbasattā bhavantu sukhitattā
Or is it:
Sabbesattā bhavantu sukhitattā
Or are both ways acceptable?
With metta


Having now, belatedly, read the previous thread “Should we have a ‘Practice Corner’ category?” (thanks for the reference), I note that random discussion of personal practice was not what I meant here. Rather the potential value of comparative analysis of philology and phenomenology (in practice).

(from that thread)
sujato 2017-01-15 09:23:39 UTC #12
If someone says, “what does this Pali word mean”, I have one answer (maybe a long one, but still!). But if their question is, “My mind became still in meditation, what to do next?” there’s a million different answers, and I have no idea which is going to work.

The subtlety lies in the fact that the “meaning” of the Pali word is often the expression of, or reference to an experiential phenomenon (e.g. a citta), or something about the quality of such (e.g. a cetasika), among many other possible aspects, but all somehow related to lived experiencing. And it might be possible to discuss in this direction, without being merely “subjective”.

AnagarikaMichael 2017-01-15 13:45:28 UTC #20
“Another issue that arises … when these kinds of forums exist, it is often people with degrees of pathology that seem attracted to these forums.”

This a the decisive issue, and, IMO, why “practice discussion”, per se, doesn’t suit SuttaCentral. Even with explicit focus on, say, “Sutta texts”, or “Theravada”, etc., pathological behavior shows-up regularly when a forum becomes “popular”. Has something to do with the nature of the “world-wide-web” (as distinct from “the internet” per se) and its interaction with (“defiled”) human nature.

Through another popular forum, I was introduced to the book “Saints and Psychopaths”, by one Bill Hamilton (available on-line), which was well worth reading. It offers insights into types of behavior that has proven valuable in understanding much of what comes out on dhamma/dharma-related forums, and being able to recognize tell-tale patterns early-on.

gnlaera 2017-02-14 07:24:55 UTC #22
…the chances are that it [a “practice” thread] will become a huge mess…
…I think it is worth you trying to set up a new topic with exactly what you posted above. Let’s see what happens!

My inclination is now would rather to study and experiment with ways of introducing phenomenological perspective into specific (philological) discussions where possibly relevant. It is a matter of bouncing pariyatti and patipatti off each other, but needs to be implemented in a way that minimizes, or at least critically reduces (in the sense of phenomenological “reduction”) the more treacherous “personal/subjective”


Hi @Gabriel. Since I was reading up on MA 200, I thought I would flag a rather interesting usage of 身/body in that sutra. It refers to grasping of -

a body that eternal and unchanging, an imperishable dharma

I honestly don’t think this is referring to a physical corpus, but more likely the Self.


yes interesting! as I can see 身 often represents kaya. So does your quote refer to the later fully-developed dharmakāya? I’m not familiar at all with Mahayana literature, in Pali dhammakāya only appears in DN 4 (except for other two instances in the KN):

this designates the Tathagata: “The Body of Dhamma”, that is, “The Body of Brahma”, or “Become Dhamma”, that is, “Become Brahma”

Tathāgatassa hetaṃ, vāseṭṭha, adhivacanaṃ ‘dhammakāyo’ itipi, ‘brahmakāyo’ itipi, ‘dhammabhūto’ itipi, ‘brahmabhūto’ itipi.

Identifying the Tathagata with dhammakāya or brahmakāya is surely not ‘classic’ theravada material :slight_smile:

Need help translating a few sentences from AN 5.28 commentary
Exploring Dharmakāya in EBTs and Early Sectarian Buddhism

Hi @Gabriel

I think MA 200 is quite plain-vanilla EBT and shows no trace of Mahayana.

Here’s another perplexing use of “body” which cannot be explained by the physical body -

Tamañño evamāha: ‘atthi kho, bho, eso attā, yaṃ tvaṃ vadesi, neso natthīti vadāmi; no ca kho, bho, ayaṃ attā ettāvatā sammā samucchinno hoti. Atthi kho, bho, añño attā sabbaso ākiñ­cañ­ñā­yatanaṃ samatikkamma “santametaṃ paṇītametan”ti neva­saññā­nā­saññāya­tanūpago. Taṃ tvaṃ na jānāsi na passasi. Tamahaṃ jānāmi passāmi. So kho, bho, attā yato kāyassa bhedā ucchijjati vinassati, na hoti paraṃ maraṇā, ettāvatā kho, bho, ayaṃ attā sammā samucchinno hotī’ti. Ittheke sato sattassa ucchedaṃ vināsaṃ vibhavaṃ paññapenti.

To him another says: ‘There is, good sir, such a self as you assert. That I do not deny. But it is not at that point that the self is completely annihilated. For there is, good sir, another self belonging to the base of neither perception nor non-perception, (reached by) completely surmounting the base of nothingness (by contemplating): “This is the peaceful, this is the sublime.” That you neither know nor see. But I know it and see it. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death—at this point the self is completely annihilated.’ In this way some proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being. : DN 2.

Pretty obvious that it is not a physical corpus being referred to here…


Another to add to the list.

Instead of the standard “breakup of the body” used in most texts (including its parallel SA 298), SN 12.2 uses “breakup of the aggregates”.

This ties in neatly with MN 44’s identification of the First Noble Reality with “own-body”.

Based on the previous citations, I wonder how many occurrences of “body” outside of the context of kamma actually refer to the physical corpora, instead of the aggregates?


Another example that perhaps shows a pre-Buddhist linguistic echo -

imameva kāyaṃ paṭicca saḷāyatanikaṃ jīvitapaccayā
MN 121

Anyone with a passing acquaintance with the standard DO series should be able to see that the Sixfold Base is dependant on Name-&-Form. Here, we have kāya standing in its stead.


And yet another instance is to be found in SN 22.1 where kāya is contrasted against citta in terms of, not the sarira, but the 5 Aggregates vs Emotional response.


Thanks for sharing @Sylvester. Could elaborate more on what could be the practical implications of this odd occurrence of any? :anjal:


I don’t think it’s an outlier. If one looks at SN 36.6, we find the same dichotomy between bodily (kayika) and mental (cetasika) feelings. Then, pop into MN 148 (the section on anusayas) and the same dichotomy occurs. BUT, the kayika section includes painful feelings arisen at the MIND-base as hedonic tone, followed by the cetasika sequel of the emotion of grief which uses the exact same language as SN 36.6.

See also MN 36.

The most glaring example of kaaya being equated to the 5 Aggregates is of course the sakkaaya presentation of Suffering in MN 44.

See the earlier materials cited above where kaaya does not mean the physical corpus, but simply attapatilabha (acquisition of Self to those who believe in a Self in DN 9). In time, the Buddha would appropriate this concept and refine it to mean attabhavapatilabha (acquisition of personal existence).

It does give cause for pause in those interpretations of kaaya passadhi which focus on physical feelings, when the sukha to be felt is found in the freedom from the Hindrances. That is a sukha felt at the mind-base, thereby giving rise to the emotional sequel.

Put another way - if the mano cannot contact kayika feelings and must be restricted to cetasika feelings, then this position completely contradicts the standard sutta presentation and implies that awakening is impossible because sense restraint of the mano indriya is impossible. In light of this, the entire SN 35 on restraint of the mind must be hocus pocus.