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MN 111, question regarding cessation of perception in Anupada Sutta


#1

Hello there, I find something peculiar about MN 111.

I don’t know whether to put that topic in Q&A, discussion or feedback, but lets start here.

First interesting thing is that Sariputta is doing vipassana while inside all 4 jhanas and then inside 3 immaterial attainemnts. The text states that he’s seeing this factors of jhanas and seeing their impermanence while inside jhanas up to 3th immaterial. I can assume it is possible.

Example of sphere of nothingness from that sutta:

Furthermore, going totally beyond the dimension of infinite consciousness, aware that ‘there is nothing at all’, he entered and remained in the dimension of nothingness.

And he distinguished the phenomena in the dimension of nothingness one by one: the perception of the dimension of nothingness and unification of mind; contact, feeling, perception, intention, mind, enthusiasm, decision, energy, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention. He knew those phenomena as they arose, as they remained, and as they went away. He understood: ‘So it seems that these phenomena, not having been, come to be; and having come to be, they flit away.’ And he meditated without attraction or repulsion for those phenomena; independent, untied, liberated, detached, his mind free of limits. He understood: ‘There is an escape beyond.’ And by repeated practice he knew for sure that there is.

Then the text clearly states, that Sariputta is doing analysis after emerging from 8th jhana, which indicates that 8th jhana is too subtle for possibility of any analysis inside of it.

Furthermore, going totally beyond the dimension of nothingness, he entered and remained in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.

And he emerged from that attainment with mindfulness. Then he contemplated the phenomena in that attainment that had passed, ceased, and perished: ‘So it seems that these phenomena, not having been, come to be; and having come to be, they flit away.’ And he meditated without attraction or repulsion for those phenomena; independent, untied, liberated, detached, his mind free of limits. He understood: ‘There is an escape beyond.’ And by repeated practice he knew for sure that there is.

Okay, and getting to the point, to nirodha, cessation of perception and feeling:

Furthermore, going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, he entered and remained in the cessation of perception and feeling. And, having seen with wisdom, his defilements came to an end.

And he emerged from that attainment with mindfulness. Then he contemplated the phenomena in that attainment that had passed, ceased, and perished: ‘So it seems that these phenomena, not having been, come to be; and having come to be, they flit away.’ And he meditated without attraction or repulsion for those phenomena; independent, untied, liberated, detached, his mind free of limits. He understood: ‘There is no escape beyond.’ And by repeated practice he knew for sure that there is not.

And if there’s anyone of whom it may be rightly said that they have attained mastery and perfection in noble ethics, immersion, wisdom, and freedom, it’s Sāriputta.

I wonder how could Sariputta contemplate phenomena that were present in cessation of perception and feeling, it it was state of nirodha, so what phenomena could be there?

I have few possible answers:

  1. It is mistake in the text? I know that some posts on this forum states that MN 111 could be not entirely authenthic or “late” (I don’t know what late means in that particular case), but there wasn’t information what passages were considered inauthenthic.
  2. It is a slight mistake in translation perhaps? If yes then please treat this post as feedback.
  3. Maybe after all nirodha is not cessation of everything, but something remains that can be “experienced” but cannot be grasped by mind? Which explain neither annihilistic nor eternalist view of Nibbana? (considering that we take nirodha as same state that arhat achieves after death/parinibbana).
  4. Maybe he was simply contemplating phenomenon of absence of things “inside the attainemnt of nirodha” that were present before achieving it? Simply meaning that he contemplated all phenomena as impermanent, because they all ceased in nirodha?
  5. Maybe I completely misunderstood something :wink:

Perhaps it is sutta that is proof of fact that nirodha is not cessaion of EVERYTHING, but of all conditioned phenomena, that can be divided into particular things? The ultimate, innefable “state”?

It is interesting, because the sutta states that Sariputta did contemplated the “phenomena” of nirodha after emerging from it, but didn’t list them as in previous attainemnts, maybe because this “phenomenon” is inexplainable/ungraspable, even more than 4th immaterial attainemnt (neither perception nor non-perception)?

Thoughts?

Anyway this sutta is a very difficult one, but I suppose the answer number 4 is correct, but I thought it is interesting thing to consider, because at first reading I thought Sariputta was clearly analysing factors of jhanas as impermanent, so I don’t know what he could analyse after going back from nirodha and this got me thinking. Something is very confusing for me about that passage regarding contemplation of phenomena (vipassana) regarding cessation of perception and feeling.


#2

Bhikkhu Analayo analyses this Sutta in his book ‘Early Buddhist Meditation Studies’ starting from page 117 (bottom): https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/pdf/5-personen/analayo/ebms.pdf

His conclusion:

This in turn shows that the Anupada-sutta’s description does not depict insight into impermanence practiced while a practitioner is immersed in an absorption. Instead, the presentation in this discourse supports a reading according to which contemplation of the impermanent nature of the mental constituents of an absorption takes place before or on emerging from the attainment. In both cases a considerable degree of concentration has already been established or still remains present. In such a condition of a concentrated mind, close to actual absorption, insight contemplation has its place by way of comparison with the mental condition experienced during the actual attainment.


#3

Hey thank you for this answer :slight_smile: :anjal:

It is good arguments that the vipassana cannot be done while inside the absorbtion in EBT. It wasn’t exactly my question, but still it actually answered it in a way. :slight_smile:

My question was more about that Sariputta was contemplating jhanic factors. And same formula was used after emerging from nirodha samapatti. How can you analyse factors of state of cessation, while there cannot be any factors about it?

I suppose the most possible answer is that he contemplates factors that were present in previous attainments and disappeared in cessation, so retrospectively he thought: allright, everything is impermanent, even all jhanic factors, so only nirodha must be the final refuge.

Thank you for helping me clarifying that out :anjal:


#4

He’s talking about destruction of the āsavas.


#5

I’m not sure what phenomena actually arise during the meditative state of nirodha samapatti, but the point seems to be that they are transient and conditional - the same as phenomena arising during the preceding jhanic states.
And of course nirodha samapatti is not Nibbana, with is usually described as cessation of the taints.