SuttaCentral

MN77, Eight liberations, Eight dimensions of mastery


#1

Greetings dear friends. :anjal: I’ve read today MN77, and found a very interesting excerpt about “Eight liberations” and “Eight dimensions of mastery”. What is interesting, it deals with phenomenological aspects of meditation which are not found in most famous suttas about meditation like: anapanasati sutta, satipatthana sutta or classical jhanic formula found in many suttas.

Here are related quotes:

(SuttaCentral MN77)
Furthermore, I have explained to my disciples a practice that they use to develop the eight liberations.

Having physical form, they see visions. This is the first liberation.

Not perceiving form internally, they see visions externally. This is the second liberation.

They’re focused only on beauty. This is the third liberation.

Going totally beyond perceptions of form, with the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite’, they enter and remain in the dimension of infinite space. This is the fourth liberation.

Going totally beyond the dimension of infinite space, aware that ‘consciousness is infinite’, they enter and remain in the dimension of infinite consciousness. This is the fifth liberation.

Going totally beyond the dimension of infinite consciousness, aware that ‘there is nothing at all’, they enter and remain in the dimension of nothingness. This is the sixth liberation.

Going totally beyond the dimension of nothingness, they enter and remain in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. This is the seventh liberation.

Going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, they enter and remain in the cessation of perception and feeling. This is the eighth liberation.

And many of my disciples meditate on that having attained perfection and consummation of insight.

(SuttaCentral MN77)
Furthermore, I have explained to my disciples a practice that they use to develop the eight dimensions of mastery.

Perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally, limited, both pretty and ugly. Mastering them, they perceive: ‘I know and see.’ This is the first dimension of mastery.

Perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally, limitless, both pretty and ugly. Mastering them, they perceive: ‘I know and see.’ This is the second dimension of mastery.

Not perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally, limited, both pretty and ugly. Mastering them, they perceive: ‘I know and see.’ This is the third dimension of mastery.

Not perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally, limitless, both pretty and ugly. Mastering them, they perceive: ‘I know and see.’ This is the fourth dimension of mastery.

Not perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally, blue, with blue color, blue hue, and blue tint. They’re like a flax flower that’s blue, with blue color, blue hue, and blue tint. Or a cloth from Bāraṇasī that’s smoothed on both sides, blue, with blue color, blue hue, and blue tint. In the same way, not perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally, blue, with blue color, blue hue, and blue tint. Mastering them, they perceive: ‘I know and see.’ This is the fifth dimension of mastery.

Not perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally that are yellow, with yellow color, yellow hue, and yellow tint. They’re like a champak flower that’s yellow, with yellow color, yellow hue, and yellow tint. Or a cloth from Bāraṇasī that’s smoothed on both sides, yellow, with yellow color, yellow hue, and yellow tint. In the same way, not perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally that are yellow, with yellow color, yellow hue, and yellow tint. Mastering them, they perceive: ‘I know and see.’ This is the sixth dimension of mastery.

Not perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally that are red, with red color, red hue, and red tint. They’re like a scarlet mallow flower that’s red, with red color, red hue, and red tint. Or a cloth from Bāraṇasī that’s smoothed on both sides, red, with red color, red hue, and red tint. In the same way, not perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally that are red, with red color, red hue, and red tint. Mastering them, they perceive: ‘I know and see.’ This is the seventh dimension of mastery.

Not perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally that are white, with white color, white hue, and white tint. They’re like the morning star that’s white, with white color, white hue, and white tint. Or a cloth from Bāraṇasī that’s smoothed on both sides, white, with white color, white hue, and white tint. In the same way, not perceiving form internally, someone sees visions externally that are white, with white color, white hue, and white tint. Mastering them, they perceive: ‘I know and see.’ This is the eighth dimension of mastery.

And many of my disciples meditate on that having attained perfection and consummation of insight.

Do you have ideas to what sorts of experiences these verses relate to? I have my own intuitions, but I would love to hear from you.

For example, what would be perceinving or not perceiving forms internally, but seeing visions externally?

I wonder to what relates the distinction between internal and external in this sutta… because intuitevly “visions” are seen “in the mind” and usually people associate mind with something internal in opposition to external world of the senses. But here it seems like “external visions” relate to the experiences within the mind, because they have certain colors and general attributes associated with the realm of the mind and which most likely isn’t about the outside world of the senses, but still is regarded in sutta as “external visions”.

It seems also peculiar to be perceiving forms internally, but seeing visions externally.
My intuition is that the awareness is directed at the mind and mind objects, but they’re seen externally “spatially” within the realm of the mind… which means the sense of observer that looks “out there” (externally) but within the realm of the mind.

If you have another idea why is that, or would like to agree or disagree with my intuition I kindly please, share your thoughts. :slight_smile:

I think this is generally very interseting exceprts and sutta to discuss, so if anyone has something interesting to share in this topic, please do. :anjal: I hope my questions are just a start of a hopefully deeper analysis of this interesting sutta.


#2

I’ve been chewing on the eight dimensions of mastery and eight liberations for over a year listening to them in DN33.

Regarding your MN77 post, I recently discovered how the brahmaviharas tie into the liberations:

SN46.54:12.8: The apex of the heart’s release by love is the beautiful, I say, for a mendicant who has not penetrated to a higher freedom…The apex of the heart’s release by compassion is the dimension of infinite space, I say, for a mendicant who has not penetrated to a higher freedom…The apex of the heart’s release by rejoicing is the dimension of infinite consciousness, I say, for a mendicant who has not penetrated to a higher freedom…The apex of the heart’s release by equanimity is the dimension of nothingness, I say, for a mendicant who has not penetrated to a higher freedom.”

Regarding the dimensions of mastery and visions, I’ll simply point out that the visual cortex does indeed see images that aren’t there. Such limited images become most apparent during walking meditation. For example, walking with the sun behind us into shade, we see a shadow that isn’t there. That un-shadow is an artifact of the visual cortex. It has a color and is limited and is both real (we see it) and not there (there really isn’t a shadow). It’s an optical illusion, perceived internally as “the form of my un-shadow”. Another example is the black after-image we see after looking at a candle. Understanding the illusion, we are freed from assuming that all that we see is “true”. That would be a literal interpretation for understanding the scope of the first mastery. And with this literal interpretation, mastery would require directly knowing illusions as they are seen all the time everywhere.