"Outer Dhammā" in SA 176 (pseudo-parallel MN 10, MN 118)

SA 176 establishes a form of meditation on the 四念處 (four mindfulness bases, cattāro satipatthānāni).

This includes, as seems in standard satipatthānāni discourses, an cultivation and observation of “internal” and “external” mindfulness bases.

One of the mindfulness bases given in SA 176, as well as MN 10 (which is not an exact parallel but does cover the same basic territory) are dhammā (dhammas), these are “contemplated” internally and externally, or perhaps it is better to say “in internal and external capacities”.

What exactly is an “external” dhamma in the context of sati­paṭṭhā­na? I believe some lacking in my knowledge here is causing some inconsistent interpretations of these lines on my part.

2 Likes

The clearest application of this idiom in satipatthana is in body contemplation, especially the meditation on corpses. One observes a decaying corpse, then reflects that it is just the same as one’s own body. Here the point is that an external body and the internal body are used as initial bases for meditation, but ultimately this duality is transcended and the similar nature of them is seen.

To understand the other fields of satipatthana, we apply the same pattern.

The “dhammas” here mean the essential principles of the teaching in the context of meditation, i.e. the hindrances, awakening factors, and four noble truths. You will sometimes hear other explanations of dhamma here (as “mental objects”, “phenomena”, etc.), but as I showed at length in A History of Mindfulness, that’s not what dhamma means in this context.

One contemplates “internally” how these apply to oneself, and “externally” how they apply to others. This may be either by inference, from observing what others do and say, or directly, by psychic powers. Ultimately this leads to the universalizing of this principle: you realize that it’s not just you who suffers.

This counters the “distant fields are always greener” tendency. We tend to see our own suffering, but have unrealistic and idealized perceptions of the lives of others. This is why there are so many stories of past lives showing how everyone, even kings and lords, suffer, showing the impermanence of even the greatest glory.

Note that this passage is found far more frequently in the Sarvastivadin texts, including SA, as compared to Pali. I believe that it was initially applied in certain specific cases, and later on, as an artifact of the textual redaction process, became applied more generally.

7 Likes

Dear Ajhan Sujato

This is a process of inference, as distinct from direct knowledge. Is the word sammasana (sammarshana) the correct term used for inference?

with metta

Mat

That’s correct, yes. Observation and inference are the two means of valid knowledge.

No, that just means “scrutiny” or something like that, and probably encompasses both (although I haven’t checked this point.) Standard words for inference are anumāna and anvaya.

2 Likes

[quote=“sujato, post:2, topic:4834”]
One contemplates “internally” how these apply to oneself, and “externally” how they apply to others.
[/quote]Thank you, Bhante.

Does this same principle apply to the other 3 “external” bases?

Is the “external body” simply someone else’s body? That about “external feelings”, are these the feelings we imagine occurring in those other bodies?

In your opinion, are the dhammā in satipaṭṭhāna related to the usage of the word “dhamma” in the compound dhammānupassanā, which appears in the wiki article on satipaṭṭhāna? Or is this entirely off from an EBT-centred perspective?


This is diverting more into Pāli-learning territory, but is the “nu” in dhammānupassanā related to the “nu” in buddhānusmṛti? It seems very evident that the -passanā ending is related to the same ending used in vipassanā, but what is the function of the “nu” infix?

Bhante, is there a reason why dhamma can not encompass both of those aspects as the 4th of the 4sp (satipatthana)?
I accept that Dhamma probably means as you say above as the primary function. It ties in nicely with the memory aspect of sati, and the Dhamma being the teachings/models that we memorize to apply to our moment to moment experience, it would be strange and not even work properly if Dhamma-anupassana did not involve using proper teaching models to apply that we’ve previously memorized. Unlike one of the sati-indriyra definitions which explicitly states one remembers what was said and done long ago, samma sati and cattaro satipatthana do not explicitly state memory and recall.

However, the way the 5 hindrances and 7 bodhi angas are worded in the 4th SP, in MN 10, and some of the parallels, taking Dhamma as “phenomena”, works as well. To function properly, both meanings of Dhamma have to be active. You need to know what you’re doing, which model you’re applying (which “Dhamma”), but the actual momentary experience of discerning if that moment is a hindrance or bodhi anga or whatever, is dealing with Dhamma as an object of mano, one of the 6 sense bases. Hence, both “phenomena” observable by mano and “Dhamma” as a teaching are needed. Could the Buddha have meant both? Do we have to choose just one?

1 Like

The infix is 'anu’
buddha anu-s-sati
buddha recollection
sati derives from sarati, the verb for memorizing.

(edit addition): in the 4sp,
1st SP is kāya-anu-passana
2. vedana-anu-passana = vedanānupassana
3…

passana is ‘seeing’, vi-passana is ‘insight’, anu-passana is ‘contemplation’

‘anu’ as a common pali prefix used all over the place to intensify or slightly change the meaning of the base.

2 Likes

Yes, although it may be broader than that. For example, the “external earth element” includes more than just bodies, but all solid matter.

I’m not sure 'imagine" is the best word here; although imagination can play a role. The primary sources of knowledge are inference (by observing behavior, etc.) and direct perception via psychic powers, i.e. reading peoples minds.

Yes, dhammānupassanā is the term that appears in satipatthana. But I’m not sure what wiki article you’re referring to.

As kindly pointed out by Frankk, this is the prefix anu-. This has the general sense of “continuing, following”, and in these contexts suggests a process of steady, continual observation.

Yes, but this is too general to be really relevant. Everything mental is a phenomena in this sense, but so what? Why aren’t all the other sections of satipatthana called contemplation of “phenomena” since all of them, except partially the first one, involve observing mental phenomena?

The point here is that the actual text has a specific point of difference between the dhamma section and the previous sections, and that is that the contemplation of impermanence and causality is explicitly introduced. In previous sections phenomena were observed in just the same way, but now the connections between them are understood.

Moreover, the notion of dhammanvaya, inference according to the dhamma, or inferring the flow of the principles of the teaching, is a term that’s explicitly applied to these dhammas. In SN 47.12, we have Sariputta saying:

“Sir, though I don’t comprehend the minds of Buddhas past, future, and present, still I understand this by inference from the teaching (dhammanvaya). Suppose there was a king’s frontier citadel with fortified ramparts, walls, and arches, and a single gate. And it has a gatekeeper who is astute, competent, and intelligent. He keeps strangers out and lets known people in. As he walks around the patrol path, he doesn’t see a hole or cleft in the wall, not even one big enough for a cat to slip out. He thinks: ‘Whatever sizable creature enter or leave the citadel, all of them do so via this gate.’ In the same way, I understand this by inference from the teaching:

‘All the perfected ones, fully awakened Buddhas—whether of the past, future, or present—have given up the five hindrances, corruptions of the heart that weaken wisdom. Their mind is firmly established in the four kinds of mindfulness meditation. They have correctly developed the seven awakening factors. And they have woken up to the supreme perfect awakening.’”

This passage clearly illustrates the relation between these things, and the role of inference in understanding. Contra the “direct awareness only” school, it’s simply impossible to have direct knowledge of many different kinds of things, even something as simple as “the citadel is cat-proof!” You can never be directly aware of the fact that no cat can enter, just as you can never be directly aware of the fact that “no conditioned phenomena is permanent”. The dhamma here doesn’t refer to the phenomena that are experienced, but to the inferential understanding, i.e. understanding the principles of the teaching.

3 Likes

That answers my other (unstated) question- why does something have to cease at the end of every tetrad in the anapanasati sutta ie- body, feelings etc cease at the 4th, 8th step… etc.

Yes, as all phenomena past and future cannot be directly experienced. Direct observation and inference of everything is required to know everything in order to let go of everything, to attain Nibbana.

with metta[quote=“sujato, post:8, topic:4834”]
All the perfected ones, fully awakened Buddhas—whether of the past, future, or present—have given up the five hindrances, corruptions of the heart that weaken wisdom. Their mind is firmly established in the four kinds of mindfulness meditation. They have correctly developed the seven awakening factors. And they have woken up to the supreme perfect awakening.’”
[/quote]

Bhanthe, does the above quote mean that the five hindrances (preparation?), four foundations of mindfulness (the practice) and seven factors of awakening (the result?) should be included in Samma Sati or elsewhere in the Noble Eightfold Path scheme (or elsewhere?)

with metta

Mat

Mat

[quote=“Mat, post:9, topic:4834”]
That answers my other (unstated) question- why does something have to cease at the end of every tetrad in the anapanasati sutta ie- body, feelings etc cease at the 4th, 8th step… etc.
[/quote]This completely gives a tentative answer to a question that I had over on this thread about the usage of the phrase 觀住 (guān zhù) that occurs at the end of every set of instructions in this very āgama, SA 176.

The ānāpānasati instructions (MN 118) have a phrase [quote]“He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in contemplating cessation’.”[/quote] I don’t know enough Pāli to find the source phrase for the quotation.

This makes a lot of sense as to what 觀住 might refer to, one of its most likely readings is “observing cessation”.

2 Likes

This is the Pali for both cases (in and out breath)

'nirodhānupassī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, ‘nirodhānupassī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati;

Notice how it is a combination of cessation (nirodha) and steady, continual observation (anupassi).

https://suttacentral.net/define/nirodha
https://suttacentral.net/define/anupassi

[quote=“gnlaera, post:11, topic:4834”]
cessation (nirodha)
[/quote]Interesting. I was looking for a Pāli cognate for the Sanskrit paśama, no wonder I couldn’t find it.

'nirodhānupassī seems to be a perfect candidate for 觀住, even though a “literal” rendition of it would have the characters reversed: 住觀.


Incidentally, do you know why there is an apostrophe before the word nirodhānupassī? Is something being elided?

1 Like

I risk saying the quote mark is just a quote mark. :slight_smile:

1 Like

[quote=“gnlaera, post:13, topic:4834, full:true”]
I risk saying the quote mark is just a quote mark.
[/quote]That makes sense. Pāli does mystify me on occasion with its usages of ’ and " in strange places occasionally though.

Good point. I trust it reflects what was in the manuscripts used for the version we have in SC. Bhante @sujato, can you confirm?

yes, the apostrophe before nirodha is just a quote mark, not an elision. At least that’s the only conclusion I think we can come to based on how everyone translated the pali into english.

Were we talking about MN 10 or an agama parallel? In MN 10, all 4 SP look like they have the same insight refrain with the arising, passing away, arising & passing:
dhamma anupassana, b.bodhi using “mind objects” for dhamma:

(INSIGHT)

37.“In this way he abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects internally, or he abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects externally, or he abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects both internally and externally. Or else he abides contemplating in mind-objects their nature of arising, or he abides contemplating in mind-objects their nature of vanishing, or he abides contemplating in mind-objects their nature of both arising and vanishing. Or else mindfulness that ‘there are mind-objects’ is simply established in him to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and mindfulness. And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects in terms of the five hindrances.

for anapansati under kaya anupassana

(INSIGHT)

5.“In this way he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body externally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body both internally and externally.143 “” Or else he abides contemplating in the body its nature of arising, or he abides contemplating in the body its nature of vanishing, or he abides contemplating in the body its nature of both arising and vanishing.144 "

" Or else mindfulness that ‘there is a body’ is simply established in him to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and mindfulness.145 “” And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.

In SN 36.7, the “insight” portion applies to any and all 4sp,

“tassa ce, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno evaṃ satassa sampajānassa appamattassa ātāpino pahitattassa viharato uppajjati sukhā vedanā, so evaṃ pajānāti — ‘uppannā kho myāyaṃ sukhā vedanā. sā ca kho paṭicca, no appaṭicca. kiṃ paṭicca? imameva kāyaṃ paṭicca. ayaṃ kho pana kāyo anicco saṅkhato paṭiccasamuppanno. aniccaṃ kho pana saṅkhataṃ paṭiccasamuppannaṃ kāyaṃ paṭicca uppannā sukhā vedanā kuto niccā bhavissatī’ti! so kāye ca sukhāya ca vedanāya aniccānupassī viharati, vayānupassī viharati, virāgānupassī viharati, nirodhānupassī viharati, paṭinissaggānupassī viharati. tassa kāye ca sukhāya ca vedanāya aniccānupassino viharato, vayānupassino viharato, virāgānupassino viharato, nirodhānupassino viharato, paṭinissaggānupassino viharato, yo kāye ca sukhāya ca vedanāya rāgānusayo, so pahīyati.

b.bodhi english

“A bhikkhu should await his time mindful and clearly comprehending. This is our instruction to you.

6“Bhikkhus, while a bhikkhu dwells thus, mindful and clearly comprehending, diligent, ardent, and resolute, if there arises in him a pleasant feeling, he understands thus: ‘There has arisen in me a pleasant feeling. Now that is dependent, not independent. Dependent on what? Dependent on this very body. But this body is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen. So when the pleasant feeling has arisen in dependence on a body that is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, how could it be permanent?’ He dwells contemplating impermanence in the body and in pleasant feeling, he dwells contemplating vanishing, contemplating fading away, contemplating cessation, contemplating relinquishment.238 “” As he dwells thus, [212] the underlying tendency to lust in regard to the body and in regard to pleasant feeling is abandoned by him.

Indeed. The phrases throughout are wrapped in implied quotes, as indicated by the 'ti at the end of the phrase:

‘nirodhānupassī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, ‘nirodhānupassī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati;

Note that only the ti is in the manuscript. Quote marks are added by modern editors—and they are not always correct, as the beginning of the quoted passage is not defined in the manuscript but must be inferred (it is also not uncommon to find the manuscript is not entirely accurate in the use of -ti). However in this case there is no problem.

Whether it should be translated as a quote is a choice. The main idea is that it is a reflexive idiom.

My apologies, I was assuming knowledge of my complicated and arcane arguments in A History of Mindfulness! But to grossly simplify a complicated matter, the passages you quote are the “refrain”, which is a later strata in the text. I was referring to the core passages on the practices themselves. The application of contemplating impermanence to all four kinds of satipatthana is something that is found very rarely in the texts—you have, in fact, quoted most of the examples—and in the other 70+ suttas where satipatthana is taught there is no mention of this.

As always, samatha and vipassana cannot be entirely disentangled. But the emphasis in the early texts is that vipassana emerges primarily in the fourth section of satipatthana.

In the passages you quote, incidentally, the heading (Insight) is not found in the text at all. This is just one of the many ways that modern scholars, under the influence of the Burmese vipassana school, have shifted the interpretation of this text.

2 Likes

I did read it a few years ago. Every serious EBT student should read this!


full book here

Bhante used to have a blog that had links to epub, mobi, html versions as well. Don’t know where that went.

It opened my eyes not just on Satipatthana, but also really helped me to see the same patterns in how Buddhism proliferated, changed in profound ways into so many lineages, schools, Abhidhamma, Mahayana, etc.

Another example of how big of an influence that book had on my life, I chant Satipatthana Mula sutta once a week, and never MN 10, or DN 22. I didn’t bother to memorize MN 10 in protest of the wrongs committed in there. I’d memorize the MA parallel or EA parallel before MN 10.

Before chanting satipatthana mula, first I chant suddhika sutta, SN 54.3 for the full 16 steps of APS, to correct the offensive 4 step only in MN 10, then I chant AN 6.29, which does a better job of presenting the key meditation practices, including 4 jhanas which is missing from MN 10, as well as perception of light, then satipatthana mula. When I get to each refrain which has “yava deva naña-dassana mattaya”, instead of MN 10’s “mere mindfulness”, I slow down my chanting speed, savor that sentence, and feel like I’m righting a wrong in the world one pali word at a time.

I’m still hoping there’s a seventh council in my lifetime to officially right some of the wrongs committed in the 6th council. But even better would be to establish an EBT bhikkhu lineage and make a complete break away from everything non-EBT.

1 Like