SA 474: ānanda thinks while in dhyāna/jhāna, || to SN 36.11

This sutta is very very similar to the pali parallel SN 36.11.
There are a few very interesting differences though, especially that beginning in SA 474:

Venerable Ānanda was alone in a solitary place, contemplating in dhyāna, and thinking, “The Bhagavān has spoken of three types of sensations: sensations of pleasure, sensations of pain, and sensations of neither pleasure nor pain. Moreover, all of these sensations are spoken of as suffering. What does this mean?”

After thinking this, he arose from dhyāna and went to the place of the Bhagavān.

Another interesting slight difference, I’d appreciate some comment from Chinese sutra readers here, is what are the words used for vitakka and vicara here, compared to the “thinking and contemplation” while Ananda was in jhāna at the beginning?

“[1] When in the First Dhyāna, words and speech are extinguished.
[2] When in the Second Dhyāna, vitarka and vicāra are extinguished.
[3] When in the Third Dhyāna, mental joy is extinguished.
[4] When in the Fourth Dhyāna, inhalation and exhalation are extinguished.
[5] When in the realm of infinite space, the appearance of form is
extinguished.

SA 474 in chinese

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SA 474

This agrees with Pali EBT understanding of pīti as primarily mental and sukha is primarily physical.

(3rd jhāna pīti has dropped out and only sukha remains).

It would be pretty confusing if mental joy (of piti) dropped out, leaving mental joy of sukha in 3rd jhāna. (which is the position Vism. takes)

This is what EBT nerds do when they’re too impatient to wait for an answer and realize suttacentral translation dictionary lookup is really easy to use.

Table of Contents

Synopsis

SA 474 止息: subsiding

SA 474(四七四) 止息
Saṃyukta Āgama 474 Subsiding
如是我聞:
Thus have I heard.
一時,佛住王舍城迦蘭陀
At one time, the Buddha was abiding in Rājagṛha in the Kalandaka
竹園。
Bamboo Garden.

(while in jhāna, thinking, then emerging)

爾時,尊者阿難獨一靜處
At that time, Venerable Ānanda was alone in a solitary place,
禪(jhāna) 思(contemplation),念言:
contemplating in dhyāna, and thinking,

(3 types of vedana/feelings)

「世尊說
“The Bhagavān has spoken
三(three) 受(vedana)——
(of) three (types of) sensations:
樂受、
sensations of pleasure,
苦受、
sensations of pain,
不苦不樂受,
and sensations of neither pleasure nor pain.
又復說諸
Moreover,
所有受悉皆是苦,
all of these sensations are spoken of as suffering.
此有何義?」
What does this mean?”
作是念已,
After thinking this,
從禪起,
he arose from dhyāna
詣世尊所,稽首禮足,
and went to the place of the Bhagavān. Bowing at his feet,
退住一面,白佛言:
he stood to one side and addressed the Buddha,saying,
「世尊!我獨一靜處
“Bhagavān, I was alone at a solitary place,
禪思,念言:
in dhyāna thinking,
『如世尊說
“The Bhagavān has spoken of
三(three) 受(vedana)——
(of) three (types of) sensations:
樂受、
sensations of pleasure,
苦受、
sensations of pain,
不苦不樂受,
and sensations of neither pleasure nor pain.
又說一切諸
Moreover,
受悉皆是苦,
all of these sensations are spoken of as suffering.
此有何義?』」
What does this mean?”
佛告阿難:「我以一
The Buddha said to Ānanda, “The reason I say this
切行無常故,
is because they are all conditioned and impermanent.
一切行變易法故,
Because all are conditioned dharmas subject to change,
說諸所有 受悉皆是苦。
these sensations are in each case spoken of as suffering.
又復,阿難!
Moreover, Ānanda,
我以諸行漸次寂
I say that because these conditions are gradually extinguished,
滅故說,以諸行漸次止息故說,一切諸受
because these conditions gradually subside,
悉皆是苦。」
that all sensations are entirely suffering.”
阿難白佛言:
Ānanda addressed the Buddha, saying,
「云何?世尊!以諸受
“How, Bhagavān, ”
漸次寂滅故說?」
are sensations gradually extinguished?

(9 progressive extinguishings)

佛告阿難:「
The Buddha spoke to Ānanda, saying,
初禪正受時,
“[1] When in the First Dhyāna,
言語(language) 寂滅,
words and speech are extinguished.
第二禪正受時,
[2] When in the Second Dhyāna,
覺(vitakka) 觀(vicāra) 寂滅,
vitarka and vicāra are extinguished.
第三禪正受時,
[3] When in the Third Dhyāna,
喜心寂滅,
mental joy is extinguished.
第四禪正受時,
[4] When in the Fourth Dhyāna,
出入息寂滅;
inhalation and exhalation are extinguished.
空入處正受時,
[5] When in the realm of infinite space,
色想寂滅,
the appearance of form is extinguished.
識入處正受時,
[6] When in the realm of infinite consciousness,
空入處想寂滅,
the appearance of the realm of infinite space is extinguished.
無所有入處正受時,
[7] When in the realm of nothingness,
識入處想寂滅,
the realm of infinite consciousness is extinguished.
非想非非想入處正受時,
[8] When in the realm of neither perception nor non-perception,
無所有入處想寂滅,
the realm of nothingness is extinguished.
想受滅正受時,
[9] With the extinction of perceptions and sensations,
想受寂滅,
then perceptions and sensations have been extinguished.
是名漸次諸行寂滅。」
This is called the gradual extinction of conditions.”

(9 progressive subsidings)

阿難白佛言:「世尊!云何漸次諸
Ānanda addressed the Buddha,
行止息?」
saying,
“Bhagavān,
佛告阿難:「初禪正受時,言語止息,
how do the various conditions gradually subside?” The Buddha spoke to Ānanda,
二禪正受時,覺觀止息,三禪正受時,喜心
saying,
止息,四禪正受時,出入息止息;空入處正受
“[1] When in the First Dhyāna,
時,色想止息,識入處正受時,空入處想止
words and speech subside.
息,無所有入處正受時,識入處想止息,非想
[2] When in the Second Dhyāna,
非非想入處正受時,無所有入處想止息,想
vitarka and vicāra subside.
受滅正受時,想受止息,是名漸次諸行止息。」
[3] When in the Third Dhyāna,
mental joy subsides.
[4] When in the Fourth Dhyāna,
inhalation and exhalation subside.
[5] When in the realm of infinite space,
the appearance of form subsides.
[6] When in the realm of infinite consciousness,
the appearance of the realm of infinite space subsides.
[7] When in the realm of nothingness,
the realm of infinite consciousness subsides.
[8] When in the realm of neither perception nor non-perception,
the realm of nothingness subsides.
[9] With the extinction of perceptions and sensations,
then perceptions and sensations have subsided.
This is called the gradual subsiding of conditions.” Ānanda addressed the Buddha,
saying,
“Bhagavān,
this is called the gradual subsiding of conditions.”

(supreme, extraordinary… subsidings)

阿難白佛:「世尊!是名漸次諸行止息。」
The Buddha spoke to Ānanda,
saying,
“There is also the supreme subsiding,
告阿難:「復有勝止息、奇特止息、上止息、無
the extraordinary subsiding,
上止息。如是止息,於餘止息無過上者。」
the foremost subsiding,
the highest subsiding.” Ānanda addressed the Buddha,
saying,
難白佛:「何等為勝止息、奇特止息、上止息、
“What is the supreme subsiding,
無上止息,諸餘止息無過上者?」
extraordinary subsiding,
foremost subsiding,
佛告阿難:
the highest subsiding,
「於貪欲心不樂、解脫,恚、癡心不樂、解脫,是
unsurpassed by other subsidings?” The Buddha said to Ānanda,
名勝止息、奇特止息、上止息、無上止息,諸
“Toward craving and desires,
餘止息無過上者。」
the mind is dispassionate and liberated.
Toward anger and delusion,
佛說此經已,尊者阿難
the mind is dispassionate and liberated.
聞佛所說,歡喜奉行。
This is what is called the supreme subsiding,
extraordinary subsiding,
foremost subsiding,
the highest subsiding,
unsurpassed by other subsidings.”
After the Buddha had spoken this sūtra,
then Venerable Ānanda heard what the Buddha had said,
and blissfully practiced in accordance.
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Does anyone know any other Agama sutras similar to this, having thinking while in jhāna?

Searching for “禪思” (jhana contemplation) on suttacentral returns about 30 results, most of them probably without english translation. Any help from chinese sutra readers would be appreciated.

https://suttacentral.net/search?query=禪思

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Thanks, this is a nice presentation.

I suspect that in such contexts, 禪思 is general term for “meditation”, rather than specifically dhyāna as used in the EBTs. Obviously these days it is just chan = zen = “meditation, contemplation”, so the question is what it meant to this translator. The broadening of the scope of dhyāna was well underway in the Indian tradition by this time.

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You might also look here for illuminating details from the Agamas re. samadhi

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Bhante, could you explain what you mean in more detail? It sounds like either you’re saying SA 474 is a corrupted not genuine EBT, or simply, like in the Pali EBT, the word jhana (as meditation, meditator, or meditating (verb)) appears often and its exact meaning is not made explicitly clear in those passages and subject to some translator bias.

For example, in KN Udana #1, the night of buddha’s awakening, he just spent 7 days enjoying the bliss of vimutti-sukha, then “emerges from samadhi” to formulate/contemplate 12ps (links o dependent origination), and in the verse, the unqualified “jhana” is used in this way:

:diamonds: “yadā have pātubhavanti dhammā,
:diamonds: ātāpino jhāyato brāhmaṇassa.
:diamonds: athassa kaṅkhā vapayanti sabbā,
:diamonds: yato pajānāti sahetudhamman”ti. paṭhamaṃ.

thanissaro

As phenomena grow clear to the brahman — ardent, in jhāna — his doubts all vanish when he discerns a phenomenon with its cause.

ireland

When things become manifest To the ardent meditating brahman, All his doubts then vanish since he understands Each thing along with its cause.

“meditating” works as a translation, but I think Thanissaro’s “in jhāna” is more helpful, as it reinforces that 4 jhānas are prerequisite , absolutely necessasry for nirvana.

Thanks, I remember that thread. As I’m making my way through Analayo’s MA translation, I seem to remember in the first 20 sutras, 4 jhānas are mentioned 3 times already. I think 4 jhānas standard formula may appear more often in the agamas than it first appears, due to the way they ellide their texts (I don’t know for sure). But I do think samadhi-indriya, and the other definitions for samma samadhi often get overlooked.

My interpretation of samma samadhi is that the 4 jhanas are a samadhi quality assurance test. That doing the jhanas in pleasant abiding mode, with maximum samatha, is the easiest way to sharpen and examine if the sword of samadhi is sharp enough to cut through the roots of the defilements. But if you don’t use the sword, if you only do the “pleasant abiding” portion of samadhi samadhi, it’s like someone who polishes and sharpens their sword all day but never learns how to fight and cut through things. It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing!

So someone with first jhana capability has as sword of samadhi +1,
2nd jhana = Sword of samadhi + 2,
3rd jhana = SoS + 3,
4th jhana = Sos + 4.

If you have an SoS + 4, but you don’t know how to fight against the defilments, it’s worthless to you and it doesn’t matter how much you sharpen it.

If you’re in the midst of battle against the defilements, swinging that blade, making it sing and making the defilements wail, is it proper to say you’re not in jhāna or not in samādhi? Not IMO. It’s in fact your ability to Swing that truly earns the +4 in the SoS + 4. Someone with only SoS + 1 but is as much better fighter is arguably more spiritually advanced than someone with SoS+4 but can’t fight to save their life.

I don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing!
(E-kagg-ata E-kagg-ata E-ko-dhi-bhavaaa!)

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Agreed. Samadhi is a quality of the jhana- the active ingredient as it were, useful for us in the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four jhanas then become a way to describe the depth of samadhi.

With metta

Indeed, AN 1.394 to AN 1.574 provide numerous examples of the word jhana being used in a very loose sense. I think, as Bhante suggested, that caution is the way to go here: we’d need to know what the word ‘dhyana’ meant exactly to the Chinese translator before coming to any conclusion.

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What about AN6.46? It’s interesting that he only distinguishes between dhamma devotees (or sutta studies in our day and age) and monks who practice jhana.

I apologize if I wasn’t clear enough. Here’s what I mean.

Generally the word jhāna (I’ll use the Pali form for convenience) can be used for “meditation, contemplation, rumination” and so on. Before the Buddha it was, it seems, a fairly minor and non-specific term. But in the EBTs there are two major changes:

  1. The term is promoted to being one of the, if not the, most important terms for deep contemplative practice.
  2. Its usage becomes highly constrained and specific, being almost always used in a specific technical sense, and extremely rarely in any broader sense.

In later literature, starting with the Abhidhamma, this usage began to change. What happened was that the central importance of jhana in talking about meditation was retained; but the usage was extended to cover a wider and wider range of cases. In a sense, this is simply reverting to the more vague sense of the word before the EBTs. This wider application of the word is very prominent in the Mahayana (eg. the Amitāyurdhyāna Sūtra), and is found in later forms of Theravada as well, where jhana becomes a term for “mystical invocation”.

Now, the Chinese translations of EBTs were mostly done around 400 CE. By this time, jhana in an extended sense was widely used, and would have been regarded as a normal part of Buddhist vocabulary. Thus it would have seemed of little consequence to use jhana as a term simply meaning “meditation”. We know that this is the case in later Chinese Buddhism, and it may be the case in the EBT translations as well. Note that I don’t know if this is correct, merely raising the possibility.

So when I saw this usage in this sutta, it seemed to me that there are three possibilities:

  1. The usage is genuine, and sheds an interesting light on the usage of jhana in the EBTs.
  2. The usage may be a later interpolation in the Indic text of sutta; probably the least likely, but still worth considering.
  3. The Chinese translator was not directly rendering Indic jhana, but was simply using the term as a general word for meditation.

Anyway, I’m not really sure of this point, but in any case, it is any interesting passage.

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Maybe we should call for @llt who translated the passage :slight_smile:

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