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SA 559 迦摩 (Kāmabhū Sutra)

Coming out of recent jhāna discussions I started prying at this āgama sutra today out of curiosity and ended up with a full translation (attempt). I thought I’d upload it here to shamelessly solicit any free tips as well as to perhaps make the text a bit more accessible for others. It seems to be one of the handful of texts that have a bearing on whether sounds can be heard in jhāna.

The closest parallel to this, pointed out by @Sylvester elsewhere, is likely to be AN 9.37, with a couple interesting differences though. The first is that this text includes all six senses as opposed to just the five in the pāli, and the second is that as best as I can tell it says that the last-mentioned samādhi is where one is actually *non-*percipient altogether.


SA 559 Kāmabhū Sutra

Thus have I heard:

On one occasion the Buddha was staying in Pāṭaliputta (波羅利弗妬路) city while Venerable Ānanda and Venerable Kāmabhū (迦摩) were at the Fowl Grove Monastery (雞林精舍) of Pāṭaliputta.

There Venerable Kāmabhū approached Venerable Ānanda, exchanged greetings with him and, when they had concluded their cordial talk, sat down to one side and said to him:

"It is amazing! Venerable Ānanda! While the eye and sights are present, while the ear and sounds are present, while the nose and smells are present, while the tongue and tastes are present, while the body and touch are present, while the mind and ideas are present, there are those that are able to not experience (不覺知) those phenomena.

How is this? Venerable Ānanda! Is such a one percipient (有想) while not experiencing or non-percipient (無想) while also not experiencing [those phenomena]?

[Ānanda:] “One may be percipient while not experiencing; still further, one may be non-percipient while not experiencing.”

[Kāmabhū:] “How is one percipient while not experiencing [those phenomena]?”

[Ānanda:] "There is the case where one is withdrawn from desirous and unskillful thoughts, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation, and enters & abides in the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal that is the first dhyāna. This is how one is percipient while not experiencing those phenomena that are present. The same goes while abiding in the second, the third, and the fourth dhyāna, the dimension of the infinitude of space, the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, and the dimension of nothingness. This is how one is percipient while not experiencing those phenomena that are present.

And how is one non-percipient while not experiencing those various phenomena? There is the case where one, without minding any and all perceptions (一切想不憶念), directly realizes (身作證) and fully abides in that samādhi without percipience (無想心三昧). This is called one who is non-percipient towards those present phenonemena and not experiencing them."

[Kāmabhū:] “If one, with regards to this samādhi of non-percipience, neither pressed down nor forced back (不涌不沒), abides there for release and thus released there abides, what does the Blessed One say results from this? What is its fruit?”

[Ānanda:] “If one, with regards to this samādhi of non-percipience, neither pressed down nor forced back, abides there for release and thus released there abides, the Blessed One says final knowledge results from this, that final knowledge is its fruit.”

Then the two venerables having concluded and rejoiced in their discussion of the teachings, rose from their seats and departed.

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I wonder if the non-percipient samadhi might have been an editorial error of the scribe? Perception and nimitta are practically identical in written Chinese, save that nimitta omits the “heart” radical below. If so, will correcting that phrase to “signless samadhi” make more sense?

Edit - I just checked SA 557, the partial parallel to AN 9.37. As suspected, it discusses the "signless samadhi " in more or less the same terms including 不涌不沒.

Sa~nna and nimitta sound alike in both modern Mandarin and Cantonese. I wonder if they sound similiar in Middle Chinese? If not, perhaps the typesetter ran out of “signless” type blocks when setting SA 559 and just used “perception” .

PS - thanks so much for the effort in translating!

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Hey no, it continues to boggle my mind the barriers to entry that have been broken down for me to be able to actually begin to try and interpret these texts. I call it a translation just to tickle some toes really…:sweat_smile:

But to your point:

While it probably goes without saying, I think my ignorance of any kind of Chinese at this point would disqualify any answer I might give here. Notwithstanding your invaluable technical notes above duly noted as usual, I would instead want to ask how the first q&a that frames the structure of the rest of the sutra should be translated to fit the suggested ‘signless samadhi’ correction. Namely, I have it above as:

彼比丘 有想不覺知, 無想 不覺知?
K: Is such a one percipient while not experiencing or non-percipient while also not experiencing?

有想 者亦 不覺知,況復 無想。
Ā: One may be percipient while not experiencing; still further, one may be non-percipient while not experiencing.

The bolded characters/words are ones that I’m not able to interpret with much certainty beyond just the elementary sense I’m given from the dictionaries in reach. :confused:

Nice work Chan.

How do you find what this sutra says compared to AN 9.37, which doesn’t have the four jhanas?

in AN 9.37, that it starts with the base of inifinite space, then it makes perfect sense what the non perception of sights, sounds, body sensation, means. in SA 559, then it’s puzzling what it means.

which school is SA 559 associated with ? in the MA version of satipatthana sutta parallel to MN 10, their interpretation of four jhanas clearly is full anatomical body awareness in jhanas, and step 3 of 16 steps anapana.

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I think it’s still plausible that the sutra was referring to perception in a signless samadhi.

Bhante @sujato, do you think AN 9.37 should include SA 559 as a partial parallel? If we break AN 9.37 into 3 sections ie 1. Ven Ananda’s discourse to the monks, 2. his chat at the Black Forest and 3. his chat again with the monks at the end, 1 and 3 fit in with SA 559, while 2 fits SA 557.

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Not sure, let me ask Rod.

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Looks like we have not quite finished litigating the identity of that concentration that is na sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gata that is also declared by Ven Ananda to be one in which a meditator does not experience the 5 sense fields, despite being percipient. We ought to pick up that discussion from last Dec, and see how that sutta fits in with the SA series from sutra 557 to 559.

To recap, DN 34 places that concentration that is na sasaṅ­khā­ra­nig­gay­ha­vārita­gata as being Right Concentration.

It will be even more exciting when we compare this with SA 557’s signless samadhi. I have a surprise waiting.

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Hey thanks Frank.

At the very least, this jives somewhat with AN 9.38’s “end of the world”. Beyond that I still feel like there are a lot of puzzle pieces to mess about with in this domain. And this is before thinking too long about how those right samādhis that aren’t called jhāna outright relate to each other and to the jhānas…and the various vimuttis and vimokkhas…etc etc.

And so I remain :confused:

PS: Nice work on digging through Prof. Anālayo’s “Perspectives on Satipatthana” for the jhāna wiki btw! I happen to have bought that book some months ago and forgot about it! I think I was planning on using that book and Bhante Sujato’s “History of Mindfulness” to get up to speed on this comparative aspect of EBTs some time last year…:sweat:

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