SN 55.3 Dīghāvuupāsakasutta

I have some questions regarding sutta SN 55.3.

  1. There seems to be no mention of Dighavu having attained any kind of meditative absorption i.e samadhi or the jhanas etc…

  2. In regard the six things that the Buddha advices Dighavu to cultivate next, what kinds of things are these? In the sutta, the first thing is represented by the word “…anupassī” - observing or contemplating, and the rest by “…saññī”- having perception; being aware etc… But how do we pratice them? Are they kinds of meditation?

  3. The last past of the sutta when the Buddha told the bikkhus that Dighavu has become a non-returner after death for having destroyed the five lower fetters. From what I understand , the five lower fetters can only be destroyed in jhanas state. So, Dighavu has attained the jhanas but this fact is not mentioned. Am I right or is there other ways of removed the five lower fetters completely not just suppressed them?

Thank you for reading and/or responding to this post.

Best regards.

From Sutta we may be certain that Dighavu was ariya. However strange it sounds, in the case of ariya, the question “where am I?” has some validity, while for puthujjana it is obviously foolish question since he thinks: “I am here” and by self-identification with the body he localises himself in the world.

So these descriptions are connected with the practice you can lebel as “desidentification”. How do we practice them? Well, you can ask yourself: “where am I?” and as long you see a positive answer so long you may be certain that you don’t practice these things properly. Because “here” is the body but Lord Buddha teaches us that the body should be seen as: "this is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self. "

While the very conceit “I am” is also dependent on ignorance, first step is to free oneself from ideas: “I am this, I am that”, and only arahat is free from conceit “I am” that is why you can use this question as a temporary tool.

More on impermanence of sankaras:


A full discussion of this key word is given in A NOTE ON PATICCASAMUPPĀDA. It is there maintained that the word sankhāra, in all contexts, means ‘something that something else depends on’, that is to say a determination (determinant). It might be thought that this introduces an unnecessary complication into such passages as Vayadhammā sankhārā appamādena sampādetha To disappear is the nature of determinations; strive unremittingly’) and Aniccā vata sankhārā uppādavayadhammino (‘Impermanent indeed are determinations; to arise (appear) and disappear is their nature’) (Dīgha ii,3 <D.ii,156&7>).

Why, instead of telling us that things (dhammā ) are impermanent and bound to disappear, should the Buddha take us out of our way to let us know that things that things depend on are impermanent and bound to disappear? The answer is that the Dhamma does not set out to explain , but to lead —it is opanayika . This means that the Dhamma is not seeking disinterested intellectual approval, but to provoke an effort of comprehension or insight leading to the abandonment of attavāda and eventually of asmimāna . Its method is therefore necessarily indirect: we can only stop regarding this as ‘self’ if we see that what this depends on is impermanent (see DHAMMA for more detail).

Consider, for example, the Mahāsudassanasuttanta (Dīgha ii,4 <D.ii,169-99>), where the Buddha describes in detail the rich endowments and possessions of King Mahāsudassana, and then finishes: Pass’Ānanda sabbe te sankhārā atītā niruddhā viparinatā. Evam aniccā kho Ānanda sankhārā, evam addhuvā kho Ānanda sankhārā, yāvañ c’idam Ānanda alam eva sabbasankhāresu nibbinditum, alam virajjitum, alam vimuccitum. (‘See, Ānanda, how all those determinations have passed, have ceased, have altered. So impermanent, Ānanda, are determinations, so unlasting, Ānanda, are determinations, that this, Ānanda, is enough for weariness of all determinations, enough for dispassion, enough for release.’) This is not a simple statement that all those things, being impermanent by nature, are now no more; it is a lever to prize the notion of ‘selfhood’ out of its firm socket. Those things were sankhārā : they were things on which King Mahāsudassana depended for his very identity; they determined his person as ‘King Mahāsudassana’, and with their cessation the thought ‘I am King Mahāsudassana’ came to an end. More formally, those sankhārā were nāmarúpa , the condition for phassa (Dīgha ii,2 <D.ii,62>[9]), upon which sakkāyaditthi depends (cf. Dīgha i,1 <D.i,42-3> together with Citta Samy. 3 <S.iv,287>).

Nanavira Thera

I think you are right. For arahathood and anagami state jhanas are neccesery.

Any experience is temporal, its arising, disappearing and change can be observed. And it is due to self-identification with khandhas puthujjana assumes that he was in the past and that he has future. But if you see past and future as not-self, in other words if you refuse to see yourself as having past and future, you practice according to these contemplations. Psychologically we are emotionally involved with the body, while arahat sees it as “sticks and grass” and aim of these contemplations is to arrive at such attitude.

I was’ is not for me, not for me is ‘I shall be’;
Determinations will un-be: therein what place for sighs?
Pure arising of things, pure series of determinants—
For one who sees this as it is, chieftain, there is no fear.

Theragāthā 715, 716

  1. I think both “For I have experiential confidence in the Buddha” and “I have the ethical conduct loved by the noble ones … leading to immersion.” make clear that he did have samadhi.

  2. Yes, he clearly is instructed to meditate or dwell on these subjects. As to how? It’s unsurprising this isn’t elaborated on here. It’s two advanced practitioners talking without much time to spare. Like if one co-pilot said to another, “I’m dying, take the controls”. How does one “take the controls?” Go to pilot school to find out.

  3. I don’t actually think that’s clear either in this story or as a doctrinal point. That’s not to deny the necessity of Samadhi, but the precise sequence of events is trivial and not a focal point of any sutta I am aware of. Did he last enter Jhana precisely as he attained the fruit of non return? In between the conversation and then? Or at an earlier point? The story just doesn’t say.

I actually think this story is interesting because it highlights a laywoman’s instruction. Everything the Buddha says, Digavau has already done prior to the story. The only new instruction he receives is from his wife who tells him not to focus on thoughts of her future. It’s actually a very cliche exchange, but it makes sense for someone on the cusp of non-return. Perhaps she was the last object of his sense desire / ill will (he hated the idea of her in anguish), and it was her urging which led him to let go of that completely.

I think there are two levels:

  1. the level of anusaysa, subconscious tendencies that become activated, as it were;
  2. active greed, active conceit, active hate etc. Arisen in the mind. Not latent but present.

I believe mind must not be seen as with constant active greed, hate and delusion, nor conceit. Such things always arise and cease.

This also means that not only an arahant is free from conceit I am, but not mind has constant present conceit. But an arahant differs because he is -always-free from conceit. This is because the mana-anusaya is inactive or uprooted (i do not really see what really happens here). It cannot give rise anymore to the instinctive notion and desire “I am”. But in other persons it can still easily happen.

But also a worldling does not have a mind that is always with ego- conceit, greed, hate etc.
Not even that of me :innocent:

Also avijja exist as anusaya. I do not believe avijja as anusaya refers to lack of knowledge but to that what fundamentally cause subconscious movements such as instincts, conditionings, habits to arise.
That is what keeps this wheel of samsara turning. A kind of machinery.

Like we see such conditioned behaviour easily with animals we humans are not different. We also show often merely conditioned behaviour. If this then we do that.

I personally feel this is great about Buddhism.
There are only tendencies arising, patterns, repeated, endlessly, becoming more and more strong. There is no entity-like self making any decision in all this. No inner ruler, controller, instigator of all this motion. Merely forces of habits.

Avijja seems to lie at the root of all this. This unfreedom. This conditioning. This machinery.

Some seem to believe that dhamma is about conditioning but that is, i believe a mistake. It is ablut becoming free of being machine-like.

Anyway, i always feel that one must not think about any mind as intrinsically defiled. Defilements arise and cease. No mind is always conceited, greedful , hateful or deluded.

I personally tend to the idea that anusaya are part of the body. i know this is not really taught, but is seems most likely that all those patterns are very closely related to the brain. The brain with its stress system, flee, fight, freeze, with all its hormones that very much are related to emotions and mental feelings. But also cognition and brain are so closely related. Sometimes i wonder, without brain is there really still greed, hate, conceit?

Dighavu was a lay follower and he was already an ariya in that Sutta. It means that he realized nibbana at least at the stream entry and we don’t know if more times. According that Sutta he followed a wisdom approach . Not everybody inside the Buddha Sangha was engaged in a training with jhanas.

there are many inside the Suttas. In example:

“And what Ananda is contemplation of anatta? Herein, Ananda, a monk having gone to the forest or to the foot of a tree or to a lonely place contemplates thus: ‘The eye is not the self; visible objects are not the self; the ear is not the self; sounds are not the self; the nose is not the self; smells are not the self; the tongue is not the self; tastes are not the self; the body is not the self; bodily contacts (tangible objects) are not the self; the mind is not the self; mental objects are not the self.’ Thus he dwells contemplating not self in these internal and external bases. This, Ananda, is called contemplation of anatta.”
- AN.10.60

How to practice that?. Just search a quiet place and better closer to some Nature, and contemplate the Reality according what it says. Don’t close the eyes and remove the -self from the Reality. Reality is anatta all the time, this is something to be discovered.

difficulties to fit that thought are normal because that thought is not right. The destruction of fetters doesn’t have a direct relation with one specific approach of the many that the Buddha taught. Inside the Suttas we find different styles of cultivation (wisdom, jhanas, signless…). The Buddha disciples eradicated fetters while following a training including any of these. Also the fetters are not always eradicated in an instant way, in the middle of some practice or contemplation; it depends. One shouldn’t be obsessed with eradicating fetters because this is something that simply will happen, this is what the sources shows.