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Stillness and liberating insight

EBTs are very consistent in terms of mapping how awakening gradually flourishes through an overall consistent virtue :point_right: stillness :point_right: wisdom process.

The broad umbrella of the boddhipakkhya dhammas share this overall order of events or things. And the big-picture suttas like AN10.2, AN11.2 and SN12.23 offer some interesting hints at the detailed linkages one should expect to see occurring internally as the development of the path progresses through right effort, right mindfulness / presence and right stillness/samadhi factors towards insight and liberation.

Nevertheless, the exact threshold at which the stillness-based process of insight eventuates the definitive cutting away of the underlying taints (āsava) and dooms one to a “definitive nibbana” albeit mentioned in MN70 is only clearly addressed in the MN111 and of course the very specific suttas of AN9 like AN9.34, AN9.38, AN9.39, AN9.40, AN9.44, and AN9.47.

Puna caparaṃ, āvuso, bhikkhu sabbaso neva­saññā­nā­sañ­ñāyata­naṃ samatikkamma saññā­ve­dayi­ta­nirodhaṃ upasampajja viharati, paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti. Ettāvatāpi kho, āvuso, sandiṭṭhikaṃ nibbānaṃ vuttaṃ bhagavatā nippariyāyenā”ti.
– AN9.47

The way I make sense of the passage above is that it depicts the Buddha explicitly saying that the non-provisory nibbana (nippariyāyenā nibbānaṃ) is to be understood as something that comes with the attainment and transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception (neva­saññā­nā­sañ­ñāyata­naṃ).

A key issue that arises from this detailed description of how the totally ending or destruction of taints / fermentations (āsavā parikkhīṇā honti) is dependent on a vision and insight (paññāya cassa disvā) born of such immaterial attainment is that elsewhere the usual categorical definition of what right stillness consists of does not include such immaterial attainments but only the four jhanas (see SN45.8).

Cutting it short then, I would like to start this topic with aim of:

  • Bring together alternative descriptions of the specific process of stillness-born liberating insight which brings about the total ending or destruction of taints / fermentations found across AN9.

  • Investigate whether elsewhere in the EBTs one is able to find a model for liberating insight in which the four jhanas are sufficient and no immaterial attainment is required.

P.S.: Thanks in advance for abiding to the keep it tidy guideline of not diverting a topic midstream, and of course, and seeking to being always agreeable, especially when we disagree! :anjal:

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Just to check my own understanding, the point is that one way to become an arahant is to go through all the jhanas – material and immaterial – and then after entering & remaining in the cessation of perception & feeling:

having seen [that] with discernment, his fermentations (āsavas) are completely ended.

So you want

  1. alternate EBT descriptions of that process
  2. other processes that lead to awakening

For example, the gradual training (e.g. MN27), has the first four jhanas and then using a “purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability” mind to see rebirth, karma and the four noble truths and how to end the āsavas. (The ‘doing it by psychic powers’ way if I have understood it correctly).

Have I understood what you’re aiming for here?

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Hi Erik,
Yes, I am curious to investigate alternative descriptions of the process summarised in the sentence:

“saññā­ve­dayi­ta­nirodhaṃ upasampajja viharati, paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti”

First I think we could double check whether anywhere else we find the expression “paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti” preceeded by an attainment lower (fourth jhana?).

Second, we could investigate whether despite not having apparently straight parallels in the Agamas the message of the AN9.47 - that non provisory nibbana lies beyond the fourth immaterial jhana - is found anywhere there.

Third, we may consider what are the conflicts between such accounts or models of the process. Also, to what extent this apparent conflict may be due to the same thing possibly happening in different ways within different individuals - e.g. while Sariputta may have had to go all way up to immaterial jhanas to witness and destroy the core of the suffering perpetuating mechanism (i.e. the asavas) the Buddha may have had his liberating insight as a byproduct of the three superhuman knowledges (tevijja).

There is an alternate account of Ven Sariputta’s awakening at MN 74 which doesn’t involve immaterial jhanas:

Now at that time Ven. Sariputta was sitting behind the Blessed One, fanning him. The thought occurred to him, “Indeed, it seems that the Blessed One speaks to us of the abandoning of each of these mental qualities through direct knowledge. Indeed, it seems that the One Well-gone speaks to us of the relinquishing of each of these mental qualities through direct knowledge.” As Ven. Sariputta was reflecting thus, his mind was released from fermentations through not-clinging.

My understanding is that similar to how you don’t need to experience all possible sensual pleasures out there in the world in order to understand the nature of sensual pleasure and become dispassionate, understanding the nature of samādhi and gaining release from the fermentations doesn’t necessarily have to involve experiencing all the jhānas.

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So, the key pali expression here here is:

Iti hidaṃ āyasmato sāriputtassa paṭi­sañcik­khato anupādāya āsavehi cittaṃ vimucci.

How should one solve this conflicting account of Sariputta’s awakening?

Can āsavehi cittaṃ vimucci be read equivalent to paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti ?

On the same topic, I was once told that Ananda attained arahantship by laying down his head on the pillow at the night before the first council. Can we find a description of this moment in any of the EBTs ? Does it suggest a model of liberating insight which does not require the whole journey through the jhanas?

Here’s a description of attaining arahanthood from the first jhana:

“Here, householder, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. He considers this and understands it thus: ‘This first jhāna is conditioned and volitionally produced. But whatever is conditioned and volitionally produced is impermanent, subject to cessation.’ If he is steady in that, he attains the destruction of the taints. But if he does not attain the destruction of the taints because of that desire for the Dhamma, that delight in the Dhamma, then with the destruction of the five lower fetters he becomes one due to reappear spontaneously in the Pure Abodes and there attain final Nibbāna without ever returning from that world. MN52

I think this is not a description of how first jhana leads to arahantship. It is in fact saying that with first jhana a future birth in a pure abode is caused and there the full awakening takes place.

This first jhāna is conditioned and volitionally produced. But whatever is conditioned and volitionally produced is impermanent, subject to cessation.’ If he is steady in that, he attains the destruction of the taints. But if he does not attain the destruction of the taints because of that desire for the Dhamma, that delight in the Dhamma, then with the destruction of the five lower fetters he becomes one due to reappear spontaneously in the Pure Abodes and there attain final Nibbāna without ever returning from that world.

With metta

Hi @Mat, I read that but I read as well “if he steady with that”. What does it mean? Should one just keep banging the head against the topic? Or it is implying that by pursuing further and deeper states of stillness one will eventually get to the definitive nibbana found in the Suttas of the AN9?

How about this one:

"‘I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the first jhana.’ Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said? There is the case where a monk, secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: ‘This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.’ AN 9.36

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Isn’t this sutta saying the same for all jhanas? I take more as an example of how the experience of any jhana can serve as basis for the sort of inspiration and contemplation that will eventually lead you to the sort of liberating insight that makes awakening non-provisory.

Take a look at my previous posts​ and see if you can find anywhere the specific description of the vision and insight which results in destruction of the taints just after a lower jhana or even no jhana.

The specific Pali sentence that summarises this is specific and definitive experience of insight;

paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti

Look at the definition of Right concentration. It is defined as not a specific jhana, but as 1-4 material (Rupa) jhana. So the minimum required samadhi is at the first jhana level.

The immaterial jhanas aren’t mentioned as Right concentration. However they are used to go into Nirodhasamapatti which is why they come into play. The ability to go into nirodhasamapatti- ‘attainment of cessation’?- is not a necessity to attaining Nibbana. Susima sutta SN12.70 talks of arahanths who haven’t attained the immaterial jhanas. The Buddha used the fourth jhana to enter into Nibbana at his passing away. The process of attaining Nibbana is not a ‘vertical’ process through the jhanas. Imagine punching a hole in the fabric of what we call reality. The first jhana samadhi gives the ‘strength’ to the ‘mind’ and insight weakens the fetters to existence. It would be possible to experience non-arising (nirodha) in any of the jhanas.

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@Mat, I am not disputing any of this, I am just interested in finding a similar or equivalent detailed description of the liberation insight we see presented as a consequence of the surpassing of the immaterial jhanas in the sutta in which the Buddha tells us of a non-provisory nibbana. Check the OP. :wink:

The idea here is to investigate if other EBTs offer us alternative​ detailed and specific models of liberating insight. :anjal:

What do you have in mind?

with metta

What I have in mind is understand whether one could point to EBTs which suggest an awakening model different to the one found in the aforementioned suttas of the AN9, in which he non-provisory nibbana (nippariyāyenā nibbānaṃ) is to be understood as something that comes with the attainment and transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception (neva­saññā­nā­sañ­ñāyata­naṃ).

:anjal:

The Buddha’s entry into parinibbana was from the fourth jhana. SN12.70 Susima sutta talks about becoming arahanths without immaterial jhana. Many suttas seem to disprove the theory that going beyond the 8th immaterial jhana is an absolute requirement for non-provisory Nibbana. If it was a requirement then all the suttas should be in agreement on the topic.

with metta

Could you point me where this is stated? Tks

I have always taken what is found in DN16 as confirmation that for final / definitive emancipation to occur (through the fourth jhana) the mind needs to have gone through all the for material and immaterial absorptions first.

Then the Gracious One attained the first absorption, and after emerging from the first absorption he attained the second absorption, and after emerging from the second absorption he attained the third absorption, and after emerging from the third absorption he attained the fourth absorption, and after emerging from the fourth absorption he attained the sphere of endless space, and after emerging from the sphere of endless space he attained the sphere of endless consciousness, and after emerging from the sphere of endless consciousness he attained the sphere of nothingness, and after emerging from the sphere of nothingness, he attained the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, and after emerging from the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, he attained the cessation of perception and feeling.
Then venerable Ānanda said this to venerable Anuruddha: “Has the Gracious One, reverend Anuruddha, attained Final Emancipation?”
“The Gracious One, reverend Ānanda, has not attained Final Emancipation, he has attained the cessation of perception and feeling.”
Then the Gracious One, after emerging from the cessation of perception and feeling, attained the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, and after emerging from the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception he attained the sphere of nothingness, and after emerging from the sphere of nothingness he attained the sphere of endless consciousness, and after emerging from the sphere of endless consciousness he attained the sphere of endless space, and after emerging from the sphere of endless space he attained the fourth absorption, and after emerging from the fourth absorption he attained the third absorption, and after emerging from the third absorption he attained the second absorption, and after emerging from the second absorption he attained the first absorption, and after emerging from the first absorption he attained the second absorption, and after emerging from the second absorption he attained the third absorption, and after emerging from the third absorption he attained the fourth absorption, and after emerging from the fourth absorption, immediately the Gracious One attained Final Emancipation.

In the Susima sutta, Susima the ‘Dhamma thief’ questions an arahanth:

Then knowing and seeing thus, do you venerable ones dwell in those peaceful deliverances that transcend forms, the formless attainments, having touched them with the body?”
“No, friend.” SN12.70

Panna vimutti ‘Release through wisdom’ requires the material jhana, but not the immaterial jhana. Immaterial jhana is a requirement for those ‘released in both ways’.

with metta

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Sure, I am aware of this sutta. But we need to acknowledge that it is the only sutta talking about that possibility and it compares to a handful of other ones which propose a model for the fruition of awakening based on the four material and immaterial absorptions.

The Pali version of the Susima-sutta is quite different from the Sarvastivadian version. Here Susima specifically questions the arahants about achieving the 4th jhana down to the first jhana. Each time the arahants decline these achievements.

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