The apex of the heart’s release by love is the beautiful

SN 46.54 is a fascinating sutta that relates the 4 arupas to the 4 brahmaviharas or I should say the last 3 brahmaviharas to the first 3 arupas…

I am curious to know if anyone is familiar with other suttas that give the line;
“The apex of the heart’s release by love is the beautiful”. (for other sects)

The sutta then goes on to say that for other sects

“The apex of the heart’s release by compassion is the dimension of infinite space”

and

“The apex of the heart’s release by rejoicing is the dimension of infinite consciousness”

and

“The apex of the heart’s release by equanimity is the dimension of nothingness”

I find it fascinating but sort of intuitive that the apex of love is the beautiful, and equally how equanimity as “evenness” might relate to “nothing”, but I am struggling with compassions relationship with space.

Can anyone with a better knowledge of Pali parse these things for me, do the words have resonances that I am not picking up in translation?

Cheers

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SN 46.54 is really the only sutta with that line, as far as I can see

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Not the Pali, but according to the Sarvāstivādins the “beautiful” here is the 3rd Jhana. As for compassion and space, they explain it in terms of seeing that form is a cause for suffering for so many and so they wish to transcend it. With sympathetic joy, you see the beautiful in every consciousness and so see the infinity of consciousness. You can read more in the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Sūtra, which was likely written by a Sarvāstivādin Ābhidharmika monk who had converted to Mahāyāna (and so it’s a great source for finding out the Sarvāstivādin commentarial/Abhidharma position on various topics)

“ 2. Furthermore, when one emerges from the concentration of loving-kindness (maitrīsamādhi ), it is easy to be led to the third dhyāna [the summit of which the Śubhakṛtsna gods occupy]. – On emerging fromm the concentration of compassion (karuṇāsamādhi ), it is easy to enter into the ākāśanāyatana. – On emerging from the concentration of joy (muditāsamādhi ), it is easy to enter the vijñānānantyāyatana. – On emerging from of the concentration of equanimity (upekṣāsamādhi ), it is easy to enter into the [ākiṃcanyāyatana]

(Akimcanyayatana, Ākiṃcanyāyatana, Ākiñcaññāyatana, Akimcanya-ayatana, Akincannayatana, Akincanna-ayatana: 6 definitions).

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Oh that’s very interesting Ceiswr, do you have a reference?

See above :slight_smile: I’ve edited my post for you. The Pali commentarial tradition makes similar arguments too regarding the connections.

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Sorry, try this link and look for “fruits of immeasurables” under chapter Chapter XXXII-XXXIV - The eight classes of supplementary dharmas(The eight classes of supplementary dharmas [Chapter XXXII-XXXIV])

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I believe the Yogācārabhūmi-Śāstra (which represents the Sarvāstivādin-Sautrāntika Yogācāra position) also makes similar arguments, but I sadly I can’t remember where I read it.

https://buddhavacana.net/yogacarabhumi-sastra/

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Oh my goodness Ceiswr!! thank you so much for your replys!! I will be wading through prajnaparamita for eons now!

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Welcome to my world :smile: I found it useful in trying to work out what the 8 liberations, 8 bases for success and kasinas all mean and fit into together.

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this is a great question - i have wondered the same, and not been able to find a satisfactory answer.

i don’t know pali, but found a few translations for consideration. looking ajahn sujato’s wonderful side-by-side english-pali comparison of the sutta:

https://suttacentral.net/sn46.54/en/sujato?layout=sidebyside&reference=none&notes=asterisk&highlight=false&script=latin

for loving kindness, the heart’s release is “said to be a foreign kind of beauty”.

for the other three brahmaviharas an alternative translation is here:

http://www.buddha-vacana.org/formulae/arupajjhana.html

this suggests for compassion, “having completely gone beyond perception of forms, the perception of repulsion having disappeared, not attending to the perception of diversity”, the result is infinite space.

for altruistic joy, “having gone beyond infinite space”, the result is infinite consciousness.

for equanimity, “having gone beyond infinite consciousness, there is no-thing”, resulting in nothing-ness.

notably the refrain of the practice for each of the brahmaviharas is the same:

It’s when a mendicant develops the heart’s release by [metta/karuna/mudita/uppekha] together with the awakening factors of mindfulness, investigation of principles, energy, rapture, tranquility, immersion,
and equanimity, which rely on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripen as letting go
If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do.
If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive,’ that’s what they do.
If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive and the repulsive,’ that’s what they do.
If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do.
If they wish: ‘May I meditate staying equanimous, mindful and aware, rejecting both the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do.

it seems it’s a progression then - from this basic practice, start with compassion and let go of perception of forms, repulsion, and diversity / difference, and infinite space results. then, with altruistic joy, go beyond this sense of infinite space and infinite consciousness results. then, with equanimity, go beyond this sense of infinite consciousness, and nothing results.

it seems there’s much more to this that i have not considered before.

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reading the Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra link @Ceisiwr shared and examining the pericope @IndyJ gives has me all a flutter, there seems to be something lurking beneath things, as I so often find with the suttas, it’s like this shattered hologramatic mystery of almost fitting pieces… anyway…

here’s my take, the repulsive in the unrepulsive is meditation on the 3 characteristics applied to forms. then the unrepulsive in the repulsive is metta, i.e spreading love to the universe, despite its being impermanent, without self and suffering, then the repulsive in the unrepulsive and repulsive is compassion, or pity for beings as suffering regardless of how they look, and then the unrepulsive in the unrepulsive and repulsive is joy/shining consciousness, and finally going beyond uppekha is to get to nothing at all…

So the relationship seems to be that love is of the beautiful and pertains to pleasure, that is metta - subha - sukha is a kind of natural grouping that relates the practice of lovingkindness with the 3rd Jhana factor of pleasure and rebirth abode of the gods of beauty…

then I suppose that compassion is no longer concerned with the beautiful of form, but transcending that aspect of “love” we arrive at the higher “love” that is “compassion”, that is no longer attached to forms, and therefore relates to the base of infinite space, also I guess the 4th jhana which has moved from “pleasure” to “neither pleasure nor pain” i.e a kind of transcendence of diversity perception…

gah, I clearly need to try and write this all up properly, but it really seems to me that there is a connection here between affective, cognitive and physical dimensions to meditative practice…

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Also I think this is all quite a good example of the “play of formulas” idea:

"And how is the heart’s release by love developed? What is its destination, apex, fruit, and end? It’s when a mendicant develops the heart’s release by love together with the awakening factors of mindfulness, investigation of principles, energy, rapture, tranquility, immersion, and equanimity, which rely on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripen as letting go. If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do. If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive,’ that’s what they do. If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive and the repulsive,’ that’s what they do. If they wish: ‘May I meditate perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do. If they wish: ‘May I meditate staying equanimous, mindful and aware, rejecting both the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ that’s what they do. The apex of the heart’s release by love is the beautiful, I say, for a mendicant who has not penetrated to a higher freedom. "

The above clearly mixes several sequences that cannot be right; the Appamāṇā cetovimutti is already a graduated sequence culminating in upekkha so it is nonsensical to say that the first step in the sequence can be practiced with the awakening factors, which is another graduated sequence culminating in upekkha, so these are 2 formulas being combined here. I think reading between the lines the “perceiving the repulsive” sequence is another such sequence, again culminating in equanimity, so in this sutta we have at least 3 formulas, the immesurables, the awakening factors and the repulsives, and all of these are used in a sutta that attempts to link the immesurables with the formless attainments, gosh.

I get a very different impression reading the Pali: it reads/feels quite natural, and if this is a hodgepodge mixing of formulas—a conclusion that seems premature—it has been done expertly, easily fitting into the ‘expected’ style of the discourses.

The phrase ‘heart’s release by love together with the awakening factors’ actually condenses the Pali (to improve readability, I suppose). In the Pali, the heart’s release (cetovimutti) is not presented at the beginning itself: it says that one develops each of the awakening factors “mixed with love” (mettāsahagataṁ) in a way that relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. This is the development (bhāvitā) that results in the heart’s release, which is the “destination, apex, fruit, and end” for a practitioner that does not penetrate to a higher knowledge (i.e., awakening).

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thank you.

this makes sense to me - “mixed with love” concurs with something i’ve read elsewhere about imbuing mindfulness with loving kindness.

so would this then be the same for the other brahmaviharas? does the sutta suggest the development of the factors of enlightenment “mixed with” compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity?

edit: @josephzizys what a wonderful thread this has become. it’s quite exciting i think!

I still don’t see how you can “mix in” equanimity with loving-kindness or vice versa when equanimity is what is developed after sympathetic joy which is developed after compassion witch is developed after loving-kindness… similarly with practicing seeing the repulsive in the un-repulsive being “mixed” with equanimity when equanimity is clearly the head of a sequence that begins with seeing the repulsive in the unrepulsive, and of course even if you can countenance this it becomes even more difficult to reconcile with the aruppas which explicitly refer to transcending the previous one; so the sutta itself relates the immeasurable of compassion to the base of infinite space and the immeasurable of equanimity to the base of nothingness, so I really don’t see how it makes sense in either English or Pali without some sort of notion of multiple formulas or pericopes being blended together.

Yes, it does.

  1. There is no such order to the brahmavihāras: you can develop them in any order as you please.

  2. There is equanimity and there is equanimity. The awakening factor (sambojjhaṅga) of upekkhā is not the upekkhā of the fourth jhāna, and that is not the upekkhā-cetovimutti, which is not the arahant’s ever-present upekkhā for saṅkhāra. The awakening factor is part of all skilful mental development, and does not necessarily contradict the presence of a brahmavihāra.

The whole idea of formulas was an attempt at avoiding a foundationalist approach to discourses. We must be also be careful not to take preconceived notions of what is a ‘valid’ formula to decipher a discourse.

It is possible to read this Sutta as explaining a way of developing each of the brahmavihāras to its maximum possible extent, in the absence of liberating wisdom. It does not give a detailed breakdown of each of the stages of reaching that peak, so the ‘lower’ āruppas not being mentioned is not an issue. At any rate, the peak referred to here would not be valid if penetration into Dhamma were to occur at any point in the bhāvanā process.

I think that there is an implicit order in the brahmaviharas, and I think the sutta in question gives clear support for this thesis by connecting them to the order of the aruppas.

I agree that equanimity is not everywhere developed to the same degree, and the equanimity of the arahant is not the same as that of the trainee and that of the trainee not the same as an ordinary person, but I disagree with the idea that the sambojjhanga upekkha is different form the jhana upekkha and so on, the sambojhanga has an order, beginning with recollecting the teachings, then investigating them, arousing energy, leading to joy, then tranquility then rapture then samadhi then upekkha. The jhana formula is another explination of the same graduated process from a different angle, again culminating in upekkha after the fading of pleasure which occurs after the fading of joy which occurs after the fading of thought which occurs after the fading of sensuality.

All of these formulas are examples of dependence, with one factor arising out of the previous (or appearing after the fading of the previous) and thus have an implicit order. Upekkha is at the top of many of these lists because it is the paradigmatic virtue of Buddhism.

I am not sure what the “whole idea” of formula was, however I find it’s explanatory value to mostly be a neat explanation of why I find examples of the dependent origination of phenomena littered throughout the canon but often seemingly not being recognized as such. As for foundationalism I am again not sure what you mean by this but it’s actually a pretty neat word for dependence or condionality so i will take it and say that yes, foundationalism is precicely my theory of explaining the formulae, they are each examples of dependently arisen phenomena that illustrate and illuminate the buddhhist path.

Finally as to what we must and mustn’t do with regard to deciphering the discourses I am afraid that I am simply left with no choice, as so many of the traditional explanations for things are just incoherent, and I am in a hurry, since death is stalking me, to cut through the nonsense and get to the truth.

Just as a final note regarding “preconceived notions” I often used to wonder what led to my strong intuitions about dhamma as a youth, especially around a strong certainty that the way (usually western converts) teachers would explain not-self to me was deeply flawed and flat out wrong, despite having not coherent grounds for my instinct - I used to try and convince myself that it was eternalism-lust that was the psychological explanation for my obstinacy - in recent years however I am more and more coming to the idea that the reason I have so many “preconceived notions” is because i was a Buddhist in a previous life :slight_smile: and the reason that did not occur to me sooner was due to my western ideology tricking me into trying to “modernize” Buddhism.

love

Shulman, the originator of the ‘play of formulas’ theory, positions it “against some of the new foundationalist tendencies in Buddhist Studies, with more and more studies taking the early discourses as direct remnants of the Buddha’s teachings” (2021). To then take our current conception of formulas as complete so as to claim that a sutta “clearly mixes several sequences that cannot be right”, is to commit to the same folly that the idea of formulas was introduced to circumvent in the first place—and to not give the text sufficient benefit of the doubt.

As with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Some of the most beautiful and deep discourses (or at least the most interesting parts in them) have little to do with formulas—I’m thinking of the likes of Madhupiṇḍika, Kaccānagotta, Aṭṭhaka- and Pārāyana-vaggas. I’m inclined to believe that this current sutta means what it says: each of the brahmavihāras can be developed to reach a ‘worldly’ peak, which corresponds to an attainment that can also be reached through other means—not very different from how there can be multiple objects of meditation leading to, say, first jhāna.

I’m afraid I fail to see this, but it’s probably not a particularly important distinction in actual practice.

I am sorry, but I am not really a subscriber to Shulman’s theory in detail, I just like the general idea and am using it my own way. As far as committing a folly, you may be right, but other than appeals to mostly unnamed authorities you give no argument against my ideas, just adhominems like “folly” and “preconceived notions”. That you “fail to see” the order I am talking about isn’t really my concern, the whole point I am making is that the sutta itself explicates such an order by linking the brahmaviharas to the arrupas - which do have an order - as to whether or not it’s “particularly important in practice” I guess I find the idea that there may be deeper connections within the meditative techniques that are not fully explicated by the sutta material quite interesting in itself and that thinking about such issues is often very helpful in my practice of meditation.

My apologies. Text is a poor medium to convey intentions: these were not meant as insults, and I was trying to talk in general about the approach rather than any one person. It seems I have done a rather poor job at it.

You are, of course, free to interpret the sutta as you see fit, and I’m sure the effort itself would only help with practice. May those peaks be within your reach!

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