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Touching enlightenment with the body


#1

This concept appears in several Suttas SN48:53 MN70. What does this mean and what sort of practice it entails?


Vitakka vicāra (Jhana-factors)
The Third Jhana - 'of which the noble ones declare'
The Third Jhana - 'of which the noble ones declare'
Polak's Reexamining Jhanas
#2

@alaber
My understanding is that when kāya (body) is used in the instrumental (kāyena) form it’s an idiom meaning something like ‘fully/completely’ or ‘with/through/by means of one’s whole being’ and shouldn’t be taken literally. It’s often used in the suttas in terms of ‘touching with the body (kāyena) the immaterial realms’. Needless to say, one can’t literally touch something immaterial with something material! So I take it to mean experience/attain the immaterial realms completely or fully through one’s whole being.


#3

Thanks @linda, I agree and am trying to translate accordingly. Elsewhere it is also said that one touches the formless attainments kāyena, and this too cannot be the “body”.

Since these things—formless states and awakening—emerge gradually from the process of meditation (anupubbanirodha) it seems to me that there is a gradual shifting of meaning in kāya as it recedes from the purely physical body towards a more abstract meaning.


#4

i think this could also mean experiencing nibbana while still in the body, while still alive

the concept is not unfamiliar to the Nikayas, it’s only uncertain whether this phraseological unit could relate to it


#5

Thank you all for your replies. They clarify the issue for me.
That was another example of literal translation that confuses us poor Pali illiterates.
Looking forward to Banthe’s translations.


#6

Hi LXNDR

For that translation to work, one would expect that the sutta passages discussing this instrumental would also pose a contrasting scenario of “experience AFTER death”. But I’ve not seen this hinted at as a contrast in any of the suttas using this instrumental.

We also have -

kāyena paramasaccaṃ sacchikaroti

he realises with his body the highest truth - AN 4.113

Likewise, we read that the 8 Liberations are to be realised with the body (Aṭṭha vimokkhā, bhikkhave, kāyena sacchikaraṇīyā: AN 4.189), although AN 9.43 includes Cessation as a 9th.

I wonder whether the Buddhist idiom for kāya might not have retained shades of its Upanisadic senses tied with atman. We get the sense that in the Upanisads, 3 meanings emerge from the word atman - ie Self, body of prana and as a reflexive pronoun (see Olivelle). This persistance seems to be hinted at by the word sakkāya used in the suttas to describe the First Noble Truth.

Perhaps kāyena is these contexts would be an idiom for “personally”, if it is connected to an on-going evolution of the Upanisadic sense of body, being a body of prana.


#7

maybe you’re right

i however fail to understand why the fact of the experience being personal have to be underscored, everything we experience IS personal anyway, isn’t it?
or is it to distinguish between intellectual understanding and experiential realization, meaning that the first is not personal in the sense of not being lived through and known firsthand?


#8

I think the reason for the emphasis on the “directness” or personal nature of the experience can be seen in 2 suttas that employ the kāyena idiom.

Firstly, we have this from SN 12.68 -

Friend, though I have clearly seen as it really is with correct wisdom, ‘Nibbāna is the cessation of existence,’ I am not an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed. Suppose, friend, there was a well along a desert road, but it had neither a rope nor a bucket. Then a man would come along, oppressed and afflicted by the heat, tired, parched, and thirsty. He would look down into the well and the knowledge would occur to him, ‘There is water,’ but he would not be able to make bodily contact with it (na kāyena phusitvā vihareyya). So too, friend, though I have clearly seen as it really is with correct wisdom, ‘Nibbāna is the cessation of existence,’ I am not an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed.

This seems to suggest that Ven Nārada viewed his knowledge of Nibbāna is not as immediate or direct as that of an arahant’s.

We have an even more explicit sutta in SN 48.53 -

“Again, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who is a trainee understands the five spiritual faculties—the faculty of faith, the faculty of energy, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of wisdom. He does not yet dwell having contacted with the body (Na heva kho kāyena phusitvā viharati) that is their destination, their culmination, their fruit, their final goal; but having pierced it through with wisdom, he sees. This too is a method by means of which a bhikkhu who is a trainee, standing on the plane of a trainee, understands: ‘I am a trainee.’

“And what, bhikkhus, is the method by means of which a bhikkhu who is one beyond training, standing on the plane of one beyond training, understands: ‘I am one beyond training’? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who is one beyond training understands the five spiritual faculties—the faculty of faith … the faculty of wisdom. He dwells having contacted with the body (Kāyena ca phusitvā viharati) their destination, their culmination, their fruit, their final goal; and having pierced it through with wisdom, he sees. This is a method by means of which a bhikkhu who is one beyond training, standing on the plane of one beyond training, understands: ‘I am one beyond training.’

I think what distinguishes the experience of Nibbāna between the 2 is that the Trainee attains to View, but the arahant attains the Knowledge of liberation. The latter’s experience is full and personal, whereas the Trainee has only won a glimpse of it. That glimpse of Nibbāna is probably like the vision of water in the well, alluded to in SN 12.68.

So, I think I would agree with the 2nd option you’ve offered.


#9

thank you, this is a legit explanation

i think it’s worth mentioning that according to the aforereferenced Kitagiri sutta (MN 70) bodily witnessing, which is a direct experience, doesn’t equal complete destruction of taints and thus final liberation, it still has to be complemented by discernment with wisdom

What kind of person is one liberated-by-wisdom? Here some person does not contact with the body and abide in those liberations that are peaceful and immaterial, transcending forms, but his taints are destroyed by his seeing with wisdom. This kind of person is called one liberated-by-wisdom. I do not say of such a bhikkhu that he still has work to do with diligence.

What kind of person is a body-witness? Here some person contacts with the body and abides in those liberations that are peaceful and immaterial, transcending forms, and some of his taints are destroyed by his seeing with wisdom. This kind of person is called a body-witness. I say of such a bhikkhu that he still has work to do with diligence.

in this respect the quoted passage from the Sekha sutta (SN 48.53) seems ambiguous to me, in the portion on a trainee with the words “having pierced it through with wisdom, he sees” it seems to describe liberation by wisdom, but yet states that it’s a trainee quality.


#10

@LXNDR @Sylvester

I dont’tsee the ambiguity that you mention @LXNDR. In the passages @Sylvester quoted, they’re speaking of the differnce between a trainee who has not yet finished the path, ie. not yet an arahant, but rather at one of the first 3 levels of awakening. Such a person has though glimpsed Nibbana, he/she has seen dependent arising, but has not realizd complete awakening. Kāyena here seems to refer to the arahant, who has fully completely the path.

In other uses kāyena is referring to one who has fully, completely developed the immaterial attainments. Even someone not a trainee, in the Buddhist sense of word meaning not one of the 8 (or 4, depending on how you count it) ‘noble ones’ (at one of the stages of awakening) could have fully developed the immaterial attainments (although there may be some difference of agreement in Buddhist circles re: this, but that’s not the point). Rather, in MN70 the contrast seems to be between an Arahant who has not fully developed the immaterial attainments (which are not necessary for awakening) and a trainee who has (but is not yet an Arahant). There is however still a difference between the initail seeing and being fully liberated by wisdom, regardless of whether one has developed the immaterial developments.

That’s why I like to think of kāyena in terms of completely/fully developed, though I like the analysis @Sylvester offered re: ‘personally’. It’s just that we also can’t take ‘personally’ too literally. As you say, @LYNDR, in a way, all our experience is ‘personal’. And also both the trainee and the Arahant have personally ‘seen’ Nibanna themselves, so to speak, but there is a difference.


#11

Pali-English Dictionary Found in.
Read top to bottom in the order.

Kāya=> IV. (Various). — Kāyena (i. e. “visibly”)

Parama: highest, most excellent, superior, best
Sacca: real, true(truth) ; nt. saccaṁ truly, verily, certainly

Sacchikaroti: to see with one’s eyes, to realize, to experience for oneself.

Tatha=> (nt.) tathaṁ=saccaṁ, in cattāri tathāni the 4 truths


#12

I found the meaning of “Kāyena” in Pali-English dictionary.
Read top to bottom in the order.

Kāya=> IV. (Various). — Kāyena (i. e. “visibly”) :point_left:

Parama: highest, most excellent, superior, best
Sacca: real, true(truth) ; nt. saccaṁ truly, verily, certainly

Sacchikaroti: to see with one’s eyes, to realize, to experience for oneself.

Tatha=> (nt.) tathaṁ=saccaṁ, in cattāri tathāni the 4 truths


#13

I think the context of the suttas cited by the PED for the meaning “visibly” might shed a little more light. We have AN 4.55 where the phrase aññamaññaṁ passituṁ occurs, which was cited by the PED as such -

IV.(Various).–Kāyena (i.e.“visibly”) aññamaññaṁ passituṁ A.II,61

Popping into AN 4.55, we have this -

Yato me, bhante, nakulamātā gahapatānī daharasseva daharā ānītā, nābhijānāmi nakulamātaraṃ gahapatāniṃ manasāpi aticaritā, kuto panapana kāyena.

Bhante, since I was young, when the young girl Nakulamātā was given to me in marriage, I do not recall ever transgressing against her even in thought, much less by deed.
(per BB)

I think that when the PED interprets kāyena here as “visibly”, it was doing so in contrast to the “invisible” aspects of mental trangression. It looks like BB has rendered this in another idiomatic fashion, in contrast to Ven Thanissaro’s rendering in his usual “body” sense.

Whatever the sense one chooses to follow, it does not seem appropriate in the context of the usage of kāyena with reference to the formless attainments or Nibbāna. See Ven Analayo’s comments in fn 203 of A Comparative Study of the Majjhima-nikaya, Vol I.


#14

Hi Sylvester,
Do you have a page number, or chapter number, for the footnote reference you give for Analayo’s book? In the copy I have the footnotes start at 1 for each chapter.

I was thinking of how difficult it is to come up with a consistent translation/meaning for idioms, for example in English, take the various idiomatic expressions using ‘heart’ . It’s also a word in which the literal meaning is something physical, although it’s often used in other ways (of course, not that this usage is related to a specific declension).


#15

Hi Linda

It’s on page 379 of the hard copy of Vol I and on page 405 of 522 in the PDF file here - https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/pdf/5-personen/analayo/compstudyvol1.pdf


#16

Thanks so much, Sylvester. It’s interesting to see his explanation and various references.


#17

The similies used in the suttas are said to reflect closely the experience of the dhammas they are pointing to. IMO seeing the water at the bottom of the well and being immersed in that water seem to be two ways in which Nibbana may be experienced.