What does "perception" exactly mean in this context?

Hi, everyone.

In AN 10.56, there are ten perceptions that lead to the deathless. The word for perception in the Pali version is saññā, which is the same word for perception of the five aggregates. Likewise, in EA 46.9, 想 also means the same thing. However, “perception” in these two texts can’t really refer to one of the five aggregates in its general meaning, can it?

So, what does “perception” here mean in this context? Does it mean something like contemplation?

For example, let say, “perception of impermanence”, and “perception of not-self in suffering”. I know that 想 doesn’t mean contemplation, but in the context of both AN 10.56 and EA 46.9, does the word “perception” actually mean contemplation?, as in “contemplation of impermanence”, and “contemplation of not-self in suffering”.

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AN10.56 this was simply about taking up the object of meditation or meditating on a certain topic, that would lead to nibbana. We identify what we are experiencing by the sanna aggregate. The aggregates is termed sanna because that is what it does. It ‘signals’, and lets us know what it is we are experiencing. It is a cognition and not an emotion (the latter is covered initially by vedana and later sankhara IMO). It is instantaneous. Manasikara would mean contemplation, IMO and is covered under _sankhara). The word perception means the process of perception starting with the arising of the eye+visual image and ending with intention.

with metta

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Thank you for your answer. However, my question is still left unanswered. I’ve already known what the five aggregates are, what they do, and how they function. It’s just that the word “perception” in the context of both AN10.56 in Anguttara Nikaya and EA 46.9 in Ekottara Agama confuse me. That is why I would like to know what it means in the context of the two texts that I mentioned.

Perhaps I should edit my question so that it can be understood more clearly.

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I follow a similar reasoning as you do. The word sanna is not too clear, and contexts like meditation suttas show that at least it’s not just the rudimentary sense-perception. I think expressions like ‘anicca-sanna’ show that a contemplation of sorts must be meant and that sanna is located on a higher cognitive level. Not just cognition, but also re-cognition with some possibility to willfully alter your experience.

Del Toso has done a thorough treatment on sanna here (even though he excludes the meditation contexts) and comes to the conclusion:

The word saññā, in its technical meaning referring to a ‘normal’ perception, indicates an ordering activity that is carried out by grasping the distinctive marks of things of which one has sensation. This activity involves recognition and naming. Hence, among the various translations of saññā proposed by Western scholars, the one accepted here is “recognition.”

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Saññā is jut a probe on an "experience that asks for an explanation" (aka vedanā). It is an inquiry with assumptions (premises). And viññāṇa, in the context of a personal experience, is just the deductive knowledge about these assumptions.
It is not a naming process; which comes after saññā, as vitakka (vacisankhara).

And what is the result of perception? Perception has expression as its result, I tell you. However a person assumes something after inquiry , that is how he expresses it: ‘I have this sort of assumption (perception).’ This is called the result of perception.
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, saññānaṃ vipāko? Vohāravepakkaṃ, bhikkhave, saññaṃ vadāmi. Yathā yathā naṃ sañjānāti tathā tathā voharati, evaṃ saññī ahosinti. Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, saññānaṃ vipāko.
AN 6.63

Replace “perception” by “assumptions after inquiry” in the following.
https://justpaste.it/58e63


So in your context, the meaning of perception is more about the inquiry per se. And an evident single assumption should come out of that.

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If “perception” is just a way to indicate the object of meditation, then why are only ten objects of meditation included in this list, instead of the longer list including all the objects of meditation that were taught by the Buddha in the discourses? Is there something different about these objects, relative to the others, e.g. in the nature of the meditation of them? Or were these the only objects of meditation that had been introduced by the Buddha at the time the discourse was given?

Well, this doesn’t really answer my question. Also, it’s not in my context, it’s in AN 10.56 and EA 46.9’s context, which can’t be referring to the general meaning of perception of the five aggregates.

“Anicca-saññā” in practice means that one abides contemplating rise and fall of aggregates.

This is explained in the context, - see:

https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2834#p40805

This is partly direct observation, and partly inference from all the experience, as described in Vimuttimagga:

https://archive.org/stream/ArahantUpatossa-Vimuttimagga-PathOfFreedom.pdf/ArahantUpatissaEharaN.r.tr-PathOfFreedomvimuttimagga#page/n349/mode/2up/

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Thank you for your answer. However, I personally completely avoid later texts like the Abhidhamma and commentaries.

When I say “in your context”, I mean in the context of your sutta (viz. AN 10.56).

What are you going to say now ? - but that it’s not “my sutta”; but the Tipiṭaka’s ?


So again, in the context of AN 10.56, it just means to probe in the different “perceptions” (assumptions).
Although it has more to do with the enquiry, than the assumption itself. For the assumption seems to be in the EA parallel, that there is nothing desirable in the world, when we see all this darkness.


Sorry to try to help.
You are hurting my feelings.

You could just simply clarify my misunderstanding, yet you chose to also reply me back with a sneering answer.

First thing I want to mention is that the translation of AN 6.63 in your reply is different from Venerable Sujato’s.

You based your definition of perception on AN 6.63, yet it is clear that perception that is talked about in that discourse is perception of the five aggregates in its general meaning since it mentions perceptions of the six sense fields (its parallel texts, MA 111 and T 57 talk about only five sense fields without mentioning perception of thoughts, still the point still stands). It has no bearing on the contextual meaning of perception in both AN 10.56 and EA 46.9.

The following is a translation by Andrew Glass of a Gandhari manuscript that explains in more detail than usual how to practice with sannas.

It may not represent the suttas in general, but at least the oldest layer of sutta scriptures transmitted sanna-meditation like this:

The Sutra on the Perceptions (saña-sutra)

  1. What is the concentration [samadhi] connected with perception of foulness [aśua-saña = asubha]? In regard to this, a monk who is at the root of a tree, or in an empty house, or in an open space, examines this very body, as it is placed, as it is disposed, upwards from the sole of the foot, surrounded by skin, downwards from the tip of the hair, (*full) of impurity of (*various) kinds. (*There is in this) body: head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, dust, networks, outer skin, thin skin, bones, bone marrow, (*flesh, sinews, kidney, liver), heart, pleura, spleen, lungs, small intestine, large instestine, anus, bladder, fecal matter, tears, sweat, saliva, mucus, pus, blood, (*bile, phlegm, fat, grease), joint-fluids, head, and brain. It is the undistracted one-pointedness of mind of a person so positioned, which is called “the concentration connected with the perception of foulness.

  2. (*What) is the concentration connected with the perception of death [marana-saña]? In regard to this, a monk who is at the root of a tree, or in an empty house, or in an open space, this one … [thinks] “I will die, I will not live long, I will perish, I will die, I will disappear. (*It) is the undistracted one-pointedness of mind of a person so positioned, which is called “the concentration connected with the perception of death.

  3. What is the concentration connected with the perception of the repulsiveness of food [padikula-saña]? By ‘food’ is meant porridge, sour gruel; this, the monk . . . realizes is ‘fecal matter’; he realizes [it is] ‘saliva’; he realizes [it is] ‘vomit’; he realizes [it is] ‘a lump of putrid bodily secretions’—‘black filth’. It is the undistracted (*one-pointedness of mind) of a person so positioned, which is called “the concentration connected with the perception of the
    repulsiveness of food.

  4. What is the concentration connected with the perception of non-delight in the entire world [sarva-loga aravirada-saña]? In regard to this, a monk (*upon seeing) a village sees (*a non-village); or upon seeing a town sees a non-town; upon seeing a district sees a non-district. He is dissatisfied. He reflects. He does not take pleasure. He does not delight. He tames and controls [his] mind [with regard to] that, and makes it (*pliant) and workable. Having tamed and controlled his mind [with regard to] that, and made it pliant and workable, then, some time later, when he has seen a delightful park, or a delightful grove, or a delightful lotus pool, or a delightful (*river), or delightful grounds, or a delightful mountain, he is dissatisfied. He reflects. He does not enjoy. He does not delight. He tames and controls [his] mind [with regard to] that, and (*makes it) pliant and (*workable). Having tamed and controlled his mind [with regard to] (*that), and made it pliant and workable, then, some time later, thus above, below, across, in every direction, everywhere . . . he is dissatisfied. He reflects. He (*does not enjoy. He does not delight). It is the undistracted one-pointedness of mind of a person so positioned, which is called “the concentration connected with the perception of non-delight in the entire world.”

Taken from: Andrew Glass (2006): Connected Discourses in Gandhāra. A Study, Edition, and Translation of Four Sayuktāgama-Type Sūtras from the Senior Collection. PhD, University of Washington.

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Gabriel have you read that book and do you recommend it?
or this book

https://www.wisdompubs.org/book/buddhist-literature-ancient-gandhara

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That’s your point of view.


As far as lexicography is concerned, I sometimes do not agree with some common meanings between translators (Sujato included).
I have given lately an occurence of that , with the translation of the fifth jhana in MN 59.

Proper meaning is important, if you want people to get out of nescience; and most of all, out of these not even cryptic translations.

I can’t answer that, if you don’t tell me first, how you see the EXTERNAL ayatanani, in relation to the khandhas (which ones ? ).
I feel some confusion I am not ready to argue further on there.

IMO, they are the same. sanna as aggregate is the same as the sanna that are referred to as 20 meditation topics to be used as the input to sati-sambojjhanga in 7sb (bojjhanga awakening factors), in SN 46.
(atthika sanna, pulavaka sanna, vini laka sannam, … anapassati, … aniccan sanna, asubha sanna, anatta sanna…)
(skeleton perception, worm infested corpse perception, … impermanence, not self perception…)

The contemplation/investigation though is not carried out by sanna on its own, but by upekkha-sambojjhanga, sati-bojjhanga and dhamma-vicaya-sambojjhanga. From the point of view of 4 jhanas, that would be upekkha, sati, sampajano that does contemplation/investigation. Or vimamsa-samadhi-padhana-sankhara-sammanagatam from the 4ip (iddhi pada).

the 20 sanna as meditation topic inputs to sati-sambojjhanga, in other EBT passages are referred to as “samadhi-nimitta”, equivalent to 4sp (satipatthana) in MN 43.

I believe the reason samadhi-nimitta is used as a term, is so that it is one convenient word that can span the complexity of the meditation topic which can range from first jhana activity which would include vitakka-vicara (thinking and evaluation), but would exclude V&V in 2nd jhana and higher replaced with S&S&U (sati and sampajano and upekkha).

4bv (brahmavihara and anapanasati are not called “sanna”, but the remainder of the 20 meditaiton topics are)

:diamonds: 239. “puḷavakasaññā VAR, bhikkhave, bhāvitā … pe … dutiyaṃ.
:diamonds: 3. vinīlakasuttaṃ (SN 46.64)

:diamonds: 240. “vinīlakasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … tatiyaṃ.
:diamonds: 4. vicchiddakasuttaṃ (SN 46.65)

:diamonds: 241. “vicchiddakasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … catutthaṃ.
:diamonds: 5. uddhumātakasuttaṃ (SN 46.66) n

:diamonds: 242. “uddhumātakasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … pañcamaṃ.
:diamonds: 6. mettāsuttaṃ (SN 46.67) n

:diamonds: 243. “mettā, bhikkhave, bhāvitā … pe … chaṭṭhaṃ.
:diamonds: 7. karuṇāsuttaṃ (SN 46.68) n

:diamonds: 244. “karuṇā, bhikkhave, bhāvitā … pe … sattamaṃ.
:diamonds: 8. muditāsuttaṃ (SN 46.69) n

:diamonds: 245. “muditā, bhikkhave, bhāvitā … pe … aṭṭhamaṃ.
:diamonds: 9. upekkhāsuttaṃ (SN 46.70)

:diamonds: 246. “upekkhā, bhikkhave, bhāvitā … pe … navamaṃ.
:diamonds: 10. ānāpānasuttaṃ (SN 46.71) n

:diamonds: 247. “ānāpānassati, bhikkhave, bhāvitā … pe … dasamaṃ.

:diamonds: ānāpānavaggo sattamo.

:diamonds: tassuddānaṃ —

:diamonds: aṭṭhikapuḷavakaṃ vinīlakaṃ, vicchiddakaṃ uddhumātena pañcamaṃ.

:diamonds: mettā karuṇā muditā upekkhā, ānāpānena te dasāti.

:diamonds: 2. bojjhaṅgasaṃyuttaṃ (SN 46.1)
:diamonds: 8. nirodhavaggo n
:diamonds: 1. asubhasuttaṃ (SN 46.72) n

:diamonds: 248. “asubhasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … paṭhamaṃ.
:diamonds: 2. maraṇasuttaṃ (SN 46.73)

:diamonds: 249. “maraṇasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … dutiyaṃ.
:diamonds: 3. āhārepaṭikūlasuttaṃ (SN 46.74)

:diamonds: 250. “āhāre paṭikūlasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … tatiyaṃ.
:diamonds: 4. anabhiratisuttaṃ (SN 46.75) n

:diamonds: 251. “sabbaloke anabhiratisaññā, bhikkhave … pe … catutthaṃ.
:diamonds: 5. aniccasuttaṃ (SN 46.76) n

:diamonds: 252. “aniccasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … pañcamaṃ.
:diamonds: 6. dukkhasuttaṃ (SN 46.77) n

:diamonds: 253. “anicce dukkhasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … chaṭṭhaṃ.
:diamonds: 7. anattasuttaṃ (SN 46.78) n

:diamonds: 254. “dukkhe anattasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … sattamaṃ.
:diamonds: 8. pahānasuttaṃ (SN 46.79) n

:diamonds: 255. “pahānasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … aṭṭhamaṃ.
:diamonds: 9. virāgasuttaṃ (SN 46.80) n

:diamonds: 256. “virāgasaññā, bhikkhave … pe … navamaṃ.
:diamonds: 10. nirodhasuttaṃ (SN 46.81) n

:diamonds: 257. “nirodhasaññā, bhikkhave, bhāvitā bahulīkatā mahapphalā hoti mahānisaṃsā. kathaṃ bhāvitā ca, bhikkhave, nirodhasaññā kathaṃ bahulīkatā mahapphalā hoti mahānisaṃsā? idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu nirodhasaññāsahagataṃ satisambojjhaṅgaṃ bhāveti … pe … nirodhasaññāsahagataṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ bhāveti vivekanissitaṃ virāganissitaṃ nirodhanissitaṃ vossaggapariṇāmiṃ. evaṃ bhāvitā kho, bhikkhave, nirodhasaññā evaṃ bahulīkatā mahapphalā hoti mahānisaṃsāti.

:diamonds: “nirodhasaññāya, bhikkhave, bhāvitāya bahulīkatāya dvinnaṃ phalānaṃ aññataraṃ phalaṃ pāṭikaṅkhaṃ — diṭṭheva dhamme aññā, sati vā upādisese anāgāmitā. kathaṃ bhāvitāya, bhikkhave, nirodhasaññāya kathaṃ bahulīkatāya dvinnaṃ phalānaṃ aññataraṃ phalaṃ pāṭikaṅkhaṃ — diṭṭheva dhamme aññā, sati vā upādisese anāgāmitā? idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu nirodhasaññāsahagataṃ satisambojjhaṅgaṃ bhāveti … pe … nirodhasaññāsahagataṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ bhāveti vivekanissitaṃ virāganissitaṃ nirodhanissitaṃ vossaggapariṇāmiṃ. evaṃ bhāvitāya kho, bhikkhave, nirodhasaññāya evaṃ bahulīkatāya dvinnaṃ phalānaṃ aññataraṃ phalaṃ pāṭikaṅkhaṃ — diṭṭheva dhamme aññā, sati vā upādisese anāgāmitā”ti.

:diamonds: “nirodhasaññā, bhikkhave, bhāvitā bahulīkatā mahato atthāya saṃvattati, mahato yogakkhemāya saṃvattati, mahato saṃvegāya saṃvattati, mahato phāsuvihārāya saṃvattati. kathaṃ bhāvitā ca, bhikkhave, nirodhasaññā kathaṃ bahulīkatā mahato atthāya saṃvattati, mahato yogakkhemāya saṃvattati, mahato saṃvegāya saṃvattati, mahato phāsuvihārāya saṃvattati? idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu nirodhasaññāsahagataṃ satisambojjhaṅgaṃ bhāveti … pe … nirodhasaññāsahagataṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ bhāveti vivekanissitaṃ virāganissitaṃ nirodhanissitaṃ vossaggapariṇāmiṃ. evaṃ bhāvitā kho, bhikkhave, nirodhasaññā evaṃ bahulīkatā mahato atthāya saṃvattati, mahato yogakkhemāya saṃvattati, mahato saṃvegāya saṃvattati, mahato phāsuvihārāya saṃvattatī”ti. dasamaṃ.

:diamonds: nirodhavaggo aṭṭhamo.

:diamonds: tassuddānaṃ —

:diamonds: asubhamaraṇāahāre, paṭikūlānabhiratena VAR .

What ten? (1) The perception of unattractiveness, (2) the perception of death, (3) the perception of the repulsiveness of food, (4) the perception of non-delight in the entire world, (5) the perception of impermanence, (6) the perception of suffering in the impermanent, (7) the perception of non-self in what is suffering, (8) the perception of abandoning, (9) the perception of dispassion, and (10) the perception of cessation.

白骨想、青瘀想、 [月*逄] 脹想、食不消想、 血想、噉想、有常無常想、貪食想、死想、一切世 間不可樂想.

Basically , it is a kind of meditation.
So, it would mean Fixing the Thought (attention) on to this meditation object / topic and therefore deepening the insight .
Sanna is perceiving , recognising , remembering , determining .
Manasikara / attention which is fixing or focusing the thought .
Both overlap each other .

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@suci1 No, it’s not just my point of view. It’s right there in your reply. Now, your comment about hurting your feelings, that is just your point of view. At no point did I say anything of the sort. Also, I’m not obligated to answer your question. Moreover, I’m wary of you considering your behavior in Anicca: Impermanence or “not-one’s-owness”? I don’t think I can have pleasant conversation with you, so from now on I will ignore you, even if you reply to my possible future comments.


@frankk Sorry, I should be more clear about my question. I have edited my question, so here it is: “However, “perception” in these two texts can’t really refer to one of the five aggregates in its general meaning, can it?”

Usually perception means one of the five aggregates, but I couldn’t help but wondered what “perception” really means in the context of the two texts that I mentioned, which is why I think that “perception” actually means something along the line of contemplation. What’s more, 想 in general also means perception of the five aggregates. Yet, in the context of the two mentioned texts, I think it has an underlying meaning of contemplation. The buddhism-dict.net also translates the term 十想 as “ten kinds of contemplations”. Which is why I got confused. Both @Gabriel and @Nibbanka gave interesting answers, so my confusion about “perception” is now lessened. The Gandhari discourse that @Gabriel posted is also very interesting.

Glass is a PhD so as usual very detailed and concerned less with dhamma than with comparative and linguistic studies. If you’re interested in Gandhari stuff you’ll surely find good sub-chapters, esp. regarding the sutta I quoted.

About the Salomon book: I guess if you start with Gandhari research it’s a great guide from a top expert. I’m not sure if it’s worth buying if you already have a solid overview. But I haven’t bought or read it, just browsed through it a bit.

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Reminder: Please keep the discussions non personal :slight_smile:

The forum provides an opportunity to practice right speech and right intention, and all the factors that go into these.

metta

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I would recommend it.

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