Thursday, May 23, 2019

the real meaning of the cryptic formula in 4sp satipatthana

One thing that puzzles me deeply, and this is such a fundamental and important part of Buddhism, I haven't seen anyone that I'm aware of translate into English and interpret the 4sp satipatthana formula completely correctly. The closest is maybe B. Analayo.

Leaving out the refrain for the moment (atapi sampajano...)

He abides, continuously seeing the body as a body, [as it actually is, according to reality]...
He abides, continuously seeing the experienced-sensations as experienced-sensations, [as it actually is, according to reality]...
He abides, continuously seeing the mind as mind, [as it actually is, according to reality]...
He abides, continuously seeing the ☸Dhamma as ☸Dhamma, [as it actually is, according to reality]...

restating 4sp into more concise plain english:

He abides, continuously seeing the body as it actually is...
He abides, continuously seeing experienced-sensations as they actually are...
He abides, continuously seeing the mind as it actually is...
He abides, continuously seeing the ☸Dhamma as it actually is...

notable details

1. "as it actually is, according to reality" corresponds to the frequently used phrase in many suttas, 'yatha bhuta'. 
2. anu-passana, 'continuous-seeing', should remind you of the  close relationship between right remembering and  right view, (ditthi=view, passati = seeing), and right view sees the 4 noble truths.  So right sati, is the remembering of always seeing the reality of 4 noble truths whether you use a framework of body, vedana, mind, and seeing ☸Dhamma means you realize with samadhi the 4 noble truths directly, no longer just a theoretical understanding or  faith. 

I'll be posting a detailed proof with audit in pali+english over time, 
but I just wanted to get the word out and see what kind of stunned reactions I get,
or maybe confirmation from others who reached the same conclusion.

STED right remembering = 4 remembrance-establishings
kāye kāyā-(a)nu-passī viharati
Body-as-body – continuous-seeing (he) abides-in,
ātāpī sampajāno satimā,
(he is) ardent, (a) lucid-discerner, (a) rememberer,
vineyya loke abhijjhā-do-manassaį¹ƒ;
vanquishing worldly avarice-(and)-distressed-mental-states.
vedanāsu vedanā-(a)nu-passī viharati
Experienced-sensations-(as)-experienced-sensations – continuous-seeing (he) abides-in
ātāpī sampajāno satimā,
(he is) ardent, (a) lucid-discerner, (a) rememberer,
vineyya loke abhijjhā-do-manassaį¹ƒ;
vanquishing worldly avarice-(and)-distressed-mental-states.
citte cittā-(a)nu-passī viharati
Mind-as mind – continuous-seeing (he) abides-in,
ātāpī sampajāno satimā,
(he is) ardent, (a) lucid-discerner, (a) rememberer,
vineyya loke abhijjhā-do-manassaį¹ƒ;
vanquishing worldly avarice-(and)-distressed-mental-states.
dhammesu dhammā-(a)nu-passī viharati
Dhamma-[teachings]-as-Dhamma – continuous-seeing (he) abides-in,
ātāpī sampajāno satimā,
(he is) ardent, (a) lucid-discerner, (a) rememberer,
vineyya loke abhijjhā-do-manassaį¹ƒ;
vanquishing worldly avarice-(and)-distressed-mental-states.
evaį¹ƒ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sato hoti.
Thus indeed, monks, (a) monk {is} rememberful ****.


Proof

exhibit 1: Bahiya sutta KN Ud 1.10

Bahiya was famous for being the disciple who attained  arahantship the fastest, upon meeting the buddha, hearing this short teaching:
♦ “tasmātiha te, bāhiya, evaį¹ƒ sikkhitabbaį¹ƒ —
“Then, Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus:
‘diį¹­į¹­he diį¹­į¹­hamattaį¹ƒ bhavissati,
In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen.
sute sutamattaį¹ƒ bhavissati,
In reference to the heard, only the heard.
mute mutamattaį¹ƒ bhavissati,
In reference to the sensed, only the sensed.
viƱƱāte viƱƱātamattaį¹ƒ bhavissatÄ«’ti.
In reference to the cognized, only the cognized.
evaƱhi te, bāhiya, sikkhitabbaį¹ƒ.
That is how you should train yourself.
yato kho te, bāhiya,
When for you there will be
diį¹­į¹­he diį¹­į¹­hamattaį¹ƒ bhavissati,
only the seen in reference to the seen,
sute sutamattaį¹ƒ bhavissati,
only the heard in reference to the heard,
mute mutamattaį¹ƒ bhavissati,
only the sensed in reference to the sensed,
viƱƱāte viƱƱātamattaį¹ƒ bhavissati,
only the cognized in reference to the cognized,
tato tvaį¹ƒ, bāhiya, na tena;
then, Bāhiya, there is no you in connection with that.
yato tvaį¹ƒ, bāhiya, na tena tato tvaį¹ƒ, bāhiya, na tattha;
When there is no you in connection with that,
yato tvaį¹ƒ, bāhiya, na tattha,
there is no you there.
tato tvaį¹ƒ, bāhiya,
When there is no you there,
nevidha na huraį¹ƒ na ubhayamantarena.
you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two.
esevanto dukkhassā”ti.
This, just this, is the end of stress.”2
♦ atha kho bāhiyassa dārucÄ«riyassa bhagavato imāya saį¹ƒkhittāya dhammadesanāya tāvadeva anupādāya āsavehi cittaį¹ƒ vimucci.
Through hearing this brief explanation of the Dhamma from the Blessed One, the mind of Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth right then and there was released from effluents through lack of clinging/sustenance. Having exhorted Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth with this brief explanation of the Dhamma, the Blessed One left.

4sp formula uses the same model 

Same as the "only the seen in reference to the seen" formula in Bahiya.
In fact, you can even map it in to the 4sp. The "seen"/ditthi, "heard"/sute, "sensed"/mute (corresponds to the other physical sense faculties) all map to the internal and external kaya and vedana anupassi. The cognized/vinnate corresponds to citta-anupassana.

In mālukyaputtasuttaį¹ƒ (SN 35.78), where the Buddha gives some commentary on the same teaching to Bahiya, it just confirms what I assert above.
I've gone through with a highlighter so you can't miss it:

SN 35.95 bahiya, and malyunkaputta, uses 4sp and 6sal: (Re cryptic 4sp formula 'body in body')


Exhibit #2: ☸Dhamma-anu-☸Dhamma

practicing Dhamma in accordance with the ☸Dhamma.
This phrase occurs quite a number of times throughout the suttas and vinaya.
Including the Bahiya sutta above, which ends with:
“paį¹‡įøito, bhikkhave, bāhiyo dārucÄ«riyo paccapādi dhammassānudhammaį¹ƒ; na ca maį¹ƒ dhammādhikaraį¹‡aį¹ƒ vihesesi. parinibbuto, bhikkhave, bāhiyo dārucÄ«riyo”ti.
“Monks, Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth was wise. He practiced the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma and did not pester me with issues related to the Dhamma. Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth, monks, is totally unbound.”

So the Bahiya formula maps neatly into kaya, vedana, and citta anupassana, And the practice of dhamma-anu-dhamma maps neatly into Dhamma anupassana.

Here are all the other places in the sutta that phrase occurs:

Exhibit #3: why even bother with body in the body cryptic confusion?

If the correct interpretation of "kaye-kaya-anu-passi" was one of the existing acceptable ones, such as:
 "contemplating body in the body",
"contemplating body among bodies",
"contemplating an aspect of the body",

Why would the Buddha even need to throw that cryptic structure at us in the first place, when it would be much more clear to remove the cryptic part and simple have:
He abides contemplating the body, ardent, ...
He abides contemplating experienced-sensations, ardent, ...
He abides contemplating the mind, ardent, ...
He abides contemplating Dhamma, ardent, ...
It doesn't require Sherlock Holmes, the world's greatest detective, to figure out that there are many Dhammas to choose from, which to contemplate in any given moment, or that there are many type of vedanas that can be contemplated, etc. And you don't need Captain Obvious to point out that you can't do all of them all at the same and there is value to focus on a single frame or category at times.

So if the Buddha is going to throw a cryptic sounding phrase into one of the most fundamental and important core piece of Dhamma instruction, also known as 4sp satipatthana, there's a high probability there's something important to convey.

Exhibit #4: Dhamma is your island, refuge


Take a look at these suttas:
SN 47.9, SN 47.13, SN 47.14 on being your own Dhamma island, refuge, with no other refuge. How to do that? The Buddha then gives the STED 4sp satipatthana instructions. Think about that carefully. That terse formula, with the cryptic "body as body, ..., Dhamma as Dhamma...", is serving as the official representative of the entire essence of Dhamma, of the 4 noble truths, a concise set of instructions to follow, that will lead you to the end of suffering, to nirvana. 

I'm not aware of any of the other factors, in the 37bp awakening wings, ever being given such an exalted status serving as "an Island, your only Dhamma refuge". 

So if 4sp is to carry out that function of summarizing the entire path, each word in that terse formula is likely to be packed with meaning and reference the other critical factors of 7sb, 8aam, 4nt, and 37bp. 

So by interpreting Dhamma-anupassana as I do in exhibit #2 and the first 3 categories of 4sp consonant with Bahiya sutta, as explained in exhibit #1, then the 4sp indeed is a complete summary of the entire path. 

Because when we say:
.... continuously seeing body as body...
... continuously seeing experienced-sensations as experienced-sensations...
... continuously seeing mind as mind....
...continuously seeing Dhamma as Dhamma...

We are simply restating the 4 noble truths in a slightly different form:
.... continuously seeing body as it actually is, as Dukkha...
... continuously seeing experienced-sensations as it actually is, as Dukkha...
... continuously seeing mind as as it actually is, as Dukkha...
...continuously seeing Dhamma as it actually is, not a distorted non-Dhamma that gets fooled by Dukkha.

The prevailing understanding of 4sp formula by the vast majority of the community, by comparison, their 4sp understanding is not a self sufficient Dhamma Island refuge. It's missing some critical directions and a compass to point you to Nirvana. This incomplete interpretation of 4sp, if taken as one's sole set of instructions on a Dhamma island refuge, would only lead to a kind of dry insight, but not to full liberation, and perhaps not even to stream entry.

The Dhamma is always about the 4NT, seeing Dukkha. If you don't see dukkha clearly, you can't transcend it.

Exhibit #5: The clincher, SN 47.4



First note that SN 47 is the satipatthana samyutta. This is the definitive source for an EBT interpretation of 4sp. In samyuttas for all the most important core topics, the first 10 suttas (or first 20 or large samyuttas) contain the most important fundamental things you need to know about that topic.

I once discussed my interpretation of the cryptic formula in 4sp with Bhante Sujato, bringing up Bahiya sutta (see exhibit #1 and #2) as my main argument. He disagreed. In his opinion the famous passage in Bahiya sutta "is an advanced teaching", different than the cryptic formula in 4sp.
Enter exhibit #5, where newbies, novices, trainees (ariyas below Arahant stage), are given the exact same instructions, a slightly modified version of the STED 4sp formula. The cryptic formula is the same, but the refrain, has the "satima vineyya loke abhijjha domanassa" substituted with the phrase containing samadhi, and an explicit motive stated for the 4sp practice.
excerpt:

♦ “ye te, bhikkhave, bhikkhÅ« navā
“Monks, the new monks—
acira-pabbajitā
those who have not long gone forth,
adhunāgatā imaį¹ƒ dhamma-vinayaį¹ƒ,
who are newcomers in this Dhamma & Vinaya—
te vo, bhikkhave, bhikkhū
For those monks,
catunnaį¹ƒ satipaį¹­į¹­hānānaį¹ƒ
(regarding the) four remembrance-establishings,
bhāvanāya samādapetabbā nivesetabbā patiį¹­į¹­hāpetabbā.
should be encouraged, exhorted, & established (by you).
katamesaį¹ƒ catunnaį¹ƒ?
“Which four?
etha tumhe, āvuso,
‘Come, friends.
kāye kāy-ānupassino viharatha
(the) body as-the-body(he) continuously-sees; (he) abides [in that way]:
ātāpino sampajānā ekodibhūtā
(he is) ardent, a lucid-discerner, transcended-into-singularity,
vippasanna-cittā
clear-minded,
samāhitā
(having become) undistractible-&-lucid,
ek'-agga-cittā,
(with) single-preoccupation-(in)-mind,
kāyassa yathā-bhÅ«taį¹ƒ Ʊāį¹‡Äya;
{for-the-knowledge-of} (the) body as-it-actually-is;
... same pattern...
... same pattern...
dhammesu dhammānupassino viharatha
(the) Dhamma as-the-Dhamma(he) continuously-sees; (he) abides [in that way]:
ātāpino sampajānā ekodibhūtā
(he is) ardent, a lucid-discerner, transcended-into-singularity,
vippasanna-cittā
clear-minded,
samāhitā
(having become) undistractible-&-lucid,
ek'-agga-cittā,
(with) single-preoccupation-(in)-mind,
dhammānaį¹ƒ yathābhÅ«taį¹ƒ Ʊāį¹‡Äya.
{for-the-knowledge-of} Dhamma as-it-actually-is;

Note the explicit motive that I've highlighted in yellow. Each of the four categories of 4sp, the purpose of that practice ultimately is to directly witness the 5uk aggregates, rise and fall, AKA Dukkha's knowledge and Cessation of Dukkha.

So the cryptic formula, "seeing body as body... seeing mind as mind...", is just reiterating what the explicit motive in SN 47.4, which is not in the standard STED 4sp formula.

Conclusion

When you consider all 5 exhibits, then it's hard to deny "seeing the body as it actually is according to reality",  is the best interpretation of the cryptic formula in 4sp. Especially when SN 47.4, one of the most important fundamental suttas about the topic of 4sp, states it explicitly.

This interpretation, in the process of carrying out that instruction, the other popular interpretations would also be included for free as hitchhikers. Whereas the converse is not. In other words, the existing popular interpretations of the cryptic formula, very easily lead to a dry insight devoid of motivation and direction to realize the ultimate goal of Dukkha's cessation. Whereas the case of interpreting "seeing the body according to reality as dukkha", would necessarily involve picking a body contemplation meditation subject among the many body contemplation methods taught. That's some captain obvious insight you don't need a teacher to tell you, and especially you don't need it taught in a way that is cryptic and engenders doubt about the instruction and the practice.



This interpretation, has a synergistic, unifiying effect in connecting all the dots, making all the tiny pieces of Dhamma fit together.

SN 35.95 bahiya, and malyunkaputta, uses 4sp and 6sal: (Re cryptic 4sp formula 'body in body')


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