Wednesday, November 24, 2021

MN 23 unleash the hidden dragon - there's a lot more to this sutta than the Buddha says


(sutta text link) ● MN 23 - 🔗🔊 16m, Vammika: Ant hill
summary of the sutta:

A deva gives a riddle to a monk: “Sir, what is the ant-hill? What is the fuming by night and flaming by day? Who is the brahmin, and who the sage? What are the sword, the digging, the bar, the bullfrog, the forked path, the box, the tortoise, the axe and block, and the piece of flesh? And what is the dragon (nāga)?”

The Buddha answers the question for the monk later, and two major items of interest are the sword of noble wisdom/discernment (pañña), and the dragon (nāga).

‘Satthan’ti kho, bhikkhu, ariyāyetaṃ paññāya adhivacanaṃ.
‘Sword’ is a term for noble wisdom.

About the dragon, the Buddha said:

‘Nāgo’ti kho, bhikkhu, khīṇāsavassetaṃ bhikkhuno adhivacanaṃ.
‘Dragon’ is a term for a monk who has ended the defilements.
Tiṭṭhatu nāgo, mā nāgaṃ ghaṭṭesi; namo karohi nāgassāti ayametassa attho”ti. (15)
This is the meaning of: ‘Leave the dragon! Do not disturb the dragon! Worship the dragon.’”
Idamavoca bhagavā.
That is what the Buddha said.
Attamano āyasmā kumārakassapo bhagavato bhāsitaṃ abhinandīti.
Satisfied, Venerable Kassapa the Prince was happy with what the Buddha said.

And the sutta ends like that, prematurely without further explanation.


Here's my opinion.

The commentary shares that the deva who speaks to the monk Kassapa, was a monk buddy of his in a previous life when both were Buddhist monks striving diligently. That deva is now a nonreturner.  Clearly his advice is going to be something worth paying attention to. Advice that helps the monk overcome a current obstacle and get closer to nirvana.

Why do devas give strange riddles instead of speaking plainly?

1. who can you trust?

 Some devas do give plain simple advice in plain language, in a dream, in a vision, or just a voice in either dream or waking consciousness. But here's the problem. Whenever you get advice from beings in higher dimensions, how do you know if you can trust them? How do you know it's not a malevolent being with intent to harm or trick you? You might get a vision of a Buddha, an Arahant, or Jesus Christ, or the Virgin Mary, how do you know they're real? You don't. 

2. help you learn to think critically

Something that wise beings do, human or devas, is they will just give a hint or help you think through a problem without telling you the answer. They want you to develop dhamma-vicaya samobojjhanga, vimamsa, etc., the ability to think critically and come to the right answer on your own.  

3. plausible deniability

Also, another great benefit of that is they have plausible deniability in case you can't come to the right answer yourself, it's not their fault you chose wrong and now have to learn from your mistake.

4. haunting, memorable, validation

The strange riddle tends to stick your mind for days, weeks, even months as you continue to ponder it, and even after you think you've come to a solution, there's still some element of uncertainty and you continue to ponder and look for tangible ways to validate your solution. 

If the deva had given you simple plain commands to follow,  you don't learn to solve problems yourself, you don't learn to check, double check, critically examine the Dharma to ascertain whether it's genuine Dharma. 

Here's what the sutta left out, intentionally.

Again, my opinion. 
The sutta uses vivid and interesting imagery for how one uses the noble sword of wisdom to remove 9  things. Those 9 similes are meant to haunt your memory over a long time (you'd much more quickly forget plain advice) and draw out nuances of the nature of those 9 things and why you'd want to remove them. 

The tenth item, the dragon (nāga), is the arahant. And unlike the first 9 things which are to be removed, for the dragon, the exact instruction is: (B. Sujato translation)
‘Nāgo’ti kho, bhikkhu, khīṇāsavassetaṃ bhikkhuno adhivacanaṃ.
‘Dragon’ is a term for a monk who has ended the defilements.
Tiṭṭhatu nāgo, mā nāgaṃ ghaṭṭesi; namo karohi nāgassāti ayametassa attho”ti. (15)
This is the meaning of: ‘Leave the dragon! Do not disturb the dragon! Worship the dragon.’”

 The Pali verb for “spite” (ghaṭṭesi; 3rd sg ghaṭteti) is interesting and has two main senses, the literal and the figurative. 
Literally, ghaṭṭeti means “he strikes, beats, knocks against, touch”; 
figuratively, “he offends, mocks, objects to.” 

So the sutta, IMO, ends on a cliff hanger. The deva gave a fascinating, haunting riddle, the Buddha explains the basic elements, but still leaves much to ponder, especially how do you not disturb the dragon, and what is the dragon experientially in your spiritual practice, since the other 9 elements are very concrete entities and specific? 

A cursory reading of the sutta, one would just think, "OK, the dragon is the arahant, we should remove 9 types of defilements and worship the arahant. Got it."

But if that's all you came away with, how does that improve specifics of your meditation and understanding right now? What did the deva and Buddha tell you that you didn't already know? 

The big question that left you hanging,  How does one become the dragon (arahant)?

(I'll wait a few days before sharing my ideas on the answer )

Forum discussion

B. Thanissaro recent audio talk mentions Ajahn Lee talking about nagas on a full moon day at end of vassa, and how breath meditation and 7 awakening factors are used to become an arahant.

211119 Breathing to Awakening \ \ Thanissaro Bhikkhu \ \ Dhamma Talk

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The jhān-o-meter: why should you use the force? because it's tangible proof of passadhi sambojjhanga


This article is part of a series:

🔗📝 notes on passadhi (pacification) and force

Wouldn't it be nice if jhana was so easy to ascertain as the health bar meters on a video game? 

Do you have enough piti, enough sukha, enough ekaggata to qualify as jhana? 

Is it too much piti, too much vitakka and vicara to disqualify you from first jhana? 

Piti drops in in 3rd jhana, sukha drops out in 4th, so how do you really know if you're in 2nd, 3rd, 4th when there's a subtle sensation of pleasant comfort but it pervades every cell in your body?

I'm going to let you in on a secret. 

Use the force. 

I'm playing with words referring to a popular modern mythical epic story, but what I'm referring to is as  tangible as a mosquito biting you, the difference in force sensation in your body between holding a 5lb weight, 4lb weight, etc. The force difference between wearing a winter coat and not wearing one, the difference in force and pressure you can feel between wearing a tshirt and jeans versus walking around completely naked. The difference between internal force have having a full bladder and needing to pee, and what the force feels like after you pee. That's the force you're using, the force you should learn to become sensitive to, and the sensitivity training that's described in steps 3 and 4 of the 16 steps of breath meditation. 

All 4 jhanas have passadhi-sambojjhanga, and 'the force' is directly proportional to passadhi. 

Passaddhi, pacification, is deep relaxation. When the taiji grandmaster tells the student, "you're not relaxed", and the student objects, "I AM relaxed!",  what the teacher really means is the student does not have jhanic level of relaxation. If you're relaxed (passadhi) in the jhanic sense, you will feel the force. Not an abstract intellectual concept, but a tangible, physical force that drives a current of energy in the body. When you have blockages, what I call jhana constipation, the body will shake when the force pushes the current of energy, and the energy rebounds off the blockage. When all the blockages are cleared, then the force drives the current and flows freely. In first and second jhana, this will feel hydraulic, like heat and water flowing everywhere. In 3rd jhana, the current feels like a dam filled up and saturated, and you no longer have the sensation of a fire hydrant hose vibrating and flowing inside, but you still feel force pushing on the parts of your body, usually the extremities like the skin, fingers, toes, where the energy channels are the slowest to completely open up. 

Conclusion: If you have genuine passadhi (pacification, relaxation), you will feel a tangible force

If you have genuine passadhi (pacification, relaxation), you will feel a tangible force pushing a current of energy (can be heat, fluid, electricity, or just visible light that gets brighter as your jhana battery is more fully charged).

If you don't feel the force, you're not as relaxed as you think, or you are in the jhana impotence state.

Even in jhana constipation state, you feel force pushing a current against your blockages. In jhana impotence state, this means you've expended too much of your PIE (precious internal energy) from too much indulgence in sensual pleasures (or even too much virtuous heavy thinking and studying of Dharma which is energy intensive). 

So the only way to end the jhana impotence state, is to keep noble silence and pure celibacy (even strong thoughts of lust can drain vast amounts of internal energy, for example reading/watching emotionally charged lust inducing romantic epic stories). 

This article is part of a series:

🔗📝 notes on passadhi (pacification) and force

Friday, November 19, 2021

🔗📝 collection of notes on 'nibbāna', nirvana


4👑☸ → EBpedia📚 → 
nibbāna 🚫🔥: nirvāṇa (sanskrit) Nirvana (english): see ☸4nt → §3. Dukkha-nirodhaṃ for detailed treatment.
    1. awakening, enlightenment, realization of arahant, defilements destroyed, no longer subject to rebirth.
    2. ordinary daily life usage: extinguishment of a fire, quenching of thirst, cooling.

External notes

B. Thanissaro gives nice concise definition of nibbāna

Now, the Buddha says that nibbāna is something indescribable, but he will talk about it to some extent so that we’ll desire to go there.

To begin with, he says that it exists. This is unlike the case of the arahant, where he refuses to answer the question as to whether the arahant exists as a being. In fact, his refusal there is so thorough that he rules out all the possible answers to the question: that the arahant exists, doesn’t exist, both exists and doesn’t exist, or neither exists nor doesn’t exist.

That’s because beings are defined by their attachments, whereas arahants have no attachments, so you can’t define them. If you can’t define them, then you can’t describe them.

Nibbāna, though, is a state. States are not defined by attachments. They’re defined by whether they’re realities. The Buddha says that nibbāna is very much a reality—a reality with five main attributes.

• One, it is a type of consciousness. It’s not a blanking-out. It’s not consciousness in the aggregates, though. And because it’s beyond name and form, it’s not the consciousness found in the formless jhānas. It’s called consciousness without surface, a consciousness that, unlike the consciousness in the aggregates or in the jhānas, isn’t known through the six senses, including the sense of the mind.

The image is of a light beam that doesn’t land anywhere. If you had a light beam going through space and it didn’t land on any material object, you wouldn’t be able to see it because it wouldn’t be reflected. It’s through the reflections coming off of surfaces that we see light. But if it doesn’t land on anything—and that’s how the Buddha talks about it; he calls it consciousness that’s unestablished, a consciousness that doesn’t land—it’s bright in and of itself. But [because] it doesn’t appear as brightness to anything else, it can’t be located.

• Two, it is freedom. This is why the Buddha calls it nibbāna, or unbinding. As I said, it’s like a flame that’s been freed from its fuel.

• Three, it’s something true, unchanging, and undeceptive. Because it’s not conditioned, it’s just there. It doesn’t change at all.

• Four, for this reason, it’s a state of security and happiness. As the Buddha said, it’s the ultimate happiness.

• And five, it’s excellent, the ultimate, beyond anything else that could be found.

This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the 2021 Miscellaneous Essay, “The Three Perceptions.”:

Misc. and forum disc.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

EA 12.1 satipatthana sutra from a different school, 4 Jhānas ≈ 4 Satipaṭṭhāna, Jhana factors are the 7sb awakening factors ... l#flink-15

Link there to EA 12.1 in Chinese + English, based on Analayo translation,
the 4 jhanas section gone through with Dr. William Chu to correct some of Analayo's errors.

Eventually, people will start catching on to the idea that 4 Jhānas ≈ 4 Satipaṭṭhāna ... index.html

It's not just in the other EBT schools. Within Theravada, you'll see the same idea play out in kayagata sutta MN 119, SN 47.4 most prominently,
and MN 125 is explicit in equating the 4satipatthana with first jhana. Meaning you can do first jhana, and satipatthana in all 4 postures. ... uated.html

One other big issue that people don't understand, due to LBT propaganda in redefining the 4 jhanas as a disembodied frozen stupor done as a pure samatha exercise with "5 jhana factors" that intentionally murder the vipassana factors of upekkha and sampajano, and redefine vitakka and vicara to be non-vipassana factors to freeze the mind in stupor instead of exercising full vipassana capabilities as defined in the EBT.

forum discussion

SarathW wrote: Mon Nov 15, 2021 4:15 pmI did not read the links you provided.
But I do not personally believe that four Jhana = four Satipathana
Jhana leads to Jhananga = Vitakka, Vicara, Pithy,Sukha,Ekatgata
Satipathana lead to Bojjanga = Sati,viriya,vimamsa,pithi,pasaddhi, samadhi etc

However first Satipathana can be equate to first Jhana with some exceptions.

Note the difference between the equal sign "=" and "≈" approximately, (The ≈ is used mostly in terms of numerical approximations, meaning that the values in questions are "close" to each other in whatever context one is)
4 Jhānas ≈ 4 Satipaṭṭhāna

You didn't read the links because of what? So you can continue holding on to misguided views on jhana and bojjhanga based on LBT?

You admit that first jhana = satipatthana done with samadhi of certain quality.
And you can't help but notice the phrase "sati and sampajano", explicitly part of 3rd jhana formula, elsewhere such as SN 47.2 define S&S as the 4 satipatthana.
So if 1st jhana is doing satipathana, as as 3rd jhana, why is hard to believe 2nd and 4th jhana can as well?
4th jhana's formula "upekkha sati pari suddhim" means that all 7 awakening factors have been sufficiently completed in order for 4th jhana to be possible.
upekkha = bojjhanga #7, sati is #1, parisuddhim is purified or completion of #1-#7

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

🔗📝 notes on "You can 👂 hear sounds in the 4 jhānas."

 internal notes

• You can 👂 hear sounds in the 4 jhānas.: Which samādhis are silent?

external notes

AN 10.72 real example of loudest thunder I've ever heard

AN 2.58- AN 2.59
“These two, mendicants, are not startled by a crack of thunder. What two? A mendicant who has ended defilements; and a thoroughbred elephant. These are the two who are not startled by a crack of thunder.” ... ript=latin

AN 10.72 real example of loudest thunder I've ever heard


On what it means for sound to be thorn WHILE IN the 4 jhanas:

BrokenBones wrote: Tue Nov 09, 2021 5:01 pm...
If I'm wearing a simple coat and someone prods me with a stick it's a 'thorn'.

If I'm wearing a super thick coat and they prod me then I'm still aware of it going on but it no longer bothers me.

Entering first jhana and the early stages of settling into it is the simple coat... becoming established in first jhana is the super thick coat.

That's exactly how it is. If people were serious meditators and had personal experience, they would come to a fascinating discovery that the suttas mean what they say, in plain simple terms.

I once was in Asia meditating in a group in the large meditation hall. A loud thunderstorm snuck up on us, where you never knew it came, no sound of rain, no visual of lightning, the first moment we knew of the storm, was the loudest thunder I've ever heard.

Large meditation hall, lots of people in it, I opened my eyes when the thunder struck, I was completely calm and unperturbed. I heard it, understood it was loud, but was not startled in the least. Exactly like the simile above with muted response with progressively thicker coat. All around me I can see and feel people jump out of their seats and visibly startled by the thunder, loudest I've ever heard that suddenly came out of nowhere with no warning.

Lots of meditation charges up your jhana battery, and it's like you get air bags that cushion you from large shocks,

That's why those war elephant similes work in MN 125, how they train in jhanas 1-4 to be resilient and imperturbable to the physical trauma of war.

When the suttas talk about imperturbability where they wouldn't have heard that loud thunder, those meditators would have been in an arupa samadhi at the time, or the 9th attainment. But if they were IN THE PROCESS OF TRYING TO ATTAIN those formless states, then they would hear the thunder, and that's the distinction made in AN 10.72 that almost no one seems to notice.

also, another real example my story of my taiji teacher colliding with a speeding vehicle. ... rt-vs.html

Someone on the thread claiming that AN 10.72 is talking about perception and feeling arising in the 9th attainment being thorns and interrupting that attainment (which isn't possible)

I"ve made this point many times, I don't understand why people don't remember or just can't grok it.

from my article on hearing sounds in all 4 jhanas comments on AN 10.72

but why is samādhi attainment 9 on the list?
(9) saññā-vedayita-nirodha-samāpattiyā
(9) (for) perception-(and)-feelings'-cessation-attainment,
saññā ca vedanā ca kaṇṭako
perception and feeling (is a) thorn,
for cessation of perception and feeling, it’s the ”attainment of” (samāpattiyā), not the activity within that samadhi itself that is a thorn.

in this case, sounds are thorns while one is in the process of trying to attain. Note that same qualifer of “attainment” is not applied to the 4 jhanas, and note once again the 4 formless attainments are missing.

if the 4 jhanas were uninterruptible frozen states like the 9th attainment, then they would also need that qualifier of the ”attainment of” (samāpattiyā) to indicate that the thorn is happening before the freeze, not during.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Suppressing pain techniques (for sitting meditation)


Re: Suppressing pain techniques

Post by frank k » 

Alīno wrote: Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:25 am...
Do you have any other techniques about dealing with the pain ? Or teachings about it ?

Metta :anjali:
compendium of the best exercises and stretches for sitting meditators for full lotus and any sitting posture ... index.html

Learn to meditate in all postures, switch between standing, chair sitting, and walking as needed to relieve pain.
Sitting through pain in small doses (a few minutes) can be good for training mental toughness, but understand that you're doing damage to the body.

I've seen the results of hundreds and thousands of burmese meditation mentality sitting meditators who push through pain and ignore it for long periods, and as a result sustain long term back, knee, leg damage.

I've even experienced some of this myself. You push through sitting leg pain too much, it starts killing off tissue and nerves, and that affects your ability to even walk and stand without stumbling and being clumsy. I've seen plenty of monsatics following burmese style sitting regiments for 6-10 hours a day, and I see them often trip and stumble for no reason, but I know the reason. The nerves have been damaged.

Those health problems take a really long time to heal.
And the problem with damaging nerves, is that when you become numb to pain, then you lose your feedback system telling you that you need to change postures. So when I was in the process of extending the length of my full lotus sitting from 1 hr to 2 hours, I did some damage because I wasn't getting the pain signals that healthy nerves would send.

As a result, I had to stop doing any cross leg sitting for about a year waiting for the nerve and leg damage to heal.

So everyone has to figure out the right balance of switching between walking, standing, sitting, lying down as needed, by trial and error.
And doing daily exercises and stretches to soften the body up.

SA 559, AN 9.37 relating to animitta samadhi, not hearing sounds in jhana and mind divorced from body


excerpt: ... index.html

AN 9.37 parallels, SA 557-559
SA 557 is listed on Suttacentral as a partial parallel to AN 9.37. When one compares the Pali AN 9.37 to SA 559, there seems to be a contradiction. Dr. Chu’s commentary clears up the seeming contradiction in detail, but the quick answer is, the Agama sutra is talking about a very specific Animitta Samādhi, while the Pali AN 9.37 is talking about a samādhi where the mind is divorced from 5 sense faculties.
Commentary by Dr. Chu
SA557-SA559 should be treated as a cluster of suttas on the same theme, i.e., that of animitta samadhi.
This is not a controversial observation. It has been pointed out by a few Agama specialists, including Yinshun (see, for example, Kong zhi tanjiu (1985), p. 36). Also, in the Chinese Agamas, Ananda is most often the main interlocutor or expounder of animitta samadhi. And here, in all three suttas, Ananda was the protagonist.
Animitta samadhi is a tricky matter, both in the context of the Pali canon and that of the Chinese Agamas. In both contexts, animitta could refer to a variety of very different attainments: it could be synonymous with the dimension of neither-perception-nor-non-perception; it could be an unskillful, coma-like state of general non-differentiation (an instance of Wrong Concentration which the Sarvastivadins and the Sautrantikas classify as one possible manifestations of the fourth jhana, and the Theravadins classify as unskillful but nonetheless above the realm of the fourth jhana); it could be a characteristic of the Unbinding itself; it could be the cessation [of feeling and perception] attainment; or it could be this unspecified but highly revered attainment where all disturbances cease (c.f. Culasunnata Sutta).
In the Chinese context, animitta is variously translated as wuxiang 無想 and wuxiang 無相. Given the context of SA557-SA559, there’s little doubt that wuxiang 無想 and wuxiang 無相 are indeed treated as the same thing.
With this in mind, there’s nothing particularly controversial about the doctrinal stance of SA559.
Typically, jhanas in the major Nikayas/Agamas are primarily described in somatic terms (related to the body). There’s good continuity on this issue between the “early of the early suttas” (e.g. portions of KN) and the major Nikayas/Agamas. The former talks often of “staying in touch with bodily bliss” as among the primary duties of a monk, that it is perfectly sensible that the same theme is picked up and elaborated in the other Nikayas/Agamas. It also leaves little doubt that, jhanas, as envisioned in the early suttas, entail tactile/corporeal sensory experience.
In contrast, the formless are differentiated from the jhanas by the experience of sensory shutoff: bodily perception is transcended, the mind is no longer sensitive of the dimension [of the five senses], there’s not the perception of multiplicity, feelings and somatic metaphors are absent in their standard descriptions…
But there’s an exception to this general rule. This is where the animitta is shown to be unique. And in fact, SA557-SA559 are precisely about Ananda being asked about the special status of animitta. When first jhana all the way to the dimension of not-a-thing-ness are practiced in the animitta way, the mind can be “noncognizant [of the sensory dimension]” but still perceiving perceptual data; and when neither-perception-or-non-perception is practiced in the animitta way, the mind can be “noncognizant [of the sensory dimension]” AND also not perceiving perceptual data.
In other words, the main point of the SA suttas in question is to point out the unique nature of the animitta attainment, which subverts the norm. The norm is of course that, in jhanas, one is cognizant of the sensory dimension and perceiving perceptual data.
Although AN9.37 is identified as a parallel sutta to SA557 & SA559 taken as a cluster, AN9.37 is, unlike its supposed SA parallel, actually spelling out the norm: first, it makes no mention of the animitta at all (this is significant, and it brings to question whether we are dealing with sister suttas after all). It is simply talking about the formless attainments. Second, it proceeds to describe the formless attainments as having the characteristic of “not being sensitive to the sensory dimension.” And of course you cannot apply that same description to jhanas, which is precisely why AN9.37 didn’t include the jhanas in its list of “not-sensitive to that dimension.”

Re: SA 559 English Translation?

Coëmgenu wrote: Fri Nov 05, 2021 8:54 am...

I asked Dr. Chu for comment on your thoughts and here's his response:

This sutra, SA559, has been rampantly mistranslated and misinterpreted, leading to the common impression that it is enigmatic.

The mistake here is to read youxiang bujuezhi 有想不覺知 as “having perception but being unaware,” and wuxiang bujuezhi 無想故不覺知 as “having no perception and being unaware.”

The correct interpretation/translation should include an abbreviated part (abbreviation being a common practice in classical Chinese): “having perception [of the sensory experience of eyes, ears…] but being unaware [of the presence of covetousness and other defective states].

This part--若比丘離欲、惡不善法…如是,有想比丘有法而不覺知—shows that that which the bikshu in question was not aware of, was the presence of the five hindrances.

So what is the sutra really saying?

In the four jhanas, one is aware of sensory experience [i.e. eyes, ears…] and is free from the hindrances. In the animitta state, one is unaware of sensory experience and is free from the hindrances.

Another way to summarize the sutra is with Ananda’s rhetorical question: 「有想者亦不覺知,況復無想!」--One can be free from the hindrances when one has sensory experience; how much more would one be free from the hindrances when one has no sensory experience (lit. “[Even in the state where] one is percipient of [sensory experience], one can be unaware [of the presence of covetousness and other defective states]; how much more would one be unaware [of the presence of covetousness and other defective states] when one is non-percipient [of sensory experience].

If anything, this sutra is yet another incontrovertible evidence that jhanas do not involve sensory shutdown.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

🔗📝what does ariya savaka and sekha actually mean?

Internal notes on

Ariya‍ = noble. Can be referring to any of the 4 attainments of stream entry, once returner, or non-returner, or arahant. 🔗📝.

Ariya-savaka‍ = noble one's disciple. One who hears/learns the teachings of a noble one, but is not necessarily a noble one themself.

a-sekha = see Ariya‍ 3. an arahant who no longer needs training of a trainee (sekha), since they are not being liable to rebirth (SN 48.53), and they have direct experience with 5ind🖐️ resulting in the culmination of that.

External notes

(also see links to other articles and proofs at bottom of this page)


ariya = noble. Can be referring to any of the 4 attainments of stream entry, once returner, or non-returner, or arahant. 

ariya-savaka = noble one's disciple. One who hears/learns the teachings of a noble one, but is not necessarily a noble one themself. 
LBT Commentary claims ariya-savaka (in all contexts) is at least a stream-enterer.
The fundamental purpose of the term 'ariya savaka' is to contrast against a disciple who has not been exposed to the Buddha (Noble one's) teaching, the 'unlearned ordinary person'.  It's not to differentation an unenlightened Buddhist disciple from an enlightened one, for which other terms already exist (stream entry, etc.). 
MN 64 example

The Buddha said this:Bhagavā etadavoca:

“Ānanda, take an unlearned ordinary person who has not seen the noble ones, and is neither skilled nor trained in the teaching of the noble ones. They’ve not seen good persons, and are neither skilled nor trained in the teaching of the good persons.“Idhānanda, assutavā puthujjano ariyānaṁ adassāvī ariyadhammassa akovido ariyadhamme avinīto, sappurisānaṁ adassāvī sappurisadhammassa akovido sappurisadhamme avinītoTheir heart is overcome and mired in identity view,sakkāyadiṭṭhipariyuṭṭhitena cetasā viharati sakkāyadiṭṭhiparetena;

a-sekha = an arahant who no longer needs training of a trainee (sekha), since they are  not being liable to rebirth (SN 48.53), and they have direct experience with 5indriya resulting in the culmination of that.

sekha = a trainee who has attained at least stream entry, once returner, or non-returner, but is not yet an arahant. (Proof : The distinction between sekha and asekha with regard to the five faculties as given in SN 48:53 is identical to the distinction between the stream enterer and the arahant as given in SN 48:3 and SN 48:4.)


If you search that page for "sekh", it produces 7 finds of sutta titles with 'sekh' in there.

a forum thread showing some commentary glosses saying ariya-savaka is at least a stream enterer.
grammatically, both readings of ariya-savaka are valid.


ariya savaka (noble one's disciple): one who is at the minimum a hearer/learner of Dharma teachings from a noble one (ariya). This interpretation works everywhere in the suttas if you plug that definition in. 

sekha (trainee): 

* from AN 5.1  they have 3 of the 5 bala, with sati and samadhi removed and replaced with hiri and ottappa.  

SN 48.53 they are a trainee if they have at least faith in 4 noble truths, and that there are no other teachers whose teachings match or exceed the Buddha's in accuracy or harmony with truth of reality. They know (paññāya ca ativijjha passati.) that the 5 bala are the means to realize truth, but have not directly realized that result through meditation experience yet.  

a-sekha (not a trainee, one who has completed training): 

SN 48.53 not being liable to rebirth, and they have direct experience with 5indriya resulting in the culimination of that. 

Yaṅgatikāni yaṃparamāni yaṃphalāni yaṃpariyosānāni. Kāyena ca phusitvā viharati;


ariya savaka: noble one's disciple. 

Theravada commentary seems to say ariya savaka  is not just a noble one's disciple, but is themself a noble one, one who has at minimum reached the path (or fruit?)  of stream entry.

Where's the sutta proof? If you plug in  the definition "noble one's disciple" everywhere, it works, but "noble disciple" often seems overqualified, unnecessary, or unjustified.

For example, right livelihood: miccha ajiva pahaya. samma ajivena jivitam kappeti. An ariya savaka abandoned wrong livelihood, and takes up right livelihood.

Why would you need to be a stream enterer to do that? Plenty of ordinary people can do that.

sekha (trainee): 

sekha: any serious monastic or lay person trying to attain full arahantship? Must be at least stream enterer? (B. Bodhi translates this as 'disciple in higher training')

my doubts about sekha being stream enterer

MN 152 especially makes me doubt ariya status of sekha:
why would a stream enterer do this when he has some samadhi but just not mastered?
shouldn't he be doing the same practice as the ariya with developed faculties?

Kathañcānanda, sekho hoti pāṭipado?
"And how is one a person in training, someone following the way?
Idhānanda, bhikkhuno cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā uppajjati manāpaṃ, uppajjati amanāpaṃ, uppajjati manāpāmanāpaṃ.
There is the case where, when seeing a form with the eye, there arises in a monk what is agreeable, what is disagreeable, what is agreeable & disagreeable.
So tena uppannena manāpena
He feels horrified, humiliated, & disgusted with the arisen agreeable thing...
uppannena amanāpena
disagreeable thing...
uppannena manāpāmanāpena aṭṭīyati harāyati jigucchati.
agreeable & disagreeable thing.

Sotena saddaṃ sutvā … pe …
"When hearing a sound with the ear...

forum discussion

frank k wrote: Thu Nov 04, 2021 9:03 am
sekha: any serious monastic or lay person trying to attain full arahantship? Must be at least stream enterer? (B. Bodhi translates this as 'disciple in higher training')

Ven. Dhammanando:

In the Suttas asekhas are arahants and sekhas are ariyasāvakas but not yet arahants. This can be seen from what's predicated of the two persons in various Suttas in the Indriya Samyutta, e.g., the Sekhasutta, SN 48:53

There is, however, another (much less common) sense of sekha, found in the Vinaya's third pātidesanīya rule:

There are families designated as in training. Should any bhikkhu, not being ill, uninvited beforehand, chew or consume staple or non-staple food, having received it himself at the homes of families designated as in training, he is to acknowledge it: “Friends, I have committed a blameworthy, unsuitable act that ought to be acknowledged. I acknowledge it.”

The term in training (sekha) is usually used to refer to anyone who has attained at least the first noble path but has yet to become an arahant. Here, though, the Vibhaṅga uses it to refer to any family whose faith is increasing but whose wealth is decreasing—i.e., a family whose faith is so strong that they become generous to the point of suffering financially. In cases such as these, the Community may, as a formal transaction, declare them as families in training so as to protect them with this rule from bhikkhus who might abuse their generosity.

(Ven. Thanissaro, BMC I ch. 9)

I asked the question to Ven. Thanissaro

AT: (Ajahn Thanissaro)

where did you get sekha must be at least a stream enterer?
I'm as uncertain of that as I am that an ariya savaka must be a stream enterer.

AT: (Ajahn Thanissaro):
SN 48:53 read in conjunction with MN 48.


AN 5.1 has lower requirement for sekha, they have panna but no samadhi, whereas SN 48.53 they have all 5 indriya.

MN 48 second factor of stream entry says

Puna caparaṃ, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako iti paṭisañcikkhati:
Furthermore, a noble disciple reflects:
‘imaṃ nu kho ahaṃ diṭṭhiṃ āsevanto bhāvento bahulīkaronto labhāmi paccattaṃ samathaṃ, labhāmi paccattaṃ nibbutin’ti?
‘When I develop, cultivate, and make much of this view, do I personally gain serenity and quenching?’
So evaṃ pajānāti:
They understand:
‘imaṃ kho ahaṃ diṭṭhiṃ āsevanto bhāvento bahulīkaronto labhāmi paccattaṃ samathaṃ, labhāmi paccattaṃ nibbutin’ti.
‘When I develop, cultivate, and make much of this view, I personally gain serenity and quenching.’
Idamassa dutiyaṃ ñāṇaṃ adhigataṃ hoti ariyaṃ lokuttaraṃ asādhāraṇaṃ puthujjanehi. (2)
This is their second knowledge …

that says to me they have gotten at least a brief glimpse of nirvana.
AN 5.1 sekha has no samadhi bala, so how can they glimpse nirvana and fulfill that samatha?

AT: (Ajahn Thanissaro):

1) The standard lists of the characteristics of a stream enterer never
include concentration as one of the members of the list, even though SN
55:5 states that the stream consists of all eight factors of the noble
path, including right concentration, and MN 48 includes, as part of its
description of the stream enterer, enough tranquility to experience
The clue to understanding this discrepancy lies in AN 3:87, which
states that the stream enterer is wholly accomplished in virtue, but
only moderately accomplished in concentration and discernment. In other
words, just because the lists don’t include concentration doesn’t mean
that the stream enterer has no concentration at all. It just means that
it hasn’t been fully mastered. The stream enterer has tasted enough of
at least the first jhana to have gained an experience of unbinding. The
same can be assumed with the list in AN 5:1. It doesn’t give an
exhaustive list of the sekha’s characteristics, just five of the
prominent ones. When SN 48:53 states that the learner has seen, as they
have come to be, the four noble truths, that implies that he/she has
seen enough of all the factors of the noble eightfold path to have had
at least a glimpse of the third noble truth, like the stream enterer in
MN 48 who personally obtains serenity and unbinding.

2) The distinction between sekha and asekha with regard to the five
faculties as given in SN 48:53 is identical to the distinction between
the stream enterer and the arahant as given in SN 48:3 and SN 48:4.
These are probably the clearest passages showing that the sekha must be
at least a stream enterer.

With best wishes,
Ajaan Geoff

Sujato translates ariya-savaka as 'noble disciple' but interprets it loosely ... ll/6695/15

sujato Bhante Oct '17

The ambiguity arises because the term usually appears as a compound, and the relation between the elements is not specified. Compare, for example, ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo which must be an adjective, “noble eightfold path”, as opposed to ariyassa vinaye “the training of the noble one”.

So far as I know, we don’t have any resolved forms of ariyasāvaka in the EBTs that would determine the issue on purely grammatical grounds. It seems that the more common usage of ariya is as an adjective, which would support “noble disciple”. In addition, the general sense of it through the texts seems to support this reading.

On the other hand, the commentaries seem to prefer “disciple of the noble (Buddha)” (ariyassa Buddhassa sāvako). This would seem to be supported by DN 8, which has gotamasāvakasaṅgho and gaṇācariyasāvakasaṅghā, which must be, “the community of disciples of Gotama” and “the community of disciples of the teachers of groups” (i.e. non-Buddhist communities).

The difference in meaning is probably not as great as it might appear. In this kind of context, a “disciple of the noble one” would mean “a true disciple of the noble one”, not just someone who called themselves a follower. Usually in the texts, of course, an ariyasāvaka is one of the four pairs of awakened beings. However it does seem to be used more loosely on occasion, so needs to be read carefully in context. @Brahmali, I wonder if you have any thoughts on this?

Brahmali Ajahn

Oct '17

I tend to agree with what you have said here. It seems that in a number of instances the expression ariyasāvaka is used to designate the ideal conduct of a disciple, and thus primarily refers to stream-enterers. Here are a few examples:

MN2: “Bhikkhus, a well-taught noble disciple [ariyasāvaka], who has regard for noble ones and is skilled and disciplined in their Dhamma, who has regard for true men and is skilled and disciplined in their Dhamma, understands what things are fit for attention and what things are unfit for attention. Since that is so, he does not attend to those things unfit for attention and he attends to those things fit for attention.”

MN14: “Even though a noble disciple has seen clearly as it actually is with proper wisdom that sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering and despair, and that the danger in them is still more, as long as he still does not attain to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, he may still be attracted to sensual pleasures.”

MN22: ““Bhikkhus, a well-taught noble disciple who has regard for noble ones and is skilled and disciplined in their Dhamma, who has regard for true men and is skilled and disciplined in their Dhamma, regards material form thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ He regards feeling thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ He regards perception thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ He regards formations thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ He regards what is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, encountered, sought, mentally pondered thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ And this standpoint for views, namely, ‘That which is the self is the world; after death I shall be permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change; I shall endure as long as eternity’—this too he regards thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’”

I believe most occurrences of ariyasāvaka in the suttas are found in contexts similar to the ones above. In these contexts the obvious translation is “noble disciple”, that is, someone who has understood the teachings through insight. I do recall, however, that there are some exceptions to this. In these other cases the term seems to be used more loosely and does not necessarily imply an ariya. Still, since the preponderance of usage refers to ariyas, I think “noble disciple” is the better translation. One just needs to keep in mind that the term is not used with absolute consistency. This is in fact true for a large number of terms. In other words, we always need to be sensitive to context.


Oct '17

That’s right, in fact normally samaṇabrāhmaṇa means “professional spiritual practitioners”. It is used in contexts where Buddhists may or may not be included.

Misc. Notes

Iti 82 shows a newly ordained monk would already be a stream enterer 'ariya savaka', which is clearly wrong.

🔗📝 collection of notes on KN Iti 82

why isn't Sammā-sam-buddha-sāvako "a disciple who also happens to be a Buddha"?

why it matters: "noble disciple" vs. "disciple of the noble ones"

SN 55.7 ariya savaka is not enlightened here

Thursday, November 4, 2021

MN 152 What if Ajahn Brahm and Buddhaghosa met the Buddha to discuss first jhāna?

Since first jhana is a subset of developed faculties, 

and a trainee (sekha) with developed faculties is at least a stream enterer, 

and most importantly, since we can see that developed faculties (and developed 'body' kaya see MN 36) have nothing to do with attaining a formless samadhi, 

we could infer a conversation between the Buddha, Ajahn Brahm, and Buddhghosa (editor in chief of Visuddhimagga) might go something like this.

(I modify MN 152 excerpt with a few name changes)


MN 152