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Samanupassanaa Sutta

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Ways of Regarding
translated from the Pali by
Maurice O'Connell Walshe

"Monks, those recluses and brahmans who regard the self in various ways, do so in terms of the five groups of clinging, or some of them. Which five?

"Here, monks, the uninstructed worldling... regards body as the self, the self as having body, body as being in the self, or the self as being in the body. [Similarly with 'feelings,' 'perceptions,' 'mental formations,' 'consciousness.'] So this way of regarding arises: it occurs to him to think 'I am.'[1]

"Now when it has occurred to him to think 'I am,' the five (sense-) faculties[2] come into play[3] — the faculties of eye, ear, nose, tongue and body.

"Monks, there is mind,[4] there are mind-objects,[5] there is the element of ignorance.[6] The uninstructed worldling, touched by the feeling[7] born of contact with ignorance, thinks 'I am,' 'I am this,' 'things will be,' 'things will not be,'[8] 'things will be embodied,'[9] 'things will be disembodied,' 'things will be conscious,' 'things will be unconscious,' 'things will be neither conscious-nor-unconscious.'[10]

"It is just in this way, monks, that the five (sense-) faculties persist. But here, for the well taught Ariyan disciple, ignorance is abandoned and knowledge arises.[11] With the waning of ignorance and the arising of knowledge, he does not come to think 'I am,' 'I am this,' 'things will be,' 'things will not be,' 'things will be embodied,' 'things will be disembodied,' 'things will be conscious,' 'things will be unconscious,' 'things will be neither conscious-nor-unconscious.'"


1. The too famous "discovery" of Descartes, Cogito, ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am"), comes precisely under this heading. Descartes identified himself with, in Buddhist terms, vicaara "discursive thought," which belongs to the "mental formations" group (sankhaarakkhandha). When Goethe (whom many would consider a greater thinker than Descartes) said "Gefühl ist alles" ("Feeling is everything"), it might be thought that (at that moment) he was identifying himself with the "feeling" group (vedanaakhandha). But these are sensations, physical and mental, and what Goethe meant corresponds more probably to piiti (SN 12.23, n. 4), which also belongs to the mental formations.

2. Indriya. The standard translation for this word is "faculty" which, though rather vague, is convenient. For the full list of the 22 Indriyas, see BD (Buddhist Dictionary (2nd ed.), by Ven. Nyaa.natiloka, Ven. Nyaa.naponika (ed.), Colombo 1972]. These first five are associated with the five (bodily) senses also recognized in the West, to which Buddhism adds mind as the sixth. See also n. 3.

3. Avakkanti hoti lit. "there is a descent" (into the womb): they are "born." The meaning is that they exert their influence. The word indriya comes from ind[r]a "lord" (cf. the god Indra) and implies "control": hence they are sometimes referred to as the "controlling faculties."

4. Atthi bhikkhave mano. Woodward badly mistranslates this as "Mind is the result," which would render hoti "comes to be," not atthi "is, exists." To say that mind is the "result" of bodily factors is certainly not the Buddhist view and smacks of modern materialistic theories. Mind, even ignorant mind, is not derived from matter. Cf. Dhp 1-2: Manopubbanagoma dhamma "Mind precedes all states."

5. Dhammaa (plural). This is one of the regular meanings of this multivalent word.

6. Avijjadhaatu, an unusual combination. Probably in the sense of the (ignorant) manodhaatu "mind-element," which "performs the function of Advertence (aavajjana) towards the object of inception of a process of sensuous consciousness" (BD, s. v. dhaatu). The reading vijjadhaatu "element of knowledge" in Feer's text must, as Woodward recognizes, be wrong here.

7. Vedayitena "by what is felt." A variant reading is cetasikena "by the mental factor." In the Abhidhamma the cetasikas are the (conventionally 50) "mental formations" comprising the sankhaarakkhandha plus the khandhas of feeling (vedanaa) and perception (saññaa), thus making a total of 52. See BD.

8. According to SA [SN commentary], these are the Eternalist and Annihilationist views (SN 12.15, nn. 58, 59) respectively: i.e., he believes that he will, or will not, survive after death as a continuing entity.

9. Ruupii: lit. "having a body." This and the next term refer to the lower and higher jhaanas ("absorptions") associated respectively with the "world of form" (or "fine-material world": BD) (ruupaloka) and the "formless world" (or "immaterial world": BD) (aruupaloka), and to the types of rebirth dependent on the attainment of these. See SN 40.9, n. 1.

10. Nevasaññiinaasaññii, associated with the state of "neither-perception-nor-non-perception," the very subtle state of the fourth "formless" (or "immaterial") jhaana. This can still be attained by a "worldling," as was done by Gotama's second teacher, Uddaka Ramaputta, before the Bodhisatta (SN 12.10, n. 3) decided to "go it alone." Uddaka had thus progressed as far as it is possible to go without "breaking through" to the path of enlightenment.

11. "Of the Arahant's path" (SA).