AN IV 92 Learning Calm and Clarity (1)

Paṭhamasamādhi Sutta


“Monks, there are four kinds of people living in this world.


What are they?


Here monks,

(1) Some people are skilled at calming their mind internally, [1]

But they lack the higher wisdom

of seeing mental states with clarity,  [2]


(2) Some people are skilled in the higher wisdom

of seeing mental states with clarity,

But they lack the ability

to calm their mind internally.


(3) Some people unskilled at both

Calming their mind internally,

And the higher wisdom

of seeing mental states with clarity,


(4) Some people are skilled at both

calming their mind internally, [3]

And the higher wisdom

of seeing mental states with clarity.[4]


These are the four kinds of people found living in the world.


[1] Cetosamathassa: The word samatha is usually taken to mean: Tranquility, calm, serenity, etc. In a way, ‘stillness’ would be a fitting translation which would denote a result from tranquility or one of its aspects. But since stillness can be ‘forced’ and would thereby loose its relevance to the Buddha’s teaching, I choose another translation. The word ‘composure’ is also appealing but once again, it only denotes one of the results of the broader concept of ‘tranquility.’ A less familiar use for the word Samatha is in the vinaya for ‘adhikaraṇa samatha’ the ‘settling’ of a formal act. This can be a source of fresh insight into variant interpretations of the word Samatha.

[2] Idha, bhikkhave, ekacco puggalo lābhī hoti ajjhattaṁ cetosamathassa, na lābhī adhipaññādhammavipassanāya. Note here an interesting parallel between adhi-attaṃ (ajjhataṃ) and adhi-pañña. This ajjhataṃ seems to be related to adhicitta, the training in the higher mind, which seems to equate samatha. Cetosamathassa: Calming the mind; dhammavipassanāya: Seeing [mental] states with clarity, with wisdom. A brief note here to relate the word ‘vi-passanā’ to wise awareness (sammā-sati) which is constituted of the four ‘anu-passanā’ (kayānupassanā, vedanānupassanā, cittānupassanā, dhammānupassanā). Dhammavipassanāya: seeing states with wise awareness, that is, as they are, without clinging. (Vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ.) The semantic proximity of the word pañña and the word vipassanā is here testified. The challenge of translation and comprehension here is that both words are almost the same in meaning, that is as ‘discernment, wise awareness, wisdom, wise understanding,’ etc… Although this is no ordinary kind of wisdom or wisdom, in a mundane, generic form about random philosophies, but the wisdom of the ariyas or the awakened people (Ariya pañña). (See Iti 2.41 Paññāparihīna sutta) This is a special kind of wisdom which equates to wise understanding (sammādiṭṭhi), the four understandings of the Ariyas, the eight-spoked path. This is the teaching, revealed by the Buddhas, (atha yā buddhānaṃ sāmukkaṃsikā dhammadesanā) on the science of the mind and mental states at the service of his training towards liberation by wholesome mental development. 

[3] ajjhattaṁ cetosamathassa: Bhante Sujato: “internal serenity of heart.” Bhikkhu Bodhi: “internal serenity of mind.“ F.L. Woodward: “Mental calm of the self.” Bhikkhu Bodhi’s footnote refers to the commentary. Caution should be taken about this since the commentary, unsurprisingly, points to ‘apannā’ from the verb ‘appeti,’ what has come to be known as ‘absorption’ which is a term exclusive to later commentarial additions and the abhidhamma scriptures to denote the practice of samādhi and the jhānas, meaning; the word is never used by the Buddha to denote any such practice. Because of this word and its popular choice of meaning as ‘absorption,’ in many cases, even the word jhāna has become called ‘absorption’ which is quite far from the true meaning of the word jhāna itself. A perhaps closer word in pāḷi for ‘absorption’ would be ‘pariyādiyana.’ Here is the definition found in the PED: Appanā (f.) [cp. Sk. arpaṇa, abstr. fr. appeti = arpayati from of ṛ, to fix, turn, direct one’s mind; see appeti] application (of mind), ecstasy, fixing of thought on an object, conception… PED: Appeti [Vedic arpayati, Caus. of ṛ, ṛṇoti & ṛcchati (cp. icchati2), Idg. *ar (to insert or put together, cp. also *er under aṇṇava) to which belong Sk. ara spoke of a wheel; Gr. ἀραρίσκω to put together; Lat. arma = E. arms (i. e. weapon), artus fixed, tight, also limb, ars = art. For further connections see aṇṇava] 1. (*er) to move forward, rush on, run into (of river) Vin ii.238; Miln 70. — 2. (*ar) to fit in, fix, apply, insert, put on to (lit. & fig.) (nimba — sūlasmiṁ to impale, C. āvuṇāti)… Once again, the semantic root gives us a list of words alluding to warfare language, comparing meditation to a somewhat violent and forceful act… Interesting link: A.P.Buddhadatta dic. Says ‘āsatta; nirata; vyāvata; parāyana’ as Pāḷi for ‘absorbed in’ and the PED says: Āsatta (Pp. of āsajjati), 1. attached to; clinging; 2. accursed. We seem to be quite far from the Buddha’s teaching at that point! MA: ajjhattaṃ cetosamathassāti niyakajjhatte appanācittasamādhissa. I interpret ‘ajjhattaṃ’ as ‘within’ or ‘internally’ following the reasoning that this mental stillness is gained within oneself, not ‘without,’ not by external objects of the world. To translate this as ‘mental stillness for oneself’, my other choice, seems odd and somewhat falling short of the meaning.

[4] Adhipaññādhammavipassanāya: Āyasma Aggacitta calls it: “The higher wisdom that is able to see ‘dhammas’ or ‘things’ distinctly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffgj5-vbfE4&list=LL&index=1. Bhante Sujato translates it as: “the higher wisdom of discernment of principles.” F.L. Woodward: “the higher wisdom of insight into things. Bhikkhu Bodhi: “the higher wisdom of insight into phenomena.” MA: Adhipaññādhammavipassanāyāti saṅkhārapariggāhakavipassanāñāṇassa. Tañhi adhipaññāsaṅkhātañca, pañcakkhandhasaṅkhātesu ca dhammesu vipassanābhūtaṃ, tasmā ‘’adhipaññādhammavipassanā’’ti vuccatīti.


This is a gift of Dhamma

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