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animitta, peter harvey article
“Signless” Meditations in Pāli Buddhism, by Peter Harvey
The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1 1986"Signless" Meditations in Pali Buddhism*
by Peter Harvey
The animitta or "signless," is a relatively unexplored region
of Buddhist doctrine;' unlike, for example, the system ofjhanas,
it seems to be in some need of clarification and systematisation.
This is suggested by the great variety of states said to be "animitta"
in the P2li material, in which there is reference to animittasumadhi (or ceto-sam~dhi),~ ceto-~imutti,~ v i m ~ k k h a , ~ vimokkhamukha,' ~ i h a r a , ~ sam~ipatti,~ ~ihEra-samEpatti,~phassa~ and dhatu.l o
This variety also applies to the closely related sufifiata (void)and
appanihita (desireless) states that, with the animitta, play an important role in the path to nibbana.
This paper aims to differentiate the variety of animitta states,
and to gain some understanding of their nature, drawing on
the P2li sz~ttas,Abhidhamma, and commentaries.
MA.II 355 "Thirteen dhammas are named 'animitta-ceto-vimutti'
A convenient place to begin is with the overview of animitta
states at MA.II 355":
"Thirteen dhammas are named 'animitta-ceto-vimutti':vipassana, the 4 formless states, the four paths and the four fruitions.
In this connection, 'vipassanii removes the sign of permanence (nicca,-nimittam),
the sign of happiness (sukha-),
the sign of self (atta-),' so it is known as animitta.
The four formless states are known as animitta due to the non-existence of the sign of form (rcpa-)(in them).
The paths and fruitions are animitta due to the non-existence of defilements that make signs (nimitta-kGr6kanam) [in them.]
Nibbiina is just animitta.
But that is not a ceto-vimuttz,
so it is not talten [here as a fourteenth]."
This statement seems quite well founded in the Tipitaka.
The highest level animitta-ceto-vimuttz is suggested by a verse at
Thag.92 and Dhp.92; which says that an arahant's "field of action kocaro) is sloid and signless liberation (sz~6fiato anzmitto ca
vimokkho)." That there are lower-level animitta states is indicated
by A.III.397, which says that a monk may attain animitta-cetosam&dhi, but later return to lay life, due to keeping too much
company. Similarly, at A.IV.78-9, Brahrna-gods say of someone
who abides in animitta-ceto-samcidhi that, if he practices further,
he will attain the goal of the holy life, and describe him as still
having a remainder of grasping (sa-upcidisese).
I. The Formless States as Animitta
Some support is given to this notion in the Tipitaka. Firstly,
it should be noted that animitta-samcidhi is listed after,'%r said
to be entered after,13 the four formless states,14 and that the
animitta (and void and desireless) stimulations (phassas)are said
to impinge on a person emerging from the cessation-of-perception-and-feeling, which is entered from the fourth formless state
(M.I. 302). There is, therefore, a clear affinity between animittasam&dhi and the formless states. That the formless states are
themselves animitta, in a certain sense, is indicated by-Ps.II.36,
which describes the four formless attainments as "liberation as
emergence [from the object] externally (bahiddhcivutthcinovimokkho)," for nimittas are often said to be "external";15 indeed, p.
35 goes on to say that each of the four paths "emerges externally
from all signs (sabbanimittehi)."
An interesting passage linking the formless states to animitta
ones, and also indicating something of the nature of animitta
states, is at A.IV.426-8. Here Ananda describes:
"the attainment of a chance over the crowding obstacle [i.e.,the
five kamagunas]awakenedto by the Exalted One . . . for the bringing to an end of dukkha."16
Me explains this thus:
"There will be just the eye, but one will not experience those
visible shapes and that sense-sphere (te riipa ta6' cayatanam no
pa$isamvedissati);. . . there will be just the body, but one will not
experience those touchables and that sensf-sphere."PAL1BUDDHISM * 27
In answer to a question, he explains that a person in such a
state is conscious (safiiii),not unconscious, and that he is either
in one of the first three formless states, or in a sarnadhi which
he had previously described thus:
"Sister, this samadhi which is neither inclined towards (abhinato),
nor inclined away (apanato),in which the restraint is not controlled by conscious effort (sasankhara-), but has the habit of
self-denial, which from its release is steadfast (uimuttatta (hito),
from its steadfastness is content, from its contentment is not
troubled-this samadhi, Sister,is said by the Exalted One to have
gnosis as fruition (ari6~phalo)."~'
The description of this samiidhi matches that of one at S.l.28,
which very probably describes animitta-sumadhi. There the
Buddha is in much pain from an injury to his foot. As he bears
it mindfully, gods come to praise him, one saying, "See how his
is well-practiced in samadhi and released. It is not inclined
towards . . . (etc.) . . . self-denial." Now as D.II.lOO describes the
dying Buddha as entering animitta-samadhi to attain ease from
his pains, such a pain-transcending samadhi is very likely to be
animitta-sumidhitoo. This is confirmed by a passage at M.IIH.108,
which says of a person in animitta-ceto-samiidhi:
"He comprehends, 'This perceiving is empty of the plane of
no-thing . . . of the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. And there is only this that is not void (asufi6atam),that is
to say,the sixsensoryspheres (thesense-organs)that, conditioned
by life @vita-),are grounded on the body itself."'
Such a description would be applicable to the state at A.IV.426-
8, "There will be just the eye . . .," which is thus confirmed as
an animitta state.
We see, therefore, that animitta-samiidhi is closely associated
with the formless states, and that the latter are animitta in the
sense of having transcended external sensory "signs." In both
the formless states and in animitta-samiidhi, a person is not
hemmed in by the kiima-gunas, the strands of sensual-pleasure,
but is in a state where he is fully conscious (except in the fourth
formless state), with sense-organs operative, yet without experiencing any of the five sense-objects. In the animitta-samadhi,28 TIABS VOL. 9 NO. 1
however, the mind also transcends the (mental) objects of the
fornlless states, and is in a state that results in gnosis,
II. Vipassana as Animitta
This is probably described at S.IV.269, where Moggallana
describes how the Buddha had helped him with his training
"So I, friend, paying no attention to any sign (sabbanimittanam
amanasikara), entered on and dwelt in animitta-ceto-samadhi;but
dwelling in that dwelling, my consciousness was following after
signs (nimittEnusar~-vi6ncZnam) ."
This clearly refers to a relatively weak form of aiaimitta-cetosumadhi, for D.III.249 says that it is impossible for one who has
developed animitta-ceto-uimutti to have a consciousness that "follows after signs," for this ceto-vimutti is the "escape" (nis~arana~)
from all signs. The animitta-ceto-sumadhiof S.IV.269, then, is not
fully developed: indeed the Buddha is said to come to Moggallan; to urge him to make his cittn steadfast, one-pointed, and
composed in the ceto-sumadhi. Moggallana's state is probably a
form of vipassann-samadhi, as the commentary, SA.III.90,states.
Ps.II.63, describing the vipassanii stage of "understanding
of appearance as terror," says, "When he gives attention [to
phenomena] as impermanent, the sign appears to him as terror
(bhayato),"lswhile Ps.I.91 clearly seems to see this as the animitta
dwelling (vihara; as at S.IV.269, above):
Contemplating the sign as terror, from being resolved on the
animitta, he sees decay (vayam)each time he applies his conternplation; this is the animitta dwelling.lg
"Animitta-ceto-samndhi" and "animitta uihiira," then, seem to be
terms used in the Tipitaka for certain states involving vipassana
into impermanence. T h e state that exists at the interface of the
development of vipassana and the occurrence of the path (and
assigned to neither) is also an animitta state. This is "change of
lineage9'Qotrabhii), or "understanding of emergence and turn-PALI BUDDHISM 29
ing away from the external," of which Ps.HI.64 says:
When he gives attention as impermanent, his citta emerges from
the sign; his citta enters into (pahkhandati)the ~nimitta.'~
ps.1.66 adds that it "overcomes," for example, "the sign," and
also "the sign of all formations externally" (bahiddhasarikharanimittam), so as to "enter into," respectively, the animitta, and
III. The Paths (Maggas) and Fruitions (Phalas) as Animitta
That animitta states play an important role in the path to
nibbana is clearly seen at S.IV.360:
"And what, monks, is the path which goes to the unconditioned?
Void samadhi, animitta-sumadhi, desireless samadhi."
Indeed, we have seen above that a samadhi identifiable as
animitta is said to have ""gosis as fruition."" Ps.II.634, after
discussing the animitta states "understanding appearance as terror," and "change of lineage" (as above), says of path-knowlege,
"When he gives attention as impermanent, he is freed (vimuccati)
by the animitta liberation (vimokkhena). . . ." That is, states of
path-consciousness are animitta, and at this level (upwards),
animitta states are forms of "liberation." It is probably at this
stage, too (or at "change of lineage"), that an animitta state becomes known as a "gateway to liberation (vimokkha-mukha),"
where citta "enters into (-sampakkhandatGya) the animitta state
As regards the fruitions, Ps.II.42 says that the "desireless"
liberation is the four paths, four fruitions and nibbana. As the
"desireless" is otherwise treated parallel to the animitta, this implies that the same can be said of the animitta. A passage at
Ps.I.91 probably describes an animitta fruition:
When he contemplates the signs as terror by treating [their]
occurrence with equanimity, and adverting to stopping, nibbana,
as animitta, and enters upon attainment because he is resolvedupon the animitta,this is animitta attainment (samcpatti).
Indeed, the commentary on this sees such an anirnitta "attainment" as the "attainment of fruition."23 *
The Abhidhamma treats the paths and fruitions in a slightly
different way. The Dhammasarigani describes the first path as:
i) any of the four (or five) supramundane jhanas ($277 and
ii) any of the four (or five) supramundanejhGnas that are void
iii) that are desireless ($351-2) .2'
No mention is made of any animitta supramundane jhnna as
path. On the fruitions, however, it is said that for any of the
above three types of first path, their fruits will be a supramundane jhGna that is void, animitta, or desireless ($505-22).26
IV. Is There an Animitta Path?
The above conflict between the Abhidhamma and the suttas
(Ps.) as to whether there is an animitta path is taken up in the
commentarial literature. An examination of this discussion gives
an insight into some of the reasons why animitta states are known
as "animitta." As1.221 and Vism.668 discuss this and say that a
path can be known as "void," "animitta" or "desireless" for three
i) "From (way of) arrival (Ggamanato)": e.g., a path will be
"void" if the uipassanG that leads to it is "void9';the uipassanE
will be "void" if its dominant feature is insight into anatta,
seeing formations (sarikharas)as void (sufifia).
ii) "From its own special qualities (sagunato)": it is "void" as it is
empty of attachment, hatred and delusion; it is "animitta"
due to the absence of the "signs" of sense-objects, or the
"signs" of attachment, etc.; it is "desireless" due to the absence of desire as attachment, etc.
iii) "From its object (Grammanato)":a path takes nibbana as its
object, and this is void (as void of attachment, etc.)animitta
As1.221 explains that the method of the suttas gives a name to
a path by methods ii) and iii), but the Abhidhamma only does soPALHBUDDHISM 3 1
by method i), and anzmztta-vzpassanEcannot give its name to the
path it arrives at, for vzpassand knowledge is "nor literally (nzppa~zyGyato) anzmztta" (Vism.659).This is because, while it severs
$rsigns" of permanence, happiness and self, so as to be to some
,xtent "signless," still it "frequents (carati) sign-dhammas"
(~~1.223); "it is not opposed to the discernment of impermanence which has the signs of formations as its object" (As1.224),
and "there is no abandoning the sign of formations9'(Vism.659).
That is, inasmuch as vzpassand is taken up with the "sign" of
conditioned phenomena, it can never be wholly "signless," and
so cannot give its name to a "signless" path, In the Abhzdhamma
method. Nevertheless, there can still be anzmitta fruitions by this
method, as we have seen.
V. The Meaning of Nirnitta
Having mapped out the range of states known as "anzmitta,"
we can now investigate the nature and range of "nimittas,"before
ping on to examine the method of practice that leads beyond
them, and the nature of the anzmitta states to which such practices
While nzmitta has been translated as "sign" so far, we can
see its range of meaning, in general usage, as being:
i) A deliberately made sign, or "hint," as when the Buddha
made a broad nimztta about the possibility of his living on for
the rest of the aeon.27
ii) A natural sign or indication, not deliberately made as a sign.
At S.V.150, for example, in not noting what his master says
he likes, and reaches out for, etc., an inexperienced cook is
said not to take proper note of his master's nzmztta. One who
reads the mind of another, without going off what anyone
says, and without using the power of meditation for direct
thought-reading, is said to do so by means of a nzmitta, i.e.,a
behavioural sign.28Earthquakes are said to be the nzmittas,
or signs, of the four main events in a buddha's life,29while
ageing, sickness, death, and an ascetic are the four nimzttas,
or "indications" of the nature of life, leading to a bodhzsatta9s
iii) A specific type of natural sign-a sign of what is to come, a32 JIABS VOL. 9NO. 1
portent. Thus, "diviners of nimittas" examined the 32 marks
on the body of the newborn bodhi~atta,~' taking three of
them as the nimitta, or "sign" of longevity."' Similarly, we
read that "that is a prior sign (pubbenimittam)of the manifestation of Brahma, when the light arises, and the glory
iv) A marker, as when hillsides and rocks, etc. are taken as ni,mittas showing the boundaries of a monastic re~idence.~"
v) A (male or female) sexual organ (Vin.III.28,and 21)or sexualcharacteristic (Dhs.$633,644).
vi) Characteristic, as in balanimittani, "the characteristics of a
fool" (M.III.163),and as implied in "But you, householder,
have all the characteristic marks and signs (akara te lirig~ te
nimitta) of a ho~seholder,"~' and in the phrase "face-nimitta," which is what is said to be seen to be seen and pondered
in a mirror (M.I. 100).
vii) General appearance, or gestalt, as in the common passage,
"Having seen a visible shape with the eye, he does not seize
on the general appearance (nimittaggahi),he does not seize
on the detail (anubyari,ianaggcihi). . . ."36
viii) Ground, reason or cause, as when the Buddha says that he
does not behold the nimitta on which anyone could reprove
him for having asauas not yet destroyed.37 Similarly, at
M.III.157, a monk says that he does not know nimitta, the
reason, why, in his attempts to see gods, their light and visible form come to disappear.38
ix) Aim, as when an archer "takes a straight aim (nimittamujum
x) The object of concentration in samatha meditation: this is
well attested in the commentarial literature, e.g., at
Vism.125-6: in concentrating on an external device, suchas
a clay disc, the device itself is the "preliminary" nimitta; by
concentrating on it, the meditator comes to see a mental
image of it, even with closed eyes-this is the "learning"
nimitta: by his concentrating on this, it.appears in a purified,
abstracted form, the "counterpart" nimitta. In the latter two
cases, the nimitta can be seen as a "reflex image," which is
both a "sign" that the meditation is proceeding well and the
"target" of concentration (cf. sense ix, above). Such
sumadhi-nimittas are also alluded to in the szcttas. The "pre-liminary" sign is alluded to at Ps.II.38, which says, "Here,
someone gives attention to the nimitta of blue-black internally in himself," the commentary explaining this to mean a
person's hair. A reflex-image nimitta is referred to, e.g., at
A.IV.418, on a monk who is unskilled at entering on and
dwelling in the firstjhana:" he does not pursue, nor develop,
nor cultivate that ~~irnitta."~'
We see then that, in general usage, nimitta means a sign or
indication, which may be a hint, or an indication of contemporary or future thoughts, desires, events or features of life, or a
(boundary) marker, sexual or other characteristic, general appearance, ground or reason, aim, or a meditation object that is
either physical or a mental reflex image. It is a delimited object
of attention, that may, or should be taken as indicating something beyond itself or the general features of that to which it
VI. Types of "Signs"
T o investigate the range of "signs," a useful passage is that
at S.I.188 (and Thag.2246) where Ananda gives advice to a
monk affected by attachment (raga):
" i) Your citta is on fire because of a perversion of perception
ii) Avoid [any] pleasant (subham)nimitta, connected to attachment;
iii) Look on formationsas other,as dukkha,not as self,
iv) Quench this great attachment, do not burn again and again.
v) Develop the citta,one-pointed and well-concentrated,to the
[contemplationof]the unpleasant (asubhaya),
vi) Let your mindfulnessbe concerned with the body, be full of
vii) And develop the animitta,cast out the latent tendency to conceit (mananusayam);
viii) Then by the full understanding of conceit,you will wander
Firstly, this passage sees the mind as "burning" with attachment due to a "perversion of perception" that focusses on attach-34 JIABS VOL. 9 NO. 1
ment-linked "pleasant-nimittas."A.11.52 sees such "perversions"
(:?ipaLlri3;a)of perception (and of citta and view) as being seeing
permanence in the impermanent, dukkha in the not-dukkha, atta
in the anatts, and the pleasant in the unpleasant. This implies
that "pleasant-nimittas" are deceptive in their nature.
Secondly, the passage shows that "pleasant-nzmittas" are
clearly an important type of nimitta. We see, for example, at
A.I.3, that it is lack of systematic attention to a pleasant-nimitta
that leads to the arising and strengthening of sensual-desire
(kama-c~hando),~' and lack of systematicattention to the repulsive
(pa~i~ha-)-nimztta that leads to malevolence. Key forms of pleasant nimittas must be sexual ones, and indeed, "nimitta" can itself
mean a male or female sexual organ or characteristic, as seen
above. Related to the pleasant-nimittais the dear-nimitta, referred
to at S.IV.73 and Thag.98:
"Seeing a visible object, his mindfulness is confused, attending
to a sign of what is dear (piyanimittam).
With an attached (siiratto-) citta he experiences (it), and stays
clinging to it"
(this is then repeated for the other five sense-channels).
Attending to "signs" in things, and seeing them as pleasant or
dear, leads to an attached state of mind that clings to such signs.
Such attachment is broken, at §.I.188,above, by a process involving insight into the three marks, contemplation of the "unpleasant," and developing the animitta state.
Not only does attention to certain nimittas lead to attachment, but we also find that the commentaries see attachment,
etc., as themselves being nimittas. In discussing what nimittas are
absent in an animitta state, including nibbana, they refer to attachment-, hatred- and delusion-nzmittas."*
M.I.297 also says that attachment, etc., produce nimittas,
which MA.II.355 explains thus:
Just so, when a person's attachment does not arise, then one is
not able to know [him as] "ariyan" or "worlding." But when attachment arises, it arises as if making a nzmitta for perceiving "this
person, indeed, is one with attachments-just as a brand identifies
a calf as belonging to a certain herd.PALI BUDDHISM 35
That is, attachment, etc., betray what kind of a person someone
Another type of nimitta consists simply of sense-objects.This
is the meaning in the common phrase "this consciousnessinformed (sensitive) body and all external (bahiddha) nimittas"
(e.g., M.III.18), meaning the sentient organism and all it can
perceive.This meaning is also found at S . ~ l l . l O , where venerable
"And how is one a token-follower (niketasari)?One who is in
bondage of token-followingto the nimitta of visible shapes (rcpanimitta-), is called a 'token follower"' (parallelpassages follow on
the other five sense-objects).
commentaria1 passages on nimittas that are absent in anzmitta
states also refer to riipa-njmitta, e t ~ . ~ ~ MA.II.352, commenting
on the "all nimittas" that one in animitta-ceto-sumadhi does not
attend to (M.I.296-7), says, "all objects (arammanas),visual shape
etc.," though p. 353 qualifies this by saying that a person has
nibbana as object.
Another type of nimitta said by the commentaries to be
absent in anzmitta states comprises permanence-, happiness-,
A final type of nimitta is formations-nimitta: we have seen
that vipassana still frequents sarikhara-nimztta (p. 31), and that
"change of lineage" overcomes "the sign of all formations externally" (sec. 11).As to what the "nimittas of formations" are, this
is suggested by the Abhidharmakoia, which says that nirvana, ohject of animitta-samadhi, lacks various nimittas, including "the
three s a ~ s k ~ t a l a ~ a n a s : birth, duration-change and death."45
This alludes to a passage found at A.I.152, which describes the
"three constructed characteristics of the constructed" (sarikhatassa sarikhata-lakkhanani) as those of "arising" (uppado),
decay" (vayo), and "becoming otherwise of what persists
Several of these senses of nimitta are included in a passage
at Ps.II.68, which says:
What is the animitta liberation? Knowledge of contemplation of
impermanence is animitta liberation, since it liberates from the
nimitta as permanent.36 JIABS VOL. 9NO. i
This formula is then repeated, replacing "impermanence" and
"as permanent," respectively, by: "dukkha" and "as happy";
"a,nattcZm and "as self'; "disenchantment" and "as delight" (nan_
diy6); "detachment" (viraga) and "as attachment"; "stopping"
and "as origin" (samudayato); "relinquishment" and "as grasp.
ing"; "the animitta" and "all nimittas"; "the desireless" and "as
desire" (panidh,iya); "the void" and "as misinterpretation"
We have seen above that nimittas may be delusive: this would
apply to pleasant-, dear-, permanence-, happiness- and selfnimittas. These indicate to the mind features of the world that,
on examination, are seen to be empty. Attachment-, hatredand delusion nimittas would be nimittas in the sense of being
"characteristics,'l though we have also seen that they themselves
produce nimittas, i.e., give indications of the nature of a person.
Sense-object nimittas would be nimittas due to being the target
of perceptions, and are taken to indicate particular features of
the world. Certain such object-nimittas are those selected as
samadhi-nimittas in the jhanas, which are finally transcended in
the formless attainments, said to be animitta because they are
not tied down or limited by any sensory object. Formation-nimittas would be the "characteristics" that indicate the nature of
VII. Escape from the Bondage of Nimittas
The state of being entranced by nimittas is clearly portrayed,
in the suttas, as one full of danger. A graphic passage at S.IV.168
"It would be a good thing, monks, if the organ of sight were
seared with a red-hot iron pin, on fire, all ablaze, a glowing mass
of flames. Then there would be no seizing of the general appearance (nimztta) or details of visible shapes discernible by the eye.
Monks, consciousness, persisting, might persist in being tied by
the satisfaction in the general appearance or details."
To die in such a state, or in one where one is taken up with
objects of the other five senses, is said to lead to rebirth in hellPALI BUDDHISM 37
or as an animal.46The idea that entrancement by sense-object
.imittas brings a state of bondage and limitation is emphasised
,t M.III.225, where Venerable Maccana (cf. sec. VI) says:
'"If, your reverences, after a monk has seen a visual shape with
the eye, his consciousness runs after visual-shape-signs (rzlpanimittiinusari), is tied by satisfaction in visual-shape-signs, is bound
to satisfaction in visual-shape-signs, is fettered by the fetter of
satisfaction in visual-shape-signs, then the consciousness of what
is external (bahidclhiivififiiinam)is said 'to be confused and distracted" (and so on for the other five sense-channels).
To escape such bondage, the practitioner begins by "guarding
the senses." Rather than seizing on the general appearance or
details of a sense-object, it is said:
"If he dwells with the organ of sight uncontrolled, covetousness
and dejection, evil unskilled states of mind, might predominate.
So he fares along controlling it; he guards the organ of sight"
(and so on for the other five sense channel^).^'
Vism.20classifiesthis practice undersfla, and explains it thus:
"He does not seize on the general appearancen-he does not
seize on the sign of a woman or a man, or any sign that is a basis
for defilement such as the sign of the pleasant, etc.; he stops at
what is merely seen. "He does not seize on the details of itn-he
does not seize on any aspect classed as hand, foot, smile, laughter,
talk, looking ahead, looking aside, etc., . . . But he seizes only on
that which is really there.
In such a practice, the mind does not proliferate the mere objects
of the senses into "indications" of entrancing phenomena. Buddhaghosa's illustration here is that of a laughing woman who
ran past a monk: the monk saw no "woman," but, from noticing
the teeth, perceived only a collection of bones (and attained
arahantship). Buddhaghosa's explanation is reminiscent of a
passage at S.IV.72-3 (cf. Ud.8). There the Buddha gives a
"teaching in brief' to the ageing Malunkyaputta, apparently so
as to rid him of all desire, attachment and fondness for sense-objects, which lead to an attached mind clinging to a sign of whatis dear (see sec. VI, above). The teaching is:
". . . in the seen, there will be just the seen; in the heard, there
will be just the heard; in the sensed (mule),there will be just the
sensed;in the discerned (vinnate),there will bejust the discerned.?>
SA.II.383 comments here:
Visual consciousness sees in a visual shape merely a visual shape,
it does not see the own-nature (sabh5va) of permanence,
etc, . . . When a visual shape comes within range of visual consciousness,one does not become attached,hate, or become deluded,
The S.IV.72-3 teaching continues:
"From that (tato), you, Malunkyaputta, will not be by that (na
tena); as (yato) you will not be by that, hence (tato) you will not
be there (nu tattha); as you, Malunkyaputta, will not be there,
hence you will not be here (-idha),beyond (huram),nor in between
(-antarena) the two. This is the end of dukkha."
The meaning of this mysterious passage will be discussed below,
but here we may note that keeping what is seen to the merelyseen, etc., clearly involves more than ~ i l a . ~ ~ Part of sila, however,
would be controlling unskilful thoughts arising from attention
to certain nimittas. In doing this, a monk should attend, instead,
to another nimitta associated with what is skilled (M.I.119).This
leads on to the practice of samadhi, where the mind turns inward, away from "external" nimittas and toward the skilful
sumadhi-nirnitt~.~~ Finally, the practice of vipassan~ starts to cut
away all attachment to nimittas. S.IV.170, in a continuation of
the S.IV.168 passage quoted above, says:
"Let alone searing the faculty of sight with a red-hot iron
pin . . . what if I attend thus: impermanent is the eye, impermanent are visual shapes, impermanent is visual consciousness, impermanent is visual stimulation, impermanent are pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings arising from visual stimulation"
(etc., for the other five sense-channels).
Such a practice is said to lead to being disenchanted (nibbindati)PALI BUDDHISM 39
with the eye, etc., so as to be detached (virajati) and freed,
VIII The Nature of the Animitta
The last quoted passage shows the connection of insight
into impermanence with overcoming attachment to nimittas. A
similarpassage, at S.IV.50, describes a monk who sees "all nimzttas"-i.e., all the phenomena mentioned in S.IV.170, above-as
<'becomingother" (afifiato),such that he abandons av$ja. This
is significant, as Nettipakarana. 119 sees the asava of avqja as
abandoned by the animitta liberatiom5' As we have already seen
(p. 29), the Patisambhidamagga links insight into impermanence
with the animitta dwelling. On the three liberations, it says:
When one who has great resolution gives attention as impermanent, he acquires animitta liberation, When one who has great
tranquility gives attention as dukkha, he acquires desireless liberation. When one who has great wisdom gives attention as anatta,
he acquires void liberation (Ps.lI.58).
Attention to phenomena as impermanent is said to have the
When he gives attention as impermanent, he knows and sees the
nimztta as it really is. Hence "right seeing" is said. Thus, by inference from that, all formations are seen as impermanent. Herein,
doubt is abandoned.
The nature of this seeing of the nimitta as it really is is amplified
Now there are three gateways to liberation which lead to outlet
from the world: i) to the contemplationof allformationsas limited
and circumscribed (pariccheda-pariva~~umato) and to the entering
of citta into the animitta dhatu ( n i b b c ~ n a ) . ~ ~
Vism.657 comments here, "both as limited by rise and fall and
as circumscribed by them." Vism.668 adds to this by saying:40 JIABS VOL. 9 NO. 1
When the path is arrived at by abandoning the signs of permanence, lastiilgi~essand eternalness, by effecting the resolution of
the compact (ghana-uinzbbhogam katua) of formations through the
means of contemplation of impermanence, then it is called
anzmitta [by the sutta method].
Insight into impermanence, then, leads to animitta states by resolving the "solid," "lasting" signs presented by the senses into
a complex of components that have weak sign-value to the grasping mind and that themselves come and go so fast as to be
insignificant and unworthy of attention. ASPs.II.36 says, in the
animitta liberation, one "construes" (karoti)no sign in what one
contemplates. In such a state, the mind can easily turn towards
that which is beyond all signs, nibbana. As M.I.296 says:
'There are two conditions, your reverence, for the attainment
of the anzrnitta-ceto-vimuttz:paying no attention to any nimitta, and
paying attention to the animitta d h a t ~ . " ~ ~
In the Nissiiya-uagga of the Ariguttara Nikiiya, A.V.318-26,
there are several passages that give us a further insight into
animitta states. A number of descriptions of samadhis are given,
such that the sarnadhis seem to be identical, and to be animitta
states. The commentary sees them as "attainment of fruition"
(phala-samiipatti),but as the fruitions are, in one aspect, animitta,
this allows that the sarnadhis are animitta in nature.j3
- At A.V.321-2, ~ n a n d asks the Buddha:
"May it be, venerable sir, that a monk's acquiring of samiidhi
may be of such a sort that, though he does not attend to eye or
visible shapes . . . to body or touchables, though he does not attend to solidity (pathavzm),cohesion, heat or motion; to the sphere
of infinite space, or of infinite consciousness, or of nothingness,
or of neither-perception-nor-non-perception; though he does
not attend to this world, or a world beyond; though whatever is
seen, heard, sensed, discerned, attained, sought after, thought
round by mind (manasa)-to (all) that he does not attend, and
yet he does attend?"
To this, the Buddha replies (p.322) that there is such a samiidhi,
as follows:"Herein, Ananda, a monk attends thus: this is the real, this is
the excellent, that is to say, the calming of all formations, the
renunciation of all substrate, the destruction of craving, detachment (vireo),stopping (nzrodho),nibbana."
This description seems a perfect match to the M.I.296 description of animitta-ceto-vimutti:not attending to a variety of worldly
nimitta~,and attending to nibbiina, the animitta. It also tallies
with the Ps.I.66description (above,p. 29) of "change of lineage,"
which is said to overcome "the sign of formations externally,"
and to "enter into stopping, nibbiina."j4
The attention to ". . . detachment, stopping, nibbiina" is an
interesting feature of the above passage. At A.V.110, one who
"This is the real . . . detachment, nibbana," is said
to have viraga-safifiii, and one who contemplates "This is the
real . . . stopping, nibbana," is said to have nirodha-safi,;;iE.The
first of these perceptions is among five perceptions that "bring
uimutti to maturity" (D.III.243),and both are among six perceptions th.at are "part of knowledge" (vijjii-bhagiya) (A.III.334).
Likewise, at S.V.129-34, they are among a variety of perceptions
that, if "developed and made much of," lead to one of the two
fruits: the gnosis of the arahant, or the state of non-returning.55
Such perceptions are also alluded to in the Ps.II.68 description
of animitta liberation (p. 29, above). There, "knowledge of contemplation of stopping is animitta liberation, since it liberates
from the sign as origin (samudayato)"and "knowledge of contemplation of detachment is animitta liberation, since it liberates
from the sign as attachment (ragato)."These passages suggest
that insight into impermanence and into the constant cessation
of specific phenomena undermine perceiving the sign of the
arising of phenomena, to which the mind is usually attached,
and open out into the perception of the cessation of the rise
and fall of phenomena, nibbana.
The series of objects not attended to at A.V.321-2 corresponds to that at M.III.104 ff., where a monk is said to be progressively "attending to the perception9' of human beings, a
village, the forest, earth, each of the four formless states, and
animitta-samiidhi, with each of the perceptions being "empty"
(sufino)of the previous ones. Human beings, a village, and the
forest correspond to the five sense-objects and senses, at42 JIABS VOL. 9NO. 1
A.V.321-2; earth, very probably as a meditation "device," torresponds to the first of the four elements; the four formless
states are found in both passages, and the animitta-samadhistands
out beyond all these.56 Both passages seem to describe the
animitta state as one reached by means of a progressive emptying,
in which the signs of both gross and subtle phenomena are
Another Nissaya-vagga passage, at A.V.318-9 (cf. ~ . ' i - 8 ) ~
reinforces this impression. Here, Ananda asks the Buddha:
"May it be, venerable sir, that a monk's acquiring of samadhi is
of such a sort that in solidity he is not percipient of solidity
each of the items following solidity at A.V.321-21 . . . and yet he
is percipient (sannz)?"
The Buddha replies that there is such a samadhi, where a monk
is "percipient thus (evam-safi5i):this is the real . . . detachment,
stopping, nibbana." Such a samadhi must surely be the same as
that at A.V.321-2, and is also reminiscent of the samadhi at
A.IV.426-8, which we have argued (p. 26) to be an animitta
samadhi. The description of the samadhi is indeed paradoxical.
It is not so much that a person just does not attend to solidity,
etc., but that in solidity, no solidity is perceived, as AA.V.2 says
(on A.V.7-8), "having made solidity his object (6rammanam),he
would not be percipient with the arisen perception 'solidity."'
Solidity is perceived, as it were, as being empty of "solidity":
safifia-"perception," "cognition," "recognition," or "interpretation," that which classifies or labels experience (correctly or in-
~orrectly)~~--does not latch onto a "sign" as a basis for seeing
solidity as solidity. Rather, the mind attends to or perceives
nibbana, the signless; not attending to signs of solidity etc., it
"sees through" solidity, etc., and focusses on that which is signless.
Another Nissaya-vagga passage illustrates this process. At
A.V.324-6, the Buddha describes a monk who "meditates"
(jhayati) in such a way that his meditation is not dependent
(nissciya) on any of the phenomena listed at p. 3 18-9, and yet
he does meditate. T h e parallel between the passages suggests we
are again dealing with animitta-samadhi.At the passage in question, however, the Buddha explains (p. 325-6) the type of meditation by saying:". . . for the goodly thoroughbred of men, in solidity, the perception of solidity is ~ibhzita."~~
"VibhGta" can mean "made clear" or "destroyed," with AA.V.80
preferring the former:
arisen perception of four-fold or five-foldjhiina, with solidity as
object, is vibhzita, unconcealed (pakata) . . . her% it is born vibhiita
from the state of being seen as anicca-dukkha-anattaby means of
The samadhi, however, is not seen only as vipassana, which has
formations as object, but as going further, too:
he meditates on what is made clear (vibhiitam),he meditates with
fruition-attainment with nibbana as object.
The nature of the animitta apprehension of nibbana is
suggeste'dby a passage at A.V.8-9. Here, ~ n a n d a asks Sgriputta
the same question as he puts to the Buddha at p. 318-1 9 (above).
In reply, Sariputta says that he had previously attained such a
samadhi, in which he was still percipient:
"'the stopping of becoming (bhava-nirodho) [is] nibbana, the stopping of becoming [is] nibbana,' indeed to me, your reverence,
one perception arose, and another ceased (nzrujhati).Just as,
your reverence, from a burning splinter fire, one spark arises,
another spark ceases . . . ."59
That is, in animitta-sumadhi,brought about by insight into impermanence, as we have seen, even the perception of impermanence and of nibbana as the stopping of the impermanent flow
of phenomena (be~oming)~' is experienced as impermanent.
When the mind thoroughly contemplates any item of becoming, such as solidity, as impermanent, it overcomes the sign
of permanence, etc., so as to perceive merely a stream of changing sense-objects not "indicative" of anything but themselves.
This is the stage of vipassan6, which still has the sign of formations, of visible objects, etc., as its object. In the paths and fruitions, however, the mind does not even perceive the sign of
sense-objects. It no longer registers what has been the object of44 JIABS VOL. 9 NO.I
conteniplation-it sees "through" these, for it has SO developed
the perception of perpetual (arisingand) cessation, that it naturally turns towards nibbiina, the cessation of the very process of
arising and ceasing. The perception of phenomena as impermanent, liable to cessation (nzrodha-dhammas; M.III.108), leads on
to the perception of nibbana: the stopping (nirodha) of such a
The anzmztta-samcidhi, as comprised of a flux of perceptions
(A.V.8-9), is clearly itself impermanent. As M.III.108 says, it is
as constructed (abhisamkhato) and thought o u t . . . (it is) impermanent and liable to cessation.
One who knows this goes beyond animitta-samcidhi and attains
arahantship. For reasons that cannot be gone into here, I would
argue, on the basis of the early Pali texts (e.g., the four Nikciyas),
that the experience of arahantship transcends other animitta
states, as it has no object, not even the animitta nibbana. Rather,
it is nibbana, in the form of an objectless (anGrammana),unsupported (appatitthita), non-manifestive (anidassana), infinite
(ananta), unconstructed (asarikhata)and stopped (niruddha)consciousness. In the timeless experience of arahantship, vifi+icina,
schooled so as not to be taken in by nimittas and wordly objects,
does not even take nibbana as object, but, objectless, transcends
conditions and is the un~onditioned.~'
IX. The Animitta and Conceit
S.I.188, quoted above, shows an association between the
animitta and the destruction of conceit: '" ..and develop the
animitta, cast out the latent tendency to conceit." This is due to
the fact that the animitta-samcidhi grows out of strong insight
into impermanence, and:
"the perception of impermanence is to be developed -for the
uprooting of the 'I am' conceit (asmimano).Meghiya, of one who
is percipient of impermanence,the perception of anatta endures;
one who is percipient of anatta wins the uprooting of the 'I am'
conceit, nibbana, even in this life."62PALI BUDDHISM 45
Insight into impermanence must undermine the ability to "conceive" of things in relation to ego-ideas, using them as ego-
By whatever they conceive it, it becomes otherwise from that;
and that becomes false (musa)for him, a geurile, delusive (mosa-)
dhamma. Nibbana is the undelusive dhamma . . . (Sn.7E17-8).~~
Knowing the swiftly changing nature of all nimittas, one conceives nothing on them, and turns from them as false, to nibbana
as the real. S.IV.72-3, quoted above, sec. VII, describes the state
of one who does not conceive of phenomena as "this thing" or
"that thing" in realtion to one's "self." SA.II.384 comments:
"by that" . . . you will not be impassioned by that (tena) attachment. . . . "you will not be there" . . . in the seen, heard, sensed
or discerned, you will not be bound, adhering and fuied.
As Ud.A.92 adds, on a parallel passage
you will not be adhering or fixed in the seen, heard, sensed or
discerned by craving, conceit and views, "this is mine, this I am,
this is my self."
X.The Animitta, Void, and Desireless liberation,^
The connection of the animitta to the uprooting of conceit
and the understanding of anatta shows that the animitta state is
closely associated with the "void" state,which comes from insight
into phenomena as void of "self' (e.g., M.I.297). We see at
When one who has great resolution gives attention as impermanent, the animitta liberation is dominant in him. In development,
two liberations (the void and desireless) follow upon it, are conascent conditions . . . .
At any one time, only one of the three liberations is dominant
(Ps.II.65),but the others are there in a secondary sense for, in
the animitta liberation for example, one has no desire for the46 JIABS VOE. 9 NO. 1
signs one has been liberated from, and is void of such desire
(Ps.II.66). Indeed, we have seen how one in animitta-sumadhi
perceives sense-objects as being "empty" of themselves.
M.I.297-8 also explains that while the void and signiess cetovimuttis are in one sense different-as reflection on phenomena
as void of self, and as not attending to any signs-in another
sense they are the same. This is because attachment, hatred and
delusion are each "productive of signs,"64and an arahant has
destroyed these three, so that:
"To the extent that ceto-uirnuttis are animitta, unshakeable (akuppa)
ceto-uimutti is shown to be their chief, for that unshakeable cetouimutti is void (sufina) of attachment, hatred and delusion."
This implies that "unshakeable ceto-vimutti"-described at
M.1.204-5 as the goal of the holy life, and at k/IA.I1[.354as
arahatta-jbhala-ceto-vimutti- is both the highest void ceto-vimutti
and the highest animitta-ceto-vimutti.
In conclusion, let us draw together the strands of this survey.
In a person's normal state, it is often the case that consciousness
runs after, follows, clings to and is tied to "signs," that is, to
"external" sensory objects that are taken as more than simple
phenomena, but as indicating "people" and "things" in the world
that are experienced as entrancing. The mind experiences them
as "signs" with pleasant, sensuous, annoying, or dear associations. It also misperceives them so as to see permanence, happiness and I-ness where there is none. In this way, the "signs" or
characteristics of attachment, hatred and delusion arise in the
mind, and these "signs" give rise to more visible behavioural
"signs" indicating the nature of the person.
The way beyond this trapped state of consciousness involves
the practice of "guarding the senses": of mindfully monitoring
the input of the senses so that there is no seizing on such misleading troublesome sensory indications, but a viewing of senseobjects as simply sense-objects. On the other hand, there may
be the development of awareness of more salutory "signs," suchPALI BUDDHISM 47
as that of the unpleasant, and usually ignored aspects of bodily
The development of inward states of calm concentration are also important. These turn the mind away from the
distraction of "external" signs and focus on some chosen salutary
"sign," which might concern some aspect of the foulness of the
body, as referred to above, or one of the many other objects of
samatha meditation, such as the breath. In such meditations, the
mind gets taken-up with a single, simple "sign," using it as a
vehicle for developing profound levels of calm and purity, the
fourjhanas. From the fourth jhana, a meditator can refine the
process even further,by entering the four formless attainments.
These go beyond any external sensory "sign" and, in this respect,
are "signless." While they are still concerned with mental "signs,"
they transcend the five sense-objects and so provide the mind
with no such "sign" to latch on to, not even the subtle "sign"
used in thejhanas. Beyond the fourth formless state, moreover,
lie states that are "signless" in a fuller sense, but cannot be
entered unless uipassanii, or insight meditation, has been developed.
Insight into impermanence is the basis for a series of "signless" samadhis, insight into suffering is the basis of a series of
"desireless" samadhis, and insight into non-self is the basis for
a series of "void" samadhis. Any level of insight into impermanence is known as "signless," as it undermines or removes the
misperception that seizes on delusive "signs" of permanence;
the corresponding insights into suffering and non-self also remove the "signs9'of happiness and self. Insight is not considered
"signless" according to the Abhidhamma method, however, as it
still contemplates the signs of sensory objects and of conditioned
phenomena in general; it is aware of such phenomena and of
their rise and fall. As insight reaches a high pitch, "change of
lineage" occurs, which turns the mind away from conditioned
phenomena towards the unconditioned, the signless nibbana.
The first apprehension of this, in the path-moment of streamentry, is known as a "signless liberation" if it is attained on the
basis of strong insight into impermanence. Indeed, any of the
four paths and fruitions may be characterised as "signless" states
on this basis (though the Abhidhamma has some terminological
reservations, as we have seen). All such paths and fruitions are
free of the signs of sense-objects or of conditioned phenomena,48 JIABS VOL. 9NO. 1
and are free of the "signs" of attachment, hatred and delusion,
and the behavioural signs these produce.
Insight into impermanence leads to such signless liberations
in the following way. As is well known, in insight meditation
the practitioner firit contemplates the rising and falling of
phenomena, and then focusses simply on their falling away, or
cessation: "he sees decay each time he applies his contemplationn
(p. 28, above). This leads to the "right seeing" of signs, so that
the perception of them is "made clear" (p. 43). This is because
he is aware of the limited, circumscribed nature of fleeting sensory phenomena; because he does not see compacted "thingsn
and "people," but only such ephemeral phenomena. In this way,
the mind comes to see such phenomena as wholly insignificant;
it construes no "signs" in them. Safifia, perception, does not
latch on to any "sign" such as that of "solidity"; in solidity, no
"solidity" is perceived. The emphemeral nature of conditioned
phenomena means that the mind progressively becomes empty
of any perception of them: all, even "solidity," are seen as empty
of any solid reality. In such a state, the mind can pass beyond
its previous terror at constant decay, to have total equanimity
at conditioned phenomena; it is "neither inclined towards nor
inclined away" (p. 27, above). Setting aside ignorance (ignoreance), it can "see through" conditioned phenomena so as to
attend to the unconditioned: the signless nibbana, which is devoid of graspable "signs." In the four paths and the first three
fruitions, consciousness takes signlessnibbana as its object, while
in the fruition of arahantship, I contend,consciousness (vififitina)
has no object, not even a signless one, but is nibbana.
By their insight into impermanence, the signless liberations
not only undermine ignorance, but also conceit, for they dissolve
away any apparently solid basis for I-ness into an insignificant,
ephemeral flux, "beyond" which lies the unconditioned, which
offers no "signs" as a basis for I-ness. The signless liberations
are also closely related to the "void" and "desireless" ones, for
they perceive phenomena as empty of themselves, are empty
of attachment, etc., and also undercut desire for signs.PALI BUDDHISM
* Given at the tenth Symposium on Indian Religions, Oxford, April
1. But see, e.g., Ps.11.35 ff., Vism.657-9, 668-9, Asl.2214; E. Conze
Buddhist Thought in India, London, 1962, p. 61-7; P. Vajiranana hlahathera,
Buddhist iMeditation in Theory and Practice, Buddhist Missionary Society, Kuala
Lumpur, 1975, ch. 29.
2, E.g., Vin.III.92-3, A.III.397, S.IV.360.
3. E.g., M.I.297 ff., D.III.249.
4. E.g., Vin.III.92-3, Ps.II.35 ff., Thag.92 (=Dhp.92).
5. Ps.II.48 ff. and 69.
6. Ps.I.91 and 65.
7. Vin.III.92-3, Ps.I.9I.
10. Ps.II.48. .
11. Commentary on M.I.296 ff.
12. E.g., S.V.269.
14. The "sphere of infinite space," the "sphere of infinite consciousness,"
the "sphere of nothingness," and the "sphere of neither-perception-nor-nonperception." These are 4 mystical states entered after the four jhdnas, or
tranquil meditations. All eight states are part of the path of samatha, or "calm"
meditation. "Calm" meditation on its own cannot lead to nirvana, for which
nipassand, or "insight" meditation is also needed.
15. E.g., M.III.225, M.III.18, and cf. Ps.II.64 and 66.
16. That the "crowding obstacle" is the five kamagunas, or "strands of
sensual pleasure," can be seen from A,IV.449 and from the commentary on
this A.IV.426-8 passage.
17. In answer to the question "kimphalo." AA.IV.198 seems to construe
"a66ciphalo" as "is the fruition of anna," for it sees the samadhi itself as aphala,
explaining it as arahatta-phala-samadhi, the samadhi that is the fruition of
arahantship. The Critical Pali Dictiona~,however, takes "annaphalo" here as
meaning "resulting in perfect knowlege," seeing "phalo" as an adjective.
18. "When he gives attention [to phenomena] as suffering, occurrence
(pavattam)appears to him as terror. When he gives attention [to phenomena]
as non-self, the sign and occurrence appear to him as terror."
19. Parallel passages are then given with "desire" (panidhim),then "misinterpretation" (abhiniuesam),for "sign," and with "the desireless," then "the
void," for "the animitta."
20. And giving attention as suffering and non-self are said, respectively,
to lead to citta emerging from "occurrence" (pavatti),and "the sign and occurrence," so as to enter, respectively, into "non-occurrence" and nirodha-ntbbdnadhatu.
21. And cf. S.III.93, which states "animitta-sumadhi, developed and made
much of, is of great fruit (mahEpphalo),"50 JIABS VOL. 9NO. I
22. Cf. L'Abhidharmakos'a, transl. L. de La Vallee Poussin, V.186-7
(ch.VI11, 25 a-b), which sees the animitta-sumidhi (and the desireless and void
ones) as being either pure and mundane, or immaculate, without cankers
(an&raua) and supramundane, a uimo~amukha.
23. It may be, then, that an "animitta-attainment" is always at the level
of fruition, though Miln. 333 lists animitta-phnla-samCpatti (and the attainments
of the desireless and void fruitions) separately from the fruitions of streamentry, once-returning, non-returning and arahantship. Moreover, Ps.I.91 not
only describes the animitta (and the desireless and void) "dwelling" (see above),
and "attainment," but also the animitta (and desireless and void) "dwelling-attainment," described by combining the descriptions of the animitta "dwelling"
and "attainment." It is hard to say what this is, though it may possibly be what
Ps.I.65 refers to when it lists the four paths and four fruitions in ascending
order of spiritual development, and then lists "void-dwelling" and "animitta.
dwelling" (but not "desireless-dwelling," cf. Thag.92, above, p.25).
24. As1.214 sees such jhanas as "of one momentary flash of consciousness."
25. The other three paths have a more compressed treatment ( 5 3624),
but the implication is that they are to be dealt with in a parallel way.
26. The other three fruitions have a more compressed treatment ( Q 553),
but the implication is that they are to be treated in a parallel way.
27. Vin.II.289, D.II.103, S.V.259, A.IV.309, Ud.62, and cf. Vibh.352-3
definition of "signifying" (nemittakatC).
28. A.I.170-1; cf. D.III.1034 and Ps.II.227.
29. Bv.8, v.36.
30. Bv.18, v.28.
31. D.III.158 and 171, cf. D.I.9.
32. D.III.151, and cf. Sn.575: "life" (jiuitam) is animitta-without a sign
as to its length.
33. D.I.220; cf. D.I.209 and 225.
34. Vin.I.106; cf. A.III.llO.
35. M.I.360; cf. D.II.62.
936. E.g., M.I.180, D.I.70.
37. PYI.I.72;cf. A.II.9 and A.IV.83.
38. And at A.I.82, nimitta is used as if it were parallel in meaning to
nidiina, hetu and paccaya.
39. Andcf.Vibh.193, Ps.I.164; M.III.161;A.III.422;A.I.256,A.III.319
40. Lines ii. and v. are found at Sn.341; lines vii.-viii. are found at Sn.342
and Thig.21; line v. is the second half of Thig.20; line vi. is similar to the
first half of Thig.20; lin'es vii. and v. are reminiscent of Thig. 105; and line ii.
is reminiscent of M.I.26.
41. Cf. the "crowding obstacle" of the strands of sensual pleasure, note
42. DA.1036, AA.III.347, Vism.668 (see above p. 30); on nibbanaMA.II.367, Dhp.A. 172 (on Dhp.92).
43. DA.1036, AA.III.347, Vism.668 (see above p. 30),and cf. ~'~bhidharmakoia V.185 (ch. VIII, 24a).PALI BUDDHISM
44. AA.III.347, MA.II.355, As1.223 (see above, p. 31).
45. L'AbhidharmakoSa V.185 (ch. VIII, 24a).
45. In the case of the mental "sense-channel," there is no talk in terms
47. E.g., M.I.180, D.I.70.
45. At Ud.8, the recipient of this teaching, Bahiya, soon reaches
arahantship by its practice.
49. Cf. Thag.1105 and S.V.156.
50. The "influxes" (dsaua)of sensual desire (kcma)and becoming (bhava)
are seen as abandoned by the "desireless" liberation, and that of views (ditthi)
by the "void" liberation.
51. ii) and iii) deal with how citta enters into the "desireless" dhatu, and
the "void" dhatu.
52. MA.II.352 explains the animitta-dhdtu as nibbana.
53. AA.V.80 (on A.V.325-6), and cf. AA.V.2-3 (on A.V.7-9).
54. Cf. L'AbhidharmakoSa V.185 (ch. VIII, 24a), which describes the
animitta-sam6dhias "the contemplation in which the ascetic considers nirodha."
55. Cf. M.I.435-6.
56. The rest of the items at A.V.321-2 seem to be of a summarising
57. See, e.g., S.III.87, D.I.93, Asl.110 and Vism.462.
58. At A.I.287-91, and A.IV.400, an arahant is said to be a "goodly
thoroughbred of men," and at A.I.77 and A.II.114-5, "goodly thoroughbred"
horses are likened to arahants. But at A.I.244-6, such a horse is compared
to any ariyan person, such as a stream-enterer. Note that at S.I.28,the Buddha
is said to be a thoroughbred because he mindfully endures pain--cf. p. 27.
59. Cf. at S.II.119, the non-arahant Narada reports that he has seen, as
it really is, by wisdom: "the stopping of becoming (is) nibbarla."
60. "Becoming" is clearly a term used to cover "solidity," etc.-all condition phenomena. This is illustrated by S.IV.234, on one who "conceives"
(manriati)of the eighteen dhctus and related forms of stimulation and feeling:
he is said to "delight in becoming."
61. The arahant's consciousness cannot be in this state all the time. For
arguments to back u p this set of contentions, see my Ph.D. thesis, "The Concept
of the Person in P2li Buddhist Literature," Lancaster, 1981, chs. 10-11. See
also my "Consciousness and Nibbana in the Pali Suttas,"Journal of Studies in
Mysticism (now incorporated in Religious Traditions), La Trobe University, Vol.
2, no. 2, Spring 1979, p. 70-85. In this article, I made a preliminary investigation of the Nissaya-vagga passages; not realizing that the samadhi referred
to must be animitta-samddhi,I suggested that it was itself objectless, and comprised the "perception" of nibbana simply in the sense of the "seeing-through"
of empty conditioned phenomena. This misconception is also implicit in my
paper, "The Nature of the Taghsgata," in Buddhist Studies - Ancient and Modern,
ed. P. Denwood and A. Piatigorsky, Curzon Press, London, 1983. A revised
version of the former article is to be published, as "Consciousness Mysticism
in Early Buddhism," in TheiMysticand the Symbol-Studies in Indian and Comparative Religious Thought, ed. Karel Werner.62. A.IV.358, cf. S.II.155.
63. Cf. S.IV.170, p. 39: all nimittas are "becoming other."
64. See above, p. 34.
Abbreviations (all references are to Pali Text Society editions)
A. = Anguttara-nikiya
, = Anguttara-nikiya-a~hakathd
Asl. = Atthasalini
D. = Digha-nikiya
DA. = Digha-nikiya-at?hakathi
Dhp. = Dhammapada
Dhs. = Dhammasangani
M. = iMajjhima-nikiya
M A . = iMajjhima-nikiya-~(thakathi
Miln. = Milindapa5ha
Ps. = Pa?i.sambhidimagga
S. = Samyutta-nikiya
S h . = Samyutta-nikciya-atthahthi
Thag. = Theragithi
Thig. = Therigithi
Ud. = Udcina
Ud.A. = Udana-atthakathi
Vibh. = Vibhanga
Vin. = Vinaya
Vism. = Visuddhimagga