Anupada Sutta – Ending Fabrications One After Another

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Introduction

This introduction is common to the following suttas on Jhana:  Aṭṭhakanāgara Sutta, Anupada Sutta, Rahogata Sutta, Jhana Sutta, Jambālī Sutta, and the  Samādhaṅga Sutta. They are all linked here: Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhana

Jhana means meditative absorption. The Buddha teaches, in a general way,  four levels of meditative absorption, or deepening concentration. As can be seen here, these four levels are not in a practical sense strictly defined. The development of concentration can and should be mindfully observed as concentration increases.

The four levels of Jhana are impermanent and are developed from engaging in Shamatha-Vipassana meditation as taught by the Buddha and so should not be viewed as meditative achievement. Shamatha-Vipassana meditation is not another opportunity for fabricating experience through continued confusion or continued desire encouraged by misguided instruction. [1]

Free of grasping after, these levels of meditative absorption are simply the recognition that Shamatha-Vipassana meditation is actually developing concentration while avoiding creating further distraction. This aspect of Right View then remains free of conceit – I-making –  that would otherwise create frustration and distraction within Shamatha-Vipassana meditation practice.

The sequencing of the additional descriptions of non-physical meditative experience that follows the descriptions of four levels of Jhana should not be seen as “advanced” levels of meditation as is commonly presented, and certainly not as levels of meditative achievement. These fabricated non-physical meditation experiences were part of the doctrines of Siddartha Gotama’s early teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. [2,3]

Having mastered them, he immediately dismissed them as they “do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, or to unbinding. This (method) only seeks to establish a reappearance in the dimension of nothingness” (or in the dimensions of neither perception nor non-perception, or infinite space, or infinite consciousness, or any other fabricated non-physical self-reference.)

This is a realization Siddartha developed prior to his awakening. As such, it could have been taught to simply avoid any fabricated non-physical self-reference. One of the break-throughs of understanding Siddartha had was insight into the powerful but very subtle strategies that a mind rooted in ignorance will develop and cling to in order to continue ignorance. [4]

With profound wisdom, the Buddha realized the attraction of continuing self-establishment in fabricated non-physical realms. He understood that the most effective method of understanding the foolishness of these doctrines that encouraged continued I-making would be to explain these common experiences in the context of Shamatha-Vipassana meditation. In this way, these non-physical fabrications, when seen in the proper context, are simply ordinary fabrications to be recognized and abandoned.

The Buddha typically told his followers to “Go find the root of a tree or an empty hut and do Jhana.” This is instruction on establishing seclusion as the proper environment for Shamatha-Vipassana meditation leading to the development of ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption. The singular meditation method the Buddha taught for deepening concentration is through Shamatha-Vipassana meditation. The Shamatha-Vipassana meditation method is established in the Satipatthana Sutta, the primary sutta on Four Foundations Of Mindfulness. [5]

It is the initial section of the Satipatthana Sutta that is instruction for calming the mind by becoming mindful of the breath in the body. This is the first foundation of mindfulness that begins the process of Jhana – of developing concentration. The second and third foundations of mindfulness continue the establishment of concentration by ending distractions arising from reacting to, or clinging to feelings and thoughts as they arise and pass away, always returning mindfulness to the breath. This instruction relates directly to the levels of Jhana. Avoiding the distraction that would arise by reacting to feelings and thoughts, the joy of seclusion and deepening concentration is recognized.

As concentration increases, directed thought and evaluation is abandoned and a pleasant abiding is established which relates to the fourth foundation of mindfulness – being at peace with the present quality of mind.

(The remaining sections of the Satipatthana Sutta then shows how to apply ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption to other significant themes of the Dhamma. The entire Satipatthana Sutta is not meant as meditation instruction which becomes obvious when seen in the proper context of the Buddha’s Dhamma)

The Buddha’s Dhamma reunites the mind and body and overcomes the self-identification seeking to establish a “self” in fabricated magical, mystical, and imaginary planes of physical non-existence.

(I use the term physical non-existence as it accurately depicts the grasping present in ascetic practices that hope to free the mind from the body using extreme self-denial. These were practices Siddartha Gotama mastered and abandoned as ‘painful distracting, ignoble, and not leading to knowledge, wisdom, or release.’) [3]

As with all of the Buddha’s teachings, this sutta must be seen within the over-arching context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths to be useful and practically applicable. The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that ignorance of Four Noble Truths is the initiating condition that results in fabricating views of ordinary experience resulting in all manner of distraction, confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences. [6,7]

When seen in the over-arching context of the Buddha’s Dhamma and in the context of engaging in Shamatha-Vipassana meditation solely for deepening concentration, grasping after self-establishment in imaginary and fabricated mind-states is seen clearly as intentional distraction used to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

As concentration increases refined mindfulness is established supporting the integration of the Eightfold Path developing a profound understanding of Three Marks Of existence. [8,9]

The Anupada Sutta is similar to the Anapanasati Sutta. [10] The Anapanasati Sutta, much broader in scope, uses awakened monks as examples of a fully integrated Eightfold Path resting in Right Meditation. Here the Buddha uses one of his chief disciple’s skillful development of Jhana as an example for those in attendance for this sutta. Sariputta’s search for awakening was very similar to Siddartha Gotama’s. They had a few common teachers and shared practices common at the time. Sariputta, learning the Dhamma from the Buddha, very quickly integrated Shamatha-Vipassana meditation and the entire Eightfold Path and awakened. [11]

Rapture is a word often used in the Dhamma to describe a profoundly joyful engagement with the Dhamma.

Directed Thought has Right Intention as its motivating factor – to recognize and abandon craving and clinging.

Evaluation here refers to the value placed on an experience as being either pleasurable or painful.

Samsara is the continued state of ignorance prone to confused, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment.

This is another sutta on Jhana that is remarkable for the depth of underlying Dhamma.

My comments below are in italics.

Anupada Sutta – Ending Fabrications One After Another

Majjhima Nikaya 111

On one occasion the Buddha was staying in Savatthi, in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. He addressed those gathered:

“Friends, Venerable Sariputta is wise. Sariputta is of great, deep, and penetrating discernment. For two weeks Sariputta, secluded from sensuality and from unskillful mental qualities gained profound insight into unskillful mental qualities one after another.

“Sariputta entered and remained in the first Jhana. This first Jhana is characterized by rapture born of seclusion. It is accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. The qualities present in the first Jhana – directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, concentration, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention were recognized one after another.

The Buddha referenced Jhana in many suttas. [12] The Anupada Sutta is the most extensive description of the qualities present in each level of Jhana. The context of this sutta is not meant to be instruction for meditation. The Buddha’s teachings on Jhana emphasize the development of ever-deepening concentration in order to recognize the intended benefit of Shamatha-Vipassana meditation – increasing concentration – and encourage the continued singular focus of Right Meditation.

“Sariputta, wise, of great, deep, and penetrating discernment, clearly saw the arising, the establishment, and the passing away of these mental qualities present in the first Jhana. He noticed how these qualities arose, came into play, and vanished. Having entered in the first Jhana, rapture born of seclusion accompanied by directed thought and evaluation, Sariputta remained free of attraction or aversion in regard to these qualities. He remained independent, detached, released, dissociated, and free of any barriers arising from attraction or aversion.

Noticing the arising, the coming into play, and the vanishing of the various mental qualities is a direct experience of The Marks Of Existence within Right Meditation. This is the proper application of vipassana -insight – avoiding an overly broad and unfocused “insight practice” that only continues confusion and distraction from ignoring ignorance of Four Noble Truths. [9]

Many of the qualities that Sariputta skillfully recognizes, one after another, realizing the fabrication of each quality, are often taught in modern Buddhism as subjects for contemplation. This is obviously a misguided application of mindfulness and confuses the singular scope of insight into Three Marks Of Existence. This is a common but subtle continuation of self-identification or I-making by clinging to fabrications supporting continued ignorance. [13]

“Having entered into the first Jhana, Sariputta understood ‘There is deeper concentration.’ He pursued this path and realized deeper concentration.

Understanding the scope and purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma – to develop awakened Right View – Sariputta knew that the first level of concentration would not support complete unbinding from wrong views – views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. [8]

“Sariputta, secluded from sensuality and from unskillful mental qualities, with the stilling of directed thoughts and evaluations, entered and remained in the second Jhana. This second Jhana is characterized as rapture and pleasure born of concentration. The mind united in the body, free of directed thought and evaluation – an internal assurance. The qualities present in the second Jhana – internal assurance, directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, concentration, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention were recognized one after another.

“Sariputta, wise, of great, deep, and penetrating discernment, clearly saw the arising, the establishment, and the passing away of these mental qualities present in the second Jhana. He noticed how these qualities arose, came into play, and vanished. Having entered in the second Jhana, rapture born of concentration free from directed thought and evaluation, Sariputta remained free of attraction or aversion in regard to these qualities. He remained independent, detached, released, dissociated, and free of any barriers arising from attraction or aversion.

Sariputta’s mind has developed a measure of calm – an internal assurance – as he methodically recognized those mental qualities present. Furthermore, he has realized the arising, presence, and passing away of these qualities. This is a deeper and more profound experience of The Marks Of Existence. [9]

“Having entered into the second Jhana, Sariputta understood ‘There is deeper concentration.’ He pursued this path and realized deeper concentration.

As with his understanding of the first Jhana, Sariputta knew that the second level of concentration would not support complete unbinding from wrong views – views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. [8]

“Sariputta, secluded from sensuality and from unskillful mental qualities, with the fading of rapture and remaining equanimous, mindful and alert, sensitive to pleasure in the body, entered and remained in the third Jhana. The third Jhana is characterized by noble ones as ‘Equanimous, mindful, resting in a pleasant abiding.’

As concentration increases a deeper calm develops an awareness of the subtle pleasure of a peaceful abiding occurs from being sensitive to ‘pleasure in the body’ but not grasping after or clinging to sensual pleasure. This abandonment of grasping and clinging follows the development of the understanding of Three Marks Of Existence.

“Sariputta, wise, of great, deep, and penetrating discernment, clearly saw the arising, the establishment, and the passing away of these mental qualities present in the third Jhana. He noticed how these qualities arose, came into play, and vanished. Having entered in the third Jhana, equanimous, a pleasant abiding, (the qualities of)  concentration, sensory contact, feelings, perceptions, intention,  consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention were recognized one after another. Sariputta remained free of attraction or aversion in regard to these qualities. He remained independent, detached, released, dissociated, and free of any barriers arising from attraction or aversion.

“Having entered into the third Jhana, Sariputta understood ‘There is deeper concentration.’ He pursued this path and realized deeper concentration.

As with his understanding of the first and second Jhana, Sariputta knew that the third level of concentration would not support complete unbinding from wrong views – views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. [8]

“Furthermore, with the abandoning of joy and distress, and with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, Sariputta entered and remained in the fourth Jhana. The fourth Jhana is characterized by the purity of equanimity and (refined) mindfulness. There is no evaluation regarding pleasure or pain.

“Sariputta, wise, of great, deep, and penetrating discernment, clearly saw the arising, the establishment, and the passing away of these mental qualities present in the fourth Jhana. He noticed how these qualities arose, came into play, and vanished. Having entered in the fourth Jhana, established in equanimity, abandoning (evaluating) pleasure and pain, internal calm, a pleasant abiding, (the qualities of) concentration, sensory contact, feelings, perceptions, intention,  consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention, were recognized one after another. Sariputta remained free of attraction or aversion in regard to these qualities. He remained independent, detached, released, dissociated, and free of any barriers arising from attraction or aversion.

This fourth Jhana is simply a deepening level of concentration and resulting pleasant abiding that remains at peace no matter what arises. This pleasant abiding is the defining characteristic of a well-concentrated mind having integrated the Eightfold Path.

“Having entered into the fourth Jhana, Sariputta understood ‘There is deeper concentration.’ He pursued this path and realized ‘There is deeper concentration.’

Sariputta studied with some of the same teachers Siddartha had and now realized that these other dharmas only continue a mind disengaged from its body and continuing self-referential fabrications supporting ongoing ignorance of Four Noble Truths by establishing a self in imaginary non-physical realms. The following part of the Buddha’s narrative describes Sariputta recognizing and abandoning these fabricated states just as he had previously – one after another.

Notice the similarities to modern Buddhists doctrines such as emptiness, nothingness, no-self, non-duality, Buddha-Nature, interdependence, interconnectedness, inter-being, unity consciousness, and many other fabricated self-referential views and ignorance-perpetuating dharmas. [3,14,15]

Furthermore, Sariputta abandoned self-identification with (physical) form, abandoned self-identification with (external) form(s), perceptions of aversion disappeared, now Sariputta perceives a dimension of ‘infinite space.’ Sariputta entered and remained in this dimension of infinite space. The qualities present in the dimension of infinite space, the perception of the dimension of infinite space, concentration, sensory contact, feelings, perceptions, intention,  consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention, were recognized one after another.

Similarly with the dimensions of nothingness, infinite consciousness, and neither perception nor non-perception.

He noticed how these qualities arose, came into play, and vanished. Sariputta remained free of attraction or aversion in regard to these qualities. He remained independent, detached, released, dissociated, and free of any barriers arising from attraction or aversion.

“Having abandoned the perception of the dimensions of infinite space, dimensions of nothingness, infinite consciousness, and neither perception nor non-perception, Sariputta understood ‘There is deeper concentration.’ He pursued this path and realized deeper concentration.

“Furthermore, Sariputta, having abandoned the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, he entered and remained in the cessation of perception and feelings.

Sariputta now understands the foolishness of the ordinary and common distraction of attempting to establish a ‘self’ in non-physical realms.

Sariputta has recognized one fabricated mind state after another and is now free of perception or reactions rooted in views ignorant of Four Noble Truths.

Upon this realization, the qualities of a mind arising in (grasping after) cessation, greed, aversion, and delusion were completely abandoned. Fully mindful of his attainment he regarded the impermanence of all of these past qualities: they arise, become experience, and pass away.

Sariputta has attained a profound and penetrative understanding of Three Marks Of Existence and has developed awakened RightView.

“Sariputta remained independent, detached, released, dissociated, and free of any barriers arising from attraction or aversion. He now understood ‘There is no deeper concentration.’ He pursued this path and realized ‘There is no deeper concentration.’

“If any person were to speak rightly and with skill were to say ‘Sariputta has attained mastery and perfection of Noble Virtue, Noble Concentration, and Noble Wisdom. Sariputta has attained mastery and perfection of the threefold Noble Eightfold Path and has attained Noble Release.’ [8]

“If any person were to speak rightly and with skill were to say ‘Sariputta is born of the Buddha’s words. In this way, he is the Buddha’s son, his offspring. Sariputta is born of the Dhamma, has become awakened from the Dhamma. His inheritance is not of worldly things, his inheritance is my Dhamma.

“Sariputta, my friends, has taken the wheel of the Dhamma set rolling by me, and he keeps it rolling in authenticity.

This is what was said by the Great Teacher. Those gathered were delighted by his words.

End Of Sutta

Sariputta would go on to be one of the most significant and influential monks from the Buddha’s original Sangha. His inheritance from the Buddha is also our inheritance.

  1. Shamatha-Vipassana Meditation
  2. Mental And Bodily Fabrications
  3. The Noble Search For The Noble Path
  4. Nagara Sutta – The Buddha Describes His Awakening
  5. Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations of Mindfulness
  6. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutt
  7. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  8. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  9. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  10. Anapanasati Sutta
  11. Sariputta And Moggallana – The Buddha’s Chief Disciples
  12. Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas.
  13. Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
  14. Shunyata – Emptiness
  15. Dependent Origination, Anatta, And The Myth Of Non-Duality

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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made contextual edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

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