The Waste-Water Pool – Jambali Sutta

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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]

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.

 

The Waste-water Pool
Jambālī Sutta

Anguttara Nikaya 4:178

The Buddha addresses those gathered:

“Friends, there are four types of Dhamma practitioners.

“There is the type of Dhamma practitioner that enters and remains in mental-absorption (Jhanas) and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are mindful of the cessation of self-identification. But, even as they are mindful of the cessation of self-identification their mind is not enraptured with release, with cessation. They do not grow confident or steadfast or well-established in the cessation of self-identification. For them, the final cessation of self-identification cannot be expected.

“Just as if one were to grasp a branch with hands sticky with resin they would cling to the branch. In the same manner, one who remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release but continues to cling to wrong views is not enraptured with release, with cessation. They do not grow confident or steadfast or well-established in the cessation of self-identification. For them, the final cessation of self-identification cannot be expected.

“Then there is the type of Dhamma practitioner that enters and remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are mindful of the cessation of self-identification. As they are mindful of the cessation of self-identification their mind is enraptured with release, with cessation. They do grow confident and steadfast and well-established in the cessation of self-identification. For them, the final cessation of self-identification is to be expected.

“Just as if one were to grasp a branch with clean hands they would not cling to the branch. In the same manner, one who engages fully with the Eightfold Path remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release they continue to diminish wrong views and their mind is enraptured with release, with cessation. They do grow confident and steadfast and well-established in the cessation of self-identification. For them, the final cessation of self-identification can be expected.

“Then there is the type of Dhamma practitioner that enters and remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are mindful of breaching ignorance (of Four Noble Truths) but their minds are not enraptured with release, with cessation. They do not grow confident or steadfast or well-established in the cessation of self-identification. For them, the final cessation of self-identification cannot be expected.

“Just as if there were a long-standing waste-water pool and during the dry season a man blocks all inlets and opens all outlets. With inlets blocked and no rain falling, the breaching of the waste-water pool would not be expected. In the same manner, a Dhamma practitioner enters and remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are attending to the breaching of ignorance but they do not grow confident or steadfast or well-established in the breaching of ignorance  For them the breaching of ignorance cannot be expected.

“Then there is the type of Dhamma practitioner that enters and remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are mindful of breaching ignorance (of Four Noble Truths). Their minds are enraptured with release from ignorance. They do grow confident and steadfast and well-established in the breaching of ignorance. For them, the final cessation of self-identification can be expected

“Just as if there were a long-standing waste-water pool during the rainy season and a man opens all inlets and blocks all outlets. With inlets open, outlets closed, and rain falling, the breaching of the waste-water pool can be expected. In the same manner, a Dhamma practitioner enters and remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are mindful of breaching ignorance (of Four Noble Truths). Their minds are enraptured with release from ignorance. They do grow confident and steadfast and well-established in the breaching ignorance. For them, the final cessation of self-identification can be expected.

“These are the four types of Dhamma practitioners in the world.”

End of Sutta.

  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

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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