Visuddhimagga (the pah of purification)

by Ñāṇamoli Bhikkhu | 1956 | 420,758 words | ISBN-10: 9552400236 | ISBN-13: 9789552400236

This page describes The Four Functions of the section Purification by Knowledge and Vision (ñāṇadassana-visuddhi-niddesa) of Part 3 Understanding (Paññā) of the English translation of the Visuddhimagga (‘the path of purification’) which represents a detailled Buddhist meditation manual, covering all the essential teachings of Buddha as taught in the Pali Tipitaka. It was compiled Buddhaghosa around the 5th Century.

92.

(6) Functions of full-understanding and the rest
As stated when truths are penetrated to,
(7) Each one of which ought to be recognized
According to its individual essence. (§32)

[The Four Functions in a Single Moment]

6. Now, at the times of penetrating to the truths each one of the four [path] knowledges is said to exercise four functions in a single moment. These are fullunderstanding, abandoning, realizing, and developing; and each one of them ought to be recognized according to its individual essence. [690] For this is said by the Ancients: “Just as a lamp performs the four functions simultaneously in a single moment—it burns the wick, dispels darkness, makes light appear, and uses up the oil—, so too, path knowledge penetrates to the four truths simultaneously in a single moment—it penetrates to suffering by penetrating to it with full-understanding, penetrates to origination by penetrating to it with abandoning, penetrates to the path by penetrating to it with developing, and penetrates cessation by penetrating to it with realizing” (see Peṭ 134). What is meant? By making cessation its object it reaches, sees and pierces the four truths.”

93. For this is said: “Bhikkhus, he who sees suffering sees also the origin of suffering, sees also the cessation of suffering, sees also the way leading to the cessation of suffering” (S V 437), etc., and so it should be understood [for all the other three truths]. And further it is said: “The knowledge of one who possesses the path is knowledge of suffering and it is knowledge of the origin of suffering and it is knowledge of the cessation of suffering and it is knowledge of the way leading to the cessation of suffering” (Paṭis I 119).

94. As the lamp burns the wick, so his path knowledge fully understands suffering; as the lamp dispels the darkness, so the knowledge abandons origin; as the lamp makes the light appear, so the knowledge [as right view] develops the path, in other words, the states consisting in right thinking, etc., [by acting] as conascence, etc., for them; and as the lamp uses up the oil, so the knowledge realizes cessation, which brings defilements to an end. This is how the application of the simile should be understood.

95. Another method: as the sun, when it rises, performs four functions simultaneously with its appearance—it illuminates visible objects, dispels darkness, causes light to be seen, and allays cold—, so too, path knowledge … penetrates to cessation by penetrating to it with realizing. And here also, as the sun illuminates visible objects, so path knowledge fully understands suffering; as the sun dispels darkness, so path knowledge abandons origin; as the sun causes light to be seen, so path knowledge [as right view] develops the [other] path [factors] by acting as [their] conascence condition, etc.; as the sun allays cold, so path knowledge realizes the cessation, which is the tranquilizing of defilements. This is how the application of the simile should be understood.

96. Another method: as a boat performs four functions simultaneously in a single moment—it leaves the hither shore, it cleaves the stream, it carries its cargo, [691] and it approaches the further shore—, so too, path knowledge … penetrates to cessation by penetrating to it with realizing. And here, as the boat leaves the hither shore, so path knowledge fully understands suffering; as the boat cleaves the stream, so path knowledge abandons origin;as the boat carries its cargo, so path knowledge develops the [other] path [factors] by acting as [their] conascence condition, etc.; as the boat approaches the further shore, so path knowledge realizes cessation, which is the further shore. This is how the application of the simile should be understood.

97. So when his knowledge occurs with the four functions in a single moment at the time of penetrating the four truths, then the four truths have a single penetration in the sense of trueness (reality) in sixteen ways, as it is said: “How is there single penetration of the four truths in the sense of trueness? There is single penetration of the four truths in the sense of trueness in sixteen aspects: suffering has the meaning of oppressing, meaning of being formed, meaning of burning (torment), meaning of change, as its meaning of trueness; origin has the meaning of accumulation, meaning of source, meaning of bondage, meaning of impediment, as its meaning of trueness;cessation has the meaning of escape, meaning of seclusion, meaning of being not formed, meaning of deathlessness, as its meaning of trueness; the path has the meaning of outlet, meaning of cause, meaning of seeing, meaning of dominance, as its meaning of trueness. The four truths in these sixteen ways are included as one. What is included as one is unity. Unity is penetrated by a single knowledge. Thus the four truths have a single penetration” (Paṭis II 107).

98. Here it may be asked: “Since there are other meanings of suffering, etc., too, such as ‘a disease, a tumour’ (Paṭis II 238; M I 435), etc., why then are only four mentioned for each?” We answer that in this context it is better because of what is evident through seeing the other [three truths in each case].

Firstly, in the passage beginning, “Herein, what is knowledge of suffering? It is the understanding, the act of understanding … that arises contingent upon suffering” (Paṭis I 119), knowledge of the truths is presented as having a single truth as its object [individually]. But in the passage beginning, “Bhikkhus, he who sees suffering also sees its origin” (S V 437), it is presented as accomplishing its function with respect to the other three truths simultaneously with its making one of them its object.

99. As regards these [two contexts], when, firstly, knowledge makes each truth its object singly, then [when suffering is made the object], suffering has the characteristic of oppressing as its individual essence, but its sense of being formed becomes evident through seeing origin because that suffering is accumulated, formed, agglomerated, by the origin, which has the characteristic of accumulating. Then the cooling path removes the burning of the defilements, [692] and so suffering’s sense of burning becomes evident through seeing the path, as the beauty’s (Sundarī’s) ugliness did to the venerable Nanda through seeing the celestial nymphs (see Ud 23). But its sense of changing becomes evident through seeing cessation as not subject to change, which needs no explaining. 100. Likewise, [when origin is made the object,] origin has the characteristic of accumulating as its individual essence; but its sense of source becomes evident through seeing suffering, just as the fact that unsuitable food is the source of a sickness, becomes evident through seeing how a sickness arises owing to such food. Its sense of bondage becomes evident through seeing cessation, which has no bonds. And its sense of impediment becomes evident through seeing the path, which is the outlet.

101. Likewise, [when cessation is made the object,] cessation has the characteristic of an escape. But its sense of seclusion becomes evident through seeing origin as unsecluded. Its sense of being not formed becomes evident through seeing the path; for the path has never been seen by him before in the beginningless round of rebirths, and yet even that is formed since it has conditions, and so the unformedness of the conditionless becomes quite clear. But its sense of being deathless becomes evident through seeing suffering; for suffering is poison and Nibbāna is deathless.

102. Likewise, [when the path is made the object,] the path has the characteristic of the outlet. But its sense of cause becomes evident through seeing origin thus, “That is not the cause, [but on the contrary] this is the cause, for the attaining of Nibbāna.” Its sense of seeing becomes evident through seeing cessation, as the eye’s clearness becomes evident to one who sees very subtle visible objects and thinks, “How clear my eye is!” Its sense of dominance becomes evident through seeing suffering, just as the superiority of lordly people becomes evident through seeing wretched people afflicted with many diseases.

103. So in that [first] context four senses are stated for each truth because in the case of each truth [individually] one sense becomes evident as the specific characteristic, while the other three become evident through seeing the remaining three truths.

At the path moment, however, all these senses are penetrated simultaneously by a single knowledge that has four functions with respect to suffering and the rest. But about those who would have it that [the different truths] are penetrated to separately, more is said in the Abhidhamma in the Kathāvatthu (Kv 212–20).

[The Four Functions Described Separately]

104. 7. Now, as to those four functions beginning with full-understanding, which were mentioned above (§92):

(a) Full-understanding is threefold;
So too (b) abandoning, and (c) realizing,
And (d) two developings are reckoned—
Thus should be known the exposition.

105. (a) Full-understanding is threefold, that is, (i) full understanding as the known, (ii) full-understanding as investigating (judging), and (iii) fullunderstanding as abandoning (see XX.3).

106. (i) Herein, full-understanding as the known [693] is summarized thus: “Understanding that is direct-knowledge is knowledge in the sense of the known” (Paṭis I 87). It is briefly stated thus: “Whatever states are directly known are known” (Paṭis I 87). It is given in detail in the way beginning: “Bhikkhus, all is to be directly known. And what is all that is to be directly known? Eye is to be directly known ” (Paṭis I 5). Its particular plane is the direct knowing of mentality-materiality with its conditions.

107. (ii) Full-understanding as investigating (judging) is summarized thus: “Understanding that is full-understanding is knowledge in the sense of investigation (judging)” (Paṭis I 87). It is briefly stated thus: “Whatever states are fully understood are investigated (judged)” (Paṭis I 87). It is given in detail in the way beginning: “Bhikkhus, all is to be fully understood. And what is all that is to be fully understood? The eye is to be fully understood ” (Paṭis I 22) Its particular plane starts with comprehension by groups, and occurring as investigation of impermanence, suffering, and not-self, it extends as far as conformity (cf. XX.4).

108. (iii) Full-understanding as abandoning is summarized thus: “Understanding that is abandoning is knowledge in the sense of giving up” (Paṭis I 87). It is stated in detail thus: Whatever states are abandoned are given up” (Paṭis I 87). It occurs in the way beginning: “Through the contemplation of impermanence he abandons the perception of permanence ” (cf. Paṭis I 58). Its plane extends from the contemplation of dissolution up to path knowledge. This is what is intended here.

109. Or alternatively, full-understanding as the known and full-understanding as investigating have that [third kind] as their aim, too, and whatever states a man abandons are certainly known and investigated, and so all three kinds of full-understanding can be understood in this way as the function of path knowledge.

110. (b) So too abandoning: abandoning is threefold too, like full-understanding, that is, (i) abandoning by suppressing, (ii) abandoning by substitution of opposites, and (iii) abandoning by cutting off.

111. (i) Herein, when any of the mundane kinds of concentration suppresses opposing states such as the hindrances, that act of suppressing, which is like the pressing down of water-weed by placing a porous pot on weed-filled water, is called abandoning by suppressing. But the suppression of only the hindrances is given in the text thus: “And there is abandoning of the hindrances by suppression in one who develops the first jhāna” (Paṭis I 27). However, that should be understood as so stated because of the obviousness [of the suppression then]. For even before and after the jhāna as well hindrances do not invade consciousness suddenly; but applied thought, etc., [are suppressed] only at the moment of actual absorption [in the second jhāna, etc.,] and so the suppression of the hindrances then is obvious.

112. (ii) But what is called abandoning by substitution of opposites is the abandoning of any given state that ought to be abandoned through the means of a particular factor of knowledge, which as a constituent of insight is opposed to it, like the abandoning of darkness at night through the means of a light. [694] It is in fact the abandoning firstly of the [false] view of individuality through the means of delimitation of mentality-materiality; the abandoning of both the no-cause view and the fictitious-cause view and also of the stain of doubt through the means of discerning conditions; the abandoning of apprehension of a conglomeration as “I” and “mine” through the means of comprehension by groups; the abandoning of perception of the path in what is not the path through the means of the definition of what is the path and what is not the path; the abandoning of the annihilation view through the means of seeing rise; the abandoning of the eternity view through the means of seeing fall; the abandoning of the perception of non-terror in what is terror through the means of appearance as terror; the abandoning of the perception of enjoyment through the means of seeing danger; the abandoning of the perception of delight through the means of the contemplation of dispassion (revulsion);the abandoning of lack of desire for deliverance through the means of desire for deliverance; the abandoning of non-reflection through the means of reflection; the abandoning of not looking on equably through the means of equanimity; the abandoning of apprehension contrary to truth through the means of conformity.

113. And also in the case of the eighteen principal insights the abandoning by substitution of opposites is: (1) the abandoning of the perception of the perception of permanence, through the means of the contemplation of impermanence; (2) of the perception of pleasure, through the means of the contemplation of pain; (3) of the perception of self, through the means of the contemplation of not-self; (4) of delight, through the means of the contemplation of dispassion (revulsion); (5) of greed, through the means of the contemplation of fading away; (6) of originating, through the means of the contemplation of cessation; (7) of grasping, through the means of the contemplation of relinquishment; (8) of the perception of compactness, through the means of the contemplation of destruction; (9) of accumulation, through the means of the contemplation of fall; (10) of the perception of lastingness, through the means of the contemplation of change; (11) of the sign, through the means of the contemplation of the signless; (12) of desire, through the means of the contemplation of the desireless; (13) of misinterpreting (insisting), through the means of the contemplation of voidness; (14) of misinterpreting (insisting) due to grasping at a core, through the means of insight into states that is higher understanding; (15) of misinterpreting (insisting) due to confusion, through the means of correct knowledge and vision; (16) of misinterpreting (insisting) due to reliance [on formations], through the means of the contemplation of danger [in them]; (17) of non-reflection, through the means of the contemplation of reflection; (18) of misinterpreting (insisting) due to bondage, through means of contemplation of turning away (cf. Paṭis I 47).

114. Herein, (1)–(7) the way in which the abandoning of the perception of permanence, etc., takes place through the means of the seven contemplations beginning with that of impermanence has already been explained under the contemplation of dissolution (Ch. XXI.15f.).

(8) Contemplation of destruction, however, is the knowledge in one who effects the resolution of the compact and so sees destruction as “impermanent in the sense of destruction.” Through the means of that knowledge there comes to be the abandoning of the perception of compactness.

115. (9) Contemplation of fall is stated thus:

“Defining both to be alike
By inference from that same object.
Intentness on cessation—these
Are insight in the mark of fall” (Paṭis I 58).

It is intentness on cessation, in other words, on that same dissolution, after seeing dissolution of [both seen and unseen] formations by personal experience and by inference [respectively]. Through the means of that contemplation there comes to be the abandoning of accumulation. When a man sees with insight that “The things for the sake of which I might accumulate [kamma] are thus [695] subject to fall,” his consciousness no longer inclines to accumulation.

116. (10) Contemplation of change is the act of seeing, according to the material septad, etc., how [momentary] occurrences [in continuity] take place differently by [gradually] diverging from any definition; or it is the act of seeing change in the two aspects of the ageing and the death of what is arisen. Through the means of that contemplation the perception of lastingness is abandoned.

117. (11) Contemplation of the signless is the same as the contemplation of impermanence. Through its means the sign of permanence is abandoned.

(12) Contemplation of the desireless is the same as the contemplation of pain. Through its means desire for pleasure and hope for pleasure are abandoned.

(13) Contemplation of voidness is the same as the contemplation of not-self. Through its means the misinterpreting (insisting) that “a self exists” (see S IV 400) is abandoned.

118. (14) Insight into states that is higher understanding is stated thus:

“Having reflected on the object,
Dissolution he contemplates,
Appearance then as empty—this
Is insight of higher understanding” (Paṭis I 58).

Insight so described occurs after knowing materiality, etc., as object, by seeing the dissolution both of that object and of the consciousness whose object it was, and by apprehending voidness through the dissolution in this way: “Only formations break up. It is the death of formations. There is nothing else.” Taking that insight as higher understanding and as insight with respect to states, it is called “insight into states that is higher understanding.” Through its means misinterpreting (insisting) due to grasping at a core is abandoned, because it has been clearly seen that there is no core of permanence and no core of self.

119. (15) Correct knowledge and vision is the discernment of mentality-materiality with its conditions. Through its means misinterpreting (insisting) due to confusion that occurs in this way, “Was I in the past?” (M I 8), and in this way, “The world was created by an Overlord,” are abandoned.

120. (16) Contemplation of danger is knowledge seeing danger in all kinds of becoming, etc., which as arisen owing to appearance as terror. Through its means misinterpreting (insisting) due to reliance is abandoned, since he does not see any [formation] to be relied on for shelter.

(17) Contemplation of reflection is the reflection that effects the means to liberation. Through its means non-reflection is abandoned.

121. (18) Contemplation of turning away is equanimity about formations and conformity. For at that point his mind is said to retreat, retract and recoil from the whole field of formations, as a water drop does on a lotus leaf that slopes a little. That is why through its means misinterpreting (insisting) due to bondage is abandoned. [696] The meaning is: abandoning of the occurrence of defilement that consists in misinterpreting defiled by the bondage of sense desires, and so on.

Abandoning by substitution of the opposites should be understood in detail in this way. But in the texts it is stated in brief thus: “Abandoning of views by substitution of opposites comes about in one who develops concentration partaking of penetration” (Paṭis I 27).

122. (iii) The abandoning of the states beginning with the fetters by the noble path knowledge in such a way that they never occur again, like a tree struck by a thunderbolt, is called abandoning by cutting off. With reference to this it is said: “Abandoning by cutting off comes about in one who develops the supramundane path that leads to the destruction [of defilements]” (Paṭis I 27).

123. So of these three kinds of abandoning, it is only abandoning by cutting off that is intended here. But since that meditator’s previous abandoning by suppression and by substitution by opposites have that [third kind] as their aim, too, all three kinds of abandoning can therefore be understood in this way as the function of path knowledge. For when a man has gained an empire by killing off the opposing kings, what was done by him previous to that is also called “done by the king.”

124. (c) Realizing is divided into two as (i) mundane realizing, and (ii) supramundane realizing. And it is threefold too with the subdivision of the supramundane into two as seeing and developing.

125. (i) Herein, the touch (phassanā) of the first jhāna, etc., as given in the way beginning, “I am an obtainer, a master, of the first jhāna;the first jhāna has been realized by me” (Vin III 93–94), is called mundane realizing. “Touch” (phassanā) is the touching (phusanā) with the contact (phassa) of knowledge by personal experience on arriving, thus, “This has been arrived at by me”.[1] With reference to this meaning realization is summarized thus, “Understanding that is realization is knowledge in the sense of touch” (Paṭis I 87), after which it is described thus, “Whatever states are realized are touched” (Paṭis I 87).

126. Also, those states which are not aroused in one’s own continuity and are known through knowledge that depends on another are realized; for it is said, referring to that, “Bhikkhus, all should be realized. And what is all that should be realized? The eye should be realized” (Paṭis I 35), and so on. And it is further said: “One who sees materiality realizes it. One who sees [697] feeling … perception … formations … consciousness realizes it. One who sees the eye … (etc., see XX.9) … ageing and death realizes it. [One who sees suffering] … (etc.)[2] … One who sees Nibbāna, which merges in the deathless [in the sense of the end] realizes it. Whatever states are realized are touched” (Paṭis I 35).

127. (ii) The seeing of Nibbāna at the moment of the first path is realizing as seeing. At the other path moments it is realizing as developing. And it is intended as twofold here. So realizing of Nibbāna as seeing and as developing should be understood as a function of this knowledge.

128. (d) And two developings are reckoned: but developing is also reckoned as twofold, namely as (i) mundane developing, and (ii) as supramundane developing.

(i) Herein, the arousing of mundane virtue, concentration and understanding, and the influencing of the continuity by their means, is mundane developing. And (ii) the arousing of supramundane virtue, concentration and understanding, and the influencing of the continuity by them, is supramundane developing. Of these, it is the supramundane that is intended here. For this fourfold knowledge arouses supramundane virtue, etc., since it is their conascence condition, and it influences the continuity by their means. So it is only supramundane developing that is a function of it. Therefore these are the:

Functions of full-understanding, and the rest
As stated when truths are penetrated to,
Each one of which ought to be recognized
According to its individual essence.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

“‘With the contact of knowledge by personal experience’ means by personal experience of it as object, which is what the ‘contact of knowledge’ is called. The words, ‘By personal experience’ exclude taking it as an object by inference. For what is intended here as the ‘contact of knowledge’ is knowing by personal experience through reviewing thus, ‘This is like this’” (Vism-mhṭ 888).

[2]:

The first elision here—“The eye … ageing-and-death”—is explained in XX.9. The second elision—“One who sees suffering … One who sees Nibbāna, which merges in the deathless in the sense of end …”—covers all things listed from Paṭis I 8, line 18 (N.B. the new para in the Paṭis text should begin with the words “dukkhaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ” up to p. 22, line 11, amatogadhaṃ nibbānaṃ pariyosānatthaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ). In this case, however (Paṭis I 35), sacchikātabba (“to be realized”), etc., is substituted for abhiññeyya (“to be directly known”).

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