[Buddha-l] Loving your object of study

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Mon Dec 3 00:18:13 MST 2007

This is the problem with NOT being a scholar. One jumps to unfounded
conclusions based on an inability to properly access and evaluate

The link to that passage in translation of the Anguttara -- dhammavihari
sutta in the groups of five -- especially extracting one of the passages in
that sutta from its fuller context, reinforces a certain prejudice already
present before and brought to the reading, and then carried away from the
reading with pride -- while never having read anything.

The passage lays out a progression of development -- when one can properly
be said to "dwell in dhamma," rather than still being in training, or
getting stuck along the way. The basic underlying model is the threefold
Hearing, Thinking, Meditating (or cultivating: bhaavanaa), stretched into
five to fit the stylistic requirement of this section of the Anguttara. Five
types of monks are described:

The first monk has memorized the entire canon, knows it by heart
(pariyaapu.naati -- which implies mastery by memorization). Big deal.
Memorizing the multiplication tables is useful, and necessary perhaps, but
it doesn't put a person on the moon. That requires more than memorization.
Memorization is the necessary FIRST Step.

The second monk has not only memorized everything, he trains others to
memorize it, and does so accurately, without distortion. Also useful, but
that's all he can do and be (so far). He serves as a conduit, but is not
himself "dwelling" in the dhamma he is teaching.

The third monk can recite everything, and spends all his time reciting. This
is devotional masturbation, like purchasing an expensive auto just to admire
its chrome, but never driving it.

The fourth monk is actually doing beginners meditation (this is the one
posted with the message -- the poor "intellectualist" slob whose
inadequacies are supposedly being exposed). Problem is, he is not an
intellectualist, but a successful meditator in the Pali:

cetasa anuvitakketi anuvicareti manasanupekkhati

The prefix anu- is an intensive (cf. Skt abhi-) and means "to accord with",
to go along with, conform to... The other terms should be familiar: vitakka
(vitarka), vicaara, manasaa, and upekkha (upek.sa). Without getting into a
long discourse on what these terms refer to (there is a huge heap of
conflicting literature on that subject), vitarka and vicara are present in
the initial jhana of the ruupa-dhaatu; in the second vitarka falls away but
vicara remains. The conclusion of the rupa-jhanas results in upek.sa -- 
equanimity of mind. That is, he brings his mental attention and focus to
bear, with mental equanimity -- on the teachings he has memorized and
mastered. Vitarka and vicara can also imply a discursive aspect to his
mental activity. Hence, e.g., the PTS Dict. gives the following for

Anuvicara [anu + vicara, cf. anuvicareti] meditation, reflexion, thought Dhs
85 (= vicara).

So it can also mean to ponder, think about, keep in mind, etc.

The fifth monk, the one who "dwells in dhamma" is the one who has
accomplished what the others haven't accomplished yet. He is the one who
doesn't spend his day "mastering" the dhamma -- since he has already
mastered it. What makes him different from the others?

The negative refrain summarizing the other four is:

Ri~ncati pa.tisallana.m. Nanuyu~njati ajjhatta.m cetosamatha.m.

They neglect pa.tisallana [see below]. They don't practice, give themselves
up to, attend, pursue (anuyu~njati) the mental calm (cetosamatha) that
arises from within (ajjhata). The teachings, in other words, no matter how
well "mastered," are still something external to them. In modern language,
they haven't really embodied it. As a song by the Incredible String Band
once chimed: "Oh, you know all the words, and you sung all the notes, but
you've never quite learned the songs you've sung. I can tell by the sadness
in your eyes that you've never quite learned the song."

Pa.tisallana is usually understood as retiring for the purpose of
meditation. In the old days, when learning was oral, it was a public
activity -- one didn't seclude away to privately pour over a book. Today, to
read is to go into this kind of seclusion.

The fifth monk DOESN'T neglect pa.tisallana and has the inner mental peace.
Here it implies pulling away from the "working at it," to get it. How do we
know that this is the case, and not just some scholarly over-interpretation?
Doesn't this imply that secluded meditation is a necessary, indispensible

We know this is not an over-interpretation and meditation per se is not the
necessary ingredient, since this entire sutta is immediately followed in the
Anguttara by another sutta with the same name, that is virtually
word-for-word identical with the one in the online translation -- except for
one thing. Instead of the negative refrain above, we find:

Uttari~ncassa pa~n~naya attha.m nappajanati

I.e., pa~n~naa (prajna), knowledge, insight, is what is lacking. And the
fifth monk this time is the one who exercises inner knowledge. The positive
refrain describing this monk is: Uttarincassa pannaya attha.m pajanati.

He learns (memorizes), teaches, etc., until he embodies prajna, until he
thinks for himself. Does this mean that this is a parallel way to retiring
to meditate? An ancillary practice? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Dan Lusthaus

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