Aŋguttara Nikāya


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Aŋguttara Nikāya
Catukka Nipāta
XIV: Puggala Vagga

The Book of the Gradual Sayings
The Book of the Fours
XIV: On Persons

Sutta 132

Saŋyojana Puggala Suttaɱ

Man's Self-Yokings

Translated from the Pali

 


 

Translator's Introduction

This sutta is especially relevant to the debate concerning whether or not there is for some a sort of continued existence between the time of death and the next rebirth.
The key phrase to understand here is: Antarā-parinibbāyissa. Antarā from antara: in the interstice, "in between". Presumably after death and before final Nibbāna; but could it also mean after having abandoned the self-yokes that would otherwise have lead him at death to some sort of rebirth have been let go, and before final Nibbāna? This latter would allow the argument that there was no continuation of consciousness between births, but it would duplicate or cover the territory of other types of non-returner and such a one would be an arahant prior to or upon death so the category would be useless.
The designation Antarā-parinibbāyissa is here defined as a person who has let go of the self-yokes which would have bound him to the lower sorts of rebirth (defined elsewhere as those realms from the Tusita worlds down); he has let go those sorts of self-yokings which would have bound him to any sort of rebirth; but has not yet let go of those sorts of self-yokes that would result in personal experience of existence (bhava). Think incorporal observation, or perhaps an identified-with eye otherwise without a body, seeing objects. Having eliminated 'rebirth' from the options available, we have only one reasonable possibility as to the meaning: That subsequent to this individual's death here, but prior to his rebirth anywhere else, he continues to experience, (or there continues to be the experience of) the results of his earlier own-makings (sankhāra).
Why do I find this completely reasonable while it drives so many people nutz? Because of the explanation of the definition of existence as given in DN 15, where it is said that it is only in-so-far-as there is the conjunction of consciousness with named forms that it can be said that there is existence for a thing. Such a one's prior sankhāraming was the joining together of consciousness with named-forms; the result is identified-with consciousness of named forms. The results of earlier sankhāraming are kamma which must be experienced (worked out). When the rest of the individuality has 'served its time', the body goes. When the individuality breaks up at death, if the mind isn't ready yet, consciousness of existing named-forms continues on. At a later point, 'all this' becomes cool, and such a one has attained Arahantship. It is because our 'science' cannot conceive of anything outside existence (e.g., pre-existence, post-existence, extra-sensory existence, potential existence, coming into being, etc.) that there is so much resistance to this idea.
Finally, the idea that this sutta does not spell out a clear progression of ideas describing the advantages of letting go of the self-yokes: The streamwinner who comes back but once; the streamwinner who goes in a steady line from here to the end; the streamwinner who is almost an arahant, but has some own-makings lagging behind, and the arahant in this visible world ... is hard to believe.

 


[1][pts][than] I HEAR TELL

Once upon a time the Lucky man, Sāvatthī-town revisiting.

There then Bhagava said this to the beggars:

Beggars!

And 'Elder!' those beggars responded.

The Lucky Man said this:

Four, beggars, are persons found in this world.

What four?

Here, beggars, in one person
those self-yokings of the lower sort[1] have not been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance[2] have not been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence[3] have not been let go.

Here again, beggars, in one person
those self-yokings of the lower sort have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have not been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have not been let go.

Here again, beggars, in one person
those self-yokings of the lower sort have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have not been let go.

Here again, beggars, in one person
those self-yokings of the lower sort have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have been let go.

 

§

 

What person, beggars, is one in whom
those self-yokings of the lower sort have not been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have not been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have not been let go?

The Once-Returner.

In such, beggars,
those self-yokings of the lower sort have not been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have not been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have not been let go.

What person, beggars, is one in whom
those self-yokings of the lower sort have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have not been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have not been let go?

The Going Up-Stream to the Akaniṭṭha.[4]

In such, beggars,
those self-yokings of the lower sort have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have not been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have not been let go.

What person, beggars, is one in whom
those self-yokings of the lower sort have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have not been let go?

The Between-Thorough-Nibbāna.[5]

In such, beggars,
those self-yokings of the lower sort have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have not been let go.

What person, beggars, is one in whom
those self-yokings of the lower sort have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have been let go?

The Arahant.

In such, beggars,
those self-yokings of the lower sort have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of re-appearance have been let go,
those self-yokings resulting in the gain of existence have been let go.

 


[1] This generally means the first five of the ten.

[2] Upapatti-paṭilābhiyāni. Upapatti: 'Literally' 'attainment', figuratively 'rebirth'. There is nothing in this term that implies the 'spontaneous rebirth' of Bhk. Thanissaro, He relies on commentary. It looks very much like the meaning of this term is being manipulated precisely to provide wiggle-room for denying the intermediate state implied by type #3.

[3] Bhava.

[4] This individual is spontaneously reborn (that is, without experiencing death here or rebirth there) in a deva realm and moves rebirth upon rebirth upward towards the Akaniṭṭha (No-children-here) realm of the Pure Abodes. Commentary states that the initial rebirth is in one or another of the lower realms of the Pure Abodes. Also, it may not be that all such are spontaneously reborn.

[5] Antarā-parinibbāyissa. Antarā from antara: in the interstice, "in between". Presumably after death and before final Nibbāna; but could it also mean after having abandoned the self-yokes that would otherwise have lead him at death to some sort of rebirth have been let go, and before final Nibbāna? This latter would support the argument that there was no continuation of consciousness between births, but it would duplicate or cover the territory of other types of non-returner and such a one would be an arahant prior to or upon death so the category would be useless.

 


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