The Pāḷi Line

Nidana in illustrations

Evaɱ Me Sutaɱ

(All the good ol' yarns begin this way.)

I Hear Tell

Ekaɱ Samayaɱ

Once Upon A Time

A Very Long Time Ago
In A Place Far Far Away

(about 2600 years ago, c. 600 B.C.)

In the Kingdom of the A-Y-Y-A

(The ancient Kosala and Māghada in the territory now known as Nepal and North India)

The Great Master came revisit'n

(Viharati: Come ta sit down b'side one-sa gen.)

Siddhattha Gotama Sakyamuni

Siddhattha: Accomplished Attainer

Gotama: Family-man (His Mother's Clan)

Sakyamuni: Wiseman of the body-of-Truth Clan

There, appearing in every respect
the perfect image of a beggar,
he gave us beggars the word:

(As he said: "Beating the drum of deathlessness in a world gone blind.")



He would say, (Beggars!):

"Pay Attention!
Give Ear!
I will Speak!"


"Bhante!" the beggars gathered round would answer,
using the polite convention giving permission to speak.

"Long-in-the-Tooth" from the apparent elongation of teeth from receding gums and the descent of upper teeth missing opposing teeth. Things that happened, if you did not know it, in old age in societies with minimal dental care available.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

(Bhadante! Broke Tooth, Bad Dentals, or Elder, later becoming Venerable One. (Now mostly contracted to 'Bhante' meaning "Venerable One".) "Broke Tooth" both because it likely reflects the atmosphere of the time — that is, the samaṇas [seekers, > 'shaman'] actually heard in the word "bhadante" the words "Broke-Tooth", and because early American Indians as well as other cultures, used the same expression; even we say a person is "long in the tooth" on occasion.)

"I will teach you, beggars, about the world!

Do you see this tiny bit of excrement we call the world?Do you see, beggars, this tiny bit of excrement I have picked up on the end of my nail?

I offer you a taste."

[Stage Directions: Readers are to imagine repugnance.]

"In the same way, Beggars,
I do not recommend living in the world
for even so short a time as it takes to snap the fingers!"

AN 1 328

[SNAP] don't click the snap!

[Readers should, whenever this action is mentioned, actually snap their fingers.
— Good Sharp Snap!
This is part of the instruction.]


"In the case of the first case, beggars,
we have the case of the
common man.
Untamed to the discipline of the aristocrats,
untrained in the manners of the aristocrats,
uneducated in the teachings of the aristocrats;

'Sappurisa' also being 'superman' and the basis for the idea of the ubermench which shows how a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
p.p. explains it all — p.p.

untamed to the ways of the sappurisa"

(the sap rising man, the old time preacher man,
the wise man, witch doctor, sorcerer, teacher)

untrained in the craft of the sappurisa,
uneducated to the lore of the sappurisa,
he thinks:

'O,O,O, Here I am,
subject to birth, aging, sickness, and death,
grief and lamentation,
pain and misery,
and despair,
separated from what I want,
united with what I dislike,
in a word:
bound up
up-end down
in this entire flaming stockpiled pile of ... um ... Dukkha!
If only there were some way out of all this do-do-k-kha!'"

— [AN 3.40] [MN 20]

"In that case,
let him come near,
let him listen up,
let him remember what he hears,
let him think over what he has remembered,
let him evaluate what he has thought over,
let him test the truth of his conclusions,
let him rely on what he has tested,
and let him continue on This Way
until he has attained his goal."


Beggars! A beggar looking for his Wishes to come true
should avoid these two extremes:

The path down hedonistic self indulgence


the path down self torture.

Avoiding those two extremes,[1]
he should come up the majjhima path.
The Magic path.
The middle way.

—SN 5 56 11



There are two schools of thought out there calling themselves 'Buddhism':
Those that advocate "concentration" [samādhi] (restricting the notion of samādhi to their doubtful understanding of the intent of its initial stages only), and those that advocate "insight" [vipassanā]). Both ignore the overwhelming evidence that the two are two sides of a single practice.

There are two additional schools of thought out there:
Those that advocate "insight" [vipassanā] and those that advocate "calming down" ([samatha]), including in the notion of calming down the practice of samādhi.

Here the term 'serenity' is being used for "samādhi" as the actual practice involves both more and less than what is meant by the terms "concentration," "meditation", "trance", or "musing" used by other translators. 'Getting High' was used in previous editions of this book and still fits and is still used here and there where it seems to appropriate, but has mostly been replaced by "serenity" to more positively emphasize the idea of calm, controlled oversight. "High" is an old term strongly associated with religious attainments that served well and was also used previously for "sammā" [summit, sum, suma] which is the root of "samādhi". That use has here been replaced by 'consummate' to better indicate "best" as opposed to "right" in the dimensions of the "Eightfold Way".

Briefly, samādhi is the focus or clarity attained by the process of "attaining one state by abandoning another",[2] or "rising above", whereas concentration is a "focus on;"
"meditation" means "thinking about" and while there is some "thinking" going on in the initial stages of samādhi, it is to be eliminated as one advances;
"trance," if understood to be 'a state of profound abstraction or absorption accompanied by exaltation' is not too far off, but is a little too much associated with excitement, forgetfulness and involvement with the world (however strangely);
"musing" is way too randomly focused.

The reader should keep in mind that it is the mechanism of letting go for attaining samādhi that is the key to understanding it whatever word is used for the term in translation. The idea of letting go to attain clarity adheres to the highest principle of the Pāḷi,[3] that of detachment, and 'serenity' fits somewhat better than the other translations.

Here the terms "review" (re-view) and "insight" are both used for "vipassanā" depending on context. "Insight" is not wrong, but has connotations that would sometimes be better avoided. The word "vipassana" means vi = "re" or "in"; passa = "sight" or "view". The idea is of the seeing of the view one experiences coming upon a mountain pass. "Review" is favored because the coming upon that pass involves re-examination as well as accidental discovery. In the Pāḷi, insight is not always the discovery of something new, it is most often the discovery of the error of an old way of seeing things.

The practice of attaining serenity is much older than the Pāḷi, and if it, by it's own nature, could lead to utter detachment, there would have been no need for the Buddha. The practice of attaining serenity is for the learner a tool to be used to gain perspective in the same way as one at the summit can see the view. For the adept it is simply a way to live at ease. "Serenity" and "Review" work hand in hand to bring one to a perspective where letting go and the resulting detachment are seen as freedom.

After 'basic training' in generosity, ethical culture, and self-control, (all, by the way, included in the idea of samādhi practice) the method that will be presented here will be to describe a path toward the highest attainments in serenity and then from there to direct the attention to a path toward the highest vision and the detachment that results by way of calming down, review, attaining serenity through letting go and letting go of serenity.


Getting Started: High Getting High

Sammā Samādhi. Sammā = English summit = high, the best, not 'the right' which is today paired inseparably with 'the wrong' and the idea is not 'the one right', but the best choice. This is complicated by the fact that in the Pāḷi the term does mean 'right', as in an 'upright', a carpenters term, and the right hand (as opposed to the left). The translation "right" is so intrenched at this point that it is not likely to be abandoned, so when you hear other people speak of 'right speech' etc., try to think: 'best, or highest', not 'I'm right and they are wrong'.

Odd linguistwistu: The English word "satisfaction," if understood to mean the state achieved by the two running themes of the Satipatthana Sutta: penetrating knowledge and release, is exactly the meaning intended: the manufacturing of mental and physical satisfaction, the state of having had enough.
Christ, for example, found 'satisfaction' on the cross.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

In the method being taught here the practice of attaining the highest form of serenity begins with satipatthana. Sati = mind, memory; paṭṭhāna = manufacture, stand up, set up. Setting up the mind.

To the degree that it is possible:

Find yourself some place to be alone.[4]

Sit down in the cross-leg Indian style ('legs bent-across-lapwise')[5]. Your seat should be low to the ground and firm. It is not necessary to sit in the full lotus position or the half lotus position although both of those positions have advantages. The idea here is that the position to strive for is one that is the least uncomfortable over extended periods of time.

Flop the trunk forward and release as much tension from the body as possible in that position.

And then, squeezing as tightly as possible from the anal sphincter upward, squeeze all the muscles around the spine until the body begins to achieve the erect posture. At this point squeeze and re-squeeze, (twist and shout!) to attain the uttermost erect posture attainable. Throw out the chest, suck in the stomacher, arch the back, flex the shoulders. Tuck in the chin. Really stretch it out.

And then take the mind from wherever it is and focus the attention on the area around the mouth and face. Use that as your base of operations. The idea is 'minding' which is periodic checking on, not concentration on. 'Recollect' — remember to remind yourself to periodically check on. With a little practice focus on the general area of the mouth will encompass the whole face, the breathing, and the entire body while keeping the eyes, which would normally follow the attention, centered and steady.

The face contains more of the sense organs than any other location on the body. The muscles of the face control the tensions in the entire body. The face, continuously reacting to sense stimuli, expresses the individual's reactions to the world. This reaction, if the individual is caught up in the hunger and thirst for sense stimuli, is reflected in an overall feeling of dissatisfaction. If the individual has seen through to the real nature of things and has let the hunger and thirst for sense stimuli go, his body reflects a general feeling of satisfaction. The practice here is to familiarize the individual with the experience of satisfaction. Therefore, while still in the utmost erect posture possible, put a look of Satisfaction on the Face.[6]

It does not matter that the look of satisfaction is not genuine. The idea at this time is to create a point of reference.


Smile broadly and then focus on the face muscles needed to create that broad smile and let go of the tension involved.

And then, take in 1, 2, 3 Deep Deep Deep Satisfying breaths, and Let It all Go.

Thinking: "With penetrating knowledge of this confounded body, I breath in a deep breath" breath in a deep breath.

Thinking: "With release from the totality of bodily experience, I breath out a deep breath" breath out a deep breath.

Thinking: "Stilling, calming, tranquilizing this own-made (Sankhārā-ed, with-made, con-founded) body, I breath in and out with short breaths" breath in and out with short breaths.


The Gradual Training: Introduction

Attaining serenity is not an end in itself. It is a tool to be used so that one may examine things with objective detachment for the purpose of gaining the freedom of objective detachment from every confounded thing.

In the broadest of general terms, the things to examine and understand are: Body, Sensation, States of the Heart (Mental States), and the Word.

The structure of this examination should take the form of penetrating knowledge. Penetrating knowledge consists of seeing to the uttermost root, ('studious etiological examination') of a thing as applied to its broadest interpretation. One must see the attraction of a thing, it's repellant nature, and the way to escape it's bondage.

You will know when you have reached complete understanding of a thing when you are able to release it completely and thereby achieve objective detachment from it, freedom from it. It is very important that at this time one makes this accomplishment conscious! It is equally important that one not become excited, delighted or swelled up with pride over such accomplishment. Becoming excited, delighted or swelled up with pride will kill the advantages instantly.

The attraction of a thing is it's ability to produce pleasant sensations.

The dis-gusting feature of a thing is that about it which produces unpleasant, painful sensations.

The escape from the bondage of a thing is by way of seeing its real nature as not belonging to the self,
as being inconsistent,
and as carrying with it,
consequent upon it's not being of the self and being inconsistent,
the danger of causing pain
to the degree to which one is attached to it.

There is no thing which,
having come into being,
is not bound by time,
and bound by time,
it has a beginning,
and end.

Having seen the attraction of a thing, it's repellant nature, and the way of escape, one naturally has no appetite[7] for it. Having no appetite, one is not attached. Not attached one is free. Knowing one is free one has attained the release of detachment.

Here is an exercise to begin The Gradual Training, the first object onto which to focus the high mind:


The First Lesson

This is sometimes also called "The First Question," or "The One Question." This is the first of Ten Questions which are a hallmark of Pāḷi Buddhism. They are capable of being answered only by one who has heard the answer from Gotama or from one who has heard it from one who has. Thus in the Old Days they were used as a kind of password to determine if someone was a follower or not.[8] Although I am about to give the answer to this question, let no one imagine that simply by repeating the answer will one be mistaken for a man of knowledge!

This is the question: Eka nāma kim?
eka = one; nāma = name-a; kim = what. What is One?

What one concept, when used to see things to their root with penetrating knowledge, and to understand them in their broadest limits, such that their disgusting nature is seen as it really is and one has released them in their entirety, can bring one to the uttermost freedom of detachment?



this image indicates a vocabulary audio file — How do you say that? ah har eh

Food  Don't Bite That Apple!

All Beings
Live On
On Food.


This is what is meant by "understood to it's broadest limits":

The Four Foods:

[1] Material Food, hard and soft; solid and liquid.

[2] Sense Stimulation, Touch, contact of sense organ with sense object + Re-knowing-knowlege (viññāṇa, awareness of knowing, aka consciousness).

[3] Intentions (mano-sancetana: mano = mind; san = one with; cetana = heart) Setting the heart on, of a mind to, having the heart for. Will.

[4] Individualized or Personal Consciousness Self-awareness. Re-knowing-knowlege. (Viññāṇa: re-knowing-knowing-knowledge; knowledge of knowing knowing, in this case, awareness of knowing as an individual.)

With material food, or sense-stimulation, or intention, or re-knowing knowledge as the object, the individual, enabled by Re-knowing-knowlege, propels himself into future becoming, living, rebirth.

At this point, should this instruction end here, this much would be enough to guide an energetic, intelligent, honest seeker to his goal.

Recommended side-trips: A Son's Flesh; Where There Is Lust and Sopāka

High Getting High 2

Assume the sitting position. Flop forward. Rise up erect. Bring the mind to the area of the mouth and face. Put a look of satisfaction on the face. Breath in 1, 2, 3 deep deep deep satisfying breaths, and let it all go.

From this point on, practice Not Doing. Do not deliberately "do" anything but breath in and out.

Do not move the hands or feet or adjust the posture in any way.

Do not burp or assist in the evacuation of gas (a hum).

Do not twitch.

When you become aware that there is an area of tension somewhere in the body that can be let go without "doing" anything, let it go.

For the beginner: If you notice after a few minutes that the tensions in your body have twisted you up like a pretzel and the awkwardness of the position is impossible for you to correct by letting go — make a note of it and start again.

For the more advanced: There may come a time for those making some headway when a variety of strange bodily phenomena seem to be taking place on their own. The phenomena are different for different people, and do not occur with all people.

Some people experience twitching in the legs. Some people experience twitching in the buttocks like the body wants to hop around. Some will experience "spasms" in the stomach or back or neck or face. Some people will experience tingling all over or in a certain spot only, some will have a feeling that small animals (or even larger ones!) are crawling on one or have a feeling similar to walking through a cobweb ... and other varieties of such. Some people will experience apparently isolated spots of heat or cold. The best practice here is to attempt to 'get ahead' of these phenomena. By that is meant that prior to the onset of the phenomena there is a period where directing the Re-knowing-knowlege to letting go of tensions at certain unfamiliar places, or where 'allowing' the energy to flow smoothly, will eliminate the strange behavior.

The fastest way to restore circulation to the legs is to stand with the feet flat and do several shallow "knee bends" without raising the heals from the floor. It is an interesting phenomena that sitting in the full lotus, if one has managed to stay in the position for a while usually does not result in the legs 'falling asleep.'

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

The Westerner not used to sitting in the Indian style position will soon begin to experience intense pain in the legs. (Too much meat.) A balanced approach to this phenomena is recommended here: endure the pain for a little longer each time, until you can sit for several hours without pain. There will come a time when the best strategy will be to sit and endure the pain until it has completely passed.

The beginner may experience an intense desire to sleep. Resist the temptation for the period you have set aside for sitting practice. Sleep, when you sleep, when you have decided to sleep, not when you are 'striving' in your practice. If all else fails, go to the alternative form of "sitting" practice: pacing back and forth. Find a level place about 24 feet long (not too long, not too short) and holding the body erect and looking ahead at the ground about six-eight feet in front of you, pace back and forth with a regular pace.


The Place to Pace

It's not the place you place the place to pace
That makes the place to pace
The best place to pace
It's the pace you pace the place to pace
That makes the place to pace
The best place
To out-pace the round of endless deaths.

The Place to Pace

Click the pic
to see my
Place to Pace


There are also psychological phenomena which occur: one may think the world is coming to an end; one may think one is dying; a vast array of strange, unusual, and frightening mental phenomena may occur. The best remedy here is to 'still, calm, and tranquilize the body.' If under harassment from some frightening idea or phenomena, there is one remedy which will always prove victorious: study the Dhamma. That is the Buddha's promise!

Castaneda's Don Juan describes such entities as living off energy. The more frightened or angry one gets, the happier they are.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

The best tactic when encountering frightening phenomena is to fight them no more than by an effort to calm down. These phenomena represent opportunity. They should be analyzed, as Freud would analyze a dream. What is the symbolic meaning? Sometimes these phenomena are simply exaggerations of actual fears. Often they are symbolic of the real nature of the world. (The world is always coming to an end! You are dying! What is not usually the case is coming face-to-face with how one feels about that.)

When sitting, do not concern yourself as to whether your eyes are open or shut. Teachers doing the Dhamma hustle make a big deal about this, one way or another — it's an easy non-issue which makes them seem to know more than they do. The fact is that 'doing' either is taking an action asserting self in the world and that is what we are trying to avoid. The whole of the practice, from finding a place to be alone on, should be done with an attitude of letting go of one's normal involvement with the world.

Some methods recommend various places to unwaveringly fix the attention. Some recommend attention to breathing. Some recommend focusing on an object like a circle of earth or a bowl of water or a board with a hole in it, or a cut out circle with a view of a fire, or the wind blowing the leaves of a tree (See: the 40 Objects of Meditation). Here, with the idea that it is strictly an exercise in the development of concentration (reference above, as a factor of attaining serenity, as opposed to thinking of concentration as the whole story), it is recommended that you recollect the breathing. It is not important where you focus on the breathing.[9] The recollection of the breathing is complimentary to (the equivalent of) the focus on penetrating knowledge (of the Body, Sensations, Mental States, and The Word) and Release. It is a trick we are playing on the mind, saying focus on this and focus on that. It is easier to develop a high degree of concentration this way than to try to maintain concentration on one and only one point of focus. (The beginner, trying to focus on only one object will focus on that object, lose his concentration and drift off into a million other thoughts. Here when the first concentration is broken, the focus is brought to an alternative.) This technique will use hundreds upon hundreds of tricks like this. In the end we will say that you have developed serenity using "The Dhamma Device."

A Harrah!
Hooray, Hooray,
We have Food
To eat

Now bring your attention back to Penetrating Knowledge of Āhāra: Food.



Strictly speaking even 'not-doing' is not actually not-doing. It is intentionally not doing. It is 'kamma' which has no outcome or which has the outcome of bringing kamma to an end. The important distinction is between trying to 'do nothing' and 'not-doing' something.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.


Try this exercise to physically understand the difference between "doing nothing" (which, by definition, is a doing, and is, therefore, impossible) and "not doing" (which is important to the understanding of every phase of the Pāḷi practice, especially for High Serenity).

Clench your fist using extreme pressure.

Hold the fist clenched for a few seconds, until you can focus on the mechanics of what you are doing.

Then, without opening the fist or moving a muscle with intention, let go of the tension that is causing the fist to clench.

This is not "doing" anything, this is the letting go of (the ending of) the doing that was the clenching. This example, demonstrated through the physical body, applies as well to all forms of grasping: grasping of the body; grasping after sense experience; grasping after perceptions; grasping after the creation of your own world; and grasping after Re-knowing-knowlege.


[1] Means avoid taking even one step in either direction; does not mean moderately take either direction.

[2] The art of developing one state of re-knowing-knowlege by abandoning another.

[3] "Pāḷi" is a name for both the language in which the system was set down, and also the system itself.

[4] "Here beggars, a beggar, having gotten himself off to the forest or to the root of some tree, or to some empty hut, and having taken up his seat there sitting down body upright, legs bent-across-lapwise, mindful, he attends to the area of the mouth, just so he recollects the inspirations, just so he recollects the expirations." — SN 5.54.1

legs bent-across-lapwise

[5] Indian Style; full lotus, half lotus, or crossed in front without overlap. Many images show the Buddha in half lotus posture, however the two other postures provide a better balance, and the full lotus has the advantage of securing the legs in the event of flight, of 'forcing' the body up on the haunches and by that forcing the back up straight [with time in the full lotus, perfectly upright bodily posture is the only comfortable position], and of fighting off sleepiness. Once mastered the full lotus posture can be sustained without pain for longer periods than the other two postures.
PED: Pallanka [pary+anka, cp. Class Sk. palyanka and Māgadhī paliyanka] 1. sitting cross-legged, in instr. pallankena upon the hams ... ; and in phrase pallankaṃ ābhujati "to bend (the legs) in crosswise" ... .

[6] Sati Pari Mukkham.
Whatever word or phrase you end up deciding to use
in your meditation
to describe this word:
Next time you go to your place to be alone,
to sit down for a while,
sit down
sitting up straight
Then bring your attention to the face
and thus to the in and out breathing.
Become aware of the whole face.
Each sense organ located there individually.
Release the tensions in the face.
All of this is controlled with the face.
Mind now!
Remember to breath.
I'm just tell'n you what I hear:
It's like a caricature Chinese man speeke say: 'Happy all round face.' Sati Parimukkham. Sati what you want or extrapolate a little from this and just take it as an unproven: Satisfaction. Penetrating Knowledge + Release.
Sati all round face.
No problem if you want to hear: "Attention all around the face" or
"Awareness all round the face," or
"Mind all round the face," or
"Remember all round the face,"
or mouth, or front,
as long as you remember
that the goal of the system
is detachment,
so that you will become aware
at the time
that when this has been established by you
through your attention, or awareness, or minding, or recollection,
of your face or mouth or front,
the look you will have on your
is a look of satisfaction.

Today [Saturday, March 31, 2007 5:14 AM] one will hear those who teach so-called breathing meditation say 'Focus on the breath at the tip of the nose. Then they say: 'One can pay attention to only one thing at a time.' So when the instruction is to focus on the posture or on sensations as they arise, their practice is broken. The idea is 'minding' in the way a baby-sitter minds a baby. By periodic checks, not unbroken attention. I am using ideas related to memory (remind, remember, recollect, memory) to break away from the idea of fixed attention that has become 'fixed' to the idea of 'mindfulness' which is misleading, and, additionally to point to the differences between 'sati' (memory), 'citta' (heart or center), and 'mano' (mind) all of which are today being translated as 'mind'.

[7] 'Repelled' and 'revolted' and such are incorrect in the sense of being words for an active feeling, whereas the state to be acquired is a state of not liking, detached understanding of the revolting nature of a thing without experience of revulsion. The thing itself is repellant or revolting; one feels a lack of desire for it. 'Disgust' works as long as it is heard as a lack of appatite, not a feeling. 'Dislike' (not liking) would also work if heard the same way.

[8] Today the set is used as a grammar-school level reading textbook in countries like Thailand. The idea that this is a fitting use for this set of Dhamma practices comes from the fact that the series was introduced by the Buddha in connection with the ordination of a seven-year-old child. He used the list as a demonstration to the Order that this child was sufficiently advanced to warrant full ordination. He was already Arahant — that is, fully accomplished in the system. This is no children's Dhamma instruction, but in fact it does serve well in that capacity in that it covers in a simple way ten of the most important of the system's sets of categories of things ['Dhammas'].

[9] The idea is that indicated in the quote above [n4] from the Anapana Samyutta of the Samyutta Nikaya SN 5.54.1, 'recollected, he attends to the mouth, just so he recollects the inspiration, just so he recollects expiration', that is, that attention brought to the area of the mouth and face is also attention brought to aspiration.

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