Ācariya Buddhadatta is accounted one of the three great commentators of the Theriya tradition, along with Buddhaghosa and Dhammapāla. He probably lived around the same time as Buddhaghosa, during the fourth or fifth century A.D. Indeed, an account from many centuries later claims that Buddhadatta left Ceylon just as Buddhaghosa was arriving. Their boats are said to have met halfway between Ceylon and India. Certainly, the writings of both are based upon the same ancient commentaries from the Great Monastery (Mahāvihāra) in Anurādha-pura, the then capital of Ceylon.
Buddhadatta's main works are verse presentations of Abhidhamma (systematic theory) and Vinaya (monastic discipline). Although shorter than his treatment of Vinaya, the Abhidhammāvatāra or Entrance to Abhidhamma is probably his most important work.
The chapter translated here concerns the practice of jhāna. It is loosely arranged in the two-line verses of the original but without any further attempt to render it as English poetry. Headings have been added to show the progression of the text. Some notes are added at the end of the translation to clarify points in the verses that may be unclear.
The work is addressed to bhikkhus and it is clear that the account is intended for those who can devote themselves full-time to meditation practice. This is in contrast to some of the Suttas (discourses), which are often addressed to bhikkhus as a form of respect but describe practices that may be undertaken by anyone. Even so, Buddhadatta’s teaching is presented here in the belief that the presentation of an ideal form of practice can be helpful also for those following a less intense path.
Explanation of the Bringing into Being of Form-Frequenting Concentration
789. I will henceforth explain the supreme method of bringing into being that brings gain
and the well-trained mind that brings happiness — hear this delightful exposition.
790. Knowing and seeing that is more than the dhamma of men — one desirous of attaining this should first purify sīla.
791. Where practice is mixed with doubt, with wrong conduct devoid of sīla,
there is no jhāna — how could there be the path ? Therefore
one should purify sīla.
792. Sīla is reckoned as twofold in terms of what is to be done and what is to be avoided.
But without gap or lack, without blemish, blameless it
793. should be performed by one desirous of the goal and wishing for
the happiness of solitude (viveka).
For sīla is for bhikkhus — the incomparable finery,
794. the treasure, the sure refuge, the shelter, the haven, the resort,
and the fine wishing-jewel; sīla is the incomparable vehicle (yāna);
795. sīla is the cool liquid that washes away the stains of the defilements,
both as being the root of good qualities and a mighty destroyer of faults.
796. This too is the supreme, incomparable stairway that mounts to the heaven of the Three (times Ten)
and the sure path to the entrance to the city of nibbāna.
797. Therefore this sīla, twofold in characteristic, should be made very purified by one desiring the goal, the bhikkhu to whom sīla is dear.
Obtaining the meditation subject
798. When one in this teaching is established in purified sīla,
he should cut off any obstacle — but obstacles they say are ten.
799. The ten are: dwelling place, family, gain, a group and work is fifth, travel, kindred, sickness, study, iddhi.
800. After cutting off the ten kinds of obstacle,
he should approach the giver of the kammaṭṭhāna.
801. Pleasant, commanding respect, revered, one who says [what is needed], easy to speak to,
both a speaker of profound discourse and not one who incites one to the wrong thing.
802. After approaching at the right time one endowed with these and similar qualities,
a seeker of the good, a good friend, the giver of the kammaṭṭhāna,
803. the kammaṭṭhāna should be obtained; but only after performing the duties due to him.
He should give it to the bhikkhu after knowing his character type.
804. This character type is reckoned as of six kinds
with regard to passion, hate and delusion and to faith, intelligence and thinking.
805. According to the method of mixing them, they are sixty four,
but thinking there is no use to them, I have not shown them here.
806. The ten uglinesses, likewise mindfulness connected with the body
— these eleven are suited to someone of the passion type.
807. The four immeasurables, the colour kasiṇas —
these eight are always suitable for someone of the hate type.
808. For the very deluded character type and for the thinking character type
in and out breathing is the single one prescribed as suitable.
809. The set of the first six recollections are for the person of the faith character type.
Mindfulness as to death and peace, food-linked
810. recognition, discrimination of the elements — for the individual of intelligence nature these four are pointed out as suitable.
811. Both the four linked to non-rūpa and the remaining kasiṇas —
these are explained as suitable for all character types.
812. It should be known by the clever that all this was said
from the standpoint of complete opposition and extreme beneficiality.
Subjects of meditation
813. One should indicate that all of the kammaṭṭhānas [number] forty: ten kasiṇas, ten each of uglinesses and recollections;
814. four immeasurables and four connected to non-rūpa;
the discrimination of the elements and the recognition to do with food.
815. Among these kammaṭṭhānas how many bring approach (upacāra)?
Leaving out mindfulness of in and out breathing and that connected with the body
816. the remaining eight recollections, the recognition <of food> and
the discrimination <of the elements> —
these ten are said to bring approach; the rest bring absorption.
817. Among those which bring absorption, the ten kasiṇas
and also mindfulness of in and out breathing — these have four jhānas.
818. The ten uglinesses, likewise mindfulness connected with the body — these eleven dhammas may be of the first jhāna.
819. The three first brahmavihāras bring three jhānas;
the fourth and those connected with non-rūpa are reckoned as belonging to the fourth jhāna.
820. Surmounting is twofold with reference to the support and the factors;
there is surmounting of the pasture in those connected with non- rūpa, surmounting of the jhāna factors in those connected with rūpa.
821. Only the ten kasiṇas out of these should be increased; but not to be increased are the uglinesses and the rest.
822. The ten kasiṇas and also the ten uglinesses,
likewise mindfulness of in and out breathing, also mindfulness connected with the body
823. are supports which can be semblance nimitta.
The rest could not be supports which are semblance nimitta.
824. The ten uglinesses, recognition of food, mindfulness connected with the body
— these twelve do not at any time occur among the devas.
825. Both these twelve and also mindfulness of in and out breathing
— these thirteen are not found in the brahma world.
826. Apart from the four connected with non-rūpa there are none among non-rūpa beings.
In the human world all certainly occur.
827. Omitting the fourth kasiṇa, the kasiṇas and the uglinesses
— these nineteen are to be grasped only by the seen.
828. But in mindfulness as to body, the five beginning with skin are to
be grasped by the seen, the remainder of the parts only by the heard.
829. Mindfulness of in and out breath is explained as to be grasped by the touched;
wind kasiṇa alone is grasped by
830. But the remaining eighteen are to be grasped by the heard alone.
The immeasurable of balance and also the non-rūpas — these five - 10 -
831. have been made known as not to be grasped right from the beginning.
The remaining thirty five can be grasped from the beginning.
832. Among these kammaṭṭhānas, excluding space kasiṇa nine kasiṇas are conditions for the non-rūpa [levels].
833. But ten kasiṇas are conditions for the abhiññās; three brahmavihāras are conditions for the fourth.
834. Each lower non-rūpa level is a condition for each higher one. Similarly the fourth is a condition for cessation (nirodha).
835. But all of these forty kinds can be conditions
for insight, for success in achieving a state of being and for happiness.
How to practise the earth kasiṇa
836. To someone who has obtained the kammaṭṭhāna and dwells in the presence of the teacher himself,
it should be expounded (at the moment of coming of whatever comes).
837. But when a bhikkhu wishes to go elsewhere after obtaining it, it should be expounded neither too succinctly nor in too much detail.
838. When he has obtained the kammaṭṭhāna, the weak point of the mind-born deva,
in a suitable vihāra, free from the eighteen defects,
839. he should dwell constantly — one not too far from
the village nor too near, auspicious and endowed with five factors.
840. A minor obstacle too should be cut off. If there is long hair, nails or body hair, they should be cut by the yogin.
841. The robe should be dyed if it is stained.
If there is a mark on the bowl, it should be baked.
842. The bhikkhu who has cut off the obstacles
and dwells happily in a secluded place,
843. should avoid blue, yellow, red and white soil and make
an attractive kasiṇa with soil that is smooth and the colour of the dawn,
844. if he is wise and desires to attain jhāna.
Either in secluded accommodation or in a place like that outside,
845. in a concealed place or in a hollow place in a cave, the kasiṇa should be made either movable or fixed.
846. One making a movable one should bind onto four sticks either leather or matting or woven cloth
847. and make the kasiṇa there in accordance with the amount of soil. Laying it on the ground, he should look upon it.
848. A fixed one should be made as a circle like the round part (calyx?) of a lotus
by striking stakes into the ground and covering it with creepers.
849. In detail it is fitting for one who wishes to be free from the circle
to make a circle measuring a span and four finger breadths.
850. After making the kasiṇa circle (maṇḍala) pleasant like the surface of a drum,
after thoroughly sweeping the locality, after going to bathe and returning,
851. the wise person sits there in a well-prepared place within arm’s reach (hattha-pāsa) of the kasiṇa circle
852. on a well-covered seat, a span and four finger breadths high. Having positioned the body erect and made mindfulness before him,
853. having seen the danger in kāmas, having seen freedom from kāmas as safe,
having aroused the highest joy and gladness towards the three jewels,
854. having made a supreme effort with the <resolve>
‘through this practice may I surely be a sharer in the happiness of seclusion (paviveka)’,
855. he should open his eyes only to a moderate degree
and practise again and again, grasping its appearance (nimitta) well.
856. The colour should not be looked at nor should the lakkhaṇa be seen,
but without releasing the colour, the learned one should place the mind
857. predominantly upon the concept (paṇṇatti-dhamma) and practise with one-pointed mind, repeating ‘paṭhavī (earth), paṭhavī’.
858. It is fitting to repeat any one among such names for earth as
earth, wide one (medinī), ground (bhūmi), giver of wealth (vasudhā) or bearer of wealth (vasundharā).
859. Alternately with open and closed eyes, one should advert to it again and again,
just so long as the acquired nimitta does not arise.
Developing the nimittas
860. At the time when, as he practises in this way with one-pointed mind,
it comes into the mind’s eye (āpātha) of the yogin who is adverting with closed eyes
861. in the same way as at the time when they are open,
at that time the acquired nimitta is said to have arisen.
862. But when the nimitta has arisen, henceforth the discerning
yogin should not sit in that place.
863. The wise one should enter his own dwelling place
and develop it seated there, as is comfortable.
864. But in order to avoid proliferation of washing the feet
two single-soled sandals are desirable.
865. If his immature concentration perishes due to something damaging (asappāya ),
he should go to the same place and take it again.
866. He should practise again and again, seated comfortably on a stool and it should be paid careful attention to and impacted by thought (takka).
867. But if the mind leaves the nimitta and runs without,
the mind should be restrained and fixed on the nimitta.
868. Wherever he is sitting, when that one rich in tapas desires the nimitta
in that same place, by day or by night, it arises in his mind.
869. All five hindrances are obstructed (vikkhambhanti.)
stage by stage for the yogin who does so.
870. The mind is concentrated with approach concentration
and the semblance nimitta arises for the yogin.
871. But what is the difference between this and the previous <acquired> nimitta?
It is like the polished disk of a mirror drawn from a bag;
872. like the disk of the moon when it is completely full coming out from a cloud;
like cranes against a storm cloud is the semblance nimitta.
873. at that point, emerging as if breaking up the acquired nimitta.
It appears to him as much purer than the acquired nimitta.
874. But it possesses neither shape nor colour.
It is a mere mode of appearance, born of recognition, made through bringing into being (bhāvanā).
875. When the semblance nimitta made through bringing to being, has arisen, the five hindrances too are obstructed.
876. Defilements are truly stilled for the bhikkhu earnest in work (yuttayoga.)
The mind is concentrated with approach concentration.
877. But the mind becomes concentrated in two ways for the one who possesses concentration: at the moment of approach and <at the moment of> obtaining.
878. By the abandoning of the hindrances at the moment of approach but likewise by the appearance of the jhāna factors at the moment of obtaining.
879. ‘But declare what is the difference between the two kinds of concentration ?’
At the moment of approach the factors have not become strong,
880. but in absorption factors which have become strong would arise.
Therefore that absorption mind occurs even for a day.
881. If in that very sitting he can develop the nimitta and reach absorption, it is good.
882. If he cannot, that nimitta should be constantly guarded
as if it were a hard to obtain treasure like the embryo of a cakkavattin
883. by the heedful yogin who possesses mindfulness.
Loss does not occur to one who guards the nimitta he has obtained.
884. When there is no guarding, what has been obtained perishes each time;
so it should be guarded. This is the way of guarding it:
885. Dwelling place, food source, conversation, person; food; temperature;
mode of activity (iriyāpatha) — he should avoid these seven unhelpful things;
886. he should cultivate the seven helpful kinds. For so practising
a bhikkhu will before long have absorption.
887. The intelligent person who does not have absorption even so
practising should perfectly accomplish skill in absorption.
888. This skill in absorption is of ten kinds
but it is not explained by me here out of fear of too long a book.
889. But absorption comes about when the nimitta has been obtained,
to one who accomplishes skill in absorption in this way.
890. If it does not occur to one who has practised in this way,
he should even so not give up effort (yoga); the learned person must still strive.
891. Therefore the intelligent person would examine the manner of occurrence of his citta.
and again and again unite evenness with vigour (viriya).
892. Let him take hold of the mind when it becomes just a little lax and
restraining the mind when it is too energetic, he should make it occur evenly.
893. After freeing the mind from lax and energetic states
he should bring it towards the semblance nimitta.
894. But when he brings it towards the nimitta in this way with the idea ‘now certainly absorption will succeed’,
895. adverting citta. is born to the yogin,
cutting off the passive mind and likewise making that same earth kasiṇa
896. the support at the mind door; next four or five
active minds with the very same support are born to him.
897. Last of these would be a single rūpa-frequenting active mind. The thinking and other jhāna factors are stronger than the previous ones.
898. These active minds are called preparatory and approach
due to being preparatory to and approaching absorption mind
899. and inclination (anuloma) due to inclining towards absorption.
The one which is last of all out of these is called ‘family membership’ (gotrabhū).
900. By not taking those which have already been taken, preparatory is first; second is approach; third is inclination;
901. the fourth is explained as ‘family membership’; the fifth is absorption mind.
Alternatively the first is approach; the second is inclination;
902. the third is explained as ‘family membership’; the fourth is absorption mind.
Either the fourth or the fifth makes the mind absorbed — not those after.
903. In the sixth or seventh absorption is not born;
due to the nearness of the passive mind the active mind is in process of falling.
904. Yet the Abhidhammika Godatta said as to this that because of previous repetition, the sixth or the seventh become absorbed.
905. In fact, just as someone running towards a sheer drop
even if he wishes to stop at the edge is unable to do so, it should be known by the clever that in the same way
one cannot enter absorption in the sixth or seventh mind.
907. It is pointed out that this absorption is for just one citta. moment;
then there is falling into the passive mind;
908. then after cutting the passive mind, in order to recollect:
adverting; then the mind which recollects jhāna.
909. Sensual purpose; ill will; sloth and sleepiness; excited guilt; doubt — these five are abandoned.
910. Conjoined with thinking, exploring, joy and happiness and one-pointedness — this jhāna is fivefold.
911. The mind is greedy for various objects of sense due to sensual purpose,
wandering hither and thither like a monkey in the forest.
912. Because of unifying (samādhāna.) the mind on just one object concentration is called the opponent of sensual purpose.
913. Due to its goodness of feeling (pāmojjabhāva.) and its nature being to cool,
joy is spoken of as the opponent of ill will.
914. Because it spreads out (savipphārikattā.) as thought free from sensuality and the like,
thinking is explained as the opponent of sloth and sleepiness.
915. Because their nature is unquiet and because happiness is itself very peaceful,
happiness is the opponent of the pair of excitement and guilt.
916. Because it resembles wisdom, exploring which has the
characteristic of constant scanning is shown as the opponent of doubt.
917. Thus the first jhāna which is freed from five factors and joined with five,
fortunate, beautiful in three ways, joined to ten lakkhaṇas,
918. has been reached by the yogin.
One who desires that jhāna to last a very long while
919. should attain it after purifying it of evils in every way.
If he attains it <in this way>, it would be very long-lasting.
920. The bhikkhu desiring to fully develop his mind (cittabhāvanā)
should expand the semblance nimitta step by step.
There are two planes for expansion: approach and absorption.
It is fitting to expand it either after reaching approach
922. or after reaching absorption. This is the course for expanding it:
just as a ploughman circumscribes the palace to be ploughed,
923. in just the same way the yogin should expand the nimitta after circumscribing
successively at distances of one and two finger-breadths and so on as far as desired.
924. When first jhāna has been obtained, in five ways
the practitioner of tapas. should thoroughly master it.
925. The masteries are spoken of as five — the three of adverting, attaining and resolving (adhiṭṭhāna) with emergence and recollection.
926. One would perfect the five masteries by constantly adverting, attaining, resolving, emerging and recollecting.
927. For the yogin who wants the second without obtaining mastery of the first
would fall from both — from the first and from the second too.
Progressing through the jhānas
928. If labelling and bringing to mind of sense objects occur to him, the jhāna of that careless yogin is one ‘tending to decline’.
929. Mindfulness which is aligned to it becomes fixed in that —
this jhāna of the slow yogin is ‘tending to stability’.
930. If labelling and bringing to mind without thought occur to him, the jhāna of that careful one would be ‘tending to distinction’.
931. If labelling and bringing to mind joined with disenchantment occur to him,
it has been explained that the jhāna is tending to penetration.
932. Therefore the wise one who has thoroughly mastered these five,
after emerging with proficiency from the first jhāna,
933. because this attainment has weak factors since it is near to
the opposition to the skilful and since thought and exploring are gross,
934. in this way sees the inferiority in the first. Rather the wise yogin
reflects on the second jhāna as peaceful.
935. Overcoming affection for the first jhāna, he should undertake the course of practice to achieve the second.
936. Then when he has emerged from jhāna in the proper way and, mindful and aware, is recollecting the jhāna factors,
937. thinking and exploring manifest to the yogin as gross; the remaining three factors manifest to him as peaceful.
938. At that time, as the yogin is bringing to mind that same nimitta in order to abandon the gross factors and obtain the peaceful ones
939. bringing it to mind as ‘earth, earth’, he knows: ‘now the second jhāna will arise’.
940. Cutting off the passive mind and making earth kasiṇa the support at the mind door,
941. adverting citta. is born to the yogin. Then four or five active minds with that same support are born to him.
942. One active thought, the last of these, is a form-frequenting second jhāna mind.
943. Clarified within, the jhāna has three factors — it is joined with joy and happiness and one-pointedness.
944. One should fully comprehend the rest in the way given above. Thus, lacking two factors, linked with three factors,
945. second jhāna, beautiful in three ways, linked to ten lakkhaṇas, fashioned through bringing into being, has been reached by the bhikkhu.
946. When the second jhāna has been reached and one who is mindful has thorough mastery in the five ways of the second,
947. after emerging from that second jhāna with proficiency, he thinks ‘this attainment is near to thinking and exploring
948. and it has weak factors due to the grossness of joy since there is excitement of the mind due to joy.’
949. Having seen the inferiority of it and the third jhāna as peaceful, overcoming affection for the second jhāna,
950. he should undertake the course of bringing into being to achieve the third.
Then when he has emerged from the second jhāna
951. and, mindful and aware, is recollecting the jhāna factors,
joy manifests as gross and happiness, etc. as peaceful.
952. At that time in order to abandon gross factors and obtain peaceful ones
the yogin brings to mind the very same nimitta.
He knows: ‘now the third jhāna will arise’.
954. Cutting off the passive mind and making earth kasiṇa the support at the mind door,
955. adverting citta. is born to the yogin. Then four or five
active minds with that same support are born to him.
956. One active thought, the last of these,
is a form-frequenting third jhāna mind.
957. Joined with mindfulness and awareness, the third is linked
with happiness and one-pointedness and reckoned as having two factors.
958. One should fully comprehend the rest in the way given above.
But, deprived of one factor, linked with two factors,
959. third jhāna, beautiful in three ways, linked to ten lakkhaṇas, fashioned through bringing into being, has been reached by the bhikkhu.
960. When the third jhāna has been reached and one who is mindful has thorough mastery in the five ways of the third,
961. after emerging from that third jhāna with proficiency, he thinks ‘this attainment is near to the defect of joy’
962. and when there is directing (ābhoga) of the mind concerned with happiness.
it has weak factors due to the grossness of happiness.’
963. Seeing the inferiority of the third jhāna in this way,
and seeing the fourth jhāna as peaceful
964. overcoming affection for the third jhāna,
he should undertake the course of bringing into being to achieve the fourth.
965. Then when he has emerged from the third jhāna
and, mindful and aware, is recollecting the jhāna factors,
966. the happy mind manifests to him as gross and
balanced viewing and one-pointedness of mind as peaceful.
967. At that time in order to abandon the gross factor and obtain a peaceful one
the yogin brings to mind the very same nimitta.
He knows: ‘now the fourth jhāna will arise’.
969. Cutting off the passive mind and making earth kasiṇa
the support at the mind door,
970. adverting citta. is born to the yogin. Then four or five
active minds with that same support are born to him.
971. One active thought, the last of these,
is a form-frequenting fourth jhāna mind.
972. Deprived of one factor, because it is united with two factors
the fourth is reckoned as having two factors.
973. In this way fourth jhāna, beautiful in three ways, linked to ten lakkhaṇas,
fashioned through bringing into being, has been reached by the bhikkhu.
974. Because happiness is not a repetition
and instead active minds associated with balanced viewing are active,
975. therefore the fourth is reckoned as joined with balanced viewing.
This is the difference with it; the rest is as said previously.
The abhidhamma method
976. Dividing into two the first jhāna in the method (naya) of the set of four
the second is made into the third in the method of the set of five;
977. the third becomes the fourth and the fourth fifth in that method.
The first remains first — this is the difference between them.
978. In this way up to here I have spoken not too concisely nor in too much detail
of the bringing into being of the form-frequenting.
979. A very sweet and choice utterance.
What man would these words not delight,
words that are to be experienced by people
whose tranquil understanding is very sharp and clear.
789. 'Bringing into being' is a literal rendering of bhāvanā 'meditation practice' i.e. the development of the eightfold path.
790. Sīla: 'character' is what is developed by keeping the precepts i.e. living a wholesome life. In the eightfold path that is right speech, action and livelihood.
793. Viveka: 'apartness' i.e. separating the mind from sense objects and the hindrances.
796. 'Three times Ten' is poetic language for the Heaven of the Thirty Three.
800. Kammaṭṭhāna: 'occupation' in this context refers to one of the objects utilized to develop samatha meditation.
807. Kasiṇa: 'totality' i.e. a meditation object such as a colour when experienced as comprising everything there is. A kasiṇa disk or circle is an external object — circular or another shape — which is used initially to develop meditation on a totality.
808. The thinking character type refers to someone with a discursive type of mind.
811. Rūpa refers to everything we experience as colour or form. In extended use it refers to materiality in general. Non-rūpa is that which is without colour or form and immaterial.
820. Ārammaṇa: 'support' i.e. object of the mind in a given moment. Gocara 'pasture' i.e. the field in which the mind is 'browsing' is an alternative word for the object of the mind.
830. 'Balance': upekkhā 'equanimity' literally means looking on at what is happening without getting caught up in it.
833. Abhiññā: 'higher knowledge i.e. psychic powers and such things as clairvoyance and remembering past lives.
834. Nirodha is the meditative cessation of the second and third aggregates that transcends both form and formless meditation.
838. 'A weak point' i.e. a place where the opponent is vulnerable in martial combat. The meditation subject is metaphorically where the God of Love (Kāmadeva) is vulnerable.
853. Kāmas in this context are the objects of sense: colour, sound, smell, taste and things that can be touched.
859. Unlike the case of breathing mindfulness the nimitta in kasiṇa practice has a fixed form.
868. Tapas: usually in South Asian religious tradition this refers to a kind of heat or energy generated by ascetic practice. Here the energy arising from meditation must be meant.
882. Cakkavattin: lit., ‘discus-wielder’ or ‘master of a sphere (realm)’ is a legendary universal monarch.
895. 'Passive mind' (bhavaṅga) — the rest state to which the mind returns after every activity.
896. Active minds (javana) — normally mental states of a skilful or unskilful kind. Here the mental process (cittavīthi) leading to jhāna is described.
920. Expanding the nimitta is not recommended for breathing mindfulness. See v.821.
943. The mind becomes still and clear.