Awakening while awakening

“‘‘Yathāvādī kho, āvuso, sadevake loke samārake sabrahmake sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya na kenaci loke viggayha tiṭṭhati, yathā ca pana kāmehi visaṃyuttaṃ viharantaṃ taṃ brāhmaṇaṃ akathaṃkathiṃ chinnakukkuccaṃ bhavābhave vītataṇhaṃ saññā nānusenti – evaṃvādī kho ahaṃ, āvuso, evamakkhāyī’’ti.”

According to whatever doctrine, friend, one does not quarrel with anyone in this world with its divine and evil beings, with its highest gods and groups of ascetics and brahmins, simply because he dwells disconnected from the senses, for such a holy one, who is past a state of looking for answers, who cut through incertitude, who has no thirst left neither for being nor for not-being, whom perceptions do not haunt- such is my teaching, friend, such do I proclaim.


Feeling is like rain, a continuous stream of drops. Sometimes it is lovely warm like mild summer rain, at other times cold chilly and piercingly painful as a heavy shower of rain in the midst of autumn.

To us the world hardly ever stops there. When a spell of rain turns in either direction – too attractive or too painful – it is the chain of thoughts with which we identify immediately, defining ourself. Justifications, longing, rejection, sorrow, lamentation…

But what if we get disconnected – continuously – at the level where we can watch the rain drop on our six sense spheres?

We would witness that if a certain amount of either pleasant or unpleasant feelings persist, that they then in turn will give rise to thoughts. They in turn make us “take up the matter”. First in thoughts, then in words and eventually bodily movements. It is not, that they “make us” take up the matter: If you happen to watch it, real close while it happens, you can see of course how the thoughts are “born”. They are literally being born – and, due to the condition they are born under they will carry a positive or negative spin.

Intention when unseen is the final acknowledgement that we completely identify with and embrace our feelings. At that low level of mental processing the external and internal is yet so close, it almost “appears” here as one. Like the world appears to us, when we just woke up from a very lively dream…it takes some time to “get back”, i.e get our mental machine going again which nests us into this world so cozily. Usually though, our event horizon is right on top of the products of our sensual and mental abstraction (the names) of the world, which surrounds us (the forms).

What if we just were to watch the rain?

…‘‘Yatonidānaṃ, bhikkhu, purisaṃ papañcasaññāsaṅkhā samudācaranti. Ettha ce n’atthi abhinanditabbaṃ abhivaditabbaṃ ajjhositabbaṃ. Es’ev’anto rāgānusayānaṃ, esevanto paṭighānusayānaṃ, esevanto diṭṭhānusayānaṃ, esevanto vicikicchānusayānaṃ, esevanto mānānusayānaṃ, esevanto bhavarāgānusayānaṃ, esevanto avijjānusayānaṃ, esevanto daṇḍādāna-satthādāna-kalaha-viggaha-vivāda-tuvaṃtuvaṃ-pesuñña-musāvādānaṃ. Etthete pāpakā akusalā dhammā aparisesā nirujjhantī’ti. Idamavoca bhagavā.

From whatever source, o monks, a man is confronted by those chains of proliferating perceptions – if HERE there is nothing for him to be delighted in, to go along with them, to enter into them – then that in itself is the end of following passion, this in itself is the end of following aversion, this in itself is the end of views, this in itself is the end of doubt, this in itself is the end of measuring ourself, this in itself is the end of passion for being, this in itself is the end of not-knowing, this in itself is the end of taking rods and weapons, quarrels, disputes, accusations, slander and false speech. Here then all these bad unwholesome things are completely dissolved. This said the Blessed One.


The Buddha says that it is possible to detach ourselves from what everyone believes to be “them”. In fact he makes a very convincing case for knowing and seeing samsaric nature not just out there, around us, but on exactly the same level, internally – it is all equally to be seen and right there left alone. Vision, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking are equal in their fundamental characteristics. How long or rather: how much would it take to awaken to that level of understanding and all-observation, as mentioned in the above paragraph? One thing is for certain: That level of observation, once reached – it in itself is the end of the noble eightfold path.

So h’āvuso, Bhagavā jānaṃ jānāti, passaṃ passati, cakkhubhūto ñāṇabhūto dhammabhūto brahmabhūto, vattā pavattā, atthassa ninnetā, amatassa dātā, dhammassāmī tathāgato.

He verily, friends, the Blessed One, knowing he knows, seeing he sees. He has become Vision, he has become Knowledge, he has become the Law, he has become brahmic – the Speaker, the Proclaimer, the Guide to Meaning, the Giver of Deathlessness, the Lord of the Law, is the One who arrived (at being) Thus.

James’ story: “One afternoon when I was sleepy but still awake I heard noises. Unable to move or speak up I was caught watching what happened. Vipassana set in and observed the events. Each time a sound would register it would trigger an unpleasant feeling. Just a drop. But as the noises kept coming those drops turned into a stronger and stronger shower of rain. As if they set the stage, thoughts started to arise. Out of nowhere. Like bubbles on the water, caused by the raindrops. Following the unpleasant sensations the thoughts themselves were negative, themselves triggering mental unpleasant feelings, helping the rain to grow even stronger. It would not need much more and I could see myself embrace/identify with and “become” those feelings, thoughts, intentions. Get out of my fragile mode of observation which I was balancing in, caught between a sleep and a wake state of mind.

I could see how this fire of sensations would flare up and burn me, turn me into a burning log. Burning by aversion or passion or just not seeing what is going on at other times. I could also see, that if I were to stay here, and have learnt such a level of detachment, it would just be the ocean of feelings that come and go, but nothing more. The thoughts, which would arise would not turn into chains of perceptions coming back to haunt me. They, just as all the other sensations would come and – not being taken up – disintegrate without the fire ever-growing strong enough to “take me over”.

‘‘Cakkhuñcāvuso, paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṃ, tiṇṇaṃ saṅgati phasso, phassapaccayā vedanā, yaṃ vedeti taṃ sañjānāti, yaṃ sañjānāti taṃ vitakketi, yaṃ vitakketi taṃ papañceti, yaṃ papañceti tatonidānaṃ purisaṃ papañcasaññāsaṅkhā samudācaranti atītānāgatapaccuppannesu cakkhuviññeyyesu rūpesu.

Dependent on the sight, o friends, and the forms arises sight-recognition. The alignment of those three is “contact”. Dependent on contact is feeling. What one feels that one perceives. What one perceives that one thinks about. What one thinks about that one proliferates. What one proliferates based on that a man is assailed by chains of proliferated perceptions, with regard to past, present and future forms recognisable through sight.

Venerable Mahakaccayana’s response is superb. Venerable Nyanananda in his “Nibbana Sermon, 11” discusses it indetail:

The formula begins on an impersonal note, cakkhunc’àvuso paticca rupe ca uppajjati cakkhu vinnànam. The word paticca is reminiscent of the law of dependent arising. Tinnam sangati phasso, “the concurrence of the three is contact”.  Phassa paccayà vedanà, “conditioned by contact is feeling”. From here onwards the formula takes a different turn. Yam vedeti tam sanjànàti, yam sanjànàti tam vitakketi, yam vitakketi tam papanceti, “what one feels, one perceives; what one perceives, one reasons about; what one reasons about, one turns into papanca“.

In this way, we can distinguish three phases in this description of the process of sense perception in Venerable Mahà Kaccàna’s exposition. It begins with an impersonal note, but at the point of feeling it takes on a personal ending, suggestive of de liberate activity. Yam vedeti tam sanjànàti, yam sanjànàti tam vitakketi, yam vitakketi tam papanceti, “what one feels, one perceives; what one perceives, one reasons about; what one rea sons about, one turns into papanca (mental proliferation)“.

There is a special purpose in using the active voice in this context. It is in order to explain how a man is overwhelmed by papancasannàsankhà – whatever it may be – that Venerable Mahà Kaccàna has introduced this sequence of events in three phases. In fact, he is trying to fill in the gap in the rather elliptical statement of the Bud dha, beginning with yatonidànam, bhikkhu, purisam papancasannàsankhà samudàcaranti, “monk, from whatever source papanca sannà sankhà beset a man”. The initial phase is impersonal, but then comes the phase of active participation.

From feeling onwards, the person behind it takes over. What one feels, one perceives; what one perceives, one reasons about; what one reasons about, one turns into papanca. The grossest phase is the third. Venerable MahàKaccànas formula shows how the process of sense-perception gradually assumes a gross form. This third phase is implicit in the words yam papanceti tatonidànam purisam papancasannà­sankhà samudàcaranti, “what one turns into papanca, owing to that papanca sannà sankhà beset that man”. The word purisam is in the accusative case here, implying that the person who directed sense-perception is now beset with, or overwhelmed by, papancasannàsankhà, as a result of which all the evil unskilful mental states come to be. This itself is an index to the importance of the term papanca.

The course of events suggested by these three phases may be illustrated with the legend of the three magicians.

While journeying through a forest, three men, skilled in magic, came upon a scattered heap of bones of a tiger. To display their skill, one of them converted the bones into a complete skeleton, the second gave it flesh and blood, and the third gave it life. The resurrected tiger devoured all three of them. It is such a predicament hinted at by the peculiar syntax of the formula in question.” Ven. Nyanananda in: Nibbana Sermon, 11.

Venerable Kaccayana, the “Elaborator of brief Dhamma statements “, whose profound Dhamma teachings we are looking at here, was a very talented teacher. Attributed to him is also the Petakopadesa, a very old canonical book which may have entered the canon of Buddhist scriptures during the first few hundred years after the Buddha’s Parinibbana. Still, the Petakopadesa shows signs that at least parts of it were conceived during a time where the message of the Buddha was still very lively – not just in theory, but especially in practice. Let’s have a look at the following passage:

“Sacittapariyodāpanaṃ, etaṃ buddhāna sāsanan”ti gāthā cetasikā dhammā vuttā, citte rūpaṃ vuttaṃ. Idaṃ nāmarūpaṃ dukkhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ. Tato sacittapariyodāpanā yaṃ yaṃ odapeti, taṃ dukkhaṃ. Yena odapeti, so maggo. Yato odapanā, so nirodho. Cakkhuṃ ca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṃ, tattha sahajātā vedanā saññā cetanā phasso manasikāro ete te dhammā ekalakkhaṇā uppādalakkhaṇena. Yo ca rūpe nibbindati, vedanāya so nibbindati, saññāsaṅkhāraviññāṇesupi so nibbindati.

“…And to clear ones mind, this is the teaching of the Buddhas” [Dhp. v. 183] this verse was said in regard to mental things and to form in the mind. This name-and-form is the Noble Truth of suffering. Therefore the cleansing of ones mind is the cleaning of that which is suffering. Through which one is able to clean, that is the path. As far as the cleaning is concerned, that is cessation. Dependent on sight and forms arises sight-recognition. There, born at the same time, is feeling, perception, intention, contact, attention – these things are all of one characteristic – of the characteristic of arising. And who gets disenchanted from forms, he (also) gets disenchanted from feelings, he (also) gets disenchanted from perception, mental activities and cognition (consciousness).”

Petakopadesa, 5. [pi]

Extracting such a deep meditative (insight) meaning from a “simple” Dhammapada verse – which is intrinsically in line with the word of the Buddha but still in a language unlike the suttas tells us a little bit about the living Dhamma in ancient India after the time of the Buddha. It is quite beautiful to be able to see over the shoulder of those ancient meditation teachers and to be able to investigate their thoughts and insights over the centuries. When was the last time that you have seen (in modern days) such a great in-depth (but short and to the point) explanation of this famous and well quoted Dhammapada verse?


Some more papanca on this topic:

…way too much papanca here:ñca+paticca&aq=f&aqi=&oq=

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