Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Shorter Discourse on Emptiness -- Cūḷa Suññata Sutta (MN 121) - 007

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The Shorter Discourse on Emptiness -- Cūḷa Suññata Sutta (MN 121)

(i.e. ENTRY INTO EMPTINESS: Stages in getting familiar with the essence of the genuine emptiness. Gradually applying emptiness to more and more subtle objects / views. Gradually “emptying” the world without falling into nihilism: everything is empty but still dependently co-arisen relatively functional appearances; appearing but still empty = Union of the Two Truths / Genuine Emptiness / Buddha-nature / Reality as it is here & now.)

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https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/MN/MN121.html 

https://thebuddhistcentre.com/system/files/groups/files/satyadhana-formless_spheres.pdf 

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[Preliminary note: The four successive arupa jhanas, which can only be achieved in this order, are:

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  1. Akasanancayatana jhana - a meditative state where the mind contemplates the infinity of SPACE.

  2. Vinnanancayatana jhana - a meditative state where the mind is absorbed in realizing that CONSCIOUSNESS is infinite.

  3. Akincannayatana jhana - a meditative state where the mind contemplates the idea that NOTHING is there.

  4. Nevasannanasannayatana jhana - a meditative state of NEITHER PERCEPTION NOR NON-PERCEPTION.]

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I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī in the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migāra’s mother. Then Ven. Ānanda, emerging from his seclusion in the evening, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. 

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As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One: “On one occasion, when the Blessed One was staying among the Sakyans in a Sakyan town named Nagaraka, there—face-to-face with the Blessed One—I heard this, face-to-face I learned this: ‘I NOW REMAIN FULLY IN A DWELLING OF [GENUINE] EMPTINESS.’ Did I hear that correctly, learn it correctly, attend to it correctly, remember it correctly?”

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[The Buddha:] “Yes, Ānanda, you heard that correctly, learned it correctly, attended to it correctly, remembered it correctly. Now, as well as before, I REMAIN FULLY IN A DWELLING OF [GENUINE] EMPTINESS

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Just as this palace of Migāra’s mother is empty of elephants, cattle, & mares, empty of gold & silver, empty of assemblies of women & men, and there is only this non-emptiness — the singleness based on the Saṅgha of monks;

(i.e. Simulating / letting-go, or directly realising the true nature of, elephants, cattles, gold & silver, assemblies of men & women ..., their Union of being dependent co-originated (not completely non-existent) and empty of inherent existence (not really existent, merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind) --, temporarily focusing on, or identifying with, something more subtle / unifying / non-dual, more in accord with the true nature of Reality as it is here & now, one is free from the mental disturbances that might be caused by the first one(s).)

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[Step 1. Focusing on] The Perception of Wilderness / Forest -- focusing on the here & now, letting go of everything else]

even so, Ānanda, a monk—not attending to the perception (mental note) of village, not attending to the perception of human beingATTENDS TO THE SINGLENESS BASED ON THE PERCEPTION OF // WILDERNESS //. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of wilderness.

(i.e. Simulating / letting-go, or directly realising the true nature of, the village & human beings, their Union of being dependent co-originated (not completely non-existent) and empty of inherent existence (not really existent, merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind) --, temporarily focusing on, or identifying with, something more subtle / unifying / non-dual, more in accord with the true nature of Reality as it is here & now, one is free from the mental disturbances that might be caused by the first one(s).)

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(Comment from Dharmacari Satyadhana: By turning our attention to, and making our mind solely focused on, just the physical aspects of where we are, we are creating a temporary ekatta. Ekatta is sometimes translated as ‘non-voidness’ or ‘singleness’: to avoid reification of it, I have chosen ‘focal point’. We are placing all of our attention (or at least as much as we can) on that perceived thing in order to preclude the outside world from intruding. It is the sole point of focus for the mind, ideally taking up the entire field of perception. Whatever is perceived is not to be considered ‘real’ in the sense that it is ultimately non-void: it is simply what we are currently choosing to devote our entire attention to at this time, thus leading to a nominal singleness/focal point.

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The Buddha actually gets quite specific about how settled on this ekatta we should be. Ñaṇamoli and Bodhi translate that the mind ‘enters into and acquires confidence, steadiness, and decision’ in the object of focus. Further illustration is provided by definitions of the four Pāli words, wherein the mind jumps into, rejoices in, falls into, and pursues (pakkhandati) the object of focus, becomes clear and calm (pasīdati), stands still and becomes established (santiṭṭhati) and is fully drawn into and settles in that focus (adhimuccati).)

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“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of village are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human beings are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.’

(i.e. There remain only the diminished disturbances due to this temporary artificial focus of attention, this temporary imperfect adapted skillful means, this temporary antidote.)

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He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of village. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.’

(i.e. Only this even more subtle thing is considered inherently existent / independent / absolute / real; everything else is considered, or realised to be, empty of inherent existence. Empty but still dependently co-arisen & relatively functional; dependently co-arisen & relatively functional but empty. The Union of the Two Truths.)

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Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his ENTRY INTO EMPTINESS, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(i.e. This more subtle view is even more in accord with the inconceivable true nature of Reality as it is here & now, with Buddha-nature / Genuine Emptiness ... as pointed by concepts like the Union of the Two Truths, the Union of the three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object --, the Union of opposites, the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle.)

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[Step 2. Focusing on] The Perception of Earth / Body / Breath / the physical dimension / some “object” here & now

“Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of human being, not attending to the perception of wildernessATTENDS TO THE SINGLENESS BASED ON THE PERCEPTION OF // EARTH //. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of earth.

(i.e. Simulating / letting-go, or directly realising the true nature of, human beings in the wilderness, their Union of being dependent co-originated (not completely non-existent) and empty of inherent existence (not really existent, merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind) --, temporarily focusing on, or identifying with, something more subtle / unifying / non-dual, more in accord with the true nature of Reality as it is here & now, one is free from the mental disturbances that might be caused by the first one(s).)

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Just as a bull’s hide is stretched free from wrinkles with a hundred stakes, even so—without attending to all the ridges & hollows, the river ravines, the tracts of stumps & thorns, the craggy irregularities of this earth—he attends to the singleness based on the perception of earth. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of earth.

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“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of wilderness are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of earth.’

(i.e. There remain only the diminished disturbances due to this temporary artificial focus of attention, this temporary imperfect adapted skillful means, this temporary antidote.)

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He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of wilderness. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of earth.’

(i.e. Only this even more subtle thing is considered inherently existent / independent / absolute / real; everything else is considered, or realised to be, empty of inherent existence. Empty but still dependently co-arisen & relatively functional; dependently co-arisen & relatively functional but empty. The Union of the Two Truths.)

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Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his ENTRY INTO EMPTINESS, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(i.e. This more subtle view is even more in accord with the inconceivable true nature of Reality as it is here & now, with Buddha-nature / Genuine Emptiness ... as pointed by concepts like the Union of the Two Truths, the Union of the three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object --, the Union of opposites, the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle.)

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[Step 3. Focusing on] The Infinitude of Space (still as a “thing” / object) -- reducing everything to the Self as Limitless Space (1st formless sphere)

“Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of wilderness, not attending to the perception of earthATTENDS TO THE SINGLENESS BASED ON THE PERCEPTION OF THE DIMENSION OF THE INFINITUDE OF // SPACE //. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space.

(i.e. Simulating / letting-go, or directly realising the true nature of, the earth / body / physical dimension, its Union of being dependent co-originated (not completely non-existent) and empty of inherent existence (not really existent, merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind) --, temporarily focusing on, or identifying with, something more subtle / unifying / non-dual, more in accord with the true nature of Reality as it is here & now, one is free from the mental disturbances that might be caused by the first one(s).)

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“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of wilderness are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of earth are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space.’

(i.e. There remain only the diminished disturbances due to this temporary artificial focus of attention, this temporary imperfect adapted skillful means, this temporary antidote.)

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He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of wilderness. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of earth. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space.’

(i.e. Only this even more subtle thing is considered inherently existent / independent / absolute / real; everything else is considered, or realised to be, empty of inherent existence. Empty but still dependently co-arisen & relatively functional; dependently co-arisen & relatively functional but empty. The Union of the Two Truths.)

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Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his ENTRY INTO EMPTINESS, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(i.e. This more subtle view is even more in accord with the inconceivable true nature of Reality as it is here & now, with Buddha-nature / Genuine Emptiness ... as pointed by concepts like the Union of the Two Truths, the Union of the three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object --, the Union of opposites, the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle.)

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[Step 4. Focusing on] The Infinitude of Consciousness (still as a “thing” / subject) -- reducing everything to  the Self as a One Unlimited Mind (2nd formless sphere)

“Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of earth, not attending to the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of spaceATTENDS TO THE SINGLENESS BASED ON THE PERCEPTION OF THE DIMENSION OF THE INFINITUDE OF // CONSCIOUSNESS //. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness.

(i.e. Simulating / letting-go, or directly realising the true nature of, the infinitude of space, its Union of being dependent co-originated (not completely non-existent) and empty of inherent existence (not really existent, merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind) --, temporarily focusing on, or identifying with, something more subtle / unifying / non-dual, more in accord with the true nature of Reality as it is here & now, one is free from the mental disturbances that might be caused by the first one(s).)

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“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of earth are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness.’

(i.e. There remain only the diminished disturbances due to this temporary artificial focus of attention, this temporary imperfect adapted skillful means, this temporary antidote.)

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He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of earth. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness.’

(i.e. Only this even more subtle thing is considered inherently existent / independent / absolute / real; everything else is considered, or realised to be, empty of inherent existence. Empty but still dependently co-arisen & relatively functional; dependently co-arisen & relatively functional but empty. The Union of the Two Truths.)

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Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his ENTRY INTO EMPTINESS, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(i.e. This more subtle view is even more in accord with the inconceivable true nature of Reality as it is here & now, with Buddha-nature / Genuine Emptiness ... as pointed by concepts like the Union of the Two Truths, the Union of the three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object --, the Union of opposites, the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle.)

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[Step 5. Focusing on] The dimension of Nothingness (no subject, no object) -- reducing everything to  the Self as a Cosmic Nothingness / Radical Emptiness (3rd formless sphere)

“Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space, not attending to the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousnessATTENDS TO THE SINGLENESS BASED ON THE PERCEPTION OF THE DIMENSION OF // NOTHINGNESS //. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of the dimension of nothingness.

(i.e. Simulating / letting-go, or directly realising the true nature of, the infinitude of consciousness, its Union of being dependent co-originated (not completely non-existent) and empty of inherent existence (not really existent, merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind) --, temporarily focusing on, or identifying with, something more subtle / unifying / non-dual, more in accord with the true nature of Reality as it is here & now, one is free from the mental disturbances that might be caused by the first one(s).)

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“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of nothingness.’

(i.e. There remain only the diminished disturbances due to this temporary artificial focus of attention, this temporary imperfect adapted skillful means, this temporary antidote.)

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He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of nothingness.’

(i.e. Only this even more subtle thing is considered inherently existent / independent / absolute / real; everything else is considered, or realised to be, empty of inherent existence. Empty but still dependently co-arisen & relatively functional; dependently co-arisen & relatively functional but empty. The Union of the Two Truths.)

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Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his ENTRY INTO EMPTINESS, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(i.e. This more subtle view is even more in accord with the inconceivable true nature of Reality as it is here & now, with Buddha-nature / Genuine Emptiness ... as pointed by concepts like the Union of the Two Truths, the Union of the three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object --, the Union of opposites, the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle.)

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[Step 6. Focusing on] The dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-perception (not accepting but still not rejecting; not existent but still not non-existent; not perceiving but still not non-perceiving; an emptiness that knows -- the two truths) (4th formless sphere)

“Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingnessATTENDS TO THE SINGLENESS BASED ON THE DIMENSION OF // NEITHER PERCEPTION NOR NON-PERCEPTION //. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.

(i.e. Simulating / letting-go, or directly realising the true nature of, the dimension of nothingness, its Union of being dependent co-originated (not completely non-existent) and empty of inherent existence (not really existent, merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind) --, temporarily focusing on, or identifying with, something more subtle / unifying / non-dual, more in accord with the true nature of Reality as it is here & now, one is free from the mental disturbances that might be caused by the first one(s).)

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“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of nothingness are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.’

(i.e. There remain only the diminished disturbances due to this temporary artificial focus of attention, this temporary imperfect adapted skillful means, this temporary antidote.)

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He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of nothingness. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.’

(i.e. Only this even more subtle thing is considered inherently existent / independent / absolute / real; everything else is considered, or realised to be, empty of inherent existence. Empty but still dependently co-arisen & relatively functional; dependently co-arisen & relatively functional but empty. The Union of the Two Truths.)

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Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his ENTRY INTO EMPTINESS, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(i.e. This more subtle view is even more in accord with the inconceivable true nature of Reality as it is here & now, with Buddha-nature / Genuine Emptiness ... as pointed by concepts like the Union of the Two Truths, the Union of the three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object --, the Union of opposites, the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle.)

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ANOTHER TRANSLATION OF STEP 6:

[‘Again and further, Ananda, a bhikkhu, having removed attention of the mind from perception of ‘the sphere of limitless consciousness’, and having removed attention of the mind from perception of ‘nothingness’, PLACES ATTENTION ON THE FOCAL POINT DEPENDENT UPON PERCEIVING ‘THE SPHERE OF NEITHER PERCEPTION NOR NON-PERCEPTION’. His mind fully embraces the perception of ‘the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception’, and in it becomes clear and calm, becomes stilled and established, and is fully drawn into and settled upon it.

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‘He thus ascertains there is no longer the three-fold disturbance due to his perceiving ‘the sphere of limitless consciousness’, and he also ascertains there is no longer the three-fold disturbance due to his perceiving ‘nothingness’. There is now only a subtler apparent disturbance, because there is now the focal point dependent upon his perception of ‘the sphere of neither perception nor nonperception’.

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‘He ascertains that his field of perception is now empty of any perception of ‘the sphere of limitless consciousness’, and he ascertains that his field of perception is now empty of any perception of ‘nothingness’. All that remains is a provisional entity, namely the focal point resulting from now perceiving ‘the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception’.

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‘He now sees that whatever entity is not in his field of perception, that field is therefore empty of that entity. He also sees that whatever entity remains in his field of perception, that entity does exist in his field of perception. This has again been an unmistakable and clear establishment of emptiness in accordance with the way things really are.’]

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[Step 7. Focusing on] The Theme-less / Signless Concentration of Awareness -- Abiding in the iInconceivable Union of the Two Truths, inconceivable Union subject <==> object, inconceivable Middle Way free from all extremes & middle.

“Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perceptionATTENDS TO THE SINGLENESS BASED ON THE // THEME-LESS CONCENTRATION OF AWARENESS //. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its theme-less concentration of awareness.

(i.e. Simulating / letting-go, or directly realising the true nature of, the dimension of neither perception nor non-perceptions, its Union of being dependent co-originated (not completely non-existent) and empty of inherent existence (not really existent, merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind) --, temporarily focusing on, or identifying with, something more subtle / unifying / non-dual, more in accord with the true nature of Reality as it is here & now, one is free from the mental disturbances that might be caused by the first one(s).)

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“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of nothingness are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.’  [<== Note: This phrase is different than in the previous steps.]

(i.e. Even if everything, even the most subtle ones, are empty of inherent existence, that doesn’t mean that everything is completely non-existent / non-functional / meaningless / useless. Everything is empty, but still conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances, and vice versa. The mind is empty, but still dependently co-arisen / functional / cognizant / radiant / luminous / perceiving / feeling / conceptualising / discriminating / knowing / remembering / planning / living, and vice versa. The inconceivable Union of the Two Truths. That is the meaning of “Genuine Emptiness” free from all extremes & middle.)

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He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of nothingness. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. There is only this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.’  [<== Note: This phrase is different than in the previous steps.]

(i.e. Even if everything, even the most subtle ones, are empty of inherent existence, that doesn’t mean that everything is completely non-existent / non-functional / meaningless / useless. Everything is empty, but still conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances, and vice versa. The mind is empty, but still dependently co-arisen / functional / cognizant / radiant / luminous / perceiving / feeling / conceptualising / discriminating / knowing / remembering / planning / living, and vice versa. The inconceivable Union of the Two Truths. That is the meaning of “Genuine Emptiness” free from all extremes & middle.)

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Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his ENTRY INTO EMPTINESS, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

(i.e. This more subtle view is even more in accord with the inconceivable true nature of Reality as it is here & now, with Buddha-nature / Genuine Emptiness ... as pointed by concepts like the Union of the Two Truths, the Union of the three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object --, the Union of opposites, the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle.)

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ANOTHER TRANSLATION OF STEP 7:

[‘Again and further, Ananda, a bhikkhu, having removed attention of the mind from perception of ‘nothingness’, and having removed attention of the mind from perception of ‘neither perception nor non-perception’, PLACES ATTENTION ON THE FOCAL POINT DEPENDENT UPON PERCEIVING ‘THE SIGNLESS CONCENTRATION OF MIND’. His mind fully embraces the perception of ‘the signless concentration of mind’, and in it becomes clear and calm, becomes stilled and established, and is fully drawn into and settled upon it.

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‘He thus ascertains there is no longer the three-fold disturbance due to his perceiving ‘nothingness’, and he also ascertains there is no longer the three-fold disturbance due to his perceiving ‘neither perception nor non-perception’. There is now only a subtler apparent disturbance, because he is an embodied being with six sense bases.

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‘He ascertains that his field of perception is now empty of any perception of ‘nothingness’, and he ascertains that his field of perception is now empty of any perception of ‘neither perception nor non-perception’. All that remains is a provisional entity, namely the focal point resulting from being embodied with six sense bases.

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‘He now sees that whatever entity is not in his field of perception, that field is therefore empty of that entity. He also sees that whatever entity remains in his field of perception, that entity does exist in his field of perception. This has again been an unmistakable  and clear establishment of emptiness in accordance with the way things really are.’]

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[Step 8.] Release -- Transcending all views -- A Genuine Emptiness that was pure, superior, & unsurpassed, free from all extremes & middle

“Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perceptionATTENDS TO THE SINGLENESS BASED ON THE // THEME-LESS CONCENTRATION OF AWARENESS //. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its theme-less concentration of awareness.

(i.e. Simulating / letting-go, or directly realising the true nature of, the themeless concentration of awareness, its Union of being dependent co-originated (not completely non-existent) and empty of inherent existence (not really existent, merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind) --, temporarily focusing on, or identifying with, something more subtle / unifying / non-dual, more in accord with the true nature of Reality as it is here & now, one is free from the mental disturbances that might be caused by the first one(s).)

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“He discerns that ‘This theme-less concentration of awareness is fabricated & mentally fashioned.’ And he discerns that ‘Whatever is fabricated & mentally fashioned is inconstant & subject to cessation.’ Thus knowing, thus seeing, his heart is released from the effluent of sensuality, released from the effluent of becoming, released from the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, ‘Released.’ He discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’

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“He discerns that ‘Whatever disturbances would exist based on the effluent of sensuality…the effluent of becoming…the effluent of ignorance, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.’  [<== Note: This phrase is different than in the previous steps.]

(i.e. Even if everything, even the most subtle ones, are empty of inherent existence, that doesn’t mean that everything is completely non-existent / non-functional / meaningless / useless. Everything is empty, but still conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances, and vice versa. The mind is empty, but still dependently co-arisen / functional / cognizant / radiant / luminous / perceiving / feeling / conceptualising / discriminating / knowing / remembering / planning / living, and vice versa. The inconceivable Union of the Two Truths. That is the meaning of “Genuine Emptiness” free from all extremes & middle.)

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He discerns that ‘This mode of perception is empty of the effluent of sensuality…becoming…ignorance. And there is just this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.’  [<== Note: This phrase is different than in the previous steps.]

(i.e. Even if everything, even the most subtle ones, are empty of inherent existence, that doesn’t mean that everything is completely non-existent / non-functional / meaningless / useless. Everything is empty, but still conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances, and vice versa. The mind is empty, but still dependently co-arisen / functional / cognizant / radiant / luminous / perceiving / feeling / conceptualising / discriminating / knowing / remembering / planning / living, and vice versa. The inconceivable Union of the Two Truths. That is the meaning of “Genuine Emptiness” free from all extremes & middle.)

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Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his ENTRY INTO EMPTINESS, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, pure—superior & unsurpassed.

(i.e. This more subtle view is even more in accord with the inconceivable true nature of Reality as it is here & now, with Buddha-nature / Genuine Emptiness ... as pointed by concepts like the Union of the Two Truths, the Union of the three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object --, the Union of opposites, the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle.)

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ANOTHER TRANSLATION OF STEP 8:

[‘Again and further, Ananda, a bhikkhu, having removed attention of the mind from perception of ‘nothingness’, and having removed attention of the mind from perception of ‘neither perception nor non-perception’, PLACES ATTENTION ON THE FOCAL POINT DEPENDENT UPON PERCEIVING ‘THE SIGNLESS CONCENTRATION OF MIND’. His mind fully embraces the perception of ‘the signless concentration of mind’, and in it becomes clear and calm, becomes stilled and established, and is fully drawn into and settled upon it.

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‘He thus ascertains ‘this signless concentration of mind is itself conditioned and manufactured by the mind. Whatever is conditioned and manufactured by the mind is impermanent and subject to cessation.’ For him who knows and sees thus, the mind is liberated from the intoxication of sense desire, the intoxication of better and limitless existence, and the intoxication of ignorance. With liberation, there is the knowledge, ‘Liberated’. He ascertains ‘Birth is at an end, the holy life accomplished, I have done what needed to be done. I shall not return to this world.’

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‘He thus ascertains ‘there is no longer the three-fold disturbance due to the intoxication of sense desire, there is no longer the threefold disturbance due the intoxication of existence, and there is no longer the three-fold disturbance due to the intoxication of ignorance. There is now only this most subtle disturbance, because he is an embodied being with six sense bases.’

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  • [1) There is now only a subtler apparent disturbance,
    because there is now the focal point dependent upon his perception of ‘forest’.

  • 2) There is now only a subtler apparent disturbance,
    because there is now the focal point dependent upon his perception of ‘earth’.

  • 3) There is now only a subtler apparent disturbance,
    because there is now the focal point dependent upon his perception of ‘the sphere of limitless space’.

  • 4) There is now only a subtler apparent disturbance,
    because there is now the focal point dependent upon his perception of ‘the sphere of limitless consciousness’.

  • 5) There is only a subtler apparent disturbance,
    because there is now the focal point dependent upon his perception of ‘nothingness’.

  • 6) There is now only a subtler apparent disturbance,
    because there is now the focal point dependent upon his perception of ‘the sphere of neither perception nor nonperception’.

  • 7) There is now only a subtler apparent disturbance,
    because he is an embodied being with six sense bases.

  • 8) There is now only this most subtle disturbance,
    because he is an embodied being with six sense bases.’]

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‘He thus ascertains ‘this field of perception is empty of the intoxication of sense desire, it is empty of the intoxication of better and unlimited existence, and it is empty of the intoxication of ignorance. All that remains is a provisional entity, namely the focal point resulting from being embodied with six sense bases.’

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  • [1) All that remains is a provisional entity,
    namely, the focal point resulting from now perceiving ‘forest’.

  • 2) All that remains is a provisional entity,
    namely the focal point resulting from now perceiving ‘earth’.

  • 3) All that remains is a provisional entity,
    namely the focal point resulting from now perceiving ‘the sphere of limitless space’.

  • 4) All that remains is a provisional entity,
    namely the focal point resulting from now perceiving ‘the sphere of limitless consciousness’.

  • 5) All that remains is a provisional entity,
    namely the focal point resulting from now perceiving ‘nothingness’.

  • 6) All that remains is a provisional entity,
    namely the focal point resulting from now perceiving ‘the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception’.

  • 7) All that remains is a provisional entity,
    namely the focal point resulting from being embodied with six sense bases.

  • 8) All that remains is a provisional entity,
    namely the focal point resulting from being embodied with six sense bases.’]

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‘He now sees that whatever entity is not in his field of perception, that field is therefore empty of that entity. He also sees that whatever entity remains in his field of perception, that entity does exist in his field of perception. This has been a clear and unmistakable establishment of emptiness in accordance with the way things really are, unsurpassed by any other.’]

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[Conclusion]

“Ānanda, whatever contemplatives and brahmans who in the past entered & remained in AN [GENUINE] EMPTINESS THAT WAS PURE, SUPERIOR, & UNSURPASSED, they all entered & remained in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. 

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Whatever contemplatives and brahmans who in the future will enter & remain in an emptiness that will be pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all will enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. 

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Whatever contemplatives and brahmans who at present enter & remain in an emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.

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“Therefore, Ānanda, you should train yourselves: ‘WE WILL ENTER & REMAIN IN THE [GENUINE] EMPTINESS THAT IS PURE, SUPERIOR, & UNSURPASSED.’

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That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Ānanda delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

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ANOTHER TRANSLATION OF THE CONCLUSION

[‘Ananda, whatever wanderers and holy persons who in the past became established in and abode with an emptiness that was clear and ultimate, they all became established in and abode with an emptiness that was clear and ultimate. 

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Whatever wanderers and holy persons who in the future will become established in and abide with an emptiness that is clear and ultimate, they all will become established in and abide with this very emptiness that is clear and ultimate. 

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Whatever wanderers and holy persons who now established in and abide with an emptiness that is clear and ultimate, they all are established in and abide with this same emptiness that is clear and ultimate. 

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Therefore, Ananda, you should train yourselves: ‘I shall become established in and abide with the emptiness that is clear and ultimate’.’]

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