Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby Sylvester » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:28 am

piotr wrote:Hi Sylvester,

Sylvester wrote:Actually, the CPD entry on kāma (singular) and kāmā (plural) makes the following points about their meanings in the different strata of the Canon.

In the Suttas and Vinaya, kāma (singular) refers to wish, desire, pleasure, while kāmā (plural) refers to the 5 sense objects of rūpa, sadda, gandha, rasa, phoṭṭhabba. CPD makes the contrast to the sutta definition of kāmaguṇa. You can find this distinction between kāmā and kāmaguṇa set out in several suttas (sorry, too lazy to pull them out from the old threads).

I think that you should point out in your analysis that according to this dictionary kāma in singular usually refers to desire, while in plural it usually referes to five sense objects. This means that there are some exceptions in the Suttas, and you can't make a clear cut rule. For example in 3rd out of 10 unskilfill courses of action, kāma is found in locative case in plural, but it undoubtedly means “desires”.

Thanks piotr!

I am aware of this. Interestingly, Anuruddha points out that kāmesu, although expressed in the locative plural, carries an idiomatic singular sense, so that kāmesu micchācāra refers to misconduct with reference to sensual desire (sg). He does not cite the source of this explanation, however.

One of the places where the exception you mentioned may be found is AN 6.63, where the text vaccilates between kāma as sensual desire (sg), kāmā as sense objects, and then kāmā as sensual desires (pl). The verse part seems to be the oldest kernel of the sutta, where kāma refers to sensual desire (sg), and kāmā refers to sense objects and not sensual desires. It is only in the prose analysis of sensual desire that the plural kāmā is used. My theory is that the analysis on kāmā might have suffered a textual corruption, owing to how the subsequent analyses were done.

The subsequent states analysed are vedanā, saññā, āsavā, kamma, and dukkha. Each of these (plus sensual desire) are then analysed according to a standard template of vedittabbā (should be known), nidānasambhavo veditabbo (the cause should be known), vemattatā veditabbā (diversity should be known), vipāko viditabbo (result should be known), nirodho veditabbo (cessation should be known) and nirodhagāminī paṭipadā veditabbā (the path to cessation should be known).

What's interesting to note is how the future passive participle veditabba is conjugated to agree with its subject in case and number. You have the singular conjugation veditabbo for the singular nouns (nidānasambhavo, vipāko, nirodho) and the plural conjugation veditabbā for the plural nouns (the primary subjects, vemattatā, paṭipadā (sg?)).

When it comes to the analyses of each of the primary subjects, it goes as -

Kāmā, bhikkhave, veditabbā
Vedanā, bhikkhave, veditabbā
Saññā, bhikkhave, veditabbā
Āsavā, bhikkhave, veditabbā
Kammaṃ, bhikkhave, veditabbaṃ
Dukkhaṃ, bhikkhave, veditabbaṃ

I suspect, that instead of its current "Kāmā, bhikkhave, veditabbā", the correct reading should have been "Kāmo, bhikkhave, veditabbo". After all, the verse itself clearly referred to kāmo as sensual desire. The current reading may have been the redactor mistakenly following the plural patterns used for vedanā, saññā and āsavā.

Just a guess.

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