AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

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AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 7:49 am

AN 6.55 PTS: A iii 374 Sona Sutta: About Sona

In this famous sutta the Buddha explains to Ven. Sona that balancing one's effort in meditation practice is like tuning a musical instrument.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha, on Vulture Peak Mountain. And on that occasion Ven. Sona was staying near Rajagaha in the Cool Wood. Then, as Ven. Sona was meditating in seclusion [after doing walking meditation until the skin of his soles was split & bleeding], this train of thought arose in his awareness: "Of the Blessed One's disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the fermentations through lack of clinging/sustenance. Now, my family has enough wealth that it would be possible to enjoy wealth & make merit. What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?"

Then the Blessed One, as soon as he perceived with his awareness the train of thought in Ven. Sona's awareness — as a strong man might stretch out his bent arm or bend his outstretched arm — disappeared from Vulture Peak Mountain, appeared in the Cool Wood right in front of Ven. Sona, and sat down on a prepared seat. Ven. Sona, after bowing down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, "Just now, as you were meditating in seclusion, didn't this train of thought appear to your awareness: 'Of the Blessed One's disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the fermentations... What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?'"

"Yes, lord."

"Now what do you think, Sona. Before, when you were a house-dweller, were you skilled at playing the vina?"

"Yes, lord."

"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too taut, was your vina in tune & playable?"

"No, lord."

"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too loose, was your vina in tune & playable?"

"No, lord."

"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were neither too taut nor too loose, but tuned[1] to be right on pitch, was your vina in tune & playable?"

"Yes, lord."

"In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune[2]the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme."

"Yes, lord," Ven. Sona answered the Blessed One. Then, having given this exhortation to Ven. Sona, the Blessed One — as a strong man might stretch out his bent arm or bend his outstretched arm — disappeared from the Cool Wood and appeared on Vulture Peak Mountain.

So after that, Ven. Sona determined the right pitch for his persistence, attuned the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there picked up his theme. Dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute, he in no long time reached & remained in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for himself in the here & now. He knew: "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world." And thus Ven. Sona became another one of the arahants.

Then, on the attainment of arahantship, this thought occurred to Ven. Sona: "What if I were to go to the Blessed One and, on arrival, to declare gnosis in his presence?" So he then went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "When a monk is an arahant, his fermentations ended, who has reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden, attained the true goal, totally destroyed the fetter of becoming, and is released through right gnosis, he is dedicated to six things: renunciation, seclusion, non-afflictiveness, the ending of craving, the ending of clinging/sustenance, & non-deludedness.

"Now it may occur to a certain venerable one to think, 'Perhaps it is entirely dependent on conviction that this venerable one is dedicated to renunciation,' but it should not be seen in that way. The monk whose fermentations are ended, having fulfilled [the holy life], does not see in himself anything further to do, or anything further to add to what he has done. It is because of the ending of passion, because of his being free of passion, that he is dedicated to renunciation. It is because of the ending of aversion, because of his being free of aversion, that he is dedicated to renunciation. It is because of the ending of delusion, because of his being free of delusion, that he is dedicated to renunciation.

"Now it may occur to a certain venerable one to think, 'Perhaps it is because he desires gain, honor, & fame that this venerable one is dedicated to seclusion' ... 'Perhaps it is because he falls back on attachment to precepts & practices as being essential that he is dedicated to non-afflictiveness,' but it should not be seen in that way. The monk whose fermentations are ended, having fulfilled [the holy life], does not see in himself anything further to do, or anything further to add to what he has done. It is because of the ending of passion, because of his being free of passion, that he is dedicated to non-afflictiveness. It is because of the ending of aversion, because of his being free of aversion, that he is dedicated to non-afflictiveness. It is because of the ending of delusion, because of his being free of delusion, that he is dedicated to non-afflictiveness.

"It is because of the ending of passion, because of his being free of passion... because of the ending of aversion, because of his being free of aversion... because of the ending of delusion, because of his being free of delusion, that he is dedicated to the ending of craving... the ending of clinging/sustenance... non-deludedness.

"Even if powerful forms cognizable by the eye come into the visual range of a monk whose mind is thus rightly released, his mind is neither overpowered nor even engaged. Being still, having reached imperturbability, he focuses on their passing away. And even if powerful sounds... aromas... flavors... tactile sensations... Even if powerful ideas cognizable by the intellect come into the mental range of a monk whose mind is thus rightly released, his mind is neither overpowered nor even engaged. Being still, having reached imperturbability, he focuses on their passing away.

"Just as if there were a mountain of rock — without cracks, without fissures, one solid mass — and then from the east there were to come a powerful storm of wind & rain: the mountain would neither shiver nor quiver nor shake. And then from the west... the north... the south there were to come a powerful storm of wind & rain: the mountain would neither shiver nor quiver nor shake. In the same way, even if powerful forms cognizable by the eye come into the visual range of a monk whose mind is thus rightly released, his mind is neither overpowered nor even engaged. Being still, having reached imperturbability, he focuses on their passing away. And even if powerful sounds... aromas... flavors... tactile sensations... Even if powerful ideas cognizable by the intellect come into the mental range of a monk whose mind is thus rightly released, his mind is neither overpowered nor even engaged. Being still, having reached imperturbability, he focuses on their passing away."


When one's awareness is dedicated
to renunciation, seclusion,
non-afflictiveness, the ending of clinging,
the ending of craving, & non-deludedness,
seeing the arising of the sense media,
the mind is rightly released.
For that monk, rightly released,
his heart at peace,
there's nothing to be done,
nothing to add
to what's done.
As a single mass of rock isn't moved by the wind,
even so all forms, flavors, sounds,
aromas, contacts,
ideas desirable & not,
have no effect on one who is Such.
The mind
— still, totally released —
focuses on
their passing away.

Notes

1. Lit. "established."

2. "Penetrate," "ferret out."
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:01 am

This sutta was mentioned in the discussion of
SN 46.53: Aggi Sutta — Fire viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14239
with regard to balancing of faculties and factors.

It is also an opportunity to quote from Bhikkhu Bodhi's new translation of the AN.

BB: This is Sona Kolivisa, declared by the Buddha foremost among those who arouse energy [AN 1:205, which just says "foremost in..." ].

His verses are at Th 632-44. Th 638-39 refer to the simile of the lute; Th 640-44 are identical with the verses at the end of this sutta. [Unfortunately the verses are not on Access to Insight --- I'll try to locate them in the PTS volume on the weekend, unless someone would like to transcribe them first.]

The story appears as an expanded version in the Vinaya [Vin I 179-85], where it leads tot eh Buddha's granting permission to the monks to wear sandals.

Presumably this is why Ven Thanissaro includes the parenthetical:
[after doing walking meditation until the skin of his soles was split & bleeding].

:anjali:
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:32 am

Many thanks Mike. I have three preliminary thoughts about this one, which, despite being familiar with the vina analogy, I had not previously read

In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune[2]the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme


Interesting that the persistence is talked about here not as an isolated faculty, but as one of the five faculties (Indriya). So we need to get the right amount of viriya, and then address the other faculties. Do we then address or deploy the faculties to the correct pitch (i.e. we need the right amount of each of them - not too much, not too little)? Can we have too much mindfulness, which the Buddha described as "all-helpfull"? Or does it mean that only when the right amount of persistence is engaged will we be in the correct frame of mind to know how to relate to the faculties?

And then there is the bit about "picking up the theme". This is obviously a continuation of the musical analogy, but are we to assume that the theme is the walking meditation that Sona had been engaging in? Overall the structure seems to be getting the balance of energy right, letting that determine the faculties, and then picking up the "theme" of meditation.

My second point is that the analogy presents us with a problem of knowing how much persistence/effort is actually needed. We are using words here to indicate something which cannot be perfectly verbally described. How much is too much? How much is not enough? A vina player can match the pitch of his intrument to a known note, such as a tuning fork. But there is no such objective yardstick for the persisting meditator. Perhaps the idea is leaving it to the individual practitioner to experiment and find out whether a tune can actually be played on the instrument - or whether one can actually meditate in a way that one judges to be beneficial.

Finally, a small structural point. The last part of the sutta seems all over the place, in that there appears to be an almost random list of things that "a certain venerable one" might mistakenly think. He might think that seclusion is entirely dependent on conviction; that seclusion is dependent on desire for gain, honour, and fame; or that dedication to non-afflictiveness depends on his attachment to precepts and practices. All these things are of course part of other lists, but I cannot see how they come together here in this order.
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby daverupa » Wed Oct 10, 2012 11:06 am

In keeping with the music analogy, the faculties are each employed with a certain pitch, and the point is to harmonize them in order to get a boost in resonance.

The tuning fork is right view around which runs the whole of the Path; direct discernment of wholesome and unwholesome, or continual reflection before/during/after on whether the action afflicted/s anyone or not. The faculties are harmonized in just such a way, and it is all meant to facilitate jhana, it seems to me.

Skilled vina players are not made in a day.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:06 pm

daverupa wrote:In keeping with the music analogy, the faculties are each employed with a certain pitch, and the point is to harmonize them in order to get a boost in resonance.

The tuning fork is right view around which runs the whole of the Path; direct discernment of wholesome and unwholesome, or continual reflection before/during/after on whether the action afflicted/s anyone or not. The faculties are harmonized in just such a way, and it is all meant to facilitate jhana, it seems to me.

Skilled vina players are not made in a day.


Yes, I can understand the importance of Right View, but there is no evidence in the Sutta that Right View is the means by which we know whether we have got the amount of effort/persistence correct. And how would we know that our view was right? In terms of the musical analogy, we would know that the note C on our vina was the same as the C on our guitar; but where is the evidence that we have got them right, rather than merely the same? That is why we need tuning forks - they are objective measures from outside our own judgement of pitch.
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby daverupa » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:35 pm

AN 10.121 has

Bhikkhus, just as the dawn is the forerunner and first indication of the rising of the sun, so is right view the forerunner and first indication of wholesome states.


and we also read

When, friends, a noble disciple understands the unwholesome, the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome, and the root of the wholesome, in that way he is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma, and has arrived at this true Dhamma.


in MN 9. This informs Right Effort, which is precisely generating & upholding wholesome states, while eliminating and restraining unwholesome states. Right View is precisely that which allows one to assess wholesomeness/unwholesomeness without error - this is what allows stream-entrants to be left alone to practice, ardent and in solitude, with that tuning fork.

Indeed, the hindrance of doubt is precisely doubt over whether certain states are wholesome or unwholesome. This is very much the crux of the issue here, so I had thought.

Anciently, tuning an instrument wasn't tuning it to an objective scale of notes (A = 440 Hz and so forth) but to it's own range of notes, one which was pleasing to the ear and, more importantly, suitable for playing. It really is something of an art, which is why "pick up your theme" is as precise as it gets in this Sutta.

AN 8.30:

There is the case where a monk keeps his persistence aroused for abandoning unskillful mental qualities and taking on skillful mental qualities. He is steadfast, solid in his effort, not shirking his duties with regard to skillful mental qualities. 'This Dhamma is for one whose persistence is aroused, not for one who is lazy.' Thus was it said.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Oct 10, 2012 6:38 pm

daverupa wrote:AN 10.121 has

Bhikkhus, just as the dawn is the forerunner and first indication of the rising of the sun, so is right view the forerunner and first indication of wholesome states.


and we also read

When, friends, a noble disciple understands the unwholesome, the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome, and the root of the wholesome, in that way he is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma, and has arrived at this true Dhamma.


in MN 9. This informs Right Effort, which is precisely generating & upholding wholesome states, while eliminating and restraining unwholesome states. Right View is precisely that which allows one to assess wholesomeness/unwholesomeness without error - this is what allows stream-entrants to be left alone to practice, ardent and in solitude, with that tuning fork.

Indeed, the hindrance of doubt is precisely doubt over whether certain states are wholesome or unwholesome. This is very much the crux of the issue here, so I had thought.

Anciently, tuning an instrument wasn't tuning it to an objective scale of notes (A = 440 Hz and so forth) but to it's own range of notes, one which was pleasing to the ear and, more importantly, suitable for playing. It really is something of an art, which is why "pick up your theme" is as precise as it gets in this Sutta.

AN 8.30:

There is the case where a monk keeps his persistence aroused for abandoning unskillful mental qualities and taking on skillful mental qualities. He is steadfast, solid in his effort, not shirking his duties with regard to skillful mental qualities. 'This Dhamma is for one whose persistence is aroused, not for one who is lazy.' Thus was it said.


This would seem to imply that the problem of "tuning" goes away for the stream-entrant, because it leads to Right View, which is intuitively known.

This still leaves a problem of infinite regress for the rest of us. Without being told, we don't know if we should develop persistence until our feet are nearly cracked and bloody; or to develop it far less.
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 6:42 pm

Hi Sam,
Sam Vara wrote:Many thanks Mike. I have three preliminary thoughts about this one, which, despite being familiar with the vina analogy, I had not previously read

In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune[2]the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme


Interesting that the persistence is talked about here not as an isolated faculty, but as one of the five faculties (Indriya). So we need to get the right amount of viriya, and then address the other faculties. Do we then address or deploy the faculties to the correct pitch (i.e. we need the right amount of each of them - not too much, not too little)? Can we have too much mindfulness, which the Buddha described as "all-helpfull"? Or does it mean that only when the right amount of persistence is engaged will we be in the correct frame of mind to know how to relate to the faculties?

I guess this sutta needs to be read in conjunction with SN 46.53 http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14239 and other suttas, as Dave points out above.

Sam Vara wrote:And then there is the bit about "picking up the theme". This is obviously a continuation of the musical analogy, but are we to assume that the theme is the walking meditation that Sona had been engaging in? Overall the structure seems to be getting the balance of energy right, letting that determine the faculties, and then picking up the "theme" of meditation.


Here's Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation and comments (similar to the Visuddhimagga advice I quoted with reference to SN 46.53 http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14239). Clearly, this is advice gathered from other suttas and from experience, rather than something explicit in this sutta.

"So too, Sona, if energy is aroused too forcefully this leads to restlessness, and if energy is too lax this leads to laziness. Therefore, Sona, resolve on a balance of energy, achieve evenness of the spiritual faculties, and take up the object there."

Mp: [Commentary] Resolve on evenness of energy: Resolve on serenity combined with energy. The meaning is "Link energy with serenity".
Achieve evenness of the spiritual faculties: Keep to evenness, a balance of the spiritual faculties of faith, etc. When faith is linked with wisdom and wisdom with faith; when energy is linked with concentration and concentration with energy, then the balance of the faculties is maintained. but mindfulness is useful everywhere, so it should always be strong.
Seize the object there: When such balance exists the object can arise clearly, like the reflection of one's face in a mirror; and you should take up this object --- bring forth the object of serenity, of insight, of the path, and of the fruit. Thus the Buddha explained the meditation subject to him, leading up to arahantship.

BB: Chinese parallels to this passage offer quite different readings of the Buddha's injunction [I've omitted the detailed references]:
    * Therefore you should distinguish this time [could samatam have mutated into samayam?], examine this mark, and do not be heedless.
    * Therefore you should practice by taking up [the object] in a balanced way; do not cling, do not be heedless, and do no grasp marks.
    * If you can stay in the middle, this is the superior practice.
    * You should balance your energy, balance the faculties.
[There is, to me, a surprising variation there. BB points out that the last is closest to the Pali: ]
    Therefore, Sona, resolve on a balance of energy, achieve evenness of the spiritual faculties, and take up the object there.

:anjali:
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby daverupa » Wed Oct 10, 2012 6:47 pm

But the issue is not more or less, it is too much or too little. It's a subtle point, but the former is a scale of objective value while the latter is a scale of subjective usefulness. This last is the proper rubric, it seems to me.

Restlessness and laziness are the opposing sides to avoid, and tuning to the middle here is a matter of appropriate attention, and it all takes time. I do not see an infinite regress problem.

:heart:

EDIT: we can also see the following:

SN 55.24 wrote:Take the case of another man. He is not even endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He is not joyous and swift in wisdom and has not gained release. But he has just these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. Yet if he has merely faith, merely affection for the Tathaagata, that man, too, does not go to... states of woe.

"Why, Mahaanaama, if these great sal trees could distinguish what is well spoken from what is ill spoken, I would proclaim these great sal trees to be Stream-Winners...


So, Right View as a tuning fork really isn't beyond reach.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 13, 2012 2:04 am

Here's some background about Sona:
http://www.aimwell.org/DPPN/sona.htm

Soṇa-Koḷivisa Thera.- Also called Sukhumāla Soṇa (AA.ii.679). He was born in Campā, his father being Usabhaseṭṭhi. From the time of his conception his father’s wealth continued to increase, and, on the day of his birth, the whole town kept festival. Because in a previous birth he had given a ring, worth one hundred thousand, to a Pacceka Buddha, his body was like burnished gold — hence his name. (He was evidently called Koḷivisa because he was a Koḷiyan, Ap.i.95, 21). His hands and feet were soft like bandhujīvaka-flowers, and a fine down grew on them (four inches long on his feet, Ap.i.298) curved “like ear ornaments.” He lived in great luxury in three palaces, each having its own season.

King Bimbisāra, hearing of him, sent for him and Soṇa went with eighty thousand fellow townsmen.

In Rājagaha he heard the Buddha teach, and, winning faith, entered the Order with his parents' consent. The Buddha gave him a subject for meditation, and he went to Sītavana, but many people visited him and he was unable to concentrate. He strove hard, and, through pacing up and down in meditation, painful sores developed on his feet. However, he won no attainment and was filled with despair. The Buddha saw this and visited him, and by teaching him the Vīnūpamovāda Sutta (see Soṇa Sutta), taught him how to temper energy with calm. Thus corrected, he put forth fresh effort and attained Arahantship (Thag.vss.632).

The Vinaya (i.179ff) gives details of Soṇa’s visit to Bimbisāra. The king, being curious to see Soṇa’s feet, sent for him. He and his eighty-thousand companions went to see the Buddha, and there they were greatly impressed by the psychic powers of Sāgata. Soṇa then sought the Buddha alone and joined the Order. After ordination he walked about meditating, his feet bled, and his walking path (caṅkamana) was covered with blood “like a slaughter-house for oxen.” After Soṇa attained Arahantship, the Buddha gave him permission to wear shoes with one lining. Soṇa said he had abandoned eighty cartloads of gold and a retinue of seven elephants. He did not wish, as a monk, to have any luxuries which his colleagues did not share, The Buddha then gave permission to all monks to wear shoes with one lining.

In the time of Anomadassī Buddha he was a multi-millionaire, and, having gone with others to the vihāra and heard the Buddha teach, he decorated a walking path (caṅkamana) for the Buddha and a long hall (dīghasālā) for the monks. On the walking path he scattered various flowers, and, above it, he hung canopies. In the time of Padumuttara Buddha he was a millionaire of Haṃsavatī named Sirivaḍḍha. It was then that he resolved to win eminence as foremost of those who strove energetically (aggaṃ āraddhaviriyānaṃ), and in this he was successful (A.i.24). After the death of Kassapa Buddha, Soṇa was a householder in Benares, and built a hut by the river for a Pacceka Buddha, whom he looked after during the rainy season. He was king of the gods for twenty-five world-cycles, and seventy-seven times king among men under the name of Yasodhara. ThagA.i.544f.; cf. Ap.i.93f., where he is called Koḷiyavessa. The ApA. confused his story with that of Kuṭikaṇṇa; see also AA.i.130f., where the details are different, especially regarding the honour paid by Soṇa to the Pacceka Buddha. Once, on visiting the Pacceka Buddha’s cell, he noticed that the ground outside it was muddy; so he spread on the ground a rug worth one hundred thousand, so that the Pacceka Buddha’s feet might not be soiled.

The Apadāna mentions (Ap.i.298) a Thera, called Soṇa Koṭivīsa, evidently identical with the above, the reason given for the name being that he gave away wealth equal in value to twenty crores (vīsa koṭi). His eminence is ascribed to the fact that, in the time of Vipassī Buddha, he made a cave (lena) for the Buddha and his monks and spread it with rugs.

Buddhaghosa (AA.i.130) gives a variant of his name, calling him Koṭivessa, and explains this by saying that he belonged to a merchant (vessa) family worth a crore.

The Soṇa Sutta (Cf. AA.ii.680, where he is described as gandhabbasippe cheko) mentions that Soṇa was a clever player of the lute (vīnā) before he joined the Order. It was the example of Soṇa Kolivisa that urged Nandaka and his brother, Bharata, to leave the world. ThagA.i.299.

Soṇa Sutta.- Soṇa Koḷivisa, living in Sītavana, despairs of ever attaining Arahantship. The Buddha, on Gijjhakūṭa, becomes aware of this and visits him. The Buddha reminds him that when he was a lute player his lute sounded neither tuneful nor playable when the strings were either over-strung or over-lax. Even so, energy, when over-strung, ends in flurry, when over-lax, in idleness. Soṇa profits by the lesson and becomes an Arahant. He then visits the Buddha and declares to him his new found vision. A.iii.374f.
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 13, 2012 8:00 am

The Theragatha Verses of Sona (632-644)

Who once in Anga's realm was passing rich,
A squire to Angas's King, lo! he to-day
Is of fair wealth in spiritual things.
Yea, past all ill hath Sona won his way. (632)

Five cut off; Five leave behind, and Five beyond these cultivate!
He who the Fivefold Bond transcends --- a Brother Flood-crossed is he called. [1] (633)

    [1] This verse is also in Dhammapada 370.
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .budd.html
    http://www.metta.lk/english/Narada/25-B ... gga.htm#T9

    Five cut off: They are the five fetters (orambhàgiya sa§yojana) that pertain to this shore - namely: self-illusion (sakkàyadiññhi), doubt (vicikicchà), indulgence in (wrongful) rites and ceremonies (sãlabbataparàmàsa), sense-desire (kàmaràga), and hatred (pañigha).

    Five leave behind: They are the five fetters that pertain to the Farther Shore (uddhambhàgiyasa§yojana), namely: attachment to the Realms of Form (råparàga), attachment to the Formless Realms (aråparàga), conceit (màna), restlessness (uddhacca), and ignorance (avijjà).

    Five beyond these cultivated: confidence (saddhà), mindfulness (sati), effort (viriya), concentration (samàdhi), and wisdom (pa¤¤à). These five factors have to be cultivated if one desires to destroy the fetters.

    Fivefold Bond: lust, hatred, delusion, pride, and false views.
Seest thou a Brother with a rush-like mind,
[Stuck-up and empty] [2], trifler, keen to taste
External things? Never will he attain
Fulness of growth within the moral code,
In mental training, or in insights grasp [3] (634)

    [2] Unnalo is thus derived by Buddhists. The Commentary has the phrase 'bearing aloft the reed of pride.' The entymology is probably exegitcal only; but it expresses what the word means for a Buddhist --- and that is all that matters here.

    [3] The three trainings (sila, samadhi, panna).

For such neglect that which they have to do,
But what should not be done they bring to pass.
In these conceited, desultory minds
Grow [the rank weeds of] the intoxicants. (635)

In whom the constant governance of sense
Is well and earnestly begun, the things
That should be left undone they practise not;
Even what should be done they bring to pass.
Form them who live mindful and self-possessed,
The intoxicants wane utterly away. (636)

In the straight Path, the Path that is declared,
See that ye walk, nor turn to right or left.
Let each himself admonish and incite;
Let each himself unto Nibbana bring! (637)

When overtaxed and strained my energies,
The Master --- can the world reveal his peer? ---
Made me the parable about the lute,
And thus the Man who Sees taught me the Norm (638)

And I who heard his blessed word abide
Fain only and always to do his will.
Calm I eveloved and parctised, equipoise, [4]
That so to highest Good I might attain.
And now the Threefold Wisdom have I won,
And all the Buddha's ordinance is done. (639)

    [4] Some manuscripts here read samathan, some samatan. The Commentary exploits both, and so does the translation.

[From here on the verses are in AN 6.55]

He who hath compassed yielding up the world,
And hath attained detatchment of the mind.
Who hath achieved conquest of enmity,
And grasping rooted out that bringeth birth, (640)

And death of craving hath attained and all
That doth bewilder and obscure the mind,
And of sensations marked the genesis --
His heart is set at perfect liberty. (641)

For such a Brother rightly freed, whose heart
Hath peace, there is no mounting up of deeds,
Nore yet remaineth aught for him to do. (642)

Like to a rock that is a monolith, [5]
And tremleth never in the windy blast,
So all the world of sights and tastes and sounds,
Odours and tangibles, yea, things desired, (643)


And undesirable can ne'er excite
A man like him. His mind stands firm, detached,
And of all that he notes the passing hence.
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 13, 2012 8:06 am

Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the verses in AN 6.55

If one is intent on renunciation
and solitude of mind;
if one is intent on non-affliction
and the destruction of clinging';
if one is intent on craving's destruction
and non-confusion of mind:
when one sees the sense bases' arising,
ones's mind is completely liberated.

For a bhikkhu of peaceful mind,
one completely liberated,
there's nothing further to be done,
no [need to] increase what has been done.

As a stone mountain, one solid mass,
is not stirred by the wind,
so no forms and tastes, sounds,
odors, and tactile objects,
and phenomena desirable or undesirable
stir the stable one's mind.
His mind is steady and freed,
and he observes it's vanishing.
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 13, 2012 8:13 am

PTS Gradual Sayings Translation.

Dispassion, mind's detachment, harmlessness,
Grasping's and craving's end, mind undeluded:
Who hath applied himself to these, hath seen
Sensations' rise --- his mind is wholly freed;

And in that monk, calmed, wholly freed, naught need
Be added to what's done, naught due is found.
As massive crag by wind is never moved,
So sights, tastes, sounds, smells, touches, yea, the things
Longed for and loathed stir not a man like that;
His mind stands firm, released; he marks their set.'
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 13, 2012 8:38 pm

Above I quoted the Chinese parallels for:

Bhikkhu Bodhi:
"So too, Sona, if energy is aroused too forcefully this leads to restlessness, and if energy is too lax this leads to laziness. Therefore, Sona, resolve on a balance of energy, achieve evenness of the spiritual faculties, and take up the object there."

Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
"In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune ["[penetrate," "ferret out"] the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme."

Gradual Sayings
"Even so, Sona, energy, when overstrung, ends in a flurry, when over-lax, in idleness. Wherefore, Sona, stand fast in the mean of energy; pierce the mean (in the use) of the faculties; and therein grasp the real worth. [*]"

  • Nimitan, the salient feature in anything. This has nothing to do with the term in later Jhana technique.

I guess we can soon move on to how Ven Sona announced his awakening to the Buddha...

:anjali:
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:34 am

[Sona addressing the Buddha:] Bhante, when a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, who has lived the spiritual life, done what has to be done, laid down the burden, reached his own goal, utterly destroyed the fetters of existence, and become completely liberated through final knowledge, he is intent upon six things:
on renunciation, on solitude, on no-affliction, on the destruction of craving, on the destruction of clinging, and on non-confusion.

    BB: Mp says that each of the six expressions signifies arahantship.
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:58 am

It may be, Bhante, that some venerable one here thinks 'Could it be that this venerable one is intent upon renunciation on account of mere faith?' But it should not be seen in such a way. A bhikkhu with taints destroyed, who has lived the spiritual life and done his task, does see in himself anything further to be done or any [need to] increase what has been done. He is intent upon renunciation because he is devoid of lust through the destruction of lust; because he is devoid of hatred through the destruction of hatred; because he is devoid of delusion through the destruction of delusion.

    BB: Mp glosses the "increase" phrase by "growth by repeated activity".

    This expression also occurs in SN 22.122 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
    Bhikkhu Bodhi translation:
      “Friend Koṭṭhita, a bhikkhu who is an arahant should carefully attend to these five aggregates subject to clinging as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as a tumour, as a dart, as misery, as an affliction, as alien, as disintegrating, as empty, as nonself. For the arahant, friend, there is nothing further that has to be done and no repetition of what he has already done.[226] However, when these things are developed and cultivated, they lead to a pleasant dwelling in this very life and to mindfulness and clear comprehension.”

      [226] Natthi … arahato uttarikaraṇīyaṃ katassa vā paṭicayo. Spk does not comment on this, but Mp IV 165,3-5 (commenting on AN IV 355,24-25) explains: “There is nothing further to be done, because he has done the four tasks imposed by the Four Noble Truths (see SN 56:11 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.nymo.html). And no repetition of what he has already done, for the developed path need not be developed again and the abandoned defilements need not be abandoned again.”
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 9:18 am

It may be that some venerable one here thinks: 'Could it be that this venerable one is intent upon solitude because he is hankering after gain, honor, and praise?' But it should not ...
It may be that some venerable one here thinks: 'Could it be that this venerable one is intent upon non-affliction because he has fallen back on the wrong grasp of behavior and observances as the essence?'


    BB: This expression normally refers to the extreme austerities of those who believe them to be the core of spiritual cultivation.
    See AN 3.78
    Thanissaro Bhikkhus translation
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
    seems unclear on this point.
    Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of AN 3.78 reads:
      Bhante, suppose one cultivates behaviour and observances, an [austere] lifestyle, and a spiritual life, setting them up as if they were the essence. If unwholesome qualities then increase and wholesome qualities decline, such behavior and observances [austere] lifestyle, and spiritual life, set up as the essence, are fruitless. But if unwholesome qualities decline and wholesome qualities increase, then such behavior and observances [austere] lifestyle, and spiritual life, set up as the essence, are fruitful.
But it should not ...

... he is intent upon the destruction of craving ... clinging ... non-confusion ...


    Bhikkhu Bodhi comments that all Pali editions available to him abridge these final three. It seems that the "ulterior motives" have been lost here.
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby Mal » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:07 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Then the Blessed One, as soon as he perceived with his awareness the train of thought in Ven. Sona's awareness — as a strong man might stretch out his bent arm or bend his outstretched arm — disappeared from Vulture Peak Mountain, appeared in the Cool Wood right in front of Ven. Sona, and sat down on a prepared seat.


Did this actually happen or is it an "effect" added by the storyteller to stress the Buddha's importance through adding a mythical/supernatural element? Did the historical Buddha have telepathic and telekinetic powers? If so, why can't modern monks read my thoughts or teleport?

mikenz66 wrote:
Ven. Sona, after bowing down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, "Just now, as you were meditating in seclusion, didn't this train of thought appear to your awareness: 'Of the Blessed One's disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the fermentations... What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?'"



Isn't this something that most practitioners will think frequently? So is the Buddha really mind reading or using subtle clues, that an expert pyschologist might see, to guess Sona's state of mind?

mikenz66 wrote:"In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune[2]the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme."


Is this persistence in everyday activities, or persistence in meditation? I'm guessing the latter, if so, I don't get "attune the pitch of the five faculties" metaphor. How do you tune your hearing? Isn't hearing just a given, you can't make yourself not-tone-deaf!

mikenz66 wrote:So after that, Ven. Sona determined the right pitch for his persistence...


OK that metaphor makes sense to me.

mikenz66 wrote:"When a monk is an arahant ... he is dedicated to six things: renunciation, seclusion, non-afflictiveness, the ending of craving, the ending of clinging/sustenance, & non-deludedness.


So can an arahant teach? If renuciation is "dedicated" then shouldn't everything go except the minimum basics for life - food, water, minimal shelter. Besides being something else "beyond the basics", teaching is obviously not a secluded activity, it's afflictive (!), and surely there's a great danger of desiring, and clinging to, the success of your pupils.

mikenz66 wrote:The monk whose fermentations are ended, having fulfilled [the holy life], does not see in himself anything further to do, or anything further to add to what he has done. It is because of the ending of passion, because of his being free of passion, that he is dedicated to renunciation. It is because of the ending of aversion, because of his being free of aversion, that he is dedicated to renunciation. It is because of the ending of delusion, because of his being free of delusion, that he is dedicated to renunciation.


So he wouldn't see himself as having to teach, would have no passion to pass on the dhamma, and would be dedicated to renouncing his teaching activities?

This is like the monk in the film Black Narcissus - he sits on the mountain while the Catholic nuns and "action men" do their (good) works & suffer, lust & suffer, etc. He sits there, does nothing, he's beyond suffering... but he's also beyond teaching and helping the poverty stricken villagers.
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby Mal » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:25 pm

Sam Vara wrote:Interesting that the persistence is talked about here not as an isolated faculty, but as one of the five faculties.


Where does it say that? How can it be one of the five faculties - aren't these the five sense faculties? [Update: Mike -thanks for alternative translations, now I see it's five SPIRITUAL faculties . Aren't these concentration, effort, faith, mindfulness and wisdom? Could persistence/energy be better translated as effort?]

Sam Vara wrote: Can we have too much mindfulness, which the Buddha described as "all-helpfull"?


Maybe we can be trying too hard, for us? So although it's "all-helpful", we just don't have the stamina?

Sam Vara wrote:How much is too much? How much is not enough? A vina player can match the pitch of his intrument to a known note, such as a tuning fork. But there is no such objective yardstick for the persisting meditator. Perhaps the idea is leaving it to the individual practitioner to experiment and find out whether a tune can actually be played on the instrument - or whether one can actually meditate in a way that one judges to be beneficial.


There are qualities of jhana - calm, joy, ecstasy, equanimity, spacuiousness, nimittas... Wouldn't those be as close to "objective" yardsticks as you can get? Of course, jhana is a state only available to advanced meditators, but these qualities are felt before jhana. Shouldn''t we doing whatever encourages the beginnings of these qualities?
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Re: AN 6.55: Sona Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:15 pm

Mal wrote:There are qualities of jhana - calm, joy, ecstasy, equanimity, spacuiousness, nimittas... Wouldn't those be as close to "objective" yardsticks as you can get? Of course, jhana is a state only available to advanced meditators, but these qualities are felt before jhana. Shouldn''t we doing whatever encourages the beginnings of these qualities?

Yes, but the way I see this sutta, and last week's sutta
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14239
one needs the right balance of energy and concentration to develop deep samadhi.

:anjali:
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