AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Where we gather to focus on a single discourse or thematic collection from the Sutta Piṭaka (new selection every two weeks)
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 19272
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by mikenz66 »

AN 1.49-52 PTS: A i 10 (I,v,9-10; I,vi,1-2) Pabhassara Sutta: Luminous
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements."

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements."

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements. The uninstructed run-of-the-mill person doesn't discern that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person — there is no development of the mind."

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements. The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — there is development of the mind."

Notes

This statement has engendered a great deal of controversy over the centuries. The commentary maintains that "mind" here refers to the bhavanga-citta, the momentary mental state between periods when the mental stream adverts to objects, but this statement raises more questions than it answers. There is no reference to the bhavanga-citta or the mental stream in any of the suttas (they appear first in an Abhidhamma treatise, the Patthana); and because the commentaries compare the bhavanga-citta to deep sleep, why is it called luminous? And why would the perception of its luminosity be a prerequisite for developing the mind? And further, if "mind" in this discourse means bhavanga-citta, what would it mean to develop the bhavanga-citta?

Another interpretation equates the luminosity of the mind with the "consciousness without feature," described as "luminous" in MN 49 and DN 11, but this interpretation also has problems. According to MN 49, that consciousness partakes of nothing in the describable world, not even the "Allness of the All," so how could it possibly be defiled? And, because it is not realized until the goal of the practice is reached, why would the perception of its luminosity be a prerequisite for developing the mind? And again, if "mind" here means consciousness without feature, how could the sutta talk of its development?

A more reasonable approach to understanding the statement can be derived from taking it in context: the luminous mind is the mind that the meditator is trying to develop. To perceive its luminosity means understanding that defilements such as greed, aversion, or delusion are not intrinsic to its nature, are not a necessary part of awareness. Without this understanding, it would be impossible to practice. With this understanding, however, one can make an effort to cut away existing defilements, leaving the mind in the stage that MN 24 calls "purity in terms of mind." This would correspond to the luminous level of concentration described in the standard simile for the fourth jhana: "And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. Just as if a man were sitting covered from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness." From this state it is possible to develop the discernment that not only cuts away existing defilements but also uproots any potential for them to ever arise again. Only in the stages of Awakening that follow on those acts of discernment would "consciousness without feature" be realized.
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 19272
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by mikenz66 »

Bhikkhu Bodhi's comments:

“Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements.”
  • Pabhassaram idaṃ bhikkhave cittaṃ. The exact meaning of this
    statement has been a matter of contention that has spawned con-
    flicting interpretations. Mp identifies the “luminous mind” with
    the bhavaṅgacitta, an Abhidhamma concept denoting the type of
    mental event that occurs in the absence of active cognition. It
    corresponds, very roughly, to the subconscious or unconscious
    of modern psychology. The word bhavaṅga means “factor of exis-
    tence,” that is, the factor responsible for maintaining continuous
    personal identity throughout a given life and from one life to
    the next. However, the bhavaṅga is not a persistent state of con-
    sciousness, a permanent self. It is a series of momentary acts of
    mind that alternate with active cognitive processes (cittavīthi),
    sequences of cognition when the mind consciously appre-
    hends an object. Hence the texts sometimes use the expression
    bhavaṅgasota, “stream of bhavaṅga,” to highlight the fluid nature
    of this type of mental process. The occurrence of the bhavaṅga is
    most evident in deep, dreamless sleep, but it also occurs count-
    less times in waking life between cognitive processes.

    The most important events in the cognitive process are the
    javanacittas, ethically determinate occasions of consciousness
    that create kamma. The javanas may be either wholesome or
    unwholesome. It is in the javana phase that the defilements,
    dormant in the subconscious bhavaṅga, infiltrate mental activ-
    ity and defile the mind. For a fuller discussion of the bhavaṅga,
    see CMA 122–29, where it is rendered “life-continuum.” Harvey
    (1995: 166–79) has an interesting exploration of the relationship
    between the bhavaṅga and what he calls “the brightly shining
    mind.”

    Mp explains: “The bhavaṅgacitta is called luminous, that is, pure
    (parisuddha), because it is without defilements (nirupakkilesatāya).
    It is defiled by adventitious defilements—by lust, etc.—which
    arise later [after the bhavaṅga] at the moment of javana. How? In
    the way that virtuous, well-behaved parents—or preceptor and
    teacher—get to be criticized and blamed on account of their undis-
    ciplined, badly behaved children or pupils, [as when people say]:
    ‘They don’t punish, train, exhort, or instruct their own children or
    pupils.’ Well-behaved parents, or preceptor and teacher, are like
    the bhavaṅgacitta, while the blame falling on the parents because
    of their children [or on the preceptor and teacher on account of
    their pupils] is like the naturally pure bhavaṅgacitta being defiled
    at the javana moment by the adventitious defilements that arise
    in states of mind associated with greed, etc., which cause lust,
    hatred, and delusion to infect it.”

    Though I quote Mp in full here, I find this explanation prob-
    lematic on at least two grounds. The first is that the very concept
    of the bhavaṅgacitta, and the corresponding notion of the cogni-
    tive process, are not found in the Nikāyas but first emerge in a
    later period when the Abhidhamma was taking shape. Even the
    term bhavaṅga, though crucial to the Theravāda Abhidhamma
    system, occurs only in the last book of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka,
    the Paṭṭhāna. It is found much more often in the Abhidhamma
    commentaries.

    The second reason I find Mp’s explanation problematic is that
    the text flatly states “this mind is luminous,” without qualifica-
    tion. This suggests that luminosity is intrinsic to the mind itself,
    and not to a particular type of mental event. Moreover, if the
    bhavaṅga is luminous, it should always remain so; it becomes
    incoherent to speak of it being defiled by the javanas. The sim-
    plest interpretation of this statement, so far as I can see, is that
    luminosity is an innate characteristic of mind, seen in its capacity
    to illuminate its objective field. This luminosity, though inherent,
    is functionally blocked because the mind is “defiled by adven-
    titious defilements” (āgantukehi upakkilesehi upakkiliṭṭhaṃ). The
    defilements are called “adventitious” because, unlike the lumi-
    nosity, they are not intrinsic to the mind itself. Of course, as AN 10.61
    and AN 10.62 assert, there is no “first point” to ignorance and craving
    (and other defilements). But these defilements can be removed
    by mental training. With their removal, the mind’s intrinsic
    luminosity emerges—or, more precisely, becomes manifest.
    The statement just below that the noble disciple understands
    the mind to be luminous implies that this insight into the intrin-
    sic luminosity of the mind serves as the basis for further mental
    development, which liberates the mind from the defilements.
    With the complete removal of defilements, the mind’s intrinsic
    luminosity shines forth unobstructed.

    At AN 3.102, I 257, 7 the word pabhassara is used to describe the
    mind (citta) that has attained concentration (samādhi). It thus
    seems that it is in deep samādhi that the intrinsic luminosity of
    the mind emerges, at least temporarily. AN 5.23, III 16, 29 –17, 2 says
    explicitly that the mind freed from the five hindrances is lumi-
    nous (pabhassara) and properly concentrated for the destruction
    of the taints. See too MN III 243, 11–12 , MN 140 where it is equanimity
    (upekkhā), presumably of the fourth jhāna, that is described as
    luminous.
“Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, and it is freed from adventitious defilements.”

“Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, but it is defiled by adventi-
tious defilements. The uninstructed worldling does not under-
stand this as it really is; therefore I say that for the uninstructed
worldling there is no development of the mind.”
  • Cittabhāvanā natthi. Mp: “There is no stability of mind, no
    comprehension of mind” (cittaṭṭhiti cittapariggaho natthi). Mp-ṭ:
    “The development of mind [called] ‘stability of mind’ (cittaṭṭhiti)
    is the practice through which one can accurately understand
    defilement of the mind and liberation from it. The development
    of insight (vipassanābhāvanā), which occurs based on the stabili-
    zation [of the mind] by fully concentrating it on a single object,
    is what is known as comprehension of the mind (cittassa parig-
    gaha); [this occurs] together with the associated [mental] factors
    based on that object. It is through this that one can accurately
    understand the meaning stated.”

    The Nikāyas often set up a contrast between the “uninstructed
    worldling” (assutavā puthujjana), the common person of the world
    who lacks training in the Buddha’s teaching, and the instructed
    noble disciple (sutavā ariya sāvaka), who has learned the teaching
    and undertaken the training. More broadly, a puthujjana is any-
    one who has not yet reached the path of stream-entry (sotāpatti).
    An ariyasāvaka is not necessarily a “noble one” in the technical
    sense, but any disciple, monastic or layperson, who has learned
    the teaching and earnestly takes up the practice.
“Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, and it is freed from adven-
titious defilements. The instructed noble disciple understands
this as it really is; therefore I say that for the instructed noble
disciple there is development of the mind.”
  • Mp: “In this sutta powerful insight (balavavipassanā) is discussed;
    but some say tender insight (taruṇavipassanā).” Here, “tender
    insight” refers to the early stage of knowledge of rise and fall,
    while “powerful insight” to the mature stage of knowledge of
    rise and fall and the higher insight knowledges.
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 19272
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by mikenz66 »

See: On the radiant mind, by Bhante Sujato.

:anjali:
Mike
SarathW
Posts: 18261
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by SarathW »

Irrespective of all different opinion the most important thing is to understand the luminosity of the mind.
This is a great state to be in whether through Samatha or Vipassana meditaion.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
User avatar
equilibrium
Posts: 419
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:07 am

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by equilibrium »

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements."

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements."
Notice the first part "Luminous, monks, is the mind" is the same.....for both run-of-the-mill person and disciple of the noble ones.
User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23046
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by tiltbillings »

mikenz66 wrote:See: On the radiant mind, by Bhante Sujato.

:anjali:
Mike
A well done article. Also interesting are Ven Sujato's comments in response to the responses.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
dhammarelax
Posts: 1087
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2014 7:59 pm

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by dhammarelax »

SarathW wrote:Irrespective of all different opinion the most important thing is to understand the luminosity of the mind.
This is a great state to be in whether through Samatha or Vipassana meditaion.
Dear Friends

I am not sure if this forum allows personal experiences on the issues discussed, but I have had 2 experiences of a luminous mind, one of them actually was not only mind but all the body, this is actual light coming out the body or mind and my understanding is that this happens when the first link of dependent origination that is ignorance is 6red.

Smile as much as possible
dhammarelax
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5
User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23046
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by tiltbillings »

dhammarelax wrote:
SarathW wrote:Irrespective of all different opinion the most important thing is to understand the luminosity of the mind.
This is a great state to be in whether through Samatha or Vipassana meditaion.
Dear Friends

I am not sure if this forum allows personal experiences on the issues discussed, but I have had 2 experiences of a luminous mind, one of them actually was not only mind but all the body, this is actual light coming out the body or mind and my understanding is that this happens when the first link of dependent origination that is ignorance is 6red.

Smile as much as possible
dhammarelax
"6red"? Huh? What you are describing comes with a degree of samadhi and is not unique to Buddhist practice. The problem with experiences such as this is the reading into them of one's hopes and expectations, which is very easy to do. If you wish to pursue this conversation, best to start a new thread in the appropriate sub-forum.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
SarathW
Posts: 18261
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by SarathW »

Defilements are mean the attachment, aversion and ignorance.
The destruction of attachment, aversion and ignorance alone not constitute Nibbana.
Hence the luminous mind is very clearly not the Nibbana.
To me the luminous mind mean the higher state of Samadhi.

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 4993&hilit" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 19272
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by mikenz66 »

tiltbillings wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:See: On the radiant mind, by Bhante Sujato.
A well done article. Also interesting are Ven Sujato's comments in response to the responses.
Yes, and I think this is a useful warning about reading too much into obscure passages:
Sujato wrote:These passages [that use the term pabhassara/radiance], especially the recurring comparison of gold with samadhi, are clear and well-defined. They are proper teachings, not just cut-up slivers with no parallels, as in the more famous pabhassara citta passage. This is one of the most common tendencies we find in Buddhist history: that well-known, frequently repeated passages with clear meaning are ignored, while obscure, marginal passages, probably suffering severe editorial loss, are taken up precisely because their obscurity allows one to read anything into them.
:anjali:
Mike
pulga
Posts: 1426
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:02 pm

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by pulga »

Sujato wrote:These passages [that use the term pabhassara/radiance], especially the recurring comparison of gold with samadhi, are clear and well-defined. They are proper teachings, not just cut-up slivers with no parallels, as in the more famous pabhassara citta passage. This is one of the most common tendencies we find in Buddhist history: that well-known, frequently repeated passages with clear meaning are ignored, while obscure, marginal passages, probably suffering severe editorial loss, are taken up precisely because their obscurity allows one to read anything into them.
But that doesn't preclude what is being read into them is not without merit.
"Dhammā=Ideas. This is the clue to much of the Buddha's teaching." ~ Ven. Ñanavira, Commonplace Book
User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23046
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by tiltbillings »

pulga wrote:
Sujato wrote:These passages [that use the term pabhassara/radiance], especially the recurring comparison of gold with samadhi, are clear and well-defined. They are proper teachings, not just cut-up slivers with no parallels, as in the more famous pabhassara citta passage. This is one of the most common tendencies we find in Buddhist history: that well-known, frequently repeated passages with clear meaning are ignored, while obscure, marginal passages, probably suffering severe editorial loss, are taken up precisely because their obscurity allows one to read anything into them.
But that doesn't preclude what is being read into them is not without merit.
Ven Sujato has raised the bar quite high. I have yet to see that challenge convincingly met.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
pulga
Posts: 1426
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:02 pm

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by pulga »

tiltbillings wrote:Ven Sujato has raised the bar quite high. I have yet to see that challenge convincingly met.
I'm in agreement with his assessment. Obscure suttas can be interpreted in various way. Who is challenging him?
"Dhammā=Ideas. This is the clue to much of the Buddha's teaching." ~ Ven. Ñanavira, Commonplace Book
boris
Posts: 727
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:00 pm
Contact:

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by boris »

In either case, there is no suggestion here that the “radiant mind” be connected with Nibbana. Quite the opposite: the whole point of the sutta is that it can be defiled, so it cannot be Nibbana.
Bhikkhu Sujato

It is rather strange interpretation, I would say that the whole point of the sutta is that it can be purified. And since arahat and nibbana are synonyms, Sutta just say that experience of puthujana can be transform into experience of an arahat.

Or rather sekha into arahat. Puthujjana must first become sotapanna and to see something, which does not change with time.
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila
SarathW
Posts: 18261
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: AN 1.49-52. Pabhassara Sutta. Luminous.

Post by SarathW »

Yes, but it does not mean that you purify Nibbna.
It is not a thing to be purified neither it can be defiled.
You realise Nibbana.
Arahnat may have a luminous mind but it is not the Nibbana.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
Locked