SN 46.54 Accompanied by Lovingkindness

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Koliyans, where there was a town of the Koliyans named Haliddavasana.106 Then, in the morning, a number of bhikkhus dressed and, taking their bowls and robes, entered Haliddavasana for alms. Then it occurred to them: “It is still too early to walk for alms in Haliddavasana. Let us go to the park of the wanderers of other sects.”

Then those bhikkhus went to the park of the wanderers of other sects. They exchanged greetings with those wanderers and, when they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, sat down to one side. The wanderers then said to them: “Friends, the ascetic Gotama teaches the Dhamma to his disciples thus: ‘Come, bhikkhus, abandon the five hindrances, the corruptions of the mind that weaken wisdom, and dwell pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with lovingkindness, likewise the second quarter, the third quarter, and the fourth quarter. Thus above, below, across, and everywhere, and to all as to oneself, dwell pervading the entire world with a mind imbued with lovingkindness, [116] vast, exalted, measureless, without hostility, without ill will. Dwell pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with compassion, likewise the second quarter, the third quarter, and the fourth quarter. Thus above, below, across, and everywhere, and to all as to oneself, dwell pervading the entire world with a mind imbued with compassion, vast, exalted, measureless, without hostility, without ill will. Dwell pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with altruistic joy, likewise the second quarter, the third quarter, and the fourth quarter. Thus above, below, across, and everywhere, and to all as to oneself, dwell pervading the entire world with a mind imbued with altruistic joy, vast, exalted, measureless, without hostility, without ill will. Dwell pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with equanimity, likewise the second quarter, the third quarter, and the fourth quarter. Thus above, below, across, and everywhere, and to all as to oneself, dwell pervading the entire world with a mind imbued with equanimity, vast, exalted, measureless, without hostility, without ill will.’

“We too, friends, teach the Dhamma to our disciples thus: ‘Come, friends, abandon the five hindrances … (all as above) … dwell pervading the entire world with a mind imbued with lovingkindness … compassion … altruistic joy … equanimity … without ill will.’ So, friends, what here is the distinction, the disparity, the difference between the ascetic Gotama and us, that is, [117] regarding the one Dhamma teaching and the other, regarding the one manner of instruction and the other?”107

Then those bhikkhus neither delighted in nor rejected the statement of those wanderers. Without delighting in it, without rejecting it, they rose from their seats and left, thinking, “We shall learn the meaning of this statement in the presence of the Blessed One.”

Then, when those bhikkhus had walked for alms in Haliddavasana and had returned from the alms round, after their meal they approached the Blessed One. Having paid homage to him, they sat down to one side and reported to him the entire discussion between those wanderers and themselves. [118] [The Blessed One said:]

“Bhikkhus, when wanderers of other sects speak thus, they should be asked: ‘Friends, how is the liberation of the mind by lovingkindness developed? What does it have as its destination, its culmination, its fruit, its final goal?108 How is the liberation of the mind by compassion developed? What does it have as its destination, its culmination, its fruit, its final goal? How is the liberation of the mind by altruistic joy developed? What does it have as its destination, its culmination, its fruit, its final goal? How is the liberation of the mind by equanimity developed? What does it have as its destination, its culmination, its fruit, its final goal?’ Being asked thus, those wanderers would not be able to reply and, further, they would meet with vexation. For what reason? Because that would not be within their domain. I do not see anyone, bhikkhus, in this world with its devas, Māra, and Brahmā, in this generation with its ascetics and brahmins, its devas and humans, who could satisfy the mind with an answer to these questions except the Tathāgata or a disciple of the Tathāgata or one who has heard it from them. [119]

“And how, bhikkhus, is the liberation of the mind by lovingkindness developed? What does it have as its destination, its culmination, its fruit, its final goal? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of mindfulness accompanied by lovingkindness … the enlightenment factor of equanimity accompanied by lovingkindness, based upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, maturing in release.109 If he wishes: ‘May I dwell perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive,’ he dwells perceiving the repulsive therein. If he wishes: ‘May I dwell perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive,’ he dwells perceiving the unrepulsive therein. If he wishes: ‘May I dwell perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive and in the repulsive,’ he dwells perceiving the repulsive therein. If he wishes: ‘May I dwell perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive and in the unrepulsive,’ he dwells perceiving the unrepulsive therein. If he wishes: ‘Avoiding both the unrepulsive and the repulsive, may I dwell equanimously, mindful and clearly comprehending,’ then he dwells therein equanimously, mindful and clearly comprehending. 110 Or else he enters and dwells in the deliverance of the beautiful. Bhikkhus, the liberation of mind by lovingkindness has the beautiful as its culmination, I say, for a wise bhikkhu here who has not penetrated to a superior liberation.111

“And how, bhikkhus, is the liberation of the mind by compassion developed? What does it have as its destination, its culmination, its fruit, its final goal? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of mindfulness accompanied by compassion … the enlightenment factor of equanimity accompanied by compassion, based upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, maturing in release. If he wishes: ‘May I dwell perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive,’ he dwells perceiving the repulsive therein…. If he wishes: ‘Avoiding both the unrepulsive and the repulsive, may I dwell equanimously, mindful and clearly comprehending,’ then he dwells therein equanimously, mindful and clearly comprehending. Or else, with the complete transcendence of perceptions of forms, with the passing away of perceptions of sensory impingement, with nonattention to perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite,’ he enters and dwells in the base of the infinity of space. [120] Bhikkhus, the liberation of mind by compassion has the base of the infinity of space as its culmination, I say, for a wise bhikkhu here who has not penetrated to a superior liberation.

“And how, bhikkhus, is the liberation of the mind by altruistic joy developed? What does it have as its destination, its culmination, its fruit, its final goal? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of mindfulness accompanied by altruistic joy … the enlightenment factor of equanimity accompanied by altruistic joy, based upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, maturing in release. If he wishes: ‘May I dwell perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive,’ he dwells perceiving the repulsive therein…. If he wishes: ‘Avoiding both the unrepulsive and the repulsive, may I dwell equanimously, mindful and clearly comprehending, ’ then he dwells therein equanimously, mindful and clearly comprehending. Or else, by completely transcending the base of the infinity of space, aware that ‘consciousness is infinite,’ he enters and dwells in the base of the infinity of consciousness. Bhikkhus, the liberation of mind by altruistic joy has the base of the infinity of consciousness as its culmination, I say, for a wise bhikkhu here who has not penetrated to a superior liberation.

“And how, bhikkhus, is the liberation of the mind by equanimity developed? What does it have as its destination, its culmination, its fruit, its final goal? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops the enlightenment factor of mindfulness accompanied by equanimity … the enlightenment factor of equanimity accompanied by equanimity, based upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, maturing in release. If he wishes: ‘May I dwell perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive,’ he dwells perceiving the repulsive therein…. If he wishes: ‘Avoiding both the unrepulsive and the repulsive, may I dwell equanimously, mindful and clearly comprehending,’ then he dwells therein equanimously, mindful and clearly comprehending. [121] Or else, by completely transcending the base of the infinity of consciousness, aware that ‘there is nothing,’ he enters and dwells in the base of nothingness. Bhikkhus, the liberation of mind by equanimity has the base of nothingness as its culmination, I say, for a wise bhikkhu here who has not penetrated to a superior liberation.”

Seven Factors of Awakening (satta bojjhaṅgā):
Mindfulness (sati, Sanskrit smrti).
Investigation of the nature of reality (dhamma vicaya, Skt. dharmapravicaya).
Energy (viriya, Skt. vīrya)
Joy or rapture (pīti, Skt. prīti)
Relaxation or tranquility (passaddhi, Skt. prashrabdhi)
Concentration, (samādhi)
Equanimity (upekkha, Skt. upekshā). To accept reality as-it-is (yathā-bhuta) without craving or aversion.

109 This conjunction of the enlightenment factors with the four divine abodes is unusual. On their own momentum the divine abodes lead to rebirth in the brahmā world rather than to Nibbāna (see MN II 82,24-27, II 207-8, AN II 128-29). When integrated into the structure of the Buddha’s path, however, they can be used to generate concentration of sufficient strength to serve as a basis for insight, which in turn brings enlightenment. A striking instance is at MN I 351,18-352,2. Spk: The monk develops the three jhānas based on lovingkindness, then takes this as a basis for developing insight and attains arahantship. The enlightenment factors are developed by insight and the path.

At AN III 169-170, this practice is discussed more fully, with reference to the benefits of each contemplation. At DN III 112,25-13,10 it is called a “spiritual power which is taintless, acquisitionless, and noble” (), and Paṭis II 212-13 calls it “the noble ones’ spiritual power” (); further explanation is given at Vism 381-82 (Ppn 12:36-38). The following is condensed from Spk: (i) to perceive the repulsive in the unrepulsive () one pervades an unrepulsive object (e.g., a sensually attractive person) with the idea of foulness or attends to it as impermanent; (ii) to perceive the unrepulsive in the repulsive ( ) one pervades a repulsive object (e.g., a hostile person) with lovingkindness or attends to it as elements; (iii) and (iv) simply extend the first two modes of perception to both types of objects conjointly; and (v) is self-explanatory.

110 At AN III 169-170, this practice is discussed more fully, with reference to the benefits of each contemplation. At DN III 112,25-13,10 it is called a “spiritual power which is taintless, acquisitionless, and noble” (ayaṃ iddhi anāsavā anupadhikā ariyā), and Paṭis II 212-13 calls it “the noble ones’ spiritual power” (ariyiddhi); further explanation is given at Vism 381-82 (Ppn 12:36-38). The following is condensed from Spk: (i) to perceive the repulsive in the unrepulsive (appaṭikkūle paṭikkūlasaññī) one pervades an unrepulsive object (e.g., a sensually attractive person) with the idea of foulness or attends to it as impermanent; (ii) to perceive the unrepulsive in the repulsive (paṭikkūle appaṭikkūlasaññī ) one pervades a repulsive object (e.g., a hostile person) with lovingkindness or attends to it as elements; (iii) and (iv) simply extend the first two modes of perception to both types of objects conjointly; and (v) is self-explanatory.

Spk: This teaching is brought in for one who is unable to reach arahantship after exploring formations based on jhāna through lovingkindness.

111 Spk: This teaching is brought in for one who is unable to reach arahantship after exploring formations based on jhāna through lovingkindness.
Spk explains idhapaññassa as if it were a bahubbīhi compound meaning “one of mundane wisdom” (lokiyapaññassa); the expression also occurs at Dhp 375b and AN V 300,14. Mp V 78,10-11 explains it as “wisdom in regard to this teaching” (imasmiṃ sāsane paññā), which sounds more convincing than Spk’s gloss.

Per Bhikkhu Bodhi’s précis. For the full account see Path of Purification IX 120-123.
(i) one who abides in lovingkindness can easily apply his mind to a beautiful colour kasiṇa and quickly attain the beautiful liberation (i.e., jhāna based on a colour kasiṇa);
(ii) one who abides in compassion recognizes the danger in form and thus develops the base of the infinity of space, which is the escape from form;
(iii) one who abides in altruistic joy apprehends the joyful consciousness of beings and thus easily enters the base of the infinity of consciousness;
(iv) one who abides in equanimity is skilled in diverting his mind from pleasure and pain, and thus can easily divert it to the absence of any concrete entity in the base of nothingness.

Kasiṇas:
DN 33 & 34
MN 77
AN 1, the Apara-accharāsaṅghātavagga
AN 10:25; 10:26; 10:29.

Published by Vimutta Fellowship Toronto

The Vimutta community is a group of Theravādan supporters in Canada, who share a focus on the practices based on the Buddha's teachings on the path toward liberation. The Pāli term“Vimutta” literally means “liberated, freed” from the cycle of death and rebirth (samsāra). If you share the vision and are interested and want to contribute, please feel free to contact us.