The Discourse about the Ways of Attending to Mindfulness

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Contemplation of (the Nature of) Things

The Section on the Sense-Spheres

Moreover, monks, a monk dwells contemplating (the nature of) things in (various) things, in the six internal and external sense-spheres. In the Dhamma the sense-spheres include the five physical senses as well as the mind. These are then further divided into the internal sense-spheres: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind; and their external equivalents: forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangibles and thoughts. These form the basis for sensual attachment.01

And how, monks, does a monk dwell contemplating (the nature of) things in (various) things, in the six internal and external sense-spheres?

Here, monks, a monk knows the eye, and he knows forms; and the fetter Ten fetters are mentioned in the commentary (to MN 10): the passion for sense-desire (kāmarāga), revulsion (paṭigha), conceit (māna), views (diṭṭhi), doubt (vicikicchā), grasping at virtue and practice (sīlabbataparāmāsa), passion for existence (bhavarāga), jealousy (issā), selfishness (macchariya) and ignorance (āvijjā). This is an Abhidhammic list, which differs from the fetters normally listed in the discourses (at DN 6, etc.)02 that arises dependent on the pair of them This is an important principle in the Dhamma: the fetter is not the eye, and similarly it is not the form (and not the ear or sound, nor any of the other pairs mentioned). The fetter arises dependent on them, but it is the mental defilement which is the fetter, and it is perfectly possible to have eyes and forms without the fetter (see SN 41.1).03 – that also he knows. How there is an arising of a fetter that has not arisen – that he knows; and how there is an abandonment of a fetter that has arisen – that also he knows; and how there is a non-arising of an abandoned fetter again in the future According to the commentary here views, doubt, grasping at virtue and practice, jealousy and selfishness are thrown off at the first stage of Awakening (sotāpatti); gross sense-desire and revulsion by the second stage (sakadāgāmitā) and even subtle forms of the same by the third stage (anāgāmitā); and conceit, passion for existence and ignorance by the fourth and final stage (arahatta).11 – that also he knows.

He knows the ear, and he knows sounds, and the fetter that arises dependent on the pair of them – that also he knows. How there is an arising of a fetter that has not arisen – that he knows; and how there is an abandonment of a fetter that has arisen – that also he knows; and how there is a non-arising of an abandoned fetter again in the future – that also he knows.

He knows the nose, and he knows smells, and the fetter that arises dependent on the pair of them – that also he knows. How there is an arising of a fetter that has not arisen – that he knows; and how there is an abandonment of a fetter that has arisen – that also he knows; and how there is a non-arising of an abandoned fetter again in the future – that also he knows.

He knows the tongue, and he knows tastes, and the fetter that arises dependent on the pair of them – that also he knows. How there is an arising of a fetter that has not arisen – that he knows; and how there is an abandonment of a fetter that has arisen – that also he knows; and how there is a non-arising of an abandoned fetter again in the future – that also he knows.

He knows the body, and he knows tangibles, and the fetter that arises dependent on the pair of them – that also he knows. How there is an arising of a fetter that has not arisen – that he knows; and how there is an abandonment of a fetter that has arisen – that also he knows; and how there is a non-arising of an abandoned fetter again in the future – that also he knows.

He knows the mind, and he knows thoughts, and the fetter that arises dependent on the pair of them – that also he knows. How there is an arising of a fetter that has not arisen – that he knows; and how there is an abandonment of a fetter that has arisen – that also he knows; and how there is a non-arising of an abandoned fetter again in the future – that also he knows.

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Thus he dwells contemplating (the nature of) things in (various) things in regard to himself, or he dwells contemplating (the nature of) things in (various) things in regard to others, or he dwells contemplating (the nature of) things in (various) things in regard to himself and in regard to others, or he dwells contemplating the nature of origination in things, or he dwells contemplating the nature of dissolution in things, or he dwells contemplating the nature of origination and dissolution in things, or else mindfulness that “there are these (various) things” is established in him just as far as (is necessary for) a full measure of knowledge and a full measure of mindfulness, and he dwells independent, and without being attached to anything in the world.

In this way, monks, a monk dwells contemplating (the nature of) things in (various) things, in the six internal and external sense-spheres.

The Section on the Sense-Spheres is Finished