113 The Skilled Man

MN 03-02-03 Sappurisa Sutta

Exposition by Ven Ajahn Brahmvamso

§ 1.THUS HAVE I HEARD.
On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. There he addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus.”—“Venerable sir,” they replied.
The Blessed One said this:

§ 2 “Bhikkhus, I shall teach you the character of a skillful person and the character of an unskillful person.1064
Listen and attend closely to what I shall say.”—
“Yes, venerable sir,” the bhikkhus replied.
The Blessed One said this:

[1064: Sappurisa-dhamma; asappurisa-dhamma]

§ 3 “Bhikkhus, what is the character of an unskillful person?

Here an unskillful person who has gone forth from an aristocratic family considers thus:
‘I have gone forth from an aristocratic family; but these other bhikkhus have not gone forth from aristocratic families. ’

So he praises himself and disparages others because of his aristocratic family.
This is the character of an unskillful person.

“But a skillful person considers thus:
‘It is not because of one’s aristocratic family, that states of craving, intolerance, or delusion are destroyed. Even though someone may not have gone forth from an aristocratic family, yet if he has entered upon the way that accords with the Dhamma, entered upon the proper way of eightfold path, [38] and conducts himself according to the Dhamma, he should be honoured for that, he should be praised for that.’
So, putting the practice of the way first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of his aristocratic family.
This is the character of a skillful person.

§4- §6 . “Moreover, an unskillful person who has gone forth from a great family…
from a wealthy family…
from an influential family considers thus:
‘I have gone forth from an influential family; but these other bhikkhus have not gone forth from influential families. ’
So he lauds himself and disparages others because of his influential family.
This too is the character of an unskillful person

“But a skillful person considers thus:
It is not because of one’s influential family that states of greed, hatred, or delusion are destroyed. Even though someone may not have gone forth from an influential family, yet if he has entered upon the way that accords with the Dhamma, entered upon the proper way, and conducts himself according to the Dhamma, he should be honoured for that, he should be praised for that.
So, putting the practice of the way first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of his influential family.
This too is the character of a skillful person.

§7 “Moreover, an unskillful person who is well known and famous, considers thus:
‘I am well known and famous; but these other bhikkhus are unknown and of no account.’
So he lauds himself and disparages others because of his renown.
This too is the character of an unskillful person.

“But a skillful person considers thus:
It is not because of one’s renown that states of greed, hatred, or delusion are destroyed. Even though someone may not be well known and famous, yet if he has entered upon the way that accords with the Dhamma, entered upon the proper way, and conducts himself according to the
Dhamma, he should be honoured for that, he should be praised for that.

So, putting the practice of the way first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of his renown. This too is the character of a skillful person. [39]

§8 “Moreover, an unskillful person who gains robes, almsfood, resting places, and requisites of medicine considers thus: ‘I gain robes, almsfood, resting places, and requisites of medicine; but these other bhikkhus do not gain these things.’

So he lauds himself and disparages others because of gain.
This too is the character of an unskillful person.

“But a skillful person considers thus:
It is not because of gain that states of greed, hatred, or delusion are destroyed. Even though someone has no gain, yet if he has entered upon the way that accords with the Dhamma, entered upon the proper way, and conducts himself according to the Dhamma, he should be honoured for that, he should be praised for that.’

So, putting the practice of the way first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of gain.
This too is the character of a skillful person.

§ 9. “Moreover, an untrue man who is learned…
§ 10. who is expert in the Discipline…[40]…
§ 11. who is a preacher of the Dhamma…
§ 12 .who is a forest dweller…
§ 13 .who is a refuse-rag wearer…[41]…
§ 14. an almsfood eater…
§ 15. a tree-root dweller…
§ 16 .…a charnel-ground dweller…
§ 17. an open-air dweller…
§ 18. a continual sitter…
§ 19. an any bed dweller…. an open-air dweller…a continual sitter…an any-bed user…
§ 20. a one-session eater considers thus:
‘I am a one-session eater; but these other bhikkhus are not one-session eaters.’1065

[1065:- These are nine of the thirteen ascetic practices discussed in Vsm II. The “continual sitter” (nesajjika) observes the practice of never lying down but of sleeping in the sitting posture]

So he lauds himself and disparages others because of his being a one-session eater.
This too is the character of an unskillful person.

“But a skillful person considers thus:
‘It is not because of being a one-session eater that states of greed, hatred, or delusion are destroyed. Even though someone may not be a one-session eater, yet if he has entered upon the way that accords with the Dhamma, entered upon the proper way, and conducts himself according to the Dhamma, he should be honoured for that, he should be praised for that.’

So, putting the practice of the way first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of his being a one-session eater.
This too is the character of a skillful person.

§21 .“Moreover, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, an untrue man enters upon and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. He considers thus:
‘I have gained the attainment of the first jhāna; but these other bhikkhus have not gained the attainment of the first jhāna.’

So he lauds himself and disparages others because of his attainment of the first jhāna.
This too is the character of an unskillful person.

“But a skillful person considers thus:
‘Non-ownership even with the experience of the first jhāna has been declared by the Blessed One; for in whatever way they conceive, the fact is ever other than that.’1066 [43]

[1066:- MA explains “non-identification” (atammayat̄a, (DOWNLOAD ) lit. “not consisting of that”) as the absence of craving. However, the context suggests that the absence of conceit may be the meaning. The statement “for in whatever way they conceive, the fact is ever other than that” (yena yena hi maññanti tato taṁ hoti aññathā) is a philosophical riddle appearing also at Sn 588, Sn 757, and Ud 3:10. Though MA is silent, the Ud̄na commentary (to Ud 3:10) explains it to mean that in whatever way worldly people conceive any of the five aggregates—as self or self’s belonging, etc.—the thing conceived turns out to be other than the aspect ascribed to it: it is not self or self’s belonging, not “I” or “mine.”]

So, putting non-identification first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of the experience of the first jhāna.
This too is the character of a skillful person.

§ 22. “Moreover, with the stilling of applied and sustained thought, an unskillful person enters upon and abides in the second jhāna…
So, putting non-ownership first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of his attainment of the second jhāna.
This too is the character of a skillful person.

§ 23. With the fading away as well of rapture…he enters upon and abides in the third jhāna…
So, putting non-ownership first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of experiencing of the third jhāna.
This too is the character of a skillful person.

§ 24. With the abandoning of pleasure and pain…he enters upon and abides in the fourth jhāna…So, putting non-ownership first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of the experience of the fourth jhāna.
This too is the character of a skillful person.

§ 25 . “Moreover, with the complete surmounting of perceptions of form, with the disappearance of perceptions of sensory impact, with non-attention to perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite,’ an untrue man enters upon and abides in the base of infinite space…

§ 26. “Moreover, by completely surmounting the base of infinite space, aware that ‘consciousness is indefinite,’ an unskillful person enters upon and abides in the base of indefinite consciousness……

§ 27 . “Moreover, by completely surmounting the base of indefinite consciousness, aware that ‘there is nothing,’ an unskillful person enters upon and abides in the base of nothingness…

§ 28. “Moreover, by completely surmounting the base of nothingness, an unskillful person enters upon and abides in the base of neither-perception-nor-nonperception.
He considers thus:
‘I have gained the experience of the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception; but these other bhikkhus have not experienced of the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. ’

So he lauds himself and disparages others because of experience of the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.
This too is the character of an unskillful person.

“But a skillful person considers thus:
‘Non-ownership even with the experience of the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception has been declared by the Blessed One; for in whatever way they conceive, the fact is ever other than that.’
So, putting non-ownership first, he neither lauds himself nor disparages others because of the experience of the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.
This too is the character of a skillful person. [45]

§ 29. “Moreover, by completely surmounting the base of neither-perception-nor-non- perception, a skillful person enters upon and abides in the cessation of perception and feeling1067. And his taints are destroyed by seeing with wisdom.

[1067:- It should be noted that there is no passage on the unskillful person entering the cessation of perception and feeling. Unlike the jhānas and immaterial attainments, which can be attained by worldlings, cessation is the domain exclusively of non-returners and arahants.]

This bhikkhu does not conceive anything, he does not conceive in regard to anything, he does not conceive in any way.”1068

[1068:- Na kiñci maññati, na kuhiñci maññati, na kenaci maññati.
This is a brief statement of the same situation described in full at MN 1.51–146. On “conceiving”
The Pali verb “conceives” (maññati), from the root man, “to think,” is often used in the Pali suttas to mean distortional thinking—thought that ascribes to its object characteristics and a significance derived not from the object itself, but from one’s own subjective imaginings. The cognitive distortion introduced by conceiving consists, in brief, in the intrusion of the egocentric perspective into the experience already slightly distorted by spontaneous perception. According to the commentaries, the activity of conceiving is governed by three defilements, which account for the different ways it comes to manifestation—craving (taṇh̄ ) , conceit (m̄na ), and views (dị̣hi).

MA paraphrases this text thus: “Having perceived earth with a perverted perception, the ordinary person afterwards conceives it—construes or
discriminates it—through the gross proliferating tendencies (papañca) of craving, conceit, and views, which are here called ‘conceivings. ’…He
apprehends it in diverse ways contrary [to reality].”
The four ways of conceiving (maññan̄): The Buddha shows that the conceiving of any object may occur in any of four ways, expressed by the text as a fourfold linguistic pattern: accusative, locative, ablative, and appropriative.
The primary significance of this modal pattern—enigmatic in the Pali as well—seems to be ontological. I take the pattern to represent the diverse ways in which the ordinary person attempts to give positive being to his imagined sense of egohood by positing, below the threshold of reflection, a relationship between himself as the subject of cognition and the perceived phenomenon as its object.

According to the fourfold pattern given, this relationship may be one either of direct identification (“he conceives X”), or of inherence (“he conceives in X”), or of contrast or derivation (“he conceives from X”), or of simple appropriation (“he conceives X to be ‘mine’”).
But care is needed in interpreting these phrases. The Pali does not supply any direct object for the second and third modes, and this suggests that the process at work in conceiving proceeds from a deeper and more general level than that involved in the forming of an explicit view of self, as described for example at MN 2.8 or MN 44.7. The activity of conceiving thus seems to comprise the entire range of subjectively tinged cognition, from the impulses and thoughts in which the sense of personal identity is still inchoate to elaborate intellectual structures in which it has been fully explicated.
Ñm, however, understands the implicit object of conceiving to be the percept itself, and accordingly translates: “having had from earth a percept of earth, he conceives [that to be] earth, he conceives [that to be] in earth, he conceives [that to be apart] from earth,” etc.
The fifth phrase, “he delights in X,” explicitly connects conceiving with craving, which is elsewhere said to “delight here and there.” This, moreover, hints at the danger in the worldling’s thought processes, since craving is pointed to by the Buddha as the origin of suffering.
MA gives prolific examples illustrating all the different modes of conceiving, and these clearly establish that the intended object of conceiving is the misplaced sense of egoity. ]

That is what the Blessed One said.

The bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

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