AN 9.35 Gavi Sutta

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Gavi Sutta: The Cow

translated from the Pali by

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

"Suppose there was a mountain cow foolish, inexperienced, unfamiliar with her pasture, unskilled in roaming on rugged mountains and she were to think, 'What if I were to go in a direction I have never gone before, to eat grass I have never eaten before, to drink water I have never drunk before!' She would lift her hind hoof without having placed her front hoof firmly and [as a result] would not get to go in a direction she had never gone before, to eat grass she had never eaten before, or to drink water she had never drunk before. And as for the place where she was standing when the thought occurred to her, 'What if I were to go where I have never been before... to drink water I have never drunk before,' she would not return there safely. Why is that? Because she is a foolish, inexperienced mountain cow, unfamiliar with her pasture, unskilled in roaming on rugged mountains.

"In the same way, there are cases where a monk foolish, inexperienced, unfamiliar with his pasture, unskilled in being quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, and entering & remaining in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation doesn't stick with that theme, doesn't develop it, pursue it, or establish himself firmly in it. The thought occurs to him, 'What if I, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, were to enter & remain in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation internal assurance.' He is not able... to enter & remain in the second jhana... The thought occurs to him, 'What if I... were to enter & remain in the first jhana... He is not able... to enter & remain in the first jhana. This is called a monk who has slipped & fallen from both sides, like the mountain cow, foolish, inexperienced, unfamiliar with her pasture, unskilled in roaming on rugged mountains.

"But suppose there was a mountain cow wise, experienced, familiar with her pasture, skilled in roaming on rugged mountains and she were to think, 'What if I were to go in a direction I have never gone before, to eat grass I have never eaten before, to drink water I have never drunk before!' She would lift her hind hoof only after having placed her front hoof firmly and [as a result] would get to go in a direction she had never gone before... to drink water she had never drunk before. And as for the place where she was standing when the thought occurred to her, 'What if I were to go in a direction I have never gone before... to drink water I have never drunk before,' she would return there safely. Why is that? Because she is a wise, experienced mountain cow, familiar with her pasture, skilled in roaming on rugged mountains.

"In the same way, there are some cases where a monk wise, experienced, familiar with his pasture, skilled in being quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, and entering & remaining in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

"The thought occurs to him, 'What if, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, I were to enter & remain in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation internal assurance.' Without jumping at the second jhana, he with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation internal assurance. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

"The thought occurs to him, 'What if, with the fading of rapture, I... were to enter & remain in the third jhana...' Without jumping at the third jhana, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

"The thought occurs to him, 'What if I... were to enter & remain in the fourth jhana...' Without jumping at the fourth jhana, with the abandoning of pleasure & stress as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

"The thought occurs to him, 'What if I... were to enter & remain in the dimension of the infinitude of space.' Without jumping at the dimension of the infinitude of space, he, with the complete transcending of perceptions of [physical] form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, [perceiving,] 'Infinite space,' enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

"The thought occurs to him, 'What if I... were to enter & remain in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness.' Without jumping at the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, he, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, [perceiving,] 'Infinite consciousness,' enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

"The thought occurs to him, 'What if I... were to enter & remain in the dimension of nothingness.' Without jumping at the dimension of nothingness, he, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, [perceiving,] 'There is nothing,' enters & remains in the dimension of nothingness. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues, it & establishes himself firmly in it.

"The thought occurs to him, 'What if I... were to enter & remain in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.' Without jumping at the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, he, with the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, enters & remains in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. He sticks with that theme, develops it, pursues it, & establishes himself firmly in it.

"The thought occurs to him, 'What if I, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, were to enter & remain in the cessation of perception & feeling.' Without jumping at the cessation of perception & feeling, he, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters & remains in the cessation of perception & feeling.

"When a monk enters & emerges from that very attainment, his mind is pliant & malleable. With his pliant, malleable mind, limitless concentration is well developed. With his concentration well developed & limitless, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know & realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening.

"If he wants, he wields manifold supranormal powers. Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting crosslegged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.

"If he wants, he hears by means of the divine ear-element, purified and surpassing the human both kinds of sounds: divine and human, whether near or far. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.

"If he wants, he knows the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with his own awareness. He discerns a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion. He discerns a mind with aversion as a mind with aversion, and a mind without aversion as a mind without aversion. He discerns a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion, and a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion. He discerns a restricted mind as a restricted mind, and a scattered mind as a scattered mind. He discerns an enlarged mind as an enlarged mind, and an unenlarged mind as an unenlarged mind. He discerns an excelled mind [one that is not at the most excellent level] as an excelled mind, and an unexcelled mind as an unexcelled mind. He discerns a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind, and an unconcentrated mind as an unconcentrated mind. He discerns a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.

"If he wants, he recollects his manifold past lives (lit: previous homes), i.e., one birth, two births, three births, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand, many aeons of cosmic contraction, many aeons of cosmic expansion, many aeons of cosmic contraction and expansion, [recollecting], 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus he remembers his manifold past lives in their modes and details. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.

"If he wants, he sees by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human he sees beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.

"If he wants, then through the ending of the mental fermentations, he remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release and discernment-release, having known and made them manifest for himself right in the here and now. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening."

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