Samyuktagama 80

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Saṃyuktāgama 80. Discourse on the Seal of Dharma

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park.

At that time the Blessed One said to the monks: “I will teach you the seal of the noble Dharma and the reaching of purification of knowledge and vision. Listen and pay careful attention.

“If a monk speaks like this: ‘Without having attained concentration on emptiness, I shall give rise to signlessness (animitta), nothingness, and have knowledge and vision of being free from conceit’, he should not speak like this. Why is that? Without having attained concentration on emptiness, it is impossible to claim: ‘I attain signlessness, nothingness, and have knowledge and vision of being free from conceit’.

“If a monk speaks like this: ‘I attain concentration on emptiness and I am able to give rise to signlessness, nothingness, and have knowledge and vision of being free from conceit,’ then this is well spoken. Why is that? It is certainly possible that, having attained concentration on emptiness, one is able to give rise to signlessness, nothingness, and have knowledge and vision of being free from conceit.

“How does a noble disciple reach purification of knowledge and vision?”

The monks said to the Buddha: “The Buddha is the root of the Dharma, the eye of Dharma, the foundation of the Dharma. May he teach us! Having heard him teach the Dharma, the monks will receive it respectfully as he has taught it.”

The Buddha said to the monks: “Suppose a monk sits down in an empty place at the root of a tree and well contemplates bodily form as being impermanent, being of a nature to wear away and to fade away. In the same way he examines feeling … perception … formations … consciousness as being impermanent, being of a nature to wear away and to fade away. Examining those aggregates as being impermanent, of a nature to wear away, to be unstable, and to change, his mind is delighted, purified, and liberated. This is called emptiness. One who contemplates in this way, even though not yet able to be free from conceit, purifies his knowledge and vision.

“Again there is a rightly attending to concentration by contemplating the abandoning of the sign (nimitta) of forms, the abandoning of the sign of sounds, of odours, of flavours, of tangibles, and of mental objects. This is called signlessness. One who contemplates in this way, even though not yet free from conceit, purifies his knowledge and vision.

“Again there is a rightly attending to concentration by contemplating the abandoning of the sign of lust, the abandoning of the sign of anger … and of delusion. This is called nothingness. One who contemplates in this way, even though not yet free from conceit, purifies his knowledge and vision.

“Again there is a rightly attending to concentration by contemplating: ‘From where do the notions ‘I’ and ‘mine’ arise?’

“Again there is a rightly attending to concentration by contemplating: ‘The notions ‘I’ and ‘mine’ arise from seeing, from hearing, from smelling, from tasting, from touching, and from cognizing.’

“Again he examines like this: ‘Whatever causes and conditions give rise to consciousness, are those causes and conditions for consciousness permanent or impermanent?’

“Again he reflects like this: ‘Whatever causes and conditions give rise to consciousness, all those causes and conditions for consciousness are entirely impermanent’. Again, those causes and conditions all being entirely impermanent, how could consciousness, which arises from them, be permanent?’

“That which is impermanent is a conditioned formation, it has arisen from conditions and it is of a perilous nature, of a nature to cease, of a nature to fade away, of a nature to be abandoned with understanding. This is called the seal of the noble Dharma and the purification of knowledge and vision.

“This is called the explanation of: ‘Monks, I will teach you the seal of the noble Dharma and the purification of knowledge and vision’, as taught fully in this way.”

When the Buddha had spoken this discourse, the monks, hearing what the Buddha had said, were delighted and received it respectfully.