Buddhist Dictionary By Nyanatiloka Mahathera – Ab


Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines,
By Nyanatiloka Mahathera


abandonmet, contemplation of; paṭinissaggānupassanā, is one of the 18 chief kinds of insight; s. vipassanā, further ānāpānasati (16).

abbhokāsikaṅga: ‘living in the open air’, is one of the ascetic means to purification (dhutaṅga, q.v.).

aberration (in morality and understanding): s. vipatti .

abhabbāgamana: ‘incapable of progressing’. “Those beings who are obstructed by their evil actions (kamma, s. kamma), by their defilements (kilesa, q.v.), by the result of their evil actions (s. vipāka), or who are devoid of faith, energy and knowledge, and unable to enter the right path and reach perfection in wholesome things, all those are said to be incapable of progressing” (Pug. 13). According to Commentary the ‘evil actions’ denote the 5 heinous deeds with immediate result (ānantarika-kamma, q.v.), whilst the ‘defilements’ refer to the ‘evil views with fixed destiny’ (niyata-micchā-diṭṭhi; s. diṭṭhi).

ābhassara: The ‘Radiant Ones’, are a class of heavenly beings of the fine-material world (rūpa-loka); cf. deva.

abhibhāyatana: the 8 ‘stages of mastery’, are powers to be obtained by means of the kasiṇa-exercises (s. kasiṇa). In the Com. to M. 77, where āyatana is explained by ‘means’ (kāraṇa) it is said: “The abhibhāyatana through their counteracting may master (suppress) the adverse states, and by means of higher knowledge they may master the objects of mind.” They are means for transcending the Sensuous Sphere.

The stereotype text often met with in the Suttas (e.g. D. 11, 33; M. 77; A. VIII, 65; X, 29) is as follows:

(1) “Perceiving (blue…, red…, yellow…, white) forms on one’s own body, one sees forms externally small ones, beautiful or ugly; and in mastering these one understands: ‘I know, I understand.’ This is the first stage of mastery.

(2) “Perceiving forms on one’s own body, one sees forms externally, large ones …. This is the second stage of mastery.

(3) “Not perceiving forms on one’s own body, one sees forms externally, small ones …. This is the third stage of mastery.

(4) “Not perceiving forms on one’s own body, one sees forms externally, large ones …. This is the fourth stage of mastery.

(5) “Not perceiving forms on one’s own body, one sees forms externally, blue forms, forms of blue color, blue appearance, blue lustre, and mastering these one understands: ‘I know, I understand. This is the fifth stage of mastery.”

(6-8) The same is repeated with yellow, red and white forms.

As preparatory kasiṇa-object for the 1st and 2nd exercise one should choose on one’s own body a small or a large spot, beautiful or ugly, and thereon one should concentrate one’s full undivided attention, so that this object after a while reappears as mental reflex or image (nimitta, q.v.) and, as it were, as something external. Such an exercise, though appearing quite mechanical, if properly carried out will bring about a high degree of mental concentration and entrance into the 4 absorptions (jhāna, q.v.). In the 3rd and 4th exercises the monk by an external kasiṇa-object gains the mental reflexes and absorptions. As objects of the remaining exercises, perfectly clear and radiant colors should be chosen, flowers, cloth, etc.

A kasiṇa-object of small size is said to be suitable for a mentally unsteady nature, one of a large size for a dull nature, a beautiful object for an angry nature, an ugly one for a lustful nature.

In Vis.M. V it is said: “By means of the earth-kasiṇa one succeeds in reaching the stage of mastery with regard to small and large objects …. By means of the blue-kasiṇa one succeeds in causing blue forms to appear, in producing darkness, in reaching the stage of mastery with regard to beautiful and ugly colours, in reaching ‘deliverance through the beautiful’, etc.” (cf. vimokkha II, 3). The same is also said with regard to the other colour kasiṇas.

abhijjhā: ‘covetousness’ is a synonym of lobha (s. mūla) and taṇhā (q.v.) and is the 8th link of the unwholesome courses of action (s. kamma-patha, I).

abhinibbatti: a Sutta term for rebirth; s. punabbhava.

abhiññā: The 6 ‘higher powers’, or supernormal knowledge’s, consist of 5 mundane (lokiya, q.v.) powers attainable through the utmost perfection in mental concentration (samādhi, q.v.) and one supermundane (lokuttara, q.v.) power attainable through penetrating insight (vipassanā, q.v.), i.e. extinction of all cankers (āsavakkhaya; s. āsava), in other words, realization of Arahatship or Holiness. They are: (1) magical powers (iddhi-vidha), (2) divine ear (dibba-sota), (3) penetration of the minds of others (ceto-pariya-ñāṇa), (4) remembrance of former existences (pubbe-nivāsānussati), (5) divine eye (dibba-cakkhu), (6) extinction of all cankers (āsavakkhaya). The stereotype text met with in all the 4 Sutta-collections (e.g. D. 34; M. 4, 6, 77; A. III, 99; V, 23; S. XV, 9 and Pug. 271, 239) is as follows:

(1) “Now, O Bhikkhus, the monk enjoys the various magical powers (iddhi-vidha), such as being one he becomes manifold, and having become manifold he again becomes one. He appears and disappears. Without being obstructed he passes through walls and mountains, just as if through the air. In the earth he dives and rises up again, just as if in the water. He walks on water without sinking, just as if on the earth. Cross-legged he floats through the air, just like a winged bird. With his hand he touches the sun and moon, these so mighty ones, so powerful ones. Even up to the Brahma-world he has mastery over his body.

(2) “With the divine ear (dibba-sota) he hears sounds both heavenly and human, far and near.

(3) “He knows the minds of other beings (parassa ceto-pariya-ñāṇa), of other persons, by penetrating them with his own mind. He knows the greedy mind as greedy and the not-greedy one as not greedy; knows the hating mind as hating and the not-hating one as not hating; knows the deluded mind as deluded and the not-deluded one as not deluded; knows the shrunken mind and the distracted one, the developed mind and the undeveloped one, the surpassable mind and the unsurpassable one, the concentrated mind and the unconcentrated one, the freed mind and the unfreed one.

(4) “He remembers manifold former existences (pubbe-nivāsānussati), such as one birth, two, three, four and five births …. hundred thousand births; remembers many formations and dissolutions of worlds: ‘There I was, such name I had …. and vanishing from there I entered into existence somewhere else …. and vanishing from there I again reappeared here.’ Thus he remembers, always together with the marks and peculiarities, many a former existence .

(5) ”With the divine eye (dibba-cakkhu = yathā-kammūpaga-ñāṇa or cutūpapāta-ñāṇa), the pure one, he sees beings vanishing and reappearing, low and noble ones, beautiful and ugly ones, sees how beings are reappearing according to their deeds (s. kamma): ‘These beings, indeed, followed evil ways in bodily actions, words and thoughts, insulted the noble ones, held evil views, and according to their evil views they acted. At the dissolution of their body, after death, they have appeared in lower worlds, in painful states of existence, in the world of suffering, in hell. Those other beings, however, are endowed with good action …. have appeared in happy state of existence, in a heavenly world.

(6) “Through the extinction of all cankers (āsavakkhaya) even in this very life he enters into the possession of deliverance of mind, deliverance through wisdom, after having himself understood and realized it.”

4-6 appear frequently under the name of the ‘threefold (Higher) Knowledge’ (te-vijjā, q.v.). They are, however, not a necessary condition for the attainment of sainthood (Arahatta), i.e. of the sixth abhiññā.

Vis.M. XI-XIII gives a detailed explanation of the 5 mundane higher powers, together with the method of attaining them.

In connection with the 4 kinds of progress (s. paṭipadā), abhiññā means the ‘comprehension’ achieved on attainment of the Paths and Fruitions.

abhisamācārika-sīla: ‘morality consisting in good behaviour’, relates to the external duties of a monk such as towards his superior, etc. “abhisamācārika-sīla is a name for those moral rules other than the 8 ending with right livelihood (i.e. 4-fold right speech, 3-fold right action and right livelihood, as in the Eightfold Path) (Vis.M. I; s. sacca IV, 3-5). “Impossible is it, o monks, that without having fulfilled the law of good behaviour, a monk could fulfil the law of genuine pure conduct” (A.V, 21). Cf. ādibrahmacariyakasīla.

abhisamaya: ‘Truth-realization’, is the full and direct grasp of the Four Noble Truths by the Stream-winner (Sotāpanna; s. ariya-puggala). In the Com. the term is represented by ‘penetration’ (paṭivedha, q.v.). Frequently occurring as dhammābhisamaya, ‘realization of the doctrine’ Cf. S. XIII (Abhisamaya Saṃyutta) and Pts.M. (Abhisamaya Kathā).

abhisaṅkhāra: identical with the 2nd link of the paṭiccasamuppāda (q.v.), saṅkhāra (q.v.; under I, 1) or kammaformations .

ability to acquire insight: cf. ugghaṭitaññū, vipacitaññū neyya.

abodes: vihāra (q.v.). The 4 Divine a.: brahma-vihāra (q.v.) The 9 a. of beings: sattāvāsa (q.v.).

absence: natthi-paccaya, is one of the 24 conditions (paccaya, (q.v.).

absorption: s. jhāna.

abstentions, the 3: virati (q.v.).

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