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Tipitaka >> Sutta Pitaka >> Anguttara Nikaya >> The Refinement of the Mind - I

AN 3:100.1-10 The Refinement of the Mind - I

Translated from the Pali by Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi


There are, O monks, gross impurities in gold, such as earth and sand, gravel and grit. Now the goldsmith or his apprentice first pours the gold into a trough and washes, rinses and cleans it thoroughly. When he has done this, there still remain moderate impurities in the gold, such as fine grit and coarse sand. Then the goldsmith or his apprentice washes, rinses and cleans it again. When he has done this, there still remain minute impurities in the gold, such as fine sand and black dust. Now the goldsmith or his apprentice repeats the washing, and thereafter only the gold dust remains.

He now pours the gold into a melting pot, smelts it and melts it together. But he does not yet take it out from the vessel, as the dross has not yet been entirely removed and the gold is not yet quite pliant, workable, and bright; it is still brittle and does not yet lend itself easily to moulding. But a time comes when the goldsmith or his apprentice repeats the melting thoroughly, so that the flaws are entirely removed. The gold is now quite pliant, workable, and bright, and it lends itself easily to moulding. Whatever ornament the goldsmith now wishes to make of it, be it a diadem, earrings, a necklace or a golden chain, the gold can now be used for that purpose.

It is similar, monks, with a monk devoted to the training in the higher mind: there are in him gross impurities, namely, bad conduct of body, speech, and mind. Such conduct an earnest, capable monk abandons, dispels, eliminates, and abolishes.

When he has abandoned these, there are still impurities of a moderate degree that cling to him, namely, sensual thoughts, thoughts of ill will, and violent thoughts. Such thoughts an earnest, capable monk abandons, dispels, eliminates, and abolishes.

When he has abandoned these, there are still some subtle impurities that cling to him, namely, thoughts about his relatives, his home country, and his reputation. Such thoughts an earnest, capable monk abandons dispels, eliminates, and abolishes.

When he has abandoned these, there still remain thoughts about higher mental states experienced in meditation. That concentration is not yet peaceful and sublime; it has not attained to full tranquillity, nor has it achieved mental unification; it is maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements.

But there comes a time when his mind becomes inwardly steadied, composed, unified, and concentrated. That concentration is then calm and refined; it has attained to full tranquillity and achieved mental unification; it is not maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements.

Then, to whatever mental state realisable by direct knowledge he directs his mind, he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.

“If he wishes: ’May I wield the various kinds of spiritual power: having been one, may I become many; having been many, may I become one; may I appear and vanish; go unhindered through a wall, through a rampart, through a mountain as if through space; dive in and out of the earth as if it were water; walk on water without sinking as if it were earth; travel through the sky like a bird while seated cross-legged; touch and stroke with my hand the moon and sun, so powerful and mighty; exercise mastery with my body even as far as the Brahma-world’—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.

“If he wishes: ’With the divine ear element, which is purified and surpasses the human, may I hear both kinds of sounds, the divine and human, those that are far as well as near’—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.

If he wishes: “May I understand the minds of other beings, of other persons, having encompassed them with my own mind. May I understand a mind with lust as a mind with lust; a mind without lust as a mind without lust; a mind with hatred as a mind with hatred; a mind without hatred as a mind without hatred; a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion; a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion; a contracted mind as contracted and a distracted mind as distracted; an exalted mind as exalted and an unexalted mind as unexalted; a surpassable mind as surpassable and an unsurpassable mind as unsurpassable; a concentrated mind as concentrated and an unconcentrated mind as unconcentrated; a liberated mind as liberated and an unliberated mind as unliberated”—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.

If he wishes, “May I recollect my manifold past abodes(lives/rebirths), that is, one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, a hundred births, a thousand births, a hundred thousand births, many aeons of world-contraction, many aeons of world-expansion, many aeons of world-contraction and expansion thus: ’There I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my lifespan; passing away from there, I was reborn elsewhere, and there too I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my lifespan; passing away from there, I was reborn here.’ May I thus recollect my manifold past abodes(lives/rebirths) with their modes and details”—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.

If he wishes, “With the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, may I see beings passing away and being reborn, inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and understand how beings fare on in accordance with their kamma thus: ’These beings who engaged in misconduct of body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong view, and undertook actions based on wrong view, with the breakup of the body, after death, have been reborn in the plane of misery, in a bad destination, in the lower world, in hell; but these beings who engaged in good conduct of body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right view, and undertook action based on right view, with the breakup of the body, after death, have been reborn in a good destination, in the heavenly world.’ Thus with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, may I see beings passing away and being reborn, inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and understand how beings fare on in accordance with their kamma”—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.

If he wishes, “By the destruction of the taints, may I in this very life enter and dwell in the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, realising it for myself with direct knowledge”—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.

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