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

AN 3:100.11-15 The Refinement of the Mind - II ( Nimittasuttam )

Also see : AN 100.1-10 The Refinement of the Mind - I (Pamsudhovakasuttam)

Translated from the Pali by Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi


A monk devoted to the training in the higher mind should from time to time give attention to three items. He should from time to time give attention to the item of concentration, from time to time to the item of energetic effort, from time to time to the item of equanimity.

If a monk devoted to the training in the higher mind should give exclusive attention to the item of concentration, it is possible that his mind may fall into indolence(sloth/laziness). If he should give exclusive attention to the item of energetic effort, it is possible that his mind may fall into restlessness. If he should give exclusive attention to the item of equanimity, it is possible that his mind will not be well concentrated(focussed) for the destruction of the taints(material desires).

But if, from time to time, he gives attention to each of these three items, then his mind will be pliant, workable, lucid, and not unwieldy, and it will be well concentrated for the destruction of the taints(material desires).

Suppose a goldsmith or his apprentice builds a furnace, lights a fire in its opening, takes the gold with a pair of tongs, and puts it into the furnace. From time to time he blows on it, from time to time he sprinkles water on it, from time to time he just looks on. If the goldsmith were to blow on the gold continuously it might be heated too much. If he continuously sprinkled water on it, it would be cooled. If he were only to look at it, the gold would not come to perfect refinement. But if, from time to time, the goldsmith attends to each of these three functions, the gold will become pliant, workable, and bright, and it can easily be moulded. Whatever ornaments the goldsmith 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.

Similarly there are those three items to which a monk devoted to the training in the higher mind should give attention from time to time, namely, the items of concentration, energetic effort, and equanimity. If he gives regular attention to each of them, then his mind will become pliant, workable, lucid, and not unwieldy, and it will be well concentrated for the destruction of the taints(material desires).

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(karma/actions/decisions) 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(karma/actions/decisions)”—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(material desires), 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.