Aveccappasāda

Renderings

aveccappasāda: unshakeable faith

aveccappasannā: having unshakeable faith

buddhe aveccappasāda: unshakeable faith in the (perfection of the) Buddha’s (enlightenment)

dhamme aveccappasāda: unshakeable faith in the (excellence of the) teaching

saṅghe aveccappasāda: unshakeable faith in the (excellent qualities of the) community of disciples

Introduction

Etymology: avecca

The etymology and meaning of avecca is at last clear, because whereas the PED had said ‘the form is not sufficiently clear semantically,’ the DOP now recognises it as an absolutive of aveti, to know. Therefore Th.v.497 can be translated accordingly:

• One is neither a thief nor a sage by the word of another. But as one knows oneself, the devas likewise know one too.
Na pare vacanā coro na pare vacanā muni
Attā ca naṃ yathāveti devā pi naṃ tathā vidū
(Th.v.497).

Notice that veti in pāda c corresponds to vidū in pāda d, from vindati, to know.

Avecca: meaning

DOP says avecca means ‘having penetrated’ or ‘understanding.’ Norman says ‘having understood’ or ‘understanding’:

1) ‘He who having understood the noble truths sees them (clearly)’
Yo ariyasaccāni avecca passati (Norman, Sn.v.229).

2) ‘Understanding all knowledge, you have revealed the doctrine, having sympathy for beings.’
Sabbaṃ tuvaṃ ñāṇamavecca dhammaṃ pakāsesi satte anukampamāno (Norman, Sn.v.378).

DOP’s ‘having penetrated’ makes better sense, and we have shown sv Passati that when it lacks an object, passati means ‘see (the nature of reality).’ Thus we translate the two verses as:

1) He who, having penetrated the (four) noble truths, sees (the nature of reality) (Sn.v.229).

2) Having penetrated all knowledge, you have explained the teaching (Sn.v.378).

Thus, so far, if pasāda means ‘faith,’ aveccappasāda means ‘faith through having penetrated.’

Avecca and unshakability

Avecca is linked in the scriptures to unshakability, for example in this verse:

• Like a locking-post firmly embedded in the ground that is unshakeable by the winds of the four quarters, I declare, is the (quality of a) spiritually outstanding person, who, having penetrated the (four) noble truths, sees (the nature of reality).
Yathindakhīlo paṭhaviṃ sito siyā catubbhi vātehi asampakampiyo
Tathūpamaṃ sappurisaṃ vadāmi yo ariyasaccāni avecca passati
(Sn.v.229).

If avecca implies unshakability, then aveccappasāda seems to mean faith that is unshakeable on account of having penetrated profound truths.

Faith is stabilised by knowledge: Sekha Sutta

The theme of stabilising faith through knowledge is confirmed in the Sekha Sutta, which says that noble knowledge (of things according to reality) (ariyañāṇaṃ) stabilises four of the faculties, including the faculty of faith (saddhindriya):

• When noble knowledge (of things according to reality) has arisen in the noble disciple, then there is stability and steadiness in four faculties. Which four? The faculties of faith (in the perfection of the Perfect One’s enlightenment), energetic application (to the practice), mindfulness, and inward collectedness.
yato ca kho bhikkhave ariyasāvakassa ariyañāṇaṃ uppannaṃ hoti atha catunnaṃ indriyānaṃ saṇṭhiti hoti atha catunnaṃ indriyānaṃ avaṭṭhiti hoti. Katamesaṃ catunnaṃ saddhindriyassa viriyindriyassa satindriyassa samādhindriyassa (S.5.228-9).

Faith is stabilised by knowledge: Vīmaṃsaka Sutta

Likewise the Vīmaṃsaka Sutta. Here a disciple explains how his unshakeable faith arose from transcendent insight into the teaching:

• As the Blessed One explained the teaching to me with its increasingly higher and more sublime levels, concerning what is inwardly dark and bright with their correlative combinations, thus through transcendent insight into a certain one of those teachings, I came to a conclusion about the teachings. I gained faith in the Teacher thus: “The Blessed One is perfectly enlightened. The teaching is well explained by the Blessed One. The community of disciples is applied to an excellent practice.”
Yathā yathā me āvuso bhagavā dhammaṃ deseti uttaruttariṃ paṇītapaṇītaṃ kaṇhasukkasappaṭibhāgaṃ tathā tathāhaṃ tasmiṃ dhamme abhiññāya idhekaccaṃ dhammaṃ dhammesu niṭṭhamagamaṃ satthari pasīdiṃ sammā sambuddho bhagavā svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo supaṭipanno saṅgho ti.

… Bhikkhus, when one’s faith in the (perfection of the) Perfect One’s (enlightenment) is settled, rooted, and established, and described in these terms, words, and phrases, then one’s faith is said to be supported by reasons, rooted in vision (of things according to reality), and firm. It is not shakeable by any ascetic, Brahmanist, deva, māra, or brahmā, or by anyone in the world.
Yassa kassa ci bhikkhave imehi ākārehi imehi padehi imehi vyañjanehi tathāgate saddhā niviṭṭhā hoti mūlajātā patiṭṭhitā ayaṃ vuccatī bhikkhave ākāravatī saddhā dassanamūlikā daḷhā asaṃhāriyā samaṇena vā brāhmaṇena vā devena vā mārena vā brahmunā vā kenaci vā lokasmiṃ (M.1.320).

Aveccappasāda: unshakeable faith

In conclusion, aveccappasāda implies a faith that is ‘supported by reasons, rooted in vision (of things according to reality), and firm. It is not shakeable by any ascetic, Brahmanist, deva, māra, or brahmā.’ We call it ‘unshakeable faith.’

Buddhe aveccappasāda

A noble disciple who has unshakeable faith in the Buddha (buddhe aveccappasādena samannāgato hoti) has come to the conclusion that:

• He is indeed the Blessed One, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One, perfect in insightfulness into reality and in conduct, the Sublime One, one who knows the world (of phenomena) (according to reality), the unexcelled trainer of men to be tamed, the teacher of devas and men, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.
iti pi so bhagavā arahaṃ sammā sambuddho vijjācaraṇasampanno sugato lokavidu anuttaro purisadammasārathī satthā devamanussānaṃ buddho bhagavā ti (S.5.390).

According to this, the noble disciple’s faith is not in the person of the Buddha, but in the perfection of his enlightenment. This is in accordance with the definition of saddhindriyaṃ which is linked to tathāgatassa bodhiṃ:

• And what is the faculty of faith? In this regard, the noble disciple has faith. He has faith in the (perfection of the) Perfect One’s enlightenment: ‘He is indeed the Blessed One, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One, perfect in insightfulness into reality and in conduct, the Sublime One, one who knows the world (of phenomena) (according to reality), the unexcelled trainer of men to be tamed, the teacher of devas and men, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.’
Katamañca bhikkhave saddhindriyaṃ idha bhikkhave ariyasāvako saddho hoti saddahati tathāgatassa bodhiṃ iti pi so bhagavā arahaṃ sammāsambuddho vijjācaraṇasampanno sugato lokavidū anuttaro purisadammasārathī satthā devamanussānaṃ buddho bhagavā ti. Idaṃ vuccati bhikkhave saddhindriyaṃ (S.5.196).

Therefore ‘unshakeable faith in the Buddha’ means ‘unshakeable faith in the (perfection of the) Buddha’s (enlightenment).’

Dhamme aveccappasāda

A noble disciple who has unshakeable faith in the teaching (dhamme aveccappasādena samannāgato hoti) has come to the conclusion that:

• The teaching is well explained by the Blessed One, fathomable in this lifetime, realisable in the here and now, intriguing, personally applicable, to be realised by the wise for themselves.
☸ svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo sandiṭṭhiko akāliko ehipassiko opanayiko paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhī ti
(S.5.390).

In the light of these qualities, the teaching’s excellence and effectiveness, ‘unshakeable faith in the Dhamma’ means ‘unshakeable faith in the (excellence of the) teaching.’

Saṅghe aveccappasāda

A noble disciple who has unshakeable faith in the community of disciples (saṅghe aveccappasādena samannāgato hoti) has come to the conclusion that:

• The community of the Blessed One’s disciples is applied to an excellent practice, the correct practice, the noble practice, a proper practice; that is, the four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals. This is the community of the Blessed One’s disciples. They are worthy of offerings, hospitality, gifts, and honouring with joined palms. They are the unsurpassed field of merit for the world.
☸ supaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho ujupaṭipanno bhagato sāvakasaṅgho ñāyapaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho sāmīcipaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho yadidaṃ cattāri purisayugāni aṭṭhapurisapuggalā esabhagavato sāvakasaṅgho āhuneyyo pāhuneyyo dakkhiṇeyyo añjalikaraṇīyo anuttaraṃ puññakkhettaṃ lokassāti
(S.5.390).

‘Unshakeable faith in the community of disciples’ is therefore faith in their excellent qualities.

Increasing levels of unshakeability

Although unshakeable faith is associated with stream-entry, the Cūḷahatthipadopama Sutta says one cannot conclude that the Blessed One is perfectly enlightened until arahantship:

• And it is not until this point that a noble disciple can come to the conclusion: ‘The Blessed One is perfectly enlightened; the teaching is well explained by the Blessed One; the community of the Blessed One’s disciples is applied to an excellent practice.’“
Ettāvatā kho brāhmaṇa ariyasāvako niṭṭhaṃ gato hoti sammāsambuddho bhagavā svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo supaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho ti (M.1.184).

At levels lesser than arahantship, the faculties, including the faculty of faith, are correspondingly weaker:

• One who has completed and fulfilled these five spiritual faculties is an arahant. If they are weaker than that, one is a non-returner; if still weaker, a once-returner; if still weaker, a stream-enterer.
Imesaṃ kho bhikkhave pañcannaṃ indriyānaṃ samattā paripūrattā arahaṃ hoti. Tato mudutarehi anāgāmī hoti. Tato mudutarehi sakadāgāmī hoti. Tato mudutarehi sotāpanno hoti (S.5.200).

Illustrations

Illustration: aveccappasannā, having unshakeable faith

Whoever has unshakeable faith in me, all are stream-enterers.
ye keci bhikkhave mayi aveccappasannā sabbe te sotāpannā (A.5.120).

Illustration: aveccappasādena, unshakeable faith

Bhikkhus, a noble disciple possessed of four factors is said to be well off, with great wealth and riches, of great glory. What four?”
Catūhi bhikkhave dhammehi samannāgato ariyasāvako aḍḍho mahaddhano mahābhogo mahāyaso ti vuccati. Katamehi catūhi

1) He has unshakeable faith in the (perfection of the) Buddha’s (enlightenment),
buddhe aveccappasādena samannāgato hoti

2) He has unshakeable faith in the (excellence of the) teaching,
Dhamme aveccappasādena samannāgato hoti

3) He has unshakeable faith in the (excellent qualities of the) community of disciples,
Saṅghe aveccappasādena samannāgato hoti

4) He possesses the virtues dear to the Noble Ones.
Ariyakantehi sīlehi samannāgato hoti (S.5.402).