Āyatana

Renderings

āyatana: state of awareness

āyatana: supreme state of deliverance

āyatana: practice of spiritual development

āyatana: occasion

āyatana: group

āyatana: aspect

āyatana: dogma

āyatana: place

āyatana: (redundancy)

Introduction

Āyatana: supreme state of deliverance

‘Supreme state of deliverance’ is most clearly indicated in the Cūḷavedalla Sutta (M.1.303) where it is linked to vimokkha, deliverance (from perceptually obscuring states):

• When will I attain that supreme state of deliverance… In arousing desire for supreme deliverance (from perceptually obscuring states)
kudassu nāmāhaṃ tadāyatanaṃ upasampajja viharissāmi… Iti anuttaresu vimokkhesu pihaṃ upaṭṭhāpayato (M.1.303).

Āyatana: practices of spiritual development

The rendering ‘practices of spiritual development’ is most clearly indicated in the Mahāsakuludāyi Sutta (M.2.1-18) where āyatana occurs in a list with the seven groups of factors conducive to enlightenment as follows:

• Again, Udāyin, I have explained to my disciples the practice by which they develop
Puna ca paraṃ udāyi akkhātā mayā sāvakānaṃ paṭipadā yathāpaṭipannā me sāvakā

the (contemplation of the) four bases of mindfulness,
☸ cattāro satipaṭṭhāne bhāventi.

the four modes of right inward striving,
☸ cattāro sammappadhāne bhāventi.

the four paths to psychic power,
☸ cattāro iddhipāde bhāventi.

the five spiritual faculties,
☸ pañcindriyāni bhāventi.

the five spiritual powers,
☸ pañca balāni bhāventi.

the seven factors of enlightenment,
☸ satta bojjhaṅge bhāventi.

the noble eightfold path,
☸ ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bhāventi.

the eight practices of spiritual development that lead to mastery ,
☸ aṭṭha abhibhāyatanāni bhāventi.

the ten practices of spiritual development through kasiṇas,
☸ dasakasiṇāyatanāni bhāventi.

the four jhānas
☸ cattāri jhānāni bhāventi
(M.2.11-15).

Cakkhāyatanaṃ and cakkhusamphassāyatana

Cakkhāyatanaṃ and cakkhusamphassāyatana are discussed in the Glossary sv Saḷāyatana.

Illustrations

Illustration: āyatanaṃ, state of awareness

Secluded from sensuous pleasures and spiritually unwholesome factors, a bhikkhu enters and abides in first jhāna, which is accompanied by thinking and pondering, and rapture and physical pleasure born of seclusion (from sensuous pleasures and spiritually unwholesome factors).
Idhāvuso bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.

He abides contacting that state of awareness accordingly with his very being.
Yathā yathā ca tadāyatanaṃ tathā tathā naṃ kāyena phassitvā viharati (A.4.452).

Illustration: āyatanaṃ, state of awareness

By completely transcending the state of awareness of boundless consciousness, a bhikkhu enters and abides in the state of awareness of nonexistence, where one perceives that there is (nowhere) anything at all.
sabbaso viññāṇañcāyatanaṃ samatikkamma natthi kiñcī ti ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ upasampajja viharati (S.4.296).

Illustration: āyatanaṃ, supreme state of deliverance

A bhikkhu thinks ‘When will I attain that supreme state of deliverance which the Noble Ones have attained? In arousing desire for supreme deliverance (from perceptually obscuring states), psychological pain arises due to desire.
bhikkhu iti paṭisañcikkhati kudassu nāmāhaṃ tadāyatanaṃ upasampajja viharissāmi yadariyā etarahi āyatanaṃ upasampajja viharantī ti. Iti anuttaresu vimokkhesu pihaṃ upaṭṭhāpayato uppajjati pihappaccayā domanassaṃ (M.1.303).

Comment:

Vimokkha means deliverance (from perceptually obscuring states) (i.e. the āsavas), which supports us calling āyatana ‘supreme state of deliverance.’

Illustration: āyatanaṃ, supreme state of deliverance, state of awareness

There is that supreme state of deliverance where there is neither solidness, liquidness, warmth, nor gaseousness; no state of awareness of boundless space, no state of awareness of boundless consciousness, no state of awareness of nonexistence, no state of awareness neither having nor lacking perception; neither this world, nor a world beyond, nor both; neither sun nor moon. There, I declare, there is no coming, no going, no staying, no passing away, no being reborn. It is neither fixed, nor moving, and has no foundation. This is truly the end of suffering.
Atthi bhikkhave tadāyatanaṃ yattha neva paṭhavī na āpo na tejo na vāyo na ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ na viññāṇañcāyatanaṃ na ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ na nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṃ nāyaṃ loko na paraloko na ubho candimasūriyā. Tatrāpāhaṃ bhikkhave neva āgatiṃ vadāmi na gatiṃ na ṭhitiṃ na cutiṃ na upapattiṃ; appatiṭṭhaṃ appavattaṃ anārammaṇamevetaṃ. Esevanto dukkhassā ti (Ud.80).

Illustration: āyatane, supreme state of deliverance

The Buddha said:

―Therefore that supreme state of deliverance should be known where the visual sense ceases and perception of visible objects passes away.
☸ se āyatane veditabbe yattha cakkhuñca nirujjhati rūpasaññā ca virajjati

That supreme state of deliverance should be known where the mental sense ceases and perception of mentally known objects passes away.
☸ se āyatane veditabbe yattha mano ca nirujjhati dhammasaññā ca virajjati se āyatane veditabbeti

Venerable Ānanda explained:

―This was stated by the Blessed One, friends, with reference to the ending of the six senses.
☸ saḷāyatananirodhaṃ no etaṃ āvuso bhagavatā sandhāya bhāsita (S.4.98).

Comment:

Saḷāyatananirodhaṃ means nibbāna at A.2.161-2 (channaṃ āvuso phassāyatanānaṃ asesavirāganirodhā papañcanirodho). Ānanda indicates it has the same meaning here. This justifies us calling āyatane ‘that supreme state of deliverance.’

Comment:

Se āyatane is an Eastern form of Pāli, discussed by Bodhi: CDB p.1414 n.102).

Illustration: āyatane, practice of spiritual development

How about if I, by transcending the world (of sensuous pleasure) with resolve, were to abide with an awareness that was abundant and enlarged? Having done so, unvirtuous, spiritually unwholesome mental states such as greed, ill will, and aggressiveness would not exist. With their abandonment, my mind would become immeasurable, unlimited, and well developed.
Yaṃnūnāhaṃ vipulena mahaggatena cetasā vihareyyaṃ abhibhuyya lokaṃ adhiṭṭhāya manasā. Vipulena hi me mahaggatena cetasā viharato abhibhuyya lokaṃ adhiṭṭhāya manasā ye pāpakā akusalā mānasā abhijjhāpi vyāpādāpi sārambhāpi te na bhavissanti. Tesaṃ pahānā aparittañca me cittaṃ bhavissati appamāṇaṃ subhāvitan ti.

Applying himself and frequently abiding in this way, his mind becomes serene through that practice of spiritual development.
☸ Tassa evaṃ paṭipannassa tabbahulavihārino āyatane cittaṃ pasīdati (M.2.262).

Illustration: āyatanāni, practice of spiritual development

There are eight practices of spiritual development that lead to mastery (aṭṭha abhibhāyatanāni), Ānanda. What eight?
Aṭṭha kho imāni ānanda abhibhāyatanāni. Katamāni aṭṭha?

Being in a refined material state of awareness, one sees a limited quantity of shapes, beautiful or ugly. By gaining mastery over them, one is aware that one knows and sees them (according to reality). This is the first practice of spiritual development leading to mastery.
Ajjhattaṃ rūpasaññī eko bahiddhā rūpāni passati parittāni suvaṇṇadubbaṇṇāni tāni abhibhuyya jānāmi passāmī ti evaṃsaññī hoti. Idaṃ paṭhamaṃ abhibhāyatanaṃ

Being in an immaterial state of awareness, one sees shapes that are of a white luster like the morning star, or like fine Benares muslin. By gaining mastery over them, one is aware that one knows and sees them (according to reality). This is the eighth practice of spiritual development leading to mastery.
Ajjhattaṃ arūpasaññī eko bahiddhā rūpāni passati odātāni odātavaṇṇāni odātanidassanāni odātanibhāsāni… Tāni abhibhuyya jānāmi passāmī ti evaṃsaññī hoti. Idaṃ aṭṭhamaṃ abhibhāyatanaṃ.

“These, Ānanda, are the eight practices of spiritual development that lead to mastery.
Imāni kho aṭṭha ānanda abhibhāyatanāni (D.2.110-111).

Illustration: āyatane, practice of spiritual development

When one’s mind is free of these five defilements, it is pliable and workable and radiant, not brittle, but is properly collected for the destruction of perceptually obscuring states;
Yato ca kho bhikkhave cittaṃ imehi pañcahi upakkilesehi vippamuttaṃ hoti taṃ hoti cittaṃ mudu ca kammaniyañca pabhassarañca na ca pabhaṅgu sammāsamādhīyati āsavānaṃ khayāya.

and one can turn one’s mind to the realisation through transcendent insight of whatever condition is realisable through transcendent insight, and become an eye-witness in every case, if there is the practice of spiritual development.
☸ Yassa yassa ca abhiññāsacchikaraṇīyassa dhammassa cittaṃ abhininnāmeti abhiññā sacchikiriyāya tatra tatreva sakkhibhabbataṃ pāpuṇāti sati sati āyatane (A.3.16-17).

Comment:

The Ākaṅkheyya Sutta says supernormal states come from inward calm, meditation, insightfulness, and devotion to solitary abodes.
ajjhattaṃ cetosamathamanuyutto anirākatajjhāno vipassanāya samannāgato brūhetā suññāgārānaṃ (M.1.33-6).

Comment:

Sati sati: Sati means ‘if, such being the case’ (PGPL, 603iii).

Illustration: āyatanāni, practices of spiritual development

Bhikkhus, there are these ten practices of spiritual development through kasiṇas. Which ten?
Dasaimāni bhikkhave kasiṇāyatanāni. Katamāni dasa.

One individual perceives the kasiṇa of earth extending above, below, and across from himself, with no subject/object duality and without limitation
paṭhavīkasiṇameko sañjānāti uddhaṃ adho tiriyaṃ advayaṃ appamāṇaṃ

One individual perceives the kasiṇa of consciousness extending above, below, and across from himself, with no subject/object duality and without limitation
viññāṇakasiṇameko sañjānāti uddhaṃ adho tiriyaṃ advayaṃ appamāṇaṃ

The best of these ten practices of spiritual development through kasiṇas is when an individual perceives the kasiṇa of consciousness extending above, below, and across from himself, with no subject/object duality and without limitation.
Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave imesaṃ dasannaṃ kasiṇāyatanānaṃ yadidaṃ viññāṇakasiṇameko sañjānāti uddhaṃ adho tiriyaṃ advayaṃ appamāṇaṃ (A.5.60).

Illustration: āyatanāni, occasions

There are five occasions of liberation (from perceptually obscuring states) (vimuttāyatanāni) in which, for a bhikkhu abiding diligently, vigorously, and resolutely applied (to the practice), his unliberated mind is liberated (from perceptually obscuring states), his undestroyed perceptually obscuring states are destroyed, the unreached safety from (the danger of) bondage (to individual existence) is reached. Which five?
☸ Pañcimāni bhikkhave vimuttāyatanāni yattha bhikkhuno appamattassa ātāpino pahitattassa viharato avimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ vimuccati aparikkhīṇā vā āsavā parikkhayaṃ gacchanti ananuppattaṃ vā anuttaraṃ yogakkhemaṃ anupāpuṇāti. Katamāni pañca?

In the first case, a teacher explains the Buddha’s teaching
satthā dhammaṃ deseti

The bhikkhu accordingly realises the meaning and significance of the teaching
tathā tathā so tasmiṃ dhamme atthappaṭisaṃvedī ca hoti dhammapaṭisaṃvedī ca

• gladness arises
Tassa atthappaṭisaṃvedino dhammappaṭisaṃvedino pāmujjaṃ jāyati

• from this, rapture
pamuditassa pīti jāyati

• from this his body becomes tranquil
pītimanassa kāyo passambhati

• from this he experiences physical pleasurepassaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti

• from this, his mind becomes collected
sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.

This is the first occasion of liberation (from perceptually obscuring states)
☸ Idaṃ bhikkhave paṭhamaṃ vimuttāyatanaṃ yattha bhikkhuno appamattassa ātāpino pahitattassa viharato avimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ vimuccati aparikkhīṇā vā āsavā parikkhayaṃ gacchanti ananuppattaṃ vā anuttaraṃ yogakkhemaṃ anupāpuṇāti.

The other occasions are:

• in the course of explaining the teaching to others in detail as he has heard and memorised it
yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ vitthārena paresaṃ deseti

• as he is reciting the teaching.
yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ vitthārena sajjhāyaṃ karoti

• when he applies his mind to the teaching, thinks about and ponders it, and concentrates his attention on it.
yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakketi anuvicāreti manasānupekkhati.

• when some meditation object has been correctly grasped by a bhikkhucorrectly contemplated, correctly pondered, correctly penetrated by penetrative discernment
☸ aññataraṃ samādhinimittaṃ suggahītaṃ hoti sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritaṃ suppaṭividdhaṃ paññāya
(A.3.21).

Illustration: āyatanāni, group

Bhante, just as there are these different groups of professionals, such as mahouts, horsemen, charioteers, archers…
Yathā nu kho imāni bhante puthusippāyatanāni seyyathīdaṃ hatthārohā assārohā rathikā dhanuggahā (D.1.51).

Illustration: āyatanaṃ, group

That group of non-Buddhist ascetics is void even of one who goes to heaven
suññaṃ aduṃ titthāyatanaṃ antamaso saggūpagenāpīti (M.1.483).

Illustration: āyatane, aspect

A bhikkhu should constantly reflect: ‘Does there arise in my mind any dealing with any aspect of the five varieties of sensuous pleasure?’
atthi nu kho me imesu pañcasu kāmaguṇesu aññatarasmiṃ vā aññatarasmiṃ vā āyatane uppajjati cetaso samudācāroti (M.3.114).

Illustration: āyatanāni, dogmas

Bhikkhus, there are some ascetics and Brahmanists who speculate about the future and who hold dogmatic views concerning the future, who make various assertions about the future.
santi bhikkhave eke samaṇabrāhmaṇā aparantakappikā aparantānudiṭṭhino aparantaṃ ārabbha anekavihitāni adhivuttipadāni abhivadanti:

• Some assert that the attā is perceptive and unimpaired after death
Saññī attā hoti arogo parammaraṇā ti ittheke abhivadanti.

Some assert that the attā is unperceptive and unimpaired after death.
asaññī attā hoti arogo parammaraṇā ti ittheke abhivadanti

Some assert that the attā is neither perceptive nor unperceptive and unimpaired after death.
nevasaññīnāsaññī attā hoti arogo parammaraṇā ti ittheke abhivadanti

Or they assert the annihilation, destruction, and cessation of cessationof beings (at death).
sato vā pana sattassa ucchedaṃ vināsaṃ vibhavaṃ paññapenti

Or they proclaim a view concerning the highest pleasure in this lifetime.
Diṭṭhadhammanibbānaṃ vā paneke abhivadanti

Thus they either assert an attā that is unimpaired after death
iti santaṃ vā attānaṃ paññāpenti arogaṃ parammaraṇā.

Or they assert the annihilation, destruction, and cessationof beings (at death)
Sato vā pana sattassa ucchedaṃ vināsaṃ vibhavaṃ paññāpenti.

Or they proclaim a view concerning the highest pleasure in this lifetime.
Diṭṭhadhammanibbānaṃ vā paneke abhivadanti (M.2.228).

Bhikkhus, those ascetics and Brahmanists who speculate about the future and who hold dogmatic views concerning the future, who make various assertions about the future, all of them proclaim one or other of these five dogmas (pañcāyatanāni).
Ye hi keci bhikkhave samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā aparantakappikā aparantānudiṭṭhino aparantaṃ ārabbha anekavihitāni adhivuttipadāni abhivadanti sabbe te imāneva pañcāyatanāni abhivadanti etesaṃ vā aññataraṃ (M.2.233).

Illustration: āyatanāni, dogma

Bhikkhus, there are these three dogmas of non-Buddhist ascetics which, when questioned, probed, and examined by the wise, and taken to their logical conclusion, would be rated as inwardly paralysing (i.e. ‘no eagerness or endeavour to do what should be done and avoid what should not be done,’ na hoti chando vā vāyāmo vā idaṃ vā karaṇīyaṃ idaṃ vā akaraṇīyan ti). What three?
Tīṇimāni bhikkhave titthāyatanāni yāni paṇḍitehi samanuyuñjiyamānāni samanugāhiyamānāni samanubhāsiyamānāni parampi gantvā akiriyāya saṇṭhahanti. Katamāni tīṇi:

1) There are certain ascetics and Brahmanists who teach thus, who hold this view: Whatsoever pleasure or pain or neutral experience is experienced, all that is due to some previous action.
santi bhikkhave eke samaṇabrāhmaṇā evaṃvādino evaṃdiṭṭhino yaṃ kiñcāyaṃ purisapuggalo paṭisaṃvedeti sukhaṃvā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā sabbaṃ taṃ pubbekatahetū ti.

2) There are others who teach: Whatsoever pleasure or pain or neutral experience is experienced, all that is due to the creation of a Supreme Deity.
Santi bhikkhave eke samaṇabrāhmaṇā evaṃvādino evaṃdiṭṭhino yaṃ kiñcāyaṃ purisapuggalo paṭisaṃvedeti sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā sabbaṃ taṃ issaranimmāṇahetū ti.

3) Others teach that all sense impression has no basis or necessary condition.
Santi bhikkhave eke samaṇabrāhmaṇā evaṃvādino evaṃdiṭṭhino yaṃ kiñcāyaṃ purisapuggalo paṭisaṃvedeti sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā sabbaṃ taṃ ahetuappaccayā ti (A.1.174).

Illustration: āyatane, place

A large tree with a massive trunk, with branches, leaves, fruit, strong roots, and full of fruit, is a resource for many birds. Having flown through the sky, they resort to this charming place.
Sākhāpattaphalūpeto khandhimā ca mahādumo
Mūlavā phalasampanno patiṭṭhā hoti pakkhinaṃ.
Manorame āyatane sevanti naṃ vihaṅgamā
(A.3.43).

Illustration: āyatane, redundant: forest (place)

Bhikkhus, once there was a great lake in a forest with bull elephants living nearby.
Bhūtapubbaṃ bhikkhave araññāyatane mahāsarasi taṃ nāgā upanissāya viharanti (S.2.269).

Illustration: āyatane, redundant: forest (place)

They made little leaf huts in the forest and meditated in them.
Te araññāyatane paṇṇakuṭiyo karitvā paṇṇakuṭīsu jhāyanti (D.3.94).

Illustration: āyatane, redundant (occasion)

It is astounding and extraordinary, Venerable Ānanda, that (firstly, in this teaching and training system) there is no glorifying of one’s own teaching and no disparaging of the teaching of others, but (only) the (occasion of the) explanation of the Buddha’s teaching, and (that secondly) there are so many Emancipated Ones to be discerned.
Acchariyaṃ bho ānanda abbhutaṃ bho ānanda na ca nāma sadhammokkaṃsanā bhavissati na paradhammāvasādanā āyatane ca dhammadesanā tāva bahukā ca niyyātāro paññāyissanti (M.1.523).

Comment:

‘That (firstly, in this teaching and training system).’ The parenthesis comes from the preceding question: Kīva bahukā pana bho ānanda imasmiṃ dhammavinaye niyyātāro ti?