Introduction to 3.8.13 Dhammānupassanā āyatanapabbaṃ – Understanding the Contents of the Mind - The Section on the Sense Spheres

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.8.13 - Dhammānupassanā āyatanapabbaṃ
Understanding the Contents of the Mind - The Section on the Sense Spheres

‘‘Tasmātiha te, bāhiya, evaṃ sikkhitabbaṃ –

‘diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati,

sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati,

mute1 mutamattaṃ bhavissati,

viññāte viññātamattaṃ bhavissatī’ti.

Evañhi te, bāhiya, sikkhitabbaṃ. Yato kho te, bāhiya, diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati, sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati, mute mutamattaṃ bhavissati, viññāte viññātamattaṃ bhavissati, tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tena; yato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tena tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tattha; yato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tattha, tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, nevidha2 na huraṃ na ubhayamantarena. Esevanto3 dukkhassā’’ti. 4


 “Therefore Bāhiya, you should train yourself:

In the seen there will be only the seen,

in the heard there will be only the heard,

in the sensed there will be only the sensed,

in the cognised there will be only the cognised –

in this way you should train yourself! When, Bāhiya, In the seen there will be only the seen, in the heared there will be only the heard, in the sensed there will be merely the sensed, in the cognised there will be only the cognised – then you Bāhiya, will not be ‘by that’5. When you, Bāhiya, will not be ‘by that’, then you Bāhiya, through this will not be ‘therein’.6 When you, Bāhiya, will not be ‘therein, then, Bāhiya, you will neither be ‘here’ nor ‘there’ nor in ‘between the two’. This is the end of suffering.”7

     This stirring counsel relates to an occurrence between the Buddha and the ascetic Bāhiya Dārucīriya, who had been staying on the seashore of Suppārake. Formerly a vender making his bread by traveling down the Indus and along the ocean, at one time on his way to Suvaṇṇabhūmi he had a shipwreck. Bāhiya managed to escape by holding firm to a ship’s plank and to save himself on the shore. There he, with no clothes left, covered himself with a bark of trees. He lived on alms only and being very modest he gained the respect of the people who paid him honour and called him Dārucīriya.8 With his fame increasing he deemed himself an arahant by reflecting when in solitude:

‘‘Ye kho keci loke arahanto vā arahattamaggaṃ vā samāpannā, ahaṃ tesaṃ aññataro’’ti

“Whoever there is in the world that is an Arahant or has attained the path of Arahanthood – I must be one of these.”

     When a devatā who was previously related to Bāhiya, recognized his misconception that devatā out of compassion appeared to discourage Bāhiya by explaining that he neither was an Arahant nor that his practise would ever lead thereto.9 Dumbfounded by this information Bāhiya inquired if an Arahant was at all to be found in this world. In reply he received the information that there was one, dwelling in the northern parts of the country at Sāvatthi. He was not only reknown as an Arahant but a Sammāsambuddha who was teaching the Dhamma that would lead to Arahantship.10 Wasting no time Bāhiya arrived at Sāvatthi the next day and approached the Buddha requesting him to teach the Dhamma. He had to utter his request three times, as the Buddha was on his way gathering alms. During the third time Bāhiya pointed to the urgency of being taught the Dhamma as he might be passing away soon. Upon examination the Buddha realized that indeed Bāhiya’s death was near. He then uttered the above advice.

     While Bāhiya listened to this exhortation, due to his kammic predisposition his mind got freed from all taints without any attachment remaining .11 Quickly after receiving the Teaching and becoming an Arahant he passed away. Later the Buddha declared him as foremost among those to instantly completely grasp the teaching:

Etadaggaṃ, bhikkhave, mama sāvakānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ khippābhiññānaṃ yadidaṃ bāhiyo dārucīriyo.12

     This short historical account and quote of Buddha’s advice to Bāhiya to ‘guard’ the sense-doors intends to provide the passage to the current sutta, the āyatanapabbaṃ of dhammānupassanā. The introduction of the previous lesson13 on cittānupassanā concluded with the reminder that the four satipaṭṭhānā are not isolated from one another. While cittānupassanā refers to the quality, the character of the mind, to the condition and state of the respective consciousness, dhammānupassanā can be taken as ‘contents of the mind’, which accompany or even determine these states described in cittānupassanā. Even so dhamma here is taken as ‘contents or objects of the mind’ a more thorough investigation into the way the Buddha explains what occurs in the mind of a meditator will show that he enfolds in five subparagraphs his essential teaching culminating in the Four Noble Truths:

     Dhammānupassanā consists of nīvaraṇapabbaṃ.14 khandhapabbaṃ, āyatanapabbaṃ, bojjhaṅgapabbaṃ15 and saccapabbaṃ. The Buddha thus promotes the realisation and comprehension of each of these core fundamentals during the development and process of serious meditation:

●       With the recognition of the five hindrances pañca nīvaraṇā16 (or ‘enemies who enter as guests and turn into owners of the house’) the meditator learns to understand properly how each of these five occur, are present in or absent from him, may not yet have arisen in him but come to arise, when arisen get eradicated and having been eradicated in future will no longer arise in him.17

●       In the khandhapabbaṃ the meditator learns to perceive arising - samudayo - as well as disappearing, passing away - atthaṅgamo - of the five aggregates of clinging, the pañcā upādānakkhandhā.18 It is the illusion of ‘self’, of ‘I’ that one sees in this amalgamation of aggregates and to which one clings and gets attached. Clinging to the ‘nāmarūpa’, the illusional concept of a potential identity of individuality goes hand in hand with the aggregates. Thus perceiving their dependently arisen impermanent character the illusion of an ‘individual personality’ gets wiped out:

… ‘Paṭiccasamuppannā kho panime yadidaṃ pañcupādānakkhandhā. Yo imesu pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu chando ālayo19 anunayo20 ajjhosānaṃ21so dukkhasamudayo. Yo imesu pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu chandarāgavinayo chandarāgappahānaṃ so dukkhanirodho’ti.’22

… ‘These five aggregates of clinging are arisen on dependence. The desire, longing, inclination, attachment towards these five aggregates of clinging is the arising of suffering. The removal of desire and lust, the relinquishment of desire and lust towards these five aggregates of clinging is the cessation of suffering.’

●      The chapter on āyatanapabbaṃ - the six internal and external sense spheres is presented in this current lesson. See below.

●      The fourth chapter - the bojjhaṅgapabbaṃ - expounds the development of the factors of enlightenment.23

●      The last and final chapter, the saccapabbaṃ of dhammānupassanā elucidates in detail the Four Noble Truths.


     The current lesson now concludes the four Satipaṭṭhānā by presenting the third section of dhammānupassanā - the chapter on āyatanapabbaṃ - the six internal and external sense spheres. Here the meditator is advised to realise properly the sense-doors, to understand properly the respective sense-objects and to understand properly the bondage –‘saṃyojana’– that arises dependent on these respective pairs of sense-door and sense-object. He is supposed to realise properly how bondage that has not yet arisen, comes to arise. He is further trained to apprehend properly how bondage that has arisen, gets eradicated and how bondage that has been eradicated, will have no further sprouting in future.24

     Now how can falling in the trap of ‘bondage’ –‘saṃyojana’ - be avoided?

     The following passages may highlight what was immediately comprehended by Bāhiya. The Buddha kept on reminding his disciples to ‘guard the sense-doors’ –indriyesu guttadvāro– which provides the proper base to ‘develop the faculties’ –indriyabhāvanā. When a meditator does not get dazed by the impact of any of the sense objects and succeeds to restrain from assessing them as attractive, repulsive or deceptive he thus fosters his mind’s resolve not to respond to any of the objects intruding the sense-doors:

Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, indriyesu guttadvārā viharatha. Cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā mā nimittaggāhino25 ahuvattha,26 mā anubyañjanaggāhino.27.Yatvādhikaraṇamenaṃ enaṃ cakkhundriyaṃ asaṃvutaṃ viharantaṃ abhijjhādomanassā pāpakā akusalā dhammā anvāssaveyyuṃ.28 tassa saṃvarāya paṭipajjatha, rakkhatha cakkhundriyaṃ, cakkhundriye saṃvaraṃ āpajjatha.

Therefore, Bhikkhus, guard the doors of your sense-faculties! After having seen a visible object through the eye, do not grasp hold of the sign or dwell in its details! As a consequence of abiding with the eye-faculty unguarded states of yearning and unpleasantness may befall you, therefore maintain your restraint, protect your eye-faculty, maintain guard of your eye-faculty!

Sotena saddaṃ sutvā… ghānena gandhaṃ ghāyitvā… jivhāya rasaṃ sāyitvā… kāyena phoṭṭhabbaṃ phusitvā… manasā dhammaṃ viññāya mā nimittaggāhino ahuvattha, mā anubyañjanaggāhino. Yatvādhikaraṇamenaṃ manindriyaṃ asaṃvutaṃ viharantaṃ abhijjhādomanassā pāpakā akusalā dhammā anvāssaveyyuṃ, tassa saṃvarāya paṭipajjatha, rakkhatha manindriyaṃ, manindriye saṃvaraṃ āpajjatha.

Having heard a sound with the ear …, having smelled an odour with the nose …, having tasted some flavour with the tongue…, having felt a tangible object with the body …, having discerned a mental object with the mind, do not seize the sign or its details! As a consequence of your abiding with the mind-faculty unguarded unwholesome states of yearning and unpleasantness may befall you, therefore maintain your restraint, protect the mind-faculty, maintain guard of the mind-faculty.29 


     The Buddha also points out how that equanimity –upekkhā– is the core element to remain unaffected by what in general is felt agreeable, disagreeable or delusive.30

Kathañcānanda, ariyassa vinaye anuttarā indriyabhāvanā hoti? Idhānanda, bhikkhuno cakkhunā rūpaṃ disvā uppajjati manāpaṃ, uppajjati amanāpaṃ, uppajjati manāpāmanāpaṃ. So evaṃ pajānāti – ‘uppannaṃ kho me idaṃ manāpaṃ, uppannaṃ amanāpaṃ, uppannaṃ manāpāmanāpaṃ. Tañca kho saṅkhataṃ oḷārikaṃ paṭiccasamuppannaṃ. Etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ yadidaṃ – upekkhā’ti. Tassa taṃ uppannaṃ manāpaṃ uppannaṃ amanāpaṃ uppannaṃ manāpāmanāpaṃ nirujjhati; upekkhā saṇṭhāti.31

And what, Ānanda, is the unmatched development of the sense-faculties in the discipline of a noble disciple’?

Here, Ānanda, when seeing a visible object through the eye, there arises agreeableness, disagreeableness and both agreeableness and disagreeableness. He understands properly: ‘Agreeableness, disagreeableness and both agreeableness and disagreeableness have arisen in me. Here that is compounded, gross, dependently arisen. This is peaceful, sublime – this is equanimity’! Thus agreeableness that arose, disagreeableness that arose and both agreeableness and disagreeableness that arose come to an end, and equanimity gets established.


     When Bāhiya was instructed as quoted above (diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati …) he realised how to remove all ‘bondage’ –‘saṃyojana’:

“… tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tena; yato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tena tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tattha; yato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tattha, tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, nevidha na huraṃ na ubhayamantarena.”

“… when you will not be ‘by that’, then you Bāhiya, through this will not be ‘therein’. When you, will not be ‘therein, then, Bāhiya, you will neither be ‘here’ nor ‘there’ nor in ‘between the two’.”

     The commentary elucidates that when any respective consciousness perceives only object in object, not as object crammed with essence that would be permanent (like eye-consciousness only form in form; ear-consciousness only sound in sound, …) then the meditator doesn’t get affected by any identification through lust or aversion or delusion. He thus realises that bondage –‘saṃyojana’– exists only via the identification that one engenders and it can get mastered:

‘Idaṃ vuttaṃ hoti – yathā āpāthagate32 rūpe cakkhuviññāṇaṃ na rajjati, na dussati, na muyhati, evaṃ rāgādivirahena33 cakkhuviññāṇamattameva me javanaṃ34 bhavissati, cakkhuviññāṇappamāṇeneva35 javanaṃ ṭhapessāmīti.’36

‘This is the meaning of what is said: Just as eye-consciousness does not get affected by lust, aversion, nor delusion in the visible object that comes into its range, so I will develop the impulse (to remain) within that very limit of eye-consciousness that is without attachment (and so forth). I will establish the impulse: ‘my mind will be just mere eye-consciousness’. 37

 ‘Tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tatthāti yadā yasmā vā tvaṃ tena rāgena vā ratto dosena vā duṭṭho mohena vā mūḷho na bhavissasi, tadā tasmā vā tvaṃ tattha diṭṭhādike38 na bhavissasi, tasmiṃ diṭṭhe vā sutamutaviññāte vā ‘‘etaṃ mama, esohamasmi, eso me attā’’ti taṇhāmānadiṭṭhīhi39 allīno40 patiṭṭhito na bhavissasi.’

‘Then you, Bāhiya will not be ‘therein’, then, since you will not be excited by lust, nor annoyed by aversion, nor deluded by delusion, then, therefore you will not be ‘therein’ in that seen (and so forth), you will not be clinging to or get established in that seen, heard, sensed or cognized and you will not develop by craving, conceit or wrong view the thinking of: ‘this is mine, this am I, this is my self’.’


When there is no ‘doer’ nor anything actively ‘done’, everything one encounters are mere states –‘dhammamattam’– that are impermanent, because they are impermanent they are dukkha and anatta:


‘Ettha hi rūpāyatanaṃ passitabbaṭṭhena diṭṭhaṃ nāma, cakkhuviññāṇaṃ pana saddhiṃ taṃdvārikaviññāṇehi41 dassanaṭṭhena, tadubhayampi yathāpaccayaṃ pavattamānaṃ42 dhammamattameva, na ettha koci kattā vā kāretā vā, yato taṃ hutvā43 abhāvaṭṭhena44 aniccaṃ, udayabbayappaṭipīḷanaṭṭhena45 dukkhaṃ, avasavattanaṭṭhena46 anattāti kuto tattha paṇḍitassa rajjanādīnaṃ okāsoti?'47

‘How could there be any occasion in a wise one for lust, (aversion, or delusion to develop)?

The visible object-base is called ‘the seen’ in the sense that it is something that is ‘to be seen’; in the same way by reason of seeing eye-consciousness is because of the eye-door-consciousness. Both of these are occurring in accordance with their conditions and are merely dhammas, there is no doer or one who causes things to be done, so it is impermanent in the sense that it is not existing after having been. It is dukkha by reason of oppression through arising and passing, it is anattā by reason of upkeep that is uncontrolled.’


Or, closing in the clear words of the Buddha keeping it simple:

‘‘… Yassa kassaci, bhikkhave, bhikkhussa vā bhikkhuniyā vā cakkhuviññeyyesu rūpesu yo rāgo so natthi, yo doso so natthi, yo moho so natthi, yo rāgo so pahīno, yo doso so pahīno, yo moho so pahīno, tassa adhimattā cepi cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā cakkhussa āpāthaṃ āgacchanti nevassa cittaṃ pariyādiyanti; ko pana vādo parittānaṃ!

“If, Bhikkhus, in regards to visible-objects cognised by the eye, in any Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni lust does not exist, aversion does not exist, delusion does not exist, if lust has been eliminated, aversion has been eliminated, delusion has been eliminated, then protruding visible objects that enter into the field of vision do not obsess the mind, nor do those of an insignificant nature.

Taṃ kissa hetu? Yo, bhikkhave, rāgo so natthi, yo doso so natthi, yo moho so natthi, yo rāgo so pahīno, yo doso so pahīno, yo moho so pahīno…pe…”.48

Why is this so? Because lust does not exist, aversion does not exist, delusion does not exist, lust has been eliminated, aversion has been eliminated, and delusion has been eliminated.”

[1] mute:pp.of munāti: know, understand – through sense-perception of nose, tongue and touch

Bāhiyasuttavaṇṇanā: Mutanti tadārammaṇaviññāṇehi saddhiṃ gandharasaphoṭṭhabbāyatanaṃ veditabbaṃ.

That which is sensed’ is to be understood as the sense-base of smell, taste, touch together with the respecctive consciousness having these as their object.

[2] nevidha: na + vidha: not + consisting of

[3] esevanto: eso + eva +anto: this, that + end

[4] Bāhiyasuttaṃ, Bodhivaggo, Udānapāḷi, Khuddakanikāye – likewise quotes below

[5] ‘na tena’ – ‘by that’ refers to rāgo, doso and moho that affect, overtake and delude. Fore a more detailed explanation see further down!

[6] ‘na tattha’ – ‘therein’ refers to the state of beeing stimulated and engulfed in any of the above three impurities.

[7] With the same advise Buddha instructed Māluṅkyaputta at: Mālukyaputtasuttaṃ, Adantaaguttasuttaṃ, Saḷavaggo, Saḷāyatanavaggo Saḷāyatanasaṃyuttaṃ, Saṃyuttanikāyo

[8] dāru: wood + cīraṃ: bark

[9] ‘‘neva kho tvaṃ, bāhiya, arahā, nāpi arahattamaggaṃ vā samāpanno. Sāpi te paṭipadā natthi yāya tvaṃ arahā vā assa arahattamaggaṃ vā samāpanno’’ti.

[10] Tattha so bhagavā etarahi viharati arahaṃ sammāsambuddho. So hi, bāhiya, bhagavā arahā ceva arahattāya ca dhammaṃ desetī’’ti.

[11] Atha kho bāhiyassa dārucīriyassa bhagavato imāya saṃkhittāya dhammadesanāya tāvadeva anupādāya āsavehi cittaṃ vimucci.

[12] Tatiyavaggo, Etadaggavaggo, Ekakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo

[13] 3.8.12 Cittānupassanā – The Observation of Mind – Comprehending its Quality and Character

[14] This ETP has presented the chapter on the hindrances with additional notes from the commentary and detailed exposition of each of these at: 3.7.8 Nīvaraṇapabbaṃ – Mastering the Hindrances

[15] For details in regards to the development and perfection of the factors of enlightenment see 3.7.9 Ānāpānassatisutta - Satta BojjhaṅgePerfecting the seven Factors of Enlightenment as well as 3.8.4 Ānāpānassatisuttaṃ cont.How does the full Cultivation of Ānāpānassati nurture full Development of the four Satipaṭṭhāna?

[16] kāmacchando, byāpādo, thinamiddha, uddhaccakukkucca, vicikicchā

[17] santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ - ‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ … ’ti pajānāti , asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ - ‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ …’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa … uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa … pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnassa … āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti

[18] … iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo; iti vedanā, iti vedanāya samudayo, iti vedanāya atthaṅgamo; iti saññā, iti saññāya samudayo, iti saññāya atthaṅgamo; iti saṅkhārā, iti saṅkhārānaṃ samudayo, iti saṅkhārānaṃ atthaṅgamo, iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo’ti …

[19] ālayo: longing, desire, attachment

[20] anunayo: friendliness, courtesy

[21] ajjhosāna: attachment

[22] This quote is from a discourse by the Venerable Sāriputta at Sāvatthi, in the Jeta’s grove: Mahāhatthipadopamasuttaṃ, Opammavaggo, Mūlapaṇṇāsapāḷi, Majjhimanikāyo

[23] see 3.7.9 Ānāpānassatisutta - Satta BojjhaṅgePerfecting the seven Factors of Enlightenment

[24] refer to the complete text itself in the current lesson.

[25] nimittaggāhīno: nimitta + g + gāhī: sign + seizing, taking up

[26] ahuvattha: bhavati: aor.: became, been

[27] anubyañjanaggāhī: anubyañjana + g + gāhī: not + details  + seizing, taking up

[28] anvāssaveyyuṃ: opt. of anvāssavati: befall, result from

[29] Kummopamasuttaṃ, Āsīvisavaggo, Saḷāyatanavaggo, Saḷāyatanasaṃyuttaṃ

[30] Indriyabhāvanāsuttaṃ, Saḷāyatanavaggo, Uparipaṇṇāsapāḷi, Majjhimanikāye

[31] For the full presentation of this insiring sutta see: 3.7.4 Indriyabhāvanāsutta – Mastering the Sense-faculties.

The described the influence 3.5.7 Rūpādivaggo - The One Thing that Upsets the Mind

[32] āpāthagate: sphere + come, visible

[33] rāgādivirahena: raga +ādi + virahena: excitement + beginning with, so forth (referring to the heard, sensed and cognized) + without, empty

[34] javanaṃ: impuls, alacrity

[35] cakkhuviññāṇappamāṇeneva: cakkhuviññāṇa + p + pamāṇene + va: eye consciousness + measure, merely

[36] ṭhapessāmīti: ṭhapessāmī + ti: I will set up, establish

[37] Bāhiyasuttavaṇṇanā, Udāna-aṭṭhakathā, Khuddakanikāye

[38] diṭṭhādike: diṭṭha + ādike: seen + so forth (referring to the heard, sensed and cognized)

[39] taṇhāmānadiṭṭhīhi: taṇhā + māna + diṭṭhi + īhi: craving +conceit + strove for, attempted

[40] allīno: clinging, adhering

[41] taṃdvārikaviññāṇehi: taṃ + dvārika + viññāṇe + hi: thus + door + consciousness + because

[42] pavattamānaṃ: occuring, going on

[43] hutvā: absolutive of hoti: having been

[44] abhāvaṭṭhena: abhāva + aṭṭhena: non-becoming + on account of

[45] udayabbayappaṭipīḷanaṭṭhena: udaya + b + baya + p + paṭipīḷana + aṭṭhena: arising + disappearing oppression + on account of

[46] avasavattanaṭṭhena: a + vasavattana + aṭṭhena: not + control + on account of

[47] okāsoti: okāso + ti: space, occasion, opportunity

[48] Khīrarukkhopamasuttaṃ, Samuddavaggo, Saḷāyatanavaggo, Saḷāyatanasaṃyuttaṃ


Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.8.13

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Last modified: Thursday, 2 June 2022, 12:41 PM