One After Another
Anupada Sutta  (MN 111)

I have heard that at on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There he addressed the monks, saying, “Monks!”

“Yes, lord,” the monks responded to him.

The Blessed One said, “Monks, Sāriputta is wise, of great discernment, deep discernment, wide… joyous… rapid… quick… penetrating discernment. For half a month, Sāriputta clearly saw insight1 into mental qualities one after another. This is what occurred to Sāriputta through insight into mental qualities one after another:

“There was the case where Sāriputta—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities—entered & remained in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Whatever qualities there are in the first jhāna—directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness,2 desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention—he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they became established, known to him they subsided. He discerned, ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There is.’

“And further, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, Sāriputta entered & remained in the second jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance. Whatever qualities there are in the second jhāna—internal assurance, rapture, pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention—he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they became established, known to him they subsided. He discerned, ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There is.’

“And further, with the fading of rapture, Sāriputta—remaining equanimous, mindful, & alert, and sensing pleasure with the body—entered & remained in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ Whatever qualities there are in the third jhāna—equanimity-pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention—he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they became established, known to him they subsided. He discerned, ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There is.’

“And further, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of joys & distresses—Sāriputta entered & remained in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. Whatever qualities there are in the fourth jhāna—a feeling of equanimity, neither pleasure nor pain; an unconcern due to calmness3 of awareness; singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention—he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they became established, known to him they subsided. He discerned, ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There is.’

“And further, with the complete transcending of perceptions of (physical) form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not attending to perceptions of multiplicity, (perceiving,) ‘Infinite space,’ Sāriputta entered & remained in the dimension of the infinitude of space. Whatever qualities there are in the dimension of the infinitude of space—the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention—he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they became established, known to him they subsided. He discerned, ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There is.’

“And further, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, (perceiving,) ‘Infinite consciousness,’ Sāriputta entered & remained in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. Whatever qualities there are in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness—the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention—he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they became established, known to him they subsided. He discerned, ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There is.’

“And further, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, (perceiving,) ‘There is nothing,’ Sāriputta entered & remained in the dimension of nothingness. Whatever qualities there are in the dimension of nothingness—the perception of the dimension of nothingness, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention—he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they became established, known to him they subsided. He discerned, ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There is.’

“And further, with the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, Sāriputta entered & remained in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. He emerged mindfully from that attainment. On emerging mindfully from that attainment, he regarded the past qualities that had ceased & changed: ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’ He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is a further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There is.’4

“And further, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, Sāriputta entered & remained in the cessation of perception & feeling. And when he saw with discernment, his effluents were totally ended. He emerged mindfully from that attainment. On emerging mindfully from that attainment, he regarded the past qualities that had ceased & changed: ‘So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’5 He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that ‘There is no further escape,’ and pursuing it, he confirmed that ‘There isn’t.’

“If a person, rightly saying it of anyone, were to say, ‘He has attained mastery & perfection in noble virtue… noble concentration… noble discernment… noble release,’ he would be rightly saying it of Sāriputta if he were to say: ‘He has attained mastery & perfection in noble virtue… noble concentration… noble discernment… noble release.’

“If a person, rightly saying it of anyone, were to say, ‘He is the Blessed One’s son, his offspring—born of his mouth, born of the Dhamma, created by the Dhamma, his heir in the Dhamma, not his heir in material things,’ he would be rightly saying it of Sāriputta if he were to say: ‘He is the Blessed One’s son, his offspring—born of his mouth, born of the Dhamma, created by the Dhamma, his heir in the Dhamma, not his heir in material things.’ Sāriputta, monks, takes the unexcelled wheel of Dhamma set rolling by the Tathāgata, and keeps it rolling rightly.”

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

Notes

1. “Clearly saw insight”: In Pali, this is vipassanaṁ vipassi, which could be translated literally as “clearly saw clear seeing” or “insighted insight.” The Commentary states that the half-month mentioned here refers to the half month between Ven. Sāriputta’s ordination and his attainment of arahantship, described in MN 74. These two suttas treat Sāriputta’s attainment from two different perspectives. This sutta shows it from the standpoint of his mastery of the four jhānas and the formless attainments based on the fourth jhāna. That sutta shows it as occurring when he starts reflecting on a point while listening to a discourse that the Buddha is giving to his nephew. To put the two suttas together, we can infer that prior to the discourse given in MN 74, Sāriputta had mastered the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. While listening to the discourse, he reflected on the point that the Buddha recommended abandoning all mental qualities through direct knowledge. This would have led him to the cessation of perception and feeling (during which he would not be listening to the discourse) and so to awakening.

2. Reading viññāṇaṁ with the Thai edition of the Canon. The Burmese and PTS editions read cittaṁ, which could mean “mind” or “intent” (as in the four bases of success).

3. Reading passaddhattā with the Burmese edition. The Thai edition reads, parisuddhatā, “through purity.” The Sinhalese edition reads pasiddhatā, which would mean “empowerment” (?—this term is not listed in the PTS Dictionary). The PTS edition reads passi vedanā, which is unintelligible.

4. Notice that, with each of the previous levels of attainment, Sāriputta was able to ferret out the various mental qualities arising there while he was still in the attainment. With this attainment and the following one, however, he was not able to analyze the mental qualities present and absent there until after he had left the attainment. The difference here is related to the point made in AN 9:36 that all the attainments up through the dimension of nothingness are “perception-attainments.” And that, “As far as the perception-attainments go, that is as far as gnosis-penetration goes. As for these two dimensions—the attainment of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception & the attainment of the cessation of perception & feeling—I tell you that they are to be rightly explained by those monks who are meditators, skilled at attainment, skilled at attainment-emergence, who have attained & emerged in dependence on them.”

For a discussion of how insight can be developed in the context of jhāna, see The Wings to awakening, IIIF.

5. For a more detailed description of what a meditator experiences on emerging from the cessation of perception and feeling, see MN 44.

See also: MN 43; MN 52; MN 140; AN 5:28; AN 9:36