Visuddhimagga IV-31

Tassevaṃ karontassa anukkamena nīvaraṇāni vikkhambhanti, kilesā sannisīdanti, upacārasamādhinā cittaṃ samādhiyati, paṭibhāganimittaṃ uppajjati.



Ñ(IV,31): As he does so, the hindrances eventually become suppressed, the defilements subside, the mind becomes concentrated with access concentration, and the counterpart sign arises.

Tatrāyaṃ purimassa ca uggahanimittassa imassa ca viseso, uggahanimitte kasiṇadoso paññāyati, paṭibhāganimittaṃ thavikato nihatādāsamaṇḍalaṃ viya sudhotasaṅkhathālaṃ viya valāhakantarā nikkhantacandamaṇḍalaṃ viya meghamukhe balākā viya uggahanimittaṃ padāletvā nikkhantamiva tato sataguṇaṃ sahassaguṇaṃ suparisuddhaṃ hutvā upaṭṭhāti.

前面的「取相」和这里的「似相」的差别如次:即于取相中得知遍的过失(如指印等)而似相则摧破取相而出,犹如从袋子里面取出明镜,[PTS 126] 如洗得很干净的贝壳,如出云翳的满月,如在乌云面前的鹤,显现得极其清净,实百倍千倍于(取相)。

Ñ: The difference between the earlier learning sign and the counterpart sign is this. In the learning sign any fault in the kasiṇa is apparent. But the counterpart sign [126] appears as if breaking out from the learning sign, and a hundred times, a thousand times more purified, like a looking-glass disk drawn from its case, like a mother-of-pearl dish well washed, like the moon's disk coming out from behind a cloud, like cranes against a thunder cloud.

Tañca kho neva vaṇṇavantaṃ, na saṇṭhānavantaṃ.


Ñ: But it has neither colour nor shape;

Chew: What does it mean?

Han: If the meditator sees the colour and shape it means that he has not yet reached the access concentration (upacārasamādhi), because if he has reached the access concentration, the counterpart sign (paṭibhāganimitta) is produced by bhāvanā-saññā and not by visual perception. The answer is in the following passage:

Kevalañhi samādhilābhino upaṭṭhānākāramattaṃ saññajametanti.

Ñ: For it is born only of perception in one who has obtained concentration, being a mere mode of appearance.

I do not know whether my explanation is clear enough.

I must admit that I myself do not understand the subject of nimittas and jhānas clearly.

Bhikkhu Jotinanda: Mahā-Ṭīkā said that this counterpart sign "has neither colour nor shape" because it is not an ultimate [reality] possessing sabhāva (intrinsic-nature). The Pāḷi is neva vaṇṇavantaṃ na saṇṭhānavantaṃ aparamatthasabhāvattā.

Shape is really not an ultimate reality as well but I guess it is lumped together with colour (a reality) since it depends on colour i.e. we see shapes through colours.

Then Mahā-Ṭīkā raised the question: [If it has no colour and shape,] how does it become an object of jhāna?

And in answering this question it simply quoted Ven. Buddhaghosa "For it is born only of perception in one who has obtained concentration, being a mere mode of appearance."

It further explained "It is generated by the meditative-perception (bhāvanāsaññā), it is produced only due to meditative-perception. Because there is no origination out of anywhere of that which does not possess sabhāva, he therefore said 'it is a mere mode of appearance.' "

From the above discussion in the Mahā-Ṭīkā I think what it all means is that since the counterpart sign is born of meditative-perception it is a concept, something conceived in the mind. It is not an ultimate reality possessing sabhāva (intrinsic-nature). Because it does not possess sabhāva it does not really exist in the ultimate sense. Therefore there is no origination of it out of anywhere (any causes). It is only a mere mode of appearance.

But colour which is rūpārammaṇa (visible-object) is an ultimate-reality which possesses sabhāva. It really exist in the ultimate sense. Since this is so the counterpart-sign, which has no sabhāva, cannot possess colour. That which is not real cannot possess that which is real. Shape, as we said above is tied up with colour and so it does not possess shape as well.

What then does the jhāna sees if not color and shape? I would hazard an answer that what it "sees" is the concept of the counterpart-sign which is conceived in the mind through the meditative-perception. First the meditative mind takes the concept of the kasiṇa (the uggahanimitta) as object. But due to the purity of the jhāna factors that are developing in the mind the perception associated with them also becomes pure. And through this pure meditative-perception a luminous object is conceived in the mind. This new concept (the luminous counterpart sign) is then taken up by the mind as an object. And it is this conceptual object that the mind "see", not some real existing color.

Yadi hi taṃ īdisaṃ bhaveyya, cakkhuviññeyyaṃ siyā oḷārikaṃ sammasanupagaṃ tilakkhaṇabbhāhataṃ, na panetaṃ tādisaṃ.


Ñ: for if it had, it would be cognizable by the eye, gross, susceptible of comprehension [by insight—(see Ch. XX, §2f.)] and stamped with the three characteristics. But it is not like that.

Kevalañhi samādhilābhino upaṭṭhānākāramattaṃ saññajametanti.


Ñ: For it is born only of perception in one who has obtained concentration, being a mere mode of appearance.

58. Uppannakālato ca panassa paṭṭhāya nīvaraṇāni vikkhambhitāneva honti, kilesā sannisinnāva, upacārasamādhinā cittaṃ samāhitamevāti.


Ñ: But as soon as it arises the hindrances are quite suppressed, the defilements subside, and the mind becomes concentrated in access concentration.

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Acknowledgment: Thanks to Buddhist Publication Society (BPS) and Venerable Nyanatusita for allowing me to use the English translation of the Visuddhimagga (The Path Of Purification) by Bhadantācariya Buddhaghosa, translated from the Pāḷi by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, as part of a combined Chinese English translation.

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