The Pile of Snares

pilesnare

This Sutta’s cycle would have effectively wound-up at the completion of the last chapter on teaching. This apparent addition on “sensual pleasures” was a redaction added-on at a later date—most likely for the benefit of the community whose focus was a monastic counsel against carnal pleasures. The Tathāgata warns that adhering to the snare of sensuality will place one-square in the sights of Mara, the Evil One. The most effective remedial solution is to tune-into the eight-fold package of the meditation absorption, wherein one gains reassurance and protection and purification by mindful equanimity.

31. “Bhikkhus, there are these five cords of sensual pleasure. What are the five? Forms cognizable by the eye that are wished for, desired, agreeable and likeable, connected with sensual desire, and provocative of lust. Sounds cognizable by the ear … Odours cognizable by the nose … Flavours cognizable by the tongue … Tangibles cognizable by the body that are wished for, desired, agreeable and likeable, connected with sensual desire, and provocative of lust. These are the five cords of sensual pleasure.

32. “As to those recluses and brahmins who are tied to these five cords of sensual pleasure, infatuated with them and utterly committed to them, and who use them without seeing the danger in them or understanding the escape from them, it may be understood of them: ‘They have met with calamity, met with disaster, the Evil One may do with them as he likes.’ Suppose a forest deer who was bound lay down on a heap of snares; it might be understood of him: ‘He has met with calamity, met with disaster, the hunter can do with him as he likes, and when the hunter comes he cannot go where he wants.’ So too, as to those recluses and brahmins who are tied to these five cords of sensual pleasure … it may be understood of them: ‘They have met with calamity, met with disaster, the Evil One may do with them as he likes.’

Another translation fleshes-this-out in fine fashion:

31 Bhikshus, there are these 5 cords of sensual pleasures. What are the five?

Forms cognizable by the eye that are wished for, desirable, agreeable, likeable, connected with sensuality, arousing lust.

Sounds cognizable by the ear that are wished for, desirable, agreeable, likeable, connected with sensuality, arousing lust.

Smells cognizable by the nose that are wished for, desirable, agreeable, likeable, connected with sensuality, arousing lust.

Tastes cognizable by the tongue that are wished for, desirable, agreeable, likeable, connected with sensuality, arousing lust.

Touches cognizable by the body that are wished for, desirable, agreeable, likeable, connected with sensuality, arousing lust.

Bhikshus, these are the 5 cords of sensual pleasures.

32 Bhikshus, of those recluses and brahmins who are tied to these 5 cords of sensual pleasures, infatuated with them, enjoying them with relish, unaware of the danger, knowing no way out, it may be understood of them:

‘They have met with calamity, with disaster—the Bad One may do with them as he likes.’

32.2 Suppose, bhikshus, a forest deer that is bound, lies down on a pile of snares (pāsa,rāsi): it might be understood of it:

‘It has met with calamity, with disaster—the hunter may do with him as he likes, and when the hunter comes, it cannot go where it wants.‘

32.3 Even so, bhikshus, of those recluses and brahmins who are tied to these 5 cords of sensual pleasures, infatuated with them, enjoying them with relish, unaware of the danger, knowing no way out, it may be understood of them:

‘They have met with calamity, with disaster—the Bad One may do with them as he likes.’

One who is foolish enough to become entangled in these five-snares is like an unwary fawn staring with transfixed eyes on the headlights of incoming evil. Mara will most assuredly “do as he pleases” with such imprudent ones. One is forewarned to be perpetually vigilant at all times and under all circumstances not to become enticed and ensnared by the wily designs of the Evil One. If mindful vigilance is not engaged, then one will be overcome with the inbound traffic of all forms of calamity.

33. “As to those recluses and brahmins who are not tied to these five cords of sensual pleasure, who are not infatuated with them or utterly committed to them, and who use them seeing the danger in them and understanding the escape from them, it may be understood of them: ‘They have not met with calamity, not met with disaster, the Evil One cannot do with them as he likes.’ Suppose a forest deer who was unbound lay down on a heap of snares; it might be understood of him: ‘He has not met with calamity, not met with disaster, the hunter cannot do with him as he likes, and when the hunter comes he can go where he wants.’ So too, as to those recluses and brahmins who are not tied to these five cords of sensual pleasure … it may be understood of them: ‘They have not met with calamity, not met with disaster, the Evil One cannot do with them as he likes.’

The wise and diligent ones will avoid calamity at every turn. In all such instances Mara’s designs are rendered mute.

34. “Suppose a forest deer is wandering in the forest wilds: he walks confidently, stands confidently, sits confidently, lies down confidently. Why is that? Because he is out of the hunter’s range. So too, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Māra, to have become invisible to the Evil One by depriving Māra’s eye of its opportunity.

35. “Again, with the stilling of applied and sustained thought, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the second jhāna, which has self-confidence and singleness of mind without applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of concentration. This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Māra …

36. “Again, with the fading away as well of rapture, a bhikkhu abides in equanimity, and mindful and fully aware, still feeling pleasure with the body, he enters upon and abides in the third jhāna, on account of which noble ones announce: ‘He has a pleasant abiding who has equanimity and is mindful.’ This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Māra …

37. “Again, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the fourth jhāna, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and purity of mindfulness due to equanimity. This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Māra …

Abiding in the four jhānas—with all thoughts subdued and dwelling in the forest of seclusion, one is divorced from all vexations—thus Mara is incapable of noticing and inflicting harm on one who is cloaked with imagelessness (devoid of all sensate images—forms, sensations, mental constructs, etc..)

38. “Again, with the complete surmounting of perceptions of form, with the disappearance of perceptions of sensory impact, with non-attention to perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite,’ a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of infinite space. This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Māra …

39. “Again, by completely surmounting the base of infinite space, aware that ‘consciousness is infinite,’ a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of infinite consciousness. This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Māra …

40. “Again, by completely surmounting the base of infinite consciousness, aware that ‘there is nothing,’ a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of nothingness. This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Māra …

41. “Again, by completely surrounding the base of nothingness, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Māra, to have become invisible to the Evil One by depriving Māra’s eye of its opportunity.

42. “Again, by completely surmounting the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the cessation of perception and feeling. And his taints are destroyed by his seeing with wisdom. This bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Māra, to have become invisible to the Evil One by depriving Māra’s eye of its opportunity, and to have crossed beyond attachment to the world. He walks confidently, stands confidently, sits confidently, lies down confidently. Why is that? Because he is out of the Evil One’s range.”

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

A reinforcement of the chapter on “The Search for Enlightenment”, which broke-down in detail the states of meditation absorption. It especially highlights how these “eight” are sufficient in battling Mara’s presence and thus keeping him at bay and well out of range of inducing harm.

This concludes our series on the Ariyapariyesanā Sutta. As a brief spiritual-biographical exposition on the Buddha it highlights the Noble and ignoble paths and how to best articulate the Ariyan choice to rise above all the snares of defiled and aggregated existence for the further shore of deathlessness. One must not be lulled into the complacent path of just somehow imagining “meditative” or “contemplative” practice as being enough to win the Nibbāna of the Tathāgatas.  For instance, one purportedly reaches the heights of the aforementioned eight meditative absorptions, but who then afterwards chooses to live a life of debauchery is a fool indeed—for the Shining Ones will assuredly shun you. Morally living-out the six paramitas and refined Spiritual-praxis are both prerequisites for attaining the Arhatship of the Blessed Tathāgatas. This is what the primal-course in mind-training is all about. An awakening of the Primordial Prospectus to Recollect Union with the unsoiled Unborn Buddha Mind and then to live thereafter as a true child of deathless-suchness.

Listen-well, O you would-be Light Bringers!
The Tathāgata speaks good things, true words,
Timely words, meaningful words, the words of
The Holy Dharma.
Hold fast to these words,
Lest you succumb to the false Light of
The Evil One
(From the Nirvana sutra and other ruminations of a Recollected-Spirit).

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