The Similes from the Gradual Training

Moral Discipline

Just as a head-anointed noble warrior who has defeated his enemies sees no danger anywhere from his enemies, so one who is thus possessed of moral discipline sees no danger anywhere in regard to his restraint by moral discipline.


Restraint of the Sense Faculties

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Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension

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Contentment

Just as a bird, wherever it goes, flies with its wings as its only burden, in the same way one is content ....


The Abandoning of Sensual Desire

Suppose a man were to take a loan and apply it to his business, and his business were to succeed, so that he could pay back his old debts and would have enough money left over to maintain a wife.


The Abandoning of Ill Will and Hatred

Suppose a man were to become sick, afflicted, gravely ill, so that he could not enjoy his food and his strength would decline. After some time he would recover from that illness and would enjoy his food and regain his bodily strength.


The Abandoning of Sloth and Torpor

Suppose a man were locked up in a prison. After some time he would be released from prison, safe and secure, with no loss of his possessions.


The Abandoning of Restlessness and Remorse

Suppose a man were a slave, without independence, subservient to others, unable to go where he wants. After some time he would be released from slavery and gain his independence; he would no longer be subservient to others but a free man able to go where he wants.


The Abandoning of Doubt

Suppose a man with wealth and possessions were travelling along a desert road where food was scarce and dangers were many. After some time he would cross over the desert and arrive safely at a village which is safe and free from danger.


The First Jhana

Suppose a skilled bath attendant or his apprentice were to pour soap-powder into a metal basin, sprinkle it with water, and knead it into a ball, so that the ball of soap-powder be pervaded by moisture, encompassed by moisture, suffused with moisture inside and out, yet would not trickle.


The Second Jhana

Suppose there were a deep lake whose waters welled up from below. It would have no inlet for water from the east, west, north, or south, nor would it be refilled from time to time with showers of rain; yet a current of cool water, welling up from within the lake, would drench, steep, saturate and suffuse the whole lake, so that there would be no part of that entire lake which is not suffused with the cool water.


The Third Jhana

Suppose in a lotus pond there were blue, white, or red lotuses that have been born in the water, grow in the water, and never rise up above the water, but flourish immersed in the water. From their tips to their roots they would be drenched, steeped, saturated, and suffused with cool water, so that there would be no part of those lotuses not suffused with cool water.


The Fourth Jhana

Suppose a man were to be sitting covered from the head down by a white cloth, so that there would be no part of his entire body not suffused by the white cloth.


Insight Knowledge

Suppose there were a beautiful beryl gem of purest water, eight-faceted, well cut, clear, limpid, flawless, endowed with all excellent qualities. And through it there would run a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread. A man with keen sight, taking it in his hand, would reflect upon it thus: ’This is a beautiful beryl gem of purest water, eight faceted, well cut, clear, limpid, flawless, endowed with all excellent qualities. And running through it there is this blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread.’


The Knowledge of the Mind-made Body

Suppose a man were to draw out a reed from its sheath. He would think: ’This is the reed; this is the sheath. The reed is one thing, the sheath another, but the reed has been drawn out from the sheath.’ Or suppose a man were to draw a sword out from its scabbard. He would think: ’This is the sword; this is the scabbard. The sword is one thing, the scabbard another, but the sword has been drawn out from the scabbard.’ Or suppose a man were to pull a snake out from its slough. He would think: ’This is the snake; this is the slough. The snake is one thing, the slough another, but the snake has been pulled out from the slough.’


The Knowledge of the Modes of Supernatural Power

Suppose a skilled potter or his apprentice were to make and fashion out of well-prepared clay whatever kind of vessel he might desire. Or suppose a skilled ivory-worker or his apprentice were to make and fashion out of well-prepared ivory whatever kind of ivory work he might desire. Or suppose a skilled goldsmith or his apprentice were to make and fashion out of well-prepared gold whatever kind of gold work he might desire.


The Knowledge of the Divine Ear

Suppose a man travelling along a highway were to hear the sounds of kettledrums, tambours, horns, cymbals and tom-toms, and would think: ’This is the sound of kettledrums, this is the sound of tambours, this the sound of horns, cymbals and tom-toms.’


The Knowledge of Encompassing the Minds of Others

Suppose a young man or woman, fond of ornaments, examining his or her own facial reflection in a pure bright mirror or in a bowl of clear water, would know, if there were a mole, ’It has a mole,’ and if there were no mole, ’It has no mole.’


The Knowledge of Recollecting Past Lives

Suppose a man were to go from his own village to another village, then from that village to still another village, and then from that village he would return to his own village. He would think to himself: ’I went from my own village to that village. There I stood in such a way, sat in such a way, spoke in such a way, and remained silent in such a way. From that village I went to still another village. There too I stood in such a way, sat in such a way, spoke in such a way, and remained silent in such a way. From that village I returned to my own village.’


The Knowledge of the Divine Eye

Suppose in a central square there were a building with an upper terrace, and a man with keen sight standing there were to see people entering a house, leaving it, walking along the streets, and sitting in the central square. He would think to himself: ’Those people are entering the house, those are leaving it, those are walking along the streets, and those are sitting in the central square.’


The Knowledge of the Destruction of the Cankers

Suppose in a mountain glen there were a lake with clear water, limpid and unsullied. A man with keen sight, standing on the bank, would see oyster-shells, sand and pebbles, and shoals of fish moving about and keeping still. He would think to himself: ’This is a lake with clear water, limpid and unsullied, and there within it are oyster-shells, sand and pebbles, and shoals of fish moving about and keeping still.’


The similes are taken from Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the Sāmaññaphala Sutta at SuttaCentral. Many thanks to Stephen Batchelor; the idea of creating this page arose from a conversation we had about the Gradual Training and its similes.


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