Sabbasava Sutta – Spots of Excitement, Majjhima Nikaya 2

Introduction

In a conversation with disciples, the Buddha calls bad, darkened qualities of consciousness “spots” and explains seven ways to overcome them. The spots that are discussed in the conversation are not visible by ordinary sight, but are perceived by the Eye of Wisdom. Therefore, the explanations given by the Buddha are not only addressed to the listeners’ human level of perception, but also to their divine sight. The order in which these spots are eliminated, presented in this sutta, is convenient for the sequential purification of the seven energy centers (chakras) from the top down: the crown, the third eye, the throat, the chest, the solar plexus, the lower abdomen and the pelvis.

Seven ways of spots elimination

The wise know that correctly directed attention does not allow the emergence of new impurities in consciousness, and leads to the disappearance of those spots that have emerged earlier. The wise know that incorrectly directed attention leads to the development of already existing impurities and the appearance of new spots in the mind.

Correct views, restraint, correct attitude to the needs of the body, patience, avoidance of danger, suppression of impurities and development of good qualities of consciousness are seven ways leading to the disappearance of the spots of excitement.

Correct view

A correct view removes those spots that arise from the wandering of the mind in the Three Times. The mind wandering in the Three Times gives rise to endless questions: “Did I exist? Do I exist? Will I exist? What was I like? How did I become who I am now? What will I be like? Where did this creature (me) come from? How am I connected to this being? What will be my position in the future?” These questions dispel the mind, their only result is the emergence of a pile of useless judgments about the “I”: “I have an “I”; I do not have an “I”; my “I” is intelligible to reason; my “I” is incomprehensible by reason; my “I” is partly eternal, partly non-eternal; my “I” is eternal or non-eternal, it perceives and comprehends all phenomena, or does not perceive and does not comprehend them”.
Because the mind is immersed in the thicket of this pile of judgments, the spots of the Triple Thirst arise and increase: the sensual desire, the desire for existence, the desire for non-existence. Because of the immersion in doubts, generated by these contradictory views, the spots of ignorance arise and increase.

The attention of the wise, not dissipated by wandering in the Three Times, comprehends suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. Comprehending this way, they remove from their mind the fetters of desires connected with the “I”, doubts about the correctness or falsity of some judgments about the “I”, as well as the rules, rituals and precepts, the purpose of which is to strengthen one or another judgment about the “I”.

Restraint

The wise are reserved about perceptions. After all, because of the unrestrained attitude to the perception of the eye, ear, tongue, nose, skin and reason, spots of anxiety and excitement arise and increase. On the contrary, restraint in relation to the qualities of forms, sounds, tastes, smells, sensations and ideas leads to a decrease and disappearance of the spots of anxiety and excitement.

Correct attitude to the needs of the body

The needs for clothing, food, housing and medicine are met by the wise in order to stop the suffering that has already arisen or to prevent the emergence of new suffering. They use clothes to protect the body from cold, heat and other harmful factors, food – for the sake of maintaining the body, home – as a convenient place for rest and joy of solitude, the medicine – as a remedy for the ailment. Not wishing from clothing, food, home and medicine more than maintaining the body, the wise lead to the disappearance of old spots of excitement of the mind and the non-emergence of new ones.

Patience

When the needs of the body cannot be satisfied, or those sufferings that cannot be avoided arise, the spots of the excitement/anxiety of the consciousness are eliminated by patience.

Avoidance of danger

By avoiding dangerous roads and places, bad company, bad behavior, wise avoid the excitement of the mind, the appearance of new spots of excitement and the increase of old ones.

Suppression of impurities

The wise, seeing in their minds the spots of lust, malice, cruelty – do not tolerate them. The wise refuse these states, severe all connection with them, destroy them.

Development of good qualities of consciousness

Developing the good qualities of consciousness, the wise do not allow the development of new spots of excitement and don’t nourish the old spots.

There are seven kinds of good qualities of consciousness:

  1. Remembering about the impermanence of the body and suffering of the senses.
  2. The study of the Dhamma.
  3. Firm determination.
  4. The delight of contemplation (gathering of perceptions in the heart, the ability to restrain the mind, like a rider, riding the horse of internal winds).
  5. Blissful purity (satisfaction).
  6. Self-awareness (Samadhi).
  7. Serenity (balance).

Good qualities of consciousness are also listed in accordance with the order of energy centers. If in the presentation of the ways to overcome the spots of excitement the order of presentation is descending, calming, then in presentation of the ways to develop the good qualities, the order is ascending, awakening – from the pelvis to the crown.

Conclusion

The doctrine of removing the spots of excitement and developing the good qualities of consciousness is well compared with the Buddha’s story about the Seven Treasures of the King Mahasudassana (see Mahasudassana sutta, Digha Nikaya 17).

King Mahasudassana possessed seven treasures:

  • The Treasure of the Wheel, which by its rotation revealed to the king and his army the way to conquering new lands;
  • The Elephant Treasure, on which the king could ride the lands from sea to sea. This elephant could travel through the air;
  • The Horse Treasure, with qualities similar to those of the Elephant Treasure;
  • The Jewel Treasure, a stone that could illuminate the darkness so that people, thinking that the day has come, were starting in their daily chores;
  • The Woman Treasure, a goddess from heavenly spheres, faithful to the king and loving him dearly;
  • The Householder Treasure that could save the king’s treasures and find treasures anywhere, even in the middle of the river;
  • The Counsellor Treasure, capable of giving wise and faithful advice.

Below is a table that allows you to see the connection between ways to overcome the spots of excitement, the development of good qualities of consciousness and the results – the treasures acquired as a result of the disappearance of these spots:

Energy centers Treasures of Sudassana Method for removing the spots of excitement Developed good quality
Muladhara The Wheel Development of good qualities Remembrance
Swadhisthana The Elephant Suppression of impurities Learning the Dhamma
Manipura The Horse Avoidance of danger Purposefulness (determination)
Anahata The Jewel shining in the night Patience Gathering of perceptions in the heart
Vishuddha The Woman-Goddess Correct attitude to the needs of the body Blissful purity
Ajna The Householder Restraint Self-awareness
Sahasrara The Counsellor Correct view Serenity

 

Vladimir Pyatsky and Smadar Pyatsky
Translation: Natalia Tsimbler