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MN 111

One of the favorite suttas of those who feel insight should be done while in the jhānic states is the Anupada Sutta at MN 111. But this is a late sutta and hence is not a good guide for learning what the Buddha actually taught.1 In fact I would say it is a very late sutta, coming from the last strata of sutta composition. The hints of its lateness are

    There is no Chinese Āgama corresponding to MN 111, in fact no parallel of any sort has been identified.2 The vast majority of suttas of the first four collections (Nikāyas) in the Pali Canon have corresponding suttas in the Chinese Āgamas. This would seem to indicate they originate from a common stock. Any sutta that does not occur in both was most likely dropped from one of the collections or was composed after the time the suttas traveled to China.3 The lack of an āgama corresponding to a particular sutta is no proof that a sutta is late; it's only a hint and the sutta must be examined for other hints of its possible lateness.
    The sutta is about Sāriputta, even though it is supposedly spoken by the Buddha. Again when a sutta is by or about someone other than the Buddha, this is a hint that should be further investigated to see if there are other signs of possible lateness. Furthermore, this sutta extravagantly praises Sāriputta, the likes of which not found elsewhere in the suttas, but is more like the flowery and exaggerated language of later Buddhist literature.
    As we saw in the chapter in Right Concentration on 1st Jhāna, MN 111 is one of only two suttas that mention one-pointedness of mind as a factor of the first jhāna. This indicates that at the time of the composition of MN 111, the words vitakka and vicāra in the context of the first jhāna had undergone the transition in meaning from "thinking and more thinking" to "initial and sustained attention." This is obviously a late transition, coming towards the end of the sutta composition period and the beginning of the abhidhamma composition period.
    The whole tone of the sutta is very abhidhamma-like, with all its lists and details, plus some of its vocabulary (e.g. anupadavavaṭṭhita) is found nowhere else in the suttas but is found in the Abhidhamma. Each jhāna is deconstructed into multiple factors, corresponding quite closely to the universal and beautiful cetasikas (factors) found in the Abhidhamma for the various jhānas. As mentioned in the chapter in Right Concentration on the 1st Jhāna, Caroline Rhys Davids points out that its style is similar to that of the Dhammasaṅgaṇī, regarded as one of the earliest books of the Abhidhamma.4
    The sutta juxtaposes different literary styles, specifically one Sutta style list of jhāna factors connected with ca and one Abhidhamma style list of factors without ca.5
    There are two suttas that relate how Sāriputta attained full awakening. If they both are authentic, that would be like losing your virginity twice! The other sutta is the Dīghanakha Sutta at MN 74 which seems to belong to an earlier strata of sutta composition.6, 7

My conclusion is that MN 111 is completely worthless for trying to understand what the Buddha actually was teaching.

This does not necessarily mean that the practices given in MN 111 are wrong practices. It just means that they differ from what is found in the Gradual Training and other earlier material, which seem more likely to reflect what the Buddha actually was teaching.

1. G. C. Pande also says MN 111 is a late sutta; see Pande, 1995, p. 138.
2. Anālayo, 2011, p. 635.
3. Another possible reason for a sutta to be missing from one of the collections is accident or carelessness by the reciters and compilers. Yet another possibility may be the way Agamas (seem to) have affiliations with schools other than that which produced the Pāli suttas. This is why a "missing" sutta serves only as a hint of possible lateness.
4. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1902; quoted in Pande, 1995, p. 138.
5. Bhikkhu Sujato & Bhikkhu Brahmali, The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts, p. 90.
6. Pande, 1995, p. 168.
7. One way of resolving the two accounts of Sāriputta's awakening is to say that the first one (MN 74) is him attaining liberation by wisdom; the second (MN 111) is him becoming both-ways liberated. But this distinction of two ways of being liberated is is also a late doctrinal development. Furthermore being both-ways liberated means one is skilled in The Psychic Powers, which are not mentioned at all in MN 111.

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