Fetter (Buddhism) - Cutting Through The Fetters

Cutting Through The Fetters

Meditation
with the fetters

"Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu understands the eye and material forms and the fetter that arises dependent on both (eye and forms); he understands how the arising of the non-arisen fetter comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen fetter comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned fetter comes to be. he understands the ear and sounds .... the organ of smell and odors .... the organ of taste and flavors .... the organ of touch and tactual objects .... consciousness and mental objects ...."

Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10)

In MN 64, the "Greater Discourse to Mālunkyāputta," the Buddha states that the path to abandoning the five lower fetters (that is, the first five of the aforementioned "ten fetters") is through using jhana attainment and vipassana insights in tandem. In SN 35.54, "Abandoning the Fetters," the Buddha states that one abandons the fetters "when one knows and sees ... as impermanent" (Pali: anicca) the twelve sense bases (āyatana), the associated six sense-consciousness (viññaṇa), and the resultant contact (phassa) and sensations (vedanā). Similarly, in SN 35.55, "Uprooting the Fetters," the Buddha states that one uproots the fetters "when one knows and sees ... as nonself" (anatta) the sense bases, sense consciousness, contact and sensations.

The Pali canon traditionally describes cutting through the fetters in four stages:

  • one cuts the first three fetters (Pali: tīṇi saŋyojanāni) to be a "stream enterer" (sotapanna);
  • one cuts the first three fetters and significantly weakens the next two fetters to be a "once returner" (sakadagami);
  • one cuts the first five fetters (orambhāgiyāni samyojanāni) to be a "non-returner" (anagami);
  • one cuts all ten fetters to be an arahant.

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