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If he wants, he remains percipient of loathsomeness in the presence of what is not loathsome. If he wants, he remains percipient of unloathsomeness in the presence of what is loathsome. If he wants, he remains percipient of loathsomeness in the presence of what is not loathsome & what is. If he wants, he remains percipient of unloathsomeness in the presence of what is loathsome & what is not. If he wants—in the presence of what is loathsome & what is not—cutting himself off from both, he remains equanimous, alert, & mindful. Or he may enter & remain in the beautiful liberation.
SN 46.54

Could someone explain what all this loathsome and unloathsome business is?

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The relevent Pali word is "paṭikūla", which means "repulsive", as follows:

In the same way, when a mendicant has not developed or cultivated mindfulness of the body, their eye pulls towards pleasant sights, but is put off [repulsed] by unpleasant sights. Their ear … nose … tongue … body …

Evameva kho, bhikkhave, yassa kassaci bhikkhuno kāyagatāsati abhāvitā abahulīkatā, taṁ cakkhu āviñchati manāpiyesu rūpesu, amanāpiyā rūpā paṭikūlā honti …pe…

mind pulls towards pleasant thoughts, but is put off by unpleasant thoughts.

mano āviñchati manāpiyesu dhammesu, amanāpiyā dhammā paṭikūlā honti.

SN 35.247

The teaching in SN 46.54 is found in many places, such as in MN 152. It simply means the very skilled practitioner can view the repulsive in the repulsive, the unrepulsive in the repulsive, etc, etc, or have equanimity.

For example, monks & nuns are taught to view what is repulsive in the opposite sex. Therefore, a monk, for example, may view what is repulsive in a woman. However, a monk may also view what is not repulsive in a woman, such as women care for their children and also particularly care for monks, such as offering monks alms food. Or a monk may view a woman as merely five aggregates, which inclines to equanimity.

Why would one do such things?

  • Meditation upon the repulsive eliminates defilements connected to lust.

  • However, there is a sutta were many monks ended their life due to too much meditation upon the repulsive.

  • Therefore, meditation upon the non-repulsive is done to balance the mind plus develop wholesome qualities such as gratitude & loving-kindness.

All of the above are related to perceiving reality clearly.

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  • Thank you. The word "paṭikūla" occurs most prominently in AN5.144, which also provides more information. I have added "repulsive in the unrepulsive" to our examples as an excellent study topic.
    – OyaMist
    Apr 24 at 11:35
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    Why would one do such things? Apr 24 at 12:08
  • @PrinceDeepthinker - this type of practice evokes dispassion towards the body such that the six sense awareness disbands and there remains only an awareness, sometimes called just seeing. It is a practice that is only suited to particular types of people with a particular type of disposition.
    – Max
    Apr 24 at 18:51
  • But why would one meditate on the repulsive in regards to the repulsive, unrepulsive in regards to the unrepulsive or be equanimous? Apr 25 at 9:31
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If he wants, he remains percipient of loathsomeness in the presence of what is not loathsome.

The noble one can attain Loving Kindness Absorb-Jhana or Four Elements Almost-Absorb-Jhana, unloathsomeness, by photographic mental seeing loathsomeness-object such as human.

This is showing the proficiency of the meditation of the noble one.

If he wants, he remains percipient of unloathsomeness in the presence of what is loathsome.

The noble one can attain loathsomeness-Absorb-Jhana or insight meditation, loathsomeness, by photographic mental seeing unloathsomeness-object such as things which the ordinary love to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and think of.

This is showing the proficiency of the meditation of the noble one.

If he wants, he remains percipient of loathsomeness in the presence of what is not loathsome & what is.

The noble one can attain Four Elements Almost-Absorb-Jhana, unloathsomeness, by photographic mental seeing loathsomeness-object or unloathsomeness-object (above).

This is showing the proficiency rapidly of the meditation of the noble one.

If he wants, he remains percipient of unloathsomeness in the presence of what is loathsome & what is not.

The noble one can attain loathsomeness-Absorb-Jhana or insight meditation, loathsomeness, by photographic mental seeing loathsomeness-object or unloathsomeness-object (above).

This is showing the proficiency rapidly of the meditation of the noble one.

If he wants—in the presence of what is loathsome & what is not—cutting himself off from both, he remains equanimous, alert, & mindful.

Or he may enter & remain in the beautiful liberation.

This is showing the proficiency rapidly of all above meditations of the noble one. They can close all sense-doors, protecting doors from unwholesome mind moment, by focus their wholesome mind moment on the meditation-objects until attain Jhana.

See DN10 SubhaSutta and MN 119 Kāyagatāsatisutta for some detail.

There also the explanation by ven MahaSariputta in Sutta. Khu. Paṭisambhidāmaggo

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Pleasant things are unpleasant in that their changing [ripening] is unpleasant; unpleasant things are pleasant in that when they change it is pleasant.

"Pleasant feeling is pleasant in remaining, & painful in changing, friend Visakha. Painful feeling is painful in remaining & pleasant in changing. Neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling is pleasant in occurring together with knowledge, and painful in occurring without knowledge." - MN 44

'Whatever is felt comes under dukkha.' That I have stated simply in connection with the inconstancy of fabrications. That I have stated simply in connection with the nature of fabrications to end... in connection with the nature of fabrications to fall away... to fade away... to cease... in connection with the nature of fabrications to change. - SN36.11

As an example, one can remain focused on the drawbacks of sensual pleasure or one remains focused on the theme of impermance whilst remaining sensitive to pleasant feeling.

Thus in regards to any sukha feeling one would discern 'this is dukkha'.

There are many other examples but that is the gist of it. In geberal dukkha being asubha can be explained in many ways such as;

  • all seeing by the fleshy & deva eye is ugly in comparison to dhamma-eye.
  • perversion of view is seeing beauty in what is not beautiful and thus being obsessed with lowly things.
  • As judging behavior one can say 'pretty is as pretty does'. This is common usage for skillful behaviors being beautiful because they have beautiful result and are endearing.

The fleshly eye, the divine eye, and the supreme eye of wisdom—these three eyes were taught by the supreme Buddha. The birth of the fleshy eye is helpful to obtain the divine eye. The arising of the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths is obtained by the unsurpassed eye of wisdom. Whoever obtains the eye of wisdom is released from all suffering. - Iti 61

Then to Moggallana the wanderer, as he heard this Dhamma exposition, there arose the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye: Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.

Even if just this is the Dhamma, you have penetrated to the Sorrowless (asoka) State unseen, overlooked (by us) for many myriads of aeons. - Vinaya Mv 1.23.1-10

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