The Blessed,Noble,Awakened One-The Tathagata
Blinded this world — how few here see clearly! Just as birds who’ve escaped from a net are few, few are the people who make it to heaven.
Swans fly the path of the sun; those with the power fly through space; the enlightened flee from the world, having defeated the armies of Mara.
Setting at Savatthi. Then, in the morning, the bhikkhuni Sisupacala dressed… she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day’s abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One approached the bhikkhuni Sisupacala and said to her: “Whose creed do you approve of, bhikkhuni?”
“I don’t approve of anyone’s creed, friend.”
“Under whom have you shaved your head? You do appear to be a recluse, Yet you don’t approve of any creed, So why wander as if bewildered?”
“Outside here the followers of creeds Place their confidence in views. I don’t approve of their teachings; They are not skilled in the Dhamma. But there is a scion of the Sakyan clan, The Awakened One, without an equal, Conqueror of all, Mara’s subduer, Who everywhere is undefeated. Everywhere freed and unattached, The One with Vision who sees all, Who attained the end of all kamma, Released in the extinction of acquisitions: That Blessed One is my Teacher; His is the teaching I approve.”
Then Mara the Evil One, realizing, “The bhikkhuni Sisupacala knows me,” sad and disappointed, disappeared right there.
Doctrine-True Practice of The Path Shown by The Blessed,Noble,Awakened One-The Tathagata
When our practice of Samatha arrives at calm, the mind will be clear and bright. The activity of mind will become less and less. The various mental impressions which arise will be fewer. When this happens great peace and happiness will arise, but we may attach to that happiness. We should contemplate that happiness as uncertain. We should also contemplate unhappiness as uncertain and impermanent. We’ll understand that all the various feelings are not lasting and not to be clung to. We see things in this way because there’s wisdom. We’ll understand that things are this way according to their nature.
If we have this kind of understanding it’s like taking hold of one strand of a rope which makes up a knot. If we pull it in the right direction, the knot will loosen and begin to untangle. It’ll no longer be so tight or so tense. This is similar to understanding that it doesn’t always have to be this way. Before, we felt that things would always be the way they were and, in so doing, we pulled the knot tighter and tighter. This tightness is suffering. Living that way is very tense. So we loosen the knot a little and relax. Why do we loosen it? Because it’s tight! If we don’t cling to it then we can loosen it. It’s not a permanent condition that must always be that way.
We use the Teaching of Impermanence as our basis. We see that both happiness and unhappiness are not permanent. We see them as not dependable. There is absolutely nothing that’s permanent. With this kind of understanding we gradually stop believing in the various moods and feelings which come up in the mind. Wrong understanding will decrease to the same degree that we stop believing in it. This is what is meant by undoing the knot. It continues to become looser. Attachment will be gradually unrooted.
Spiritual Community of The Followers of The Path Shown by The Blessed,Noble,Awakened One-The Tathagata
Until the late 19th century, the teachings of Theravada were little known outside of southern Asia, where they had flourished for some two and one-half millennia. In the past century, however, the West has begun to take notice of Theravada’s unique spiritual legacy in its teachings of Awakening. In recent decades this interest has swelled, with the monastic Sangha from various schools within Theravada establishing dozens of monasteries across Europe and North America. Increasing numbers of lay meditation centers, founded and operated independently of the monastic Sangha, strain to meet the demands of lay men and women — Buddhist and otherwise — seeking to learn selected aspects of the Buddha’s teachings.
The turn of the 21st century presents both opportunities and dangers for Theravada in the West: Will the Buddha’s teachings be patiently studied and put into practice, and allowed to establish deep roots in Western soil, for the benefit of many generations to come? Will the current popular Western climate of “openness” and cross-fertilization between spiritual traditions lead to the emergence of a strong new form of Buddhist practice unique to the modern era, or will it simply lead to confusion and the dilution of these priceless teachings? These are open questions; only time will tell.
Spiritual teachings of every description inundate the media and the marketplace today. Many of today’s popular spiritual teachings borrow liberally from the Buddha, though only rarely do they place the Buddha’s words in their true context. Earnest seekers of truth are therefore often faced with the unsavory task of wading through fragmentary teachings of dubious accuracy. How are we to make sense of it all?
Fortunately the Buddha left us with some simple guidelines to help us navigate through this bewildering flood. Whenever you find yourself questioning the authenticity of a particular teaching, heed well the Buddha’s advice to his stepmother:
[The teachings that promote] the qualities of which you may know, ‘These qualities lead to passion, not to dispassion; to being fettered, not to being unfettered; to accumulating, not to shedding; to self-aggrandizement, not to modesty; to discontent, not to contentment; to entanglement, not to seclusion; to laziness, not to aroused persistence; to being burdensome, not to being unburdensome’: You may definitely hold, ‘This is not the Dhamma, this is not the Vinaya, this is not the Teacher’s instruction.’
[As for the teachings that promote] the qualities of which you may know, ‘These qualities lead to dispassion, not to passion; to being unfettered, not to being fettered; to shedding, not to accumulating; to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to entanglement; to aroused persistence, not to laziness; to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome’: You may definitely hold, ‘This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher’s instruction.’
The truest test of these teachings, of course, is whether they yield the promised results in the crucible of your own heart. The Buddha presents the challenge; the rest is up to you.
1. Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction (fifth edition) by R.H. Robinson, W.L. Johnson, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 2005), p. 46.
2. This estimate is based on data appearing in CIA World Factbook 2004. South Asia’s largest Theravada Buddhist populations are found in Thailand (61 million Theravadans), Myanmar (38 million), Sri Lanka (13 million), and Cambodia (12 million).
3.Buddhist Religions, p. 46.
4. Mahayana today includes Zen, Ch’an, Nichiren, Tendai, and Pure Land Buddhism.
5.Guide Through The Abhidhamma Pitaka by Nyanatiloka Mahathera (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1971), pp. 60ff.
6. A third major branch of Buddhism emerged much later (ca. 8th century CE) in India:Vajrayana, the “Diamond Vehicle.” Vajrayana’s elaborate system of esoteric initiations, tantric rituals, and mantra recitations eventually spread north into central and east Asia, leaving a particularly strong imprint on Tibetan Buddhism. See Buddhist Religions, pp. 124ff. and chapter 11.
7. Modern scholarship suggests that Pali was probably never spoken by the Buddha himself. In the centuries after the Buddha’s death, as Buddhism spread across India into regions of different dialects, Buddhist monks increasingly depended on a common tongue for their Dhamma discussions and recitations of memorized texts. It was out of this necessity that the language we now know as Pali emerged. See Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Introduction in Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 1999), pp. 1ff, and n. 1 (p. 275) and “The Pali Language and Literature” by the Pali Text Society (» http://www.palitext.com/subpages/lan_lite.htm; 15 April 2002).
8. Great Disciples of the Buddha by Nyanaponika Thera and Hellmuth Hecker (Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 1997), pp. 140, 150.
9. Buddhist Religions, p. 48.
10. The Hindu Vedas, for example, predate the Buddha by at least a millennium (Buddhist Religions, p. 2).
11. Buddhist Religions, p. 77.
12. Anandajoti Bhikkhu, personal communication.
14. This description of the unified role of samatha and vipassana is based upon the Buddha’s meditation teachings as presented in the suttas (see “One Tool Among Many” by Thanissaro Bhikkhu). The Abhidhamma and the Commentaries, by contrast, state that samatha and vipassana are two distinct meditation paths (see, for example, The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation by H. Gunaratana, ch. 5). It is difficult to reconcile these two views just from studying the texts; any remaining doubts and concerns about the roles of samatha and vipassana are best resolved through the actual practice of meditation.