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Question and Answers


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Questionnaire No 11 and Answers of First Year Diploma Course


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Q.1      With the delivery of the Saranath sermon the ascetic Kondanna entered into the first stage of supermundane path leading to awakenment. Describe the whole process, i.e., what exactly happened after he became a Sotapanna?


At the Deer Park at Baranasi, the Buddha met the five ascetics, Kondanna, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama and Assaji all of whom He had known before. He delivered His first sermon to them. It is called the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta which sets the wheel of the Dhamma in motion. The ascetic Kondanna who was at His childhood Name-giving Ceremony became the first to see light in the Dhamma and attained Sotapanna, the first stage of Sainthood.


Q.2.     What is the meaning of the term Ariya? What does it signify in Buddhism? Is it a social or a philosophical term in Buddhism? What is the difference between the two terms?


Ariya,            Noble:  1. The Sublime Path of the Hole life
                          2. Ariya atthaangika magga, The Noble
Eightfold Path

The theme of this issue of Bodhi Journal is ‘Social Functions of Buddhism’or ‘Social Philosophy of Buddhism’  which should captivate the interest of the lay Buddhists or householders of Buddhist faith and even adherents of other religious faiths. About 2,500 years ago, Gotama Buddha did not preach only to the devas in the heavenly worlds but also expounded the Saddharma to the terrestrial disciples or devotes comprising the monks, nuns, Brahmin intelligentsia, householders and other categories of audience. Besides expounding serious doctrinal point on soteriology pertaining to nibbānic or nirvānic emancipation (vimutti), the Exalted One also promulgated doctrines related to the ethical or righteous expedient devices in earning, expansion and management of  economic or material wealth for the householders or lay people. Vyagghapajja-sutta (AN), Sigālovāda-sutta (D.N), Mangala-sutta (Sn), Dhaṃmika-sutta (A.N), Parābhava-sutta(Sn) and Vasala-sutta (Sn) are some of the important discourses of Gotama Buddha on the doctrinal issues on economic or material wealth and personal development in the present and next life. The targeted audience were householders.  The Exalted One admonishes us  to emphasize  present development or success in this world (diṭṭha-dhamma-sukha) and also the importance of success or  happiness in the next world (saṃparāyika sukha). Material and spiritual development must be in equilibrium to ensure incessant bliss.

The second formulated item of the Four Noble Truths (cattāri ariya-saccaṃ), which states that ‘Desire’ (to be more exact, Craving)  is the cause of suffering, has been misinterpreted widely.  This negligent misinterpretation seriously mispresents the authentic Word of Gotama Buddha. Such interpretation seems to affirm that all forms of desires are the causes of human suffering, anguish, vexation or predicament.  But in actual fact, not all forms of desire are the causes of suffering or vexation (dukkha). Gotama Buddha never rejects or denies all forms of desire in human beings. Without desire, the six sense faculties or organs are extinct; the human personality ceases functioning normally. The Exalted One rejects only craving (tanhā) which is selfish desire motivated by the superimposition of false self-identity in the five aggregates(pañcakkhandhas)  which constitute the human personality (nāmarūpa). The Buddha principally advocates selfless desire (chanda) not motivated by the superimposition of false self-identity or ego. The worldlings are selfish and egoistic whilst the wise are selfless and egoless.

Q.3.     Describe when did the Buddha Ratana, Dhamma Ratana and Sangha Ratana arose. What is the significance of the term Ratana in this context, i.e., why are Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha called Treasure Gems?


Three Jewels

The Three Jewels, also called the Three Treasures, the Three Refuges, or the Triple Gem, are the three things that Buddhists give themselves to, and in return look toward for guidance, in the process known as taking refuge.

The Three Jewels are:

Threejewels.svg(SVG file, nominally 380 × 358 pixels, file size: 115 KB)

  • Buddha (The Awakened or Awakened One; Chn: 佛, , Jpn: Butsu, Tib: sangs-rgyas, Mong: burqan), who, depending on one’s interpretation, can mean the Historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, or the Buddha nature or ideal within all beings;
  • Dhamma (The Teaching; Chn: 法, , Jpn: , Tib: chos, Mong: nom), which is the Teachings of the Buddha.
  • Sangha (The Community; Chn: 僧, Sēng, Jpn: , Tib: dge-’dun, Mong: quvaraɣ), The Community of those great people who have attained Enlightenment. so that those people(Sangha) will help you to attain Enlightenment.[1]


Q.4.     What is the nature of awakenment? Describe.

yo ca pubbe pamajjitva paccha so na ppamajjati

so imaj lokaj pabhaseti abbha mutto va candima

(DhP 172)

Sentence Translation:

Who has been formerly negligent, but later is not,
illuminates this world like a moon freed from cloud.

Bodhi is the Pāli and Sanskrit word for the “awakened” or “knowing” consciousness of a fully liberated yogi, generally translated into English as “awakenment”. It is an abstract noun formed from the verbal root budh (to awake, become aware, notice, know or understand), corresponding to the verbs bujjhati (Pāli) and bodhati or budhyate (Sanskrit). The term Bodhi is mostly used in Buddhist context.

In Early Buddhism, Bodhi carries a meaning synonimous to Nibbana, using only some different metaphors to describe the experience, which implied the extinction of raga (greed), dosa (hate) and moha (delusion). In the later school of Mahayana Buddhism, the status of nirvana was downgraded, coming to refer only to the extinction of greed and hate, implying that delusion was still present in one who attained Nirvana, and that one needed to attain Bodhi to eradicate delusion[1]. The result is that according to Mahayana Buddhism, the Arahant attains only Nirvana, thus still being subject to delusion, while the Bodhisattva attains Bodhi. In Theravada Buddhism, Bodhi and Nirvana carry the same meaning, that of being freed from craving, hate and delusion.

Q.5.     What happened when all the five ascetics became Ariyas? Describe how they attained perfection inn terms of fetters.



In the personality of every common worldling or putthujano, moral defilements or human passions kilesæs, such as, greed which have a tendency to attachment, are in abundance. These kilesæs have a craving for senses arising out of the six sense-doors, such as the sense of a beautiful sight and so on. Of all these cravings while attachment occurs in respect of all what are pleasant and agreeable, attachment to atta as a ‘living entity’ or ‘Self’ is not only basically fundamental but also most difficult to be discarded. It can neither be got rid of by one’s own ordinary effort or perseverence nor dispelled by others through normal strength or exertion.

Pacceka-Buddhas were capable of extirpating their own feelings of attachment to ‘Self’ by means of adequate and deligent efforts with their will power without anyone’s aid. However, they have no ability to eradicate the attachment to atta that clings others. To be able to wipe out the feeling of attachment to atta that lies close to the heart of others, one must have the real aptitude and knowledge to preach and convince others the essence and noble qualities of the Four Noble Truths. Pacceka-Buddhas have no such adequate knowledge of high intellect to teach others. That is the reason why they are destined to become a single Pacceka-Buddha without any disciples. A Pacceka-Buddha therefore enters Nibbæna singly. He is not omniscient and does not preach the Dhamma to mankind.


Supreme Buddhas, the Omniscients, are endowed with better intellect than Pacceka-Buddhas. The Supreme Buddhas truly realized the Four Noble Truths on their own initiative. They could also preach and teach others to understand clearly the Dhamma relating to the Four Noble Truths. That is why they became Supreme Buddhas, the fully Enlightened Ones. Therefore, the Lord Buddha was able to deliver to the First Sermon concerning the Four Noble Truths to the five ascetics who were present along with all Celestial Beings, such as, Devas and Brahmæs. The sermon is the Great Discourse on the “Setting in Motion the Wheel of Dhamma or Righteousness”, popularly known as Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. This Grate Discourse was the first Dhamma delivered by the Blessed One on the eve of Saturday night of the full moon of Wæso, exactly two months after His attainment of the Superme Enlightenment. At the close of this Great First Sermon, Ashin Kondñña, the leader of the five ascetics first became an Ariya Sotæpana. Having reached the stage of Sotæpana he has got rid of all sceptical doubts about the truth of the Dhamma and of the misconception of Sakkæya “Self” or a living entity. Nevertheless, self-pride still lingers on in his mind assuming that everything could be achieved if done or said or imagined according to his own sweet will. The rest four ascetics had not yet then realized the Special Dhamma “the awakening of higher consciousness.”


The sermon on Dhammacakka Sutta came to an end in the first Watch of the night on that Full Moon Day. In the middle Watch of that Saturday night, Sætægiri and hemævata Devas accompanied by their one thousand warrior attendants approached the Blessed One, paid their obeisance to Him and respectfully posed ten questions. The Lord had to preach them the Hemævata Sutta. At the end of this sermon, the dawn of enlightenment came upon them and they became Sotæpannas. Having achieved such an attainment, they were able to eliminate their clinging attachment to Atta which had beset them all throughout the whirlpool stream of past existences (Saµsaræ).


As self-pride or personal ego still had its grip on Ashin Kondañña; and as Ashin Vappa and the other three of the group of five Bhikkhus had not yet even obtained the ‘pure and spotless Dhamma eye’, the Blessed One went on preaching and urged them to contemplate and note on the lines of Vipassanæ Dhamma. They all eventually reached the stage of Sotæpanna which had caused the removal of their attachment to atta after serious meditation with diligence. Ashin Vappa gained progressive insight on the first waning day of Waso, Ashin Bhaddiya on the second day, Shin Mahænam on the third day and Shin Asaji on the fourth day.


The Lord Buddha then summoned the whole group of five Bhikkhus who had already gained Sotæpanna, and preached them His Second Sermon setting forth the famous Anatta Doctrine. It was on Thursday, the 5th. Waning Day of Wæso. Having heard this Anattalakkha¼a Sutta, all five Bhikkhus attained Arahatship by virtue of which they were entirely free from human passions including mæna, self-pride. Anattalakkha¼a Sutta as its name implies clearly expounded the “Non-self” Anatta Doctrine as against the heretical or false views of “Self”, with full explanations in a critical way.


The Discourse on Anattalakkha¼a is not a lengthy piece. For instance, in the original book published by the Sixth Buddhist Council, it covered only one page. In that Sutta there was no mention of method of meditation exercise and of the manner as to how contemplation and noting should be carried on. Preaching was done there-in only in respect of the nature of Dhamma. Hence, to those who have not acquainted themselves with the method of Vipassanæ exercise, it would be difficult to practise according to the right method of meditation to be able to reflect personally and appreciate the reality of Anatta as envisaged in that Sutta. It had been possible for the five ascetics to see the true light of the Anatta doctrine only because the sermon was delivered by the Lord Buddha himself and because they-the listening audience-happened to be the five ascetics of keen intellect. These five had not only been equipped with mature experience since the time of the preaching of the Dhammacakka Sutta but also had reached the stage of Sotæpanna. That is the reason for their speedy attainment of Arahatship after making progressive strides towards realization of the awakening higher consciousness of Dhamma.


During the life time of Lord Buddha people with great intellect who possessed adequate and mature paramitas (perfections) just like the five ascetics, had achieved magga-phala while listening to the sermon delivered by the Blessed One. Of course, such an achievement was gained not without deligently practising Vipassanæ contemplation and noting. The special Dhamma was attained only because they had been able to devote themselves to serious meditation with deep concentration and accelerated contemplation and noting with such a speed so that it would appear as if they had not absorbed themselves in contemplation and noting with intent. Only a few who had good knowledge of adequate past perfections were capable of doing so. A good many could not possibly contemplate and note with great speed. Despite this fact, there are some idlers who will knowingly say: “If one understands the nature of anatta from the preaching made by the other, it is not necessary to practise; and one could achieve magga-phala by merely listening to preaching” with wishful thinking placing themselves on the plane of Ariya which they aspire to reach. Such concept having been entertained by the class of lazy-bones, the number of people who have so become self-made Ariyas after just listening to the sermon, will not be few. The kind of knowledge of Anatta Dhamma known by those who by merely listening to the sermon without practising Vipassanæ meditation and doing contemplation and noting, is not a true personal realization but mere book-knowledge only. If magga-phala ñæ¼a can be realized in the manner as stated, almost every Buddhist who knows what is Anatta doctrine, may be considered to have become an Arahat. However, as such people have not been found to be endowed with the real attributes of an holy Arahat, it is obvious that they are not the real Arahats. Referring to such improper and wrongful acts, the Venerable Mahæsø Sayædaw has given precise and clear instructions in this great Anattalakkaha¼a Sutta to put these people on the right path.


The Anattalakkaha¼a Sutta preached by the Load Buddha being the desanæ describing the nature and characteristics of anatta does not imbibe the method of meditation with emphasis on contemplation and noting, the bhævanæ. This present book on Anattalakkaha¼a Sutta Dhamma however contains the full exposition of the method of contemplating and noting, and explains in detail how Anatta is reflected leading to the attainment of Nibbæna through magga-phala. It has not been so preached just wishfully without reference to the scriptural texts. Neither has it been preached prompting others to meditate without having had any personal experience in the practical exercise of Vipassanæ. This has been expounded and preached to the congregation after acquiring personal experience and knowledge in meditational practice under the methodical instructions of the competent teacher and after consultations being made referring to various relevant Pæ¹i Scriptures and Commentaries.

At the time when delivering his sermon to the listening audience, the Venerable Sayædawpa-yagyø had fully elaborated with his deep compassion, on the brief account of Anattalakkaha¼a Sutta preached by the Lord Buddha. This Sutta, when produced in type-written copy, was a lengthy piece comprising 420 pages in all because it was truthfully taken without omitting a word or phrase from the tape recorded originally by U Thein Han, retired Judge.U Thein Han had put up type-written copy to the Venerable Sayædawpayagyø to seek permission for printing and publication in a book from for the benefit of those who have not heard of this Sermon. The Sayædawpayagyø gave his kind permission to print and publish this Sutta only after summarising this long Sutta into a compendium having 152 pages instead of 429 pages, lest the book should become too bulky in view of the shortage of printing paper.


Indeed, the Venerable Sayædawpayagyø is an adept in amplifying what is concise and in shortening what is lengthy. He has not only abbreviated the lengthy version of the Anattalakkaha¼a Sutta and the “method of vipassanæ meditation”, but also the Dhammacakka Sutta Dhamma at the time of his preaching. In doing so he is capable of making them comprehensible to all those who might prefer to read or hear the Dhamma irrespective of whether it is in a concise or an unabbreviated form. This serves as a boon to all concerned.


Whenever he preaches or writes, the Venerable Sayædaw Payagyø lays more emphasis on the essence and true meaning rather than on the principles of grammer. Despite the fact that some Nissaya Sayædaw might have mentioned “Bærænasiyam”, as “At Benares” putting more stress on the grammatical sense-though it may not be regarded as incorrect the Venerable Mahæsø Sayædaw has described is as “in the neighbourhood of Benares”, in as much as Buddha had temporarily resided in Migadævum forest near the City of Benares (or rather in the province of Benares). And also in order to fall in line with the factual truth without, of course, causing deviation from the viewpoint of the grammer. In the same manner in his “Mahæ Satipatthæna Sutta New Nissaya”, he had mentioned about “Kurusu” as “the Country of Kurþ”.


Although significance is said to have been given to nature, the Venerable Sayædaw Payagyø is not used to describing the meaning aloof from the point of grammer which he never fails to attach its importance. In other words, he treats grammer as it deserves giving it the role of its own significance. More than that paramount importance is given to the natural sense in giving interpretation. Hence, in his interpretation of the meaning he does not strictly follow the traditional method; and also when sitting is done, he sticks to the truth of the meaning once he has found it accurate and then expresses his candid opinion in writing, accordingly. This is clearly evident from his writings and expressions given in the first Volume of the “Method of Practising Vipassanæ Meditation” in the chapter relating to “Søla” (moral conduct) at pages 13 to 23. In that chapter though some of the ancient texts had stated as amounting to “repaying the debt” when referring to the use of four main requisites needed for a monk, namely, dwelling-place (monastery), robes, food and medicine, he had refuted the said statement as being erroneous citing concrete examples in support. Moreover, in this Anattalakkha¼a Sutta Dhamma at page 10 of the Myanmar version, he had expressed his opinion as follows:

In this regard, the teachers of the old days had explained the meaning of the word ‘Abædaya’ as ‘pain’ in Myanmar. This explanation appears wrong from the point of view of grammer and of its intrinsic meaning. The reason being, the word ‘Abædaya’ with the syllable ‘a’ prefixed to it, cannot be interpreted and spoken as ‘pain’. It only conveys the meaning as ‘ill-treating’. The meaning ‘injury’ for the word ‘æbæda’ has therefore been rendered in accordance with the Myanmar terminology currently in use. It is so interpreted not because it has been preached as ‘likely to cause pain’. As such, the meaning referring to the word ‘æbædæya’ as ‘pain’ is regarded as unrealistic particulary because it is not only contrary to the innate meaning of ‘bæda’ which conveys the meaning of ‘ill-treating’, but also go out of tune with the principles of grammer. Furthermore, the material body or the rþpa as well as saññæ, Sa³khæra and viññæ¼a, do not have the characteristic of ‘pain’, etc., etc.


The Dhamma relating to Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta is in fact, very familiar to all Buddhists who get it by heart, and is often at the tip of their tongue. Whenever any accident happens, such interjections are used to be casually muttered by a person all of a sudden invoking his mindfulness of the Dhamma. Such being the case, it might be considered as the Dhamma which is generally known and understood. Undoubtedly, referring to this statement, the Dhamma has been known through hearsay or book knowledge; but in reality it is a difficult Dhamma to be truthfully grasped though seemingly easy. Among these, the Dhamma on “Anatta” is more difficult and profound. For this reason, the Blessed One had to face very serious opposition from such persons as Saccaka Paribbæjako (wandering religious mendicant) and Baka Brahmæ who entertained the diametrically opposite view of Atta.

Prior to the preachings made by the Buddha, this Anatta Dhamma not being clearly understood, was considered as closely related to Atta connected with rþpa and næma. As against the wrong belief in Atta in respect of rþpa and næma, the Lord Buddha had elucidated these two-the physical and mental phenomena-as truly “Anatta”. It is most difficult to preach this Dhamma convincingly to show that it is “Anatta” in reality, to make these persons realize the truth, since Atta has been firmly rooted in them throughout the samsaræ, the round of existence. If this Anatta Dhamma could be easily known without difficulty, there would be even no need for the appearence of a Buddha, the Enlightened One. Nor would it be required for the Buddha’s disciples like the venerable Mahæsø Sayædaw to preach and write this kind of Anattalakkha¼a Sutta with great pains. The relentless efforts that have to be made to elucidate this Dhamma evidently stand witness to the quality of this deeply profound doctrine. Even among the heretics, exceptionally few persons really understand what is “Self” or “Atta” far less “Anatta Dhamma”. The “Thanks-Worthy” Venerable Mahæsø Sayædaw has lucidly explained the Anatta Doctrine in this Anattalakkha¼a Sutta to make those persons who entertain a wrong conception of this Dhamma to be able to tread on the right track.


The believers in Paramattha who care more for Abhidhammæ, the Paramattha desanæ, are generally inclined to look upon sutta-desanæ with underestimation. They generally assume it to be quite easy too. As all Buddha’s desanæs or teachings were preached with Superme Wisdom after Enlightenment, it might not be within easy comprehension by common worldlings with ordinary knowledge. If both the nature of common usage and Abhidhammæ become involved in Anattalakkha¼a Sutta, the exponents of Paramattha may have to give up not knowing distinguishingly the source from which the terminology is derived wavering whether the derivation is from Abhidhammæ or from Sutta Dhamma.

Abhidhammæ Desanæ has stated that there is no sensation of suffering (dukkha) and of pleasure (sukha) at the moment of seeing, hearing, and knowing the taste, and that only the neutral sensation (upekkhæ) is present. However, according to Sutta Desanæ, all sensations arising out of the six sense-doors at the moment of seeing, hearing, etc, should be contemplated and noted in respect of all three Vedanæs, viz; whether pleasurable (sukha), or suffering and unpleasantness (dukkha), or neutral feeling. When such a controversial view arises, it is extremely difficult to draw a line and form an opinion so as not to contradict the expression contained in both Abhidhammæ and Sutta, Such difficulties may arise in Sutta desanæ which the Paramattha believers hold in low estimation. This sort of difficulty has been found to have been competently dealt with by the Venerable Mahæsø Sayædaw Payagyø in the Anattalakkha¼a Sutta Dhamma at page 34 (of the Myanmar version) reconciling the two divergent views without any contradiction.


Because of the numerous display of common usages, the Sutta Desanæ has been given the name of Desanæ of Common Usages, by the people of the present day Sæsanæ. To make this Desanæ of Common Usage to be understood methodically various texts of grammer have been compiled. Considering this fact, it can be clearly known that the usage of common terminology is not at all easy. Pakokku Aletaik sayædaw U Paññæ in the course of his explanation given in connection with the subject of grammer while teaching the famous Tøkæ, had once stated, “One can be fairly conversant with Abhidhammæ in three years time of his constant study whereas he cannot possibly become a competent grammarian though he may have seriously devoted himself to the study of grammatical texts for ten years in succession.” The common terminology used relating to grammer is merely derived and adopted from the vocal sound commonly spoken by people of different races whose languages may be quite different from one another depending upon the places where they reside. Dialectic differences may also occur according to times and hence, the common usages may vary or alter as time goes on gradually. Therefore, Texts such as, Vohæra Døpanø have to be published.

To the extent the Vohæra or the commonly used grammatical terms is difficult, the Vohæra desanæ which is Suttam desanæ is extremely difficult. Now that over 2500 years have elapsed since the Dhamma have been personally preached by the Buddha Himself, and it has been ages ago. As such, in some of the expressions, the Pæ¹i usages and Myanmar usages have become different from one another in vocabulary, grammer and synthesis. As an example, in Dighanakha Sutta called “Sabbam me nakhamati” (ma-2-165), an expression of Pæ¹i sentence as spoken by Diganakha Paribbajako to the Lord Buddha, may be cited. This Pæ¹i statement is quite different from the common usage and the word “Sabbam” in Pæ¹i, the subject, has become an object in Myanmar language while the word ‘me’ has become a subject in the grammatical sense. Despite all these differences and discrepancies, the Venerable Mahæsø Sayædaw has been able to explain the usages in explicit terms in this Anattalakkha¼a Sutta Dhamma.


It was at the time when I first arrived at Wetlet Masoyein Monastery. The Venerable “Shwezedi” Sayædaw Payagyø was then at Wetlet town where he had visited to deliver a sermon. While conversing with Sayædawgyø, I happened to ask him; “Were there such a thing as uccheda, the doctrine of extinction of existence after death, and Nibbæna, which has a special feature; and whether these two might be construed as being the same?”. To this query the Sayædaw Payagyø replied, “Of course, there is Nibbæna has its own quality and attributes. How could it be without any speciality?” As the conversation had ended abruptly. I have no chance of following up with a question as: “What is the kind of its special characteristic?” The Sayædaw Payagyø might have forgotten this insignificant episode. However, when I was reading through this Anattalakkha¼a Sutta, I happened to recollect the said old-time conversation as I came upon the special explanation relating to Uccheda, the belief that there is no future existence and Nibbæna. In this Anattalakkha¼a Sutta Dhamma at pages 56 of Myanmar version, clarification has been made by the Sayædaw Payagyø elucidating the distinguishing features between Ucchedadi¥¥hi, a wrong belief that nothing remains after death and the existence of a being is completely annihilated, and Nibbæna which has the peculiar characteristics quite different from Uccheda. The believers of this false belief have erroneously thought that the annihilation of existance and Nibbæna are the same. This concept is entirely wrong. The two are, in fact, entirely different.


There is something which ought to be known regarding Ucchedadi¥¥hi. About the year 1333 M.E, I managed to convene a congregation for preaching sermons on Satipatthæna Dhamma after inviting the Mahæsø Dhammakatthikas U Samvara and U Zawtika to enable my relatives and friends of my own native village to have the benefit of hearing the sermon. I had arranged for delivering a sermon at Inchaung village where many of my relatives were then residing. At this congregation, one Maung Kyi was present among the listening audience. This man being a leader of the Red Flag Communist Party, was a staunch believer in the doctrine of no new life after the present life existence. It seemed that he had come over to join the congregation sponsored by me out of sheer courtesy as he happened to be one of my relatives. U Samvara and the other preacher had delivered their sermons bearing in mind the mental attitude of that person. Since, the preaching made having had some sort of bearing on him, the listening audience comprising the village folks were apparently interested. As this man was asked to assume the role of a stand-by supporter at the time of delivering the Dhamma, there was no wonder that people got interested knowing him well as a person who had held a wrong belief in “No future existence”. The next day, early in the morning, Maung Kyi appeared at the house where I was invited for a meal offered by a donor, an alms-giver. On the said occasion. Maung Kyi told me “Reverend Sir, I accepted the point of Dhamma touched upon by U Samvara on the previous night, but please do not take it amiss that I have become a convert a believer in the doctrine of Næma. Since you all Buddhists have believed in the next existances, you are performing meritorious deeds with all your cravings for existence. On our part, not having entertained such a belief, we have no craving whatsoever for existence. We have extinguished all such clinging attachment to existence. “Then, I was perforce to remark as “This would depend on one’s own view. According to Buddha Sæsanæ, desire to cling to existence will only cause or be rooted out when one becomes an Arahat. Without being actually devoid of craving instincts for existence if one takes it for granted that existence completely annihilated after demise, he will go down to Niraya, the Nether World, in the next existence after passing away from this life existence with this false belief of Uccheda stuck in his mind on the eve of his death, and with this consciousness, he would die. This is exactly in accordance with what the Lord Buddha has preached”.

Although Maung Kyi had severed his ties with his “life existence”, his wife not being able to do so, started making preparations for novitiating her grown-up children into priesthood. Plunged in his bigotry Maung Kyi then said to his wife, “You need not do anything in my favour for my next existence. If you prefer to perform the pabbajja mingalæ (ordination) by novitiating the children into priesthood, you may do so on your own. Only when the embryo sæma¼era is to be escorted to the monastery, I cannot possibly take the role of a benefactor by carrying the big begging bowl and the fan”. In retaliation to this statement made by Maung Kyi, his wife respond “Without the benefactor (donor), I cannot lead the would-be sæma¼era. If you cannot act as a donor (benefactor), I will invariably have to get another benefactor on hire and carry on with the performance of the necessary religious rites”. Having heard this retort, Maung Kyi, the great Believer of Uccheda Doctrine became very much perturbed and fidgety, and not being able to tolerate or connive at the presence of a hired benefactor in his place, he was said to have been put in a dilemma. I have heard of this incident from the lay devotees of the village.

I am fully confident that going through this great Anattalakkha¼a Sutta Dhamma, will add to enhance the treasures of faith and bring about much benefit to all reading public as had been similarly derived by them after they had read other Dhammas preached by the illustrious Mahæsø Sayædaw Payagyø.


Q.6.     What is the meaning of the term Arahat? Why is he called the perfect one.


n. Buddhism.

One who has attained awakenment.

He is called the perfect one for the following words of The Buddha

Right Understanding (Sammaa-di.t.thi)


What, now, is Right Understanding?


Understanding The Four Truths

1. To understand suffering; 2. to understand the origin of suffering; 3. to understand the extinction of suffering; 4. to understand the path that leads to the extinction of suffering. This is called Right Understanding.


Understanding Merit And Demerit

M. 9

Again, when the noble disciple understands what is karmically wholesome, and the root of wholesome karma, what is karmically unwholesome, and the root of unwholesome karma, then he has Right Understanding.

What, now is `karmically unwholesome’ (akusala)?



Destruction of living beings is karmically unwholesome

Bodily Action


Stealing is karmically unwholesome


Unlawful sexual intercourse is karmically unwholesome


Lying is karmically unwholesome

Verbal Action


Tale-bearing is karmically unwholesome


Harsh language is karmically unwholesome


Frivolous talk is karmically unwholesome


Covetousness is karmically unwholesome

Mental Action


Ill-will is karmically unwholesome


Wrong views are karmically unwholesome.

These ten are called `Evil Courses of Action’ (akusala-kammapatha).

And what are the roots of unwholesome karma? Greed (lobha) is a root of unwholesome karma; Hatred (dosa) is a root of unwholesome karma; Delusion (moha) is a root of unwholesome karma.

Therefore, I say, these demeritorious actions are of three kinds: either due to greed, or due to hatred, or due to delusion.

As `karmically unwholesome’ (a-kusala) is considered every volitional act of body, speech, or mind, which is rooted in greed, hatred, or delusion. It is regarded as akusala, i.e. unwholesome or unskillful, as it produces evil and painful results in this or some future existence. The state of will or volition is really that which counts as action (kamma). It may manifest itself as action of the body, or speech; if it does not manifest itself outwardly, it is counted as mental action.

The state of greed (lobha), as also that of hatred (dosa), is always accompanied by ignorance (or delusion; moha), this latter being the primary root of all evil. Greed and hatred, however, cannot co-exist in one and the same moment of consciousness.

What, now, is `kammically wholesome’ (kusala)?


To abstain from killing is kammically wholesome

Bodily Action


To abstain from stealing is kammically wholesome


To abstain from unlawful sexual intercourse is kammically wholesome


To abstain from lying is kammically wholesome

Verbal Action


To abstain from tale-bearing is kammically wholesome


To abstain from harsh language is karmmically wholesome


To abstain from frivolous talk is kammically wholesome


Absence of covetousness is kammically wholesome

Mental Action


Absence of ill-will is kammically wholesome


Right understanding is kammically wholesome

These ten are called `Good Courses of Action’ (kusala-kamma-patha).

And what are the roots of wholesome kamma? Absence of greed (a-lobha = unselfishness) is a root of wholesome karma; absence of hatred (a-dosa = kindness) is a root of wholesome karma; absence of delusion (a-moha = wisdom) is a root of wholesome karma.


Understanding The Three Characteristics (

SS. XXII. 51

Again, when one understands that corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness are transient (subject to suffering, and without a self), also in that case one possesses Right Understanding.


Unprofitable Questions

M. 63

Should any one say that he does not wish to lead the holy life under the Blessed One, unless the Blessed One first tells him whether the world is eternal or temporal, finite or infinite: whether the life-principle is identical with the body, or something different; whether the Perfect One continues after death, etc.-such a one would die ere the Perfect One could tell him all this.

It is as if a man were pierced by a poisoned arrow and his friends, companions or near relations should send for a surgeon; but that man should say: `I will not have this arrow pulled out, until I know, who the man is that has wounded me: whether he is a noble man, a priest, a tradesman, or a servant’; or: `what his name is, and to what family he belongs’; or: `whether he is tall, or short, or of medium height’. Truly, such a man would die ere he could adequately learn all this.


Snp. 592

Therefore, the man who seeks his own welfare, should pull out this arrow-this arrow of lamentation, pain, and sorrow.


M. 63

For, whether the theory exists, or whether it does not exist, that the world is eternal, or temporal, or finite or infinite-yet certainly, there exists birth, there exists decay, there exist death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the extinction of which, attainable even in this present life, I make known unto you.


Five Fetters (Sa.myojana)

M. 64

Suppose for instance, that there is an unlearned worldling, void of regard for holy men, ignorant of the teaching of holy men, untrained in the noble doctrine. And his heart is possessed and overcome by Self-illusion, by Scepticism, by Attachment to mere Rule and Ritual, by Sensual Lust, and by Ill-will; and how to free himself from these things, he does not in reality know.

 Self-Illusion (sakkaaya-di.t.thi) may reveal itself as:

1. `Eternalism’: bhava- or sassata-di.t.thi, lit. `Eternity-Belief’, i.e. the belief that one’s Ego, Self or Soul exists independently of the material body, and continues even after the dissolution of the latter.

2. `Annihilationism’: vibhava- or ucchcda-di.t.thi, lit. `Annihilation-Belief’, i.e. the materialistic belief that this present life constitutes the Ego, and hence that it is annihilated at the death of the material body.

For the ten `Fetters’ (samyojana),m

Unwise Considerations

M. 2

Not knowing what is worthy of consideration, and what is unworthy of consideration, he considers the unworthy, and not the worthy.

And unwisely he considers thus: `Have I been in the past? Or, have I not been in the past? What have I been in the past? How have I been in the past? From what state into what state did I change in the past?

Shall I be in the future? Or, shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? From what state into what state shall I change in the future?’

And the present also fills him with doubt; `Am I? Or, am I not? What am I? How am I? This being, whence has it come? Whither will it go?’


The Six Views About The Self

And with such unwise considerations, he adopts one or other of the six views, and it becomes his conviction and firm belief: `I have a Self’, or: `I have no Self’, or: `With the Self I perceive the Self’, or: `With that which is no Self, I perceive the Self’; or: `With the Self I perceive that which is no Self’. Or, he adopts the following view: `This my Self, which can think and feel, and which, now here, now there, experiences the fruit of good and evil deeds: this my Self is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, and will thus eternally remain the same’.


M. 22

If there really existed the Self, there would also exist something which belonged to the Self. As, however, in truth and reality neither the Self, nor anything belonging to the Self, can be found, is it not therefore really an utter fools’ doctrine to say: `This is the world, this am I; after death I shall be permanent, persisting, and eternal’?


M. 2

These are called mere views, a thicket of views, a puppet-show of views, a toil of views, a snare of views; and ensnared in the fetter of views the ignorant worldling will not be freed from rebirth, from decay, and from death, from sorrow, pain, grief and despair; he will not be freed, I say, from suffering.


Wise Considerations

The learned and noble disciple, however, who has regard for holy men, knows the teaching of holy men, is well trained in the noble doctrine; he understands what is worthy of consideration, and what is unworthy. And knowing this, he considers the worthy, and not the unworthy. What suffering is, he wisely considers; what the origin of suffering is, he wisely considers; what the extinction of suffering is, he wisely considers; what the path is that leads to the extinction of suffering, he wisely considers.


The Sotapanna or `Stream-Enterer’

And by thus considering, three fetters vanish, namely; Self-illusion, Scepticism, and Attachment to mere Rule and Ritual.


M. 22

But those disciples, in whom these three fetters have vanished, they all have `entered the Stream’ (sotaapanna).


Dhp. 178 

More than any earthly power,
More than all the joys of heaven,
More than rule o’er all the world,
Is the Entrance to the Stream.

The Ten Fetters (Sa.myojana)

There are ten `Fetters’-samyojana-by which beings are bound to the wheel of existence. They are:

  1. Self-Illusion (sakkaaya-di.t.thi)
  2. Scepticism (vicikicchaa)
  3. Attachment to mere Rule and Ritual (siilabbata-paraamaasa)
  4. Sensual Lust (kaamaraaga)
  5. Ill-Will (vyaapaada)
  6. Craving for Fine-Material Existence (ruupa-raaga)
  7. Craving for Immaterial Existence (aruupa-raaga)
  8. Conceit (maana)
  9. Restlessness (uddhacca)
  10. Ignorance (avijjaa).

The Noble Ones (Ariya-puggala)

One who is freed from the first three Fetters is called a `Stream - Enterer’ (in Pali: Sotaapanna) i.e. one who has entered the stream leading to Nibbaana. He has unshakable faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and is incapable of breaking the five Moral Precepts. He will be reborn seven times, at the utmost, and not in a state lower than the human world.

One who has overcome the fourth and the fifth Fetters in their grosser form, is called a Sakadaagaami, lit. `Once-Returner’ i.e. he will be reborn only once more in the Sensuous Sphere (kaama-loka), and thereafter reach Holiness.

An Anaagaami, lit. `Non-Returner’, is wholly freed from the first five Fetters which bind one to rebirth in the Sensuous Sphere; after death, while living in the Fine-Material Sphere (ruupa-loka), he will reach the goal.

An Arahat, i.e. the perfectly `Holy One’, is freed from all the ten Fetters.

Each of the aforementioned four stages of Holiness consists of the `Path’ (magga) and the `Fruition’, e.g. `Path of Stream Entry’ (sotaapatti-magga) and `Fruition of Stream Entry’ (sotaapatti-phala). Accordingly there are eight types, or four pairs, of `Noble Individuals’ (ariya-puggala).

The `Path’ consists of the single moment of entering the respective attainment. By `Fruition’ are meant those moments of consciousness which follow immediately thereafter as the result of the `Path’, and which under certain circumstances, may repeat innumerable times during life-time.

For further details, see B. Dict.: ariya-puggala, sotaapanna,etc.


Mundane and Supermundane Understanding

Therefore, I say, Right Understanding is of two kinds:
1. The view that alms and offerings are not useless; that there is fruit and result, both of good and bad actions; that there are such things as this life, and the next life; that father and mother, as also spontaneously born beings (in the heavenly worlds), are no mere words; that there are in the world monks and priests, who are spotless and perfect, who can explain this life and the next life, which they themselves have understood: this is called the `Mundane Right Understanding’ (lokiya-sammaa-di.t.thi), which yields worldly fruits and brings good results.
2. But whatsoever there is of wisdom, of penetration, of right understanding conjoined with the `Path’ (of the Sotaapanna, Sakadaagaami, Anaagaami, or Arahat)-the mind being turned away from the world and conjoined with the path, the holy path being pursued: this is called the `Supermundane Right Understanding’ (lokuttara-sammaa-di.t.thi), which is not of the world, but is supermundane and conjoined with the path.

Thus, there are two kinds of the Eightfold Path:

1. The `mundane’ (lokiya), practised by the `Worldling’ (puthujjana), i.e. by all those who have not yet reached the first stage of Holiness; 2. The `supermundane’ (lokuttara) practised by the `Noble Ones’ (ariya-puggala).


Conjoined With Other Steps

Now, in understanding wrong understanding as wrong and right understanding as right, one practises `Right Understanding’ (1st factor); and in making efforts to overcome wrong understanding, and to arouse right understanding, one practises `Right Effort’ (6th factor); and in overcoming wrong understanding with attentive mind, and dwelling with attentive mind in the possession of right understanding one practises `Right Mindfulness’ (7th factor). Hence, there are three things that accompany and follow upon right understanding, namely: Right Understanding, Right Effort, and Right Mindfulness.

Free from All Theories

M. 72
Now, if any one should put the question, whether I admit any theory at all, he should be answered thus: The Perfect One is free from any theory, for the Perfect One has understood what corporeality is, and how it arises and passes away. He has understood what feeling is, and how it arises and passes away. He has understood what perception is, and how it arises and passes away. He has understood what the mental formations are, and how they arise and pass away. He has understood what consciousness is, and how it arises and passes away. Therefore I say, the Perfect One has won complete deliverance through the extinction, fading-away, disappearance, rejection, and getting rid of all opinions and conjectures, of all inclination to the vain-glory of `I’ and `mine’.

The Three Characteristics

A. III. 134
Whether Perfect Ones (Buddhas) appear in the world, or whether Perfect Ones do not appear in the world, it still remains a firm condition, an immutable fact and fixed law: that all formations are impermanent (anicca), that all formations are subject to suffering (dukkha); that everything is without a Self (an-attaa).

In Pali: sabbe sankhaaraa aniccaa, sabbe sankhaaraa dukkhaa, sabbe dhammaa anattaa.

The word `sankhaaraa’ (formations) comprises here all things that are conditioned or `formed’ (sankhata-dhamma), i.e. all possible physical and mental constituents of existence. The word `dhamma’, however, has a still wider application and is all-embracing, as it comprises also the so-called Unconditioned (`unformed’, asankhata), i.e. Nibbaana.

For this reason, it would be wrong to say that all dhammas are impermanent and subject to change, for the Nibbaana-dhamma is permanent and free from change. And for the same reason, it is correct to say that not only all the sankhaaras (=sankhata-dhamma), but that all the dhammas (including the asankhata-dhamma) lack an Ego (an-attaa).

S. XXII. 94
A corporeal phenomenon, a feeling, a perception, a mental formation, a consciousness, which is permanent and persistent, eternal and not subject to change, such a thing the wise men in this world do not recognize; and I also say that there is no such thing.

A. I. 15
And it is impossible that a being possessed of right understanding should regard anything as the Self.

Views and Discussions About the Ego

D. 15
Now, if someone should say that feeling is his Self, he should be answered thus: `There are three kinds of feeling: pleasurable, painful, and indifferent feeling. Which of these three feelings do you consider as your Self?’ Because, at the moment of experiencing one of these feelings, one does not experience the other two. These three kinds of feeling are impermanent, of dependent origin, are subject to decay and dissolution, to fading-away and extinction. Whosoever, in experiencing one of these feelings, thinks that this is his Self, must after the extinction of that feeling, admit that his Self has become dissolved. And thus he will consider his Self already in this present life as impermanent, mixed up with pleasure and pain, subject to arising and passing away.

If any one should say that feeling is not his Ego, and that his Self is inaccessible to feeling, he should be asked thus: `Now, where there is no feeling, is it then possible to say: “This am I?”

Or, another might say: `Feeling, indeed, is not my Self, but it also is untrue that my Self is inaccessible to feeling, for it is my Self that feels, my Self that has the faculty of feeling’. Such a one should be answered thus: `Suppose that feeling should become altogether totally extinguished; now, if after the extinction of feeling, no feeling whatever exists there, is it then possible to say: “This am I’?”

M. 148
To say that the mind, or the mind-objects, or the mind-consciousness, constitute the Self, such an assertion is unfounded. For an arising and a passing away is seen there; and seeing the arising and passing away of these things, one would come to the conclusion that one’s Self arises and passes away.

S. XII. 62
1t would be better for the unlearned worldling to regard his body, built up of the four elements, as his Self, rather than his mind. For it is evident that the body may last for a year, for two years, for three, four, five, or ten years, or even for a hundred years and more; but that which is called thought, or mind, or consciousness, arises continuously, during day and night, as one thing, and passes away as another thing.

S. XXII. 59
Therefore, whatsoever there is of corporeality, of feeling, of perception, of mental formations, of consciousness whether past, present or future, one’s own or external, gross or subtle, lofty or low, far or near: of this one should understand according to reality and true wisdom: `This does not belong to me; this am I not; this is not my Self.’

To show the impersonality and utter emptiness of existence, Visuddhi-Magga XVI quotes the following verse:

Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found,
The deed is, but no doer of the deed is there.
Nirvaana is, but not the man that enters it.
The path is, but no traveller on it is seen’.

Past, Present and Future

D. 9
If now, any one should ask: `Have you been in the past, and is it untrue that you have not been? Will you be in the future, and is it untrue that you will not be? Are you, and is it untrue that you are not?’ - you may reply that you have been in the past, and that it is untrue that you have not been; that you will be in the future, and that it is untrue that you will not be; that you are, and that it is untrue that you are not.
In the past only that past existence was real, but unreal the future and present existence. In the future only the future existence will be real, but unreal the past and the present existence. Now only the present existence is real, but unreal, the past and future existence.

M. 28
Verily, he who perceives the `Dependent Origination’ (pa.ticca-samuppaada), perceives the truth; and he who perceives the truth, perceives the Dependent Origination.

D. 8
For just as from the cow comes milk, from milk curd, from curd butter, from butter ghee, from ghee the skim of ghee; and when it is milk, it is not counted as curd, or butter, or ghee, or skim of ghee, but only as milk; and when it is curd, it is only counted as curd: just so was my past existence at that time real, but unreal the future and present existence; and my future existence will be at that time real, but unreal the past and present existence; and my present existence is now real, but unreal the past and future existence. All these are merely popular designations and expressions, mere conventional terms of speaking, mere popular notions. The Perfect One indeed makes use of these, without however clinging to them.

Thus, he who does not understand corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness according to reality (i.e. as void of a personality, or Ego) nor understands their arising, their extinction, and the way to their extinction, he is liable to believe, either that the Perfect One continues after death, or that he does not continue after death, and so forth.

The Two Extremes (Annihilation and Eternity Belief) and the Middle Doctrine

S. XII. 25
Truly, if one holds the view that the vital principle (jiva; `Soul’) is identical with this body, in that case a holy life is not possible; and if one holds the view that the vital principle is something quite different from the body, in that case also a holy life is not possible. Both these two extremes the Perfect One has avoided, and he has shown the Middle Doctrine, which says:

Dependent Origination (Pa.ticca-samuppaada)

S. XII. 1
On Ignorance (avijjaa) depend the `Karma-formations’ (sankhaaraa).
On the Karma-formations depends `Consciousness’ (viññ; starting with rebirth-consciousness in the womb of the mother).
On Consciousness depends the `Mental and Physical Existence’ (naama-ruupa).
On the mental and physical existence depend the `Six Sense-Organs’ (sa.l-aayatana).
On the six sense-organs depends `Sensorial Impression’ (phassa).
On sensorial impression depends `Feeling’ (vedanaa).
On feeling depends `Craving’ (ta.nhaa).
On craving depends `Clinging’ (upaadaana).
On clinging depends the `Process of Becoming’ (bhava).
On the process of becoming (here: kamma-bhava, or karma-process) depends `Rebirth’ (jaati).
On rebirth depend `Decay and Death’ (jaraa-marana), sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair.
Thus arises this whole mass of suffering. This is called the noble truth of the origin of suffering.
“No god, no Brahma can be called
The maker of this wheel of life:
Empty phenomena roll on,
Dependent on conditions all.”
(Quoted in Visuddhi-Magga XIX).

S. XII. 51
A disciple, however, in whom Ignorance (avijjaa) has disappeared and wisdom arisen, such a disciple heaps up neither meritorious, nor demeritorious, nor imperturbable Karma-formations.

The term sankhaaraa has been rendered here by `Karma Formations’ because, in the context of the Dependent Origination, it refers to karmically wholesome and unwholesome volition (cetanaa), or volitional activity, in short, Karma.

The threefold division of it, given in the preceding passage, comprises karmic activity in all spheres of existence, or planes of consciousness. The `meritorious karma-formations’ extend also to the Fine-Material Sphere (ruupaavacara), while the `imperturbable karma-formations’ (aneñjaabhisankhaaraa) refer only to the Immaterial Sphere (aruupaavacara).

S. XII. 1
Thus, through the entire fading away and extinction of this `Ignorance’, the `Karma-formations’ are extinguished. Through the extinction of Karma-formations, `Consciousness’ (rebirth) is extinguished. Through the extinction of consciousness, the `Mental and Physical Existence’ is extinguished. Through the extinction of the mental and physical existence, the `Six Sense-Organs’ are extinguished. Through the extinction of the six sense-organs, `Sensorial Impression’ is extinguished. Through the extinction of sensorial impression, `Feeling’ is extinguished. Through the extinction of feeling, `Craving’ is extinguished. Through the extinction of craving, `Clinging’ is extinguished. Through the extinction of clinging, the `Process of Becoming’ is extinguished. Through the extinction of the process of becoming, `Rebirth’ is extinguished. Through the extinction of rebirth, `Decay and Death’, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are extinguished. Thus takes place the extinction of this whole mass of suffering. This is called the noble truth of the extinction of suffering.

Rebirth-Producing Karma

M. 43
Truly, because beings, obstructed by ignorance (avijjaa) and ensnared by craving (tanhaa) seek ever fresh delight, now here, now there, therefore fresh rebirth continually comes to be.

A. III. 33
And the action (kamma) that is done out of greed, hatred and delusion (lobha, dosa, moha), that springs from them, has its source and origin in them: this action ripens wherever one is reborn, and wherever this action ripens there one experiences the fruits of this action, be it in this life, or the next life, or in some future life.

Cessation of Kamma

M. 43
However, through the fading away of ignorance, through the arising of wisdom, through the extinction of craving, no future rebirth takes place again.

A. III. 33
For the actions which are not done out of greed, hatred and delusion, which have not sprung from them, which have not their source and origin in them: such actions, through the absence of greed, hatred and delusion, are abandoned, rooted out, like a palm-tree torn out of the soil, destroyed, and not able to spring up again.

A. VIII. 12
In this respect one may rightly say of me: that I teach annihilation, that I propound my doctrine for the purpose of annihilation, and that I herein train my disciples; for certainly I do teach annihilation-the annihilation, namely, of greed, hatred and delusion, as well as of the manifold evil and unwholesome things.

The Paticca Samuppaada, lit, the Dependent Origination, is the doctrine of the conditionality of all physical and mental phenomena, a doctrine which, together with that of Impersonality (anattaa), forms the indispensable condition for the real understanding and realization of the Buddha’s teaching. It shows that the various physical and mental life-processes, conventionally called personality, man, animal, etc., are not a mere play of blind chance, but the outcome of causes and conditions. Above all, the Pa.ticca-Samuppaada explains how the arising of rebirth and suffering is dependent upon conditions; and, in its second part, it shows how, through the removal of these conditions, all suffering must disappear. Hence, the Pa.ticca-Samuppaada serves to elucidate the second and the third Noble Truths, by explaining them from their very foundations upwards, and giving them a fixed philosophical form.

The following diagram shows at a glance how the twelve links of the formula extend over three consecutive existences, past, present, and future:

Past Existence

1. Ignorance (avijjaa)

Kamma Process (kamma-bhava) 5 causes: 1, 2, 8, 9, 10

2. Kamma-Formations (sankhaaraa)

Present Existence

3. Consciousness (viññ

Rebirth-Process (upapatti-bhava) 5 results: 3-7

4. Mental and Physical Existence (naamaruupa)

5. 6 Sense Organs (sa.l-aayatana)

6. Sense-Impression (phassa)

7. Feeling (vedanaa)

8. Craving (ta.nha)

Kamma Process (kamma-bhava) 5 causes: 1, 2, 8, 9, 10

9. Clinging (upaadaana)

10. Process of Existence (bhava)

Future Existence

11. Rebirth (jaati)

Rebirth-Process (upapatti-bhava) 5 results: 3-7

12. Decay and Death (jaraa-marana)

Q.7.     How did the Buddha spend his first Rain’s Retreat? Explain the meaning of Rain’s Retreat.

The Places Where The Buddha Spent the Rains-Retreat

 The Buddha, throughout his Missionary period of forty-five years, except the three months of rains-retreat, went to places of great distance, even two thousand yojanas afar, and dispelled the wrong views of all living beings. During the forty-five years, the Buddha spent his rain-retreat at the following places.

          Commencing from the very first day of attaining Buddhahood on the fullmoon day of Kason (about May) in the year 103 Maha Era (589 B.C.), the Buddha spent the rainy seasons (Vassa) at the following places:

Rainy Season Place
1st In the Deer Park at Isipatana, Baranasi;
2nd,3rd and 4th At Veluvana Monastery, Rajagaha
5th in Pinnacled Hall, Kutagarasala, at Great Forest Mahavana Vesali;
6th at Makula Hill
7th at Tavatimsa Celestial Realm;
8th at Bhesakala Deer Park, Sam sumara-giri, Bhagga Province
9th at Kosambi
10th at Palileyyaka Grove
11th at Nalikarama Monastery, Nalaka Brahmin Village
12th at the foot of Naleru Neem Tree,Veranja Province
13th at Caliya Hill
14th at Jetavana Monastery, Savatthi
15th at Nigrodharama Monastery, Kapilavatthu
16th near Alavi
17th at Veluvana Monastery, Rajagaha
18th,19th at Caliya Hill
20th at Veluvana Monastery, Rajagaha
21st to 38th at Jetavana Monastery, Savatthi
39th to 44th at Pubbarama Monastery, Savatthi; and
45th at Veluva Village


Q.8.     Describe the various events that occurred during the first Rain’s Retreat.



Once , the Buddha taught dharma to Yasakulbutra who escaped his hectic house to see the former at Isipatana forest. He persuaded Yasakulbutra to listen to the following dharma. No hectic ones , no troubles. He also taught Anupubbikatha ( a gradual instruction) to Yasakulbutra who became enlightened. Yasakulbutra adopted the ascetic life and later attained Arahantship. While the Lord Buddha taught dharma , he did it with strong intention from the first saving to the last one.




38. Pointing way for Princes (Yasa and friends)




Yasa wearies of his wealth and wanders into the Deer Park; meeting the Buddha, he receives a teaching < ?xml:namespace prefix = o />

The Buddha, together with the five noble disciples, spent the rains retreat at the < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Deer Park at Isipatana, the place of his first teaching. That was the first rains retreat. At this stage the Buddha did not yet travel around to teach others because it was the rainy season, but a young man named Yasa did come to see him.


Yasa was the son of a rich man in Varanasi. His parents had built three mansions for him, one for each of the seasons [hot, rainy and cool], and in each of the mansions there were a great number of dancing girls to entertain him. One day, at midnight, Yasa awoke and saw the dancing girls sleeping in various ungainly postures (here the story is just the same as for the Bodhisatta on the day he left home for the homeless life) and became wearied of his life.


Yasa ran away from his home in the dead of night, and made for the Deer Park, muttering to himself as he went,  “Here it is confusing, here it is oppressive!” He was referring to the confusion and oppression he felt inside. At that time a sound came in response from the edge of the forest: “Here it is not confusing, here there is no obstruction!”. It was the Buddha. At the time of this exchange it was very late, almost dawn in fact. The Buddha said to Yasa, “Come, come here and sit down. I will teach you.”

Yasa approached the Buddha and bowed to his feet, then sat down to one side. The Buddha gave him a teaching, at the completion of which Yasa attained Arahatship, full enlightenment. He asked for admission to the Buddha’s order as a monk.

Not long after Yasa had become a monk, a great number of his friends, 54 of them, having heard of his going forth, went to see the Buddha, listened to the teaching and were all, like Yasa, fully enlightened. Thus within the first vassa, or rains retreat, there were altogether 61 Arahats in the world.



         Taking a Meal (at Yasa’s house )


Once , the Buddha taught dharma to Yasa. Yasa adopted the ascetic life and later attained Arahantship. After teaching dharma to Yasa and his father , the Lord Buddha went to have food at the house of Yasa�s father. This was the first time the Lord Buddha ever having food inside a house. Then , he taught Anupubbikatha to Yasa�s mother and ex-wife who later became the first two female disciples.     




To Uruvela


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After the rains retreat, on the 15th waxing day of the twelfth lunar month, the Buddha convened a meeting of his 60 disciples (savaka) at the Deer Park in Isipatana. All of those disciples were Arahats. The Buddha’s intention in calling the meeting was to send these disciples out to spread the teaching to other places.


At the meeting, the Buddha addressed the monks (bhikkhus) as follows:

“Monks! Released am I from all bonds. Released are you from all bonds. Go ye forth to declare the teaching in other lands for the benefit and happiness of the many. Go each of you alone. Give the teaching that is beautiful in the beginning, in the middle and in the highest levels, which is pure, and which I have declared to you. Monks! There are in this world people with only few defilements and with sufficient intelligence to understand the Dhamma. But because they have had no chance to hear the Dhamma they do not obtain the benefit that they rightly should obtain. Go forth. I myself will go to declare the teaching at Uruvela Senanigama.”


Thus on the morning of the first waning moon of the twelfth lunar month, the 60 disciples split up, each going alone to spread the teaching according to the Buddha’s instructions. The Buddha himself journeyed to Uruvela Senanigama, which was where he had gained his own enlightenment. Reaching there, the Buddha proceeded to the ashram of a group of famous ascetics there by name of “the three brother ascetics.”


The oldest brother’s name was Uruvela Kassapa. He had 500 disciples and had an ashram for performing religious practice, worshipping fire on the banks of the northern Neranjara River. The middle brother’s name was Nadi Kassapa. He had a following of 300, while the youngest brother’s name was Gaya Kassapa, with a following of 200. They had established separate ashrams on sand banks just south of the oldest brother.


The Buddha went first to the ashram of the oldest brother. Approaching the leader, he asked for a place to stay. The ascetic leader told the Buddha that the only place left was the fire house, but that a ferocious and dangerous Naga was living there.


Taken by the stranger?s self-confidence and personality Kashyapa did not dare refuse, but warned him that the place was haunted by a venomous divine serpent (naga). But the Buddha did not allow himself to be frightened off, and spent the night in the hut. As soon as he went in the hut the serpent entered and a terrible struggle ensued. Smoke against smoke appeared, fire against fire, so that the whole structure seemed to go up in flames. While the brahmin ascetics seem stricken with horror and the novices rush forward with jugs of water to put out the fire. In the end the supernatural power of the Buddha overcame the naga’s fury, and he placed the serpent in his begging bowl. When morning came, Kashyapa and his followers went to the hut and said: “The young monk must have been fiercely burned by the serpent?s fire.” But the Buddha came out of the hut and presented the distressed brahmins with the serpent quietly coiled inside his alms bowl. Totally overpowered by this miraculous feat, Kashyapa and his five hundred threw their ritual utensils into the river and converted to the Buddhist faith. Sometime after their conversion the Buddha delivered the well-known Fire Sermon, that if anyone?s senses are ruled by greed, hatred and delusion, all his perceptions will kindle, because they arouse further desires and aversions in him: for him the world is on fire. But whoever exerts control over the six senses is free from lusts and passions, and will gain freedom from rebirth.




Stopping the torrent to overflow



When a great flood arose, the ascetics thought that the Buddha must have surely drowned, and took boats to go and find him, only to find that he was walking meditation amidst the water.

Meditating amidst the water

Water gathered its volumn to from a circle around the Lord Buddha. Within the circle where the ground was completely dry, the Lord Buddha brgan to walk in meditation. This demonstration of his power were softened their pride. Thus the leader of the ascetic group floated his fire-worshipping gear on the Neranjara River, bowed at the Buddha’s feet and asked for acceptance as a disciple. The two younger brothers who lived downstream, seeing their older brother’s gear floating down the river, thought that some accident must have befallen him and went to see what had happened. When the two brothers found out what had happened they also became followers of the Buddha.

The Buddha spent two full months converting the ascetics, after which the ascetic who led the largest group, Uruvela Kassapa, becoming disillusioned, realized that he was not an Arahat as he had at first mistakenly believed. His realization was a result of the power of the Buddha’s silent teaching.



           Taking cloth from the corpse



When the Lord Buddha stayed at Uruvela � Kassapa , Punnathasi , a female servant of a millionaire in Uruvelasenanikom , passed away. Her corpse was brought to be dropped at a place close to where the Lord Buddha stayed. He went to see the shroud. He cleaned the shroud to eliminate the corpse smell and made it as his robe. According to life � story of the Buddha , Indra came down to help the Lord Buddha from washing , drying and serving the robe. All were completed in one night.



                                        Sewing his own clothing


The Lord Buddha was staying at Veluvana monastery in Rajagaha. At that time , the robe of Anuruddha monk was so torn so he tried to look for clothes to do a new robe. Then , an angel named Jalini who once was his wife in the previous life had offered him the cloth by placing it at a pile of rags. When the monk had seen the clothes , he took it to do a new robe. In sewing the new robe, the Lord Buddha along with all the senior monks including Venerable Kassapa had joined to give the helping hands. The Lord Buddha himself helped put thread into the needle , while other monks helped spin the thread. The action of the Lord Buddha who presided over the group of monk showed his great leadership and showed the proper deed of being together and the importance of sewing the monk�s robe.

Q.9.     Give an account of Venerable Yasa nd his fifty-four friends.



Once , the Buddha taught dharma to Yasakulbutra who escaped his hectic house to see the former at Isipatana forest. He persuaded Yasakulbutra to listen to the following dharma. No hectic ones , no troubles. He also taught Anupubbikatha ( a gradual instruction) to Yasakulbutra who became enlightened. Yasakulbutra adopted the ascetic life and later attained Arahantship. While the Lord Buddha taught dharma , he did it with strong intention from the first saving to the last one.




Pointing way for Princes (Yasa and friends)




Yasa wearies of his wealth and wanders into the Deer Park; meeting the Buddha, he receives a teaching


The Buddha, together with the five noble disciples, spent the rains retreat at the Deer Park at Isipatana, the place of his first teaching. That was the first rains retreat. At this stage the Buddha did not yet travel around to teach others because it was the rainy season, but a young man named Yasa did come to see him.


Yasa was the son of a rich man in Varanasi. His parents had built three mansions for him, one for each of the seasons [hot, rainy and cool], and in each of the mansions there were a great number of dancing girls to entertain him. One day, at midnight, Yasa awoke and saw the dancing girls sleeping in various ungainly postures (here the story is just the same as for the Bodhisatta on the day he left home for the homeless life) and became wearied of his life.


Yasa ran away from his home in the dead of night, and made for the Deer Park, muttering to himself as he went,  “Here it is confusing, here it is oppressive!” He was referring to the confusion and oppression he felt inside. At that time a sound came in response from the edge of the forest: “Here it is not confusing, here there is no obstruction!”. It was the Buddha. At the time of this exchange it was very late, almost dawn in fact. The Buddha said to Yasa, “Come, come here and sit down. I will teach you.”

Yasa approached the Buddha and bowed to his feet, then sat down to one side. The Buddha gave him a teaching, at the completion of which Yasa attained Arahatship, full enlightenment. He asked for admission to the Buddha’s order as a monk.

Not long after Yasa had become a monk, a great number of his friends, 54 of them, having heard of his going forth, went to see the Buddha, listened to the teaching and were all, like Yasa, fully enlightened. Thus within the first vassa, or rains retreat, there were altogether 61 Arahats in the world.



        Taking a Meal (at Yasa’s house )


Once , the Buddha taught dharma to Yasa. Yasa adopted the ascetic life and later attained Arahantship. After teaching dharma to Yasa and his father , the Lord Buddha went to have food at the house of Yasa�s father. This was the first time the Lord Buddha ever having food inside a house. Then , he taught Anupubbikatha to Yasa�s mother and ex-wife who later became the first two female disciples.     

Q10.    Narrate the Buddha’s historic call to the first sixty Arahats missionaries of the Buddha Sasana. Explain the significance of the following

To Uruvela



After the rains retreat, on the 15th waxing day of the twelfth lunar month, the Buddha convened a meeting of his 60 disciples (savaka) at the Deer Park in Isipatana. All of those disciples were Arahats. The Buddha’s intention in calling the meeting was to send these disciples out to spread the teaching to other places.


At the meeting, the Buddha addressed the monks (bhikkhus) as follows:

“Monks! Released am I from all bonds. Released are you from all bonds. Go ye forth to declare the teaching in other lands for the benefit and happiness of the many. Go each of you alone. Give the teaching that is beautiful in the beginning, in the middle and in the highest levels, which is pure, and which I have declared to you. Monks! There are in this world people with only few defilements and with sufficient intelligence to understand the Dhamma. But because they have had no chance to hear the Dhamma they do not obtain the benefit that they rightly should obtain. Go forth. I myself will go to declare the teaching at Uruvela Senanigama.”


Thus on the morning of the first waning moon of the twelfth lunar month, the 60 disciples split up, each going alone to spread the teaching according to the Buddha’s instructions. The Buddha himself journeyed to Uruvela Senanigama, which was where he had gained his own enlightenment. Reaching there, the Buddha proceeded to the ashram of a group of famous ascetics there by name of “the three brother ascetics.”


The oldest brother’s name was Uruvela Kassapa. He had 500 disciples and had an ashram for performing religious practice, worshipping fire on the banks of the northern Neranjara River. The middle brother’s name was Nadi Kassapa. He had a following of 300, while the youngest brother’s name was Gaya Kassapa, with a following of 200. They had established separate ashrams on sand banks just south of the oldest brother.


The Buddha went first to the ashram of the oldest brother. Approaching the leader, he asked for a place to stay. The ascetic leader told the Buddha that the only place left was the fire house, but that a ferocious and dangerous Naga was living there.


Taken by the stranger?s self-confidence and personality Kashyapa did not dare refuse, but warned him that the place was haunted by a venomous divine serpent (naga). But the Buddha did not allow himself to be frightened off, and spent the night in the hut. As soon as he went in the hut the serpent entered and a terrible struggle ensued. Smoke against smoke appeared, fire against fire, so that the whole structure seemed to go up in flames. While the brahmin ascetics seem stricken with horror and the novices rush forward with jugs of water to put out the fire. In the end the supernatural power of the Buddha overcame the naga’s fury, and he placed the serpent in his begging bowl. When morning came, Kashyapa and his followers went to the hut and said: “The young monk must have been fiercely burned by the serpent?s fire.” But the Buddha came out of the hut and presented the distressed brahmins with the serpent quietly coiled inside his alms bowl. Totally overpowered by this miraculous feat, Kashyapa and his five hundred threw their ritual utensils into the river and converted to the Buddhist faith. Sometime after their conversion the Buddha delivered the well-known Fire Sermon, that if anyone?s senses are ruled by greed, hatred and delusion, all his perceptions will kindle, because they arouse further desires and aversions in him: for him the world is on fire. But whoever exerts control over the six senses is free from lusts and passions, and will gain freedom from rebirth.


The Buddha exhorted His first sixty Arahant disciple to go forth in different directions to preach the Doctrine, using these famous words:- “Go ye, O bikkhus and wander forth for the gain many, for the welfare of the many, in compassion for the world, for the good, for the gain, for the welfare of the Devas (Gods) and men. Proclaim ye, O Bikkhus! the Doctrine glorious, and preach ye a life of holiness, perfect and pure!”


Questionnaire No 10 and Answers of First Year Diploma Course

Q.1.     Describe the conversation the Buddha had with his erstwhile ascetic disciples.

Five Companions

Having decided that he would share his knowledge, the Buddha sought out five of the ascetics he had formerly associated with. Seeing him approach, they thought to snub him, still believing that he had abandoned the quest because he no longer performed the severe austerities that they believed led to enlightenment. As he got nearer, however, they could see that a great change had taken place in him. He assured them that he had indeed reached the final state, that he was fully enlightened and that he would teach them

Q.2.     What are the essential points of the core teachings of the Buddha found in his first discourse?

The First Sermon of the Buddha

Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta - Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth 

Thus I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Benares in the Deer Park at Isipatana (the Resort of Seers). There he Buddha's Sermon addressed the bhikkhus of the group of five.

“Bhikkhus, these two extremes ought not to be cultivated by one gone forth from the house-life. What are the two? There is devotion to indulgence of pleasure in the objects of sensual desire, which is inferior, low, vulgar, ignoble, and leads to no good; and there is devotion to self-torment, which is painful, ignoble and leads to no good.

“The middle way discovered by a Perfect One avoids both these extremes; it gives vision, it gives knowledge, and it leads to peace, to direct acquaintance, to discovery, to nibbana. And what is that middle way? It is simply the noble eightfold path, that is to say, right view, right intention; right speech, right action, right livelihood; right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. That is the middle way discovered by a Perfect One, which gives vision, which gives knowledge, and which leads to peace, to direct acquaintance, to discovery, to nibbana.

“Suffering, as a noble truth, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; association with the loathed is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering — in short, suffering is the five categories of clinging objects.

“The origin of suffering, as a noble truth, is this: It is the craving that produces renewal of being accompanied by enjoyment and lust, and enjoying this and that; in other words, craving for sensual desires, craving for being, craving for non-being.

“Cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, is this: It is remainderless fading and ceasing, giving up, relinquishing, letting go and rejecting, of that same craving.

“The way leading to cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, is this: It is simply the noble eightfold path, that is to say, right view, right intention; right speech, right action, right livelihood; right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

“‘Suffering, as a noble truth, is this.’ Such was the vision, the knowledge, the understanding, the finding, the light, that arose in regard to ideas not heard by me before. ‘This suffering, as a noble truth, can be diagnosed.’ Such was the vision, the knowledge, the understanding, the finding, the light, that arose in regard to ideas not heard by me before. ‘This suffering, as a noble truth, has been diagnosed.’ Such was the vision, the knowledge, the understanding, the finding, the light, that arose in regard to ideas not heard by me before.

“‘The origin of suffering, as a noble truth, is this.’ Such was the vision… ‘This origin of suffering, as a noble truth, can be abandoned.’ Such was the vision… ‘This origin of suffering, as a noble truth, has been abandoned.’ Such was the vision… in regard to ideas not heard by me before.

“‘Cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, is this.’ Such was the vision… ‘This cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, can be verified.’ Such was the vision… ‘This cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, has been verified.’ Such was the vision… in regard to ideas not heard by me before.

“‘The way leading to cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, is this.’ Such was the vision… ‘This way leading to cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, can be developed.’ Such was the vision… ‘This way leading to the cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, has been developed.’ Such was the vision… in regard to ideas not heard by me before.

“As long as my knowing and seeing how things are, was not quite purified in these twelve aspects, in these three phases of each of the four noble truths, I did not claim in the world with its gods, its Maras and high divinities, in this generation with its monks and brahmans, with its princes and men to have discovered the full Awakening that is supreme. But as soon as my knowing and seeing how things are, was quite purified in these twelve aspects, in these three phases of each of the four noble truths, then I claimed in the world with its gods, its Maras and high divinities, in this generation with its monks and brahmans, its princes and men to have discovered the full Awakening that is supreme. Knowing and seeing arose in me thus: ‘My heart’s deliverance is unassailable. This is the last birth. Now there is no renewal of being.’”

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus of the group of five were glad, and they approved his words.

Now during this utterance, there arose in the venerable Kondañña the spotless, immaculate vision of the True Idea: “Whatever is subject to arising is all subject to cessation.”

When the Wheel of Truth had thus been set rolling by the Blessed One the earthgods raised the cry: “At Benares, in the Deer Park at Isipatana, the matchless Wheel of truth has been set rolling by the Blessed One, not to be stopped by monk or divine or god or death-angel or high divinity or anyone in the world.”

On hearing the earth-gods’ cry, all the gods in turn in the six paradises of the sensual sphere took up the cry till it reached beyond the Retinue of High Divinity in the sphere of pure form. And so indeed in that hour, at that moment, the cry soared up to the World of High Divinity, and this ten-thousandfold world-element shook and rocked and quaked, and a great measureless radiance surpassing the very nature of the gods was displayed in the world.

Then the Blessed One uttered the exclamation: “Kondañña knows! Kondañña knows!,” and that is how that venerable one acquired the name, Añña-Kondañña — Kondañña who knows.

Q.3.     “I have discovered the Middle path.” Explain the significance of this quotation.


Middle Way

The primary guiding principle of Buddhist practice is the Middle Way which was discovered by the Buddha prior to his awakenment (bodhi). The Middle Way or Middle Path has several definitions:
1. It is often described as the practice of non-extremism; a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and opposing self-mortification.
2. It also refers to taking a middle ground between certain metaphysical views, e.g. that things ultimately either exist or do not exist.
3. An explanation of the state of nibbana and perfect awakenment where all dualities fuse and cease to exist as separate entities


Q.4.     Write an essay on the Four Noble Truths, the fundamental teachings of the Buddha.

Pagan, Myanmar

1. Life means suffering.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.


1. Life means suffering.

To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense- all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardour, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a “self” which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call “self” is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

There is a path to the end of suffering - a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism); and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The latter quality discerns it from other paths which are merely “wandering on the wheel of becoming”, because these do not have a final object. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.

 Q.5.     What is the Noble Eightfold Path? Analyse in terms of 3 modes of Spiritual training?

The Noble Eightfold Path

Q.6.     This Sutta gives how the Buddha realised the Four Noble Truths in the form of the Twelve modes. Explain the modes.

The Great Wall of China

1. Right View Wisdom
2. Right Intention
3. Right Speech Ethical Conduct
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort Mental Development
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration

The Noble Eightfold Path describes the way to the end of suffering, as it was laid out by Siddhartha Gautama. It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things. Together with the Four Noble Truths it constitutes the gist of Buddhism. Great emphasis is put on the practical aspect, because it is only through practice that one can attain a higher level of existence and finally reach Nirvana. The eight aspects of the path are not to be understood as a sequence of single steps, instead they are highly interdependent principles that have to be seen in relationship with each other.

1. Right View

Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truth. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.

2. Right Intention

While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.

3. Right Speech

Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

4. Right Action

The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means 1. to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, 2. to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and 3. to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others. Further details regarding the concrete meaning of right action can be found in the Precepts.

5. Right Livelihood

Right livelihood means that one should earn one’s living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.

6. Right Effort

Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavours that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.

7. Right Mindfulness

Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualise sense impressions and thoughts immediately. We interpret them and set them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which naturally go beyond the facticity of the original impression. The mind then posits concepts, joins concepts into constructs, and weaves those constructs into complex interpretative schemes. All this happens only half consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualisation in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: 1. contemplation of the body, 2. contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), 3. contemplation of the state of mind, and 4. contemplation of the phenomena.

8. Right Concentration

The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness, although at a relatively low level of intensity, namely concentration. Concentration in this context is described as one-pointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. The meditating mind focuses on a selected object. It first directs itself onto it, then sustains concentration, and finally intensifies concentration step by step. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration also in everyday situations.


Q.7.     The realisation of the Four Noble Truths in twelve modes constitutes the discovery of the Buddha. One who seeks awakenment has to rediscover the same in his or her context of existence. Explain how.

The Wings to Awakening

In §139, the Buddha refers to himself as a doctor, treating the spiritual illnesses of his students. This metaphor is useful to keep in mind as we discuss the basic categories of right view: the four noble truths. Many people have charged Buddhism with being pessimistic because the four truths start out with stress and suffering, but this charge misses the fact that the first truth is part of a strategy of diagnosis and therapy focusing on the basic problem in life so as to offer a solution to it. This is the sense in which the Buddha was like a doctor, focusing on the disease he wanted to cure. The total cure he promised as a result of his course of therapy shows that, in actuality, he was much less pessimistic than the vast majority of world, for whom wisdom means accepting the bad things in life with the good, assuming that there is no chance in this life for unalloyed happiness. The Buddha was an extremely demanding person, unwilling to bend to this supposed wisdom or to rest with anything less than absolute happiness. We are fortunate that he was so demanding and succeeded in his aim, for otherwise we would have to undertake the uncertain task of trying to discover the way to that happiness ourselves.

Although the four noble truths constitute the most basic categories of the Buddha’s teaching, he did not discuss them unless he felt that his listeners were ready for them. To understand and accept them requires a basic shift in the framework of one’s awareness, and only a mind that has been thoroughly prepared is in a position to make such a shift. Often the Buddha would prepare his listeners with what he called a gradual discourse: discussing step by step the joy of generosity; the joy of living a virtuous life; the long-term sensory rewards of generosity and virtue in heaven; the drawbacks and impermanence of sensory pleasures and conditioned phenomena in general; and finally the rewards of renunciation. Then, if he sensed that his listeners were ready to look favorably on renunciation as a means to true happiness, he would discuss the four truths, beginning with suffering and stress. In this, he followed the sequence of his own Awakening: beginning with insight into the punishments of bad kamma, the rewards of good kamma, and the limitations of all kamma, and then proceeding to insight into the origination of stress and its cessation through the cessation of kamma [§9].

Once the problem of stress and suffering is solved, he said, there are no more problems. This is why he limited his teaching to this issue, even though his own Awakening encompassed much more [§188]. The vicious cycle that operates between suffering and ignorance-with ignorance underlying the craving that causes suffering, and suffering causing the bewilderment that leads people to act in ignorant and unskillful ways [§189]-can be broken only when one focuses on understanding suffering and stress and the causal network that surrounds them. Most people are so bewildered by the complexities of suffering and stress that they do not even know what the true problem is. Thus they may deny that they are suffering, or may imagine that something stressful can actually be a solution to their problems. The genius of the Buddha is that he recognized the most elegant and comprehensive way to deal with every variety of dissatisfaction in life. When suffering and stress are seen with clear knowledge, they no longer can cause bewilderment, and the cycle that underlies all the problems of experience can be disbanded for good.

As §195 states, this clear knowledge is based on knowledge of the four noble truths. These truths are best understood not as the content of a belief, but as categories for viewing and classifying the processes of immediate experience. In §51, the Buddha refers to them as categories of “appropriate attention,” a skillful alternative to the common way that people categorize their experience in terms of two dichotomies: being/non-being, and self/other. For several reasons, these common dichotomies are actually problem-causing, rather than problem-solving. The being/non-being dichotomy, for instance, comes down to the question of whether or not there exist actual “things” behind the changing phenomena of experience. This type of questioning deals, by definition, with possibilities that cannot be directly experienced: If the things in question could be experienced, then they wouldn’t be lying behind experience. Thus the being/non-being dichotomy pulls one’s attention into the land of conjecture-”a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views” [M.72]-and away from the area of direct awareness where the real problem and its solution lie [§186].

As for the self/other dichotomy, there is the initial difficulty of determining what the self is. Any true self would have to lie totally under one’s own control, and yet nothing that one might try to identify as one’s self actually meets this criterion. Although the sense of self may seem intuitive enough, when carefully examined it shows itself to be based on confused perceptions and ideas. If one’s basic categories for understanding experience are a cause for confusion in this way, they can lead only to confused, unskillful action, and thus to more suffering and stress. For example, when people view the source of their problems as poor relationships between themselves and others, or inadequate integration of the self, they are trying to analyze their problems in terms of categories that are ultimately uncertain. Thus there is a built-in uncertainty in the efforts they make to solve their problems in terms of those categories.
A second problem, no matter how one might define a self, is the question of how to prove whether or not it actually exists. This question entangles the mind in the unresolvable problems of the being/non-being dichotomy mentioned above: Because the problem is phrased in terms that cannot be directly experienced, it forces the solution into a realm that cannot be experienced, either. This fact probably explains the Buddha’s statement in §230 to the effect that if one even asks the question of whether there is someone standing outside the processes of dependent co-arising to whom those processes pertain, it is impossible to lead the life that will bring about an end to suffering. Regardless of whether one would answer the question with a yes or a no, the terms of the question focus on an area outside of direct experience and thus away from the true problem-the direct experience of suffering-and actually make it worse. If one assumes the existence of a self, one must take on the implicit imperative to maximize the self’s well-being through recourse to the “other.” This recourse may involve either exploiting the “other” or swallowing the “other” into the self by equating one’s self with the cosmos as a whole. Either approach involves clinging and craving, which lead to further suffering and stress. On the other hand, if one denies any kind of self, saying that the cosmos is totally “other,” then one is assuming that there is nothing with any long-term existence whose happiness deserves anything more than quick, short-term attempts at finding pleasure. The imperative in this case would be to pursue immediate pleasure with as little effort as possible, thus aborting any sustained effort to bring about an end to suffering.

These problems explain why the Buddha regarded questions of existence and non-existence, self and no-self, as unskillful, inappropriate ways of attending to experience.

Stress and its cessation, on the other hand, are categories that avoid these problems. To begin with, they are immediately present and apparent. Even babies recognize stress and pain, well before they have any concept of “self” or “being.” If one pays close attention to one’s actual experience, there is no question about whether or not stress and its cessation are present. Finally, because these categories don’t require that one fashion notions of “self” or “other”-or “no-self” or “no-other”-on top of one’s immediate awareness [§228-230], they allow one to reach the mode of “entry into emptiness” on the verge of non-fashioning, in which, as we mentioned in III/H, the mind simply notes, “There is this….” Thus they are ideal categories for analyzing experience in a way that (1) reduces the confusion that causes people to act in unskillful ways and (2) brings the mind to a point where it can disengage and transcend all suffering and stress by ending the mental fabrication that provides input into the causal web.

As for the imperatives implicit in the four categories of the noble truths, they are very different from the imperatives implicit in the notion that there is a self or that there isn’t. Stress, the first category, should be comprehended. In practice, this means admitting its presence, recognizing it as a problem, and then observing it with patient mindfulness so as to understand its true nature. One comes to realize that the problem is not with the stress and discomfort of external conditions, but with the stress and discomfort in the mind. One also sees how stress is part of a causal process, and that it is always accompanied by craving, its point of origination.
The second category-craving, the origination of stress-should be abandoned. Here we must note that the word “craving” covers not all desire, but only the desire leading to further becoming. The desire to escape from that becoming, as we have noted [II/D] is part of the path. Without such a desire, no one would have the motivation to follow the path or reach Unbinding. When Unbinding is reached, though, even this desire is abandoned, just as a desire to walk to a park is abandoned on arriving there [§67].

The third category, the cessation of stress, should be realized. The definition of this truth as the abandoning of craving means that it denotes the successful performance of the duty appropriate to the second noble truth. This introduces a double tier into the practice, in that one must not only abandon craving but also realize what is happening and what is uncovered in the process of that abandoning. This, in turn, accounts for two of the major themes covered so far in this book: the switch from “object” (craving) to “approach” (abandoning) as the focal point in one’s meditation as one moves from the first to the second stage in frames-of-reference meditation [II/B]; and the need for sensitivity to one’s present input into the causal network in order to nurture the mind’s skillful mastery of this/that conditionality [I/A]. The feedback loop created by this combination of abandoning and knowing is what eventually short-circuits the process of this/that conditionality, cutting dependent co-arising at the links of craving and ignorance, and leading on to the state of non-fashioning that forms the threshold to the Deathless.

The fourth category, the way to the cessation of stress, is defined as the noble eightfold path, which we have already discussed in detail [II/H]. This truth must be developed. In general terms, this development involves two processes: nurturing the conditions for clear knowing; and abstaining from acts of body, speech, and mind that involve craving and would obstruct knowledge. These two processes correspond to the two layers we have just noted in the duties associated with the cessation of stress: realizing and abandoning. This correspondence shows the intimate relation between the third and fourth noble truths, and explains the Buddha’s insistence that the noble eightfold path is the only way to the goal.

Taken together, the four categories of the noble truths, along with their imperatives, follow a basic problem-solving approach: one solves the problem of stress by following a path of practice that directly attacks the cause of the problem. The noble eightfold path develops the qualities of mind needed to see that all the possible objects of craving-the five aggregates-are stressful, inconstant, and not-self. As a result, one grows dispassionate toward them. With nothing left to focus on, craving disbands. When one experiences the “remainderless fading and cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, and letting go of that very craving” [§210], the problem is solved.

Although the texts list four separate duties appropriate to each of the truths, in actual practice these duties are four aspects of a single process. When stress is comprehended, the second noble truth-craving-has no object to latch onto and so can be abandoned. The full realization of what is happening in the process of that abandoning constitutes the realization of the third noble truth, the cessation of stress. Both the abandoning and the realization are accomplished by developing the path, which destroys any trace of ignorance concerning the four noble truths at the same time that it abandons craving. This is how the practice cuts the chain of dependent co-arising simultaneously at its two most crucial factors [§210-211], thus unraveling the causal chain and opening the way for an experience of the Unfabricated.

Passage §195 lists three steps in this process, which take the form of three levels of knowledge concerning each of the four truths: recognizing the truth for what it is, recognizing the duty appropriate to the truth, and realizing that the duty has been completed. These levels of knowledge correspond to the three stages in right view that we mentioned in the preceding section. The first level corresponds to the stage of seeing events in and of themselves for what they actually are. The relationship between the second level of knowledge-realizing the duty appropriate to the truth-and the second stage of right view-viewing things as part of a causal chain-is somewhat less obvious, but more revealing once it is understood. The word “duty” makes the point that, in order to understand the process of origination and passing away, one must become involved in the process in an active way. This understanding does not come from a passive state of simply watching things arise and disappear. Instead, one must participate in the process, becoming sensitive to pre-existing causal conditions and the impact of one’s present activity on those conditions, if one wants truly to understand them. The only way to know a causal relationship is to tamper with it and see what happens as a result. The more precise and skillful one’s tampering, and the more properly attuned one’s powers of observation, the more precise the knowledge that can be gained. This active participation corresponds to the second stage of frames of reference meditation [II/B] and the process of gaining mastery in the practice of concentration [III/E]. Ultimately, it comes down to the issues of acquiring skillfulness and understanding the connection between skillfulness and this/that conditionality. The meditator can gain escape from the confines of the causal process, not by simply watching it, but by developing the sensitivity to causal factors that comes from learning how to explore and manipulate them with skill.

The third level of knowledge-that the duty appropriate to the truth has been completed-corresponds to the mode of “entry into emptiness” on the verge of non-fashioning, when one realizes that nothing more needs to be contributed to the present moment. In fact, nothing more can be contributed to the present moment. As noted in the preceding section, this is the point where right view transcends itself. In terms of the four noble truths, this is where simple distinctions among the four truths begin to break down. As a modern teacher has put it, the meditator sees that all four truths are ultimately identical. After having used jhana and discernment, which form the heart of the path, to gain understanding of pain and to abandon clinging and craving, one comes to see that even jhana and discernment are composed of the same aggregates as stress and pain [§173], and that one’s attitude toward them involves subtle levels of clinging and craving as well. Thus the path is simply a refined version of the first three noble truths, in which one has taken suffering, craving, and ignorance, and turned them into tools for pleasure, detachment, and insight. Without these tools, one could not have begun the process of release; were it not for one’s attachment to jhana and discernment, one could not have liberated oneself from the more obvious levels of stress, and one could not have developed the sensitivity enabling one to appreciate the value of cessation and release when they finally come. Now, however, that these tools have performed their functions, they become the last remaining obstacle to full release. The approach to the problem of stress has now become, in and of itself, the only problem left. As the four truths become one in this way, their respective duties reach the point where any further activity would mean that they would cancel one another out. This is where the mind attains the state of non-fashioning, as there is nothing more it can do or know in terms of any of these duties. This lack of input into the present moment forms a breach in this/that conditionality, opening the way beyond the four truths and on to the Unfabricated.

This coalescing of the truths coincides with a movement noted earlier [II/H], in which jhana and discernment become one and the same thing. This union of jhana and discernment solves the riddle of how one can come to know the end of the intention that keeps the round of rebirth in motion. As the path nears its end, the intentional activity underlying jhana becomes the sole remaining element of intention in the mind; while the activity of discernment, as appropriate attention aimed at understanding jhana, becomes the sole function of knowledge. As they reach culmination and coalesce, the attention focused on the intention and the intention behind the act of attention short-circuit one another. All that can follow on this point is the state of non-fashioning, in which all present input into the cycle of rebirth ends, and all experience of the cycle falls away. As we explained in the Introduction, the experience of this falling away at Awakening confirms not only the Buddha’s teachings on the present function of kammic input in this/that conditionality, but also on the functioning of kamma in the round of rebirth in the larger dimensions of time.

The wheel, the traditional symbol of the Dhamma, expresses these points in a visual form. The Buddha states [§195] that when he gained full knowledge of all four truths on all three levels-recognizing the truth, recognizing the duty appropriate to it, and realizing that he had fully completed that duty-he knew that he had attained full Awakening. He elaborates on his assertion by setting out a table of two sets of variables-the four noble truths and the three levels of knowledge appropriate to each-listing all twelve permutations of the two sets. This sort of table, in Indian legal and philosophical traditions, is called a wheel. This is why the discourse in which he makes this statement is called “Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion,” and why the wheel used as a symbol of the Dhamma has twelve spokes, uniting at the hub, symbolizing the twelve permutations that merge into a singularity-knowledge and vision of things as they actually are-at the still point of non-fashioning in the midst of the cycle of kamma.

§ 188. Once the Blessed One was staying at Kosambi in the Simsapa tree grove. Then, picking up a few Simsapa leaves with his hand, he asked the monks, ‘How do you construe this, monks: Which are more numerous, the few Simsapa leaves in my hand or those overhead in the Simsapa grove?’

‘The leaves in the hand of the Blessed One are few in number, lord. Those overhead in the grove are far more numerous.’
‘In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous [than what I have taught]. And why haven’t I taught them? Because they are not connected with the goal, do not relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. That is why I have not taught them.

‘And what have I taught? “This is stress…This is the origination of stress…This is the cessation of stress…This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.” This is what I have taught. And why have I taught these things? Because they are connected with the goal, relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. This is why I have taught them.

‘Therefore your duty is the contemplation, “This is stress…This is the origination of stress…This is the cessation of stress…This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.”‘

§ 189. ‘Stress should be known. The cause by which stress comes into play should be known. The diversity in stress should be known. The result of stress should be known. The cessation of stress should be known. The path of practice for the cessation of stress should be known.’ Thus it has been said. Why was it said?

Birth is stress, aging is stress, death is stress; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair are stress; association with what is not loved is stress, separation from what is loved is stress, not getting what is wanted is stress. In short, the five aggregates for sustenance are stress.

And what is the cause by which stress comes into play? Craving is the cause by which stress comes into play.

And what is the diversity in stress? There is major stress and minor, slowly fading and quickly fading. This is called the diversity in stress.

And what is the result of stress? There are some cases in which a person overcome with pain, his mind exhausted, grieves, mourns, laments, beats his breast, and becomes bewildered. Or one overcome with pain, his mind exhausted, comes to search outside, ‘Who knows a way or two to stop this pain?’ I tell you, monks, that stress results either in bewilderment or in search.
And what is the cessation of stress? From the cessation of craving is the cessation of stress; and just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

Now when a noble disciple discerns stress in this way, the cause by which stress comes into play in this way, the diversity of stress in this way, the result of stress in this way, the cessation of stress in this way, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress in this way, then he discerns this penetrative holy life as the cessation of stress.

‘Stress should be known. The cause by which stress comes into play…The diversity in stress…The result of stress…The cessation of stress…The path of practice for the cessation of stress should be known.’ Thus it has been said, and this is why it was said.

§ 190. These four things are real, not unreal, not other than what they seem. Which four?

‘This is stress,’ is real, not unreal, not other than what it seems. ‘This is the origination of stress…This is the cessation of stress…This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress,’ is real, not unreal, not other than what it seems.

These are the four things that are real, not unreal, not other than what they seem.

Therefore your duty is the contemplation, ‘This is stress…This is the origination of stress…This is the cessation of stress…This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.’

§ 191. Suppose that a man were to cut down all the grass, sticks, branches, and leaves in India and to gather them into a heap. Having gathered them into a heap, he would make stakes from them, and having made stakes he would impale all the large animals in the sea on large stakes, all the medium-sized animals in the sea on medium-sized stakes, and all the minute animals in the sea on minute stakes. Before he had come to the end of all the sizable animals in the sea, he would have used up all the grass, sticks, branches, and leaves here in India. It would not be feasible for him to impale on stakes the minute animals in the sea, which are even more numerous [than the sizable ones]. Why is that? Because of the minuteness of their bodies. So great is the realm of deprivation (apaya, the lower realms of being).

Freed from this great realm of deprivation is the individual who is consummate in his views. He discerns, as it is actually present, that ‘This is stress…This is the origination of stress…This is the cessation of stress…This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.’

§ 192. ‘Monks, there is a between-the-worlds space of impenetrable darkness, and in the murk of that darkness not even the sun and moon, so mighty, so powerful, can spread their light.’

When this was said, a certain monk addressed the Blessed One: ‘What a great darkness, lord! What a very great darkness! Is there another darkness greater and more fearsome than that?’

‘Yes, there is….’

‘What darkness…?’

‘Any priests or contemplatives who do not discern, as it is actually present, that “This is stress…This is the origination of stress…This is the cessation of stress…This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress,” cherish the fabrications leading to birth, cherish the fabrications leading to aging…death…sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair. Cherishing the fabrications leading to birth…aging…death…sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair, they fashion fabrications leading to birth…aging…death…sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair, and so they fall into the darkness of birth…aging…death…sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair. They are not released from birth…aging…death… sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, and despairs. They are not released, I tell you, from stress.

However, those priests or contemplatives who discern, as it is actually present, that “This is stress…This is the origination of stress…This is the cessation of stress…This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress,” do not cherish the fabrications leading to birth…aging…death. They do not cherish the fabrications leading to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair. They do not fashion fabrications leading to birth…aging…death…sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair, and so do not fall into the darkness of birth…aging…death…sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair. They are released from birth…aging…death…sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, and despairs. They are released, I tell you, from stress.

Therefore your duty is the contemplation, ‘This is stress…This is the origination of stress…This is the cessation of stress…This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.’

§ 193. Suppose that people would say to a man whose life span was 100 years: ‘Look here, fellow. They will stab you at dawn with 100 spears, at noon with 100 spears, and again at evening with 100 spears. You, thus stabbed every day with 300 spears, will live to be 100, and at the end of 100 years you will realize the four noble truths that you have never realized before.’

If the man desired his own true benefit, he would do well to take them up on their offer. Why is that? From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident for the [pain of] blows from spears, swords, and axes. Even if this [offer] were to occur, I would not say that the realization of the four noble truths would be accompanied by pain and distress. Instead, I would say that the realization of the four noble truths would be accompanied by pleasure and joy.

§ 194. Gavampati: Face to face with the Blessed One did I hear this, face to face did I learn it: Whoever sees stress also sees the origination of stress, the cessation of stress, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.
Whoever sees the origination of stress also sees stress, the cessation of stress, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.

Whoever sees the cessation of stress also sees stress, the origination of stress, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.

Whoever sees the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress also sees stress, the origination of stress, and the cessation of stress.

§ 195. Awakening. Vision arose, clear knowing arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of stress….This noble truth of stress is to be comprehended….This noble truth of stress has been comprehended….This is the noble truth of the origination of stress….This noble truth of the origination of stress is to be abandoned….This noble truth of the origination of stress has been abandoned….This is the noble truth of the cessation of stress….This noble truth of the cessation of stress is to be realized….This noble truth of the cessation of stress has been realized….This is the noble truth of the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress….This noble truth of the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress is to be developed….This noble truth of the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress has been developed.’

And, monks, as long as this knowledge and vision of mine-with its three rounds and twelve permutations concerning these four noble truths as they actually are-was not pure, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the unexcelled right self-awakening….But as soon as this knowledge and vision of mine-with its three rounds and twelve permutations concerning these four noble truths as they actually are-was truly pure, only then did I claim to have directly awakened to the unexcelled right self-awakening…The knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘Unshakable is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.’

Q.8.     When the Buddha was considering how to present his Dhamma, Brahma Sahampati appeared. Describe this encounter.

Q.9.     Describe the encounter between the Buddha and Upaka. How did Buddha describe his status? Explain,

  • Upaka

1. Upaka

An ājivaka whom the Buddha met on his way between Gayā and the Bodhi Tree, after he set out from Isipatana for the preaching of the First Sermon. Upaka questioned the Buddha on his attainments, and when the Buddha told him what he had accomplished he asked the Buddha if he were “Anantajina.” When the Buddha acknowledged it, Upaka shook his bead saying, “It may be so, friend,” and went along by another road (J.i.81; Vin.i.8; M.i.170-1; DhA.iv.71-2). It is said (DA.ii.471) that the Buddha walked all the way from the Bodhi Tree to Isipatana - instead of flying through the air, as is the custom of Buddhas - because he wished to meet Upaka.

After this meeting Upaka went to the Vankahāra country and there, having fallen desperately in love with Cāpā, the daughter of a huntsman who looked after him, starved for seven days and in the end persuaded the huntsman to give her to him in marriage. For a living, Upaka hawked about the flesh brought by the huntsman. In due course Cāpā bore him a son, Subhadda. When the baby cried, Cāpā sang to him saying, “Upaka’s son, ascetic’s son, game-dealer’s boy, don’t cry,” thus mocking her husband. In exasperation he told her of his friend Anantajina, but she did not stop teasing him. One day, in spite of her attempts to keep him, he left her and went to the Buddha at Sāvatthi. The Buddha, seeing him coming, gave orders that anyone asking for Anantajina should be brought to him. Having learnt from Upaka his story, the Buddha had him admitted to the Order. As a result of his meditation, Upaka became an anāgāmī and was reborn in the Avihā heaven (ThigA.220ff; MA.i.388f. Upaka’s story is also given in SnA.i.258ff, with several variations in detail). The Samyutta Nikāya (i.35, 60) records a visit paid to the Buddha by Upaka and six other beings born in Avihā. According to the Majjhima Commentary (i.389), Upaka became an arahant as soon as he was born in Avihā.

In the Therīgāthā he is also called Kāla (v.309. This may have been a term of affection used because of his dark colour) and his birth-place is given as Nāla, a village near the Bodhi Tree, where he is said to have been living with his wife at the time he left her (ThigA.225).

Later, Cāpā, too, left the world and became an arahant Therī.

The Divyāvadana (p.393) calls Upaka Upagana.

The enumeration of the Buddha’s virtues which was made to Upaka is not regarded as a real dhammadesanā because it took place before the preaching of the first sermon. It produced only a vāsanā-bhāgiya result, not sekha- or ribaddha-bhāgiya (UdA.54).

The words of the Buddha’s speech to Upaka are often quoted (E.g., Kvu.289).

2. Upaka Mandikāputta.-He once visited the Buddha at Gijjhakūta and stated before him his view that whoever starts abusive talk of another, without being able to make good his case, is blameworthy. The Buddha agrees and says that Upaka himself has been guilty of this offence. The Commentary (AA.ii.554) explains that Upaka was a supporter of Devadatta. Upaka protests against being caught in a big noose of words, like a fish caught as soon as he pops up his head. The Buddha explains that it is necessary for him to teach with endless variations of words and similes. Upaka is pleased with the Buddha’s talk and reports the conversation to Ajātasattu. The king shows his anger at the man’s presumption in having remonstrated with the Buddha (A.ii.181f), and the Commentary adds that he had him seized by the neck and cast out.

Buddhaghosa says (AA.ii.554-5) that Upaka went to visit the Buddha in order to find out whether the Buddha would blame him for being a supporter of Devadatta. According to others, he came to abuse the Buddha because he had heard that the Buddha had consigned Devadatta to hell. He was apparently of low caste, and Ajātasattu addresses him as “salt-worker’s boy” (lonakārakadāraka) (A.ii.182).

Q.10.   When the Buddha was considering how to teach the Dhamma in a world where beings are absolutely immersed in sensual pleasure and violence, wondering how best to present the Dhamma, the Brahma Sahampati


THE Blessed One having attained Buddhahood while resting under the shepherd’s Nigrodha tree on the banks of the river Neranjara, pronounced this solemn utterance:

“How sure his pathway in this wood,
Who follows truth’s unchanging call!
How blessed, to be kind and good,
And practice self-restraint in all!
How light, from passion to be free,
And sensual joys to let go by!
And yet his greatest bliss will be
When he has quelled the pride of ‘I’.

“I have recognized the deepest truth, which is sublime and peace-giving’ but difficult to understand; for most men move in a sphere of worldly interests and find their delight in worldly desires. The worldling will not understand the doctrine, for to him there is happiness in selfhood only, and the bliss that lies in a complete surrender to truth is unintelligible to him. He will call resignation what to the enlightened mind is the purest joy. He will see annihilation where the perfected one finds immortality. He will regard as death what the conqueror of self knows to be life everlasting. The truth remains hidden from him who is in the bondage of hate and desire. Nirvana remains incomprehensible and mysterious to the vulgar whose minds are beclouded with worldly interests. Should I preach the doctrine and mankind not comprehend it, it would bring me only fatigue and trouble.”

Mara, the Evil One, on hearing the words of the Blessed Buddha, approached and said: “Be greeted, thou Holy One. Thou hast attained the highest bliss and it is time for thee to enter into the final Nirvana.”

Then Brahma Sahampati descended from the heavens and, having worshiped the Blessed One, said: “Alas! the world must perish, should the Holy One, the Tathagata, decide not to teach the Dharma. Be merciful to those that struggle; have compassion upon the sufferers; pity the creatures who are hopelessly entangled in the snares of sorrow. There are some beings that are almost free from the dust of worldliness. If they hear not the doctrine preached, they will be lost. But if they hear it, they will believe and be saved.”

The Blessed One, full of compassion, looked with the eye of a Buddha upon all sentient creatures, and he saw among them beings whose minds were but scarcely covered by the dust of worldliness, who were of good disposition and easy to instruct. He saw some who were conscious of the dangers of lust and wrong doing. And the Blessed One said to Brahma Sahampati: “Wide open be the door of immortality to all who have ears to hear. May they receive the Dharma with faith.”

Then the Blessed One turned to Mara, saying: “I shall not pass into the final Nirvana, O Evil One, until there be not only brethren and sisters of an Order, but also lay disciples of both sexes, who shall have become true hearers, wise, well trained, ready and learned, versed in the scriptures, fulfilling all the greater and lesser duties, correct in life, walking according to the precepts-until they, having thus themselves learned the doctrine, shall be able to give information to others concerning it, preach it, make it known, establish it, open it, minutely explain it, and make it clear-until they, when others start vain doctrines, shall be able to vanquish and refute them, and so to spread the wonderworking truth abroad. I shall not die until the pure religion of truth shall have become successful, prosperous, widespread, and popular in all its full extent-until, in a word, it shall have been well proclaimed among men!”

Then Brahma Sahampati understood that the Blessed One had granted his request and would preach the doctrine.

1. To Preach or Not to Preach

    1. After having attamed enlightenment and after having formulated his way, doubt arose in the mind of the Buddha. Should he go forth and preach his doctrine, or should he continue to devote himself to his own personal perfection?
    2. He said to himself, “True, I have gained a new doctrine. But it is too difficult for the common man to accept it and follow it. It is too subtle even for the wise.
    3. “It is hard for mankind to liberate itself from the entanglement of God and Soul. It is hard for mankind to give up its belief in rites and ceremonies. It is hard for mankind to give up its belief in Karma.
    4.  “It is hard for mankind to give up its belief in the immortality of the Soul, and accept my doctrine that the Soul as an independent entity does not exist and does not survive after death.
    5. “Mankind is intent on its selfishness, and takes delight and pleasure in it.  It is hard for mankind to accept my doctrine of righteousness overriding selfishness.
    6. “If I were to teach my doctrine, and others did not understand it; or, understanding it, did not accept; or, accepting it, did not follow it, it would be weariness to others and a vexation to me.
    7. “Why not remain a sanyasi away from the world, and use my gospel to perfect my own self?” he asked himself. “At least I can do good to myself.”
    8. Thus as he reflected, his mind turned to inaction, not to teaching of the gospel.
    9. Then Brahma Sahampati, knowing what was passing in the mind of the Buddha, thought, “Verily the world is being destroyed, verily the world is going to destruction, if the Tathagata, the fully enlightened, turns to inaction and not to teaching his doctrine.”
    10. Filled with anxiety, Brahma Sahampati left the Brahma world and appeared before the Buddha. And arranging his upper robe on one shoulder, he bent down and with clasped hands said, “Thou art no longer Siddharth Gautama, Thou art Buddha. Thou art the Blessed One who is blessed with the fullest enlightenment. Thou art the Tathagatha. How can thou refuse to enlighten the world? How can thou refuse to save erring humanity?
    11. “There are beings full of impurity that are falling away through not hearing the doctrine.
    12. “As the Lord knows,” proceeded Brahma Sahampati, “Among the Magadhas arose in ancient times, doctrine impure, with many blemishes devised.
    13. “Will not the Lord open for them the door of his immortal doctrine?
    14. “As one upon a rocky mountain standing beholdeth all the people round about him, even thus, O thou, with wisdom distilled, ascending all, behold, look down, thou griefless one, upon those plunged in their griefs.
    15. “Rise up, O hero, victor in battle, O caravan-leader, free from the debt of birth, go to the world and [do] not turn away from it.
    16. “May the Lord in his compassion design to teach his gospel to men and to gods.”
    17. “O Brahma, Eminent and Excellent among men, if I did not give public utterance to my gospel, it is because I perceived vexation,” was the reply of the Buddha.
    18. Knowing that there was so much unhappiness in the world, the Buddha realised that it was wrong for him to sit as a sanyasi with folded arms and allow things to remain as they were.
    19. Asceticism he found to be useless. It was vain to attempt to escape from the world. There is no escape from the world even for an ascetic. He realised that what is necessary is not escape from the world. What is necessary is to change the world and to make it better.
    20. He realised that he left the world because there was so much conflict, resulting in misery and unhappiness, and for which he knew no remedy. If he can [=could] banish misery and unhappiness from the world by the propagation of his doctrine, it was his duty to return to the world and serve it, and not sit silent as the personification of inactive impassivity.
    21. The Buddha therefore agreed to the request of Brahma Sahampati and decided to preach his doctrine to the world.

§ 2. Proclamation of Good News by Brahma Sahampati

    1. Then, Brahma Sahampati, thinking, “I have been instrumental in persuading the Buddha to agree to preach his doctrine to the masses,” felt extremely happy. He saluted the Buddha, went round him passing to the right, took a look, and departed.
    2. On his way back he kept on proclaiming to the world, “Rejoice at the glad tidings. The Buddha, our Lord, has found the root of all evil and unhappiness in the world. He knows the way out.
    3. “The Buddha will bring comfort to the weary and sorrow-laden. He will give peace to those stricken by war. He will give courage to those who are broken in heart. He will give to those who are suppressed and oppressed, faith and hope.
    4. “Ye that suffer from the tribulations of life, ye that have to struggle and endure, ye that yearn for justice, rejoice at the glad tidings.
    5. “Heal your wounds, ye that are wounded. Eat your fill, ye that are hungry. Rest, ye that are weary, and quench your thirst, ye that are thirsty. Seek the light, ye that are in darkness. Be of good cheer, ye that are forlorn.
    6. “In his doctrine there is love to create a longing to own [=acknowledge] those who are disowned or unowned; to the degraded there is the ennoblement ever present to raise them; to the disinherited and the downtrodden there is equality blazing forth their path to advancement.
    7. “His doctrine is the doctrine of righteousness, and his aim is to establish the kingdom of righteousness on earth.
    8. “His doctrine is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
    9. “Blessed is the Buddha, for his is the path of reason, and his is the way of emancipation from superstition. Blessed is the Buddha who teaches the middle way. Blessed is the Buddha who teaches the law of righteousness. Blessed is the Buddha who teaches the peace of Nibbana. Blessed is the Buddha who preaches love, kindness, and fellowship to help fellow beings to obtain salvation.”

§ 3. Two Types of Conversion

    1. In the Buddha’s scheme of things conversion has two meanings.
    2. Conversion to the Order of Bhikkus, called Sangh.
    3. Secondly, it means conversion of a householder as an Upasaka, or lay follower of the Buddha’s Dhamma.
    4. Except on four points, there is no difference in the way of life of the Bhikku and the Upasaka.
    5. An Upasaka remains a householder. A Bhikku becomes a homeless wanderer.
    6. Both the Upasakas and the Bhikkus must observe in their life certain rules.
    7. Here again to the Bhikku they are vows, the breach of which ends in punishment. To the Upasaka they are precepts. They must be observed to the best of his ability.
    8. An Upasaka can have property. A Bhikku cannot have.
    9. To become an Upasaka, there is no ceremony.
    10. To become a Bhikku, he must undergo a ceremony called Upasampada.
    11.The Buddha converted those who came to him according to their wish, either as Bhikku or as Upasaka.
    12. An Upasaka could become a Bhikku whenever he felt like it.
    13. And a Bhikku had to cease to be a Bhikku when he committed a breach of the major vows, or whenever he wished to give up his membership of the Order.
    14. It must not be understood that the Buddha converted only those whose names occur in the following pages.
    15. The instances are chosen only to show that he did not observe any distinction as to caste or sex in admitting persons to his Sangh or preaching his Dhamma.

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For The Gain of the Many and For the Welfare of the Many-UP Minister moots Bundelkhand state-Mayawati seeks reservation on economic criteria-Giving up Maya of UP -Colour politics dominate Gujarat -
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 For The Gain of the Many and For the Welfare of the Many


UP Minister moots Bundelkhand state

Tikamgarh, MP, Nov 20 (UNI) Uttar Pradesh Small-Scale Industry Minister Badshah Singh has claimed that converting Bundelkhand region into a separate state is the Bahujan Samaj Party’s chief objective.

Mayawati seeks reservation on economic criteria
Published on November 19, 2007 by IANSViewed 27 times

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati unfolded a new social vision here Sunday, calling for reservation for poverty-stricken people in upper castes and religious minorities. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president said that the goal of social justice would not be met unless all downtrodden sections of the polity got equal opportunities and that was possible by offering them reservations in jobs and admissions.

Mayawati was addressing a rally in the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Gujjars and nomadic Bakerwals were present in noticeable numbers and frequently raised slogans hailing the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.

Mayawati castigated the Congress and the earlier BJP-led governments at the centre for ignoring the masses and allowing themselves to be guided by the interests of the business houses. “They have become parties of the business houses,” she said, adding: “We are the party of the people. And that is the difference.”

She did not talk about the Kashmir issue, and terrorism also did not find any mention in her speech.

This was the BSP’s biggest ever show here in years and its state-level leaders projected the rally as the starting point for the party’s election campaign in Jammu and Kashmir.

The BSP has already announced that it would contest all the 87 seats in the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir due in 2008.

The party won one seat in the 2002 elections and four in the 1996 elections before that.

Latest Hindu News

Giving up Maya of UP

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati has caught all her political opponents off guard by publicly declaring that her party is not averse to the trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh. Though Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000, the demand for creation of at least two more States, if not three, from out of the existing territory of the State has been simmering for several years now. Some of these demands date back to the early 1950s, but Ms Mayawati has sensed that a further partition of Uttar Pradesh is inevitable and has, therefore, decided to gain political mileage in areas which are crying out for separation. Ms Mayawati’s declaration that her Government is ready to convene a special session of the State Assembly to pass a resolution for the formation of the new States if the Union Government takes the initiative in this regard, has given her an advantage over her rivals because incumbent Chief Ministers never advocate partition of States they preside over.

It is not easy for a party which commands a reasonable level of electoral support in a State to readily back demands for vivisection of that State. It is always worried about the reaction of the majority of the people in the State to the demand for separation. Of the two main national parties, the Congress has never been comfortable about partitioning existing States. This is a hangover of the Nehru era.

Jawaharlal Nehru disfavoured formation of States on linguistic lines, but the fast-unto-death by Potti Sriramulu, which led to the creation of a separate State for Telugu-speaking people, forced his hand and led to the appointment of the first States Reorganisation Commission headed by Justice Fazl Ali in 1953. Many new States came into being after this commission submitted its report in 1955. Thereafter, there was a second round of reorganisation with the division of Punjab and the formation of Haryana (1966). Himachal Pradesh gained full Statehood in 1971. Since then, many new States have come into being with the Congress reluctantly conceding the demand for breaking up a larger State or grudgingly accepting the inevitable.

The BJP, on the other hand, has sensed electoral opportunities in supporting creation of new States well ahead of the Congress in regions like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh or Uttarakhand. These moves have given this party sufficient political mileage in these new States. But Ms Mayawati appears to have clearly outwitted even the BJP in regard to the trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh.

In fact, the idea of breaking up Uttar Pradesh into more manageable units was suggested by Sardar KM Panikkar over half-a-century ago. Panikkar was a member of the Fazl Ali Commission. He was the first to propose the partition of Uttar Pradesh. In his famous note of dissent (specific to Uttar Pradesh) which is appended to the report of the Commission, Panikkar declared that for the successful working of a federation, the units would have to be “fairly evenly balanced”. Disagreeing with the Commission’s decision in favour of a large, undivided Uttar Pradesh, he said it would be imprudent to put one-sixth of the country’s population into a single State. “Too great a disparity is likely to create not only suspicion and resentment but generate forces likely to undermine the federal structure itself and thereby be a danger to the unity of the country,” he said.

Looking back, one can only marvel at Panikkar’s foresight because the presence of such a huge State created terrible political imbalances which led to strong regional movements. However, leaders from Uttar Pradesh were not as perceptive as him. They told the Commission that the existence of a large, powerful State in the Gangetic Valley would guarantee India’s unity; that such a State would be able to correct the “disruptive tendencies” in other States; that Uttar Pradesh is the “back bone of India”, the centre from which “all other States derive their ideas and their culture”. Finally, it was argued that undivided Uttar Pradesh was a homogeneous and integrated State and its partition would “ruin its economy and create discontent”.

History has shown us how specious these arguments were. Far from guaranteeing the country’s unity, the presence of such a large State with a disproportionate slice of the political cake encouraged centrifugal forces and became a threat to national unity. People in other States resented the view that while Uttar Pradesh was the “backbone”, they were all prone to “disruptive tendencies”. As regards the claim that a united Uttar Pradesh was a homogeneous and integrated State, every Indian knew that this was totally unfounded. There was, however, more amusement than resentment to the view that Uttar Pradesh was the storehouse of ideas and culture and was, therefore, worthy of emulation.

Panikkar found no substance in these arguments. He felt that undivided Uttar Pradesh would be administratively unmanageable and, therefore, proposed creation of a new State comprising some districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. This new State could consist of Meerut, Agra, Rohilkhand and Jhansi divisions of Uttar Pradesh (minus Dehra Dun and Pilibhit districts), the districts of Datia from Vindhya Pradesh and the four districts of Bhind, Morena, Gird (Gwalior) and Shivpuri from Madhya Bharat. The total area of this new State would be 51,346 sq miles and the area of the residuary Uttar Pradesh would be 74,998 sq miles. He felt that the new State could have Agra as the capital and could be called the State of Agra.

When Panikkar made this suggestion, Uttar Pradesh had a population of 63 million. Today, the State has close to 170 million people. The demand for a separate Bundelkhand State, which is now gaining momentum, appears to be somewhat in line with his plan. The Bundelkhand Mukti Morcha wants seven districts of Uttar Pradesh and 22 districts of Madhya Pradesh to be brought together to form a new State. In addition, the movement for a separate State in western Uttar Pradesh, called Harit Pradesh, is gaining momentum under the leadership of Mr Ajit Singh. Not to be left behind, the tribals of Vindhyachal are quietly building up a case for a separate State.

With Ms Mayawati endorsing the demand for the further partition of Uttar Pradesh, these movements have got a fresh impetus. Further, the resistance of the political class to the formation of smaller States has weakened over the years. The time is, therefore, ripe for a second States Reorganisation Commission to consider all these demands.

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Colour politics dominate Gujarat

With saffron movement strongetst in Gujarat BJP councillor Bhaskar Bhatt picks colours for colony name boards that are controversial.

When he chose the colours green and saffron, they were objected by communities. Then he settled for innocuous blue but that wasn’t agreed to either.

After Bhaskar was elected from Saraspur constituency in Ahmedabad he wanted to make his mark with these colony name boards where he used was a dash of saffron.

Bhaskar said, ‘’I made the design and put it all over the city. Orange colour is the colour of god there is also green. EC felt it was a problem as orange is colour of BJP.'’

Local newspapers reported that Muslim dominated areas were being marked by green coloured boards and the others in orange.

Dariyapur a resident said, ‘’I complained along with others. They were colouring us green to show that Muslims live here.'’

The EC immediately ordered that both orange and green boards be replaced with blue ones, but this created fresh problems. The BJP has moved the Gujarat High Court asking why the Commission chose Blue knowing fully well that its Bahujan Samaj Party’s colour.

BSP explains this simply, R P Singh BSP Gujarat in-charge said, ‘’Blue is the colour of clear sky and that’s how we are. Offiicials are wishing for an establishment like ours.'’

Electoral battles can get bizarre but the residents in this Muslim dominated area don’t care. They said that even if they have the same colour boards, they still feel different and marginalised in Ahmedabad.
Telugu Portal
Mayawati seeks reservation on economic criteria

Jammu: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati unfolded a new social vision here Sunday, calling for reservation for poverty-stricken people in upper castes and religious minorities.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president said that the goal of social justice would not be met unless all downtrodden sections of the polity got equal opportunities and that was possible by offering them reservations in jobs and admissions.

Mayawati was addressing a rally in the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Gujjars and nomadic Bakerwals were present in noticeable numbers and frequently raised slogans hailing the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.

Mayawati castigated the Congress and the earlier BJP-led governments at the centre for ignoring the masses and allowing themselves to be guided by the interests of the business houses. “They have become parties of the business houses,” she said, adding: “We are the party of the people. And that is the difference.”

She did not talk about the Kashmir issue, and terrorism also did not find any mention in her speech.

This was the BSP’s biggest ever show here in years and its state-level leaders projected the rally as the starting point for the party’s election campaign in Jammu and Kashmir.

The BSP has already announced that it would contest all the 87 seats in the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir due in 2008.

The party won one seat in the 2002 elections and four in the 1996 elections before that.

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Right View
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Posted by: site admin @ 12:28 am

Right View

Right View
(Samma Ditthi)

The eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path are not steps to be followed in sequence, one after another. They can be more aptly described as components rather than as steps, comparable to the intertwining strands of a single cable that requires the contributions of all the strands for maximum strength. With a certain degree of progress all eight factors can be present simultaneously, each supporting the others. However, until that point is reached, some sequence in the unfolding of the path is inevitable. Considered from the standpoint of practical training, the eight path factors divide into three groups: (i) the moral discipline group (silakkhandha), made up of right speech, right action, and right livelihood; (ii) the concentration group (samadhikkhandha), made up of right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration; and (iii) the wisdom group (paññakkhandha), made up of right view and right intention. These three groups represent three stages of training: the training in the higher moral discipline, the training in the higher consciousness, and the training in the higher wisdom.4

The order of the three trainings is determined by the overall aim and direction of the path. Since the final goal to which the path leads, liberation from suffering, depends ultimately on uprooting ignorance, the climax of the path must be the training directly opposed to ignorance. This is the training in wisdom, designed to awaken the faculty of penetrative understanding which sees things “as they really are.” Wisdom unfolds by degrees, but even the faintest flashes of insight presuppose as their basis a mind that has been concentrated, cleared of disturbance and distraction. Concentration is achieved through the training in the higher consciousness, the second division of the path, which brings the calm and collectedness needed to develop wisdom. But in order for the mind to be unified in concentration, a check must be placed on the unwholesome dispositions which ordinarily dominate its workings, since these dispositions disperse the beam of attention and scatter it among a multitude of concerns. The unwholesome dispositions continue to rule as long as they are permitted to gain expression through the channels of body and speech as bodily and verbal deeds. Therefore, at the very outset of training, it is necessary to restrain the faculties of action, to prevent them from becoming tools of the defilements. This task is accomplished by the first division of the path, the training in moral discipline. Thus the path evolves through its three stages, with moral discipline as the foundation for concentration, concentration the foundation for wisdom, and wisdom the direct instrument for reaching liberation.

Perplexity sometimes arises over an apparent inconsistency in the arrangement of the path factors and the threefold training. Wisdom — which includes right view and right intention — is the last stage in the threefold training, yet its factors are placed at the beginning of the path rather than at its end, as might be expected according to the canon of strict consistency. The sequence of the path factors, however, is not the result of a careless slip, but is determined by an important logistical consideration, namely, that right view and right intention of a preliminary type are called for at the outset as the spur for entering the threefold training. Right view provides the perspective for practice, right intention the sense of direction. But the two do not expire in this preparatory role. For when the mind has been refined by the training in moral discipline and concentration, it arrives at a superior right view and right intention, which now form the proper training in the higher wisdom.

Right view is the forerunner of the entire path, the guide for all the other factors. It enables us to understand our starting point, our destination, and the successive landmarks to pass as practice advances. To attempt to engage in the practice without a foundation of right view is to risk getting lost in the futility of undirected movement. Doing so might be compared to wanting to drive someplace without consulting a roadmap or listening to the suggestions of an experienced driver. One might get into the car and start to drive, but rather than approaching closer to one’s destination, one is more likely to move farther away from it. To arrive at the desired place one has to have some idea of its general direction and of the roads leading to it. Analogous considerations apply to the practice of the path, which takes place in a framework of understanding established by right view.

The importance of right view can be gauged from the fact that our perspectives on the crucial issues of reality and value have a bearing that goes beyond mere theoretical convictions. They govern our attitudes, our actions, our whole orientation to existence. Our views might not be clearly formulated in our mind; we might have only a hazy conceptual grasp of our beliefs. But whether formulated or not, expressed or maintained in silence, these views have a far-reaching influence. They structure our perceptions, order our values, crystallize into the ideational framework through which we interpret to ourselves the meaning of our being in the world.

These views then condition action. They lie behind our choices and goals, and our efforts to turn these goals from ideals into actuality. The actions themselves might determine consequences, but the actions along with their consequences hinge on the views from which they spring. Since views imply an “ontological commitment,” a decision on the question of what is real and true, it follows that views divide into two classes, right views and wrong views. The former correspond to what is real, the latter deviate from the real and confirm the false in its place. These two different kinds of views, the Buddha teaches, lead to radically disparate lines of action, and thence to opposite results. If we hold a wrong view, even if that view is vague, it will lead us towards courses of action that eventuate in suffering. On the other hand, if we adopt a right view, that view will steer us towards right action, and thereby towards freedom from suffering. Though our conceptual orientation towards the world might seem innocuous and inconsequential, when looked at closely it reveals itself to be the decisive determinant of our whole course of future development. The Buddha himself says that he sees no single factor so responsible for the arising of unwholesome states of mind as wrong view, and no factor so helpful for the arising of wholesome states of mind as right view. Again, he says that there is no single factor so responsible for the suffering of living beings as wrong view, and no factor so potent in promoting the good of living beings as right view (AN 1:16.2).

In its fullest measure right view involves a correct understanding of the entire Dhamma or teaching of the Buddha, and thus its scope is equal to the range of the Dhamma itself. But for practical purposes two kinds of right view stand out as primary. One is mundane right view, right view which operates within the confines of the world. The other is supramundane right view, the superior right view which leads to liberation from the world. The first is concerned with the laws governing material and spiritual progress within the round of becoming, with the principles that lead to higher and lower states of existence, to mundane happiness and suffering. The second is concerned with the principles essential to liberation. It does not aim merely at spiritual progress from life to life, but at emancipation from the cycle of recurring lives and deaths.

Mundane Right View

Mundane right view involves a correct grasp of the law of kamma, the moral efficacy of action. Its literal name is “right view of the ownership of action” (kammassakata sammaditthi), and it finds its standard formulation in the statement: “Beings are the owners of their actions, the heirs of their actions; they spring from their actions, are bound to their actions, and are supported by their actions. Whatever deeds they do, good or bad, of those they shall be heirs.”5 More specific formulations have also come down in the texts. One stock passage, for example, affirms that virtuous actions such as giving and offering alms have moral significance, that good and bad deeds produce corresponding fruits, that one has a duty to serve mother and father, that there is rebirth and a world beyond the visible one, and that religious teachers of high attainment can be found who expound the truth about the world on the basis of their own superior realization.6

To understand the implications of this form of right view we first have to examine the meaning of its key term, kamma. The word kamma means action. For Buddhism the relevant kind of action is volitional action, deeds expressive of morally determinate volition, since it is volition that gives the action ethical significance. Thus the Buddha expressly identifies action with volition. In a discourse on the analysis of kamma he says: “Monks, it is volition that I call action (kamma). Having willed, one performs an action through body, speech, or mind.”7 The identification of kamma with volition makes kamma essentially a mental event, a factor originating in the mind which seeks to actualize the mind’s drives, dispositions, and purposes. Volition comes into being through any of three channels — body, speech, or mind — called the three doors of action (kammadvara). A volition expressed through the body is a bodily action; a volition expressed through speech is a verbal action; and a volition that issues in thoughts, plans, ideas, and other mental states without gaining outer expression is a mental action. Thus the one factor of volition differentiates into three types of kamma according to the channel through which it becomes manifest.

Right view requires more than a simple knowledge of the general meaning of kamma. It is also necessary to understand: (i) the ethical distinction of kamma into the unwholesome and the wholesome; (ii) the principal cases of each type; and (iii) the roots from which these actions spring. As expressed in a sutta: “When a noble disciple understands what is kammically unwholesome, and the root of unwholesome kamma, what is kammically wholesome, and the root of wholesome kamma, then he has right view.”8

(i) Taking these points in order, we find that kamma is first distinguished as unwholesome (akusala) and wholesome (kusala). Unwholesome kamma is action that is morally blameworthy, detrimental to spiritual development, and conducive to suffering for oneself and others. Wholesome kamma, on the other hand, is action that is morally commendable, helpful to spiritual growth, and productive of benefits for oneself and others.

(ii) Innumerable instances of unwholesome and wholesome kamma can be cited, but the Buddha selects ten of each as primary. These he calls the ten courses of unwholesome and wholesome action. Among the ten in the two sets, three are bodily, four are verbal, and three are mental. The ten courses of unwholesome kamma may be listed as follows, divided by way of their doors of expression:

  1. Destroying life
  2. Taking what is not given
  3. Wrong conduct in regard to sense pleasures

Verbal action:

  1. False speech
  2. Slanderous speech
  3. Harsh speech (vacikamma)
  4. Idle chatter
  5. Covetousness
  6. Ill will
  7. Wrong view

The ten courses of wholesome kamma are the opposites of these: abstaining from the first seven courses of unwholesome kamma, being free from covetousness and ill will, and holding right view. Though the seven cases of abstinence are exercised entirely by the mind and do not necessarily entail overt action, they are still designated wholesome bodily and verbal action because they center on the control of the faculties of body and speech.

(iii) Actions are distinguished as wholesome and unwholesome on the basis of their underlying motives, called “roots” (mula), which impart their moral quality to the volitions concomitant with themselves. Thus kamma is wholesome or unwholesome according to whether its roots are wholesome or unwholesome. The roots are threefold for each set. The unwholesome roots are the three defilements we already mentioned — greed, aversion, and delusion. Any action originating from these is an unwholesome kamma. The three wholesome roots are their opposites, expressed negatively in the old Indian fashion as non-greed (alobha), non-aversion (adosa), and non-delusion (amoha). Though these are negatively designated, they signify not merely the absence of defilements but the corresponding virtues. Non-greed implies renunciation, detachment, and generosity; non-aversion implies loving-kindness, sympathy, and gentleness; and non-delusion implies wisdom. Any action originating from these roots is a wholesome kamma.

The most important feature of kamma is its capacity to produce results corresponding to the ethical quality of the action. An immanent universal law holds sway over volitional actions, bringing it about that these actions issue in retributive consequences, called vipaka, “ripenings,” or phala, “fruits.” The law connecting actions with their fruits works on the simple principle that unwholesome actions ripen in suffering, wholesome actions in happiness. The ripening need not come right away; it need not come in the present life at all. Kamma can operate across the succession of lifetimes; it can even remain dormant for aeons into the future. But whenever we perform a volitional action, the volition leaves its imprint on the mental continuum, where it remains as a stored up potency. When the stored up kamma meets with conditions favorable to its maturation, it awakens from its dormant state and triggers off some effect that brings due compensation for the original action. The ripening may take place in the present life, in the next life, or in some life subsequent to the next. A kamma may ripen by producing rebirth into the next existence, thus determining the basic form of life; or it may ripen in the course of a lifetime, issuing in our varied experiences of happiness and pain, success and failure, progress and decline. But whenever it ripens and in whatever way, the same principle invariably holds: wholesome actions yield favorable results, unwholesome actions yield unfavorable results.

To recognize this principle is to hold right view of the mundane kind. This view at once excludes the multiple forms of wrong view with which it is incompatible. As it affirms that our actions have an influence on our destiny continuing into future lives, it opposes the nihilistic view which regards this life as our only existence and holds that consciousness terminates with death. As it grounds the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong, in an objective universal principle, it opposes the ethical subjectivism which asserts that good and evil are only postulations of personal opinion or means to social control. As it affirms that people can choose their actions freely, within limits set by their conditions, it opposes the “hard deterministic” line that our choices are always made subject to necessitation, and hence that free volition is unreal and moral responsibility untenable.

Some of the implications of the Buddha’s teaching on the right view of kamma and its fruits run counter to popular trends in present-day thought, and it is helpful to make these differences explicit. The teaching on right view makes it known that good and bad, right and wrong, transcend conventional opinions about what is good and bad, what is right and wrong. An entire society may be predicated upon a confusion of correct moral values, and even though everyone within that society may applaud one particular kind of action as right and condemn another kind as wrong, this does not make them validly right and wrong. For the Buddha moral standards are objective and invariable. While the moral character of deeds is doubtlessly conditioned by the circumstances under which they are performed, there are objective criteria of morality against which any action, or any comprehensive moral code, can be evaluated. This objective standard of morality is integral to the Dhamma, the cosmic law of truth and righteousness. Its transpersonal ground of validation is the fact that deeds, as expressions of the volitions that engender them, produce consequences for the agent, and that the correlations between deeds and their consequences are intrinsic to the volitions themselves. There is no divine judge standing above the cosmic process who assigns rewards and punishments. Nevertheless, the deeds themselves, through their inherent moral or immoral nature, generate the appropriate results.

For most people, the vast majority, the right view of kamma and its results is held out of confidence, accepted on faith from an eminent spiritual teacher who proclaims the moral efficacy of action. But even when the principle of kamma is not personally seen, it still remains a facet of right view. It is part and parcel of right view because right view is concerned with understanding — with understanding our place in the total scheme of things — and one who accepts the principle that our volitional actions possess a moral potency has, to that extent, grasped an important fact pertaining to the nature of our existence. However, the right view of the kammic efficacy of action need not remain exclusively an article of belief screened behind an impenetrable barrier. It can become a matter of direct seeing. Through the attainment of certain states of deep concentration it is possible to develop a special faculty called the “divine eye” (dibbacakkhu), a super-sensory power of vision that reveals things hidden from the eyes of flesh. When this faculty is developed, it can be directed out upon the world of living beings to investigate the workings of the kammic law. With the special vision it confers one can then see for oneself, with immediate perception, how beings pass away and re-arise according to their kamma, how they meet happiness and suffering through the maturation of their good and evil deeds.9

Superior Right View

The right view of kamma and its fruits provides a rationale for engaging in wholesome actions and attaining high status within the round of rebirths, but by itself it does not lead to liberation. It is possible for someone to accept the law of kamma yet still limit his aims to mundane achievements. One’s motive for performing noble deeds might be the accumulation of meritorious kamma leading to prosperity and success here and now, a fortunate rebirth as a human being, or the enjoyment of celestial bliss in the heavenly worlds. There is nothing within the logic of kammic causality to impel the urge to transcend the cycle of kamma and its fruit. The impulse to deliverance from the entire round of becoming depends upon the acquisition of a different and deeper perspective, one which yields insight into the inherent defectiveness of all forms of samsaric existence, even the most exalted.

This superior right view leading to liberation is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. It is this right view that figures as the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path in the proper sense: as the noble right view. Thus the Buddha defines the path factor of right view expressly in terms of the four truths: “What now is right view? It is understanding of suffering (dukkha), understanding of the origin of suffering, understanding of the cessation of suffering, understanding of the way leading to the cessation to suffering.”10 The Eightfold Path starts with a conceptual understanding of the Four Noble Truths apprehended only obscurely through the media of thought and reflection. It reaches its climax in a direct intuition of those same truths, penetrated with a clarity tantamount to enlightenment. Thus it can be said that the right view of the Four Noble Truths forms both the beginning and the culmination of the way to the end of suffering.

The first noble truth is the truth of suffering (dukkha), the inherent unsatisfactoriness of existence, revealed in the impermanence, pain, and perpetual incompleteness intrinsic to all forms of life.

This is the noble truth of suffering. Birth is suffering; aging is suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are suffering; association with the unpleasant is suffering; separation from the pleasant is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates of clinging are suffering.11

The last statement makes a comprehensive claim that calls for some attention. The five aggregates of clinging (pañcupadanakkandha) are a classificatory scheme for understanding the nature of our being. What we are, the Buddha teaches, is a set of five aggregates — material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness — all connected with clinging. We are the five and the five are us. Whatever we identify with, whatever we hold to as our self, falls within the set of five aggregates. Together these five aggregates generate the whole array of thoughts, emotions, ideas, and dispositions in which we dwell, “our world.” Thus the Buddha’s declaration that the five aggregates are dukkha in effect brings all experience, our entire existence, into the range of dukkha.

But here the question arises: Why should the Buddha say that the five aggregates are dukkha? The reason he says that the five aggregates are dukkha is that they are impermanent. They change from moment to moment, arise and fall away, without anything substantial behind them persisting through the change. Since the constituent factors of our being are always changing, utterly devoid of a permanent core, there is nothing we can cling to in them as a basis for security. There is only a constantly disintegrating flux which, when clung to in the desire for permanence, brings a plunge into suffering.

The second noble truth points out the cause of dukkha. From the set of defilements which eventuate in suffering, the Buddha singles out craving (tanha) as the dominant and most pervasive cause, “the origin of suffering.”

This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering. It is this craving which produces repeated existence, is bound up with delight and lust, and seeks pleasure here and there, namely, craving for sense pleasures, craving for existence, and craving for non-existence.12

The third noble truth simply reverses this relationship of origination. If craving is the cause of dukkha, then to be free from dukkha we have to eliminate craving. Thus the Buddha says:

This is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering. It is the complete fading away and cessation of this craving, its forsaking and abandonment, liberation and detachment from it.13

The state of perfect peace that comes when craving is eliminated is Nibbana (nirvana), the unconditioned state experienced while alive with the extinguishing of the flames of greed, aversion, and delusion. The fourth noble truth shows the way to reach the end of dukkha, the way to the realization of Nibbana. That way is the Noble Eightfold Path itself.

The right view of the Four Noble Truths develops in two stages. The first is called the right view that accords with the truths (saccanulomika samma ditthi); the second, the right view that penetrates the truths (saccapativedha samma ditthi). To acquire the right view that accords with the truths requires a clear understanding of their meaning and significance in our lives. Such an understanding arises first by learning the truths and studying them. Subsequently it is deepened by reflecting upon them in the light of experience until one gains a strong conviction as to their veracity.

But even at this point the truths have not been penetrated, and thus the understanding achieved is still defective, a matter of concept rather than perception. To arrive at the experiential realization of the truths it is necessary to take up the practice of meditation — first to strengthen the capacity for sustained concentration, then to develop insight. Insight arises by contemplating the five aggregates, the factors of existence, in order to discern their real characteristics. At the climax of such contemplation the mental eye turns away from the conditioned phenomena comprised in the aggregates and shifts its focus to the unconditioned state, Nibbana, which becomes accessible through the deepened faculty of insight. With this shift, when the mind’s eye sees Nibbana, there takes place a simultaneous penetration of all Four Noble Truths. By seeing Nibbana, the state beyond dukkha, one gains a perspective from which to view the five aggregates and see that they are dukkha simply because they are conditioned, subject to ceaseless change. At the same moment Nibbana is realized, craving stops; the understanding then dawns that craving is the true origin of dukkha. When Nibbana is seen, it is realized to be the state of peace, free from the turmoil of becoming. And because this experience has been reached by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path, one knows for oneself that the Noble Eightfold Path is truly the way to the end of dukkha.

This right view that penetrates the Four Noble Truths comes at the end of the path, not at the beginning. We have to start with the right view conforming to the truths, acquired through learning and fortified through reflection. This view inspires us to take up the practice, to embark on the threefold training in moral discipline, concentration, and wisdom. When the training matures, the eye of wisdom opens by itself, penetrating the truths and freeing the mind from bondage.

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Right Speech
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Posted by: site admin @ 12:25 am

 Right Speech

Right Speech (samma vaca)

The Buddha divides right speech into four components: abstaining from false speech, abstaining from slanderous speech, abstaining from harsh speech, and abstaining from idle chatter. Because the effects of speech are not as immediately evident as those of bodily action, its importance and potential is easily overlooked. But a little reflection will show that speech and its offshoot, the written word, can have enormous consequences for good or for harm. In fact, whereas for beings such as animals who live at the preverbal level physical action is of dominant concern, for humans immersed in verbal communication speech gains the ascendency. Speech can break lives, create enemies, and start wars, or it can give wisdom, heal divisions, and create peace. This has always been so, yet in the modern age the positive and negative potentials of speech have been vastly multiplied by the tremendous increase in the means, speed, and range of communications. The capacity for verbal expression, oral and written, has often been regarded as the distinguishing mark of the human species. From this we can appreciate the need to make this capacity the means to human excellence rather than, as too often has been the case, the sign of human degradation.

(1) Abstaining from false speech (musavada veramani)

Herein someone avoids false speech and abstains from it. He speaks the truth, is devoted to truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, not a deceiver of people. Being at a meeting, or amongst people, or in the midst of his relatives, or in a society, or in the king’s court, and called upon and asked as witness to tell what he knows, he answers, if he knows nothing: “I know nothing,” and if he knows, he answers: “I know”; if he has seen nothing, he answers: “I have seen nothing,” and if he has seen, he answers: “I have seen.” Thus he never knowingly speaks a lie, either for the sake of his own advantage, or for the sake of another person’s advantage, or for the sake of any advantage whatsoever.21

This statement of the Buddha discloses both the negative and the positive sides to the precept. The negative side is abstaining from lying, the positive side speaking the truth. The determinative factor behind the transgression is the intention to deceive. If one speaks something false believing it to be true, there is no breach of the precept as the intention to deceive is absent. Though the deceptive intention is common to all cases of false speech, lies can appear in different guises depending on the motivating root, whether greed, hatred, or delusion. Greed as the chief motive results in the lie aimed at gaining some personal advantage for oneself or for those close to oneself — material wealth, position, respect, or admiration. With hatred as the motive, false speech takes the form of the malicious lie, the lie intended to hurt and damage others. When delusion is the principal motive, the result is a less pernicious type of falsehood: the irrational lie, the compulsive lie, the interesting exaggeration, lying for the sake of a joke.

The Buddha’s stricture against lying rests upon several reasons. For one thing, lying is disruptive to social cohesion. People can live together in society only in an atmosphere of mutual trust, where they have reason to believe that others will speak the truth; by destroying the grounds for trust and inducing mass suspicion, widespread lying becomes the harbinger signalling the fall from social solidarity to chaos. But lying has other consequences of a deeply personal nature at least equally disastrous. By their very nature lies tend to proliferate. Lying once and finding our word suspect, we feel compelled to lie again to defend our credibility, to paint a consistent picture of events. So the process repeats itself: the lies stretch, multiply, and connect until they lock us into a cage of falsehoods from which it is difficult to escape. The lie is thus a miniature paradigm for the whole process of subjective illusion. In each case the self-assured creator, sucked in by his own deceptions, eventually winds up their victim.

Such considerations probably lie behind the words of counsel the Buddha spoke to his son, the young novice Rahula, soon after the boy was ordained. One day the Buddha came to Rahula, pointed to a bowl with a little bit of water in it, and asked: “Rahula, do you see this bit of water left in the bowl?” Rahula answered: “Yes, sir.” “So little, Rahula, is the spiritual achievement (samañña, lit. ‘recluseship’) of one who is not afraid to speak a deliberate lie.” Then the Buddha threw the water away, put the bowl down, and said: “Do you see, Rahula, how that water has been discarded? In the same way one who tells a deliberate lie discards whatever spiritual achievement he has made.” Again he asked: “Do you see how this bowl is now empty? In the same way one who has no shame in speaking lies is empty of spiritual achievement.” Then the Buddha turned the bowl upside down and said: “Do you see, Rahula, how this bowl has been turned upside down? In the same way one who tells a deliberate lie turns his spiritual achievements upside down and becomes incapable of progress.” Therefore, the Buddha concluded, one should not speak a deliberate lie even in jest.22

It is said that in the course of his long training for enlightenment over many lives, a bodhisatta can break all the moral precepts except the pledge to speak the truth. The reason for this is very profound, and reveals that the commitment to truth has a significance transcending the domain of ethics and even mental purification, taking us to the domains of knowledge and being. Truthful speech provides, in the sphere of interpersonal communication, a parallel to wisdom in the sphere of private understanding. The two are respectively the outward and inward modalities of the same commitment to what is real. Wisdom consists in the realization of truth, and truth (sacca) is not just a verbal proposition but the nature of things as they are. To realize truth our whole being has to be brought into accord with actuality, with things as they are, which requires that in communications with others we respect things as they are by speaking the truth. Truthful speech establishes a correspondence between our own inner being and the real nature of phenomena, allowing wisdom to rise up and fathom their real nature. Thus, much more than an ethical principle, devotion to truthful speech is a matter of taking our stand on reality rather than illusion, on the truth grasped by wisdom rather than the fantasies woven by desire.

(2) Abstaining from slanderous speech (pisunaya vacaya veramani)

He avoids slanderous speech and abstains from it. What he has heard here he does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension there; and what he has heard there he does not repeat here, so as to cause dissension here. Thus he unites those that are divided; and those that are united he encourages. Concord gladdens him, he delights and rejoices in concord; and it is concord that he spreads by his words.23

Slanderous speech is speech intended to create enmity and division, to alienate one person or group from another. The motive behind such speech is generally aversion, resentment of a rival’s success or virtues, the intention to tear down others by verbal denigrations. Other motives may enter the picture as well: the cruel intention of causing hurt to others, the evil desire to win affection for oneself, the perverse delight in seeing friends divided.

Slanderous speech is one of the most serious moral transgressions. The root of hate makes the unwholesome kamma already heavy enough, but since the action usually occurs after deliberation, the negative force becomes even stronger because premeditation adds to its gravity. When the slanderous statement is false, the two wrongs of falsehood and slander combine to produce an extremely powerful unwholesome kamma. The canonical texts record several cases in which the calumny of an innocent party led to an immediate rebirth in the plane of misery.

The opposite of slander, as the Buddha indicates, is speech that promotes friendship and harmony. Such speech originates from a mind of loving-kindness and sympathy. It wins the trust and affection of others, who feel they can confide in one without fear that their disclosures will be used against them. Beyond the obvious benefits that such speech brings in this present life, it is said that abstaining from slander has as its kammic result the gain of a retinue of friends who can never be turned against one by the slanderous words of others.24

(3) Abstaining from harsh speech (pharusaya vacaya veramani).

He avoids harsh language and abstains from it. He speaks such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, such words as go to the heart, and are courteous, friendly, and agreeable to many.25

Harsh speech is speech uttered in anger, intended to cause the hearer pain. Such speech can assume different forms, of which we might mention three. One is abusive speech: scolding, reviling, or reproving another angrily with bitter words. A second is insult: hurting another by ascribing to him some offensive quality which detracts from his dignity. A third is sarcasm: speaking to someone in a way which ostensibly lauds him, but with such a tone or twist of phrasing that the ironic intent becomes clear and causes pain.

The main root of harsh speech is aversion, assuming the form of anger. Since the defilement in this case tends to work impulsively, without deliberation, the transgression is less serious than slander and the kammic consequence generally less severe. Still, harsh speech is an unwholesome action with disagreeable results for oneself and others, both now and in the future, so it has to be restrained. The ideal antidote is patience — learning to tolerate blame and criticism from others, to sympathize with their shortcomings, to respect differences in viewpoint, to endure abuse without feeling compelled to retaliate. The Buddha calls for patience even under the most trying conditions:

Even if, monks, robbers and murderers saw through your limbs and joints, whosoever should give way to anger thereat would not be following my advice. For thus ought you to train yourselves: “Undisturbed shall our mind remain, with heart full of love, and free from any hidden malice; and that person shall we penetrate with loving thoughts, wide, deep, boundless, freed from anger and hatred.”26

(4) Abstaining from idle chatter (samphappalapa veramani).

He avoids idle chatter and abstains from it. He speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the Dhamma and the discipline; his speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by reason, moderate and full of sense.27

Idle chatter is pointless talk, speech that lacks purpose or depth. Such speech communicates nothing of value, but only stirs up the defilements in one’s own mind and in others. The Buddha advises that idle talk should be curbed and speech restricted as much as possible to matters of genuine importance. In the case of a monk, the typical subject of the passage just quoted, his words should be selective and concerned primarily with the Dhamma. Lay persons will have more need for affectionate small talk with friends and family, polite conversation with acquaintances, and talk in connection with their line of work. But even then they should be mindful not to let the conversation stray into pastures where the restless mind, always eager for something sweet or spicy to feed on, might find the chance to indulge its defiling propensities.

The traditional exegesis of abstaining from idle chatter refers only to avoiding engagement in such talk oneself. But today it might be of value to give this factor a different slant, made imperative by certain developments peculiar to our own time, unknown in the days of the Buddha and the ancient commentators. This is avoiding exposure to the idle chatter constantly bombarding us through the new media of communication created by modern technology. An incredible array of devices — television, radio, newspapers, pulp journals, the cinema — turns out a continuous stream of needless information and distracting entertainment the net effect of which is to leave the mind passive, vacant, and sterile. All these developments, naively accepted as “progress,” threaten to blunt our aesthetic and spiritual sensitivities and deafen us to the higher call of the contemplative life. Serious aspirants on the path to liberation have to be extremely discerning in what they allow themselves to be exposed to. They would greatly serve their aspirations by including these sources of amusement and needless information in the category of idle chatter and making an effort to avoid them.

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Right Mindfulness
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Posted by: site admin @ 12:23 am

 Right Mindfulness

Right Mindfulness
(Samma Sati)

The Buddha says that the Dhamma, the ultimate truth of things, is directly visible, timeless, calling out to be approached and seen. He says further that it is always available to us, and that the place where it is to be realized is within oneself.49 The ultimate truth, the Dhamma, is not something mysterious and remote, but the truth of our own experience. It can be reached only by understanding our experience, by penetrating it right through to its foundations. This truth, in order to become liberating truth, has to be known directly. It is not enough merely to accept it on faith, to believe it on the authority of books or a teacher, or to think it out through deductions and inferences. It has to be known by insight, grasped and absorbed by a kind of knowing which is also an immediate seeing.

What brings the field of experience into focus and makes it accessible to insight is a mental faculty called in Pali sati, usually translated as “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is presence of mind, attentiveness or awareness. Yet the kind of awareness involved in mindfulness differs profoundly from the kind of awareness at work in our usual mode of consciousness. All consciousness involves awareness in the sense of a knowing or experiencing of an object. But with the practice of mindfulness awareness is applied at a special pitch. The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped. The task is simply to note whatever comes up just as it is occurring, riding the changes of events in the way a surfer rides the waves on the sea. The whole process is a way of coming back into the present, of standing in the here and now without slipping away, without getting swept away by the tides of distracting thoughts.

It might be assumed that we are always aware of the present, but this is a mirage. Only seldom do we become aware of the present in the precise way required by the practice of mindfulness. In ordinary consciousness the mind begins a cognitive process with some impression given in the present, but it does not stay with it. Instead it uses the immediate impression as a springboard for building blocks of mental constructs which remove it from the sheer facticity of the datum. The cognitive process is generally interpretative. The mind perceives its object free from conceptualization only briefly. Then, immediately after grasping the initial impression, it launches on a course of ideation by which it seeks to interpret the object to itself, to make it intelligible in terms of its own categories and assumptions. To bring this about the mind posits concepts, joins the concepts into constructs — sets of mutually corroborative concepts — then weaves the constructs together into complex interpretative schemes. In the end the original direct experience has been overrun by ideation and the presented object appears only dimly through dense layers of ideas and views, like the moon through a layer of clouds.

The Buddha calls this process of mental construction papañca, “elaboration,” “embellishment,” or “conceptual proliferation.” The elaborations block out the presentational immediacy of phenomena; they let us know the object only “at a distance,” not as it really is. But the elaborations do not only screen cognition; they also serve as a basis for projections. The deluded mind, cloaked in ignorance, projects its own internal constructs outwardly, ascribing them to the object as if they really belonged to it. As a result, what we know as the final object of cognition, what we use as the basis for our values, plans, and actions, is a patchwork product, not the original article. To be sure, the product is not wholly illusion, not sheer fantasy. It takes whatis given in immediate experience as its groundwork and raw material, but along with this it includes something else: the embellishments fabricated by the mind.

The springs for this process of fabrication, hidden from view, are the latent defilements. The defilements create the embellishments, project them outwardly, and use them as hooks for coming to the surface, where they cause further distortion. To correct the erroneous notions is the task of wisdom, but for wisdom to discharge its work effectively, it needs direct access to the object as it is in itself, uncluttered by the conceptual elaborations. The task of right mindfulness is to clear up the cognitive field. Mindfulness brings to light experience in its pure immediacy. It reveals the object as it is before it has been plastered over with conceptual paint, overlaid with interpretations. To practice mindfulness is thus a matter not so much of doing but of undoing: not thinking, not judging, not associating, not planning, not imagining, not wishing. All these “doings” of ours are modes of interference, ways the mind manipulates experience and tries to establish its dominance. Mindfulness undoes the knots and tangles of these “doings” by simply noting. It does nothing but note, watching each occasion of experience as it arises, stands, and passes away. In the watching there is no room for clinging, no compulsion to saddle things with our desires. There is only a sustained contemplation of experience in its bare immediacy, carefully and precisely and persistently.

Mindfulness exercises a powerful grounding function. It anchors the mind securely in the present, so it does not float away into the past and future with their memories, regrets, fears, and hopes. The mind without mindfulness is sometimes compared to a pumpkin, the mind established in mindfulness to a stone.50 A pumpkin placed on the surface of a pond soon floats away and always remains on the water’s surface. But a stone does not float away; it stays where it is put and at once sinks into the water until it reaches bottom. Similarly, when mindfulness is strong, the mind stays with its object and penetrates its characteristics deeply. It does not wander and merely skim the surface as the mind destitute of mindfulness does.

Mindfulness facilitates the achievement of both serenity and insight. It can lead to either deep concentration or wisdom, depending on the mode in which it is applied. Merely a slight shift in the mode of application can spell the difference between the course the contemplative process takes, whether it descends to deeper levels of inner calm culminating in the stages of absorption, the jhanas, or whether instead it strips away the veils of delusion to arrive at penetrating insight. To lead to the stages of serenity the primary chore of mindfulness is to keep the mind on the object, free from straying. Mindfulness serves as the guard charged with the responsibility of making sure that the mind does not slip away from the object to lose itself in random undirected thoughts. It also keeps watch over the factors stirring in the mind, catching the hindrances beneath their camouflages and expelling them before they can cause harm. To lead to insight and the realizations of wisdom, mindfulness is exercised in a more differentiated manner. Its task, in this phase of practice, is to observe, to note, to discern phenomena with utmost precision until their fundamental characteristics are brought to light.

Right mindfulness is cultivated through a practice called “the four foundations of mindfulness” (cattaro satipatthana), the mindful contemplation of four objective spheres: the body, feelings, states of mind, and phenomena.51 As the Buddha explains:

And what, monks, is right mindfulness? Herein, a monk dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief concerning the world. He dwells contemplating feelings in feelings… states of mind in states of mind… phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief concerning the world.52

The Buddha says that the four foundations of mindfulness form “the only way that leads to the attainment of purity, to the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, to the end of pain and grief, to the entering upon the right path and the realization of Nibbana.”53 They are called “the only way” (ekayano maggo), not for the purpose of setting forth a narrow dogmatism, but to indicate that the attainment of liberation can only issue from the penetrating contemplation of the field of experience undertaken in the practice of right mindfulness.

Of the four applications of mindfulness, the contemplation of the body is concerned with the material side of existence; the other three are concerned principally (though not solely) with the mental side. The completion of the practice requires all four contemplations. Though no fixed order is laid down in which they are to be taken up, the body is generally taken first as the basic sphere of contemplation; the others come into view later, when mindfulness has gained in strength and clarity. Limitations of space do not allow for a complete explanation of all four foundations. Here we have to settle for a brief synopsis.

(1) Contemplation of the Body (kayanupassana)

The Buddha begins his exposition of the body with contemplation of the mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati). Though not required as a starting point for meditation, in actual practice mindfulness of breathing usually serves as the “root meditation subject” (mulakammatthana), the foundation for the entire course of contemplation. It would be a mistake, however, to consider this subject merely an exercise for neophytes. By itself mindfulness of breathing can lead to all the stages of the path culminating in full awakening. In fact it was this meditation subject that the Buddha used on the night of his own enlightenment. He also reverted to it throughout the years during his solitary retreats, and constantly recommended it to the monks, praising it as “peaceful and sublime, an unadulterated blissful abiding, which banishes at once and stills evil unwholesome thoughts as soon as they arise” (MN 118).

Mindfulness of breathing can function so effectively as a subject of meditation because it works with a process that is always available to us, the process of respiration. What it does to turn this process into a basis for meditation is simply to bring it into the range of awareness by making the breath an object of observation. The meditation requires no special intellectual sophistication, only awareness of the breath. One merely breathes naturally through the nostrils keeping the breath in mind at the contact point around the nostrils or upper lip, where the sensation of breath can be felt as the air moves in and out. There should be no attempt to control the breath or to force it into predetermined rhythms, only a mindful contemplation of the natural process of breathing in and out. The awareness of breath cuts through the complexities of discursive thinking, rescues us from pointless wandering in the labyrinth of vain imaginings, and grounds us solidly in the present. For whenever we become aware of breathing, really aware of it, we can be aware of it only in the present, never in the past or the future.

The Buddha’s exposition of mindfulness of breathing involves four basic steps. The first two (which are not necessarily sequential) require that a long inhalation or exhalation be noted as it occurs, and that a short inhalation or exhalation be noted as it occurs. One simply observes the breath moving in and out, observing it as closely as possible, noting whether the breath is long or short. As mindfulness grows sharper, the breath can be followed through the entire course of its movement, from the beginning of an inhalation through its intermediary stages to its end, then from the beginning of an exhalation through its intermediary stages to its end. This third step is called “clearly perceiving the entire (breath) body.” The fourth step, “calming the bodily function,” involves a progressive quieting down of the breath and its associated bodily functions until they become extremely fine and subtle. Beyond these four basic steps lie more advanced practices which direct mindfulness of breathing towards deep concentration and insight.54

Another practice in the contemplation of the body, which extends meditation outwards from the confines of a single fixed position, is mindfulness of the postures. The body can assume four basic postures — walking, standing, sitting, and lying down — and a variety of other positions marking the change from one posture to another. Mindfulness of the postures focuses full attention on the body in whatever position it assumes: when walking one is aware of walking, when standing one is aware of standing, when sitting one is aware of sitting, when lying down one is aware of lying down, when changing postures one is aware of changing postures. The contemplation of the postures illuminates the impersonal nature of the body. It reveals that the body is not a self or the belonging of a self, but merely a configuration of living matter subject to the directing influence of volition.

The next exercise carries the extension of mindfulness a step further. This exercise, called “mindfulness and clear comprehension” (satisampajañña), adds to the bare awareness an element of understanding. When performing any action, one performs it with full awareness or clear comprehension. Going and coming, looking ahead and looking aside, bending and stretching, dressing, eating, drinking, urinating, defecating, falling asleep, waking up, speaking, remaining silent — all become occasions for the progress of meditation when done with clear comprehension. In the commentaries clear comprehension is explained as fourfold: (1) understanding the purpose of the action, i.e., recognizing its aim and determining whether that aim accords with the Dhamma; (2) understanding suitability, i.e., knowing the most efficient means to achieve one’s aim; (3) understanding the range of meditation, i.e., keeping the mind constantly in a meditative frame even when engaged in action; and (4) understanding without delusion, i.e., seeing the action as an impersonal process devoid of a controlling ego-entity.55 This last aspect will be explored more thoroughly in the last chapter, on the development of wisdom.

The next two sections on mindfulness of the body present analytical contemplations intended to expose the body’s real nature. One of these is the meditation on the body’s unattractiveness, already touched on in connection with right effort; the other, the analysis of the body into the four primary elements. The first, the meditation on unattractiveness,56 is designed to counter infatuation with the body, especially in its form of sexual desire. The Buddha teaches that the sexual drive is a manifestation of craving, thus a cause of dukkha that has to be reduced and extricated as a precondition for bringing dukkha to an end. The meditation aims at weakening sexual desire by depriving the sexual urge of its cognitive underpinning, the perception of the body as sensually alluring. Sensual desire rises and falls together with this perception. It springs up because we view the body as attractive; it declines when this perception of beauty is removed. The perception of bodily attractiveness in turn lasts only so long as the body is looked at superficially, grasped in terms of selected impressions. To counter that perception we have to refuse to stop with these impressions but proceed to inspect the body at a deeper level, with a probing scrutiny grounded in dispassion.

Precisely this is what is undertaken in the meditation on unattractiveness, which turns back the tide of sensuality by pulling away its perceptual prop. The meditation takes one’s own body as object, since for a neophyte to start off with the body of another, especially a member of the opposite sex, might fail to accomplish the desired result. Using visualization as an aid, one mentally dissects the body into its components and investigates them one by one, bringing their repulsive nature to light. The texts mention thirty-two parts: head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, stomach contents, excrement, brain, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, snot, spittle, sinovial fluid, and urine. The repulsiveness of the parts implies the same for the whole: the body seen closeup is truly unattractive, its beautiful appearance a mirage. But the aim of this meditation must not be misapprehended. The aim is not to produce aversion and disgust but detachment, to extinguish the fire of lust by removing its fuel.57

The other analytical contemplation deals with the body in a different way. This meditation, called the analysis into elements (dhatuvavatthana), sets out to counter our innate tendency to identify with the body by exposing the body’s essentially impersonal nature. The means it employs, as its name indicates, is the mental dissection of the body into the four primary elements, referred to by the archaic names earth, water, fire, and air, but actually signifying the four principal behavioral modes of matter: solidity, fluidity, heat, and oscillation. The solid element is seen most clearly in the body’s solid parts — the organs, tissues, and bones; the fluid element, in the bodily fluids; the heat element, in the body’s temperature; the oscillation element, in the respiratory process. The break with the identification of the body as “I” or “my self” is effected by a widening of perspective after the elements have come into view. Having analyzed the body into the elements, one then considers that all four elements, the chief aspects of bodily existence, are essentially identical with the chief aspects of external matter, with which the body is in constant interchange. When one vividly realizes this through prolonged meditation, one ceases to identify with the body, ceases to cling to it. One sees that the body is nothing more than a particular configuration of changing material processes which support a stream of changing mental processes. There is nothing here that can be considered a truly existent self, nothing that can provide a substantial basis for the sense of personal identity.58

The last exercise in mindfulness of the body is a series of “cemetery meditations,” contemplations of the body’s disintegration after death, which may be performed either imaginatively, with the aid of pictures, or through direct confrontation with a corpse. By any of these means one obtains a clear mental image of a decomposing body, then applies the process to one’s own body, considering: “This body, now so full of life, has the same nature and is subject to the same fate. It cannot escape death, cannot escape disintegration, but must eventually die and decompose.” Again, the purpose of this meditation should not be misunderstood. The aim is not to indulge in a morbid fascination with death and corpses, but to sunder our egoistic clinging to existence with a contemplation sufficiently powerful to break its hold. The clinging to existence subsists through the implicit assumption of permanence. In the sight of a corpse we meet the teacher who proclaims unambiguously: “Everything formed is impermanent.”

(2) Contemplation of Feeling (vedananupassana)

The next foundation of mindfulness is feeling (vedana). The word “feeling” is used here, not in the sense of emotion (a complex phenomenon best subsumed under the third and fourth foundations of mindfulness), but in the narrower sense of the affective tone or “hedonic quality” of experience. This may be of three kinds, yielding three principal types of feeling: pleasant feeling, painful feeling, and neutral feeling. The Buddha teaches that feeling is an inseparable concomitant of consciousness, since every act of knowing is colored by some affective tone. Thus feeling is present at every moment of experience; it may be strong or weak, clear or indistinct, but some feeling must accompany the cognition.

Feeling arises in dependence on a mental event called “contact” (phassa). Contact marks the “coming together” of consciousness with the object via a sense faculty; it is the factor by virtue of which consciousness “touches” the object presenting itself to the mind through the sense organ. Thus there are six kinds of contact distinguished by the six sense faculties — eye-contact, ear-contact, nose-contact, tongue-contact, body-contact, and mind-contact — and six kinds of feeling distinguished by the contact from which they spring.

Feeling acquires special importance as an object of contemplation because it is feeling that usually triggers the latent defilements into activity. The feelings may not be clearly registered, but in subtle ways they nourish and sustain the dispositions to unwholesome states. Thus when a pleasant feeling arises, we fall under the influence of the defilement greed and cling to it. When a painful feeling occurs, we respond with displeasure, hate, and fear, which are aspects of aversion. And when a neutral feeling occurs, we generally do not notice it, or let it lull us into a false sense of security — states of mind governed by delusion. From this it can be seen that each of the root defilements is conditioned by a particular kind of feeling: greed by pleasant feeling, aversion by painful feeling, delusion by neutral feeling.

But the link between feelings and the defilements is not a necessary one. Pleasure does not always have to lead to greed, pain to aversion, neutral feeling to delusion. The tie between them can be snapped, and one essential means for snapping it is mindfulness. Feeling will stir up a defilement only when it is not noticed, when it is indulged rather than observed. By turning it into an object of observation, mindfulness defuses the feeling so that it cannot provoke an unwholesome response. Then, instead of relating to the feeling by way of habit through attachment, repulsion, or apathy, we relate by way of contemplation, using the feeling as a springboard for understanding the nature of experience.

In the early stages the contemplation of feeling involves attending to the arisen feelings, noting their distinctive qualities: pleasant, painful, neutral. The feeling is noted without identifying with it, without taking it to be “I” or “mine” or something happening “to me.” Awareness is kept at the level of bare attention: one watches each feeling that arises, seeing it as merely a feeling, a bare mental event shorn of all subjective references, all pointers to an ego. The task is simply to note the feeling’s quality, its tone of pleasure, pain, or neutrality.

But as practice advances, as one goes on noting each feeling, letting it go and noting the next, the focus of attention shifts from the qualities of feelings to the process of feeling itself. The process reveals a ceaseless flux of feelings arising and dissolving, succeeding one another without a halt. Within the process there is nothing lasting. Feeling itself is only a stream of events, occasions of feeling flashing into being moment by moment, dissolving as soon as they arise. Thus begins the insight into impermanence, which, as it evolves, overturns the three unwholesome roots. There is no greed for pleasant feelings, no aversion for painful feelings, no delusion over neutral feelings. All are seen as merely fleeting and substanceless events devoid of any true enjoyment or basis for involvement.

(3) Contemplation of the State of Mind (cittanupassana)

With this foundation of mindfulness we turn from a particular mental factor, feeling, to the general state of mind to which that factor belongs. To understand what is entailed by this contemplation it is helpful to look at the Buddhist conception of the mind. Usually we think of the mind as an enduring faculty remaining identical with itself through the succession of experiences. Though experience changes, the mind which undergoes the changing experience seems to remain the same, perhaps modified in certain ways but still retaining its identity. However, in the Buddha’s teaching the notion of a permanent mental organ is rejected. The mind is regarded, not as a lasting subject of thought, feeling, and volition, but as a sequence of momentary mental acts, each distinct and discrete, their connections with one another causal rather than substantial.

A single act of consciousness is called a citta, which we shall render “a state of mind.” Each citta consists of many components, the chief of which is consciousness itself, the basic experiencing of the object; consciousness is also called citta, the name for the whole being given to its principal part. Along with consciousness every citta contains a set of concomitants called cetasikas, mental factors. These include feeling, perception, volition, the emotions, etc.; in short, all the mental functions except the primary knowing of the object, which is citta or consciousness.

Since consciousness in itself is just a bare experiencing of an object, it cannot be differentiated through its own nature but only by way of its associated factors, the cetasikas. The cetasikas color the citta and give it its distinctive character; thus when we want to pinpoint the citta as an object of contemplation, we have to do so by using the cetasikas as indicators. In his exposition of the contemplation of the state of mind, the Buddha mentions, by reference to cetasikas, sixteen kinds of citta to be noted: the mind with lust, the mind without lust, the mind with aversion, the mind without aversion, the mind with delusion, the mind without delusion, the cramped mind, the scattered mind, the developed mind, the undeveloped mind, the surpassable mind, the unsurpassable mind, the concentrated mind, the unconcentrated mind, the freed mind, the unfreed mind. For practical purposes it is sufficient at the start to focus solely on the first six states, noting whether the mind is associated with any of the unwholesome roots or free from them. When a particular citta is present, it is contemplated merely as a citta, a state of mind. It is not identified with as “I” or “mine,” not taken as a self or as something belonging to a self. Whether it is a pure state of mind or a defiled state, a lofty state or a low one, there should be no elation or dejection, only a clear recognition of the state. The state is simply noted, then allowed to pass without clinging to the desired ones or resenting the undesired ones.

As contemplation deepens, the contents of the mind become increasingly rarefied. Irrelevant flights of thought, imagination, and emotion subside, mindfulness becomes clearer, the mind remains intently aware, watching its own process of becoming. At times there might appear to be a persisting observer behind the process, but with continued practice even this apparent observer disappears. The mind itself — the seemingly solid, stable mind — dissolves into a stream of cittas flashing in and out of being moment by moment, coming from nowhere and going nowhere, yet continuing in sequence without pause.

(4) Contemplation of Phenomena (dhammanupassana)

In the context of the fourth foundation of mindfulness, the multivalent word dhamma (here intended in the plural) has two interconnected meanings, as the account in the sutta shows. One meaning is cetasikas, the mental factors, which are now attended to in their own right apart from their role as coloring the state of mind, as was done in the previous contemplation. The other meaning is the elements of actuality, the ultimate constituents of experience as structured in the Buddha’s teaching.To convey both senses we render dhamma as “phenomena,” for lack of a better alternative. But when we do so this should not be taken to imply the existence of some noumenon or substance behind the phenomena.The point of the Buddha’s teaching of anatta, egolessness, is that the basic constituents of actuality are bare phenomena (suddha-dhamma) occurring without any noumenal support.

The sutta section on the contemplation of phenomena is divided into five sub-sections, each devoted to a different set of phenomena: the five hindrances, the five aggregates, the six inner and outer sense bases, the seven factors of enlightenment, and the Four Noble Truths. Among these, the five hindrances and the seven enlightenment factors are dhamma in the narrower sense of mental factors, the others are dhamma in the broader sense of constituents of actuality. (In the third section, however, on the sense bases, there is a reference to the fetters that arise through the senses; these can also be included among the mental factors.) In the present chapter we shall deal briefly only with the two groups that may be regarded as dhamma in the sense of mental factors. We already touched on both of these in relation to right effort (Chapter V); now we shall consider them in specific connection with the practice of right mindfulness. We shall discuss the other types of dhamma — the five aggregates and the six senses — in the final chapter, in relation to the development of wisdom.

The five hindrances and seven factors of enlightenment require special attention because they are the principal impediments and aids to liberation. The hindrances — sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and worry, and doubt — generally become manifest in an early stage of practice, soon after the initial expectations and gross disturbances subside and the subtle tendencies find the opportunity to surface. Whenever one of the hindrances crops up, its presence should be noted; then, when it fades away, a note should be made of its disappearance. To ensure that the hindrances are kept under control an element of comprehension is needed: we have to understand how the hindrances arise, how they can be removed, and how they can be prevented from arising in the future.59

A similar mode of contemplation is to be applied to the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation, energy, rapture, tranquillity, concentration, and equanimity. When any one of these factors arises, its presence should be noted. Then, after noting its presence, one has to investigate to discover how it arises and how it can be matured.60 When they first spring up, the enlightenment factors are weak, but with consistent cultivation they accumulate strength. Mindfulness initiates the contemplative process. When it becomes well-established, it arouses investigation, the probing quality of intelligence. Investigation in turn calls forth energy, energy gives rise to rapture, rapture leads to tranquillity, tranquillity to one-pointed concentration, and concentration to equanimity. Thus the whole evolving course of practice leading to enlightenment begins with mindfulness, which remains throughout as the regulating power ensuring that the mind is clear, cognizant, and balanced.

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Right Livelyhood
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 Right Livelyhood

Right Livelihood (samma ajiva)

Right livelihood is concerned with ensuring that one earns one’s living in a righteous way. For a lay disciple the Buddha teaches that wealth should be gained in accordance with certain standards. One should acquire it only by legal means, not illegally; one should acquire it peacefully, without coercion or violence; one should acquire it honestly, not by trickery or deceit; and one should acquire it in ways which do not entail harm and suffering for others.34 The Buddha mentions five specific kinds of livelihood which bring harm to others and are therefore to be avoided: dealing in weapons, in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), in meat production and butchery, in poisons, and in intoxicants (AN 5:177). He further names several dishonest means of gaining wealth which fall under wrong livelihood: practicing deceit, treachery, soothsaying, trickery, and usury (MN 117). Obviously any occupation that requires violation of right speech and right action is a wrong form of livelihood, but other occupations, such as selling weapons or intoxicants, may not violate those factors and yet be wrong because of their consequences for others.

The Thai treatise discusses the positive aspects of right livelihood under the three convenient headings of rightness regarding actions, rightness regarding persons, and rightness regarding objects.35 “Rightness regarding actions” means that workers should fulfill their duties diligently and conscientiously, not idling away time, claiming to have worked longer hours than they did, or pocketing the company’s goods. “Rightness regarding persons” means that due respect and consideration should be shown to employers, employees, colleagues, and customers. An employer, for example, should assign his workers chores according to their ability, pay them adequately, promote them when they deserve a promotion and give them occasional vacations and bonuses. Colleagues should try to cooperate rather than compete, while merchants should be equitable in their dealings with customers. “Rightness regarding objects” means that in business transactions and sales the articles to be sold should be presented truthfully. There should be no deceptive advertising, misrepresentations of quality or quantity, or dishonest manoeuvers.

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Right Intention
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 Right Intention

Right Intention
(Samma Sankappa)

The second factor of the path is called in Pali samma sankappa, which we will translate as “right intention.” The term is sometimes translated as “right thought,” a rendering that can be accepted if we add the proviso that in the present context the word “thought” refers specifically to the purposive or conative aspect of mental activity, the cognitive aspect being covered by the first factor, right view. It would be artificial, however, to insist too strongly on the division between these two functions. From the Buddhist perspective, the cognitive and purposive sides of the mind do not remain isolated in separate compartments but intertwine and interact in close correlation. Emotional predilections influence views, and views determine predilections. Thus a penetrating view of the nature of existence, gained through deep reflection and validated through investigation, brings with it a restructuring of values which sets the mind moving towards goals commensurate with the new vision. The application of mind needed to achieve those goals is what is meant by right intention.

The Buddha explains right intention as threefold: the intention of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of harmlessness.14 The three are opposed to three parallel kinds of wrong intention: intention governed by desire, intention governed by ill will, and intention governed by harmfulness.15 Each kind of right intention counters the corresponding kind of wrong intention. The intention of renunciation counters the intention of desire, the intention of good will counters the intention of ill will, and the intention of harmlessness counters the intention of harmfulness.

The Buddha discovered this twofold division of thought in the period prior to his Enlightenment (see MN 19). While he was striving for deliverance, meditating in the forest, he found that his thoughts could be distributed into two different classes. In one he put thoughts of desire, ill will, and harmfulness, in the other thoughts of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness. Whenever he noticed thoughts of the first kind arise in him, he understood that those thoughts lead to harm for oneself and others, obstruct wisdom, and lead away from Nibbana. Reflecting in this way he expelled such thoughts from his mind and brought them to an end. But whenever thoughts of the second kind arose, he understood those thoughts to be beneficial, conducive to the growth of wisdom, aids to the attainment of Nibbana. Thus he strengthened those thoughts and brought them to completion.

Right intention claims the second place in the path, between right view and the triad of moral factors that begins with right speech, because the mind’s intentional function forms the crucial link connecting our cognitive perspective with our modes of active engagement in the world. On the one side actions always point back to the thoughts from which they spring. Thought is the forerunner of action, directing body and speech, stirring them into activity, using them as its instruments for expressing its aims and ideals. These aims and ideals, our intentions, in turn point back a further step to the prevailing views. When wrong views prevail, the outcome is wrong intention giving rise to unwholesome actions. Thus one who denies the moral efficacy of action and measures achievement in terms of gain and status will aspire to nothing but gain and status, using whatever means he can to acquire them. When such pursuits become widespread, the result is suffering, the tremendous suffering of individuals, social groups, and nations out to gain wealth, position, and power without regard for consequences. The cause for the endless competition, conflict, injustice, and oppression does not lie outside the mind. These are all just manifestations of intentions, outcroppings of thoughts driven by greed, by hatred, by delusion.

But when the intentions are right, the actions will be right, and for the intentions to be right the surest guarantee is right views. One who recognizes the law of kamma, that actions bring retributive consequences, will frame his pursuits to accord with this law; thus his actions, expressive of his intentions, will conform to the canons of right conduct. The Buddha succinctly sums up the matter when he says that for a person who holds a wrong view, his deeds, words, plans, and purposes grounded in that view will lead to suffering, while for a person who holds right view, his deeds, words, plans, and purposes grounded in that view will lead to happiness.16

Since the most important formulation of right view is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, it follows that this view should be in some way determinative of the content of right intention. This we find to be in fact the case. Understanding the four truths in relation to one’s own life gives rise to the intention of renunciation; understanding them in relation to other beings gives rise to the other two right intentions. When we see how our own lives are pervaded by dukkha, and how this dukkha derives from craving, the mind inclines to renunciation — to abandoning craving and the objects to which it binds us. Then, when we apply the truths in an analogous way to other living beings, the contemplation nurtures the growth of good will and harmlessness. We see that, like ourselves, all other living beings want to be happy, and again that like ourselves they are subject to suffering. The consideration that all beings seek happiness causes thoughts of good will to arise — the loving wish that they be well, happy, and peaceful. The consideration that beings are exposed to suffering causes thoughts of harmlessness to arise — the compassionate wish that they be free from suffering.

The moment the cultivation of the Noble Eightfold Path begins, the factors of right view and right intention together start to counteract the three unwholesome roots. Delusion, the primary cognitive defilement, is opposed by right view, the nascent seed of wisdom. The complete eradication of delusion will only take place when right view is developed to the stage of full realization, but every flickering of correct understanding contributes to its eventual destruction. The other two roots, being emotive defilements, require opposition through the redirecting of intention, and thus meet their antidotes in thoughts of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness.

Since greed and aversion are deeply grounded, they do not yield easily; however, the work of overcoming them is not impossible if an effective strategy is employed. The path devised by the Buddha makes use of an indirect approach: it proceeds by tackling the thoughts to which these defilements give rise. Greed and aversion surface in the form of thoughts, and thus can be eroded by a process of “thought substitution,” by replacing them with the thoughts opposed to them. The intention of renunciation provides the remedy to greed. Greed comes to manifestation in thoughts of desire — as sensual, acquisitive, and possessive thoughts. Thoughts of renunciation spring from the wholesome root of non-greed, which they activate whenever they are cultivated. Since contrary thoughts cannot coexist, when thoughts of renunciation are roused, they dislodge thoughts of desire, thus causing non-greed to replace greed. Similarly, the intentions of good will and harmlessness offer the antidote to aversion. Aversion comes to manifestation either in thoughts of ill will — as angry, hostile, or resentful thoughts; or in thoughts of harming — as the impulses to cruelty, aggression, and destruction. Thoughts of good will counter the former outflow of aversion, thoughts of harmlessness the latter outflow, in this way excising the unwholesome root of aversion itself.

The Intention of Renunciation

The Buddha describes his teaching as running contrary to the way of the world. The way of the world is the way of desire, and the unenlightened who follow this way flow with the current of desire, seeking happiness by pursuing the objects in which they imagine they will find fulfillment. The Buddha’s message of renunciation states exactly the opposite: the pull of desire is to be resisted and eventually abandoned. Desire is to be abandoned not because it is morally evil but because it is a root of suffering.17 Thus renunciation, turning away from craving and its drive for gratification, becomes the key to happiness, to freedom from the hold of attachment.

The Buddha does not demand that everyone leave the household life for the monastery or ask his followers to discard all sense enjoyments on the spot. The degree to which a person renounces depends on his or her disposition and situation. But what remains as a guiding principle is this: that the attainment of deliverance requires the complete eradication of craving, and progress along the path is accelerated to the extent that one overcomes craving. Breaking free from domination by desire may not be easy, but the difficulty does not abrogate the necessity. Since craving is the origin of dukkha, putting an end to dukkha depends on eliminating craving, and that involves directing the mind to renunciation.

But it is just at this point, when one tries to let go of attachment, that one encounters a powerful inner resistance. The mind does not want to relinquish its hold on the objects to which it has become attached. For such a long time it has been accustomed to gaining, grasping, and holding, that it seems impossible to break these habits by an act of will. One might agree to the need for renunciation, might want to leave attachment behind, but when the call is actually sounded the mind recoils and continues to move in the grip of its desires.

So the problem arises of how to break the shackles of desire. The Buddha does not offer as a solution the method of repression — the attempt to drive desire away with a mind full of fear and loathing. This approach does not resolve the problem but only pushes it below the surface, where it continues to thrive. The tool the Buddha holds out to free the mind from desire is understanding. Real renunciation is not a matter of compelling ourselves to give up things still inwardly cherished, but of changing our perspective on them so that they no longer bind us. When we understand the nature of desire, when we investigate it closely with keen attention, desire falls away by itself, without need for struggle.

To understand desire in such a way that we can loosen its hold, we need to see that desire is invariably bound up with dukkha. The whole phenomenon of desire, with its cycle of wanting and gratification, hangs on our way of seeing things. We remain in bondage to desire because we see it as our means to happiness. If we can look at desire from a different angle, its force will be abated, resulting in the move towards renunciation. What is needed to alter perception is something called “wise consideration” (yoniso manasikara). Just as perception influences thought, so thought can influence perception. Our usual perceptions are tinged with “unwise consideration” (ayoniso manasikara). We ordinarily look only at the surfaces of things, scan them in terms of our immediate interests and wants; only rarely do we dig into the roots of our involvements or explore their long-range consequences. To set this straight calls for wise consideration: looking into the hidden undertones to our actions, exploring their results, evaluating the worthiness of our goals. In this investigation our concern must not be with what is pleasant but with what is true. We have to be prepared and willing to discover what is true even at the cost of our comfort. For real security always lies on the side of truth, not on the side of comfort.

When desire is scrutinized closely, we find that it is constantly shadowed by dukkha. Sometimes dukkha appears as pain or irritation; often it lies low as a constant strain of discontent. But the two — desire and dukkha — are inseparable concomitants. We can confirm this for ourselves by considering the whole cycle of desire. At the moment desire springs up it creates in us a sense of lack, the pain of want. To end this pain we struggle to fulfill the desire. If our effort fails, we experience frustration, disappointment, sometimes despair. But even the pleasure of success is not unqualified. We worry that we might lose the ground we have gained. We feel driven to secure our position, to safeguard our territory, to gain more, to rise higher, to establish tighter controls. The demands of desire seem endless, and each desire demands the eternal: it wants the things we get to last forever. But all the objects of desire are impermanent. Whether it be wealth, power, position, or other persons, separation is inevitable, and the pain that accompanies separation is proportional to the force of attachment: strong attachment brings much suffering; little attachment brings little suffering; no attachment brings no suffering.18

Contemplating the dukkha inherent in desire is one way to incline the mind to renunciation. Another way is to contemplate directly the benefits flowing from renunciation. To move from desire to renunciation is not, as might be imagined, to move from happiness to grief, from abundance to destitution. It is to pass from gross, entangling pleasures to an exalted happiness and peace, from a condition of servitude to one of self-mastery. Desire ultimately breeds fear and sorrow, but renunciation gives fearlessness and joy. It promotes the accomplishment of all three stages of the threefold training: it purifies conduct, aids concentration, and nourishes the seed of wisdom. The entire course of practice from start to finish can in fact be seen as an evolving process of renunciation culminating in Nibbana as the ultimate stage of relinquishment, “the relinquishing of all foundations of existence” (sabb’upadhipatinissagga).

When we methodically contemplate the dangers of desire and the benefits of renunciation, gradually we steer our mind away from the domination of desire. Attachments are shed like the leaves of a tree, naturally and spontaneously. The changes do not come suddenly, but when there is persistent practice, there is no doubt that they will come. Through repeated contemplation one thought knocks away another, the intention of renunciation dislodges the intention of desire.

The Intention of Good Will

The intention of good will opposes the intention of ill will, thoughts governed by anger and aversion. As in the case of desire, there are two ineffective ways of handling ill will. One is to yield to it, to express the aversion by bodily or verbal action. This approach releases the tension, helps drive the anger “out of one’s system,” but it also poses certain dangers. It breeds resentment, provokes retaliation, creates enemies, poisons relationships, and generates unwholesome kamma; in the end, the ill will does not leave the “system” after all, but instead is driven down to a deeper level where it continues to vitiate one’s thoughts and conduct. The other approach, repression, also fails to dispel the destructive force of ill will. It merely turns that force around and pushes it inward, where it becomes transmogrified into self-contempt, chronic depression, or a tendency to irrational outbursts of violence.

The remedy the Buddha recommends to counteract ill will, especially when the object is another person, is a quality called in Pali metta. This word derives from another word meaning “friend,” but metta signifies much more than ordinary friendliness. I prefer to translate it by the compound “loving-kindness,” which best captures the intended sense: an intense feeling of selfless love for other beings radiating outwards as a heartfelt concern for their well-being and happiness. Metta is not just sentimental good will, nor is it a conscientious response to a moral imperative or divine command. It must become a deep inner feeling, characterized by spontaneous warmth rather than by a sense of obligation. At its peak metta rises to the heights of a brahmavihara, a “divine dwelling,” a total way of being centered on the radiant wish for the welfare of all living beings.

The kind of love implied by metta should be distinguished from sensual love as well as from the love involved in personal affection. The first is a form of craving, necessarily self-directed, while the second still includes a degree of attachment: we love a person because that person gives us pleasure, belongs to our family or group, or reinforces our own self-image. Only rarely does the feeling of affection transcend all traces of ego-reference, and even then its scope is limited. It applies only to a certain person or group of people while excluding others.

The love involved in metta, in contrast, does not hinge on particular relations to particular persons. Here the reference point of self is utterly omitted. We are concerned only with suffusing others with a mind of loving-kindness, which ideally is to be developed into a universal state, extended to all living beings without discriminations or reservations. The way to impart to metta this universal scope is to cultivate it as an exercise in meditation. Spontaneous feelings of good will occur too sporadically and are too limited in range to be relied on as the remedy for aversion. The idea of deliberately developing love has been criticized as contrived, mechanical, and calculated. Love, it is said, can only be genuine when it is spontaneous, arisen without inner prompting or effort. But it is a Buddhist thesis that the mind cannot be commanded to love spontaneously; it can only be shown the means to develop love and enjoined to practice accordingly. At first the means has to be employed with some deliberation, but through practice the feeling of love becomes ingrained, grafted onto the mind as a natural and spontaneous tendency.

The method of development is metta-bhavana, the meditation on loving-kindness, one of the most important kinds of Buddhist meditation. The meditation begins with the development of loving-kindness towards oneself.19 It is suggested that one take oneself as the first object of metta because true loving-kindness for others only becomes possible when one is able to feel genuine loving-kindness for oneself. Probably most of the anger and hostility we direct to others springs from negative attitudes we hold towards ourselves. When metta is directed inwards towards oneself, it helps to melt down the hardened crust created by these negative attitudes, permitting a fluid diffusion of kindness and sympathy outwards.

Once one has learned to kindle the feeling of metta towards oneself, the next step is to extend it to others. The extension of metta hinges on a shift in the sense of identity, on expanding the sense of identity beyond its ordinary confines and learning to identify with others. The shift is purely psychological in method, entirely free from theological and metaphysical postulates, such as that of a universal self immanent in all beings. Instead, it proceeds from a simple, straightforward course of reflection which enables us to share the subjectivity of others and experience the world (at least imaginatively) from the standpoint of their own inwardness. The procedure starts with oneself. If we look into our own mind, we find that the basic urge of our being is the wish to be happy and free from suffering. Now, as soon as we see this in ourselves, we can immediately understand that all living beings share the same basic wish. All want to be well, happy, and secure. To develop metta towards others, what is to be done is to imaginatively share their own innate wish for happiness. We use our own desire for happiness as the key, experience this desire as the basic urge of others, then come back to our own position and extend to them the wish that they may achieve their ultimate objective, that they may be well and happy.

The methodical radiation of metta is practiced first by directing metta to individuals representing certain groups. These groups are set in an order of progressive remoteness from oneself. The radiation begins with a dear person, such as a parent or teacher, then moves on to a friend, then to a neutral person, then finally to a hostile person. Though the types are defined by their relation to oneself, the love to be developed is not based on that relation but on each person’s common aspiration for happiness. With each individual one has to bring his (or her) image into focus and radiate the thought: “May he (she) be well! May he (she) be happy! May he (she) be peaceful!”20 Only when one succeeds in generating a warm feeling of good will and kindness towards that person should one turn to the next. Once one gains some success with individuals, one can then work with larger units. One can try developing metta towards all friends, all neutral persons, all hostile persons. Then metta can be widened by directional suffusion, proceeding in the various directions — east, south, west, north, above, below — then it can be extended to all beings without distinction. In the end one suffuses the entire world with a mind of loving-kindness “vast, sublime, and immeasurable, without enmity, without aversion.”

The Intention of Harmlessness

The intention of harmlessness is thought guided by compassion (karuna), aroused in opposition to cruel, aggressive, and violent thoughts. Compassion supplies the complement to loving-kindness. Whereas loving-kindness has the characteristic of wishing for the happiness and welfare of others, compassion has the characteristic of wishing that others be free from suffering, a wish to be extended without limits to all living beings. Like metta, compassion arises by entering into the subjectivity of others, by sharing their interiority in a deep and total way. It springs up by considering that all beings, like ourselves, wish to be free from suffering, yet despite their wishes continue to be harassed by pain, fear, sorrow, and other forms of dukkha.

To develop compassion as a meditative exercise, it is most effective to start with somebody who is actually undergoing suffering, since this provides the natural object for compassion. One contemplates this person’s suffering, either directly or imaginatively, then reflects that like oneself, he (she) also wants to be free from suffering. The thought should be repeated, and contemplation continually exercised, until a strong feeling of compassion swells up in the heart. Then, using that feeling as a standard, one turns to different individuals, considers how they are each exposed to suffering, and radiates the gentle feeling of compassion out to them. To increase the breadth and intensity of compassion it is helpful to contemplate the various sufferings to which living beings are susceptible. A useful guideline to this extension is provided by the first noble truth, with its enumeration of the different aspects of dukkha. One contemplates beings as subject to old age, then as subject to sickness, then to death, then to sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, and so forth.

When a high level of success has been achieved in generating compassion by the contemplation of beings who are directly afflicted by suffering, one can then move on to consider people who are presently enjoying happiness which they have acquired by immoral means. One might reflect that such people, despite their superficial fortune, are doubtlessly troubled deep within by the pangs of conscience. Even if they display no outward signs of inner distress, one knows that they will eventually reap the bitter fruits of their evil deeds, which will bring them intense suffering. Finally, one can widen the scope of one’s contemplation to include all living beings. One should contemplate all beings as subject to the universal suffering of samsara, driven by their greed, aversion, and delusion through the round of repeated birth and death. If compassion is initially difficult to arouse towards beings who are total strangers, one can strengthen it by reflecting on the Buddha’s dictum that in this beginningless cycle of rebirths, it is hard to find even a single being who has not at some time been one’s own mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter.

To sum up, we see that the three kinds of right intention — of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness — counteract the three wrong intentions of desire, ill will, and harmfulness. The importance of putting into practice the contemplations leading to the arising of these thoughts cannot be overemphasized. The contemplations have been taught as methods for cultivation, not mere theoretical excursions. To develop the intention of renunciation we have to contemplate the suffering tied up with the quest for worldly enjoyment; to develop the intention of good will we have to consider how all beings desire happiness; to develop the intention of harmlessness we have to consider how all beings wish to be free from suffering. The unwholesome thought is like a rotten peg lodged in the mind; the wholesome thought is like a new peg suitable to replace it. The actual contemplation functions as the hammer used to drive out the old peg with the new one. The work of driving in the new peg is practice — practicing again and again, as often as is necessary to reach success. The Buddha gives us his assurance that the victory can be achieved. He says that whatever one reflects upon frequently becomes the inclination of the mind. If one frequently thinks sensual, hostile, or harmful thoughts, desire, ill will, and harmfulness become the inclination of the mind. If one frequently thinks in the opposite way, renunciation, good will, and harmlessness become the inclination of the mind (MN 19). The direction we take always comes back to ourselves, to the intentions we generate moment by moment in the course of our lives

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Right Effort
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 Right Effort

Right Effort
(Samma Vayama)

The purification of conduct established by the prior three factors serves as the basis for the next division of the path, the division of concentration (samadhikkhandha). This present phase of practice, which advances from moral restraint to direct mental training, comprises the three factors of right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. It gains its name from the goal to which it aspires, the power of sustained concentration, itself required as the support for insight-wisdom. Wisdom is the primary tool for deliverance, but the penetrating vision it yields can only open up when the mind has been composed and collected. Right concentration brings the requisite stillness to the mind by unifying it with undistracted focus on a suitable object. To do so, however, the factor of concentration needs the aid of effort and mindfulness. Right effort provides the energy demanded by the task, right mindfulness the steadying points for awareness.

The commentators illustrate the interdependence of the three factors within the concentration group with a simple simile. Three boys go to a park to play. While walking along they see a tree with flowering tops and decide they want to gather the flowers. But the flowers are beyond the reach even of the tallest boy. Then one friend bends down and offers his back. The tall boy climbs up, but still hesitates to reach for the flowers from fear of falling. So the third boy comes over and offers his shoulder for support. The first boy, standing on the back of the second boy, then leans on the shoulder of the third boy, reaches up, and gathers the flowers.36

In this simile the tall boy who picks the flowers represents concentration with its function of unifying the mind. But to unify the mind concentration needs support: the energy provided by right effort, which is like the boy who offers his back. It also requires the stabilizing awareness provided by mindfulness, which is like the boy who offers his shoulder. When right concentration receives this support, then empowered by right effort and balanced by right mindfulness it can draw in the scattered strands of thought and fix the mind firmly on its object.

Energy (viriya), the mental factor behind right effort, can appear in either wholesome or unwholesome forms. The same factor fuels desire, aggression, violence, and ambition on the one hand, and generosity, self-discipline, kindness, concentration, and understanding on the other. The exertion involved in right effort is a wholesome form of energy, but it is something more specific, namely, the energy in wholesome states of consciousness directed to liberation from suffering. This last qualifying phrase is especially important. For wholesome energy to become a contributor to the path it has to be guided by right view and right intention, and to work in association with the other path factors. Otherwise, as the energy in ordinary wholesome states of mind, it merely engenders an accumulation of merit that ripens within the round of birth and death; it does not issue in liberation from the round.

Time and again the Buddha has stressed the need for effort, for diligence, exertion, and unflagging perseverance. The reason why effort is so crucial is that each person has to work out his or her own deliverance. The Buddha does what he can by pointing out the path to liberation; the rest involves putting the path into practice, a task that demands energy. This energy is to be applied to the cultivation of the mind, which forms the focus of the entire path. The starting point is the defiled mind, afflicted and deluded; the goal is the liberated mind, purified and illuminated by wisdom. What comes in between is the unremitting effort to transform the defiled mind into the liberated mind. The work of self-cultivation is not easy — there is no one who can do it for us but ourselves — but it is not impossible. The Buddha himself and his accomplished disciples provide the living proof that the task is not beyond our reach. They assure us, too, that anyone who follows the path can accomplish the same goal. But what is needed is effort, the work of practice taken up with the determination: “I shall not give up my efforts until I have attained whatever is attainable by manly perseverance, energy, and endeavor.”37

The nature of the mental process effects a division of right effort into four “great endeavors”:

  1. to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states;
  2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen;
  3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen;
  4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.

The unwholesome states (akusala dhamma) are the defilements, and the thoughts, emotions, and intentions derived from them, whether breaking forth into action or remaining confined within. The wholesome states (kusala dhamma) are states of mind untainted by defilements, especially those conducing to deliverance. Each of the two kinds of mental states imposes a double task. The unwholesome side requires that the defilements lying dormant be prevented from erupting and that the active defilements already present be expelled. The wholesome side requires that the undeveloped liberating factors first be brought into being, then persistently developed to the point of full maturity. Now we will examine each of these four divisions of right effort, giving special attention to their most fertile field of application, the cultivation of the mind through meditation.

(1) To prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states

Herein the disciple rouses his will to avoid the arising of evil, unwholesome states that have not yet arisen; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.38

The first side of right effort aims at overcoming unwholesome states, states of mind tainted by defilements. Insofar as they impede concentration the defilements are usually presented in a fivefold set called the “five hindrances” (pañcanivarana): sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and worry, and doubt.39 They receive the name “hindrances” because they block the path to liberation; they grow up and over the mind preventing calm and insight, the primary instruments for progress. The first two hindrances, sensual desire and ill will, are the strongest of the set, the most formidable barriers to meditative growth, representing, respectively, the unwholesome roots of greed and aversion. The other three hindrances, less toxic but still obstructive, are offshoots of delusion, usually in association with other defilements.

Sensual desire is interpreted in two ways. Sometimes it is understood in a narrow sense as lust for the “five strands of sense pleasure,” i.e., agreeable sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches; sometimes a broader interpretation is given, by which the term becomes inclusive of craving in all its modes, whether for sense pleasures, wealth, power, position, fame, or anything else it can settle upon. The second hindrance, ill will, is a synonym for aversion. It comprises hatred, anger, resentment, repulsion of every shade, whether directed towards other people, towards oneself, towards objects, or towards situations. The third hindrance, dullness and drowsiness, is a compound of two factors linked together by their common feature of mental unwieldiness. One is dullness (thina), manifest as mental inertia; the other is drowsiness (middha), seen in mental sinking, heaviness of mind, or excessive inclination to sleep. At the opposite extreme is the fourth hindrance, restlessness and worry. This too is a compound with its two members linked by their common feature of disquietude. Restlessness (uddhacca) is agitation or excitement, which drives the mind from thought to thought with speed and frenzy; worry (kukkucca) is remorse over past mistakes and anxiety about their possible undesired consequences. The fifth hindrance, doubt, signifies a chronic indecisiveness and lack of resolution: not the probing of critical intelligence, an attitude encouraged by the Buddha, but a persistent inability to commit oneself to the course of spiritual training due to lingering doubts concerning the Buddha, his doctrine, and his path.

The first effort to be made regarding the hindrances is the effort to prevent the unarisen hindrances from arising; this is also called the endeavor to restrain (samvarappadhana). The effort to hold the hindrances in check is imperative both at the start of meditative training and throughout the course of its development. For when the hindrances arise, they disperse attention and darken the quality of awareness, to the detriment of calm and clarity. The hindrances do not come from outside the mind but from within. They appear through the activation of certain tendencies constantly lying dormant in the deep recesses of the mental continuum, awaiting the opportunity to surface.

Generally what sparks the hindrances into activity is the input afforded by sense experience. The physical organism is equipped with five sense faculties each receptive to its own specific kind of data — the eye to forms, the ear to sounds, the nose to smells, the tongue to tastes, the body to tangibles. Sense objects continuously impinge on the senses, which relay the information they receive to the mind, where it is processed, evaluated, and accorded an appropriate response. But the mind can deal with the impressions it receives in different ways, governed in the first place by the manner in which it attends to them. When the mind adverts to the incoming data carelessly, with unwise consideration (ayoniso manasikara), the sense objects tend to stir up unwholesome states. They do this either directly, through their immediate impact, or else indirectly by depositing memory traces which later may swell up as the objects of defiled thoughts, images, and fantasies. As a general rule the defilement that is activated corresponds to the object: attractive objects provoke desire, disagreeable objects provoke ill will, and indeterminate objects provoke the defilements connected with delusion.

Since an uncontrolled response to the sensory input stimulates the latent defilements, what is evidently needed to prevent them from arising is control over the senses. Thus the Buddha teaches, as the discipline for keeping the hindrances in check, an exercise called the restraint of the sense faculties (indriya-samvara):

When he perceives a form with the eye, a sound with the ear, an odor with the nose, a taste with the tongue, an impression with the body, or an object with the mind, he apprehends neither the sign nor the particulars. And he strives to ward off that through which evil and unwholesome states, greed and sorrow, would arise, if he remained with unguarded senses; and he watches over his senses, restrains his senses.40

Restraint of the senses does not mean denial of the senses, retreating into a total withdrawal from the sensory world. This is impossible, and even if it could be achieved, the real problem would still not be solved; for the defilements lie in the mind, not in the sense organs or objects. The key to sense control is indicated by the phrase “not apprehending the sign or the particulars.” The “sign” (nimitta) is the object’s general appearance insofar as this appearance is grasped as the basis for defiled thoughts; the “particulars” (anubyanjana) are its less conspicuous features. If sense control is lacking, the mind roams recklessly over the sense fields. First it grasps the sign, which sets the defilements into motion, then it explores the particulars, which permits them to multiply and thrive.

To restrain the senses requires that mindfulness and clear understanding be applied to the encounter with the sense fields. Sense consciousness occurs in a series, as a sequence of momentary cognitive acts each having its own special task. The initial stages in the series occur as automatic functions: first the mind adverts to the object, then apprehends it, then admits the percept, examines it, and identifies it. Immediately following the identification a space opens up in which there occurs a free evaluation of the object leading to the choice of a response. When mindfulness is absent the latent defilements, pushing for an opportunity to emerge, will motivate a wrong consideration. One will grasp the sign of the object, explore its details, and thereby give the defilements their opportunity: on account of greed one will become fascinated by an agreeable object, on account of aversion one will be repelled by a disagreeable object. But when one applies mindfulness to the sensory encounter, one nips the cognitive process in the bud before it can evolve into the stages that stimulate the dormant taints. Mindfulness holds the hindrances in check by keeping the mind at the level of what is sensed. It rivets awareness on the given, preventing the mind from embellishing the datum with ideas born of greed, aversion, and delusion. Then, with this lucent awareness as a guide, the mind can proceed to comprehend the object as it is, without being led astray.

(2) To abandon the arisen unwholesome states

Herein the disciple rouses his will to overcome the evil, unwholesome states that have already arisen and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.41

Despite the effort at sense control the defilements may still surface. They swell up from the depths of the mental continuum, from the buried strata of past accumulations, to congeal into unwholesome thoughts and emotions. When this happens a new kind of effort becomes necessary, the effort to abandon arisen unwholesome states, called for short the endeavor to abandon (pahanappadhana):

He does not retain any thought of sensual lust, ill will, or harmfulness, or any other evil and unwholesome states that may have arisen; he abandons them, dispels them, destroys them, causes them to disappear.42

Just as a skilled physician has different medicines for different ailments, so the Buddha has different antidotes for the different hindrances, some equally applicable to all, some geared to a particular hindrance. In an important discourse the Buddha explains five techniques for expelling distracting thoughts.43 The first is to expel the defiled thought with a wholesome thought which is its exact opposite, analogous to the way a carpenter might use a new peg to drive out an old one. For each of the five hindrances there is a specific remedy, a line of meditation designed expressly to deflate it and destroy it. This remedy can be applied intermittently, when a hindrance springs up and disrupts meditation on the primary subject; or it can be taken as a primary subject itself, used to counter a defilement repeatedly seen to be a persistent obstacle to one’s practice. But for the antidote to become effective in the first role, as a temporary expedient required by the upsurge of a hindrance, it is best to gain some familiarity with it by making it a primary object, at least for short periods.

For desire a remedy of general application is the meditation on impermanence, which knocks away the underlying prop of clinging, the implicit assumption that the objects clung to are stable and durable. For desire in the specific form of sensual lust the most potent antidote is the contemplation of the unattractive nature of the body, to be dealt with at greater length in the next chapter. Ill will meets its proper remedy in the meditation on loving-kindness (metta), which banishes all traces of hatred and anger through the methodical radiation of the altruistic wish that all beings be well and happy. The dispelling of dullness and drowsiness calls for a special effort to arouse energy, for which several methods are suggested: the visualization of a brilliant ball of light, getting up and doing a period of brisk walking meditation, reflection on death, or simply making a firm determination to continue striving. Restlessness and worry are most effectively countered by turning the mind to a simple object that tends to calm it down; the method usually recommended is mindfulness of breathing, attention to the in-and-out flow of the breath. In the case of doubt the special remedy is investigation: to make inquiries, ask questions, and study the teachings until the obscure points become clear.44

Whereas this first of the five methods for expelling the hindrances involves a one-to-one alignment between a hindrance and its remedy, the other four utilize general approaches. The second marshals the forces of shame (hiri) and moral dread (ottappa) to abandon the unwanted thought: one reflects on the thought as vile and ignoble or considers its undesirable consequences until an inner revulsion sets in which drives the thought away. The third method involves a deliberate diversion of attention. When an unwholesome thought arises and clamours to be noticed, instead of indulging it one simply shuts it out by redirecting one’s attention elsewhere, as if closing one’s eyes or looking away to avoid an unpleasant sight. The fourth method uses the opposite approach. Instead of turning away from the unwanted thought, one confronts it directly as an object, scrutinizes its features, and investigates its source. When this is done the thought quiets down and eventually disappears. For an unwholesome thought is like a thief: it only creates trouble when its operation is concealed, but put under observation it becomes tame. The fifth method, to be used only as a last resort, is suppression — vigorously restraining the unwholesome thought with the power of the will in the way a strong man might throw a weaker man to the ground and keep him pinned there with his weight.

By applying these five methods with skill and discretion, the Buddha says, one becomes a master of all the pathways of thought. One is no longer the subject of the mind but its master. Whatever thought one wants to think, that one will think. Whatever thought one does not want to think, that one will not think. Even if unwholesome thoughts occasionally arise, one can dispel them immediately, just as quickly as a red-hot pan will turn to steam a few chance drops of water.

(3) To arouse unarisen wholesome states

Herein the disciple rouses his will to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.45

Simultaneously with the removal of defilements, right effort also imposes the task of cultivating wholesome states of mind. This involves two divisions: the arousing of wholesome states not yet arisen and the maturation of wholesome states already arisen.

The first of the two divisions is also known as the endeavor to develop (bhavanappadhana). Though the wholesome states to be developed can be grouped in various ways — serenity and insight, the four foundations of mindfulness, the eight factors of the path, etc. — the Buddha lays special stress on a set called the seven factors of enlightenment (satta bojjhanga): mindfulness, investigation of phenomena, energy, rapture, tranquillity, concentration, and equanimity.

Thus he develops the factors of enlightenment, based on solitude, on detachment, on cessation, and ending in deliverance, namely: the enlightenment factors of mindfulness, investigation of phenomena, energy, rapture, tranquillity, concentration, and equanimity.46

The seven states are grouped together as “enlightenment factors” both because they lead to enlightenment and because they constitute enlightenment. In the preliminary stages of the path they prepare the way for the great realization; in the end they remain as its components. The experience of enlightenment, perfect and complete understanding, is just these seven components working in unison to break all shackles and bring final release from sorrow.

The way to enlightenment starts with mindfulness. Mindfulness clears the ground for insight into the nature of things by bringing to light phenomena in the now, the present moment, stripped of all subjective commentary, interpretations, and projections. Then, when mindfulness has brought the bare phenomena into focus, the factor of investigation steps in to search out their characteristics, conditions, and consequences. Whereas mindfulness is basically receptive, investigation is an active factor which unflinchingly probes, analyzes, and dissects phenomena to uncover their fundamental structures.

The work of investigation requires energy, the third factor of enlightenment, which mounts in three stages. The first, inceptive energy, shakes off lethargy and arouses initial enthusiasm. As the work of contemplation advances, energy gathers momentum and enters the second stage, perseverance, wherein it propels the practice without slackening. Finally, at the peak, energy reaches the third stage, invincibility, where it drives contemplation forward leaving the hindrances powerless to stop it.

As energy increases, the fourth factor of enlightenment is quickened. This is rapture, a pleasurable interest in the object. Rapture gradually builds up, ascending to ecstatic heights: waves of bliss run through the body, the mind glows with joy, fervor and confidence intensify. But these experiences, as encouraging as they are, still contain a flaw: they create an excitation verging on restlessness. With further practice, however, rapture subsides and a tone of quietness sets in signalling the rise of the fifth factor, tranquillity. Rapture remains present, but it is now subdued, and the work of contemplation proceeds with self-possessed serenity.

Tranquillity brings to ripeness concentration, the sixth factor, one-pointed unification of mind. Then, with the deepening of concentration, the last enlightenment factor comes into dominance. This is equanimity, inward poise and balance free from the two defects of excitement and inertia. When inertia prevails, energy must be aroused; when excitement prevails, it is necessary to exercise restraint. But when both defects have been vanquished the practice can unfold evenly without need for concern. The mind of equanimity is compared to the driver of a chariot when the horses are moving at a steady pace: he neither has to urge them forward nor to hold them back, but can just sit comfortably and watch the scenery go by. Equanimity has the same “on-looking” quality. When the other factors are balanced the mind remains poised watching the play of phenomena.

(4) To maintain arisen wholesome states

Herein the disciple rouses his will to maintain the wholesome things that have already arisen, and not to allow them to disappear, but to bring them to growth, to maturity, and to the full perfection of development; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.47

This last of the four right efforts aims at maintaining the arisen wholesome factors and bringing them to maturity. Called the “endeavor to maintain” (anurakkhanappadhana), it is explained as the effort to “keep firmly in the mind a favorable object of concentration that has arisen.”48 The work of guarding the object causes the seven enlightenment factors to gain stability and gradually increase in strength until they issue in the liberating realization. This marks the culmination of right effort, the goal in which the countless individual acts of exertion finally reach fulfillment.

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Right Concentration
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Right Concentration

Samma samadhi …. Right concentration

pathamajjhana …. the first jhana

dutiyajjhana …. the second jhana

tatiyajjhana …. the third jhana

catutthajjhana …. the fourth jhana

Right Concentration
(Samma Samadhi)

The eighth factor of the path is right concentration, in Pali samma samadhi. Concentration represents an intensification of a mental factor present in every state of consciousness. This factor, one-pointedness of mind (citt’ekaggata), has the function of unifying the other mental factors in the task of cognition. It is the factor responsible for the individuating aspect of consciousness, ensuring that every citta or act of mind remains centered on its object. At any given moment the mind must be cognizant of something — a sight, a sound, a smell, a taste, a touch, or a mental object. The factor of one-pointedness unifies the mind and its other concomitants in the task of cognizing the object, while it simultaneously exercises the function of centering all the constituents of the cognitive act on the object. One-pointedness of mind explains the fact that in any act of consciousness there is a central point of focus, towards which the entire objective datum points from its outer peripheries to its inner nucleus.

However, samadhi is only a particular kind of one-pointedness; it is not equivalent to one-pointedness in its entirety. A gourmet sitting down to a meal, an assassin about to slay his victim, a soldier on the battlefield — these all act with a concentrated mind, but their concentration cannot be characterized as samadhi. Samadhi is exclusively wholesome one-pointedness, the concentration in a wholesome state of mind. Even then its range is still narrower: it does not signify every form of wholesome concentration, but only the intensified concentration that results from a deliberate attempt to raise the mind to a higher, more purified level of awareness.

The commentaries define samadhi as the centering of the mind and mental factors rightly and evenly on an object. Samadhi, as wholesome concentration, collects together the ordinarily dispersed and dissipated stream of mental states to induce an inner unification. The two salient features of a concentrated mind are unbroken attentiveness to an object and the consequent tranquillity of the mental functions, qualities which distinguish it from the unconcentrated mind. The mind untrained in concentration moves in a scattered manner which the Buddha compares to the flapping about of a fish taken from the water and thrown onto dry land. It cannot stay fixed but rushes from idea to idea, from thought to thought, without inner control. Such a distracted mind is also a deluded mind. Overwhelmed by worries and concerns, a constant prey to the defilements, it sees things only in fragments, distorted by the ripples of random thoughts. But the mind that has been trained in concentration, in contrast, can remain focused on its object without distraction. This freedom from distraction further induces a softness and serenity which make the mind an effective instrument for penetration. Like a lake unruffled by any breeze, the concentrated mind is a faithful reflector that mirrors whatever is placed before it exactly as it is.

The Development of Concentration

Concentration can be developed through either of two methods — either as the goal of a system of practice directed expressly towards the attainment of deep concentration at the level of absorption or as the incidental accompaniment of the path intended to generate insight. The former method is called the development of serenity (samatha-bhavana), the second the development of insight (vipassana-bhavana). Both paths share certain preliminary requirements. For both, moral discipline must be purified, the various impediments must be severed, the meditator must seek out suitable instruction (preferrably from a personal teacher), and must resort to a dwelling conducive to practice. Once these preliminaries have been dispensed with, the meditator on the path of serenity has to obtain an object of meditation, something to be used as a focal point for developing concentration.61

If the meditator has a qualified teacher, the teacher will probably assign him an object judged to be appropriate for his temperament. If he doesn’t have a teacher, he will have to select an object himself, perhaps after some experimentation. The meditation manuals collect the subjects of serenity meditation into a set of forty, called “places of work” (kammatthana) since they are the places where the meditator does the work of practice. The forty may be listed as follows:

ten kasinas
ten unattractive objects (dasa asubha)
ten recollections (dasa anussatiyo)
four sublime states (cattaro brahmavihara)
four immaterial states (cattaro aruppa)
one perception (eka sañña)
one analysis (eka vavatthana).

The kasinas are devices representing certain primordial qualities. Four represent the primary elements — the earth, water, fire, and air kasinas; four represent colors — the blue, yellow, red, and white kasinas; the other two are the light and the space kasinas. Each kasina is a concrete object representative of the universal quality it signifies. Thus an earth kasina would be a circular disk filled with clay. To develop concentration on the earth kasina the meditator sets the disk in front of him, fixes his gaze on it, and contemplates “earth, earth.” A similar method is used for the other kasinas, with appropriate changes to fit the case.

The ten “unattractive objects” are corpses in different stages of decomposition. This subject appears similar to the contemplation of bodily decay in the mindfulness of the body, and in fact in olden times the cremation ground was recommended as the most appropriate place for both. But the two meditations differ in emphasis. In the mindfulness exercise stress falls on the application of reflective thought, the sight of the decaying corpse serving as a stimulus for consideration of one’s own eventual death and disintegration. In this exercise the use of reflective thought is discouraged. The stress instead falls on one-pointed mental fixation on the object, the less thought the better.

The ten recollections form a miscellaneous collection. The first three are devotional meditations on the qualities of the Triple Gem — the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha; they use as their basis standard formulas that have come down in the Suttas. The next three recollections also rely on ancient formulas: the meditations on morality, generosity, and the potential for divine-like qualities in oneself. Then come mindfulness of death, the contemplation of the unattractive nature of the body, mindfulness of breathing, and lastly, the recollection of peace, a discursive meditation on Nibbana.

The four sublime states or “divine abodes” are the outwardly directed social attitudes — loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity — developed into universal radiations which are gradually extended in range until they encompass all living beings. The four immaterial states are the objective bases for certain deep levels of absorption: the base of infinite space, the base of infinite consciousness, the base of nothingness, and the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. These become accessible as objects only to those who are already adept in concentration. The “one perception” is the perception of the repulsiveness of food, a discursive topic intended to reduce attachment to the pleasures of the palate. The “one analysis” is the contemplation of the body in terms of the four primary elements, already discussed in the chapter on right mindfulness.

When such a variety of meditation subjects is presented, the aspiring meditator without a teacher might be perplexed as to which to choose. The manuals divide the forty subjects according to their suitability for different personality types. Thus the unattractive objects and the contemplation of the parts of the body are judged to be most suitable for a lustful type, the meditation on loving-kindness to be best for a hating type, the meditation on the qualities of the Triple Gem to be most effective for a devotional type, etc. But for practical purposes the beginner in meditation can generally be advised to start with a simple subject that helps reduce discursive thinking. Mental distraction caused by restlessness and scattered thoughts is a common problem faced by persons of all different character types; thus a meditator of any temperament can benefit from a subject which promotes a slowing down and stilling of the thought process. The subject generally recommended for its effectiveness in clearing the mind of stray thoughts is mindfulness of breathing, which can therefore be suggested as the subject most suitable for beginners as well as veterans seeking a direct approach to deep concentration. Once the mind settles down and one’s thought patterns become easier to notice, one might then make use of other subjects to deal with special problems that arise: the meditation on loving-kindness may be used to counteract anger and ill will, mindfulness of the bodily parts to weaken sensual lust, the recollection of the Buddha to inspire faith and devotion, the meditation on death to arouse a sense of urgency. The ability to select the subject appropriate to the situation requires skill, but this skill evolves through practice, often through simple trial-and-error experimentation.

The Stages of Concentration

Concentration is not attained all at once but develops in stages. To enable our exposition to cover all the stages of concentration, we will consider the case of a meditator who follows the entire path of serenity meditation from start to finish, and who will make much faster progress than the typical meditator is likely to make.

After receiving his meditation subject from a teacher, or selecting it on his own, the meditator retires to a quiet place. There he assumes the correct meditation posture — the legs crossed comfortably, the upper part of the body held straight and erect, hands placed one above the other on the lap, the head kept steady, the mouth and eyes closed (unless a kasina or other visual object is used), the breath flowing naturally and regularly through the nostrils. He then focuses his mind on the object and tries to keep it there, fixed and alert. If the mind strays, he notices this quickly, catches it, and brings it back gently but firmly to the object, doing this over and over as often as is necessary. This initial stage is called preliminary concentration (parikkamma-samadhi) and the object the preliminary sign (parikkamma-nimitta).

Once the initial excitement subsides and the mind begins to settle into the practice, the five hindrances are likely to arise, bubbling up from the depths. Sometimes they appear as thoughts, sometimes as images, sometimes as obsessive emotions: surges of desire, anger and resentment, heaviness of mind, agitation, doubts. The hindrances pose a formidable barrier, but with patience and sustained effort they can be overcome. To conquer them the meditator will have to be adroit. At times, when a particular hindrance becomes strong, he may have to lay aside his primary subject of meditation and take up another subject expressly opposed to the hindrance. At other times he will have to persist with his primary subject despite the bumps along the road, bringing his mind back to it again and again.

As he goes on striving along the path of concentration, his exertion activates five mental factors which come to his aid. These factors are intermittently present in ordinary undirected consciousness, but there they lack a unifying bond and thus do not play any special role. However, when activated by the work of meditation, these five factors pick up power, link up with one another, and steer the mind towards samadhi, which they will govern as the “jhana factors,” the factors of absorption (jhananga). Stated in their usual order the five are: initial application of mind (vitakka), sustained application of mind (vicara), rapture (piti), happiness (sukha), and one-pointedness (ekaggata).

Initial application of mind does the work of directing the mind to the object. It takes the mind, lifts it up, and drives it into the object the way one drives a nail through a block of wood. This done, sustained application of mind anchors the mind on the object, keeping it there through its function of examination. To clarify the difference between these two factors, initial application is compared to the striking of a bell, sustained application to the bell’s reverberations. Rapture, the third factor, is the delight and joy that accompany a favorable interest in the object, while happiness, the fourth factor, is the pleasant feeling that accompanies successful concentration. Since rapture and happiness share similar qualities they tend to be confused with each other, but the two are not identical. The difference between them is illustrated by comparing rapture to the joy of a weary desert-farer who sees an oasis in the distance, happiness to his pleasure when drinking from the pond and resting in the shade. The fifth and final factor of absorption is one-pointedness, which has the pivotal function of unifying the mind on the object.62

When concentration is developed, these five factors spring up and counteract the five hindrances. Each absorption factor opposes a particular hindrance. Initial application of mind, through its work of lifting the mind up to the object, counters dullness and drowsiness. Sustained application, by anchoring the mind on the object, drives away doubt. Rapture shuts out ill will, happiness excludes restlessness and worry, and one-pointedness counters sensual desire, the most alluring inducement to distraction. Thus, with the strengthening of the absorption factors, the hindrances fade out and subside. They are not yet eradicated — eradication can only be effected by wisdom, the third division of the path — but they have been reduced to a state of quiescence where they cannot disrupt the forward movement of concentration.

At the same time that the hindrances are being overpowered by the jhana factors inwardly, on the side of the object too certain changes are taking place. The original object of concentration, the preliminary sign, is a gross physical object; in the case of a kasina, it is a disk representing the chosen element or color, in the case of mindfulness of breathing the touch sensation of the breath, etc. But with the strengthening of concentration the original object gives rise to another object called the “learning sign” (uggaha-nimitta). For a kasina this will be a mental image of the disk seen as clearly in the mind as the original object was with the eyes; for the breath it will be a reflex image arisen from the touch sensation of the air currents moving around the nostrils.

When the learning sign appears, the meditator leaves off the preliminary sign and fixes his attention on the new object. In due time still another object will emerge out of the learning sign. This object, called the “counterpart sign” (patibhaga-nimitta), is a purified mental image many times brighter and clearer than the learning sign. The learning sign is compared to the moon seen behind a cloud, the counterpart sign to the moon freed from the cloud. Simultaneously with the appearance of the counterpart sign, the five absorption factors suppress the five hindrances, and the mind enters the stage of concentration called upacara-samadhi, “access concentration.” Here, in access concentration, the mind is drawing close to absorption. It has entered the “neighbourhood” (a possible meaning of upacara) of absorption, but more work is still needed for it to become fully immersed in the object, the defining mark of absorption.

With further practice the factors of concentration gain in strength and bring the mind to absorption (appana-samadhi). Like access concentration, absorption takes the counterpart sign as object. The two stages of concentration are differentiated neither by the absence of the hindrances nor by the counterpart sign as object; these are common to both. What differentiates them is the strength of the jhana factors. In access concentration the jhana factors are present, but they lack strength and steadiness. Thus the mind in this stage is compared to a child who has just learned to walk: he takes a few steps, falls down, gets up, walks some more, and again falls down. But the mind in absorption is like a man who wants to walk: he just gets up and walks straight ahead without hesitation.

Concentration in the stage of absorption is divided into eight levels, each marked by greater depth, purity, and subtlety than its predecessor. The first four form a set called the four jhanas, a word best left untranslated for lack of a suitable equivalent, though it can be loosely rendered “meditative absorption.”63 The second four also form a set, the four immaterial states (aruppa). The eight have to be attained in progressive order, the achievement of any later level being dependent on the mastery of the immediately preceding level.

The four jhanas make up the usual textual definition of right concentration. Thus the Buddha says:

And what, monks, is right concentration? Herein, secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a monk enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by initial and sustained application of mind and filled with rapture and happiness born of seclusion.

Then, with the subsiding of initial and sustained application of mind, by gaining inner confidence and mental unification, he enters and dwells in the second jhana, which is free from initial and sustained application but is filled with rapture and happiness born of concentration.

With the fading out of rapture, he dwells in equanimity, mindful and clearly comprehending; and he experiences in his own person that bliss of which the noble ones say: “Happily lives he who is equanimous and mindful” — thus he enters and dwells in the third jhana.

With the abandoning of pleasure and pain and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, he enters and dwells in the fourth jhana, which has neither-pleasure-nor-pain and purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.

This, monks, is right concentration.64

The jhanas are distinguished by way of their component factors. The first jhana is constituted by the original set of five absorption factors: initial application, sustained application, rapture, happiness, and one-pointedness. After attaining the first jhana the meditator is advised to master it. On the one hand he should not fall into complacency over his achievement and neglect sustained practice; on the other, he should not become over-confident and rush ahead to attain the next jhana. To master the jhana he should enter it repeatedly and perfect his skill in it, until he can attain it, remain in it, emerge from it, and review it without any trouble or difficulty.

After mastering the first jhana, the meditator then considers that his attainment has certain defects. Though the jhana is certainly far superior to ordinary sense consciousness, more peaceful and blissful, it still stands close to sense consciousness and is not far removed from the hindrances. Moreover, two of its factors, initial application and sustained application, appear in time to be rather coarse, not as refined as the other factors. Then the meditator renews his practice of concentration intent on overcoming initial and sustained application. When his faculties mature, these two factors subside and he enters the second jhana. This jhana contains only three component factors: rapture, happiness, and one-pointedness. It also contains a multiplicity of other constituents, the most prominent of which is confidence of mind.

In the second jhana the mind becomes more tranquil and more thoroughly unified, but when mastered even this state seems gross, as it includes rapture, an exhilarating factor that inclines to excitation. So the meditator sets out again on his course of training, this time resolved on overcoming rapture. When rapture fades out, he enters the third jhana. Here there are only two absorption factors, happiness and one-pointedness, while some other auxiliary states come into ascendency, most notably mindfulness, clear comprehension, and equanimity. But still, the meditator sees, this attainment is defective in that it contains the feeling of happiness, which is gross compared to neutral feeling, feeling that is neither pleasant not painful. Thus he strives to get beyond even the sublime happiness of the third jhana. When he succeeds, he enters the fourth jhana, which is defined by two factors — one-pointedness and neutral feeling — and has a special purity of mindfulness due to the high level of equanimity.

Beyond the four jhanas lie the four immaterial states, levels of absorption in which the mind transcends even the subtlest perception of visualized images still sometimes persisting in the jhanas. The immaterial states are attained, not by refining mental factors as are the jhanas, but by refining objects, by replacing a relatively gross object with a subtler one. The four attainments are named after their respective objects: the base of infinite space, the base of infinite consciousness, the base of nothingness, and the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.65 These states represent levels of concentration so subtle and remote as to elude clear verbal explanation. The last of the four stands at the apex of mental concentration; it is the absolute, maximum degree of unification possible for consciousness. But even so, these absorptions reached by the path of serenity meditation, as exalted as they are, still lack the wisdom of insight, and so are not yet sufficient for gaining deliverance.

The kinds of concentration discussed so far arise by fixing the mind upon a single object to the exclusion of other objects. But apart from these there is another kind of concentration which does not depend upon restricting the range of awareness. This is called “momentary concentration” (khanika-samadhi). To develop momentary concentration the meditator does not deliberately attempt to exclude the multiplicity of phenomena from his field of attention. Instead, he simply directs mindfulness to the changing states of mind and body, noting any phenomenon that presents itself; the task is to maintain a continuous awareness of whatever enters the range of perception, clinging to nothing. As he goes on with his noting, concentration becomes stronger moment after moment until it becomes established one-pointedly on the constantly changing stream of events. Despite the change in the object, the mental unification remains steady, and in time acquires a force capable of suppressing the hindrances to a degree equal to that of access concentration. This fluid, mobile concentration is developed by the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness, taken up along the path of insight; when sufficiently strong it issues in the breakthrough to the last stage of the path, the arising of wisdom.

The Development of Wisdom

Though right concentration claims the last place among the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, concentration itself does not mark the path’s culmination. The attainment of concentration makes the mind still and steady, unifies its concomitants, opens vast vistas of bliss, serenity, and power. But by itself it does not suffice to reach the highest accomplishment, release from the bonds of suffering. To reach the end of suffering demands that the Eightfold Path be turned into an instrument of discovery, that it be used to generate the insights unveiling the ultimate truth of things. This requires the combined contributions of all eight factors, and thus a new mobilization of right view and right intention. Up to the present point these first two path factors have performed only a preliminary function. Now they have to be taken up again and raised to a higher level. Right view is to become a direct seeing into the real nature of phenomena, previously grasped only conceptually; right intention, to become a true renunciation of defilements born out of deep understanding.

Before we turn to the development of wisdom, it will be helpful to inquire why concentration is not adequate to the attainment of liberation. Concentration does not suffice to bring liberation because it fails to touch the defilements at their fundamental level. The Buddha teaches that the defilements are stratified into three layers: the stage of latent tendency, the stage of manifestation, and the stage of transgression. The most deeply grounded is the level of latent tendency (anusaya), where a defilement merely lies dormant without displaying any activity. The second level is the stage of manifestation (pariyutthana), where a defilement, through the impact of some stimulus, surges up in the form of unwholesome thoughts, emotions, and volitions. Then, at the third level, the defilement passes beyond a purely mental manifestation to motivate some unwholesome action of body or speech. Hence this level is called the stage of transgression (vitikkama).

The three divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path provide the check against this threefold layering of the defilements. The first, the training in moral discipline, restrains unwholesome bodily and verbal activity and thus prevents defilements from reaching the stage of transgression. The training in concentration provides the safeguard against the stage of manifestation. It removes already manifest defilements and protects the mind from their continued influx. But even though concentration may be pursued to the depths of full absorption, it cannot touch the basic source of affliction — the latent tendencies lying dormant in the mental continuum. Against these concentration is powerless, since to root them out calls for more than mental calm. What it calls for, beyond the composure and serenity of the unified mind, is wisdom (pañña), a penetrating vision of phenomena in their fundamental mode of being.

Wisdom alone can cut off the latent tendencies at their root because the most fundamental member of the set, the one which nurtures the others and holds them in place, is ignorance (avijja), and wisdom is the remedy for ignorance. Though verbally a negative, “unknowing,” ignorance is not a factual negative, a mere privation of right knowledge. It is, rather, an insidious and volatile mental factor incessantly at work inserting itself into every compartment of our inner life. It distorts cognition, dominates volition, and determines the entire tone of our existence. As the Buddha says: “The element of ignorance is indeed a powerful element” (SN 14:13).

At the cognitive level, which is its most basic sphere of operation, ignorance infiltrates our perceptions, thoughts, and views, so that we come to misconstrue our experience, overlaying it with multiple strata of delusions. The most important of these delusions are three: the delusions of seeing permanence in the impermanent, of seing satisfaction in the unsatisfactory, and of seeing a self in the selfless.66 Thus we take ourselves and our world to be solid, stable, enduring entities, despite the ubiquitous reminders that everything is subject to change and destruction. We assume we have an innate right to pleasure, and direct our efforts to increasing and intensifying our enjoyment with an anticipatory fervor undaunted by repeated encounters with pain, disappointment, and frustration. And we perceive ourselves as self-contained egos, clinging to the various ideas and images we form of ourselves as the irrefragable truth of our identity.

Whereas ignorance obscures the true nature of things, wisdom removes the veils of distortion, enabling us to see phenomena in their fundamental mode of being with the vivacity of direct perception. The training in wisdom centers on the development of insight (vipassana-bhavana), a deep and comprehensive seeing into the nature of existence which fathoms the truth of our being in the only sphere where it is directly accessible to us, namely, in our own experience. Normally we are immersed in our experience, identified with it so completely that we do not comprehend it. We live it but fail to understand its nature. Due to this blindness experience comes to be misconstrued, worked upon by the delusions of permanence, pleasure, and self. Of these cognitive distortions, the most deeply grounded and resistant is the delusion of self, the idea that at the core of our being there exists a truly established “I” with which we are essentially identified. This notion of self, the Buddha teaches, is an error, a mere presupposition lacking a real referent. Yet, though a mere presupposition, the idea of self is not inconsequential. To the contrary, it entails consequences that can be calamitous. Because we make the view of self the lookout point from which we survey the world, our minds divide everything up into the dualities of “I” and “not I,” what is “mine” and what is “not mine.” Then, trapped in these dichotomies, we fall victim to the defilements they breed, the urges to grasp and destroy, and finally to the suffering that inevitably follows.

To free ourselves from all defilements and suffering, the illusion of selfhood that sustains them has to be dispelled, exploded by the realization of selflessness. Precisely this is the task set for the development of wisdom. The first step along the path of development is an analytical one. In order to uproot the view of self, the field of experience has to be laid out in certain sets of factors, which are then methodically investigated to ascertain that none of them singly or in combination can be taken as a self. This analytical treatment of experience, so characteristic of the higher reaches of Buddhist philosophical psychology, is not intended to suggest that experience, like a watch or car, can be reduced to an accidental conglomeration of separable parts. Experience does have an irreducible unity, but this unity is functional rather than substantial; it does not require the postulate of a unifying self separate from the factors, retaining its identity as a constant amidst the ceaseless flux.

The method of analysis applied most often is that of the five aggregates of clinging (panc’upadanakkhandha): material form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.67 Material form constitutes the material side of existence: the bodily organism with its sense faculties and the outer objects of cognition. The other four aggregates constitute the mental side. Feeling provides the affective tone, perception the factor of noting and identifying, the mental formations the volitional and emotive elements, and consciousness the basic awareness essential to the whole occasion of experience. The analysis by way of the five aggregates paves the way for an attempt to see experience solely in terms of its constituting factors, without slipping in implicit references to an unfindable self. To gain this perspective requires the development of intensive mindfulness, now applied to the fourth foundation, the contemplation of the factors of existence (dhammanupassana). The disciple will dwell contemplating the five aggregates, their arising and passing:

The disciple dwells in contemplation of phenomena, namely, of the five aggregates of clinging. He knows what material form is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what feeling is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what perception is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what mental formations are, how they arise, how they pass away; knows what consciousness is, how it arises, how it passes away.68

Or the disciple may instead base his contemplation on the six internal and external spheres of sense experience, that is, the six sense faculties and their corresponding objects, also taking note of the “fetters” or defilements that arise from such sensory contacts:

The disciple dwells in contemplation of phenomena, namely, of the six internal and external sense bases. He knows the eye and forms, the ear and sounds, the nose and odors, the tongue and tastes, the body and tangibles, the mind and mental objects; and he knows as well the fetter that arises in dependence on them. He understands how the unarisen fetter arises, how the arisen fetter is abandoned, and how the abandoned fetter does not arise again in the future.69

The view of self is further attenuated by examining the factors of existence, not analytically, but in terms of their relational structure. Inspection reveals that the aggregates exist solely in dependence on conditions. Nothing in the set enjoys the absolute self-sufficiency of being attributed to the assumed “I.” Whatever factors in the body-mind complex be looked at, they are found to be dependently arisen, tied to the vast net of events extending beyond themselves temporally and spatially. The body, for example, has arisen through the union of sperm and egg and subsists in dependence on food, water, and air. Feeling, perception, and mental formations occur in dependence on the body with its sense faculties. They require an object, the corresponding consciousness, and the contact of the object with the consciousness through the media of the sense faculties. Consciousness in its turn depends on the sentient organism and the entire assemblage of co-arisen mental factors. This whole process of becoming, moreover, has arisen from the previous lives in this particular chain of existences and inherit all the accumulated kamma of the earlier existences. Thus nothing possesses a self-sufficient mode of being. All conditioned phenomena exist relationally, contingent and dependent on other things.

The above two steps — the factorial analysis and the discernment of relations — help cut away the intellectual adherence to the idea of self, but they lack sufficient power to destroy the ingrained clinging to the ego sustained by erroneous perception. To uproot this subtle form of ego-clinging requires a counteractive perception: direct insight into the empty, coreless nature of phenomena. Such an insight is generated by contemplating the factors of existence in terms of their three universal marks — impermanence (aniccata), unsatisfactoriness (dukkhata), and selflessness (anattata). Generally, the first of the three marks to be discerned is impermanence, which at the level of insight does not mean merely that everything eventually comes to an end. At this level it means something deeper and more pervasive, namely, that conditioned phenomena are in constant process, happenings which break up and perish almost as soon as they arise. The stable objects appearing to the senses reveal themselves to be strings of momentary formations (sankhara); the person posited by common sense dissolves into a current made up of two intertwining streams — a stream of material events, the aggregate of material form, and a stream of mental events, the other four aggregates.

When impermanence is seen, insight into the other two marks closely follows. Since the aggregates are constantly breaking up, we cannot pin our hopes on them for any lasting satisfaction. Whatever expectations we lay on them are bound to be dashed to pieces by their inevitable change. Thus when seen with insight they are dukkha, suffering, in the deepest sense. Then, as the aggregates are impermanent and unsatisfactory, they cannot be taken as self. If they were self, or the belongings of a self, we would be able to control them and bend them to our will, to make them everlasting sources of bliss. But far from being able to exercise such mastery, we find them to be grounds of pain and disappointment. Since they cannot be subjected to control, these very factors of our being are anatta: not a self, not the belongings of a self, just empty, ownerless phenomena occurring in dependence on conditions.

When the course of insight practice is entered, the eight path factors become charged with an intensity previously unknown. They gain in force and fuse together into the unity of a single cohesive path heading towards the goal. In the practice of insight all eight factors and three trainings co-exist; each is there supporting all the others; each makes its own unique contribution to the work. The factors of moral discipline hold the tendencies to transgression in check with such care that even the thought of unethical conduct does not arise. The factors of the concentration group keep the mind firmly fixed upon the stream of phenomena, contemplating whatever arises with impeccable precision, free from forgetfulness and distraction. Right view, as the wisdom of insight, grows continually sharper and deeper; right intention shows itself in a detachment and steadiness of purpose bringing an unruffled poise to the entire process of contemplation.

Insight meditation takes as its objective sphere the “conditioned formations” (sankhara) comprised in the five aggregates. Its task is to uncover their essential characteristics: the three marks of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness. Because it still deals with the world of conditioned events, the Eightfold Path in the stage of insight is called the mundane path (lokiyamagga). This designation in no way implies that the path of insight is concerned with mundane goals, with achievements falling in the range of samsara. It aspires to transcendence, it leads to liberation, but its objective domain of contemplation still lies within the conditioned world. However, this mundane contemplation of the conditioned serves as the vehicle for reaching the unconditioned, for attaining the supramundane. When insight meditation reaches its climax, when it fully comprehends the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness of everything formed, the mind breaks through the conditioned and realizes the unconditioned, Nibbana. It sees Nibbana with direct vision, makes it an object of immediate realization.

The breakthrough to the unconditioned is achieved by a type of consciousness or mental event called the supramundane path (lokuttaramagga). The supramundane path occurs in four stages, four “supramundane paths,” each marking a deeper level of realization and issuing in a fuller degree of liberation, the fourth and last in complete liberation. The four paths can be achieved in close proximity to one another — for those with extraordinarily sharp faculties even in the same sitting — or (as is more typically the case) they can be spread out over time, even over several lifetimes.70 The supramundane paths share in common the penetration of the Four Noble Truths. They understand them, not conceptually, but intuitively. They grasp them through vision, seeing them with self-validating certainty to be the invariable truths of existence. The vision of the truths which they present is complete at one moment. The four truths are not understood sequentially, as in the stage of reflection when thought is the instrument of understanding. They are seen simultaneously: to see one truth with the path is to see them all.

As the path penetrates the four truths, the mind exercises four simultaneous functions, one regarding each truth. It fully comprehends the truth of suffering, seeing all conditioned existence as stamped with the mark of unsatisfactoriness. At the same time it abandons craving, cuts through the mass of egotism and desire that repeatedly gives birth to suffering. Again, the mind realizes cessation, the deathless element Nibbana, now directly present to the inner eye. And fourthly, the mind develops the Noble Eightfold Path, whose eight factors spring up endowed with tremendous power, attained to supramundane stature: right view as the direct seeing of Nibbana, right intention as the mind’s application to Nibbana, the triad of ethical factors as the checks on moral transgression, right effort as the energy in the path-consciousness, right mindfulness as the factor of awareness, and right concentration as the mind’s one-pointed focus. This ability of the mind to perform four functions at the same moment is compared to a candle’s ability to simultaneously burn the wick, consume the wax, dispel darkness, and give light.71

The supramundane paths have the special task of eradicating the defilements. Prior to the attainment of the paths, in the stages of concentration and even insight meditation, the defilements were not cut off but were only debilitated, checked and suppressed by the training of the higher mental faculties. Beneath the surface they continued to linger in the form of latent tendencies. But when the supramundane paths are reached, the work of eradication begins.

Insofar as they bind us to the round of becoming, the defilements are classified into a set of ten “fetters” (samyojana) as follows: (1) personality view, (2) doubt, (3) clinging to rules and rituals, (4) sensual desire, (5) aversion, (6) desire for fine-material existence, (7) desire for immaterial existence, (8) conceit, (9) restlessness, and (10) ignorance. The four supramundane paths each eliminate a certain layer of defilements. The first, the path of stream-entry (sotapatti-magga), cuts off the first three fetters, the coarsest of the set, eliminates them so they can never arise again. “Personality view” (sakkaya-ditthi), the view of a truly existent self in the five aggregates, is cut off since one sees the selfless nature of all phenomena. Doubt is eliminated because one has grasped the truth proclaimed by the Buddha, seen it for oneself, and so can never again hang back due to uncertainty. And clinging to rules and rites is removed since one knows that deliverance can be won only through the practice of the Eightfold Path, not through rigid moralism or ceremonial observances.

The path is followed immediately by another state of supramundane consciousness known as the fruit (phala), which results from the path’s work of cutting off defilements. Each path is followed by its own fruit, wherein for a few moments the mind enjoys the blissful peace of Nibbana before descending again to the level of mundane consciousness. The first fruit is the fruit of stream-entry, and a person who has gone through the experience of this fruit becomes a “stream-enterer” (sotapanna). He has entered the stream of the Dhamma carrying him to final deliverance. He is bound for liberation and can no longer fall back into the ways of an unenlightened worldling. He still has certain defilements remaining in his mental makeup, and it may take him as long as seven more lives to arrive at the final goal, but he has acquired the essential realization needed to reach it, and there is no way he can fall away.

An enthusiastic practitioner with sharp faculties, after reaching stream-entry, does not relax his striving but puts forth energy to complete the entire path as swiftly as possible. He resumes his practice of insight contemplation, passes through the ascending stages of insight-knowledge, and in time reaches the second path, the path of the once-returner (sakadagami-magga). This supramundane path does not totally eradicate any of the fetters, but it attenuates the roots of greed, aversion, and delusion. Following the path the meditator experiences its fruit, then emerges as a “once-returner” who will return to this world at most only one more time before attaining full liberation.

But our practitioner again takes up the task of contemplation. At the next stage of supramundane realization he attains the third path, the path of the non-returner (anagami-magga), with which he cuts off the two fetters of sensual desire and ill will. From that point on he can never again fall into the grip of any desire for sense pleasure, and can never be aroused to anger, aversion, or discontent. As a non-returner he will not return to the human state of existence in any future life. If he does not reach the last path in this very life, then after death he will be reborn in a higher sphere in the fine-material world (rupaloka) and there reach deliverance.

But our meditator again puts forth effort, develops insight, and at its climax enters the fourth path, the path of arahatship (arahatta-magga). With this path he cuts off the five remaining fetters — desire for fine-material existence and desire for immaterial existence, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. The first is the desire for rebirth into the celestial planes made accessible by the four jhanas, the planes commonly subsumed under the name “the Brahma-world.” The second is the desire for rebirth into the four immaterial planes made accessible by the achievement of the four immaterial attainments. Conceit (mana) is not the coarse type of pride to which we become disposed through an over-estimation of our virtues and talents, but the subtle residue of the notion of an ego which subsists even after conceptually explicit views of self have been eradicated. The texts refer to this type of conceit as the conceit “I am” (asmimana). Restlessness (uddhacca) is the subtle excitement which persists in any mind not yet completely enlightened, and ignorance (avijja) is the fundamental cognitive obscuration which prevents full understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Although the grosser grades of ignorance have been scoured from the mind by the wisdom faculty in the first three paths, a thin veil of ignorance overlays the truths even in the non-returner.

The path of arahatship strips away this last veil of ignorance and, with it, all the residual mental defilements. This path issues in perfect comprehension of the Four Noble Truths. It fully fathoms the truth of suffering; eradicates the craving from which suffering springs; realizes with complete clarity the unconditioned element, Nibbana, as the cessation of suffering; and consummates the development of the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path.

With the attainment of the fourth path and fruit the disciple emerges as an arahant, one who in this very life has been liberated from all bonds. The arahant has walked the Noble Eightfold Path to its end and lives in the assurance stated so often in the formula from the Pali canon: “Destroyed is birth; the holy life has been lived; what had to be done has been done; there is no coming back to any state of being.” The arahant is no longer a practitioner of the path but its living embodiment. Having developed the eight factors of the path to their consummation, the Liberated One lives in the enjoyment of their fruits, enlightenment and final deliverance.


This completes our survey of the Noble Eightfold Path, the way to deliverance from suffering taught by the Buddha. The higher reaches of the path may seem remote from us in our present position, the demands of practice may appear difficult to fulfill. But even if the heights of realization are now distant, all that we need to reach them lies just beneath our feet. The eight factors of the path are always accessible to us; they are mental components which can be established in the mind simply through determination and effort. We have to begin by straightening out our views and clarifying our intentions. Then we have to purify our conduct — our speech, action, and livelihood. Taking these measures as our foundation, we have to apply ourselves with energy and mindfulness to the cultivation of concentration and insight. The rest is a matter of gradual practice and gradual progress, without expecting quick results. For some progress may be rapid, for others it may be slow, but the rate at which progress occurs should not cause elation or discouragement. Liberation is the inevitable fruit of the path and is bound to blossom forth when there is steady and persistent practice. The only requirements for reaching the final goal are two: to start and to continue. If these requirements are met there is no doubt the goal will be attained. This is the Dhamma, the undeviating law.

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