to the Buddhist Scriptures
In "The Buddha's
Path", Volume I, I have explained the basic principles of the Buddha's
teachings, and now, in this section, I would like to introduce the reader
to the Buddhist scriptures which contain the teaching of the Buddha. I
will quote more extensively from the texts with the aim to encourage the
reader to study the texts himself. In that way he can verify
the Buddha's words were directed to the practice of what he taught, in
particular to the development of right understanding of all phenomena of
For the now
following chapters I have used many ideas of the lectures for a radio program
in Thailand by Sujin Boriharnwanaket. She quotes extensively from all
three parts of the scriptures, explains their meaning and inspires people
to relate them to their daily life. If we merely read the texts with the
purpose of intellectual understanding, we fail to see the message they
contain for our life at this moment and we do not understand the goal of
the Buddha's teachings.
in the Scriptures
We read in
the "Kindred Sayings" (Salayatana Vagga, Kindred Sayings about Feeling,
Book I, 7, Sickness):
the Exalted One was staying near Vesali, in Great Grove, at the Hall of
the Peaked Gable.
the Exalted One at eventide rising from his solitude went to visit the
sick-ward, and on reaching it sat down on a seat made ready. So seated
the Exalted One addressed the monks, saying:--
a monk should meet his end collected and composed . This is our instruction
to you. And how, monks, is one collected?
monks, a monk dwells, contemplating the body in the body... feeling in
the feeling... consciousness in consciousness... dhamma in dhamma, ardent,
composed and thoughtful, having put away in this world the dejection arising
from craving. Thus, monks, is a monk collected.
monks, is a monk composed?
monks, in his going forth and in his returning a monk acts composedly.
In looking in front and looking behind, he acts composedly. In bending
or relaxing (his limbs) he acts composedly. In wearing his robe and bearing
outer robe and bowl, in eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting he acts
composedly. In easing himself, in going, standing, sitting, sleeping, waking,
in speaking and keeping silence he acts composedly. Thus, monks, is a monk
a monk should meet his end collected and composed. This is our instruction
monks, as that monk dwells collected, composed, earnest, ardent, strenuous,
there arises in him feeling that is pleasant, and he thus understands:
'There is arisen in me this pleasant feeling. Now that is owing to something,
not without cause. Owing to what? Owing to this same body. Now this body
is impermanent, compounded, arisen owing to something. It is owing to this
impermanent body, which has so arisen, that pleasant feeling has arisen
as a consequence, and how can that be permanent?'
he dwells contemplating impermanence in body and pleasant feeling, he dwells
contemplating their transience, their waning, their ceasing, the giving
of them up. As he thus dwells contemplating impermanence in body and pleasant
feeling, contemplating their transience... the lurking tendency to lust
for body and pleasant feeling is abandoned.
as regards painful feeling... the lurking tendency to repugnance for body
and painful feeling is abandoned.
as regards neutral feeling... the lurking tendency to ignorance of body
and neutral feeling is abandoned.
feels a pleasant feeling he understands: 'That is impermanent, I do not
cling to it. It has no lure for me.' If he feels a painful feeling he understands
likewise. So also if he feels a neutral feeling.
feels a pleasant feeling, he feels it as released from bondage to it.
if he feels a painful feeling and a neutral feeling, he feels it as one
released from bondage to it.
he feels a feeling that his bodily endurance has reached its limit, he
knows that he so feels. When he feels a feeling that life has reached its
limit, he knows that he so feels. He understands: When body breaks up,
after life is used up, all my experiences in this world will lose their
lure and grow cold.
Just as, monks,
because of oil and because of a wick a lamp keeps burning, but, when oil
and wick are used up, the lamp would go out because it is not fed. Even
so, monks, a monk, when he feels a feeling that his bodily endurance has
reached its limit, that his life has reached its limit, when he feels a
feeling that, when body breaks up, after life is used up, all his experience
in this world will lose its lure and grow cold,- he knows that he so feels."
contains the essence of the Buddha's teaching: the development of satipatthana,
right understanding of mental phenomena and physical phenomena, which leads
to the eradication of all defilements. Just as a lamp will go out when
oil and wick are used up the person who has
defilements will not be reborn.
taught about the realities which can be directly experienced in daily life
when they appear, such as seeing, hearing, feeling, hardness or sound.
All these phenomena are real in the absolute or ultimate sense. Absolute
or ultimate truth is different from conventional truth . If one has never
heard of the Buddha's teachings one only knows what is real in conventional
sense. We think of ourselves and of the world around us, of people, animals,
trees, and they seem to last. The world, person, animal or tree are real
in conventional sense. The world and everything in it can only appear because
consciousness arises just for a moment, thinks about it
and then falls
away immediately. Consciousness, in Pali : citta, is real in the absolute
sense. The Buddha taught that in the absolute sense our life consists of
mental phenomena, in Pali: nama, and physical phenomena, in Pali: rupa.
Citta is nama, it experiences an object, whereas rupa does not experience
anything. There are no mind and body which last and which belong to a self
or person; what we take for our mind and body are only different namas
and rupas, each with their own characteristic which can be experienced
one at a time when it appears. They arise because of their appropriate
conditions and then fall away immediately. They are impermanent and they
do not belong to a self, they have no owner. There is only one citta arising
at a time, but each citta is accompanied by several mental factors, in
Pali: cetasikas. Both citta and cetasika are nama. Some cetasikas, such
as feeling and remembrance accompany each citta, whereas unwholesome qualities
such as attachment and aversion accompany only unwholesome cittas and wholesome
qualities such as kindnes, generosity or understanding accompany wholesome
cittas. Citta cannot arise without cetasikas and cetasikas cannot arise
without citta, they condition one another. They arise together, experience
the same object and then fall away together. Thus, what we call "person"
is actually citta, cetasika and rupa which arise and fall away. Citta,
cetasika and rupa are the three paramattha dhammas which are conditioned:
they arise because of conditions and then fall away. There is a fourth
paramattha dhamma which is unconditioned, which does not arise and fall
away and this is nibbana. Nibbana is the reality which can only be experienced
at the moment enlightenment is attained.
of right understanding of what is real in the ultimate sense is the only
way leading to the eradication of defilements. When we study the scriptures,
no matter whether it is the Vinaya, the Book of Discipline for the monks,
the Suttanta or Discourses, or the Abhidhamma, we should never forget this
goal. The Vinaya contains rules and guidelines for
behaviour which can help him to reach perfection, the state of the arahat,
who has eradicated all defilements. The Suttanta or Suttas are discourses
of the Buddha to people of different levels of understanding at different
places. In these discourses the Buddha speaks about birth, old age, sickness
and death. He speaks about the suffering in the world and the
cause of all
suffering which is craving. He explains what is unwholesome and what is
wholesome or beneficial, he points out the danger of defilements and the
way to eradicate them by the development of understanding of all that is
real. The Abhidhamma contains the description of all mental phenomena and
physical phenomena of our life, their different conditioning factors and
the way they are related to each other.
In the Abhidhamma
all paramattha dhammas, ultimate realities, are enumerated and classified
in detail, but also in the Suttas the Buddha explained about paramattha
dhammas, about nama and rupa, in order to help people to gain understanding.
The Suttas are mostly, but not entirely, in terms of conventional language.
The Buddha knew the different accumulated inclinations of people and thus
he chose the wording best suited to the persons addressed. He spoke to
monks, laypeople, brahmins and philosophers who adhered to other beliefs.
He made use of parables or of examples of events in daily life in order
to help people to understand paramattha dhammas. Right understanding of
paramattha dhammas should be developed in order to eliminate wrong view
of realities. The study of the Abhidhamma helps us to have more understanding
of what the Buddha taught in the suttas.
Not all people
were ready to grasp what paramattha dhammas are, and therefore the Buddha
would give them a "gradual discourse", or a discourse "in due order". We
read, for example in the "Verses of Uplift" (Khuddaka Nikaya, Minor Anthologies),
Ch V, 3, that, when the Buddha was staying near Rajagaha, in Bamboo Grove,
a leper, named Suppabuddha, saw from afar that the Buddha was teaching
dhamma to a great many people. He wanted to draw near the crowd, hoping
to obtain some food. He noticed that there was no alms-giving, but that
the Buddha was teaching dhamma and then he decided to listen. We read:
the Exalted One, grasping with his mind the thoughts of all that assembly,
said to himself: Who, I wonder, of those present is of growth to understand
dhamma? And the Exalted One saw Suppabuddha, the leper, sitting in that
assembly, and at the sight he thought: This one here is of growth to understand
dhamma. So for the sake of Suppabuddha, the leper, he gave a talk dealing
in due order with these topics: on almsgiving, virtue, the heaven world,
of the danger, meanness and corruption of sense-desires, and the profit
of getting free of them.
the Exalted One knew that the heart of Suppabuddha, the leper, was ready,
softened, unbiassed, elated and believing, then he unfolded those dhamma-teachings
which the awakened ones have themselves discovered, namely: Dukkha, arising,
ending, the Way.
just as a white cloth, free from stains, is ready to receive the dye, even
so in Suppabuddha, the leper, as he sat there in that very seat, arose
the pure, stainless dhamma-sight, the knowledge that whatsoever is of a
nature to arise, that also is of a nature to end. And Suppabuddha, the
leper, saw dhamma, reached dhamma, understood dhamma, plunged into dhamma,
crossed beyond doubting, was free from all questionings, won confidence,
and needing none other in the Master's message , rose from his seat, advanced
to the Exalted One and sat down at one side....
listened to the Buddha's exposition of the four noble Truths: dukkha, the
cause of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha and the way leading to the cessation
of dukkha which is the eightfold Path . While Suppabuddha listened he attained
the first stage of enlightenment, the stage of the sotapanna. He could
not have attained enlightenment if he had not known what dhammas, realities,
are. While he was seeing and hearing he had to be aware of the namas and
rupas which were appearing and he had to penetrate their true nature. He
could attain enlightenment because he had accumulated wisdom also in past
We cannot understand
the deep meaning of the suttas if we have no basic understanding of the
paramattha dhammas as they have been described in the Abhidhamma. We cannot
understand what has been stated in this sutta about Suppabuddha's enlightenment
if we do not know that citta, cetasika and rupa, thus, paramattha dhammas,
are the objects of insight. Suppabuddha had to clearly know the difference
between the characteristics of nama and rupa as they appeared one at a
time, and he had to realize them as conditioned realities before he could
penetrate their impermanence, their nature of dukkha and of non-self .
It takes an endlessly long time, even many lives, to develop understanding.
However, a moment of understanding is never lost, it is accumulated. In
the Seventh Book of the Abhidhamma, the "Patthana", translated as "Conditional
Relations", different types of conditions for realities have been taught.
One of these is the contiguity-condition (anantara-paccaya): each citta
which arises is a condition for the succeeding one by way of contiguity-condition.
Defilements and good qualities which arose in the past, even in past lives,
are accumulated from one moment of citta to the next one, since each citta
conditions the following one by way of contiguity-condition. The Abhidhamma
clarifies how we accumulate different inclinations and how they condition
the cittas arising at the present time.
We read further
on that Suppabuddha went away after having heard the discourse and was
then killed by a calf. When the monks asked the Buddha about Suppabuddha's
rebirth the Buddha explained that he was a sotapanna, bound for full enlightenment.
A sotapanna cannot be reborn in an unhappy plane. The monks then asked
why he was born as a poor, wretched leper. The Buddha answered that in
a former life he had insulted a "Silent Buddha". Because of that deed he
was reborn in hell and in his last life he was born as a leper. In that
life he became a sotapanna and then he was reborn in a heavenly plane.
We read in
this sutta about kamma which produces result, but it is a subject which
is difficult to understand. The study of the Abhidhamma is most helpful
to gain more understanding of the different conditions for the namas and
rupas of our life, including the condition of kamma which produces vipaka.
We have read in the above-quoted sutta about the result Suppabuddha received
when a calf caused his death. Not only pain felt at an accident is vipaka,
but also seeing, hearing and the other sense-impressions are vipaka. They
are vipakacittas arising time and again in daily life. The Abhidhamma teaches
in detail about all the different types of kusala cittas, of akusala cittas
and of cittas which are neither kusala nor akusala, including vipakacittas,
and about all the different cetasikas which accompany cittas. We learn
about the different objects cittas experience through the senses and the
mind-door, and about the defilements arising on account of what is experienced.
Also in the suttas we read about the experience of objects through the
senses and the defilements which arise, but without the study of the Abhidhamma
we cannot fully understand the sutta texts. I will illustrate this with
sutta. We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (IV, Salayatana Vagga, Kindred
Sayings on Sense, Second Fifty, Ch 5, 98, Restraint) that the Buddha said
to the monks:
will teach you, monks, restraint and lack of restraint. Do you listen to
it. And how, monks, is one unrestrained?
are, monks, objects cognizable by the eye, objects desirable, pleasant,
delightful and dear, passion-fraught, inciting to lust. If a monk be enamoured
of them, if he welcome them, if he persist in clinging to them, thus should
he understand: "I am falling back in profitable states. This was called
'falling back' by the Exalted One."
same is said with regard to the other sense-doors and the mind-door.)
monks, is one restrained?
are objects cognizable by the eye... If a monk be not enamoured of them,
if he welcome them not, ... thus should he understand: "I am not falling
back in profitable states. This was called 'not falling back' by the Exalted
One." Thus, monks, is one restrained.
helps us to understand the different functions of cittas arising in a process
of cittas which experience objects through the six doors. In a process
of cittas which experience an object through one of the sense-doors there
are moments of vipaka and there are kusala cittas or akusala cittas which
arise on account of the object which is experienced. The cittas arising
in such a process arise each because of their own conditions and in a fixed
order; there is no self who can direct the arising of particular cittas.
There is no self who is unrestrained or restrained. When we read about
the monk who is enamoured of the objects experienced through eyes, ears,
or through the other senses, we may not realize that we all have attachment
time and again after seeing, hearing and the other sense-impressions. When
we read the above-quoted sutta with understanding of different cittas arising
in processes we will see that this sutta reminds us of our defilements
arising in daily life, even at this moment. If we do not know that defilements
and wholesome qualities are cetasikas, conditioned realities, we may take
them for self. We may cling to a concept of self who is practising the
eightfold Path, whereas in reality wholesome cetasikas are performing their
functions. We read in the suttas about the exertion of energy or effort
for what is wholesome and about right effort of the eightfold Path. If
we do not know that effort is a cetasika which can arise with akusala citta
as well as with kusala citta there are bound to be many misunderstandings
concerning the development of kusala and in particular the development
of the eightfold Path. We read, for example, in the "Gradual Sayings" (II,
Book of the Fours, Ch II, 3, Effort) :
are four right efforts, O monks. What four?
a monk rouses his will not to permit the arising of evil, unwholesome states
that have not arisen- to abandon evil, unwholesome states already arisen-
to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen- to maintain wholesome
states already arisen and not allow them to disappear; he makes an effort
(for it), stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.
may believe that whenever he tries to develop the eightfold Path there
is right effort which is wholesome, but in reality there may be effort
arising with akusala citta rooted in attachment, he may take effort for
"my effort". Mindfulness arises because of its appropriate conditions,
not by trying to make it arise. When awareness and right understanding
of nama and rupa arise there is at that moment also right effort which
accompanies the kusala citta. Thus, it is essential to study details of
cetasikas which accompany the different types of citta. The study of the
Abhidhamma can help us to have a more precise understanding of the realities
of daily life.
doubt whether the Abhidhamma is the Buddha's teaching. The commentator
Buddhaghosa explains that the Buddha, at the attainment of enlightenment,
penetrated the truth of all realities, and that he in the fourth week after
his enlightenment contemplated the contents of the seven books of the Abhidhamma.
He preached the Abhidhamma first to the devas of the heavenly plane of
the "Thirtythree", headed by his mother. After that he conveyed the method
of the Abhidhamma to Sariputta. Thus, the codified Abhidhamma litterature
as we have it today goes back to the Buddha's chief disciple Sariputta.
When we study the Abhidhamma and the suttas and compare them, we will notice
that also numerous suttas are in terms of paramattha dhammas, dealing with
the khandhas (aggregates), the elements, the sense-fields (ayatanas) and
the cittas. Also the Vinaya deals with cittas and with many different degrees
of defilements which can accompany citta. The Vinaya reminds the monk to
scrutinize himself, to be aware also of akusala cittas. While the monk
goes out to collect almsfood and while he accomplishes his daily tasks
he should develop mindfulness and understanding of nama and rupa. All three
parts of the Buddhist scriptures are in conformity with each other, they
help people to develop right understanding of all realities, each in their
own situation of life. Historical reasons may not cure doubts about the
authenticity of the scriptures, but careful examination and consideration
of the contents of the Buddhist teachings themselves can convince us of
their authenticity and their immense value for the development of the way
leading to freedom from all suffering.
takes up the first book of the Abidhamma, the "Dhammasangani ", translated
as "a Buddhist Manual of Psychological Ethics", he may feel confused about
the many classifications and enumerations of cittas, of their accompanying
cetasikas and of rupas. These are not abstract categories just to be read
and memorized, but they are realities which arise time and again in daily
life. When they appear they can be objects of awareness and right understanding.
The development of satipatthana, right understanding of nama and rupa as
impermanent, dukkha and non-self, is the aim of the teaching of the Abhidhamma.
The first book of the Abhidhamma should be read together with its commentary
the "Atthasalini", translated in two volumes as "The Expositor". The great
commentator Buddhaghosa, who
lived in the
sixth century A.D. , wrote this commentary. The footnotes of the translation
of the first book of the Abhidhamma refer to the corresponding parts in
its commentary, and the reader will see for himself that the commentary
is most helpful for the correct understanding of the Abhidhamma . Buddhaghosa
came from India to Sri Lanka where he edited and rendered into the Pali
language ancient Singhalese commentaries he found there. The commentaries
to most of the Buddhist scriptures are from his hand, but they are based
on the ancient commentaries. The "Visuddhimagga", an encyclopedia of the
teachings written by Buddhaghosa, which is translated as "The Path of Purification",
and also the "Abhidhammattha
a compendium of the Abhidhamma written by Anuruddha , are of great assistance
for the understanding of the Abhidhamma.
above-quoted sutta on restraint and lack of restraint we read that the
monk who is not enticed by pleasant objects is restrained. Someone may
have restraint by temporarily suppressing his likes and dislikes, but when
there are conditions for defilements they will arise again. Only through
the development of right understanding of realities can there be restraint
which is enduring. The development of satipatthana is exclusively the teaching
of the Buddha and thus this is implied in all parts of the scriptures,
also when it is not expressively mentioned. We read in the "Middle Length
Sayings" (II, 97, Discourse with Dhananjani) that Sariputta taught the
brahman Dhananjani when he was sick about the meditations which are the
"Divine Abidings" of lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
With these meditations, when they are developed, jhana or absorption can
be attained. However, jhana is not the goal of the Buddha's teachings.
We read that the Buddha said to Sariputta:
why did you, Sariputta, although there was something further to be done,
having established the brahman Dhananjani (only) in the less, in the Brahma-world,
rising from your seat, depart?"
to me, Lord: 'These brahmans are very intent on the Brahma-world. Suppose
I were to show the brahman Dhananjani the way to companionship with Brahma?'"
the brahman Dhananjani has died and has uprisen in the Brahma-world."
reminds us not to forget the goal of the Buddha's teachings, that is: the
eradication of defilements through the development of satipatthana. We
cannot understand any sutta if we do not begin to develop understanding
of the nama or rupa which appears in our daily life. In the
sutta the importance is stressed of listening to the teachings, considering
them and putting them into practice. We read in the "Kindred Sayings"(II,
Nidana-vagga, Ch XX, Kindred Sayings on Parables, 7, The Drum-peg) that
the Buddha said to the monks:
upon a time, monks, the Dasarahas had a kettle-drum called Summoner. As
it began to split the Dasarahas fixed in ever another peg, until the time
came that the Summoner's original drumhead had vanished and only the framework
of pegs remained.
so, monks, will the monks become in the future. Those Suttantas uttered
by the Tathagata, deep, deep in meaning, not of the world, dealing with
the void, to these when uttered, they will not listen, they will not lend
a ready ear, they will not bring to them an understanding heart, they will
not deem those doctrines that which should be learnt by heart, that which
should be mastered.
Suttantas which are made by poets, which are poetry, which are a manifold
of words, a manifold of phrases, alien, the utterances of disciples, to
these when uttered they will listen, they will lend a ready ear, they will
bring an understanding heart, they will deem these doctrines that which
should be learnt by heart, which should be mastered. Thus it is, monks,
that the Suttantas uttered by the Tathagata, deep, deep in meaning, not
of the world, dealing with the void, will disappear.
monks, you are thus to train yourselves:-- To these very Suttantas will
we listen, will we give a ready ear, to these will we bring an understanding
heart. And we will deem these doctrines that which should be learnt by
heart, and mastered:-- even thus.
teachings will disappear by wrong understanding of them and by wrong practice.
Today we are fortunate that we still have access to the teachings. Therefore,
we should not neglect to study them and to put them into practice.
The Long Road
towards Clear Understanding
had at his enlightenment penetrated the four noble Truths. He had become
a Fully Enlightened One who could teach the truth to others and show them
the Path leading to the eradication of defilements. In the scriptures we
read about countless monks, nuns and laypeople, who listened to the Buddha
and also penetrated the four noble Truths. They could do so because they
had already during innumerable lives accumulated right understanding of
all realities appearing through the six doors. We read time and again in
the scriptures that the Buddha explained about the objects which are experienced
through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. We read, for example,
in the "Kindred Sayings" (V, Maha-vagga, Book XII, Kindred Sayings about
the Truths, Ch II, 4, Sphere of Sense) that the Buddha said:
there are these four ariyan truths. What four? The ariyan truth about dukkha,
that about the arising of dukkha, that about the ceasing of dukkha, and
the ariyan truth about the practice that leads to the ceasing of dukkha.
monks, is the ariyan truth about dukkha?
it should be said, is the six personal spheres of sense. What six?
of the eye, of the ear, the nose, the tongue, the body, the mind. This,
monks, is called "the ariyan truth about dukkha."
monks, is the ariyan truth about the arising of dukkha?
that craving that leads back to rebirth, along with the lure and the lust
that linger longingly now here, now there: namely, the craving for sensual
delight, the craving to be born again, the craving for existence to end.
This is the ariyan truth about the arising of dukkha.
monks, is the ariyan truth about the ceasing of dukkha?
it is the utter passionless cessation of, the giving up, the forsaking,
the release from, the absence of longing for this craving. This is the
ariyan truth about the ceasing of dukkha.
And what, monks,
is the ariyan truth about the practice that leads to the ceasing of dukkha?
Verily it is
this ariyan eightfold way, to wit: right view, right thinking, right speech,
right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right
concentration. This is the ariyan truth about the practice that leads to
the ceasing of dukkha.
are the four ariyan truths. Wherefore, an effort must be made to realize:
This is dukkha. This is the arising of dukkha. This is the ceasing of dukkha.
This is the practice that leads to the ceasing of dukkha.
of sense" is the translation of the Pali term "ayatana". We read in the
"Book of Analysis" (Vibhanga), the second book of the Abhidhamma , in Chapter
3, "Analysis of the Bases", about the twelve ayatanas, here translated
as "bases". They are: the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue,
the mind, visible object, sound, odour, flavour, tangible object and mind-object.
The ayatana of the mind includes all cittas. Thus, nama and rupa can be
classified in several ways and the classification by way of ayatanas is
one of them. In this section of the "Book of Analysis", in 1, "Analysis
according to the Discourses", it is said of each of the bases that it is
"impermanent, dukkha, non-self, a changeable thing". This is a reminder
that the ayatanas are objects of insight, otherwise their true nature cannot
be penetrated. Here we see again that the Abhidhamma points to the goal,
the development of right understanding.
find it monotonous that in the scriptures it has been stressed again and
again that the realities appearing through the six doors should be understood.
There are no other realities besides those which appear one at a time through
the sense-doors and the mind-door. The Buddha repeatedly spoke about those
realities for fortyfive years so that people would begin to be mindful
of them. We know that seeing is different from hearing, but when they actually
appear we are ignorant of them. Citta arises and falls away very quickly;
it seems that seeing and hearing occur at the same time, but in reality
this is impossible. There can only be one citta at a time which experiences
one object. The Buddha taught again and again about the realities appearing
through the six doors in order to remind us of them; we are most of the
time forgetful of them when they appear. We are absorbed in thinking of
what we saw or heard, of concepts which are not real in the absolute sense,
instead of developing understanding of absolute realities such as seeing,
hearing or thinking.
We read in
the above-quoted sutta about craving which is the second noble Truth. Craving
for all the objects we experience arises time and again because it has
been accumulated. We are not only attached to visible object, sound and
the other sense-objects we experience, but also to seeing, hearing and
the experiences through the other doors. We read in the sutta about a threefold
craving: craving for sensual delight (kama-tanha), for becoming (bhava-tanha)
and for non-becoming (vibhava-tanha) . Even when someone is not attached
to sense-pleasures he may be attached to jhana or absorption concentration
and rebirth in higher planes of existence which is the result of jhana.
Then there is craving for becoming. This kind of craving may be without
wrong view or with wrong view. When it is accompanied by wrong view it
is clinging to eternity-belief, the belief in the existence of a persisting
personality. The craving for non-becoming is always accompanied by wrong
view, it is clinging to annihilation, the belief that there is annihilation
So long as
there is any form of clinging there are conditions for the continuation
of the cycle of birth and death and thus there will be dukkha. The sutta
exhorts us to develop the eightfold Path since this leads to the end of
dukkha. Before the truth of dukkha can be realized right
of nama and rupa has to be developed stage by stage, and this is an endlessly
long process. Also the Buddha had to accumulate understanding very gradually
during his lives as a Bodhisatta before he could realize the four noble
Truths. We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (I, Book of the Threes, Ch XI,
Enlightenment, 101, Before) that the Buddha said:
my enlightenment, monks, when I was yet but a Bodhisat, this occurred to
me: What, I wonder, is the satisfaction in the world, what is the misery
in the world, what is the escape therefrom?
monks, this occurred to me: That condition in the world owing to which
pleasure arises, owing to which arises happiness,- that is the satisfaction
in the world. That impermanence, that suffering, that changeability in
the world,- that is the misery in the world. That restraint, that riddance
of desire and passion in the world,- that is the escape therefrom.
monks, as I did not thoroughly comprehend, as it really is, the satisfaction
in the world as such, the misery in the world as such, the escape therefrom
as such, so long did I not discern the meaning of being enlightened with
perfect enlightenment unsurpassed in the world with it devas, its Maras
and Brahmas, together with the host of recluses and brahmins, of devas
and mankind. But, monks, when I fully comprehended, as it really is, the
satisfaction in the world as such, the misery in the world as such, the
escape therefrom as such,- then did I discern the meaning of being enlightened
in the world... Then did knowledge and insight arise in me, thus: Sure
is my heart's release. This is my last birth. Now is there no more becoming
satisfaction in the world, monks, I had pursued my way. That satisfaction
in the world I found. In so far as satisfaction existed in the world, by
insight I saw it well. Seeking for the misery in the world, monks, I had
pursued my way. That misery in the world I found. In so far as misery existed
in the world, by insight I saw it well. Seeking for the escape from the
world, monks, I had pursued my way. That escape from the world I found.
In so far as escape from the world existed, by insight I saw it well....
to the words, "Seeking satisfaction in the world, monks, I had pursued
my way", the commentary to this sutta (the Manorathapurani) states: "Ever
since the time when he was the brahmin Sumedha." Aeons and aeons ago the
Buddha was born as the brahmin prince Sumedha. During that life he made
the resolve to become a Buddha in the future. We read in the above quoted
sutta, "That satisfaction in the world I found. In so far as satisfaction
existed in the world, by insight I saw it well." The Buddha had to develop
as a Bodhisatta right understanding of all realities, also of his defilements.
He did not avoid being aware of sense-pleasures.
We read in
the "Chronicle of the Buddhas"(II A, Account of Sumedha, Khuddaka Nikaya,
Buddhavamsa, translated in "The Minor Anthologies of the Pali Canon, Part
III) that Sumedha who lived in great luxury, decided to retire from worldly
life in order to seek the way to the end of the cycle of birth and death.
We read (vs. 7- 10):
in seclusion I thought thus then: "Again-becoming is dukkha, also the breaking
up of the physical frame. Liable to birth, liable to ageing, liable to
disease am I then; I will seek the peace that is unageing, undying, secure.
When he saw people
clearing a way for the Buddha Dipankara he also helped clearing a section
of the road. We read (vs. 52-57):
casting aside this putrid body filled with various ordures, should go indifferent,
is, there must be that Way; it is impossible for it not to be. I shall
seek that Way for the utter release from becoming....
my hair, spreading my bark-garments and piece of hide there in the mire,
I lay down prone.
the Buddha go treading on me with his disciples. Do not let him tread in
the mire- it will be for my welfare."
I was lying on the earth it was thus in my mind: If I so wished I could
burn up my defilements today.
is the use while I (remain) unknown of realizing dhamma here? Having reached
omniscience, I will become a Buddha in the world with the devas.
is the use of my crossing over alone, being a man aware of my strength?
Having reached omniscience, I will cause the world together with the devas
to cross over.
act of merit of mine towards the supreme among men I will reach omniscience,
I will cause many people to cross over.
through the stream of samsara , shattering the three becomings , embarking
in the ship of Dhamma , I will cause the world with the devas to cross
Dipankara declared Sumedha to be a future Buddha. Sumedha reflected on
the ten perfections he had to accumulate from life to life. He renewed
his resolution to become a Buddha many times during the lives he met other
Buddhas who came after the Buddha Dipankara. He had to listen to the Dhamma
preached by them, he had to consider carefully what he heard and he had
to be aware of nama and rupa over and over again.
When we read
about the Bodhisatta who had to accumulate right understanding from life
to life, we can be reminded that we cannot expect to realize the four noble
Truths within a short time. It is difficult to penetrate the truth that
all conditioned namas and rupas are arising and falling away and that they
are thus dukkha. Just a moment ago sound impinged on the earsense, but
it is already gone. Seeing, hearing, hardness appear, but they disappear
immediately. Thinking about the impermanence of realities is not the same
as realizing their arising and falling away as they appear one at a time.
Before panna reaches the stage of insight which is the direct experience
of the arising and falling away of nama and rupa, their different characteristics
have to be distinguished. There must be awareness of rupa which appears
as rupa, and awareness of nama which appears as nama. So long as one confuses
their different characteristics one will keep on taking them for self.
"Discourse on the Sixfold Cleansing"(Middle Length Sayings III, 112) the
Buddha speaks about a monk who declares "profound knowledge", who states
that he has reached the end of birth, thus, that he is an arahat. The Buddha
said that he might be questioned about his understanding so that one knows
whether he speaks the truth. In this sutta we read about all
appearing through the six doors which are the objects of right understanding,
no matter whether someone is a beginner on the Path or an arahat.
We read that
the Buddha said to the monks that one may ask the monk who states that
he is an arahat the following question:
reverence, these four modes of statement have been rightly pointed out
by that Lord who knows and sees, perfected one, fully Self-Awakened One.
What four? That which when seen is spoken of as seen, that which when heard
is spoken of as heard, that which when sensed is spoken of as sensed, that
which when cognised is spoken of as cognised .
said that the monk might be questioned as to what he knows and sees in
respect to these "four modes of statement", so that he can say that he
is freed from the "cankers" with no grasping remaining. We read that that
monk would be in accordance with dhamma were he to say:
"I, your reverences,
not feeling attracted to things seen... heard... sensed... cognised, not
feeling repelled by them, independent, not infatuated, freed, released,
dwell with a mind that is unconfined. So, your reverences, as I know thus,
see thus in repect of these four modes of statement, I can say that my
mind is freed from the cankers with no grasping (remaining)."
said that the monks should rejoice in that monk's words and approve of
them. Then a further question might be asked and this concerns his knowledge
of the five khandhas or aggregates, here referred to as the "groups of
grasping". We read that that monk would be in accordance with dhamma were
he to say:
your reverences, having known that material shape (rupa)... feeling...
perception (sanna) ... the habitual tendencies (sankharakkhandha, all cetasikas
other than feeling and perception) ... consciousness, is of little strength,
fading away, comfortless; by the destruction, fading away, stopping, giving
up and casting out of grasping after and hankering after material shape...
feeling... perception... the habitual tendencies... consciousness which
are mental dogmas, biases and tendencies, I comprehend that my mind is
read that the person who declares himself to be an arahat might be questioned
about the six elements of extension (or solidity), cohesion, radiation
(temperature, appearing as heat or cold), motion , space and consciousness
. Further on we read that the monk who declares himself to be an arahat
might be questioned about his understanding of the twelve ayatanas, sense-fields.
After that we read that he might be questioned about the tendency to pride.
Pride or conceit is eradicated at the attainment of the fourth stage of
enlightenment, the stage of the arahat. It cannot be eradicated at the
attainment of the first three stages of enlightenment.
We then read
about the monk's life of non-violence and fewness of wishes, and of his
observance of purity of sila, his moral conduct in speech and deeds. We
read about his "guarding of the six doors" through mindfulness:
I saw visible object with the eye I was not entranced by the general appearance,
I was not entranced by the detail. If I dwelt with this organ of sight
uncontrolled, covetousness and dejection, evil unskilled states, might
flow in. So I fared along controlling it, I guarded the organ of sight,
I achieved control over it...
The same is
said with regard to the other doorways. There is no self who can control
the sense-doors, but at the moment of awareness there is no akusala citta
on account of the objects presenting themselves. Further on we read about
the monk's mindfulness in any situation, no matter what he is doing or
what his posture is: walking, standing, sitting or lying down. We read,
"I was one who comported myself properly", and this refers to mindfulness
and right understanding of realities which appear. We then read about
his attainment of the "four meditations", namely the four stages of rupa-
jhana, fine-material absorption. Only the person who has accumulations
for the attainment of jhana can attain it, but he should not take his attainment
for self, he should not cling to jhana. The attainment of jhana is not
a necessary condition for the development of vipassana and enlightenment.
Further on we read that the monk said:
the mind composed, quite purified, quite clarified, without blemish, without
defilement, grown soft and workable, stable, immovable, I directed my mind
to the knowledge of the destruction of the cankers. I understood as it
really is: This is dukkha... this the arising of dukkha... this the stopping
of dukkha... this the course leading to the stopping of dukkha. I understood
as it really is: These are the cankers... this is the arising of the cankers...
this the stopping of the cankers... this the course leading to the stopping
of the cankers. When I knew and saw this thus, my mind was freed from the
canker of the sense-pleasures and my mind was freed from the canker of
becoming and my mind was freed from the canker of ignorance. In freedom
the knowledge came to be that I was freed and I comprehended: Destroyed
is birth, brought to a close the Brahma-faring, done is what was to be
done, there is no more of being such or so. So, your reverences, as I know
thus, see thus, in respect of this consciousness-informed body and all
external phenomena, I can say that my tendency to pride that 'I am the
doer, mine is the doer' has been properly extirpated"....
reminds us of the conditions which are necessary for the attainment of
enlightenment. The objects of which right understanding is to be developed
are so near: the five khandhas, the "sense-fields" or ayatanas, the elements,
all the objects which impinge time and again on the six doors, but we have
accumulated such an amount of ignorance. It is a long road, but even a
short moment of awareness and understanding are worth while because then
there are conditions for having less ignorance.
We read in
the above-quoted sutta that the monk, when he saw visible object, was not
entranced by the general appearance nor by the detail. Seeing is a reality
different from paying attention to the general appearance and the details
of something. After seeing has fallen away we think of concepts of people
and things. Concepts are not real in the ultimate sense and thus they are
not objects of which right understanding is to be developed, but thinking
is real and thus there can be awareness of it. We should not try to be
aware only of seeing and avoid being aware of thinking, be it thinking
with kusala citta or with akusala citta. We read in the "Theragatha" (Psalms
of the Brothers of the Khuddaka Nikaya), in Canto IV, 186, about the "Elder"
Nagasamala who developed mindfulness and right understanding naturally,
also when he was walking for almsfood. On his way he noticed a girl who
was dancing. We read:
with trinkets and with pretty frock,
with flowers, raddled with sandal wood,
main street, before the multitude
girl danced to music's fivefold sound.
the city I had gone for alms,
I beheld the dancer decked
array, like snare of Mara laid.
arose in me the deeper thought:
to the fact and to the cause.
of it all was manifest;
the mind possessed.
my heart was set at liberty.
the seemly order of the Dhamma!
Wisdom have I made my own,
And all the
Buddha bids me do is done.
could not help noticing the girl who was dancing, but he had wise attention
to all realities of his daily life, he realized them as impermanent, dukkha
and non-self. He had developed all stages of insight and because of his
accumulated wisdom he could attain the stage of arahatship.
We may find
it difficult to be mindful when we watch on T.V. different events such
as a person who is dancing or singing, or when we are engaged in conversation
with other people. However, this story reminds us that we should not look
for particular situations we believe to be favorable for mindfulness. Whatever
situation we are in is conditioned already, and, no matter where we are,
there are realities appearing through six doors: the khandhas, ayatanas
or elements. In being aware of any reality which naturally appears, we
take one little step on the long road to clear understanding.
(C) [Zolag] Revised 1/12/99, e-mail: email@example.com