In Asoka’s Footsteps

Dhamma in India, October 1999

by Nina Van Gorkom

Chapter 4.

We have a distorted view of reality: what is impermanent we take for permanent, what is dukkha we take for happiness, what is non-self we take for self, what is foul we take for beautiful. Without the Buddha’s teachings we would never know that we have a distorted view of reality, that we deviate from the truth. We have accumulated these ways of wrong conceiving for so long, that even when we study the Dhamma we are still inclined to deviate from the truth. These ways of conceiving phenomena in the wrong way are classified in the scriptures as “vipallasa”, as perversions or hallucinations. This was one of the subjects we discussed during our journey.

We read in “The Path of Discrimination” (Patisambhidamagga, First
Division, VIII, Treatise on Perversions) :

Bhikkhus, there are these four perversions of perception (sanna), perversions of cognizance (citta), perversions of view (ditthi). What four? Bhikkhus, seeing what is impermanent as permanent is a perversion of perception, a perversion of cognizance, a perversion of view. Seeing the painful (dukkha) as pleasant is a perversion of perception, a perversion of cognizance, a perversion of view. Seeing what is not self as self is a perversion of perception, a perversion of cognizance, a perversion of view. Seeing the foul as beautiful is a perversion of perception, a perversion of cognizance, a perversion of view. These, bhikkhus, are the four perversions of perception, perversions of cognizance, perversions of view. 
We read further on that there are four non-perversions which are the opposites of the perversions. The perversions are deeply rooted and all of them arise so long as we have not attained enlightenment. Four of the eight akusala cittas rooted in lobha, attachment, are accompanied by ditthi. When there is ditthi one clings with wrong view to the self, to what one believes is permanent, to what one takes for beauty and for happiness. Citta is the “leader” in cognizing an object, and the accompanying cetasikas also experience that object, but they have each their own function. Citta and the accompanying cetasikas condition one another. When citta is accompanied by ditthi, the citta and the other cetasikas, sanna included, are conditioned by ditthi: all of them are perverted by wrong view. Sanna (Sanna is usually translated as perception. Sanna which accompanies kusala citta is completely different from sanna which accompanies akusala citta. Also in the case of akusala citta without ditthi, sanna which is perverted remembers wrongly, in a distorted way, and citta which is perverted cognizes the object in a distorted way.) which accompanies each citta has the function of remembering or recognizing.

The commentary to the “Path of Discrimination”, the 
“Saddhammappakasini”, explains that the perversions of sanna, citta and ditthi have different strengths:

“... The perversion of sanna is the weakest in strength of all three. The perversion of citta has more strength than the perversion of sanna. The perversion of ditthi has the greatest strength of all three.”
This reminds us of the danger of wrong view. So long as we cling to the concept of self there cannot be the eradication of any defilement. We have learnt from the Buddha’s teachings that what we call a person are ever changing phenomena which arise and fall away, but instead of developing right understanding of nama and rupa we are often absorbed in concepts and we remember these with perverted sanna. Since we have accumulated wrong sanna for countless lives we are inclined to think of ourselves and others as persons who exist, at least during a life time; we fail to see that a person is only citta, cetasika and rupa which do not last. This causes us many problems when we suffer from the loss of people who are dear to us through death. We have learnt through the teachings that all dhammas are anatta, but we forget that realities are beyond control, that they do not belong to us. Even when we develop vipassana we can be lured by the wrong view of self : we believe that “we” can cause the arising of sati. We take what is dukkha for happiness, we cling to life, to all the sense objects we experience. Whatever we experience through the six doors falls away immediately, it is dukkha, but we believe that what we experience can bring us pleasant feeling. Pleasant feeling does not last, it is dukkha. What is foul or ugly we take for beautiful: we find our body beautiful and forget that in reality it is foul. It consists of rupa elements which arise and fall away immediately; it is insignificant and not worth clinging to.

The Buddha taught the way to overcome the perversions, but they can only be eliminated very gradually. Insight has to be developed stage by stage until enlightenment can be attained. The characteristics of nama and rupa should be known as they are when they appear one at a time. At the first stage of insight nama is clearly distinguished from rupa. We cannot forego this stage, because so long as we are confused about the difference between nama and rupa, higher stages of insight cannot be reached, the impermanence of realities cannot be realized and the concept of self cannot be eradicated.

There may be awareness of particular rupas but not of the nama which experiences them. Then we are bound to take the experience for self. Or we may be merely thinking about nama and rupa and be forgetful to be aware of thinking. In that case we may take thinking for self.

We read in the “Dispeller of Delusion”, the commentary to the “Book of Analysis”, to the second Book of the Abhidhamma (Ch 7, Classification of the Foundations of Mindfulness) about reasons why the Buddha taught the four Applications of Mindfulness, namely of the body, of feeling, of citta and of dhammas. One of the reasons is as follows:

Or alternatively, it is in order to abandon the perversions (vipallasa) of the beautiful, the pleasant, the permanent and self. For the body is foul, and herein beings are perverted (into regarding it as beautiful) by the perversion of the beautiful. The first foundation of mindfulness is stated in order to abandon that perversion by showing them the foulness therein.  And as regards feeling and so on, taken as “pleasant, permanent, self” feeling is dukkha, citta is impermanent and dhammas are non-self. And beings are perverted as to these (Namely citta and dhamma.) by the perversions of the pleasant, the permanent and self.  The remaining three (Applications of Mindfulness) are stated in order to abandon those perversions by seeing dukkha etc. (dukkha, impermanence and non-self.) therein. Thus, they should alternatively be understood to be stated as four, no less, no more, in order to abandon the perversions of the beautiful, the pleasant, the permanent and self.
The Buddha taught the “Application of Mindfulness of the Body” because we all cling to the body. We are so used to taking care of the body, to beautifying it or to adorning it, that we are ignorant of our clinging. When we read in the section on Mindfulness of the Body about the “Repulsiveness of the Body” we can be reminded that what we take for “our beautiful body” are only rupa elements which are not beautiful, impermanent and do not belong to a self. We should not select one Application of Mindfulness in order to abandon a specific perversion. Any nama or rupa which appears can be object of understanding. If there is mindfulness only of rupas of the body, but not of nama, we shall not know rupa as different from nama and right understanding cannot develop. Citta is impermanent, it arises and falls away each moment. When seeing arises and then hearing, seeing has fallen away, because there cannot be seeing and hearing at the same time; each citta can experience only one object at a time. This can remind us of the impermanence of citta, but when it is said that the contemplation of citta can help one to abandon the perversion of permanence, it does not mean that mindfulness of rupa, feeling or dhamma are excluded. Only through mindfulness of whatever reality appears, can the first stage of insight be reached, when nama is realized as nama and rupa as rupa. It is only at a higher stage of insight that
the impermanence of realities can be penetrated. We read in Khun Santi’s lexicon about the abandoning of the perversions:
“The Buddha taught the four Applications of Mindfulness as a means to abandon the four perversions, but one should not fix one’s attention on a specific perversion with the purpose to abandon it, because everybody who is not an ariyan is bound to have the four perversions. When satipatthana arises there can be awareness of a reality as anatta. Right understanding which results from listening to the Dhamma is accumulated and forms together with the other sobhana cetasikas included in sankharakkhandha (the khandha of formations) the condition for the arising of right mindfulness. At that moment there will be mindfulness of anyone of the four ‘Applications of Mindfulness’.

Right understanding of realities which arises will gradually abandon the perversions until they are completely eradicated when the ‘path-consciousness’ (magga-citta) arises .” 

Right understanding resulting from listening is accumulated together with all the other good qualities, the sobhana cetasikas included in sankharakkhandha (which khandha includes all cetasikas except feeling and sanna). In this way the right conditions are developed for right mindfulness which is aware of the nama or rupa which appears. Not only right understanding but all good qualities, such as metta, generosity or patience are necessary to eliminate the clinging to the self.

We read in the “Path of Discrimination”, in the section on the perversions, about the eradication of the perversions. The sotapanna (streamwinner) who has attained the first stage of enlightenment, has not eradicated all the perversions. He has eradicated the perversion of sanna, citta and ditthi which take what is impermanent for permanent. He has eradicated the perversion of ditthi which sees what is dukkha as happiness, but the perversions  of citta and sanna which see dukkha as happiness he has not eradicated. (At the different stages of enlightenment the perversions are subsequently eradicated.) He has eradicated the perversions of sanna, citta and ditthi which take what is non-self as self. He has eradicated the perversion of ditthi which sees the foul as beautiful, but the perversions of citta and sanna which see the foul as beautiful he has not eradicated.

The sotapanna has eradicated wrong view, he does not take realities for permanent or for self. He has realized that realities which arise have to fall away, that they are impermanent. What arises and falls away has no beauty, but, although he has realized the impermanence of realities, the clinging to what is beautiful has been deeply accumulated, he cannot abandon it yet. He sees beauty in what is foul, and thus, he has to continue to develop right understanding of citta, cetasika and rupa, so that the perversion of seeing beauty in what is not beautiful is eradicated. This perversion has become attenuated at the second stage of enlightenment, the stage of the once-returner, sakadagami, but it can only be completely eradicated at the third stage of enlightenment, the stage of the non-returner, anagami. We read in the “Visuddhimagga” (XXII) that the perversions of sanna and citta finding beauty in the foul are eradicated at the third stage of enlightenment, the stage of the non-returner or anagami. He does not cling to sense objects anymore, and thus he does not see the body as beautiful. But he still clings to rebirth which he considers as happiness instead of seeing it as dukkha. The “Visuddhimagga” states that the arahat has eradicated the perversions of sanna and citta finding happiness in what is dukkha. Only the arahat does not cling to rebirth, he has no inclination to consider it as happiness. Thus we see that it is extremely difficult to eradicate the perversions.

Defilements are deeply rooted and it is necessary to persevere in the development of understanding of the nama or rupa which appears now. The object of right understanding is the nama and rupa which appear in daily life, but as panna develops, it understands more deeply their true nature. We have to follow the right Path so that realities will be understood as they are: impermanent, dukkha and not self. However, because of our defilements we are likely to deviate from the right Path, and then we shall not reach the goal.

We are bound to forget that there is no one who develops right
understanding. We read in Khun Santi’s lexicon, under “practice”, about the practice of vipassana:

“This is the moment when sati together with sampajanna (panna) arises and is aware of the characteristic of nama or rupa. Then the truth is known that they are only nama dhamma and rupa dhamma, no being, no person, no self, no thing. Moreover, it is known that there is no person who practises, but that only sati sampajanna (sati and panna) and the accompanying sobhana (wholesome) dhammas each perform their own function with regard to the practice. If there is right understanding of the nature of anatta of realities it will be the condition for the right practice and eventually for detachment from the clinging to the idea of self.”

If we forget that sati is anatta it conditions wrong practice. There are three factors which can obstruct or slow down the development of vipassana namely: craving, tanha, wrong view, ditthi and conceit, mana. Even when we listen to the Dhamma a great deal these three obstructions are bound to arise and slow down the practice.

There are many forms and varieties of thinking of ourselves. We may think of ourselves with clinging accompanied by wrong view, ditthi, or without wrong view, or with clinging accompanied by conceit. There are eight akusala cittas rooted in attachment, lobha-mula-cittas, of which four are accompanied by ditthi and four are without ditthi. When lobha-mula-citta is accompanied by conceit, it is not accompanied by ditthi. Thus, when we think of ourselves it may be with either one of the three factors which slow down the development of insight, namely, craving, wrong view and conceit. We read in the “Middle Length Sayings” (I,”Discourse on Expunging”) that Maha Cunda asked the Buddha a question about wrong views and that the Buddha gave him explanations. The text states:

“Those various types of views, Lord, that arise in the world and are connected with theories of the self or with theories of the world, does there come to be ejection of these views, does there come to be renunciation of these views for a monk who wisely reflects from the beginning?”

“Those various types of views, Cunda, that arise in the world and are connected with theories of the self or with theories of the world- wherever these views arise and wherever they obsess (the mind) and wherever they are current, it is by seeing them with perfect wisdom as they really are, thus: ‘This is not mine, this am I not, this is not my self,’ that there is ejection of these views, that there is renunciation of these views....”

We read in the Commentary to this sutta, the “Papancasudani”, that to think, “this is mine” (etam mama), is to be in the grip of craving (tanha); to think, “I am this” (eso aham asmi), is to be in the grip of conceit (mana); to think, “this is myself” (eso me atta), is to be in the grip of wrong view.

Thus we see that we may think of ourselves in many ways, not only with wrong view, but also with craving or conceit. Time and again the scriptures refer with the above quoted phrase to these three wrong ways of thinking (The commentary refers to them as the “papanca”, which is translated as “diffuseness” or aberrations.). We have deeply accumulated these tendencies and if we are ignorant of them they will prevent us from becoming freed from the cycle of birth and death.

The “Book of Analysis” (Ch 17, “Analysis of Small Items”, in the Exposition of the Occurrences of Craving) gives an exposition of the different ways of craving in connection with “oneself”. One thinks, for example, “I am”, “I am such an one”, “I am also”, “I am otherwise”. We read about these different ways of conceiving:

.... one gets the wish, “I am”; one gets the conceit, “I am”; one gets the wrong view, “I am”; when this happens there are these obsessions, “I am such an one” or “I am also” or “I am otherwise”.

And how is there, “I am such an one? “I am a ruler” or “I am a Brahmin” or “I am a merchant” or “I am an artisan” or “I am a householder” or “I am an ascetic”....

The Commentary to the “Book of Analysis”, the “Dispeller of Delusion” (under Behaviour of Craving) explains that there comes to be the thought “I am” depending on this internal pentad of khandhas (the five khandhas), due to taking it as a unit through craving, conceit and wrong view... 

The Commentary explains that if one takes the five khandhas as a unit and thinks “such am I”, this may be done without comparison or with comparison. We read in the Commentary:

Herein, as to without comparison there comes to be the thought: “Such am I” by making only one’s own state the object without reference to any other aspect; among Khattiyas (The Khattiyas belonged to the warrior caste, the highest social rank. Kings belonged to this caste.) and the like there comes to be the thought through craving, conceit and wrong view thus: “I am of this kind” is the meaning. This in the first place is the taking of it without comparison.
But the taking of it by comparison is of two kinds, as the same and as not the same....

All these ways of thinking occur time and again in our daily life. We may think of ourselves as being of such nationality, of having such status in society, of having had such education, with craving, conceit or wrong view: “I am such”. As we just read in the Commentary, even when we do not compare ourselves with someone else, but only think, “I am such, I am of this kind”, we may still have conceit, because we cling to the importance of our personality. 

We may cling to ourselves as belonging to a special group, a group of Dhamma students: “I am such”. When we compare ourselves with someone else we may see ourselves as being equal, higher or lower: “I am also”, or “I am otherwise”. The Book of “Analysis” gives the examples: “As he is a ruler (Khattya), so also am I a ruler”... or “As he is a ruler, I am not a ruler in the same way”. We may compare ourselves with others who have sati more often or who lack sati. Comparing is useless because sati is a type of nama which arises because of its appropriate conditions.

The “Book of Analysis” points out that one may also think of oneself with regard to the future: “I shall be”. One may also think: “I am eternal”, and that is the wrong view of eternalism, or “I am not eternal”, and that is, as explained here, the wrong view of annihilism: one believes to be annihilated, that there is no rebirth.

We should not try to pinpoint all these different moments, because they can only be known through the development of satipatthana. So long as the difference between nama and rupa has not been realized by the insight knowledge of the first stage, it is not possible to clearly understand the different defilements which are anatta, which arise because of conditions.

Defilements are nama, but so long as we take nama and rupa as a unit, as a “whole”, it cannot be clearly understood what nama is. However, studying details and considering them in daily life is useful, because we can be reminded of the many different ways of clinging to “our personality”, of thinking of ourselves. We may be inclined to think ,“He loses his temper, I am different”, or “His memory is weak, I am different” or “He practises vipassana in the wrong way, I am different”. Instead of criticizing someone else we can see the urgency to develop the way leading to the eradication of the clinging to ourselves.

We may, without noticing it, cling to ourselves as a person who has sati: “I am such”, “I am the same”, “I am otherwise”. Or we conceive ourselves as a person who should reach the goal very soon, and then we shall certainly not reach it. Such ways of thinking can be a condition to engage in wrong practice and that is a form of ditthi. We may hope for the arising of sati, we may wait for insight knowledge, vipassana nana, or after someone has reached the first stage of vipassana nana he may wait for the next ones. After a moment of sati one may cling to it and feel happy about it. One may be so keen to have sati that one clings to characteristics of paramattha dhammas which appear. For example, hardness appears and then one may cling to this characteristic and erroneously believe that that is awareness of hardness. If we cling to “my practice”, to a self who develops satipatthana, we are on the wrong Path.

There is no self who practises, only citta and cetasikas performing their functions. The conceiving of self is bound to be an obstruction time and again and only panna which realizes such moments can be the condition to return to the right Path. We should not forget that right understanding should lead to detachment, but panna must be very keen to realize even the more subtle kinds of akusala as not self. Mana can also obstruct the development of vipassana. One may find oneself important and believe that one’s knowledge is already accomplished, that further study and consideration of  realities is no longer necessary, or that one does not need to listen to someone else who explains the right Path.

The sotapanna who has eradicated wrong view still thinks of himself with clinging or conceit. At the subsequent stages of enlightenment clinging and conceit are attenuated, but only at the last stage, the stage of the arahat, all ways of misconceivings, even the most subtle, are eradicated. This can show us that there should be awareness and right understanding of all kinds of realities, including all ways of misconceiving, of thinking of ourselves, so that their true nature can be penetrated.

In Asoka’s Footsteps

Dhamma in India, October 1999

by Nina Van Gorkom

Chapter 5.
Purity of Sila

The Pali term sila can mean: nature, character, habit or behaviour. Sila can be kusala or akusala. In the scriptures sila which is kusala, virtue or morality, has been classified in different ways. Sila is expressed by deeds through body and speech. We may like to listen to the Dhamma and develop satipatthana, but our behaviour through body and speech is not always in conformity with the Dhamma. Therefore, it is important to learn more about the different aspects of sila. During our journey Khun Sujin stressed that for the understanding of the different subjects of the Dhamma we should always return to the paramattha dhammas which arise in our life: citta, cetasika and rupa. In reference to sila we should consider whether it is nama or rupa. Sila is nama, it is citta and cetasika. Sila is not only abstention from evil, it is also the performance of wholesomeness through body and speech, such as helping others or paying respect to those who deserve respect. Also those who do not know the Dhamma can abstain from evil and perform wholesome deeds, they can have kusala sila. However, if one has never heard the Dhamma one does not know in detail what akusala and what kusala is. The Buddha taught in detail about the citta which motivates speech and deeds, about the development of kusala and the way to eradicate even the most subtle kinds of akusala. If one does not develop satipatthana there is still an idea of self who observes sila, and then sila cannot become purified. Because of knowledge of the Dhamma we have the means to know the different cittas which arise and which can motivate deeds through body and speech, and to develop the way leading to the eradication of the clinging to the self and all defilements. We read in the “Path of Discrimination” (Treatise on Knowledge, Ch II, Virtue, 44, 45) :

What is virtue? There is virtue as volition (cetana), virtue as cetasika, virtue as restraint, virtue as non-transgression. How many kinds of virtue are there? There are three kinds of virtue (habit), profitable (kusala) sila, unprofitable (akusala) sila, indeterminate sila (avyakata, neither kusala nor akusala).

From what does virtue originate? Kusala sila originates from kusala citta, akusala sila originates from akusala citta, indeterminate sila originates from indeterminate citta.

With how many dhammas does sila combine? Sila combines with restraint, sila combines with non-transgression, sila combines with the volition arising with restraint or non-transgression. In the case of killing living beings... of taking what is not given... of sexual misconduct... of false speech... of malicious speech... of harsh speech... of gossip... of covetousness... of ill will... in the case of wrong view, virtue is in the sense of restraint, virtue is in the sense of its non-transgression....

Abstention from akusala kamma is sila. The term kamma is generally used for good deeds or bad deeds, but kamma is actually cetana cetasika, volition or intention, which arises with each citta. Akusala cetana and kusala cetana can motivate deeds which are capable to produce their appropriate results in the form of rebirth-consciousness or vipakacittas which experience pleasant or unpleasant objects through the senses. During our discussions someone was wondering whether each akusala cetana accompanying akusala citta produces result. When we like delicious food or enjoy ourselves watching a play there is lobha-mula-citta, citta rooted in attachment. He was wondering whether the akusala cetana accompanying the akusala citta could bring a result in the form of experiencing unpleasant sense objects. Khun Sujin explained that there are different degrees of akusala. Akusala cetana can produce result when it has the intensity of a completed course of action, akusala kamma patha. If every akusala cetana would be akusala kamma patha, then a baby lying on its back would already commit bad deeds which produce unpleasant results. Why would the Buddha teach about akusala kamma patha if there were no difference of intensity between akusala citta and akusala kamma? When we merely enjoy ourselves and do not harm someone else there is lobha-mula-citta but not akusala kamma which can produce a result. However, the lobha-mula-citta is  accumulated and conditions the arising of lobha again, later on.

After seeing or hearing lobha-mula-citta arises very often, all day long, but we may not notice this. When we have no intention to harm someone else it is not akusala kamma patha. As we read in the quotation above from the “Path of Discrimination”, abstaining from the ten akusala kamma patha such as killing and the other akusala kamma patha, is sila. For each kind of akusala kamma specific constituent factors make it into a completed course of  action, kamma patha. For example, in the case of killing there has to be a living being, one has to be conscious of the fact that it is a living being, there must be the akusala citta which intends to kill, the act of killing and the death which follows (See the commentary to the “Discourse on Right Understanding” (Middle Length Sayings, no 9) the “Papancasudani”.) A completed course of action can produce result by way of an unhappy rebirth or the experience of unpleasant objects through the senses.

Sila is abstention from evil as well as observing of what is wholesome. With regard to abstention from evil, three cetasikas, which are called virati cetasikas, perform the function of abstention: abstinence from wrong speech (vaci-duccarita virati), abstinence from wrong action (kaya-duccarita virati) and abstinence from wrong livelihood (ajiva-duccarita virati). Wrong livelihood is wrong speech or wrong action pertaining to our livelihood. It is impossible to abstain from akusala when virati cetasika does not arise. The three factors of the eightfold Path which are the sila of the eightfold Path are these three virati cetasikas, which are the right speech, right action and right livelihood of the eightfold Path. They arise one at a time, because when there is opportunity for abstinence from wrong speech there is not at the same time abstinence from wrong action. When enlightenment is attained all three abstinences accompany the lokuttara cittas which experience nibbana. They fulfill their functions as path-factors in cutting off the base of misconduct, according to the stage of enlightenment which is attained (Defilements are eradicated subsequently at the four stages of enlightenment. They are eradicated by the path-consciousness, maggacitta. The three virati cetasikas accompany the magga-citta and also the result of the magga-citta, the fruition-consciousness, phala-citta, which immediately succeeds the magga-citta. See for the abstinences which are lokuttara, Atthasalini II, Part VIII, Ch 1, 219, 220). The classification about the origination of sila reminds us that the citta is the source of restraint from evil and of the performing of what is wholesome. There is no self who observes sila. As to indeterminate (avyakata) sila, this is the sila of the arahat, who has, instead of kusala citta, kiriyacitta (inoperative citta). He does not perform kamma which can produce rebirth, because he has reached the end of the cycle of birth and death. 

The “Visuddhimagga” has classified wholesome sila, virtue or moral
conduct, in many ways. There is sila for bhikkhus, for bhikkhunis (nuns), for novices and for laypeople. Laypeople can observe five precepts: they can train themselves to abstain from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and the taking of intoxicants. Only those who have attained the first stage of enlightenment, the stage of the sotapanna (streamwinner) have no conditions to transgress these precepts. Laypeople can also observe eight precepts. In addition to the five precepts there are three more including abstaining from eating after midday, from using high and soft beds, from using perfumes or adornments. Novices have to observe ten precepts. 

The “Visuddhimagga”, in the Chapter on Virtue, Sila, gives the following fourfold classification of purity of sila (parisuddhi sila):

the restraint of “Patimokkha” including 227 rules of discipline for
the monk,
the restraint of the sense faculties (indriya samvara sila),
the purity of livelihood (ajiva parisuddhi sila),
the use of the four requisites of robe, dwelling, food and
medicines, that is purified by reflection (paccaya sannissita sila).
With regard to the restraint of the Patimokkha, we read in the “Book of Analysis” (Ch 12, 244):
Herein a bhikkhu dwells restrained and controlled by the Patimokkha restraint, endowed with (proper) behaviour and a suitable) alms resort, seeing peril in (his) slightest faults, observing (the precepts) he trains himself in the precepts.... 
As regards restraint of the sense faculties, there are different levels of restraint. We read in the “Middle Length Sayings” (no. 27, Lesser Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint) that the Buddha spoke to the Brahman Janussoni about the monk who has restraint as to the sense-faculties:
... Having seen visible object with the eye he is not entranced by the general appearance, he is not entranced by the detail. If he dwells with this organ of sight uncontrolled, covetousness and dejection, evil unskilled states of mind, might predominate. So he fares along controlling it; he guards the organ of sight, he comes to control over the organ of sight....
The same is said with regard to the other senses and the mind-door. When awareness arises of visible object, sound or the other sense objects, there is no opportunity for the arising of akusala citta. At such a moment one does not harm anybody else through body or speech. When we understand which paramattha dhamma sila is, namely, citta and cetasika, it will be clear that there can be sila, even when one does not act or speak. Satipatthana is the Buddha’s teaching, and thus, satipatthana should not be separated from the other ways of sila the monk should observe: the restraint of the “Patimokkha”, the purity of livelihood and the use of the requisites which is purified by reflection. As to the monk’s livelihood, he should not try to obtain the requisites by hinting, by scheming or hypocrisy. As to purification of the use of the requisites by wise reflection, he should not have attachment to them but see them as a means to protect his body and to continue his life as a monk, developing panna which leads to arahatship. We read in the “Visuddhimagga” (I, 124) about the “reviewing” of the requisites by the monk: 
Herein, reviewing is of two kinds: at the time of receiving requisites and at the time of using them. For use is blameless in one who at the time of receiving robes, etc., reviews them either as (mere) elements or as repulsive, and puts them aside for later use, and in one who reviews them thus at the time of using them. Both the monk and the layfollower should train themselves in purity of sila, but the monk’s sila is higher than the sila of the layfollower, they cannot be compared with each other. 
Khun Sujin remarked that they are as different from each other as heaven and earth. The monk has left the household life with all its amenities in order to train himself to become an arahat, a perfected one. His lifestyle is like the arahat’s. Thus, the monk must have purity of sila, and if he commits a transgression he should make amends for it. If the transgression is very serious, such as killing, he is no longer a monk and he will be expelled from the order. However, also layfollowers can, in their own situation, apply what is laid down as the fourfold purification of sila. The restraint of the senses is achieved by satipatthana, and this can be developed by both monks and layfollowers. As regards purity of livelihood, also layfollowers should not be engaged in wrong livelihood, for example by bribery or deceit. As regards using the “requisites” wisely, this can also be applied by layfollowers. When one considers food as a medicine for the body it will help one not to indulge in overeating. It is natural that we are attached to clothing, food and home, but sometimes there can be conditions for kusala citta with wise reflection. We read in the “Gradual Sayings” (”Book of the Tens”, Ch V, § 8, Conditions) that the Buddha said:
Monks, these ten conditions must again and again be contemplated by one who has gone forth (from the home). What ten? He must again and again contemplate this fact: I am now come to a state of being an outcast. And this: My very life is dependent on others. And this: I must now behave myself differently. And this: Does the self (the citta.) upbraid me for (lapse from) virtue, or does it not? And this: Do my discerning fellows in the Brahma-life, after testing me, upbraid me for (lapse from) virtue, or do they not? And this: In all things dear and delightful to me there is change and separation. And this: I myself am responsible for my deed, I am the heir to my deed, the womb of my deed, the kinsman of my deed, I am he to whom my deed comes home. Whatever deed I shall do, be it good or bad, of that shall I be the heir. The nights and days flit by for me- who have grown to what? And this: In my void dwelling do I take delight or not? And this: Have I come by any superhuman experience, any excellence of truly ariyan knowledge and insight, whereon when questioned in my latter days (At the time of dying, according to the Commentary.) by my fellows in the Brahma-life I shall not be confounded? 

These, monks, are the ten conditions to be again and again contemplated by one who has gone forth (from the home). 

We read in the Commentary, the “Manorathapurani”, as to the monk’s life being dependent on others, that this is because of his receiving of the four requisites. His livelihood should be pure and his conduct should be composed, different from laypeople. We read: 
“The monk who applies himself to the fourfold purity has developed vipassana. He can reach arahatship”. 
Vipassana is the condition for the fourfold purity, satipatthana should not be separated from the Vinaya. The purpose of sila should not be pleasant results, such as rebirth in heaven, or honour, it should be the eradication of defilements.

When someone applies himself to sila without the development of satipatthana there is an idea of self who does so, his sila is not pure. Moreover, his sila will not be steadfast; when he is in difficult circumstances he may not be able to observe sila. The sotapanna who has eradicated through satipatthana the wrong view of self is steadfast in sila, he cannot transgress the five precepts, he cannot commit akusala kamma which produces an unhappy rebirth.

When we understand which paramattha dhamma sila is, citta and cetasika, it will be clear that the citta with metta, loving kindness, is sila. For the practice of metta there should be awareness of the citta. When we develop metta in daily life, we have goodwill towards our fellowmen, we do not harm them, and that is kusala sila. Once, when someone behaved in an unpleasant way and I said to Khun Sujin, “She does not like us”, Khun Sujin answered, “It does not matter, we like her,” and that is the practice of metta. We can apply this in any situation when people dislike us. What about our own citta? We are often too slow in our reactions to help others, but when satipatthana arises there are conditions to move quickly in helping. During our journey one of the buses broke down and there was no seat left for us except in front near the driver. We had to sit near the foodboxes which broke so that bananas went all over the place and were crushed. Khun Sujin thought that we were uncomfortable in the midst of all the commotion and she offered her seat; this was an example of helping without hesitation. This was an example reminding us that when there is an opportunity for kusala we should not wait, but perform it immediately.

It is difficult to practice sila in every situation. When we have to endure unpleasant behaviour from others it is a test for our patience and endurance. We cannot choose the objects which appear through the six doors, sometimes they are pleasant, sometimes unpleasant. We may be disturbed by someone else, but a “person” is only an object of thinking. In reality there are only nama and rupa appearing one at a time. If there can be awareness when we are in difficult situations we can gradually learn that there is not this or that situation which seems to last, but only seeing which experiences visible object, hearing which experiences sound or thinking which thinks of concepts which are not real. 

Realities arise because of their own conditions, they are beyond control and do not belong to a self. When there is awareness of one object at a time we attach less importance to certain situations. Only one object at a time through one doorway is experienced and it falls away immediately, it does not last. The six doors can be separated, not by “self”, but by panna. 

Some people believe that one should first develop sila, then samatha and after that vipassana. When we read in the scriptures or the “Visuddhimagga” about the tripartite division of sila, samadhi (one-pointedness or concentration) and wisdom, misunderstandings may arise. However, when we read about this subject we should carefully consider all the different degrees of sila, samadhi and panna which are implied. This division is not a rigid classification, but it is a systematic description of all levels of sila, samadhi and panna. We read, for example, in the beginning of the “Visuddhimagga” (Ch I, 1), the following quotation from the “Kindred Sayings” (I, the Tangle):

When a wise man, established well in Virtue,
Develops Consciousness
and Understanding,
Then as a bhikkhu ardent and sagacious
He succeeds in disentangling this tangle.
“Tangle” is used here in the sense of the “network” of craving. Craving is like a network of branches which are entangled. The “Visuddhimagga” describes first sila, then the development of concentration and after that the development of right understanding. However, we should note that under sila he describes not only sila through bodily action and speech, but also sila which is purity of citta, sila which includes samatha and vipassana. In Ch I, 19, the “Visuddhimagga” quotes the “Path of Discrimination”, where we read about all the different levels of sila. Included in sila are the subduing of the defilements which are the “hindrances”, the development of concentration and the different stages of jhana, and also the stages of insight. We read, for example, about the stages of vipassana:
Through contemplation of impermanence in the case of perception of permanence... Through contemplation of dukkha in the case of perception of pleasure... through contemplation of not-self in the case of perception of self... through contemplation of dispassion in the case of delighting...virtue is in the sense of its restraint, virtue is in the sense of its non-transgression.
Dispassion is the result of vipassana nana. We read further on that (Citta, which stands for concentration) included in sila are also the four stages of enlightenment up to arahatship when all defilements are eradicated and there are no conditions for their arising again.

If someone believes that he, as a layman, should first keep the five precepts and that he then can develop samatha and after that vipassana, he overlooks the fact that there is no self who can regulate this. The Buddha taught satipatthana so that the wrong view of self can be eradicated. Through satipatthana right understanding is developed and without satipatthana sila cannot become “well established”. For the sotapanna who has developed vipassana, sila is “well established”. Through satipatthana there can be training in “higher sila” (adhi-sila sikkha), “higher citta” (adhi-citta sikkha) and “higher wisdom” (adhi-panna sikkha). As to higher citta or concentration, this includes all levels of concentration, not merely jhana. Concentration, samadhi, is the cetasika which is one-pointedness, ekaggata cetasika. It arises with each citta and has the function of focussing the citta on one object. When satipatthana arises, ekkagata cetasika “concentrates” for that short moment on the nama or rupa which appears so that understanding of that reality can develop. In the development of samatha concentration is developed to a high degree so that jhana can be attained, but this cannot be achieved without panna which has right understanding of the citta and cetasikas which develop calm. In the “Visuddhimagga” all levels of concentration, jhana included, are described, but this does not mean that everybody must develop jhana in order to attain enlightenment (This will be further explained in chapter 6.). 

Instead of thinking of classifications and names or thinking of a specific order as to the development of sila, concentration and panna, we can gradually develop understanding of the nama and rupa which appear and then there is training in higher sila, higher citta and higher panna. Even when attachment arises there can be mindfulness of it and at that moment one does not harm anyone; that is sila. Or we may be inclined to engage in wrong speech, such as slandering or useless speech, but if sati arises and it is aware of nama or rupa, there are conditions to abstain from akusala. We speak many times in a day, but do we know whether our speech is kusala or akusala? We need to know the nature of citta so that  there can be training in higher sila.

We are inclined to observe sila with an idea of self who has sila. When satipatthana is being developed sila can become free from the wrong view of self. Then there will be purity of sila, “sila visuddhi” (Suddhi means brightness, excellence, and the prefix vi has here an intensifying meaning.). We read in Khun Santi’s lexicon about sila visuddhi:

“Purity of sila is sila which has reached a high degree of purity. When satipatthana arises and there is awareness and understanding of the true nature of a characteristic of nama or rupa which is appearing, the doorways of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind are guarded. At that moment there is no committing of evil through body or speech, because the six faculties are guarded by sati, {indriya samvara sila (The five senses are classified as rupas which are “indriyas”, leaders, they are leaders each in their own field. Citta is manindriya, mind-faculty, the leader in its own field: it cognizes an object.)}, there is restraint
through the six doors. This is called purity of sila, sila visuddhi. It is purified and free from the wrong view of self because there is the understanding that there are only nama or rupa which are appearing.”

Here we see again that for the development of sila satipatthana is essential. So long as one is full of the idea of self one may try to force oneself to restrain from akusala and observe sila, but this is impossible when there are no conditions for citta and cetasika which observe sila. Nama, not self, observes sila and satipatthana is the right condition for purity of sila.

Someone who does not develop right understanding may have wholesome speech or help others, but there is still the idea of self who does so and there cannot be purity of sila. Sila is one of the perfections the Bodhisatta fulfilled in order to attain Buddhahood. Sila is a perfection when its purpose is the eradication of defilements. Then it is a way of kusala leading out of the cycle of birth and death. So long as defilements have not been eradicated we have to continue in the cycle of birth and death, and this means dukkha. We read in Khun Santi’s lexicon about kusala which leads out of the cycle (vivatta gamini (vatta is cycle and vivatta means out of the cycle. Gamini means going, leading.) kusala):

“Kusala which leads out of the cycle means each kind of kusala which has the purpose of eradication of defilements. No matter one offers one ladle of rice gruel or one helping of boiled rice, if one sees the disadvantage of akusala and one will apply oneself to the development of kusala with right understanding in order to eradicate defilements, it is a perfection, it is right practice, namely, kusala which leads out of the cycle of birth and death. “We may want to observe sila because we cling to the idea of being a “good person”, of being esteemed by others, or because of other selfish motives, and in that case it is not the perfection of sila. The perfection of sila has detachment as its goal.

In Asoka’s Footsteps

Dhamma in India, October 1999

by Nina Van Gorkom

Chapter 6.
 Samatha and Vipassana

In Pokkhara we watched in the evening a performance of Nepali dances and afterwards we had a Dhamma discussion. We discussed the lobha, attachment, which arose while we were enjoying ourselves and laughing. We hear about the disadvantages of lobha, but there is no self who can eradicate it, only panna. Khun Sujin remarked that it may be lobha which conditions our wish to eradicate defilements, but that the only way leading to its eradication is the development of panna which knows the characteristic of lobha as non-self. The clinging to self is deeply accumulated and it is bound to arise even when one tries to develop panna, when one wants to know the truth. Khun Sujin often reminded us that we should be truthful as to the realities which arise. We listen to the Dhamma and consider what we hear so that right understanding can grow and can begin to know characteristics of nama and rupa. When we watch a dancing performance, for example, there is sound of music, sound of people, sound of birds. Sound is just sound, its  characteristic can be known when it appears through earsense. Thinking about the quality or the origin of the sound is another reality, different from hearing. Khun Sujin said that while we watch a performance we can see the amount of lobha we have, and that this is more useful than being ignorant of lobha. As panna develops it can understand any kind of reality which arises, wherever we are and at any time. We should not try to be a different person, someone who has a great deal of kusala, before we develop satipatthana. We should not try to have purity of sila and purity of concentration before developing panna. Someone remarked that “access concentration” (upacara samadhi) arising shortly before jhana, and absorption concentration (appana samadhi) arising with the jhana-citta are the proximate cause of panna. Khun Sujin answered that this is the case only for those who understand the development of satipatthana. The aim of the Dhamma is detachment through right understanding of realities. Someone who attains jhana without right understanding of nama and rupa will not reach the goal, he will continue to take the jhanacitta for self.

Before we can understand what it means that concentration, samadhi, is the proximate cause of panna, we should know what samatha, tranquil meditation, is and what vipassana, the development of insight is. They each have a different aim and a different way of development. But for both ways of development right understanding is indispensable. Some people believe that they can develop calm merely by sitting in a quiet place and concentrating on one object; they believe that if one just concentrates on something there will be calm. Or they want to concentrate with the desire to become relaxed. Then their efforts are motivated by lobha, and this is wrong concentration, miccha samadhi. As Khun Sujin often stressed, we have to return to the paramattha dhammas in order to know what calm is and what concentration is. We have to know their different functions and we have to know when they arise, otherwise we shall only have a vague knowledge about tranquil meditation. Calm and concentration are different cetasikas, they arise because of the appropriate conditions and are non-self. There are two cetasikas which are calm: kaya passaddhi, calm of “body”, and citta passadhi, calm of citta. The word “body” stands here for the mental body, namely cetasikas. Calm of citta conditions calm of the citta it accompanies, and calm of body conditions calm of the accompanying cetasikas. The cetasikas which are “calm” accompany each sobhana (beautiful) citta. Whenever we perform dana or observe sila these two cetasikas accompany the kusala citta, but we may not notice the characteristic of calm, because the kusala citta falls away very rapidly. Concentration or samadhi is ekaggata cetasika, a cetasika arising with each citta. Its function is to cause citta to focus on one object. For example, when we see, hear or think ekaggata cetasika causes citta to focus on the object. It accompanies kusala citta, akusala citta or citta which is neither kusala nor akusala. Thus, not any kind of concentration is kusala.

In samatha calm is developed by means of a suitable meditation subject. The  “Visuddhimagga” (in chapters IV-XII) describes forty meditation subjects which can be the means to develop calm. Not just any other meditation  subject can be used to this aim. For the development of calm sati and panna (sati sampajanna) are indispensable. There must be right understanding of true calm, which is freedom from defilements. Panna must be very keen to know when akusala citta arises and when kusala citta. This is very difficult because cittas arise and fall away very rapidly. We may easily take for kusala what is akusala, especially when akusala is very subtle. If there is the desire to cause the growth of calm and concentration, one will not reach the aim. Among the meditation subjects are the recollection of the Buddha’s preeminent qualities, metta, loving kindness, or mindfulness of breathing. We may, in daily life, recollect subjects such as the Buddha’s pre-eminent qualities or we may develop metta. These subjects may condition some moments of calm with kusala citta, but that is not the development of tranquil meditation. In tranquil meditation panna knows how calm can increase with a meditation subject, and as calm increases, also concentration grows. If one has accumulated inclination and skill for the development of calm, one may attain jhana, absorption concentration. However, panna must be very keen and many conditions have to be fulfilled. There are different stages of jhana, and at each subsequent stage there is a higher degree of calm. At the moments of jhanacitta there are no sense impressions and defilements are temporarily subdued, but they are not eradicated. There are stages of rupajhana, material jhana, where the meditation subjects are still dependent on materiality, and there are stages of arupa-jhana, immaterial jhana, where the meditation subject is no longer dependent on materiality. Arupa-jhana is more refined than rupa-jhana. One should acquire “mastery” (vasi), great skill in jhana, if one wants to develop higher stages of jhana. We read in the “Visuddhimagga” (IV, 131) that one should have “mastery” in adverting to the jhana, in entering it, in determining its duration, in emerging from it and in reviewing it. Even before the Buddha’s time people developed tranquil meditation to the stages of rupa-jhana and arupa-jhana in order to temporarily subdue defilements, but these could not be eradicated. The Buddha found the Path leading to the complete eradication of defilements, and this is the development of satipatthana. The objects of satipatthana are paramattha dhammas, they are any nama or rupa which is appearing at the present moment; one does not select any special object. The aim of the development of satipatthana is eradication of clinging to the self and eventually of all defilements.

Some people wonder whether it is necessary first to develop samatha and after that vipassana. The Buddha did not set any rules with regard to samatha as a requirement for the development of insight. Individual inclinations are different. It depends on one’s accumulated inclinations whether one applies oneself to tranquil meditation or not. Some people developed both samatha and vipassana, but for the attainment of enlightenment they still had to develop right understanding of all namas and rupas. They had to acquire the “masteries”, so that they at any time could enter jhana or emerge from it, and after having emerged from jhana they could be mindful of realities,  including the jhanacitta and accompanying jhana-factors which are cetasikas. Otherwise they would take the jhanacitta for self. If people had great skill in jhana and could be aware of the jhanacitta, jhana was a foundation for the development of insight.

Some people wonder why, in the “Satipatthana Sutta” (Middle Length Sayings I, no. 10) “Mindfulness of Breathing” is included under the section “Mindfulness of the Body”. Does this imply that it is necessary for the development of vipassana to be mindful of breathing? It is an object of samatha and an object of vipassana. As an object of samatha it is one of the most difficult meditation subjects. If one tries to concentrate on breath without right understanding of this subject there will be clinging instead of calm. Breath is a rupa conditioned by citta, and it can appear where it touches the nose tip or the upperlip. Breath is very subtle and the “Visuddhimagga” explains (VIII, 211):

... But this mindfulness of breathing is difficult, difficult to develop, a field in which only the minds of Buddhas, “Silent Buddhas” (Silent Buddhas or Pacceka Buddhas have found the Path all by themselves, but they do not have accumulated the wisdom to the extent that they can teach the Path to others.) and Buddha’s sons are at home...

Buddha’s sons are disciples who were endowed with great wisdom and special qualities (maha-purisas, or “great men”). Thus, mindfulness of breathing as a meditation subject of samatha is not suitable for everybody. Khun Santi explains in his lexicon the difference between mindfulness of breathing as a subject of samatha and as an object of vipassana. We read about mindfulness of breathing as an object of vipassana:

“The paramattha dhamma which is breath is the object. In the ‘Maha-
Satipatthana Sutta’ the subject of breath has been shown under the section of ‘Mindfulness of Body’, because it regards the body, it is a reality which is a condition for the body. We used to take breath as mine, to think that it is ‘I’ who is breathing. However, when satipatthana arises it knows the characteristic of what is appearing, the Element of Earth, the Element of Fire or the Element of Wind, which impinges on the body. They are the characteristics of softness, heat or motion, which may appear at the nose tip or upperlip, just any of those characteristics. We may begin to know, we may gradually understand that it is only a reality which has this or that characteristic, that it is a rupa element which does not know an object. In this way the wrong understanding that it is me who is breathing or my breath can be eliminated. When sati arises one does not pay attention to the place where breath contacts, one only knows the reality which is appearing. Sati which accompanies right understanding arises because of the appropriate conditions, namely, listening until there is right understanding. There is no need for a special preparation, no need to fix one’s attention beforehand, and there should not be the desire that sati must arise. Sati only arises now and then. If there is right understanding, satipatthana will be aware of different objects appearing through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind-door, until it can be aware of whatever object appears. Thus, one will not just fix one’s attention on breath which appears through the bodysense. Gradually the truth of anatta will be penetrated and there will be a clearer understanding of realities as they are, so that panna can become more accomplished. Then the stages of insight knowledge can be reached and eventually the pathconsciousness and fruition-consciousness will arise when enlightenment is attained. However, this takes a long time, not just one life. Panna must be developed on and on by listening, considering and investigation, but we should not have any expectation of result. Expectation is clinging, tanha, which together with conceit, mana, and wrong view, ditthi, are factors which slow down the development of panna.”

From this quotation we see that the method and aim of vipassana is different from the method and aim of samatha. In vipassana no preparation is needed, there is awareness of whatever reality appears, be it kusala, akusala, pleasant or unpleasant. From the beginning we should remember that there is no self who can do anything to have more awareness and understanding. We should not try to change our character and become a better person with the aim to develop right understanding. It is right understanding itself which has the function to eradicate akusala.

We should not try to be aware of breath, because it is very subtle. It is tangible object, conditioned by citta, but it is already very difficult to be aware of other kinds of tangible objects such as hardness of the different objects we touch, and therefore, why should we try to be aware of breath which is so subtle?

People in the Buddha’s time who were highly gifted, who could become arahats with special distinctive qualities (maha-purisas), could develop mindfulness of breath as a subject of samatha and vipassana. We read in the “Kindred Sayings” (V, Maha-vagga, Book X, Kindred Sayings about  inbreathing and Out-breathing, Ch I, § 8, The Lamp) that the Buddha, while he was at Savatthi said to the monks: ”Monks, intent concentration on inbreathing and out-breathing, if cultivated and made much of, is of great fruit, of great profit.” He then explained how to be aware of breath and to attain calm by means of this meditation subject (See the “Visuddhimagga” VIII, 145- 245, which gives a detailed explanation). The person who develops this subject can attain all stages of rupa-jhana and arupa-jhana, and also “extinction” (nirodha). This is temporary extinction of consciousness, which can only be attained by non-returners and arahats who have developed all stages of rupa-jhana and arupa-jhana.

The Commentary to this sutta , the “Saratthappakasini” explains about the benefits of “Mindfulness of Breath”. We read: 

“The monk who needs to have superpowers which are of the ariyan, the four stages of rupa-jhana, the four stages of arupa-jhana and the attainment of “extinction”, must be interested in thorough concentration on the the subject of breath... ”

The commentary explains that when this subject has been developed in all ways, all these benefits will occur to the meditator. 

All arahats have eradicated the defilements, but they have different abilities, different talents. Some had superpowers which are “worldly” (lokiya, not lokuttara) and lokuttara (supramundane) (Abhinna, including magical powers such as walking on water, divine ear, penetration of other people’s minds, divine eye, remembrance of former lives, eradication of all defilements.). Thus, we see that great benefits of “Mindfulness of Breath” occur to very special persons, to arahats who are highly gifted and have distinctive qualities. In our time the teachings are declining and there are in the human world no more arahats. The sutta and the commentary which I mentioned can remind us that “Mindfulness of Breath” cannot be properly developed by ordinary people.

In the Buddha’s time people who had accumulated great skill for jhana developed samatha to the degree of jhana, and also developed vipassana, so that they could attain enlightenment. However, there were also many people who only developed vipassana and then attained enlightenment. They are called people who developed “dry insight”, sukkha vipassana. In the “Designation of Human Types” (Puggalapannatti, the fourth Book of the Abhidhamma) individuals with different inclinations have been described. We read in the “Table of Contents” about the “Grouping of Human Types by One”, about “one who is emancipated at times (samayavimutto)” and “one who is emancipated not (only) at times (asamayavimutto)”. The Commentary, the “Pancappakaraùatthakata” explains that “emancipated at times” applies to those who have attained to the three lower stages of enlightenment. They have not attained the full emancipation of arahatship. The Commentary states that “emancipated not at times” (the opposite of “at times”) applies to arahats who are “sukkhavipassaka”, who only practised dry insight, and did not develop jhana. We read in chapter I about those who are “emancipated not (only) at times”: ”Indeed, all persons who are ariyans (noble or elect) are so emancipated in matters of the higher emancipation.” One can become enlightened, even to the stage of the arahat without having developed jhana.

We also read about someone who is of “perturbable nature” (kuppadhammo) and someone who is of “imperturbable nature” (akuppadhammo). The person of “perturbable nature” is not steadfast, he has dhammas which can decline. Among this group are those who have attained the different stages of jhana, but who have no masteries (vasis). They can attain jhana with difficulty, they cannot enter or emerge as they wish. Their skill in jhana can decline. Those who are of “imperturbable nature” are anagamis and arahats who have mastery in jhana, and moreover, all ariyans are “imperturbable in matters of ariyan emancipation”. Thus, the ariyans of the four stages of enlightenment are included, no matter they have “mastery” in jhana or not. The ariyan freedom cannot decline, the defilements which have been eradicated cannot return. This reminds us of what is really 

We read in the “Kindred Sayings” (III, Khandha-vagga, Kindred Sayings on Elements, Middle Fifty, Ch 4, § 88, Assaji) about a monk who was too sick to develop Mindfulness of Breathing and attain jhana. Khun Buth Sawong from Cambodia, who can recite many suttas by heart, drew our attention to this sutta which shows that it is not necessary to develop jhana in order to be able to attain enlightenment. We read that when the Buddha was staying near Rajagaha, he visited the venerable Assaji who was sick. They had the following conversation:

... “Formerly, lord, I kept trying to calm down my sickness, but I am still much troubled by my breathing. I cannot win balance of mind. But though I cannot win balance of mind, I say to myself:- ‘Yet I do not fall away.’” 

“Those recluses and brahmins, Assaji, who deem balance of mind as all in all, they who reverence balance of mind, -when they cannot win that balance of mind, say to themselves: ‘May we not fall away!’

Now as to this, what do you think, Assaji? Is body permanent or

“Impermanent, lord.”

“So it is with the other factors, and consciousness...
Wherefore he who sees this... knows:’... for life in these conditions there is no hereafter.’

If one feels a pleasant feeling... a painful feeling... a neutral feeling, he knows it is impermanent, he knows it as not clung to, he knows it has no lure for him.

If he feels a pleasant feeling... a painful feeling... a neutral feeling, he feels unattached. If he feels a feeling that his bodily powers have reached their end, he knows that he so feels. If he feels a feeling that life has reached its end, he knows that he so feels. He knows that when body breaks up, henceforth, when life has run its course, all that he has felt, all that had a lure for him will grow cold.”

Through the development of right understanding of the five khandhas, that is, of all nama and rupa within and around ourselves, enlightenment can be attained and eventually arahatship can be reached. There can be awareness of seeing, visible object, feeling or thinking right now, why should we strive to reach jhana first?

Samma-samadhi, right concentration is one of the factors of the eightfold Path. It performs its function of focussing on the nama or rupa which is the object of right understanding, samma-ditthi. At the same time samma-sati is mindful of that object, right thinking, samma-sankappa, “touches” the object so that samma-ditthi can understand it, and right effort, samma-vayama, is the effort or energy for right understanding. These five cetasikas among the eight factors perform their functions when right understanding is being developed. The three factors of right speech, samma-vaca, right action, samma-kammanta, and right livelihood, samma-ajiva pertain to the sila of  he eightfold Path. There is no self who can try to concentrate on nama and rupa, right concentration is ekkaggata cetasika performing its function. We should remember that the factors of the eightfold Path are cetasika paramattha dhamma, non-self.

The “Visuddhimagga” (XI, 121) explains that one of the benefits of the development of concentration is serving as the proximate cause for insight. When one reads this one may believe that everybody should develop jhana as a condition for insight, but, as we have seen, it depends on one’s accumulated inclination whether one will develop jhana or not. Moreover, also when one does not develop jhana, samma-samadhi is the proximate cause of panna, since it performs its function while it accompanies panna. As right understanding develops samma-samadhi develops as well, and when lokuttara citta arises at the moment of enlightenment, samma-samadhi has the degree of appana-samadhi, absorption concentration. Its strength can be compared with absorption concentration which accompanies the jhanacitta of the first stage of jhana. However, its object is not a meditation subject of samatha, but it is nibbana. It has this strength of concentration because of the right conditions, namely the development of vipassana to the degree that enlightenment can be attained. Samadhi which accompanies jhanacitta in samatha is not the proximate cause of panna of the eightfold Path. It is right concentration, but not right concentration of the eightfold Path. The aim of samatha is not seeing nama and rupa as impermanent, dukkha and non-self.

We should consider what the goal is in our life: the understanding of this moment of seeing, hearing, thinking, visible object, sound or any other paramattha dhamma which appears now.

In Asoka’s Footsteps

Dhamma in India, October 1999

by Nina Van Gorkom

Chapter 7.
Paying Respect

When we visit the holy places and pay respect by chanting and going around the Bodhi-tree and the stupas, we can be reminded of the Buddha’s excellent qualities: his wisdom, his purity and his compassion. Out of compassion he taught us the Dhamma he had realized himself when he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree. He is our teacher in the highest sense, he excels all other teachers in wisdom, purity and compassion. Khun Santi writes in his lexicon about the Buddha as the pre-eminent teacher (parama sattha):

“‘Pre-eminent Teacher’ refers to the Exalted One, the Buddha who accumulated the perfections during four incalculable periods and a hundred thousand aeons in order to become an omniscient Buddha, the teacher of devas and men. He taught others so that they could also know the truth which can be verified by panna , understanding of what appears through each of the six doorways. In this way the wrong view can be eliminated which takes realities for beings, people and ‘self”, and the truth of realities can be fully penetrated as the different stages of enlightenment are attained.”

We should listen to the Dhamma over and over again with the aim to have more understanding and to verify the truth of the teachings ourselves. If we do not listen, study and consider the Dhamma, we may believe what the Buddha taught but we shall not be able to directly experience the truth of the Dhamma.

The Buddha attained enlightenment, but we cannot understand what enlightenment means so long as we are only ordinary people who have not attained enlightenment themselves. We cannot fathom the Buddha’s preeminent qualities, but we can begin to have at least some understanding of them by the development of satipatthana, which is his teaching. There are realities appearing through the six doorways now, and sati can gradually begin to be aware of one reality at a time.

In the scriptures we often find the epithet of the Buddha “Tathagata”, which is full of meaning. The Buddha used this epithet frequently in reference to himself. In the Commentary to the “Middle Length Sayings” (no. 1, the Discourse on the Synopsis of Fundamentals), the ”Papancasudani”, Buddhaghosa elicited the multiple implications of this title (I used the translation by Ven. Bodhi in his translation of “The All-Embracing Net of Views”, the Brahmajala Sutta, B.P.S. Kandy, 1978.). When we read (The Pali term para can mean: further, beyond.) about the derivations of this term and the word associations, we should remember that Buddhaghosa did not give a linguistic exposition, but that he wanted to explain the Buddha’s pre-eminent qualities. We should not cling to conventional terms but try to understand what they express. The subcommentary to this commentary states that “the word ‘Tathagata’ contains the entire practice of the Dhamma as well as all the qualities of a Buddha.”

We read that the Buddha is called “Tathagata” because he has “thus come” (in Pali: tatha means “thus”, and agato means “come”). He has come in the same way as the previous Buddhas, through the same aspiration and the fulfilling of all the “perfections”. He relinquished limbs, eyes, wealth, kingdom, children and wife. He developed the factors leading to enlightenment, including the four satipatthanas and the eightfold Path, just as previous Buddhas.

The perfections (paramis) (The dependently arisen factors which cause the cycle of birth and death, beginning with ignorance.) lead across the sea of “samsara“ (the cycle of birth and death) to the other shore, to nibbana. The perfections are: generosity (dana), sila, detachment (nekkhamma), energy (viriya), panna, patience (khanti), truthfulness (sacca), determination (aditthana), metta and equanimity (upekkha). All ten paramis are needed, but panna is needed above all; the other nine paramis cannot develop without panna, they are the “attendants” of panna. In the “Commentary to the “Cariyapitaka” (Basket of Conduct), the “Paramatthadipani” (Clarifier of Sweet Meaning), wisdom is called the chief cause for the practice of the other paramis, the cause for the purification of all the paramis. When satipatthana is developed and there is awareness of kusala, panna can know it as non-self. The perfection of truthfulness or sincerity has many aspects. Because of truthfulness one develops kusala not for one’s own gain or advantage, but only with the aim to have less defilements. Without truthfulness defilements cannot be eradicated.

The perfection of detachment, nekkhamma, does not only mean detachment from the household life, but detachment from the clinging to self and the abandoning of all defilements. In this sense we can understand the words of the Commentary to the “Sangiti sutta” (The Recital, Dialogues of the Buddha III, no. 33), the “Sumangala Vilasini”, that all kusala dhammas are the “element of detachment”, nekkhamma dhatu. However, if we try to have kusala with the idea of self, there is no detachment. Khun Sujin reminded us that we think mostly of ourselves, of our own gain. The clinging to the self is bound to arise time and again, and therefore the development of satipatthana is essential, it should be developed together with the perfections. Khun Sujin stressed that we should not cling to the conventional terms of the paramis, we do not have to think that we shall develop dana, sila or any of the other
paramis. Then there would again be an idea of self who tries to do something. If we keep in mind that the goal is detachment, we can perform any kind of kusala for which there is an opportunity, depending on conditions. We develop the parami of panna when we listen to the Dhamma, not in order to get something for ourselves, but in order to have more understanding of the reality appearing at this moment. But the clinging to self is bound to arise, even while we are considering and investigating what we heard. Khun Sujin stressed that it is not self who considers the Dhamma. It is of no use to wait for the arising of sati, or to try to do different things first to cause its arising, then we forget again that sati is anatta. We read in the Commentary to the Cariya Pitika that “the destruction of self-love and the development of love for others are the means for the accomplishments of the paramis.” When we remember the goal and perform any kind of kusala, be it dana, sila or study of the Dhamma, it is the way to accumulate the perfections.

We read further on in the “Papancasudani” that the Buddha is called “Tathagata” because he has “thus gone” (in Pali: tatha gato. Gato means “gone”) As soon as he was born he went the same way as the previous Buddhas: his feet were planted evenly on the ground, and, facing north, taking seven steps, he surveyed all the directions, saying, “I am the foremost in the world. I am pre-eminent in the world. I am supreme in the world. This is my last birth. There is now no renewal of existence.” The Commentary states that his going foretold his numerous achievements of spiritual distinction. When he surveyed all the directions it foretold his unobstructed omniscience, and when he uttered the words, “I am foremost in the world...”, it was the foretoken of “his setting in motion the supreme, irreversible Wheel of the Dhamma”. The term “gone” should be seen in the sense of bodily movement and in the sense of movement of knowledge. The Commentary explains further on that he, just as previous Buddhas, subdued the defilements which are the hindrances by the stages of jhana, that, by the eighteen principal insights (maha-vipassana nana) he abandoned the deluded perceptions of permanence, pleasure, self, and the other defilements. He attained the four stages of enlightenment and eradicated subsequently all defilements until he reached arahatship.

He is called the Tathagata because he has come to the real characteristic (of dhammas) (tathalakkhanam agato. Lakkhana means “characteristic”). He has come to the real characteritics of all dhammas, such as the elements, the khandhas, the jhanafactors, all the factors leading to enlightenment and the factors of the “Dependent Origination” He realized true dhamma. Whatever is real appears through the six doors and its true nature can be known. Realities appear at this moment and through awareness and right understanding we can verify the truth.

Further on we read that he is called the Tathagata because he has awakened to real dhammas in accordance with actuality, because he is a seer of the real, because he is a speaker of the real, because he practises what he teaches and that he is called the Tathagata in the sense of surpassing. He surpasses all beings with regard to virtue and wisdom, he is unequalled. He is a speaker of what is real, because the whole contents of the Dhamma he taught, contained in the scriptures, is perfect in all its modes, irreproachable in meaning and in phrasing. He practises what he taught. Our actions should be in conformity with the Dhamma, we should apply the Dhamma in our daily life.

We read in the “Maha Parinibbana Sutta” (Digha Nikaya, no. 16) that the Buddha came to his last resting place, the Sala Grove of the Mallas and lay down between the twin Sal trees which dropped their blossoms in worship of the Buddha. Celestial coral-flowers and sandalwood powder rained down on his body and heavenly music could be heard, out of reverence for the Buddha.

We read that the Buddha said to Ananda (I am using the translation of B.P.S. Kandy, Wheel Publication no. 67- 69.):

Yet not thus, Ananda, is the Tathagata respected, venerated, esteemed, worshipped and honoured in the highest degree. But Ananda, whatsoever bhikkhu or bhikkhuni, layman or laywoman abides by the Dhamma, lives uprightly in the Dhamma, walks in the way of the Dhamma, it is by him that the Tathagata is respected, venerated, esteemed, worshipped and honoured in the highest degree. Therefore, Ananda, “Abide by the Dhamma, live uprightly in the Dhamma, walk in the way of the Dhamma!”- thus should you train yourselves.

During our journey we received many helpful reminders for the application of the Dhamma, from Khun Sujin and also by the example of our friends. One of them who practised generosity by offering tea to others at a small shop near the road, said that during this trip he gained more confidence in the Dhamma, and this happened to all of us. By listening to the discussions and considering what we heard understanding develops, and this is beneficial, even if there is just a little more understanding. I asked one of our friends after an exhausting day how he found the trip. He answered: “I receive something every day.” He found every day beneficial. Someone else was helping continuously, she never stopped. In the diningroom she peeled apples for others and did not mind that her own food became cold. Her example of truly non-stop helping in many ways impressed me. Thus, there were many opportunities for appreciation of other people’s kusala, which is a form of dana, anumodana dana. Khun Sujin explained the Dhamma with the greatest patience and metta, both to beginners and to those who had studied more.

She gave us practical advice for the application of the Dhamma, as she always does. I appreciate it especially that she stressed time and again that what we learn from the teachings is not theory, that it concerns realities. For each subject of the Dhamma we have to return to paramattha dhammas, we have to know precisely whether something is citta, cetasika or rupa. She repeated many times that we listen to the Dhamma in order to understand the reality appearing at this very moment.

She gave us the advice to “follow the stream”. She said, “Just follow the stream in your life, whatever comes.” We have to follow whatever occurs because of conditions, then we shall understand the meaning of anatta. This can condition awareness of nama and rupa. Like each journey in India, we had to suffer hardship: the road was bad at times, we were in the bus for a great length of time, we had some days of rain, and there were other discomforts like a fever or a cold. No matter what we see, hear or experience through the bodysense, there are only nama and rupa. We may say to ourselves, “there are only nama and rupa”, but their different characteristics should be known when they appear one at a time. Nama is different from rupa, and only when there is mindfulness of them, understanding of the difference between their characteristics can develop. We should not try to control realities which are conditioned already, but just follow them. This is a test for our understanding. We may think of the need for the perfections of energy and patience, but there may be clinging to a self who wants to have them. Khun Sujin said that they arise already because of conditions, and that there is no need to remind ourselves of them. We never know what will happen. One of our friends was so ill that she could not continue the bus trip and had to take a plane. It was unavoidable that this meant a delay for all of us. But if we “follow the stream” in difficult situations or in the company of people who cause us trouble, it will help us to see anatta.

Khun Sujin reminded us that we may say, “everything is anatta”, but that this does not mean that we understand anatta. We should consider what exactly is anatta: the nama or rupa appearing at this moment. Sound which appears does not belong to anyone, it arises because of its own conditions and it is beyond control. When hearing arises it is beyond control, we cannot help hearing when there are conditions for hearing. Only through mindfulness of nama and rupa the truth of anatta can be penetrated. The Buddha’s teaching of anatta is not theory, it relates to this very moment.