JHANA The highest level of concentration - fixed penetration - follows on threshold concen

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JHANA The highest level of concentration -- fixed penetration -- follows on threshold concentration. If mindfulness and self-awareness arise while you are in threshold concentration, they turn it into //jhana//. //Jhana// means focusing the mind, making it absorbed in a single object, such as the internal sense of the form of the body. If you want //jhana// to arise and not deteriorate, you have to practice until you are skilled. Here's how it's done: Think of a single object, such as the breath. Don't think of anything else. Practice focusing on your single object. Now add the other factors: //Vitakka// -- think about the object; and //vicara// -- evaluate it until you arrive at an understanding of it, e.g. seeing the body as unclean or as composed of impersonal properties. The mind then becomes light; the body becomes light; both body and mind feel satisfied and refreshed: This is //piti//, rapture. The body has no feelings of pain, and the mind experiences no pain: This is //sukha//, pleasure and ease. This is the first level of //rupa jhana//, which has five factors appearing in this order; singleness of object (//ekaggata//), thought, evaluation, rapture, and pleasure. When you practice, start out by focusing on a single object, such as the breath. Then think about it, adjusting and expanding it until it becomes dominant and clear. As for rapture and pleasure, you don't have to fashion them. They arise on their own. Singleness of object, thought, and evaluation are the causes; rapture and pleasure, the results. Together they form the first level of //jhana//. As you become more skilled, your powers of focusing become stronger. The activities of thought and evaluation fade away, because you've already gained a certain level of understanding. As you focus in on the object, there appears only rapture -- refreshment of body and mind; and pleasure -- ease of body and mind. Continue focusing in on the object so that you're skilled at it. Don't withdraw. Keep focusing until the mind is firm and well-established. Once the mind is firm, this is the second level of //rupa jhana//, in which only rapture, pleasure, and singleness of object remain. Now focus on the sense of rapture associated with the grosser physical body. As the mind becomes more and more firm, it will gain release from the symptoms of rapture, leaving just pleasure and singleness of object. This is the third level of //rupa jhana//. Then continue focusing in on your original object. Don't retreat from it. Keep focused on it until the mind attains //appana jhana//, absolutely fixed absorption, resolute and unwavering. At this point, your sense of awareness becomes brighter and clearer, causing you to disregard the grosser sense of the form of the body and to focus instead on the subtler sense of the body that remains. This leaves only singleness of object, the mind being unconcerned and unaffected by any external objects or preoccupations. This is the fourth level of //rupa jhana//, composed of singleness of object and equanimity. When you become skilled and resolute at this stage, your concentration gains the strength that can give rise to the skill of liberating insight, which in turn is capable of attaining the noble paths and fruitions. So keep your mind in this stage as long as possible. Otherwise it will go on into the levels of //arupa jhana//, absorption in formless objects. If you want to enter //arupa jhana//, though, here is how it's done: Disregard the sense of the form of the body, paying no more attention to it, so that you are left with just a comfortable sense of space or emptiness, free from any sensation of constriction or interference. Focus on that sense of space. To be focused in this way is the first level of //arupa jhana//, called //akasanancayatana jhana//, absorption in the sense of unbounded space. Your senses -- sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and ideation -- feel spacious and clear, with no physical image acting as the focal point of your concentration. If your powers of discernment are weak, you may mistake this for //nibbana//, but actually it's only a level of //arupa jhana//. Once you know and see this, go on to the next level. Let go of the sense of space and emptiness, and pay attention to whatever preoccupation is left -- but attention on this level is neither good and discerning, nor bad and unwise. It's simply focused on awareness free from activities. This level is called //vinnananancayatana jhana//, absorption in the sense of unbounded cognizance. If you aren't discerning, you may mistake this for //nibbana//, but it's actually only a level of //arupa jhana//. Once you know this, make your focus more refined until you come to the sense that there is nothing at all to the mind: It's simply empty and blank, with nothing occurring in it at all. Fix your attention on this preoccupation with "Nothing is happening," until you are skilled at it. This is the third level of //arupa jhana//, which has a very subtle sense of pleasure. Still, it's not yet //nibbana//. Instead, it's called //akincannayatana jhana//, absorption in the sense of nothingness. Now focus on the subtle notion that says that there's nothing at all, until it changes. If you don't withdraw, but keep focused right there, only awareness will be left -- but as for awareness on this level, you can't really say that it's awareness and you can't say that it isn't. You can't say that it's labeling anything and you can't say that it's not. You can't yet decide one way or another about your preoccupation. The mind's powers of focused investigation at this point are weakened, because an extremely refined sense of pleasure has arisen. You haven't searched for its causes and, when you're in this state, you can't. So you fall into the fourth level of //arupa jhana//: //neva-sanna-nasannayatana jhana//, absorption in the sense of neither perception nor non-perception, a state in which you can't say that there's any act of labeling left, and you can't say that there's not. So when the mind changes from one of these stages of awareness or points of view to another, keep close track of it. Be fully aware of what it's doing and where it's focused, without letting yourself get caught up with the refined sense of pleasure that appears. If you can do this, you'll be able to let go of all //sankhara dhamma//: all things fashioned and conditioned. The four levels of //arupa jhana// are nothing other than the mind dwelling on the four types of mental phenomena (//nama//). In other words, the mind starts out by getting caught up with a sense of pleasure and well-being that isn't focused on any object or image, but is simply an empty, spacious feeling (//vedana//). This is the first level of //arupa jhana//. On the second level, the mind is caught up with the act of cognizance (//vinnana//). It's focused on an empty sense of awareness as its object -- simply the act of cognizance happening over and over continuously, without end. This is called absorption in the sense of unbounded cognizance, i.e., being stuck on the act of cognizance. On the third level of //arupa jhana//, the mind is caught up with the act of mental fashioning (//sankhara//), which merely arises and passes away. Nothing, nothing at all appears as an image, and the mind simply thinks about this over and over again. This is called absorption in the sense of nothingness, i.e., being stuck on mental fashioning. On the fourth level of //arupa jhana//, the mind is caught up with the act of labeling (//sanna//), seeing that it can't say that there is a label for what it has just experienced or is now experiencing, and it can't say that there isn't. Thus it falls into absorption in the sense of neither perception nor non-perception. All four levels of //arupa jhana// have a sense of pleasure and well-being as their common basis. Beginning with the first level, there is an extremely fine and subtle sense of pleasure, but your understanding of it isn't true. What this means is that you can't yet let go of your understanding of it. You simply remain focused and absorbed in it, without trying to find out its causes. The mind at this point doesn't feel inclined to reason or investigate, because the sense of pleasure is relaxed and exquisite beyond measure. So if you want to escape beyond all suffering and stress, you should practice focusing from one level of //arupa jhana// to another, in and out, back and forth, over and over, until you are skilled at it. Then investigate, searching for the causes and underlying factors until you can know that, "Here the mind is stuck on the act of labeling -- here it is stuck on the act of mental fashioning -- here it is stuck on the act of cognizance." Cognizance is the underlying factor for name and form, or physical and mental phenomena. Physical and mental phenomena, by their nature, contain each other within themselves. Once you understand this, focus on the internal sense of the form of the body. Consider it through and through so that it becomes more and more refined until the mind is absolutely firm, absorbed in a single preoccupation, either on the sensual level (a sensory image of the body) or on the formless level. Keep the mind fixed, and then examine that particular preoccupation until you see how it arises and passes away -- but don't go assuming yourself to be what arises and passes away. Keep the mind neutral and unaffected, and in this way you will be able to know the truth. The way in which the four levels of //rupa jhana// and the four levels of //arupa jhana// are fashioned can be put briefly as follows: Focus on any one of the four properties making up the sense of the form of the body (earth, water, fire, and wind). This is //rupa jhana//. The one object you focus on can take you all the way to the fourth level, with the various levels differing only in the nature of the act of focusing. As for //arupa jhana//, it comes from //rupa jhana//. In other words, you take the sense of physical pleasure coming from //rupa jhana// as your starting point and then focus exclusively on that pleasure as your object. This can also take you all the way to the fourth level -- absorption in the sense of neither perception nor non-perception -- with the various levels differing only in their point of view. Or, to put it in plain English, you focus (1) on the body and (2) on the mind. //Rupa jhana// is like a mango; //arupa jhana//, like the mango's taste. A mango has a shape, but no one can see the shape of its taste, because it's something subtle and refined. This is why people who don't practice in line with the levels of concentration go astray in the way they understand things. Some people even believe that death is annihilation. This sort of view comes from the fact that they are so blind that they can't find themselves. And since they can't find themselves, they decide that death is annihilation. This is like the fool who believes that when a fire goes out, fire has been annihilated. Those who have looked into the matter, though, say that fire hasn't been annihilated, and they can even start it up again without having to use glowing embers the way ordinary people do. In the same way, a person's mind and body are not annihilated at death. Take a blatant example: When a man dies and is cremated, people say that his body no longer exists. But actually its elements are still there. The earth is still earth just as it always was; the water is still water; the fire is still fire; and the wind, still wind. Only their particular manifestations -- hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, etc. -- have disappeared. What we supposed them to be has vanished, but the nature of the primal elements hasn't. It's there as it always was. People who have fallen for their supposings are sure to be shocked at death; those who have seen the truth, see death as nothing strange. It's simply a change in the manifestations of the elements. Our fear of death is based on our assumption that the body is ours. When it dies, and we feel that it's been annihilated, this only increases our fears, all because we don't know the truth of the body. And if we don't know the truth even of this crude body, we're ripe for all sorts of wrong views, such as the view that death is annihilation. If death is annihilation, then there are no heavens, no hells, no Brahma worlds and no //nibbana//. And if this true, then the Buddha was even stupider than we are, because pleasure in the present life is something everyone knows enough to search for -- even common animals know enough to look for food. So why would the Buddha have to exert himself to the point of sacrificing his life and mind for the sake of teaching other people? People who believe that death is annihilation, who from birth have been led by necessity to search for a living from their environment, are like a person blind from birth who -- when he gets older and his parents or friends take him by the hand and lead him into a cave -- won't know whether he's in the cave or outside of the cave, because he can't see. And since he can't see, he'll think that everywhere is probably dark without exception. Even if they tell him that in-the-cave is dark and outside-of-the-cave is bright, he won't believe them, all because of his own darkness. In the same way, people believe that the body and mind are annihilated at death and that there are no heavens, hells, Brahma worlds, or //nibbana//, all because of their own darkness. Their knowledge hasn't penetrated into the real nature of birth and death. They see others speaking of the practice of virtue, concentration, //jhana//, and discernment for the sake of ending death and rebirth, and they smile to themselves. "What a bunch of fools." they say. But actually they're the fools. Those who have seen that death has to be followed by rebirth have seen that if defilement, craving, and unawareness still entwine the heart, rebirth will be endless. People who can't see this are bound to believe that everything is annihilated at death. Our Lord Buddha was a sage, a man of wisdom endowed with virtue, concentration, and discernment. He was able to see that there is no annihilation -- just like the expert surveyor who can look at a mountain spring and know that there's gold in the mountain. "Look," he tells some farmers. "There's gold in the spring." They go and look, but they don't see any signs of gold. All they see is water gushing out of the mountain. "That guy is lying," they think. "He must be out of his mind. He looks at spring water and sees gold." But what's really wrong is that they don't know his craft. Those who see that death has to be followed by rebirth as long as there is unawareness (//avijja//) in the heart are like the expert surveyor. Those who believe that death is annihilation are like the farmers who know nothing of the craft of searching for gold. Those who want to see clearly into the nature of birth and death will first have to learn the craft of the heart. Thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, and singleness of object: These form the first skill in the Buddha's craft. To focus in until only rapture, pleasure, and singleness of object are left is the second skill. To focus in until only pleasure and singleness of object are left is the third skill. To focus in until only equanimity and singleness of object are left is the fourth. When you've reached this point, you've mastered all the skills offered in that particular school, i.e., you've mastered the body; you've seen that it's just a matter of physical properties, unclean and repulsive, inconstant, stressful, and not-self. Some people, on reaching this point, don't continue their studies, but set themselves up in dubious professions, claiming to have special powers, to be fortune tellers or to know magical incantations, using their skills to make a living under the sway of delusion. Those, however, who have the necessary funds -- namely, conviction in the paths and fruitions leading to //nibbana// -- will go on to study in another school, //arupa jhana//, focusing directly in on the mind. For example: Right now, what are you thinking? Good thoughts or bad? When you have the presence of mind to know what a thought is bad, stare it down until it disappears, leaving only good thoughts. When a good thought arises, there's a sense of ease and well-being. Focus in on that sense of well-being. Don't withdraw. If you're going to think, think only of that sense of well-being. Keep focusing until you are skilled at staying with that sense of well-being, to the point where, when you withdraw, you can focus right back in on it. This very sense of well-being is the basis for all four levels of //arupa jhana//. They differ only in their viewpoints on it. Once you've focused on this same sense of well-being firmly enough and long enough to go through the first, second, third, and fourth levels of //arupa jhana//, you should then go back and review all the skills you've mastered from the very beginning, back and forth, until they become //appana jhana//, fixed absorption, firm and fully mastered. //Rupa jhana//, once mastered is like being a government official who works and earns a salary. //Arupa jhana//, once mastered, is like being a retired official receiving a pension from the government. Some people, when they've finished government service, simply curl up and live off their pensions without using their skills to provide themselves with any further benefits. This is like people who master //rupa jhana// and //arupa jhana// and then don't use their skills to gain the further benefits of the transcendent. If you do want to gain those benefits, though, here's how it's done: Focus your powers of investigation back on your primal sense of the body and mind until liberating insight arises. The insight that acts as a stairway to the transcendent level is based on //jhana// at the level of fixed penetration, focusing the mind resolutely to reach the first level of //rupa jhana//. Those people who have a good deal of discernment will -- once the mind has attained concentration for only a short while -- focus directly in on mental phenomena. I.e., they'll focus on the mind and investigate its preoccupation until they clearly see the true nature of physical and mental phenomena. The state of mind that clings to physical and mental phenomena will vanish, and while it is vanishing the "state of mind changing lineage (//gotarabhu citta//)" is said to arise. When the mind can know what mundane mental states are like and what transcendent mental states are like, that's called //gotarabhu nana//, change-of-lineage knowledge, i.e., comprehension of //nibbana//. Here we're talking about people who are inclined to focus primarily on the mind, who tend to develop insight meditation more than tranquillity meditation. Their Awakening is termed release through discernment (//panna-vimutti//). Although they don't develop all of the mundane skills that come along with concentration -- i.e., they don't master all of the three skills, the eight skills, or the four forms of acumen -- they still master the one crucial skill, the knowledge that does away with the effluents of defilement (//asavakkhaya-nana//). Those who tend more towards tranquillity meditation, though, are in no great hurry. They develop all the levels of //jhana//, going back and forth, again and again, until they're expert in both //rupa jhana// and //arupa jhana//. Then they return to the fourth level of //rupa jhana// and focus strongly on it, taking the inner sense of the form of the body as their object -- their //uggaha nimitta// -- and then manipulating it back and forth (//patibhaga nimitta//) to the point where their powers of mindfulness and self-awareness are firm. They focus until their minds are neutral and still, steady with a single object, uninvolved with any outside preoccupations. They then will be able to identify exactly how //rupa jhana// and //arupa jhana// differ -- and will realize that the fourth level of //rupa jhana// is the crucial one, giving the mind strength in a variety of ways. When you reach this point, focus on the fourth level of //rupa jhana//. Keep the mind neutral and still, constantly focused on a single object. Focus on one spot as your frame of reference (//satipatthana//), i.e., on the subtle sense of the body at this level, in and of itself. When you are strongly focused, a sense of brightness will develop, and a variety of amazing skills -- either mundane or transcendent, depending in part on the power of your //jhana// -- will arise in the mind. The knowledge and skills arising from //jhana// can free you from all suffering and stress. But most of us, by and large, don't think of looking for these skills. We're interested only in those skills and forms of knowledge that will keep us bound to suffering and stress on and on through time. So those who aim for well-being that is clear and clean should train their minds to give rise to //jhana//, which is one of the treasures of the Noble Ones. The four levels of //rupa jhana// and the four levels of //arupa jhana//, taken together, are called the eight attainments (//samapatti//), all of which come down to two sorts: mundane and transcendent. In mundane //jhana//, the person who has attained //jhana// assumes that, `This is my self,' or `I am that,' and holds fast to these assumptions, not giving rise to the knowledge that can let go of those things in line with their true nature. This is classed as //sakkaya-ditthi//, the viewpoint that leads us to self-identification, the feeling that, `This is me,' or `This is mine.' This in turn leads to //silabbata-paramasa//, attachment to our accustomed practices, i.e., seeing //jhana// as something of magical potency, that whatever we set our minds on attaining will have to come true. As for our doubts (//vicikiccha//) about the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, these haven't been cleared up, because we've been deflected at this level and haven't gotten any further. Thus whoever attains //jhana// without abandoning the three fetters (//sanyojana//) is practicing mundane //jhana//. Mundane //jhana//, unless you're really expert at it, is the easiest thing in the world to lose. It's always ready to deteriorate at the slightest disturbance from sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas. Sometimes you may be sitting in //jhana// and then, when you get up and walk away, it's gone. As for transcendent //jhana//: When you've attained //rupa jhana//, you go back to examine the various levels until you are expert at them and then develop insight meditation so as to see mundane //jhana// for what it really is. In other words, you see that the preoccupations of both //rupa jhana// and //arupa jhana// are inconstant, stressful, and not-self. Once this knowledge arises, you are able to let go of the various preoccupations of //jhana//; and once the mind is set loose from //rupa jhana// and //arupa jhana//, it enters the transcendent level; the stream to //nibbana//. It cuts the three fetters -- self-identification, grasping at practices and habits, and uncertainty -- and is headed straight for //nibbana//. When you have cut the three fetters, your //jhana// is transcendent //jhana//; your virtue, concentration, and discernment are all transcendent. Once you have mastered these two modes of //jhana//, they will give rise to the various abilities, mundane or transcendent, taught by Buddhism that differ from worldly skills in that they can arise only after the attainment of //jhana//. Among these skills are the three skills (//vijja//), the eight skills, and the four forms of acumen (//patisambhida-nana//). * * * THE THREE SKILLS 1. //Pubbenivasanussati-nana//: the ability to remember past lives. 2. //Cutupapata-nana//: the ability to know where living beings are reborn after death. 3. //Asavakkhaya-nana//: the ability to do away entirely with the effluents of defilement. 1. The ability to remember past lives: First you have to be proficient in all four frames of reference (//satipatthana//). Once your powers of reference are strong, you will know the truth of the body in the present. That is, you keep focusing on the body as it appears in the present until there appears the subtle image of the body that is constantly arising and falling away. You will then be able to know not only the present, but also the past and future of the body. With regard to the past, you will know back to the day it was conceived in your mother's womb. What it was like after the first day, the seventh day, one month, three months, seven months, nine ... what it looked like, how it lived, what sort of food it consumed; and then as it grew one year, two, three, four, five all the way to the present: You'll be able to know the truth of the body. As for the future, you'll know how the body will change if you live to the age of thirty, forty, eighty, all the way to the day you die. If your knowledge on this level and your powers of reference are truly strong, you will be able to remember back one lifetime, ten lifetimes, one hundred, one thousand... depending on the power of your mind. As for the mental phenomena you experienced in past lives, you will be able to know them as well, just as you can know the body. 2. The ability to know where living beings are reborn after death: First you have to be proficient in knowing the movements of your own mind in the present. Sometimes it takes on the characteristics of a mind in the realms of deprivation, sometimes the characteristics of a human mind, a heavenly mind or a Brahma mind. Once you know your own crude and subtle mental states in the present -- and if your knowledge is truly strong -- you will be able to know, via the inner eye, exactly how well or badly different living beings fare when they die. 3. The knowledge that does away with the effluents of defilement: This means clear knowledge of the four Noble Truths -- the ability to diagnose stress (//dukkha//) as arising from craving (//tanha//); the ability to pinpoint what will put an end to craving, i.e., identifying the path //(magga//), and then following the path until the disbanding of stress (//nirodha//) occurs. You will have clear vision of all four truths, doing away with defilement, craving, views, and conceits through the power of your discernment. The knowledge that does away with mental effluents forms the essence of liberating insight (//vipassana-nana//). * * * THE EIGHT SKILLS 1. //Vipassana-nana//: clear insight into the elements (//dhatu//), the aggregates (//khandha//), and the sense media (//ayatana//). 2. //Manomayiddhi//: the ability to project mind-made images. 3. //Iddhividhi//: supernormal powers. 4. //Dibba-sota//: clairaudience. 5. //Cetopariya-nana//: knowledge of the thoughts and minds of others. 6. //Dibba-cakkhu//: clairvoyance. 7. //Pubbenivasanussati-nana//: knowledge of past lives. 8. //Asavakkhaya-nana//: knowledge which does away with mental effluents. 1. //Vipassana-nana//: This refers to clear insight into the six elements -- the properties of earth, water, fire, wind, space, and cognizance -- perceiving their true nature, e.g., seeing them as equal in terms of their three inherent characteristics -- inconstancy, stress and lack of self; seeing them merely as conditioned formations; knowing them with regard to all three time periods -- past, present and future: what they have been, what they will be, and what they are at the moment. Only when your insight into these matters is absolutely clear does it qualify as //vipassana-nana//. The aggregates refer to the same range of phenomena as the elements, but simply classify them in a different way: body, feelings, mental labels, mental fashionings, and cognizance. These aggregates can be reduced to two -- physical and mental phenomena -- and these in turn can be redivided into six: the senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, ideation) and their corresponding objects. These are termed sense media (//ayatana//). 2. //Manomayiddhi//: This refers to the ability to make images of yourself or of others appear to other people. These images can appear in whatever manner you want them to, without your having to make a move. This skill depends on being able to manipulate the four physical properties, focusing on them with the power of //jhana// to create whatever image you have in mind. 3. //Iddhividhi//: Examples of supernormal powers are the ability to make a crowd of people to be only a few people, or a few people to be a crowd; the ability to walk through fire, on water, or through the dark if walking in bright light; the ability to make the body appear small, tall, short, dark, fair, old, young, etc.; the ability to affect the weather, causing rain, wind, fire, earthquakes, etc. All of this can be accomplished through the power of //jhana//. 4. //Dibba-sota//: the ability to hear sounds no matter how near or far -- the voices of human beings, the voices of heavenly beings, or whatever other sound you may focus on hearing. 5. //Cetopariya-nana//: the ability to know the thoughts of others -- good or bad, crude or refined, hateful or well-meaning. Whatever another person may be thinking will appear clearly to you. 6. //Dibba-cakkhu//: the ability to see anything, no matter what, near or far, without having to open your eyes. 7. //Pubbenivasanussati-nana//: the ability to remember previous lives. 8. //Asavakkhaya-nana//: the knowledge that drives such defilements as passion, aversion ,and delusion out of the heart. (These last two skills are explained under the three skills above.) * * * THE FOUR FORMS OF ACUMEN 1. //Attha-patisambhida//: acumen with regard to meaning. 2. //Dhamma-patisambhida//: acumen with regard to mental qualities. 3. //Nirutti-patisambhida//: acumen with regard to linguistic conventions. 4. //Patibhana-patisambhida//: acumen with regard to expression. 1. Acumen with regard to meaning means knowing how to explain the Buddha's shorter teachings in detail and how to draw out the gist of a detailed teaching so that listeners will have a correct understanding in line with the Buddha's aims. Even if you have a lot to say, you get to the point; even if you have only a little to say, you don't leave out anything important. Wrong words you can turn into right ones, and explanations that are correct but crude you can make more subtle without leaving anything out. 2. Acumen with regard to mental qualities means knowing how to distinguish the wise qualities from unwise ones, establishing the first as good, which ought to be followed, and the second as evil, which ought to be avoided. You know how to explain their various levels, classifying the unwise as common, intermediate, and subtle, and then know which wise qualities are suitable for countering each sort: Virtue does away with common defilements; concentration does away with intermediate defilements; and discernment, subtle defilements. This is knowledge //about// mental qualities. The next step is to develop virtue to do away with the more common forms of greed, hatred, and delusion; to develop concentration to do away with the hindrances; and discernment to do away with the fetters (//sanyojana//). Acumen with regard to mental qualities thus means to distinguished the various types of qualities and then to put the wise qualities into practice until the supreme quality -- //nibbana// -- is realized. Simply knowing about the wise qualities, but not developing them, runs counter to the Buddha's reasons for teaching about them in the first place. 3. Acumen with regard to linguistic conventions refers to the ability to know the individual with whom you are speaking (//puggalannuta//), and how to speak with different types of people so as to be in keeping with their knowledge and background (//parisannuta//). You know that you have to speak this way with that lay person, and that way with this; that this group of monks and novices has to be addressed in such and such a way, in line with their various backgrounds. You know how to make people understand in their own language -- how to speak with farmers, merchants, and kings, varying your language so as to fit the person you are speaking to. This form of acumen, contrary to what people normally believe, doesn't refer to the ability to speak the external language of birds or mice or what-have-you. Even if we could speak their language, what good would it do? If anyone can actually speak these languages, good for them. The Buddha's main interest, though, was probably in having us know how to speak with people in such a way that our words will meet their needs. Only those who have this ability qualify as having acquired this form of acumen. 4. Acumen with regard to expression refers to being quick-witted in discussing the Dhamma and its meaning, knowing how to put things in apt way so as to keep ahead of your listeners. This doesn't mean being devious, though. It simply means using strategy so as to be of benefit: putting common matters in subtle terms, and subtle matters in common terms; speaking of matters close at hand as if they were far away, of far away matters as if they were close at hand, explaining a base statement in high terms or a high statement in base terms, making difficult matters easy, and obscure matters plain. You know the right word to cut off a long winded opponent, and how to put things -- without saying anything false or dubious -- so that no one can catch you. To be gifted in expression in this way means not to be talkative, but to be expert at talking. Talkative people soon run themselves out: people expert at talking never run out no matter how much they have to say. They can clear up any doubts in the minds of their listeners, and can find the one well-chosen word that is worth more than a hundred words. The skills classed as the four forms of acumen refer only to the skills of this sort that come from the practice of tranquillity and insight meditation. The three skills, the eight skills, and the four forms of acumen arise only in the wake of //jhana//. When classed according to level, they are two: //sekha-bhumi//, i.e., any of these skills as mastered by a Stream-enterer, a Once-returner, a Non-returner, or by a person who has yet to attain any of the transcendent levels; and //asekha-bhumi//, any of these skills as mastered by an Arahant. The only one of these skills that's really important is //asavakkhaya-nana//, the knowledge that does away with the mental effluents. As for the others, whether or not they are attained isn't really important. And it's not the case that all Noble Ones will attain all of these skills. Not to mention ordinary people, even some Arahants don't attain any of them with the single exception of the knowledge that does away with mental effluents. To master these skills, you have to have studied meditation under a Buddha in a previous lifetime. This ends the discussion of //jhana//. * * * At this point I would like to return to the themes of insight meditation, because some people are bound not to be expert in the practice of //jhana//. Even though they may attain //jhana// to some extent, it's only for short periods of time. Some people, for example, tend to be more at home investigating and figuring out the workings -- the logic of cause and effect -- of physical and mental phenomena, developing insight into the three inherent characteristics of inconstancy, stress, and "not-selfness," practicing only a moderate amount of //jhana// before heading on to the development of liberating insight. Liberating insight can be developed in either of two ways: For those experts in //jhana//, insight will arise dependent on the fourth level of //rupa jhana//; for those not expert in //jhana//, insight will arise dependent on the first level of //jhana//, following the practice of threshold concentration. Some people, when they reach this point, start immediately investigating it as a theme of insight meditation, leading to complete and clear understanding of physical and mental phenomena or, in terms of the aggregates, seeing clearly that the body, feelings, mental labels, mental fashionings, and cognizance are inherently inconstant, stressful, and not-self, and then making this insight strong. If this sort of discernment becomes powerful at the same time that your powers of mindfulness and presence of mind are weak and slow-acting, though, any one of ten kinds of misapprehension can occur. These are called //vipassanupak-kilesa//, the corruptions of insight. Actually, they are nothing more than by-products of the practice of insight, but if you fall for them and latch onto them, they become defilements. They can make you assume wrongly that you have reached the paths, fruitions, and //nibbana//, because they are defilements of a very subtle sort. They are also termed the enemies of insight. If your powers of reference aren't equal to your powers of discernment, you can get attached and be led astray without your realizing it, believing that you have no more defilements, that there is nothing more for you to do. These ten defilements are extremely subtle and fine. If you fall for them, you're not likely to believe anyone who tells you that you've gone wrong. Thus you should know about them beforehand so that you can keep yourself detached when they arise. But before discussing them, we should first discuss the exercises for insight meditation, because the corruptions of insight appear following on the practice of the exercises. * * * EXERCISES FOR INSIGHT MEDITATION These are techniques for giving rise to knowledge and insight, via the mind, into the natural workings of physical and mental phenomena, as expressed in terms of the five aggregates, seeing them as naturally occurring conditions -- inherently inconstant, stressful, and not-self -- these three characteristics being the focal point of insight meditation. If we've come to the topic of insight, why are we referring again to the five aggregates, inconstancy, stress, not-selfness, etc.? Weren't these already covered under tranquillity meditation? The answer is that although insight meditation deals with the same raw material as tranquillity meditation -- i.e., form and formless objects, or in other words, physical and mental phenomena -- it gives rise to a more refined level of knowledge and understanding. The treatment of the five aggregates and the three characteristics on the level of tranquillity meditation is very crude, simply enough to make the mind settle down to the point where it is ready for the practice of insight meditation. Once we reach the level of insight, though, our understanding and perception into the five aggregates and the characteristics of inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness become clearer and more distinct. We can make the following comparison: The understanding gained on the level of tranquillity meditation is like cutting down the trees in a forest but not yet setting them on fire. The understanding gained on the level of insight meditation is like taking the trees and burning them up. The forest in the second case is much more open and clear -- even though it's the same forest. This is how the levels of knowledge gained in tranquillity and insight meditation differ. To develop insight, you first have to distinguish the five aggregates: physical phenomena, feelings, mental labels, mental fashionings, and cognizance. Once you have them distinguished, start out by focusing on and considering all physical phenomena, whether past -- those that have occurred beginning with your conception as an embryo in your mother's womb; present; or future -- those that will continue to occur until the day you die; internal -- the phenomena of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body, together with the visions that appear through the power of the mind; or external -- sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations: //All// of these are inherently inconstant, stressful and not-self. They arise momentarily and then pass away, never satisfying the desires of those who want them, never offering anything of any substance or worth. This holds true equally for any and all things composed of the physical properties. This is the exercise dealing with physical phenomena. As for feelings, start out by distinguishing two sorts: external and internal. External feelings arise when the eye comes into contact with a visible object, the ear comes into contact with a sound, the nose comes into contact with an aroma, the tongue comes into contact with a flavor, or when tactile sensations -- heat, cold, etc. -- come into contact with the body. All five of these categories are classed as external feelings. if the mind is displeased, a bad mood is experienced; if the mind is neither pleased nor displeased, a mood of indifference is experiences: For the mind to experience any of these moods is classed as internal feeling. Both internal and external feelings -- past, present, or future -- should be focused on at a single point: the fact that they are all inconstant, stressful, and not-self. By nature they arise only to pass away. This is the second exercise. As for mental labels, there are two sorts, external and internal. External labeling refers to the act of identifying visual objects, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas when they come into the range of the senses. Internal labeling refers to the act of identifying moods of pleasure, pain, and indifference as they are felt by the heart. Once you can make this distinction, focus on all acts of labeling -- past, present, or future, internal or external -- at a single point: the fact that they are all inconstant, stressful and not-self. By nature they arise only to pass away. This is the third exercise. As for fashionings, these should first be divided into two sorts: //upadinnaka-sankhara//, those that are dependent on the power of the mind for their sustenance; and //anupadinnaka-sankhara//, those that are not. Mountains, trees, and other inanimate objects fashioned by nature are examples of the second category; people and common animals are examples of the first. Fashionings dependent on the power of the mind for their sustenance are two sorts: external and internal. `External' refers to the compound of the four physical properties fashioned into a body through the power of //kamma//. `Internal' refers to the fashioning of thoughts -- -either good (//punnabhisankhara//), bad (//apunnabhisankhara//), or neither good nor bad (//anenjabhisankhara//) -- in the mind. All fashionings -- past, present, or future, internal or external -- should be focused on and considered at a single point, the fact of their three inherent characteristics, as follows: //anicca vata sankhara uppada-vaya-dhammino uppajjitva nirujjhanti//... `How inconstant (and stressful) are fashioned things. Their nature is to arise and decay. Arising, they disband ...' They are all bound to be inconstant, stressful, and not-self. This is the fourth exercise. As for cognizance, this should first be divided into two sorts: internal and external. Internal cognizance refers to the act of being clearly aware that, `This is a feeling of pleasure -- this is a feeling of pain -- this is a feeling indifference,' as such feelings are experienced in the heart. External cognizance refers to being clearly aware by means of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body whenever visual objects, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations come into range and the mind reacts with notions of liking, disliking, or being indifferent. All acts of cognizance should be focused on and considered in terms of their three inherent characteristics: Whether past (beginning with the `connecting cognizance (//patisandhi vinnana//)' that gives rise to birth), present, or future, internal or external, all are inconstant, stressful, and not-self. There is nothing permanent or lasting to them at all. When you consider these themes until you see them clearly in any of these ways, you are developing the insight that forms the way to the paths and fruitions leading to //nibbana//. Thus the exercises of tranquillity and insight meditation give rise to different levels of knowledge and understanding, even though they deal with the very same raw material. If you truly desire to gain release from suffering and stress, you should begin studying you own aggregates so as to give rise to tranquillity and insight. You may assume that you already know them, yet if you can't let them go, then you don't really know them at all. What you know, you say you don't know; what you don't know, you say you do. The mind switches back and forth on itself, and so always has itself deceived. Knowledge on the level of information -- labels and concepts -- is inconstant. It can always change into something else. Even people outside of the religion can know the aggregates on that level -- all they have to do is read a few books and they'll know. So those who really want to know should start right in, probing down into the aggregates until they perceive clearly and truly enough to let go. Only then will they be genuine experts in the religion. * * * Now we will discuss the stages of liberating insight, dealing first with the seven stages of purification, since these form their basis. * * * THE SEVEN STATES OF PURIFICATION 1. Purification of virtue (//sila-visuddhi//): Cleanse your virtues -- in thought, word, and deed -- in line with your station in life, so that they are pure and spotless, free from all five ways of creating enmity, such as taking life, stealing, etc. 2. Purification of consciousness (//citta-visuddhi//): Make the mind still and resolute, either in momentary concentration or threshold concentration, enough to form a basis for the arising of insight. 3. Purification of view (//ditthi-visuddhi//): Examine physical and mental phenomena, analyzing them into their various parts, seeing them in terms of their three inherent characteristics -- as inconstant, stressful, and not-self. 4. Purification by overcoming doubt (//kankha-vitarana-visuddhi//): Focus on the causes and conditions for physical and mental phenomena, seeing what it is that causes them to arise when it arises, and what causes them to disappear when it disappears. Examine both these sides of the question until all your doubts concerning physical and mental phenomena -- past, present and future -- vanish together in an instant. The mind that can see through the preoccupation with which it is involved in the present is much more subtle, resolute, and firm than it has ever been before, and at this point any one of the ten corruptions of insight -- which we referred to above as enemies of insight -- will arise. If your powers of reference, concentration, and discernment aren't equal to one another, they can lead you to jump to false conclusions, causing you to latch onto these defilements as something meaningful and thus going astray, falling away from the highest levels of truth. The enemies of insight are: a. Splendor (//obhasa//): an amazingly bright light, blotting out your surroundings -- e.g., if you're sitting in a forest or patch of thorns, they won't exist for you -- bright to the point where you get carried away, losing all sense of your body and mind, wrapped up in the brightness. b. Knowledge (//nana//): intuition of an uncanny sort, which you then latch onto -- either to the knowledge itself or to the object known -- as beyond refutation. Perhaps you may decide that you've already reached the goal, that there's nothing more for you to do. Your knowledge on this level is true, but you aren't able to let it go in line with its true nature. c. Rapture (//piti//): an exceedingly strong sense of rapture and contentment, arising from a sense of solitude and lack of disturbance for which you have been aiming all along. Once it arises, you are overcome with rapture to the point where you latch onto it and lose sense of your body and mind. d. Serenity (//passaddhi//): an extreme sense of mental stillness, in which the mind stays motionless, overwhelmed and addicted to the stillness. e. Bliss (//sukha//): a subtle, exquisite sense of pleasure, arising from a sense of mental solitude that you have just met for the first time and that the mind relishes -- the pleasure at this point being exceedingly subtle and relaxed -- to the point where it becomes addicted. f. Enthusiasm (//adhimokkha//): a strong sense of conviction in your knowledge, believing that, `This must be //nibbana//'. g. Exertion (//paggaha//): strong and unwavering persistence that comes from enjoying the object with which the mind is preoccupied. h. Obsession (//upatthana//): Your train of thought becomes fixed strongly on a single object and runs wild, your powers of mindfulness being strong, but your powers of discernment too weak to pry the mind away from its object. i. Equanimity (//upekkha//): The mind is still and unmoving, focused in a very subtle mental notion of equanimity. Not knowing the true nature of its state, it relishes and clings to its sense of indifference and imperturbability. j. Satisfaction (//nikanti//): contentment with the object of your knowledge, leading to assumptions of one sort or another. These ten phenomena, if you know them for what they are, can form a way along which the mind can stride to the paths and fruitions leading to //nibbana//. If you fasten onto them, though, they turn into a form of attachment and thus become the enemies of liberating insight. All ten of these corruptions of insight are forms of truth on one level, but if you can't let go of the truth so that it can follow its own nature, you will never meet the ultimate truth of disbanding (//nirodha//). For the mind to let go, it must use discerning insight to contemplate these phenomena until it sees that they are clearly inconstant, stressful and not-self. When it sees clearly and is no longer attached to any of these phenomena, knowledge will arise within the mind as to what is and what isn't the path leading to the transcendent. Once this awareness arises, the mind enters the next level of purification: 5. Purification through knowledge and vision of what is and is not the path (//maggamagga-nanadassana-visuddhi//): Now that this realization has arisen, look after that knowing mind to keep it securely in the mental series leading to insight. Insight will arise in the very next mental moment, forming a stairway to the great benefits of the transcendent, the reward coming from having abandoned the ten corruptions of insight. Liberating insight will arise in the following stages: * * * THE NINE STAGES OF LIBERATING INSIGHT a. Contemplation of arising and passing away (//udayabbayanu-passana-nana//): seeing the arising of physical and mental phenomena together with their falling away. b. Contemplation of dissolution (//bhanganupassana-nana//): seeing the falling away of physical and mental phenomena. c. The appearance of dread (//bhayatupatthana-nana//): seeing all fashionings (i.e., all physical and mental phenomena) as something to be dreaded, just as when a man sees a deadly cobra lying in his path or an executioner about to behead a criminal who has broken the law. d. Contemplation of misery (//adinavanupassana-nana//): seeing all fashionings as a mass of pain and stress, arising only to age, sicken, disband, and die. e. Contemplation of disgust (//nibbidanupassana-nana//): viewing all fashionings with a sense of weariness and disenchantment with regard to the cycle of birth, aging, illness, and death through the various way-stations in the round of existence; seeing the pain and harm, feeling disdain and estrangement, with no longing to be involved with any fashionings at all. Just as a golden King Swan -- who ordinarily delights only in the foothills of Citta Peak and the great Himalayan lakes -- would feel nothing but disgust at the idea of bathing in a cesspool at the gate of an outcaste village, in the same way the arising of insight causes a sense of disgust for all fashionings to appear. f. The desire for freedom (//muncitukamyata-nana//): sensing a desire to escape from all fashionings that appear, just as when a man goes down to bathe in a pool and -- meeting a poisonous snake or a crocodile -- will aim at nothing but escape. g. Reflective contemplation (//patisankhanupassana-nana//): trying to figure out a way to escape from all fashionings that appear, in the same way that a caged quail keeps looking for a way to escape from its cage. h. Equanimity with regard to fashionings (//sankharupekkha-nana//): viewing all fashionings with a sense of indifference, just as a husband and wife might feel indifferent to each other's activities after they have gained a divorce. i. Knowledge in accordance with the truth (//saccanulomika-nana//): seeing all fashionings -- all five aggregates -- in terms of the four Noble truths. * * * All of these stages of insight are nothing other than the sixth level of purification: 6. Purification through knowledge and vision of the way (//patipada-nandassana-visuddhi//): At this point, our way is cleared. Just as a man who has cut all the tree stumps in his path level to the ground can then walk with ease, so it is with knowledge on this level: We have gotten past the corruptions of insight, but he roots -- //avijja//, or unawareness -- are still in the ground. The next step is to develop the mind higher and higher along the lines of liberating insight until you reach the highest plane of the mundane level leading to the noble paths, beginning with the path opening onto the stream to //nibbana//. This level is termed: 7. Purification of knowledge and vision (//nanadassana-visuddhi//): At this point, devote yourself to reviewing the stages of liberating insight through which you have passed, back and forth, so that each stage leads on to the next, from the very beginning all the way to knowledge in accordance with the truth and back, so that your perception in terms of the four Noble Truths is absolutely clear. If your powers of discernment are relatively weak, you will have to review the series three times in immediate succession before change-of-lineage knowledge (//gotarabhu-nana//, knowledge of //nibbana//) will arise as the result. If your powers of discernment are moderate, change-of- lineage knowledge will arise after you have reviewed the series twice in succession. If your powers of discernment are tempered and strong, it will arise after you have reviewed the series once. Thus the sages of the past divided those who reach the first noble path and fruition into three sorts: Those with relatively weak powers of discernment will have to be reborn another seven times; those with moderate powers of discernment will have to be reborn another three or four times; those with quick powers of discernment will have to be reborn only once. The different speeds at which individuals realize the first path and its fruition are determined by their temperaments and propensities. The slowest class are those who have developed two parts tranquillity to one part insight. The intermediate class are those who have developed one part tranquillity to one part insight. Those with the quickest and strongest insight are those who have developed one part tranquillity to two parts insight. Having developed the beginning parts of the path in different ways -- here we are referring only to those parts of the path consisting of tranquillity and insight -- they see clearly into the four Noble Truths at different mental moments. In the end, it all comes down to seeing the five aggregates clearly and unmistakably in terms of the four Noble Truths. What does it mean to see clearly and unmistakably? And what are the terms of the four Noble Truths? This can be explained as follows: Start out by fixing your attention on a result and then trace back to its causes. Focus, for instance, on physical and mental phenomena as they arise and pass away in the present. This is the truth of stress (//dukkha-sacca//), as in the Pali phrase, //nama-rupam aniccam, nama-rupam dukkham, nama-rupam anatta//: `All physical and mental phenomena are equally inconstant, stressful, and not-self.' Fix your attention on their arising and changing, seeing that birth is stressful, ageing is stressful, illness and death are stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair are stressful; in short, the five aggregates are stressful. What is the cause? When you trace back to the cause for stress, you'll find that craving for sensual objects -- sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations and ideas -- is one cause, termed sensual craving (//kama-tanha//). Then focus in on the mind so as to see the intermediate-level cause and you'll see that `At this moment the mind is straying, wishing that physical and mental phenomena -- form, feelings, labels, fashionings, and cognizance -- would be in line with its wants.' This wish is termed craving for becoming (//bhava-tanha//). Focus in again on the mind so as to see the subtle cause and you'll see that, `At this moment the mind is flinching, wishing that physical and mental phenomena wouldn't change, that they would stay under its control.' This wish is termed craving for no becoming (//vibhava-tanha//), i.e., craving for things to stay constant in line with one's wishes. These three forms of craving arise when the mind is deluded. Focus in and investigate that deluded mental state until you can see that it's inconstant, stressful, and not-self. Tap Craving on his shoulder and call him by name until, embarrassed and ashamed, he wanes from the heart, in line with the teaching: `The lack of involvement with that very craving, the release from it, the relinquishing of it, the abandonment of it, the disbanding of it through the lack of any remaining affection: This is the disbanding of stress.' The mind that switches back and forth between knowing and being deluded is all one and the same mind. Craving lands on it, not allowing it to develop the path and gain true knowledge, just as flocks of birds landing on a tall, unsteady, tapering tree can cause it to shudder and sway and come crashing down. Thus the Noble Disciples have focused on craving and discarded it, leaving only nirodha, disbanding. The act of disbanding can be divided into two -- the disbanding of physical and mental phenomena; or into three -- the disbanding of sensual craving, craving for becoming, and craving for no becoming; or into four -- the disbanding of feelings, labels, fashionings, and cognizance of various things. Add the disbanding of physical phenomena to the last list and you have five. We could keep going on and on: If you can let go, everything disbands. What this means simply is that the heart no longer clings to these things, no longer gives them sustenance. Letting go, however, has two levels: mundane and transcendent. Mundane letting go is only momentary, not once-and-for-all, and so the disbanding that results is only mundane. It's not yet constant. As for the path of practice, it's not yet constant either. It's the noble eightfold path, all right, but on the mundane level. For example: 1. Mundane right view: You see into stress, its causes, its disbanding, and the path to its disbanding, but your insight isn't yet constant -- for although your views are correct, you can't yet let them go. This is thus classed as mundane right view. 2. Mundane right attitude: Your attitude is to renounce sensual pleasures, not to feel ill will, and not to cause harm. These three attitudes are correct, but you haven't yet freed yourself in line with them. This is thus classed as mundane right attitude. 3. Mundane right speech: right speech is of four types -- refraining from lies, from divisive tale-bearing, from coarse and abusive speech, and from idle, aimless chatter. You know that these forms of speech are to be avoided, but you still engage in them out of absent-mindedness. This is thus classed as mundane right speech. 4. Mundane right action: Your undertakings aren't yet constantly right. Sometimes you act uprightly, sometimes not. This is classed as mundane right action. 5. Mundane right livelihood: Your maintenance of your livelihood by way of thought, word, and deed isn't yet constant. In other words, it's not yet absolutely pure -- in some ways it is, and in some it isn't. Thus it is termed mundane right livelihood. 6. Mundane right effort: Right effort is of four types -- the effort to abandon evil that has already arisen, to avoid evil that hasn't, to give rise to the good that hasn't yet arisen, and to maintain the good that has. Your efforts in these four directions aren't yet really consistent. Sometimes you make the effort and sometimes you don't. This is thus termed mundane right effort. 7. Mundane right reference: Right reference is of four types -- reference of the body, to feelings, to the mind, and to mental qualities. When you aren't consistent in staying with these frames of reference -- sometimes keeping them in mind, sometimes not -- your practice is classed as inconstant. This is thus termed mundane right reference. 8. Mundane right concentration: Right concentration is of three sorts -- momentary concentration, threshold concentration, and fixed penetration. If these can suppress unwise mental qualities for only certain periods of time, they're classed as inconstant: sometimes you have them and sometimes you don't. This is thus termed mundane right concentration. These eight factors can be reduced to three: virtue, concentration, and discernment -- i.e., inconstant virtue, inconstant concentration, inconstant discernment -- sometimes pure, sometimes blemished. These in turn reduce ultimately to our own thoughts, words, and deeds. We're inconstant in thought, word, and deed, sometimes doing good, sometimes doing evil, sometimes speaking what is good, sometimes speaking what is evil, sometimes thinking what is good, sometimes thinking what is evil. When we want to make the path transcendent, we have to bring the principles of virtue, concentration, and discernment to bear on our thoughts, words, and deed, and then focus on cleansing those thoughts, words, and deeds so that they're in line with the principles of virtue, concentration, and discernment to the point where we attain a purity that is radiant and lasting. Only then can the path become transcendent. The results of each path, whether mundane or transcendent, follow immediately on the practice of the path, just as your shadow follows immediately upon you. To return to the discussion of the mundane path: Although the mundane path is said to have eight factors, this eightfold path -- as it's put into practice by people in general -- forks into two: eight right factors and eight wrong, making a sixteen-fold path. This is why regress is possible. What this comes down to is the fact that virtue, concentration, and discernment aren't in harmony. For example, our virtue may be right and our concentration wrong, or our discernment right and our virtue and concentration wrong. In other words, our words and deeds may be virtuous, but our thoughts -- overpowered by the hindrances -- may not reach singleness; or the mind may reach stillness, but without being able to let go of its preoccupations with the elements, aggregates, or sense media. Sometimes our discernment and insight may be right, but we haven't abandoned unvirtuous actions. We know they're harmful and we're able to abstain for a while, but we still can't help reverting to them even though we know better. This is why we say the mundane path has sixteen factors, eight right and eight wrong, sometimes turning this way and sometimes that. If, however, you really decide to train yourself and then watch over mundane right view so as to keep it right without letting the wrong path interfere -- so that your virtue, concentration, and discernment are right and in harmony -- then this very same mundane path, once it is made constant and consistent, will become transcendent, leading to the stream to //nibbana//. Once you reach the transcendent level, the path has only eight factors: Your virtue, concentration, and discernment are all entirely right. In this way they transcend the mundane level. The mundane level is inconstant: inconsistent, undependable, dishonest with itself. One moment you do good; the next evil. Then after you've regressed, you progress again. If you were to classify people of the mundane level, there are four sorts: 1. Some people have done evil in the past, are doing evil in the present, and will continue doing evil in the future. 2. Some people have done evil in the past, but are doing good in the present, and aren't willing to abandon their goodness in the future. 3. Some people have done good in the past, are doing good in the present, but will give it up in the future. 4. Some people have done only good in the past, are keeping it up in the present in all their actions -- i.e. virtue, concentration, and discernment are constantly with them -- and they plan to keep on doing good into the future. So there's nothing constant about people on the mundane level. They're greedy, they're rich. They do both good and evil. Two hands aren't enough for them; they have to carry their goods on a pole over the shoulder, with one load on the front end and another on the back. Sometimes the back load -- the past -- is good, but the front load -- the future -- is evil. Sometimes the front and back loads are both evil, but the person in the middle is good. Sometimes all three are good. When we're loaded up like this, we're not balanced. One load is heavy and the other one light. Sometimes we tip over backwards, and sometimes fall flat on our face -- back and forth like this, from one level of being to the next. This is how it is with virtue, concentration, and discernment on the mundane level. There's no telling where they'll lead you next. so once you've come to your senses, you should start right in keeping watch over the mundane path so that you can bring mundane virtue, concentration, and discernment into line with the transcendent. * * * * * * * * *

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