TURNING THE MUNDANE PATH INTO THE TRANSCENDENT PATH The path of the Noble Ones - beginning

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TURNING THE MUNDANE PATH INTO THE TRANSCENDENT PATH The path of the Noble Ones -- beginning with the path to stream entry -- is to take the mundane eightfold path and bring it to bear on the five aggregates -- body, feelings, labels, fashionings, and cognizance -- or, in short, to bring it to bear on physical and mental phenomena. Focus on these phenomena with right discernment until you see them all in terms of their three inherent characteristics, i.e., until you see all the physical and mental phenomena arising and disbanding in the present as inconstant, stressful, and not-self. You see with the eye of intuitive knowledge, the eye of discernment, the eye of meditative skill, the eye of Dhamma. Your vision is true and correct. It's Right View, the path in harmony, with no admixture of wrong view at all. Your vision of physical phenomena is correct in line with virtue, concentration, and discernment; your vision of mental phenomena is correct in line with virtue, concentration, and discernment. You trace things forward and back. You have an adamantine sword -- liberating insight -- slashing back and forth. You are engaged in focused investigation: This is what forms the path. You fix your attention on the Noble Truths as two: cause and effect. When your mind is absolutely focused and fixed on examining cause and effect, that's the path to stream-entry. Once you have gained clear insight into cause and effect through the power of your discernment, making the heart radiant and bright, destroying whatever mental and physical phenomena are fetters (//sanyojana//), the opening to //nibbana// will appear. If your powers of discernment are weak, your mind will then return to its dependence on mental and physical phenomena, but even so, it will no longer be deceived or deluded by them, for it has seen their harm. It will never again dare fall into the three fetters that it has borne for so long. Those who reach this stage have reached the transcendent -- the path and fruition of stream entry -- and form one class of the Noble Disciples. There are nine transcendent qualities -- four paths, four fruitions, and one //nibbana//: the path to stream entry and the fruition of stream entry; the path to once-returning and the fruition of once-returning; the path to non-returning and the fruition of non-returning; the path to Arahantship and the fruition of Arahantship; all of which come down to the one //nibbana//, which makes nine. The term //lokuttara dhamma// -- transcendent qualities -- means superior qualities, special and distinct from mundane qualities, reaching a "world" above and beyond all worlds, destined to go only higher and higher, never to return to anything low. The word //magga//, or path, refers simply to the way leading to //nibbana//. It's called the //ariya magga//, the path free from enemies, because it's the path that Death cannot trace. It's called the eightfold path because on the transcendent level it has abandoned the eight wrong factors of the mundane path, leaving only the eight right: Right View and Right Attitude, which compose right discernment, let us see physical and mental phenomena that arise and disband in the present in terms of their three inherent characteristics, so that we let go of them completely with no remaining doubts about the truth we have seen. As for Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood, our words and deeds reach purity, free from the fetter of self-identification. And as for Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration, we reach a level of mind that is firm and imperturbable. Our thoughts, words, and deeds are free from groping with regard to precepts and practices, and are truly in keeping with //nibbana//, not side-tracking or going slack the way the actions of ordinary people do. People who have attained stream entry have the following characteristics: They have unwavering conviction in the virtues of the Triple Gem. The quality of charity and self-sacrifice is a regular feature in their hearts. They are not complacent and never give rein to the power of delusion. They are firmly and happily dedicated to the cause of their own inner purity. They love virtue more than life itself. They have no intention of doing any of the baser forms of evil. Although some residual shoddy qualities may still be remaining in their hearts, they never let these qualities ever again come to the fore. The stream they have entered is that leading to //nibbana//. They have abandoned the three lower fetters once and for all. 1. Self-identification (//sakkaya-ditthi//): They have uprooted the viewpoint that once caused them to identify physical and mental phenomena as being the self. 2. Uncertainty (//vicikiccha//): They have uprooted all doubt and indecision concerning the nature of physical and mental phenomena, and all doubt concerning the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. If anyone were to come and say that there is no Awakening, that the practice of virtue, concentration, and discernment doesn't lead to //nibbana//, they wouldn't believe that person's words, because they have seen for certain, with their own discernment, that the paths and their fruitions are unrelated to time (//akaliko//) and can be known only personally, within (//paccatam//). Their conviction is firm and free from indecision. Their vision is sure. 3. Groping at precepts and practices (//silabbata-paramasa//): They have uprooted all unreasonable beliefs concerning physical and mental phenomena, both within and without. They are no longer groping in their habits, manners, or practices. Everything they do is done with a reason, not out of darkness or ignorance. They are convinced of the principle of //kamma//. Their concern for their own thoughts, words, and deeds is paramount: Those who do good will meet with good, those who do evil will meet with evil. People who have reached stream entry have faith in the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha that have appeared within them. They are no longer groping in their virtue. Their virtues are pure and free from defilement. They have cut off the three fetters with regard to their bodies and minds -- right in their own thoughts, words, and deeds -- through the practice of virtue, concentration, and discernment acting in concert. What this means is that they have made a focused examination back and forth, over and over, through the power of their own discernment. They have traced the path back and forth, cutting away at the grasses and weeds. One mental moment they trace things forward, and the next moment they trace them back. In other words, they focus on the phenomenon of arising and passing away, and then are able to know through the power of liberating insight that there in the midst of physical and mental phenomena exists something that isn't subject to arising and passing away. The path to stream entry is the act of focusing on physical and mental phenomena, back and forth. When events are traced back and forth -- sometimes two times in succession, sometimes three, depending on the power of one's insight -- physical and mental phenomena disband and change-of-lineage knowledge arises in the same instant, enabling one to see the quality within one that isn't subject to arising or passing away. This is the opening onto //nibbana//, appearing sharp and clear through the power of one's own discernment, bringing with it the fruition of stream entry, the state of being a Noble Disciple in the Buddha's teaching. One's fetters are absolutely severed, once and for all. Having seen the pain and harm coming from the actions that lead to the realms of deprivation, one is now freed from them and can breathe with ease. Such people have received a treasure: They have attained transcendent discernment and seen for sure the opening onto //nibbana//. They are like a traveler who has seen a palace of gold in the distance: Although he hasn't yet reached it, he is bound to think of it at all times. Stream-enterers have already gone three leagues (//yojana//) on the way, with only seven leagues left to go. Whoever has the chance to see or know such people, help them, or associate with them, is truly fortunate. There are three classes of Stream-enterer: //ekabijin//,those who will be reborn only once more; //kolankola//, those who will be reborn three or four more times; and //sattakkhattu-parama//, those who will be reborn seven more times. Why are there three? Because the natural propensities of each individual determine the way he or she pursues the path. The first group is comprised of those with a propensity to anger and irritation. They tend to develop insight meditation more than tranquillity meditation, reaching Awakening quickly with few of the mundane skills or powers. The second group is comprised of those with a propensity to passion and desire. This group develops insight and tranquillity in equal measure, reaching Awakening at a moderate rate, along with a moderate number of mundane powers and skills. The third group consists of those with a propensity to delusion. They tend to develop tranquillity in large measure, with very strong powers in the direction of //jhana//, before going on to develop insight meditation. They attain Awakening along with a large number of powers and skills. When they reach the transcendent level, they tend to have mastered the three skills, the six forms of intuitive power (//abhinna//), and the four forms of acumen. But if these three propensities exist in everyone, why do we now assign them to different individuals? Because the moment you are about to know the truth, you focus on the good and bad features of a particular mental state and attain Awakening then and there. In some cases the state is passion, in some cases anger, and in some cases delusion. Once you have focused on knowing a particular state and know its truth for what it is, then that truth will place you in a particular class. Those who reach this stage are headed straight for the higher paths and fruitions culminating in //nibbana//. People who have attained stream entry have their virtue completely developed. They don't have to worry about virtue any longer. They no longer have to look out for their virtues, for they've been a slave to virtue long enough. From now on the quality of their virtue will look out for them, safeguarding them from the four realms of deprivation. What this means is that their vices have been tamed, and so they no longer have to worry about keeping them in line. They still have to work at concentration and discernment, though. They've wiped out the cruder forms of unwise behavior, but the medium and subtle forms -- which are to be wiped out by higher paths, beginning with the path to once-returning -- still remain. * * * THE PATH TO ONCE-RETURNING The path to once-returning takes the fruition of stream entry as its basis. In other words, those who are to attain the state of once-returning bring their previous activity in making the mundane path transcendent to bear on the five aggregates, reducing the aggregates to two classes -- physical phenomena and mental phenomena -- and then making a focused investigation of both through the power of intuition and liberating insight in this manner: Right View: They contemplate physical and mental phenomena until they see them clearly as inconstant, stressful, and not-self. Once they see clearly, they become uncomplacent. They set their thoughts on doing away with desire for physical and mental phenomena. They want to withdraw themselves from these things because they have seen their harm. This is Right Attitude. Right Speech on this level refers to the inner dialogue of //vitakka// and //vicara//, thinking and evaluating, searching rightly for the causes and conditions of physical and mental phenomena. (As for external speech, that was made pure with the attainment of stream entry, so there is no need to mention it on this level.) Right Action on this level is nothing other than the activity of focusing on physical and mental phenomena so as to give rise to tranquillity and insight. Right Livelihood here refers to the act of choosing, say, a physical phenomenon as an object for the mind's activity -- this is termed //vitakka//-- and then examining and evaluating it -- this is //vicara//. Once you learn its truth, this leads to mental pleasure. Your focused examination of physical and mental phenomena is right, and the state of your mind is right. This thus counts as Right Livelihood. Right Effort refers to the effort of focusing and examining for the sake of shedding physical and mental phenomena through the power of liberating insight, making the appropriate effort without being complacent. Right Mindfulness means being mindful of the behavior of physical and mental phenomena as they arise and disband, without getting distracted, at the same time having presence of mind and being self-aware -- in short, being mindful and alert with regard to your body and mind in all your activities, taking the body and mind as your frame of reference in a way that leads directly to concentration. Right Concentration here refers to the mind's being focused exclusively and steadily on physical and mental phenomena, not fixing its attention on anything else. Its activity centers constantly on a single preoccupation, which it examines in terms of liberating insight. This type of concentration, termed //appana citta//, the fixed mind, differs in no way at all from the activity of discernment, searching for the causes and conditions of physical and mental phenomena in terms of //saccanulomika-nana//, knowledge in accordance with the four Noble Truths. When all aspects of the noble path are right, in terms of the activity of thought, word, and deed, the entire path converges in a single mental instant. Focus the mind in that instant and see the truth of physical and mental phenomena. Physical and mental phenomena will disband and won't appear as a focal point for the mind. The mind will escape from its shackles as thoughts of passion, aversion, and delusion disappear. But only three fetters have been broken, just as in stream entry. Passion, aversion, and delusion have merely been weakened. This is the fruition of once-returning. Those who reach this level are destined to be reborn only once more. They have completely developed virtue and one aspect of concentration, but they still have to work on the remaining aspects of concentration, along with discernment, because these have been only partially developed. Discernment is still weak. It has cut away only the twigs and branches, while the roots are still intact. Still, people who have reached this level have seen //nibbana// appear close at hand. * * * THE PATH TO NON-RETURNING The path to non-returning takes the fruition of once-returning as its basis. In other words, those who are to attain the state of non-returning gather all eight factors of the noble path and bring them to bear on physical and mental phenomena as before. They then make a focused examination in terms of liberating insight. What this means is that Right View and Right Attitude are brought together at the same point and applied to physical and mental phenomena so as to see such phenomena in terms of their three inherent characteristics. This is termed right discernment. Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood are brought together at the same point: The mind's normal state is now that of being focused at the level of physical and mental phenomena. The activity on this level is reduced to two sorts: "bodily action," i.e., the act of focusing the mind on the behavior of physical phenomena; and "speech," the mind's inner dialogue, directed thought and evaluation (//vitakka, vicara//) focused on the behavior of physical and mental fashionings. Bodily activity is in a state of normalcy; mental activity is in a state of normalcy: Thus we can say that heightened virtue (//adhisila//) has been established. As for Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration: The mind makes a persistent, unwavering examination of physical and mental phenomena, resolutely intent on them as its single preoccupation. Once the qualities of virtue, concentration, and discernment are gathered together and brought to bear on physical and mental phenomena, use the power of discernment to make a focused examination back and forth: This is termed the path to non-returning. When physical and mental phenomena disband and disperse from the primal heart, the fourth and fifth fetters -- //kama-raga//, passion and delight for physical and mental phenomena caused by the power of sensual defilement; and //patigha//, mental irritability and resistance related to physical and mental phenomena -- are absolutely abandoned. Once these two qualities have been shed from the heart through the power of liberating insight, this is termed the fruition of non-returning. Non-returners have thus put behind them once and for all the rocky, five-league trail composed of self-identification, uncertainty, groping at precepts and practices, sensual passion, and irritation. Never again will they have to be reborn in any of the sensual worlds. Forsaking these things forever, They savor the fruit of non-returning, Earning the title, "Noble One." According to the Canon, Non-returners are of five sorts. After they pass away from the human world, they will appear in the five Pure Abodes, the highest of the Brahma worlds, there to attain Arahantship, never again to return to the sensual plane. Non-returners have only a little work left to do. Their virtue is completely developed into heightened virtue (//adhisila//); their training in concentration is also complete, so that they no longer have to work at it. The only thing left for them to develop is discernment. Everything else will take care of itself. They are Noble Disciples who are genuinely close to //nibbana//. * * * THE PATH TO ARAHANTSHIP The path to Arahantship takes the fruition on non-returning as its basis. In other words, those who are to become Arahants gather all eight factors of the noble path and bring them to bear as before on physical and mental phenomena, but now they deal with a level of these phenomena more subtle than before, converged into a single point. Once they have gathered the factors of the path at the level of physical and mental phenomena, they make a focused examination, back and forth, using the power of their discernment, bringing this subtler level of physical and mental phenomena into a single point as stress, the cause of stress, the path, and disbanding, all four Noble Truths gathered into one. They focus on seeing how stress is one with the cause of stress, how the cause of stress is one with the path, how the path is one with the disbanding of stress. Once they have seen things rightly in this way, they make an investigation in terms of the three characteristics: //namarupam aniccam, namarupam dukkham, namarupam anatta//: "Physical and mental phenomena are inconstant, physical and mental phenomena are stressful, physical and mental phenomena are not-self." To investigate in this way is termed the path to Arahantship. Once clear insight arises right at the heart, physical and mental phenomena disband simultaneously with Right View, and in that instant one reaches the ultimate quality -- the Unconditioned -- which knows no arising or passing away. The ten fetters are shattered without leaving a trace. Starting with the sixth fetter, these are: 6. Passion for form (//rupa-raga//): attachment to the sense of form; contentment, for example, with the objects that can act as the basis of //rupa jhana//. 7. Passion for formless phenomena (//arupa-raga//): attachment to non-physical phenomena: contentment, for example, with feelings and moods of pleasure and well-being that one has previously experienced. 8. Conceit (//mana//): construing oneself to be this or that. Arahants have put such assumptions aside. (They don't assume themselves). 9. Restlessness (//uddhacca//): obsessive thinking. 10. Unawareness (//avijja//): delusion, dullness, ignorance, immersed in physical and mental phenomena. All ten of these fetters have been dispersed from the heart of an Arahant. To make a focused investigation using one's discernment, seeing the disbanding and dissolution of physical and mental phenomena in the same terms as all fashioned things, i.e., //sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha, sabbe dhamma anatta//: "All fashionings (physical and mental phenomena) are inconstant, all fashionings are stressful, all qualities (physical and mental qualities) are not-self;" to focus on these things as the basic danger in all three levels of existence; to see the three levels of existence as masses of burning embers, incinerating all those who are engrossed in them; to bring virtue, concentration, and discernment to bear in this way exclusively on physical and mental phenomena: This is the path to Arahantship. And at that very moment physical and mental phenomena disband along with the noble path -- i.e., Right View -- and the ten fetters are shattered: This is the fruition of Arahantship. The tasks of virtue, concentration, and discernment are completed, the teachings of the Lord Buddha fulfilled. There is no longer any attachment to the paths or their fruitions, nor is there any attachment to the Unconditioned. All that remains is what is there on its own: disbanding. That is to say, mental states involved with the five aggregates have disbanded; mental states involved with virtue, concentration, and discernment have disbanded -- because when virtue, concentration, and discernment converge on the level of physical and mental phenomena the first time, the first noble attainment is reached; the second time, the second attainment is reached; the third time, the third; and the fourth time, the fourth. When the qualities of virtue, concentration, and discernment are brought together in fully mature form, the mind is released from physical and mental phenomena through the power of discernment, in line with the teaching, //pannaya paribhavitam cittam sammadeva asavehi vimuccati//: "When the mind has been matured through discernment, it gains complete release from all mental effluents." The mind is able to let go of physical and mental phenomena. Physical and mental phenomena are not the mind; the mind isn't physical and mental phenomena. The mind isn't virtue, concentration, and discernment. //sabbe dhamma anatta//: The mind doesn't identify any quality as itself, or itself as any of these qualities. It simply is -- deathlessness. This is called disbanding because passion, aversion, and delusion have disbanded completely. There is no more becoming for the mind, no more birth, no more involvement with the elements, aggregates, and sense media, and -- unlike ordinary run-of-the-mill people -- no longer any intoxication with any of these things. As a passage in the Canon puts it: //mada-nimmadano// -- no longer intoxicated with the three levels of existence; //pipasa-vinayo// -- no longer thirsting for sensual pleasures; //alaya-samugghato// -- involvement with the aggregates has been withdrawn, leaving the aggregates free to follow their own natural state; //vattupacchedo// -- the cycle through the three levels of existence has been cut absolutely; //tanhakkhayo// -- craving is done with; //virago// -- passion is done with; //nirodho// -- unawareness has disbanded without leaving a trace; //nibbana// -- the mind is freed from its shackles and bonds. The Deathless is reached. Birth, ageing, illness, and death are eliminated. Ultimate, unchanging ease is attained. The aggregates disband without leaving a trace, in line with the synopsis of dependent origination: "Simply with the disbanding of this unawareness -- with no trace of remaining passion -- fashionings disband ... cognizance (with regard to the six senses) disbands ... physical and mental phenomena disband... the six sense media disband ... sensory contacts disband ... the three kinds of feeling disband... the three kinds of craving disband ... the four kinds of clinging disband .... becoming disbands... birth disbands ... aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair all disband and no longer appear as stress." The mind is Dhamma, free from effluents, because it has gained insight into all fashioned things. It is released from all unawareness, craving, and clinging, and has cut all ten fetters. This is the fruition of Arahantship. Those who have reached this level have completed the religion. They have no more defilements or cravings; no one has anything further to teach them. Even the Buddha himself doesn't have it within his power to formulate any further instructions for them. This is why they are said to have completed the religion. If you were to describe their virtues, they would be infinite. Arahants are classified into four groups: 1. //Sukha-vipassako//: those who have gained "dry" release through the power of insight, having developed the bare minimum of concentration before attaining the knowledge that does away with mental effluents (//asavakkhaya-nana//) and gaining release. They have no other powers or skills. 2. //Tevijjo//: those who have attained the three skills -- a. //Pubbenivasanussati-nana//: the ability to remember their own past lives. b. //Cutupapata-nana//: the ability to see living beings as they pass from death to rebirth. c. //Asavakkhaya-nana//: the knowledge that does away with the effluents of defilement. 3. //Chalabhinno//: those who have attained the six intuitive powers -- a. //Iddhividhi//: the ability to display supernormal powers. b. //Dibba-sota//: clairaudience. c. //Cetopariya-nana//: the ability to know the thoughts of others. d. //Pubbenivasanussati-nana//: the ability to remember previous lives. e. //Dibba-cakkhu//: clairvoyance. f. //Asavakkhaya-nana//: The ability to do away with mental effluents. 4. //Patisambhidappatto//: those who have mastered the four forms of acumen -- a. //Attha-patisambhida//: acumen with regard to meaning. b. //Dhamma-patisambhida//: acumen with regard to mental qualities. c. //Nirutti-patisambhida//: acumen with regard to linguistic conventions. d. //Patibhana-patisambhida//: acumen with regard to expression. These are the different classes of Arahants. It's not the case that they are all alike. Those who have attained release through dry insight have developed insight meditation more than tranquillity. Those who attain the three skills have developed tranquillity and insight in equal measure. Those who attain the six intuitive powers have developed two parts tranquillity to one part insight. Those who attain the four forms of acumen have developed three parts tranquillity to one part insight. This is why they differ from one another. (Tranquillity here refers to the eight levels of //jhana//). If you want detailed discussions of these various attainments, see the discussions of the three skills, the eight skills, and the four forms of acumen given after the section on //jhana//. The skills mentioned on this level, though, are all transcendent, and are completely apart from the corresponding mundane skills. * * * SANGAHA-DITTHI Now I would like to describe the virtues of the Arahants, those who have gained complete insight into the world, abandoning it once and for all. Though their aggregates (physical and mental activities) may still appear to the world, they are pure aggregates, absolutely free from both good and evil, because the mind doesn't claim possession of them. The mind is untouched by the behavior of the aggregates. The ten fetters have been disbanded completely and no longer entangle the heart, which is why this state is called //nibbana//: liberation. The mind is radiant and clear; passion, aversion, and delusion can no longer cloud it. It has reached the radiance of the primal nature of the heart, to which nothing else can compare. Once this radiance is realized, it obliterates the radiance of all three levels of existence, so that no state of being appears at all. As long as the mind has yet to gain release from defilement, it is bound to regard the three levels of existence as radiant and appealing. Once the mind reaches stream entry, the radiance of the three levels of existence begins to darken and dim. When it reaches the level of once-returning, that radiance appears even dimmer; and on the level of non-returning, it appears dimmer yet, although it is still there. When Arahantship is reached, the radiance of the three levels of existence is so dim that it has virtually vanished. When virtue, concentration, and discernment are gathered at the mind, and unawareness disbands along with the higher levels of the noble path, the world doesn't appear at all. You can't tell what features, colors, or shapes it has, or even where it is. There is only the pure brilliance of //nibbana//. All the worlds are dissolved in the moments of the path and fruition of Arahantship. This brilliance is something always there, but we don't see it because of our own darkness and delusion. This very brilliance, though, can obliterate the darkness of the world so that only //nibbana// will appear. The radiance of //nibbana// obliterates the radiance of the world just as the light of the sun, which illumines the world of human beings and common animals, can obliterate at midday the light of the stars that appear in the sky at night. Another comparison is the light of the candle, which in the darkness appears bright to our eyes: If a burning kerosene lantern is brought near the candle, the candle's light will appear to dim. If the lantern's light is really brilliant, the light of the candle won't even appear. If we aren't observant, we may think that the candle isn't shedding any light at all, but actually it's giving off as much light as before, only now no one pays it any attention. So it is with the mind that has reached radiant //nibbana//, which obliterates the light of the sun and moon, and wipes from the heart the glittering appeal of heaven and the Brahma worlds. This is why //nibbana// is said to be zero or void: None of the three worlds appears as a preoccupation of the heart; the heart no longer entangles itself. It zeroes itself from the world, i.e., it no longer takes part in birth, ageing, illness, and death. //Nibbana// is something genuine and unchanging. It knows nothing of deterioration. It always stays as it is. As long as there is birth, aging, illness, and death, there will always be //nibbana//, because birthlessness comes from birth, and deathlessness lies buried in the very midst of dying. The problem, then, lies with those who don't lay the ground-work for realizing //nibbana//. //Nibbana// doesn't vacillate back and forth, but most people who practice virtue, concentration, and discernment do. Just like a man who is going to walk to a city but, when he gets halfway there, turns back: Normally he should reach the city in thirty days, but if he walks back and forth like this even for three years, he'll never get there. And when he doesn't reach the city, if he were then to go telling people that it doesn't exist, he would be making a serious mistake. So it is with people who practice virtue, concentration, and discernment in half measures, back and forth, and -- when they don't gain Awakening -- go telling others that //nibbana// is null and void, that the Buddha took it with him when he died. This is very wrong. We can make a comparison with a field where our parents have raised rice and always gotten a good crop. If they die, and our own laziness fills their place so that we don't do the work, we're bound to go hungry. And once we're hungry, can we then say that our parents took the rice or the field with them? In the same way, //nibbana// is there, but if we don't assemble the causes for realizing it and then go denying its existence, you can imagine for yourself how much harm we're doing. If we haven't yet reached or realized //nibbana//, there's nothing extraordinary about it. But once we have come close to //nibbana//, the world will appear as if full of vipers and masses of fire. The palaces and mansions of heavenly beings, if you can see them, will look like the hovels of outcastes. You won't be attracted to living in them, because you've already known //nibbana//. //Nibbana// is nothing else but this ordinary heart, freed from all the effluents of defilement so that it reaches its primal nature. The primal nature of the heart is something that doesn't take birth, age, grow ill, or die. What takes birth is the act of falling for preoccupations. The heart's nature is clear and shining, but unawareness keeps it clouded and opaque. But even on the physical level -- to say nothing of the heart -- if someone were to come along and say that the water in the ocean is clear by nature, that a person with any intelligence could see the ocean floor, you'd have a hard time trying to find anyone to believe him. But what he says is true. There are plenty of reasons why we can't see the ocean floor -- the dust and minute particles floating in the water, the wind and the sea creatures that interact with the water -- but if you could get someone to eliminate these factors so that there would be nothing but the nature of the water, it would be crystal clear. You could tell at a glance how deep or shallow the ocean was without having to waste your time diving and groping around. So it is with the heart: If our hearts are still ignorant, we shouldn't go groping elsewhere for //nibbana//. Only if we cleanse our own hearts will we be able to see it. People who meditate are by and large extremely prone to conjecture and speculation, judging //nibbana// to be like this or that, but actually there's nothing especially deep, dark, or mysterious about it. What makes //nibbana// seem mysterious is our own lack of discernment. //Nibbana// is always present, along with the world. As long as the world exists, there will always be //nibbana//. But if no one explores the truth of //nibbana//, it will appear mysterious and far away. And once we give rise to our own misunderstandings, we're bound to start formulating notions that //nibbana// is like this or like that. We may decide that //nibbana// is extinguished; that //nibbana// is null and void; that //nibbana// has no birth, ageing, illness, or death; that //nibbana// is the self; or that //nibbana// is not-self. Actually, each of these expressions is neither right nor wrong. Right and wrong belong to the person speaking, because //nibbana// is something untouched by supposing. No matter what anyone may call it, it simply stays as it is. If we were to call it heaven or a Brahma world, it wouldn't object, just as we suppose names for "sun" and "moon": If we were to call them stars or clouds or worlds or jewels, whatever they really are stays as it is; they aren't transformed by our words. At the same time, they themselves don't announce that they are sun or moon or anything. They are //thiti-dhamma// -- they simply are what they are. So it is with the pure heart that we call //nibbana//. No matter what we call it, it simply stays as it is. Thus we say that with //nibbana// there is no right and no wrong. Right and wrong belong to the person speaking. People who don't know drag out their right and wrong to talk about. //Nibbana// is something known exclusively through the heart. Words and deeds aren't involved. Our talking is merely a matter of the path. The result, once attained, is something completely apart. We thus call it release (//vimutti//) because it's untouched by supposing, attaining a nature that is pure heartwood: the heart that neither spins forward nor back, the heart that attains a quality that doesn't develop or deteriorate, come or go. It stays as it is -- what we suppose as thiti-dhamma, free from the germs of defilement -- our very own heart, i.e., the heart's primal nature. Actually, the heart is pure by nature, but various moods and objects -- various preoccupations -- are mixed up with it. Once these preoccupations are cleaned out, there you are: //nibbana//. To know //nibbana// clearly is nothing other than knowing how this one heart takes its preoccupations as itself. The heart by nature is one, but if it hasn't been trained by discernment, it tends to go streaming towards preoccupations, both within and without, and then we say that this state of mind differs from that state of mind, and so they begin to multiply until they are so many that we give up trying to look after them all. They seem many because we count each preoccupation as a state of the mind itself. The problem is that we don't understand the teachings of the ancient philosophers, and so think that the mind can be called many: Suppose a person has many jobs. sometimes he sells, so he's called a merchant. If he also grows rice, he's called a farmer. If he works for the King, he's called a government official. If he acquires rank, he's called by his rank. Actually he's only one person, and none of his titles are wrong. They've been given to him simply in line with the work he does. But anyone who didn't understand would think that this man was an awful lot of people. Another comparison: When a person is born, we call it a baby. When it gets older, we call it a child. When it gets still older, we call it a young man or a young lady; and when its hair gets grey and its teeth break, we call it Grandma or Gramps. What gives rise to all these names? One and the same person. So it is with the mind that is supposed to be many. We don't understand what the words are supposed to mean, so we go groping around after our own shadows. When this is the case, we find it hard to practice. We don't understand the states of mind that have been supposed into being, and so don't see the mind that is released, untouched by supposing. When the mind is said to have many states, this is what is meant: Sometimes the mind takes on passion; this is called //saraga-citta//, a passionate mind. Sometimes it takes on irritation and aversion; this is called //sadosa-citta//, an angry mind. Sometimes it takes on a deluded state as itself; this is called //samoha-citta//, a deluded mind. These states are all on the unwise side, and are termed //akusala-citta//, unwholesome mental states. As for the good side: //vitaraga-citta//, the mind has reached satisfaction and so its desires fade; //vitadosa-citta//, the mind has had enough and so its anger disappears; //vitamoha-citta//, the mind is bright and so withdraws from its dullness, just as the sun or moon withdraws from an eclipse and is bright and clear. These are termed //kusala-citta//, wholesome mental states. Some people at this point think that there are six states to the mind, or even six minds. The true nature of the mind, though, is one. To count six states or six minds is to count the preoccupations; the primal mind is radiant. We take a few things to be many, and so end up poor, just as when a foolish or poor person thinks that a thousand baht is a lot of money. An intelligent or rich person, though, realizes that it's just a little: You can spend it all in two days. A fool, however, would think that a thousand baht would make him rich, and so he'll have to continue being poor. So it is if we see our one mind as many: We'll have to be poor because we'll be at our wits' end trying to train it. The nature of the mind that is clear and one is like clean, clear water that has been mixed with different colors in different bottles. We may call it red water, yellow water, green water, etc., but the water itself is still clear as it always was. If a fool comes along and falls for the colors, he wants to taste them all. He may drink five bottles, but they'll all be just like the first. If he knows beforehand that it's all the same water, he won't feel any desire to waste his time drinking this or that bottle. All he has to do is taste one bottle, and that'll be enough. So it is with the mind: If we realize that the mind is in charge and is the determining factor in all good and evil and in the attainment of //nibbana//, we won't feel any desire to go saying that the mind is like this or like that. The mind seems to be many because it gets entangled in various preoccupations, and when these preoccupations dye the mind, we count them as states of the mind itself. The pure nature of the heart and mind is like the sun, which shines every day throughout the year but is concealed by clouds during the rainy season. Those who don't know its nature then say that the sun isn't shining. This is wrong. Their vision can't penetrate the clouds, and so they find fault with the sun. They suppose that the darkness of the clouds belongs to the sun, get stuck on their own supposings, and so don't reach the truth. The true nature of the sun is always bright, no matter what the season. If you don't believe me, ask an airplane pilot. If you go up past the clouds in an airplane on a dark rainy day, you'll know whether the sun is in fact dark or shining. So it is with the mind: No matter how it may be behaving, its nature is one -- radiant and clear. If we lack discernment and skill, we let various preoccupations come flowing into the mind, which lead it to act -- sometimes wisely and sometimes not -- and then we designate the mind according to its behavior. Since there is one mind, it can have only one preoccupation. And if it has only one preoccupation, then there shouldn't be too much difficulty in practicing so as to know its truth. Even though the mind may seem to have many preoccupations, they don't come all at once in a single instant. They have to pass by one at a time. A good mood enters as a bad one leaves; pleasure enters, pain leaves; ingenuity enters, stupidity, leaves; darkness enters, brightness leaves. They keep trading places without let-up. Mental moments, though, are extremely fast. If we aren't discerning, we won't be able to know our own preoccupations. Only after they've flared up and spread to affect our words and deeds are we usually aware of them. Normally this one mind is very fast. Just as when we turn on a light: If we don't look carefully, the light seems to appear, and the darkness to disperse, the very instant we turn on the switch. This one mind, when it changes preoccupations, is that fast. This one mind is what leads to various states of being because our preoccupations get into the act so that we're entangled and snared. It's not the case that one person will have many minds. Say that a person goes to heaven: He goes just to heaven. Even if he is to go on to other levels of being, he has to pass away from heaven first. It's not the case that he'll go to heaven, hell, and the Brahma worlds all at the same time. This goes to show that the mind is one. Only its thoughts and preoccupations change. The preoccupations of the mind come down simply to physical and mental phenomena that change, causing the mind to experience birth in various states of being. Since the mind lacks discernment and doesn't know the true nature of its preoccupations, it gropes about, experiencing death and rebirth in the four modes of generation (//yoni//). If the mind has the discernment to know its preoccupations and let go of them all without remainder, leaving only the primal nature of the heart that doesn't fall for any preoccupation on the levels of sensuality, form, or formlessness, it will be able to gain release from suffering and stress. "Once the mind is fully matured by means of virtue, concentration and discernment, it gains complete release from the effluents of defilement." //Khandha-kamo// -- desire for the five aggregates is over and done with. //Bhava-kamo// -- desire for the three levels of being (the sensual plane, the plane of form, and the plane of formlessness) disbands and disperses. The three levels of being are essentially only two: the aggregate of physical phenomena, which includes the properties of earth, water, fire and wind; and the aggregates of mental phenomena, which include feelings, labels, fashionings, and cognizance -- in short, the phenomena that appear in the body and heart or, if you will, the body and mind. Physical phenomena are those that can be seen with the eye. Mental phenomena are those that can't be seen with the eye, but can be sensed only through the heart and mind. Once we can distinguish these factors and see how they're related, we will come to see the truth of the aggregates: //They// are stress, //they// are the cause of stress, //they// are the path. Once we understand them correctly, we can deal with them properly. Whether they arise, fade, or vanish, we won't -- if we have any discernment -- latch onto them with any false assumptions. The mind will let go. It will simply know, neutral and undisturbed. It won't feel any need to worry about the conditions or behavior of the aggregates, because it sees that the aggregates can't be straightened out. Even the Buddha didn't straighten out the aggregates. He simply let them go, in line with their own true nature. The heart is what creates the substance of the aggregates. If you try to straighten out the creations, you'll never be done with them. If you straighten out the creator, you'll have the job finished in no time. When the heart is clouded with dullness and darkness, it creates aggregates or physical and mental phenomena as its products, to the point where the birth, ageing, illness, and death of the aggregates become absolutely incurable -- unless we have the wisdom to leave them alone in line with their own nature. In other words, we shouldn't latch onto them. This is illustrated in the Canon, where the Buddha says in some passages that he is free from birth, ageing, illness, and death. If we read further, though, we'll notice that his body grew old, ill and then died; his mental activity ended. This shows that the aggregates should be left alone. Whatever their nature may be, don't try to resist it or go against it. Keep your mind neutral and aware. Don't go latching onto the various preoccupations which arise, age, grow ill and vanish, as pertaining to the self. If you can do this, you're practicing correctly. Aim only at the purity of the one heart that doesn't die. The heart that is clouded with dullness and darkness lacks a firm base and so drifts along, taking after the aggregates. When they take birth, it thinks that it's born; when they age, it thinks that it's aged; when they grow ill and disband, it gets mixed up along with them and so experiences stress and pain, its punishment for drifting along in the wake of its supposings. If the mind doesn't drift in this way, there is only the disbanding of stress. The cause of stress and the path disband as well, leaving only the nature that doesn't die: "buddha," a mind that has bloomed and awakened. For the mind to bloom, it needs the fertilizer of virtue and concentration. For it to awaken and come to its senses, it needs discernment. The fertilizer of concentration is composed of the exercises of tranquillity and insight meditation. The mind then gains all-around discernment with regard to the aggregates -- seeing the pain and harm they bring -- and so shakes itself free and keeps its distance, which is why the term "Arahant" is also translated as "one who is distant." In other words, the mind has had enough. It has had its fill. It is no longer flammable, i.e., it offers no fuel to the fires of passion, aversion, and delusion, which are now dispersed once and for all through the power of discernment. This is the supreme //nibbana//. Birth has been absolutely destroyed, but //nibbana// isn't annihilation. //Nibbana// is the name for what still remains: the primal heart. So why isn't it called the heart? Because it's now a heart with no preoccupations. Just as with the names we suppose for "tree" and "steel": If the tree is cut, they call it "lumber." If it's made into a house, they call it "home." If it's made into a place to sit, they call it a "chair." You never see anyone who would still call it a "tree." The same with steel: Once it's been made into a car or a knife, we call it a "car" or a "knife." You never see anyone who would still call it a "steel." But even though they don't call it a steel, the steel is still there. It hasn't run off anywhere. It's still steel just as it always was. So it is with the heart when the expert craftsman, discernment, has finished training it: We call it //nibbana//. We don't call it by its old name. When we no longer call it the "heart," some people think that the heart vanishes, but actually it's simply the heart in its primal state that we call //nibbana//. Or, again it's simply the heart untouched by supposing. No matter what anyone may call it, it simply stays as it is. It doesn't take on anyone's suppositions at all. Just as when we correctly suppose a diamond to be a diamond: No matter what anyone may call it, its real nature stays as it is. It doesn't advertise itself as a diamond. It simply is what it is. So it is with the heart: Once it gains release, it doesn't suppose itself to be this or that. It's still there. It hasn't been annihilated. Just as when we call a diamond a diamond, it's there; and when we don't call it anything, it's still there -- it hasn't vanished or disappeared -- so it is with the hear that is //nibbana//: It's there. If we call it a sun, a moon, heaven, Brahma world, earth, water, wind, fire, woman, man, or anything at all, it's still there, just as before. It hasn't changed in any way. It stays as it is: one heart, one Dhamma, free from the germs of defilement. This is why the truest name to suppose for it is release. What we call heart, mind, intellect, form, feeling, labels, mental fashionings, cognizance: All these are true as far as supposing goes. Wherever supposings is, there release can be found. Take a blatant example: the five aggregates. If you look at their true nature, you'll see that they've never said, "Look. We're aggregates," or "Look. We're the heart." So it is with the heart that is //nibbana//, that has reached //nibbana//: It won't proclaim itself as this or that, which is why we suppose it to be release. Once someone has truly reached release, that's the end of speaking. The mouth is closed, Closed -- the world, the ocean of rebirth, Fashionings, this mass of suffering and stress -- Leaving, yes, the highest, most exalted ease, Free from birth, ageing, Disease, and death. This is called //niramisa-sukha//, pleasure not of the flesh. Pleasures of the flesh are dependent on defilement, craving, conceits, and views, and are unable to let go of the elements, aggregates, and sense media. As these sorts of pleasure ripen, they can bring pain, just as ripe fruit or cooked rice are near to turning rotten and moldy, or as ripening bananas cause their tree to come crashing down so that only birds and crows will eat them. So it is with the heart: When it enters into its various preoccupations and takes them as belonging to itself, it's bound for pain and suffering. Just as when an unwary traveler leaves the road to enter the shade of a bael tree with ripening fruits: If the wind blows, the ripe fruits are bound to drop on his head, giving him nothing but pain, so it is with the heart: If it doesn't have a Dhamma, a timeless principle to give it shelter, it's bound to be beaten and trampled by suffering and pain. (The wind blowing through the bael tree stands for the eight ways of the world (//loka-dhamma//). The bael tree stands for the body, and the branches for the senses. The fruits are visual objects, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas, which drop on the heart stupid enough to sit preoccupied with this mass of elements, aggregates and sense media.) People of wisdom are those who search for the highest form of pleasure -- free from defilement, craving, conceits, and views -- by cleansing the heart of all its unwise preoccupations. This is the deathless //nibbana//, which the Buddha praised: //nibbanam paramam sukham//: //Nibbana// is the ultimate ease. //nibbanam paramam sunnam//: //Nibbana// is the ultimate void (i.e., void of defilement; free from preoccupations; uninvolved with elements, aggregates, sense media, passion, aversion, and delusion; free from the lineage of unawareness and craving: This is the way in which //nibbana// is "void," not the way ordinary people conceive it). //nibbanam paramam vadanti buddha//: Those who know say that //nibbana// is the ultimate. //tanhaya vippahanena nibbanam iti vuccati//: Because of the complete abandonment of craving, it is called //nibbana//. //akincanam anadanam etam dipam anaparam nibbanam iti nam brumi jara-maccu-parikkhayam// Free from entanglements, free from attachments (that fasten and bind), there is no better island than this. It is called //nibbana//, the absolute end of ageing and death. //nibbanam yogakkhemam anuttaram//: //Nibbana// is the unexcelled relief from the yoke (of preoccupations). //etam santam etam panitam yadidam sabba-sankhara-samatho sabbupadi-patinissaggo tanhakkhayo virago nirodho nibbanam//: This is peace (from the coupling of preoccupations), this is sublime: i.e., the stilling of all fashionings, the relinquishment of all mental paraphernalia, the ending of craving, the fading of passion (for attractions), dispersal (of the darkness of unawareness), //nibbana//. We who say we are Buddhists, who believe in the teachings of the Lord Buddha -- theory, practice, attainment, paths, fruitions, and //nibbana// -- should search for techniques to rectify our hearts through the practice of tranquillity and insight meditation, at the same time nurturing: //conviction// -- in the theory, practice, and attainment taught by the Buddha; //persistence// -- in persevering with virtue, concentration, and discernment until they are complete; //mindfulness// -- so as not to be complacent or careless in virtue, concentration, and discernment; //concentration// -- so as to make the mind resolute and firm, giving rise to //discernment// within our hearts. The discernment that comes from the six teachers -- i.e., from the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and ideation -- is inconstant and may leave us free to do evil again. But the discernment that comes from concentration is capable of doing away with the defilements that lie within. So by all means we should show respect for the virtues of the Triple Gem by putting them into practice so that we can taste the nourishment of the Buddha's teachings. Don't be like the ladle that mingles with the curry but never knows the curry's taste. We've mingled ourselves with Buddhism, so we should learn its taste. Don't be like the frog sitting among the lotuses who never gets to know their scent. It sits there pissing, its eyes all bright and wide open. A bee comes past and it jumps -- Kroam! -- into the water: stupid, even though its eyes are open. We human beings can really be ignorant, even when we know better. * * * We've discussed the wisdom that comes from meditation, from the beginning to the end of the exercises of tranquillity and insight. //uttamam//: These exercises are superlative and supreme strategies for lifting yourself across the ocean of the world, the swirling flood of rebirth. //samma-patirasassadam patthayante//: You who are intent on the savor of right attainment, who desire the happiness of //nibbana//, should devote yourselves to the practices mentioned above. Don't let yourselves grow weary, don't let yourselves be faint in the practice of these two forms of meditation. They are ornaments, the highest adornment for the heirs of the Buddha's teaching, and are truly worthy of constant practice. They will form an island, a shore, a refuge and a home for you. Even if you aren't yet in a position to gain vision of //nibbana// in this lifetime, they will form habits leading to progress in the future, or may help you escape the torments of the realms of deprivation; they will lead you to mundane happiness and relief from the dread of sorrow. But if your perfections are fully developed, you will gain the heartwood of release -- release from the five temptations of mortality (mara), release from the range of birth, ageing, illness, and death, reaching //nibbana//, following the custom of the Noble Ones. May people of judgment consider carefully all that has been written here. In conclusion, may all those who read this, take it to heart and put it into practice meet only with happiness and joy, free from danger and fear. May you grow day and night in the practice of the Buddha's teachings, in peace and well-being. //sangaha-ditthi//: Views have been included Without alluding to any claims. Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo The Forest Temple Shrimp Canal Chanthaburi * * * * * * * * *

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