4👑☸ Cattāri Ariya-saccaṃ 四聖諦

4👑☸EBpedia📚On the Path    🔝
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On the Path

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 On the Path 0.1 chapter one: A Framework for the Frame
On the Path 0.2 chapter two: The Arising of the Path
On the Path 8.1 Right View
On the Path 8.2 Right Resolve
On the Path 8.3 Right Speech
On the Path 8.4 Right action
On the Path 8.5 Right Livelihood
On the Path 8.6 Right Effort
On the Path 8.7 Right Sati
On the Path 8.8 Right Samādhi
On the Path 10 chapter ten: The Stream to Unbinding
On the Path
an Anthology
on the Noble Eightfold Path
Drawn from the Pāli Canon
Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu
(Geoffrey DeGraff)
“These eight dhammas, Nandiya, when developed & pursued, go to unbinding, have unbinding as their final end & consummation.
Which eight?
Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, & right concentration.
” — SN 45.10
Copyright 2017 Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Unported.
To see a copy of this license visit http:
//creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. “Commercial” shall mean any sale, whether for commercial or non-profit purposes or entities.
Questions about this book may be addressed to
Metta Forest Monastery
Valley Center, CA 92082-1409
U.S.A.
Additional resources
More Dhamma talks, books and translations by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu are available to download in digital audio and various ebook formats at dhammatalks.
org.
Printed copy
A paperback copy of this book is available free of charge.
To request one, write to:
Book Request, Metta Forest Monastery, PO Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082 USA.
Acknowledgements
This book has been several years in the making.
It began as a set of readings for a handful of people who were taking an introductory course on the Pāli Canon, and who asked me to provide extra readings to supplement what they were receiving from the teachers in charge of the course.
From there, it grew into a much larger selection of readings for the bi-monthly study course that we provide here at the monastery.
Only recently did I find the time to make the selection even more comprehensive and to provide introductory explanations.
My aim is to provide a well-rounded picture of the noble eightfold path for people who are interested in taking guidance from the earliest extant records of the Buddha’s teachings on how to reach the end of suffering and stress.
I could not have completed this book without the help of many individuals.
In addition to the monks here at the monastery, I would like to thank Ven.
Atulo Bhikkhu, Anita Basu, Michael Barber, Geoffrey Galik, Addie Onsanit, Nathaniel Osgood, Dale Schultz, and Isabella Trauttmansdorff for their valuable suggestions for improving the manuscript.
Isabella Trauttmansdorff also provided the index.
I would also like to thank all those who read earlier incarnations of the reading selections for their questions and comments, which helped to sharpen the focus of the explanations offered here.
Any mistakes, of course—in either the translations or the explanations—are my own responsibility.
Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu
Metta Forest Monastery
MAY, 2017
introduction
The Fire Escape
The Buddha’s teachings are like the instructions posted on a hotel room door, telling you what to do when the hotel’s on fire:
— Heed the fire alarm.
This corresponds to the Buddha’s teachings on saṁvega, the sense that you’re enmeshed in a dangerous situation and want to find a way out.
— Realize that your conduct will mean the difference between life and death.
This corresponds to heedfulness, the attitude underlying all skillful behavior.
— Read the map, posted on the door, for finding the closest fire escape.
This corresponds to right view.
— Make up your mind to follow the map.
This corresponds to right resolve.
— Don’t abuse any of the other people in the hotel as you try to make your escape.
Don’t lie to them about the escape route, don’t claw your way over them, and don’t cheat them out of their belongings.
This corresponds to right speech, right action, and right livelihood.
— Do your best to follow the instructions on the map, and resist the temptation to stay in the comfort of your room or to wander down the wrong corridors.
This corresponds to right effort.
— Keep the map in mind at all times, and check your efforts to make sure that they’re in line with it.
This corresponds to right mindfulness.
— Keep calm and focused, so that your emotions don’t prevent you from being clearly aware of what you’re doing and what needs to be done.
This corresponds to right concentration.
This analogy, of course, is far from perfect.
After all, in the actual practice of the Buddha’s teachings, the fire is already constantly burning inside your own mind—in the form of the fires of passion, aversion, delusion, and suffering—and the escape from these fires lies, not in leaving your mind, but in going deeper into the mind to a dimension, nibbāna, where fire can’t reach.
Also, because both the fire and the escape lie within you, you can’t pull other people to safety.
The most you can do for them is to tell or show them the way to practice, which they will have to manage for themselves.
But still, the above analogy is useful for highlighting a number of important features of the Buddha’s practice.
To begin with, the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed.
Even the theoretical or philosophical aspects of the Buddha’s teachings are there to be used as tools in aiding in the escape from all suffering and stress.
It’s because of this fact that the Buddha’s primary metaphor for his teachings was a path:
the noble eightfold path, composed of all the “right” factors mentioned above.
It’s also why right view, the theory behind the path, is part of the path, and doesn’t stand outside it.
Also, because right view serves as a guide to action, it doesn’t present a full picture of reality, just as a fire-escape map posted on a hotel door doesn’t give complete information about the construction of the hotel.
If it did, you’d have trouble figuring out which parts of the map would be useful in the event of a fire.
That, in turn, would actually prevent you from making a quick escape.
It’s for this reason that right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering.
At the same time, right view labels some attitudes about suffering and its end as definitely wrong, just as certain wrong attitudes about fires and escapes would leave you trapped in a burning hotel.
Suppose, for instance, that you found messages posted on the hotel room door saying that, in the case of a fire, there is no escape, or that you should wait in your room until a heavenly being saved you, that the fire won’t burn you if you accept and embrace it, or maybe fire isn’t really fire.
You’d be wise to distrust those messages, even if they were signed by the hotel management.
In the same way, if you’re heedful of the dangers of the fires of the mind, you’d be wise not to fall for messages—even within the Buddhist tradition—that are at odds with the message that it is possible to escape from the suffering that the mind creates for itself, that you can reach this escape through your own efforts, and that it’s the most worthwhile thing you can do in life.
Unfortunately, we live in a time when, in the Buddha’s words, the concept of True Dhamma has disappeared (SN 16.13). This doesn’t mean that the True Dhamma—i.
e., a Dhamma teaching a genuine escape from the fires of the mind—isn’t available, simply that so many mutually exclusive versions of the Dhamma have arisen over the centuries, each claiming to be true, that it’s impossible to point to any one version of the Dhamma that everyone will agree to be true.
Still, there is only one version of the Dhamma that is fully in accordance with the principle that the fires of suffering are real, that escape from them is possible, and that you can achieve this escape for yourself.
That’s the version available in the suttas—discourses—of the Pāli Canon, along with whatever teachings are in accordance with the suttas.
Here again, though, there are many disagreements on what the suttas say, largely because very few people have read them carefully and understood their idiom.
This is why I have collected this anthology of passages dealing with the factors of the noble eightfold path, drawn from the suttas and Vinaya—disciplinary rules—of the Pāli Canon, so that you can read the Canon’s teachings on these topics for yourself.
I have also provided introductions to the readings as an aid in comprehending the idiom in which the suttas are written, so that you can enter into the mindset of the compilers of the suttas and gain an intuitive feel for what they’re getting at.
The title of this book, On the Path, can be taken in two ways, and both ways are relevant here:
(1) This book is about the path and (2) it’s for people who would like to be on the path to the end of suffering.
These two aspects of the book correspond to the Buddha’s teaching that there are two sources for the arising of right view:
the voice of another and appropriate attention.
The voice of another—and this would include written as well as spoken words—is the external source.
Appropriate attention—your ability to frame your questions about the path in terms that apply specifically to solve the problem of suffering and stress, and not to any other purpose—is the internal source.
As the reader of this book, you have to supply the internal source if you’re to get the most out of it.
As the compiler, I’ve tried to be as faithful as possible in selecting and translating the passages so that they’ll be of most use as the “voice of another.
” At the same time, because I am assuming appropriate attention on your part, I have focused the introductory material on practical issues, and have avoided the many academic controversies that have accreted on the topic of the noble eightfold path over the centuries.
Still, not all the controversies about the factors of the path are purely academic.
Some have a practical bearing, and there is no getting around the need to take positions on them in your practice of the path.
Although I have, by and large, avoided getting involved in polemics in the introductions to the various chapters, I would like to state at the outset the positions I have taken with regard to these practical controversies, based both on my training and on what I have found in the suttas.
Some of these positions may appear to belabor the obvious, but many popular interpretations have lost sight of the obvious, so it’s necessary to reaffirm that those obvious points are true.
First, with regard to the path as a whole:
• The path is a path.
In other words, (1) it’s not the goal and (2) it’s not meant to lead to any of its own factors.
Instead, it’s meant to lead someplace beyond the path.
Although some interpreters have stated that the path leads to right view or right mindfulness, in actuality—when we regard these factors in terms of the famous raft analogy (§§13–14)—they are part of the raft, and not the shore that we’re using the raft to reach.
And once we reach the shore, we don’t pick up the twigs and branches of right view and right mindfulness to carry them on our head.
• The path is an eightfold path.
In other words, all eight factors of the path are necessary for it to yield its intended results.
This observation applies specifically to the factor of right concentration.
There are interpreters who maintain that the Buddha actually taught two alternative paths—a sixfold path, which includes right mindfulness but not right effort and right concentration—and a sevenfold path, which includes right effort and right concentration but not right mindfulness.
This interpretation is based on a definition of right mindfulness that is totally separate from and at odds with right effort and right concentration, but this definition has no basis in the suttas, and can be forced on the suttas only by squeezing them out of shape.
As we will see, the suttas actually teach right concentration in a way that includes right mindfulness, and right mindfulness in a way that includes right effort.
In this way, the factors of the path are mutually penetrating and mutually reinforcing.
In fact, they cannot complete their work unless all eight factors mature together.
• The path is a noble path.
In the Buddha’s terms, this means that it leads to a goal that is unfabricated, and therefore free from change—with no aging, illness, or death.
Because the path is fabricated, the goal is not simply different from the path, it is radically different—so different that the final act of the path, before reaching the goal, is to abandon the path along with everything else.
Although some skills developed along the path remain for those who have completed the path—their mindfulness, for instance, is constant—the calm, the pleasure, the equanimity, and even the consciousness present in the goal are radically separate from the calm, pleasure, equanimity, and consciousness developed on the path.
As for the controversies around the individual factors of the path, these tend to focus on three of the factors:
right view, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
The positions I have adopted on these factors are as follows:
• Right view is defined in terms of the four noble truths, rather than in terms of the three characteristics of inconstancy, stress, and not-self.
This point would appear to be obvious when you look at the standard definition of right view, but all too often the three characteristics, interpreted as metaphysical principles, are taken as the underlying framework for right view, with the four noble truths squeezed to fit into that framework.
In other words, the starting assumption is that all things are impermanent and stressful, and that therefore there’s no permanent, separate self.
Suffering is caused by the craving and clinging that arise when the “truth” of no self isn’t realized, because all suffering comes from clinging to things that will change.
However, when this “truth” is realized, the mind will understand that there’s nothing lasting to cling to, and so—growing equanimous to all things—will stop suffering.
However, as we will see, even though the Buddha often discussed the suffering that comes from clinging to inconstant things (§123), he never said that clinging entails suffering only when focused on things that are inconstant.
In MN 52 and AN 9.36 (§312), for instance, he notes that it’s possible to cling to the unfabricated, and that that particular clinging has to be abandoned for suffering to truly end.
In other words, the suffering lies in the activity of the clinging and not in the inconstancy of the object clung to.
This may seem like a subtle point, relevant only to the highest levels of the practice, but it’s actually relevant to the beginning levels as well.
To begin with, the practice as a whole relies on the understanding that the problem lies not with the mind’s objects, but with the mind’s activities in relation to its objects.
To focus on the question of when clinging is a worthwhile thing to do, rather than on the metaphysical status of what objects are, helps to keep this principle always in mind.
Also, if you’re alert to the fact that suffering comes from clinging more directly than from any change in the object clung to, then when you encounter anything in the practice that seems to be unchanging—such as a state of oneness or all-pervasive luminosity—you’re forewarned about the danger of clinging to it.
In this way, you’re less likely to fall for any premature assumptions about having reached awakening, and you’re equipped to work your way free from those assumptions before they do harm.
Finally, by keeping the focus on the suffering inherent in all clinging, you can keep your practice from getting sidetracked into fruitless metaphysical arguments.
Here it’s important to note that the Buddha never used the term “characteristics” to describe inconstancy, stress, and not-self.
Instead, he termed them “perceptions” and taught that they be applied strategically for the purpose of inducing dispassion, when and where needed, in line with the duties of the four noble truths.
Rather than being metaphysical positions—for example, that there is no self—these perceptions are tools for comprehending suffering and stress, abandoning their cause, and developing the path so as to realize the cessation of suffering.
At different stages of the path, they have to be applied selectively.
Only at the final stage are they applied to all objects.
Then, when the goal is reached, they—as perceptions—have to be abandoned, too.
By making the four noble truths the framework of right view, and having the three perceptions function strategically within that framework, the Buddha was able to make this point clear.
In this way, he was also able to avoid the “thicket of views” that grows when getting involved in the question of who or what lies behind sensory input, or whether or not there is a self (§229;
SN 12.35;
SN 44.10).
• Right mindfulness is a faculty of the active memory, and not a practice of open, non-reactive, radical acceptance of experiences as they arise and pass away of their own accord in the present moment.
Some proponents of mindfulness as non-reactive acceptance have acknowledged that the Buddha defined mindfulness as a faculty of the memory, but then claim that he actually used the term in an entirely different sense—as bare attention, or non-reactive acceptance—when describing mindfulness practice.
However, when we examine his instructions for mindfulness practice in context, we find that the function of right mindfulness throughout the practice is to remember the right principles to apply in shaping the present moment.
In fact, instead of simply allowing things to arise and pass away, one of the prime duties of right mindfulness is to remember to make skillful dhammas (actions, events, mental qualities) arise and to keep them from passing away, at the same time making unskillful dhammas pass away and preventing them from arising again (§243). Acceptance plays a role in mindfulness practice only in the preliminary sense of being truthful to yourself about what’s actually arising in your awareness so that you can be ardent most effectively in shaping the present moment in the most skillful way.
• Right concentration consists of the four jhānas (states of mental absorption), which are states of settled, full-body awareness.
These jhānas are one-pointed in the sense that the mind is gathered around a single object or theme, but not in the sense that the mind is reduced to a single point of awareness, in which all other awareness—of the body, of the senses, and of thoughts—is blotted out.
Many of the misunderstandings around jhāna come from the fact that the mind can be reduced to a single point of awareness, and from the subsequent assumption that that single point is what “jhāna” must mean.
This assumption is then supported by translating a Pāli term used to describe concentration—ek’aggatā—as “one-pointedness.
” However, the part of this compound translated as “point”—agga—can also mean “gathering place.
” When viewed in the context of the similes for describing the jhānas, all of which emphasize a full-body awareness, it’s obvious that agga here means “gathering place,” and not “point.
Once we understand this term, we can see that the suttas’ teachings on jhāna are clear and consistent:
When using the words “body” and “directed thought” to describe jhāna, for example, the suttas are not engaging in an esoteric language game where “body” means “not-body,” and “thought” means “not-thought.
” At the same time, the compilers were not blind to their own language when stating that directed thought and ekaggatā can coexist in the mind (§289).
A correct understanding of jhāna is crucial to the practice because it supports the premise stated above:
that the path is an eightfold path, with right mindfulness and right concentration serving mutually supportive and interpenetrating roles.
If mindfulness were an open, accepting awareness, and concentration an awareness reduced to one point, with no consciousness of anything outside the point, the two factors could not be practiced at the same time.
In fact, they would be incompatible.
But when we define the terms in line with their usage in the Pāli suttas, they are not only compatible, but also mutually reinforcing.
And it’s because all the factors of the path are mutually reinforcing that they can deliver their goal.
This fact is so important that it’s the organizing principle of the discussions in this book:
Even though the factors of the path are given in linear order, with each factor building on the one(s) before it, in practice the factors support not only the ones succeeding them in the list but also the ones preceding them.
In particular, right view, the first factor on the path, informs all of the following factors, but it can develop from its mundane through its transcendent and onto its final level only when the other factors are put into practice.
On their own, the individual factors can lead to pleasant results within the confines of the cycle of birth, aging, illness, and death, but they can’t take you beyond the fires of the mind.
Only when they work together can they lead beyond all fires:
to the noble goal of total release from all suffering and stress.
How to read this book
If you are studying this book as part of a study group, I would suggest that you read each chapter in full, going through the sutta passages after reading the introduction to the chapter.
If you are reading this book on your own, though, I would suggest reading the introductions for all ten chapters before delving into any of the sutta passages.
That way you will have a complete overview to inform your understanding of what the passages mean and how they connect with one another.
To keep this book from becoming unwieldy, I have had to keep the discussions terse, sometimes reducing explanations to the bare bones of their basic points.
If you find the terseness daunting, you may first want to read a more introductory book on the topic, such as The Noble Eightfold Path, which is a collection of some of my Dhamma talks on the path-factors.
If, however, you would like to pursue in greater depth any of the topics raised in the discussions here, you can consult the books listed in the appendix of suggested readings at the back of the book.

0.1 - chapter one: A Framework for the Frame

The noble eightfold path was the first teaching the Buddha gave to his first disciples, and the prime teaching he gave to his last.
In this way, it provides the frame for all his other teachings, not only in temporal terms, but also in terms of how those teachings should be understood.
All of his teachings—including such topics as dependent co-arising, not-self, compassion, and emptiness—find their true meaning in terms of how they fit into the factors of the noble eightfold path.
So an understanding of the noble eightfold path is essential to understanding everything else the Buddha taught.
The Buddha had several reasons for choosing the metaphor of a path to frame his teachings.
The Sāmaññaphala Sutta (DN 2) contrasts his teachings with those of six of his contemporaries, and the contrast gives a sense of what the image of “path” implies.
The other teachings fall into three sorts:
four presenting maps of reality that deny the power of human choice, one focusing on the person of the teacher, and one providing a strategy of agnosticism for avoiding the pitfalls of debate.
King Ajātasattu, who in this sutta is describing these teachings to the Buddha, points out that none of them offer any fruit—i.
e., any visible benefit to those who adopt them.
This is precisely where they differ from the noble eightfold path.
Repeatedly in the Canon, the concept of “path” is paired with “fruit”:
the rewards that come from following the path.
Similarly, the Dhamma—one of the Buddha’s names for his teachings—is often paired with “attha,” which carries several related meanings, such as “goal,” “benefit,” and “meaning.
” The implication here is that the Buddha’s teachings are worthwhile because they are a means to a beneficial goal—and that they reveal their true meaning only when that goal is attained.
The Buddha taught these teachings so that his listeners would put them into action and reap the fruit for themselves.
This point is reinforced by other metaphors that he and his disciples used to describe his teachings:
a vehicle, a set of relay chariots, a raft to the further shore.
The path is a means to an end, and finds its meaning and value in leading to an end that’s worthwhile.
Now, to follow a path, you need a map.
And although the Buddha didn’t attempt to provide a map to all of reality, he did sketch enough of a map so that people could negotiate the path all the way to its goal.
It’s important to note, though, that the maps he provided—the various levels of right view—are part of the path itself.
There is no sense in his teachings that theory is separate from practice.
After all, theory is a result of the act of theorizing, and its maps can lead people to act on them:
to adopt them as guides to action.
Right theory is a part of right practice, in that properly understanding the purpose of the path and the means for achieving that purpose is a necessary step in actually reaching its end.
And because the path is a series of actions inspired by right view, one of the primary functions of right view is to explain the nature of action in such a way that shows how a path of practice is possible and how to choose which path is the best to follow.
In particular, the map of right view has to explain causality to show how causes and effects work on the path, and how the path leads to its fruit.
For the purpose of explaining the path, it has to show that experience is not totally determined by past actions or by outside sources, or that it’s totally arbitrary.
It also has to show how actions have consequences, which actions have the best consequences, and how far those consequences can extend.
Otherwise, the idea of teaching a path would make no sense.
If actions were totally determined, no listener could choose to follow the path.
If actions had no results, the concept of a path of action leading anyplace would be nonsense.
If there were no way to say that the results of one action would be better than another, or what those consequences might be, there would be no grounds for judging one path to be better than other alternatives.
This is why the Buddha’s teachings on causality, kamma (action), rebirth, the possible worlds into which one might be reborn, and the possibility of going beyond rebirth are all central to right view, in that they explain how a path of action can be chosen and lead to the best possible fruit.
Also, because the act of holding right view is itself an action, right view has to explain itself:
how it is to be acquired and how it is to be developed so as to reach the goal toward which it aims.
The teaching of right view also has to explain the correct way of holding to right view so as not to get in the way of the rest of the path.
This self-reflexive nature of right view is one of its distinctive qualities, and has important practical consequences that will become clear in the course of this book.
All correct descriptions of the path are instances of right view, and to convey them correctly is an exercise in right speech, another factor of the path.
But there is more to the path than that.
This means that the actual path is not encompassed in the words describing it.
Instead, it consists of all the actions inspired by right view.
Because these actions give rise to knowledge of a personal and individual sort, something not contained in the words of the texts, the actual knowledge acquired in the course of the path augments right view in a personal way.
In fact, as we will see, this personal knowledge is what refines right view and brings it to its culmination.
Because right view is a part of the path, it, too, counts as a means, and not a goal.
Here again, it’s like a map:
Maps are not goals to which you aim.
Instead, they point beyond themselves.
The purpose of the path is not to confirm or to arrive at right view.
Instead, the path includes right view as one of its factors for the purpose of arriving at a goal that—although it harmonizes with right view—goes considerably beyond right view and all the other factors of the path.
In this way, all the factors of the path, including right view, are not simply actions.
They are also strategies that have to be employed with a sensitivity to context.
One of the functions of right view is to explain not only how but also in which contexts it and all the other strategies of the path are to be adopted, together with how and in which contexts they are to be skillfully abandoned.
The factors of the path are right in that they lead to a worthwhile goal that transcends them.
In depicting his teachings as a path, the Buddha was not simply indulging in a personal preference.
In his understanding of the nature of conscious experience, all living beings are following paths of one sort or another, even if they don’t realize it, in that their actions are leading to results (§3). This means that the act of teaching is also part of a path leading to a particular destination, even if the teachers are not fully aware of where the act of teaching is leading them or their listeners.
One of the Buddha’s claims to authority is that he is so fully acquainted with the territory of action that he knows where various courses of action—and this includes the act of giving or adopting a teaching—will lead.
Thus, in his eyes, every teaching should be judged in terms of what end is served in the act of teaching it or adopting it.
This means that a teaching is not to be judged simply in terms of how reasonable it is or what evidence can be cited to prove it.
It’s to be judged as an action, and evaluated as to what sort of actions it inspires—including the way it is held—and the results that those actions produce.
This is because experience at the six senses—the five physical senses and the mind—is teleological.
In other words, each act or event of consciousness is directed toward an end, regardless of whether the individual engaged in sensory experience fully realizes it or not.
Consciousness is also active and intentional—in other words, it doesn’t simply react passively to stimuli.
It actively seeks out stimuli and tries to shape them to its ends.
Because sensory experience is active and proactive in these ways, it is a type of kamma.
The Buddha’s term for the kammically purposeful and constructed nature of sensory experience is that it’s saṅkhata, which can be translated as “fabricated,” “constructed,” or “put together.
” In this book, I will adopt the translation, “fabricated,” but it should be understood in a way that includes the other possible translations as well.
In other words, to say that an experience is fabricated or a fabrication (saṅkhāra) does not mean that it’s bad or a pack of lies, simply that it’s assembled with conscious intent from the raw material available to the mind.
The Buddha describes the process of fabrication in many ways in the Canon, most commonly in terms of the fabrication of five khandhas.
“Khandha” can be translated as “heap,” “mass,” or—most commonly—“aggregate.
” The use of the term “aggregate” for khandha comes from a distinction, popular in eighteenth and nineteenth century European philosophy, between conglomerates of things that work together in an organic unity—called “systems”—and other types of conglomerates that are no more than random collections of things, called “aggregates.
” Using “aggregate” to translate khandha conveys the useful point that these processes, which can seem to have an organic unity, are actually shaped by discrete choices and their results.
Still, it’s important to bear in mind that the mind does shape the aggregates toward purposes, and those purposes can be more or less unified—a fact that makes a path of practice possible.
The five aggregates are:
• form:
any physical phenomenon (although the Buddha’s focus here is less on the physical object in itself, and more on the experience of the object;
in terms of one’s own body, the primary focus is on how the body is sensed from within);
• feeling:
feeling-tones of pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain;
• perception:
the act of recognizing, mentally labeling, and identifying experiences;
• fabrication:
the intentional shaping of experience;
• consciousness:
awareness at the six senses.
There’s something of an anomaly in that the term “fabrication” covers all five aggregates and yet is listed as one of the five.
SN 22.79 (§120) helps to explain why:
The mental act of fabrication shapes the actual experience of all physical and mental experiences in the dimensions of space and time.
It chooses among the potentials for any of the aggregates made available by past actions, and turns them into the actual experience of those aggregates in the present.
“Fabrication” as a name for one of the aggregates refers specifically to this mental process.
As a term for all five aggregates, “fabrication” covers both the processes of fabrication and the fabricated phenomena—physical and mental—that result.
SN 22.79 also defines the aggregates in terms of verbs—even form “deforms”—making the point that these aggregates are processes and activities, rather than solid things.
The Buddha describes the origination of the aggregates—in other words, the causal factors that give rise to them—in two different ways.
In one description (§116), the causal factors are these:
The origination of form (in this case, the form of one’s own body) is nutriment or food;
the origination of feeling, perception, and fabrication is contact;
and the origination of consciousness is name-&-form, a blanket term to cover the other four aggregates.
At first glance, these factors would seem to be totally impersonal and operating without purpose:
Nutriment and contact on their own, for instance, have no will to cause anything.
However, nutriment on its own cannot cause form.
It has to be taken, i.
e., you have to eat it.
The origination of form is actually in the act of taking nutriment, as when you feed the body to sustain it.
Similarly, when the first four aggregates are listed under the heading of name-&-form (§130), “fabrication” is divided into the sub-factors of intention and attention, which in turn influence contact, showing that the driving force behind these seemingly purposeless conditions is actually willed.
It’s shaped by which intentions you choose to act on—in §116 the Buddha defines fabrication as “intention”—and by which ways of paying attention you choose to apply.
Each of these choices, in formal terms, is teleological:
It has an aim.
This point is made clear in the second description of the origination of the aggregates (§281), in which each aggregate results from the acts of relishing, welcoming, and remaining fastened.
This reflects the larger view of the fabrication of experience offered in other parts of the Canon, such as the statement in §9 that desire is the root of all phenomena, and in §10 that the mind is the forerunner of all phenomena.
These facts, in turn, are shaped by the observation that all beings are driven by the need to feed, both physically and mentally (§112, SN 12.63.) The aggregates, in this analysis, have their origin in desire.
This, then, is the context for understanding the fabrication of the aggregates described in SN 22.79:
Fabrication takes the potentials for the aggregates and shapes them “for the sake of” the functions that the activities of the aggregates can perform.
That “for the sake of” aims at the pleasure that those activities can provide and on which the mind, when it assumes the identity of a “being,” can feed (§111).
Yet, even though the larger context of fabrication emphasizes the willed nature of the aggregates, the more impersonal descriptions of these processes make two crucial and connected points:
1) The first is that once these processes are set in motion, they follow laws of their own over which the mind has little control.
This means that fabrications, even though they are intentional, can have unintended consequences.
And as the teaching on kamma and rebirth indicates, many of these consequences can last for a long, long time—so long that we often can’t trace the results of an action back to their source, which is why we’re often ignorant of how causality works.
Even though desire is the root of all phenomena, anyone who is ignorant of the more impersonal patterns of causality can wind up creating conditions that are anything but desirable.
People can put themselves on the paths to the lower realms, not because they want to go to those realms, but because they don’t know where they’re going.
They don’t see that their search for pleasure from the aggregates in the short term involves actions that actually lead to long-term pain.
The Canon illustrates this point with the stories of people who think that their means of livelihood will lead them to heaven but will actually lead them to hell (§§190–191).
2) Because the raw material for fabricating the aggregates comes from our past fabrication of aggregates, it is not entirely malleable to our will.
We have to work within the limited range of which past actions are currently ripening, and this ripening raw material follows its own causal laws.
In some cases, it provides us with opportunities to fashion the aggregates that will provide the pleasure for which we hunger;
in others, it doesn’t.
The Buddha’s twofold analysis of the origination of the aggregates provides his formal explanation for the human predicament:
We find ourselves in a place that we may or may not like, and where we cannot simply rest, because we need to feed, both physically and mentally.
In response to our search for food, we find that some circumstances respond to our desires and others don’t.
We’re also in the dark about the long-term results of our choices.
From experience, we’ve learned that even when circumstances are responsive, they don’t always yield the long-term results for which we might hope.
We’re not even sure which results come from which actions.
It’s for this reason that the Buddha, when he had found a path of action that gave totally beneficial results, felt that it would be worth teaching to others, to help them get themselves out of this predicament.
To understand what this path might accomplish, and how it goes about accomplishing its aim, it’s good to return to the Buddha’s first and last teachings to see how they present the goal and methods of the path.
Although the path itself provides the frame for understanding the rest of the Dhamma, the first and last teachings provide a framework for understanding the frame.
The first teaching, to the five brethren (§1), makes three major points about the noble eightfold path:
It leads to the end of dukkha (suffering, stress), it leads to nibbāna (unbinding), and it functions as a middle way.
The last teaching, to Subhadda (§2), makes one major point about the path:
It’s not simply a path of practice leading to unbinding and the end of suffering.
It’s the only one.
We will discuss these points one by one, fleshing them out with information from other suttas in the Canon.
The end of dukkha.
Dukkha is a term that can mean pain, suffering, and stress.
In this book, I will use these terms interchangeably, depending on which seems most appropriate for the context.
When discussing the noble eightfold path, the Buddha focused most often on the fact that following it leads to the end of suffering.
This point is so important in his teachings that he twice stated, “Both formerly & now, it’s only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress” (SN 22.86;
MN 22). Any question that interfered with this aim, he would put aside.
The map of right view, like a fire-escape diagram that includes nothing but information needed to find the fire escape, includes only the views necessary to understand suffering and the way to put an end to it.
Too much information would clutter a fire-escape map with distractions that would get in the way of its intended purpose.
To understand how the noble eightfold path works in putting an end to suffering, it’s necessary to understand the Buddha’s analysis of what suffering is and how it’s caused.
He distinguished between two types of suffering:
the suffering caused by the fact that fabrications are inconstant—in other words, they offer no steady foundation for happiness—and the suffering caused by craving and clinging, based on ignorance (avijjā).
His focus was on the second type of suffering, although as we will see in the next section, once the second type of suffering is ended, the first will inevitably end as well.
Suffering is felt on a level of experience that is totally immediate and personal.
In fact, it’s so personal that no one can directly experience another person’s suffering, just as no one can enter into your experience of “blue” to see if your “blue” is the same as theirs.
We may see the outward signs of another person’s suffering, just as we can point to an object and agree that it’s blue, but the actual stress and pain of one person’s suffering is something that no one else can feel.
The same holds true for the causes of suffering:
No one else can directly experience your own craving, clinging, and ignorance.
And as it turns out, the crucial factors in putting an end to suffering are experienced on this same inward level as well.
This means that the Buddha’s teachings deal primarily with what is totally personal in your experience.
In formal terms, this is called phenomenology:
speaking about consciousness as it’s directly experienced.
However, even though the focus of the Buddha’s teachings is on a problem that is immediately personal, his analysis of the problem is not subjective.
In other words, even though the precise texture of your suffering is something that no one else can know, it’s not so individual that it doesn’t follow an objective pattern, true for all beings.
The Buddha claimed—and this claim has been confirmed by many, many people from many different backgrounds over the millennia—that he found the common pattern underlying all suffering, and so was able to discover a path of practice that worked in ending all suffering.
This is one of the reasons that he called the path “ariya,” which we usually translate as “noble,” but which can also mean “universal.
” The path is noble partly because it’s universally true.
Even though the Buddha was a member of the warrior caste in ancient India, there’s nothing of his personal or cultural background contained in the path.
This is because suffering is something pre-cultural:
We all experience it from birth, well before culture has made any imprint on our minds.
Part of the Buddha’s genius was that he was able to dig deeply enough into his mind to find the pre-cultural patterns of how we all suffer and how we can all learn not to suffer.
Although his teachings are expressed in an ancient language, they point to an experience prior to all languages.
The primary factor underlying every case of suffering is avijjā, a term that can be translated as “ignorance” or “lack of skill.
” Both meanings are appropriate here.
On the one hand, avijjā means not knowing four truths about suffering:
what it is, what causes it, what its cessation is, and what path of practice leads to its cessation.
On the other hand, avijjā means not having mastered the skills appropriate to these truths.
These truths are not simply four interesting facts about suffering.
Instead, they are meant to be applied as a way of cutting up the pie of experience—i.
e., dividing it into four categories—so that a person desiring the end of suffering can know what to do with phenomena that fall into any of the four categories:
phenomena that count as suffering should be comprehended, those that count as the cause of suffering should be abandoned, those that count as the cessation of suffering should be realized, and those that count as the path should be developed.
Information about these four truths—which are also called noble, in that they’re universally true—is something that one person can give to another.
This is why the Buddha saw that it was worthwhile to teach them to others.
However, the skill in mastering the duties appropriate to the truths is something that no one can do for anyone else.
This is why he also said, “It’s for you to strive ardently.
Tathāgatas simply point out the way” (§379). The path is something that each person has to master for him- or herself.
But what is suffering?
Unlike later commentators in the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha did not give a formal definition of what suffering is.
Instead, he simply listed many cases of suffering, so that his listeners could recognize that he was talking about something with which they were already familiar, and which they would recognize as a problem:
“Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful;
sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful;
association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful” (§106).
This pattern of not formally defining his central terms is a distinctive feature of the Buddha’s teachings.
He is basically teaching a course for training the mind to end suffering and achieve true happiness, but he never gives a formal definition for “mind,” “suffering,” or “happiness.
” What he defines in detail is the course of training, because the words defining the factors of the training can be immediately put into practice.
As for the other terms, when a person is on the path, his/her sense of what the mind is, and of what suffering and happiness are, will inevitably develop, so it’s best that these things not be nailed down too firmly in words.
Still, for strategic purposes, the Buddha did present a way of explaining suffering that points to how it can be ended:
He identified suffering with clinging to the five aggregates.
Because clinging can be abandoned, this explanation gives you a handle on what to do about suffering:
Drop the clinging, and suffering will end.
The word “clinging” (upādāna) he defined as passion and delight, and the Buddha cited four types of clinging:
• Clinging through sensuality:
a fascination with thoughts about how to gain and enjoy sensual pleasures.
This definition focuses on the fact that we tend to cling more to our fantasies about sensual pleasures than we do to the actual pleasures themselves.
• Clinging through habits and practices:
an insistence that things have to be done a certain way, regardless of whether that way is really effective.
The extreme form of this clinging is a fixation on ritual behavior:
that everything depends on doing a certain ritual right.
• Clinging through views:
an insistence that certain views are right, regardless of the effects of holding to them;
or a belief that simply holding to a particular view will make us pure or better than other people.
• Clinging through doctrines of the self:
beliefs about who we are, whether we’re innately good or bad, and what we will be after death.
This can also extend to beliefs about whether or not we have a true self and, if so, what that self is (§126;
§229).
A bit of reflection will confirm that these four types of clinging contain all the details of how we define ourselves, both personally and culturally:
in terms of the sensual pleasures we enjoy, our habitual customs and ways of doing things, our views about the world and our place in the world, and our views about who we are.
This means that, to end suffering, we have to stop clinging to the way we construct our identities.
This is a radical job.
How radical is suggested by another meaning of the word upādāna:
feeding.
We suffer in the way we feed—mentally as well as physically—on the pleasures of fabrication, in particular our fabrication of our sense of self and our place in the world.
This means that the end of suffering will require the end of feeding.
And that, in turn, will mean the end of fabrication, because fabrication is driven by the need to feed.
Still, the Buddha recognized that the mind cannot simply bring the process of feeding to a screeching halt, because you can’t end hunger simply by willing it away.
Instead, your hunger has to be retrained.
In other words, the mind has to be trained to feed in new, more skillful ways that will wean it off its more unskillful ways of feeding—i.
e., ways of feeding that obviously do harm—and ultimately bring it to a dimension where there is no hunger:
an unfabricated dimension where there is no need to feed at all.
This is why the path to the end of suffering is also the path to nibbāna, for nibbāna is precisely that:
the unfabricated.
Nibbāna. The word nibbāna literally means “unbinding.
” In everyday Pāli usage, this word described the going-out of a fire, and reflected what people in the Buddha’s time thought was happening when a fire went out.
As they saw it, fire was caused by the agitation or provocation of the fire-property, a potential that existed in a latent state everywhere in the physical world.
When provoked, the fire-property would be ignited and then cling to its fuel, which was how a burning fire was sustained.
The fire would go out when it let go of its fuel, and the fire-property—freed—would return to its earlier unagitated state.
The Buddha used the analogy between the freed fire and the released mind to make several points about total release:
• It is a cool state of calm and peace.
• It comes from letting go of clinging.
Just as a burning fire is trapped, not by the fuel, but by its own clinging to the fuel, the mind is trapped not by the aggregates, but by its clinging to the aggregates.
This is why, when it lets go, the aggregates can’t keep it from gaining release.
• Just as a fire, when it has gone out, can’t be said to have gone east, west, north, or south, similarly, a person fully released can’t be described as existing, not existing, both, or neither.
This point relates to the fact that, through the process of fabrication, you define yourself by the desires you cling to (§111). Because the released mind is free of clinging, it can’t be defined and so can’t be described.
And because the world of your experience is defined by the desires you cling to, a released mind cannot be located in any world at all.
In fact, unbinding, in the ultimate sense, is not even a dhamma, i.
e., an act or object of consciousness.
Some texts suggest that it is the highest of dhammas, but they apparently are referring to the moment when unbinding is realized.
Other texts, more in line with the Buddha’s observation that all dhammas are rooted in desire, call unbinding the transcending of all dhammas (§351). It’s a type of consciousness, but one not included in the consciousness aggregate, as it is outside of space and time.
It doesn’t count as a dhamma because (a) it’s not an act;
(b) it’s without object—or in the Buddha’s words, without surface (anidassana) (§370);
and (c) it’s not the object of any other consciousness.
The analogy between a released fire and a released mind, however, is not perfect.
Unlike fire, a released mind does not return to a previous latent state and so cannot be provoked to leave its released state ever again.
Outside of space and time and the worlds of the six senses, it is not fabricated by anything and does not fabricate anything else.
This is why release—unbinding—brings all suffering to an end.
The fact that unbinding is unfabricated means that it’s not subject to aging, illness, and death.
This is why it’s the object of what the Buddha called the noble search.
Prior to his awakening, he had identified two types of search:
the ignoble search, which is devoted to finding happiness in things subject to aging, illness, and death;
and the noble search, devoted to finding what does not age, grow ill, or die (§17). The fact that the eightfold path leads to the deathless is another reason why it is termed noble.
And for the same reason, because the four truths about suffering are a part of such a path, they are called noble as well.
However, the fact that the path is fabricated, while its goal is not, presents a paradox:
How can a fabricated path lead to something not fabricated?
The solution to this paradox lies in the Buddha’s analysis of the causal principle underlying fabrication, a point that will be covered in more detail in Chapter 3, on right view.
Here we can simply note that the basic pattern of that causal principle is such that it creates a complex, non-linear system, and one of the features of such a system is that the factors that maintain it can be pushed in a direction where they cause the system to collapse.
In the same way, the processes of fabrication can be pushed in a direction, through the factors of the path, to a point where they bring the system of fabricated experience to collapse, leaving an opening to the unfabricated.
This is why the Buddha says that the path is a type of action that leads to the end of action (§58;
§136)—it’s a fabricated path to the unfabricated (§11).
In practical terms, this means that the factors of the path—because they are fabricated—have to be developed to a certain point, after which they’re abandoned along with all other fabrications.
This is one of the reasons why it’s so important not to confuse the path with the goal.
They are two radically different things.
Some aspects of the path—such as desire, conceit, and the need to fabricate a healthy sense of self to engage in right effort—will be totally abandoned on awakening (§12;
§217;
§221). Others, which harmonize with awakening, will be abandoned at the moment of awakening but afterwards will still be available for use (§§13–16). The texts describe, for instance, how the awakened are virtuous, even though they are not defined by their virtue (§164;
§325), and how even the completely awakened use the contemplations of right view and the practice of right mindfulness and right concentration as pleasant abidings (§§345–347).
Still, one of the features of each factor of the path is that it allows for its own transcendence.
In the case of right view, part of this potential for self-transcendence lies in its self-referential quality, which we have already noted:
It describes action, and it itself is an action, so it can be used to describe itself—when, as a strategy, it is skillful and should be developed, and when it gets in the way of a higher skill and so should be dropped.
This is how it provides a perspective on itself that allows for its transcendence (§132). When trained by the other factors of the path, it can then be turned around and applied to them to provide for their transcendence as well.
The Canon uses many metaphors to describe this self-transcending aspect of the path, such as the relay chariots that are abandoned on reaching their goal (§15), and the raft that is abandoned on reaching the other shore of the river (§§13–14). In fact, the metaphor of the path itself makes this point, although the clearest explanation of this aspect of the metaphor didn’t appear until the Milinda Pañhā, a later text in the Buddhist tradition:
Just as a path to a mountain doesn’t cause the mountain but can still lead to the mountain, the noble eightfold path doesn’t cause unbinding, but the act of following it can lead to a direct realization of the freedom of unbinding.
And although the fact is not obvious on the surface, the third main point about the path presented in the Buddha’s first discourse—that it’s a middle way—also implies that the path employs fabricated means that are abandoned on arriving at the goal.
This implied fact becomes apparent, though, when we look at what “middle way” means.
The middle way.
The Buddha’s first statement about the path is that it’s a middle way that avoids two extremes:
devotion to sensual pleasure in connection with sensuality, and devotion to self-torment.
This observation probably comes from his own direct experience in finding the path after having tried both extremes and finding that they were not noble (§§27–29)—i.e., they did not lead to the unfabricated.
Devotion to sensuality did not allow the mind to develop the dispassion needed to find the unfabricated.
In fact, it led the mind in the opposite direction, toward further passion.
Devotion to self-torment weakened the body and mind to the point where they could not support the powers of concentration needed to comprehend fabrication well enough to find the escape from it.
It’s important to note, though, that the Buddha does not say that the middle way lies between these two extremes.
In other words, it is not a middling path of neither pleasure nor pain.
Instead, he says simply that it avoids these two extremes.
It does so by utilizing both feelings of pleasure and pain as means to a higher goal, in light of the teaching on fabrication.
In other words, it requires that you judge feelings of pleasure and pain as useful or not useful by measuring them both in terms of the activities that fabricate them and in terms of the states they produce.
In other words, you view them as parts of a causal process, in terms of their causes and their effects.
And because feelings, like other aggregates, are fabricated in the present moment from the raw material provided by past actions, a person on the path has some measure of freedom each moment to choose which potential feelings to foster.
The path takes advantage of this freedom by adopting feelings that are produced by skillful activities, and rejecting those based on unskillful activities.
For instance, even though skillful activities ultimately result in pleasure, the Buddha recognizes that they may also involve some pain, and so he recommends enduring that pain (§204;
§§263–264;
§294). Conversely, the pleasures that come from unskillful activities are to be abandoned outright.
A similar principle applies to the feelings when gauged by the results to which they lead.
The path adopts feelings of pleasure and pain whose fabrication leads to the highest sukha—pleasure, happiness, ease, or bliss—of unbinding, and abandons those that get in the way.
However, even though unbinding is pleasant/easeful/blissful, its pleasure does not count as a feeling (§366), which means that even the feelings utilized on the path are eventually abandoned as well.
This is the way in which the path, as a middle way, uses fabrications only to transcend them at the threshold of the unfabricated.
The Buddha’s general approach to feelings on the path is not to reject pleasure that accords with the goal (§21). If you find that indulging in a certain pleasure gives rise to no unskillful states in the mind, there’s no need for you to avoid it.
If, however, it does give rise to unskillful states, you have to renounce it and practice with pain.
But the Buddha does not leave you to test every pleasure or pain for yourself.
He gives some clear guidelines to begin with, and after having adopted them you are in a position to gauge feelings more objectively.
His guidelines are based on a distinction between feelings of-the-flesh (āmisa) and feelings not-of-the-flesh (nirāmisa).
Pleasures and pains of-the-flesh are those caused by contact at the five senses.
Pains not-of-the-flesh—those, at least, that the Buddha recommends for development—are of two sorts.
The first sort relates to the desire to gain awakening, coupled by the realization that you have yet to attain your goal.
The texts offer two examples of how this painful realization may be expressed:
“O when will I enter & remain in the dimension that those who are noble now enter & remain in?
” — MN 44;
MN 137
“It is a loss for me, not a gain;
ill-gotten for me, not well-gotten, that when I recollect the Buddha, Dhamma, & Saṅgha… equanimity based on what is skillful is not established within me.
” — MN 28
These realizations, though painful, help to maintain your motivation to stick with the path, and so they act as a useful part of the path itself, an aspect of right effort.
The second type of pain not-of-the-flesh recommended by the Buddha relates to distressing meditation topics, such as the contemplation of the foulness of the body (§25). Even though these topics are unpleasant, they are useful tools for counteracting strong passion, aversion, and delusion, and so play an important role on the path as exercises of right mindfulness.
Pleasures not-of-the-flesh relate to the practice of four states of concentration called jhāna, or absorption.
These offer pleasure—often intense—based not on the five senses but on the internal awareness of the form of the body.
These states are so central to the path that they act as one of its factors:
right concentration.
They have strategic importance because, as the Buddha noted, if the mind has no alternative to pain aside from sensual pleasure, it will aim at the pleasures of sensuality as a matter of course (§22). This holds true even when it’s fully aware of the long-term drawbacks of those pleasures (§295).
The pleasures of jhāna are superior to those of sensuality, both inherently and in light of their fabrication:
what is needed to produce them, and the states of mind to which they lead.
Inherently, the pleasures of jhāna provide more nourishing food for the mind, as these pleasures can suffuse the entire body and be maintained for a long time.
MN 54 (§150) compares the food of sensuality to a chain of bones, thoroughly scraped, that a dog would gnaw on.
In contrast, AN 7.63 (§219) compares the food of jhāna to provisions for soldiers in a fortress, ranging from water, rice, and barley, to ghee, fresh butter, oil, honey, molasses, and salt.
In other words, the pleasures of jhāna, when compared to those of sensuality, are more flavorful and nourishing.
In terms of fabrication:
The actions that produce jhāna are blameless (§30), in that—unlike sensual pleasures—they don’t require taking anything from anyone else, and they don’t expose you to the dangers involved in seeking sensual pleasures.
Also, the mind-states they produce are much more conducive to the mental clarity required by the path.
As §281 notes, it’s only when the mind is concentrated that you can fully comprehend the origination and disappearance of the aggregates, and so develop dispassion for them.
There are several reasons for this observation.
To begin with, the jhānas create a state of stillness that enables the mind to observe fabrication more easily and precisely.
The food they offer gives the mind a point of comparison, so that it is more likely to admit the drawbacks of its passion for sensuality than it would when it hungers for pleasure.
And because the jhānas are consciously fabricated—and composed of aggregates themselves (§312)—they give the mind hands-on experience in observing fabrication directly in action.
It’s for these reasons that MN 117 (§48) lists right concentration as the heart of the path, and the other factors as its supports.
In fact, §24 describes the practice of right concentration as a skillful “devotion to pleasure,” in direct contrast to the unskillful devotion to pleasure that the path avoids, making the point that the middle way is not characterized by a neutral feeling tone.
Instead, it uses skillful pleasures not-of-the-flesh as food for the mind, to replace the mind’s dependence on unskillful pleasures of-the-flesh.
With regard to the role of feelings of-the-flesh on the path, §24 lists four unskillful pleasures that monks are to avoid across the board:
the pleasures that come from killing, stealing, lying, and the pursuit of the five “strings of sensuality”—sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations that are “agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, enticing, linked with sensual desire” (§147). From this list, it’s easy to extrapolate to other pleasures to be avoided, in particular those coming from any of the unskillful forms of conduct listed in §130 and analyzed in §165:
killing, stealing, illicit sex;
lying, divisive tale-bearing, harsh speech, idle chatter;
covetousness, ill will, and wrong views.
Given that other pleasures of-the-flesh can be either innocent or detrimental for different individuals, there is no standard list anywhere in the Canon of innocent pleasures.
Even with regard to acts of merit, the Buddha praises the pleasure to be found in the acts themselves, but warns of the dangers posed by some of the pleasures of-the-flesh that they can lead to, such as wealth, status, and praise (§79;
DN 16;
Iti 22;
AN 8.6). However, a short list of innocent pleasures of-the-flesh can be gleaned from scattered passages in the suttas, including:
the pleasures of seclusion (§§98–99), those of the beauties of the wilderness (Thag 18), the pleasure of independence (Ud 2:
9), the pleasure of associating with wise people (Dhp 207), and the pleasure of harmony in the Saṅgha (Dhp 194).
In comparison to pleasures of-the-flesh, pains of-the-flesh are treated somewhat more systematically.
MN 2 (§229) notes that although one should learn to endure sharp physical pains and harsh, hurtful words, it also advises avoiding the pains that would come from carelessly exposing oneself to dangers:
“a wild elephant, a wild horse, a wild bull, a wild dog, a snake, a stump, a bramble patch, a chasm, a cliff, a cesspool, an open sewer.
” More pointedly, it also advises avoiding the pain that would come to a monk from going to places inappropriate for monks to go, and from associating with bad friends.
This point can be extended to a general principle:
All pains of-the-flesh that come from engaging in unskillful conduct should be avoided.
As for pains of-the-flesh to be pursued, SN 42.12 notes that some individuals will attain superior human states—a term that covers the jhānas, the psychic powers that can be developed based on them, and the noble attainments—by living in harsh conditions, but it doesn’t list what those conditions might be.
Thag 16:
7 (§234) provides a list of ascetic practices that the later literature calls dhutaṅga, which can be adopted—either long term or short term—in cases where you find that they help to curb the defilements (kilesa) of the mind.
These include eating only one meal a day, living in the wilderness, living at the foot of a tree, living in a cemetery, and not lying down.
So it’s obvious that the middle way is not a middling way halfway between pleasure and pain.
Instead, it uses feelings of pleasure and pain—both of-the-flesh and not-of-the-flesh, and sometimes in extreme forms—so as to understand pleasures and pains as aggregates, as processes of fabrication, bringing the mind to a point where it’s ready to abandon passion for all fabrications and to realize, beyond feeling, the unfabricated bliss of unbinding.
The only right way.
The Buddha’s instructions to his last disciple, Subhadda the wanderer, focus on the point that the noble eightfold path is the only way to unbinding.
This is why the Buddha, from the very beginning, prefaced each factor of path with the word sammā, or “right.
” Any version of any of the factors that deviates from them or contradicts them is micchā, wrong.
The Buddha’s standard for judging right and wrong here is pragmatic.
This point is illustrated in §18, where the right factors of the path are compared to the act of trying to get milk from a cow by pulling on its udder, whereas wrong versions of the factors are compared to the act of trying to get milk from the cow by twisting on its horn:
Not only do you get no milk, but you also harass the cow.
In other words, right and wrong are determined by what does and doesn’t work in reaching the noble goal.
But it’s not the case that each factor of the path, when right on its own, is also noble:
The interaction of the factors is what makes them fully right and noble as an ensemble.
For instance, it’s possible to practice concentration and arrive at a non-dual state of the oneness of consciousness, or at a state in which everything glows with a white light (§335). However, these states are fabricated, and so do not count as the goal.
To mistake them for the goal would be an instance of wrong view, in which case the concentration, even though right, would not be part of the noble path.
This would be true even if you started out with a correct verbal knowledge of right view, looking for the unfabricated, but then mistook the fabricated for the unfabricated when actually encountering it in practice.
The problem in this case would lie in the fact that alertness, one of the sub-factors of right mindfulness, was not acute enough to detect the changes in these bright, non-dual states that would signal the fact of their being fabricated.
This means that, although all the factors of the path have to be directed by noble right view in order to be noble as well as right, right view itself needs to be trained in practice by developing the other factors of the path in order to become noble.
To state this in terms of the distinction made in DN 33, right view has to grow from a form of discernment based on listening and thinking (sutamaya-paññā, cintāmaya-paññā) into a form of discernment based on developing skillful qualities in the mind (bhāvanāmaya-paññā).
Only then will it be “right” enough to bear noble fruit.
We will return to this point in the next chapter, and, in fact, it will be a recurring theme in the discussions of the path-factors for the remainder of this book.
Later schools of Buddhism have criticized the Pāli Canon for its insistence on the objective distinction between right and wrong forms of the path, accusing it of being dualistic, at the same time claiming that monism—the doctrine that all is One—is a higher view.
However, it’s important to make a distinction between dualism as a principle and dualities as a fact.
Dualism as a principle would say that the universe comes down to two main underlying principles—a position that the Buddha never takes in the Pāli Canon.
In fact, he refused to take a position on the question of whether the cosmos is basically a Oneness or a plurality (SN 12.48), on the grounds that the question did not conduce to the end of suffering and stress.
However, he did take a position, on the distinction—a duality—between skillful and unskillful conduct, describing in detail what counts as skillful and unskillful, and stating in clear terms that they had to be treated differently (§60). Skillful conduct should be developed;
unskillful conduct, abandoned.
This is because these two types of conduct lead to two different directions:
away from suffering and stress, or toward suffering and stress.
The difference between suffering and not suffering is a basic duality built into the way things are.
If the Buddha had not made this distinction, he would have neglected what he saw as one of his prime duties as a teacher:
providing the safety that comes with having a clear sense of what should and shouldn’t be done by a person who wants to avoid causing suffering and harm (§56). Any potential student refusing to admit this distinction, the Buddha would have regarded as unfit to teach.
He was so sure of this distinction, and of the objective rightness of the factors of the path to the end of suffering, that he stated in §323 that one of the signs that a person has reached the first stage of awakening is the realization that outside of the Buddha’s teachings there is no accurate description of the way to unbinding.
For anyone who has yet to reach that point, this is impossible to know.
You have to reach the top of the mountain to see clearly which paths lead there and which paths don’t.
It’s for this reason that the Buddha did not force anyone to believe in his teachings without testing them, because the path is something that can be followed only voluntarily.
After all, to test the path is a demanding project, in that it requires a total retraining of one’s own thoughts and actions.
The only compulsion in choosing whether to take on the path comes from the brute fact of suffering.
When you’ve decided you’ve suffered enough, and you’re prepared to look for the sources of suffering inside, then you’re ready to give the path a serious try—to see if the Buddha’s middle way really does lead to the end of suffering and to the unfabricated bliss of unbinding.
Readings
The First Teaching
§ 1. “These two are extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth.
Which two?
That which is devoted to sensual pleasure in connection with sensuality:
base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable;
and that which is devoted to self-affliction:
painful, ignoble, unprofitable.
Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathāgata—producing vision, producing knowledge—leads to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding.
“And which is the middle way realized by the Tathāgata that—producing vision, producing knowledge—leads to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding?
Precisely this noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
This is the middle way realized by the Tathāgata that—producing vision, producing knowledge—leads to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding.
” — Mv.
I.6 ( = SN 56.11)
The Last Teaching
§ 2. Then Subhadda the wanderer went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him.
After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, “Master Gotama, these contemplatives & brahmans, each with his group, each with his community, each the teacher of his group, an honored leader, well-regarded by people at large—i.
e., Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Ajita Kesakambalin, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, & the Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta:
Do they all have direct knowledge as they themselves claim, or do they all not have direct knowledge, or do some of them have direct knowledge and some of them not?
“Enough, Subhadda.
Put this question aside:
‘Do they all have direct knowledge as they themselves claim, or do they all not have direct knowledge, or do some of them have direct knowledge and some of them not?
’ I will teach you the Dhamma, Subhadda.
Listen and pay close attention.
I will speak.
“As you say, lord,” Subhadda responded to the Blessed One.
The Blessed One said, “In any Dhamma & Vinaya where the noble eightfold path is not ascertained, no contemplative of the first… second… third… fourth order [stream-winner, once-returner, non-returner, or arahant] is ascertained.
But in any Dhamma & Vinaya where the noble eightfold path is ascertained, contemplatives of the first… second… third… fourth order are ascertained.
The noble eightfold path is ascertained in this Dhamma & Vinaya, and right here there are contemplatives of the first… second… third… fourth order.
Other teachings are empty of knowledgeable contemplatives.
And if the monks dwell rightly, this world will not be empty of arahants.
” — DN 16
On the Word, “Path”
§ 3. “Suppose that there were a pit of glowing embers, deeper than a man’s height, full of glowing embers that were neither flaming nor smoking.
A man—scorched with heat, overcome by heat, exhausted, trembling, & thirsty—would come along a path going one way only [ekāyana magga] directed to that pit of glowing embers.
A man with good eyes, on seeing him, would say, ‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will come to that pit of glowing embers.
’ Then at a later time he would see him—having fallen into the pit of glowing embers—experiencing feelings that are exclusively painful, piercing, & racking.
“In the same way, Sāriputta, there is the case where—having thus encompassed awareness with awareness—I know of a certain individual:
‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will—at the break-up of the body, after death—reappear in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell.
’ Then at a later time I see him—at the break-up of the body, after death—reappearing in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell, experiencing feelings that are exclusively painful, piercing, & racking.
“Suppose that there were a cesspool, deeper than a man’s height, full of excrement.
A man—scorched with heat, overcome by heat, exhausted, trembling, & thirsty—would come along a path going one way only directed to that cesspool.
A man with good eyes, on seeing him, would say, ‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will come to that cesspool.
’ Then at a later time he would see him—having fallen into the cesspool—experiencing feelings that are painful, piercing, & racking.
“In the same way… I know of a certain individual:
‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will—at the break-up of the body, after death—reappear in the realm of the animal womb’… experiencing feelings that are painful, piercing, & racking.
“Suppose that there were a tree growing on uneven ground, with scanty foliage providing spotty shade.
A man—scorched with heat, overcome by heat, exhausted, trembling, & thirsty—would come along a path going one way only directed to that tree.
A man with good eyes, on seeing him, would say, ‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will come to that tree.
’ Then at a later time he would see him sitting or lying down in the shade of that tree, experiencing feelings that are for the most part painful.
“In the same way… I know of a certain individual:
‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will—at the break-up of the body, after death—reappear in the realm of the hungry ghosts’… experiencing feelings that are for the most part painful.
“Suppose that there were a tree growing on even ground, with lush foliage providing dense shade.
A man—scorched with heat, overcome by heat, exhausted, trembling, & thirsty—would come along a path going one way only directed to that tree.
A man with good eyes, on seeing him, would say, ‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will come to that tree.
’ Then at a later time he would see him sitting or lying down in the shade of that tree, experiencing feelings that are for the most part pleasant.
“In the same way… I know of a certain individual:
‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will—at the break-up of the body, after death—reappear among human beings’… experiencing feelings that are for the most part pleasant.
“Suppose that there were a palace compound;
and in it was a mansion with a gabled roof, plastered inside & out, draft-free, with close-fitting door & windows shut against the wind;
and in it was a throne-like bed spread with a long-fleeced coverlet, a white wool coverlet, an embroidered coverlet, a rug of kadali-deer hide, with a canopy above, & red cushions on either side.
A man—scorched with heat, overcome by heat, exhausted, trembling, & thirsty—would come along a path going one way only directed to that palace compound.
A man with good eyes, on seeing him, would say, ‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will come to that palace compound.
’ Then at a later time he would see him sitting or lying down on the throne-like bed in that mansion with a gabled roof in that palace compound, experiencing feelings that are exclusively pleasant.
“In the same way… I know of a certain individual:
‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will—at the break-up of the body, after death—reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world’… experiencing feelings that are exclusively pleasant.
“Suppose that there were a lotus pond with pristine water, pleasing water, cool water, pellucid water;
with restful banks, refreshing;
and not far from it was a dense forest grove.
A man—scorched with heat, overcome by heat, exhausted, trembling, & thirsty—would come along a path going one way only directed to that lotus pond.
A man with good eyes, on seeing him, would say, ‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will come to that lotus pond.
’ Then at a later time he would see him—having plunged into the lotus pond, having bathed & drunk & relieved all his disturbance, exhaustion, & fever, and having come back out—sitting or lying down in the forest grove, experiencing feelings that are exclusively pleasant.
“In the same way, Sāriputta, there is the case where—having thus encompassed awareness with awareness—I know of a certain individual:
‘The way this individual has practiced, the way he conducts himself, and the path he has entered are such that he will, through the ending of the effluents, enter & remain in the effluent-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized it for himself right in the here-&-now.
’ Then at a later time I see him, through the ending of the effluents—having entered & remaining in the effluent-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized it for himself right in the here-&-now—experiencing feelings that are exclusively pleasant.
” — MN 12
§ 4. “It is just as if a man, traveling along a wilderness track, were to see an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by people of former times.
He would follow it.
Following it, he would see an ancient city, an ancient capital inhabited by people of former times, complete with parks, groves, & ponds, walled, delightful.
He would go to address the king or the king’s minister, saying, ‘Sire, you should know that while traveling along a wilderness track I saw an ancient path… I followed it… I saw an ancient city, an ancient capital… complete with parks, groves, & ponds, walled, delightful.
Sire, rebuild that city!’ The king or king’s minister would rebuild the city, so that at a later date the city would become powerful, rich, & well-populated, fully grown & prosperous.
“In the same way I saw an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times.
And what is that ancient path…?
Just this noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
… I followed that path.
Following it, I came to direct knowledge of aging-&-death, direct knowledge of the origination of aging-&-death, direct knowledge of the cessation of aging-&-death, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of aging-&-death.
I followed that path.
Following it, I came to direct knowledge of birth… becoming… clinging… craving… feeling… contact… the six sense media… name-&-form… consciousness, direct knowledge of the origination of consciousness, direct knowledge of the cessation of consciousness, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of consciousness.
I followed that path.
“Following it, I came to direct knowledge of fabrications, direct knowledge of the origination of fabrications, direct knowledge of the cessation of fabrications, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of fabrications.
Knowing that directly, I have revealed it to monks, nuns, male lay followers & female lay followers, so that this holy life has become powerful, rich, detailed, well-populated, wide-spread, proclaimed among devas & human beings.
” — SN 12.65
§ 5. “And what is the holy life?
Just this noble eightfold path.
… And what are the fruits of the holy life?
The fruit of stream-entry, the fruit of once-returning, the fruit of non-returning, & the fruit of arahantship.
” — SN 45.39
§ 6. “And what is the goal of the holy life?
Whatever is the ending of passion, the ending of aversion, the ending of delusion:
That is called the goal of the holy life.
” — SN 45.40
§ 7. “Monks, this holy life doesn’t have as its reward gain, offerings, & fame, doesn’t have as its reward consummation of virtue, doesn’t have as its reward consummation of concentration, doesn’t have as its reward knowledge & vision, but the unprovoked awareness-release:
That is the purpose of this holy life, that is its heartwood, that its final end.
” — MN 29
§ 8. As he was sitting there, Ven.
Ānanda said to the Blessed One, “Just now, lord, early in the morning, I adjusted my under robe and—carrying my bowl & outer robes—went into Sāvatthī for alms.
I saw the brahman Jāṇussoṇin leaving Sāvatthī in an all-white chariot drawn by mares.
White were the horses yoked to it, white the ornaments, white the chariot, white the upholstery, white the reins, white the goad, white the canopy, white his turban, white his clothes, white his sandals, and with a white yak-tail fan he was fanned.
Seeing him, people were saying, ‘What a sublime vehicle! What a sublime-looking vehicle!’ Is it possible to designate a sublime vehicle in this Dhamma-Vinaya?
“It is possible, Ānanda,” said the Blessed One.
“That is a synonym for this very same noble eightfold path:
‘sublime vehicle,’ ‘Dhamma-vehicle,’ ‘unexcelled victory in battle.
’”
“Right view, Ānanda, when developed & pursued, has the subduing of passion as its end-point, the subduing of aversion as its end-point, the subduing of delusion as its end-point.
“Right resolve… Right speech… Right action… Right livelihood… Right effort… Right mindfulness… Right concentration, when developed & pursued, has the subduing of passion as its end-point, the subduing of aversion as its end-point, the subduing of delusion as its end-point.
“It is by this sequence of reasons that one can know how that is a synonym for this very same noble eightfold path:
‘sublime vehicle,’ ‘Dhamma-vehicle,’ ‘unexcelled victory in battle.
’”
That is what the Blessed One said.
Having said that, the One Well-gone, the Teacher, said further:
One with the dhammas
of conviction & discernment
always yoked to its shaft,
shame its pole, the heart its yoke-tie,
mindfulness the protective charioteer,
virtue the chariot-accessories,
jhāna the axle, persistence the wheels,
equanimity the balance of the yoke,
hungerless-ness its upholstery,
non-ill will, harmlessness, & seclusion its weapons,
patience its armor & shield:
It rolls to security from bondage.
Coming into play
from within oneself:
the sublime vehicle unsurpassed.
They, the enlightened, leave the world.
They, absolutely, win victory.
SN 45.4
§ 9. “‘All phenomena [dhammas] are rooted in desire.
“‘All phenomena come into play through attention.
’” — AN 10.58
§ 10. Phenomena [dhammas] are
preceded by the heart,
ruled by the heart,
made of the heart.
— Dhp 1
§ 11. “Among whatever dhammas there may be, fabricated or unfabricated, dispassion—the subduing of intoxication, the elimination of thirst, the uprooting of attachment, the breaking of the round, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, the realization of unbinding—is considered supreme.
Those who have confidence in the dhamma of dispassion have confidence in what is supreme;
and for those with confidence in the supreme, supreme is the result.
“Among whatever fabricated dhammas there may be, the noble eightfold path—right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration—is considered supreme.
Those who have confidence in the dhamma of the noble path have confidence in what is supreme;
and for those with confidence in the supreme, supreme is the result.
” — Iti 90
§ 12. As he was sitting there, Uṇṇabha the brahman said to Ven.
Ānanda:
“Master Ānanda, what is the aim of this holy life lived under Gotama the contemplative?
“Brahman, the holy life is lived under the Blessed One with the aim of abandoning desire.
“Is there a path, is there a practice, for the abandoning of that desire?
“Yes, there is a path, is there a practice, for the abandoning of that desire.
“What is the path, the practice, for the abandoning of that desire?
“Brahman, there is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion.
He develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on persistence… concentration founded on intent… concentration founded on discrimination & the fabrications of exertion.
This, brahman, is the path, this is the practice for the abandoning of that desire.
“If that’s so, Master Ānanda, then it’s an endless path, and not one with an end, for it’s impossible that one could abandon desire by means of 178
desire.
“In that case, brahman, I will cross-question you on this matter.
Answer as you see fit.
What do you think?
Didn’t you first have desire, thinking, ‘I’ll go to the park,’ and then when you reached the park, wasn’t that particular desire allayed?
“Yes, sir.
“Didn’t you first have persistence, thinking, ‘I’ll go to the park,’ and then when you reached the park, wasn’t that particular persistence allayed?
“Yes, sir.
“Didn’t you first have the intent, thinking, ‘I’ll go to the park,’ and then when you reached the park, wasn’t that particular intent allayed?
“Yes, sir.
“Didn’t you first have [an act of] discrimination, thinking, ‘I’ll go to the park,’ and then when you reached the park, wasn’t that particular act of discrimination allayed?
“Yes, sir.
“So it is with an arahant whose effluents are ended, who has reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden, attained the true goal, totally destroyed the fetter of becoming, and who is released through right gnosis.
Whatever desire he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular desire is allayed.
Whatever persistence he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular persistence is allayed.
Whatever intent he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular intent is allayed.
Whatever discrimination he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular discrimination is allayed.
So what do you think, brahman?
Is this an endless path, or one with an end?
“You’re right, Master Ānanda.
This is a path with an end, and not an endless one.
” — SN 51.15
§ 13. “Suppose a man were traveling along a path.
He would see a great expanse of water, with the near shore dubious & risky, the far shore safe & free from risk, but with neither a ferryboat nor a bridge going from this shore to the other.
The thought would occur to him, ‘Here is this great expanse of water, with the near shore dubious & risky, the far shore safe & free from risk, but with neither a ferryboat nor a bridge going from this shore to the far one.
What if I were to gather grass, twigs, branches, & leaves and, having bound them together to make a raft, were to cross over to safety on the far shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with my hands & feet?
“Then the man, having gathered grass, twigs, branches, & leaves, having bound them together to make a raft, would cross over to safety on the far shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with his hands & feet.
Having crossed over to the far shore, he might think, ‘How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands & feet, I have crossed over to safety on the far shore.
Why don’t I, having hoisted it on my head or carrying it on my back, go wherever I like?
’ What do you think, monks?
Would the man, in doing that, be doing what should be done with the raft?
“No, lord.
“And what should the man do in order to be doing what should be done with the raft?
There is the case where the man, having crossed over to the far shore, would think, ‘How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands & feet, I have crossed over to safety on the far shore.
Why don’t I, having dragged it on dry land or sunk it in the water, go wherever I like?
’ In doing this, he would be doing what should be done with the raft.
In the same way, monks, I have taught the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding onto.
Understanding the Dhamma as taught compared to a raft, you should let go even of Dhammas, to say nothing of non-Dhammas.
” — MN 22
§ 14. “The great expanse of water stands for the fourfold flood:
the flood of sensuality, the flood of becoming, the flood of views, & the flood of ignorance.
The near shore, dubious & risky, stands for self-identity.
The far shore, safe and free from risk, stands for unbinding.
The raft stands for just this noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Making an effort with hands & feet stands for the arousing of persistence.
” — SN 35.197
§ 15. Ven.
Sāriputta:
“When asked if purity in terms of virtue… mind… view… the overcoming of perplexity… knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path… knowledge & vision of the way… knowledge & vision is total unbinding through lack of clinging, you say, ‘No, my friend.
’ But when asked if total unbinding through lack of clinging is something apart from these dhammas, you say, ‘No, my friend.
’ Now how, my friend, is the meaning of these statements to be understood?
Ven. Puṇṇa Mantāṇiputta:
“If the Blessed One had described purity in terms of virtue as total unbinding through lack of clinging, my friend, then he would have defined something still accompanied by clinging as total unbinding through lack of clinging.
If he had described purity in terms of mind… view… the overcoming of perplexity… knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path… knowledge & vision of the way… knowledge & vision as total unbinding through lack of clinging, then he would have defined something still accompanied by clinging as total unbinding through lack of clinging.
But if total unbinding through lack of clinging were apart from these dhammas, then a run-of-the-mill person would be totally unbound, inasmuch as a run-of-the-mill person is apart from these dhammas.
“So, my friend, I will give you an analogy, for there are cases where it’s through analogies that observant people can understand the meaning of what is being said.
Suppose that while King Pasenadi Kosala was staying at Sāvatthī, some urgent business were to arise at Sāketa;
and that between Sāvatthī and Sāketa seven relay chariots were made ready for him.
Coming out the door of the inner palace in Sāvatthī, he would get in the first relay chariot.
By means of the first relay chariot he would reach the second relay chariot.
Getting out of the first relay chariot he would get in the second relay chariot.
By means of the second relay chariot he would reach the third… by means of the third he would reach the fourth… by means of the fourth, the fifth… by means of the fifth, the sixth… by means of the sixth he would reach the seventh relay chariot.
Getting out of the sixth relay chariot he would get in the seventh relay chariot.
By means of the seventh relay chariot he would finally arrive at the door of the inner palace at Sāketa.
As he arrived there, his friends & companions, relatives & kin would ask him, ‘Great king, did you come from Sāvatthī to the door of the inner palace in Sāketa by means of this chariot?
’ Answering in what way, my friend, would King Pasenadi Kosala answer them correctly?
Ven. Sāriputta:
“Answering in this way, my friend, he would answer them correctly:
‘Just now, as I was staying at Sāvatthī, some urgent business arose at Sāketa;
and between Sāvatthī and Sāketa seven relay chariots were made ready for me.
Coming out the door of the inner palace in Sāvatthī, I got in the first relay chariot.
By means of the first relay chariot I reached the second relay chariot.
Getting out of the first relay chariot I got in the second relay chariot.
By means of the second relay chariot I reached the third… by means of the third I reached the fourth… by means of the fourth, the fifth… by means of the fifth, the sixth… by means of the sixth I reached the seventh relay chariot.
Getting out of the sixth relay chariot I got in the seventh relay chariot.
By means of the seventh relay chariot I finally arrived at the door of the inner palace at Sāketa.
’ Answering in this way, he would answer them correctly.
Ven. Puṇṇa Mantāṇiputta:
“In the same way, my friend, purity in terms of virtue is simply for the sake of purity in terms of mind.
Purity in terms of mind is simply for the sake of purity in terms of view.
Purity in terms of view is simply for the sake of purity in terms of the overcoming of perplexity.
Purity in terms of the overcoming of perplexity is simply for the sake of purity in terms of knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path.
Purity in terms of knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path is simply for the sake of purity in terms of knowledge & vision of the way.
Purity in terms of knowledge & vision of the way is simply for the sake of purity in terms of knowledge & vision.
Purity in terms of knowledge & vision is simply for the sake of total unbinding through lack of clinging.
And it’s for the sake of total unbinding through lack of clinging that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One.
” — MN 24
§ 16. Māgandiya:
This ‘inner peace’:
What does it mean?
How is it,
by the enlightened,
proclaimed?
The Buddha:
“He doesn’t speak of purity
in connection with view,
learning,
knowledge,
habit or practice.
Nor is it found by a person
through lack of view,
of learning,
of knowledge,
of habit or practice.
Letting these go, without grasping,
at peace,
independent,
one wouldn’t long for becoming.
” — Sn 4:
9
On the Word, “Noble”
§ 17. “Monks, there are these two searches:
ignoble search & noble search.
And which is the ignoble search?
There is the case where a person, being subject himself to birth, seeks [happiness in] what is likewise subject to birth.
Being subject himself to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, he seeks [happiness in] what is likewise subject to illness… death… sorrow… defilement.
“And what may be said to be subject to birth?
Spouses & children are subject to birth.
Men & women slaves… goats & sheep… fowl & pigs… elephants, cattle, horses, & mares… gold & silver are subject to birth.
Subject to birth are these acquisitions, and one who is tied to them, infatuated with them, who has totally fallen for them, being subject to birth, seeks what is likewise subject to birth.
“And what may be said to be subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement?
Spouses & children… men & women slaves… goats & sheep… fowl & pigs… elephants, cattle, horses, & mares… gold & silver are subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement.
Subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement are these acquisitions, and one who is tied to them, infatuated with them, who has totally fallen for them, being subject to birth, seeks what is likewise subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement.
This is ignoble search.
“And which is the noble search?
There is the case where a person, himself being subject to birth, seeing the drawbacks of birth, seeks the unborn, unexcelled security from the yoke:
unbinding.
Himself being subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, seeing the drawbacks of aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, seeks the aging-less, illness-less, deathless, sorrow-less, undefiled, unexcelled security from the yoke:
unbinding.
This is the noble search.
” — MN 26
On the Word, “Right”
§ 18. “For any contemplatives or brahmans endowed with wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, & wrong concentration:
If they follow the holy life even when having made a wish [for results], they are incapable of obtaining results.
If they follow the holy life even when having made no wish, they are incapable of obtaining results.
If they follow the holy life even when both having made a wish and having made no wish, they are incapable of obtaining results.
If they follow the holy life even when neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, they are incapable of obtaining results.
Why is that?
Because it is an inappropriate way of obtaining results.
“Suppose a man in need of oil, looking for oil, wandering in search of oil, would pile gravel in a tub and press it, sprinkling it again & again with water.
If he were to pile gravel in a tub and press it, sprinkling it again & again with water even when having made a wish [for results]… having made no wish… both having made a wish and having made no wish… neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, he would be incapable of obtaining results.
Why is that?
Because it is an inappropriate way of obtaining results.
“Suppose a man in need of milk, looking for milk, wandering in search of milk, would twist the horn of a newly-calved cow.
If he were to twist the horn of a newly-calved cow even when having made a wish [for results]… having made no wish… both having made a wish and having made no wish… neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, he would be incapable of obtaining results.
Why is that?
Because it is an inappropriate way of obtaining results.
“In the same way, any contemplatives or brahmans endowed with wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, & wrong concentration:
If they follow the holy life even when having made a wish [for results]… having made no wish… both having made a wish and having made no wish… neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, they are incapable of obtaining results.
Why is that?
Because it is an inappropriate way of obtaining results.
“But as for any contemplatives or brahmans endowed with right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, & right concentration:
If they follow the holy life even when having made a wish, they are capable of obtaining results.
If they follow the holy life even when having made no wish, they are capable of obtaining results.
If they follow the holy life even when both having made a wish and having made no wish, they are capable of obtaining results.
If they follow the holy life even when neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, they are capable of obtaining results.
Why is that?
Because it is an appropriate way of obtaining results.
“Suppose a man in need of oil, looking for oil, wandering in search of oil, would pile sesame seeds in a tub and press them, sprinkling them again & again with water.
If he were to pile sesame seeds in a tub and press them, sprinkling them again & again with water, even when having made a wish [for results]… having made no wish… both having made a wish and having made no wish… neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, he would be capable of obtaining results.
Why is that?
Because it is an appropriate way of obtaining results.
“Suppose a man in need of milk, looking for milk, wandering in search of milk, would pull the teat of a newly-calved cow.
If he were to pull the teat of a newly-calved cow even when having made a wish [for results]… having made no wish… both having made a wish and having made no wish… neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, he would be capable of obtaining results.
Why is that?
Because it is an appropriate way of obtaining results.
“In the same way, any contemplatives or brahmans endowed with right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, & right concentration:
If they follow the holy life even when having made a wish [for results]… having made no wish… both having made a wish and having made no wish… neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, they are capable of obtaining results.
Why is that?
Because it is an appropriate way of obtaining results.
” — MN 126 [See also §§202–203.]
§ 19. Gaṇaka Moggallāna the brahman said to the Blessed One, “When Master Gotama’s disciples are thus exhorted & instructed by him, do they all attain unbinding, the absolute conclusion, or do some of them not?
“Brahman, when my disciples are thus exhorted & instructed by me, some attain unbinding, the absolute conclusion, and some don’t.
“What is the reason, what is the cause—when unbinding is there, and the path leading to unbinding is there, and Master Gotama is there as the guide—that when Master Gotama’s disciples are thus exhorted & instructed by him, some attain unbinding, the absolute conclusion, and some don’t?
“In that case, brahman, I will cross-question you on this matter.
Answer as you see fit.
What do you think?
Are you skilled in the road leading to Rājagaha?
“Yes, sir, I am skilled in the road leading to Rājagaha.
“Now what do you think?
There’s the case where a man would come, wanting to go to Rājagaha.
Having gone to you, he would say, ‘I want to go to Rājagaha.
Tell me the way to Rājagaha.
’ You would tell him, ‘Well, my good man, this road goes to Rājagaha.
Go along it for a while.
Having gone along for a while, you will see a village named such-&-such.
Go along for a while.
Having gone along for a while, you will see a town named such-&-such.
Go along for a while.
Having gone along for a while, you will see Rājagaha with its lovely parks, lovely forests, lovely meadows, lovely ponds.
’ Having been thus exhorted & instructed by you, he would take a wrong road and arrive out west.
“Then a second man would come, wanting to go to Rājagaha.
Having gone to you, he would say, ‘I want to go to Rājagaha.
Tell me the way to Rājagaha.
’ You would tell him, ‘Well, my good man, this road goes to Rājagaha.
Go along it for a while.
Having gone along for a while, you will see a village named such-&-such.
Go along for a while.
Having gone along for a while, you will see a town named such-&-such.
Go along for a while.
Having gone along for a while, you will see Rājagaha with its lovely parks, lovely forests, lovely meadows, lovely ponds.
Having been thus exhorted & instructed by you, he would arrive safely at Rājagaha.
Now what is the reason, what is the cause—when Rājagaha is there, and the road leading to Rājagaha is there, and you are there as the guide—that when they are thus exhorted & instructed by you, the first man takes the wrong road and arrives out west, while the second man arrives safely at Rājagaha?
“What can I do about that, Master Gotama?
I’m the one who shows the way.
“In the same way, brahman—when unbinding is there, and the path leading to unbinding is there, and I am there as the guide—when my disciples are thus exhorted & instructed by me, some attain unbinding, the absolute conclusion, and some don’t.
What can I do about that, brahman?
The Tathāgata is the one who shows the way.
” — MN 107
§ 20. Ven.
Ānanda:
“Suppose that there were a royal frontier city with strong ramparts, strong walls & arches, and a single gate.
In it would be a wise, competent, & intelligent gatekeeper to keep out those he didn’t know and to let in those he did.
Walking along the path encircling the city, he wouldn’t see a crack or an opening in the walls big enough for even a cat to slip through.
Although he wouldn’t know that ‘So-&-so many creatures enter or leave the city,’ he would know this:
‘Whatever large creatures enter or leave the city all enter or leave it through this gate.
“In the same way, the Tathāgata isn’t concerned with whether all the cosmos or half of it or a third of it led (to release) by means of (his Dhamma).
But he does know this:
‘All those who have been led, are being led, or will be led (to release) from the cosmos have done so, are doing so, or will do so after having abandoned the five hindrances—those defilements of awareness that weaken discernment—having well-established their minds in the four establishings of mindfulness, and having developed, as they have come to be, the seven factors for awakening.
” — AN 10.95
On the Middle Way
§ 21. “And how is striving fruitful, how is exertion fruitful?
There is the case where a monk, when not loaded down, doesn’t load himself down with pain, nor does he reject pleasure that accords with the Dhamma, although he is not infatuated with that pleasure.
“And further, the monk notices this:
‘When I live according to my pleasure, unskillful dhammas increase in me & skillful dhammas decline.
When I exert myself with stress & pain, though, unskillful dhammas decline in me & skillful dhammas increase.
Why don’t I exert myself with stress & pain?
’ So he exerts himself with stress & pain, and while he is exerting himself with stress & pain, unskillful dhammas decline in him, & skillful dhammas increase.
Then at a later time he would no longer exert himself with stress & pain.
Why is that?
Because he has attained the goal for which he was exerting himself with stress & pain.
That is why, at a later time, he would no longer exert himself with stress & pain.
“Suppose a fletcher were to heat & warm an arrow shaft between two flames, making it straight & pliable.
Then at a later time he would no longer heat & warm the shaft between two flames, making it straight & pliable.
Why is that?
Because he has attained the goal for which he was heating & warming the shaft.
That is why at a later time he would no longer heat & warm the shaft between two flames, making it straight & pliable.
“In the same way, the monk notices this:
‘When I live according to my pleasure, unskillful dhammas increase in me & skillful dhammas decline.
When I exert myself with stress & pain, though, unskillful dhammas decline in me & skillful dhammas increase.
Why don’t I exert myself with stress & pain?
’ So he exerts himself with stress & pain, and while he is exerting himself with stress & pain, unskillful dhammas decline in him, & skillful dhammas increase.
Then at a later time he would no longer exert himself with stress & pain.
Why is that?
Because he has attained the goal for which he was exerting himself with stress & pain.
That is why, at a later time, he would no longer exert himself with stress & pain.
“This is how striving is fruitful, how exertion is fruitful.
” — MN 101
§ 22. “When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught.
So he feels two pains, physical & mental.
Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows, in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught.
So he feels two pains, physical & mental.
“As he is touched by that painful feeling, he is resistant.
Any resistance-obsession with regard to that painful feeling obsesses him.
Touched by that painful feeling, he delights in sensuality.
Why is that?
Because the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person does not discern any escape from painful feeling aside from sensuality.
As he is delighting in sensuality, any passion-obsession with regard to that feeling of pleasure obsesses him.
He does not discern, as it has come to be, the origination, passing away, allure, drawback, or escape from that feeling.
As he does not discern the origination, passing away, allure, drawback, or escape from that feeling, then any ignorance-obsession with regard to that feeling of neither-pleasure-nor-pain obsesses him.
“Sensing a feeling of pleasure, he senses it as though joined with it.
Sensing a feeling of pain, he senses it as though joined with it.
Sensing a feeling of neither-pleasure-nor-pain, he senses it as though joined with it.
This is called an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person joined with birth, aging, & death;
with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs.
He is joined, I tell you, with suffering & stress.
“Now, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones, when touched with a feeling of pain, does not sorrow, grieve, or lament, does not beat his breast or become distraught.
So he feels one pain:
physical, but not mental.
Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, did not shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pain of only one arrow, in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones does not sorrow, grieve, or lament, does not beat his breast or become distraught.
He feels one pain:
physical, but not mental.
“As he is touched by that painful feeling, he is not resistant.
No resistance-obsession with regard to that painful feeling obsesses him.
Touched by that painful feeling, he does not delight in sensuality.
Why is that?
Because the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns an escape from painful feeling aside from sensuality.
As he is not delighting in sensuality, no passion-obsession with regard to that feeling of pleasure obsesses him.
He discerns, as it has come to be, the origination, passing away, allure, drawback, and escape from that feeling.
As he discerns the origination, passing away, allure, drawback, and escape from that feeling, no ignorance-obsession with regard to that feeling of neither-pleasure-nor-pain obsesses him.
“Sensing a feeling of pleasure, he senses it disjoined from it.
Sensing a feeling of pain, he senses it disjoined from it.
Sensing a feeling of neither-pleasure-nor-pain, he senses it disjoined from it.
This is called a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones disjoined from birth, aging, & death;
from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs.
He is disjoined, I tell you, from suffering & stress.
“This is the difference, this the distinction, this the distinguishing factor between the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones and the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person.
” — SN 36.6
§ 23. Sister Dhammadinnā:
“Passion-obsession is to be abandoned with regard to pleasant feeling.
Resistance-obsession is to be abandoned with regard to painful feeling.
Ignorance-obsession is to be abandoned with regard to neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling.
Visākha:
“Is passion-obsession to be abandoned with regard to all pleasant feeling?
Is resistance-obsession to be abandoned with regard to all painful feeling?
Is ignorance-obsession to be abandoned with regard to all neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling?
Sister Dhammadinnā:
“No.
… There is the case where a monk—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas—enters & remains in the first jhāna:
rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.
With that he abandons passion.
No passion-obsession gets obsessed there.
There is the case where a monk considers, ‘O when will I enter & remain in the dimension that those who are noble now enter & remain in?
’ And as he thus nurses this yearning for the unexcelled liberations, there arises within him sorrow based on that yearning.
With that he abandons resistance.
No resistance-obsession gets obsessed there.
There is the case where a monk, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress—enters & remains in the fourth jhāna:
purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.
With that he abandons ignorance.
No ignorance-obsession gets obsessed there.
” — MN 44
§ 24. “There are four devotions to pleasure, Cunda, that are base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable, that do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, or unbinding.
Which four?
“There is the case where a certain fool finds pleasure & rapture for himself in killing living beings… there is the case where a certain person finds pleasure & rapture for himself in taking what is not given… there is the case where a certain person finds pleasure & rapture for himself in telling lies… there is the case where a certain person goes about endowed & provided with the five strings of sensuality…
“These are the four devotions to pleasure, Cunda, that are base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable, that do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, or unbinding.
“Now, it’s possible that wanderers of other sects might say, ‘The Sakyan-son contemplatives live devoted to these four devotions to pleasure.
’ They are to be told, ‘Not so!’ They would not be speaking rightly of you.
They would be slandering you with what is unfactual & untrue.
“There are four devotions to pleasure, Cunda, that lead exclusively to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, & unbinding.
Which four?
“There is the case where a monk, quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas, enters & remains in the first jhāna:
rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.
“Further, Cunda, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, the monk enters & remains in the second jhāna:
rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance.
“Further, Cunda, with the fading of rapture, the monk remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body.
He enters & remains in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.
’ …
“Further, Cunda, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress—the monk enters & remains in the fourth jhāna:
purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.
“These are the four devotions to pleasure that lead exclusively to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, & unbinding.
“Now, it’s possible, Cunda, that wanderers of other sects might say, ‘The Sakyan-son contemplatives live devoted to these four devotions to pleasure.
’ They are to be told, ‘That is so!’ They would be speaking rightly of you.
They would not be slandering you with what is unfactual & untrue.
“It’s possible that wanderers of other sects might say, ‘Living devoted to these four devotions to pleasure, friends, what fruits, what rewards can be expected?
“The wanderers of other sects saying that are to be told, ‘Living devoted to these four devotions to pleasure, friends, four fruits, four rewards can be expected.
Which four?
“‘Friends, there is the case where a monk, with the wasting away of (the first) three fetters, is a stream-enterer, certain, never again destined for the lower realms, headed for self-awakening.
This is the first fruit, the first reward.
“‘Further, friends, the monk—with the wasting away of (the first) three fetters, and with the attenuation of passion, aversion, & delusion—is a once-returner;
who, on returning only once more to this world, will make an ending to stress.
This is the second fruit, the second reward.
“‘Further, the monk—with the wasting away of the five lower fetters—is due to arise spontaneously (in the Pure Abodes), there to totally unbind, destined never again to return from that world.
This is the third fruit, the third reward.
“‘Further, the monk—with the ending of effluents—enters & remains in the effluent-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized it for himself right in the here-&-now.
“‘Living devoted to these four devotions to pleasure, friends, these four fruits, these four rewards can be expected.
’” — DN 29
§ 25. “And which is painful practice with quick intuition?
There is the case where a monk remains focused on unattractiveness with regard to the body, percipient of loathsomeness in food, percipient of distaste for every world, (and) focused on inconstancy with regard to all fabrications.
The perception of death is well established within him.
He dwells in dependence on these five strengths of one in training—strength of conviction, strength of a sense of shame, strength of a sense of compunction, strength of persistence, & strength of discernment—and these five faculties of his—the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment—appear intensely.
Because of their intensity, he attains quickly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the effluents.
This is called painful practice with quick intuition.
“And which is pleasant practice with quick intuition?
There is the case where a monk—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas—enters & remains in the first jhāna… the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna:
purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.
He dwells in dependence on these five strengths of one in training—strength of conviction, strength of a sense of shame, strength of a sense of compunction, strength of persistence, & strength of discernment—and these five faculties of his—the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment—appear intensely.
Because of their intensity, he attains quickly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the effluents.
This is called pleasant practice with quick intuition.
” — AN 4.163

0.2 - chapter two: The Arising of the Path

In the phrase, “noble eightfold path,” the Pāli word translated as “eightfold” —aṭṭhaṅgika—literally means “eight-factored,” “eight-part,” or “eight-limbed.
” The eight factors, parts, or limbs of the path are these:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
As we noted in the previous chapter, these factors all assist one another in becoming right to the point of forming a noble path.
In other words, none of them are fully noble and right until they all are.
But to reach that point, they have to help one another, even when not fully right, to approach greater rightness until they all fall into place.
It’s for this reason that when the Buddha speaks of the arising of the noble eightfold path, he does so in two senses.
In the ultimate sense, he is referring to the stage in the practice when all eight factors are fully right, leading immediately to the first noble attainment, a level of awakening called stream-entry because the mind is now ensured that it will inevitably reach full awakening, just as the water in a stream leading to the ocean will eventually arrive at the ocean.
In a preliminary sense, though, the Buddha also speaks of the arising of the noble eightfold path to refer to the very beginning stage in the practice, as you consciously start to develop the factors.
This is the sense of the word that will be discussed in this chapter.
The texts equate the holy life taught by the Buddha with the noble eightfold path, and speak of it as containing neither lack nor excess (DN 29). But the factors of the path don’t arise in a vacuum.
They require supplementary factors—both within your mind and in the way you live your life—to foster their arising.
There is no single passage in the Canon listing all these supplementary factors as a set, but they can be gathered from various passages where the Buddha describes:
• what qualities he is looking for in a student, such as truthfulness and the ability to be observant (§31);
• what internal quality necessarily underlies the arising of skillful actions in body, speech, and mind, i.
e., heedfulness (§36);
• what factors give rise to right view, the first factor of the path, i.
e., the voice of another and appropriate attention (§32);
• an exercise in reflection that, in engendering a sense of dismay and urgency (saṁvega), causes the path to arise (§38);
and
• what factors signal the arising of the path (§35).
This last set of texts appears in the Magga Saṁyutta, SN 45, a section of the Canon devoted to short suttas about the path.
Many of the supplementary factors listed in this set of texts seem to be referring to the arising of the path in its ultimate sense, because they are actually different ways of expressing the actual path-factors:
View-consummation, for instance, obviously refers to the perfection of right view;
virtue-consummation, to the perfection of right speech, right action, and right livelihood.
But other supplementary factors in this set do seem to be preliminary to the initial step of embarking on the path:
heedfulness, appropriate attention, and admirable friendship.
Eliminating redundancies in all the above lists, we can arrive at the following two lists of supplementary internal and external factors:
• Internal factors:
truthfulness, the ability to be observant, heedfulness, urgency, and appropriate attention.
• External factors:
admirable friendship and the voice of another.
Truthfulness is primarily the willingness to be truthful in reporting your conduct to your teachers and fellow practitioners, but it is paired with the ability to be truthful to yourself.
If you can’t admit your faults to yourself, you won’t be able to admit them to others.
And if you can’t admit them to others, you tend to hide them from yourself.
The ability to be observant is frequently mentioned in the texts but, surprisingly, rarely explained.
The few passages that depict its meaning in action point to the capacity to see the connections between your own actions and their results, and to detect subtle levels of suffering and stress in those results.
In this way, the ability to be observant is connected to appropriate attention, below, and through appropriate attention to right view.
Heedfulness is the ability not to remain complacent about your attainments.
As long as you see that there are still sources of suffering in the mind, you exert yourself to act in whatever way necessary to ward off the dangers to which they could lead.
Urgency (saṁvega) is a sense of chastened dismay over the pointlessness of life as it is ordinarily lived, combined with a sense of urgency to escape from this pointlessness.
Appropriate attention (yoniso manasikāra) is the habit of asking yourself the right questions.
On the transcendent level, this means asking questions in terms of the four noble truths and their duties—detecting, say, when there is clinging to a particular aggregate, and investigating how that fact can be comprehended.
In the beginning levels, though, appropriate attention means focusing on questions concerning your own actions and their results, looking for ways to reduce the harm and suffering caused by your actions, and avoiding questions that would direct your attention elsewhere.
This quality thus works hand in hand with heedfulness, in that both are based on a conviction in the efficacy of action.
Admirable friendship is a quality with a double meaning.
On the one hand, it refers to the friends you choose.
In particular, you want to look for friends who embody the principles of conviction, virtue, generosity, and discernment.
On the other hand, it refers to the quality of the friendship:
You try to emulate those qualities in yourself (§42). To aid in emulating these qualities, the Buddha recommends that when you have found a friend who embodies them, you should treat that friend with utmost respect (§43).
The voice of another is rarely mentioned in the Canon, and never explained.
As a result, many explanations for the term have been suggested over the centuries.
Primarily, it seems to mean the voice of an admirable friend teaching Dhamma, but it could also refer to the voice of a person expressing a view that is not Dhamma:
You listen to it with appropriate attention and, in detecting what’s wrong with it, you articulate for yourself what would actually be right view.
These supplementary factors support one another.
On the internal level, heedfulness and urgency give a sense of urgency to appropriate attention and to your powers of observation, and inspire you to be truthful;
truthfulness allows appropriate attention to be accurate in detecting areas of your actions that still need work;
and appropriate attention keeps heedfulness and truthfulness focused on that task at hand, while balancing the terror of urgency with a sense of confidence that there is a way out through developing skill in your actions.
Admirable friendship as an external factor also influences your internal factors.
In teaching you generosity, for instance, it helps you to overcome the stinginess that, as §34 notes, can get in the way of right concentration and the higher attainments.
In teaching you discernment, it encourages appropriate attention and heedfulness.
The internal factors also play a role in making the external factors possible.
Truthfulness is what allows you to detect a person of integrity who could act as an admirable friend (§44), and it—together with the ability to be observant—is what would inspire an admirable friend to develop a friendship with you.
Even the Buddha, as an admirable friend, did not want to take on a student who lacked these two qualities.
As these supplementary factors develop, they not only provide the conditions to support the path, but some of them actually develop into path-factors.
Appropriate attention and the ability to be observant develop into right view;
the ability to be observant combined with truthfulness develops into alertness, one of the sub-factors of right mindfulness;
truthfulness develops into right speech;
and heedfulness and urgency become two of the motivating factors for generating the desire to engage in right effort.
Two sets of texts from the Canon are especially helpful in showing how these supplementary factors assist one another in giving rise to the path, at the same time showing some further qualities that they engender when developed together.
The first set of texts consists of those in which the Buddha tells of his own quest for awakening, when he was still a Bodhisatta—a Buddha-to-be.
The second set consists of two connected lines of instructions that the Buddha gave to his son, Rāhula, when the latter was still a young child.
The Buddha’s autobiography.
In telling his own story (§§26–30), the Buddha was not motivated by the desire, common at present, to simply tell “what it felt like to be me.
” He gives very few details of his personal life, mentioning his luxurious and refined upbringing simply to prove that when he talks of the drawbacks of sensual pleasures, he’s talking from experience.
Aside from that detail, he recounts only the events and decisions of universal import.
He tells his story as a way of teaching Dhamma that others can apply in their own lives, regardless of race, gender, or cultural or economic background.
And the lessons in Dhamma begin with the role that many of the supplementary factors for the path played in his own search for awakening.
His original impulse to seek awakening was inspired by a sense of heedfulness, realizing that he had been complacent in his search for happiness, and that a life devoted to the pursuit of things subject to aging, illness, and death was a life wasted.
Later, in reflecting on this realization, he compared the arising of heedfulness to the act of sobering up from an intoxication.
Heedfulness grew to urgency when he reflected on the pointless conflict of life around him.
In this way, his movement from heedfulness to urgency parallels the contemplation in §38, where contemplating one’s own mortality gives rise to heedfulness, and contemplating the universality of mortality gives rise to the terror of urgency.
This sense of urgency was followed by a quality that is not given a name in the Buddha’s autobiographical accounts, but which other suttas call confidence (pasāda):
the uplifting belief that it is possible, through developing skillfulness, to find a way to the deathless.
The way consisted of applying his powers of observation to his actions, posing questions in terms of appropriate attention, and in being truthful in answering those questions.
This quality of truthfulness was particularly dramatic in his decision to abandon his austerities.
Even though he had devoted six years to those austerities, enduring extreme hardship, he did not allow his pride to obscure the fact that that path had been a mistake.
At the same time, he was able to use the questions of appropriate attention to understand where exactly the austerities were unskillful.
As we learn from reading §30 together with SN 42.12, he realized that the problem lay, not in the pain, but in the fact that he had pursued his punishing course to the extent of weakening his body beyond the point where his mind could enter right concentration.
In this way, the Buddha’s autobiographical accounts are an excellent lesson in the power of action, and in how to put his later teachings on action to good use.
He frames his search for the deathless as a search for what is skillful.
In other words, the very nature of an act of search means that one is convinced of the power of action, and wants to find which actions will help the search succeed.
At every step where the Bodhisatta entered a new phase of his search, the impulse to change came from asking himself, in effect, “I am not getting the results I want.
Why am I doing this?
What if I tried doing that instead?
” In some cases, “that” turned out to be a mistake—spectacularly in the case of his austerities.
But he never lost his confidence that a skillful way could be found—a lesson that applies to all who follow in his footsteps.
Another lesson that can be drawn from the Bodhisatta’s story is the way he uses the supplementary factors leading to the path so that they reinforce one another.
His heedfulness and sense of urgency motivate the truthfulness with which he observes his actions, applying the questions of appropriate attention, which sharpen his heedfulness and force him to be ever more truthful.
In fact, these factors become so mutually supportive that they begin to blend into one another and form a seamless whole.
The one supplementary factor missing in the Bodhisatta’s story is that of admirable friendship.
In fact, the story shows the drawbacks of not being able to find admirable friends, and of living with people who know nothing of the goal or how to reach it.
His two teachers were complacent in teaching no further than the formless concentration attainments.
The five brethren who attended to the Bodhisatta during his austerities encouraged him in that direction and abandoned him with disgust right at the point where he actually got on the path.
The Bodhisatta was able to compensate for this lack of admirable friendship by being exactingly truthful in observing his actions, and by developing two strong forms of heedfulness:
discontent with skillful actions—i.
e., an unwillingness to rest content with anything but the deathless;
and the determination to reduce his body to nothing but skin, tendons, and bones if he had not reached the highest goal attainable through human striving (§26). In this way, he discovered the middle way through a level of heedfulness that was anything but moderate.
And even though the Buddha later recommended that his followers develop the same degree of heedfulness and determination, their path is considerably lightened by the fact that he survived his search, and succeeded, so that he could act as an admirable friend to give confidence and guidance to all who embark on the noble search in his wake.
The instructions to Rāhula.
The role of admirable friendship in promoting the supplementary factors of the path is well illustrated in the Buddha’s instructions to his son when—according to the Commentary—the latter was only seven years old (§45). Of the various supplementary factors we have been discussing, only saṁvega doesn’t enter into the discussion, perhaps because it would have been inappropriate for a child of Rāhula’s age, or perhaps because of Rāhula’s personality in general.
The Vinaya (Mv.
I.54) tells us that one of the reasons Rāhula ordained as a young novice was that he liked being near his father.
The instructions in §45 show how the Buddha made use of this emotional connection to spur Rāhula on the path.
In §45, the Buddha’s most obvious role as admirable friend is as instructor, telling Rāhula how to develop the supplementary factors in practice.
In essence, he is showing Rāhula how to develop the qualities that he elsewhere (§31) said he looked for in a student:
truthfulness and powers of observation.
The Buddha’s instructions fall into two lines of questioning.
The first focuses on the issue of truthfulness, making the point that one’s quality as a contemplative devoted to the training of the mind depends on being truthful, feeling a sense of shame at the idea of telling a lie, and as a result not telling a lie even in jest.
This quality of truthfulness then provides the foundation for the second line of questions, which show how to develop one’s powers of observation.
Rāhula will have to be truthful to himself in observing his actions—and particularly his mistakes—and truthful to his teacher or another fellow contemplative in asking for counsel when he observes that he has committed a mistake in word or deed.
The Buddha recommends to Rāhula that he sharpen his powers of observation by applying appropriate attention to his actions, beginning with the stage when he is intending to act, then while he is acting, and finally when the action is done.
This examination applies to actions in body, speech, and mind.
The Buddha recommends heedfulness by warning Rāhula that if, at the stage of intention, he sees that an action would harm himself or others, such an action should absolutely not be done;
if, at the stage of performing the act, he sees that it is actually causing harm, he should stop then and there;
and if, after the act is done, he sees that it actually caused harm, then if it was an act in word or deed, he should confess it to his teacher or to a fellow contemplative.
If it was an act in thought, he should simply develop a sense of shame around the act.
In both cases, he should then resolve to exercise restraint in the future—i.
e., not to repeat the mistake.
However, if, after reflecting on his action, he saw that it caused no harm, he should take joy in the fact—to sustain his confidence both in himself and in the path—and be heedful to continue training in skillful actions, day and night.
The element of joy here is important, because it’s what healthy shame and honor are for:
to encourage you to taste the benefits of skillful actions.
When you’ve tasted this joy for yourself, the standards of the wise become your own.
The reference to a wise friend to whom Rāhula can confess his misdeeds—and possibly ask for advice on how not to repeat them—shows the second role of an admirable friend in developing these supplementary qualities:
someone you trust not to condemn you for your mistakes, but to give wise recommendations instead.
As for the primary elements in admirable friendship—an admirable person worth emulating on the one hand, and the desire to emulate him/her on the other—§45 doesn’t portray the Buddha in terms of all the qualities to look for in an admirable friend, but it does show him exemplifying one of them:
his discernment.
He illustrates his points with vivid similes appropriate to Rāhula’s age, and he manages to impart, in a few brief instructions on how to learn from one’s mistakes, several important Dhamma lessons:
• To begin with, by telling Rāhula to gauge his actions by his intentions, the Buddha is teaching Rāhula a point that he makes elsewhere, that the action lies in the intention (§57). In other words, both skillful actions and unskillful actions are rooted in the mind, rather than in outside conditions.
You are responsible for what you choose to do.
Even if you try to act without care for the consequences, that doesn’t escape the fact that you intended to act, and the actual consequences of the act will be influenced by the mind-state underlying the intention.
Unskillful actions are rooted in greed, aversion, or delusion;
skillful actions, in intentions free of those three states of mind (§130).
• By telling Rāhula to gauge his actions not only by his intentions but also by their results, he is making the point that mere well-meaning intentions are not enough to be skillful.
Skillfulness requires that they also have to be based on lack of delusion as to their consequences.
• By telling Rāhula to judge the results of his actions both while he is doing them and after they are done, he is preparing Rāhula to grasp the basic principle of causality that lies at the basis of fabrication, which states in essence that experience is comprised of a complex interaction of the results of past actions combined with present actions and their results.
(See the discussion of this point in the next chapter.
)
• At the same time, the Buddha teaches Rāhula the three qualities that are essential to right mindfulness:
mindfulness in keeping in mind at all times the appropriate questions to ask about his actions;
alertness in examining his intentions and the results of his actions;
and ardency in the desire to keep training day and night in skillful qualities in body, speech, and mind.
The Buddha’s skill and discernment as a teacher is displayed in the way he can convey all these lessons in the way he frames a few brief questions to his son.
As for the motivation to emulate an admirable friend, the Buddha’s instructions to Rāhula highlight an emotion that is poorly understood and rarely appreciated at present:
the emotion of shame.
This is not the debilitating shame that’s the opposite of self-esteem.
Instead, it’s the healthy shame that’s the opposite of shamelessness and accompanies a high sense of personal honor.
It’s healthy in that it spurs you to act in a skillful way, and to find joy in being skillful.
In this way, the shame the Buddha recommends is a corollary of high rather than low self-esteem.
It’s a mark of honor in the best sense of the word.
Honor is, in essence, the sense that one is worthy of respect.
Like shame, it begins with the desire to look good in the eyes of others.
Now, the Buddha had shown by example that the esteem of others, in general, was nothing to be trusted.
In his own search for awakening, he didn’t let himself get waylaid by the praise of his teachers or the criticism of the five brethren.
After all, he was following a code of honor different from theirs:
He was engaged in the noble search (§17), whose standards were more stringent in aiming at nothing less than the deathless.
After his awakening, though, he realized that the problem with honor lay, not with wanting to look good in the eyes of others, but with wanting to look good in the eyes of the wrong people.
A desire for the esteem of unprincipled people can lead you astray, but a desire for the esteem of those who are wise—admirable friends who are engaged in the noble search or have reached its goal—can be a spur to act wisely yourself.
After all, without the Buddha as a noble friend, none of his disciples would have known of the path.
And, in teaching them the path, the Buddha was training them to become admirable friends as well.
In this way, admirable friendship is what keeps the path alive.
This explains why the Buddha often recommended, as a useful motivation along the path, the desire to look good in the eyes of the noble ones.
In §61, the famous Kālāma Sutta, he recommends judging actions as to whether they are praised or criticized by the wise.
In §217, he tells monks that if they are thinking thoughts of sensuality, ill will, or harmfulness—wrong resolves—they should remember that in the world there are human beings and devas who can read minds, and that such beings would look down on them for thinking those thoughts.
This should then spur them to abandon what is unskillful and bring their minds to concentration.
In §216, he makes reference to a custom mentioned often in the Vinaya (see Pārājika 4):
When a monk was on his deathbed, his fellow monks would ask him if he had attained any superior human state—the jhānas or the noble attainments—and, if so, to set his mind on that state.
The reflection in §216 is meant to provoke a sense of honor and shame as a spur to practice in preparation for this event:
“Do I have any such attainment so that I won’t be abashed when asked at that point?
” In all these passages, the Buddha recommends developing a desire to look good in the eyes of the wise to foster a sense of shame and honor that will incite the heedfulness needed to make further progress on the path.
In the instructions to Rāhula, the Buddha mentions shame explicitly in two contexts:
Rāhula should develop shame at the thought of telling a deliberate lie, and he should develop shame around any unskillful mental actions in which he has engaged.
But the issue of honor and shame is also implicit in the analogies the Buddha uses to illustrate his points.
This is most obvious in the image of looking in a mirror:
People look into mirrors to see how they appear in the eyes of others.
In this case, the Buddha tells Rāhula to look at his actions in the same way.
In other words, Rāhula should be concerned, not with how his face appears to others, but with how his actions look to the wise, for that is how the wise will judge him:
by the extent to which, in his thoughts, words, and deeds, he tries to avoid afflicting others as well as himself.
The image of the empty dipper expands on this point.
If Rāhula tells a deliberate lie with no sense of shame, this is how he looks to the wise:
empty, hollow, with his goodness thrown away.
Even the image of the elephant is a lesson in honor—in the Buddha’s sense of the word.
At first glance, it might seem that the elephant who doesn’t protect his trunk and has given his life to the king would be a positive image.
After all, that’s what a king would want in an elephant, and it exemplifies the kind of behavior that’s often viewed as honorable in warrior cultures.
But the Buddha actually presents the image in a negative light:
The elephant’s willingness to risk its trunk is a sign of its servility to the king.
In this way, the Buddha is telling Rāhula that being heedful to protect his truthfulness—in the same way that the other elephant protects his trunk—is a point of genuine honor:
a sign that he is a servant to no one, neither to anyone outside nor to defilements inside.
This inversion of the old military sense of honor is echoed in the Buddha’s comment (§185) that better than victory in battle over a thousand-thousand men is victory over one person:
yourself.
It is also echoed in the story of Sakka’s gaining victory over Vepacitti by recommending restraint, rather than the use of force, in dealing with a fool (§186).
By prefacing his remarks on shame and honor with the principle of truthfulness, the Buddha is heading off a potential conflict between the two ideals.
There might have been the danger, if Rāhula hoped to look good in the eyes of the wise, that he would not want them to see his mistakes.
But given the importance of truthfulness, the Buddha is making the point that making a mistake is less shameful than making a mistake and then trying to hide it.
The honorable course—and the course that leads to progress on the path—is to be open about your mistakes, both to others and to yourself.
That’s how you can learn.
At the same time, the Buddha shows Rāhula that the purpose of telling the wise about his mistakes was not simply to hear their judgment of what he had done wrong, but also to get their advice on how to get it right the next time around.
This means that the wise are to be known not only by the standards by which they judge your actions, but also by their motivation for judging them:
to help you become more skillful in the future.
This is how they express their genuine goodwill:
not in trying to make you feel good about your errors, but in helping you learn how not to repeat them.
That way, you’ll be able to taste the joy that comes with knowing that your actions are harmless—a joy that goes deeper than mere self-acceptance, and that allows your integrity to become more self-reliant.
Your need to look good in the eyes of the wise lessens as your own eyes become more and more wise.
As we will see when we discuss the factors of the noble eightfold path in detail, the standards by which the wise judge your actions relate to right view, and their purpose in judging relates to right resolve.
As you internalize their values, you develop in these two path-factors as well.
The Buddha’s instructions in training Rāhula to be the kind of student he wanted eventually bore fruit:
Instead of taking pride in the fact that he was the Buddha’s son, Rāhula showed a willingness to learn from all the monks.
And after he gained awakening, the Buddha extolled him for being foremost among the monks in his desire for training.
Of course, Rāhula at that point had no need for the Buddha’s praise, as he had already found a deathless happiness that was beyond the reach of other people’s respect.
Instead, the Buddha was praising Rāhula for the sake of posterity, to show that shame and honor can be useful tools on the path.
So in the Buddha’s first instructions to Rāhula, we see how admirable friendship as an external factor fosters the internal factors needed both for getting onto the path and for staying there all the way to the end.
These instructions are also distinctive in highlighting the uses of a healthy sense of shame and honor:
qualities that not only serve as supplementary factors in getting onto the path, but also help to internalize the factors of right view and right resolve.
And as we will see in Chapter 8, they are useful attitudes for generating the desire needed to engage in right effort.
In this way, they function as part of the cluster of interacting qualities that give rise to the path and nurture its continuing development.
The path-factors & their relationships.
Once these supplementary factors reach sufficient strength, they give rise to the proper factors of the path.
As noted above, in some cases the supplementary factors blend into the path-factors themselves as, for example, appropriate attention becomes right view, heedfulness, shame, and urgency become part of right effort, and powers of observation become alertness under right mindfulness.
At the same time, the dynamic among the supplementary factors—in which they are mutually reinforcing to the point of shading into one another—repeats among the path-factors themselves.
This point is not apparent from the standard exposition of the path-factors, which simply lists them, one through eight, or in the suttas setting forth a simple linear progression among the arising of the factors, with right view leading to right resolve, right resolve to right speech, and so on down the line to right concentration (§47). However, there are many other suttas that, in the course of discussing the path-factors, either show alternative relationships among them or raise questions that the standard linear exposition can’t explain.
Four issues, in particular, stand out:
1) Some suttas show that many of the factors, instead of leading directly to awakening, can lead simply to a good rebirth.
Thus, instead of acting as transcendent kamma—neither bright nor dark, in the terms of §58—they function as bright kamma:
leading to happiness on the mundane level in this life and the next.
One prominent instance is the standard description of the Buddha’s second knowledge on the night of his awakening, where he sees beings who act on right view gaining rebirth in good destinations (§30), rather than being unbound.
Another passage is §309, which describes a person who has developed a peaceful awareness release, equivalent to right concentration, but doesn’t have enough right effort or right view to work further to end the ignorance that underlies all suffering.
A simple, linear understanding of the path-factors, in which one factor automatically leads to the succeeding factors, can’t explain passages like these.
2) Similarly, there are other explanations of the path in which the factors occur in a different order.
Prominent among these are the Dhamma talks that the Buddha gave on the triple training in the last year of his life (§51), in which he states that concentration fostered with virtue has great fruit and great rewards, as does discernment fostered with concentration.
This puts the factors in this order:
virtue (right speech, right action, and right livelihood), concentration (right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration), and discernment (right view and right resolve) (§50).
This divergence from the list of factors in the standard description of the noble eightfold path, where right view and right resolve come first, can be explained by passages that insist on a mutually reinforcing relationship among the factors, saying, for example, that jhāna needs discernment just as discernment needs jhāna (§53), or that discernment and virtue need each other in order to be purified (§52). In other words, all the factors start out weak, but support one another until they all reach enough strength to lead to awakening.
This is an explanation that the Buddha himself suggests by the image of the rafters of a roof being unstable until they are firmly connected by the ridge beam of discernment (SN 48.52). This explanation makes perfect practical sense, but no strict linear understanding of the factors could provide it.
3) There is also the question of how, if the factors have to arise in linear order, a person could gain awakening on listening to a Dhamma talk.
There would be no opportunity for such a person to practice right speech or right livelihood, and not enough time to master right concentration, if none of these factors could exist without the right view that he or she gained on listening to the talk.
4) Finally, there is the question raised by §319, which states that the noble eightfold path is identical to the stream of stream-entry, which is the first level of awakening.
If this is the case, then how does a stream-enterer’s path differ from that of a person who reaches full awakening as an arahant?
An explanation that limits the path-factors to eight cannot answer this question.
MN 117 (§48) provides an alternative explanation of the path-factors, however, that addresses many of these issues, giving some sense of the complexity of the relationships among the factors of the path.
In fact, the picture it presents is so complex that it’s easy to understand why the Buddha presented the factors more frequently in simple linear order.
The simpler exposition is easier to memorize and understand;
the more complex exposition then builds on the simpler exposition to present a more nuanced portrait of the practice.
Even then, though, the picture provided by MN 117 is incomplete, in that it sketches an outline that it doesn’t completely fill in.
Still, it provides enough information to give a more practical sense of what the path involves, at the same time offering some resolution to the above four questions.
1) To address the issue of the mundane and transcendent results of the path-factors, it divides each of the first five factors into two versions:
mundane on the one hand, and noble and transcendent on the other.
In the case of right resolve, right speech, right action, and right livelihood, the definition of the mundane factor is identical with the definition of that factor in the standard list (§46). At the same time, only right resolve among these factors is given a transcendent/noble version that differs appreciably from its standard definition, a point that we will discuss under question (2), below.
For the other factors, the transcendent/noble version simply states that once the path as a whole becomes transcendent, these factors become transcendent as well.
In the case of right view, though, the standard definition becomes the transcendent/noble level of right view, whereas the mundane level of right view consists of right view about kamma and rebirth.
This way of recasting the factors helps to explain why the path-factors lead to mundane results in some instances, and to transcendent results in others.
The deciding factor in this difference is right view.
If concentration, for instance, is developed under the influence of mundane right view, the results will be mundane;
if under the influence of transcendent right view, the results will be transcendent.
This point is not explicitly made in MN 117, which simply defines noble right concentration as any singleness of mind equipped with the seven other factors of the path.
This definition suggests, but does not state outright, that right concentration will be mundane if the other factors are mundane, and transcendent if they are transcendent.
This suggestion is made somewhat more explicit by the Canon’s only other reference to noble right concentration, in AN 5.28 (§296). That sutta’s explanation of noble right concentration gives it a fifth factor in addition to the four jhānas, illustrating the fifth factor with a simile indicating that it involves backing away slightly from the concentration and observing it.
AN 9.36 (§312) fleshes out the meaning of this simile by showing that the process of observation has to involve appropriate attention.
In other words, you apply right view to comprehend the component factors of the concentration.
AN 5.28 then concludes that when this process is mastered, concentration will lead to release.
This means that if the terms of appropriate attention in that fifth factor deal in transcendent right view, the concentration will have a transcendent result.
2) To address the issue of the interrelationship among the factors, MN 117 makes two points.
(a) Each right factor depends on a combination of three other factors “circling around” it:
right view, right mindfulness, and right effort.
Right view knows the right and wrong versions of the factor;
right mindfulness—in contrast to the popular understanding of mindfulness as non-reactive acceptance—remembers to abandon the wrong version of the factor and to develop the right;
and right effort actually does the work of doing what right mindfulness reminds it to do.
In this way, every factor contains a cluster of other factors helping it along, and the image of “circling” suggests a feedback loop, in which the work of right effort helps to develop right view and raise it to a higher level.
(b) The transcendent version of right resolve is defined in such a way as to equate it with the first jhāna:
For instance, the “verbal fabrications” listed in the definition are the factors of directed thought and evaluation present in the first jhāna.
This interpretation is seconded by §164, which states that the first jhāna is where unskillful resolves cease without trace;
and that the second jhāna, in which directed thought and evaluation are stilled, brings about the cessation of even skillful resolves.
In this way, right resolve, which is one of the discernment factors, becomes part of right concentration, and vice versa.
Their mutual support becomes so thoroughgoing that the line between them gets erased.
So these are two of the ways in which MN 117 portrays the interrelationships among the factors of the path to indicate that they need one another to develop fully.
3) The distinction between mundane and transcendent factors of the path also provides an explanation for why a person can gain awakening by listening to a Dhamma talk, for they show that it’s possible for people to have developed a mundane version of all the factors while lacking simply the transcendent versions of the discernment factors.
Once these people learn transcendent right view, their minds will enter the first jhāna and—because the other factors have all been developed—reach awakening.
4) MN 117 goes on to state that, whereas the path of the stream-enterer has eight factors, the path of the arahant has ten:
The two additional factors are right knowledge and right release.
Unfortunately, the sutta doesn’t define those two added factors, and the testimony from the rest of the Canon on these factors is sketchy.
Perhaps the Buddha felt that once stream-entry was attained, the disciple would now know the path and be able to develop it for him- or herself in a way that produces the remaining two factors, as he suggests at the end of MN 117.
So MN 117 provides answers for many of the questions that other suttas in the Canon raise about the standard exposition of the path.
Still, there are some areas where its explanations need further fleshing out, and a few important points about the path, as reported in other suttas, that it doesn’t touch on at all.
• Although it clearly defines the wrong version of each of the first five factors of the path, it doesn’t provide definitions of the wrong versions of the remaining three.
• Even though it provides an explanation of the reciprocal relationship among the factors, it only suggests that right view has something to learn from the other factors, without clearly stating that this is so.
In fact, in line with the standard linear description of the path, it keeps repeating the point that right view comes first.
This means that MN 117 doesn’t fully make room for other versions of the practice—as outlined, for example, in the triple training or the five faculties—where discernment comes after all the other factors of the path.
• Although it clearly defines the mundane and transcendent/noble versions of right view and right resolve, it doesn’t show the dynamic of how the mundane level leads to the transcendent level of each factor.
• At the same time, it doesn’t provide an explanation for the handful of sutta passages indicating a level of right view that goes beyond transcendent right view on the verge of awakening when—given that even transcendent right view is fabricated—the mind executes a turn where it lets go of right view and all the other factors of the path to reach the unfabricated.
Of course, it’s too much to expect any one sutta to provide a complete picture of the path.
This is partly because there is only so much that can be said about the path, and far more that can be learned only by putting the path into practice.
Even what can be said is far too extensive for any one sutta to cover it all.
As the Buddha said in MN 12, even if he were questioned for 100 years just on the topic of right mindfulness, he wouldn’t come to the end of the topic—and that’s only one factor out of eight.
Still, there are other passages in the Canon—both in the suttas and in the Vinaya, or disciplinary rules—that help to explain the above four points, providing a detailed overview of the path that will provide added help in practice.
It’s for these reasons that I have gathered these extra passages in this book.
The following chapters will cover each path-factor in turn, followed by a chapter on the fruits of the path.
Each chapter dealing with the path-factors will include passages from the Canon that not only flesh out the definition of the path-factor, but also:
—define the wrong version of the factor, where such passages exist;
—show what that factor has to learn from the other factors—and in particular, from right view—and how putting the factor into practice gives lessons to the other factors, including right view, helping them to advance to the transcendent level and beyond;
and
—show what happens to the factor as the path approaches the point where it is so fully developed that it has to be abandoned in favor of the unfabricated.
In addition, for the factors of right view and right resolve, I will also include passages indicating how to reflect and behave in such a way as to progress from their mundane to their transcendent levels, and then from the transcendent levels to the stage where they are so fully developed that they can be abandoned as a last step in reaching the goal.
To provide a framework for understanding the passages, each chapter will begin with a discussion of the major themes surrounding the topic of the chapter.
These discussions will also provide recommendations for how to read and understand some of the more obscure Canonical passages included there.
Although these introductory discussions will focus primarily on the passages in the chapters they preface, they will also draw on passages from other chapters, as a way of showing how the different path-factors are interrelated.
In discussing the interrelationships among the path-factors, the emphasis will be on the role of fabrication.
On the one hand, this means pointing out the lessons that each factor receives about fabrication from right view.
On the other, it means pointing out the practical lessons on the process of fabrication that the development of each factor offers to all the other factors—and in particular to right view, helping it to develop through all of its three levels:
mundane, transcendent, and beyond.
This emphasis on fabrication as a key to the interconnected arising of the eight factors serves two purposes.
One, in terms of interconnection, it shows how, in trying to skillfully fabricate a particular factor, you don’t have to look at only the preceding factors on the path for help.
Lessons can come from any direction, whether earlier or later in the standard description of the path.
Two, in terms of fabrication, the complex interrelationships among the factors illustrate the complex causal pattern that the Buddha says underlies all action, both on the external and internal levels.
Although some people have complained about the complexity of the pattern, the act of trying to develop the path is where an understanding of the pattern shows its real utility.
It’s because of the complexity of action that the path can arise and be developed in the first place;
and it’s also because of the complexity of action that a fabricated path can become a noble path, by coming together in a fully developed form that leads to a noble, unfabricated goal.
Readings
The Discovery of the Path
§ 26. “Monks, I have known two dhammas through experience:
discontent with regard to skillful dhammas and unrelenting exertion.
Relentlessly I exerted myself, (thinking,) ‘Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.
’ From this heedfulness of mine was attained awakening.
From this heedfulness of mine was attained the unexcelled freedom from bondage.
” — AN 2.5
§ 27. “Monks, I lived in refinement, utmost refinement, total refinement.
My father even had lotus ponds made in our palace:
one where red-lotuses bloomed, one where white lotuses bloomed, one where blue lotuses bloomed, all for my sake.
I used no sandalwood that was not from Vārāṇasī.
My turban was from Vārāṇasī, as were my tunic, my lower garments, & my outer cloak.
A white sunshade was held over me day & night to protect me from cold, heat, dust, dirt, & dew.
“I had three palaces:
one for the cold season, one for the hot season, one for the rainy season.
During the four months of the rainy season I was entertained in the rainy-season palace by minstrels without a single man among them, and I did not once come down from the palace.
Whereas the servants, workers, & retainers in other people’s homes are fed meals of lentil soup & broken rice, in my father’s home the servants, workers, & retainers were fed wheat, rice, & meat.
“Even though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me:
‘When an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to aging, not beyond aging, sees another who is aged, he is repelled, ashamed, & disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to aging, not beyond aging.
If I—who am subject to aging, not beyond aging—were to be repelled, ashamed, & disgusted on seeing another person who is aged, that would not be fitting for me.
’ As I noticed this, the (typical) young person’s intoxication with youth entirely dropped away.
“Even though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me:
‘When an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to illness, not beyond illness, sees another who is ill, he is repelled, ashamed, & disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to illness, not beyond illness.
And if I—who am subject to illness, not beyond illness—were to be repelled, ashamed, & disgusted on seeing another person who is ill, that would not be fitting for me.
’ As I noticed this, the healthy person’s intoxication with health entirely dropped away.
“Even though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me:
‘When an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to death, not beyond death, sees another who is dead, he is repelled, ashamed, & disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to death, not beyond death.
And if I—who am subject to death, not beyond death—were to be repelled, ashamed, & disgusted on seeing another person who is dead, that would not be fitting for me.
’ As I noticed this, the living person’s intoxication with life entirely dropped away.
” — AN 3.39
§ 28. Look at people in strife.
I will tell how
I experienced
terror:
Seeing people floundering
like fish in small puddles,
competing with one another—
as I saw this,
fear came into me.
The world was entirely
without substance.
All the directions
were knocked out of line.
Wanting a haven for myself,
I saw nothing that wasn’t laid claim to.
Seeing nothing in the end
but competition,
I felt discontent.
— Sn 4:
15
§ 29. “I, too, monks, before my self-awakening, when I was still just an unawakened Bodhisatta, being subject myself to birth, sought what was likewise subject to birth.
Being subject myself to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, sought (happiness in) what was likewise subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement.
The thought occurred to me, ‘Why do I, being subject myself to birth, seek what is likewise subject to birth?
Being subject myself to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, why do I seek what is likewise subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement?
What if I, being subject myself to birth, seeing the drawbacks of birth, were to seek the unborn, unexcelled rest from the yoke:
unbinding?
What if I, being subject myself to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, seeing the drawbacks of aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, were to seek the aging-less, illness-less, deathless, sorrow-less, unexcelled rest from the yoke:
unbinding?
“So, at a later time, while still young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessings of youth in the first stage of life—and while my parents, unwilling, were crying with tears streaming down their faces—I shaved off my hair & beard, put on the ochre robe, and went forth from the home life into homelessness.
“Having thus gone forth in search of what might be skillful, seeking the unexcelled state of sublime peace, I went to Āḷāra Kālāma and, on arrival, said to him:
‘Friend Kālāma, I want to practice in this Dhamma & discipline.
“When this was said, he replied to me, ‘You may stay here, my friend.
This Dhamma is such that an observant person can soon enter & dwell in his own teacher’s knowledge, having realized it for himself through direct knowledge.
“It was not long before I quickly learned that Dhamma.
As far as mere lip-reciting & repetition, I could speak the words of knowledge, the words of the elders, and I could affirm that I knew & saw—I, along with others.
“I thought:
‘It isn’t through mere conviction alone that Āḷāra Kālāma declares, “I have entered & dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge.
” Certainly he dwells knowing & seeing this Dhamma.
’ So I went to him and said, ‘To what extent do you declare that you have entered & dwell in this Dhamma?
’ When this was said, he declared the dimension of nothingness.
“I thought:
‘Not only does Āḷāra Kālāma have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, & discernment.
I, too, have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, & discernment.
What if I were to endeavor to realize for myself the Dhamma that Āḷāra Kālāma declares he has entered & dwells in, having realized it for himself through direct knowledge.
’ So it was not long before I quickly entered & dwelled in that Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge.
I went to him and said, ‘Friend Kālāma, is this the extent to which you have entered & dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for yourself through direct knowledge?
“‘Yes, my friend.
…’
“‘This, friend, is the extent to which I, too, have entered & dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge.
“‘It is a gain for us, my friend, a great gain for us, that we have such a companion in the holy life.
So the Dhamma I declare I have entered & dwell in, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge, is the Dhamma you declare you have entered & dwell in, having realized it for yourself through direct knowledge.
And the Dhamma you declare you have entered & dwell in, having realized it for yourself through direct knowledge, is the Dhamma I declare I have entered & dwell in, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge.
The Dhamma I know is the Dhamma you know;
the Dhamma you know is the Dhamma I know.
As I am, so are you;
as you are, so am I.
Come friend, let us now lead this community together.
“In this way did Āḷāra Kālāma, my teacher, place me, his pupil, on the same level with himself and pay me great honor.
But the thought occurred to me, ‘This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, nor to unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of nothingness.
’ So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.
[The Bodhisatta then went to study with Uddaka Rāmaputta, who taught the next higher level of formless concentration:
the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.
The Bodhisatta attained that level of concentration, and Uddaka offered him the sole position as teacher.
But again, seeing that the this attainment was not the deathless, the Bodhisatta left.
] — MN 26
§ 30. “In search of what might be skillful, seeking the unexcelled state of sublime peace, I wandered by stages in the Magadhan country and came to the military town of Uruvelā.
There I saw some delightful countryside, with an inspiring forest grove, a clear-flowing river with fine, delightful banks, and villages for alms-going on all sides.
The thought occurred to me:
‘How delightful is this countryside, with its inspiring forest grove, clear-flowing river with fine, delightful banks, and villages for alms-going on all sides.
This is just right for the striving of a clansman intent on striving.
’ So I sat down right there, thinking, ‘This is just right for striving.
“Then these three similes—spontaneous, never before heard—appeared to me.
Suppose there were a wet, sappy piece of timber lying in the water, and a man were to come along with an upper fire-stick, thinking, ‘I’ll produce fire.
I’ll make heat appear.
’ Now what do you think?
Would he be able to produce fire and make heat appear by rubbing the upper fire-stick in the wet, sappy timber lying in the water?
“No, Master Gotama.
Why is that?
Because the timber is wet & sappy, and besides it is lying in the water.
Eventually the man would reap only his share of weariness & disappointment.
“So it is with any contemplative or brahman who does not live withdrawn from sensuality in body & mind, and whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, & fever for sensuality is not relinquished & stilled within him:
Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving (for awakening), he is incapable of knowledge, vision, & unexcelled self-awakening.
This was the first simile—spontaneous, never before heard—that appeared to me.
“Then a second simile—spontaneous, never before heard—appeared to me.
Suppose there were a wet, sappy piece of timber lying on land far from water, and a man were to come along with an upper fire-stick, thinking, ‘I’ll produce fire.
I’ll make heat appear.
’ Now what do you think?
Would he be able to produce fire and make heat appear by rubbing the upper fire-stick in the wet, sappy timber lying on land far from water?
“No, Master Gotama.
Why is that?
Because the timber is wet & sappy, even though it is lying on land far from water.
Eventually the man would reap only his share of weariness & disappointment.
“So it is with any contemplative or brahman who lives withdrawn from sensuality in body only, but whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, & fever for sensuality is not relinquished & stilled within him:
Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving, he is incapable of knowledge, vision, & unexcelled self-awakening.
This was the second simile—spontaneous, never before heard—that appeared to me.
“Then a third simile—spontaneous, never before heard—appeared to me.
Suppose there were a dry, sapless piece of timber lying on land far from water, and a man were to come along with an upper fire-stick, thinking, ‘I’ll produce fire.
I’ll make heat appear.
’ Now what do you think?
Would he be able to produce fire and make heat appear by rubbing the upper fire-stick in the dry, sapless timber lying on land?
“Yes, Master Gotama.
Why is that?
Because the timber is dry & sapless, and besides it is lying on land far from water.
“So it is with any contemplative or brahman who lives withdrawn from sensuality in body & mind, and whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, & fever for sensuality is relinquished & stilled within him:
Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving, he is capable of knowledge, vision, & unexcelled self-awakening.
This was the third simile—spontaneous, never before heard—that appeared to me.
“I thought:
‘What if I, clenching my teeth and pressing my tongue against the roof of my mouth, were to beat down, constrain, & crush my mind with my awareness?
’ So, clenching my teeth and pressing my tongue against the roof of my mouth, I beat down, constrained, & crushed my mind with my awareness.
Just as a strong man, seizing a weaker man by the head or the throat or the shoulders, would beat him down, constrain, & crush him, in the same way I beat down, constrained, & crushed my mind with my awareness.
As I did so, sweat poured from my armpits.
And although tireless persistence was aroused in me, and unmuddled mindfulness established, my body was aroused & uncalm because of the painful exertion.
But the painful feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.
“I thought:
‘What if I were to become absorbed in the trance of non-breathing?
’ So I stopped the in-breaths & out-breaths in my nose & mouth.
As I did so, there was a loud roaring of winds coming out my earholes, just like the loud roar of winds coming out of a smith’s bellows.
… So I stopped the in-breaths & out-breaths in my nose & mouth & ears.
As I did so, extreme forces sliced through my head, just as if a strong man were slicing my head open with a sharp sword.
… Extreme pains arose in my head, just as if a strong man were tightening a turban made of tough leather straps around my head.
… Extreme forces carved up my stomach cavity, just as if a butcher or his apprentice were to carve up the stomach cavity of an ox.
… There was an extreme burning in my body, just as if two strong men, grabbing a weaker man by the arms, were to roast & broil him over a pit of hot embers.
And although tireless persistence was aroused in me, and unmuddled mindfulness established, my body was aroused & uncalm because of the painful exertion.
But the painful feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.
“Devas, on seeing me, said, ‘Gotama the contemplative is dead.
’ Other devas said, ‘He isn’t dead, he’s dying.
’ Others said, ‘He’s neither dead nor dying, he’s an arahant, for this is the way arahants live.
“I thought:
‘What if I were to practice going altogether without food?
’ Then devas came to me and said, ‘Dear sir, please don’t practice going altogether without food.
If you go altogether without food, we’ll infuse divine nourishment in through your pores, and you will survive on that.
’ I thought, ‘If I were to claim to be completely fasting while these devas are infusing divine nourishment in through my pores, I would be lying.
’ So I dismissed them, saying, ‘Enough.
“I thought:
‘What if I were to take only a little food at a time, only a handful at a time of bean soup, lentil soup, vetch soup, or pea soup?
’ So I took only a little food at a time, only a handful at a time of bean soup, lentil soup, vetch soup, or pea soup.
My body became extremely emaciated.
Simply from my eating so little, my limbs became like the jointed segments of vine stems or bamboo stems.
… My backside became like a camel’s hoof.
… My spine stood out like a string of beads.
… My ribs jutted out like the jutting rafters of an old, run-down barn.
… The gleam of my eyes appeared to be sunk deep in my eye sockets like the gleam of water deep in a well.
… My scalp shriveled & withered like a green bitter gourd, shriveled & withered in the heat & the wind.
… The skin of my belly became so stuck to my spine that when I thought of touching my belly, I grabbed hold of my spine as well;
and when I thought of touching my spine, I grabbed hold of the skin of my belly as well.
… If I urinated or defecated, I fell over on my face right there.
… Simply from my eating so little, if I tried to ease my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair—rotted at its roots—fell from my body as I rubbed, simply from eating so little.
“People on seeing me would say, ‘Gotama the contemplative is black.
Other people would say, ‘Gotama the contemplative isn’t black, he’s brown.
’ Others would say, ‘Gotama the contemplative is neither black nor brown, he’s golden-skinned.
’ So much had the clear, bright color of my skin deteriorated, simply from eating so little.
“I thought:
‘Whatever contemplatives or brahmans in the past have felt painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost.
None have been greater than this.
Whatever contemplatives or brahmans in the future will feel painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost.
None will be greater than this.
Whatever contemplatives or brahmans in the present are feeling painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost.
None is greater than this.
But with this racking practice of austerities I haven’t attained any superior human state, any distinction in knowledge or vision worthy of the noble ones.
Could there be another path to awakening?
“I thought:
‘I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas—I entered & remained in the first jhāna:
rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.
Could that be the path to awakening?
’ Then there was the consciousness following on that memory [sat’anusari-viññāṇa]:
‘That is the path to awakening.
’ I thought:
‘So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful dhammas?
’ I thought:
‘I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful dhammas, but that pleasure is not easy to achieve with a body so extremely emaciated.
Suppose I were to take some solid food:
some rice & porridge.
’ So I took some solid food:
some rice & porridge.
Now, five monks had been attending on me, thinking, ‘If Gotama, our contemplative, achieves some higher state, he will tell us.
’ But when they saw me taking some solid food—some rice & porridge—they were disgusted and left me, thinking, ‘Gotama the contemplative is living luxuriously.
He has abandoned his exertion and is backsliding into abundance.
“So when I had taken solid food and regained strength, then—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas, I entered & remained in the first jhāna:
rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.
But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.
With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, I entered & remained in the second jhāna:
rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance.
But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.
With the fading of rapture I remained in equanimity, mindful & alert, and sensed pleasure with the body.
I entered & remained in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.
’ But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.
With the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of joy & distress—I entered & remained in the fourth jhāna:
purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.
But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.
“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past lives.
I recollected my manifold past lives, i.
e., one birth, two… five, ten… fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction & expansion:
‘There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance.
Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life.
Passing away from that state, I re-arose there.
There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance.
Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life.
Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.
’ Thus I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes & details.
“This was the first knowledge I attained in the first watch of the night.
Ignorance was destroyed;
knowledge arose;
darkness was destroyed;
light arose—as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute.
But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.
“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings.
I saw—by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human—beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma:
‘These beings—who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views—with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell.
But these beings—who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech & mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views—with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a good destinations, a heavenly world.
’ Thus—by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human—I saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.
“This was the second knowledge I attained in the second watch of the night.
Ignorance was destroyed;
knowledge arose;
darkness was destroyed;
light arose—as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute.
But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.
“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the ending of effluents.
I discerned, as it had come to be, that ‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the way leading to the cessation of stress… These are effluents… This is the origination of effluents… This is the cessation of effluents… This is the way leading to the cessation of effluents.
’ My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the effluent of sensuality, released from the effluent of becoming, released from the effluent of ignorance.
With release, there was the knowledge, ‘Released.
’ I discerned that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done.
There is nothing further for this world.
“This was the third knowledge I attained in the third watch of the night.
Ignorance was destroyed;
knowledge arose;
darkness was destroyed;
light arose—as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute.
But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.
’” — MN 36
Supplementary Factors
§ 31. “Let an observant person come—one who is not fraudulent, not deceitful, one of a straightforward nature.
I instruct him.
I teach him the Dhamma.
Practicing as instructed, he in no long time knows for himself, sees for himself:
‘So this is how there is the right liberation from bondage, i.
e., the bondage of ignorance.
’” — MN 80 [See also §45.]
§ 32. “Monks, there are these two conditions for the arising of wrong view.
Which two?
The voice of another and inappropriate attention.
These are the two conditions for the arising of wrong view.
“Monks, there are these two conditions for the arising of right view.
Which two?
The voice of another and appropriate attention.
These are the two conditions for the arising of right view.
” — AN 2.123–124
§ 33. “Monks, when right view is supported by five factors, it has awareness-release as its fruit, awareness-release as its reward;
has discernment-release as its fruit, discernment-release as its reward.
Which five?
“There is the case where right view is supported by virtue, supported by learning, supported by discussion, supported by tranquility, supported by insight.
“When supported by these five factors, right view has awareness-release as its fruit, awareness-release as its reward;
has discernment-release as its fruit, discernment-release as its reward.
” — AN 5.25
§ 34. “Without abandoning these five dhammas, one is incapable of entering & remaining in the first jhāna… the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna;
incapable of realizing the fruit of stream-entry… the fruit of once-returning… the fruit of non-returning… arahantship.
Which five?
Stinginess as to one’s monastery (lodgings)… one’s family (of supporters)… one’s gains… one’s status, and stinginess as to the Dhamma.
Without abandoning these five dhammas, one is incapable of entering & remaining in the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna;
one is incapable realizing the fruit of stream-entry… the fruit of once-returning… the fruit of non-returning… arahantship.
“With the abandoning of these five dhammas, one is capable of entering & remaining in the first jhāna… the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna;
capable of realizing the fruit of stream-entry… the fruit of once-returning… the fruit of non-returning… arahantship.
Which five?
Stinginess as to one’s monastery (lodgings)… one’s family (of supporters)… one’s gains… one’s status, and stinginess as to the Dhamma.
With the abandoning of these five dhammas, one is capable of entering & remaining in the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna;
capable realizing the fruit of stream-entry… the fruit of once-returning… the fruit of non-returning… arahantship.
” — AN 5.256–257
§ 35. “Monks, this is the forerunner, the harbinger of the rising of the sun, i.
e., dawnrise.
In the same way, this is the forerunner, the harbinger of the arising of the noble eightfold path in a monk, i.
e., admirable friendship.
It can be expected of a monk who has an admirable friend that he will develop the noble eightfold path, that he will pursue the noble eightfold path.
“Monks, this is the forerunner, the harbinger of the rising of the sun, i.
e., dawnrise.
In the same way, this is the forerunner, the harbinger of the arising of the noble eightfold path in a monk, i.
e., virtue-consummation… desire-consummation… self-consummation [according to the Commentary, this means being consummate in the training of the mind]… view-consummation… heedfulness-consummation… appropriate attention.
It can be expected of a monk who has appropriate attention that he will develop the noble eightfold path, that he will pursue the noble eightfold path.
” — SN 45.56–62
§ 36. Heedfulness.
“Just as the footprints of all legged animals are encompassed by the footprint of the elephant, and the elephant’s footprint is reckoned the foremost among them in terms of size;
in the same way, all skillful dhammas are rooted in heedfulness, converge in heedfulness, and heedfulness is reckoned the foremost among them.
” — AN 10.15
§ 37. Heedfulness:
the path to the Deathless.
Heedlessness:
the path to death.
The heedful do not die.
The heedless are as if
already dead.
Knowing this as a true distinction,
those wise
in heedfulness
rejoice
in heedfulness,
enjoying the range of the noble ones.
— Dhp 21–22
§ 38. “There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.
Which five?
“‘I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.
’ This is the first fact that one should reflect on often.
“‘I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.
’ …
“‘I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.
’ …
“‘I will grow different, separate from all that is dear & appealing to me.
’ …
“‘I am the owner of my actions [kamma], heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator.
Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.
’ …
“These are the five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.
“Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect… that ‘I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging’?
There are beings who are intoxicated with a [typical] youth’s intoxication with youth.
Because of that intoxication with youth, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body…in speech…and in mind.
But when they often reflect on that fact, that youth’s intoxication with youth will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker.
“Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect… that ‘I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness’?
There are beings who are intoxicated with a [typical] healthy person’s intoxication with health.
Because of that intoxication with health, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body…in speech…and in mind.
But when they often reflect on that fact, that healthy person’s intoxication with health will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker.
“Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect… that ‘I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death’?
There are beings who are intoxicated with a [typical] living person’s intoxication with life.
Because of that intoxication with life, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body…in speech…and in mind.
But when they often reflect on that fact, that living person’s intoxication with life will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker.
“Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect… that ‘I will grow different, separate from all that is dear & appealing to me’?
There are beings who feel desire & passion for the things they find dear & appealing.
Because of that passion, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body…in speech…and in mind.
But when they often reflect on that fact, that desire & passion for the things they find dear & appealing will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker.
“Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect… that ‘I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator.
Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir’?
There are beings who conduct themselves in a bad way in body…in speech…and in mind.
But when they often reflect on that fact, that bad conduct in body, speech, & mind will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker.
“Now, a disciple of the noble ones considers this:
’I am not the only one subject to aging, who has not gone beyond aging.
To the extent that there are beings—past & future, passing away & re-arising—all beings are subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.
’ When he/she often reflects on this, the path takes birth.
He/she sticks with that path, develops it, cultivates it.
As he/she sticks with that path, develops it, & cultivates it, the fetters are abandoned, the obsessions destroyed.
“And further, a disciple of the noble ones considers this:
‘I am not the only one subject to illness, who has not gone beyond illness’.
… ‘I am not the only one subject to death, who has not gone beyond death’.
… ‘I am not the only one who will grow different, separate from all that is dear & appealing to me’.
“And further, a disciple of the noble ones considers this:
“I am not the only one who is owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, who has my actions as my arbitrator;
who—whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.
To the extent that there are beings—past & future, passing away & re-arising—all beings are owner of their actions, heir to their actions, born of their actions, related through their actions, and have their actions as their arbitrator.
Whatever they do, for good or for evil, to that will they fall heir.
’ When he/she often reflects on this, the path takes birth.
He/she sticks with that path, develops it, cultivates it.
As he/she sticks with that path, develops it, & cultivates it, the fetters are abandoned, the obsessions destroyed.
” — AN 5.57
§ 39. Appropriate attention.
“With regard to internal factors, I don’t envision any other single factor like appropriate attention as doing so much for a monk in training, who has not attained the heart’s goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed safety from the yoke.
A monk who attends appropriately abandons what is unskillful and develops what is skillful.
” — Iti 16 [See also §229, under Right Effort;
and §269, under Right Mindfulness.
]
§ 40. Admirable friendship.
“With regard to external factors, I don’t envision any other single factor like friendship with admirable people as doing so much for a monk in training, who has not attained the heart’s goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed safety from the yoke.
A monk who is a friend with admirable people abandons what is unskillful and develops what is skillful.
” — Iti 17
§ 41. As he was seated to one side, Ven.
Ānanda said to the Blessed One, “This is half of the holy life, lord:
having admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues.
“Don’t say that, Ānanda.
Don’t say that.
Having admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues is actually the whole of the holy life.
When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.
“And how does a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develop & pursue the noble eightfold path?
There is the case where a monk develops right view dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in letting go.
He develops right resolve… right speech… right action… right livelihood… right effort… right mindfulness… right concentration dependent on seclusion… dispassion… cessation, resulting in letting go.
This is how a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develops & pursues the noble eightfold path.
“And through this line of reasoning one may know how having admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues is actually the whole of the holy life:
It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair.
” — SN 45.2
§ 42. “And what does it mean to have admirable people as friends?
There is the case where a layperson, in whatever town or village he may dwell, associates with householders or householders’ sons, young or old, who are consummate in conviction, consummate in virtue, consummate in generosity, consummate in discernment.
He talks with them, engages them in discussions.
He emulates consummate conviction in those who are consummate in conviction, consummate virtue in those who are consummate in virtue, consummate generosity in those who are consummate in generosity, and consummate discernment in those who are consummate in discernment.
This is called having admirable people as friends.
“And what does it mean to be consummate in conviction?
There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones has conviction, is convinced of the Tathāgata’s awakening:
‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy & rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the cosmos, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of devas & human beings, awakened, blessed.
’ This is called being consummate in conviction.
“And what does it mean to be consummate in virtue?
There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking life, abstains from stealing, abstains from sexual misconduct, abstains from lying, abstains from taking intoxicants that cause heedlessness.
This is called being consummate in virtue.
“And what does it mean to be consummate in generosity?
There is the case of a disciple of the noble ones, his awareness cleansed of the stain of miserliness, living at home, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in being magnanimous, responsive to requests, delighting in the distribution of alms.
This is called being consummate in generosity.
“And what does it mean to be consummate in discernment?
There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones is discerning, endowed with discernment of arising and passing away—noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress.
This is called being consummate in discernment.
” — AN 8.54
§ 43. “For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher’s message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
‘The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple.
He is the one who knows, not I.
’ For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher’s message & lives to penetrate it, the Teacher’s message is healing & nourishing.
For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher’s message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
‘Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.
’ For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher’s message & lives to penetrate it, one of two fruits can be expected:
either gnosis here-&-now, or—if there be any remnant of clinging/sustenance—non-return.
” — MN 70
§ 44. “Monks, could a person of no integrity know of a person of no integrity:
‘This is a person of no integrity’?
“No, lord.
“Good, monks.
It’s impossible, there’s no way, that a person of no integrity would know of a person of no integrity:
‘This is a person of no integrity.
“Could a person of no integrity know of a person of integrity:
‘This is a person of integrity’?
“No, lord.
“Good, monks.
It’s impossible, there’s no way, that a person of no integrity would know of a person of integrity:
‘This is a person of integrity.
“A person of no integrity is endowed with dhammas of no integrity;
he is a person of no integrity in his friendship, in the way he wills, the way he gives advice, the way he speaks, the way he acts, the views he holds, & the way he gives a gift.
“And how is a person of no integrity endowed with dhammas of no integrity?
There is the case where a person of no integrity is lacking in conviction, lacking in shame, lacking in compunction;
he is unlearned, lazy, of muddled mindfulness, & poor discernment.
This is how a person of no integrity is endowed with dhammas of no integrity.
“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in his friendship?
There is the case where a person of no integrity has, as his friends & companions, those contemplatives & brahmans who are lacking in conviction, lacking in shame, lacking in compunction, unlearned, lazy, of muddled mindfulness, & poor discernment.
This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in his friendship.
“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the way he wills?
There is the case where a person of no integrity wills for his own affliction, or for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both.
This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the way he wills.
“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the way he gives advice?
There is the case where a person of no integrity gives advice for his own affliction, or for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both.
This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the way he gives advice.
“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the way he speaks?
There is the case where a person of no integrity is one who tells lies, engages in divisive speech, engages in harsh speech, engages in idle chatter.
This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the way he speaks.
“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the way he acts?
There is the case where a person of no integrity is one who takes life, steals, engages in sexual misconduct.
This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the way he acts.
“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the views he holds?
There is the case where a person of no integrity is one who holds a view like this:
‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed.
There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions.
There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings;
no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.
’ This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the views he holds.
“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the way he gives a gift?
There is the case where a person of no integrity gives a gift inattentively, not with his own hand, disrespectfully, as if throwing it away, with the view that nothing will come of it.
This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the way he gives a gift…
“Now, monks, could a person of integrity know of a person of no integrity:
‘This is a person of no integrity’?
“Yes, lord.
“Good, monks.
It is possible that a person of integrity would know of a person of no integrity:
‘This is a person of no integrity.
“Could a person of integrity know of a person of integrity:
‘This is a person of integrity’?
“Yes, lord.
“Good, monks.
It is possible that a person of integrity would know of a person of integrity:
‘This is a person of integrity.
“A person of integrity is endowed with dhammas of integrity;
he is a person of integrity in his friendship, in the way he wills, the way he gives advice, the way he speaks, the way he acts, the views he holds, & the way he gives a gift.
“[These are the opposite of the corresponding attributes of the person of no integrity.
]” — MN 110
§ 45. At that time Ven.
Rāhula was staying at the Mango Stone.
Then the Blessed One, arising from his seclusion in the late afternoon, went to where Ven.
Rāhula was staying at the Mango Stone.
Ven. Rāhula saw him coming from afar and, on seeing him, set out a seat & water for washing the feet.
The Blessed One sat down on the seat set out and, having sat down, washed his feet.
Ven. Rāhula, bowing down to the Blessed One, sat to one side.
Then the Blessed One, having left a little bit of the remaining water in the water dipper, said to Ven.
Rāhula, “Rāhula, do you see this little bit of remaining water left in the water dipper?
“Yes sir.
“That’s how little of a contemplative there is in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie.
Having tossed away the little bit of remaining water, the Blessed One said to Ven.
Rāhula, “Rāhula, do you see how this little bit of remaining water is tossed away?
“Yes, sir.
“Rāhula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is tossed away just like that.
Having turned the water dipper upside down, the Blessed One said to Ven.
Rāhula, “Rāhula, do you see how this water dipper is turned upside down?
“Yes, sir.
“Rāhula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is turned upside down just like that.
Having turned the water dipper right-side up, the Blessed One said to Ven.
Rāhula, “Rāhula, do you see how empty & hollow this water dipper is?
“Yes, sir.
“Rāhula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is empty & hollow just like that.
“Rāhula, it’s like a royal elephant:
immense, pedigreed, accustomed to battles, its tusks like chariot poles.
Having gone into battle, it uses its forefeet & hindfeet, its forequarters & hindquarters, its head & ears & tusks & tail, but will simply hold back its trunk.
The elephant trainer notices that and thinks, ‘This royal elephant has not given up its life to the king.
’ But when the royal elephant… having gone into battle, uses its forefeet & hindfeet, its forequarters & hindquarters, its head & ears & tusks & tail & his trunk, the trainer notices that and thinks, ‘This royal elephant has given up its life to the king.
There is nothing it will not do.
“In the same way, Rāhula, when anyone feels no shame in telling a deliberate lie, there is no evil, I tell you, he will not do.
Thus, Rāhula, you should train yourself, ‘I will not tell a deliberate lie even in jest.
“What do you think, Rāhula?
What is a mirror for?
“For reflection, sir.
“In the same way, Rāhula, bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions are to be done with repeated reflection.
“Whenever you want to do a bodily action, Rāhula, you should reflect on it:
‘This bodily action I want to do—would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both?
Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?
’ If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both;
it would be an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do.
But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction… it would be a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any bodily action of that sort is fit for you to do.
[Similarly with verbal and mental actions.
]
“While you are doing a bodily action, you should reflect on it:
‘This bodily action I am doing—is it leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both?
Is it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?
’ If, on reflection, you know that it is leading to self-affliction, to affliction of others, or both… you should give it up.
But if on reflection you know that it is not… you may continue with it.
[Similarly with verbal and mental actions.
]
“Having done a bodily action, you should reflect on it:
‘This bodily action I have done—did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both?
Was it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?
’ If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both;
it was an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life.
Having confessed it… you should exercise restraint in the future.
But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction… it was a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed & joyful, training day & night in skillful dhammas.
[Similarly with verbal actions.
]
“Having done a mental action, you should reflect on it:
‘This mental action I have done—did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both?
Was it an unskillful mental action, with painful consequences, painful results?
’ If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both;
it was an unskillful mental action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should feel distressed, ashamed, & disgusted with it.
Feeling distressed… you should exercise restraint in the future.
But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction… it was a skillful mental action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed & joyful, training day & night in skillful dhammas.
” — MN 61
The Path-factors & their Relationships
§ 46. The Blessed One said, “Now what, monks, is the noble eightfold path?
Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
“And what, monks, is right view?
Knowledge with regard to [or:
in terms of] stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress:
This, monks, is called right view.
“And what, monks, is right resolve?
Resolve for renunciation, resolve for non-ill will, resolve for harmlessness:
This, monks, is called right resolve.
“And what, monks, is right speech?
Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from harsh speech, abstaining from idle chatter:
This, monks, is called right speech.
“And what, monks, is right action?
Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from sexual intercourse:
This, monks, is called right action.
[DN 22 & MN 141 define this factor in this way:
“And what is right action?
Abstaining from taking life, from stealing, & from sexual misconduct:
This is called right action.
”]
“And what, monks, is right livelihood?
There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood:
This, monks, is called right livelihood.
“And what, monks, is right effort?
(i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful dhammas that have not yet arisen.
(ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful dhammas that have arisen.
(iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful dhammas that have not yet arisen.
(iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful dhammas that have arisen:
This, monks, is called right effort.
“And what, monks, is right mindfulness?
(i) There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.
(ii) He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.
(iii) He remains focused on the mind in & of itself—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.
(iv) He remains focused on dhammas in & of themselves—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.
This, monks, is called right mindfulness.
“And what, monks, is right concentration?
(i) There is the case where a monk—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas—enters & remains in the first jhāna:
rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.
(ii) With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhāna:
rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance.
(iii) With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body.
He enters & remains in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.
’ (iv) With the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress—he enters & remains in the fourth jhāna:
purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.
This, monks, is called right concentration.
” — SN 45.8
§ 47. “Monks, ignorance is the leader in the attainment of unskillful dhammas, followed by lack of shame & lack of compunction.
In an unknowledgeable person, immersed in ignorance, wrong view arises.
In one of wrong view, wrong resolve arises.
In one of wrong resolve, wrong speech.
… In one of wrong speech, wrong action.
… In one of wrong action, wrong livelihood.
… In one of wrong livelihood, wrong effort.
… In one of wrong effort, wrong mindfulness.
… In one of wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration arises.
“Clear knowing is the leader in the attainment of skillful dhammas, followed by shame & compunction.
In a knowledgeable person, immersed in clear knowing, right view arises.
In one of right view, right resolve arises.
In one of right resolve, right speech.
… In one of right speech, right action.
… In one of right action, right livelihood.
… In one of right livelihood, right effort.
… In one of right effort, right mindfulness.
… In one of right mindfulness, right concentration arises.
” — SN 45.1
§ 48. The Blessed One said:
“Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions?
Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors—right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness—is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.
[1] “Of those, right view is the forerunner.
And how is right view the forerunner?
One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view.
This is one’s right view.
And what is wrong view?
‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed.
There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions.
There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings;
no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.
’ This is wrong view.
“And what is right view?
Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts:
There is right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions;
there is right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions?
‘There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed.
There are fruits & results of good & bad actions.
There is this world & the next world.
There is mother & father.
There are spontaneously reborn beings;
there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.
’ This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.
“And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path?
The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of dhammas as a factor for awakening, the path-factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path.
This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view:
This is one’s right effort.
One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view:
This is one’s right mindfulness.
Thus these three dhammas—right view, right effort, & right mindfulness—run & circle around right view.
[2] “Of those, right view is the forerunner.
And how is right view the forerunner?
One discerns wrong resolve as wrong resolve, and right resolve as right resolve.
And what is wrong resolve?
Being resolved on sensuality, on ill will, on harmfulness.
This is wrong resolve.
“And what is right resolve?
Right resolve, I tell you, is of two sorts:
There is right resolve with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions;
there is right resolve that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“And what is the right resolve with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions?
Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness.
This is the right resolve with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.
“And what is the right resolve that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path?
The thinking, directed thinking, resolve, (mental) fixity, transfixion, focused awareness, & verbal fabrications of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path.
This is the right resolve that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“One tries to abandon wrong resolve & to enter into right resolve:
This is one’s right effort.
One is mindful to abandon wrong resolve & to enter & remain in right resolve:
This is one’s right mindfulness.
Thus these three dhammas—right view, right effort, & right mindfulness—run & circle around right resolve.
[3] “Of those, right view is the forerunner.
And how is right view the forerunner?
One discerns wrong speech as wrong speech, and right speech as right speech.
And what is wrong speech?
Lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, & idle chatter.
This is wrong speech.
“And what is right speech?
Right speech, I tell you, is of two sorts:
There is right speech with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions;
there is right speech that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“And what is the right speech with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions?
Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from harsh speech, & from idle chatter.
This is the right speech with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.
“And what is the right speech that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path?
The abstaining, desisting, abstinence, avoidance of the four forms of verbal misconduct of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path.
This is the right speech that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech:
This is one’s right effort.
One is mindful to abandon wrong speech & to enter & remain in right speech:
This is one’s right mindfulness.
Thus these three dhammas—right view, right effort, & right mindfulness—run & circle around right speech.
[4] “Of those, right view is the forerunner.
And how is right view the forerunner?
One discerns wrong action as wrong action, and right action as right action.
And what is wrong action?
Killing, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct.
This is wrong action.
“And what is right action?
Right action, I tell you, is of two sorts:
There is right action with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions;
there is right action that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“And what is the right action with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions?
Abstaining from killing, from taking what is not given, & from sexual misconduct.
This is the right action with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.
“And what is the right action that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path?
The abstaining, desisting, abstinence, avoidance of the three forms of bodily misconduct of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path.
This is the right action that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“One tries to abandon wrong action & to enter into right action:
This is one’s right effort.
One is mindful to abandon wrong action & to enter & remain in right action:
This is one’s right mindfulness.
Thus these three dhammas—right view, right effort, & right mindfulness—run & circle around right action.
[5] “Of those, right view is the forerunner.
And how is right view the forerunner?
One discerns wrong livelihood as wrong livelihood, and right livelihood as right livelihood.
And what is wrong livelihood?
Scheming, persuading, hinting, belittling, & pursuing gain with gain.
This is wrong livelihood.
“And what is right livelihood?
Right livelihood, I tell you, is of two sorts:
There is right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions;
there is right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“And what is the right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions?
There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abandons wrong livelihood and maintains his life with right livelihood.
This is the right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.
“And what is the right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path?
The abstaining, desisting, abstinence, avoidance of wrong livelihood of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path.
This is the right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“One makes an effort for the abandoning of wrong livelihood & for entering into right livelihood:
This is one’s right effort.
One is mindful to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter & remain in right livelihood:
This is one’s right mindfulness.
Thus these three dhammas—right view, right effort, & right mindfulness—run & circle around right livelihood.
“Of those, right view is the forerunner.
And how is right view the forerunner?
In one of right view, right resolve comes to be.
In one of right resolve, right speech comes to be.
In one of right speech, right action.
… In one of right action, right livelihood.
… In one of right livelihood, right effort.
… In one of right effort, right mindfulness.
… In one of right mindfulness, right concentration.
… In one of right concentration, right knowledge.
… In one of right knowledge, right release comes to be.
Thus the learner is endowed with eight factors, and the arahant with ten.
” — MN 117
§ 49. “I do not envision any one other dhamma by which unarisen unskillful dhammas arise, and arisen unskillful dhammas go to growth & proliferation, like wrong view.
When a person has wrong view, unarisen unskillful dhammas arise, and arisen unskillful dhammas go to growth & proliferation.
“I do not envision any one other dhamma by which unarisen skillful dhammas arise, and arisen skillful dhammas go to growth & proliferation, like right view.
When a person has right view, unarisen skillful dhammas arise, and arisen skillful dhammas go to growth & proliferation.
“Just as when a nimb-tree seed, a bitter creeper seed, or a bitter melon seed is placed in moist soil, whatever nutriment it takes from the soil & the water, all conduces to its bitterness, acridity, & distastefulness.
Why is that?
Because of the evil nature of the seed.
“In the same way, when a person has wrong view, whatever bodily deeds he undertakes in line with that view, whatever verbal deeds… whatever mental deeds he undertakes in line with that view, whatever intentions, whatever determinations, whatever vows, whatever fabrications, all lead to what is disagreeable, unpleasing, unappealing, unprofitable, & stressful.
Why is that?
Because of the evil nature of the view.
“Just as when a sugar cane seed, a rice grain, or a grape seed is placed in moist soil, whatever nutriment it takes from the soil & the water, all conduces to its sweetness, tastiness, & unalloyed delectability.
Why is that?
Because of the auspicious nature of the seed.
“In the same way, when a person has right view, whatever bodily deeds he undertakes in line with that view, whatever verbal deeds… whatever mental deeds he undertakes in line with that view, whatever intentions, whatever vows, whatever determinations, whatever fabrications, all lead to what is agreeable, pleasing, charming, profitable, & easeful.
Why is that?
Because of the auspicious nature of the view.
” — AN 1.181–82, 189–90
§ 50. Visākha:
“Is the noble eightfold path fabricated or unfabricated?
Sister Dhammadinnā:
“The noble eightfold path is fabricated.
Visākha:
“And are the three aggregates [of virtue, concentration, & discernment] included under the noble eightfold path, lady, or is the noble eightfold path included under the three aggregates?
Sister Dhammadinnā:
“The three aggregates are not included under the noble eightfold path, friend Visākha, but the noble eightfold path is included under the three aggregates.
[1] Right speech, right action, & right livelihood come under the aggregate of virtue.
Right effort, right mindfulness, & right concentration come under the aggregate of concentration.
Right view & right resolve come under the aggregate of discernment.
” — MN 44
Note
1. In other words, not every instance of discernment, say, would count as right view, even though right view counts as a form of discernment, and similarly with the other path-factors and aggregates.
§ 51. “Concentration nurtured with virtue is of great fruit, great reward.
Discernment nurtured with concentration is of great fruit, great reward.
The mind nurtured with discernment is rightly released from the effluents, i.
e., the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance.
” — DN 16
§ 52. “Brahman, just as one hand would wash the other hand, or one foot would wash the other foot, in the same way, discernment is well-washed by virtue, virtue is well-washed by discernment.
Where there is virtue, there is discernment.
Where there is discernment, there is virtue.
A virtuous person has discernment;
a discerning person, virtue.
And further, virtue & discernment are reckoned as supreme in the world.
[The passage goes on to define virtue with a long list of virtues, sense restraint, mindfulness & alertness in one’s activities, contentment, and the abandoning of the hindrances.
It defines discernment as the practice of jhāna together with the direct knowledges based on jhāna, culminating in the knowledge of the ending of the effluents.
] — DN 4
§ 53. There’s
no jhana
for one with
no discernment,
no discernment
for one with
no jhana.
But one with
both jhana
& discernment:
he’s on the verge
of Unbinding.
— Dhp 372

8.1 - Right View

chapter three: Right View
Right view is the first factor of the path.
The Pāli term for right view—sammā-diṭṭhi—can also be translated as “right opinion.
” Right view consists of the views and opinions needed to guide your progress on the path—to understand what to do and why to do it.
In this sense, right view is a series of working hypotheses that guide the path and, at the same time, will be put to the test as the path progresses.
The reason why the path starts with right view rather than with right knowledge is indicated by the Buddha’s analogy in §3:
He sees people who don’t know where they’re going, taking paths that lead to different destinations.
From his perspective, he knows from direct experience where the paths go, but he can’t share that direct experience with others, nor can he show them what’s at the end of the paths without their reaching those destinations on their own.
For them, the information they learn from him about the paths is, until they reach the end of the paths themselves, simply a matter of opinion.
This is why, as a first step on the noble eightfold path, right view has to be taken on conviction.
This fact is included in the definition of mundane right view—the conviction that there are those who know through direct knowledge the truths about kamma and rebirth (§48)—but it underlies the more advanced levels of right view as well.
On the transcendent level of right view, for instance, many of the principles of the four noble truths—such as the principle that suffering is inherent in the mind’s feeding habits—are counterintuitive.
Even the value judgment implicit in the four noble truths—that the suffering caused by clinging is the important spiritual problem—is something that can’t be proven until you’ve solved the problem for yourself.
This is why these truths have to be taken on faith before they can be put to use.
Similarly with the ultimate level of right view:
The judgment that eventually you have to abandon even the most skillful qualities of the mind goes against the grain when you’ve put so much effort into developing them, so the wisdom of this judgment, too, has to be taken on faith.
But in every case, the faith required is not a blind faith in unreasonable ideas.
Instead, the reasonableness of the Buddha’s teachings is presented as one of the signs that it is worthy of faith, as is the fact that each person is invited to test the teachings in practice for him- or herself.
But to test them, you have to trust that they are worth the time and effort needed to give them a fair try.
When the texts define conviction, they frame it as a matter of having conviction in the Buddha’s awakening (§55). In fact, the three levels of right view follow the pattern of the Buddha’s three knowledges on the night of his awakening (§30):
Mundane right view accepts the content of the first two knowledges, on kamma and rebirth.
Transcendent right view accepts the third knowledge, in which the Buddha’s discovery of the four noble truths led to his awakening.
The final level of right view, which lies beyond the transcendent, accepts a step that isn’t mentioned in the standard description of the third knowledge, but which the Buddha elsewhere states was a crucial stage on the path:
the total abandoning of the path itself.
To accept the Buddha’s awakening on conviction is to accept the validity of the working hypotheses that he presents as right view.
To call right view a series of working hypotheses implies two things:
On the one hand, it implies that these views are not simply idle theories, maps of reality to be merely contemplated or argued about.
To be properly used, they have to be put into practice.
This is reflected in the fact that each level of right view entails its own duties.
This is one of the reasons why the Buddha warns about grasping right view wrongly—say, for the purpose of simply holding onto it, or for getting into useless debates—because those acts would put you on a different path from the one for which right view was intended.
On the other hand, calling right view a series of working hypotheses implies that the duties they entail are not simply bald imperatives, such as, “Do this!” or “Drink me!” Instead, these views provide explanations for why the duties should be done, so that they can be followed with at least some measure of understanding and a conviction that the duties are actually beneficial to attempt.
At the same time, these explanations are meant to convey, not an entire map of reality, but enough of a map to keep you on the path.
Too extensive a map would risk pulling your attention into side roads that lead away from the goal, which is why the Buddha was very clear about which issues he would discuss as part of right view, and which he would put aside.
In presenting these working hypotheses on differing levels, the Buddha took on a corresponding set of standards for how he should speak:
He would say only things that were true, beneficial, and appropriate for the time and place.
In §175, where he presents these standards, he defines “appropriate for time and place” in terms of when it was appropriate to speak in a pleasing way and when to speak in a disagreeable way, but other suttas show that he would vary his teachings in response to the needs of the listener(s) in other ways as well.
In particular, he would gauge which level of right view was most appropriate to discuss at that particular time to that particular person.
Just as the path is strategic, his way of teaching it was strategic, too.
Three levels of right view.
As we have mentioned several times, right view has three levels.
The first two—mundane and transcendent—are presented in MN 117. The third level is nowhere named in the Canon, but a handful of suttas describe it in enough detail to show that, although it represents the final working out of transcendent right view, it forms a separate level that goes beyond it in several important respects.
For the purposes of discussion, we will term it final right view.
Here, for each level of right view, we will first discuss the content of that level and the duties appropriate to it.
Then we will contrast it with the wrong views that the Buddha criticized as deviating from it.
This contrast helps to highlight where the line between right view and wrong view lies.
We will also discuss how the Buddha taught people to progress from one level of right view to the next.
Finally, we will discuss the causal principle that underlies all three levels of right view.
This principle explains not only how right view is supposed to work, but how and why it works together with the other factors of the path.
Mundane Right View
Mundane right view centers on the issues of kamma and rebirth.
MN 117’s definition of this level of right view is actually a negation of a set of tenets that DN 2 attributes to one of the Buddha’s contemporaries, a teacher named Ajita Kesakambalin.
Ajita taught a materialist doctrine that DN 2 calls annihilationism:
the belief that a person is simply a combination of material elements which are annihilated at death, and that good deeds such as generosity and gratitude to one’s parents are a waste of time because everything ends up in annihilation anyhow.
So the first implication of mundane right view is that generosity does matter, gratitude to one’s parents is a virtue, and that death is not annihilation.
MN 117 states these positions in very simple terms:
“There are fruits & results of good & bad actions.
There is this world & the next world.
… There are spontaneously reborn beings [this is a reference to beings born in heaven or in hell, with no need for mother or father].
Other suttas expand considerably on these points.
To begin with, on the topic of action:
The Buddha defines the word for action, kamma, in two senses.
On the one hand, it is the intention underlying the act (§57). On the other, it can also refer to the results of the act that return to the person who intentionally committed the act and that are experienced in the form of the six senses (§62). These results tend to be painful or pleasant depending on whether the intention informing the act was unskillful—based on greed, aversion, or delusion—or skillful—based on a mind-state free of those defilements.
There is an apparent discrepancy in the suttas as to how completely old kamma shapes sensory experience.
In SN 35.145 (§62), the Buddha, when talking to the monks, states that all six sense media should be regarded as old kamma.
However, in SN 36.21 (§66), when talking to Moḷiyasivaka, a wanderer of another sect, he states that not all feelings are the result of old kamma, and then he offers a list of other sources for feelings—a list apparently drawn from the medical beliefs of the times.
The fact that the second sutta is addressed to a member of another sect, however, leaves open the possibility that the Buddha chose this list to appeal to concepts that were not specifically Buddhist and instead were common in non-Buddhist circles.
And when we compare the discussion in SN 36.21 with that in SN 35.145, we see that the alternative causes listed in SN 36.21 all fall under the headings of new or old kamma listed in SN 35.145. Because SN 35.145, addressed to monks, is the more authoritative of the two suttas, this suggests that the list in SN 36.21 was simply meant as a refutation of fatalism (see below), and that if Moḷiyasivaka continued to pursue the issue he might at a later point be more receptive to the Buddha’s full-scale explanation of how kammic tendencies worked.
And part of that explanation would have been that the input of the six senses should all be viewed as a form of past kamma.
The results of actions can return either immediately, later in this lifetime, in the next lifetime, or even in lifetimes after that (§57). In particular, these results tend to influence the level of one’s rebirth, which can happen on one of many different levels:
in hell, in the realm of common animals, in the realm of the hungry ghosts, in the human world, or in the world of the devas.
Rebirth on these levels is not permanent.
Once the actions creating the conditions for a particular level of rebirth have run out, one will take rebirth on another level created by other actions.
This is in line with the principle that a temporary cause cannot form the basis for a permanent result.
The obverse principle is also true:
A permanent cause cannot create a temporary result, which means that the Buddhist cosmos has no unmoved mover as first cause.
In the Buddha’s terms, the cosmos has an inconceivable beginning, and he discouraged speculation about the origin of the cosmos, saying that such speculation gets in the way of the issue at hand:
putting an end to suffering.
Similarly, the cosmos has no preordained end.
It has the potential to continue indefinitely as long as the beings in the cosmos keep making the choices leading to further rebirth.
As the Buddha explained in many suttas, such as DN 1 and DN 27, the cosmos has already gone through countless rounds of evolution and devolution, and has the potential to go through countless more.
This realization, during the night of his awakening, is what intensified his sense of terror and urgency over the potentials of kamma, but it also proved to be liberating:
When there is no ordained purpose for the cosmos that would impose duties on anyone, beings are all free to choose the path to the end of suffering.
The complexity of kamma.
Although the basic principle underlying actions and their results is fairly simple, the way in which those results work out can often be complex.
This is partly because a person can perform many types of action in a single day, not to mention a lifetime.
The image the Buddha used to illustrate the principle of kamma was of a field planted with seeds.
Some seeds are ready to sprout;
others are not.
Where and what you are at the present moment is simply a measure of which seeds are currently sprouting.
It’s possible that you have many other seeds, potentially better, potentially worse, simply waiting for the opportunity to sprout.
This means that a person’s current position in life is not an accurate measure of all the seeds in his/her kammic background.
Another reason for the complexity of kammic consequences is that it’s possible to have a major change of heart in life that, if skillful, will soften the effects of your past unskillful actions or, if unskillful, will weaken the effects of your past skillful actions.
In terms of the field image, this would be like watering many good seeds to crowd out the bad seeds, or bad seeds to crowd out the good.
A third reason for the complexity of kammic consequences is that the actual experience of the results of actions will depend on your mind-state at the time when they ripen.
If you are small-hearted, lacking in virtue and discernment, and if pleasure and pain can invade your mind and remain, then the ripening results of an unskillful action will be painful.
If you are large-hearted, trained in virtue and discernment, and if pleasure and pain cannot invade your mind and remain, then the ripening results of an unskillful action will barely be felt (§65). The Buddha compares this to putting a lump of salt in a small cup of water or in a large, clear river.
The water in the cup will be too salty to drink, but the water in the river will still be potable.
In other words, just because you have done something bad doesn’t mean that you deserve to suffer for it.
After all, the Buddha taught a path to the end of suffering, regardless of whether that suffering is “deserved” or not.
You can train yourself to develop more skillful states of mind, both to produce skillful actions now and to ameliorate unskillful kamma from the past.
It’s because of the complexities in how kamma produces results that the Buddha said that the issue is imponderable (§64). For the sake of gaining release from suffering, it’s enough to know the basic principles that skillful actions tend to lead to pleasure, unskillful actions tend to lead to pain, and that because these are tendencies—rather than deterministic, tit-for-tat laws—you can train your mind to mitigate the results of past bad actions and actually gain release.
The way leading to release is also a path of action—the noble eightfold path—which leads to the end of action (§58). In other words, once total release is gained in this lifetime, your actions no longer create kammic results (§344);
after your final death, you go beyond rebirth and any need to engage in the fabrication of action at all.
Rebirth. The Buddha sketched out the various levels of the cosmos to which one can be reborn, but he never provided a complete map of all the levels.
Still, he did provide enough of a sketch to show how rebirth corresponds to actions.
For instance, on the highest levels of heaven, there are beings whose states of bliss and rapture correspond, in descending order, to the formless concentration attainments (in which one takes as one’s object perceptions such as nothingness, infinite consciousness, or infinite space), to the form levels of jhāna (in which one takes as one’s object the inner form of the body), and to intense sensual pleasures, corresponding to the results of generosity, virtue, and goodwill.
Human rebirth corresponds to a more mixed bag of ripening kammic seeds.
The different levels of beauty, wealth, power, life span, and status that different human beings experience depend on the relative abundance or lack of the seeds of generosity, virtue, and goodwill ripening in the bag.
Below the human level are the levels to which beings are reborn from having engaged in unskillful actions.
First, going downward, is the level of the hungry ghosts, whose food is the merit dedicated to them.
This level is not discussed in detail in the suttas, but later Buddhist texts depict the hungry ghosts as just that—hungry, poor, and miserable, often extremely so, from having been ungenerous in previous lives.
Below them are the many varieties of common animals, and below them are the levels of hell.
Although the suttas contain very few descriptions of heaven, they contain some very graphic descriptions of hell (§93), examples of the Buddha’s policy of saying disagreeable things when the time and place called for it.
It’s important to note, though, that whereas the Buddha talked about where rebirth can happen, he never discussed the issue of what gets reborn, or by what mechanism the results of action carry over from one lifetime to later lifetimes.
After all, you are not responsible for those issues.
He did discuss, however, how rebirth happens as a process:
acts of consciousness are sustained by craving as they move from one state to the next (§59). Just this much information is useful because you are responsible for this process, and it’s something that you can aim in the right direction, or even end, by gaining control over your cravings or putting an end to them by following the noble eightfold path.
Duties. For anyone seeking the end of suffering, the imperatives that follow from mundane right view are simple:
Abandon unskillful actions and develop skillful ones.
This was one of only two teachings that the Buddha said were categorical, i.
e., true across the board for all people in all times.
The only question lies in how to determine what’s skillful and what’s not, and then—following that—how to develop the strength of character to follow through with that knowledge to yield either fortunate rebirths or, better still, find the way to release.
The famous Kālāma Sutta (§61) recommends two ways for finding the line between skillful and unskillful behavior:
(1) testing a teaching by checking to see what results come from putting it into practice and (2) consulting the opinions of the wise.
These instructions fall in line with two of the supplementary factors of the path that §§39–40 say are the prime internal and external factors for gaining the first taste of awakening:
appropriate attention and admirable friendship.
MN 9 (§130) gives a list of ten practices that wise people would criticize as unskillful, and their ten opposites that they would recommend as skillful.
The sutta goes on to add that the roots both for unskillful and for skillful behavior lie in the mind—pointing to the need to train the mind if you want to find true happiness.
Wrong views.
Many of the points that the Buddha discussed under mundane right view were unique to him in his time.
There is a widespread misunderstanding that he simply picked up his teachings on kamma and rebirth from ancient Indian culture, but this is simply not true.
In fact, the Buddha often used the teachings of mundane right view to counter many of the views widespread among his contemporaries.
Of the many forms of wrong view that he rejected in this way, six stand out, both because he argued against them so frequently and because they correspond to wrong views that are still widely held at present:
annihilationism, materialism, fatalism, the denial of causality, eternalism, and racism.
The Buddha had to counter these views because they either (1) denied the possibility of any path of skillful action leading to the end of suffering, (2) denied the need for such a path, or (3) undermined the motivation needed to stick with the specific path he had discovered and taught.
• Annihilationism is the belief that a person, however one might be defined, is annihilated at death, and there is no rebirth.
The Buddha rejected this belief because he had seen on the night of his awakening that it simply wasn’t true.
That, of course, wasn’t reason enough to include it in his teachings.
After all, as he said in SN 56.31, there were many facts he came to know in the course of his awakening that he didn’t teach to others, because those facts would have served no purpose toward putting an end to suffering.
But a belief in rebirth would serve such a purpose.
Even though the Buddha never tried to provide an empirical proof of rebirth, he did provide a pragmatic proof for why a person seeking to develop the skills needed to put an end to suffering should reject annihilationism as a working hypothesis:
If you don’t believe that the results of action can carry over into another life, you can find in the present life plenty of examples of unskillful actions leading to pleasant results here and now (§67). These would undercut any desire to adopt skillfulness as a constant principle, particularly in cases where a skillful action might endanger your health, wealth, or life.
If, however, you do adopt rebirth—and the power of actions to yield results after death—as a working hypothesis, you will be motivated to adopt the skillful approach in all situations, no matter how life-threatening.
• Materialism is a subset of annihilationism.
It holds not only that a person is made of material elements that will be annihilated at death, but also that, while alive, those elements are in no position to know an unconditioned dimension.
In addition, it holds that because causality is purely mechanical, with both the agent and the recipients of action nothing more than material elements, there is no inherent moral quality to actions.
The judgment that an action is good or bad is simply a matter of convention;
the moral quality of an intention has no bearing on the pleasure or pain that the action resulting from that intention might produce for the person doing it.
At present, materialism holds that the mind is nothing more than the brain, and that mental events—including acts of knowledge—are simply the by-product of chemical reactions in the brain.
In using mundane right view to counter these beliefs, the Buddha’s main argument was that materialism, as a subset of annihilationism, provided no motivation to abandon unskillful actions and adopt skillful ones, and so it neglected the primary responsibility of any teaching worth the name:
that it provide the basis for thinking in terms of what should and shouldn’t be done.
If everything were just material elements, no action would matter at all.
At the same time, implicit in the Buddha’s rejection of materialism are five main points crucial to the practice of the path to the end of suffering.
(1) Because experience at the six senses is shaped by intentions, the causal principle governing experience is not mechanical.
(2) The quality of the intention behind an action, skillful or not, can determine the nature of the action’s result.
(3) The causes of suffering come from an untrained mind and they can be ended by training the mind.
(4) When choosing a course of action, it’s in your best interest to include the fact of rebirth into the equation to decide which actions are worth doing and which ones aren’t.
(5) Because people are not just made of material elements, they can know—through developing powers of concentration—truths about kamma and rebirth, as well as the possibility of stepping outside the dimensions of fabrication.
This last principle means that it’s possible to place trust in the ability of the Buddha and his awakened disciples to provide reliable guidance in these areas.
• Fatalism holds that human actions have no power to shape experience.
The Buddha used mundane right view to counter two broad categories of fatalism.
On the one hand, some of his contemporaries taught different varieties of what might be called personal fatalism, claiming that experience was determined by a creator god.
On the other, there were those who taught impersonal fatalism, claiming that experience was determined by impersonal factors:
fate, mechanical laws, or a version of the teaching on kamma in which everything in the present was totally determined by past actions.
The Buddha denounced all these forms of fatalism, arguing that they denied the possibility that a path of action could yield results, or that it was even possible to choose a path of action to begin with.
These views condemned people to continue suffering with no way out.
Although they might counsel people to choose to accept their suffering and to learn to embrace it, they don’t even provide logical justification for assuming even that much power of choice.
Fatalism teaches powerlessness;
mundane right view, empowerment.
The Buddha also argued against a fatalistic interpretation of kamma—in which past bad actions inevitably lead to hell—on the grounds that anyone who has acted unskillfully in the past, on hearing such teachings, would immediately be thrown into despair.
That despair would then weaken their ability to gain release from the cycle of kamma.
In contrast, mundane right view, in showing that actions tend to give certain results, opens the way for people not to fall into remorse, but to recognize the error of their past ways and to resolve on (1) showing restraint in the future and (2) developing an attitude of goodwill for all beings.
These resolves will then strengthen their ability to act skillfully in the future, which will be for their long-term welfare and happiness, not only now but also into the next lifetime (§69;
§139).
In rejecting fatalism, mundane right view also allows for the objective benefit of feeling gratitude for the help provided by others, recognizing that they had the choice to provide that help or not.
• The denial of causality also provides no room for a path of action that will yield results, and so the Buddha attacked it for the same reasons.
Because mundane right view asserts the principle that actions tend to have certain consequences, it denies both fatalism on the one hand, and a view of total randomness on the other.
This perspective allows for the possibility of developing skills, because in a world of randomness, no patterns of cause and effect could be mastered to the point of skill;
in a world of fatalism, no choice of what to do and what not to do to develop a skill would be available at all.
In a world of tendencies, though, skills can be developed by learning to read those tendencies and directing them to your desired ends.
• Eternalism took many forms in the Buddha’s time, but the version that has carried over to the present is the belief that there is an essence to each individual, not subject to change, that is either a separate soul or One with the changeless ground of the cosmos.
The Buddha rejected these views because, whatever that essence might be, it would be impervious to the power of action to change (DN 1;
MN 22). In addition, if your inner essence faces an eternal fate, then that fate cannot depend on your actions, because all actions are, by nature, limited in scope, and so cannot have the power to create an eternal result.
Eternalism thus forces you to look outside of your actions to provide for an eternal happiness, and so would undercut any motivation to act skillfully in all situations.
• Racism in the Buddha’s time found its prime expression in the beliefs of the brahmans that they alone were worthy of respect, and that they alone could reach the highest spiritual attainments.
The Buddha used mundane right view to argue that virtue and spiritual attainments were not connected to caste or race, and that brahmans, like everyone else, were capable of planting either good or bad seeds in their kammic fields.
Also, he noted that the kammic fields of brahmans were not free of seeds that could yield bad results, and that people of other castes were not devoid of good seeds in their kammic fields.
In addition, anyone, regardless of caste, can act on skillful intentions and reap their results.
It’s for this reason that the path to the end of suffering contains no factors that depend on caste, class, or race.
From mundane to transcendent right view.
Mundane right view provides both a conceptual background for transcendent right view and the motivation for wanting to develop it.
On the conceptual level, as we have already seen, mundane right view counters the many forms of wrong view that would make the path to the end of suffering impossible.
At the same time, it divides experience into four categories:
skillful action, pleasant result, unskillful action, painful result.
These four categories, when refined, turn into the four noble truths:
respectively, the path to the end of suffering, the end of suffering, the origination of suffering, and suffering.
And because mundane right view locates the roots of skillful and unskillful actions in the mind, it lays the groundwork for the underlying principle of the four noble truths:
that both the origination of suffering and the path to its cessation are to be found in the mind as well.
As for motivation:
Mundane right view provides reasons for people to attempt a life of skillful action, and in this way empowers them to begin turning their lives in the direction of less suffering.
However, it also shows that the pleasant levels of rebirth are precarious, and that it’s possible, even when reborn on those levels, to have bad seeds in your kammic field that could yield intense suffering down the line.
In these ways, mundane right view can encourage you to set your sights higher than a pleasant lifetime now—or good rebirths in the future—to aim at the more secure safety of gaining release from rebirth entirely.
This two-fold dynamic is illustrated in a discourse that the suttas call the graduated or gradual discourse (anupubbīkathā) that the Buddha reportedly gave to many of his listeners as a way of preparing their minds to be receptive to the four noble truths.
Unfortunately, all we know now of this discourse is the list of topics it covered, but the list is enough to show how the Buddha used both sides of his teaching on kamma and rebirth—the empowering teaching on skillful action, and the dismaying impermanence of the results of action—to make his listeners receptive to transcendent right view.
The discourse began with the topics of giving and virtue.
Giving covers the act of choosing freely to share your resources with others.
The freedom of choice, here, is the essential element in the joy of giving, which is why the Buddha never placed restrictions on where a gift should be given (§§71–72). Similarly with virtue:
It’s the free choice to abstain from causing harm.
From what the suttas report of the Buddha’s teachings on these topics, when he discussed them in the graduated discourse he probably focused on the happy rewards they gave in this life—such as self-esteem, living in harmony, and earning the respect of others (§74;
§82). As the next step in the graduated discourse, these discussions would be followed by a discussion of the third topic:
the sensual pleasures that constitute the rewards of giving and virtue in heaven.
If his listeners had not already developed these skillful actions, the Buddha would often stop here, with the encouragement that his listeners develop them and taste the rewards, both inner and outer, that can come from them here and now.
In this way, he affirms the principle that the desire for happiness, if conducted in a blameless way, is neither futile nor something to be ashamed of.
If, however, his listeners were already experienced in giving and virtue, he would discuss the fourth topic, the drawbacks of sensuality:
the mind’s fascination with planning for and fantasizing about sensual pleasures, even heavenly ones (§147). At this point, if his listeners admitted the truth of this point, they would be receptive to the fifth topic:
the teaching that renunciation of sensuality would be a state, not of deprivation, but of true safety (§§97–101). In getting his listeners to look positively at renunciation, though, the Buddha was not preparing to tell them that the pursuit of happiness was futile.
Instead, he was encouraging them to continue that pursuit by aiming it toward a higher happiness, beyond the level of sensuality.
It was at this point that he would teach them the map to that higher happiness in the form of the four noble truths.
Transcendent Right View
MN 117, in defining transcendent right view, doesn’t directly mention the four noble truths, but it does mention the faculty and strength of discernment (§103), both of which are synonymous with the four noble truths.
In addition, transcendent right view also is expressed in the teaching called dependent co-arising (paṭicca samuppāda), which works out the first three noble truths in great detail.
This section will cover both teachings.
The four noble truths are the Buddha’s second categorical teaching, i.
e., a teaching true for all situations across the board.
These truths take a problem-solving approach to the issue of suffering, and treat it as a doctor might go about treating a disease.
The first truth, the truth of suffering, corresponds to identifying the symptoms of the disease.
The second truth, the origination of suffering, corresponds to identifying the causes of the symptoms.
The third truth, the cessation of suffering, corresponds to the possibility that the disease can be cured, and the fourth noble truth corresponds to the course of treatment that cures the disease by attacking its causes.
It’s useful to keep this analogy in mind, for it counters a popular misconception that, in focusing on suffering, the Buddha was a pessimist.
On the contrary:
He adopted the confident attitude of a doctor who talks about a disease, not because he has a pessimistic view of the world, but because he knows how the disease can be cured.
In moving from mundane right view to transcendent right view, the Buddha narrows the focus of the teaching—from action in general to the actions that cause and end suffering—and also changes the mode in which the view is expressed.
Mundane right view talks about people and worlds;
transcendent right view, about actions—primarily actions of the mind—without reference to people and worlds.
To continue the analogy of right view as a map, mundane right view is like a map showing political boundaries;
transcendent right view is like a map of underlying geological features with the political boundaries removed.
The reason for this change in the mode of expression will become clear when we discuss his definition for the origination of suffering, because one of the causes for suffering lies in being attached to concepts of “selves,” “people,” and “worlds.
” Although those concepts are necessary on the mundane level of right view—to explain to listeners attached to those concepts why the path to the end of suffering is worth their while—the actual ending of suffering requires thinking in a way that steps out of those concepts to view them from another perspective.
The first noble truth.
Contrary to popular belief, the Buddha did not teach that life is suffering.
Instead, as we pointed out in Chapter 1, the first noble truth—the truth of suffering/stress—starts with a list of instances of suffering, and then identifies the factor that they all have in common:
the five clinging-aggregates.
And contrary to another popular belief, the Buddha never stated that these aggregates constitute what a person is.
He simply noted that, when clung to, they provide the basis for how a person defines him- or herself.
He also admitted that the aggregates do provide pleasure—that’s why people become infatuated with them and cling to them—but that to put an end to suffering, it’s necessary to end the infatuation, which is why right view has to focus on the way in which the suffering that comes from clinging to the aggregates more than outweighs the pleasures they offer (§118).
The second noble truth.
The origination of suffering/stress lies in three types of craving—craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, and craving for non-becoming—which are accompanied by passion and delight, and all of which lead to further becoming.
(Here again, there’s a popular misconception—that the Buddha identified all desire as the origination of suffering—but that’s not true.
Some forms of desire actually function as essential parts of the factor of right effort in the noble eightfold path.
)
The Pāli word for craving, taṇhā, also means “thirst,” a double meaning paralleling the double meaning of upadāna, noted above, as both clinging and feeding.
This choice of words underlines the connection between the mind’s felt need to cling and feed, and the suffering that that felt need creates.
The three types of craving or thirst can be explained as follows:
• Sensuality (kāma), here, carries the same meaning that it has under the graduated discourse:
the mind’s fascination with planning and fantasizing about pleasures of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations (§147).
• Becoming (bhava) is a word that the suttas never define.
The closest they come to a definition is to say that becoming occurs on three levels—the level of sensuality, the level of form, and the level of formlessness—and that each of these levels is based on a corresponding desire for sensual pleasures, for the pleasures of form (such as the pleasures of the mind in the four jhānas), and for the pleasures of formlessness (e.
g., the pleasures of the mind in levels of concentration based on formless objects, such as the perception of infinite space or infinite consciousness) (§365).
But even though the suttas do not define the term “becoming,” the way they discuss it in various contexts shows that it means the process of taking on an identity in a particular world of experience.
This process can happen both on the large-scale level—when the process of consciousness moves to a new world and new identity at the death of the body—and the small-scale level, when a thought-world appears in the mind and you inhabit that world in your imagination.
On both the large and the small scale, the world of experience and the identity you assume within that world grow out of a specific desire.
In a very real sense, this desire forms the nucleus that locates both that particular world and your place in the world.
This is why, in the definition of the second noble truth, the cravings that lead to becoming are said to relish, “now here, now there.
” In focusing on a particular “there,” the mind establishes a location for itself, both in its imagination in this lifetime and in another world after death.
Small-scale becomings influence both scales.
They begin to move out of your imagination into the larger world when you fasten on a desire to the point of acting on it.
Say that you have a desire for pizza.
Your world then becomes defined by the desire, consisting of anything that either helps you obtain the pizza or gets in the way.
Anything or anyone irrelevant to the desire falls into the background of your world at that time.
As for your identity in this world, it has two sides:
the “you” who will find pleasure in feeding on the pizza —this is your self as consumer—and the “you” who either has the abilities to obtain the pizza or not:
your self as producer.
When you abandon the desire for pizza—either because you’ve obtained it and eaten it, you’ve given up on trying to get it, or you’ve simply lost interest in it—you usually find yourself moving on to a different desire, around which you develop a different sense of the world and a different sense of who you are:
a new becoming.
If, as often happens, you have several competing desires at any one time, they will cause you to straddle competing inner worlds and competing senses of who you are.
This is why you can feel divided against yourself and unsure of your place in the world, and is one of the most common ways in which becoming entails suffering.
But even when a desire is satisfied, it depends on worlds and identities that are fabricated out of precarious acts of clinging, and so those worlds and identities are precarious and bound to end.
This is why all becomings entail suffering and stress.
If the fabrication of those worlds requires unskillful kamma, that adds another level of suffering on top of the simple stress of trying to find happiness in the process of fabrication and the fabricated things that result.
The process of replacing one becoming with another can continue without end, which is how small-scale becomings can carry on repeatedly.
When you act on the desires that shape small-scale becomings, you shape large-scale becomings, both in this lifetime and in future lifetimes.
This is how the process of rebirth after the death of the body is directed by events in the mind and—like becomings in the mind—has the potential to continue indefinitely.
• Non-becoming (vibhava) means the destruction of a particular process of becoming.
The fact that craving for non-becoming could actually lead to becoming is counterintuitive, but the Buddha cited insight into this fact as one of the more subtle aspects of his awakening (§§127–128). The suttas don’t explain the dynamic here, but apparently when the mind takes on the desire to end a particular type of becoming—either on the large-scale, in a desire to end a relationship or to commit suicide;
or on the small-scale, in a desire to end the imaginings around a particular desire—it takes on a new identity, as a destroyer, and that becomes its new becoming.
AN 4.199 (§126) lists 36 verbalizations to show how the mind expresses the processes of becoming and non-becoming to itself.
All of these verbalizations center around “I”—what I am, how good or bad I am, what I might be, what I want to be, or how I might be turned into something else—and the things in the world outside that are the means by which any of these “I’s” arise or change.
The way these verbalizations are framed is important to know, because they show that, to get beyond craving for becoming and non-becoming, the mind has to frame its verbalizations in other terms.
This is precisely why transcendent right view cannot be expressed in terms of “self” and “world” if it is to do its work.
The fact that craving for non-becoming creates further becoming presents a challenge on the path to the end of suffering:
The desire to end becoming can be helpful in motivating you to embark on the path, but it will have to be abandoned if the path is to succeed.
The Buddha’s solution to this challenge is strategic, advocating skillful states of becoming in the mind—i.
e., the four jhānas of right concentration—that function in three ways to put the mind in a position to get past both becoming and non-becoming.
These states of concentration (1) provide a steady platform from which to observe the processes of becoming and non-becoming;
(2) give hands-on experience in the causal processes by which states of becoming are created and destroyed;
and (3) foster both the tranquility and the insight/discernment that allow the processes of becoming to run out on their own (§129). Because concentration is a form of becoming, and because insight and discernment are fabricated, the last step of the path requires that they run out on their own, as well.
This is why the path is like a raft that has to be abandoned on reaching the further shore.
The third noble truth.
The cessation of suffering occurs when these three forms of craving cease without remainder, and this happens when there is no remaining passion for them in the mind.
The definition of this truth is phrased in a way that reflects the twofold release that we mentioned in Chapter 1 with regard to the image of a fire going out:
As a result of the total fading of passion for these cravings, they are not only relinquished but also released.
Just as a fire is released when it lets go of its fuel, the mind is released when it lets go of craving—and the cravings are released as well.
The suttas seem to be inconsistent on the question of whether the third noble truth can be equated with unbinding.
Some, which identify unbinding as the highest dhamma (phenomenon, act, mental object), suggest that the answer is Yes (§11);
others, which state that unbinding is the transcending or ending of all dhammas, suggest No (§351;
§353). The apparent inconsistency here can perhaps be resolved by saying that the act of realizing unbinding is identical with the third noble truth, but that the full dimension of unbinding lies beyond it.
The fourth noble truth.
The path to the cessation of suffering is the noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Duties. Three of these noble truths—the first, second, and fourth—are fabricated.
Only the third noble truth is not.
The Buddha divides the processes of fabrication into the first, second, and fourth truths for a strategic purpose:
To put an end to suffering, it’s necessary to treat suffering, its origination, and the path to its cessation in different ways.
Suffering is to be comprehended (which means understanding it to the point where there is no remaining passion, aversion, or delusion around it (§107)), its origination abandoned, and the path developed (literally, made to become).
These three activities differ sharply from the normal reaction to suffering:
People often try to abandon suffering while holding on to—and developing—their cravings.
This is like coming home, finding your house full of smoke, and trying to put out the smoke while at the same time stoking the fire.
Instead, the Buddha recommends understanding what the smoke is and where it’s coming from, and then putting out the fire by developing the actions appropriate for extinguishing that kind of fire.
The three activities of comprehending suffering, abandoning its origination, and developing the path are called the duties (kicca) appropriate to those truths—duties, not in the sense that they are imposed by the Buddha, but simply in the sense that if you want to end suffering, this is what you have to do.
As for the third noble truth, the duty is to realize it.
Because the third noble truth is essentially identical with the act of abandoning the origination of suffering, and the act of abandoning the origination of suffering is the duty with regard to the second noble truth, this means that the duty with regard to the third noble truth is to watch the abandoning of craving and to affirm that, Yes, it does bring suffering to an end.
There’s a similar close relationship between the duties of the first and second noble truths:
It’s possible to abandon craving only when you comprehend, in a dispassionate way, the suffering that it causes.
When the fourth noble truth is developed, it puts the mind in a position where it can do the comprehending, the abandoning, and the realizing together:
This is why it’s the path to the end of suffering.
However, whereas the duties of the first three noble truths converge around the theme of dispassion, the duties of the fourth noble truth can’t be carried out without a level of passion and delight in developing the path-factors as skills.
This is why total awakening requires a step beyond transcendent right view where—when the path is fully developed—it can be treated with dispassion, too.
Dependent co-arising.
As mentioned above, the teaching of dependent co-arising gives a detailed treatment of the first three noble truths, listing the sequence of conditions that lead to suffering, and showing how suffering ends when ignorance, the first member of the sequence, ends.
The detail given by the list is so extensive, and the alternative versions of the list presented in the suttas so varied, that it would be impossible to cover all the facets of dependent co-arising here.
Instead, we will focus on the standard list and, within that list, on the salient points that bear most directly on the practice of the noble eightfold path.
These points can be discussed under two headings:
the sequence in which the factors are arranged, and the content of some of the more important factors.
The factors, beginning with suffering and working back to its causes, are these:
12) Aging, illness, and death, along with sorrow, pain, despair, and suffering, which are conditioned by –
11) the birth of an identity on any of –
10) the three levels of becoming.
Becoming is conditioned by –
9) the four types of clinging.
All the factors from 12 through 9 fall under the first noble truth.
However, because one of the definitions of “clinging” is delight (§109), and because the origination of suffering is defined as craving accompanied by passion and delight (§106), clinging straddles the line between suffering and its origination.
Factors 8 through 1 fall entirely under the second noble truth.
The conditions for clinging are –
8) the three types of craving.
These forms of craving focus on –
7) feelings of pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain, which depend on –
6) contact at –
5) the six senses (the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind).
These senses are conditioned by –
4) name-&-form:
the internal sense of the body and its mental events (such as attention, intention, contact, feeling, and perception).
These, in turn, are conditioned by –
3) consciousness at the six senses, which is conditioned by –
2) three types of fabrication—bodily, verbal, and mental—all of which are conditioned by a particular type of delusion –
1) ignorance:
not seeing things in terms of the four noble truths.
MN 9 (§130) adds that ignorance is conditioned by three effluents (āsava), qualities that “bubble up” in the mind and flow out of it to engage the world.
These effluents are sensuality, becoming, and ignorance.
So, in effect, ignorance begets ignorance at the beginning of the sequence leading to suffering.
The aspects of the sequence most obviously relevant to practicing the noble eightfold path are eight as well:
• The sequence as a whole is essentially unstable.
Nothing caused can be permanent, because there are no permanent causes.
This means that any happiness produced by the sequence will have to be unstable, inconstant, and unreliable, too.
The Buddha conveyed this point by likening the causal process to the act of eating (§112):
Effects feed off their causes.
Inter-being is inter-eating.
This fact is a primary motivation for following the path to the more reliable happiness that appears when the sequence can come to an end.
• All of the factors are processes and events immediately present in your awareness.
There is no need to search outside of your immediate present awareness for any hidden causes underlying these factors.
Every factor is right here to be observed.
• None of the factors make any reference to who is doing them or to any physical place where they are being done.
Instead, they are observed simply as events and processes, in and of themselves, as they are directly experienced.
Some of the Buddha’s listeners tried to ask him who was doing the factors, or to whom they belonged, but he refused to answer (SN 12.12;
SN 12.35). This fact has two major implications.
One, it keeps attention focused on the process, rather than on speculation about who or what does or does not lie behind the process.
Two, it enables dependent co-arising to describe the process of becoming both on the large scale and on the small scale:
the way consciousness moves from one lifetime to the next, and on the way it moves moment to moment from one thought world to the next.
Buddhist philosophers in the centuries after the Buddha’s life argued over whether dependent co-arising described large-scale becoming or small-scale becoming—in other words, becoming as it happened in the world or within oneself—but their arguments missed the point.
Dependent co-arising does not fall in the framework either of the world or of the self.
Instead, it forms the framework to describe how your sense of the world (under the factor of the six sense media (§63)) and your sense of self (under the factor of clinging) arise.
The fact that dependent co-arising frames both the large scale and the small scale is reflected in the way the Buddha uses both large-scale and small-scale events to illustrate the individual factors and the relationships among them (DN 15;
SN 12.2). By adopting this scale-invariant standpoint—i.
e., one that stays the same across different scales of space and time—dependent co-arising provides a perspective for getting out of the framework of “world” or “self,” allowing you to stand outside the processes of becoming and observe them without getting sucked into their terms.
The perspective afforded by this standpoint is like entering a movie theater and—instead of facing the screen and getting involved in the story of the movie—sitting to the side and looking across the room to see how the beam of light from the projector and the flashing colors on the screen—red, yellow, blue—cause the audience to laugh or cry.
• The factors most important in leading to stress and suffering occur prior to sensory contact.
This means that suffering isn’t caused primarily by unpleasant sensory contact;
it’s caused by the attitudes and views that are brought to any sensory contact, pleasant or not.
• The crucial causes for stress and suffering are internal, and so are not dependent on outside circumstances.
In fact, they are so internal that they belong to the aspect of your awareness that you share with no one else.
In formal terms, dependent co-arising deals in the phenomenology of awareness.
At the same time, the crucial causes of suffering and stress are subject to your knowledge and will.
In this way, the focus of the noble eightfold path has to be primarily internal, on the training of the mind.
• The relationships among the factors are not simple.
Even though the factors are listed in a linear sequence, a brief look at their sub-factors will show that some of the processes contained in the sequence recur at many other points in the sequence.
This allows them to create feedback loops as, say, the feeling that follows on contact can also function as the feeling sub-factor in name-&-form, where it is then subject either to appropriate or to inappropriate attention.
This feedback loop can then either amplify the suffering that results from the sequence or dampen it, depending on the quality of the attention involved.
This is another way that right view, in the form of appropriate attention, can put a halt to the processes of suffering.
And as we will see below, the many feedback loops in dependent co-arising explain why the process—unlike an iron-clad cycle that has to keep going once set into motion—can be brought to a halt.
• The sequence starts with ignorance—or lack of skill (avijjā)—in mastering the four noble truths and their appropriate duties.
In other words, you don’t see what you’re doing that’s causing stress or what you could do to stop—either because you’re not focused on this issue or, if you are focused here, you have yet to master the skills to see these things clearly.
Here it’s important to note that ignorance doesn’t simply set the next factor into action and then step off the scene.
It remains to foster the links between each of the succeeding factors.
This is why §130 states that if knowledge is brought to the relationships between any of the factors of dependent co-arising, suffering can cease with the cessation of that particular instance of ignorance.
The fact that ignorance comes first in the conditions leading to suffering explains why right view comes first in the path.
The fact that the knowledge curing ignorance comes in the form of the skills mastered when completing all the duties appropriate to the four noble truths explains why right view on its own cannot cut through ignorance.
It needs the help of all the other path-factors.
In fact, as right view gradually replaces ignorance, it can turn many of the factors of dependent co-arising into path-factors.
When the final level of right view totally replaces ignorance, the entire sequence ends, opening the way to the unfabricated dimension.
• Fabrication is another factor occurring prior to sensory contact, in two places in the sequence:
both immediately following on ignorance and as the sub-factor of intention in name-&-form.
This reflects the pro-active nature of consciousness that we discussed in Chapter 1. Even before the mind experiences sensory contact, it is already searching for that contact and intending it to go in a certain direction.
Because fabrication occurs so early in the sequence, it also occurs prior to your sense of the world (§63) and, as new kamma, prior to your experience of old kamma (§62). In this way, if you bring knowledge of the four noble truths to these processes of fabrication, you can change your experience of the world and of your old kamma so that you don’t have to suffer, regardless of what the world and your old kamma have to offer.
And when fabrication totally ends with the total ending of ignorance, the ensuing awareness of the unfabricated at the moment of awakening bears no relationship to the six sense media at all (§§370–372).
In terms of the specific factors of dependent co-arising, two are especially relevant as tools on the path:
fabrication and name.
Because these factors occur prior to sensory contact, they provide a useful analysis of what needs to be done to prevent the mind’s proactive processes from leading to suffering.
• Fabrication.
We have already noted, in Chapter 1, one of the prime ways in which the Buddha analyzed fabrication:
in terms of the five aggregates.
In dependent co-arising, he provides another useful framework that overlaps in some ways with the five aggregates but also provides a few new perspectives on the processes of fabrication.
Instead of five categories, here he analyzes fabrication into three:
bodily, verbal, and mental.
The suttas discussing dependent co-arising don’t clarify these terms any further, but other suttas discuss them in ways showing that their meaning depends on context.
When discussing becoming on the large scale—the way kamma leads to rebirth—the suttas use the three types of fabrication as an alternative way of describing the three types of kamma in general:
bodily, verbal, and mental (SN 12.25). When discussing meditation, however, they define bodily fabrication to mean the in-and-out breath, verbal fabrication to mean directed thought and evaluation—the way the mind talks to itself—and mental fabrication to mean feeling and perception (§131). Given the place of these three fabrications in dependent co-arising, right after ignorance and before sensory contact, these more specific meditative meanings are probably the relevant ones here.
As we will see throughout this book, this way of analyzing fabrication is helpful in understanding how the path is fabricated—both for the purpose of actually knowing how to fabricate it and, eventually, for the purpose of letting it go when it has performed its function.
• Name.
This factor replicates two of the mental aggregates—feeling and perception—and replaces the third mental aggregate, fabrication, with three other categories:
attention, intention, and contact.
Contact, here, apparently refers to intra-mental contact—say, between a perception and a feeling, or between an intention and an act of attention.
Intention stands for kamma (§57). Attention refers to the way the mind chooses which questions to ask and which framework to apply to what is perceived at the six senses (§229). In the course of practicing the noble eightfold path, intention underlies all of the factors—after all, the path is the kamma that puts an end to kamma—but it’s especially prominent in the concentration factors:
right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Attention can be either appropriate or inappropriate—there is no “bare” or “mere” attention in the Buddha’s teachings—and when it’s fully appropriate, it frames experience in terms of the four noble truths.
In this way, it plays a major role in right view.
As for feeling and perception, in Chapter 1 we have already noted the role of feeling in the pursuit of the middle way;
in the section below—Final Right View—we will discuss the role of perception in performing the tasks appropriate to both the transcendent and the final levels of right view.
We should also note, though, that perception also plays an important role in fostering jhāna, a point that will be discussed in Chapter 9.
Wrong views.
The mere existence of the four noble truths in the Buddha’s teachings can be seen as an implicit rejection of all the other views about suffering current in his time:
that it was unreal;
that it was inevitable and so had to be accepted until it ran out on its own;
that it could be burned off through austerities;
that it could be averted through brahmanical rituals;
or that all action led to suffering, so that only a path of total physical inaction, culminating in suicide by starvation, could bring it to an end.
However, the Buddha never used the four noble truths to directly refute these beliefs.
Instead, when mentioning the four noble truths in contrast to other views, his main concern was to show that these truths avoided getting involved in philosophical questions that were distractions and obstacles on the path to the end of suffering, no matter how they were answered.
Two prime examples stand out.
In DN 9, he contrasts the four truths with a questionnaire that listed the hot topics of his time in terms of ten questions:
Is the cosmos eternal?
Not eternal?
Infinite? Finite?
Is the soul the same thing as the body?
Something separate?
After death, does a Tathāgata exist?
Not exist?
Both? Neither?
In §229, he contrasts the four truths with views about the existence or non-existence of the self that arise from such questions as these:
“Am I?
Am I not?
What am I?
How am I?
Where has this being come from?
Where is it headed?
” In both suttas, the crucial point is that the four truths provide a point of view that avoids getting involved with questions framed in terms of “self” and “world,” the terms underlying becoming.
This is why they are able to offer a way of stepping out of the processes of becoming and the suffering that results from it.
Dependent co-arising functions in a similar way as a means for explaining how and why the Buddha avoided certain philosophical questions that, no matter how they were answered, led to views that led away from the path.
These questions included, “Does everything exist?
” “Does nothing exist?
” “Is everything a Oneness?
” “Is everything a plurality?
” (SN 12.48) “Are pleasure and pain (and any of the other factors of dependent co-arising) self-made, other-made, or both self-made and other-made?
Or—without self-making or other-making—do they arise without a cause?
” (SN 12.17–18) “Is there or is there not anyone who does or experiences the factors of dependent co-arising?
” (SN 12.35) Here again, the crucial point is that dependent co-arising provides, in the Buddha’s terms, a middle way that avoids the extremes of taking any position, one way or another, on questions framed in terms of “self” and “world.
” In this way, dependent co-arising is a conceptual framework that gives added dimension to the Buddha’s original statement that his path provides a middle way to the end of suffering.
Final Right View
As noted above, the first, second, and fourth noble truths divide fabricated experience into three categories so as to apply three different duties to them.
But as we have also noted, the duties with regard to the path fall into two stages:
First it must be developed—through passion—so as to provoke dispassion for other processes of becoming and then, when it has done its work, it must be abandoned through dispassion along with all other fabrications.
The final level of right view represents the stage when the path has done its work and the duties of the four noble truths collapse into one:
Everything is to be regarded with dispassion and let go.
The line between transcendent and final right view is not as clear as the line between mundane and transcendent right view, due to the fact that both transcendent and final right view employ the same mode of expression:
They treat events, primarily events in the mind, simply as actions.
However, there is definitely a point in the practice where the line is crossed.
Prior to that point, it’s necessary to hold to the path so that you can use it in the interconnected duties of comprehending suffering, abandoning its cause, and realizing its cessation.
However, the point comes when you turn on the path itself to comprehend it, abandon it, and realize its cessation, too.
In other words, you see that—even though it involves less suffering than any other activity—nevertheless it, too, is a form of suffering, and so has to be dropped to allow for suffering and stress to truly end.
This is what SN 12.15 means when it describes this level of the practice as seeing that whatever arises and passes away—and this would include the path—is simply stress arising and passing away.
SN 22.57 (§116) provides an outline for how, on this final level, the four duties corresponding to the four noble truths collapse into the single duty of inducing dispassion for all fabrications, in line with the third noble truth.
This outline serves as an answer to the question, posed in §299, as to how one should go about cultivating vipassanā, or insight.
It’s important to note that, in the suttas, vipassanā—literally, “clear-seeing”—is treated as a quality of mind, not as a meditation technique, and that this quality is to be developed by pursuing the answer to these questions:
“How should fabrications be regarded?
How should they be investigated?
How should they be seen with insight?
SN 22.57’s answer to these questions recommends seven steps for comprehending all five aggregates—and by this it means not just the clinging-aggregates in the first noble truth, but also the aggregates as they function in the second and fourth.
In addition to viewing the five aggregates under the rubric of the four truths—truth, origination, cessation, and path to cessation—it recommends examining them in terms of their allure, their drawbacks, and the escape from them.
Their allure, of course, is the pleasure that can be derived from them.
Their drawbacks lie in the fact that they are inconstant and stressful.
The escape from them is the subduing of passion and desire for them.
This pattern of analysis follows that of the graduated discourse, particularly in its comparison of the allure of sensuality with the drawbacks of sensuality for the purpose of becoming disenchanted with the allure.
SN 22.57 itself doesn’t make the connection, but the last three steps of this analysis are clearly related to one of the Buddha’s most prominent teachings, the teaching on inconstancy, stress, and not-self.
Although these qualities are frequently called the “three characteristics,” the Buddha himself never used that term to describe them.
Instead, he referred to them as “perceptions”:
the perception of inconstancy, the perception of stress, and the perception of not-self.
The distinction here is not merely semantic.
Seeing these qualities as perceptions reminds you that they are not metaphysical statements about the ultimate nature of reality.
Instead, they are labels—mental fabrications—applied strategically for furthering the duties appropriate to right view.
Unlike the four noble truths, these perceptions are never identified in the Canon as categorical teachings.
They are always true (§122), but they have to be applied at the right time and place if they are to be helpful in the practice (§139)—in line with the Buddha’s strictures for his own speech, that it be true but also beneficial and timely.
On the final level of right view, the Buddha recommends contemplating all fabrications in terms of these perceptions as a way of inducing dispassion for them.
In essence, the insight produced by this contemplation is a value judgment:
You see that the aggregates, as actions, may produce pleasure on one level (§116), which is the allure that convinces you to engage in them.
But, when viewing these actions in terms of their drawbacks, you see that the pleasure is more than outweighed by the fact that they also lead to results that are unstable, stressful, and—through the processes of kamma and dependent co-arising—beyond your control.
This leads to the conclusion that they are not worth the effort that goes into them.
Because passion is what drives the mind to engage in fabrication to begin with, the dispassion that results from this value judgment brings the processes of fabrication to an end.
That is the escape.
The dynamic of this contemplation is clearly depicted in the questionnaire in which the Buddha frames these three perceptions (§123):
With reference to each of the aggregates, he asks, “Is it constant or inconstant?
” “Inconstant.” “Is what is inconstant easeful or stressful?
” “Stressful.” “And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as:
‘This is mine.
This is my self.
This is what I am’?
” “No.”
Notice that the last question does not ask, “Can we come to the conclusion that there is no self?
” After all, as we have already noted, the Buddha on two occasions assigned the question of the existence or non-existence of the self to the category of questions to be put aside (§174;
§229;
SN 44.10). Instead, here he is simply asking, in effect:
“Is it (1) logically consistent and (2) worth the effort to identify with things that are inconstant and stressful?
” And the purpose of asking this question is to end any passion or delight that would keep the mind clinging to the aggregates.
The first part of this question, as §123 shows, builds on the basic meaning of “self”:
that it’s something under your control.
If something changes against your will and leads to stress, it’s obviously not totally under your control, and so doesn’t deserve to be regarded as self.
However, this reflection is, on its own, not enough to put an end to passion.
The really effective reflection is in the second part of this question, which is the value judgment:
If something changes against your will and leads to stress, is it worth the effort of clinging to it?
This line of questioning is effective only when the mind is not hungering for the pleasures of the aggregates.
If it still has that hunger, then no matter how much you focus on the drawbacks of the food it gets from the aggregates, it will still refuse to abandon them (§295). It would be like telling yourself that, because food is temporary and the search for food is stressful, you’re going to stop eating.
This is why the full-blown use of the three perceptions is reserved for the final level of right view, after right concentration has been mastered enough to provide enough nourishment for the mind to step back from its usual hungers.
Up until that point, in the development of mundane right view, the perceptions of inconstancy, stress, and not-self are reserved for such things as wealth, relatives, or health that might induce you to engage in unskillful behavior.
Meanwhile, you actually try to develop a sense of self around your desire to develop skillful behavior because, at this stage of the effort, that attachment is still worth the effort (§217).
Similarly, in the development of transcendent right view, the three perceptions are not applied to states of concentration themselves, for that would interfere with their development.
Instead, the three perceptions—or variations on them—are applied to the distractions that would pull you out of concentration (§235). At the same time, you continue to develop a responsible sense of self that feels capable of sticking with the path (§221). When you have mastered the path to the point where a sense of self is no longer necessary—when the mind has tired of the fabricated nature even of the concentration it has mastered and so wants something better—only then are you ready for the final stage.
The suttas show how this final stage happens in three phases.
In the first phase, the target of your analysis is the state of concentration from which the mind has been viewing other events in the mind.
As AN 9.36 (§312) explains, once the concentration has been mastered, in the same way that an archer might master archery, you analyze it in terms of the five aggregates, applying a number of perceptions that expand on the primary three of inconstancy, stress, and not-self.
Under the theme of inconstancy, you can also use the perception of disintegration;
under the theme of stress, you can use the perceptions of a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction;
and under the theme of not-self, you can use the perceptions of alien and an emptiness.
These perceptions enable you to develop dispassion for the concentration and progress to the second phase, in which you incline the mind to the deathless.
As AN 9.36 notes, though, it’s possible for the mind then to develop a passion for the discernment that sees the deathless—and in fact, in the early stages of awakening, this is precisely what happens, preventing the mind from advancing to total awakening.
Still, these earlier levels of awakening are useful because they show that, in abandoning the aggregates, the mind doesn’t starve.
Instead, it touches a happiness that requires no feeding at all.
But ultimately, to fully attain that happiness, the mind needs to develop dispassion also for the discernment that sees the deathless.
This is why, as the third phase, the Buddha recommends the perception, not only that all fabrications are not-self, but that all dhammas—fabricated or not—are not-self, as a means of getting past that particular level of passion.
Then, as §138 notes, it’s necessary to drop any attachment to this very last act of discernment.
AN 10.93 (§132) describes this step as one in which right view turns on itself.
Seeing all mental actions as fabrications unworthy of attachment, right view is able to see itself as a mental action, and so unworthy of attachment.
This allows you to find the escape even beyond right view and the duties it entails.
This is why right view is right:
It contains the seeds for its own transcendence.
In transcending itself, it also cuts through all the causes for suffering described in dependent co-arising.
Because concentration is the clearest practice for seeing attention in action, and acts of discernment are the clearest for seeing intention in action, when both of these forms of fabrication are allowed to drop away, the factor of “name” disbands, causing all the other factors in dependent co-arising to disband, leaving an opening to the unfabricated.
Wrong views.
Just as DN 9 contrasts transcendent right view with the ten hot questions that philosophers debated in the Buddha’s time, AN 10.93 contrasts final right view with the same list of ten questions.
In both cases, the argument is the same:
Right view, unlike any attempt to answer those questions, actually leads to the end of suffering.
AN 10.93, however, goes a little more into the specifics of why this is so.
As Anāthapiṇḍika points out in that sutta, when you see with right discernment that whatever is fabricated is inconstant, stressful, and not me, not my self, not what I am, you also see the escape that allows you not to be stuck holding onto the stress of the view itself.
This implies that right view is superior because it is self-reflexive, pointing to the need to let go not only of other fabricated things, but also of itself.
SN 12.15 (§135) shows that final right view arises when, while watching the arising and passing away of the world—the six sense media (§63), which include the states of jhāna under the sixth—you reach the point where concepts of “existence” and “non-existence” don’t occur to you.
As SN 22.94 (§140) indicates, this doesn’t imply the semantic argument that these concepts cannot ever be rightly applied to fabricated phenomena.
It simply means that, in that state of awareness, there is no basis for giving rise to those concepts.
When the concepts aren’t there, they don’t get in the way of abandoning whatever appears to be stress—even if you’ve identified with it in the past—for there is no fear of going out of existence if you do.
Although concepts of existence and non-existence are not wrong on other levels of right view, they are strategically wrong for this final stage, and so have to be dropped.
Reading SN 12.15 in conjunction with SN 22.94 helps to counteract a form of wrong view about right view that can sometimes occur within the Buddhist tradition:
the belief that final right view is an ultimate truth, whereas earlier versions of right view are only conventional truths.
One form of this wrong view states that the beings and worlds mentioned in mundane right view don’t really exist;
the only existing things are individual events.
Another states that, on the level of ultimate truth, even individual events can’t be described as existing, not existing, both, or neither.
It’s true that the Buddha occasionally admits to adopting, as a teaching technique, the conventional views of the world without holding to them (see DN 9), but he never makes that statement with regard to mundane right view.
And he never refers to any of the forms of right view as ultimate truths.
All the levels of right view are strategies—true on their own terms, beneficial, and timely—which, after they have done their work, are abandoned for the sake of the higher truth of nibbāna (§317), which lies beyond all views.
As §139 shows, it’s important not to mix up the levels by applying terms or value judgments appropriate to one level of strategy to another.
The higher levels could not do their work without the support of mundane right view, and mundane right view is incomplete without the help of the higher levels.
As part of the path, each level of strategy has its own integrity, and should be honored for the work it is able to accomplish.
This/That Conditionality
Although the Buddha used right view to avoid getting involved in many of the metaphysical issues of his time, there was one metaphysical issue that he had to address because it underlies every level of right view.
That issue is the question of causality:
How does causality work in causing suffering and in giving rise to the path to the end of suffering?
In particular, the Buddha had to show how causal principles could work in such a way as to allow for a fabricated path to lead to an unfabricated state, and for the ending of fabrication in the present moment to create an opening for the unfabricated even when fabrications from the past had not all had time to produce their results.
Because causality was a hotly debated topic in his time, he couldn’t simply say that causality happened, or that he accepted all forms of causality, because many of the causal theories advanced by his contemporaries—such as strict determinism or random chaos—didn’t allow for the development of skills needed to put an end to suffering.
So he had to be very specific in explaining the kind of causality assumed by right view.
His explanation was a teaching that he called this/that conditionality (idappaccayatā), and expressed in the following formula:
[1] “When this is, that is.
[2] “From the arising of this, that arises.
[3] “When this isn’t, that isn’t.
[4] “From the cessation of this, that ceases.
” — SN 12.61
This formula is actually the intersection of two pairs of principles working together.
The first pair describes causality in the present moment:
“When this is, that is.
When this isn’t, that isn’t.
” The cause is simultaneous with the result, and when the cause disappears, the result immediately disappears.
The second pair describes causality over time.
“From the arising of this, that arises.
From the cessation of this, that ceases.
” The cause may appear and disappear at one time, but the effect can come and go either right away or much later.
An example of the first kind of causality would be sticking your finger into a fire.
You don’t have to wait until your next lifetime to get the result.
The fire burns right away.
An example of the second type of causality would be planting a seed in the field.
You won’t get a mature plant right away.
It will take time, well after you stopped the action of planting the seed, and perhaps not even in this lifetime.
Experience consists of the combination of these two principles.
At any one moment in time, you will have the results of some past actions ripening.
Because actions can ripen at widely varying rates, those results could be coming from many disparate actions spread widely over time.
You also have your present actions—i.
e., your present intentions—along with some of the results of those present actions.
This means that experience is shaped to some extent by past actions, but also by present actions.
In fact, the present actions are actually the most important ones to attend to because the present moment is precisely where you have freedom of choice concerning which intentions to act on and which to discard.
Your past actions are like raw material for the present moment, and your present actions are the act of shaping that raw material into an experience.
You can compare this process to preparing food:
Past actions are like raw, inedible ingredients, whereas present actions turn those ingredients into food you can eat.
Although the Buddha used this/that conditionality to explain the causal pattern at work in dependent co-arising, it also underlies some of his explanations of kamma on the level of mundane right view:
the fact that fabrication fabricates all the aggregates (§120), and that the results of past bad kamma depend to a great extent on your present state of mind (§65). The way these two causal principles interact to form a causal pattern that follows some regular laws but nevertheless allows for freedom of choice is precisely the combination needed to allow for the ability to develop skills:
It’s because actions and their results follow a certain regular pattern that we can learn from them.
It’s because we have freedom of choice in the present moment that we can use what we’ve learned to become more and more skillful over time.
But the interaction of these two principles also explains more.
In general, when the interactions between two principles are complex enough—and dependent co-arising shows that their complexity is more than enough—then even though the original principles may separately be quite simple, their interaction creates complex non-linear systems.
Scientists studying complex non-linear systems—both physical systems, such as erosion patterns, and social systems, such as stock market behavior—have found that many of them behave in ways that parallel the way the suttas describe the causal interactions underlying suffering and the path to the end of suffering.
Four types of behavior are especially relevant here.
• The first is that such systems contain many feedback loops, where A influences B, B influences C, and C turns around to influence A.
This type of pattern can be seen in dependent co-arising where feeling enters into the sequence at many points, allowing one feeling at a later position in the sequence to turn around and re-enter the sequence at an earlier point, where it can influence the factors that condition it.
Feedback loops are of two types:
positive and negative.
An example of a positive feedback loop is what happens when you put a microphone connected to a loudspeaker in front of the loudspeaker.
A sound picked up by the microphone will get amplified many, many times until it’s deafening.
That’s called a positive feedback loop, not because it’s positively good, but because it tends to intensify the original event.
An example of a positive feedback loop in dependent co-arising would be a feeling of pain that, through inappropriate attention, gives rise to angry perceptions that would then circle around to aggravate the feeling of pain.
An example of a negative feedback loop is a heater connected to a thermostat in the same room:
When the heater raises the room temperature to a certain point, the thermostat will turn it off.
When the room cools to a certain point, the thermostat will turn the heater back on.
This is called a negative feedback loop—again, not because it does anything negative, but because the two members work in opposing directions to keep each other in check.
An example of a negative feedback loop in dependent co-arising would be an emotional pain that, viewed with appropriate attention, gives rise to skillful perceptions that would circle around to dampen the pain.
The fact that the causes of suffering contain feedback loops of these sorts places two obstacles in the path to their cessation.
One is that their complexity can often make it hard to see exactly what the causal patterns are.
A small action can be amplified by a positive feedback loop in one instance, and dampened by a negative loop in another.
The second obstacle is that the patterns these loops create are so unstable and, in their details, so unpredictable, that there’s no guarantee that when you change the input, the system will show the effects of your actions right away.
This means that when you start practicing, there’s no way of predicting how soon you’ll see the results you want.
This can often be discouraging.
However, the main advantage of a system containing many feedback loops such as those found in dependent co-arising is that it’s neither strictly deterministic nor totally chaotic.
The forces governing the system can be pushed in many different directions to lead to many different outcomes.
If the “push” is done with knowledge of the principles underlying the system, it can lead the system to produce the desired results.
This is why right view plays such an important role in the path, for it constitutes the knowledge that allows you to push the system of dependent co-arising in the right direction, away from causing suffering and toward suffering’s end.
In particular, if you use knowledge to create skillful feedback loops in the mind by passing the causal sequence through appropriate attention again and again, those small changes can amplify throughout the system, forcing it to go in the direction you want it to go.
This fact connects with the second feature of complex non-linear systems:
• They contain different basins of attraction.
In other words, if the parameters acting on the system stay within a particular range, the system’s behavior will be “attracted” to a particular outcome, like a ball circling around the floor of a basin and coming to rest in the lowest part of the basin.
If those parameters pass over a threshold, the system’s behavior will be attracted to another, quite different outcome, like a ball pushed over the edge of a basin and into another basin.
An example of this sort of shift is weather at the North and South Poles.
When subjected to continuous sunlight, the temperatures will fluctuate within a certain range;
when subjected to continuous darkness, they’ll move to an entirely different range.
In terms of dependent co-arising, the “parameters” governing the system lie within the system itself, in the factors of ignorance versus knowledge, and inappropriate versus appropriate attention.
The system will head toward suffering under the influence of ignorance and inappropriate attention, but toward the noble eightfold path and the end of suffering under the influence of their opposites.
• The third relevant feature of complex patterns is called scale invariance.
What this means is that patterns operating on the small scale also operate on the large scale.
This can be seen in aerial photos of erosion patterns that are identical whether they are on the scale of a few inches or many hundreds of miles.
The same principle applies to the mind.
If you learn how to deal with the complexities of kamma and becoming in the present moment, you learn the larger complexities of kamma and becoming as they apply over large spans of time.
And when you learn about the patterns of kamma and becoming over large time scales, they can teach you lessons about how to deal skillfully with your mind in the present.
In fact, that’s what the Buddha did on the night of his awakening.
He learned about the pattern of intention and views on the large scale in his second knowledge, and then applied that pattern to his mind in the present moment in the third.
• The fourth relevant feature is that in most complex systems, the principles that put the system together can also be used to take the system apart.
An example is the complex gravitational relationship among the Sun, Earth, and Moon.
It’s possible for the Moon’s trajectory to reach a point called a resonance, where a member of one of the equations describing its trajectory gets divided by zero.
When that happens, the result lies outside the system:
The Moon will leave its orbit and go flying in a direction that cannot be predicted, even though it was brought to that point by following the laws of gravity.
In the same way, even though our experience is created by fabrication, and our experience of space and time is shaped by our actions, we can still fabricate our actions to get outside of those dimensions, by arriving at a point of equilibrium where intention stops and the present moment is, in effect, divided by zero.
That’s where release is found.
This last aspect of complex non-linear systems supplies the answer to the question of how a fabricated path can lead to an unfabricated dimension, and how the system of fabrication can break down even though not all of the fabricated actions of the past have yielded their results.
The analogy of resonance also illustrates, roughly, what happens after each level of awakening.
After the Moon has entered a resonance and momentarily left the system, the laws of gravitation bring it into a new relationship with the Sun and the Earth.
In a similar way, after an experience of awakening, a person returns to the six senses but in a new relationship to them.
In the first three levels of awakening, certain fetters are dropped from the mind, but not all, which means that there is still some clinging in the mind’s relationship to its objects (§324). After total awakening, though, when all the fetters are dropped, the relationship is radically different:
The arahant is aware of the six senses, but disjoined from them (§24;
§359). In this way, such a person continues to experience the results of old kamma until the total release occurring at death.
The analogy breaks down here, however, in the sense that, unlike the gravity of the Earth and Sun acting on the Moon after the Moon has altered its course through a resonance, nothing in the six senses ever exerts any pull on the mind of an arahant at all.
The behavior of complex non-linear systems, in addition to showing how the fabrications that lead to suffering can be changed to fabrications that lead to the end of suffering, also helps to explain a central feature of the Buddha’s teachings on suffering and its end:
the fact that he provides so many different explanations of how suffering is originated, and so many different lists of the factors leading to its cessation.
For example, as we noted above, dependent co-arising is explained in many different ways, with some factors appearing in some explanations and not in others.
The noble eightfold path lists its factors in one order;
the triple training, in another.
The existence of many feedback loops in the causes of suffering show not only why it was valid for the Buddha to express his teachings in these different ways, but also why it was skillful.
Just as the causes of suffering act in a mutually reinforcing way, so do the factors leading to its end.
For people caught at different points in the various feedback loops of dependent co-arising, it’s good to have a variety of entry points and lines of attack for dealing strategically with the causes of suffering and turning the processes of fabrication to a good end.
And in showing how suffering comes from causes that are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing, the complexity of this/that conditionality drives home the point that the path to the end of suffering will require factors that are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing as well.
Readings
§ 54. “Suppose there were a man needing a water-snake, seeking a water-snake, wandering in search of a water-snake.
He would see a large water-snake and grasp it by the coils or by the tail.
The water-snake, turning around, would bite him on the hand, on the arm, or on one of his limbs, and from that cause he would suffer death or death-like suffering.
Why is that?
Because of the wrong-graspedness of the water-snake.
In the same way, there is the case where some worthless men study the Dhamma.
… Having studied the Dhamma, they don’t ascertain the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment.
Not having ascertained the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment, they don’t come to an agreement through pondering.
They study the Dhamma both for attacking others and for defending themselves in debate.
They don’t reach the goal for which (people) study the Dhamma.
Their wrong grasp of those Dhammas will lead to their long-term harm & suffering.
Why is that?
Because of the wrong-graspedness of the Dhammas.
“Suppose there were a man needing a water-snake, seeking a water-snake, wandering in search of a water-snake.
He would see a large water-snake and pin it down firmly with a cleft stick.
Having pinned it down firmly with a forked stick, he would grasp it firmly by the neck.
Then no matter how much the water-snake might wrap its coils around his hand, his arm, or any of his limbs, he would not from that cause suffer death or death-like suffering.
Why is that?
Because of the right-graspedness of the water-snake.
In the same way, there is the case where some clansmen study the Dhamma.
… Having studied the Dhamma, they ascertain the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment.
Having ascertained the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment, they come to an agreement through pondering.
They don’t study the Dhamma either for attacking others or for defending themselves in debate.
They reach the goal for which people study the Dhamma.
Their right grasp of those Dhammas will lead to their long-term welfare & happiness.
Why is that?
Because of the right-graspedness of the Dhammas.
” — MN 22
Mundane Right View
§ 55. “Now, what is the faculty of conviction?
There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, has conviction, is convinced of the Tathāgata’s awakening:
‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy & rightly self-awakened, consummate in clear-knowing & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the cosmos, unexcelled trainer of people fit to be tamed, teacher of devas & human beings, awakened, blessed.
’ This is called the faculty of conviction.
” — SN 48.10
§ 56. “Having approached the contemplatives & brahmans who hold that… ‘Whatever a person experiences… is all caused by what was done in the past,’ I said to them:
‘Is it true that you hold that… whatever a person experiences… is all caused by what was done in the past?
’ Thus asked by me, they admitted, ‘Yes.
’ Then I said to them, ‘Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of what was done in the past.
A person is a thief… uncelibate… a liar… a divisive speaker… a harsh speaker… an idle chatterer… greedy… malicious… a holder of wrong views because of what was done in the past.
’ When one falls back on what was done in the past as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort (at the thought), ‘This should be done.
This shouldn’t be done.
’ When one can’t pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn’t be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected.
One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative.
“Having approached the contemplatives & brahmans who hold that… ‘Whatever a person experiences… is all caused by a supreme being’s act of creation,’ I said to them:
‘Is it true that you hold that… whatever a person experiences… is all caused by a supreme being’s act of creation?
’ Thus asked by me, they admitted, ‘Yes.
’ Then I said to them, ‘Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of a supreme being’s act of creation.
A person is a thief… uncelibate… a liar… a divisive speaker… a harsh speaker… an idle chatterer… covetous… malicious… a holder of wrong views because of a supreme being’s act of creation.
’ When one falls back on a supreme being’s act of creation as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], ‘This should be done.
This shouldn’t be done.
’ When one can’t pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn’t be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected.
One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative.
“Having approached the contemplatives & brahmans who hold that… ‘Whatever a person experiences… is all without cause, without condition,’ I said to them:
‘Is it true that you hold that… whatever a person experiences… is all without cause, without condition?
’ Thus asked by me, they admitted, ‘Yes.
’ Then I said to them, ‘Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings without cause, without condition.
A person is a thief… uncelibate… a liar… a divisive speaker… a harsh speaker… an idle chatterer… covetous… malicious… a holder of wrong views without cause, without condition.
’ When one falls back on lack of cause and lack of condition as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], ‘This should be done.
This shouldn’t be done.
’ When one can’t pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn’t be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected.
One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative.
” — AN 3.62
§ 57. “Intention, I tell you, is kamma.
Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.
“And what is the cause by which kamma comes into play?
Contact is the cause by which kamma comes into play.
“And what is the diversity in kamma?
There is kamma to be experienced in hell, kamma to be experienced in the realm of common animals, kamma to be experienced in the realm of the hungry ghosts, kamma to be experienced in the human world, kamma to be experienced in the world of the devas.
This is called the diversity in kamma.
“And what is the result of kamma?
The result of kamma is of three sorts, I tell you:
that which arises right here-&-now, that which arises later [in this lifetime], and that which arises following that.
This is called the result of kamma.
“And what is the cessation of kamma?
From the cessation of contact is the cessation of kamma;
and just this noble eightfold path—right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration—is the way leading to the cessation of kamma.
” — AN 6.63
§ 58. “And what is kamma that is dark with dark result?
There is the case where a certain person fabricates an injurious bodily fabrication, fabricates an injurious verbal fabrication, fabricates an injurious mental fabrication.
Having fabricated an injurious bodily fabrication, having fabricated an injurious verbal fabrication, having fabricated an injurious mental fabrication, he rearises in an injurious world.
On rearising in an injurious world, he is there touched by injurious contacts.
Touched by injurious contacts, he experiences feelings that are exclusively painful, like those of the beings in hell.
This is called kamma that is dark with dark result.
[1]
“And what is kamma that is bright with bright result?
There is the case where a certain person fabricates a non-injurious bodily fabrication… a non-injurious verbal fabrication… a non-injurious mental fabrication.
… He rearises in a non-injurious world.
… There he is touched by non-injurious contacts.
… He experiences feelings that are exclusively pleasant, like those of the Beautiful Black Devas.
This is called kamma that is bright with bright result.
“And what is kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result?
There is the case where a certain person fabricates a bodily fabrication that is injurious & non-injurious… a verbal fabrication that is injurious & non-injurious… a mental fabrication that is injurious & non-injurious.
… He rearises in an injurious & non-injurious world.
… There he is touched by injurious & non-injurious contacts.
… He experiences injurious & non-injurious feelings, pleasure mingled with pain, like those of human beings, some devas, and some beings in the lower realms.
This is called kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result.
“And what is kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma?
Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
This is called kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma.
” — AN 4.237
Note
1. AN 4.234 defines dark kamma with dark result with the following example:
“There is the case of a certain person who kills living beings, steals what is not given, engages in illicit sex, tells lies, and drinks fermented & distilled liquors that are the basis for heedlessness,” and bright kamma with bright result with the following example:
“There is the case of a certain person who abstains from killing living beings, abstains from stealing what is not given, abstains from engaging in illicit sex, abstains from telling lies, and abstains from drinking fermented & distilled liquors that are the basis for heedlessness.
§ 59. “I designate the rebirth of one who has sustenance [clinging], Vaccha, and not of one without sustenance.
Just as a fire burns with sustenance and not without sustenance, even so I designate the rebirth of one who has sustenance and not of one without sustenance.
“But, Master Gotama, at the moment a flame is being swept on by the wind and goes a far distance, what do you designate as its sustenance then?
“Vaccha, when a flame is being swept on by the wind and goes a far distance, I designate it as wind-sustained, for the wind is its sustenance at that time.
“And at the moment when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, what do you designate as its sustenance then?
“Vaccha, when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, I designate it as craving-sustained, for craving is its sustenance at that time.
” — SN 44.9
§ 60. As Ven.
Ānanda was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, “I say categorically, Ānanda, that bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct should not be done.
“Given that the Blessed One has declared, lord, that bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct should not be done, what drawbacks can one expect when doing what should not be done?
“… One can fault oneself;
observant people, on close examination, criticize one;
one’s bad reputation gets spread about;
one dies confused;
and—with the breakup of the body, after death—one reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell.
“I say categorically, Ānanda, that good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct should be done.
“Given that the Blessed One has declared, lord, that good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct should be done, what rewards can one expect when doing what should be done?
“… One doesn’t fault oneself;
observant people, on close examination, praise one;
one’s good reputation gets spread about;
one dies unconfused;
and—with the breakup of the body, after death—one reappears in a good destination, a heavenly world.
” — AN 2.18
§ 61. As they were sitting there, the Kālāmas of Kesaputta said to the Blessed One, “Lord, there are some contemplatives & brahmans who come to Kesaputta.
They expound & glorify their own doctrines, but as for the doctrines of others, they deprecate them, disparage them, show contempt for them, & pull them to pieces.
And then other contemplatives & brahmans come to Kesaputta.
They expound & glorify their own doctrines, but as for the doctrines of others, they deprecate them, disparage them, show contempt for them, & pull them to pieces.
They leave us absolutely uncertain & in doubt:
Which of these venerable contemplatives & brahmans are speaking the truth, and which ones are lying?
“Of course you are uncertain, Kālāmas.
Of course you are in doubt.
When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born.
So in this case, Kālāmas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.
’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These dhammas are unskillful;
these dhammas are blameworthy;
these dhammas are criticized by the observant;
these dhammas, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’—then you should abandon them.
“What do you think, Kālāmas?
When greed arises in a person, does it arise for welfare or for harm?
“For harm, lord.
“And this greedy person, overcome by greed, his mind possessed by greed, kills living beings, takes what is not given, goes after another person’s wife, tells lies, and induces others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term harm & suffering.
“Yes, lord.
[Similarly with aversion & delusion.
]
“So what do you think, Kālāmas:
Are these dhammas skillful or unskillful?
“Unskillful, lord.
“Blameworthy or blameless?
“Blameworthy, lord.
“Criticized by the observant or praised by the observant?
“Criticized by the observant, lord.
“When adopted & carried out, do they lead to harm & to suffering, or not?
“When adopted & carried out, they lead to harm & to suffering.
That is how it appears to us.
” …
“Now, Kālāmas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.
’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These dhammas are skillful;
these dhammas are blameless;
these dhammas are praised by the observant;
these dhammas, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’—then you should enter & remain in them.
“What do you think, Kālāmas?
When lack of greed arises in a person, does it arise for welfare or for harm?
“For welfare, lord.
“And this ungreedy person, not overcome by greed, his mind not possessed by greed, doesn’t kill living beings, take what is not given, go after another person’s wife, tell lies, or induce others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term welfare & happiness.
“Yes, lord.
[Similarly with lack of aversion & lack of delusion.
]
“So what do you think, Kālāmas:
Are these dhammas skillful or unskillful?
“Skillful, lord.
“Blameworthy or blameless?
“Blameless, lord.
“Criticized by the observant or praised by the observant?
“Praised by the observant, lord.
“When adopted & carried out, do they lead to welfare & to happiness, or not?
“When adopted & carried out, they lead to welfare & to happiness.
That is how it appears to us.
” — AN 3.66
§ 62. “Now, what is old kamma?
The eye is to be seen as old kamma, fabricated & willed, capable of being felt.
The ear… The nose… The tongue… The body… The intellect is to be seen as old kamma, fabricated & willed, capable of being felt.
This is called old kamma.
“And what is new kamma?
Whatever kamma one does now with the body, with speech, or with the intellect:
This is called new kamma.
” — SN 35.145
§ 63. Then a certain monk went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One:
“‘The world, the world [loka],’ it is said.
In what respect does the word ‘world’ apply?
“Insofar as it disintegrates [lujjati], monk, it is called the ‘world.
’ Now, what disintegrates?
The eye disintegrates.
Forms disintegrate.
Eye-consciousness disintegrates.
Eye-contact disintegrates.
And whatever there is that arises in dependence on eye-contact—experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain—that too disintegrates.
“The ear disintegrates.
Sounds disintegrate…
“The nose disintegrates.
Aromas disintegrate…
“The tongue disintegrates.
Tastes disintegrate…
“The body disintegrates.
Tactile sensations disintegrate…
“The intellect disintegrates.
Ideas disintegrate.
Intellect-consciousness disintegrates.
Intellect-contact disintegrates.
And whatever there is that arises in dependence on intellect-contact—experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain—that too disintegrates.
“Insofar as it disintegrates, it is called the ‘world.
’” — SN 35.82
The Complexity of Kamma
§ 64. “These four imponderables are not to be speculated about.
Whoever speculates about them would go mad & experience vexation.
Which four?
The Buddha-range of the Buddhas [i.
e., the range of powers a Buddha develops as a result of becoming a Buddha].
… The jhāna-range of one absorbed in jhāna [i.
e., the range of powers that one may obtain while absorbed in jhāna].
… The results of kamma.
… Speculation about [the origin, extent, purpose, etc.
, of] the cosmos is an imponderable that is not to be speculated about.
Whoever speculates about these things would go mad & experience vexation.
” — AN 4.77
§ 65. “Monks, for anyone who says, ‘In whatever way a person makes kamma, that is how it is experienced,’ there is no living of the holy life, there is no opportunity for the right ending of stress.
But for anyone who says, ‘When a person makes kamma to be felt in such & such a way, that is how its result is experienced,’ there is the living of the holy life, there is the opportunity for the right ending of stress.
“There is the case where a trifling evil act done by a certain individual takes him to hell.
There is the case where the very same sort of trifling act done by another individual is experienced in the here-&-now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.
“Now, a trifling evil act done by what sort of individual takes him to hell?
There is the case where a certain individual is undeveloped in the body [i.
e., pleasant feelings can invade the mind and stay there—see §30], undeveloped in virtue, undeveloped in mind [i.
e., painful feelings can invade the mind and stay there], undeveloped in discernment:
restricted, small-hearted, dwelling with suffering.
A trifling evil act done by this sort of individual takes him to hell.
“Now, a trifling evil act done by what sort of individual is experienced in the here-&-now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment?
There is the case where a certain individual is developed in the body [i.
e., pleasant feelings cannot invade the mind and stay there], developed in virtue, developed in mind [i.
e., painful feelings cannot invade the mind and stay there], developed in discernment:
unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the unlimited.
A trifling evil act done by this sort of individual is experienced in the here-&-now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.
“Suppose that a man were to drop a lump of salt into a small amount of water in a cup.
What do you think?
Would the water in the cup become salty because of the lump of salt, and unfit to drink?
“Yes, lord.
…”
“Now, suppose that a man were to drop a lump of salt into the River Ganges.
What do you think?
Would the water in the River Ganges become salty because of the lump of salt, and unfit to drink?
“No, lord.
…”
“In the same way, there is the case where a trifling evil act done by one individual [the first] takes him to hell;
and there is the case where the very same sort of trifling act done by the other individual is experienced in the here-&-now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.
” — AN 3.101
§ 66. Moḷiyasivaka:
“There are some contemplatives & brahmans who are of this doctrine, this view:
Whatever an individual feels—pleasure, pain, neither-pleasure-nor-pain—is entirely caused by what was done before.
Now, what does Master Gotama say to that?
The Buddha:
“There are cases where some feelings arise based on bile [i.
e., diseases and pains that come from a malfunction of the gall bladder].
You yourself should know how some feelings arise based on bile.
Even the world is agreed on how some feelings arise based on bile.
So any contemplatives & brahmans who are of the doctrine & view that whatever an individual feels—pleasure, pain, neither-pleasure-nor-pain—is entirely caused by what was done before—slip past what they themselves know, slip past what is agreed on by the world.
Therefore I say that those contemplatives & brahmans are wrong.
“There are cases where some feelings arise based on phlegm… based on internal winds… based on a combination of bodily humors… from the change of the seasons… from uneven (‘out-of-tune’) care of the body… from attacks… from the result of kamma.
You yourself should know how some feelings arise from the result of kamma.
Even the world is agreed on how some feelings arise from the result of kamma.
So any contemplatives & brahmans who are of the doctrine & view that whatever an individual feels—pleasure, pain, neither pleasure-nor-pain—is entirely caused by what was done before—slip past what they themselves know, slip past what is agreed on by the world.
Therefore I say that those contemplatives & brahmans are wrong.
” — SN 36.21
§ 67. “There are, headman, some contemplatives & brahmans who hold a doctrine & view like this:
‘All those who kill living beings experience pain & distress in the here-&-now.
All those who take what is not given… who engage in sexual misconduct… who tell lies experience pain & distress in the here-&-now.
“Now there is the case where a certain person is seen garlanded & adorned, freshly bathed & groomed, with hair & beard trimmed, enjoying the sensualities of women as if he were a king.
They ask about him:
‘My good man, what has this man done that he has been garlanded & adorned… as if he were a king?
’ They answer:
‘My good man, this man attacked the king’s enemy and took his life.
The king, gratified with him, rewarded him.
That is why he is garlanded & adorned… as if he were a king.
“Then there is the case where a certain person is seen bound with a stout rope with his arms pinned tightly against his back, his head shaved bald, marched to a harsh-sounding drum from street to street, crossroads to crossroads, evicted through the south gate, and beheaded to the south of the city.
They ask about him:
‘My good man, what has this man done that he is bound with a stout rope… and beheaded to the south of the city?
’ They answer:
‘My good man, this man, an enemy of the king, has taken the life of a man or a woman.
That is why the rulers, having had him seized, inflicted such a punishment upon him.
“Now, what do you think, headman?
Have you ever seen or heard of such a case?
“I have seen this, lord, have heard of it, and will hear of it (again in the future).
“So, headman, when those contemplatives & brahmans who hold a doctrine & view like this say:
‘All those who kill living beings experience pain & distress in the here-&-now,’ do they speak truthfully or falsely?
” — “Falsely, lord.
“And those who babble empty falsehood:
Are they moral or immoral?
” — “Immoral, lord.
“And those who are immoral and of evil character:
Are they practicing wrongly or rightly?
” — “Wrongly, lord.
“And those who are practicing wrongly:
Do they hold wrong view or right view?
” — “Wrong view, lord.
“And is it proper to place confidence in those who hold wrong view?
” —
“No, lord.
“Then, headman, there is the case where a certain person is seen garlanded & adorned… as if he were a king.
They ask about him:
‘My good man, what has this man done that he has been garlanded & adorned… as if he were a king?
’ They answer:
‘My good man, this man attacked the king’s enemy and stole a treasure.
The king, gratified with him, rewarded him…’
“Then there is the case where a certain person is seen bound with a stout rope… and beheaded to the south of the city.
They ask about him:
‘My good man, what has this man done that he is bound with a stout rope… and beheaded to the south of the city?
’ They answer:
‘My good man, this man, an enemy of the king, has committed a theft, stealing something from a village or a forest…’
“Then there is the case where a certain person is seen garlanded & adorned… as if he were a king.
They ask about him:
‘My good man, what has this man done that he has been garlanded & adorned… as if he were a king?
’ They answer:
‘My good man, this man seduced the wives of the king’s enemy…’
“Then there is the case where a certain person is seen bound with a stout rope… and beheaded to the south of the city.
They ask about him:
‘My good man, what has this man done that he is bound with a stout rope… and beheaded to the south of the city?
’ They answer:
‘My good man, this man seduced women & girls of good families…’
“Then there is the case where a certain person is seen garlanded & adorned… as if he were a king.
They ask about him:
‘My good man, what has this man done that he has been garlanded & adorned… as if he were a king?
’ They answer:
‘My good man, this man made the king laugh with a lie…’
“Then there is the case where a certain person is seen bound with a stout rope… and beheaded to the south of the city.
They ask about him:
‘My good man, what has this man done that he is bound with a stout rope… and beheaded to the south of the city?
’ They answer:
‘My good man, this man has brought the aims of a householder or a householder’s son to ruin with a lie.
That is why the rulers, having had him seized, inflicted such a punishment upon him.
“Now, what do you think, headman?
Have you ever seen or heard of such a case?
“I have seen this, lord, have heard of it, and will hear of it (again in the future).
“So, headman, when those contemplatives & brahmans who hold a doctrine & view like this, say:
‘All those who tell lies experience pain & distress in the here-&-now,’ do they speak truthfully or falsely?
… Is it proper to place confidence in those who hold wrong view?
” — “No, lord.
” — SN 42.13
§ 68. “There are four kinds of person to be found in the world.
Which four?
There is the case where a certain person takes life, takes what is not given [steals], engages in sexual misconduct, lies, speaks divisively, speaks harshly, engages in idle chatter;
is covetous, malevolent, & holds wrong views.
On the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell.
“But there is also the case where a certain person takes life… holds wrong views [yet], on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in a good destination, a heavenly world.
“And there is the case where a certain person abstains from taking life, abstains from taking what is not given… is not covetous, not malevolent, & holds right views.
On the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in a good destination, a heavenly world.
“But there is also the case where a certain person abstains from taking life, abstains from taking what is not given… is not covetous, not malevolent, & holds right views [yet], on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell.
“In the case of the person who takes life…[yet] on the break-up of the body, after death, reappears in a good destination, a heavenly world:
Either earlier he performed fine kamma that is to be felt as pleasant, or later he performed fine kamma that is to be felt as pleasant, or at the time of death he adopted & carried out right views.
Because of that, on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in a good destination, a heavenly world.
But as for the results of taking life…holding wrong views, he will feel them either right here-&-now, or later [in this lifetime], or following that.
“In the case of the person who abstains from taking life… but on the break-up of the body, after death, reappears in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell:
Either earlier he performed evil kamma that is to be felt as painful, or later he performed evil kamma that is to be felt as painful, or at the time of death he adopted & carried out wrong views.
Because of that, on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell.
But as for the results of abstaining from taking life…holding right views, he will feel them either right here-&-now, or later [in this lifetime], or following that.
” — MN 136
§ 69. Then Asibandhakaputta the headman, a disciple of the Nigaṇṭhas, went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him:
“Headman, how does Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta teach the Dhamma to his disciples?
“Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta teaches the Dhamma to his disciples in this way, lord:
‘All those who take life are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell.
All those who steal… All those who engage in sexual misconduct… All those who tell lies are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell.
Whatever one keeps doing frequently, by that is one led [to a state of rebirth].
’ That’s how Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta teaches the Dhamma to his disciples.
“If it’s true that ‘Whatever one keeps doing frequently, by that is one led [to a state of rebirth],’ then no one is destined for the plane of deprivation or destined to hell in line with Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta’s words.
What do you think, headman?
If a man is one who takes life, then taking into consideration time spent doing & not doing, whether by day or by night, which time is more:
the time he spends taking life or the time he spends not taking life?
“… the time he spends taking life is less, lord, and the time he spends not taking life is certainly more.
If it’s true that ‘Whatever one keeps doing frequently, by that is one led [to a state of rebirth],’ then no one is destined for the plane of deprivation or destined to hell in line with Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta’s words.
“What do you think, headman?
If a man is one who steals… engages in sexual misconduct… tells lies, then taking into consideration time spent doing & not doing, whether by day or by night, which time is more:
the time he spends telling lies or the time he spends not telling lies?
“… the time he spends telling lies is less, lord, and the time he spends not telling lies is certainly more.
If it’s true that ‘Whatever one keeps doing frequently, by that is one led [to a state of rebirth],’ then no one is destined for the plane of deprivation or destined to hell in line with Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta’s words.
“There’s the case, headman, where a certain teacher holds this doctrine, holds this view:
‘All those who take life are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell.
All those who steal… All those who engage in sexual misconduct… All those who tell lies are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell.
’ A disciple has faith in that teacher, and the thought occurs to him, ‘Our teacher holds this doctrine, holds this view:
“All those who take life are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell.
” There are living beings that I have killed.
I, too, am destined for the plane of deprivation, am destined for hell.
’ He fastens onto that view.
If he doesn’t abandon that doctrine, doesn’t abandon that state of mind, doesn’t relinquish that view, then as if he were to be carried off, he would thus be placed in hell.
“[The thought occurs to him,] ‘Our teacher holds this doctrine, holds this view:
‘All those who steal… All those who engage in sexual misconduct… All those who tell lies are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell.
’ There are lies that I have told.
I, too, am destined for the plane of deprivation, am destined for hell.
’ He fastens onto that view.
If he doesn’t abandon that doctrine, doesn’t abandon that state of mind, doesn’t relinquish that view, then as if he were to be carried off, he would thus be placed in hell.
“There is the case, headman, where a Tathāgata appears in the world, worthy & rightly self-awakened, consummate in clear knowing & conduct, well-gone, a knower of the cosmos, unexcelled trainer of those to be tamed, teacher of devas & human beings, awakened, blessed.
He, in various ways, criticizes & censures the taking of life, and says, ‘Abstain from taking life.
’ He criticizes & censures stealing, and says, ‘Abstain from stealing.
’ He criticizes & censures indulging in sexual misconduct, and says, ‘Abstain from sexual misconduct.
’ He criticizes & censures the telling of lies, and says, ‘Abstain from the telling of lies.
“A disciple has faith in that teacher and reflects:
‘The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures the taking of life, and says, “Abstain from taking life.
” There are living beings that I have killed, to a greater or lesser extent.
That was not right.
That was not good.
But if I become remorseful for that reason, that evil deed of mine will not be undone.
’ So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then the taking of life, and in the future refrains from taking life.
This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed.
This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.
“[He reflects:
] ‘The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures stealing… sexual misconduct… the telling of lies, and says, “Abstain from the telling of lies.
” There are lies I have told, to a greater or lesser extent.
That was not right.
That was not good.
But if I become remorseful for that reason, that evil deed of mine will not be undone.
’ So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then the telling of lies, and in the future refrains from telling lies.
This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed.
This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.
“Having abandoned the taking of life, he refrains from taking life… he refrains from stealing… he refrains from sexual misconduct… he refrains from lies… he refrains from divisive speech… he refrains from harsh speech… he refrains from idle chatter.
Having abandoned covetousness, he becomes uncovetous.
Having abandoned malevolence & anger, he becomes one with a mind of no malevolence.
Having abandoned wrong views, he becomes one who has right views.
“That disciple of the noble ones, headman—thus devoid of covetousness, devoid of malevolence, unbewildered, alert, mindful—keeps pervading the first direction [the east] with an awareness imbued with goodwill, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth.
Thus above, below, & all around, everywhere, in its entirety, he keeps pervading the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with goodwill—abundant, expansive, immeasurable, without hostility, without malevolence.
Just as a strong conch-trumpet blower can notify the four directions without any difficulty, in the same way, when the awareness-release through goodwill is thus developed, thus pursued, any deed done to a limited extent no longer remains there, no longer stays there.
“That disciple of the noble ones… keeps pervading the first direction with an awareness imbued with compassion… empathetic joy… equanimity, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth.
Thus above, below, & all around, everywhere, in its entirety, he keeps pervading the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with equanimity—abundant, expansive, immeasurable, without hostility, without malevolence.
Just as a strong conch-trumpet blower can notify the four directions without any difficulty, in the same way, when the awareness-release through equanimity is thus developed, thus pursued, any deed done to a limited extent no longer remains there, no longer stays there.
” — SN 42.8
From Mundane to Transcendent Right View
§ 70. Then the Blessed One gave a graduated talk to Upāli the householder, i.
e., a talk on giving, a talk on virtue, a talk on heaven;
he proclaimed the drawbacks, degradation, and defilement in sensuality, and the rewards of renunciation.
Then, when he knew that Upāli the householder was of ready mind, malleable mind, unhindered mind, exultant mind, confident mind, he proclaimed to him the distinctive teaching of the Awakened Ones:
stress, origination, cessation, path.
Just as a white cloth with stains removed would rightly take dye, in the same way there arose to Upāli the householder, in that very seat, the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye:
Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.
Then—having seen the Dhamma, having reached the Dhamma, known the Dhamma, gained a footing in the Dhamma, having crossed over & beyond doubt, having had no more questioning—Upāli the householder gained fearlessness and was independent of others with regard to the Teacher’s message.
MN 56
Giving
§ 71. As he was sitting to one side, King Pasenadi Kosala said to the Blessed One:
“Where, lord, should a gift be given?
“Wherever the mind feels confidence, great king.
“But a gift given where, lord, bears great fruit?
“This [question] is one thing, great king—‘Where should a gift be given?
’—while this—‘A gift given where bears great fruit?
’—is something else entirely.
What is given to a virtuous person—rather than to an unvirtuous one—bears great fruit.
” — SN 3.24
§ 72. “Vaccha, whoever prevents another from giving a gift creates three obstructions, three impediments.
Which three?
He creates an obstruction to the merit of the giver, an obstruction to the recipient’s gains, and prior to that he undermines and damages his own self.
Whoever prevents another from giving a gift creates these three obstructions, these three impediments.
“I tell you, Vaccha, even if a person throws the rinsings of a bowl or a cup into a village pool or pond, thinking, ‘May whatever animals live here feed on this,’ that would be a source of merit, to say nothing of what is given to human beings.
But I do say that what is given to a virtuous person is of great fruit, and not so much what is given to an unvirtuous person.
” — AN 3.58
§ 73. A deva:
“Giving is good, dear sir!
Even when there’s next to nothing,
giving is good.
Giving with conviction is good!
The giving of what’s righteously gained
is good!
And further:
Giving with discretion is good!
It’s praised by the One Well-gone:
giving with discretion,
to those worthy of offerings
here in the world of the living.
What’s given to them bears great fruit
like seeds sown in a good field.
” — SN 1.33
§ 74. “One who is generous, a master of giving, is dear & charming to people at large.
… This is a fruit of generosity visible in the here-&-now.
“And further, good people, people of integrity, admire one who is generous, a master of giving.
… This, too, is a fruit of generosity visible in the here-&-now.
“And further, the fine reputation of one who is generous, a master of giving, is spread far & wide.
… This, too, is a fruit of generosity visible in the here-&-now.
“And further, when one who is generous, a master of giving, approaches any assembly of people—noble warriors, brahmans, householders, or contemplatives—he/she does so confidently & without embarrassment.
… This, too, is a fruit of generosity visible in the here-&-now.
“And further, at the break-up of the body, after death, one who is generous, a master of giving, reappears in a good destination, a heavenly world.
… This is a fruit of generosity in the next life.
” — AN 5.35
§ 75. What the miser fears,
that keeps him from giving,
is the very danger that comes
when he doesn’t give.
SN 1.32
§ 76. No misers go
to the world of the devas.
Those who don’t praise giving
are fools.
The enlightened
express their approval for giving
and so find ease
in the world beyond.
— Dhp 177
§ 77. “If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of stinginess overcome their minds.
Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared, if there were someone to receive their gift.
But because beings do not know, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they eat without having given.
The stain of stinginess overcomes their minds.
” — Iti 26
§ 78. A devatā:
“When a house is on fire,
the vessel salvaged
is the one that will be of use,
not the one left there to burn.
So when the world is on fire
with aging & death,
one should salvage (one’s wealth) by giving:
what’s given is well salvaged.
What’s given bears fruit as pleasure.
What isn’t given does not:
thieves take it away, or kings;
it gets burnt by fire or lost.
Then in the end
one leaves the body
together with one’s possessions.
Knowing this, the intelligent man
enjoys possessions & gives.
Having enjoyed & given
in line with his means,
uncensured he goes
to the heavenly state.
” — SN 1.41
§ 79. On that occasion Princess Sumanā—with an entourage of 500 ladies-in-waiting riding on 500 carriages—went to the Buddha.
On arrival, having bowed down to him, she sat to one side.
As she was sitting there, she said to the Blessed One, “Suppose there were two disciples of the Blessed One, equal in conviction, equal in virtue, equal in discernment, but one was a giver of alms, the other a non-giver of alms.
At the break-up of the body, after death, they would reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world.
Having become devas, would there be any distinction, any difference between the two?
“There would, Sumanā,” said the Blessed One.
“The one who was a giver of alms, on becoming a deva, would surpass the non-giver of alms in five areas:
in divine life span, divine beauty, divine pleasure, divine status, and divine sovereignty.
The one who was a giver of alms, on becoming a deva, would surpass the non-giver of alms in these five areas.
“And if they were to fall from there and reappear in this world:
Having become human beings, would there be any distinction, any difference between the two?
“There would, Sumanā,” said the Blessed One.
“The one who was a giver of alms, on becoming a human being, would surpass the non-giver of alms in five areas:
in human life span, human beauty, human pleasure, human status, and human sovereignty.
The one who was a giver of alms, on becoming a human being, would surpass the non-giver of alms in these five areas.
””
“And if they were to go forth from home into the homeless life [of a monk]:
Having gone forth, would there be any distinction, any difference between the two?
“There would, Sumanā,” said the Blessed One.
“The one who was a giver of alms, on going forth, would surpass the non-giver of alms in five areas:
He would often be asked to make use of robes and rarely not be asked.
He would often be asked to take food… to make use of shelter… to make use of medicine and rarely not be asked.
He would live with companions in the holy life who would often treat him with pleasing actions and rarely with unpleasing ones, who would treat him with pleasing words… pleasing thoughts… who would present him with pleasing gifts, and rarely with unpleasing ones.
The one who was a giver of alms, on going forth, would surpass the non-giver of alms in these five areas”
“And if both were to attain arahantship, would there be any distinction, any difference between their attainments of arahantship?
“In that case, I tell you, Sumanā, there would be no difference between them as to their release.
“It’s amazing, lord, and astounding.
Just this is reason enough to give alms, to make merit, in that merit is helpful to one who has become a deva, merit is helpful to one who has become a human being, and merit is helpful to one who has gone forth.
” — AN 5.31
§ 80. “And how is a donation endowed with six factors?
There is the case where there are the three factors of the donor, the three factors of the recipients.
“And which are the three factors of the donor?
There is the case where the donor, before giving, is glad;
while giving, his/her mind is bright & clear;
and after giving is gratified.
These are the three factors of the donor.
“And which are the three factors of the recipients?
There is the case where the recipients are free of passion or are practicing for the subduing of passion;
free of aversion or practicing for the subduing of aversion;
and free of delusion or practicing for the subduing of delusion.
These are the three factors of the recipients.
“Just as it’s not easy to take the measure of the great ocean as ‘just this many buckets of water, just this many hundreds of buckets of water, just this many thousands of buckets of water, or just this many hundreds of thousands of buckets of water.
’ It’s simply reckoned as a great mass of water, incalculable, immeasurable.
In the same way, it’s not easy to take the measure of the merit of a donation thus endowed with six factors as ‘just this much a bonanza of merit, a bonanza of what is skillful—a nutriment of bliss, heavenly, resulting in bliss, leading to heaven—that leads to what is desirable, pleasing, charming, beneficial, pleasant.
’ It is simply reckoned as a great mass of merit, incalculable, immeasurable.
” — AN 6.37
Virtue
§ 81. “There are these five gifts, five great gifts—original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning— are not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and are unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & brahmans.
Which five?
“There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, abandoning the taking of life, abstains from taking life.
In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings.
In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression.
“Abandoning taking what is not given [stealing], he abstains from taking what is not given.
“Abandoning sexual misconduct, he abstains from sexual misconduct.
“Abandoning lying, he abstains from lying.
“Abandoning the use of intoxicants, he abstains from taking intoxicants.
In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings.
In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression.
… This is the fifth gift, the fifth great gift—original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning—that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & brahmans.
” — AN 8.39
§ 82. “There are these five benefits in being virtuous, in being consummate in virtue.
Which five?
There is the case where a virtuous person, consummate in virtue, through not being heedless in his affairs, amasses a great quantity of wealth.
… His fine reputation is spread far & wide.
… When approaching an assembly of nobles, brahmans, householders, or contemplatives, he does so confidently & without embarrassment.
… He dies without becoming delirious.
… With the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in a good destination, a heavenly world.
These are the five benefits in being virtuous, in being consummate in virtue.
” — DN 16
§ 83. “And further—with reference to the virtues that are untorn, unbroken, unspotted, unsplattered, liberating, praised by the observant, ungrasped at, leading to concentration—the monk dwells with his virtue in tune with that of his companions in the holy life, to their faces & behind their backs.
This, too, is a condition that is conducive to amiability, that engenders feelings of endearment, engenders feelings of respect, leading to a sense of fellowship, a lack of disputes, harmony, & a state of unity.
” — AN 6.12
Heaven
§ 84. “It’s from having known it myself, seen it myself, realized it myself that I tell you that I have seen beings who—endowed with bodily good conduct, verbal good conduct, & mental good conduct;
who did not revile noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views—at the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a good destination, a heavenly world.
” — Iti 71
§ 85. “I have seen a heaven named ‘Six Spheres of Contact.
’ Whatever form one sees there with the eye is desirable, never undesirable;
pleasing, never displeasing;
agreeable, never disagreeable.
Whatever sound one hears there with the ear… Whatever aroma one smells there with the nose… Whatever flavor one tastes there with the tongue… Whatever tactile sensation one touches there with the body… Whatever idea one cognizes there with the intellect is desirable, never undesirable;
pleasing, never displeasing;
agreeable, never disagreeable.
” — SN 35.135
§ 86. “Monks, if one speaking rightly were to say of anything, ‘It’s utterly desirable, utterly charming, utterly appealing,’ one speaking rightly would say that just of heaven:
‘It’s utterly desirable, utterly charming, utterly appealing’—so much so that it’s not easy to make a comparison for how pleasant heaven is.
When this was said, a certain monk said to the Blessed One, “But, lord, is it possible to make a comparison?
“It is,” the Blessed One said.
“Monks, suppose that a universal emperor were endowed with the seven treasures and four powers, and because of that would experience pleasure & joy.
[Here the Buddha gives a detailed description of these treasures and powers, which briefly stated are these:
The seven treasures consist of the wheel-treasure, which magically and peacefully establishes the emperor’s rule over all four directions;
the elephant-treasure and the horse-treasure, either of which—leaving the palace at dawn—can take him to the ocean and back before his morning meal;
the jewel-treasure that can turn night into day;
the woman-treasure—his queen—who is lovely and faithful to him;
the steward-treasure, who provides him with all the gold and bullion he needs;
and the counselor treasure, who teaches him what is right and wrong, and rules wisely in his stead.
The four powers are the power of a supremely attractive appearance, a supremely long life, supremely good health, and supreme popularity among his subjects.
]
Then the Blessed One, taking a small stone the size of his hand, said to the monks, “What do you think, monks?
Which is greater, this small stone I have taken, the size of my hand, or the Himalayas, the king of mountains?
“It’s next to nothing, lord, the small stone you have taken.
… It doesn’t count.
It‘s not even a small fraction.
There’s no comparison.
“In the same way, monks, the pleasure & joy experienced by a universal emperor because of his seven treasures and four powers doesn’t count next to the pleasures of the heavenly world.
It’s not even a small fraction.
There’s no comparison.
” — MN 129
Drawbacks
§ 87. “When a deva is about to pass away from the company of devas, five omens appear:
His garlands wither, his clothes get soiled, sweat comes out of his armpits, a dullness descends on his body, he no longer delights in his own deva-seat.
The devas, knowing from this that ‘This deva-son is about to pass away,’ encourage him with three sayings:
‘Go from here, honorable sir, to a good destination.
Having gone to a good destination, gain the gain that is good to gain.
Having gained the gain that is good to gain, become well-established.
’”
When this was said, a certain monk said to the Blessed One, “What, lord, is the devas’ reckoning of going to a good destination?
What is their reckoning of the gain that is good to gain?
What is their reckoning of becoming well-established?
“The human state, monks, is the devas’ reckoning of going to a good destination.
Having become a human being, acquiring conviction in the Dhamma-&-Vinaya taught by the Tathāgata:
This is the devas’ reckoning of the gain that is good to gain.
When that conviction is settled within one—rooted, established, & strong, not to be destroyed by any contemplative or brahman;
deva, Māra, or Brahmā;
or anyone else in the world:
This is the devas’ reckoning of becoming well-established.
When a deva passes away
from the company of devas
through his life-span’s ending,
three sounds sound forth
–the devas’ encouragement.
‘Go from here,
honorable sir,
to a good destination,
to companionship
with human beings.
On becoming a human being,
acquire a conviction
unsurpassed
in True Dhamma.
That conviction of yours
in True Dhamma, well-taught,
should be
settled,
rooted,
established,
–undestroyed
as long as you live.
Having abandoned
bodily misconduct,
verbal misconduct,
mental misconduct,
and whatever else is flawed;
having done with the body what’s skillful,
and much that is skillful with speech,
having done what’s skillful
with a heart without limit,
with no acquisitions,
then–having made much of the merit
that’s a ground for spontaneously arising [in heaven]
through giving–
establish other mortals
in
True Dhamma &
the holy life.
With this sympathy, the devas–
when they know a deva is passing away–
encourage him:
‘Come back, deva,
again & again.
’ — Iti 83
§ 88. Then the Blessed One, picking up a little bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monks, “What do you think, monks?
Which is greater:
the little bit of dust I have picked up with the tip of my fingernail, or the great earth?
“The great earth is far greater, lord.
The little bit of dust the Blessed One has picked up with the tip of his fingernail is next to nothing.
It doesn’t even count.
It’s no comparison.
It’s not even a fraction, this little bit of dust the Blessed One has picked up with the tip of his fingernail, when compared with the great earth.
“In the same way, monks, few are the beings who, on passing away from the human realm, are reborn among human beings.
Far more are the beings who, on passing away from the human realm, are reborn in hell… in the animal womb… in the domain of the hungry ghosts.
… “In the same way, monks, few are the beings who, on passing away from the human realm, are reborn among devas.
Far more are the beings who, on passing away from the human realm, are reborn in hell… in the animal womb… in the domain of the hungry ghosts.
… “In the same way, monks, few are the beings who, on passing away from the deva realm, are reborn among devas.
Far more are the beings who, on passing away from the deva realm, are reborn in hell… in the animal womb… in the domain of the hungry ghosts.
… “In the same way, monks, few are the beings who, on passing away from the deva realm, are reborn among human beings.
Far more are the beings who, on passing away from the deva realm, are reborn in hell… in the animal womb… in the domain of the hungry ghosts.
“Therefore your duty is the contemplation, ‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress.
’ Your duty is the contemplation, ‘This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.
’” — SN 56.102–113
§ 89. “From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration.
A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on.
What do you think, monks?
Which is greater, the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time—crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing—or the water in the four great oceans?
“As we understand the Dhamma taught to us by the Blessed One, this is the greater:
the tears we have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time—crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing—not the water in the four great oceans.
“Excellent, monks.
Excellent. It is excellent that you thus understand the Dhamma taught by me.
“This is the greater:
the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time—crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing—not the water in the four great oceans.
“Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a mother.
The tears you have shed over the death of a mother while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time—crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing—are greater than the water in the four great oceans.
“Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a father… the death of a brother… the death of a sister… the death of a son… the death of a daughter… loss with regard to relatives… loss with regard to wealth… loss with regard to disease.
The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time—crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing—are greater than the water in the four great oceans.
“Why is that?
From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration.
A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on.
Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries—enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released.
” — SN 15.3
§ 90. “From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration.
A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on.
When you see someone who has fallen on hard times, overwhelmed with hard times, you should conclude:
‘We, too, have experienced just this sort of thing in the course of that long, long time.
’… When you see someone who is happy & well-provided in life, you should conclude:
‘We, too, have experienced just this sort of thing in the course of that long, long time.
’” — SN 15.11–12
§ 91. “There is, monks, an intergalactic void, an unrestrained darkness, a pitch-black darkness, where even the light of the sun & moon—so mighty, so powerful—doesn’t reach.
When this was said, one of the monks said to the Blessed One, “Wow, what a great darkness! What a really great darkness! Is there any darkness greater & more frightening than that?
“There is, monk, a darkness greater & more frightening than that.
“And which darkness, lord, is greater & more frightening than that?
“Any contemplatives or brahmans who do not know, as it has come to be, that ‘This is stress’;
who do not know, as it has come to be, that ‘This is the origination of stress’… ‘This is the cessation of stress’… ‘This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress’:
They revel in fabrications leading to birth;
they revel in fabrications leading to aging;
they revel in fabrications leading to death;
they revel in fabrications leading to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair.
Reveling in fabrications leading to birth… aging… death… sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair, they fabricate fabrications leading to birth… aging… death… sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair.
Fabricating fabrications leading to birth… aging… death… sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair, they drop into the darkness of birth.
They drop into the darkness of aging… the darkness of death… darkness of sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair.
They are not released from birth, aging, death, sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs.
They are not released, I tell you, from suffering & stress.
” — SN 56.46
§ 92. “Monks, I have seen a hell named ‘Six Spheres of Contact.
’ Whatever form one sees there with the eye is undesirable, never desirable;
displeasing, never pleasing;
disagreeable, never agreeable.
Whatever sound one hears there with the ear.
… Whatever aroma one smells there with the nose.
… Whatever flavor one tastes there with the tongue.
… Whatever tactile sensation one touches there with the body.
… Whatever idea one cognizes there with the intellect is undesirable, never desirable;
displeasing, never pleasing;
disagreeable, never agreeable.
” — SN 35.135
§ 93. “Then the hell-wardens, seizing [an evil-doer] by the arms, present him to King Yama:
‘This is a man, your majesty, with no respect for mother, no respect for father, no reverence for contemplatives, no reverence for brahmans, no honor for the leaders of his clan.
Let your majesty decree his punishment.
“Then King Yama interrogates & interpellates & castigates the man regarding the first deva messenger:
‘My good man, didn’t you see the first deva messenger that has appeared among human beings?
“‘I didn’t, lord,’ he says.
Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t you see among human beings a tender baby boy lying prone in its own urine & excrement?
“‘I did, lord,’ he says.
Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t the thought occur to you—observant & mature:
“I, too, am subject to birth, have not gone beyond birth.
I’d better do good with body, speech, & mind”?
“‘I couldn’t, lord.
I was heedless, lord.
Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, through heedlessness you did not do what is good with body, speech, & mind.
And of course, my good man, they will deal with you in accordance with your heedlessness.
For that evil kamma of yours was neither done by your mother, nor done by your father, nor done by your brother, nor done by your sister, nor done by your friends & companions, nor done by your kinsmen & relatives, nor done by the devas.
That evil kamma was done by you yourself, and you yourself will experience its result.
“Then, having interrogated & interpellated & castigated the man regarding the first deva messenger, King Yama interrogates & interpellates & castigates him regarding the second:
‘My good man, didn’t you see the second deva messenger that has appeared among human beings?
“‘I didn’t, lord,’ he says.
“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t you see among human beings a woman or man eighty, ninety, one hundred years old:
aged, roof-rafter crooked, bent-over, supported by a cane, palsied, miserable, broken-toothed, gray-haired, scanty-haired, bald, wrinkled, with limbs all blotchy?
“‘I did, lord,’ he says.
“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t the thought occur to you—observant & mature:
“I, too, am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.
I’d better do good with body, speech, & mind”?
“‘I couldn’t, lord.
I was heedless, lord.
“Then King Yama… interrogates & interpellates & castigates him regarding the third deva messenger:
‘My good man, didn’t you see the third deva messenger that has appeared among human beings?
“‘I didn’t, lord,’ he says.
“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t you see among human beings a woman or man diseased, in pain, severely ill, lying in her/his own urine & excrement, lifted up by others, laid down by others?
“‘I did, lord,’ he says.
“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t the thought occur to you—observant & mature:
“I, too, am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.
I’d better do good with body, speech, & mind”?
“‘I couldn’t, lord.
I was heedless, lord.
“Then King Yama… interrogates & interpellates & castigates him regarding the fourth deva messenger:
‘My good man, didn’t you see the fourth deva messenger that has appeared among human beings?
“‘I didn’t, lord,’ he says.
“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t you see among human beings kings—catching a thief, a criminal—having him tortured in many ways [as above]?
“‘I did, lord,’ he says.
“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t the thought occur to you—observant & mature:
“It seems that those who do evil actions are tortured in these many ways in the here-&-now.
And how much more in the hereafter?
I’d better do good with body, speech, & mind”?
“‘I couldn’t, lord.
I was heedless, lord.
“Then King Yama… interrogates & interpellates & castigates him regarding the fifth deva messenger:
‘My good man, didn’t you see the fifth deva messenger that has appeared among human beings?
“‘I didn’t, lord,’ he says.
“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t you see among human beings a woman or man, one day, two days, or three days dead:
bloated, livid, oozing with lymph?
“‘I did, lord,’ he says.
“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, didn’t the thought occur to you—observant & mature:
“I, too, am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.
I’d better do good with body, speech, & mind”?
“‘I couldn’t, lord.
I was heedless, lord.
“Then King Yama says, ‘My good man, through heedlessness you did not do what is good with body, speech, & mind.
And of course, my good man, they will deal with you in accordance with your heedlessness.
For that evil kamma of yours was neither done by your mother, nor done by your father, nor done by your brother, nor done by your sister, nor done by your friends & companions, nor done by your kinsmen & relatives, nor done by the devas.
That evil kamma was done by you yourself, and you yourself will experience its result.
“Then, having interrogated & interpellated & castigated the man regarding the fifth deva messenger, King Yama falls silent.
“Then the hell-wardens torture [the evil-doer] with what’s called a five-fold imprisonment.
They drive a red-hot iron stake through one hand, they drive a red-hot iron stake through the other hand, they drive a red-hot iron stake through one foot, they drive a red-hot iron stake through the other foot, they drive a red-hot iron stake through the middle of his chest.
There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.
“Then the hell-wardens lay him down and slice him with axes… they hold him feet up & head down and slice him with adzes… they harness him to a chariot and drive him back & forth over ground that is burning, blazing, & glowing… they make him climb up & down a vast mountain of embers that is burning, blazing, & glowing… they hold him feet up & head down and plunge him into a red-hot copper cauldron that is burning, blazing, & glowing.
“Then the hell-wardens throw him into the Great Hell.
… The flame that leaps from the eastern wall of the Great Hell strikes the western wall.
The flame that leaps from the western wall strikes the eastern wall.
The flame that leaps from the northern wall strikes the southern wall.
The flame that leaps from the southern wall strikes the northern wall.
The flame that leaps from the bottom strikes the top.
The flame that leaps from the top strikes the bottom.
“There ultimately comes a time when, with the passing of a long stretch of time, the eastern gate of the Great Hell opens.
He runs there, rushing quickly.
As he runs there, rushing quickly, his outer skin burns, his inner skin burns, his flesh burns, his tendons burn, even his bones turn to smoke.
… When he finally gets there, the door slams shut.
… [Similarly with the western gate, the northern gate, & the southern gate.
] …
“There ultimately comes a time when, with the passing of a long stretch of time, the eastern gate of the Great Hell opens.
He runs there, rushing quickly.
… He gets out through the gate.
But right next to the Great Hell is a vast Excrement Hell.
He falls into that.
… Right next to the Excrement Hell is the vast Hot Ashes Hell… the vast Simbali Forest… the vast Sword-leaf Forest… the vast Lye-water River.
He falls into that.
“Then the hell-wardens pull him out with a hook and, placing him on the ground, say to him, ‘Well, my good man, what do you want?
’ He replies, ‘I’m hungry, venerable sirs.
’ So the hell-wardens pry open his mouth with red-hot iron tongs, burning, blazing, & glowing, and throw into it a copper ball, burning, blazing, & glowing.
… Then the hell-wardens say to him, ‘Well, my good man, what do you want?
’ He replies, ‘I’m thirsty, venerable sirs.
’ So the hell-wardens pry open his mouth with red-hot iron tongs, burning, blazing, & glowing, and pour into it molten copper, burning, blazing, & glowing.
… There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings, yet he does not die as long as his evil kamma is not exhausted.
“Then the hell-wardens throw him back into the Great Hell once more.
“I tell you this, monks, not from having heard it from another contemplative or brahman.
On the contrary, I tell you this just as I have known for myself, seen for myself, penetrated for myself.
” — MN 130
§ 94. The man immersed in
gathering blossoms,
his heart distracted:
death sweeps him away–
as a great flood,
a village asleep.
The man immersed in
gathering blossoms,
his heart distracted,
insatiable in sensual pleasures:
the End-Maker holds him
under his sway.
— Dhp 47–48
§ 95. Not even if it rained gold coins
would we have our fill
of sensual pleasures.
‘Stressful,
they give little enjoyment’–
knowing this, the wise one
finds no delight
even in heavenly sensual pleasures.
He is
one who delights
in the ending of craving,
a disciple of the Rightly
Self-Awakened One.
— Dhp 186–187
§ 96. Ven.
Raṭṭhapāla:
I see in the world
people with wealth
who, from delusion,
don’t make a gift
of the treasure they’ve gained.
Greedy, they stash it away,
hoping for even more
sensual pleasures.
A king who, by force,
has conquered the world
and rules over the earth
to the edge of the sea,
dissatisfied with the ocean’s near shore,
longs for the ocean’s
far shore as well.
Kings & others
—plenty of people—
go to death with craving
unabated.
Unsated,
they leave the body behind,
having not had enough
of the world’s sensual pleasures.
Sensual pleasures—
variegated,
enticing,
sweet—
in various ways disturb the mind.
Seeing the drawbacks in sensual objects:
that’s why, O king, I went forth.
Just like fruits, people fall
—young & old—
at the break-up of the body.
Knowing this, O king,
I went forth.
The contemplative life is better
for sure.
MN 82
Renunciation
§ 97. Subdue greed for sensual pleasures,
& see renunciation as safety.
— Sn 5:
11
§ 98. Now, on that occasion, Ven.
Bhaddiya, Kāḷigodhā’s son, on going to the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, would repeatedly exclaim, “What bliss! What bliss!” A large number of monks heard Ven.
Bhaddiya, Kāḷigodhā’s son, on going to the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, repeatedly exclaim, “What bliss! What bliss!” and on hearing him, the thought occurred to them, “There’s no doubt but that Ven.
Bhaddiya, Kāḷigodhā’s son doesn’t enjoy leading the holy life, for when he was a householder he knew the bliss of kingship, so that now, on recollecting that when going to the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, he is repeatedly exclaiming, ‘What bliss! What bliss!’” They went to the Blessed One and… told him.
Then the Blessed One told a certain monk, “Come, monk.
In my name, call Bhaddiya, saying, ‘The Teacher calls you, friend Bhaddiya.
’”
Responding, “As you say, lord,” the monk went to Ven.
Bhaddiya.…
Then Ven.
Bhaddiya went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, “Is it true, Bhaddiya, that—on going to the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or to an empty dwelling—you repeatedly exclaim, ‘What bliss! What bliss!’?
“Yes, lord.
“What compelling reason do you have in mind that… you repeatedly exclaim, ‘What bliss! What bliss!’?
“Before, when I has a householder, maintaining the bliss of kingship, lord, I had guards posted within and without the royal apartments, within and without the city, within and without the countryside.
But even though I was thus guarded, thus protected, I dwelled in fear—agitated, distrustful, & afraid.
But now, on going alone to the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, I dwell without fear, unagitated, confident, & unafraid—unconcerned, unruffled, living on the gifts of others, with my mind like a wild deer.
This is the compelling reason I have in mind that—when going to the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or to an empty dwelling—I repeatedly exclaim, ‘What bliss! What bliss!’” — Ud 2:
10
§ 99. On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Āḷavī on a spread of leaves by a cattle track in a siṁsapa forest.
Then Hatthaka of Āḷavī, out roaming & rambling for exercise, saw the Blessed One sitting on a spread of leaves by the cattle track in the siṁsapa forest.
On seeing him, he went to him and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, “Lord, I hope the Blessed One has slept in ease.
“Yes, young man.
I have slept in ease.
Of those in the world who sleep in ease, I am one.
“But cold, lord, is the winter night.
The ‘Between-the-Eights’ is a time of snowfall.
Hard is the ground trampled by cattle hooves.
Thin is the spread of leaves.
Sparse are the leaves in the trees.
Thin are your ochre robes.
And cold blows the Verambhā wind.
Yet still the Blessed One says, ‘Yes, young man.
I have slept in ease.
Of those in the world who sleep in ease, I am one.
’”
“In that case, young man, I will question you in return.
Answer as you see fit.
Now, what do you think?
Suppose a householder or householder’s son has a house with a gabled roof, plastered inside & out, draft-free, with close-fitting door & windows shut against the wind.
Inside he has a throne-like bed spread with a long-fleeced coverlet, a white wool coverlet, an embroidered coverlet, a rug of kadali-deer hide, with a canopy above, & red cushions on either side.
And there a lamp would be burning, and his four wives, with their many charms, would be attending to him.
Would he sleep in ease, or not?
Or how does this strike you?
“Yes, lord, he would sleep in ease.
Of those in the world who sleep in ease, he would be one.
“But what do you think, young man?
Might there arise in that householder or householder’s son any bodily fevers or fevers of mind born of passion so that—burned with those passion-born fevers—he would sleep miserably?
” — “Yes, lord.
“As for those passion-born fevers—burned with which the householder or householder’s son would sleep miserably—that passion has been abandoned by the Tathāgata, its root destroyed, like an uprooted palm tree, deprived of the conditions of existence, not destined for future arising.
Therefore he sleeps in ease.
“Now, what do you think, young man?
Might there arise in that householder or householder’s son any bodily fevers or fevers of mind born of aversion… any bodily fevers or fevers of mind born of delusion so that so that—burned with those delusion-born fevers—he would sleep miserably?
” — “Yes, lord.
“As for those delusion-born fevers—burned with which the householder or householder’s son would sleep miserably—that delusion has been abandoned by the Tathāgata, its root destroyed, like an uprooted palm tree, deprived of the conditions of existence, not destined for future arising.
Therefore he sleeps in ease.
“Always, always,
he sleeps in ease:
the brahman totally unbound,
who doesn’t adhere
to sensual pleasures,
who’s without acquisitions
& cooled.
Having
cut all ties
& subdued fear in the heart,
calmed,
he sleeps in ease,
having reached peace
of awareness.
” — AN 3.35
§ 100. “And who is the person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death?
There is the case of the person who has abandoned passion, desire, fondness, thirst, fever, & craving for sensuality.
Then he comes down with a serious disease.
As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought doesn’t occur to him, ‘O, those beloved sensual pleasures will be taken from me, and I will be taken from them!’ He doesn’t grieve, isn’t tormented;
doesn’t weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious.
This is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death.
” — AN 4.184
§ 101. “A discerning lay follower who is diseased, in pain, severely ill… should be asked, ‘Friend, are you concerned for the five strings of human sensuality?
’ If he should say, ‘I am concerned for the five strings of human sensuality,’ he should be told, ‘Friend, divine sensual pleasures are more splendid & more refined than human sensual pleasures.
It would be good if, having raised your mind above human sensual pleasures, you set it on the Devas of the Four Great Kings.
“If he should say, ‘My mind is raised above human sensual pleasures and is set on the Devas of the Four Great Kings,’ he should be told, ‘Friend, the Devas of the Thirty-three are more splendid & more refined than the Devas of the Four Great Kings.
It would be good if, having raised your mind above the Devas of the Four Great Kings, you set it on the Devas of the Thirty-three.
“If he should say, ‘My mind is raised above the Devas of the Four Great Kings and is set on the Devas of the Thirty-three,’ he should be told, ‘Friend, the Devas of the Hours are more splendid & more refined than the Devas of the Thirty-three.
It would be good if, having raised your mind above the Devas of the Thirty-three, you set it on the Devas of the Hours.
“If he should say, ‘My mind is raised above the Devas of the Thirty-three and is set on the Devas of the Hours,’ he should be told, ‘Friend, the Contented Devas are more splendid & more refined than the Devas of the Hours… the Devas Delighting in Creation are more splendid & more refined than the Contented Devas… the Devas [Muses?
] Wielding Power over the Creations of Others are more splendid & more refined than the Devas Delighting in Creation… the Brahmā world is more splendid and more refined than the Devas Wielding Power over the Creations of Others.
It would be good if, having raised your mind above the Devas Wielding Power over the Creations of Others, you set it on the Brahmā world.
“If he should say, ‘My mind is raised above the Devas Wielding Power over the Creations of Others and is set on the Brahmā world,’ he should be told, ‘Friend, even the Brahmā world is inconstant, impermanent, included in self-identity.
It would be good if, having raised your mind above the Brahmā world, you brought it to the cessation of self-identity.
“If he should say, ‘My mind is raised above the Brahmā worlds and is brought to the cessation of self-identity,’ then, I tell you, Mahānāma, there is no difference—in terms of release—between the release of that lay follower whose mind is released and the release of a monk whose mind is released.
” — SN 55.54
Transcendent Right View
§ 102. “And what, monks, is right view?
Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress:
This, monks, is called right view.
” — SN 45.8
§ 103. “And what is the faculty of discernment?
There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, is discerning, endowed with discernment of arising & passing away—noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress.
He discerns, as it has come to be:
‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.
’ This is called the faculty of discernment.
” — SN 48.10
§ 104. “Any time one examines, investigates, & scrutinizes internal dhammas with discernment, that is analysis of dhammas as a factor for awakening.
And any time one examines, investigates, & scrutinizes external dhammas with discernment, that too is analysis of dhammas as a factor for awakening.
” — SN 46.52
§ 105. “There are dhammas that are skillful & unskillful, blameworthy & blameless, gross & refined, siding with darkness & with light.
To foster appropriate attention to them:
This is the food for the arising of unarisen analysis of dhammas as a factor for awakening, or for the growth & increase of analysis of dhammas as a factor for awakening once it has arisen.
” — SN 46.51
§ 106. “Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress:
Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful;
sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful;
association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful.
In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.
“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress:
the craving that makes for further becoming—accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there—i.
e., craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.
“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress:
the remainderless dispassioning & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.
“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress:
precisely this noble eightfold path—right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:
‘This is the noble truth of stress’… ‘This noble truth of stress is to be comprehended’… ‘This noble truth of stress has been comprehended.
“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:
‘This is the noble truth of the origination of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the origination of stress is to be abandoned’… ‘This noble truth of the origination of stress has been abandoned.
“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:
‘This is the noble truth of the cessation of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the cessation of stress is to be directly experienced’… ‘This noble truth of the cessation of stress has been directly experienced.
“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:
‘This is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress is to be developed’… ‘This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress has been developed.
“And, monks, as long as this—my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be—was not pure, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its devas, Māras, & Brahmās, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk.
But as soon as this—my three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be—was truly pure, then I did claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening unexcelled in the cosmos with its devas, Māras, & Brahmās, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk.
Knowledge & vision arose in me:
‘Unprovoked is my release.
This is the last birth.
There is now no further becoming.
’” — SN 56.11
§ 107. “And what is comprehension?
Any ending of passion, ending of aversion, ending of delusion:
This is called comprehension.
” — SN 22.23
§ 108. “Monks, I will teach you the five aggregates & the five clinging-aggregates.
Listen & pay close attention.
I will speak.
“As you say, lord,” the monks responded to him.
The Blessed One said, “Now what, monks, are the five aggregates?
“Whatever form is past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near:
That is called the form aggregate.
“Whatever feeling is past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near:
That is called the feeling aggregate.
“Whatever perception is past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near:
That is called the perception aggregate.
“Whatever fabrications are past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near:
Those are called the fabrication aggregate.
“Whatever consciousness is past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near:
That is called the consciousness aggregate.
“These are called the five aggregates.
“And what are the five clinging-aggregates?
“Whatever form—past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near—is clingable, offers sustenance, and is accompanied with effluents:
That is called the form clinging-aggregate.
“Whatever feeling—past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near—is clingable, offers sustenance, and is accompanied with effluents:
That is called the feeling clinging-aggregate.
“Whatever perception—past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near—is clingable, offers sustenance, and is accompanied with effluents:
That is called the perception clinging-aggregate.
“Whatever fabrications—past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near—are clingable, offer sustenance, and are accompanied with effluents:
Those are called the fabrication clinging-aggregate.
“Whatever consciousness—past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near—is clingable, offers sustenance, and is accompanied with effluents:
That is called the consciousness clinging-aggregate.
“These are called the five clinging-aggregates.
” — SN 22.48
§ 109. “There is the case where one enjoys, welcomes, & remains fastened.
And what does one enjoy & welcome, to what does one remain fastened?
One enjoys, welcomes, & remains fastened to form.
As one enjoys, welcomes, & remains fastened to form, there arises delight.
Any delight in form is clinging.
[Similarly with feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness.
]” — SN 22.5 (emphasis added)
§ 110. Visākha:
“Is it the case, lady, that clinging is the same thing as the five clinging-aggregates or is it something separate?
Sister Dhammadinnā:
“Friend Visākha, neither is clinging the same thing as the five clinging-aggregates, nor is it something separate.
Whatever desire & passion there is with regard to the five clinging-aggregates, that is the clinging there.
Visākha:
“But, lady, how does self-identity come about?
Sister Dhammadinnā:
“There is the case, friend Visākha, where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person—who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma;
who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma—assumes form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form.
“He assumes feeling to be the self.
“He assumes perception to be the self.
“He assumes fabrications to be the self.
“He assumes consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness.
This is how self-identity comes about.
Visākha:
“But, lady, how does self-identity not come about?
Sister Dhammadinnā:
“There is the case where a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones—who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma;
who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma—doesn’t assume form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form.
“He doesn’t assume feeling to be the self.
“He doesn’t assume perception to be the self.
“He doesn’t assume fabrications to be the self.
“He doesn’t assume consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness.
This is how self-identity does not come about.
”” — MN 44
§ 111. Then Ven.
Rādha went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One:
“‘A being,’ lord.
‘A being,’ it’s said.
To what extent is one said to be ‘a being [satta]’?
“Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for form, Rādha:
When one is caught up [satta] there, tied up [visatta] there, one is said to be ‘a being.
“Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for feeling… perception… fabrications…
“Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for consciousness, Rādha:
When one is caught up there, tied up there, one is said to be ‘a being.
’” — SN 23.2
§ 112. “What is one?
—All beings subsist on nutriment.
” — Khp 4
§ 113. “If one stays obsessed with form, that’s what one is measured/limited by.
Whatever one is measured by, that’s how one is classified.
“If one stays obsessed with feeling…
“If one stays obsessed with perception…
“If one stays obsessed with fabrications…
“If one stays obsessed with consciousness, that’s what one is measured/limited by.
Whatever one is measured by, that’s how one is classified.
”— SN 22.36
§ 114. “Which clinging?
These four clingings:
sensuality clinging, view clinging, habit-&-practice clinging, and self-doctrine clinging.
” — SN 12.2
Perceptions for Inducing Dispassion for the Aggregates
§ 115. Ven.
Sāriputta said, “Friends, just as the footprints of all legged animals are encompassed by the footprint of the elephant, and the elephant’s footprint is reckoned the foremost among them in terms of size;
in the same way, all skillful dhammas are included in the four noble truths.
In which four?
In the noble truth of stress, in the noble truth of the origination of stress, in the noble truth of the cessation of stress, and in the noble truth of the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.
“And what is the noble truth of stress?
Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful;
sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful;
association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful.
In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.
And which are the five clinging-aggregates?
The form clinging-aggregate, the feeling clinging-aggregate, the perception clinging-aggregate, the fabrication clinging-aggregate, and the consciousness clinging-aggregate.
“And what is the form clinging-aggregate?
The four great existents and the form derived from them.
And what are the four great existents?
The earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, & the wind property.
The Earth Property
“And what is the earth property?
The earth property can be either internal or external.
What is the internal earth property?
Whatever internal, within oneself, is hard, solid, & sustained [by craving]:
head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, contents of the stomach, feces, or whatever else internal, within oneself, is hard, solid, & sustained:
This is called the internal earth property.
Now, both the internal earth property and the external earth property are simply earth property.
And that should be seen as it actually is with right discernment:
‘This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.
’ When one sees it thus as it actually is with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the earth property and makes the mind dispassionate toward the earth property.
“Now, there comes a time, friends, when the external liquid property is provoked,[1] and at that time the external earth property vanishes.
So when even in the external earth property—so vast—inconstancy will be discerned, destructibility will be discerned, a tendency to decay will be discerned, changeability will be discerned, then what of this short-lasting body, sustained by clinging, is ‘I’ or ‘mine’ or ‘what I am’?
It has here only a ‘no.
“Now, if other people insult, malign, exasperate, & harass a monk [who has discerned this], he discerns that ’A painful feeling, born of ear-contact, has arisen within me.
And that is dependent, not independent.
Dependent on what?
Dependent on contact.
’ And he sees that contact is inconstant, feeling is inconstant, perception is inconstant, consciousness is inconstant.
His mind, with the [earth] property as its object/support, leaps up, grows confident, steadfast, & released.
The Liquid Property
“And what is the liquid property?
The liquid property may be either internal or external.
What is the internal liquid property?
Whatever internal, belonging to oneself, is liquid, watery, & sustained:
bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints, urine, or whatever else internal, within oneself, is liquid, watery, & sustained:
This is called the internal liquid property.
Now, both the internal liquid property and the external liquid property are simply liquid property.
And that should be seen as it actually is present with right discernment:
‘This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.
’ When one sees it thus as it actually is present with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the liquid property and makes the mind dispassionate toward the liquid property.
“Now, there comes a time, friends, when the external liquid property is provoked and washes away village, town, city, district, & country.
There comes a time when the water in the great ocean drops down one hundred leagues, two hundred… three hundred… four hundred… five hundred… six hundred… seven hundred leagues.
There comes a time when the water in the great ocean stands seven palm-trees deep, six… five… four… three… two palm-trees deep, one palm-tree deep.
There comes a time when the water in the great ocean stands seven fathoms deep, six… five… four… three… two fathoms deep, one fathom deep.
There comes a time when the water in the great ocean stands half a fathom deep, hip-deep, knee-deep, ankle deep.
There comes a time when the water in the great ocean is not even the depth of the first joint of a finger.
“So when even in the external liquid property—so vast—inconstancy will be discerned, destructibility will be discerned, a tendency to decay will be discerned, changeability will be discerned, then what of this short-lasting body, sustained by clinging, is ‘I’ or ‘mine’ or ‘what I am’?
It has here only a ‘no.
’…
The Fire Property
“And what is the fire property?
The fire property may be either internal or external.
What is the internal fire property?
Whatever internal, belonging to oneself, is fire, fiery, & sustained:
that by which [the body] is warmed, aged, & consumed with fever;
and that by which what is eaten, drunk, chewed, & savored gets properly digested, or whatever else internal, within oneself, is fire, fiery, & sustained:
This is called the internal fire property.
Now, both the internal fire property and the external fire property are simply fire property.
And that should be seen as it actually is present with right discernment:
‘This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.
’ When one sees it thus as it actually is present with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the fire property and makes the mind dispassionate toward the fire property.
Now, there comes a time, friends, when the external fire property is provoked and consumes village, town, city, district, & country;
and then, coming to the edge of a green district, the edge of a road, the edge of a rocky district, to the water’s edge, or to a lush, well-watered area, goes out from lack of sustenance.
There comes a time when people try to make fire using a wing-bone & tendon parings.
[2]
“So when even in the external fire property—so vast—inconstancy will be discerned, destructibility will be discerned, a tendency to decay will be discerned, changeability will be discerned, then what of this short-lasting body, sustained by clinging, is ‘I’ or ‘mine’ or ‘what I am’?
It has here only a ‘no.
’ …
The Wind Property
“And what is the wind property?
The wind property may be either internal or external.
What is the internal wind property?
Whatever internal, belonging to oneself, is wind, windy, & sustained:
up-going winds, down-going winds, winds in the stomach, winds in the intestines, winds that course through the body, in-&-out breathing, or whatever else internal, within oneself, is wind, windy, & sustained:
This is called the internal wind property.
Now, both the internal wind property and the external wind property are simply wind property.
And that should be seen as it actually is present with right discernment:
‘This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.
’ When one sees it thus as it actually is present with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the wind property and makes the mind dispassionate toward the wind property.
“Now, there comes a time, friends, when the external wind property is provoked and blows away village, town, city, district, & country.
There comes a time when, in the last month of the hot season, people try to start a breeze with a fan or bellows, and even the grass at the fringe of a thatch roof doesn’t stir.
“So when even in the external wind property—so vast—inconstancy will be discerned, destructibility will be discerned, a tendency to decay will be discerned, changeability will be discerned, then what of this short-lasting body, sustained by clinging, is ‘I’ or ‘mine’ or ‘what I am’?
It has here only a ‘no.
“Now, if other people insult, malign, exasperate, & harass a monk [who has discerned this], he discerns that ’A painful feeling, born of ear-contact, has arisen within me.
And that is dependent, not independent.
Dependent on what?
Dependent on contact.
’ And he sees that contact is inconstant, feeling is inconstant, perception is inconstant, consciousness is inconstant.
His mind, with the [wind] property as its object/support, leaps up, grows confident, steadfast, & released.
“And if other people attack the monk in ways that are undesirable, displeasing, & disagreeable—through contact with fists, contact with stones, contact with sticks, or contact with knives—the monk discerns that ‘This body is of such a nature contacts with fists come, contacts with stones come, contacts with sticks come, & contacts with knives come.
Now, the Blessed One has said, in his exhortation of the simile of the saw, “Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding.
” So my persistence will be aroused & untiring, my mindfulness established & unconfused, my body calm & unaroused, my mind concentrated & gathered into one.
And now let contact with fists come to this body, let contact with stones, with sticks, with knives come to this body, for this is how the Buddha’s bidding is done.
“And if, in the monk recollecting the Buddha, Dhamma, & Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on what is skillful is not established, he feels apprehensive at that and gives rise to a sense of urgency:
‘It is a loss for me, not a gain;
ill-gotten for me, not well-gotten, that when I recollect the Buddha, Dhamma, & Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on what is skillful is not established within me.
’ Just as when a daughter-in-law, on seeing her father-in-law, feels apprehensive and gives rise to a sense of urgency [to please him], in the same way, if, in the monk recollecting the Buddha, Dhamma, & Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on what is skillful is not established, he feels apprehensive at that and gives rise to a sense of urgency:
‘It is a loss for me, not a gain;
ill-gotten for me, not well-gotten, that when I recollect the Buddha, Dhamma, & Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on what is skillful is not established within me.
“But if, in the monk recollecting the Buddha, Dhamma, & Saṅgha in this way, equanimity based on what is skillful is established, then he is gratified at that.
And even to this extent, friends, the monk has accomplished a great deal.
The Space Property
“Friends, just as when—in dependence on timber, vines, grass, & clay—space is enclosed and is gathered under the term ‘house,’ in the same way, when space is enclosed in dependence on bones, tendons, muscle, & skin, it is gathered under the term, ‘form.
Dependent Co-arising
“Now, if internally the eye is intact but externally forms do not come into range, nor is there a corresponding engagement, then there is no appearing of the corresponding type of consciousness.
If internally the eye is intact and externally forms come into range, but there is no corresponding engagement, then there is no appearing of the corresponding type of consciousness.
But when internally the eye is intact and externally forms come into range, and there is a corresponding engagement, then there is the appearing of the corresponding type of consciousness.
“The form of what has thus come to be is gathered under the form clinging-aggregate.
The feeling of what has thus come to be is gathered under the feeling clinging-aggregate.
The perception of what has thus come to be is gathered under the perception clinging-aggregate.
The fabrications of what has thus come to be are gathered under the fabrication clinging-aggregate.
The consciousness of what has thus come to be is gathered under the consciousness clinging-aggregate.
One discerns, ‘This, it seems, is how there is the gathering, meeting, & convergence of these five clinging-aggregates.
Now, the Blessed One has said, “Whoever sees dependent co-arising sees the Dhamma;
whoever sees the Dhamma sees dependent co-arising.
”[3] And these things—the five clinging-aggregates—are dependently co-arisen.
[4] Any desire, embracing, grasping, & holding-on to these five clinging-aggregates is the origination of stress.
Any subduing of desire & passion, any abandoning of desire & passion for these five clinging-aggregates is the cessation of stress.
’[5] And even to this extent, friends, the monk has accomplished a great deal.
“Now, if internally the ear is intact.
“Now, if internally the nose is intact.
“Now, if internally the tongue is intact.
“Now, if internally the body is intact.
“Now, if internally the intellect is intact but externally ideas do not come into range, nor is there a corresponding engagement, then there is no appearing of the corresponding type of consciousness.
If internally the intellect is intact and externally ideas come into range, but there is no corresponding engagement, then there is no appearing of the corresponding type of consciousness.
But when internally the intellect is intact and externally ideas come into range, and there is a corresponding engagement, then there is the appearing of the corresponding type of consciousness.
“The form of what has thus come to be is gathered under the form clinging-aggregate.
The feeling of what has thus come to be is gathered under the feeling clinging-aggregate The perception of what has thus come to be is gathered under the perception clinging-aggregate.
The fabrications of what has thus come to be are gathered under the fabrication clinging-aggregate.
The consciousness of what has thus come to be is gathered under the consciousness clinging-aggregate.
One discerns, ‘This, it seems, is how there is the gathering, meeting, & convergence of these five clinging-aggregates.
Now, the Blessed One has said, “Whoever sees dependent co-arising sees the Dhamma;
whoever sees the Dhamma sees dependent co-arising.
” And these things—the five clinging-aggregates—are dependently co-arisen.
Any desire, embracing, grasping, & holding-on to these five clinging-aggregates is the origination of stress.
Any subduing of desire & passion, any abandoning of desire & passion for these five clinging-aggregates is the cessation of stress.
’ And even to this extent, friends, the monk has accomplished a great deal.
That is what Ven.
Sāriputta said.
Gratified, the monks delighted in Ven.
Sāriputta’s words.
MN 28
Notes
1. The compilers of the Pāli Canon used a common theory to explain the physics of heat & motion, meteorology, and the etiology of diseases.
That theory centered on the concept of ‘dhātu’:
property or potential.
The physical properties presented in this theory were four:
those of earth (solidity), liquid, fire, & wind (motion).
Three of them—liquid, fire, & wind—were viewed as potentially active.
When they were aggravated, agitated or provoked—the Pāli term here, ‘pakuppati’, was used also on the psychological level, where it meant angered or upset—they acted as the underlying cause for activity in nature.
For more on this topic, see The Mind Like Fire Unbound, Chapter 2.
2. AN 7.46 (quoted in The Mind Like Fire Unbound) cites a wing bone and tendon parings as examples of items that will not catch fire.
Perhaps the passage was meant as a comical parody of someone who, having seen another person start fire with a fire stick, tried to imitate that person without understanding the basic principle involved.
If you used a fire stick and wood shavings, you would get fire.
If you used a wing bone instead of a fire stick, and tendon parings instead of wood shavings, you wouldn’t.
3. This statement has not been traced in any other part of the extant Pāli Canon.
4. See SN 12.2.
5. Although the fourth noble truth—the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress—is not explicitly mentioned in this discussion, it is implicit as the path of practice leading to the subduing of desire & passion, the abandoning of desire & passion for the five clinging-aggregates.
§ 116. “Monks, a monk who is skilled in seven bases and has three modes of investigation is fulfilled & fully accomplished in this Dhamma & Vinaya—the ultimate person.
“And how is a monk skilled in seven bases?
There is the case where a monk discerns form, the origination of form, the cessation of form, the path of practice leading to the cessation of form.
He discerns the allure of form, the drawback of form, and the escape from form.
“He discerns feeling.
… He discerns perception.
… He discerns fabrications.
“He discerns consciousness, the origination of consciousness, the cessation of consciousness, the path of practice leading to the cessation of consciousness.
He discerns the allure of consciousness, the drawback of consciousness, and the escape from consciousness.
“And what is form?
The four great existents [the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, & the wind property] and the form derived from them:
this is called form.
From the origination of nutriment comes the origination of form.
From the cessation of nutriment comes the cessation of form.
And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of form, i.
e., right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
The fact that pleasure & happiness arise in dependence on form:
That is the allure of form.
The fact that form is inconstant, stressful, subject to change:
That is the drawback of form.
The subduing of desire-passion for form, the abandoning of desire-passion for form:
That is the escape from form.
“And what is feeling?
These six bodies of feeling—feeling born of eye-contact, feeling born of ear-contact, feeling born of nose-contact, feeling born of tongue-contact, feeling born of body-contact, feeling born of intellect-contact:
This is called feeling.
From the origination of contact comes the origination of feeling.
From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling.
And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of feeling.
… The fact that pleasure & happiness arise in dependence on feeling:
That is the allure of feeling.
The fact that feeling is inconstant, stressful, subject to change:
That is the drawback of feeling.
The subduing of desire-passion for feeling, the abandoning of desire-passion for feeling:
That is the escape from feeling.
“And what is perception?
These six bodies of perception—perception of form, perception of sound, perception of smell, perception of taste, perception of tactile sensation, perception of ideas:
This is called perception.
From the origination of contact comes the origination of perception.
From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of perception.
And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of perception.
… The fact that pleasure & happiness arise in dependence on perception:
That is the allure of perception.
The fact that perception is inconstant, stressful, subject to change:
That is the drawback of perception.
The subduing of desire-passion for perception, the abandoning of desire-passion for perception:
That is the escape from perception.
“And what are fabrications?
These six bodies of intention—intention with regard to form, intention with regard to sound, intention with regard to smell, intention with regard to taste, intention with regard to tactile sensation, intention with regard to ideas:
These are called fabrications.
From the origination of contact comes the origination of fabrications.
From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of fabrications.
And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of fabrications.
… The fact that pleasure & happiness arise in dependence on fabrications:
That is the allure of fabrications.
The fact that fabrications are inconstant, stressful, subject to change:
That is the drawback of fabrications.
The subduing of desire-passion for fabrications, the abandoning of desire-passion for fabrications:
That is the escape from fabrications.
“And what is consciousness?
These six bodies of consciousness:
eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, intellect-consciousness.
This is called consciousness.
From the origination of name-&-form comes the origination of consciousness.
From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness.
And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of consciousness, i.
e., right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
The fact that pleasure & happiness arise in dependence on consciousness:
That is the allure of consciousness.
The fact that consciousness is inconstant, stressful, subject to change:
That is the drawback of consciousness.
The subduing of desire-passion for consciousness, the abandoning of desire-passion for consciousness:
That is the escape from consciousness.
“This is how a monk is skilled in seven bases.
“And how does a monk have three modes of investigation?
There is the case where a monk investigates in terms of properties, investigates in terms of sense media, investigates in terms of dependent co-arising.
This is how a monk has three modes of investigation.
“A monk who is skilled in seven bases and has three modes of investigation is fulfilled and fully accomplished in this Dhamma & Vinaya—the ultimate person.
” — SN 22.57
§ 117. “Suppose, monks, that there were a beverage in a bronze cup—consummate in its color, consummate in its smell, consummate in its flavor, but mixed with poison—and a man were to come along:
scorched from the heat, oppressed by heat, exhausted, trembling, & thirsty.
They would say to him, ‘Here, my good man, is a beverage for you in a bronze cup:
consummate in its color, consummate in its smell, consummate in its flavor, but mixed with poison.
Drink it, if you want.
Having been drunk, it will please you with its color, smell, & flavor.
But having drunk it, you will—from that cause—meet with death or death-like suffering.
’ He would drink it quickly without reflection—he wouldn’t reject it—and from that cause he would meet with death or death-like suffering.
“In the same way, monks, any contemplatives & brahmans in the past… future… present who see whatever seems endearing & alluring in terms of the world as constant, as pleasant, as self, as freedom from disease, as safety, make craving grow.
Those who make craving grow make acquisition grow.
Those who make acquisition grow make stress grow.
Those who make stress grow are not released from birth, aging, death, sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs.
They are not released, I tell you, from suffering & stress.
“Suppose, monks, that there were a beverage in a bronze cup—consummate in its color, consummate in its smell, consummate in its flavor, but mixed with poison—and a man were to come along:
scorched from the heat, oppressed by heat, exhausted, trembling, & thirsty.
They would say to him, ‘Here, my good man, is a beverage for you in a bronze cup:
consummate in its color, consummate in its smell, consummate in its flavor, but mixed with poison.
Drink it, if you want.
Having been drunk, it will please you with its color, smell, & flavor.
But having drunk it, you will—from that cause—meet with death or death-like suffering.
’ The thought would occur to that man, ‘It’s possible to subdue this thirst of mine with water, with whey, with salted porridge, or with bean-broth.
I certainly shouldn’t drink that which would be for my long-term harm & suffering.
’ Having reflected on that beverage in the bronze cup, he wouldn’t drink it.
He would reject it.
And so from that cause he would not meet with death or death-like suffering.
“In the same way, monks, any contemplatives & brahmans in the past… future… present who see whatever seems endearing & alluring in terms of the world as inconstant, as stressful, as not-self, as a disease, as a danger:
They abandon craving.
Those who abandon craving abandon acquisition.
Those who abandon acquisition abandon stress.
Those who abandon stress are released from birth, aging, death, sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs.
They are released, I tell you, from suffering & stress.
” — SN 12.66
§ 118. “Mahāli, there is cause, there is requisite condition, for the defilement of beings.
Beings are defiled with cause, with requisite condition.
There is cause, this is requisite condition, for the purification of beings.
Beings are purified with cause, with requisite condition.
“And what, lord, is the cause, what the requisite condition, for the defilement of beings?
How are beings defiled with cause, with requisite condition?
“Mahāli, if form were exclusively stressful—followed by stress, infused with stress and not infused with pleasure—beings would not be infatuated with form.
But because form is also pleasurable—followed by pleasure, infused with pleasure and not infused with stress—beings are infatuated with form.
Through infatuation, they are captivated.
Through captivation, they are defiled.
This is the cause, this the requisite condition, for the defilement of beings.
And this is how beings are defiled with cause, with requisite condition.
“If feeling were exclusively stressful.
“If perception were exclusively stressful.
“If fabrications were exclusively stressful.
“If consciousness were exclusively stressful—followed by stress, infused with stress and not infused with pleasure—beings would not be infatuated with consciousness.
But because consciousness is also pleasurable—followed by pleasure, infused with pleasure and not infused with stress—beings are infatuated with consciousness.
Through infatuation, they are captivated.
Through captivation, they are defiled.
This is the cause, this the requisite condition, for the defilement of beings.
And this is how beings are defiled with cause, with requisite condition.
“And what, lord, is the cause, what the requisite condition, for the purification of beings?
How are beings purified with cause, with requisite condition?
“Mahāli, if form were exclusively pleasurable—followed by pleasure, infused with pleasure and not infused with stress—beings would not be disenchanted with form.
But because form is also stressful—followed by stress, infused with stress and not infused with pleasure—beings are disenchanted with form.
Through disenchantment, they grow dispassionate.
Through dispassion, they are purified.
This is the cause, this the requisite condition, for the purification of beings.
And this is how beings are purified with cause, with requisite condition.
“If feeling were exclusively pleasurable.
“If perception were exclusively pleasurable.
“If fabrications were exclusively pleasurable.
“If consciousness were exclusively pleasurable—followed by pleasure, infused with pleasure and not infused with stress—beings would not be disenchanted with consciousness.
But because consciousness is also stressful—followed by stress, infused with stress and not infused with pleasure—beings are disenchanted with consciousness.
Through disenchantment, they grow dispassionate.
Through dispassion, they are purified.
This is the cause, this the requisite condition, for the purification of beings.
And this is how beings are purified with cause, with requisite condition.
” — SN 22.60
§ 119. Sister Dhammadinnā:
“Pleasant feeling is pleasant in remaining, & painful in changing, friend Visākha.
Painful feeling is painful in remaining & pleasant in changing.
Neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling is pleasant in occurring together with knowledge, and painful in occurring without knowledge.
” — MN 44
§ 120. “Monks, any contemplatives or brahmans who recollect their manifold past lives all recollect the five clinging-aggregates, or one among them.
Which five?
When recollecting, ‘I was one with such a form in the past,’ one is recollecting just form.
Or when recollecting, ‘I was one with such a feeling in the past,’ one is recollecting just feeling.
Or when recollecting, ‘I was one with such a perception in the past,’ one is recollecting just perception.
Or when recollecting, ‘I was one with such mental fabrications in the past,’ one is recollecting just mental fabrications.
Or when recollecting, ‘I was one with such a consciousness in the past,’ one is recollecting just consciousness.
“And why do you call it ‘form’ [rūpa]?
Because it is afflicted [ruppati], thus it is called ‘form.
’ Afflicted with what?
With cold & heat & hunger & thirst, with the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, & reptiles.
Because it is afflicted, it is called form.
“And why do you call it ‘feeling’?
Because it feels, thus it is called ‘feeling.
’ What does it feel?
It feels pleasure, it feels pain, it feels neither-pleasure-nor-pain.
Because it feels, it is called feeling.
“And why do you call it ‘perception’?
Because it perceives, thus it is called ‘perception.
’ What does it perceive?
It perceives blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white.
Because it perceives, it is called perception.
“And why do you call them ‘fabrications’?
Because they fabricate fabricated things, thus they are called ‘fabrications.
’ What do they fabricate as a fabricated thing?
For the sake of form-ness, they fabricate form as a fabricated thing.
For the sake of feeling-ness, they fabricate feeling as a fabricated thing.
For the sake of perception-hood… For the sake of fabrication-hood… For the sake of consciousness-hood, they fabricate consciousness as a fabricated thing.
Because they fabricate fabricated things, they are called fabrications.
“And why do you call it ‘consciousness’?
Because it cognizes, thus it is called consciousness.
What does it cognize?
It cognizes what is sour, bitter, pungent, sweet, alkaline, non-alkaline, salty, & unsalty.
Because it cognizes, it is called consciousness.
“Thus a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones reflects in this way:
‘I am now being chewed up by form.
But in the past I was also chewed up by form in the same way I am now being chewed up by present form.
And if I delight in future form, then in the future I will be chewed up by form in the same way I am now being chewed up by present form.
’ Having reflected in this way, he becomes indifferent to past form, does not delight in future form, and is practicing for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, and cessation with regard to present form.
“[He reflects:
] ‘‘I am now being chewed up by feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness.
But in the past I was also chewed up by consciousness in the same way I am now being chewed up by present consciousness.
And if I delight in future consciousness, then in the future I will be chewed up by consciousness in the same way I am now being chewed up by present consciousness.
’ Having reflected in this way, he becomes indifferent to past consciousness, does not delight in future consciousness, and is practicing for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, and cessation with regard to present consciousness.
” — SN 22.79
§ 121. “In seeing six rewards, it’s enough for a monk to establish the perception of inconstancy with regard to all fabrications without exception.
Which six?
‘All fabrications will appear as unstable.
My mind will not delight in any world.
My mind will rise above every world.
My heart will be inclined to unbinding.
My fetters will go to their abandoning.
I’ll be endowed with the foremost dhammas of the contemplative life.
’”
“In seeing six rewards, it’s enough for a monk to establish the perception of stress with regard to all fabrications without exception.
Which six?
‘The perception of disenchantment will be established within me with regard to all fabrications, like a murderer with a drawn sword.
My mind will rise above every world.
I’ll become one who sees peace in unbinding.
My obsessions will go to their destruction.
I’ll be one who has completed his task.
The Teacher will have been served with goodwill.
’”
“In seeing six rewards, it’s enough for a monk to establish the perception of not-self with regard to all phenomena without exception.
Which six?
‘I won’t be fashioned in connection with any world.
My I-making will be stopped.
My my-making will be stopped.
I’ll be endowed with uncommon knowledge.
I’ll become one who rightly sees cause, along with causally-originated phenomena.
’” — AN 6.102–104
§ 122. “Whether or not there is the arising of Tathāgatas, this property stands—this steadfastness of the Dhamma, this orderliness of the Dhamma:
‘All fabrications are inconstant.
“The Tathāgata directly awakens to that, breaks through to that.
Directly awakening & breaking through to that, he declares it, teaches it, describes it, sets it forth.
He reveals it, explains it, makes it plain:
‘All fabrications are inconstant.
“Whether or not there is the arising of Tathāgatas, this property stands—this steadfastness of the Dhamma, this orderliness of the Dhamma:
‘All fabrications are stressful.
“The Tathāgata directly awakens to that, breaks through to that.
Directly awakening & breaking through to that, he declares it, teaches it, describes it, sets it forth.
He reveals it, explains it, makes it plain:
‘All fabrications are stressful.
“Whether or not there is the arising of Tathāgatas, this property stands—this steadfastness of the Dhamma, this orderliness of the Dhamma:
‘All phenomena are not-self.
’[1]
“The Tathāgata directly awakens to that, breaks through to that.
Directly awakening & breaking through to that, he declares it, teaches it, describes it, sets it forth.
He reveals it, explains it, makes it plain:
‘All phenomena are not-self.
’” — AN 3.137
Note
1. The suttas are inconsistent on the question of whether unbinding counts as a phenomenon (dhamma).
Iti 90 (§11), among others, states clearly that it is.
AN 10.58 (§353), however, calls unbinding the ending of all phenomena.
Sn 5:
6 (§351) quotes the Buddha as calling the attainment of the goal the transcending of all phenomena, just as Sn 4:
6 and Sn 4:
10 state that the arahant has transcended dispassion, said to be the highest phenomenon.
If the former definition applies here, unbinding would be not-self.
If the latter, the word phenomenon (as more inclusive than fabrication) would apply to the non-returner’s experience of the deathless (see AN 9.36 (§312)). The arahant’s experience of unbinding would be neither self nor not-self, as it lies beyond all designations (see DN 15 (§348). Even the arahant, at that point, would be undefined, as beings are defined by their attachments, whereas there are no attachments by which an arahant could be defined as existing, not existing, both, or neither (see SN 23.2 (§111) and SN 22.85–86).
§ 123. “Form, monks, is not self.
If form were the self, this form would not lend itself to dis-ease.
It would be possible (to say) with regard to form, ‘Let my form be thus.
Let my form not be thus.
’ But precisely because form is not self, this form lends itself to dis-ease.
And it is not possible (to say) with regard to form, ‘Let my form be thus.
Let my form not be thus.
“Feeling is not self.
“Perception is not self.
“Fabrications are not self.
“Consciousness is not self.
If consciousness were the self, this consciousness would not lend itself to dis-ease.
It would be possible (to say) with regard to consciousness, ‘Let my consciousness be thus.
Let my consciousness not be thus.
’ But precisely because consciousness is not self, consciousness lends itself to dis-ease.
And it is not possible (to say) with regard to consciousness, ‘Let my consciousness be thus.
Let my consciousness not be thus.
“What do you think, monks?
Is form constant or inconstant?
”—“Inconstant, lord.
”— “And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?
”—“Stressful, lord.
” “And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as:
‘This is mine.
This is my self.
This is what I am’?
“No, lord.
“… Is feeling constant or inconstant?
”—“Inconstant, lord.
”…
“… Is perception constant or inconstant?
”—“Inconstant, lord.
”…
“… Are fabrications constant or inconstant?
”—“Inconstant, lord.
”…
“What do you think, monks?
Is consciousness constant or inconstant?
”—“Inconstant, lord.
”—“And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?
”—“Stressful, lord.
”—“And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as:
‘This is mine.
This is my self.
This is what I am’?
“No, lord.
“Thus, monks, any form whatsoever that is past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near:
Every form is to be seen with right discernment as it has come to be:
‘This is not mine.
This is not my self.
This is not what I am.
“Any feeling whatsoever.
“Any perception whatsoever.
“Any fabrications whatsoever.
“Any consciousness whatsoever that is past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near:
Every consciousness is to be seen with right discernment as it has come to be:
‘This is not mine.
This is not my self.
This is not what I am.
“Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness.
Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate.
Through dispassion, he is released.
With release, there is the knowledge, ‘Released.
’ He discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done.
There is nothing further for this world.
’” — SN 22.59
§ 124. On one occasion the Blessed One was staying among the Ayujjhans on the banks of the Ganges River.
There he addressed the monks:
“Monks, suppose that a large glob of foam were floating down this Ganges River, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it.
To him—seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it—it would appear empty, void, without substance:
for what substance would there be in a glob of foam?
In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any form that is past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near.
To him—seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it—it would appear empty, void, without substance:
for what substance would there be in form?
“Now, suppose that in the autumn—when it’s raining in fat, heavy drops—a water bubble were to appear & disappear on the water, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it.
To him—seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it—it would appear empty, void, without substance:
for what substance would there be in a water bubble?
In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any feeling that is past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near.
To him—seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it—it would appear empty, void, without substance:
for what substance would there be in feeling?
“Now, suppose that in the last month of the hot season a mirage were shimmering, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it.
To him—seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it—it would appear empty, void, without substance:
for what substance would there be in a mirage?
In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any perception that is past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near.
To him—seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it—it would appear empty, void, without substance:
for what substance would there be in perception?
“Now, suppose that a man desiring heartwood, in quest of heartwood, seeking heartwood, were to go into a forest carrying a sharp ax.
There he would see a large banana tree:
straight, young, of enormous height.
He would cut it at the root and, having cut it at the root, would chop off the top.
Having chopped off the top, he would peel away the outer skin.
Peeling away the outer skin, he wouldn’t even find sapwood, to say nothing of heartwood.
Then a man with good eyesight would see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it.
To him—seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it—it would appear empty, void, without substance:
for what substance would there be in a banana tree?
In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any fabrications that are past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near.
To him—seeing them, observing them, & appropriately examining them—they would appear empty, void, without substance:
for what substance would there be in fabrications?
“Now, suppose that a magician or magician’s apprentice were to display a magic trick at a major intersection, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it.
To him—seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it—it would appear empty, void, without substance:
for what substance would there be in a magic trick?
In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any consciousness that is past, future, or present;
internal or external;
blatant or subtle;
common or sublime;
far or near.
To him—seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it—it would appear empty, void, without substance:
for what substance would there be in consciousness?
” — SN 22.95
Craving for Becoming & Non-becoming
§ 125. Ven.
Ānanda:
“This word, ‘becoming, becoming’—to what extent is there becoming?
The Buddha:
“If there were no kamma ripening in the sensuality-property, would sensuality-becoming be discerned?
Ven. Ānanda:
“No, lord.
The Buddha:
“Thus kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture.
The consciousness of living beings hindered by ignorance & fettered by craving is established in/tuned to a lower property.
Thus there is the production of renewed becoming in the future.
“If there were no kamma ripening in the form-property, would form-becoming be discerned?
Ven. Ānanda:
“No, lord.
The Buddha:
“Thus kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture.
The consciousness of living beings hindered by ignorance & fettered by craving is established in/tuned to a middling property.
Thus there is the production of renewed becoming in the future.
“If there were no kamma ripening in the formless-property, would formless-becoming be discerned?
Ven. Ānanda:
“No, lord.
The Buddha:
“Thus kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture.
The consciousness of living beings hindered by ignorance & fettered by craving is established in/tuned to a refined property.
Thus there is the production of renewed becoming in the future.
This is how there is becoming.
” — AN 3.76
§ 126. “And which craving is the ensnarer that has flowed along, spread out, and caught hold, with which this world is smothered & enveloped like a tangled skein, a knotted ball of string, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not go beyond transmigration, beyond the planes of deprivation, woe, & bad destinations?
These 18 craving-verbalizations dependent on what is internal and 18 craving-verbalizations dependent on what is external.
“And which are the 18 craving-verbalizations dependent on what is internal?
There being ‘I am,’ there comes to be ‘I am here,’ there comes to be ‘I am like this’ … ‘I am otherwise’ … ‘I am bad’ … ‘I am good’ … ‘I might be’ … ‘I might be here’ … ‘I might be like this’ … ‘I might be otherwise’ … ‘May I be’ … ‘May I be here’ … ‘May I be like this’ … ‘May I be otherwise’ … ‘I will be’ … ‘I will be here’ … ‘I will be like this’ … ‘I will be otherwise.
’ These are the 18 craving-verbalizations dependent on what is internal.
“And which are the 18 craving-verbalizations dependent on what is external?
There being ‘I am because of this [or:
by means of this],’ there comes to be ‘I am here because of this,’ there comes to be ‘I am like this because of this’ … ‘I am otherwise because of this’ … ‘I am bad because of this’ … ‘I am good because of this’ … ‘I might be because of this’ … ‘I might be here because of this’ … ‘I might be like this because of this’ … ‘I might be otherwise because of this’ … ‘May I be because of this’ … ‘May I be here because of this’ … ‘May I be like this because of this’ … ‘May I be otherwise because of this’ … ‘I will be because of this’ … ‘I will be here because of this’ … ‘I will be like this because of this’ … ‘I will be otherwise because of this.
’ These are the 18 craving-verbalizations dependent on what is external.
“Thus there are 18 craving-verbalizations dependent on what is internal and 18 craving-verbalizations dependent on what is external.
These are called the 36 craving-verbalizations.
Thus, with 36 craving-verbalizations of this sort in the past, 36 in the future, and 36 in the present, there are 108 craving-verbalizations.
“This, monks is the craving that’s the ensnarer that has flowed along, spread out, and caught hold, with which this world is smothered & enveloped like a tangled skein, a knotted ball of string, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not go beyond transmigration, beyond the planes of deprivation, woe, & bad destinations.
” — AN 4.199
§ 127. ‘Having seen
danger
right in becoming,
and becoming
in searching for non-becoming,
I didn’t affirm
any kind of becoming,
or cling to any delight.
’ — MN 49
§ 128. “Now, as for those contemplatives & brahmans who describe the destruction, annihilation, & non-becoming of the existing being after death, they criticize the contemplatives & brahmans who describe the self as percipient & free from disease after death and they criticize the contemplatives & brahmans who describe the self as non-percipient & free from disease after death and they criticize the contemplatives & brahmans who describe the self as neither percipient nor non-percipient & free from disease after death.
For what reason?
(They say,) ‘These venerable contemplatives & brahmans, rushing ahead, assert nothing but their attachment:
“I will be this after death.
I will be this after death.
” Just as when a merchant going to market thinks, “From this, that will be mine.
By means of this I will get that”;
in the same way, these venerable contemplatives & brahmans act like merchants, as it were:
“I will be this after death.
I will be this after death.
”’
“With regard to this, the Tathāgata discerns that “Those venerable contemplative & brahmans who describe the destruction, annihilation, & non-becoming of the existing being after death, they—through fear of self-identity, through disgust for self-identity—(nevertheless) keep running & circling around self-identity.
Just as a dog, tied by a leash to a post or stake, keeps running around and circling around that very post or stake;
in the same way, these venerable contemplative & brahmans—through fear of self-identity, through disgust for self-identity—(nevertheless) keep running & circling around self-identity.
With regard to that—fabricated, gross—there is still the cessation of fabrications:
There is this.
’ Knowing that, seeing the escape from it, the Tathāgata has gone beyond it.
” — MN 102
§ 129. “Overcome by two viewpoints, some devas & human adhere, other devas & human beings slip right past, while those with vision see.
“And how do some adhere?
Devas & human beings enjoy becoming, delight in becoming, are satisfied with becoming.
When the Dhamma is being taught for the sake of the cessation of becoming, their minds do not take to it, are not calmed by it, do not settle on it or become resolved on it.
This is how some adhere.
“And how do some slip right past?
Some, feeling horrified, humiliated, & disgusted with that very becoming, relish non-becoming:
‘When this self, at the break-up of the body, after death, perishes & is destroyed, and does not exist after death, that is peaceful, that is exquisite, that is sufficiency!’ This is how some slip right past.
“And how do those with vision see?
There is the case where a monk sees what’s come to be as what’s come to be.
Seeing what’s come to be as what’s come to be, he practices for disenchantment with what’s come to be, dispassion toward what’s come to be, cessation of what’s come to be.
This is how those with vision see.
Those, having seen
what’s come to be
as what’s come to be,
and what’s gone beyond
what’s come to be,
are released in line
with what’s come to be,
through the exhaustion of craving
for becoming.
If they’ve comprehended
what’s come to be,
and are free from the craving
for becoming & non-,
with the non-becoming
of what’s come to be,
monks come
to no further becoming.
— Iti 49
Dependent Co-arising
§ 130. Ven.
Sāriputta said, “’Right view, right view’ it is said.
To what extent is a disciple of the noble ones a person of right view, one whose view is made straight, who is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma, and who has arrived at this True Dhamma?
“We would come from a long distance, friend, to learn the meaning of these words in Ven.
Sāriputta’s presence.
It would be good if Ven.
Sāriputta himself would enlighten us as to their meaning.
Having listened to him, the monks will bear it in mind.
“Then in that case, friends, listen & pay close attention.
I will speak.
“As you say, friend,” the monks responded to him.
Skillful & Unskillful
Ven.
Sāriputta said, “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns what is unskillful, discerns the root of what is unskillful, discerns what is skillful, and discerns the root of what is skillful, it is to that extent that he is a person of right view, one whose view is made straight, who is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma, and who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is unskillful?
Taking life is unskillful, taking what is not given… sexual misconduct… lying… divisive speech… harsh speech… idle chatter is unskillful.
Covetousness… ill will… wrong views are unskillful.
These things are called unskillful.
“And what are the roots of what is unskillful?
Greed is a root of what is unskillful, aversion is a root of what is unskillful, delusion is a root of what is unskillful.
These are called the roots of what is unskillful.
“And what is skillful?
Abstaining from taking life is skillful, abstaining from taking what is not given… from sexual misconduct… from lying… from divisive speech… harsh speech… abstaining from idle chatter is skillful.
Lack of covetousness… lack of ill will… right views are skillful.
These things are called skillful.
“And what are the roots of what is skillful?
Lack of greed is a root of what is skillful, lack of aversion… lack of delusion is a root of what is skillful.
These are called the roots of what is skillful.
“When a disciple of the noble ones discerns what is unskillful in this way, discerns the root of what is unskillful in this way, discerns what is skillful in this way, and discerns the root of what is skillful in this way, when—having entirely abandoned passion-obsession, having abolished aversion-obsession, having uprooted the view-&-conceit obsession ‘I am’;
having abandoned ignorance & given rise to clear knowing—he has put an end to suffering & stress right in the here-&-now, it is to this extent that a disciple of the noble ones is a person of right view, one whose view is made straight, who is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma, and who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
Nutriment
Saying “Good, friend,” having delighted in and approved of Ven.
Sāriputta’s words, the monks asked him a further question:
“Would there be another line of reasoning by which a disciple of the noble ones is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma?
“There would.
When a disciple of the noble ones discerns nutriment, the origination of nutriment, the cessation of nutriment, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of nutriment, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is nutriment?
What is the origination of nutriment?
What is the cessation of nutriment?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of nutriment?
“There are these four nutriments for the maintenance of beings who have come to be or for the support of those in search of a place to be born.
Which four?
Physical food, gross or refined;
contact as the second, intellectual intention the third, and consciousness the fourth.
From the origination of craving comes the origination of nutriment.
From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of nutriment.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of nutriment is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Stress
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns stress, the origination of stress, the cessation of stress, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is stress?
Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful;
sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful;
association with the unbeloved is stressful;
separation from the loved is stressful;
not getting what one wants is stressful.
In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.
This is called stress.
“What is the origination of stress?
The craving that makes for further becoming—accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there—i.
e., craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.
This is called the origination of stress.
“And what is the cessation of stress?
The remainderless dispassioning & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.
This is called the cessation of stress.
“And what is the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress?
Just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Aging-&-Death
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns aging-&-death, the origination of aging-&-death, the cessation of aging-&-death, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of aging-&-death, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is aging-&-death?
What is the origination of aging-&-death?
What is the cessation of aging-&-death?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of aging-&-death?
“Whatever aging, decrepitude, brokenness, graying, wrinkling, decline of life-force, weakening of the faculties of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called aging.
Whatever deceasing, passing away, breaking up, disappearance, dying, death, completion of time, break up of the aggregates, casting off of the body, interruption in the life faculty of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called death.
This aging & this death are called aging-&-death.
From the origination of birth comes the origination of aging-&-death.
From the cessation of birth comes the cessation of aging-&-death.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of aging-&-death is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Birth
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns birth, the origination of birth, the cessation of birth, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of birth, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is birth?
What is the origination of birth?
What is the cessation of birth?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of birth?
”Whatever birth, taking birth, descent, coming-to-be, coming-forth, appearance of aggregates, & acquisition of [sense] spheres of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called birth.
“From the origination of becoming comes the origination of birth.
From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of birth is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Becoming
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns becoming, the origination of becoming, the cessation of becoming, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of becoming, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is becoming?
What is the origination of becoming?
What is the cessation of becoming?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of becoming?
“There are these three becomings:
sensual becoming, form becoming, & formless becoming.
This is called becoming.
“From the origination of clinging comes the origination of becoming.
From the cessation of clinging comes the cessation of becoming.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of becoming is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Clinging
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns clinging, the origination of clinging, the cessation of clinging, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of clinging, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is clinging?
What is the origination of clinging?
What is the cessation of clinging?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of clinging?
“There are these four clingings:
sensuality clinging, view clinging, habit-&-practice clinging, and self-doctrine clinging.
This is called clinging.
“From the origination of craving comes the origination of clinging.
From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of clinging is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Craving
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns craving, the origination of craving, the cessation of craving, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of craving, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is craving?
What is the origination of craving?
What is the cessation of craving?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of craving?
“There are these six cravings:
craving for forms, craving for sounds, craving for smells, craving for tastes, craving for tactile sensations, craving for ideas.
This is called craving.
“From the origination of feeling comes the origination of craving.
From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of craving is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Feeling
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns feeling, the origination of feeling, the cessation of feeling, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of feeling, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is feeling?
What is the origination of feeling?
What is the cessation of feeling?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of feeling?
“There are these six feelings:
feeling born from eye-contact, feeling born from ear-contact, feeling born from nose-contact, feeling born from tongue-contact, feeling born from body-contact, feeling born from intellect-contact.
This is called feeling.
“From the origination of contact comes the origination of feeling.
From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of feeling is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Contact
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns contact, the origination of contact, the cessation of contact, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of contact, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is contact?
What is the origination of contact?
What is the cessation of contact?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of contact?
“There are these six classes of contact:
eye-contact, ear-contact, nose-contact, tongue-contact, body-contact, intellect-contact:
This is called contact.
“From the origination of the six sense media comes the origination of contact.
From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of contact is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Six Sense Media
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns the six sense media, the origination of the six sense media, the cessation of the six sense media, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of the six sense media, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what are the six sense media?
What is the origination of the six sense media?
What is the cessation of the six sense media?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of the six sense media?
“There are these six sense media:
the eye-medium, the ear-medium, the nose-medium, the tongue-medium, the body-medium, the intellect-medium:
These are called the six sense media.
“From the origination of name-&-form comes the origination of the six sense media.
From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of the six sense media is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Name-&-Form
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns name-&-form, the origination of name-&-form, the cessation of name-&-form, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of name-&-form, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is name-&-form?
What is the origination of name-&-form?
What is the cessation of name-&-form?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of name-&-form?
“Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention:
This is called name.
The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements:
This is called form.
This name & this form are called name-&-form.
“From the origination of consciousness comes the origination of name-&-form.
From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of name-&-form is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Consciousness
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns consciousness, the origination of consciousness, the cessation of consciousness, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of consciousness, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is consciousness?
What is the origination of consciousness?
What is the cessation of consciousness?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of consciousness?
“There are these six classes of consciousness:
eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, intellect-consciousness.
This is called consciousness.
“From the origination of fabrication comes the origination of consciousness.
From the cessation of fabrication comes the cessation of consciousness.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of consciousness is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Fabrication
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns fabrication, the origination of fabrication, the cessation of fabrication, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of fabrication, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is fabrication?
What is the origination of fabrication?
What is the cessation of fabrication?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of fabrication?
“There are these three fabrications:
bodily fabrication, verbal fabrication, mental fabrication.
These are called fabrication.
“From the origination of ignorance comes the origination of fabrication.
From the cessation of ignorance comes the cessation of fabrication.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of fabrication is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Ignorance
… “When a disciple of the noble ones discerns ignorance, the origination of ignorance, the cessation of ignorance, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of ignorance, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is ignorance?
What is the origination of ignorance?
What is the cessation of ignorance?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of ignorance?
“Any lack of knowledge with reference to stress, any lack of knowledge with reference to the origination of stress, any lack of knowledge with reference to the cessation of stress, any lack of knowledge with reference to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress:
This is called ignorance.
“From the origination of effluent comes the origination of ignorance.
From the cessation of effluent comes the cessation of ignorance.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of ignorance is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Effluent
Saying “Good, friend,” having delighted in and approved of Ven.
Sāriputta’s words, the monks asked him a further question:
“Would there be another line of reasoning by which a disciple of the noble ones is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma?
“There would.
When a disciple of the noble ones discerns effluent, the origination of effluent, the cessation of effluent, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of effluent, then he is a person of right view… who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
“And what is effluent?
What is the origination of effluent?
What is the cessation of effluent?
What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of effluent?
“There are these three effluents:
the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance.
This is called effluent.
“From the origination of ignorance comes the origination of effluent.
From the cessation of ignorance comes the cessation of effluent.
And the way of practice leading to the cessation of effluent is just this very noble eightfold path:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
“Now, when a disciple of the noble ones discerns effluent, the origination of effluent, the cessation of effluent, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of effluent in this way, when—having entirely abandoned passion-obsession, having abolished aversion-obsession, having uprooted the view-&-conceit obsession ‘I am’;
having abandoned ignorance & given rise to clear knowing—he has put an end to suffering & stress right in the here-&-now, it is to this extent, too, that a disciple of the noble ones is a person of right view, one whose view is made straight, who is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma, and who has arrived at this True Dhamma.
That is what Ven.
Sāriputta said.
Gratified, the monks delighted in Ven.
Sāriputta’s words.
MN 9
§ 131. Visākha:
“Now, lady, what are fabrications?
Sister Dhammadinnā:
“These three fabrications, friend Visākha:
bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications, & mental fabrications.
… In-&-out breaths are bodily;
these are things tied up with the body.
That’s why in-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications.
Having first directed one’s thoughts and made an evaluation, one then breaks out into speech.
That’s why directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications.
Perceptions & feelings are mental;
these are things tied up with the mind.
That’s why perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications.
” — MN 44
Final Right View
§ 132. Then Anāthapiṇḍika the householder went to where the wanderers of other sects were staying.
On arrival he greeted them courteously.
After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, the wanderers said to him, “Tell us, householder, what views Gotama the contemplative has.
“Venerable sirs, I don’t know entirely what views the Blessed One has.
“Well, well.
So you don’t know entirely what views Gotama the contemplative has.
Then tell us what views the monks have.
“I don’t even know entirely what views the monks have.
“So you don’t know entirely what views Gotama the contemplative has or even that the monks have.
Then tell us what views you have.
“It wouldn’t be difficult for me to expound to you what views I have.
But please let the venerable ones expound each in line with his view-standpoint, and then it won’t be difficult for me to expound to you what views I have.
When this had been said, one of the wanderers said to Anāthapiṇḍika the householder, “The cosmos is eternal.
Only this is true;
anything otherwise is worthless.
This is the sort of view I have.
Another wanderer said to Anāthapiṇḍika, “The cosmos is not eternal.
Only this is true;
anything otherwise is worthless.
This is the sort of view I have.
Another wanderer said, “The cosmos is finite…”…”The cosmos is infinite…”…”The soul is the same thing as the body…”…”The soul is one thing and the body another…”…”After death a Tathāgata exists…”…”After death a Tathāgata does not exist…”…”After death a Tathāgata both does & does not exist…”…”After death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist.
Only this is true;
anything otherwise is worthless.
This is the sort of view I have.
When this had been said, Anāthapiṇḍika the householder said to the wanderers, “As for the venerable one who says, ‘The cosmos is eternal.
Only this is true;
anything otherwise is worthless.
This is the sort of view I have,’ his view arises from his own inappropriate attention or in dependence on the words of another.
Now, this view has been brought into being, is fabricated, willed, dependently co-arisen.
Whatever has been brought into being, is fabricated, willed, dependently co-arisen:
That is inconstant.
Whatever is inconstant is stressful.
This venerable one thus adheres to that very stress, submits himself to that very stress.
” [Similarly for the other view-standpoints.
]
When this had been said, the wanderers said to Anāthapiṇḍika the householder, “We have each & every one expounded to you in line with our own view-standpoints.
Now tell us what views you have.
“Whatever has been brought into being, is fabricated, willed, dependently co-arisen:
That is inconstant.
Whatever is inconstant is stressful.
Whatever is stressful is not me, is not what I am, is not my self.
This is the sort of view I have.
“So, householder, whatever has been brought into being, is fabricated, willed, dependently co-arisen:
That is inconstant.
Whatever is inconstant is stressful.
You thus adhere to that very stress, submit yourself to that very stress.
“Venerable sirs, whatever has been brought into being, is fabricated, willed, dependently co-arisen:
That is inconstant.
Whatever is inconstant is stressful.
Whatever is stressful is not me, is not what I am, is not my self.
Having seen this well with right discernment as it has come to be, I also discern the higher escape from it as it has come to be.
When this was said, the wanderers fell silent, abashed, sitting with their shoulders drooping, their heads down, brooding, at a loss for words.
Anāthapiṇḍika the householder, sensing that the wanderers were silent, abashed… at a loss for words, got up & went to the Blessed One.
On arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, he sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, he told the Blessed One the entirety of his discussion with the wanderers.
[The Blessed One said,] “Well done, householder.
Well done.
That is how you should periodically & righteously refute those foolish men.
” Then he instructed, urged, roused, & encouraged Anāthapiṇḍika the householder with a talk on Dhamma.
When Anāthapiṇḍika the householder had been instructed, urged, roused, & encouraged by the Blessed One with a talk on Dhamma, he got up from his seat and, having bowed down to the Blessed One, left, keeping the Blessed One on his right side.
Not long afterward, the Blessed One addressed the monks:
“Monks, even a monk who has long penetrated the Dhamma in this Dhamma & Vinaya would do well, periodically & righteously, to refute the wanderers of other sects in just the way Anāthapiṇḍika the householder has done.
” — AN 10.93
§ 133. “When those contemplatives & brahmans assert various types of theories… on 62 grounds, that is an agitation & vacillation to be felt by those contemplatives & brahmans who, not knowing, not seeing, are immersed in craving.
… That comes from contact as a requisite condition.
… That they would experience that other than through contact:
That isn’t possible.
… They all experience that through repeated contact at the six sense media.
For them, from feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.
From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance.
From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming.
From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.
From birth as a requisite condition, then aging-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play.
Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.
“But when a monk discerns the origination, ending, allure, drawbacks of, & emancipation from the six sense media, he discerns what is higher than all of this.
” — DN 1
§ 134. “What do you think, Māluṅkyaputta?
The forms cognizable via the eye that are unseen by you—that you have never before seen, that you don’t see, and that are not to be seen by you:
Do you have any desire or passion or love there?
“No, lord.
“The sounds cognizable via the ear…
“The aromas cognizable via the nose…
“The flavors cognizable via the tongue…
“The tactile sensations cognizable via the body…
“The ideas cognizable via the intellect that are uncognized by you–the you have never before cognized, that you don’t cognize, and that are not to be cognized by you:
Do you have any desire or passion or love there?
“No, lord.
“Then, Māluṅkyaputta, with regard to phenomena to be seen, heard, sensed, or cognized:
In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen.
In reference to the heard, only the heard.
In reference to the sensed, only the sensed.
In reference to the cognized, only the cognized.
That is how your should train yourself.
When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Māluṅkyaputta, there is no you in connection with that.
When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there.
When there is no you there, you are neither here nor there nor between the two.
This, just this, is the end of stress.
” — SN 35.95
§ 135. Then Ven.
Kaccāyana Gotta approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One:
“Lord, ‘Right view, right view,’ it is said.
To what extent is there right view?
“By & large, Kaccāyana, this world is supported by/takes as its object a polarity, that of existence & non-existence.
But when one sees the origination of the world with right discernment as it has come to be, ‘non-existence’ with reference to the world does not occur to one.
When one sees the cessation of the world with right discernment as it has come to be, ‘existence’ with reference to the world does not occur to one.
“By & large, Kaccāyana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings, & biases.
But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions;
nor is he resolved on ‘my self.
’ He has no uncertainty or doubt that mere stress, when arising, is arising;
stress, when passing away, is passing away.
In this, his knowledge is independent of others.
It’s to this extent, Kaccāyana, that there is right view.
“‘All exists’:
That is one extreme.
‘All doesn’t exist’:
That is a second extreme.
Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathāgata teaches the Dhamma via the middle:
From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.
From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.
From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.
From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media.
From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact.
From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.
From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.
From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance.
From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming.
From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.
From birth as a requisite condition, then aging-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair come into play.
Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress and suffering.
“Now, from the remainderless dispassioning & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications.
From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness.
From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form.
From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media.
From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact.
From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling.
From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving.
From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance.
From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming.
From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth.
From the cessation of birth, then aging-&-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair all cease.
Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress and suffering.
” — SN 12.15
§ 136. “From the abandoning of craving, action [kamma] is abandoned.
From the abandoning of action, stress is abandoned.
“Thus, Udāyin, from the ending of craving comes the ending of action;
from the ending of action, the ending of stress.
” — SN 46.26
§ 137. “There is the case, Moggallāna, where a monk has heard, ‘All dhammas are unworthy of attachment.
’ Having heard that all dhammas are unworthy of attachment, he directly knows every dhamma.
Directly knowing every dhamma, he comprehends every dhamma.
Comprehending every dhamma, then whatever feeling he experiences—pleasure, pain, neither pleasure nor pain—he remains focused on inconstancy, focused on dispassion, focused on cessation, focused on relinquishing with regard to that feeling.
As he remains focused on inconstancy, focused on dispassion, focused on cessation, focused on relinquishing with regard to that feeling, he is unsustained by [doesn’t cling to] anything in the world.
Unsustained, he isn’t agitated.
Unagitated, he totally unbinds right within.
He discerns:
‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done.
There is nothing further for this world.
“It’s in this respect, Moggallāna, that a monk, in brief, is released through the ending of craving, utterly complete, utterly free from bonds, a follower of the utterly holy life, utterly consummate:
foremost among devas & human beings.
” — AN 7.58
§ 138. “This, monks, the Tathāgata discerns.
And he discerns that these standpoints, thus seized, thus grasped at, lead to such & such a destination, to such & such a state in the world beyond.
And he discerns what is higher than this.
And yet discerning that, he does not grasp at that act of discerning.
And as he is not grasping at it, unbinding [nibbuti] is experienced right within.
Knowing, as they have come to be, the origin, ending, allure, & drawbacks of feelings, along with the escape from feelings, the Tathāgata, monks—through lack of clinging/sustenance —is released.
” — DN 1
On Not Confusing Levels of Right View
§ 139. Then Potaliputta the wanderer, while walking & wandering around to exercise his legs, went to Ven.
Samiddhi and exchanged courteous greetings with him.
After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, he said to Ven.
Samiddhi, “Face to face with Gotama the contemplative have I heard this, face to face have I learned this:
‘Bodily action is barren, verbal action is barren, only mental action is true.
And there is an attainment in which, on being attained, nothing is felt.
’”
“Don’t say that, friend.
Don’t slander the Blessed One.
For it’s not good to slander the Blessed One;
the Blessed One would not say that:
‘Bodily action is barren, verbal action is barren, only mental action is true.
’ But there is, friend, an attainment in which, on being attained, nothing is felt.
“How long has it been, friend Samiddhi, since you went forth (into homelessness)?
“Not long, friend.
Three years.
“Then what now should I say about the elder monks, when a junior monk would suppose that his Teacher is to be defended in this way?
Having intentionally done an action with body, with speech, or with mind, what does one experience?
“Having intentionally done an action with body, with speech, or with mind, one experiences stress.
Then Potaliputta the wanderer neither delighted in nor scorned Ven.
Samiddhi’s words.
Neither delighting nor scorning, he got up from his seat and left.
[Ven. Samiddhi reports this conversation to Ven.
Ānanda, who then—taking Samiddhi along—takes him to the Buddha and reports the conversation to him.
]
When this was said, the Blessed One said, “I do not recall even having seen Potaliputta the wanderer, much less having that sort of discussion.
And his question, which deserved an analytical answer, has been given a categorical answer by this worthless man, Samiddhi.
When this was said, Ven.
Udāyin said to the Blessed One, “But what if Ven.
Samiddhi was speaking in reference to this:
‘Whatever is felt comes under stress’?
When this was said, the Blessed One said to Ven.
Ānanda, “Look, Ānanda, at how this worthless Udāyin interrupts.
I knew just now that he would interrupt in an inappropriate way.
From the very beginning, Potaliputta the wanderer was asking about the three kinds of feeling.
When this worthless Samiddhi was asked by him in this way, he should have answered, ‘Having intentionally done—with body, with speech, or with mind—an action that is to be felt as pleasure, one experiences pleasure.
Having intentionally done—with body, with speech, or with mind—an action that is to be felt as pain, one experiences pain.
Having intentionally done—with body, with speech, or with mind—an action that is to be felt as neither-pleasure-nor-pain, one experiences neither-pleasure-nor-pain.
Answering this way, this worthless Samiddhi would have rightly answered Potaliputta the wanderer.
” — MN 136
§ 140. “Monks, it’s not that I dispute with the world, but that the world disputes with me.
A proponent of the Dhamma doesn’t dispute with anyone with regard to the world.
Whatever is agreed upon by the wise as not existing in the world, of that I too say, ‘It doesn’t exist.
’ Whatever is agreed upon by the wise as existing in the world, of that I too say, ‘It exists.
“And what is agreed upon by the wise as not existing in the world that I too say, ‘It doesn’t exist’?
“Form that’s constant, permanent, eternal, not subject to change is agreed upon by the wise as not existing in the world, and I too say, ‘It doesn’t exist.
“Feeling that’s constant…
“Perception that’s constant…
“Fabrications that are constant…
“Consciousness that’s constant, permanent, eternal, not subject to change is agreed upon by the wise as not existing in the world, and I too say, ‘It doesn’t exist.
“And what is agreed upon by the wise as existing in the world that I too say, ‘It exists’?
“Form that’s inconstant, stressful, subject to change is agreed upon by the wise as existing in the world, and I too say, ‘It exists.
“Feeling that’s inconstant…
“Perception that’s inconstant…
“Fabrications that are inconstant…
“Consciousness that’s inconstant, stressful, subject to change is agreed upon by the wise as existing in the world, and I too say, ‘It exists.
’” — SN 22.94 [Compare with §135, above]

8.2 - Right Resolve

chapter four
Right Resolve
Right resolve is the