Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part VI, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

I have in mind to teach in accordance with the four objectives, viz: (1) to gain more knowledgeable experience, (2) to enhance the treasures of faith and reverence, (3) to make it obvious for developing karuna, and (4) to display and disclose the manner of contemplating Vipassana. Only after I have taught the manner of arising of mahakaruna, I shall proceed to describe the manner by which muditabrahmavihara is to be developed.

Having already explained the manner of arising of Mahakaruna concerning four kinds of dhammuddesa, I shall deliver the dhamma relating to how sentient beings are hit and pierced by arrows, how they are enmeshed, how they are drifting in the current or stream of water, and how they are being burnt by blazing fires. Let me first teach on how living beings are pierced by arrows.

(82) Beings are being pierced by arrows

Sasallo lokasannivaso viddho puthu sallehi, natthanno koci sallanam uddhata annatara mayati passantanam buddhanam bhagavantanam sattesu mahakaruna okkamati.

Lokasannivaso – All beings, sasallo – are struck or pierced by arrows! Puthusallehi – With many arrows, viddho – they are hit and pierced. Annatara maya – Except me, the Buddha, sallanam uddhata – capable of taking out, or removing the arrow that has pierced, annokoci – any other single person, natthiti – is not yet born and in existence. Passantanam – Seeing, nay, being perceived as such, buddhanam bhagavantanam – in the persons of Buddhas, sattesu – towards beings, mahakaruna – Great Compassion or Pity, okkamati – has occurred. It has been stated as such.

“Silla” in this regard refers to a stump or an arrow. It would be acceptable if it were mentioned as a ‘stump’, i.e. a pointed stout piece of wood projected from the ground. However, in the Commentary (Atthakatha), it has been stated as ‘arrow’. Hence, one may imagine as having had sympathy for all beings who are pierced by arrows. Just as people are injured or wounded by gunshots while fighting in a war, as in the present era, the people in the ancient times who were hit by arrows during skirmishes, also received injuries. Sentient beings face sufferings similar to those who have suffered from pain caused by the piercing arrows. The kind of arrows that has pierced is akusala, arrows of demerits, such as raga, dosa, moha, mina, Ditthi and kilesas, which are vices, the immoral conduct. If pierced through the body from the breast to the backbone, it would be very distressing and painful. In the same manner, beings are really pitiable for having been hit and pierced by the seven arrows of raga, dosa, etc.

And yet, as ordinary worldlings, they are rather pleased for being pierced by the arrows. Sentient beings in the Kana – abode enjoying all the sensations of sensual pleasures (kamaguna) have found a taste for kamaraga. That is why they are nurturing and encouraging kamavaga and are in hot pursuit of the sensations of sensual pleasures. From the point of view of Buddhas and Arahats, they see and feel the arising sensations of kamaraga as being unbearable just as if they are pierced by arrows. Raga which tends to have pleasurable attachment to Rupa-bhava (Form Existences) and Arupa-bhava (Formless Existence) has the same nature of intolerance that can hardly be endured. The manner of piercing by the arrow of anger is more conspicuous. From a state of happiness which reflects on personal appearances, the complexion of the face immediately turns black, ugly and gloomy when anger blazes up. The mind also becomes morbid, restless and intolerable. However, the man in an angry mood thinks of the rising -anger as pleasurable. For this reason, if any other person with goodwill intervenes to bring about a compromise and advises to refrain from anger and bearing grudge, an angry person is likely to resent. He may even think of that mediator as unfairly taking sides.

Moha means a mistaken or false view – not knowing what is right or true. What is impermanent or transitory is thought of as permanent and everlasting. All things which are incessantly arising and dissolving are considered as pleasurable. The nature of rupa and nama which is not an atta, a living entity, is looked upon as a living entity, a being, or ‘Self’. If raga and dosa occur, moha follows suit. Sentient beings pierced by arrows of moha (delusion) are in misery. Under delusion, a person commits anything which is improper, by physical action or by speech or by thought. Having done so, only demerits are derived thereby causing miserable conditions.

Also because of the arrow or stump of mana, one meets with misery for his unworthy self-pride or vanity, and because of the arrow of Dittha which has pierced through the mental khandha, men cling to false beliefs. They cannot discard or part with them. Falsely hoping to gain benefits, what ought not to be done, is done physically, verbally and mentally. Because of these vices, they all suffer misery. During the lifetime of the Lord Buddha, Puranakassapa and a bunch of five other teachers of a heretical Sect together with their adherents had unfortunately accumulated a great deal of demerits for committing vices. They had gone to the extent of doing wrong to the Buddha. For these vicious thoughts and-evil actions (wrong doings), they had derived akusala, demerits, in return. For these demerits, they were committed to Hell and had suffered intense misery as a result. There are quite a number of people who are suffering misery for being pierced by this arrow of Dittha or false belief.

There are other sufferings for being pierced by the rest of the kilesas, such as, Vicikiccha, sceptical doubts. Vicikiccha means feeling of doubt as to whether the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha are really the Truth. Uncertainty regarding the derivation of advantages in practising Sila, Samadhi and Vipassana, or the attainment of jhana, or the achievement. of Vipassana insight-knowledge, or the realisation of Nibbana through Magga-nana and phala-nana are also “Vicikiccha”. Then, if any doubt arises as to whether rebirth will really take place in existences under happy conditions by virtue of kusala-kamma, or one has to suffer in the four nether worlds for the resultant effects of his akusala-kamma, immoral actions, it is “vicikiccha”. For having been pierced by the arrow of Vicikiccha, no practical meditation exercise can be done in accordance with the correct method or on the right lines. Such being the case, there will hardly be any chance to escape from the miseries of Samsara which are bound to come across.

And next, the piercing arrow of what is called ‘duccarita’ – evil deeds or misconduct – is conjoined with ‘the arrows of kilesas’ such as raga and dosa. When raga is raging, evil deeds of duccarita-kamma, such as, acts of killing, stealing, cheating, etc., are sure to be committed. For such akusala-kamma or demeritorious’ (immoral) actions, one would descend to the four Apayas and suffer misery. Undoubtedly, there are a number of people who will go down to the Four Apayas or Nether Worlds, and who will thereby suffer miserable conditions.

Compassion, therefore, had arisen in the heart of Buddha for having seen those beings who were pierced by arrows, such as, raga, etc. Being moved to compassion, which had sprung from the heart, Buddha had delivered His Teachings under varying circumstances for the entire period of 45 years, day and night, without rest. Individuals who have diligently practised in accordance with His Teachings, are, therefore, able to get rid of the piercing arrows of raga, etc. If one arrow that has pierced through can be extracted or removed, he gets better to the extent a single arrow would have caused him hurt or pain. Accordingly, one who assiduously practises Dhanna gradually gets rid of the arrows of kilesas one after another until he is entirely relieved from all sufferings.