Today is the full moon of Tazaungmon. It is used to be a great holy day marked with festivities in central India at the time of the Buddha, being the end of the month of rainy season and end of the year according to the tradition of that time. In Burma, we celebrate the day with the festival of lights and paying homage to the Blessed One.
We shall discuss today Nirodha Saccã, the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering, and magga saccã, the Truth of the Path leading to the cessation of suffering as taught in the Dhammacakka Sutta. We shall recite now the titles of the four Noble Truths:
1 Dukkha saccã the Truth of Suffering
2 Samudaya saccã the Truth of the Origin of Suffering
3 Nirodha saccã the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
4 Magga saccã the Truth of the Path leading to the cessation of suffering
Idam kho pana, Bhikkhave, dukkha nirodho ariya saccam. Yo tassã yeva tanhãya asesavirãganirodho cãgo pannissaggo mutti anãlayo.
“Bhikkhus, what I am going to teach now is the Noble Truth of extinction of suffering, the real truth which Nobles Ones should know. It is the complete fading away and cessation of that hunger, that craving without remainder, its forsaking and giving up, relinquishing, letting go, release and abandoning of the same craving.”
The truth of extinction of suffering is the cessation of craving (samudaya saccã) otherwise called the Truth of the Origin of Suffering. By virtue of vipassanã ñãna and ariya magga ñãna, that craving gets no opportunity to arise and vanish. It is like darkness being dispelled by sunlight. When arahatta magga ñãna appears, the craving has no chance to arise and gets extinguished entirely. With the cessation of tanhã, the aggregates of nãma, rupa for new life cannot make their appearance and completely cease to exist. This non-arising or cessation of tauhã is termed the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering. Cessation of tanhã by virtue of arahatta magga ñãna is complete, total extinction of tanhã and the noblest and highest form of extinction.
There are inferior forms of cessation. For instance, cessation by virtue of the anãgãmi magga which completely extinguishes only kãma tanhã (the craving for sensuous pleasures), cessation by the sagadagãmi magga which eliminates only the grosser forms of kãma tanhã, cessation by virtue of sotãpatti magga which removes the kãma tanhã that will give rise to rebirth in the nether worlds. These cessations are concerned with only partial extinction of tanhã and may be regarded as inferior types of nirodha saccã. Then, there is another form of cessation which comes about through meditating on the nature of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality. During the period of contemplation on them, tanhã gets no opportunity to arise and, hence, there occurs temporary cessation of tanhã. It may be regarded as cessation by half measures of tanhã by means of partial development of vipassanã ñãna. Every time one is engaged in Vipassanã meditation, it may be said that one is realizing the temporary cessation of tanhã.
The Pãli texts provide the following expositions of the truth of cessation of craving by answering the question ‘where may this craving be discarded, where may it be extinguished?’ “Wherever in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, there this craving may be discarded, there it may be extinguished.”
Here, delightful and pleasurable things mean, as already explained before, the six doors of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind; six sense objects of visual sight, sound, smell, taste, bodily impression and mind; six viññãnas of eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, etc., For further details, reference may be made to the text and translation of the Mahã Satipatthãna Sutta.
Discarding and extinguishing are alike in meaning. Similarly, cãgo (abandoning, giving up), patinissaggo (giving up, forsaking, rejection), mutti (release, freedom, emancipation), analayo (aversion, doing away with) . . . all connote the same meaning as nirodha (cessation, annihilation).
HOW CESSATION OF CRAVING IS BROUGHT ABOUT
When the yogi by noting ‘seeing’ at the moment of sight becomes convinced of the true nature of impermanence, suffering and anatta (non-self), he will not be blinded by the delusion of permanence, happiness and self in the sense doors and sense objects such as eye, visual object, eye-consciousness, etc., He is momentarily free from avijjã (ignorance or delusion). Having seen reality as it is and being free from delusion, no pleasurable feeling arises towards these objects. This is then the temporary cessation or fading away of craving. Through the fading away of craving, upãdãna clinging, kãma and sankhãra which come trailing after it cannot arise. Consequently, viññãna, nãma rupa, salãyatana, phassa and vedanã, the unwholesome resultants of kamma and sankhãra, cannot appear. This is how craving together with suffering are momentarily extinguished, that is called momentary cessation or momentary Nibbãna.
In a similar manner, the yogi, by noting ‘hearing’, ‘smelling’, ‘ear-consciousness’, ‘nose-consciousness’, etc., at the moment of hearing, smelling, etc., becomes convinced of the true nature of impermanence, suffering and non-self with respect to ear, sound, nose, taste, etc. He will be free from delusion of permanence, happiness or self in connection with these objects. Thus, there will be momentary cessation of craving and suffering, otherwise called momentary Nibbãna.
Through vipassanã which promotes temporary cessation as higher knowledge is developed, Nibbãna is realized by means of sotãpanna ñãna. Sotãpanna ñãna extinguishes kãma tanhã which can give rise to rebirth in the states of woe. Therefore, the yogi becomes fully liberated from miseries of apãya, the nether world and sufferings of more than seven existences in good states of sensuous sphere (kãmasugati). This is then extinction of suffering as a result of extinction of craving, but it must not be regarded that sotãpanna magga phala takes the cessation of craving as its object of contemplation. It dwells merely on cessation as a result of complete extinction of suffering inherent in the aggregates of nãma, rupa.
When Nibbãna is realized by means of sagadãgami ñãna, grosser forms of sensuous craving together with sufferings of more than two existences in the sensuous planes are extinguished. When Nibbãna is realized through anãgãmi ñãna, subtle forms of sensuous cravings and sufferings of more than one existence in rupa loka (fine material sphere) or in arupa loka (non-material sphere) are extinguished. These are also extinction of suffering as a result of extinction of craving. In these paths also, the mind dwells merely on cessation consequent upon the complete extinction of sufferings inherent in the aggregates of nãma, rupa.
When Nibbãna is realized through arahatta magga ñãna, all forms of craving and all kinds of suffering are completely eradicated. This is also extinction of suffering as a result of extinction of craving. We can summarise:
1 When craving is eradicated, suffering is extinguished.
Only when craving is completely eradicated, true liberation from suffering is achieved. Escape from suffering obtained through other means is not true liberation, but just temporary relief because in due course, there is recurrence of suffering. For example, take stretching the limbs to relieve stiffness due to bending. The ache is temporarily removed through stretching, only to return as tiredness. Likewise, stiffness due to prolonged sitting may be relieved by standing up or walking about only to be replaced soon by fatigue. When one is assailed by hunger, the suffering may be relieved by partaking of some food, but the trouble will start again after a lapse of a few hours. Illness or disease may be cured with suitable medical treatment, but other ailments are bound to arise sooner or later to start giving trouble again.
Difficult circumstances of living may be solved by engaging in suitable employment or business which may prove so successful and prosperous that one may come to occupy a very high position in one’s profession or become a very rich man. Yet with the vissicitudes of life, one may fall down from the high position or become poverty-stricken. Even if the whole life has been smooth and just plain sailing, one inevitably faces suffering at the time of death. As a result of meritorious deeds such as giving alms, observing moral precepts, one may be reborn a human being in happy prosperous circumstances or one may be born as a powerful celestial king. Yet when the wholesome effects of previous good deeds become exhausted, a return to miserable existences is inevitable. If one strives for a happy and long existence by means of the rupa jhãna and arupa jhãna of the concentration meditations, one may indeed attain the rupa brãhma world and arupa brãhma world where one may live happily for many world cycles. The wholesome merits of the jhãnas will become exhausted when the time comes. Then one faces the possibility of descending once again into miserable lower existences, as for instance, the experience of the young female pig mentioned in the chapter on samudaya saccã.
Thus, unless craving is completely eradicated, no form of liberation is a guaranteed, true liberation. Complete and permanent liberation from all kinds of suffering is achieved only when craving has been entirely extinguished. Thus the Buddha taught ‘tassayeva tanhãya asesa virãga nirodhã’, that eradication, extinction of tanhã is the truth of cessation of suffering.
This is in accordance with the doctrine of dependent origination which states that when the causative conditions such as ignorance, etc., cease, their resultant effects, sankhãras, etc., also cease. Thus in the Anguttara Pãli text, it is taught: “What, Bhikkhus, is the noble truth of cessation of suffering? Through the total fading away and extinction of ignorance (which has been dealt with in connection with samudaya saccã) sankhãras kamma (formations) are extinguished; through the extinction of sankhãras kamma, the resultant viññãna for new existence, is extinguished; through the extinction of viññãna, the mental and physical existences are extinguished; through the extinction of mental and physical existences, salãyatana (the six organs of senses) are extinguished; through the extinction of six organs, phassa (sensorial impressions due to contact between sense organs and sense objects) are extinguished; through extinction of sensorial impressions, vedanã (feeling of sensations) is extinguished; through extinction of feeling, craving is extinguished; through extinction of craving, clinging (attachment) is extinguished; through the extinction of clinging, process of becoming is extinguished; through extinction of process of becoming, rebirth is extinguished; through extinction of rebirth, death and decay, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are extinguished. Thus takes place the extinction of this whole mass of mere suffering, which is neither soul entity nor does it have any connection with sukha (happiness). This, bhikkhus, is called the noble truth of extinction of this mass of mere suffering.”
In the above text, the sequence of cessation, for example, through extinction of ignorance, kamma formations are extinguished, is given in a serial order to demonstrate the correlation of each cause with its effect. But the important point to note is that once the ignorance fades away, vanishes, all its resultant effects such as sankhãra, etc., become extinguished.
The Pãli words nirodha or nirodho in the texts connote cessation only, not the place of cessation nor the condition of cessation. Although commentaries mention nirodha figuratively as a place of cessation or condition of cessation, it must be carefully observed that its true meaning is non-arising of inter-related conditions of cause and effects such as avijjã, sankhãra, viññãna, etc., their total cessation, annihilation, cutting off, in other words the Noble Truth of cessation of suffering or Nibbãna.
We have sufficiently dealt with the truth of cessation of suffering. For further details, reference may be made to the book ‘Concerning Nibbãna’. We shall now go on to exposition of the Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering.
MAGGA SACCA – THE TRUTH OF THE PATH
Idam kha pana, Bhikkhave, dukkhanirodhagãmini patipadã ariyam saccam. Ayameva ariyo atthingikomaggo. Seyathidam sammã ditthi, sammã sankappo, sammã vãca, sammã kammanto, sammã ãjivo, sammã vãyamo, sammã sati, sammã sãmadhi.
“Bhikkhus, what I am going to teach now is the Noble Truth of the Path leading to the cessation of suffering. And, what is this Path? It is the Noble Eightfold Path, namely: Right View (Understanding), Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.”
We have dealt with magga saccã, the truth of the Path, fairly full before. We propose now to go over some of them which need emphasising. Of the eight categories of the Path, sammã ditthi and sammã saïkappa constitute the paññã (wisdom) group; sammã vãca, sammã kammanta and sammã ajiva the sila (ethical conduct) group; sammã vãyama, sammã sati and sammã samãdhi, the samãdhi (mental discipline) group.
We need not elaborate again on the path of sila (ethical conduct or morality) nor on the path of samãdhi (concentration). Of the wisdom group, the path of sammã ditthi (the Right View) needs no further exposition. Accordingly, we quote the following exposition on the Right View given by the Blessed One.
EXPOSITION ON THE RIGHT VIEW (SAMMA DITTHI)
“What, Bhikkhus, is the Right View? Bhikkhus, to understand suffering or the Truth of Suffering; to understand the origin of suffering or the Truth of the Origin of Suffering; to understand the cessation of suffering or the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering; to understand the path leading to the cessation of suffering or the Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering; this is called Right View.”
This is then the definition of the Right View given by the Blessed One. Briefly, it is knowing according to reality the four Truths and understanding them rightly as they should be understood. The commentary version of its exposition is as follows:
MEDITATION ON THE FOUR TRUTHS
‘Meditation on the four Truths was taught, prefaced by the words understanding of the four Truths.’ Of these four Truths, the first two, namely, the Truth of Suffering and the Truth of the Origin of Suffering are concerned with vatta (evolution or the round of existence). The last two, namely, the Truth of cessation of suffering and the Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering, are concerned with vivatta (devolution or going out of the round of existence). The yogi bhikkhu employs only the first two Truths, the vatta saccã as objects of meditation and not the last two truths of vivatta saccã.
(It means that the yogi bhikkhu contemplates on the first two mundane truths in his Vipassanã meditation; he does not dwell on the last two supra-mundane truths which are not suitable subjects for meditation. Indeed, it is not possible to meditate on them. Why so? The sub-commentary states that these supra-mundane truths are beyond the ken of the ordinary common worldlings.)
Indeed it is true that ordinary common worldlings cannot have for their objects of meditation, magga and phala (the path and fruition) nor is Nibbãna within their range of vision and knowledge before they attain the stage of gotrabhu in meditation. Gotrabhu consciousness arises only after anuloma ñãna when vipassanã ñãna becomes fully developed; immediately after gotrabhu comes the realisation of the Path and Fruition. Therefore, it is obvious that a common worldling is not in a position to take for his object of meditation the true Nibbãna nor the path and its fruition. Thus, it must be carefully noted that any instruction or teaching to start off with meditation on Nibbãna is totally wrong.
The question can arise whether Nibbãna may not be taken as an object for meditation on tranquillity (upasamã nupassanã). Contemplation on the attributive qualities of Nibbãna such as virãga (being devoid of lust) may be adopted as concentration meditation to gain concentration or tranquillity. But this exercise is taken solely for the purpose of achieving one-pointedness of mind; it is not to immediately realize the noble path and fruition. In any case, this meditation exercise is most appropriate for the Noble Ones only who have already realized Nibbãna and not for the ordinary common worldlings. Thus it is definitely a mistaken practice to try to achieve the path and fruition by dwelling on Nibbãna from the very start.
The yogi bhikkhu learns from his teacher briefly that the five aggregates are the Truth of Suffering and craving is the Truth of origin of suffering. Or, he may learn more comprehensively that the five aggregates consist of rupakkhandhã, vedanakkhandhã, saññakkhandhã, saïkhãrakkhandhã, viññakkhandhã. And rupakkhandhã means the four primary elements and upãdãrupas, their derivatives, etc. Thus, learning about the first two truths briefly or comprehensively from his teacher, he recites them repeatedly and contemplates on them in his meditation. With regard to the last two truths, the bhikkhu just hears from his teacher that the Truth of cessation of suffering and the Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering are desirable and laudable (this means that it is sufficient just to hear about these two supra-mundane truths and bend the mind towards them).
That bhikkhu, acting in the way described above, penetrates through to the four Truths simultaneously and comprehends them. He makes full grasp of the four Truths simultaneously through insight. By pativeda (penetrative knowledge) he comprehends that suffering is to be rightly and well-understood; that craving is to be abandoned, eradicated; that nirodha (cessation) is to be realized and that the path is to be developed. By abhisamaya (insight) he fully grasps that suffering is to be rightly and well-understood; that craving is to be abandoned, eradicated; that nirodha (cessation) is to be realized and that the path is to be developed.
As described above, before he attains the path, the bhikkhu yogi’s knowledge of the two truths, namely, the Truth of Suffering and the Truth of the Origin of Suffering, comes about by learning, and hearing from his teacher, by questioning and repeated recitation and by mastering it through penetrative reflection (the first four processes of acquiring this knowledge constitute merely studying the scriptures; grasping through penetrative reflection only amounts to insight by Vipassanã meditation). The knowledge concerning the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering a nd the Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering is acquired only by hearing about them. After vipassanã meditation, at the moment of realization of the Ariya path, the first three truths are fully grasped by having accomplished the task of knowing rightly and well the Truth of Suffering, the task of abandoning the origin of suffering and the task of developing the path leading to the cessation of suffering. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering is fully grasped by actual realization.
Thus, in accordance with the commentary, initially it is sufficient to know only from hearing that theTruth of the Cessation of Suffering and Truth of the Path leading to Cessation of Suffering are desirable and laudable, and to bend the mind towards them. It is clear, therefore, that no effort is needed to contemplate particularly on these two truths. Knowledge about the first two truths should, however, be acquired both by hearing about them as well as by developing insight on them through meditation.
HOW MUCH SUTAMAYA (KNOWLEDGE THROUGH HEARING)?
As stated in the commentary we are quoting, it is sufficient to know only that the five aggregates are the Truth of Suffering, that craving is the Truth of the Origin of Suffering. Here, the five aggregates are the five aggregates of clinging (upãdãnakkhandhã) mentioned in this sutta. We have fully explained above that they are the objects which present themselves at the time of seeing, hearing, etc. We have also dealt comprehensively with the Truth of the Origin of Suffering in the section concerned. Knowing these two truths through hearing amounts to knowing the law of dependent origination in a brief manner. In the great sub-commentary on Visuddhimagga, it is definitely stated that what the Venerable Assaji taught, namely, ye dhamma hetuppabhavã . . . The perfect one has told to cause, of causally arisen things . . . constitutes in brief the whole law of dependent origination.
The commentary on Vinaya Mahãvagga affirms also that by the words ‘ye dhamma hetuppabhavã’, the Venerable Assaji was teaching the five aggregates, otherwise called the Truth of Suffering. And by the words ‘tesam hetum tathãgata aha’, he was teaching the Truth of the Origin of Suffering. Thus, it is clear that having learnt briefly by hearing about the dukkha saccã and samudaya saccã, one has also learnt in a brief manner the Law of Dependent Origination. Those who are preaching that Vipassanã meditation is not feasible unless one has mastered the law of dependent origination supported by tables and circular diagrams are, therefore, going against these words of the commentary and sub-commentary and causing great harm to patipattisãsanã.
In the Cula Tanhãsaïkhãya Sutta of the Mula Pannãsa Pãli Canon, we find the following regarding the brief knowledge to be acquired by learning (suta): “Oh, king of the devas, in this teaching, the bhikkhu has heard that it is not fit nor proper to hold the view that all dhammas are permanent, pleasant and self.”
It means that if the bhikkhu has ever heard of the fact that the five khandhas of the nãma, rupa which present themselves at the six doors of senses every time there is seeing, hearing, etc., are not proper to be regarded as permanent, pleasant, self; that they are transitory, subject to suffering and not self, then he has sufficient brief knowledge, suta maya ñãna, to proceed to engage himself in meditation.
Thus the Buddha continued: “Then that bhikkhu, who has learnt that much by hearsay, knows by contemplation and actual experience all dhammas.” Then the Blessed One taught how to attain by meditation the knowledge of differentiation between nãma and rupa, the nãmarupapariccheda ñãna, etc. We have summarised the above thus:
1 All dhammas are transient, subject to suffering and non-self.
2 That much is sufficient knowledge acquired by hearing (suta).
3 Enough to enable, through meditation, to differentiate the nãma from rupa of the aggregates.
4 And to recognise their nature of impermanence and unsatisfactoriness.
1 and 2 above indicate sufficiency of brief knowledge of suta maya ñãna (to proceed to the practice of meditation). 3 shows how by noting every action of seeing, hearing, etc., at the moment of occurrence, knowledge is gained which enables one to distinguish between nãma and rupa, nãmarupapariccheda ñãna and to know the cause of phenomena of seeing, hearing, etc., paccayapariggaha ñãna. These two kinds of knowledge are called abhiññã paññã, being the ñãtapariññã of the three pariññãs. By 4 is meant full knowledge of all the dhammas and insight into their nature of impermanence, suffering and non-self, in accordance with ‘sabbam dhammam abhiññãya, sabbam dhammam parijãnãti’. This constitutes the profound knowledge of tirana pariññã and pahãna pariññã.
The main point we wish to emphasise here is that having just learnt through hearing that all dhammas are impermanent, suffering and non-self, one has enough suta maya ñãna to proceed to endeavour for attainment of arahatta magga phala. Thus the assertion that, without a comprehensive knowledge of the law of dependent origination, meditation should not be practised, goes against this Pãli text of Culatanhãsankhaya Sutta, causes demoralisation in those bent on the practice of meditation and is detrimental to the prosperity of patipatti sãsanã.
If, according to their proposition, meditation could be practised only after thoroughly mastering the law of dependent origination together with its explanatory circular diagrams, etc., some people who have no time nor chance to study the law of dependent origination or are slow in learning it comprehensively, are liable to lose the opportunity of gaining the path or fruition even if they are endowed with paramis (sufficient conditions and qualifications) to attain them. To cite an example, during the time of the Blessed One, one bhikkhu by the name of Culapantaka found it difficult to memorise a verse of only 45 alphabets although he tried it for four weeks. To learn the whole law of the dependent origination extensively would thus have been an impossible task for him. Yet the same bhikkhu attained Arahatship, accomplished in jhãna abhiññã, supernormal knowledge, and vision by practising for one morning only the meditation exercise prescribed by the Buddha.
We would like to take this opportunity, while giving the discourse on the Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma, of cautioning those good, learned persons to refrain from making assertions which may discourage and demoralise those engaged in or bent upon the practice of meditation.
If one needs to strive all alone in the practice of meditation, no doubt one needs to have learnt extensively all about the aggregates, the bases, the elements, the Truths, the faculties, and the Law of Dependent Origination. But if one is going to work under the guidance of a good, virtuous, learned and wise teacher, all that one needs to know is that all dhammas are impermanent, subject to suffering, insubstantial and non-self. It is also sufficient if he has learnt through hearing that a worldling individual is governed by two mundane truths of causal relations (cause and effect) namely, the five aggregates, which is the Truth of Suffering, and craving, which is the Truth of Origin of Suffering.
The majority of the Buddhists of Burma can be taken to be already equipped with this much knowledge; even if not, they can pick this up just before starting meditation or during the course of meditation by listening to the sermons of his meditation teacher. There should be no wavering or uncertainty on this score of suta maya ñãna. All that is required is to start practising meditation in accordance with the instructions given by the reliable, virtuous, learned and wise teacher.
As to how to launch to the practice of insight meditation, it has been described in our third discourse. To recapitulate, the practice consists of developing the path in three stages: basic, precursor, Ariyan Path. Developing them leads to Nibbãna.
Mula magga, the basic path, is made up of kammassakata sammã ditthi, sila and upacãra samãdhi or the appanã samãdhi which we have already dealt with fully before. As to the first factor, kammassakata sammãditthi, the majority of the Burmese Buddhists have already been established in this faith since childhood. With regard to sila magga, if the lay yogi is not established in it yet, he can accomplish it by observing sðla just before taking up the practice of meditation. The Bhikkhu yogi should purify his sila by confessional processes if he entertains any doubt about the purity of his sila. As for accomplishment of samãdhi, the yogi should take up a samatha exercise such as ãnãpana and practise on it till attainment of jhãna or upacãra samãdhi. If time or opportunity does not permit, the yogi can begin contemplating on the four primary elements by means of which vipassanã khanika samãdhi, which is akin to upacãra samãdhi, may be attained. This samãdhi dispels the hindrances so that purification of mind may be achieved. This is a brief description of how mula magga is established.
DEVELOPMENT OF PUBBABHÂGA MAGGA OTHERWISE CALLED VIPASSANÂ MAGGA
After developing the mula magga as described above, the yogi starts observing the reality of the Truth of Suffering otherwise called upãdãnakkhandhã by taking continuous note of the phenomena of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking, at the time each phenomenon occurs. Full account on upãdãnakkhandhã together with how failure to note them and see them as they really are, leads to clinging to them as nicca, sukha and atta and how seeing their true nature through heedfulness, attachment to them is extinguished, have already been propounded in Part Three as well as in Part Four of these discourses.
When samãdhi becomes fully established, one becomes aware with every noting of the arising and vanishing of nãma and rupa and their true nature of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. How such awareness is developed may be explained thus: While noting each action of rising, falling, sitting, touching, bending, stretching, lifting, stepping forward, moving, resting, the yogi begins to recognize the knowing mind as distinct from the material body. This discernment is nãmarupapariccheda ñãna, knowledge of distinguishing nãma from rupa, the initial basis for the developing of vipassanã ñãna. The Blessed One had described how this knowledge may be developed by giving the example of a ruby in Sãmaññaphala Sutta of Digha Nikãya and Mahãsakuludãyi Sutta of Majjhima Pannãsa.
NÂMA AS DISTINCT FROM RUPA, EXAMPLE GIVEN BY THE BUDDHA
A precious gem named Veluriya, which has a thread of either brown, yellow, red, white or light yellow colour placed in it, is taken in the palm of the hand for observation. A man with good eyesight is able to distinguish the gem from the thread; he can see clearly the coloured thread embedded in the body of the gem. Likewise, the yogi is able to differentiate the knowing mind from the object to be known; he knows also the knowing mind (consciousness) rushing out towards the object to be known. In this simile, the material object is like the precious gem, the knowing mind is like the thread. And like the thread embedded in the gem, the knowing mind plunges towards the object. Thus the differentiation between nãma and rupa is illustrated by the simile. It should be carefully observed that in the simile there is no mention of knowing as to how many types of rupa, how many types of mind and mental concomitants, etc. are involved. It mentions only distinguishing the knowing mind from the material objects known.
Again in Visuddhimagga, we find the following description of how nãma becomes evident to the observing yogi. ‘For the yogi having discerned by such and such a method, the nature of rupa, then in proportion as rupa becomes quite distinct, disentangled and clear to him so the non-rupas, the nãmas that have rupas as their object, becomes plain and evident of themselves, too.’ Further, we find in Visuddhimagga: ‘It is when supported by nãma that rupa arises; it is when supported by rupa that nãma arises. When nãma has the desire to eat, to drink, to speak and to adopt a posture, it is rupa that eats, drinks, speaks and adopts a posture.’ In these passages from Visuddhimagga, mention was made regarding enumeration of different categories of nãma and rupa; only what will be actually experienced is described. It is plain, therefore, that mere reflection on different categories of nãma and rupa will not result in true nãmarupaparicchedañãna. True nãmarupapariccheda ñãna is developed only when the knowing mind and the material object to be known could be separately recognised while observing the phenomenon of arising and vanishing of nãma and rupa as it occurs.
Ability to distinguish nãma, the knower from rupa, the known, constitutes sammã ditthi, the Right View. Although it may have been learnt from books that nãma, the knowing mind, is separate from the material body, prior to taking up of the meditation practice and at the initial stage of the practice, the yogi cannot distinguish the knowing mind and the material body through actual experience. Only at the stage when the nãmarupapariccheda ñãna is developed that the distinction between these two comes forth spontaneously. When noting the phenomenon of thinking or painful feeling as it occurs, the yogi discerns separately the thinking mind and the material object or painful feeling and location of pain on the body. This discernment of nãma as distinct from rupa is knowing reality as it truly is, that is the Right View. The yogi becomes convinced then that there is only material body and the knowing mind; apart from them, there is no such thing as the living substance or entity. This is also knowing reality as it truly is, the Right View.
As the power of concentration becomes further developed, while noting rising, falling, sitting, touching etc., he comes to realize that he touches because there is the material body to touch; he sees because of eye and sight object, hears because of ear and sound, bends because of desire to bend. He realizes also that he does not know the reality because he fails to take note of the phenomenon as it occurs; he develops liking because he does not know the true nature; he develops attachment because he likes. He then knows that when he has developed attachment, he becomes engaged in activities such as doing or talking. These activities of doing and talking produce resultant effects, good resultants when the action has been wholesome, bad resultants when the action has been unwholesome. In this way he gains the knowledge of cause and effect to the extent of his previous pãrami attainments. This again is knowing the reality as it is, the Right View.
As his concentration becomes further strengthened during the course of noting rising, falling, sitting, touching, seeing, hearing, thinking, feeling, stiff, feeling hot, feeling painful, he discerns clearly the origination of the object as well as its dissolution, the beginning and end of each phenomenon. He becomes convinced through personal experience that every phenomenon is impermanent; it arises into being only to vanish away instantly. He realizes also that incessant arising and ceasing constitute fearful dukkha and what is not subjected to anyone’s control, anyone’s will is not self. This knowledge is also the Right View of knowing what reality is.
As the power of concentration gets still more developed, although the yogi is noting the acts of rising, falling, sitting, bending, stretching, lifting, moving forward, dropping, he is no longer aware of the objects in their various shapes and forms such as the body, stomach, the limbs, etc. He notices only the rapid succession of phenomena of dissolution. He perceives the swift passing away of the object of awareness as well as the noting mind and comes to vivid realization of the real nature of impermanence, fearful suffering and insubstantiality, non-self. The object of awareness passes away the instance it makes its appearance and there is no atta to fasten one’s attachment onto. The knowing mind also dissolves away so fast that there is no atta, nothing to hold onto. Thus, with every noting there is developed the knowledge into the true nature of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality. All these constitute the Right View.
From the time the knowledge, regarding the distinction between nãma and rupa, is developed to the stage of the development of the vipassanã Right View (sammã ditthi), there has been bending of the mind toward perceiving the reality as it is. This constitutes Right Thought. There is involved, too, Right Concentration to keep the mind fixed on the right object and Right Mindfulness to be aware of it. All this while, the yogi is engaged in one of the four foundations of mindfulness: contemplation of the body postures, the feelings, the mind and mental objects. He does the contemplation with an effort which is, therefore, the Right Effort.
Thus, whenever a yogi is engaged in meditation, there are involved five paths, three from the samãdhi group: sammã vãyama, sammã samãdhi, sammã sati, and two from the paññã group: sammã ditthi and sammã saïkappa. These five paths are connectedly involved in each act of heedful noting, knowing. The commentary has named them the kãraka maggas, the working maggas, so to say. In addition, there are also involved the three maggas of the sila group: sammã vãca, sammã kammanta, sammã ãjiva, by way of preserving the precepts intact and by way of fulfilling the abstentions.
And this is how such involvement takes place: the Vipassanã yogi starts observing the precepts even before he starts meditation and keeps them pure. During the course of meditation, sila remains unpolluted, its purity is maintained. If anything, it may be said that sila gets more and more pure then.
Thus, with three sila maggas added to the five in the previous groups, a yogi is developing altogether eight maggas at each instance of noting and knowing the phenomenon. Mahã Salãyatanika Sutta of Upari Pannãsa Pãli text gives the following description of how the eight maggas are developed: “Bhikkhus, when the eye is seen as it truly is (at the instant of noting), when visual objects, eye consciousness, visual contact and feeling that arises due to eye contact, are seen as they truly are, then no liking is developed for the eye, visual objects, eye consciousness, etc. Seeing the eye, visual objects, etc., as they truly are and has not developed liking and attachment for them but sees only revulsion in them, the upãdãnakkhandhãs (which may have arisen through failure to note) get no opportunity to materialize and his craving for these objects also ceases, gets annihilated.
“The view of such person is the Right View; his thoughts are Right Thoughts; his efforts are Right Efforts; his mindfulness is Right Mindfulness; his concentration is Right Concentration. Even before he starts meditation, the yogi is well-established in Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood. It is in this way that the yogi becomes established in the Eightfold Noble Path.”
This is a brief account in the Buddha’s words of how the Eightfold Noble Path is developed when the yogi discerns what should be known at the moment of seeing; the true nature of the five dhammas involved, namely, the eye, visual objects, etc. For detailed description, reference may be made to the original Mahã Salãyatanika Sutta of the Upari Pannãsa Pãli text.
The commentary states that the Eightfold Noble Path becomes established at the moment of achieving the ariya magga. This may be taken as a superior form of interpretation. We would like, however, to take the view that the text meant here vipassanã magga instead of the ariya magga, which is the goal to be achieved by accomplishment of the vipassanã magga. This interpretation of ours will be found to be in accord with the fact that knowledge as to the true nature of the eye, visual object, eye consciousness, visual contact and feeling, comes by only through Vipassanã meditation. Ariya magga, on the other hand, does not take the eye, visual object etc,. as its object; it accomplishes only the function of knowing.
In a similar manner, by taking note of the phenomena of hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking, the five dhammas which become prominent at the respective moment of occurrence, could be known and the Eightfold Path developed accordingly.
What has been explained so far relates to involvement of the sila magga by way of maintaining it unpolluted at the moment of Vipassanã meditation.
ABSTENTIONS DURING VIPASSANA MEDITATION
There is no opportunity to commit wrong speech such as lying with regard to the nãma rupa objects whose reality is being seen at the moment of noting them. Just consider for a moment. Where is the necessity to tell a lie for an object which one does not like nor dislike, having seen its true nature of impermanence and cessation after dissolution? Similarly, no occasion arises to slander, to talk frivolously, in short, to commit wrong speech in connection with that object. Likewise, there is no question of committing wrong acts such as killing, stealing, sexual misconduct nor engaging in wrong livelihood. Thus, every time reality is seen while noting, sammã vãca which is abstinence from micchã vaca, samma kammanta which is abstinence from micchã kammanta , and sammã ãjiva which is abstinence from micchã ãjiva are accomplished with reference to the object under review. It is in this way of abstinence that the sila magga, namely, the sammã vãca, sammã kammanta and sammã ãjiva are involved in the development of the path of Right View.
Thus, on each occasion of noting rising, falling, sitting, touching, thinking, feeling of stiffness, feeling hot, feeling painful, hearing, seeing, etc., the right view is being developed together with the Eightfold Path. Of the four Truths, the Truth of Suffering is that which should be rightly and well understood. And the Truth of Suffering is the five aggregates of grasping, which become prominent at the six doors of senses at each instant of seeing, hearing, touching, knowing, etc. Therefore, the Truth of Suffering would be rightly and well-understood by taking note of each phenomenon at the six doors. Every time the Truth of Suffering is developed by taking note of seeing, hearing, etc., the Eightfold Path, which is the dhamma to be developed, becomes developed.
Thus, contemplation on the Truth of Suffering by taking note of seeing, hearing, etc., develops the Eightfold Path. In order to develop the Eightfold Path, the Truth of Suffering must be contemplated on by taking note of seeing, hearing, etc. The Truth of Suffering, which becomes evident by taking note of seeing, hearing, etc., during the course of vipassana meditation, pubbabhãga magga is ãrammana, the object which must be rightly and well understood. Magga saccã, the Truth of the path, which must be developed to understand the Truth of Suffering, is ãrammanika, which must be well-developed.
It must be carefully understood that only by contemplating on dukkha saccã the Eightfold Path is developed. And only when vipassanã magga is accomplished, Nibbãna is realized.
We have to reiterate that dukkha saccã is ãrammana, the object and the knowing path is the ãrammanika. Such reiteration is necessary because assertions are being made contrary to the teachings of the Buddha and detrimental to the prosperity of sãsana that ‘contemplation on objects of suffering such as rupa, nãma, sankhãra will result in perceiving only suffering; Nibbãna should be contemplated on for achievement of peace, happiness’.
KNOWLEDGE OF THE FOUR TRUTHS THROUGH VIPASSANA NANA
By taking note of all phenomena that occur at the six doors and knowing them to be merely of the nature of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality, is understanding the Truth of Suffering. Thus, with every instance of taking note, pahãnapativeda (the task of gaining penetrative insight as to the understading of the Truth of Suffering) is accomplished.
Having seen the true nature of impermanence, etc., of each phenomenon by taking note of them, no opportunity arises for liking or craving for these rupa nãma objects. This is momentary eradication of craving, the Truth of the Origin of Suffering. Thus, with every instance of taking note, pahãnapativeda (the task of gaining insight as to the eradication of the cause of suffering) is accomplished. Here, insight is gained not by observing the object; it is just knowing the fact of eradication, abandoning.
With the cessation of craving, upãdãna, kamma, saïkhãra, viññãna and nãma rupa, otherwise called kilesã vatta, kamma vatta and vipãka vatta which will follow in its trail, get no opportunity to arise. Temporarily they are inhibited. This momentary Nibbãna, otherwise called nirodha, is achieved by means of vipassanã. Thus vipassanã ñãna is developed by the momentary cessation, nirodha, similar to realization by the ariya magga. But the achievement comes about not by direct observation of the object; it is just an accomplishment of temporary cessation at each instance of taking note. This is called sacchikiriya pativeda, gaining penetrative insight as to cessation by realizing it, knowing about it through vipassanã.
With every act of observing, the Eightfold Path headed by vipassanã Right View is developed inside oneself. This is bhãvanãpativeda, gaining insight as to development. This knowledge, however, does not come about by direct observation; as it is experienced personally, reflective consideration will reveal that development has taken place within oneself.
Thus, as explained above, at each instant of noting and knowing, dukkha saccã is rightly and well-understood; this is true pariññãna pativeda. Samudaya saccã is momentarily inhibited; this is pahãna pativeda (accomplishment of insight through abandonment). Momentary nirodha is realized through cessation; this is sacchikiriya pativeda. And vipassanã path is developed; this is bhãvanã pativeda (insight through development). Thus the four Truths are comprehended at every instance of noting: the Truth of Suffering by observing the object; samudaya, nirodha and magga are accomplished by abandoning, realization and developing.
In this way, the vipassanã magga comprehends the four Truths as they should be comprehended and when they become fully accomplished and mature, the ariya magga appears and Nibbãna is realized. At that moment of path appearance, the ariya magga, headed by Right View, is fully established. The ariya magga makes its appearance only once. By this single appearance, it accomplishes the tasks of eradicating the kilesas (defilements) which should be eliminated – samudaya saccã; of understanding rightly and comprehensively the Truth of Suffering – dukkha saccã; and also that of developing the magga saccã. In this way, it is said that the Right View of ariya magga comprehends the four Truths all at once.
HOW THE FOUR TRUTHS ARE COMPREHENDED THROUGH
ARIYA MAGGA ALL AT THE SAME TIME
This is how it comes about. When nirodha saccã (otherwise called Nibbãnic peace) is comprehended through actual realization, the task of comprehending the Truth of Suffering is accomplished by recognising that the mundane rupa, nãma and sankhãra which arise and perish incessantly are indeed painful, suffering. Having recognised them as mere embodiment of suffering, there can be no liking, craving or attachment for them.
Abandonment of tanhã takes place in four stages. By virtue of attaining the first path, tanhã that would lead to states of misery and tanhã that would cause rebirth for more than seven times in sugati (the sensuous happy plane) cannot arise. By virtue of the second path, grosser forms of sensuous craving and tanhã that will cause rebirth for more than twice in kãma sugati are removed. The third path eradicates the subtler forms of craving. By virtue of the fourth path, rupa rãga and arupa rãga, otherwise called craving for existences, cannot arise. It must be noted that the craving for existence that still persists in the persons of anãgãmi status is not accompanied by sassata ditthi, the wrong view of eternalism.
Such non-arising of craving amounts to accomplishment of comprehension by way of abandoning. With regard to the ariya maggas, as they are experienced in the person of oneself, comprehension is accomplished by way of development. Therefore, the commentary says: ‘Concerning the three truths of dukkha, samudaya and magga, comprehension is accomplished by way of full and right understanding (pariñña); by way of abandoning (pahãna); and by way of developing (bhãvanã).’
As explained above, ariya magga ñãna, through knowing nirodha saccã by realizing it, accomplishes the task of comprehending the three remaining truths. Likewise, vipassanã ñãna, by contemplating on and knowing dukkha saccã, accomplishes the task of comprehending the three remaining saccãs as well.
We have summarised these in the following mnemonics:
1 When magga sees one of the four truths.
2 It accomplishes comprehending all four.
(Penetrative insight for all four established.)
When vipassanã magga, which is developed to contemplate on and know the Truth of Suffering, becomes fully strengthened, eightfold ariya magga becomes established and rushes into Nibbãnic dhãtu, where all sufferings connected with physical and mental sankhãra objects as well as all sufferings in connection with the sankhãra of the knowing mind, cease.
1 With cessation of craving comes the cessation of suffering.
2 True path realizes this cessation.
Cessation of craving is accompanied by cessation of all sufferings of the aggregates. Therefore, at the moment of establishment of the ariya magga, the object of contemplation is not just the cessation of craving but the cessation of all sufferings of the aggregates. What is taught in the teaching ‘about cessation of craving’ must be understood to include ‘cessation of all sufferings of the sankhãras’ because only ‘cessation of all sufferings of the sankhãras’ constitutes real Nibbãna, the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering. Therefore, Nibbãna has been defined as the cessation of all sankhãras. Thus, establishment of the ariya magga is evident only in the sense of having arrived at the stage where all nãma, rupa and sankhãras cease to exist, become void.
VIPASSANA IS ALSO A CONSTITUENT OF THE NIRODHAGÂMINI PATIPADÂ
Because it leads to the cessation of all sankhãra suffeirng, the ariya magga has been given the full title of ‘dukkha nirodhã gãmini patipadã ariya saccã, the noble truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering. But without vipassanã magga, by itself it cannot attain Nibbãna where all sufferings cease. In accordance with one’s previous pãramis (attainments of perfection), only after one has practised vipassanã (insight meditation) many times, many hours, many days, many months, with the momentum derived from vipassanã, the ariya magga appears as if it has emerged out of the vipassanã magga itself. It is for this reason that the vipassanã magga is called the pubbabhãga magga, precursor to the ariya magga which should be regarded as the ultimate goal. Although the path is viewed then as consisting of two sections, the forerunner and the ultimate goal, its development is brought about as one continuous process of endeavour. Hence, Sammohavinidani commentary states that vipassanã magga should be regarded as a basic constituent part of the nirodhagãmini patipadã: ‘The said eight maggas are the supramundane ariya magga with eight constituent parts. This ariya magga together with the mundane vipassanã magga should be enumerated as (constitute) the dukkhanirodha gãmini patipadã.’
What is meant here is: Although magga saccã of the Four Noble Truths is a supra-mundane magga, it cannot arise by itself without vipassanã magga otherwise called pubbabhãga magga. Only after developing the vipassanã magga and when vipassanã ñãna is fully accomplished that the ariya magga appears. Therefore, the ariya magga together with its precursor vipassanã magga, which has to be developed as an initial step, is called dukkha nirodhagãmini patipadã.
We have summarised thus:
1 Mula, pubba, ariya – three noble paths.
2 Developing them leads straight to Nibbãna.
We have adequately dealt with the truth of the path. We shall accordingly terminate the discourse here.
May you all good people in this audience, by virtue of having given respectful attention to this great discourse on the Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma, be able to develop the vipassanã magga, otherwise called the pubbabhãga magga together with the ariya magga, otherwise called the magga saccã, and as a consequence attain soon the nirodha saccã, otherwise called Nibbãna, the end of all suffering.