Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part VI, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(83) The manner of getting rid of an arrow by contemplating and noting the Dhamma

At present, those Yogis who are continuously contemplating and noting rupas and namas arising from the six sense-doors, that is, contemplating what is going on in one’s mind and body, in accordance with the teachings on mindfulness meditation (Satipatthana) are free from five nivaranas, obstacles to the progress of meditation, when their mind becomes tranquil and stabilised This is called Citta Visuddhi, purity of mind. With the mind becoming tranquil and cleansed of the nivaranas at every moment of contemplating and noting, it occurs to the mind of the mediator with awareness that what is contemplated and known is quite different from the mind that contemplates and knows, i.e., these two are distinguishably known. When the rising movement of the abdomen is contemplated and known, the rupa, that is the rising abdominal wall, and the mind – nama that contemplates and knows, are distinguishably known. Similar knowledge will be realised in contemplating the falling of the abdomen and the acts of walking, stepping, dropping, bending and so on. Every time it is so contemplated and noted, what is to be known and the knowing mind, rupa and nama (matter and mind) are well appreciated as the only two attributes of an individual representing material and mental elements which form an aggregate of a sentient being. This appreciation or the knowledge dispelling to a certain extent the arrow of Ditthi is known as ditthivisuddhi.

Thereafter, if contemplation and noting is carried on, cause and effect will be distinguishably known in that because of mental inclination to bend, bending (which is rupa) takes place. So also, because of the will to walk, the act of walking (rupa) happens, and because of the object of sensation which is to be known, the knowing-mind occurs, etc. At that moment, the piercing arrow of doubt called “kankha” has been cleared away to a reasonable extent. From then onwards, at every moment of contemplation and noting, the beginning of the phenomenal occurrence and the final dissolution of what has occurred will be clearly perceived and realised. The nature of such arising and dissolution in respect of the other phenomenal occurrences in the body and mind, such as stiffness and upward and downward movements of the abdominal wall, and of bending, stretching, lifting, stepping, and so on will be distinctly known part by part when contemplation is in full swing. When realisation comes, it will be fully appreciated with awareness that these are mere characteristic of anicca (impermanence) and of misery constituting the nature of anatta without substance or atta.

When there is such realisation of the existence of only rupa and nama, it will be found that what the Buddha had preached as being “impermanence”, misery and anatta – Non-Self, is absolutely true and correct. This awareness and understanding will enhance one’s faith in the Buddha as really an Omniscient. Belief in the Dhamma, as preached by the Buddha, will get firmer or strengthened. Faith in the Sanghas who are diligently practising according to the teachings of the Buddha will become stronger. Depending upon the degree of faith and belief, vicikiccha (doubts) will be cleared away.

Thenceforth, when contemplation and noting is further carried on, progress will be made leading one to the achievement of the knowledge of Vipassana, ten stages in all, step by step towards Nibbana, where rupa and nama and all miseries will come to a cessation through the attainment of ariya-magga-nana. Then, awareness or consciousness firmly takes place that there is no such thing as anatta – being or “Self”, and that the entire so-called body is composed of only two things – rupa and nama. As such, all false views (micchaditthi) commencing from attaditthi and sakkayaditthi will be completely free or eradicated. This explains how the arrow of Dittha has been fully got rid of. A Motto relevant to the foregoing explanatory account has been composed as follows. Let us recite thus:

          “Nothing to be thought of as “I” – an individual or Self except as an aggregate of rupa and nama.

This illustrates how a Sotapanna is free from sakkayaditthi – a false view of Self. While contemplating and noting, or imagining, knowledge of awareness is clear that “there is only an aggregate of rupa and nama which is arising and dissolving incessantly, and that there is no such thing as an atta – a being, or “I”, or “Self”. And then, there is no doubt about the efficacy and noble moral qualities of sila (morality), samadhi (concentration) and panna (wisdom). ‘Firm conviction and faith without a tinge of doubt also arise that “only by practising to gain accomplishment of the qualities of sila, samadhi and panna, can Nibbana be reached. In particular, only by the true realisation of the characteristics of anicca, etc., through continuous contemplation of the arising phenomena of rupa and nama, can Nibbana be attained.” Relating to this, a motto has been framed. Please follow the recitation as follows:

          “Have nothing to doubt about the practice and the Triple Gem.”

This is how to get rid of vicikiccha, the doubt, in connection’ with Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha as well as the noble practices involving morality. It also indicates how a Sotapanna is freed of sceptical doubts. This is the manner how one can be fully liberated from the piercing arrows of vicikiccha according to Mahakarunasamipatti desana.

If dispelled from the false view of Sakkaya (sakkayaditthi) and doubt (vicikiccha), other kilesas such as raga, dosa, moha, mana, etc., which can drag a person down to the Four Nether Worlds, will be eradicated. All bad kammas, the resultant effect of evil deeds which can cause one to land in Apaya existence will also be eradicated. Hence, if one becomes a Sotapanna through the practice of Vipassana meditation, one will escape from the harm inflicted by the arrows which can cause misery by pulling him down to the realm of the four Apayas. The Buddha had therefore preached his noble Dhamma with great Compassion towards all beings. I am following in the footsteps of the Lord Buddha in imparting His Teachings (Dhamma) with a view to enable beings to escape from such harmful arrows.

To put it in, a nutshell, if one proceeds to contemplate and note after his attainment of the status of Sotapanna (the first stage of progressive sanctification), he will become a Sakadagami, and then, an Anagami. On attainment of Anagamiship he or she will again be freed from the arrows of kamaraga and byapada – ill-will and hatred. Thereafter, if contemplation and noting is further carried on, he will attain Arahatship after reaching Arahatta-magga-phala. On becoming an Arahat, the stinging arrows of rupa-raga, arupa-raga, mana and avijja (ignorance) with which he was wrapped up as an Anagami, will be totally liberated. It means that all arrows of akusala smeared with kilesas will be completely extirpated. That is why the Noble Arahats, after Parinibbana, will be totally emancipated from all kinds of sufferings attached to rupa-nama-sankhara, for having been freed from all kinds of arrows. This would bring them everlasting peace and happiness.

Before reaching the state of a worthy Arahat, even an Anagami who can yet be pierced by the arrows of rupa-raga, arupa-raga, etc., would still be subjected to conditioned miseries of existence (sankhara-dukkha) after reaching the abodes of Form and Formless Brahmas. As for Sotapannas and Sakadagamis, since the sharp arrows of kamaraga, etc., can penetrate them, they will have their rebirths in existences of human beings and Devas whereby they have to go through miserable conditions of old age, death, etc. Finding the beings stuck with those arrows, the Buddha’s heart was filled with pity and thus, with a feeling of deep compassion, He had preached the Dhamma. despite the fact that he had to undergo a lot of hardships solely for the sake of the emancipation of all beings.

In particular, having observed and found the worldlings (Puthujjanas) suffering in misery for being struck with such arrows piercing through their material khandhas, the Buddha reflected and realised that there was no other person except Him who could remove or extract those sharp-pointed arrows. The Compassionate Buddha therefore went on preaching the Dhamma.

“Annatara maya – Except me, the Buddha, sallanam uddhata – capable of extracting the sharp-pointed arrows, anno kici – any other single person, natthiti – is not in existence. Passantanam – Seeing, nay, having seen or observed as such, buddhanam bhagavantanam – in the hearts of Buddhas, sattesu – towards the beings, mahakaruna – great compassion, okkamati – has arisen.” It has been stated as such in the Patisambhidamagga Pali.

The Buddha’s compassion towards all beings is equally balanced without distinction irrespective of whether a person is intimate or unfamiliar. The degree of compassion bestowed upon Rahula, his own son born while he was a prince, was on the same level as he had conferred upon Ashin Devadatta, who had through animosity done grievous wrong to him. At one time, Ashin Devadatta in collusion with King Ajatasattu conspired to assassinate the Buddha. They incited the royal elephant by the name of Nalagiri, to make an assault on the Buddha while on His rounds for alms. This elephant had a ferocious propensity and trampled to death all persons whom it met on its way. As instructed by Ashin Devadatta, the mahouts fed this great Nalagiri elephant with liquor profusely and released the big animal along the road where Buddha was to seek alms.

On that occasion, a good number of Sanghas were in the company of the Enlightened One. The huge elephant being intoxicated, rushed forward to attack the Buddha. Even human beings under the influence of liquor used to do things which ought not to be done or speak what ought not to be spoken. Being an animal, there is nothing to be said of the elephant which came rushing violently towards the Buddha to bore Him to death with its tusks. Seeing this terrible state of affairs, the Bhikkhus, in great anxiety, requested the Buddha to retreat and avoid the elephant. The Lord Buddha, however, preached to His disciples as follows:

Agacchatha bhikkhave Come! Come! 0, my Disciple Bhikkhus! Do not shun, mabhayittha – Do not fear. Atthanametam bhikkhave anavakaso, yam parupakka mena tathagatam Jivita voropeyya – O, Bhikkhus! No other person will have the opportunity to plot and strive to cause death to the Buddha. Anupakkamena bhikkhave tathagata parinibbayanti – O, Bhikkhus! It is usual for the Buddhas to enter into Parinibbana without being subjected to harmful death by anyone through conspiracy or attempt. His disciple – Sanghas, nevertheless, pleaded three times repeatedly. However, the Buddha remained adamant and gave his reply as stated above three times in succession.

Thereupon, Ashin Ananda, becoming frightfully anxious of the impending disaster, took his standing posture in front of the Lord Buddha with the intention of sacrificing his own life first in place of the Exalted One. The Buddha asked him three times to make way. However, since Ashin Ananda failed to comply, the Buddha had to make him move from the place he had taken up by the exercise of His supernatural powers.

After having removed the Venerable Ashin Ananda, Buddha radiated his metta (mettaya phari) toward Nalagiri, the elephant. This reveals the primary importance of the quality of metta. Feeling of pity that had arisen can also be regarded as developing a supplement (appadhana) just as radiating with mahakaruna-samapatti, as has been earlier stated. As a result, the big elephant, Nalagiri, which had been showered upon with loving-kindness and compassion by the Buddha, suddenly turned sober. Its mind became mild and gentle. Faith and reverence in the Buddha arose in him too. The huge creature then respectfully approached the Buddha, dropped its trunk from its vertical position, and then squatted at the feet of the Exalted One. Thereupon, the Buddha after caressing the elephant, Nalagiri on the forehead with His right hand admonished it thus:

“Oh, Nalagiri! You should abstain from committing wrong to a Buddha such as me. If wrong or evil acts were committed, serious trouble and suffering will come upon you. Don’t get drunk or intoxicated. Neither should you be forgetful. If you are not mindful or rather forgetful and fail to give thought to yourself, you cannot reach an existence where happy condition prevails. To reach a noble abode of life existence you should cultivate noble practice in yourself and do things on your own in a virtuous way.”

From that time onwards, Nalagiri, the huge elephant was transformed into a well-tamed creature fully accomplished with the five noble precepts (pancasila). In the past, he used to trample down people to death. From then on he abstained from killing others. This is the manner in which the Lord Buddha admonished to the unruly elephant which had once attempted to make a fatal attack on Him, by inculcating a benevolent spirit of loving-kindness (metta) and great compassion (karuna) with an equally balanced degree of love, pity and compassion as he had bestowed upon His own son, Rahula.