The process of awakening

In the  “Group-Section” (Khandhasamyutta) of the Samyutta Nikaya numerous short suttas can be found which – if we squeeze them in the right manner – provide valuable information how a puthujjana (or unenlightened being) turns into an ariyapuggalo (an enlightened being). As promised at the end of the last post we will have a close look at how the Buddha mentions vipassana meditation implicitly without using the term “vipassana”.

Lets have a look at a couple of those texts. Once you learn the pattern of how to look at them you will realize what a treasure box of practical meditation and dhamma knowledge is hidden in these pali texts. I hope to be able to show you that they are pragmatic meditation instructions and less views of metaphysical speculation.

Lets start with one, which describes the status quo – the state of mind most of us find ourselves confronted with:

‘‘Vedanaṃ attato samanupassati, vedanāvantaṃ vā attānaṃ; attani vā vedanaṃ, vedanāya vā attānaṃ. ‘Ahaṃ vedanā, mama vedanā’ti pariyuṭṭhaṭṭhāyī hoti. Tassa ‘ahaṃ vedanā, mama vedanā’ti pariyuṭṭhaṭṭhāyino, sā vedanā vipariṇamati aññathā hoti. Tassa vedanāvipariṇāmaññathābhāvā uppajjanti sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā.

He sees (inherently) feeling as self (himself), or himself as having a feeling, or in himself a feeling, or himself in a feeling. “I am feeling. The feeling is mine”, so does he remain pre-occupied (with feeling). Therefore, for him who is pre-occupied as “I am feeling. This is my feeling”, this feeling will change and alter. And from this change and alteration of the feeling arises sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, despair. [SN Khandhasamyutta. pi]

This is our dilemma, problem. The identification with feelings, thoughts, perceptions. This is what we take up and believe to be “us”. When it changes it creates all kinds of aggravation. When these 5 groups of grasping change (which they need to) suffering (dukkha) is the result. The first noble truth.

‘‘Ko ca, bhikkhave, rūpassa samudayo, ko vedanāya samudayo, ko saññāya samudayo, ko saṅkhārānaṃ samudayo, ko viññāṇassa samudayo? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu abhinandati abhivadati ajjhosāya tiṭṭhati.

‘‘Kiñca abhinandati abhivadati ajjhosāya tiṭṭhati? Rūpaṃ abhinandati abhivadati ajjhosāya tiṭṭhati. Tassa rūpaṃ abhinandato abhivadato ajjhosāya tiṭṭhato uppajjati nandī. Yā rūpe nandī tadupādānaṃ. Tassupādānapaccayā bhavo; bhavapaccayā jāti; jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti. Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.

‘‘Vedanaṃ abhinandati…pe… saññaṃ abhinandati… saṅkhāre abhinandati… viññāṇaṃ abhinandati abhivadati ajjhosāya tiṭṭhati. Tassa viññāṇaṃ abhinandato abhivadato ajjhosāya tiṭṭhato uppajjati nandī. Yā viññāṇe nandī tadupādānaṃ. Tassupādānapaccayā bhavo; bhavapaccayā jāti; jātipaccayā…pe… evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.

‘‘Ayaṃ, bhikkhave, rūpassa samudayo; ayaṃ vedanāya samudayo; ayaṃ saññāya samudayo; ayaṃ saṅkhārānaṃ samudayo; ayaṃ viññāṇassa samudayo.

‘‘Ko ca, bhikkhave, rūpassa atthaṅgamo, ko vedanāya… ko saññāya… ko saṅkhārānaṃ… ko viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo?

Idha, bhikkhave, nābhinandati nābhivadati nājjhosāya tiṭṭhati.

===

What, o monks, is the rising of form….what is the rising of consciousness? Here, o monks, a monk delights, enjoys, remains indulged. What does he delight in, enjoy, remains indulged with? He delights in form, enjoys it, remains indulged with it. To him who does delights in form, enjoys it and indulges in it there arises agreement/enticement. What is enticement with the form, that is grasping. Based on this grasping there is existence/being [See Ven. Nyanananda for discussion on proper understanding of bhava. Condition here does NOT imply a timeline but a causality. At the same moment that we identify with we automatically do grasp and do exist. The one cannot be without the other]. Based on this being is birth. Based on birth is old age and death and sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair come into being. This is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.

What, o monks, is the vanishing of form?…of consciousness? It is the not taking delight in/ not enjoying / not indulging in. etc etc… [The text following is the exact opposite. So the end of suffering would come about if our thirst or tanha would not be pono-bhavika – of such a nature that our being is born again, moment after moment.]

[Pali in Khandhasamyutta, SN]

This is the second noble truth. Every time a sound catches your attention (conventional speak) your sound – world gets born. Every time a feeling in the body emerges, a thought appears – there is a renewed endless process of self-identification taking place in every moment. That is why nibbana is so close and far away at the same time. If we could stop this existence-addiction for only one moment…

But in order to do so, we need to see this process of identification first hand. Once it gets uncovered, dispassion needs to be developed towards this eternal activity/habit. If the mind for one moment does not take a stand on an object or consciousness does not feed on an object the world as we know it falters. Nirodho.

Khandhasamyutta, 7. Anudhammasuttaṃ

39…‘‘Dhammānudhammappaṭipannassa, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno ayamanudhammo hoti yaṃ rūpe nibbidābahulo vihareyya, vedanāya nibbidābahulo vihareyya, saññā nibbidābahulo vihareyya, saṅkhāresu nibbidābahulo vihareyya, viññāṇe nibbidābahulo vihareyya. Yo rūpe nibbidābahulo viharanto, vedanāya… saññāya… saṅkhāresu nibbidābahulo viharanto, viññāṇe nibbidābahulo viharanto rūpaṃ parijānāti, vedanaṃ… saññaṃ… saṅkhāre… viññāṇaṃ parijānāti, so rūpaṃ parijānaṃ, vedanaṃ… saññaṃ… saṅkhāre… viññāṇaṃ parijānaṃ parimuccati rūpamhā, parimuccati vedanā, parimuccati saññāya , parimuccati saṅkhārehi, parimuccati viññāṇamhā, parimuccati jātiyā jarāmaraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi, parimuccati dukkhasmāti vadāmī’’ti.

“For a monk practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma, what accords with the Dhamma is this: that he dwells cultivating disenchantment with regard to form, that he dwells cultivating disenchantment with regard to consciousness. As he dwells cultivating disenchantment with regard to form… feeling… perception… interpretations… consciousness, he completely comprehends form… feeling… perception… interpretations… consciousness. As he completely comprehends form… feeling… perception… interpretations… consciousness, he is totally un-bound from form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness. He is totally un-bound from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. He is totally un-bound (freed), I say, from suffering.”

[Pali and English SN 22.39]

Now we are getting closer to a practical advice on this matter. In this sutta the Buddha says that someone who practices the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma will dwell/meditate/remain in such a fashion that he tries to be a “nibbidābahulo”. What does that mean? Nibbidā is the pali word for “dissatisfaction” or “weariness” or “disenchantment”.  “Bahulo” simply means “often”. The objects towards which he is supposed to exercise this mind-set are “forms, feelings, perception, mental representation, conscious-ness”. If he is able to do so (not once!) but “most of the time” or “very often” (bahulo) dwelling in such a state of observation (viharo) then the Buddha says he will develop a “parijānaṃ”, a round-about-knowing. He will get to know these 5 groups very well. From this he will free himself completely (pari+mucchati) from those five groups of grasping. In fact, as a reminder of the 4 noble truth (and nothing else this sutta stands for) he will free himself from birth, death, disease etc. etc. from suffering, says the Buddha (vadāmi).  And this is the third noble truth.

In our minds we can picture the first couple of days when the Buddha lectured and instructed his first group of friends on the path he had just discovered. We can picture how a discourse such as this (a little bit more hands-on than his famous first sermon which was more like a summary) was at the core of his instructions… leading to the birth of the first round of Arahants.

In fact, the Buddha makes this little instruction into a general message to all who enter the order out of faith:

Saddhāpabbajitassa, bhikkhave, kulaputtassa ayamanudhammo hoti – yaṃ rūpe nibbidābahulo vihareyya.

Which noble son/daughter gone forth from the household life out of faith, o monks, this is how they are in accordance with the teaching: “Dwell frequently in nibbida towards forms”.

To summarize so far:

  1. Our objects of observation have to be (all) five groups of grasping
  2. The five groups of grasping make up our every moment life-experience
  3. Thus we will have to observe our moment for moment life-experience in a mode of  nibbidā
  4. We will have to do this very often (bahulo) / continuously
  5. In order to achieve this deep penetrating view we need a good portion of concentration or have to develop it underway
  6. Eventually, this method of viewing ones own perception process will develop a deeper experiential understanding these 5 groups (i.e. our moment to moment life experience) very deeply
  7. In due time “we” will experience a freedom from those 5 groups which we usually take up and identify with as ourselves.
  8. The result from that experience will be subtle at first but nevertheless transformational

Next question: How can this state of nibbidā be induced? What needs to be done in order to set it up?

We need a special form of looking at the current present moment. Lets see if we can find more about this:

15. Sāvatthinidānaṃ. ‘‘Rūpaṃ, bhikkhave, aniccaṃ. Yadaniccaṃ taṃ dukkhaṃ; yaṃ dukkhaṃ tadanattā; yadanattā taṃ ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ. Vedanā aniccā.

In Savatthi. “Form, o monks, is impermanent. What is impermanent is suffering. What is suffering cannot be yourself. What is not yourself this has to be looked at with right knowing as far as it appears (‘as it really is’) in such a manner: “This is not mine. I am not this. This is not my self.” … Feeling is impermanent…Consciousness is impermanent…etc.

and again here. even better now:

3. Aniccasuttaṃ

45. Sāvatthinidānaṃ. ‘‘Rūpaṃ, bhikkhave, aniccaṃ. Yadaniccaṃ taṃ dukkhaṃ ; yaṃ dukkhaṃ tadanattā ; yadanattā taṃ ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ. Evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya passato cittaṃ virajjati vimuccati anupādāya āsavehi. Vedanā aniccā…

Form, o monks, is impermanent. What is impermanent is painful. What is painful is non-self. What is non-self that has to be seen clearly (yathabhuta) with right knowing thus: “This is not mine. This am i not. This is not my self.”

When it is thus clearly seen with knowing the mind will dis-color (virajjati) and un-bind (vi-mucchati) not-uptaken by the influxes…

important is that everything has to be seen like this. any conceptual way of defining form needs to be looked with the label mentioned above:

‘‘Tasmātiha , soṇa, yaṃ kiñci rūpaṃ atītānāgatapaccuppannaṃ ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā yaṃ dūre santike vā, sabbaṃ rūpaṃ ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ.

Therefore, Sona, whatever form (there is) whether it is past, present or future, whether internal or external or coarse or refined or low or sublime or far or near – all form has to be seen so: “This is not mine. This am i not. This is not my self”.

Alternative to this very frequent non-identification label proposed by the Buddha for meditative vipassana usage is the following instruction:

9. Nandikkhayasuttaṃ

51. Sāvatthinidānaṃ. ‘‘Aniccaññeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhu rūpaṃ aniccanti passati. Sāssa hoti sammādiṭṭhi. Sammā passaṃ nibbindati. Nandikkhayā rāgakkhayo, rāgakkhayā nandikkhayo. Nandirāgakkhayā cittaṃ vimuttaṃ suvimuttanti vuccati.

[Please have a look at my article on iti-sallekkheti where i discuss this idea]

and because it is so instructive, yet another sutta-vipassana-instruction:

pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu udayabbayānupassī vihāsi– ‘iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo; iti vedanā, iti vedanāya samudayo, iti vedanāya atthaṅgamo; iti saññā, iti saññāya samudayo, iti saññāya atthaṅgamo; iti saṅkhārā, iti saṅkhārānaṃ samudayo, iti saṅkhārānaṃ atthaṅgamo; iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo’ti, tassa pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu udayabbayānupassino viharato na cirasseva anupādāya āsavehi cittaṃ vimuccī”ti.

He dwells follow-looking at the rising and falling with regard to the five groups of grasping: “Such is form”, “Such is the rising of form”, “Such is vanishing of form”…”Such is consciousness”, “Such is the rising of consciousness”, “Such is the vanishing of consciousness”. Who thus dwells follow-looking (anu-passana == not to take ones eye from it, a continous looking, think “bahulo” as discussed above) at the rising and falling with regard to the five groups of grasping will before long free (un-bind) his mind from the influxes through not-uptaking.  [this passage is found all over the canon, for example in DN, Mahapadana Sutta]

Once you agree with me on this more literal reading of the texts you will find it everywhere.

Here we can see that using a simple label as a reminder (sati) and tool of looking at the current moment gets classified as an exercise in right view. So, wisdom / pannya is vipassana. In various stages of development, obviously. Because even some initial understanding of the 4 noble truths is wisdom but it will crystallize and become perfected when it is applied to seeing the rising and falling.

When he thus looks rightly in this manner the Buddha says that the process of nibbida (see above) will follow suit. This will start to destroy the forces which make us take up and identify with the groups of grasping. They will start to lose their grasp.

‘‘Yo, bhikkhave, rūpasmiṃ chandarāgo taṃ pajahatha. Evaṃ taṃ rūpaṃ pahīnaṃ bhavissati ucchinnamūlaṃ tālāvatthukataṃ anabhāvaṃkataṃ āyatiṃ anuppādadhammaṃ.

What, o monks, there is of enthrallment-impulse with regard to form, feeling etc. that you have to give up. So this form will be given up. It will be cut at the root like a palm tree – unable to exist again in the future destined to not appear again. [chanda-raga makes a lot of sense if you think of it as the force which makes you dive into the action of the world as presented by the 5 groups of grasping. It is this pull which makes you identify with your seeing and thinking while you read this text. Source: Pali, SN Khandhasamyutta]

What we have to give up towards the form in the current moment which we are watching is “chandaraga”. Chandaraga – is the enthrallment/enamoredness + impuls / coloring (chanda + raga) necessary for identification.

Here is another indication as to how our meditative observation has to look like:

9. Sāvatthinidānaṃ. ‘‘Rūpaṃ, bhikkhave, aniccaṃ atītānāgataṃ; ko pana vādo paccuppannassa! Evaṃ passaṃ, bhikkhave, sutavā ariyasāvako atītasmiṃ rūpasmiṃ anapekkho hoti; anāgataṃ rūpaṃ nābhinandati; paccuppannassa rūpassa nibbidāya virāgāya nirodhāya paṭipanno hoti. Vedanā aniccā…

Form etc. is impermanent, in the past and future. How even more so in the present! When you see this you won’t look (back) at the old forms nor would you hope/expect for new ones. Instead you strife/proceed to (develop) nibbida, viraga and nirodha towards the present form.

This is why if you want to find the “Buddha inside” of you, there is only this direct path (but many ways to express it):

‘‘Tathāgato, bhikkhave, arahaṃ sammāsambuddho rūpassa nibbidā virāgā nirodhā anupādā vimutto sammāsambuddhoti vuccati. Bhikkhupi, bhikkhave, paññāvimutto rūpassa nibbidā virāgā nirodhā anupādā vimutto paññāvimuttoti vuccati.

The Tathagata, o monks, the holy one, fully awakened one is called “fully enlightened” because of the nibbida viraga nirodha (extinction) anupada (non-up-taking) un-binding (vimutto) of forms, feelings, perceptions, intentions, consciousness. The monk who is un-bound through wisdom is unbound by wisdom due to the nibbida, viraga, nirodha, anupada, vimutto of forms, feelings, perpceptions, intentions and consciousness. [The Buddha saying that this is the gist of the path and here with regard to this attainment of nibbana, there is no difference between any other arhant and himself]

Please have a closer look at the last sutta. Can you discover some kind of progressive development mentioned? And if so, what does nirodha stand for? So we are looking at a first stage of nibbida which is followed by a viraga and eventually  nirodha. Nirodha itself is followed by an anupada and a vimutto. Does sound very much like the vipassana-nyanas? Yes, i think it does. Nirodho could well be identified by the experience of nibbana (bhavanirodho nibbanam). The anupada and vimutto would be the result of this experience. The residue of the fruition moment, something a stream-enterer and upwards are equipped with, the “transformation” they experience. Sure, they continue to live, but a certain distance/unbinding towards the 5 groups has set in. BTW, to translate “Nibbana” with “Unbinding” just because one feels uneasy by its literal meaning of “Blowing out / Cessation” seems less than optimal, IMHO. This choice of translation  is probably born out of the same fear which makes people argue that Nibbana is a “dhamma” or an object or island or paradies – which would put it back into samsara. There is however a pali word which could be translated as “Un-binding” or “Free-dom” and that is “vi-mutti” which has this beautiful connotation of losening ones grip / hold and to let go – an un-binding. Still, with the word “Nibbana” the Buddha wanted to conjure up the picture of a fire (which is a process and no “self” and burns on conditions and ceases if these conditions fail) blown out. A blazing fire finds peace when it goes out, not when it travels somewhere 🙂

If this is so the nibbida, viraga part looks like the stages known as nibbida-nyana and adinava-nyana. A follow up on this idea seems to be a good theme for another post.

Lets have a look at yet another short sutta from the Khandha-Samyutta. Here is another one, extremely detailed and deep about the goal, specifically explaining the interplay of consciousness versus the 4 other groups (which constitue what is otherwise known as ‘name-and-form‘ in Buddhism) how this intrinsic interplay is fed and watered and sustained by the opposite of nibbida, by nandi:

54. Sāvatthinidānaṃ. ‘‘Pañcimāni, bhikkhave, bījajātāni. Katamāni pañca? Mūlabījaṃ, khandhabījaṃ, aggabījaṃ, phalubījaṃ, bījabījaññeva pañcamaṃ. Imāni cassu, bhikkhave, pañca bījajātāni akhaṇḍāni apūtikāni avātātapahatāni sārādāni [sārādāyīni (katthaci)] sukhasayitāni, pathavī [paṭhavī (sī. syā. kaṃ. pī.)] ca nāssa, āpo ca nāssa; api numāni [api nu imāni (sī. pī.)], bhikkhave, pañca bījajātāni vuddhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjeyyu’’nti? ‘‘No hetaṃ, bhante’’. ‘‘Imāni cassu, bhikkhave, pañca bījajātāni akhaṇḍāni…pe… sukhasayitāni, pathavī ca assa, āpo ca assa; api numāni, bhikkhave, pañca bījajātāni vuddhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjeyyu’’nti? ‘‘Evaṃ, bhante’’. ‘‘Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, pathavīdhātu, evaṃ catasso viññāṇaṭṭhitiyo daṭṭhabbā. Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, āpodhātu, evaṃ nandirāgo daṭṭhabbo. Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, pañca bījajātāni, evaṃ viññāṇaṃ sāhāraṃ daṭṭhabbaṃ’’.

‘‘Rūpupayaṃ, bhikkhave, viññāṇaṃ tiṭṭhamānaṃ tiṭṭheyya, rūpārammaṇaṃ rūpappatiṭṭhaṃ nandūpasecanaṃ vuddhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjeyya. Vedanupayaṃ vā, bhikkhave, viññāṇaṃ tiṭṭhamānaṃ tiṭṭheyya…pe… saññupayaṃ vā, bhikkhave, viññāṇaṃ tiṭṭhamānaṃ tiṭṭheyya…pe… saṅkhārupayaṃ vā, bhikkhave, viññāṇaṃ tiṭṭhamānaṃ tiṭṭheyya, saṅkhārārammaṇaṃ saṅkhārappatiṭṭhaṃ nandūpasecanaṃ vuddhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjeyya.

‘‘Yo, bhikkhave, evaṃ vadeyya – ‘ahamaññatra rūpā aññatra vedanāya aññatra saññāya aññatra saṅkhārehi viññāṇassa āgatiṃ vā gatiṃ vā cutiṃ vā upapattiṃ vā vuddhiṃ vā virūḷhiṃ vā vepullaṃ vā paññāpessāmī’ti, netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati.

‘‘Rūpadhātuyā ceva, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno rāgo pahīno hoti. Rāgassa pahānā vocchijjatārammaṇaṃ patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa na hoti. Vedanādhātuyā ce… saññādhātuyā ce… saṅkhāradhātuyā ce… viññāṇadhātuyā ce, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno rāgo pahīno hoti. Rāgassa pahānā vocchijjatārammaṇaṃ patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa na hoti. Tadappatiṭṭhitaṃ viññāṇaṃ avirūḷhaṃ anabhisaṅkhaccavimuttaṃ. Vimuttattā ṭhitaṃ. Ṭhitattā santusitaṃ. Santusitattā na paritassati. Aparitassaṃ paccattaññeva parinibbāyati. ‘Khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānātī’’ti. Dutiyaṃ.

==

At . There the Blessed One addressed the monks: “Monks.”

“Yes, lord,” the monks responded.

The Blessed One said: “Monks, there are these five means of propagation. Which five? Root-propagation, stem-propagation, joint-propagation, cutting-propagation, & seed-propagation as the fifth. And if these five means of propagation are not broken, not rotten, not damaged by wind & sun, mature, and well-buried, but there is no earth and no water, would they exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation?”

“No, lord.”

“And if these five means of propagation are broken, rotten, damaged by wind & sun, immature, and poorly-buried, but there is earth & water, would they exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation?”

“No, lord.”

“And if these five means of propagation are not broken, not rotten, not damaged by wind & sun, mature, and well-buried, and there is earth & water, would they exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation?”

“Yes, lord.”

“Like the earth property, monks, is how the four standing-spots for consciousness should be seen. Like the liquid property is how delight & passion should be seen. Like the five means of propagation is how consciousness together with its nutriment should be seen.

“Should consciousness, when taking a stance, stand attached to form, supported by form, established on form, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation.

“Should consciousness, when taking a stance, stand attached to feeling, supported by feeling, established on feeling, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation.

“Should consciousness, when taking a stance, stand attached to perception, supported by perception, established on perception, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation.

“Should consciousness, when taking a stance, stand attached to interpretation, supported by interpretation, established on interpretation, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation.

“Were someone to say, ‘I will describe a coming, a going, a passing away, an arising, a growth, an increase, or a proliferation of consciousness apart from form, from feeling, from perception, from interpretation,’ that would be impossible.

“If a monk abandons passion for the property of form … (mental) interpretations (sankhara)

“If a monk abandons passion for the property of consciousness, then owing to the abandonment of passion, the support is cut off, and there is no base for consciousness. Consciousness, thus unestablished, not proliferating, not performing any function, is released. Owing to its release, it is steady. Owing to its steadiness, it is contented. Owing to its contentment, it is not agitated. Not agitated, he extinguishes within. He knows this: ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'” [Bijasutta in SN]

A-savas coming!

A-savas coming!

While there are so many more beautiful suttas in this part of the pali canon, this was nothing more than a very shallow look at them. In any event, many of these texts convey a very pragmatic message. Very often it seems only a question of how we approach the texts (from a meditative background number one, and number two with a very self-critical  literal approach, looking for similar passages in the canon and questioning our pre-programmed interpretation) to derive at important observations for our own practice.

On the other hand, it might seem as if the Buddha’s path is like a puzzle. As soon as you combine a handful of pieces the progress and structure of the overall puzzle gets clearer and more obvious by the minute. Instead of looking at each piece of the puzzle individually and fantasising about its possible meaning it seems more important to take a plunge and simply do it!  Everthing will eventually fall in place!

Finally, there was one beautiful sutta which answers a couple of questions using a very simple aspect (nibbidabahulo) which we covered above. This will close the loop:

115. Sāvatthinidānaṃ. Ekamantaṃ nisinno kho so bhikkhu bhagavantaṃ etadavoca – ‘‘‘dhammakathiko dhammakathiko’ti, bhante, vuccati. Kittāvatā nu kho, bhante, dhammakathiko hotī’’ti? ‘‘Rūpassa ce, bhikkhu, nibbidāya virāgāya nirodhāya dhammaṃ deseti ‘dhammakathiko bhikkhū’ti alaṃ vacanāya. Rūpassa ce, bhikkhu, nibbidāya virāgāya nirodhāya paṭipanno hoti, ‘dhammānudhammappaṭipanno bhikkhū’ti alaṃ vacanāya. Rūpassa ce, bhikkhu, nibbidā virāgā nirodhā anupādāvimutto hoti, ‘diṭṭhadhammanibbānappatto bhikkhū’ti alaṃ vacanāya…

In Savatthi. Sitting to one side a monk said to the Blessed one this: “A speaker of the Dhamma, a speaker of the Dhamma’, o Lord, was it said. How is one a speaker of the Dhamma’? “When one teaches the Dhamma towards the disenchantment, disinterest, dissolvement of forms, feelings, etc…this alone is enough to be called “a Dhamma speaking monk”. If one practices towards the disenchantment, disinterest, dissolvement of forms, feelings… etc. this is enough to be called “a monk practicing according to the Dhamma”. If one has attained the non-grasping freedom through the disenchantment, disinterest, dissolvement of forms, feelings…etc. this is enough to be called “a monk who has attained Nibbana in this very life”. [Pali]

The next post which will be the third one in this series will look at the Anapanasati-sutta and detail how the Buddha’s own jhana-vipassana experience lead him to Nibbana. Stay tuned 😉

—Footnotes—

Some relevant pali words mentioned in this post as defined by the PED:
Nibbindati [nis+vindati, vid2] to get wearied of (c. loc.); to have enough of, be satiated, turn away from, to be disgusted with. In two roots A. vind: prs. nibbindati etc. usually in combn withvirajjati & vimuccati (cp. nibbāna III. 2). Vin i.35; S ii.94; iv.86, 140; A v.3; Dh 277 sq.; It 33; J i.267; Miln 235, 244; Sdhp 612. ppr. nibbindaŋ S
Virajjati [vi+rajjati] to detach oneself, to free oneself of passion, to show lack of interest in (loc.). S ii.94, 125 (nibbindaŋ [ppr.] virajjati); iii.46, 189; iv.2, 86; A v.3; Sn 739=S iv.205 (tattha); Th 1, 247; Sn 813 (na rajjati na virajjati), 853; Nd1 138, 237; Miln 245; Sdhp 613. — pp. viratta. — Caus. virājeti to put away, to estrange (acc.) from (loc.), to cleanse (oneself) of passion (loc.), to purify, to discard as rāga Dii.51; S i.16=Sn 171 (ettha chandaŋ v.=vinetvā viddhaŋsetvā SnA 213); S iv.17=Kvu 178; A ii.196 (rajanīyesu dhammesu cittaŋ v.); Sn 139, 203; Th 1, 282; Pv ii.1319 (itthi — cittaŋ=viratta — citta PvA 168); ThA 49; DhA i.327 (itthi — bhāve chandaŋ v. to give up desire for femininity). — pp. virājita.

Rāga [cp. Sk. rāga, fr. raj: see rajati] 1. colour, hue; colouring, dye Vin ii.107 (anga˚ “rougeing” the body: bhikkhū angarāgaŋ karonti); ThA 78; SnA 315 (nānāvidha˚). — 2 (as t. t. in philosophy & ethics) excitement, passion; seldom by itself,…

You can get a complete version of the Samyutta Nikaya in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s fine translation here.

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3 comments

  1. khandy

    Help me out, as i am a bit confused by summary point 1: Our objects of observation have to be (all) five groups of grasping.

    The confusion is not in regard of the five groups of grasping. It is in relation to the plural “objects” and, more particularly, the qualification “(all)”.

    Does this imply that the practitioner has to use all five aggregates-subject-to-clinging as the object of meditation? What is the significance of the four foundations of sati, then? The way i do it, any aspect of the present nāma-rūpa is suitable for the practice of correct seeing and knowing.

    Please clarify.

  2. theravadin

    Khandy, thanks for the very good question!

    If you look back at the discussion, there is this one sutta where the Buddha says “whatever form you see, coarse, subtle, big, small…..whatever feeling….”

    So, the task at hand, as i understand (and learned to practice) is to note whatever makes itself present. Sometimes you catch a form. Sometimes you are aware of a feeling. Sometimes you are aware of a perception. Sometimes you are aware of a developing interpretation of the underlying sense impression. Sometimes you become aware of ‘your’ knowing – the consciousness.

    All of these 5 groups could be derived from any of the six sense impressions.

    The Buddha makes clear that our severing the ties from samsara needs to be fundamental.

    There will be progress even if we see the rising and falling of feelings alone. HOWEVER if we see feelings clearly but take on and identify with thoughts at the same time like “oh, look at me, i can see feelings rising and falling” then, in that case you are still hanging on the samsaric life line. For nibbana to occur there would have to be at least one moment were the mind neither identifies with objects, nor feelings, nor perception, nor sankharas nor consciousness. In that case a Nir-vana and a short extinguishing of the flame would occur, as described by Mahasi & others.

    So while you might start you training (as is the case in the satipatthana) with a clearly defined object like “the body”, “the feeling”, “the mind” or “the mind objects” … (by the way, see a pattern here?! form – body, feeling – feeling, perception/sankhara/consciousness – mind and mind objects) you develop your ability to potentially let go ANY of the six sense impressions or ANY of the five groups of grasping as they present themselves.

    Let me know if this made it a little bit more transparent. As everything else, this is my (current) personal understanding (which is subject to change too, 😉 ) and always needs your and mine proof through practice…

  3. khandy

    The emphatic ANY is what i was hoping to hear: you develop your ability to potentially let go ANY of the six sense impressions or ANY of the five groups of grasping as they present themselves.

    Right on.

    And, yes, the “pattern” (form – body, feeling – feeling, perception/sankhara/consciousness – mind and mind objects) became clear to me some time ago.

    Thanks for the clarification, which made me nod “yes, yes” some more. 🙂

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