becoming buddha
becoming awakened

Study, Practice, and Understand What The Buddha Taught

"In what is seen there is only the seen"
Bahiya Sutta, Udana 1.10

WELCOME - INTRODUCTION TO THE BUDDHA'S DHAMMA

empowermentsIntroduction To The Buddha's Dhamma - Noble Searches

What Is Taught Here - Why - How To Find It

Becoming-Buddha.com has more than 300 Dhamma articles, 500 videos, and 600 audio recordings on the original and direct teachings of an awakened human being. The recordings are from our live-streamed Dhamma classes from Cross River Meditation Center in Frenchtown, New Jersey.

I have structured Becoming-Buddha.com to support developing the Buddha’s Dhamma as he intended. The Buddha often said “Ehipassiko” which means “Come and See For Yourself.” The Buddha is telling us that his dhamma is not rooted in magical fabrications or mystical speculations. It cannot be “transferred”magically from one confused mind to another.

Reading through this introduction and following the linked Dhamma articles will develop a broad and skillful understanding of what an awakened  human being actually taught.

Another direction for skillful Dhamma study is to read and listen to the Dhamma articles and talks presented on the Becoming-Buddha.com home page, from top to bottom. Fundamental to understanding the Buddha’s Dhamma is to understand what he awakened to, what he taught so other’s could develop this same understanding, and why he taught what he taught and avoided any speculative or imagined “dharma.” This profound understanding is developed through the Buddha’s Dhamma as preserved and presented here.

Understanding Four Noble Truths cannot be developed through distracting rituals, magical empowerments across non-physical “realms,”or painful deprivations.

The Buddha’s Dhamma avoids any fabricated “dharma” that would distract one from what is occurring in life as life unfolds. Speculative and fabricated modern “dharmas” can only further ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

The Buddha’s Dhamma is clear and direct. The structure of Becoming-Buddha.com reflects the Buddha’s Dhamma. For newcomers or those new to the direct teachings of the Buddha, begin your study from top-down. This welcome page will direct you to further study in a methodical and effective manner.  The teachings contained on the home page will also provide a gentle and effective development of an awakened human being’s Dhamma.

Now that you have found these most profound teachings, take a breath and gently settle your mind in your body. As best as you can, maintain this gentle focus. The Buddha’s Dhamma is effectively integrated by a non-grasping and mindful presence. As your Jhana practice deepens your concentration, you will begin to integrate the Dhamma as your path to awakening. Continued Right Effort will bring a calm and peaceful mind resting in understanding of the true nature of self and the world. Enjoy your study.

The Buddha’s Dhamma is to be directly experienced by all well-informed and well-focused Dhamma practitioners. How do you know if you are developing the Dhamma as intended? “Ehipassiko,” come and see for yourself.”

Of course, “seeing for yourself” through direct engagement with the Buddha’s Dhamma requires finding a still-pure Dhamma and a skillful Dhamma teacher who has actually studied and developed the Buddha’s Dhamma. This is the only way to develop an awakened human being’s authentic Dhamma.

The context and foundation for all that I have studied, developed, and teach is found only in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the  Pali Canon.

The most significant, remarkable, and practically applied base of knowledge on the true reality of human life that I have found continue to be the direct and un-embellished Dhamma of an awakened human being.

If you are new to Buddhism or  a modern Buddhist practitioner who has grown increasingly confused and disappointed by modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement  or other speculative beliefs or “dharmas,” you are as fortunate as I am to have discovered an awakened human bing’s Dhamma! Here you will only find teachings that an awakened human being actually taught as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka. The Buddha’s Dhamma quickly develops mindful focus and gentle contentment.

It is the Sutta Pitaka that preserves an authentic account of the forty-five-year teaching career of this extraordinary man, Siddhartha Gotama.

An article and recorded talks on the authenticity of the Pali  Canon and the remarkable story of how authenticity has been maintained is here:

AUTHENTICITY OFTHE SUTTA PITAKA

Included in this article is an explanation of how the many modern Buddhist “religions” developed from craving rooted in ignorance rather than wisdom rooted inFour Noble Truths..

Most of modern Buddhism has been adapted, accommodated, and embellished to fit a fabricated need for continued ignorance of Four Noble Truths. This fabricated “Wrong View” is maintained by unskillful associations and clinging to the modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement movement and adapted, accommodated, and embellished  modern “dharmas.”

Much of modern Buddhism relies on fabricated teachings that often contradict what an awakened human being taught. When legitimized by the “Buddhist” label this leads to further confusion, deluded thinking, distraction, and continued stress and suffering.

MODERN BUDDHISMA THICKET OF VIEWS

If you have found modern Buddhist teachings irrelevant, difficult to understand, or practically apply and integrate into your life, you will find the Buddha’s direct teachings entirely relevant, easily accessible, and immediately practical.

What The Buddha Taught - What The Buddha Did Not Teach

Siddartha Gotama, a human being, left his life of luxury, wealth, privilege, and power at the age of twenty-nine seeking understanding of the cause of human disappointment, discontent and conflict.

Over the next six years, through his own effort, Siddartha developed a profound understanding that ignorance of Four Noble Truths is the initiating condition that all manner of individual craving, aversion, confusion, conflict, and ongoing stress and suffering are dependent on.

The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that the nature of all human discontent, confusion, greed, aversion, and ongoing deluded thinking is rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths

This often misunderstood and often intentionally misrepresented foundational teaching is known as Dependent Origination

The Buddha’s very first Dhamma teaching established these Four Noble Truths as the context and clear direction for anyone interested to accomplish precisely what Siddhartha Gotama accomplished - become Rightly Self-Awakened, Become Buddha.

The entirety of the Dhamma is to bring understanding of Four Noble Truths. The Buddha taught the Noble Eightfold Path as the direct and only path human awakening.

DHAMMACAKKAPPAVATTANA SUTTAFOUR NOBLE TRUTHS

Every teaching the Buddha presented during his forty-five-year teaching career was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

The Eightfold Path develops profound introspective insight into, and release from, the common human condition arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths described as Three Marks Of Existence.

The intended purpose of the Buddha’s entire teaching career is to resolve ignorance through vipassana - introspective insight. Rather than a popular hybrid meditation method, vipassana in the context pf the Buddha’s Dhamma is introspective insight into the clinging relationship between impermanent phenomena and individual ignorance and the stress and suffering that follows

VIPASSANAINTROSPECTIVE INSIGHT

What Siddhartha Gotama Discovered

Siddhartha Gotama discovered the Noble Eightfold Path through his own search for understanding. Here is an article that describes the importance of recognizing and abandoning ignoble searches that lead to more ignorance:

THE BUDDHA'S NOBLE SEARCHFOR A NOBLE PATH

The Buddha, finally engaging in a Noble Search, discovered a Timeless Eightfold Path to end all confusion, deluded thinking, and self-inflicted suffering.

Requisites For Understanding - The True Foundations Of Mindfulness, Concentration, and Profound Wisdom

Jhana Meditation - The Buddha’s Only Meditation Method

Jhana meditation is the meditation method the Buddha taught as the eighth factor of the Eightfold Path. Practiced within the framework of the Eightfold Path, Jhana meditation will develop a tranquil and well-concentrated mind supporting the refined mindfulness necessary to integrate the Eightfold Path into one’s life.

The Buddha taught meditation for a single purpose - to increase concentration.

JHANA MEDITATIONRIGHT MEDITATION

Instructions for beginning a Jhana meditation practice and guided Jhana meditations of varying lengths are here and linked directly from the home page:

GUIDED JHANA MEDITATIONSAND INSTRUCTION

The Four Foundations Of Useful Mindfulness

The Satipatthana Sutta initially teaches the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. This is the foundation that Jhana meditation rests upon. This foundation provides the direction to recognize and abandon distracting feelings and thoughts which supports deepening concentration. This is the primary purpose of meditation as the Buddha teaches meditation. The balance of the Satipatthana Sutta explains what to hold in mind, what to be mindful of, as concentration increases and understanding of the Buddha’s Dhamma becomes integrated.

SATIPATTHANA SUTTAFOUR FOUNDTAIONS OF MINDFULNESS

Anapanasati Sutta - An Example Of Authentic Dhamma Practice

The Anapanasati Sutta is a sutta where the Buddha uses the example of accomplished Monks to describe the results of a properly integrated Dhamma practice.

You may have heard the word "Insight" with regard to Buddhism. Most modern Buddhist practices teach a very broad and overly analytical form of insight  lacking the context, guidance, and purpose of Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. This often encourages further distraction and avoids addressing ignorance of these Four Truths.

The Buddha’s Dhamma develops specific introspective insight into what follows from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. This specific insight brings direct understanding of “Three Marks of Existence.”

ANAPANASATI SUTTAEXAMPLE OF AUTHENTIC DHAMMA PRACTICE

A Practical, Direct, And Consistent Dhamma

The Pali Canon is a somewhat difficult read. What does become apparent after a careful study is the consistency of the Buddha’s teachings and how every teaching the Buddha ever presented was presented in the context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths. When this is held in mind even the more obscure or seemingly difficult to apply teachings become useful and applicable.

The Buddha consistently describes his deeply profound teachings in very simple terms: "I teach the arising of suffering and the cessation of suffering, nothing more.”

Buddhism is often characterized as pessimistic or nihilistic. This view is a wrong view rooted in ignorance of the purpose and scope of the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha taught that by understanding suffering and its origination anyone could abandon self-created confusion, delusion, and suffering and develop a life of lasting peace and happiness. The Buddha describes the process of ending ignorance and developing a profound understanding of the true nature of human life as becoming ”Rightly Self-Awakened.”

What I Discovered

I struggled for many years, becoming increasingly frustrated and confused about “Buddhism,” until I found the Sutta Pitaka and studied only what the Buddha taught as a path, an Eightfold Path.

My Dhamma practice, including teaching, is framed and guided by what I have integrated from developing The Eightfold Path. As such, I encourage all visitors to make use of the resources available here for the benefit of all human beings. What the Buddha taught was that the most loving and compassionate effort any human being can engage in is the Right Effort that develops self-awakening and the cessation of ignorance.

The word “Noble” as it applies to Four Noble Truths” defines the timeless nature of these truths. Nobility implies superiority and continuance. In an impermanent, ever-changing world, these Four Truths remain true and endure while relative “truths” arise and pass away.

For example, “The sky is blue” is at times a true statement. That it is at times true does not make a blue sky or the belief in a blue sky relevant in any way to the Buddha’s Dhamma.

“I feel angry” is also, at times, a true statement. Introducing “feeling-worship” through misguided “mindful” analyzation does not establish temporary feelings (or thought) as a worthy aspect of Dhamma practice. This only serves to develop additional fabrications and continue distraction. 

Another significant example is the fabrication of modern “dharmas” that contradict an awakened human being’s Dhamma. Though widespread, I have found that with gentle and patient Right Effort, clinging to fabricated views and unskillful associations is overcome and a useful and effective Buddha’s Dhamma becomes established.

Through all impermanent worldly phenomena, the Four Noble Truths remain true:

  1. Stress and suffering - Dukkha - occur.
  2. Ignorance originates and perpetuates individual Dukka.
  3. Cessation of ignorance is possible.
  4. The Eightfold Path is the path for developing profound wisdom and the cessation of ignorance.

 

Important Considerations For Dhamma Practice

The Buddha consistently and often emphasized the importance of wise associations in developing his Dhamma. Here is an article on the singular importance as a Dhamma practitioner of associating with others who actually developed the Buddha's Dhamma and remain well-focused on the Dhamma:

AN ADMIRABLE SANGHAUPADHA SUTTA

A group of like-minded meditators, a sangha, well-focused on the Buddha's original teachings, will prove to be an invaluable support. All conditioned views will eventually fall away from a mind gently focused in the present guided by the framework of the Eightfold Path.

If you are in the Frenchtown, New Jersey area, please join us at one of our twice-weekly classes.

CLASSES AT CROSS RIVERMEDITATION CENTER

My classes from Cross River Meditation Center in Frenchtown New Jersey are streamed live and recorded. Here is information on my streaming and recorded classes:

LIVE STREAMINGAND VIDEO ARCHIVE

 AUDIO ARCHIVEAND PODCAST

If you would like to deepen your understanding through individual instruction there is additional information on individual instruction in Frenchtown New Jersey here or via video chat:

 INDIVIDUAL INSTRUCTION

You can be notified of our classes, retreats and the posting of new articles and recordings by subscribing to my newsletter:

NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIPTIONS

Information on my book Becoming Buddha - Becoming Awakened and a ten-week personal Dhamma study and correspondence course, The Truth of Happiness,  is here:

JOHN'S BOOKS

If you find this website helpful in developing your understanding of the Buddha’s teachings, please consider a donation to help support the cost in time and money to maintain this resource and provide donation-based Dhamma teaching.:

SUPPORTJOHN HASPEL

Finally, if you are new to Dhamma practice or are re-establishing your practice, take your time, be gentle with yourself and your practice. There are difficulties that arise in developing an understanding of the Four Noble Truths and they are all difficulties rooted in ignorance and impermanence.

WHEN DHAMMA PRACTICEIS STRESSFUL

With a bit of time and gentle patience, you may find what the Buddha actually taught as effective today as it was 2,600 years ago in recognizing and abandoning all fabricated views and fabricated “dharmas” while developing profound understanding of the true nature of human life and a calm and peaceful mind.

Please take your time in reading and listening to this material. When engaged with through gentle determination, you will quickly deepen concentration and a calm and peaceful mind. Over time, you will develop refined mindfulness supporting the integration of the Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of ignorance of Four Noble Truths and becoming “Rightly Self-Awakened.”

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or wanting some encouragement.

EMAIL JOHN

John Haspel, December 23, 2019, Peace.

 

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Guided Jhana Meditation And Instructions

↓ Guided Jhana Meditations  ↓
↓ Karaniya Metta Sutta ↓
↓ Metta Intentional Meditation ↓

Jhana means concentration or non-distraction. Jhana is the word the Buddha used to describe the purpose and scope of meditation. When directing followers to meditate he would consistently say: “Find the root of a tree or an empty hut (establish physical seclusion) and do Jhana.” 

Jhana refers to the single purpose of meditation – to develop profound concentration that can support the refined mindfulness necessary to integrate and develop the entire Eightfold Path. (Reference Yuganaddha Sutta and many others.)

Rather than encourage an unstructured hybrid meditation method, in the context of the Buddha’s Dhamma Jhana meditation supports true and useful vipassana. Vipassana refers to developing the very specific introspective insight into Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha. Here is an article on the meaning of vipassana in the context of the Buddha’s Dhamma:

Here is a link to our Vipassana Structured Study

As concentration increases the mind naturally calms providing the internal environment for true and useful introspective insight.

Here are Dhamma articles on Jhana:  Right Meditation

Below are recordings of guided Jhana meditation sessions of varying lengths, and two recordings of Metta Meditation. Below the recorded guided meditations are detailed instructions for establishing and maintaining a Jump To recordings and effective Jhana meditation practice.

guided jhana meditations

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Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked inline and at the end of this article. ([x]) Inline links will open in a new window.

Two thousand six hundred years ago a human being known as Siddartha Gotama became, in his words, “rightly self-awakened.”  He was thirty-five at the time of his awakening. He would spend the next forty-five years of his life teaching all that were interested how they could do the same. [1] The Noble Search For The Noble Path

Siddartha awakened to the profound understanding that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that leads to all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences. [2] Nagara Sutta - The Buddha Describes His Awakening

What Siddartha discovered is a simple truth: Ignorance of Four Noble Truths is the originating condition that confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing stress and suffering are dependent on. [3,4] Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta  |  Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Now a Buddha, he taught Jhana meditation as one factor of a complete path to becoming rightly self-awakened. The path the Buddha taught is known as the Eightfold Path. [5,6] Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas  |  Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

It is through the Eightfold Path that one is able to develop skillful vipassana - introspective insight into Three Marks Of Existence.  [7] Vipassana - Skillful Insight

Jhana means concentration or a non-distracted quality of mind. Jhana meditation is the only mediation method taught by the Buddha. He taught this singular mediation method for a singular purpose - to deepen concentration. The Buddha understood that a mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths will fabricate subtle but powerful strategies to compulsively continue to ignore ignorance. The Buddha understood that only deep and penetrative concentration could provide the skillful focus to support the refined mindfulness necessary to integrate the Eightfold Path as the framework for an authentic and effective Dhamma practice.

It is by integrating the Eightfold Path that the concentration developed in Jhana meditation can be applied in a focused and skillful manner to recognize and abandon all manner of ignorance.

The instructions below provide the guidance for establishing an effective meditation practice as the Buddha instructed. The foundation for Jhana meditation is established in the beginning section of the Satipatthana Sutta, the primary sutta on Four Foundations Of Mindfulness. [8] Satipatthana Sutta - Four Foundations of Mindfulness

When directing those in the original sangha to meditate, the Buddha would say “Go find the root of a tree or an empty hut and do Jhana.” This was simple instruction to find a quiet and secluded place for meditation. Jhana is a word from the Pail language that means meditative absorption or concentration. This statement is clear and simple guidance on establishing the proper environment for Jhana meditation and the proper purpose - to develop ever-deepening levels of Jhana.

It is most effective for beginning meditators to start with short meditation sessions and gradually extend the meditation sessions. There is nothing to gain from uncomfortably long meditation sessions as the purpose of meditation is to deepen concentration.  What is most important is consistency and the right method. Short periods of meditation practiced consistently within the framework of the Eightfold Path will bring a calm and peaceful mind.

Long meditation sessions engaged in only occasionally and without the proper framework will have little ongoing usefulness and can often continue conditioned views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Incorporating Metta Intentional Meditation into a meditation practice can help end distracting negative thoughts towards oneself or others or towards worldly conditions.

The importance of developing Jhana as the focus of meditation is taught in many suttas including the Kimsuka Sutta and the Yuganaddha Sutta. [9,10] Kimsuka Sutta - A Swift Pair Of Messengers  |  Yuganaddha Sutta

The Buddha taught the Four Foundations of Mindfulness to stabilize the mind by avoiding ordinary distractions. In this sutta, the Buddha further teaches how to apply the refined mindfulness that is supported by the concentration developed in Jhana meditation.

In the Anapanasati Sutta, the Buddha uses the example of senior monks to describe how meditation is practiced, applied to the overall Dhamma, and experienced by those with understanding of the Heartwood of the Dhamma - the Eightfold Path. [11] Anapanasati Sutta

Meditation is best practiced with a Sangha well-focused on the Buddha’s teachings. If you are not in the Hunterdon County, New Jersey or Bucks County, Pennsylvania area, or you do not have a well-focused Sangha in your area, you can join my classes and our Sangha online Streamed Live.

If you are new to meditation or the direct teachings of the Buddha, you may find benefit from the page for New Visitors.

Here are additional articles and talks on meditation: Meditation Article and Talks

A comprehensive presentation of the Buddha’s teachings is available in my book Becoming Buddha - Becoming Awakened.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Above all, be gentle with yourself and enjoy the Buddha’s Dhamma!

Jhana Meditation Instruction

Jhana Meditation is a simple technique with profound and transformative results. It is a technique that anyone can integrate into their lives. Jhana meditation only requires being mindful of the pure sensation of the breath in the body.

It is in its simplicity that Jhana meditation will focus a distracted mind and end the feedback loop of self-referential views. Within the framework of the Eightfold Path, Jhana meditation will develop the introspective insight necessary to abandon confused and discursive thinking.

Developing trance-like states, mindless chanting, distracting imagery or visualizations is not the purpose of meditation.

The purpose of Jhana meditation is to develop gentle and unwavering concentration. From a well-concentrated mind introspective insight into the arising and passing away of all objects, events, views, and ideas will develop. Distracting thoughts originating in clinging, craving, desire, and aversion, will fall away.

The initial difficulty for many beginning meditators is boredom. Boredom is the conditioned need for continual distraction. As the practical benefits of meditation develop, joyful enthusiasm overcomes boredom.

Maintaining mindfulness of the breath brings a gentle focus to meditation, developing concentration. Chasing mystical experiences or ego-driven “insights” is avoided.

Initially, short periods of meditation are effective in establishing a meditation practice.  Long meditation sessions will often further condition thinking rooted in ignorance. Unrealistic methods and expectations will often develop without the guidance of the Eightfold Path.

There is no need to struggle with long periods of meditation. A few minutes of well-intentioned gentle practice is enough to begin to incline the mind towards Jhana.

Deepening concentration is the “goal” of meditation, not length of time. As gentle concentration deepens, the length of meditation sessions will naturally increase. Using the breath as a point of focus interrupts following one thought immediately with the next. As the mind quiets, concentration increases.

The insight that develops through the Eightfold Path is not a distracting craving-after-insight into all mundane phenomena. A well-concentrated mind supports skillful introspective insight into the clinging relationship between ignorant views of self and impermanent phenomena resulting in stress and suffering. Skillful insight may occur during Jhana meditation. The Satipatthana Sutta shows that skillful insight more commonly occurs outside of formal meditation through mindfulness of the Eightfold Path supported by the concentration developed during meditation.

Rather than an aspect of direct inquiry into ordinary phenomena during Jhana meditation, skillful introspective insight is more a product of a quiet and well-concentrated mind framed by the entire Eightfold Path being mindful of the path moment-by-moment as life unfolds.

As seen in the Yuganaddha Sutta, developing tranquility and insight in tandem is for “developing the Eightfold Path so that the shackles of self-referential views are abandoned and self-obsessions destroyed.”

The Buddha taught that what is held in mind determines experience. This is why quieting the mind and gaining insight into the nature of stress and clinging is so effective in developing awakening.

The purpose of the Buddha’s teachings is to recognize and abandon craving and clinging rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  It is craving and clinging rooted in ignorance that creates the feedback loop described in the Nagara Sutta.

Skillful introspective insight into the Three Marks Of Existence and craving and clinging develops the refined mindfulness necessary to recognize and abandon all wrong views. Within the framework of the Eightfold Path, Right view develops as wrong views are recognized and abandoned.

Jhana meditation returns the mind to a tranquil state not subject to reaction caused by conditioned thinking. Conditioned thinking causes continued wrong view which causes continued unskillful reaction. This reaction creates further conditioned thinking. This is another way of describing the feedback loop the Buddha describes in the Nagara Sutta. The insight developed into this process makes it possible to interrupt the cycle of discursive thinking.

This simple technique avoids the distraction common in modern hybrid mediation methods of compulsively analyzing impermanent mental objects. This would only continue ignorant views. The Buddha describes these views and what these views support as "like foam on the water."

It is foolish and unskillful to use meditation to further ignorance in this manner. Simply recognize distraction and return mindfulness to the breath. No further analysis of reactive thoughts or feelings is necessary or effective in interrupting this feedback loop.

Analysis of conditioned thinking during meditation will only strengthen conditioned thinking. What is held in mind will determine experience. A meditation practice alone, without the guidance and framework of the Eightfold Path, will strengthen conditioned thinking while substituting more "acceptable" but still ignorant views. This again is another example of being stuck in a feedback loop of self-referential views.

Having the intention to engage in a meditation practice to fix a broken or flawed self is not skillful use of meditation. Using meditation to realize a  hidden Buddha-Nature is not skillful use of meditation.  Using meditation to seek pleasant mind states or mystical experiences is not skillful use of meditation. Using meditation in this way will create more self-referential conditioned thinking.  [7] Vipassana - Introspective Insight

One can spend eternity in these distracting pursuits. Concentration supports the refined mindfulness necessary for recognizing and abandoning all wrong views.  Concentration supports the refined mindfulness necessary for integrating the Eightfold Path as the framework for developing profound Right View

Jhana meditation will develop a non-distracted quality of mind. This brings the ability to recognize and abandon all conditioned mind states.  Ineffective “meditation” practices are abandoned.  As stated in the introduction, the Buddha practiced and mastered the most “advanced” meditation techniques of his time - still practiced today - and rejected them as “not leading to the goal” and “not supporting unbinding.”

The Buddha likened establishing a meditation practice to taming a wild elephant. In order for a young elephant to be useful, it must be able to focus and follow direction. To tame a young elephant, a strong rope would be tied around the elephant's neck and to a strong post or tree. The elephant would immediately begin thrashing around, flapping its ears, stomping the ground, and making loud grunts and bellows, very unhappy to not be able to wander around, aimlessly engaging in any distraction that arose.

The more resistant the young elephant became, the stronger the rope held. Eventually, the elephant would put aside its desire for continual distraction and sensual fulfillment and it would settle down.

In this metaphor, an untrained mind is the young elephant, the rope is mindfulness of the breath, and the strong post or tree is the breath.

As one begins to establish a meditation practice, the mind is often thrashing about, resistant to settling down.  Thoughts insist on wandering aimlessly with strong desire to continue distraction by following one thought with another, continually describing their own self-created reality.

As mindful awareness of the breath develops the mind calms and concentration deepens. By utilizing the simple technique of Jhana meditation it becomes possible to quiet a constantly distracted mind. With sustained gentle practice guided by the Eightfold Path, clinging, compulsive thinking settles down.

Returning to the metaphor, once the elephant has learned to remain mindful of the post, the rope is loosened and the elephant is finally free. Once tranquility and concentration deepens, the need to describe reality based on desirous thoughts driven by attachment and aversion is interrupted, and useful and skillful insight arises.

As concentration increases, integrating The Eightfold Path begins to clear "fetters" or "hindrances." Fetters are agitated mind states which can make quieting the mind much more difficult if not impossible. As practical insight into Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, and Right Mindfulness develops, fetters subside and Right Meditation becomes increasingly more effective.

In this way it is quickly seen that Jhana meditation is one aspect of a complete path that develops profound wisdom, pure virtue, and unwavering concentration necessary for ending ignorance and for Becoming Buddha.

Meditation Posture

There is nothing magical or mystical about a meditation posture. The typical meditation posture of seated on the floor with legs folded against the torso is simply a way to sit comfortably during meditation. The meditation posture should be stable, relaxing and support a quiet and alert mind. It should provide a reasonable amount of comfort, avoiding physical distraction for the meditation period. At first, any posture may prove uncomfortable, and the posture described below will become more comfortable with time. It is preferable to sit on the floor supported by a zafu (pillow made for meditation) placed over a zabuton (a larger, flatter mat to support the legs). The zafu should be from 6 to 8 inches thick and is often filled with cotton, buckwheat, or kapok.

When sitting on the zafu place your sit bones on the front third of the zafu and allow your hips to drop in front of you. With your legs straight in front of you, bend your right leg at the knee and place your right foot under your left thigh and near your left buttock. Bend your left leg at the knee and place your left foot approximately in the crease formed by your right thigh and calf, resting on your calf. For more support you can place yoga blocks or a rolled towel under your knees. This posture may be uncomfortable at first, but with time and patience this will prove to be a stable base with which to build a meditation practice on. This is known as the  half-lotus or Burmese posture.

If you are particularly nimble, you may want to sit in the full-lotus position. The full-lotus is the same as the half-lotus except for placing the right foot on top of the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh. Again, there is nothing advantageous about the full-lotus over the half-lotus unless it affords you more stability and comfort.

From this stable base, keep your back straight but not stiff, not leaning forward or back. Align your ears with your shoulders and your nose with your navel. Place your left hand on top of your right palm with the thumbs tips lightly touching forming an approximate egg-shape with the thumbs and forefingers. Again, there is nothing magical or mystical about this hand placement. When done consistently it leads to quicker relaxation and lessens physical distraction.

An alternative to sitting on a zafu is to use a low bench called a seiza in a sitting-kneeling position usually over a blanket or zabuton.

If sitting on the floor proves too uncomfortable, it is acceptable to sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, your back straight but not stiff, ears aligned with your shoulders and nose aligned with your navel. Lying down is the least effective regular meditation posture as it will usually lead to drowsiness. If lying on your back is the only choice due to injury or illness, make the best of it and avoid drowsiness. If drowsiness ensues, stop meditation and begin again when refreshed.

Jhana Meditation Technique

  • To begin your Jhana meditation, take a few slow, deep breaths, exhaling fully.
  • Remind yourself that now is the time for meditation. Now is the time to place mindfulness on the breath-in-the-body and do Jhana.
  • Gently close your eyes and gently close your mouth leaving a soft smile.
  • Breathing through your nose, notice your breath entering your body. Be mindful of both your inhalation and your exhalation, your breath arising and passing away.
  • This is a direct experience of the impermanence of all phenomena. Do not attempt to regulate your breathing in any way. However your body wants to breathe, place your mindfulness on the pure sensation of breathing.
  • Take a few minutes to sit with mindfulness of the breath.
  • Notice that feelings and thoughts arise and pass away. Return your awareness to your breath.
  • As feelings and thoughts continue to arise and pass away return your awareness to your breath.
  • Gently put distractions aside, not following one thought with another thought, and place your mindful awareness on your breathing.
  • Gently put distractions aside, not following one thought with another thought, and place your mindful awareness on your breathing.
  • This is being mindful of the breath, holding in mind your breath in your body.
  • This begins to establish the process of deepening concentration and unifying mind and body.

This is Jhana practice - being mindful of the breath in the body while thoughts and feelings flow without notice or distraction. Remember that a trance-like state or the forced elimination of all thoughts is not a goal of meditation. We are conscious beings - thoughts and feelings should be flowing. The purpose of meditation is to increase concentration and not be distracted by thoughts and feelings. When you find that you are distracted  by your thoughts and feelings, return mindfulness to the sensation of breathing-in-your-body.

As thought constructs or physical feelings arise, dispassionately remain mindful of them for a few moments. Acknowledge the thought or feeling as impermanent and return your mindfulness to your breathing.

You are developing concentration and spaciousness between thoughts. By experiencing your feelings and thoughts while remaining tranquil, you are directly interrupting conditioned reactions and conditioned thinking. By remaining tranquil as feelings and thoughts arise and pass away, you are training your mind to accept the people and events, including yourself, as they are. Dispassionate acceptance of feelings and thoughts as they arise and pass away interrupts conditioned thinking.

It is the reaction caused by conditioned thinking that creates perception of any event. Understanding now reveals the means for freedom and liberation from suffering. Let everything that arises go and return your mindfulness to the pure sensation of breathing-in-your-body..

As Jhana meditation practice develops, the insight and spaciousness realized in sitting practice will become more and more apparent in your life off of your cushion. You will find that you are more peaceful and less reactive. You will find you are more present and mindful of who you are in the present moment. You will find ever-deepening concentration.

Remember that you are not seeking a trance-like or blank mental state. Concentration cannot increase in a trance. Jhana meditation interrupts compulsively following one thought with another thought by being mindful of the sensation of breathing in our body.

If unpleasant thoughts arise, put them aside and return to the sensation of breathing in your body. If pleasant thoughts arise, put them aside and return to the sensation of breathing in your body. If visions arise, pleasant or unpleasant, grand or mundane, dispassionately put them aside and return to the sensation of breathing in your body.

Whatever arises during meditation practice is simply part of what is to be recognized as impermanent and insubstantial and are to be put aside while returning mindfulness to your breathing-in-your-body..

Establishing a Meditation Practice

The second and sixth factors of The Eightfold Path, Right Intention and Right Effort, greatly support meditation practice. The strong resolve of Right Intention is to recognize and abandon craving and clinging. Being mindful of Right Effort will provide the framework needed to develop and maintain a meditation practice.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge when beginning a meditation practice, and often as practice develops, is organizing life for practice. The busy-ness and nearly constant distractions of life are always creating the illusion that we are just too busy to practice. The irony is that we often find that we have more time for the most important aspects of our lives when we do make the time for meditation practice.

Being mindful of Right Intention and Right Effort, make a commitment to practice. Put aside set times, preferably twice a day, for meditation practice. It is most skillful to sit as soon as possible after waking before becoming distracted or sidetracked by a daily routine. Simply doing this begins to diminish conditioned mind’s desire to avoid quieting down.

Right Effort is keeping in fit physical, mental and spiritual condition as well. Getting enough rest, eating healthy, and physical exercise are all a part of Right Effort.

Any exercise is a support for meditation practice. Walking "meditation" is a very skillful way to combine exercise and meditation. Walking "meditation" is not a substitute for sitting meditation.

Nothing will bring the mind to a state of quiet receptivity necessary for insight to arise as will an effective sitting practice.

When doing walking “meditation,” walk slowly with hands folded in front of your abdomen or behind you. Avoid extremely slow walking - this is a modern form of asceticism. Maintain mindfulness of your breath and your walking, being aware of each step as your foot touches the earth. Please note that walking “meditation” is not useful as a concentration practice and is best seen as pleasant mindful walking. There is no substitution for sitting quietly twice a day while engaging  in Jhana.

Qigong is a very effective exercise that combines slow movements and mindful breath awareness. Qigong increases peaceful energy and builds flexibility, strength and well being. Some forms of yoga (asanas) can also build flexibility, strength and overall well-being though the underlying philosophy often contradicts the Buddha's teachings.

Once a decision to begin a meditation practice has been made, organizing Ife for practice is the first step in establishing an ongoing practice. Committing to meditation twice a day and, within reason, keeping to this schedule is itself part of practice. The most skillful time to practice is when aversion to sitting arises. Meditating, when aversion to meditation arises, diminishes the effects of conditioned thinking, including the conditioned thinking of aversion to practice.

As stated previously, meditating upon arising in the morning is usually the most effective time to schedule a first sitting session. If possible, meditating approximately 12 hours later in the day will provide a skillful balance to practice. If the only other time for practice is just before bed, be mindful of drowsiness. If it is at times difficult to maintain alertness, try to adjust your schedule to earlier in the day.

If it is possible to set aside a room solely for meditation, keep the room clean and clutter free. The room should also be well ventilated and seasonally not too hot or cold. A candle to light during meditation and perhaps a small statue of the Buddha as a mindful reminder of awakening can be an initial point of focus, but are not necessary. If it is not possible to designate an entire room to your practice, a corner of a room that can be maintained as above will work just as well.

Developing a routine of place, time, posture and technique will greatly enhance commitment to practice and help subdue conditioned mind’s desire to avoid the peaceful refuge of practice.

It is best to begin a meditation practice with just a few minutes of sitting at a time. By initially sitting for two or three minutes at a time you will not become disappointed or conclude that meditation is too difficult. As you become comfortable with two or three minutes of practice, gradually add a minute or two to your meditation time. Stay at this length of meditation practice until you are comfortable and feel it is time to lengthen your meditation practice again.

It is most skillful not to push yourself too hard and too fast, and also not to avoid increasing your practice time when appropriate. If you have a teacher or someone who has some experience in establishing a meditation practice, seek their counsel as well.

Establishing a mediation practice will be much more effective if done daily for short periods of time rather than long periods of meditation only occasionally.

Meditation practice is not an endurance test and should not create more stress by having too high expectations of your self and your practice. The strongest impediment to establishing a meditation practice will prove to be your own judgments of your practice.

Joining a regular meditation group that stays focused within the framework of The Eightfold Path is a great support to meditation practice.

If you are following the instructions, putting aside thoughts as they arise, not following a thought with a thought as best as you can, and returning your awareness to the sensation of breathing in your body, you are establishing a meditation practice.

Avoid judging yourself or your practice harshly. Always be loving and gentle with yourself and others and enjoy your practice.

Peace.

  1. The Noble Search For The Noble Path
  2. Nagara Sutta - The Buddha Describes His Awakening
  3. Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  4. Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  5. Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas
  6. Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  7. Vipassana - Skillful Insight
  8. Satipatthana Sutta - Four Foundations of Mindfulness
  9. Kimsuka Sutta - A Swift Pair Of Messengers
  10. Yuganaddha Sutta
  11. Anapanasati Sutta
  12. Three Marks Of Existence - Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha

 

Karaniya Metta Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 1.8

Introduction

The Karaniya Metta Sutta is the Buddha's words on Good Will and Loving-kindness. This is a translation from the Amaravati Sangha and describes both the moral and ethical aspirations of one engaged with the Buddha's Dhamma and the refined mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path.

Note the concluding stanza: "Being freed from all sense desires, Is not born again into this world."

This means that Metta, true goodwill and loving-kindness, is an expression of one who has developed the Buddha's teachings and has freed themselves of the world's entanglements. Having recognized and abandoned the defilements of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking, through the framework of the Eightfold Path, there is nothing to give rise to a confused and deluded ego-personality.

In accordance with the Buddha's description of emptiness, one has emptied themselves of clinging and emptied the world of their ego-self. There is nothing clinging to the phenomenal world, anatta is no longer born again in the world.

The Karaniya Metta sutta shows that the most loving and compassionate action that anyone can take is to engage wholeheartedly with the direct teachings of the Buddha and awaken.

The Karaniya Metta Sutta

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.

Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.

By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

 

Metta Intentional Meditation Instructions

Metta is a fundamental meditation practice of freeing yourself of ill-will towards others and yourself. Practicing Metta purifies your mind by developing loving, kind and compassionate thoughts.

It is as much a way of setting a skillful intention as a meditation. Metta is helpful when you find you are being harsh with yourself or holding harsh judgments toward others.

It is a skillful practice to use as part of your regular meditation practice. Metta is an effective practice to close your Jhana meditation. It is also helpful when having difficulty with your Jhana practice due to harboring ill-will with yourself or others. Start with Metta and then engage Jhana.

Metta is a wonderful and powerful way to free your mind of greed, hatred, and deluded thinking and the Five Hindrances to Dhamma practice.

Metta Intentional Meditation

Quiet your mind with Shamatha-Vipassana Meditation, put thoughts aside as they arise and place your awareness on the sensation of breathing in the body for a few minutes.

Metta Intentional Meditation always begins with yourself. You first express loving-kindness to yourself so that you can then express loving-kindness to all sentient beings.

Be mindful of yourself. Keeping in mind the first object of Metta meditation, yourself, and generating feelings of deep love and compassion for the object of this meditation, repeat the following slowly and peacefully:

May I be filled with Loving-kindness, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease, may I be happy

May I be filled with Loving-kindness, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease, may I be happy

May I be filled with Loving-kindness, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease, may I be happy

Next bring to mind someone you care deeply for, and generating feelings of deep love and compassion for the object of this meditation:

May they be filled with Loving-kindness, may they be well, may they be peaceful and at ease, may they be happy

May they be filled with Loving-kindness, may they be well, may they be peaceful and at ease, may they be happy

May they be filled with Loving-kindness, may they be well, may they be peaceful and at ease, may they be happy

Next bring to mind someone you may be in conflict with, a difficult relationship, and generating feelings of deep love and compassion for the object of this meditation:

May they be filled with Loving-kindness, may they be well, may they be peaceful and at ease, may they be happy

May they be filled with Loving-kindness, may they be well, may they be peaceful and at ease, may they be happy

May they be filled with Loving-kindness, may they be well, may they be peaceful and at ease, may they be happy

Next bring to mind someone you feel neutral about, and generating feelings of deep love and compassion for the object of this meditation:

May they be filled with Loving-kindness, may they be well, may they be peaceful and at ease, may they be happy

May they be filled with Loving-kindness, may they be well, may they be peaceful and at ease, may they be happy

May they be filled with Loving-kindness, may they be well, may they be peaceful and at ease, may they be happy

Next bring to mind those closest to you, then your spiritual community, then all of those in your local community, then all of us on this planet and all of creation, to include all sentient beings and generating feelings of deep love and compassion for all sentient beings:

May all sentient beings be filled with Loving-kindness, may all sentient beings be well, may all sentient beings be peaceful and at ease, may all sentient beings be happy

May all sentient beings be filled with Loving-kindness, may all sentient beings be well, may all sentient beings be peaceful and at ease, may all sentient beings be happy

May all sentient beings be filled with Loving-kindness, may all sentient beings be well, may all sentient beings be peaceful and at ease, may all sentient beings be happy.

End Of Meditation

Metta is a powerful addition to meditation practice at any time and it's particularly useful when it is difficult to quiet the mind when holding negative views of self or others.

About john Haspel

John's 2020 New Years Message

An Auspicious 2020

You will succeed in truly spreading the Buddha's Dhamma here only if you are not afraid to challenge the desires and opinions of your students. If you do this, you will succeed; if you do not, if you change the teachings and the practice to fit the existing habits and opinions of people out of a misguided sense of wanting to please them, you will have failed in your duty to serve in the best way possible." (Ajahn Chah 1979)

Hi, I am John Haspel. I teach the Dhamma and I write on the original teachings of the Buddha. Since October of 2009, I have been teaching weekly Dhamma classes within the framework of the Eightfold Path in Frenchtown New Jersey, and other locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I also teach the Dhamma individually in person and online.

I am also a recovered alcoholic and drug addict.

I am the author of three books, Becoming Buddha - Becoming Awakened, The Truth of Happiness and The Spiritual Solution.

Information about my books is here: John Haspel's Books

At an early age I became disappointed, unsettled and confused with my life. The purpose of life seemed to be the acquisition of things and superior labels. External phenomena such as gender, skin color, religious and political beliefs, body type, scholastic achievements, financial status, and an almost endless list of temporary states appeared to define a person’s value and usefulness. Life was uncertain and nothing could bring certainty.

The competitiveness for the acquisition of things and superior labels seemed pointless and rife with struggle. No achievement or acquisition could bring lasting peace and happiness. I often blamed myself for my confusion and growing frustration.

While in an alcohol and drug rehab at the age of nineteen, a family member gave me two books that would point my thinking in a new direction. I read Siddartha by Hermann Hesse, and Think on These Things by  Jiddu Krishnamurti. While I understood little of what I read, I was able to recognize a new way to view the phenomenal world. I did not realize at the time that I was beginning to question my views of myself and the world.

I would drink and drug for another six years. Now twenty-five, and near death from the effects of alcohol and drug abuse, I took the 12 Steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program of recovery as originally presented. One of the 12 steps, step 11, emphasizes the need to develop spiritually through prayer and meditation.

Having been brought up in a Christian household I understood prayer (or thought I did) but I had no understanding of meditation. As I knew nothing of meditation, I wanted to dismiss it. Meditation was presented to me as necessary if I was to recover, and remembering the emphasis that the Buddha and Krishnamurti placed on meditation, I sought out meditation teachers.

I first learned Transcendental Meditation and practiced the TM technique for 4 years. I became disappointed with this technique as it did not seem to be able to provide any framework for developing understanding and only a measure of concentration. The Hindu rituals and dogma loosely associated with TM created more confusion for me. The need to be able to afford the more “advanced” levels of TM, or not be allowed the teachings, seemed just another aspect of the competitiveness and “bottom line” mentality that were all part of the confusing nature of the world.

I settled on Buddhism and studied and practiced in the Tibetan schools for many years. I attended many retreats and special teachings (known as empowerments) and learned of the beauty and depth of these teachings. The more I studied and practiced, the more elusive understanding became. The more I learned, the more confused I became. The more I learned, the more I was asked to take on faith.

This seemed contrary to what The Buddha would teach. I had to admit, though, that after many years of “Buddhist” study I likely knew little of what the Buddha actually taught. Ultimately I left Tibetan Buddhism.

I then spent some time simultaneously studying in the Zen schools (Zen, Chan, Soen) and in the New Kadampa Tradition sect. A few years into the NKT sect I found their teachings to have little to do with the teachings of the Buddha. The NKT seemed to have their own contrary philosophy by professing worship of a worldly deity, Dorje Shugden, and an intense hatred for the Dalai Llama. Neither seemed consistent with the Buddha’s teachings.

I then put my efforts into the various Zen schools, thinking that a less dogmatic or less mystical teaching may be more in line with what I could use to develop understanding. After extensive study, sesshin’s, and diligent practice, I found that I was still not developing understanding or finding anything that would likely lead me to understanding. I found nearly as much dogma and nearly as much mysticism in the Zen schools. Dependent Origination and The Four Noble Truths seemed to be treated more as an anachronism rather than the defining understanding of the Buddha’s teachings.

I also studied in the Shambala and Triratna "traditions." Even then the whispers of drug abuse and sexual abuse by the founders of these schools, and the dismissal of these allegations by the organizations themselves was troubling. I questioned how the founders of these schools could teach something that would allow for such brutal and hurtful behavior, and be so easily dismissed by the followers. Something was obviously missing from these teachings, no matter how popular they were.

I came to understand through the Buddha's Dhamma that it is the nature of a mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths to fabricate subtle but very powerful strategies to continue to ignore ignorance.

Through all these different teachings and association's, it seemed that “becoming” a Tibetan Buddhist, or a Zen Buddhist, or Chan or Soen Buddhist, or an NKT Buddhist, or a Shambala Buddhist, or a Triratna Buddhist, was more important than actually developing useful understanding and awakening as a human being. There was much more emphasis on adapting to, and adopting, the individual and cultural embellishments to the original teachings as there was in developing an understanding of the nature of confusion, delusion, and suffering.

In these later-developed schools, it was first necessary to learn the dogma, rituals, and methods of each school, no small matter, and then engage with their particular teachings for “many lifetimes” in order to gain any understanding. There exists a subtle, and often not so subtle, elitism within most of these schools. I came to understand that the Buddha did not teach any of these individual or cultural embellishments as part of his Dhamma, and nothing that would support the nearly universal hierarchical elitism so prevalent in all these schools.

After careful and intensive study, I became convinced that these later schools would not be able to develop in me the Buddha’s stated goal of release from all views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths, and the resulting stress and suffering. [1]

I then looked to the Theravadin school. I found much of what I was looking for in “the teachings of the elders” but I found that the mystical aspects and reliance on the Abhidhamma still practiced by many Theravadins confusing and not helpful to developing understanding. I found the modern “Vipassana” movement, considered a sub-school of Theravada, to be stripped of most of the Buddha’s original teachings in favor of an extensive and hybridized meditation technique.

This was my experience. Many people have gained a measure of belonging and comfort from all of these schools, and the many other modern “Buddhist” schools.

Many years of extensive study and practice left me more confused and frustrated. I had put in the time and studied with many of the foremost teachers. I read the writings of all the great Mahayana teachers. Yet I was more confused as to what the Buddha taught then when I first began studying the Dhamma 25 years prior.

I decided that I would try to separate what the Buddha likely taught from what developed later. I learned that the original teachings of the Buddha were still available and preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of The Pali Canon. [2] I learned that the Hinayana form of Buddhism was more consistent with the original teachings than the later-developed Mahayana teachings.

As I studied the Pali Canon, in particular, the translations of Thanissaro Bhikkhu and the books by Bhikkhu Bodhi, it became clear that the Buddha taught that he was a human being who, through his own efforts, “awakened” to the truth of the origination of all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing stress and unhappiness. As preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, Dependent Origination [3] clearly shows that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that forms the requisite condition for confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing suffering to arise. When I finally understood that everything the Buddha would teach for his entire forty-five-year teaching career was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths, the Dhamma become useful, understandable, and immediately effective. What was required of me was to actually develop the Dhamma as an awakened human being actually taught his Dhamma

I found that if his Dhamma was engaged in wholeheartedly, the Buddha used the word “ehipassiko,” (come and see for yourself) any human being could develop an understanding of dukkha and experience the cessation of confusion, delusion, and suffering.

The path he taught was an Eightfold Path of developing heightened wisdom, virtue and concentration. The Buddha taught that nothing needed to be taken on blind faith.

The Buddha taught that with conviction arising from a basic understanding of the Four Noble Truths, a “Right View” of the world could be achieved.

I found that there were no special rituals, chants, initiations or empowerments taught by the Buddha that were necessary to develop understanding.

The Buddha taught a specific meditation technique with specific goals. This meditation technique, Jhana meditation, was to be practiced within the entire framework of the Eightfold Path if it would contribute to and support awakening.

I found that the Buddha described awakening not as finding an essential inner nature, or “Buddha-nature” but as unbinding from all views that developed from a doctrine of “I.” The Buddha described the state of mind of an awakened human being not as “Buddha-nature,” or “Buddha-hood,” but as released, unbound, and calm.

I found that there were 12 causative links, known as Dependent Origination, that simply and directly describe how suffering arises from ignorance of the Four Noble Truths. I found the Buddha's Dhamma developed very specific insight into Three Marks Of Existence. [4]

I found that what I had previously thought of as my “self” was an impermanent and insubstantial creation of my own ignorance. This “self” was a composition of 5 psycho/physical aggregates - Five Clinging-Aggregates - that cling together, and cling to phenomena. It is these Five Clinging-Aggregates [5]that I have projected a doctrine of self onto and into, and it is this impermanent "self" that is prone to confusion and suffering.

This cleared much of the confusion of other teachings that taught a continued doctrine of self within a cosmic environment and inter-dependent and interconnected to (clinging to) other conditioned objects.

I found that I did not have to reconcile my understanding of the Buddha’s teachings with every other philosophy or “spiritual” teaching, “Buddhist” or otherwise. I developed this understanding by learning that the Buddha felt no such compulsion to reconcile the Dhamma to the prevailing beliefs or religions of his day. I found that the Buddha did not concern himself with having to prove through magical, mystical, scientific, or any other means, the truth of his Dhamma.

Here is an article of the confusion that often arises from the need to reconcile all the many Buddhist schools into a one-size-fits-all Buddhism:  Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of View

I found that the Buddha taught an Eightfold Path [6] to awakening that any human being who whole-heartedly engaged with the Dhamma, as he presented his Dhamma, could, and often did awaken.

Most importantly, I found a Dhamma that I could engage with and understand. I found a Dhamma that developed in a direct way understanding without becoming confused or distracted with dogma, ritual or "spiritual" acquisition.

I found that the problem of suffering was due to my own need to establish and maintain a doctrine of self, and the Buddha’s Dhamma develops the understanding to abandon all views arising from a doctrine of self.

I found, through direct inquiry of the Buddha’s Dhamma, a peaceful and calm mind, and lasting peace and happiness.

SUPPORTJOHN HASPEL

 

  1. Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  2. Pail Canon
  3. Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  4. Three Marks Of Existence - Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  5. Five Clinging-Aggregates
  6. Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

Classes And Instruction

Cross River Meditation Center
Weekly Schedule

Directions and Individual Instruction information is below.
Becoming Buddha Teacher Training

Tuesday 7:15 PM Dhamma Class At Cross River Meditation center

Saturday 8:30 AM Dhamma Class At Cross River Meditation center

Third Saturday 10:30 AM
QiGong With Matt Branham At Cross River Meditation center

All Classes Streamed Live

Please check my newsletter for any incidental schedule changes.
Class cancellation due to winter weather will be posted on the homepage.

John Teaching 2Our classes are appropriate for beginners as well as experienced meditators and our sangha is welcoming and supportive. A typical class begins with Jhana meditation followed by a Dhamma talk and sangha Q&A and discussion. We close meditation classes with a five minute guided Metta intentional meditation.

If you are new to meditation and mindfulness or to the direct teachings of the Buddha, please visit For New Visitors.

We request a $20 donation for our classes. All are always welcome regardless of donation.

Please arrive a few minutes early.

Directions are below. 

 Please feel free to contact us with any questions. To be notified of any changes in our schedule please subscribe to our newsletter.

We look forward to sharing the Dhamma with you. Peace.

Cross Rive Meditation Center Directions

 

Individual Instruction

John is available for individual dhamma instruction and guidance in person, via telephone, and online video conference.

In person, individual sessions are at the Cross River Meditation Center in Frenchtown New Jersey.

If you feel that individual instruction will be helpful developing understanding of the Buddha's Dhamma, please contact John through the contact form here:

Fees are a sliding scale from $0 to $85 per hour.

Please do not let a current impermanent financial situation prevent you from learning and integrating the Dhamma.
I am more than happy to discuss this and find an arrangement that is equitable. Peace.

Knowing True Refuge

 

Knowing True Refuge

Two suttas consistently misunderstood, misquoted, and misapplied in modern Buddhism are the Ratana and Kalama Suttas. The common occurrence of adapting, accommodating, and embellishing what an awakened human being actually taught only continues ignorance of the Buddha’s Dhamma.

The Buddha never presented himself as a magic-producing eternal god-among-gods, or his Dhamma as a continually re-imagined mystical soup, or a super-natural sangha holding special and often unattainable “insight” and “empowerments.”

In the Ratana Sutta, the human Buddha teaches to take refuge in an awakened human being - that human beings CAN awaken, to take refuge in his timeless, authentic, direct, and entirely practical Dhamma, and to take refuge in a well-focused and well-informed sangha restring in concentration and refined mindfulness established through the Heartwood of the Dhamma - The Noble Eightfold Path.

The irony here is that these two suttas, as originally taught by Siddartha Gotama 2,600 years ago, continues to provide the guidance and focus for skillful and effective Dhamma practice. It is skillful and effective Dhamma practice that avoids the institutionalized ignorance prevalent in modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement.  It is skillful and effective Dhamma practice that develops recognition of fabricated beliefs and abandons clinging to the fabricated belief that the Buddha would actually teach endless contradictory magical and mystical un-focused and constantly adapted “dharmas” that one should pick and choose from and call the resulting fabricated “dharmas” Buddhist Practice.

As seen in the Kalama Sutta, this grasping-after-dharmas is precisely what Siddartha taught to recognize and quickly abandon. In the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha teaches a group confused by their own grasping-after-dharma practice that his Dhamma can only be known and developed through wholehearted individual engagement with his Dhamma as he taught 2,600 years ago.

↓ Kalama Sutta ↓

Ratana Sutta Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked at the end of this article. ([x])

Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering, and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  [1]

His first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the singular path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [2,3]

Refuge is a place or state of mind that is a protection or a shelter from hardship or danger. Refuge is a place or state of mind that is a source of comfort and peace.

True refuge is found in:

1. The Buddha
2. The Dhamma
3. The Sangha

Nearly all schools of Buddhism refer to "The Triple Refuge" or taking refuge in “The Three Jewels.” In modern Buddhism By Common Agreement, the meaning of true refuge is often altered and adapted to allow for non-specific culturally and individually influenced “dharmas.” This then intentionally avoids the effective refuge found in the Buddha’s Dhamma and ignores recognizing the ignorance that is the Heartwood of the Buddha’s Dhamma. [3]

The teaching known as the “Jewel Discourse” or the “Ratana Sutta” was given in the city of Vesali at a time of widespread famine and spreading disease. There were many dead bodies as the conditions overwhelmed the ability to properly dispose of bodies. The local citizens sought out the Buddha’s help, who was nearby in Rajagaha.

My comments below are in italics.

Ratana Sutta Talks

Ratana Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 2.1

At that time the city of Vesali there was widespread famine and spreading disease. There were many dead bodies as the conditions overwhelmed the ability to properly dispose of bodies. The local citizens sought out the Buddha’s help, who was nearby in Rajagaha. The Buddha arrived in Vesali a short time later with a large number of monks, including Ananda. Just before the Buddha’s arrival, torrential rains helped the situation somewhat by cleansing the landscape of rotting corpses and clearing the air and water.

Prior to his presenting this discourse, he instructed his attending monks to walk through the city and do what they could to ease the physical suffering of the citizens and to individually present this teaching. At the formal teaching the Buddha then presented a way to bring true refuge from the stress and suffering of the world and to  put an end to all dukkha:

“May all beings assembled have peace of mind. May all beings assembled listen mindfully to these words. May you all radiate goodwill and loving-kindness to all who offer help and understanding to you. Understand this: "There is no more precious jewel, no more refuge, no more comfort, than the Buddha.  As woodland groves in the early heat of summer are crowned with blossoming flowers, so is the sublime Dhamma leading to the calm and peace of nirvana. The peerless and excellent awakened one, the teacher of true understanding, the teacher of the Noble Path is the Buddha, The one who has awakened.

Here the Buddha is not teaching worship of himself. The Buddha often referred to himself as the “Tathagata,” the one who has gone forth. The Buddha had gone forth from distraction and ignorance, stress and suffering, to well-concentrated wisdom. He liberated himself from clinging to all objects and views. Through his own efforts, Siddartha Gotama awakened to become a Buddha. The Buddha is here offering himself as the example of one going forth and actually developing the Eightfold Path. This also establishes the qualification for teaching an authentic Dhamma. [4]

Taking refuge in the Buddha is understanding that all human beings can go forth from ignorance and attain wisdom and Right Understanding. There is great protection and comfort in understanding that liberation and freedom is possible for all human beings who wholeheartedly develop the Buddha’s Dhamma.

"There is no more precious jewel than the teachings of the Buddha, the Dhamma. Understanding this brings true liberation and freedom. The Buddha, calm and mindful has experienced the cessation of clinging and desire. The Deathless state of nirvana has been attained. The Buddha teaches the Noble Eightfold Path that unfailingly brings concentration, liberation, and freedom. There is no more precious jewel than the Buddhadhamma.

The Buddha is describing that there is a precious jewel in taking refuge in the path of liberation and freedom. In this setting in Vesali, the Buddha is teaching that once practical needs have been taken care of to turn one's attention to being mindful of the actual teachings of the Buddha and his emphasis on the Eightfold Path - the Heartwood of the Dhamma.

"There is no more precious jewel than the Sangha. Understanding this brings true liberation and freedom. The virtuous ones who bring the Dhamma, they are the Jewel of The Sangha. Those with steadfast minds, free of clinging, they are the jewel of the Sangha. Those that understand with wisdom The Four Noble Truths, they are the jewel of the Sangha. Those that gain true insight and abandon self-delusion, doubt, and indulgence in meaningless rites and rituals, They are the jewel of the sangha. Those beyond despair and evil-doings, They are the jewel of the sangha. Those whose understanding arises from the support of the sangha, who can no longer conceal the truth from themselves due to the sangha, they are the precious jewel of the sangha. Those whose karma is extinguished, the future of no concern, with rebirth ending, due to the support of the sangha, this is the precious jewel of the sangha.

End Of Sutta

The example of the Buddha's life, the teachings of the Buddha, the Dhamma, along with the support of a well-focused Sangha, provides true refuge from the suffering of distraction and ignorance arising from ignorance of his Dhamma. Being mindful of the three jewels concentrates the mind to what is of utmost importance.

A well-focused sangha informed and guided by the Buddha’s Dhamma continues the true refuge taught here. Much of modern Buddhism By Common Agreement no longer provides this true refuge. This sutta also shows the responsibility that Dhamma practitioners have in maintaining the authentic teachings of an awakened human being if they would hope to establish a true refuge of and for the Buddha’s Dhamma. [5,6]

Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels is taking great comfort in understanding that awakening is possible for any human being. The example of the Buddha’s life shows that.

There is great comfort in realizing that the way of liberation is a path accessible and integrated by anyone, the Eightfold Path. [3]

There is also great comfort in knowing that we do not engage in the path of liberation and freedom alone. The Buddha often said that the most important aspect of practice is the sangha. The support and commitment that we gain from each other often provides the encouragement and strength to continue, even when difficult times interfere. [6]

Holding in mind the Three Jewels provides continual direction for one's mindfulness.

Taking refuge in the Buddha, The Dhamma and the Sangha also provides a framework for mindful expression of joy and freedom.

This article is an excerpt from The Truth of Happiness

Linked Suttas For Further Study

  1. Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma
  5. Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views
  6. An Admirable Sangha - Upaddha Sutta

 

Kalama Sutta Introduction

The Kalama Sutta - A Refined Dhamma is an article on the unique and direct path the Buddha taught for the forty-five years of his teaching career.

“Abstain from wrong-doing, work for the good of all, purify your mind,” this is the teaching of the Buddha” (Dhammapada)

In the Kalama Sutta [1] the Buddha addresses greed, aversion and deluded thinking directly as a way of pointing out how other teachings fail to directly address the defilements, and in many cases inadvertently promote deluded behavior.

The Buddha then uses the qualities of generosity, non-clinging and well-concentrated refined mindfulness developed through The Eightfold Path as the framework for Dhamma practice. The Buddha points out that through awakening developed within the framework of The Eightfold Path one becomes “mindful and imbued with equanimity, free of ill-will, undefiled and pure.”

The Buddha consistently presented The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as unique and distinct, not as a common teaching that could be integrated into other teachings according to the hardened beliefs of individuals. It is the insistence that the Buddha’s teachings can and should be accommodated to individual and cultural beliefs that have resulted in confusing, contradictory, and ineffective “dharmas.”

He instructed the Kalama’s to not “go by other’s accounts, or by legends or traditions. Do not follow scriptures (later developed texts) or logical conjecture (conditioned thinking). Do not form conclusions through inference, analogies or common agreement.”

His admonition here to "question everything" must also be seen in the context in which he made this statement. Often gleefully and compulsively taken by many today as license to practice anything and everything and call it "Buddhist practice," taken in context it is clear that the Buddha is telling the Kalamas to question other teachings in the context of what he teaches and to then decide for yourself if the teachings are consistent with his Dhamma and effective. He also provides very skillful guidance how to precisely determine what his Dhamma is based on.

Another way that many have adapted his admonition to "question everything" was in reference to him telling students that "when uncertain, confused, or doubtful to question me directly" conveniently leaving out the part where the Buddha wants to be addressed directly. This should be obvious that there could be no useful answer by asking someone who has become confused by their own insistence that the Dhamma should be adapted to fit desired answers to questions that are rooted in ignorance and taken out of context.

The Buddha encouraged others to question his teachings directly to him so that he could provide an answer in the proper context, not to engage in endless debate or to convince someone of his Dhamma. The Buddha's response was only to provide guidance within the proper context. Of course, since the Buddha's passing, we can no longer question him directly but we can look to the only written record of his teachings still existing today, or question a teacher that has actually studied his teachings as preserved in the Pali Canon.

An article explaining the development of the Pali Canon and the maintenance of its authenticity is here: The Pali Canon

Kalama Sutta Talks

The Kalama Sutta

Anguttara Nikaya 3.65

The Buddha was walking with a large group from the sangha. They arrived at Kesaputta, the town of the Kalamas. The Kalamas have heard that the Buddha was an awakened human being who teaches a complete path that is admirable in the beginning, in the middle and in its conclusion.

The Kalamas went to the Buddha and told him of the many teachers that come through their town all claiming to have taught the one true “dhamma” while ridiculing other teachers and their teachings. “How are we to know which is a useful and effective dhamma and what is not.”

The Buddha replies “Of course you are uncertain and filled with doubt. When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty will follow. Do not go by reports, or legends, or traditions, or scripture, or conjecture, or inference, or analogies, or common agreement, or unexamined loyalty.

“When you know from your own experience that the qualities taught are unskillful, shameful, confusing, and distracting these teachings should be abandoned. When these teachings are criticized by the wise they should be abandoned. When these teachings lead to harm and suffering they should be abandoned.

“What do you think, Kalamas - when the three defilements of greed,
aversion and deluded thinking arise in a person do they arise for benefit or for harm?”

“The defilements always bring harm.”

“And when a person is driven by the defilements, their mind possessed, they kill other beings, they take what is not given, they take another’s spouse, they lie and induce other’s to lie, all of which create long-term harm and suffering for themselves and others.

“What do you think, Kalamas - are these defilements skillful or unskillful, shameful or shameless, criticized or praised by the wise?”

“The defilements are unskillful, shameful, and criticized by the wise.”

“When the defilements are acted upon do they lead to long-term suffering for one’s self and others, or not?”

“They always lead to long-term suffering for one’s self and others.”

“So as I said ‘Do not go by reports, or legends, or traditions, or scripture, or conjecture, or inference, or analogies, or common agreement, or unexamined loyalty. When you know from your own experience that the qualities taught are unskillful, shameful, confusing, and distracting these teachings should be abandoned. When these teachings are criticized by the wise they should be abandoned. When these teachings lead to harm and suffering they should be abandoned.’

“Now ‘do not go by reports, or legends, or traditions, or scripture, or conjecture, or inference, or analogies, or common agreement, or unexamined loyalty. When you know from your own experience that the qualities taught are skillful, shameless, unambiguous, and direct these teachings should be developed. When these teachings are praised by the wise they should be developed. When these teachings lead to unbinding and calm they should be developed.’

“What do you think, Kalamas - when the defilements do not arise in a person is this for their long-term welfare and happiness and for others long-term welfare and happiness?”

“For everyone’s long-term welfare and happiness.”

“And this person, free of the defilements, does not kill living beings or take what is not given or take another’s spouse, or lie or induce other’s to lie. So what do you think - are these qualities skillful, shameless, and praised by the wise?”

“They are, sir. When developed and acted on they bring long-term welfare and happiness to one’s self and others.”

“Now, Kalamas, one who follows the Dhamma, free of greed, aversion or deluded thinking, alert and mindful of the path, experiences their life imbued with good will. Everywhere they go their mindfulness is imbued with good will, with gratitude, with a mind resting in equanimity. They are abundant and free from all agitation towards themselves and all humanity.

“When one follows the Eightfold Path, free from greed, aversion, and deluded thinking, undefiled and pure, there are four qualities they will naturally develop:

1. They will give rise to pleasant experiences in the present.
2. They will give rise to pleasant experiences in the future.
3. If harm is dome with no intention no suffering will touch them.
4. If they remain harmless than they can know that they are pure and no suffering will touch them.

“These are the for qualities naturally developed in one free of the defilements from following the Dhamma.”

“Great Teacher, you have shown a way to those who were lost. Through clear reasoning, you have made the Dhamma clear and taught us how to know a true Dhamma. We take refuge in you the Great Teacher, in your Dhamma and in your Sangha. Please remember that from this day forward we have taken refuge.”

End Of Sutta

The Kalama Sutta concludes with the Buddha describing the results of awakening directly through the Eightfold Path: "Now, Kalamas, one who follows the Dhamma, free of greed, aversion or deluded thinking, alert and mindful of the path, experiences their life imbued with good will. Everywhere they go their mindfulness is imbued with good will, with gratitude, with a mind resting in equanimity. They are abundant and free from all agitation towards themselves and all humanity."

There continues to be strong desire to accommodate the Buddha’s direct teachings to fit cultural and individual traditions and hardened beliefs. The Buddha taught to avoid the desire to make his teachings fit self-referential views. He taught The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path as the framework for deciding what is skillful to be mindful of in order to recognize conditioned thinking, abandon clinging, and develop a life of lasting peace and happiness.

The Buddha taught a distinct and direct path to develop lasting peace and happiness. He also taught that recognizing differences in philosophies was not intolerant or in any way discriminatory. Anyone seeking the truth of their own existence should and must be encouraged to abandon that which proves to be distracting from that search.

Maintaining a refined focus is the essence of refined mindfulness of the Dhamma and will prevent the confusion and continuing distraction of attempting to incorporate all things into an initially refined, complete and specific dhamma.

Here is an article and talk on the Thicket Of Views that have developed in modern Buddhism as a result of ignoring the Buddha's direct teachings and adapting and accommodating his teachings to fit charismatic individuals and cultural views: Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views

Authentic Dhamma And Fabricated Dharmas

Siddartha Gotama developed a profound understanding of the true nature of individual human life and individual relationships with an ever-changing world. He taught a pure and effective Dhamma that continues to be available today. My teachings and this website preserves an awakened human being’s direct teachings. The structure of Becoming-Buddha.com  supports study developing insight into the endless adaptations, accommodations, and embellishments attached to a pure Dhamma.

My article on the Pali Canon and Sutta Pitaka below describes the remarkable connection between a pure Dhamma and the  establishment and preservation of the Buddha’s Dhamma.

My article on the thicket of competing and contradictory views that are Modern Buddhism  clearly explains how institutionalized ignorance of Four Noble Truths continues ignorance of an awakened human being’s Dhamma.

My article on the pervasive and cruel belief of "non-duality" shows this fabricated view contradicts the very foundation of the Buddha's Dhamma and the grasping-after fabricated views encouraged by modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement.

The Authenticity Of The Sutta Pitaka

 Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views 

Dependent Origination, Anatta, And The Myth Of Non-Duality

The Authenticity Of The Sutta Pitaka

This Dhamma article is an excerpt from my book Becoming Buddha. A preview of this book is available on Amazon.com

Introduction

It is not my intent here to disparage or diminish any Buddhist religion or practice. I hope to show, in a general way, the differences that have developed since the Buddha’s passing between what he taught as preserved in the second book of the Pali Canon - the Sutta Pitaka, the collection of the Buddha’s discourses, or “Sutta’s” - from later developed “Sutra’s and what has developed into the modern forms of Buddhism.

From heron when using the word “Sutta” I am referring to the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. “Sutra’s” refers to texts that have become incorporated into modern Buddhism but were taught supernaturally or created after the Buddha’s passing. I will use the word “Dhamma” when referring to the Buddha’s teachings as preserved in the Pali Canon and the word “dharma” when referring to the adapted and accommodated teachings that are not part of the original Canon.

More importantly, I hope to show that the Buddha's original teachings continue to be available and relevant today. The establishment and continuing careful maintenance of the original teachings of an awakened human being, and the authenticity of the Sutta’s is one of the most remarkable and important accomplishments in human history.

In this way anyone interested can understand clearly what the Buddha actually taught during his lifetime and what has been influenced over time by charismatic individuals and cultural influences.

It is often claimed that adapting and accommodating the Buddha’s original teachings is reasonable as it is impossible to authenticate the Pali Canon and so it is appropriate to rely solely on the adapted and accommodated dharma’s that have followed from the many individual and cultural influences over the past two thousand six hundred years.

I have spent the past thirty-five years of my life studying and practicing Buddhism in most of the modern schools. Prior to studying the direct teachings of the Buddha from the Sutta’s, I became increasingly confused and disappointed trying to wade through the many modern “Dharma’s,” all claiming authentic origination in the Buddha.  [1]

Source notes are listed at the end of this article and links to related articles on CrossRiverMeditation.com are noted (I.e. [1]) with the text.

It was not until studying the Sutta’s did the Buddha’s teachings become accessible and practical in developing the Buddha’s stated purpose and intent of his Dhamma: developing a profound understanding of the origination of all manner of confusion, deluded thinking and resulting Dukkha, and the clear path for recognition and abandoning all individual contributions to craving, clinging, and resulting unsatisfying and distracting experiences. This path, the Eightfold Path, is clearly and consistently presented throughout the Sutta’s.

While some of the modern schools of Buddhism continue to mention the Four Noble Truths, including the Eightfold Path, these key teachings are often presented as preliminary or conceptual rather than a practical path to be wholeheartedly engaged with.

Through the Sutta’s I came to understand one of the most misunderstood and miss-applied teachings - Dependent Origination - which clearly shows that it is through ignorance, through twelve observable causative links, all manner of suffering arises.

Dependent Origination is taught in many sutta’s and most significantly in Paticca-Samuppada-Vibhanga Sutta, [2] and the Nagara Sutta, [3] where the Buddha describes his own awakening in the direct context of Dependent Origination and the Eightfold Path.

Noting the primary differences between the Buddha’s teaching on Dependent origination and most modern presentations of Dependent Origination (or Dependent Co-Arising) will clearly show how the later-developed Buddhist doctrines have developed contradictory Dharma’s through ignoring this foundational teaching.

It is for this reason that I place great importance on understanding and acknowledging the significant differences in Buddhist practices that have developed in the twenty-six hundred years since the Buddha’s passing.

It is for this reason that I finally refined my practice to only what can be found in the Sutta’s.

It is for this reason that I teach only what can be found in the Sutta’s.

For me, it is the only way that I can practice all aspects of the Eightfold Path in all area’s of my life with emphasis on Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood.

In this text I will use Pali terms as much as possible as Pali is the language that is very similar to the language the Buddha spoke and the language used first in the oral tradition and later in the first written accounts of the Canon. Occasionally I will use the more common Sanskrit terms solely to avoid confusion.

Modern Buddhism has developed from the practical and direct “path” taught by one awakened human being in his lifetime to multi-faceted and often contradictory religions. As will be shown later in this article many individual and cultural influences have adapted the original teachings to fit a view of “Buddhism” that accommodates individual and cultural predispositions.

These accommodations in no way diminish the many modern Buddhist religions or the individuals or cultures that have influenced Buddhist practice but they have diminished or dismissed entirely what the Buddha actually taught. Any study of religion is a study of adaptation and accommodation.

What has resulted from the many adaptations to the Buddha’s original teachings is a modern “Thicket of views” that often contradict in purpose, intent, and actual practice what the Buddha actually taught. This modern thicket of views has made an easily understood and accessible path to awakening, to full human maturity, into a confusing and often inaccessible mix of mystical scriptures, intricate visualizations, mantra’s, repetitive physical exercise, deity and guru worship, and contemplative and analytical “meditation” and mindfulness practices that have little or no foundation in the actual teachings of the Buddha. [4]

The Pali Canon consists of three distinct collections known today as Tipitaka, the three baskets. The first two, the Vinaya Pitaka and the Sutta Pitaka were recorded through an established oral tradition at the First Buddhist Council about one month after the Buddha’s passing. The third basket, the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, contains an intricate analysis of mundane phenomena and psychological and mystical teachings. The Abhidhamma Piṭaka developed over time beginning with the Second Buddhist Council.

The development of the Abhidhamma and its inclusion in the Pali Canon is explained in additional detail further on.

What is remarkable throughout the Sutta Pitaka is the consistency and relevancy of the suttas to the Buddha’s very first teaching - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. [5] Everything the Buddha taught during his forty-five year teaching career was taught in the context of this very first teaching and with the purpose of developing understanding of these Four Truths.

It is when these teachings have been taken out of the context intended that the Buddha’s dhamma becomes difficult to understand and practically apply. It is when these teachings have been taken out of the context of what the Buddha awakened to - Dependent Origination - that overcoming ignorance of Four Noble Truths is diminished in importance, or entirely dismissed. [6]

I struggled with finding anything that I could apply practically and became increasingly more confused from the many contradictions in modern Buddhism. It was not until I studied the Pali Canon directly and began to develop the Eightfold Path that the Buddha’s teachings had any true relevancy and usefulness to my life.

The Development of the Pali Canon

The first book of the Pali Canon is the Vinaya Pitaka, a collection of rules for monastics. It is valuable in understanding the political and cultural climate within which the buddha’s teaching developed. As will be seen below, the preservation of the Vinaya Pitaka has followed the same course as the preservation of the Sutta Pitaka.

The second book of the Pali Cannon is the Sutta Pitaka and it contains all the discourses, or suttas, of the Buddha. There are over 10,000 suttas in the five "Nikaya's" or smaller collections. The five Nikaya's are:

1. The Digha Nikaya - The Long Discourses

2. The Majjhima Nikaya - The Middle Length Discourses

3. The Samyutta Nikaya - The Grouped Discourses, grouped by theme.

4. The Anguttara Nikaya - The Expanded Discourses grouped by the number of topics covered.

5. The Khuddaka Nikaya - The Collection of "Short Books" consisting of 15 books. (The Burmese Tipataka has 18 books)

The preservation of the authenticity of the direct teachings of the Buddha is due to the practical application of the Buddha’s teachings themselves. Those that first preserved the Buddha’s direct teachings through oral recitation had developed well-concentrated and well-focused minds through the Buddha’s Dhamma.

The essence of the Buddha’s teaching is a personal and direct experience of the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha's own teachings provided the integrity needed to maintain the authenticity of the Pali Canon.

The First Buddhist Council

During his teaching career the Buddha’s discourses were memorized by senior monks and nuns contemporaneously and repeated in small groups to check for accuracy. These monks and nuns had extraordinary memories, likely due to their highly developed concentration. By repeating these memorized discourses, they were able to accurately maintain the teachings. This is likely the beginning of Buddhist Chant and was not so much a religious ritual as it was a most skillful way to preserve and present the dhamma through repetition.

This method of maintaining an accurate record of the teachings of the Buddha continued after the Buddha’s passing. The First Buddhist Council was held 3 months after the Buddha’s passing in Rajagaha. The purpose of this council, and subsequent councils, was to maintain the authenticity of the Buddha’s dhamma.

A well-respected monk, Maha Kassapa, convened the first council. He was joined by approximately 500 other monks who had fully developed the Buddha’s teachings.

It was decided that the recording of the Buddha’s lifetime of teaching should be separated into the two general categories mentioned earlier. The Vinaya would be recounted by Upali, known for his thorough understanding of monastic discipline, and checked for accuracy from the others in attendance. This became the first book of the Pali Canon - the Vinaya Pitaka.

Ananda was the Buddha’s chief attendant during the last twenty-five years of the Buddha’s teaching career. Ananda was known to have a word-perfect memory. He was questioned on verifiable facts about the location of the discourse he was reciting, the subject being taught, and the person or people present when the discourse was presented. It was accepted that Ananda retained a true, accurate, and complete recollection of the Buddha’s teachings.

While there were written texts at the time of the Buddha, an oral recounting that could be directly verified by others, including the Buddha when he was alive, was considered a much more accurate way of preserving the authenticity of the Vinaya and the sutta’s rather, than an individual written record.

Over the next seven months, the 500 monks recited their own memories of the Buddha’s teachings. These recitations were compared for consistency and accuracy. It was then accepted by the entire council that what was presented was an accurate and complete presentation of the teachings of the Buddha. This became the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon.

There was no mention at this first council of anything that would later be the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

Two important developments occurred at the first council. A question arose about relaxing some of the rules included in the Vinaya. Just prior to his passing the Buddha told Ananda that it would be acceptable if a few of the “minor” rules were relaxed but he passed before he could specify what rules he was referring to. It was decided by Maha Kassapa that since there was no way of knowing what rules could be relaxed that the Vinaya should be accepted as it was recounted.

It was also decided that the Sutta Pitaka be divided into sections very similar to the five Nikaya's (smaller collections) we have today. A senior monk and his direct pupils were given the responsibility to memorize these sections. The oral tradition was now established. Daily recitations of the Dhamma were then presented by various groups always verified by others in attendance.

The consistency and relevancy preserved in the Pali Canon to the earliest teachings is remarkable and a testament to this method of preserving the Sutta’s and Vinaya. Most historians agree that an oral tradition shared and consistently verified by many is much more accurate than isolated individuals writing from their memory what they individually remembered had occurred. As will be seen in future adaptations and accommodations to the Buddha’s Dhamma, this will be proven entirely true.

The Second Buddhist Council

The method of recitation and comparison continued through later Buddhist Councils. The second Buddhist Council met approximately 100 years after the first council. This was convened to continue to check for accuracy and authenticity and to again look at the Vinaya, the monastic rules. There continued to be a desire among some groups to both relax some rules and to impose new rules.

During this second council a revisionist group known as the Mahasangikas emerged. The Mahasangikas protested some of the basic rules of discipline. The Mahasangikas also desired a more visionary and mystical ‘Dharma” practice that would establish the Buddha as a god and one of many Buddha-gods extending without limit to the past and future.

The Mahasangikas created further divisiveness in the sangha and contradiction to Buddha’s Dhamma by claiming that the Buddha’s life as a human being was merely an apparition.  This direct contradiction was necessary to support the “Buddha as one god among many god’s” claim and to justify any and all adaptations and accommodations that would follow.

Once the Buddha was established as a supernatural being then the “dharma” can be found in any realm and in any presentation with no authentication necessary save for the claim that the now supernatural Buddha presented the particular teaching.  There is no way to disprove this version and of course what can’t be disproved remains eternally possible.

As will be shown further on when these supernatural teachings are compared to what the Buddha taught while in his physical body the many inconsistencies and contradictions become apparent. Either the Buddha taught many contradictory “Dharma’s” throughout history and pre-history, and in many realms, physical and otherwise,  or he taught a cohesive, direct, useful, and accessible Dhamma that has been successfully preserved in the second book of the Pali Canon.

Whatever is believed to be true, these changes altered the Buddha’s teaching in profoundly significant ways and would lead to the development of the modern Mahayana traditions.

The Third Buddhist Council

Approximately one hundred and twenty years after the second council, during the reign of King Ashoka, the third council convened. By now, following the license taken by the Mahasangikas, various sects had formed, all with the desire to adapt and accommodate the Dhamma to fit their views of what the dharma should be.

The president of this council, Moggaliputta Tissa, compiled a book called the Kathavatthu to refute some of the heretical and obviously false teachings coming into vogue. Tissa also included the more mystical practices that were becoming accepted as Dhamma practice. The Kathavatthu eventually became one of the books of the Abhidhamma. Sponsored by the Theravadins, this separated and established the Theravada sect and the division between the  Buddha’s direct teachings and what followed from the split of the Mahhasangikas was now distinct.

As far as can be found, the Kathavatthu became the first significant written document in Buddhist literature although it was obviously not an account of the Buddha’s teaching but a reflection of individual opinion of what developing Buddhist practice should be.

Even with the introduction of the Kathavatthu the method of the oral tradition of recitation and confirmation preserving the Vinaya Pitaka and The Sutta Pitaka continued. The two original books of the Pali Canon now had an “accepted and authenticated” third book. This easily explains why many scholars disagree as to the ultimate authenticity of this third volume of the Pali Canon.

While adopting the more visionary and psychological teachings found in the Abhidhamma, but continuing to preserve the Vinaya and Sutta Pitaka through the oral tradition, the Theravadins established themselves as more authentic to the Buddha’s direct teachings due to their refutation of the Mahasangikas. Theravadins continue to consider themselves as part of the “Hinayana” or original branch of Buddhism.

Modern Theravadin Buddhism is the least culturally and philosophically influenced of modern-day Buddhism, though there are significant differences to the Buddha’s original teachings that can be traced back to the Third Council.

Again, I am not implying that Theravadin Buddhism is not a legitimate and well-established Buddhist religion, or that any of the other later developed Buddhist religions are not legitimate or well-established. I do think that it is vitally important to recognize the how, what, when, and where the adaptations and accommodations to the Buddha’s original teachings developed in order to continue the preservation of these original teachings and continue to provide a clear distinction between what the Buddha taught and what has developed in the intervening years.

This also is when the split between the “Hinayana” and the “Mahayana” schools became firmly established although there would be no historical reference to Hinayana or Mahayana until the beginning of the common era.

Hinayana is sometimes translated to mean “lesser vehicle” as opposed to the Mahayana branch of Buddhism, which is translated to “greater vehicle.” The inference being that the Hinayana branch is a “lesser” or incomplete teaching. Although often used to denigrate the earliest form of Buddhism, this is an incorrect interpretation of the two “vehicles.” The original meaning of Hinayana related to geography. Hinayana describes a “lower vehicle” or “southern vehicle” to account for the geographic spread of Theravadin Buddhism. Theravadin Buddhism spread south through southern India to Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.

Mahayana or “greater vehicle” describes how this branch of Buddhism spread. Mahayana Buddhism spread from India north through Nepal hence the definition as the “upper vehicle” or “northern vehicle.” Mahayana Buddhism then spread to China, Japan, and Korea approximately around the beginning of the Common Era.

There is more on the split between the Hinayana and Mahayana forms of Buddhism and the impact of the Abhidhamma below.

Subsequent Buddhist Councils

There would be additional “Buddhist Councils” following the Third Council but by now the original sangha had mostly lost identity. In the first century BCE two competing sects held councils at approximately the same time. The Theravadins convened their council amid much political upheaval. Continuing the oral tradition of recitation and verification the Pali Canon was recorded in written form for the first time, including the Abhidhamma.

A competing council organized by the Sarvastavadins was used to introduce additional teachings that has further influenced modern  Buddhism.

A fifth Theravadin Buddhist Council was held in 1871 in Burma. This five-month council was used primarily to recite the (now) three books of the Canon to continue to check for authenticity to the original Canon and the later addition of the Abhidhamma.

In 1954, in Rangoon, an international Theravadin council was convened that lasted two years. Again the entire Canon was recited and verified, and all three books were carved onto marble slabs.

Despite the addition of the Abhidhamma to the Pali Canon, the oral tradition of recitation and verification has preserved the original teachings of an awakened human being to this day. The preserved sutta’s continue the lineage of the Dhamma first established by the Buddha.

The Evolution of Buddhist Practice

  The Abhidhamma is an extremely detailed theoretical and conceptual account of ordinary phenomena and, in essence, an adaptation and nullification of Dependent Origination. With this third book, the foundation was in place for the term Dependent Origination (or Dependent Co-Arising) to be used to describe the creation of all phenomena rather than a simple and direct teaching on confusion, delusion, and all manner of suffering arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

The mythology used to establish the Abhidhamma as a teaching of the Buddha’s can be traced directly back to the Mahasangikas and the establishment of a supernatural Buddha rather than the Buddha as an awakened human being is obviously inconsistent with the original first two books of the Pali Canon.

It is told that the origin of the Abhidhamma occurred when the Buddha, in the seventh year after his awakening, left the physical world for the realm of the devas. There for the next three months he taught what would become this third book of the Canon.

The Abhidhamma became an unintended link between Theravada and the developing Mahasangika-influenced Mahayana schools in that the Abhidhamma is an essential influence in many of the modern Theravadin and Mahayana schools, further obscuring what the Buddha taught as preserved in the first two books.

In a little over a century between the second and third Councils the liberty taken by the Mahasangikas and, to a lesser degree, the Theravadins, in the Second Buddhist Council had altered the Buddha’s original teachings in such a way that today these teachings are often diminished in importance, or completely dismissed.

This has led to modern Buddhism to be a thicket of competing views and bewildering contradictions. These bewildering contradictions have themselves become a part of Buddhist lore and presented as the “intricate tapestry” of all dharma’s, and given authority by claiming the same basic philosophy and all leading to the same conclusion. This has only served to further mystify Buddhism and create a hierarchy within modern Buddhism that then places emphasis on “gaining merit” through rituals and practices never intended by the Buddha.[4]

The first Mahayana texts, or sutras, appeared around the first century CE. This is also the time when a somewhat magical and mystical idea of receiving the dhamma through a mind-to-mind transmission developed. The idea of mind-to-mind transmission may have developed to account for the split in the continuity of the Dhamma as well as teachings between the different branches. A supernatural Buddha is obviously necessary to establishing a mind-only Dharma transmission and a mind-only meditation method and lineage.

With the introduction of sutra’s - teachings that are often given the authority of a teaching of the Buddha - the intent and purpose and actual path of the Buddha’s teaching has been altered and the alterations and accommodations to the original Dhamma have become further obscured.

Some of the most influential sutra’s in Mahayana Buddhism directly contradict the Buddha’s teachings as preserved in the Pali Canon. The Heart Sutra which appears around 600 CE (some date it as early as 200 CE, or 800 to 1400 years after the Buddha’s passing) is taught by a Hindu god, Avalokitesvara, to Sariputa, one of the senior monks of the original sangha. Avalokitesvara teaches the “Dharma” using emptiness as the theme but in a way that contradicts the Buddha’s meaning of emptiness - to empty oneself of ignorance of Four Noble Truths, the Buddha’s very first teaching, and the foundation and context for everything he taught for the last forty-five years of his life.

In the Heart Sutra the Four Noble Truths are dismissed as “there is only emptiness and there is no path” and that the Heart Sutra contains the ultimate truth of emptiness and non-attachment. This is also the text that the Boddhisattva ideal is presented as the highest path in Buddhism and again diminishes the Four Noble Truths which includes the Eightfold Path as the Arahant path the Buddha taught.

The Buddha consistently referred to himself prior to his awakening as “an unawakened Bodhisatta” (Sanskrit: Bodhisattva) to describe himself as a being of great compassion who still required the development of understanding the conditions that bind human beings to ignorance in order to fully awaken.

Throughout the Sutta’s the Buddha describes himself prior to his awakening as “an un-awakened Boddhisatta, The Nagara Sutta is but one example. [3]

There is also an adaptation in the Heart Sutra of the Five Clinging-Aggregates describing them as merely empty phenomena. While this can be argued as true due to the impermanent nature of all phenomena, it is an extreme view that lacks the context of the Buddha’s use of the Five Clinging-Aggregates to describe the real and human experience of personal disappointment and suffering. Dismissing the Five Clinging-Aggregates by stating that are they are “empty” the usefulness of understanding them in the context of the Buddha’s Dhamma is lost, and a fundamental and necessary teaching is ignored.

The Heart Sutra teaches emptiness as a to-be-realized all-pervasive experience of reality rather than to develop the Eightfold Path to “empty” oneself from all self-referential views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. The direct dismissal of The Four Noble Truths is another example of using a conceptual application of emptiness to directly dismiss what an awakened human being spent the last forty-five years of his life teaching.  [7]

The Diamond Sutra follows a similar theme as the Heart Sutra and appears around 500 CE. The Diamond Sutra expands the theme of emptiness and continues to elevate the Bodhisattva path as a superior path and further alters Dependent Origination from a direct teaching on ignorance of Four Noble Truths as the originating condition for Dukkha, to a vague creation myth. This sutra is an excellent example of the adaptation and accommodation of the teachings preserved in the Sutta’s having a loose resemblance to themes the Buddha taught but adapted to fit the purpose of the Boddhisattva ideal and conceptual meaning of emptiness.

The most significant difference between the Buddha’s direct teachings and the Mahayana doctrine is presented in the Lotus Sutra. In the Lotus Sutra the Bodhisattva path is presented again as a more advanced path and the Arahant path, the Eightfold Path, as an inferior path to awakening.

The Lotus Sutra has been continually adapted to accommodate the many different modern Buddhist religions that use this sutra as the foundation for their particular dharma. The Lotus Sutra is a foundational text of the Chan, Zen, Soen, and Tentai, Nichiren, PureLand, and is even referenced in the Tibetan Buddhist Religions.

Though there are many actors in the Lotus Sutra that are common to actors in the Sutta Pitaka, it is commonly agreed that the Lotus Sutra was first developed around the beginning of the Common Era and added to over the next few hundred years. Along with the Heart Sutra and Diamond Sutra, much of Mahayana Buddhism rests on these three Sutra’s.

This is a very brief description of these Sutra’s. I have included sources in the source notes below for further study, if desired. I only include this here to again clearly show the contradictions in the path the Buddha taught in both purpose and practice and what has developed since the first adaptations were made at the second Council.

There is nothing unreasonable in what has developed in Buddhism over the past two thousand six hundred years. It is what we all do as human beings. We are always in a struggle to adapt what human life presents in a way that hopefully brings more comfort and agreement with how we want to live our lives. It is the nature of conditioned views to continue conditioned views. This is the motivation to seek a more visionary and mystical “dharma” that motivated the Mahasangikas, and it continues to this day.

An understanding of The Four Noble Truths clearly explains how and why this occurs.The First Noble Truth states that dukkha occurs as a direct result of ignorance of the origination of all manner of confusion and deluded thinking. The Second Noble Truth states that craving for and clinging to any object, event, view, or idea rooted in this initial ignorance of Four Noble Truths and so continues dukkha.

The Buddha presented the Dhamma in the form of Four Noble Truths to be understood and acted upon. He taught that to gain understanding one would take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. It is within refuge that understanding arises. Refuge is a place of safety and comfort. In taking refuge one takes comfort in the understanding that a human being achieved profound understanding, he left his teachings, the Dhamma, so others could do the same, and one takes refuge in the sangha, a well-focused community of practitioners developing the Buddha’s Dhamma. [8]

The "transmission" of the dhamma occurs when a mind that has encountered The Four Noble Truths integrates the path leading to the cessation of dukkha. This is an authentic lineage of transmission directly to the Buddha.

This is what is referred to when the Buddha "Set The Wheel of Truth in Motion" at his first discourse on The Four Noble truths. The preserved Dhamma originating in the Buddha is the means of transmission.

Associating with the wise, the practicing Sangha, supports the understanding and integration of The Four Noble Truths.

The Buddha consistently taught the necessity for each individual interested in his Dhamma to actually develop a well-focused understanding of what he taught and what he did not teach. He used the word “ehipassiko” which means “come and see for yourself.”

In the Kalama Sutta the Buddha is teaching the Kalama’s how to choose a useful and effective Dhamma. The Kalama’s were confused as to who and what to follow due to the many “spiritual” teachers that visited them on the popular trade route that passed through their area.

The Buddha told them “do not go by reports, or legends, or traditions, or scripture, or conjecture, or inference, or analogies, or common agreement, or unexamined loyalty. When you know from your own experience that the qualities taught are skillful, shameless, unambiguous, and direct these teachings should be developed. When these teachings are praised by the wise they should be developed. When these teachings lead to unbinding and calm they should be developed.”

The Kalama Sutta is a perfect example of how the preservation of the Pali Canon continues to provide clear direction for developing the Buddha’s teachings and avoid the confusion that follows from ignoring the original Sutta’s. [9]

It should be noted that many modern teachers alter and accommodate this simple and direct sutta, much like Tissa did during the Third Council, in order to claim that the Buddha is actually teaching to alter and accommodate his teachings to fit a desired view of what Dhamma practice should be.

It is not necessary to affiliate with any established “lineage” or modern Buddhist religion in order to develop the Buddha’s Dhamma. True Dhamma lineage is established and continued through the Buddha’s Dhamma and not through any individual or cultural adaptations to the Dhamma. The Buddha presented a complete and accessible Dhamma that anyone can develop and awaken - develop full human maturity - in this lifetime.

As shown earlier, modern Mahayana doctrine originated from the Mahasanghikas sect. All modern Buddhist religions have interesting and colorful histories too elaborate to explore further here. All were influenced by the culture and philosophy in which their particular form of Buddhism developed. Each Mahayana school has their own historical patriarchs contributing their own influence and view.

There is no record of the Buddha ever asking his followers to take the Vow of The Bodhisattva or follow the Bodhisattva path. In fact, the words of the Buddha near the time of his passing were: “With firm resolve, guard your own mind! Who so untiringly pursues the Dhamma and the Discipline shall go beyond the round of births and make an end of suffering. Decay is relentless. Strive diligently for your own salvation!”(Digha Nikaya 16)

The Buddha is placing utmost importance in working out one’s own salvation. An awakened being would have true compassion AND the wisdom necessary to effectively assist others in their awakening. This is the example given to us by the Buddha. Nowhere in the Pali Canon is it found that the Buddha initiated a separate salvific path for Bodhisattva’s to pursue. The Buddha was consistent throughout his teaching career by teaching individual responsibility to develop an Eightfold Path leading to awakening, or arahantship.

As the Buddha did after his awakening, it was understood that those awakened would help others to awaken by teaching and exemplifying the same Four Noble Truths.

Some of the Mahayana schools place an emphasis on esoteric, mystical or hidden teachings. Some emphasize teachings that require certain empowerments often attached to specific times of the year. This is contrary to the Buddha’s words in the Mahaparanibbana Sutta: “my teachings are not like that of a teacher with a closed fist who keeps something back.” He further stated “my teachings are the same (in practice) for monks and lay people.”

Many Mahayana schools place significance on deity worship and ritual over understanding and integrating The Four Noble Truths.

Some schools emphasize their own type of meditation or intricate visualizations without any mindful intention of developing tranquility leading to insight.

Other schools place an emphasis on koan or hwadu practice as a way of creating great mental absorption without developing tranquility or insight. There is no mention of just sitting, or wall gazing, or koan or hwadu study in the Sutta’s. These widespread methods came into use well after the passing of the Buddha, most in the past five hundred years and many, such as the Insight Meditation movement, in the past one hundred years.

Some modern schools reject meditation entirely in favor of mantra recitation and visualizations. Pure Land Buddhists worship Amitabha Buddha. Using the Lotus Sutra as validation, Pure Land Buddhist’s believe Amitabha Buddha will provide salvation upon death provided certain requirements are met during physical life. Amitabha Buddha will then provide rebirth in the Pure Land of everlasting paradise. Pure Land Buddhism is one of the most popular forms of Buddhism in the world today. (Pure Land Buddhism is much deeper than this brief explanation provided here.)

There is no mention of this type of worship or salvation in the Sutta’s. The Buddha taught that we alone determine our fate through wisdom, virtue, and concentration developed through the Eightfold Path.

Again, this is in no way meant to disparage or diminish the teachings of other schools of Buddhism. My only intent here is to point out the significant differences in the Buddha’s direct teaching and later developments influenced by individual desire and cultural influences.

The general explanation given for many of these differences has the Buddha presenting these “advanced” teachings to deities on a non-physical plane to be brought into the human realm hundreds, sometimes many hundreds of years after the Buddha's death when people were advanced enough to understand them. The inference here is that those alive at the time of the Buddha were not able to grasp these "advanced" teachings. Of course it is impossible to prove that this did not in fact happen, but it is not in keeping with what is presented in the Pali Canon.

From the Buddha’s very first teaching when Kondanna declared “All conditioned things that arise are subject to cessation” and the Buddha replied “You are now Anna-Kondanna, the one who understands” to the many thousands that awakened during the Buddha’s lifetime, nothing has proven to be more effective in developing the Buddha’s stated purpose for teaching the Dhamma: to develop a profound understanding of suffering and to experience the cessation of all craving and clinging arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Both of these theories disparage the Buddha as an effective and wise teacher of the dhamma. There is also the implication that he lied when he said that he held nothing back. That later Buddhists have a more advanced view is also dismissive and disrespectful of the Buddha and his Dhamma.

These differences and variations to the original teachings of the Buddha preserved in the Pail Canon do not make any of these other forms of Buddhism less legitimate practices. Hundreds of millions of practitioners are engaged and committed to these other forms of Buddhist practice.

It is important to understand that there are differences, sometimes vitally important differences. What the Buddha taught and what has developed from the original teachings are significantly different.

The Buddha predicted the altering and diminishing in importance of his teachings near the end of his life: “The end of my dispensation will come not from direct oppression, but from confused dhamma.” (Digha Nikaya 16)

The Buddha was the most influential and radical thinker of his time, and ours too. His entire teaching went against the accepted religious and spiritual practices of his time. His teachings are still radical today and contrary to many modern Buddhist religions that continue to claim a lineage to the historical Buddha. This should not come as a surprise or even be a cause controversy or animosity.

The Buddha was not interested in starting yet another religion so his teachings need not threaten any religion. The Buddha was not a Buddhist. The Buddha was an awakened human being whose intention was to show other human beings how to free themselves from confusion, deluded thinking, and resulting dukkha. The Buddha never shied away from pointing out the differences between his teachings and the accepted practices of his time.

That contradictions and often antagonistic “Dhammas/Dharmas” that have developed since the. Buddha’s passing is to be expected. It is most skillful to see these differences in the context of Four Noble Truths. There is Dukkha - even in Buddhism, as Buddhism is part of human life. Craving and clinging continue to impact the Buddha’s teachings. It is in keeping with the Buddha’s Dhamma to not view the modern situation as either “right” or “wrong” but rather as what is skillful or un-skillful.

It is most skillful to view all things, including the many variations and contradictions within modern Buddhism, in the context of Four Noble Truths. By using the framework and guidance established by the Buddha in his very first discourse these contradictions can be recognized and avoided, or developed whole-heartedly, depending on each individual. Understanding the differences and contradictions then allows for a clear and mindful choice as to what will constitute an individual “Dhamma/Dharma” practice.

It is important to note that continual and skillful Right Effort that for over two thousand six hundred years has resulted in an accurate and complete record of the teachings of the Buddha to be maintained. Even so, the Sutta’s are not meant to be a course of of only scriptural study. The teachings of the Buddha are to be experienced by each individual and usefulness and effectiveness assessed based on unfolding understanding.

A good teacher of the dhamma will understand that all that they can do is point the Way, as the Buddha himself did. Nothing in the dhamma can be imposed or magically transferred from one human being to another.

A person following the original teachings of the Buddha would soon realize that what is most important is not to cling to dogma, ritual, scripture, or method. The Buddha taught that a deep and experiential understanding of The Four Noble Truths is necessary for cessation of suffering. The Buddha always taught to weigh practice against results, to ”come and see for yourself.”

If modern Buddhist practice seems confusing or unattainable, consider placing your mindfulness on the Four Noble Truths and follow the path the Buddha presented. The Eightfold Path is the path presented as leading to the cessation of suffering. The Buddha repeatedly said "I teach the truth of the arising of dukkha and the cessation of dukkha, nothing else."

As has been seen, it is when something else is desired and incorporated into “Dhamma/Dharma” practice that confusion often arises and a direct and immediately accessible path is lost.

Peace.

  1. John’s Experience and Understanding
  2. Dependent Origination
  3. Nagara Sutta
  4.  Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views
  5. Four Noble Truths
  6. Dependent Origination
  7. Emptiness
  8. The Ratana Sutta
  9. The Kalama Sutta

Sources

https://static.sirimangalo.org/pdf/palicanonanalysis.pdf

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/

http://www.palicanon.org/

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/befriending.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%81li_Canon

http://www.buddhisttemple.ca/buddhism/timeline

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/noncanon/fieldguide.html

http://www.leighb.com/palisuttas.htm

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/wheel433.html

http://www.khamkoo.com/uploads/9/0/0/4/9004485/the_foundations_of_buddhism.pdf

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/councils.html

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mahasanghika

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhidhamma_Pitaka

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/arahantsbodhisattvas.html

 

Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Contradictory Views

Prior to publishing this article I carefully considered if it, in fact, this article falls within the framework of the Eightfold Path and is it Right Speech? These are the Buddha’s words on right speech that guide me: "And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech." [1]

What follows is honest and I believe necessary. My intention is only to inform and not be divisive, although I know that may follow. The Buddha’s guidance on Right Speech and not being divisive is primarily meant for a well-focused sangha - a sangha that is guided by his teachings and the framework of the Eightfold Path. This is not a product of idle chatter nor is it abusive.

I know that many modern Buddhists choose to ignore the nearly infinite contradictions in customary Buddhism without question. Even more troubling are those that insist on ignoring the all too prevalent modern teachers who are incapable of practicing even a small measure of restraint and cause great confusion and harm.

It is clear to me that it is not completely skillful for me to simply present what I feel is a well focused and well authenticated Dhamma and ignore the obvious differences and contradictions between my presentation of the Buddha’s teachings and much of modern Buddhism. If I continued to ignore the obvious differences and contradictions between what the Buddha taught and what has developed since his passing I would then be contributing to further confusion.

Where appropriate I do explain these differences and contradictions in my articles, talks, and videos, but many questions continue to arise about authenticity and also about the many contradictions in modern Buddhism and the pervasive momentum pushing a one-size-fits-all reconciled Buddhism. It has become customary Buddhist Doctrine that all modern Dharma’s find a common unified “Buddhism.”

My only intention here is to provide clarity and perhaps direction to those confused with modern Buddhism and what the Buddha actually taught, and the dangers inherent in ignoring the Buddha’s direct teachings. John Haspel, March 5, 2017.

Many ask why I do not teach a more inclusive “dharma” or a practice that seeks to reconcile all of the modern Buddhist practices into a one-size-fits-all all-inclusive Dharma. I hope to answer this here. Furthermore, many online students, particularly those influenced by modern Buddhist teachings, and others who have found my book and websites coincidentally, have inquired as to my teaching and my methods. I always welcome direct questions. Some have been sincerely inquisitive seeking understanding and some quite angry and defensive seeking to protect a certain view. All are welcome.

What I have found through my own direct experience and inquiry is that the attempt to protect a particular modern lineage or to insist on a one-size-fits-all reconciliation of all the modern Buddhist “Dharmas” leads to a confusing and, again in my experience, an ineffective “thicket of views.” The term thicket of views are the words the Buddha used 2600 years ago to describe what would occur by craving for an adapted form of Dharma practice. [2]

Many today will also insist that the Buddha himself would adapt and accommodate his simple and direct teachings to be relevant to contemporary situations and modern intellectual sensibilities. What I have found is this is only another attempt at reconciling the Buddha’s teachings to fit individual conditioned thinking. When the Buddha’s teachings on Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are developed, the compulsion to adapt the direct teachings of the Buddha can clearly be seen as the essential problem of continued I-making rooted in ignorance of   Four Noble Truths. In other words, the need to adapt the Buddha’s direct teachings is rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and can only continue ignorance.

When I first began writing and teaching the Buddha’s Dhamma I realized that the only way that I could be certain to not contribute to further ignorance was to write and teach only what can be found in the authentic record of the Buddha’s teaching as preserved in the Pali Canon. Of course, an understanding of how the Pali Canon came to be an authentic preservation of the Buddha’s teaching is essential for anyone seeking to develop understanding from the Buddha's direct teachings. An article that explains how the Pali Canon came to be an authentic record of the Buddha’s teachings and how that authenticity has been maintained over time is linked below. [3]

The Pali Canon is often a difficult read due to repetition and the translations from ancient Pali to useful English. A careful read of the Canon will clearly show the consistency of the teachings and how everything that the Buddha taught for the 45 years of his teaching career was taught in the context of his very first teaching of The Four Noble Truths.  [4]

My intention in presenting these teachings is to teach what I have practiced and benefitted from that can be found to be a direct teaching of the Buddha as preserved in the Pali Canon. My intention is to avoid the confusion and distraction that has occurred from the cultural and charismatic individuals who have influenced modern Buddhism and the compulsion to reconcile the many contradictory forms of modern Buddhism into one modern Western one-size-fits-all unified “Buddhism.” All modern attempts at a reconciled modern Buddhism have diminished or dismissed what is most important - an understanding of confusion, delude thinking, and individual contributions to suffering through conditioned I-making.

I have practiced many of the modern forms of Mahayana Buddhism and taken formal vows in the Kagyu lineage. My experience resulted in ever increasing confusion and disappointment. For more information about my background and experience with modern Buddhism please see my biography linked below. [5]

There are many vows used for many different purposes in modern Buddhism. I think the only vow that is significant is the vow to be as authentic as possible to the Buddha’s direct teachings whether a student developing understanding or a teacher presenting these teachings. Whether a student or teacher, the only way that authenticity can be maintained is dependent on, and originates, in studying and practicing what the Buddha actually taught.

I will use the term “Customary Buddhism” to refer to the many modern forms of Buddhism that have all been influenced by charismatic individuals and the customs and cultures that have contributed to contemporary Buddhism around the world. I will use the word “Dharma” when referring to later-developed teachings and “Dhamma” when referring to the direct teachings of the Buddha.

I am not questioning the legitimacy of the many individual schools and lineages of modern Buddhism as established practices or religions, and I certainly do not mean to disparage any of them in a general sense. What I have found after more than 35 years of studying and practicing in many of the customary Buddhist schools is that most of the customary Buddhist religions have misinterpreted, misapplied, or outright ignored the Buddha’s direct teachings as preserved in the Pali Canon to fit individual or culturally influenced views.

What has developed in customary Buddhism has proved to be comforting for many who have found identification and belonging. Unfortunately, by adapting and accommodating, or dismissing outright the Buddha’s simple and direct teachings, much confusion and has arisen and occasionally very hurtful behavior from confused modern teachers has followed.

Two examples of this ignorance or misinterpretation are useful here. The Buddha awakened to Dependent Origination which clearly states that from ignorance through 12 observable causative links all manner of confusion, delusion, and suffering arises. Anyone who reads the Paticca-Samuppada-Vibhanga Sutta from the Pali Canon and is mindful of the context in which it is presented could not misinterpret this teaching to imply interdependence, interconnectedness, or inter-being. [6]

The ignorance that the Buddha is referring to is ignorance of Four Noble Truths which results directly in the formation of mental fabrications. Mental fabrications originate and are dependent on ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Another word for fabrications is assumptions and it can clearly be seen that from ignorance of The Four Noble Truths assumptions easily follow that justify adapting and accommodating the Buddhist teachings to fit individual and culturally influenced views.

Understanding Dependent Origination in the context of Four Noble Truths avoids confusing assumptions that lead to misunderstanding and misapplications of this essential teaching and clearly shows how all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and suffering originates and is dependent on continuing ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Another important sutta that has been consistently misinterpreted is the Kalama Sutta. In the Kalama Sutta is the sutta that is often cited as the sutta that the Buddha proclaims to question everything and ignore what does not fit one's views. This is a perfect example of how ignorance used to interpret the Dhamma can only lead to something quite different than what the Buddha actually taught.

By insisting that the Buddha taught to question everything and if in that questioning it was found that the Dhamma should be changed or abandoned leads many to insist that it is actually skillful to do so.

This was something that used to gnaw at me. It was confusing to me that an awakened human being would spend more than half his life teaching something that he would then say should be questioned as to its integrity or application.

This is a good example of how ignorance continues ignorance. The subtle pressure that I felt from my associations with different schools and lineages that justified their contradictory teachings through just this same license certainly continued my ignorance.

Ongoing ignorance requires, is dependent on, ignoring anything that would reveal ignorance. I ignored my own misgivings due to the subtle pressure of friends and associates. What followed from my own ignorance attaching to these teachings and associations was more confusion, deluded thinking, and, as predicted by the Buddha, additional suffering.

Another adaptation of the “question everything” doctrine is that every teaching should be questioned in relation to one's own conditioned thinking and intellectual proclivities and that an ultimate Dhamma should fit these confused views. Of course, this view is rooted in that same ignorance that is required for mental fabrications to arise in the first place.

The Buddha consistently presented The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as unique and distinct, not as a common teaching that could or should be integrated into other teachings according to the hardened beliefs of individuals. It is the insistence that the Buddha’s teachings can and should be accommodated to individual and cultural beliefs that have resulted in often confusing, contradictory, and ineffective “Dharmas” and a modern “thicket of views.”

The Buddha instructed the Kalama’s to not “go by other’s accounts, or by legends or traditions. Do not follow scriptures (later developed texts) or logical conjecture (conditioned thinking). Do not form conclusions through inference, analogies or common agreement (associations).” He taught that the only way to experience the effectiveness of his Dhamma was to develop his Dhamma as he taught his Dhamma.

His admonition here to "question everything" must also be seen in the context in which he made this statement. Often gleefully and compulsively taken by many today as license to practice anything and everything and call it "Buddhist practice," taken in context it is clear that the Buddha is telling the Kalama's to question other teachings in the context of what he teaches and to then decide for individually if the teachings are consistent with his Dhamma, and prove effective. He also provides very skillful guidance how to precisely determine what his Dhamma is based on - by following The Eightfold Path and experiencing directly the results. [7]

Another way that many have adapted his admonition to infer to ”question everything” was in reference to him telling students that "when uncertain, confused, or doubtful to question me directly.” Many modern Buddhists will conveniently leave out the part where the Buddha directs others to question him directly. It should be obvious that there could be no useful answer by asking someone who has not studied or developed his teachings and have become confused by their own insistence that the Dhamma should be adapted to fit confused views.

The Buddha encouraged others to question his teachings directly to him so that he could provide an answer in the proper context, not to engage in endless debate or to convince someone of his Dhamma. The Buddha's response was only to provide guidance within the proper context of what he actually taught.

Of course, since the Buddha's passing, we can no longer question the Buddha directly but we can look to the only written record of his teachings still existing today, or question a teacher that has actually studied his teachings as preserved in the Pali Canon.

Simple logic would show that in order to teach any subject you would have to actually study the subject. The modern notion of “sacred lineages” conveniently provides authenticity where no true authenticity to the Buddha’s direct teachings exists. The true lineage of the Dhamma was established by the Buddha and continues through his teachings. The lineage of the Buddha’s teachings obviously cannot be established through adapted and accommodated teachings that often contradict or dismiss the Buddha’s teachings outright. The many contradictory interpretations of Dependent Origination show this most clearly.

It was not until I developed an understanding of Dependent Origination was I able to clearly see how ignorance was required to continue to ignore the obvious failings present in these different schools.

The usefulness of an authentic Dhamma is what the Buddha taught in the Ratana Sutta. This sutta was presented to an entire town suffering the effects of famine and devastating floods. The Buddha first instructed the monks to attend to the physical needs of the townsfolk and then presented his teachings on taking refuge. The Buddha taught the importance of taking refuge in the Buddha as a human being who developed the profound understanding of the nature of individual contributions to suffering, and to take refuge in his teachings, The Dhamma. Finally the Buddha taught to take refuge in a Sangha that has actually taken refuge in his Dhamma.

Obviously creating a Dharma that seeks to reconcile all of the modern Buddhist schools into one confusing aggregation is not taking true refuge as taught in this simple sutta. [8]

My experience with modern Buddhism and direct experience with many teachers I have known have shown me the pitfalls of modern adapted and accommodated Buddhism. I have had teachers that had unresolved addiction issues and other issues related to unresolved compulsive desires. While I was associating with these teachers or traditions it became nearly impossible to separate what they were teaching from the individual views or tradition that allowed for behavior rooted in ignorance.

There are, unfortunately, numerous examples of deeply disturbed teachers lacking useful understanding of Dependent Origination or Four Noble Truths who preyed on their most vulnerable students - some still children, who presented teachings while intoxicated, who cheated on their spouses with their students, and many who have created great wealth contributed by their followers following their adapted and accommodated forms of Buddhism.

Many have gained great popularity and a large number of followers who continue to excuse their behavior due to their “profound understanding” and their identification and association with these hurtful teachers and their “lineages.”

This is understandable when seen in the light of how the Buddha taught to be mindful of associations. In short, the Buddha cautioned to choose associations wisely as association is another word for clinging and what is clung to will determine experience. An understanding of clinging shows that what is clung to will create self-referential and self-indulgent views in order to continue ignorance and justify the association.

This does not mean that every follower of a disturbed and deluded teacher will act in predatory or otherwise hurtful behavior, most do not, but some do follow the teacher's behavior. What often follows is continued ignorance of the teacher’s behavior and a lack of recognition of their flawed teachings. This can nearly always be traced back to the need to adapt and accommodate the Buddha’s original teachings and the compulsive desire to reconcile the Buddha’s teachings into one modern Buddhist practice.

Not all sangha’s that were victimized by deluded teachers remain quiet indefinitely but many of those with the courage to bring these teachers to responsibility continue to struggle with the trauma and continue aversion to Buddhist teachings. This is profoundly sad and shows that ongoing suffering is dependent on ongoing ignorance.

Simply put, it is often the case when all of the contradictory modern forms of Buddhism are reconciled what is almost universally discarded, or diminished in importance, are the Buddha’s direct teachings.

Even the teachings on taking refuge, known as the Triple Refuge, must be ignored in order to engage in any behavior that would prove to be hurtful towards others.

Would anyone have followed the Buddha during his day if he presented his teachings under the influence of alcohol or drugs or while compulsively smoking one cigarette after another or while sleeping with other’s wives or husbands or with young boys or girls?

This is not meant to be an indictment of all modern customary Buddhism or to infer that all modern Buddhist schools engage in hurtful behavior, most don’t, but unfortunately, there are many that do. This is to point out what follows from the modern Buddhist practice of compulsively adapting or accommodating the Buddha’s direct teachings to fit modern confused views.

The many modern customary forms of Buddhism seem benign and useful but what occurs during the reconciliation process is a picking and choosing of what fits the view of whoever is doing the picking and choosing. If this view is rooted in ignorance or wrong view, which it often is unless the Buddha’s direct teachings were actually studied and developed, is a modern customary Buddhist practice that often only reinforces this wrong view.

There are many examples of this playing out through the many Buddhist scandals that have come to light over the past 75 years. I will not cite these directly as this would prove divisive. Those that have been victimized know this all too well. Most Buddhist practitioners are aware of these problems but quickly dismiss them as isolated incidents. They are not.

Most modern adapted forms of Buddhism insist that their form of Buddhism is what the Buddha taught or insist that the Buddha taught the many contradictory forms all having the same goal. Of course this can’t be true and results in great confusion. Right Speech would imply that honesty would influence what has shaped the resulting “dharma” rather than desire.

One modern Buddhist religion - Won Buddhism - is clear that they practice a reformed Buddhism. If all modern forms of Buddhism would state this simple truth than their followers would know that the Buddha taught something different and avoid the confusion and contradictory “dharmas” that have developed since the Buddha’s passing.

One of the difficulties that often occurs when refining Buddhist practice to focus only on what the Buddha taught is the feeling that one is isolating themselves from friends and associates. This is certainly true from practitioners deeply entangled in one or another modern Buddhist school. It was difficult for me to acknowledge that the many wonderful friends and associates that I had made, and the fondness that I had developed for many teachers, had to be let go of in order for me to remain authentic to what was most important - integrity with the Buddha’s direct teachings.

This has resulted in dear friends and significant associates who now no longer choose to associate with me and also has resulted in some students to conclude that what I am teaching is not something that they are interested in. I say this only to show that there are indeed challenges and consequences in remaining focused on what the Buddha actually taught. It is ultimately a matter of maintaining integrity with the Buddha’s teachings. Association can often tacitly affirm and confirm a teacher and their "Dharma" that is lacking in integrity.

The question of what “Dharma” to practice is a difficult one for many. The answer is found in the Buddha’s teachings themselves, again from the Kalama Sutta:  “When you know from your own experience that the qualities taught are unskillful, shameful, confusing, and distracting these teachings should be abandoned. When these teachings are criticized by the wise they should be abandoned. When these teachings lead to harm and suffering they should be abandoned.

“What do your think, Kalamas - when the three defilements of greed, aversion and deluded thinking arise in a person do they arise for benefit or for harm?”

“The defilements always bring harm.”

“And when a person is driven by the defilements, their mind possessed, they kill other beings, they take what is not given, they take another’s spouse, they lie and induce other’s to lie, all of which create long-term harm and suffering for themselves and others.

“What do you think, Kalamas - are these defilements skillful or unskillful, shameful or shameless, criticized or praised by the wise?”

“The defilements are unskillful, shameful, and criticized by the wise.”

“When the defilements are acted upon do they lead to long-term suffering for one’s self and others, or not?”

“They always lead to long term suffering for one’s self and others.”

“So as I said ‘Do not go by reports, or legends, or traditions, or scripture, or conjecture, or inference, or analogies, or common agreement, or unexamined loyalty. When you know from your own experience that the qualities taught are unskillful, shameful, confusing, and distracting these teachings should be abandoned. When these teachings are criticized by the wise they should be abandoned. When these teachings lead to harm and suffering they should be abandoned.’

“Now do not go by reports, or legends, or traditions, or scripture, or conjecture, or inference, or analogies, or common agreement, or unexamined loyalty. When you know from your own experience that the qualities taught are skillful, shameless, unambiguous, and direct these teachings should be developed. When these teachings are praised by the wise they should be developed. When these teachings lead to unbinding and calm they should be developed.’

“What do you think, Kalamas - when the defilements do not arise in a person is this for their long-term welfare and happiness and for others long-term welfare and happiness?”

“For everyone’s long-term welfare and happiness.”

“And this person, free of the defilements, does not kill living beings or take what is not given, or take another’s spouse, or lie or induce other’s to lie. So what do you think - are these qualities skillful, shameless, and praised by the wise?”

“They are, sir. When developed and acted on they bring long-term welfare and happiness to one’s self and others.”

“Now, Kalamas, one who follows the Dhamma, who develops the Eightfold Path, free of greed, aversion or deluded thinking, alert and mindful of the path, experiences their life imbued with good will. Everywhere they go their mindfulness is imbued with good will, with gratitude, with a mind resting in equanimity. They are abundant and free from all agitation towards themselves and all humanity.”

It is certainly true that most later-developed customary Buddhist schools, while presenting an often contradictory “dharma,”  have no doctrine that directly leads to abuse of students. Unfortunately, it is astounding and profoundly sad how many deluded “Buddhist” teachers have flourished and that in many cases how continued ignorance has supported hurtful teachers and furthered ongoing ignorance and continued confusion, deluded thinking, and suffering.

If your Buddhist practice has brought you and others peace and understanding and will likely lead to awakening, continue wholeheartedly. If your Buddhist practice has left you confused or making excuses for your teacher or lineage then look to the Buddha’s direct teachings for answers, and a clear, direct, harm-free, and effective Dhamma.

From ignorance of Four Noble Truths, all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and suffering follows. This is the direct teaching of an awakened human being.

Peace.

  1. Samyutta Nikaya 45.8
  2. Sabbasava Sutta and many other suttas
  3. The Pali Canon
  4. Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 56.11
  5. John’s Bio
  6. Dependent Origination
  7. The Kalama Sutta
  8. Ratana Sutta

 

Dependent Origination, Anatta, And The Myth Of Non-Duality

Above are recordings of two talks on Dependent Origination, Anatta, and The Myth Of Non-Duality from our Tuesday evening dhamma classes on April 12 & 19, 2016 and two talks on the same subject from our Saturday morning classes on April 16 & 23, 2016.

The Buddha “awakened” to the profound understanding  that the common human problem of  the underlying unsatisfactory nature of life is rooted in ignorance. In the ancient language of the Pali Canon this unsatisfactory experience is known as Dukka.  The origination of Dukkha is explained in the Buddha’s teaching of Dependent Origination. Understanding Dependent Origination shows it is ignorance of The Four Noble Truths, through twelve observable causative links, all manner of confusion, delusion, and suffering, in a word Dukkha, arises.

Dependent Origination is the Buddha’s teaching on how personal phenomena arises within the environment of anicca, impermanence. The entirety of the Dhamma is to bring understanding of The Four Noble Truths. It is within the context of The Four Noble Truths that understanding of Dependent Origination develops. Understanding Dependent Origination brings awareness of the relationship between the five clinging-aggregates  and the phenomenal world.

The five clinging aggregates are physical and mental factors that through individual intentional clinging a personality is formed that through ignorance is identified as a permanent, substantial, and sustainable self. Once formed, through confused and deluded thinking, the ego-self tenaciously insists on establishing its “self” in every object, event, view, and idea that occurs. This includes much of what is presented in later-developed “Buddhist” schools.

Modern Buddhist doctrine continues to evolve in contradiction to the Buddha’s original teachings to provide for the continuing establishment of “anatta” through  misunderstanding or intentional misapplication of “dependent” to imply interdependence, interconnectedness, and inter-being. This has been done to allow for a non-dual doctrine that is rooted in the Veda’s and the later Upanishads, the doctrinal pre-cursors to modern Hinduism and modern Advaita. In this sense, modern Buddhism has more in common with modern Hinduism, Advaita, and most yoga-based philosophies than the direct teachings of the Buddha  as preserved in the Pali Canon. [1]

(This not to criticize or disparage any philosophy or religion. This is only for clarity as to what the Buddha actually taught and the significant differences between the Buddha's Dhamma, other religions, and later-developed "Buddhist" doctrines.)

Dependent Origination directly explains the 12 causative links that determine the experiences of a self-referential ego-personality. In the Paticca-Samupadda-Vibhanga [2] Sutta the Buddha presents the 12 causative links of dependent Origination. Each of these 12 links are required, or “dependent” on the prior condition in order to give rise to a “self” that will experience dukkha. Rooted in ignorance (of The Four Noble Truths) it is through a continued confused and deluded “wrong view” that “anatta” continues to establish itself in every object, event, view, or idea that occurs. This known as continued “I-making,” or simply, conceit.

Dependent Origination States:

  • From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.
  • From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.
  • From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.
  • From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes the six sense-bases.
  • From the six sense-bases as a requisite condition comes contact.
  • From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.
  • From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.
  • From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging and maintaining.
  • From clinging and maintaining as a requisite condition comes becoming.
  • From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.
  • From birth as a requisite condition comes aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair.

His very first teaching, then, was to present the truth of Dependent Origination as  four noble truths for the first time in human history. He presented the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, [3] the sutta setting the (only) wheel of truth in motion.

This reference to “setting the wheel of truth in motion” relates to a true understanding of Kamma [4] (karma). Kamma means “action.” By setting this wheel of truth in motion the Buddha presented a way to alter the direction of lives rooted in actions born in ignorance by developing skillful actions that would lead to profound wisdom and lives of lasting peace and happiness.

Kamma is the present unfolding of past intentional acts moderated by current mindfulness. What this means is that by developing the Eightfold Path one can incline thoughts, words, and deeds towards skillful actions and achieve human awakening. The Buddha describes awakening as “released” or “unbound” as in achieving release or unbinding from craving for an ego-centric existence or clinging to objects, events, views, or ideas that would reinforce self-referential deluded views.

Upon hearing this first teaching, Kondanna, one of the five ascetics the Buddha had previously befriended, declared: “All conditioned things that are subject to arising are also  subject to cessation.”

Kondanna had developed a profound understanding of impermanence, one of the Three Marks Of Existence [5] that describes the interplay between:

  • Anicca: The impermanent phenomenal worldly environment
  • Anatta: A self-referential ignorant view clinging to its environment
  • And the confusion, delusion and suffering (dukkha) resulting from defining a self through clinging to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas.

In his second discourse the Buddha then taught the Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta, [6] the sutta on the Not-Self Characteristic. The confusion and deluded conclusions that are presented as doctrine in modern Buddhism are rooted in a misunderstanding, or outright dismissal, of Dependent Origination and these first two discourses.

The Buddha never taught that there is an inherent “true self” or “buddha nature” or “no self.” He never taught that “anatta” could be established and maintained through clinging to all phenomena or clinging to a non-dual, interdependent, interconnected doctrine or cosmic view.

Anatta means “not-self.” In using this word the Buddha teaches that what is commonly viewed as a self when seen through the Right View and profound wisdom developed through the Eightfold Path is clearly not a self that can be permanently established. Understanding anatta clearly shows that all phenomena is separate and discrete including “anatta.” If all things in the phenomenal world are impermanent and so uncertain as to occurrence or duration, there could be no permanent connection between impermanent objects, events, views, or ideas.

What is commonly and ignorantly viewed as a self is anatta, not a self that can be established in any non-dual doctrine. While this will pacify a self-referential ego-personality it can only develop further confusion, delusion, and suffering.

The Buddha taught an Eightfold Path that develops the understanding of the Three Marks of Existence and the interplay and distraction of impermanence, anatta, and dukkha.

In the Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta he described that which is commonly used to describe a “self” as five “aggregates,” each inherently impermanent:

  • Form
  • Feelings
  • Perceptions
  • Mental Fabrications
  • Consciousness

These five aggregates do not establish a self. The teaching on the Five Clinging Aggregates [7] only show the impermanent though ongoing process dependent on clinging to confused and deluded views that then results in an unsatisfactory life experience. When any of these discrete and impermanent aggregates are clung to in order to establish a self they become “clinging aggregates.”

The Buddha consistently described his teachings as “I teach suffering (dukkha) and the cessation of suffering. Nothing more.”  When describing dukkha the Buddha teaches that “birth is suffering, sickness, is suffering, aging is suffering, death is suffering. Being separated from what is desired is suffering. Associating with the un-desired is suffering. In short, the five clinging aggregates are suffering.”

Even though by clinging these five disparate aggregates together to establish a self seems to provide an argument for a self, the argument cannot be sustained. The Buddha never answered the questions “is there a self” or “is there not a self,” he simply taught that what is commonly viewed as a self is not a self. The view that would establish a self is a wrong view.

As the question itself is rooted in ignorance (of The Four Noble Truths) when asked, the Buddha would often simply remain silent to indicate that the question itself did not deserve an answer. At other times the Buddha would answer “holding this question is the cause of your confusion, let the question go.”

In the Panha Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya 4.42) the Buddha teaches that there are four skillful ways to answer questions:

  • Questions that are suitable should be answered directly - yes, no, this, that
  • Questions that are suitable should be answered with a descriptive or defining answer
  • Questions that are suitable should be answered with another question
  • Questions that are unsuitable to developing understanding should be put aside.

Further on in this sutta the Buddha calls those that understand how to answer questions as “one who has broken through to what is worthwhile, prudent and wise.” Many modern “Buddhists” claim that it is the essence of “Buddhist” practice, to question everything. As one engaged in the Buddha’s teachings mundane wisdom is accepting and contemplating answers, or lack thereof, that challenge clinging views rooted in ignorance. It is anatta that insist on answers to all questions and will only alter and accommodate “answers” that will allow for continuation of deluded self-referential views.

This is the result of thinking that has been “conditioned” by ignorance and dependent on ignorance of The Four Noble Truths. Modern psychology calls conditioned thinking “confirmation bias.” Conditioned thinking can only produce views that are biased towards confirming held conditioned views.

Common in modern Buddhism and in modern”new age” thought in general is the notion of non-duality or that the individual is a part of one grand cosmic entity  attached (clinging) to each other and to all phenomena. This is simply an extreme view of establishing the five clinging aggregates in all phenomena and furthering the confusion, delusion, and suffering inherent in ignorance of The Four Noble Truths.

The Buddha taught to see phenomenal reality clearly and to see the discrete, separate, and impermanent nature of all things in the world. In describing an arahant, an awakened human being, he consistently used the words unbound or released as in unbound or released from all clinging views including the deluded view that individuals are in fact part of one giant clinging organism.

He taught an Eightfold Path that develops the concentration and refined mindfulness to recognize and abandon all confused and deluded views that would only continue confusion and delusion, and further human suffering.

When using the word anatta, the Buddha is not attempting to establish a true self or a cosmic self found in all things and connected to all living things. These are contradictory teachings of the later  developed Buddhist schools and is rooted in a misunderstanding and misapplication of Dependent Origination.

The Buddha taught that what is commonly viewed as a “self” is the common cause for human confusion, delusion, and suffering, and is “anatta,” not-a-self worth establishing or defending. He taught that whatever is impermanent, including the insistence that a self can be established cosmically through inter-being, interconnectedness, or interdependence, is anatta, not-a-self.

It is a profoundly wrong view that insists on establishing a self in any impermanent environment or cosmic or higher realm. Again the Buddha taught that the belief in a permanent or sustainable self-referential “self” is rooted in confusion and delusion and can only lead to further suffering. (Self-referential views are any views that establish or instills a “self” in external objects, events, views, and ideas.)

Any conditioned view that establishes or maintains a permanent sustainable self is based in ignorance of The Four Noble Truths. This conditioned view of a self is anatta, not-a-self.

Any attempt to establish or maintain this confused view contradicts the Four Noble Truths and will only lead to more confusion, delusion, and suffering.

The Buddha’s Eightfold Path develops freedom from clinging including clinging to the view of the interdependence, interconnectedness, or the inter-being of all human beings. This path of wisdom, virtue, and profound concentration develops a life of lasting peace and happiness through abandoning all confused and deluded views clinging to the notion that a permanent “self” can somehow be established through commonly held beliefs or constantly repeated confused views.

Seeing these confused views clearly is the essence of useful insight and the essence of the Buddha’s Dhamma. There is no great mystery to be solved. Human life is not a koan to be endlessly contemplated. There is an Eightfold Path to be whole-heartedly engaged with that will bring lasting peace and happiness in this lifetime.

It’s what the Buddha taught. Pewace.

  1. Pali Canon
  2. Dependent Origination
  3. Four Noble Truths
  4. Kamma
  5. Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  6. Anatta Lakkhana Sutta
  7. Five Clinging-Aggregates

 

 

Dependent Origination, Four Noble Truths, And The Myth Of Interdependence, Inter-Being, And Non-Duality

The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that ignorance is the underlying cause of all self-created stress and suffering. This understanding was first presented in the Paticcasamuppada Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination. The adaptations, accommodations, and  embellishments attached to Dependent Origination are the underlying  cause of all modern fabricated Buddhist “dharmas.”

Siddhartha’s very first teaching was the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta setting the only wheel of truth in motion. This sutta established the entire scope and purpose of the Buddha’s forty-five year teaching career.

In order to understand the Buddha’s Dhamma and the context for Dhamma study, Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths provide the foundation, the context, and the  focus of everything the Buddha taught.

↓ Dependent Origination - The Paticcasamuppada Sutta ↓

↓ Dependent Origination  And The Myth Of Non-Duality ↓

↓  Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta - The Buddha's First Discourse ↓

↓  Sacca-Vibhanga Sutta - Analysis Of Four Noble Truths

↓  Magga-Vibhanga Sutta: Analysis of the Eightfold Path

Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Vibhanga Sutta

Dependent Origination Talks

Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Vibhanga Sutta

Introduction

This Dhamma article is an excerpt from my book Becoming Buddha. A preview of this book is available here: Becoming Buddha Preview

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the linked suttas inline and at the end of this article. ([x])

Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination (this article) and the ongoing stress, suffering, and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

His first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the singular path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [1,2]  Nagara SuttaFour Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

From ignorance of Four Noble Truths, all manner of suffering arises

As has been shown in the Nagara Sutta, the Buddha “awakened” to the profound understanding that the common human problem of the underlying unsatisfactory nature of life is rooted in ignorance. In the ancient language of the Pali Canon this unsatisfactory experience is known as Dukkha. The origination of Dukkha is explained in the Buddha’s teaching of Dependent Origination. Dependent Origination shows that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths, through twelve observable causative links, that all manner of confusion, delusion, and suffering, in a word, Dukkha, arises. [3] Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

Dependent Origination is the Buddha’s teaching on how personal phenomena arises within the environment of anicca, impermanence. The entirety of the Dhamma is to bring understanding of Four Noble Truths. It is within the context of Four Noble Truths that understanding of Dependent Origination develops. Understanding Dependent Origination brings awareness of the relationship between the Five Clinging-Aggregates and the impermanent phenomenal world. [4] Three Marks Of Existence - Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha

The Five Clinging-Aggregates are physical and mental factors that through individual intentional clinging a personality is formed. This self-created ego-personality perceives that it is a permanent, substantial, and sustainable self. Once formed the ego-self tenaciously insists on establishing it’s “self” in every object, event, view, and idea that occurs. [5] Five Clinging-Aggregates

Dependent Origination directly shows the 12 causative links that determine the experiences of a self-referential ego-personality. In the Paticca-Samuppada-Vibhanga Sutta, the Buddha presents the 12 causative links of Dependent Origination. Each of these 12 links are required, or “dependent” on the prior condition in order to give rise to a “self” that will experience dukkha. Rooted in ignorance, (of Four Noble Truths) it is through a continued confused and deluded “wrong view” that “anatta” continues to establish itself in every object, event, view, or idea that occurs. This is known as continued “I-making,” or simply, conceit. [6] Fabrications

The importance of these teachings is to understand that the origination of all clinging views of an ego-self are rooted in ignorance. Once understood, craving and clinging can be abandoned and the 12 causative links in the chain of dependencies unbound. The process of ongoing confusion and stress comes to an end.

Once Dependent Origination is clearly understood, seeking understanding through magical, mystical or esoteric teachings will be seen as distraction and continued I-making.

Once Dependent Origination is clearly understood, the distracting futility of modern Buddhism substituting rituals, precepts, and practices rooted in ignorance as “Dharma” practice are abandoned. [7] Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views

Attempts to attract the attention of gods and devas, or to establish the self in a "higher" or more pleasant realm, will be seen as rooted in ignorance and abandoned.

The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that from ignorance, through twelve observable causative conditions, the ongoing process of stress and suffering is formed. He summarized this understanding when he presented his first teaching.

The Buddha’s first discourse was the foundational teachings of The Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths summarize the entire Dhamma. [2] Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

The First Noble Truth describes the condition caused by ignorance, the noble truth of dukkha (unsatisfactoriness, stress, unhappiness, disenchantment).

The Second Noble Truth describes the truth of individual craving and clinging as the origination of a personal experience of dukkha.

The Third Noble Truth states that cessation of individual contributions to dukkha is possible.

The Fourth Noble Truth is the truth of the Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of dukkha.

It is the development of The Eightfold Path that unbinds clinging to ignorant views, ends dukkha, and brings awakening.

Nibbana (Sanskrit: Nirvana) is a Pali word, that describes the awakened mind state. Nibbana means extinguished or unbound. Cessation of dukkha is the extinguishing of all wrong views that initiate craving, and the unbinding of all clinging attachments.

As seen in the previous section The Buddha taught three linked characteristics of life in the phenomenal world, or “Three Marks of Existence. These three characteristics are Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha - impermanence, not-self, and stress.

All things in the phenomenal world are subject to impermanence, including what appears as self. All things in the phenomenal world arise and fade away WITHIN the phenomenal world. Nothing is permanent and nothing arises of its own accord.

The Buddha avoided any attempt to define a self in any manner. He simply and directly taught that wrong views rooted in ignorance that establishes a self are "Anatta," Not-Self.  [8] Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta - The Not-Self Characteristic

The Buddha left unanswered any questions that would seek to make permanent and substantial that which is inherently impermanent and insubstantial.

The Buddha never addressed questions directly that would not lead to ending craving and clinging and cessation of dukkha. Answering questions about the nature of self originating from a deluded belief (in self) would only reinforce delusion and lead to more delusion, confusion suffering. These questions were consistently left unanswered as they were improper questions rooted in ignorance.

The Buddha described these questions as arising from “Inappropriate views not fit for attention. These views will continue to generate confusion and suffering.” [9] Teaching An Authentic Dhamma

The Buddha teaches what is fit for attention while maintaining the context of The Four Noble Truths:

  • Understanding Stress.
  • Understanding the Origination of Stress.
  • Understanding the Cessation of Stress.
  • Understanding the path leading to the cessation of Stress.

"As one attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts and practices.”

Grasping at precepts and practices refers to assuming an inherent “ground of being.” From this assumed fabrication preserving the self through engaging in ritualistic or ideological practices becomes reasonable.

If engaging or following popular doctrines, teachers, or rituals develops further self-grasping, it should be recognized as deluded and abandoned.

The continued preoccupation with defining and maintaining a self creates ongoing confusion and suffering. Understanding views rooted in ignorance brings liberation.

As one develops an understanding of the Dhamma, it is important to always be mindful of the context and intent of the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha consistently emphasized to be mindful of what he taught and why: "I teach the origination of Dukkha and the path leading to the cessation of Dukkha, nothing more."

The Buddha avoided any issues that would prove to be a distraction to his stated purpose. In fact, The Buddha could have nearly as accurately stated: “I teach the origination of distraction and the cessation of distraction.” It is the ongoing preoccupation with Dukkha that distracts from life as life occurs. It is the self-referential preoccupation with stress and unhappiness that distracts from a life of lasting peace and happiness. It is the distraction of dukkha that prevents awakening.

Life in the phenomenal world is often experienced as both arbitrary and personal and predetermined and unavoidable.

Dependent Origination explains the process of the formation of an ego-personality, a “self," and the personalization of impersonal worldly events.

Holding the view that discrete impersonal objects, events, views, and ideas are occurring to “you” or for your benefit or detriment is the personalization of impersonal worldly events. This is “I-making.”

Recognizing and abandoning the ongoing process of I-making brings the refined mindfulness of an awakened human being.

An awakened human being experiences life fully present with life as life occurs without the confining craving and clinging conditioned mind that clouds perception and maintains confusion and unsatisfactoriness.

Understanding the process of “I-making” develops the heightened wisdom, heightened virtue, and heightened concentration necessary to refine thinking and reverse the formation of the ego-personality.

Dependent Origination is the Buddha’s teaching on how (apparently) personal phenomena arises within the impersonal environment of impermanence.

The purpose of the Dhamma is to end ignorance through developing a profound understanding of The Four Noble Truths. It is within the context of Four Noble Truths that understanding Dependent Origination develops.

Understanding Dependent Origination brings awareness of the relationship between the Five Clinging-Aggregates and the phenomenal world. The Five Clinging-Aggregates are physical and mental factors that cling together to form a personality identified as self - an ego-personality. Dependent Origination explains the 12 causative links that determine the experiences of the ego-personality.

The Five Clinging-Aggregates are the personal experience of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment. [5] Five Clinging-Aggregates

In the Paticca-Samuppada-Vibhanga Sutta, the Buddha presents the 12 causative links of Dependent Origination. Each of these 12 links are required to cause the “self” to experience Dukkha.

Notice the direct teaching here on how confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment - Dukkha - originates in ignorance. From this initial ignorance - of Four Noble Truths - the feedback loop of self-referential views maintained by confused thinking continues. Also notice there is nothing in this sutta that could be seen as a creation myth or to suggest a doctrine of interdependence, interconnectedness, or inter-being.

It is from a misunderstanding, misapplication, or complete dismissal of this fundamental sutta that resulted in contradictory and confusing alterations and adaptations to the Buddha's Dhamma.

My comments below are in italics.

The Paticca-Samuppada-Vibhanga Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 12.2

The Buddha was at Savatthi, at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. There he addressed those assembled: “Friends, I will describe in detail Dependent Origination. Listen carefully. And what is Dependent Origination?

  • From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.
  • From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.
  • From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.
  • From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes the six-sense-base.
  • From the six -ense-base as a requisite condition comes contact.
  • From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.
  • From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.
  • From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging and maintaining.
  • From clinging and maintaining as a requisite condition comes becoming.
  • From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.
  • From birth as a requisite condition comes aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair.”

Then the Buddha describes in slightly more detail, and in reverse order, each of the 12 links:

“Now what is aging and death? Aging is decrepitude, brokenness, graying, decline, weakening of faculties. Death is the passing away of the Five Clinging-Aggregates, the ending of time, the interruption in the life faculties.

“Now what is Birth? Birth is the descent, the coming forth, the coming to be. Birth is the appearance of the six sense-bases and the Five Clinging-Aggregates.

“Now what is becoming? Becoming is sensual becoming, form becoming and formless becoming.”

This is explaining that the belief in a self is reinforced by sensory contact and is proliferated by believing in an individual sustainable personality being born, i.e.: becoming a permanent form. This belief is rooted in ignorance of the Four Noble Truths.

The Buddha is explaining becoming the personal experience of suffering - Five Clinging-Aggregates.

It is also ignorance of The Four Noble Truths to hold the belief that an ego-personality becomes formless at death but survives physical death as the same personality, either in an eternal formless state or being reborn as the same “soul.”

Becoming, birth, sickness, old age, death, and non-becoming is the environment of Dukkha caused by ignorance. The links of clinging, craving, feeling, contact, the six-sense-base, name-and-form, consciousness, and fabrications are all part of the process of a self arising from ignorance. This process is maintained by continued ignorance, furthering karma.

The Buddha then describes how clinging to the notion of self maintains this feedback loop of the six-sense base establishing a self and maintaining the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

“And what is clinging and maintaining? There are four types of clinging: Clinging to sensory stimulus, clinging to views (conditioned thinking), clinging to precepts and practices, and clinging to a doctrine of self.”

The Buddha is cautioning against developing or maintaining practices that are given validity simply from the “positive” feeling developed or the “positive” or commonly accepted views reinforced. Engaging in rituals or practices that continue a doctrine of self in any realm, physical or otherwise are to be recognized as rooted in ignorance and abandoned.

The Buddha here has taken a methodical route from the ultimate result of ignorance, suffering, back to the Second Noble Truth or the origination of individual contributions to Dukkha - craving and clinging. Along the way, he describes what is clung to: a self that is dependent on continued craving and continued clinging to sensory stimulus to be maintained.

Profound understanding of any one of these links begins to unravel the entire causative chain. For example, a profound understanding that phenomena contacting senses develops feelings, and that feeling develops craving (for more self-affirming contact with worldly phenomena) brings dispassion for constant sensory stimulation.

This develops the understanding that contact framed by ignorance via sensory stimulus is the direct result of the belief in an ego-self, (name & form) and not an inevitable life experience.

Seeing this process clearly de-personalizes the life experience. From this understanding, life experience no longer will define and maintain an ego-personality.

The implications of this realization can be unsettling at first if one is engaging the Dhamma to “fix” a flawed self. There is nothing substantial to fix, or to actualize. What is impermanent and insubstantial is to be seen as such and simply abandoned.

Remember that what is abandoned when this process of I-making is interrupted is only a fabricated ego-personality that is stuck in confusion and unsatisfactory experiences. Once understood the release from the burden of an ego-personality brings the continual experience of lasting peace and happiness.

It is also important to remember that the teachings on Dependent Origination are given to develop understanding of Four Noble Truths. Dependent Origination explains the process of how all personal phenomena arises so that understanding of the distraction of dukkha is understood. Dependent Origination teaches Right View while pointing out that holding wrong (ignorant) views is the cause of all confusion and suffering.

The establishment of anatta, an ego-personality, within an environment of anicca, resulting in the unsatisfactoriness and confusion of dukkha, is not an arbitrary or chaotic development from which there is no liberation.

There is no substantive difference between impermanence, individual confusion, and resulting in individual suffering.

The Four Noble Truths are universal truths applicable to all human experience.

Understanding Dependent Origination within the context of The Four Noble Truths is the key to unbinding from the endless karmic entanglements caused by the desire to maintain an ego-self.

The Buddha describes how craving arises from feeling, and how feeling is caused by contact:

“And what is craving?

"There are six classes of craving: Craving for forms.

  • Craving for sounds.
  • Craving for smells.
  • Craving for tastes.
  • Craving for physical sensations.
  • Craving for ideas.

"And what is feeling?

"Feeling has six classes as well:

  • Feeling arising from eye-contact.
  • Feeling arising from ear-contact.
  • Feeling arising from nose-contact.
  • Feeling arising from taste-contact.
  • Feeling arising from body-contact.
  • Feeling arising from intellect-contact.

"This is called feeling.

"And what is contact?

  • Phenomena contacting the eye.
  • Phenomena contacting the ear.
  • Phenomena contacting the nose.
  • Phenomena contacting the tongue.
  • Phenomena contacting the body.
  • Phenomena contacting the intellect.

"This is contact with the six-sense-base.

"And what is name and form? Feeling.

  • Perception.
  • Intention.
  • Attention (all mental aspects)
  • Contact.

"Discriminating self-referential consciousness is name. The elements of water, fire, earth, and wind, that which makes up physical forms is called form.

"Name-and-form is discriminating consciousness bound to or clinging to physical form.

"And what is consciousness?

"There are six classes of consciousness:

  • Eye-consciousness.
  • Ear-consciousness.
  • Nose-consciousness.
  • Tongue-consciousness.
  • Body-consciousness.
  • Intellect-consciousness.

Through the six-sense base contact with the world is made and mental fabrications, including objectifying a self-referential ego-self, is formed.

“And what are fabrications?

"There are three fabrications:

  • Bodily fabrications.
  • Verbal fabrications.
  • Mental fabrications.

All three fabrications are caused by a wrong view of self. Fabrications result in a personality bound to physical form that is perceived as “I” or “me”.

The Buddha describes ignorance:

“And what is ignorance?

  • Ignorance is not knowing stress.
  • Not knowing the origination of stress.
  • Not knowing the cessation of stress.
  • Not knowing the (Eightfold) path leading to the cessation of stress.

"This is called ignorance.

All confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment and suffering - Dukkha - arise from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

The Buddha relates Dependent Origination back to his first teaching, on Four Noble Truths, and teaches that from ignorance of Four Noble Truths comes all confusion and suffering.

Gaining understanding of The Four Noble Truths is wisdom. Wisdom brings an end to ignorance and an end to the distraction, confusion, and suffering caused by ignorance. Wisdom brings an end to the delusion of a permanent, substantial, and sustainable self.

When all ignorance is abandoned awakening arises.

The Buddha continues:

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications.

"From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness.

"From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-and-form.

"From the cessation of name-and-form comes the cessation of the six-sense-base.

"From the cessation of the six sense-base comes the cessation of contact.

"From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling.

"From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving.

"From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging and maintaining.

"From the cessation of clinging and maintaining comes the cessation of becoming.

"From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth.

"From the cessation of birth comes the cessation of sickness, aging, death, sorrow, pain, distress, despair and confusion. Wisdom brings the cessation to the entire mass of stress and suffering.

End of Sutta

The Eightfold Path is a path that develops heightened wisdom, heightened virtue and heightened concentration. All three qualities of mind are requisite conditions to end ignorance. Developing these three qualities through the guidance and framework of the Eightfold Path creates the conditions for the cessation of ignorance.

Dependent Origination describes the ongoing process rooted in ignorance that fabricates an ego-personality and how an ego-personality, how anatta, is maintained by craving and clinging. This is perhaps the most significant difference between the Buddha’s teachings and religious and philosophical systems, including most later-developed Buddhist schools.

A modern example of this is the misunderstanding and misapplication of Dependent Origination used to develop a doctrine of interdependence, interconnectedness, and inter-being between individual and insubstantial ego-personality’s. These modern doctrines only encourage and maintain craving and clinging.

All human beings are “connected” through the common problem of delusion and suffering. This is described as The First Noble Truth. On an elemental level, all things in the universe share common characteristics.

All things are impermanent, insubstantial, and unsustainable - including whatever may be interconnected. Creating something more of this simple fact such as doctrines of universal interdependence, interconnectedness, and inter-being leads to contradictory and confusing doctrines that perpetuates clinging and furthers “I-making.”

Notice that there is no actual beginning in time or birth of a “soul” or any individual entity. Dependent Origination is not a creation myth. The process of becoming an ego-self begins in ignorance, produces delusion and suffering, and (the process) can be brought to cessation through wisdom and understanding.

The single issue is ignorance. What occurred prior to ignorance is speculative distraction. What might occur post ignorance is speculative distraction. This type of speculative distraction arises from “Inappropriate views not fit for attention. These views will continue to generate confusion and suffering.”

Much of the mystical aspects and contradictions of modern Buddhism developed to provide establishment for this type of speculation and resulting distraction.

Wrong views are formed and deluded beliefs created to provide substance to what is inherently insubstantial. Having arisen from ignorance, only continued ignorance can sustain ignorance and perpetuate Dukkha.

Dependent Origination shows that from a wrong or ignorant view the manifestation of an ego-personality is fabricated. Fabricated, the process of continued fabrication can be brought to an end.

It is within an impermanent environment that a sense-based and sensory-sustained consciousness arises. Here stress arises as consciousness continually struggles to maintain a permanent and substantial view of self. It requires constant vigilance and continual fabrication to maintain the establishment of an ego-self. It is the stress of maintaining wrong views that distracts from recognizing the mirage-like nature of these views.

Through understanding Dependent Origination it is seen that clinging to a view of self occurs. Keeping this self comfortable, safe, engaged, and continually established then becomes the sole purpose for existence.

Maintaining wrong views is continual distraction. Maintaining wrong views is continual dukkha.

From clinging and maintaining as a requisite condition comes becoming (ignorant).

From the cessation of clinging and maintaining comes the cessation of becoming (ignorant).

The Eightfold Path provides the framework and Right View for observing and interrupting Dependent Origination. In order to see this process clearly any notion of “I” or “me” of being the ignorant individual that begins Dependent Origination must be abandoned.

This is another convenient form of self-establishment, of "I-making."

Here is a seeming paradox: The ongoing ignorance of an ego-self must be recognized and abandoned through the development of wisdom. It is also wrong view to conclude that it is an ego-self that is gaining wisdom. There is nothing substantial or sustainable to gain wisdom. The views of an ego-self are rooted in ignorance.

Ignorance or the products of ignorance can never give rise to wisdom, to understanding.

Awakening occurs when ignorance of Four Noble Truths is supplanted by the profound knowledge of origination of Dukkha and the experience of cessation of Five Clinging-Aggregates.

The developed skills of concentration and mindfulness and the ongoing direction and guidance of the Eightfold Path diminishes “I-making” or conceit. It is from this perspective that Dependent Origination can be usefully and effectively understood.

The Buddha was asked on one occasion “is the one who acts the same one who experiences the result of an act?” (Notice the self-identification in the question)

The Buddha responds “To say the one who acts is the one who experiences is one extreme. To say the one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences is the other extreme.” (This is the belief in outside forces such as creation, reward, or punishment bringing individual experiences.)

The Buddha continues: “I teach the Dhamma from the middle, a middle way. I avoid those extreme views and teach that (individual) ignorance brings all manner of delusion and suffering. Whoever declares that pleasure and pain are self-made, whoever declares that pleasure and pain are other made, are deluded. All experiences are dependent on contact and contact is (initially) dependent on ignorance.” (Samyutta Nikaya 22.46)

This brings up another contradictory teaching of later-developed Buddhist schools that misunderstand or misapply Dependent Origination. The ego-self, anatta, has no “inherent nature.” There is no Buddhahood or Buddha-Nature for the ego-self to aspire to. This doctrine creates confusion and further establishment of the ego-self. If there is an inner Buddhahood or Buddha-Nature how could it succumb to utter ignorance? These are simply deluded doctrines rooted in ignorance.

It is the ego-self that has no substantial nature. Developing understanding of what is perceived to be an ego-self is paramount so that all attempts at continuing to establish anatta - Five Clinging-Aggregates - are abandoned.

There is nothing in the Buddha’s teachings that support the notion of an inner Buddha-Nature or doctrinal "inter-being." Once awakened, a human being is free of craving, clinging, delusion and ongoing suffering. This includes clinging the ego-self to an imaginary idea of an inner, obscure, Buddha-Nature.

All human beings have the potential to awaken, to develop full human maturity. This does not imply an inherent Buddha-Nature. It does show that awakening is possible to anyone who can recognize and abandon all self-referential views including that establish an inherent Buddha-Nature or Buddhahood.

This is what the Buddha taught. Being free of all clinging views is lasting peace and contentment. This is enough!

To reiterate, I am not disparaging later-developed teachings. I am providing clarity as to what the Buddha taught and in the context that he presented his Dhamma.

In the Simsapa Sutta, the Buddha explains the refined purpose of the Dhamma: "And what have I taught? 'I teach the nature of dukkha (stress). I teach the origination of dukkha (craving and clinging originate dukkha). I teach that cessation of dukkha is possible. I teach that The Eightfold Path is the path leading to the cessation of dukkha: This is what I have taught. “ [10] Simsapa Sutta

The Buddha describes the insubstantiality of the mental/physical form in the Dhammapada, v.46 as “Having known this body likened unto foam and understanding thoroughly its nature is mirage-like”

Any establishment of a self in any inner or exterior realm including clinging to the notion of an inner Buddha-Nature or Buddhahood is clinging to a mirage.

Dependent Origination shows that continued confusion and suffering is dependent on continued ignorance. Dukkha originates in a series of 12 “dependencies” rooted in ignorance. Developing wisdom and understanding through the Eightfold Path brings an end to ignorance. This is how one Becomes Buddha.

Jhana meditation is very effective in interrupting the compulsion to continually maintain ignorance and the establishment of an ego-personality. Mindfulness of the breath settles the mind and develops deep and skillful concentration. As distraction lessens and non-distraction develops it becomes possible to observe Dependent Origination as it occurs.

Useful insight is insight into the formation of self-referential, impermanent, ego-self-sustaining views arising from ignorance. Useful insight is insight into The Marks Of Existence. [4] Three Marks Of Existence - Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha

Aversion to the Dhamma often arises as the Dhamma points directly to seeing clearly the insubstantial nature of self. All manner of adaptations and accommodations have been made to the Buddha’s original teachings to avoid this aversion. These general hindrances are included in the chapter on Hindrances. Hindrances arise from the ego-personality’s need to continually establish and maintain its existence in every object, event, view, and idea that occurs.

Hindrances are also an important aspect of the Satipatthana Sutta, the sutta on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness presented further on. The Buddha recognized the tendency of an ignorant mind to develop strategies to avoid his Dhamma and substitute anything that allows for continuation of ignorant wrong views.

Ignoring hindrances to the Buddha's Dhamma continues ignorance. The refined mindfulness taught by the Buddha brings recognition of all hindrances. The refined mindfulness taught by the Buddha brings recognition of the confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing suffering that originates in, and is dependent on, ignorance.

  1. Nagara Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. Three Marks Of Existence - Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  5. Five Clinging-Aggregates
  6. Fabrications
  7. Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views
  8. Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta - The Not-Self Characteristic
  9. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma
  10. Simsapa Sutta

 

Dependent Origination And The Myth Of Non-Duality

Above are recordings of two talks on Dependent Origination, Anatta, and The Myth Of Non-Duality from our Tuesday evening dhamma classes on April 12 & 19, 2016 and two talks on the same subject from our Saturday morning classes on April 16 & 23, 2016.

The Buddha “awakened” to the profound understanding  that the common human problem of  the underlying unsatisfactory nature of life is rooted in ignorance. In the ancient language of the Pali Canon this unsatisfactory experience is known as Dukka.  The origination of Dukkha is explained in the Buddha’s teaching of Dependent Origination. Understanding Dependent Origination shows it is ignorance of The Four Noble Truths, through twelve observable causative links, all manner of confusion, delusion, and suffering, in a word Dukkha, arises.

Dependent Origination is the Buddha’s teaching on how personal phenomena arises within the environment of anicca, impermanence. The entirety of the Dhamma is to bring understanding of The Four Noble Truths. It is within the context of The Four Noble Truths that understanding of Dependent Origination develops. Understanding Dependent Origination brings awareness of the relationship between the five clinging-aggregates  and the phenomenal world.

The five clinging aggregates are physical and mental factors that through individual intentional clinging a personality is formed that through ignorance is identified as a permanent, substantial, and sustainable self. Once formed, through confused and deluded thinking, the ego-self tenaciously insists on establishing its “self” in every object, event, view, and idea that occurs. This includes much of what is presented in later-developed “Buddhist” schools.

Modern Buddhist doctrine continues to evolve in contradiction to the Buddha’s original teachings to provide for the continuing establishment of “anatta” through  misunderstanding or intentional misapplication of “dependent” to imply interdependence, interconnectedness, and inter-being. This has been done to allow for a non-dual doctrine that is rooted in the Veda’s and the later Upanishads, the doctrinal pre-cursors to modern Hinduism and modern Advaita. In this sense, modern Buddhism has more in common with modern Hinduism, Advaita, and most yoga-based philosophies than the direct teachings of the Buddha  as preserved in the Pali Canon. [1]

(This not to criticize or disparage any philosophy or religion. This is only for clarity as to what the Buddha actually taught and the significant differences between the Buddha's Dhamma, other religions, and later-developed "Buddhist" doctrines.)

Dependent Origination directly explains the 12 causative links that determine the experiences of a self-referential ego-personality. In the Paticca-Samupadda-Vibhanga [2] Sutta the Buddha presents the 12 causative links of dependent Origination. Each of these 12 links are required, or “dependent” on the prior condition in order to give rise to a “self” that will experience dukkha. Rooted in ignorance (of The Four Noble Truths) it is through a continued confused and deluded “wrong view” that “anatta” continues to establish itself in every object, event, view, or idea that occurs. This known as continued “I-making,” or simply, conceit.

Dependent Origination States:

  • From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.
  • From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.
  • From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.
  • From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes the six sense-bases.
  • From the six sense-bases as a requisite condition comes contact.
  • From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.
  • From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.
  • From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging and maintaining.
  • From clinging and maintaining as a requisite condition comes becoming.
  • From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.
  • From birth as a requisite condition comes aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair.

His very first teaching, then, was to present the truth of Dependent Origination as  four noble truths for the first time in human history. He presented the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, [3] the sutta setting the (only) wheel of truth in motion.

This reference to “setting the wheel of truth in motion” relates to a true understanding of Kamma [4] (karma). Kamma means “action.” By setting this wheel of truth in motion the Buddha presented a way to alter the direction of lives rooted in actions born in ignorance by developing skillful actions that would lead to profound wisdom and lives of lasting peace and happiness.

Kamma is the present unfolding of past intentional acts moderated by current mindfulness. What this means is that by developing the Eightfold Path one can incline thoughts, words, and deeds towards skillful actions and achieve human awakening. The Buddha describes awakening as “released” or “unbound” as in achieving release or unbinding from craving for an ego-centric existence or clinging to objects, events, views, or ideas that would reinforce self-referential deluded views.

Upon hearing this first teaching, Kondanna, one of the five ascetics the Buddha had previously befriended, declared: “All conditioned things that are subject to arising are also  subject to cessation.”

Kondanna had developed a profound understanding of impermanence, one of the Three Marks Of Existence [5] that describes the interplay between:

  • Anicca: The impermanent phenomenal worldly environment
  • Anatta: A self-referential ignorant view clinging to its environment
  • And the confusion, delusion and suffering (dukkha) resulting from defining a self through clinging to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas.

In his second discourse the Buddha then taught the Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta, [6] the sutta on the Not-Self Characteristic. The confusion and deluded conclusions that are presented as doctrine in modern Buddhism are rooted in a misunderstanding, or outright dismissal, of Dependent Origination and these first two discourses.

The Buddha never taught that there is an inherent “true self” or “buddha nature” or “no self.” He never taught that “anatta” could be established and maintained through clinging to all phenomena or clinging to a non-dual, interdependent, interconnected doctrine or cosmic view.

Anatta means “not-self.” In using this word the Buddha teaches that what is commonly viewed as a self when seen through the Right View and profound wisdom developed through the Eightfold Path is clearly not a self that can be permanently established. Understanding anatta clearly shows that all phenomena is separate and discrete including “anatta.” If all things in the phenomenal world are impermanent and so uncertain as to occurrence or duration, there could be no permanent connection between impermanent objects, events, views, or ideas.

What is commonly and ignorantly viewed as a self is anatta, not a self that can be established in any non-dual doctrine. While this will pacify a self-referential ego-personality it can only develop further confusion, delusion, and suffering.

The Buddha taught an Eightfold Path that develops the understanding of the Three Marks of Existence and the interplay and distraction of impermanence, anatta, and dukkha.

In the Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta he described that which is commonly used to describe a “self” as five “aggregates,” each inherently impermanent:

  • Form
  • Feelings
  • Perceptions
  • Mental Fabrications
  • Consciousness

These five aggregates do not establish a self. The teaching on the Five Clinging Aggregates [7] only show the impermanent though ongoing process dependent on clinging to confused and deluded views that then results in an unsatisfactory life experience. When any of these discrete and impermanent aggregates are clung to in order to establish a self they become “clinging aggregates.”

The Buddha consistently described his teachings as “I teach suffering (dukkha) and the cessation of suffering. Nothing more.”  When describing dukkha the Buddha teaches that “birth is suffering, sickness, is suffering, aging is suffering, death is suffering. Being separated from what is desired is suffering. Associating with the un-desired is suffering. In short, the five clinging aggregates are suffering.”

Even though by clinging these five disparate aggregates together to establish a self seems to provide an argument for a self, the argument cannot be sustained. The Buddha never answered the questions “is there a self” or “is there not a self,” he simply taught that what is commonly viewed as a self is not a self. The view that would establish a self is a wrong view.

As the question itself is rooted in ignorance (of The Four Noble Truths) when asked, the Buddha would often simply remain silent to indicate that the question itself did not deserve an answer. At other times the Buddha would answer “holding this question is the cause of your confusion, let the question go.”

In the Panha Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya 4.42) the Buddha teaches that there are four skillful ways to answer questions:

  • Questions that are suitable should be answered directly - yes, no, this, that
  • Questions that are suitable should be answered with a descriptive or defining answer
  • Questions that are suitable should be answered with another question
  • Questions that are unsuitable to developing understanding should be put aside.

Further on in this sutta the Buddha calls those that understand how to answer questions as “one who has broken through to what is worthwhile, prudent and wise.” Many modern “Buddhists” claim that it is the essence of “Buddhist” practice, to question everything. As one engaged in the Buddha’s teachings mundane wisdom is accepting and contemplating answers, or lack thereof, that challenge clinging views rooted in ignorance. It is anatta that insist on answers to all questions and will only alter and accommodate “answers” that will allow for continuation of deluded self-referential views.

This is the result of thinking that has been “conditioned” by ignorance and dependent on ignorance of The Four Noble Truths. Modern psychology calls conditioned thinking “confirmation bias.” Conditioned thinking can only produce views that are biased towards confirming held conditioned views.

Common in modern Buddhism and in modern”new age” thought in general is the notion of non-duality or that the individual is a part of one grand cosmic entity  attached (clinging) to each other and to all phenomena. This is simply an extreme view of establishing the five clinging aggregates in all phenomena and furthering the confusion, delusion, and suffering inherent in ignorance of The Four Noble Truths.

The Buddha taught to see phenomenal reality clearly and to see the discrete, separate, and impermanent nature of all things in the world. In describing an arahant, an awakened human being, he consistently used the words unbound or released as in unbound or released from all clinging views including the deluded view that individuals are in fact part of one giant clinging organism.

He taught an Eightfold Path that develops the concentration and refined mindfulness to recognize and abandon all confused and deluded views that would only continue confusion and delusion, and further human suffering.

When using the word anatta, the Buddha is not attempting to establish a true self or a cosmic self found in all things and connected to all living things. These are contradictory teachings of the later  developed Buddhist schools and is rooted in a misunderstanding and misapplication of Dependent Origination.

The Buddha taught that what is commonly viewed as a “self” is the common cause for human confusion, delusion, and suffering, and is “anatta,” not-a-self worth establishing or defending. He taught that whatever is impermanent, including the insistence that a self can be established cosmically through inter-being, interconnectedness, or interdependence, is anatta, not-a-self.

It is a profoundly wrong view that insists on establishing a self in any impermanent environment or cosmic or higher realm. Again the Buddha taught that the belief in a permanent or sustainable self-referential “self” is rooted in confusion and delusion and can only lead to further suffering. (Self-referential views are any views that establish or instills a “self” in external objects, events, views, and ideas.)

Any conditioned view that establishes or maintains a permanent sustainable self is based in ignorance of The Four Noble Truths. This conditioned view of a self is anatta, not-a-self.

Any attempt to establish or maintain this confused view contradicts the Four Noble Truths and will only lead to more confusion, delusion, and suffering.

The Buddha’s Eightfold Path develops freedom from clinging including clinging to the view of the interdependence, interconnectedness, or the inter-being of all human beings. This path of wisdom, virtue, and profound concentration develops a life of lasting peace and happiness through abandoning all confused and deluded views clinging to the notion that a permanent “self” can somehow be established through commonly held beliefs or constantly repeated confused views.

Seeing these confused views clearly is the essence of useful insight and the essence of the Buddha’s Dhamma. There is no great mystery to be solved. Human life is not a koan to be endlessly contemplated. There is an Eightfold Path to be whole-heartedly engaged with that will bring lasting peace and happiness in this lifetime.

It’s what the Buddha taught.

  1. Pali Canon
  2. Dependent Origination
  3. Four Noble Truths
  4. Kamma
  5. Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  6. Anatta Lakkhana Sutta
  7. Five Clinging-Aggregates

 

Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta - Four Noble Truths

Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta Talks

Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Introduction

The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta is the very first teaching ever presented by the Buddha. It occurred a few weeks after Siddhartha Gotama awakened and gained full human maturity - complete understanding of the human life experience.

For a few weeks after his awakening, Siddhartha carefully considered if it was possible to teach to others his profound understanding of the nature of suffering  (Dukkha) arising due to wrong views of self (Anatta) within an impermanent, ever-changing environment (Anicca). Developing the wisdom of a Buddha is developing insight into these Three Marks Of Existence. [1]

As described in the Paticca-Samuppada Sutta, [2] the primary sutta on Dependent Origination, the conditions that Dukkha is dependent on arise from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. [3] As shown and taught in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the Eightfold Path [4] is the middle-way that avoids extreme views that would continue wrong views rooted in ignorance of the Four Noble Truths described in this sutta. The Eightfold Path is the path developed by Dhamma practitioners that brings wisdom and awakening.

It is the self-identification with ongoing suffering - clinging or joining with suffering - that obscures impermanence through the continuation of self-referential unsatisfactory experiences.

The Buddha taught an Eightfold Path to develop the concentration supporting the refined mindfulness necessary to integrate the Eightfold Path as the framework for recognizing and abandoning all wrong views rooted in ignorance.

The entire forty-five-year teaching career of the Buddha was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths to bring wisdom, understanding, and profound insight into Three Marks Of Existence.

This very first teaching was presented to the five ascetics he had previously befriended, all seeking understanding.

In addition to the audio recordings above, there are videos of these talks on my Video Archive Page.

My comments below are in italics.

Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion

Samyutta Nikaya 56:11

I have heard that on this occasion the Buddha was staying at Varanasi in the Game Refuge at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five:

"There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects. This behavior is base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable. It is devoted to self-affliction. That which is devoted to self-affliction is (always) painful and ignoble. Avoiding both of these extremes the middle way is realized by the Tathagata. This middle way produces vision and knowledge. This middle way leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

“One who has gone forth” refers to one who has gained understanding framed by the Eightfold Path and no longer craves after or clings to the impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas of the world.

"And what is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that brings vision and direct knowledge, that leads to calm and to self-awakening and Unbinding? The middle way is precisely this Noble Eightfold Path:

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Meditation

“This is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that brings vision and direct knowledge, that leads to calm and to self-awakening and Unbinding.

“Tathagata” means “One who has gone forth” and is the word the Buddha used when referring to himself. By using this word the Buddha established his life and his teachings as a continual reference to the Eightfold Path. “Unbinding” refers to the culmination of the path - abandoning clinging to views rooted in ignorance of these Four Noble Truths.

“I teach the truth of stress (Dukkha) and the truth of the path leading to the cessation of stress. Nothing More.

"This is the noble truth of stress:

"Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful. Sorrow, regret, pain, distress, and despair are stressful. Furthermore, association with the unbeloved is stressful and separation from is loved is stressful. Not getting what is craved for is stressful. In short, the Five Clinging Aggregates [5] are stressful.

“Five Clinging Aggregates” are form, feelings, perceptions, mental fabrications, and ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Five Clinging Aggregates describe the ongoing personal experience of stress. Gaining insight into Five Clinging Aggregates is gaining insight into Three Marks Of Existence.

"And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming (rooted in ignorance) and accompanied by passion and delight, (in becoming) relishing now here and now thereby craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

“Relishing nowhere and now thereby craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming” means compulsive seeking to establish a “self” rooted in ignorance in every thought, word, and idea that occurs.

"And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, and letting go of that very craving.

The previous statement describes the purpose of a Buddha’s Dhamma. The following statement provides the focus and framework for Dhamma practice and points directly to the Eightfold Path:

"And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path - Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Meditation.

"Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘Dukkha (stress) occurs.' (First Noble Truth)

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: The noble truth of stress is to be understood.

Understanding the nature of stress, its arising and passing away, is the task associated with the First Noble Truth. Understanding that ignorance of the impermanence of all conditioned phenomena, including what constitutes a “self,” initiates craving and clinging. This initial ignorance then allows for “clinging” wrong views of self - mental fabrications - to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas.

This unknowingly - mindlessly - establishes disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences, Dukkha, as personal experiences given an individual personality from this initial ignorance. Life experience established in ignorance can only lead to continuing confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing experiences.

It is insight into Anicca, impermanence, and Anatta, the Not-Self characteristic, that brings wisdom and knowledge of “things never heard before” and results in awakening as the Buddha describes awakening:

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:

  • The noble truth of stress has been understood.

The Eightfold Path develops the skills of concentration and refined mindfulness necessary to support accomplishing the tasks associated with developing understanding of Four Noble Truths. Profound and penetrative understanding of the origination and cessation of stress, of Dukkha, is awakening:

"Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:

  • This is the noble truth of the origination of stress.
  • This noble truth of the origination of stress is to be abandoned.
  • This noble truth of the origination of stress has been abandoned.

This refers to the Second Noble Truth.

"Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:

  • This is the noble truth of the cessation of stress.
  • This noble truth of the cessation of stress is to be directly experienced.'
  • This noble truth of the cessation of stress has been directly experienced.'

This refers to the Third Noble Truth.

"Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before:

  • This is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress.
  • This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress is to be developed.
  • This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress has been developed.

This last refers to the Fourth Noble Truth, the truth of the path developing profound and penetrative insight into Three Marks Of Existence. The Eightfold Path provides simple and direct guidance of an awakened human beings Dhamma.

"Monks, as long as my knowledge & vision concerning these Four Noble Truths was not pure, I did not claim to have directly self-awakened. My self-awakening is unexcelled in the cosmos even with its deities, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk.

Here the Buddha is declaring that his Dhamma surpasses the “spiritual” practices of his time for all beings regardless of their understanding or social position.

The Buddha continues: “But as soon as my knowledge & vision concerning these Four Noble Truths was truly pure, then I did claim to have directly self-awakened, an awakening unexcelled in the cosmos. Knowledge & vision arose in me: 'Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.'

“Unprovoked is my release” refers to the emptiness of ignorance in the Buddha’s mind. Having become empty of ignorance there is no longer the condition present - ignorance - to “provoke” craving, clinging, or any thought, word, or deed rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

“This is the last birth” is the Buddha’s declaration that the conditions giving rise to the birth of life experiences arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths and resulting in Dukkha no longer exist. The Buddha has emptied himself of ignorance.

“There is now no further becoming” means that having emptied himself of ignorance, becoming further established in ignorance is abandoned and becoming awakened, Becoming Buddha is achieved.

That is what the Blessed One said. The group of five monks were delighted at his words. While this discourse was being given,  Venerable Kondañña declared: “All conditioned things that arise are subject to cessation.”

Kondana now understands the impermanence of all phenomena arising from the “condition” of ignorance.

Having heard Kondanna the Buddha exclaimed: "So you really know, Kondañña? So you really know? You are now “Anna Kondanna - Kondañña who knows understands.”

End Of Sutta

Every teaching presented during the Buddha’s forty-five year teaching career was presented in the context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths. Being mindful of this simple truth then shows how to understand and integrate any sutta.

  1. Three Marks Of Existence 
  2. Paticca-Samuppada Sutta
  3. Four Noble Truths
  4. Eightfold Path
  5. Five Clinging Aggregates

Analysis of Four Noble Truths - The Sacca-Vibhanga Sutta

Sacca-Vibhanga Sutta Talks

Sacca-Vibhanga Sutta

Introduction

The Buddha's first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the single path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [3]  Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

In the Sacca-Vibhanga Sutta, one of the Buddha’s chief disciples, Sariputta, presents a complete analysis of the Four Noble Truths including a simple and direct explanation of the Eightfold Path.

In this sutta, one of the Buddha's chief disciples, Sariputta, teaches in plain and simple terms the qualifications one should look for in choosing a skillful Dhamma teacher and what an authentic Dhamma practice must be based on: “Sariputta is able to declare, teach, describe, set forth, reveal, explain, and make plain the Four Noble Truths in detail.”

The reference in this sutta to established brahmans, disincarnate “beings”, and imagined creator gods as having no more understanding of Four Noble Truths as ordinary human beings is common throughout the Buddha’s Dhamma. [4] Mara And Metaphor

A critical aspect of the Dhamma is that ignorance that arises within, and is resolved within individual human beings through their own individual Right Effort, as described in this sutta, through direct engagement with an Eightfold Path. The Buddha referred to imaginary, disincarnate beings, devas, and gods to show that even though these fabricated beliefs were as widespread then as they are today, they are merely metaphors for a confused, distracted, and conflicted minds lacking understanding of Four Noble Truths. [5] Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views

Simply put, an awakened human being’s Dhamma, as seen here and throughout the Buddha’s Dhamma, resolves solely within the mind and body of each individual Dhamma practitioner.

My comments below are in italics.

Analysis of Four Noble Truths - The Sacca-Vibhanga Sutta

Majjhima Nikaya 141

On one occasion the Buddha was staying at the Deer Park in Isipatana. He addressed those gathered: “Friends, it was here that I set in motion the unexcelled Wheel Of Dhamma. My Dhamma cannot be corrupted by any brahman, deva, Mara, Brahma, or any one in the entire world.

No one can corrupt the revelation, declaration, the description, the structure, the explanation, and the clear and direct teaching of Four Noble Truths:

  1. The Noble Truth of stress and suffering.
  2. The Noble Truth of the origination of stress.
  3. The Noble Truth of the cessation of stress.
  4. The Noble Truth of the Eightfold Path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.

“Friends, associate with wise disciples such as Sariputta and Moggallana. Sariputta and Moggallana are well-trained, focused, wise, and sympathetic to those developing a life integrated with the Eightfold Path.

“Sariputta is like a mother giving birth and Moggallana is like the nurse that attends to the baby. Sariputta trains others on developing the Dhamma, Moggallana, to the highest culmination.

This last may seem to show Sariputta as a lesser teacher. The Buddha always held Sariputta as his most effective Dhamma teacher. When seen clearly it is much more difficult to introduce an ordinary person to the Dhamma than to continue to support the development of one already engaged with the Eightfold Path. Both Sariputta and Moggallana were critical support to the Buddha and the original Sangha.

“Sariputta is able to declare, teach, describe, set forth, reveal, explain, and make plain the Four Noble Truths in detail.”

Having said these words, the Buddha left for the days abiding.

Sariputta then addressed those gathered: “Friends, it was here that the Tathagata set in motion the unexcelled Wheel Of Dhamma. This Dhamma cannot be corrupted by any brahman, deva, Mara, Brahma, or any one in the entire world. No one can corrupt the revelation, declaration, the description, the structure, the explanation, and the clear and direct teaching of Four Noble Truths:

  1. The Noble Truth of stress and suffering.
  2. The Noble Truth of the origination of stress.
  3. The Noble Truth of the cessation of stress.
  4. The Noble Truth of the Eightfold Path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.

Friends, what is the noble truth of stress and suffering?

  • Birth is stressful.
  • Sickness is stressful.
  • Aging is stressful.
  • Death is stressful.
  • Sorrow, regret, pain, distress, and despair are all stressful.
  • Not getting what is desired is stressful.
  • Receiving what is undesired is stressful.
  • In short, the Five-Clinging-Aggregates are stressful.

The Five Clinging-Aggregates are the ongoing personal experience of stress and suffering in an impermanent world - the personal experience of Anicca, anatta, and Dukkha. [6] Five Clinging-Aggregates

It is the Eightfold Path that develops useful Vipassana, useful introspective insight, into these Three Marks Of Existence. [7] Vipassana - Introspective Insight

“And what is birth? Whatever takes birth. The descent, the coming-to-be, the coming forth, the arising of the Five-Clinging-Aggregates, the fabrication of sensuous realms of diverse beings. This is called birth.

One of the grossest misunderstandings of the Buddha’s Dhamma is what he taught as Karma and Rebirth.  Rather than teaching Karma and Rebirth as a magical and mystical system of behavior modification through reward and punishments, reward based on ambiguous “merit” and good deeds with the ultimate reward in a vague realms of emptiness or nothingness or eternal  establishment in some form of Buddhist “heaven” and punishment similar to all other salvific religions in some type of “hell”, the Buddha taught that Karma is the conditioning of past intentional acts  manifesting in the present moment that is moderated by the present level of mindfulness. If what is held in mind continues to be rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths than individual experience of what one is “giving birth” to in the present moment can only “give birth” to continued ignorance in the present moment. Holding in mind the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path will “give birth” to a present-moment-experience that continues the non-distracted development of wisdom of Four Noble Truths.  [8] Karma And Rebirth

Many translations state “acquisition of (sense) spheres of the diverse beings in this or that group of beings, that is called birth” rather than the content-relevant “the fabrication of sensuous realms of diverse beings. This is called birth.” The improper (relevant to context) translation encourages a subtle grasping-after establishment on speculated and imaginary non-physical realms that the Buddha consistently and emphatically taught to abandon. [9] Right Mindfulness And Authentic Dhamma

“And what is aging? Aging is (increasing) decrepitude, brokenness, graying, wrinkling, decline of life-force, diminishing of mental faculties, of diverse beings. This is called aging.

“And what is death? Death is the passing away, the breaking up, the disappearance, the completion of time, the casting off of the body, the interruption of the life faculty, and the dissolution of the Five Clinging-Aggregates of diverse beings. This is called death.

“And what is sorrow? Sorrow is sadness, this suffering of misfortune, being touched by pain. This is called sorrow.

“And what is regret? Regret is the grieving, the crying , the weeping, the wailing, the regret of suffering from misfortune, of being touched buy pain, this is called regret.

“And what is pain? Pain is bodily pain. bodily discomfort, pain or discomfort from bodily contact this is called pain.

“And what is distress? Distress is mental pain and mental discomfort, pain or discomfort from mental contact. This is called distress.

“And what is despair? Despair is despondency and  desperation of anyone suffering from misfortune or touch buy a painful thing. This is called despair.

“And what is the stress of not getting what is desired? In those beings subject to birth, the wish arises, ‘May I not be subject to birth, may birth not come to me.’ Wishing does not bring cessation. This is the the stress of not getting what is desired.

“Furthermore, In uninformed human beings subject to birth, sickness, aging, death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress, and despair the wish arises ‘O, may I not be subject to birth, sickness, aging, death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress, and despair. May these not befall me.’ These things are not avoided by wishing.  This is the the stress of not getting what is desired.

The result of continued grasping after continued establishment of a fabricated view of self clinging to any impermanent phenomena, including the fabricated phenomena of external realms and the fabricated belief of salvific intervention of beings from external imaginary realms is what is referred to here. Wishing to avoid any experience that is determined by simply having a human life is rooted in self-referential wrong views self and always results in continued distraction and continued stress and suffering.

“And what are the Five Clinging-Aggregates that continue stress?

  1. The clinging-to-form-aggregate.
  2. The clinging-to-feeling-aggregate.
  3. The clinging-to-perception-aggregate.
  4. The clinging-to-fabrication-aggregate.
  5. The clinging-to-consciousness-aggregate.

“These are the Five Clinging-Aggregates that continue stress.

“This, friends, is the Noble Truth of Stress.

“And what is the Noble Truth of the origination of stress? The very craving that makes for becoming father ignorant, craving clinging to passion and delight (after what is craved including adapted, accommodated and/or embellished modern dharmas), entranced here and there with craving for sensuality, craving for continued becoming (further ignorant), craving for non-becoming (escape from the effects of ignorance rather than cessation of ignorance, annihilation into nothingness, emptiness, non-duality). This is called the Noble Truth of the origination of stress.

Wise and skillful disciples understand that the Dhamma is practiced within individual life as life unfolds. Each moment holds the potential to become further ignorant or become further awakened.  [10] Becoming Explained

“And what friends is the Noble Truth of the cessation of stress? The renunciation, the relinquishment, the release, the letting go, he remainderless fading away and complete cessation of craving. This is called the Noble Truth of the cessation of stress.

“And what is the Noble Truth of the path of Dhamma practice that leads directly to the cessation of stress? This path is the Noble Eightfold Path:

1. Right View. Right View is knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress, knowledge with regard to the Eightfold Path of practice leading to the cessation of stress. This is Right View.

2. Right Intention. Right Intention is maintaining mindfulness of the intention for renunciation, for freedom from ill-will, for harmlessness, for cessation. This is Right Intention

3. Right Speech. Right Speech is abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, and abstaining from gossip and idle chatter. This is right Speech.

4. Right Action. Right Action is abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, and abstaining from sexual misconduct. This is Right Action.

5. Right Livelihood. Right Livelihood is when a skillful disciple of the Noble Ones has abandoned dishonest livelihood and provides for themselves with honesty. This is Right Livelihood.

6. Right Effort. Right Effort is when a skillful disciple of the Noble Ones (internally) generates the skillful desire, who is persistent, who remains mindful of their intent for the non-arising of unskillful qualities that have yet arisen, who remains mindful of their intent for the abandoning of unskillful qualities that have arisen, who remains mindful for maintaining non-confusion and for increasing, developing, and the culmination of skillful qualities that have yet arisen. This is Right Effort.

7. Right Mindfulness. Right Mindfulness is when a skillful disciple of the Noble Ones remains mindful of the body in and of itself while remaining ardent, alert, and mindful of putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. Right Mindfulness is when a skillful disciple of the Noble Ones remains mindful of feelings in and of themselves while remaining ardent, alert, and mindful of putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. Right Mindfulness is when a skillful disciple of the Noble Ones remains mindful of thoughts in and of themselves while remaining ardent, alert, and mindful of putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. Right Mindfulness is when a skillful disciple of the Noble Ones remains mindful of the (present) quality of mind in and of itself while remaining ardent, alert, and mindful of putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. This is right mindfulness. [11] Satipatthana Sutta - Four Foundations of Mindfulness

8. Right Meditation. Right Meditation is when a skillful disciple of the Noble Ones has established seclusion from sensuality and unskillful mental qualities. The enter and  remain in the First Jhana. This First Jhana is experienced as rapture born of that very seclusion. It is accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. [12]  Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas

This first Jana is simply the initial pleasant calming that occurs from taking refuge in seclusion and becoming mindful of the breath in the body.

“Furthermore, the ending of the defilements depends on the Second Jhana which is the stilling of directed thought and evaluation.  This Second Jhana is experienced as rapture and pleasure born of concentration. Free of directed thought and evaluation, the joy of concentration permeates their entire mind and body.

This second Jhana is a deepening awareness of the mind calming in the body as a point of concentration. “Furthermore, the ending of the defilements depends on the Third Jhana which is the fading of rapture. They remain equanimous, mindful, alert, sensitive to pleasure. With the fading of rapture, this pleasant abiding permeates their entire mind and body.

This third Jhana is characterized by the stilling of directed thought and evaluation and now able to experience the subtle pleasure of a mind calmly united with the body. This is a pleasant abiding free of comparison to what is no longer present.

“Furthermore, the ending of the defilements depends on the Fourth Jhana which is the abandoning of evaluation. They enter and remain in the Fourth Jhana which is pure equanimity and mindful. Being pure, neither pleasure nor pain is seen. They sit permeated in mind and body with pure, bright awareness. The Fourth Jhana which is a pleasant abiding. This is Right Meditation.

This fourth Jhana is simply a deepening level of concentration and resulting pleasant abiding that remains at peace no matter what arises. This pleasant abiding is the defining characteristic of a well-concentrated mind having integrated the Eightfold Path.

“This is the Noble Truth of the Eightfold Path of practice that leads directly to the cessation of stress.

“Friends, it was here that the Tathagata set in motion the unexcelled Wheel Of Dhamma. This Dhamma cannot be corrupted by any brahman, deva, Mara, Brahma, or any one in the entire world. No one can corrupt the revelation, declaration, the description, the structure, the explanation, and the clear and direct teaching of Four Noble Truths.”

This is what Venerable Sariputta said. Gratified, those in attendance were delighted in Venerable Sariputta words.

End Of Sutta 

Linked Articles For Further Study

  1. Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. Mara And Metaphor
  5. Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views
  6. Five Clinging-Aggregates
  7. Vipassana - Introspective Insight
  8. Karma And Rebirth
  9. Right Mindfulness And Authentic Dhamma
  10. Becoming Explained
  11. Satipatthana Sutta - Four Foundations of Mindfulness
  12. Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas

Magga-Vibhanga Sutta: Analysis of the Eightfold Path

Magga-Vibhanga Sutta Talks

Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

Introduction

In the Nagara Sutta [1] the newly awakened Siddhartha Gotama, now a Buddha, explains the path he discovered and then taught as the path to becoming free of ignorance and become Rightly Self-Awakened:

“In this way, I saw a timeless path to be traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones. And what is this timeless path traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones? Just this noble eightfold path:

Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Meditation.”

The Eightfold Path is the Fourth Noble Truth, [2] the truth of the path developing the cessation of confused and deluded thinking ignorant of Four Noble Truths. It is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that results in all manner of distracting, disappointing, and unsatisfactory experiences.

“Timeless” refers to the timeless nature of these Four Truths. These Four Truths remain true throughout the unfolding of time. Ongoing ignorance requires a reference to linear time, a mind constantly reverberating between past experiences and future desires, distracted from what is occurring. (Thank You, Jen for this description!)

The Buddha awakened to Dependent origination which clearly states that from ignorance of Four Noble Truths all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing suffering (Dukkha) arises. Everything the Buddha would teach for his forty-five-year teaching career was taught in the context of Dependent Origination [3] and Four Noble Truths to develop profound insight of Three Marks Of existence. [4]

The single path the Buddha taught to overcome ignorance of Four Noble Truths is this Eightfold Path. Adapting, accommodating, embellishing, diminishing, or dismissing outright the Eightfold Path only results in a “spiritual” or “religious” practice that can only ignore an awakened human being’s teaching. This is a common,  subtle, and powerful strategy of a mind rooted in ignorance of these Four Truths to continue to ignore its own ignorance.

The simple and direct path that an awakened human being established as the “Heartwood of His Dhamma” brings a calm and peaceful mind, a mind resting in equanimity, to anyone who avoids distraction and wholeheartedly engages with the path.

The title of this sutta literally means Suffering-Analysis.

Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

The Analysis of the Eightfold Path

Samyutta Nikaya 45.8

I have heard that at one time the Buddha was staying in Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery.

There he addressed those assembled:

“Friends, I will now give you a detailed analysis of the Noble Eightfold Path. Listen mindfully.

This is the Noble Eightfold Path:

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Meditation

And what is Right View?

  • Knowledge with regard to stress
  • Knowledge with regard to the origination of stress
  • Knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress
  • Knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress

This, friends, is Right View.

And what is Right Intention?

  • Being mindful of the intention to recognize and abandon wrong views
  • Being mindful of the intention to remain free from ill will
  • Being mindful of the intention to remain harmless to all beings

This, friends, is Right Intention

And what is Right Speech?

  • Abstaining from lying
  • Abstaining from divisive speech
  • Abstaining from abusive speech
  • Abstaining from gossip
  • Abstaining from idle chatter

This, friends, is Right Speech.

And what is Right Action?

  • Abstaining from taking life
  • Abstaining from taking what is not freely given
  • Abstaining from sexual misconduct

This, friends, is Right Action.

And what is Right Livelihood?

  • Right Livelihood abandons dishonest livelihood.
  • Right Livelihood is honest Livelihood.

This, friends, is Right Livelihood.

And what is Right Effort?

  • Right Effort is effort developing the skillful desire and ongoing persistence to avoid unskillful qualities that are not present.
  • Right Effort is effort developing the skillful desire and ongoing persistence to to abandon unskillful qualities that are present
  • Right Effort is effort developing the skillful desire and ongoing persistence to  establish skillful qualities that are not yet present
  • Right Effort is effort developing the skillful desire and ongoing persistence to  end confusion and increase the full development of skillful qualities that are present

This, friends, is Right Effort.

And what is Right Mindfulness?

  • Right Mindfulness is remaining mindful of the body free of distraction, ardent, alert, and mindful of abandoning greed and reaction to worldly events.
  • Right Mindfulness is remaining mindful of feelings arising and passing away free of distraction, ardent, alert, and mindful of abandoning greed and reaction to worldly events.
  • Right Mindfulness is remaining mindful of mental qualities arising and passing away free of distraction, ardent, alert, and mindful of abandoning greed and reaction to worldly events.
  • Right Mindfulness is remaining mindful of the quality of mind arising and passing away free of distraction, ardent, alert, and mindful of abandoning greed and reaction to worldly events.

This, friends, is Right Mindfulness. [5]

And what is Right Meditation?

  • For one who has developed Right Meditation their concentration increases and they withdraw from the need for sensual stimulation
  • For one who has developed Right Meditation their concentration increases and they withdraw from unskillful mental qualities
  • For one who has developed Right Meditation their concentration increases and they enter and remain in the first Jhana, the first level of meditative absorption, which is joyful engagement and pleasure in the Dhamma born from withdrawal, and accompanied by directed thought and mindful evaluation.
  • For one who has developed Right Meditation their concentration increases and their directed thoughts and mindful evaluation quiets. They enter and remain in the second Jhana, the second level of meditative absorption, which is joyful engagement and pleasure born of deepening concentration free from directed thought and mindful evaluation and confident within.
  • For one who has developed Right Meditation their concentration increases and their joyful engagement fades. Equanimity arises with mindfulness of pleasure in a mind united with the body. They enter the third Jhana. The wise know this as equanimous and mindful - a pleasant abiding.
  • For one who has developed Right Meditation their concentration increases, their mind rests in equanimity, neither pleasure nor pain have a footing. They enter and remain in the Fourth Jhana. Their mindfulness and equanimity is pure, free of wrong views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

This, monks, is Right Meditation." [6]

This is what the Buddha declared. Those gathered were gratified and delighted at his words.

End Of Sutta

The  Buddha's description of Right Meditation is a description of Jhnans. [7] Jhanas are ever-increasing levels of meditative absorption. Jhanas are often portrayed as extraordinary, almost mystical levels of meditative absorption achieved by only a very few "advanced" meditators. As seen here, Jhanas are ordinary, though profound levels of meditative absorption developed by any mediator engaging in Jhana meditation [8] within the framework outlined here - the framework of the Eightfold Path.

  1. Nagara Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths
  3. Dependent Origination
  4. Three Marks Of Existence
  5. Satipatthana Sutta - Four Foundations of Mindfulness
  6. Anapanasati Sutta - Breath-Awareness
  7. Jhanas
  8. Jhana Meditation

 

Becoming Explained - What Is Awakening?

Becoming Explained Talks

The Following is an excerpt from my book Becoming Buddha.

Introduction

There is much confusion as to the meaning of “becoming.” Due to this confusion, great license is taken in interpreting what is meant by becoming as taught by the Buddha. This confusion and the following misapplication of the Dhamma can be avoided by simply looking at the Buddha’s own words from the following three sutta’s.

Depending on the context, becoming can refer to immediately giving birth to another moment rooted in ignorance giving rise to further confusion, deluded thinking, and suffering, giving rise to further becoming a “self’ prone to suffering.

In the context of remaining ignorant and future becoming, becoming refers to the becoming that would give rise to a future birth, lacking present self-identification, but continuing the experience of suffering rooted in ignorance. Continuing the impersonal experience of suffering does not establish a “permanent self.” Continuity obscure impermanence but does not negate impermanence.

In the overall context of impermanence and the arising and passing away of all phenomena, becoming and non-becoming refers to the arising - becoming - and the passing away - non-becoming - of stress.

Consciousness rooted in ignorance and influenced by the five physical senses can only reinforce deluded wrong views unless the Eightfold Path is developed to interrupt the ongoing process of becoming. It is for precisely this reason that the Buddha taught an Eightfold Path.

Consciousness rooted in ignorance “conditions” thinking in such a way that continually either ignores or “embraces” suffering as described in the Loka Sutta: “The world is aflame. Rooted in ignorance the world is afflicted by sensory contact and perceives suffering as ‘self.’ Rooted in ignorance, it misunderstands ‘self’ and becomes anything other than ‘self.’

The twelve observable causative links of Dependent Origination: [1]

  • From ignorance as a requisite condition comes fabrications. (when this is that is)
  • From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.
  • From consciousness as a requisite condition comes Name-And-Form.
  • From Name-And-Form as a requisite condition comes to Six Sense Base.
  • From the Six Sense Base as a requisite condition comes contact.
  • From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.
  • From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.
  • From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging and maintaining.
  • From clinging and maintaining as a requisite condition comes becoming.
  • From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.
  • From birth as the requisite condition comes sickness, aging, death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress, and despair. Such is the origination of the entire mass of confusion, deluded thinking, and suffering.

My comments within the suttas are in italics.

 

The Loka Sutta

The newly-awakened Siddartha, now Buddha, was enjoying the peace of release. Established in concentration he observed the world around him. He noticed human beings aflame with the fires born of the defilements of passion, aversion, and deluded consciousness.

Realizing the significance of what he was seeing he thought:

“The world is aflame. Rooted in ignorance the world is afflicted by sensory contact and perceives suffering as ‘self.’ Rooted in ignorance, it misunderstands ‘self’ and becomes anything other than ‘self.’

“Becoming anything other than self, the world clings to becoming, is afflicted by becoming, and yet delights in that very becoming. Where there is delight there is fear. Where there is fear there is stress.

Fear arises from clinging to what is delightful and fearing the loss of what is delightful.

“The life integrated with the Eightfold Path is lived for the abandoning of becoming. Those that say that escape from becoming is by non-becoming are never released from becoming, I declare.

“Stress (Dukkha) arises in dependence on becoming ‘self.’ With the ending of clinging to ‘self’ and maintaining ‘self,’ no stress will arise.

“Look at the world: Human beings afflicted with ignorance crave for and cling to becoming. All forms of becoming, anywhere, in any way, are impermanent, stressful, always subject to change.

“Knowing this - the arising and the passing away - from Right View craving for becoming and non-becoming is abandoned.

The arising and the passing away refers to all phenomena. All phenomena is impermanent including the phenomenon of “self.” As the Buddha teaches in the Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta in the next chapter:  "Now what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, is (not) fit to be regarded as: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self’?”

“From the abandonment of craving for becoming and non-becoming comes unbinding. For those unbound from lack of clinging and maintaining there is no further becoming. They have conquered ignorance, completed the task, and have gone beyond becoming. (a self rooted in ignorance)

In this context self-referential views resulting in self-identifying as “I am suffering” results in craving for becoming anything other than a “suffering self” and craving for non-becoming. Rather than understanding impermanence and that all phenomena arises and passes away impersonally, wrong views of self obscures impermanence creating the appearance of a continuing self and continues the experience of dukkha. This describes the interrelationship of the Three Marks of existence and the feedback loop the Buddha describes in the Nagara Sutta.

End Of Sutta

The Bhava Sutta

Even during the Buddha’s time, there was confusion regarding the meaning of becoming. Here, Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin and chief attendant asks for clarity:

On one occasion Ananda went to the Buddha, bowed, and sat to one side. He was unsure of the meaning of becoming and so asked the Buddha, “Becoming, becoming, to what extent is there becoming?”

“Ananda, if there were no karma ripening within the feeling-property, would the feeling-property be noticed?”

Karma is the present unfolding of past intentional actions moderated by the present quality of mindfulness. The “feeling-property,” “form-property,” and the “formless-property” relates to the Five Clinging-Aggregates. The form/formless-property also relates to the arising and passing away of stress. Karma and rebirth is explained in detail further on.

“No, wise teacher.”

“In this way karma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture. The consciousness of human beings rooted in ignorance and bound by craving is established in wrong view. Established in wrong view, renewed becoming is produced.

“If there is no karma ripening in the form-property, would the form-property be noticed?”

This one sentence contains the implication of the entire Dhamma. With no karma left to “ripen” there are no self-referential views clinging to form. With no self-referential views remaining - no self-identity clinging to impermanent phenomena -  the form-property now is simply a reference point for life dispassionately unfolding.

“No, wise teacher.”

“In this way karma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture. The consciousness of human beings rooted in ignorance and bound by craving is established in wrong view. Established in wrong view, renewed becoming is produced.

“If there is no karma ripening in the formless-property, would the formless-property be noticed?”

“No, wise teacher.”

“In this way karma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture. The consciousness of human beings rooted in ignorance and bound by craving is established in wrong view. Established in wrong view, (ignorance) renewed becoming is produced.”

With past intentional actions (karma) providing the environment for ongoing thinking (consciousness) rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and sustained - given sustenance - by craving, one can only “become” continually subject to confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences - dukkha.

End Of Sutta

This sutta also points to what for many is another confusing aspect of the Dhamma: Is it not craving/desire to desire awakening? This is simply a wrong view giving rise to another extreme view. The brilliance of the Buddha is his realization that in order to overcome the common human problem of conditioned thinking - ongoing “consciousness” rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths - there would need to be a way - a “path” - that would provide the framework to recognize conditioned thinking within conditioned thinking.

Right Intention, the second factor of the Eightfold Path, is holding the intention - being mindful of the intention to recognize and abandon craving and clinging rooted in ignorance. Right Intention can be seen as desire but it is certainly skillful desire as intention determines the direction and ultimate conclusion of one’s Dhamma practice.

This is the purpose of the entire Middle Way Eightfold Path. The refined mindfulness of the Eightfold Path, given direction by Right Intention and supported by the concentration developed through Right Meditation - Jhana meditation - brings the ability to recognize the feedback loop of self-referential views and inclines the mind towards becoming awakened.

The problem of becoming awakened while continuing to be affected by conditioned mind is resolved by developing the framework of the Eightfold Path for ones’ Dhamma practice, and one’s life. This is illustrated in the Mula Sutta in the following chapter.

The Mula Sutta

In this sutta the Buddha asks the assembled monks a rhetorical question:

“Monks, if those of other sects ask you ‘In what are all phenomena rooted, how do they come into play, what is their origination, how are they established, what is their foundation, what is their governing principle, what is their defining state, what is their heartwood, where do they gain footing, and what is their cessation?’ On being asked this you should reply:

“All phenomena are rooted in desire.

“All phenomena come into play through attention.

“All phenomena have contact as their origination.

“All phenomena have feeling as their establishment.

“All phenomena have concentration for their foundation.

“All phenomena have mindfulness as their governing principle.

“All phenomena have discernment as their defining state.

“All phenomena have release as their heartwood.

“All phenomena gain footing in impermanence.

“All phenomena have unbinding as their cessation.

End Of Sutta

Here the Buddha initially is referring to The Five Clinging-Aggregates as “All phenomena rooted in desire” and maintained through attention, contact, feeling, concentration, mindfulness, and discernment, and then, through “heartwood” - the Eightfold Path - gaining release from the effects of desire, developing a profound understanding of the arising and passing away of all phenomena, and complete unbinding from self-referential views rooted in ignorance.

Also, notice the reference here to “All phenomena have mindfulness as their governing principle." Mindfulness means to hold in mind. What is held in mind will determine experience. In the context of this sutta, mindfulness means to be fixated on - clinging to -  and distracted by stress-causing phenomenon.

Often modern meditation practices such as generalized “insight” or “mindfulness” meditation are taught as merely noticing thoughts and feelings calling “noticing” in this manner mindfulness.  Intentionally “noticing” is holding in mind internal phenomena during meditation. This is a subtle but powerful reinforcement of distracting phenomena and the most common strategy used in modern meditation practices. This form of meditation will distract a confused mind further and continue to ignore ignorance of Four NobleTruths. Impermanent and ever-changing phenomena now becomes the sole focus of “Insight” or “Mindfulness” while avoiding the singular purpose of meditation - to increase concentration and develop the refined mindfulness leading to useful insight of Three Marks Of Existence.  [2,3]

This entire process occurs within the quality of mind that human beings are conditioned to and then through the concentration and refined mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path gain the Right View to recognize and abandon all self-referential views that would otherwise keep one stuck in the feedback loop the Buddha describes in the Nagara Sutta.

“Becoming” points to the potential inherent in each moment. Each moment holds the potential to continue ignorance and ignore Four Noble Truths and become continually subject to stress, or to develop the Eightfold Path and become awakened, Become Buddha.

Linked Dhamma Articles For Further Study

  1. Dependent Origination
  2. Three Marks Of Existence - Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  3. Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas

A Prince Becomes Buddha

Below is the story of Siddartha Gotama and his awakening. Further on is the Nagara Sutta where Siddartha describes the profound understanding of the true nature of self and the phenomenal world and the stress and suffering that follows  ignorance of human reality. described by the Buddha as Four Noble Truths 

Below the Nagara Sutta is the Ariyapariyesana Sutta. In this sutta Siddartha describes in remarkable detail his own noble search for truth and the fabricated dharmas, still practiced today, that he quickly mastered  and just as quickly discarded.

Understanding the human being that “awakened” and his search for profound understanding grounds one in his entirely practical Dhamma and avoids grasping after fabricated dharmas.

↓ A Prince Becomes A Buddha ↓

↓ The Nagara Sutta – Siddartha Describes His Awakening ↓

Ariyapariyesana Sutta  – The Buddha’s Noble Search For The Noble Path

 

A Prince Becomes A Buddha

This article is an excerpt from The Pali Canon – What The Buddha Taught

A Prince Becomes a Buddha is an article about Siddartha Gotama. Siddartha Gotama was born in Kapilavastu in what is now southern Nepal on the Indian border. Current research places his birth between 563 B.C.E and 463 B.C.E. His father was King Suddhodana, the leader of the Shakya clan. His mother, Queen Maha Maya, and the king were told by visiting holy men that he would either be a great king or a great holy man.

A traditionally arranged marriage to Yasodharā, a distant cousin, at the age of 16, bore a son, Rahula. Yasodharā would later become a nun and Rahula a monk, following the Buddha’s teaching.

Despite all the comforts of being a Prince and heir to his father’s throne, restlessness and dissatisfaction caused Siddartha to begin to question his values and his view of the world. At the age of twenty-nine, Prince Siddartha left the palace grounds. For the first time in his life, he observed a sick person, and then an old person, and finally a corpse. Later he came across a wandering mendicant. In stark contrast to his life of wealth and comfort, he noticed the stress that townsfolk experienced in their daily lives, and the aggression and competitiveness that occurred as a result of this stress.

This experience left Siddartha greatly confused about the purpose and meaning of life. If every human was subject to the uncertainty of physical life, the struggle to simply survive, and the certainty of disappointment, sickness and death, was there a way of experiencing and viewing the world which would liberate him and all others from the causes and conditions of stress, disappointment, disillusionment, and suffering?

Was there a way of living in the world and yet not be affected by the seemingly random events of life. What are the individual contributions stress, disappointment, disillusionment, and suffering? How could one escape suffering for good?

Under the cover of night, the future Buddha left his life of riches, comfort and power to find answers to these questions. As was somewhat common to the men in his culture, he became a mendicant, relying on the charity of others as he wandered and studied with the spiritual leaders of his time.

He first studied with Alara Kalama who taught a philosophy and meditation method in what would be called today “Yogic” meditation. (The “yoga” of today would not become a cohesive philosophy for at least another 1,500 years.) The future Buddha grasped these techniques quickly. He was able to enter “the sphere of nothingness,” the goal of this meditation, in which the meditator finally perceives a vast and empty nothingness.

Another teacher, Uddaka Ramaputta, instructed Siddartha in a meditation technique that lead to a mental state of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, a kind of non-dualistic view. At the time, these meditation methods were recognized as the highest methods attainable. Similar methods that both teachers used are still taught today.

Siddartha rejected both of these teachings as they were only an escape and diversion from the understanding he sought. Regarding the teachings of Alara Kalama Siddartha declared: ‘This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to awakening, nor to unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of nothingness.”

Regarding the teachings of Uddaka Ramaputta Siddartha declared: “This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to awakening, nor to unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception” [1, 1a]

These mind states are still taught as a goal today in modern schools as “awakened” mind states and states of Buddha-nature” and “Buddhahood.”

Siddartha saw clearly how these philosophies, regarded as highly advanced, only led to continued establishment of a self subject to confusion, delusion and suffering. Though not fully developed in his mind, Siddartha understood that any proliferation of an impermanent “self” in any phenomenal realm could only lead to more confusion, delusion, and suffering.

Though both of these teachers were highly respected spiritual teachers of his time, their doctrine only developed a continued doctrine of self-identity. Siddartha, with great courage and conviction, rejected both of these teachers and their teachings. He understood that lineage, popularity, power, or prestige alone did not qualify a teacher or their teachings. If those teachings did not bring an end to clinging to all views and cessation to the continued establishment of an impermanent “self” they must be abandoned.

He joined with five other mendicants and began severe ascetic practices. Their belief was that by denying the needs and pleasures of the body they could overcome the desires and cravings of the body. Many ascetic practices continue today in the form of extreme periods of forced silence, lengthy repetitive chanting, and ritualistic bowing. Extremely long meditation sessions is also a form of asceticism.

Siddartha was so intent and adept in this practice that he eventually would only eat a few beans or a few grains of rice a day. He became so emaciated that it is told that he could feel his spine by scratching his belly. Siddartha and his group also practiced breath-control and manipulation. Siddartha became able to slow his breath to an almost imperceptible level.

One day, while bathing in a river, he collapsed and nearly died. He realized then that severe asceticism was not the way of liberation and freedom. (Another story often told is that a young girl, Sujata, saw Siddartha lying by the side of the road, offered him food and nursed him back to health.)

Siddartha was left frustrated that 6 years of study with some of the most knowledgeable spiritual teachers of his time and many years of asceticism brought him no closer to the understanding he sought. The soon-to-be Awakened One now understood what would be called “The Middle Way.”

In describing the middle way between extreme views and resulting actions the Buddha stated “These two extremes are to be abandoned: the compulsion to indulge and gain pleasure from objects of sensual desire (all things we crave that arise from contact with our senses) which is inferior, low, vulgar, ignoble, and leads to more delusion, and compulsion to indulge in self torment, (asceticism) which is painful, ignoble and leads to more delusion.”

The Buddha would teach the Eightfold Path consistently for the forty-five years of his teaching career as the middle way. [2, 2a]

Deeply frustrated Siddartha remembered a time as a youth when he simply sat under the shade of a tree and placed his awareness on his breathing. He decided that he would sit in meditation under a Pipal tree, now called the Bodhi  Tree, in Uruvela, (now Bodh Gaya) India.

Most accounts have Siddartha sitting in meditation for around 40 nights. The length of time is not important. What transpired is. The near Buddha meditated using a meditation method known today as Jhana meditation. Shamatha means tranquil, serene, and quiet. Vipassana means insight, or to gain insight.

He began to understand what an effective meditation technique would provide. Siddartha realized that attempting to enter a mental state where all thought was denied was only furthering distraction and only avoided what was singularly important, gaining insight into the qualities of his own mind and the impermanence of all things.

As his mind settled, a great peace arose within Siddhartha. As his concentration increased he recognized self-referential mental fabrications and the effect these had on his thoughts and views.

As desire, fear, and aversion arose in the Buddha’s mind, he recognized all impermanent conditioned views he held of himself and the phenomenal. With conviction he abandoned all views that arose in ignorance. With gentle determination, he put every conditioned thought aside, always returning to his breath. Through his own efforts, as the morning star rose in the sky, Siddartha awakened. A Buddha had entered the world.

The significance here is that Siddartha developed the strong resolve or intention (the second factor of The Eightfold path) to awaken. He utilized a meditation practice that would lead to gaining insight into his own mind and the impermanent environment he lived in. A human being through his own efforts awakened. He would spend the next forty-five years of his life teaching others to do the same.

Now the Buddha, The Awakened One, he touched the earth with his right hand, signifying that he understood the emptiness of an ego-self and had overcome the pull of worldly desires.

Upon his awakening the Buddha realized that the confusion, deluded thinking, and individual contributions to suffering were the result of ignorance. He came to understand that it was ignorance of four truths, Four Noble Truths as the common human problem. This often misunderstood and intentionally misapplied understanding is known as Dependent Origination. Dependent Origination states that from ignorance through twelve observable causative links all manner of confusion, delusion, and suffering arises.

Dependent Origination teaches how individual ignorance of Four Noble Truths leads to all manner of suffering. It is not a creation myth nor does it establish a doctrine of interdependence, inter-connectedness, or “inter-being.” These are modern adaptations that when seen in the context of The Four Noble Truths only encourage continued I-making. [3, 3a]

As a practical matter it is adherence to the Buddha’s understanding of Dependent Origination that determines the authenticity and effectiveness of Dhamma practice.

The Buddha’s great realization was his insight into the human problem, the human dis-ease. Due to clinging, craving, desire and aversion born of ignorance, human beings experience life in the phenomenal world as dukkha, as continued dissatisfaction.

The Buddha now understood that developing lasting peace and happiness is blocked by stress, disappointment and suffering caused by clinging to objects and views. He understood that greed, aversion and deluded thinking arose from this specific ignorance. He described this ultimate understanding in his first teaching to the same five mendicants.

In his first teaching he presented the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. This sutta set the wheel of truth in motion. Everything the Buddha would teach was taught in the context of The Four Noble Truths. To account for adaptations and accommodations to his Dhamma many later developed schools claim there were two additional “turnings of the wheel.” There is no reference to any additional “turnings” in the Pali Canon. The Buddha consistently declared “I teach understanding the arising of suffering and the cessation of suffering, nothing more. [4, 4a]

The Four Noble Truths:

  1. Dukkha Occurs (dukkha means stress, disappointment, disillusionment, suffering)
  2. Craving, desire and aversion born of ignorance is the cause of dukkha
  3. Cessation of dukkha is possible
  4. The Eightfold Path is the path to cessation of dukkha

As stated previously the Buddha would spend the next 45 years of his life instructing all that were interested, from the most powerful rulers to the most shunted and ignored, on The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path.

It was never the Buddha’s intention to create a religion based on dogma, intellectual scriptural study, or ritualistic worship. He did not teach to worship a supreme being or disincarnate deities or disincarnate “Buddha’s.”

He never viewed himself as a savior or his Dhamma as salvific.

He presented his teachings to those that were interested in developing understanding of the nature of their own suffering and a path leading to the cessation of all delusion, confusion and suffering.

There is nothing hidden or held back by the Buddha. The Buddha said that his teachings are not like that of a teacher with a closed fist who keeps something back” and “that his teachings are the same (in practice)  for monks and lay people.” (5)

Near the end of his life, when asked by the attending monks who would be their teacher when the he passed the Buddha replied that he had taught all that was necessary for each person to work out their own liberation. His final words were “Behold my dear monks, impermanence and decay is relentless, work diligently for your own liberation.” [5]

At the age of 80 the Buddha left this world awake and at peace.

There is nothing esoteric or magical about the Buddha’s Dhamma. No special abilities or “good karma” or encounters with other enlightened beings are necessary to follow the Buddha’s way. There are no special rituals or special empowerments taught by the Buddha. The only requirement is to develop his original teachings whole-heartedly. He taught the Eightfold Path as the direct path to realization.

Those who have a true understanding of the Dhamma can be of great assistance in initially understanding the teachings and the direction to take, and in remaining focused on the path.

There is nothing that can be added or imposed on Dhamma practitioners that is necessary to awaken. Awakening is not bestowed based on grace or the accumulation of “good works” or merit.  Awakening is realized by systematically abandoning ignorance and developing useful and practical wisdom.

The Buddha described an awakened human being as “released” and “unbound” and the mind state of an awakened human being as “calm.”

The Buddha taught a simple and straightforward path leading to liberation and freedom from Dukkha.

The Buddha taught an Eightfold Path that is to be experienced by each individual by becoming familiar with the nature of their own minds. The Buddha’s intention was to teach a path of virtue, concentration and wisdom which would liberate all humans from the stress, disappointment, disillusionment and suffering of day to day life, and live lives of lasting peace and happiness. His teachings are still available to every human sincerely interested in the original Dhamma.

The Buddha often used the word “Ehipassiko” which means “come and see for your self” in describing how to develop understanding. This is another teaching that has been altered to suggest that the Buddha taught to develop a personal dhamma that fit conditioned views. He also taught to “question everything” meaning to deeply investigate his teachings within the framework of the Eightfold Path, not to abandon what challenges or contradicts conditioned views or popular adaptations.  

Come and see for yourself.

1. Ariyapariyesana Sutta

1a. Noble Searches

2. Samyutta Nikaya 56.11

2a. Second Noble Truth

3. Samyutta Nikaya 12.2

3a. Dependent Origination

4. Samyutta Nikaya 56.11

4a. Four Noble Truths

5. Maha-Parinibbana Sutta

 

The Nagara Sutta – Siddartha Describes His Awakening

This Dhamma article is an excerpt from my book Becoming Buddha. A preview of this book is available on Amazon.com

Introduction

The Nagara Sutta is remarkable in its simplicity in describing Dependent Origination in a practically applied way. In this sutta the Buddha clearly shows how ignorance of Four Noble Truths and of The Three Marks of existence “originates” the process that all manner of disappointment, unsatisfactoriness, distraction, and suffering – in a word Dukkha – is “dependent” on.

The Three Marks of existence are Anicca, impermanence; Anatta – wrong or deluded views of self; and resulting suffering from this initial ignorance. [1] Dukkha is explained below.

In the Nagara Sutta the Buddha describes his own personal struggle with ignorance when he was an unawakened Bodhisatta. (Sanskrit: Boddhisattva) Through understanding the process of suffering arising in ignorance he directly abandoned the wrong views that would have otherwise continued his ignorance.

The Bodhisattva vow, the customary path of awakening in all modern Mahayana schools of Buddhism is a vow to seek awakening for the sake of all sentient beings. Often included in the vow is to intentionally delay awakening until all beings are awakened.

At first the Bodhisattva path looks like a self-less, highly compassionate, and reasonable “goal.” When looked at in the context of Dependent Origination and the Four Noble Truths, the Bodhisattva vow will be seen as taking on the role of savior and establishes the Buddha’s teachings as a salvific religion.

In a somewhat subtle way, taking on the altruistic vow to save all sentient beings creates another self-referential identity as savior. The Buddha never presented himself as a savior or his Dhamma as a salvific religion. He taught an Eightfold Path so that individuals could “save” themselves.

Dependent Origination clearly shows that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that leads to all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing Dukkha, not the lack of a sufficient number of Boddhisattva’s in the world.

If saving all sentient beings was a reasonable path to awakening there would be no need for an Eightfold Path or individual development of understanding as described in the Nagara Sutta or in the many thousands of discourses the Buddha presented in the last forty-five years of his life. He would have simply taught to develop great compassion but he understood that compassion alone, no matter how great, would still leave one an “unawakened Bodhisattva.”

In order to awaken and have a truly useful impact on other’s the Eightfold Path is to be developed which ends conceit and brings profound wisdom to compassion. The development of wisdom ended the Buddha’s ignorance and developed the profound understanding of a Buddha, of an awakened human being.

I must mention that I have no disrespect for those that follow the many Mahayana paths and the Bodhisattva ideal. In order to understand what the Buddha actually taught, the many contradictions in modern Buddhism must be clearly seen.

The Buddha felt it was quite important to repeatedly refer to himself as an “unawakened Bodhisatta” to reinforce the understanding that this is a highly compassionate state but a preliminary state that lacks the complete understanding of Four Noble Truths.

He had great compassion prior to his awakening but was lacking understanding of Four Truths and the worldly conditions that confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing experiences wee dependent on for their origination.

If the Buddha had decided to delay his awakening until all other’s somehow became awakened there would not have been a Dhamma or an Eightfold Path.

The Bodhisattva vow alters the Dhamma in a way that the Buddha avoided for his entire Forty-Five year teaching career. He taught that ending ignorance of Four Truths through an Eightfold Path will bring individual awakening for anyone who engaged with his Dhamma.

The Buddha’s boundless compassion informed by true insight and profound wisdom is exemplified by his ongoing efforts at teaching thousands of others in his lifetime exactly how to develop understanding of these Four Truths and developing profound Right View. Everything the Buddha taught for the Forty-Five years of his teaching career was taught in the context of The Four Noble Truths.

Awakening is not dependent on anything other than direct engagement with this path and direct experience of the cessation of ignorance rooted in wrong views.

In the Majjhima Nikaya  (19) the Buddha describes the quality of his mind as an “unawakened Bodhisatta”:

“Monks, prior to my awakening, when I was an unawakened Bodhisatta, I thought I could continue to divide my thinking. I continued thinking intended on sensuality, ill will and harmfulness and thinking intended on renunciation, good will and harmlessness.”

Notice here the Buddha is describing precisely what happens when a goal other than developing the Eightfold Path and ending the conditioned thinking that caused conditioned thinking can be both harmful and altruistic simultaneously, which occurs continually in a mind that is ignorant of these Four Truths. This “feedback loop” is explained below.

 The Buddha continues: “As I remained mindful and well-concentrated thinking with the intention of clinging arose in me. I now recognized that thinking with the intention of clinging has arisen in me. Thinking with the intention of clinging brings suffering for me and others. This thinking can only lead to more ignorance and does not develop unbinding (from clinging).

“As I noticed that wrong intention develops more suffering, wrong intention subsided. Subsequently, when wrong intention arose in me I simply abandoned it.”

When I first read the Nagara sutta many years ago it was the guidance I needed to look closely at my recently taken Bodhisattva vows in a Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and finally, understand the confusing uneasiness I had over these vows. It was shortly afterward that I understood the contradictory views to the Four Noble Truths that these vows embrace.

I began to realize that the path the Buddha taught was not founded in a Boddhisattva ideal that contradicts the First Noble Truth – Dukkha Occurs – but in ending ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

This single realization changed the entire direction of my Dhamma practice – and my life. I ended clinging to the Bodhisattva vow and began wholehearted engagement with the entire Eightfold Path.

In this sutta the “world” is the ongoing struggle with Dukkha for everyone in the world. Dukkha is described by the Buddha as “Now this, monks, is the Noble Truth of dukkha: Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, regret, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha.” (Samyutta Nikaya 56.11 and many other sutta’s)

My comments below in italics.

The Nagara Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 12.65

The Buddha describes his awakening

The Buddha was at Savatthi at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. There he addressed those gathered:

“Friends, before my awakening, when I was only an unawakened Bodhisatta, (Sanskrit: Bodhisattva) I came to the realization of the difficulties of the world. The world is born, it ages, it dies, it falls away and returns, but there is no understanding of ending the stress and suffering of aging and death. When will the world understand the cessation of the stress and suffering from aging and death?

“Then I had the thought: What initiates aging and death? What is the requisite condition that aging and death are dependent on for arising?

“From my appropriate mindfulness came a breakthrough of understanding: From birth as the requisite condition comes aging and death.

“Then I had the thought: What initiates birth? What is the requisite condition that birth is dependent on for arising?

“From my appropriate mindfulness came a breakthrough of understanding: From becoming as the requisite condition comes birth.

“Then I had the thought: What initiates name-&-form? What is the requisite condition that name-&-form is dependent on for arising?

Name-and-form (Pali nama-rupa) means self-identification through clinging to forms and self-referential views. 

“From my appropriate mindfulness came a breakthrough of understanding: From consciousness as the requisite condition comes name-&-form.

In the Paticca-Samupadda-Vibhanga Sutta, the sutta on Dependent Origination [2] the Buddha shows that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that is the condition that the arising of mental fabrications are dependent on, and that the arising of consciousness is dependent on mental fabrications. Consciousness then in this context is ordinary ongoing thinking arising from ignorance. What arises from ignorance can only further ignorance.

“Then I had the thought: What initiates consciousness? What is the requisite condition that consciousness is dependent on for arising?

“From my appropriate mindfulness came a breakthrough of understanding: From name-&-form as the requisite condition comes consciousness.

What theBuddha is beginning to describe here is the feedback loop caused by self-referential views and relying on these views, rooted in ignorance, to describe reality. This much like “I think; therefore I am” the famous quote from  Rene Descartes who hoped to find an irrefutable statement. His reasoning was that since he could not refute his own existence it must be that his (self-referential) thoughts prove that he existed (as a substantial and sustainable “self.”

Lacking understanding the resulting reality described ignores (continues ignorance) any thought, word, or idea that arises that would challenge these views now conditioned by ongoing ignorance. Once established, a framework for recognizing this feedback loop is now necessary in order to recognize and abandon these wrong views.

When the Dhamma is developed it is clearly understood that what constitutes a “self” is always in a constant state of becoming. Consciousness rooted in ignorance can only continue this feedback look furthering ignorance. The world becomes the mirror feeding back wrong views. As the Buddha’s path is developed consciousness is framed by the Eightfold Path and becoming awakened, becoming Buddha, is now possible.

“Then I had the thought: This consciousness turns back at name-&-form, and goes no farther. It is to this extent that there is birth, aging, death, falling away and returning. This is where ignorance is established. From (self-referential views) name-&-form is the requisite condition that brings consciousness and from (self-referential views) consciousness is the requisite condition that brings name-&-form.

“Then I had the thought: The six-sense base (five physical senses and consciousness) is dependent on the condition of name-&-form, dependent on self-referential views, and this is the origination of the entire mass of suffering.

The Buddha is stating that it is being stuck in the feedback loop of self-referential views, seeing all objects, events, views, and ideas from the perspective of “ME” and how objects, events, views, and ideas may affect ME one way or another I.e: not getting what is wanted, receiving what is not wanted, ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences, all arise from the initial ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

“Vision arose, understanding arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illuminating insight arose within me with regard to things never known before.

“Then I had the thought: What is the condition that the cessation of the stress of aging and death is dependent on?

“From my appropriate mindfulness came a breakthrough of understanding: From the cessation of birth (birth of ignorance) as the requisite condition comes the cessation of the stress of aging and death.

“From my appropriate mindfulness came a breakthrough of understanding: From the cessation of consciousness (thinking rooted in ignorance) as the requisite condition comes the cessation of name-&-form.

“From my appropriate mindfulness came a breakthrough of understanding: From the cessation of name-&-form as the requisite condition comes the cessation of consciousness.

“I have attained the following path to awakening:

  • From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness.
  • From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form.
  • From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media.
  • From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact.
  • From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling.
  • From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving.
  • From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging and maintaining.
  • From the cessation of clinging and maintaining comes the cessation of becoming.
  • From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth.
  • From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress, & despair all cease.

“This is the cessation of the entire mass of stress. Vision arose, understanding arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illuminating insight arose within me with regard to things never known before.

The confusion that often arises in modern Buddhism is taking these teachings out of the context of Dependent Origination and The Four Noble Truths. Each of these statements, when seen in the proper context, shows that ignorance of Four Noble Truths originates the process of becoming stuck in a feedback loop of wrong views, a thicket of views.

When wisdom and understanding is developed through the Eightfold Path then “giving birth” to further views rooted in ignorance ceases and the conditions that the stress of aging and death, of sorrow, regret, pain, distress, & despair are dependent on all cease. 

“In this way I saw a timeless path to be traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones. And what is this timeless path traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones?* Just this noble eightfold path:

“Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Meditation.

“This is the ancient timeless path traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones. I followed this path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of (the stress of) aging & death, direct knowledge of the origination of (the stress of) aging & death, direct knowledge of the cessation of (the stress of) aging & death, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of (the stress of) aging & death.

“I followed this path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of birth… becoming… clinging… craving… feeling… contact… the six sense media… name-&-form… consciousness, direct knowledge of the origination of consciousness, direct knowledge of the cessation of consciousness, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of consciousness. I followed that path.

“Following it, I came to direct knowledge of fabrications, direct knowledge of the origination of fabrications, direct knowledge of the cessation of fabrications, direct knowledge of the Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of fabrications. Knowing this directly, I have revealed it to monks, nuns, male lay followers & female lay followers, so that this undefiled life has become powerful, rich, detailed, well-populated, wide-spread, proclaimed among many beings.”

End Of Sutta

The Buddha taught the Eightfold Path to overcome the common human problem of self-referential views keeping one stuck in the feedback loop of conditioned thinking, thinking conditioned by ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

*’In this way I saw a timeless path to be traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones. And what is this timeless path traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones?’ is often translated as ‘In the same way I saw an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times. And what is that ancient path, that ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times?’

I have made these corrections so that this presentation does not contradict the Buddha’s statement here and in many other sutta’s that states “This is the cessation of the entire mass of stress. Vision arose, understanding arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illuminating insight arose within me with regard to things never known before.”

  1. Three Marks of Existence
  2. Dependent Origination

 

Ariyapariyesana Sutta  – The Buddha’s Noble Search For The Noble Path

Introduction

The Ariyapariyesana Sutta is one of the most significant suttas in the Sutta Pitaka. Recounting Siddhartha Gotama’s own experience during his search for understanding, the Ariyapariyesana Sutta provides continual guidance on establishing and maintaining an authentic, practical, and effective Dhamma practice. This sutta also clearly explains the underlying motivation for the development of the many confusing and contradictory “dharmas”  and the Buddha’s consistent teaching method of clearly describing the difference between his Dhamma and other common and popular dharmas of his time. [1,2}

I use the word “Dhamma” to define teachings that the Buddha developed through his Noble Search and “dharma” to describe modern Buddhist practices that have adapted, accommodated, diminished, embellished, and often contradict and confuse the original teachings of an awakened human being.

In this remarkable Sutta, the Buddha uses his own search for understanding as a profoundly wise and compassionate example for our search for understanding. In this sutta, the Buddha teaches that a Noble Search must have a focused direction that does not simply reinforce ignorance. The framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path support recognizing and abandoning the fabrications that have arisen from ignorance as described in the Paticca Samuppada Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination. [3]

There are many important themes represented in this sutta. Siddhartha describes his studying with two very popular and powerful teachers who hoped to have him join their community. Siddhartha did not succumb to self-identifying with popular or commonly practiced dharmas. Despite the common attraction and distraction, he maintained his Noble Search for a singular Noble Path.

Siddhartha was not seeking a Dhamma that his associates were enamored with or that he could have a significant position in. He avoided giving legitimacy to a dharma simply due to a charismatic leader, general popularity, or a compulsive non-dual all-religions-are-one view. [1]

He was not seeking a dhamma that reaffirmed familiar, popular, but fabricated views.

No understanding can develop from that which is inherently impermanent and is clearly prone to continuing confused and deluded thinking that supports the Three Defilements of craving, aversion, and continued delusion. [4]

He was engaged in a Noble Search that avoided further confusion, distraction, self-reference, and suffering.

His Noble Search was for a Noble Path that culminates in peace and understanding free of fabricated (wrong) views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Significantly, he continued his search until he established seclusion and disentanglement from the influence of common dharmas.

While engaging in a realistic meditation practice that avoided further distraction, he was able to recognize the fabricated views rooted in his own ignorance by directly developing concentration,  by directly developing jhana. As described here,  he attained the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke: the unbinding from views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. [5,6]

Attaining the “unborn” does not directly relate to physical birth. Most significantly it relates immediately to becoming empty of clinging to ignorant views which would provoke continually “giving birth” to the ongoing experience of suffering, Dukkha, rooted in views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. [7]

As the Buddha describes in the Nagara Sutta, he was finally able to recognize the feedback loop of self-referential views bound by thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. He became “Rightly Self-Awakened” and freed himself from all wrong views that would provoke the birth of another moment rooted in self-referenced ignorance. [8,9]

Siddhartha Gotama, now Buddha, begins his teaching career by instructing the group of five friends he previously wandered around Northern India with, all seeking understanding. He explains to them his disappointing and unproductive experience from his studying with teachers who taught self-establishment in imaginary non-physical planes. He explains to them that searching for understanding where only craving, clinging, confusion, distraction, and ongoing disappointment can be found is an ignoble search leading to the many confusing, contradictory, and ignoble paths.

Essentially, the Buddha teaches that to engage in a search that is itself directed by ignorance will only ignore ignorance and continually obscure wisdom. A life spent in ignorance of Four Noble Truths is a life spent in an ignoble search for peace, satisfaction, and understanding where peace, satisfaction, and understanding cannot be found.

As recounted and taught in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta, Siddhartha Gotama eventually became Rightly Self-Awakened by first realizing that understanding cannot be found by searching in dharmas rooted in ignorance and inherently prone to confusion, delusion, and ongoing disappointment, or using rituals and practices that are themselves rooted in craving, aversion, and delusion that are inherently impermanent and ever-changing, reinforce self-identification, and are shrouded behind the veil of ongoing ignorance.

Becoming stuck in the feedback loop of self-referential views reverberating off of ongoing thinking ignorant of Four Noble Truths – as described in the Nagara Sutta – is the initial condition that supports the fabricated wrong views that give rise to the compulsion to adapt, accommodate, and embellish a Rightly Self-Awakened human being’s Dhamma.

Siddhartha eventually developed profound understanding and awakened Right View from recognizing and abandoning “spiritual” or “religious” practices that constitute an ignoble search. By recognizing and abandoning beliefs and practices rooted in ignorance, Siddhartha discovered the simple and direct Eightfold Path that provides focused guidance for Noble Search.

In this way, it becomes obvious that the recognition and development of the practice and development of Jhana meditation is singularly paramount to integrating the entire Eightfold Path as an authentic, useful, and effective Dhamma practice. [10]

Engaging in the Noble Search brings the possibility for all human beings to become Rightly Self-Awakened through integrating the Noble Eightfold Path.

My comments within the sutta below are in italics.

Ariyapariyesana Sutta – Siddhartha’s Noble Search For The Noble Path

Majjhima Nikaya 26

On one occasion the Buddha was in Savatthi at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s Monastery. He adjusted his robes and taking his alms-bowl he left for town for his daily meal.

A large group of monks approached Ananda: “It has been a long while since we heard a Dhamma talk from the Great Teacher. It would be for our long-term benefit to hear a Dhamma talk from the Awakened One.”

“Venerable ones, perhaps if you went to the hermitage of Rammaka you will get to listen to a Dhamma talk from the Buddha.”

“We will do as you say, Venerable Ananda.”

The Buddha returned from alms and asked Ananda to accompany him to the Eastern Park and the palace of Migara’s mother for the days abiding. Then, having spent the day in seclusion, the Buddha asked Ananda to accompany him to the Eastern Gatehouse to bathe.

Having bathed, Ananda said to his Teacher “The hermitage of Rammaka is nearby. It is pleasant and delightful. There are many there awaiting your teaching. It would be of benefit to them if, out of sympathy, you were to go there.”

The Buddha agreed and they left for Rammaka’s hermitage. As they approached they heard a Dhamma discussion underway. The Buddha waited for the discussion to end. Hearing silence he cleared his throat and knocked to announce his arrival. Upon entering, he sat on a prepared seat and addressed the sangha.

“For what discussion were you all gathered here?”

“Great Teacher, we were discussing you, and then you arrived.”

“Good! It is fitting that you have gone forth from good families, from home to homelessness, and gather for Dhamma discussion. When you gather as a sangha you should always discuss the Dhamma, or practice Noble Silence.

(Noble Silence is practiced when gathered as a sangha and is also an aspect of the stilling of self-talk developed in the second level of meditative absorption, the second level of jhana) [5,6]

“Friends, there are two types of searching for understanding. There is ignoble searching and Noble Searching.

“And what is ignoble searching?

  • Ignoble searching occurs when a person, subject to birth, seeks happiness in what is also subject to birth.

The profound nature of this statement cannot be overlooked. All things that arise are prone to cessation. Seeking happiness by craving for or clinging to anything in the impermanent world is also clinging to or joining with stress, disappointment, and ongoing unsatisfactory experiences.

  • Ignoble searching occurs when a person, subject to sickness, seeks happiness in what is also subject to sickness.
  • Ignoble searching occurs when a person, subject to aging, seeks happiness in what is also subject to aging.
  • Ignoble searching occurs when a person, subject to death, seeks happiness in what is also subject to death.
  • Ignoble searching occurs when a person, subject to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion, seeks happiness in what is also subject to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion.

Seeking for understanding in what is subject to confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences will only continue confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences. A search or practice seeking to establish a permanent though “improved” or “enlightened” view of self in any physical or non-physical realm directly contradicts an awakened view of Three Marks Of existence and can only further confusion, distraction, delusion, and suffering. [11]

“What is subject to birth?

  • Spouses and children are subject to birth.
  • Men and women slaves are subject to birth.
  • Animals of all types are subject to birth.
  • Gold and silver (material wealth) are subject to birth.

“When these are seen as acquisitions one becomes attached and infatuated with these acquisitions. Seeking happiness with what is subject to birth is an ignoble search.

Identifying anything as me, or mine, or joining with by clinging to any object, event, thought, or idea is an acquisition. Wishing for permanence in what is inherently impermanent is rooted in craving, aversion, and deluded thinking – the Three Defilements that arise from ignorance of Three Marks Of Existence. [11]

“Likewise, these are all subject to sickness, to aging, to death, to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion. Seeking happiness with what is subject to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion is ignoble searching.

“And what is Noble Searching?

  • Noble Searching is, while being subject to birth, seeking to understand the suffering of birth, seeking the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding. This is Noble Searching (Unbinding from views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths)
  • Noble Searching is, while being subject to sickness, to aging, to death, to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion, seeking what is free of sickness, of aging, of death, free of sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, free of greed, aversion, and delusion. This is Noble Searching.
  • Noble searching is seeking the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding. This is Noble searching.

Unbinding from views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths is Awakened Right View.:

  • Understanding Stress (Dukkha)
  • Understanding the origination of stress
  • Understanding the cessation of stress
  • Understanding the Path leading to the cessation of stress. [12]

“Friends, before my self-awakening, when I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta (Sanskrit: Bodhisattva) being subject to birth, to sickness, to aging, to death, to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion, I was seeking happiness with what is subject to birth, to sickness, to aging, to death, to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion.

This one statement clearly describes the distraction inherent in the common Mahayana Buddhist “Boddhisattva” path that contradicts and displaces the Noble Eightfold Path. [2]

“Then the thought occurred to me, ‘Why do I, being subject myself to birth, to sickness, to aging, to death, to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion, seek what is likewise subject subject to birth, to sickness, to aging, to death, to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion?

“What if I, being subject to birth, were to seek to understand the suffering of birth, seeking the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding.

Some translations call the “unborn” the “deathless” as referring to the cessation of self-identification bringing the “death” of loss and disappointment. “Unborn” is more descriptive of becoming empty of ignorance of Four Noble Truths that would otherwise give “birth” to another moment rooted in ignorance and prone to confusion, delusion, and ongoing unsatisfactory experiences.

“What if I, being subject to sickness, to aging, to death, to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion, were to seek understanding of the suffering of sickness, to aging, to death, to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion?

“What if I were to seek the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding?

Siddartha Gotama here is describing his thought-process prior to going forth into homelessness. [13]

“So, at a later time while still a young man, black-haired, early in my life, my parents crying, I shaved off my hair, put on a robe made of rags, and went forth from home to homelessness. (At the age of twenty-nine) [14]

“Having gone forth seeking understanding of these things, seeking what is skillful, seeking unexcelled and lasting peace, I went to Alara Kalama. On arrival, I said to him, ‘friend Alara, I want to practice your dharma and discipline – to become your disciple.’

“Alara said to me ‘You may stay. My dharma is such that an observant person can soon understand and integrate my knowledge and realize it for themselves through their own direct knowledge.’

“From reciting and repetition I quickly learned his dharma. I could affirm that I knew his dharma.

“I thought that it is not through the mere conviction that Alara Kalama declares that I  understand and have integrated his dharma and realized it for myself through direct knowledge. Alara Kalama certainly understands and has integrated this dharma.

“So I went to Alara and asked him ‘What is the culmination of your understanding and integration of this dharma. Alara declared that the culmination of his dharma was (establishment in) the dimension of nothingness.

“Then I thought  ‘Not only does Alara Kalama have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. I also have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. What if I were to strive to realize for myself this dharma through direct knowledge?

“I quickly developed understanding and fully integrated Alara Kalama’s dharma, having realized for myself the dimension of nothingness through direct knowledge. I then asked Alara if this was the culmination of his understanding and integration of this dharma?

“Alara told me this was the culmination of his understanding and integration of his dharma. He then said that it was a great gain for his sangha to have a companion such as myself in their sangha.  He then asked me to lead their sangha together.

“Alara Kalama my teacher, placed me on the same level as himself paying me great honor. But, I had the thought that this dharma does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, or to unbinding. This dharma only seeks to establish a reappearance in the dimension of nothingness.

Siddartha here is evaluating the value of reaching the culmination of Alara’s dharma. He is cautious about continuing an ignoble search due to a fabricated vested interest from previous effort and association and praise from Alara Kalama.

“I found this dharma unsatisfactory and so I left Alara Kalama and continued the Noble Search.

“As I continued the Noble Search I went to Uddaka Ramaputta. Upon arrival I told him ‘Friend Uddaka, I want to practice your dharma and discipline – to become your disciple.’

“Uddaka replied ‘You may stay. My dharma is such that an observant person can soon understand and integrate my knowledge and realize it for themselves through their own direct knowledge.’

“From reciting and repetition I quickly learned his dharma. I could affirm that I knew his dharma.

“I thought that it is not through the mere conviction that Uddaka Ramaputta declares that I  understand and have integrated his dharma and realized it for myself through direct knowledge. Uddaka Ramaputta certainly understands and has integrated this dharma.

“So I went to Uddaka and asked him ‘What is the culmination of your understanding and integration of this dhamma. Uddaka declared that the culmination of his dhamma was (establishment in) the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.

“Then I thought  ‘Not only does Uddaka Ramaputta have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. I also have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. What if I were to strive to realize for myself this dharma through direct knowledge?

“I quickly developed understanding and fully integrated Uddaka Ramaputta’s dharma, having realized for myself the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception through direct knowledge. I then asked Uddaka if this was the culmination of his understanding and integration of this dharma?

“Uddaka told me this was the culmination of his understanding and integration of his Dharma. He then said that it was a great gain for his sangha to have a companion such as myself in their sangha.  He then asked me to lead their sangha together.

“Uddaka Ramaputta, my teacher, placed me on the same level as himself paying me great honor. But, I had the thought that this Dharma does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, or to unbinding. This Dharma only seeks to establish a reappearance in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.

Siddartha evaluates Uddaka Ramapputa’s dharma as he did before with Alara Kalam’s dhamma.

Perception is a belief based on observation framed by view. If a view is rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths then perception is based on fabrications arising from ignorance. The imaginary mental establishment in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception is simply the denial of stress, or continued ignorance, rather than recognition and abandonment of this initial ignorance. The establishment and defense of perceptions arising from fabricated views is the common and pervasive strategy of a mind rooted in ignorance used in order to continue to ignore its own ignorance.

“I found this Dharma unsatisfactory and so I left Uddaka Ramaputta and continued the Noble Search.

This recounting of Siddartha’s Noble Search leaves out his time spent in severe ascetic practices while wandering with five other seekers. This is referenced below as he also dismisses asceticism as these practices did not bring the understanding he was seeking.

“Seeking the unexcelled peace arising from skillful understanding, I wandered through the Magadhan country and arrived in Uruvela. This place was delightful with inspiring forests, a clear-flowing river with shallow banks, and nearby villages for alms. This seemed just right for developing Jhana. [5]

“Friends, (while practicing Jhana) being subject to birth, to sickness, to aging, to death, to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion, I realized the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding. Knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.’ [15]

“Then I had the thought ‘This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, and hard to realize. This Dhamma is peaceful, refined, and beyond mere conjecture. This Dhamma is subtle and is to be directly experienced by the wise. But the world delights in attachment, is excited by attachment, is devoted to attachment, and worships attachment.  For a world delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, devoted to attachment, worshiping attachment, conditioned towards self-identification from dependence on ignorance, this Dhamma is hard to see. [3]

“The awakened state is also hard to realize. The awakened state is :

  • The resolution of all fabrications.
  • The relinquishment of all acquisitions.
  • The ending of craving.
  • The development of dispassion.
  • The development of cessation.
  • The development of unbinding.

“If I were to teach the Dhamma and others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me.

“Just then this realization, never known before, occurred to me:

‘I’ll dismiss teaching that which, only with great difficulty, I attained. This Dhamma is not easily realized by those overcome by greed, aversion, and delusion.

‘This Dhamma is difficult to understand, subtle, deep, contrary to common belief. Those delighting in passion, their minds obscured in darkness, will not understand.’

The following portion of this sutta uses metaphor to portray a significant realization that arose in Siddartha’s, now a Buddha, an awakened human being’s mind. The use of metaphor to portray troubled mind states or significant realizations is used throughout the Pali Canon. [16]

Then, Brahma Sahampati became aware of my thoughts: ‘The world is lost, destroyed! The Arahant, the Rightly Self-Awakened One is inclined to dwelling in ease and not teaching his Dhamma!’

“Brahma Sahampati left his realm and came to me. He knelt on his right knee, bowed, and said ‘Rightly Self-Awakened One please teach your Dhamma! Please teach your Dhamma! There are those with just a little dust in their eyes. They are suffering because they will not hear your Dhamma. There are those that are able to understand your Dhamma.’

“Brahmā Sahampati continued: ‘In the past, there appeared among the Magadhans an impure Dhamma devised by the ignorant. Teach your Dhamma to end the pain of birth, sickness, aging, death. Teach your Dhamma to end sorrow, regret, distress, despair, to end greed, aversion, and delusion.  Teach your Dhamma so they can also realize the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding.

‘Just as one standing on a high peak might see people below, you, the wise one, with profound vision, must take your place in the palace of the Dhamma. Free from suffering, look on those suffering, oppressed with birth and aging.

‘You have conquered ignorance! Be a great teacher and wander without entanglements. Teach your Dhamma, there will be those who will understand.’

“Mindful of Sahampati’s plea and out of compassion for all beings, from my awakened state, I looked out onto the world. I saw beings with little dust in their eyes, and beings with much. I saw uncluttered beings and dull beings.  I saw beings with good qualities and beings with bad qualities.

“I looked out onto the world and I saw beings hardened in their views, disgraced, in danger.  [17]

“I looked out onto the world and I saw those who would be easy to teach my understanding, my Right View.

“It is as if a pond is permeated with red, white, and blue lotus, born and growing immersed in the water. They flourish permeated with cool water from their root to tip never standing above the surface. Even so, some might rise up and emerge from the murky water.

“Seeing thus, I decided to teach my Dhamma, to open to the world the Path To Cessation. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear could come forth in conviction. Those lacking the eyes to see or ears to hear the pure Dhamma I would not teach my refined and pure Dhamma. (It is an aspect of Right Speech to avoid idle or unnecessary speech. Teaching the Dhamma to those who likely will not hear the Dhamma is idle and unnecessary speech.)

“I would teach the pure Dhamma tirelessly and untroubled. Brahmā Sahampati was pleased. He bowed and disappeared

“Then the thought occurred to me, ‘Who should I first teach the Dhamma to? Who will quickly understand? I thought of Alara Kalama, wise, intelligent, competent, but I heard that he had passed a week ago. I thought what a great loss it was to my friend, Alara. He would have quickly learned my Dhamma.

“Then I thought of Uddaka Rāmaputta. He too is wise, intelligent, competent. But I heard he had passed just last night. It was a great loss to my friend Uddaka, as well. He too would have quickly learned my Dhamma.

“I then taught of the five friends I wandered with while attending to ascetic practices. I knew they were in the Deer Park at Isipatana. I took my leave to wander in stages to Isipatana. Along the way, I encountered Upaka, the Ajivaka. He noticed my composure, my complexion bright. He inquired ‘On whose account have you gone forth? Who is your teacher? In whose Dhamma do you delight?’

“I told Upaka ‘ I have left the world behind through my own understanding. I am released from all wrong views, from all phenomena. Empty of ignorance, I am free of craving. My realization is taught by none – to whom should I declare as my teacher? I have no teacher as one like me cannot be found. I have no counterpart for I am an Arahant in the world. I am the unexcelled teacher, Rightly Self-Awakened. The fires of passion are cooled. I am unbound. I will set the wheel of the true Dhamma rolling. I am traveling to Kasi. In a world afflicted with the darkness of ignorance, I beat the drum of wisdom!”

“Upaka replied ‘From what you claim you must be the ultimate conqueror.’

“Conquerors like me have abandoned greed, aversion, and delusion. I have conquered all evil qualities. You are correct, Upaka, I am a conqueror.”

“Upaka, unconvinced, shaking his head, took his leave.

“I continued to the Deer Park. From afar, my five friends saw me. I was no longer gaunt from ascetic self-denial. Thinking that I was living luxuriously they decided to not show me respect. As I approached they noticed my awakened state. Standing in respect, they took my robe and bowl and prepared a seat. One of my friends took a bowl and began to wash my feet. They, however, addressed me by my familiar name.

“Friends, do not address the Tathagata, a Rightly Self-Awakened One in this way. I am Rightly Self-Awakened, a worthy one. Listen carefully, my friends: I have realized the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding. I will teach you my understanding. Practice as I instruct you and shortly you will also realize the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding.

“The group of five replied: ‘From your practice of the austerities you did not attain any superior state or any higher knowledge or vision worthy of a noble one. How can you now, living luxuriously, straying from your exertion and backsliding into abundance, have attained any superior state or any higher knowledge or vision worthy of a noble one?’

“I replied: ‘The Tathagata is not living luxuriously, or strayed from his exertion, or backslid into abundance. The Tathagata is a worthy one, Rightly Self-Awakened. Listen carefully: I have realized the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding. I will teach you my understanding. Practice as I instruct you and shortly you will also realize the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding, for yourselves right here and now.’

“A second and a third time they doubted me and questioned me in this same manner. I then asked them ‘Have I ever claimed to be a Rightly Self-Awakened One before?’

“You have never before claimed to be Rightly Self-Awakened One .”

“I replied again: ‘The Tathagata is not living luxuriously, or strayed from his exertion, or backslid into abundance. The Tathagata is a worthy one, Rightly Self-Awakened. Listen carefully: I have realized the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding. I will teach you my understanding. Practice as I instruct you and shortly you will also realize the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding, for yourselves right here and now.’

“And so I convinced them of my knowledge and wisdom. Over time, living on alms, I instructed the group of five. Being subject themselves to birth, to sickness, to aging, to death, to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, to greed, to aversion, to delusion, and (now) understanding the suffering of birth, of sickness, of aging, of death, of sorrow, regret, pain, distress, despair, of greed, of aversion, of delusion, they attained the unborn and the unexcelled release of the yoke, the unbinding.

It must be remembered that this sutta is not meant to be a complete historical account of the Buddha’s six years of searching for understanding. It is meant to describe the difference between Noble Search and ignoble search. As such, the entire Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta is not recounted. What is presented here can be seen a summary of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. [7]

The group of five finally realized that their prior search was an ignoble search as they were seeking understanding where none can be found.

“Friends, craving and clinging arises from the five senses:

  • Forms known from the eye, agreeable, pleasing, enticing, enchanting, are linked to sensual desire.
  • Sounds known from the ear, agreeable, pleasing, enticing, enchanting, are linked to sensual desire.
  • Aromas known from the nose, agreeable, pleasing, enticing, enchanting, are linked to sensual desire.
  • Tastes known from the tongue, agreeable, pleasing, enticing, enchanting, are linked to sensual desire.
  • Tactile sensations known from the body, agreeable, pleasing, enticing, enchanting, are linked to sensual desire.

“This is the craving and clinging that arises from the five senses.

(Craving and clinging arising from the five senses is also known as “The five strings of sensuality”)

“Any contemplative, any brahman, any seeker who clings to sensuality in this manner, infatuated and enchanted with sensuality without understanding the suffering that follows, or the path to cessation, should be known as unfortunate and having met ruin.

“They have lost their minds and the world will have its way with them. It is as if a wild deer were caught in a heap of snares. This deer has met misfortune and ruin – a hunter could do with them what they will.

“In the same manner, any contemplative, any brahman, any seeker who clings to sensuality in this manner, infatuated and enchanted with sensuality without understanding the suffering that follows or the path to cessation should be known as unfortunate and having met ruin. They have lost their minds and the world will have its way with them.

“Now, know this, friends, any contemplative, any brahman, any seeker who no longer clings to sensuality in this manner, not infatuated or enchanted with sensuality, understanding the suffering that follows (craving and clinging) and the path to cessation, should be known as fortunate and will not meet ruin.

“They have control of their minds and the world will not have its way with them. It is as if a wild deer avoided a hunter’s snares. This deer has not met misfortune and has avoided ruin – a hunter could not do with them what they will.

“In the same manner, any contemplative, any brahman, any seeker who does not cling to sensuality in this manner, is not infatuated or enchanted with sensuality, who understands the suffering that follows (craving and clinging) and the path to cessation, should be known as fortunate and will not meet ruin.

“They have control of their minds and the world will not have its way with them.

“It is as if a wild deer is living carefree in all ways. Why is it carefree? Because it has gone beyond the hunter’s range. In the same way, those engaged in the Noble Search established in seclusion from sensuality and unskillful mental qualities enter and remain in the First Jhana. This First Jhana is experienced as rapture born of that very seclusion. It is accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. They have become lost to Mara, lost to (the effects of) wrong views.

“Furthermore, those engaged in the Noble Search enter and remain in the Second Jhana. This Second Jhana is experienced as rapture and pleasure born of concentration. Free of directed thought and evaluation. With internal assurance, the joy of concentration permeates their entire mind and body. They have become lost to Mara, lost to (the effects of) wrong views.

“Furthermore, those engaged in the Noble Search enter and remain in the Third Jhana which is equanimous and mindful, a pleasant abiding. With the fading of rapture, this pleasant abiding permeates their entire mind and body. They have become lost to Mara, lost to (the effects of) wrong views.

“Furthermore, those engaged in the Noble Search enter and remain in the Fourth Jhana which is pure equanimity and mindful. Being pure, neither pleasure nor pain is seen. They sit permeated in mind and body with pure, bright awareness. They have become lost to Mara, lost to (the effects of) wrong views.

“And further still, those engaged in the Noble Search, with complete abandonment of self-identification to form, with the fading of aversion, with the cessation of craving here and there, they enter and remain in the dimension of infinite space. They have become lost to Mara, lost to (the effects of) wrong views.

“And further still, those engaged in the Noble Search, with complete abandonment of the dimension of infinite space, they enter and remain in the dimension of infinite consciousness. They have become lost to Mara, lost to (the effects of) wrong views.

“And further still, those engaged in the Noble Search, with complete abandonment of the dimension of infinite consciousness, they enter and remain in the dimension of nothingness. Knowing ‘there is nothing,’ they have become lost to Mara, lost to (the effects of) wrong views.

“And further still, those engaged in the Noble Search, with complete abandonment of the dimension of nothingness, they enter and remain in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. They have become lost to Mara, lost to (the effects of) wrong views.

“And further still, those engaged in the Noble Search, with complete abandonment of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, they enter and remain in the cessation of perception and feeling.

The Buddha here is teachings his five friends the foolishness of seeking to establish a “self” in non-physical realms which h are clearly seen as ignoble, fabricated, and rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths [18]

“Free of reaction, knowledge and wisdom well-established, greed, aversion, and delusion are completely overcome. They have become lost to Mara, lost to (the effects of) wrong views.

“Having engaged in the Noble Search, they are unattached to anything in the world (or fabricated from worldly influences). They are as carefree as a deer far removed from a hunter’s range. Why are they are as carefree as a deer far removed from a hunter’s range? Because they have completed the Noble Search and, through their own efforts, gone beyond Mara’s reach, they have gone beyond the reach of ignorance (of Four Noble Truths).

“Those who have engaged in the Noble Search, who have completed the (Eightfold) Path are said to be Rightly Self-Awakened.”

This is what the Great Teacher said. The group of five were delighted from hearing these words.

End Of Sutta

 

  1. Kalama Sutta
  2. Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
  3. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  4. Fabrications
  5. Samadhanga Sutta – Five Factors Of Concentration
  6. Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas
  7. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  8. Nagara Sutta – The Buddha Describes His Awakening
  9. Karma And Rebirth
  10. Jhana Meditation
  11. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  12. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  13. Going Forth
  14. A Prince Becomes A Buddha
  15. Becoming Explained
  16. Mara And Metaphor
  17. Loka Sutta
  18. Anupada Sutta – Ending Fabrications One After Another

The Buddha's Meaning Of Dukkha

“Whatever your view is of these questions the Right View is Dukkha occurs, craving originates and clinging perpetuates Dukkha, cessation of this process is possible, the Eightfold Path is the path developing cessation.” Cula-Malunkyaputta Sutta

The Buddha is describing to Malunkyaputta the skillful focus necessary to avoid grasping after speculative answers to questions rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. It is the Buddha’s Dhamma when developed as intended that provides the increased concentration and refined mindfulness that brings wisdom of the true nature of human life, wisdom of Four Noble Truths.

It is from grasping-after fabricated “dharmas” that continues ignorance of Four Noble Truths and continues to ignore the single purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma: Recognition of and release from all fabricated views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. In this way, the Buddha's authentic Dhamma provides a direct and complete Eightfold Path for developing profound concentration and a mind resting in calm.

Below are three primary suttas on Dukkha. As can be seen, developing understanding of Four Noble Truths through direct engagement with the Eightfold Path is sole purpose of Dhamma practice. 

Dukkha Sutta
↓ Maha-Dukkhakkhanda Sutta
↓ Cula-Dukkhakkhanda Sutta ↓

Dukkha Sutta Talks

The Personal Experience Of Ignorance - Dukkha Sutta

Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked at the end of this article. ([x])

Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  [1]

His first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the singular path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [2,3]

Dukkhata is an ancient Pali word. It is an abstract noun that describes in a broad and general manner the confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing stress, suffering, and unsatisfactory experiences arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Dukkha is an ancient Pail word that describes the actual experience of Dukkhata. Below, the word stress refers to Dukkha.

In the Dukkha Sutta, Venerable Sariputta teaches Jambukhadika a simple, direct, and useful understanding of three forms of Dukkha.

These three forms of stress referred to are rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and Three Marks Of existence resulting in fabricated (corrupted) wrong views. [4]

Understanding Dukkha from Right View avoids the misguided common practice of mindlessly “embracing” and over-analyzing any reactive, self-referential, thought or feeling arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

My comments below are in italics.

The Personal Experience Of Ignorance - Dukkha Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 38.14

On one occasion Venerable Sariputta was in Nalaka. The wanderer Jambukhadika approached with a question:

“Wise friend, when speaking of stress which forms of stress are referred to?”

“Friend Jambukhadika, there are three forms of stress.

  • The stress of pain.
  • The stress of fabrications.
  • The stress of change.

“These are the three forms of stress. “

“Wise teacher, is there a path, a practice, for the full understanding of these forms of stress?”

“Yes, there is a path, a practice, for developing a full understanding of these three forms of stress. The path is precisely the Noble Eightfold Path:

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Meditation

“This, friend  Jambukhadika, is the path, the practice for developing the full understanding of these three forms of stress.

"This path is an auspicious path, an auspicious practice for the full understanding and abandonment of (reacting to) these three forms of stress and the development of moment-by-moment refined mindfulness."

An auspicious day is characterized by the Buddha as moment-by-moment refined mindfulness: “Do not chase the past or project your thoughts to the future. Remain free of entanglements with the world and mindful of what is occurring. Be mindful of impermanence and uncertainty. Those that do so will have an auspicious day. So says this Peaceful Sage.” [5]

End Of Sutta

Linked Articles For Further Study

  1. Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. Fabrications
  5. The Bhaddekaratta Sutta - Mindfulness of What Is Occurring   

 

Maha Dukkhakkhanda Sutta Talks

Maha Dukkhakkhanda Sutta

Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked inline and at the end of this article. ([x]) Inline links will open in a new window.

Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

 [1]  Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

[2]  Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

His first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the single path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [3]  Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

In the Maha-Dukkhakkhandha Sutta the Buddha teaches that developing the profound and liberating understanding of the true nature of individual contribution to stress and suffering - Dukkha - is the distinguishing factor between his Dhamma and common “spiritual” disciplines of his time.

Here the Buddha teaches that due to ignorance of Four Noble Truths the uninformed becomes enamored and entranced with their own conditioned feedback-loop of self-referential views grasping after fleeting sensual experience framed by this initial ignorance. [4]  Nagara Sutta - The Buddha Describes His Awakening

The reference to “sensuality” must be understood in the context established in the Paticca-Samuppada sutta and fabricated views corrupting the individual experience of contact with impermanent phenomena at the six-sense-base. [1]  Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

My comments below are in italics.

The Greater Discourse On Dukkha - Maha Dukkhakkhanda Sutta

Majjhima Nikaya 13

On one occasion the Buddha was staying at Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. Early in the morning a group of disciples adjusted their robes and, carrying their bowls, left for Savatthi for alms. They quickly realized that it was too early for alms and decided to visit a group of wanderers from another sect.

They exchanged courteous greetings and sat to one side. The wanderers from the other sect questioned the group from the Buddha’s Sangha: “Friends, Gotama the contemplative describes understanding sensuality, as we do. Gotama describes understanding forms, as we do. Gotama describes understanding feelings, as we do. Friends, what is difference, the distinguishing factor between his teaching and ours?”

The Buddha’s disciples, neither delighting nor disapproving of these words decided to seek out their teacher to hear his words.

They went for alms and then returned to the Buddha. They bowed to their teacher and sat to one side and told him what the wanderers of the other sect said.

The Buddha replied “Friends, when wanderers of other sects say this you should ask them ‘What is the allure, the drawback, and the release with regard to sensuality? What is the allure, the drawback, and the release with regard to forms? What is the allure, the drawback, and the release with regard to feelings?’

“When asked, these wanderers of other sects will be in trouble and not be able to provide a reasonable answer. This understanding is beyond their knowledge.

“Friends, in this world of (fabricated) devas, Maras, and Brahmas, of contemplatives and brahmans (local priests), royalty and commoners, I do not see anyone who could answer these questions aside from myself, my disciples, or someone who learned my Dhamma from a skillful disciple.

Understanding The Allure, The Drawback, And The Release Of Clinging To Sensuality

“Now, what is the allure of sensuality? There are five clinging-fabrications of sensuality:

  • Forms interpreted by the eyes as agreeable, pleasing, endearing, and enticing.
  • Sounds interpreted by the ears as agreeable, pleasing, endearing, and enticing.
  • Aromas interpreted by the nose as agreeable, pleasing, endearing, and enticing.
  • Flavors interpreted by the tongue as agreeable, pleasing, endearing, and enticing.
  • Tactile sensations interpreted by the body as agreeable, pleasing, endearing, and enticing.

Here the Buddha is describing the immediate application of the understanding developed through the Eightfold Path at the point of contact with impermanent phenomena arising and passing away. [5]  Wisdom Of Restraint

“Friends, whatever pleasure or happiness that one depends on establishing through any of these five senses is the (distracting) allure of sensuality.

As is seen here it is the preoccupation with pleasure and disappointment that distracts one form understanding life as it truly is as described in Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

“Now, what is the drawback of sensuality? Here is an example: When one’s occupation, whether accounting or plowing, whether trading goods or attending to cattle, whether archer or attending a King, whatever one’s occupation, they are subject to changing weather, to harassment by insects, to dying from thirst and hunger, an the whole mass of suffering.

Reacting to ordinary phenomena arising and passing away results from personalizing ordinary experience that is entirely impersonal. Understanding Dukkha brings cessation to clinging and maintaining self-referential views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. [6]  Nothing Personal - A Buddha's Analysis Of Self

“This drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“Now, if a person gains little while striving and making effort they will be sorrowful and regretful. They will grieve and become distraught: (All emotions rooted in self-referential ignorant views) ‘All of my efforts have been useless and fruitless!’

“This (reaction) is also a drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

A mind lacking Jhana - concentration - cannot support the refined mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path that the skillful disciple develops supporting the profound understanding of stress and suffering and the cessation of all ignorant views. [7]  Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas

“If a person gains wealth while striving and making effort they will experience distress protecting their wealth: ‘How can I keep my wealth from kings and thieves? How will I protect my wealth from fire or floods? How will I protect my wealth from greedy heirs?’

Even the immediate gratification of achievement is disappointing due to clinging to impermanent phenomena. It is this precise true and useful vipassana - true and useful introspective insight - into wrong views of self clinging to impermanent phenomena resulting in stress and suffering that is the sole purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma [8]  Vipassana - Introspective Insight

“Even as they protect their wealth, kings and thieves make off with it, fire and floods destroy it, and greedy heirs make off with it.  They then will be sorrowful and regretful. They will grieve and become distraught: ‘What was once mine is gone!’

These various descriptions of Dukkha are describing the entirely impersonal experience of Dukha. The allure and drawback of sensuality is established in ignorant views of self craving for and clinging to ordinary impersonal phenomena that is experienced as having personal “ownership” of fleeting objects, events, views, or ideas through self-identification with  impermanent phenomena. [9]  Vipassana Category

“This drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“It is (preoccupation) with sensuality as the reason, the source, the cause, that kings quarrel with kings, nobles quarrel with nobles, brahmans with brahmans, householders with  householders, parents with children, children with parents, children with siblings, and friends with friends. When conflicted they will attack each other with fists, or sticks, or clubs, or knives, and they incur extreme pain or death.

It is due to the compulsive preoccupation with pleasure and disappointment that uninformed people become distracted towards constant satisfaction where constant satisfaction cannot be found - through ignorant views of self clinging to impermanent worldly phenomena. [10]  Anupada Sutta - Ending Fabrications One After. Another

“Here again is the drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“It is (preoccupation) with sensuality as the reason, the source, the cause, that human beings wear armor and use swords, spears, and arrows, while charging in formation into battle with other human beings. With spears and arrows flying, with swords flashing, they are wounded, their heads cut off, insuring extreme pain and death.

Here the profound nature of this teaching becomes apparent. Due to self-establishment in the world through individually craving for and clinging to ignorant views legitimized by sensual indulgence in this very craving, all manner of human conflict, internally and externally, arise. [11]  The Personal Experience Of Ignorance - Dukkha Sutta

“Here again is the drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“Friends, it is (preoccupation) with sensuality as the reason, the source, the cause, that human beings take what is not theirs, ambush others, commit adultery, and when caught, kings have them tortured for their misdeeds. They are flogged and beaten with clubs, their hands and feet cut off, their ears and noses, too. They are subjected to many indignities and deprivations.

“Here again, this is the drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“Friends, it is (preoccupation)  with sensuality as the reason, the source, the cause, that human beings engage in bodily, verbal, and mental misconduct. Having lived their lives as such, upon death and the break-up of the body there is only continued deprivation.

This last is a significant reference to the Buddha’s teaching on Karma and Rebirth. Unless one resolves ignorance of Four Noble Truths, death can offer no release, only deprivation. This is not a reference to a continued personal experience of disincarnate individual life after physical death - a common misunderstanding that contradicts the intent and purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma. As taught further on in relation to the continued indignities that occur to a physical form after death.

A clear understanding of Karma and Rebirth shows that the Buddha’s Dhamma resolves Karma and the skillful disciple ceases giving “birth” to another moment rooted in ignorance. [12]  Karma And Rebirth

“Here again, this is the drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is now only continued deprivation has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“And what friends, is the release from sensuality?  The subduing of passion for sensuality, the subduing of craving for sensuality, the abandoning of passion for sensuality, the abandoning of craving for sensuality. This is the release from sensuality.

“Friends, I say to you, any contemplatives or brahmans who do not understand sensuality as it truly is, who do not understand the allure as allure, who do not understand the drawback as drawback, who do not understand the release from sensuality as release, could only understand sensuality, or rouse in others, in accordance with what they believe and what they practice. It is impossible for them to understand sensuality as sensuality.

This last describes those seeking underbidding where understanding cannot be found - in doctrines that do not develop understanding of the clinging relationship between fabricated views of self and the phenomenal world. If one is unable to de-personalize their involvement with the people and events of their life through the Eightfold Path then understanding the allure, the drawback, and the release from sensuality cannot occur due to continued self-identification with the inherent stress and suffering that follows from clinging to sensuality.

The number of people engaging in a particular doctrine offers no proof of the usefulness of the doctrine to develop individual understanding of Four Noble Truths and a calm and peaceful mind. Believing in our own individual fabrications or clinging our beliefs to worldly fabrications is essentially the same thing and can only further the effects of ignorance. [13]  The Noble Search For The Noble Path

“But, friends, I say to you, any contemplatives or brahmans who do understand sensuality as it truly is, who understand the allure as allure, who understand the drawback as drawback, who understand the release from sensuality as release, would themselves understand sensuality, and rouse (understanding) in others, in accordance with what they believe and what they practice. It is now possible for them to understand sensuality as sensuality.

This last describes understanding sensuality from the profound Right View developed through the  Eightfold Path. It is this developed Right View that establishes and maintains a dispassionate, impersonal, and mindful and calm presence in life as life unfolds.  Rather than continuing grasping-after fabricated views or fabricated “dharmas”creating speculative self-establishments in ever-more-elaborate fabricated ideas and fabricated ideologies, the skillful disciple understands that there is nothing within impermanent phenomena arising and passing away that are in any manner personal or deserving of self-identification. [14]  Mindfulness Of Bahiya

Understanding The Allure, The Drawback, And The Release Of Clinging To Form

This next section teaches the foolishness of fabricating a clinging relationship with physical form(s). This is also a teaching on Karma and Rebirth and the importance of holding in mind reality established in Right View and abandon clinging to views that can only develop ongoing stress and deprivation. [12]  Karma And Rebirth

“Now, friends, what is the allure of form? Suppose a young women of fifteen or sixteen years old, neither tall or short, thin or plump, or too dark or too pale. Is this when her charm is greatest?”

“Yes, great teacher.”

“Then it follows that whatever pleasure and happiness that is dependent on (clinging to) her present state is the allure of (self-identifying with) form.

“And what is the drawback of form? This very woman, now eighty, or ninety, or one hundred  years old, bent, needing a cane, trembling, miserable, gray-haired, perhaps even bald, wrinkled, now ill, in pain, lying in her own filth. Later still, one may see her as a corpse rotting away, bloated, oozing. Later still, one may see her corpse being picked at by crows and vultures, a heap of bones. What do you think? Has her earlier charm vanished and a drawback appeared?”

“Yes, great teacher.”

“This is the drawback of (self-identifying with) form.

“And what is the release from (self-identifying with) form? The subduing of passion for form, the subduing of craving for form, the abandoning of passion for form, the abandoning of craving for form. This is the release from form.

“Friends, I say to you, any contemplatives or brahmans who do not understand form as it truly is, who do not understand the allure as allure, who do not understand the drawback as drawback, who do not understand the release from form as release, who could only understand form, or rouse in others, in accordance with what they believe and what they practice. It is impossible for them to understand form as form.

“But, friends, I say to you, any contemplatives or brahmans who do understand form as it truly is, who understand the allure as allure, who understand the drawback as drawback, who understand the release from sensuality as release, would themselves understand form, and rouse (understanding) in others, in accordance with what they believe and what they practice. It is now possible for them to understand form as form.

This last describes understanding form from the profound Right View developed through the  Eightfold Path. It is this developed Right View that establishes and maintains a dispassionate, impersonal, and mindful and calm presence in life as life unfolds.  Rather than continuing grasping-after fabricated views or fabricated “dharmas”creating speculative self-establishments in ever-more-elaborate fabricated ideas and fabricated ideologies, the skillful disciple understands that there is nothing within impermanent phenomena arising and passing away that are in any manner personal or deserving of self-identification. [14]  Mindfulness Of Bahiya

Understanding The Allure, The Drawback, And The Release Of Clinging To Feeling

“Now, friends, what is the allure of feelings? When a skillful disciple is secluded from sensuality and unskillful mental qualities enters and remains in the First Jhana which is the experience of rapture and pleasure arising from that very seclusion and accompanied by directed thought and evaluation.  [7]   Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas

“Established in the first Jhana, the skillful disciple  is free of the affliction of their own craving and the craving of others. They experience feelings free of craving. Free of the affliction of craving is the (only) skillful allure of feelings.

Rather than engaging in doctrines or practices that encourage analyzing or “embracing” or “working” with feelings that can only continue validating fabricated views of self, the Eightfold Path, including Jhana meditation, develops the concentration necessary to recognize and abandon craving-after all self-referential views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  “Continuing in meditation the skillful disciple, with the stilling of directed thought and evaluation enters and remains in the second Jhana which is experienced as rapture and pleasure (now) arising from concentration free from directed thought and evaluation - internal poise and assurance established.

Rapture is a word often used in the Dhamma to describe a profoundly joyful engagement with the Dhamma.

Directed Thought is mindfully directing thoughts away from internal idle chatter and to the breath-in-the-body. This relates directly to the Buddha’s instruction for Right Meditation found in the beginning section of the Satipatthana Sutta.  [14] Satipatthana Sutta - Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Evaluation follows directed thought and provides the skillful method of noticing when distracted by thoughts and feelings and then intentionally directing mindfulness back to the breath-in-the-body. Evaluation is dispassionate and avoids criticism of self or method during Jhana practice.

“Continuing in meditation the skillful disciple, with the fading of rapture, remains equanimous, mindful, and alert and sensitive to pleasure within the body. They enter and remain in the third Jhana which the Noble Ones declare is equanimous and mindful, a pleasant abiding.

“Continuing in meditation the skillful disciple,, with the abandoning of (evaluating) pleasure and pain, they enter and remain in the fourth Jhana which is experienced as pure equanimity and mindful, free of evaluation.

“Now the skillful disciple is free of the affliction of their own craving and the craving of others. They experience feelings free of craving. Free of the affliction of craving is the (only) skillful allure of feelings.

“Now, friends, what is the drawback of feelings? Feelings are impermanent, always subject to change and so (when attached to ) are always stressful. This is the drawback of feelings.

“And what is the release from (self-identifying with) feelings? The subduing of passion for feelings, the subduing of craving for feelings, the abandoning of passion for feelings, the abandoning of craving for feelings This is the release from feelings.

“Friends, I say to you, any contemplatives or brahmans who do not understand feelings as they truly are, who do not understand the allure as allure, who do not understand the drawback as drawback, who do not understand the release from feelings as release from feelings, who could only understand feelings, or rouse in others, in accordance with what they believe and what they practice. It is impossible for them to understand feelings as feelings.

“But, friends, I say to you, any contemplatives or brahmans who do understand feelings as they  truly are, who understand the allure as allure, who understand the drawback as drawback, who understand the release from sensuality as release, would themselves understand feelings, and rouse (understanding) in others, in accordance with what they believe and what they practice. It is now possible for them to understand feelings as feelings.

This last describes understanding feelings from the profound Right View developed through the  Eightfold Path. It is this developed Right View that establishes and maintains a dispassionate, impersonal, and mindful and calm presence in life as life unfolds.  Rather than continuing grasping-after fabricated views or fabricated “dharmas”creating speculative self-establishments in ever-more-elaborate fabricated ideas and fabricated ideologies, the skillful disciple understands that there is nothing within impermanent phenomena arising and passing away that are in any manner personal or deserving of self-identification. [15]  Mindfulness Of Bahiya

This is what the Buddha said. Those in attendance were gratified and delighted at these words.

End Of Sutta

Linked Articles For Further Study

  1. Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. Nagara Sutta - The Buddha Describes His Awakening
  5. Wisdom Of Restraint
  6. Nothing Personal - A Buddha's Analysis Of Self
  7. Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas
  8. Vipassana - Introspective Insight
  9. Vipassana Category
  10. Anupada Sutta - EndingFabrications One After. Another
  11. The Personal Experience Of Ignorance - Dukkha Sutta
  12. Karma And Rebirth
  13. The Noble Search For The Noble Path
  14. Satipatthana Sutta - Four Foundations of Mindfulness
  15. Mindfulness Of Bahiya

 

Cula-Dukkhakkhanda Sutta Talks

Cula-Dukkhakkhanda Sutta

Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked inline and at the end of this article. ([x]) Inline links will open in a new window.

Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering, and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

 [1]  Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

[2]  Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

His first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the single path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [3]  Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

The Cula-Dukkhakkhanda Sutta is similar to the Maha-Dukkhakkhanda Sutta in subject matter and, in certain sections, nearly identical language. In both Suttas, the Buddha is responding to questions regarding the contradictions between his Dhamma and common dharmas of his time. The Buddha teaches that developing the profound and liberating understanding of the true nature of individual contributions to stress and suffering – Dukkha – is the distinguishing factor between his Dhamma and common “spiritual” disciplines of his time.

As with all of the Buddha’s Dhamma it is the development of true and useful vipassana, true and useful introspective insight, into individual clinging of fabricated views to impermanent phenomena that results in stress and suffering. As shown in both of these suttas, the resolution and renunciation of ignorant views occur through specific understanding developed through the Eightfold Path.  [4]  Vipassana - Introspective Insight

In this sutta, the Buddha teaches his cousin Mahanama that the common manifestation in individual human beings of stress is greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. The common belief then and now is that by merely engaging in commonly accepted "spiritual” practice will result in the cessation of stress and suffering.

The Buddha teaches that wishing, hoping, speculating, and maintaining unexamined beliefs fabricated by ignorance of Four Noble Truths is simply a misguided, misinformed, and cruel distraction from understanding Four Noble Truths. [5]  Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views

The reference to “sensuality” must be understood in the context established in the Paticca-Samuppada sutta and the fabricated views corrupting the individual experience of contact with impermanent phenomena at the six-sense-base. [1]  Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

My comments below are in italics.


The Lesser Discourse On Dukkha
Cūḷa-Dukkhakkhandha Sutta  

Majjhima Nikaya 14

On one occasion the Buddha was staying with the Sakyans in the Banyan Grove at Kapilavatthu. Mahanama, Siddartha Gotama’s cousin, approached the Buddha, bowed, and sat to one side. Mahanama had a question for his cousin and teacher: “I understand your Dhamma teaches three defilements of the mind:

  1. Greed is a defilement of the mind.
  2. Aversion is a defilement of the mind.
  3. Deluded thinking is a defilement of the mind.

This description of the Three Defilements as "defilements of the mind" immediately and clearly directs Dhamma practice to resolve inner conflict and delusion. Rather than remaining distracted by fabricated beliefs that can only result in continued craving through continued clinging ignorant views to impermanent phenomena - impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas - including "self" and others. The Buddha is teaching his cousin to abandon seeking satisfaction where none can be found - in the impermanent phenomenal world and the fabricated views and fake dharmas supported by continued ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

The Buddha's Dhamma resolves deluded thinking and inner confliçt by developing the profound understanding that what one is mindful of - what one holds in mind - determines their life experience, not impermanent external conditions or externally-focused fabricated beliefs and fabricated "dharmas." The Buddha's Dhamma resolves within each individual practitioner integrating the Eightfold Path as the framework and guidance for Dhamma practice.

“Even though I understand your Dhamma in this manner, greed, aversion, and deluded thinking invade my mind and remain. When I realize this, the thought follows ‘What quality do I continue to cling to when greed, aversion, and deluded thinking invade my mind and remain?”

This is a subtle but completely common occurrence to a mind continually grasping-after continued ignorance. The compulsive need to find a hidden or mystical cause for current stress through analysis, fabricated blame, or an intentional misunderstanding of Karma is the essence of greed. [12]  Karma And Rebirth

A common and subtly encouraged form of greed is always needing more "investigation" and endless analysis of "what's wrong with or lacking in me" and grasping-after magical and mystical fixes for a flawed or lacking self. This should be seen as it truly is: a common form of distracted mindlessness compulsive encouraged in modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement. [5]  Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views

Aversion is another form of grasping-after external and impermanent phenomena that is a fabricated quality of mind that insists on the people and events of life, including fabricated dharma practices, to magically be different than what is simply and commonly occurring in human life.

Delusion is the condition that arises from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Clinging to ignorance of Four Noble Truths is motivated by continuing greed and aversion and can only continue deluded thinking. This is an aspect of the feedback loop the Buddha described in the Nagara Sutta.  [6]  Nagara Sutta - The Buddha Describes His Awakening

The purpose of the Buddha's Dhamma is to recognize and abandon individual ignorance of Four Noble Truths and the individual condition of deluded thinking that follows the initiating condition of individual ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

The Buddha responds: “Mahanama, it is the very qualities of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking that you continue to cling to. When any of these qualities arise in you it is due to continued clinging to these qualities.

Another word for greed is craving. In the Paticca-Samupaddha Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination, the Buddha shows that from “From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging and maintaining”.

The very qualities of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking are maintained by continual clinging to greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. It is the purpose of the Eightfold Path to develop the concentration necessary to support the refined mindfulness that can hold in mind the Eightfold Path. It is only from a mind resting in Jhana that has the ability to recognize and abandon all manifestations of the three defilements. [7]  Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas

“It is only when these qualities are not abandoned within you that you continue to be entangled in worldly affairs and you continue to cling to sensuality.

“It is only when these qualities are abandoned within you that you remain disentangled in worldly affairs and you no longer cling to sensuality.

“Even though a skillful disciple understands the stress, the despair, the drawback of sensual indulgence, if they have not developed concentration and pleasure apart from sensual indulgence and unskillful mindfulness, or an even deeper level of Jhana and peacefulness, they can still be distracted by sensuality.

The skillful disciple who develops the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path will develop Wise Restraint and will continually lessen their craving for and clinging to sensual indulgence and sensual distraction. [8]  Wisdom Of Restraint

“But, when a skillful disciple understands the stress, the despair, the drawback of sensual indulgence if they have developed concentration and pleasure apart from sensual indulgence and unskillful mindfulness, or an even deeper level of Jhana and peacefulness, they cannot be distracted by sensuality.

“Friend, before my own self-awakening, when I was still an un-awakened bodhisattva, I came to understand with Right View that sensual indulgence is stressful, brings despair, and has drawbacks, but as long as I had not developed concentration and pleasure apart from sensual indulgence and unskillful mindfulness, or an even deeper level of Jhana and peacefulness, I did not claim that I was not distracted by sensuality.

The Buddha's Dhamma does not culminate in an ongoing trance-like distraction grasping-after and clinging to fabricated beliefs. The Buddha's Dhamma culminates in the profound Right View that that resolves with all self-referential views completely abandoned and a well-concentrated mind united with its body while remaining peacefully engaged with life-as-life-unfolds.

“But, when I came to understand the stress, the despair, the drawback of sensual indulgence, and I had developed concentration and pleasure apart from sensual indulgence and unskillful mindfulness, or an even deeper level of Jhana and peacefulness, then I did claim to not be distracted by sensuality.

There is, perhaps, no stronger reference in the suttas for developing Jhana than these last two paragraphs. The Buddha taught that the sole purpose of meditation within the Eightfold Path is to deepen concentration, to deepen Jhana. Without Right Meditation - Jhana Meditation, there can be no understanding of Dukkha and no release from craving for and clinging to ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE ALLURE, THE DRAWBACK, AND THE RELEASE OF CLINGING TO SENSUALITY

This section is nearly identical to the corresponding section in the Maha-Dukkhakkhanda Sutta

“Now, what is the allure of sensuality? There are five clinging-fabrications of sensuality:

  • Forms interpreted by the eyes as agreeable, pleasing, endearing, and enticing.
  • Sounds interpreted by the ears as agreeable, pleasing, endearing, and enticing.
  • Aromas interpreted by the nose as agreeable, pleasing, endearing, and enticing.
  • Flavors interpreted by the tongue as agreeable, pleasing, endearing, and enticing.
  • Tactile sensations interpreted by the body as agreeable, pleasing, endearing, and enticing.

Here the Buddha is describing the immediate application of the understanding developed through the Eightfold Path at the point of contact with impermanent phenomena arising and passing away. [8]  Wisdom Of Restraint

“Friend, whatever pleasure or happiness that one establishes in dependence on any of these five senses is the (distracting) allure of sensuality.

As is seen here it is the preoccupation with pleasure and disappointment that distracts one form understanding life as it truly is as described in Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

“Now, what is the drawback of sensuality? Here is an example: When one’s occupation, whether accounting or plowing, whether trading goods or attending to cattle, whether archer or attending a King, whatever one’s occupation, they are subject to changing weather, to harassment by insects, to dying from thirst and hunger, and the whole mass of stress and suffering.

Reacting to ordinary phenomena arising and passing away results from personalizing ordinary experience that is entirely impersonal. Understanding Dukkha brings cessation to clinging and maintaining self-referential views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. [6]  Nothing Personal - A Buddha's Analysis Of Self

“This drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as its source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“Now, if a person gains little while striving and making effort they will be sorrowful and regretful. They will grieve and become distraught: (All emotions rooted in self-referential ignorant views:) ‘All of my efforts have been useless and fruitless!’

“This (reaction) is also a drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as its source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

A mind lacking Jhana - concentration - cannot support the refined mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path. The skillful disciple develops Jhana that supports the refined mindfulness necessary for a profound understanding of stress and suffering and the cessation of all ignorant views. [7]  Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas

“If a person gains wealth while striving and making effort they will experience distress protecting their wealth: ‘How can I keep my wealth from kings and thieves? How will I protect my wealth from fire or floods? How will I protect my wealth from greedy heirs?’

Even the immediate gratification of achievement is disappointing due to clinging to impermanent phenomena. It is this precise true and useful vipassana - true and useful introspective insight - into wrong views of self clinging to impermanent phenomena resulting in stress and suffering that is the sole purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma [8]  Vipassana - Introspective Insight

“Even as they protect their wealth, kings and thieves make off with it, fire and floods destroy it, and greedy heirs make off with it.  They then will be sorrowful and regretful. They will grieve and become distraught: ‘What was once mine is gone!’

These various descriptions of Dukkha are describing the entirely impersonal experience of Dukha. The allure and drawback of sensuality is established in ignorant views of self craving for and clinging to ordinary impersonal phenomena that is experienced as having personal “ownership” of fleeting objects, events, views, or ideas through self-identification with impermanent phenomena. [9]  Vipassana Category

“This drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“It is (preoccupation) with sensuality as the reason, the source, the cause, that king's quarrel with kings, nobles quarrel with nobles, brahmans with brahmans, householders with householders, parents with children, children with parents, children with siblings, and friends with friends. When conflicted they will attack each other with fists, or sticks, or clubs, or knives, and they incur extreme pain or death.

It is due to the compulsive preoccupation with pleasure and disappointment that uninformed people become distracted towards constant satisfaction where constant satisfaction cannot be found - through ignorant views of self clinging to impermanent worldly phenomena. [10]  Anupada Sutta - EndingFabrications One After. Another

“Here again is the drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“It is (preoccupation) with sensuality as the reason, the source, the cause, that human beings wear armor and use swords, spears, and arrows while charging in formation into battle with other human beings. With spears and arrows flying, with swords flashing, they are wounded, their heads cut off, insuring extreme pain and death.

Here the profound nature of this teaching becomes apparent. Due to self-establishment in the world through individually craving for and clinging to ignorant views legitimized by sensual indulgence in this very craving, all manner of human conflict and stress and suffering, internally and externally, arise. [11]  The Personal Experience Of Ignorance - Dukkha Sutta

“Here again is the drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“Friend, it is (preoccupation) with sensuality as the reason, the source, the cause, that human beings take what is not theirs, ambush others, commit adultery, and when caught, kings have them tortured for their misdeeds. They are flogged and beaten with clubs, their hands and feet cut off, their ears and noses, too. They are subjected to many indignities and deprivations.

“Here again, this is the drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is visible here and now has sensuality as its source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

“Friend, it is (preoccupation)  with sensuality as the reason, the source, the cause, that human beings engage in bodily, verbal, and mental misconduct. Having lived their lives as such, upon death and the break-up of the body there is only continued deprivation.

This last is a significant reference to the Buddha’s teaching on Karma and Rebirth. Unless one resolves ignorance of Four Noble Truths, death can offer no release, only deprivation. This is not a reference to a continued personal experience of disincarnate individual life after physical death - a common misunderstanding that contradicts the intent and purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma. 

An accurate understanding of Karma and Rebirth shows that the Buddha’s Dhamma resolves Karma and the skillful disciple ceases giving “birth” to another moment rooted in ignorance. [12]  Karma And Rebirth

“Here again, this is the drawback of sensuality, this mass of stress and suffering that is now only continued deprivation has sensuality as it source and its establishment. Simply put, the drawback is sensuality.

 

The Conditioning And Inherent Distractions Of false Dharmas

“Friend Mahanama, once I was near Rajagaha onVulture Peak Mountain. There was a group of Nigantha’s at Black Rock on the slopes of Isigili.

Nigantha’s were flowers of Nigantha Natiputta, a leader of a local Jain sect.

“The Niganthas were practicing continuous standing in order to experience severe sharp and racking pain. As I emerged from my seclusion I went to the Niganthas and asked them ‘Why are you practicing continuous standing that develops severe sharp and racking pain?

“One of the Niganthas responded ‘Nigantha Natiputta knows and sees all. He claims to have knowledge and wisdom continually established within him. Nigantha has taught us that our past evil actions will be exhausted with these painful ascetic practices. He further taught us that if we are restrained in body, speech, and thoughts in the present thee will be no evil actions in the future.

So, with the destruction of past evil deeds through these painful ascetic practices and with no evil actions in the present there will be no flow (of the results of evil) into the future. With no flow of evil actions into the future, there is the ending of evil actions. With the ending of evil actions there is the ending of stress. With the ending of stress there is the ending of feelings and with the ending of feelings, stress and suffering will be exhausted. We, the Niganthas, approve of this teaching, we prefer this teaching and are gratified by this teaching.

The psychological model in effect during the Buddha’s time continues today. By conditioning people through fabricated speculation and suggestion to believe that they are inherently bad, or wrong, or inadequate in some way, and that an individual ‘dharma’  can bestow the means for salvation from their ‘evil deeds’, a ‘dharma’ teacher can now have people follow and worship them even though all they are offering is continued distraction from the true cause of their distress and inner and outer conflict.

The Buddha’s Dhamma shows that the root cause of all ‘evil deeds’ is rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and by becoming ‘Rightly Self-Awakened’  precisely as Siddartha Gotama did is the Dhamma. Even if one has actually performed hurtful deeds in the past, and has an uncommonly accurate memory of these deeds, using certain actions such as asceticism (including institutionalized silence), hybrid meditation practices, chanting, bowing, deity visualizations, and many other adapted and embellished ‘dharmas’ in modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement can never provide the release from views ignorant of Four Noble Truths unless one develops the Eightfold Path intended by an awakened human being.

The Buddha responds “Do you know that you existed in the past or that you did not exist in the past?”

“No, friend.”

“Well, do you know that you did evil deeds in the past?”

“No, friend.”

“And do you know that the stress resulting from these evil deeds has been exhausted or that the stress resulting from these evil deeds remains to be exhausted or even that the exhaustion of the stress resulting from these evil deeds can be exhausted?”

“No, friend.”

“Well then, do you know the abandoning of these evil and unskillful qualities and the development of skillful qualities right here and now?”

“No, friend.”

“Friend, it seems as if you do not know if you did or did not exist in the past. It seems as if you do not know if you did or did not do evil acts in the past. You do not know that you did any evil acts in the past or if you even experienced any stress arising from evil actions or that there is stress remaining to be exhausted. You do not know that with the exhaustion of current stress that all stress will be exhausted.

“Furthermore, you do not know the abandonment of evil and unskillful qualities and you do not know the development of evil and unskillful qualities right here and now.

“This being the case, there are those who are cruel and murderous evildoers. Seeking change (salvation) they join with the Niganthas.

As today, the manner in which false and misleading "dharmas" are presented as salvation in some manner, and have distracted others to seek their particular form of salvation, more conflicted and troubled human beings will believe they can find salvation in fabricated dharma as well. This is also an important understanding of the importance of developing and maintaining a true and effective Dhamma practice if one is truly concerned with the well-being of others.

“But friend, Gotama, it is not true that pleasure is attained through pleasure. Pleasure is to be attained through pain. If pleasure is attained through pleasure, then King Bimbisara would attain great pleasure as he lives in greater pleasure than even you.”

This is a common pernicious though subtle fabrication that in order to experience sensual satisfaction there must be an equal experience of suffering. This fabrication arises from a confused mind in order to rationalize stress and suffering as having some value thereby continuing to ignore the root cause of ignorance through a lack of personal responsibility. This is similar to common and popular fabricated beliefs such as “there is no light without darkness. An awakened, fully mature human being understands in a completely dispassionate and impersonal manner that light and dark, day and night, hot and cold, peace and distress, likes and dislikes, are simply part of impermanent phenomena arising and passing away. The Buddha recognizes this ignorant thinking and responds with clear Dhamma:

“Surely you have said this rashly and without reflecting on your words. The skillful question (in the context of my Dhamma) is ‘Who lives in greater pleasure, King Bimbisara or master Gotama?”

“Yes, friend Gotama, we did speak rashly and without refection. Who does live in greater pleasure, King Bimbisara or master Gotama?”

“I will counter-question you. Answer as you see fit. Can King Bimbisara, without moving his body or uttering a word dwell sensitive to pure pleasure for seven days and nights, or even six, or five, or four, or three, or two, or even for one day and night?”

Here 'sensitive" means true refined mindfulness - dispassionately and mindfully aware of what is occurring.

“No, friend.”

“Now, without moving my body or uttering a word I do dwell sensitive to pure pleasure for a day and a night, for two days and nights, for three, for four, for five, for six, for even seven nights and days.

The Buddha here is describing simply and directly the quality of mind of an awakened human being. In the context of the Satipatthana Sutta, the sutta on Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the Buddha is also describing the establishment and continuation of the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness, a mind resting in pure equanimity. [9]  Satipatthana Sutta - Four Foundations of Mindfulness 

“What do you think? Who dwells in the greater pleasure, King Bimbisara or myself?”

“It is clear that master Gotama dwells in the greater pleasure than King Bimbisara!”

This is what was said by the Great Teacher. Mahanama was delighted in the Buddha’s words.

End Of Sutta

Linked Articles For Further Study

  1. Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths - The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. Vipassana - Introspective Insight
  5. Modern Buddhism - A Thicket Of Views
  6. Nagara Sutta - The Buddha Describes His Awakening
  7. Right Meditation - Samadhi - Jhanas
  8. Wisdom Of Restraint
  9. Satipatthana Sutta - Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Shunyata - Emptiness Of Ignorance

Shunyata – Emptiness Of Ignorance
Three Discourses on Emptiness

Shunyata - Emptiness Of Ignorance Talks

Shunyata – Emptiness Of Ignorance
Three Discourses on Emptiness

↓ The Cula-Sunnata Sutta ↓

↓ The Maha-Sunnata Sutta ↓

↓ The Kaccayanagotta Sutta ↓

Introduction

Shunyata - Three Discourses on Emptiness is an article on the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness. I will cite three suttas where the Buddha teaches the meaning and application of emptiness, shunyata (Pali: Sunnata): The Cula-Sunnata Sutta, The Maha-Sunnata Sutta, and The Kaccayanagotta Sutta.

All Buddhist teachings are not consistent with what the Buddha taught as a direct path to awakening, or full human maturity. Through the cultural and individually influenced views of what Buddhism should be, modern Buddhism has developed many contradictory and often antagonistic “paths” than what the Buddha first taught 2,600 years ago.  (See Modern Buddhism - A Thicket of Views) [1]

The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that initiates the process of ongoing conceit, or “I-making” resulting in confusion, deluded thinking, and suffering. This teaching is presented in the Paticca-Samuppada-Vibhanga Sutta, the sutta on Dependent Origination. [2]

This often misunderstood and misapplied teaching simply states that from ignorance of Four Noble Truths, through twelve observable causative links, all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and disappointing and unsatisfactory experience arises.

Each link in the chain of dependencies originates in certain conditions. Ignorance is the initial condition that the ensuing conditions are dependent on for their origination. What this means is that anything that follows from this initial ignorance, including well-intended but misinformed adaptations and accommodations that misapply or ignore The Four Noble Truths can only continue ignorance. This is immediately obvious when the contradictions between the Buddha's application of emptiness is compared to the common and customary use of emptiness prevalent in modern Buddhism.

This is true in the many misapplications of Dependent Origination and in a broader sense in the modern compulsive push to further adapt and accommodate Buddhist teachings to find a reconciled and conciliatory modern Western Buddhist practice. This need for reconciliation is a somewhat subtle form of continued I-Making or conceit - the heart of the problem that is resolved by the Buddha's direct teachings.

Much of the later-developed Buddhist schools treat emptiness and nothingness as a mystical environment to be realized where all “Dharmic” contradictions can be reconciled. What is often overlooked in the customary use of emptiness is that this adapted use of emptiness now becomes the repository for what has been avoided by ignoring The Four Noble Truths.

This adapted application of emptiness then provides a conceptual acceptance-through-avoidance that allows for continued ignorance. All that can't be logically reconciled from this initial ignorance is now labeled emptiness or nothingness. Ie.: There is "No-self," "There is no path," there is only “nothingness." This is also a subtle form of asceticism and annihilation which is clearly an extreme view that is avoided by the middle-way guidance of the entire Eightfold Path as the framework for Dhamma practice.

This conceptual application rooted in wrong view then allows for ignorance of the Three Marks of Existence - Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha. Anicca, Impermanence, and Anatta, the Not-Self characteristic, describe the ever-changing environment in which wrong views of self arise seeking to establish a permanent self-identity. This self-establishment is both unreasonable and impossible. The result is ongoing confusion, ongoing deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfying experiences. This is, in a word, Dukkha, the arising of which is The First Noble Truth - Dukkha occurs. [3]

For those new to Buddhism, or anyone confused by modern “dharmas,” it is important to recognize and acknowledge these significant differences so that the purpose and foundation of any Buddhist practice is clearly understood.

There is nothing skillful in attempting to reconcile the many contradictory forms of modern Buddhism into one hybridized individual or group Buddhist practice when a misapplication or ignorance of the Four Noble Truths is the result. Continued ignorance only continues ignorance.

The modern conceptual applications of emptiness are themselves originating in ignorance of Dependent Origination. Often the Paticca-Samuppada-Vibhanga Sutta is altered or completely ignored in order to allow for the modern concepts of interdependence, interconnectedness, and inter-being. It is this initial ignorance of Dependent Origination that allows for the contradictory modern applications of emptiness and the many modern contradictory Buddhist practices.

This modern confusing doctrine hopes to show that all things, including all human beings, are infinitely interdependent, constantly interconnected, and can only thrive through inter-being. It is this amorphous and interdependent soup that somehow reconciles in a doctrine of emptiness: All things are interdependent, interconnected and inter-be and so “empty” of a separate existence.

Simple physics shows that there are elements common to all physical objects. The commonality of physical elements does not resolve the problem of Dukkha occurring from individual craving for and clinging to impermanent views and experiences. Resolving Dukkha and physical elemental commonality have no useful relationship as far as awakening is concerned.

Of course the Buddha did not teach to see oneself in everything and to see everything as oneself. The Buddha taught that everything in the phenomenal world is discrete and carries the Three Marks Of Existence. The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that the common human problem of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking arose from ignorance.

Greed, or craving, or desire; Aversion, or hatred; and deluded thinking, are known as The Three Defilements common to unawakened human beings - those lacking the full maturity that is developed through gaining understanding of Four Noble Truths.

All things in the phenomenal world carry the Three Marks Of Existence. For the forty-five years of his teaching career the Buddha taught consistently that:

  • The Five Clinging-Aggregates, what is perceived as a “self,”  are anicca, impermanent.
  • Whatever is impermanent, that is dukkha, unsatisfactory.
  • Whatever is dukkha, that is without attaa, without a permanent self.
  • What is without self, that is not mine, that I am not, that is not my self.
  • Thus should it be seen by perfect wisdom as it really is. Who sees by perfect wisdom, as it really is, his mind, not grasping, is detached from taints; he is liberated.” (SN 22.45)

Grasping after concepts that seek to establish a self in an environment of emptiness or nothingness, or in an inherent inner Buddha-nature or Buddhahood is still grasping and is rooted in ignorance.

The Buddha did not teach an “empty” nature of the phenomenal world implying that nothing actually exists. He taught that nothing exists that should be used to establish or maintain a permanent substantial self through clinging self-referential views to objects, events, and ideas.

Rather than attempt to establish a self in everything (clinging to impermanent objects, events, and ideas) or to crave for establishment of self in discrete, impermanent phenomena, or conceptual “dharmas,” both extreme views, the Buddha taught emptiness as a way of describing that followers of his Dhamma should be empty of clinging to objects, events, views, and ideas, and should not attach any notion of self into, or onto, the impermanent phenomenal world.

Ultimately, emptiness refers to having a mind that is empty of any internal disturbance caused by self-referential clinging to objects, events, views, and ideas, including external identification with “Buddhist” practices that were never taught by the Buddha.

Emptiness as emptiness relates to the Buddha’s teachings is mostly a verb rather than a noun. It is skillful in this sense to see emptiness as emptying a glass of dirty water rather than seeing emptiness as a grand cosmic environment to aspire to or as the definition of an awakened “self.” The Buddha taught to “empty oneself of craving and clinging” and to “empty” the world of self-referential clinging views.

The Buddha, having awakened to Dependent Origination, taught an Eightfold Path to end ignorance and bring an end to craving for, and clinging, to “all things interconnected with me” or “all things I am interdependent on” or “all things that I am inter-being with.”


The Cula-Sunnata Sutta

The Lesser Discourse on Emptiness

My commentary below is italicized

The Buddha was at Savatthi in the Eastern Monastery, a local palace. The Buddha’s chief attendant and cousin, Ananda, returning from seclusion, asked the Buddha: “On one occasion I heard you say ‘I now remain fully dwelling (in the quality of mind) in emptiness.’ Did I hear this correctly? Did I learn this correctly? Did I remember this correctly?”

The Buddha replied “Yes, Ananda, you heard that correctly, you learned it correctly, and you remembered it correctly. Now as before I remain fully dwelling in emptiness. Just as this place is empty of elephants, and cattle, and empty of gold or silver, empty of assemblies of women and men, and there is only this non-emptiness of this community of monks. Even so, Ananda, when not distracted by the perception of the village, not distracted by the perception of a human being (with self-referential views), there is only mindfulness of a wilderness with no distractions to what is not present. (There is no discursive or speculative thought) The mind takes pleasure and finds satisfaction in being mindful of wilderness. The mind quiets and delights in the perception of wilderness.

“Wilderness” is metaphor for the pleasant abiding in samadhi, non-distraction, free of the distraction of craving for, and clinging to, the mundane objects of the village (immediate surroundings: “elephants, and cattle, gold or silver, assemblies of women and men.”)

Emptiness of the Perception of “The Village”

“It is then understood that whatever disturbances that would arise from being distracted by the things of the village are no longer present. Whatever disturbances that would arise from being distracted by the perception of a (permanent) human being are no longer present. There is only the single-minded (well-concentrated, samadhi) focus based on the mindfulness of wilderness.  It is understood that this perception is empty of the distraction of the things of the village (immediate surroundings).

"There is only this non-emptiness of the perception of wilderness. It is seen as being empty of what is not there (empty of disturbance by external self-identification, empty of ignorance) What is present is seen as there is only this. This is the entry into emptiness which is in accord with reality and is undistorted and pure.

The Buddha here is describing initial emptiness from the withdrawal of self-identification with things of the local environment. The mind is calm and at peace empty of disturbance arising from sensory stimulation rooted in wrong view. This relates directly to Dependent Origination - When this isn’t, that isn’t - when ignorance is abandoned confused fabrications do not arise.

Emptiness of the Perception of Earth

“Furthermore, Ananda, as concentration increases within the framework of the Eightfold Path, the perception of wilderness and of human beings falls away. Dispassionate mindfulness of the earth arises. (Dispassionate spaciousness of thinking arises) The mind takes pleasure and finds satisfaction in being mindful of the perception of earth. The mind quiets and delights in the perception of earth.

“Just as a bull’s hide is stretched free of wrinkles with many stakes, (mindfulness) free of distraction to the ridges and hollows, the rivers and oceans, the trees and stumps and brambles, the craggy irregularities of the earth, non-distraction based solely on the perception of the earth (free of discriminating thoughts) it is now understood that this perception is empty of a (permanent) human being, empty of the perception of a wilderness. Now there is only the non-emptiness of the perception of the earth.

Concentration has increased but there continues a subtle self-identification to the earth. This is further entry into emptiness which is in accord with reality and is undistorted and pure.

The Buddha here is describing a non self-referential view of the Earth meaning the mind is free of being distracted by the ever-changing qualities naturally inherent in the Earth. In the Bahiya sutta the Buddha teaches Bahiya that ‘In what is seen, there is only the seen, In what is heard, there is only the heard, In what is sensed, there is only the sensed, In what is cognized, only the cognized.’ - no self-referential views [4]

Emptiness of the Perception of the Infinitude of Space

“Furthermore, Ananda, as concentration increases within the framework of the Eightfold Path, the perception of wilderness and of human beings, and of the earth falls away. Dispassionate mindfulness of the dimension of the infinitude of space arises. The mind takes pleasure and finds satisfaction in being mindful of the dimension of the infinitude of space. The mind quiets and delights in the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space.

Notice that as local self-referential identification lessens, perceptual spaciousness increases.

“It is now understood that whatever disturbances that would arise based on the perception of wilderness, or human beings, or of the earth, do not arise. The mind is empty of these perceptions. There is only the non-emptiness of the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space. The quality of mind is regarded as empty of what is not there. This is further entry into emptiness which is in accord with reality and is undistorted and pure.

Concentration and non-clinging have brought deepening calm. The practitioner has not physically left the initial environment but the mind is increasingly empty of disturbance.

Emptiness of the Perception of the Infinitude of Consciousness

“Furthermore, Ananda, as concentration increases within the framework of the Eightfold Path, the perception of wilderness and of human beings, and of the earth, and of the dimension of the infinitude of space falls away. Dispassionate mindfulness of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness arises. The mind takes pleasure and finds satisfaction in being mindful of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. The mind quiets and delights in the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness.

“It is now understood that whatever disturbances that would arise based on the perception of wilderness, or human beings, or of the earth, or the dimension of the infinitude of space, do not arise. The mind is empty of these perceptions. There is only the non-emptiness of the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. The quality of mind is regarded as empty of what is not there. This is further entry into emptiness which is in accord with reality and is undistorted and pure.

As increasing local self-referential identification lessens, perceptual spaciousness increases.

Emptiness of the Perception of the Dimension of Nothingness

“Furthermore, Ananda, as concentration increases within the framework of the Eightfold Path, the perception of wilderness and of human being, and of earth, and of the dimension of the infinitude of space, and of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness falls away. Dispassionate mindfulness of the dimension of nothingness arises. The mind takes pleasure and finds satisfaction in being mindful of the dimension of nothingness. The mind quiets and delights in the perception of the dimension of nothingness.

“It is now understood that whatever disturbances that would arise based on the perception of wilderness, or human beings, or of the earth, or the dimension of the infinitude of space, or of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness do not arise. The mind is empty of these perceptions. There is only the non-emptiness of the perception of the dimension of nothingness. The quality of mind is regarded as empty of what is not there. This is further entry into emptiness which is in accord with reality and is undistorted and pure.

Non-emptiness of the perception of the dimension of nothingness refers to the quality of mind of knowing that it is empty of disturbance. “Nothingness”  refers to a quality of mind that is free of self-referential views that would otherwise cause disturbance.

Emptiness of the Perception of the Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception

“Furthermore, Ananda, as concentration increases within the framework of the Eightfold Path, the perception of wilderness and of human beings, and of the earth, and of the dimension of the infinitude of space, and of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, and of the dimension of nothingness falls away. Dispassionate mindfulness of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception arises. The mind takes pleasure and finds satisfaction in being mindful of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. The mind quiets and delights in the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.

“It is now understood that whatever disturbances that would arise based on the perception of wilderness, or human beings, or of the earth, or the dimension of the infinitude of space, or of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, or of the dimension of nothingness, do not arise. The mind is empty of these perceptions. There is only the non-emptiness of the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. The quality of mind is regarded as empty of what is not there. This is further entry into emptiness which is in accord with reality and is undistorted and pure.

“The quality of mind is regarded as empty of what is not there” - Concentration and refined mindfulness have developed to the point where recognition of equanimity is realized.

The dimensions (fabricated mind-states) of nothingness and of neither perception nor non-perception were studied by the Buddha from his early teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. Their teachings were from the Veda’s which modern Hinduism is based on. The Buddha rejected these teachings as  “This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, or to dispassion, or to cessation, or to stilling, or to direct knowledge, or to Awakening, or to Unbinding, but only to reappearance (ongoing I-making) in the dimension of nothingness” in regard to Alara Kalama’s teachings and “This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception” in regard to Uddaka Ramaputta’s teachings. These mind-states were seen by the Buddha as rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

The Mahayana schools of Buddhism have adopted these teachings rejected by the Buddha to support the view of emptiness as an environment to establish the self in, rather than recognizing that the striving for realizing these dimensions is a (subtle) doctrine of I-making.) [5]

Release From All Fabricated Views - Profound Emptiness

“Finally, Ananda, having abandoned the perceptions of the dimension nothingness and of the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception,  one abides in single-minded concentration, free of self-referential views. The quality of mind is regarded as empty of what is not there. There is a satisfied and pleasant abiding. The mind quiets and is gratified in single-minded concentration. free of self-referential views.

“It is understood that this single-minded concentration, free of self-reference, is fabricated and formed through thought. Having abandoned all self-referential views it is understood that whatever is fabricated and formed through thought is impermanent and subject to cessation. Understanding the impermanent nature of all fabrications the mind is released from the stress of sensuality, from the stress of becoming, (I-making) and from the stress of ignorance. It is understood that birth (of further ignorant views) has ended, the integrated life has been lived, the path is complete. There is nothing left clinging to the world.

The mind is now free of fabricated mind-states or “dimensions” rooted in ignorance.

“It is understood that whatever disturbances that arose from the stress of sensuality, from the stress of becoming, (I-making) and from the stress of ignorance, are no longer present. There is now only the minor disturbance connected to the six-sense base that is dependent on the body with life as the condition (of disturbance). There is only the non-emptiness connected with the six-sense base and dependent on this body with life as the condition.

“What is not present is understood as empty of what is not present. Whatever remains is understood as what is present - in what is seen there is only the seen, in what is heard there is only the heard, in what is cognized there is only what is cognized.

“So, Ananda, this is (final) entry into emptiness which is in accord with reality and is undistorted and pure.

“Ananda, whoever enters and remains in this emptiness, whether past, present, or future, they all enter in this same emptiness that is undistorted and pure, superior and unsurpassed.

“Therefore, Ananda, train yourself to enter in this same emptiness that is undistorted and pure, superior and unsurpassed.

This is what the Buddha said and Ananda was delighted in his words.

End of the Cula-Sunnata Sutta

In describing to Ananda the meaning of emptiness that is in accord with reality and is undistorted and pure the Buddha describes it as free of self-referential views: “in what is seen there is only the seen, in what is heard there is only the heard, in what is cognized there is only what is cognized.”

The Buddha has described the progression of understanding of emptiness from physical form, perceptions and fabrications, and conceptual applications of mind-states of non-perception and nothingness to an undistorted and pure reality that is based on recognizing and abandoning all self-referential views rooted in ignorance and formed by fabrications.  it is important to also note the relationship that this sutta has to understanding the Three Marks of Existence. [3]


The Maha-Sunnata Sutta

The Greater Discourse on Emptiness

The Buddha was in Kapilavatthu at the Banyan Park. Returning from his alms round he noticed the many resting places prepared at Kalakhemaka, the Sakyan’s, dwelling and wondered if there were many monks living there.

Ananda and many other monks were at the dwelling of Ghata making robes. That evening the Buddha went to Ghata’s dwelling. He asked Ananda about the many resting places at Kalakhemaka’s dwelling and if there were many monks living there.

Ananda replied, “yes, teacher, many monks are in attendance there and we are making robes for them.”

The Buddha was concerned with the social aspects of living as a close community. He remarked to Ananda that “A Dhamma practitioner does not flourish if they delight in company and is committed to delighting in company. A Dhamma practitioner does not flourish if they delight in being part of a group and rejoices in being a part of a group.

“It is indeed impossible when a Dhamma practitioner delights in company, is committed to company, who delights in being a part of a group and rejoices in a group that they will achieve the pure pleasure of renunciation, of seclusion, of unbinding and release, and of self-awakening.

“Ananda, it is indeed possible for one who lives alone, withdrawn from company and withdrawn from groups can achieve the pure pleasure of renunciation, of seclusion, of unbinding and release, and of self-awakening.

“Ananda, it is impossible for a Dhamma practitioner who delights in company and is committed to delighting in company, who delights in being part of a group and rejoices in being a part of a group is able to enter and remain in the release from self-referential views that is temporary and pleasurable, or in the more refined release from self-referential views that is not temporary and is beyond fabrication.

In a typical translation cessation of self-referential views are described as “awareness-release” as in the ending of object-subject views. Release from self-referential views is translated directly from the Pali as “awareness-release.”

“Ananda, it is indeed possible for one who lives alone, withdrawn from company and withdrawn from groups to enter and remain in the release from self-referential views that is temporary and pleasurable, or in the more refined release from self-referential views that is not temporary and is beyond fabrication.

“I do not see even a single being who would not experience confusion, delusion, and suffering from being passionate and taking delight in company and groups.

Delight, in this case, is referring to clinging to a self-identity arising from entanglements with others and forming an identity as one of a particular group - taking an identity from association with a group or accommodated practice. Rather than taking refuge in a well-focused sangha, the Buddha has noticed those whose entanglement and associations with unfocused groups (un-focused on the Four Noble Truths) that is leading them to further confusion, deluded thinking and suffering. This is similar to the reference of ‘clinging to the village’ in the Cula-Sunnata Sutta cited earlier.

Notice the nearly endless modern “Buddhist lineages,” schools, and smaller groups that establish themselves (furthering I-making) with special names and unique practices yet still insist that they are “Buddhist” while contradicting much of what the Buddha teaches.

“Ananda, there is a pleasant abiding discovered by the Tathagata, not attending to any self-referential views, who enters and remains in an internal quality that is empty of any self-referential views, an internal emptiness.

“While abiding in this pleasant abiding he is visited by others, his mind well-established in seclusion and having abandoned the fermentations that develop from clinging to company and group's, converses with others only when necessary and skillful, and then they take their leave.

“So, Ananda, practice to enter and remain in internal self-referential emptiness. Free of clinging one can now develop concentration. When withdrawn from the results of ignorant views, well-concentrated, one enters and remains in the first jhana. As concentration deepens one enters the second jhana, and the third jhana. Finally, one enters and remains in the fourth jhana - a quality of mind that is pure and calm with no discrimination between pleasure and pain. This is how one becomes unified within, and well-concentrated. [6]

“This Dhamma practitioner is settled in internal self-referential emptiness. Their mind does not crave internal self-referential emptiness. Peace and calm is understood as being empty of clinging views and unconditioned mindfulness.

“Having emptied themselves of self-referential views they remain mindful of internal and external emptiness. Their mind is beyond disturbance. Free from external or internal disturbance they are brilliant and alert and at peace. They take pleasure in the emptiness of self-referential views. They have developed skillful concentration.

“Whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, this Dhamma practitioner knows that no craving, or regret, or any unskillful quality will arise. Their speech is not base, or vulgar, or common, or ignoble, or harmful, or unnecessary, or does not lead to disenchantment, or to dispassion, or to cessation, or to calm, or to direct knowledge, or to unbinding, or to self-awakening. They are unconcerned with kings or robbers or food or armies or gossip or talk of existence or nonexistence or any talk rooted in self-interest. Their mind is alert and well-concentrated.

“This Dhamma practitioner develops the Right Intention to engage in Right Speech that is free of craving and clinging and is scrupulous, supportive of the Dhamma, and leads to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to unbinding, and to self-awakening. Their mind is alert and well-concentrated.

“This Dhamma practitioner develops the Right Intention to think skillful thoughts, free of group influence, that lead to renunciation, to harmlessness, to the cessation of confusion, delusion, and stress. Their mind is alert and well-concentrated.

“While dwelling in seclusion, their mind well-concentrated, mindfulness of Right Intention provides the framework to recognize and abandon thoughts that are base, vulgar, common, ignoble, hurtful, that do not develop disenchantment, dispassion, release, calm, direct knowledge, self-awakening, unbinding.

“They maintain the Right Intention to think thoughts that are noble and develop renunciation, harmlessness, and liberation. They are well-concentrated and empty of disturbing thoughts.

“Ananda, develop refined mindfulness of the six-sense base to understand how contact with the senses creates disturbance and inflames passion. Ask yourself if there is any disturbance formed by engagement and self-identification with regard to contact at the six-sense base.

“If upon mindful reflection you find that disturbance has arisen from contact then you will know that you are not empty of craving and clinging. But, if you find that there is no disturbance that arises in your mind from contact at the six-sense base then you will know the craving for sensory satisfaction has been abandoned. The quality of your mind will be well-concentrated and empty of disturbing thoughts.

In these two sentences, the Buddha is describing very clearly how to recognize and abandon I-making through the well-integrated framework of the Eightfold Path.

“The Five-Clinging Aggregates should be seen as arising and passing away: Form arises and passes away, feelings arise and pass away, perceptions arise and pass away, fabrications arise and pass away, (deluded) thinking arises and passes away.

“Maintaining refined mindfulness, any conceit that supports the Five Clinging-Aggregates is abandoned and this one is mindful that they have emptied themselves of any disturbance formed by ignorance. The quality of mind is well-concentrated and empty of disturbing thoughts.

“Ananda, the qualities that are developed through the Dhamma are singularly useful in developing understanding of reality. They are noble, transcendent, and cannot be affected by ignorance.

Developing Right Intention to recognize and abandon all craving for and clinging to self- referential views develops “emptiness of craving and clinging” and emptiness of all self-referential views. The Five Clinging-Aggregates, once the self-created vehicle for ongoing confusion, deluded thinking and suffering is now understood clearly as separate and impersonal components of impermanent phenomena.

“Now, Ananda, what do you think is a proper goal for a disciple even after a rebuke from their Teacher?

Ananda: “You are our Teacher and your Dhamma is our guide. Please explain this statement for our long-term benefit.

“Ananda, it is not skillful to follow a teacher simply to hear discourses or dogma. You have done this for a long time and have understood them according to your views. But, talk on modesty, contentment, seclusion, non-entanglement, persistence, wisdom, virtue, and concentration, talk that is scrupulous, conducive to refined mindfulness, that develops directly dispassion, disenchantment, cessation, calm, unbinding, and the direct knowledge and vision of release, is skillful to attend and to hold in mind.

Mindfulness means to “hold in mind” or to “recollect.” Here The Buddha is teaching Ananda that when views are not inclined away from ignorance they will fail to understand the purpose of the dhamma. Furthermore, the Buddha is teaching Ananda that the Dhamma must be integrated as the framework for one's life rather than a simple intellectual engagement with the teachings.

“This being the case failure to empty one’s self of clinging to ignorant views will lead to the long-term suffering for a teacher, or student, or anyone engaged with the Dhamma. How does this occur? For a teacher, even dwelling in seclusion, becomes enamored by offerings of trinkets or praise and falls into the Three Defilements. This can only develop further confusion, deluded thinking, and suffering.

The Three Defilements are greed, aversion, and deluded thinking.

“There is also the case of a student, lacking understanding, imitates the teacher and has failed to empty themselves of clinging to ignorant views and becomes enamored with trinkets or praise and falls into the Three Defilements. This can only develop further confusion, deluded thinking, and suffering.

“Then there is the case where one engaged with the Dhamma fails to empty themselves from clinging views. A Tathagata has arisen in the world, a worthy and rightly self- awakened one. Dwelling in seclusion, he avoids becoming enamored by offerings of trinkets or praise and does not fall into the Three Defilements. His mind is calm and empty of disturbance. A student of the Tathagata, dwelling in seclusion, becomes enamored by offerings of trinkets or praise and falls into the Three Defilements and lives in luxury. This can only develop further confusion, deluded thinking, and suffering.

“In this regard, Ananda, a Dhamma practitioner who fails to empty themselves of the defilements can only continue, confusion, deluded thinking, and disappointment.

“Do not engage with the teacher or the Dhamma in opposition. Engage with the teacher and the Dhamma with friendliness. That alone will be for your long-term well-being and happiness.

“And how do students engage in opposition to the teacher? When the teacher teaches the Dhamma with understanding and concern for the student's well-being but the students do not listen or apply themselves to understanding, they stray from the Dhamma. This is how students oppose the teacher.

The Buddha here is referring to students that insist that the Buddha should teach a “dharma” that fits their own confused views rather than teach a useful and well-focused Dhamma. This is the theme of many suttas. The Saddhamma Sutta is one example. [7]

“And how do students engage with the teacher and the Dhamma in friendliness? When the teacher teaches the Dhamma with understanding and concern for the student's well-being and the students listen and apply themselves to understanding, they do not stray from the teacher or the Dhamma. This is how students engage with the teacher in friendliness and not in opposition.

“Ananda, engage with me and the Dhamma in friendliness. This will be for your long-term well-being and happiness.

“I will not hover over you but I will remind you again and again of the Dhamma. What is not essential will be gone and what is essential will remain.”

This is what was said and Ananda was delighted in the Buddha’s words.

End of the Maha-Sunnata Sutta

The next to last sentence of this sutta - “I will not hover over you but I will remind you again and of the Dhamma. What is not essential will be gone and what is essential will remain” is significant as it speaks to the misunderstanding that an all-encompassing application of the Dhamma is useful or effective or that anything of value is lost in renunciation and developing emptiness of clinging. What is abandoned is of no value and what remains is of singular importance.

The Buddha is also teaching Ananda how to clearly know that a Dhamma teacher is well grounded in the Dhamma and not seeking to establish themselves as having a special understanding or has developed special methods or is seeking to gain followers: And how do students engage with the teacher and the Dhamma in friendliness? When the teacher teaches the Dhamma with understanding and concern for the student's well-being.” In other words, a true Dhamma teacher teaches not to establish contradictory practices but has studied and integrated the Buddha’s actual teachings and now their only concern is for the student's well-being.

The Buddha consistently described an awakened human being, an Arahant, as unbound, or released from clinging to any phenomenal object, event, view, or idea. Rather than teaching that all things are interdependent, interconnected, or “inter-be,” the Eightfold Path develops the compassion and wisdom to free all beings from clinging to the world by freeing oneself, including a Dhamma teacher, from clinging.


The Kaccayanagotta Sutta

Emptiness and Right View

The Kaccayanagotta Sutta is a teaching on Right View and also a clear explanation of the common misunderstandings of “emptiness” and non-duality. The common applications of emptiness and non-duality are extreme (wrong) views of existence and non-existence and create a deluded doctrine of emptiness and non-duality by fixating on these views as if they are the only views possible. When the Buddha’s teachings are fully developed it is clear that all things in the impermanent phenomena world are discrete in a practical sense.

The insistence on a non-dual doctrine obscures reality and contradicts Right View and the entire Eightfold Path. As seen here the Buddha shows that a non-dual doctrine is an extreme (wrong) view rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

The simple teachings on Dependent Origination are used by the Buddha to show what is meant by the Eightfold Path as the “middle way” that avoids extreme views. Notice that there is nothing in the direct teachings of Dependent Origination that would imply a doctrine of interdependence, interconnectedness, or inter-being, as these are non-dual teachings rooted in ignorance and wrong view. The “world” is a metaphor for confused and deluded views that result in unsatisfactory experiences, or Dukkha.

The Kaccayanagotta Sutta

The Buddha was staying at Savatthi, at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. The monk Kaccayana Gotta approached the Buddha with a question: “I don’t understand Right View. Can you teach me how Right View relates to the world?”

“Kaccayana, the confusion and deluded thinking in the world arises from polarizing views. There is the view of (permanent) existence and a view of (permanent) non-existence. When the origination of confused and deluded thinking is understood and abandoned, from Right View it is seen that ‘non-existence’ does not occur. Furthermore, When the cessation of confused and deluded thinking is understood and abandoned, from Right View it is seen that ‘existence’ does not occur.

“The world is sustained by attachments, by clinging to conditioned thinking and wrong views rooted in ignorance (of Four Noble Truths). One who has developed Right View no longer clings to attachments, or fixated (conditioned) thinking, or self-obsession. It is understood that stress arising is stress arising. It is understood that stress passing away is stress passing away. In this, their knowledge is independent of other views. This is how Right View relates to the world.

“The view that everything exists is a wrong view and the view that nothing exists is another wrong view. My Dhamma avoids extreme views. I teach from the middle, I teach the Eightfold Path as the middle way that avoids extreme views.

“The middle way shows that suffering originates and is dependent on ignorance:

  • From ignorance (of Four Noble Truths) as a requisite condition come fabrications.
  • From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.
  • From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.
  • From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes the six sense-base.
  • From the six sense-base as a requisite condition comes contact.
  • From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.
  • From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.
  • From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging and maintaining.
  • From clinging and maintaining as a requisite condition comes becoming.
  • From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.
  • From birth as a requisite condition comes aging, sickness, death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress and despair.

“Such is the origination of extreme views and the entire mass of confusion, delusion, and stress.

“Now,

  • From the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications.
  • From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness.  (conditioned thinking)
  • From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form.
  • From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media.
  • From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact.
  • From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling.
  • From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving.
  • From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging and maintaining.
  • From the cessation of clinging and maintaining comes the cessation of becoming.
  • From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress, & despair all cease.

“Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress and suffering.”

“Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress:

  • Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, regret, pain, distress, & despair are stressful.
  • Association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful.
  • Not getting what is wanted is stressful.
  • In short, The Five Clinging-Aggregates are stressful.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress:

"The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress:

"The remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress:

Precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

End of the Kaccayanagotta Sutta

Closing Commentary

Everything the Buddha taught for the forty-five years of his teaching career was taught in the context of the Four Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth simply states that Dukkha occurs as a common consequence of human life. The second noble truth teaches the origination of dukkha: Craving originates and clinging perpetuates dukkha. Craving for self-establishing existential experiences arises from a misunderstanding of impermanence, the not-self characteristic, and resulting unsatisfactory experiences (Dukkha).

All phenomenal experiences carry The Three Marks Of Existence and are subject to confusion, delusion, and suffering. It is craving for and clinging to phenomenal existence, seeing a self in everything that occurs through self-referential views, that originates and perpetuates suffering. The third noble truth states that the cessation of confusion, delusion, and suffering is possible.  The fourth noble truth states that it is the Eightfold Path that develops the cessation of dukkha.

The Eightfold Path is the path the Buddha taught to overcome the common human problem of wrong or ignorant views developing conditioned thinking. Conditioned thinking is ongoing thoughts “conditioned” by ignorant views that can only develop further ignorant views unless the proper framework for recognizing and abandoning ignorant views is developed. This is the purpose of the Eightfold Path.

Much of the modern Buddhist views of emptiness are formed by ignorant views that arose from the individual and cultural influences that have altered the direct teachings of the Buddha.

The first factor of the Eightfold Path is Right View. Right View is ultimately viewing the world empty of any notion of a permanent self - there is no me here, this is not me, this is not mine.

Most modern Buddhist teachings present a doctrine of no-self residing in emptiness or a vast cosmic void - this is simply more “I” making. This contradictory view is what necessitated the split in the later-developed Mahayana Buddhist schools. [8]

This contradictory view of emptiness then necessitates the alteration of the Buddha’s teachings on Dependent Origination and now uses emptiness as the repository for everything that contradicts the Buddha’s direct teachings including, and most significantly, his actual teachings on emptiness.

Right View teaches that within the ever-changing environment of the phenomenal world there cannot be found  a permanent and substantial “I.” Stress and unhappiness arise due to a lack of understanding and the attempt to establish a substantial and permanent view of self into an environment that does not support such a view.

In this way, it is appropriate to see emptiness as a noun but only  as emptiness is seen as the need to continue to establish a view of self in some realm, now the realm of emptiness, but still be “Buddhist.” This notion of emptiness has caused the proliferation of modern “Buddhist” teachings that can not be reconciled with the Buddha’s teachings. This has led to the development of myths and legends and the need for speculation and blind faith.

The Mahayana schools are dependent on teachings, ascribed to the Buddha, but not presented until many years, sometimes many centuries after the Buddha’s death. Most legends have the Buddha, while still incarnate, traveling to a non-physical realm, a kind of Buddhist heaven, presenting these teachings to “higher beings” and subsequently protected by the “Snake People” until humanity was “advanced” enough to understand the teachings. These myths themselves can only be found in the need to continue a doctrine of “I.”

This justifying explanation also dismisses the forty-five-year teaching career of the Buddha as something to be ignored in favor of the more “advanced” teachings of the later-developed Buddhist schools. Ongoing ignorance requires ignoring the Buddha's direct teachings to allow for the many contradictory teachings that have developed in the 2,600 years since the Buddha’s passing.

Out of fear of annihilation and of not understanding what the Buddha taught as awakening, they could not see what was plainly in front of them: The example of a human being who awakened through his own efforts and lived a human life, fully awakened, fully mature, for forty-five years.

The Buddha lived for forty-five years free of the need for his moment-by-moment life be any different than it was. He lived moment-by-moment in lasting peace and happiness with a calm mind, free of fetters, a mind of equanimity.

To understand what we become when all views of self are abandoned, when all clinging to objects, events, thoughts, and views are abandoned, we only need to understand this one thing: A human being accomplished this and lived a full and effective and deeply meaningful life, and he taught how all human beings how to do the same.

Not fixing your view of self onto anything allows for the awakened experience of entering the stream as in a “stream-enterer.” Ceasing to define or identify your self with what is unfolding, what you have, what you may lose, what is arising that you want more of, what is arising that you want less of, allows you to enter the stream of awakening.

This is not the same as being compulsively focused on the present moment which has become a kind of modern worship. There is no actual point in time that can be called the present moment. The process of awakening is a continuum. Through wisdom, the understanding is gained to let go of all attachments and entanglements and be present within the unfolding of life’s events.

If there is still karma there will still be rebirth in each present moment that is subject to disappointment, a less than continually satisfying experience from the view of an ego-self. When the awakened, fully mature, state of mind has been achieved, reaction to life’s experiences cease to be satisfying, or disappointing, or neutral, and one has entered into the flow of a mind resting in equanimity.

A most important understanding that arises from clearly seeing emptiness is the understanding that the Bodhisattva vow It is not a path to awakening but something that the Buddha continually described as  occurring prior to his awakening as an “unawakened bodhisattva.”

To propose the possibility that the entire phenomenal world can be completely free of all manner of suffering is to ignore the First Noble Truth and from this ignorance to ignore the remaining three noble truths.

If motivation for compassion is to finally free others from suffering it is most skillful to stop promoting the doctrine that “we are all one,” with the “one” being an individual conceptual view of how the world should be, all connected by “buddha-nature” or “Buddhahood” or essential self, and leave people and objects free of all adornment arising from ignorance.

The only effective motivation for freedom from confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing suffering is wisdom, not further arrogance, shame, or guilt. Promoting a doctrine of compassion alone, without the foundational understanding gained from the Eightfold Path creates unattainable conceptual goals to attain without providing the means for achieving true compassion informed with wisdom.

Teaching we are all one and we should all treat each other as one interdependent inter-being organism without providing the means for insight and understanding only leads to more confusion, more suffering, and more aggression. This leads many modern "Buddhists" to further confusion and often blame the "dharma" as false and ineffective, or blame themselves for not being able to achieve “Buddhahood” or to realize their “Buddha-Nature” or to individually solve the common human problem of suffering rooted in ignorance.

When you become disappointed with the world through refined mindfulness you become disenchanted. When you are mindfully disenchanted you understand the nature of suffering and the nature of the phenomenal world. Understanding the nature of suffering and the impermanence of the phenomenal world can only be achieved when pleasure-seeking and pain-aversion are mindfully recognized and abandoned.

When developed and fully integrated, the Eightfold Path shows that fixed views are also views that “fix” a self within these fixed views. This is also often referred to by the Buddha as “a confining space.” The Buddha’s teachings bring understanding and release from fixed views and develops the understanding of the potential of each moment to incline refined mindfulness towards awakening, towards full human maturity.

Each moment holds the potential to cease becoming rooted in ignorance and develop the requisite conditions, through the Eightfold Path, to become free of all ignorant views and live a human life from the peace and freedom of Right View.

In the Samyutta Nikaya 56.11, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the sutta setting the wheel of dhamma in motion, the Buddha’s first teaching, he presented the “middle way” of the Eightfold Path. In this sutta, the Buddha refers to the extreme views of existence and non-existence as the compulsion to engage in constant sensory stimulation (clinging to existence and experience) and the asceticism of denial (manipulated non-existence) both of which have been incorporated in modern Buddhist practices: “There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding.

“And what is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding? Precisely this Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right meditation.

"This is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding, to Emptiness."

Peace.

 

  1. Modern Buddhism - A Thicket of Views
  2. Dependent Origination
  3. Three Marks of Existence
  4. Mindfulness of Bahiya
  5. Cula-Saccaka Sutta
  6. The Jhana’s, Meditative Absorption
  7. The Saddhamma Sutta
  8. The Pali Canon

 

Right Mindfulness - Refined Mindfulness - Explained

Mindfulness means to recollect or to hold-in-mind. The Buddha taught a very specific application of Refined Mindfulness that avoids the grasping-after-all-phenomena mindfulness popular in modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement. This Refined Mindfulness requires the deep and profound concentration developed only through Jhana Meditation practiced with mindfulness of the Eightfold Path.

There are two primary suttas on Refined Mindfulness. The Satipatthana Sutta established the right method of Jhana meditation, how to develop Four Foundations Mindfulness, and how to apply ever-deepening concentration and Refined Mindfulness to hold-in-mind the Eightfold Path as the framework and ongoing guidance for true and effective Dhamma practice. The Anapanasati Sutta is remarkable in its description of the results of authentic Dhamma practice.

The third link below are to  sutta's with commentary and associated talks that broadly teach the importance of a well-concentrated mind supporting the refined mindfulness necessary to recognize and integrate a pure and authentic Dhamma practice. Many of these are articles and recordings on specific suttas where the Buddha cautions against creating fabricated self-referential views in speculative, imaginary, non-physical realms or rituals and practices based hopeful speculation. The Buddha taught Refined Mindfulness framed by and guided by the Eightfold Path based on his profound understanding of the cause of all manner of disappointment, stress, and suffering as described in the Paticcasamuppada Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination.

Satipatthana Sutta - Four Foundations Of Mindfulness

Anapanasati Sutta - An Example Of Authentic Dhamma Practice

Right Mindfulness And The Development Of Authentic Dhamma

Right Mindfulness - Refined Mindfulness - Skillfully Developed And Applied

When the purpose and focus of the Buddha’s Dhamma is understood, it is clear that his Dhamma resolves in life as life unfolds. As described in the Paticasamuphada Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination, it is continued ignorance of Four Noble Truths that results in a distracted mind grasping after fabricated views and sensory indulgence.

To counter the results of ignorance of Four Noble Truths, the Buddha taught precisely how to develop direct and experiential knowledge of these Four Truths. Supported by the Jhna developed in Right Meditation, the Buddha taught that his Dhamma rests in Refined Mindfulness. This is not the mindless “mindfulness” of grasping-after-fabricated-insight common to modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement.
The Buddha established in the Satipatthana Sutta the Four Foundations Of Mindfulness developed in Jhana meditation and then applied to the Heartwood of the Dhamma and other significant themes of his Dhamma, including the suttas below.

Developing the Dhamma to culmination requires a well-concentrated mind that can hold-in-mind the Heartwood of the Dhamma – The Noble Eightfold Path – as the framework and ongoing guidance for effective Dhamma practice.

The concentration developed through Jhana meditation supports Refined Mindfulness and continual wise restraint. 

Wise Restraint is the skillful action that begins to diminish the effects of unskillful action or Karma. 

Wise restraint is informed and inspired by the refined mindfulness supported by Jhana meditation that holds-in-mind the Eightfold Path as the framework and guidance for the recognition and abandonment of all fabricated views built on ignorance of Four Noble truths. In this manner, wise restraint is ongoing Dhamma Practcie. 

Here is a link to additional suttas on the Wisdom Of Restraint:  Wisdom Of Restraint Dhamma Articles And Talks

The Pamadaviharin Sutta is a profound teaching on the importance of developing Jhana that supports a mind  “dwelling in mindfulness” – a quality of mind resting in the calm and peace of understanding Four Noble Truths.

Pamadaviharin Sutta

Introduction

There is a popular phrase that shows that the modern view of the purpose of life for many is acquisition and a consumer-driven way of life. “Life is a banquet – don’t leave the table hungry.” This phrase is likely an adaptation of a quote from Aristotle who lived approximately 150 years after the Buddha: “It is best to rise from life as from a banquet, neither thirsty nor drunken.”

Notice how the adaptation to Aristotle’s quote dismisses restraint in favor of consumption and continually seeking to satisfy the senses. Rephrasing the modern adaptation to reflect restraint might be “Life is a banquet – take only what is necessary.”

Modern life encourages constant engagement with the world and in many subtle ways discourages restraint. Many today feel overwhelmed by the demands of life and the busy-ness of their lives. Often what is creating busy-ness is a lack of restraint and a “wrong view” of what is realistically skillful and necessary to engage with and associate with. This is a result of mindlessness or having control over one’s mind.

Solitude and disengagement are essential aspects of the Dhamma and are easily developed through proper restraint.

It is mindful restraint at the Six-sense base that develops awakening or full human maturity. The Six-sense base is our five physical senses and interpretive thinking. In this way, the teachings on restraint directly relate to Dependent Origination in a very practical way.

Dependent Origination shows that:

•    From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.

•    From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.

•    From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.

•    From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes the six sense-bases.

•    From the six sense-bases as a requisite condition comes contact.

•    From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.

•    From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.

•    From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging and maintaining.

•    From clinging and maintaining as a requisite condition comes becoming.

•    From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.

•    From birth as a requisite condition comes aging, sickness, death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress and despair.

As the fifth link in the 12 link chain of dependencies, the six-sense base follows from the initial ignorance of Four Noble Truths. What this means is that the interpretation of contact at the senses is rooted in ignorance and any further assumptions made by contact can only further the confusion and deluded thinking that was initiated by initial fabrications arising from ignorance. In other words, whatever follows from ignorance will be tainted by the fabrications or conditioned thinking initiated from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

It is imperative to recognize the ongoing process of using sensory stimulus to attempt to continue to establish a permanent self through discursive self-referential thinking. Rather than use sensory stimulus to continue confusion, delusion, and ongoing unsatisfactory experiences, recognizing this process of “I-making” or “Selfing” develops the ability to be mindfully present with what is occurring, rather than interpret life unfolding from a view rooted in initial ignorance.

Pamadaviharin Sutta: Dwelling in Mindfulness

Samyutta Nikaya 35.97

“Friends, pay close attention! I will teach you about one who dwells in mindlessness and one who dwells in mindfulness.

“And how does one dwell in mindlessness? When one is unrestrained at the eye the mind is agitated and distracted by mental fabrications. When agitated and distracted there is no joyful engagement with the Dhamma. Lacking joyful engagement with the Dhamma there is no serenity. There is only disappointment and distraction. When the mind is distracted there can be no Dhamma. Lacking the Dhamma, there is only dwelling in mindlessness.

“When one dwells unrestrained over the ear, or the nose, or the tongue, or the body, the mind is agitated and distracted. There is no joyful engagement with the Dhamma. Lacking joyful engagement with the Dhamma there is no serenity. There is only disappointment and distraction. When the mind is distracted there can be no Dhamma. Lacking the Dhamma there is only dwelling in mindlessness.

“When one dwells unrestrained of thoughts, the mind is agitated and distracted by ideological fabrications. There is no joyful engagement with the Dhamma. Lacking joyful engagement with the Dhamma there is no serenity. There is only disappointment and distraction. When the mind is distracted there can be no Dhamma. Lacking the Dhamma there is only dwelling in mindlessness.

“This is how one dwells in mindlessness.

“And how does one dwell in mindfulness? When a Dhamma Practitioner dwells in restraint with eye, with nose, with the ear, with the tongue, and with the body, the mind is not agitated or distracted by mental fabrications. There is joyful engagement with the Dhamma. There being joyful engagement with the Dhamma there is serenity. There is contentment. The Dhamma is present moment-by-moment and they dwell in mindfulness.

“When one dwells well restrained of thought’s the mind is not agitated or distracted by ideological fabrications. There is joyful engagement with the Dhamma. There being joyful engagement with the Dhamma there is serenity. There is contentment. The Dhamma is present moment by moment and they dwell in mindfulness.

“This is how one dwells in mindfulness.”

End of Sutta

Acting To Awaken - Karma And Rebirth Explained

Karma and Rebirth are two (of the many) misunderstood and misapplied Dhamma teachings. Karma and Rebirth are closely linked in the Buddha’s Dhamma. It is past thoughts and behavior conditioned by ignorance of Four Noble truths influencing or “conditioning” the reaction or the mindful presence to what is currently arising and passing away. This is the most significant aspect of “Re-Birth:’ what is the wise Dhamma disciple “giving birth to” in this moment. A mind continued to be rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths can only give birth to another moment rooted in ignorance. 

A mind well-concentrated through Jhana meditation can then hold in mind the Heartwood of The Dhamma, the Noble Eightfold Path, and so give birth to another moment rooted in wisdom and inclined towards awakening. This is the fundamental undemanding that develops from direct engagement with the Buddha’s Dhamma; Each moment holds the potential to continue stress and suffering by continuing ignorance or the potential to remain mindful of the Heartwood of the Dhamma and continue to develop awakening – full human maturity.

 

Acting To Awaken – Karma Sutta

Karma and Rebirth Explained

Acting To Awaken – Karma Sutta

Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked inline and at the end of this article. ([x])

Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering, and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  [1]  Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

The Buddha’s first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the singular path he taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [2,3].  Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta | Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

Many modern Buddhist teachers who misunderstand, misapply or outright dismiss Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths do so to dismiss or rationalize and validate confused and misleading views on karma and rebirth. The resulting “dharmas” are likewise confused and misleading.

“Karma” (Pali: Kamma) was a common word during the Buddha’s time. The common belief in “karma” is rooted in the Vedas and Upanishads that Siddartha Gotama studied prior to his awakening. (The Vedas and Upanishads are the scriptural foundation for modern Hinduism). The Buddha rejected these teachings as they did not lead to his goal of understanding the true nature of human life within an ever-changing environment. [4] The Noble Search For The Noble Path

Many modern Buddhists claim that the Buddha only mentioned karma and rebirth because it was a common teaching of his time and he only did so to be relevant. This is simply another fabricated strategy used by many to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths. The Buddha used many common words such as karma, anicca, anatta, dukkha, and many others in new and unique applications to clearly teach the contrast between his Dhamma and common magical and mystical beliefs of his time. This common misunderstanding of karma and rebirth continues today. [5]  Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views

Rather than teach karma (and rebirth) as irrelevant anachronisms or magical and mystical “spiritual” attainments, the Buddha taught recognizing the cause and developing the cessation of Karma as the central theme of his Dhamma. Karma is not to be seen as a magical system of reward and punishment hoping for spiritual behavior modification based on gaining notice and favor from disincarnate beings. Karna is not the result of a lack of worship or improper or inadequate chanting or any other rite or ritual. Karma is the direct result of self-supported ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Karma is the abstract word the Buddha used to describe the practical experience of Five Clinging-Aggregates within an impermanent environment – Thee Marks Of Existence  [6,7]  Five Clinging-Aggregates  |  Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha

Karma is the “field of play” for wise Dhamma practitioners: “Karma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture. The consciousness of human beings rooted in ignorance and bound by craving is established in wrong view. Established in wrong view, renewed becoming is produced. (Bhava Sutta) [8] Becoming Explained

Karma means “action.” Karma is the present-moment unfolding of past intentional actions moderated by the present level of mindfulness. It is from a well-concentrated mind that one is able to be mindful – to hold in mind – each factor of the Eightfold Path.

Right Mindfulness is remaining mindful of the Eightfold Path as the framework and guidance for Dhamma practice. The Eightfold Path develops the profound ability to recognize and abandon fabricated views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. [9]  Fabrications

This is the entire purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma: To recognize and abandon all fabricated views arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Karma is the ongoing experience of ignorance. Ending ignorance of Four Noble Truths ends the unfolding of karma.

A mind rooted in ignorance is a mind distracted towards continued ignorance. The Buddha taught Jhana meditation for the sole purpose of deepening concentration so as to support the refined mindfulness necessary to hold in mind the Eightfold Path. [10]  Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas

Understanding karma is recognizing and abandoning all individual contributions to confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences – Dukkha.

A well-informed analysis of karma shows that karma is an ongoing aspect of Dukkha and several significant themes of the Buddha’s Dhamma:

  • Karma arises from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
  • Ignorance of Four Noble Truths results in painful consequences of one’s actions.
  • Five Clinging-Aggregates are the personal experience of dukkha driven by karma.
  • Wrong views of self – Anatta – is continued through ignorance of Four Noble Truths that is experienced as karma unfolding.

All karma is rooted in ignorance. There is no “good” karma. A mind conditioned towards self-identification and continued conceit is a mind clinging to Five Clinging-Aggregates – form, feelings, perceptions, mental fabrications, and ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. The  Five Clinging-Aggregates describe the ongoing personal experience of stress and suffering arising from ignorance. Attempting to manipulate future “karma” is always rooted in ignorance and continued “I-making” and can only;y continue and prolong dukkha. [5]

Rebirth and reincarnation are also central themes of the Buddha’s Dhamma and closely related to karma. The Buddha understood that fabricating a view of the birth/death cycle is cruel. He understood that doing so would only provide a strategy for continuing ignorance by establishing a “self” in speculative and imaginary non-physical realms. He avoided fabricating yet another foolish explanation of commonly held views that insist on seeing “self” in some way as eternal. The Buddha teaches to bring to cessation any moment rooted in ignorance so as not to “give birth” to continued ignorance and continue dukkha.

It is at the point of contact between what is held in mind and what is currently arising in thought, word, and deed that a well-concentrated mind can apply the guiding principles of the Eightfold Path through wise restraint. It is in this present moment that karma is unfolding and it is in this present moment that the guiding framework of the Eightfold Path is applied. [11]  Wisdom Of Restraint

Karma and rebirth are simple understandings made overly-complicated by confused and irrelevant “wrong” or ignorant views. In relation to Karma And Rebirth, the Buddha concisely teaches: “I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions. I am born of my actions and related through my actions. My actions will determine the fortune or misfortune in my life.” (Anguttara Nikaya 10.176)

Any actions motivated by ignorance of Four Noble Truths – fabricated actions – will directly impact one’s experience of what is currently arising. A mind rooted in continued ignorance can only “give birth” to another moment rooted in ignorance. This is karma.

A mind whose views are framed by the Eightfold Path can “give birth” to a moment inclined towards becoming free of karma. This is awakening. In this way, the Buddha is not dismissing the notion of future physical births, nor is he placing any value on future physical births. He simply teaches that future lives are at best irrelevant speculation and to be mindful of what one is giving birth to in this moment.

The Buddha’s Dhamma and the Noble Eightfold Path provides the complete framework and continual guidance to recognize and abandon all fabricated views arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths and so end all karma.

My comments below are in italics.

Acting To Awaken – Karma Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 35.145

On one occasion the Buddha addressed those gathered: “Listen and pay close attention friends, and I will teach you past and current karma, the cessation of karma, and the path and practice leading to the cessation of karma.

“Past karma is to be seen as the six-sense-base. Karma is fabricated by intention and experienced by sense-contact. The six-sense-base is past karma.

A mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths is constantly reacting to ordinary phenomena arising and passing away. This contact with phenomena occurs and is experienced through the six senses – five physical and one mental. A distracted mind stuck in self-referential views continually reinforces ignorance and continues confusion, deluded thinking, and stress and suffering. Karma arises from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

“Current Karma is fabricated thoughts, words, and deeds arising and passing away. This is current karma.

Dependent Origination shows that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that establishes fabricated views all manner of stress and suffering – karma. [1]

“Cessation of karma is the release from ignorance (of Four Noble Truths) and the three forms of stress and suffering of bodily, verbal, and mental fabrications. This is the cessation of karma.

“The path leading to the cessation of karma is precisely the Noble Eightfold Path.

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Meditation

“This is the Noble Eightfold Path of practice leading to the cessation of karma.

“Friends, I have now taught you past and current karma, the cessation of karma, and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of karma (Dukkha).

“Whatever any teacher would do out of true sympathy and compassion for their students I have done for you (with this teaching.)

An authentic Dhamma teacher knows the cruelty of teaching false and misleading “dharmas.” [12]  Teaching An Authentic Dhamma

“Don’t be mindless. Don’t be foolish. Do not fall into regret (for not developing the Dhamma). Over there are roots of trees and empty huts. Establish seclusion and practice Jhana. [10]

“This is my teaching to you.”

End Of Sutta

 

  1. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. The Noble Search For The Noble Path
  5. Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
  6. Five Clinging-Aggregates
  7. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  8. Bhava Sutta
  9. Fabrications
  10. Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas
  11. Wisdom Of Restraint
  12. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma

 

Karma And Rebirth Explained

This Dhamma article is an excerpt from my book Becoming Buddha. A preview of this book is available here: Becoming Buddha Preview

Karma and Rebirth

  • Karma is continuity of Dukkha within impermanence.
  • Karma is the present unfolding of past intentional acts moderated by present mindfulness.
  • Karma is the personal experience of Three Marks of Existence

“I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions. I am born of my actions and related through my actions. My actions will determine the fortune or misfortune in my life.” (Anguttara Nikaya 10.176)

Karma and Rebirth are closely linked concepts of the Buddha’s teachings. Many modern schools claim the Buddha taught karma and rebirth only to relate to the prevalent beliefs of his time. They hope to show that Karma and Rebirth are not useful or relevant teachings. Understanding karma and rebirth is essential to Becoming Buddha.

The Buddha’s teachings on karma and rebirth refuted many of the common beliefs of his time. Understanding Karma and Rebirth help clarify the purpose and experience of awakening.

Understanding Karma and Rebirth as they were originally presented and in the context of The Four Noble Truths brings insight and clarity to the Eightfold Path.

Understanding Karma and Rebirth and can help one recognize contradictory and confusing “Buddhist” teachings that are later-developed adaptations and accommodations to the original teachings.

Karma and Rebirth are conditions arising from ignorance. Karma means action. Karma is in no way punishment as a result of arbitrary judgments from a supreme being. Karma is not the consequences from a vague inter-dependent moral-ethical-spiritual system.

Karma is not a condition imposed on you. You alone are the cause of your karma and you alone are the cause of rebirth.

Karma should not be viewed simply as what is unfolding in your life. Karma is the present unfolding of past intentional actions moderated by your present state of understanding and quality of mindfulness.

As your present state of mindfulness and understanding animate your current thoughts, words, and deeds, your current actions are moderating the effects of past thoughts, words, and deeds.

What this means is the key to developing the Dhamma.

Through mindfulness informed by wisdom and motivated by Right Intention, the unfolding of karma can be inclined towards release and awakening.

Developing understanding of the process of originating in ignorance resulting in confusion and suffering brings the ability to end ignorance through developing wisdom. By understanding the causes and conditions of suffering you can reverse the process.

Karma does not pre-determine life. Mindful and well-concentrated intention within the framework of the Eightfold Path develops release from craving and clinging and cessation of suffering.

“Whatever one continues to pursue with their thinking becomes the inclination of their awareness. Being mindful of Right Intention and abandoning thinking imbued with craving, clinging, and sensuality inclines the mind towards release.” (Samyutta Nikaya 22.102)

All the events of life are not the result of individual karma. Most of what occurs in one’s life is simply worldly conditions and described in the First Noble Truth and summarized as “There is stress.” Reaction to impersonal events will create additional karma and further conditions conditioned mind.

Reaction arises from wrong views of self. It is wrong views that initiate and proliferate karma. Once all wrong views of self are abandoned, the establishment of further karma ends.

As with all the Buddha’s original teachings, karma is taught in the context of The Four Noble Truths with the goal of the cessation of suffering.

In this context, karma describes the ongoing suffering rooted in ignorance and reinforced by wrong views and wrong intention.

“Karma should be understood (correctly). The cause of karma should be understood. The diversity (of the results) of karma should be understood. Cessation of karma should be understood. The path developing the cessation of karma should be understood.” (Samyutta Nikaya 22.102)

Notice that these are the same words the Buddha uses to describe the truth of suffering. Karma unfolding, whether experienced as pleasure or pain, is an aspect of dukkha and originates in craving and clinging. This relates directly to Dependent Origination (ignorance resulting in suffering) and Right Intention.

The Buddha continues: “Intention is karma. With intention, one does karma through thought, word, and deed. And what is the cause that initiates karma? Contact.”

This again relates to Dependent Origination and the importance of unraveling the links of Dependent Origination. The ongoing process of ignorance resulting in confusion and suffering can be brought to an end through wisdom and ensuing right actions framed by the Eightfold Path (again, karma means action).

The Buddha continues: “And what is the cessation of karma? From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of karma. And how does one experience the cessation of contact? Through the Noble Eightfold Path.”

This shows that the driving force to continue confusion and suffering is described by the Buddha as karma. This is to point out the importance of being mindful of all thoughts, words, and deeds.

This is the purpose of mindfulness in the context of The Four Noble Truths.

It is your actions that will determine your awakening or continued confusion and suffering. The framework for recognizing, understanding, and refining your actions is the Eightfold Path.

Through whole-hearted engagement with the Eightfold Path, you are taking actions that directly influence the unfolding of your karma and incline your karma towards developing a life of lasting peace and happiness.

  • Karma is your ego-personality’s experience of craving and clinging within anicca.
  • Karma is the direct experience of the results of ignorance.
Understanding karma is understanding dukkha.
  • Understanding dukkha inclines your mind towards abandoning craving and clinging and begins to unravel the links of Dependent Origination.

With awakened Right View no attachment to the ego-personality is present and any experience is simply an experience in the world that is dispassionately observed with mindful presence.

Any event that occurs in the phenomenal world is an opportunity to remain dispassionately present with a mind settled in equanimity.

  • Once a reaction to an event has occurred, further karma is established.
  • A mind settled in equanimity will cease creating additional karma.

“A fool and a wise person are both characterized by their actions. It is through the actions of one’s life that reveals the fool or the sage. The fool engages in three things: bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, and mental misconduct. The sage engages in three things: good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, and good mental conduct.

“Thus friends, train yourselves as a sage in thought, word, and deed.” (Anguttara Nikaya 6.46)

Your experience of the unfolding of your karma is not predetermined. The state or quality of your mind in each moment determines your experience of karma unfolding. A reactive mind will further karma. A mind of equanimity will bring a peaceful experience of karma unfolding and avoid additional karma.

While it is more desirable to experience the effects of karma pleasurably, to have “good karma,” all karma contributes to dukkha and rebirth. All karma is to be extinguished.

Holding the conscious intention to act in a certain manner to develop favorable karma will accomplish just that: develop additional karma. The result will be to forever perpetuate dukkha. This is why it is crucial to be mindful of Right View and the strong resolve, the Right Intention, to abandon all craving and clinging, and awaken.

Dukkha describes the underlying unsatisfactory experience of life in the phenomenal world. Karma describes your contribution to your experience of the underlying unsatisfactory experience. Your karma is your dukkha.

Intentional actions will determine the continuation or cessation of confusion and stress.

Altruistic or compassionate actions taken without wisdom can often generate further karmic entanglements. This can be very subtle and difficult to recognize. For example, if an underlying motivation and intention for compassionate action is to fulfill a view of what it means to be a “good” person, even a “good Buddhist,” the resulting karma will reinforce an ego-personality.

Altruistic and compassionate actions that are an expression of an awakened mind will always benefit all with no karmic entanglements or consequences.

This is not to say that one should not act with compassion and in accordance with the framework of the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path provides guidance against continued self-identification and continued “I-making.”

Holding the intention to establish and defend an ego-self leads to action and reaction that inevitably creates additional karma.

Acting with the (wrong) intention to establish a view of what a “Buddhist” should be or a “Buddhist practice” should be is a subtle but prevalent form of “I-making” that further establishes karma.

Holding in mind the intention to recognize and abandon craving and clinging will incline karma towards release. The life experience will naturally be more peaceful and meaningful.

Karma is the experience of self in this present moment. Who you see yourself to be is the result of karma or past actions unfolding in the present state of your mindfulness.

Karma is who you are in this moment in the phenomenal world. The more skillful your actions in the present, the more liberating will be your karma as life unfolds. Mindfulness of the Eightfold Path inclines you to Right Action.

By being mindful of the Dhamma and living with the integrity that arises from following The Eightfold Path, you directly impact karma in the present moment. You will change the direction of your life by changing your intentional actions and reactions.

The Eightfold Path is the framework for clearly seeing your actions, reactions, and unfolding karma. Your actions and reactions change as your thoughts become virtuous, your mind becomes less distracted, and wisdom deepens.

Holding the intention to abandon all clinging, craving, desire and aversion diminishes the distraction of dukkha. Abandoning clinging interrupts the ongoing establishment and defense of your ego-self.

  • Unskillful intentions and resulting actions will create additional karma.
  • Right Intention will lead to cessation of unskillful actions and bringing an end to karma.
  • Right Intention is holding the strong resolve to put aside all clinging, craving, desire and aversion.
  • Right Intention arising from Right View generates the moral and ethical actions of Right Speech, Action and Livelihood.
  • Right Intention arising from Right View informs a practice developing Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation.
  • The virtuous aspects of The Eightfold Path lead to the abandonment of desire.

At Savatthi, the Buddha said: “Monks, what a person wills, what they plan, what they dwell on forms the basis for the continuation of consciousness. This basis being present, consciousness has a lodgment. Consciousness being lodged there and growing, rebirth of renewed existence takes place in the future, and from this renewed existence arise birth, decay-and-death, grief, lamentation, suffering, sorrow and despair. Such is the uprising of this entire mass of suffering.

“Even if a person does not will and plan, yet if they dwell on something this forms a basis for the continuation of consciousness:… rebirth… takes place…

“But if a person neither wills nor plans nor dwells on anything, no basis is formed for the continuation of consciousness. This basis being absent, consciousness has no lodgment. Consciousness not being lodged there and not growing, no rebirth of renewed existence takes place in the future, and so birth, decay-and-death, grief, lamentation, suffering, sorrow, and despair are destroyed. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering.” (Samyutta Nikaya 12.38)

Notice how this last passage relates to Dependent Origination. Remember that all of these teachings are to develop understanding of confusion and suffering and the cessation of future confusion and suffering.

  • By gaining wisdom one no longer acts from ignorance.
  • With no ignorance, there is no basis for the establishment of mental fabrications or discriminating and discursive consciousness.
  • With no consciousness established in ignorance, there is nothing to sustain the Five Clinging-Aggregates.
  • With no sustenance, the 12 Links of Dependent Origination unbind.
  • With no sustenance, a moment free of delusion, confusion, and unsatisfactoriness, a moment free of dukkha is born.
  • There will be no more births rooted in ignorance and subject to endless confusion and suffering.
  • Lasting peace and happiness has been established through the Eightfold Path.

Unlike most religions, including many modern “Buddhist” religions, acting to gain favorable future experiences post physical death is contrary to the Dhamma. As has been seen, birth is the beginning of the experience of the “whole mass of suffering.” As confusion and unsatisfactoriness is the underlying pervasive experience of life in the phenomenal world, the ending of karma and the cessation of future births is the purpose of the Dhamma.

An awakened mind settled in equanimity will produce no additional karma. As no additional karma is created, residual karma will simply ripen and fall away until complete liberation and freedom is realized.

The three defining characteristics of the phenomenal world are Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta. Within the environment of impermanence, Dukkha arises. Dukkha arises due to clinging, craving and aversion. Clinging arises from a misunderstanding of the nature of self.

What arises as “self” (shown to be anatta, not a self) is an impermanent combination of factors known as “The Five Clinging-Aggregates. These aggregates are described as clinging due to the nature of “self” to cling to thoughts, views, ideas, and objects that further define and describe self. It is craving and clinging rooted in ignorance that establishes a self and creates karma and the cycles of birth.

Anatta or “not-self” refers to the impermanent nature of the formation of a self that is subject to stress, disappointment, and confusion.

The Buddha never taught that there is a self or that there is not a self. He avoided the issue as a focus on metaphysical questions would be a distraction from his stated purpose to bring “an understanding of dukkha and a cessation of dukkha. Nothing more.”

He taught that what is commonly believed to be a self is not founded in Right View. It is a view of self conditioned by ignorance that is to be abandoned if confusion and suffering is to end.

As the distraction of dukkha is always present to a deluded mind, then an awakened mind is a mind free of karma and free of the karmic manifestation of rebirth.

Once karma ceases there will be no more births. Without karma to create the unfolding need for continued existence, rebirth ends.

The Buddha’s understanding and teaching on rebirth differ greatly from the Brahmanism of the Buddha’s time and differs greatly with many of the mystical Buddhist religions. The Dhamma also differs greatly from the Hindu and Hindu-influenced beliefs that would arise well after the Buddha’s passing.

Many religions, including some Buddhist religions, teach morals and ethics as a way of hopefully having ever more pleasurable future lives, but never abandoning conditioned thinking and continued I-making. This is continued clinging to an idea of an ego-self and is specifically what the Buddha was referring to when he said:

“This was the third knowledge I attained in the third watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute. Birth is ended, the integrated life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.” (Majjhima Nikaya 19)

Reincarnation is the belief that an individual and permanent soul travels throughout time as the same spiritual entity appearing in a different physical body, life after life.

This cannot be reconciled with the teachings of not-self, emptiness, Dependent Origination,  Five Clinging-Aggregates, and Karma.

The self that would reincarnate has been shown to be an impermanent aggregate of physical and mental factors sustained only in the present instant by craving and clinging.

Insisting on reincarnating this same entity is insisting on the continuation of karma.

The Buddha in describing Dukkha or suffering teaches: “Birth is suffering, sickness is suffering, old age is suffering.” The Four Noble Truths directly teach the cessation of suffering and the cessation of birth, death, and rebirth.

The Buddha did not teach a way of manipulating a more pleasurable future birth, he taught a way of leaving the recurring cycle of dukkha behind.

This brings up the notion of annihilation. Annihilation is an extreme view rooted in the ignorance of anatta. It is an ego-personality’s fear of annihilation that creates this doubt and reaction as the ego-personality is always vigilant about continuation. This creates a need of establishing the ego-self in the future.

The most skillful way of considering karma and rebirth is to view karma driving the birth of this present moment.

  • Karma is the present unfolding of past intentional acts moderated by present mindfulness.
  • In order to complete the path, to end craving and clinging and to bring Dukkha to cessation, giving birth to another moment of clinging to objects, views, and ideas is unskillful.

What is most skillful is to recognize the causes of continued confusion and suffering and to abandon those causes.

  • The next moment holds the potential to be free of confusion and suffering.
  • The next moment holds the potential for freedom from continued rebirth of anatta.

When you abandon craving and clinging your immediate future is free of confusion and suffering. The distracting questions rooted in ignorant views no longer arise. You are no longer experiencing the results of past karma and there is no longer any ongoing “birth” of confusion and suffering.

This is the most skillful way to consider birth, death, and rebirth. This moment holds the potential for the next moment’ experience. Ignorance will bring more confusion and unsatisfactoriness.

Refined mindfulness and deep concentration, developed within the framework of the Eightfold Path, brings profound wisdom and understanding of The Four Noble Truths.

Wisdom in this moment brings a life free of ignorance, confusion, and stress.

It is a common reaction from an ego-personality insisting on continued establishment of “self” to continue to cling to form and resist or ignore the truth of ending rebirth.

  • Anatta must establish itself in every object, event, view, or idea.
  • The ego-self cannot accept any future thought or idea that does not include itself.

An awakened mind, free of craving and clinging, peacefully experiences life as life occurs with no limiting and stress-inducing self-referential thoughts or actions.

As stated, the Five Clinging-Aggregates are the vehicle for the “self” that experiences dukkha. This ego-self, or conditioned mind, is impermanent, or “empty” of any permanent and individually originated constituents.

There is no “self” and no karma other than a conditioned mind manifested due to specific causes and conditions arising in the phenomenal world.

The Buddha never taught emptiness as a mystical realm that somehow is both empty but includes the phenomenal world. As with all the Dhamma, emptiness is taught in relation to suffering and The Four Noble Truths. The Buddha taught that one should “empty oneself of clinging.” He taught that The Five Clinging-Aggregates are “empty” of any permanence or substance. He taught that one should “empty” the world of self, to cease “I-making.”

“Karma should be known. The cause by which karma comes into play should be known. The diversity in karma should be known. The result of karma should be known. The cessation of karma should be known. The path of practice leading to the cessation of karma should be known.’ Thus it has been said. Why was it said?

“Intention, I tell you, is karma. Intending, one does karma by way of body, speech, & intellect.

“And what is the result of karma? The result of karma is of three sorts, I tell you: that which arises right here & now, that which arises later [in this lifetime], and that which arises following that.

“And what is the cessation of karma? From the cessation of contact is the cessation of karma; and just this Noble Eightfold Path – right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration – is the path of practice leading to the cessation of karma.

“Now when a noble disciple discerns karma in this way, the cause by which karma comes into play in this way, the diversity of karma in this way, the result of karma in this way, the cessation of karma in this way, & the path of practice leading to the cessation of karma in this way, then he discerns this penetrative integrated life as the cessation of karma. With the cessation of karma comes the cessation of rebirth of The Five Clinging-Aggregates.” (Anguttara Nikaya 6.63

Karma is the suffering of continually giving birth to another moment rooted in ignorance. Rooted in ignorance one can only become further ignorant.

The Eightfold Path provides the framework and guidance to be mindful of karma and to cease giving birth to another moment rooted in ignorance.

The Eightfold Path provides the framework and guidance to Become Buddha.

Fabrications Explained

Fabrications are views of self and the world rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Understanding the process of self-induced fabrications of reality while developing a clear and profound undertsnding of self in relationship to the world is the essence of the Buddha’s Dhamma. 

Fabrications can only continue wrong view.  Recognizing and abandoning all views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths brings awakening – full human maturity. 

The Vipallasa Sutta below is a concise sutta that speaks directly to the heart of the Dhamma and provides simple and direct guidance of the qualities of mind to recognize and abandon and the qualities of mind to develop and maintain.

Here is a link to a category page with links to additional related suttas: Fabrtications Expalined

Vipallasa Sutta – Fabrications Explained

Introduction

A fabrication is a conclusion or assumption formed from false, misrepresented, or incomplete information. Fabrications are experienced in the mind and body as stress and as disturbance. The Buddha would often describe the underlying substance and the resulting object of fabrications as “like foam on the water.” [1]

Siddartha Gotama awakened to the profound understanding that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths as the condition that confused and deluded thinking uses to form conclusions – fabrications – that result in ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences. This primary teaching is the Paticca-Samupaddha Sutta, the sutta on Dependent Origination. [2]

The Buddha taught that by developing profound and complete understanding of Four Noble Truths one would become Rightly Self-Awakened just as he had. [3]

This is the First Noble Truth: Dukkha (stress, disappointment, suffering) arises from ignorance. The Second Noble Truth shows that it is craving for what is fabricated that establishes Dukkha and clinging to fabrications that continues to maintain Dukkha. The Third Noble Truth is that it is possible to recognize and abandon fabrications and “awaken,” to understand stress and abandon this initial ignorance. The Buddha taught an Eightfold Path, the Fourth Noble Truth,  to proved a framework and reference points for achieving just this: recognition of, and abandoning of all views rooted in ignorance.

This concise sutta speaks directly to the heart of the Dhamma and provides simple and direct guidance of the qualities of mind to recognize and abandon and the qualities of mind to develop and maintain.

Ending all fabrications brings direct understanding and complete acceptance of life as life occurs. Ending all fabrications develops an unwavering calm and peaceful mind, the mind of a Buddha.

Vipallasa Sutta: Fabrications

Anguttara Nikaya 4.49

“Friends, there are four fabrications of perceptions, of the mind, of views. These four fabrications are:

  • Confusing permanence with regard to impermanence
  • Confusing pleasant with regard to stressful
  • Confusing self with regard to Not-Self
  • Confusing attractive with regard to unattractive

These are the four fabrications of perception, of the mind, of views.”

“There are four qualities of mind that are not fabricated:

  • Knowing impermanence as impermanence
  • Knowing stress as stress
  • Knowing Not-Self as Not-Self
  • Knowing what is unattractive as unattractive

These are four qualities of mind that are free of fabrication.”

“Perceptions, the mind, and views are fabricated:

  • When perceiving permanence in impermanence
  • When perceiving pleasure in what is stressful
  • When perceiving self in what is not-self
  • When perceiving attractiveness in the unattractive

(Clinging to fabrications)

  • These beings are destroyed by wrong view
  • These beings have lost their minds
  • These beings are bound to ignorance
  • These beings will find no rest, wandering aimlessly from birth to death

“However, when Awakened Ones are present in the world:

  • They bring light into the world
  • They teach the Dhamma that brings an end to stress
  • The wise will listen and regain their senses

“They will clearly know:

  • Impermanence as impermanence
  • Stress as stress
  • Unattractive as unattractive

“Having developed Right View, they abandon ignorance and bring to cessation all confusion, all deluded thinking, all stress and suffering.”

End of Sutta

  1. Phena Sutta
  2. Paticca-Samupaddha Sutta  
  3. Four Noble Truths 

Five Clinging-Aggregates - The Personal Experience Of Suffering - Phena Sutta And Supportive Suttas

Five Clinging-Aggregates are the Buddha’’s clear description of the personal experience of confusion, delusion, and ongoing disappointment rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Recognizing the impersonal nature of each of these five aspewcts of Dukkha supports releasing one’s mind from clinging to the fabricated views underlying the formation of the penalization of each moment of human life.

The Phena Sutta teaches the emptiness of The Five Clinging Aggregates and the emptiness of creating self-identities by clinging to fleeting objects, events, views, and ideas. 

Here is a link to relevant suttas for further study:  Five Clinging-Aggregates Suttas

The Phena Sutta – Emptiness and The Five Clinging-Aggregates

Introduction

The Phena Sutta is another sutta on emptiness as the Buddha uses the term. In this sutta he teaches the emptiness of The Five Clinging Aggregates and the emptiness of creating self-identities by clinging to fleeting objects, events, views and ideas. The Buddha teaches the emptiness of perceptions rooted in ignorance – foam on the river or a drop of water, the emptiness of magical teachings, and the ignorance necessary to follow mirages – the futility of following “dharmas” lacking the true heartwood of his Dhamma.

This sutta follows from what the Buddha awakened to. The Buddha awakened to Dependent Origination which shows that from ignorance of Four Noble Truths, through twelve observable causative links, all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences follow.

The Five Clinging-Aggregates [1] are form, feelings, perceptions, mental fabrications, and resulting thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. These five clinging-aggregates provide the appearance, the mirage, of the establishment of a substantial and permanent “self” to a mind ignorant of these truths. These five clinging-aggregates are “empty” of wisdom and understanding.

The Buddha’s entire teaching is always in the context of Four Noble Truths: to empty oneself of this initial ignorance and to recognize and abandon all self-referential views arising from this initial ignorance.

The reference to “appropriately or clearly examining” or “clearly seeing” impermanent phenomena arising and passing away means observing life unfolding from the refined mindfulness of the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path supported by the concentration developed through Jhana meditation.

The Phena Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 22.95

The Buddha was staying with the Avojjhans on the banks of the Ganges River. He addressed those assembled “friends, suppose that a large glob of foam were floating down the river, and a person with good eyesight saw it and clearly examined it. To them it would appear empty, void, without any substance. For what substance could there be in a glob of foam?

“In the same way, any practitioner well-versed in the Dhamma observes and appropriately examines any form that is past, future, or present, any form that is internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or extraordinary, near or far. To those well-versed in the Dhamma it would appear empty, void, without any substance. For what substance could there be in form (that is constantly changing?).

This is in reference to the “form” aggregate. “Constantly changing” is a reference to The Three Marks of Existence. [2]

“Now suppose that in the rainy season it is raining fat heavy drops and a water bubble appears and disappears on the water. A person with good eyesight sees this and clearly examines it. The water bubble would appear empty, void, and without substance. For what substance could there be in a water bubble?

“In the same way any practitioner well-versed in the Dhamma observes and appropriately examines any feeling that is past, future, or present, any feeling that is internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or extraordinary, near or far. To those well-versed in the Dhamma it would appear empty, void, without substance. For what substance could there be in feelings (that are constantly changing)?

This is in reference to the “feeling” aggregate.

“Now suppose during the hot season a mirage was shimmering. A person with good eyesight sees it and clearly examines it. The mirage would appear empty, void, and without substance. For what substance could there be in a mirage (that is constantly changing)?

“In the same way any practitioner well-versed in the Dhamma observes and appropriately examines any perception that is past, future, or present, any perception that is internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or extraordinary, near or far. To those well-versed in the Dhamma it would appear empty, void, without substance. For what substance could there be in perceptions (that are constantly changing)?

This is in reference to the “perception” aggregate.

“Now suppose that a person with good eyesight is seeking heartwood? In seeking heartwood they went to a forest with a sharp ax. There they find a large banana tree. They cut it at the root and remove the top. They peel away the outer skin and fail to find even sapwood, to say nothing of finding heartwood. Having good eyesight they clearly examine the banana tree and the tree would appear empty, void,  without substance and regard to heartwood for what substance (heartwood) could there be in a banana tree?

“In the same way any practitioner well-versed in the Dhamma observes and appropriately examines any fabrications that are past, future, or present, any feeling that is internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or extraordinary, near or far. To those well-versed in the Dhamma fabrications would appear empty, void, without substance. For what substance could there be in fabrications (that are constantly changing)?

This is in reference to the “fabrication” aggregate.

“Now suppose a magician were to display a magic trick and a person with good eyesight clearly sees the trick. The trick would appear empty, void, without substance. For what substance could there be in a magic trick?

“In the same way any practitioner well-versed in the Dhamma observes and appropriately examines any consciousness that is past, future, or present, any consciousness that is internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or extraordinary, near or far. To those well-versed in the Dhamma any consciousness (ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance) would appear empty, void, without substance. For what substance could there be in consciousness (that is impermanent and rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths)?

This is in reference to the “consciousness” aggregate.

“Seeing these Five Aggregates clearly, the well instructed follower of the dhamma grows disenchanted with form, they grow disenchanted with feelings, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, and disenchanted with thinking rooted in ignorance.

“They grow disenchanted with The Five Clinging-Aggregates.

“Disenchanted they grow dispassionate. Through dispassion they are released. With release there is the knowledge that they are released (from clinging to ignorant views). They know that birth is ended,  the fully integrated life has been lived,  and the path complete. They know here will be no more moments rooted in ignorance.”

“Form is like a glob of foam;
Feeling, a bubble;
Perception, a mirage;
Fabrications, a banana tree;
Consciousness, a magician’s trick;

When you observe them
and appropriately examine them
It is clear
they are empty, void,  and without substance.
To anyone who sees them clearly they are empty of ignorance. [3]Beginning with the body
when seen with profound discernment
as taught by the Buddha
Form is rejected, cast aside.
When bereft of wrong views,
The emptiness of form
is seen clearly like a magic trick,
an idiot’s babbling.
No substance is found here.

A well-informed Dhamma practitioner,
their persistence aroused,
Should continually view the aggregates
mindful and alert.

They should discard greed, aversion, and deluded thinking,
and make themselves their own refuge,
and take to the dhamma as if their head was on fire
In hopes of gaining nibhana.”

End of Sutta

 

  1. Five Clinging Aggregates
  2. The Three Marks of Existence
  3. The Arahant Sutta

 

Common Hindrances To Becoming Buddha

Hindrances are self-created obstacles to recognizing ignorance of Four Noble Truths and developing the concentration and understanding required to abandon all fabricated views that would otherwise continually distract from effective Dhamma practice.  These five hindrances should be seen as the very powerful and very subtle strategies a minded conditioned towards maintaining ignorance will employ to continue ignorance. Thes hindrances are present in the mundane as agitation, doubt, drowsiness, and indifference. 

In the more abstract, it is these five hindrances left unrecognized and un-restrained that have led to all the confusion, delusions, and endless fabricated “dharmas” that is modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement.

Hindrances To Awakening – Two Suttas

Avarana Sutta – Anguttara Nikaya 5.51

Nibbana Sutta. Anguttara Nikaya 9.64

Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the context intended by an awakened human being, please read the suttas linked inline and at the end of this article. ([x])  Inline links will open a new window.

Everything the Buddha taught was taught in the context of Dependent Origination and the ongoing stress, suffering, and distraction that results from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  [1]  Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

His first teaching was taught to describe the results of this common ignorance and the singular path the Buddha taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [2,3]  Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta  |  Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

The Buddha taught that in order to develop Jhana – a well-concentrated mind – that can then support the refined mindfulness necessary to integrate and develop the Eightfold Path as the framework for Dhamma practice, mindfulness of five specific hindrances is imperative in order to recognize and on them. [4]  Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas

Another word for hindrances is obstacles. These five hindrances are self-imposed obstacles commonly employed in a subtle and often unnoticed (strategically ignored) internal strategy to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Rather than avoid responsibility for these hindrances through modern pop-psychology influenced modern Buddhist practices that over-analyze these hindrances to the point of distraction, the Buddha taught the why and how of applying the Dhamma in specific ways. In this way, the Buddha taught an effective Dhamma that avoids “embracing” these hindrances that only encourages continued I-making. [5]  Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views

The Avaran Sutta is a simple and direct teaching on what these Five Hindrances are. The Nibbana Sutta is a bit more elaborate and teaches the proper application of Right Mindfulness to recognize and abandon these hindrances. Nibbana (Sanskrit Nirvana) means “extinguished.” The entire Buddha’s Dhamma is developed to recognize and abandon “the fires of passion” that arise by ignorance of Four Noble Truths and continued conceit. [6]  Fire Discourse

My comments below are in italics.

 

Avarana Sutta – Hindrances

On one occasion the Buddha was near Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove at Anathapindika’s monastery. He addressed those gathered to hear the Dhamma.:

“Friends, there are five hindrances that overwhelm mindfulness and weaken wise discernment:

  1. Sensual desire is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment.
  2. Ill will is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment.
  3. Laziness and drowsiness is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment.
  4. Restlessness and anxiety id a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment.
  5. Uncertainty is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment.

“These are the Five Hindrances.

Notice that each of these hindrances arise from fabricated views of “self” in relation to an impermanent environment that produces ongoing distraction, disappointment, confusion, and deluded thinking. Uncertainty is an aspect of impedance that due to self-referential fabricated views often results in distraction and upset. [7,8]  Fabrications  |  Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha

“I will provide a simile: Suppose a swift mountain river flowing unimpeded carrying everything with it. A person builds many side-channels so that the current in the middle would be dispersed and dissipated. The slowed river could carry along everything or go far.

The Buddha taught that the Noble Eightfold Path develops Right View as a guiding “middle way” avoiding the continual self-reference produced from extreme and speculative views. In this simile, the unskillful (wrong) effort spent in creating “side-channels” – alternative fake dharmas and unskillful beliefs used to support continued ignorance – results in a dharma practice that is incapable of developing understanding of Four Noble Truths and can only furthering dissertation and continued ignorance.  [3]

“In the same way when a person clings to these hindrances, they are weak and ineffective (in developing the Eightfold Path). It is impossible for these people to understand what is for their benefit or for the benefit of others. It is impossible for these people to develop awakening and a truly noble distinction in knowledge and vision.

It is impossible to develop the Buddha’s Dhamma when distorted by these five hindrances by fake or misleading “dharmas.”  [9]  Teaching An Authentic Dhamma

“Now suppose a swift mountain river flowing unimpeded carrying everything with it. A person comes along and closes all side-channels.  (By developing the Eightfold Path) The middle of the river would be unimpeded and would not be dispersed and dissipated. The swift river would carry along everything and go far.

“In the same way when the wise Dhamma practitioner abandons these five hindrances. It becomes possible for them to develop strong discernment and are effective in their development of my Dhamma. The wise Dhamma practitioner understands what is for their benefit or for the benefit of others. They understand how to develop awakening and a truly noble distinction in knowledge and vision.

Integrating the Eightfold Path provides the framework, guidance, and ongoing motivation to continue swiftly to the goal of awakening – Nibbana.

End Of The Avarana Sutta

 

Nirvana Sutta – Hindrances

On one occasion the Buddha was near Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove at Anathapindika’s monastery. He addressed those gathered to hear the Dhamma.

“Friends, be mindful of these five hindrances: (to fully developing the Eightfold Path)

  1. Sensual desire is a hindrance.
  2. Ill will is a hindrance.
  3. Laziness and drowsiness is a hindrance. (Lack of enthusiasm due to indifference)
  4. Restlessness and anxiety id a hindrance. (Worry)
  5. Uncertainty is a hindrance. (uncertainty is the immediate experience of impermanence)

“These are the Five Hindrances.

“In order to abandon these five hindrances, the wise Dhamma practitioner should develop the Four Foundations Of Mindfulness, the Four Frames Of Reference: [10]  Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations of Mindfulness

  1. The wise Dhamma practitioner remains focused on the arising and passing away of the body in and of itself, ardent, alert, and mindful while putting aside greed and distress in reference to worldly events.
  2. The wise Dhamma practitioner remains focused on the arising and passing away of feelings in and of themselves, ardent, alert, and mindful while putting aside greed and distress in reference to worldly events.
  3. The wise Dhamma practitioner remains focused on the arising and passing away of thoughts in and of themselves, ardent, alert, and mindful while putting aside greed and distress in reference to worldly events.
  4. The wise Dhamma practitioner remains focused on the arising and passing away of the present quality of mind in and of itself, ardent, alert, and mindful while putting aside greed and distress in reference to worldly events.

“The wise Dhamma practitioner should develop these Four Foundations Of Mindfulness. these Four Frames Of reference,  in order to abandon these Five Hindrances.

End Of Nibbana Sutta

 

  1. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas
  5. Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
  6. Fire Discourse
  7. Fabrications
  8. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  9. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma
  10. Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Featured Suttas

These suttas are often taught at Cross Rive Meditation Center and at our Becoming Buddha Retreats. They portray the great compassion informed by the profound wisdom of the Buddha. The encouragement to awaken by an awakened human being continues to be palpable and inspiring.

Bhaddekaratta Sutta – An Auspicious Day

Vitakkasanthana Sutta – Refined Mindfulness

Sallatha Sutta – The Two Arrows

 

Bhaddekaratta Sutta – An Auspicious Day

Introduction

The Bhaddekaratta Sutta teaches the importance of being mindfully present of life as life unfolds. Everything the Buddha taught during his forty-five-year teaching career was taught in the context of developing understanding of Four Noble Truths and release from clinging to self-referential views rooted in ignorance of these four truths.

The title of this Sutta means “an auspicious day.” An auspicious day in this context refers to a day that is significantly favorable towards developing awakening as the Buddha defines awakening: Developing a profound understanding of Dukkha and recognizing and abandoning all self-referential views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Here the Buddha references The Five Clinging Aggregates[1] of form, feelings, perceptions, mental fabrications, and confused consciousness to describe an ignorant view of self. The Buddha teaches the importance of not being distracted to the past or to the future and to remain mindfully present with life as life occurs.

My comments below are in italics.

The Bhaddekaratta Sutta

Majhima Nikaya 131

The Buddha was staying in Savatthi, at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. There he addressed the monks: “Friends, I will teach you the meaning of an auspicious day:

  • Do not chase after the past or project your thoughts to the future.
  • Not entangled with the world, be mindful only of what is occurring.
  • Free of distraction, well-concentrated, develop compassion informed by wisdom.
  • Mindfully engage with what is skillful.
  • The future is uncertain and death occurs equally for all.
  • Those who remain mindfully engaged with life as life occurs throughout the day have had a truly auspicious day.

“And how does one avoid chasing after the past? One does not get carried away with the delight that ‘in the past, I had such a form (body),  in the past, I had such a feeling, in the past, I had such a perception, in the past I had such a fabrication, in the past I had such a consciousness.’ This is called not chasing after the past.

“And how does one not project their thoughts onto the future? One does not get carried away with delight that ‘in the future I might have such a form, in the future I may have such a feeling, in the future I might have such a perception, in the future I might have such a fabrication in the future, I might have such a consciousness.’ This is called not projecting thoughts onto the future.

Notice the I-making through self-referential views in these statements.

“And how does one become entangled with the world?  An uninstructed ordinary person lacking understanding of the dhamma sees form as the self or the self as form. Confused, they see feeling as self or the self as possessing feeling. Confused, they see their perceptions as self or the self as possessing perceptions. Confused, they see their fabrications as self or their self as their fabrications. Confused, they see their consciousness as self or their self as their consciousness. This is what is meant by becoming entangled with the world.

“And how is one not entangled with the world? A follower of the dhamma, who is well-versed and well-trained in the dhamma does not see form as self or the self possessing form. With Right View established they do not see feeling as the self or the self possessing feelings. With Right View established they do not see perceptions as self or the self possessing perceptions. With Right View established they do not see fabrications as self or the self possessing fabrications. With Right View established they do not see consciousness as the self or the self possessing consciousness. This is called not being entangled with the world.

“To develop an auspicious day remain present with your life as your life occurs. Do not chase the past or project your thoughts to the future. Remain free of entanglements with the world and mindful of what is occurring. Be mindful of impermanence and uncertainty. Those that do so will have an auspicious day. So says this Peaceful Sage.”

End of Sutta

Understanding this short sutta does require a general understanding of the entire Buddha’s dhamma. In this sutta, the Buddha is describing the distraction arising from the preoccupation with dukkha that is rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. A mind distracted from constantly seeking temporary pleasures or avoiding temporary disappointments is distracted from what is occurring and their mind is agitated.

A distracted mind is always seeking to establish itself as a memory or as a projection driven by self-identification. From initial ignorance of Four Noble Truths a seemingly permanent form arises animated by feelings and the resulting perceptions and mental fabrications that can only continue conditioned, confused thinking.

As wisdom and understanding develop through the Eightfold Path the Five Clinging Aggregates are seen as the vehicle for continued suffering and recognized as a product of ignorance.

Understanding now reveals the reality of the ongoing process of human life free of entanglements with the world while remaining mindfully present with life as life occurs.

An auspicious day is developed with direct engagement with the Buddha’s Dhamma and supports an auspicious life resulting in lasting peace and happiness.

Links for further study:

  1. Dependent Origination and The Five Clinging Aggregates

 

Vitakkasanthana Sutta – Refined Mindfulness

Introduction

In the Vitakkasanthana Sutta, the Buddha teaches that the refined mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path brings a relaxed and peaceful quality of mind.

For the forty-five years of his teaching career, every teaching the Buddha taught was presented in the context of Dependent Origination Four Noble Truths. The Fourth Noble Truth, the truth of the path leading to the cessation of confusion, delusion, and ongoing disappointment, the Eightfold Path, overcomes the common human problem of conditioned thinking rooted in ignorance of these four truths.

The Buddha “awakened” to the understanding that from ignorance all manner of confusion and disappointment arises. This is a very specific ignorance: ignorance of Four Noble Truths. This is known as Dependent Origination: from ignorance, through 12 causative links, suffering arises. [1,2]

Dependent Origination or Dependent Co-Arising is a very specific and often misunderstood and misapplied teaching. Dependent Origination does not promote a doctrine of interdependence or inter-being. Dependent Origination simply explains the cause of suffering and points to the path leading to the cessation of individual contributions to confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing life experiences often resulting in disappointment and stress.

The Buddha’s first teaching of this understanding was the teaching of The Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths describe the suffering that results from ignorance, the common response to ignorance, craving and clinging, and the path of liberation from confusion and suffering through the development of wisdom. The wisdom of an awakened human being is grounded in Right View or seeing reality clearly, free of ignorance.

It is a characteristic of ignorance to cling to beliefs that continue ignorance and ignore anything that would threaten continued ignorance.

The first two factors of the Eightfold Path, are known as the wisdom factors of the path. As the entry point into a path developing profound wisdom and a life of lasting peace and happiness, it is an expression of wisdom to engage in the Eightfold Path. The simple recognition that life is, at times, disappointing, unsatisfactory, and confusing forms the foundation for the initial wisdom necessary to develop understanding. As the path is developed wisdom deepens.

Developing the Right View of accepting Four Noble Truths provides a way of refining thinking and refining mindfulness and overcoming ignorance. By refining thoughts, the entire life experience changes. Right Resolve, or Right Intention, is being mindful to recognize and abandon craving and clinging to objects, events, views, and ideas, and to develop the Eightfold Path.

Clinging and craving are always thoughts rooted in ignorance and directed to the past or future. Putting aside clinging develops mindfulness of life as it occurs and unites the mind with the body with life as life occurs.

The entire teaching of the Buddha is to refine thinking and develop a mind (and life experience) free of craving and clinging. If thoughts (and subsequent actions) are well-grounded in the framework of the Eightfold Path, a life free of stress and unhappiness occurs. Eventually, a mind of equanimity, an awakened, fully mature mind free of clinging and craving, free of disturbance, develops.

Clinging arising from ignorance develops conditioned thinking. Conditioned thinking can only lead to more conditioned thinking. This is its nature. Unless a new way of thinking is developed, free of clinging, craving and aversion, no lasting peace and happiness can be realized.

Vitakkasanthana Sutta – Refined Mindfulness

Majjhima Nikaya 20

The Buddha was at Savatthi, in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. He addressed those assembled: “When one is intent on developing heightened mindfulness, there are five qualities of mind they should attend to:

1) When one’s thoughts are unskillful and arising from craving and delusion they should be mindful of their unskillful thoughts in order to abandon unskillful thoughts. Once unskillful thoughts have been abandoned they can now cultivate skillful thoughts guided by the Eightfold Path. With unskillful thoughts abandoned one’s mind calms and concentration increases.

2) If unskillful thoughts driven by craving and delusion arise again one should be mindful of the suffering brought by these thoughts recognizing ‘these thoughts are unskillful and will lead to more confusion, delusion, and stress.’ Being mindful of the drawbacks of unskillful thoughts these thoughts can now be abandoned. With unskillful thoughts abandoned one’s mind calms and concentration increases.

3) If unskillful thoughts driven by craving and delusion continue to arise while being mindful of the drawbacks of these thoughts one should pay no attention to these thoughts. By mindfully withdrawing attention to unskillful thoughts these thoughts are abandoned and will subside. With unskillful thoughts abandoned one’s mind calms and concentration increases.

4) If unskillful thoughts driven by craving and delusion continue to arise while being mindful of the drawbacks of these thoughts one should focus on relaxing the mental fabrications with regard to unskillful thoughts. With the intentional relaxation of mental fabrications one’s mind calms and concentration increases.

5) If unskillful thoughts driven by craving and delusion continue to arise while being mindful of relaxing the mental fabrications with regard to unskillful thoughts one should develop Right Intention in order to abandon unskillful thoughts with continued refined mindfulness. With the intentional abandonment of unskillful thoughts one’s mind calms and concentration increases.“Now when a practitioner recognizes unskillful thoughts, understands unskillful thoughts… paying no mind to unskillful thoughts… attending to the relaxing of mental fabrications with regard to those thoughts  …and using Right Mindfulness and Right Intention to steady their mind, settle their mind, unifies their mind and concentrates their mind right within… this is a person with mastery of thought sequences. This person thinks what they want whenever they want and does not think what is unskillful. This practitioner has severed craving and has brought an end to suffering and stress.”

End of Sutta

This sutta describes the simple process of first recognizing through refined mindfulness that unskillful thoughts are present. It should be noted here that those in attendance for this sutta have already been introduced to Four Noble Truths and are developing the Eightfold Path as their framework for Dhamma practice.

If one is unable, at first, to simply recognize and abandon unskillful thoughts then simply acknowledging unskillful thoughts can lead to the abandonment of these thoughts. If unskillful thoughts persist, one should mindfully and with the intention to avoid the distraction of analyzing these thoughts and withdraw attention from unskillful thoughts.

If unskillful thoughts arise after mindfully withdrawing attention from these thoughts one should now intentionally relax the mental fabrications that have formed in regard to unskilful thoughts. Mental fabrications, or thought constructs, are self-referential conceptual views that have been given significance due to ignorance of The Four Noble Truths. [3]

The Buddha is teaching here to not continue to struggle with these fabrications but to intentionally cease reinforcing fabrications and accept that this is what is occurring. At this point, the Buddha brings the Eightfold Path directly into this process. By generating Right Intention, the intention to recognize and abandon craving and clinging, one can finally abandon unskillful mental qualities and gain control of thoughts and mental fabrications. [4]

Developing dispassionate and refined mindfulness of what is occurring is the underlying teaching of the Dhamma. To be settled with non-distracted awareness of each moment is to be free of clinging.

Reaction to what is occurring due to conditioned clinging mind will only create more of the same experience. It is vitally important to develop the strong resolve to let go of all thoughts arising from conditioned mind. Right Intention is maintaining mindfulness of abandoning all thoughts influenced by past experience.

The Third Noble Truth states that cessation of stress and unhappiness is possible. The Eightfold path is a framework for developing mindfulness free of past influences and free of thoughts attached to patterns of behavior and worldly assumptions. Holding in mind thoughts that are free of clinging, craving, fear, and aversion will lead to a life free of clinging, craving, fear, and aversion. Holding in mind that which develops awakening will lead to awakening and a continual relaxation of thoughts. Holding in mind the Eightfold Path is the framework an awakened human being taught as the path of liberation from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Linked Suttas For Further Study

  1. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  2. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  3. Mental And Bodily Fabrications
  4. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

 

Sallatha Sutta – The Two Arrows

Introduction

In the Sallatha Sutta, the Buddha uses the visual of being struck twice by arrows – once by common circumstance and again by desire. It is by personalizing the worldly common circumstance of stress and disappointment – Dukka –  by reaction rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths that the second arrow of desire brings additional pain and obsession.

This sutta clearly explains what for many is a confusing aspect of the Dhamma – the nature and cause of Dukkha. This common confusion arises from ignorance of Four Noble Truths and has resulted in many adaptations, accommodations, and embellishments to the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha’s profound understanding of the origination of all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory life experiences is taught in the Patticcasamupada Sutta – the primary sutta on Dependent Origination. [1]

In this commonly misunderstood and misapplied sutta the Buddha clearly teaches that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that is the requisite condition that results in all manner suffering.

In the teachings on what it means to understand Dukkha and awaken to Four Noble Truths, the Buddha states that awakening is “understanding stress and unhappiness, abandoning the cause of stress and unhappiness, experiencing the cessation of stress and unhappiness, and developing the Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of stress and unhappiness.” [2]

Understanding the First Noble Truth means understanding that as a consequence of living in the phenomenal world there will be stress and unhappiness, there will be suffering. Understanding Dukkha ends any fabricated view that would cling to suffering through personalizing Dukkha.

Attempting to negate stress is aversion to what is simply present is a common result of clinging to, and personalizing stress. Creating beliefs of a better life after physical death as compensation for the suffering present in life creates more confusion and delusion and is also a personalization of stress and continued self-identification to stress and fabricated views. Engaging in ritualistic practices or appealing to deities is another manifestation of aversion. [3]

As is clearly shown here, insight into Three Marks Of Existence is the specific insight that the Buddha taught developing awakening as the Buddha describes awakening and profound Right View. [4]

This Sutta is also another clear teaching of the Buddha on what constitutes an authentic Dhamma practice and how to recognize a practice that will only continue distraction and ignorance. [5]

For a complete understanding of the Buddha’s teaching of this sutta, please read the linked suttas. ([x])

My comments below are in italics.

Sallatha Sutta – The Two Arrows

Samyutta Nikaya 36.6

In the Sallatha Sutta, a question is put to the Buddha as to what is the distinguishing factor between a well-instructed and well-informed dhamma practitioner and those that have no understanding of the Four Noble Truths.

The Buddha responds: “Friends, listen and pay close attention. An ordinary uninformed person feels feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, and neutral (ambiguous) feelings. One well-informed of the Four Noble Truths also feels feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, and neutral feelings.

“When, through the six-sense base, an uninformed person experiences a feeling of pain they are sorrowful, they grieve, they become distraught and irate. The uninformed feels two pains: the physical pain of the experience and the mental pain caused by the reaction arising from clinging (to views ignorant of Four Noble Truths). This would be like being hit with an arrow and then, by request, being hit again by another arrow.

The six-sense base is the five physical senses perceived through consciousness. Consciousness here refers to ordinary ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths resulting in perceptions that can only continue ignorance. It is at the six-sense-base that a Dhamma practitioner develops restraint an avoids the second arrow. [6]

This lack of restraint should also be seen as mindlessness rooted in distraction as the reaction has caused the mind to become objectified – focused now on the reaction – and disjoined from the physical feeling through self-referential desire – wanting the experience to be different than what is occurring described below as differing but similar types of obsession.

As the person is experiencing pain, pain-resistance occurs leading to resistance-obsession. As the person experiences pain, delight (obsession) in sensual pleasure occurs. Reaction brings obsession as the uninformed does not understand what is actually present: the origination, the allure, the drawback, and the passing away of the “feeling.” As the uninformed does not understand the origination, the allure, the drawback, and the passing away of the feeling, then any ignorance-obsession with regard to this feeling of pain, pleasure, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain (ambiguity) overcomes and obsesses them.

Here the Buddha is teaching how the self-referential reaction to impersonal and ordinary events reinforces views ignorant of Four Noble Truths that supports continued ignorance. This is described in the Nagara Sutta as being mentally stuck in a feedback loop of self-referential views continually reinforced by thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. [7]

Feeling in this sense is any disturbance in the mind arising from lack of restraint. Any desire that an experience be different than as occurred and wanting more, or less, or no experience, is a “feeling.” This feeling arises from ignorance of Four Noble Truths and is rooted in a personalized and fabricated view of self.

The first arrow is simply the stress and unhappiness that occurs in the phenomenal world. The second arrow is the stress and unhappiness caused by ignorance giving rise to clinging, craving, desire, and aversion. In other words, wanting the people and experiences of life to be different than what occurs compounds the initial pain of an experience.

The Buddha continues: “Sensing pleasure or pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain the uninformed (through self-reference or personalizing the experience) joins with it. The uninformed is joined to birth, aging, sickness, death, and joined with sorrows, grief, pain, and despair. Through reaction to the experience, the uninformed joins with and furthers their confusion and suffering.

Now the Buddha teaches how a person well-informed of Four Noble Truths and understanding the true nature of stress and unhappiness responds to the arising of dukkha:

“The well-informed person, when stress arises, has no resistance. With no resistance, no resistance-obsession is formed. They feel one pain – physical – but not mental. Just as if they were shot with an arrow but not another, they would feel only one pain – the physical pain.

“With no delight (reaction) in sensual pleasure, no pleasure obsession occurs. The well-informed person understands what is actually present and understands its origination, its allure, its drawbacks, and its passing away. They do not become sorrowful, regretful, or distraught. They remain disjoined from pleasure and pain.

“The well-instructed person, understanding stress (Dukkha), does not generate a mental reaction to pain, pleasure, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain.

“This is the distinction between those uninformed and those well-informed of the Four Noble Truths.

“A well-instructed person who has developed the Heartwood Of The Dhamma (The Eightfold Path [2]) understands the arising and passing away of all phenomena (Three Marks Of existence [4])

This also relates to Right Meditation and remaining mindful off the arising and passing away of the breath-in-the-body. Obsession with what is stressful causes one to become stuck in a feedback loop only focused on the arising of the stressful experience. Jhana meditation is the singular meditation method taught for the sole purpose to develop the concentration necessary to remain mindful of the arising and passing away of the breath-in-the-body. From this well-concentrated foundation, one can then clearly notice the arising, the allure, the drawbacks, and the passing away of ordinary phenomena and avoid becoming obsessed with and stuck to only the arising of ordinary phenomena. [8]

Noticing the arising, the allure, the drawbacks and the passing away of ordinary phenomena is also taught as the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. [9]

“Craving and aversion no longer distract the mind or continue ignorance. Approval and rejection are dismissed, no longer in existence.

“Now, no dust remains, or sorrow or regret either. For those that understand the Dhamma, they have left behind becoming further ignorant and have arrived at the Far Shore (of awakening,)”

“No dust remains” refers directly to the Ariyapariyesana Sutta, and many others, and who the Buddha is directing his Dhamma to – “those with little dust in their eyes.” [10]

End Of Sutta

 

  1. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  3. Fabrications
  4. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  5. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma
  6. Wisdom Of Restraint
  7. Nagara Sutta – The Buddha Describes His Awakening
  8. Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas
  9. Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations of Mindfulness
  10. The Noble Search For The Noble Path

Skillful Vipassana - Introspective Insight Into Not-Self, Impermanence, and Dukkha

This is a copy of our Vipassana Structured Study Page: Vipassana Structured Study

Introspective Insight Into Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha - Impermanence, Not-Self, and Stress and Suffering

These are the suttas with commentary and the recordings from our 4-month, 32-class structured study of Vipassana - introspective insight into the true nature of self in relation to the world, and the confusion, stress, and suffering that follows from misunderstanding the impermanence of self and the self’s environment. 

Immediately below are links to the introductory text and suttas included in our study. Each sutta has an audio recording of the class talk and sangha discussion.

Below the linked suttas is a playlist of all talks from our study. ↓  Jump To Recordings  ↓

Vipassana Structured Study class videos are on the mirrored page: Vipassana Structured Study

Introduction

Vipassana means insight. In the context of the Buddha’s Dhamma, vipassana is not merely a popular hybrid meditation method or a distracting grasping-after insight-into-all-impermanent-phenomena practice.

In the context of the Buddha’s Dhamma, vipassana describes introspective insight into a fabricated misunderstanding of self in relation to the world. These two components of ignorance of self in relation to the world, in relation to all impermanent phenomena, results in ongoing stress and suffering - Dukkha.

It is ignorance of self in relation to the world resulting in stress and suffering that are the three common characteristics of all human beings. It is the central theme and purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma to develop skillful vipassana and resolution into this fabricated clinging-relationship through developing wisdom of Four Noble Truths.

This study provides the framework and guidance of these 29 suttas that develops specific profound and skillful introspective insight resolving all suffering arising from wrong views of self in relation to an impermanent world.

Please feel free to EMAIL JOHN with any questions.

Vipassana Structured Study Class Schedule With Linked Suttas

Class 1: Vipassana Introduction Part One

Class 2: Vipassana Introduction Part Two

Class 3: The Noble Search For The Noble Path

Class 4-1: Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

Class 4-2: Dependent Origination - The Paticca Samuppada Sutta

Class 5: Cula-Saccaka Sutta - A Fearless And Independent Dhamma

Class 6: Three Governing Principles For Vipassana - Adhipateyya Sutta

Class 7: Analysis Of Four Noble Truths - Sacca-Vibhanga Sutta

Class 8 Eightfold Path - The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

Class 9: Becoming Explained Three Suttas

Class 10: Nothing Personal - A Buddha's Analysis Of Self

Class 11: Wise Restraint

Class 12: Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta - The Not-Self Characteristic

Class 13: Sikkha Sutta Three Trainings For Liberation

Class 14: Dukkha Sutta

Class 15: The Great Mass of Stress Mahā Dukkhakkhandha Sutta

Class 16:  The Lesser Mass of Stress Cūḷa-Dukkhakkhandha Sutta 

Class 17: Sister Vajira Confronts Mara - Vajira Sutta

Class 18:  Vipallasa Sutta - Fabrications

Class 19:  Rahogata Sutta Ending Fabrications Through Jhana

Class 20:  Anupada Sutta Ending Fabrications One After Another

Class 21: Atthakanagara Sutta Jhana

Class 22:  Anuradha Sutta Anicca and Five Clinging-Aggregates

Class 23:  Sariputta Sutta Jhana And The Cessation Of Ignorance

Class 24:  Jhana Sutta

Class 25: Wings To Self-Awakening Sambodhi Sutta

Class 26:  Abandon Disease Girimananda Sutta

Class 27:  Sallatha Sutta Two Arrows and Mindfulness Of Bahiya

Class 28:  Khajjaniya Sutta Released From Affliction

Class 29:  Culavedalla Sutta Attachment To Impermanence and Five Clinging Aggregates

Class 30:  Simsapa Sutta - A Handful Of Leaves

Class 31:  Fire Discourse - Passions

Class 32:  Anapanasati Sutta An Example Of Authentic Dhamma Practice

Vipassana Structured Study Recordings

Sutta Collections on Dependent Origination - Four Noble Truths - Eightfold Path

The following linked categories present foundational suttas on fundamental teachings of the Buddha:

 

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Sources

My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.


Creative Commons LicenseBecoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Peace

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