True Refuge spring 2020 Retreat Talks

These are the most recent talks on this subject. As of December, 2019, There are more than 600 Dhamma talks on this and other teachings of the Buddha in my audio and video archives:

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Becoming Buddha Spring 2020 True Refuge Online Retreat

True Refuge Retreat Suttas

Dhajagga Sutta

Nagara Sutta

Ariyapariyesana Sutta

Sariputta Sutta

Vipallasa Sutta

Khajjaniya Sutta

Assutava Sutta

Dhajagga Sutta

Introduction

The Dhajagga Sutta is similar to the Ratana Sutta in teaching the true and practical refuge of a human Buddha, his Dhamma, and a well-informed and well-focused Sangha.

The Buddha begins this teaching using disturbed and corrupted mind-states as metaphor for minds rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. 

The Buddha used metaphor when appropriate to describe fabricated mind-states. He uses metaphor and simile consistently throughout his forty-five-year teaching career.

Using metaphor to describe corrupted qualities of mind relates directly to the common human compulsion to fabricate a view of self in relation to the people and events of the world. Metaphor, though fabricated, provides a common point of reference and a clear path away from fabricated views to understanding .

Those in attendance understand context and focus of the Buddha’s teaching methods and know that the Buddha is referring to troubled mind states in his use of metaphor. The use of metaphor in teaching his Dhamma is common and  prevalent throughout the Buddha’s Dhamma, though commonly misunderstood and over-emphasizing fabricated and speculative “realities.”. This is not always apparent when studying individual sutta or when developing a “Buddhist practice” that ignores Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths as the framework for authentic Dhamma practice.

Modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement compulsively encourages a cobbled-together practice of picking and choosing “dharmas” that allow for continuing ignorance of Four Noble Truths. 

My comments below are in italics.

Dhajagga Sutta – True Refuge -The Highest Standard

Samyutta Nikaya 11:3

On one occasion, the Buddha was staying near  Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. He addressed those gathered:

“Friends, once the devas and asuras were prepared for war with each other. Sakka, lord of the Devas addressed those of the Thirty-Three (fabled “Thirty-Three realms”): ‘If fear or terror should arise when going to battle, be mindful of the standard (of understanding) established ny me. When you are mindful of my standard, all fear and terror are abandoned.’

As stated previously, references to non-physical realms, and the speculated inhabitants of “higher realms” was constantly and directly taught to be recognized and quickly abandoned.  

‘If you are not mindful of my standard then look at Pajapati’s standard of understanding. When you are mindful of Pajapati’s standard, all fear and terror are abandoned.’

Sakka’s fabricated view may occasionally provide distraction from what is occurring by establishing the mind in fabricated realities given authenticity simply by common agrreement. 

‘In this same manner, If you are not mindful of Pajapati’s standard of understanding, then look at Varuna’s standard of understanding. When you are mindful of Varuna’s standard, all fear and terror are abandoned.’

‘In this same manner, If you are not mindful of Varuna’s standard of understanding, then look at Isana’s standard of understanding. When you are mindful of Isana’s standard, all fear and terror are abandoned.’

The Buddha continuers: “Friends, look at the standards of understanding established by Sakka, or Pajapati, or Varuna, or Isana. Becoming mindful of their standard(s), all fear and terror might be abandoned, or it might not.

“Why this uncertainty? Because Sakka, Lord Of The Devas, despite his standard (of practice) Sakka is not free of greed, aversion, or fire of deluded thinking. He can be cowardly, frightened, and quick to flee. The others as well.

No matter the standard used to authenticate a “teacher”, if the “standard” is not established by the Human Buddha, his authentic Dhamma, and a well-focused and well-informed Sangha the results will be disjointing at best and continually distracting in practice. 

“Friends, listen carefully: When you have established seclusion at the root of a tree or an empty hut, and fear and terror arise, be mindful that I, the Rightly-Self-Awakened One, am consumate in knowledge and understanding, pure in behavior, unexcelled in teaching those fit to be taught. When you understand my standard, all fear and terror are abandoned.

When telling his disciples it is time to meditate, the Buddha would say “go find the root of a tree or an empty hut, and do Jhana. Jhana means concentration. hana is the sole meditation method taught by the Buddha. It is a well-concentrated mind that is able to develop the refined mindfulness necessary hold in mind the entire Eightfold Path as the framework and guidance for authentic Dhamma practice. 

“Also, you can be mindful of the standard of my Dhamma. The Dhamma is a complete and timeless path. My Dhamma is inviting and verified by direct experience. When you understand the standard established through my Dhamma, all fear and terror are abandoned.

“Also, you can be mindful of the standard of a (well-focused and well-informed) Sangha. My Sangha is established in Four Noble Truths and practiced authentically, straightforwardly, and methodically.

“This Sangha of Dhamma Disciples is worthy of gifts, hospitality. And appropriate offerings. This Sangha is deserving of respect. Through their understanding of my Dhamma, they will bring much good-will to the world. When you understand the standard established through (a well-focused and well-informed) Sangha, all fear and terror are abandoned.

“Why is this true? Because the Buddha is free of greed, aversion, and fire of deluded thinking. He can not be cowardly, frightened, or quick to flee.

“In seclusion, friends, at the rot of a tree or an empty hut, established in Jhana, be mindful and take refuge in the Buddha, be mindful and take refuge in the my Dhamma, and be mindful and take refuge in a well-focused and well informed Sangha.

“Those wise disciples, practicing in this manner, are free of greed, aversion, and fire of deluded thinking. They can not be cowardly, frightened, or quick to flee.

Thise gathered were delighted in informed by the Buddha’s words.

End Of Sutta

The closing of this sutta shows the emphasis the Buddha maintained on developing and practicing his Dhamma free of the adaptations, accommodations, and widespread embellishment of his authentic Dhamma. This compulsive need to substitute a corrupt and fabricated dharma in favor of the Buddha’s Dhamma was just as common during the Buddha’s time as today. The solution is the same as well: Study and practice what a Buddha actually taught in order to become released from all troubled mind-states.

Nagara Sutta

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.”

 

Ariyapariyesana Sutta

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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) 

“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.

“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. 

“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.

“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. 

“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.]

“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) 

“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. 

“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. 

“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. 

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. 

“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. 

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

“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

Sariputta Sutta

Introduction

In the Sariputta Sutta, Sariputta is questioned by Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin, and attendant. Ananda is confused about a fundamental aspect of the Dhamma. Ananda’s confusion is common and shows the importance of relying on those that have had the direct experience of developing the authentic Dhamma to very subtle and profound levels of understanding.

In this way, knowledgeable Dhamma practitioners can guide others to have their own direct experience of awakening. This is how the Buddha and those who awakened through his teachings taught others.

Ananda’s confusion arises from not yet having developed profound Right View and not knowing how one’s “Right” relation to reality will be experienced once all wrong views, views ignorant of Four Noble Truths, are abandoned. Fundamentally, Ananda’s question is “How can one perceive, be sensitive to, what is occurring once all wrong views are abandoned? Where will one find a footing in reality?” Sariputta’s answer shows that once ignorance is recognized and abandoned, one knows that ignorance has been abandoned and remains sensitive to reality and at peace with life as life occurs.

“Sensitive” here means contacting phenomena through the six-sense-base. A mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths is a mind distracted by its own fabricated views and interests sensory contact from a fabricated view ignorant of Four Noble Truths.

My comments below are in italics.

Sariputta Sutta – Cessation Of Ignorance

Anguttara Nikaya 10.7

On one occasion Venerable Ananda visited Venerable Sariputta. They exchanged courteous greetings and Ananda took a seat next to his friend.

Ananda asked a question: “Dear friend, could one develop concentration to the point that they would not be sensitive to (perception of) the earth or the elements of the earth? Could one develop concentration to the point that they would not be sensitive to the infinitude of space or of consciousness? Could one develop concentration to the point that they would not be sensitive to nothingness or of neither perception nor non-perception? Could one develop concentration to the point that they would not be sensitive to this world or the next world? Would this one still be sensitive to what is occurring?”

“Yes, dear friend Ananda. Even with great concentration, this one could be sensitive to what is occurring.”

“Please explain how one could develop concentration so that they would not be sensitive to earth or to this world or the next world and still be sensitive to what is occurring?”

“Let me explain: On one occasion I was here in Savatthi at the Blind Man’s Grove. I developed concentration to the point that I was neither sensitive to the earth or to this world or the next world and, yet, I continued to be sensitive to what is occurring.”

“Please tell me, dear friend, Sariputta, what were you sensitive of at that time?”

“Ananda, I was sensitive to the cessation of becoming (further ignorant of Four Noble Truths.) I was sensitive to unbinding (from views ignorant of Four Noble Truths.) I was sensitive of the arising and passing away of all phenomena. Just as a wood fire’s flames arise and pass away, I was sensitive of unbinding from wrong views.

End Of Sutta

 

Vipallasa Sutta

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.”

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.

The Buddha taught that by developing profound and complete understanding of Four Noble Truths one would become Rightly Self-Awakened just as he had.

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

Khajjaniya Sutta

Introduction

The Khajjaniya Sutta is a profound teaching on the confusion and suffering that follows from clinging to speculative views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. The Buddha describes the personal experience of ongoing stress and suffering as “Five Clinging Aggregates.”

Here the Buddha shows how ignorance is continued by constantly embellishing this personal experience of suffering by clinging to any and every thought, word, and idea that distracts from understanding the true nature of a “person.”

A mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths is constantly grasping at fabrications in order to continually give birth to another moment rooted in ignorance.  A most convenient way to establish self-referential views is to do so in speculative, suppositional, imaginary, non-physical realms or distracting rituals. To a mind rooted in ignorance and afflicted with craving, aversion, and deluded thinking this will often momentarily provide satisfaction and so further distract a confused and deluded mind.

One moment of satisfying distraction is enough to establish self-identification with the fabricated and distracting impermanent experience. Once established, clinging to others so afflicted often follows, further ‘validating’ fabricated views. 

This is what the Buddha taught Ananda in the Upaddha Sutta in response to Ananda’s question regarding the importance of wise associations and a well-focused sangha.

As seen here, and many other suttas, the compulsion for speculative self-establishment was common during the Buddha’s teaching career and continues to be common in modern Buddhism. This is the primary strategy a mind rooted in ignorance will employ to ignore its own ignorance. This is how ignorance is continued.

My comments below are in italics.

Released From Affliction – Khajjaniya Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 22:79

On one occasion the Buddha was staying at Savatthi. There he addressed those gathered: “Friends, any Dhamma practitioner who directs their thinking to past lives are only recollecting one or all of the Five Clinging-Aggregates.

The Five Clinging-Aggregates describe the ongoing personal experience of confusion, deluded thinking, and unsatisfactory experiences. Here the Buddha is teaching that craving after self-establishment in imaginary and speculative realms is simply furthering ignorance and can only continue suffering. The intention for ’recollecting past lives’ is speculative and another distracting strategy of a self-referential ego-personality rooted in ignorance.

“Which Five?

  • When recollecting ‘I was one with such a form in the past’ one is only recollecting form.
  • When recollecting ‘I was one with such a feeling in the past’ one is only recollecting feeling.
  • When recollecting ‘I was one with such perceptions in the past’ one is only recollecting perceptions.
  • When recollecting ‘I was one with such fabrications in the past’ one is only recollecting fabrications.
  • When recollecting ‘I was one with such a consciousness in the past’ one is only recollecting consciousness.

“Why is the form aggregate called ‘form’? Because it is afflicted. Form is afflicted with cold, heat, hunger, thirst, wind, sun, bugs, and reptiles.

The Five Clinging-Aggregates describe the ongoing personal experience of suffering. It is from personalizing ordinary and impermanent phenomena that one joins with suffering through self-identification, e.g. ‘I am cold, I am hot, etc.

“Why is the feeling aggregate called ‘feeling’? Because it feels. It feels pleasure, pain, and neither-pleasure-nor-pain.

“Why is the perception aggregate called ‘perception’? Because it perceives. It perceives blue, yellow, red, white.

“Why is the fabrication aggregate called ‘fabrication’? Because it fabricates. It fabricates what is experienced as form,  feelings, perceptions, consciousness. It fabricates fabrications.

Dependent Origination clearly shows that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that is the requisite condition for fabrications. Fabrications are one aggregate that can only continue to fabricate life experiences furthering confused and deluded consciousness.

The Buddha’s clear teaching on the conditions that confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing unsatisfactory experiences are dependent on is the most fabricated, corrupted, and often intentionally ignored “teaching” in modern Buddhism By Common Agreement.

A mind rooted in ignorance will compulsively ignore anything that challenges its ignorance. The intent and purpose of the Eightfold Path is to provide the framework and necessary guidance to recognize and abandon ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

“Why is the consciousness aggregate called ‘consciousness’? Because it cognizes. It cognizes sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, salty, bland.

From awakened Right View, a now supple and spacious consciousness impersonally and dispassionately recognizes differences in phenomena free of any choice or self-reference. A self- referential grasping mind will cling to and embellish ordinary differences to further ignorance and further self-establishment. It is the compulsive need for continual self- establishment that has resulted in doctrines of one-mind, unity consciousness, interdependence, interconnectedness, inter-being, nothingness, emptiness, no-self, and non-duality.

“Friends, a well-instructed Dhamma practitioner understands: ‘I am now being afflicted by form. In the past, I was afflicted by form. If I delight in future form I will likewise be afflicted with future form.

Speculative self-establishments in the past or to the future will only continue distraction from the singular establishment of Right Mindfulness in life as life occurs. Believing that one is affected by past lives or can impact or manipulate further lives is a contradiction to the Buddha’s Dhamma and a complete misunderstanding of the Eightfold Path and Karma. 

“Understanding, they become disenchanted with past and future form. They are now practicing the Dhamma to become disenchanted and dispassionate with present form. They are now practicing the Dhamma to develop cessation from clinging to present form.

Abandoning speculation, one can now direct there Right Effort to the matter at hand – integrating and developing to completion the Eightfold Path.

“Furthermore, this well-instructed Dhamma practitioner understands: ‘I am now being afflicted by feelings, by perceptions, by fabrications, and by consciousness. In the past, I was also afflicted by feelings, by perceptions, by fabrications, and by consciousness. If I delight in future feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness, I will likewise be afflicted with future feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness.

Delighting in continued self-establishment will ensure further confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment.

“Understanding, they become disenchanted with past and future feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness. They are now practicing the Dhamma to become disenchanted and dispassionate with present feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness. They are now practicing the Dhamma to develop cessation from clinging to present feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness.

“What do you think, friends? Is form permanent or impermanent? Are feeling, perceptions, fabrications, consciousness permanent or impermanent?”

“Great Teacher, they are all impermanent”

“And is that which is impermanent easeful or stressful?”

“What is impermanent is always stressful, Great Teacher.”

“Friends, is it fitting to self-identify with what is impermanent and stressful, always subject to change and uncertainty as ‘This is me, this is mine, this is what I am?”

“Great Teacher, it is not fitting to self-identify with what is impermanent and stressful, always subject to change and uncertainty as ‘This is me, this is mine, this is what I am.”

“Friends, it is known by the wise that any form whatsoever that is past, present or future, any form that is internal or external, any form that is obvious or subtle, any form that is common or sublime, any form near or far, should always be seen through Right View as ‘this is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am.’

“Furthermore, any feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness whatsoever past, present or future, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or sublime, near or far, should always be seen through Right View as ‘this is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am.’

Modern Buddhism By Common Agreement often emphasizes the need to recollect past lives and speculative self-establishment as a ’sign’ that one has awakened. The Buddha here and many other suttas teaches that any attempt to establish a ‘self’ in imaginary, speculative non-physical realms is not a Dhamma teaching and will only further ignorance. 

“This, friends is called a Dhamma practitioner who diminishes rather than embellishes, who abandons rather than clings, who discards rather than acquires, who scatters and does not pile up.

“The wise Dhamma practitioner diminishes form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness rather than embellish these aggregates.

“The wise Dhamma practitioner abandons form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness rather than cling to these aggregates.

“The wise Dhamma practitioner discards form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness rather than acquire these aggregates.

A wise Dhamma practitioner is no longer driven by the compulsion to adapt, accommodate, or embellish the Buddha’s Dhamma in any manner. The Heartwood of the Dhamma – the Eightfold Path – is the complete path of an awakened teacher to recognize and abandon all self-referential desire.

The wise Dhamma practitioner scatters form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness rather than pile up these aggregates.

“Understanding impermanence with regard to these aggregates the well-instructed Dhamma practitioner grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perceptions, and they grow disenchanted with consciousness.

“Disenchanted they become dispassionate. With dispassion established, there is release. (from clinging to wrong views ignorant of Four Noble Truths)

“Released, they now know they are released. They know that birth is ended, a life well-integrated with the Heartwood has been fulfilled, the tasks is complete. They know that there will be no further entanglements with the world.

“This, friends is a Dhamma practitioner who neither diminishes nor embellishes form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness. but who is now established in the Dhamma having abandoned (identifying with) these aggregates.

“This, friends is a Dhamma practitioner who neither clings to nor abandons form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness. but who is now established in the Dhamma having abandoned these aggregates.

The process of recognizing wrong views of self rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths is complete. It can clearly be seen that this sutta also defines the ‘insight’ the Buddha teaches. Rather than the broad, grasping, self-referential ‘insight” common today, the Buddha teaches that skillful insight is profound and penetrative insight of Impermanence, Not-Self, and Dukkha/Suffering, all aspects of Five Clinging Aggregates. 

“This, friends is a Dhamma practitioner who neither acquires nor discards form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness, but who is now established in the Dhamma having discarded these aggregates.

“This, friends is a Dhamma practitioner who neither piles up nor scatters form, feelings, perceptions, fabrications, or consciousness. but who is now established in the Dhamma having scattered these aggregates.

“Friends, I declare it is from diminishing, abandoning, discarding, and scattering these aggregates that one is established in the Dhamma, a wise Dhamma practitioner free of affliction.

Friends, one who has released their mind from all wrong views is never afflicted again by speculation. This one is established in Right View.

End Of Sutta

Dependent Origination Assatuava Sutta

Introduction

The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing unsatisfactory experiences are dependent on for origination. The Assutava Sutta is another simple and direct sutta on Dependent Origination that also references the Five Clinging Aggregates.

It is interesting particularly because the Buddha addresses ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance as being more difficult in recognizing I-making, or conceit, than identification with the physical form, or the body. What this shows in a somewhat subtle fashion is the way that Dhamma practice develops gradually from wrong view to a profound Right View within the entire framework of the Eightfold Path. This way of presenting the Dhamma avoids the “relative” and “absolute” debate that leads to the mistaken wrong view of a non-dual reality.

An understanding of the Buddha’s teachings on the three marks of existence within the proper context of Dependent Origination shows that all things including awakening, or developing full human maturity, is an ongoing process. If that process is rooted in the framework of the Eightfold Path awakening is the end result. If the process is rooted in continued ignorance of Four Noble Truths then only continued ignorance can follow.

The Assutava Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 12.61

The Buddha was at the Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. There he addressed the assembled monks:

“Monks an uninstructed ordinary person might grow disenchanted with their body composed of the four great elements. They might grow dispassionate toward their body and gain release from clinging to it. How does this occur? Due to aging and decline the impermanence of their body composed of the four great elements becomes apparent. In this way the uninstructed ordinary person might grow disenchanted with their body and gain release from clinging to physical form.

Much is made of the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water and these elements are often embellished to give them more meaning than is intended here. The four elements simply describe in a general way what constitutes the makeup of a human being and is used here to avoid creating specialness and simply point out the commonality and impersonal nature of having a human life. All things in the phenomenal world are made up of these four elements and these four elements are subject to constant change.

“But what is often called mind, intellect, or consciousness, the uninstructed ordinary person is unable to develop disenchantment or develop dispassion towards thinking (rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths) and gain release from it. How does this occur? Once ignorance arises the mind, intellect, or consciousness is relished, revered, grasped after, and clung to by the uninstructed ordinary person. They see this mind rooted in ignorance as ‘this is me, this is myself, this is what I am.’ From this self-referential view it is impossible to grow disenchanted or dispassionate towards the mind or to gain release from clinging to it.

A mind rooted in ignorance is conditioned to ignore anything that would challenge this initial ignorance. This is why all the attempts to adapt or a accommodate the Buddha’s original teachings to fit individual or culturally influenced views invariably results in a “Buddhist” practice that contradicts or ignores completely the Buddha’s direct teachings resulting in a modern “thicket of views.” [1]

“It would be more skillful for the uninstructed ordinary person to cling to their body more so than the mind as the self. Why is this? Because the body composed of the four elements can more easily be seen as impermanent and prone to decay. What is identified as mind, or intellect, or consciousness is seen as one thing that continues to attach to another thing. (E.G. constantly changing self-referential views resulting in confused views such as interdependence, interconnectedness, and inter-being) Just as a monkey swinging through the forest grabs one branch after another, in the same way what is seen as mind, intellect, or consciousness constantly grasps after one thing or another.

“The well-instructed disciple of the Dhamma attends mindfully and appropriately to Dependent Origination:

  • When this is, that it is.
  • From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
  • When this isn’t, that isn’t.
  • From the cessation of this comes to cessation of that.

These phrases are often taken out of the context in which they are intended to further the confused belief in interdependence, interconnectedness, and inter-being. When taken in the context of the Buddhist direct teachings it is clear the Buddha is referring to ignorance of Four Noble Truths as the required condition for confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing unsatisfactory experiences. When there is ignorance of Four Noble Truths, confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing suffering arises. It is for this reason that the teaching on Dependent Origination is altered or ignored to allow for all the accommodations and embellishments attached to the Buddhist teachings.

“In other words,

  • 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.

“Now from the complete cessation of ignorance of Four Noble truths comes the cessation of fabrication. (when this isn’t, that isn’t)

  • From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness.
  • From the cessation of consciousness comes a 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 sensation of feeling.
  • From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving.
  • From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/maintaining.
  • From the cessation of clinging/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, regret, pain, distress, and despair. From the cessation of birth comes the cessation of the entire mass of confusion, deluded thinking, and suffering.

“Understanding this clearly (and within the proper context) the well-instructed disciple of the Dhamma grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feelings, Disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted they become dispassionate. Through dispassion, they are fully released (from the Five Clinging Aggregates.) With complete release, they know they are fully released. They know that giving birth to additional views rooted in ignorance has ended. They know that a life well integrated within the Eightfold Path has been fulfilled and that the task is done. They know that clinging to the world has ended.”

End of Sutta

The next to last sentence is typically translated as “the holy life has been lived, The task is done.” Of course, the “holy life” refers to living a life integrated within the framework of the Eightfold Path and the task accomplished is the task of developing profound Right View. In describing the Right View of an awakened human being the Buddha states “Right View fully comprehends Dukkha, Right View is a view that has abandoned craving and cleaning, Right View is a view arising from the experience of the cessation of Dukkha, and Right View has been developed through the Eightfold Path. (Digha Nikaya 22)

Modern Buddhism  – A Thicket Of Views

 

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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.


Becoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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