Local Knowledge – Uncommon Dhamma

by

A Twenty-Seven Class Structured Study Of (Mostly) Lesser-Known Suttas

Introduction

For a complete understanding of these suttas within the scope and context intended by the Buddha, please read “Foundations Of The Buddha’s Dhamma” on our Home Page.

For distinction and clarity, my comments within the suttas are italicized.

Most all of modern Buddhism adapts, accommodates, and embellishes even the most well-known foundational teachings on Dependent Origination, Four Noble Truths, Emptiness, Not-Self, Etcetera. During our 2020 Truth Of Happiness Dhamma Study, I included lesser-known supplemental sutta’s. With a few exceptions, these suttas are unheard of let alone developed in modern Buddhism-By-Common-Agreement.  

The title “Local Knowledge – Uncommon Dhamma” refers to the profound depth of knowledge that supports the useful and skillful understanding that is developed by those with “local knowledge” of what the Buddha actually taught.

These uncommon teachings include the core themes of the Buddha’s Dhamma of Dependent Origination, Four Noble Truths, Jhana Meditation, Right Mindfulness, Five Clinging-Aggregates, Thee Marks Of Existence, and Karma and Rebirth.

Uncommon sutta such as these portray a very nuanced and individually applicable reality-based Dhamma – a reality rooted in a profound and penetrating understanding of Four Noble   Truths.

A subtle aspect of the teaching methods Siddartha Gotama used can be gleaned from these suttas. Awakened, the Buddha had the ability to remain mindfully present and meet each individual at their level of understanding. As will be seen, the Buddha taught a unique Dhamma, then and now, while also maintained remarkable consistency with- the core teachings mentioned previously.

This “Awakened Consistency” provides the subtle framework necessary to recognize and abandon all forms of conditioned thinking. This includes the conditioning from the many false and fabricated “dharmas”  the Buddha encountered and which have been continually re-fabricated by minds continuing to be rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

This study begins with three suttas on the meaning of becoming. Though not a part of the supplemental reading for our 2020 Dhamma Study, these three uncommon suttas clearly explain the scope and purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma:  Maintaining gentle and Refined Mindfulness of what am I giving birth to at this moment.

The next three chapters on Dependent Origination, Four Noble Truths, and The Eightfold Path establish the foundation and context for the Buddha’s Dhamma. Holding in mind, true mindfulness, of these foundational suttas directs and informs Dhamma practice. The Eightfold Path is the only path taught by an awakened human being and provides the framework for awakening as Siddartha Goatma, the human Buddha, awakened.

Local Knowledge - Uncommon Dhamma 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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Class One - Loka, Bhava, Mula Suttas - The Meaning Of becoming

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. 

At the most subtle level, becoming and non-becoming resolves in the abandonment of creating fabricated notions of “self” in speculative and imaginary  non-physical “realms.”

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:

  • From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. (when this is that is – when ignorance of Four Nobble Truths is present, fabrications are as well)
  • 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.

 

THE LOKA SUTTA
The World Aflame
Samyutta Nikaya 12.44 

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)

End Of Loka Sutta

Commentary

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.

 

THE BHAVA SUTTA
Ripening Fabrications
Anguttara Nikaya 3.76

Even during the Buddha’s time, there was confusion regarding the meaning of becoming. Here, Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin and chief attendant ask 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.”

End Of Bhava Sutta

Commentary

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.

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 a 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
Roots Of Ignorance
Anguttara Nikaya 10.58 

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

Commentary

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 phenomena.

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. 

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.

Class Two - Paticca Samuppada Vibhanga Sutta - Dependent Origination

The Paticca Samuppada Vibhanga Sutta

Dependent Origination

Introduction

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

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. (Next Chapter)

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.  

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.” 

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.

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 -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, 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 continues 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

Commentary

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 those 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. “ 

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.

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.

Class Three - The Sacca-Vibhanga Sutta - Analysis of Four Noble Truths

Introduction

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. 

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.

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.

 

The Sacca-Vibhanga Sutta

Analysis of Four Noble Truths  

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. 

It is the Eightfold Path that develops useful Vipassana, useful introspective insight, into these Three Marks Of Existence.

“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.  

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. 

“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 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. 

“And what friends is the Noble Truth of the cessation of stress? The renunciation, the relinquishment, the release, the letting go, the remainder less 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. 
  8. Right Meditation. Right Meditation is when a skillful disciple of the Noble Ones has established seclusion from sensuality and unskillful mental qualities. They 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. 

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

Class Four - Magga-Vibhanga Sutta - Analysis Of The Path

Introduction

In the Nagara Sutta 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.

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

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.

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

Commentary

The  Buddha’s description of Right Meditation is a description of Jhnans. 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 within the framework outlined here – the framework of the Eightfold Path.

Class Five - Sumnagala - Freedom Through Jhana

INTRODUCTION

These poems are from the Theragatha and Therigatha. The Theragatha preserves 264 poems of elder monks and is the eighth section in the Khuddaka Nikāya. The Therigatha preserves 74 Poems from elder Nuns. The Khuddaka Nikāya is a collection of short texts in (mostly) verse. The Khuddaka Nikāya is the last Nikaya (collection) of the Sutta Piṭaka, the second book of the Pāli Canon.

In the following poem, the awakened monk Sumangala concisely describes the quality of an awakened mind through Right Meditation practiced as part of the Eightfold Path.

SUMANGALA
THERAGATHA 1:43

Freedom! Freedom!
I am completely free
From three crooked things.

Sickles, shovels, and plows.
Even if they were right here,
I would still be free of them.

(Affirming to himself)

Do Jhana, Sumangala,
Always mindful, Sumangala,
Do Jhana.

End Of Poem

In the following poem, the awakened monk Sumangala’s mother concisely describes the quality of an awakened mind through Right Meditation practiced as part of the Eightfold Path. 

Sumaṅgala’s Mother

Therigatha 2:3

Freedom! Freedom!

I am completely free!

Free from my pestle,

Free from my shameless husband,

and his sun-shade making.

Fee from my moldy old pot

with its water-snake smell.

Passion, aversion, delusion

I cut with a single chop.

I have come to the root of a tree

and do Jhana.

What Bliss!

End Of Poem

Guided Jhana Meditations and instruction is available at Becoming-Buddha.com: Jhana Meditation And Instruction

Class Six - Pamadavaharin Sutta - Dwelling In Mindfulness

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
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 the eye, with the 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.”

Class Seven Jambali Sutta - Ehipassiko: Come And See For Yourself

Introduction

With gentle and profound compassion for all human beings interested in developing a Buddha’s understanding of reality, Siddhartha Gotama consistently emphasized the necessity to recognize and abandon all views rooted in Ignace of Four Noble Truths. 

Rather than preach yet another salvific “dharma”, Siddartha taught to immediately abandon any fabricated grasping-after “dharma practice” and the teachers associated with fabricated dharmas.

Furthermore, the Buddha did not merely teach that one must have a direct experience of reality, he taught an Eightfold Path and many other supportive suttas that describe precisely how direct experience with his Dhamma is skillfully developed. 

The Jambali sutta is one of these supportive sittas. In the Jambali Sutta, the Buddha uses metaphor to describe four types of Dhamma practitioners and the single type who can be expected to continue the Eightfold Path to culmination – a profound understanding of Three Marled Of Existence and the cessation of all views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. The Jambali Suuta clearly describes the actual experience of authentic Dhamma practice.

JAMBĀLĪ SUTTA

THE WASTE-WATER POOL

ANGUTTARA NIKAYA 4:178

The Buddha addresses those gathered:

“Friends, there are four types of Dhamma practitioners.

“There is the type of Dhamma practitioner that enters and remains in mental-absorption (Jhanas) and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are mindful of the cessation of self-identification. But, even as they are mindful of the cessation of self-identification their mind is not enraptured with release, with cessation. They do not grow confident or steadfast or well-established in the cessation of self-identification. For them, the final cessation of self-identification cannot be expected.

“Just as if one were to grasp a branch with hands sticky with resin they would cling to the branch. In the same manner, one who remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release but continues to cling to wrong views is not enraptured with release, with cessation. They do not grow confident or steadfast or well-established in the cessation of self-identification. For them, the final cessation of self-identification cannot be expected.

“Then there is the type of Dhamma practitioner that enters and remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are mindful of the cessation of self-identification. As they are mindful of the cessation of self-identification their mind is enraptured with release, with cessation. They do grow confident and steadfast and well-established in the cessation of self-identification. For them, the final cessation of self-identification is to be expected.

“Just as if one were to grasp a branch with clean hands they would not cling to the branch. In the same manner, one who engages fully with the Eightfold Path remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release they continue to diminish wrong views and their mind is enraptured with release, with cessation. They do grow confident and steadfast and well-established in the cessation of self-identification. For them, the final cessation of self-identification can be expected.

“Then there is the type of Dhamma practitioner that enters and remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are mindful of breaching ignorance (of Four Noble Truths) but their minds are not enraptured with release, with cessation. They do not grow confident or steadfast or well-established in the cessation of self-identification. For them, the final cessation of self-identification cannot be expected.

“Just as if there were a long-standing waste-water pool and during the dry season a man blocks all inlets and opens all outlets. With inlets blocked and no rain falling, the breaching of the waste-water pool would not be expected. In the same manner, a Dhamma practitioner enters and remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are attending to the breaching of ignorance but they do not grow confident or steadfast or well-established in the breaching of ignorance  For them the breaching of ignorance cannot be expected.

“Then there is the type of Dhamma practitioner that enters and remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are mindful of breaching ignorance (of Four Noble Truths). Their minds are enraptured with release from ignorance. They do grow confident and steadfast and well-established in the breaching of ignorance. For them, the final cessation of self-identification can be expected

“Just as if there were a long-standing waste-water pool during the rainy season and a man opens all inlets and blocks all outlets. With inlets open, outlets closed, and rain falling, the breaching of the waste-water pool can be expected. In the same manner, a Dhamma practitioner enters and remains in mental-absorption and experiences a certain peaceful awareness-release. They are mindful of breaching ignorance (of Four Noble Truths). Their minds are enraptured with release from ignorance. They do grow confident and steadfast and well-established in the breaching ignorance. For them, the final cessation of self-identification can be expected.

“These are the four types of Dhamma practitioners in the world.”

Class Eight - Sikkha Sutta - Three Trainings For Liberation

INTRODUCTION

The Sikkha Sutta teaches that the Eightfold Path is a path that incorporates the three aspects, or trainings necessary for becoming Rightly Self-Awakened as the Buddha instructs. The Eightfold Path is a path directly developing heightened virtue, heightened concentration, and heightened wisdom.

The factors of the Eightfold Path that develop heightened virtue are Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood.

The Factors of the Eightfold Path that develop heightened concentration are Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation.

The factors of the Eightfold Path that develop heightened wisdom are Right View and Right Intention.

As a complete path to awakening the wise Dhamma practitioner gains a profound and penetrative understanding of the nature of stress and suffering and establishes a calm and peaceful mind.

 

SIKKHA SUTTA:
ANGUTTARA NIKAYA 3:91

The Buddha addressed those gathered:

“Friends, there are three trainings that I teach. I teach training in heightened virtue. I teach training in heightened concentration. I teach training in heightened wisdom.” 

“The training in heightened virtue brings restraint in speech, actions, and livelihood. This Dhamma practitioner remains pure in their behavior at all times.”

Restraint at the six-sense-base is the immediate application of a well-informed Dhamma practice.

“They train themselves following these rules of behavior and understand the danger of even the slightest deviation.”

“This is called training in heightened virtue.”

“The training in heightened concentration – jhana – develops the concentration necessary to support refined mindfulness. This Dhamma practitioner remains secluded from sensory indulgence and unskillful mental qualities.”

The Buddha taught a singular meditation method for the sole purpose of deepening concentration, for deepening jhana. 

“They enter and remain in the first jhana characterized by rapture and pleasure born of seclusion and accompanied by directed thought and evaluation.”

“As concentration deepens further they enter and remain in the second jhana. Focused thoughts and insight still. Delight and pleasure born of composure and inner assurance arise.”

“As concentration deepens further they enter and remain in the third jhana. Delight and pleasure and the perception of pleasure and pain disappear. Equanimity and refined mindfulness increases and a peaceful mind prevail.”

“As concentration deepens further they enter and remain in the fourth jhana. Mindful equanimity prevails. Greed and aversion disappear. This is the development of concentration that brings peace and calm here and now.”

“The training in heightened wisdom brings the ending of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. Through the ending of these defilements, the wise Dhamma practitioner remains in the defilement-free release from ignorance.”

“The wise Dhamma practitioner has established profound wisdom fully mindful moment-by-moment as life occurs. This is called heightened wisdom.”

“These are the three trainings of my Dhamma.”

“The trainings in heightened virtue, concentration, and wisdom establish:”

  • Persistence
  • Steadfastness
  • Absorption in Jhana
  • Refined Mindfulness
  • Wise Restraint

“These three trainings should be practiced consistently and in all situations with unlimited concentration.”

“These are the three trainings that brings pure understanding.”

“Developing these three trainings you will be called a Rightly Self-Awakened one who has completed the Path.”

“The cessation of ignorance (of Four Noble Truths) and craving for self-satisfaction extinguishes the fires of passion.”

Class Nine - Agantuka Sutta - For All Who Reside In The Dhamma

INTRODUCTION

In the Agantuka Sutta, the Buddha uses the metaphor of a common residence to show that the Eightfold Path is a true refuge for anyone seeking to develop a profound understanding of the nature of stress and suffering, gain insight into the Three Marks of Existence, and abandon all views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Notice here the relationship between the requisite condition for stress and suffering – ignorance of Four Noble Truths – and the requisite condition for release from stress and suffering – direct knowledge and profound wisdom developed through the Eightfold Path.

 

AGANTUKA SUTTA
SAMYUTTA NIKAYA 45:159

“Friends, I will teach the value of developing direct knowledge and profound wisdom. Listen carefully. Suppose there is a guest house where people from all directions and all professions and positions take residence.”

“In this same way, anyone who cultivates and methodically practices the Noble Eightfold Path will comprehend with direct knowledge and profound wisdom whatever phenomena are to be comprehended with direct knowledge and profound wisdom.”

“Furthermore, they will abandon whatever phenomena are to be abandoned through direct knowledge and profound wisdom.”

“Furthermore, they will experience whatever phenomena are to be experienced through direct knowledge and profound wisdom.”

“Furthermore, they will develop whatever phenomena are to be developed through direct knowledge and profound wisdom.”

“And which phenomena are to be comprehended with direct knowledge and profound wisdom? The form aggregate, the feeling aggregate, the perception aggregate, the mental fabrication aggregate, and the consciousness aggregate. These Five Clinging-Aggregates are the phenomena to be comprehended with direct knowledge and profound wisdom.” 

“And which phenomena are to be abandoned with direct knowledge and profound wisdom? Ignorance and craving for becoming (further ignorant) are the phenomena to be abandoned with direct knowledge and profound wisdom.”

“And which phenomena are to be experienced with direct knowledge and profound wisdom? Knowledge with regard to stress and release from ignorance (of Four Noble Truths) are the phenomena to be experienced with direct knowledge and profound wisdom.” 

This relates directly to Dependent Origination. The Buddha awakened to the profound wisdom and understanding that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that is the requisite condition for “all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and stress and suffering.”  

“And which phenomena are to be developed with direct knowledge and profound wisdom? A calm mind and insight (into the Three Marks of Existence) are the phenomena to be developed with direct knowledge and profound wisdom.” 

“And how does anyone who cultivates and methodically practices the Noble Eightfold Path, through direct knowledge and profound wisdom, comprehend appropriate phenomena, abandon appropriate phenomena, experience appropriate phenomena,  and develop appropriate phenomena?”

“Anyone who develops Right View is dependent on seclusion and on dispassion and on cessation (of ignorance) that results in release (from wrong views). Through direct knowledge and profound wisdom, they develop Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation that is dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation that results in release (from clinging to wrong views).”

“In this way, anyone who cultivates and methodically practices the Noble Eightfold Path will, with direct knowledge and profound wisdom, comprehend phenomena to be comprehended, abandon phenomena to be abandoned, experience phenomena to be experienced, and develop phenomena to be developed.”

Class Ten - Tissa Sutta - Impermanence And Uncertainty

INTRODUCTION

The Buddha presents the great power and depth of this sutta to his cousin Tissa in his typical concise and direct manner. Tissa is a cousin of the Buddha and a monk in the original Sangha. Tissa’s mind is still troubled from continued clinging to wrong views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

This is a common occurrence when one begins authentic Dhamma practice and is confronted by the challenges to long-held belief structures. This is often experienced as Tissa describes here with confusion, lethargy, indecision, and uncertainty. Indulging in the distracting modern common practice of over-analysis of these fleeting mind-states seeking “insights” only continues ignorance.

The Buddha teaches Tissa to frame his uneasy and troubling mind-states through the Eightfold Path. In doing so, Tissa avoids further dictation from self-indulgence and gains profound understanding and useful insight into the Three Marks of Existence. 

This sutta also shows the importance of learning the Dhamma from one who knows the Dhamma and the importance of a well-focused Sangha. As can be seen here, it is a well-focused and well-informed Sangha, engaging in Right Speech, that points Tissa back to the learned teacher. It is important to note that the Sangha avoids compassion rooted in ignorance and did not attempt to reassure Tissa that “all is well and things will work out according to a higher plan” as they knew that this would only continue Tissa’s ignorance and resulting suffering.

The Buddha’s reference to sorrow, regret, pain, distress, and despair is to the First Noble Truth: Dukkha occurs from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. 

The Buddha’s reference to form, feelings, perception, fabrications, and consciousness is to his description of the ongoing personal experience of suffering, Five Clinging-Aggregates. 

This fifth aggregate, consciousness, is ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

TISSA SUTTA
SAMYUTTA NIKAYA 22:84

The Buddha was at Savatthi, in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. Tissa, a monk in the Sangha was distressed. He told a group of Sangha members, “Friends, I feel lost and uninspired. My mind is cloudy and overwhelmed. I am lethargic. I find this life unsatisfying. I am uncertain about the Dhamma.”

The Buddha heard of Tissa’s comments from the Sangha members and summoned him for a talk. Tissa went to the Buddha. He bowed in respect and sat to one side.

“Tissa, is it true that you feel lost and uninspired? Is your mind cloudy and overwhelmed? You are lethargic? You find this life unsatisfying? You are uncertain about my Dhamma?”

“Yes, great teacher.”

“Tissa, do you understand that one who is passionate, driven by desire, craving for and clinging to form and sensory satisfaction, will experience sorrow, regret, pain, distress, and despair due to change to form and loss of sensory satisfaction?”

“Yes, I understand, great teacher.”

“Good. This is what follows for one craving for form and sensory satisfaction.”

“Tissa, do you understand that one who is free from passion and released from craving for form and sensory satisfaction does not experience sorrow, regret, pain, distress, and despair due to change to form and loss of sensory satisfaction?”

“Yes, I understand, great teacher.”

“Good. This is what follows for one released from craving for or clinging to form and sensory satisfaction.”

“Tissa, do you understand that one who is released from craving for and clinging to feelings or perceptions or fabrications or consciousness does not experience sorrow, regret, pain, distress, and despair due to change to any of these aggregates?”

“Yes, I understand, great teacher.”

“Good. This is what follows for one released from craving for or clinging to any of these aggregates.”

“Tissa, do you understand that form is impermanent and subject to change? Do you understand that feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness, that all of these five aggregates are impermanent and subject to change?”

“Yes, I understand, great teacher.”

“Tissa, do you understand that what is impermanent, always subject to change, is stressful?”

“Yes, I understand, great teacher.”

“Well, Tissa, is it wise to cling to what is impermanent and stressful through self-identification as ‘this is me, this is mine, this is what I am?”

“No, it is not wise to cling through self-identification to what is impermanent and stressful.”

“Then, Tissa, I teach that any form, feeling, perception, fabrication, or consciousness should be known through wisdom and Right View as ‘this is not me, this is not mine this is not who I am.”

“Train yourself, Tissa, in this manner:

“Any form or feeling or perception of fabrication or consciousness whatsoever that is past, present, or future, whether seen as internal or external, whether obvious or subtle, whether unique or pervasive, whether far or near, should through Right View be known as ‘this is not me, this is not mine this is not who I am.”

“Understanding this, the well-instructed Dhamma practitioner becomes disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feelings, disenchanted with perceptions, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. From disenchantment, passions fade away. Dispassionate, the well-instructed Dhamma practitioner is released from clinging to wrong views.” “With release they know through direct experience ‘I am released.’ Released through their own efforts they know that ‘Birth is ended, life integrated with the Eightfold Path has been completed. There is no further clinging to the world.’

“Friend, Tissa, think of it this way. Imagine two men, one skilled in the Dhamma, and one not. The man unskilled in the Dhamma asks the skilled man to describe the Eightfold Path. The skilled man would answer ‘the path is like this: you walk along and come to a fork in the road. You avoid the left fork and take the right. You walk further and come across a thick forest. Further still is a swamp. Even further you come along a steep cliff. Continuing on the path you arise at a delightful place of spacious and level ground.”

“I tell you this story to teach you that the unskilled man is an ordinary person with no knowledge of my Dhamma. The skilled man is a worthy and Rightly Self-Awakened man. The fork in the road represents uncertainty. The left fork is the wrong eightfold path. This path continues wrong views, wrong intentions, wrong speech, wrong actions, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, and wrong meditation. The right fork is the Noble Eightfold Path. This path develops Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation. The thick forest represents ignorance of Four Noble Truths. The swamp represents sensual desires. The cliff represents anger, resentment, and despair. The delightful place of spacious and level ground represents release from craving for and clinging to wrong views ignorant of Four Noble Truths.”

“Rejoice now, Tissa, rejoice! A Rightly Self-Awakened one is here to inspire you, to guide you, to teach you!”

This is what the Buddha said. Tissa was gratified and delighted at hearing these words.

Class Eleven - Panditavagga - Heartwood For The Wise

INTRODUCTION

In the Panditavagga the Buddha emphasizes the importance of developing true wisdom of how ignorance is established from misunderstanding the Three Marks of Existence. 

Rather than clinging to rituals and practices, the Buddha teaches that the wise simply follow the path of wisdom taught by an awakened human being. Having developed Right View guided by the framework of the Eightfold Path, wise Dhamma practitioners engage with the Dhamma and abandon distracting “dharmas.”

With great courage and profound wisdom, the Buddha understood the cruelty of taking a position of authority and teaching “dharma” simply due to common agreement and to gain followers by teaching rituals and practices that can only distract one from recognizing and abandoning their own ignorance of Four Noble Truths. 

PANDITA VAGGA
DHAMMAPADA 6

It is always beneficial to associate with a wise person who has the courage to point out faults and foolish actions. Follow them as one follows a path to hidden treasure.

The wise who teach the truth, admonish foolishness, and provide true refuge, are criticized by the ignorant. The wise who teach the truth, admonish foolishness, and provide true refuge, are held dear by those seeking Heartwood.

Abandon ignorant associations. Avoid fellowship with fools. Associate with the wise and seek fellowship with noble ones.

The wise are immersed in the Dhamma and live with happiness and tranquility. The wise delight in the Dhamma taught by the Buddha.

A common underlying theme throughout the Buddha’s Dhamma is the singular importance of associating with those that are actually developing the Buddha’s Dhamma and avoiding associating Dhamma practice with those that do not understand or practice the Dhamma. 

Irrigators direct rivers, fletchers straighten arrows. Carpenters shape wood. The wise restrain themselves. 

Modern “dharma” practice has devolved in a way predicted by the Buddha. Most of modern Buddhism is now compulsively developing a “one-size-fits-all” dharma that each individual is encouraged to pick and choose what “feels good” or “feels right” and self-creating, with the encouragement of charismatic dharma teachers, “lineage holders,” and social associations, an individual (self-referential)  Buddhist ” practice. The resulting “dharma” practice ignores the very foundations of the Buddha’s Dharma and avoids gaining skillful insight into the Three Marks Of Existence.  

A rock lies undisturbed by the wind. The wise remain unmoved by praise or blame.

Like a deep and pure lake, the wise hear the true Dhamma and are perfectly purified.

The wise renounce all clinging. The wise do not talk foolishly of their desires. The wise remain calm through happiness or sorrow.

One is indeed virtuous, righteous, and wise who refrain from any wrong-doing for themselves or others. One is indeed virtuous, righteous, and wise who do not crave for sons, wealth, power, or undeserved success.

Few people will complete the path and cross the farther shore. Most will run up and down the near shore.

Common during the Buddha’s teaching career and today are “seekers” practicing only what feels good, is encouraged by common agreement, and allows for ignorance to continue by “running up and down the near shore.”

The wise practicing the perfectly taught Heartwood will cross the realm of death – so difficult to cross.

Heartwood refers to the Eightfold Path. “The realm of Death” refers to living a human life in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Living in ignorance of the reality of Four Noble Truths ignores life itself.

The wise cultivate the Eightfold Path and abandon the dark paths born of ignorance. Leaving behind entanglements with the world the wise delight in their freedom. Abandoning sensual pleasure, free of clinging, the wise cleanse themselves of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking.

In general, modern Buddhism is enthralled with, and teaches the Bodhisattva path that substitutes salvific dogma for the Eightfold Path. The Bodhisattva path when looked at from the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path encourages entanglements with the “world” and encourages continuing the three defilements of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking.

Those who have fully developed the Heartwood, who have renounced craving, who now rejoice in pure detachment, free of the fetters, brilliant in their wisdom, they are called Rightly Self-Awakened right here and now.

“Right here and now” refers to the immediate nature of the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha taught an Eightfold Path that brings awakening – full human maturity – in the present lifetime.

Class Twelve - Appamadavagga - Refined Mindfulness

INTRODUCTION

This text is from the second chapter of the Dhammapada. It is called the Appamadavagga and teaches the importance of Right Mindfulness. Many translations substitute heedfulness for mindfulness. The Buddha used the more direct term mindfulness to signify the importance of knowing what to hold in mind and what to recognize as fabricated and therefore abandon. This is the purpose of the Eightfold Path and requires the singular meditation method taught by the Buddha in order to develop Jhana. 

By developing Right Mindfulness a wise Dhamma practitioner learns the wisdom of restraint and avoids the self-inflicted pain of identifying with, and reacting to, ordinary phenomena. 

The Buddha taught Four Foundations of Mindfulness that are the foundation for Jhana and Right Meditation. This Refined Mindfulness is developed to then be mindful of the Heartwood of the Dhamma – The Eightfold Path, and other supportive themes of the Buddha’s Dhamma.

 

APPAMADAVAGGA
DHAMMAPADA 2

Mindfulness is the path to cessation. Those mindful do not suffer. Those mindful have gone beyond suffering.

Clearly knowing the excellence of mindfulness, the wise, exulting in mindfulness and the refuge of Noble Ones.

The wise ones, established in Jhana, steadfast in the Heartwood, they alone are released, freedom beyond compare.

Glorious are those energetic, pure, discerning rightly, restrained, always mindful.

Mindful of Right Effort, a disciple of Heartwood, the wise are an island unto themselves that no flood can overwhelm.

Here again, the Buddha is emphasizing the importance of maintaining focus and direction on the Eightfold Path and avoiding the distraction of adapting, accommodating, and embellishing his Dhamma in any manner.

The foolish and ignorant crave mindlessness, the wise know this one treasure.

Mindlessness is holding in mind false and distorting ‘dharmas’ and maintaining any self-referential views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Refrain from mindlessness. Refrain from sensual pleasures. Only those established in Jhana and Refined Mindfulness attain lasting calm.

The wise, looking down from the mountaintop of wisdom, having abandoned mindlessness, established in mindfulness, this peaceful sage observes the foolish and suffering multitude.

Mindful among the mindless, awake among those asleep, the wise advance like a swift horse.

By mindfulness is one exalted. Mindfulness is always praised by the wise, mindlessness always despised.

The Dhamma practitioner who delights in mindfulness and is fearful of mindlessness advances like fire burning away all fetters.

The Buddha offers encouragement knowing the courage needed to abandon foolish entanglements and focus only on his Dhamma.

The Dhamma practitioner who delights in mindfulness and is fearful of mindlessness will not lose the way. They are close to release.

Established in Right Mindfulness a Dhamma practitioner becomes unbound from wrong views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and avoids the many common distractions prevalent in modern Buddhism By Common Agreement and maintains the clear and direct path to understanding

Class Thirteen - Samadhanga Sutta - Five Factors Of Concentration

INTRODUCTION

This introduction provides the necessary context for understanding Jhana and is common to the following suttas:  Aṭṭhakanāgara Sutta, Anupada Sutta, Rahogata Sutta, Jhana Sutta, Jambālī Sutta, and the  Samādhaṅga Sutta. 

As with all of the Buddha’s teachings, Jhana Meditation must be seen within the overarching context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths to be useful and practically applicable.

The Buddha “awakened” to the profound understanding that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that is the requisite condition for fabrications. Fabrications are the glue that binds confused thinking to ignorance, obscures reality, and establishes stress, disappointment, and suffering – Dukkha – as the common human experience.  Jhana means meditative absorption. The Buddha teaches, in a general way,  four levels of meditative absorption, or deepening concentration. As can be seen here, these four levels are not in a practical sense strictly defined. A mediator gently flows from the first to the fourth Jhana as a direct development of Jhana meditation as the Buddha teaches meditation. The four levels of meditative absorption can and should be mindfully observed as concentration increases.

The four levels of Jhana are impermanent and are taught by the Buddha to provide a skillful means to notice ever-increasing levels of meditative absorption.

Jhana practice is not to be seen as anything extraordinary or the levels of Jhana unattainable. Jhana meditation is extraordinary in developing concentration and entirely ordinary to those actually developing the Buddha’s Dhamma.

Jhana meditation is not another opportunity for fabricating experience through continued confusion or continued desire encouraged by misguided instruction.  

Free of grasping after, these four levels of meditative absorption are a clear indication that Jhana meditation is actually developing concentration while avoiding creating further distraction due to fabricated methods. This aspect of Right View then remains free of conceit – I-making –  that would otherwise create confusion, contradiction, frustration, and distraction within Jhana meditation practice.

The sequencing of the additional descriptions of non-physical meditative experience that follows the descriptions of four levels of Jhana should not be seen as “advanced” levels of meditation as is commonly presented, and certainly not as levels of meditative achievement. These fabricated non-physical meditation experiences often mischaracterized as advanced levels of meditation were part of the doctrines of Siddartha Gotama’s early teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta.  

Having mastered these fabricated common meditation techniques, he immediately dismissed them as they “do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, or to unbinding. This (method) only seeks to establish a (fabricated) reappearance in the dimension of nothingness” (or in the dimensions of neither perception nor non-perception, or infinite space, or infinite consciousness, or any other fabricated non-physical self-reference.)

When seen in the proper context, any attempt to establish a “self” in speculative non-physical realms including imaginary realms of “emptiness” or “nothingness” or a “non-dual existence,” is abandoned as these methods are seen as misguided strategies to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths.    

Confusing a concentration practice with a practice that teaches meditative achievement as self-establishment in non-physical imaginary realms can only continue ignorance of Four Noble Truths and continued I-making. These modern “meditation” practices completely contradict the Buddha’s Dhamma and the stated purpose of his Dhamma.   

The realization that it is a lack of concentration that results in a grasping and clinging mind, is an insight Siddartha developed prior to his awakening. As such, he could have taught to simply avoid any fabricated non-physical self-reference. One of the break-throughs of understanding Siddartha had was skillful insight into the powerful but very subtle strategies that a mind rooted in ignorance will develop and cling to in order to continue ignorance. As common during the Buddha’s time as in our own, “dharmas” that encourage meditation practices that teach subtle but convenient methods for ignoring ignorance are common, unskillful, and cruel.   

With profound wisdom, the Buddha realized the attraction of continuing self-establishment in fabricated non-physical realms. He understood that the most effective method of understanding the foolishness of these doctrines that encouraged continued I-making would be to explain these common experiences in the context of Jhana meditation. In this way, Jhana meditation de-mystifies these non-physical fabrications. When seen in the proper context as ordinary fabrications these wrong views are simply recognized and abandoned.

The Buddha typically told his followers to “Go find the root of a tree or an empty hut and do Jhana.” This was the instruction on establishing seclusion as the proper environment for a meditation practice with the purpose of developing ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption.

Jhana meditation is the only meditation method the Buddha taught.  Jhana meditation is established in the Satipatthana Sutta, the primary sutta on Four Foundations of Mindfulness, and the suttas here on Jhana (and many others). 

It is the initial section of the Satipatthana Sutta that is instruction for increasing concentration and calming the mind by becoming mindful of the breath in the body. This is the First Foundation of Mindfulness that begins the process of Jhana – of developing concentration. The second and third foundations of mindfulness continue the establishment of concentration by ending distractions arising from reacting to, or clinging to feelings and thoughts as they arise and pass away, always returning mindfulness to the breath.

The instruction found in the Satipatthana Sutta relates directly to the four levels of Jhana. In this way, using meditation for continuing to grasp after any fabricated self-establishment is clearly recognized and gently abandoned. By avoiding the distraction that would arise by reacting to feelings and thoughts, or seeking imaginary self-establishment in non-physical realms, the joy of seclusion and deepening concentration is established and recognized.

As concentration increases, directed thought and evaluation is abandoned and a pleasant abiding is established. This relates to the fourth foundation of mindfulness – being at peace with the present quality of mind. This quality of mind is known as equanimity and gradually increases as Jhana meditation continues within the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path. (See below for an explanation of Directed Thought and Evaluation)

The remaining sections of the Satipatthana Sutta then show how to apply ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption to other significant themes of the Dhamma. The entire Satipatthana Sutta is not meant as meditation instruction which becomes obvious when seen in the proper context of the Buddha’s Dhamma as detailed here.

The Buddha’s Dhamma reunites the mind and body and overcomes the self-identification seeking to establish a “self” in fabricated magical, mystical, and imaginary planes of physical non-existence.

(I use the term physical non-existence as it accurately depicts the grasping present in ascetic practices that hope to free the mind from the body using extreme self-denial. These were practices Siddartha Gotama mastered and abandoned as ‘painful distracting, ignoble, and not leading to knowledge, wisdom, or release.’)   

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. These forms of “meditation” will distract a confused mind further and continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Impermanent and ever-changing phenomena now becomes the sole focus of “Insight” or “Mindfulness” while avoiding the singular purpose of meditation – to increase concentration.

When seen in the overarching context of the Buddha’s Dhamma and in the context of engaging in Jhana meditation solely for deepening concentration, grasping after self-establishment in imaginary and fabricated mind-states is seen clearly as intentional distraction used to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

As concentration increases refined mindfulness is established supporting the integration of the Eightfold Path developing a profound understanding of the Three Marks of existence.  

  • 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.  
  • 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.
  • Samsara is the continued state of ignorance prone to confused, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment.

In the Samadhanga Sutta, the Buddha teaches the Five Noble Factors of Concentration that relate directly to ever-increasing levels of Jhana or Meditative Absorption.

The Six Superior Understandings developed as a result of proper meditative absorption are often portrayed as “six higher knowledges” and presented in mystical and supernormal terms. The Buddha taught a self-contained and complete Dhamma practice which avoids magical and mystical thinking or magical and mystical extraordinary intervention.

Six Superior Understandings:

  1. Knowledge of personal suffering and the impermanence of Five Clinging Aggregates ie.: the arising and passing away of all phenomena.   
  2. Knowledge of the Six-Sense Base. From Superior Understanding, the Six-Sense-Base is now the ground of meaningful and mindful presence seeing clearly the manifestation of refined mindfulness, or continued ignorance.   
  3. Knowledge of the suffering of others.
  4. Knowledge of the true and useful meaning of Karma and the ignorance that continues suffering.  
  5. Knowledge of Rebirth resulting from continued ignorance. 
  6. Knowledge of the proper application of the Dhamma and the results, or lack thereof, of a properly developed and entirely integrated Eightfold Path.  

This sutta (and many others) also show the importance of recognizing adaptations, accommodations,  and embellishments to the Buddha’s simple, direct, and highly effective meditation method in deepening concentration. As the Buddha teaches, using Jhana meditation time on practices that are more accurately described as contemplation, or using deity visualization or worship, chanting, excessive bowing, or the use of sensory stimulations such as the ritualistic burning of incense or playing “meditation” music, cannot lead to the development of ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption – ever-deepening levels of jhana.

When looked at mindfully and in the overarching context of the Buddha’s Dhamma all of these adaptations, accommodations, and embellishments are often imaginary, and always impermanent phenomena.

No understanding can develop from that which is inherently impermanent and is clearly prone to continuing  the Three Defilements of craving, aversion, and deluded thinking.

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 what is inherently prone to confusion, delusion, and ongoing disappointment.  In addition, using rituals and practices that are themselves rooted in craving, aversion, and delusion and inherently impermanent and ever-changing, that reinforce self-identification, and are shrouded behind the veil of ongoing ignorance. 

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 foundation 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 the profound understanding from recognizing “spiritual” or “religious” practices that constitute an ignoble search, and then, through a clear and well-concentrated mind was able to realize what constitutes a true Noble Search.

In this way, it becomes obvious that the meditation method and 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.

As will be seen, this sutta is remarkable in the scope of underlying Dhamma referenced.

 

SAMĀDHAṄGA SUTTA
ANGUTTARA NIKAYA 5:28

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

“Friends, I will teach you Five-Factored Noble Concentration. Listen and pay close attention.”

“And what is Five-Factored Noble Concentration?”

“A follower of the Noble Eightfold Path is quite secluded from sensuality and other unskillful mental qualities. They 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. The joy of seclusion permeates their entire mind and body.”

Unskillful mental qualities are any qualities of mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths prone to greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. As a meditator is mindful of their breath they are, in this moment, free of unskillful qualities.

“It is as if one poured bath powder into a brass basin. Kneading the powder into the water, sprinkling more and more powder forming a ball of bath powder saturated and moisture-laden. It would, nevertheless, not lose a drop of its own substance. This is how a follower of the Noble Eightfold Path permeates their entire mind and body from the joy born of seclusion. This is the first development of the Five-Factored Noble Concentration.”

The Buddha would often instruct the meditator to “Find the root of a tree or an empty hut and do Jhana.” The first jhana is the initial quieting of the mind developed from seclusion, solitude, as the meditator becomes mindful of the breath in the body. 

“Furthermore, as the stilling of directed thought and evaluation, they 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, the joy of concentration permeates their entire mind and body.”

From the initial calming established in seclusion noticeable concentration increases.

“It is as if a lake with no inflow is filled with spring-water welling up within, and from abundant showers. The cool water welling up from within the lake would permeate and fill the entire lake. This is how a follower of the Noble Eightfold Path permeates their entire mind and body from the joy born of concentration. This is the second development of the Five-Factored Noble Concentration.”

“Furthermore, as rapture fades, they remain equanimous, mindful, alert, sensitive to pleasure. They 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.”

Concentration continues to increase establishing a peaceful abiding.

“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 their tip never standing above the surface. This is how a follower of the Noble Eightfold Path permeates their entire mind and body from the joy born of the fading of rapture.  This pleasant abiding permeates their entire mind and body. This is the third development of the Five-Factored Noble Concentration.”

“Furthermore, with the abandoning of evaluation, they enter and remain in the Fourth Jhana which is pure equanimity. Being pure, neither pleasure nor pain is seen. They sit permeated in mind and body with pure, bright awareness.”

Increased concentration now supports the balanced mental quality of pure equanimity characterized as free of passion. Being free of passion, refined mindfulness is characterized as bright awareness.

“It is as if one were sitting head to toe in a white cloth – their entire body covered. This is how a follower of the Noble Eightfold Path permeates their entire mind and body with pure, bright awareness.  This is the fourth development of the Five-Factored Noble Concentration.”

“Furthermore, this follower of the Noble Eightfold Path has refined mindfulness well-established. Their mindfulness is attended to, understood, and well-penetrated by wise discernment.”

Knowing the unsurpassed value of Right or Refined Mindfulness, one continues to engage in Right Effort maintaining and nurturing continued refined mindfulness. 

“It is as if this person, when sitting knew another as standing or when standing knew another as lying down. So too, this follower of the Noble Eightfold Path has refined mindfulness well-established. Their mindfulness is attended to, understood, and well-penetrated by wise discernment. This is the fifth development of the Five-Factored Noble Concentration.”

“When a follower of the Noble Eightfold Path has pursued and developed this Five-Factored Noble Concentration they have mastered the Six Superior Understandings:”

“This person thinks what they want whenever they want and does not think what is unskillful.”

“Through appropriate mindfulness, they understand the suffering of many from understanding their own suffering. They understand the arising and passing away of the aggregates.”

I use “appropriate mindfulness” or “when appropriate”  where some translations use the ambiguous phrase  “whenever there is an opening.“ Appropriate mindfulness has a more direct reference to the Buddha’s description of his own awakening from the Nagara Sutta:  “from my appropriate mindfulness came a breakthrough of understanding.” 

“From lack of clinging they are spacious, free, unbounded. Unimpeded, their form has no boundaries and no self-distinction. This occurs to a practitioner whenever they are mindful and well-concentrated.”

Released from wrong views there is no establishment of self “here, there, or anywhere in between.” 

“Their ear-consciousness unbound, restrained, sounds are unfettered and unsurpassed. This occurs to a practitioner whenever they are mindful and well-concentrated.” 

“When appropriate, mindful and well-concentrated, they understand the mindfulness and concentration of others.”

  • They know a mind with passion as a mind with passion.
  • They know a mind without passion as a mind without passion.
  • They know a mind of aversion as a mind of aversion.
  • They know a mind free of aversion as a mind free of aversion.
  • They know a deluded mind as a deluded mind.
  • They know a mind free of delusion as a mind free of delusion.
  • They know a restricted mind as a restricted mind.
  • They know a mind free of restriction mind as a mind free of restriction.
  • They know a spacious mind as a spacious mind.
  • They know a constricted mind as a constricted mind.
  • They know a refined mind as a refined mind.
  • They know an unrefined mind as an unrefined mind.
  • They know a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind.
  • They know a distracted mind as a distracted mind.
  • They know a mind released from ignorance as a mind released from ignorance.
  • They know a mind clinging to ignorance as a mind clinging to ignorance.

These qualities of profound understanding of one’s own mind as well as the mental qualities of others is often portrayed as clairvoyance when this is simply a natural awareness of an awakened human being.

“They know for themselves a well-concentrated mind supporting refined mindfulness.”

“They know the arising and the passing away of bodies within the continuation of endless samsara. They understand their associations to people and the circumstances of wandering in ignorance. They know Karma and the know rebirth.” 

“Their eye-consciousness unbound, restrained, they see clearly the continuation of others bound to endless samsara according to their Karma. They understand the suffering of others rooted in bad conduct arising from wrong views. They understand those bound to wrong views are also bound to continued suffering.”

“Furthermore, Their eye-consciousness unbound, restrained, they see clearly the arising and passing away of others bound to endless samsara according to their Karma. They understand the release of others rooted in good conduct arising from Right Views. They understand those released from wrong views are also released from continued suffering.” 

The Buddha describes Awakened Right View as having a profound and penetrative understanding of suffering relating directly to Four Noble Truths:

  • 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  

“Thus, from establishing this Five-Factored Concentration they enter and remain free of the defilements of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. They are mindful of their release through direct experience right here and now.”

“They know this for themselves due to a well-concentrated mind supporting refined mindfulness.” 

That is what the Buddha said. Gratified, those assembled were delighted in the Buddha’s words.

Freeedom Of The Middle WQay - Emerging From Lockdown - Two Arrowes

INTRODUCTION

For a complete understanding of the Buddha’s Dhamma referenced herein within the scope and context intended, please read “Foundations Of The Buddha’s Dhamma” on our Home Page: Becoming-Buddha.com.

In the Sallatha Sutta, the Buddha uses the metaphor 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.

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.”

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

Noticing the arising, the allure, the drawbacks and the passing away of ordinary phenomena is also taught as the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. 

“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.” 

End Of Sutta

Class Fourteen - Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta - The Not-Self Characteristic

INTRODUCTION

The following is an excerpt from my book Becoming Buddha. 

The Not-Self Characteristic and The Five Clinging-Aggregates – The Buddha’s Second Discourse

The Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta explains how a wrong view of self arises and how the interrelationship between this wrong view of self within an ever-changing environment results in ongoing suffering.

 

THE ANATTA LAKKHANA SUTTA 

SAMYUTTA NIKAYA 22.59 

On one occasion the Buddha was staying at Benares, in the Deer Park at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five (now) Bhikkhus: 

“Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to suffering, and one could have it be any form desired, and be stress-free. Since form is not-self it leads to suffering and none can have it be any form desired and be stress-free. 

“Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self, as perceptions are not-self. Fabrications are not-self. Consciousness is not-self. If these aggregates were self they would not lead to suffering and one could direct these aggregates as one wished. Since these are not-self they can only lead to suffering and no one can have these (aggregates) be as they wish. 

“Bhikkhus, how do you perceive this: is form permanent or impermanent?” The five replied ”Impermanent, venerable Sir.” 

“Now is what is impermanent, painful, or pleasant?” 

“Painful, venerable Sir.” 

“Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, is this fit to be regarded as: ‘This is mine, this is I, this is my self?’  

“No, venerable sir.” 

“Is feeling permanent or impermanent? Is perception permanent or impermanent? Are fabrications permanent or impermanent? Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?” 

“All are impermanent, venerable sir.” 

“Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since it is subject to change, is this fit to be regarded as: ‘This is mine, this is I, this is my self’”? 

“No, venerable sir.” 

“So, bhikkhus any kind of form whatever,

whether past, future or presently arisen,

whether gross or subtle,

whether in oneself or external,

whether inferior or superior,

whether far or near,

must, with right understanding of how it actually is, be regarded as: ‘This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.’ 

“And so it follows that any kind of feeling whatever,

any kind of perception, any kind of determination,

any kind of consciousness whatever,

whether past, future or presently arisen,

whether gross or subtle,

whether in oneself or external,

whether inferior or superior,

whether far or near

must, with right understanding of how it actually is, be regarded as: ‘This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.’ 

“Bhikkhus, when a noble follower who has heard the truth sees in this way,

they find estrangement in form,

they find estrangement in feeling,

they find estrangement in perception,

they find estrangement in determinations,

they find estrangement in consciousness. 

“When they find estrangement, passion fades out. With the fading of passion, they are liberated. When liberated, there is knowledge that they are liberated. They understand: ‘Birth is exhausted, the integrated life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond.” 

Now during this discourse, the hearts and minds of the bhikkhus were liberated from craving, aversion, and deluded thinking. 

Commentary

In most translations the phrase ‘integrated life’ is referred to as ‘holy life.’ The Buddha did not intend to start a new religion. He taught an Eightfold Path to be integrated in one’s life in order to Become Buddha: Become Awakened.

As a result of whole-hearted engagement with the Eightfold Path disenchantment with the ego-self, with Anatta, with the Five Clinging-Aggregates is developed. From disenchantment with the Five Clinging-Aggregates comes the cessation of the compulsive need to continually establish an ego-personality. 

Once disenchantment is established the process of unbinding begins. The cessation of delusion, confusion, and continued unsatisfactoriness is now possible. 

The simplest way to describe the Buddha’s teaching on Not-self is this: anything that the ego-self clings to, whether objects, people, events, views, or ideas,  or craving through the pursuit of happiness, through acquisition of objects, people, events, views, or ideas, will create confusion, disenchantment and lasting unhappiness. 

The futility of creating self-identity by clinging to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas becomes apparent. Following this initial Right View the Right Intention is generated to recognize and abandon craving and clinging rooted in ignorance. 

Still another way to see this is by definition and association. The self is defined by attachments. Association is another word for attachments. Who is associated with and what is associated with defines the experience of “self.” This does not mean that there should be no associations. It does show the importance of being mindful of all associations and to not attempt to make what is impermanent permanent. 

Do associations support developing understanding within the framework of The Eightfold Path? Do associations cause confusion and suffering through validation of unskillful actions? 

The Eightfold Path provides a highly effective framework for guiding associations and focus for practice. As clinging to an ego-personality ceases, self-identification through associations also ceases. 

It is within Dhamma practice – when developing the Eightfold Path – that wise associations are most important. 

Once clinging is recognized and abandoned, one no longer clings to others. This brings the ability to be mindfully present in the world and with others with no expectations or insistence that life, or the people in our lives, including ourselves, be any different from what is occurring. 

All aspects of self are impermanent and any conditioned thought or thought construct that attempts to distract from this truth is also clinging, specifically clinging to views and ideas. Clinging to views and ideas maintains the distraction of stress and generates Karma. 

Anatta, not-self, continually seeks to establish itself in impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas. This is the purpose of the phenomenal world and why the ego-self is so enamored with the world. As long as anatta continues this quest, confusion and suffering will prevail. As long as anatta continues this quest, Karma will continue. 

Due to an unquenched desire for self-referential existence, the ego-personality creates Karma. Karma unfolds moment-by-moment as the distraction of stress and unhappiness. Though physical form will change according to impermanence, Karma continues the experience of stress and unhappiness. 

This is an important example of impermanence as impermanence relates to anatta. Continuity is not permanence although continuity obscures impermanence and the not-self characteristic. Continuity is reoccurrence due to repeatedly recreating the conditions leading to an experience. Continued re-establishment of an ego-self obscures impermanence resulting in a wrong view of a permanently sustainable self. 

Reoccurring life situations and intellectual or emotional reactions are simply an impermanent, but repetitive, and discursive, product of discriminating consciousness, or conditioned mind. Conditioned thinking and conditioned mind is formed due to ignorance of impermanence, maintained by the distraction of stress, and given validity by an ego-personality. 

The fabrication of self-referential continuity caused by a clinging conditioned mind is ongoing Dukkha. 

Once the pain associated with clinging to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas is recognized and abandoned further becoming rooted in ignorance comes to cessation. 

What is perceived as a permanent self is, in reality, in a constant process of becoming. Each moment holds the potential for future becoming. A mind rooted in ignorance can only become further ignorant. A mind framed by the Eightfold Path has the potential to become awakened, to Become Buddha.

Class Fifteen - Dhatu-Vibhanga Sutta - Nothing Personal, A Buddha’s Analysis Of self

INTRODUCTION

The significance and proper application of the Dhatu-Vibhanga Sutta will be lost if the context provided by a clear understanding of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths is ignored. 

Overall, this sutta shows the Buddha’s view on the complete and impersonal ordinariness of human life. The objects of life that are constantly personalized though self-identification are shown to be common, fleeting, and having no substance worth self-identification.

This sutta should be seen as a broad and far-reaching analysis of Five Clinging-Aggregates and how ignorance of Four Noble Truths creates fabricated views and an ongoing personalized experience of stress and sufferings. 

In this sutta, the Buddha describes the six properties that constitute a person. Notice that there is no reference to a soul, or ground of being, or inner Buddha-Nature or Buddha -Hood, all themes common to modern Buddhism. As shown in this sutta, and many others, these are all aspects of fabricated self-identification craving for self-establishment in imaginary and speculative non-physical realms. As taught by the Buddha, the craving for self-establishment in these imaginary and speculative non-physical realms are to be seen clearly as fabrications arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Understanding this most profound sutta relieves the fear and aversion that arises from the desire for continued self-establishment in impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas fabricated from ignorance of Four Noble Truths. This fear born of desire often gives rise to clinging tenaciously to fabricated views of what Buddhism should be and results in the many adaptations, accommodations, and embellishments to the Buddha’s Dhamma common to modern Buddhism. 

In the Nagara Sutta, the Buddha describes the singular importance of recognizing that it is self-referential views stuck in ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths that results in common and pervasive human suffering. After six years wandering Northern India seeking understanding, Siddartha Gotama finally realized that it was self-referential views craving for and clinging to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas that originate and continue confused and deluded thinking and ongoing stress and suffering. 

The Buddha taught one path, an Eightfold Path, that provides the framework and ongoing guidance to recognize and abandon all self-referential views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.  The Buddha shows in this sutta the great freedom and calm that is developed through becoming “Rightly Self-Awakened.” 

 

DHATU-VIBHANGA SUTTA
MAJJHIMA NIKAYA 140

On one occasion the Buddha was wandering among the Magadhans. He entered Rajagaha and went to the potter Bhaggava. He asked Bhaggava “If it is no inconvenience for you, friend, I will stay for one night in your shed.”

“It is no inconvenience for me but the wanderer Pukkusati has already taken up residence there. If he gives his permission, you may stay there as you like.”

Pukkusati, a fellow Sakyan, had gone forth into homelessness and was developing the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha approached Pukkusati and asked him if he could stay one night in his shed.

Pukkusati replied, “This shed is roomy my friend, stay as you like.”

The Buddha entered the shed and sat on a pile of leaves and grass. Folding his legs crosswise and holding his body erect he set mindfulness to the fore and began Jhana. Pukkusati joined him in meditation for most of the evening.

As morning approached, the Buddha had the thought “How inspiring Pukkusati behaves! Let me question him on his understanding.

“Venerable Pukkusati, out of dedication to whom have you gone forth? Who is your teacher and whose dhamma are you practicing?”

“My teacher is Gotama the contemplative, a Sakyan son. He is known far and wide as a Buddha, a rightly self-awakened one who is consummate and clear knowing and of pure conduct. He is an expert of worldly affairs, and the unsurpassed teacher of those fit to be taught. I have gone forth with dedication to him as my teacher and it is his Dhamma that I am practicing.”

“Friend Pukkusati, where is the Buddha staying now?”

“Wanderer, I have heard that the Buddha is in Savatthi.”

“Have you met the Buddha, would you recognize him?.”

“No, I have never met the Buddha and I would not recognize him.”

The Buddha understood Pukkusati’s devotion. Without identifying himself he said to Pukkusati “I will teach you the Dhamma, friend. Listen and pay close attention as I speak.

“A person has six properties, six media of sensory contact leading to eighteen distinct considerations. Furthermore, a well-focused Dhamma practitioner establishes four wise determinations. Having established these four wise determinations this one has stilled the distraction of fabricated speculation and supposition. When the distraction of fabricated speculation and supposition has stilled, this one is said to be a sage at peace. A well-focused Dhamma practitioner should not neglect wise discernment, should always guard the truth, should always be devoted to unbinding, and train their minds only for calm.

“This is my summary and analysis of these six properties:

  1. The earth property.
  2. The liquid property.
  3. The fire property.
  4. The wind property.
  5. The space property.
  6. The consciousness property.

“A person has these six properties.

“Furthermore, a person has six media of sensory contact:

  1. The eye.
  2. The ear.
  3. The nose.
  4. The tongue.
  5. The body.
  6. The intellect.

“A person has these six media of sensory contact. (The Six Sense-Base)

“Furthermore, a person has eighteen considerations:

  • On seeing form with the eye, one considers form as a basis for pleasure, or form as a basis for disappointment, or form as a basis for equanimity.
  • On hearing sound with the ear, one considers sound as a basis for pleasure, or sound as a basis for disappointment, or sound as a basis for equanimity.
  • On smelling an aroma with the nose, one considers aroma as a basis for pleasure, or aroma as a basis for disappointment, or aroma as a basis for equanimity.
  • On tasting flavor with the tongue, one considers taste as a basis for pleasure, or taste as a basis for disappointment, or taste as a basis for equanimity.
  • On feeling a tactile sensation with the body, one considers feeling as a basis for pleasure, or feeling as a basis for disappointment, or feeling as a basis for equanimity.
  • On cognizing an idea with the intellect, one considers the idea as a basis for pleasure, or the idea as a basis for disappointment, or the idea as a basis for equanimity.

“These are the six considerations that are conducive to pleasure, six considerations that are conducive to disappointment, and six considerations that are conducive to equanimity. A person has these eighteen considerations.

“Furthermore, a wise Dhamma practitioner has four determinations:

1.The determination for discernment.

2.The determination for truth.

3.The determination for relinquishment.

4.The determination for calm.

“A wise Dhamma practitioner has these four determinations.

The first determination is in reference to awakened Right View: A profound and penetrating understanding of stress and suffering. The second determination refers to developing understanding of Four Noble Truths that supports Right View. The third determination is the relinquishment of craving for and clinging to all self-referential and fabricated views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. The fourth determination refers to the culmination of the Buddha’s Eightfold Path and the establishment of a calm mind free of the agitation and distraction of ignorance.

“A Dhamma practitioner should not neglect discernment, should guard the truth, be devoted to relinquishment, and train only for calm.

“And how does one not neglect discernment? Through mindfulness of the six properties:

“And what is the earth property? The earth property can be internal or external. The internal earth property is anything within oneself that is hard, solid, and sustained by craving – head, hair, body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, membranes, spleen, lungs, intestines, contents of the stomach, feces, and anything else internal within oneself that’s hard solid and sustained by craving. This is called the internal earth property. Both internal earth property and external earth property are simply earth property.

“Internal and external properties are simply one property” refers to the confused and magical thinking that would establish a self both internally as physical form and externally in non-physical imaginary realms. The common compulsion of establishing a self in external, non-physical form is explained further on as simply continued fabrication. Any ideological and imaginary self-referential establishment is fabricated self-establishment, occurring only in the mind. This type of fabricated compulsive thinking continues distraction and can only support becoming further ignorant of Four Noble Truths.

The reference here and below to “sustained by craving refers to self-identification with the impermanent, common, and ordinary physical phenomena mentioned. Seeing this clearly, one can understand that there is nothing unique or personal about any of these impermanent phenomena. This understanding supports the cessation of establishing and defining a “self” through self-reference and clinging to ordinary, common, and impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas. This teaching and sutta show the only useful and non-distracting insight the Buddha teaches – insight into Three Marks Of Existence.

“This is how the earth property should be seen by one with right discernment: ‘this is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am, this is not my self.’ When one sees this as it has come to be with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the earth property and, through lack of sustenance, the earth property fades from the mind. 

It is craving for and clinging to self-referential views ignorant of Four Noble Truths that sustain self-identification with any and all of these properties.

“And what is the liquid property? The liquid property can be internal or external. The internal liquid property is anything belonging to oneself that is liquid, watery, and sustained by craving – bile, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, oil, saliva, mucus, urine, and anything else internal, within oneself that is liquid, watery, and sustained by craving. This is called the internal liquid property. Both internal and external liquid property are simply liquid property.

“This is how the liquid property should be seen by one with right discernment: ‘this is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am, this is not my self.’ When one sees this as it has come to be with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the liquid property and, through lack of sustenance, the liquid property fades from the mind.

“And what is the fire property? The fire property can be internal or external. The internal fire property is anything belonging to oneself that is fire, fiery, and sustained by craving. The internal fire property is that by which the body is warmed, ages, consumed by fever, that which is eaten, drunk, chewed, and savored that is digested, or anything else internal, within oneself, that is fire, fiery and sustained, is called the internal fire property. Both internal and external fire property are simply fire property.

“This is how the fire property should be seen by one with right discernment: ‘this is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am, this is not my self.’ When one sees this as it has come to be with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the fire property and, through lack of sustenance, the fire property fades from the mind.

“And what is the wind property? The wind property can be internal or external. The internal wind property is anything belonging to oneself that is wind, windy, and sustained by craving. The internal wind property is rising or falling wind, wind in the stomach, wind in the intestines, wind that courses through the body, in-and-out breathing, or anything else internal, within oneself, that is wind, windy and sustained, is called the internal wind property. Both internal and external wind property are simply wind property.

“This is how the wind property should be seen by one with right discernment: ‘this is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am, this is not my self.’ When one sees this as it has come to be with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the wind property and, through lack of sustenance, the wind property fades from the mind.

“And what is the space property? The space property can be internal or external. The internal space property is anything belonging to oneself that is space, spatial, and sustained by craving. The internal space property is the holes of the ears, the nostrils, the mouth, the throat passage whereby what is eaten, drunk, consumed, and tasted gets swallowed, and where it collects, and whereby it is excreted from the body, or anything else internal, within oneself, that is space, spatial, and sustained. This is called the internal space property. Both the internal and external space property are simply space property.

“This is how the space property should be seen by one with right discernment: ‘this is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am, this is not my self.’ When one sees this as it has come to be with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the space property and, through lack of sustenance, the space property fades from the mind.

“And what is the consciousness property? Consciousness free of fabrication remains pure and bright. What is perceived by consciousness? One perceives pleasure. One perceives pain. One perceives neither pleasure nor pain.

In dependence on sensory contact that is to be felt as pleasure, there arises a feeling of pleasure. (Due to self-identification)  One perceives ‘I am sensing a feeling of pleasure.’

“That is to be felt” refers to holding the intention for self-identification with whatever is the focus of desire.

In dependence on sensory contact that is to be felt as pain, there arises a feeling of pain. (Due to self-identification)  One perceives ‘I am sensing a feeling of pain.’

In dependence on sensory contact that is to be felt as neither pleasure nor pain, there arises a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain. (Due to self-identification)  One perceives ‘I am sensing neither pleasure nor pain.’

“Neither pleasure nor pain” is a feeling of disinterest, ambiguity, boredom – characteristic of a mind disjoined from its body.

“Through refined mindfulness, one understands that with the cessation (of self-identification) of that very sensory contact the feeling of pleasure has arisen independently of that contact. What is to be felt as pleasure ceases– is stilled (Through restraint and lack of self-reference).

By developing restraint at the six sense-base one is able to remain well-concentrated and mindful of what is occurring and simply observe the arising and passing away of ordinary and impersonal phenomena. The result of the development of restraint at the six sense-base is a mind established in Right View.

“Through refined mindfulness, one understands that with the cessation (of self-identification) of that very sensory contact the feeling of pain has arisen independently of that contact. What is to be felt as pain ceases– is stilled.

“Through refined mindfulness, one understands that with the cessation (of self-identification) of that very sensory contact the feeling of neither pleasure nor pain has arisen independently of that contact. What is to be felt as neither pleasure nor pain ceases– is stilled. 

Understanding the process of how a mind ignorant of Four Noble Truths fabricates wrong views of “self” brings an understanding of the Buddha’s meaning of “Anatta” – the Not-Self Characteristic.

“Just as when two sticks are brought together and agitated, heat and fire are born dependent on contact and agitation. When the sticks are separated and the agitation ceases, heat subsides and fire is extinguished.

“In this same manner, an agitated mind, lacking concentration, in dependence on contact will feel feelings of pleasure, or feelings of pain, or feelings of neither pleasure nor pain.

“A wise Dhamma Practitioner understands that with the cessation of (self-referential) sensory contact, feelings of pleasure, or pain, or neither pleasure nor pain are stilled.

“Now there remains only a mind established in equanimity, luminous, pure, supple, and spacious. Just as if a skillful goldsmith were to take raw gold, and through skillful effort transform this raw gold into a refined and flawless ornament, malleable and luminous. The gold would now suit the Goldsmith’s purpose.

“In this same manner, one whose mind is established in equanimity, luminous, pure, supple, and spacious, knows that ‘If I were to direct my thinking toward non-physical dimensions of infinite consciousness, or infinite space, or infinite emptiness or nothingness, or the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, I would know these (distracted mind-states) as fabricated.

Any self-referential,  ideological, imaginary non-physical establishment should be seen as fabricated and arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths and immediately abandoned.

“A wise Dhamma practitioner does not fabricate, or mentally construct, for the sake of self-establishment in this physical realm or any (fabricated or imaginary) non-physical realm. Fabrications abandoned, this one is not sustained through craving. This one is released from clinging to anything in the world.

“(Released from wrong views ignorant of Four Noble Truths) This one is no longer agitated, their mind is calm and well-concentrated. This one knows their mind is calm and well-concentrated. This one knows ‘Birth is now ended, a life well-integrated (with the Eightfold Path) has been lived, my task is complete, there is nothing further in this world.’

“Nothing further in this world” refers to having developed the profound understanding that there isn’t now, and never was, anything of the world that could be seen as me, mine, myself, or any variation of self-identification. “Nothing further in this world” also refers to the profound understanding that there is nothing further beyond this world in a non-physical, ideological, and imaginary sense to crave for or cling to.

“Friend, Pukkusati, when sensing a feeling of pleasure, understand it as impersonal and as such impermanent. Understanding thus, craving and clinging vanish. Likewise, when sensing a feeling of pain, or sensing a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, understand these feelings as impersonal and as such impermanent. Understanding thus, craving and clinging vanish. Understanding brings the awareness that pleasure, pain, and neither pleasure nor pain are impersonal and as such impermanent and are not craved after or self-identified with.

“Self-identified with” is clinging to what is craved after. As shown in Dependent Origination, it is craving originating in ignorance of Four Noble Truths that leads to clinging to and maintaining ignorance. 

“When feeling pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain, a wise Dhamma practitioner remains disjoined (through lack of self-identification) from these feelings. This one understands feelings in the body are limited to the body. This one understands feelings limited to human life are limited to human life. This one understands that with the ending of life and the break-up of the body that all that is experienced and not joined to will grow cold and end right then.

“Just as an oil lamp burns in dependence on wick and oil, from the termination of wick and oil it would be unnourished and cease. In this same manner when a wise Dhamma practitioner is feeling a feeling limited to the body they understand ‘I am sensing a feeling that is limited to this body.’ When a wise Dhamma practitioner is feeling a feeling limited to human life they understand ‘I am sensing a feeling limited to human life.’ This wise Dhamma practitioner understands that with the ending of life and the break-up of the body that all that is experienced and not joined to will grow cold and end right then.

These last two paragraphs refer to the freedom and peace developed through the recognition and relinquishment of all self-referential views. The Buddha is describing a mind established in Right View and free of any ignorance of Four Noble Truths, a mind free of fear fueled by desire, a mind resting in equanimity.

“In this manner, when one has the highest determination for understanding, for the knowledge of the arising and passing away of suffering and stress, this one has achieved the greatest noble understanding.

“This Dhamma practitioner has gained release from all views ignorant of Four Noble Truths. Their mind has established Right View now resting in pure truth. This view will no longer fluctuate due to distraction. This one knows whatever is deceptive and remains free from associating with deception. This Dhamma practitioner is established with the highest determination for truth. This is the foremost unbinding from wrong views and is the highest Noble Truth.

“Formerly, when still ignorant of Four Noble Truths, this Dhamma practitioner foolishly craved after mental acquisitions and created self-identities clinging to these mental acquisitions. This Dhamma practitioner has completely abandoned them. Through the Eightfold Path, this one has cut fabrications off at the root of ignorance. Like the stump of a palmyra tree, now deprived of the conditions of sustenance, fabrications will no longer arise. 

“Likewise, when still ignorant of Four Noble Truths, this  Dhamma practitioner foolishly was driven by desire and self-infatuation, by ill-will and hatred, by delusion and ignorance, and created self-identities clinging to these unskillful qualities. Now, this Dhamma practitioner has completely abandoned them. Through the Eightfold Path, this one has cut fabrications off at the root of ignorance. Like the stump of a palmyra tree, now deprived of the conditions of sustenance, fabrications will no longer arise.

“This Dhamma practitioner has established the highest determination for calm – for the calming of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. This one has established the Highest Noble Calm. This Dhamma practitioner knows to never neglect Right View, to always guard the Truth and to always train for establishing a  calm and well-concentered mind. 

“This Dhamma practitioner, understanding s where, through wise restraint, the currents of speculation and supposition do not flow, this one is known as ‘a sage at peace.’

“With reference to what I am saying to you, all of the following is speculation and supposition:

  • I am.
  • I am this.
  • I will be.
  • I will not be.
  • I will have this form.
  • I will not have this form.
  • I will have psychic powers.
  • I will not have psychic powers.

Common in many modern Buddhist doctrines, the acquisition of supernatural powers is often presented as a sign of “awakening” or higher knowledge. Here, and many other suttas, the Buddha is showing that grasping after or clinging to anything in this manner is simply continued self-reference rooted in ignorance.

“Speculation and supposition are diseases, cancer, an arrow. By abandoning all speculation and supposition this Dhamma Practitioner is known as a ‘sage at peace.’ 

“A sage at peace is no longer distracted or agitated by birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, regret, greed, aversion, or deluded thinking. With no distraction or agitation, what would this Dhamma practitioner crave for or cling to?

“This Dhamma practitioner understands where the currents of speculation and supposition do not flow. When, through wise restraint, the currents of speculation and supposition do not flow, this one is known as ‘a sage at peace.’

“Now, friend Pukkusati, you should remember my brief analysis of the six properties.”

Then the thought occurred to Venerable Pukkusati: ’Surely the Great Teacher has come to me! Surely the Rightly Self-Awakened one has come to me! Pukkusati rose and bowed to the Buddha and said: ‘I was foolish, confused, and unskilled to address you merely as a friend. Please accept my apology so that I may restrain myself in the future.’

The Buddha replied ‘Yes, confusion overcame you. But, most importantly, you have recognized your confusion and, in accordance with my Dhamma, have made the strong determination to end your confusion. It is just by this determination and discipline that one grows in the Dhamma and practices restraint in the future.

“Great Teacher, please accept me into the order to follow your Dhamma.

“Do you have an alms bowl and robes?”

“No” Replied Pukkusati.

“Then gather a bowl and robes and I will give you the going forth.”

Pukkusati was delighted. He bowed to the Buddha and left in search of an alms bowl and robes for his ordination. While searching, a runaway cow trampled and killed Pukkusati.

A large group from the Sangha found the Buddha and told him of Pukkusati demise. They asked the Buddha what Pukkusati’s future state would be.

“Friends, Pukkusati was wise. He practiced the Dhamma in accordance with my instruction. He never pestered me with un-related issues. He has abandoned the five fetters of:

  1. Self-identification.
  2. Grasping at rituals and practices.
  3. Doubt and uncertainty.
  4. Sensual craving.
  5. Deluded thinking.

“He is now free of fabricated views and will never again be subject to the suffering born of ignorance. 

Those that heard these words of the Buddha were delighted.

Class Sixteen - Dependent Origination And The Non-Dual Myth

Class Fourteen
Dependent Origination And The Non-Dual Myth

Commentary

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 free from 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 fabricated and through continued ignorance is identified as a permanent, substantial, and sustainable self. Once fabricated, 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 Vedas and the later Upanishads, the doctrinal precursors 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.

(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 Sutta, the Buddha presents the 12 causative links of dependent Origination.  

Each of these 12 links is 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 is 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 come 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, 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 Karma. Karma 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.

Karma 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 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, 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 are 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 only shows the ongoing though impermanent 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 clinging these five disparate aggregates together to establish a self seems to provide an argument for a permanent and substantial 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 fabricated 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 insists on answers to all questions and will alter and accommodate “answers” that will allow for the 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 are 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.

Class Seventeen - Dependent Origination And Conditioned Mind

COMMENTARY

All of human life is anicca, impermanent, and uncertain. Life in the phenomenal world is ultimately unsatisfactory, dukkha, due to life’s inescapable qualities of impermanence and uncertainty. Arising from a wrong view of life in the phenomenal world, an impermanent and insubstantial “self” is formed. The Buddha recognized that this wrong view of self is founded in ignorance, and from this lack of understanding, through 12 causative links, a self-established and self-perpetuated belief in a permanent and substantial individual entity arises. This view of “self” the Buddha described as “anatta” meaning that what is perceived as self is a non-self or is not a self.

Often misunderstood, the Buddha is simply stating that what is perceived as a self cannot be substantiated in any manner as permanent, it is “anatta.” As what is believed to be a self is not, in reality, a self, the belief or view of self should be abandoned. As this ego-driven view of self refuses to allow for any other view, due to discursive conditioned thinking, it is very difficult and requires strong conviction to question all hardened views to overcome the effects of conditioned thinking.

From the need to continually establish and maintain what is founded in impermanence, stress, and disappointment arises. Due to contact or input through the five physical senses reaction occurs and is interpreted from a view (consciousness)  lacking understanding. From an individual view lacking understanding of human life in the ever-changing and uncertain environment of anicca, conclusions regarding life arise, further strengthening wrong view.

Now stuck in a “thicket of views” founded in wrong view an individual conditioned mind is formed.  Arising from a lack of understanding the conditioned mind now determines how life will be experienced as life occurs.  This process of 12 causative links initiating in ignorance leading to stress and unhappiness, the distraction of dukkha, is known as Dependent Origination or Dependent Co-Arising.

Dependent Origination is another term that is often misunderstood and misapplied continuing to establish an ego-personality and develop interdependence, clinging, where no interdependence exists. Dependent Origination is a key teaching of the Buddha bringing understanding to how an ego-personality, or anatta, arises. Once understood and seen clearly that all stress and unhappiness, the generally unsatisfactory nature of life, dukkha, is rooted in ignorance, the path rooted in Right View can be engaged with and true wisdom developed.

Life is experienced in very determined ways, due to conditioned thinking. Reactions to people and events that bring pleasure will all have a similar reaction and a similar recurring desire for more of the person or event. This forms additional clinging. Reactions to people and events that are disappointing will also bring a similar reaction and a similar reoccurring desire for less of the person or event. This forms additional aversion, a form of clinging, the desire for less of an experience.

From a lack of understanding or deluded thinking, craving, and aversion arise. These three characteristics of craving, aversion, and deluded thinking are all aspects of dukkha. The Buddha described life in the phenomenal world as Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth is that “There Is Suffering.” This is taught as a condition of human life. Simply as a consequence of living in a human body with its six-sense base, there will be disappointment and suffering.

From clinging to the deluded belief that an ego-personality can and should have a permanent and substantial existence, and that existence can be established and protected by desire, or an act of ego-arisen willpower, suffering arises and is reinforced as long as conditioned thinking remains.

It is possible to interrupt conditioned thinking and bring an end to clinging, craving, aversion, and deluded thinking. The Eightfold Path is the path to end all conditioned thinking and develop clear vision. As clear vision is developed, impermanence, disappointment, and the ego-personality are mindfully recognized. From mindful recognition clinging to the unrealistic, self-perpetuating, and self-delusional views arising from conditioned thinking are abandoned.

Through understanding developed through the Eightfold Path, life in the phenomenal world is understood. The inherent unsatisfactory nature of life is understood. The ego-driven attempt to seek only what the six-sense base deems pleasurable or to avoid what is unpleasant is mindfully abandoned. The struggle against reality ends.

Living a human life fully accepting of what occurs moment-by-moment becomes the greatest joy.

Class Eighteen - Phena Sutta - Emptiness And 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 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 was 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

“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 feeling, 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.

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 nibbana.”

Class Nineteen - Karma Sutta - Acting To Awaken

INTRODUCTION

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” 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. 

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.   

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 – Three Marks Of Existence    

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) 

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

 

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

“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, imbued with the wisdom developed through the Buddha’s Dhamma, knows the cruelty of teaching false and misleading “dharmas.” 

“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.

“This is my teaching to you.”

Class Twenty - Khajjaniya Sutta - Released From Affliction

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.

 

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 forms. 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 their 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 disentangles from 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 task 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.

Class Twenty-One - Avarana And Nibbana Suttas - Hindrances To Awakening

INTRODUCTION

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. 

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. 

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.

AVARANA SUTTA

ANGUNTTARA NIKAYA 5.51

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

“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.

“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.”  

“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. (Sanskrit Nirvana)

End Of Avarana Sutta

NIRVANA SUTTA

ANGUNTTARA NIKAYA 9.64

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 is 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: 

  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

Class Twenty-Two - Bhikkhuvaga Sutta - A Monks Behavior

INTRODUCTION

In the Bhikkhuvaga, the Buddha teaches the importance to develop the virtuous factors of the Eightfold Path of Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood to recognize and abandon unskillful thoughts, words, and deeds. The concentration developed through Jhana meditation supports the refined mindfulness that brings the ability to guard the six-sense base.

Here the Buddha continues the theme of restraint and also addresses the Three Defilements of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. 

The Buddha teaches restraint at creating a Dhamma diminished by rites and ritual. He further teaches restraint at attempting to establish a self in non-physical realms.

The Bhikkhuvaga Sutta shows that restraint develops a true understanding of “emptiness” and the effect restraint has on the entire world.

Here the Buddha is painting a picture of an awakened, fully mature human being living a life of peace and happiness free of entanglements with the world.

 

BHIKKHUVAGA

DHAMMAPADA 25

“Skillful is restraint at the eye, at the ear, at the nose, and at the tongue.

“Skillful is restraint at the body, skillful is restraint is speech, skillful is restraint in thought. Restraint in all experiences is skillful. One restrained in the world is free from confusion, delusion, and disappointment.

“Those who have full control over their hands, their feet, and their tongue are delighted with their understanding. They are well established in meditative absorption. They are content in solitude, free of entanglements. They are called Dhamma Practitioners.

“Those who have control of their tongue are moderate in speech.  Unassuming they explain the Dhamma with integrity and by example – their words are useful and pleasing.

“Those that abide in the Dhamma, who delight in the Dhamma, are mindful of the Dhamma, they do not lose the Dhamma.

“Those free of aversion of what has occurred to them and free of craving for what has occurred to others will be able to attain meditative absorption.

“Those that are calm even when receiving little, pure in livelihood and determined in their Dhamma practice are exalted by the wise.

“Those with no clinging to thoughts or feelings, free of regret from what is not present, they are true Dhamma Practitioners.

“Those who abide with compassion for all beings and devoted to the Dhamma will achieve unbinding (Nibbana) and the bliss of the cessation of all conditioned thinking.

“Empty of all conditioned thoughts, free of craving and aversion, they achieve unbinding.

“Abandon the five lower fetters of self-referential views, of doubt, of belief in rites and rituals, of lust, and of ill-will. Abandon conceit, restlessness, and ignorance and abandon the fetters of craving to establish a self in heavenly realms, or formless realms. Cultivate the skillful faculties of conviction, persistence, refined mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. Overcoming the fetters one has crossed to the far shore. (Of lasting peace and happiness)

“Develop concentration through meditation. Do not be heedless and allow your mind to be distracted by sensual pleasure. The world’s bait is like a red-hot ball of iron. Do not swallow it and then cry how painful it is!

“There is no concentration for those that fail to develop insight. (Into impermanence, not-self, and disappointment) There is no insight for those that fail to develop concentration. Those who have developed (through the Eightfold Path) concentration and insight in tandem are close to Nibbana.

“Those who abide in solitude, free of worldly entanglements, with a calm mind, who understand the Dhamma through tranquility and insight, in them arises delight that transcends all human delight!

“Those that see with true insight the rise and fall of all conditioned things and of the Five-Clinging Aggregates, they are full of joy and lasting happiness. This is called the Deathless State as there will be no rebirth of confusion, delusion, and disappointment. The task (of unbinding) has been accomplished.

“Restraint of the senses, contentment in the Dhamma, and restraint of unskillful behavior, these form the foundation of a well-integrated life.

“Associate with those who are engaged in the Noble search, who have passion for the true Dhamma, who are pure in thought, word, and deed, who are pleasant and refined in their behavior. Full of joy, unbinding will occur.

“Just as a jasmine creeper sheds its withered flowers, so should you shed greed, aversion, and deluded thinking!

‘Those well-composed, calm and pleasant in thought, word, and deed, free of worldly entanglements, can be truly known as serene.

“It is by self-understanding that one can scrutinize themselves and restrain themselves. With the Six-sense base well-guarded with refined mindfulness one will always live in peace and happiness.

“Be your own protector. Be your own refuge. What other refuge could there be? Restrain yourself as a rider restrains his horse.

“Full of joy and conviction in the Dhamma the peaceful state is developed and conditioned thinking ends.

“Those that develop the Dhamma illuminate the entire world as a bright moon free of clouds.”

Class Twenty-Three - Akankha Sutta - Wishes Granted

INTRODUCTION

In the Akankha Sutta, the Buddha addresses the assembled sangha on the wish to be helpful to others.  He teaches that having a mind inclined to compassion and wisdom is noble. The Buddha also teaches that developing awakening within The Eightfold Path carries responsibilities of behavior and Dhamma practice.


AKANKHA SUTTA

ANGUTTARA NIKAYA 10.71

“If your wish is to be held dear by your sangha, to be respected and inspiring to them, listen closely to my words. If your wish is that the gifts you receive be of benefit for all, listen closely to my words. If your wish is that thoughts of you bring benefit to all, listen closely to my words. 

“If your wish is to be free of ever-changing conditions, of emotional and physical upset, listen closely to my words. If your wish is to overcome disappointment, worry and fear, listen closely to my words.

“If your wish is to attain unwavering mindfulness and pleasant abiding moment by moment, listen closely to my words. If your wish is to attain the end of delusion and distraction, listen closely to my words.

“Friends, remain free from taking life. Remain free of taking what is not offered. Remain free of sexual misconduct. Remain free of hurtful speech. Remain free of intoxicating substances. Bring these precepts to perfection. 

“Friends, commit to develop tranquility, be mindful of meditative absorption and useful insight. Meditate often and with consistency. 

“Train yourself in this manner and be mindful of the slightest deviation.”

Commentary

This is another brief sutta from the Pali Canon that if understood and developed will bring lasting peace and happiness. As is typical of the Buddha’s teachings, he does not teach the manipulation of personal or societal conditions as these conditions are all rooted in impermanence. He teaches to immediately abandon any behavior that would contribute to other’s suffering. He does not teach to “embrace suffering” or to “observe suffering.” This over-emphasis on one aspect of the three marks of existence is a misapplication of mindfulness and does not develop understanding of the underlying confusing and unsatisfactory nature of life.

The Buddha teaches to penetrate to the cause of suffering: ignorance of The Four Noble Truths resulting in craving and clinging in an impermanent environment. The Buddha consistently taught the Dhamma always in the context of The Four Noble Truths. In this short Sutta, the Buddha teaches the importance of developing moral and ethical behavior through the Eightfold Path. Right View inclines the mind away from ego-driven pursuits and towards the Dhamma. Right Intention is strengthened through mindfulness of the skillful desire to be truly helpful and to recognize what is unskillful.

To be of benefit to all we must start with our own behavior and be mindful of Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood. This brings mindfulness of craving and clinging, including (and most importantly) clinging to views that further the establishment of a “self” prone to confusion and suffering.

Right Effort develops the refined mindfulness to recognize and abandon what would otherwise lead to further confusion and suffering. Right Mindfulness is to be mindful of the Eightfold Path and avoids becoming distracted by conceptual applications of the Dhamma. Jhana meditation develops the profound concentration necessary to develop useful insight into impermanence, not-self, and unsatisfactoriness (suffering).

If Dhamma practice is to truly benefit others and ourselves the qualities of virtue, concentration, useful mindfulness, meditative absorption, and useful insight are to be developed through The Eightfold Path. Cessation of the establishment and defense of a “self” by a misapplication of mindfulness is avoided and freedom from craving and clinging is fully developed.

The remarkable simplicity of the Buddha’s teachings, and the consistency in presentation provides an accessible and easily integrated practical method of developing profound understanding and lasting peace and happiness.

Class Twenty-Four - Rahogata Sutta - Ending Fabrications Through Jhana

Introduction

This introduction provides the necessary context for understanding Jhana and is common to the following suttas:  Aṭṭhakanāgara Sutta, Anupada Sutta, Rahogata Sutta, Jhana Sutta, Jambālī Sutta, and the  Samādhaṅga Sutta. They are all linked astBbecoming-Buddha.com

As with all of the Buddha’s teachings, Jhana Meditation must be seen within the overarching context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths to be useful and practically applicable.

The Buddha “awakened” to the profound understanding that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that is the requisite condition for fabrications. Fabrications are the glue that binds confused thinking to ignorance, obscures reality, and establishes stress, disappointment, and suffering – Dukkha – as the common human experience. 

Jhana means meditative absorption. The Buddha teaches, in a general way,  four levels of meditative absorption, or deepening concentration. As can be seen here, these four levels are not in a practical sense strictly defined. A mediator gently flows from the first to the fourth Jhana as a direct development of Jhana meditation as the Buddha teaches meditation. The four levels of meditative absorption can and should be mindfully observed as concentration increases.

The four levels of Jhana are impermanent and are taught by the Buddha to provide a skillful means to notice ever-increasing levels of meditative absorption.

Jhana practice is not to be seen as anything extraordinary or the levels of Jhana unattainable. Jhana meditation is extraordinary in developing concentration and entirely ordinary to those actually developing the Buddha’s Dhamma.

Jhana meditation is not another opportunity for fabricating experience through continued confusion or continued desire encouraged by misguided instruction.

Free of grasping after, these four levels of meditative absorption are a clear direction to recognize that Jhana meditation is actually developing concentration while avoiding creating further distraction due to fabricated methods. This aspect of Right View then remains free of conceit – I-making –  that would otherwise create confusion, contradiction, frustration, and distraction within Jhana meditation practice.

The sequencing of the additional descriptions of non-physical meditative experience that follows the descriptions of four levels of Jhana should not be seen as “advanced” levels of meditation as is commonly presented, and certainly not as levels of meditative achievement. These fabricated non-physical meditation experiences often mischaracterized as advanced levels of meditation were part of the doctrines of Siddartha Gotama’s early teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta.

Having mastered these fabricated common meditation techniques, he immediately dismissed them as they “do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, or to unbinding. This (method) only seeks to establish a (fabricated) reappearance in the dimension of nothingness” (or in the dimensions of neither perception nor non-perception, or infinite space, or infinite consciousness, or any other fabricated non-physical self-reference.)

When seen in the proper context, any attempt to establish a “self” in speculative non-physical realms including imaginary realms of “emptiness” or “nothingness” or a “non-dual existence,” is abandoned as these methods are seen as misguided strategies to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Confusing a concentration practice with a practice that teaches meditative achievement as self-establishment in non-physical imaginary realms can only continue ignorance of Four Noble Truths and continued I-making. These modern “meditation” practices completely contradict the Buddha’s Dhamma and the stated purpose of his Dhamma.

The realization that it is a lack of concentration that results in a grasping and clinging mind is insight Siddartha developed prior to his awakening. As such, he could have taught to simply avoid any fabricated non-physical self-reference. One of the break-throughs of understanding Siddartha had was skillful insight into the powerful but very subtle strategies that a mind rooted in ignorance will develop and cling to in order to continue ignorance. As common during the Buddha’s time as ours, “dharmas” that encourage meditation practices that teach subtle but convenient methods for ignoring ignorance are common, unskillful, and cruel.

With profound wisdom, the Buddha realized the attraction of continuing self-establishment in fabricated non-physical realms. He understood that the most effective method of understanding the foolishness of these doctrines that encouraged continued I-making would be to explain these common experiences in the context of Jhana meditation. In this way, Jhana meditation de-mystifies these non-physical fabrications. When seen in the proper context as ordinary fabrications these wrong views are simply recognized and abandoned.

The Buddha typically told his followers to “Go find the root of a tree or an empty hut and do Jhana.” This is instruction on establishing seclusion as the proper environment for a meditation practice with the purpose of developing ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption.

Jhana meditation is the only meditation method the Buddha taught.  Jhana meditation is established in the Satipatthana Sutta, the primary sutta on Four Foundations Of Mindfulness, and the suttas at Becoming-Buddha.com  on Jhana (and many others). 

It is the initial section of the Satipatthana Sutta that is instruction for increasing concentration and calming the mind by becoming mindful of the breath in the body. This is the First Foundation of Mindfulness that begins the process of Jhana – of developing concentration. The second and third foundations of mindfulness continue the establishment of concentration by ending distractions arising from reacting to, or clinging to feelings and thoughts as they arise and pass away, always returning mindfulness to the breath.

The instruction found in the Satipatthana Sutta relates directly to the four levels of Jhana. In this way, using meditation for continuing to grasp after any fabricated self-establishment is clearly recognized and gently abandoned. By avoiding the distraction that would arise by reacting to feelings and thoughts, or seeking imaginary self-establishment in non-physical realms, the joy of seclusion and deepening concentration is established and recognized.

As concentration increases, directed thought and evaluation is abandoned and a pleasant abiding is established. This relates to the fourth foundation of mindfulness – being at peace with the present quality of mind. This quality of mind is known as equanimity and gradually increases as Jhana meditation continues within the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path. (See below for an explanation of Directed Thought and Evaluation)

The remaining sections of the Satipatthana Sutta then show how to apply ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption to other significant themes of the Dhamma. The entire Satipatthana Sutta is not meant as meditation instruction which becomes obvious when seen in the proper context of the Buddha’s Dhamma as detailed here.

The Buddha’s Dhamma reunites the mind and body and overcomes the self-identification seeking to establish a “self” in fabricated magical, mystical, and imaginary planes of physical non-existence.

(I use the term physical non-existence as it accurately depicts the grasping present in ascetic practices that hope to free the mind from the body using extreme self-denial. These were practices Siddartha Gotama mastered and abandoned as ‘painful distracting, ignoble, and not leading to knowledge, wisdom, or release.’

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. These forms of “meditation” will distract a confused mind further and continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths. Impermanent and ever-changing phenomena now becomes the sole focus of “Insight” or “Mindfulness” while avoiding the singular purpose of meditation – to increase concentration.

When seen in the overarching context of the Buddha’s Dhamma and in the context of engaging in Jhana meditation solely for deepening concentration, grasping after self-establishment in imaginary and fabricated mind-states is seen clearly as intentional distraction used to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

As concentration increases refined mindfulness is established supporting the integration of the Eightfold Path developing a profound understanding of Three Marks Of Existence. 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Samsara is the continued state of ignorance prone to confused, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment.

In the Rahogata Sutta, the Buddha teaches that feelings of pleasure, pain, or ambivalence, when perceived through a mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths will fabricate what is experienced in a way that reaffirms ignorance and continues stress. He teaches here that in order to recognize and abandon fabrications a Dhamma Practitioner uses Jhana meditation as intended – to deepen concentration. From a well-concentrated mind, fabrications are easily recognized and abandoned.

Rahogata Sutta
Samyutta Nikaya 36:11

On one occasion a certain monk went to the Buddha with a question. Upon arrival he bowed and sat to one side: Great Teacher, just now, in seclusion, the thought occurred to me ‘You speak of three types of feelings – there is a feeling of pleasure, a feeling of pain, and a feeling that is neither pleasure or pain. Then you said that whatever feeling arises, they are all stressful. In what connection did you stay this?’

“Excellent question, my friend, excellent question! I have spoken of these three feelings of pleasure, pain, and neither pleasure or pain. I have also stated that whatever feeling arises, they are all stressful. I have stated this in connection to fabrications. Fabrications are impermanent. It is the nature of fabrications to arise and pass away, to change. It is in connection to fabrications that I stated that whatever feeling arises, they are all stressful.

“Furthermore, I have also taught the step-by-step process of the cessation of fabrications:

  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the first Jhana, speech falls away. (Including internal dialogue)
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the second Jhana, directed thought and evaluation falls away.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the third Jhana, rapture falls away.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the fourth Jhana, (intentional, directed) in-and-out breathing has passed away. (The mind, now united with the body, rests in equanimity – a pleasant abiding.)
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the (fabricated) dimension of infinite space, the perception of form passes away.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the (fabricated) dimension of infinite space, the perception of form passes away.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the (fabricated) dimension of infinite consciousness, the perception of the dimension of infinite space passes away.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the (fabricated) dimension of nothingness, the perception of the dimension of infinite consciousness passes away.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the (fabricated) dimension of neither-perception nor non-perception, the perception of the dimension of nothingness passes away.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has recognized and abandoned these qualities, they have attained the  cessation of perception and feelings.
  • When these unskillful mental qualities have ended, greed, aversion, and delusion have ended.

“Furthermore, I have also taught the step-by-step process of the stilling of fabrications:  (the cessation of fabrications is recognized and experienced as stilling)

  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the first Jhana, speech has been stilled.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the second Jhana, directed thought and evaluation has been stilled.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the third Jhana, rapture has been stilled.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the fourth Jhana, in-and-out breathing has been stilled.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the (fabricated) dimension of infinite space, the perception of form has been stilled.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the (fabricated) dimension of infinite space, the perception of form has been stilled.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the (fabricated) dimension of infinite consciousness, the perception of the dimension of infinite space has been stilled.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the (fabricated) dimension of nothingness, the perception of the dimension of infinite consciousness has been stilled.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the (fabricated) dimension of neither-perception nor non-perception, the perception of the dimension of nothingness has been stilled.
  • When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the cessation of perception and feelings, perception and feelings have been stilled.
  • When these unskillful mental qualities have ended, greed, aversion, and delusion have been stilled.

“Now, friend, there are these six profound calmings:

(This is the culmination of the cessation of fabrications. The Buddha consistently described the quality of mind of one awakened as calm.)

  1. When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the first Jhāna, speech has been calmed.
  2. When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the second Jhāna, directed thought & evaluation have been calmed.
  3. When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the third Jhāna, rapture has been calmed.
  4. When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the fourth Jhāna, in-and-out breathing has been calmed.
  5. When a Dhamma practitioner has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, perception and feeling have been calmed.
  6. When a Dhamma practitioner’s effluents have ended, passion has been calmed, aversion has been calmed, delusion has been calmed.”

There is no direct mention here of craving for establishment in non-physical dimensions as they have been abandoned by stilling the mind leading to the cessation of fabricated perceptions. This shows that striving for these fabricated experiences results only in continued distraction furthering ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Class Twenty-Five - Vatthupama Sutta - Of Stained and Pure Cloth

Introduction

For a complete understanding of this sutta within the scope and context intended by the Buddha, please read “Foundations Of The Buddha’s Dhamma” on our Home Page.

For clarity, my comments within suttas are italicized.                 

In the Vatthupama Sutta, the Buddha uses the simile of a dirty or clean cloth to teach the importance of abandoning magical, mystical, and fabricated views that incorporate magical beliefs of external supernatural forces providing a “cleansing of evil deeds.” Many modern “Buddhists” continue to practice this type of adapted, accommodated, and embellished Buddhism to maintain their fabricated beliefs and provide a speculated repository for an “awakened self.” 

The need for magical, mystical, speculative “dharmas” has always re-formed the Buddha’s teachings resulting in the modern “thicket of views” belief-based modern Buddhist religions that contradict entirely what an awakened human being actually taught.


Vatthupama Sutta

Majjhima Nikaya 7

Thus have I heard: On one occasion the Buddha was at Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s Monastery. He addressed those gathered:

“Friends, suppose an unskilled person dyed a dirty cloth. Whether the cloth was blue, yellow, red, or pink, it would take the dye poorly and the color would be impure. Why would the color be impure? Because the cloth was not clean.

“So too, when the mind is defiled, stress and disappointment should be expected.

This is a profound description of how clinging to fabricated “wrong” views, views, and resulting practices that ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths will always prevent anyone from developing the Dhamma. The Eightfold Path provides the framework and ongoing guidance to recognize and abandon all fabricated views that would otherwise lead to fabricated and speculative beliefs and only distract from the Buddha’s Dhamma.

“Now, friends, suppose a skilled person dyed a clean and bright cloth. Whether the cloth was blue, yellow, red, or pink, it would take the dye as intended and the color would be pure. Why would the color be pure? Because the cloth was clean.

“So too, when the mind is not defiled, freedom from greed, aversion, and delusion should be expected. A calm and peaceful mind will prevail.

“Friends, listen closely as I will teach you the defilements of the mind: Greed, Ill-will, Anger, Denigration, Domineering, Envy, Jealousy, Hypocrisy, Fraud, Obstinance, Conceit, Prejudice, Arrogance, Vanity, and Negligence.

These fermentations, defilements, or fetters, can be accurately categorized as “Three Defilements” as these 16 enumerated here are all aspects of Greed, Aversion, and Deluded Thinking.

“Friends, the wise Dhamma practitioner knows these qualities as defilements of the mind. Knowing this, the wise Dhamma practitioner abandons them (and the speculative self-establishments that follow ignored greed and craving). When these defilements have been completely abandoned (through developing the Eightfold Path) the wise Dhamma practitioner knows that these defilements have been abandoned.

“The wise Dhamma practitioner, having abandoned these defilements directly, develops unwavering confidence in me. They know the Teacher as accomplished and fully enlightened. They know the Teacher is endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct. They know the teacher’s knowledge is a sublime and complete understanding of reality and of fabricated realms. A Teacher of all, they know the Teacher is incomparable among those who can be taught.

The Buddha is not establishing himself as a supernatural savior to worship. He is teaching to see him as a fellow human being who is a living example of a human being who has actually accomplished what his Dhamma teaches. In this way, the Buddha presents his Dhamma as a non-magical, non-mystical, and non-speculative. Dhamma that can and should be developed here and now. 

“The wise Dhamma practitioner, having abandoned these defilements directly, develops unwavering confidence in my Dhamma. They know my Dhamma is well-taught, realizable here and now. They know my Dhamma is accessible, knowable, and brings immediate results, encouraging all to come and see for themselves.

Following the teaching to take true refuge in a human being who actually awakened, the Buddha then teaches the wisdom of following what he actually teaches rather than “dirtying the cloth” with fabrications and speculative beliefs.

“The wise Dhamma practitioner, having abandoned these defilements directly, develops unwavering confidence in the Sangha. They know those of the (well-focused) Teacher’s Sangha have entered the skillful, straight, proper, and true path. That is to say, this wise Dhamma practitioner knows the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

As with the first two “Refuges,” a sangha well-informed in the Buddha’s Dhamma and well-focused on the Dhamma is the Third Refuge that wise Dhamma practitioners establish within themselves. The Ratna Sutta is at its foundation an admonition to avoid fabricating and speculating false “dharmas” out of fear of loss of self-identification with ordinary and imagined phenomena.

“This (well-focused) Sangha is worthy of gifts, hospitality, and respect. This Sangha’s gift to the world is incomparable.

“The wise Dhamma practitioner, having abandoned these defilements directly, even in part, knows they have developed unwavering confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. They gain enthusiasm for the goal, for the Dhamma. There is gladness with connection to the Dhamma.

“Gladdened, joy is born. Joyous in mind their body grows tranquil. From a tranquil body, there is happiness. For the mind of one who is happy, concentration increases. 

“Just as a stained and dirty cloth is cleaned with pure water, just as gold is purified with the heat of a furnace, a wise Dhamma practitioner, established in wisdom, virtue, and concentration, eats the most delicious alms-food, they will not lose their way.

This is another reference to the Heartwood of the Eightfold Path often characterized as a path of ever-increasing wisdom, virtue, and concentration. 

“The wise Dhamma practitioner abides with a mind permeated with loving-kindness, and compassion, and sympathetic joy, and with equanimity for the entire universe, their mind boundless and free of hostility and ill-will.

“The wise Dhamma practitioner understands the Three Marks Of Existence and the path of liberation.

Despite contradictory modern “Insight” practices, the only skillful and useful insight the Buddha teaches to focus on and develop is insight into Three Marks Of Existence.   

“When the wise Dhamma practitioner understands in this way, their mind is liberated from the fetter of sensual desire and of becoming, they are liberated from ignorance.  Liberated there is the knowledge: ‘I am liberated, giving birth to ignorance has ended, the pure life has been lived, the task is complete, I have overcome the world.’ This wise Dhamma practitioner is known as one who has ‘bathed  their inner being.’

At this time the brahman Sundarika was seated near the Buddha and asked: “Does Master Gotama bathe in the Bahuka River?

A brahman is a title given to Hindu priests and was of the highest caste. “Brahman” also describes the “Ultimate Reality” taught in Hinduism, a fabricated name-dual existence. 

The Buddha studied with brahman/Hindu teachers and dismissed these teachings and their “meditation” methods as “these teachings do 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, or the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. The Buddha rejected any fabricated belief that sought to establish a “self” in any speculative and imagined non-physical realms. 

The Buddha responds: “What is the Bahuka River? What can the Bahuka River do?”

How could a river be anything other than a river?

“Master, it is true that many people believe that the Bahuka River can purify and bestow merit. Many people use the river to wash away their evil deeds.

The number of people clinging to practicing and professing fabricated beliefs does not legitimize their beliefs. 

The Buddha responds:

“Whether the Bahuka, the Adhikaka, the Gaya, the Sudarika, the Payaga, or the Sarasaiti, the fool bathes in many rivers but will never find purification for their unskillful deeds.

“What power do these rivers possess? They can never purify the evil-doer. 

“Those who have purified themselves should be celebrated. They do much good in the world.

“Always wise, virtuous, and well-concentrated, it is here (referring to the Eightfold Path) that you should bathe.

“If you wish to be a true refuge for all beings it is here that you should bathe.

The wise Dhamma practitioner knows that the most compassionate, loving, and effective action anyone can take for the sake of others is to develop the Dhamma whole-heartedly.

“Brahman Sundarika, if you teach false dhammas and harm other beings, take what is not offered you, following your belief, what could a river do for you? Any well contains water.”

Again, how could a river be anything other than a river?

Hearing the Great Teacher’s words, brahman Sundarika declared: “Magnificent Master Gotama! You have made your Dhamma clear in many ways. You have righted what was overturned. You have shown what was hidden (by ignorance). You have shown the way to one who was lost.  You are holding a lamp in the darkness for those with eyes to see (fabrications)

“I take refuge in Master Gotama, in your Dhamma, and in your Sangha. Please bestow the going-forth and develop your Path.”

The brahman Sundarika received the going-forth (acceptance in the original Sangha) and quickly realized for himself the culmination of the Path. He understood “Birth has ended, the well-integrated life has been lived, there is nothing more for this world.”

Sundarika was now an Arahant.

Class Twenty-Six - Brahmanavagga - Culmination Of The Path

INTRODUCTION

The twenty-sixth chapter of the Dhammapada is known as the Brahmanavagga. This concluding chapter is direct and concise teaching on what is to be developed through a well-focused Dhamma practice and the profound benefits of practicing the Dhamma as intended and originally taught.

The Brahmanavagga provides clear and profound guidance on how to distinguish between ordinary abstract views and confusing and contradictory “dharmas” rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and useful and authentic Dhamma practice. The Buddha defines the result of a confused (or non-existent) “dharma” practice and his Dhamma by showing the practical and observable attainments developed by a skillful disciple of the Dhamma.

A Brahman refers to Vedic priests of the highest religious class during the Buddha’s life. The Buddha rejected the common Vedic-based religions but he often used the word “Brahman” to refer to Arahants, those who awakened through the Eightfold Path.  

Most translations use “monks” referring to a person developing the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha never intended his Dhamma to be only accessible and useful only to men who took vows. He presented his Dhamma without restrictions or bias of any kind, a truly equalitarian Dhamma unique in his time and today. Also, by adhering to only one word to describe those committed to developing the Dhamma does not provide a means to distinguish between “skillful disciples” and skillful disciples that have reached the culmination of the Eightfold Path, Arahants as intended by the Buddha.

 

BRAHMANAVAGGA

DHAMMAPADA 26

Engage in Right Effort! Root out the constant stream of craving! Abandon sense desires! Know the destruction of all conditioned things. Know the cool, calm peace of cessation.

This initial paragraph describes the effort and focus necessary to develop the Buddha’s Dhamma and the results that will be gained.

When an arahant has developed profound concentration and skillful insight they know the Four Noble Truths and have abandoned all fetters.

The Buddha taught to develop Jhana – increasing concentration – that provides a calm focus for gaining insight into the relationship between Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha – Three Marks Of Existence. 

The skillful disciple is carefree and unfettered. They have abandoned craving and the objects of their craving. This one I call an Arahant.

Most translations use the metaphor of a near and far shore to represent sense-based craving as the “near shore” and the object desired as the “far shore.” The near shore is the immediate continuation of I-making and the far shore is the fabricated identity created by craving and resulting in clinging to the self-created, self-imposed “me” that now must be continually defended.

Those who are established in Jhana, free of the defilements, passions cooled, calm, the task complete, liberated from ignorance, having reached the goal, these I call Arahants.

The single purpose of meditation as one factor of the Eightfold Path is to develop Jhana – increasing concentration – that provides the calm focus for gaining insight into the relationship between Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha – Three Marks Of Existence.

The sun illuminates the day, the moon illuminates the night. The warrior shines in their armor, the skillful disciple shines in Jhana. Arahants illuminate day and night.

The Arahant has abandoned all unskillful behavior, their mind concentrated and serene. Having renounced all of their impurities they are true renunciates.

A disciple should not be struck. If they are struck they should renounce anger. Shame on those who injure anyone, or give in to anger.

Nothing is superior for the skillful disciple than wise restraint. To the extent that anger and ill-will is abandoned is the extent that suffering will subside.

Practicing wise restraint at the point of contact with phenomena arising and passing away is the essence of a well-informed and well-concentrated skillful Disciple’s Dhamma practice. 

Those restrained in thought, word, and deed, I call skillful disciples.

Just as a Brahman priest revere’s his sacrificial fire, so should a skillful disciple revere the Dhamma taught by me.

It is not by matted hair, or lineage, or birth does one become a skillful disciple. Those that know the (Four Noble) Truths and are free of conflict are skillful disciples.

What is the use of your matted hair or antelope hide, foolish one? Within you is the tangle of passion! It is only outwardly that you cleanse yourself.

These last three paragraphs reflect the ongoing caution the Buddha emphasizes against engaging in speculative rites and rituals seeking magical intervention or magical self-establishment in fabricated and speculative non-physical realms. An obvious aspect of grasping after magical self-establishments is the common practice of fabricating the appearance of a Dhamma disciple without actually practicing the Dhamma.

The person who wears robes made of rags, lean, veins showing everywhere, who develop Jhana in seclusion, this one can be called a skillful disciple.

I do not call a person a skillful disciple because of their lineage or their birth. If they continue to cling to worldly entanglements, they are just arrogant. Those who are free of craving and free of clinging (to false Dhammas) I call skillful disciples.

Here again is the Buddha’s emphasis on recognizing the foolishness of clinging to any fabricated hierarchy. The only lineage-relevant to the Buddha’s Dhamma is the “lineage” of the Dhamma itself as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. 

The concluding section of this chapter describes in clear detail the entirely attainable qualities of a disciple who has completed the Eightfold Path, an Arahant. 

A person who has abandoned all fetters and clinging, (to wrong views) liberated from ignorance, trembles no more. I call this person an Arahant.

The Buddha consistently described the quality of mind of an Arahant as calm and released from clinging to views ignorant of Four Noble Truths.

A skillful disciple who has cut the bonds of hatred and craving, abandoned all wrong views, abandoned all defilements, released from ignorance, I call them an Arahant.

As described in the Paticca Samuppada Sutta, the primary sutta on Dependent Origination, the Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that it is ignorance Four Noble Truths that is the condition that all manner of stress, confusion, delusion, and ongoing disappointing life experiences, Dukka, Originates in and is Dependent on.

A skillful disciple without ill will, who endures abuse and beatings and punishment, whose real power is patience. I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who is free from anger, devoted to the dhamma, virtuous, free of craving, well restrained, unprovoked by ignorance, I call them an Arahant.

Like water on a Lotus leaf or a mustard seed on the point of a needle, the skillful disciple who is free of clinging to sensual pleasures, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who in this very lifetime realizes the end of suffering, who has put down the burden (of self-referential views) and became liberated, I call them an Arahant.

Though most modern Buddhist religions that present awakening as nearly impossible, and often beyond any human capability, the Buddha taught that anyone who wholeheartedly engages with his Dhamma could awaken here and now. In fact, awakening here and now, within life-as-life-occurs, is the only possible culmination of wholehearted engagement with the Dhamma.  

A skillful disciple with profound knowledge, wise, skilled in understanding the right and the wrong path, who has reached the highest goal, I call them an Arahant.

Here again is the Buddha’s emphasis on developing his Dhamma and recognizing and abandoning false dharmas. The compulsive notion, then and now, rooted in greed, aversion, and deluded thinking, is to ignore the Buddha’s Dhamma for adapted, accommodated, and embellished “dharmas.” This 2,600 year long continual re-establishment of ignorance is the most accurate and most troubling example of the ignorance described in Dependent Origination.

A skillful disciple who is disentangled from householders and ascetics alike, who wanders freely with no fixed abode, wanting little, I call them an Arhant.

A skillful disciple who has abandoned violence towards all living beings, whether weak or strong, who neither kills nor causes others to kill, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who remains friendly in a hostile world, peaceful in the midst of violence, free of clinging amongst a clinging world, I call them an Arahant.

A timeless caution from an awakened human being with remarkable relevance to the modern “engaged Buddhism” movement seeking “social justice” through targeted ideological hatred.

A skillful disciple whose lust, hatred, pride, and hypocrisy, have fallen away like a mustard seed from the point of a needle, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who speaks with gentle, useful, and truthful words, free of ill-will, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who takes nothing not freely given to them, free of grasping, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who grasps after nothing in this world or any other world, free of desire, liberated, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who has developed perfect insight and is free of clinging to wrong views, free of doubt, free of the living death of ignorance, I call them an Arahant.

This last points to the primary importance of “Perfect insight” into Three Marks Of Existence and a caution against grasping after wrong views and a broad and fabricated view of “all impermanent phenomena.”

A skillful disciple who has abandoned the yoke of grasping after merit or clinging to demerit, free of sorrow and regret, stain-free and pure, I call them an Arahant.

The skillful disciple who is as spotless, pure, clear, and serene as a full moon on a cloudless night, taking no delight in a fabricated existence, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who is no longer mired in this perilous and deluded world, who has crossed over the swamp of ignorance, their minds free of all doubt, resting in Jhana, their passions extinguished, who have reached the goal, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who has abandoned sensual pleasures and the continuation of clinging to ignorance in any (speculated and imaginary) realms, free of all worldly entanglements, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who has cast off the yoke of I-making in this world and in all fabricated realms, free of ignorance, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who has abandoned likes and dislikes, greed and aversion, who has abandoned all conditioned beliefs, who has established a calm mind through Jhana, a conqueror of all worlds, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who understands impermanence and the arising and passing away of all beings, free of all clinging, truly fortunate and liberated, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who does not chase gods, angels, devas, or human ideology, who has overcome all defilements, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who does not cling to the past, present, or future, who is not holding onto or grasping after anything of the world, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple, Nole, heroic, excellent, passionless, pure, a true conqueror of the world, totally liberated from ignorance, I call them an Arahant.

A skillful disciple who knows the arising and passing away of all phenomena, who understands pleasure and pain, who has gained true insight into Three Marks Of Existence, who can no longer give birth to even a moment of ignorance, who has reached the highest goal of understanding and calm, I call them an Arahant, indeed.

This closing statement again points to gaining insight into Three Marks Of Existence as the focused purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma – the highest goal.

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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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