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Sankhitta Sutta – A Monk’s Concise Teaching
The Sankhitta Sutta – A Monk’s Concise Teaching recounts the teaching given to a monk who was eager to develop the Buddha’s teaching in seclusion. Notice that the Buddha did not advise the monk that what he was asking was not possible or that he should incorporate practices that are common today but likely a distraction to developing cessation of confusion, delusion, and an unsatisfactory life experience.
Having been a monk in the Buddha’s Sangha he has heard the Buddha’s many teachings on developing the Eightfold Path as the framework for his Dhamma practice. Now this monk is drawn to seclusion to further deepen his understanding:
A monk went to the Buddha one day. Having bowed to the Buddha as a sign of respect, he sat near the Buddha. “Great teacher, It would be to my benefit if you could teach me your Dhamma in brief that I may then dwell in seclusion, mindful, joyful, and steadfast.”
The Buddha replies: “Monk, it is just in this way that some worthless men make thus request and, having heard my Dhamma, do not go into seclusion. They continue to follow along with me without developing the Dhamma for themselves.”
(Even with the Buddha as their direct teacher there were some that would hope to develop release by “following along” rather than develop the Dhamma directly. See the Anusota Sutta linked below.)
The monk asks again: “May the Tathagata teach me his Dhamma in brief. It will be that I will develop understanding, unbinding, and peace.”
“Then monk, (through Shamatha-Vipassana meditation) develop concentration to be focused inward and well-composed. No hurtful qualities of mind, once arisen, will remain to consume your mind.
“Establish Metta (goodwill, lovingkindness) towards yourself and others. When you have established Metta as a quality of your mind, rooted in concentration, develop Metta until it is fully supported by equanimity.
“Establish compassion towards yourself and others. When you have established compassion as a quality of your mind, rooted in concentration, develop compassion until it is fully supported by equanimity.
“When concentration is thus supported then remain focused on your breath in your body, ardent, alert, mindful, putting aside craving and clinging to the people, objects, and events of the world.
“When concentration is thus supported then remain focused on your feelings as they arise, ardent, alert, mindful, putting aside craving and clinging to the people, objects, and events of the world.
“When concentration is thus supported then remain focused on your thoughts as they arise, ardent, alert, mindful, putting aside craving and clinging to the people, objects, and events of the world.
“When your concentration is thus developed by you, your mind resting in unending equanimity, wherever you go, whatever you encounter, you will remain comfortable and at peace.”
The monk having received the Buddha’s words with patient determination, took his leave to seclusion. In short order he developed unbinding from all confused and deluded views. His mind cleared and he realized the goal had been achieved. He then knew that “the disciplined life has been lived, the task is now complete. There is no further attachments to the phenomenal world.”
He became another Arahant, an awakened, fully mature, human being.
The Buddha teaches this monk that while in seclusion he should continue to develop concentration and develop further The Four Foundations of Mindfulness. As the monk’s Dhamma practice develops the Buddha instructs him to cultivate the four sublime qualities of mind, the Brahma Vihara’s:
- Unselfish Joy
These are mind-states free of discrimination. In this manner they are also referred to as boundless states as they are not limited by any partiality. These qualities of mind are effortlessly maintained in all situations. They are the results of a whole-hearted Dhamma practice that has a recognition of views arisen from a lack of understanding and has achieved a profound measure of non-reaction (equanimity).