Sustenance For Awakening – Ahara Sutta

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Introduction

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

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

The Buddha’s first teaching described the results of this common ignorance and the singular path he taught to recognize and abandon ignorance. [2,3]  Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta  |  Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta

The Buddha taught that it is imperative to develop mindfulness of these Five Hindrances in order to recognize and abandon them. It is only a mind established in Jhana – a well-concentrated mind – that can support the refined mindfulness necessary to integrate and develop the Eightfold Path as the framework for Dhamma practice and skillful mindfulness of five specific hindrances. [4]  Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas

Another word for hindrances is obstacles. These five hindrances are self-imposed obstacles commonly employed in a subtle and often unnoticed or strategically ignored internal strategy to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths. This should be seen as “wrong” or “inappropriate” mindfulness. Modern Buddhism has been compulsively influenced by pop-psychology encouraging over-analysis of these common hindrances to the point of distraction. [5]  Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views

Rather than avoid responsibility for these hindrances through modern “dharma” practices, the Buddha taught the why and how of applying the Dhamma in specific direct, skillful, and highly effective Eightfold Path. In this way, the Buddha taught an effective Dhamma that avoids “embracing” or joining further with these hindrances that only encourages continued I-making.

The emphasis in this sutta and the entire Buddha’s Dhamma is to integrate the Eightfold Path as the singular path for recognizing and abandoning these Five Hindrances and developing the Seven Factors necessary to awaken.

My comments below are in italics.

 

Sustenance For Awakening – Ahara Sutta

Samyutta Nikaya 46.51

“Friends, today I will teach you the feeding and starving of the Five Hindrances and the feeding and starving of the Seven Factors Of Awakening. Listen and pay close attention.

These Five Hindrances arise from a mind ignorant of Four Noble Truths that establishes and encourages Karma. As seen in the Bhava Sutta, thinking rooted in ignorance is the “seed” and craving for and clinging to fabricated views is the sustenance or food for the Karmic field to flourish. [6]  Becoming Explained

Feeding Five Common Hindrances To Fully Developing The Eightfold Path

“Friends, there are five hindrances that overwhelm mindfulness and weaken wise discernment:

“Sensual desire is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment. Sensual desire is fed by becoming enamored with impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas, due to inappropriate attention. This is food for the arising of sensual desire and for the increase of sensual desire that has arisen.  

“Inappropriate attention” is a euphemism for “wrong mindfulness.” Mindfulness means to hold in mind or to recollect. The Buddha teaches refined “Right Mindfulness” as the seventh factor of the Eightfold Path. Supported by the concentration developed through Right Meditation, Shamatha-Vipassana meditation. Inappropriate attention – wrong mindfulness – is a mind clinging to fabricated views rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths. [4]

“Ill will is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment. Ill-will is fed by reacting with irritation to impermanent objects, events, views, due to inappropriate attention. This is food for the arising of ill-will and for the increase of ill-will that has arisen.

“Laziness and drowsiness is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment. Laziness and drowsiness are fed by indifference, boredom, weariness, particularly after a meal, and the general indifference to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas, due to inappropriate attention. This is food for the arising of laziness and drowsiness and for the increase of laziness and drowsiness that has arisen.

Indifference and ambiguity arising from a mind rooted in ignorance is a somewhat subtle form of aversion. It is an internal strategy used to dismiss and so further ignore phenomena that are not effective distractions. To a “modern” Buddhist mind this will often manifest as indifference and ambiguity towards the Buddha’s Dhamma that allows for continued ignorance through distracting “dharmas.” [5]

“Restlessness and anxiety is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment. Restlessness and anxiety are fed by a lack of concentration (necessary to support refined mindfulness of the Eightfold Path). This is food for the arising of restlessness and anxiety and for the increase of restlessness and anxiety that has arisen.

The defining characteristic of mind stuck in restlessness is a compulsive need for immediate distraction. A mind compulsively inclined to avoid restless through a strategy of continual distraction will often develop anxiety – a compulsive focus on “self” and of maintaining self-referential fabricated views. [7]  Fabrications

“Uncertainty is a hindrance that overwhelms mindfulness and weakens wise discernment. Uncertainty is fed by clinging to (impermanent) phenomena (to remain permanent). This is food for the arising of uncertainty and for the increase of uncertainty that has arisen.

Uncertainty is a factor of impermanence – Anicca that arise from fabricated self-referential views resulting in confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences. [8]  Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha

 

Seven Factors Necessary For Fully Developing the Eightfold Path

“These seven factors of enlightenment are well expounded and are cultivated and fully developed by one awakened. They bring perfect understanding, full realization, and Nibbana. What are the seven?

“Mindfulness is a factor of enlightenment. Mindfulness is carefully taught by the Buddha. What is the food for the arising and increase in mindfulness as a factor of awakening? Mindfulness is fed by the mental qualities of Jhana (Concentration). Jhana is the foothold and foundation that sustains the Eightfold Path. Mindfulness is cultivated and fully developed by one awakened. Mindfulness brings perfect understanding, full realization, and Nibbana.

The Buddha teaches mindfulness in two direct applications. One application is The Four Foundations of Mindfulness and the other application is to be mindful, to hold in mind, each factor of the Eightfold Path. [9]  Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations of Mindfulness

“Investigation of the Dhamma is a factor of enlightenment. Investigation of the Dhamma is carefully taught by the Buddha. What is the food for the arising and increase in the investigation of the Dhamma as a factor of awakening? (Within the framework of the Eightfold Path), Feeding the investigation of the Dhamma is remaining mindful of the mental qualities that are skillful and unskillful, blameless and blameworthy, refined or gross, inclined towards understanding (of Four Noble Truths) or inclined towards further ignorance. Investigation of the Dhamma is cultivated and fully developed by one awakened. Investigation of the Dhamma brings perfect understanding, full realization, and Nibbana.

“Persevering effort is a factor of enlightenment. Persevering effort is carefully taught by the Buddha. What is the food for the arising and increase in persevering effort as a factor of awakening? Persevering effort is fed by renaming mindful of the cultivation of (Right) Effort in fully developing the Eightfold Path. Persevering effort is cultivated and fully developed by one awakened. Persevering effort brings perfect understanding, full realization, and Nibbana.

“Investigation of the Dhamma” and “Persevering Effort” are both components of Right Effort and engaging wholeheartedly in what the Buddha actually taught.

“Joyful engagement in the Dhamma is a factor of enlightenment. Joyful engagement is carefully taught by the Buddha. What is the food for the arising and increase in Joyful Engagement as a factor of awakening? Joyful Engagement in the Dhamma is fed by remaining mindful of the mental qualities (of concentration and refined mindfulness) that cultivate and increase Joyful Engagement in the Dhamma. Joyful Engagement with the Dhamma is cultivated and fully developed by one awakened. Joyful engagement in the Dhamma brings perfect understanding, full realization, and Nibbana.

Remaining mindful of the singular importance of fidelity with what an awakened human being’s actually taught, and that these teachings continue to be available, relevant,  and effective brings joy and careful focus and avoids a conditioned mind’s need to adapt, accommodate, and embellish the purity of the Buddha’s Dhamma.

“Tranquility is a factor of enlightenment. Tranquility is carefully taught by the Buddha. What is the food for the arising and increase in tranquility as a factor of awakening? There is physical tranquility and mental tranquility. Tranquility is fed by remaining mindful of the mental qualities developed through the Eightfold Path. Tranquility is cultivated and fully developed by one awakened. Tranquility brings perfect understanding, full realization, and Nibbana.

“Concentration is a factor of enlightenment. Concentration is carefully taught by the Buddha. What is the food for the arising and increase in concentration as a factor of awakening? Concentration is fed by developing the Four Foundations Of Mindfulness. Concentration is cultivated and fully developed by one awakened. Concentration brings perfect understanding, full realization, and Nibbana.

Tranquility and concentration are both the focus and purpose of Shamatha-Vipassana meditation when practiced with the framework of the Eightfold Path.  [4]

“Equanimity is a factor of enlightenment. Equanimity is carefully taught by the Buddha. What is the food for the arising and increase in equanimity as a factor of awakening? Equanimity is fed by remaining mindful of the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path. Equanimity is cultivated and fully developed by one awakened. Equanimity brings perfect understanding, full realization, and Nibbana.

Equanimity is the ongoing quality of mind of an awakened, fully mature human being.

“These seven factors of enlightenment are carefully taught by the Buddha and all seven are cultivated and fully developed by one awakened. Feeding these seven factors of enlightenment brings perfect understanding, full realization, and Nibbana.”

Starving The Five Hindrances

“Now, what denies sustenance for the arising and increase of sensual desire? Mindful development of the understanding of the practical unattractiveness of all impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas. This denies sustenance for the arising of sensual desire and for the increase of sensual desire.

It is through wholehearted development of the Eightfold Path that the wise Dhamma practitioner is able to develop the concentration necessary to cease incessantly chasing sensual fulfillment as the over-arching purpose of human life and develop true dispassion and the cessation of I-making.

“And what denies sustenance for the arising and increase of ill-will? Developing the understanding of release (from ignorance) and the development of wise compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity. This denies sustenance for the arising of ill-will and for the increase of ill-will.

“And what denies sustenance for the arising and increase of laziness and drowsiness? Remaining mindful of the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path. This denies sustenance for the arising of laziness and drowsiness and for the increase of laziness and drowsiness.

“And what denies sustenance for the arising and increase of restlessness & anxiety? Remaining mindful of the development of a calm and tranquil mind. This denies sustenance for the arising of restlessness & anxiety and for the increase of restlessness & anxiety.

“And what denies sustenance for the arising and increase of uncertainty? Remaining mindful of the mental qualities that are skillful and unskillful, blameless and blameworthy, refined or gross, inclined towards understanding (Four Noble Truths) and inclined towards further ignorance.

Note the relationship of this last to “feeding investigation of the Dhamma” above. The Eightfold Path provides the concentration and mindfulness necessary to avoid the fabricated uncertainty and doubt that arises from a mind constantly developing strategies to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

Starving The Seven Factors Of Awakening

“What is the denial of sustenance for the arising and increase in mindfulness as a factor of awakening? Not developing Jhana (Concentration). Not developing Jhana denies sustenance to establishing the foothold and foundation of the Eightfold Path.

The Buddha taught Right Meditation – Shamatha-Vipassana meditation – for the sole purpose of deepening Jhana, for deepening concentration. [4]

“What is the denial of sustenance for the arising and increase in Investigation Of The Dhamma as a factor of awakening? Continued ignorance of the mental qualities that are skillful and unskillful, blameless and blameworthy, refined or gross denies sustenance for the arising and increase in Investigation Of The Dhamma as a factor of awakening. Sustenance for investigating the Dhamma is denied by a quality of mind that is distracted from understanding (Four Noble Truths) and distracted towards further ignorance.

“What is the denial of sustenance for the arising and increase in persevering effort as a factor of awakening? Sustenance for the development of persevering effort is denied by ignoring the Right Effort necessary for developing the potential for awakening and establishing the Eightfold Path.

“What is the denial of sustenance for the joyful engagement in the Dhamma as a factor of awakening? Sustenance for the development of joyful engagement in the Dhamma is denied by ignoring the mental qualities (of concentration and refined mindfulness) that cultivate and increase joyful engagement in the Dhamma.

“What is the denial of sustenance for developing tranquility as a factor of awakening? Sustenance for the development of tranquility is denied by ignoring the mental qualities (that support tranquility) developed through the Eightfold Path.

“What is the denial of sustenance for developing concentration as a factor of awakening? Sustenance for the development of concentration is denied by ignoring (or misapplying) the Four Foundations Of Mindfulness.

The Four Foundations Of Mindfulness are often misrepresented and intentionally misapplied in order to fit the Buddha’s Dhamma into confused and contradictory modern fabricated views of what “dharmas” practice should look like. [5]

“What is the denial of sustenance for developing Equanimity as a factor of awakening? Sustenance for the development of Equanimity is denied by ignoring the framework and guidance of the Eightfold Path.

This last shows the importance of developing the Eightfold Path as the framework and guidance for authentic Dhamma practice. This is a constant and recurring theme throughout the Buddha’s Dhamma. [10]   Teaching An Authentic Dhamma

End Of Sutta

 

  1. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutta
  2. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  3. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  4. Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhanas
  5. Modern Buddhism – A Thicket Of Views
  6. Becoming Explained
  7. Fabrications
  8. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  9. Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations of Mindfulness
  10. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma

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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.

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