The Nidana Sutta – Ending The Defilements

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Introduction

The Nidana Sutta is similar to the Lakkhana Sutta [1] as they both teach the importance of being mindful of actions. It is the refined mindfulness that is supported by the deepening concentration developed in Shamatha-Vipassana meditation that the Eightfold Path is established and maintained.

In the Nidana Sutta, the Buddha focuses on recognizing and abandoning the Three Defilements of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. All three of the defilements are rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths and the resulting ongoing self-referential “I-making.” Keep in mind that another word for greed is craving and that craving is taught as the Second Noble Truth as the origination of unsatisfactory experiences.

This sutta is also a simple teaching on “conditionality” that is often over-complicated due to a misunderstanding or misapplication of Dependent Origination. [2] The significant condition is the condition of ignorance that is abandoned through the wisdom developed through the Eightfold Path.

The Buddha uses the metaphor of a healthy and viable seed to show the potential that a well-concentrated mind has to develop awakening or full human maturity.

The Nidana Sutta – Ending The Defilements

Anguttara Nikaya 3.33

The Buddha teaches: “Friends, there are three causes for unskillful actions:

    Greed is a cause for unskillful actions
•    Aversion is a cause for unskillful actions
•    Deluded thinking is a cause for unskillful actions

“Any action that is born from greed through conceit (I-making) will bring further confusion and suffering as individual life unfolds.

“Any action that is born from aversion through conceit (I-making) will bring further confusion and suffering as individual life unfolds.

“Any action that is born from deluded thinking through conceit (I-making) will bring further confusion and suffering as individual life unfolds.

“Just as a healthy and viable seed when planted in poorly-prepared soil and attended to improperly will prove unsatisfactory, in the same way, greed, aversion, and deluded thinking will bring actions that will develop unsatisfactory experiences (Dukkha).

“Now, when actions are born that are free of greed, free of aversion, and free of deluded thinking, confusing and unsatisfactory experiences will not develop as individual life unfolds.

“Just as a healthy and viable seed when planted in well-prepared (well-concentrated) soil and attended to properly (refined mindfulness) will grow and increase in abundance, in the same way, one well-prepared with the proper conditions will develop lasting peace and happiness.

“A person ignorant of their own actions,
Born of greed, aversion, and delusion,
Must experience the results of their actions,

“One who has developed wisdom and ended ignorance,
This individual abandons greed, aversion, and delusion,
And experiences Clear Understanding and lasting peace and happiness.”

End Of Sutta

As stated previously, this sutta also relates to Dependent Origination. Dependent Origination teaches that it is ignorance of The Four Noble Truths, through 12 observable causative links, leads to greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. Through the wisdom and Right Mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path the refined mindfulness necessary to recognize and abandon the Three Defilements becomes possible.

 

  1. Lakkhana Sutta
  2. Dependent Origination

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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 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 contextual edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

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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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