The Sambodhi Sutta – The Wings of Self-Awakening

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Introduction

The Sambodhi Sutta teaches the very specific “vipassana” or insight that the Buddha teaches. It is insight into Three Marks Of Existence. These three “marks” or common human characteristics define a person’s life when their minds are rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

As a practical matter, associating with those that have actually developed the Buddha’s Dhamma is of primary importance in developing “The Wings To Self Awakening. In the Sambodhi Sutta, the Buddha is teaching those assembled the importance of choosing associations wisely and just how those associations can support developing the Eightfold Path. As he was addressing those staying in their monastery, the Buddha was reaffirming their commitment to their sangha.

The lesson of wise associations is just as important today as it was two thousand six-hundred years ago. Choosing associations wisely helps maintain a supportive environment for developing those qualities that are requirements to achieve awakening. One of the rules of the Patimokkha, the rules for monastic life, is that when gathered as a sangha to keep discussions on the Dhamma and avoid distractions of other teachings and activities.

In a monastery setting observing this rule is simple – “Hearing easily sober talk and talks conducive to gaining understanding.” In our modern life in the modern world, it is not so simple. Many times we have no choice who were are with but being in physical proximity does not necessarily bring association. Association can be an aspect of clinging. Creating an identity based on associations can be very subtle but very common. This is why the qualities brought to mind in this sutta are so effective in developing and maintaining a true dhamma practice and remaining free of distracting entanglements.

This is not to say that it is skillful to judge others harshly. As we develop understanding of our own motivations and reactions, we gain an understanding of other’s motivations and reactions. What is important to learn from this sutta is to recognize situations and associations that are conducive to developing understanding, to associate as often as possible with truly admirable friends.

What is important to learn from the example of those living in the Anathapindika’s monastery is that when gathered as part of a sangha to remain mindful of the Dhamma and the priceless value of having truly admirable friends.

The Buddha taught in the Ratana Sutta that there are three refugees from the world available to anyone: The refuge of the Buddha, the understanding that a human being awakened; the refuge of his dhamma, that he taught others how to awaken as he had; and the refuge of the sangha, the example of how to interact with admirable friends. [1]

The Buddha here teaches eight qualities to be developed that provide “The Wings To Self-Awakening. As seen here it is through an authentic Dhamma practice framed by the Eightfold Path and the support of as well-informed Sangha that provides the guidance necessary for developing insight into Impermanence, the Not-Self characteristic and the stress and suffering that follows from a lack of understanding of Four Truths

Remaining mindful of the specific insight(s) the Buddha teaches supports recognizing and abandoning contradictory modern “practices” that distract the mind to “analyzing” ordinary phenomena arising and passing away.

In any situation, it is possible to maintain the eight qualities mentioned here. Nothing is more important than maintaining integrity with the Eightfold Path and the principles of the wings to self-awakening. Integrity with the dhamma avoids difficult entanglements and allows for true wisdom and continued useful mindfulness in any setting.

My comments below are italicized.

 

Sambodhi Sutta

Anguttara Nikaya 9.1

The Buddha was at Anathapindika’s monastery at Jeta’s Grove. He asked those gathered “Friends if those of other sects’ would ask you what are the pre-requisites for developing the wings of self-awakening how would you respond?

The monks and nuns asked the Buddha to tell them his response so that “they would remember it clearly.”

“Listen closely, then.  The prerequisites for developing the wings to self-awakening are here for you: (available to everyone through the dhamma)

  • Having admirable friends and companions. Admirable friends and companions refer to associating with others that are developing the Buddha’s Dhamma. [2]
  • Remaining virtuous and restrained, and understanding the danger of even slightest faults. The refined mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path provides the clear focus to remain authentic to the Dhamma and not get sidetracked by false dharmas. [3]
  • Hearing easily sober talk and talks conducive to gaining understanding. Hearing talks on modesty, contentment, the value of seclusion and quiet, non-entanglement, persistence, virtue, concentration, discernment, and the knowledge of true vision and release (from craving and clinging.) [2]
  • Remaining persistent for abandoning unskillful mental qualities and for developing skillful mental qualities. Resolute in Right Effort.
  • Furthermore, for one developing the wings to self-awakening, they would maintain discernment and understanding of impermanence and the cessation of stress. (Developing the Eightfold Path) [4]

“When one has admirable friends and companions it is expected that they will be virtuous and restrained seeing danger in the slightest faults.

“When one has admirable friends and companions it is expected that they will hear sober talk and talks conducive to gaining understanding. They will hear talks on modesty, contentment, the value of seclusion and quiet, non-entanglement, persistence, virtue, concentration, discernment, and the knowledge of true vision and release (from craving and clinging.

“When one has admirable friends and companions it is expected that they will maintain discernment and understanding of impermanence and the cessation of stress.

“Once these qualities are developed there are four more to develop: contemplation of what is unattractive so as to abandon craving. Goodwill should be developed so as to abandon ill-will. Mindfulness of the breath in the body should be developed so as to develop non-distraction. They should develop understanding of impermanence so as to uproot conceit and end further I-making.

“For when one understands impermanence, clinging to anatta, to not-self, is abandoned. Understanding not-self uproots conceit. Unbinding arises in this moment.”

“Clinging to anatta” is a reference to Five Clinging-Aggregates and clinging to views ignorant of Four Noble Truths.

This last line teaches that by developing a profound and penetrating understanding of impermanence all self-identification with impermanent phenomena is abandoned and individual contributions to confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing unsatisfactory experiences cease.

This is the meaning of becoming Rightly Self- Awakened:

“And when one has seen the five clinging-aggregates as they really are, the arising and the passing away, understanding the attraction and the distraction, seeing the arising of desire and the continued delusion, and being delivered from the five clinging-aggregates, this one is released from clinging, all defilements are destroyed, what must be done has been done, perfection is attained, the burden has been put down, the highest goal attained. This one is liberated by perfect insight.” [5]

End of Sutta

 

  1. True Refuge – The Ratana Sutta
  2. An Admirable Sangha – Upaddha Sutta
  3. Teaching An Authentic Dhamma
  4. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  5. Arahant Sutta – Awakening In A Single Paragraph

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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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